Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rain Drops Keep Falling

This morning because of the promising rain clouds and claps of thunder, I drove instead of walked to the Post Office. While I was checking the box, a young mother and her little boy (about 3 years old) walked in. "You can ask him, he will know, he's a preacher." I mentally braced for a profound question. I was not however ready for the one he asked. "When its raining here, is it raining where God is?"

Wow! How do I answer that? Here is what flashed through my mind before I answered:

  • "No, God is light, it never rains in heaven. Heaven is always bright and sunny like a nice early summer day."
  • "Yes, God is everywhere, so when it rains here, since He is here with us, it is raining where He is."
I was confused myself. How could I answer this little budding theologian? I replied, "That is a great question. I have never thought about that, thanks for asking me."

For the last 30 minutes I have run this through my mind and I still bounce between the two answers. What do you think?

When it rains here, does it rain where God is? A "grown-up version of the question is: When I as a child of God am feeling down, does God hurt with me? Well?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Your Temptation

Each and everyone of us faces temptations in one or more areas of our lives. I do not know what tempts you to pull away from or hide from God, but there is something, and you know what that something is. So does our enemy the devil! He knows my weaknesses as well as yours, and he will find a way to get you thinking about that something. Temptation may be a terrible subject for a Monday morning, yet on the other hand this may be a good subject to start the work week.

There is good news; whatever temptations you face, you can win the battle to resist. Here are five (5) things I shared with the good folks at Parrish church of Christ yesterday morning, that will help you and I win the battle if we will remember them.

1) Remember that we are part of a SPIRITUAL Kingdom. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 10:3-6 that our weapons are not physical because we battle in a spiritual arena. God gives us the armor we need to do this battle if we will but take it up and put it on (Eph 6:10-18). When I face physical temptations, remembering I am a citizen of a spiritual kingdom, will help me keep focus.

2) Remember TEMPTATION is NOT SIN. Our Savior faced temptations (Matt 4:1ff) yet he faced them without giving in and did not sin (Heb 4:15). We cannot let tempting thoughts take root or make safe harbor in our minds / heart. When such thoughts enter, we must push them out and not act on those thoughts.

3) Remember that sin is NOT REALLY PLEASURABLE. Advertisements, movies, and magazines all make sinful behavior appealing; Satan knows how to deceive. But whatever pleasure sin produces is temporary, transient, or passing. The Hebrew writer reminds us that Moses chose rather to suffer mistreatment with God's people that to enjoy the "fleeting pleasures of sin" (Heb 11:25).

4) Remember that God does NOT tempt. Take a look at Jas 1:13-15. Our own desires pull us into sin, the things that John calls "all that is in the world" (1 Jn 2:15-17).

5) Remember that Temptation is Powerful. Some will fall as we learn from David with Bathsheba, Solomon and all his wives, Adam and Eve, and so many others in recorded Biblical history. One way to avoid falling into a sinful behavior is to avoid situations that tempt us. If David had been where he should have, he would not have seen Bathsheba, if Eve had walked away, well you get the point.

Just a few more quick observations for you when you face temptation:
Look for the escape route (1 Cor 10:13)
Be courageous to resist (Jas 4:7)
Use God's word (2 Tim 2:15)
Keep close to and lean on God (Heb 4:16)
Associate with godly people (Heb 10:24-25).

I pray this helps you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top Ten Imitatable Characteristics of Satan

From the home office in Parrish, Alabama: here are the top ten reasons to imitate Satan:

10. Satan does not quit. No matter how many times you turn down his offer, he is not giving up.

9. Satan believes in God, heaven, and hell (Jas 2:19).

8. Satan tirelessly works both night and day.

7. Satan knows the Bible (Matt 4:6).

6. Satan is always looking for a prospect, he may well be the worlds best soul winner, just to the wrong side.

5. Satan accepts people quickly, it does not matter to him how good you have been, if you decide to do what is wrong, he will accept you.

4. Satan is positive; he always sees the good in the bad (Is 5:20).

3. Satan is not easily discouraged (Job 1 & 2); he sticks with his plan.

2. Satan is patient, he will give you opportunity to serve him and leave the offer open for as long as it takes (Lk 4:13).

. . . . And the number one reason to imitate Satan is:

1. Satan uses all available methods at his disposal to reach out to you and to win you over to his way of thinking (Eph 6:11 - wiles/schemes).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Giving Blood Saves Lives

I received a letter in the mail today, thanking me for my recent donation of blood to the American Red Cross. The letter commends me for doing something amazing, in that my blood has the ability to save up to three lives. The Red Cross has a need for donated blood -- they are currently only 2 days away from running out if people do not give. Blood demand requires 39,000 donations a day. That averages out to about a mind boggling statistic; every 2 seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

Blood saves life and the life of every person is in his/her blood (Lev 17;11, 14). God, the Creator, understands this and in His design, blood became very important in the Hebrew religious system. God required the blood of animals as sacrifice for the sins of His people. The Hebrew writer records, " . . . not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood . . . Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:18, 22 - ESV).

