5/1/16

The Tuckers are moving

To my brothers and sisters in Christ in Philadelphia, Mississippi,

After several months of intense prayer, I and Marion and the kids all believe that God is calling us away from Philadelphia. We believe that we have been called to move from Philadelphia to Clinton, Mississippi. We are staying here through the end of the school year, and through all of the graduation ceremonies, and my last day will be Friday, May 27, 2016.





I have accepted God’s call to a new ministry opportunity. The church is Wynndale Baptist Church, just south of Jackson in Terry, MS. The ministry is Associate Pastor of Students and Missions. It is exciting to imagine how God might use me (1)in ministry to students and their families, (2)in ministry to this church as an associate pastor, and (3)in ministry in this congregation’s missions efforts as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission. We are also excited about how God might use Marion in her continued work with the STEM Institute at Mississippi College in Clinton, and in her continued teaching with special education. We are excited about how our own children might grow in their love for God and in their physical and intellectual growth in the Clinton school systems.

But any excitement we feel is tempered by great sadness as we now have to begin to say goodbye to our family in Philadelphia. As we prayed about all of this, God brought us unexpectedly to Genesis 12:1. God told Abram quite clearly, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land I will show you.” Because our family takes God’s call seriously, we now must go. We are being called to leave our community, and our home. We are being called to leave our family and friends. We are being called to leave our extended family, even though when we moved here in 2008, we were excited that God had moved us back near my hometown of Carthage. Now we are being called to leave our home mission field here, and move to a new mission field in the area south and west of Jackson.

How do you say goodbye after 8 beautiful years of memories? When we moved here, we were shown such love and kindness. We had two children, one toddler (Gracie) and one infant (Makenzye). We now have FOUR daughters. How do we adequately say thank you for loving us, for praying for us, for ministering for the sake of the gospel with us, for making memories with us?

I do thank you, even though “thank you” is not sufficient.

I do want you to know that we love you, even though those words are not sufficient.

But I also selfishly am going to ask you to do some things for me one last time.
-Please pray that God will be gracious to us in helping us transition out of one home into another.
-Please pray that God will bless our children as they feel both excitement and sadness simultaneously.
-Please pray that our daughter Tamika will follow God’s purpose for her life in this transition.
-Please pray that I and Marion will be faithful to the calling of God on our lives to his mission in this new place.

I want to close with the words of Jesus himself in the book of Matthew, chapter 28. I pray that these words of Jesus will be a reminder to me, and I pray that they will be a reminder to all of you, my family. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Please let me pray over you, as my First Baptist Church family:
God, we praise you. In 8 years, you have done wonders in the lives of my family. One birth, one baby dedication, one adoption, one high school graduation, two of our children being baptized, the continued growth of all four of our children, the calling on Marion’s life to be a teacher, ministry to children and teenagers and families, the continued calling on my life to teach the Bible, Africa mission trips, summer camps and youth rallies and retreats and conferences. We praise you for all you have done. Jehovah God, the great I AM, I pray that under the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ, and under their pastor Dan Howard, that these people will be faithful to teach God’s truth to this community. Show them new ways to plant the seeds of God’s love in every corner of this county. Grow a harvest of new believers here in this blessed place. Father God, may your Holy Spirit fill these people with the power of the good news of the love of Jesus. Fill them with a fresh passion for the mission you are already doing right here. Give them the most daring of faith! We praise you. We thank you. You love us. We love you, too. In the name of our Savior, at whose name every knee will one day bow and every tongue will one day confess, the precious and powerful name of JESUS, we pray these things. Amen.

3/4/16

God's daughter Angela, and God's son Jesus

I shared the following words at the memorial service for Angela Michelle Wilson, at Oak Forest Baptist Church, in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 6, 2016. 



Today is a celebration. Do you remember how easily Angela celebrated? Her smile? How easily she could love people?

Do you know why? Angela would want you to know why she smiled so often! At the family’s request, I want to share with all of you why she smiled so much… why she loved so easily.

As I tell you why, I want you to notice two stories happening at the same time: God’s story of his son Jesus, and God’s story of his daughter Angela.

PART 1 – CREATION

These stories start in the beginning. As in, the very beginning. The beginning of the Bible describes how our world came into existence. It says, “In the beginning, Godcreated the heavens and the earth.” Some of the things we all love – sunsets, a summer rain, loving animals, majestic mountains, the sound of waves on the beach – God made them all.

God’s son also was there creating with his Father. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” It will say there in John 1 also that this Word “became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And in 1986, God made us an Angela. Please allow me to weave the words of the poet king, David, in Psalm 139:13-16 with God’s story of Angela: “LORD, you formed Angela’s inward parts; you knitted her together in Kathy's womb. I praise you, for she was fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Angela’s frame was not hidden from you, when she was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw Angela’s unformed substance; in your book were written the 10,931 days that you created for Angela, every one of them, before even one of them had taken place.”

