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Dry Bones Missions 6th August, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Bible, Challenges, Mission, Musings.
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There are certain passages in Scripture that speak right into the situation in Scotland (or Europe as a whole).  Ezekiel 34-37 is one of those chunks.

As I sat reading Ezekiel 37 (the Valley of Dry Bones) I couldn’t help but see God’s clear strategy for a place like Scotland where the church is but lifeless bones.

Step One:  Preach the Word!

Then he said to me, “Prophecy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’

It’s pretty simple.  It’s the way it has always been.  God’s Word has power and so our job is to declare His Word.  Boldly.  Departing from God’s Word is why Europe is dry.  Bibleless pulpits and leaders devoid of the Word is why Scottish churches have died.  The solution is clear.  Those sent to the dry bones valleys are commanded to speak His Words.  I get angry with “missionaries” that come to our country and think the solution lies outside the simplicity of the gospel.  They come with clever strategies, fancy books, flashy outreach, and “authentic community”, yet they fail to bring the very thing we need:  God’s Word.

Thankfully Ezekiel was a man who understood obedience.  When he obeyed, something amazing happened:

… “so I prophecied as I was commanded.  And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.”

Oh how I long to hear the rattling of old bones in the churches of Scotland.  I have even had the honour of seeing some of those old bones begin to rattle and take form again.  But we need more.  More people who are committed to declaring His Word.

But that wasn’t enough for God.  There was more Ezekiel had to do.  And there’s more that we need to do:

Step Two:  Call on the Spirit (Pray!)

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it; ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says:  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood on their feet—a vast army”.

The Word put everything back in its rightful place, and then as His Spirit—the breath—came upon them, they came back to life and stood.  It wasn’t until His Spirit was poured out that the process was complete.

We have to be a praying people.  Prayer is the human act more closely related to the Spirit.  “Pray in the Spirit at all times” wrote Paul.  We have to pray, long and hard, that God would breathe life back into our nation.

It’s such a simple process but we work so hard at complicating things.  I get angry with those who travel across the world to bring a worldly system to the lost.  We don’t need “clever” we need the power of God.  We don’t need “new”, we need the thing God has done time and time again… His Word, carried on His breath.  If that is all that’s needed for God to create the universe… why think our idea is better.

The Word & Prayer.  It’s the killer combination.  Let’s stop trying to be cool, clever, relevant, (insert whatever other word you want), and start being obedient.  And it starts with ME!

I have spoken to many people who claim that the Word & Prayer doesn’t work.  But a few quick questions reveal that THEY are not people who are being transformed by God’s Word and THEY are not people casting themselves on God in prayer.

If God can use His Word & His Spirit to make an army out of a valley of dry bones, He can certainly use it to bring life to Scotland.

Learn from Ezekiel.  Do it God’s way not your way.

Spiritual Gifts 23rd May, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Leadership, Life, Musings, Spirituality.
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Spiritual Gifts is one of my favourite topics!  I guess part of the reason for this is that God created me with a passion for equipping people.  And I believe developing these gifts is extremely important in being effective for His Kingdom

When Jesus was on the earth he explained that it was good for us that He would return to heaven, because then he would send us His Spirit (John 16:7).  Why would this be better for us?  Because Jesus could only affect us from outside of us… but the Spirit can work from inside us.  The Spirit is a better teacher, comforter and equipper.

One of the Spirit’s roles is to equip us with the gifts necessary to perform our role within the Church.  The Church (empowered by the Spirit) is God’s chosen vehicle for reestablishing His Kingdom on the earth.  And the effectiveness of the church requires each of us to play the part God created us for (Rom 12:1-8 ;1 Cor 12:14-20).  Our value and sense of fulfillment are tied up in us doing what we were created to do.

God’s Spirit is the Greatest teacher and many times He has trained, developed and powerfully used people without them ever labeling the gifts they have.  However, by taking the time seek God and figure out how He has gifted us, we can partner with Him in developing those gifts and use this knowledge to help make decisions about the how and where to serve.

There is no hard fast rule on how figuring out how God has gifted you and there is no perfect tool to make the process easy, but there are some tools out there that, when coupled with prayer and input from people around us, can be extremely helpful in leading us to the right results.

Spiritual Gift Inventories

Spiritual Gift inventories are great tools for pointing us in the right direction.  There are two that I use regularly that are online:

  • Gifted2Serve:  I use this one the most.  I like the definitions it works from.  It includes the miraculous gifts but not the more skilled-based gifts (like music, craftmanship, writing, etc)
  • Kodachrome: This is my second choice.  The way it asks the questions can force greater clarity.  It measures for ‘every’ gift.

These tools make suggestions about your gifts and should not be taken as God’s Word.  (I use them to get the conversation going).   When you get the results the next step is to read and pray through all the definitions, and then to experiment and test the findings.  (A simple way is to ask friends/leaders how accurate they think they are).

