Category Archives: Christians

How to Know God’s Plan

  • If God leads me to it He will lead me through it.gods plan
  • If this is God’s will, then I will endure.
  • I guess this was in God’s plan for me.
  • I don’t know why God planned for me to go through this.
  • God must has more for you to do, that is why you survived.
  • They finished what God planned for them to do, so He took them home.

I hear these and similar phrases more and more each day. “How can I know what God wants me to do in my life?”

I know these are people of faith, that are sincerely wanting to do God’s will. After all Paul tells us, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17). I do not want to be foolish in God’s eyes, so I need to know his plan for me!

What is God’s plan?

I want to share a few verses and some advice that will help you determine God’s plan for you. What I will share is what you can use to determine what you should be doing and what you should do in the future.

Jesus gives the answer, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31).

Love God with all that you are.

Love your neighbor with the same intensity that you love yourself.

What does God have planned?

  • He did not and does not plan the day of your death – He may know when that will be, but He did not set the date.
  • God did not plan for you or your loved one to battle that disease or disaster. Those things simply are a part of a physical world. He is there to carry you through to healing, recovery, or on eternity.
  • God does not have written down what job you should have to please Him, nor did he preplan your soul-mate you should marry.
  • He did not make you straight or LGTB.

You and I choose our life’s direction based on both our heredity and environment and must discern our the choices we face and make the choice we find consistent with the Word of God and how we should live as God’s children.

What God wants is for us to do? “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

That is God’s plan!

-Scott

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The Beauty of Christ’s Body

Yesterday I read a piece in the Huffington Post from and author who was disappointed in the congregation of the Lord’s Body that she attended from childhood. She shared an incident or two that would be enough to disillusion anyone. Sadly, using large brush strokes, she in many ways blames every church of Christ.

After reading her article, I thought I would repost something I wrote a few years ago that I think demonstrates the beauty of the church and God’s plan for Christianity – the Kingdom of Christ.

*********************

What is the church of Christ

Admittedly, I feel completely inadequate to publish an answer.  The gods plananswer I will give is mine and not necessarily the answer of every one who holds membership in a congregation claiming to be the church of Christ

Autonomous

Frank S. Mead wrote in Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 5th Ed, (Nashville:Abingdon Press), 1970. “There is a distinctive plea for unity at the heart of the Churches of Christ — a unity that is Bible based.  It is believed here that the Bible is the “beginning place” in and through which God-fearing people can achieve spiritual oneness” (p 85).  “They disclaim being a denomination, but claim to be nondenominational with no headquarters, no governing boards, and no clergy” (p 86). Mead lists numbers of colleges, universities, and lists a few publications in Texas and Tennessee then stresses, “Since all official status in these institutions is lacking, none of them being authorized to speak for the entire church, their conformity in ideas and teachings in all the more remarkable” (p 87).  Elsewhere in the article Mead mentions the concept of congregational autonomy with each congregation being governed by her own elders and deacons. (Mead lists, W.E. McClenney, B.W. Stone, and Earl I. West as sources for his information p 238.)

I feel for the lady who wrote such a condemning article. I pray that she will understand that a few or even multiple congregations do not represent every other one.  I pray that she will seek out a group of Christians who like her are trying to be Christians.

Back to the question: “What is the Church of Christ?”

While consisting of many congregations scattered around the world, the Church of Christ is universally one as she is:

  1. The Body of Christ – Eph 1:22-23;
  2. The Bride of Christ – Eph 5:21-33; Rev 21:2;
  3. The Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15; and
  4. The Kingdom of Christ – Col 1:13) among other descriptive terms. 

(Notice that each term is ultimately singular: body, bride, household, and kingdom; thus individual congregations made up of individual Christians are what comprise the universal singular Church of Christ.)

Individual Christians comprise the Body of Christ locally and universally. Christians are those who are in Christ by faith having put on Christ and becoming part of God’s family through the promised Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:26-29).  Here, I think is a particularly sticky issue.  In my past I have made too much of an argument about baptism and not enough about faith.  Let me be very precise in my wording; each individual that is a part of the house of God is saved by God’s grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  Without faith man cannot please God (Heb 11:6). 

What is faith?