When God begins any story, he begins things in the way those things ought to go. When God made the world, it was perfect and innocent and beautiful. When God’s son Jesus entered the story, it caught the world by storm that very first Christmas (so much so, that our timeline is still split into B.C. and A.D. based on the year of his birth). When God’s daughter Angela entered the story, it changed everything in the Wilson house! It would have been wonderful to enjoy those stories in just those beautiful beginnings, but the stories did not end there.

PART 2 – FALL

Very quickly after mankind enters the story, things begin to shift away from the glory of the Creator to the wishes of the Creation. Ever since the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we humans have become experts at loving ourselves more than loving our God. And God has always been the expert at correcting our mistakes, at punishing our disobedience, and at keeping his end of the bargain (even when we do not).

God’s story of his son, Jesus, is full of episodes of the sin of man, as juxtaposed to the perfect life of Jesus. Jesus was so hated for his stance on the truth of God, for his stance against the lies of men, that he was arrested and tortured and shamed and killed and locked away in a borrowed tomb. Romans 1 explains that we have no excuse for our sin, that we know about god, but we do not honor him as God, nor thank him. We develop futile thinking, and our hearts go dark.

God’s story of his daughter, Angela, is no different. After a person’s life is over, we tend to remember only the things that make us smile. But I remember what Angela could be like when she got mad. Do you remember? I remember seeing her selfishness or her laziness on occasion. She never claimed to be perfect. In fact, we call her a Christian. That term does not mean that she was perfect; it means she was forgiven! She gave so much of her life to her church, and church is not a country club for saints but a hospital for sinners!

But Angela would want you to know how her life of selfishness was changed. She would want you to know why she helped with Vacation Bible School, why she helped others figure out how to turn to Christ, why she gave an entire summer to missions in Lake Tahoe, why she taught the Bible in Sunday School. God’s story of his daughter Angela was dramatically changed by God’s story of his son Jesus.

PART 3 – REDEMPTION

You see, God can fix anything. He can fix your selfish heart. He can change the most broken human. You can walk outside this church, throw a rock in any direction, and find cesspools of sin within any of those throws. But God can change entire blocks, entire neighborhoods, and entire nations. There is nothing that man has broken that God cannot make brand new. Nothing.

God’s story of his son shows this. Even as Adam and Eve received from God the punishment they deserved for ruining God’s good world in Genesis 3, God promised the evil tempter Satan that battle would be coming through Eve’s descendant. In Luke 3, true to his word, God sends his son Jesus. Do you know John 3:16? It is a somewhat famous verse that explains that God so loved you and me and Angela that he sent his only son Jesus to earth to give us a way to escape death, a way to the forever life. This person, Jesus, says in John 14 that he is the way and the truth and the life, that nobody can come to God unless they go through Jesus. He also says in that same chapter some words of comfort to the men and women who spent their lives with him. You see, Jesus knew he was headed to a torturous death on a Roman cross, and he wanted those others to know that he was not abandoning them forever. He said in John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

God’s story of his son Jesus came crashing into God’s story of his daughter Angela when she was 10 years old, on the day that Angela asked God to forgive her of her sins. We remember her baptism, which was the day she told the world that she now belonged to Jesus. And we remember that as a teenager, she gave even more of her life to following Jesus, to doing whatever he told her to do, to going wherever he told her to go. She took to heart that Jesus would be her way, her truth, and her life.

And it is because she believed that Jesus died for her sins, that Jesus gladly forgave her for every wrong. He started right then getting her room ready in God’s house in heaven. Just like God promised Angela that she could be with him, God promises that you could have that home with him if you want it.

PART 4 – RESTORATION

This world will never fulfill any of the promises that advertisers offer. No drug, no drink, no dollar, no person, or thing that makes you temporarily happy can compare to the joy you will find in God. And you cannot get to God except through Jesus. Your sin is standing in the way. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God.” You are doomed to the punishment you deserve for every wrong you have ever done. It is perfectly fair of God to do that. But it is not what God wants for you. God’s story of his daughter Angela was wrecked by God’s story of his son Jesus. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God rescued his daughter Angela, through the sacrifice of his son Jesus. Do you see how much God loves you and me? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Think about what this means. In Jesus’ last moments as described in Luke 22, he is extremely distraught at the thought of his upcoming arrest and torture and murder. He cannot sleep; he is praying with intensity; he is sweating drops of blood. He cries out to his Dad, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” If Jesus had been my son, I may never have asked him to die. Why would God allow his son Jesus to die? Because he loves you enough to provide a necessary sacrifice for your sins. Why would God allow his daughter Angela to die? Perhaps because God loves you enough to get you into a church on a Saturday morning, in order to listen closely to God’s story of his daughter Angela, in order to listen closely to God’s story of his son Jesus.

But the story of God losing his son Jesus has a happy ending. Because after God’s son Jesus is killed on that first Good Friday, God’s son Jesus is raised back to life on that first glorious Easter Sunday!! And I have wonderful news! We have a happy ending to the story of God’s daughter Angela, too! Angela will be raised back to life too! It’s true. First Thessalonians 4 explains it all to us, that “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Paul wrote these words to the church so we would not grieve in the same way others grieve. People who do not have Christ cannot understand why in God’s good name we can celebrate at a funeral! But it is because we have hope! Jesus is our only hope, and he is the only hope we need.

