Grow in Grace and Knowledge

psalm 1Peter instructs his readers, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 2:18a)

Grow! I heard a preacher say, “if we are not growing, we are dying.” We are good at growing in our knowledge. Many Christians can quote a lot of Bible and give lists of people, places, commands, and more. But are we growing in knowing Christ? Are we growing in Grace?

Are we growing?

Are we growing downward? Are we sending roots down into the foundation of Jesus Christ? Is our faith strong so that we will not be swayed by every changing wind of teaching? (Eph 4:14)

Are we growing upward? Paul tells Christians in a number of passages to focus on the things of God. Colossians 3:1-2 is one such passage, “If then you have been raised with Christ, see 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.

Are we growing inward? Work on you heart and on your mind. This should happen as we grow deeper roots and as we focus on the things of God. Cf. Rom 12:2

Are we growing outward? Are we reaching and teaching others? Do you and I extend grace to those around us?

-Scott

 

 

 

Truth or . . .

67 cometHe left a little earlier that morning so he could make it to the National Honor Society Meeting. The outgoing officers had nominated him for President and today was the vote. Attendance was mandatory for all nominees but he did not make the meeting.

Two blocks from his house, he was in a minor traffic accident resulting in his not only missing the meeting and being late for his first class, but he also became ineligible as a nominee for NHS President. Maybe his greatest disappointment was the damage to his first car.

There were two cars involved in the accident both drivers filed a report with the state trooper who recorded the incident. What follows are the reports given by the drivers.

Driver one – teen male: “I pulled up to the intersection and tried to look both ways. I could see it was clear to the right so I looked back left.” He pointed to the landscaping in a yard and continued, “I could not see around those bushes, so I pulled out a little to get a better view. That is when I saw her coming around the curve just before she started sliding  into me and hitting the front of my car with her back quarter panel.”

Driver two – woman age 40+: “I was coming around the curve when I saw him. I hit my brakes and then tried to go around him, but he pulled out and he hit the back of my car. I just got it back from the shop getting the same area repaired. Someone else pulled out on me last month and the hit me in the same place.”

What is the truth? Did the woman’s car hit the teen or did the teen’s car hit the her car? Current culture would say both are true: one is his truth and one is her truth. I would say that one is her point of view and one is his point of view and that point of view depends on which seat you were sitting in. However, point of view is not the truth yet may contain truth.

The truth is much more simple.

The truth is much more simple. The truth lies in the simple facts.

  • Fact one: There was and accident involving two vehicles at the intersection of Northview Drive and Webster Drive on that May morning of 1984.
  • Fact two: The officer wrote the accident report up as an “unavoidable accident due to an obstructed view” and gave the seventeen year old male driver a ticket for “failure to yield the right-of-way.”
  • Fact three: Both vehicles sustained minor damage and drove away.
  • Facts four, five, and six: It was my first car, my first ticket, and my first accident.

Truth . . . Your Truth, My Truth, or The Truth

I started noticing the phrase, “live (speak, proclaim) your truth” in the 1990’s, mostly at high school graduation ceremonies. I balked at it then. That phrase communicates that truth is relative and not absolute. I wondered how a society can function if we could not agree on truth. Now, after more than a quarter of a century I see how that concept of relative truth is hurting society. Look at how that idea plays out in stories of police involved shootings. Look at how that impacts local, state, national, and international politics. Consider how relative truth played a role in the Nancy Kerrigan – Tonya Harding incident (including recent interviews and a new movie). Think about all the sexual harassment charges and claims coming forward after years have passed. How will we ever know the truth?

Truth lies with the facts. As Detective Joe Friday would say on Dragnet, “Just the facts.” Just the facts.

When you read, listen to, or watch the news. Pay attention to the facts to learn the truth. When you scan social media and a friend posts a meme or an article, check the source and the facts to learn the truth. When you read a religious book or article check the facts to learn the truth. When you hear a sermon or sit in a Bible class or discussion group, check the facts. The historian and physician, Luke records that the people of Berea “were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Act 17:11). The Bereans checked the facts.

-Scott

 

Grace for the Lost

Amazing GraceI am working on the this Sunday’s sermons as we look at Limitless Grace. Grace is one of those topics that brings chill bumps. Even as I begin this post and think about the chapter and stories I am about to share I get that feeling of excited joy that brings chill bumps or goose bumps whatever you want to call them.

