Call it what it is.

Last week was Valentine’s Day, even in Poland.  This holiday, if you can call it that, continues to spread around the world.  You might have detected, I have a concern.

It seemed like nearly everything from popup windows on my computer browser, store decorations, to billboards were selling the day of “love” – or were they?  It seemed to me they were all selling lust.

Ok, so I am trying to make a point.  Lust is a strong word and may not best define what is being sold on Valentine’s Day.  Romantic love may be more accurate, but since most couples (I don’t have data to support this statement) who celebrated Valentine’s Day were not married, this may make my point.

Valentine’s Day is focusing on only one way we use the word love.  Sadly, I believe, the word love has lost nearly all of its true value as it is used too unintentionally.  I can love bicycles (which is almost true), certain types of food, clothes, animals, and just about anything.  I can also love my wife, my family, and my friends.  So in the end I describe my relationship with bicycles the same way as I do my wife?  Do I truly love them both?

I am no Greek language scholar and I don’t want to bog-down this blog, but I have grown to appreciate that there were four words at the time of the Bible we too often translate as love.  In the Bible the word nearly always translated love is – agape.  This is the truest definition of love.

I suggest using to assist your deeper research into the four words for love.

Briefly, one word for love describes the bond between family members.  A second is used between true friends.  The third is “Valentine’s Day” love which is a perfectly wonderful word to describe the exclusive relationship between people in a romantic relationship.  The “type” of love nearly always described in the Bible is the one modeled by God.  (I turn it over to you to research the love God modeled for us, agape.)

What is my point in the blog?  I am glad you asked.

Valentine’s Day is not a day to celebrate love.  It is a day to celebrate the wonderful and amazing relationship God has created between one man and one woman.  It is a day to celebrate romance and the “gushy” feelings we have for either the person we are considering as our life-long spouse, or is our life-long spouse.   It is also a day to enjoy the incredible union God designed for a married couple, but this is not the greatest form of love because it has another name.

Valentine’s Day is the day of: physical attraction, romance, and only in marriage physical intimacy.  True LOVE is much greater than all of these combined.  God modeled this love by sending His beloved Son to be the Savior of all mankind.

The greatest form of love is not received, it is given!

BTY, true love is a vital part of a Godly and growing relationship between one man and one woman and it is to be given sacrificially to the other every single day.

The Curse of конечно.

The curse of конечно – conyeshna (pronounced: con – yesh – na, where the yesh is yes with a sh at the end.)

I want to explain this phrase that God put on my heart about 10 years ago.  I don’t remember exactly how it started, but God continues to use it in my life and I hope you will let Him use it in yours as well.

Have you ever noticed how we often assume things when we are talking?  For example.  Who is the most important person in your life?

My wife and children come to mind first, how about you?  My son and daughter-in-law are also important.  But my granddaughter is the most important person in my life.  Oops, that’s not right.  Denise, yea, she is the most important person in my life.  (That was purposeful and to be a joke.  FYI)

Is the first person that came to your mind truly the most important person, are they really?

Was your first answer Jesus?  Isn’t He the most important person in your life?  Did you “assume” that I was meaning the most important being someone here on earth?  I am assuming, a second example of assuming, that you are a Christian and that you have accepted God’s grace.  When was the last time you really felt the weight of your eternal demise until God revealed to you His redemption at the cost of His beloved Son?

Now, how would you answer the original question?  Oh, well, OF COURSE Jesus is the most important person.  He is my Savior and my Lord.  Of course I meant that Jesus is the most important person in my life.

Conyeshna  is the Russian word in Latin characters meaning – of course.

Recently I shared a message about the sheep and the goats out of Matthew 25.  Verse 41 records that Jesus taught the goats are those “who are cursed”.  What does it mean that someone is cursed?  Let’s explore the answer generally and not specifically in context of Matthew 25.

If there were such things as magic spell and curses?  What do all the good people desire to happen to a curse?  In all the fairy tails the curses require someone to come along with the ability to “break” it.

