Do I have a Choice?

 

Saban03

image courtesy of Patrick Jacks

Really, I am serious when I ask, “Do I have a choice?

 

Recently, a number of sports news sources reported Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban’s thoughts on choices. I have a report from Yellow-Hammer News in front of me.  According to these sources the Crimson Tide Football coach was commenting on the importance of choices and young players.

“They all think they have this illusion of choice. Like ‘I can do what ever I want to do’. And you kind of have a younger generation now that doesn’t . . . get told no, they don’t always get told this is exactly how you need to do it. So they have this illusion that they have all these choices.”

Success comes at a cost.

Saban continues, “But the fact of the mater is, is if you want to be good, you really don’t have a lot of choices, because it takes what it takes. You have to do what you have to do to be successful. So you have to make choices and decisions to have the discipline and focus to the process of what you need to do to accomplish your goals.”

“All these guys that think they have a lot of choices are really sadly mistaken. And I think, . . . they learn these lessons of life as they get older, and sometimes the best way to learn them is from the mistakes that you make.” (Read the full interview HERE.)

When Amy read that interview to me, I thought about the choices we think we have in life. After reading it myself a couple of times, I think Nick Saban is spot on. While we do have choices, we limit them when we commit to succeed at something.

Success comes at a cost.

Success comes at a cost. Success on the playing field comes at a cost; the cost of free time. Success in the workplace comes at a cost; sometimes that cost is family. Success in marriage comes at a cost; you put your spouse above you. If I choose to succeed in an area of life, I choose to be less successful in other areas.

Success in my Christian walk comes at a cost.

God lays a choice before us; We  have a the choice of life and good or death and evil. If we choose life and good, if we choose God, we are choosing to give up other choices.  Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)

We have one choice. Will we choose God? For me there is no other choice!

-Scott

What Does it Matter?

We Back the BlueI heard part of an interview with a Birmingham area police officer.  I was half-way listening as I was driving back from a hospital visit.  I wish I had heard the entire interview. There are a few reasons the interview caught my attention:  1) My next-door neighbor is a campus police officer at the University of Alabama, 2) the man across the street is a detective with the city of Tuscaloosa, 3) my friends (and church members), Mike, Adam, and Harold are all active or retired officers with Tuscaloosa and Northport PD. 4) Andrew, our son, is a Criminal Justice Major and security officer at Faulkner University. 5) Plus, what this officer said had application beyond law enforcement.

When asked about the impact of officer misconduct and abuses of authority by officers across the nation, his replied was along the following thoughts.

In any profession there are good and bad people. As police officers we watch these videos on the news and on social media and wonder what led the officer to act that way. Is there more to the story than the clip we are watching? There always is. Is that officer under a lot of stress at home or suffering in some other way?

Then he added these thoughts, I have to remind our officers, that what we do as police  in Birmingham, Alabama impacts officers in Baltimore, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and all over. The image we create by our actions determines what the public thinks of officers in other places. What officers in other places do or how they act also impacts how the public sees us. We must always be professional, responsible, and careful.

When I heard this I thought of my neighbors, friends, and Andrew. I thought about the role and responsibilities they have. I stopped and prayed for them.

I also thought about the words of Jesus and of Paul,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)

” . . . but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:8-17)

What about the example I set?

What I do as a Christian in Tuscaloosa impacts not only the Church at Central, but the churches in Tuscaloosa County, the churches in Alabama, the churches in the South Eastern United States, as well as all over the world.  The example I set reflects on the Church as a whole and on Christ whom I serve. The impression that people have of the Church, or Christians, and of Christ can be either positive or negative because of me.

What do others thing of Christians because of the example you and I set?

-Scott

 

Earth Day 2017

Earth DayApril 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day celebration in modern history and 47 years later (tomorrow) we are still here.  Eight years ago on Earth Day I helped (really watched) Amy bake a single layer 18 inch round cake and decorate it to look like the Western Hemisphere for her 1st grade class’ Earth Day activities. (It may be time for another one!)

