The real question is ‘Who do you see?

wordswag_1513169966383Around a table last night I saw sad eyes in a meeting that was a long, hard discussion about the work of our church. We are being forced to ask hard questions. “What stays, what goes? How do we best carry out the mission of ‘being the people of God’ in a time when He is marginalized by the majority?” A shared view of life and meaning, something we (Christians) once took for granted, is no longer are a part of the culture into which we speak the Word of God.  Forms of ministry that flourished 30 years ago are not effective today. The question at the core of those deliberations at that board table, at least for me, was an age-old one. “Where does the reality of our circumstances meet faith?”  Should we just keep on and lay claim to ‘faith’ as our rationale?

You probably ask the same question, but for different reasons. You may wonder about questions like these –
How do I live faithfully as a Christian when all of life seems to be a conspiracy against that?
How do I trust God to reach my children who have grown indifferent to all things spiritual?
Where do I prioritize my  use of time and resources when serving and giving collide with the urgencies of making a living to pay the bills?
How do I make what I hear on Sunday morning part of my life on Monday?

God does not promise to endorse and support every decision we make, just because we can find a proof text in the Bible for it, or because ‘that’s the way we have always done it.’  Simply hanging onto something in life is not necessarily an evidence of great faith. It may be fear of change that drives us more than faith.  True faith is anchored outside of ourselves in the expressed will of God!

I meditated on the ‘faith’ chapter, Hebrews 11, at length. Buried deep in the text was this phrase that the Spirit made a living word for me.  Moses, the man of God, was preserved by the godly and faith filled acts of his mother and the providence of the Lord. He grew up in the palace, trained in Egyptian ways, but never forgot that his God was the Lord.  He murdered a man, fled into the desert, and spent 40 years in character training while tending sheep!  Then, God met him and spoke to him. It’s a fascinating story that centers around a revelation of the great “I AM” at a burning bush.  Moses left that encounter with a purpose and mission – to lead his people out of Egypt to become the nation of Israel.  But, the project was tough! Nothing went right. The Pharaoh changed his mind multiple times.  As Moses agitated him, he made life miserable for the Jews who then turned their anger against Moses.  How did he keep going?

Here it is – “He persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27).   Stop and think about that … really.  Read that again. “He persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Heb 11:27).

Faith is not formed nor is it sustained by just ‘hoping for the best’ or staring down our difficult situations.  Faith is not anchored in our resolve or our abilities. Faith demands a vision of God, a heart that loves Him, and eyes that see Him.  The question is never ‘what should I do?’  It is “What is His will?”   Our greatest desire must be to be able to say, with confidence, “I have heard from the Lord.”  When we know that God wills it, nothing – money, hardship, distraction, demon, or pressure from our world – will defeat us.

So, friend, what does God will for you?
Answer that two ways.  One answer is general, for all of God’s children.  He wills a pure and holy life for us all. He wills that we will love Him, worship Him, and serve Him as our one true God.

And then there is the more difficult answer, in the sense that it requires listening and waiting- the personal will of God in whatever situation we find ourselves.  There is no formula that I can give you to discover God’s will today.  But, I can assure you, He speaks!  May we, like the boy Samuel, hear His call, responding readily – “And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10, NLT)

Here is a word from the Word. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. … It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. … By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going.” (Hebrews 11:27, The Message)

Abba, open our eyes and ears.
Help us to separate Your voice from the clamor that surrounds us.
Lead us and, in Your patient mercy,  may we find new hope and purpose.
Teach us what is good, how to live, what to say.
Give us the courage of a warrior and the gentle trust of a beloved child.
Above, make Your radiance shine out of us so that it is obvious that
“we have this Treasure in clay pots”  so that all will know that You are a wonderful God.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Jerry D. Scott, Pastor
Faith Discovery Church
www.FaithDiscovery.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Amused to death

wordswag_1513082226863Every year, right around this time, I carve out some prayerful time to redefine why I am taking up space on the planet.  If that sounds grandiose, hang with me, please.  My prayer goes like this – “Abba, what is my mission? What gifts are You giving me, what opportunities are You presenting to me? Am I am on point, doing those things with excellence?”  I commit my reflections to paper and ink and print it so I can see it regularly.  It does not vary much by this time in life.  Last year’s statement starts like this – “I am a man belonging to God, called to serve His church as a leader and shepherd.” There is this, too. “I am a father, and grandfather, therefore, I will remember I have responsibility to serve my children.”  Earth shaking?  Not at all.  But, those simple statements clarify  life for me.