Spiritual Gift tests are flawed.  The results of the tests vary because of a number of factors:

  • Answering based on what you want to have, or what you feel you ought to have.
  • Whether the test is questioning your passions, inner motivations, perceptions or past experience
  • The number of gifts included in the test
  • How each gift is defined.  (The same gift can be defined differently in each test)
  • The creator’s knowledge/bias (most likely, the test will more accurately define and check for the gifts the test-maker has that the ones the test-maker scores low on)

Gift Identifaction Patterns

In his book the Making of a Leader Dr Robert J. Clinton lists two patterns he has consistently seen over his years studying leadership emergence theory:

  1. Like Attracts Like – Potential Leaders are intuitively attracted to leadders who have the same spiritual gifts.
  2. Giftedness Drift – Potential leaders respond intuitively to ministry assignments and challenges that call for their spiritual gift, even if not explicitly known.

    A third pattern I am aware of is:

  3.  Giftedness Attack – Potential leaders’ brokenness and struggles directly attack the administration of their gifts.

Spiritual Warfare is real!  If our value and effectiveness is tied in to our ability to use our spiritual gifts then it makes sense that the Enemy of our Souls would attack those gifts.  Eg.  If I grow up in a family that instills fear and anxiety into me, it will paralyze my ability to exercise the gift of faith.  If I am a prideful/arrogant person, then my character flaws will ush people to reject my knowledge/teacher.  Being judgemental will lead me to question discernment…) So often, the various wounds, sins, and doubts that we fight have been strategically caused by the Enemy to hinder our effectivenessin the role God created us for.

Holy Spirit Power 1st June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Church, Musings, Spirituality.
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I have been reflecting on the following illustration for the last couple of months. It comes from Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God:

This may be a silly illustration, but if I told you I had an encounter with God where He entered my body and gave me supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see and amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”?

I love this image. If we, as believers, are filled with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit who caused Creation and raised Christ from the dead, why do we not see this in our lives?  Setting aside for now the idea of healings, deliverances, tongues, prophecy and all the other “power gifts” that get debated so often, consider for a moment His power in our attitude and behaviour.  I feel that as the Church, we spent too much time trying to manage our issues in our own strength rather than walking in His power.

God’s Word says:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (1 Tim 1:7)

Yet I see so many in the church marked by fear, broken relationships, and/or addictions. This is not because the Word is wrong, or the Spirit is not powerful… it’s because we spend too much time trying to overcome our issues by our own strength instead of passing control to Him and by faith cooperating with the Spirit as He works in us.

What should our lives look like?  If we have the Spirit in us…

  • Shouldn’t Christians be marked by a boldness and confidence in God’s Plan than makes us stand out from the rest of the world?
  • Shouldn’t we have a supernatural confidence and peace in the face of hardship?
  • Shouldn’t we be the ones with the strong marriages and solid families?
  • Shouldn’t we be known for our radical love and acceptance of people from all walks of life?
  • Shouldn’t we be known by our ability to face our struggles and walk in victory?  (Not that we never struggle, but that our outlook is one of hope, and are daily making progress to overcome those issues?

If someone looked at your life would they see a life that demonstrates the Spirit’s power?

Breaking Habits 13th April, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Life, Me, Musings.
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Some people would say it’s an addiction.  Some websites say it is a form of OCD.  For as long as I can remember I have had a very bad habit.  It’s been a part of my life for so long that I do it without even realizing I’m doing it.

I bite the inside of my mouth.

I’m sure this doesn’t sound like anything serious to you.  To give you more detail (perhaps more than you wanted), I chew the skin from my cheeks and along the inside of my lips.  When I was younger I would sometimes bite so deep it would bleed and cause canker sores and mouth ulcers.  I’ve not done that for a while, instead, I just bite the loose skin that’s there from my mouth trying to heal, which means for the last I-don’t-know-how-many-years my mouth has been in a constant state of trying to heal.  It’s been a habit for so long that I don’t know if I can’t ever remember a time when I had smooth skin inside my mouth.  A number of years ago my dental hygienist told me I have large scars acrossthe inside of my cheeks from the biting.

I have no idea why I do it.  There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, although it is worst when I am thinking and processing and problem solving.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, my wonderful hygienist wife has been giving me a hard time for it, but it has made no change to my ability to stop biting.

I have tried on many occasions to stop chewing the inside of my mouth, but because it’s so subconscious that by the time I catch myself I’ve been biting for a while.  Last week I realized that I have never once tried to include God in the process.  I always try to break habits in my own strength and I fail.  So, this time I decided I would attempt to rely on the Holy Spirit to help me break the habit, after all, we have victory in Christ.

So I prayed:  “God, I feel stupid asking this, but can you help me to be conscious of when I’m chewing in my mouth so that I can stop”.