The Hebrew writer, and this blogger, have the same goal. He talks about animal sacrifice, shedding of blood, and forgiveness of sin; I mention that donating blood to organizations like the American Red Cross can save lives, but we both have something greater and far better in mind.

My blood and your blood may save or prolong a physical life, but there is more to mankind than this physical existence - we are spiritual beings created in God's image. There is an eternal part of us that will spend eternity in one of two dwellings. The blood of bulls and goats served a purpose to purify God's old covenant people, but that blood was insufficient. God had a greater sacrifice in mind: Himself in the person of His Son. "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb 9:14). Paul says the same thing in Eph 1:7 (cf.Col 1:14), "in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace."

What a wonderful God! What a wonderful Savior! Oh, what precious blood that was shed for me!

Take a moment to offer a prayer of appreciation for what God accomplished for us in Christ. Become covered by that blood by putting on Christ (Gal 3:26-27) as you obey the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-6) receiving salvation the eternal gift of grace (Rom 6:23).

In Christ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good Men, Do Something Good

I read and used a quote in a lesson Sunday evening that most attribute to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.” That quote is rapidly becoming a motivational thought for me, so I am sharing it with you in hopes that you and I will determine to get up out of the recliner, off the couch, step away from the computer, turn of the cell phone, step outside, and get busy being good husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, sons or daughters, neighbors, students, teachers, preachers, friends, or just plain good.

I do not see a need to remind you and I what "good" is; we remember. We have all the basic knowledge stored away in our hearts. We know how to treat other people with kindness, mercy and love; we know how to demonstrate mercy and justice. All we need to do is to step out and do the good we know to do. Within the context of demonstrating loving service, Jesus said, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (Jn 13:17). Get busy!

I leave you with another thought from scripture, "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." (Lk 6:31-35).

Good men (and women) get out there and do the good we know to do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

King Tut Video by request

Remembering King Tut!

This week is Spring Break for our county schools, so we took the opportunity as a family to take in a fun but educational field trip. King Tutankhamen and the Pharaohs of Egypt touring Museum is in Atlanta, so off we went. Not every artifact is in Atlanta, but what we saw was truly amazing. To think that many of the statues and jewelry displayed were thousands of years old and are representative of the splendor that Joseph and Moses would live with. What a world they knew. These artifacts helped me understand why Joseph's brothers did not know him. These artifacts helped me understand the "sacrifice" Moses made when he considered Egypt's pleasures temporary and followed after God, choosing to suffer over being quite comfortable.

Therein lies the simple application for a very short blog this morning. Just one thought; a simple question for each of us during a tough economy in a land that is still a land of plenty. Which is greater, the things that are seen and transient of those that are unseen and eternal (2 Cor 4:16ff)?


Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Pi Day!

Well actually tomorrow is Pi Day, but the 6th Grade at OES is celebrating today since tomorrow is Saturday and there will be no school. Pi, you may well know, is a letter in the Greek alphabet that is similar to our "p". Pi is also the mathematical symbol for 3.14159265 (commonly rounded to 3.14). Saturday is the 14th day of the 3rd month 0r 3/14 (3.14), consequently many math teachers focus on this day to teach the geometry of circles.

My wife (Amy) baked pies last night for our son's 6th grade math classes, so they could have a round pie on "Pi Day." Isn't he a great looking young man and she a beautiful lady?

Math Review: What does "pi" have to do with circles? Many credit Archimedes with forming the first accepted formula for calculating "pi". For simplicity we will remind your of the formulas to calculate the circumference and area of a circle using "pi".

Circumference: C= "pi" x d (where "d" is the diameter)
Area: A= "pi" x (r x r) ("r" is the radius)

"Pi" is a constant number that works in the calculations of any size circle. If you take a 9 inch pizza the circumference of that pizza is 3.14 x 9 = 28.26 inches. The area of that 9 inch pizza is 254.34 sq in.

Circles are wonderful, circles are complete. This constancy of "pi" makes me want to ask, "Could all this be planned?" Is nature the result of an unintelligent accident or could there be a creator behind the intelligent design?

I know that atheistic evolutionist will take me to task. I am not trying to debate creation vs. evolution in this post. My work here is too simplistic and too focused to win any debate on its own. I do hope however to demonstrate to people of faith one more reason to continue to believe in God as creator. "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17 - ESV)

Happy "Pi Day!"