Stop and read Luke 15:1-32. It won’t take you long, I’ll wait right here.

In this chapter we have a great theme:

Grace for the Lost

Like the lamb, we become lost when we are aimless. Sheep wander around looking for grass and do not always look where they are going. They can find themselves in dangerous situations when they wander away from the flock. That describes the preacher in Ecclesiastes. He went looking for fulfillment where ever he thought he could. That describes us: We look to education. We look to politicians / government. We look to pleasure. We look to drugs and alcohol. We look to the newest and latest fashion, technology. We let those things and others lead us away from God’s flock – we are lost.

Like the coin, we can be lost because we are misplaced (misled). Coins roll off tables or fall off chains. My grandmother would say when my grandfather was looking for a certain tool, “Well it didn’t grow legs and walk off.” That was her way of saying, he had laid the tool down or the pocket knife fell out of his pocket, what ever the case might be. A person is misplaced or misled by a society that leads away from God. They can be misled by those who claim to teach truth but spread misinformation.

Like the younger son, we can be lost because of our own selfish nature. We want what we want and we want it now! We ignore or do not care about truth, righteousness, the future, prudence, or others and pursue our own immediate desires or temporal desires. We may let consumerism consume us. We may let a passion for fame overtake us. We may let wealth, prestige, influence, power, recreation, retirement, or things like these become our life’s goal. We run from the Father and are lost.

Like the older brother, we can be lost in our own self-righteousness. He was lost while still at home. He was judgmental of his younger brother. He was loveless, graceless, and unconcerned at his brother’s absence. He was angry and jealous of the attention his father gave to the wayward son. So many times this describes Christians. We think we are more righteous than others. After all, I don’t ______________________ like others do. We are lost.

The lost need grace.

God as the Shepherd cares for all the sheep. He looks for the lost sheep. He rejoices at the lamb’s recovery and brings the lamb home. GRACE!

God, like the woman who lost the coin, considers us as valuable. He looks for the one that is lost. He rejoices at the recovery of the lost one. GRACE!

God is the Father of the prodigal. He allows for His children to choose. When they leave, He looks for them daily. When they return He runs to them and welcomes them home with tears of joy, a kiss, and a celebration that the dead are alive and the lost are found. GRACE!

As the Father of the older brother, God leaves the party to look for the missing son. He lovingly instructs him in what is right. GRACE!

I need God’s grace.

When I realize I am lost (Luke 15:17), I must resolve to repent (Luke 15:18-19). Beyond resolving to repent, I must take action and truly repent an attempt to right any wrongs I committed (Luke 15:21).

No one deserves forgiveness. Yet everyone needs forgiveness. God is gracious to forgive and rejoices at our return to Him.

Dear Hollywood

HollywoodDisclaimer: I have tried not to write this post this morning. I have tried to talk myself out of it. I tried thinking about other things as I was driving to the study. But I failed.

Last night Amy and I watched part of the Golden Globes and I learned a few things. First, I am way out of the loop on what is showing at the movie theatre and what is on TV. The shows and movies that were winning were some I have never heard of. Next, I learned that clothing coverage is optional. I also learned that I have something to say to the actors, writers, producers, directors, studio executives, and anyone else in the entertainment industry. If you agree, please pass it along.

Dear Hollywood,

Thank you. Thank you for standing up against bullying last night. Thank you for the extension of the “Me Too” campaign by stating “Time’s Up.” Sexual harassment needs to stop, it never should have started. Thank you for wearing black to protest the gender pay gap, people in all walks of life should receive fair pay. Now put your money where your mouth is and get busy to affect real change.

Stop producing, directing, writing, and acting in movies and shows that glorify sexual immorality. By doing so you will change the environment that promotes sexual harassment.  Stop awarding shows that promote sexual immorality in all forms. Why not give an award to a show whose main male character refused the advances of a woman whom he was not married too? A woman who then ruined him after he refused her. Who is the victim and who is guilty of harassment in that scene? Oh, wait, that does not fit the current media storyline, even if it does sell tickets. 

If you want equal pay for equal work, refuse to work until the pay is equalized. Men, you can turn down the larger salaries. Wait, I have a better idea, set a pay cap and then all other revenue can go to homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, toward increasing the salaries of law enforcement officers, fireman, teachers, and those who really provide services and benefit our society and not just entertain us. I personally find it deplorable when an actor or actress who makes millions of dollars for one movie complains about pay when teachers, police, firemen, the military and others are barely making ends meet. 

I have something to say to the women of Hollywood; If you want to stop being seen as objects stop presenting yourself as an object. Stop taking the roles that put you in that position and stop wearing gowns designed to present you as an object and not a person. And while I am sounding prudish (a good word whose roots are in the context of wisdom) there is nothing glamorous, attractive, humorous, or manly about language that has to be edited out during time delay.

-Scott McCown

p.s. If you want responsible journalism and press, if you want the average person to respect the press, please note that there is a difference between printing and speaking “your truth” and publishing THE TRUTH. 

Stones

warning

I have a note on my corkboard that has one simple sentence. A sentence that I want to define me. I’ll share that sentence with you later after I relate a background story.

There is an account of Jesus’ interaction with different people in John 8:3-11. Some have questioned the authenticity of this story, but there is nothing about the narrative that is inconsistent with Jesus nor the actions of the scribes and Pharisees. This familiar account plays out this way:

The religious leaders catch a woman in the act of adultery. She is either cheating on her husband or is the mistress of a married man. I find a curiosity in the absence of the man. If she was caught, wouldn’t he have been there as well? Should not they both be “called out?” But I digress . . .

The leaders bring her to Jesus and remind Him of the Law of Moses and the command to stone those guilty of adultery. They want to know what Jesus thinks should be done. They are trying to place Him in a moral, ethical, spiritual, and legal juxtaposition.  Would Jesus agree with the Law of Moses or would He speak against the Law? Would Jesus show compassion to the sinful woman or would He condemn her based on their accusations?

You remember Jesus’ reply in John 8:7, “Let him who without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” WOW! He cuts to the heart of the issue. He cuts to the heart of the leaders. His statement cuts to the heart of those who read His words even today. They get the point. They drop their stones and walk away. Jesus turns to the woman and refuses to condemn her, even though as the Son of God He has that right, but instead tells her, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11).

There are numerous lessons we can learn from this narrative:

  • Do not be quick to judge others.
  • We are all guilty of sin.
  • Jesus (God) knows our hearts.
  • Be quick to forgive.
  • Be patient with others. Their sin is just different from yours.
  • God forgives us not so we can continue to sin, but so that we can be free from sin.

“Let him who without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Back to my note. My note is connected to this story. My note reminds me that their are broken people whom the world and many times the church continue to tear down. My note says, “BE A STONE CATCHER.”

Will you agree with me to make 2018 the year we intercept stones instead of throwing them?

-Scott

stone catcher

Why I Do What I Do

IMG_0254I am a minister, a preacher, and an evangelist. That is what I do. I spend my week studying from the Bible and various sources in order to share two or three messages a week with others. I spend time each week studying or contemplating what to share with you that will encourage you in your walk with God. I talk with people and listen to their stories. That is who I am that is what I do.

As a new year begins, I thought I would share with you a few reasons I love what I do.

  1. I get to spend time in God’s word.
  2. I am surrounded by great people.
  3. My best friends are elders, deacons, ministers, & Christians.
  4. My schedule is flexible.
  5. A bad day is still a blessed day.
  6. My weaknesses do not diminish God’ Word and His power.
  7. I am privileged to share God’s Word with others.
  8. I get to see people dedicate and rededicate their lives to God.
  9. People share their joys and sorrows with me.
  10. I have a wife who stands beside me, and although her occupation is stressful, she supports me and helps me.

-Scott

Daring Faith 2018

LifeWithouTLimitsOur theme for 2018 at Tuscaloosa’s Central Church of Christ is Daring Faith.  This year we will be looking at events and passages in Scripture that challenge us to step out in faith and to be an example to the world as we walk by faith.

We start off the years in January learning about Life Without Limits.

  • January 7 – Limitless Wisdom
  • January 14 – Limitless Grace
  • January 21 – Limitless Faith
  • January 28 – Limitless Love

I hope you will join us in person if you live nearby or you can follow our series online:

https://tinyurl.com/tcofc-yutub

 

 

Women in the Church

Women in the ChurchA few months ago, Barry O’Dell, editor of Fulton County Gospel News, asked me to write an article on the role of women in the Church. He specifically asked that I answer the follow question: So What Can Women Do? The article is in the current paper issue. You can use the above hyperlink to read past articles and to subscribe to this paper.

