“¿Cómo te llamas?”

There isn’t a whole lot I remember from 3 years of high school Spanish.  Several years removed and more recent languages taken have rendered me pretty useless in Espanol.  However, there are those few things I can still dig up.  You know, the basics — nothing too deep.

“¿Cómo te llamas?” is one of those generic questions.  It is translated as, “What is your name?” or “What do you call yourself?”  For this blog, I am only interested in the one name that is most important in our life.  That name, is Christian.  For the remainder of this blog let’s use this as our answer.  We are a Christian.  The Apostle Paul in writing to the Church in Colasse pens these words in the third chapter:  “Everything you say or do should be done in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v.17).

Back in his day, Alexander the Great was surveying his army when his attention came upon a very troubled soldier.  This particular man was sloppy and slumped over.  He did not take his position seriously.  Alexander the Great approached him and asked him what his name was.  The man responded, “Alexander.”  To which Alexander the Great quickly replied, “Young man, either change your character or change your name.”

As Christians, as Christ followers, we represent the Name of Jesus to others and to His world.  People who respond to the gift of God and accept Christ as Lord and Savior are seldom “talked into” a saving faith.  They are much more likely to be attracted to faith and belief by a person who demonstrates real, authentic, and sincere commitment to Christ.

In a typical week, a very high % of people will spend almost all of their time in 1 of 5 places:  home; school; work; activities (sports, clubs, bands, scouts, etc.); and church.  Honoring Christ, for some reason, is often times easiest in church services, Bible Studies, prayer cells, and life groups — and tougher in the other 4 categories.  In which area is it toughest for you to live out your faith consistently and effectively?  Taking Christ and sharing Him with others means that we represent Him in every area, in every situation, and in all circumstances.  Whether you are studying, playing, working, or hanging out and sipping coffee with your friends — you are His representative.

So, what does your life say about Him?

Does it say anything?  Is it silent?

Please pray this with me:  Thank You Father, for allowing me to represent You here on planet earth, in my life, through the gift, hope, promise, and presence of Your Son.  Help me to bring You honor and glory by the way I live my life and in the decisions and choices I make.  Pour out Your Spirit Lord and show me where I need to improve, grow, and become more like You.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.


Pastor Porter


Ever watched someone make and repeat the same mistake, over and over again?

A college quarterback continues to press the ball into tight zone coverage, and as a result, the ball is intercepted on each possession.  A trumpet player in the brass section keeps hitting the “wrong” note.  The leading actor in the Winter Drama continues to forget the same line in rehearsal.  The same student neglects to get all of his projects done, on time, each day.  Each time you see it happen you cringe and wonder how someone, anyone, can keep making the same mistake.

One of the most graphic and illustrative verses in the wisdom book of Proverbs shows the foolishness of repeating the same mistake over and over again.  It is one of those verses that is often overlooked.  But we do well to be reminded of it.  It is found in Proverbs 26, which is an entire chapter that instructs us to apply wisdom and avoid foolishness.  Not enough time to read and cite it all here in this blog, but I do encourage you to get into the chapter.  Here is v.11, and it is vivid:  “Dogs return to eat their vomit, just as fools repeat their foolishness.”  Wow!  Could it be any more direct than that?

I believe most people are disgusted by watching a dog do this.  We should be.  It’s revolting.  But according to Proverbs, so are the times and occasions when we keep repeating the same foolishness.  Ponder this:  God does not expect us to live a mistake-free life.  In fact, He knows that we make mistakes.  But His desire is that we learn from them, and not repeat or return to them.

Think about the last time you really blew it.  I am thinking of that time right now.  Did you, did I, learn from it?  Did you go back and make the same error again?  What do you believe God was teaching you through it?  

God desires that we grow and mature in our faith.  He has provided His Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.  His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  His grace is sufficient.  His love is supreme.  So with all of this lavishly given and provided to us, He will allow us to make the decision:  Do we learn from our mistakes and from our bad decisions, and move on?  Or, do we just keep repeating them over and over again, like a dog does as mentioned in Proverbs 26:11?

Pray this with me right now:  Father God, I know I have made many mistakes.  I have made bad decisions.  I confess that I have even been foolish.  Help me learn from these occasions and see them when they occur for what they are.  Allow me to be open to Your instruction, correction, and teaching so that I would be a more effective disciple and worker for You Lord.  In Jesus’ mighty Name.  Amen!

Blessings and joy…

Pastor Porter

Casting Blame: What a Shame!

