Pastor’s Ponderings

This column is a place where Scott will share his thoughts from time to time on what he has been learning, studying, and pondering.

A Lesson from Habakkuk

September 21, 2013

(Note: I published this earlier today on my blog at www.smalltimepastor.com. However, I wanted to send it out via “Pastor’s Ponderings” as well, for those on the CLF mailing list who may not be subscribers to my blog.)

Do you get discouraged when you consider the state the world and our nation are in? Do you become bitter when you are oppressed and held back because you are striving to live for God, while unscrupulous and immoral people around you get rich and live in peace and happiness? Do you despair that the terrorists are flourishing, while law-abiding innocents get slaughtered?

The prophet Habakkuk saw his nation experiencing famine and being overrun by godless, evil hordes in the employ of the wicked empire of Babylon. His book in the Old Testament begins with a wail of sorrow and discouragement before God:

“How long, LORD, must I call for help and You do not listen, or cry out to You about violence and You do not save? Why do You force me to look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, HCSB)

God then explains that, though He is using this wicked nation to judge Israel, He will not forget His people or let the wicked go unpunished. Then He pronounces five woes that will come on Babylon in due time. His faith bolstered, Habakkuk is able to close his book with this confident declaration:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, HCSB)

While you may not have the incredible privilege of having God speaking to you directly and telling you exactly how He is going to deal with the specific issues you face, you do have access to His Word, which promises that God WILL reward His people and punish those who afflict them. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in your lifetime on planet earth, but He WILL do it!

“The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9, HCSB)

“Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment, and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” (Psalm 1:5-6, HCSB)

If you are in Christ, though you can’t see it and can’t understand it, the victory is already won!

“In all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:37-39)

So instead of worrying and complaining, let’s take our cue from Habakkuk. To paraphrase for our times, let’s agree together:

“Though I lose my job and there is no food in the cupboards, though the economy tanks and my investments are lost, though the terrorists remain at large and my city is flooded, yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights, trusting Him no matter the circumstances!”

Someone Worth Dying For?

March 21, 2013

(Note: I published this earlier today on my blog at www.smalltimepastor.com. However, I wanted to send it out via “Pastor’s Ponderings” as well, because I believe it is one of the most important issues that needs to be addressed in the contemporary church.)

“Many pulpits across the land consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ.” – Todd Wilken

Alright, gang, I’ll tell you up front that some of you (maybe a lot of you) aren’t going to like this post. You may well perceive it as “going negative,” and feel that I’m nitpicking. But I want to tell you, just the opposite is true! What I’m about to say is very POSITIVE (as you’ll see if you’ll just hold on until the end), and I believe is a MAJOR issue that needs to be addressed. So I ask you to stick with me . . .
My wife had the Christian music station playing in our kitchen, and as I came in and made myself a cup of coffee, I found myself being soothed by a lovely song—until I really listened to the lyrics, and I literally shuddered! The song was “Someone Worth Dying For,” performed by a group called Mikeschair. Here are the lyrics that really bothered me:

You are more than flesh and bone
Can’t you see, you’re something beautiful?
Yes, you gotta believe, you gotta believe
He wants you to see, He wants you to see
That you’re not just some wandering soul
That can’t be seen and can’t be known
Yeah, you gotta believe, you gotta believe that you are
Someone worth dying for

Now, I’m aware that this is a very popular song, and I’m probably going to take some flak for criticizing it, but I have to say, those are some of the most unbiblical lyrics I’ve ever come across in a “Christian” song! This song is a microcosm of the church in America today; it is egocentric rather than Christocentric. That is to say, it is all about US instead of all about HIM! It is a “feel good gospel” that tells people they are “worth saving.” My dear ones, NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a lie of the devil!

The Word of God tells us that the human heart is incurably deceitful and horribly wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and there is no one who does good or seeks after God, not even one person (Romans 3:10-12). It says that even though God was good to us and showed us His wonderful eternal power and divine nature in the creation around us, but we suppressed the truth and ignored it and turned to sin and depravity (Romans 1:18-21). It goes on to explain that mankind is spiritually dead, carrying out our sinful inclinations, and children of God’s WRATH (Ephesians 2:1-3). THAT is a biblically accurate picture of who we are. Does that sound like we are people “worth dying for”? No, it doesn’t, because we aren’t!

