You Are Missed

They weren’t here. I did not see them. I am looking at the list of “absentees” from worship this past month and like every month, I wonder, “why are they not attending regularly?” Is it the preaching? Is it our congregational singing? Are we not welcoming? Do they not feel important, needed, and appreciated? Do they not know how much God has done for them?

When I talk with Christians about worship, Bible class, and fellowship attendance I get a variety of responses.

  1. Churches talk too much politics.
  2. The church is weak on doctrine.
  3. Church is out of touch with culture.
  4. Church is not as entertaining as ____________.

The responses are not stated exactly like that, but those are some that I hear – between the lines. There is one more factor in play. This reason usually goes something like this:

“I don’t have any friends (know anyone or have anything in common with anyone) there.”

If you have heard this said about where you worship, then please keep reading. If this is how you feel;  if this is why you are not regularly (multiple times weekly) gathering with other Christians in worship and study; then please keep reading.

First I want to talk to the church. I have something to say to every Christian. Listen up!

People want to be with friends.

There I said it and you can help. We can have scheduled and impromptu gatherings at the building, in homes, in parks, and at restaurants, where Christians and their friends can get together for friendly fun fellowship. We can reach out to our guests and include them in our conversations. We can introduce them to others at our assemblies and small group fellowships and help them form acquaintances that can develop into friendships.  We can even bring long-time church members into our group of friends. We can make all of our gatherings welcoming events. We may have to catch-up with our regular group or family at a later date. Smartphones make this easier.

Now to those of you who struggle to attend for lack of connection, let me talk with you. I want to be as kind and understanding as possible. I say this with compassion,

“Try to make some friends.”

lizzieatpiano

via Working Title

In the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy says in defense, “I … do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.” Elizabeth Bennett, while sitting at the piano having been forced to paly and scolded for lack of practice by Mr. Darcy’s aunt retorts, “Perhaps you should take your aunt’s advice and practice.”

An acquaintance of mine tells an account of being a guest at a congregation while on vacation. He could not believe how unfriendly the people were, even those sitting on the same row with him did not speak, they barely even acknowledged his presence. Finally, he decided to introduce himself and force them to at least talk. When he did, the person seemed relieved, and said so. They were also a guest and thought he was an unfriendly member!

Here is the point. Please do not walk in late and leave early. Be there long enough for people to have an opportunity to meet you. Introduce yourself and ask a question or two. At most congregations there are people there 30 minutes before assembly and some stay just as long after having conversations and making plans for getting together away from the building.

-Scott

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Off Target

OFF off targetTARGET

The news reported last night that over 500,000 people have signed a petition to boycott Target. That number is almost 700,ooo this morning. Unless you just ignore social media and the news you know that this boycott is in response to Target’s decision to allow people who self-identify as a different gender from their biological birth to use the bathroom that they feel is correct for them.

But this is not a post about Target, LGBT, bathrooms, outhouses, or boycotts.

I will leave your  response to Target, NIKE, Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, or any other company to you as an individual or family.

This post is about you and I as Christians and what the world thinks about us based on what we say and what we do. Does the world know more about what we are against that what we are for?

If  I were to take a microphone and camera to the campus of the University of Alabama (one mile from my study – Roll Tide) and asked random students, “What do Christians believe?” I am afraid the answers would be:

  1. They believe getting homosexuality is a sin
  2. They believe transgenderism is a sin
  3. They believe lesbianism is a sin
  4. They are against welfare
  5. They are against healthcare
  6. They are against raising the minimum wage
  7. They believe all other religions are wrong.
  8. They don’t believe in science (climate change, evolution, etc)
  9. They believe a woman does not have a right to her own body (abortion)

There may be other answers, but I am truly afraid that many if not most people I would talk with would know more about what they think we are against than what we are for.

If this is truly the case . . .

We are OFF TARGET!

  • Can I get you to join me in letting people know about the saving power of the blood of Christ?
  • Will you join me in a movement to spread the GOOD NEWS of salvation from the wrath of God?
  • Will you like Paul admit you are a sinner in need of the grace of God through Christ?
  • Will we demonstrate to the world that we believe in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control?
  • Will we show them forgiveness and grace?

