Southern Chase

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back to the crowd.” — Max Lucado

Songs, stories, proverbs, etc. have told us for years that money can’t buy the things we really need (i.e. happiness, love, salvation), but we refuse to really believe them.

Lennon and McCartney told us that “money can’t buy me love,” but we still think that if we are more successful, that we will get that dream girl/guy. So why do we continue to chase after the “things in the World”? Worse than doing it ourselves is showing the younger generation, especially our own kids, that loving the World is the way to go.

John (the apostle, not Lennon) tells us “Do not love the World or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the World (1 John 2:15-16).” Those three things are the root of all sin.

Those three things are the root of all sin. David Shannon, who until recently was the preacher at my church and is now the president of Freed-Hardeman University, pointed this out in both classes and sermons. The motivation for all sin comes either from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. These are all things of this World, not of God.

We are constantly being tempted by things in one of these three categories, but Paul tells us in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” He echoes this sentiment in Philippians 4:8 when he says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

We need to stop chasing after things of the World, which are temporary, and instead, chase after Heavenly things, which are, obviously, eternal. Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount to not worry about Worldly things, “but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).” If we chase after God, God will meet us halfway and take care of us as a Father. This is the true meaning behind the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

So let’s keep in mind that having a great job, nice car, expensive house, fancy clothes, or a big bank account will NOT matter in the end. You can’t take it with you when you go! On that note, wouldn’t you rather chase the things that help you go to a better place?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Pride

“I wanna have pride like my mother had, but not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.”     — The Avett Brothers

Pride is a tricky thing. You should have pride and be proud, but you shouldn’t be prideful. It can be confusing. Hopefully, I can help to clear it up.

There are different definitions of the word “pride” that change how it can be used:

  1. “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” This is pleasure, joy, or a sense of achievement, as in “Take pride in a job well done.”
  2. “the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.” This is vanity, conceit, or self-admiration, as in “He refused the offer out of pride.”

Now, the first definition deals with self-esteem, and the second definition deals with self-love. The first is good, but the second is not; however, if you think about it, conceit is just self-esteem that is too high. So good pride can grow into bad pride.

Good pride is being proud of your family and heritage and not ashamed (i.e. patriotism). Bad pride is looking at your family and heritage as being better than that of others for whatever reason (i.e. racism). The difference comes in comparing one’s self and achievements with others.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).” This is probably one of the most famous Old Testament scriptures. It’s been used in plays, tv/movies, songs, and poems for years even secularly. But what does it mean? Is everyone who is prideful in danger of “falling”? Do only the haughty fall? No and no, we all know this is not true. It is a proverb from a father to his son or a teacher to his student that we should be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we are perfect and infallible. If we think this, we will miss mistakes that can be very costly. Spiritually, this mistake could ruin our souls.

Paul was dealing with prideful people when he wrote to the Corinthians. At the time, Corinth was considered to be one of the greatest cities in the world, a center for business, art, and philosophy, but the Corinthians had taken that civic pride a bit too far when they began comparing themselves to others and seeing themselves as better. Paul cautioned them to not look at success in the eyes of the World, but to surrender everything to the court of Christ and let Him be the judge. “But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this, but He who judges me is the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3-4).”

We don’t get to decide if we are “good enough” for Heaven. WE WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH TO DESERVE HEAVEN!! We don’t get to choose who gets in through the pearly gates. For this, I am glad. God is the only judge because He is perfect and blameless and has no bias. We cannot make this claim, at least not truthfully. “ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).”

So be proud of yourself, your achievements, your place of birth, your family, but realize that you are no greater than anyone else. “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Galatians 6:3).” Don’t let your pride get out of hand.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Strength

I’ve always been fascinated (mildly, mind you) by the World’s Strongest Man competition. These beefy, brawny behemoths gather in some third-world country and see how many things they can lift/throw or how fast they can carry/pull something heavy, and whoever does this best is crowned the World’s Strongest Man.

One of the actors on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones has competed in the WSM and placed second in 2016 and 2017, and he is currently Europe’s Strongest Man. His name is Hafþór (“Half-Thor”) Björnsson, and he is 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 440 lbs. His character is nicknamed “The Mountain who Rides”, and he is the real deal. He exemplifies strength, at least by the World’s standards. He once carried a 1,433-pound log on his back, which broke a record that had lasted for 1,000 years.

