Monday, December 28, 2009

More than a contribution ...

Recently I was given a couple movie passes and I used one to watch "The Blind Side." Great movie!

I really liked the movie because it did a quality job of sharing a Christian message without being "cheesy" or contrived. It was a real story told in a compelling way.

But the heart of the story is what is so important for Christians. "The Blind Side" is the story of a wealthy white couple who help change the life of a homeless black teenager. They did so by taking him into their family as another son, loving and caring for him. It would have been easy for them to simply contribute to his needs, or as Sandra Bullock's character says in the movie, "make other arrangements."

But they didn't make other arrangements. Instead of having him stay in their home a few nights and then sending him off somewhere else, they took him in, provided him with his own room, and treated him like a full member of the family. They took on the burden of helping him in every way.

Christians are well conditioned to the idea of contributing to the needs of others, rather than meeting the needs of others. We're used to writing checks, offered with a prayer. It's not often we hear of stories like this couple who take on the whole burden of meeting someone's needs.

Instead, we've become conditioned to first meet our own needs, then to meet our comforts and wants, and then from what is left beyond that we make contributions toward the needs of others.

Granted, the real life couple portrayed in this movie had the resources to meet all of the needs of their adoptive son (and much more), so doing more than contributing was easy for them ... materially. Even so, they had to give entirely of their love and commitment, which they did.

The Book of Acts tells the story of the the early church, and it's an early story of "The Blind Side" on a grander scale. Over and over again, we read of how those first Christians --- many of whom were of very meager means --- went beyond simply contributing to meeting the needs of others, to taking radical steps to make sure there were none among them in need! People even sold some of their belongings to make sure the needs of others were met.

Those early Christians did not see the needs of others as something to be contributed to out of their excess after making sure they maintained their quality of life. Instead, they were willing to affect their quality of life to take on the responsibility of eliminating needs.

The example of the first Christians we read about in the Book of Acts is one of consistently straining their talent, resources, and personal comforts in order to serve others on behalf of Jesus Christ.

As a new year approaches, it's a great time to look afresh at that example. We will have the opportunity to serve others in need in the coming year. We will have choices to contribute to the needs of others, or to meet the needs of others.

Which route are you making plans to take?

Scotty

Everything's nicer in first class ...


It's hard to go back to coach.

When I lived in Hawaii, I flew between the islands so often I was Platinum level on both Aloha and Hawaiian airlines. That meant I almost always got a free upgrade to first class.

Flying first class, even for the short 40 minute flight from Honolulu to the Big Island, was an enjoyable experience. You boarded the plane first and you got to sit in larger, more comfortable seats with leg and arm room. During the flight you were catered to by the flight attendants. I was able to get more work done in the extra room, which made my flight more productive.

I remember once, when I wasn't able to get my free bump to first class, spending the flight back from Kona to Honolulu mostly pinned against the airplane window by a rather large Somoan man who was on his way to visit family in Honolulu.

I missed my seat in first class.

When hard work moves you forward in life, you don't want to go backward.

Yet when it comes to our spiritual lives, it's hard to even get people to move forward. But when you come to know Jesus Christ, things change in a big way. Look at how Peter describes it in 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light."

We come to God to be free from the sin that enslaves us and robs us of life. God changes us. He even adopts us. You become, as Peter put it, "God's very own possession." It's a relationship and reality very different from the brokenness of sin. It would be crazy to go backward.

But ... you got it ... so many choose to go backward. To keep one foot dangling in the old life. To routinely dabble in sin.

We are just days away from a new year. Another year, and another decade, are passing. If God grants you another year of life, what are you going to do with it? Move forward as a child of God who has been "called out of the darkness" and live fully in "His wonderful light," or are you going back to "coach," the misery of allowing sin to be a routine part of your life?

You have some important plans and choices to make for the New Year. This is a great opportunity to move forward into that "marvelous light" and strive to be everything God has enabled you to be so that "you can show others the goodness of God." How will you do that in the coming year?

Scotty

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In pursuit of "wascals" ...


