Category Archives: Christians

From my Heart

photoToday, this morning, I am simply writing what I am thinking. I am not sure how this will come across.

Friends, I am hurting! Tears are literally welling up in my eyes as I am thinking. It pains me deeply to say what I am about to say. There is a certain reality that hits once I publish my thoughts. Once I speak or write I can never take back the words. The thoughts of my heart, my private reflections are about to go public. I cannot help it. Similar to Jeremiah, I have tried not to speak, but there is as if there is a fire in my bones and I have to give vent to the burning inside of me (Jeremiah 20:9).

I am fearful some will not understand. I am fearful that some will treat me differently.  I am afraid that some will think bad of me. So please read carefully.  Please understand me.  Know that I love you, each and every one of you. Please know I love God, Christ, and the Spirit. Understand that I believe the Bible to be the Word of God and that through His word He tells us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Pe 1:3). I believe that God wants – no desires – all people to be with Him in Heaven (2Pe 3:9, 1Ti 2:4) and through Jesus the Christ (Messiah) God provides the only way back to Himself (John 14:6).

With that said, I am hurting.

  • I hurt for the world.  A world that seems to increasingly hate the Christ, and those that follow Him. A world I thought I would never see.  A world that at best pokes fun at Christianity and at worst puts followers of Christ in prison and to death, simply for confessing His name.
  • I cry over a world that dogmatically calls people of convictions different from their own, “bigots.”
  • I do not understand why the world is intolerant of Christians while accusing Christians of intolerance.
  • I hurt that our world is selfishly self-serving. Individuals and groups want more than acceptance, they want the removal of all consequences of their actions or beliefs and the elimination of all who disagree with them. This is IMPOSSIBLE.
  • I cry for the nation I live in – the United States of America.  I cry that we, as a nation, are embracing sin at an ever increasing rate.
  • I morn the violence against people of different races or gender.  I am ashamed that such prejudice even exists – especially among those who claim to follow the Christ.
  • I cry for the victims of abuse of all kinds.

There are more things I cry over. There is more that depresses me.  I am a relatively positive person, if you look up optimist you might even see my picture in the dictionary, but I do not feel optimistic about our world. We lie in a world filled with what First Century Greeks would call:

  • pornos” – sexual immorality. This includes intimate hetero-sexual (male-female) relationships outside of marriage.
  • eidololatres” – idolaters. Those that worship any god but God.  Those that put any thing, person, activity, pleasure, recreation, etc. as priority over God.
  • moichos” – adulterers. Those that have sexual relations with someone other than their spouse. Those that have multiple divorces and remarriages that do not follow Jesus’ statement on marriage and divorce (Mat 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Mar 10:2-12).
  • malachos” – effeminate or soft. This one is troublesome. I am not sure the entire meaning. My best understanding is that it describes men who try to look like women. In First Century Greek cultures, younger men would shave body hair, dress like women, offer themselves as temple prostitutes or as the “companion” of wealthy men. At the very least a modern equivalent would be what we know as cross-dressing or being transgender.
  • arsenokoites” – literally “man-chambering” or sexual relations between two men.  This is what we now call homosexuality. Such was a practice in the First Century especially among the cultural elite.
  • kleptes” – thieves. Those that steal from others.
  • pleonektes” – greedy. Those that covetously seek for their own gain not caring about others in the process. They are avaricious.
  • methusos” – drunkards. Those that use chemicals (specifically alcohol) to become high (intoxicated).
  • loidoros” – revilers. Those that look for and start fights (they are purposefully critical in an abusive or insulting way).
  • harpax” – extortionists or swindlers. They prey on others and cheat them out of their possessions.

That First Century list looks familiar.  I cringe to think the world is still the same 2000 years later. Surely we can evolve beyond such rapacity. But we have not, will not, and that hurts me deeply.

What is sadder still is that these same accusations are not only applicable to the world outside of Christ, but many who claim to follow Christ are just as guilty.  That is why after Paul composed this aforementioned list to Christians in 1Co 6:9-10, he continues, “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.” (1Co 6:11).

Three thoughts and I leave this post in your hands. Three thoughts and I let you go about your day. Three thoughts as I read Paul’s admonition:

  1. Christians ought not to be harsh to those who practice sinful behaviors.  We ought to understand.  We were there, that was us.
  2. Those things (behaviors and attitudes) WERE who we were BEFORE we came to the Christ and gave our life to Him. Now we should put those things away and live for Him. He is now our life (Col 3:4) and we put away those things.
  3. Now our role is not to point people to sin. Those who sin are guilty and need GRACE and FORGIVENESS that is in Christ.  Let us point them to Christ and life in Him.  Let us not be a laser in the eyes or salt in an open wound but  on the contrary be a welcoming light and savoring salt (Mat 5:13-16).

– Scott

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Even More on Prayer

Prayer!  Prayer is so much more than saying a few words with our 20111206-072603.jpgheads bowed and hands folded.  Prayer involves our entire concept of God. Prayer connects deeply to our faith. Our life as a child of God is to be a life of prayer.

