thoughtforthedayAs a chaplain for the 147th Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, these are my monthly squadron presentations.

School Shootings and Me (3/11/2018)

What can I do about the school shootings?

I feel so powerless. Since 2000, there have been in excess of 200 shootings. Since January 1, 12 schools have been afflicted with this plague. Each time one happens I shake my head and wonder what am I supposed to do?

We know the arguments and issues. Gun control. Arm the teachers. Metal detectors. More awareness. Violence in entertainment and gaming. Mental health issues.

We know the perpetrators. Young male. Usually white. Socially isolated. Access to guns. Possible drug abuse.

But, there is one alarming thread that most school shooters have in common that is not being discussed.

Almost 100% did not have a father actively involved in their life. No dad. Broken home; broken boy.

The Parkland Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, grew up without a biological father and his adoptive father died when he was still young.

Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, came from a broken home and his dad had not talked to him in two years.

Elliot Rodgers, University of California at Santa Barbara, said the most devastating event of his life was the divorce of his parents.

This reality extends even to the mass shooters. Steven Paddock, Las Vegas, and Dylaan Roof, Charleston, were fatherless.

We see the direct connection between juvenile delinquency and fatherlessness but for some reason we have not made the connection yet to these young men.

What can I do?

The gun control debate is too big for me and I do not know how to address the pervasiveness of violence in our culture, but I can do one thing. As a dad, I can be involved my children’s lives. My children need more than my money. They need my direction, emotional support, encouragement, example, correction and ongoing affirmation. They don’t need me to be a buddy or friend but they need me to be dad.

Now, I can do that and so can most dads.

Scott McKay is the pastor of Willow Drive Baptist Church in Lake Jackson and a chaplain with the Texas Air National Guard. He and his wife, Stephanie, have five children and two grandchildren.

Purple Press – Influence (2/1/2018)

Parenting young adults is far harder than parenting teenagers and children. You can tell a child what to do and pressure a teenager, but with young adult children you are limited to influence.

The kind of influence I have on my four young adult children is based on how I view them. Stephen Covey teaches a leadership principle that states: Begin with the end in mind.

The principle applies to projects, personal goals and I also believe to the people around us.

Here is how I am applying this principle to one of my 20-something children. His name is Aaron. He lives in LA and he is trying to make it in the film industry.

A few days before Christmas, he called us about a major predicament. It was not a moral issue and his life was not in danger, but his car was. Since Aaron moved to LA in 2015, we have received innumerable phone calls of dilemmas, troubles and hardships.

I will spare the details, but eventually the situation resolved itself and a few days afterward we talked.

Aaron said, “Dad, I just wish you would yell at me and tell me how bad a person I am.” In so many words, I said, “Aaron, I see you as a success and not a screw up.”

Begin with the end in mind.

Yes, I’ve had the hard conversations, drawn the clear boundaries, laid out the expectations and demonstrated tough love with Aaron, but it all comes from the place that I see him as a future success not an eternal screw up.

I think once you see others through their potential, you will more likely be drawn from complaining and criticizing to coaching and encouraging.

Purple Press – Loss (2/1/2018)

We all lose stuff. A few losses are good – weight, awful boyfriend/girlfriend – but most are bad. How does it feel losing your car keys?

  • You feel discombobulated – all these questions, constantly searching, false hope, and desperation.
  • You have a range of emotions are most aren’t good – mad, frustrated, restless, cry, shameful, foolish and you might even feel sick or get a migraine, lack of energy and focus, depressed, optimism, and false hope.
  • You start projecting – on yourself, on others, about someone stealing them, about the future.
  • After a while you are settled with it. You buy new keys and then you make adjustments concerning where to put your keys in the future.

Everybody goes through loss:

  • Death of a friend or family member or pet.
  • Loss of a relationship – marriage, friendship, job partnership, kids leaving the home, moving to different community, watching loved one lose their memory.
  • Loss of dream, opportunity, ability, health, trust.
  • Loss of status – graduating from high school and entering college, graduating college and starting work life, not getting a promotion, bad financial choices, job, retirement.
  • Loss of both freedom when you have children and independence with marriage or health issues.

Whenever you lose something significant, you go through the same experiences as when you lose your keys. The big difference is that you have to move ahead with getting new keys, but most loss cannot be pushed through with grit. You are like a jellyfish. You float with the current around you; you cannot force your way through it.