The problem is that even as Christians who have been saved by God’s grace, we don’t like to be confronted with our moral, ethical, and spiritual bankruptcy. We don’t like to think about how bad we really are. We like to focus on God’s love, to the exclusion of his holiness, justice, righteousness, and wrath. But here’s the thing: How we feel about God and the truth of His Word is really beside the point. God is who He is, whether we like to think of Him that way or not. His Word is true and says what it says, whether we like certain parts of it or not. And God’s Word says that we are horribly, incurably sinful and wicked people, deserving only of wrath and everlasting judgment. Period. There is not one verse of Scripture that teaches that people are “worth dying for.” No, not one.

Beyond the poor theology behind this song and the mentality behind it, there is another major problem with it. IT MINIMIZES THE LOVE, GRACE, AND MERCY OF GOD! You see, Christ died for us IN SPITE of the fact that we were NOT worth dying for! That’s what makes it so amazing! Listen to what the Holy Spirit teaches through the Apostle Paul:

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person–though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him. (Romans 5:6-11, HCSB)

Did you catch that? A GOOD person might possibly be “worth dying for.” But God is so loving, so gracious, and so merciful, that Jesus died for us while we were still horribly, incurably sinful enemies of God! We were NOT WORTHY of this grace—THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT GRACE!

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! (Ephesians 2:1-5, HCSB, emphasis mine)

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. In conclusion, I believe that the modern church needs to make a 180-degree turn in its perspective. Our relationship with God is all about HIM, not all about us! I would submit that the church universal and the individual members thereof would have a much greater commitment to Christ and a much greater impact for Him in the world around us if we came to truly understand how great God’s grace is and how UNWORTHY of it we are! As that becomes clearer and clearer to us, we will come to a point where our gratitude, love, and faith will grow exponentially, and we will hold firm and fight the good fight even unto death, because JESUS CHRIST is someone worth dying (and living) for!

In HIM>
Scott

PS: Here is a song with a much more Biblically accurate perspective . . .

“HOW DEEP THE FATHER’S LOVE FOR US”

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts no power no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

January 15, 2010 – A Prayer for CLF, Revisited

January 15, 2013

Are you STILL praying for your church family?

On May 10, 2011, I preached from Ephesians 3. In this wonderful chapter, Paul speaks about the unity of believers with God and each other because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The chapter closes with one of the most beautiful prayers in the entire Bible. At the end of that sermon, I challenged everyone at CLF to pray that prayer for CLF every day for the next 30 days.

I want to revisit that challenge today. Or perhaps I should say, I want to reinstate that challenge today.

As we look at the past year and a half at CLF, we see a lot of changes. We’ve had some people get married. A few people have moved on. We have had a LOT of visitors, and a number of them have “stuck.” We have grown, both numerically and in unity. God has richly blessed us, and I have never been so optimistic about where we are and where we are headed. But I believe God wants to bless us MORE, and grow us MORE, and show His love and power in and through us MORE!

As I said when I made the original challenge: “I believe that if we want God to truly bless this body, we have to come together in unity and ASK for His blessing in FAITH! Will you answer the challenge? Offer this prayer (pasted below) sincerely in faith at least once daily for at least the next month, and let’s join together in expecting God to work!”

But this is not the original challenge. This is a revisit and a reinstatement. I am urging you to join with me in praying the following prayer, in FAITH, EVERY DAY through the next two and half months–until March 31. I’m asking you to commit to this and to follow through on that commitment. I am asking you to pray it individually, as families, and together with CLF friends when you meet for lunch, coffee, or dinner. I’m asking you to pray it in your small group Bible studies (yes we are starting some of those). I’m asking you to pray it as you go through the list of people each day in the “LIFe with God” devotional. I believe God is ready, willing, and able to move mightily among us, and I believe that when we pray according to His will, He hears and He answers. And as this prayer comes straight out of Scripture and describes His will for the church, I KNOW He WILL answer us!

I pray YOU will get as excited as I am about this challenge, take it seriously, follow through on it in FAITH, and wait with eager anticipation to see what God will do! I praise Him in advance for His mighty work!

