Monday, March 31, 2014

Tell your church you're dropping all programs ...

Social media is flooded every day with talk about "missional" this, and "missional" that, and a vibrant discussion about the vital need for discipleship has spread around the globe.

But we're sitting on the brink of, yet again, doing a lot of talking and very little acting.

If you want to be a disciple-making church, comprised of disciple-making disciples, then it's time to start taking real, bold steps in turning that talk into reality. Otherwise, you're going to talk to death the mission of the church.

Here's one idea for you.

Get all the leaders within the congregation on board for this bold step: announce to your flock you're going to be dropping ALL programs, and instead, you're going to be pursuing a more biblical model of the leaders equipping the saints for ministry, and then these equipped saints can go minister.

For example, gather all the disciples who have a heart for ministering to children, and then equip them to be able to do so effectively. Support them, encourage them, provide them with the resources they need, but turn over ministering to children to these missionaries to children.

Do the same for youth.

Do the same for men's ministries, women's ministries, missions, and EVERY "program" in the church. Stop "programming" something into a mediocre, staff-sustained existence; instead, carry out the responsibility of equipping the saints, and then let them serve in the ways God leads them.

The result is that you will no longer have a canned, routine set of programs. What you will have is the demise of the "volunteer" replaced by an army of disciples making disciples of those they serve in the way God directs them to serve.

I wouldn't be surprised if not one single church actually tries this idea. Isn't that sad? They won't dare because they have never done it this way before. But the church, historically, has done it this way, with far greater success than the church of today.

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ," Ephesians 4:11-13.

Imagine what your church would be like if the ministry that flowed from it came from equipped disciples who, for the love of their Lord, ministered as the Holy Spirit directed and empowered them, not as volunteers doing their bit in a program, but as ambassadors for Christ pouring their lives out in service with and for Him!

Why not give it a try?

Scotty

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The world needs a simple man ...

As I write this, it's a wet, rainy day in northern California. A much needed watering in a drought-stricken place. Just the kind of morning to slow down, enjoy the pitter-patter sounds of the falling rain, and warm oneself with a cup of coffee.

A pleasant setting for a simple morning.

The rain often causes people to cancel all sorts of things they intended to do on what has become an inclement Saturday. Funny how many of those things suddenly become not-so-essential, and a rainy Saturday turns into time that a family can enjoy simple things together.

I remember when the greatest challenge of my Saturday mornings was to have a bowl of cereal and a glass of chocolate milk prepared and in front of the television by 6 a.m., ready for a morning of cartoons. It's the one time my parents let me indulge in TV viewing. Following the cartoons would be an old John Wayne "B" western, then it was time to square away my room and get outside for the afternoon.

Such simple things brought a great deal of satisfaction in that moment. Yet, it's often those simple moments we remember as we ponder life's blessings.

That often goes against the flow of what we're taught as adults. There seems to be no limit to the leaders who tell us we should be constantly striving to achieve great things and greatness itself. And if we listen to them, we find ourselves missing the simple, common moments in each day because we become focused on living for only those few big events that might happen in any given year.

We miss much of life when we live that way.

We also fail to achieve so much more when we think we have to make everything a massive attempt at something great. We mistakenly think that weeks of toil to produce a big Sunday show, complete with fog machines and complex productions, is greater than Joe standing out in his driveway praying with a neighbor or Susan sharing the Gospel with a co-worker while on her lunch break. The simple things done throughout the week in the lives of common Christians living out their faith have more impact on the kingdom of God than a man attempting to be great on a Sunday morning.

A good example of this is found in "Streams of Living Water," as author Richard Foster tells of Billy Graham preaching at Cambridge back in 1955. For three consecutive nights, Graham tried to make his preaching academic and enlightened, but with no effect. He finally realized that presenting the intellectual side of faith was not his gift, so he returned to preaching the simple message of Jesus rescuing us from our problem with sin. Foster wrote, "The results were astonishing: hundreds of sophisticated students responded to this clear presentation of the gospel. It was a lesson in clarity and simplicity that he never forgot."

God confounds those who would be great among us. He accomplishes more great things through ordinary people living simple lives of faithful obedience than men trying to become great. And He makes great the response to a man who stands and shares the Gospel in simple, plain, clear language than to those who lose the Gospel message in the grandeur of a production or complexity of a philosophical debate. To be great, we have to become simple, as simple as a child ...

"Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven'," Matthew 18:2-4.

The world doesn't need more men trying to become great. The world needs more simple men.

Are you one of them?

Scotty

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to sleep (and live) better ...

We stress ourselves out so much in just one day, it's a wonder we ever get any sleep!

Living lives perpetually racked with stress often robs us of a good night of sleep. Here's one tip for how you can get a better night of sleep and live a little better as well.

Are you ready for this?

Here it is: Laugh!

I have no doubt Jesus laughed a lot while He was here on earth. I can imagine Him laughing with Joseph in the carpenter shop, laughing with His friends as a boy, laughing with His neighbors, and laughing a lot with His disciples. I think God intended for us to have such joy and richness of life that we enjoy laughter.

Laughter benefits us emotionally as well as physically. It lifts our spirits by moving our minds off everything we allow to worry and panic us, and it physically loosens up our bodies that often tense up from our stress which makes us less able to relax when we try to sleep.

So here's something that I have had clients try, and I enjoy myself. Before turning in for the night, have a season of worshipful prayer --- not a time pleading to God, but just worshiping and adoring Him. Then, stretch out in bed and tune in to some comedy for a time of laughter. You can download for free various apps that have comedy programming (Pandora, Slacker, iHeartRadio, and other apps all have comedy programming), or you can usually find an all-comedy channel among your local radio stations. Spend a few minutes enjoying listening to a great comedian, the likes of Jim Gaffigan, and you'll be laughing 'til you snort!

Making time for some laughter in your life, especially right before going to sleep, helps to lighten your mood, relax your thinking, and loosen up the tenseness of your body. The result is often a more restful night of sleep ... and a better attitude!