One of my fondest childhood memories was waking up early enough on a Saturday morning to get up in time to get breakfast and be in front of the television for cartoons by 6 a.m. I was a cartoon addict!

Saturday morning was the one time in the week when my parents gave me freedom to indulge in television, so I would spend the entire morning watching cartoons. I was happy watching the coyote try to catch the roadrunner, the pink panther frustrate the detective, and Elmer Fudd set out on his quest to get the "wascally wabbit."

I haven't seen Elmer Fudd pick up his gun and go tip-toeing into the woods in a long time, but I sometimes think of him when I see how Christians often approach evangelism ... very much like going on a hunt, seeking out the "wascally sinners."

Reaching the lost for Jesus Christ isn't a hunting expedition. It's not an effort to trap, snare, or otherwise tame some wild creature. Yet, we often approach it as if it's an "us against them" endeavor. And with that attitude, that's what it often becomes.

Christmas provides for us a great model for how to reach the lost for Christ. After all, Christmas is all about God reaching out to a lost world. How did He do it?

"16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:16-17).

On that first Christmas, God didn't go hunting for humankind to capture us and make us into something we didn't want to be. Instead, on that first Christmas God unleashed His love on us in the humility of a stable and gave us what was most precious to Him, His Son.

Boundless love, total selflessness, humbly aimed entirely at our well-being.

Hmmm, I wonder how effective we might be if we sought the lost on behalf of Christ in the same way ...

Scotty

The day after Christmas ...

A feeling of dread is already creeping up on thousands and thousands of people who work in retail. One of the worst times of the year is nearly upon them.

No, it's not the Christmas shopping season. They are already enduring that.

What they most dread are the throngs of people who will storm their counters the day after Christmas to return the gifts they received.

Don't quite like that extra fluffy sweater Aunt Betty sent you? No problem, just return it.

That cordless drill doesn't quite fit into your life as a soccer mom? No problem, just return it.

You really wanted that other, newer, better cell phone instead of the one you got? No problem, just return it.

Not a fan of fruit cake? Well, you're stuck with that ...

But you're not stuck with many of the things that may come your way by those thinking of you at Christmas time.

And that's the problem.

Many people think of others at Christmas, and they express those thoughts by giving gifts. And then the receivers return the gifts the day after Christmas to get what they really want. In other words, selfishness persists even through the holidays.

We're so selfishly driven in our receiving of gifts that most Americans would rather be able to select their own gift. Almost 70 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed by BIGresearch said they would rather give a gift this Christmas than receive one. If pushed, however, over half (52 percent) said they would prefer to be given cash or a gift card.
We're not very good at receiving according to the way others like to give. We like to receive the way we like to receive. The problem with that is it short circuits the whole cycle of giving. While the giver gives to bless you, the process of giving comes full circle by receiving graciously what was given. A gift well-received is a blessing to the giver. When we rebuff the gift, we rebuff the giving.

We even do that with God.

On that first Christmas, God gave us Himself. A holy, perfect, loving God who gave Himself as a Savior to the world.

But we don't like some of His standards ...

We don't care for that whole obedience thing ...

We really don't like His timing ...

It takes too much work and energy to keep this gift ...

... surely, there's a god this One can be exchanged for that better meets our lifestyles, right?

"Do you have a god in a size liberal?'

"Are you still stocking those extra permissive gods? I thought you had some in back. Or maybe a god with just one eye and poor hearing ..."

"I was wondering if I could exchange this Creator for a pocket god ..."

Sometimes, we're not very gracious about how we receive God's gift to us. Instead of embracing the gift of a Savior who desires restored relationship with us, we want something less demanding, less all-encompassing, a little more loose-fitting.

What better time of year to reflect on what we've done with the gift God has given us and, especially, how we've received it. Have we been gracious receivers? Or are we still waiting in line for something better?

Scotty

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Working out the glitch ...


Recently I experienced a glitch with my iPhone while updating some apps.

The problem was the update would load, but for some reason wouldn't install. Not good! To "load" is to make a copy of a file to my system, but "installing" means making the software ready to work in my system.

