Who is at Fault? Who do I blame?

Who is at Fault-Who is to BlameThe RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, New York. 1,517 passengers and crew lost their lives on that voyage.

The Italian Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia capsized on January 13, 2012 off the coast of Tuscany and began sinking into 224 feet of water. There were 33 deaths including one salvage worker. While the second tragedy has considerably less loss of life, it is still a tragedy. Both shipwrecks were avoidable.

Captain Edward J. Smith of the Titanic, ignored warnings about sea ice and trying to reach New York ahead of schedule orders the ship to increase speed through the iceberg filled waters. This error resulted in the Titanic striking an iceberg that created a large gash in the hull that filled the ship with water causing the ship to sink. There was also a delay in ordering evacuations, that may have contributed to additional deaths.

Similarly, Captain Francesco Schettino made a decision to alter the ship’s programmed course, allegedly to wave to a friend who was on shore. This maneuver placed the ship close to a 120 foot ledge that made a hole in the ship. The ship took on water and began to list. Reports say this captain also delayed the abandon ship order.

There is a difference. Captain Smith of the Titanic went down with the ship. He would not leave as long as there were passengers on board. Captain Schettino is a survivor of the Costa Concordia. He chose to leave the ship while passengers were still on board. I do not know the motivation behind his decision. Someone may have given him information that the passengers and crew were all accounted for and were to safety. I do not have all the information.

This does however make me question our current society. There seems to be a prevalent attitude of “all for self”. There seems to be a mentality that does not accept blame or even the consequences of our action. (I am not saying Schettino deserved to go with the ship, I am saying his actions maybe a symptom of a more selfish mindset. Future investigations will determine the reason for his actions.). There are other events that demonstrate my point including the participants in recent violent racial and ideological conflicts.

Who is at fault; who is to blame?

Consider a person accused of child abuse, who claims abuse as a child lead them to a life of abuse. Consider a person who suffers from alcoholism laying blame on a diseased alcoholic parent. Consider a student who shoots fellow classmates because he was the victim of bullying.

Where is personal responsibility?

  • Why do we have to be like Adam and Eve who blamed God and the Serpent for their choice to eat the forbidden fruit?
  • Why do we have to be like King Saul who blamed the people for his taking spoils when God said not too?
  • Why can we not be like David who realized his sin was before God and admitted his sin?
  • Why can we not be like Joseph who ran from temptation, because he knew he was responsible for his own actions?

Remember, you and I have a choice. We have the right, the ability, and the responsibility to control self. Remember there is no one to blame but you. My mom used to tell us, “Nobody can make you do anything, but die.”.  Mom, you are right.

-Scott

My Thoughts on . . .

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I have something to say. Yet, I am unsure of my qualifications to discuss the issue at hand. Please understand, I am the product of a middle class family from the Southern United States.  We are Caucasian – white – of European descent. Religiously, society would consider us as conservative Christians, Fundamentalist, or Evangelical. Politically, my family is a mixture of Republicans and Southern Democrats. I grew up in  a city with a strong connection to the Confederate States of America. When I graduated high school, I attended a private, conservative Christian university in Montgomery, Alabama, a city with ties to the CSA and to the Civil Rights Movement.

While in college, I met my wife with whom I recently celebrated our 28th anniversary. Our marriage is a first marriage for both of us. She grew up in a blue collar family in the great state of Alabama. We raised our son in a small town, in a small school, and a close-knit church family in Alabama. He attends the same university where his mother and I met where he is majoring in criminal justice and works as a security officer for the school.

My life is not completely vanilla. Through the years my circle of friends have included African Americans, Pakistani Muslims, rednecks, and Yankees. I have been in their homes and they have been in mine.

I share this information so that  you can get to know me. It is an admission that I come from a position of relative privilege. That does not mean that we have never struggled. My parents were not wealthy. In my lifetime, they have only owned used cars. The home of my youth was a modest  house of less than 1,000 square feet for our family of five. My wife’s family is not too dissimilar. Her father was a factory worker and then an electrician at a surface coal mine. There were lean years and good years. There were times when the union was on strike and threats of the mine closing. For us, during the first few years of our marriage our income was less than $20,000 annually. Until recently most of our furniture was second hand. Yet, life has been – No! God has been good to us. We have always had a home and have always had meals to eat.

