Saturday, January 01, 2011
This is officially the last blog post for simplyscotts! But it's not my last blog post! Simplyscotts.blogspot is now a new website and blog called
My Determined Purpose!
My Determined Purpose is a brand new blog for the brand new year! Based on Philippians 3:10 (amplified version) where the Apostle Paul stated... "My determined purpose is to know Him..."
My hope is that this new blog will offer practical insights and tools to help you in your walk with Christ!
Take a few minutes to browse around the MDP site & please subscribe to the BLOG so you'll receive daily encouragement!
Thanks for all your support of simply scotts and thanks, in advance, for your support of "My Determined Purpose"!
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature." Colossians 1:14-15
Of all the people who have walked planet Earth, only a handful have made any real, lasting impression or changed the world. And of that handful of people, there is One who stands head and shoulders above all the others. His name is Jesus. More attention has been given to Him, more devotion, more criticism, more adoration, more opposition than all of the others.
Every recorded word He said has been sifted, analyzed, scrutinized, and debated, more than all the historians, philosophers and scientists put together. The great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, "Jesus has had more effect on the history of mankind than any other of its race who ever existed."
To explain Jesus Christ is impossible. To ignore Jesus Christ is disastrous. To reject Him is fatal. Understand who Jesus Christ is. Jesus reveals the Father.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
You May Have Missed
And there's no indication there were cattle in that stable or anywhere nearby. In fact, the only thing that leads us to believe Jesus was born in a stable is that Luke 2:7 tells us Mary laid the Baby in a manger, a feeding trough.
But you knew all this.
And you knew that all of this was predicted through the centuries by God's prophets. We particularly treasure the promises of Isaiah 7:14 ("Behold a virgin shall conceive....") and 9:6-7 ("For unto us a child is born...."), as well as Micah 5:2 ("Bethlehem...out of you shall come forth One to be Ruler over Israel...").
And you knew that, contrary to the Christmas hymn "The First Noel," the shepherds in Bethlehem's fields did not "looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far" (modern hymnals have revised that line to read "For all to see there was a star....").
But, allow me to point out some aspects of this wonderful story it's possible you might have missed. There is no particular order intended.
1. Joseph has no speaking lines.
This man who was to become the earthly father of our Lord Jesus was a man of action. He heard and he obeyed.
I recall hearing of a mother calling the school to inform the teacher that her son had a bad cold and would be unable to play Joseph in the Nativity play later that morning. It was too late to replace him, so they did the play without Joseph.
No one missed him.
2. Mary is a deep thinker.
Twice we read that she "pondered" these things. Once when Gabriel made the original announcement to her (Luke 1:29) and then when the shepherds entered the birth chamber (whatever it was, stable, etc.) to tell of the visitation of the angels (Luke 2:19).
The contrast between Mary and Joseph is fairly strong. He seems never to question a word from the Lord, but goes immediately to obey. Mary thinks it through, and even deigns to ask the angel of God how such a thing could be.
3. After the angels made their announcement to the shepherds, they did not command them to do anything.
Since the shepherds dropped everything and ran into Bethlehem to "see this thing which has come to pass," we might have expected the angels to have instructed them to go. Instead, the angel of God did something far superior: He informed them how to recognize the Christ-child once they found Him. "This shall be a sign to you: you will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths."
God knew those He had chosen as the welcoming committee for His Son. He knew, that even though they were lowly shepherds--a category we would call unskilled labor--they were wise enough to come to Him as soon as they knew how.
4. There is great intrigue in this story.
A great cosmic drama is taking place here. On the one hand, we see Heaven opened and angels heralding the arrival of God's Son on earth. And on the other, hell's forces marshal to oppose Him and if possible, to kill Him and put an early end to this redemptive mission from Heaven.
Angels in the outdoors and Herod's soldiers entering homes to crush the skulls of infants.
The battle was joined and has raged ever since.
