Category Archives: Christian living

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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Maturity

dodge_polara-pic-7087836066510811658Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s family vacations were events. We did not fly, we drove and drove.  We would pile into the 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne, the 1968 Dodge Polara, or later the 1981 Buick Century and head to the Smokey Mountains, to Orlando, or to southern Ohio. Did I mention hours in the car? On a few occasions my brothers and I would play backseat games, like “Don’t Cross This Line.”  You know this game, a participant draws an imaginary line on the hot vinyl seat and dares the other sibling(s) to cross it. Then the accusations begin to follow.  “He is on my side!” “He is touching my seat!” “He is touching me.” The obligatory follow-up are statements of defense, “I did not!” “He is taking up too much room!”

A good game would bring comments from the front seat.  Comments similar to this, “Do I need to pull this car over?!” Or “We can turn around and go home.”

This may be a faulty recollection. This may be a nightmare I once had.  But I have an image of Dad hitting the brakes, pulling over, and saying, “Grow-up!” I think I tried at that moment to get a little taller, I know I likely sat up straighter and began taking up a little less space . . .

One job parents have is to help their children mature.  I heard a recently heard a lecture on adolescence and maturity. The speaker (Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson) made reference to a book by Tim Elmore entitled “Artificial Maturity.” In this book there is a list of Marks of Maturity. As I consider these, they are not just about adolescents, but about growing in Christ as well. Take a look at these seven characteristics of maturity and think about how you and I can mature as Christians.

  1. The mature are able to keep long term commitments.
  2. Mature individuals are unshaken by compliments or criticism.
  3. A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
  4. His or her desires are based on character not feelings.
  5. They express gratitude consistently.
  6. They prioritize others over selves.
  7. They seek wisdom before acting.

Paul says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Corinthians 14:20.

It is time to grow up in Christ.

– Scott

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Pursuing Happiness

What makes you happy?  When are you feeling your best? Fortune Cookies and Friendship

We live in a world that looks for happiness. Even the Founding Fathers of the United States include the pursuit of happiness as one of mankind’s inalienable rights. (Note that to pursue happiness is a right, not happiness.) According to these men, this right is from our Creator. Maybe that is why I hear many people defending their lifestyle and worship style choices by saying “God wants me to be happy.” Does He? Does God want me to be happy?

I did a quick search of the English Standard Version via E-Sword for the phrase “be happy.”  The search yielded only one reference, “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5) There is not much there stating that God wants you and me to be happy, instead this verse tells us about the importance of focusing on our marriages.

Just for the sake of comparison, I searched the phrase “be holy.”  The search yielded 156 verses with a combination of those words and 32 matches for the exact phrase. Consider this selection as an example of the results, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Maybe, Apparently, Obviously God wants us to be holy.

With all that said, let me share with you a small piece of wisdom about holiness: When I am pursuing holiness, I find much happiness.  Holiness is key to happiness.  If you want to be happy then:

  • Trust God“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psa 23:4
  • Be content with God’s blessings, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”  1Ti 6:6-8.
  • Live in the moment with God, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Mat 6:34.
  • Set a goal of holiness, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:1-2.

Be Holy to be Happy, walk in the steps of the Lord.  “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Jer 10:23.

– Scott

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