New Year 2018 – Reflection and Goals

2018 Reflection and Plans

Just as I have for several years now I look back on 2017 and reflect then turn to 2018 with hope, with dreams and goals for my relationship with God, my family and with myself. This is inspired directly from the Bible since we are often hung up on the old in a detrimental way and I was determined to change that.

Reflection of 2017

What I found was that God had already put that path in place for all of us. He knows that we dwell on things and need a reminder, that is why 1 Chronicles 16:11-12 exists! We are told specifically to remember the wonders God has done. My wife calls me a planner, and I am, I like to take the long term view over instant gratification so this speaks to my heart so much. I get hung up on stuff just like anyone else and I think we humans have the ability to slip down that slope of negative thinking so easily because it seems justified to us. Even if it were something small we allow it to eat at us and become a monster within our souls.

When I look back on 2017 I see a year that was everything good and bad in life. No major deaths in my family, but one of our dogs was put to rest. Successful school semesters and my wife has even gone back to pursue her ADN to BSN. We all turned a year older and even welcomed a new puppy to our home, and he chews on everything…literally anything.

All of those things are great days of our lives moments but it has also been a year marked by unexpected challenges of faith. The sudden departure of a loved man of God who is now planting a church in Salt Lake City, Utah called Ridgeline. It is easy to get distracted by that event because leaders, Godly men like that are a rarity in the Bible Belt so when you experience that you tend to latch on. I am completely stoked for what he and his family will do in SLC and you should go to their site and check out their journey! God has moved so that the churches expenses are already covered for a whole year. It is one of those things that shows why faith leads to God’s grace. If you know someone in the area, or are in the SLC area yourself, go and see what Ridgeline is all about!

Goals of 2018

I don’t like the term resolution, it has negative connotations around this time of year. It makes me think of things people promise themselves and abandon on week two of the new year. I don’t make goals until the middle of January because I want to make sure I can meet those goals and only after I look at where I need to improve from 2017.

I have three goals and the first is the most important one because it involves more than just me but my wife and children.

Goal 1 – Pray More

I don’t mean just making sure I dot the ‘i’ or cross my ‘t’ when it comes to grace and before bed. I mean intentional, important, God I need you, someone else I know needs you type of praying. It is something that was running around in my head and something I had mentioned to my wife two weeks before Christmas. This is the cool part, God had already laid the path. I received a copy of ‘The Battle Plan’ a prayer journal inspired from War Room. This gift came by way of my wife’s sister Tara who along with Melissa run Story of My Heart. That coupled with being asked to be a part of the Prayer Team for Reboot Combat Recovery by Melissa is just more proof that this specific goal is vital to my year.

The other half of this goal is my family. Until now we have allowed the kids to say grace using words they memorized in day care. It is sweet and cute and makes my heart swell but with them being 7 and 5 I want them to see more than just something they repeat every day. I want them to see how a conversation with God can be, to be comfortable talking to God about anything and can be done any where. It is my hope that I can communicate and how them that God is there for whatever mess you have fallen in to or placed yourself in (Romans 12:12). That faith in He will be victory in them even if the outcome is not what they expect.

Goal 2 – Read More

I’m not going to tell you I know the Bible forward and backwards or that I read it daily, I do not. I want to change that and will, but that is not what I mean by reading more. I mean to read more from great men of God to learn from their insight. This will be a tough challenge for me, I read enough in school so I fear burnout but, I want to learn more about their lives and how God moved in it. My goal is to read one book a month, and hopefully report back on it here! That would be awesome to accomplish but I cannot promise it I can only pray and try my best to do it.

Goal 3 – Practice Patience

Lord help me on this one, it will be difficult. As my kids have grown my patience has lessened because I can see the wheels spinning as they devise uncounted means of torture for the parental units of the home. They are testing their boundaries and on most days I am solid, handle it well. On other days I feel like that is all I have done that day, fuss at my kids. I do not enjoy that feeling one bit. I need more Ephesians 4:2 in my soul brothers, pray for that for me, please.

The Real Goal

All of those those goals really come together under one thing. Establishing a stronger relationship with God. I want my entire family to be bedrock in God. It is a great work, a life’s work of a husband to guide his family there. That is a burden made light by Christ, if we seek Him relentlessly. Jesus is the man we should be molding ourselves to be like, who we teach our sons to be like. If I bring Christ closer, I can lead my family to being closer to him and fulfill my life’s work.

