Monday, February 29, 2016

God Desires for ALL to Know Him

Photo by Roo Reynolds
Scripture: Acts 13:44
The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord.

Insights: Visualize this week leading up to today’s verse.  We learned last week that some of the people who had heard Paul preach asked him to return the following week.  Verse forty-four picks this story up and in this verse we learn that nearly the whole city had assembled to hear Paul.  Let me walk you through the process I believe took place that week.  Remember it started the previous Saturday.  Paul preached and those who heard him were convicted by the Holy Spirit.  It is highly probable that those who would not leave Paul and Barnabas came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now, let’s keep walking the process out.  Guess what those who had heard the previous week did throughout the week leading up to this current Sabbath?  They were talking with people.  They were going around and saying something like, “You really need to come to church this week and hear what this man has to say.”  They were creating energy and excitement in the city.  They had been so impacted by the Holy Spirit that they could not help but share with others about what Paul had been telling them.  The key factor I want you to walk away with regarding this verse is the crowd.  God desired for this entire city to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.  He used the people who had heard Paul the previous week to draw on new people.  The Holy Spirit then convicted those people to come to church and then on the Sabbath, they came.  This process is the very same process God uses today.  It makes us evaluate our lives.  We need to be willing to ask ourselves hard questions about our intentionality of sharing Jesus with others and our inviting them to church.  I am amazed at how many believers are unwilling to even invite someone to church.  I always am reminded of my backdoor neighbor Jim.  He asked my parents every week for almost a year to come to church with him.  I am so grateful for Jim.  I shutter to think what my life would have become if he had gotten tired of the consistent no week end and week out.  If he had given up on my parents, I very well may have never had the opportunity to meet Jesus.  Because Jim never gave up and for almost fifty-two times experienced a no, he finally one day got a yes and that made all of the difference.  Beloved, never give up.  Always be consistent.  If you don't know what to do, ask them to come to church with you.  Continue to invite and watch the Lord move.  He desires for all to come to know Him.

1. What does the knowledge regarding God’s desire for ALL people to know Him do to the way you experience life?
2. What are ways in which you are helping people who do not know the Lord to enter into a relationship with Him?

Prayer: Father, grow my sensitivity to the lost state of humanity and then grant me boldness to share Jesus with them.  Amen.

If you have found this blog to be helpful, please forward it in Facebook or retweet it in Twitter.  Thank you.

Friday, February 26, 2016

You Want Me to do WHAT?

Photo by Trish Hamme
Several years ago I decided I wanted to read more books.  I had heard of people who would read four books a month, some who would read one book a week, and still others who would read a book a day.  Well, I set out to read four books a month.  I contacted my good friend, Randy Poe, and asked him how he selected his books each month.  He told me he would read one inspirational book a month, one biography /history a month, one business/leadership/self-help a month, and one fun book a month.  For years now I have followed his plan and have not really felt pushed to increase this ready schedule.  Quite frankly, I had forgotten about those individuals who would read a book a day.

Well just before 2016 started I listened to a leadership training by Nelson Searcy in which he shared that a book a day was his annual reading goal.  He also shared he had not yet reached that goal, but he is reading close to or at 300 books per year.  All of a sudden my forty-eight books seemed rather pale in comparison.  I am not ready to jump on Searcy’s goal yet, but I did feel compelled to increase my reading goal for 2016 to five books a month.  If I am able to maintain this reading speed, then I will have increased my annual book reading by twelve books.  We are now, for all particle purposes, two months completed for this calendar year and I am pleased to tell you I am on track.  In fact, I am a little ahead of schedule.

I have not written this blog to pat myself on the back.  I have written it because when I heard Searcy give the challenge to read more books it inspired me.  I am praying this blog post does the same for you.  Let’s say last year you read two books.  Could you read four or five books this year?  If you had read ten books, could you read fifteen or twenty this year?  My hope is you will be intentional about setting a reading goal each year and then strive to reach that goal.

Most of you know this about me already, but I am a bit retentive about some things.  My reading plan is no different.  I literally select my five books in advance of the next month and count up all of those pages.  I then divide that number by the number of days in that month and that tells me how many pages I need to read each day.  I then use two book marks.  The first book mark tells me where I am in the book.  The second book mark tells me where I need to get to at the end of that day.  When I reach that end page for that day, that second book mark becomes my first and I count out the pages for the next day and place the previous first book mark in that spot.  This plan is not rocket science, but it is the plan I use.