Life is serious business, but it's not all serious. Sometimes, we need to laugh or we'll cry. We need to make time for tears, but we need to make a little time for laughter as well. Try it. Chances are you will sleep, feel, and think better.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength," Proverbs 17:22.

Scotty

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two kinds of men ...

One of the ministries I have seen tried, revamped, and failed at more than others within the church is a ministry to men.

Men's ministries often start with a discussion about the vital leadership role of men in both families and the church, and the reality that if you win the man to Christ, you can often win the family. With that kind of talk excitement is generated, a warrior-type name for a ministry to men is adopted, and dreams of grilling burgers, fishing trips, and outings to ball parks are fostered.

Some of those things actually happen.

And then it all fades, often very quickly.

That's because there are two kinds of men targeted for such ministry, and they have two kinds of responses.

The first man is a spiritually healthy man who lives a life fully committed to Christ. The reason why a men's ministry can lose this man is when it's more fluff than substance; when it's just another social opportunity, and one often poorly coordinated. This is the kind of man who is usually very busy but, in spite of that fact, will make time for something worth committing to, which often means something that will challenge his boots off! But a ministry to men that talks more about an exciting vision than actually making it happen is something that turns this kind of man off. Quickly! He's even willing to jump in and make a valuable contribution if the leadership team is willing to commit and sacrifice to make things happen, but this kind of man walks with men who act boldly, not with talkers who don't care about failing for lack of action.

The second man is the spiritual coward. That phrase is not meant to be intentionally inflammatory, although some may take it as such. But I think most Christian men will understand it. To be a man of God is to be a man who takes courage. Men understand that cowardice undermines the very foundation of part of what it means to be men. I'm not talking about macho, grunting, gun-toting, spitting types. I remember having a conversation a few years ago with a man who loved to garden, and especially liked growing flowers. He grieved how men like him were often overlooked in men's ministry. Yet this fellow was a warrior for Christ; he had great courage in living out his faith every day, regardless of what it cost him.

But not a lot of men have the courage of this man who liked to grow daisies.

The truth be told, there are too many spiritual cowards out there.

The problem is, we tend to give up on them too quickly. Such men can be loved, encouraged, and challenged to move beyond their fears and take courage in Christ. Such men can be discipled and shown the way to become more like the Apostle Paul, who said, "For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ ..." (Romans 1:16). Paul directly challenged men to not be spiritual cowards: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love," 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB).

To be the kind of guy who at night locks the doors, turns on the security system, and checks in on the kids before going to bed isn't the whole kind of courageous man your wife and children need. They need a spiritually courageous man, one who is brave enough to set the spiritual example for his family and contend for the faith every day. A spiritual coward fails to protect his family in the most serious of all ways.

Which kind of man are you? A man who takes courage in Christ and models the life of a risky faith to his family? Or are you a spiritual coward? You, alone, determine which of these two men you will be.

Scotty

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You won't need any spray paint for this ...

Graffiti from the 1800's discovered by workers renovating the Washington Monument has very different tone and substance from that usually found today on the sides of buildings and subway cars.

The graffiti on the Washington Monument states: "Whoever is the human instrument under God in the conversion of one soul, erects a monument to his own memory and more lofty and enduring (sic) than this," The inscription is signed by "BFB" and can now be viewed by visitors to the monument.

With everyone we come across in life, we leave a mark. With some, it's more like graffiti, only not of the eloquent nature. With others, it's the words of a witness and can be life-changing.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere --- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth," Acts 1:8.

It was Jesus' intent that we scrawl a witness across the lives of people we encounter so that they may all hear His good news and be saved.

Are you a witness?

Are you telling everyone, everywhere, about Jesus Christ?

What are you writing onto the lives of the people who cross your path?

Scotty

Monday, March 24, 2014

Maybe you really aren't "crushing it" after all ...

Here's a piece of advice I have to give to many people I counsel, coach, and consult with: Stop hurtling through life!

Being a very busy person is no sign of spirituality or any kind of a full life. In fact, it's more likely the sign of an empty life. Tim Kreider, in an article he wrote for The New York Times called "The Busy Trap," put it this way:

If you live in America in the 21st century, you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. Its become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing: 'Busy!' 'So busy!' 'Crazy busy!' It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And a stock response is a kind of congratulation: 'That's a good problem to have ' or 'Better than the opposite!'"

Then Kreider goes on to say, "Busyness serves as a kind of hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day ... [We're] busy because of [our] own ambition or drive or anxiety, because [we're] addicted to busyness and dread what [we] might have to face in its absence."

So many of us are just hurtling through life, and we need someone to get our attention with the advice to stop it! Any of us could benefit from that advice if we follow it, but there are a couple types of people this message is especially helpful to.

First is the extremely busy person who feels life is out of control with all the demands it places on them. What this person has often long ago lost sight of is that they control their calendars. Sure, some things are "givens" for taking up our time ... our jobs, our relationships, our commitments, and basic chores of life. But even then, we control much of the content of these issues.

Sometimes, we have to scale back what we're volunteering for at work, and occasionally some jobs are so ruthlessly demanding we have to step back and re-assess if we should make a job or career change. Your employment is not a matter of it fully controlling its slice of your life; you can say no to some things about your employment, and sometimes you will need to do so.

After that sizeable chunk of time for work, all the rest that fills your schedule is put there by you and you manage it. The issue isn't that these things have piled in, the issue is the choices you make of what your time goes to, and how that time is used once allocated.

Second, this advice is beneficial for that super star who seemingly can handle a stunning amount of challenges and commitments and still achieve at what looks like at first glance an extraordinary level of excellence. When we slow down long enough to really look at the quality and significance of all we're doing, we often discover it isn't as good as we think it is. A lot of achievers are a mile wide, but just inches deep. They're involved in a lot, but to a limited degree. Many of these people even take great pride in this. They talk about "Crushing it!" and proudly wear their limited contributions as a badge of honor. But there's not much they're doing deeply and significantly because they are spread too thin.

