One Scary Word

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I have a natural tendency to question everything around me, including myself.  This is one of those traits that is both blessing and curse.  My questions usually sound like, “what if we (I) did this a little different, what if there is a better way, what if we (I) have allowed what we (I) see and experience around us (me) to blind us (me) to real truth?”  Most of my life I have been driven by a deep curiosity for all things around me and a desire to do things differently…a desire to live my life serving God’s mission how He wants me to, not how I necessarily want to. I will never claim to have gotten it perfect and I do believe this pursuit has been perceived by some as unstable or unconventional…but, I am more interested in pleasing my Father rather than others’ perceptions.

Lately, I have been challenged in my quiet time to pursue holiness.  And if I am completely honest with myself, that word puts a little fear in my heart.  Fear of what I must give up or what I must start doing in order to confront this challenge head-on in my faith walk.  The sense I have in this challenge is the measure of righteousness pursued is a direct reflection on how God will use me in His mission/ministry and if there is one thing I want in life…it is for God to use me to glorify Himself.  Before I go too far, I fully understand the fact I am already made righteous through my Savior, Jesus Christ.  But this pursuit of holiness is causing me to ask questions, evaluate, and challenge myself in many ways I would not previously have done.

Let me give you a tangible example.  I have a friend who has brought up multiple times how he believes Paul was a “man’s man” and probably used language that was peppered with various “adjectives” and other bad language.  The only thing I can think of is this – it is an attempt to justify his own use of crass language and seeking affirmation.  Here is the part that I am challenged with, a few years back, I would have said the same thing justifying my occasional use of crass language.  These conversations caused me to dig in and truly look at Paul’s life from a biblical perspective.  I am no theologian, but I do have a Bible and a pretty solid understanding of how to study it.  When I need answers…that is where I go.

As I dug into this topic, I could not get away from Ephesians 4:29 (Amp), “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].”  As I read this over and over again, I consider Paul’s life; his desire to reach the lost with the Gospel message, his understanding of freedom in Christ, yet his willingness to give it up so he didn’t make a brother stumble.  I have to come to the conclusion that Paul was a real person, made real mistakes, but charged all of us (and himself, because most preachers are speaking to themselves at the same time) with ensuring our words build up others and are a blessing to everyone who hears us.  That seems pretty straight forward to me.

I can’t stop there though because Ephesians 4:29 is but one verse, surrounded by other verses that must be taken into account.  We must study in context of surrounding scripture.  The general topic is how we should walk in this life of following Christ.  I should completely discard my past self.  I should reject all falsehood; lying, defrauding, telling half-truths (ouch, no more fishing stories), and spreading rumors (Eph 4:25 Amp).  I can be angry, but I cannot allow it to cause me to sin, let the sun go down while remaining angry, allow my anger to cause resentment, or lead to bitterness (Eph 4:26,27 Amp).  As I read, it all comes back full circle to the challenge of holiness in my life.  Holiness does not come overnight and I am not convinced it can completely come this side of eternity, BUT that does not give me an excuse to not pursue it.

Hebrews 12:14 says we must, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (NKJV).  Other versions use the word strive, work towards, work at, all telling me that it is not easy to find peace with all people and the holiness that God calls us to.  This is something that must be practiced daily and in every area of my life (church, home, business, friends, etc.).  I must work hard at ensuring my actions, my words, my life demonstrates holiness.  Does that mean I don’t screw up?  Nope!  God looks at the intent of our heart and he has grace for us when we come humbly before him and admit our shortfalls, His grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).

Let me end on this thought.  All my questions, this call to evaluate everything in my life and to pursue holiness, are not me looking at others and condemning their actions.  It is simply me trying my best to walk the path the Lord has called me to.  Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  This charge by Paul gives me extreme hope and assurance I am on the right path.  If we consistently challenge ourselves, ask ourselves if we are simply copying the behaviors and customs of the world or allowing God to change our perspective, then we will understand God’s will for us.  However, the latter must be true then, if all we do is copy the world in our actions, words, and life, then we will NOT understand God’s will for our lives and live in deception.  Holiness is unattainable separated from the Blood of Christ, but that does not mean we can sit back and relax once we have a relationship with Jesus.  My faith is worked out daily as I encounter different situations, learn and study the Bible more, and simply spend time with my Father in prayer.

My challenge to myself and you…Do not fit in.  Be different.  Study the life of Jesus (even His own family took offense at him, Mark 6:3).  Pursue holiness in all you do and you will understand God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for you.  When I stand before my Father in heaven, I don’t believe it is the things I did do that will concern me…rather the things He called me to do that I didn’t take action on.

