Archives For Christianity
Last week a federal judge ruled that the State of Alabama’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. A constitutional ban that was approved in 2006 by 81% of Alabama voters. As an American I’m extremely troubled that activist judges are ignoring the will of an overwhelming majority of Americans. However, that’s another subject for another day.
I will approach this article primarily by responding to things I have heard from those who support homosexual rights.
1. If you don’t support gay rights you’re a hate monger. I agree that there are people in our country who hate gay people but those people do not represent all of us. I also acknowledge that there are people who call themselves Christian who are full of hate. They are not Christians. I believe that same sex relationships are a sin but I DO NOT HATE HOMOSEXUALS. I’m sure that some will read this post and respond to me with anger and even hatred but I refuse to hate you back. I do not hate you and God does not hate you. God hates sin but not the sinner.
2. I was born this way. Ok! I don’t have a problem with that statement and I may be one of the few conservative Christians that you will hear say it. Here’s why I don’t have a huge problem with the statement. The Bible (my authority) says in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. I was born a sinner too. Let me give you an example. When I was three years old I lied to my mother. I was a three year old liar. No one taught me to be a liar, it came naturally. I was born that way. God’s word teaches us explicitly that we should not lie. When I became a follower of Christ, part of my growth as a believer was to overcome my “tendency” to lie. So maybe you’re not a liar but you do have a “desire” to have a gay relationship. If you are a follower of Christ you should be seeking the healing and deliverance of God to change you’re desires and overcome them. I stopped lying years ago.
I have a few questions:
- If a man is born with a desire to kill should he have the constitutional right to do so because he says that he was born that way?
- If someone wants to have sex with children and their argument is “I was born a pedophile” does that make its ok?
- If a man gets married but then discovers he likes having sex with multiple people should the constitution protect him from his spouses desire for a divorce?
3. People who use the Bible to support their belief’s are “Bible Thumpers.” Ok again. I believe the Bible. I have been a student of the Bible for almost forty years. Reading the Bible and accepting it by faith is part of my faith. However as I am referring to it I’m not angry nor am I foaming at the mouth. In addition to accepting the Bible by faith I also see the Bible being fulfilled throughout history and even today. It’s real and it is the inspired Word of God. As a Christian I have to believe that. If I don’t believe it, then my Faith in Christ comes into question. The Bible is my final authority on all matters. If you don’t believe the Bible, Ok but don’t hate me because I do and I want society to reflect it.
4. God doesn’t care about homosexuality. You have to ignore the Bible to make that statement. Scriptures are replete with passages that show God’s disdain for homosexuality.
Leviticus 18:22New International Version (NIV) “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
Leviticus 20:13 New International Version (NIV) “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Note: Because I understand scripture and understand that Leviticus is the law, I’m not suggesting that God wants us to put homosexuals to death. All I’m doing in sharing this verse is to show you that indeed, God does care.
New International Version (NIV) 1 Timothy 1: 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
Look at this passage of scripture from Romans 1
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
I’ve given you just a sampling of scripture. There are many more. My only motive is not to “Thump” the Bible but to show you that God does care and that God does not approve of homosexuality.
If you have made your mind up about this matter I may not change it. But if your trying to decide what you believe then take my argument to heart and mind. If you call yourself a Christian but support the gay rights issue I’d love to have you hear my heart.
If you feel trapped by a desire to be a homosexuality, there is deliverance.
As I close I’d like to reiterate that I don’t hate you if you disagree. I love people, even those who do not agree with me. I love you!
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I live and pastor a church in a small town, East Brewton Alabama. East Brewton is separated only by a creek from the town of Brewton. Brewton and East Brewton, both small towns that make up one community even though some who live In these towns would deny that both communities are one. That’s another subject for another day. The point, It’s a small community. We only have one zip code for home addresses and that zip code also includes much of the rural area around these two towns. The total population of the zip code is just a little over 16,000. Ok, I’ve made my point. It’s a small community.The church I pastor, First Assembly of God in East Brewton is located on nine ares of beautiful land that years ago was home to the Eagle Drive in theatre. Sitting on this property we have three buildings that are used for ministry. The first houses our main sanctuary which only seats about one seventy-five the building also houses our offices, old fellowship hall, nurseries and several classrooms. It measures one hundred feet by on hundred feet or ten thousand square feet. Building number two measures one hundred feet by seventy -five feet or seven thousand five hundred square feet with bout another one thousand square feet upstairs. It houses our student ministry center, the kitchen, banquet hall, our clothing ministry and video studio. Our third building is an old school portable building that was moved onto our property and renovated. It houses part of our children’s ministry and is maybe seven hundred and fifty square feet (I haven’t measured). All other buildings are storage and maintenance related. So we have a little over eighteen thousand square feet of ministry space, total.
