Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to live gratefully ...

BEING a grateful person is not about finally settling down for one extended, sobering moment before a Thanksgiving meal and thinking about the obvious blessings in your life.

That sobering moment will pass as soon as you're on seconds or thirds of your Thanksgiving feast, and finally waddle your way back to the television for more football.

Being a grateful person --- living gratefully --- should be part of who we are. It etches itself onto our character and habits. Our thoughts, our motivations, our desires, our actions are tainted with the fact that we're a grateful people. As adopted and redeemed children of God, we live gratefully.

How can we pull that off?

How can we be so persistently grateful?

Remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross every day.

When we turn our mind's eye to the cross and see the sacrifice Jesus made for us, it's nearly impossible to not be drowned in gratitude.

The early Christians used to meet together in homes every day, and there they would observe Communion. On a daily basis they would observe that sacrament established by Jesus Himself specifically to remember Him. And tell me, what do you think --- more importantly, what do you feel --- when you remember Jesus pouring His life out on a cruel, rugged cross to save you from your sins and the consequence of death?

Gratitude.

The real deal.

Penetrating so deep it almost makes your toes tingle!

All you can do is offer your thanksgiving to God for a gift so gracious. We cannot pay Him back, we can't earn it in some way. We can only be thankful, and live gratefully for what He has done.

Let me challenge you for the next 30 days to not leave your home without making time to remember Christ on the cross offering Himself for you. If you start your day seeing the sacrifice made at the cross, you'll start your day thankful, and that will help you to live gratefully that day.

My prayer is that this Thanksgiving Day is stuffed full of fresh blessings for you all! And thank you so much for being the blessing that you are to me.

Scotty

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tomorrow, we return ...

Of all the maladies that could be suffered by a human being, being diagnosed with leprosy long ago before it could be treated was one of the worst experiences you could ever face.

No one could help a leper. Physically, they would painfully waste away and die.

And no one wanted them.

No one wanted to even be near them for fear they would become infected themselves. They were cast out from the community, sent away from their families, their friends, their social circles. Society was done with them. They would spend the rest of their lives rejected and ejected.

As far as the world was concerned, they no longer had any value as persons.

That is, except with Jesus ...

"As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' He looked at them and said, 'Go show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, 'Praise God!' He fell to the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?'" Luke 17:11-18.

There were 10 men healed that day.

Nine men simply went their way. In spite of the fact that their deteriorating bodies had just been delivered from a viciously painful death, and regardless of the fact that they were given acceptance and value by the world by now being free from leprosy, they just went their way as if this was a nominal, everyday occurrence.

But one man, when he realized he had been healed, understood the depth of what Jesus had done for him. How do you respond to something so transforming and freeing? He shouted praise to God, and he returned to Jesus to thank him. So moved with gratitude was this man that he made his way back to Jesus and fell at his feet.

Because he was overwhelmed with the salvation from a hideous death, this Samaritan returned to Jesus to express how thankful he was.

How can we do any less?

We suffer from something that is much worse than leprosy, we suffer from sin. It's a death sentence, not just for the body, but spiritually it kills us and separates us from God. It renders us utterly worthless.

Except to Jesus.

He has healed us from our sins by taking our plague of sins upon Himself and suffering their consequences for us. Having overcome sin and death, He offers us the salvation He has achieved for us.

How do we respond?

Many will go on as if this was just a nominal, everyday occurrence.

But for the rest? They'll take a day like Thanksgiving and shout praise to God, and they'll return. They will make the day a time of returning to tell Jesus just how thankful they are for setting them free and saving their souls.

Tomorrow, we return ...

Scotty

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Like Oprah's audience ...

All of us, in just about any condition in life --- from the worst and most difficult to the most abundant --- can come up with something, if not many things, to say on Thanksgiving Day that we're grateful for. That might get you through the, "Let's have everyone share what they're thankful for" portion around the holiday dinner table, but it really doesn't represent a person with an attitude, a heart, of thanksgiving.

That's much more like being a member of Oprah's audience. Sure, they're thrilled going to the show to see her, but they really go hoping to be one of her many audiences who come away with an armful of gifts. Or maybe a big 'ol flat screen. Or maybe you'll be one of those audiences where she gives everyone a brand new car!

Oprah fans might be smiling if all they get is a chance to be in the presence of their favorite entertainer, but they're secretly hoping for more, and if truth is to be told, they'd come away disappointed if all they got was Oprah.