Why is it that everyone today seems to be blaming someone else?  All you have to do is catch the latest news, read through a popular magazine, or listen to some people talk about their lives.  We would have to be about as perceptive as a potted plant not to notice a growing trend in our culture:  Everybody’s a victim.

Now, at one time or another, if we are transparent, we would see and admit that we fell into this reasoning and into this way of thinking.  Hopefully it was a season, long ago.  One that we came out of and moved past.  But we have to realize that this is an epidemic here in the homeland.  People blame their lives, their upbringings, their families, and their failures on everything from bad parenting to corrupt government and politics on both sides of the aisle. from a poor educational system they were a part of to a bad church experience that occurred 20 years ago.  And the blame game is pretty effective too.  But why?  Why is this the case?  Because as long as we continue to point the finger at someone or something else, we keep the spotlight off of ourselves.  As long as we make excuses, we don’t have to change.  In fact, some argue and theorize today that we “can’t” change.  Our circumstances, they say, prevent us from getting outside the box we have been placed in.  The result then, of the blaming phenomenon, is an entire culture of complainers at home, in the workplace, and in the communities where we live and dwell.  Of course this atmosphere and environment infiltrates the church.

It is not the Father’s will that we wallow in self-pity or bitterness.  I know enough about our Lord and Savior to know that this is not His heart and plan for us.  He comes to us, as He came to the crippled man by the Bethesda pool, and asks:  “Would you like to get well?”  It is a sobering question with profound implications.  When we are ready to stop blaming and making excuses, and willing to trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, then and only then can we experience transformation and growth.

Let’s be sure to search our lives today.  May we allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate His truth and light so that we would know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, where we may be blaming others rather than having great faith and belief.  Here is my prayer, and I ask you to join me:  Father God, in a world and culture where most would rather make excuses and blame others than practice great faith and belief, which allows us to grow and mature, help us, help me to follow You no matter what others may think, say, or do.  Pour out Your Spirit in such a way that I am transformed for Your glory!  In Jesus’ mighty Name!  Amen.

God is love, and you are loved!

Pastor Porter


Renewal is about Transformation

Here we are right in the middle of our 2011 Renewal Week.  Once again, we have been on the blessed receiving end of God’s Message, given to Brother James Spruill, delivered to us with a targeted intent through God’s Will.  It has been anointed and the presence of the Holy Spirit has been undeniable.  So here is a reasonable question to ask:  Why is spiritual renewal so crucial in our faith journey?

What a great question!  There are certainly many factors that could be explored, but beyond all else, there is this:  God knows that even as we belong to Him and profess a saving faith in His Son and are led along by the Holy Spirit, that we still live in the world.  And with this, God knows that our journey (individually and corporately) needs continual transformation and renewal.  It is nothing we can generate, manufacture, give to ourselves, or find in a store.  It only comes through the infilling of the Spirit of God, Who leads us into all truth and all power.  Today, I find myself especially grateful for God’s promise to draw me closer to Himself, because that’s exactly where I want to be!

Paul was writing to the church body in Rome as the Letter of Romans would have been read aloud to the entire body when they were gathered.  Can you imagine that?  How excited and electrified those believers would have been to have received a letter from the Apostle Paul?  You reckon they had a potluck for the ages? :0)  Anyway, in chapter 12, the Apostle writes:  “Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices , dedicated to God and pleasing to Him.  This kind of worship is appropriate for you.  Don’t become like the pattern of the world.  Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (vv.1- 2b, GWT).  As we are renewed, as we grow, and as we mature, it is then that we come to know God’s holy and perfect will (read the balance of v.2).  You see, it is God’s desire that we not just know His will, but be and further become His will.

I am grateful for renewal!  I praise God for His love, grace, and presence that comes through His Spirit and touches and transforms us in this life.  Thank You, Lord!

Pastor Porter

Gospel First

Question:  What is the proper role of Christian faith in relation to politics? That is a question without any one-answer-fits-all solution.  Yet, it is one that we should, as responsible Christians, tackle.

There are a few aspects that we must consider:

Component #1: We must understand and discern our particular calling.

I recently saw the movie Amazing Grace. The movie is artful, powerful, and pointed.  It accurately portrays the role of evangelical pietism in the life of former slave trader and later Anglican clergyman, John Newton, the writer of the famous hymn for which the movie is named, and especially in the life of the extraordinary politician and statesman, William Wilberforce, whose persistent battle to end the slave trade in the British Empire was finally fruitful. Wilberforce is the main focus of the movie and Newton appears only a few times, but if you see the movie, you will forget neither.