Readers wishing to explore this further should google "How God Fooled Satan at Christmas," my article on this subject.
5. Head knowledge is not sufficient.
In Matthew 2:3, all Jerusalem was abuzz with talk about the foreign visitors who had arrived in town, naively inquiring at every service station and convenience store, "Well? Where is He? Where is the One born King of the Jews?"
They figured that this wonderful news would be the talk of the city. Instead, no one else seemed to know anything about it.
Then, when Herod called the religious leaders to ask where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:4), these doctors of theology informed him that the Old Testament prophet Micah had said Bethlehem was the place.
What we wonder is why they didn't go to Bethlehem. It's not like it was in the next hemisphere. Bethlehem lies some 5 miles south of Jerusalem, an easy walk for a healthy person.
The clear conclusion is that these religious leaders had the Bible knowledge but no real interest in God or the promise of Scripture.
6. The prosperity gospel stumbles at this story.
Mary and Joseph are poor. There is not a word in the text to indicate otherwise.
When they presented their Baby in the temple for the prescribed dedication of the first-born, unable to afford a lamb for an offering, the young parents gave a couple of birds (Luke 2:24; based on Leviticus 12:2,8).
7. The gold from the Magi had a very practical purpose.
Immediately after Matthew tells of the visit of the visitors from the East and their wonderful gifts, he tells how the Lord's angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, informing him that Herod was on a killing jag and he should take the family to Egypt.
Doubtless, the gold was provided by the Lord to finance this unexpected trip.
8. Notice the crossing of human lines and barriers in this story.
We have the young and the old (Mary, Joseph, the Baby, and Simeon and Anna in the temple. Luke 2).
We have the rich and the poor (the Magi and the young family. Matthew 2).
We have the Jews and the Gentiles (the Magi were the non-Jews).
We have the highest (angels) and the lowest (shepherds).
This wonderful story is clearly for "whosoever" and "all the world," as John 3:16 informs us.
9. Telling the story is a privilege.
It would appear that Mary and Joseph's account of the angels' appearances were so personal--and so unbelievable--that they either told no one at first or very few people.
The shepherds heard the message from the angels, left those miserable sheep to fend for themselves and raced into Bethlehem to see the Christ-child, then went out and told everyone what they had heard and seen.
Poor Zacharias. After questioning the angel inside the Temple (Luke 1), he was not allowed to tell what he had heard and seen until his son John was born.
Telling others of Jesus is a privilege many of us take for granted.
I think of the leper in Mark 1 whom Jesus healed. Then, the Lord instructed him to show himself to the priest and do what Moses commanded, but to otherwise keep the news to himself. However, he was just not able to do that. He went out and began to "blaze abroad" the matter.
Jesus tells you and me to tell everyone and we go home and sit down. Something is way wrong here.
10. Jesus did no miracles in His boyhood.
By all reports from Luke 2, Jesus had a normal childhood in Nazareth. In fact, John 2 informs us that the turning of water to wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee was His first miracle.
Lest we are tempted to temper that by saying, "It was the first miracle of His ministry, but not the first one He had done," I submit the following.
Had the boy Jesus been doing miracles in Nazareth like an early "Superboy of Smallville," the world would have taken note of Him and beaten a path to His door. Satan would have noticed also and come running, ready to abort God's plans for His Son.
That did not happen because Jesus was not doing miracles, was not teaching, and was not distinguishing Himself in any way during his youth. That's why, when He did start to preach and heal and work wonders, His neighbors were astonished. Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?Are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 5:2-3).Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt.
Ten Questions to Ask
at a Christmas Gathering
Many of us struggle to make conversation at Christmas gatherings, whether church events, work-related parties, neighborhood drop-ins, or annual family occasions. Sometimes our difficulty lies in having to chat with people we rarely see or have never met. At other times we simply don’t know what to say to those with whom we feel little in common.
Moreover, as Christians we want to take advantage of the special opportunities provided by the Christmas season to share our faith, but are often unsure how to begin. Here’s a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.
