Day late…but not a penny short!

A Thanksgiving Poem

Paul Laurence Dunbar – 1872-1906

The sun hath shed its kindly light,
   Our harvesting is gladly o’er
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
   Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword
   We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
   We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been
   The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
   Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of our hath brought us grace;
   When thou were nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
   But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o’er all the land
   Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
   From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
   Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
   Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise
   To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
   Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
   Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
   We could not thank thee for them all.

This poem is in the public domain.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in 1872 and the author of numerous collections of poetry and prose, was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition.

Thanksgiving 2021

I was born at the tail end of the baby-boom.  We were a cheerful bunch.  I grew up hearing expressions like “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade” and “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.”  The Vietnam war, the civil unrest of the 60’s (which gave way to the unrest in the Middle East), and the gas shortages here in the 70’s, caused life to seem a little grimmer. Each decade has had its crisis (space shuttles and twin towers) and with each crisis we’ve come to realize that lemonade is harder to come by. 

Christians in America had to grow up from thinking like Pollyanna to thinking like Job; “though He slay me yet will I trust Him.” As a result the herd thinned a bit.  We were warned.  Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, quoted Moses from Deuteronomy 8, reminding Americans that if they took for granted their blessings, they would stop thanking God, and He would stop blessing.

Beloved, life IS hard.  Bad things ARE happening.  But we are STILL blessed and STILL have much to be thankful for.  Let’s never be parsimonious in our praise or thrifty in our thanksgiving.  
He is Worthy!

Happy Thanks Giving Week

Pastor Scott

Wise Men Know Where to Build  – Nov 12, 2021

The subject line of an email I received yesterday grabbed my attention.  Not because I hadn’t thought of it before, or maybe even preached it before, but because I had, perhaps, allowed myself to be fooled again…  The subject line of this “inside baseball” email was “Why Sermon Preparation Time is Not the Same as Devotional TIme”

The thesis of the article is that sermon preparation is all about how the text applies to others and, by extension, how said presentation puts our skills as a presenter on display.   While that’s not always true in my case – God’s grace is manifold as is His toe-stepping – but it did make me remember one of the sermon illustrations from William Craig Lane’s book that I think applies, at least at times, to all of us!  

When you think of someone buying a luxury home with a price tag of more than $1,000,000.00, you expect the new home to be of high quality. Such is not always the case, writes Julie Lovine in the Chicago Tribune. The preliminary designs for the new home of Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, included one wall that was so thin it would have buckled under its own weight. The $40 million new home of one billionaire software developer had pine siding so vulnerable to decay it started to rot before the home was even completed. It is easy for buyers to mistake luxury for quality. Experts in the home building industry say that “most buyers agonize over the wrong things.” 

Tom Kligerman, a Manhattan architect, says many buyers “find it boring to spend money on foundations and stud walls. They’d rather spend it on what they can see.” 

A builder of luxury homes said, “It appears that what sells houses depends on having a tub large enough for at least two people, and probably more; flashy stairs… and other glitzy, totally unnecessary elements, as opposed to spatial or constructional quality.”

As it is with homes, so it is with people. Too many people put all their effort into image and appearance and pay no attention to the quality of their character.  

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in Your sight,

O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. 

Psalm 19:14

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27

To have “Character” is essentially to have “Integrity”  meaning “Oneness”  So I’m the same inside and out.  Publicly and privately.  In the light and in the dark.  If you’ve ever cut down a rotten tree, or an old shed, you’ve seen first hand that integrity starts within.

How much time did God get with my heart this morning?  

Pastor Scott 

Quarantines & Prayer – 11/5/21

My, Pastor Scott’s, quarantine, due to exposure NOT a positive test, was supposed to be complete today (11/5); but there was a positive test of another member of our household, who is relatively (mostly) asymptomatic on 11/1; so now I’m on quarantine through 11/10 (see top of Ven Diagram) and none too happy about it (see bottom right).

As I was sitting here in my home office, grumbling, God reminded me that it’s not unlike the wilderness experiences He took many of His people through (mine’s just a lot more cushy).

As I was reading various wilderness writings, I came across Psalm 63, which David writes as he’s in the wilderness hiding out from Saul (or Absalom). It’s a mostly a song of praise and affirmation of his faith in God. In the middle of it he writes:

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches

As I “keep watch” here in this office – I can read, and write, but I will have lots of time to pray!!

