Monday, October 17, 2016

Leaders Do Not Look to a Lottery by David O. Cofield

The state of Alabama is experiencing financial challenges like our the federal government  and many other states.  Our leaders are saddled with the task of what to do in such a crisis.

In 1998, Governor Don Siegleman was elected Governor of the state of Alabama on a pro-lottery platform and the following year it was soundly defeated in a state-wide vote. 

This year, Governor Bentley and others in the Senate and House purposed a state-wide lottery to help raise revenue for Medicaid and other state needs.  He promised a state-run lottery would be a "permanent solution" to the state's financial problems.

We know this is not true.

When asked repeatedly why senators and representatives were promoting this and the lottery legislation, the same line was given, "The people want to vote on it."

While there may be truth in that statement, the overarching truth is real leaders in the state of Alabama do not look to a lottery.

Leadership is not permitting the people to do whatever they want to do.  Leaders are not in our place of government to simply poll the people to determine what they want and then propose legislation to provide it.

The very purpose of a leader is they see problems other people do not see, create solutions to those problems and then sell the people on the problem and solution.  Leaders do not permit the people to lead, otherwise they vacate their role as a leader.

In fact, if the majority of the people wanted something that a leader knew was bad for them, he has a moral obligation to seek to show why their way is wrong and propose a more suitable solution.

Even thought Governor Bentley was the one proposing this lottery this year, at least last year he proposed tax increases to meet the financial demands.  That is leadership. 

No Alabamian wants to pay more taxes, but if the state is having financial issues that demand more revenue; then it is the responsibility of leaders to convince the people of Alabama of that need and convince them of the best and right solution.

Since the lottery bill failed in August, I will not use this space at this time to share why a lottery is a bad economic idea; other than to say it is the worse form of taxation.

And for us who believe the lottery is a bad idea, let us know the lottery did not fail in August due to our representatives having a change of heart and voting it down.  It failed because the supporters of gambling did not get all they wanted in this bill (casinos); thus they voted the lottery bill down so they can come back at a later time and get the lottery plus more gambling.

But my point today is leadership.

The core of a leader is they see a better future for the people they are leading and they must move to deliver it.  The problem is the people do not see it.

President John Adams was quoted in a book by his name written by David McCollough as saying, "The people I lead may not know what they need. But one thing I know, a man must be sensible of the errors of the people, and upon his guard against them, and must run the risk of their displeasure sometimes, or he will never do them any good in the long run."

Leaders lead against the tide of displeasure against them, not the approval of people behind them.

Ronnie Floyd in his book "Forward" says, "Leaders are able to lead people to go further than they would have gone on their own."

They see a better future, they want a better future.

Whether it is Thom Rainer, Ronnie Floyd, John Maxwell, John Kotter - leadership always take a people to a better future.

President Barak Obama was elected with the sun of a "Hope and change" shining brightly in our faces.  Even though I did not vote for him, I still was hopeful in 2008 that he could deliver that for America. 

That is partially what a leader does.  He creates a brighter future in our minds, but then delivers it.   

To our elected officials in Alabama, be authentic leaders - show us a better way and lead us there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

From the Shepherd's Heart...Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What a big weekend we had with:

*  5K and Fun Runs
*  Fall Festival
*  Car Show
*  BBQ Cookoff and plates

The final totals are not in but we were able to raise a lot of money for our Mobile Mission Trip.

Thanks to all who were involved in the planning and implementation of the weekend.

Reminder - tonight the Adults will be meeting in the Locker Room at 6:10 due to Puppets needing the Auditorium.  Everything is going tonight and I hope you will be here.

Pray for Roxanne as she as minor surgery tomorrow to remove the stimulator.

Sunday begins Puppet week and what a wonderful week it will be.  I appreciate Greg and all who work so hard to make this a tremendous week.  Just a note...I am in the script this year.  BEWARE!!

Love you church family.