I am not an extremist in the area of environmentalism, I do not carry an EPA membership card. However, for the last 30 years I spend time encouraging young people to take care of the earth. I do not do this out of fear of global warming, I am old enough to remember being taught in elementary school that the earth was heading to a new ice-age. My understanding is that the earth has cycles of warmer and cooler periods that last for decades, or centuries. The climate does change, I am just not sure how much man has to do with that change for better or worse.  That being said, I still think we are to do our part of keep the earth.

I believe Christians may need to step it up a bit and not be wasteful but good stewards of the earth God gave us. Take note of these instructions from God to man, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28) “Subdue and have dominion” do not have to have negative connotations, they could very well mean to “cultivate and take care of.” If that is the case, and I think it is, God commanded us to care for our temporary home planet.

This Earth Day, remember the blessing God has given you with a home created for you, then remember that He left you in control to make sure she is there for future generations if He chooses for time to remain.

– Scott

Going Home or Home Going

HomeThis time of year in my county a large group of citizens are thinking about one thing; Leaving town and going home.  I live in a university town and am a minister in a congregation with approximately 100 students. Next month many of them will leave for the summer. They will travel highways and country roads that will take them home (John Denver fans, you are welcome).

Home

Some will stay in town in their new home.  Andrew (our son) is away at college and will be staying there this summer to work.  The last time he was with us, he said, “Montgomery feels like home.”

Home

A few weeks ago I held a Revival (Gospel Meeting) in Gulf Breeze, Florida.  I grew-up on that part of the Gulf Coast and my side of the family still lives in that area. For the record, I stayed at my parent’s house while down there. While the house is not the 900 square foot house of my childhood, it was good to be home with my parents and to see my brother, my sisters-in-law, my nieces, a few cousins, talk with my uncle, and see people who knew me as a child and teen. Even then, I was glad to come back home Thursday when the meeting was over.

There is something about home.

I have a good life. I have a great family (immediate and extended). I am a part of a wonderful church family. I have good friends. I have a nice house in a safe neighborhood and I have good neighbors. I have a good house, good transportation, clothing that is more than sufficient, as well as access to good food and clean water. I have a good life here. But even this is not home.

The apostle Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phi 3:20). My home is in heaven with my Creator, Sustainer, and Savior.

-Scott

 

 

Poll Results

Over the last few weeks, I have inserted a Survey Monkey poll into YouVersion to encourage people to interact with the sermon.  Most of the these polls are one simple question just to see what people are thinking.  This past Sunday I asked three questions.  Here at the results:

Question/Statement 1: “I believe God raised Jesus from the dead.” 100% answer that they agree with that statement.

Questions/Statement 2: “I believe that we will rise from the dead.” 85% agreed, 15% disagreed, 0% were unsure.

Questions/Statement 3: “When Jesus returns, I will go to be with Him in heaven.” 77% answered yes, 0% answered no, and 23% answered “I want to , but I am uncertain if I am ready.”

The polls are completely anonymous, so I do not know who answered.  I want to address a couple of things from this limited poll.

  1. Will we rise from the dead?  I believe Scripture teaches us that we will. Jesus teaches us this, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
    (John 5:28-29). Paul’s discourse on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12-58 teaches us that we will rise from death.
  2. To the 23% in our poll and others who are unsure of their eternal destination, my desire is for you to have confidence in your salvation. John says, “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.” (1John 5:13).  I want you to know. We can know. We can have confidence. Yet our sin separates us from God. My sin separates me from God and your sin separates you from God. (Isa 59:2). We need a way back to God. That way is His Son – “Jesus said to him, ” I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). When we are in Christ we can have confidence in our home in heaven. Are you in Christ? Consider the words of Paul, ” . . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ ‘s, then you are Abraham’ s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3:26-29).

I would love to talk with you more about faith in Christ.

-Scott

 

The Battle I Fight Daily

58497_1279568728208_6067471_nI do not think that what I am about to say will surprise you. I know that you are completely aware of the reality of what I am about to say. “As Christians we are at war.”

As Christians we are at war.

