The Concordia Publishing House Podcast

Loving the Unlovable with Rev. Tim Carter

July 23, 2020 Concordia Publishing House Season 1 Episode 6
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
Loving the Unlovable with Rev. Tim Carter
Chapters
The Concordia Publishing House Podcast
Loving the Unlovable with Rev. Tim Carter
Jul 23, 2020 Season 1 Episode 6
Concordia Publishing House

Who are the unlovable in this world? Taking the question a step further, who are the unlovable in your personal corner of the world? Of mine? Who are the people that we hear about on the news, read about, or even whisper about, that we find hard to love?

Our episode today is going to be a powerful one. We will be confronted with the hard questions of what it means to love the unlovable. Joining us for this conversation is Pastor Tim Carter. Tim has years of experience with a population many view as unlovable, death row inmates. During his years working on the Texas State Penitentiary System Death Squad, Tim participated in more than 150 executions. Today, he is the Care Ministry Pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. He is also the author of The Executioner's Redemption: My Story of Violence, Death, and Saving Grace.

Show Notes Transcript

Who are the unlovable in this world? Taking the question a step further, who are the unlovable in your personal corner of the world? Of mine? Who are the people that we hear about on the news, read about, or even whisper about, that we find hard to love?

Our episode today is going to be a powerful one. We will be confronted with the hard questions of what it means to love the unlovable. Joining us for this conversation is Pastor Tim Carter. Tim has years of experience with a population many view as unlovable, death row inmates. During his years working on the Texas State Penitentiary System Death Squad, Tim participated in more than 150 executions. Today, he is the Care Ministry Pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas. He is also the author of The Executioner's Redemption: My Story of Violence, Death, and Saving Grace.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Welcome to the Concordia Publishing House Podcast, where we consider everything in the light of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I'm your host, Elizabeth Pittman.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Who are the unlovable in this world? If we take the question a step further, who are the unlovable people in your personal corner of the world? Of mine? Who are the people that we hear about on the news, read about, or even whisper about, that we find it hard to love? Our episode today is going to be a powerful one. We'll be confronted with hard questions of what it means to love the seemingly unlovable among us. Joining us for this conversation is Pastor Tim Carter. Tim has years of experience with a population many view as definitely unlovable, death row inmates. During his years working on the Texas State Penitentiary System Death Squad, Tim participated in more than 150 executions. Today, he is the Care Ministry pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball Texas, caring deeply for all of the people in his community. Welcome, Tim.

Tim Carter:

Thank you for having me, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Pittman:

I'm so glad that you're able to be with us today, you have an incredible story. I've had the privilege of knowing you for several years now, and to have had the opportunity to hear you speak multiple times. And every time I have come away convicted, and challenged, and encouraged, and more often than not, with chills and a teary eye here and there, in listening to you talk. So I'm looking forward to our conversation today.

Tim Carter:

Well, thanks for having me. I'm excited also to be a part of this discussion.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Well, let's jump right in with the big picture. Who are the unlovable in our world, and why should we care?

Tim Carter:

I will answer that question by saying that I addressed this topic with some members of my congregation in a bible study atmosphere, and I gave them what I'll go ahead and give us right now. And that is I put together a short list of things from my own mind and from my own heart, when I asked myself this question. And so it can be unlovable people in our heart, and it can be somebody as simple as a total stranger in line at a grocery store that's acting in some way that is annoying to us. The answer to your question could be somebody that's just annoying, somebody that's obnoxious, somebody that's arrogant, or rude, somebody that cuts in line. Maybe somebody that's just using a whole lot of profanity and vulgarity that we don't appreciate.

Tim Carter:

Might be somebody that's dirty, or smelly, or disrespectful, or me, somebody that's hateful. It could be somebody that's into behaviors that we really don't like, like drug abusers, or drug dealers, or people that are violent or abusive. And me, coming from the background that I have in prison, it can be criminals, thieves, murderers, people that are guilty of assault, and abusing and victimizing other people. And these days, we could throw in people from a different political party in this election season. Yeah, these days it can be people from a different race or ethnic background, or even a different denomination or religion. So any of those people can be unlovable, and we can be guilty of ... myself, every one of us.