That was a week or so ago.  And for the first time in my life (as far as I can remember), I have smooth skin inside my mouth.  I suddenly became aware that I usually feel about in my mouth with my tongue and when I feel loose skin I start to bite it, and each time my tongue has felt the inside of my mouth and the desire to bite is aroused I have noticed and refrained.

It feels dumb to write all this.

I don’t know what is more shocking to me:  the fact I have stopped biting; or the fact that I doubted that praying about it would help.

God is good.
He even pours out His grace in the “stupid little things” in our lives.

The Chasm: Short Version 26th February, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Books, Heart, Musings, Worship.
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I have often said that “worship flows from a thankful heart” .  It is bang in the midst of the Truth and Grace Paradox that I believe we worship most fully.

Step One: realizing the Truth…

If we see God as He really is, and ourselves as we really are, there’s only one appropriate response:  to worship Him.
(The Grace and Truth Paradox, p32)

Step Two: accepting Grace…

If I grasp that I deserve Hell, I’ll be filled with gratitude not only for God’s huge blessings [redemption through Christ’s death and resurrection]… but also for His smaller blessings… I’ll be overwhelmed with the knowledge that I have plenty else I don’t deserve.
(The Grace and Truth Paradox, p33-34 [comments added])

Step Three: merging Truth and Grace…

When we realize the Truth about the nature of God and of ourselves, and when we rest in the Grace that He bridged the infinite gap to give us what we don’t deserve, we can’t do anything else but be thankful.

It is from that thankful heart that our worship errupts.

Soul Cravings 22nd June, 2009

Posted by Scotty in Books, Musings.
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soulcravingsSoul Cravings by Erwin MacManus is a thought provoking book.  The book is a series of reflections or short journal entries on the topics Intimacy, Destiny, and Meaning.  Through the book McManus probes these topics and at the same time touches the depths of the longings we all have inside of us that so often drag us away from God.  (For Example, see Taking, Faking, Making Love)

It’s a seeker-sensitive book that looks to evaluate the desires we have in us and show that they are God-given and designed to lead us to Him.  It would be a great book to give to someone whom you know is “seeking”, although his arguments and musings can be quite circular and won’t stand up to the scrutiny of careful logic.

The book is extremely quotable, packed full of profound statements to get you thinking.  Here are a couple of the ones I chewed on for a while:

If the message that God wants to get across to us is just about getting our beliefs right, then he didn’t need to come himself.  If God’s entire intent was to clarify right from wrong, no personal visitation was necessary.  If the ultimate end was simply to overwhelm us with the miraculaous so that we would finally believe, then even God taking on flesh and blood and walking among us was far from necessary.
There is only one reason for God to come himself, because in issues of love, you just can’t have someone else stand in for you.

Most of us want God to fix every wrong choice we make without taking from us our right to choose wrongly.

Only God can take you where you were born to go.

Let [Jesus] change you at your core, then let your passions fuel your life.

If We Are His Body… 11th June, 2009

Posted by Scotty in Church, Music, Musings.
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castingcrowns

On the way over to Starbucks this morning to spend the day reading Jeremiah, praying, journaling, and discipling, I was struck by a song on the radio by Casting Crowns called “If We Are the Body”.  I have been pondering these words most of the day, since they pose a great challenge to the Church today, calling us to examine ourselves:

If we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way
Jesus is the way

I was challenged.  If we are the Body of Christ, then we should be reaching out to the lost, the needy, the “burned”… we should be screaming God’s Words, standing up for the authority of Scripture, since it the power of God for salvation and sanctification… we should be rejoicing over people being set free from bondage and being healed of their issues…

May we, the Body, chase after Him with all our hearts, fixing our eyes on Him, saturating ourselves with His Word and with Prayer, so that we are overflowing with His Spirit, dying to self, and reaching out in love to the world God came and died for.

If we are His Body…

Speedometer – Day 1 1st April, 2009

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Heart, Musings.
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See: The Speedometer Challenge

speedometerLesson #1 – Focus: I don’t think I’ve ever paid so much attention to my speedometer!  I could accelerate to 55mph and switch on the cruise control, but that feels like cheating!  So… I’m watching the speedometer like a hawk.  It’s shocking how many times the needle jumps slightly beyond 55mph if I don’t regularly glance down to check how I’m doing.

How often is this the case with my spiritual walk?  How many times do I catch myself in (or on the verge of) sin because I I’m not regularly fixing my gaze on Christ? Watching my speedometer has alerted me to the fact that more effort focussing on Christ will help me avoid falling into sin!

The Speedometer Challenge 31st March, 2009

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Musings.
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speedometer

My guys Life Group had a great discussion this week about obedience, and about the various ways our hearts are hardened to sin in our life.  We talked about areas we all struggle with, but then someone brought up something more “trivial”… the issue of speeding.  Is speeding ok?  or is it sinful?

