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Note: I’m late posting this article from Christmas Eve, but the message remains the same. I hope it helps you.

It’s Christmas Eve, 2017. Do you know what that means? It means that it’s almost January first!

I’m not a proponent of New Year’s Resolutions; not at all. Resolutions rarely work. I won’t bore you with all the scientific details, but there are actually physiological reasons for the failure of resolutions.

Resolutions rarely work because we stand up tall, square our shoulders, and declare to ourselves that we resolve that next year will be different because we resolve to accomplish something; and it’s usually the same something we declared last year. Then something happens. It’s called life. As life happens, those spoken resolutions fade into the blur of a fast-moving calendar and everything that comes with it. But for the most part, those resolutions are forgotten until December 31 of the next year.

I am a believer in having goals and that leading up to January is a good time to review, renew, and establish goals. What’s the difference? Honestly, I’m not totally sure; but hang in here with me.

I believe in establishing goals. Goals are life targets. However, there are problems with goals, too. Goals can be forgotten. I have an application on my devices called Evernote. The cool thing about Evernote is that you never lose anything you put into it. Word recognition makes it almost if not entirely impossible for anything to be lost. Scan a document in and it will recognize the words in that document. Simply type some words into the search bar and every note and document you have that includes that word will appear.

Recently in Evernote I typed “goals” into the search bar. Goals that I had typed into Evernote as far back as 2012 came to the surface. With those goals came some disappointment. I had typed them into a note and forgotten them. Why would I forget an important goal? Because life happened and, well, I forgot.

Why is it so easy to forget? Life! Looking back at my goals from 2012, I found one of my goals that I didn’t totally achieve but I didn’t forget it, either. I set a goal in 2012 to read fifty-two books. I do believe in reading, but fifty-two books is not a goal that I necessarily recommend. I didn’t forget that goal to read all of those books because it was always in front of me. Every day, my current book was there for me to pick up. On my desk there were always three or four books that were in the bullpen just waiting for their turn. As I started reading one book, I ordered another. I didn’t read fifty-two books in 2012, but I did read thirty-four, which is pretty good and most importantly, I never forgot the goal because it was in front of me.

Lately I’ve been thinking again about my goals and that 2012 goal to read fifty-two books. So, I’m approaching the year with a new, untested goal- tracking system. I bought myself a cheap journal. It’s one of the spiral bound type that almost looks like your typical high school composition book.

Here is the untested system.

First, I wrote my goals on the first two pages of the journal. Remember, some scientists say that the action of writing makes the information more concrete, mentally. Now every morning as I have my quiet time, I read from the Bible, pray, listen to a podcast, read a few pages from my current read, and I re-write my goals. That’s right! The plan is that everyday of this next year, I will rewrite my goals. I will also add notes such as, “goal completed” and “goal dropped”; or I may write a note to explain what I will do on that day to help myself achieve that goal. We’ll see how it goes.

W Clemet Stone said, “No matter how carefully you plan your goals, they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto.”

Finally, here are a few goal-setting pointers:
1. Write you goals down.
2. Read or rewrite your goals daily.
3. Be willing to edit your goal list. You may find that your priorities will change as the year goes by.
4. Act! Do something to make your goals a reality.

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Here I sit with a sausage biscuit and a cup of coffee. It’s about 8am and I’m at one of many fast food joints that offer breakfast. I’ve eaten here for breakfast many times. As a matter of fact I’ve had sausage biscuits at many of the locations of this national brand fast food eatery. I guess it’s safe to say that over the last thirty years or so I’ve eaten hundreds of sausage biscuits at their many locations.

After a few sips of delicious black coffee I unwrapped my biscuit. Something about it didn’t look right. As I said, I’ve eyed and eaten hundreds of these things, but I regress. I take a bite. It doesn’t taste right. The texture is so wrong. Is there something wrong with me? I took another bite and in the style of Andrew Zimmern I began to analyze it (quietly of course). It’s dry but doughy with a bit of a stale flavor. I’ve been known to dip my sausage biscuit into coffee for a little extra flavor so I dipped. There was no change. What is wrong with me, with this biscuit?

