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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Grace and peace,
Friday, December 25, 2009
Greetings from the Scott Family! We look back on 2009 with thanksgiving for God’s many blessings as well as the trials from which we have learned a great deal.
Early this year we discovered mold in our house and were displaced from our home for a couple of months during the remediation and remodeling processes. The whole ordeal was quite a challenge for all of us. However, as is often the case, there were many blessings that came along with the trial: after our initial claim was denied, the insurance company ended up paying for everything, including food & accommodations while we were away; the health issues we were concerned about were not serious and resolved themselves in time, and in the process of testing, we discovered some important information about William’s allergies that we would not have otherwise known; after our house was “put back together,” we ended up with a new bathroom and nice wood floors; we developed a good relationship with our contractor, who began visiting our church and has been attending since that time; and most of all, we had another opportunity to trust the Lord and came out with an appreciation of God’s faithfulness to us.
Bobby - The highlight of 09 for me has to be trials. In addition to the mold found in our home, it was also discovered in my office at church. Through it all, God provided in amazing ways, and we all escaped with minimal health complications. Also, the recession didn’t skip over our church. It is an ongoing challenge for our members looking for work and some leaving the area and our church to find it. The most lasting memory of 09 for me will be that our church lost a beloved deacon, Don Ferrer, and I lost a faithful friend. He will be deeply missed. Don was the faithful servant of the Lord who oversaw our tape ministry. In sanctifying ways, which I can only attribute to God’s amazing grace, He used these trials and others to teach me to rely upon Him more, and that’s a good thing. Last note, no new book this year, did a little blogging here and as a contributing author on Covenant Eyes. Maybe I’ll find more time to write in 2010.
Naomi - After recovering from our mold ordeal, we were able to enjoy another eventful baseball season, a summer full of swimming, various classes, and getting together with friends. Sneakers, our new dog, became a fun addition to our family and enjoys being my “running buddy” twice a week. We have been busy this year with a new homeschooling program that is based on the classical approach to education. The kids meet in small groups in a classroom setting once a week. They are enjoying the competitive environment, being with their friends, and doing lots of memory work. I have been thoroughly enjoying the challenging curriculum and re-learning things that I didn’t learn well when I was in school! Grammar has taken on new life for all of us. I have been substitute tutoring for the younger kids and tutoring Algebra weekly in this program. I continue to enjoy teaching Sunday School, serving in children’s ministry at our church, and coordinating the single moms ministry in our homeschooling academy. One highlight this year for me was being invited by my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Rygg, to an exhibit featuring her paintings. Seeing her and my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Evans, who also attended, was a special treat.
Carissa - Although some of my experiences this year have been negative, overall this year has been really great. Our dog Bambie died, which was sad, but then Sneakers became a member of our family. Baseball is very fun and I’m getting better at it at every practice despite the fact that I probably won’t continue it through high school. My favorite pastime is swimming, which I did a lot of this summer. I’ve also tried art class. My family and I have tried a new school program, which has been to my liking. It is enjoyable, yet challenging, and I have gained much by it. Carissa celebrated her 5th year of remission this past year, a huge milestone! We thank God that she continues to stay in good health.
BJ – “This year has been fun because we started something called Classical Conversations. A bunch of Homeschoolers get together to do work and get assignments to do over the week and get tickets for doing a good job. The work is a lot easier than our regular work and after class we get to be with our friends. And at the end of the year we get to spend our tickets.” BJ has also developed quite a knack for acting. Lately, he has been one of the highlights of the children’s plays at church.
Eli – “This year I had the best birthday party ever. We went to a water park with my friends. I also had my ears pierced. For Carissa’s birthday, we went rock climbing, go carting, bumper boating and aracading.” Eliana continues to fill our home with loudness and laughter with her bubbly personality. She still enjoys reading and collecting unique coins.
Micaiah - “I had a good time on Thanksgiving and we invited lots of people, and we played UNO, Stacko, and the older people played Apples to Apples and the food was very good.” Micaiah loves having a house full of people to host. Also, she and Eliana had desired for a long time to take ballet, and this summer, they took ballet lessons along with two of their best friends. Micaiah continues to be the family sweetheart, always willing to share and encourage.
William - “This year I went to three hotels. One had a pool and waterslides. The other one had a pool and a Jacuzzi, and the last one was near the movie theaters and a Trader Joe’s.” (Most of these hotel stays were a result of our escape from the mold. What for us was an evacuation, the kids viewed as a vacation!) Academically, William has been very motivated this year. He does well in math and has amazed us with his ability to memorize a detailed timeline of ancient world history.
Amariah is now a talkative four year old and is still everyone’s baby. She loves her older siblings and especially enjoys “spending the night” with her brothers, sleeping in a playpen in their room overnight.
As we look forward to 2010, we thank God for family and good friends, and we wish you a New Year filled with God’s blessings!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
God, who abounds in grace and delights in spoiling His children, showered His love upon Willio and Neecole with a glorious wedding that exalted Christ and revealed how marriage is a magnificent thing. And yes, now more challenging challenges will begin for them, yet I am confident that through all the hurt and tears Willio and Neecole will cling to the grace of Christ, who clings to them. I am confident of that because God loves true love stories more than we do. So He will teach them how to use their trials and challenges to experience more of His love for them and that through them they can bring glory to His great Name. My wife Naomi and I are so grateful for the small role we played and the privilege of witnessing in Willio and Neecole the mystery of true love: “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid,” Proverbs 30:18-19.
And what can I say about the 10 year anniversary celebration of LACBC? (1) It was deeply encouraging. I cannot thank Pastor Kidd enough for allowing God to use Him to stir our hearts to continue to be faithful. (2) It was hysterically funny. I wondered about this before but now I am sure stand-up comedian Lynell Morgan missed her calling. (3) It was richly inspiring. Who attended and wasn’t motivated to do everything that they can to continue to enjoy the blessings that God has poured out upon this church for tens of ten more years? I sincerely thank everyone who planned, who served, and who attended. I am humbled to be an under rower galley slave (1 Cor 4:1) to a congregation so rich in talent and love.