We are often the same way when it comes to God's Word. We may be willing to "load" some scripture --- to read a little of it, maybe sit through a sermon, or perhaps even discuss it in a small group. But "installing" His Word means to directly apply scripture to our own lives. Just as you will not get any benefit from loaded software that isn't installed, God's Word has it's effect in your life only when you "install" or directly apply it.

If ever there was an "app" for life you would want to make sure you installed, it would be the Word of God! Look at what you would be loading into your life: "12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires" (Hebrews 4:12).

Once loaded, look at what the Word of God can do in your life if you "install" (apply) it: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."

Just as hardware is useless without software properly installed to direct its function, life doesn't work right without the consistent application of God's Word.

How are you loading, and installing, the Word of God into your life?

Scotty

A gift of intimacy ....

Dogs make awesome pets!

I've had different breeds of dogs as pets but Golden Retrievers and Black Labs are my favorite so far. They're fun and intelligent animals, and a blast as puppies.

Which reminds me of a story about a guy whose dog had a litter of puppies. One day he sat and watched as the puppies fumbled and stumbled over each other, trying to get to their mother for milk. They still couldn't see well, and they maneuvered quite clumsily. As the man watched the pups, he thought, "This is how God must see us ... adorable but so needy. He must find it interesting to look down on us and watch how we fumble along."

A lot of people probably picture God that way, but it's really an inaccurate picture. God is not some distant deity watching us from afar as we "fumble along." It's the Christmas story that helps us understand a very different picture of God.

In Matthew 1:20-23 we read, "20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. 'Joseph, son of David,' the angel said, 'do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:23 'Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us'.”

At the heart of the Christmas story is God closing the gap between Him and us by becoming a man! The birth of Jesus Christ is the story of "Immanuel," God Himself coming to be with us in the flesh.

Actually, the Bible helps us understand that God is spirit, and that He is everywhere. We see over and over in the Old Testament God reassuring His people that He is, and will be, with them in their endeavors. We see a picture of this in Psalm 139:7-12: "7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night — 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you."

But Christmas is about a gift of greater intimacy with God ... of God being with us so that He could, through the gift of His Son, be in us.

Although Jesus no longer walks the earth in physical form, we have something even better: God living in us through the form of the Holy Spirit! "Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The babe born on that first Christmas was the start of God's gift to humankind. We haven't fully received that gift until Christ has come to live in us through the Holy Spirit.

Have you received the gift of Jesus Christ? Do you know the intimacy of the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in you? If not, that can be your greatest gift this Christmas, to receive the Son of God as the Savior He was sent to be.

And if you do, all the more reason to celebrate!

Merry Christmas!

Scotty

Friday, December 18, 2009

IF a person ...

IF...

... a person studies to be a pilot, and gets his pilot's license, but never flies, is he a pilot?

... a person gets a degree in education and earns her teaching certification, but never teaches, is she a teacher?

... a person earns a JD degree and passes the bar exam to become an attorney, but never practices law, is he an attorney?

... a person spends years at a university studying to become a doctor, graduates and successfully completes an internship, but never practices medicine, is she a doctor?

... a person attends a police academy and successfully completes the rigors of the school and all the examinations, but never wears the uniform and serves his community, is he a police officer?

... a person studies the field of real estate and even earns her real estate license, but never works in the field of real estate, is she a realtor?

... a person claims to be a Christian and becomes a church member, but doesn't serve in the church, doesn't read his Bible with any consistency, doesn't pray personally, rarely gives to the church, and never shares his faith, is he really a Christian?

Matthew 7:15-23 says, "15 Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws'."

Scotty

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Had a tantrum lately?


One of my Twitter friends (@ID1611) posted this video. It's hilarious! Please take just a moment to watch it ...



Talk about overreaction!

The lady obviously did something wrong for the authority to write her a ticket. A ticket isn't fun, but the reaction was way over the top.

Sometimes that's how we behave with God.