1) What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
2) What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
3) What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
4) What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
5) What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
6) What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
7) What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
8) Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
9) Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
10) Why do you think Jesus came to earth?
Of course, remember to pray before your Christmas gatherings. Ask the Lord to grant you "divine appointments," to guide your conversations, and to open doors for the gospel. May He use you to bring glory to Christ this Christmas.
Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.
For more short, reproducible pieces like this, see www.BiblicalSpirituality.org
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
This year has presented unique opportunitues to our family for growth, reflection, and obedience to the Lord. One such opportunity is our transition to a new church home. Pastor and author, Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries offers helpful advice on how to move forward! Thought you might enjoy this one.
How to Leave a Church by Ray Pritchard
An email came from someone asking for advice on how to leave a church. The details don’t matter except that both the husband and wife have concluded that after years of being in one particular congregation, the time has come for them to find another place of worship. Partly it involves their children and partly it involves a desire to be part of a church with a strong outreach to the community. I don’t know exactly where these folks live or what sort of church they’ve been attending nor could I tell much about the inner life of the congregation, except that it sounded rather stagnant.
In any case, the question was not, “Should we leave?” but rather, “How should we leave?” Here is part of what I wrote in response:
Leaving a church is always difficult and there is no perfect way to do it, but there are some ways that are better and some ways that are worse.
Three words should guide your actions:
Quickly means when you leave, you leave. Drawing out your exit rarely makes things better. It doesn’t help to “sort of” leave a church. When the time comes to leave, make your exit and go your way.
Quietly means you don’t try to explain yourself to others. In my judgment, you don’t owe a long explanation to every person in the church. If you have certain responsibilities in the church, you should let the leaders know so they can make proper plans. And quietly means you don’t write letters to the congregation or make a big announcement and you don’t try to explain yourself over and over again. That’s usually a big mistake. Sometimes people who leave a church try to control what other people say after they are gone. Forget about it. You can’t control what anyone says. Some people may be deeply hurt by your leaving. It may mean the end of some friendships. Certainly things will change.
You can’t say, “I want to leave this church but I want all my relationships to stay the same.” I think you’ll find that some people relate to you primarily as a part of the church, and they won’t be able to have the same relationship with you when you are gone. You have to be willing to let that happen and not try to control things. Leaving means letting go.
Graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.
In the end, Christ is Lord both of your former church and your new church. He loves both with an everlasting love. Those churches were both there before you came along and both will be there after you are off the scene. The church of Jesus is so much larger than anything we can imagine—and God’s work is far bigger than our limited vision.
When the time comes to leave, leave. Don’t hesitate, dawdle, and don’t be like Lot’s wife who looked back. You may not turn into a pillar of salt but looking back will do no good either. So leave with a good heart, trusting that the same Lord is Lord over both churches. He will care for both congregations. You can be sure of that.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIP
In 2003, my family moved to North Idaho and began the adventure of a lifetime. By God’s gracious hand, we planted NorthStar Church out of a home Bible study and over these past seven years have continued to see God do amazing things there!
While in Coeur d'Alene, we labored with all our hearts to see a gospel presence flourish there. Our desire was to encourage obedience-based discipleship and to see reproduction and kingdom growth.
We knew that a successful church plant could not be centered upon the missionary or planter but must be centered upon the Word and upon the Holy Spirit as teacher. In 2007, we sensed that God was moving us into a new chapter of ministry and our prayer was that as we transitioned away from NorthStar, that it would continue to be a disciple-making center and would grow in greater ways than ever before!
God has richly blessed NorthStar. Under Godly and capable leadership, the church has continued to grow and develop and is about to embark on building a permanent home for the ministry!
As 2010 comes to a close, I would ask that you consider making a gift to support this incredible ministry...