How much like Oprah fans are many who gather around dinner tables on Thanksgiving. Sure, we're grateful for our families, and our health, and the fact we're employed. We're grateful for a roof over our heads and food to eat every day. But if truth was to be told, we really want more ...

... we'd rather be in that "Black Friday" line to get the cheap big screen TV, just imagine how much better football would be with that!

... we'd rather be making more money ...

... we'd rather have a bigger house ...

... for too many us, in the back of our minds, and entertained in our hearts, is a desire for more.

The presence of Christ in us isn't enough.

We become so accustomed to just how lavishly blessed we are that in short order we make being blessed commonplace and desire more.

Back in 1988, a Polish railway worker named Jan Grzebski was hit by a train. He survived, but barely. For the next 19 years, Grzebski was in a coma. He awoke in 2007 to a whole new world. Nineteen years earlier, Poland was a communist state. Grzebski noted that back then meat was rationed and there were huge lines at gas stations. And, "there was only tea and vinegar in the shops."

But 19 years later, he awoke to a free nation where he said there were "people on the streets with cell phones and there were so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin!"

But something puzzled him.

"What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning."

These people now had freedom, and food, and wealth greater than Poland had had for decades, and yet Grzebski noted that all the people seemed to do was to grumble about what they didn't have.

They wanted more.

We usually make Thanksgiving Day about pulling up that list in our minds of things we know we can say we're "thankful" for. What if we made it about examining ourselves to see if we are, simply, a grateful person? Not someone who lives with a longing for more, but someone who is grateful ... period.

The kind of person where Christ is enough.

The kind of person who doesn't entertain a head and heart full of desires for all kinds of things we don't yet have but secretly want.

But the kind of person who is satisfied with Christ and finding in Him a genuine sufficiency.

Will that be you on Thanksgiving Day?

Scotty

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Here's a FREE SCHOLARSHIP that could transform your ministry and church!

We are incredibly excited to announce that the Scott Free Clinic will be giving away a FREE SCHOLARSHIP for one PASTOR and FIVE people he selects from his congregation for the "Relational Evangelism" course offered online by Hope International University as part of its School of Advanced Leadership Training (SALT) program.

GIVE ME A MINUTE to try to explain how GREATLY BENEFICIAL this course could be to YOUR ministry and YOUR local church.

This is NOT just another course on evangelism!

This is NOT just an academic study of evangelism!

Instead, this is a hands-on equipping in a specific evangelism methodology, using a specific evangelistic tool that is the best evangelistic tool I've ever used.

Some 30 years ago, I learned this particular evangelistic methodology and how to use this great evangelistic tool that has recently been revised and is now known as "It's All About Relationship" (IAAR). This tool and method has helped me to personally lead hundreds of people to Christ, and I have trained multiple churches to use this tool and method to become disciple-making churches.

The IAAR has been used by churches, church planters, and missions across the country and around the world with great success.

The author of this material, John Hendee, who will be teaching the online course, used this tool and method while he was Minister of Evangelism at Central Christian Church in Mesa, AZ, and in one year alone they added 750 new members! Not everyone who joined did so by going through the IAAR study, but the majority of them did.

Most churches today are trying to rely on getting people to come to church as a means of growing the church. What we have seen as a far more effective (and biblical) way to reach the lost for Christ is equipping Christians to be able to effectively share the Gospel with non-believers, and to be able to create relationships where they can offer an opportunity to hear the Gospel in a more comprehensive, yet concise way.

By offering this FREE SCHOLARSHIP, we're providing the opportunity for a pastor to select five people from his congregation to take this course with him. This is a great opportunity for a group from your church to be equipped together to become highly effective at making disciples, and to start a new effort in your congregation for reaching the lost in your community that will likely be far more effective than anything you have done thus far. Most churches are not doing anything (at all!) to teach believers how to share the Gospel with non-believers; by offering you this FREE SCHOLARSHIP, we're coming alongside to help equip you to equip others to be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