Please let me know how I can pray to be praying for you!!

Self-Control; October 29, 2021

Two and three weeks ago, I wrote about the need to allow others to make their own personal decisions when it comes to issues that aren’t directly addressed in Scripture.  It led to several discussions about how much “easier” it is to live a rule-bound life; especially if everyone else is bound by the same rules.  Of course, we all know the problems that leads to (Col 2; Gal 1-5)  Paul concludes, in Galatians, that it comes down to walking with the Spirit and thereby developing His fruit; one of which is Self-Control or “Temperance.”  Here’s a great article published by GotQuestions that’s worth a minute; after you read it take another minute to look up Strong’s Number G-1466; despite how it’s portrayed in the Westerns; TEMPERANCE isn’t a wimp’s word at all!

The last characteristic listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as a fruit of the Spirit is self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is the change in our character that comes about because of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. We do not become a Christian on our own, and we cannot grow on our own. Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Every good thing we do is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Self-control (“temperance” in the KJV) is, of course, the ability to control oneself. It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our baser desires and fleshly lusts.

One of the proofs of God’s working in our lives is the ability to control our own thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not that we are naturally weak-willed. But our fallen nature is under the influence of sin. The Bible calls it being a “slave to sin” (Romans 6:6). One definition of sin is “filling a legitimate need through illegitimate means.” Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of knowing and choosing how best to meet our needs. Even if we knew what would be best, such as not smoking, another need, like comfort, would take precedence and enslave us again.

When we are saved by Christ’s sacrifice, we are free (Galatians 5:1). That liberty includes, among other things, freedom from sin. “Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Now, as the Spirit gives us self-control, we can refuse sin.

Believers need self-control because the outside world and internal forces still attack (Romans 7:21-25). Like a vulnerable city, we must have defenses. A wall around an ancient city was designed to keep out the enemy. Judges at the gates determined who should be allowed in and who should remain outside. Soldiers and gates enforced those decisions. In our lives, these defenses might include avoiding close relationships with sinners, meeting with other believers, and meditating on the life-giving Word of God. We don’t exhibit self-control if we continually dally with that which would enslave us.
Self-control naturally leads to perseverance (2 Peter 1:6) as we value the long-term good instead of the instant gratification of the world. Self-control is a gift that frees us. It frees us to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body. It frees us to rest in the security of good stewardship. It frees us from a guilty conscience. Self-control restricts the indulgence of our foolish desires, and we find the liberty to love and live as we were meant to.

Make Our Prayers Other-Centered – 10.22.21

We pray for others like Jesus would pray for them, thinking about them the way He would think, covering them with prayer, protecting them through prayer, and advocating for them in the same way Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and advocates for us.

“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene …” Isaiah 59:16 (NIV)

Most of our prayers are of the low order, or maybe more like the fast-food order.

We pull up to the drive-thru and yell out our requests to God and then expect Him to have our order ready by the time we pull up to the window.

Yet, God’s view of prayer seems far above the utilitarian. He calls us to a violent form of intercession, where we take on the spiritual forces of darkness on behalf of our race, once invaded, now occupied by the prince of darkness.

Paul teaches us to put on the whole armor of God. If you follow the sequence of his instruction, we’re suiting up for battle so we can stand firm in prayer

(Ephesians 6)

We pray for others like Jesus would pray for them, thinking about them the way He would think, covering them with prayer, protecting them through prayer, and advocating for them in the same way Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and advocates for us.

It is other-centered prayer on the extreme end of “other.

Isaiah describes God as “appalled” that no one was interceding for His people. We have the ability — more appropriately, the duty — to intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters (Isaiah 59:16 NIV).

And we do not do this alone, for the Lord is already interceding, and we are simply joining him. Like the armor Paul describes for us, the Lord is suited for battle. Isaiah says: “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17 NIV).


•    Ephesians 6 says to pray “on all occasions.” At which occasions have you been more likely to pray?

•    How does it change your confidence and your prayer life to know that God is interceding on behalf of his people?

(On Sunday, 10/17, John Adams reminded us to have a more eternal perspective.  On Tuesday, 10/19,  a website called “Thoughts about God” published the above.; I thought the point they make about intercession dovetailed nicely with having an eternal perspective!  – Pastor Scott)

A Fruit Bearing Life – October 15, 2021

Just had a conversation with one of the Bible teachers here at WOGF who is teaching on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:26-27) and it brought to mind a piece written by Dr. Ryrie (my teachers’ teacher, including my predecessor and boss for three years). I hope it’s a blessing and a challenge to you, as you take time to consider all the ways we can and should bear fruit! 

