Monday, June 30, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Framing Faith" fails to develop ...

If you're a creative who worships the concept of "story," you might enjoy "Framing Faith" by Matt Knisely (published by Thomas Nelson). The real story is, this book fails to develop into the inviting read its marketed to be.

Knisely, a noted photo journalist, is a master storyteller with a camera, at least he has the credentials and awards to laud him as such. But his intentions for this book are like a promising roll of film that failed to develop properly in the darkroom.

The table of contents for this book is unique. Under each chapter heading is a paragraph that seems to be a summary statement for the content we should find in that chapter. But Knisely fails to develop those summary statements into compelling content once you arrive at the corresponding chapter.

The book contains an ongoing rant on the priceless value of "story," but the content is overwhelmed with a rambling on about the value of a photo. With his skills, I would think Knisely could do a masterful job of editing himself, yet we find splashed throughout the contents a profuse rewording of the importance of a picture. He will state how valuable a photo is, and then go on and on saying the same thing, only worded differently. Why his editor didn't step in on multiple occasions with the insight of, "You've already said this ... several times, in different ways!" is something that stumps me.

It makes the book into not much more than an artist's ramblings.

The times Knisely's writing does shine is when he tells a story. But, as odd as it sounds, he fails to tell very many in this book. Whatever he was really wanting to say through this paperback would have been much better communicated (and far more interesting and beneficial to the readers) if he would have written in a style that meets his strengths by making his points through story telling. Instead, the book is based on using a few skills of a photographer (discovery, attention, purpose, etc.) as chapter subjects. Yet, often I would be reading and think, "Yes, he's creating a point, I see a point here, he can make this ..." and then he moves on, having missed the opportunity to fully develop what seemed to be a point he was going to make. Or could have. It just failed to develop.

Like the book as a whole.

Like an out-of-focus photo, "Framing Faith" is a fuzzy tale you don't need to make part of your collection.

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.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting past false teaching about circumstances ...

How many people do you know who are genuinely content?

It's likely you know more people who would like to change their circumstances than you know who are content with their lives.

There's a story about an older couple having dinner in a restaurant. The wife sees another couple about their age sitting in a booth nearby. She sees the husband sitting close to his wife, with his arm around her. He is whispering things in her ear, and she is smiling and blushing. He's gently rubbing her shoulder and touching her hair.

The woman watching this turns to her husband and says, "Look at the couple over there. Look how close that man is to his wife, how he's talking to her. Look at how sweet he is. Why don't you ever do that?"

Her husband looks up from his Caesar salad and glances over at the next booth. Then he turned to his wife and said, "Honey, I don't even know that woman!"

The more we look at what others have or what they're like, the more discontented we become with our own lives.

The idea of making life about a mission of changing our circumstances has become so profuse in our culture that it has also corruputed our pulpits. So much of preaching today has turned away from the proclamation of the Gospel to, instead, being much more like a motivational seminar. A favorite topic among such motivational preachers is to exhort their listeners to constantly be working to change their current circumstances into better circumstances, as if our purpose in life is to always be improving our lot in life.

The Apostle Paul taught a directly opposite message.

"Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches," 1 Corinthians 7:17.

As we study that verse, especially in context, it doesn't mean that we should never improve our circumstances, but the message is clear that life isn't about always pursuing "your best life now," or thinking you deserve more and should constantly be seeking something different, bigger, or even "better."

So many preachers seem to miss the point that it is God who has placed us in our circumstances, and He didn't put us where we are just to be focused on how to get out of those circumstances, but rather, He put us there for us to live through them for a reason.

Mitchell Dillon once wrote the following about this verse and topic:

"When I read this verse I envision a great card table, with God dealing each of us the hand we must play in life. That hand includes things like who our parents will be, where we'll be born, what our gifts and talents will be, the doors of opportunity that will open to us --- all the things in life that are given to us --- all those things that are beyond our choice.

"Clearly some of us are dealt a better hand than others, which raises the question of fairness. Isn't it unjust of God to grant some so little while others have so much? The answer is yes, it is unfair. At least that would be the answer if God's purpose for us were that we should be successful in life. If winning at life were God's purpose then the way He has chosen to distribute life's advantages is certainly unfair. But that's not God's purpose for us. Success in this life is the purpose we have chosen for ourselves. God's purpose for you and me is that we should glorify Him, something we can all do, regardless of our circumstances."

Dillon concluded his thoughts with this: "While none of us can choose the hand we're dealt, we do have the power to decide how we'll play our hand. This is where knowing the true goal of the game of life becomes so important. The power of knowing our true purpose is that it provides us with the possibility of fulfilling our divine purpose, regardless of our circumstances. When we seek to glorify God in our circumstances, our life takes on its ultimate meaning. And the empowering thing is that this can happen for us no matter who we are or what we do or do not possess."

Knowing that, I cringe every time I hear preachers telling people they should try to be a "winner," or preaching yet another sermon about how to be "successful." They're completely missing the point!

Whatever your circumstances are, you can find great contentment, joy, and peace in focusing on glorifying God in them. That's the focus Jesus wants us to have. In a single sentence, Jesus offers us the perfect recipe for contentment: "Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33.

Are you glorifying God in your current circumstances?

Scotty

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Can't sleep well? Try taking these steps ...

Have you ever sat in church and suddenly become so tired it felt like the hand of God itself was reaching down and pulling your eyelids closed?

Or suddenly start to nod off during the sermon, only to physically jerk awake? You try to make the movement look natural so no one knows you were about to fall asleep.

It isn't that you're bored, you're actually interested in the sermon, and you're trying to track with what the pastor is saying. But you're tired, and that tiredness has a far greater impact on you than you thought it did.

Many of you have reported to me that you're struggling with being able to regularly get a good night of sleep.You're not alone! According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 40 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.

The importance of sleeping well each night can hardly be overrated. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports good sleep is an important part of life:

"Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

"The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

"The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others," the NIH reports.

Even though we may have a pattern of sleep problems, we often do little or nothing about it. Some people visit their doctor with the hope of getting a sleeping pill, which they often do receive a prescription for. But resolving your sleep issues usually doesn't happen just by taking a pill.

Overcoming our challenges to a good night of sleep is like keeping a garden free of weeds. How do you eliminate weeds? You have to pull up the roots, or they'll grow back. A physician might give you a prescription for a pill, but that does little to resolve the root issues contributing to why you aren't sleeping well.

So, let me provide you with some steps you can take to improve your capacity to sleep better:

1. Resolve spiritual inhibitors to sleep. Stated another way, pursue peace with God and peace with others. Whenever there is a problem in our relationship with God (unrepented sin, true or false guilt, conviction, etc.) or a lack of peace with others, we can become so obsessed with these issues that it can impact our sleep. A time of prayer, confession, repentance, praise and worship can make things right with God. Meeting with others to resolve relational issues may be necessary to have peace with some people in our lives.

