All That I Have

matthew 6-26I call the things I have mine. My car, my house, my yard, my paycheck, mine, mine, mine. But the truth is that someone else holds claim on what I call mine. A bank holds the mortgage on my house and yard, a different bank holds the title to my car, and government takes a cut off the top of my paycheck. Then there are other taxes and fees for electricity, phone, internet, water, fuel, staples (food and other necessities), clothes, and the everything else.

I pay for the government to protect my security and for different amenities. I pay companies to supply me with my daily needs. I pay for luxuries. So is what I have really mine?

The more I think about it, the more there is Someone who holds a greater prior claim than the companies or government – God. God owns all that they supply me and all that I have. He even owns the sun, moon, stars, earth, planets, rain, natural resources, and even the air that we breathe. You and I do not own any of these things and therefore anything that mankind makes from these things. I am glad God does not charge me for His services!

If I stop payment on a house or car I will eventually lose them according to the law. If I don’t pay my utilities the water and electricity will be cut off. If I refuse to pay my taxes, the government can exercise their right to garnish my wages and force me to pay. But God does not do that. He will not cut off the sun or rain. He sends them on the good and evil, the just and unjust (Matt 5:45). He gives me these blessings and allows me the choice to show my love and gratitude. He allows me to exercise good stewardship and give back to Him off the top of what He blesses me with.

But I ask you, what the prophet records in Mal 3:8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”

We can never repay God for His physical and spiritual blessings, but we can return part of what is rightfully His by giving to His cause and fellowshipping in the grace of giving so that more will be able to enter His kingdom.

-Scott

Problem Solved

psalm 51-1-3According to an often forwarded email; here are supposed maintenance complaints submitted by US Air Force pilots and the replies from the maintenance crews. Having lived in and worked in an Air Force town and known both pilots and mechanics, I would not be surprised if these statements reflect actual log entries.

  • Problem: “Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.” / Solution: “Almost replaced left inside main tire.”
  • Problem: “Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.” / Solution: “Autoland not installed on this aircraft.”
  • Problem: “Something loose in cockpit.” / Solution: “Something tightened in cockpit.”
  • Problem: “DME volume unbelievably loud.” / Solution: “Volume set to more believable level.”
  • Problem: “Dead bugs on windshield.”/ Solution: “Live bugs on order.”
  • Problem: “IFF inoperative.” / Solution: “IFF inoperative in OFF mode.”
  • Problem: “Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.” / Solution: “That’s what they’re there for.”
  • Problem: “Number three engine missing.” / Solution: “Engine found on right wing after brief search.”
  • Problem: “Evidence of hydraulic leak on right main landing gear.” / Solution: “Evidence removed.”

That last one got my attention. It describes how many of us try to deal with our spiritual shortcomings. There’s evidence of sin in our lives, but instead of trying to correct the problem, we merely try to remove the evidence. But only when we are honest before God is there hope of forgiveness.

Evidence Removed?!

David discloses a better attitude in Psalm 51:1-3, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. “

No more hiding of evidence, as there once had been in David’s life. Merely an honesty and a remorse about what he had done, and a desire to once again be right in God’s eyes.

May we learn from David, the man after God’s own heart.

-Scott

 

When the Savior Comes

SteepleWhen the Savior Comes
B Scott McCown, October 16, 2017

When the Savior comes, will I be ready?
When He returns to take us home?
Will I be glad to see His arriving?
Or will I run and hide in shame?

Oh, Savior, Sustainer, Creator, Messiah;
Lord of all and King of kings;
You are the One calling me homeward;
To Your praise and glory, my heart sings.

Will my life be true in Him be faithful?
Do I find joy in Him alone?
Do I seek to serve in the Lord’s Kingdom?
Am I faithful to His great cause?

Oh, Savior, Sustainer, Creator, Messiah;
Lord of all and King of kings;
You are the One calling me homeward;
To Your praise and glory, my heart sings.

What is Your Favorite?

Nearer,Still nearerI was thinking this morning about one of my one of my favorite hymns — Nearer, Still Nearer (by Lelia N. Morris, 1898). I love this song for a couple of reasons:

  1. The words and music go hand in hand. This is not always the case with church songs. Some songs have great lyrics, but the music takes away from the message. Others have great musical themes, but the words are trite or sometimes archaic.
  2. The message of the song is a great, life-long desire; to be ever nearer to God and Christ. I long for the day when I am near to Christ in heaven and can walk and talk with Him face to face.
  3. Verses 2 and 3 of the song break my heart and humble my spirit.
Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring,
Naught as an off’ring to Jesus my King,
Only my sinful, now contrite heart;
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.

