Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This fuels perseverance ...

While going through a particularly difficult time in my life, and feeling quite weary, I corresponded with a great church leader who responded with a letter of encouragement.

I still remember a line from that letter that buoyed me at the moment: "You're tired, that's understandable, but you'll bounce back."

He was right. I was tired at the moment, but God gave me the strength to bounce back, to persevere.

Encouragement is a vital fuel for perseverance. Even the great William Wilberforce found himself discouraged one night in the early 1790's after another defeat 10 years into his battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and started to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter John Wesley had written to him shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again:

"Unless the divine power has raised you up ... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might."

Great efforts have often come to fruition because someone was encouraged at a moment of weariness. There are people in your life who are tired of the battles they are having to fight; are you encouraging them? Are you a source of encouragement to others, or do you just add to the weight the world puts upon them?

Some of you need to be encouraged, and I want to assure you that your perseverance through the trials you're currently facing will be worth  taking on the struggles to endure.

George Muller gives us a good example of how persevering is worth our efforts. One day Muller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Muller persevered in prayer until his death for his fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping he would accept Christ. His faith was rewarded, for soon after Muller's funeral the last man was saved.

Let this word from the Bible be an encouragement to you today: "God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him," James 1:12.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Abusing intimacy to gain influence isn't leadership ...

Long ago, I heard a good piece of advice for leaders, which is really good advice for anyone:

"If you won't love them, don't hurt them."

In the non-stop discussion about leadership among church leaders today, we like to say leadership is influence. So many leaders hold as their key priority the capacity to influence the people they lead. But there's one way in particular that leaders abuse that influence, and that's by building intimacy only for the purpose of gaining influence.

Some leaders are willing to demonstrate a semblance of love to achieve a foothold of influence in a life.

That's not love. That's emotional manipulation.

If you have no intention of truly loving those you lead, don't pretend to care just to gain influence. Just work from your position or title and get as far as you can that way. To pretend to love when you only want to manipulate is to use intimacy to achieve your own purposes among others.

That isn't leadership.

That isn't ethical influence.

And that certainly isn't love.

Instead of being so concerned about "leading" and influencing others, make your priority one of loving them. You might be surprised how great your influence in their lives might become if you really loved them like Jesus loves us. And maybe it's more of that kind of talk we need to hear in leadership circles if we really want to be effective in serving others in Jesus' name.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Jack Benny church ...

Yesterday some people were wishing a friend of mine "happy first annual 39th birthday!"

Someone said he had joined the "Jack Benny Club." Benny (pictured above), a famous comedian of the 20th century, claimed all of his birthdays were his 39th.

As much as my friend may wish some of his future birthdays are really his 39th, he'll never again be able to honestly make that claim after yesterday. With each passing day, he will grow older, and the passing of time alone will bring changes to his mind and body.

There is a church I know of, though, that is really a "Jack Benny church." Although they don't deny how old the congregation is, the church just doesn't get any older spiritually. One of this church's biggest events of the year is its birthday celebration, but if you would have visited this church during its first year of being planted, and then visit it today, you would notice little difference.

Several years later, this church is made up of many of the same people.

The same key leaders are still in the same positions doing the same thing.

These leaders are still leading the same people.

The same people are still living the same way.

The same people are still having the same struggles.

The same people still do the same things.

The same Bible study groups are still meeting, and the participants are still the same spiritually.

Until recently going through a revisioning process, the only additions to this church occurred more in spite of the lack of effort to purposely share the Gospel. Early on, this church gathered a group of people who liked being together, and then settled in to a comfort of just doing the same stuff and being the same way, year after year after year.

It's a Jack Benny church.

I've seen several churches like this all over the country. It's as if they reached a certain point and then chose to freeze themselves there. No more growth, no more service, no more relationship ... no more life than from that point in time when they just got comfortable with themselves.

What they don't understand is, that's when they began to die.

Our following Christ is not a life that looks the same five, ten, fifteen years down the road. When we belong to God, we are living a life that is experiencing continuous change ...

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord --- who is the Spirit --- makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image," 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Are you a Jack Benny Christian in a Jack Benny church? Or are you a disciple of Christ, being transformed by the Holy Spirit? Is your church spiritually thriving, or do you look today like you did years ago?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Have you ever been so desperate you had to turn to cardboard?

Have you ever had to put your needs on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see?

This morning I saw a young man sitting at a gas station with a cardboard sign that said, "Ran out of gas. Please help."

For many, the politically-infused mind kicks in and immediately begins to question how this young person failed to the degree they're publicly begging for help.

Last night, a Facebook friend raised the question why some people share their personal needs on Facebook, questioning why they don't talk to real friends instead, and pointing out that all of us need to have a circle of family and friends to go to when we have problems.