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood

Nice cool walk this morning, not too cold and not too hot - in the mid to upper 40's with a slight wind. Everyone was friendly this morning, the parents driving their children to school waved and smiled as we walked past, the crossing guard joked with me about the traffic and the 40 degree change in weather over the last two days (the picture of my house is from March 1 -- in less than two weeks snow, 80 degrees, to cold and rainy again). A couple of city workers drove by, blew their horn and waved. I even had a nice hello from the Alabama Power workers installing a new street light in front of Hadder's Pharmacy. I sneezed while in the Post Office and the workers sorting mail in the back said, "Bless you." I love small towns. I skipped making coffee this morning and stopped by the Texaco and talked with the owner while drinking a $ .96 16 oz. cup of Red Diamond Coffee (Just as good as Starbucks and less than 1/3 the price!). Two other city workers were coming out of the Texaco as I went in, we spoke about the cool day and the desire for a morning cup of coffee. Did I say I love small towns? The retired men who gather each morning for coffee, dominoes, and to swap fishing stories at the place affectionately known in town as "The Liar's Bench" greeted me with a daily, "Morrrnnniiiiiinngg Preacher." Will you allow me again to say, "I love small towns!"

Like some of you I grew up watching Sesame Street, do you remember the neighborhood song that I echo in my title this morning? Who are the people you meet, when your walking down the street? I admit I do not know all of them by name, nor do I know what all of them do for a living. I do know that many of them would be there if I needed them, I have been a part of helping some of them over the last few years, and together we supplied help to others through fires, tornadoes, sicknesses, and other events.

Today, as you go about your business take time to smile and say hello to those you see. Open the door for someone and hold it as they go in or out before you. Smile at a young family in the store and complement them on their children. Be friendly with the cashier at the grocer's or the worker at the coffee counter or fast food restaurant. Thank the receptionist at work or the secretary you depend on. Be the bright spot in their day. Paul says that as children of God we are not of darkness but of the light (1 Thess 5:5). Be sure to bring a little of God's light in Christ to the world around you today.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Members are Exiting Churches

A good walk and quiet commute this morning. The question of why members are leaving is weighing heavy on my mind this morning and for the last couple of days. This morning I give you four reasons why I think this is so and four suggestions on how those of us in church leadership and as members of churches might combat this trend. My thought started after a local TV reporter I follow on Twitter posted, “A national survey shows more people are falling away from organized religion. Why do you think this is happening?” Since reading her question, I have read two articles online (The Christian Chronicle http://tinyurl.com/bjslt6 & the Christian Science Monitor http://tinyurl.com/dfysz7 ). Both have good information about what might be going on.

While encouraging you to read the above articles, permit me to give my evaluation of why I believe people are leaving churches. From my reading, from conversations, from my observations, and as a member of Generation X (a.k.a. The Baby Busters) who are part of the ones walking out and taking their children with them; I think there are at least four major reasons people leave:

  1. A Mis-Focus on Politics: Churches of all types began shifting their focus about 15 to 20 years ago away from Christ and toward Politics and the creation of an anti-cultural movement. I believe that this was an honest change in an attempt to “keep” the United States a “Christian” nation. Leaders in churches saw that culture was heading in an ungodly direction and began to shout warnings hoping to bring people to hold fast to Judeo-Christian morals. They took this approach out of the pulpit and church buildings to the steps of capitols and doors of legislators trying to beat the Devil at his game. The reasoning was that Christians could no longer be the silent majority letting the vocal minority influence local, state, and national policy. Those of my generation, even many of those who hold to high moral standards do not believe that churches should run government. The recent change in the national political environment may be evidence of this belief. When churches continue to promote candidates and try to push politics from the pulpits the younger sets begin to walk out the door. They are not wanting to be worldly, they want to be godly, and do not feel they are learning as much about God as they are about Washington D.C. Churches do need to teach morals and the truth about immorality, but not with a political tone.

  2. Failure to Teach Doctrine: At about the same time as the above shift in focus, so-called Mega Churches started appearing on the evangelical and fundamentalist landscape. These groups built large communities of adherents by reaching out to the “un-churched” with programs and ministries designed to fill their felt and desired needs. Again the idea was mostly from a pure motivation of trying to reach people for Christ. Many thought that if we reach the physical and emotional needs of the “un-churched” with love then we could reach their spiritual need for Christ. A mantra echoed in the halls of many churches, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The problem is that many have not shifted from this emotional and physical outreach to teaching their converts about doctrine. I suggest that the average church goer does not know the major doctrines of the congregation they attend. There is a time for a baby to have only milk, but a child must have solid food to grow to adulthood (1 Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12). Many are leaving churches because they need a change in diet to help them grow to maturity.

  3. Cultural Shift in the Churches: A result of not growing individuals to mature adulthood as a child of God is that they do not learn to avoid the pitfalls of the world. By not teaching doctrine, churches failed to equip their members to be faithful to each other and to God. There are telling statistics concerning high rates of broken homes within Christianity, higher than non-Christian cultures and even atheistic homes. Churches have let the world get a foothold on their members. A friend and fellow preacher wrote recently about doing an experiment with his sons. He had his boys time how long he could hold a finger in water as it began to boil (I did not say he was bright did I?). When he finally pulled it out he noticed it was pink and on the verge of blistering. He stuck another finger in and realized the water was quite hot. His first finger did not notice the gradual change in the water temperature as abruptly as a finger left outside of the water. What was his point and mine? When we allow worldly culture in our homes via mass media and we slowly incorporate that culture into our lives and churches we lose people to the world. When we use popular programming to “bring people in” we are not offering anything different from the world. Mankind is smart enough to see our inconsistency.