Grace and peace,
Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
INTRO: Are you sure you think Christianly about sex in marriage?
1st The most important principle that governs sex in marriage is that God created sex in marriage for His glory.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen,” Rom 11:36. Marriage is for the glory of God. Marriage exists to magnify the greatness of God. God does not exist to magnify marriage. If everything God created is for Him, then sex too exists for God’s glory. God created the human race to be male and female. God created the one flesh union. The Bible states that neither Adam or Eve were ashamed having their nakedness exposed to each other. They knew that God considered their one flesh union to be “very good.” Not that it was “good” in the sense that our one flesh union adds something to God, but “good” in the sense that our one flesh union reflects something wondrous about Him.
Marriages will not be lived for the glory of God until His people are captivated by Him to live for His glory and people will not be captivated to live for the glory of God until this theme of God’s awe inspiring glory permeates everything. Without this even sex in Christian marriages will be a futile frustrating attempt to gain (selfish) pleasure. In fact, until Christians commit themselves to serving their partners knowing that in this way they glorify God, God will not enable them to experience the full joy He designed for one-flesh unions (John 15:5). God must be or become the magnificently central dominating passion in our lives.
2nd Christians must satisfy themselves in God’s love, which alone enables and motivates them to give love to their spouses to the fullest extent (John 10:17).
“The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life,” Psalm 33:6. No professed Christian marriage will be Christianly if the spouses do not experientially live in light of the immeasurable greatness of God’s love (Eph 3:17-19). To know that God’s steadfast love is better than life means that God’s love must be better to us than anything in life which includes receiving love, respect or sex from our spouse. God’s love is better than sex. There will not be sex in heaven, only God’s love. Yet, everyone in heaven will be satisfied because God’s love satisfies. Therefore, the sex that will most satisfy is a Christian’s experience of giving sexual pleasure and receiving the God-pleasing gift of selfless biblical love. God-blessed sex satisfies. Selfish sex frustrates and poisons future encounters of physical intimacy. Christians then must learn to give the intended for pleasure gift of sexual intimacy. Just like in many other areas of Christian living there are skills Christians must learn in order faithfully fulfill God’s will. Do you know how to exhilarate your spouse (Prov 5:19)? God wants you to learn how if you don’t, and God wants you to strive to let your sexual life be characterized by exhilaration.
What do you do when you don’t feel like exhilarating your spouse? You have to learn how to give sincere love when your spouse isn’t very lovable. You have to learn to love in the same way Christ willingly loved you when you were unlovable. God ordains that every Christian marriage bear a cross. This means you won’t be able to fulfill your God-given role duties without dying to self and living for Him. God gets all the glory in every good marriage, because good marriages by His design only happen when each spouse is satisfied in Him. You must learn to affirm this truth when you don’t experience it to be true. You must pray for this when it is absent in your heart. You must yearn for this when your flesh pulls your towards selfish desires.
3rd God is Glorified When Christian Spouses Please Their Mates Sexually (1 Cor 7:1-6).
“Father . . . You loved Me before the foundation of the world,” John 17:24. God is a spirit; therefore, the parallels between the love God enjoys within Himself (John 5:20) and the love Christians enjoy in marriage are not always analogous. However just as the Persons within God’s Triune Being experience perfect satisfying love, God designed the one flesh union in Christian marriage to reflect the fully intimate satisfying love of two persons existing in harmonious oneness. “One flesh” is all encompassing, including body, emotions and spirit.
I Cor 7:3-5 teaches that an essential aspect of Christian love in marriage is the giving of sexual pleasure.
1. God commands Christian husbands and wives to faithfully give (as opposed to getting) sexual pleasure.
2. God wants each spouse to continually give themselves as a gift to their spouse.
3. Christian sex in marriage is all about giving and that is what Christian love is all about.
4. God is well pleased when Christians love each other; He is gravely displeased when we do not (this is sin).
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
With arid dry weather and hot winds that gust up to 85 miles per hour, parts of desert-like, sunny California are a powder keg ready to explode into flames. It is one of the worst wildfire areas in the US. Yet according to FEMA, the fire death rate for California is one of the lowest of all the states in the US. That’s an amazing stat. While a lot of factors contribute to that result, one reason why the death toll is so low is the enormous attention California pays to both raising fire awareness and combating wildfires. I think the church needs to apply a few lessons from California firefighters. Too often the church responds as if the fire of porn addiction blazing through the spiritually dry lives of unbelievers won’t jump to the church and start burning down our house.
The sobering irony of my lead-in to the article is that Les mentioned in passing that the article was scheduled to come out early September (it came out a few days ago), at the peak of California’s fire season. And here we are facing Station, one of the worst fires I have witnessed in my 27 years of living in Southern California. Tragically, two firefighters lost their lives fighting this blaze last night. It is my earnest prayer that no one else would die as a result of this horrific fire and that it will be contained soon. I also pray that Christians will fight with all the grace God allots to avoid being burned by the growing inferno of pornography that is sweeping across our nation and the world.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Last week, my wife and I had the privilege of hearing Voddie at a Home School convention and thoroughly enjoyed fellowshipping with him and his son Trey over lunch. His following post is the essence of one of the messages he gave. I asked him if I could post it, because as a pastor in an urban community, I continually witness the devastating ill-effects of the public school system, and I am convinced that this is essential truth that needs to be embraced by Christians living in the city. Here's Voddie's passionate and enlightening appeal to not send your kids to public schools:
No academic skepticism, no secularist authors, no blatant materialism can so undermine the spiritual life of the country like the completely secularized training of the child under the authority of the state... Bible-based education is mandatory for Christian parents. If we think we can keep our children in a secular school system and escape the dumbed-down, amoral, and immoral results of secular humanism in schools, we are sorely mistaken (emphasis added, see: http://daveblackonline.com/our.htm).