What?! God won't give us, this very minute, exactly what we want? We throw a fit!

For even simple things, when God doesn't respond ... or worse, when He corrects us ... we overreact. We even doubt Him. Shun Him. Get angry with Him. We act as if God is supposed to do what we want and give us what we want.

The Bible teaches us that God holds our very lives in the palm of His hand. He owes us nothing. And yet we think we have some kind of right to misbehave toward Him? Look further at what scripture says:

Philippians 4:19, "And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

Proverbs 3:11-12, "11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. 12 For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights."

God will provide for us what we need, when we need it. Sometimes, that even means being corrected. Whether it is blessing, or redirection, God thinks of our best interests all the time! Even more, God's response to our sin was an "overreaction" of love. He smothered us with His grace. He poured out forgiveness through the cross of Christ.

What does it take for you to act out toward God? Or can God count on your reflecting His steadfast faithfulness? How have you responded to God this past year? How can you be a more grateful, obedient child in the coming year?

Scotty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Before you make those plans for the New Year ...

Choosing your employment and where you will live are a couple of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. I'm working on both right now.

During this season in my life, I'm praying my way through a time of transition.

It's interesting how easy people think transition should be for pastors. A part of it is simple: I want to go wherever God wants me to be, to do whatever He wants me to do, to be used by Him to His glory. That part is simple. But there's a few more details to transition.

Even more interesting, though, is how many people who are not employed in "full-time ministry" think their process of making decisions about transitions is supposed to be different. But it's not.

As Christians guided by the Bible, we see a teaching referred to as the "priesthood of all believers," meaning that we are all ministers. All Christians are supposed to live their lives devoted to serving God. Some of us are called to leadership roles and are "set aside" for that purpose, but all of us are ministers for Christ.

Given that fact, the same decision-making process for transitions should be applied by all of us.

What does it take for the average Christian family to uproot and move, either near or far? Most of the time the only reason it happens is for employment or to be closer to family. Let me suggest there should be a primary reason for all of us: service to God.

As a pastor, I have seen families leave a local church because the husband or wife was offered a better paying job elsewhere. But is that where God wanted them to be? Sometimes the answer was yes. Sometimes the answer was that God had already planted them right where He wanted them, that God was blessing their ministry to Him right where they were and to move was not what God would want them to do ... even if it meant passing up a better paying job.

Most people, including Christians, decide where they will live and serve based on the best employment opportunity for them. Making a decision like that leaves God out of the equation. It's basically saying, "God, first I have to take care of my income, make sure I am meeting my needs the way I want and wherever that takes me I will then add in serving you." Such thinking leaves us reliant --- and focused --- on ourselves.

If the Christian life is to be totally devoted to God, that process needs to be reversed. It needs to start with, and be entirely about, God's call on our lives. What does He want us to do, and where does He want us to do it? Given that, we can then add in the important part of how we can make a living while serving God.

Most Christians don't make decisions this way because it is radically, really living life devoted first to God. But that's precisely what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6:31-33, "31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Before you set goals and make resolutions for a New Year, let me encourage you to give prayerful consideration to this question: Are you where you should be, doing what you should be doing in service to God? If not, what are you going to do about it? If so, I pray God's richest blessings on your service in the coming year.

Scotty

Monday, December 14, 2009

When others are blessed ...

People either love Simon Cowell or hate him.

Simon is the brutally honest judge on the hit TV show "American Idol." I find myself often agreeing with his assessment of contestant talent, but not necessarily with how he communicates his opinion. He can be too harsh in what he has to say, with his style of communication detracting from the content of his critique.

At the core of his harshness is a life philosophy that is starkly ugly: he doesn't like seeing others win.

During one of the TV show episodes, Simon revealed that he didn't enjoy seeing others win and him lose ... that he thought it silly to celebrate the victories of others when it meant personal loss. Simon lives life pursuing "what's in it for him" and doesn't enjoy seeing others blessed when he isn't.

