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 Discussions

I like to argue. Anyone who knows me knows this. It’s not that I just like to pick fights, but I feel that I wouldn’t have my opinion without good reason, and you are going to have to show me how and why I am wrong. If you can, I will submit that you are right, and I am wrong; however, if you can’t, I’m not going to just drop it.

This tenacity may seem like a good quality (strong self-esteem and all that), but what if I were to take that into a different arena like religious beliefs? The definition of faith is believing in something that you may not necessarily be able to prove, so if someone disagrees with me, I should be able to debate my position and show my opponent the error of his or her ways, right? Wrong.

The apostle Paul, who was one of the most knowledgeable men in the New Testament when it came to the Scriptures and a Godly life. You would expect Paul to be on my debate team with the purpose of showing others the Gospel by crushing their theories, but he most definitely would not.

In his second letter to Timothy, he says to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26).”

Now, I see plenty of people who call themselves Christians who post on social media about controversial topics, seemingly in the interest of expressing their faith; however, all it does is stir up trouble with those who believe the opposite. Before you get mad at me for talking bad about you, just know that I am as guilty as any in this regard. I have made those posts about same-sex marriage that condemn homosexuals for their lifestyles and “Smh…” (Shaking my head) at folk who express other views contrary to my own. Do you think I have lots of responses from those people telling me how my comment really made them contemplate their choices and decide to repent and be baptized? You shouldn’t.

My friend, John Michael Kennedy, is the Involvement Minister at Mt. Juliet Church of Christ. He wrote an article about being a Christian in America and was part of my inspiration to write this blog. He said, “When I read the Gospels, I find a Jesus who likes focusing more than fighting. He seemed to focus more on God’s kingdom and his mission than speaking out on the day’s cultural hot points. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus cared about the news around him, but he cared more for God’s kingdom. It is through reading the Gospels that another thought occurs to me; where did we get this urge to fight tenaciously for our beliefs? I don’t find this urge in the Gospels, or the rest of the New Testament for that matter. I find this concept of fighting for beliefs within my American culture. It’s an American thing. I don’t think it should be adopted as a Christian thing. The Jesus of Scripture does not fight with and manipulate people.” He goes on to say that Jesus saved his harshest criticism for the Pharisees and teachers of the law – those who shared his religion – and was kindest to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Shouldn’t we, as Christians, be more like Christ?

When I was in college at THE University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), every spring we had a man who called himself Brother Jonah who would come to campus, stand in front of the student center with a Bible in his hand, and scream condemnation on everyone who passed by, calling the female students “whores” and the male students “drunkards” and “fornicators”. If anyone came by that he even remotely thought looked like a homosexual, woe be to that student, for hell fire and brimstone rained down upon them from the lips of the righteous Brother Jonah. Lots of students would gather around to listen to him shout and watch him stomp his feet in “righteous indignation” as he proclaimed that God had commanded that he bring the Bible to the heathens. They watched because it was entertaining to see who would get riled up at his accusations. Campus police were always there for his protection.

I once tried to reason with him and brought up Romans 3:23 that says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” in order to curb his condemnation, but he simply replied that he had sinned in the past, but was perfect now. I realized then that there was no convincing him that what he was doing was only hurting the Church by turning others away and making them think that all Christians were like him.

No one wants to be the guy on the street corner screaming at the wicked and beating them with Bibles, but how often do we unknowingly browbeat others on the Facebook corner? How many times do we tweet things that will only stir up trouble? This is not what Christ had in mind when He told us to “[G]o therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).” The Great Commission does not give us permission to persecute sinners like we aren’t just like them.

Instead, we should seek to teach patiently and in humility correct those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth. It is God who grants salvation, not us. We do not decide who will be in Heaven, so we should stop wielding the Gospel like a hammer and start showing God’s love through our actions. We are not God’s hand to express His vengeance. We are His emissaries to lead others to Him. So the next time you want to post about someone’s “un-Christian behaviors”, check your motives. Are you truly trying to show people the way, or just assert yourself by putting someone else down? Love conquers all, not force.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

Southern Gratitude

When someone does something nice for you, you thank them. Momma taught me that as a child and made sure it stuck as I got older. It’s called gratitude, and it’s a lost art. Most of you probably know that, and are shaking your heads because you think I’m talking about the kids.

You’re wrong.

Well, kids struggle with it too, but how can you blame young people for not learning something that has to be taught by parents? Adults have forgotten the art of the Thank You. It’s a simple skill. Just say “Thanks” when someone holds the door open for you, wave when someone lets you over on the interstate, or write a note to someone showing appreciation for the gift they gave you, and you have shown gratitude. Seems simple, right? Then tell me, why is it so rare?