2. Manage your mental and emotional health. Stress, anxiety, depression, compulsive thinking, and other mental and emotional issues and behaviors can significantly affect our capacity to sleep or sleep well. Learning to redirect your thinking is a major tool in addressing stress, anxiety, compulsivity, and some types of depression. This can sometimes be done by reading books on the topic, and sometimes a little training with a competent counselor is helpful or needed. Sometimes medication may be needed for issues that have a physical origin; in that case, a physician or psychiatrist can help resolve such issues.

3. Minimize/eliminate other inhibitors to sleep:
  • Avoid taking naps in the late afternoon or evening. Some people find themselves so tired in the first half of the day due to a lack of sleep that they work in a nap to re-energize. But doing so may affect your ability to go to sleep when needed that night. If you do decide to nap, make it earlier in the day rather than later.
  • Exercise, but do it early, meaning at least three hours prior to when you need to go to bed. Exercise can help reduce stress, relax your body, and help you sleep better as long as it isn't done too close to bedtime.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day to keep your body well hydrated, but make sure you reduce your water intake well in advance of bedtime to keep from creating a need to wake up to use the restroom.
  • Watch what and when you eat. Avoid snacking 2-3 hours before going to bed, and try to finish dinner at least 3 to 4 hours prior to sleep time. Make breakfast your primary meal, with a healthy lunch, and a more reasonable dinner. Feasting during the evening can affect your capacity to go to sleep when needed, and the quality of sleep. Whether having dinner or a snack after your last meal, choose foods you know will not cause indigestion. A 10 p.m. "run for the border" for tacos are an invitation for sleep problems.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, nicotene, and other chemicals can all interfere with sleep. Avoid any stimulants 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.
4. Create an inviting sleep environment:
  • Many people use their bedrooms for a host of reasons other than sleeping including work, entertainment, exercise, conversations, and a variety of other activities. So "going to bed" doesn't necessarily mean to our minds or bodies that it's time to sleep --- and that can contribute to sleep problems. Try limiting the use of your bedroom to sleep and sex. Take all other activities to some other place in your home. Choose not to have a television or desk in your bedroom, which will only invite additional uses for the room.
  • Your bedroom should be a quiet, dark, and cool environment. Minimize or eliminate noises from outside the room prior to going to bed. Ear plugs and "white noise" apps or appliances can be used to reduce outside noises. Blackout shades and heavy curtains can greatly minimize outside light coming into the room, and an eye mask can be worn to further reduce any light in the room. Try to make sure the room is well ventilated, and keep the temperature in the room somewhere between 60 and 72 degrees.
  • What is very important and seemingly obvious, yet often overlooked, is making sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows that are an invitation to your mind and body for a pleasant experience of sleep. Studies show mattresses "wear out" within about 10 years.
5. Establish a routine that prepares you for sleep:
  • Use light to program your internal body clock. As soon as you arise in the morning, allow outside light into your bedroom and home. Try to get outside some time during the day to be in the sunlight. Cancel all light when trying to sleep. Getting up and going to bed at the same time will help create a habit for your internal body clock.
  • Avoid starting stressful activities or conversations a few hours prior to bedtime. You need to be shedding your stresses the closer you get to the time you need to go to sleep rather than starting new interactions or activities that add to your stress level.
  • Do something relaxing and more enjoyable prior to bedtime such as reading a book, watching a television show, or taking a long bath.
  • Practice breathing and relaxation exercises. Taking deep breaths, and then releasing them very slowly begins to slow your breathing pattern and help relax your body. A simple relaxation exercise is to start at either the top or bottom of your body and tighten each muscle group, hold the tension for a count to 10, and then release. Then go to the next muscle group. By tightening, holding the tension, and then releasing the muscles, you are actually relaxing your body from the tenseness created by stress throughout the day.
  • Pray. Spend some time talking to God and include worshiping, praising, and adoring Him. A season of prayer that draws you close to God will help melt away your stress and anxiety.
  • Laugh! Tune into some comedy for a good laugh. To find out more about how this can help you sleep better, read my blog on this subject at this link http://bit.ly/1e1U3Hx.
6. Go to bed when you're actually tired. Trying to sleep when you aren't tired or prepared to sleep can cause more problems than otherwise. However, to develop a strong pattern of being able to go to sleep and get a good quality of sleep, building the habit of going to bed and getting up at the same time will help program your body to be tired enough to want sleep at generally the same time. If you cannot go to sleep within about 15 minutes of going to bed, don't try to force sleep. While keeping lights as dim as possible, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading a book, until you're tired enough to go back to bed and sleep.

7. If you do wake up during the night:
  • Don't check the clock for the time. Beginning to think about the time and how little sleep you've gotten, or might have left to sleep, can affect your capacity to go back to sleep.
  • If you wake up with a need to use the restroom, try using a flashlight to avoid turning on any brighter lights that can inhibit your ability to go back to sleep.
  • If you can't go back to sleep and do get up, keep the lights dim. Don't read from equipment that are backlit. Do something relaxing, such as reading a book, until you can return to sleep again.
Trying these steps can help you weed out some of the things that may be root causes to your inability to get a good night's rest. But if you continue to wrestle with the ability to go to sleep or sleep well, get help by visiting your physician. Don't hesitate getting help to develop the ability to sleep well every night. Your overall health will be better by you resolving any sleep problems you have.

Scotty

As the family of God, here's how we can do something extraordinary together ...

Professor and former seminary president, Haddon Robinson, wrote the following:

"One grasshopper seems insignificant as it leaps across a field. But when it joins forces with other grasshoppers, the resulting swarm can soon devour all the vegetation in its path.

"Grasshoppers demonstrate the power of working together for a common cause. What they cannot do individually, they are able to accomplish together. In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, the wise man Agur observed, 'The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks' (30:27).

"We can learn a lesson from these little creatures. Followers of Christ can make far greater advances for Him when they act and pray together than they could ever make alone. When Christians are united in serving the Lord, they can become a mighty force for God in fulfilling His purposes for the church.

"Although the New Testament urges us to possess a personal faith in Jesus Christ, it says nothing at all about a private faith. We need other believers, and other believers need us (Hebrews 10:24-25)."

Indeed, Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works."

I share the above because I want to motivate you to an act of love and good works that you and I can accomplish only if we work together. That work is providing people who need help with the help they need, and the means of making that possible is through an exciting new ministry called the Scott Free Clinic.

Following is a video that provides the vision and details about this ministry, including a couple stories about real lives that have already been changed through the counseling we have offered in the past, and below the video are key details captured from the video for you to consider.