What so many people miss when they process their thinking through platitudes or simplistic political positions is the reality of the world we live in. That world is plagued with sin, evil, and brokenness.

Could it be this young man needs help because the high unemployment rate for youth has made him a statistic? Could it be that he doesn't have help, and others turn to Facebook friends because families often are not loyal, and friends who walk in the front door during good times often run out the back door during hard times? Could it be that many have tried to use the governmental safety net, only to be denied there as well? Could it be people are more desperate today because even the church stereotypes them and rejects them, rather than loving them as Christ has loved us?

Could it be that people put their needs and express their desperation on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see not because they have failed in some way, but because others have failed them?

So great is the plight of so many today that sometimes the need is so desperate that they write it on a piece of cardboard and stand out in public, hoping and praying that someone in this world will see them and their need and simply care.

Not judge them.

Not ignore them.

Not look down on them.

Not see them as deplorable failures.

Not devalue them.

But see them as people who, like everyone else, are created in the image of God and need someone on this planet who simply, plainly, cares.

Jesus saw these people and had compassion for them.

Do you see them? If you do, how do you respond?


Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to be a great lieutenant ...

In spite of the the obsession about making leaders within today's church, not everyone is called to be a leader. The majority of those who are enabled for leadership are not called to a top leadership role, but rather, are selected to serve as "lieutenants," important roles of leadership under a primary leader.

Whether it's in the church, an organization, or a business, there are more lieutenants than generals, and their role and contribution is vital to the body of Christ, an entity, or business.

A sizable portion of these lieutenants are of the "alpha male" type, they're strong men and women who naturally rise to leadership in most of what they involve themselves in. For some, it can be difficult limiting themselves to the role of "just" a lieutenant, while others thrive in a position that allows them to lead while still being led.

What does it take to be a great lieutenant?

If we search scripture for a model of a lieutenant in the Lord's work who is a great example we could apply in such positions, we would quickly be drawn to Joshua, who was the assistant to Moses, and would become the leader of Israel after Moses died. I would encourage you to dig into your Bible and read about the life of Joshua. Looking at Joshua's example of being the assistant, we can see three keys to being a great lieutenant:

1. Committed to obeying and glorifying God. The overarching trait for being a great lieutenant is that, regardless of titles, goals, objectives, opinions, or projects, a great lieutenant is first and foremost committed to obeying God, and bringing glory to Him. Without that, a lieutenant may stray from the mission or not yield to primary leadership. But when he or she is committed to being obedient to God, and their greatest objective is bringing glory to Him, they are enabled to yield their own opinions and desires to the will of God, and direction provided from primary leaders. Joshua was a great lieutenant to Moses because of his commitment to obey and glorify God.

2. Committed to the vision and mission. Chaos ensues when lieutenants attempt to introduce variants to the vision and mission that primary leaders have established. It's the responsibility of the primary leadership to establish the vision and mission, and then lieutenants assist the primary leaders in executing that vision and mission. This doesn't mean that lieutenants cannot provide input and counsel regarding vision and mission, but establishing what those are for the whole body, organization, or business isn't their responsibility. They may have the responsibility of setting vision and mission for ministries within the church, or departments in an organization or business, but those need to align fully with the overarching mission and vision set for the body, entity, or business by primary leaders.

3. Committed to respecting roles. Joshua understood the way things worked: God gave unprecedented access to Himself to Moses, and He would speak to Moses. Moses then spoke to the people on behalf of God, and then Joshua assisted Moses in carrying out all that God commanded. Joshua didn't question God, nor did he challenge Moses' role as primary leader. He understood what his position within the people of Israel was, and focused on doing that well. Joshua had a remarkable understanding of this, as was demonstrated when he had become the leader of Israel and God had instructed him to lead the people in taking the city of Jericho. You probably know the story of the battle of Jericho, a city that was protected by a massive wall thought to be impenetrable. God had instructed Joshua to have the people march around the city one time for six days. Then on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times, after which the priests would blow rams horns and the people would shout, and then the wall would fall down.

Before carrying out God's battle plan, Joshua is telling the people how God will deliver to them a great victory. Notice an interesting instruction Joshua gave to the people: "Do not shout; do not even talk," Joshua commanded. "Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!" Joshua 6:10.

Why did Joshua add this need for silence? They weren't sneaking up on the city, the residents of Jericho would be able to observe their march around the city from atop the wall. Joshua gave this instruction because he knew how easy it would be for lieutenants (and others) to question such a crazy-sounding battle plan.

"We're going to march for seven days, blow some horns, and then that great wall is just going to fall down? I think Joshua has been out in the sun too long!" is probably what many of them thought. But if they said such things to each other, it could fester more than just doubt and result in the people not being obedient to God's plan or following Joshua's leadership. A great lieutenant understands their role of executing the instructions God provides through primary leadership without causing dissension.