So, what got you up and out of bed this morning?  What keeps you moving forward? This is called “purpose!”  Without a sense of purpose life becomes a chaotic mess of conflicting goals, of unfinished business.  A person who does not know why God causes him to exist will spend precious days just meandering.  Gifts will be wasted. Talent will be squandered. Old age will bring nothing but regret for things undone. Yes, too many people will amuse themselves to death!

Paul was warned of a terrible trial that was coming his way. The Spirit told the apostle that he would be jailed if he went to Jerusalem. But, he was not deterred because he was clear about his purpose.  He told that group of Christians from Ephesus this – “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:22-24, NLT)  Do you see the power of his calling, the clarity of his purpose?

Bob Buford, in an excellent book called, Halftime, writes about an alternative to the choice so many people make around the age of 50 to throttle back to idle, to coast to retirement, and into a life that has no significance!  “Likewise, for the second half of life to be better than the first, you must make the choice to step outside of the safety of living on autopilot. You must wrestle with who you are, why you believe what you profess to believe about your life, and what you do to provide meaning and structure to your daily activities and relationships.”  He says this –  “My passion is to multiply all that God has given me and, in the process, give it back. And I would like to incite you to do the same. I do not want you to be the seed that fell along the path or was scattered in rocky places or was choked by weeds.

So, as we approach the end of 2017, would you take some time to evaluate?  Buford suggests these questions. “As you take stock, ask yourself these similar questions: What is my passion? How am I wired? Where do I belong? What do I believe? What will I do about what I believe? Or, as Peter Drucker advised people who were looking for their life’s task:  “What are my values, my aspirations, my directions, and what do I have to do, to learn, to change, in order to make myself capable of living up to my demands on myself and my expectations of life?”

Perhaps this exercise is new and unfamiliar.  Don’t rush it. Don’t make it complicated. Just think and pray.  It could be painful to admit to drift, to too much time watching TV, to endless chasing after fun. It might reveal some progress and cause you to be thankful for God’s grace and calling. That will be rewarding.  If it is just too difficult to do this alone, seek out a real friend, a trusted one who is truthful and let them ask the questions.

Is this important? I believe it is critical, because of this truth in our word from the Word today.  “Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.*’ ” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”  (Romans 14:10-12)  May we hear His commendation for living on purpose.

___________
Open Our Eyes

Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him
And say that we love Him
Open our ears Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus

Bob Cull © 1976 CCCM Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jesus and Dog Poop

wordswag_1512996268784“Do you know everybody in this town?” a boy asked me one day when we were out and about together.  I had exchanged greetings with friends in the diner, talked with people in the stores, waved at a couple of friends driving by and he figured I surely must be some kind of celebrity. That’s the way it is when the major part of your life is lived in the same place in the kind of ministry I have that is involved with people every day.  Yes, it is true that I  have many acquaintances and each one adds something to life, some unique gift, for which I am thankful.

But, then there are those friends who really know my heart. They are the ones who have ‘gone through the fire’ with me at some point in time; partnering in ministry, walking through sorrow together, doing life!

If you want to know Christ – most deeply, most intimately – prepare to walk with Him through some painful, trying circumstances. If your relationship with the Lord is kept superficial, if you only engage with Him when it’s convenient, if you excuse yourself from service, if you won’t deal with His call to become loving, good, and pure – you just will never know the ‘real Jesus.’  Intimacy means that you let Him lead through places that break your stubborn will, that pierce your pretensions, that make you come to know that He, alone, is your life. If you’re intent on staying on the ‘Hallelujah side,’ always smiling, never willing to walk with Him into the dark, you will never know the depths of His love, never treasure His grace, and never know the sweet mercy found in the Cross.