A Challenge

Going in to 2018 I have set myself a challenge. I want you to solicit prayer requests for me at the Contact page and I will pray for you. I will log that prayer in the book provided by Tara. I want to fill that book up by the end of 2018 and know that I prayed heavily for those who I may or may not know. Regardless of the outcome I can look back and show my kids that prayer is unrestricted, available to friend, foe and stranger. It will be a difficult journey but if I Just Hold Fast, I can do it.

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It’s OK to Leave a Church…Sometimes

Leave a Church

This is a bit on the nose for my family and I at the moment since we are going through this decision to leave the church we have attended faithfully for 15 months. It is not something that we have taken lightly or out of anger (James 1:19-20). It is something that has lingered in our minds for months and has been discussed over and over with by my wife and I. It is OK to leave a church, you are not trapped and it isn’t always something that is going to burden you with sin. I write this for those seeking an answer to a touchy question but I also write this for myself and the ones I walk through life with that have angst right now as much as I have.

[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.

Ray Pritchard

Why are you leaving?

This is the most crucial question that must be answered because parting ways with a church is a serious event for any Christian. We are not meant to be in isolation. We should be seeking community (Ephesians 4:11-16). The answer isn’t a simple one and even after we determine why we feel we need to leave we need to ask ourselves if it is righteous.

Leaving because someone hurt your feelings is a great example of why you should not leave a church. We are fallible and a lot of times we are going to capitalize on that ability to fail. Even if we had no intention of doing so. This is part of being human and if a few people hurt your feelings at the church and you leave, it will likely happen again at your next church. Instead of running off you should give forgiveness and seek to reconcile the confrontation.

We should be seeking unity as Christians so pull yourself up by the bootstraps and seek reconciliation. If the door is closed by the other parties and they are unwilling to even discuss what happened that still doesn’t mean run. Instead, serve. Serve in spite of their behavior and do so graciously.

Reasons people leave

There is a loss regardless of whether we determine the reason as “good” or “bad” when someone stops attending a church or seeks another church. Some of the reasons below apply to why we decided to leave and some do not. Some are good reasons in my opinion and some are bad. I’d love to discuss this with others so please feel free to reach out. People have been known to leave a church because;

“Good Reasons”

  • Moving too far away
  • Long-term Missionary Work
  • Escaping false teaching
  • Openly committed and unaddressed sin
  • Power-drunk Leadership
  • and more

“Bad Reasons”

  • Church Size
  • Hurt Feelings
  • Lack of ways to Serve
  • The Church is changing
  • The Church refuses to change
  • You’re leaving/giving up Church entirely

This is a big topic, isn’t it? I hope you weren’t expecting a snack for today, it’s a banquet. There are a lot of reasons and way too many for me to cover because I can’t even think of them all. I just know these are things I have personally used before as reasons, justified or not. Reasons I have come to reconcile with their validity or whether I was just needing a scapegoat.

Don’t Give Up and Leave God

Of all the bad reasons giving up on church entirely is the most dangerous of them. God created us, Jesus commanded us to be a community and leaving that community opens a Christian up to the enemies power. It is open season on a soul.

Change can be positive or negative. How the church handles it really can affect how you are going to feel about whatever that change may be. There are still churches today that believe wholeheartedly that a woman’s place is at home, rearing kids and in a kitchen. If you’ve been at a church for over a month and that wasn’t evident to you. Please open your eyes. They will likely refuse to change that and if you are uncomfortable with that it is even more imperative that you move on.

Leadership

Leadership is hard and changes to leadership are even harder. The morale of a congregation can be shaken when a pastor who has their heart turned so fiercely to God leaves suddenly that people become hurt, angry, afraid and betrayed. Questions are asked, people are shouting, and fiefdoms can form because of it. This is when leadership must step up their game and be honest , opening their heart to those who attend their church. Non-answers to tough questions force your people to question things even more than they already do.

We cannot forget the Pastor who may be leaving the church. As an outgoing authority they are called to gracious exiting. God’s work takes providence over their personal feelings. This is not some cop out but is in fact extremely self-sacrificing because they could stay and fight. They could blast the leadership out of the water over Pharisee-like polity and power mongering. They could. Yet, a man going through God’s great work of sanctification seeks to live as Christ. And that alone is why a Pastor won’t.

Jesus could have lay waste to those who persecuted him. Effortlessly, they could have been gone, nothing, a bookmark in God’s work. Yet he submitted not out of fear but because his mission was of peace and love and forgiveness.

By God’s design, leadership in the church is a position of humility and selflessness. Church oversight is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as spiritual shepherds are called not to be governing monarchs or slick celebrities, but humble slaves. In submission to Christ, they must exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness.