Right now our Sunday morning attendance bounces around from about one hundred thirty to one hundred fifty-five. Not a big church by the worlds standard. There are hundreds and hundreds of churches in our nation that run in the hundreds and thousands. I know many churches that are in small towns and are larger than First Assembly.
I want our church to be larger and we’re working hard to reach more people. However it amazes me when I talk to people in our community about our church and tell them where we are located. Without fail they will say something like, Oh, The Big Church. What? The other day I was talking to a lady about our church and it’s location AND SHE SAID. Oh that huge church! WHAT? WHAT? A few years ago a man stopped attending our church of one-fifty and when I asked him why he said, “I don’t like big churches.” What? Granted, we are one of the larger churches in our town but that’s not saying much and granted there are tons of churches in our communities that are much smaller in facilities and numbers than we are but does that qualify us a being big or even huge? I guess size is in the eyes of the beholder.
I live in a small town that I love. I love this community but if they think our church is big or even huge, does that make our church a mega church in small town in south Alabama? No! I just thought I’d share. I aways smile when someone says, “Oh that big church.” My hope is that this church will grow beyond anything we’ve ever been and blow the mind of this community.
In the line ahead of me was a young mother. I assume she was a mother because she had a baby with her and I am guessing she had other, older children because of the items she had in her buggy (which was loaded). She was buying toys and a lot of them. She was also buying several things in two’s. Two toy guns, two dump trucks and two of several other things. My guess is that she was Christmas shopping and there were either twins or two boys close together in age involved.
Our society gets so caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, me included. We think we have to buy expensive gifts for children who don’t understand the value of the gifts their getting..
I have three grandsons and the oldest of them is only twenty-eight months. I am crazy about those boys and love being their Papa. I’ve got a feeling that as they grow older I’ll be spending a lot of money on stuff for them that they will not appreciate the value of. I want to buy them things. I want to spoil them. Isn’t that what grandparents are supposed to do? I’m sure right now I could give the two youngest empty boxes for Christmas and it would suffice. But as they get older….
Back to the young mom in the Dollar Store: Her buggy was loaded down. One by one she placed those toys on the counter and one by one the clerk scanned them. Finally he scanned the last item and gave the young mom the dreaded total that she would have to pay. $45.46 was her total. I couldn’t help but grin as it dawned on me that this young mom knew the secret of a happy commercial Christmas. That may have been her complete shopping list for the kiddos in her life and she did it for $45.46. The kids will be happy and she will not be stressed because she didn’t spend too much money trying to keep up with society.
Maybe we could all learn something from that young mom. Maybe.
It’s 10:50 in the morning. I’m sitting in a booth at the local McDonalds. I’ve been here since about 9:00. My seat is next to a window. I can see the traffic going by and the sun is pouring in. Some days this McDonalds is my office. Why McDonalds? Because my community doesn’t have a coffee shop with deep arm chairs and low light. That would be nice.
A very precious lady from my church came by about an hour ago and expressed to me that she knew I was having a hard time getting anything done with all these people around me. It’s quite the opposite. I don’t do it often but it seems that I can get more done in McDonalds that in the supposed sanctity of my office. There my desk is populated with notes, invoices, clutter and more. Things that distract me and draw my attention away from what I need to be doing. Here at McDonalds the only thing on my desk are a salt and pepper shaker, my phone, my coffee and of course my computer.
I think the employees here think I’m homeless. Or maybe the owners of this establishment might want to charge me rent for this space. Or, I might get the gossip lovers fired up. I can hear it now. One gossiper is talking to another fan of gossip saying something like, “I’ve been by McDonalds several times this morning and that preacher’s truck has been sitting there all morning. Surely we’re not paying him to hang out at the coffee shop.” Please excuse my limited grasp at humor. I don’t have any people in my church that are like that (wink).
The truth of the matter is I’ve had a quite productive morning. Life is full of distractions. Sometime escape is discovered in the most unlikely place.
