As my wife and I embark on a five-week weight loss challenge, each of us will be faced with temptations to overcome. She and I both love chocolate. I devour all kinds of bread. She enjoys candy and nibbling on snacks throughout the day. I have been known to consume a soft drink or two. But as challenging as these pleasures will be to forego, there is a larger motivation at work. And you could call it, too, a temptation. I am tempted by the challenge to reach a goal in the allotted time. I am tempted by the way I’ll feel and look and certain clothes will fit when I hit the mark. Those are good temptations for me. They will help keep me on track when my stomach gets to growling or someone breaks out the Double Stuf Oreos. And hopefully, when it’s time for the final weigh-in, I will have gotten what I bargained for.
There are plenty of temptations for good that Christ has made available in scripture to His children, if we can acquiesce to His unique economy. Jesus said for those tempted to be exalted, you can get there by humbling yourself. If you are tempted to show your good works, then do them where no one can notice. And if by chance you are tempted to know the God of the universe and all that He has in store for you, then give Him your life and die. The problem with these good temptations is that we quickly grow tired of their appeal. Their satisfaction is real, but it’s an acquired taste, fostered by time and tempered with sacrifice. That path offers fewer bells and whistles than the quick yet shallow rewards immediately available to us all. It might sound good Sunday morning, but by Monday afternoon we’ve moved on.
But be advised, if you are tempted to follow a real King, then He will most certainly call you to task. His greatest desire is to have worshippers. And since all of mankind was made to worship, you’re going to scratch that itch, one way or another, sooner or later. But if you’ll let Christ be the answer to your temptations, you’ll get so much more than you bargained for. You’ll get all of God turning you into all that you were meant to be. And that is very tempting.
Probably like you, I am in full Olympic mode, which means I’m fighting sleep so I can watch the next American hopeful in the Olympics at Rio. We get to revel in Michael Phelps swimming for record setting gold medals. I rejoiced in Simone Manuel’s gold winning performance as the first African-American to win a medal in swimming. I was inspired by Katie Ledecky’s dominating grit. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and the rest of the women’s gymnastic team were dazzling in their performances. Every night is presenting another attempt for glory. I’m even reading For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr, by Duncan Hamilton, to round out by olympic saturation.
Despite NBC presentation of the Olympics, the faith of Olympians seems to be looming in the performances, like “Christ the Redeemer” statue stands over Rio de Janeiro. I first noticed this in an interview with Michael Phelps describing his post 2012 personal meltdown. The words he used to describe the difference of today versus then seemed to ring of a new Christian understanding of self and life. The second clue was he reference of Ray Lewis, an outspoken Christian, as a mentor. Later I learned that it was The Purpose Driven Life book, by Rick Warren, that was used to bring change in Michael’s life. Then I wondered at a commercial describing Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refuge who saved the life of fellow refugees by pushing and pulling a broken boat through the Aegean Sea. Yes, I later find out that she too is a believer. There is the exuberant praise to God from Simon Manual, the picture of Usain Bolt kneeling in prayer on the track, and there is so much more. You can read more about Olympians who put God above their sport here.
However, one particular interview capture well this relationship between sport and their identity in Christ. Watch this interview with David Boudia and Steele Johnson after their dives.
All of these public expressions of faith matter, for their is a battle going on for glory. Every Olympic scorecard is an expression of glory. The only question will be who gets the glory. In the score cards of your life, who is getting the glory?
Last week Jarrod talked in his blog about one day seeing the countless stars in the sky, a view that only a Creator could create ( Gen. 1:31 ). The next day he saw the effects of neglect and poverty on a community that had been forgotten by man, but found within it a silver lining, confirming they had not been forgotten by God.
Yesterday I had a similar experience. I was able to stand within a few feet of a huge waterfall spilling down from the mountaintops into a beautiful lake. However, right next to it was an aging glacier, once majestic and now scarred with dirt and rock, receding 20 feet every year, destined to nearly disappear in my lifetime. I know many will disagree with me on the cause of its demise, but as I moved my eyes from the waterfall to the glacier and back again, I could not help but see the contrast between God’s creation untouched (the waterfall) and God’s creation damaged by man (the glacier receding from climate change).
Sin is typically discussed on a personal, individual level (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23). That is critically important since we can only be saved on a personal, individual basis (Romans 10:9-13). However, the impact of our collective sin nature can so easily be seen in the world around us. For some reason, theological warning bells go off in the minds of many Christians when the issue of the destructive nature of human intervention on our planet is discussed. I would offer the point that personal sin is amplified, not muted, as we cohabitate as stewards of God’s workmanship ( Gen. 1:28 ). If one does not accept man’s sin nature tied to global warming, there are no shortages of other examples to point to. Remember the industrial smog in China for the 2008 Olympics? The pictures of residents wearing masks as a normal course of life. In 2012, it was London who had to temporarily reduce its auto traffic by 30% in the weeks leading up to the Olympics in order to bring emissions levels under predetermined requirements. Today’s news is about concerns in Rio for the 2016 Olympics, as more than 10% of athletes will be exposed to water that is thousands of times above accepted limits for untreated human waste.
