Monthly Archives: January 2012

How To Have A Relationship: A Biblical Adventure

By Brendan Scott:

God loved me before I was born.  Sometimes I just let that sink in.  When I was inside my mom’s womb my creator loved me.  Maybe that’s why I was born premature.  I was ready to take part in His great creation, ready to experience His love.

A premature birth nearly cost me my life.  Fortunately, a group of loving and skilled doctors worked round the clock to save my life and I joined my family after 13 days in the hospital.

My God loved me as I grew up.  He loved me as I messed up.

Joining my family was the best thing I ever did, not that I had much of a choice, but if I did I would choose them a thousand times over.  My parents taught me love and grace.  They loved me as I grew up.  They loved me as I messed up.  They taught me how to have a relationship with God.

I’ve always known God loved me, but I didn’t start building my relationship with Him until I was a freshman in High School on a mission trip to Costa Rica (This trip probably started my love for Central America as well).  Like any freshman, almost everything I did was meant to impress someone, or more truthfully a girl. This particular girl read her Bible every day, which I found very attractive.  As we walked the beach in Jaco, Costa Rica and shared our hearts I knew my life would never be the same.  But instead of falling in love with a girl.  Instead of finding my “one”, I commited to reading my Bible.  And that is when my real relationship with my creator began.

He loved me before that night and he loved me after that night when I messed up with girls and other relationships.  He used that night to start something beautiful.  A couple  years later I felt Him asking me to be more committed.  At that point I was a Sophomore in College, struggling with self confidence and reading my Bible and spending time with Him most of the time, but if I was too tired or just not in the mood I would decide not to open the Book.

It hit me though, He had always loved me and deserved more than an occasional night committed to him.  At that time I was struggling to fall asleep, constantly worried about my life, what I had done and had not done.  He told me to give him everything, each night.  And so on December 23 2004 I decided to read my Bible and spend time in prayer each night for a year.  Funny enough I hardly have trouble sleeping anymore.  Funny enough I haven’t missed a night in more than seven years.

How can I worry when I know He has always loved me no matter what?

This commitment has been difficult.  Like I said in my blog about running, Living Spiritually takes being attentive, being in position, and being submissive.  I find being attentive and being submissive the hardest out of these three to commit to.  Some nights I am just so tired and then sometimes I just don’t want to hear what God has to tell me.

I have often thought of giving up my nightly time with God, taking a break, but then I think that I might miss what God has to tell me.  And so I continue.

Then this last December as I was reading through the Psalms, I heard God tell me to invite the rest of my family to live spiritually with me.  Nah, it wont work, I thought.  You’ll never know if you don’t try, I heard God say.  And so I tried.  Now, a month in I have noticed a change in my family.  We are sharing our prayers with one another, sharing how God is working in our lives.

I have also noticed a change in my time in the Bible.  The words have come alive again.  This last Thursday as I read Psalm 139 God reminded me that he has always loved me.  He has always known me.  He made me special and strong.  Even as I have lived each day perfectly or gone afoul He has loved me. He has seen my every action and He knew my every move before I even made them, and He still loves me.

He searched me.  And He knows me.  And He loves me.

How can I not live with confidence?  How can I not show grace to those around me?  How can I not live spiritually with this knowledge?

He has filled me with joy and I pray I do not forget this Psalm.

I challenge you, my readers, to open the Bible and start a relationship with your creator.  He has loved you always, and if you join him on this Biblical Adventure His love will change you forever.  It’s a ride worth taking.  He has always given me the strength to continue reading and I know He will do the same for you.

Join me and my family in Living Spiritually.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

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Broken, Healed And Whole

In the fourth grade, at my request, I began studying the violin. For the first two years, my parents insisted that I practice in the room furthest from the family room. It was that bad!

Before investing in our own instrument, we decided that I should begin with a school-owned violin—kind of like giving that old beater car to your overly confident sixteen year old. Serious violinists purchase a shoulder rest to keep their violin in place under their chin. But at the beginning, I used a cheap sponge anchored by a rubber band.

At that time we owned a Dalmatian named “Rahab.” Strange name, great dog…for awhile, and she didn’t last long because she chewed everything in the house. My mom insisted I put my violin away after I was done practicing because of Rahab’s incessant search and destroy missions.