Intimacy with Jesus begins to take shape in our worst failures! David knew the Lord God and wrote beautiful songs (Psalms) about Him. But, only later in his life, after he had fallen flat on his face, disgraced himself and failed God in the most miserable ways, did he discover the grace of the Lord. Psalm 51 reflects his brokenness, his longing, and his realization of the steadfast love of the Lord. He came to see that all the Psalm-singing and sacrifices were no substitute for a heart of worship. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17, NIV)

Don’t misunderstand my point here. Nobody should go out and sin in some huge way thinking it leads to God! We don’t have to go looking for brokenness. If we live authentic, God-seeking lives, it will find us in this world where ego, self, power, and greed are everywhere.

Perhaps I am overly cynical, and if so, I ask your forgiveness, but I do not think you will find a lot of an authentic Jesus in many American churches. You might find a “Moral Jesus” in some that insist on religious rules. You may find a “Cool Jesus” in others that are intent on gutting the Gospel of the harder parts and making Him “relevant.”  You will find the “Blessings Jesus” in many churches where worship is more akin to a party than an Encounter with the Divine.  To keep the pews full, many gatherings work to keep things light and happy, intently offering self-help programs to make you a more ‘successful’ person. Few will invite you to think on the Cross, to follow Him radically. His sorrow, the Cross – while talked about, is not loved all that much.

Read this familiar passage. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11, NIV)

Paul compares every accomplishment, honor, and recognition of life as “rubbish” compared to knowing Jesus.  (You get the impact of his word when you understand that ‘rubbish’ is a weak translation of the Greek word, skubalon, which literally means, animal excrement!)  Yes, Paul says that knowing Jesus makes everything else in life about as valuable as dog poop by comparison.

I find Jesus very present when I’m sitting at the bedside of an old saint who has forgotten who I am but who brightens when I read her a Psalm, who clasps my hand tightly as I pray, while tears slip down both of our cheeks. I experience Jesus’ presence when I go and walk among the aged of a nursing home and sing to people who have come to the margin of life.  I have felt Him personally present when sitting with my late wife in the chemo room of the hospital. Yes, He walks with those who struggle to trust Him through huge disappointment,  with those who know rejection, with those who serve without fanfare in the most obscure places.

Here is a challenging invitation for this Monday morning.  As we open our hearts and minds to the Lord, as we pray, let us do so with humble, joyous welcome of the Real Jesus. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV)

_________________

There’s Something About That Name

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus-
There’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus-
Like a fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus-
Let all heaven and earth proclaim;
Kings and kingdoms may all pass away,
But there’s something about that name!

Copyright William Gaither

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Good, Old Days that never really were

wordswag_1512738758071.pngChristmas, for me, is a time when I am pulled to the past, more and more these days. Digging out the holiday décor in the attic, I found a box full of family picture albums. I pulled one out and paged through it. It was a sweet and painful thing to do. They stir up such memories, such longing for the happy moments when my kids were running through the house. Those images help me to remember Bev who went to Heaven 2 years ago. Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing drawing us into the past so that we miss out on the joy that today offers! I do not want to be one of those who are trying to navigate life while staring into the rear-view mirror!  I know that my memory is selective.

We rewrite history to fit our perceptions, our needs.  Getting misty about the ‘good old days,’ colors our perceptions. The hardships magnify and the joys amplify. Think back just 20 years ago. Do you remember the ordinary moments? Not likely. Mostly our conscious recall is formed around selected events and experiences – birthday celebrations, Christmas, family vacations, deaths, and tragedies.  The stuff of daily life disappears into the haze of time and can only be recalled only with focus and effort! Even then, the recall is suspect as to complete accuracy.