The reason I want you to read more is because I know that leaders are readers.  The more we read, the more we grow.  The more we grow, the bigger our influence is on other people.  The more we influence people, the greater opportunities we are often given to serve others.  The better we serve others, the more we are able to point people to the Lord.  The more we point people to the Lord, the more glory He receives and at the end of the day, that is what I desire most.  I desire to see God brought more glory.  So, you could say, I have a theology of reading because I want God glorified.

Do you have a reading plan?  If you do, or if you have a question you would like to ask me, just write it below in the comments section of this blog.  We would love to hear from you.  Also, if you found this post helpful, would you please retweet it or share it on Facebook?  I would appreciate your support and thank you.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Gift of Encouragement

Photo by Lisa Creech Bledsoe
Scripture: Acts 13:43c-d
who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

Insights: The last point from Sunday’s sermon dealt with encouragement.  Notice in today’s verse it states, “who.”  The “who” here is referencing Paul and Barnabas.  Now, notice what they are doing.  They are speaking words of encouragement to the group of people who have followed them.  Remember, these people were hungering for the Word and for fellowship.  Paul and Barnabas were urging them to continue in the grace of God.  In other words, they were encouraging them to seek after the God and to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  I think we live in a world that is so fast paced we often miss the important task of encouraging those around us.  I will speak only for myself, but all too often I fail to speak words of kindness and compassion into peoples lives because I have to get here or get there.  I think one of the things our modern society has lost because of our technology is the ability to truly engage people on a deeper level relationally.  Encouragement, the ability to help someone recognize better opportunities, is a lost art among most people (again, at least in my opinion).  Let me encourage you (and myself) to slow down.  Smell the roses as the old saying goes.  Pause long enough to look intently into the eyes of another human being and share grace with them.  Be a light in the midst of the darkness and when people ask you why you are showing this kind of compassion and concern—tell them.  Tell them how Jesus changed your life and how He desires to change theirs as well.  Let them know of His amazing love and grace and encourage them to meet Him for the very first time.  They will be forever grateful for your faithful obedience to your great love, Jesus.  As a way of example: we at FBC Bowling Green just hosted our Carrying Christ to our Community (C3) event a few weeks ago.  This past Sunday, a young lady who has been coming faithfully since that C3 weekend prayed to receive Jesus into her heart.  Hopefully, this word encourages your heart to be a part of our next C3 event at FBCBG.  They are worth reaching the lost world.  Let me give you a second word of encouragement.  We are five weeks away from Easter.  Would you please join me in praying the Lord will double our attendance?  Would you pray His Spirit has complete reign and rule in that service?  Would you pray that many of them would return and eventually become faithful followers of Jesus?  Would you be one to invite people to our church in order to help us double?  I pray these questions have spurred your heart to want to see God do great things at our church this Easter.

1. Are you in the habit of encouraging people in their walk with the Lord?
2. In what ways can you be a source of encouragement for others?

Prayer: Father, all too often I am insensitive to people and their needs.  Help me to recognize when others need a word of encouragement and grant me the wisdom to know what to say.  May my words be words of healing and help.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hunger for Fellowship

Photo by Eugene Phoen
Scripture: Acts 13:43a-b
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas

Insights: Notice that some of these individuals longed for more time with Paul and Barnabas right then and there.  They were not content to wait a week to hear more from Paul.  I think there are two reasons for this hunger to follow Paul and Barnabas.  Firstly, they really were hungry for the Word which we discussed the past two days.  I think, however, there was a second reason as well.  They also had a hunger for fellowship with Paul and Barnabas.  I think there is a natural longing to be with individuals with whom our spirit resonates.  Jesus said it this way to his followers, “By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”  When we have encountered Jesus and have surrendered out lives to Him by receiving Him as Lord and Savior, then we are promised that the Holy Spirit will come and reside within us.  When we have the Holy Spirit living within us, then we will have a supernatural love for people.  This love will be for all people, but there is, in my opinion, a special bond of unity found among fellow believers.  The reason for this special bond of love and unity is because we are a part of the same family.  We are all co-heirs with Jesus.  We are children of God’s household.  As a result, there is a natural bonding and longing among believers to be with other believers (at least there ought to be).  Because of this longing, we can see why Jesus said what He did.  Our world sees people fussing and feuding with each other all the time.  Christ-followers, however, are supposed to be different.  We are to be driven by love and unity which is expressed in fellowship.  So, these individuals in today’s verse are being drawn to Paul and Barnabas.  I think part of this reason is the Holy Spirit is drawing them to Himself and soon this particular group of people are going to be born again.  Beloved, we in the church need to put aside our differences and our preferences and start putting on the love of Christ.  We need to start showing and demonstrating, especially at FBC Bowling Green, that family truly is a core value that drives our church.  FBCBG family, we have an upcoming quarterly meal on March 6 immediately following the morning worship service in which we can show this kind of fellowship and love toward one another.  Let me encourage you to come and share in the bond of love with our brothers and sisters.