  4. We Cannot Out Entertain the World: Many churches are losing members to various genres of entertainment. One local church leader complained to me that since the “mud-track” opened up on Sunday, he cannot compete,attendance began to dwindle. The congregation he leads has a rock band, uses dramatic performances, etc. to draw people in and to supposedly keep them there. Again we cannot beat the Devil at his game. He has more money and more experience in the entertainment department. I once heard Dan Chambers in a lectureship series say “Entertainment, not religion, is now the opiate of the people.” He is correct. {For more from Dan Chambers read “Showtime: Worship in the Age of Show Business” (Nashville:21st Century Christian), 1997.} If people want entertainment, they will find the best available.

Now the question remains; What can churches do?

First churches must return to the basics. When the church at Ephesus became mis-focused after a few years, Jesus encourages them through the Apostle to “return to your first love.” This concept needs proclaiming from the roof tops of churches around our great nation and the world as a whole. We need to be like Paul who said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). To the Philippians he declares that above all he desires to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10). We need to return to proclaiming the message of Good News – the Gospel of Christ that is God's power to save men (Rom 1:16, 5:1). Once we reach people with this wonderful, awe inspiring, love compelling, disciple making message of hope, then we can move on to loftier and meatier matters. Churches cannot abandon the simple Gospel message for any watered down more “palatable” message. Any thing less would be (is) disastrous.

Next we need to study up on and instruct congregations in the Bible; not modern self-help psychology; not sermonettes on how to avoid financial ruin, but messages that create a firm foundation for faith and hope. We must hear again and follow the teachings of and the teachings concerning Jesus as Christ and not build on the sand (Matt 7:24-27). This teaching begins with a confirmation of the Bible as God's authentic inspired word and therefore reliable as a guide toward obedience. We need to re-establish faith in the inerrant nature of Scripture. I dare suggest that many in the pew do not know the history of the providential preservation of God's word from it's inspiration to the version you hold as you study. We need to demonstrate the relevance of the messages within the Sacred Text to our lives in the 21st Century. Details of life may change, but our nature remains the same. Specifics within the context of a narrative may not always be relevant, but the underlying lessons are still for our learning and instruction (Rom 15:4). We need to return to the pattern of living by the precepts of God in Christ.

We must also remember that Jesus told His immediate followers, and by extension all that belong to Him, that they and we are “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:14-16). We are to lead the world by our example and not follow the example of the world. Paul put it this way in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” When we will live a daily Christian life, the world will take notice and we will be the unique people we God calls us to be (1 Pet 2:9).

Finally, we need to refocus our worship. Too many churches and individual Christians look for a worship experience that moves them as individuals or small groups. Jesus told the woman of Samaria that God is Spirit and those that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God is the focus of our worship. When I worship God, I am the last concern, you are next in line, and God is the central figure and the only member of the audience as we each individually participate in cooperate worship. Your edification and admonition are secondary byproducts of my worship and my encouragement is secondary to your worship. The focus is God and His pleasure. We must learn again to worship the Creator and not the created. I find that when you and I focus on God and Christ that I do gain. Notice the Hebrew writer's emphasis in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We accomplish this when we gather together to “offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15).
What will the results of a shift toward a restoration of Biblical preaching, Christian living, and godly worship? Some will still leave, they left Jesus in John 6, and He asked the Twelve, if they would leave as well. They stayed. Some today will stay the course. If we will do the above those who stay will be stronger for it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is a Christian?

Confession time -- I am short cutting this morning. I did so on my walk, I skipped going to the church mail box (I am going out later and will check it then), and I am taking a short cut for the blog this morning.

I posted on FaceBook (Sunday - I think) that I was preaching a sermon about what is a Christian. I friend (who also reads this blog) asked about the sermon and suggested I adapt it to the blog so she could read the sermon. This morning that seemed like a good idea, so I share with you and abbreviated version of my thoughts that came from a variety of sources.

What is a Christian?

There is in our world what I call "Christian Confusion." If you read the papers and magazines or watch news outlets you get the idea that there are a variety of definitions or ideas concerning what or who is a Christian.

Many in our world equate being a "Westerner", esp. U.S. citizen, with being a Christians. If you are from the Western Hemisphere or if you are a U.S. citizen to much of the world you are a Christian. I have an issue with that definition simply because it is not true. There are many people in our part of the world who are not Christians. Some are atheists and even in my rural Alabama county I have friends who are Muslim. This definition will not work.