Northstar Baptist Church
1604 W Lee Court
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814
More about the building project at “Life in the Big Potato” Consider the power of partnership. Maximize your giving at year-end by supporting ministries that are making an eternal difference!
It’s that time of year again; the time when we enter a season of celebration and refection (Thanksgiving and Christmas). During these holidays we often get bombarded with thing that vie for our time, attention, and even money.
Organizations want us to volunteer to serve or collect items for the needy, newspaper ads show us sales that we need to take advantage of, and the amount of things that we can invest in seems limitless. So, when choosing how to best utilize your resources this holiday season, let the truths of the Bible be your guide.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7-12 we read these words…
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Now, what does this all mean?
First, that the generous giver will reap generously
Does that mean that if you give a lot of money, you will get a lot of money. By no means! what it does mean is that the extent to which you invest your resources into God’s kingdom is the same extent to which fruit will spring up.
Secondly, this verse is suggesting that giving should never be out of compulsion or reluctance
Instead, we should give freely, cheerfully, and willingly. That doesn’t mean that we should not encourage others to give! It just means that our encouragement is not the basis for people to give. People should out of their understanding of God’s grace in their lives.
Thirdly, giving is tied to faith.
You give because you believe that God is able to bless you abundantly and in fact, has blessed you abundantly. Notice, it doesn’t say you are blessed because you have a certain amount of money. That fact that you have money at all makes you blessed. God is not only able to bless you abundantly, but he is able to increase the amount you have so that you can give even more! How about that for God’s power?
Lastly, giving produces thanksgiving
For several days now, I've been talking about growing in gratitude... one of the best ways to live out and encourage thankfulness is to give! As you give to the needs of the saints, you are creating an atmosphere of gratitude and appreciation that blesses God and serves as a witness to others.
As 2010 comes to a close, I would ask that you consider making a gift to support an incredible ministry... NorthStar Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho!
Donations can be sent to:
Northstar Baptist Church
1604 W Lee Court
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814
Check out Pastor Bennett Sanderson's Blog, "Life in the Big Potato
THANKFUL PEOPLE DON'T...I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but wanted to finish out the thought that I started over Thanksgiving about being a thankful person.
So far I’ve offered two observations about thanful people:
1) Thankful people don’t forget
2) Thankful people don’t complain
I want to add a third to the list...
Really this boils down to a heart attitude that God wants us to develop... GENEROSITY! Hoarding is the art of collecting without any interest in sharing. Pride kills thanksgiving, but the humble mind is the soil in which thanksgiving naturally grows. A proud person is seldom a grateful person, for they never think they get as much as they deserve-they often hoard up for themselves! Show me a generous person and I will show you a grateful person. Have you ever met a thankful person, who was not generous?
Living with open hands. If your hands are tightly clasped around what you have, then they cannot receive any more... If you live with open hands and freely give, then God can continue to fill those hands again!
Again it is odd, but the more we hold onto things the less thanksgiving we have. The more we give away the more reason we have to give thanks.
One pastor expressed it this way, “With apologies to St. James I offer this rendition of verse 18 in his second chapter, “But some will say, “You have generosity but I have thankfulness. Show me any generosity without being thankful? But I will show you my thankfulness by my generosity.”
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman by a well. A story we are familiar with. After her encounter with Christ, notice what she does she goes and tells others about the good work of God. She goes and gathers a crowd. She does not hoard this good news, she shares it. Her heart is so thankful she can’t contain herself.
Can we say with our mouths we are thankful and not be generous? Can we say a thanksgiving prayer and celebrate God’s bounty in our home when we have not opened our hand to help another? Can we fill our bellies and not give so that others’ bellies can also be full? Can selfish, hoarding people truly be called thankful people? I think not.
Like the woman at the well we show our thanksgiving with our generosity not with our mouths. When we tell others about the joy of Jesus, when we share God’s riches with others, when we are generous with our time, talents, and money then we can be called a thankful people.
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Revised Standard Version has "not reluctantly or under compulsion."