In HIM>

Scott

A Prayer for CLF

For this reason I kneel before You, Father, the One from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. I pray that according to the wealth of Your glory You may grant me and every person in Your flock at Christian Life Fellowship:

  • to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in our inner persons,
  • that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith,
  • that we would be rooted and grounded in love,
  • that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love,
  • and thus that we would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to You, Lord, who by the power You are working within us is able to do immeasurably beyond all we could ask or imagine, to You be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
(Adapted from Ephesians 3:14-21)

November 6 – A Message to Conservative Christians

November 7, 2012

Many of us were greatly disappointed to see President Obama gain a second term in office. The principles and issues we hold so dear, such as protecting the lives of the unborn, protecting traditional marriage, our nation’s relationship with Israel, etc., seem to be at risk. One of my friends asked, “So what do we do now?” I want to take a few minutes to answer that question.

First, I want to remind you that while we love America, it is not heaven, where our permanent citizenship is kept for us. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) It’s entirely possible that we are in the minority now, and that we will never win another presidential election. Sometimes, God takes things away from us to remind us to trust in Him. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7) Just as people often become overly dependent on jobs, spouses, etc and then crumble when they lose those things, so, too, will we crumble if we are trusting in human government rather than our Lord.

Second, I want to remind you to be thankful. “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Yes, the president we wanted ousted was granted a second term. Yes, he will work against us regarding our core principles. But we could be living in Rwanda, or Sudan, or the Congo, or Afghanistan. We at least got to vote. We can still urge our congressmen and senators to work toward our goals. We can still attend church. I can still preach The Word. I still have the world’s most wonderful and adorable wife and the world’s cutest-and-most-exceptional-in-every-way-one-year-old boy. Even the poorest among us is better off than 99.9% of the people in those countries. Be THANKFUL!

Third, we need to be in prayer for President Obama. ” First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) We need to continue to speak the truth IN LOVE, and show the love of Christ even to Liberal Atheist Democrats (gasp!). That’s nowhere even approaching as much as our Savior did for us.

Fourth, REJOICE! We need to remember that even if times get really tough for us, God is good all the time, and He will never leave us or forsake us. He allows difficulties in our lives for our own good. “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith–more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9) “Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.” (1 Peter 5:10) “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Finally, remain confident in the One who created and redeemed you. It’s not as if we’ll be spending eternity saying, “If only Romney had won that election back in 2012!” No matter who wins the office, no matter how good or bad things get, always remember this: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:31-39)

In HIM>

Scott

July 27 – A Son from God!

July 27, 2011

Our Adoption Story (So Far!)

I am convinced that Josiah’s adoption fell into our laps straight out of Heaven. Danielle Youngblood contacted us on Sunday evening, June 12, to pray for her pregnant friend and asked if we knew anyone interested in adopting. I instantly felt urged by the Spirit to talk to Kristi about the possibility of us filling that need. We prayed and slept on it, and in the morning we both felt certain that we should at least pursue it. Five days later we met with Brittanie, and after chatting with her for a couple of hours, she said she wanted us to have her baby! It turns out that she had met me before, at a birthday party for Danielle’s young daughter last summer. She said she could tell by my interaction with the kids then that I would make a great dad, and she really wanted the baby “to be raised in the church.”

In a way it is a double miracle, as Brittanie was originally going to have an abortion. When she found out she was pregnant, though, she was already too far along to have the procedure in Idaho, so she was going to go to Oregon or Washington to have it done. Her sister talked her out of it, telling her she thought God wouldn’t want her to do it. Brittanie said she prayed about it and she felt like God was telling her not to go through with an abortion–that there was “the perfect couple” waiting for her baby!

God’s timing is amazing. Kristi and I had given up hope of ever having kids about five years ago. We’ve been married 20 years this September and unable to conceive. We are both in our forties (I much farther along than she!). We had looked into adopting some time ago, but early on in the process it just seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. I was OK with being childless (or at least, I thought I was), but Kristi was not. All she had ever wanted was to marry a pastor and be a stay-at-home mommy. It seemed clear that the latter just wasn’t going to happen. However, God was at work…

About 3 months ago, I really felt compelled (now I know it was the Spirit leading) to do two things: 1) Get on a more “normal” and regular schedule, and 2) begin to clear out one of our bedrooms for a guest room. (As it turns out, it was for a permanent guest!) Further, about 2 months ago (April 2011), I was driving down the road and just thinking about what it would have been like to have had a child, imagining playing with my child, seeing him or her grow up and start a new generation of the family line and carry on family traditions and own family heirlooms. I suddenly began to weep so intensely that I had to pull over, grieving for the child I never had–and thought I never would have. Of course, now I can see that this, too, was God at work, preparing my heart for my coming son!