Eventually, if you handle the loss in a healthy way, you will make the adjustments to your new normal. Depending on the loss, the adjustment may take weeks or years, so during this time, be aware and show grace to yourself as well as others who are experiencing loss.

Listening Well – January 2017 (2/23/2017)

With all the divisive and negative talk within our nation, it is critical that we learn how to listen well. People feel most loved when they are deeply listened to by another. Here are some simple listening skills that you can do today to strengthen your relationships:

  • Get with another person and answer the question: What is the biggest thing impacting you right now (good or bad)? How are you feeling about it?
  • As the Speaker, remember to:
    • Speak in the “I.”
      • “I miss being with you and I feel lonely.” Vs. “You are never available to me.”
    • Keep your statements brief. Watching the rambling.
    • Stop to let the listener paraphrase.
    • Include your feelings
    • Remember to be honest, clear and respectful.
  • As the listener, remember to:
    • Give the speaker your full attention. Don’t think about your rebuttal.
    • Step into the speaker’s shoes – feel what he/she is feeling.
    • Avoid judging or interpreting.
    • Reflect back as accurately as you can what you heard the speaker say.
    • When you think he/she is done, ask, “Is there more?”
    • When the speaker is done, ask, “Of everything you have shared, what is the most important thing you want me to remember?”
  • Switch roles
  • Share your experience with one another by using the following sentence stems:
    • Most helpful from the listener was…
    • What I would have liked more from the listener was…

 

Clarify Expectations (12/15/2016)

Early in my marriage I did not call Stephanie about coming home late from work. She assumed the worse and had a search party looking for me. She expected me to call and I did not. You can eliminate 25-50% of your relationship problems by learning how to clarify expectations.
What clarifying expectations do is eliminate confusion, pain and disappointment in relationships. We are entering the holiday season and there are a lot of unexpressed expectations in families – travel, family, food, presents, and mental images of what the holiday season is supposed to be like.
Unmet expectations are like land mines. They are underneath the service ready to explode. It separates families, friends, workgroups, neighbors, nations, etc.
Many expectations are:
 Unconscious – We have expectations of others that we don’t even know we have until the go unmet.
 Unrealistic – They are unreasonable. You expect to have a great holiday experience with your family but it has never happened before.
 Unspoken – You are conscious of them and they may be realistic, but they are not spoken.
o My sister not going by to see our grandmother.
 Un-agreed upon – we have expectations of others that they did not agree upon and they have expectations of you that you did not agree upon.
o Stephanie expecting me to take out the dog.
What makes expectations valid:
 Conscious – I am aware of my expectations.
 Realistic – I believe there is evidence to support that the person can, or will, do it.
 Spoken – I have expressed the expectation clearly.
 Agreed Upon – The other person agreed.
Key Principle: An expectation is only valid when it is agreed upon.
The exceptions to this principle are between a parent and a child (chores), marriage vows of faithfulness, employee/employer and military.
Application:
1. Think of a recent expectation you had that went unmet and made you angry, disappointed or confused. For example: someone didn’t return a text or email; a close friend didn’t send you a birthday card; your roommate did not take out the garbage.
2. Use the following checklist to clarify in your own mind:
a. Conscious – Were you aware that you had this expectation?
b. Realistic – Is this expectation reasonable? Why or why not? What is the specific evidence that this person can, or will, do this?
c. Spoken – Have you clearly spoken the expectation, or do you just think the other person should know?
d. Agreed upon – Has the other person agreed to the expectations?
3. Practice clarifying your expectations and see if it is agreed upon. Here are possible sentence
stems to help you begin:
a. I’d like to clarify an expectation I have of you…Is this correct?
b. I expect…because…Can we agree to that?
c. I wonder…Are you willing?
d. I’d like to check out an assumption I’ve made…Is this true?
This material comes from the Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0 Workbook by Pete & Geri Scazzero.

Daily Temperature Reading (11/5/2016)

At the last Commander’s Call I handed out a relationship tool called “Daily Temperature Reading.” The essence of the tool is to create healthier relationships through honest and open dialogue.

One element of the DTR is “Complaints and Recommendations.” The purpose of complaints and recommendations is to help each person be aware of and take responsibility for the small irritations and annoyances that arise every day and share them maturely.