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people ask home educators the “authority” questions (i.e., to whom do your report? who approves your curriculum?). These questions are the byproduct of statism. The Gramscian, neo-Marxist influence is so prevalent in our culture that we don’t even recognize it anymore. We actually believe that children are wards of the state when in fact they are not. As a result, some people have a hard time believing that they have the right to educate their children in a manner of their choosing. Well, I’m here to tell you that you are free. Your children are yours. They do not belong to Caesar. You don’t have to take them back to the local government indoctrination center next semester. And in some states (thank God for Texas), you don’t even have to tell them you’re not coming back!
4. AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE AMONG THE WORST IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD
One of our elders taught honors math at one of the “best schools” in one of the “best school districts” in Texas (you know, one of those schools people lie and cheat to get their children into so that they can get a better education). His advanced geometry class was filled with a bunch of imbeciles who could barely do basic arithmetic. As a result, most of them failed their first major test. You know what happened next. That’s right, the principal called him into the office and told him to make things right. One of the things he was told to employ was a grading technique called “Square root times ten.” Thus, a student who made a 49 on a test ended up with a 70 in the grade book (for those of you who went to government schools like me, that’s the square root of 49 times ten).
This is what’s happening at our “best” schools. Don’t believe me? ask a college admissions worker how many students coming from our “best” schools with grade point averages hovering near 4.0 need remediation when they get to college. It’s an absolute joke. The overwhelming majority of children in our schools have a B average or above (mostly for self esteem reasons), which serves to give them and their parents a false sense of achievement. It also results in people who ‘feel really good’ about their schools.
Please don’t buy the lie. Your child’s school is probably terrible. If you really care about the stewardship of you child’s mind, don’t send them back to the worst schools in the industrialized world next year.
3. AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE MORALLY REPUGNANT
The headlines speak for themselves. Student-teacher sex scandals, student-student sex, immodesty, foul language, drugs, alcohol, radical homosexual agendas, teachers taking students for abortions, “sexting” leading to suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, brutal beatings, and school shootings (see here). These are just some of the headlines that have become the norm. And that does not include things like cheating, disrespect for authority, impropriety towards the opposite sex, and other moral behaviors children learn regularly and repeatedly in school. Van Til said it better than I ever could:
“Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum…. The result is that child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality because it alone gives the child air and food…. Modern educational philosophy gruesomely insults our God and our Christ. How, then, do you expect to build anything positively Christian or theistic upon a foundation which is the negation of Christianity and theism?…. No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.”Moreover, the system itself is funded by virtual theft. Homeowners are forced under threat of the loss of their property to pay for the education of other people’s children. How is that appropriate? The government tells everyone that they have to send their children to school, then tells homeowners that they are going to be the ones to foot the bill whether they like it or not. Not only is this a form of welfare, it is also a form of theft.
For those of you ready to read me the riot act and yell and scream about paying for roads and bridges, hold on a minute. Why is it that we get all up-in-arms about our tax dollars being used to fund abortions (while our opponents make the roads and bridges argument), but we don’t see this one? Our schools are morally repugnant. They are also neo-Marxist, secular humanist indoctrination centers. Why should I as a Christian be forced to pay for children to have every vestige of Christianity beaten out of them? Americans are not forced to pay for Mormon schools, or Muslim schools; why should we be forced to pay for neo-Marxist schools (remember, all education is religious in nature)? And why should any Christian contribute to such a system by sending their children to such schools at the expense of others? And before you yell, “I’m just using the tax dollars I spent,” ask yourself if you’re willing to take advantage of all that abortion funding going to Planned Parenthood, or those tax dollars going toward fetal stem cell research.
2.GOVERNMENT EDUCATION IS ANTI-CHRISTIAN
“I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”
As Hodge pointed out, the result of non-Christian education is anti-Christian education. Government schools must be anti-Christian. They can be nothing else. Therefore, to send a child to a government school is to have them trained in an anti-Christian environment for 14,000 instructional hours. To get that much instruction from church a child would have to attend two hours a week for one hundred and forty years!
1. THE BIBLE COMMANDS CHRIST-CENTERED EDUCATION
“This whole process of education is to be religious, and not only religious, but Christian…. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving Knowledge, faith and obedience; Although the light of Nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable [sic.]; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that His will unto his Church; and afterward for the better preserving, and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment, and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the World, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience [i.e., “the Lord told me”] can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
I have quoted John Wesley on this issue in previous posts. However, his words are far too pertinent for me to ignore on this issue:
“Let it be remembered, that I do not speak to the wild, giddy, thoughtless world, but to those that fear God. I ask, then, for what end do you send you children to school? “Why, that they may be fit to live in the world.” In which world do you mean, — this or the next? Perhaps you thought of this world only; and had forgot that there is a world to come; yea, and one that will last for ever! Pray take this into your account, and send them to such masters as will keep it always before their eyes. Otherwise, to send them to school (permit me to speak plainly) is little better than sending them to the devil. At all events, then, send your boys, if you have any concern for their souls, not to any of the large public schools, (for they are nurseries of all manner of wickedness,) but private school, kept by some pious man, who endeavours to instruct a small number of children in religion and learning together.”
Thursday, July 9, 2009
For the past few months, I have had the privilege of reviewing chapter by chapter Why Small Groups? Together towards Maturity edited by C.J. Mahaney and published by Sovereign Grace Ministries. This is a great book!!! and as amazing as it sounds, you can get it for free (and that's not one of my typos). Here's a sample of my review followed by information as to how you can get this free e-book that sets a new standard on discipleship.