After a few moments I decided that I must have gotten a bad biscuit and that I would just get another one. I stepped up to the counter facing the same lady who took my original order. “One sausage biscuit”, I said. She looked at me kind of strange and then I asked her. “Have you guys had any complaints about the biscuits”? She being a good employee passed the buck and called the manager on duty over and said to him, “he wants to know if we’ve had any complaints about the biscuits”. His face turned a little red and he said to me, “it’s the wrong dough. We ran out of our regular dough and we’re using this stuff until the truck comes.” He seemed a little embarrassed like a child who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He offered to give me something else but I declined. I was glad to find out it was the wrong dough. I was glad to know that my analysis had been correct and that in fact the biscuits were FAKE.

Like many things in life I left that restaurant with a thought. No matter what we’re doing in life, trying to be nice, living a Christian life or cooking biscuits, being fake doesn’t get it done. Here’s what I think. If the dough is wrong tell the customers up front don’t’ try to fake it. If you’re a Christian but struggling don’t be a fake, be real.

Most people can see right through fake. On the other hand, most people will respect you when you’re real, when they know you’re a Christ follower with real struggles.

Just a thought.

I’d love for you to have a copy of my book, The Eye of A Needle. You can find it in paperback and Kindle format here.

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My dad once said with a big smile, “I want to show you my butter bean vines,”  so we walked to his garden. This particular year, he had planted running bean vines that grew on a wire fence he had constructed. This way he could pick his butter beans standing up. I wish he would have thought about standing up vines when I was living at home. We picked butter beans that grew on plants very low to the ground. It was hard work. Anyway…..

“Have you ever seen more beautiful bean vines?” he asked me. My answer was a definite, “No.” We stood there and looked at the greenest, thickest, healthiest looking butter bean vines I had ever seen.  Sensing his pride, I bragged and told him that I was so impressed, that never in my life had I ever seen such beautiful butter bean vines.  Then he asked, “Do you see anything wrong with these vines?” “No sir!” I said.  He said, “Look closer.” I was puzzled and not sure what I was supposed to be seeing, so I asked, “Is there something wrong with these vines?” He wouldn’t tell me at first; he wanted me to see, but eventually he said, “These are the most beautiful butter bean vines I have ever grown, but look, there are no beans.  There aren’t even any blooms.  I’ve grown the most beautiful butter bean vines I’ve ever grown, and they are useless because there are no beans, no fruit.  I’ll just have to wait for them to die and then burn them”.

My dad passed away this past March. Just a few days ago I was cutting grass for my mother, I rode past that spot and remembered that conversation with my Dad. I also remembered the words of Jesus in John 15, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;”

My dad’s butter bean vine reminded me that looks don’t matter.  It doesn’t matter how beautiful we seem to be, how good, how Holy.

The answer: spend less time worrying about how you look on the outside and pleasing men and more time developing the inside and your relationship with God so that you will produce fruit and please Him.

 

Get a copy of my book, The Eye of a Needle here.

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iPhone Photo by Jeff Scurlock

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.

Get The Kindle Version of my book “The Eye of A Needle” for only .99 Cents Here.

India – Part V

Jeff Scurlock —  April 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

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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.

India, Part III

Jeff Scurlock —  March 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

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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.

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Note: As the readership of this site increases  I like to perodically repost articles that received a lot of attention. This is one of them. The subject of Christians and alcohol use is a hot button, especially in my part of the country. 

I’ve given a lot of thought recently about the subject of Christians and alcohol. And I want to share with you my personal conclusions. This is in no way an exhaustive paper on alcohol. It’s a brief description of how I feel.