When complaints are unspoken, they unconsciously leak out through a poor attitude or passive-aggressive behavior. When spoken poorly, they immediately drive a wedge in the relationship. This is not about arguing about or solving concerns, but how to hear each other, learn to negotiate and perhaps agree to disagree.

Here is how it works: The person with the complaint takes responsibility for coming up with a possible solution. As my wife said to me this weekend, “I noticed you let the dog roam around the house today when you left. I would prefer you keep her in the utility room unless you are home.” This is much better than, “Why did you let the dog out of the utility room?!”

This is a hard skill to master because I am rewiring my brain to handle complaints differently. But, I can say that after 31 years of marriage that I am no longer afraid of saying the wrong thing and escalating an issue into an argument and I am not as defensive when given a complaint.

By using this skill regularly and keeping our complaints current, our conversations are much better and our marriage is healthier. For a fuller description of the DTR, go to http://www.pairs.com/dtr.php.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION (9/21/2016)

“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.” -Aristotle

HOW TO TAKE A TIME-OUT

Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, partners begin to accuse, criticize, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore. Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution. This is when a “time-out” can be beneficial. A time-out provides couples with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.

  1. RECOGNIZE your need for a time-out. Are your fists clenched? Is your face red? Are you breathing fast? Are the tears streaming down your face? Do you feel like screaming or throwing something? Are you afraid of your partner’s intensity? Do you feel emotionally closed off?
    • Learn to recognize the signs that things have become too intense for you to have a productive interaction with your partner.
    • What physical and emotional reactions indicate you need a time-out?
  2. REQUEST THE TIME-OUT. Call a time-out for yourself by saying something like “I’m just too angry to talk right now; I need to take a time-out . Please give me an hour to calm down and gather my thoughts.”
    • Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!” Suggest a time when you think you’ll be ready to resume.
  3. RELAX AND CALM DOWN. Take some deep breaths. Go for a jog. Take a walk or a bath. Write in your journal. Read, pray, or watch television for a while.
    • Do something that will help you relax and recover from the emotional intensity.
    • What method(s) could you use to calm down?
  4. REMEMBER WHAT’S IMPORTANT.
    • Try to identify what you were thinking and feeling that became so difficult to discuss.
    • Think about “I” messages you could use to tell your partner what you were thinking or feeling, and what you need from him/her.
    • Try to spend some quiet time considering your partner’s point of view and what they are feeling.
    • Remember the two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both individuals can feel good about.
  5. RESUME THE CONVERSATION. Bring in the skills of Assertiveness and Active Listening and/or the Ten Steps for Conflict Resolution. These structured skills can help contain the intensity as you attempt to resolve a conflict. Honor your commitment to return to the issue when you are ready to have a more productive conversation.

 

Thought of the Day: “I’m puzzled…?” (8/3/2016)

Whenever someone does not respond to your email, text or call, where does your mind take you? Do you get angry, disheartened, concerned or upset?

We know that normally our brain fills in uncertainty with negative thoughts. We assume the worst and when the person does respond, we have a little attitude or caution. This little phrase, “I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from going to those places.

One of my sons is a trumpet player and before he came home from college this summer, he contacted our local orchestra leader about volunteering to play for the community production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The leader was very appreciative and told Nathaniel that he would get back with him.

Four weeks rocked along and he had not contacted him, so Nathaniel thought the worst. “I can’t believe he didn’t call me back and at least tell me that he didn’t need me!” I asked Nathaniel, “Why don’t you call him” You never know what might have happened.” Reluctantly, Nathaniel called only to leave a voicemail. The next day, the orchestra leader’s wife calls and says, “I am so sorry my husband did not get back with you. He’s been extremely sick for the last month and, in fact, his tongue is paralyzed and he can’t talk with anyone, but he does want you to play in the orchestra.”

So how do you think my son felt? Like a jerk.

“I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from assuming the worst and be a gentle reminder to the person that you need a response from them. Use it as a tool to maintain healthy communication in your relationships.

The Wake Behind You, June 2016 (6/16/2016)

When a boat moves through the water it leaves a wake behind it.  Wakes can be fun to a wakeboarder, but they can be dangerous to a kayaker.