One evening in the middle of practicing, I ran down the stairs to say something to my parents. To be honest, I was probably looking for an excuse to avoid playing while the clock was ticking. Anyway, as I was walking up the stairs, I met Rahab prancing down the stairs with the sponge from my violin in her mouth—attached to the violin. Step by stop, the violin had bounced, face down, on the stairs. And laying beneath her spotted paws was the bridge from my violin, broken. If you’re unacquainted with the violin, the bridge supports the strings above the violin so the strings can be played and heard.

I was devastated. Yet I was also confident that God could do anything. So, I placed my instrument with the broken bridge back in my violin case, closed it, and placed it in the corner of my bedroom. Then I jumped on my bed and interceded to God on behalf of my violin. Never before had a fourth grader prayed so fervently.

“God, please heal my violin,” I pleaded. “In the name of Jesus, make my bridge new!”

Ten minutes later I jumped off my bed, opened the case and looked for a new instrument. But to my dismay, everything remained the same. That night, I went to bed, continuing in prayer. And the next morning, the bridge remained broken.

So, I resorted to Plan B. I grabbed the Elmer’s Glue from the kitchen ( I have no idea why we kept it there!) and I glued the two pieces together. Amazingly enough it held for the next two years.

My violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole.

We’re all Like That Broken Bridge

All of us are like that bridge from my old violin. Broken, and at times, barely holding it together.

Throughout Scripture, we read God’s command to “Be holy, because I am holy” (see Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2).

The Hebrew word for “holiness” (qodesh) means separate, sacred, or set apart. In my spiritual background, I listened to numerous sermons about the meaning of holiness, which could easily be defined by the words “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls who do.” Actually, the list of don’ts was much longer and included drinking, dancing, and listening to rock and roll.

The command to be holy was usually defined by our behavior. Forget about what’s going on inside, just get it right on the outside.

“Be (W)holy”

In recent years, though, certain biblical scholars have begun offering a different definition of holiness. They believe that the word really means “wholeness.” “Be whole as I am whole,” as God might be telling us.

My “healed” violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole—blemishes and all.

In my understanding of God, that seems to align with his character. The nature of God is to renew. In Jesus’ ministry, he called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” (the old definition of holiness) while focusing his ministry on healing the broken. At the end of the age, we read in Revelation 21 a loud voice bellowing “I am making everything new!”

When he calls us to live holy lives, God calls us to be whole. This understanding brings an entirely new perspective to my behavior. It begins with the inside and works its way out. The emphasis is on healing, not perfection.

All of us share elements of brokenness in our lives that affect the way we live: Anger and unforgiveness that spring from past offenses. Abuses that prompt unhealthy or even addictive behavior.

God’s nature is to heal and restore.

What does wholeness look like in your life?

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s thankful that God still heals.

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Dealing with Diabetes: Living Spiritually and Physical Health

Looking for God in all the Right Places

By Eugene C. Scott

My doctor glanced down at my chart. “Did anyone tell you you have type 2 diabetes?”

I thought, What? That would be your job. How can that be? Why didn’t you tell me before? If I hadn’t felt so lousy, I would have yelled at him. Instead I mumbled, “No.”

This was March of 2011 and I had had my blood tested for diabetes by his office in November of 2010. Apparently they forgot to call with the results.

I sat staring at him, feeling anger, confusion, fear, and relief all at once. This was not good. You can lose your feet, go blind, die from this. And I love sugar. It sure answered a lot of questions, though. For a couple of years I had been struggling with growing fatigue, mental sluggishness, mood swings, the inability to concentrate and read, and cuts and abrasions that would not heal.

In the months before that startling diagnosis my health had worsened. I woke up at three in the morning on December 23, 2010 feeling the room and my world spinning as if I were on a merry-go-round.

“Eugene, you have to go back to the doctor,” Dee Dee scolded me. I was scheduled to preach at our Christmas Eve service and I could barely stand up. Preachers are often accused of  making little sense. This dizziness would assure that. The doctor guessed it might be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a maddening catch-all label that seemingly has as many causes and treatments as stars in the sky.