Others consider any good moral person to be a Christian. While I hope and would think that all who claim to be Christians are good moral people, not all good moral people are Christians. I go back to my Muslim friend and some atheists I know. They are morally good, and regretfully some are more moral than a few who claim to be Christians. We can scratch that definition.

An adherent to a “church" is another common definition. I first understood this concept when I was in the U.K. in the mid 1980's. I met a man and we began talking about my accent and where I was from in the "Colonies" as he put it. The conversation turned to my being over there to assist in a Christian Mission effort. He said, I am an R.C. (around here that's a type of "Coke;" there and RC is a Roman Catholic). I asked about Mass and he informed me he had not attended in years, but was still a Christian because of his adherence to the Catholic Church. I have since come in contact with adherents to many denominations and non-denominational groups that have the same idea. But simply adhering in this since is not enough. That would be like someone saying they were an avid fisherman, but does not own a pole or hasn't fished in years.

Some get closer to truth and claim a Christian is a believer in Jesus. This is partially true. Christians are believers (we'll discuss this later), but there is more to being a Christian that simply stating mental acceptance. I believe that Gandhi was a good man and a leader of his people, but I am not a follower of Gandhi. One can believe that Jesus was real and even that he was Christ, but if he/she does not allow Christ's teaching to change his/her life are they really a Christian?

What I want us to discover is this: Who does the Bible say is a Christian?

Acts 11:26, "At Antioch the disciples were first called disciples." - A Christian is first a Disciple. By definition a disciple is: 1) A learner, 2) A follower, and 3) An Adherent. Specifically a Christian is a disciple of Christ (cf. 1 Jn 2:3-6). A Christian is to follow Christ's teaching, learn from His doctrine, and adhere to what he learns from Christ. A Christian follows in Christ's footsteps, learns from His way of life, and adheres to the example He left for us.

In Acts 26:27-29 Paul tells Agrippa that he knows the king believes, the king responds telling Paul in so many words, that he is close to making a Christian out of the king. Agrippa understood our next observation: A Christian is a Believer.

This belief is not simply acceptance but it is saving faith. A faith that is like the faith of those in Hebrews 11 that acts with confidence. Of each of these characters one might easily assign to them the statement assigned to Abraham in Jas 2:23, that "he believed God and it was imputed (accounted, credited) to him for righteousness. James point and the Hebrew writer's point are the same. Faith that does not obey in action is not faith. Belief that is only a verbal statement is not belief. to be a real faith, belief must be reverent, obedient, and trusting.

A Christian is one who obeys the Gospel. Rom 1:16 says the Gospel is God's power to save. 1 Cor 15:1-4 teaches that the Gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Thessalonians in 2 Thess 1:7-9 that the Lord will take vengeance on those who do not obey the Gospel. When one obeys the doctrine of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus he is set free from the slavery of sin (Rom 6:17-18) and becomes a servant of righteousness. One obeys the death burial and resurrection when they follow Christ in a death burial and resurrection like his (see Rom 6:3-6). For reference sake take a look at theses conversions to Christ in the book of Acts (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:47-48; 16:14-15; 33)

When one obeys the Gospel becoming a Child of God (Gal 3:26-27), God then adds that person to the number of His own people -Acts 2:47. A Christian is the a member of the household of God (1 Tim 3:15), he is a citizen not of this earth but of heaven (Phlp 3:20). She becomes a living stone in a living temple (1 Pet 2:4-5) and is set apart for God's noble use (2 Tim 2:20-21).

Peter in 1 Pet 4:14-16 describes the Christian as a patient sufferer. Paul says that all who follow Christ will suffer (2 Tim 3:12). How we suffer and what we learn from suffering is what James discusses early in the book of James.

According to our quick look at the Bible; A Christian is: A Disciple and Believer who Obeyed from the heart the Gospel that set him free from sin, adding him to Christ's Church, and enduring through Suffering awaiting the reward of the faithful.

Now for the ultimate question; Will you be one? Read Acts 22:16.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Indebtedness! I do not like that word, nor do I like the idea such a word communicates. However, I admit that I am indebted to many people for many different reasons, you are too. I suppose this is on my mind this morning simply because I was writing checks and stuffing envelopes before I took my morning walk. This morning's trek to the Post Office, was not so much about checking the Box as it was buying stamps and posting bill payments. Mornings like this get to me. I despise watching our hard earned money flow through my finger-tips via ink from a ball-point pen put to a rectangular piece of perforated paper that will bear a dollar amount made out to a creditor, insurer, or utility company complete with my signature authorizing the release of funds from my bank account. Such an effort reminds me that I am indebted to these people for loans, protection, or conveniences that I enjoy. Am I the only one who feels this way?