Likewise, as we pass through life we leave a wake.  The wake can either be enjoyed by others or it can be disastrous.

There are two sides to our wakes.  There is the professional side.  This is the impact we leave in our work environment.  Would our co-workers say that we have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and are dependable or would they say we are undependable, lack motivation and do not strive for excellence?

The other side of the wake is our personal side.  This is the impact we leave on those closest to us.  Are people’s lives better because of our commitment and love or are their lives a wreck because of our selfishness and unforgiveness?

When people experience your wake, are they saying “Oh boy!: or “Oh no!”?

Characteristics of A Giant Killer – May ‘16 (5/19/2016)

Last drill I spoke about the Bible story of David and Goliath and what giants reveal about us. All of us have giants, like Goliath, that we need to face and all of us can be like David and defeat them.

  1. Giant killers see potential rewards if they defeat the giant – a wife and no taxesDavid saw the potential and then the problem;
    1. If you want the fruit, you have to get out on the branch; this was courage over fear; he probably was afraid, but motivated by the reward
    2. What are the rewards if you defeat the giant that stands before you?
    3. Oswald Sanders: Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.
  1. Giant killers don’t listen to doubting critics – his brother and the giant.
    1. We must get by the Eliab’s. They are over us emotionally – family, close friends. Criticism hurts… when it comes from someone who is close to us; known us for a long time; questions our motives and ability; it’s continual.
    2. We must get by the Goliath’s. They are over us experientially. Some are immobilized b/c they hear the criticisms of “experts” and think that since they said it then I’ll never be able to do it. Every person who has never killed a giant will tell you it is impossible.
  1. Giant killers deal with giants in a timely manner – 40 days
    1. They don’t allow giant problems to perpetuate, but they deal with them forthrightly.
    2. We become overwhelmed when our giants continually show up and we do nothing. Goliath came every day and he defeated them w/o fighting them. When we don’t deal with giants quickly the 40th day is a lot worse than the 1st. The longer you put it off, the bigger the giant becomes.

Everyone faces giants and everyone can be a giant killer so take courage and take on your giants.

minimessagesShort video summaries of each week’s message.

frommyheartThoughts from both my monthly newsletter column and personal journal.

From My Heart, December 2017 (1/18/2018)

I want to address a chronic problem with American Christianity that really manifests itself around the holidays.

Have you ever seen a house that a do-it-yourselfer decided to build? This isn’t your ordinary handyman who followed a set of plans and sub-contracted some of the work. No. This is the guy who decided he could do it with no plans and a good eyeball.

He has things like: Four electrical outlets running along a master bedroom wall and none on the other walls; an antebellum plantation front with a Spanish tile roof; a half poured patio with exposed rebar.

After seven years of interrupted activity, he ends up in a freakish house which has an odd assortment of both conventional and unconventional amenities.

Too many American Christians have the same pattern in following Christ. They start off in one direction with the Lord…get distracted…move into something else…grow cold… get shaken back into reality…return to the Lord…get distracted…move into something else…and on and on it goes.

Freedom, money and mobility are wonderful drugs. They promise fun, rest and family time, but they leave us exhausted, broke and distracted. We turn into disciples who “intend to.”

Jesus said: If anyone wants to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. (Luke 14.26-28)

If you want to be His disciple, you can’t have the, “gone every night of the week, eat on the run, fill the calendar with activity, toy with sin, spend to the limit, stay on top of social media, place your kid’s first, always find time for yourself, plus, follow Jesus lifestyle.” It ain’t happenin’!

Jesus’ word to the American Christian is, “You are worried and distracted by so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Only a few find it and it will not be taken from them.” (Luke 10.41-42)

Count the cost,

Pastor Scott

From My Heart, November 2017 (1/18/2018)

How do you respond to people who have lost so much during the flood?

While running the evacuation shelter, two of our members spent time just listening to the story of a woman who lost everything. Afterwards, they prayed for her. Within a few minutes of the conversation, she changed. Her countenance, attitude and perspective shifted from one of despair to hope. When she left our shelter the next day, she was not the same person who arrived 24 hours earlier.

What did she need? Emotional validation.

This lady’s life was reshaped by something beyond her control. Her past, present and future were affected by the muddy waters of destruction. She was disoriented, anxious and reeling from uncertainty. She needed to be heard.