The Scott Free Clinic can be a means of God's people coming together for God to change thousands of lives, support pastors, and help improve churches locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. But we cannot do this vital work without YOU!. We have a LOT of people just waiting for these services to become available, and many people are praying for this ministry. What we need now are men and women of God who will support this ministry as sponsors so that we can provide people with the help they need.

I ask that you please take the time to view the video and/or read the information below, and prayerfully consider becoming a sponsor of this ministry. Whether you give a one-time donation, or give monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, annually, or randomly, any amount you can provide WILL be a great blessing to this ministry in its commitment to be used by God to change lives, support pastors, and improve churches. If you have any questions about this ministry, please contact me (my contact information is provided below).

Thank you, and God bless you!

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



Following is key information shared on the video:

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

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

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

Service offerings ... 

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

Hope Christian Church
149 Grobric Court
Fairfield, CA 94534
IMPORTANT: All checks should be made payable to "Hope Christian Church" and please notate on the memo portion of the check "Scott Free Clinic" so those funds will be designated only for the Scott Free Clinic. Additionally, you can give online at Hope's website at the following link http://bit.ly/M0gsxW (click on the "Donations" tab, and make sure to designate any gifts to "Scott Free Clinic"). All donations are tax deductible.
Here are some other ways you can help us gain the resources to turn this ministry vision into a life-changing reality:
  • Pray for this ministry daily and encourage others to pray for the ministry of Scott Free Clinic.
  • Share this blog post with as many people as you can, both personally and professionally.
  • Post the news of this ministry on your own blog site.
  • Connect others to my Twitter and Facebook accounts (see information below).
  • Personally tell others about this ministry and encourage their support.
  • Share this information with your church and send it to your church leaders.
  • Become a "support bundler." We are looking for some who have a strong support of this ministry to help us by "bundling" giving by using their personal and professional connections to help us raise funds to launch this ministry. We especially could benefit from Christian business men and women who contribute significantly to vital Christian ministry.
Contact information ...
Mailing address:
Scott Free Clinic
P.O. Box 99915
San Diego, CA 92169

Telephone: 541-861-0779
Email: dr.scott@ScottFreeClinic.org
Website: http://www.ScottFreeClinic.org
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ScottFreeClinic
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ScottFreeClinic
Google+: google.com/+ScottfreeclinicOrg

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Like it or not, this creates your personal brand ...

Even in this era of online marketing, a brand name still makes a difference.

"Anyone can launch a website, anyone can offer almost anything for sale. Only a brand offers trust, reliability, and ongoing quality. Thus, the brand becomes more important in the e-environment for it differentiates the firm in what would appear to be a common-level situation," says Don Schultz, President of Agora, a marketing and consulting firm.

Brands are supposed to stand for the reliability quality of a company's products, and they also speak to the reliability and "quality" of individuals. In a time when leaders (or anyone!) stumble over themselves to create a "personal brand," there's still something that acts as a brand for every one of us: our word.

Bible scholar Howard Hendricks once said to his son, "Be so dependable that if you say you will be somewhere and don't show up, they send flowers."

Hendricks wasn't the only one who thought keeping your word is important, Jesus also spoke to this issue. Pointing out that in ancient times people were told to keep their vows, Jesus pointedly teaches us to avoid vowing to do something, but instead, let our word be all that is needed ...

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

We should be able to be trusted with just a simple "yes" or "no." Our personal credibility --- or our "personal brand" --- is wrapped up in whether or not what we say can be trusted. Regardless of the image you build about yourself, it will never exceed the dependability of what you say.

What kind of brand have you created for yourself from the dependability of what you say?

Scotty

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hiding behind encouragement ...

Take a moment to think about all of the miracles Jesus performed, which includes ...

... healing the official's son (John 4:46-54) ...

... casting out an evil spirit (Mark 1:23-26) ...

... healing Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15) ...

... healing a man of leprosy (Matthew 8:1-3) ...

... calming a storm (Matthew 8:23-26) ...

... raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:40-44) ...

... and many other miracles.

Now imagine what it would have been like if, instead of acting, Jesus only offered encouragement to the people involved.

All of us NEED encouragement, and we are exhorted in scripture to be encouragers ...

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing," 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

But it can become easy to hide behind encouragement and fail to act. Please don't misunderstand the point: encouraging others is good, needed, and should be a regular part of our interaction with others. But when we're capable of doing more, encouragement is just the first step toward offering real action.

Our Christian culture is one loaded with a lot of encouragement, but short on action.

"What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions. Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, 'Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well' --- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless," James 2:14-17.

Unless encouragement is ALL you have to offer, that last line could also read, "So you see, encouragement by itself isn't enough ..."

Do you try to hide behind encouragement so you won't have to act, to serve, to risk, to do something for someone else that will cost you? Or is encouragement just one step in how you respond with loving action toward others?

"I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you," John 13:15.

Scotty

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Have you ever become engrossed in a good book?

Someone recently said, "The problem with reading a good book is that you want to finish the book but you don't want to finish the book."

I get that!

Any David Baldacci novel is like that for me. I can't stop at the end of a chapter, I have to keep reading.

I want to finish the book!

But I don't want to finish the book!

The writing is so good, the characters so well-developed and likeable, that I want to finish reading the whole story, but then I want the story to continue.

Such is the work of a master story teller.

There's another book that tells a far greater story, with even more remarkable characters, that is a real page-turner. It's the Bible. It tells the greatest story of all, the story of God. So incredible is this story that you want to finish the book but you don't want to finish the book.

Here's the good, and truly unique news about this book: the story will go on forever!

That's right. You see, unlike a great novel, the Bible isn't a work of fiction that, at some point, must end. Instead, the Bible tells the true story of a real God, and His story goes on beyond the end of the book. Even after everything in this work of non-fiction becomes reality, the story will continue to go on, and on, and on, and on .... forever!

You're a part of that story. God wants you to be with Him long past the end of this human experience, and to be an intimate part of His everlasting story. Jesus said, "When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am" (John 14:3).

Are you prepared for Christ's return? Are you ready to enter into the everlasting story of walking with God?

Scotty

Monday, June 23, 2014

The snake and the victory ...

God is already victorious!

I think we sometimes forget that defeating sin, death, and a persistent enemy in Satan and his minions has ALREADY been accomplished by God through Jesus Christ. So often, Christians have an attitude of hoping God will yet pull off a victory. But when Jesus Christ returns, it won't be for our salvation (that is done!), it will be so that we can be with Him forever.

"Yes, but that old snake, Satan, is still wreaking havoc!" some argue.

He is, indeed. But let's get a much clearer picture of what that looks like.

Dr. Stephen Davey once told the story of a missionary couple who lived in a small hut. One day, a fifteen-foot snake slithered its way into the little kitchen area of the couple's hut. Terrified, and unsure how to take on this unwelcome visitor, they ran from their hut to seek out a local who could tell them how to handle the snake.