Grounded in his spiritual vision, Wilberforce perhaps promoted more good causes more effectively than any other figure in history. By our current standards, we may not conclude that his batting average was 1.000 on his choices of causes, but, if we allow him to be a man of his times, he shines like the sun breaking through thick, dark clouds. Although largely forgotten today, he was a worldwide hero in his times.

Interestingly, both the Christian right and the Christian left of our times have seen the importance of this movie better than have the complacent Christians and the secularists. For right and left alike, Wilberforce is a model of how to be a Christian politician, a model from which both sides can profit in more ways than they perhaps yet recognize. Right and left come out from viewing this movie ready to re-energize their respective battles for family values, the sanctity of life, social justice, and even ecological stewardship. Perhaps before they return to the barricades, they need to search beyond the movie to find a lesson hidden in the lives of these two men. The lesson is that the role of politics in the life of a Christian may well depend on that Christian’s calling.

Newton had been a blasphemous, drunken, adulterous, murderous slave trader when, in the midst of a 1748 sea storm, he had a life changing awakening. He once was blind, but now he saw…sort of. His conversion did not immediately end his participation in the slave trade, but merely by degrees softened his treatment of the slaves. In 1754, a health problem forced him out of the trade. I have not yet seen record of his denouncing the slave trade prior to 1763, although I am fairly certain that it had happened sometime before that. In 1764, he became an Anglican priest. In 1770, he wrote Amazing Grace. By 1785, Newton was persuading Wilberforce to enter politics rather than the ministry in order to fight the slave trade, and in 1787 he wrote an abolitionist tract in which he set forth a full case against slavery, attributing his slowness to reject the slave trade as due to his earlier ignorance of true Christian character.

Even as he wrote against the slave trade, Newton was concerned that he not step beyond his appropriate role as a “clergyman” and that he not come across as self-righteously judging those who were still engaged in the trade he now abhorred. He also made it clear that he was describing the moral problems with the slave trade, not advocating a particular legislative remedy. Newton understood that Christian transformation is a gradual process and that his calling was to nurture people toward Christian faith and character, not to engage firsthand in politics.

Wilberforce, as a politician and statesman, defied easy categorization. He was willing to stand courageously against strong tides of misplaced patriotism and corrupt wealth, and to persist until the verdict of saner times and broader popular interests, but he was also willing to align himself with patriotism and wealth when they furthered his causes. He was flexible enough and focused enough to let his causes cut across lines of party, class, and ideological perspectives. He was clear-thinking enough to forge coalitions with people who shared his interest in a particular cause, but who were not of like minds at deeper and broader levels. He managed to do this without compromising his principles or his character. In other words, he was a good Christian and a good politician.

Yes, he was concerned about sharing the saving gospel with unbelievers and leading believers to maturity, and, as he could, he addressed these concerns, but his primary calling was to the political arena. As a champion of controversial causes, he was too polarizing to be an effective evangelist or pastor to those who did not share his commitments.

In other words, I am saying that Newton and Wilberforce had different, but complementary callings. It was as important for them to understand how their jobs were different as it was for them to understand how they were similar.

Pastors and churches are to stand first for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, second for training those who believe and trust in Christ to grow in Christlikeness so that they may winningly join the mission of representing the Gospel as an ambassador. There are no greater causes than these. Pastors and churches are not to allow lesser causes to get in the way of their primary callings. Once pastors and churches begin to align themselves too closely with public policy issues, with political parties and candidates, or even with moral crusades, they begin to limit the people to whom they can effectively “reach” to.

Newton pastored and encouraged Wilberforce, and helped him as he could, but he did not actively enter the political fray that would have distracted him from his calling to win souls and to superintend their growth into Christlikeness.

William Wilberforce, on the other hand, was called to live out his faith and morality in the public and political arena where ever-shifting coalitions and constant compromise are the name of the game. Although a man of faith, he had to fight with worldly weapons. It was important to the cause of Christ and of humanity generally that Wilberforce fulfilled his calling in the political realm. We need more Wilberforces today, but we do not need Newtons playing at being Wilberforces. It is important to understand our calling before we determine whether we are to engage in any political battle or involvement.

Component #2: Moral concerns may have their moments in politics, but they will not dominate politics.

One of the things that Wilberforce had to come to understand is that political battles are not won by moral outrage alone. Moral outrage may be a component in a political battle, but it will not by itself determine many outcomes.