Emotional validation is a powerful ministry response. Letting people vent and then validating their feelings goes a long way in helping a person. We have all had the experience of feeling like another person really “got us” when were sad or mad. They didn’t rush us or give us advice or diminish our situation by comparison. We were heard and it was satisfying. Then, we were able to let go of some of the negative feelings we had.

So how do we offer authentic emotional validation? Here’s some advice from an article I read:

  1. Let the person complete their story so you have all the facts.
  2. Convey you get what happened to them from their perspective (whether you agree with that perspective or not and even if their perspective is obviously skewed).
  3. Convey you understand how they felt as a result of what happened (from their perspective).
  4. Convey that their feelings are completelyreasonable.
  5. Convey empathy or sympathy (not pity!) for their emotional reactions.

The Bible says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” and the old saying, “There is a reason God gave you two ears and only one mouth” are both appropriate as it pertains to emotional validation.

Listen up,

Pastor Scott

From My Heart, July 2017 (7/16/2017)

“From Friendly to Family” is our theme for the year. Many guests have commented that Willow is an incredibly welcoming church, which is a wonderful attribute. People have also said that they want to develop deeper relationships within the church, but they have found it a challenge.
The Sunday Morning Experience Team (SMET) labored over these matters for two months and they developed some solutions. Though space will not allow me to address all of them, I want to mention a few.
First, we developed the vision and the supporting affirmations as illustrated in the following diagram. One affirmation is outward focused and the other is inward. Both reflect lifestyle choices of growing believers.

Second, we are taking steps in our ABF and YBF ministries to ensure everyone knows each other. We are encouraging for both more time be given within the Bible study hour so members can know each other and intentional events outside of the church setting so members can connect with each other.
Third, the first service will continue its normal greeting time, whereas the second service is encouraged to do their greeting during the five minute countdown prior to the service. The SMET believes the current “meet and greet” in the second service is not long enough and seems too forced for genuine relationship development. We are asking those in Bible study to dismiss their classes by 10:50 AM so people can make their way into the Worship Center and visit with one another.
Fourth, we are striving to have leaders for each of the sections within the Worship Center. Their responsibility would be to connect with those in their section. They would also help guests to find common ground with others in their section.
Fifth, we want to develop an Information Desk in the atrium. It will serve as the main information distribution point on Sundays. The volunteers will provide information and help attendees get involved in “family building” activities, such as small groups, events and ministry opportunities.
“From Friendly to Family” is a long term goal and it is part of our 2020 Vision “to build stronger relationships within Willow.” We know we are to love one another, but practically you spell love, T-I-M-E, so take the time to love your Willow family by building new relationships and strengthening existing ones.
Much love,
Pastor Scott

From My Heart, June 2017 (7/16/2017)

On June 4 we will celebrate Pentecost. After his resurrection and 10 days prior to Pentecost, Jesus told his disciples they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.4). He defined the baptism of the Holy Spirit by saying, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1.8).
These are Jesus’ last recorded words on earth. We have typically emphasized the Great Commission as Jesus’ last statement. But, if we spread the gospel without the power of the Holy Spirit, we have a proposition only faith (that is, a faith based upon stated beliefs). Proposition is critical but you must have proposition with power…the Word and the Spirit.
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message and Christian life are only superior to other faiths by degrees, but with the power of the Holy Spirit they stand in a league all to themselves.
Christian spokesman, Lou Engle, writes: “A leader in the body of Christ was watching an Islamic TV program in the Middle East, in which the Muslim cleric was describing the worldwide missionary expansion of Islam. Suddenly the cleric despaired saying, ‘But we have lost Africa! The Christians are healing the sick, raising the dead, and multiplying bread. We can’t compete with this.’ ”
NO RELIGION CAN COMPETE WITH HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED CHRISTIANITY!
Make no mistake, at the moment of conversion we were sealed with Spirit (Eph.1.13-14) and baptized by Him (1 Cor.12.13). But, I do not believe the regenerating, uniting and sealing work of the Holy Spirit of 1 Cor.12 and Eph. 1 is the same as the empowering work of Acts 1.8! Yes, we received the Holy Spirit at conversion, but there is still more of Him available to the believer. Praise the Lord!
Let us this Pentecost season seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the gospel!
Pastor Scott