John MacArthur

I have struggled with that realization of peace-seeking because of the affection I hold for a Pastor who affected me deeply. The messages that God allowed him to share with us always left me convicted. I never walked out of church feeling like I had heard the same thing by someone else just said marginally different. I am in no way putting a man on a pedestal because he is too humble for that.

What God did do is show me what a Pastor is. Something I’ve sought for over fifteen years. Something I lost and did not know how to find again. I am forever thankful and changed because of that season in my families life.

Leaving Ain’t Easy

When we choose to leave a church we are choosing to leave a portion of the body of Christ. That’s big. Leaving is a lot like a relationship coming to an end. It sure feels like it doesn’t it? There are two perspectives I want to address this final part through. That is the member and non-member of a church but one who attends regularly.

Non-members go through phases just like relationships. New church and it is so exciting! I want to be involved. What can I do to make this greater than great?! It is a lot like you meeting someone on a date you like and decide to continue dating. You start building your life on this and thinking how to show commitment to it. You start serving and getting involved, it’s a lot like you are now engaged. And that is where non-membership ends.

You could leave at any time. Whether it is a righteous reason or something that eventually proves out to be petty. While you committed yourself to the church in many ways, it was not like a membership. I am not placing non-membership in a serving role as less than a member but only highlighting there is a certain level of commitment that is missing from a non-member.

Members of a church have gone through the same steps of excitement, engagement and increased commitment but they took that last leap. They’ve married their desire to serve to that particular body. The church has poured in to them knowledge and trust that their lives meet the church’s barometer for membership.

Members parting should seek leadership and talk about it. Let them know why and pray they seek God’s authority in their leadership and not their own. When you part, do so graciously. Don’t burn bridges and cause a disturbance out of anger. There are people staying there after you are gone.

It’s Not Always Running

If you’ve come to that heart rending decision to part a church and you’ve prayed, given the decision due diligence, prayed some more, discussed it with the leadership, prayed with them. They will need your prayer and if Christ can pray for those murdering him, we surely can swallow our unjust pride and pray for them as well as the situation in general.

Leaving a church for a “good reason” is not running or “going out with a whimper” it is a walk by faith and not by sight.

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2016 in Review, 2017 a Path Forward

2016 Review

2016 will go down in the annals of history… However, we write it. It does not have to be the worst year ever, and it may not be the best year the world has seen. Those terms are entirely relative and often personal. A friend may have had a terrible year in some aspects while having great things happen in other areas of life. We, us fragile humans are concerned with blips in our time here on earth and often they are the things that happened yesterday or a week ago or a month. How we review our year determines how we feel about the bounty we have reaped. It shows us what we consider abundant and what is meager. Those things ultimately set the tone for how we expect our year to go. Genuinely consider that sunny disposition and ask if that is a facade for society or will you decide that your year is a mess the 1st day of January when someone makes your coffee wrong?

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Election, Pride, and God’s Directions

Election

Whew! That was an election of elections. I would be a terrible liar if I said I showed love during the last 18 months that the election cycle ran. Let me be blunt here, I was in no way acting like a Christian either. I don’t like the outcome of the election, I don’t like what has happened in our society and I’m ashamed of that, of my own actions. Terribly so. I thought people were stupid for their views; I sat gobsmacked listening to things that just didn’t align with what I thought was the right choice. In short, I was prideful.

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The Big I Do

I Do

I’ll preface this by saying that I am no authority on the role that I am about to take, but this is about my hopes, my dreams, my prayers to be what I discuss. After October 15th at 3:00 PM (I just checked the time of the wedding. No seriously, I did.) I will not be just Scott; I will be Scott, the husband. Legally it’s a small change with profound repercussions. I do not wish to discuss what the law says I am because that is simple and far easier than explaining what God commands of that position. It is quite terrifying frankly.

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Daily Devotional – The Person in the Mirror

Person in the Mirror

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. – James 1:23-24

When we exercise spiritually we are practicing for the potential spiritual threats we may experience in life. I say may because we have been guaranteed to face hardships but I do not wish to come across as a person speaking hopelessness! I speak life! It is why I started this, I want anyone who comes across this to get something spiritually from it. We may be focused on the Christian male but that does not mean we exclude anyone. Spiritual fitness is not like riding a bike you can lose your agility to combat the enemy if you do not keep in touch with God. When we look at ourselves in the mirror do we confront the person we are or do we look and see a person we are pretending to be and live in denial?