Sunday, November 28, 2010
until I met a man who had no feet."
Saturday, November 27, 2010
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.
This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
Just a few more thoughts on being filled with thanks...
Thankful people are easy to spot. Oh, there are the obvious proofs, like receiving cards from them or seeing them respond with a word or a gift that expresses gratitude. But you might be surprised to hear that you can most easily identify a thankful person by things that they DON'T do! Over the next three days, I want to offer three characteristics of thankful people...
First, Thankful people don't FORGET
When gratitude marks a person's life, they rarely forget what someone else has done for them. This is far more than just having a good memory. A person who is filled with thanks makes a conscious effort to recognize others' kindness or generosity. Gratitude demostrated reveals something about the character of a person. Thankful people are humble, caring, thoughtful, and aware of others.
Humility is a virtue that is integral to gratitude! We can't recognize the need for gratitude without humility.
People who are puffed up with their own accomplishments and who do not see how dependent they are on the Lord or on other people who have favored them are rarely grateful. They are blind to the ways in which they have been favored, perhaps beyond what they deserve. So this virtue of humily helps them REMEMER what has been done on their behalf!
Our society has a "what have you done for me lately" attitude, an attitude of entitlement. Thankful people DO NOT FORGET that they didn't arrive where they are on their own!
Today, continue to make a list of the blessings of God in your life. Thank Him for those blessings one by one.
They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. Psalm 78:35
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Psalm 77:11
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—Psalm 103:2
Friday, November 26, 2010
being filled with thanks
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
The lustful desires of the flesh
The lustful desires of the eyes
The pride of life (boasting in achievements and possessions)
These sum it up! We desire pleasure, we want, we crave, we desire. Lust is most commonly associated with unrestrained sexual desires. However, these obsessive desires could be thirst for power, knowledge, or worldly possessions, which fill our daily thoughts in an unhealthy manner – causing us to pursue such things no matter the cost – many times creating a wave of pain and consequence.
God wants to bring fulfilment into your life, yet temptations come to stir dissatisfaction. John Piper says that "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him". He longs to meet your needs and satisfy your soul...Seek Him as your provision and you won't be disappointed!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Thankful for the goodness of God! Because He is good, I can trust Him in my circumstances. I can trust that He is working on my behalf, for His glory! Thankful that every good and perfect gift comes from Him and that all of my circumstances are filtered through His powerful hands! He is at work...so I must thank Him! ...but deeper still
Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .
We'll give thanks to You
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain
Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .
But Jesus, would You please . . .
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
GRATITUDE IN THE
STORMS OF LIFE
It's been said that you are in one of three positions related to storms in life... You are either just coming out of one, in one now, or headed toward one. Sounds a bit pessimistic to believe that if you are not in a difficult time, you likely will encounter one soon. However, life is full of challenge. Storms are a very real part of our existence.In fact, Jesus promised that we will have many hardships in this life (John 16:33). And was He right!
As unpleasant as trials are, there's still much reason for giving thanks. In my last post, I shared three insights from Dr. Charles Stanley on adversity in the lives of believers... He suggested three provisions believers can count on during adversity: God's presence, a pathway through the trouble, and potential to grow. Today, Let's explore two more.
Protection. God doesn't necessarily keep believers from suffering or disappointment. Stopping the storms may be our goal, but from His point of view, the adversity may be necessary to mature us spiritually. But the Father offers protection by staying with us in the struggle. Once we receive Jesus as our Savior, we are promised that God indwells us and will never leave. What's more, we have assurance that nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38-39). So our ever-present God walks with us through the hardships, providing guidance and speaking truth into the situation.
Peace. While difficulties cause many people anxiety, believers have God's peace. This inner serenity does not depend on whether circumstances improve. Rather, it's a result of our relationship with Him. Our main focus shouldn't be on fixing the problem but on our dependence upon God. As we recognize the Lord's provision during trials, we can genuinely express gratitude. Doing so will enable us to fix our eyes on Him rather than on our circumstance. We often don't know what the purpose is for each ensuing trial, but we do know that our God is good and trustworthy.
