Category Archives: Christian living

Re-evaluating Competition

Hello, my name is Scott, I am a recovering competitor. . .

That sentence started a conversation when I first wrote about competition on the blog in 2010 and repeated it in 2012. I am thinking about completion again as I look at the social media frenzy about Cam Newton’s actions and interviews and remember Peyton Manning acting not too dissimilar in 2010. I see what I call poor sportsmanship in athletic events from little league parents to professional athletes and every level in between. Have we allow competition to become less than friendly?

Competition is addictive.  Competition drives the American business model.  Competition20120306-214948.jpg runs deep in the heart and soul of many people.  Can you finish this jingle from years gone by, “My dog’s better than your dog . . .”  I admit, wholeheartedly that I am a competitor.  I like to win when I play basketball,  I like for the team I support to win championships (Roll Tide Roll!).  But competition can often get  in the way of positive outcomes. There were times I acted immaturely during and after sporting events.  I have scars on my knuckle from bleachers at my Alma Mater, and embarrassing memories of church league softball as a second baseman and minister.

Without fail, when I mention that I am “against competition,” someone will try to tell me that most of life is competition.  The usual arguments include competing with other men for the affection of the one I would eventually marry.  I did not feel I was in competition with any other men.  Amy and I formed a friendship, that slowly moved to a romantic attachment, that quickly and naturally became exclusive.  Until the day, I proposed to her and she accepted, we were both open to the fact that if either one felt that our relationship was not going to last, that we had the right and responsibility to end it. Once we said, “I do” however, the relationship became completely exclusive.

A second argument is that as a preacher, I competed for the role of ministry where I am currently located.  There were other men looking at my current position, and the elders were considering other men for this work.  Did I desire that those men lose to me? No!  I came looking at the opportunity here and allowing the folk here to see if I fit what they were looking for.  If so, then I was open to move.  If not, then I would continue where I was and be open to other opportunities that God would have me pursue.  I did not compete for this position, I came as myself and let things work as they would.

More recently, someone suggested that I am in competition with Satan for souls.  At first I had no answer.  As I thought more about this my answer is this: God is at war with Satan. Satan is destroying souls and lives. God wants lives rescued from the disaster that Satan causes.  I am not competing with Satan, if I do, I lose by a long shot, “Wide is the path that leads to destruction and many there will be that find it.”  Maybe this is narrow-minded of me, but I see my role as seeking to rescue folks from sin and the resulting wrath of God, not win an argument with them.  I present an offer of salvation through the only avenue that can save them – Christ (John 14:6) and let them decide for themselves.  I plant the seed and in some cases water the soil or young growth, but it is God who gives the increase.  God battles Satan and the victory is His in Christ (1 Cor 15:57).

When local churches of Christ compete for members, feelings suffer, accusations fly, and fellowship crumbles.  When Churches come to realize they are autonomous and can work together, we accomplish more for the Lord’s cause. When a program focuses on the outcome of competitions then the effectiveness of that ministry suffers.  When a program focuses of the mission of Christ (rescuing the lost, serving others, etc.) we are not in competition, but in cooperation.

Back to how I apply this to me. In our family when we play card games, board games, and other similar games, we play for the fun of the game and the conversations that occur as we play.  I don’t win a lot of games, we do not even finish games, but we have fun being together.  I repeat my belief that  competition can often get  in the way of more positive outcomes.  I am trying for a less competitive life. Am I completely free of competition?  No.  I still compete with myself to improve myself to do my best and I take that one day at a time and I still struggle when I am playing a game with someone who is super-competitive.  I just have to ask myself, “what does it matter in the end?”

What are your thoughts on competition?

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When God Brings You Yo It

I what sound like good phrases every day. A few of them follow:

  • If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • God had to break me so I could learn to rely on Him.

As meaningful as these phrases sound they are NOT biblical. In fact, sometimes they do

HPIM4724

April 27, 2011 Central Church of Christ’s building

more harm to faith than they help. What kind of father would intentionally bring harm to his children to teach  them a lesson? What parent would beat a child to the breaking point? In our society we would call that abuse.  Well, my God is not an abusive Father.

