Thursday, May 28, 2015

The "Extraordinary Living" blog has MOVED!

After writing the "Extraordinary Living" blog from here on BlogSpot for the past six years, we have moved the blog!

You can now find my blog on my ministry website at ScottFreeClinic.org, and click here to go directly to the blog. I hope you'll move with us, it has been a blessing to interact with so many of you over the years. Come read the blog at the new location, and while you're there you can explore the blog to learn more about the Scott Free Clinic. AND, take our weekly survey while there!

I'll see you at our new home site!

Scotty

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How, then, should we pray?

It seems we like to argue about anything in the church. You'll even find multiple dogmatic opinions about what posture we should take when we pray.

Someone has vividly expressed this in a humorous little poem ...

"'The proper way for man to pray' said Deacon Lemuel Keyes;
'The only proper attitude is down upon his knees.'
'Nay, I should say the way to pray,' said Reverend Doctor Wise,
'Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes.'
'Oh no, no, no,' said Elder Snow, 'such posture is too proud.'
'A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed.'
'It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing to the ground,' said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
'Last year I fell in Hodgkin's well headfirst,' said Cyril Brown.
'With both my heels a-stickin' up, my head a-pointing down;
And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said,
The prayin-est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin' on my head.'"

The fact is, effective prayer can be experienced in a variety of postures. Victor Hugo once said, "There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees."

Prayer is conversation with God, and as in conversing with anyone, our physical posture is a personal expression of what we trying to communicate. There are times our prayers are parades of praise for our God; other times we're making supplication for others, or we're seeking help for ourselves. Sometimes, it's a time for talking to our best friend. Because what we convey to God is different each time we pray, mixing up our postures makes for a more natural and authentic communication with God.

Following are five basic postures we see people in the Bible take when praying that we can include as different postures for our own prayers:

Sitting is probably the most common posture practiced in prayer. But even then, our posture in that position can vary greatly. Some sit with head bowed and eyes closed; others with face toward heaven and hands raised. Some people pull up an empty chair and pray as if Jesus is sitting there and they're having a conversation with Him, speak audibly as if the Lord were sitting in the empty chair.

Standing is another option for praying. Again, there are a variety of postures in this position as well, whether head is bowed or raised, eyes are closed or open. Often when people pray standing they feel inclined to lift their hands toward heaven in a more personal expression of adoration, pleading, or whatever their conversation may be.

One of my favorite postures for prayer is that of walking. I enjoy having a conversation with God while taking a walk, whether it's while hiking a trail, strolling along city sidewalks, or lingering down a sandy beach. Praying while walking, for me, becomes a very personal exchange of conversation between my Creator and me. The posture lends itself to a deeper authenticity, as if I was sharing personal time with my best friend.

Kneeling is an expression of humbling ourselves before God. This posture helps us to bring ourselves low before the Lord and exalt Him.

One of the least practiced postures for prayer in the Western world is that of prostrating oneself on the ground before the Lord. Of all the postures for prayer, this most expresses a surrender, yielding, and worship before our God.

Mixing these postures to match the messages of our prayers helps us to further communicate to God our thoughts and heart before Him. Adding postures you don't usually practice could help freshen and deepen your prayer life. I encourage you to add some of these postures to your time of prayer and see if it doesn't help you in drawing close to God.

Scotty

Your graduates are now educated, BUT ...

I'm "pro" education.

Personally, I've earned three degrees and feel every day the need to keep learning. And I encourage people, young and old, to take advantage of educational opportunities and continuing their learning throughout their lives.

Graduation is a time to celebrate! The graduates have worked hard, applied themselves, and likely have grown as a person, expanded their knowledge, and stretched their understanding.

Your graduates are now educated, BUT are they equipped for life?

In America, and much of the Western world, we've concluded that seeing that our children receive a good education is the highest priority for parents.

It isn't.

Making sure your children enter into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and grow in the grace and knowledge of God is the highest priority of parenting. If you raise a genius that passes through this world never knowing Jesus Christ, your child will come to the worse possible end.

Graduation is a time to celebrate, but if your graduate doesn't know Jesus, the most important education is yet to be attained.

There's a story about a young man who was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car, and knowing his father could afford it, he told his dad on several occasions that it was all he wanted.

Finally, on the morning of his graduation, the young man's father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and how much he loved him. Then he handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, but disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold.

Angrily, he raised his voice to his father, "With all your money you give me a Bible?" And then he stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible behind.

Many years passed and the young man had become very successful in business. He had a wonderful family and beautiful home, but realized his father was getting quite old and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen his father since that graduation day. But before he could make arrangements, the young man received notice that his father had passed away, and that he needed to come home immediately to take care of things.

When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages when a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, and on the tag was the date of his graduation along with the words, "Paid in full."

Parents like to heap rewards upon their graduates, and there's nothing wrong with that. But make sure your graduate is educated in the Word of God to equip them for life. It will provide them with the greatest education they'll ever need.

Scotty

Friday, May 22, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Not what I thought it would be ...

John Michael Talbot writing about the church fathers?

How could I pass up a book like that?

After all, I enjoy reading the works of the early church fathers, and Talbot, a pioneer in contemporary Christian music, might bring some interesting perspective to their writings.

Unfortunately, his latest book, "The Ancient Path" (with Mike Aquilina, published by Image), wasn't what I thought it would be. As it turns out, this book is all about the influence the church fathers had on Talbot's life as he journeyed from his early Christian experience into Catholicism.