Therefore, the “curse of the conyeshna” is the curse of of course.  It sounds so much better to me in Russian.  Here is the same idea in Polish – the curse of oczywiście.  This to me is also way cooler than in English, but that is not so much here-nor-there.

The curse of of course reminds me that I need help from The One who can break my tendency to leave out the most important.  He is teaching me how to get better at my first thoughts and statements to be the overlooked, the sometimes assumed, or worse the too often forgotten.  This phrase reminds me to search for the best answer instead of just what comes to mind.

I believe the greatest lesson I am learning, out of many, because of seeking to apply the curse of conyeshna at all times is to be reminded of who is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).  Keeping in mind that He is my Lord and King reminds me that I am His bond-servant (Romans 1:1) like Paul.  The result is learning to live more intentionally and faithfully to seeking and obeying God’s will.

This is just the tip-of-the-iceberg regarding this subject for me.  The application of this principle is changing how I talk, what I believe, how I study God’s word, and everything else.  But that is for another blog.

I encourage you to let Jesus, the only one who can, break the curse of conyeshna by His teaching you every day as His disciple through prayer, His word, and the Holy Spirit.

What were they thinking!

Since 1999 I have been learning languages. A somewhat humerus detail about me is that I am the guy that said after graduating from college, out-loud, “I am done studying forever”. Yes, God has a sense of humor.

Since graduating from college, a miracle and or mercy on the part of the university, I have earned a Masters of Divinity (also a miracle) as well as study two languages. So, what does this have to do with the “they” in my title? I am so glad you wondered.

What were the people of Bable thinking? Ok, when we read Genesis 11:1-9 we get an idea of what they were thinking, but only a limited one for sure. Here is my “hang-up” with them, now we have 100s of languages to learn because of their choices.

To be honest I just read the passage again with a less self-oriented perspective. I really want to blame the people of Bable for my need to study Polish today. But it sure doesn’t really sound like it is mostly their fault. Bummer, I can’t blame them. I can’t blame God, He is perfect. All I have left is to quit griping and get to studying.

The passage makes it clear that God chose to confuse them and not necessarily that they had some kind of evil plot or plan. It is not clear to me if verse 4 is hinting at a bigger issue that God only knew. What seems ironic is that the very thing they thought would keep them from getting spread over the earth – got them spread all over the earth.

So, there ya go, one more blog added to the millions with little meaningfulness. I will end this blog with little to no conclusion and or purpose. This is partially true because I need to close the computer and pull out my flash cards with Polish vocabulary.

Na razie.

On a roll?

I am in general a terrible speller, in any language. In high school my teachers must have shown me my mistakes, but were not able to help me discover my unique challenges in this area.

In college, yes surprisingly they did let me into college, I was nearing graduation and found I had an English requirement that was incomplete. It ended up being a spelling test. By this time Denise had helped me improve a little in spelling. I took the test and went went to an office to receive my results.

The big concern was that a bad score would mean more classes, delaying graduation. I was quite nervous when I went for my appointment. The office worker looked at my score and their first indication was not encouraging. It was clear my results were not so good, as I had expected.

The office worker gathered some paperwork and asked what was my teaching emphasis. I asked them to repeat the question, something was wrong. My answer was that I was an engineering student.

The officer worker immediately changed demeanor. When before I could tell they didn’t want to give me all the bad news, now they were happy. They said that my scores were not good enough for a teacher, but as an engineer I had passed. I asked why the difference in criteria. They explained that a teacher must write correctly on a board to teach students. An engineer will have some kind of a secretary to “clean-up” spelling errors.

I was so relieved and not nearly as concerned as I should have been about my spelling inability.

Well, things have improved immensely since that event nearing 30 years ago. Denise helped me spell better, but one “thing” had honestly helped to improve my spelling – the spelling checker. What you don’t know is that so far in this post I have used the spell checker about 10 times.