Gratitude has been replaced by entitlement. People have confused gifts and kindnesses with their “rights”. They think that they are supposed to have these things, that they are owed them. The saddest part about this situation is that most people don’t even realize it. This is saddest because they were never taught gratitude.

Parents, teach your children to be thankful for what they have and for what they are given. The best way you can teach this is by your own actions. The old adage holds true that actions speak louder than words. Children learn by watching and imitating.

My wife is an excellent example of this. When she is given a gift, she writes a thank you note to the giver. This note is more than just a simple “Thank you for the _______. I appreciate it.” kind of letter. She has actually gotten thank you notes for her thank you notes! Why does she do this? She does it because her mother did it and still does. Her mother does it because her mother did it and still does. I never knew my wife’s great-grandmother, but I would bet that she wrote thank you notes as well.

My first child, a girl, will be born this May. I have wondered how I will be as a father. I hope I won’t be terrible, and if I am conscious about my words and actions, I won’t be. For those wondering, yes, I will have these blogs printed out and on hand, so I won’t become, or raise, the people about whom I rant.

The Bible tells of three things that will last when all else fails: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest is Love. Most people mistake love as a romantic Valentine’s Day thing, but you’re wrong again. God is love. In fact, 1 Corinthians 13, what is mostly referred to as the “love chapter” and read at weddings, does not include the word “love” in the King James version. It says charity, which has the definition: “The voluntary giving of help to those in need.”

Charity is caring for others. Is this not also love? If you care for others, and “do unto other as you would have done to you,” would this not include showing gratitude? Therefore, showing gratitude is showing love. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is like it: love others.

Peace. Love. Roll Tide

Southern Forgiveness

It was late at night on December 8, 2012. My grandmother says that nothing good happens after midnight, and on this night, she was right. Josh Brent and Jerry Brown, Jr., both of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, were headed home after a night of partying. Brent, a 320-pound defensive tackle, was driving at speeds of around 110 miles per hour with a blood alcohol content of 0.18, which is more than twice the legal limit. For a man of that size to have a BAC that high, he was really trying to get drunk.

Brown, a linebacker on the Cowboys practice squad, was sitting in the passenger seat of his close friend’s Mercedes. The 25-year-old was due to become a father in less than two months. That sweet little girl will never know her father because Brent’s car hit a curb and spun out of control. When officers first arrived at the scene, they found Brent trying desperately to pull his friend and teammate’s body from the wreckage.

Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years’ probation. He was released this past June and spent the final 45 days of his sentence in rehab. Yesterday, the 26-year-old was reinstated to his team and is being given a second chance. He will have to serve a ten-game suspension, making his approximate return this November.

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, is giving the fourth-year man out of the University of Illinois a second chance; however, the part of the story that got to me was the victim’s mother, Stacey Jackson.

If my child was taken from me for reasons outside of his control, I would be bitter. I admit it. I would be angry and probably hold a grudge, but that is not what Jackson did.

“I’m very happy Josh has been reinstated with the Dallas Cowboys!” Jackson said. “My beautiful son is in Heaven now, and Josh has to be given a chance to live his life and do something for someone else! We all make mistakes, and we all have an entrance date and an exit day. Although I miss Jerry every day, I know he would be very happy that Josh has another chance to play football!”

Wow. I was stunned. This woman showed the attitude of Christ better than any sermon I have ever heard, and I’ve heard some good ones (Hello to all the preachers out there). Christ taught us to turn the other cheek and to forgive those who wrong us not seven times, but seventy times seven. We know this, and when people commit minor offenses against us, it is easy to forgive them. We can forgive someone lying to us, yelling at us, or even cheating on us. How many of us would forgive the one who killed a child of ours?

When asked about her forgiveness, Jackson replied: “Josh doesn’t have to answer to you or me. He has to answer to God, about what he has done with his second chance. Who has he helped with this opportunity that he has been given! I have to answer to why I didn’t forgive him and live out my life with taking care of my family.” This is a woman who has what my preacher refers to as “Kingdom vision”. She has her eyes on the Kingdom of God and lives her life in that Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not just some place that we hope to go to when we die. The Kingdom of God is here and now.

The next time someone wrongs you, even if it is a serious wrong, remember the words of Christ. If that does not help you to forgive and live your life free from the pain of vengeance, remember the example of Stacey Jackson. She is a living sermon. Are you listening?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.