Hebrews 12:6 speaks of God disciplining His children, but discipline is training not always in a punishing way. Contextually, the Hebrew writer is talking about our struggle with sin not hardships in life.  Any hardships that are a part of that struggle are not God’s doing in the sense that He caused them, but that they are a consequence of our misconduct. This morning I heard local radio personalities talking about their children’s struggle to get out of bed for school. One DJ said she literally pulled her child’s feet out of the bed and set them on the floor. After they asked for advice, one listener messaged that she allowed her child to suffer the consequences of sleeping in – being tardy for school a few times, being late for work, etc. When the child realized they were responsible they asked for help learning to get up.  The discipline in Hebrews 12 is the same.  Training as we learn from our mistakes.

Romans 8:28 does say that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. But that does not say all things are good. Nor does it say that God causes all things.  What it says is that when we trust and rely on God as His child (called according to His purpose) that God will be with us through the hardships and can and will bring us good despite them and often through them. This will not always be immediate and we may not always see it, but God will be with us.

Bad, evil, disaster, disease, death, crime, and poverty happen in our lives and all around us. That is what happens in a “fallen world.” Such might be consequences of our sin, Satan’s activities and influence, or the collateral damage of others’ sin. They are not caused by God, but God can and will see His children through them in life now and in eternity.

  • Scott

 

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Life in the Last Days

Read Mark 13:1-37.  In this passage, Jesus tells his apostles that the pride and joy of God’s demon eye redpeople will again face destruction. The destruction of the temple would come while their generation still lived (Mark 13:30).

Today, many equate the events of Mark 13 to the Christ’s 2nd Coming and the events of the end of time.  But look closer.

  • This prophecy from Jesus is about the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
  • Historically, those events took place in A.D. 70 during the time the generation Jesus spoke to, still lived.
  • This is not God’s judgment on the evil of the world, but His judgment on Judah for rejecting His will and His Messiah (Christ).
  • It would signal the ultimate dismantling of the Covenant He had with Israel through the Law of Moses and signify the ratification of a New Covenant of Love, signed by the blood of the Christ – Jesus.
Hopefully I have cleared that up for some of you. The truth is that even if this passage in Mark 13 and the corollary passage in Matthew 24 are about the destruction of Jerusalem, we are living in the last days. I do not say this because of wars and rumor or wars, but because the last days are the last age of the world – the last dispensation before Christ’s return.  Jesus came to establish His kingdom and His reign.  He accomplished His purpose and went home to the Father, awaiting the time when He will return to judge the world. Take a look at the following truths:
  1.  We live in the Kingdom of Christ now. There is no waiting for a rapture for us to be translated into His Kingdom. Paul says, Col 1:13
  2. We are reigning with Christ now. 1Pe 2:9,   Rev 1:6 ; 5:10
  3. When Christ returns again, it will be the FINAL judgment for all mankind, both good and evil. Joh 5:28-29
  4. We must live for Christ and God now. Follow the King of kings now, while we have time, 2Th 1:7-10

The real question for each of us is: Are we living in the for the King now in anticipation of our translation into heaven?

  • Scott

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Innocent or Guilty

In their song “Guilty” the Newsboys sing,
“If serving You’s against the law of man
If living out my faith in you is banned
Then I’ll stand right before the jury

If saying I believe is out of line
If I’m judged cause I’m gonna give my life
To show the world the love that fills me
Then I want to be Guilty”

©2015 First Company Management
Paul writes as a prisoner in Roman incarceration.  Phil 1:126-17, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.”  Paul was found guilty.
arrested-in-handcuffs

image via: wisegeek.com/arrested-in-handcuffs

This leads me to ask you and me, “If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict us?”