Fearing the Mirror

A person who looks in the mirror and sees a person they have fooled themselves in to thinking they are is a person that is spiritually shallow. I in no way mean this to be condemnation because a whole chapter of Romans was dedicated to why we should not condemn anyone (Romans 2:1-29). The first part (Romans 2:1-4) deals with the hypocrisy of the Christians in Rome against the Gentiles. In many ways these Christians were not looking in the mirror  because ultimately the saying, “we’re all human” applies to this so much. The new covenant dissolved the idea that only the Israelites were God’s only people. Sometimes, we as Christians get so caught up in the righteousness that we have through Christ that we also forget that the very righteousness we have is given through faith and that it doesn’t matter who you are (Romans 3:22). We should not be hiding ourselves or trying to because fact is, God sees us even in our hidden place.

Owning the Mirror

I can’t even remember this guy right here. Not who he was but that I looked like that.

Scott - Freshman Football

When I look in the mirror every day, and let’s be honest, I got to keep my hair looking good, I mean look at the brillo pad I have.  When I look at myself I want to be happy with the man I see because ultimately I represent my faith. Am I happy spiritually with who I am, with how I lead my life, my family? If I can say yes to that then I am owning the mirror. Whether it is at work or home take a minute to look at yourself. Not your physical shape, you have the ability to change that just as much as you do your spirituality. Can you say you’re leading a life that represents Jesus to the best of your ability? Maybe you don’t realize the full potential you have for being a disciple. Don’t fret, we all don’t know that. Only God does. We can however ask Him to help us understanding or guide our decisions to be His will. That is why praying is important. how can we ask God to help us if we don’t talk to Him? Own the mirror. You’ll see a happier person.

Final Thoughts

We need to own the mirror every day and we can only do that by diving deep in to the waters of faith. It is a great unknown but He walks beside us. Reading the Bible every day is a great way to start. Do a daily devotional and you’ll start hungering for me. Who was Jesus? Who can I help see Jesus in me? The Bible is God’s word put to ink by men that He breathed words in to. Read, Pray and then get rid of that fear of the mirror and own it. Be what God wants not only in public but in private. He sees it all. Since the beginning he has watched man sin and then try to hide it. Since the beginning He has called man out for those sins and their desire to keep it hidden. When we look in that mirror what do we see? A paper Christian or a man who wears the armor of God and is ready to do battle with hell wherever it is at?

Daily Devotional – Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6

When talking about Spiritual Fitness there is the need to exercise not your body but your faith. We do that by prayer, worship, devotionals and more importantly service to others. As men of families we are given the precious duty of guiding our family through darkness and troubles. In those times we must keep our family’s gaze on God. This is why service is so important to any Christian and certainly should be a focus for the husband who has a family looking up to him.

If you are a single mother reading this, I’m sorry that you are in that position and I will pray about that but this can be applied to you! As the head of house you are charged with caring for the way your children see God. You have the ability to set the tone that your home experiences. There is a reason the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” exists and that is it.

As a couple, as parents you mutually set the tone for your home. That means being a team. A wife is not a bondmaid but a participant. There is a great difference and for an example of this you can see it in this message from Pastor Kurtis Massey at Harvest Bible Chapel of Hickory

Fill the Darkness

While spiritual fitness will help prepare you for an assault by the enemy it does something else. When we accept Jesus a void is filled immediately. That is the light of the Holy Spirit expanding in you and taking that spiritually dead heart and filling it with life. That’s where the change happens and when we start speaking life because that light, the joy of the Lord fills us. As we become spiritually fit we make more room for that light to expand in us. It is much like losing weight in the sense that you are shedding off fat and that fat leaves space in your physical body where it used to reside. Light fills that darkness and seeks total eradication.

Final Thoughts

God yearns for a relationship with us but he will not force us in to that. What reward is there in forced submission? Sure you have these souls who must bow to your whim but there is a joy in the willing worship of your children. As parents we see that when our kids look up to us in that wide-eyed wonder and listen to us intently as we converse with them. Some of the most awesome conversations I have are with a six-year old and a three-year old. God wants that with us! We have to make room for it though because only God can bring light in to our hearts. We must make an intentional effort to not only strengthen our relationship with God but to have those awesome conversations with our wives, our children, our family. Don’t just listen to them but hear what they need because if you aren’t making time for God and helping your family make time for God by serving them then no one in your house is growing spiritually. That will cause more strife than if we just take the time that we might think is inconvenient and set it aside purposefully for God.

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