Churches, organizations, and businesses all rely on the significant contribution lieutenants make in realizing their visions and achieving their missions; all of them need great lieutenants in order to be successful. If you're a lieutenant in your church or organization, are you contributing positively? How are you doing at applying these three keys to being a great lieutenant? What do you need to do to become a better lieutenant?


Saturday, July 19, 2014

A more determined fight ...

There are a few reasons why scripture exhorts us to keep our minds focused on God, His kingdom, and things above, rather than on the world around us.

One of those reasons is that this world is so terribly broken, so lost, so utterly lacking in hope without God, that it can be overwhelming.

As Christians, all of us know people who are hurting, struggling, suffering, and overwhelmed with the issues of life. All of us could immediately create a list of people we know who need help.

Many of us know tired, overwhelmed, and struggling pastors who need encouragement, support, and even counseling.

And we all know of churches that are missing the mark missionally, and need help to once again (or for the first time ever) to become healthy, disciple-making churches.

We all know of these real, significant, and pervasive needs, but what is being done about them in any kind of substantive way?

Let me share with you what I'm doing about it, and something specific that you can do about it. First, allow me to share this story as told by pastor Bryan Wilkerson:

"Taylor University is a Christian college in Indiana. Years ago, they were pleased to learn that an African student, Sam, was going to be enrolling in their school. This was before it was commonplace for international students to come to the U.S. to study. Sam was a bright young man with great promise, and the school felt honored to have him. When he arrived on campus, the President of the university took him on a tour, including showing him all the student dorms. When the tour was over, the President asked Sam where he would like to live. The young man replied, 'If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.'

"The President turned away in tears.

"Over the years he had welcomed thousands of young men and women to the campus, and none had ever made such a request.

"'If there is a room that no one wants, give that room to me.' That's the kind of meekness Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes ...

"If there is a job no one wants to do, I'll do that job ...

"If there's a kid no one wants to eat lunch with, I'll eat with that kid ...

"If there's a piece of toast that's burned, I'll take that piece ...

"If there's a parking space far away from the church, I'll park in that space ...

"If there's a service time that's less convenient for people, I'll worship at that service ...

"If there's a hardship someone has to endure, I'll take that hardship ...

"If there's a sacrifice someone needs to make, I'll make that sacrifice."

As I learned about Sam's example, it reminded me of Isaiah's response to the Lord ...

"Then I heard the Lord asking, 'Whom shall I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?' I said, 'Here I am. Send me'," Isaiah 6:8.

Just as Sam was humble enough to take up what others didn't want, and Isaiah was willing to step into being part of the solution God wanted to provide through a messenger, the question rises today of who will care for the hurting and who will help the broken? Who will support and serve battle-weary pastors? Who will help dying churches revive?

I'm grateful that there are many out there who are doing what they can, both in big and little ways. I'm deeply grateful God has used my ministry as a pastor to help some churches, to bring many to Christ, and to help thousands through a counseling ministry.

But times are especially tough, and the need for help is greater than ever.

As for me, I've committed myself to a more determined fight.

I have a great passion for the church, which is why it was difficult for me at first to fully see a new vision of ministry God was redirecting me to recently. That vision is a means to be able to help thousands more people become whole persons in Christ through comprehensive clinical counseling and advanced coaching, to support scores of pastors through Pastor Care services, and provide consulting to help churches become effective disciple-making churches. These are areas I've been serving in close to three decades now, but this new ministry --- the Scott Free Clinic --- is a means of removing the barrier of cost and unleashing the help and ministry so many need.

Personally, I'm committing myself to a bigger, bolder, greater, and more determined fight as I focus on how I can pour out my life for Christ in a greater way to help meet some of the myriad needs. I'm deeply grateful for four other men and two women who have joined this fight with me and serve as the Board of Directors for the Scott Free Clinic.

But to make this happen, we need your help! We need men and women who want to join in this fight to obliterate the barrier cost creates to getting help, and help us be able to provide this ministry so that thousands can change their lives through Christ, and to his glory.

We need men and women who are willing to make a more determined fight to help others through their prayer support and through their financial support. If you would like to join us in a more determined fight to help those who need help, then you may want to view the video below, which provides details about the ministry, as well as a couple of testimonials about lives that have already been changed. Beneath that are specific details about the ministry contained in the video but captured here for ease of access for you.

Step into this fight with us!

Let's be used by God in a more determined way to change lives!