There is a tipping point. Have we reached it? Are we past it? Who but God knows. He is patient with us ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ) but we all know the end of the story (2 Pet. 3:10 ), when our stewardship over this old earth ends and He wipes everything clean, for eternity. I would expect that, when we no longer have a sin nature, we will take much better care of our home. In the mean time, we need to recognize the pervasiveness of sin and, more importantly, be about our Father’s business ( Luke 2:49 ) ( James 4:14 ).
Is it ever good to be forgotten? I suppose it depends on who is forgetting you. Two nights ago I was standing outside in a dark mountain valley, cut off from the technology that surrounds us (I barely survived no cellular and wifi service). Without the small light of a screen, I looked up to see the millions of starlights that were immensely bigger than our earth, but diminished in appearance by the billions of light years distance. Once again my mind reeled and imagination failed to grasp the depth of space. Yet Isaiah 40:26 commands us, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Not one of those brilliant dots were misplaced and each subject to the will of the Maker.
The next day I was in another technology challenged corner of the world in Lynch, Kentucky. Everywhere I looked, evidence was shown of a place and people being forgotten. It is a town built by a corporation that the business disregarded fifty years ago. A town being disregarded by its own people. The buildings show decades of neglect, the infrastructure is barely there. The people show little hope and addictions of the town give evidence. However, it is here that I see a sign stating “In God’s name, serving those who are underserved.” It is here, that I hear the stories of God answering prayers in miraculous manner for a people who will call on their Lord. It is the forgotten place that God has shown His presence. The God who is the Maker and Master of all space is the same one who speaks to the forgotten of us.. This to show that within one soul is the treasure that our maker seeks. One 8 year old little girl has the great capacity to glorify God in trusting relationship that cannot be matched by a sky filled with stars. The world may forget you, but the One who made the world does not forget you.
As we consider this thought of dealing with the headlines of today I was wondering…. is it ok be worried? I mean why shouldn’t we worry? It seems like every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or read an article there is another tragedy going on somewhere in the world where lives are threatened and even taken in a senseless fashion. Even today we are hearing about an 84 year old Priest who was brutally killed by a terrorist at his church in France. It continues to look like there is no place and no person immune to the possibility of exposure to this type of danger. We’ve seen it happen at all times of the day, in all types of places and to all types of people, so why shouldn’t we worry that it could happen to us tomorrow?
Here’s why…..God has told us not to, that’s why.
In Matthew 6:34 He tell us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is it’s own trouble.”
So there it is, He tells us we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because the truth of the matter is that we don’t belong to tomorrow, and we don’t belong to this world, we belong to Him. Let’s face it, no matter how much we worry or how hard we try, we are limited in our ability to protect ourselves and our families. We can’t add another day to our lives and we certainly can’t eliminate the threats of this world on our own.
So if we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow what should we as believers do?
He give us the answer to that in Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The real truth is that our reliance is in Him and Him alone. The question that faces us each day is do we believe it? Do we trust Him or do we trust ourselves? Is it Thy will be done or my will be done?
According to His word, if we are willing to take it all to him in prayer and trust in Him – that is when we will find the “peace that passes all understanding” for today and tomorrow.
What do we do when the news that once horrified us now is common place? Even as I write this, the news outlet broadcast another Isis attack on a train in Germany. Nice, France, Germany, Paris, Orlando, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas are all locations of tragedies that blur in our mind in the last two months. We are no longer able to function by giving days of mourning for the latest mass killings. I have wondered if the American flag will ever be other than half-staffed. A danger with this new normal is our indifference. Elie Wiesel has written, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Life is wonderful, yet dark. There is so much love in this world, and hate. These incongruencies reveal the christian truth that our world society is inconsistent and contradictory because it has rejected God’s authority. When we see how dark this world can be it shows us how great the light of Christ is and will be in this world. Colossians 1:19-20 declares that “For in Him (Christ) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
So what does God do with this horror of our news? He gives his blood on the cross to make peace. He is not indifferent! He has given to us this message to declare and to demonstrated the kingdom of his beloved Son while we walk in a dark kingdom.
John 15:11 tells us “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”.
Often times the words joy and happiness are used interchangeably in our world today. In fact, the dictionary defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something good or satisfying. It defines happiness as being delighted, pleased or glad over a particular thing.
For us, here in modern day America, there are many things that promise to give us this worldly defined joy or happiness. Companies spend millions of dollars every year towards marketing and advertising with the goal of convincing us that their product or service will bring us this happiness. Since 2003 McDonalds has been using the catchy jingle “I’m Loving it”. Recently, Coca-Cola decided to change their 5 year-old “Open Happiness” slogan with the new and improved “Taste the Feeling”. As funny as it may seem to find happiness in a #2 combo or a cold 16 oz. bottle of soda, it works in convincing America to choose them. The marketing strategies of these two companies goes right along with all the other things in our culture today that promise to bring us happiness. Our culture tells us that if we work hard in our career we will make more money or get that promotion and be happier. If we gain lots of friends and are well liked or followed on Social Media, then we will be happier. If we discipline ourselves to healthy living and exercise, then we will be happier. Don’t forgot about being a fan of that winning sports team that always brings you happiness. Or maybe there is something else we do or strive for to find our happiness. If they were removed tomorrow or we became unsuccessful in our attempts would we still be happy? And is this happiness really the same thing as the joy that Jesus speaks of in John 15:11?