Tim Carter:

Everything on those lists, at times I have been guilty of those, like I said, especially in my prison environment. And so as far as the list goes, that's the answer to your first part of your question there, “Who is unlovable?”

Elizabeth Pittman:

I think it's pretty easy to see when you look around. All you need to do is scroll through social media, and you can see people sparring with each other, or sniping at each other, and it's not hard to tell one person thinks that another one would be unlovable. And as you mentioned, in our day-to-day life, people can annoy us, and they might be unlovable one minute, and then we get over it. But definitely, I think we run into this all the time.

Tim Carter:

You are correct. It's embarrassing, like you were saying a minute ago, that you're convicted, me too. I came up with that list from my own situation, of who I find hard to love. And so my journey has been one of God helping me to understand that I have been very guilty of labeling people as unlovable, and not loving them. And so my journey is one of him helping me to learn how to love people. And so very quickly, I'm going to share one little piece of scripture here from the word of God, and part of my journey. John 15:9, Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. And my command is this, love each other. Love one another as I have loved you.”

Tim Carter:

So I read that because I have been guilty of not doing that, and just as simply as that comes out of a vine and branch's chapter there. And so I am convicted every time that I label someone as unlovable because I'm not remaining in his love, and my joy is not complete when I'm not doing this. So I praise God, I'm continually making progress for a lot of years, and I still today, I'm making progress in this. And so I'm glad we're talking about this, it's something that, “Oh, why should we care about those people that we might label as unlovable even though our first response is not to?” The first one is because of what we just read, Jesus commanded it. He told us to, when he said, “My command is this, that you love one another.”

Tim Carter:

So number one is he told us to, he commanded us to. Number two is our response to God's love should be that we should want to. We should want to love one another, love our neighbor out of response to God's grace. So we just have to be mindful of our own forgiveness. And so, yeah. I've got another scripture here, that's very short, I'll share with you. From 1 Peter 1, that says, “Since you call upon your Father in heaven, who judges each man impartially, then live your lives in reverent fear, for you were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ for your sake now. Since you were purified through him, then have sincere love for your brothers. Love one another deeply from your heart.” So a long answer there, Elizabeth, but that's who I'm guilty of not loving sometimes, and that's what prods me to be more loving.

Elizabeth Pittman:

When we remember that we are children of God, created by him for a specific purpose, and the value that that gives us, when we can look at each other, and remember the other is also created by God for a purpose. Remembering that definitely helps keep our perspective more towards a loving one than unloving one, but boy, it's hard. It can be really hard to do when people are people, and sin creeps in. How can the world make it difficult for us to love others as Jesus loved us?

Tim Carter:

Very good question. The world is a fallen world that we live in, it's a broken and fallen world. And therefore to live in that world, we are going to be living in a world where Satan wants us to love the world and follow the world. He does that because Satan knows that this world would have us to love ourselves more than others, to value ourselves more than others, to live for self more than others. And so Jesus himself was ridiculed for having grace and mercy and love for the lowly, for the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes. And so Jesus tells us that if the world persecuted him, then the world is going to persecute us who follow him. And so the world is going to be constantly pulling us away from our desire to love others, even when we have the desire and the “I do,” but the world is always pulling me away from that.

Tim Carter:

And so people just need to be aware that there is a very real spiritual battle going on unseen all around us. And that is for our hearts, it's for our witness, to try to pull us away from even our good desires. So Jesus asked us to die for self, and live for him and others.

Elizabeth Pittman:

It's easy when we look at the world around us and we see only wolves, and you've talked about this quite a bit. And it's easy to be pulled down into the behavior of the wolves, when rather we should be behaving as sheep. Can you talk about how we can engage the wolves of the world as we work to love the unlovable?