Thank you, and may God bless you richly!
Dr. James Scott, Jr.
Founder and COO of the Scott Free Clinic

Following is key information shared on the video:

The Scott Free Clinic is an independent, non-profit parachurch ministry currently in developmental stages. To support the ability for this new parachurch ministry to be able to move beyond its developmental stage, Hope Christian Church in Fairfield, CA is willing to serve temporarily as a Fiscal Sponsor so this new ministry can receive TAX DEDUCTIBLE donations from sources who are interested in supporting the vision and mission of Scott Free Clinic.

Ministry vision ...
The Scott Free Clinic will be an independent, non-profit parachurch ministry formed to provide counseling, coaching, and consulting services to persons and churches internationally (meaning services aren't provided just locally, but also regionally, nationally, and internationally), without the barrier of cost, so that lives and churches will be changed through Christ, for the glory of God.

Ministry mission ...
Helping people become whole persons in Christ, and churches to become effective disciple-making churches.

Service offerings ...

  • Comprehensive clinical pastoral counseling.
  • Advanced coaching.
  • Couple Communication Training.
  • Fitness consulting.
  • Pastor Care (counseling for vocational and bi-vocational ministers).
  • Church consulting (especially in providing training in equipping people to share the Gospel).
Those who are interested in giving to help make this ministry vision become reality can do so by sending their checks to:

Hope Christian Church
149 Grobric Court
Fairfield, CA 94534
IMPORTANT: All checks should be made payable to "Hope Christian Church" and please notate on the memo portion of the check "Scott Free Clinic" so those funds will be designated only for the Scott Free Clinic. Additionally, you can give online at Hope's website at the following link (click on the "Donations" tab, and make sure to designate any gifts to "Scott Free Clinic"). All donations are tax deductible.
Here are some other ways you can help us gain the resources to turn this ministry vision into a life-changing reality:
  • Pray for this ministry daily and encourage others to pray for the ministry of Scott Free Clinic.
  • Share this blog post with as many people as you can, both personally and professionally.
  • Post the news of this ministry on your own blog site.
  • Connect others to my Twitter and Facebook accounts (see information below).
  • Personally tell others about this ministry and encourage their support.
  • Share this information with your church and send it to your church leaders.
  • Become a "support bundler." We are looking for some who have a strong support of this ministry to help us by "bundling" giving by using their personal and professional connections to help us raise funds to launch this ministry. We especially could benefit from Christian business men and women who contribute significantly to vital Christian ministry.
Contact information ...
Mailing address:
Dr. James Scott, Jr.
P.O. Box 3047
Fairfield, CA 94533

Telephone: 214-986-9436
Twitter: @scottyjws

Finally ...
Once the funds are available for this ministry to launch services, ANYONE will be welcome to come and get the help they need! That includes you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your church family, your pastor ... anyone! All without the barrier of cost! I invite YOU to join me in this journey of helping to changes lives and churches, all for the glory of God!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Could this be why God isn't answering some of your prayers?

John G. Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people of all time. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents that made them wealthy, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves.

John was able to influence five of his six sisters to never marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Her only dress was one she had made herself, and she had worn it for 25 years. The Wendels had such a compulsion to hold on to their possessions that they lived like paupers.

The Wendels may be more of an exception by the way they lived so frugally when they had great wealth, but their penchant for hoarding isn't uncommon. In fact, it's more common than not.

Many of us live lives of active consumerism, always seeking for and buying more. We fill our closets, stuff things under our beds, clutter our garages, and when our homes are overflowing with the things we continue to buy, we rent additional space in order to keep more stuff.

One of the fastest growing businesses in America is the self-storage industry, which generates a robust $15 billion annually helping people feed their desire to buy and keep more. About one in 11 Americans rents a mini-storage unit, totaling about 26 million such units in use today.

We want a lot, and we want a place to keep it all.

In spite of all we have, we not only keep buying more, we keep asking for more. Every day, we raise our requests for God to bless us with even more than we have.

Here's something to consider: Could it be that God isn't giving you what you keep asking for because you haven't yet given away what He's already given you?

"What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong --- you want only what will give you pleasure," James 4:1-3.

God never intended to continually bless us just so we can accumulate. God gives to us to meet our needs and so we can give to others ...

"For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then provide a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when you take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God," 2 Corinthians 9:10-11.

With as much as you have, why do you continue to daily ask God for more? Is it from need or want? What have you done with what you've already received from God? Are you just wanting to add more to it?

"... And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are wrong --- you want only what will give you pleasure ..."

So what's the right motive?

God encourages us to ask for what we need. He also says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires" (Psalm 37:4). When we delight in the Lord, what is important and valuable to Him becomes important and valuable to us. That will shape our desires, and aligns them with the will of God. Then our motive matches His!

If you really feel the need to accumulate, learn how to do it correctly from this instruction from Jesus:

"So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be," Luke 12:32:-34.