Monday, December 28, 2015

I Walked Home from Church Today

Photo from our last Sunday on staff at Philippi 

I walked home from church today, as I’ve done countless times over the years, but this time was different. I knew this was my final walk home.

Each week I walk down the hill from Philippi to my house, two places that I view as a gift from God. I received both gifts on the same day—my 23rd birthday—January 22nd, 2008. Many think the house is a parsonage, but it was just a house that happened to be in foreclosure when we were hired at the church. We were voted in on a Sunday night, and agreed to buy the house the next morning before heading to the airport. The next time we would be in Union it would be to call it home.

2007 was a tough year for us. Alicia left her family in Texas, the place I called home for the previous four years. We suffered through a pair of miscarriages, and I had to come to grips with not being given the chance at what I considered to be my dream job. 2008 brought not only a new year, but a new beginning at a place that seemed too good to be true. Our house, and its view of the magnificent sanctuary, are a constant reminder that God is faithful.

We kept waiting for the new to wear off, to find out that this was all too good to be true. That still hasn’t happened. Brad Goodale turned out to be the best boss I ever had, and Philippi became our family. We have endured another pair of miscarriages here, and the church has loved us through them. When Alicia went into kidney failure, the church not only took care of us, they literally gave us a kidney. Through the roller coaster pregnancies that brought us Reagan and TJ, and their subsequent stays in the NICU, Philippi was good to us, allowing me to miss time to take care of my family.

After all we have been through together, I dreaded telling the church of my intentions to resign. I knew they would understand if I was leaving to become a senior pastor somewhere, but I have never felt that calling. My biggest fear was that they would be disappointed that I was leaving to enter politics. That’s why I’ll never forget their reaction. As much as I needed the church in January of 2008, or during Alicia’s transplant, or when we rocked our tiny babies in NICU, I needed them again when I resigned. I’ll forever be grateful for the standing ovation I received when I announced my intentions of running for the State House of Representatives.

Each Sunday I walk home after another great day in God’s house, feeling thankful as I walk towards mine. I’m sure I’ll still walk to church sometimes (I can use the exercise), but it won’t be as a pastor. Those days are now over. But I can close this chapter in my life with no regrets and nothing but good memories.  

From the four of us, thank you for everything. I have no idea what 2016 will bring, or where we will be this time next year, but we will always be thankful for all you have done for us.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Conquer or Die

Forgive me if this is a bit dramatic, but visiting Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty got me thinking…

Last week Alicia and I had the privilege of spending a few days in New York. On our trip we stopped in Brooklyn, and being the history nerd that I am, I was awestruck by this quote from George Washington.

The British army had amassed 10,000 Red Coats to storm New York. Understanding that losing New York was tantamount to losing the country, General Washington knew his men needed to make a stand in the Battle of Brooklyn. His words now live on, forever etched in the sidewalk and in the hearts of modern patriots. He said:

“The fate of unborn millions will now depend on the courage and conduct of this army. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

Reading those words and trying to picture Washington’s army looking at the enemy soldiers coming in the Hudson River, I felt an appreciation for the “courage and conduct” of those men—men whom I will never know. I realized just how prophetic the future President’s words proved to be. Did his army have any way of knowing that he was right? Here I stood, 239 years later, as one of the “unborn millions” whose fate he secured. I am grateful for the men and women who have defended my freedom over the years, but freedom would not be there to defend were it not for Washington and his army at the Brooklyn shore in 1776.

I may never do anything nearly as heroic as that army did, but the choices I make today can affect unborn millions, for the better or worse. Choices that seem small today can have incredible consequences down the road, shaping the course for future generations. We must resolve to conquer the task at hand; win the battle every day to make the proper decision, stand for what is right, defend those in need, and stand tall even in the face of ridicule. Taking the easy way out may have devastating consequences for unborn millions.

Today I resolve to conquer or die. I hope you’ll stand with me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Two Book Signings

Yes, Tommy Mann Ministries is closing down.

But as I said in the last post, I will continue to write and sell books, just not on a non-profit basis. So I want to let you know about two book signings in December to help launch the release of Asleep in Heaven's Nursery for Kids.

