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

Kingdom Friends

DSC01597_FotorWhen our team was in Sierra Leone at the beginning of May, one of the things that struck me most was the pure brotherly love shown by men in that country.  We had the privilege to travel with the WHI employee who was charged with developing village partnerships.  Every village we would visit, he would walk with the Chief to simply develop and build a relationship.  You would often see him walking with his arm wrapped around the chief or the two men walking through the village holding hands. There was one purpose in this action; it was completely selfless and it was done to bridge the gap of division to create unity and the strength of community; to see the village strengthened through teamwork.  I will be honest, the act of holding hands took many of us back at first, because here in the states we have a hard time disseminating between brotherly love and sexual love due to our overly sexualized culture.  But there was nothing impure about this, it was simply two leaders who wanted the best for their communities and were willing to bridge the gap and work together in order to see a common goal accomplished.

I was reading from 1 Samuel 18 this morning and was challenged by the relationship of Jonathan and David.  This was a deep and close relationship. It says in verses 1 and 3, “Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” and “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”  This relationship was only possible because of Jonathan’s devotion and love for the things of God.  His dependence on God allowed him to put his own personal well-being behind those people he loved.  His loyalty and allegiance to David was only possible due to his loyalty and allegiance to his Heavenly Father.  The love Jonathan had for David had nothing to do with selfish desire, it wasn’t a self-serving or sexual kind of love; it was a pure love between brothers that could only come out of a cultivated and deep relationship with God.  Jonathan and David were bonded by their love for God and His purposes…for the things of God and His Kingdom.

I have done my best to walk the last 21 years of my life in pursuit of the ways of God.  I would be lying if I said I was successful all the time or really a majority of the time.  I really do not know the percentage of time I have been successful in the ways of the Lord, but the fact remains the Holy Spirit always redirects me to the ways of God when I get off the path.  There have been times over the past few years where I get close to someone, begin to build a solid relationship, and we connect in a deeper way due to our common desire for the things of God’s Kingdom.  We connect because of an unselfish desire to see the Body of Christ united and the spiritually lost introduced to their Heavenly Father. Along with those types of relationships, trials will come.  Jonathan had to walk a fine line of serving his best friend David and loving a father who wanted to kill his closest friend. What was Jonathan’s compass pointed at when he encountered those types of situations? Truth…God’s truth. Jonathan understood that great friendships come at great cost, but truth always prevails when fought for.

I have had these types relationships, but I have failed when presented with tough situations, confrontations, or bad decisions.  I wasn’t strong enough spiritually or emotionally to stand up for truth, to press in and fight for the relationship.  It was far easier for me to walk in the opposite direction and take care of my family and myself.  I could sit here feeling guilty and beating myself up, but that does no good either.  I simply look back, evaluate what was good, what went wrong, and make sure history does not repeat itself.  I also cannot allow the fear of what might happen prevent me from diving deep into a friendship/partnership that could result in the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

I find myself once again in a situation very similar to Jonathan’s relationship with David. Yet, the Lord has stripped me of pride, shown me the value of true servant leadership, filled me with love for His church, and put in me a desire to not run from confrontation, but simply press into it with the Love of the Father.  Jesus’ love is not weak, nor soft, but it is compassionate and firmly planted in Truth; willing to lay down His life for all of God’s children.

So…what is holding you back from friendships that have the ability to change the world around you?  What is holding you back from being the change instead of complaining about the current situation?  What is holding you back from embracing the lost and introducing them to a loving Father who misses them? What is holding you back from moving forward instead of dwelling on what wasn’t or what could have been.  Decide today to take a step towards the Son…

Blessings and love,

Scott

The Journey With My Best Friend

IMG_1518_Fotor18 years ago today, I married my best friend.  Danielle is one of the most remarkable individuals I know. She is gifted in so many areas, but the grace she walks in never ceases to amaze me. Danielle has the keen ability to put herself in other’s shoes and feel their joy and pain; she always responds in a way that is loving, truthful, and just.  She is my wife, my companion, my lover, and my partner on the journey God has called us on. She is my barometer; my faith in the Lord is my strongest gift, because He blessed me with a woman who is always willing to challenge my ideas and push me towards Him.

The journey thus far would be labeled by many as unstable, yet they only look at the things of this world to determine stability. Danielle and I look to the Lord as our rock and each other (our family) as the stability the Lord has blessed us with.  We have;

  • Lived in 14 different houses or apartments
  • Bought and sold 2 houses
  • walked through 2 miscarriages
  • had 2 amazing daughters that are created in God’s image and a blessing
  • ran a full marathon together
  • worked together as a team in ministry and continue to
  • lived in Florida, Michigan, and Texas
  • walked through significant joy and pain, and sometimes at the same time
  • worked through arguments and rough patches
  • lived life not for ourselves, but for the Lord
  • had too many cats and 2 dogs
  • a loving and mutually respected marriage, that is built on serving each other and not our own needs
  • walked through this marriage as a team, stronger together, and always will until the Lord chooses to bring us to our forever home.
  • chosen a simple life, one with fewer distractions so we focus on our family’s relationships.