An old black preacher once said, “You can no more do what you don’t know than come back from where you ain’t never been.” That’s so true. If we became aware of the fact that there was a life-changing truth that we needed to know and didn’t, then we could diligently study to learn it, memorize what we learned, and get help to learn how to apply it to our lives so that we could do it. But the old preacher is right, his axiom undeniable, and Hosea concurs, warning us of as much, when he laments, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The solution for all God-fearing believers then is this, we must inextricably link our quest for right living to right thinking (Ps 119:9).
The great need of the hour today is for the church to relearn how to progressively grow in holy living. We need to regain a biblical vision for how to become Christ-like and how to live in God-pleasing ways in an ungodly, please-me, pleasure-seeking world. That’s obvious to all of us. Collectively, we seem to have forgotten how to live holy, and you can’t do what you don’t know. Ask just about any pastor, church leader, or church member to honestly answer this question: Are you living holy like God is holy? Wouldn’t the most honest answer be Daniel’s quote, “We have sinned. . . . Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame” (Dan 9:5, 7)? And wouldn’t we, like Isaiah under God’s piercing holiness, confess, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5)? With holy living as our standard (1 Pet 1:15-16), this is not the church’s finest hour. The church desperately needs to relearn how to grow in progressive holy living. We need Spirit-filled, seasoned/wise, Bible breathing men of God to re-teach us how to live like our holy Savior.
That is the great need of the hour for the church today. That is why Covenant Eyes asked me to do a thorough review of a very promising book, Why Small Groups? Together toward Maturity. The question I have sought to answer with chapter by chapter blog style reviews is, do these authors and does this book significantly empower the church to live holy?
To read the rest of this review and to download a free copy of this e-book go to Covenant Eyes, and then spread the word!!!!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Michael Jackson: Gone too Soon
Heeding the advice of the wisest man to ever live, who said "It's better to go to the house of mourning . . . because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart," Ecclesiastes 7:2, I stopped to watch the memorial service of Michael Jackson because there is so much to take to heart from his death. As a minister of the Gospel, I have witnessed my share of memorials. This one will stay etched in my mind for many reasons, but namely because of who died and how he died. So if for no one else but for me, I thought I would write down what I took to heart from the memorial of an icon—Michael Jackson.
How Do You Say Good Bye to a Legend?
There were so many poignant moments in this service. Who watched Michael Jackson’s memorial and wasn’t touched by Steve Wonder’s regretful words, “This is a moment that I wished that I didn’t live to see come,” and didn’t agree with his haunting poetic line “I never dreamed you’d leave in summer.” Who watched Michael’s memorial and wasn’t moved when Usher’s voice cracked while singing a tribute to his idol. Whose heart didn’t feel compassion when Brooke Shields’ reminiscence revealed the humanity of her friend. Who listened to Rev. Al Sharpton and wasn’t provoked? Who didn’t feel pain when Marlon Jackson lamented losing his brother? Who didn’t cry when little beautiful Paris Jackson said how much she loved her daddy and how he was the best father “you could ever imagine”? I did. I was touched. I was moved. I felt compassion. I was provoked. I lamented. I even shed a tear. So how do you say goodbye to a legend? Not easily. But with dignity and heartfelt emotion, Michael Jackson’s friends, family, and fans bore this sober task well. The way you say goodbye to anyone in death is that you remember their life and mourn their departure. The real question is, should you mourn as someone with a real hope that the deceased is with God, or should you mourn without hope, knowing that the deceased will be separated from God forever in judgment?
How Do You Give Tribute to Fit the King of Pop?
To the countless number of people all over the globe who can say that Michael sang the sound track to their lives, today they and the world were reminded of Michael Jackson’s unparalleled genius as a performers. One of my earliest childhood memories, is trying to imitate the Jackson 5 with my sisters and a couple of neighborhood friends. But try as we might, we failed like everyone else to reproduce the magic that was Michael. After childhood success a decade later, the world still danced to his music with “Don’t Stop to You Get Enough,” and then watched in amazement his MTV color-line breaking “Thriller” video. Like few others and without a peer, Michael kept making himself relevant and fresh to generation after new generation of music lovers. There was “Man in the Mirror,” and “Black and White. Even celebrities seemingly stood in line to take part in his blockbuster videos, like “Remember the Time,” with Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson, and Iman. And who can forget Michael Jordan in his “Jam” video. To young and old audiences, to American and international fans spanning the globe, Michael sang the songs of their hearts and was a thriller as an entertainer. That was the genius of Michael. Michael was huge, bigger than huge. Michael really was iconic.
So today it was fitting that his peers would acknowledge that he had none. They spoke of his unmatched talent as an artist and perfection as a craftsman. Some will debate it, but Barry Gordy’s point is hard to dispute that in our age of entertainment Michael Jackson was simply better than all the rest.
What about the Haunting Questions that Won’t Go Away?
It would be both naïve and as spurious as a historical revisionist to say that talent alone made Michael Jackson a name known around the world. In death, the living need to take to heart the totality of the life of the deceased. In Michael’s life, his success as an performer only seemed to be rivaled by his unsuccess to find peace in his personal life.
Michael gave to the world his enormous talent and in return the world gave him the supposed gift of elevating him to a god-like status. Where could Michael go, what could he do without fans thronging to him as if off the stage he possessed a magic that would heal their lives. Mega-superstar fame is a curse. It is the curse of being known by millions of people who don’t know you but assume that you can fill the place in their hearts reserved for God and God alone. The goddess of beauty, Marilyn Monroe, the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis, and now the king of pop, all in some ways died trying to carry the weight of deity. How else do we explain the profound loneliness of a man known by everyone? How do we account for the morbid sadness in one who had everything, but not what mattered most—security, love, peace, and happiness? How do we reconcile the tragic irony that while Michael entertained the world, he languished in agony? How do we ignore the tormented soul behind the many faces of Michael Jackson?