The first is at Coffee Underground in Greenville on December 5th, from 1:00-3:00 PM. They are located at 1 East Coffee Street, 29601.

The second is at The Stomping Grounds in Greer on December 19th, from 10:00-noon. They are located at 208 Trade Street, 29651.

Both of these events are at coffee shops. I would love to see you out there if you can make it. You can get a gourmet cup of coffee, eat lunch, or get dessert. It is also a great place to get a signed copy of my first children's book.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Asleep in Heaven's Nursery for Kids

Asleep in Heaven's Nursery for Kids will not be in stores until November 24th, but it is now available for pre-order. You can get it here. Even though it is a pre-order, all sales will ship this week, and shipping is FREE. 

Asleep for Kids is a beautifully-illustrated poem as told by a five year old girl who is finding out that her mother is no longer pregnant. She comes to realize her little brother is asleep in heaven's nursery. This book is the perfect tool to use when having to explain child loss to young children.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Answering God's Call and Kim Davis

This past Sunday our Bible study classes at Philippi began using Answering God’s Call for the Fall curriculum. I began writing this about a year ago, long before we knew who Kim Davis was, but I believe it was timely. This goes to show that we are not jumping on the Kim Davis bandwagon, but instead are trying to simply live out our faith the way the Bible instructs. Here is page 11 from the book:

We need to obey the rules. Romans 13:1 teaches believers to “be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” It is hard to imagine how God could allow people like this Pharaoh to rise to power, but He is sovereign and nothing happens without God either authoring or allowing it.

But even though we are supposed to obey the rulers placed as authorities in our lives, sometimes those leaders will command us to do something that is in opposition to God’s Word. In those cases we are to obey God instead of man.

In Acts 5 the apostles were instructed by the high priest to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, and in verse 29 Peter said, “We must obey God rather than man.”

The way things are going in this country it may one day be illegal to attend church, read the Bible, or, like with the apostles, preach in the name of Jesus. It may soon become against the law to call homosexuality a sin. What are Christians supposed to do in those cases?

We must obey God rather than man.

This doesn’t mean that we should be pushy, arrogant, or obnoxious, but we must not cower and cave; we need to determine now that if there is a conflict between man’s law and God’s law, we will obey God.

Believers today may feel their temperature rise as they engage in a conversation about Kim Davis, the Bible, or religious freedom today. We should not cower, but neither should we be pushy, obnoxious, or arrogant. While we disagree, remember to do so in love, for we never want to win the argument and lose the person.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Kim Davis: Jailed for Her Faith

We are in uncharted waters in this country. We have two groups whose rights have put them on a collision course with each other, and instead of protecting both groups, the solution seems to be to prosecute one and champion the other.

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion in this country, but it does so much more than that. Freedom of religion is more than just the freedom to go to church or own a Bible. Freedom of religion does us no good without her sister, the free exercise of religion. This means that, not only are we free to go to church and read the Bible, we are free to live out the principles that the church and the Bible teach. The teachings of Scripture are not to be confined to inside the four walls of the church or the home, but they are meant to be freely lived out in our places of work, schooling, and communities.

These teachings make up a worldview that governs the daily actions of the Christian. They are not one part of the Christian—they form the Christian. To ask a Christian to check his Christianity at the door when he enters the office, the grocery store, or the restaurant is impossible. And illegal. That is why the founding fathers gave us the First Amendment.

Atheists are never asked to leave their atheism at home. They get to carry their atheistic worldview with them wherever they go. They have the right to be practicing atheists, even if it bothers practicing Christians, because they enjoy the same First Amendment rights Christians enjoy. While the groups may disagree, they can coexist. That is the beauty of freedom. Whether you like it or not, this country was established upon a freedom of religious expression.

Beginning this summer, five members of the Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals have a Constitutional right to marry each other. Whether you like it or not, they have been given the same rights to marriage that heterosexuals enjoy.

So here we are on a collision course of Constitutional rights. The Court says gay marriage is the law, so no one can refuse to bake a cake for their wedding, supply flowers for their reception, or affix their name and seal of approval to their marriage license.