1. Do you enjoy spending time with the body of Christ in fellowship?
2. In what ways can you help cultivate a climate of fellowship?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the gift of my real family, the body of Christ.  May I grow deeper in intimacy with them and may others truly know we are Your children by our love for one another.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Core Values

Photo source
Scripture: Acts 13:42
As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.

Insights: Before we move on this week into our next two points from Sunday’s sermon, let’s return back to our hunger for God’s Word.  There is another reason we need to hunger after God’s Word.  It is because God’s Word is the very tool He uses to reveal to us our core values.  At FBC Bowling Green (FBCBG) we spent twenty-one months working through a process to understand who we are presently and who God wants us to be in the future.  One of the tasks we had to work through was the determining of our core values and they were driven by the Word of God.  At FBCBG we have six actual values and three aspirational values.  We have a paragraph written for each of these values and four supporting Scriptures to explain our understanding of them.  For today’s blog, I will share only a brief sentence or two regarding each value.  FBCBG’s values in order of ranking and priority are:

1. Family - We value families, and we believe marriages between a man and a woman built through Christ-centered love, accountability and growth through discipleship in God’s Word result in strong families.  

2. Preaching -  We value Biblical proclamation of the Scriptures and believe God has called every Christ-follower to be an ambassador of the gospel to non-believers for His glory.  

3. Worship - We value real worship of the One and only God who is worthy of that praise.  We believe this worship flows out of a personal relationship with the Lord God and is manifest in the spiritual gifts He has given us.

4. Fellowship - We value fellowship of like-minded Christ-followers that nurtures a spirit of unity. We believe fellowship is a gathering of people bonding together through church, community and social events.

5. Tradition - We value Biblical traditions which have been passed down to us through previous generations.  We believe when man-made traditions superimpose themselves over the glory of God, we are compelled to create new traditions based on the Word of God.

6. World Missions - We value the call of God to preach the gospel in our city, state, nation and world.  We believe God has called us to share His Good News to all people and to cross racial, social and cultural barriers to fulfill that great commission.

7. Evangelism - We value evangelism as a specific command from God to share His love with the world. We believe the body of Christ is committed to the spreading of the gospel by public preaching or personal witness.

8. Prayer - We value prayer as the primary method to communicate with God.  We believe prayer incorporates praise to our Lord for who He is, confession of sin in order to restore a relationship with Him, expressions of thanksgiving to our Lord for what He has done, and intercession for those around us, as well as for our own needs.  

9. Obedience - We value obedience as an outward expression of our true relationship with God.  We believe immediate obedience proves His will is above all and prevents road blocks in our relationship with the Lord.

1. In what ways does the Bible impact your core values?
2. Are you intentional about determining your values and letting them be your guiding principles for your life?

Prayer: Father, thank You that Your Word tells us how we ought to live our lives.  Help me to clear hear from You as to the values that empower my life for Your glory.  Amen.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hunger for God's Word

Photo provided by Marcelino Rapayla Jr.
Scripture: Acts 13:42
As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.

Insights: You will recall from last week that in the preceding verses Paul taught the group of people from their very own history after the Scriptures had been read.  In other words, Paul preached from their “Bible,” the Old Testament.  I mention this because of the peoples response in today’s verse.  They kept begging Paul to come back the following week and to teach them some more.  With what is Paul going to teach them?  The very thing he taught them with that week, the Old Testament Scriptures.  I was at the Renegade Pastor’s Conference last week.  I cannot recall which speaker discussed this point, nor do I recall the exact numbers, but they went something like this (please remember, not exact, but close).  Over 50% of the average “Christians” read their Bible one day or less a week, but if a believer will read the Bible at least four days a week, there will be evidential growth in the person life.  I emphasize this point because if you are one who is reading the Bible just one day a week, all you have to do is add at three more days and you will begin to show evidential growth in your personal life with the Lord.  Now, please understand, I am also a pastor.  I think you ought to strive for seven days a week, but my biggest desire is for you to start spending more time in the Word and to grow in your relationship with the Lord.  I desire for you to have an insatiable hunger for God’s Word and desire to read It every chance you get.  Many of these people in today’s verse were so gripped by the teaching of Paul and his exposition of the Scriptures that they hungered for more of It.  Beloved, it is my prayer this would be your heart beat as well.  At FBC Bowling Green, our ladies (and if you would like to bring a guest lady, that would be fine as well) have an opportunity to get into a Beth Moore Bible study at Lori Bromley’s house at 6:00 p.m.  This study is on 1 & 2 Thessalonians.  My wife has gone through many of these and I know the course material is written in such a fashion you will be in God’s Word at least five days a week.  For you ladies, tonight might just be your jumping off point to spend more time in God’s Word.  Let me encourage you to attend, it is not too late.  Men, the Men’s Ministry just recently finished Chasing Daylight.  They will be resuming soon with another Bible study.  Let me encourage you to join it and start getting more involved in God’s Word.