A few things about this scholarship:
  • The course is an eight-week course and begins January 5, 2015.
  • The course will be offered online and taught by John Hendee, Chair of World Evangelism at Hope International University. You will have the opportunity to learn directly from John, who developed the IAAR, and who has a long and successful ministry career in evangelism and missions that can greatly benefit you in becoming effective disciple-makers.
  • You must be from a church with a membership under 1,000 members.
  • Because we're offering this to a pastor PLUS five additional members he selects from his congregation, this course will not be offered for credit, but instead as an audit. HOWEVER, to receive the scholarship, you have to agree to do the work as if you were receiving a grade. Your work will be graded by the professor to ensure your full engagement in the course.
  • We're able to offer the SCHOLARSHIP for free but that does not include the cost of the books. There are only four required books and, fortunately, they are NOT expensive textbooks, so this should be do-able for you. If you need help with the books, encourage your congregation to support the group as it studies together by assisting you with the cost of the books.
  • If you would like ADDITIONAL people from the congregation to take the course with you, they may enroll for a reduced per person cost of only $50.00 (the course would usually cost $300 per person). We're able to offer this reduced cost because this is the only course HIU has authorized to be a "MOOC" (massive open online course) course offering.
The Scott Free Clinic is offering this FREE SCHOLARSHIP as part of our consulting work that is committed to helping improve churches by helping them become effective disciple-making churches. We're available to encourage you as you go through the course, and if you need any help in how to use what you learn after the course, I will personally be available to work with you.

Unfortunately, we can only offer one FREE SCHOLARSHIP to one pastor and five additional people he picks from the same congregation. So, if you would be interested in signing up for the chance to win this FREE SCHOLARSHIP, simply send me an email at dr.scott@ScottFreeClinic.org and tell me in just a few paragraphs why you would like to receive this scholarship and what you think  you would do with the training offered. To be considered, I need to receive your email no later than Monday, December 8.

Keep in mind that you're NOT required to do anything specific with what you learn, but we are looking for a pastor and church that has a hunger to be more effective at making disciples and would like to receive training that could make that happen if those who take the course apply what they have learned. I have personally audited this course and from that experience I can tell you this is a great way to be equipped to become an effective ambassador for Christ.

Finally, I just want to emphasize to you the depth of opportunity this FREE SCHOLARSHIP provides. This evangelistic tool and methodology has proven to be highly successful for decades and has resulted in many thousands coming to Christ. It can make a powerful difference in YOUR community should YOU equip people from your congregation as ambassadors for Christ. That training starts with YOU being trained, so send me your email and let's hear why YOU should be our scholarship winner.

In His Service,

Dr. James Scott, Jr.
Founder & President,
Scott Free Clinic

For more information about the Scott Free Clinic, please visit our website at ScottFreeClinic.org.

The essential --- but often overlooked --- element in every prayer ...

We're taught (or at least told) a lot about prayer. We often think the key is knowing that God can answer our prayers, and others emphasize a need to believe God will answer our requests. But there's an overarching, all-important element to every prayer we pray that we routinely overlook. That's the issue of the sovereignty of God, even when it comes to what we pray for.

We forget that everything is about and for the glory of God. God is sovereign over all beings and things, and that includes His sovereignty piercing into our prayers.

This reminds me of a story legendary radio commentator, Paul Harvey, once told about God's providential care over thousands of Allied prisoners during World War II, many of whom were Christians.

The story begins with one of America's mighty bombers taking off from the island of Guam headed for Kokura, Japan, laden with a deadly cargo. Because clouds covered the target area, the sleek B-29 circled for nearly an hour until its fuel supply reached the danger point. The captain and his crew, frustrated because they were right over the primary target yet not able to fulfill their mission, finally decided they had better go for their secondary target. Changing course, they discovered clear skies, so the command was given: "Bombs away!" and the B-29 headed for its home base.

Some time later, an officer received some startling information from military intelligence. Just one week before that bombing mission, the Japanese had transferred one of their largest concentrations of captured Americans to the city of Kokura. Upon reading this report, the officer exclaimed, "Thank God for that protecting cloud! If the city hadn't been hidden from the bomber, it would have been destroyed and thousands of American boys would have died."

God often acts "behind the scenes," but He controls all the scenes He's behind. He is sovereign! We might think we're on the right mission, and what we're pleading for is what we most need, but God sees and knows what we cannot and do not. He responds to our prayers from His position of being sovereign over all.

That's how He responded to the prayer of Jesus made from the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He would be delivered up to be crucified for sinful humanity ...

"He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, 'My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me ..." Matthew 26:39a.

In this passage, Jesus makes a passionate plea to the Father; He shares openly what He is feeling. But then He subjects His desires to the sovereignty of God ...

"... Yet I want your will to be done, not mine," Matthew 26:39b.