With love, grace, and peace,

Scott

What Happened to Respect?

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My natural tendency is to see the best in people; I am often the optimist in the crowd.  I am not perfect by any means, but I know each person has extreme value regardless of the things they have done on this earth.  Sometimes that is a hard pill to swallow, because it means the murderer, the drug addict, the spouse who had an affair…they are all valuable as a human being.  They simply made some poor choices, but redemption is possible.

In our world we have reduced people to objects, thus stripping their humanity, their God given value away from the individual.  Women are objects in our society; out of one side of our mouth we cry for empowerment and equal rights, but out of another side we are more addicted to pornography than any other time in history…and this is NOT just a male issue!  We protect animals, which is good and just, yet we have a society who does not believe in the sanctity of human life.  We justify death, because of a human mistake or an inconvenience.  We go to Facebook and Instagram to openly share our “true” and “honest” feelings.  The only problem is our words of truth are filled with criticism, hate, disrespect, and it is all done in the name of “raw honesty.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we not be honest and open.  I am, however, suggesting we be respectful, loving, compassionate and always speak through the lens that we are just as messed up and damaged as the person we are talking about.  When we strip away the humanity, we inhibit our ability to be respectful and civil towards one another. Personally, I cannot think of anyone who was changed by another person berating and criticizing them for their mistakes.

I was reading a story this morning about the ultimate respect for a human being, and it wasn’t due to the persons righteousness or their kind deeds. It was solely because they were valuable in God’s eyes and the man wanted to respect the position that was held.

Let me summarize the story…Mark, was the CEO of a large company.  He had come from very meager beginnings, I believe it was a family of farmers. He was a tall and handsome man; he was the tall, slender, good looking guy you see on the cover of Inc. magazine leading the next fortune 500 company.  He was well respected by his people to the point they won a lot of business and crippled many of their competitors. Unfortunately, Mark began to elevate himself and before he knew it, he viewed himself as more important then his employees.  Mark began to make unilateral decisions, without the support or collaboration from his team.  Because of Mark’s perspective change, the company began to lose some very profitable customer contracts.

One thing Mark struggled with the most, due to his own insecurity, was his inability to raise up leaders in his organization.  The board of directors began to realize they had no succession plan for when Mark would retire from the company.  Unfortunately, this concern for succession planning was not even on the table until they began to lose some long term customers and contracts.  The individual board members made it their goal to get to know some of their employees.  They really had two goals in mind, 1) understand the culture and organization better and 2) to understand if there were any potential future leaders of the company within the walls of the organization.

The chairman of the board, being a smart and humble man, took a lowly mail room attendant out to lunch to understand the challenges the company had at the lowest level. When he met Matthew, he was shocked at the abilities the young man had.  Matthew was very respectful, full of vision and ideas, yet was tempered by a business sense that most seasoned business executives never gained.  Matthew was indeed a leader among leaders.  The chairman did his best to rattle Matthew a little and to get him to give him the honest truth about the organization, but all he would get from Matthew was an optimistic outlook for the organization.  Matthew would talk about systematic problems and solutions, but not once would he attack an individual personally, it was not part of his character to do that.

Over time Matthew moved up in the company, became a leader and built a good relationship with Mark and some of the members of the Board of Directors.  Matthew was different though, he would challenge the company, but would never challenge Mark, and in the end respected Mark as the CEO of the company.  Unfortunately Mark started to let his insecurities get the best of him and began to see Matthew as a threat to his position.  Mark, did his best to get Matthew demoted and even fired at times.  He made it his personal mission to remove Matthew from the company.  Matthew on the other hand never compromised in his support of Mark and the board of directors of the company. He understood that hurt people tried to hurt people, and he knew his only responsibility was to be a good steward of the things God had given him.

One afternoon Mark was presenting to a potential client, a client who could single handedly help the company meet their growth goal for the year.  As Mark was presenting he made a comment that did not sit well with Matthew and in a moment of pride, Matthew corrected Mark’s comment.  Matthew could have completely underhanded and compromised Mark’s leadership in that moment, but instead his conscience got the best of him and he apologized for interrupting Mark and offered his support for him as the leader of the company.  Matthew realized that even though he was right and Mark was wrong, he needed to respect the position that Mark held and the company he worked for. Matthew had an opportunity to speak “raw truth” that day and at the same time show the client and everybody else in that room how smart he was.  It was a moment driven by pride and the need to be right, but instead Matthew took the high road and offered his support to Mark.