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Please Read Parts 1 – 4 First
Boarding an Air India 747 was quite an experience. Smoking was allowed on these flights so we made sure to purchase seats in the non-smoking area. Three things stand out in my memory about boarding the aircraft. The sights; mostly Indian people who seemed to be right at home on this airplane. The sounds; chatter in the Hindi language, some english and The smell: not to be disrespectful but one thing I’ve learned about Indian people is that they love to cook with strong smelling spices and the aroma of those spices stay with them, on their breath, in their clothes.
We found our seats just three rows from the very back of the aircraft. I would be in seat A which was by a window. Felicia was in B the middle seat and in the isle seat was a young Indian who was a student at New York University. His name was Naresh.
It was late and our decent would be into the dark skies over the Atlantic ocean. I couldn’t help but think about the TWA flight that had gone down over these same waters at about this same time of night. I was still a bit nervous about flying and to make it worse I was on an Air Indian flight, leaving New York in the dark for a thirteen hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean. I knew the flight would go by fast because I was exhausted and ready for some sleep.
Something wasn’t right. I could smell cigarette smoke. I looked around the cabin and there were several passengers who lit up as soon as the no smoking light was extinguished. This can’t be right because we purchased seats in the non smoking area. I was not very happy when I discovered that not only were we in the smoking area but we were in the rear of the aircraft, the place where passengers from non-smoking came to smoke.
My eyes searched the cabin as far as I could see. Looking for empty seats. Somewhere Felicia and I could move to escape the stifling smoke that had already formed a thick cloud. No luck. This 747 is packed. I didn’t see an empty seat anywhere. I asked the flight attendant who was not compassionate about our situation. “There are no other seats,” she said.
This flight would be long. Thirteen hours to London with a short layover. Ten hours from London to Bombay (now Mumbai) with a short lay over. Two and a half hours from Bombay to Bangalore for a total time including flying from Pensacola to JFK with layovers of nearly fifty hours. The seat was tight the smoke was thick and there was a long way to go. Felicia and I agreed the best thing to do was try and relax and get some sleep.
I looked at Felicia and she looked a bit concerned too but as I looked around the cabin no one else seemed to notice the popping noise at all. There was a gentleman across the isle from me, dressed in a suit and tie. He was reading the sports page of the Pensacola News Journal. He never looked away from his paper. Apparently Felicia and I were the only ones who seemed to be concerned. I felt pretty stupid when it dawned on me that the sound I was hearing was the landing gear. We were approaching the Atlanta airport. The aircraft sped up and then slowed again. Faster, then slower as the pilot lined up for a landing. Moments later we were taxing to our gate.
Looking out the window it was much different than Pensacola. At the Pensacola airport there were only four aircraft parked at the one concourse. In Atlanta there were hundreds parked at many concourses.
We didn’t have to change concourses in Atlanta and there was about an hour in between arriving and leaving for New York’s JFK Airport. Felicia and I found a snack bar and had a diet coke. It was all new to us. We were tired but excited.
Our flight from Atlanta to New York followed the East Coast. It took two hours but it seemed like moments and we were landing at JFK. We were in New York City. Well at least at a New York Airport. I must admit to you that I never saw even the skyline of Manhattan but it was still New York.
It wasn’t even lunch time yet and we were in for a long wait for our nine o’clock flight. To make things harder we had to keep up with our four large suitcases and our carry on bags during the wait. With the load there was no need to try and leave the airport so we found seats in our departure concourse and waited. I don’t remember much about that time except it was long. We had a nine hour wait which would be followed by nearly thirty hours of flying and layovers before landing in Bangalore. I do remember having my first Nathan’s New York Hotdog for lunch. It was pretty good.
After a long wait the Air India ticket counter finally opened. It was so nice to finally get rid of those four large bags for a while.
Arvind had given me the dress code for preaching in India. “Suits! All Suits!” he said. I’m not sure that was the custom as much as that’s how Arvind wanted me to dress. Having never flow commercial and having heard horror stories about lost luggage I prepared for the worst. Most of my clothes, including all of my suits and a pair of dress shoes were framed into a roll up garment bag that I was using as carry on luggage. If our luggage was lost I’d still have suits.
Just a little over a decade before our trip an Air India 747 went down in the Atlantic ocean because of a bomb detonation at 31,000 feet. Not long before our trip TWA Flight 800 went down just off the coast of New York because of an explosion. The security at the gate of our flight was extremely tense and thorough. Every cary on bag was being searched. I didn’t know this was going to be the case or I wound not have so overpacked my roll up garment bag. When the poor lady unzipped it, Well lets just say, we had a mess on our hands. It took me a while to get everything back in place and force the zippers but it was done and we waited in a large waiting room to board.