Tim Carter:

Yes. So that's a fascinating thing. That's a big scripture passage in my life, to where Jesus tells us, “I'm sending you out as sheep among wolves, therefore be as shrewd as serpents, but gentle as doves.” And so fascinating there that we are sent out by Jesus on description. As sheep among wolves, we're sent out into people that are naturally not extremely lovable, people that are even dangerous, that could victimize us. But Jesus sends us out into that atmosphere for a reason, because he loves those wolves. And he wants us to be instruments of his, to have his heart, to reach out to, and redeem those wolves, rather than just restraining the bad, violent, destructive behavior of those wolves. And so all those things on that list that I mentioned, they can be little miniature wolves, or they can be major, huge, extremely dangerous wolves.

Tim Carter:

And yes, for my world, I lived in a very violent atmosphere, and I was a very violent person for a good while. Well, because of that, became a product of that environment. And you and I, everybody, no matter what our atmosphere is, we can become a product of our environment also. And so it was a struggle for me to grow in my faith, representing God well, and to love the wolves, that are hateful, and mean, and violent, and hurtful. And every one of us has that same situation out here in the free world. We have the same struggle. And so yes, those wolves are guilty, but we are too. Those wolves are unlovable by all definitions, but we are too. And so a big turning point in my life was a mentor of mine, by the name of Dr. George Beto, who had a very confrontational discussion with me at one point, and told me that ... he shared that verse with me, and he told me I was doing a great job of being shrewd as a serpent, but I was doing a horrible job of being gentle as a dove.

Tim Carter:

And he told me that I am obviously reading God's word with selective listening, reading for law and not gospel, reading for me being some kind of an agent of God's wrath in law, rather than being an agent of God's mercy and love. And he's right, he was totally right. I am and was totally guilty. And to this day, some reader out there has that CPH book, and they emailed me, and asked me if any of that yucky part of me was still in me, and the answer is yes. So only by God's grace. From day to day, am I capable of loving people that I label as unlovable, and me being reminded by God that I also am a sinner? The cross of Christ was for those unlovable people, just as much as for me. That helps me to make progress in loving the unlovable.

Elizabeth Pittman:

And that holds for all of us, that apart from God's grace, we are no better than anyone else that we deem as unlovable. And I think when we really stop and think about it, that's pretty powerful, and it'll stop and convict me for sure, because it makes me rethink how I'm talking to people, or about people, or interacting with them. As that leads into, it can really consume a person, and affect a healthy or unhealthy self image. How can we be humble enough to recognize that apart from God's grace, we're just as unlovable as anyone else?

Tim Carter:

That is a very good question, and it's very true. Is that apart from God's grace, we are entirely unlovable, just as much as anyone else. Even to many embarrassing realizations, but the self image, as you mentioned, is a big deal. And that is that, I guess there is a very unhealthy, low self image of thinking that we are unlovable by God and anyone else, thinking that we are unforgiven. That's unhealthy. It's also unhealthy to have a high self image that's prideful. It's prideful, that thinks too highly of ourself. And so we do need to be cautious of both of those things. Oh, real quick here, Romans 12:3 says, “By the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than you ought, but to think with sober judgment by the faith that God has given you.”

Tim Carter:

And so, yes, we need to have a healthy self image, which is a healthy balance of what God wants, and that's to be humble before God and others. Oh, out of Philippians 2, the word says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look out, not to just your own interests, but also the interest of the others.” And so that needs to be our healthy self image, is we need to be humble before God, humble before others. That does not come naturally. What comes naturally is to love ourselves, and to think of ourselves first. And so a healthy self image comes only by the Holy Spirit in us, by Christ in us, by us being in Christ, and Christ in us, and him enabling us to love the unlovable. There are people that, like we said, are definitely unlovable, but we are too. So it's God's grace that enables us to have that self image.

Elizabeth Pittman:

If I can ask you to share a story from your past experience, you've witnessed this in your interactions with Karla Faye Tucker, correct?