Faith is not mere mental acceptance of facts.  Faith is trusting obedience.  Faith that does not submit to God is not faith.  Those that put on Christ by faith in Gal 3:26 were those who were put in Him when by faith submitted to immersion to contact His blood.  Paul tells the Romans Christians he was glad they had obeyed from the heart the standard of teaching that saved them (Rom 6:17-18).  That standard of teaching that saved them was the same doctrine that Paul taught the Corinthians – (the Gospel – 1 Cor 15:1-5; Rom 1:16).  That good news that saved was the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus as Christ.  Paul explains the Roman’s faithful obedience to that gospel in Rom 6:3-6.  ALL the individuals world-wide who are en christo (in Christ), and ALL the assemblies of those individuals, are the universal Church (Body, Bride, Kingdom, Household) of Christ.

Now as Mead observed, these congregations are autonomous (self-governed).  Basically, that means what we do at Central may differ in someways from how they do things at Northport, Cottondale, Westside, Northwood, Mercedes Drive, East Pointe, University, or anywhere else in town.  We may see some things as acceptable that others do not.  Some of the things they accept may not be acceptable here.  Sometimes these differences are merely cultural.  Sometimes these differences are simple matters of opinion.  However, there may be times when we think a Biblical issue is at the center of our differences. When the issue is considered by one or both to be a matter of doctrinal importance, lines of communication should allow for civil discussion.  If we come to an impasse, we may choose to limit cooperative fellowship.  That should not mean that each think the other is “hell bound and determined.”  Such should simply mean we choose to work along side of those we feel are more like us.

Sometimes a congregation can focus on the wrong things like politics or even pride as a result of thinking they are more righteous, more spiritual, more open minded, or more correct than other congregations or other groups within Christendom.

Ultimately, God and Christ will judge each congregation (consider the Seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 & 3 – God judged each individually), and they will judge each individual.  Maybe that is partly what Paul had in mind when he wrote, ” . . . work our your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12, emphasis; SMc).  You and I as individuals will stand before God on our own.  We will face judgment as to whether we as an individual were in Christ and lived in sanctification and holiness (1 Thess 4:3-7).  Each eldership will give account for the congregation they serve (Heb 13:17).

I am a Christian who believes in restoration.  I believe that we must all go back to God’s word for life and godliness.  I believe, as did many before me, that we must set aside denominational nomenclature and return to purely Biblical ideas and principles.  I believe there is room for division in opinions or expediency. I believe mutual understanding of Biblical doctrines provides unity whereas disagreements in doctrine limit fellowship.  I believe that as long as humans are in churches there will be differences that seem insurmountable.  I believe we should teach the truth as we understand truth, allowing for folks to disagree, while continuing to hold fast to healthy spiritual teaching (sound doctrine). I believe in the end of time God will sort out who is and who is not His children.  I believe I must do my best to follow God and to teach others what I learn.  I cannot force them to agree with me, but I must share what I see is God’s plan.  To do less would be irresponsible on my part.

-Scott

 

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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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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 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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Divergent

Divergent is a novel trilogy written by Veronica Roth and includes Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant. Without giving away any surprises the series is about a teenager who lives in a post apocalyptic society. Similarly to many other series in this young adult genre the authorities have tried to bring order to chaos by dividing society into groups. People enter these groupings when they become young adults. Typically, there is a rebellion against the status quo. In Veronica Roth’s series there are five groups or factions.

  1. Abnegation: These people have a heart for service and often give up their rights for Imageothers.
  2. Candor: These people are always and sometimes brutally honest.
  3. Erudite: The erudite are the educated and thinkers and keep society advancing.
  4. Dauntless: Dauntless are fearless and serve as law enforcement.
  5. Amity: This friendly group serves as farmers and peace negotiators.

One of Veronica Roth’s main characters does not fit into any the five categories, they are different, they are divergent. In all candor (pun intended) they fit all five categories on some level.

I liked this series, especially the first one – DIVERGENT.  After reading this novel in 2011 or 2012, I began thinking about comparisons to our lives a Christians in modern society.  I recently revisited these thoughts now that the third movie is in theatres.

Dictionaries define “divergent” as “tending to be different or to develop in a different direction.”

As Christians we are to be different and to develop separate from the world. We are to be DIVERGENT.

Consider the words of scripture that define us:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, (2 Cor 6:17)

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Eph 5:7-8)

There are many other passages we could consider, but these suffice to remind us to be different; to be divergent.

But how do we live divergently?

  1. Choose to follow God over what is popular.
  2. Choose to do what is right above what is easy.
  3. Dress differently. As men, women, boys, and girls choose to be modest in our dress.
  4. Talk differently. As God’s chosen people, speak in a way that bring glory to His name and does not degrade Him or His people.
  5. Think differently. Keep the greatest command and the second in the forefront of you mind; Love the Lord you God with all your heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt 22:36-40).

What are other ways we can be divergent?

-Scott

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