We are good at pointing fingers and quoting these words, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Will we remember verse 11 follows? And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (emp – BSMc)

-Scott

 

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An Open Letter to Our Son

Andrew,

Your mom and I were discussing our individual childhood memories and games. We both discovered 2016-04-25 07-15-44.941something that you should know. What we learned may have an impact on your past, present, and future. There are advantages and disadvantages to what we discovered.

I will start with your mom. She used to go on the 40 acres and play what we then called “Indian” the correct term now is Native American. She would gather sticks and straw and build a hut she called a TiPi. Many hours of the afternoon and summer were spent playing this role.

When my friends and I played what we called “Cowboys and Indian” which I suppose should be re-termed “Invading Ranchers and Native Americans,” I regularly wanted to be the Native American. I had bows and arrows, and even a chief’s head dress. Once while roleplaying I took an oak branch I was using as a club and literally knocked my older brother out. I took role playing seriously.

I say all this to tell you that your mom I have realized this was more than roleplaying or pretending. We were expressing who we thought we were. That is why we are coming out today as TRANS-ETHNIC.

Trans-ethnic

I realize, we have told you all your life about your Scottish, Irish, English, and Swedish ancestry. I know that our fair skin and blue eyes will cause some to question our ethnic self identity, but stand strong. I hope you will stand behind us and our decision. I hope this does not embarrass you, I hope you are proud of us.

Your parents,

Teaches with Smile (formerly known as Mom) and Stands in Pulpit (formerly known as Dad)

BTW – Now you can now apply for a Native American Tuition Waiver.

OKAY, OKAY. This is completely satirical I am not Native American and neither is Amy, although both of us have at least one ancestor each who was, but that was generations ago. We are not trans-ethnic.  I know my readers are intelligent enough to make the application to society’s current “self-identification” crisis. What we are born as is what were are genetically. No matter what we think we are or want to be our genetics do not change.

-Scott (a.k.a. Stands in Pulpit)

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Take Your Hat Off and Stay

This is an edit of a post from 2012. With all the political correctness going on and people not wanting their feelings hurt by being told they are wrong, I thought I would update and share.

A well-to-do family hired a maid to keep the house and laundry clean. All the first day the new maid wore her hat, the family thought that in the excitement of a new job and wanting to get right to work she had simply forgotten to take off her hat. This habit of keeping her hat on continued into the following week. Curiosity finally overcame the lady of the house and she asked the maid why she always wore her hat when she worked. “Well,” replied the maid, “I want to be ready to quit any time you say something that hurts my feelings.”

The story is ridiculous, the maid needs some help. This easily applies to our whiny culture that does not like being told, “no.” But I am not really going there. That would be too easy.

IMG_0515I wonder, “How many Christians still keep their hats on?” How many of us wear our feelings on our shoulders waiting for an excuse to leave the church? Just this week, I talked with people who no longer attend a certain church, because someone questioned what they said, wore, did , or did not do. Yes, what was said may have been offensive and out of line, but we should not let people get in the way of our relationship to God.

I wonder what hope we would have if Jesus had quit because His feelings were hurt? People mocked Him, taunted Him, doubted Him, accused Him, slapped Him, spit in His face, called His teachings into question, and so on. Yet He persisted in the mission before Him enduring the shame and suffering (Heb 12:2ff).

When many quit following Jesus because what He said offended them, he turned to the disciples and asked, “Will you go away also?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of life.” (Jn 6:67-68).

Where could we go if we leave Christ?

Where else is there salvation?

What is more important to me? – My feelings or my soul?

Are you still wearing your hat? Take it off and get to work!

-Scott

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Sideways

Recent events have turned my world sideways. Not stopped or upside-down, but sideways. As a minister I am no stranger to destruction or disease. I have consoled many through tough times. I have personally  faced them on occasion. But the passed few days grabbed my attention.

I would start with the current political situation in the United States and more specifically my home state, but then I would digress into a rant and  . . . well let’s just say I am not thrilled, happy, pleased, or hopeful about our nation at the moment.

I could also mention current issues of morality that are hot topics in our nation. But again, I would have way too much to say, and you likely know where I stand on those issues – or think you do.

My world is sideways for some personal reasons. Please indulge my personal message.