1. How many days a week do you read the Bible?
2. Would you describe your reading habit as one of an insatiable hunger for God’s Word?

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your Word.  May I daily feast on Your Word and grow in Your grace as a result of our intimate time together.  Amen.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Put Another Log on the Fire

Photo by Basia
The final Thoughts by Scott this week deals with the illustration Jeff Kisiah shared regarding firewood.  The way Jeff ran this illustration was from the levitical mandate of chapter six from the book that bears that name.  In this sixth chapter we see God instructing the Israelites to always keep the fire burning.  There was a specific instruction as to what to do with the ashes from the previous days burning and instructions as to keep the fire always burning before God.

In an illustrious way we are to keep the fires of our passion for the Lord always burning as well.  This process becomes more natural and a part of our lives the further along the growth journey with which we have examined this week.  In other words, it is harder for a type two person who has entered into a relationship with God, but has Him on the back burner to maintain intimacy and devotion than it is for a type four person who is in a vibrant and growing relationship with God.

So, using the firewood illustration Jeff shared with us the need to place logs on our fire.  Most of these logs are normal to type four people.  They are spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible daily, praying to God regularly, and worshipping Him throughout our lives.  But how do we make placing these logs of wood on our fire a regular part of our lives?  And how do we encourage those around us to grow deeper in the their relationship with the Lord.

I am not going to answer these questions today, nor give any prompting suggestions.  I am going to pass these questions on to you, the readers of this blog.  In the comment section below, write your response to these questions and help instruct us as to your spiritual disciplines.  My challenge to you is to return back and read the suggestions and advice others have given to this reading audience.  May we all be closer to the Lord as a result of your aid and assistance.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Are You the Best of the Best?

There are five types of people.  The third type was discussed yesterday and was the individual who had God on the front burner of their life, but they were still on the back burner.  Today we are going to examine the fourth type of person.  As a reminder, I am not going to discuss the fifth type this week.  The fifth type is the hurt or wounded person and this person can be found in any of the preceding four locations we have been discussing.  Rather, tomorrow, I am going share some suggestions from Jeff Kisiah as to how to move people along this process of discipleship.

The fourth type of person is one who is not even on the stove.  This person has truly centered their life around the Lord God and He is Lord and Savior of their life.  This person is humble in attitude.  This person is pliable in the hands of the Father.  This person is willing to say, “Yes, Lord, yes, to Your will and Your ways.”  They are actively and intentionally trying to find ways to take people along this journey of faith.  They have friends in all of the three preceding categories and with each one of them they are purposefully trying to move them along this growth process.

It would be a very safe position to say this group of people is the least represented in the church, but at the same time, the group that ought to be the largest.  The body of Christ is to be a growing community of servant leaders.  We ought to never be content to remain where we are and think we have arrived for Jesus.  There are too many lost people in this world and we are commissioned to reach them.

If you are type four person, in what ways are you discipline the people in the previous three categories?  If you are not a type four person, but would like to be one one day, then what do you think you need to do to find a mentor who could walk this journey of faith out with you?

If you would like to join this conversation, please feel free to respond in the comment section and maybe we can all grow together on this faith journey.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Still on the Stove

There are five types of people.  The second type was discussed yesterday and was the individual who had received God as Savior, but he was still on the front burner of life while God was on the back burner.  Today, we are going to look at the third type of person.  This person has grown in her relationship with the Lord and God is now on the front burner.  The problem, however, is this person is still on the stove in the back burner position.