But that’s not all!

Later that week I decided on a whim (yeah, right!) to take an intensive NT Greek course through a local church’s intern seminary program. The class would cover one entire academic year of Greek in only ten weeks, meeting two hours every morning Monday through Thursday. I contacted the instructor and inquired about enrolling. Because I am a local pastor, he said they would be happy to let me take the course for FREE! The day it started was Monday, June 20, only three days after we had met with Brittanie. In the “getting to know you” segment of that first class, I mentioned what was going on with the adoption, and how it had caught us totally by surprise. Larry, the guy sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME, jolted, his eyes wide and his jaw hanging open. He exclaimed, “That EXACT same thing happened to my wife and me 10 months ago!”

Larry had me come over to his house and meet his wife Tamara and their beautiful adopted baby son, Judson. They gave me the name and number of their lawyer, who has done thousands of adoptions. He charges a reasonable flat fee, with no hidden costs regardless of how much extra stuff he might have to end up doing. They also referred me to the Christian social worker they had used, who had helped them to “creatively get through some of the hoops.” Both are far less expensive than “typical” people in their positions, and both really want to see babies get adopted and not aborted!

I ended up having to drop the Greek class. I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to it because of work and everything entailed in the adoption. But I’m convinced that God lined that whole thing up (the timing, the location, being offered free tuition) just so I could meet Larry and his family and get the referral for the lawyer and social worker.

After we had met with Brittanie and decided we were going to adopt her baby, Kristi and I began discussing possible names with Kristi’s sister Theresa. After disagreeing over a couple dozen boy’s names, we all agreed we loved the first name Josiah. Josiah was the name of the boy-king of Judah in the Old Testament who led his nation out of a fifty-seven-year culture of vile wickedness back to following the Lord. I suggested Scott as the middle name, and we all liked how that sounded: “Josiah Scott Guinn.”

I decided to research the meanings of the names…

  • “Josiah” means “Jehovah helps.”
  • “Scott,” although having come to mean simply “a person from Scotland,” originally meant “noble.”
  • “Guinn” originally meant “Blessed and holy.”

“Josiah Scott Guinn.” We all felt that was quite a strong and fitting name for a miracle baby and the son of a pastor!

As if all of this was not enough, God’s perfect timing came into play once again. I had the great joy of making the announcement of the adoption to our church family (some of whom had been praying for us for 10-20 years to have a miracle baby) on FATHER’S DAY! I preached on Josiah and how no king before or after him had repented so completely. I explained what his name meant (“Jehovah helps”), and how God is always willing to help those who faithfully follow Him, even if it may take longer than we would like. Then I steered the message into the announcement of the adoption and what the baby’s name would be. There was not a dry eye in the place, and the whole church gathered around us and wept tears of joy with us. (Click here to listen to that sermon)

Throughout the early stages, our single biggest concern was finances. We figured we would be able to pinch pennies regarding the day-to-day aspects of living with an extra family member; our worry was the initial significant costs involved with the adoption itself and the preparation of our home for a baby. We literally needed to get our house in order! Where would we get enough money to do the necessary home renovations, pay the legal, medical and other related adoption fees, plus purchase the necessary furniture and accouterments for the nursery?

We need not have worried. First, we were blessed to learn that Brittanie is on Medicaid, and they will cover 100% of all medical expenses through the birth. One obstacle was out of the way, but there was still an awful lot of expense to be handled.

I had a pretty extensive magic library (I was a full-time professional magician for nearly two decades), and began to sell off my books, along with some other magic-related items. While I made pennies on the dollar on some of them, more than a few had become collectors’ items and were now worth many times what I had paid for them! The income derived from these sales alone more than covered all the legal and social services fees! Praise the Lord!

On Saturday, July 9, we had a yard sale. Several families donated items, and we had a ton of our own stuff we wanted to get rid of to make room for the nursery. Lots of people told us that if we made $300-$400 in a one-day sale or $500-$600 in a two-day sale, that would be a huge success. We had a one-day sale. Somehow we made over $1100! To God be the glory!

