We’re Ready to Listen.

I need to start here, in a plea for peace, please stop the violence. We need civility if we are to move forward with change. You have the attention of the world, it's time to speak calmly, rationally, just about everyone is ready to listen. Continued violence is only going to cause an increase in reactionary measures that will turn good people into monsters, dilute your message, and deny you the audience that you need and require to begin the process of real change. Continued violence and destruction will continue to hurt good people, it will hurt already emotionally hurting people, and silence those whose voices need to be heard. Please end the violence.

The complexity of this situation is overwhelming and there is no easy answer, but what we are doing, what has been done in the past is not working.

Curtis Hayes was right in the above video. We need to end this cycle. We need to come up with a better way to get the message across. I need to emphasize and applaud how he handled himself. He has now been able to communicate to the world his message because amongst the chaos, he was reasonable, logical, calm, and precise, rarely does anyone get to share their grievances from a jail cell. Getting the message across effectively requires calm, peace and pressure.

Much like any wound, we need to apply constant pressure to stop the bleeding of our fellow americans, no change will happen if we go back to our previous lives once the fires are out and the protests are over. We need to apply pressure to our legislative branch to make adjustments, but ultimately this change will start in us. If we change our hearts, we change our future actions and decisions, the law only applies to things that have happened in the past, things that have already been done. This is not a law problem, this is a heart problem.

This is a spiritual post. It has to be. Without God there can be no positive change. As we get further and further away from Him, we will get more and more lost. God is everything that is good, He is the metric as to which we can measure what is right, and by following His guidance, what is wrong. Our society, culture has been moving away from God and the further away we get, the more lost we become. The more lost we are, the more wickedness and sinfulness will prevail which will push us further and further into civil unrest. We need God, now more than ever.

I want to draw your attention into Proverbs, written by King Solomon, who instead of riches, power, or long life asked God for discernment and an obedient heart, to understand justice. God granted his request by giving him a wise and understanding heart, to the point that there has never been or ever will be another like him to ever walk the Earth. ( 1 Kings 3:7-14 ) By some coincidence I had been reading through Proverbs when the riots hit, and it has a lot to say to everyone in the middle of this pain and unrest.

  • Change starts in your everyday behavior, and affects the world around you as your heart changes: seek righteousness and integrity.
    • Proverbs 20:7 - The one who lives with integrity is righteous; his children after him will be happy.
    • Proverbs 13:21 - Disaster pursues sinners, but good rewards the righteous.
  • Seek wisdom,
  • Seek the Lord and you will find peace
    • Proverbs 16:7 - When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

When we justify disorder, wickedness, evil and lawlessness because of something someone did to us it only leads to more wickedness, disorder evil and lawlessness, an infinite cycle that will never, ever end. Instead, we should uphold the law to the best of our abilities, which is to battle against wickedness, ( Proverbs 28:4 ) and even a step further; if you are able to show kindness back to those who would do you harm, your enemies, it's like pouring burning coals on their head. ( Proverbs 25:21-22 )

To the ones that would say that they are avenging the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, or countless others with violence, looting, hurting others, destruction of property, I would point you to Proverbs 20:22:

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Don’t say, “I will avenge this evil! ” Wait on the Lord , and He will rescue you.

Proverbs 20:22

To those who are knowingly and blatantly racist, or discriminate over any group of people that you that have jurisdiction over, right after that in Proverbs 20:23, and Proverbs 20:10:

Differing weights are detestable to the Lord , and dishonest scales are unfair.

Proverbs 20:23 HCSB

To those applauding the riots, bailing out those who have committed legitimate crimes of hate, violence and destruction:

A person with great anger bears the penalty; if you rescue him, you’ll have to do it again.

Proverbs 19:19 HCSB

To my brothers and sisters in Christ we need to point people to Jesus, without Him, no change is possible, and we will be right back here again in a few years. We need to speak up, and speak out when we witness an injustice:

'Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. '

Proverbs 31:8-9

There is so much wrong right now, I am overwhelmed and saddened. I am overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this issue and the complexity of the solution. I am saddened by the continued pain my fellow americans endure.

We need to grab the wheel and steer it towards what is right, we need to point our world to Christ. We look to Him because we cannot always trust ourselves to make the best decisions. We need Jesus, or at the most basic level, even if you don't want to be religious, we need to follow His example, if not for you, for your children, for future generations, for your fellow human beings. Curtis Hayes was worried about his children following in his footsteps, he didn't want them to follow in his footsteps. Christ gives us an alternative way to walk, a better way to go. He has come so that we can have life in abundance ( John 10:10 ), that He works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose ( Romans 8:28 ). We need Jesus, who changes our hearts. As our hearts change, our lives change, our families change and our communities change.