 

Nearer, still nearer, Lord, to be Thine;
Sin, with its follies, I gladly resign,
All of its pleasures, pomp and its pride;
Give me but Jesus, my Lord crucified.

As I wipe the tears from my eyes and bow my head in prayer asking to grow nearer to God, I ask you – What is your favorite church (worship) song?
-Scott

12 Bible Study Hacks

IMG_0254Do you want to study the Bible? Do you know you need to study it more regularly? Do you want your Bible study to become more authentic and practical? Here are twelve life-hacks to improve your Bible Study.

  1. Put your Bible in an easily accessible place. Put it next to the couch or your favorite chair. Place it on the nightstand. Put your Bible where you can see it and reach it.
  2. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to read the Bible and to pray. Are you an early bird? Set aside time in the morning before anyone else is up. Are you a night owl? Set aside time late at night when everyone else has gone to bed.
  3. Join or start a Bible reading club or study group. This group can be at a home or a Bible class at the Church. Having others to talk with about what you are studying helps you learn.
  4. Study one book of the Bible at a time. A good study Bible will have outlines of each book or you can buy good outline books to help you. Know Your Bible by Frank Dunn is a good example of an outline book.
  5. Study the Bible by topics.  Use a concordance or a chain reference Bible to get help reading texts that deal with similar themes.
  6. Have a Bible encyclopedia or dictionary nearby to help with background  context or words you are not familiar with or just want to know more about. Many are now available online or with free Bible software for you computer or apps for your tablet or phone.
  7. Write your thoughts or notes in the margin of your Bible. When you are reading that section or passage again, the notes will remind you of what you are learning.
  8. Ask what the original audience or people in the story learned. Paul was writing to Christians living under the Caesars. What did they learn from Paul concerning their responsibility and loyalty to these leaders who often violently opposed Christianity?
  9. Put yourself in the story and think about how you would react or respond to the events or message. You will find the people in the Bible are not too dissimilar from people today.
  10. Journal what you learn. Pencil lead, ink, or digital journals have a much better memory that you or I do. Well, as long as I remember where I put my journal or where I saved that file . . .
  11. Apply the lesson you  learn to your daily life. Studying the Bible just to memorize a few verses or facts has no value. If we hear (read) and do not apply (do) what the Bible teaches, then Jesus would say we are like the foolish man who builds a house without a foundation.
  12. Spend time in prayer talking with God about what you are learning and asking Him to help you make the application to your life. Tell Him your needs, desires, and about your willingness to serve Him.

-Scott

Dig Down & Dive In

horseback in Ecuador

Josh Gates has a degree in archeology and a thirst for adventure. You may know his name from his television show “Expedition Unknown.” In that show Gates travels the world to archeological sites and remote villages trying to find clues to historical and mythical mysteries. The show is full of historical trivia, exotic locations, Gates’ childlike joy at discoveries, and his sense of humor. The downside of the series is that there is rarely any real conclusion. Finds lead to more clues but on the show Gates and his team almost never find exactly what they are looking for. Their desire and that of their audience is left unfulfilled. Oh how I long for them to find a map room that will have a place to place a pole of a specific height so that the light from the sun at a certain time on a certain day will shine through a jewel and point the way to the treasure. Wait, I think I saw that in a movie . . . something about a lost ark.

What does your heart desire?

What does your heart desire? Are you looking for treasure in fame, business success, wealth, happiness, world peace, that beautiful or handsome certain someone, or a jelly doughnut? Does your heart desire a rich fulfilled life? Do you desire to be right with God? Do you treasure an eternal home in paradise?

Ezra was a man seeking treasure in God. His example gives us a specific guide to a rich, fulfilled, godly life.

“For Ezra set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rule sin Israel.” (Ezra 7:10)

