From my Heart

photoToday, this morning, I am simply writing what I am thinking. I am not sure how this will come across.

Friends, I am hurting! Tears are literally welling up in my eyes as I am thinking. It pains me deeply to say what I am about to say. There is a certain reality that hits once I publish my thoughts. Once I speak or write I can never take back the words. The thoughts of my heart, my private reflections are about to go public. I cannot help it. Similar to Jeremiah, I have tried not to speak, but there is as if there is a fire in my bones and I have to give vent to the burning inside of me (Jeremiah 20:9).

I am fearful some will not understand. I am fearful that some will treat me differently.  I am afraid that some will think bad of me. So please read carefully.  Please understand me.  Know that I love you, each and every one of you. Please know I love God, Christ, and the Spirit. Understand that I believe the Bible to be the Word of God and that through His word He tells us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Pe 1:3). I believe that God wants – no desires – all people to be with Him in Heaven (2Pe 3:9, 1Ti 2:4) and through Jesus the Christ (Messiah) God provides the only way back to Himself (John 14:6).

With that said, I am hurting.

  • I hurt for the world.  A world that seems to increasingly hate the Christ, and those that follow Him. A world I thought I would never see.  A world that at best pokes fun at Christianity and at worst puts followers of Christ in prison and to death, simply for confessing His name.
  • I cry over a world that dogmatically calls people of convictions different from their own, “bigots.”
  • I do not understand why the world is intolerant of Christians while accusing Christians of intolerance.
  • I hurt that our world is selfishly self-serving. Individuals and groups want more than acceptance, they want the removal of all consequences of their actions or beliefs and the elimination of all who disagree with them. This is IMPOSSIBLE.
  • I cry for the nation I live in – the United States of America.  I cry that we, as a nation, are embracing sin at an ever increasing rate.
  • I morn the violence against people of different races or gender.  I am ashamed that such prejudice even exists – especially among those who claim to follow the Christ.
  • I cry for the victims of abuse of all kinds.

There are more things I cry over. There is more that depresses me.  I am a relatively positive person, if you look up optimist you might even see my picture in the dictionary, but I do not feel optimistic about our world. We live in a world filled with what First Century Greeks would call:

  • pornos” – sexual immorality. This includes intimate hetero-sexual (male-female) relationships outside of marriage.
  • eidololatres” – idolaters. Those that worship any god but God.  Those that put any thing, person, activity, pleasure, recreation, etc. as priority over God.
  • moichos” – adulterers. Those that have sexual relations with someone other than their spouse. Those that have multiple divorces and remarriages that do not follow Jesus’ statement on marriage and divorce (Mat 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mar 10:2-12).
  • malachos” – effeminate or soft. This one is troublesome. I am not sure the entire meaning. My best understanding is that it describes men who try to look like women. In First Century Greek cultures, younger men would shave body hair, dress like women, offer themselves as temple prostitutes or as the “companion” of wealthy men. At the very least a modern equivalent would be what we know as cross-dressing or being transgender.
  • arsenokoites” – literally “man-chambering” or sexual relations between two men.  This is what we now call homosexuality. Such was a practice in the First Century especially among the cultural elite.
  • kleptes” – thieves. Those that steal from others.
  • pleonektes” – greedy. Those that covetously seek for their own gain not caring about others in the process. They are avaricious.
  • methusos” – drunkards. Those that use chemicals (specifically alcohol) to become high (intoxicated).
  • loidoros” – revilers. Those that look for and start fights (they are purposefully critical in an abusive or insulting way).
  • harpax” – extortionists or swindlers. They prey on others and cheat them out of their possessions.

That First Century list looks familiar.  I cringe to think the world is still the same 2000 years later. Surely we can evolve beyond such rapacity. But we have not, will not, and that hurts me deeply.

What is sadder still is that these same accusations are not only applicable to the world outside of Christ, but many who claim to follow Christ are just as guilty.  That is why after Paul composed this aforementioned list to Christians in 1Co 6:9-10, he continues, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1Co 6:11).

