Category Archives: Christian living

Making a Habit of Purity

photoGalatians 5:19-26

Often when we talk about purity we are talking discussing sexuality. Being pure with your sexuality is important, but it is not the only aspect of purity.  Purity, in the eyes of God, is to not allow the stain of any sin be in your life. (cf. James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: . . . to keep oneself unstained from the world.”) How can we become pure?  How can we remove the stains of sin? How can we remain pure?  These are some of the questions we will try to answer in this lesson.

Read what Paul tells his readers in Galatians 5:19-26. Did you notice the following: A) Those that practice the works or the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God. B) There are no laws against the Fruit of the Spirit. And C) Those who belong to Christ are to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. Paul is telling us how to develop a habit of purity – we crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.

We must put the desires (lusts) that lead to the works of the flesh. This begins when we obey the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 teaches that the Gospel Paul taught the Corinthians, the Gospel that saved them, is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Read Romans 6:1-12 and see how the Roman Christians crucified (put to death) their sinful past. A) They DIED to sin and self. B) They were BURIED with Christ in baptism. And C) They ROSE from that grave a new creation. When we obey the Gospel we are demonstrating that we are no longer going to walk according to our fleshly desires, but as we put those to death, we are starting fresh. We are walking according to the Spirit. We are walking with God and Christ. We are walking in the light (cf. 1 John 1:7-9).

As a child of God, you are no longer slaves of sin, but bond servants (slaves) of righteousness – that is servants of God (cf. Romans 6:17-18).  Take time to consider the words of Paul in these passages: “and you are Christ’s . . .” (1 Corinthians 3:23), “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Reflecting on these passages helps one remember that his life on earth is not about himself.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:26). The implication is that we must daily deny ourselves and daily take up our cross. Taking up a cross is not simply bearing a burden of having a mean older sibling. Bearing our cross is executing (crucifying) ourselves, our desires and passions, every day. Paul tells the Colossian Christians to, “Put to death  . . . what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:6). Our life as God’s children is about doing His will.

Years ago I heard a preacher tell this story:

“When I was young, I thought the Bible was a list of all the things you are not supposed to do. Christians don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they do not use marijuana, and they don’t dance. Don’t . . .  don’t . . . don’t . . .  don’t . . . DON’T! Then I began reading the Bible myself and learned there are a bunch of things that God wants us to do.  It was then I realized, if I do the do’s I don’t have time to do the don’ts!”

How? How do we do all this? Look at Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” To remain pure, we crucify the flesh, we consider ourselves dead to the world and the world dead to us and we pursue the things of God.

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Good Church Leaders and Ministers

A few years ago I shared an adaptation of what education author Todd Whitaker writes in “What Great Teachers Do

#bealight

#bealight

Differently” {2nd Edition (Larchmont, NY:Eye on Eye Education) 2012}, applying it to parents as their child’s first and primary teacher.  Specifically chapter 11 where Whitaker discusses how good teachers repair relationships with students.  I thought about that blog this morning and considered how it applies to ministers and other church leaders (teacher, deacons, elders, etc.) Whitaker describes three types of teachers that I think describes church leaders as well.

1. Need to Repair – But Never Do: Some church leaders need to repair relationships with other Christians (church members) but never do. At some point a leader will make a mistake, they will say or do something that will hurt feelings. Some church leaders take an approach that communicates being unapproachable and unwilling to admit wrong.

2. I am Sorry That Happened: Leaders, learn to say you are sorry.  Learn to say, “I am sorry that happened.”  Even if you were unaware of your part in the pain.  The following story is true, it has to do with my role as a minister from early in my church work.  I think this event illustrates this point.  Years ago a man approached me on a Sunday morning after our assembly. “Scott, why don’t you like me any more?”  I was floored.  I liked this man and his family.  They were good workers in the church.  I replied, “I do like you, and love you as my brother in Christ.  Why do you think I don’t like you?”  He explained that I appeared to be avoiding him.  For the last month, he perceived that I had not made an effort to speak to him.  (In my defense there were an average of over 300 each Sunday at that time, I could not talk to everyone.)  What did I do?  What did I say?  I said, “I am sorry I made you feel that way, please know I do like and love you and will do anything I can for you.  I may not be able to talk to you every assembly, but I will try to speak to you as often as possible.”  We “man-hugged” and he promised to come to me and not wait for me to come to him. When you say you are sorry an event happened, don’t stop with the simple acknowledgement – make effort to change.