I have a dear friend (a member where I serve as minster and my “amen” corner) who is visiting family in Japan. I have a cousin and his family living in Japan as teachers and missionaries. Japan recently had earthquakes and aftershocks. Thankfully they are both safe and are a good distance away from the epicenter and suffered no damage. I have friends in Ecuador, again they suffered earthquakes. I have heard from many of them that they are all safe. Some shaken, but safe.  I even learned that some of these poor people are gathering supplies in Ecuador to send to the hardest hit regions.

Yesterday something even more personal struck and grabbed my attention. My younger

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l-r: Doug, Charles, Scott (me)

brother (Charles a.k.a. Chuck, Chaz, and Kermit) fainted at work and then had a seizure. Co-workers got him to the hospital – I presume they called for an ambulance. They found a tumor on his brain affecting the left side of his body.  He admitted to my parents and older brother that he had recently been suffering from some weakness on his left side. As of now, we do not know the nature of the tumor. He should know sometime today when a larger hospital will have him come for further evaluations and tests. My sister-in-law says he is resting well and is in good spirits about it. (Update – Charles expects to be at the hospital next week for biopsy, evaluations, recommendations and the next steps to recovery.)

 

My world is sideways, but my faith is strong. I thank God for the safety of my friends and family in Japan and Ecuador. I thank Him that they are in positions to help others recover from these disasters. I know you have friends and family in similar situations and that with God we can all have a peace that passes understanding. I know that no matter what lies ahead for my brother, his family, and our family together, that God is there with us, holding hands, and hearing prayers. I know that you and many others are praying for Charles, for his healing, and for those that will be taking care of him. We covet those prayers and thank you for them.

Today, the well known words of the psalmist seem more than appropriate,

Psalm 23
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name ‘s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

-Scott

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How Did That Happen?

April 15 was not a good day for one lady in her sixties. No, as far as I know she did not learn she owned the IRS a pile of taxes. She was attending a Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Socks baseball game when a ball fouled off the bat of Stephen Souza, Jr. This 63 year old lady was sitting behind the protective net, but the 2.8 – 2.94″ baseball found a 4-5″ gap in the net that she was sitting behind. The ball hit her in the eye and she was taken out of the stands on a stretcher and to a local hospital.

gap3

image: Marc Topkin @TBTimes_Rays

 

Reporters noted Souza’s tears over the incident. And his wondering about the odds of this happening.

All this because of a gap in a net.  The MLB’s suggestion to all teams, check for gaps and close them.

Gaps. I never ceased to be amazed at what can get through the smallest of gaps. Insects find gaps in seals, windows, doors, and more to get into your house. This seems especially true of mosquitoes, ants, spiders, fruit flies, and Japanese Ladybugs.

Gaps. Satan finds the gaps in our armor and in our line of defenses to lead us away from God. Sin finds our weakest point and attacks.

Gaps. Our enemy finds gaps in our churches and slides in while we are not paying attention.

God looks for someone to fill these gaps and to help protect His people. He did during the time of Ezekiel, “And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” (Eze 22:30 ASV). He does today.

Will you be that person?  Will you stand up for what is right? Will you look for ways to help others stay true to God? Will you CLOSE THE GAP?

-Scott

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God’s Will

Last week I posted God’s Plan for Your Life.

That post generated a few discussions via email, Facebook, and Messenger. One person suggested I expand my thoughts. Another individual just wanted me to explain my understanding to him. This is my answer. It is longer than my usual posts, but this is important. What I am sharing is a theological perspective that underscores who I am as a child of God and how I go about serving in that role. Simply put, the thoughts that follow affect every aspect of my life.

God’s Will and My Choice: A Theology

I have a theological perspective that I want to share with you, my readers. I think it consistent with scripture or else I would abandon it. I am going to do my best to explain it in as few of words as possible.  I am taking time to develop this here so that you can understand why I view the Scriptures and life the way I do.

theologyI start with the Mission of God.  God’s mission is to reveal Himself and his omnipresence to His creation. That is the relationship we see in the Garden; before the fall of man. After the fall of man, His mission does not change, but the way he carries out that mission does.  He longs to restore the lost relationship and plans to do so through Himself (Emmanuel – God with us). Throughout the Pentateuch we see God re-introducing Himself to His creation – Noah, Abram, Moses, etc. Through them God reveals Himself to a chosen people. Chosen for the purpose of bringing the Messiah into the world through Whom, God would reveal Himself to the world.  God does reveal Himself to the world throughout history. Look up phrases like “so all the nations will know that I am God.” But God through Christ reveals Himself and His ultimate plan of redemption. The redemption that comes through the sacrifice of the righteous for the unrighteous – the sinless for the sinner.  Today, the Kingdom of His Son (the Church) has the responsibility to continually reveal God through our work in the World and through His revealed will – the word of God.  Interestingly, God’s revealing Himself seems to follow a pattern of 1. To a person or persons, 2. Oral communication of that revelation, 3. That revelation in writing. Hebrews 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . .”