Only God can work all things together for good, like he says in Romans 8:28. But God only works bad for good in the crazy Christian people who love God, who are called to God’s purposes. I mean, only God can use his daughter Angela to love and influence dozens upon dozens of children in all of the schools she taught in. Only God can use his daughter to love and influence her Kissimmee Tribe sisters from Mississippi College, even long after she graduated. Only God can use his daughter Angela’s illness to connect 889 people through her Facebook page so that so many of us could keep up with her progress, and could pray for her and her family. Some of us bought a t-shirt that stated that “God’s got this… every piece of it.” I agree! God’s got his daughter Angela in his glorious presence. God’s got your life in his hands, too. God’s son Jesus gave his life for yours. Will you let go of your life? Will you let God guide you into a brand new life with him?



This ends the remarks I shared at Angela's funeral. But it is the great desire of her family that you know of the great God whom they know. 

So I invite you to seek God. Find out more, if you want to know more. Pray to God, if you want to get some things off your chest with him. Read through some of the Bible, especially the climax of the book contained in the stories of God's son Jesus (you might try the book of John first?), if you want to read about these things for yourself. If I can help you in any way, just email me at rev.tucker@gmail.com. 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)


1/20/16

How Do I Feel Close To God? (or, Sanctification)

Sanctification: being made holy, or being set apart

It happens every time we attend a Jesus conference or camp! We are reminded of the bad news of sin and the good news of forgiveness and love, and we turn back to God. Time after time, students experience this phenomenon. Praise God for his working! And yet…

The next question on their young hearts is always the same: 

“What can I do to feel this close to God back home?” 

The frequent concern in the older hearts of adults is similar: 

“Why do I not always feel close to God?” 

There is a single answer to both questions – sanctification. The words of John the Baptizer (John 3:30) fit quite nicely here to explain it succinctly: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The first time we claim that Jesus has become our Master, the first time we ask forgiveness of a holy God, we are set free from sin’s chains; we are saved from sin. Because the perfection of Jesus has been exchanged with our sin, we are holy enough to share heaven with God after death. But the journey does not finish there; the journey BEGINS there. Salvation has occurred, but sanctification has just begun.

Perfection has been realized in Jesus, but not yet in us. So our journey to be holy, to be like the Holy Spirit who lives in us, has many miles yet to go. This plays out in the dichotomy of the world versus God, your desire to sin versus your desire for God, your obeying God’s rules versus your disobedience, your good attitude one minute and your hateful attitude the next.

The book of James offers such helpful words concerning sanctification. God says in James 4:1 that “your passions are at war within you.” That makes sense, does it not? There is an intense internal struggle – almost a split personality in our minds. James calls us “double-minded” (James 4:8 and 1:8), and that idea of two brains arguing internally seems to fit our experience. Becoming holy (sanctification) means becoming set apart for God. It means becoming more like God. It means that the mainstream is traveling in a raging torrent, but God pulls us from that current and sets us off to the shore on one side. We are not like the world. Because God is not like the world. He is different. We should also be different in that same way. James explains that “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). We travel back and forth between our desire for the world and our desire for God. Sanctification is desiring God more and more. It is desiring God more and more intensely. It is desiring God more and more frequently.

But James does not leave us with such general ideas. He gets very, very specific about how we can become holy. He explains that when we draw near to God, that God then draws near to us (4:8). How? By being doers of the word and not merely hearers of the word (1:22). He tells us to put away wickedness and to humbly receive God’s word (1:21). He tells us to submit to God and to resist the devil (4:7). He is specific enough to discuss prayer, our speech, orphans and widows, showing favoritism, feeding and clothing those in need, making peace, and long-range planning (see James 1:5, 1:26, 3:8, 1:27, 2:9 2:15-16, 3:18, 4:15-16).

So the question remains: how do I feel close to God? 

But don’t we already know the answer? What if we already know what to do? What if we ask this question only because we do not believe that the answer could be so simple?

The answer is to draw near to God. Take steps to walk closer to where he is. In other words, become holy (also called sanctification).

And where is God?

You can find him in the pages of the Bible, but you have to actually pick one up AND dust it off AND carve out some time AND read it AND think about it.

You can find God by having conversations with him (this is called prayer), but you have to actually believe that having a conversation with someone you cannot identify with any of your five senses does not make you crazy AND carve out some time to talk AND actually talk to him AND listen to his replies.

You can find God in doing the things he says to do, but you have to quit making excuses AND actually know what he says to do AND do it even if you do not feel like doing it AND do it even if it costs you some time or money AND stick to this plan for the long term.


This is summed up in James 1:25

Read what God has said in the past. 
Do what God says in the present. 
Stick with God in the future. 

You will find God – the God who was, who is, and who will be.