From My Heart, May 2017 (7/16/2017)

It has been five years this month that I swore in to the United States military. Thank you for your support and encouragement as I serve our country by meeting the spiritual needs of our airmen. I want to catch you up on some of the recent activity in our Wing.
Colonel Gary Jones is the new Commander of our Wing. He is a resident of Angleton, fighter pilot and descendant of the original colonist of Texas. He is a strong Christian and attends First Assembly of God in Angleton. His wife, Terri Jones, is the Assistant Principal at Angleton Christian School. They have four children. I hope to have Col Jones speak at Willow this year.
Our Wing has been re-tasked from the 147th Reconnaissance Wing to the 147th Attack Wing. We fly the Predator, which is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), in conflict zones around the world. Beginning this summer, we will transition to the Reaper UAV which is a bigger aircraft that carries a much larger payload. Most people don’t know that all Air Force UAV operations are run by the Air National Guard, not the Active Air Force.
In August, Ellington Field will celebrate 100 years of military service. The military began training pilots at the base to serve in World War I. It is a bit ironic that currently we have work crews digging up unexploded bombs dating back to WW I. Our Explosive Ordinance Team showed me a terra cotta bomb they unearthed during the excavation work.
We are ending a deployment cycle this month. Approximately 300 of the 1000 airmen were deployed from October through April to fill in Active Duty slots all around the world. Most were stationed in the Middle East and they were taking the fight to ISIS. Our deployment cycles are every four to six years and last six months.
God gives me opportunities to minister to individual and groups of airmen each month. I am assigned to four squadrons and one Group. I speak at their Roll Calls and usually address a relationship issue. I typically visit personally with 30 airmen a weekend. The time goes by quick.
The thing I love is that I am an active witness for Jesus to a group of people who have very few dedicated Christians in their lives. There are many strong believers in our Wing, but for the most part, few airmen have ongoing contact with a spiritual leader.
When a personal or faith based need occurs they reach out to me. Just this past month, an airman approached me and essentially said, “What must I do to be saved?” I was literally there to catch this spiritual babe as she was born into the Kingdom of God.
At times I wonder about my impact and this past drill it was brought home. We had a Family Day the last half of Sunday and many brought their families and everyone dressed casually. I could hardly sit down for lunch because so many people wanted to introduce me to their families and have me pray for them about a special need. It was incredible.
Thank you Willow for allowing me to serve those who serve our nation!
Pastor Scott

(2/23/2017)

 

Here are a couple of great posts by Kris Vallotton about the link between the body, soul and spirit and how they affect our faith journey:

 

 

From My Heart, March 2017 (2/23/2017)

Living in the Kingdom of God is a lot of fun.

We have been delivered from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light (Col.1.13). We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are God’s own children who are heirs to all things (Gal.4.6-7).

The Earth Cursed System (ECS) has given way to the Kingdom of God. We still war with it, but it does not have to dominate our thinking or lives. The ECS originated with Adam’s sin. It brought pain, toil and sweat upon humanity and we assume that’s just the way life is supposed to be. It is so engrained in us that we don’t even see it.

There is nothing wrong with working. We will do that in eternity. It is the lack, hardship, constant struggle, never quite enough, pay check to pay check mindset that is counter to God’s will. You hear this echoed in Matthew 6 as unbelievers are running about squawking that they never have enough _______________ (fill in the blank).

According to Galatians 3 – 4, Jesus redeemed us from the curse and we now live under the blessing of Abraham. God blessed Abraham with “life more abundantly” (John 10.10). He was: a friend of God, lived a long and satisfying life, overcame all his enemies, financially prosperous and the father of many nations. As Gen.24.1 says, “the Lord had blessed him in every way.”

I believe the followers of Jesus can live in the same abundance. There are hardships, setbacks and persecution, but I do not live below it, but rather above it through the blood of Jesus. I do not accept the ECS as normal but as a curse defeated by His blood.

The way above it is through Matthew 6.33 which tells us to seek the Kingdom of God above everything and to live righteously and he will give us everything we need. The Kingdom operates like an earthly kingdom. There are laws that govern it and when we follow those laws we experience the abundant life.