A local man picked up a machete, marched into the hut, and with one strong stroke of his weapon he decapitated the head of the snake. The local then walked outside to the missionary couple and explained to them there was a hitch to the situation. Although he had cut off the head of the snake, it was as if the snake didn't know it yet. He explained that the body of the snake would continue to move for some time until it was fully realized that it was headless and dead.

The couple wound up waiting outside their hut for about an hour. Sure enough, the body of the snake continued to bleed, writhe, and thrash about wildly, destroying furniture and wreaking havoc, as if it wanted to cause as much damage as possible before the reality of being dead without a head had its full effect on the rest of the body.

Like this story, Satan and sin have slithered into our lives, but both have already been defeated by Jesus Christ. This was even foretold of in Genesis 3:15 ...

"And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."

While the enemy struck the heel of Christ at the cross, Jesus has crushed his head like the local decapitating the snake in the hut. Even though the victory has been won through Christ, that old serpent, Satan, continues to thrash about, even though he's been defeated.

But defeated he is!

Are you waiting for a victory that has already been won? Or have you embraced the victory that Jesus has already provided for you?

Scotty

How to sail through life ...

After my first experience on a sailboat, I thought to myself, "I could become addicted to this!"

A few more times on a sailboat and I knew I wanted to become addicted to sailing! I cannot adequately describe with words the utter peace and joy I experience as the wind propels the boat through the water.

Unfortunately, my opportunities to go sailing have been limited. I'm hoping for at least a few more.

As I stumbled across the photo above, it reminded me of my passion for sailing. But it also reminded me of God's design for us in living together as the body of Christ. The photo is a great shot of a few men working together to enjoy the beauty of sailing. Everyone is needed, cooperation is required, there's work involved, and at the end of the day, it's exhausting satisfaction.

On some days, living life in the family of God is like having strong men join you on your boat. They come aboard to be your crew through the waves of your life journey, and you just couldn't make the sail without them. Other days, you're stepping aboard one of their boats to serve as crew, putting your back into helping them hoist their sails.

On Monday mornings, you leave the safe harbor of the fellowship you enjoyed "at church" on Sunday to journey back into the world. Take some faithful crew with you by staying connected throughout the week, being encouraged and challenged by members of your faith family throughout the coming days. And return the service by crewing for them, encouraging them and being there for them throughout their week.

When it comes to sailing through this life, we're all in this boat together.

"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another," 1 Peter 4:10.

Scotty

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thank God for limits ...

The first time I visited a Chicago suburb, I was taken aback by the back yards of the homes there.

I arrived in Illinois from Arizona, where folks in the West like their fences, something families in Chicago suburbs were less concerned about. As I drove through some of the suburbs, I saw home after home without any back yard fences. Instead of individual back yards, it looked more like the houses were built on a green belt.

What threw this Westerner was there were no defined limits.

That reminds me of one of the posts on Twitter that I read this morning. It started with a very common encouragement, "Never set limits ..."

That's an idea that we human beings tend to embrace, at least in theory. No limits. It means we're free to do whatever we want. There's just one problem with that, which is we tend to want things that aren't good for ourselves or others.

Eat anything you want is one way of living without limits. But it has ugly consequences.

Treat people however you want is another way of living without boundaries, but you're likely to find life to be lonely and empty if you live that way.

Remove the limits to how you spend and you'll be broke.

Life is not better without limits, it's worse. Much worse!

That's why the gracious God who created us has mercifully provided us with limits. Not fences to corral us from the joys and good things of life, but to keep us from what harms us and others. God sets limits for all of us so that we can live the fullest life at our best.

Several years ago, a couple of psychologists conducted a study where they took a group of children and placed them in a fenced back yard. They told the children to go play and to fully enjoy themselves. What the researchers observed was that the children ran and played with vigor and abandon. They were exhausted from the fun they had!

The researchers then took the same children and placed them in an unfenced back yard and gave them the same instructions to go play and to fully enjoy themselves. This time, the children played with much greater reserve, staying close to the house with a muffled interaction. The researchers concluded the difference between the vibrant play experience and the constrained play experience was the presence or lack of a fence. When children had clearly defined boundaries, they could fully release themselves to play, knowing where they would be safe, and they indulged fully. But a lack of boundaries constrained their behavior, they felt less safe and more confused about what was appropriate.

God has greatly blessed us with freedom from sin coupled with the limits of holiness, righteousness, and justice. He draws all that out for us in the Bible. By giving us these limits, we understand how we can indulge in living freely without any confusion of what is good for us and others.

Do you respect the limits God has provided for you? Or are you still living out-of-bounds and attempting to live life without limits?

Scotty

Saturday, June 21, 2014

No wonder you don't have any energy ...

You started your day in a hurry to get the kids off to school, so you poured them a bowl of cereal while you dressed for work.

On the way to the office, you swing in to the Starbucks drive-through to grab the biggest cup of coffee they have, along with the sweetest pastry they have, which you scarf down during rush hour.

The day is full of its demands, which means a quick dash to the closest fast food restaurant for lunch, which you finish at your desk.

To keep you going through the afternoon, you hit up the vending machine for a Red Bull after emptying the pot of coffee. You just don't have time to make another pot. You wonder why someone else didn't make another pot when they saw it was getting low.

During rush hour home, you're thinking you're too tired to cook, so you call in an order for a pizza at the local Italian eatery a couple miles from your house, and swing by to pick it up on the way home.

While the kids work on their homework for school, you finish a little work you brought home from the office. Finally, it's time for family, which is devoted to watching a couple favorite television shows together, followed by getting the kids ready for bed.

"Where has the day gone?" you ask yourself as you climb into your own bed. But your mind doesn't just shut off, so you turn on the TV in the bedroom in an attempt to distract yourself. Somewhere between the mix of different late night talk show hosts, you nod off. In the wee hours of the morning, you fumble for the remote and click off the television.

So goes another day.

As you repeat the scenario throughout the week, you feel the energy drain from your body. By Friday, you're praying you just get through the day. All you want to do is punch out of work and begin the weekend. You can't believe what a week does to you anymore.

That's the fallacy of your thinking.

You allow the circumstances of your day to drive you rather than you owning your day ... and your life. A key ingredient to your thinking, and your living, is the profound fact that a quality life doesn't just happen, you have to build it.

"But I just don't have the energy," you counter.

You could have.

What a lot of people don't realize is, by allowing themselves to be driven by their day, they wind up living in way that is designed to rob their bodies of energy, rather than living a lifestyle that energizes them for a better quality life.

Let me share with you just four key reasons why we lose energy:

1. Poor nutrition. Your body is not an early '70's Volkswagen Beetle, it's a high performance vehicle. You might be satisfied shopping stations to find the cheapest, lowest grade gas for a VW, but you wouldn't dream of pumping that into a Maserati. That's what you're doing with a routine of poor nutrition, and it contributes significantly to draining you of energy and physical performance.