I think many people share Simon's attitude. Some people find themselves wallowing in envy when they hear of the blessings of others instead of rejoicing with others in their blessings. It takes a great deal of selflessness to honestly celebrate good things happening to other people when they may not be happening to you.

But that is the heart of Christmas!

The first Christmas was all about heaven celebrating the blessing of God providing a Savior for humankind ... at great personal cost to God Himself! As the Creator of humanity wrapped Himself in flesh and offered Himself to the world as our hope for salvation, He eternally changed Himself. Jesus didn't have a human body until He was "born" of Mary, yet He was willing to leave the splendors of heaven to take on human form for our sake ... and God celebrated! Luke 2:8-14 reveals how heaven reveled in our blessing:

"8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. 'Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.' 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,14 'Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased'.”

That first Christmas was God doing all the giving with humanity doing all the getting, and God celebrating for us!

If you want to really experience the spirit of Christmas, then join in the celebration of God's blessings in the lives of others. Rejoice with family, friends and others about the good things happening in their lives. Romans 12:15 puts it this way, "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep."

Let's ask the tough question: how can you sincerely rejoice in the blessings of others? By caring deeply about others.

Note Romans 12:15 again. Not only does it admonish us to "Be happy with those who are happy ..." but also "... and weep with those who weep."

That first Christmas was an expression of God's deep care and love for us. He was so concerned about our well being that He paid the greatest of all costs: He gave His Son to meet our need.

THAT is caring! And by caring enough to meet the need, you can rejoice in the benefit to others.

The example of Christmas is a reminder to live beyond ourselves and not only celebrate the blessings of others, but be part of the blessing in the lives of others. The real spirit of Christmas is to give of yourself at great personal cost, and to revel in the benefit others receive.

I hope you're enjoying many rich blessings this Christmas season!

Scotty

Saturday, December 12, 2009

iPhones, Droids, and Christianity ...

Ever since the iPhone hit the cell phone market like a tsunami, companies have been hustling to come up with their version of a cell phone that could be as good as the iPhone, or better.

The latest making a big splash is the Droid, made by Motorola and available on the Verizon network. It claims to be iPhone quality and even more. I haven't personally checked out the phone since I'm happy with my iPhone, but it has received some decent reviews.

Perhaps the Droid is the first real cell phone that really can compete with the iPhone. Most of the others have simply been cheaper versions of phones that really can't do all the iPhone can, or as well, and certainly lacking the many thousands of "apps" available to iPhone users.

Whether it's cell phones or big screen TVs, cars or airline tickets, we seem to always be looking for the cheaper version that is "just as good as" the real thing. We want a whole lot, without paying the whole cost.

The same with our Christianity.

We really want to be saved from a really bad eternity, and hanging out with God might even be cool. All the perks of heaven sound awesome. But having to really pay the whole cost of a genuinely Christian life? Wow, kind of expensive!

But there are no Droids to the Christian walk. There's only one version that works, and that's real. Everything other than a genuinely personal relationship with Jesus Christ ---on His terms --- is an attempt at a cheap knock off. It won't last, it won't work ... it will fail you.

Sometimes, to have the quality of the original, you simply must pay the cost for ... the original!

To be saved and set free from sin will cost you nothing. That is offered completely free of charge. But belonging to Jesus Christ will cost you everything. Jesus put it this way, as recorded in Luke 9:23-24, "23 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. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it."

There's no cheap version of your daily cross. There's no Droid to giving up your life for Christ. You either do, or you do not.

Which one is your commitment?

Scotty

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The greatest waste of all ...


Dying broke could be a good thing!

In the book, "Live Rich, Die Broke" author Stephen M. Pollan breaks a decades old school of thought of saving to pass everything on to the next generation. Instead, he promotes a life of living fully, where you meet your needs and help others while you're alive, instead of simply existing and socking everything away to pass on to your children when you're dead.

I like the concept, and the book, because it promotes living a full life that helps others now. When you're dead and gone, you never know what others will do with the resources you pass on.

But there's one thing you can never pass on. You either spend it now or it is wasted. Gone.

It your potential.