A by-product of time’s passing is the increasing draw of nostalgia.  Spiritually this can be toxic.  Know any Christians who are stuck in the ‘glory days’ of another era?  Have you heard them bemoan the state of the church, criticize the youth program, or long for the preaching of some pastor they knew years ago?  “Well, it’s not the way it used to be.” they say with sorrow.  And, they are at least partially right. Change is inevitable!

Growing Christians and healthy churches build on past experience, learning from it, celebrating victories, but they are like any living thing – always adapting and changing.  A church or Christian who enshrines an experience and tries to hold onto it – and many do – becomes less and less effective in doing God’s work.

Should we discard all tradition becoming slaves of the new, the trendy?  No, we love the ancient paths, are strengthened by slowly evolving patterns of worship. Novelty can lead to some places just as marginal as nostalgia. The Bible assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.”  He is not hip, nor must His Gospel be made ‘relevant’ whatever that means. The celebrations of Communion, baptism, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are valuable ways of preserving continuity in the Christian community from generation to generation.

So what’s my point today?   Ask God what He desires for you TODAY!  Be very careful about trying to recreate the spiritual experiences of another time, no matter how wonderful it to you back then.  When you remember a place or time when God was near, when you lived close to His Presence, rejoice and give thanks.

Those memories that are stirred when I page through a family album are the foundation of my love for my family. But, if I attempt to relate to my kids who are now adults like I did when they were pre-adolescents, I’ll alienate them from me. So it is with the Lord. What He did for you yesterday is the foundation for your walk with Him today, but those things are past. Ask God to help you to see and appreciate what He’s doing today.  

(There is this. If you think the Church has gone a little ‘off the rails,’ do not let that become a source of bitterness or a critical spirit.  Instead, pray earnestly for those who lead.  As one of entrusted with leadership I can assure you that your prayer support is vital to the work.)

Here is a word from the Word.  They are a parable Jesus told – “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be torn, and the patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the old skins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.” (Luke 5:36-37, NLT) And then live this –  “Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. He has won a mighty victory by his power and holiness.” (Psalm 98:1, NLT)

Father, today I am pulled to remember,
Tempted to try to turn back the clock.
Come near and, with the voice of the Spirit,
Call me to what You are doing here and now.

Renew vision and hope.
I thank you for the victories past,
The lessons of yesterday that form me today.
Give wisdom to use those moments in a way
That makes me an effective ambassador you in the world where I live,

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tommy needs a ‘time out’

wordswag_1512648804374“Why did he do that?” The critical spirit rose in me. Later that same day I found myself wrestling with less than affirming thoughts about another over a trivial thing. Irritation showed up when the car in front of me failed to move when the light turned green. While I was around a happy family, listening to their laughter, my feelings of loss took center stage in my mind and I inwardly complained to the Lord, “Why them, not me?”  My mood was uglier than one of those terrible holiday sweaters sold at Walmart™!  The trap of being consumed with my agenda, my needs, my feelings, had sprung. Becoming aware of the place to which I slipped, I realized that I needed a dose of humility!

Pride shows up dressed in many costumes – meanness, manipulative actions designed to get our own way, complaining about the blessings of another, and doubting God. We are especially susceptible to prideful behaviors in this busy, stressful Season. Our schedules are often full, leaving us exhausted. We tire of long lines in stores, of traffic, of endless demands on our time and energy. Right in that moment, we are likely to slip into “Me, first” behaviors. Yes, it is a natural protective response but it is not good nor godly.

Think about it this way. When I complain, criticize, or push to the front of the line though I may not be consciously aware but what I am really saying is this:  “Lord, I won’t trust You to take care of my needs. I won’t choose contentment that allows me to find my Peace in You. I’m taking charge!”  That is not good, is it?

God’s people complained about their lot in life, accusing Him of failing them.  His answer was not to relieve their stress immediately. Instead, He asked them to change their perspective.  “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?” (Isaiah 40:25-27, NLT)  Look up! Renew your hope in Me!