This type of person is the second most common in the church behind the type two person.  This person has grown and they are maturing in Jesus, but they regularly find their carnal self rising to try and reseat themselves on the front burner.  Notice I said regularly and not habitually.  This person really is growing in the Lord.  This person really is more often than not walking in a manner of obedience to God.  Unfortunately, there are too many times in which this persons desires rise up and knock them off track and before they know what has happened, Jesus is on the back burner.

What is encouraging about this type three person is once they recognize what has happened, they are much faster at repenting and putting Jesus back on the front burner.  They really are desiring to grow in their relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords.  In many ways this type three person is similar to the type four person.  The primary distinction is frequency of times in which they find themselves removing Jesus from the front burner.

This individual is caught by surprise more than any of the other types of people.  Type one people are never surprised because they don’t even have a foundation in the Lord.  Type two people are not often surprised because they are still living life for their own personal goals and pleasures.  Type three are legitimately trying to grow and are often surprised they have walked off of the path into the deep part of the forest.

I think John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the best stories to visualize this process.  As the character Christian of the story goes further on his journey, the stronger he gets.  He is able to withstand temptations more and more along the way, but he often times makes the wrong choices and deviates from the course.  Many times this course correction is because he thinks he is taking a short cut.  Before the Christian realizes what has happened, he is in trouble and in need of deliverance.  

In Bunyan’s story, often times the character is rescued by another character.  I mention these characters because our goal as leaders is to move a person from a type three person to become a type four person.  By now you ought to know the way this happens.  My hint with mentioning characters from Bunyan’s story ought to have helped you figure the way a person becomes a type four person.  The answer is relationships.

At this point you are engaging this third type of person in more ministry opportunities.  They are watching you and then they are doing it.  As they grow, you start to send them out and you coach them on their successes and failures.  You are helping to make them better Christ-followers.

In what kind of ministry engaging opportunities are you participating?  How have tried to bring a type three person along to make them a type four person?  Respond in the comment section and share with the rest of us your ideas.  We will be greatly appreciative of your insight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fire Insurance, Really?

There are five types of people.  The first one was discussed yesterday and was the individual with no God conscience.  The second type of person is one who has entered into a relationship with God, but God is on the back burner of their life.  I think most “Christians” fall in this second category.

I felt called into the ministry at the age of fourteen.  I finally surrendered to that call at age sixteen and preached my first sermon that year.  I took my first paid position in ministry at age eighteen and have been involved in ministry ever since that time.  I share this to state I have been in vocational ministry of some sort for twenty-five years now.  It is from this perspective I make the statement that most “Christians” fall into this second type of person.

Jeff Kisiah described this individual as one who wanted a fire insurance policy against the Lake of Fire.  I think for many of these individuals there was/is sincerity in their conversion.  For most of them, however, I think they are really type one people, who think they are born again.  I am going to address the type two person who is truly born again at this point.

I do not recall which ministerial training I went through in which there was a picture of a chair.  On the chair it showed a big letter “I”.  The chair represented kingship.  Beside the chair it showed a little cross.  In this portion of the illustration the individual had prayed to receive Christ as his Savior, but he was still lord of his life and that is why he was sitting on the chair.

As I have grown in grace and knowledge of our Lord, I am not certain this picture or illustration is biblical.  In other words, as I read the Scriptures, I don’t really see one who receives Jesus as Savior without also receiving Him as Lord.  Can a person really be born again and not have Jesus as Lord of her life?

Yet, Paul does describe the carnal Christian and I think this concept is what we find in this type two person.  They are sealed with the Holy Spirit, but they are carnal.  They are chasing after the things of this world more than they are pursuing intimacy with the Lord Jesus; and once again, I think this is where most in the church of America can be found.

As leaders we must model for these individuals what true biblical growth looks like.  We also need to encourage them to press on in their spiritual journey with the Lord.  Our goal is to move them from being a type two person into a type three person.  I will give you a hint as to how this is done.  It is done the exact same way that a type one person becomes a type two person.  The way is through relationships.  We call this process discipleship, but it happens when a more mature believer comes along side a younger believer and invests in their life with time and intentionality that they begin to grow and become type three people.

This thought makes me ask, who are you presently mentoring?  It also makes me ask a second question.  How are you mentoring people?  Respond in the comment section and let me know.  I would love to read the ways God is using you.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Intentionality of Relationships

Yesterday at FBC Bowling Green we had the privilege of having Jeff Kisiah from Man in the Mirror Ministries speak to us.  He told us there were five types of people.  Firstly, those who do not have a God conscience yet.  Secondly, those who know there is a God and He is on the back burner of life, but they are on the front burner of life.  Thirdly, those who have God on the front burner, but they are still on the stove on the back burner.  Fourthly, those who do not have a stove, only God.  Finally, those who are wounded and hurt and they can fall into any of the preceding four slots.