Most of us live far below what we're really capable of. Most of us will go to our graves with great waste ... our potential spoiled and gone.

Instead of developing fully into the men and women God has enabled us to be, we let fear and the challenges of life redirect us from pushing forward to become all that God has gifted us to be.

There's a great question often asked: "If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?"

It's a great question, because it often sheds light on what we probably should be doing with our lives instead of what we are doing.

How much potential do you have that still remains untapped? What can you do to become more the person God has gifted you to be? When will you get started?

Or will you exit this world leaving the greatest waste of all .... your potential?

Scotty

A side of fellowship please ...

Have you ever tried to get ketchup at a fast food restaurant?

Fast food is rarely a part of my diet, but when I do drop in for a burger, I usually try to get some ketchup.

"Try" is the key word!

Many fast food places have switched from small packets of ketchup to a dispenser. The problem? They provide you with TINY little paper "cups" to put the ketchup in. Paper cups that make it difficult (at best!) to use, and greatly minimize the amount of ketchup you get. I wind up filling multiple paper cups.

The idea behind the dispenser with the paper cups is to provide something customers demand (the ketchup) while controlling the amount used. By providing tiny little cups, the food establishments discourage volume, thus containing their costs. What they don't factor in is the inconvenience and frustration to the customer. Minimizing costs seems to be paramount. However, by squeezing the customer on a little ketchup, they set a poor example of providing the customer with what they want in a convenient manner.

I really dislike those little paper cups!

Sometimes I think Christians, even churches, dish out fellowship kind of like the way fast food restaurants dish out ketchup. We provide a little flavor "at church" ... because fellowship is a big demand of the "customer" ... but we contain it to very little, and make it fairly inconvenient. It seems we think if we shake a few hands or say hello to some people at a church service, we've "done fellowship."

That is light years from the fellowship enjoyed by the early church. Take a look at what fellowship meant to the early followers of Christ:

Acts 2:42: "All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer."

Acts 2:44-47: "44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved."

Acts 4:32-35: "32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need."

We see in the Book of Acts that the early church was riddled with fellowship! Their lives --- including their needs and resources --- were meshed together. Their coming together was for more than a handshake, a song, and a sermon, it was for sharing life together by serving one another.

We have cheapened fellowship to mean a small cup of bad coffee, donuts, a handshake, and surface level conversation before a worship service. Then we go home and face life, and all its challenges, all alone.

No wonder so many Christians fall. No wonder thousands of churches close their doors permanently every year.

The next time someone extends a hand to shake at church, why not go beyond a firm grip of palms to getting to know those around you, diving into their lives, and doing life together? It will mean selfless giving, serving, and spending your time and resources on others.

But isn't that exactly what being a part of the church is all about?

Scotty

Monday, December 7, 2009

Scaling your faith to life ...

Today's news reports told of more car accidents than usual here in the Phoenix metro area.

Why?

It rained.

For desert dwellers, driving in rain is like driving in snow. So many people here are not used to driving on slippery roads, especially since this area only gets 7-10 inches of rain per year. We are accustomed to driving on very dry roads and don't adjust well to a rapid change to wet conditions.

Yet, today in the Phoenix area would be considered harsh in Honolulu, where I used to live (Waikiki, actually), because the temperature reached only into the 50's today. That would be cold in Waikiki! In the time I lived there, it fell as low as the upper 60's only a couple nights ... and the jackets came out of closets quickly! People in that area are accustomed to great weather.

What seems like a blessing to some may seem harsh to others.

Why?

Because we don't live very scalable lives. We become very accustomed to our experiences. Even more, we design our lives around a set of comforts, and when those comforts vary, we become uncomfortable.

We aren't "scalable."

We're much the same when it comes to our faith. When life is comfortable and easy, we're happy with God and reliant on ourselves. But when life becomes challenged, we're throw fits with God, maybe even doubt or question Him, and go pleading for help.

We aren't very "scalable" in our faith.

Paul set a different example. Paul knew how to live a scalable life with a scalable faith. He gives us this example in Philippians 4:10-13:

"10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."