Jesus knew that God wants us to be free and open in sharing with Him our wants, our needs, our desires, our passions. Yet, He understood the need for all of those things to be brought into subjection to the sovereign reign of God. Jesus knew the best thing for all of us is what God decides from His sovereign rule over all creation.

When we forget about this vital aspect of God's sovereignty, we might find ourselves disappointed when God doesn't respond the way we think He should, or specifically how we want Him to. But be assured, we are far better off for God to respond to our prayers from His position of sovereignty than simply granting our passions and desires. We are much better off for it!

Do you subject your requests you make of God to the sovereignty of God?

Scotty

Saturday, November 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Nuggets of wisdom found in Singh's simplicity

I have lived in states like California, Arizona, and Hawaii, places that thrive off tourism. One thing I learned to be able to spot quickly is a tourist. They really do stand out!

That's why when I travel internationally, I do my best to blend in. I may visit a few key historical sites that draw large crowds of tourists, but I like to get off the beaten path and find out what the "locals" like to do and explore how they live. It broadens my view of people and this world, and it has helped to teach me that people in different places live very differently, but that often doesn't make it wrong, just different.

The same is true about the Christian faith.

It's hard for an American to think of Christianity in any other way than our Westernized version of it. But the Christian faith can look very different in its application in other parts of the world. It's true there's one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, but how we live out our faith in Jesus Christ will have some cultural variances. That doesn't make it wrong, it's just makes it different.

There's a new book out called "Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh," compiled and edited by Kim Comer (published by Plough Publishing House) that is a good example of how the Christian faith can look a little different in other cultures. This book shares the teachings of Sundar Singh, considered by many to be India's "most famous convert" to Christianity. While Singh embraced Christ and the Christian faith, this book explains that he purposely didn't embrace or accept "... Christianity's cultural conventions, even as he embraced its stark original teachings."

Singh chose to share his faith in a more culturally relevant way by living as a "sadhu," a poor, wandering "holy man." As I read some of the compilations of Singh's teachings, I was delighted with the simplicity he used in telling stories to illuminate biblical truths. Let me share with you just two examples ...

"Think of the ship; it belongs in the water, but water must not come into the ship --- that would be disastrous. Similarly, it is right and fitting that we live in this world, and if we stay above the surface, then we can reach the safe harbor of life --- and help others to do so. But it would be our demise if the world penetrated into our hearts. The spiritual person holds the heart free for the One who created it."

And here's one more ...

"A little child will run to his mother exclaiming: 'Mother! Mother!' The child does not necessarily want anything in particular. He only wants to be near his mother, to sit on her lap, or to follow her about the house. The child longs for the sheer pleasure of being near her, talking to her, hearing her voice. This is what makes him happy. It is just the same with those who are truly God's children. They do not trouble themselves with asking for spiritual blessings. They only want to sit at the Master's feet, to be in living touch with Him; then they are supremely content."

I found the simplicity of Singh's teaching to be a great breath of fresh air from the popular, shallow hyperbole written by so many famous megachurch pastors today. But with that said, I must also say as I read I discovered multiple times where I had theological differences with Singh. You may discover differences as well. Even so, I think you will find much of this book to be encouraging and enlightening, both to your faith, and how others may share the same faith a little differently in a different setting.

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.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

You're not the dispatcher, you're the one receiving the call ...

Four California Highway Patrol officers sat at a round high-top table by a window in the corner of a Starbucks on a sunny afternoon in San Diego. Their conversation was steady and friendly as their break slowly stretched on.

Suddenly each of the officers were speaking into their radios they carried as they made a quick departure out of the coffee shop. As they pulled their vehicles into traffic, they hit their sirens and turned on their flashing lights.

Someone needed help, and they were responding to the call.

I couldn't help but be moved in a few ways by observing that scene.

First, I thought of how swiftly God is to answer when His children are in distress. He actually sees the problem before it happens, and He's already there ahead of our pleas. While He may or may not respond in ways we would like, He's there in the thick of it, He cares, and He's committed to what's best for us. He's ready to engage with us, and walk us through whatever trials and troubles come our way.

I also thought about how those officers scurrying in haste to heed a call for help should reflect the church in this very broken and lost world. We are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, and we shouldn't be slow to respond in demonstrating the same love, the same care, that God has for others.

That's where the church often comes up short, but digging into that shortcoming isn't my purpose for this blog post. Instead, I want to share with you my own response to this issue.

Nearly three decades into ministry, I have enjoyed every opportunity for serving the Lord, and others in His name, that God has provided me. Yet, as I look around, the needs are massive.