Parent..Child Dedication Services by David O. Cofield

One of the joys of serving as a pastor is dedicating parents-children to the Lord.  I have had the privilege of dedicating my own grandchildren plus other family members plus hundreds of precious children in the churches I have served.

I know many churches do group dedications on special days like Mother's Day, Father's Day or Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  While this is great, I prefer to have dedications on a more personal basis throughout the year.

Since the service takes less than 5 minutes, I see it is appropriate to do a service for just one family at the close of a service.

So, if you would like to have a parent-child dedication service, please email me or contact me personally to schedule a day.  Normally, we can do whatever day is best for you and your family.

Monday, October 10, 2016

What God Does With Your Sin by Tim Challies

Sometimes it’s better to show than to tell. Sometimes it’s more effective to rely on illustration than description. Maybe this is especially the case when we are distressed, ashamed, or sorrowful, when emotions threaten to displace reason. In those moments, God comforts us not only with descriptions of what he does with our sin, but also with vivid illustrations. Are you distressed by what you’ve done? Do you hear whispers that you have sinned beyond God’s desire or ability to forgive? Let these illustrations comfort you. Listen to—no, see!—all that God does with your sin.
God throws your sin into the sea (Micah 7:19). Here is a clear reference to the Exodus when God rescued his people by drowning Pharaoh and his army in the sea. John MacKay says, “The Egyptians were prevented from catching up with the fleeing Israelites and reversing their deliverance. The freedom of the people of God will not be marred by some consequence of their past sin catching up with them to spoil their delight in the provision God has made for them.” Not a single Egyptian soldier crawled onto the bank to continue to torment Israel. Not a single one of your sins will continue to torment your soul.
God treads your sin underfoot (Micah 7:19). God doesn’t only drown your sins in the sea, but he also stomps them under his feet. Richard Phillips explains the illustration this way: “God responds to our sins the way a protective parent destroys a snake in the children’s playground.” He throws it to the ground, stomps on it, reduces it to nothing. He grinds it underfoot until it is dead and gone.
God throws your sin behind his back (Isaiah 38:17). God drowns it, he stomps, and he also tosses it away. You would only throw something that is insignificant to you, something you are willing to forget about. Your sin has been so thoroughly dealt with that it is as if God tossed it behind him where he can no longer see it, where he no longer cares about it.
God blots out your sin (Isaiah 43:25). To blot out sin is to so utterly destroy it is as if it never existed. While “blotting out” is often a judgment of wrath against God’s enemies, here it is a judgment of mercy toward his friends. John Oswalt says, “In this instance what he does is to erase from the record every trace of the transgression and sin of his people, not once but continually and forever so that he cannot remember it.” He blots it out of his books, out of his mind, out of his memory, out of the ways he would otherwise treat you. It’s gone!
God forgets your sin (Hebrews 8:12). God’s forgetfulness is a repeated promise and encouragement in both the Old Testament and the New. The God who blots out sin must also forget those sins, to forget them in the sense of never again bringing them to mind and never again making you face the consequences of judgment for them.
God removes your sin (Psalm 103:12). This was David’s proclamation in Psalm 103: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” How far is east from west? Infinitely far! How far has God removed your sin from you? Every bit as far as that.
God covers your sin (Romans 4:7-8). David marveled that God removed his sin, and he equally marveled that God covered his sin. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” There is no greater blessing than this, to have your sins covered by another. Paul also marvels at this fact in Romans 4. If it brought comfort to David and Paul, shouldn’t it bring comfort to you?
God takes away your sin. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Through Jesus, God would take away your sin. This act of taking away means something like “bear off” or “carry away.” Through the sacrifice of Jesus, your sin would be carried away like an unbearable burden, borne away by one fit to carry it.
God cancels the debt of your sin (Colossians 2:14). Sin creates a legal debt, a conviction of the law-breaker in the courtroom of the law-giver. God cancels that debt on your behalf by issuing a verdict of not guilty. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). You are not guilty!
God washes your sin (Isaiah 1:18). Your sin is like bloodstains on a white dress. They stand out, they mark, they mar, they ruin. But God promises “Come, now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall by white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” He washes those sins from scarlet to snow, from crimson to pure wool.
God forgives your sin (1 John 1:9). Your sin creates disunity between you and your creator, but God graciously forgives that sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So, what does God do with your sin? He throws it behind his back, drowns it in the sea, treads it underfoot, blots it out, forgets it, removes it, covers it, takes it away, cancels it, washes it, and forgives it. And God can do and will do all of this in the present because of one thing he did in the past.
God laid your sin on Jesus. To understand this, we need to zoom back in time a little to the Old Testament sacrificial system. In that system a goat—a scapegoat—would be seen to symbolically take on human sin. It would then be sent to wander in the wilderness away from God’s people. Here’s how God commands it in the book of Leviticus. “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.” The goat would never return, symbolizing that the people’s sin would never return upon them.
This unusual act finds its fulfillment in Jesus. Here it is God who lays his hand on Jesus, God who lays your sins upon Jesus, and who banishes Jesus from his presence. Your sin was laid on Jesus so he could deal with it on your behalf. And, praise God, he did! What does God do with your sin? Everything necessary to reconcile you to himself and everything necessary to give you confident comfort today and every day.