2. Poor sleep habits. One of the most basic means we have of re-energizing our bodies --- sleep --- is something we often give no attention to. We don't prepare for it or invest in it, we just flop into bed and hope for the best, which is usually what we don't get.

3. Poor exercise habits. For most of us, there are NO habits of exercise. We rely on what movement it takes to function for our exercise, which means we don't provide our bodies with the strengthening and maintenance they need. With such neglect for your physical needs, the energy will pour out of you.

4. Poor self-care. We let Mondays be the launch pad of a whole new round of stress, and allow it to pile on --- and pile up --- with each passing day. We don't do anything to manage or alleviate our stress, and so it adds its contribution to sucking the energy out of us.

Instead of letting your day drive you, you could exercise the self-discipline God has given you (2 Tim. 1:7) to make sure you're caring for your body and your self in such a way that you're maximizing your energy so you actually feel like building a better life rather than living a habit of daily circumstances determining the content of your life.

If you want the energy to live better, you'll have to do what it takes to generate that energy. Will you?

Scotty

Do you want the pastor to burp you afterward?

A man told the story of how his father was completely lost in the kitchen and never ate unless someone prepared a meal for him. When his mother was ill, however, his father would volunteer to go to the supermarket for her. Once, she sent him off with a carefully numbered list of seven items.

When the father returned, he was very proud of himself for accomplishing this task, and proceeded to unpack the bags of groceries. He had one bag of sugar, two dozen eggs, three hams, four boxes of detergent, five boxes of crackers, six eggplants, and seven green peppers.

Some Christians are spiritually like this man's father, who make no effort to feed themselves, but rely on someone else to feed them. They aren't incapable of feeding themselves, they just won't. These people spiritually starve during the week until they return to church for another sermon. Instead of doing that, they could open their Bibles and feed themselves from God's Word, but instead, they wait for the pastor to feed them on Sunday. After all, that's his job, right?

Partly.

But the real (and full) responsibility of spiritually feeding you belongs to none other than you!

A few things to consider ...

First, it's your life. The reality and quality of your spiritual life is between you and God. Even if your pastor is a poor preacher, and the other teaching in your church isn't much better, it's still your spiritual life for you to tend and build in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Just opening the Bible and spending time personally reading it, studying it, and storing it in your heart and mind will do more for you than a thousand sermons (as long as you're actually applying what you're learning).

Second, you're not helpless, so stop acting like you are! It's one thing for your spiritual leaders to have some responsibility for discipling you, but another to try to pass the buck entirely to them. That doesn't work because ...

Third, you, alone, will have to stand before God and give an account of your life. The resources available to Christians today for studying and understanding the Bible are unequaled in human history. If you want to be well fed and spiritually full, it's not difficult for you to achieve that if you really want it.

So it all boils down to, do you really want it?

The people who attempt to shift the responsibility for spiritually feeding them do so because it really isn't important to them. Not enough to actually feed themselves.

Are you feeding on the Word of God each day? Or do you leave it to others to try to feed you?

Scotty

Friday, June 20, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A very, very important book ...

"The Good News About Marriage" is one of the most important books to be printed in many years.

Why do I make such a strong statement like that?

Because this small hardback book, written by Shaunti Feldhahn (with Tally Whitehead) and published by Multnomah Books, blows away major destructive myths about marriage and divorce that have been embedded in our culture --- and our minds and hearts, as well as the church --- for a few decades.

Now the truth is out!

This truth is the result of years of research by Feldhahn, and this book is a concise, clear, easy-to-read rolling out of the results of all that research. What does that research contain? Proof that a lot of the negative things we've heard about marriage and divorce simply aren't true!

You know those statistics about divorce you hear in the news, and church leaders routinely quote from pulpits? They AREN'T true!

You know that claim about how hard marriage is and how many unhappy marriages there are out there? It's NOT true!

This book will provide you with the evidence you need to believe there is GOOD NEWS about marriage, and divorce isn't as rampant as we've been told for many years.

I don't want to go into any additional detail about the book because it will give too much away. That's because Feldhahn focuses only on a handful of myths about marriage and divorce that she busts wide open with documented research. You really need to read this for yourself.

The general public needs to hear the truth revealed in this book. And in the strongest way possible, I urge every church leader, counselor, therapist, and those working with people regarding marriage and divorce to please buy this book, absorb its contents, and then broadly share the good news about marriage because there really is GOOD NEWS out there!

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.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

You can't hide this, your life will tell on you ...

Whether you want it to or not, how you live your life will always reveal what's really important to you.

Sometimes, we try to be coy about what's important to us. Others are far more up front --- and ugly --- about it.

A true story is told of a football coach who divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become a head football coach in the National Football League. He explained that he "needed" a wife while coaching on the college level to help with social functions and to indicate to families that he would be looking out for their sons. But in professional football, he said his wife was not only unnecessary, but a distraction to winning. The coach stated bluntly that winning football was his number one priority and his two sons came second.

The truth is that, in life, you will either pursue what's important to you, or what is important to God. A great life is when they're the same thing. There's another football coach who understood this and chose to live a great life.

Tom Landry (pictured above), the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once said: "The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me ... I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do ... whether coaching football or talking to the press, I'm always a Christian ... Christ is first, family second, and football third."

The world will tell you --- loudly and persistently! --- to pursue what is important to you! You'll even hear that from a lot of preachers. But here is what Jesus said:

"Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need," Matthew 6:33.

When others look at how you live your life, would they discern you're doing what's important to you, or what's important to God? Is what is important to God the most important thing to you? What is more important to you than what is important to God? How does your life demonstrate that you seek the kingdom of God above all else?

Scotty

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A small paperback offering knowledge worth gaining ...

What is heresy?

Who is a heretic?

As a Christian, would you know heresy if you heard or read it?

Heresy isn't just the problem of biblically false teachings that plagued the church centuries ago, it's a very real problem within the church today. And many of the heresies being promoted today have their roots in heresies originally crafted long ago. That's why "Know The Heretics" by Justin Holcomb (published by Zondervan) is a valuable, small paperback that provides Christians with some basic knowledge worth gaining.

"Know The Heretics" provides well-written, concise information about a handful of the major heretics who most greatly challenged orthodox biblical teaching in the early church. So great was the impact of these heretics and their heresies that some of these heretical ideas are still being spread today.

Holcomb provides more than a summary about the heretics highlighted in this book, but doesn't drag the reader into the minutia of their lives. Each chapter focuses on a single heretic, with the chapters generally outlined as follows: historical background, the heretical teaching, the orthodox response, and the contemporary relevance.