Now that the king of pop has died, and the memorial has ended, will the haunting questions die with Him? Do we ignore the upcoming toxicology and coroner’s reports? Even if a fair minded person accepts Michael's reported child-like innocence, a recantation years after a settlement, and an acquitting verdict, should we give no thought to propriety of a grown man sleeping in the same bed with little boys? Should no one really care to know what really went wrong?
Can We Put Michael Jackson in Heaven?
As in the case of the death of every loved one, the living have a powerful desire to vindicate their lives. We seem to think if we can focus on the good they have done, that will erase the bad. But in death, God does all the judging, and He overlooks nothing (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
So where does this leave the king of pop? I am not shocked that people who do not trust in Jesus alone (that Jesus’ death for our sins and His victorious resurrection granted Him all authority to pardon those who believe in Him and to leave everyone else in their sins to be condemned) speak of doing good things as the way to get to heaven. But I am always stunned to hear professing believers hedge, and comprise on this, the most essential truth in all of Christianity, that God saves sinners as a gift of His mercy who trust alone in His Son Jesus Christ the Lord. So when the question is asked, did Michael Jackson go to heaven, the only answer a true Christian can give is what the Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him,” John 3:36. The question then is not if Michael Jackson did enough good things to get into heaven. Because the answer to that is that no one has. That’s not to ignore the fact that Michael did a lot of good things. But it is to acknowledge that like everyone else, Michael has done a lot of bad things, because no one lived a sinless life except Jesus. The issue upon which Michael’s eternal destiny and everyone’s eternal destiny depends is if a person ever turned in a loyal committed relationship to Jesus Christ based on faith alone. The answer to that question and that question alone, according to the Bible, tells where a person will spend eternity. And while I am not all knowing, I know Michael once claimed to be a Jehovah's Witness, and I've read reports that he converted later to Islam. In both of these religions your good works in part determine if you go to heaven. So therefore, I know of nothing in Michael Jackson’s life that indicated that he trusted in Jesus alone for his salvation. And therefore Jesus' haunting warning in Michael Jackson's case is applicable, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"
What Do We Take to Heart from Michael Jackson’s Memorial?
For all who witnessed Michael’s memorial, it would be wise to heed the exhortation from the wisest man to ever live, to really consider our own death and where we will spend eternity, because no amount of eulogizing can change our eternal destiny once we have died. So it is my earnest prayer, for the Jackson family, friends, and fans, that in their grief they would seek comfort for their souls in Christ alone. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even if He dies. Do you believe this?”
I pray that despite the confusing eclectic and ecumenical religious injections into Michael Jackson's memorial service, some will be lead to acknowledge that Jesus does love sinners, but especially those who trust in Him alone. And I pray that they will seek Him and through faith in Him alone, find in Him His promise to save is true. And I pray that all Christians who know this will openly affirm that it is true—Jesus alone saves, those who alone trust in Him.
May God, who does all things right, be glorified.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
The Untold Stories of African-Americans in Our War for Independence
This year my wife read to my children a book titled Come All You Brave Soldiers: Blacks in the Revolutionary War written by Clinton Cox, “author of several highly-acclaimed books for young readers, including three on fascinating yet little-known aspects of African American military history.” In Come All You Brave Soldiers, Cox recounts the untold real stories of the vital role African American soldiers played in our War for Independence. Cox is clear and captivating, but not at the expense of facts. He is very much the scholar when it comes to educating his readers.
But writing history the way history happens is a hard assignment. Because as history really happens, our heroes don’t always pose just right for the camera. And we do prefer to romance our history, if only just a little. Cox didn’t and that’s what I found so riveting about his rendition of the war that set us free. With little dispute, the war for our independence is a bright day in American history. But we all know that we’ve picked up a fairy tale when we read that the sun always shines and never casts a dark shadow. And America, as great as it is, is not Camelot or Atlantis. But I digress.
Whose Independence was the War of Independence for?
In the real battle for our independence, it became very clear, that even if we won, everyone wasn’t going to be free. Here’s the painful irony of the War for Independence—African Americans were fighting for the land we helped make prosperous. We were fighting for our new home. But so long as we fought on the side of the colonists, we were helping to liberate the very ones who would make sure that we remained captives. So the War for Independence in real history wasn’t a war for independence for everybody. It was just a war for Independence if you weren’t black or brown.
So as An African-American Father, What do I Tell my Kids about Independence Day?
There are Noble Reasons to Sacrifice Your Liberty
I will tell my children that there are noble causes that are bigger than them. I will try to inspire them with the legacy of their brave forefathers who fought, died, and were re-enslaved, sacrificing all so that one day in America their children, or grandchildren, or great-great grand children would be free. So in the end, their slogan was “give me slavery and give me death so that my children’s children won’t have to endure this.” I will tell my children that the sacrifice of those brave men turned the tide in an otherwise almost unwinnable war, and as a result of their great sacrifice, America became free and has become the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I will tell my children that a heavy price was paid for their freedom, a cost paid bravely by their forefathers.
I will tell my children to respect men like George Washington, but not to idealize any man because we all have grave shorting-comings, and that none of us, even on our best days, are what we should hope to be. I will tell them this so that they will be gracious and not embittered about their past. I will tell them to enjoy the sun that shines in our country but to look for a brighter day, a day when the Son will reign over a truly free land where the brilliance of His glory will cast no shadows. I will tell them that they should thank God they live in America, but I will pray that they will live as foreigners longing for a citizenship in a better land—in Beulah land
- a glorious place that exceeds the imagination of any fairy tale you could dream of (1 Cor 2:9)
- a place where all who trust Jesus will be free, because He died as a slave in place of sinners on a tree (Phil 2:5-11).