Thank Him today that He is working out His will and His way in your life... Thank Him for His divine protection and peace! Thank Him for the promise of His presence and for giving us the potential to grow! THANK HIM!
I've got good news and I've got some bad news...Which would you like first?
BAD NEWS - No one gets through life without trials! That's not a very pleasant thought, but it's a reality of life. That is the bad news.
GOOD NEWS - We serve a good God who provides beautifully—especially during the dark periods of life. Today, I want to talk to you about being thankful for His provision!
Matthew 14 tells of a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus provided for His disciples on that fretful night and He also provides for us today. Just as He met the needs of His disciples in that unsettling situation, He supplies our needs in time of difficulty. How does He do this? Pastor and Author, Charles Stanley offers the following three insights.
First, the Father gives Christians His presence and the promise that He will never leave (Heb. 13:5-6). This is, perhaps, the greatest gift because from this awareness, He offers a sense of comfort, courage, and confidence.
Second, the Lord blesses His children with a pathway through trouble. He is in total control of our storm and will use the trial for His purpose. We may not understand, but we can trust His hand to guide us and accomplish good. Sometimes the reason and benefit of a difficulty will becomes obvious, while in other cases, it may never be clear.
Third, the Father offers believers the potential to grow. Hardships are exercises in trust and times to learn more fully who God is and how great His power and love are.
No one enjoys trials. But remember to express gratitude for God's hand in your life and the ways in which He will use the adversity. Hardships are chances to trust your Creator and to know Him better. Of course, they are painful, but don't waste the opportunity to become all the Lord has planned for you.
Monday, November 22, 2010
This week, I want to say some things about gratitude... First, I want to kick off these posts by sharing a word from one of my favorite communicators, Dr. Tom Elliff. A Baptist statesman, pastor, denominational leader, and author, Dr. Elliff has deeply impacted my life through his writing and preaching. Tom Elliff served as the International Mission Board’s Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations. In addition to his work with the IMB, Tom pastored for forty-two years, during which time he served as the president of the SBC Pastors Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Most recently, he is the founder of Living in the Word Publications, a writing and speaking ministry focused on the ongoing necessity of spiritual awakening.
Dr. Elliff has blessed me, and I know that his words below will bless you!
TEN TRUTHS ABOUT THANKSGIVING
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is becoming a less recognized holiday with each passing year, most likely because it is devoid of the great marketing opportunities shared by Halloween and Christmas. Unless, of course, you are a grocer! This reality grieves me because, in a sense, Thanksgiving is perhaps the purest of holidays in terms of purpose and practice.
The annual expression of “thanksgiving” has been a distinctly American celebration for almost four hundred years, dating back to 1621. However, it was not until the Civil War period that Thanksgiving was designated as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln. From its inception, Thanksgiving was directed primarily to an acknowledgement of the providence of God.
In more recent years, the Thanksgiving focus has shifted from God to groceries, faith to friends, appreciation to athletics, and providence to parades. I’m not seeking to be curmudgeonous here, far from it. I love the get-togethers, groceries and good times as much as the next guy. But I am saddened by the fact that there is an obvious diminishment of focus on the ONE who makes life, health, warm friendships and a purposeful future possible.
Of course, we are only reflections of the reality of human nature and the insidious sin of ingratitude. When considering a “thanksgiving celebration” that took place over 2,000 years ago, not much has changed. I’d like to offer you ten thoughts on Thanksgiving, harvested from Luke’s account of the healing of ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19).
1. Thanksgiving is a rare practice (11-15a). “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back.” Only one of the ten turned back to offer gratitude! So not much has changed, has it.