Please stop the violence. We are ready to listen.

Stories of Hope – Week 2

This week, Danny talks about our expectations and when our reality doesn't line up with what we thought was going to happen. As a UT fan, he is definitely familiar with disappointment and failed expectations but this can happen a lot in sports, moreso to UT, but as fans we go to a game, or we watch a game hoping for, wanting, desiring, EXPECTING, a win. Sometimes we are left empty, and disappointed because of those failed expectations.

  • "Have you ever had expectations for something that went nothing like you had hoped or expected? "

This unfortunately also happens to us in life, when we have expectations about certain things that don't go our way, maybe you never hoped or expected that the last part of your senior year would be spent at home, that you'd miss out on sports, prom, or graduation. Maybe you never hoped or expected that your parents would get a divorce, that your best friend would pass away in a car accident. You had different expectations.

I bet Jesus' disciples had different expectations than when and how He was led to the cross to die. I have heard that people were expecting the Messiah, the Savior to conquer the roman empire who had overtaken Israel to free them from the oppression of Rome. They even argue at one point over who was going to sit at the right and the left hand of Jesus when He takes the throne. ( Mark 10:35-45 ) When He had come for something so much bigger than what they expected. Jesus said in John 16:33,

' “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”'

John 16:33

Jesus was trying to prepare them for what was going to happen, because He knew what was going to happen, what was required of Him to not just free Israel, but free the world. After His death, the disciples were afraid, because their expectations were totally destroyed. They ran and hid because they were scared that the roman empire was going to do the same to them because they associated with Jesus. Their collective world came crashing down when their expectations did not meet their reality.

In that darkest moment, God was still doing something: Christ had risen. When all hope was lost, God was still doing something. Matthew 28:2-7

John 20:19-23 - When Jesus appeared to them, they were overjoyed. This is what Jesus said He was going to do, but they did not expect it to go this way, they did not see Him being killed to complete the work He started. They did not know in the midst of all this that Jesus was working.

  • Has there been a time when you can remember when something did not go the way you had hoped or expected?
    • How did God work through that time?
    • What good came from that, which wouldn't have otherwise?

Just because things don't work out the way you envisioned, doesn't mean that God isn't working. When you don't feel it, when you don't see it, He is working. We have that promise. Maybe that's where you are reading this, maybe there are things going on now that aren't going the way you expected; be encouraged because He has overcome the world, Have courage because He has overcome the world, have hope because He has made a way to have eternal life with Him, and now this is not our home.

'weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. '

Psalms 30:5

This is the promise that we have. That sadness and despair only lasts a moment, but that our joy, peace, and life with Him will last forever. Just because things don't go the way you expect doesn't mean He doesn't love you, just because you don't see Him working, doesn't mean He doesn't love you, just because you don't feel it doesn't mean He doesn't love you. Sometimes you will feel lonely, but scripture says that if you draw near to God, He will draw near to you ( James 4:8 ) and He is faithful to do that.

Just because things don't work out the way you envisioned, doesn't mean that God isn't working.

If you are looking for this hope and peace, and don't have a relationship with Jesus, or just want to explore more, please leave a comment, I'd love to connect with you or connect you with one of the pastors I am covering in my notes.

The Key To Happiness.

What is the key to Happiness? This is an age-old question that many of us in some way will ask ourselves at least once in our lives. It may come in several forms, such as Why am I so miserable? Why can't I be happy? What makes me happy? It even could lead into, what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

In my journey through the Bible, I passed a chapter in Psalm today that described happy people, Psalm 84 which begins with the phrase, "How Lovely is your dwelling place". I knew this one from the late 90s praise and worship song "Better is One Day" By Charlie Hall, which starts out the same, but over and over again it says in the chorus, "Better is One Day in Your Courts, better is one day in Your house, better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere. "

In this chapter, verse 4 says "How happy are those who reside in Your house, who praise You continually." and again in verse 5, 'Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.'

We can shake out a few points on where we can find happiness from these two verses. The first is that happiness comes from those who dwell with the Lord. The Second is that happiness comes when we praise Him continually. We find happiness thirdly, when we rely on God for our strength and, the fourth one is that happiness is found in those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage; I might need another post to tackle the last one because even I got a bit confused when I got there. Research was required.