In the end Mark was let go, because he allowed his pride to get in the way of serving the people, the Board of Directors and raising up future leaders for the organization.  When Mark left, the chairman of the board, with complete excitement, offered Matthew the role of CEO. Matthew humbly accepted the position and because of his servant leadership style, he had 100% support of most every employee within the company.

This story is one that is actually found in 1 Samuel; it is the story of King Saul and David. Saul ended up being a wicked and prideful leader, yet David, even having the opportunity to kill Saul, always took the high road.  David respected the position Saul held so much and had so much faith in God, he never put a hand on Saul.  At one point when Saul was in a most vulnerable state, David cut off a corner of his robe.  He had done this to simply prove he could kill Saul if he wanted to, but David was overcome with conviction over his disrespect of Saul and the position he held…he repented of his pride.

My question to myself and you is where has the respect for humanity gone?  Why do we feel the right and need to publicly and verbally crucify people because we do not agree with what they stand for or are doing?  Take our president for example.  He is not the best speaker, he seems to make rash decisions, and doesn’t appear to have the best moral compass in the world.  That said, he is our president and I respect the position of the President of the United States of America.  I also respect Donald Trump as a human being, one created by God himself.  Personally, I hold the belief that God placed the government and the leaders in power for a reason, and although I do not alway understand that reason, I trust the Lord (Romans 13:1-7).

So what do we do?  We stand for truth and principle.  We speak to the systematic problems and we offer solutions, never attacking individuals.  We live a life that is focused on finding a better way, problem solving the issues that are out there.  We truly live out the Gospel message, which is to surrender oneself for the betterment of the next generation.  We think long term, not seeking short term pleasure.  We raise our kids in a way that respects and loves humanity, yet shows them the only true answer to our problems and broken society is Jesus.  We watch our words, because words can destroy or bring life.  We make it our mission to pray for our leaders and seek the Lord for ways we can BE the change.

The only way we stop the lack of respect we see and experience today, is to give the respect God’s creation deserves expecting nothing in return.  The message of the Gospel is to lay down our lives for our brothers in action and words…so take a step today and stop talking about what needs to change and BE THE CHANGE you want to see.

Blessings,

Scott

The Ending and Beginning of Seasons

seasons_FotorThis morning I have found myself reflecting on all the amazing things that have happened over the past 9 years in Hudsonville.  We have made amazing friends, have been blessed with an amazing church family, are close to family, been a part of an incredible running group, and have been blessed beyond what we could ever imagine. And now the season is coming to a close…and honestly, it hurts…beyond words.  But, I find rest and peace in the fact my Father knows and feels what I feel.

I want to honor some of the people who have had an impact on my life in a significant way…Please know that if you have been a part of my life (even if you haven’t) I love you. If you know me, you know I believe we were all created in God’s image and worth loving.

Wes Dupin: Wes gave me an opportunity of a lifetime by introducing me to a man who has become a significant friend and influence in my life; Bill Clark and Hope Water Project. Wes saw this amazing running team (HWP) that had a vision for something greater than any single church could accomplish.  He gave me the opportunity to start and lead Team Daybreak, which will go down as being one of the most impactful things in my life. We saw physical, emotional, and significant spiritual breakthrough as a team, and it was all because he gave me an opportunity.  Wes gave me another opportunity that would change the course of my life forever; the ability to lead Student Ministries for Daybreak. There is no way I can explain the impact that every student and volunteer leader had on me.  Because, Wes believed in me.

Bill Clark: Bill inspired and will continue to inspire me in many ways.  Mostly, because he is willing to listen and take action from his Heavenly Father, but at the same time is very open with the struggles that go along with sacrifice.  Bill makes the right choices for the strength and growth of his family and I get to call him my friend.

Julie Albright: Julie was my first “target” for Team Daybreak.  Eventually I wore Julie down and she agreed to run the Grand Rapids 1/2 Marathon (not sure she will ever fully forgive me for that one).  Julie has the amazing ability to serve both her family and her church with great balance.  This is a skill I needed to grow in, and Julie was a great example to watch and learn from.  She was always fully engaged in Student Ministries and seeing her small group grow and develop.  I love Julie’s sarcastic sense of humor and her love for her husband and kids.

The Sierra Leone Team (Ron, Todd, Matt, Harvey, Jada, Vanessa, Steve, and Jon): This was an amazing missions team.  This group truly put personal preferences aside and put the team first.  I have never been a part of a team who cared for each other more and was willing to compromise to maintain unity.  This team heeded Paul’s wisdom in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

Daybreak’s Student Ministry Team (Jon, Deb, and Danielle): Combined, we had a total of 1 years worth of formal student ministry experience, but this was an amazing group. Why was it so amazing?  Every team member understood their need for God’s wisdom. We were able to learn together, fall together, learn from our mistakes, rejoice in our wins, but most of all follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what He wanted to do in the life of the students.