Tim Carter:

That is correct.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Would you be willing to tells us a little bit about how you experienced her ... presumably unlovable to the world, but how she came to face her end?

Tim Carter:

I will. Karla Faye Tucker was an inmate, a death row inmate in the state of Texas, and she was convicted of multiple accounts of capital murder, sentenced to death, and spent approximately 14 years on death row. And she, when she came to death row, she was a wolf. She was a wolf. She was a horrible criminal, she was a dangerous, unlovable person. And she came to prison with a very bad attitude, a very hostile, very antagonistic, unloving, mean person. I pulled up her trial records, and it showed that during her murder trial, her capital murder trial, she not only pled statements of guilt, but she bragged about, and said she felt wonderful about killing her victims. And she killed them with a pickaxe in the chest, and she was just a horrible wolf.

Tim Carter:

And so she was describing how she loved every minute of those murderous activities, and when she came to us, she was the same person. So she was a wolf, but she is a great example of what we're talking about, because some prison ministry people brought the gospel to that prison, and the gospel penetrated her heart. And she, the shell around her heart was broken. It was shattered, and the gospel got into her. She received God's grace, she came to faith. And over most of those 14 years, she grew in exactly what we're talking about, about how to let God's love flow through her to others. And not just receive God's love, but to give God's love. And so she was a fascinating lesson that God taught me, and that is that, I hate to say this, but like Elizabeth said, I was physically, and mentally, and emotionally, and everything, a part of, right there, a part of the death squad of over 150 inmates, and she was one of those.

Tim Carter:

And I had become so, I hate to say this again, but so used to and accustomed to our process of going through the process on execution evening, of carrying out executions. But this girl, this lady came to death row from female death row, and she caught me and everybody else off guard by surprise. Most of the people that come to death row, on the last day of their life, it's never a fun experience, but it's a familiar experience, except for this one. Karla Faye Tucker had grown over the years, just like we're saying, “To have a heart of love, incredible heart of love.” And so she came to death row that night, she brought ... I say she brought. The female death row officers came with her because we had never executed a female before.

Tim Carter:

And so they had grown over the years to do what's not normal in prison, and they had grown to love this inmate because she loved them so much, and she was so effective at representing Jesus. As a convicted murderer, she loved her keepers, the prison guards, which is unheard of. She loved those prison guards, and loved them so much and so authentically from her heart, that they loved her. And the process of those guards being with her, as we counted down the hours and the minutes towards her execution, the guards, their heart were breaking. And she, a normal situation for an inmate on their final minutes of death row, is to be either full of fear, but most of them are full of anger. And their anger is expressed and vented towards us. But her, Karla Faye Tucker, she was full of love and concern for us, and especially those female guards that were crying because they knew that she was about to die.

Tim Carter:

And she was displaying zero anxiety or fear or uneasiness about dying as it got closer to her execution moment. And she even reached out to the female prison guards, and comforted, and said, “It's going to be okay. You're going to be just fine.” She says, “Relax.” She says, “I'm fine.” And she was comforting them so much because of what Jesus told us, “We need to die to self,” and live for him. And she was not afraid of dying because she had already died to self, and she was living for him, representing him, and she was ministering to those female prison guards and to me, powerfully. I was standing right there at her cell door, talking to her with them for hours. And even when they brought her life last meal, she was just so full of joy. Not nervousness, not fear, nothing but joy of the Lord.

Tim Carter:

She said, “I deserve this.” She said, “I earned it, I deserve it.” She says, “I'm just excited that I'm getting what I don't deserve, and that's God's grace and his love, and I get to spend eternity with him.” And so she was ... golly, I found myself envious of her. She was excited and anxious that she was going to get to be with the Lord. And the people that brought her her last meal, she was complementing them, and telling them, “Oh, my goodness, you all have just taken such good care of me, and treated me so well. And thank you so much, thank you for blessing me so much.” And wow, it just caught us all off guard. We're used to fighting inmates that don't want to go and be strapped down on the death gurney.