When Jesus says in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. The meaning of joy here is much different than any happiness that the world can offer. Jesus speaks this passage as He teaches about being the vine, the Father being the vinedresser, and that we are the branches that are to bear much fruit. As we obey and follow Christ in our lives and seek Him in His Word daily we become filled with a joy that this world we live in cannot give. When we do His will in our lives it will produce a lasting and increasing joy that’s unexplainable on worldly terms. There is an overwhelming joy when we bear much fruit in the name of Christ and realize that this is something we could never produce in our own strength. It’s a joy we get as we live life and share the gospel with others that do not know Him. In this world there is nothing else that we can surrender to, follow, and obey that will give us this Joy that Jesus promises to give us. So today, follow Christ, surrender to Him, believe and trust in Him by seeking His Will, and allow Him to fill you with an everlasting Joy.
Recently, I have been thinking about the words we speak as believers, especially the 4-lettered variety. No not “love” or any 4-lettered words, but the more infamous variety. So what makes a bad word “bad”? It has to be more than just the sound of the letters , or even the object or action referred to by the words. Many of the antecedents of the words are references to theological concepts or primary to life. In fact, it is the twisting of a beautiful and /or sober idea or action into something derogatory or flippant that can make a word “bad.” However, the biggest determinant in making a word “bad” is the motive behind the usage. For example, if my goal is to belittle a person or express my disdain than whatever words, 4-lettered or not, have become “bad.”
So is there any place for salty language for the Christ-follower? It could be argued that Jesus, the psalmist, and Paul used some choice language to describe the work of sin and Satan in the lives of people. There is a place for hatred of sin among the Christ-pursuer and the language could reflect that emotion. However, even at the moment it should be a word that is specific to that emotion and not a word that references a beautiful act, which is a problem for the “F-bomb.”
Someone might argue that the culture no longer assigns original meaning to those words, and thus not “bad.” I am thinking specifically of the military culture in this case. Not being in the military, I find it difficult to weigh in on this subject. However I would note that when many veterans assimilate back into American culture, especially with children, the language often changes. There is something to the reason why that happens.
However, our language will reveal the most dominant culture in which we are exposed. Despite, being born and raised in North Carolina, my accent reveals more of the New England and Mid-west influence of the friends with whom I grew up. So to, though we live in this world, may our language reveal more of the influence of Christ’s Spirit by whom we grow up. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”. Colossians 3:17
Pastor Jarrod Scott
So a week ago I came home from church to hear what happened in Orlando. Throughout the week, the news of three events (murder, mass murder, and young child drowning due to alligator) were both horrifying and appalling. In such times, I often think about how Jesus responded to similar news. Luke 13:1-5 gives an account when Jesus heard about how Pilate slaughtered some people and another incident where a tower fell and killed 18 people. In both cases, Jesus made a clear point that the fatalities were not due to a greater degree of sin in the victim’s life. In fact, his answer seems to imply that not only could it also happen to you, something will happen to you.
In the span of 5 verses, Jesus repeats two times, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Not necessarily the message of comfort we want to hear in such times, but certainly one that gives life. Jesus is making it clear that we live by God’s mercy and His mercy alone, so respond in kind by leaning into His mercy and realign our heart to God’s character. Jesus’ command flows out the prophet’s observation “that it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, they are new every morning, Great is His faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-32). When tragedies hit and our ears are filled with the sounds of siren, thank God for his mercies, but also pray that those impacted would know God’s mercy in that time.
Pastor Jarrod Scott
James 4:14 makes the point that we “do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Think of a length of string that starts at the pulpit and runs down the aisle, out the door and continues on as far as one can see. Consider the first inch of that string as our time on this earth, and the rest representing our time after death. Our life on this earth is like that mist that one sees on a cool morning. When the sun come out it disappears quickly, just as our time on this earth is infinitely short compared to eternity.
2 Peter 3:11 challenges us to lead holy and godly lives, given that the Lord can take us home at any time. From last week’s blog, we need to live heavenly-minded lives by telling others about what lies beyond the grave.
Today, so much of our culture is based on shades of gray. Moral absolutes are fading into the background as tolerance for individual preferences, regardless of Scriptural mandates, takes precedence. What we know as a Christian is that there are no shades of gray on the other side of the grave. The lack of sin and the ability to see God face-to-face (1 Cor. 13:12) brings clarity in all things.
1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love
Prayer – “Lord, please give me opportunities to share your love and truth while there is still time.”