The Christian’s Greatest . . .

That is the topic for the lesson this Sunday Morning, August 30, 2015 at Central Church of Christ.  I would love for you to worship with us.

Below is a sneak peak at the sermon:

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Listen

100_1488I recently watched an episode of Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi / Series 8) in which the Doctor opens with a long soliloquy about listening. In fact the episode title was “Listen.”  The title alone started me thinking, “How well do we listen?” Do we stop and listen to the sounds of nature around us? Do we stop to listen to the sounds of the city? Do we listen to our spouse, parents, children, or teachers? Do we listen or just hear words and background noise?

There is a story that circulates about President Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. Apparently he complained that no one really paid attention to what anyone said.

On a certain day, at a reception, he decided to put his complaint to the test.  To each person who came down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” Invariably, the guests responded, “Marvelous! Keep up the great work. We are proud you are our President, God bless you, etc.”

Near the end of the line was the Ambassador of Bolivia. This ambassador leaned over and whispered the following reply to President Roosevelt, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Someone was listening!

Take time to listen, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; . . .” (James 1:19). Step away from the computer, set down you smart phone, lay aside the tablet, close the book, and take time and make effort to listen to those around you.  Such action will show your care for them and you might even learn something new.

Take time to listen to God. He may not speak in an audible way, but He speaks through His Word. So “Be still and know that (He) is God.” Listen to Him.

LISTEN!

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Spiritual Defense: A Video Blog

Sharing my thoughts as I arrived at the Study this morning.

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Sermon Preview

Live in or near Tuscaloosa?  Join us at Central Church of Christ this Sunday.

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

This title comes from the second paragraph of The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, “We3530_575709143430_509885439_n hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What a great claim.  I wish we had always held that statement true.  Yet in our nation’s past Scottish, Irish, and African people were sold and traded as slaves and kept from liberty and the pursuit of happiness and literally had their life taken from them.  But I am not writing a political or an historical blog.  I am not here to bemoan societal ills. For the most part, I write religious thoughts and that statement from the Declaration of Independence leans very heavily on religious ideology.  The unalienable rights, according to those that drafted this historical piece, are ours because the Creator endowed them to us.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are thought to be our God given rights. I AGREE!

I agree we should have those rights physically.  I believe God desires us to live to our fullest potential.  I believe that God created humanity as one and that we should all live in freedom. I also believe God designed us to pursue what is best for us. But there is more!

These rights are also our spiritual rights. More than simply being our rights spiritually, these are what God desires for us. Consider this:

  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). Jesus came for our physical life and for our spiritual life.  John says he wrote his account of Jesus’ story so that, “by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31). John explains further in his first epistle, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 Jon 5:13).  Jesus came for us to have eternal life!
  • Liberty: In Luke 4, Jesus is at a local Synagogue and reads from Isaiah the prophet claiming to fulfill that prophecy.  He reads Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” Notice the phrase, “to proclaim liberty to the captives.” This is not just liberty for those in physical captivity, although the message of Jesus leads to such release. This is not just liberty to those held captive by disease or demons, although Jesus did heal disease and cast out demons. This is for those held captive by sin. Here is how the Apostle Paul explains, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18). Let Jesus’ sacrifice and teachings set you free from your captivity. Learn from the “law of liberty.” (James 1:25, 2:12).
  • The Pursuit of Happiness: Notice that our Founding Fathers said we have the right to pursue happiness, not that happiness is a right in and of itself.  They seemed to have a very dismal attitude. They seem to imply that happiness is never attainable. Again, they are right. If we pursue happiness by pursuing wine, women, and wealth as the writer of Ecclesiastes did, we will likely come to the same conclusions, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-4). We soon become dissatisfied with what we have and convince ourselves there is something better that we think can make us happier. In the world happiness is fleeting, but in Christ happiness is an achievable pursuit – IN CHRIST. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). Happiness is knowing that God is there for me, no matter the situation I find myself in. Happiness is confidence in the saving power of the Gospel. Happiness is in Christ.
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Rx for Your Health

Everyday on social media I read about homeopathic remedies, essential oils, alternative medicines, weight loss advice, exercise advise, etc.  Everyone but me seems to be an expert or have information I need to improve my health.  Thank  you, some of your advice is very beneficial.  Please allow me to return the favor. I am not a doctor, I do not play one on TV, but I do have the Great Physician’s Desk Reference and this is His prescription for your betterment.

gods rx

3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”  John shares his concern for both their spiritual and physical health. With that in mind and the advice I hear from so many, let’s look at our spiritual health.