Fruitful Blessings,

Pastor Scott

What is fruit? Actually, the question ought to be phrased in the plural: What are fruits which a Christian can bear? The N.T. gives several answers to the question. 

  1. A developing Christian character is fruit. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms in Galatians 5:22-23, and Peter urges the development of seven accompaniments to faith in order that we might be fruitful (2 Peter 1:5-8). Two of these terms are common to both lists: love and self-control. The others are joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, virtue, knowledge, endurance, piety, and brotherly love. To show these character traits is to bear fruit in one’s life. 
  2. Right character will result in right conduct, and as we live a life of good works, we produce fruit (Colossians 1:10). This goes hand in hand with increasing in the knowledge of God, for as we learn what pleases Him, our fruitful works become more and more conformed to that knowledge. When Paul expressed how torn he was between the two possibilities of either dying and being with Christ or living on in this life, he said that living on would mean fruitful labor or work (Philippians 1:22). This phrase could mean that (1) his work itself was fruit, or (2) fruit would result from his work. In either case, his life and work were fruit. So may ours be. 
  3. Those who come to Christ through our witness are fruit. Paul longed to go to Rome to have some fruit from his ministry there (Romans 1:13), and he characterized the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the first fruits of Achaia (I Corinthians 16:15). 
  4. We may also bear fruit with our lips by giving praise to God and thankfully confessing His name (Hebrews 13:15). In other words, our lips bear fruit when we offer thankful acknowledgement to the name of God. And this is something we should do continually. 
  5. We bear fruit when we give money. Paul designated the collection of money for the poorer saints in Jerusalem as fruit (Romans 15:28). Too, when he thanked the Philippians for their financial support of his ministry, he said that their act of giving brought fruit to their account (Philippians 4:17, KJV). 

Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, 1989, pp. 49-50.

Adiaphora – Oct 8, 2021

Last week I challenged us to make the main thing the main focus of our conversation and to not allow “adiaphora” to divide us.  My editors encouraged me to find a different word, despite adiaphora being the very best word, because we don’t use it anymore.  I was a bit shocked that it’s not even in my most often used online dictionary!  I did, however, find it on a Bible site: 

Abstract – Most lay Christians probably have never heard of the concept adiaphora (plural) or adiaphoron (singular). Adiaphora, a word borrowed from the Greek, means “things that are indifferent.” It has its origin among the Greek Stoic philosophers (4th Century BC) who first used the concept to indicate a given act was neither a virtue nor a vice. The Greek word diaphoron means “difference,” but when the letter alpha (a) is prefixed to diaphoron, the word means “indifferent.” Hence, in regard to given theological or ecclesiastical beliefs or practices, adiaphora refer to beliefs or practices that are biblically indifferent, that is, neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. Adiaphora are those matters that Christians in their God-given liberty are free to do or not to do.       

Alvin J. Schmidt

I need to thank a pastor from my youth, who was rather youthful himself, for using that word so often in my hearing.  Pastor Nathan was instrumental in challenging my thinking when it came to dividing tradition or habits from biblical truths.   

It’s NOT wrong to form convictions.  It’s not wrong to have those convictions produce habits that allow us to walk in godly patterns.  Both the convictions and the habits may be based on application of biblical principles.  But principles are not precepts.  And when we have been believers for a long time, especially if we’ve been multi-generational believers or grown up in a strong tradition, it’s easy for us to start to think of our principles as precepts. 

It’s not a huge leap from there to judging others or even to creating roadblocks to faith!!  I personally struggle in both directions, despite what I KNOW.  I have strong personal convictions that I know to be adiaphora.  Yes, for me they have a principled basis, but in the absolute they are neither commanded nor forbidden, yet I struggle to watch believers who have freedom.  On the other hand, as a watch people get “religious” about their diets or about complying with various health recommendations; it’s equally as easy for me to be pridefully comendemning.   All of those principled but non-spelled-out issues are adiaphora when it comes to unity in the Church.  I’m all for controlling our children, but we don’t need to try to control each other beyond the precepts of scripture.  Amen?!?!