  • Will my attendance at worship, Bible Classes, small groups, etc. prove your guilt of being a child of God?
  • Do clothes your choose to wear display your modest obedience to God’s will?
  • Are you living a life holy (separate) from the ways of the world? Does your lifestyle give your Christianity away?
  • Does the fact that you avoid ungodly behaviors give you away?
  • How about your compassion to others in the name of Christ?
  • Will your co-workers, neighbors, or classmates say your speech is favorable to the way of Christ?
  • Would an audit of my finances betray your faith?
  • Would my media viewing habits confirm your faith or be evident you are not a Christian?
  • Would your internet history be evident that you are a Christian?
  • Would my FB, Instagram, Tweets, Snapchat prove your guilt as a Christian?
Are you guilty of being a child of God? Would a court of law convict me?
I realize we all stand guilty or sin before Christ  and are in need or Grace. I know I am not perfect – yet – I press on, I look forward to Christ.  I want to be GUILTY!
-Scott

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Journey to Follow

20110926-082310.jpgAs we follow Jesus as His disciple there are some warnings from Jesus that you need to know. Mark 8:34-38:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

  • You must deny you.  This is tougher than it sounds.  This means I tell myself, “NO” when my wants, desires, plans, and life are in conflict with the will and word of God.
  • You must CRUCIFY you.  Taking up a cross is not simply carrying a burden, It is heading to your death.  You die to you so you can life for Christ (cf. Gal 2:20; Rom 6:3-6).
  • Know that there is NOthing in this world that is worth giving up the salvation of your soul (cf. 1 Joh 2:15-17).
  • Do not be ashamed of Jesus. Be willing to live in a way that seems crazy to those in the world. Do not let fear keep you from speaking Christ’s name, from praying, from shouting “Hallelujah!”, nor from giving God glory for life and salvation.

Let me offer some practical advice on how to do this.  This is what I try to put into practice.  I wish I can say that I am 100% consistent. I am not, but I am getting stronger and more consistent as I go.

  1. Start each day with a verbal commitment in prayer saying, “Today is your day, God. Today, I am living for You and doing Your will.”
  2. Look at each day’s events and decisions knowing you died to self and are living as a servant of God. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this for my glory and satisfaction or for God?” (cf. Col 3:4, 17).
  3. When faced with a choice, do only what will strengthen your relationship with God.  Avoid those things which can lead you into the world away from God. There are things that seem neutral that we do each day – like driving to work. Yet we can choose to glorify or represent God in the way we choose to do them.
  4. Give God credit for the blessings in your life as you talk with co-workers and neighbors. Do not be afraid to sincerely and audibly say, “Thank God for . . .”

What practical advice for following Jesus do you have to share?

  • Scott

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We are at War

Peter writes both succinctly and with astute observation of mankind when he states, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11).

“Which war against your soul.”  We are in a daily battle. We constantly fight to keep our minds and hearts focused on God, Christ, and the Spirit of God. But what are these “passions of the flesh, which war against my soul?”