Tim Carter:

She was totally devoted and committed, and every bit of her words and actions were just authentically concern for us, and to making sure that we were comfortable, and thanking us for being so kind to her. And so, goodness sakes, that has affected my entire life since. We did strap Karla Faye Tucker down, her little female body strapped to that death gurney. We did start an IV drip into her, and we did inject that, and she did die right in front of us, as we have gotten used to with others. And I hate to say this, but none of the others really hit me in my heart very hard until that one. And that one was, and I hate to say this, but that it's true. And that one, I just knew, that I knew, that I knew that that murderer, that hateful, violent murderer loved God more than I did.

Tim Carter:

She was closer to God than I was, and she loved others a whole lot better than I did. So God taught me just an amazing lesson that I'm still learning to this day.

Elizabeth Pittman:

It's a powerful story of recognizing that our behaviors have consequences, but we also have undeserved forgiveness and grace, even when we're facing those consequences. And I think the story of Karla Faye Tucker shows that so powerfully, that there is a lot to learn. I think you're right, I find it hard to think about being in a position, not even on death row, but in a powerful where I'm forced to face death, and can I be that calm, and knowing? And I think my head wants to say yes, but who knows? It's so challenging to think about the whole situation, and I can't imagine how you and the other guards were feeling that day.

Tim Carter:

You are correct. We, the staff that carries out those executions, I don't want to admit this, but we had become a little whatever you want to call it ... resilient and insensitive, maybe out of survival. But oh my goodness, all that was just stripped from us that night. Nobody left there insensitive that night. Everyone, me particularly, but I know that everyone, even those that I know that didn't follow and love the Lord, were just convicted, that, “Oh my goodness, that girl was definitely filled with a power that none of us have.” And that's the power of somehow, some way being able to love the unlovable, and she did that. Nobody, no inmate loves us prison guards, and she loved us more than ... Oh my goodness, so yes, powerful, powerful words.

Elizabeth Pittman:

So Jesus commands us to love our enemies, and this charge can, I would imagine, conjure up some terrifying images for some people. How can we think about loving our enemies even if it feels really hard for us?

Tim Carter:

That's another good question, and yeah, yeah, we want to be sensitive about that, because like what we were talking about, in a sense, we were Karla Faye Tucker's enemies, we were about to kill her, and we did. But she loved us, and loved us intently. And when we carry out those executions, there are victims involved. And so in everyday life, it doesn't have to be a murder, but people listening to this right now, might very well be a victim of some type of abuse. Some people listening right now might have some very deep scars or wounds from some predator or enemy that has victimized them and hurt them. And so for those of you that have experienced that in your past, I'm sorry. For those of you that have known and felt that, I am so, so sorry that your heart is deeply wounded, and that's a very real wound you are struggling to live with, and I'm sorry.

Tim Carter:

And so that being said, like Elizabeth just said, loving your enemies is an extremely difficult command from God, counsel from God, from Jesus, because the hurt, the harm done by our enemies can be, and has been severe. And so how in the world can we love somebody that has hurt us so bad and so deeply? And the answer is we can't. We can't do that without God loving them through us. And so Jesus paves the way for that. He doesn't tell us to just let people freely victimize us and terrorize us, and that they don't need to be held accountable. That's not at all what he's saying here. He is telling us that yes, we need to restrain evil. You, as a victim, if you're a victim, Jesus is not telling you pet the dog that bit you again, to reach out and be nice to the snake that bit you. He's not saying that at all.

Tim Carter:

He is saying that we need to be careful, we need to do what he does, love like he loves. And that's hate the sin, but love the sinner. We need to prevent ourselves from being further victims, by not slipping into hate and vengeance, to leave vengeance to God. And yes, we need to restrain the wolves, but somehow, someway, our rightful distrust and caution from getting close to them does not need to take over our hearts with hate and vengeance, which would make us an even further prolonged victim. And so Jesus was an amazing instrument of that, he washed Judas's feet. He washed Judas's feet just before he was betrayed. Then he called Judas, friend, as he was betraying him. And he asked God to forgive the people that were torturing and killing from a cross.