We were already lonely. At least ninety percent of those waiting with us were of some eastern decent. They all appeared to be Indian. We hadn’t left New York yet but we were already in India. It sure would have been nice to have had Arvind with us. Even the promise of an American missionary waiting in Bangalore would have brought some level of comfort. We were about to fly over eight thousand miles to a foreign country where there would be no familiar faces. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now but it was then. We were leaving the country for the first time in our lives, alone.
This is Part III in the India series. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.
The preparation was completed and the time arrived that we would actually fly to the other side of the planet. The morning of departure started extremely early. An international flight starting in Pensacola required an early arrival. The flight from Pensacola to Atlanta would depart at seven which meant we had to be there by six. I’ve never made it a practice to be anywhere right on time. I had to be early so we were there by five thirty. Felicia was already tired and now aggravated at me because we were the first people in the airport that morning. The ticket agents were not even on the job yet.
I had never flown commercial so even the simple task of checking in with the ticket agent was nerve racking to me. I didn’t want to look green, even though I was. I managed to check the four large suitcases and get our boarding passes without any unbearable embarrassment. It was just a little after six in the morning but because of a late night to bed, less than good sleep, an early alarm, a forty minute drive to the airport and the stress of getting checked in we were already exhausted. I had no idea that it would be nearly forty hours before I would get another moment of sleep. I guess in some cases it’s good to not know the future.
We said bye to our family members who had come to see us off and our kids. I don’t think the kids really understood what was going on but they seemed sad. Felicia and I were extremely nervous and excited about our trip be we too were a bit sad knowing that it would be fifteen days before we saw them again. I can’t imagine the emotions that military parents deal with leaving their children for such long times. I also think of the early days of world missionaries, especially the “One Way” missionaries who packed their belongings into coffins, leaving family and friends behind knowing they would never see them again. All for the sake of the Gospel.
The Delta MD-80 was not a huge aircraft but fairly large coming out of the small Pensacola airport. Every seat was occupied and my seat was more than occupied.
I have always been a lover of thrill rides so takeoff was exhilarating for me. I had been in the air many times in small private aircraft but had never felt the G-Force of a jet takeoff. As I said, exhilarating.
The flight to Atlanta was to take less than an hour. Just long enough for the flight attendants to serve beverages and then pick up the trash. I had managed to relax and enjoy the view outside the window until I heard a loud popping noise and then felt the aircraft slow dramatically. To say I was concerned would be an understatement.
This is part two of the India series. Please make sure you have read part one first.
We lived at least fifteen minutes from the nearest restaurant and Sunday lunches in one of them were not the norm. Felicia was home long before me that Sunday preparing lunch. I must have had a look of shock on my face because she immediately knew something was up. When she asked I told her that Betty had given us a donation for our trip to India.
“How much is it?” I handed her the check. She looked at it for what seemed like eternity then looked up at me and said with a twinkle in her eyes, “we’re going to India.”
We needed three thousand dollars for the tickets and the check as you have already guessed by now was three thousand dollars.
I stayed in a state of shock and awe for several hours. Where did Betty get that much money? My shock and awe was followed by shame. I hadn’t really trusted that God would provide. He did it in spite of my lack of faith. Why is it so hard to believe that God will make a way? Not only did God make a way for us to get the tickets purchase He used the most unlikely source. There were people in our church who had lived well and planned well. They drove luxury vehicles and lived in nice homes. It wasn’t them. It was Betty, the widow who lived in the small house and drove an old car. It taught be a valuable lesson. A lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. I keep forgetting but God keeps reminding me that He chooses who He will use and it’s not usually the one with the most money, talent or pedigree. God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise.
The date was set, the airline tickets with Air India purchased and preparation was in full swing. There was so much to do. We would be gone for fifteen days. We had to make arrangements for our kids. That was the easy part. Our moms agreed to take turns staying with them at our house so they wouldn’t miss school. There was more money to raise the cost of the airline tickets was half of what we needed for the trip. I had faith now. I knew God had provided for the tickets. Now I was sure everything else would be ok.
Everything was not okay. Arvind came by to see me one day to inform me that he would not be going to India with us. “Pastor Scurlock,” he said. “God has something else for me to do. I will not be going to India with you but there will be people who will greet you and take you to places to preach.”