See, that’s what the World sees as “strong”. Physical acts of strength mean nothing to God. Look at King David, or rather, shepherd David. As a young boy, smaller and weaker than his older brothers, the prophet Samuel thought that he could not be God’s choice for the king of Israel, but God set him straight when He said in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not look at his appearance of his physical stature…the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Fast forward one chapter and little shrimpy David takes out the giant Goliath with a stone. Is this because David was secretly super strong? Nope, but David knew that there was a strength that he could use. “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1Sam. 17:37).”

He then walked up to Goliath, who stood 9’6″ (much more of a Mountain than Björnsson), with five smooth stones and a sling and had this to say: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands (1 Sam. 17:45-47).”

He took a stone and slung it into the giant’s forehead causing him to die. God delivered Goliath into David’s hands because the young man had faith in God. Now, this does not mean that just because we believe in God that we can be the World’s Strongest. It’s not a magic formula, but it gives us access to a power greater than anything in the World.

With the strength of God, we can stand up to those who would mock our faith and lifestyle. With the strength of God, we can resist temptations and be a good example to others. With the strength of God, we can overcome mistakes we have made and be better than before.

David, now a king, had a weak moment. He lusted after a married woman, committed adultery with her, and when he found out she was pregnant with his child, had her husband killed in battle. Then he married the woman and began to raise the son she bore him. Reading this, some of you might say that he had SEVERAL weak moments, and you would be right.

It was not until the prophet Nathan came to David with a story of a rich man who stole a poor man’s only lamb, which was precious to him, for a meal that David saw the error of his ways. “So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’ (2 Sam. 12:5-7)” David heard the judgment of the Lord that war would always be a part of David’s reign and that the son conceived in sin would die.

The boy got sick, and David neither ate nor slept for six whole days, but he prayed that God would spare the child. The boy died on the seventh day, and David got up, bathed, and ate. He showed true contrition (the state of feeling remorseful and penitent) in hopes that God would forgive, but when it was shown that He would not, he accepted God’s punishment. “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2 Sam 12:22-23).”

After all of the terrible sins David committed, he was still called a man after God’s own heart. How? David relied on God. When he messed up, he showed true penitence that can be seen in his Psalms (Ps. 51 and 32). He gave glory to God when he succeeded and took full responsibility when he failed. He showed a good, Godly example to those around him.

It would’ve been easy for him to take credit for himself or blame God or just be like everyone else in the World, but David had true strength from God. Worldly strength can help you win an arm-wrestling match, but Godly strength can help you win the tug-of-war on your heart against Satan. Where do you get your strength?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Uniform

Status quo. Stay in line. Don’t mess up. Don’t change your mind.

Left foot. Right foot. March the beat. Left foot. Right foot. Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t think for yourself at all. Listen to the Siren’s call.

“Just fit in. Be like us. Happy is homogenous.”

 

That’s when you hear a new beat appear in your ear.

“Follow your heart. Do your part. Be brave. Have no fear.”

Break the mold. Don’t do what you’re told.

The lemmings can goose-step, but you are too bold.

 

Conformity. Uniformity.

Catastrophe. It’s disastrous, see?

Go against the flow,

But don’t do it because I say so.

via Daily Prompt: Uniform

Unravel

via Daily Prompt: Unravel

“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'” John 16:31-33 NKJV

One of my coworkers organized some Easter week devotionals at school. This was her verse for today, and I believe it is no coincidence that “Unravel” was the prompt for today.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. Repeat.

This seems like such an easy process, and it usually is, until we worry. When we get really stressed, breathing becomes a difficult chore. Labored breathing is an abnormal respiration characterized by evidence of increased effort to breathe, including the use of accessory muscles of respiration, according to Wikipedia.

Stress kills. This is a scientific fact. Worrying and stressing about things, even things that seem to be very important, can turn hair gray, cause wrinkles, cause stomach ulcers, and overwork your heart.

The world does a really good job of wearing us down. Like an old sweater that has been worn so many times and begins to unravel, we can start to come apart at the seams.