Three thoughts and I leave this post in your hands. Three thoughts and I let you go about your day. Three thoughts as I read Paul’s admonition:

  1. Christians ought not to be harsh to those who practice sinful behaviors.  We ought to understand.  We were there, that was us.
  2. Those things (behaviors and attitudes) WERE who we were BEFORE we came to the Christ and gave our life to Him. Now we should put those things away and live for Him. He is now our life (Col 3:4) and we put away those things.
  3. Now our role is not to point people to sin. Those who sin are guilty and need GRACE and FORGIVENESS that is in Christ.  Let us point them to Christ and life in Him.  Let us not be a laser in the eyes or salt in an open wound but  on the contrary be a welcoming light and savoring salt (Mat 5:13-16).

– Scott

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The Habit of Contentment

20110921-084439.jpgIn the 2005 movie adaptation of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice (Directed by Joe Wright, Screenplay by Deborah Moggach) Mr. Bennet, played by Donald Sutherland, closes out his final scene saying, “If any young men come for Mary or Kitty . . . send them in. I’m quite at my leisure.” Then Mr. Bennet leans back in his chair with a look of complete contentment on his face. He is content because Jane Bennet is to marry Mr. Bingley who has a good annual income and now Elizabeth (his favorite daughter) is to marry the wealthiest of men in Derbyshire. The concept communicated by this scene is that Mr. Bennet’s contentment relies upon the financial security of his daughters as well as that of himself and Mrs. Bennet.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines contentment this way: “the state of being happy and satisfied: the state of being content” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contentment.) Do we find real contentment in the physical blessings of the world? Where does God fit into our equation for contentment?

Contentment Requires Trust in God: Paul challenges the Romans to consider God’s work as a basis for their confidence and contentment. Notice these phrases: 1) “If God is for us, who can be against us?” 2) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” 3) “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors . . .” God is in control (Rom 8:31, 32, 37).

Is God in control? Ask Joseph. His brothers hated him, threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, and allowed Jacob to believe his favored son died at the hands of a beast. As a slave, his master, Potiphar trusted him, but not enough to take Joseph’s word against Mrs. Potiphar. Potiphar threw Joseph into prison based on his wife’s lie. Yet God took control of the events to provide security for the descendants of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Gen. 45:5-7). Paul tells the Philippians that he has confidence (trusts) that God can and will supply every need they have because of Christ (Phi 4:19). Trust God to take care of you.

Contentment Requires Satisfaction with Less or More: Paul describes his attitude of contentment this way, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil 4:10). My problem is that I do not always distinguish between wants and needs. I have to continually remind myself that my wants are not needs.  The line of poetry says, “Little luxury, don’t you cry. You’ll be a need by and by.” I want a new car. Specifically, I want a Nissan 370Z with the Touring/Sport package. But I do not need that car, I only need basic transportation. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 and destroyed the city of Pompeii over 2,000 people died. They did not die because they did not have warning; they died because they did not want to leave their possessions. Some, who died, escaped days earlier only to return to get certain belongings. The fast flowing surge of lava (estimated at over 100 mph) overtook the city and turned people into statues of stone. Some of them lie near their treasures they thought they needed. Remember this line from the writer of Hebrews, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). Write the following words from Paul, where you can see them, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1Ti 6:8).

Contentment is Independent of Circumstances:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Phi 4:11-12).

Those are powerful words. When we look at Paul’s life, we see a life in near constant turmoil: kicked out of this city, thrown in jail here, and persecuted there. Some stoned and left him for dead. He survived shipwrecks. He spent years in and out of prison. Do not forget, he travelled by land and sea to preach in places that needed to hear the message of the Gospel. He felt responsible to Jews and Gentiles to make sure they knew Christ. He had great concern for the churches he helped establish. (cf. 2Co 11:22-33). Yet, in all of that, he remained faithful and confident knowing that God sustained him (Phi 4:13). Paul’s life teaches us that we learn this contentment as we experience trials (cf. Eph 3:14-21).

Contentment is Drinking from My Saucer: Bill Anderson and many others recorded the following song. Most lyric sites credit the lyric to someone named only as Johnson. They express the idea of contentment in a simple-man’s theology.