Bailey Moseler and Jada Murphy: Two unique and gifted young ladies.  Both with amazing gifts and talents, who are doing their best to navigate a difficult world while serving Jesus.  Do not give in, do not compromise, when you fall down, get back up, have grace for yourself, and follow Jesus to the ends of this earth.  You will make a difference in this world.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life at a very significant time…and this does not mean it is ending.  🙂

Jeff Moseler: We all have best friends but, Jeff is a true friend, because he cares about my soul and my relationship with Jesus.  He always challenges me through our ridiculous and fun philosophical conversations.

Jeff Leys: You are a true friend.  One who stretches, strengthens, challenges, and helps me be a better person.  You have taught me more than you will ever know and will hopefully continue to do so.  I love you brother!

Danielle, Riley, and Sidney: Danielle is the love of my life and someone I am incredibly thankful for.  From early on in our marriage she always said there could be no opportunity for resentment and that is one reason our relationship is what it is.  We are surrounded by broken and hurt marriages, which makes me all the more thankful for my amazing wife.  My daughters are amazing young ladies, who God has blessed me with.  They are treasures that I will protect with my life and a few weapons of choice.  I am so thankful for their willingness to follow God’s plan for our family.

The rest of my family and friends: Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement.  Without that, it would make all of our journeys a lot harder.  We should never look at each other’s path with jealousy or disdain, but only prayer, support, and encouragement.  God has created us all unique and together, if we allow Him, He will use us for His eternal purposes.  We are the Body!

There will always be changes of seasons in our lives; leaves will fall, snow will fly, flowers will bloom, and trees will blossom.  It is not inherently bad; it is simply the changing of seasons and the rhythm of life.  Even so, they can be difficult changes for all people involved.  But, we find peace in one thing.  This life is but a blip on the radar of eternity.  We are given the opportunity to follow God’s calling on our life and make the most of our time on this planet.  Because, in the end we stand before the most Holy Father and give Him and account of what we did.  To my family and friends who love and serve Jesus, that means we get to spend an eternity together.

Never good bye…always see you later!  I love you,

Scott

 

 

COMMUNITY > individual

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 12_Fotor.pngAs I was out for a very abnormal run last night (running in the evening sucks…at least for me) I was reflecting on the amazing strength of an imperfect community.  NextJump, a very profitable, yet little known company I follow closely has a mantra “better me + better you = better us.”  They spend more money and time on holistic (emotional, physical, spiritual, occupational) employee development than any company I know of.  Because of that they generate industry leading profits and have an amazing culture…a community that focuses on the health of the people, the company, the vendors, and the customers. Before you think, “I wish my company did that!”, this has just as much to do with employee dedication to the organization as it does the company’s dedication to its employees.

Think about this for a second.  We go to college for a specific occupation; maybe it was to be an accountant, or a sales and marketing professional, or human resources representative.  We go to work to do a job, hopefully to the best of your ability, but for many people they are not fully engaged in what the company actually is trying to accomplish and the company is not fully engaged in the overall health of their most valuable asset:  employees (people).  So the results are often individual goals; a company doing everything it can to generate maximum profit for shareholders and employees who often develop a very narrow perspective around their jobs.  What if we could have the best of both worlds?  Focused development and growth of our employees + an authentic, compassionate and caring attitude for the stakeholders outside of the walls of the company = a more profitable organization due to healthy, happy, and selfless workforce who now acts as a community with a common goal.

As I was reflecting on this thought, I realized I have experienced this very thing in the last two years.  A guy who has quickly become one of my good friends introduced me to running for someone other than myself.  I had a pretty good idea of the value of community and building relationships, but Bill helped me see the power of community in the context of running and walking as a team.  Our team (Team Daybreak and http://www.hopewaterinternational.com) started out with about 45 consistent runners/walkers coming out for group runs on a Saturday morning.  In the end 80 people cross the finish line of the Grand Rapids Marathon either running a full or a 1/2 marathon and now the team has growth about 50% coming to groups runs for another year of training.  The significance of this is the majority of the individuals would have NEVER accomplished this if it was not for the community or team.  The team had a goal.  We ran and walked to improve ourselves + we raised money to provide clean water for those who do not have it = a stronger community of believers who are serving the Kingdom in a far greater way than before!!!