First of all you need to know my culture and my heritage. My Spiritual heritage is this. I am a third generation Pentecostal Christian. I understand chances are that many who read or hear the title Pentecostal immediately envision snake handlers, miracle spring water and someone rolling on the floor in church.  That does not describe my heritage. As a matter of fact it grieves me that most crazy, weird, money grubbing false teachers identify themselves with Pentecostal circles.

I did grow up in an environment where Christianity and alcohol did not mix. My culture is the Bible belt. I grew up and continue to live and pastor in south Alabama, which many refer to as the buckle of the Bible belt.  In my culture growing up Alcohol was considered evil, a tool of the devil.  I was taught that if you drank that you were living in sin and losing out with God.

In my years as a pastor I have grown in my relationship with God and have a much greater understanding of the grace of God that I had growing up.

Where in my past the subject of alcohol was a subject of heaven or hell I now understand grace and know that this subject is not a heaven or hell discussion.

I recently preached a message in my church on this subject and the line of thought in this blog follows closely what I said in that message.

I am not a holier than thou preacher and this message is not meant to be judgmental or condemning.  It is not my desire to run people who drink away from my church. Our church is for everyone. None of us are perfect and all of us are still trying to grow.

The question might be posed, if your going to deal with a subject why not one that the Bible is clear on like gluttony, gossip, backbiting and sexual sins, all of which the Bible clearly deals with?  Those are all subjects that preachers need to address but this blog is on the subject of alcohol.  Note: IF I HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A CHURCH FULL OF GOSSIPERS OR A CHURCH FULL OF DRINKERS I’D TAKET THE DRINKERS EVERY TIME.

After giving this subject much thought, reading, praying, etc., it is my personal opinion that alcohol has become an extremely negative force in our society.  In my experience as a pastor every time I’ve been told of the sexual molestation of a child, alcohol was involved. I’ve counseled with females through the years who have become pregnant outside of the bonds of marriage and most of the time they blame alcohol.   Alcohol in itself is not evil. What people do under the influence of alcohol most of the time is.

According to a government web site (nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov) over 100,000 deaths a year can be blamed on alcohol. How?

  • 5% of all deaths from diseases of the circulatory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 15% of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all deaths from accidents caused by fire and flames are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all accidental drowning’s are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all suicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • 40% of all deaths due to accidental falls are attributed to alcohol.
  • 45% of all deaths in automobile accidents are attributed to alcohol.
  • 60% of all homicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • About 5,000 teens die every year due to teen alcohol use.

When it comes to alcohol use the readers of this blog have a variety of experiences as to the use of alcohol.

  • Some of you have never tasted an alcoholic drink in your life.
  • Some were taught to not drink alcohol. You did. You went through what you would call a rebellious stage, did your drinking for a season of life and then stopped.
  • Some of you were raised in homes where alcohol was abused and it caused you to either become an alcohol user yourself or to run from it and call it evil.
  • Some of you were raised in homes where moderate drinking was part of life.

I understand that for some this is a cultural issue. I also understand that in some cultures of the world that alcohol is as much a part of life that in my world drinking a glass of iced tea is.

For me the subject of alcohol is not one of sin, heaven or hell. It is a subject of what my lifestyle says about my relationship to God.  What does that person who may be on the fence with God think if they saw me drinking or heard me say that I do drink? In my culture even those who do not claim to be Christians frown on Christians who drink. Does that mean that I have to let non-believers dictate how I live my life? No!  However I should be concerned how my lifestyle affects those who are new in faith or those who are considering making faith in Christ their life.

If you, as a believer drink alcohol I am in no way saying that you are a sinner, calling you a hypocrite or trying to judge you. Your decision to have alcohol in your life is between you and God.  As a pastor I have told my congregation that I wished they wouldn’t drink alcohol. I have also told my leaders that I expect a higher standard and that leaders at our church were not to be drinkers. If they have been drinking they are to stop with no questions asked.