We live life with minimal rules to keep things as simple as possible. Our two rules are simply to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to never do anything that would cause resentment between each other. Resentment is the seed of hate, the seed that destroys respect. I will never say we have been perfect in this area, but the Lord has blessed our efforts with grace for each other.

Danielle, you are not my rock, you are not my source, but you are the one who God has blessed me with to walk this time on earth with and you are the one who deserves my faithful and consistent love, respect, and protection. You are an amazing woman, whom I am blessed to share a bed with;).

I Love you,

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

 

 

Building and Breaking

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When we are put in the midst of uncertain circumstances, surroundings, and future, real personal and spiritual growth will happen if you stay flexible.  Danielle and I were having breakfast with some amazing neighbors and friends this morning.   We were sharing stories of growing up, life as adults, and general conversation about all things family. Our friend who happens to be a talented artist, among other things, was explaining some of the process of painting with an oil medium.  The end result comes through sequences of building up  and breaking it down.  Through many iterations the end result is often not the vision you started with.  The story of my life…

We live in a world where we want continuous “building”, something I am completely guilty of.  We want consistent job promotions and salary raises.  We want to move from a small house, to medium house, to our large forever house.  We want a slow and steady growth into the promise land. Unfortunately, we have this utopian picture in our head of what life should give us and when we hit a breaking point, we have no idea what to do with it.  This life is not utopia, there are struggles, there is loss, and there is an incredible amount of breaking that occurs.  That may sound like bad news, but when your perspective shifts…it can be the most freeing and motivating experience of your life.

I am going to keep this simple.  We were made for a purpose; to shine our light and introduce the world to the love of Jesus.  That truly is our only job.  Now it looks different for each one of us; because, we all have different occupations and paths the Lord has led us down.  But one thing remains the same, we need to shine!  What would our witness look like if we all lived a perfect utopian life, with no challenges?  It would be worthless and ineffective.   Furthermore, what kind of knowledge would we have if all we ever did was win (build)?  One-dimensional and shallow.  So, we walk through life being built up and experiencing breaking points, but it makes us better, stronger, more relatable, and most importantly, more reliant on the Artist.  And just like the oil painting that was built up and broken down…all of the layers come together to form a beautiful masterpiece with dimension.  A masterpiece that was created for a purpose, a purpose greater and more significant than you will ever know.

So, we shift our perspective.  We embrace the broken state fully, knowing that God is building us up, layer upon layer, to eventually expose His perfectly imperfect masterpiece that has been made righteous through the ultimate sacrifice…Jesus. Embrace and enjoy the periods of building, but also embrace and rest in His peace through periods of breaking.  It is good; we are being equipped and we will come out on the other side shining bright with the love of Jesus.

building and breaking…building and breaking…building and breaking…we are God’s masterpiece.  In the end we will look back at the process, only to be amazed at the beautiful piece of priceless art which we have become.

Blessings through the building up and the breaking down,

Scott

A Father’s Heart

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I started this morning out like any other morning in my life, at least now that we have another puppy.  I got out of bed due to the annoying whining and barking of Xander in his crate and the weight of Zoe’s head on my arm at the side of the bed staring at me until I open my eyes. Both were signs the dogs were starving to death and could not make it one more second without food.  Side note, if you ever want to feel needed, valuable, and have the weight of life itself on your shoulders, then get a Golden Retriever:).  Seriously, from the time I woke up this morning, I could not get out of my head, “pursue the Father’s heart”.

I Read

I was reading in 1 Samuel, specifically chapters 1-3.  Hannah, one of two wives of Elkanah was in deep pain because she could not conceive a child.  I bring up the fact she was one of two wives, because Peninnah the other wife, would make it her goal to ridicule Hannah for her inability to have children.  Through the tribulation of sharing her husband and being ridiculed by her competition, Hannah only grew more desperate; instead of seeking earthly knowledge she humbled herself and sought the Father’s heart. She prayed and pursued God in her need, she committed any future child to the service of God…and the Father honored her humble and hurt heart.  He gave her Samuel and many other children.

Then there was Eli the priest whose sons followed in their father’s footsteps as priests themselves.  The son’s were unruly, selfish, used their positions for personal gain and really had no desire to give up anything to serve God.  God spoke to Eli, brought his sons transgressions to light and gave Eli the opportunity to step up and take care of the issue. But, unfortunately for Eli he chose the path of a gutless leader who steered clear of confrontation.  That would be his family’s downfall.