Friday, October 7, 2016

From the Shepherd's Heart...Friday, October 7, 2016

I am excited to be back in the pulpit this Sunday morning and evening at Rainsville First.

I will continue the series "What in the World is Going On?" based on Habakkuk.  Sunday morning I will be sharing "Getting a Fresh Understanding of God" based on Habakkuk 2: 1-4.

Then Sunday night I will share briefly from that great verse Habakkuk 2:4 and shared about "Pride vs Faith" and then conclude the service around the Table of the Lord (Lord's Supper).

God is moving among us.  I love being "the preacher" God has assigned for this time at RFBC. Thank you for praying for me.  Love you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

From the Shepherd's Heart...Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I love how our church is responding to guests.  I hear often from guests how friendly our church is.  

Let me say "genuine" friendliness is attractive. If the church is programmed to be friendly, that is not as impressive.  We are doing well in

*  having individuals serving as Greeters.
*  persons shaking hands with others before and after a service.

Let me offer two-three more suggestions of how we can go to the next-level of friendliness.

*  Connect with guests in the parking lot by "just being there at the right time."  Help someone with an umbrella if it is raining;  helping young parents with a diaper bag, make sure guests know of their reserved parking places, senior adult parking places and parking for parents with small children, and walk with them to the entrance where a Greeter is waiting for them.

*  In Sunday School or in the auditorium, you ask a guest their name resulting with you sharing your name and then introduce them to someone else.  If you really want to make an impact, then remember their name at the close of the class or service.

*  Ask the person how you may serve them (offering to show them where restrooms are, where the Auditorium is) or better, "How may I pray for you?"

*  Make sure the guests know about the Pastor-Wife Reception and make sure they come by - even bring them at the close of the service.

Let's take the next steps toward being the most friendly church anyone has ever attended and will want to come back.

Monday, October 3, 2016

From Father to Son — J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex by Albert Mohler

