Most Important People

 

12307952_10206589030497621_5876259313852573140_oParents.

Parents are the most important people is society.  I do not think I am exaggerating. Many if not most societal problems result from failures in parenting. Children need training, encouragement, support, and guidelines to feel safe and to give them every advantage to succeed. This starts at home.

As parents we have the most influence on our children.

Do the math. The are 168 hours in a week. You children if they attend school are with their teachers for 35 hours of that week for nine months. If you and your children are active in a typical church and youth program then the church has about 5 hours a week to influence them.  This leaves 128 hours that your children are with you. 128 out of 168 hours is 76% of the week (this is during the school year, during three months of summer, or if they are not yet in school, you have them 163 hours or 97% of the week). You, parent, have the privileged responsibility of providing the majority of training your children.

What will you do with that time?

  1. Provide for them materially. This does not mean buy them the best of everything and anything they want, but provide for their needs.  Paul tells Timothy that those who do not provide for their families are worse than infidels. (1Ti 5:8)
  2. Provide for them spiritually. Godly training starts at home. Teach them about God and model what Christian living is like. (Eph 6:4).
  3. Provide needed discipline.  Children will make mistakes. Children will disobey. Children will push the limits you set and push your buttons in a battle of wills as they spread their wings toward independence. You must discipline them. The Biblical concept of discipline is training. Think of an athlete or musician and the training (discipline) it takes to be their best. Discipline includes instruction, encouragement, correction, and punishment. (Heb 12:5-9)

Parenting is not easy and not for the weak. Even the best of parents become frustrated. But remember the ultimate goal; To bring children up to know and love God and have an active faith in Him.

Having children who succeed in business is good. Having children who excel in academics or music or sports is good. Having children who obey the gospel and to continue to live for the Lord as adults is GREAT!

Helping our children get to heaven is our most important task!

Let me close with a simple question. If you do not like the answer, let me help you learn to answer differently.

If your children follow you to your eternal destination, will you be happy for them?

-Scott

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Vertical

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my world turning Sideways. Current political climate and current issues of morality or immorality played into that post, but mostly it was about a personal event. My younger brother’s diagnosis with a brain tumor.

This week I traveled to Gainesville, Florida to Shands’ Hospital where skilled surgeons and others removed 90% of the tumor. As of today, I do not know of the complete pathology report, but the surgeon and oncologist are both certain that the tumor is malignant. Watching my parents and my sister-in-law as the word cancer entered the room was difficult. No family wants to hear that diagnosis.

cj

 

Breathe.

Cry.

Pray.

Inhale and exhale.

Pray more.

Now that we know, we fight. We fight with medicines, we fight with technology, we fight calling upon the Great Physician to be in our corner fighting for us and with us. We fight vertically.

My brother is not perfect, I am not either. My brother is a child of God. In the hospital from pre-op to post-op in the ICU and in a semi-private room, he prayed with surgeons, nurses, and other patients.  He shared the reason for his hope and good spirits. I do not know how other families react to such news, but after the initial disappointment we quickly reverted to hope and laughter. Charles and I even had a few laughs about comedy skits that made fun of brain surgery. We are not laughing at the diagnosis, but in spite of it.

We can laugh and cope because of our hope in Christ.

Last evening at our devotional at Central, J, our Youth Minister shared the following statement. A statement I wish I had made. A statement that summarizes how my family is coping with brain cancer.

“This world is full of grave things, but this world is not my grave.”

I may die here. Unless Christ comes first I know I will die (Heb 9:27). It may be of cancer. It may be from a heart attack. It may be of old age, in automobile accident, or a random shooting. Death will come, my body will be buried, but because Christ rose from the dead and I put my hope in Him, the grave will not hold me for eternity. I will rise to be with the Lord always.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1Th 4:13-18).

Instead of thinking sideways, think VERTICAL!

Cancer is bad. But God is good!

-Scott

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I am not Finished Yet

The Apostle Paul writes,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (2Cor 4:8-9).

There are days I feel afflicted, perplexed, driven to despair, persecuted, and struck down.

There are times when I feel as if a business has mistreated me. There are times when fellow volunteers have used me, accused me, and lied about me.  There are times when I felt unheeded and unneeded. There were times when I have been overlooked, passed-over, and walked over. There are times when my efforts were not appreciated and times when my efforts failed. There are times when family and friends suffer and I can do nothing about it. The world is not always good to me.

Neither are my fellow Christians. There are times when my brothers and sisters in Christ have hurt me. Sometimes intentionally, but most often unintentionally. As a minister, I know that some love me, some do not like me, and some tolerate me. I am too loud and too quiet. I am not friendly enough and too friendly. I shouldn’t visit as much and I don’t visit enough. I use too much technology when I preach and I don’t use enough technology. What I say encourages and what I say hurts feelings.

