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.

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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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God’s Plan for Your Life

I have heard the question for 30 years of ministry, “What does God want me to do with my life?” Or the related question, “How do I  know if this is what God wants me to do?”

Then there is the statement, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Does God have a plan for my life? Does God have a plan for your life? The answer might surprise you.

Does God have a plan? “Yes, but not the way many think.”

gods plan

God does not have a plan for your life that specifically spells out whom your parents will or will not be, where you will go to school, what you will experience in your life, whom you will marry, when or if you will experience pain, disease, or suffer in an accident.  God does not preplan the day you will die. He may know that day in His infinite wisdom, but He did not create you with a specific expiration date – you are not a loaf of bread! Nothing in scripture teaches that God controls all the specifics of our lives.  Heb 9:27 mentions our death being appointed but that is not a set date on a calendar, the Hebrew writer is stating that we will die, that death and judgment to come are what we are to expect out of life.

The same writer does answer the question of God’s will for my life and His will for your life.  God’s word is the only way we can know 100% what God plans for us.  Here is the Hebrew writer’s answer, “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Heb 13:13-16.

There are three things in that text that define God’s plan for you and for me:

  1. Love and Praise Him.

  2. Seek Eternal Life with Him.

  3. Serve Others in His name.

Curiously, the wise preacher said something very similar, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecc 12:13-14.

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

By the way, the statement “Everything happens for a reason” insinuates that all the bad things, the hurts, the disease, and death that occurs is a direct result of God’s hand in my life and His teaching me lessons to grow  me the way He wants to grow me no matter what choices I think I have. Such a statement of pseudo-faith takes away the free-will of man that is key to our understanding sin and a faith response to God for salvation. And thinking that God preplans every aspect of our lives tempts us to blame Him when things go wrong instead of accepting the blame and turning to Him for help when we mess up.

 

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That’s Me in the Corner

All I can say is, “Wow!” What an awesome time we are living in. We are seeing people actively living their faith and by their example lighting a fire in others.

What am I talking about? What has me so excited? I am GLAD you asked!

After devotional and Bible Classes, I was talking with a parent of school age children. Here were her words, “My children had a ton of homework, I made them stop so we could come to Bible classes tonight. We wil be up late tonight, but I am so glad we came to mid-week.  We all needed the spiritual boost and classes were great.”

Just recently, I overheard a Christian say, “I am so looking forward to worship. I am getting there 20 minutes early so I can get my seat. I know singing will be great, and we will get to partake of communion, and the series the preacher is doing is fantastic. I told so and so, they could come in town this weekend, but we would not be going to the Lake on Sunday because that is when I want good seats at worship.”

Two teens were talking in between classes and I heard one say, “I cannot believe how immodestly our school friends dress. Don’t they know how gross it is to wear tight leggings as pants!” “I know” the other one said, “and the dresses people are buying for prom – they might as well wear nothing.”

On the way out to eat on a recent Sunday afternoon, I heard a parent and teen talking about his sportstained glass schedule. They were talking about how the coaches would understand them missing the tournament for worship. Their conclusion was that sports are fun but God’s people are more important.

As I thought about all that I had witnessed and heard, I became more and more excited to preach, to reach out to others, and to worship God. Then . . . I woke up. It was just a dream.

It is still a dream and it is my dream. A dream where we as Christians realize what is really important. A dream or a time when we truly put God above all things. A dream where we do not just sing, teach, preach, talk about how great Christ is, but a time when we live it.

Will you help my dream come true?

-Scott

 

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What Will You Become?

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Image via: stockimages –  freedigitalphotos.net

The great promise of the United States continues to be that you can become anything you want to be, if you put in the effort.

 

Is your desire to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, to be wealthy, famous, a star athlete, or president (you would likely be a better choice than those currently vying for the office)? With intrinsic motivation and availing yourself to opportunities you can become what you want to become. In many ways you are the only thing holding you back.

I recall the Army recruiting slogan of years gone by, “Be all that you can be.”

Yet, as wonderful as excelling in the armed forces, in athletics, in business, law, or education might be, there is something greater you can become.

John records, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12). You can become a child of God.

God gives you the right through faith in His Son to become a child of God. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). Grace appears to bring salvation (Titus 2:11). Not availing yourself to salvation offered by God through Christ is like living next to an artesian well and dying of thirst. Do you believe?

Faith (belief) gives us the RIGHT to become children of God. But faith that is inactive is not faith, faith that is dead is not faith. Faith to be faith is active, vibrant, and obedient. Do you believe? Do you have faith? Have you obeyed the gospel? Are living obedient to Christ? Are you a child of God? The apostle says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all (children) of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27).

I love the words of John in 1John 3:1-2 and I leave you with them, “See what kind of love the Father has given to (KJV – bestowed upon) us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did now know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now . . .”

I would love the opportunity to talk with you and help you be sure that you are a child of God.

-Scott

(note: I adapted this from “The Living Word: Sermons from Jerry A. Jenkins” that Jeff and Dale Jenkins compiled and edited. You can order the book from thejenkinsinstitute.com.)

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