Are your emotions in turmoil today?
Are there behaviors that show your frustration?
Are you snapping at your children?
Are you seeking solace in criticizing another, or tempted to indulge your desire for something that tempts you?

In those moments, we need to give ourselves a ‘time out.’  A wise parent sees their child slipping out of control and intervenes before a crisis. They take Tommy aside and put him in his room for some time alone, perhaps to fall asleep for a much needed nap.  When we are acting in ways better suited to a 3 year-old, our Heavenly Father invites us to pause, to reflect, to pray, to become re-centered.

I gave myself a ‘time out’ on that ugly day. I refocused on the important stuff. I spent a few moments to appropriately acknowledge my own grief.  I chose to thank God for the friends, the opportunities, the grace He gives – and soon found myself with a sweeter attitude.

When you become aware of pridefulness, when Self takes over,  choose a different path. Instead of ruining the day with an explosion of anger, instead of damaging a relationship with bitter accusations, instead of stewing inside about ‘the unfairness of it all,’  take a break. Tell Jesus, in an honest humble prayer, about it and then listen to the Spirit. That Scripture I quoted a moment ago, finishes with a passage more familiar to many of us.  It speaks of renewal found in the Lord.

Our word from the Word today is worthy of some deep reflection.  “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NLT)

Time out.
Look up.
Quiet down.
Rest on His promise.
And, you will find peace.

__________

O Come O Come Emmanuel
O come O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

 Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

 O come Thou Dayspring come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

 O come Desire of nations bind
All peoples in one heart and mind\
Bid envy strife and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace

John Mason Neale | Thomas Helmore © Words: Public Domain

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Join the festival, let your light shine!

wordswag_1512563279180.pngThe rain was chill, the night dark as I drove home last night from a visit in the hospital. Fatigue made me long for the living room and relaxation until  . . .  I started to note the homes lit up with Christmas lights!  White lights in their simplicity, bright colored lights with their eye catching dazzle, simple strings along a fence, elaborate displays that covered a whole house – with each one I smiled and started to sing along with the carols on Sirius™ radio.  Yes, I laughed out loud at the displays that were in questionable taste – big, inflatable Santas, a forest of plastic ‘candy canes’ in a front yard, but it was a moment of realization.  The world is celebrating.

Do all know the reason for the Season? Probably not.  It is true that for many it is an feast of consumerism. For others it is just a time of excess of spending, and food, and drink.  And yet among all the clutter there are nativity scenes and invitations to “come and adore Him, born the King of Angels!”

So, here is what I am going to do – I am going to join the festival of light and as the kid’s song says, I’m gonna let my light shine!  I want to take some extra care to see the ‘invisible’ people that surround us and try to make them feel respected, alive.  I am going to pause to praise the King with more intention. I will worship in Advent services with my whole being.   I’ll let a little light shine in my personal mission for this month to wish everybody a “Merry Christmas” and a “God bless you” from the heart.  Care to join me?

Let’s not just decorate our houses. With a child-like wonder and a deliberate choice for joy, let’s enter into the celebration. Those shepherds in old Bethlehem heard radiant angels sing and heard an announcement., There was a decision they made that caused them to become participants in the wonder. “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, … “ What if they had just shrugged, looked at each coolly, and said, “That was something,” and let it pass?

 They stirred themselves!  “the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:8-16, NLT)

Celebrate! Worship! Welcome the Lord’s coming.