"Know The Heretics" helps readers gain an understanding of what heresy is, and by providing insight into some of the primary heresies in the history of the church, this little book helps to equip readers with a basic capacity to identify heresy when they hear or read it. "Know The Heretics" is one small book that should take up a little space on any Christian's bookshelf.

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.”

YOU can help change more lives than you think ...

Imagine a group of strong, brave, compassionate men and women standing on the corner of Anytown, USA. They're the men and women who showed up to be the doctors and nurses for a hospital in Anytown. The problem is, there's no hospital. No building, no patient rooms, no equipment, medicine, or care because there aren't any resources for any of that. There's just a highly competent team ready and willing to serve.

Lives can't be changed unless resources are provided to change that scenario.

That's the situation that I and the Board of Directors for the Scott Free Clinic find ourselves in. We've showed up, we're ready to roll out services to help people, pastors, and churches. People are praying for us. Many have already asked for our help. We just don't have any resources to offer the help we're capable of offering. Can you help us gain that support? If not directly, can you share our vision of ministry with others who may be able to help?

Let me share with you the details of this ministry so you can better understand how you can be directly involved in changing lives. The video below chronicles our mission and vision, as well as shares real life stories from people who have had their lives impacted by the ministry we're ready to provide. At the end of the video is information about how you can become involved ...





Following is key information shared on the video:

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

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

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

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

Hope Christian Church
149 Grobric Court
Fairfield, CA 94534
IMPORTANT: All checks should be made payable to "Hope Christian Church" and please notate on the memo portion of the check "Scott Free Clinic" so those funds will be designated only for the Scott Free Clinic. Additionally, you can give online at Hope's website at the following link http://bit.ly/M0gsxW (click on the "Donations" tab, and make sure to designate any gifts to "Scott Free Clinic"). All donations are tax deductible.
Here are some other ways you can help us gain the resources to turn this ministry vision into a life-changing reality:
  • Pray for this ministry daily and encourage others to pray for the ministry of Scott Free Clinic.
  • Share this blog post with as many people as you can, both personally and professionally.
  • Post the news of this ministry on your own blog site.
  • Connect others to my Twitter and Facebook accounts (see information below).
  • Personally tell others about this ministry and encourage their support.
  • Share this information with your church and send it to your church leaders.
  • Become a "support bundler." We are looking for some who have a strong support of this ministry to help us by "bundling" giving by using their personal and professional connections to help us raise funds to launch this ministry. We especially could benefit from Christian business men and women who contribute significantly to vital Christian ministry.
Contact information ...
Mailing address:
Scott Free Clinic
P.O. Box 99915
San Diego, CA 92169

Telephone:541-861-0779
Email: dr.scott@ScottFreeClinic.org
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ScottFreeClinic
Facebook: http://facebook.com/ScottFreeClinic
Google+: google.com/+ScottfreeclinicOrg

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If you really want to get it right, do this ...

Have you noticed that we have vastly overdone this whole "rethinking" bit?

It seems to be a favorite activity of church leaders to "rethink" key biblical concepts. Not only do you see this being done, but leaders talk and write about it all the time ...

... "rethinking church" ...

... "rethinking leadership" ...

... "rethinking discipleship" ...

... "rethinking service ..."

... "rethinking ministry" ...

... and on goes the list.

The only time I've seen much of this "rethinking" to be very effective is when leaders begin to rethink what they've done from their rethinking and decide maybe scripture was right all along.

If you really want to get it right, open your Bible and follow the examples supplied there. God doesn't need you to rethink His ways, you just need to follow them.

Scotty

Friday, June 13, 2014

Irreplaceable dad ...

Dads are irreplaceable.

That's the positive message in the video below, produced by Johnson & Johnson.

Enjoy!

Scotty


Thursday, June 12, 2014

A man and his shoes ...

I need a new pair of shoes.

The only athletic shoe I buy are Nikes, just because they're the only athletic shoe that last very long for me.

As I was looking at my worn out shoes a couple days ago, it made me think of all the kinds of shoes I've worn in my life ...

 ... the athletic shoe of the active boy who grew up to be a busy man. The athletic shoe that also was part of the uniform when I've worked as a Personal Trainer, helping people in the gym become more fit and healthy ...

... the cowboy boots of the kid who was pretty good with a rope and had his days as a cowboy ...

... the polished shoe of an executive who confidently made his presentations before the company president and board members ...

... the casual shoe to preach in or conduct counseling sessions in ...

... the hiking boots to explore trails ...

... the flip flops --- my favorite --- for life in Hawaii or anytime on a beach (or just any time!) ...

... and there were others.

The shoes of a man reflect his work and activities, the various responsibilities and interests he takes up in life. All these different kinds of coverings protect our feet for the different things we do. But the Apostle Paul actually recommends a specific "shoe" for all of us to include in our daily wardrobe ...

"For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared," Ephesians 6:15.

These shoes are just what we need to equip our feet as we take up the greatest activity we can do in this life ...

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!" Isaiah 52:7.

Of all the things we do in life, whether from responsibility or desire, the greatest is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who don't know Him. Have you prepared your feet for that? Do you have the beautiful feet of those who bring the message of peace and salvation through Jesus? If not, you might need a new pair of shoes.

Scotty

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Don't forget dad ...

Mother's Day is a big production. We honor women and pass out flowers at church services, take them to dinner, buy them gifts, shower them with cards, and make those phone calls.

We make a big thing of mom! But dad doesn't get much attention. He often just gets another tie.

Don't forget dad!

A story is told about a father of five children who came home from work with a toy. He summoned his children and asked who should be given the present.

"Who is the most obedient, never talks back to mom, and does everything he or she is told to do?" the father asked.

First there was silence, then a chorus of voices: "You play with it daddy!"

Don't forget dad.

Scotty

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Leadership 101: You have to grow people up ...

This is one of the most bizarre news stories I've read in a while:

"The Ohio woman dubbed 'the cleaning fairy' by local media because she broke into a home and cleaned it without permission, was arrested on Tuesday after police found her shoveling snow from a driveway without the owner's consent, police said.

"Police in Elyria, a city 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, arrested Susan Warren, 53, on an outstanding warrant stemming from the separate incident last year where she entered a suburban Cleveland home, did some light cleaning and left a note charging the owner $75. According to Sherry Bush, the owner of the home, she called Warren to question if she had cleaned the wrong home by mistake and was told by Warren that there was no mistake, that she 'does this all the time' and thought she was doing Bush a favor."

It would seem both the homeowners and the police found the unsolicited cleanings much more an intrusion than a "favor."

That's how some congregations feel when a new pastor arrives with the intent of "cleaning up" what's wrong with this flock. He immediately goes about throwing things out here and there, scrubbing this and that, putting a little polish on certain other things, and then expects appreciation from those who have called this place their church home for a long time.

