Southern California Pastor Challenges the Silent Pulpit – July 23, 2021

This video clip was published in an email newsletter from The Christian Post on July 21, 2021. It is not an endorsement of Pastor Shane Idleman as I don’t know anything more about him than what I see in this video.  This brief video, however, made me think of how often Jesus was humble and kind to the meek and, yet, bold and strong to the proud.  Perhaps we all could stand to more closely model Jesus, in both cases! 

Pastor Scott 🙂

​LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT: You can have your gun protests, lie in the media, teach evolution to our kids, flaunt sexual sin and gay marriage, teach preschool kids about transgenderism, support murdering a child in the womb, but I need to shut my mouth? I don’t think so.

Why can everybody voice, everything else, but the pulpit need to be silenced? It makes no sense. Let me tell you why. It’s because they want to silence the voice of truth.

We are talking about important moral issues that will have huge ramifications when a nation departs from God. What are you leaving for your grandchildren and your children? 

Listen now by clicking this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-wrToS5YpM

Loving those Neighbors! – July 16, 2021

I searched for this acronym on the web today. Now I need to give credit where credit is due.  It was posted by Pastor Dave Ferguson of the Verge Church, however, I’m sure I saw it many moons ago….. It’s a great acronym; if you, like me, are a bit stymied trying to figure out how you can BLESS your own neighbors!

  • B- Begin with prayer. We want you to ask, ‘God how do you want me to bless the people in the places you’ve sent me to?’
  • L- Listen. Don’t talk, but listen to people, their struggles, their pains, in the places God sent you.
  • E- Eat. You can’t just check this off. It’s not quick. You have to have a meal with people or a cup of coffee. It builds relationships.
  • S- Serve. If you listen with people and you eat with people they will tell you how to love them and you’ll know how to serve them.
  • S- Story. When the time is right, now we talk and we share the story of how Jesus changed our life.

Genesis 12:2-3 says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Give it some thought or jot it in your journal,

Pastor Scott

Three Words that Summarize the Christian Life: Believe, Abide, Love – July 9, 2021

by Guest Blogger, Shawn Lazar, via Grace Evangelical Society on May 12, 2021

Most religions are extremely complicated because their works salvation systems depend on you following intricate laws, rituals, and to-do lists in the hopes of climbing the ladder to heaven.

By contrast, Biblical Christianity (and, by implication, Free Grace Theology) is simple.

How so?

I think you can summarize the Christian’s “duty” with these three words:

  1. Believe. There is one condition to have everlasting life: believe in Jesus. Most religions teach the need to do works to be saved. Not Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus did all the work on the cross so you can have eternal life as a gift (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus paid the price for salvation so that you can have it for free. How do you receive it? By simply believing Jesus for it: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
  2. Abide. After you believe, the Christian adventure really begins. God wants you to grow in your friendship with Christ (John 15:15). He wants you to not only have life, but to have abundant life (John 10:10). How can you do that? By abiding in Jesus. That means reading God’s Word and letting Jesus’ teachings “sink in.” Listen to Him. Think about what He taught. Meditate on those words, letting them challenge, correct, inspire, and otherwise transform your thinking. If you abide in Him, you will be fruitful: I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples (John 15:5-8).
  3. Love. What does God require you to do? Love your neighbors. Think of it this way – God gives the believer salvation for free so you won’t waste your life being religious, trying to save yourself. Instead, you can get on with the business of loving your neighbors, however they need to be loved. If you see a need that you can meet, do something about it. Care for your family, feed the poor, clothe the naked, support widows, be a friend to orphans, write to prisoners, and do whatever other good needs to be done: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).

Biblical Christianity is simple, but I did not say it is easy.

It is hard to believe that Jesus gives you eternal life as a free gift.

It takes years of abiding in God’s Word for it to impact all your thinking and living.

And as you know, the world is full of endless needs, so loving your neighbors can require enormous self-sacrifice.

No, living the Christian life is not easy.

But it is simple: believe, abide, and love.