The following Saturday I put on a magic show for our friends, with free hot dogs, chips, and soda following. We explained that donations would be accepted, but were not required. We just wanted to celebrate with our friends. About 80 people attended. When I counted the money in the donation can, I began to bawl like a little girl—again, the Lord had provided just over $1100!

In addition, over the course of this period we had several people give us unsolicited donations. Two were every large: the first was $1000 and the second was $2000! The financial obstacles we had worried about had been completely removed!

“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

In retrospect, I can see the hand of God in every aspect of this adoption, going all the way back to when Danielle first came to our church several years ago! Kristi and I are now looking forward with increased faith and eager anticipation for this exciting new adventure God has given to us in the gift of a miracle son! A son from God!

God is GOOD! ALL the time!

But a miracle son for one Idaho couple is less than a drop in the bucket to Him.

“Indeed, He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

He gave the miracle of miracles when he gave His OWN one and only Son for us, so that WE could become HIS adopted sons and daughters!

“But to all who have received Him — those who believe in His name — He has given the right to become God’s children — children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” (John 1:12-13)

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For we were saved with this hope in mind.” (Romans 8:14-15, 23-24a)

So while His grace still amazes us, it shouldn’t surprise us. He is a God of mighty miracles, who made all things and sustains them by His will. I couldn’t have imagined that after twenty years without children He would suddenly provide us one so perfectly, but then, our God “is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is working among us. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever! Amen! (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In HIM,

Scott

May 10 – A Prayer for CLF

May 10, 2011

Are you praying for your church family?

This past Sunday I preached from Ephesians 3. In this wonderful chapter, Paul speaks about the unity of believers with God and each other because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As we move into Ephesians 4 next Sunday, we’ll see that Paul goes even farther into the issue of unity. 

Chapter 3 closes with one of the most beautiful prayers in the entire Bible. At the end of my sermon, I challenged everyone at CLF to pray that prayer for CLF every day for the next 30 days.

My reason for writing today is twofold:
1) To remind those of you who were present to follow through on this challenge, and
2) To let those of you who couldn’t attend know about this challenge.

I believe that if we want God to truly bless this body, we have to come together in unity and ASK for His blessing in FAITH! Will you answer the challenge? Offer this prayer (pasted below) sincerely in faith at least once daily for at least the next month, and let’s join together in expecting God to work!

A Prayer for CLF

For this reason I kneel before You, Father, the One from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. I pray that according to the wealth of Your glory You may grant me and every person in Your flock at Christian Life Fellowship:

  • to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in our inner persons,
  • that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith,
  • that we would be rooted and grounded in love,
  • that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love,
  • and thus that we would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to You, Lord, who by the power You are working within us is able to do immeasurably beyond all we could ask or imagine, to You be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

(Adapted from Ephesians 3:14-21) 

April 22 – Sunday’s Coming!

April 22, 2011

Marshall L. Shepard, Senior Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, once preached a very famous sermon (adapted and popularized by Tony Campolo) entitled, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!” In this powerful message, Shepard talked about how awful things looked to Jesus’ followers on Friday evening after the crucifixion. They were discouraged, frightened, despondent, confused, hopeless, and probably even a little angry. After all, this Jesus–the one in whom they had placed their hope and trust and had grown to deeply love–had suffered through gruesome and humiliating torture and abuse and had died a very public criminal’s death. Yes, on Friday evening it seemed all was lost.

Little did they know that the coming Sunday morning would change everything. They were so caught up in their own grief and massive disappointment that they had forgotten that Jesus had told them all of this would happen, but that He would rise from the dead! The tyranny of their present darkness forced them deeper into themselves and further from the hope of their Master.

Perhaps as you read these words, you are facing your own Friday evening. Right now you may find yourself in a situation that has caused you to become discouraged, frightened, despondent, confused, hopeless, and maybe even angry. Angry at God, angry at the world, angry with yourself. You’re in a pit with no ladder and you see no light at the top. It seems certain that all is irrevocably lost.

Your marriage is on the rocks, or even ended. You’ve lost your job and have no prospects and your savings is depleted. You’ve received word that a loved one has a terminal disease. A friend was killed in a random crime. Your friend is addicted to drugs. You found out your child has been abused. The bank has served notice that they are foreclosing on your treasured home. Life is miserable, and there are no signs of it changing any time soon.

