I Owe, I Owe

typoramaTo misquote the song from Snow White, “I owe, I owe, its off to work I go . . . ”

Debt

Indebted! I do not like that word, nor do I like the idea such a word communicates. However, I admit that I am indebted to many people for many different reasons, you are too. I despise watching our hard earned money flow through my finger-tips via ink from a ball-point pen put to a rectangular piece of perforated paper that will bear a dollar amount made out to a creditor, insurer, or utility company complete with my signature authorizing the release of funds from my bank account. Such an effort reminds me that I am indebted to these people for loans, protection, or conveniences that I enjoy. Am I the only one who feels this way?

More Debt

There are other areas you and I carry debt. We are indebted to those who made us the successes we are. Your list probably includes, but is not limited too, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, neighbors, friends, and of course your teachers. All of these people had and have influence on you, the decisions you make, and the life you now live. How are you taking time to repay this debt? I challenge you to take time to thank them in some way. Send them a short note, drop them an email, give them a call, let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their efforts on your behalf. These people receive so much negative feedback in their lives, a little “warm fuzzy” from you may go a long way.

Even Greater Debt

There is still a greater debt you and I have to understand. This debt is bigger than your utility bill, your car loan, mortgage, credit card debt, and boat payment combined. This debt weighs heavier that the debt you owe those people who made you what you are. You and I have a debt that is greater than the national deficit. We have a debt of death!

Paul says in Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Falling short of God’s glory is sin and Paul adds three chapters later that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23a). Think about this for a moment . . . you and I owe the debt of our life simply because we sin.

I know what some of you may be thinking, “Wait one minute, Scott, what do you mean by ‘we sin?’ I am a good person, I have not committed any major crime, the worst I have done is __________________.”

OK, I understand. You are a relatively if not a highly moral person, but you are NOT perfect. I know you make mistakes, so you might as well admit it to yourself. Raise your hand if you have ever driven faster than the posted speed limit, cheated on a test or at work, lied to your parents (children or spouse), lied to a telemarketer about someone not being at home, not paid for a small item that the cashier forgot to scan, or kept the over amount of change she gave you. If you are guilty of any of these things (or things like them), you are guilty of falling short of God’s glory; you are guilty of sin and you owe the wages (debt) of death. Everybody, not just you, is guilty.

The problem with this indebtedness is that if I were to pay my own debt I would have to die a physical death and die an eternal spiritual death in separation from the Creator in a hell meant for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). Your situation is the same. Because we are sinful we can NEVER pay this debt. But thanks be to God who offers to pay the debt for us and to freely give us eternal life (Rom 6:23b) through Jesus as Christ.

That is the essence of the Gospel (good news) of Christ. The good news is that since Jesus was sinless as a man, his death paid the penalty for my sin and your sin. Because God raised Him from the dead we have assurance of eternal life in Christ, when we are in Christ as we obey that good news. Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 6:1-6 and Galatians 3:26-4:1 explain how we by faith obey that Gospel and get into Christ becoming heirs of the promises of God.

Once I understood my indebtedness of sin unto death, and realized reconciliation to God through Christ, I became indebted to them for my life and chose to live for them daily. Paul put it eloquently and succinctly in Philippians 1:21 and I leave you with his words, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

-Scott

Why Do You Show Up?

Why DoYou Assemble_I suppose there are a myriad of reasons why people assemble with the people of God. Some attend because their family expects them to be there. Some because friends expect them there.  Some attend out of guilt or shame. Some attend because they want to be with others.  There are those who attend because of a love for God. I talked with one politician who admitted he attended where he did because there were important people there from the area he represented. Maybe you have your own reason(s) for “going to church.”

What ever your reasons, I think that they fall under the influence of one or more or these motivators:

  1. Self
  2. Friends
  3. Family
  4. God / Christ

Why should we attend worship assembly? Again, there are many healthy reasons to assemble with Christians. I am not sure there is ONE best or only reason. However, a basic reason to attend worship focuses on God and Christ.  We assemble to praise the God who gave Himself for us. I believe that when we mature in our knowledge and understanding of what the Good News of our salvation in Christ is about, we cannot help but long to worship Him and to sing God’s praise among the congregation of His people. Take note of the Psalmist’s reasoning:

  • (Psa 22:22)  I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
  • (Psa 22:25)  From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
  • (Psa 35:18)  I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
  • (Psa 40:9-10)  I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
  • (Psa 68:26)  “Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
  • (Psa 107:32)  Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
  • (Psa 111:1)  Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

So, why do you assemble with the saved?