Why do Christians want to drink anyway? Is it the taste? Is it an attempt to be socially accepted? Maybe it’s because they are an alcoholic and don’t even know it. Maybe it’s because they like getting even a small buzz. It could be the need to feel just a little bit naughty. I don’t know.

Question: WAS THE WINE MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE FERMENTED OR JUST GRAPE JUICE?  After much research I believe that the wine in the Bible was in fact fermented wine.  When Jesus turned the water into wine, it was wine.  I have learned that it is believed by many scholars that in Jesus’ day that wine was diluted with water but I’m not going to try to make that my case.

Wine was wine. Yes it was fermented. Why then do I have a problem with Christians and wine? It is absolutely because alcohol plays a completely different role in our culture than it did in Bible times and like music I believe that satan has taken something innocent and perverted it for his uses.

Question: ARE THERE ANY SCRIPTURES THAT SPECIFICALLY METION ALCOHOL THAT LEAD US TO BELIEVE THAT DRINKING ALCOHOL IS A SIN?

NO! For those of you who were raised like me I hate to tell you this but I cannot find one scripture that specifically says that drinking alcohol is a sin.  The Bible does mention being drunk. There are several scriptures that tell us not to be drunk.

Question: Jeff, in light of your answers to the previous two questions do you believe that Christians should abstain from the use of alcohol?

YES!  WHY? Culture and the possibility that one drink could lead to destruction and your Christian witness.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death.

Every person who gets drunk starts with one drink.

  • Every person who becomes an alcoholic begins with one drink.
  • Every person who killed other people in an auto accident because they were drunk began with one drink.
  • Conservative estimates of sexual assault (molestion to rape) prevalence suggest that at least 25 percent of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Alcohol contributes to sexual assault through multiple pathways, often exacerbating existing risk factors.
  • According to the National institute of health the consumption of 1 Liter of alcohol per year raises the chances of divorce by 20%.

In closing I want to share with you 1 Corinthians 8 from the Message. As you read it I ask that you read it in light of today’s culture and with alcohol in mind.

1-3The question keeps coming up regarding meat that has been offered up to an idol: Should you attend meals where such meat is served, or not? We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.

4-6Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true.

7In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.

We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.

8-9But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.

10For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.

11-13Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.

I’m interested to know what your feedback is. Good or bad! Love yall, Jeff!

 

Get your .99 cent Kindle version of my book, The Eye of A Needle here.

 

 

Killing Jesus

Jeff Scurlock —  January 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Killing-Jesus

jeffscurlock.com is an amazon.com affiliate. That simply means that if you follow a link from this site to Amazon and make a purchase jeffscurlock.com will make a miniscule commission.

 

My latest read is the book Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.

ISBN: 0805098542  305 Pages

The current Kindle price is $6.49 and the Amazon hardback price is $14.00

I read Killing Lincoln soon after it was released and enjoyed it very much and was very intrigued by this one, Killing Jesus.   It took me a while to read this book simply because it is so heavy with history, imagination and stories from scripture that I could only take a few pages at the time. Having said that I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it was boring. It was not boring.

The writers make no attempt to make this a Christian book. It is written purely as a historical account. I do have to say that the line is blurry between what is true historical fact and the imagination of the writers.  The absence of footnotes led me to believe that much was their imagination. That’s ok with me as long as it stays true to what the Bible does say.

For the preacher and teacher I would say that this book might help you be more creative when discussing the gospels in a sermon or teaching session. I’m sure many of us could use some creativity. LOL!

Remember this when reading this book. Bill O’Reilly is a Catholic and some of what you read will be from that perspective.

On a 1 – 10 rating I would give Killing Jesus an 8.

Follow this affiliate link to order your copy of Killing Jesus.

Follow this link to find my book, The Eye of A Needle.

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Great blog by Michael Hyatt the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing on why you should write your goals down.

Michael Hyatt is author of the New York Times best selling book, Platform:Get Noticed in a Noisy World. AFFILIATE LINK