Lost people.

Broken lives, broken relationships, broken marriages, broken families. Broken people.

Numerous pastors who are exhausted, overwhelmed, and quickly burning out.

So many churches that seem to do anything but proclaim the Gospel.

With all of that, we're in a time in the life of the church where there are many who are ashamed to call themselves Christians, and speak of loving Christ but hating the church. They spend a lot of time hurling verbal or written "stones" at the church, but very little time and effort --- if any --- trying to be part of the answer to the problems in this world and in the church.

I didn't want to be just one more person who can quickly identify there's a lot wrong in the church today, and in this world, and not offer any solutions. I really want to be part of the answer. From that attitude, God has given me a new vision of ministry to pour my life into. A way to be better able to respond to the calls for help, and to significantly multiply the number of people, church leaders, and churches that could be helped directly.

That new vision of ministry is taking form in what has become the Scott Free Clinic, which is currently in its developmental stage. You can learn all about the vision and mission of this ministry, along with other pertinent details, at the ministry website here ScottFreeClinic.org.

There is something unique about this ministry that will be at the heart of our ability to help thousands of people, scores of pastors, and many churches. That unique element is that we offer vital services such as Christian clinical counseling, advanced coaching, Pastor Care, and helping churches become disciple-making churches, all without the barrier of cost. We do that because a primary reason why people, pastors, and churches don't get the help they need is because they cannot afford it. By eliminating the barrier of cost, we can focus directly on ministering to those who need help.

With that said, I'm sure a practical question has already popped into your head: "If you provide all of your ministry services for free, how can the ministry afford to function?"

Great question!

We intend to build a new model of ministry in this area of services by developing a foundation of financial sponsors who provide the bulk of funding (some funding will come from clients who are able and willing to donate to this ministry) needed for this ministry to launch and operate at full capacity. These financial sponsors are our "Care Partners" --- men, women, couples, families, churches, and businesses who capture the vision of this ministry and do what they can to support it. They are more than just financial sponsors, they are truly "Care Partners," people who care about others in need and step out to do what they can to support providing the help needed.

Some of our Care Partners will give a single donation to this ministry. Others will support this ministry with monthly donations, and still others will give quarterly, bi-annually, or annually to support the work of this ministry to help change lives, support pastors, and improve churches. Some will give small gifts, perhaps as little as $10 dollars. Others will give a little more, and (we hope) some will give major gifts to this ministry.

Undergirding all this effort is an incredible team of Prayer Partners who pray for this ministry daily.

It's by coming together to offer ministry services vital to bringing change to lives, to leaders, and to churches by serving, praying, and giving, that we can be a more effective part of the answer to what is wrong in this world and in the church. Our teaming together as ministry provider, Prayer Partners, and Care Partners, is like those four different California Highway patrolmen who all responded to the plea for help.

To make all this happen, we really do need your help. If you would like to support this ministry as a Prayer Partner, we would love to have you join that team. Just email me at dr.scott@ScottFreeClinic.org to let me know you're interested, and doing so will provide me with your email address so you can be provided with our prayer need updates that are sent by email each month.

Very important at this stage of our development is the need for Care Partners. We are ready to fully launch this ministry, the only thing we need are the funds to do so. I want to encourage you to pray about and consider becoming a Care Partner with the Scott Free Clinic. Any financial gift would help us, and all donations are tax deductible. This is also a time where many people consider their year-end giving in order to meet their own personal or business tax strategies. We would greatly appreciate it if you would consider including the Scott Free Clinic in your year-end giving with as generous a gift as you would be able to provide. Details on how to make a donation to this ministry can be found on our website by clicking the "Donations" link.

It has been exciting to see how God has already used this ministry locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally just in its developmental stage. Imagine what can be done when we can fully launch this ministry and provide a vital new way of responding to the needs for changing lives, supporting pastors, and improving churches.

A final request. I'm not simply going to ask you to share this blog post with someone, I'm going to ask you to share it as broadly as you can. I'm even going to challenge you to think of at least five to 10 people you know you could share this information with. Sharing about this ministry is so easy to do, yet it has very real benefit. Please consider how you would be willing to let others know about this ministry.

All around you and me are pleas for help. We're not the dispatcher. God is dispatching you and me to be his agents in responding to these cries for help. Let's work together to change lives, through Christ, for the glory of God!

May God bless you richly!

Dr. James Scott, Jr.
Founder & President
Scott Free Clinic