“Hold on just one minute. You invited us to go to India with you. We have spent three thousand dollars on tickets, made plans and now your telling me this?”
“It will be fine pastor Scurlock. You don’t need me. God will go with you.”
In the years since going to India I have traveled and made many missions trips. Now I know how it works. You hook up with an American missionary. He or she makes your arrangements in country and you spend your time with them. That would not be the case on our first trip out of the country. We would arrive in Bangalore India at 3 am local be greeted by an Indian man whom we had never met, and he would take us to our hotel. After that we were to be greeted by T.c. George who was the General Superintendent of the southern India Assemblies of God. He would make our preaching arrangements. It brought some comfort that an Assembly of God brother would be with us but it was still our first trip out of the country and it was India and we had no American contacts there.
In the 90’s you could check in two large suitcases per passenger and take a carry on bag. Arvind asked us to smuggle some Christmas decorations in to some of his family. “Smuggle?” I asked.
“Pastor Scurlock the authorities will frown upon you if they find you have these decorations but it will be fine because God will get you through customs.” Ok, now I’m worried. This man of God is suggesting to me that I do something that would be frowned upon and that I should trust that God would get me through.
It was the late 90’s. We were serving a church in North West Florida as their pastor. It was a church of less than 200 people in a small community near Pensacola. The salary was modest. We had three small children, a dog and one car.
Felicia and I had never even flown on a commercial flight much less left the country. We were pretty much home bodies, so when our Indian friend Arvind suggested that we should go to India with him to preach the gospel we didn’t really take it seriously.
Some time passed by, we were hosting Arvind and Susan in our home, he was cooking Indian food, helping Adam with his math and chasing our little girls around the house to the sound of squeals in a game of hide and seek. Our children loved Arvind. The food was awesome and they loved the way he loved to play. In a moment of stillness he looked into my eyes and said with his perfect English but with a heavy Indian accent, “pastor Scurlock you and Felicia should go to India with me to preach.”
“Ok,” I said and he smiled. While the smile was still large and his eyes sparkled with happiness I’m already having a personal conversation with myself inwardly. “Jeffrey! What are you thinking? India?”
I was certainly no missionary. As a matter of fact I entered the ministry with the hope and expectation that God would never call me to a foreign country.” I encouraged my church to give to support missionaries, we gave to all kinds of missions endeavors and the monkey was off my back,. I thought.
Arvind immediately began putting the wheels in motion for our trip. Before I could say “now wait a minute and slow down,” the date was set. A few days later the phone rang and when I said hello I was greeted with Arvind’s usual telephone greeting, “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.” Then he pushed us another step closer to India with, “I have reserved your airline tickets and I need $3000 to pay for them.”
“I don’t have three thousand dollars right now.”
“Pastor Scurlock, God will provide.”
I knew God was a miracle worker but three thousand dollars to me might as well been three hundred thousand. I agreed with Arvind vocally, “Amen, God will provide,” but I had major doubts. After all I am human and three thousand dollars to fly to India seemed a little extravagant for me.
My congregation knew I was planning a trip to India. What they didn’t know is how little faith I had that it would ever actually happen.
A couple of days later it was Sunday. Sunday’s are stressful for most pastors. I’m one of those. I’ve often said that my least favorite time of the week is Sunday morning before service begins. Most Sunday mornings were spent dealing with the anticipation of what the day would bring, some stress usually accompanied by an upset stomach and coffee with men from the church. The morning rocked along, pretty much normal. The morning service must not have been anything special because I have absolutely no memory of it. What I do remember is Betty walking to greet me at the pulpit when the service ended. She was a middle-aged widow. Her husband had been killed a couple of years earlier in an accident. She lived a simple life, a small home and old car, a couple of dogs on her front porch and her kids, mostly grown by now. “God told me to help you with your trip to India,” she said while reaching out to me with a folded check in her hand. I immediately began having one of those personal conversations in my head. As I’m reaching out to receive the check the conversation in my head goes something like this. “She’s a widow lady! What could she do? I know Betty doesn’t have much so Jeffrey don’t let your expectations of what that check amount is exceed common sense because you might be setting your self up for disappointment.” As the conversation in my head continued I reasoned in myself that Betty could probably donate a hundred dollars and that would be extravagant for her.
Now with the check in my hand I embrace Betty to say think you and then she walks away. I didn’t want to seem to eager so I waited until she had exited the building.