Knowing my background may help you to understand my lack of knowledge concerning the racial divide currently making headlines. I do not understand the rationale of those stirring up trouble, those participating in acts of violence, and those protesting using a language of hate. I simply don’t get it!

I don’t understand firsthand the frustration of being a minority in this country. I have talked with African American friends and listened to their frustration. I hear what they are saying, I get that they feel a certain way, but I have not lived it. I do not understand how some choose to be a victim. We live in a post Civil Rights era when opportunities are available to everyone no matter their background. I do not understand an attitude that will not try to improve on a situation.

I definitely do not understand groups that want to revert to the sinful actions of yesterday (Originally, I wrote “the sins of yesterday” but a comment of FB reminded me that the sin of racism or prejudice has always been there and they are correct. My concern is with both the action and the heart behind the action and my prayer is that you and I can somehow lead the hearts and minds of men to what God would have them to be – SMc). I do not understand hate groups that want to place one race or skin tone above others.  I don’t get it! I do not understand their blaming minorities for their own lack of motivation to improve themselves. They are childish, hateful, and their actions are wrong.

Christian friends, may I bend your ear a little longer?

May I plead with you to avoid the extremes?

May I ask you to be a part of the solution and not the problem?

May I implore you to recall that God created all mankind?

May I remind you that we all come from the same ancestor – Adam?

We are amenable to the same law – the Law of Christ and will all stand before the same judge.

We all have the same hope – salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

The good news is for all mankind.

Remember the Savior taught us to love our neighbor. We are to love our Jewish neighbor, our addicted neighbor, our White neighbor, our Hispanic neighbor, our Christian neighbor, our atheist neighbor, our Muslim neighbor, our African-American neighbor, our homeless neighbor, our heterosexual neighbor, our adulterous neighbor, our homosexual neighbor, do I need to go on?

Love your neighbor.

The events in places like Charlottesville, Virginia bother me. I do not get it! Protests and violence all because of the existence of and removal of a statue?!? When did we become so immature and sensitive that a statue can become the focal point of protests and aggression?

The Christians I assemble with also struggle with these events. The 30 something that lead our Bible class talked about the events. The younger man who lead our thoughts as we remembered the sacrifice of Christ, used the events of Charlottesville to remind us of the unifying nature of Christ’s self-sacrifice. We prayed prayers for Charlottesville and our nation that we might learn peace, love, and unity.

What can I do, what will I do?

I can keep praying. But I will also do my part to live love, to act in peace, and to pursue unity. I will stand up for and speak for what is good, right, and just. I will approach conflict and disagreement peacefully. Will you join me?

-Scott

 

Christopher Robin and Me

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Image: E. Shepard / betterlivingthroughbeowolf.com

Halfway down the stairs

Is a stair

Where I sit.

There isn’t

Any other stair

Quite like it.

I’m not at the bottom,

I’m not at the top;

So this is the stair

Where I always stop.

Halfway up the stairs

Isn’t up

And it isn’t down.

It isn’t in the nursery,

It isn’t in the town.

And all sorts of funny thoughts

Run round my head

It isn’t really anywhere,

It’s somewhere else instead.

So says Christopher Robin (A. A. Milne)

Maybe the reason I so readily identify with Christopher Robin is because, I like the middle step of indecision.

  • Do I accept this offer or wait for a better one?
  • Do I go to this party; what will people think if I skip; what will they think if I go?
  • What do I wear today?
  • Should I commit to this or not?
  • Should I follow God or live for self?

That last question is an old one.  One every individual must make.  Moses told the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose . . .” (Dt 30:19).  Joshua challenged the people of Israel, “Choose this day who you will serve . . . ” (Josh 24:15).

Halfway is not enough.

We do not want to choose.  We want to stop halfway.  “God, I will serve you as long as it is convenient.”  Or, “Jesus, I will follow you where I want to go.”  This is only following Jesus halfway, and as Christopher Robin says, “(That) isn’t really anywhere, It’s somewhere else instead.”  Halfway is not enough.  Jesus throws down the gauntlet in challenge, “He who is not with me is against me . . .” (Mt 12:20).  Which will it be?