Friend, you may not have the strength to accept this, but all is NOT lost! There IS hope! You see, what Jesus’ friends and followers didn’t realize on the first Good Friday was that Easter was only 36 hours away! God HAD to allow the events of that horrible Friday to occur so that we could be saved, because He LOVES us! Yes, at the time, it was the worst day of their lives, and some may even have been contemplating suicide. It was Friday… but Sunday was coming!

Whatever you’re facing in this Friday of your life, if Jesus Christ is Your Savior and Lord, be encouraged–Sunday’s coming! God’s Word tells us that sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)! This suffering will only last for a little while–it WILL end (1 Peter 1:6) and does not begin to compare with the glory we’ll experience throughout all eternity (Romans 8:18)! Set your heart on Christ, not on your present troubles, because when Christ appears, you will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4)! The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Remember these words of David from Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

It may be Friday…

But Sunday IS coming!

In HIM,

Scott

January 10 – The Gift of God’s Word

January 10, 2011

In the last several installments of this column, I’ve been talking about God’s precious gifts to us: the gift of God’s peace, the gift of God’s joy, the gift of God’s love. And in my most recent article, I wrote about how, too often, the gift of God goes unclaimed. Today, I want to talk about another oft-neglected gift, the gift of God’s Word.

In our time in this country, we have access to the Word of God as no people in the history of the world. Right now I have a whole bookshelf with nothing but Bibles in many different translations. I have a roomful of commentaries, handbooks, teaching books, etc on the Bible and biblical theology. On my computer I have several different programs that each contain multiple Bible translations, Bible commentaries, and Bible dictionaries. In addition, the Internet has sites like www.studylight.org and www.biblegateway.com that offer unlimited access to a myriad of Bible translations in many different languages (including English!), and a virtual library of study helps. Yet, in this country and in this age where the Bible is more accessible than ever before, Christians seem to be more biblically illiterate than ever before. How can this be?

It has been said that what costs little is regarded little. I believe that is all too true. Just as there are people all over the world who would be in ecstasy to receive the scraps of food we throw away after a meal, so there are many who would be in jubilation to receive even a tiny percentage of the vast access we have to God’s Word. We are so accustomed to easy access to the complete canon that we take it for granted. “I’ll get to it tomorrow, or when I have some time over the weekend,” we say to ourselves. And the Bible remains on our shelf, gathering dust, or on our computer, un-accessed. Because it so readily available, we treat it as of little importance. We take it for granted.

Dear friends in Christ, it is high time we reevaluate our priorities and our view of the inspired Scriptures! Our God, King, Creator, Provider and Savior has seen fit to give us unlimited access to HIS WORD! He WANTS us to feed on it, to be nurtured and encouraged by it, to be strengthened and equipped by it, to grow in it, to know Him better and have a deeper relationship with us through it! How DARE we neglect so great a gift? How can we not cherish it with overflowing thankfulness and overwhelming humility?

I want to challenge and encourage us to make 2011 the year when we begin to TRULY cherish and assimilate the Word of God. Let’s agree together to revere it and to spend time with it every day, studying and OBEYING it! If you need some help in getting started and staying discipled, subscribe to “LIFe with God” on our website. Every morning from Monday to Saturday you will receive a devotional in your email (Saturday and Sunday come together in one message). There is a passage of Scripture to read (taking us through the New Testament in one year), with some observation questions (bringing out key points in the passage) and some application questions (helping to apply the truths of the day to our lives). There is also a daily pray list and a weekly memory verse. It is so easy, you may be tempted to just put it on the back burner and tell yourself you’ll get it to it later, but for heaven’s sake and for your own sake, don’t do that! COMMIT to being disciplined and consistent, asking God to help you keep your commitment. Follow through on that commitment, and watch God do great things in your spiritual life this year!

Ken Eden sent me a link to a powerful video of a remote third world village receiving the Bible in their own language for the first time. Click on the link below to watch the video (it’s less than ten minutes long). Then pray about your regard for the Bible, asking God to give you a heart that cherishes and absorbs it!

In HIM,

Scott

Watch video

December 27 – The Unclaimed Gift

December 28, 2010

Sunday (December 26, 2010), my sermon was “The Unclaimed Gift”. For those of you who didn’t make it to church (and as a refresher for those who did!), I want to review what I talked about, because I believe it is very important. Of course, you are also encouraged to listen to the message in its entirety by clicking on the link on the website.