Tim Carter:

And so there is, again, a horrible ... I say horrible, because it's horribly uncomfortable for me to think about it. But there was an execution one night, to where the chaplain and I, oh, spent quite a bit of time with the condemned that was about to be executed. And he was remorseful, and repentant, and the chaplain did what God wants us to do, and was inviting him to receive God's grace. And he heard the gospel. And what happened that night was, is when the mother of the victim, the mother of the girl that was abused and murdered by that inmate. When the mother found out that that chaplain had invited that murderer who killed her daughter to spend eternity in the same heaven as her little girl, that he abused and murdered, she was furious with the chaplain, “How dare you invite that man, that monster to spend eternity in the same heaven as my little girl?”

Tim Carter:

And oh my goodness, I'll have to admit to you, when I heard that and saw that, my heart was crushed, and it still is to this day. Because that's a type of love that's beyond our human capability, and only by the grace of God, can we want that wolf, that monster to live in eternity also, and not to pay the full price for their sins. We want justice when it's justice for somebody else. We don't want the justice we serve for our sins. And so, oh my goodness. So that was a very good and tough question, but loving our enemies is hard, it's difficult, only by the grace of God.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Earlier you talked about, or you alluded to there's a spiritual battle going on here, and as Christians, we will daily be facing battles and attacks from Satan. What are some of the most predictable attacks that we can expect?

Tim Carter:

Well, as a Lutheran pastor, I'll give you a Lutheran answer, and that is that out of our catechism, Lutherist catechism, he specifically tells us that devil, the world and our sinful nature will be coming against us every day, and he's right. And that causes us to have to fight the good fight. So the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, multiple times in first and second Timothy, he uses that terminology, that, “We need to fight the good fight of faith.” And faith is a fight. There really is, like we said a while ago, there really is an unseen, but a very real battle going on for our hearts, and for our witness. Satan does not want us to represent Christ well, he does not want us to love the unlovable. And so, yeah, those attacks will come from the devil, who knows our weaknesses, and he will play on our weaknesses.

Tim Carter:

And oh, my goodness, I have to pray constantly because he knows the triggers that will make me very quickly be very slow to not love somebody that I label unlovable. And it is a fallen and corrupted world, and so we have to fight because we're human, and we are susceptible to those temptations. And again, our sin nature, we are prone to be self centered and not love the unlovable. So we have to fight that. So for me, God has blessed me with some habits that have enabled me to fight that good fight. Every day of my life in prison. I would find little prayer closets to retreat to, and get a fresh infusion of God's strength because the strength had been drained out of me by unlovable people, and my ability to love them had just gone dry.

Tim Carter:

And so I would retreat to a prayer closet. Also, prayer partners. I would call or go by and see a brother or a sister, and say, “Hey, pray for me.” And so prayer closets, time alone with God. Prayer partners, time cannot ... Ecclesiastes 4:10, [inaudible 00:36:19] for that strength. Or drawing closer to God, staying closer to him to learn more about how he helps us to do that. Just one quick verse here, that is 2 Chronicles 20:12, the word of God. And actually 2 Chronicles 20, almost all that chapter. But God tells us, pointedly, he says, “Don't be afraid of your enemies. Don't be afraid of the challenges you're facing.” He says, “I will fight for you.” In seminary, Dr. Dale Meyer was giving us, seminary students, an introductory welcome to seminary.

Tim Carter:

Then he was telling us, “Congratulations men, you now have a bullseye on your forehead. Satan is going to come after you specifically because you have enlisted in the battle against him.” And he was right, and I feel that attack every day. But I'm going to tell any listener out there that you are created in God's image, you're following God, and Satan is attacking you too. And so we just need to fight the good fight on our knees, and with some prayer partners, prayer closets, and drawing closer to God.