-Scott

Life 101

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Psalm 101 that reminds me of college class titles for my Freshman year at Faulkner University in the mid-1980’s (English 101, Dr. Kelly Morris).  In a way Psalm 101 is a basic class, that is basic instruction on how to walk the talk.  Psalms 101 is the King’s (David’s) description on living with integrity – LIFE 101.

Psalm 101

I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music. I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.

There are seven things in David says are helps to walking with integrity:

  1. Sing of God’s steadfast love and justice 101:1.
  2. Ponder (meditate) about what is right 101:2.
  3. Do not look at (watch) things that do not build-up 101:3.
  4. Keep the perverse and evil away from you 101:4.
  5. Do not put up with gossips and the conceited 101:5.
  6. Surround yourself with the influence of good people 101:6.
  7. Keep your distance from liars and cheats 101:7.

– Scott

Stop Religious Freedom Lies

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Students are returning to school today in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding county.  School may have started where you live, but if not, it will soon. Please take a moment to pray for students, teachers, and staff.  I’ll wait . . . .

Every year, no month, maybe even weekly I read or hear some well-meaning Christian say or I see them post about:

  • How God is taken out of our schools.
  • That the Bible is a forbidden book in school.
  • That prayer is banned from school.

Please, please listen. Stop! Stop spreading Satan’s lies. God is too powerful to be kicked out of anywhere He desires to be and especially where His children are. Stop blaming the schools for the failure of parents to teach their children about God. Stop. Please, stop.

Stop spreading Satan’s lies.

Amy (my wife) and many other Christians I know are public school teachers and your misinformed posts about the evil of public schools make them out to be pawns of Satan. Your posts are judgmental, harsh, and sometimes wrong.

Parents, grandparents, preachers, aunts, and uncles here are some things the children you care about can do in public school.

  1. Have religious discussions with their friends as long as all participating are being kind.
  2. Wear religious themed clothing, as long as it is not hateful in tone.
  3. Pray when they get to school, before they eat,  and BEFORE A TEST!
  4. Start or join a before school or after school religious club.
  5. Read the Bible during free reading time.
  6. Write religious themes in papers when appropriate (Science papers and American Literature papers lend to religious discussions).
  7. Hand out religious literature before and after school as long as it is not hateful in tone.
  8. Post religious posters in appropriate places. Be sure to follow school policy on permissible locations.
  9. Produce religious artwork in class. Schools can display this artwork alongside other student art.
  10. Express religious opinion in class at appropriate times.

God will be in public school as long as there are Christians in that school.

-Scott

sources:

Second Chances

RepentOn New Years Day in 1929, Roy Reigels made a mistake. A mistake that changed his life. Roy was playing defense for the University of California, Berkley and they were playing Georgia Tech in the 1929 Rose Bowl. Just before half-time, Georgia Tech fumbles the ball, Reigels picks up the fumble and begins to run it in for a touchdown. He scrambles to the 3 yard line, but the wrong 3 yard line. Reigels ran the wrong way. His teammate, Benny Lom turned him around, just as a wave of Georgia Tech players arrive. They are able to push Reigels back to the 1 yard line.

UC Berkley is unable to move the ball and punts from their end zone, only to have it blocked by Georgia Tech for a safety.

At halftime, Reigels sat alone,  slumped over, and in tears over his mistake. At the start of the second half something unexpected happened. Coach Price, sent Reigels back into the game saying, “Roy, get up and go back, the game’s only half over.”

Georgia Tech’s Coach Alexander said after the game that he never saw a player play like Reigels did in the 2nd half.

Second Chances

The Bible is full of stories of people whom God gives a second chance: Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8); Peter, David, Abraham, Jonah, Saul of Tarsus. The list can go on and on and on.

God still gives second chances.

You and I do and will fail to live up to the standard God expects.  We will pick up the ball and run the wrong way. But God is there to forgive us when we repent and send us back into the game. When you fail:

  • Don’t give up on God, He has not given up on you.
  • Don’t turn to self-pity. Turn to God, to His forgiveness, and His strength.
  • Be like the Thessalonians: (1Th 1:8-9)
    • Turn to God
    • Turn from idols (sin)
    • Turn to serve God

-Scott

Bonus video – because I still like Classic Veggie Tales:

Is that your only job?