These people are hurtling through life, governed by the demands of their calendars and not enjoying as deeply as they could the things that are on those calendars.

Key to this hurtling experience is a failure to stop, pray and think deeply about our lives, and then make prayerful, thoughtful decisions about who we are and who we need and want to become, and how to live our lives in the fullest way possible that is both fulfilling and profoundly productive. To do this, we need to step back and ask some piercing questions, like ...

Who is Christ to me? That's a big question! We were created to worship, glorify, and enjoy our Maker. God made us through Christ, and for Him. This is the overarching issue in the life of every human being. So how is your followership of Christ? Every ounce of energy, resource, and the focus of our desires need to place this relationship first, and that should be reflected as a reality in our lives. When we're hurtling through life to such a degree God is just one more part of the equation, then our lives have truly gotten out of control and need a serious recalibration.

Who am I in Christ? How are you doing at developing your identity in Christ? How much of who you are is the prayerful and thoughtful result of maturing in Him? How much of who you are is influenced by others and circumstances? Do you sometimes think, "If I could really live the way I know I should, and want to in Christ, it would be so different then how I'm living now"?

Who are you to others and who are they to you? Are the people you love the most squeezed into openings in your calendar? Or do you insist your calendar fit around them? How significantly do you touch the lives of others outside of that circle of close loved ones? Who, in this broken world, would say, "Good for God!" because of you?

Who are you in this world and what is this world to you? It's true that our relationships in life matter the most. But it's also true what we do is important and makes a difference to this world, other people, and the church. God has gifted you to contribute beyond yourself to His kingdom and His creation. What are you doing with those gifts?

All of this is not to say that a great life isn't a busy one. It may be stuffed full, and our calendars may be overflowing. But when that happens from prayerful, thoughtful choices that yield to the will of God and His glory, and done so with the right attitude and discipline, even a busy life full of wise decisions can be a deeply rewarding and productive one.

God's intent is that you have a fulfulling life, not just a full life ...

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life," Luke 10:10.

Is yours a rich and satisfying life that brings glory to God? If not, you need to make time to stop, pray, think, and make a decision to stop hurtling through life and start living it purposefully through Christ.

Scotty

Thursday, March 20, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A great addition to your Bible reading and study ...

When people discuss or debate significant issues, it's not uncommon for someone to say, "Well Jesus said ..." or "Jesus never said anything about ..."

What Jesus did say during His time on earth is very important. Considering the fact that Jesus is God, it could be said that what Jesus had to say were the greatest words ever spoken.

And that's the entire focus of a new book I'm happy to recommend to you, and encourage you to buy.

"The Greatest Words Ever Spoken," introduced and compiled by Steven K. Scott (published by WaterBrook Press) is a compilation of every word spoken by Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. The book is arranged into nine chapters covering broad categories, and further divided through those chapters into 200 different topics, making easy most topical searches you may want to conduct. Additionally, you will find a scripture index in the back of the book.

By compiling the words of Jesus by topic, "This will enable you to read everything Jesus said without the interruption of commentary, transitional scenes, and details about the activities of the people who surrounded Him. As you read this book, you can immerse yourself in Jesus' words. You can reflect on every statement He made about things that are important to you. You'll see everything the Lord said on such subjects as prayer, faith, eternal life, fear, your life priorities, His incredible promises, and the claims He made about Himself," Scott explains in the introduction.

While "The Greatest Words Ever Spoken" makes for a great companion to your Bible reading and study, this book isn't a Bible, and isn't a replacement for one. Because the only thing contained in this book are just the words of Jesus, the reader has limited context. At times, the reader can clearly understand what Jesus is saying without further contextual study, but at other times readers will want to pause and look into their Bibles to have a full understanding of the context within which Jesus is speaking. Further, the words of Jesus are not the entirety of what God has to communicate to us, or all that He has revealed about Himself to us. That can be found in the Bible, and we need to maintain our primary commitment to the whole of scripture. Because of these issues of context and the words of Jesus being just a part of the Bible, I think this book can best be enjoyed by more mature Christians who have a greater familiarity with the Bible.

But with that said, it is remarkably enlightening and insightful to spend time reading only the words of Jesus. By digging into a particular topic, you can go deep into what Jesus, Himself, had to say regarding the issue; and since the words of Jesus are grouped by topic, reading everything He was recorded to say on a subject can bring times of rich contemplation distinct from having to jump around to different books in the New Testament.

The copy of this book that I received for review was a paperback, and the only other option I know of is a hardback. I think it would be benefcial for the publisher to print an edition in a leather or leather-like cover to provide for greater endurance. Because "The Greatest Words Ever Spoken" is such a valuable companion to Bible reading and study, I don't think the paperback edition will long weather the use many readers will likely want to give it.

Scotty

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. 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.”

Instead of despair, wiggle the wire ...

Television was free when I was a kid. All you needed was an antenna attached to the roof, or just some "rabbit ear" antennas atop of your TV, and you would be able to watch the television channels being broadcast in your area.

But to keep those channels tuned in so you could see them often required playing around with the rabbit ears, or re-positioning the TV just so for the signal to come in clearly.

Today, with cable, television viewing is a lot easier. But even today, sometimes we have to give that cable connection an extra twist or tweak the wire just a little to get a perfectly clear picture on our televisions. When the connection is solid, the picture is clear.

I was reminded of this recently in observing how people respond to unexpected circumstances that arise. I have a friend who reacts rather than responds; when something unexpected comes up, she plasters social media with "woe-is-me" comments in the most dramatic fashion. Despair is her automatic reaction. She will later come back and spiritualize the issue, but it's almost as if that happens only after she's wiggled her wiring to God and re-established a solid connection.

Despair is what happens when we lose hope. Yet, as Christians, God Himself is our hope, so despair should not be where we start or land, even in the midst of some terrible circumstances. The Apostle Paul described it this way ...

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies," 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.