There are other areas you and I carry debt. We are indebted to those who made us the successes we are. Your list probably includes, but is not limited too, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, neighbors, friends, and of course your teachers. All of these people had and have influence on you, the decisions you make, and the life you now live. How are you taking time to repay this debt? I challenge you to take time to thank them in some way. Send them a short note, drop them an email, give them a call, let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their efforts on your behalf. These people receive so much negative feedback in their lives, a little "warm fuzzy" from you may go a long way.

There is still a greater debt you and I have to understand. This debt is bigger than your utility bill, your car loan, mortgage, credit card debt, and boat payment combined. This debt weighs heavier that the debt you owe those people who made you what you are. You and I have a debt that is greater than the national deficit. We have a debt of death!

Paul says in Romans 3:23, that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Falling short of God's glory is sin and Paul adds three chapters later that "the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23a). Think about this for a moment . . . you and I owe the debt of our life simply because we sin.

I know what some of you may be thinking, "Wait one minute, Scott, what do you mean by 'we sin?' I am a good person, I have not committed any major crime, the worst I have done is __________________."

OK, I understand. You are a relatively if not a highly moral person, but you are NOT perfect. I know you make mistakes, so you might as well admit it to yourself. Raise your hand if you have ever driven faster than the posted speed limit, cheated on a test or at work, lied to your parents (children or spouse), lied to a telemarketer about someone not being at home, not paid for a small item that the cashier forgot to scan, or kept the over amount of change she gave you. If you are guilty of any of these things (or things like them), you are guilty of falling short of God's glory; you are guilty of sin and you owe the wages (debt) of death. Everybody, not just you, is guilty.

The problem with this indebtedness is that if I were to pay my own debt I would have to die a physical death and die an eternal spiritual death in separation from the Creator in a hell meant for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). Your situation is the same. Because we are sinful we can NEVER pay this debt. But thanks be to God who offers to pay the debt for us and to freely give us eternal life (Rom 6:23b) through Jesus as Christ.

That is the essence of the Gospel (good news) of Christ. The good news is that since Jesus was sinless as a man, his death paid the penalty for my sin and your sin. Because God raised Him from the dead we have assurance of eternal life in Christ, when we are in Christ as we obey that good news. Romans 5:10 says, "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 6:1-6 and Galatians 3:26-4:1 explain how we by faith obey that Gospel and get into Christ becoming heirs of the promises of God.

Once I understood my indebtedness of sin unto death, and realized reconciliation to God through Christ, I became indebted to them for my life and chose to live for them daily. Paul put it eloquently and succinctly in Philippians 1:21 and I leave you with his words, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day of Refuse

No refuse is not a typo in the title, I did not mean refuge, I meant refuse. In my little corner of the world, today is garbage day. On my morning walk I past quite a few garbage cans and plastic bags all waiting for the truck to come by and collect them. Garbage day is a day I look forward too -- I know that may make me seem odd. The fact still remains, I like garbage day. I do not like going around the house and collecting the garbage. I do not particularly care for opening the big can to put more in (especially in the hot Alabama summer). I like garbage day because my garbage becomes the problem of someone else. By the time I get home this afternoon my big can will be empty and there will be very little trash left in the house (only the paper towels and coffee grinds from breakfast this morning).

In the days of Nehemiah when they were rebuilding Jerusalem and her walls, Nehemiah mentions the "Refuse Gate (NKJV)" in Neh 2;13, 3:13-14, and 12:31. I find it interesting that the King James, ESV, ASV and RSV all refer to the gate as the "Dung Gate." Refuse or Dung either one communicates that the purpose of the gate was the way to get trash of all kinds outside of the city. Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias confirm this use of this gate. I am certain that every city had a garbage gate of some sort. The removal of garbage is an important part of municipalities and counties. Citizens in general do not want a trashed city, people want a clean community and a healthy environment.

The apostle Paul uses the idea of "refuse" or "dung" in Philippians 3:8, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (the ESV and NKJV use "rubbish" where the KJV and RSV have "dung"). In context, Paul is saying all he had gained as a Judaism, all he could claim as a Hebrew was garbage when compared with the blessings he has in Christ.

Today is a Day of Refuse: I am taking a look at my life, my little corner, my belongings, accomplishments, plans, and activities. What are they compared to being in Christ?! In the words of Paul -- Rubbish, refuse, dung -- garbage. I challenge you to do the same.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

If Ever You're in Trouble

Growing up atttending Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, as well as attending a small private Christian school songs about God, Jesus, Church, and daily Christian living were very commom. Maybe you remember this one.

It isn't any trouble just to S-M-I-L-E,

It isn't any trouble just to S-M-I-L-E.

If ever you're in trouble,

It will vanish like a bubble;

If you only take the trouble,

Just to S-M-I-L-E. :-)

A second verse went this way:

It isn't any trouble just to P-R-A-Y-pray . . .

Prayer is a wonderful priviledge that we have as Children of God. The Hebrew writer says, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:14-16 - ESV).