20231961_10211434066100483_9207137768633808225_oThrough the years, every other child at the churches I have been a part of have asked me the same question? Where do you work? I love the look on their faces, when I say, “Here.” Their eyes grow big, they are puzzled, “You work at church? What do you do here?”

I love the innocence of their question and their attempt to understand the adult world.

Occasionally, I get a similar question from adults. Last week, I was talking with a salesman, he was showing us a picture of his girlfriend and described how they met on a mission trip. Amy mentioned that their similar focus on serving God was a good start to a relationship, and brought up that I am a preacher and that I counsel couples to share a common faith in God.

“You’re a preacher?” He asked with a look of surprise on his face. (Why does everyone seemed shocked when they ask me that?) “Is that your only job?”

This was not the first time I have been asked that question, nor will it be the last. But allow me to answer.

Yes, I am a preacher, and yes that is my fulltime job.

The questions behind the question is, “What do you do all day? You can’t just preach for a living, can you? After all if you count Bible classes and two worship assemblies on Sunday you are only working 4 hours a week, that’s quite a gig!”

In all candor, at Central Sunday evening is only 3o minutes long and I don’t teach regularly on Sunday mornings, so technically that is 2.5 hours . . .

But what is a typical day in the life of a preacher like? That is what you want to know. That is why you asked the question. I don’t really know what I typical day is like for a preacher. I am not sure there is a typical day. Every day has it’s own challenges and schedules and each preacher does things differently and each congregation has different expectations. I can only answer for me.

Here is my day

  • 7:00 – 7:15 AM – Arrive at building / study.
  • 7:15 – 7:30 AM – Outline this blog
  • 7:30 – 8:30 – Write, edit, and post this blog.
    • Friday – post sermon teaser video
  • 8:30 – 10:30 – Work on sermon(s) for Sunday
    • Monday – Outline Sunday AM Sermon
    • Tuesday – Edit AM sermon, outline PM Sermon
    • Thursday – Put AM sermon on YouVersion
    • Friday – Review sermons
  • 10:30 – 11:30 – Study
    • Monday – Tuesday – Work on Wednesday Bible Class
    • Thursday – Friday Finalize PM sermon / LIFE Group Lessons
  • 11:30 – 12:30 – Lunch (often at desk so I can study)
  • 12:30 until done
    • More study time
    • Editing and finalizing sermons
    • Thursday record video teaser for Sunday morning sermon
    • Visit hospitals, make phone calls, catch – up on emails, visit rehab / nursing homes / assisted living.

Almost daily there are callers looking for help financially or spiritually. There are people who drop by as they are working on ministry projects. I also chair a committee for Indian Creek Youth Camp, I work with a campus minster, a youth minister, deacons, and elders to help plan and carry out special activities for the congregation and community.

And –

I LOVE what I do.

Thanks for asking.

-Scott

Don’t Believe the Lies

Don't Believe the LiesIf you are alive, you have the experience of someone lying to you, or more than likely, if you were a child you told one or more lies to someone.  To the reader who just mumbled, I never lie, well you just did.

Lies are dangerous; Lies inhibit growth and prevent progress. The worst (most damaging) lies are not the ones your children tell.  The worst lies are not the ones parents tell children.  They are not the ones  you tell your employer or even the ones spouses tell.  The most dangerous and damaging lies are the ones we tell ourselves. Remember that lying comes from the devil – Jn 8:44 and that we can resist him (Jas 4:7). Someone is thinking, I don’t lie to myself. If not, you are the exception.  Most of us have and do.