Because of Christ, we can live with such solid hope that whatever circumstances suddenly affront us, we do not lose hope and react in despair. We know God holds our lives in the palm of His hand, and that He loves and cares about us with a perfect affection and faithfulness. We know that through Christ, we are more than overcomers!

Why, then, the despair and drama?

A wire is loose. We're not staying as closely connected to the Lord as we like to think we are. We've let our picture of life get a little fuzzy. From a clinical perspective, we start thinking more irrationally, we become less stable emotionally, and the result to our behavior is the bad habit of reacting with fear rather than with hope.

You need to wiggle the wire.

At least, to immediately re-establish that clear connection with the Lord. But every day, we need to make sure we're solidly connected to Him so that we can receive from Him without interruption, thereby enabling us to see life clearly the way He broadcasts it to us, full of hope and promise.

Is your connection to Christ loose? What do you need to do to tighten that connection?

Scotty

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time to do a little match-making ...

I've gone on one blind date in my life, and that was one too many.

One of my sisters wanted to match me for a date with a co-worker of hers. Being a fairly adventurous person, I thought, "Why not?"

I later was very grateful it was a group date because my sister couldn't have connected me with someone who was more of a mis-match than her friend. I was polite and a gentleman throughout the evening, but I was happy when the outing was over because it was an awkward time of just trying to be friendly with someone I had no connection with in just about any way.

Some people love to try to match single people as couples, and occasionally some are good at connecting people. Others avoid trying to pair people because it can be so disastrous. But all of us can perfectly match anyone when it comes to introducing people to Jesus Christ.

He's perfect for all of us!

He loves us unconditionally. He's selfless. He cares about us completely. He's totally committed to us. He's faithful and loyal. And He can fulfill anyone's life like no one else can. He's given Himself to us, and we were made for Him ...

"... Everything was created through him and for him," Colossians 1:16b.

Jesus is the perfect match for anyone you know (or don't know!). If you haven't yet tried to connect others with Him, you really should do so. Today would be a great time to start!

Scotty

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to be a great mentor ...

After a distinguished performing career, virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz accepted an appointment as professor of music at UCLA. Asked what had prompted his change of career, Heifetz replied, "Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise, it is lost."

We can learn from this great musician. Living the Christian life, and being a leader in the church, is a highly personal experience. We can't pull it off merely by watching skilled veterans "perform." We need hands-on instruction.

Our primary instruction is supposed to come in the form of discipleship. An additional means of growing as both a follower of Christ and a leader in the church is through mentoring. There is a real and distinct difference between discipling and mentoring. Discipleship teaches others to learn of and look like Christ, while mentoring is sharing your own education, insights, and experience as examples for the betterment of others.

Unfortunately, there's a great lack of discipleship going on within the church while there is a broad and growing interest in mentoring. But mentoring can be a great benefit to those who are teachable and are willing to learn. So if you're going to invest yourself in someone, what is needed to be a great mentor?

Instead of getting into the details and minutia of mentoring, let's look briefly at four fundamentals you should practice with your student in order to be a great mentor:

1. Love them.
Someone posted a sign in a music store that read, "A jazz musician is someone who puts a $5,000 horn in a $500 car and drives 50 miles for a $5 gig." Why does the musician do it? It's not for the money or an ego boost, it's because he loves music and must share it. The motive for mentoring is similar - love for his student. Any other motivation will negatively influence your teaching and example. Love means you do what is best for the other person; mentoring is pouring the best of you into the life of another person for their best interests, not yours.

2. Listen to them.
On Christmas afternoon, the pastor's wife dropped into an easy chair as she exclaimed, "Boy! Am I ever tired!" Her husband looked at her and said, "I had to conduct two special services last night, three today, preaching a total of five sermons! Why are you so tired?" The wife immediately responded, "Because I had to listen to all of them!'

It can be tiring listening to someone talk a lot, which is what some mentors think they need to do. That's probably because they missed the first point, and thus, are a little too full of themselves. You'll never rightly know how and what to teach your student without first listening to them. Learn their story, find out what makes them tick, and mix your times together with plenty of listening to them. The better you understand your student, the better you will know how you can benefit them.

3. Lift them.
Lift your students in prayer every day. Lift them when they're sagging from life's burdens. Lift them when they're discouraged. And lift them closer to Christ by helping them take the next steps in their becoming more like Him. If you're unwilling to contribute to the life of your students in a way that lifts them, then leave them alone.

4. Lead them.
So many people just want to be a "leader" and pay little heed to loving others, listening to others, and lifting others. But you really are not in any position to lead others until you love them, listen to them, and are ready to help lift their lives to the next step in living for Christ. But once the first three things are in place, don't be afraid to lead them. Set the example, demonstrate a bold Christianity, and hold them accountable. Dismantle their excuses and challenge them to become the person God intends for them to be. Establish some expectations for them and give them work to do. Lead!

Being a mentor can be a great way to share with others from the education and experiences you've had as a follower of Christ and leader in the church. Just make sure you've got these fundamentals for mentoring in place before stepping too deeply into the life of a student.

Scotty

Monday, March 17, 2014

Life is like a box of crackers ...

The line from the movie "Forrest Gump" is so famous, most people know it: "My momma always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

A couple of days ago, I was thinking how life is like a box of crackers.

I don't have any idea how many boxes of crackers I've bought in my lifetime, but it's never been anything of note until recently. In the last box of crackers I bought, all the crackers were crumbled and crushed within their packages. There wasn't a single intact cracker to be found. But there was no way of telling this without opening the box since there wasn't any damage of any kind to the exterior packaging. On the outside, it appeared to be an ordinary box containing tasty crackers. On the inside, were broken crackers, so crushed they couldn't be used for their intended purpose.

Life is a lot like a box of crackers when it comes to people. Some appear to be fine on the outside, and some of them are fine on the inside. But a lot of them, while looking fine on the outside, are broken and crushed on the inside.