3. Never Need to Repair – Always Do: Simply put, if we want to be great church leaders, we must always work to repair and maintain our relationship with church members.  Church members and other leaders may think everything is good, and if you work hard to maintain and repair it will be, but learn to keep it that way.  Consider Jesus’ relationship advice in Mat 5:23-26 and Mat 18:15-17.  We have the responsibility to work things out with others – especially our fellow servants of Christ.

I think you can see that the best leaders are the last group. But when we find ourselves falling short we must apologize and do our best to make things right. Good leaders work hard to avoid personally hurting other Christians physically or emotionally.  Great leaders also work hard to repair any inadvertent damage.

– Scott

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Focus

Focus Chart ScaleGracious Heavenly Father,

When I look to your people I see men and women who struggled with focus.

  • I think of Adam and Eve losing focus and forgetting your care. That did not turn out well for them.
  • I recall Cain with his offering of convenience not of sacrifice. His anger at your displeasure did not turn out well for him.
  • I think of Nimrod and his decedents who wanted to make themselves great as they built a tower. That did not turn out well for them.
  • I recall Abram and Sarai taking God’s promise into their own hands and trying to work it out with human wisdom. That did not turn out well for them or Hagar and Ishmael.
  • I think of Jacob’s sons and all their self-serving actions. Things did not turn out well for them either.
  • I think of David thinking of himself, his pleasure, his reputation. That event did not turn out well for him.
  • I think of Israel and Judah over and over again serving their desires over God’s will. It does not turn out good for them.
  • I recall Peter losing sight of Jesus and sinking. I remember him denying Jesus three times. He learns that such actions did not turn out well for him.
  • I think of Judas as he considers himself alone as he betrays Jesus. It does not turn out well for him.

God, I recognize a pattern. A pattern that should remind me to change my focus from me to You. Father, help me, help us all, look to You and You alone for direction in our life. Specifically, help us know that is not in man to direct his steps.  Help us recall that the way that seems right to humanity, may very well be a way of destruction.

Father, I long to follow Your Way, Your Truth, and Your Life – keep me on track. Please forgive me when I lose focus.

In Jesus’ name.

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Be With Me Lord

Be With Me Lord

Thomas O. Chisholm & Lloyd O. Sanderson,

1935 Gospel Advocate Co.

Be With Me Lord is a prayer in the form of a song. This lyrical prayer expresses well the desire of a Christian to dwell in the presence of God.

Be with me, Lord- I cannot live without Thee,
I dare not try to take one step alone,
I cannot bear the loads of life unaided,
I need Thy strength to lean myself upon.

Be with me, Lord, and then if dangers threaten,
If storms of trials burst above my head,
If lashing seas leap everywhere about me,
They cannot harm, or make my heart afraid.

Be with me, Lord! No other gift of blessing,
Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare-
A constant sense of Thy abiding presence,
Where-e’er I am, to feel that Thou art near.

Be with me, Lord, when loneliness o’ertakes me,
When I must weep amid the fires of pain,
And when shall come the hour of “my departure,”
For “worlds unknown,” O Lord, be with me then.

The Lord is truly with us. This is the promise of Christ.  Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). There are great blessings knowing that the Lord is with me.

  1. There is Salvation in the Lord (in Christ). This salvation is available to all who by faith are in Christ (Gal 3:26-28).
  2. There is Justification in Christ. Justification is God declaring us sinless by Christ’s atoning blood.
  3. This provides an Escape for us from God’s vengeful wrath. (2 Thes 1:7-9).
  4. In Christ we have a special Intimacy with God (Heb 10:19-22).
  5. We have a Life of Victory with the Lord. Rom 8:35-39, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died —more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” With the Lord we then have this victory over Sin – 2 Cor 5:21, Death – 1 Cor 15:57, Temptation – 1 Cor 10:33, Trials – Jas 1:2-4, and Eternal Life – Jn 17:3.

Be With Me Lord! The truth is the Lord is never far away. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Draw near to Him!