We are not at war with people or nations, but we are at war.  The apostle Paul describes our battle this way,

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph 6:11-18)

His justification for describing the armor of God is that we are wrestling against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We are in battle!

Our Savior commended the churches of Ephesus and Pergamum for theie stand against false teachers and other enemies of faith. We should make similar stands. When we take a look a current culture we have many battles to fight. We live in a culture war with battle lines against false religions, media, entertainment, immorality, political issues, false Christianity, and the list goes on and seems to grow daily. But not one of these is my greatest battle. These enemies are easy compared to the one I fight daily.

My greatest enemy, the hardest enemy for me to engage in battle much more defeat is . . . ME. I am my worst and greatest enemy. God is in a battle with me for me. I have to choose a side.

God is in a battle with me for me.

The apostle Paul understands my battle. He faced a similar enemy,

“Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:20-24)

Wretched man that I am!

I am in a battle with me, God is in a battle with me for me. Whose side will I fight on?

You and I see the difficulty of this battle our lives when we:

  1. Turn to food for comfort instead of God.
  2. Seek a “buz” from alcohol or drugs instead of being filled with God’s Spirit.
  3. Think career or awards bring distinction.
  4. Try to fulfill my need for joy in my family before I look for joy in God.
  5. Base our future hope on legislation or politicians instead of God.
  6. Think society determines truth or morality instead of God.

God is in a battle with me for me.

Jesus knew my battle would be a daily battle. He tells me to deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow Him (Luke 9:23).

  • DAILY! I must die to me daily.
  • DAILY! I must sacrifice my life for Him daily.
  • DAILY! I choose which side I am fighting on.
  • DAILY! God is in a battle with me for me.

I wish I could say I always choose to side with Jesus and God, but I get in my own way. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Paul’s answer his and my question is in Rom 7:25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

-Scott

What Do You Want from Me?

photoHave you ever asked – or thought – that question? Has someone asked you that question?  Maybe it was in a situation where your wife, or husband, had expectations that you simply missed. You ask, “What do you want me to do (say)?” It is possible that such a question arises out of frustration, but behind that frustration is a sincere heart. Micah rhetorically asks the people of God, “”With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mic 6:6-7). Moses poses a similar query, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you” (Deu 10:12). Then answers his own thoughts.

  1. He wants AWE ( Deu 10:12 –”Fear the Lord your God”). He rejects flippant, heartless, lackadaisical, bored, and faithless approaches, He praises the one who falls before Him in godly fear Heb 12:28 God calls such “blessed” Psa 128:1, “life-giving” Pro 10:27; 14:27, “preserving” Pro 16:6, “growth-inducing” (Act 9:31), and “persuasive” 2Co 5:11).
  2. He wants ACTION (Deu 10:12 ”Walk in all His ways”). Lip-service (cf. Isa 29:13 ) apart from living sacrifice Rom 12:1 sickens God! Notice, He does not want partial obedience. He expects us to walk in all His ways! We do not get to follow God on our own terms. He wants full obedience!
  3. He wants AFFECTION (Deu 10:12 ”love Him”). This is the first, greatest command Mat 22:37. God modeled the kind of love He wants reciprocated ( 1Jo 4:19 ). He is not satisfied with a cold, aloof “relationship.” Jesus is proof positive that He wants intimacy and closeness.
  4. He wants an ATTITUDE (Deu 10:12 –”Serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”). Man wants to receive. He wants to be “king of the mountain.” He wants happiness and fulfillment at the price of another. God wants us to give, humble self, and consider what others need Phi 2:4 In fact, He calls this “great.”
  5. He wants an APPLICATION (Deu 10:13 –”Keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes”). Intellectual assent, alone, is insufficient. He wants His truth to live in our lives! He wants His will to play out in our thoughts, words, and deeds

God wants this from us and in us because the better we understand God, the better we can become.

-Scott

What Does it Take to be a Real Man?

IMG_0515What is a real man? What does it take to have and keep a “man-card?”  There are many testosterone laden ideas about manhood.  There are many who laugh at what they consider to be “weak” or “soft” men.  But what is a real man? Really?!