I’m Drinking from My Saucer

I’m drinking from my saucer cause my cup has overflowed

You know I never did make my fortune and I guess it’s a little late now

But I never did worry about that much

No shoot I was happy anyhow cause you see

As I have journeyed down life’s road

I have reaped a lot more than I’ve sowed

And I’m drinking from my saucer cause my cup has over flowed

No I’m not a man of riches

No sir and sometimes the going gets kinda’ rough

But I got me a good family an old horse and a dog

They all love me well that makes me rich enough

I thank the Lord for all these bless the mercies he has bestowed

I’m drinking from my saucer cause my cup has overflowed

Oh I’ve had lots of times when it seemed everything went wrong

I could feel my faith get well just a little bit thin

But the rain would stop and dark clouds would roll away

The sun would come shining right back down in my life again

So Lord don’t let me gripe too much about the rough row I’ve hoed

cause I’m drinking from my saucer my cup has overflowed

I’m drinking from my saucer my cup has overflowed

And now Lord if you can just give me the strength I need

And the courage when that old road gets steep and rough

I’ll not ask for any other blessing cause I have been blessed more than enough

And Lord don’t ever let me get so busy that I can’t help another with his load

And I just keep on drinking from my saucer cause my cup has surely overflowed

I’m drinking from my saucer cause my cup has overflowed

Thanks Lord

Are you living contented? Near the end of 1963 advice columnist Dear Abby published the following letter and asked her readers to respond.

“Dear Abby: Happiness is knowing that your parents won’t kill you if you come home late. Happiness is having your own bedroom. Happiness is getting the telephone call you’ve been praying for. Happiness is getting good grades and making your parents proud of you. Happiness is being a member of the popular circle. Happiness is having parents who don’t fight. Happiness is knowing that you are well-dressed, as well-dressed as anybody. Happiness is something I don’t have. Signed Fifteen and Unhappy.”

Dear Abby received hundreds of responses. Some were from other fifteen year olds, some were from parents, some were from servicemen fighting in Vietnam, but possibly the most profound letter was one Dear Abby published in February of 1964.

“Dear Abby: Happiness is being able to walk. Happiness is being able to talk. Happiness is being able to hear, Happiness is being able to see. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a fifteen year old girl who can do all of these things and who still says she is unhappy. I can talk, I can see, I can hear, but I can’t walk. Signed, Thirteen and Happy.”

 Which one of these teen girls learned contentment?

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Even More on Prayer

Prayer!  Prayer is so much more than saying a few words with our 20111206-072603.jpgheads bowed and hands folded.  Prayer involves our entire concept of God. Prayer connects deeply to our faith. Our life as a child of God is to be a life of prayer.

  • Prayer is not simply an emergency line to God, although He wants to hear and help our urgent needs.
  • Prayer is not negotiation with God. We should ask for supplication, but we need not barter with God.
  • Prayer is not a miracle nor does prayer require/expect God to answer with a miracle. Providence – yes! Miraculously setting aside the laws of nature – no.
  • Prayer is not for show. Prayer is not meant to impress others with our piety. Prayer is more of an exercise of humility seeking aid from the Creator of all.
  • Prayer is not resigning our fate to the whims of a narcissistic god. Prayer is not giving up or giving in.

Prayer is so much more.

Take time to talk with God today – right now.  I know that the Father longs to hear from His children; the Creator wants to hear from his creation.

– Scott

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Making a Habit of Joy

Tragedies, tornadoes, floods, fire, drought, earthquakes, wars, terrorism, violence, crime, economic crisis, gas prices, health

Full Moon over Smith Lake

Sunrise over Smith Lake

care, and agendas against Judeo-Christian values only begin the list of issues we face as Christians. With all that against us; what, on earth, do we have to shout joyfully about? Yet when we turn to Psalm 66 we read these words,

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah.” (Psa 66:1-4).

Again we ask, “What on earth do we have to shout joyfully about?”

We can Shout Joy for Yesterday. Read Psalm 66:5-7, 16-20. Come and See – Come and Hear – what the Lord has done!

Israel had a great heritage to rejoice over. The psalmist is reminding them of their past and how God blessed them. He wanted them to recall Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua. Maybe he was thinking of these words of Joshua,

“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Jos 23:14).