Okay, great discovery, what does this mean for me? How is this supposed to make me happy? From evidence of my personal journey, I can agree that these four points below are true and I implore you to test my results for yourself.

Dwell with the Lord. This doesn't mean that you need to go setup a hammock at church or sleep in the pews. To dwell with the Lord would mean that God becomes the center of my life, that my heart becomes a place that God resides, that my mind is always conscious of His presence. Since He is with us always, the only thing that really keeps us from "dwelling" with the Lord, is our desire to do so. For so many reasons we try to do things away from God, we try to do things on our own, maybe out of pride or ignorance. When we acknowledge His presence and His authority over our lives, submitting to His rule, we dwell with Him and throughout the Bible it says that this will bring us happiness.

Praise continually. I've attached a sermon by Pastor Cedric Beckles from the Bahamas below who does an excellent job at digging into this topic deeper. In this sermon Pastor Beckles tells us that the same part of our brain that worries, is the same part that also worships. He says that you cannot worry and worship at the same time. Try it, it doesn't work. When we chose worship over worry, we give our fears over to God and we choose to praise Him for who He is and let Him take care of the rest. In fact, in Luke 12:22-34 Jesus tells His followers not to worry. Easily enough, when we are not worrying, we are able to worship, and in worship we will be happy.

Rely on God for your strength. Most days when I am serving I get to the end of my energy but still have daylight requiring its expense and responsibility begging for my attention when I have nothing left to give. A lot of times I don't want to go on, I'm tired, exhausted, burnt out, weary is also a good word. There is no argument that serving others brings me joy, but there is an energy that seems to surge from nowhere when mine has run out. Isaiah 40:29-31 is where I go in my head when I realize that I am spent, but there is still work to be done. It says that "those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint". Instead of "I think I can, I think I can" when I feel weak like the Little Engine That Could, I go to Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength".

Set your heart on a pilgrimage. Don't go building a set of boats to sail to the promised land wearing funny hats, to go have turkey dinner at Plimoth Rock. I have to admit that this is where my mind went, but it's not far off from the journey that christians travel. Once we are in Christ, we become pilgrims moving to a new world, heaven, we are strangers, travellers on a journey to sainthood, sanctification through Christ. We become ambassadors from that world to the one we live in now. Our old lives become something new and as pilgrims on a journey we know that this is all temporary: pain, suffering, illness, sadness, depression...etc we can be happy knowing that it too, like a season, will pass and what waits for us on the other side is God's perfect glory. The journey gets easier when you know what awaits you at the end and that brings happiness in the present.

Happiness does not mean that we will be millionaires. Happiness doesn't mean that we will have a life without pain. Happiness is simply defined as contentment. The key to happiness isn't having and chasing more, more, more, it is, by its own definition, less. We can be content, because we know that the Lord has our needs covered, and we can be happy because we dwell with the Lord. We are then able to praise without worry; we have abounding strength and our paths are set to Heaven.

Why is Easter such a big deal?

Known for the Easter Bunny, chocolate eggs and the first opportunity of the year to wear white without it being a fashion fopaux, Easter is one of two Sunday services that the most christians feel obligated and convicted to attend. I mean after all, this was the christening of the christian religion, of the church; Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. With all that Easter didn't seem to matter that much to me for some reason.

I'm not sure I fully understood Easter growing up.

Easter was a somewhat confusing set of events with Passover, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Maybe it was the sudden bombardment of Christianisms, religious jargon and complete inundation of holy days and rituals that made me glaze over. Maybe I just didn't care to be drug to church after strategically locating 10 pounds of candy in the backyard conveniently wrapped up in multi-colored plastic egg-shaped containers.

So why is Easter such a big deal?

Easter, like I said earlier, is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead but I have read something recently that made it more clear than that. As if coming back to life after being dead wasn't good enough, but I want to also point out that Jesus predicted it. (Luke 9:21-22)

So Jesus predicted what would happen to Him, and pulled it off. Not only that, He predicted other people's actions. Jesus predicted Judas' betrayal (Luke 22:21-22), Peter's denial (Luke 22:34), He predicted the Roman destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1-2).