There are four keys to physical health that I think applies to our spiritual health as well.

  1. Have a Healthy Immune System. Physically, a strong immunity helps us fight off small threats that can be dangerous if not fatal. Threats like bacterial or viral infections.  Spiritually there are the threats of temptation, false teaching, persecution, and more.  These threats like bacteria and viral exposure are inevitable in the world, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Since we have to live here, how do we boost our immunity? The first step is to build up our resistance by avoiding temptations as much as possible, James says it this way, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). Next we:
  2. Get Regular Exercise. Staying in good physical condition helps our body have the strength to fight infections. The same is true spiritually. The Hebrew writer encourages us to be active and not “pew-potatoes” – “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11-12). We are saved to serve as the Christ served, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28). This would include spreading the good news of Christ, building each other up, and reaching out compassionately to the lost and hurting.
  3. We also need Occasional Rest. We need replenishing.  We need to stop and sharpen the saw. We need to spend quiet quality time with the Creator. I can hear someone say, “The Devil doesn’t rest.” Maybe not, but Jesus did, “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6:30-31). When Jesus did step away from activity, He spent that time in prayer (Mark 1:35). The apostle Paul took time and encouraged the Philippian church to take time to reflect on God’s will and what is right, ” . . . The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:5-8). Take time for you and God alone.
  4. Maintain a Healthy Diet. My doctor reminds me to eat food that is beneficial to me, to avoid eating what we call junk food. This is good advice spiritually as well.  We need to consume spiritual nourishment that builds us up we need the “Words of life.” (John 6:63, 68).  We need to avoid spiritual junk food! Healthy food is “sound teaching” whereas “unsound teaching” is junk food. Just like in our physical world junk food may be more palatable, but junk does not provide for healthy growth. Spend time with God’s Word that provides in which “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3)

Take time today for a spiritual check-up.  Go see the Great Physician for a renewed spiritual health, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalms 103:1-5)

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Undercover Boss Revisited

image via CBS

image via CBS

I recently found the show Undercover Boss in syndication.  I watched this show when it first came on and have enjoyed every episode I have seen. While watching one recently, I remembered writing a blog connecting the show to spiritual matters.  Below is the original post.  I hope you enjoy it – again.

On Sunday evenings, when we get home in time, we watch a new “reality” show on CBS – Undercover Boss.  The premise of this show is simple:  A CEO of a major company such as Waste Management, 7-11, or White Castle sheds his suit and tie, dons a “blue collar,” and then goes to work in entry level and lower management positions in the different departments of his or her company.  These bosses learn a lot about the companies they run and the people who work for them.  Of the three of four episodes we watched, these bosses began to empathize with their worker, they began to understand the stresses of lower wage employees and as a result are more open to listening to those employees and implementing changes to help.
 
This is not a new concept.  Who can forget Mark Twain’s story, The Prince and the Pauper, where the young Prince Edward VI abandons the palace to switch places with his doppleganger, Tom Canty who lived in Offal Court on Pudding Lane.  The young prince’s experience as a pauper serves him well after the death of his father, King Henry VII.
 
Even that story rings of familiarity.  A ruler stepping down and living as a subject to better understand them so to give them relief from their plight is a classic plot.  Paul records, “(Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Col 1:15-18).  Jesus being one with God was king of heaven, and came to earth as one of us to understand us and to save us from the plight of sin. That is why the Hebrew penmen records, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16).
 
I am glad God understands me.  Praise God for sending His Son, Jesus, to provide for my deliverance.
Scott 

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