I view the Earth Cursed System like sickness. The redemptive blood of Jesus applies to every area of life. I once believed sickness was not under the blood and whatever happened must be God’s will.  Since my mind has been renewed, I see sickness as an enemy and part of the curse defeated by Jesus. Yes, people still get sick and die, but I no longer default into the “whatever will be, will be” attitude. I war and rest in knowing what God’s perfect will is.

Mind renewal is the key to live in the Kingdom. We see everything through the finished work of the cross. Therefore, just as the Israelites lived under the blessings of God through their obedience, we can live in abundance through faith in Jesus.

Press In,

Pastor Scott

From My Heart, December 2016 (11/28/2016)

I recently preached a two part message entitled,  “The Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do.” It made some uncomfortable and struck a deep chord with others. It challenges our belief about Jesus making all things  new.

Jesus said in Mark 12 that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. To rephrase the last portion: I am to love you just like I love me. What does that look like?

1 Cor.13:4-7 tells us that love is patient, kind…it keeps no records of wrongs…never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. This is how God loves me. This is how I love others. And, this is how I love myself. I believe I am to love others the same way God loves me (unconditionally) and I am to love myself the same way He loves me (unconditionally).

Our unrenewed mind rebels against this because we consider how inconsistent, apathetic, and judgmental we are and it reveals how little we believe in the power of Jesus’ blood which makes me pure and whole through and through whether I feel it, live it or fully believe it or not.

It is only  possible to love yourself the way God loves you by abiding in Jesus—John 15, 1 John 4. You know you are abiding in Him when you see yourself as a dearly loved child of God who is completely and eternally accepted and enjoyed by Him.

This is terribly hard because sin corrupted and broke everything. We began working towards love based on effort and performance. We believe: God loves me if I’m good; you love me if I treat you right; I love myself if I am doing well. It is a conditional love. The first Adam’s sin brought brokenness and death but the second Adam’s righteousness brought restoration and wholeness. Perfect love from God, for you and for me is now possible.

This is not a call to compromise or justification for my sin. In other words, just accept who I am…sin is okay…I don’t need to worry about changing.,  No. Rather, I see those things, but I accept myself unconditionally just as God does. I know the inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and disobedience but so does God…a WHOLE lot better that I ever will, yet He still loves me unconditionally.

Are we not to love what God loves and in the same way?

Here’s my Christmas present to you. For a week, stand in front of a mirror and say, “God loves me unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve and so I love myself unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve.” Watch what begins to resist that statement, because those are the things God wants to make new.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Scott

 

From My Heart – Quick Thought (11/5/2016)

Darren is a long-time friend and former member of Willow. I believe this article addresses a critical issue on what it means to love others well.
 http://www.darrenhibbs.com/loving-people-to-hell/

From My Heart – November 2016 (11/5/2016)

From My Heart, 11.16

Often we take the most basic things for granted. Things like water, love or freedom seem to just exist and we become lax in our appreciation of them. The same is true in our appreciation for Sunday.

For many, Sunday is just another day off. It has taken upon the feel of Memorial Day. We know it’s important, but we go about doing our own thing anyway.

The Bible says much about “keeping the Sabbath holy.” Passages like Ex.20.8-11 and Isa.58.13-14 are very explicit in keeping the day set apart for the Lord. In the New Testament, Christians met on the “Lord’s Day” (Acts 20.7, I Cor.16.2, Rev.1.10). The “Lord’s Day” refers to Jesus’ resurrection, which was the first day of the week.

Now I am not a legalist, and I don’t believe we are under the old covenant obligation to keep the Sabbath the same way the Jews did. We have been liberated from the law and walk in freedom, but my freedom must not be used as an excuse for apathetic behavior either.

So why must the Lord’s Day be a priority?

Every year we celebrate significant days in the life of this nation, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving. These days are of monumental importance. If what these days represent had not occurred, then who knows where we would be or even if we would be a nation.

But foundational to both is Sunday. For if there had not been a Lord’s Day, then there would not be an Independence Day or Thanksgiving.

On the Lord’s Day we are both remembering the freedom Jesus bought us and rejoicing over His present activity among us. In the natural, creation began on Sunday. In the spiritual, the new creation began on Sunday! Forgiveness, freedom, hope and joy were released that day from an empty tomb.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s worth getting together weekly and shouting about!

The Lord bless you,

Pastor Scott