God knows the damage done to our lives. I think that's why His Word encourages us to be gentle with one another. In Titus 3:2, the believers are to be reminded of this:

"They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

In Galatians 5:22-23, we see the kind of fruit the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us includes traits such as patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. First Corinthians 13:4 tells us love is patient and kind. And Ephesians 4:32 instructs us like this: "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

Jesus simplified things by telling us to love everyone. That's because there are a lot of fine-looking people out there who are crushed on the inside. They need our love, our kindness and gentleness, not more damage done to their already broken lives.

Life is like a box of crackers, you never know what you will discover inside people. So approach them with the love and gentleness of Christ.

Is that how you treat others?

Scotty

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An entitlement mentality with God ...

You cannot complain and be grateful at the same time. But some people sure are giving it a try!

This is a behavior I've noticed, and you've likely seen a lot of it as well. Someone has, in their prayers, asked God for something, and God has decided to answer their prayers and give them exactly what they asked for. However, the getting of the answered prayer takes a process, and that's when we hear the grumbling as the person complains about what they have to experience to get their prayer answered while simultaneously claiming they're grateful for God blessing them.

Hmmm ...

Folks, when you're in the act of complaining, that action overrides any words suggesting gratitude. You cannot complain and be grateful at the same time!

Many people have a pattern of this hypocritical behavior of claiming gratitude while complaining or moaning about the process. Such behavior speaks volumes about how they really view God, and what they really want: an effortless, trouble-free, but blessed life.

An additional layer of hypocrisy to this is, you will often find many of these people complaining about how there is such an entitlement attitude in our culture!

This grumbling behavior isn't something God takes lightly. In fact, it is so serious that we find the Apostle Paul shining a bright light on the subject. We read about Moses leading a grumbling people out of slavery in Egypt toward a land God promised them, and they griped all the way. They wanted the blessing, but not the experience of what it took for God to bring about the blessing. Yet, all along God was providing and caring for the people. That did not stop their grumbling. Paul tells us we need to look at their story and learn some significant lessons from it ...

"I don't want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the scriptures say, 'The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.' And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don't grumble, as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age," 1 Corinthians 10:1-11.

God was not pleased with those who had an entitlement mentality with Him then, and He still doesn't like it today. So what is His will for us?

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you belong to Christ Jesus," 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Are you one of those who profess gratitude while complaining about God's process of blessing you? How could your life change, and your relationship with God improve, if you stopped the grumbling and were just truly grateful?

Scotty

Friday, March 14, 2014

How much influence do you need?

Most pastors I know have, at some time, dreamed of reaching thousands for Christ.

It's a noble dream.

After all, as Christians, we want to see everyone --- every nation, tribe, and tongue --- come into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. As noble as that grand dream is, most of us will never become the great evangelist preaching to millions and seeing thousands walk an isle to demonstrate a life-changing decision.

Fortunately, you don't have to be an Apostle Paul or Billy Graham to have a huge impact on many lives.

So just how much influence do you need?

Enough to (through Christ) change at least one life.

You may have heard the classic story about the faithful pastor who was told by his superior that something was wrong with his work. The supervisor told him, "Only one person has been added to your church this year, and he is only a boy."

Later that day, while heavy in heart, the pastor was praying when someone walked up behind him. Turning around, he saw the same boy --- his only convert that year.

The boy asked, "Pastor, do you think I could become a preacher or missionary some day?"

The pastor encouraged him to pray and seek God about his question. The boy was none other than Robert Moffat, who was destined to open Africa to the Gospel of Christ. Years later when Moffat spoke in London, a young doctor heard him say, "I have seen in the morning sun the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been."

The young doctor, deeply moved by Moffat's message, was none other than David Linvingstone. In 1840, he sailed for Africa where he labored for Jesus for more than three decades.

All of this happened because a faithful pastor encouraged his "one convert."

Most of us have the opportunity to influence and encourage more than one person in our lives. But if we are faithful to influence at least one, in a real way and for the glory of God, you never know just how great that influence will expand into the lives of others.

Instead of becoming distraught that you can't fill stadiums to preach to, be faithful in touching the lives of those you can reach and trust God with the results.

Scotty

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Here's a way to become "that guy" ...

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks enjoying conversation with a pastor I was getting to know. During our exchange, he suddenly stopped and asked, "You're an evangelism guy, aren't you?"

I responded that I wouldn't consider myself just an "evangelism guy" because my passion isn't limited to just sharing the Gospel with the lost. I also want to see them surrender their lives to Christ, be fully discipled, see them equipped for ministry, see them become disciple-makers, and make sure they're shepherded well. I want to see the same for those who already know Christ. I want to see lives transformed to the glory of God. But that all starts with evangelism, which has been a big part of my ministry for almost three decades, so it's not uncommon for other ministers to think of me as an "evangelism guy."

In our culture today, the gist is not to become known as "that guy." You know, the guy who always steps into pictures and ruins it with his funny faces and stealing away the focus. Or that guy who still goes to high school parties after he has graduated high school. Or that guy who always makes a fool of himself in social settings.

You know, "that" guy!

How sad it is that ministers who still have a passion for evangelism and discipleship have become known in some church leadership circles as "that guy." But if having a passion for bringing people to Christ is being "that guy," then we need a lot more people who are "that guy"!

Research into being "that guy" --- a Christian who will share the Gospel with others --- has produced a staggeringly tragic statistic. The data indicates that 96.7 percent of all Christians will never share the Gospel with anyone in their lifetime!

What a massive failure that is of Christ's commission to His church:

"Jesus came and told his disciples, 'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age'," Matthew 28:18-20.

The Apostle Paul says that all of us who are followers of Christ are supposed to be "that guy" ...

"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'" 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

A primary contributing factor to why so many Christians don't share the Gospel with anyone is because they don't know how to do so. Not only has the church failed at carrying out the Great Commission, its leaders have failed at one of their most important responsibilities ...

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ," Ephesians 4:11-13.