This is a word from the Word. “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5, NLT)
______________________

O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Saint Louis)

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight 

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep
The angels keep their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth 

How silently how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts\
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

 O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

 Lewis Henry Redner | Phillips Brooks

© Words: Public Domain

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Some Wisdom for a Joyful Day

wordswag_1512476013357Joy. The decorations are up, the songs of the seasons are playing. Parties are planned.  Beautiful worship gatherings will be offered in churches around the world. Gifts will be given. Will you find joy? Yesterday I put up the Christmas tree in my house. While going through the decorations stored away in the attic, sorting which ones to use, tears started to flow. For a moment I could only remember my losses. Those boxes hold so many memories of a time past when Bev and I walked together. But, I did not stay in that sorrowful place. Instead, while giving thanks for joys past, I choose to anticipate this season, the new opportunities.  My life is in no way unique. You, too, deal with disappointments and sadness; of that I am quite certain. Life is not perfect. Question is – will you trust God, find joy, and live to invite His peace?

This passage from Scripture grabbed my attention this morning. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, NIV) There is a pathway to joy. What does God say?

First, He reminds us that each season has its own beauty!

My memory tends to idealize certain times. I remember the first days of being in love and the memory is sweet. But, then I remember a houseful of little children and that seems the best time. And so it goes if we decide to look back and try to relive the past.  Truth is, each season, each experience has its own challenges as well as its beauty. For example, now that I am in my 60’s there are more aches and pains and less energy, but there is so much more wisdom and patience!  Will you ask the Lord to reveal the beauty of this day to you?

Second, He reminds that eternity beckons!

We are not just here for today. Our destiny is be with our Creator forever. We have the capability of knowing history and anticipating the future. We learn (hopefully!) from the past and we find hope in the promise of the future. Both inform how we live today.

And, so He reminds us to be contented and engaged with the present!

I confess that being content can be hard.  I am tempted to look around and compare, to wonder if life would be better if only ….   You, too?  But, Paul shows the better way. “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8, NLT)  We will never live joyfully unless we are living in the moment, loving those with whom we walk, taking the opportunities of the day.

Last, He reminds us of His purposes that cannot be frustrated!

Do we have the ability to take in a long enough timeline to see all of God’s plans? No!  In our limited understanding it may appear that we are captives of chaos, that evil is winning, that our experiences are meaningless. The recurring testimony of the Scripture is that God is at work, that He is fully able to keep us safe in His love until we enter into His forever home.  Don’t turn that into fatalism. One of the mysteries of life is how our freedom of choice meshes with His declared will.  We need not be fearful over the future or our salvation but we do have a high calling to establish His kingdom – in our own heart and in the world in which we live.  The foundation of our peace is that He is God and His promises are all ‘Yes, and Amen’ in Christ Jesus.

Let me ask a question I asked a moment ago – Life is not perfect. Question is – will you trust God, find joy, and live to invite His peace?

Here is a word from the Word – “And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. … You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:4-5, 8-9, NLT)  Re-read that. Believe it. Find Joy!

__________

Joy To The World

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room
And heav’n and nature sing
And heav’n and nature sing
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders wonders of His love

Isaac Watts © Words: Public Domain

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A kind of miracle enjoyed with each new dawn

wordswag_1512390964601Every morning I’m up before dawn. After brewing a cup of coffee, I sit down at my kitchen table which is next to a window that faces south. From my chair I can see the eastern sky.  As I sip that beverage (which is certainly a gift of God!)  I read the Word, think, and pray.  And… day arrives. It is a kind of recurring miracle, at least to me. At first the dark sky turns a shade of gray, then rays of light appear, and finally the sun slips up over the horizon, spilling warmth and beauty on the trees and grass just outside of the window. The monochromatic world of the night morphs every so gradually into living color!  I never tire of the wonder of dawning of a new day.

Advent is a celebration of the dawn of a new day in this world. Jesus, the Light, came into the darkness. Oh, what a world He came to – full of cruelty, where people lived desperate and short lives. And, as His Gospel touched lives, persons were changed and the world took on new brightness: not all at once, but gradually like the arrival of the day.  Of Himself, Jesus said – “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

I am so grateful, so aware, that in Christ I enjoy a clarity about life that cannot be found elsewhere. In Him, I am freed from Self and Sin, able to choose a life of love.  He teaches me to be gracious and forgiving, not consumed with my own needs and quick to take offense. He shows me a way to live that about so much more than finding some new delight for my body’s appetites. In Jesus, I have hope that extends beyond my earthly existence, faith that sustains me in the times of disappointment, and I need not stumble around in confusion. His light shows me the truth about myself and my world much as the full light of day reveals the world.