In Math there is a concept called the transitive property which I have used to reaffirm my faith and my belief in what the Bible says as fact instead of a wild-conspiracy-concoction-of-fiction somehow compiled across several millennia by different authors. The transitive property basically says if a =b and b=c then a=c. I use this mathematical idea to convey to you, that if Jesus said, "I am the Son of God, I will die and rise again on the third day" we can then in fact surmise that since He died and rose again on the third day, that the former must also be true. Resurrection Sunday, Easter Sunday, gives Jesus' whole claim that He was the Son of God, and His entire ministry complete validity.

Here's another excuse to throw a party on Easter:

When we can say with confidence that Jesus is who He said He is, then we can also say with confidence that what He said must be true as well. Who would have better credentials than the Son of God? John 3 gives us our reason for celebration, specifically John 3:16, Jesus said that God loved the world so much, that He sent his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Eternal Life! If we believe that Jesus is who He said He is, then we're going to live forever and more than that, Paul writes that in Christ we then become children of God, (Galatians 3:26-29) with an inheritance to His Kingdom. I've got a spot in Heaven that God has reserved for me, that Jesus is personally preparing for me (John 14:1-3) and that is enough to get me excited. THAT is why Easter Sunday is such a big deal.

An introduction to the Eleven Blog

Welcome to the Eleven blog; this is an outlet for the more spiritual side of my writings, thoughts, and feelings to be expressed. So often I would wrap up a devotional in the morning and have something revealed to me through that time spent in the Word and with God but I had no platform, no outlet for many of those thoughts to go, save Twitter or Instagram that in many ways were limiting on exactly what, moreso how much I could publish. 140 characters, or fumbling around in creative mode didn't really allow much room for thought or feeling, and in all reality it was simply blasting out the highlights without much regard for the real meat of the idea.

I also feel that the churches need to be written letters again. The Apostle Paul was onto something in his writings. Thoughts on paper are better worded, better put together and better saved than words shared verabally, in my feeling writing is the superior form of communication. Even Paul mentions how he is untrained in public speaking, (2 Corinthians 11:6) but without him, we would also not have a majority of the New Testament, especially if he had chosen to speak his messages instead of write them. The letters he wrote were most likely read aloud to the early church as they were forming, and are still incredibly relevant today. I seriously doubt this blog will carry that kind of weight, but if it helps one person, it's all worth it.

So, why Eleven? The significance of Eleven is that I lead high school student small groups at my church during the 11am hour at New Vision Baptist in Murfreesboro, TN. While we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted a way to teach and share what is on my heart, while I cannot be with them in person, I am hoping to use this outlet as a way to ultimately share God's love with them, and what He is teaching me weekly. Granted there is a low probability that any of them will read it, but I am generating content just in case. Who knows what boredom will lead them to. Often I end up sharing messages that God is teaching me anyway, so in the end, I'm simply writing to myself.

I will also share what we are doing in the student ministry through sermon notes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, or as I like to refer to it, the coronapocolypse, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I'm using that to build sermon notes which I would normally do for the 11am hour, just in a slightly different capacity.

I hope you enjoy the blog, for as long as it lasts. Everyday God is teaching me something new, I hope that maybe through my writings, something might be revealed to you too.

Thanks for reading,
-Chris

The New Normal

You are not normal. You feel trapped. You feel sad, confused, anxious, worried, distraught, depressed. You feel like the walls are closing in, you feel powerless to stop something so small, yet that miniscule thing has just disrupted your entire existence, maybe even your livelihood. Instead of going to visit people as an act of love, we are asked to stay away, to isolate, to quarantine, to purposely distance ourselves from each other.

You are completely out of control. You realize that your life is speeding down the road in a direction you haven't chosen, at a speed way beyond safe limits, and if you're like me it feels like you're not even going forward. It's not that you were unprepared or inept at managing this crisis: you're just not driving anymore. COVID-19 has wiped out anything and everything that we remember as "normal".

You're not alone.

I think that is the inherent point I am trying to make. You may not feel normal right now, but none of us feel normal. We're all in this together. Which makes what you are feeling, exactly, precisely, and beautifully normal. I must admit that there was at least one instance over the past few weeks in which I spontaneously burst into tears and you know what? That's okay.

Our culture painted a picture that we all believed: that we were human, top of the food chain, we bent the Earth to our will, the universe was at our command and we were to conquer it and anything that opposed us. But those lies were all just smoke and mirrors. When the smoke vanished and the mirrors broke, the illusion was that we had any control at all. Recently in Nashville, we were confronted with the most terrifying of natural phenomena, the tornado, I remember feeling hopeless, fearful, truly terrified - how does someone protect themselves against something so destructive, so powerful or at least prepare for it?