Even though it is the responsibility of church leaders to equip the saints, most churches are not doing anything to teach believers how to share the Gospel with others.

Let's change that!

One service the Scott Free Clinic provides in consulting with and serving churches is offering training that equips Christians in how to share the Gospel in a simple, concise, but comprehensive and effective way. If your church isn't currently equipping believers in how to share the Gospel and you would like to change that but need some help, let me know and we will develop a plan to help you train your congregation. Send me an email at drscottyjr@gmail.com and we'll work together to equip your people so they can join the ranks of "that guy" which we all need to be.

What is your church doing to make disciples? To disciple new believers? To equip the saints for ministry?

Scotty

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The hype for this book exceeds the content ...

When I read the initial information provided to me about "The Passion Principles," written by Shannon Ethridge (published by W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson), I was excited about reviewing it.

The sub-title proclaimed this book to be about "Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage." The endorsements inside the front cover lead you to believe it's a great book on the topic of sexuality for couples. And the other information contained on the book would cause you to assume their would be some significant content of a more profound nature that could greatly benefit the sexual relationship of couples.

Unfortunately, the hype and promotion of this book exceeds the actual content.

Having served as a minister and a clinical counselor for close to three decades, and having counseled thousands of couples (including in the area of sexuality), I have read some great works for couples on the topic of sexuality. This is not one of them.

To be fair, let me state there is some good information in this book, just not as good as it is represented to be.

Let's start with the title, "The Passion Principles." Nowhere in the book are there any kind of clearly delineated "principles" for the sexual relationship of husbands and wives. My best guess of what these "principles" are comes from the back cover of the book where it states, "Divided into four sections, The Passion Principles helps couples celebrate the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical dimensions of sexuality." The book is then vaguely divided into these four sections, but the content is made up of an odd and confusing format comprised of 40 broadly varying questions and answers to them. Some of the questions are of a more significant nature, but some are not. The questions range from, "Why does God say we have to be married to have sex?" or "Why is the Song of Solomon even in the Bible?" to "Why do humans think about sex so much?" and "What is the secret to staying together forever?"

The result of this random question format is disjointed and disconnected content that fails to congeal into a whole school of thought since there isn't any rational developmental flow of fully interconnected sub-topics.

Thus, the content is very inconsistent. Some questions are addressed with depth and useful information, while other questions are addressed in a far more elementary fashion. This could be because the author is identified as being a certified life coach, not as a clinical expert on a topic as significant as human sexuality. There are some stories in the book that can capture the attention of readers, but I don't think it could be said the book is uniformly written in a compelling manner.

I found there to be a lot of author opinion in providing the answers to some of the questions offered, and sometimes the answers to the questions are too light on providing scriptural substantiation for the spiritual matters raised. For example, on pages 57-59, Ethridge writes about a question posed to her, and things she contemplated, and stated spiritual answers without a single Bible verse to validate her positions. This book is theologically light, even though at times I found the writer's tone to be a little preachy.

If you're looking for something somewhat on the topic of sexuality that is more wandering and mediocre in substance, you may find some things you like in this book. But if you're looking for something with significant content that dives deep into sexuality in both a compelling and comprehensive manner, this is not the book for you. Either way, it's not a book I would recommend.

Scotty

I received this book free from HarperCollins Christian Publishing as part of their BookLook book review bloggers program. 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.”

Some encouragement from Jesus ...

Does justice seem to elude you?

Have you grown weary of the battle for justice in your life?

Then maybe this single sentence will give you some encouragement ...

"One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up," Luke 18:1.

If anyone knows what it is like to experience injustice, it is Jesus. His encouragement to us is to be tenacious in prayer and never give up on God.

Here's the story Jesus told after that sentence ...

"There was a judge in a certain city," he said, "who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, 'Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.' The judge ignored her for a while, but he finally said to himself, 'I don't fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I'm going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!' Then then Lord said, 'Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don't you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?'" Luke 18:2-8.

Are you persisting in prayer? Are you hounding God with your request for justice because you trust Him? Or have you given up? If so, it's not too late to start trusting God again and praying like you've never prayed before!

Scotty

Monday, March 10, 2014

Don't you just love Monday mornings?

A primary reason for the "Monday morning blues" is summed up concisely by a tweet from a successful entrepreneur who follows me on Twitter:

"In my opinion, what makes me happy is doing what I want, whenever I want, as much as I want."

But when you have to get up Monday morning to go to work and start a week of doing things you may not want to do, no wonder people suffer from "Monday morning blues."

It's interesting that we profess to live for Christ but start our work-week cursing a new day He has given us. You can't really be fully living for Christ when you curse the opportunities He provides.

Richard Whately once wrote, "It is generally true that all that is required to make men unmindful of what they owe God for any blessing is that they should receive that blessing often and regularly."

Like every Monday morning.

How did you start your work week today? Was it with gratitude that God gave you another day of life and opportunity? Or were you cursing the morning while scrounging around for a clean coffee cup?

"This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it," Psalm 118:24.

"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father," Colossians 3:17.

Scotty

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A sad letter home ...

Before going any further, please take just a moment to click on this link http://bit.ly/1cI2nLW and read the remarkable story about the deciphering of an 1,800-year-old letter written by an ancient soldier to his family.

I found the letter to be deeply moving, as it revealed the aching heart of a young soldier far from home. He has written multiple letters to his family, but hasn't received any response. Something is wrong, and he is concerned about what it might be. He intends on asking for leave to go home and work out whatever the problem is.

Throughout history, nothing has impacted lives like the relationships we experience. From being a source of great joy, to the reason for an aching heart, our relationships shake our lives to the core. So piercing are our relationships that they can even impede our worship of God.

Jesus knew how our human relationships can rock our world, so He taught us this ...

"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the alter in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the alter. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God," Matthew 5:23-24.

If you're trying to worship God while ignoring broken relationships, you'll likely discover you're just hampering your relationship with God while overlooking the hurt that remains between you and others. If you want a deep communion with God, you'll have to get serious about making right other relationships in your life. You cannot love God and harbor harmful feelings toward others ...