Are you living in the Light? Take some time to think about that. The theme is a recurring one in the Scripture.

The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? ” (Psalm 27:1, NLT)

“Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness
.” (Psalm 89:15-16, NLT)

A prophecy about Jesus’ coming  –
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV)

“Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” (John 11:9-10, NLT)

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
and find out what pleases the Lord.
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
” (Ephesians 5:8-11, NIV)

The Light! He has shined on us. Open your mind, your heart, your life to Him and let in His brightness.

This is a word from the Word, a promise for you, for me.  The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18-19, NIV)

Abba, this Monday morning dawns and with it comes new
challenges and opportunities.
Help us to stand where Your Light shines,
to enjoy the revealed Truth that comes
to those who love the Light.
Shine in us, let Your radiance be seen in us.

And, in this may we find the riches of Life you offer,
and enjoy the promise that is for those who walk
the pathway of those who know and love You.
In the Name of the Light of the World, I pray.

Amen.
_________

Here I Am To Worship

(worship at this link)

Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness\
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You

 So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
And You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

 King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came
To the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor

 Tim Hughes© 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Jerry D. Scott, Pastor- Faith Discovery Church

www.FaithDiscovery.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

You CAN do this!

wordswag_1512130788351.pngI wondered to myself, “Jerry, can you do this?”

“This” was serving Christ- in a way that is effective and faithful.  From my side of life’s tapestry, I see knots of fear, threads of temptation, unfinished business, incomplete understanding, and yes – blots of sinfulness.  The news of the moral compromise of many men was a factor in my fearful doubt, too. Do you ever feel that way about finishing the Christian journey well, honoring the One who called you?

In my meditation and prayer, the Spirit brought this passage to mind that renewed my hope and courage. “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NIV) Christ Jesus is Sufficient for my every need, greater than my sinful nature, with grace to keep me.  When this truth took hold of my mind I could only worship and give thanks.

Later in the same day as I felt my own sense of weakness so acutely, the Lord saw fit to prompt two people to tell me of ways in which they had found my life of value in their own Christian journey. That affirmation was like an exclamation mark at the end of that verse – “He has made us competent!”

Louie Giglio in his book, Goliath Must Fall, takes another look at an old familiar story. David meets the giant on the battlefield, pulls out his slingshot, and drops the champion dead. In his valor, inspired by God’s honor being challenged, David won a victory for all of God’s people. Usually this story is presented as a text to encourage us to meet our own giant with faith and courage. Giglio takes a different view.  He brings the Gospel to the story and asks us to consider that when we face a giant of addiction, failure – any besetting sin- that we remember it is not our courage that wins the battle. Jesus is our David who went to battle for us, taking down our giant through His death on the cross.  We can enter into victory because the battle with sin and Satan is already won on our behalf.

Christ is sufficient!  That does not mean there is nothing for us to do. There is faith to be exercised, there are disciplines to be practiced that put His grace and goodness in operation in us, but it is not our perfection that saves us. It is His perfect work on our behalf.  That is probably not a new idea to you. It was not for me, either. It is a powerful truth that we cannot forget.

You can do this! And, I can, too.  Now, will we take the strength of Jesus and live confidently?

Meditate on this word from the Word for a few moments and regain confidence – not in Self, but in our Savior.   “With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. … Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. … If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.” (2 Corinthians 3:12, 4:1,7 The Message)

____________

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels

 Yea Lord we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus to Thee be all glory giv’n
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing

 O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Frederick Oakeley | John Francis Wade © Words: Public Domain

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sex, Shame, and Consequence

wordswag_1512043952062One of my heroes was dismissed from his position at Minnesota Public Radio yesterday. Garrison Keillor, 75, was released from the Prairie Home Companion after an accusation of sexual misconduct. I admit that this one  really got to me, left me confused, and a little angry.  Reading reports, a lot of us are confused by the revelations of sexual abuse, misconduct, and depravity in high places. A correction in relationships in the workplace is long overdue and I am glad to see men who abuse women held accountable.  It greatly concerns me that processes that allow for reflection, evaluation, and a just response seem to be pushed aside in the race to ‘get it right.’