I will tell them to enjoy the fireworks because their forefathers fought in that great war too. I will also tell them a few other truths that most Americans have long since forgotten. I will particularly tell my kids those truths from history because I pray they will never forget the sacrifices that their forefathers made to make America free. I will tell them so that they will, as bravely as their forefathers fought, remind America not to forget on the 4th of July to celebrate their brave forefathers too.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Last night I concluded a Bible Study series on the proper use of spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12-14. I showed a 35-minute video called The Taliabo Story: Delivered from the Power of Darkness. This video recounts the work of four New Tribe missionaries to the Taliabo people on a remote island of Indonesia. The Taliabo relied upon common pagan practices of saying power words, using anointed oils, invoking the spirits through repetitious rhythmic drumbeats and dances. Have you heard of, observed, or even performed any of these practices?
The apostle Paul introduces the subject of spiritual worship in 1 Corinthians 12:1-2 with grave soberness, because the Corinthians made the dangerous error of incorporating their former pagan ways of worship into their worship of God. I am afraid his instruction is critical to the church today because we are making many of the same errors.
Paul instructs the Corinthians that their past, which involved idol worship, led them to believe that ecstatic experience equaled deep spirituality. Before they became Christians Paul charges that they believed that if someone were carried away by frenzy, uncontrollable emotion, then they were having a spiritual experience with the gods. “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led,” 1 Cor 12:2.
When Paul says, "They were being led," the idea is of being carried by force, in a bad sense. It gives us the picture of someone being carried downstream by a current that has overpowered him or her. While they thought they were freely following these idols, in reality they were helplessly being moved and influenced by forces other than the Holy Spirit.
What were they following? "Dumb idols," which are objects that could not see, think, or speak. They were inanimate objects that couldn't do anything. If that is true, what caused the emotional frenzy they experienced? If the objects were lifeless, what did they really encounter when they worshiped these idols? Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10: 14 that he did not want them involved with idols at all. Why? Because they are something? No, idols themselves are nothing, but because there is something behind them, 10:19-21. Paul warns:
What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons, 1 Cor 10:19-21.Pagans throughout history have associated a mindless, emotional frenzied state with being taken control of by the spirit of the gods. Paul here tells us that that spirit isn't God's, but demonic spirits. When God calls people to worship, He calls them to reason, to think, to consider, to know Him. True spiritual worship, Paul taught the Corinthians, was unlike their past experience in that it did not involve going into mindless, frenzied emotional states. In fact, just the opposite is true. The worshiper worships God first by thinking and dwelling on God's person and works (1 Cor 14:19).
Alarmingly, too much of today’s so-called worship fits a pagan description of worship very well. Many churches encourage worshipers to seek and go into an ecstatic mindless state to feel and express pure emotion. And if someone obtains this state, they are considered to be in the Spirit— God has taken over. This is exactly what the Corinthians were doing, and as Paul admonished them, the spirit that you fall under in such a state isn't God's. Christians are never to relinquish the control of our minds. The moment that you do, you open yourself up to having demonic spirits take control over you, and that is the antithesis of true worship.
I should add that in the Taliabo Story, God used the missionaries to bring about an amazing revival. The Taliabo people demonstratively renounced their pagan practices and turned to the Lord Jesus Christ. God accomplished this without the missionaries binding demons, rebuking Satan, or claiming anything. They simply carefully explained and preached the Gospel, which "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," Rom 1:16.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Christians often learn external things they can and can’t do in order to look holy. We spend a lot of time modifying our behavior from the outside with rules and regulations. Motivated by guilt, driven by self-determination, we try with all of our will power at times to be holy. Yet despite the best of external efforts, not even Christians can prevent unholy, impure thoughts and behaviors. That’s what the Pharisees did and why Jesus called them white-washed sepulchers. Holiness starts with a broken and contrite heart. Hence, true purity can only be achieved when God has full sway over our hearts (Psalm 51:10, 16-17). In Matt 15:15-20, Jesus explains why we need more than will power to live holy. According to Jesus:
- Ungodliness comes from your heart because evil thoughts in your heart result in vile imaginations.
- Anger comes from the heart because murderous rage in your heart results in the putting of people and relationships to death.
- Lust comes from the heart because adulteries and fornication in the heart leads to craving for sex outside of God’s ordained parameters.
- Greed comes from the heart because thefts in your heart will result in taking what God has not given you and more than what He designed.
- Deceit comes from the heart because a false witness in your heart will result in living a life of hypocrisy.
- Jealousy comes from the heart because slander in your heart will result in a life of putting others down to push yourself up.
The obvious answer to the problem of sin in the heart is that over a lifetime you must continually give Jesus total access to your whole heart. If you let Jesus transform your heart, then that will impact everything you think, feel, and do.
Purity problems for married couples and singles are really heart problems. What’s in your heart will eventually take over your life. The condition of your heart will determine the moral condition of your life.
The Bible offers general and specific remedies for the heart. The answer is hidden in Jesus’ rebuke “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart are far from Me,” Matt 15:8. His point is that purity is a matter of the heart. Here are three general principles that will help you guard your heart with all diligence, knowing that the stuff of life starts with your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
- Eating a healthy spiritual diet does for our spiritual heart what eating a low cholesterol diet does to help guard your physical heart. For the believer, when we take in a healthy diet of God’s Word, God purifies our heart, makes our conscience work according to His will, and strengthens our faith. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” 1 Tim 1:5. To have a "Pure" cleansed heart is just the opposite of having a heart defiled by sin, Genesis 6:5. The "Heart" is the center of man's spiritual emotions, desires, thinking, and will. The heart is the real you.
- Exercising by serving is to our spiritual hearts what cardio exercise is to strengthening your physical heart. Like Jesus, we are to live a selfless life of humility, considering others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3-8). To do otherwise is to live in self-centered pride, which easily turns to anger, which turns to bitterness, which can turn into an excuse to do all sorts of impure things.