NASA had a saying that was well-known in its astronaut training program many years ago that went, "Maintain an even strain." When selecting potential astronauts, it was important to choose candidates who demonstrated "scalability," a capacity to maintain themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically in a variety of settings and situations. A lot could potentially go wrong in space, and astronauts would need to be able to "keep their heads" in any one of those possible situations.

The same goes for life down here on earth.

Life is not static, we're confronted with changes, challenges, situations, and varying circumstances daily. When we respond without "scaling" to the latest situation, we can feel overwhelmed. But when we "scale" our faith to each new thing we face, we can make better decisions and maintain a sense of peace even in times of difficulty.

How "scalable" are you? When times get tough, does your faith "scale" out to meet the challenge? Or are you locked into a cocoon of comfort and jolted by circumstance? The difference will depend on who Christ is to you. Notice that Paul's ability to live a scalable life with a scalable faith had everything to do with his reliance of Jesus ... "13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."

Scotty

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thrive during change ...

Change is generally a good thing for us. So here's a little video inspiration on that subject ...


(Thanks to Daniel Decker for posting this on Twitter)

Scotty

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What do you do when you get the "no"?

"No."

I heard that word a lot when I provided Personal Training services in a gym.

I worked with numerous people who were joining a gym either for the first time, or the first time in a long time. I always took plenty of time to listen to why they were there, and what they not only really wanted to accomplish, but what they needed to accomplish. Most simply wanted to lose weight. Many needed to lose weight and change their diets for serious health needs. Others wanted muscles they had never developed.

After our time together, I presented them with a plan tailored specifically to help them accomplish their needs and wants.

Did most of them jump at it?

No.

Most said "no."

They knew what they needed, and they knew what they wanted. But deep down, they also knew they were not willing to pay the price for either. Many chose to do nothing to improve their diabetes, poor cardiac health, obesity, fatigue, or the other health and fitness issues that plagued their lives.

The "no's" came a little more reluctantly with many of the people I have worked with as a clinical counselor. We would spend time understanding precisely what their issues were, and what the answers were to their issues. It was harder for those people to actually say "no" because it would be obvious they were rejecting the very answers they needed to their problems in life.

But the "no's" came anyway. Not that they didn't want the results applying the answers could bring. They simply didn't want to do the work necessary to get the results. Some were willing to let marriages fail, family relationships fail, friendships fail, businesses fail, projects fail, ministries fail, and experience other failures because they were not willing to pay the price for the desired (or needed) results.

And after almost 25 years of serving as a Pastor, I've seen the same thing when it comes to people and their souls. Many say "no" to Jesus.

What do you do when someone says no?

That is a difficult moment for a sincere servant of Jesus Christ. What do you do when you get the "no"?

One of my favorite Bible stories is the one about the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-22) because it answers this question. Jesus was asked what this young man needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the man. Who then walked away sad.

Get this: this guy has the Creator of all things tell him directly what he needs to do to live forever. What a find! What an answer! Who would not jump at that?!

This guy wouldn't. And didn't.

And get this: Jesus let him go.

There's nothing recorded here about Jesus chasing the guy. There's nothing recorded about Jesus saying something like, "Hang on a minute, let's talk about this. We can work something out ..."

There are answers to the issues in our lives. Sometimes people don't like the answers. And as much as you may want to see someone make the right choice, you cannot coerce a "yes" heart. You cannot force a commitment. You cannot turn someone else's "no" into a sincere "yes."

At those times, you can only do what Jesus Himself did: let them go.

Wow! That can be hard, and if you really care about them, it should be hard to see people choose to fail or to fall. But it happens every day.

How about you? Are you wrestling with some "no's" in your own life? Do you wish for better fitness and health, but not really willing to do the work to attain it? Would you like richer, deeper relationships? Does Christ need to be Lord instead of just another influence?

There are answers for you to achieve these things in your life. But you will never do so until you are willing to stop saying "no" to the cost of achieving what you need, or even what you want.

So ... what's your answer?

Scotty