Here is the beauty of the team…and this is something that every organization in this world can learn from whether a church or a business.  Our team is a bunch of normal, everyday, broken and damaged people.  We are full of liars, hypocrites, cheats, adulterers…adulterers you say?  Yes, the last time I looked, Jesus said if I looked at someone with lust in my heart I have committed adultery…and guess what, I have.  My point is we are broken, we all have issues, yet we all have a few things in common. We are striving to reach a goal that is far greater than ourselves, serves someone other than ourselves, and we allow Jesus to pick us back up when we fall.  We refuse to dwell on the past, yet focus on the gift our savior gave us on the cross.  So, what if we had more communities where people were real, felt safe, put their own insecurities away, and simply encouraged each other to a new level instead of beating them up for where they presently are?  What if we had more individuals who put down their own personal desires in order to meet another’s needs…we would have stronger communities…unstoppable communities?

It is hard for me at times, but there is one thing I know beyond all doubt…If I focus on serving those around me, every need I have will be met and most likely exceeded by my Father.

Take a step towards community, because COMMUNITY > individual,

Blessings,

Scott

Vision for the Future

mountain-03_FotorFor the majority of my adult life I have had this unending sense of something more, something greater, more exciting, more effective…a better future.  There have been times where people encourage me and times when people discourage me.  There are times when I listen to the encouragement and there are times when I have listened to the discouragement, but in the end the sense of something greater always comes back to the surface.  For many years I wondered what was wrong?  Why could I not simply be happy with the status quo?  Why can I not just settle down?  And now after 40 years I have come to a conclusion.  This is who God has created me to be; He has created me to push the limits, expect better, and pursue what I know to be excellent in every relationship or organization I am a part of.  I now know I have two things that I must pursue: 1) to call people to a higher level (spiritually, physically, emotionally, occupationally, etc.) and 2) to recognize individuals God given gifts and talents to help them walk in those things.

The risk is, I must be willing to accept the fact that not everybody has the same desire to challenge the norm, ask the hard questions, do things differently, and that is ok… If I hit a brick wall I need to simply keep going in the direction the Lord calls me to go.

Before I dive into this, I am going to give a disclaimer that this is my opinion and me asking what if questions.

Joseph was a young man with 10 other brothers, but just happened to be the most loved son of his father, Jacob.  I am sure he was a snotty, know-it-all, little brother who knew his dad liked him the best.  Put yourselves in his shoes, how many of us wouldn’t act the same way?  We also know that Joseph had some pretty interesting dreams that he happily shared with his family.  Being a little brother myself, I am certain that when he told his family about the dreams, he was full of pride and hormones that made him feel invincible.  But, what if at the same time Joseph knew God had a big plans in store for his life?  What if he knew he was going to make a significant difference?  What if he was determined to figure out the path God had for his life?  And, what if a lot of that determination was perceived to be cocky, prideful, and illogical youthfulness?

I ask these questions, because can you imagine being thrown into a dry well by your own family as a young man and coming out with hope?  Almost certainly, there were mean and personally hurtful words being thrown around as he was dropped into the well.  Then a little later you are fetched from the well and sold to strangers from a foreign land.  Stop, and think about that for a second…was Joseph discouraged beyond all hope, was he consumed by anxiety, was he on the verge of giving up?  No, scripture says God was with him.  He proceeded to become great in the eyes of Potiphar, being a humble servant of the his master’s house, just as Jesus would do decades in the future.  Then he had it all taken from him again because someones selfish desires were not met and they couldn’t deal with their own sin.  Betrayal, the worst feeling of them all, and Joseph was not deterred from who God called him to be.  Again, God being with him, he becomes an even lower and humble servant of the king’s prison.  And again, he rises to the occasion because he knew God had called him to something great in His Kingdom.

I don’t need to go any further in the story because many of us know it.  God used Joseph in a pagan land, with a pagan king, to save His remnant.  Joseph did not lose hope, he did not let people discourage him, and his circumstances were NEVER beyond God’s help.  He did not despair, because he knew he belonged to a loving God who had a loving vision.  He knew God would bring good out of a hopeless situation.

My sense of a better future has nothing to do with material possessions, because honestly, I have learned that material possessions only leave me wanting.  My sense of a better future is my desire to raise up leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for others just as Jesus did.  We need people who pursue relationships for the sake of seeing the other persons life improved, not filling their own personal holes.  We need a church who is willing to lay down personal preferences in favor of biblical absolutes and that means loving people in spite of what people’s perception of us is (did Jesus care what people thought of him when he was speaking with the woman at the well?).  We need believers who are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of the Gospel message they carry within them. We need Christ followers who are willing to give up the head of the table for the wash basin and a willingness to wash the junk off of people’s feet.  Am I willing?  Are you willing?

Be encouraged…don’t lose the vision God has planted in your heart,

Scott