I am not perfect.  I know this better than anyone. I make mistakes and have my weaknesses. There are moments when I know I have fallen. I have hurt others. In my life I have disappointed family and more importantly – God.

But I am not finished.

I am not crushed. I am not driven to despair. I am not forsaken, and I am not destroyed!

finishline

image via utica.edu

I am a child of God walking by faith and not by sight. I may be an earthen vessel, but I am being crafted by the Potter and His skilled hands. I might even be a misshaped or a cracked pot, but I have a treasure in me. That treasure is Christ. Because of Him and through Him I am made flawless – without spot or blemish (Eph 5:27). He is renewing my true self daily. That means my struggles here on earth are temporary as I look toward becoming like Him in glory (2Cor 4:16-17).

 

I am in good company.  The same Paul who wrote these words in 2 Corinthians and referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1Tim 1:15) also said,

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2Tim 4:6-8).

Hang in there, Scott.

-Scott

Speaking of flawless. Take a moment to enjoy MercyMe:

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I am not Sorry

What I am about to say is un-American, un-patriotic, unlike many right-wing republicans, and definitely un-Tea Party -like.

I am not sorry for what I am about to say.

I believe my words to be truth, founded upon scripture.  They are thoughts that our 20111219-090729.jpghymnology (is that a word?) proclaims.  These thoughts come from many before me, but somehow are missing from the spoken doctrine of current mainstream western Christianity – especially among conservatives, fundamentalists, and evangelicals.  I begin with a statement from the preacher and apostle Paul, who was by natural birth a free citizen of Rome (cf. Acts 22:28), “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Php 3:20).

Paul said it first and I only echo him, I am first and foremost a citizen of heaven.  As  Albert E. Brumley wrote,

“This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

O Lord you know I have no friend like you
if Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

With the above on my mind I want to share some concerns for the future of the United States; the country of my residence:

This election season, please be as conscientious as you can be while deciding what candidate to vote for.

I am personally concerned for the future of the United States. When I go to their websites and read what the candidates say about themselves, the choices before us in the major political parties and the minor parties concern me. Please ignore the rhetoric in media. Please ignore the SPIN coming form journalists. Go read each candidate’s platform on their websites and make an informed choice. I have links below that take you directly to each candidate’s page on the issues they deem important. These are informational only and not an endorsement of any party or candidate.

Learn more about Donald Trump

Learn more about Hillary Clinton

Learn more about Bernie Sanders

Learn more about Gary Johnson

Learn more about Austin Peterson

Do not misunderstand, I do care about the country of my earthly residence, but my main concern is the place I call home.

John MacArthur writes concerning the church,  “Put simply, the cooperate gathering of believers is an assembly of heaven’s citizens . . . united in purpose and in loving loyalty to their Master and King” (Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ – Kindle Edition, location 2931 of 3491).

This means that my top concerns as Heaven’s pilgrim sojourning on earth (1 Pet 2:11) are the interests and affairs of my true King and Country.  This means my focus is on bringing people into His Kingdom and teaching them to live as ambassadors for His glory.

-Scott

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Feeling Foolish

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized intojester-fool-hat Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27.)  For many of us this is a very familiar text and rightly so.  Many times our focus is on verse 27 that teaches the way into Christ is to put on Christ and that we put on Christ when we submit to Him by immersion.  Without doing any injustice to the above truth, I think there is something we miss in verse 26.  We are all “sons of God, through faith.”  I can submit to immersion seven times over in the River Jordan, but without faith in God’s Grace through Jesus the Christ, immersion will do nothing to remove sin.  We must have faith to get in Christ and we must continue to live by faith in Him.

The question we need to answer at this juncture is: What is living by faith?  Paul describes our walk as “by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7).  What does Paul mean?  I keep returning to this conclusion: “My faith is that citizenship is in heaven and I am not truly a citizen of this earth.  I am a stranger, a pilgrim, and an alien on foreign soil. That being the case I live as a citizen of heaven (for God by faith) while I am here and I cannot let the physical, emotional, and other distractions of my presence here pull me into a false sense of identity.”

capt.

Playing a fool for ICYC

Consider as examples some of the characters we meet in the pages of Scripture.  The residents of Jericho must have thought Joshua and Israel to be fools for walking around the city once and not laying siege.  Those whom Gideon sent home, must have thought Gideon crazy for going up against the Midianite army with only 300 men who thought they could hold water in their hands.  The Philistines and the giant from Gath had to laugh when Israel’s chosen champion was a ruddy shepherd boy with a stick and a sling.  We know what Job’s wife and friends thought about his trust in God.  The enemies of Nehemiah thought that the residents of Jerusalem were out of their minds if they thought they could complete a wall that would stop more than a fax.  The king’s yes-men slapped and made fun of Michaiah for speaking the truth.  Old Testament heroes of faith stood up against seemingly insurmountable ridicule.  Their faith in God made them appear foolish and act foolish in the eyes of those around them.  The prophets were no different, they would walk through town unclothed, cut holes in walls and escape the city every night for weeks, and they would argue with kings.