- Confessing is to our spiritual heart, clogged up with sin, what by-pass surgery is to a clogged up physical heart with one main difference. You get a much better Surgeon (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32)! It those with a poor in spirit (Matt 5:3), a broken contrite spirit (Isa 66:2), a broken and a contrite heart (Psa 51:17), whom God blesses with a clean and pure heart (Psa 51:10; Matt 5:8). Humbly acknowledging our great sinfulness (Psa 25:11), and our complete need for Christ, and putting no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3) are prerequisites to receiving from God a pure heart.
Specific ways to combat sin in your heart:
- ungodliness in your heart - Yield to the work of the Spirit through the Word of God to renew your mind with the Word of God, Romans 12:2.
- anger in your heart - Forgive as God has forgiven you. Accept what God sovereignly allows and trust Him to work it out for His glory and your good.
- lust in your heart - learn to be content (Philippians 4:13) and fill up your soul with the things of God which satisfy (Psalm 63).
- greed in your heart - Die daily to the lure of greed by noting that God doesn’t owe you anything. Instead of seeking more and more, become a generous giver and trust God to meet your real needs, Matt 6:33; 2 Cor 9:8.
- deceit in your heart - Speak the truth in honest transparency, Ephesians 4:25. Sin flourishes in the dark shadows cast by deceit.
- jealousy in your heart - Instead of constantly comparing yourself, your life, and your spouse or marital status to other people, learn to thank God that “by the grace of God (you are) what (you are) 1 Cor 15:10. We all have been fearfully and wonderfully made, Psalm 139:14.
- guilt – If the above vices are in your heart, then guilt will be too. The remedy is confession. If and when you discern any of the above sins taking root in your heart, seek God’s mercy and confess them as sins (Psalm 32; 51).
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I tried and tried to add the audio clip we recorded but couldn't. Oh well but the picture is nice huh?
Also I tried to post some block diagramming examples from my class. But I couldn't get my tab function to work. Not a good tech week for me. But I won't give up that will be a project for next week.
From left to right Top row: Carissa, Eliana, BJ;
Bottom row left to right Micaiah, Amariah, and William.
Hey, I was able to post the practice video we did at home. Enjoy. And if you don't know the books of the Bible, here's your chance to learn them.
Grace and peace from the Scotts
Saturday, May 30, 2009
For most of my blogging absence, I have felt the weight of a father of six teetering on the verge of homelessness. In three rapid-fire waves of attacks, an anti-mold army tore apart the walls, uprooted floors in our master bedroom, demolished our shower, and extracted the carpet in our living and dining rooms.
On each occasion, we were given virtually no notice. So in total haste, we cleared out our master bedroom, bathroom, and the entire living room/dining room. Sidebar: when you have a house of 8 people you can accumulate a lot of stuff in 10 years. And add to that the fact that in our haste, we had to move everything with no coordinated strategy, no flow charts or record keeping of what went where or who moved what. The result—our furniture, clothes, books, treasured personal items and everything else were piled in the garage, kitchen, back patio in totally disarray.
Also, while the armies waged their three-fold attack upon our house, we had to flee the mold to find safety. Not always knowing where we would go or when we would be able to return, we just fled for safety, moving to a hotel then to grandma’s house, back to a hotel, then to grandma’s house, and back to a hotel, and then to grandma’s house. All eight of us lived out of suitcases for six weeks.
And life just kept moving on. By God’s grace, my wife, chronically coughing everyday, kept plodding away, managing to homeschool our children without missing a day. My kids, on the other hand treated the whole ordeal like it was a vacation even while I bemoaned to them that this was not a vacation but an evacuation! They kept wanting to ditch school and jump in the pool. Jesus does love little children, doesn’t He? And He wanted me to learn from my kids’ child-like faith the meaning of hakuna matata—no worries. On my part, in addition to leading my family through this wilderness, I tried to shepherd our church and to teach my 1 Corinthians course at LABTS. I felt totally discombobulated. For over six weeks I couldn’t so much as find a matching pair of socks! And repeatedly I couldn’t find my course textbooks or even my roster to take attendance. I’ve taught at the Los Angeles Bible Training School, LABTS, since 1993 and this is the first time I almost put up the white flag and quit in the middle of a semester. But in God’s grace, He held us and everything else together.
With our earthly possessions scattered everywhere, not knowing from week to week where we would live, not sure how anything would get paid for, there were also significant health concerns. My youngest son manifested high levels of anti-bodies of toxic mold, I had moderate levels, and Naomi suffered from painful fatigue and a chronic cough. When I initially read the mold report, I misread it. I thought we didn’t have toxic mold, although I did notice on the report that we had very extraordinarily high levels of mold in the master bedroom. Well, we did have very toxic mold. Our mold remediation specialist, after doing this for 20 years told us that he had never gotten sick. After working only one day in our house, he did. He went to the hospital and was put on medication. He wore a mask from that point forward when he came to our house and coughed for the three weeks he intermittingly worked on our home. Since then, I have been seen by doctors four times, including an infectious disease specialist. So far, the doctors haven’t recommended that any of us need medications or invasive procedures. They just encouraged us to stay away from mold and to contact them if our on-going symptoms don’t go away or get worse. That’s where things are on that front.