"If someone says, 'I love God,' but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters," 1 John 4:20-21.

"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone," Romans 12:18.

Is your heart aching over hurt relationships? Then go and do what you can to mend them. Ask God to help you make peace with others and to love others in the same way He loves us.

Scotty

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Too much vision can make you blind ...

A key reason why our faith is feeble, or fails us, is because we tend to think faith is to be employed only for those times when we cannot see.

Not true.

We need to exercise our faith, not just when we can't see far enough down the road or around the corner, but also when everything seems to be right in front of us. We need to exercise our faith that God is directing our steps even when we can see where to place our feet because too much sight can lead to a lack of faith!

Charles Kettering once told the following story ...

"When I was research head of General Motors and wanted a problem solved, I'd place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: 'Leave slide rules here.' If I didn't do that, I'd find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he'd be on his feet saying, 'Boss, you can't do it!'"

Faith isn't something to employ when you have no other choice because you just can't see anything, or see enough. It's also something to exercise and rely on when the facts and realities are laying in front of you. That's because if you look at it with your own human limitations, and just that, you'll miss what true possibilities there are with God.

And regardless of what you can see in front of and around you, there is always a spiritual dimension in play that you may not have the eyes for but still must be factored into every decision and every step ...

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies,  but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places," Ephesians 6:12.

Are you living by faith at all times? Is your life a walk of faith, or do you stifle faith when you think you've got everything in sight and can handle things yourself?

Scotty

Friday, March 7, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: An intelligent book, by a brilliant writer, that should be read ...

When I finished reading my review copy of "Futureville" last night, I couldn't go right to sleep. My mind kept racing with all the people I could think of who I would like to tell about this book.

You're one of those people!

That's because "Futureville," written by Skye Jethani (published by Nelson Books), is one of those important books that people will be impacted by in a way they will tell their friends about it and pass along their edition.

But "Futureville" is so layered with meaning that it can be difficult to describe. An easy approach is to say that Jethani begins with the critical premise that what we believe about the future directly impacts --- in a powerful way --- our lives today. Yet, the book isn't about the future, as the author makes clear from the very beginning of this book.

Jethani writes from the start, "This book is not about the future. It is about the present. It is about determining what sort of life is truly meaningful. It is about rethinking the way we relate to the world and our purpose within it. How we decide what matters today, however, cannot be separated from what we believe about tomorrow."

Like a delightful and delicious seven-layer cake, Jethani serves up some intelligent, even brilliant biblical teaching that layers one important thought upon another until a whole dessert of sound theology is served up.

From his initial premise, the author identifies and describes three key positions from which we look at the future --- evolution, evacuation, and resurrection --- and how those positions determine how we live today. Factored into those views is the ever important but largely neglected theology of vocation. Then layered upon that is an understanding of order, beauty, and abundance. As the author writes his way through these layers of teaching, you'll identify with where the church has gone wrong, and what a more accurate biblical view would be. In the process, some people who have entrenched themselves with certain shallow theological positions will politely find their toes stepped on, but in a way that will positively challenge them to take a closer look at what scripture actually says.

"Futureville" is, happily, not a theologically shallow book like so many written by megachurch pastors whose more trite sermon series have been converted into a paperback. Instead, Jethani takes his time to intelligently establish his points. But this book isn't written for theologians; it's easy-to-understand style leads any reader from a significant premise to a thorough and profound conclusion.

Jethani is establishing himself as a brilliant writer who authors intelligent works that offer important contributions to our thinking. His last book, "With," was also excellent and worth making time to read (you can find my review of that book here http://bit.ly/1qgfzkn). "Futureville" is more than a book I can recommend, it is a book I can endorse. I encourage you to buy it and linger long in the significant lessons you'll find within it.

Scotty

I received this book free from HarperCollins Christian Publishing as part of their BookLook book review bloggers program. 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.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The benefits of lying ...

Last year, a Christian business man asked me about a challenge I was facing. Then he suggested to help myself, I should lie in a way that would "benefit" me, then he attempted to justify how it wouldn't be lying since it would be helping me out of a difficult challenge.

Do you see something wrong with this true life scenario?

I did.

It's impossible to lie --- whether it's to your "benefit" or not --- and it not be sin. The sum total benefits of lying equals zero.

"Just say a simple, 'Yes, I will,' or 'No, I won't.' Anything beyond this is from the evil one," Matthew 5:37.

Whenever we go beyond the simple clarity of truth, we enter into evil. How are you doing with this? Is your "yes" and "no" just that? Can your words be trusted because they represent the truth? Or have you bought into the lie that you can benefit yourself with a departure from the truth and still be like Christ?

Scotty

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to make a difference ...

Making a difference isn't measured by how bright the spotlight is that shines on you, the size of the plaque commemorating your good deeds, or the number of fans you attract. To make a difference in the lives of people and in this broken world, you have to die to self first.

Wesleyan Methodist missionary, James Calvert, committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Figi Islands. It is reported that upon his voyage, the ship's captain warned him to turn back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages."

To that, Calvert responded, "We died before we came here."

"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. 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," Like 9:23-24.

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," Galatians 2:20.

Are you still trying to hang onto your life? Or have you given up your life to Christ so that He lives in and through you?

Scotty

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pass the Christian-lite please ...

Kent Hughes writes about a cartoon in The New Yorker that showed a large sign in front of a church which read: "The Lite Church: 24% few commitments, home of the 7.5% tithe, fifteen-minute sermons, forty-five minute worship services. We have only eight commandments - your choice. We use just three spiritual laws. Everything you've wanted in a church --- and less!"

The shorter, easier, less might appeal to our carnal nature, but it does nothing to disciple us to walk with Jesus Christ, who spoke this way about following Him ...

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

Searching for a Christian-Lite version of faith isn't seeking out Christ, but looking instead for a way to dodge Him and the commitment of our lives that He demands. Are you trying to live a lite version of the Christian faith, or have you responded in full obedience to Christ?