This article originally appeared on March 11, 2014.
The astounding popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien and his writings–magnified many times over by the success of the “Lord of the Rings” films–has ensured that Tolkien’s fantasy world of moral meaning stands as one of the great literary achievements of our times.
In some sense, Tolkien was a man born out of time. A philologist at heart, Tolkien was most at home in the world of ancient ages, even as he witnessed the barbarism and horrors of the 20th century. Celebrated as a popular author, he was an eloquent witness to permanent truths. His popularity on university campuses, extending from his own day right up to the present, is a powerful indication of the fact that Tolkien’s writings reach the hearts of the young, and those looking for answers.
Even as Tolkien is celebrated as an author and literary figure, some of his most important messages were communicated by means of letters, and some of the most important letters were written to his sons.
Tolkien married his wife Edith in 1916, and the marriage was blessed with four children. Of the four, three were boys. John was born in 1917, Michael in 1920, and Christopher in 1924. Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ only daughter, was born in 1929.
Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent, not only a hallmark of literary quality, but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.
In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.
“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ‘going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ‘hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism of human progress, the 20th century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.
“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.
Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not remain untroubled by sexual attraction for long. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, for Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”
As any reader of Tolkien’s works understands, Tolkien was a romantic at heart. He celebrated the fact that “in our Western culture the romantic chivalric tradition [is] still strong,” though he recognized that “the times are inimical to it.” Even so, as a concerned father, Tolkien warned Michael to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray, fooled by “the flattery of sympathy nicely seasoned with a titillation of sex.”
Beyond this, Tolkien demonstrated a profound understanding of male sexuality and the need for boundaries and restraint. Even as he was often criticized for having an overly negative understanding of male sexuality, Tolkien presented an honest assessment of the sex drive in a fallen world. He argued that men are not naturally monogamous. “Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.” In his own times, Tolkien had seen the binding power of cultural custom and moral tradition recede into the historical memory. With the “sexual revolution” already visible on the horizon, Tolkien believed that Christianity’s revealed sex ethic would be the only force adequate to restrain the unbridled sexuality of fallen man. “Each of us could healthfully beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process,” Tolkien admonished his son. Nevertheless, the joys and satisfactions of monogamous marriage provide the only true context for sexuality without shame. Furthermore, Tolkien was confident that Christianity’s understanding of sex and marriage pointed to eternal, as well as temporal pleasures.
Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him–as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”
Tolkien traced unhappiness in marriage, especially on the part of the husband, to the Church’s failure to teach these truths and to speak of marriage honestly. Those who see marriage as nothing more than the arena of ecstatic and romantic love will be disappointed, Tolkien understood. “When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along.”
With these words, Tolkien advised his middle son that marriage is an objective reality that is honorable in the eyes of God. Thus, marriage defines its own satisfactions. The integrity of Christian marriage requires a man to exercise his will even in the arena of love and to commit all of his sexual energy and passion to the honorable estate of marriage, refusing himself even the imagination of violating his marital vows.
In a letter to his friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien advised: “Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance–in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure . . . .” In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.
With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien’s most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary “because man does not live on sex alone.” Temperance and restraint represent “the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession,” Pearce expands.
Explicit references to sexuality are virtually missing from Tolkien’s published works, allegories, fables, and stories. Nevertheless, sex is always in the background as part of the moral landscape. Joseph Pearce understands this clearly, arguing that Tolkien’s literary characters “are certainly not sexless in the sense of being asexual but, on the contrary, are archetypically and stereotypically sexual.” Pearce makes this claim, notwithstanding the fact that there is no sexual activity or overt sexual enticement found in Tolkien’s tales.
How is this possible? In a profound employment of the moral spirit, Tolkien presented his characters in terms of honor and virtue, with heroic men demonstrating classical masculine virtues and the heroines appearing as women of honor, valor, and purity.
Nevertheless, we would be hard pressed to understand Tolkien’s understanding of sex, marriage, and family if we did not have considerable access into the realities of Tolkien’s family and his role as both husband and father. Tolkien’s letters, especially those written to his three sons, show the loving concern of a devoted father, as well as the rare literary gift Tolkien both possessed and employed with such power.
The letter Tolkien wrote Michael in the year 1941–with the world exploding in war and civilization coming apart at its seams–is a model of fatherly concern, counsel, and instruction. We should be grateful that this letter is now accessible to the larger world, and to the rest of us.
From the vantage point of the 21st century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns.
Writing to Christopher, his youngest son, Tolkien explained this well. “We were born in a dark age out of due time (for us). But there is this comfort: otherwise we should not know, or so much love, what we do love. I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.” Thanks to these letters, we have more than an inkling of what Tolkien meant.