Ten Lies We Tell Ourselves

  1. “I Don’t Have Enough Time.”  You tell yourself, you will share the gospel with “so-and-so” when I have more time.  I wish I had time to stop by the hospital (nursing home) to see them.  I am so busy with (job, school, family) I just do not have time to teach a class, help with VBS, etc.  The truth is that we have time for what we want to do.  We have time to watch TV, sports, go on vacations, go fishing, see a movie, go out to eat.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  We just need to prioritize our time to do what we should.
  2. “I Have Plenty of Time.” Life moves quickly, but we tend to think we will have tomorrow to do what we should.  Yet, Peter says life is like a flowering grass that is here then gone (1 Pet 1:24).   Again we say we must prioritize, does the grass really have to be cut today?  Our children grow up fast, so make time to teach them and model Christian living for them today, do not wait for tomorrow. Prioritize, put God first today, Matt 6:33.
  3. “No One Will See Me (Knows Me Here).” Sometimes we feel anonymous in a large crowd or away from home.  We think, no one will see me because, I’m on vacation.  No one knows what I am doing online. No one will recognize me in this crowd.  What a lie.  Earlier this month, my family and I were in Orlando, and a family from the eastern part of my county recognized we were part of the church in Walker County.  Paul reminds his readers that we do not live or die to ourselvesRom 14:7.
  4. “God Made Me This Way; He Will Not Hold Me Accountable” People say this about alcoholism, temper, foul language, polygamy, adultery, homosexuality, etc. However, God says He created us blameless, (Ezek 28:15).  The truth is that events, environment, and other factors can lead us to choose to sin.  What God want is everyone to change (repent), (Lk 13:3).
  5. “I Can Ask for Forgiveness.” This is an abuse and misuse of grace.  This is precisely what Paul condemns in Romans 5:18 – 6:2. If we plan to sin, planning on grace and forgiveness when we repent; do we really repent later?  Are we really sorry for what we did?
  6. “My Intentions are Good.” Tell that to Uzzah who steadied the Ark of the Covenant, (2 Sam 6:3-7). Is it OK to steal to feed family? Or to lie to win an election? Does God wink when we sin for a good cause? Randy Travis rightly sang, “I hear tell the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Saul of Tarsus had good intentions when he persecuted the early disciples.
  7. “Surely God is Pleased with . . .” This is presumptuous on our part.  To presume to know what pleases God without asking (seeking to know) what He really thinks. Just because something feels right does not make it right.  Just because “everyone else” believe something, does not mean the majority is right.  Check out God’s word for “everything (you) need that pertains to life and godliness.”
  8. “I’m too Young.”  Many plan to start serving God when they are older.  Start now in the days of youth (Eccl 12:1). Be an example to others now while you are young, (1 Tim 4:12). You are never too young to do what is right.
  9. “I’m too Old.” Caleb was 80 when he took the mountains (Josh 14:6ff).  For the Christian, older is prime. Are you too old or finally old enough?
  10. “They will never believe.” This statement doubts the power of the gospel, (Rom 1:16). What if someone had told themselves that about you? The Corinthians  were some very worldly and immoral people like the culture around them, but they changed in Christ, (1 Cor 6:9-11).
What other lies to we tell ourselves?
-Scott

Helping the Church Grow

Church growthWhere you worship is probably similar to Tuscaloosa’s Central Church of Christ, where we attend and where I preach.  We are a good group of people.  We are active in our faith and are decent folk.  But like you, we can be better.  I put some thought to this idea of congregational self-improvement and I have a few suggestions on how we can all Help Our Individual Church Family Grow.

Helping the local church grow

First we help by Living Pure Lives. The local congregation needs to have the respect of the community it is in.  That level of respect lies squarely upon the shoulders of each member.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12).”

Next we help by Being Friendly. Each visitor needs to feel welcome.  They should see we appreciate them and love them. Such a realization will make them want to return.  Do not stand back and let someone else greet visitors — you be one of the first.  The Hebrew writer says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb 13:2).”

We can also help by Giving Our Full Support to the Leaders.  Effective leaders are a great blessing to any congregation of God’s family.  None can progress without faithful and efficient leaders, and as members we can make or break our leadership.  Again from the Hebrew writer we learn, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17).”

Another way we can help our church family grow is by Promoting Unity. Peter gives us a formula for unity in 1 Pet 3:8-12, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ “ The unity formula is:

  • Unity of Mind.
  • Sympathy for each other.
  • Brotherly Love.
  • Having a Tender Heart.
  • Having an Humble Mind.
  • Not Being Vindictive.
  • Bless each other.

A fifth way to help your congregation is by Working Hard at Being a Soul-Saver. This is as simple as letting your non-Christian friends and family know why you are a Christian and how you came to Christ.  Remember the wise preacher tells us, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. (Prov 11:30).”

To be a Soul-Saver, Living in Unity, Supporting the Leaders, Friendly, while Living Pure Lives, takes Living a Life of Full Surrender. Jesus said it best, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27).”

Keep Growing  for the Lord.

-Scott