This week in the Thoughts by Scott blog I am going to address the first four types of people and on Friday I am going share with you some thoughts Jeff gave us about moving people from position one to position four.  Jeff described this process as putting firewood on the fire and he referenced Leviticus 6:8-13 to the importance of keeping the fire going in our lives in order to move to that fourth position.

The first type of person in which we will discuss is the person who does not have a God conscience.  Jeff did not use this type of language.  He called these people those who are on the fringe and not seeking to know God.  These people may even live life from such a mental frame work that they deny the very existence of God.  To use our church lingo, these people are lost.  They have no relationship with God and if they were to die right this second they would spend eternity in the Lake of Fire in perpetual torment.

It is our job, the churches commission, to reach these people.  We need to do whatever is possible  to earn the right to share Jesus with these people.  To this end we must be intentional about building these relationships.  Let me give you some examples from a meeting Jeff had with our Men’s Ministry Committee after the service.  Please understand, these were examples to reach men, but the same concept is true for ladies.  The distinction is in the specific types of methods.

Jeff shared taking a man who likes to fish, fishing.  If a man likes music and you are aware of a concert he might enjoy, take him to the concert.  If he likes movies and there is a new movie that is coming out that you are also interested in seeing, take him to the movie.  If he likes to eat, invite him over to grill out.  Do things with the man in order to build the relationship with him.  

As the relationship grows, however, you must eventually come to a point where you speak Jesus to the person.  In other words, there comes a point in which you must ask the Lord for boldness and ask the person the most important question they will ever answer.  I use two specific questions to get to this point, but for today I will give you the intended result of those two questions.  The question you need to ask this person in the first category is, “Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”  Beloved, be intentional and build the relationship and then ask the question.  By God’s grace, move this person to position number two.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tell Your Story

I was reflecting on my blog post yesterday and was thinking about how in my post I referenced two different stories.  I referenced the Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart and a story Michael Hyatt told about the power of drift.  I mention this because several weeks ago I started an experiment at FBC Bowling Green with storying.  I am preaching through Acts chapter thirteen and I am teaching the chapter through the use of storying.  I tell the story and then I retold the story and then I had the individuals practice telling the story.  I changed it up a little this past Sunday, but basically kept that same concept.

I have now been doing this storying experiment for a month (four Sundays) and am evaluating the power of stories.  I have some church members who have come to me and said, “Who likes this storying stuff anyway?”  I have had others come up to me and say, “I love this, do you think you could teach a class on how to tell stories.”  The point is I am receiving mixed reviews about the use of storying in our Sunday services, and as a result, I am needing to be the final reflector of the technique.

I have made a personal commitment of conducting this experiment for six months.  I have chosen this length of time because I think it will take this long for the congregation of FBC Bowling Green to truly get used to it and to start assimilating the concept and value the use of storying.  At the end of that six months, I will again reevaluate the process of storying in our worship services.  If I think it is of value, I will continue.  If I feel it is not truly being a tool useful to the congregants, then I will switch back to full “preaching.”

After a month, here are a few of my thoughts: We as a people, love stories.  We may not love the process of learning a story, but we love stories.  In other words, if all I did was tell the story and not have a time in which I am having the congregants learning the story, I think everyone would love it.  We tell stories about our lives and the lives of others.  We tell stories about the movies we see or the books we read.  We are natural storytellers.  Stories have a natural way of helping the audience to join the adventure and it is also an easy way for us to remember the key points of a subject.

I further think the Lord loves to tell stories.  I think this is one of the reasons He gave to us His Word, the Bible.  It is one giant meta-narrative of His grace and provision in the midst of our struggle and battle with sin.  Let me challenge you to become a great storyteller, and specifically a great storyteller of your life.  If you are able to mesmerize your audience with your story, you will earn the right to weave into your story the real story of significance, which is Jesus.  Use your storying platform to challenge people to live a life in service to for Him.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

This Is Your Time

I am presently sitting in JK’s Cafe in Mulberry, FL.  There is a sign on the wall which reads, “Your life is now, seize it and make it amazing.  Find your voice.  Discover your passion and pursue it.  Be honest, generous and kind.  Surround yourself with love, laughter and truth.  Let your heart be your guide.  Make a difference.  Be brave and wild at heart.  Take chances, ask questions.  Be fearless, make a difference.  This is your time.”