Pastor Scott

14 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bend to me,

    and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning

Romans 14 (New Living Translation)

The Third Strand – October 1, 2021

Like the Apostle Paul did in Ephesians 5, I want to use marriage to launch into a brief point about the Church.  Here’s a sermon illustration that appeared in Leadership Journal, c. 1993. 

A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair.  But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all they would quickly unravel.

Herein lies the mystery: what looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strands tightly woven. In a Christian marriage, God’s presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together.

This is a powerful little illustration and we, who are married, ought to make sure we haven’t sort of “pushed” God out of our relationship by filling our lives up with so much busyness or entertainment, that He has no place. But that’s not really the point of this article. I want us to think in terms of relational connections at church.

There should be a single strand that runs between each of us in a community that keeps us united. Paul calls it being “of the same mind,” or having “the mind of Christ,” or being “of one accord.” Since the Reformation, people have been gathered in churches based on doctrinal affiliation and later based on polity and even worship style. We might not always agree with specific choices made, but at least these choices are along biblical or “religious” grounds. So the single strand may be rather thick – doctrine, polity, and worship style. But at least the focus, we trust, is how can we best worship the Father of our Lord and Savior!

Something different has been brewing in our churches* with the advent of 24-hour news, the 365-day election cycle and social media. The small talk is starting to sound a lot more like what Paul was encountering all over Asia as dispersed Jewish believers were trying to figure out church with first generation Gentile believers. Each carried personal convictions and/or practices that threatened to shatter the unity of the church. We, these days, are no longer just talking about how work is going or about family life. Politics, and even national health care directives, are now divisive Christian talking points. We need to be reminded, as were the Corinthians and the Romans, that our gathering is about Jesus, not about whether the orange man was good or evil! Or whether vaccines should or shouldn’t be mandated! Or whether you should all be doing keto! (This is fun!)  

Romans is known as Paul’s great treatise on the Gospel; it ends with two chapters on unity.  Chapter 14 is about unity despite differing personal convictions. The conclusion is, essentially, that we each directly answer to God, not to each other. So stop condemning and/or judging (even with our facial expressions, body language, and Facebook posts)!  In Chapter 15, Paul explains why Abba doesn’t want His kids snipping at one another while worshipping Him, any more than you want to try reading a story to kids on your lap who are wrestling one another (or even name calling).  It robs those moments of your joy in them!  Something to think about. 

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Romans 15:5-6

Let’s allow our Third Strand  – Christ and His Cross – to grow so thick that nobody knows or cares about whether we root for Donkeys or Elephants every four years!  After all, we are rooting for our neighbors to be loved into faith every day!


Pastor Scott

*I’m aware that politics and church have been interwoven for generations, but I’ve not seen this kind of invasive division before, unless you count all of you ganging up on the Broncos fans who moved here in the 90’s!  LOL

Maybe I need a New Focus? – September 24, 2021

Borrowed from a Facebook Post: There is so much going on in my mind lately about all that is going on in our country and world. This illustration by Andy Stanley* really spoke to me this morning. He asked the question,”What do you notice about Daniel in this picture?” The answer is that he is NOT looking at the lions. He is looking to his God!! With everything going on in our world today I think too many of us are spending our time looking at the lions instead of looking to our GOD. (Painting by Artist Briton Rivière, Title – Daniel’s Answer to the King. 1890)

As a young Bible teacher my pride was sometimes wounded when one of my children would latch on to a scriptural truth in our Christian School (or Sunday School or Youth Group) that I had tried to teach at home, maybe dozens of times. I finally consoled myself by concluding that I couldn’t make a plant grow, I could only plant seeds. This week I had a new epiphany.  

In the picture and a brief post above, re-shared on Facebook by one of our own, a truth is being  proclaimed that both Pastor Jim and I have been trumpeting for years, especially of late.  Yet, seeing this picture and reading this snippet, the truth hit me in a new way.  I realized that not only can I not make seeds grow, but God, in His manifold grace, uses all of our senses to communicate His truths.  Here, using art and history, something we should already know is powerfully reinforced.  

Beloved, the world does not hold the answers we seek any more than it did for Pilate 2000 years ago.  Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He’s our Joy. He’s our Prize!

Yours, for His Glory,

Pastor Scott

*I know Andy Stanley has said some odd stuff of late; this isn’t an endorsement of everything he is currently saying.; but here, he is right on the money!