But that same Court has two centuries worth of precedent protecting the rights of the other group, the people of Judeo-Christian faith. Whenever an organization of godlessness has tried to shut down or shut up people of religious beliefs, the Courts have sided with faith.

But not any longer. The bakery owners are being fined, the florists driven out of business, and a clerk now incarcerated. These are not actions indicative of the United States of America, that great beacon of hope and freedom; these are instead the actions reserved for dictators of oppressive regimes that squash freedom and silence opposition.

Lexington County Clerk of the Court Kim Davis is behind bars indefinitely. She will be released once she agrees to violate her deeply held religious beliefs. If that story emerged from Castro’s Cuba we would not be surprised. We should all be alarmed that it is happening here. We are now seeing a government that destroys its detractors.

One group is clearly being victimized by the Federal Government. What about the other group? Your tax dollars paid to wash the White House in gay pride rainbow colors. If they hoisted the Christian Flag above the Capitol we would hear cries about the mythical separation of church and state. 

Why should Washington pick sides in this issue? Instead of picking a winner and condemning a loser, we need a compromise that protects both groups. If the Courts want to give homosexuals the right to marry, they need to do so only while also protecting people of faith.

There have to be religious exemptions for people of faith. If one baker refuses to bake a cake, there are plenty of other bakeries. There are six deputy clerks in Kim Davis’ office, five of which agreed to issue licenses to homosexuals (the one who refused is Davis’ son). We need to live and let live. Instead of trying to ruin those who live differently than we do, we need to cohabitate in this great, diverse, free country in which we are blessed to call home.

We are on a collision course. Unless someone intervenes there is going to be a devastating crash.       

Friday, September 4, 2015

Using the Bible to Bash Kim Davis

Before you use the Bible to try to criticize Kim Davis, there are a few things you should know. The Bible doesn’t work like a game of Scrabble; you can’t take random letters and words and use them to suit your current needs. So here are some responses to some of the critics I have seen over the last few days.

1. Yes, Kim Davis has been married four times, divorced three times, and had children out of wedlock. By her own admission she has made many mistakes, but the aforementioned indiscretions were committed before she came to Christ four years ago. The Bible speaks strongly against divorce (although some divorces are justified) and premarital and extramarital relations. But it teaches that when a person turns to Jesus, he becomes a “new creation; the old things have passed away, and behold, all things are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).” Using her mistakes from her life without Christ to call her a hypocrite is inconsistent.

Furthermore, like I said in my post about Josh Duggar and Bristol Palin, we all make mistakes, and Kim Davis will continue to as well. That doesn’t make her a hypocrite; it makes her a human. Even if she were the biggest hypocrite on the planet, that doesn’t somehow nullify her position. Calling her names and demonizing her may make her look foolish, but her point is still valid: she should not have to resign or violate her religious beliefs.

2. Has Kim Davis issued marriage licenses to people with tattoos, mixed fabric, and shaved beards? Of course. But again, this doesn’t make her a hypocrite if you understand the Bible. The commands about tattoos, mixed fabric, and a host of other things appear as part of the Old Covenant, which was only given to a certain group of people for a certain time in history. Kim Davis is not a Jew in the Promised Land; she is a gentile in America living under the New Covenant, and therefore, she can freely unite people in marriage who have tattoos. (For more on this, see my post titled, “Yes, I Eat Shellfish”).

3. I’ve seen many people throwing out Romans 13 and other passages that instruct Christians to both pray for and submit to those in authority. Davis should definitely do that. But we are shortsighted if we cling to that verse to the exclusion of the biblical precedent to obey God rather than government if the government orders us to do something unbiblical (Acts 5:29). Kim can pray for and submit to government, but when government orders her to violate, not only her First Amendment right, but more importantly, her religious convictions, the Bible suggests obeying God instead of government.

I realize this debate will continue to play out in America, but if we are going to use the Bible, let’s at least agree to use it the right way. If you want to criticize Kim Davis, don’t do it by taking verses out of context. And if you do criticize, please remember that name calling doesn’t improve your position nor weaken the other side.