I have sat here pondering these simple phrases.  I am thinking about human history and the various roles people have played in it.  In life there have been individuals which have stood out in history as ones who lived with a brave and wild heart.  Most, however, I think existed in life, but never really lived it.  In Mel Gibson’s version of the William Wallace story Gibson says this line as William Wallace, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

This Wallace quote and this sign have me reflecting on my life now that I am in the middle of my earthly existence.  I am asking myself if I have actually found my voice.  I am asking if I have truly seized life and am I making it amazing.  I am asking if I have truly discovered my passion and am I pursuing it.  I am asking if I am an honest, generous and kind person.  I am asking if I truly love, laugh and live a truthful life.  I am asking if I am really making a difference because I have chosen to be brave and wild at heart in a “civilized” world.  I am asking if I take chances and ask the hard questions of life.  I am asking if I am fearless and a true difference maker.

Upon evaluation, I think I am just starting to be this person.  As I have reflected on my past I believe I have tried to be a people pleaser.  I think I have tried to live up to the expectations of others.  Now that I am a father, I am beginning to understand the power of my voice and legacy.  I am beginning to realize I want my children to be better than me.  I want them to experience more out of this world and to have a bigger impact than I ever made.  I am beginning to understand, in the context of human history, that this time truly is my time.

This reflection does not mean I am disappointed in my past.  Nor does it mean I think I have not had an influence or positive bearing on humanity.  What it does mean is I think I have had to many hours of unintentional living.  I have had too many days of coasting through this world.  Michael Hyatt describes this feeling I am describing as the drift.  He tells the story of a time in which he and his wife were snorkeling and were having a great time.  After a considerable amount of time, they took their heads out of the water and looked around and found they had drifted in a rip current almost a mile away from the shore.  They spent the next hour or so, swimming back to the shore.  Hyatt goes on to explain that most people in life go through in a drift.

I guess as I sit here at this table, these thoughts are passing through my mind and I am saying to myself, “I am not willing to just exist.  I want to thrive.  I want this to be my time in which I impact this world.”  Will you join me in this desire and determination to make a difference in this world?  I pray you will.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

God's Salvation is His Delight

Scripture: Acts 13:36-41
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay.  “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.  “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’ ”

Insights: Today we conclude our Thoughts by Scott blogs regarding this past Sunday’s sermon.  In today’s verses we see Paul expressing the difference between king David and the King of kings who is the Savior, Christ Jesus our Lord.  David died and underwent decay, but not Jesus.  God raised Him from the dead and He did not undergo decay.  Jesus proved His power and victory over sin and death in His resurrection.  Through this victorious work we are now free to receive His gift of salvation and to receive forgiveness from our sins.  Praise the Lord for His power and provision.  Paul, however, did not stop his address with just the message of hope.  He also gave the audience a warning to heed his words.  He told them not to become scoffers and marvel at what he had just proclaimed to them.  If they did, he informed them they would perish.  This offer of salvation is still offered to this day.  All one has to do is ask Jesus to forgive them of their sins and He is faithful and just to grant this forgiveness.  If we ask Him to come into our lives, He will.  We know, however, many will become scoffers and marvel at our message of hope.  These scoffers will perish and spend eternity separated from God’s love in the Lake of Fire where they will be forever tormented.  They do not have to spend eternity in this kind of pain, however.  All they have to do is call out to Jesus and He is willing and able to save them from the punishment due their sin and rebellion.  If you have never received the free gift of eternal life found in Jesus, let me encourage you to stop right now and pray.  Pray for Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to enter into your life.  He will.  He loves you and wants you to have eternal life in Him.

1. Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
2. If you have not, are you willing to call on Him today to save you from your sins so that you will not perish?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the salvation You provide me through Your Son Jesus.  Let me know the assurance of my salvation and grant me Your great joy and peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

God is Always Faithful

Scripture: Acts 13:17-23
“The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.  “For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.  “When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.  “After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.  “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.  “After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’  “From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus,

Insights: Yesterday we learned that not everyone is going to walk this faith journey out with us, but thank the Lord, He is always faithful to us.  In other words, at this point Paul begins to speak to the people about God’s faithful provision to the children of Israel from their very own history.  I have referenced only a sampling of all Paul stated in verses 17-23, but in these verses alone we see God faithfully providing the people food and clothing in the wilderness.  We see Him faithfully providing victory over enemies and establishing leaders through the judges, prophets and kings.  We then see God faithfully providing the people with a promised Savior, who would be His very own Son, Jesus.  God is still in this kind of business today.  He is still faithfully providing and taking care of our needs as His children.  Beloved, I think we all too often forget this fact about our loving Father.  I think we get caught up in a very self-centered and self-determined mode of operation and forget our success is going to be found in the Lord.  We are to seek Him out and His will and ways and then join Him in His activity.  We are not to form an activity and then see if we can get Him to bless it.  He is ever faithful to provide and direct our lives if we will just surrender our wills to His.  Let me encourage you this day to slow down and count your blessings.  Reflect, as Paul did in today’s verses, on God’s ever present faithfulness in your life.