  1. Ezra “set his heart.” His heart had a desire. There was something he was after. He had a deep longing.
  2. He set his heart “to study the Law of the Lord.” Ezra knew that man’s way in not in his own imagination or wisdom, but that the way to a fulfilled life is knowing what God’s will says. God’s Law – scripture – tells us God’s will. We do not wait for a still small voice or a shout from heaven. God tells us His will in His Word. In the Law of Christ we have everything we need to know for life and godliness.
  3. Yet knowing the Law of the Lord was not enough for Ezra. He desired “to do it.” Somehow many Christians know a lot of the Bible. They know a lot of memory verses and Bible stories, but there remains a disconnect to life. We know what the Good Book says, but we don’t always do it. Sometimes I think we feel confident in our knowledge but ignore our lack of self-application. When I am reading God’s word and when examining my life, I see that I am not living up to God’s desire for me, the text is demanding that I make changes in my life. I need to just do it!
  4. Then after setting his heart to study the Law and to do it, Ezra’s desire was to “teach (God’s) statutes and rules” to others. One of my favorite lines from Jim Carey’s portrayal of the Grinch is when he is in his lair going through his calendar and reads, “5:00, Solve world hunger, tell no one.” That is a glimpse into the narcissistic heart of the Grinch.  If as a child of God, I study God’s will and I try to live as I should, but I keep the treasure of salvation from wrath to myself, I am as self-serving, greedy, narcissistic, and evil as the fictitious Grinch. What we learn we must teach others who will also pass it along.

What is your heart’s desire?

-Scott

 

Solving Your Problems

amys ww

I walked into the room and took a look around. It was a bright, cheerful room, decorated A Problem solving Guide- Six StepsTo Followwith Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in mind. There were signs, directions, reminders, and assignments written on the white boards, on posters, and on the screen. Twenty-something fourth graders were busy unpacking their bags, getting seated, and starting their morning routine. I was out of my element.  My venue is a Bible class of adults or an auditorium filled with people.  But a room full of 9 and 10 year olds is intimidating.

That was Friday. I had volunteered with Junior Achievement to teach fourth grade students about entrepreneurship. I had five lessons to present that day. The lesson on solving problems in business stood out to me as applicable not just to starting or maintaining a business, but to life in general.  I pointed that out to the students. The JA guide listed five steps to solve problems.  I am adding a sixth step for you.

  1. Clearly define the problem. Be specific in your description. Do not just say, “I have a problem with temptation.” Say, “I am struggling with (insert a specific struggle). I find myself going there repeatedly.”
  2. Brainstorm a list of possible solutions. I suggest at least three solutions.
  3. Make a list of the risks and rewards of the solutions you came up with. Risks are the negative impacts of the solution. Rewards are the positive results a decisions might have.
  4. Weigh each decision (possible solution) to see which has least risks and greatest rewards.
  5. Spend time in prayer to God and in the Bible talking to Him and reading texts that have something to say about your struggle. Compare your solution risks to what God’s word has to say. If your solutions are not inline with God’s word go back to step 2.
  6. Go with the decision that is first compatible with Godly values and second has the least risk and greatest rewards.

What do you think? What might you add? Where might we be able to use these steps?

-Scott

Time with God

1Ti 2-1-2Yesterday evening we changed our normal routine at Central. Normally, we have a song, a few announcements, a prayer for the sick and the work at Central, a devotional thought, another song and then we dismiss to mid-week Bible classes. This usually takes 10-15 minutes.

Yesterday, we spent extra time in prayer. We had a few men from cross-sections of the congregation to lead us in specific prayers.

  1. We prayed for all the sick and shut-ins listed in our announcement sheet and the additional ones announced last night.  We prayed for them by name.
  2. We prayed for the United States and her national leaders.  We prayed they would focus on solutions to the problems we face. We prayed they look for wisdom from God.
  3. We prayed for the victims and survivors of violence in our nation. We specifically prayed for those in Antioch, Tennessee and Las Vegas, Nevada. We prayed for those who commit and consider violence that they would find help and not act out violently.
  4. We prayed for those impacted by natural disasters. We prayed for Mexico, the Gulf Coast states and Atlantic states, for Puerto Rico. We prayed for those helping in recovery efforts including those restoring utilities. We prayed for our ability to help those suffering.
  5. We prayed for our world, a world that has seen conflict and war throughout history. We prayed that we might be a light of peace and love. We prayed for those that work in war-torn nations to restore people’s lives and to provide help.
  6. We prayed for God’s people at Central, for the love we have as a family. We prayed for the elders, deacons, teachers, ministers, the church secretary, and every member. We prayed for continued unity and love.
  7. We prayed for Tuscaloosa, Northport, and the surrounding area. We prayed for our leaders, the police, fire and rescue workers, for all first responders. We prayed for the citizens of this area and for the students who call this area home while they are here.

We spent more than thirty minutes in prayer. I left the building last night lifted up. Thank you to all the men who led these prayers.  I continue, even as I was writing this, to “amen” and repeat the requests we made to God last night.

Will you join us in these prayers? Keep praying.

-Scott