  1. Satan is an obvious answer. He is busy in the world trying desperately to destroy and to kill all that is right and good. Yet, he is a master of camouflage. He does not dress in a bright red coat, but in a BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) in order to blend in and go as unnoticed as possible. We must be vigilant to see his activity and do our best to flee from him.
  2. Recreation / Fitness. I heard this morning about a fitness device that will be released to consumers just before Christmas this coming year.  This device is similar to a fitness watch but clips onto or is built into your belt.  It will tell you when you need to sit up, drink more water, stand up, walk, or just get moving.  The fitness / recreation market is booming. Every other corner in town has a gym or work-out area. Every other weekend there is a run for fitness and fun. Being healthy is good, commendable, and even good in God’s eyes, but when fitness or recreation becomes our driving force and we do it to improve our image we are on the verge of if not already allowing our physical body to be more important that our spiritual lives.
  3. Entertainment. I like to be entertained.  I like movies that are action packed. I like movies that are emotional (what I teasingly call a “stupid movie”). I like comedies.  I enjoy music, musicals, plays, good books, sporting events, TV shows. Entertainment is not bad – not completely. Yet, when that entertainment glorifies things that are ungodly then I have a dilemma. When entertainment takes precedent over God, it becomes a problem.  I knew a minister that nearly lost his job over a concert. He shortened a sermon so he could attend a concert featuring what is now a “classic rock” group. Ironically, other Christians completely skipped worship to go the same concert.
  4. Success in the World. When success is our goal we run the danger of neglecting what is more important – being true to Christ. While this is definitely true of worldly success when we do not care who we destroy on our journey or we choose to act unethically to achieve that success it is also true of preachers and church leaders who choose to ignore biblical truths or preach a popular message so they can rise to the top.
  5. Accolades. We all like to be recognized for our accomplishments and for what we do. We want to be employee of the month, father of the year, wife of the year, or student of the month. Being the best employee, father, mother, wife, child, or student is not wrong, but why we want that is the heart of the matter.  Are we reaching for the accolades because we want to please men or are we getting the accolades because we are pleasing God?  There is a difference.
  6. Sensuality. Let’s just call it what it is – sex. Our society is saturated with messages of sexuality.  Fast food places use sensual models who have never eaten a burger in their lives to sell 1/2lbs heart-attacks on a bun. Pornography is a serious problem for teens and adults – male and female alike. TV shows have scantily clad people dancing in what is a nothing more than simulated intercourse set to music. Even a proclaimed Christian family famous for a different TV show allowed their teen daughter to parade her body in sensual ways on a dancing show. Commercials run advertisements for drugs for enhancement or parade women in what my grandmother would call “unmentionables.” The Hebrew writer tells us that such has an undefiled place and that is marriage. Marriage is where that should stay.
  7. Family. Family?  Yes! Jesus made this abundantly clear, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). When family time takes priority over God or even family time with God we are allowing something that is good to become more than it should.
  8. Church. Yes, I said church. When we use church as a “time-clock” or as a substitute for a deep relationship with God church becomes a idol. God told the people of Israel during the time of Amos, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.” (Amos 5:21-22). Be active in Christ’s Kingdom, His Church? – Yes! But do so because you are a servant of God not because you are punching a clock.  Live for Him daily and assemble to worship Him with His people. Do not think that 3 hours a week will suffice as honor for God who gave His best for you.
  9. PRIDE. Ultimately, this is the main issue. Pride leads us to be fit for ourselves. Pride chooses entertainment for self. Pride wants success no matter the cost. Pride seeks out accolades. Pride feeds our desire for sex. Pride puts stickers on our cars about our family’s accomplishments and brags about how great we are. Pride screams, “Look at how often I go to church!” Pride. John writes about this, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”  (1 John 2:15-17).
  • Scott

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CFP National Championship: It was Close and Why That Matters

The game was close. No matter if you pulled for the Clemson Tigers or the Crimson Tide you had to watch until the final seconds to learn the outcome.  No shut out for either defense. No easy and often scoring for either offense. This was a battle won and lost on both sides of the ball by both teams during the game. There were moments when it seemed the game was all Clemson, then the tide would turn and it would seem all Crimson. Both offenses had around the 500 yard mark in total offense with Clemson leading the statistics. The difference was special teams and turn overs. That is ultimately why the Crimson Tide came out on top.

rtr

image via Crimson Confidential

But that is not the story. The story is that the game was close, much closer than my blood pressure liked. Why? Why was the game close? Simple both teams played hard. Both teams played a full 60 minutes. No one gave up. Both teams had a drive to win the desire to finish.

During the time the apostles and other leaders of the early Church were living and writing sporting events were a part of Greek culture. Soldiers and warriors would participate in games to demonstrate their readiness for battle and their prowess in combat. Games might include foot races (comparable to modern marathons), hand to hand combat (similar to boxing or UFC), and wrestling matches.

Notice some the references to these competitions in the pages of scripture:

  1. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  2. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
  3. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
  4. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Watching the College Football Playoff last night, I am ultimately proud of both teams for their preparation, their endurance, and the fight to the end. It was an epic battle and a great finish. More specifically as a resident of Tuscaloosa County and having a couple of players as a part of our college group at Central, I am proud of the TIDE – Roll Tide Roll.

More importantly, I want to put into practice and I want you to put into practice the intestinal fortitude we witnessed in that arena into our spiritual race. In the words of the Hebrew writer,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

  • Scott

 

 

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