Man’s Best Friend

ZoeFotorI do not believe in coincidence and I do believe in general revelation.  A little over four years ago, on my oldest daughter’s birthday, we picked up Zoe. Zoe was our first family dog and a beautiful Golden Retriever.  From the beginning she was mischievous, like most Golden puppies, yet she grew into being one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. She was always the first to greet me at the door with a big happy puppy smile and her bushy wagging tail. Zoe was our family dog, but I was her alpha, and that meant she looked to me for protection and affirmation. It was no coincidence we picked up the little puppy on June 29th 2013, but now we are on the brink of watching Zoe pass away. She has developed a pretty aggressive lymphoma and is in the last days of her short life.

I say it was no coincidence, because pets can be instant common ground that is the beginning of many great relationships. Having a Golden Retriever who is happy to see everybody and stands in your front yard to greet whomever walks by is the easiest way to get to know your neighbors. We developed some great relationships simply by Zoe greeting people in the front yard. Specifically our friends Paul and Sheena whose Goldendoodle bounded into our yard to greet Zoe, and the first conversation started. And now at the end, we had the opportunity to meet one of the most amazing and sweetest veterinarians I have ever met, Dr. Proshek at Kingsbridge Animal Clinic in Garland, Texas.  We have seen him and his amazing team pretty much once per week over the past 3 months as we have walked this journey with Zoe. We have become “regulars” at Kingsbridge and enjoy seeing everybody’s smiling faces as we drop Zoe off for her weekly visit. Zoe hangs out for the day and follows them around the office, takes a nap in Dr. Proshek’s office on the carpet, and simply shares her sweetness with the staff…Zoe has become one of their own. And we are so incredibly thankful for the care and love they have shared with Zoe and our family.

I believe in general revelation. General revelation is the belief that the Father (the Creator) is revealed throughout all his creation. Somebody said that “if I could be half the human my dog is, I would be twice the human I am.” While I am not entirely sure that is true, I definitely get what they were trying to say. Zoe is the sweetest and most forgiving dog I have met…that is something I could learn so much from. I was impacted to my core yesterday reading through the Gospel of Mark, specifically chapter 15. Mark states 4 times how Jesus was mocked and criticized, and yet He never retaliated…He did not seek out justice at a justified point in time; He simply turned the other cheek, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was more interested in sacrificing Himself so that those who mocked Him had an opportunity to turn from their ways and pursue a relationship with God. Zoe represents the all too familiar unconditional love of a dog. General revelation of God is very clear, we simply need to open our eyes to the beauty around us.

Zoe is an amazing family pet, one we will never forget and cherish the many memories she blessed us with.  In death and in life there is mourning and joy, we simply have to look in the right places. There are no coincidence, there is only a plan leading to hope in the One who knows all and will bring an end to death and restore His perfect creation forever. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for (divinely guaranteed) will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). What I know is loss is NEVER for nothing, we must stop and look around us for the opportunities of relationships with those who are in need of Hope.

Hope, Love and Blessings,

Scott

 

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

His Grace > My Imperfections

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The Apostle Paul is my Biblical Hero. You may say, well what about Jesus? I love Jesus with all of my heart, soul, and body. He is my Savior and my man crush; Paul does not even hold a candle to Jesus…and that is why Paul is my Biblical Hero.  He was a deeply faulted man, a man who had rage against Followers of the Way to the point he would either torture and kill them or have his people do it for him. Paul was the lowest of the low by his own admission. He was a man who was deeply aware of his many faults…he is a man I want to be like.

We live in a society where we are successful for our individualism and our appearance. We are successful when we climb the corporate ladder, make lots of money, marry the trophy husband or wife, have beautiful and gifted children, own a massive house that exceeds our budget, have the perfect body to the point we are willing to buy it, drive new cars, and have all the toys. We are successful for what is on the outside and quite honestly nobody really gives a crap what is going on in the inside as long as you keep it there and don’t expose it. NEVER EXPOSE IT…to the point you cannot live with the internal pain any longer and you begin to consider or worse…commit suicide. We live in a world right now where we are willing to risk mental breakdown to maintain the perfect image. Willing to risk our marriages, our health, our soul…over an image…What the…!

Paul was a man who was so disillusioned with what he thought was truth, he became a feared murderer. Until the day that Jesus stood before him and asked him one simple question, “Why are you persecuting me?” That was the day Paul’s perspective changed and he began to see the corruption and filth that was interwoven in his own flesh.  His eyes were opened to his brokenness. That day the Lord humbled him to save his soul. Paul was made blind and had to be led to a Christian, who he was going to persecute, in order to regain his sight through prayer. From that day on, Paul became a lover of Jesus to the point he was willing to go anywhere and do anything, simply to share the love of Christ with the world. He risked his life, his well-being, and he worked hard to bring the message of Grace to the world.  Paul says in Romans 7 (see the chapter for exact words), he did what he didn’t want to do, even though he knew what was right. He was keenly aware that NOTHING good lived in him and he fully admitted he was a miserable person, yet he found faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

That is why he is my hero; because he knew in and of himself, he had nothing. His only hope was Jesus. I am a deeply broken person. I have struggled with pornography. I have used drugs. I have abused alcohol. I have anger issues at times. My kids are not perfect. I am keenly aware the only person who thinks I am a trophy husband is…who am I kidding?! I may swear occasionally (more so in my head). I speed a lot. Dave Ramsey would never hire me. I like clothes a little too much. I can easily obsess about anything.  And the list goes on and on. I am a deeply wounded and damaged individual, but I know one thing…I must strive every day to be more like Jesus. His grace is not a reason for me to go on in my sin, but I am thankful His grace covers my sin.

The most damaging lie we tell is the one that attempts to portray perfection…the “I have it all together” attitude. That lie is one that has both earthly and eternal consequences. There was only one who stepped on this earth that was perfect, for the rest of us…imperfection is in our DNA and the only hope we have is Jesus. Be honest, be open, find a friend to pour your heart out to, and pursue the love of Jesus over your own faults. His grace is greater than your imperfections…learn to give yourself the same amount of grace.

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