The dizziness and other symptoms persisted. Several months, doctors, and specialists later, frustrated, fearful, and feeling sick unto death, I sat in my original doctor’s office (for the last time) hearing my belated diabetes diagnosis. Turns out vertigo plus diabetes equals one sick puppy.

As I learned about type 2 diabetes, the seriousness of my health situation sank in. “Diabetes can cause far-reaching health implications like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage. Amputation, blindness and even death can all result from not properly diagnosing or treating diabetes,” says the American Diabetes Association.

I’ve always carried a somewhat cavalier attitude about human mortality. Seems to me every last one of us will die. Why get too worked up about it? But I realized unless I controlled my diabetes, I might die by slowing but surely losing important pieces of myself.

It dawned on me I really liked my feet. And I didn’t want to feel this way until death do us part anyway. Fear settled in–deep.

Fortunately I have a friend who is a Registered Dietitian who has worked with diabetics and also two very good friends who have type 1 diabetes. They coached and counseled me. They talked me off the ledge.

“You have to take control of your own health, Eugene,” my dietician friend chided me. She was right. The doctor had failed to call with my blood test results. But neither did I call to find out my results. Nor had I been eating very well. Did I say I like sugar? A lot.

Too often I simply let life happen. A laze faire life has its costs and I was paying them. But did I have what it takes to change?

In any story there is a character arc. This is how the protagonist changes–or fails to–over the course of the story. Poor stories–ones which we find hard to believe and finish–don’t contain enough conflict for the change the main character experiences. In good stories the conflict is so great not only does it keep us turning pages, but we believe the conflict to be strong enough to produce the transformation the main character goes through.

In tragedies the hero fails to change despite the conflict. They lose their feet and kidneys and often the girl even. And we mourn these characters.

This is how real life happens too. Fictional conflict may be more dramatic than my real life  type 2 diabetes. And you–possibly–have faced more dire circumstances. At others times in life I have too. And that conflict usually changed me. Or rather God did.

Even so I felt weak, vulnerable. I pride myself on my physical and mental capabilities, such as they are. I do not like being sick, especially in public. Not being able to hike and read or converse was devastating. And I hated the way everyone looked at me with their sad, concerned eyes as if I were a kitten, who had already stupidly used up my nine lives.

So, I stepped out of my passivity. I found another–better–doctor. I read the book, The Insulin-Resistance Diet, this doctor recommended. I did what my doctor and the book said. I asked my congregation for prayer. I prayed! I took charge of my health. I lost 25-30lbs. Even the vertigo is now manageable.

What does all this have to do with living spiritually? First, when you are dizzy and muddle-headed and your blood sugars are riding roller-coasters inside your blood veins, it is hard to live, much less live spiritually. Physical health impacts spiritual health and vice versa.

Beyond that, this whole process has been like waking up from a semi-coma, first physically and now spiritually. Sometimes it feels as life is coming at me–full tilt–like water out of a fire hose. I miss more than I swallow but it’s sure fun drinking.

And that’s just it. I’m having fun. I am thankful for my diabetes. Because on December 26, 2011, a year after my vertigo onset and seven months after my diabetes diagnosis, I decided to take the next step and move out of my passivity in my spiritual life as well. That’s what I mean by living spiritually. I am no longer waiting for God to happen to me. I have grabbed his hand with all my might. And I’m holding on for dear life.

Join me in Living Spiritually?

Eugene C Scott has had a few health problems in his short life (he’s only 55!). He doesn’t have many spare parts left. As a kid he never figured to live beyond 35. God and life are full of surprises, which includes co-pastoring The Neighborhood Church.

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Saying Goodbye

There are few things harder in this life than saying “goodbye.” My mother-in-law refuses to utter the words, instead saying “See you Saturday.”

Last week as I left my home for the last 2 and half years in Colorado; I lost count of how many times I had to say those dreadful words, “goodbye.”

I attempted to ease the pain by reassuring friends and family that we would see them soon, but the reality is that we are never sure what tomorrow brings.

As I looked into the misty eyes of many of my closest friends I realized that I only could be saying bye right now because of their friendship. Without their sacrifice of time and care our venture to start a new church in Arkansas simply would not be.