Thinking about this has provoked some thoughts, and you may agree or disagree, which is totally fine with me. But, I cannot ignore this issue that has filled our news for weeks now.

My first thought is that America is reaping the harvest of the sexual revolution of the last generation. It is almost absurd that our culture would laud Hugh Hefner, a man who openly flaunted every sexual boundary, who ‘used’ young women throughout his life, as a pioneer and liberator. Who knows how many marriages failed because of his terrible example? Who knows how many women weep alone because he made the idea of a sexual ‘playmate’ one that many considered acceptable?  Hef discarded the idea of monogamy and marriage as a relic of another time.  As contraceptives made it possible to separate sex and babies, he gave us a kind of sexual model that, in my opinion, broke down all the barriers that kept the powerful impulses of sexuality in check.

Today, most people are convinced that any rules about sex between consenting adults are just silly.

  • Teens may be given a pep talk about ‘waiting,’ but then, with a knowing wink, we teach them how to avoid pregnancies and disease. There is no real expectation of discipline or restraint.
  • Porn has flooded our culture. Christians and non-Christians alike are affected. It is an common confession that I hear and it is not a harmless diversion. Porn is deadly to relationships, addictive, and destroys millions from the inside out.  I am shocked that parents put a smartphone connected to the Internet in the hands of their kids without filters, without accountability. We all know that you don’t have to go looking for very long to find all kinds of perversion.  And, a child can never ‘unsee’ an image once it is there.
  • Despite the Scripture’s unambiguous teaching that sex is to be enjoyed exclusively within the covenant of marriage, just about every couple that I marry these days have been sleeping together, even living together, with no real sense that they are violating the plan of God for their lives.

My second thought is that we need to remember that human sexuality is a gift of God, given to us to bond us, to make families, and to provide us with intimacy. If your Christianity includes the idea that that ‘sex is dirty and to be avoided at all costs’ you have reached a mistaken conclusion. What God does is to give us boundaries for sexual enjoyment so that the gift does not enslave, demean, or destroy – as we are seeing so much in our media reports right now.

The ugly side of human sexuality is what it does to people when misused.
Ask any woman was sexually abused what violation that has done to her sense of worth.
Ask any man who was molested how deep the pain goes even decades after the incident.
Ask a person who has become a slave to porn addiction about the shame he feels after yet another trip through the dark side of the Internet.
Ask a wife who is married to a man who sees her only as a toy for his pleasure how she feels about herself or her marriage.

My third thought is a reminder – God teaches us that sex is not just ‘skin on skin.’ It is spiritual as well as physical. One of the great mysteries in our sexuality is how much it affects our identity, our worth, our health. Consider this wisdom. “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”-but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. …  But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. … Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:12-21, NLT)

Are you struggling with guilt or shame over your sexuality, Christian?
Have you been abused? Share that with a trusted counselor and find freedom.
Have you done things in the past that still make you ashamed?
Know that the Cross is the place of healing, that God frees us from our guilt. Bring your sexuality to Christ. Tell him your struggles. Pray about the ways you are tempted, the hurts that have been visited on you by others in past, the sins that still sting your conscience. Humble yourself before Him and accept the wisdom of His Word, regardless of the mockery of the world we live in.   Thank Him for the gift of your sexuality!

And, Christian, let’s recover what the Bible teaches about purity. Purity is beautiful, makes us whole, and frees us to be all God made us to be. Here is a word from the Word – “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NLT)

God help us to point the way to sexual sanity, to wholeness, to recovery of love and trust in our relationships.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized