A Special Guest Post

Amazing GraceThis morning I turn the pen over to Paul. His words perfectly describe our condition – my condition. I find comfort in knowing Paul understands. I find comfort in knowing the Holy Spirit inspired theses words, because that indicates that God understands.

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 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? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-25)

Thank you God for your matchless grace though the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Showing up

show up (1)Over the next few days and weeks you will have opportunities to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Take advantage of those opportunities to demonstrate your love.

Matthew records the following conversation a Pharisee had with Christ, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:36-40.

I know you love God. I know you love people. Now it is time to show up.

-Scott

Back to School – Again

TIMEThe last few weeks mark the restart of school.  Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter became host to first day of school pictures as well as the obligatory post from High School Seniors, “This is my last first day of high school – yay me!”

The blogsphere also contained “Back-to-School,” “Wow, children Grow up Fast,” “Where did the Time Go?,” and “Now that Our Nest is Empty” posts.  I read more than a few with interest and reflection since Andrew is a Junior in college . . . time does move quickly.

All of this hullabaloo brings to my mind the old debate of quality time verses quantity time.  You remember the arguments. “If you spend a large QUANTITY of time with your children then quality time happens by default at some point.” Or “You cannot spend hours with your children every day so make sure the time you do spend is of high QUALITY.  Make the time count.”

No matter which “Q” you line-up with (pun intended for my British friends), child-rearing still has much to do with TIME.

  • T – Togetherness:  Be with your children.  Play games with them.  Study with them.  Watch TV with them.  Walk (run) with them.
  • I – Invest:  Invest in your children.  Involve yourself in their lives.  Participate with them in activities you can both enjoy.  Attend their events (athletic competitions, musical events, scholar events, etc.)
  • M-Mentor: Train them.  Guide them through their physical and emotional growth.  Demonstrate what adulthood, marriage, and parenting should be.  Live a healthy work ethic in front of them.
  • E-Educate:  Parents, remember that we are our children’s first and primary teachers (I said this last Tuesday).  Teach your children to love learning and reading.  Teach them what they need to know to be responsible and productive adults.  That includes their spiritual and classical education.

-Scott

Bonus video: Cat’s in the Cradle:

 

Being a Good Christian

A wile back I saw a list of 23 rules of writing posted on Facebook recently.  The list had the following title: How To Write Good.  Here are my ten favorites of this list of 23:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  5. The passive voice is to be avoided. (That one is for you Ms. Crumpton – Sr. AP English Comp)
  6. Foreign words and phrases are never apropos.
  7. One-word sentences?  Eliminate.
  8. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  9. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  10. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it is highly superfluous.

After reading this list, I started thinking about a tongue-in-cheek look at living as a Christian.  Here is my submission: good christians

To Be a Good Christian

  1. Lovingly gossip about others.Learn to be patient with others, NOW!
  2. Make peace by coercing others to agree with you.
  3. Judging me makes you wrong.
  4. It is more blessed for them to give.
  5. Consider others before yourself when there is a job to do and you don’t want to do it.
  6. Always tell others when you do something nice for someone else, that way you are shining your light.
  7. Pray so that everyone sees you, and ridicules you, so that you are blessed by persecution.
  8. Let me get that speck out of your eye.
  9. And most importantly: Be humble, like I am.

–          Scott

What Would You Do?

WhatWouldYouDo

Occasionally I will watch the show by that name on ABC hosted by John Quinones. If you are not familiar with the show, let me explain. They hire actors to portray different characters, attitudes, and situations in a public setting. Hidden cameras catch the general public’s reactions and responses. The viewer often sees that common decency is not completely lost in this country. The scenario begins ends with the challenging question: “What would you do?”

Facebook memes pop-up on my feed asking, “Would you slap your brother/best friend for $1,000,000?” Why is that not a hard question . . . “Hey, Doug, where can we meet?”

The old jingle asks, “What would you do . . .  for a Klondike Bar?”

I guess the underlying thought to each of these are: How far are you willing to go? What is _____________________ worth to you?

How far are you willing to go?

  • For the One who created you?
  • For the One who died in your place?
  • For the One who sustains the universe?
  • For the One who delivers from wrath?

Jesus asked the same question, what is your soul worth? “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37.

He answers that the value of your soul is His blood, His life, His comfort, and Himself.

What would you do . . .  for the Savior?

-Scott

Confessions of a Disciple

Confessions

Confession. Simply put to confess is to acknowledge or agree to something. A confession carries with it the idea that my agreement is such that I will involve myself in any action that follows.

There are four confessions that we as followers of Christ make.

Four Confessions of Disciples

  1. We confess our sin to God. Ezra 9:6, ““O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.”  Nehemiah makes a similar confession in Neh 1:5-7, “Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” Notice that both confess the sin of their nation and their sin as well.
  2. We confess our sin to each other. James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” This is more than a response to the invitation or the altar call. It is an outgrowth of Christian relationships, where were are so connected that we can discuss our sins and pray for each other. This can happen over coffee or any time two or more can be together.
  3. We confess our faith in Jesus as Christ and Lord. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Rom 10:8-11. Jesus says, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matt 10:32-33. This is more that the moment we say we believe at church or at our conversion. This is anytime we have opportunity to proclaim His name and our faith.
  4. We confess by our walking daily with God. The Hebrew writer would call to hold fast. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Heb 10:19-23.

Here are the implications for my life:

  • If I verbally confess that Jesus is Christ and Lord, but live in open rebellion to His will, my action negate my words.
  • If I verbally confess in the omnipotence (all powerful nature) of God, yet live in fear of the opinion and ridicule of the world, my actions negate my words.
  • Confession without action is dead.

-Scott

Helping the Church . . .

 

On January 20, 1961 President John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of The United States. There are a few things to note: 1. He was the youngest elected president at 43 years old. (Theodore Roosevelt was younger at 42, but he was came into the office at the death of Pres. McKinley. 2. He was the first President not to wear a hat (top hat or fedora) at the inauguration thus ending the men’s fashion of wearing fedoras. (I am still struggling to forgive him for that.) 3. Some consider his Inaugural Address to be one of the most inspiring of the last half of the 20th Century.

 

It is his speech, particularly this one often quoted line that I think needs to be heard again and again in our nation today, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Can you imagine a nation full of people who work to better the nation instead of wanting government to better their lives?

I want to borrow from President Kennedy. I am stealing his sentence and changing a few words:

“And so, my fellow Christians, ask not what the church can do for you-ask what you can do for the church.”

How can I help the church?

  1. Pray for her. Pray for the local congregation. Pray for her leaders. Pray for the church around the world. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16b)
  2. Be involved. Be involved in what you can and what you enjoy. You do not have to do everything (even you preacher). But find a ministry or program that you are passionate about and jump in.
  3. Be inclusive. Welcome new people to your conversation circles, your ministry groups, or your small group. To say this another way, be friendly and welcoming.
  4. Be authentic. We need to let people know our struggles and lean on each other for support instead of being afraid to ask for prayers out of fear of looking weak. I appreciate the tender hearts of those who come asking for prayers for things going on in their lives. Recently, a brother in Christ responded to the invitation to ask for strength as he chooses to retire. Another brother recently ask the church to pray for his daughter who is not a Christian. In both cases the emotions were authentic and raw. Read James 5:13-16 and think how we can be better at sharing our struggles.
  5. Serve where you are. The work of the church is more than what goes on at the building. The work of the church is more than Bible classes, worship assemblies, devotionals, or college, youth, and children’s activities. The work of the church is where you are when you are there. Be observant. There is someone in your class, in your homeschool co-op, at the office, at the gym, or at work that needs serving. They may need talk to someone who will simply listen. They may need help with a child, aging parent, or other issues. They may be hungry. They may not think anyone cares. Show them that you do. Show them that Christ does. They just might be looking for Christ and don’t yet know it.
  6. Be a Christian. I keep hearing people describing Jewish culture and Islamic culture saying that Judaism and Islam are an ideology that impacts their everyday life as a way to explain the radicalism of those groups. My fellow Christians, the Way of Christ is supposed to impact our daily lives.  Jesus tells us to take up our cross (die to self) daily if we follow Him (Luke 9:23-26). I take that to mean that Christ’s teachings are my day in day out ideology that impacts my every decision from what I wear, to what I do, and where I go. Maybe that is radical to some, but that is who we are supposed to be.

Can you imagine a church full of people who are dying to self everyday and working to grow the church in spiritual and physical ways? So again I borrow from President Kennedy. I am stealing his sentence and changing a few words:

“And so, my fellow Christians, ask not what the church can do for you-ask what you can do for the church.”

-Scott

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 . . .

rbranches

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