Trouble! Right Here in River City! – July 2, 2021

Olympians turning on the flagMen suing to use ladies restrooms.  Competing riots. Political finger pointing and name calling rather than problem solving. Etc., etc., etc.!  Other than not wanting people to love God, why do you think Satan is working so hard to tear apart the very fabric of our society?  I think it’s because he hates the freedom that we have.  He wants to see us under the control of a tyrant.  And anarchy is the surest way to bring that about! Our God, on the other hand, wants us to be free!  It’s interesting to note how He starts out the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  God sent ten plagues, He killed the firstborn of Egypt, He crushed Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, all so that His people could be FREE!  Then the first thing He did is give His people a set of moral instructions to live by, because we can’t live freely without morality!  Immorality leads to chaos, chaos leads to mass destruction, mass destruction leads to a willingness to accept tyranny!  It’s the same plan followed by Mao, Stalin, and Hitler, all of whom were led by their father, Satan, and I’m sad to say our country and our world is marching to that same drum beat.  I’m hoping (and the news on the political and science fronts lead me to believe) that Christ’s return is near, but I have to also recognize that other generations have believed the same thing as they’ve watched their nations crumble.  If Christ doesn’t return, we better work and pray for national revival.  We can’t last the way we are going. 

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” 

Revelation 22:20-21

Anchors and Foundations – June 25, 2021

As I sit to compose this blog on Thursday the 24th, early reports are leaking out of Florida that a building “pancaked” in last night’s storms. Our hearts and prayers go out for the 99 (at this moment) who are still unaccounted for. By the time you read this on Friday, or later, much more may be known and the personal stories may be revealed of both victims and heroes. I trust many will be saved and SAVED.  

As I read the initial story, my thought went to the parable in Matthew 7 of the house built on sand. That is, of course, not a condemnation of this particular building, but more of a reassurance that my faith is built on something untouched by any outside circumstances, including a storm big enough to bring down a giant man-made structure. If you are reading this as a believer in Christ, aren’t you glad that your Rock has the power over any storm, whether it be in the sky above or in your own heart? Yet, if you know anything about Florida, this was a storm coming off the ocean, where the biggest storms of all are born and from whence, perhaps, the greatest illustration of our assurance is born!

Have you ever visited a naval dock? Have you ever stood and looked at an anchor? Not one of those two-bit jobs on Uncle Bill’s fishing boat – I mean AN ANCHOR.

Anchors and their accompanying chains, even in the 1st century, had to be heavy enough to hold the ships to which they were connected. However, a ship that dropped its anchor in a storm might have to drag it for a while until it caught onto something that would hold it, something stronger than the tug of the ship on a storm-tossed sea! Not quite a sure thing. Ships that pulled close to land used a different tactic. They put the anchor on a smaller boat called a forerunner, and sent it to shore with a crew who would anchor it securely, EVEN IN A HURRICANE!

Take a minute right now as you consider whatever storm or storms are beating on your heart. I want you to read this verse aloud, considering every word, keeping in mind Who, in the Hebrew mind (and in truth), is behind that veil!

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” 

Hebrews 6:19-20 NASB1995

Forgiveness Sans Repentance? – July 18, 2021

Sunday I preached on the parable of the two servants in Matthew 18, the one in which a servant who had been forgiven a GDP-sized debt, then failed to forgive a home mortgage-sized debt.  Afterward someone asked me if we need to forgive someone who hasn’t apologized/repented.  It’s a great question and, biblically, seems to have a two-part answer.

Part One – Vertical Forgiveness

In last week’s sermon I mentioned the principle Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer:

  “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’  For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.”   

Matthew 6:12-15

Mark has Jesus repeating this teaching while talking about faith in prayer:

“Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your offenses.”

Mark 11:24-25

In both of these passages, Jesus makes no mention of the other party, He just tells us to “forgive” – let it go, send it away!

In a similar vein Paul mentions forgiving others “as Christ has forgiven you,” in both Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13, as a component of the Christian character that ought to be part of our daily lives.  So yes, on the one hand, I must forgive my brother or sister regardless of apology so as to be in fellowship with my Father in heaven above.