2. Thanksgiving should be a “reflex response (15a). Notice that it was “when he saw that he had been healed” that the man turned back to offer gratitude. I am reminded of what one of Ronald Reagan’s caregivers said of him as they walked with him through the last, confusing painful days of his life on earth. “He never lost his gracious spirit. It was embedded in his character.”
3. Thanksgiving will bring you back to the Lord (15b-16a). The healed man “turned back” to his Healer. In most circles, everyone but God receives thanks for the good times, and no one but God receives blame for the bad times. Here is a man who knew the source of his healing, turned back, and fell at the feet of Jesus.
4. Thanksgiving is something you “do,” not just something you “feel,” or “think” (15-16). You cannot escape the action here. The grateful man turned back, glorified God with a loud voice, fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and gave thanks to Him. Thanksgiving, like love, is every bit as much an expression as an emotion.
5. Thanksgiving erupts from the heart of people who consider themselves truly undeserving (16). Luke considered it worth noting that this man who “fell on his face at Jesus’ feet” was a Samaritan. Most Jews considered the Samaritans as mongrels, or “half-breeds,” because they were the descendants of Jews who had earlier intermarried with their gentile captors. On more than one occasion, Jesus applauded the humility of the Samaritans. Humble people are grateful people, and God honors those who are humble.
6. Thanksgiving is one of the most quick and simple ways to get an audience with the Lord (17). As the psalmist reminds us, we “enter His gates with thanksgiving.” Immediately upon his return, we find the lone leper experiencing something the other nine totally missed, a conversation with the Messiah! Who among us doesn’t respond with interest toward the person with gratitude in his heart and on his lips.
7. “Thanksgivers” are easily identifiable, but so are the ungrateful (17-18). “Where are the other nine?” asks Jesus. Ouch! The Samaritan could only shrug his shoulders. After all, he could only express what was in his own heart. How sad that in this permanent record of the event, we remember the nine as readily as the one. How are you remembered?
8. Thanksgiving results in a satisfying sense of purpose (19). “Stand up and go your way,” said Jesus. It was His way of saying, “No need to linger now that you have expressed your hearts gratitude. Go show yourself to the priest, then run home to your family and friends and tell them about both your cure, and our conversation!” Until thanksgiving is expressed, you will live life with no sense of closure. There is always something yet to be said and done.
9. Thanksgiving is the path to greater understanding (19). This one grateful, healed leper received an insight and clarification that the other nine totally missed. His healing was the result of his faith in Christ! “Your faith has made you well,” said Jesus. Of all ten, here was one man who had the true message. His gratitude had brought him to school at the Master’s feet. All things come by faith!
10. As a child of God, if you can do just one thing…thank Him! You will probably have a lot on your plate this Thanksgiving, both literally and figuratively! So why not begin by coming to the feet of Jesus and expressing gratitude. Right now! Just fall at His feet and tell Him of your love and gratitude. Be specific! Then listen for His response. Let your heart of gratitude to God be your most evident expression this Thanksgiving.
As someone has said, “Gratitude is your heart’s memory.”
Let’s not forget to be grateful!
Monday, November 15, 2010
A new chapter begins...
Yesterday marked a unique turn in our lives and ministry. Our family is stepping out in faith and prayerfully searching for what comes next.
Back in September, I preached in view of a call to become the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Olive Branch. The church extended a call, but circumstances surrounding the call led us to decline. We sensed our ministry coming to a close there at FBCOB and determined that it was time to move forward.
I cannot express how wonderful so much of the experience of serving in Olive Branch has been. I’ve had the privilege of leading out in mission opportunities, seeing people come to Christ and helping them grow in Christ! Equipping people to faithfully follow Jesus Christ and casting a courageous vision to impact the world has been my consuming passion!
My labor of love has also included teaching a wonderful Sunday School Class that has shared life together! For the past two years this amazing group has explored a variety of topics from verse by verse studies of books of the Bible, marriage and parenting issues to Heaven! We’ve prayed, laughed, cried, and grown together. They have been a true faith family!