1. In what ways has God shown you His faithfulness to you in your life?
2. Have you shown gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness?

Prayer: Father, I truly am thankful for your faithfulness in my life.  You are always there and always providing for my every need.  Thank You for being You.  Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fallout is a Reality

Scripture: Acts 13:13
Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Insights: I have written about today’s thought before.  It is not an easy thought for me to work through in my personal life.  I am better at this now than I was five years ago and hopefully in five years I will still be better at it than I am today.  This thought is the departure of people on the journey in your ministry.  I have been that person in times past that had to leave a ministry and I know the pain it caused those in leadership to see Kristy and me depart.  I have had those in my own ministries that have left me and I know first had the pain I experienced.  The truth is not everyone is going to make it to the finish line with you in ministry.  It is really easy to write those words and to speak those words, but it is an entirely different thing to process those emotions that come with this truth.  In today’s verse we see John leaving Paul and Barnabas on their journey.  Now we know from reading ahead in the story that some time later Barnabas is going to want to give John another chance, but Paul is adamant that he is not willing to give John this second opportunity to abandon them again.  These two depart company as a result of this disagreement.  Barnabas and Mark go on their journey and Paul and Silas go on their journey.  We also know near the end of Paul’s life that he has been reconciled to John because while he is in prison he asked for John to come because he has been useful to him.  I share this part of the story as a way of providing hope that not all separations are permanent.  Sometimes God allows for healing and restoration to occur as well.  Here is the take away for today’s Thoughts by Scott: even if people abandon you on your faith journey be like Paul and Barnabas.  Remain faithful to the Lord and run the race He has called you to run.  Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back.  Stay steadfast in His mission for you and let the chips fall where they will along the way.  You will lose some people, but you will also gain others.  Keep pressing on and give God the glory for His work in the process.

1. Who has recently left the journey of obedience in your life?
2. Is there anything you could have done to keep the motivated and engaged in the vision?

Prayer: Father, my heart breaks every time a person stops running the race with me.  Yet, I know I am called to be obedient to You.  Help me do all I can to keep people on the journey, but at the same time find my identity and perseverance in You.  Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2016

We Leave the Results to the Lord

Scripture: Acts 13:12
Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

Insights: Our final step this week is to leave the results to the Lord.  So many of us in this world are task oriented.  We want to make things happen and I believe God wires us this way.  I do not, however, think God wires us this way to the detriment of our dependence on Him.  In other words, we cannot manufacture life change.  No one comes to the Son unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44).  Unfortunately, our methodology implies and often reveals we do not really trust the Lord, but rather we trust in our sales techniques.  This kind of life is a very dangerous place to be as a follower of Jesus.  In my personal quiet times at the moment I am reading through the book of Ezekiel and throughout that book (in all most every chapter) God says, “then they will know I am the Lord.”  They had become so dependent on themselves that they really did not expect God to show up.  When God finally does, He declares, “Now that I have acted, you will know I am the Lord.”  I fear we are living in an age in the church of the United States where God is going to show up and say to us, “Now you will know I am the Lord.”  We give Him lip service, but not faith.  We give Him time, but not devotion.  We give Him finances, but not all of it.  We are playing the role of God and we are the ones dictating the results.  Oh, how foolish we are.  God will work events to His good end and He will bring about the results He desires.  May we be faithful to walk with Him hand in hand and trust Him to do His good will in the midst of our lives.  Beloved, the sooner we get our lives to this point, the better off we will be.  May this calendar year of 2016 be the year we truly learn to depend on the Lord for the results in our lives and in our ministry.  May He be glorified.

1. Are you trying to manipulate the results?
2. In what way does your life give evidence to your dependence on God to bring about the results of grace?

Prayer: Father, thank You I do not have to generate the results.  I am able to trust You to bring about Your good grace and will.  You have commissioned me to plant the seed, but You do everything else in the growth process.  Help me to be dependent on Your goodness and love.  Amen.