Two diametrically different people. One humble woman who sought the heart of God and spoke wisdom, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). A visible and public leader who looked out for his family’s wants to the detriment of the people he was leading and their relationship with the Father.

I Ran

As I was running these verses and this comparison was going through my head.  I thought, how is it that the world we live in for the most part simply cannot grasp the fact Hannah’s model of leadership is what will draw us closer to Jesus, who will provide the riches of His Father’s Kingdom?  And that is when I was smacked in the face with my own issues, my own selfishness, my own sin.  Then this reality hits me:  we cannot lead like Hannah, or like Jesus, if we ever take our eyes off of our own shortcomings.  I am weak, I deserve the last seat at the table and if I ever lose that perspective and allow my eyes to focus on other’s issues, then that is the day I become like Eli and lose my effectiveness.

The way to the Father’s Heart is through brokenness, through humbling ourselves and recognizing we are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing apart from Him who gives us wisdom and strength.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.  For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them He has set the world.  He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.  It is not by strength that one prevails” (1 Samuel 2:8-9).

 

Pursue His Heart,

Scott

My Mission

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Last fall I began to ask the Lord for my mission; what was it He was calling me to focus on as a pastor/leader.  Accepting a call into full time youth ministry put me in a position where I was surrounded by other pastors more than any point in my life.  What I realized was most of these individuals had very defined missions when it came to their ministry and I did not.  I could not take on someone else’s mission and call it my own, I knew that would not last, nor be fulfilling.  Asking the Lord for my mission began a 9 month journey of conversations, prayer, conceptualizing, and writing up to last Friday.  Friday morning I was driving down the road, listening to a podcast by Ravi Zacharias (Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2, 3, and 4) and the Lord formed my mission in my mind.  “To call every person I encounter to a higher level through identifying and helping them develop their God given gifts and talents.”  The funny thing is, we often look for specifics from him, but he gives us a mission we can accomplish wherever we are…

I am not going to go into all the details of the podcast as you can listen for yourself, but I want to give you a taste of my mental journey with Lord as I was listening to Ravi.  My hope is that it speaks to you.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2:

Principle #1 of this series states,  “Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure in your life.” In order to understand what is a distraction to my purpose, I must first understand my purpose. That is exactly what my prayer had been for the past 9 months and what the Lord had been revealing to me in this past season of being a Youth Pastor at Daybreak.  Through this question he began to formalize my mission in my heart and mind so that I could ask myself a very simple question:  what distracts me from my mission?  What distracts me from be an amazing father?  What distracts me from ensuring my wife knows she is the most valuable and loved woman on this planet?  What distracts me from speaking into the lives of those individuals whom God puts in my life?

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 3:

Principle #2 states, “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another man or woman is an illegitimate pleasure.”  Any pleasure that I partake in that harms or hurts someone else is wrong for me.  Listening to Ravi and evaluating my own life I could not help but reflect on times where I have pursued fulfillment in a job (including ministry), spent time with an individual for all the right reasons, but then realized that the time I was away jeopardized the sacred right of my family to have their father and husband present.  No thing that brings me personal pleasure or fulfillment is good if it robs my wife and children of the right they have for me to be a godly husband and father…I believe that is sin and I missed the mark in God’s eyes.  My past excuses of, “I am just providing the best possible life for my family” is complete and utter bunk!  They need me, not the material crap.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 4: 

Principle #3 states, “Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite.”  I have multiple missions in my life; my mission to be the best husband I can be, my mission to steward my children well, and my personal mission.  All of these require careful and intentional balance.  I cannot get so focused on the individuals God puts in my life to mentor, only to forget about my mission as a father and husband.  At the same time I cannot stay at home all day with my wife and kids; although that sounds like fun, we would live in four separate cardboard boxes because we would not like each other very much.  Seriously though, God call us to find balance and he gives us many individuals in the Bible who had NO balance (King Solomon is one) and he gives us an example of perfect balance (Jesus).

Back to Friday.  After listening to Ravi in the car I arrived at my destination, grabbed a coffee, and sat down to write out the statement.  Nine months of prayer and within a 35 minute drive he formed my mission statement.  And the icing on the cake; as my friend and I were talking about this journey, he tells me exactly what I need to be doing…and it was almost word for word what I had written down not 2 hours earlier.  That is God.  He takes an impatient individual who likes to take risks, yet control how the risk happens, then slowly strips him of all his plans.  What has he left me with?  One step at a time, a mission, and complete and utter confidence that He will fulfill the mission He has called me to.

Pray for purpose…

Be patient…

Be obedient…

Live life His way…no distractions, honor other’s rights, and find balance.

Blessings,

Scott