 

These people were out of their minds.

In the New Testament we read about men like Paul.  The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Greece called Paul a “babbler” (Acts 17:18).  A babbler was a noise maker:  one who was talking but making no sense.  The word carries the idea of a “seed picker” as in one who lives off gleaning.  Our terminology might refer to Paul as a homeless person eating out of dumpsters and mumbling nonsensically to himself.  Festus interrupts Paul’s address to Agrippa saying, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” (Acts 26:24).  Paul replies a few verses later saying he wished Agrippa, Festus, and the rest of us to be “as crazy as he is.”

A great, deep faith in God will make you seem crazy.

An active living faith will make you seem like a fool to those in the world.  If we really believe what we claim to believe, we cannot help but be radically different.  Consider that to the world it is foolish to:

  1. Lay by in store when you get no interest in return.
  2. Avoid every type (appearance) of evil.
  3. Teach and practice abstinence before marriage, monogamy in marriage, and life-long relationships.
  4. Speak against homosexuality, pornography, divorce, gambling, and lewd dancing – daring to call them sin.
  5. Abstain from alcohol
  6. Pray without ceasing in good times and bad.
  7. Respect authority including parents, teachers, law officers, employers, and government.
  8. Believe in God as the Intelligent Designer and Creator of the universe, and the list goes on.

There are times when our faith makes us look foolish to other religious people.  When we insist the Bible does not teach the rapture and a future millennial kingdom, but rather that the coming of Christ will end the earth’s existence and we will all receive our reward or punishment, many think us crazy.  When we insist that immersion is for the forgiveness of sins, just as Peter said in Acts 2:38, they call us ignorant or narrow-minded. When we point to Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 and insist that the instrument we play is our heart and not a lifeless creation of man, they consider us simple-minded and foolish.

Peter calls his readers and each child of God, “exiles.”  We are refugees, displaced from home, never to settle in this land.  This society is not where we belong.  We may look strangely, we may talk strangely, we may dress strangely, and we may even be strange.  This strange behavior is because we are not from here and are not satisfied to be here, because we long for home.  Notice Paul’s self-diagnosis, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God;” (2 Cor 5:13)If I am crazy, it is for God. Earlier he wrote to the Corinthians, what serves as a conclusion to these thoughts, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:18-25)

Will you join me in being a Fool for Christ?

-Scott

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Divergent

Divergent is a novel trilogy written by Veronica Roth and includes Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant. Without giving away any surprises the series is about a teenager who lives in a post apocalyptic society. Similarly to many other series in this young adult genre the authorities have tried to bring order to chaos by dividing society into groups. People enter these groupings when they become young adults. Typically, there is a rebellion against the status quo. In Veronica Roth’s series there are five groups or factions.

  1. Abnegation: These people have a heart for service and often give up their rights for Imageothers.
  2. Candor: These people are always and sometimes brutally honest.
  3. Erudite: The erudite are the educated and thinkers and keep society advancing.
  4. Dauntless: Dauntless are fearless and serve as law enforcement.
  5. Amity: This friendly group serves as farmers and peace negotiators.

One of Veronica Roth’s main characters does not fit into any the five categories, they are different, they are divergent. In all candor (pun intended) they fit all five categories on some level.

I liked this series, especially the first one – DIVERGENT.  After reading this novel in 2011 or 2012, I began thinking about comparisons to our lives a Christians in modern society.  I recently revisited these thoughts now that the third movie is in theatres.

Dictionaries define “divergent” as “tending to be different or to develop in a different direction.”

As Christians we are to be different and to develop separate from the world. We are to be DIVERGENT.

Consider the words of scripture that define us:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, (2 Cor 6:17)

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Eph 5:7-8)

There are many other passages we could consider, but these suffice to remind us to be different; to be divergent.

But how do we live divergently?

  1. Choose to follow God over what is popular.
  2. Choose to do what is right above what is easy.
  3. Dress differently. As men, women, boys, and girls choose to be modest in our dress.
  4. Talk differently. As God’s chosen people, speak in a way that bring glory to His name and does not degrade Him or His people.
  5. Think differently. Keep the greatest command and the second in the forefront of you mind; Love the Lord you God with all your heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt 22:36-40).

What are other ways we can be divergent?

-Scott

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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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