Category Archives: Christian living

It Isn’t Me.

“Who is making that noise?!” Mom asked.

All three of us denied, “It isn’t me!”

It isn’t me.

Let me state that from a different direction and in the form of a question: Am I really me? Am I my own person?

Western society touts the idea of being yourself, finding your own truth, living for you, being your own man or woman (today that include which ever gender you think you want to be – but that is another post). When I ask, “Am I my own person?” or “Are you your own person?” out individualistic society takes pride in answering, “Yes!”

But should we be?

Go with me back to the Garden of Eden. The serpent convinced Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil telling them, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5)

“You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The word “knowing” can carry the idea of being able to determine or choose what is good and evil. This might be the case when you consider the context of the phrase and note that they will be like God. God is the source of morality, what is good and evil – He determines it. Satan could be saying, “You get to choose what you will do and if it is right or wrong. You get to be your own person, your own god.”

Oh the problems that come from man determining his own morality!

God offers many warnings:

  • “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.” Jeremiah 10:23
  • “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12; 16:25
  • “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

When we set ourselves up as the ultimate moral authority, the one(s) who determine what is right and what is wrong, we set ourselves in the place of God.

May I remind you of what Paul says, ” . . . . You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

-Scott

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His Children

Rom 5-1Paul says that those who have put on Christ are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26-27).

John says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God ‘s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1Jo 3:1).

Christians, we are God’s children, we have that in common and more.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die —  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:6-10).

All of God’s Children have a PAST.

  • We were weak – astheros – infirm, feeble, unable to do what is right.
  • We were ungodly – asebes – showing no respect for God.
  • We were sinners – amaptolos – devoted to sin.
  • We were enemies – echthros – hated, the antithesis of agape love, we hated God.

We were unable or unwilling to do what was right, showing no reverence for God, while committing our existence to sin, living in hatred of God.

Then Christ came!

In Him we are justified by faith. ( Rom 5:1)

All of God’s Children have a PRESENT.

  • We are reconciled to God.
  • We have peace with God.
  • Because of His grace.

Now we can presently rejoice in suffering and in God’s love (Rom 5:3-5). We can walk with God and rejoice in our present state and our future.

All of God’s Children have a FUTURE.

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:2).

We have access to heaven, we rejoice in hope. Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is anticipation of an expected outcome. Our hope resets in the Spirit’s guarantee (Eph 1:13-14).

If you claim to be God’s child, do you look like the Father? Can people see in you a family resemblance to Christ?

– Scott

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Why Don’t You . . . ?

 

Not too many years ago he and I were watching our sons at football practice.  We started Quitting-Drinkingtalking about work and football, specifically how the Jr. High Team, the High School Team, and Bama were going to do that year. As we continued to talk, my new friend invited me over for the season opener. He said they always had a group over and during half time the kids could swim while we sat on the deck having “adult beverages.”

“I love coffee,” I replied with an air of sarcasm, he knew I was a minister.

He chuckled, and answered, “That’s not what I meant.  Why don’t you drink?”

Why don’t I drink?

I don’t remember exactly what I said. I probably said, “If children can’t drink it, neither should I.”  Thinking back, I know what I could have and maybe should have said.

I could have told him about a man who was so intoxicated that he was threatening his wife. She left and hid at her daughter’s home. He found her. He threatened to break in and hurt anyone who tried to stop him. I could tell you about his granddaughter crying, frightened, while hiding in a dark closet as her mom tried to calm her grandfather down.

I could have told him about one who would as a college student go out with friends to somewhere like the lake or river to fish and drink all night. I could tell him about the time this young man came close to losing his life on the road home. After a few close calls, he turned his life around.

I could talk about a high school senior on graduation night, going out with friends to the beach with others and “celebrating” the end of high school. I could tell his story of not remembering the next few days until he woke up in a puddle of vomit three days later still feeling sick to his stomach.

I could have told about an event 30 years ago and that friend who talked with me about church, God, and Christ but jokingly said he was not ready to quit drinking “screwdrivers.” Days later the highway patrol found his VW van after it rolled over a few times. He was pronounced dead on the scene. They found and empty carton of orange juice and an empty vodka bottle among the debris.

Yes, there are reasons from scripture I do not get drunk;

Romans 13:13 – “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

In Galatians 5:21 the works of the flesh include, “envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

1 Peter 4:3, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.”

I know, you don’t drink to get drunk. You drink to take the edge off, to calm your nerves, and to help you relax. “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.” (Philippians 4:5-6). Helping you relax, calming your nerves, and  taking the edge of is the God’s job through Christ and the Spirit. “Casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Using alcohol to do God’s job is replacing God with an idol.

But what are the reasons I don’t drink?

  1. It is not necessary
  2. I have seen too many people I know (all of the stories above) hurt or killed by alcohol.
  3. Oh, and Sweet Tea or Coca Cola tastes a whole lot better.

-Scott

image via: Why You Should Quite Drinking Alcohol.

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Vertical

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my world turning Sideways. Current political climate and current issues of morality or immorality played into that post, but mostly it was about a personal event. My younger brother’s diagnosis with a brain tumor.