The pastor may be right in that all the of "cleanup" he undertook was needed. But to barge into a "home" and do whatever you want without first getting the buy-in of those living there won't be well received. In a church, the most effective way of bringing about needed change is to "grow" people into the change.

Open your Bibles and study together.

Teach them.

Move them, by the Word and through the Spirit, to the same understanding so that you're not cleaning up after them, whether they asked for it or not, but that you're all cleaning house together.

Walking in and playing maid is a fast track to resentment. Growing people where they need to be is how servant leaders love and lead their flocks.

How do you lead? Do you impose your vision on others without their buy-in? Or are you growing your flock to where it needs to go?

Scotty

Monday, June 9, 2014

Do something!

Rarely is there a day that goes by that we --- yes, you and me --- aren't talking about what's wrong with our world.

The big problem with this broken world is so many broken people, so many people who need help but don't get the help they need simply because they cannot afford it.

What are you doing about all those people who need help, other than talking about it? "Raising awareness" has a limited value when real help is what is needed.

Most of us will only talk about broken people and won't do anything to help them. But there is a way you can have a dramatic impact on the lives of thousands of people who need help. I invite you to watch the video below and consider partnering with the Scott Free Clinic (an international, independent, parachurch ministry) to make a difference in the lives of people who need help. You can also explore our website at http://www.ScottFreeClinic.org.

Thank you!

Scotty


Friday, June 6, 2014

Once again, the church embraces culture ...

It's important for the work I do to stay informed about things that reveal human behavior, including what we watch and listen to. Among such things, few titillate audiences more than shows about relationships.

A favorite show people love to watch, or love to disparage, is "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." Christians especially love to rail against the flaws in the premises of these shows. But some Christians won't be able to do that anymore since last night Christians came out with their own cheap version of "The Bachelorette."

Game Show Network spent a lot of time promoting the premiere of "It Takes A Church," which aired for the first time last night. The premise is that a church congregation would serve as a good matchmaker for those looking for lifetime companions, yet the content of the show was a mimicking of what ABC does on "The Bachelorette," only not as well done.

The show started by identifying a lonely single woman who hadn't had any luck with love, but wanted to find the right man to marry. So several people in the church were recruited to play matchmaker. Several men were presented to the church by their hosting matchmaker, and the church finally voted on three men from those presented for this lonely woman to consider. A fourth man was added when the pastor was allowed to make a pick.

You won't believe what the pastor designed as the first interaction for the bachelorette with these men. One man at a time would blindfold the woman and, using only his voice, would guide her through an obstacle course comprised of cups of water, water balloons, and raw eggs, all placed on the ground.

I. Kid. You. Not!

Yes, that really was what the pastor thought would be a profound measure of how these men would relate to the bachelorette.

One of the men was then dismissed, leaving only three bachelors.

The next interaction was that the bachelors were assigned a different task to oversee at a nighttime fundraising event for the church. The bachelorette would spend a few minutes with each bachelor at their assigned task, then another bachelor was dismissed.

Now with only two bachelors remaining, the lady in search of husband material went on a short date with both of the bachelors. With one, she went bowling, and she enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride with the other.

Finally, it was decision-time, and the woman chose one of the bachelors to consider continuing a relationship with.

And the kicker to all this?

She chose the guy she initially thought was the best looking!

All this was revealed in a single one-hour show, much shorter and faster than a couple months of two-hour episodes on "The Bachelorette," where that lady would have multiple dates and conversations with the men she would be interested in, including meeting their families and them meeting hers.

When the church behaves like the world, we completely lose our position from which to be able to speak to our culture. That's because we've embraced it and are acting exactly like it.

Oh, there was one spiritual element in the two dates the bachelorette of "It Takes A Church" experienced that you don't see on ABC's "The Bachelorette" ... her dates prayed before they ate their meals.

With such spiritual depth, surely the Game Show Network has found a higher way of selecting a spouse!

What does it say about the church when we think we should participate in spouse hunting as a Game Show Network "reality" show?

It's no wonder the church doesn't have much credibility when speaking about issues of our culture.

How about you: do you embrace culture, looking and living just like it? Or are you engaging culture on behalf of the kingdom of God?

Scotty

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Top 10 picks for summer reading that can challenge your socks off ...

Spring has just about worked itself out of a job as summer is positioning to pounce upon us. One of the best things that pairs well with a beautiful summer day at the beach is a good book.

Often during the summer, we like to lighten things up some and jump into novels that will transport our imaginations to other places. For me, just about anything by David Baldacci, John Grisham, or Michael Connelly is entertaining, as all three of these best-selling writers are master story tellers (note, they are not "Christian genre" writers).

But just because it's summer doesn't mean that we have to avoid reading that can challenge us in great ways. Having a summer of growth can happen in conjunction with a summer of fun. So, following are my top 10 picks for books I've already reviewed that have the capacity to challenge your socks off (that's okay, barefoot also pairs well with the beach!):

1. "Futureville" by Skye Jethani (published by Nelson Books). An important book because of the truth of its content, "Futureville" begins by challenging readers with the premise that what they believe about the future dramatically impacts our lives today. This book will likely challenge a few of your positions, and you can find my original review here http://bit.ly/O3xsDG.

2. "Risky Gospel" by Owen Strachan (published by Nelson Books). After reviewing this book, I referred to it as one of the best books of 2013. Why? Because Strachan does an effective job of showing his readers that God has given us a risky Gospel to live out in a big, bold way and that God wants us to "abandon fear and build something awesome." If this book doesn't challenge you, you might need a spiritual checkup! You can read my original review here http://bit.ly/1hbf6OI.