So What Can Women Do?

Scripture is clear in teaching the concept of male spiritual leadership. Male spiritual leadership is a concept that takes root in the earliest pages of the Old Covenant based on the principle of the firstborn. Notice the language of Exodus 13:1-2, “The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”1 God claims ownership of every firstborn of both man and animal.

Turning to Numbers 3:5-10 we read,

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”

Aaron was the firstborn and his sons would follow him as priests. The next two verses point out that the tribe of Levi would be the surrogate firstborn for all the people and belonged to the Lord for leadership and service in worship to Him.

Today, Christ serves as our High Priest (cf. Heb 4:14-15) having that responsibility as the Firstborn of God (cf. Rom 8:29). Paul calls Christ the “Firstborn of all creation . . . the Firstborn from the dead (cf. Col 1:15, 18). As God’s Firstborn, Christ is the Passover Lamb keeping Satan from destroying His children (cf. Heb 11:28). Jesus has the rule as the head of the Body, His church by virtue of His status as The Firstborn. He offered the sacrifice of Himself for her and rules as Lord of lords.

But what does the firstborn principle have to do with male spiritual leadership? The apostle Paul equates the order of creation with firstborn in 1 Timothy 2:13, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve;”. LaGard Smith surmises that as first created or first born that Adam being aware of the law about eating the fruit “bore the responsibility for two sins – his sin of eating the fruit and his sin in failing to exercise spiritual headship.”2

According to Smith, Scripture clearly teaches male spiritual leadership in the Lord’s church and in the home yet, headship in Scripture is not so much an honor as it is a responsibility of service. After Adam and Eve sinned, this headship becomes part of the punishment of man. Men need to be aware of our responsibility for the spiritual well-being of our family and the Lord’s church. Woe to the man who shirks that responsibility!

Our dilemma over women’s role results from a worldview that looks at leadership as authority and not a Biblical view of leadership as service. Likewise, the dilemma results from an over-emphasis on what occurs at the assembly over the everyday life of believers. I agree with the following quote from Joyce Hardin as relayed by Dave Miller, “The time has come to stop looking at those things women cannot do and emphasize instead those areas in which she can serve . . . to (God’s) glory.”3 This truth is found as we understand the Greek words diakanos, doulos, and oiketes (meaning deacon, slave, servant) are not gender specific, but apply equally to male and female.  All Christians are servants of Christ.

Women have a role in the life of the church, they are not regulated to the sidelines of the life of the church. Jesus’ own genealogy in Matthew 1 includes five women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheeba, and Mary. Romans 16:1 mentions Phoebe as a servant (diakonos) of the church. In Acts we read of Pricilla and Lydia as prominent women and servants in the church. Paul tells Titus the older women are to teach the younger women and in Philippians 4:2-3 Paul calls Euodia and Synthyche by name telling the church (men included) to assist them in their ministry.

The question remains concerning what specific areas of ministry are open to women. What can women do? There are multiple areas of ministry open to women within the context of Scripture that encompass the greater scope of life in Christ. They are much of what Jesus calls the “weightier matters” (Cf. Mat 23:23).

Women can edify the church (Rom 14:19). Many women are natural encouragers. Throughout my life, from the time I was in Bible classes to my first attempts at directing singing, public prayer, reading scripture, and preaching, more women than men shook my hand, patted me on the shoulder, and told me how proud they were of what I did. I would not be who I am if not for their building me up.

Women can instruct and admonish the church (Rom 15:14). This is a vital role any woman can play. I can think of several women who have guided me in my youth; women who taught me scripture, and many who continually demonstrate the Spirit of Christ in their lives as they let the Word of Christ dwell in them (Col 3:16).

Paul tells all Christians “through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13). Peter tells Christians to use their gifts to “serve one another.” (1Pe 4:10)Women serve by teaching children and youth. Women serve by caring for family and others. Women put men to shame in their willingness and ability to follow Christ and take up the towel of service. I know Christian ladies who see needs in the community and take care of those needs as a Christian. More than a few churches have a good reputation because of the women who have hearts for service. Men, we must help these women (Phil 4:3).