I suggest looking at the men in the Bible to get a good picture of the reality of God’s real man.  Here are three men that I think paint a complete picture for us.

The first is a man we know as Onesimus. Onesimus!?  Wasn’t he a runaway slave?  Yes, that is Onesimus. Great, a Spartacus figure in the Bible.  That is a real man! Wait!  Don;t get ahead of me; Onesimus is not like the typical view of a runaway slave like Spartacus or The Gladiator.  This slave had real manly characteristics.  He was 1) Teachable.  In Phlm 10-11 we find he ran to Paul and through the teaching of Paul became a Christian and was willing to repent to the extent of returning to Philemon. Because he was 2) Accountable (cf. Phlm 12-16).  He was willing to not only accept his mistakes but to do his part to make them right.  He could say he was wrong and make needed changes.

The second example is the Apostle Peter.  Peter was 1) a Worker for God. In Acts 10:24-34 we read of Peter’s willingness to allow God to use him to break new ground and take the message of the Good News to the Gentiles. This would require Peter to be quite 2) Courageous. It is Peter who volunteers to step out of the boat.  It is Peter who brashly claims he will never forsake Jesus.  It is Peter who confesses that Jesus is the Messiah.

We also see Peter as a 3) Devoted Husband. Paul writes of Peter, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas (Peter)?” 1 Cor 9:5- ESV.  Peter demonstrates his devotion to his wife when he instructs, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Pt 3:7.

Peter was a gruff weathered fisherman who was strong yet 4) Willing to Weep. When he realized his weakness and recalled his failure, Peter showed the disappointment in himself by weeping and repenting – cf. Mt 26:75.

The ultimate example of a real man is Jesus.  Jesus was 1) Submissive to the will of the Father and the spiritual needs of mankind. Jesus was 2) Prayerful.  If the Son of God saw the need to pray and made special time for prayer while He was walking the earth,  then men everywhere should lift up holy hands and hearts in prayer. Jesus was 3) Childfriendly.  He took time with children, even when the disciples thought the children would be a bother to Him (Mk 10:13-16).  Children are important to God and a real man will care fore them.  A real man will treat children with kindness knowing that they are the present future of the Kingdom of God (the Church) on earth. Jesus was the supreme example of a man who is 4) Compassionate. Jesus would look on the multitudes and have compassion for their needs.  Compassion is more than empathy.  Compassion leads one to do what he can to help relieve those needs.  Jesus lived that compassion.

What is a Real Man?  He is more than what the world considers “manly.” A real man is complete.  Real men (and real women) follow the example and commands of Christ!

-Scott

Recorded . . . Live!

Yesterday, April 5, 2017, the entire state of Alabama was on weather alert for the potential of severe storms. Our elders based on the potential of storms decided to cancel our midweek Bible studies for safety reasons.  They did this in April 2011 and were glad they did.  Since we were not able to be at the building, I decided to do a live lesson on Facebook. Some were able to watch live, while others watched later.  Over 200 people joined in at some point for the lesson.  For those that regularly read The Morning Drive, this is the same message from yesterday morning, just in spoken form instead of written form.

Stay Alert

040517This morning the entire state of Alabama, as well as much of the Southeastern United States, is on weather alert.  All forms of severe spring weather are possible including large hail, lightning, strong gusty winds, strong straight-line winds, flash flooding, areal flooding, and tornadoes. (Did I miss anything?)

So I am in my study with radar open on one screen, an ear tuned for the alerts on my phone, and doing my best to pay attention to the weather. I have my plan if the weather suddenly turns rough where I am. I just heard that part of our state had baseball size hail earlier this morning. This is a good day to be “weather aware.”

The apostle Peter writes about being aware of another event that is catastrophic for not just may area but the entire earth.  This event is not a “possible” event, but a “it will happen” event. Peter writes:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13)

While you are being weather aware, don’t forget to be spiritually aware. How are you preparing for Christ’s return?

-Scott