3. "Radical" by Dr. David Platt (published by WaterBrook Multnomah). Originally, I referred to this book as a "must read," and I still consider it to be an important book. "Radical" has shaken the lazy faith of many lukewarm Christians and has contributed to a national discussion about really living as a disciple-making disciple. Be prepared for this book to challenge how you live for Christ. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/1hbhx45.
4. "Plastic Donuts" by Jeff Anderson (published by Multnomah Books). This is, hands down, the best book I've read about giving, at least the best in many years. That subject alone usually sends Christians scurrying away, but this is actually a book you can really enjoy. It brings a great but simple understanding to this important topic, yet is communicated in such a way readers can actually enjoy. It's also a very small hardback, so you get a lot of potent content without doing a lot of reading. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/17icZzm.
5. "With" by Skye Jethani (published by Thomas Nelson). We're constantly told how we should live for God, but we hear little about the fact we need to first learn how to live with Him. Our walking with God is what God desires of us first, and out of that we learn how to live for him. I thought this was one of the more important books of 2011. You can find my original view here http://bit.ly/1qgfzkn.
6. "I Am Not But I Know I Am" by Louie Giglio (published by Multnomah Books). This paperback tells a great story. When you explore who the "I Am" is, you gain a greater and clearer perspective of God's BIG story and where (and how) you fit into it. You can find my original review of this book here http://bit.ly/ZdbEF3.
7. "I Am A Follower" by Leonard Sweet (published by Thomas Nelson). This is the best book on church leadership that has been published in years, one I think every church leader should read. You can learn more about it from my original review here http://bit.ly/wdaD2W.
8. "Body By God" by Dr. Ben Lerner (published by Thomas Nelson). This is the one book I recommend to the people I provide personal training for. Of key value is Dr. Lerner's recommendations for an eating methodology, which I have shared (with great success) with hundreds of clients. Summer is a great time to work on your personal fitness, and this is a good book to gain some insights for doing that. You can find my review of this book here http://bit.ly/1hbq7zE.
9. "The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages" by Shaunti Feldhahn (published by Multnomah Books). This isn't the average book about marriage because it shares, in a very readable, enjoyable, and insightful way, the results of research on the "secrets" to having a highly happy marriage from real people who have highly happy marriages. From my pastoral and clinical experience working with couples, I've found the results of the research to be fairly on point. Definitely worth reading. You can find my original review here http://bit.ly/1kJEBnO.
10. "Awakening Faith" by James Stuart Bell (published by Zondervan). This books provides you with an opportunity to move away from the platitude-lite devotionals to go deeper in your daily devotional time by reading some of the more profound and insightful writings of some of the early church fathers. Check out my original review here http://bit.ly/1hOf3Vo.
Don't think your personal growth has to be put on hold in order to experience a time of fun and refreshing during the summer. Kicking back on the beach with a great book that can challenge where you're at in your walk with God can keep you growing while you enjoy this season.

Have a great summer!

Scotty

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Getting ahead of God ...

While counseling with a pastor about his troubled life, I was assessing his practice of spiritual disciplines, which included probing about his prayer life.

I asked if he prayed without ceasing, and he seemed somewhat startled by the question, as if it didn't make any sense.

"No, I'm a specific guy," he answered.

What he meant was that he only prays about specific things. If he's working on a sermon, he'll pray about his sermon. If he's leading a group, he'll pray about that. He prays about specific things, but often those prayers come after the action has already been taken and he's asking God to bless what he's already done.

Sometimes this pastor prays in advance, but part of the problem of his not practicing "praying without ceasing" is that he easily finds himself getting ahead of God; he's already acted before even bothering to consult with God on what action should be taken. Sometimes he prays before acting, but leaves God out while he acts, and then prays after. It's great to seek God prior to our acting, but we really need God in the middle of our action!

Many Christians have a habit of praying in the morning, and again some time in the evening, but then leaving the house --- and God --- for work or their daily responsibilities until they return in the afternoon or evening. That often means God's voice is absent in much of their day. Not surprisingly, evening prayers often consist of asking God to clean up the tangled mess we made of our day without Him.

The New Living Translation of the Bible phrases 1 Thessalonians 5:17 this way: "Never stop praying." We can't accurately anticipate everything we need to pray about in advance, and praying only after we've acted asks God to bless what is already done or fix what we've broken. But when we heed Paul's admonition to never stop praying, we are talking with God before, during and after the thoughts we form, the emotions we construct, and the actions we take. Praying without ceasing keeps God in the thick of our lives to help us better see things as He does, feel about things as He does, and act in a way that glorifies Him and is in the best interests of those our actions touch. Never stopping our conversation with God is a vital safeguard from acting in advance of God.

How do you pray? Do you pray in reverse, asking God to bless what you've already done? Or is your walk through life an ongoing conversation with God?

Scotty

Monday, June 2, 2014

The important thing about leadership they didn't teach you in seminary - Part 2

After one of the most challenging, exhausting, and rewarding experiences of your life --- those years of study in seminary --- you would think they would have covered all the important stuff to equip you for ministry.

Well, there's some things they skipped over.

In Part 1 of  "The important about leadership they didn't teach you in seminary ...," we looked at how serving and leading others will always result in push-back and tension. Today, let's take a look at another very important item you probably didn't hear anything about in seminary.

One of your greatest challenges as a minister will be this: Throughout your ministry, people inside and outside the church who come to you for counsel will pressure you to "bless" their sin. And sadly, many pastors will fail these people by giving it to them.

Last week I had a long conversation with a pastor who has been in vocational ministry for many years. One thing he wrestles with is when married couples come to him with a marriage that is tragically torn and tattered, and the couple tells him the only answer they see is divorce. They seem set on pursuing that course. As he related, it can be very easy for him to engage emotionally with them and agree that the two going their separate ways appears to make sense; they don't demonstrate any love for each other, and they've reached a point where they don't even like each other. But there's no adultery, no non-believer leaving a believer, just two believers who are failing miserably in their marriage. They want him to tell them it's okay for them to divorce, and he's tempted to do so.

Other examples include the church member who tells his pastor of a stupid decision he made that now could send him to prison if he tells the truth about it. But chances look good that if he doesn't tell the truth, he'll get away with it this one time. He's exhibiting remorse for making a terrible decision, and swears he would never do anything like this ever again. He wants his pastor to tell him it's okay to lie, and the pastor is tempted to think it would be beneficial if he did, after all, what would happen to his wife and children if he winds up in prison?

These are just two of many, many ways in which pastors will be tempted to buy the lie offered long ago when humankind's obedience to God was first challenged. It comes with a church member or seeker asking them, "Did God really say ...?"

There's your challenge.

Will you stand with God and answer, "Yes, He did!" Or will you offer a wink and a nod, the equivalent of you giving your blessing to their sin?

These moments will be some of the toughest in your ministry life, and they will have a defining affect on your ministry. Because of that, that's why Paul emphasized the following to Timothy ...

"Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others," 2 Timothy 2:1-2.

To be trusted with the Word of God isn't just teaching it correctly from a pulpit or in front of a group, but also living it faithfully, and upholding it in every circumstance. In the same chapter, in verse 19, Paul adds:

"But God's truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and 'All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil'," 2 Timothy 2:19.

In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul becomes more emphatic: "I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching."

It's fun to stand on a big stage and preach, but your metal as a minister of the Gospel is tested in those times when you need to "... patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people ..."

Before you pursued vocational or bi-vocational ministry, you thought it was challenging enough to keep your own life squarely built on the foundation of the truth of God's Word. Now, as an ordained minister, you will be challenged with the issue of sin in the lives of those you lead and are trying to reach for Christ. Will you give in to the lie that God didn't really mean that, that sometimes it's a "loving" thing to look the other way when someone is considering sin, or will you stand true to the Word of God and lovingly but clearly warn people against sin?

Welcome to the ministry!

Scotty