Elizabeth Pittman:

I think the image of prayer closets and prayer partners and time in the word is a really good approach for us who don't work in the prison system, but yet we still have to balance our concerns for others, versus those of our daily lives and our careers. Are there other ways that we can aim for that balance?

Tim Carter:

Again, if we spend time in God's word, God's word is alive and active, and it'll cut through our defenses. We need to build one another up, and we, each of us, are instruments in God's hand to build one another up. And so Ephesians 2:10 says we were saved, yes, to get to heaven, and it says, “We were saved to do good works, and those good works are to love others.” And so to love as Christ loved us, and to build one another up in this fighting the good fight. And so we need to surround ourself as often as possible, with those brothers and sisters in Christ that will build us up. If we don't, we're actually being surrounded by, and will become a product of the opposite environment, people that will tear us down. And therefore our ability to love the unlovable will be even more difficult.

Elizabeth Pittman:

So for our listeners, you're listening to us by audio, but Tim and I are able to be chatting face to face over video. And Tim, what I see sitting over your shoulder is a statue that I think brings to life what you were just starting to talk about. Tim has a statue of a young boy behind him, with a lamb over his shoulders, and two lambs right at his feet. Can you talk about that a little bit, and what we should take away from that image?

Tim Carter:

I'm glad you saw that, because that has become huge for me. Everybody has their lens through which they see life, and by God's grace, my lens is the Good Shepherd. And so the Good Shepherd fights for us. Wolves attack us every day, and the Good Shepherd is Christ. So that statue she's referring to is Christ the Good Shepherd with a sheep over his shoulders, and actually to be honest, I stole that from my nativity set. It is actually [inaudible 00:40:26] from the nativity, but for my purposes here, it is a Christ the Good Shepherd with the sheep on his shoulders. And it is a very, very real sobering image, and that is that. It's the answer to Elizabeth's question a minute ago. As long as I am that sheep on his shoulders being carried by him, I am safe, I am protected, I am so much stronger. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Tim Carter:

And when I am being carried by the Good Shepherd, I am protected, I am safe, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But without him, I can do nothing. And so those little sheep underneath, at the bottom of the statue are actually movable, for a reason. And that is because these sheep represent me whenever I neglect time and prayer. When I neglect time and God's word, that's a very real demonstration that I actually, by my own choice and neglectfulness, I put space between me and God. And my relationship with the Lord grows weaker, instead of stronger, and the wolves are always there, they're always seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. As long as I am that sheep that is up on Jesus' shoulders and in his arms, I'm safe.

Tim Carter:

But when I start wandering because my mind is on the world, because my mind is on myself, and I neglect my relationship with God by my own choice, I am drifting away from his strength, from his protection, and I am vulnerable, and I will lose those battles. I am incapable of loving as Jesus loves. Only his grace in me, only Christ in me, by the power of his Holy Spirit, can I ever win any battles, and can I ever love the unlovable.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Thank you for sharing that. I remember you telling that story at another event, and it stuck with me. And there are times, where even now, I'll think to myself, “I've got to get up on those shoulders because I'm feeling lost.” And it's just such a powerful image to see, and know where we really need to be, even when it's hard for us to get there. So there is so much that we could talk about on this topic. If you'd like to learn more, I encourage our listeners to take a look at Tim's book, The Executioner's Redemption. You can learn more about that at cph.org/executioner. It is a powerful story, where we see crushing judgments and God's tender love, and Tim reminds us on every page, that even in the darkest places, God is still there. Tim, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a great conversation to have.

Tim Carter:

Thank you, Elizabeth. It's been a joy to just partner together in the gospel.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Until next time everyone, have a great day.

Elizabeth Pittman:

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Concordia Publishing House Podcast. I pray that this time was valuable to your walk with Christ. We'd love to connect with listeners on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @ConcordiaPub. Visit cph.org for more resources to grow deeper in the gospel.