The good news! It’s amazing how through trials and bad news God reveals how great and good He is. Virtually broke, I kept praying over and over again for God’s help. If you were wondering how high the bills piled, are you ready for this? They reached twenty thousand dollars. Somehow short of a miracle the couple hundred dollars in my checking account weren’t going to pay for this. I started a refinance process hoping to pull enough money out of our broken home to pay for our avalanche of unexpected bills. The problem with refinancing is that I had a 30-year fixed at 5.25. It’s hard to find a rate lower than that. Because of much tighter lending regulations, the refinance process dragged on and on for over two months while the bills keep coming in. But God, who is sovereign over all and withholds no good thing from those who love Him, sent a second insurance adjuster to review more water and mold damage we discovered that was caused by a leak in our shower. She had within her discretion the power to deny our claim if she concluded that the damage from the leak should have been noticed and fixed. But God, God who commands us not to worry about what we will eat or wear, moved on her heart. She authorized our insurance company—listen to this—to give us the max they could on everything. They paid for the mold remediation, repairs, and a new shower. They even threw-in a new mattress, dry-cleaning, and a very generous housing allowance. But God wasn’t through. Because of the economic crisis, interest rates dropped to a 30 yr all-time low so I was able to refinance at 4.5% (an unheard of low rate) and draw some equity out of our home. In a span of two months, I went from being almost bankrupt, not knowing how I would pay for anything, to having more money than I have ever had in my life!!!!!!!!
But the most amazing thing of all is how God has opened the door for me to share the gospel with my contractor, a confessed non-Christian. We hung out together almost every day. God developed our relationship, and he opened up and shared challenges that he was facing with his marriage. He was at the end of his marriage road. I appealed to try to intercede, promising nothing but to tell his wife and him what God, the Designer of marriage says about marriage. I added that if anyone trusted Jesus and followed Him, then God could make their marriage work. My wife and I met with his wife, and over night they turned from seeking a divorce to working on their marriage. And praise God! Since Easter he has missed only one Sunday of worship! On that Sunday he called me to explain how he was traveling but would try to find a church to attend. We are still praying for their salvation, but isn’t God something!
In closing let me express my deep gratitude for those of you who prayed, encouraged and helped us through our mold crisis. We thank God for you. And last, I thank God for our mold trial because through it He showed me yet again that He is my strong tower and His name is Faithful.
It’s been an adventurous blog absence, and prayerfully, I will start writing again.
Signed Humbled, Trusting, and Grateful
Friday, February 27, 2009
It’s a part of an expositional series I am doing from the book of Revelation. A well-known inside joke of pastors is “Be careful what you preach about because God might apply the same message to you.” Well, God in his mercy, has given my family and me a little suffering of our own to strengthen our faith. We found mold in our house, a lot of mold. And we keep finding it. Mold was in the walls of the master bedroom and under the carpet, and today it was confirmed that it is in our bathroom.
Now this is nothing like the suffering the Christians in Smyrna went through, but it has certainly become a test of our faith. In order to get mold out of your walls and floor, you have to tear them open. When mold spores get in clothes and on other things, you have to clean each item or throw it away. We’ve had to clean a lot of things and throw away a lot of irreplaceable personal items. All of that gets very expensive and very labor intensive. But the worse part about mold is that it makes you sick. It is troubling to realize that the place you come to for refuge is causing your health maladies. But I thank God that for every trial He ordains for Christians to go through, He provides the grace for us to withstand it and the means to grow from it. Here are three blessings I have experienced so far from “I’ve Got Mold!”
Our insurance adjuster told us our policy would cover everything if the specific source of our problem started within the past twelve months. Guess what I found from our receipts? Our problem started fourteen months ago, exceeding our policy limit by two months. The man working on our mold remediation (which I think means to tear apart your house) advised us to just pay someone to produce a receipt dating within the twelve months. I smiled and told him I couldn’t do that, we would tell the truth and trust God to provide. Upon learning the start date of our mold problem, our insurance adjuster formally rejected our claim. Our mold specialist was so moved by our honesty (God of course moved him). He appealed on our behalf to our insurance adjuster that you don’t find honest people like that anymore. In turn our insurance adjuster using a second source of mold rewarded us on a second claim for ¾ of the cost of cleaning out the mold in the master bedroom. That was a sweet blessing. The Psalmist says of the righteous man “He swears to his own hurt and does not change.” Well that removed only part of the mold and part of the cost, but it really encouraged a weary man trying to protect and provide for his family.
My second blessing came from my kids. All six of them befriended a general contractor working on our street. When my three year old sees him half a block away, she belts “Hi, Mr. Barry!” at the top of her lungs. He really enjoys all of them. He teases them when they rollerblade past him, telling them they “can’t skate.” He really won their hearts when he started giving them treats from the 7-eleven. They all have a great relationship with him, but my point is that he is really a highly skilled and sought out contractor (one I am sure I couldn’t afford). When our mold problem erupted and the demolition of my master bedroom started, all of a sudden I was in desperate need of a contractor -- the cheapest one I could find --not a pricey exceptional one. But God again had favor on us. I called to get a couple of bids on the work, and my kids pleaded with me to ask “Mr. Barry.” I did, and I am glad. Barry by far gave the lowest bid and offered to do by far the most comprehensive remodeling.
One last story: Today, I went to my hiding place (on a semi-secluded peer at a local beach) to pray. I wanted to plead with the Lord for help from my favorite prayer verse Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” This peer has been my hiding place for over fifteen years. And although people walk by, not once has anyone ever interrupted my prayer time. But today, a man saw my Bible opened and asked if he could pray with me. This Christian brother began to pour out his heart to me and made my mold woes look small. He asked me to read all of Psalm 9, and then I prayed for him and me. He was deeply moved. As he left, he continued to thank me and shared how it could not have been by accident that he came across me with my Bible open. He wanted my phone number because he wanted to stay in touch with me so we could share how God, our Father, (as he said), would give us victory.
Well, my mold woes are still far from over. We won’t even start to look into the bathroom mold until Monday. And like everyone, I don’t like trials, but I count it all joy that through it God is strengthening me with undeserved blessings. Having said that though, if the Scott family comes to your mind in the next couple of weeks, please pray that we experience God’s grace and love to endure our test of faith.
Grace and peace to you