  • Prayer is not simply an emergency line to God, although He wants to hear and help our urgent needs.
  • Prayer is not negotiation with God. We should ask for supplication, but we need not barter with God.
  • Prayer is not a miracle nor does prayer require/expect God to answer with a miracle. Providence – yes! Miraculously setting aside the laws of nature – no.
  • Prayer is not for show. Prayer is not meant to impress others with our piety. Prayer is more of an exercise of humility seeking aid from the Creator of all.
  • Prayer is not resigning our fate to the whims of a narcissistic god. Prayer is not giving up or giving in.

Prayer is so much more.

Take time to talk with God today – right now.  I know that the Father longs to hear from His children; the Creator wants to hear from his creation.

– Scott

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Jesus and Prayer

We continue our Tuesday study of prayer but looking to Jesus and His prayer life. John records, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14).  Jesus was NOT just a man! Jesus was NOT another prophet! Jesus was God in the flesh living on earth with man.

He was “God with us”, the “Son of God”, Christ, yet He prayed to the Father – often – VERY often! Jesus did not talk about prayer partners, prayer warriors, and daily devotionals. Christ said nothing similar to “we should pray about it.”  He simply prayed. He did ot promote prayer, he warned about vain repetitions. He called for persistence in prayer. At the very least we know He prayed for Peter by name (Luke 22:31-32).

The gospel accounts record over twenty (20) instances of Jesus praying:

Jesus prayed:

  • Mark 1:35 – He rose early to pray.
  • Luke 24:30-31 – He prayed before a meal.
  • Luke 9:28-30 – He prayed at His transfiguration.
  • Luke 22:43-44 – He prayed when He was weak.
  • John 11:41-43 – He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus.
  • Luke 6:12 – He spent the night in prayer.
  • Luke 9:18 – He prayed alone while in a crowd.

Jesus prayed because:

  • He was busy – Luke 5:15-16.
  • He had decisions to make –
    • Luke 3:21-22 – Before His immersion (baptism).
    • Luke 6:12-16 – Before choosing the 12.
    • Matthew 26:36-46 – Before facing the cross.
  • When He faced crisis – John 6:15.
  • When He faced death – Hebrews 5:7.

In John 17 we have a prayer of Jesus’ recorded for us. To me this is the Lord’s Prayer. in this prayer we hear Jesus:

  • Submitting to God – John 17:4, 6-8, 14.
  • Praying for His needs and desires – John 17:1-5.
  • Praying for the needs of the apostles – John 17:9-19.
  • Praying for the Church (you and me) – John 17:20-21.

If Jesus needed to pray, what does this mean for us?

– Scott

As a bonus here is Acappella singing about one of Jesus’ prayers:

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A Greatest Habit

great            As I am writing this lesson Pandora Radio is playing my Gordon Lightfoot Channel.  The song playing is American Pie by Don McLean.  This eight and a half minute song hit number one in 1971. It is a song inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. Some consider this song to be one of the greatest of all time. Guinness Publishers make a fortune on the Book of World Records. Our world celebrates greatness. Yet, how do we determine true greatness?

The Law of Moses that set guidelines for the life of God’s people, the children of Israel, had over 600 commands (not just 10). The religious leaders would debate which of these laws were more important and one day they asked Jesus to give His opinion on which was the greatest commandment. They were at the very least, trying to get Jesus to take sides. Jesus answer is, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30). Simply put, Jesus says that LOVE is the greatest. He quotes what the Jews called the SHEMA – (Hear). The Law of Moses taught that parents were to teach this creed to their children (Deut 6:4-9) at every opportunity that they had. Jesus reminds us that the greatest love is to:

Love God with all Your Heart. Loving God with all your heart is loving Him with the part of you that feels, the seat of your emotions. This love is loving God the way you love your grandparents, your parents, and those closest to you. This is the love that brings goose bumps or warm-fuzzies.

Love God with all Your Soul. The Greek word is “psyche” a root word for our word “psychology.” The understanding is that you love God with the whole of your human essense – your breath and your life.  We are to love God with everything that we are.

Love God with all Your Mind. The mind is the seat of our intellect. Loving God is not “better felt than told.” Loving God is more than a feeling; loving God is a thinking, rational adventure. When I understand what God did for me on the Cross and what He does for me in my life and for my eternity, I cannot help but learn to love Him (1 John 4:9-10, 19).

Love God with all Your Strength. This is loving God with what you can do. Demonstrate your love for God and to God by using your abilities and energies for His glory.  In other words, love God until you have nothing else to love Him with and then love Him more.

How do we love God? 2 John 6 says we walk in His commandments. We do His will, we obey Him according to His terms, we worship Him and Him alone the way He wants us to worship, and we live daily for Him (cf. 1 John 1:7). We love God and not the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).