Christ tells us in his last days that we should “be of good cheer” because He has beaten everything that could beat us, even death. Now, this does not mean that everyone can live stress-free. He says that “in Me you may have peace.” This means that true peace can be found in Christ and not elsewhere.

In the 1990’s, there was a popular bumper sticker/t-shirt that simply stated: “No God? No peace. Know God? Know peace.” Yes, it’s catchy and quippy, but it’s also true.

When life is trying to unravel you, and it will because Christ said, “In the world, you will have tribulation,” turn to the Lord for peace. Then, breathe.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Words of Inspiration

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

There are many things to fear today. Will I get into a car wreck? Will my house burn down or be broken into? Will today be when the zombie apocalypse begins? Serious concerns, of course, but why do we worry about these things as Christians?

We are the children of the all-mighty creator of the universe! That’s an incredible guardian! 

Now, does this mean that when you become a Christian that nothing will ever go wrong? Not even close. Christ even said it would happen, but we should be grateful. 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:10-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It seems counterintuitive to be happy when people are persecuting you, but a lot of the teachings of Jesus seem that way if you haven’t completely given him control. Don’t get it twisted; I struggle daily with giving control of my life to God.

I am the son of a great worrier, so worrying and being afraid of things are bred in me from my mother; however, my mother knows that when she is stressed/worried/afraid about anything she can pray to God for strength and comfort. She knows that the God of Abraham, Joseph, David, and many other great men and women is with her. 

If a force that powerful is deeply interested in loving and caring for you, what could frighten you? Accept the love and care of God, and take heart in knowing that even if bad things happen that God will take care of you. 

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Super (Bowl) Observations

Wow.

It has taken me a day to process exactly what happened Sunday night. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in the most dramatic fashion imaginable by overcoming a 25-point deficit to win in the Super Bowl’s first-ever overtime game. This was amazing for them.

However, what most are overlooking is what allowed the Patriots to make this improbable comeback. The Atlanta Falcons had the number one offense in the league this year, led by quarterback and league MVP Matt Ryan and a strong running game.

All 28 of Atlanta’s points were scored in the second quarter, and they led 28-3 at halftime. Now, any ten-year-old kid who has played a Madden video game will tell you what to do in this situation if you are the team in the lead: RUN THE BALL!!!

Unfortunately, the Falcons did not do this. In fact, they only ran the ball five times in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta is holding on to an eight-point lead with a little over four minutes remaining. Ryan hits receiver Julio Jones (Bama boy!) for a highlight-reel catch down to the Patriots’ 22-yardline. Everyone was sure that the Falcons would run the ball three consecutive times, force New England to burn their timeouts, and then kick a fairly simple field goal, putting the game practically on ice.

Regrettably, they opted to pass, took a sack, then committed a holding penalty, which took them out of field goal range, allowing the Pats to do what they did. This series was an example of terrible coaching, but it is not the full extent of the issue.

Why did the Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan abandon the run game after halftime? Why did head coach Dan Quinn allow this and choose not to take over? I feel that I have the answer.

Complacency. It is defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing, situation, condition, etc.”

Atlanta did what we sometimes do when things are going well in our lives: they took their foot off the gas. They thought they could coast to victory, but Tom Brady and company had other plans.

As easy as it could be to write this from the Patriots perspective and make it about determination and never giving up, I feel that the Falcons give us as vital of a lesson, and that is that we should never stop fighting until the fight is finished.

The apostle Paul says to us in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives a prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (NKJV) As much as this society wants everyone to get a prize just for trying, only one team can win the Super Bowl trophy. There are no ties. There are no participation ribbons. There is a winner, and there is a loser.

There is no point in our lives when we have “made it” or achieved perfection to the point where we deserve Heaven, and we do not have to try anymore. We will never be good enough to earn eternal life, but we can fall away and pass the point of no return.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” This is a very hard doctrine to accept, but the Bible does not preach “Once saved, always saved.”

We should continue to strive to live a life worthy of wearing the name of Christian. It is not a walk in the park, but a daily battle. It is not a pointless fight, but there is a great reward. This is why Paul later in 1 Corinthians 9 said that “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Never give up. Never stop fighting. It ain’t over til the fat lady sings, so don’t try to coast to the finish line. Let the 2016-17 Atlanta Falcons be a cautionary tale of how tragic complacency can be.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.