Part Two – Horizontal Forgiveness

The parable in Matthew 18, concerning the two servants, is preceded by a discussion about what to do when a brother sins against you.  Jesus instructs us to go to him privately and try to get him to hear us (18:15).  Should the result of this meeting be one of refusal to hear (apologize, agree, repent), then there are a series of steps, the final one of which is excommunication.  We see these steps played out, sometimes rather drastically, in the early church. So we know God is serious.  I do understand the root of the question, that being that sins which are obvious to us ought to be obvious to the sinner.  However, in this teaching we who are offended are instructed to initiate.  If we don’t think the offense rises to the level of confrontation or if we are too hesitant to confront, then forgiveness is our only other option.

All that said, conditional forgiveness is a “thing,” but it’s an infrequent thing in our lives compared to how often hurts are never confronted and, therefore, just need to be “let go” because they only damage the one holding on to them, not the one we are holding them against, as much as we like to imagine otherwise!

Yours, Because I’m His,

Pastor Scott

Believers and Oaths – June 11, 2021

Witness swearing on the bible telling the truth in the court room

“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

Most of us have heard those words dozens of times on “Perry Mason” or “Law and Order.”  Not many of us hear those words in person. I’m almost at the end of my sixth decade, and I’ve never been asked that question! During the first 245 years of America it’s been a safe bet that if you keep your nose clean, you’ll not stand before a judge…. But times they are a’changin’ my friends! The truth we are mandated, by The Highest Authority, to proclaim may very soon become illegal, at which time some of us could end up being asked those words, which leads us to the question:

Does Jesus absolutely forbid oaths?

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin

(Matthew 5:33-37)

Clearly, Jesus wants us to be people of our word.  Clearly He does not want us to frivolously be swearing that we will keep some promise or fulfill some obligation.  Remember, “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye?” But did He forbid us from swearing to His name in court?  

If all He ever said was here in chapter 5, it certainly would seem that way. Fortunately for us, the issue Jesus was confronting wasn’t so much seriously binding court testimony as it was a practice scholars today call “casuistry,” which was an elaborate hierarchy of things by which to “swear.” He brings it up again in Matthew 23 and, in that series of woes, He deconstructs their hierarchy and says in the end that all oaths are to God and God alone. While it doesn’t leave the reader feeling warm and fuzzy, it does leave one feeling that in a very formal setting (i.e., a court of law) swearing an oath to God is acceptable. That said, it’s not to be part of our everyday life!

Pastor Scott

Pride vs. Humility – June 4, 2021

I love to collect stories that illustrate spiritual truths.  Often I even go so far as to print them out and bring them to the pulpit with me, but for whatever reason, that’s as far as I get.  Here are two I really wish I had read this past Sunday as we dealt with self-righteousness (a.k.a., thinking too much of myself).  Pastor Scott

On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.”

The guard shook his head. “Padarewski, Poland’s Maestro was here a few years ago and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”

Source Unknown

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I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9

I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8

I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God) and doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. The Psalms strike both these notes again and again. So too, Paul in his letters both articulates humility and breaks into doxology. Look at his three descriptions of himself quoted above, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace. One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer. But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable.

Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace. 

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

Rest – May 28, 2021

Despite the fact that the pandemic has kept many of us from our normal course of activity for many months, I’m not sensing (or experiencing) a particular impression that we are emerging from it refreshed and well rested.  If anything, I see a lot of drained faces (at least in the mirror)!  I suspect that it’s because while our bodies may not have been as active during this time of waiting, our minds more than made up for it by being overactive!  I’m not a doctor, but I have the same access as you do to the GREAT Physician’s Book. Consider His words and some commentary from a devotional printed a few years ago. – Pastor Scott

Mark 6

7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them…. 30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.   (Emphasis added.)

According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.

Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies.”

The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.”

People are also like that. That’s why we all need to take time to rest. In today’s Scripture, Jesus prescribed time off for His wearied disciples after they had returned from a prolonged period of ministry. And in the Old Testament, God set a pattern for us when He “rested from all His work” (Gen.2:3).

Shouldn’t we take His example seriously? Start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. You will be at your best for the Lord if you have taken time to loosen the bow.

Our Daily Bread, June 6, 1994.

Trust and Obey – May 21, 2021

I’ve been teaching on the Parables of Jesus.  I found this “Parable from History” that I think speaks for itself.  Pastor Scott

In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.” “I understand,” said Henry, “the rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” “Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.”

When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.” When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. Christ expects us to be faithful where He puts us, and when He returns, we’ll rule together with Him.