It is with a deep sense of sadness that we’re saying goodbye. Yet as Stephanie and I have prayerfully considered our place in ministry and recognized that it was time for us to move forward... we do so with confidence!
My new email address is email@example.com
and Stephanie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the letter I shared with the church: November 14, 2010
Dear Church Family,
“The steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord.” Reading this passage from Psalm 37 reminds me that my life is not my own. I belong to God. Stephanie and our children belong to God. We’ve committed our individual lives and our family to His calling and purpose. We’ve resolved to travel together down the path that He has set before us. We’ve entrusted our steps to Him.
It was God’s leading that brought us to Olive Branch in December of 2007. It was His plan for us to serve and minister through First Baptist Church. He has given us a heart for this community and a love for our faith family. His blessings have been abundant and evident, and I’m convinced that our days here have been ordained by the Lord.
That’s why today is so difficult. Through prayer and Godly counsel we are convinced that God is asking us to travel down a new path and our deepest desire is to honor Him by following His lead! The difficulty comes, not in saying yes to the Lord, but in saying goodbye to all of you. In our hearts we never thought this day would come, yet God’s Word tells us in Proverbs 16 that “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Today, November 14, 2010, I am officially resigning as your Associate Pastor for Education.
Please hear these words from the bottom of our hearts, we love you and will be praying for God’s richest blessings in your lives and in the life of this church. Also, be reminded of this... our friendship in Christ is not merely lifelong, but eternal! We will be united again, never to be parted, in God’s presence. Our labors here and now are temporary and we work must all work with diligence and urgency until our faith becomes sight.
God directs our steps and promises not to leave us nor forsake us. I’m confident that if God is leading us on to something new and wonderful then the same is true for FBCOB. Just as God is preparing to bless Stephanie and I with a new work, He is preparing to bless this church with a new season. May God richly bless this church to His Glory as you honor Him in thought, word, and action.
Dr. L. Scott Hanberry
Monday, November 08, 2010
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. Friendly fire happens on the battlefield...it happens in marriages...it happens in the Church...it happens in life. Wounds are sometimes caused by trusted friends and allies.
Churches are full of hurting and wounded people. Tragically, many of them have been hurt not by enemies but by friends or fellow believers. I would highly recommend a book by Ron Dunn, entitled Surviving Friendly Fire. It will help you respond in a God-honoring way!
Oh, and here's an example of what friendly fire looks like.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
A WAKE UP CALL FOR THE CHURCH!
Erosion happens quietly...slowly... barely noticed.
PHYSICAL EROSION -slowly our habits of exercise are replaced with more docile patterns of life. Fast-foods meet the demands of fast lives and nutrition gives way to convenience. We don't fall out of shape, we drift there. We become consumed with other things and slowly move out of shape.
SPIRITUAL EROSION - slowly our habits of spiritual formation (prayer, time in the Word, meditation, Scripture memorization) are replaced with other pursuits. We sometimes adopt the attitude that we "already know" these things, so further study isn't necessary.
CHURCH EROSION - The culmination of spiritual erosion in the life of individuals is church erosion! Believers become by-standers, saints become spectators, Christians become consumers! And tragically, church leaders placate this culture religious retail. Sermons move away from foundational doctrinal teaching and bend toward advice for marriage, parenting, or a happy life. We must continually go back to where we started, The New Testament Church, and look closely at where we currently are to recognize the course we're on. My how we've drifted. My how we've become consumed with other things. Otherwise, without close inspection, we wake up and found ourselves off course.
C.S. Lewis in "The Screwtape Letters"
There are 9 individual messages in this series:
- The Church: Let’s Start Here
- Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities
- Distinctives of a Contagious Church
- Worship: A Commitment . . . Not a War, Part One
- Worship: A Commitment . . . Not a War, Part Two
- What Must the Church Realize?
- How Should the Church React?
- The Church on a Long Drift
- It’s Time to “Restore the Years”