Scotty

Monday, March 3, 2014

Are you living a life of stimulation and titillation?

We live such stimulated lives we no longer wait on brewing our coffee anymore. Instead, we buy the coffee maker that can be programmed to make that first pot of coffee prior to our waking in the morning.

So we walk from the bed to the coffee pot and begin loading in the day's stimulation.

We turn on the TV to get the news as we eat a sugar-laden breakfast and check our text messages, sending our first round of texts for the day ...

.... before getting dressed for work, we squeeze in that after-meal cigarette, even though we're already running late ...

... as we move from the house to the car, we take a travel cup of coffee and switch on the radio ...

... we check and respond to texts at each red light, and even a few green ones ...

... when we get to work, we top off our coffee cup and switch on our computers, checking our social media sites before transitioning to our email ...

... we later run outside for a cigarette, grabbing a soda on our way, and catch up on the latest workplace gossip while puffing and texting ...

... over a junk food lunch, we read the gossip tabloids until joined by co-workers and the conversation turns to real gossip over more text messages ...

... the afternoon is broken up between work, checking social media sites, a switch to Red Bull for some afternoon energy, a couple more cigarettes and a final round of gossip ...

... on the way out the door, you grab a soda for the commute home, then have a quick smoke before hopping in the car, where you place another soda in the cup holder and immediately turn on the radio ...

.... once home, you grab a beer, switch on the tabloid programs on the television, and start swapping stories about your day, especially the ones with gossip ...

... at dinner you switch to wine and include the kids in the story-telling, they have their own gossip to contribute ...

... after loading the dishwasher, it's time for an after-meal cigarette with another glass of wine, then time to boot up the laptop for catching up on social media ...

... you finally tell the kids goodnight, and make a little time for sex before falling asleep.

It's been another day filled with stimulation and titillation. You managed to keep your mind and body stimulated all day long. It makes you feel alive!

There's no time for silence. No time for contemplation. No take for organic functioning.

We saturate our lives with things that stimulate and titillate.

Living this way is why so many of our relationships are hollow at best; why we're bored with spiritual things; why quiet moments are avoided like the plague; and why we have so little interest in God. It's a far cry from the life the Apostle Paul challenges us to live:

"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks to everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Ephesians 5:15-20.

Do you feel like you have to fill your mind and body with stimulants or titillation to feel alive? To enjoy the moment? Can you sit still and enjoy the silence? Can you hear the voice of God? Is being filled with the Holy Spirit enough for you?

"Be still and know that I am God ..." Psalm 46:10a.

Scotty

Sunday, March 2, 2014

You don't have to go to church to share this ...

This morning, I visited a church that included a member of the congregation sharing his testimony as part of the worship service.

Early in my ministry, it was common for churches to include time in their services for people to share their testimonies. It was a part of the service many people looked forward to because it was exciting to hear about what God was doing in the lives of people. This time for testimonies reminded me of Psalm 66:16, "Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me."

We don't take time for testimonies very often any more. In fact, I would venture to guess many of you reading this blog post have never taken the opportunity to share your testimony with your church or someone else. That's very different from the life described in Psalm 71:15-18 ...

"I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words. I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord. I will tell everyone that you alone are just. O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me."

If your church doesn't make time for people to share their testimonies, don't fret, you can share your testimony with other people. Just follow this simple command Jesus gave to a man He had freed from demons ...

"No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you. So he went through all the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him," Luke 8:39.

This man had wanted to travel with Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent him home to tell of God's greatness there.

That's what we can do. We can share our testimonies with our families, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. And even the folks we go to church with.

Go tell everyone everything God has done for you!

Scotty

Saturday, March 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A great book on how to build a happy marriage ...

It's been a while since I've been downright enthusiastic about recommending a book on the topic of marriage, but I am ready to do so!

"The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages," written by Shaunti Feldhahn (published by Multnomah Books) is worth buying and reading today, and both husbands and wives will enjoy and get real benefit from this book.

Being both a minister and a clinical counselor, I have read scores of books on the subject of marriage. This one is different! Instead of being a theoretical book that teaches ideas, concepts, etc., this book is an easy and fast read walking you through the results of some research into what makes a highly happy marriage.

At first blush, I wasn't impressed with the idea of these "secrets" coming just from data. After all, what one couple says is a good idea for a happy marriage may or may not be true in general. But I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of research and the outcomes compiled by Feldhahn.

The "secrets" Feldhahn shares comes from the compilation of three years of significant research with a mix of couples on the topic of how to have a happy marriage. Feldhahn then shares this data as simply drawn, easy-to-understand (and replicate) conclusions. As someone who has counseled thousands of people about marriage, I was expecting a more lengthy teaching approach. Instead, Feldhahn goes right to the point, "Here's secret number 1 ..." and gives you the conclusion. She spends a little time explaining why that particular conclusion works, and shows just enough of how it can be applied.

As Feldhahn unveils her data, I continued to identify as a counselor with the "why" that works, and knew the point she was making was solid. "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages" is a direct delivery of the steps to take, and is less about the "why" of it, whereas so many other books about marriage spend most of their pages on the "why" and little about what to get busy doing.

I'm convinced if couples read and really put to use the information supplied in this book, they will have a reliable blueprint for making their marriage into a highly happy marriage.

Women quite often get more enjoyment out of books on marriage, but men can easily enjoy this book just as much. The chapters are short, the author gets right to the point, writes clearly, and lays out the steps in a way any reader can understand.

This would also be a great book for a couple to work through together. I can see a couple sitting down with cups of coffee and reading a chapter together, then talking about the "secret" in that chapter and discussing how they can incorporate it into their marriage.

To me, what makes this information work is that these "secrets" are already taught in the Bible. This book is a fresh demonstration of how couples today have applied truths long taught to make for a very happy marriage in our time.

Go get this book and improve your marriage!

Scotty

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. 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.”