This week I traveled to Gainesville, Florida to Shands’ Hospital where skilled surgeons and others removed 90% of the tumor. As of today, I do not know of the complete pathology report, but the surgeon and oncologist are both certain that the tumor is malignant. Watching my parents and my sister-in-law as the word cancer entered the room was difficult. No family wants to hear that diagnosis.

cj

 

Breathe.

Cry.

Pray.

Inhale and exhale.

Pray more.

Now that we know, we fight. We fight with medicines, we fight with technology, we fight calling upon the Great Physician to be in our corner fighting for us and with us. We fight vertically.

My brother is not perfect, I am not either. My brother is a child of God. In the hospital from pre-op to post-op in the ICU and in a semi-private room, he prayed with surgeons, nurses, and other patients.  He shared the reason for his hope and good spirits. I do not know how other families react to such news, but after the initial disappointment we quickly reverted to hope and laughter. Charles and I even had a few laughs about comedy skits that made fun of brain surgery. We are not laughing at the diagnosis, but in spite of it.

We can laugh and cope because of our hope in Christ.

Last evening at our devotional at Central, J, our Youth Minister shared the following statement. A statement I wish I had made. A statement that summarizes how my family is coping with brain cancer.

“This world is full of grave things, but this world is not my grave.”

I may die here. Unless Christ comes first I know I will die (Heb 9:27). It may be of cancer. It may be from a heart attack. It may be of old age, in automobile accident, or a random shooting. Death will come, my body will be buried, but because Christ rose from the dead and I put my hope in Him, the grave will not hold me for eternity. I will rise to be with the Lord always.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1Th 4:13-18).

Instead of thinking sideways, think VERTICAL!

Cancer is bad. But God is good!

-Scott

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I am not Finished Yet

The Apostle Paul writes,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (2Cor 4:8-9).

There are days I feel afflicted, perplexed, driven to despair, persecuted, and struck down.

There are times when I feel as if a business has mistreated me. There are times when fellow volunteers have used me, accused me, and lied about me.  There are times when I felt unheeded and unneeded. There were times when I have been overlooked, passed-over, and walked over. There are times when my efforts were not appreciated and times when my efforts failed. There are times when family and friends suffer and I can do nothing about it. The world is not always good to me.

Neither are my fellow Christians. There are times when my brothers and sisters in Christ have hurt me. Sometimes intentionally, but most often unintentionally. As a minister, I know that some love me, some do not like me, and some tolerate me. I am too loud and too quiet. I am not friendly enough and too friendly. I shouldn’t visit as much and I don’t visit enough. I use too much technology when I preach and I don’t use enough technology. What I say encourages and what I say hurts feelings.

I am not perfect.  I know this better than anyone. I make mistakes and have my weaknesses. There are moments when I know I have fallen. I have hurt others. In my life I have disappointed family and more importantly – God.

But I am not finished.

I am not crushed. I am not driven to despair. I am not forsaken, and I am not destroyed!

finishline

image via utica.edu

I am a child of God walking by faith and not by sight. I may be an earthen vessel, but I am being crafted by the Potter and His skilled hands. I might even be a misshaped or a cracked pot, but I have a treasure in me. That treasure is Christ. Because of Him and through Him I am made flawless – without spot or blemish (Eph 5:27). He is renewing my true self daily. That means my struggles here on earth are temporary as I look toward becoming like Him in glory (2Cor 4:16-17).

 

I am in good company.  The same Paul who wrote these words in 2 Corinthians and referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1Tim 1:15) also said,

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 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.” (2Tim 4:6-8).

Hang in there, Scott.

-Scott

Speaking of flawless. Take a moment to enjoy MercyMe:

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I am not Sorry

What I am about to say is un-American, un-patriotic, unlike many right-wing republicans, and definitely un-Tea Party -like.

I am not sorry for what I am about to say.

I believe my words to be truth, founded upon scripture.  They are thoughts that our 20111219-090729.jpghymnology (is that a word?) proclaims.  These thoughts come from many before me, but somehow are missing from the spoken doctrine of current mainstream western Christianity – especially among conservatives, fundamentalists, and evangelicals.  I begin with a statement from the preacher and apostle Paul, who was by natural birth a free citizen of Rome (cf. Acts 22:28), “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Php 3:20).

Paul said it first and I only echo him, I am first and foremost a citizen of heaven.  As  Albert E. Brumley wrote,

“This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

O Lord you know I have no friend like you
if Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

With the above on my mind I want to share some concerns for the future of the United States; the country of my residence:

This election season, please be as conscientious as you can be while deciding what candidate to vote for.

I am personally concerned for the future of the United States. When I go to their websites and read what the candidates say about themselves, the choices before us in the major political parties and the minor parties concern me. Please ignore the rhetoric in media. Please ignore the SPIN coming form journalists. Go read each candidate’s platform on their websites and make an informed choice. I have links below that take you directly to each candidate’s page on the issues they deem important. These are informational only and not an endorsement of any party or candidate.