And yet, the more these people gave themselves to us, making our leaving easier, it became harder and harder to leave. With each goodbye, a sinking feeling grew within me: I may never see these people again. We all must say that final goodbye at some point.

And yet our friends are exactly what makes saying goodbye so hard and yet so possible. It is their love that gives us the courage to face isolation.

Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” While his death would certainly be for all mankind, his death was most pointedly for his friends.

While that final night must have been extremely painful, it was also bearable because of his friends. And even though their love seemed to falter, his did not. And it was his ultimate sacrifice that made us all his friend, that will give us the courage to finally say goodbye.

The strength of that courage lies in hope, because Jesus has shown us that no goodbye is truly final.

There is day coming that will never end, a day of homecoming. Another day to look into each other’s misty eyes and say “Welcome home!” This is our hope and this is our courage.

So, we can with true hearts, in the midst of leaving, tell one another “see you Saturday.”

Michael is the pastor of the Church @ Argenta in North Little Rock, AR. He hopes to see his friends sooner than in heaven. You can read his blog at www.asprigofhope.blogspot.com.

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Do You Believe?

What does it take for you to believe?

The dramatic comebacks of American Football player and avowed Christian Tim Tebow last Fall has inspired spiritual conversations across the country. Does God help one team win over another? Do godly athletes get a little help from above?

After one dramatic win last season, a friend of my wife—and an avowed agnostic—texted her a simple phrase: “I believe!” Following the game, I checked my FaceBook page and read hundreds (literally!) of messages saying the same thing: I believe!

Gotta See It To Believe It!

Conventional wisdom tells us that we must “see it to believe it.” The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The scientific method teaches us that careful observation allows us to winnow the truth from lies and delusion. After careful research we can articulate a specific hypothesis that over time proves or disproves our theory.

“Science,” my high school physics teacher once explained to our class, “is based on facts.”

One of Jesus’ followers was a “see it to believe it” kind of person.

After Jesus died and (reportedly) rose from the dead, numerous people witnessed the resurrected Christ…and believed. Thomas, however, kept missing out on those “Jesus sightings.”

The rest of the disciples kept telling Thomas, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But Thomas, a born skeptic, told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

After a week of hearing stories about Jesus being alive, he was sitting with the other disciples locked up in a house.

Then Jesus appeared.

He walked right through the locked door and stood in front of Thomas. “Put your finger here,” he said to the famous doubter as he stretched out his hands. “See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas replied.

Then Jesus offered an interesting observation: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 italics added).

Beyond Belief

Think about it: the deepest faith isn’t the result of seeing and then believing. The deepest faith is the result of believing when no evidence is present.

The writer of Hebrews affirms this. In chapter 11, the writer delves into an extended explanation of true faith. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”(verse 1 italics added). By the end of the chapter, he points out the kind of people whose faith all of us should emulate: people who died by stoning, who were sawed in two, who were destitute, persecuted and mistreated.

These people believed while they waited for God to intervene…and he didn’t.

I know people like that…

A friend who continues to hang on to his faith after two years of unemployment.

An acquaintance whose father died in a car accident. She doesn’t understand why God would let it happen. She hasn’t prayed since the tragedy, but she still holds on.

A friend whose son died of an drug overdose four years ago this month. The grief is still fresh, yet I know she hasn’t given up on God.

That, my friends, is true faith. Believing while not seeing.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s still trying to learn what it means to walk by faith.

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Is the Devil in the Details? Or is it Someone Else?

“I’m wondering why your truck is sitting here in the left turn lane idling all locked up.” The fresh-faced state patrolman didn’t smile when he said this. Lights flashed from the top of his patrol car as if pointing out my stupidity. I had hopped out of “my truck” (in reality my co-pastor Mike’s) to hang a sign directing people to our churches’ worship gathering and had locked myself out.

“It’s blocking the lane,” he said still not smiling.

I looked at the puffing truck then back at him. Yep. At least it was Sunday morning and the truck was not hindering the hordes from getting to church.

“We’ve called Triple A,” I answered.