Then Jesus says there is a penultimate command – the second greatest.  Jesus says, to Love your Neighbor as Yourself. There are two keys to following God: A) Love God Completely and B) Love Mankind Earnestly (cf. 1 John 4:19-21).  My neighbor would be any other person on earth (remember the story of the Good Samaritan).

How do we love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Look at Romans 12:9-13. We A) have Genuine Love, B) have Brotherly Love, C) Outdo each other in showing love, D) have a Fervent (enthusiastic) spirit toward each other, and E) Show Compassion (hospitality) toward others.

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Another Day in Paradise

Yes, I am referencing Phil Collin’s song from the 1980’s. One of his best in my opinion.

This Sunday our lessons at Central Church of Christ will be about our Attitude Toward the Poor and How We can Help the Poor.  Phil Collins’ song helps me realize my blessings and my responsibility not only as a human being, but more importantly as a Christian.

Enjoy the song:

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Using Prayer

How do you use prayer? Do you use prayer as an avenue for you or as a way to talk to God?  Before you answer think about

Camp Bellevue worker in Ecuador praying as the day starts.

Camp Bellevue (Tabacundo, Ecuador) worker prays as the day starts.

these “uses” of prayer.

We disUSE prayer when we are:

  • Not praying for national, state, local, and Church leaders.
  • Not praying for strength for the Body of Christ
  • Not praying for spiritual growth in ourselves and in the Church.
  • Not praying.
  • In Acts 13:1-3 we read of the early church’s reliance on God through prayer, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

We misUSE prayer when we see it as:

  • A tool for manipulation. Like the misbehaving child who’s parents sent him to his room to pray about his misbehavior.  He came back later and was still acting up. When asked if he prayed about his behavior, he said, “Yes, I prayed you would be more patient with me.” Sometimes we pray aloud with the intent of our words changing those that hear us pray and not a sincere prayer to God.
  • As a substitute for preparation / work. Someone said, “As long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school.”  Prayer-peration is not a substitute for preparation.  Prayer is inviting God to walk and work along-side us and to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, not what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. Maybe that is what James is warning about in Jas 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Don’t just pray that someone’s needs are taken care of if you are not willing to act to relieve those needs. Prayer is communication with the Father.

We abUSE prayer when

  • We make demands of God. To hear television preachers tell people to pray in a way that demands God act concerns me. God is sovereign, I am not.  God knows what is best for me, I do not.  I ask for God’s blessing, I do not demand it. Again James speaks to this, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (Jas 4:15).
  • We pray to “look good” or pious. Jesus said, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Mat 6:5-7).

How do you use prayer?  Use it to open your life to God letting Him know your struggles, needs, and desires.  Trust that He will work what is TRULY best for you.

– Scott

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“The Lord’s Prayer”

Prayer.  People still ask for prayer.  Even people with no identified faith ask for “positive thoughts” – I think they mean prayer.

Prayer. “Say a little prayer for me, will you?” He asked.  I am sorry, but I cannot do that.  There is no such thing as “a little prayer.”  Prayer is not a miracle. Prayer is not mystical. Prayer is not a shaman’s tool.  Prayer is not superstition.  Prayer calls upon the Creator of the universe, the Judge of mankind, God to act.

The disciples witnessed John the Baptist praying and teaching his followers to pray.  The disciples saw Jesus, their Master and Rabbi, in prayer often. They knew the importance of prayer in the coming Kingdom. They asked, “Lord, Teach us to pray . . .” (Luke 11:1).

Jesus gives them a prayer model. What Christendom calls The Lord’s Prayer. (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13). Take a moment to enjoy the voice of Marvin Gaye as he sings The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father Who Art in Heaven. God is your Father when you are His child (Galatians 3:26-27). The story of the prodigal demonstrates God as a father who longs to forgive and to have a loving relationship. He longs for us to want a relationship with Him so He can bless us.

The Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done. The Kingdom Jesus teaches the disciples to pray for is the kingdom Jesus established on earth.  The kingdom that He rules today – His church. There is a sense in which the Kingdom is already here, but as long as there are souls not doing God’s will there is room for the Kingdom to grow and to come to the lives of those lost individuals.

Give us this Day Our Daily Bread.  God displays concern for our concerns.  There is nothing in our life too trivial or common that we should not mention to God.  We are to pray for our necessities (bread not stake) each day.

Forgive us our Debts as We Forgive our Debtors. Just as we need daily food, we need daily forgiveness.  God longs to forgive.  He gave His son for the forgiveness of our sin. But notice that our forgiveness from God depends upon our willingness to forgive those who commit offenses against us. How can we demand God forgive our great debt against Him when we hold grudges over trivial things of this life (Matthew 18:21-35)?

One more thought from the model prayer.  Jesus focuses on three areas of need.  These are needs important enough to talk with our Creator about:

  1. Physical Needs
  2. Relationship Needs
  3. Spiritual Needs

Take time to  – no!  MAKE time to pray.

– Scott

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