God took care of His people then.

God takes care of His people today. His people are those who Christ brings to God through the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:16). God’s people today are members of His Kingdom (the Church, the Body of Christ). We as Christians have a great yesterday to rejoice over. We can rejoice in the birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of the Christ. We can rejoice in the writings of the New Testament witnesses (cf. Heb 1:1-2). We can rejoice in those who carefully copied these letters to preserve the Word of God. We can rejoice that men and women learn ancient languages and translate those ancient manuscripts into our own common language. We can rejoice for our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who taught us to love God and to think for ourselves. We can rejoice that a friend, teacher, elder, deacon, preacher, or youth worker taught us the good news about forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ. We can rejoice that they took to heart the words of Paul, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2Co 5:19). The successes of yesterday bring us joy.

We can Shout Joy for Today. Read Psalm 66:8-12. The little girl bowed her head and folded her hands as her parents knelt beside her as she began her bedtime prayer, “Thank You, God, for Mommy, Daddy, Gramps and Grams, for John, and Joel too. Thank You for whiskers, the cat, and the dog next door, even if he does chase Whiskers. Thank You for my goldfish, Bubbles, and thank You, God for me.” Like this little girl, we can rejoice in the present.

Too many times people (your parents and grandparents included) talk about the “good ole days.” Don’t tell them I told you this, but the “good ole days” never really existed. The truth is that as human beings, we tend to forget much of the bad things in life and focus on the good memories. When I started driving in 1983 gas was around $0.85/gallon. That sounds cheap until you realize my car averaged 8 mpg and minimum wage was $3.25. If you like math you can crunch the numbers and see that things have not changed much and maybe not even for the better.

The same holds true for the “good ole days” of the church. The congregations at Galatia and Corinth had issues Paul had to deal with in his letters. John, Paul, Peter, and Jude all warn against false teachers. The Restoration movement of the 1800’s in the United States had struggles. The Church grew rapidly in the 1950’s then split over different issues. The Church has different and similar challenges today, but also great opportunities. We can reach people with the message of the Gospel through Television, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. I know many young people, just out of college, who are currently entering the mission field fulltime. Today may be the best days of the Church.

Yes there are trials, but James would remind us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (Jas 1:2-3). God can bring out our best during the pressure of tough times. The past bring joy and we live in the best of times now. So shout for joy today!

We can Shout for Joy for Our Future. Read Psalm 66:13-15. You thought I was going to say, “Shout for Joy for Tomorrow.” We do not know if tomorrow will come. The world may end for us today. If there is a tomorrow, we know that God will be with us and care for us in that tomorrow.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2Ti 1:12).  We can find joy today in our assurance of an eternal home in heaven. The apostle John tells us, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1Jo 5:13). When we are in a right relationship with God through Christ Jesus, His Son, we have a joyous eternal future waiting for us. So we can rejoice today, even when it rains.

Choose Today

Scott McCown – BSMc – 11.10.2010

Today is the day of decision.

Now is the time to choose.

There may be a tomorrow;

But why wait and chance to lose?

What you decide this moment,

Will impact the rest of your days.

Focus on what is eternal.

God is the One you should praise.

Many think too much of this life.

Forgetting that eternity waits.

Do not lose focus on salvation,

Live to enter the Heavenly Gates.

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Jesus and Prayer

We continue our Tuesday study of prayer but looking to Jesus and His prayer life. John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14).  Jesus was NOT just a man! Jesus was NOT another prophet! Jesus was God in the flesh living on earth with man.

He was “God with us”, the “Son of God”, Christ, yet He prayed to the Father – often – VERY often! Jesus did not talk about prayer partners, prayer warriors, and daily devotionals. Christ said nothing similar to “we should pray about it.”  He simply prayed. He did ot promote prayer, he warned about vain repetitions. He called for persistence in prayer. At the very least we know He prayed for Peter by name (Luke 22:31-32).

The gospel accounts record over twenty (20) instances of Jesus praying:

Jesus prayed:

  • Mark 1:35 – He rose early to pray.
  • Luke 24:30-31 – He prayed before a meal.
  • Luke 9:28-30 – He prayed at His transfiguration.
  • Luke 22:43-44 – He prayed when He was weak.
  • John 11:41-43 – He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus.
  • Luke 6:12 – He spent the night in prayer.
  • Luke 9:18 – He prayed alone while in a crowd.