To use a figure of speech, politics is mostly about pie, how the pie is baked, protected, sliced, and distributed. Pie issues are resolved by building coalitions and selecting the most advantageous compromises that are available.  In our society today, the Republicans represent the pie interests of one group and the Democrats represent the pie interests of another group. Since the core pie interests of neither party form a majority of the populace, the two parties contest for the support of the rest of the country, by seeking to persuade this group that they can best represent their pie interests too (for instance, keeping taxes lower, helping to get better health care, etc.). They may also try to persuade this populance that they can best represent non-pie interests in a better way and with a more lucrative impact than “the other party or person.”

Morality is one of the non-pie interests. Morality is about how people should live. Moral issues are resolved by persuading people to do right, and they do not fit very easily with the coalitions and the compromises by which pie issues are resolved. So it is not wise to put all our moral eggs in the political basket because those eggs will only be used for the pie.

When it comes to hard choices, most successful politicians of both parties will stick with the pie issues and jettison the moral issues. Politicians of either party who do not focus on the pie issues will be either ineffective or defeated or both.

Moralists will often end up frustrated by their ventures into politics. They need to understand that they serve as a leavening effect on the political culture even when they do not prevail.

In order to win in his battle against the slave trade and ultimately against slavery itself, Wilberforce had to consider the economic issues and how to get them aligned with the moral issues. He succeeded because he was willing to think in that manner. We need to pay attention to that lesson from his life.

Component #3: What are the politically relevant moral issues about which Christians should be concerned?

Wilberforce was not a one issue politician. At one point, he was involved in 60+ reform organizations, each representing a different cause. His issues cut across party lines and across all the typicall alignments of his day. His primary motive was to represent a Christian vision in practical concerns. How would we begin to compose such a list of causes for 2011 A.D.?  We should know, as Christians, that politically relevant moral issues of concern should include those things that God is serious and intentional about. And we come to learn this from knowing His Word and saturating in His presence.

Component #4: What to do!

We need to step back and learn (or re-learn) a lesson from Jesus. His faith and values certainly had an impact on the political world. He would not have been crucified otherwise. But he did not focus on political action and community organization. His mission was introducing broken, rejected, and sick people to the redeeming love and reigning power of God. Among his closest disciples were a former Zealot revolutionary against Rome and a former tax collector for Rome. He must have asked his disciples to keep their focus on His Kingdom mission and off politics, because, despite their differences, He was able to send them out, two-by-two, to proclaim the kingdom of God, healing and delivering people, and calling them to repent and to belief in a saving faith.

Jesus understood that what people most need is a living, intimate relationship with the loving and reigning God. When they have that, God will guide and empower them to make sound moral choices. Society does not have rewards and punishments that can compare in influence to the transforming power of God. When the Church (the bride and body of Christ) gets involved in politics, it obscures its most powerful tool for change (the Gospel) in exchange for highlighting a less effective one (legislation). The politically partisan church undermines the power of its own message, that we can be born anew through faith and profession in Jesus Christ.

Just as politicians focus on pie, churches ought to focus on the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to let nothing distract us from that focus. Our clear priority should be evangelism and discipleship, bringing people to God and positioning them to grow and go in Him. Our moral teaching ought to be part of our in-house training programs for bringing believers to maturity in Christ. It is: Gospel first, morality second.

What then do we Christians do about family values and sexual morality? We should do such a good job of teaching those values to our church members and partners that others will see our lives and want to find out how we do it, and in turn, ask how they can get it.  That is the kind of witness His Church should have.

What then do we do about resource stewardship, war, famine, alleviation of poverty, matters of life and death, etc.? Again, we train our members in the values that fit with the Lordship of Jesus Christ and trust God that those values will have an impact on everyone around us. That is faith in action! Christians will often have different ideas about what government ought to do, or not do, about such issues, but there ought to be some basic values and beliefs that unite His Church and bring us together.

Of course, when Christians step into the voting booth or feel called by God to run for an elective office, they will take their Christian values with them, and those values must have an impact. We should rejoice when this happens. But we ought never to assume that we will thereby build the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God grows 1 disciple at a time as we go, and make, and disciple, and teach.

It is then that the Kingdom expands, that truth is shared, that the Gospel is taken, and that souls are transformed.  Just remember:  politics, parties, and government will never solve the deepest issues of mankind.  There is only One Who has made all things available for each and every one of us.  There is only One Who has paid it all. There is only One Who has our best interests at heart. His Name is Jesus!