Learn more about Donald Trump

Learn more about Hillary Clinton

Learn more about Bernie Sanders

Learn more about Gary Johnson

Learn more about Austin Peterson

Do not misunderstand, I do care about the country of my earthly residence, but my main concern is the place I call home.

John MacArthur writes concerning the church,  “Put simply, the cooperate gathering of believers is an assembly of heaven’s citizens . . . united in purpose and in loving loyalty to their Master and King” (Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ – Kindle Edition, location 2931 of 3491).

This means that my top concerns as Heaven’s pilgrim sojourning on earth (1 Pet 2:11) are the interests and affairs of my true King and Country.  This means my focus is on bringing people into His Kingdom and teaching them to live as ambassadors for His glory.

-Scott

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Feeling Foolish

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized intojester-fool-hat Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27.)  For many of us this is a very familiar text and rightly so.  Many times our focus is on verse 27 that teaches the way into Christ is to put on Christ and that we put on Christ when we submit to Him by immersion.  Without doing any injustice to the above truth, I think there is something we miss in verse 26.  We are all “sons of God, through faith.”  I can submit to immersion seven times over in the River Jordan, but without faith in God’s Grace through Jesus the Christ, immersion will do nothing to remove sin.  We must have faith to get in Christ and we must continue to live by faith in Him.

The question we need to answer at this juncture is: What is living by faith?  Paul describes our walk as “by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7).  What does Paul mean?  I keep returning to this conclusion: “My faith is that citizenship is in heaven and I am not truly a citizen of this earth.  I am a stranger, a pilgrim, and an alien on foreign soil. That being the case I live as a citizen of heaven (for God by faith) while I am here and I cannot let the physical, emotional, and other distractions of my presence here pull me into a false sense of identity.”

capt.

Playing a fool for ICYC

Consider as examples some of the characters we meet in the pages of Scripture.  The residents of Jericho must have thought Joshua and Israel to be fools for walking around the city once and not laying siege.  Those whom Gideon sent home, must have thought Gideon crazy for going up against the Midianite army with only 300 men who thought they could hold water in their hands.  The Philistines and the giant from Gath had to laugh when Israel’s chosen champion was a ruddy shepherd boy with a stick and a sling.  We know what Job’s wife and friends thought about his trust in God.  The enemies of Nehemiah thought that the residents of Jerusalem were out of their minds if they thought they could complete a wall that would stop more than a fax.  The king’s yes-men slapped and made fun of Michaiah for speaking the truth.  Old Testament heroes of faith stood up against seemingly insurmountable ridicule.  Their faith in God made them appear foolish and act foolish in the eyes of those around them.  The prophets were no different, they would walk through town unclothed, cut holes in walls and escape the city every night for weeks, and they would argue with kings.

 

These people were out of their minds.

In the New Testament we read about men like Paul.  The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Greece called Paul a “babbler” (Acts 17:18).  A babbler was a noise maker:  one who was talking but making no sense.  The word carries the idea of a “seed picker” as in one who lives off gleaning.  Our terminology might refer to Paul as a homeless person eating out of dumpsters and mumbling nonsensically to himself.  Festus interrupts Paul’s address to Agrippa saying, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” (Acts 26:24).  Paul replies a few verses later saying he wished Agrippa, Festus, and the rest of us to be “as crazy as he is.”

A great, deep faith in God will make you seem crazy.

An active living faith will make you seem like a fool to those in the world.  If we really believe what we claim to believe, we cannot help but be radically different.  Consider that to the world it is foolish to:

  1. Lay by in store when you get no interest in return.
  2. Avoid every type (appearance) of evil.
  3. Teach and practice abstinence before marriage, monogamy in marriage, and life-long relationships.
  4. Speak against homosexuality, pornography, divorce, gambling, and lewd dancing – daring to call them sin.
  5. Abstain from alcohol
  6. Pray without ceasing in good times and bad.
  7. Respect authority including parents, teachers, law officers, employers, and government.
  8. Believe in God as the Intelligent Designer and Creator of the universe, and the list goes on.

There are times when our faith makes us look foolish to other religious people.  When we insist the Bible does not teach the rapture and a future millennial kingdom, but rather that the coming of Christ will end the earth’s existence and we will all receive our reward or punishment, many think us crazy.  When we insist that immersion is for the forgiveness of sins, just as Peter said in Acts 2:38, they call us ignorant or narrow-minded. When we point to Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 and insist that the instrument we play is our heart and not a lifeless creation of man, they consider us simple-minded and foolish.

Peter calls his readers and each child of God, “exiles.”  We are refugees, displaced from home, never to settle in this land.  This society is not where we belong.  We may look strangely, we may talk strangely, we may dress strangely, and we may even be strange.  This strange behavior is because we are not from here and are not satisfied to be here, because we long for home.  Notice Paul’s self-diagnosis, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God;” (2 Cor 5:13)If I am crazy, it is for God. Earlier he wrote to the Corinthians, what serves as a conclusion to these thoughts, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:18-25)

Will you join me in being a Fool for Christ?

-Scott

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