Talbot's writing is thick with a Catholic view of the church fathers, which tends to be more elevated than that held by Protestants. There are numerous mentions of the various church fathers, but not a diving into their writings or any plumbing of their teachings. Instead, most of the mention of the church fathers was incorporated in a nearly chronological telling of Talbot's life. While I appreciate that his study of the church fathers had a positive impact on his life, and especially influenced him toward a desire for a more monastic lifestyle, I found the content of the book to actually become fairly boring less than midway through my reading.

If you're a Catholic who is a Talbot fan, you may enjoy this book; if you aren't, I haven't found any other value in it to be able to recommend it.

Scotty

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Real commitment will cost you. The question is, are you willing to pay the price?

When professor Dr. Jim Denison was in college, he went on a summer mission trip to East Malaysia. While there, he worked in a small church. At one of the church's worship services, a baptism had been planned for one of the teenage girls who attended. She had announced to the pastor and the church, in their custom, that she had decided to commit her life to Christ and wanted to be baptized. During the service, Jim noticed some worn-out luggage leaning against the back wall of the church building. After the service, he asked the pastor about it. The pastor pointed to the young lady that had just been baptized and said, "Her father told her that if she was ever baptized as a Christian, she could never come home again. So, she brought her luggage."

That young lady was serious about committing her life, and the living of it, to Jesus Christ.

How about you?

Are your bags packed?

Are you willing to pay whatever the price is to follow Christ?

It's a hefty cost, and Jesus described it for us succinctly ...

"Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me'," Luke 9:23.

Scotty

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Broken hearts in broken people ...

Did you know it really is possible to die of a broken heart?

Linda Wasmer Andrews reported the following in Yahoo Health in 2013 ...

"'Broken heart syndrome' isn't just Valentine's Day hyperbole. It's an actual medical condition, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy.

"In broken heart syndrome, extreme stress brings on heart attack-like symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. This isn't just an anxiety attack. The heart is actually in serious distress. At times, the person may experience irregular heartbeats or cardiogenic shock --- a condition in which a suddenly weakened heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's demands. In rare cases, broken heart syndrome can even lead to death."

I don't personally know of anyone who has literally died of a broken heart, but I have sat with many, many people who felt like their broken hearts were killing them.

In nearly three decades of conducting clinical therapy, a large portion of the people I have ministered to have sought help for hurting hearts that were harmed by others. The issue of human beings hurting each other isn't just my clinical experience, it's the story of humanity since the first couple wandered together in the Garden of Eden. They would break their relationship with God. From there, one of their sons would hate his brother so much he would murder him out in a field.

It hasn't gotten any better since.

We're still hurting each other, and suffering broken hearts. That's in spite of Jesus making so clear --- and so simple to understand! --- that all God's commands can be boiled down to two things: love God, and love others.

When I was younger, I enjoyed watching on PBS specials the lively and animated speeches of "Dr. Love," also known as Leo Buscaglia, an author, motivational speaker, and professor in the special education department at the University of Southern California. Leo was an Italian who spent his early childhood in Aosta, Italy. He sounded Italian, and "used his hands" as he spoke passionately. I still remember a heart-felt plea he made to an audience: "If you won't love them, don't hurt them!"

Take five minutes and listen to the stirring words of Leo for yourself ...



God especially cares for those with broken hearts ...

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed," Psalm 34:18

"He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds," Psalm 147:3.

Many will not heed Leo's advice that if we're not willing to love others, at least don't hurt them. We will not get through this life without being heartbroken. But know for sure that the Lord, who knows by personal experience what being hurt by others is like, is close to you and desires to bandage your wounds and heal you.

Just as you don't want to suffer from a broken heart, be mindful not to hurt others. Instead, give your attention to allowing the Holy Spirit to empower you to love others --- all others --- with the love of Christ.

Scotty

Friday, May 8, 2015

Communion Meditation: Getting the message ...

When I came across the story below, it didn't have any attribution for a source. I still haven't been able to discover its author, but I want to share the story with you ...

"It is said that on the evening of June 18, 1815 a man stood in the tower of England’s Winchester Cathedral gazing anxiously out to sea. At last he found what he was looking for – a ship sending a signal by use of lights. He strained to see the message. All of England held its breath with him, wanting to know the outcome of the war between their military leader, the Duke of Wellington, and the French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte, who had once ruled all of Europe bar England remained a threat, and now the decisive Battle of Waterloo had been fought.

"So, as he stood in the tower of Winchester Cathedral our man waited to relay the news that would determine England’s future. The signal came just as a heavy fog was rolling in. It only just got through, but how he wished it hadn’t, for the signal read: 'Wellington defeated.'

"The man signaled to other stations and the news spread across the countryside, bringing great gloom and sadness. But then a great reversal. The fog lifted, and the message was sent again, this time in full: 'Wellington defeated the enemy.' Joy? Happiness? Delirium! Wellington had won!

"On Good Friday it seemed the message was 'Christ defeated,' but three days later we discover that the message had not been received in full. The resurrection reverses what we initially thought and declares 'Christ defeated the enemy!'"

Christ has fought the battle of the ages on our behalf. When we come to the Communion table and partake of the emblems representing His shed blood and broken body, the idea of His torture and death seems to be a story of defeat.

But we know the whole story!

"Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit," 1 Peter 3:18.

It was by offering His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed, that He would defeat sin and death forever. Each time we gather at the Lord's Table, we receive afresh the communique that "Christ defeated the enemy!"

Ponder for a while what that means for you ...

Scotty