Imagine that you bought a gift for a loved one. You really put a lot of time and thought and expense into this gift. You wrapped it carefully, placed it under the Christmas tree, and imagined their reaction of joy upon opening it. You waited expectantly for them to show up on Christmas, but they never came. Maybe you called or sent an email to let them know you had a gift for them, and they said they’d stop by soon… but they never showed up. After a week or so, you took down your tree, and set the gift on the table in the corner, sure they would show up by New Year’s Day, but they didn’t. Finally, springtime rolled around, and you placed the gift on the shelf in the hall closet, where it remains to this day… unclaimed.

God offered the world the greatest gift in history in the person of Jesus Christ, but for many, many people, that gift remains unclaimed. John 1:11 tells us that “He came to what was His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” The news of this gift is broadcast throughout most of the world (and certainly here in America) via radio, TV, books, magazines, churches and Christian organizations, but people choose to close their eyes and plug their ears to it. It is not the fault of the message–the message is worth telling and hearing! People CHOOSE not to hear it.

By not claiming the gift, the power that comes with it also goes unclaimed. Imagine someone who didn’t know about electricity staying at a fully electrically equipped house. Night after night they would reside in the cold and the dark, when, by simply flipping a couple of switches, the heater would fire up and the lights turn on. The power for heat and light was there all along, but they never claimed it! Just so, the current of God is always at full power, but unbelievers don’t access it, because they haven’t claimed the gift. Even we who HAVE claimed the gift often forget that the power is always at full strength and we have only to tap into it.

Further, by failing to claim the gift of God, the personal presence of God goes unclaimed. People are living alone and lonely when they need not be so. Sometimes that it simply because of doubt: they just don’t believe that God cares about them. Sometimes it is because they are distracted by the world. Sometimes it’s simply neglect; they just never bother to think about God. Again, even longtime believers can fall into these traps. We sometimes doubt that God is really a God who loves us and keeps His promises. We get distracted by worldly things, and before we know it, a month has gone by since we’ve attended church, cracked open our Bibles, or bothered to talk to God.

But the ongoing gift of Christmas still waits for us, whether we’ve yet to claim it or have claimed it but neglected it for a while. We can receive a new heart, given freely to us from Jesus; a gift waiting, not under a tree, but hanging on one.

Will you claim God’s gift to you today?

December 20, 2010 – The Gift of LOVE

December 23, 2010

For God so loved the world that he gave His One and Only Son… – John 3:16

I’m going to be short and sweet this week, and simply recap my sermon from Sunday, “When Love was Born”.

As we’ve been observing advent, we’ve looked at the themes for each week:

  • Week 1: Hope
  • Week 2: Peace
  • Week 3: Joy
  • Week 4: LOVE

It is from our Father’s loving heart that all of the other attributes flow. Because of His great love for us, He has given us the hope of eternal life, the peace that passes understanding, and the joy of our salvation that is our strength. All of these are personified in His great gift of LOVE, the gift of His Son; the gift of Himself. In His coming to earth, he showed us:

  1. The GLORY of Love’s Arrival – “We saw his glory–the glory of the One and Only, full of grace and truth, who came from the father.” (John 1:14)
  2. The REASON for Love’s Arrival – “God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)
  3. The ATONEMENT of Love’s Arrival – “God demonstrates his own love for us in that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. And so, we have now been justified by Christ’s atoning sacrifice” (Romans 5:8-9)
  4. The CONSEQUENCE of Love’s Arrival – “I give you a new commandment–to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
  5. The ENDURANCE of Love’s Arrival – “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

So, as you celebrate Christmas this year, don’t forget to take some time to reflect on the indescribable, insurmountable, overwhelming gift of love you’ve been given in Christ. And don’t forget to GIVE that gift to others! It beats anything on anybody’s Christmas List!

PRAYER
Gracious God, send us your grace this Advent Season so that we can prepare for your coming. Touch our hearts with longing so that we can better love and serve you and each other. Fill us with the hope that we can be transformed by your Spirit and so help transform the world. Give us the peace of knowing that you came to share our human life and redeem us for the sake of love. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, whose kingdom we seek. Amen.


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