So I stood in the median feeling foolish, thinking–for some unknowable reason–of that arcane quote: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost.”

Little things make a big difference. Too often when I am doing several things at once and am in a hurry, I don’t pay close enough attention to the little things. Such as the little button that pictured “lock” instead of “unlock.” Such as where I last placed my keys, or wallet, or glasses, or wedding ring, or wife and children. Then I spend eons looking for them.

Since the cop wasn’t very talkative, I asked myself what life would look like if I spent those eons paying attention before instead of after.

Here’s what I heard.

Living spiritually is about paying attention. This is not only stopping to smell the roses. What about the parts of life not so fragrant or obvious? There was a message for me in this day’s foolish frustration. Small things loom large. It may not be the devil who is in the details but rather the very opposite: God’s whisper.

Living spiritually is also about learning what not to give credence to. I locked myself out of Mike’s truck because I gave credence to that voice inside me that said, “hurry, faster.” Most lost relationships, items, or moments in my life are the fruit of listening to false voices that call my attention elsewhere.

Inattentiveness is costly. More than wasting precious time, however, inattentiveness often wastes our very lives. Philosopher and theologian Simone Weil once said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Paying attention to people and events, small and large, to life and God, is a gift of ourselves, and sometimes is a gift to ourselves.

AAA rescued Eugene C. Scott from his inattentiveness and the experience actually helped him pay better attention in worship. Not only that but his congregation got a good, well-deserved laugh. Join him in attending to God sightings and telling your stories here and on “Living Spiritually” at facebook.com/livingspiritually. Eugene is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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A Fruity Guatemalan Spiritual Lesson

By Brendan Scott.  Of all the classes I taught, Bible wasn’t the one I looked forward to teaching every day.  I enjoyed my gym classes and my screen writing classes, but this Bible class I had to teach last year was a struggle.  Mostly because of the kids.  Yes, I said it.  I had a class of kids I didn’t enjoy.  Okay, these kids were fine individually, but put them together and they would start to pick on one another.

I knew, as their Bible teacher, it was my job to teach them the correct way to treat their classmates.  But no matter what I told them, the girls still singled out the one girl they decided was different from them and treated her as if she was trash.  And the boys, well, they just cheated most of the time and complained if they weren’t given the best marks on all of their work.

Telling them how Moses brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in hopes of helping them become a kinder class was just not working.  Sunday school lessons on David killing Goliath didn’t mean anything to them.  By middle school at the Inter-American School, a private Christian School, they’d heard it all.  Unfortunately the way they were treating their classmates wasn’t matching up with the Bible verses they’d heard all of their life, and it was bringing me down.

Kids won’t change if the teacher, who is in charge of their spiritual growth, has a bias against them.  Their bad attitudes were causing me to neglect them.  For a while, longer than I care to admit, I decided just to teach the class, but not try to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.  Neglecting them was working fine until I came across the book of Colossians.

Colossians 4: 12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

I knew as a Christian leader I had to show my students compassion.  I started praying for them each night.  The prayers were simple, but they helped.  The girls were still mean to one another and the boys still cheated, but I started to love them.  And I believe that’s what it takes when we live spiritually.

As my love grew, I decided to challenge the class as a whole, including me, to start living by the fruit of the spirit.  I stopped worrying if they knew who was king David’s great-grandfather (Boaz) and started focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I offered them extra credit to memorize Galatians 5:16-25, the passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul get’s spiritually fruity.  They complained about having to know such a long passage, but as I was memorizing the passage the fruit started to show in my life.  And my hope was my students could see the change in me, and start to see what it meant to live by the fruits of the spirit.

This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives.  If we want to live spiritually, we need to live by the fruits of the Spirit.  I am not sure if my students learned anything (middle schoolers are a stubborn breed and not all blogs have clear-cut endings), but I know by being joyful for them when they did well, being kind to them when they were mean to me, or by showing self-control when they acted out, my heart changed.  And if they can see me change, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll change too.

I haven’t talked to many of those kids since I returned to Colorado, but I still pray for them.  I challenge anyone to live by the fruits of the spirit and pray for the people in their lives, even if they are annoying.  The change will be sweet, I guarantee it.

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