The second part of this theological perspective finds basis in 1. The omnipotence of God, 2. The omniscience of God, and 3. The free-will of man.

God is all-powerful and can do anything He wants even defy the laws of nature and the understanding of man. Consider creation itself, consider the flood, or the many other events throughout history where God set aside the laws of nature to do His will or prove His power. The greatest of these is the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Through this I learn that God’s weakness is stronger than my strength.

God is all-knowing. He knows more than any man or mankind can know. Standing outside of time, God knows more than we can even comprehend. Paul says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

For some unknown reason – at least unknown to me – God gave those He created in His image the freedom to choose to or not to believe in or follow Him. Adam and Eve had a choice. Cain had a choice. Noah had a choice. Abraham had a choice, Lot had a choice, Israel as a nation and as individual had a choice. Peter had a choice. Judas had a choice. We have a choice.

What follows is an exponentially expanded view of God’s omniscience and His use of His omnipotence:

Let me remind you of a mathematical truth; through a single point in space you can theoretically draw an infinite number of lines. Now imagine that that point in space is a point in the space-time continuum. Imagine that point is a point in your life where you must make a choice. Let’s say in this situation you have five choices – one to your front, one to your left, to your right, behind you, or to decide nothing. I believe God allows you to choose and knows what the infinite number of consequences of each choice and of the choices that you will face because of that choice. It is possible that God might prefer you make one certain choice but will not force you. If, however, you as a child of God (and maybe even a seeker who is searching for God (Acts 10)) are desiring to do His will He can, because He is all powerful, bless you in any choice (as long as that choice is not to follow Satan or continue in sin). God out of love allows you to choose and then will work with your choice if you are trying to do His will. 

Open to the book of Genesis and recall the story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37. Joseph is the favorite son, doted on by his father, Jacob. Joseph is also a dreamer who cannot keep his dreams to himself. When he dreams about stalks of wheat and the sun, moon, and stars, bowing to him, his brothers’ jealousy turns to envy, anger, and hate. They decide to kill him, then through his brother Rueben’s urging, they decide to toss him into a pit to teach him a lesson. When a band of traders passes by they sell Joseph into slavery. The convince their father, Jacob, that Joseph died at the hands of a wild animal. Joseph is sold to Potiphar, then lied about and tossed into prison. From prison he is eventually released because God interprets Pharaoh’s dreams through him and Joseph lays out a plan to survive the coming famine.  Joseph ends up second only to Pharaoh and through that is able to rescue his family from the famine. In Genesis 50:19-20, he tells his brothers who tremble and bow before him, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Another way of rendering that verse could be, “You meant it for evil, but God fabricated it for good.” In other words, God took what the brothers did and used it for His purpose, God did not necessarily force Joseph’s brothers’ hands to treat him poorly, but when they did, God took the opportunity of their choices and turned them to good. God could have in his omnipotence, put Joseph in power through any number of ways. It is not the only time in scripture God foils Satan’s plans.

Consider the preceding paragraph as you recall Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This text does not say everything is good. This text does not say God does everything for our good. This text says God will WORK things together for our good when we place ourselves in God’s care. Called according to His purpose is called by His plan. That plan is our choice to obey the good news. This is what Paul discusses in Ephesians 1. God predestined the “plan” the scheme of redemption that is salvation through Christ. He did not predetermine each individual to be or not to be saved. God is not a respecter of persons nor of ethnicities. His mission was always to reveal Himself to His creation for their redemption. God is not willing that any should spend eternity in Hell (2 Peter 3:9). God cannot go against His own will and only predestine some to salvation or to follow His will.

This is why I conclude, “God’s plan is simple! He wants me to CHOOSE to live for Him in all my life’s choices and to CHOOSE to live in a way to spend eternity with Him through the saving GRACE He offers in Christ.”

-Scott

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