Because of our relationship with the Father through Jesus the Christ we can confindently draw near to God's throne in prayer when we are in trouble. We need no man to stand between us and God other than the man Jesus the Christ.

I do not recall where I first saw the following accrostic of pray; but I wanted to share it with you as I add a few thoughts of my own.

P= Prepare time with God - Do you remember Daniel? Even when he was fully aware of the king's ordinance regarding prayer, Daniel made a praying a regular part of his day. He pre-determined to set aside prepared time with God. Jesus, God in the flesh, was no differening. We read in Mark's account of the gospel, "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed." (Mar 1:35). Jesus seemed to make this a regular part of His ministry. Setting aside time to pray. What does that suggest to us? We should make preparations to pray every day.

R= Request of God with Faith - Paul says, " . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Php 4:6). James echoes, ". . . You do not have because you do not ask." (Jas 4:2). Although God knows what we need before we ask, He also desires us to realize our need and to recognize our dependence upon Him. He is still able to do more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:21), we just do not ask enough. We must ask though in faith that He knows more about our true needs than we do. (I'll save this for another post, but realize that "yes" is not the only answer to prayer.)

A= Attribute goodness to God - James reminds us that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (Jas 1:17). Take time to count your blessings of life, or health, of family, of friends, of you name it. God is the giver of good. Especially the good that comes from being "in Christ." Take time to read Ephesians 1:3ff concerning our spiritual blessings that are only when we are in Christ.

Y= Yeild to God's sovreignty - Again I refer to James who says, "Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (Jas 4:15). If the Lord wills . . . I do not hold the pure Calvanistic doctrine that all of life is predermined by God -- even the bad. What James is teaching is not to boast of our own accomplishments and plans. James is reminding us that God is sovreign over all creation. He rules and the world continues because of His steadfast, never ending, merciful love (cf. Lamentations 3:22). We can make plans, we can pray for success, but realize the world is on God's timetable not ours. This also implies that we trust God's answer to always be the right answer, even when He says no.

Take time right now to PRAY.

Lost and Found

What a difference 12 degrees makes. This morning the temp was 39F when I walked, I think I almost broke a sweat. This was much better walking weather than the 27 yesterday. On to the Blog . . .

Do you remember the Lost and Found room or closet at school? Maybe there is a table where you assemble for worship that has misplaced items on it. You may be like folks I know who always know where the lost and found area is, because that is where they seem to always find their belongings. Losing sunglasses, a book, a set of keys, or a pair of gloves can be momentarily tragic. Some things we lose we even shrug off as not that important or not that valuable. Every summer at Indian Creek Youth Camp (http://www.icycal.com/ ) campers and staff alike find clothes, coolers, bags, pillows, stuffed animals, and Bibles on a given lost and found table on the last day -- all given up as lost. Some never check the table and these items collect until someone has to make a decision concerning disposal or redistribution.

But what about when people are lost? When I was about 12 my family took a trip to Orlando and visited Disney and their "New" Epcot Center. My dad and I went one direction while my brothers and mom went on a different ride. We were supposed to meet at a certain place. Dad and I arrived first and I asked if I could go get a drink of water. Dad allowed me the freedom to go by myself. I made it to the fountain, but got turned around on the way back. I ended up on the other side of the park from my parents. PANIC set in. I finally realized my when I came back to the water fountain. I immediately went to our meeting place all to find mom with a worried look, an upset younger brother (upset not at my being lost, but that he could not ride again until I was found), and discovering that my dad and older brother were looking for me. This was long before cell phones so there was a lot of waiting that day.

This week there are stories in the news about people who are lost. Children like Brenna Woodside, who was taken by her father Miles Woodside to Mexico. What a tangled web people weave in custody battles. There is great relief in knowing Brenna is alright and that the FBI found her and returned her home. But not all missing persons stories turn out favorably. I have in mind the missing NFL players off the coast of Clearwater, Florida. Out of four people on board the Coast Guard was able to find and recover only one. Our hearts are with the families of those still missing.

There is a spiritual application. Luke 15 records the story of a son who ran away from home (declaring that he no longer wanted to me a son), a sheep that became separated from the flock, and a women who lost a valued coin. In each someone wept over the lost and rejoiced when reconciliation occurred. The simple application for us is threefold: 1) We can find ourselves spiritually lost - separated from God the Father, because of our sinful actions. 2) God desperately seeks us when we are lost because His heart breaks. And 3) There is great joy and celebration the the lost return home.

Friends, are you lost or have you found your way home?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DC Demonstration and Down Dow Down

Good morning. I added to my commute this morning. After a brisk walk - bbrrrr, what a wind chill -- I pick up the church mail and on to Jasper for a couple of errands. This is running me a little late this morning, but I had extra time to reflect on the morning news and my morning drive.

Opening the Daily Eagle this morning two things grabbed my attention. The first was a protest in DC, imagine that, and the second was a report on the Dow Jones average.

Some activist protested yesterday concerning green house gasses and climate change all while DC and the North Eastern US digs out from a late snow storm. Climate change is the new phrase for Global Warming. With the last two or three winters being colder than average, the Global Warming freaks (did I say freaks, I meant activists) are not missing a step. There is still reason to take away my fossil fuel powered automobile and to undermine the coal industry that sustains the economy where I live. Now don't misunderstand me. I believe we are to take care of this earth and be good stewards of her resources. I am not for waste. I am for keeping the air clean for our health and for the future of our children. I just think some are going a little too far and letting pseudo-science push the day. Looking at the little information I have had opportunity to read, I simply see that we are in a cycle. I believe God created our little planet to have such cycles. I do not think man is great enough to have such a global impact in so few short years. I was in grade school and early middle school when we were told over and over that our carbon emissions were creating an ice-age. Somewhere that switched to global warming. Now that polar ice levels are back to pre-1979 records we are experiencing "Climate Change" as a result of our pollutants. Can we make up our minds, please?

The second article was a recap of the Dow Jones drop on Monday. The index closed below 7,000. The lowest in about 12 years. 12 years ago, I was not paying attention. Twelve years ago, I had so little invested that I barely noticed. This time around, maybe because I am older and see a day when my investments are to provide my income, I am paying a little more attention. The reality of my situation is that I am responsible for my own retirement. I have no company plan, so I have to invest. Ouch! One year ago, I was looking at a good retirement. My nest egg was growing . . . then, well you know what happened. You are feeling it too. I am still a couple of decades away from retirement, so I pray that things improve and I keep investing for the long term.

With these two events weighing heavy on my mind this morning, I could net help but think of a few of passages of Scripture that help me make it through. I share them with you.

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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Php 4:11-13)

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)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Mat 6:21)

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1Ti 6:17)

I think these passages speak for themselves. I am glad to trust in God and to put my confident hope in Him. Will you do the same?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who Influenced You?

Good morning. What a weekend in Central North West Alabama. Warm temperatures and severe thunderstorms on Friday into early Saturday morning ending with snow late Saturday night into early Sunday Morning. The rapidly changing weather may very well account for the condition of my sinuses this morning . . . but I share too much.

I spent my walk and my commute thinking about four men. Four men who, in my opinion, attained celebrity status. Four men who had an impact on my life from my earliest memories.

The first man let me know he appreciated me. He told me every time I saw him that he liked me just the way I was. He spent time with me every day we could get together. He taught me how to be a friend and how to care about other people as much as he cared about me. He invited me to sing with him, he was kind, forgiving, and I knew he liked being around me. He told me so . . . often. I wanted to grow up to be like him . . . I am over 40 now and I still try to be like him. His name is Fred Rogers, we all know him as Mr. Rogers and we all loved his Neighborhood.

The second man is one you know.
You like him too, I'm certain so.
He helped me learn to take a look
In side the cover of many a book.
Many of you will agree the same,
That his rhymes made your tongue lame.
Who is this man who did unlock
A love of reading, it's Seuss, the Doc.

The third man is one who shared a love of news and people of interest. He could tell me about people and places that others knew nothing of or may have cared little for. He would share tidbits about the lives of famous people as well as the struggles and triumphs of a next door neighbor. His narratives fill books, his voice carried far. He taught me to look under the surface, to see past what others saw. He taught me that everyone has something to say and there is after every event, "the rest of the story." I will miss Paul Harvey and his unique way of bringing news.

I did not personally know Dr. Seuss, Mr. Rogers, or Paul Harvey, but the Fourth man is one I do know personally. I spend time with this man daily. I talk with him, I tell him the cares and concerns of my life. He listens . . . patiently. I find comfort in having a friend like him. I watch how he handles the pressures of life. He has never had a lot of material things to call his own. He spent a few years of his life practically homeless. If it had not been for the kindness of friends I am certain he would have spent many, many nights on the street. This man took the lessons I learned from the other three and perfected them. He sees me for who I am and loves me just the same. He takes my love of reading in a new direction and shows me how to care for others as others, like him, have cared for me. He shows me how to have compassion on the individual especially those the world may overlook. Who is this man? That is not just the rest of the story . . . He is the story. He is Jesus the Christ. Maybe you know Him too. I pray that you do.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Snow!

Woke up this morning to a trace of snow in Alabama. Some areas are getting up to 3 inches with a report or two of 5 inches. Weather is fun around here. Tornado warnings and warm late last week (Friday) and then Snow on Sunday Morning.

God loves variety. A variety of weather, a variety in creation, a variety of people. Life is truly interesting in God's world.

I know now that my son is approaching his early teen years. I woke him up to see the snow. He looked out the window and said, "Yay, snow! I'm going back to bed." I was hoping he would get up and we could explore for a little while before we assemble with the church at Parrish at noon today. He is growing up so fast.

I pray every one has a great day today. If you are getting snow -- have fun.