As we talked I was struck by the various arguments used to justify why we break the speed limit:

  • everyone drives 10 mph over.
  • I like the feeling of driving fast.
  • I’m not really paying attention to the speed and just end up speeding.
  • I only speed when I know I’m not putting other people in danger.
  • etc. etc.etc. (I’m sure you have a few of your own)

In something as seemingly trivial as breaking the speed limit and justifying it to ourselves, we are in effect training our hearts to be ok about disobedience!  How many of these lines have become justification for other areas of sin?

  • everyone takes things they shouldn’t from work.
  • I like the feeling of sex.
  • I’m not really paying attention to what I’m thinking and just end up lusting.
  • I only sin in a place where I know I’m not putting other people in danger
  • etc. etc.etc. (I’m sure you have a few of your own)

It was a profound discussion, at the end of which we set ourselves a simple challenge:

Spend this week driving at the speed limit.

Now if you think this is overboard, hear me out. This is about much more than being “legalistic” in obeying the speed limit.

It’s about taking the week to reflect on this metaphor as it relates to out lives.  How do my actions and attitudes toward speeding relate to other areas of sin in my life?  Are there things I have hardened my heart to that have paved the way for other sin?  Will working hard at one small area of obedience impact other areas of my life?

I’m hoping to write something each day about what I learned or reflected on during my daily interactions with my speedometer.  Let’s see what God has in store.

The Challenge is set.  Will you join us?

—  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —
Read my daily reflections:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Repentance 27th August, 2008

Posted by Scotty in Heart, Musings, Spirituality.
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I love how the Holy Spirit works in a life, and especially the events He uses to teach profound lessons.

On Friday I was at CityFest and it was packed.  It was so difficult to move from one end of the park to the other because the sidewalks were lined with people stopping to listen to the messages.  As a group of us tried to head from the top to the bottom of the park we got stuck in a traffic jam of people.  It took us 20 minutes to get less than halfway to our destination at which point we decided to give up and turn back.

In the midst of that crowd God had some profound words planned for me.  We were walking along in single file getting nowhere while next to us was a woman pushing a pram in which was a beautiful little kid.  She was doing her best to make her way through the crowd as people pushed her out the way and blocked the pram.  Behind her was a very unhelpful younger guy who looked like a typical college bum.  Complete with cigarette hanging from his lip.  Every time he took a lungful of smoke he would casually and thoughlessly blow it out all over the woman and her kid.  On a couple of occasions and amidst coughs the woman turned to him and asked him (politely) if he could stop blowing smoke on her and her baby, especially in the middle of a busy crowd where the air was already pollute with a million people’s BO!

It had no effect and he went right on smoking.  She turned round again and more assertively asked him to stop what he was doing.  He said “sorry” obviously not meaning it and just trying to placate her.  I was completely taken by her response.

I don’t want you to say your sorry, I want you to do better

Those were not words expected to hear and immediately they sent my mind racing.  How many times have I had someone talk to me about a struggle in their life where they have asked for forgiveness and yet been unable to break free of the hold of that sin.  How many times have I gone to God with my “sorry” fully regretting my sin and yet never taking the steps to “do better”.

This woman, who may or may not know the Lord, in this sentence summed up the nature of repentance hitting on something Christian’s often do wrong in the battle against the sinful nature.  It is not about going to God to say “sorry” but about “doing better”.  This does not negate the need to ask God for forgiveness… both steps are necessary in repentance.  The very definition of repentance is to turn 180°.  If we go to God and say sorry with no intention of changing our actions our words are empty… and God knows our hearts!

One of the difficulties with breaking free of sin is discussed in Authentic Faith:

Merely stopping the sin does nothing to address the yearning that led to the sin in the first place, which is why we must pass through the desert to embrace the virtue of detachment (p69, Authentic Faith)

When we acknowledge sin in our lives we have to first ask for forgiveness, then we “do better” by turning 180° on our sin (something we are only empowered to do because of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives!!!)  Contrary to our instant-fix mindset this isn’t the end.  Our body is used to the sin.  It has formed a bad habit as a result of our sinful yearning.  Just like a drug-addict going cold turkey we have to experience the struggle with the detachment that comes with giving up something our body and mind have come to rely on.  Although there are occasions when God grants someone instant victory, most often victory comes in small steps.  Moment by moment we have to feel the urge to walk in sin and resist it, teaching our body that we can do without, and replacing that need with a healthy alternative.  We have to go cold-turkey with our sin… praise be to God that His Spirit enables us to do this!

Where are you with that festering sin?  Are you fighting the fight or are you calling out to God with empty words?  Walking through the desert of detachment is hard, but by God’s grace you can get through it, being strengthened in your ability to resist sin and rejoicing in the freedom that comes through Christ.

Don’t just say you’re sorry, do better!