-Scott

Why Did He Do That?

Why_Maybe you are familiar with them. If you have a young child at home, you get and have a lot of questions. Maybe you can answer them. Maybe, just maybe, you no longer have questions you need to ask. Not me! I have plenty of questions. Some questions are serious, some are rhetorical, and some, like the following, just exist:

  • In the United States, why do we drive on parkways and park in driveways?
  • Why do convenience stores who are open 24/7 – 365 days of the year have locks on the doors?
  • Why when something comes by train, boat, or air it is cargo, but when by truck or over the road it is a shipment?

I realize the ridiculous nature of these questions, but there is one more. A question that disturbs me deep inside. A question I will never get the answer too until that day I see my Creator face to face. A question that moves me to action . . .

What motivates a righteous God to give His only Son of perfect righteousness to offer salvation to sinners – like me? (cf. 2 Cor 5:21; Rom 7:24-25) Why did He do that?

-Scott

For the Troubled Heart

Image-1Many of you may use YouVersion on your device as a Bible App. I opened it this morning to read a passage from Paul, but I decided to look at the “Verse of the Day” before I began and I never got to Paul.

“Let not your heard be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1).

Maybe the editors chose that verse because it is a Monday. For many today begins another work week. For some, they worked all weekend getting ready for the tasks this week, so they never really had a “weekend.” Maybe you are a preacher and you realize that Sunday is coming. Maybe you are retired, medically disabled, lonely, and wish you had a job to go to. For some reason Monday gets you down.

“Let not your heart be troubled.”

Contextually, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is about to return to the Father, that He will no longer be physically present with them. He is telling them about the place He is preparing for them in heaven with the Father. “I am going away, you want have Me around, but don’t worry. I am not leaving You aimless. I am coming back and you can be with Me again in my Father’s house.”

We can infer from the conversation that there is application to us. Look at John 14:6′ “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Yes, it is Monday. Yes life is difficult. Surely, life would be easier with Jesus physically by my side. But He is not here physically. Yes as a child of God, Christ abides in me and so does the Spirit. But some days, sometimes, when life seems tough, when everything seems to pull me down, and when my heart gets heavy I need to remember, “Let not your heart be troubled.” When all seems more than I want to bear, I remember that I am a child of God in Christ and that this life is not all there is to me. Christ is preparing an eternal home. Come to think of it, Paul says something about this,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”             (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:7)

-Scott

The Trump Card

 

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image via: funnyjunk.com

Every time I hear or read the name President Donald Trump, I think of some of the card games we played growing up. In some of those games a certain card or suit had a designation of power over the other cards (suits). There is a bit of irony in his name, in that many times President Trump considers himself to have the upper hand or final say. I suppose that comes from his business background and  – strong – personality.

 

The term trump card has become an idiom in our culture. It communicates the idea of something capable of making a decisive difference when used at just the right moment. For example you may be having a discussion at work about a certain project. Things seem to be going one direction when someone provides a piece of information that completely changes the direction of the project to their favor. That piece of information is a “trump card.”

The Ultimate Trump Card

Imaging that you are standing before God and the story of your life plays out before you. The prosecuting attorney is the accuser – Satan. He points out every sin, every idle word, every time you did what you were not supposed to do and every time you did not do what you were supposed to do. He highlights the lies you told, the times you cheated at school or work. He even shows what you were thinking. You grow increasingly embarrassed. As the timeline of your life progresses, you realize – really realize – how terrible you are. Your embarrassment turns to shame. Shame turns to feelings of guilt. You cannot bear to lift your head much less get off your knees before God.

The gavel sounds and you are ready for sentencing. Before you can even think of looking up your Advocate, your Lawyer, your Friend, the Savior Jesus the Christ speaks. “Father, this one belongs to me. Take my perfect righteousness and place it in his account. I take his sin as My own. This one is covered by my blood.”

The Father speaks, “Well done, enter my rest.” You look and the Father is speaking to you. Jesus was your trump card. At just the right moment He stepped in. Grace wins every time!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

-Scott

Spontaneous Praise

Enjoyment SpontaneouslyOverflowsintoPraiseI recently ran across the following quote from C. S. Lewis in another book, The original source is Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms.

“All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. . . . The world rings with praise — Lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game. . . . I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

I can continue. Fans praise their favorite team or coach. Drivers praise their favorite car or truck. Hunters praise their favorite green field. Shooters praise their choice of gun. New parents praise their babies and grandparents praise their children’s children. C. S. Lewis’ point holds true: What we enjoy spontaneously overflows into praise.

Enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.

If we praise our spouse, poets and authors, a vista, games, teams, forms of government, or economic structures more than we praise God in Christ what might that say about what we truly enjoy?

If I talk, sing, share more about things of this existence, what does that say about might spiritual focus?

I am just thinking and asking.

-Scott

Tell Me You Love Me

loveThank you.  Seriously, how do you tell others you love them? How do you know when someone loves you? These are basic questions and according to Dr. Gray Chapman vary from person to person. I recommend you read his book Five Love Languages. Sometimes people in a relationship do not feel loved not because they are not loved, but because they are not hearing in in their love language. Learning about these five languages will help you in your marriage, and it will also help in all other relationships.

Once I began to understand the points Dr. Chapman made, I started trying to apply the Five Love Languages to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I started trying to show people my love for them in a variety of ways so that they would know they are loved. (Confession: As I look back over these, I have become slack in a few areas.)

Five Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation. Some know they are loved when you tell them. They would say, “Tell me you love me. Use words. Tell me you appreciate what I do.” Mark Twain reportedly said, “I could live two months off a good compliment.”
  2. Quality Time. You don’t always have to say you love these people. They appreciate the time you spend with them. Love is spelled T-I-M-E.
  3. Receiving Gifts. Some people feel love when they receive a gift. That gift does not have to be expensive.  It could be a candy bar, a bottle of water, or a simple note on a card. It could be the wild flower a child brings Mom.
  4. Acts of Service. Others know they are loved when you do something. Open a door, carry a box, prepare a meal, help with a project, in other words look for opportunities to serve / help.
  5. Physical Touch. Extreme had a hit song nearly thirty years ago with an “unplugged” song – More than Words. The second stanza says,

“Now that I’ve tried to talk to you and make you understand,

All you have to do is closer your eyes

And just reach out your hands and touch me

Hold me close don’t ever let me go,

More than words is all I ever needed you to show,

Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me,

“Cause I’d already know.

As I look at these I realize God demonstrated love for all of us in Christ in all five of these ways.

Jesus Loves Me, This I know.

  1. He gives Words of Affirmation“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
  2. He spends Quality Time – He spent three years with the disciples, took time to be with Zacchaeus’ house, to dine with Mary and Martha, and promises, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
  3. He gives Gifts – Specifically the gift of grace. ” . . . the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  4. He willingly Serves – Jesus took up the towel and washed the disciples’ feet. Service is why He came, ” . . . the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
  5. He Physically Touched many – He touched lepers and took children in His arms (Mark 10:16).

Show those around you that you love them.

-Scott

Monday Morning Thoughts

follow christI’ve missed you.  I have not posted anything for a week. Maybe you have missed me too, maybe.

Last Tuesday I had surgery so I spent the rest of the week away from my study. I did have time to do a little extra reading between “recovery naps” and a LOTR and Hobbit movie marathon (all six in three days).

One of the books I am reading is Follow Me written by David Platt. Platt is giving me a lot to think about and his thoughts are driving my thoughts this morning. So I want to share them with you and I as you to share your thoughts with me.

One basic theme of Follow Me is that conservative Christians (David Platt is Southern Baptist) have missed the point about being a Christian. He points out that the “sinner’s prayer” is not in the Bible and suggests that its absence should bother us. He suggests that in our evangelistic efforts we have missed the point of what being a Christian is.  It is more that saying a prayer, it is more than walking an aisle, it is more than raising your hand, it is more than asking Jesus into your heart, and it is more than making Jesus the Lord of your life and it is more than accepting Him as your personal Savior. I add that being a Christian is more than hearing, believing, repenting, being immersed, and keeping rules of faithfulness. Being a Christian is following Christ.

Being a Christian is following Christ.

Christ calls us to take up our cross daily, to die to ourselves, to hate even our own life (Luk 9:23; Luk 14:26) if we are to follow Him.  Christianity is not about you and me. Yes, our salvation is in Christ, but ultimately Christianity is about Christ and following Him. Consider the words of the apostle Paul, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col 3:3). Notice a few important things in that passage:

  1. You (and I) have died. I do not exist any longer. Your identity is gone.
  2. Your (and my) life now is hidden with Christ in God. I belong to God. He has adopted you as His child. We are His.
  3. Christ is your (my) life. Don’t miss this. Christ is not first and I am not second. You and I are nothing and Christ is ALL!
  4. Your glory (my glory) comes not in life on earth, but when He appears. Life here is about Him, not about me.

What are your thoughts?

-Scott

 

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