Much of that service is from a mindset of empathy; a mindset that bears the burdens of others (Gal 6:1-2). Women tend to have a greater capacity for compassion than men and outdo us in care for others. Many times, as I am at the home of family who is mourning loss, there are ladies from church already there helping by serving, listening, holding a hand, or organizing a ministry of care.

Women can pray. Every Christians has access to the Throne of God though our High Priest and we are to pray for one another (James 5:13). The country music chorus reminds us of the power of a godly woman’s prayer:

When Mama prayed, good things happened.

When Mama prayed, lives were changed.

Not much more than five foot tall

But mountains big and small crumbled all away

When Mama prayed.4

Women change lives and change the world with prayer answered by God.

Women can and do love. Jesus commanded that we love one another as He loved (John 15:12). Women love with a seemingly unlimited supply. They love with a genuine love in Christ that leads them to edify, instruct, admonish, teach, serve, bear burdens, and pray for others. Love seeks the best and works toward the best for others. Women can and do lead the church in love.

The allotted space does not allow for us to explore how women can practice forgiveness (Eph 4:32) or stirring up love and good works by togetherness (Heb 10:24-25). Still, we state in this article that the role of women in the church is much greater that the limited roles of corperate worship. My prayer and aim is that we do more to emphasize the work of women, and every Christian, in the world around us as well as the work we do for each other. As the adage says, “Enter to worship, leave to serve.”

Maybe that is the deeper meaning of Romans 12:1, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”5 These areas are our reasonable service to God. If we (men and women) neglect or de-emphasize them can our worship ever truly be acceptable to God?

The role of women in the Church is much greater than the limited roles of cooperate worship.

End Notes

  1. Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, used by permission, all rights reserved.
  2. Smith, LaGard. Male Spiritual Leadership, (21st Century:Nashville) 1998, pp 41-42.
  3. Miller, Dave, “The Role of Women: The Exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” Women to the Glory of God: Spiritual Sword Lectureship 1994, Jim Laws, ed. (Sain:Pulaski, TN) 1994, p 289.
  4. Overstreet, Paul L., Rory Lee, When Mama Prayed, (Ole Media Management:Nashville)
  5. The New Living Translation: NLT (Tyndale House:Carol Stream, Illinois) 2009.

 

The Real Cost

cropped-img_0254.jpgAccording to Scripture, traditions, and sources such as Fox’s Book of Martyrs many early disciples pad a high physical price for following Christ.

  • Stephen was stoned (Acts 7).
  • James was beheaded (Acts 12).
  • Philip was scourged, imprisoned, and crucified.
  • Matthew was killed by the sword.
  • James, the Less was stoned and his skull smashed with a club.
  • Mathias was stoned and beheaded at Jerusalem.
  • Andrew was crucified on a transverse cross (a cross shaped like an X).
  • Mark was dragged to death at a pagan feast.
  • Peter was crucified upside down.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero.
  • Jude was crucified.
  • Bartholomew was beaten and crucified by pagans.
  • Thomas was thrust through with a spear.
  • Luke was crucified on and olive tree.
  • Simon was also crucified.
  • John was banished to Patmos and would die of natural causes.

These truths and traditions bring me to Luke 9:23, . . . “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Deny self, take up cross, and follow

Three questions:

  1. What does Jesus mean when He tells us to deny ourselves?
  2. What does He mean when he tells us to take up our cross?
  3. What is involved in following Jesus?

I look forward to your answers.

-Scott

 

Checkup

AnnualCheckupThis morning started with a visit to my doctor for my annual checkup. I arrived at 7:00 a.m. for lab work: they drew blood, took a chest x-ray, and did an E.K.G.  I will go back after 10:00 to see Dr. Warren.

I have a good inclination that he will talked to me about my weight, the need for more exercise, and watching my triglycerides and cholesterol numbers. Those are the usual topics of our conversations.  I will bring up moving my annual appointment away from the holidays, arguing that my weight and numbers may be affected by Thanksgiving and the month-long string of holiday events that are between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The obvious connection for the blog is our need to have a check-up with the Great Physician.

How healthy am I spiritually?

  • Am I getting a healthy spiritual diet from feeding on God’s word? Or I am filling up on the junk food of entertainment?
  • Am I exercising my spirit through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, reflection, communion, fellowship, worship, etc.?
  • Is my faith healthy, active, and growing?
  • Am I becoming more and more like Christ in my life?

How is your checkup with Him?

-Scott