Jesus prayed because:

  • He was busy – Luke 5:15-16.
  • He had decisions to make –
    • Luke 3:21-22 – Before His immersion (baptism).
    • Luke 6:12-16 – Before choosing the 12.
    • Matthew 26:36-46 – Before facing the cross.
  • When He faced crisis – John 6:15.
  • When He faced death – Hebrews 5:7.

In John 17 we have a prayer of Jesus’ recorded for us. To me this is the Lord’s Prayer. in this prayer we hear Jesus:

  • Submitting to God – John 17:4, 6-8, 14.
  • Praying for His needs and desires – John 17:1-5.
  • Praying for the needs of the apostles – John 17:9-19.
  • Praying for the Church (you and me) – John 17:20-21.

If Jesus needed to pray, what does this mean for us?

– Scott

As a bonus here is Acappella singing about one of Jesus’ prayers:

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A Greatest Habit

great            As I am writing this lesson Pandora Radio is playing my Gordon Lightfoot Channel.  The song playing is American Pie by Don McLean.  This eight and a half minute song hit number one in 1971. It is a song inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. Some consider this song to be one of the greatest of all time. Guinness Publishers make a fortune on the Book of World Records. Our world celebrates greatness. Yet, how do we determine true greatness?

The Law of Moses that set guidelines for the life of God’s people, the children of Israel, had over 600 commands (not just 10). The religious leaders would debate which of these laws were more important and one day they asked Jesus to give His opinion on which was the greatest commandment. They were at the very least, trying to get Jesus to take sides. Jesus answer is, “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.’” (Mark 12:29-30). Simply put, Jesus says that LOVE is the greatest. He quotes what the Jews called the SHEMA – (Hear). The Law of Moses taught that parents were to teach this creed to their children (Deut 6:4-9) at every opportunity that they had. Jesus reminds us that the greatest love is to:

Love God with all Your Heart. Loving God with all your heart is loving Him with the part of you that feels, the seat of your emotions. This love is loving God the way you love your grandparents, your parents, and those closest to you. This is the love that brings goose bumps or warm-fuzzies.

Love God with all Your Soul. The Greek word is “psyche” a root word for our word “psychology.” The understanding is that you love God with the whole of your human essense – your breath and your life.  We are to love God with everything that we are.

Love God with all Your Mind. The mind is the seat of our intellect. Loving God is not “better felt than told.” Loving God is more than a feeling; loving God is a thinking, rational adventure. When I understand what God did for me on the Cross and what He does for me in my life and for my eternity, I cannot help but learn to love Him (1 John 4:9-10, 19).

Love God with all Your Strength. This is loving God with what you can do. Demonstrate your love for God and to God by using your abilities and energies for His glory.  In other words, love God until you have nothing else to love Him with and then love Him more.

How do we love God? 2 John 6 says we walk in His commandments. We do His will, we obey Him according to His terms, we worship Him and Him alone the way He wants us to worship, and we live daily for Him (cf. 1 John 1:7). We love God and not the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).

Then Jesus says there is a penultimate command – the second greatest.  Jesus says, to Love your Neighbor as Yourself. There are two keys to following God: A) Love God Completely and B) Love Mankind Earnestly (cf. 1 John 4:19-21).  My neighbor would be any other person on earth (remember the story of the Good Samaritan).

How do we love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Look at Romans 12:9-13. We A) have Genuine Love, B) have Brotherly Love, C) Outdo each other in showing love, D) have a Fervent (enthusiastic) spirit toward each other, and E) Show Compassion (hospitality) toward others.

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Another Day in Paradise

Yes, I am referencing Phil Collin’s song from the 1980’s. One of his best in my opinion.

This Sunday our lessons at Central Church of Christ will be about our Attitude Toward the Poor and How We can Help the Poor.  Phil Collins’ song helps me realize my blessings and my responsibility not only as a human being, but more importantly as a Christian.

Enjoy the song:

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