The short answer was simple: you cannot.

If I cannot control something, if it is beyond my capacity as a human being, why should I even give it more than a passing thought? I think that is why Jesus told us so often not to be afraid and not to worry. There's a passage in Luke 12 that comes to mind: Jesus is speaking and says, 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?'

He tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink, what we will wear, He said that the pagans run after such things. God the Father knows that you need them but we are to seek His kingdom and all that will be added unto us. (Luke 12:29-31) God's got this. He WANTS us to rely on Him for our needs. God's got this. Say it again. It is this confidence that we have, this hope in Him and the eternal life beyond this word that really reminds us that no thing really matters in this world. What matters is His kingdom, and the people around us and connected to us.

So, Chris, what then do you suggest we do when we are told to stay home and do nothing? What do we do with all this free time now that we are no longer obsessively worrying about this virus?

It's a good time to read. It's a great time to pray. It's a good time to connect with people. This is an unprecedented time yes, but even more an unprecedented opportunity to connect with God, to read your Bible and to spread the love of Christ simply by picking up the phone, sending a text, hosting a zoom bible study or hey-o, writing a blog. All your excuses have been thrown out the window, and it is obvious to me that God wants to spend time with you. I can say that with the utmost confidence simply because He has gone through extraordinary measures to do so in the past, what makes today any different?

The God of the universe has been waiting for you, to spend time with you. I think now is a good time to make that a habit and our new normal.

HOPE – Week 1



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3/19

Nikki Tigg brings the first message in the NVStudents series "Hope" which coincides with the COVID-19 outbreak. This whole situation has transformed and redefined how we interact with one another, how we communicate and how we get the love of Christ into the minds of the students.

Nikki shared a song that she is listening to right now: Never Lost - Elevation Worship. She said that this song has brought her peace and joy amidst of this storm.

Nikki describes that we are in a battle, or at the very least it feels like we are in a battle, we are scared, there's fear, anxiety, and has caught us off our guard. Nikki reminds us that God can do all things. This virus has not caught God off Guard. "Oops" is not in His vocabulary, God is not in heaven wondering what He's going to do. God is sovereign, He is in control and the source of our hope:

Romans 15:13 NIV - 'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. '

We are never alone. We have the hope and the gift of the Holy Spirit that brings us peace and hope that never ends. He is more than we can ever comprehend.

  • Psalm 138 gives us some pictures of God, David says that
    • 2) God's love and faithfulness is unfailing
    • 3a) When we call, He answers
    • 3b) He brings us courage
    • 5) His glory is great
    • 7) He watches over us, protects us, rescues us
    • 8) His love endures forever

As we put our hope and trust in the Lord, it melts our fears away. We can have confidence because we have put that hope in the Creator of the universe, with just the utterance of the words of His voice, He spoke everything we know into motion. This helps my fears melt away because my hope is placed in Him.

As Christians, we need do need to understand the strength that we have in times like this because of where our hope is placed. It starts however, with understanding how we use the word "hope". Many times our hope is misplaced. Nikki used the examples of "I hope it doesn't rain", or "I hope I pass my test." Our hopes do not carry the same weight of the hope in Jesus, it isn't the same kind of hope. Our hope in Jesus is eternal, whereas our hopes in the things of this world are fickle and limited.

Nikki reminds us that the others arounds us may not understand how we remain confident in the midst of this mess as a follower of Jesus, and that she is thankful for her hope in God, that she could not imagine what it would feel like to go through this without that hope.

Ephesians 2:12: 'At that time you were without the Messiah… …without hope and without God in the world. '

So many people need the love of Jesus. That is something that we can do now that we cannot do in Heaven. We have this unique opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the people around us:

Who Is Jesus? Jesus came to save us from sin - which are the wrong choices that we make, that separates us from God. God cannot be around sin because God is holy so therefore the punishment for sin is death. Short story is that we needed a savior, a sacrifice to make amends for our sins which we could not do on our own by our own actions or achievements. This is why Jesus came. He lived a sinless life, died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, rose from the dead three days later and now sits at the right hand of God and testifies on our behalf. It is in Jesus we place our hope.

If you want to know more about Jesus, please send a message via social media or email.

  • REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
    • How are you feeling right now? Are you scared, anxious, afraid, sad - why or why not?
      • Where do you run to when you are afraid? Does that help?
      • What or Who have you placed your hope in?
    • Why is it important to place your trust in God?
    • Are you spending time with Him through reading, and prayer?