– Scott

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Xenolith Christians

I recently learned (or remembered from high school geology) that a rock that has a different origin than the igneous rock in which

image via: commons.wikipedia.org

image via: commons.wikipedia.org

it is embedded is a xenolith. The picture to the right of this text shows what a xenolith looks like.  As magma flows, it collects other objects including rocks. When that magma cools becoming a igneous rock, the material it collected becomes embedded in the rock and to the observer is part of the overall igneous rock. It just stands out. The xenolith is different.

When I read the description of a xenolith I began thinking about some statements in Scripture about followers of Christ. There are ways that as Christians we are similar to xenoliths.

  • Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
  • John 17:14, ” . . . they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
  • Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”
  • 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

We are not the same as the world. We are to be different. The world should see that difference and realize that we do not belong.

This comparison becomes more interesting to me when I consider that the beauty of an igneous rock is not the magma that cooled, but the xenoliths that give the igneous rock its attractive characteristics. We as Christians can be a saving influence on the world (salt) giving the world a certain beauty. To do this, we cannot just sit in the pew and sing songs of longing for heaven or of our love for Christ, we must be in the world benevolently working to bring our fellow sinners to Grace found in the blood of Christ.

– Scott

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How to Help the Church

#bealight

First let me emphatically say that this post is NOT about money! This post is about you and the church, specifically the congregation of God’s people that you assemble with.

Where you assemble to worship is probably similar to Central, where we attend and where I preach.  We are a good group of people.  We are active in our faith and are decent folk.  But like you, we can be better.  I put some thought to this idea of congregational self-improvement and I have a few suggestions on how we can all Help Our Individual Church Family Grow.

  1. We Can Live Pure Lives. The local congregation needs to have the respect of the community it is in.  That level of respect lies squarely upon the shoulders of each member.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12).
  2. We Can Be Friendly. Each visitor needs to feel welcome.  They should see we appreciate them and love them. Such a realization will make them want to return.  Do not stand back and let someone else greet visitors — you be one of the first.  The Hebrew writer says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb 13:2).”
  3. We Can Give Our Full Support to the Leaders.  Effective leaders are a great blessing to any congregation of God’s family.  None can progress without faithful and efficient leaders, and as members we can make or break our leadership.  Again from the Hebrew writer we learn, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17).”
  4. We Can Promote Unity. Peter gives us a formula for unity in 1 Pet 3:8-12,Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ ” The unity formula is: Unity of mind, sympathy for each other, brotherly love, having a tender heart, having an humble mind, Not being vindictive, and blessing each other.
  5. We Can Work Hard at Being a Soul-Saver. This is as simple as letting your non-Christian friends and family know why you are a Christian and how you came to Christ.  Remember the wise preacher tells us, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. (Prov 11:30).

#Contagiouschurch

Keep Growing  for the Lord.
– Scott

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An Umbrella for Two

37020b71c0303413643710cfccc4f1ebThe rain is falling in my corner of the world.  The rain started Sunday and we are expecting rain through Friday.  Six days of rain! Thirty-four more and we might face a flood of Biblical proportions.

Even in the rain, there are rays of sunshine. Yes, the sun sneaks through the clouds.  Yes, the rain washes away salt and dirt on the roads from the last two weeks of icy weather. Yes, the rain waters the earth for the flowers of spring. But there was something else I saw yesterday. Something nice, something sweet.

I should back up a bit and tell you that I work in a college town. That is an understatement. I work in Tuscaloosa, Alabama the home of the University of Alabama where enrollment this academic year was approximately 38,000. There are a more than a few students and young adults everywhere.

Now I come back to the rain and yesterday. Yesterday evening, I was driving to the hospital as the rain was beginning to fall as the light faded from the sky. As I crossed the railroad tracks, there they were, a young couple walking in the rain, sharing an umbrella and having a great time. They were smiling and laughing.  You know, the laugh of young romantic love. It was a sweet walk for them and a sweet moment for me to see.

I thought of a few things as I saw this couple.

  1. I thought of Amy (my wife of 25 years) and all the walks we have shared since we started dating 28 years ago.
  2. I thought of the talks we have on those walks.
  3. I thought of the last chapter in “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott – Under the Umbrella.
  4. I thought of the second verse of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by the Police.
  5. I thought of the talks and walks I have with God as He holds my hand through life (Isa 41:13; 1Jo 1:7).

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