I believe spell checker is helpful due to the immediate feedback it provides. When I mispell (literal example though you may not see the red underline) I see the error underlined in red. Since I see that I misspelled, misspell, I know that I need to rethink this word. I have learned to take a moment or two to ascertain my error, if possible, before getting the program to help me with the correct spelling.

Why is all this significant? Why did I write this post? No real reason, I just felt like this was what I wanted to write.

It all started with the title of this blog. I looked at the spelling of the word – roll – and realized that this may not be the right spelling. I think this is the correct spelling for the specific shape of bread, but I also think it is what we do when we move a huge rock, or play Rock & Roll.

I am confident you know that there are other ways to spell, roll. Here is how for decades I have managed to “creatively spell”; role, roal, rol. I was confident the last two examples are not real word, but do you see my dilemma (I just asked for help spelling that word). Too many options.

My rambling is done. Now I will send this off into the “cloud” of computing and hope that very few people ever read this post. (Insert smile or grimace.)

Two in a row.

Don’t “they” say that repeating something two times is the beginning of a habit? If not, “they” should. I guess it really depends on two becoming three, and ultimately the activity becomes routine or a habit. (I am babbling about a second post in a row starting this year.)

Yes, my plan is to continue to be totally random for a while and write what comes to mind. Maybe this is stating the obvious, but that can be a good thing.

Speaking of habits. They can be good as well as bad. Doesn’t it seem like the word has taken almost a totally negative connotation? Maybe there is a better word for the positive things we do that are essentially automatic. I guess routine may be a better word than a positive habit. What do you think?

Isn’t it, as you can see I think it is, interesting how the meaning of words changes. Here are a few examples that I believe need a “rediscovery”; Christian, church, and love. I hope this year to explore some of these words and work to rediscover their meaning. The result may be that new words are required for the original purpose, but that is to be explored.

Back to habits. I want to be nearly habitual in my spiritual disciplines. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that this means ritualistic or religious. (Religious is another word to explore.)

I believe that one of the best expressions of spiritual discipline is habitual. By this I mean making spiritual disciplines an absolutely inviolable part of my daily life. That literally the very first thing I do each morning without fail is to consciously talk with the Lord. Not limited to that I “must” be faithful in this, but that I “get to be” faithful in response to what God has done and is doing in me.

I believe intentionally giving up lordship to my life after saying good morning and thanking Him generally for another day to breath and live is spiritually essential. In other words choosing to reject lordship of my own life that day by giving it up so that He will literally be my Lord and Master.

Following the potentially meaningless declaration of lordship is action. I find the tougher part of this essential process is truly giving up my life and obediently doing God’s will the next moment and the rest of the day. It is easy to say I am going to “die to myself” (Galatians 2:19-20) and then at the end of the day realized I never even opened God’s word or really asked what I was to do that day.

Last week I was helping a guy prepare the sermon for Sunday. It was wonderful to hear him seek a deeper understanding, as am I, of what it means to live James 2:14-26. Faith in action – what does that really look like every day? It looks literally like Jesus life! I believe it is also God’s desire that others see me and get a better than pathetic perspective of obedience to God’s will daily.

Paul was bold to state it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1. “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” (Berean Literal Translation). Isn’t that to be the living statement, in word and deed, of every person who calls themselves a Christian?

Ok, enough for now minus one more thing.

Praise the Lord for His amazing, perfect, limitless, and relentless grace.

A new year, a new opportunity

Well, I see I literally missed a whole year of posting. That is not so good, but I am not surprised. Here is a year in review (and a little farther back).

About the time I last posted, it became very clear that our (Denise and I) ministry focus was to change. We had been trying to change it since the previous year, but to no avail.

A quick detail. God planted the InterNational Church of Wroclaw (INCW) through Denise and I. Palm Sunday 2013 was our first Celebration Service. January 3rd, today, I ended officially as founding pastor of the INCW. A new leader began today.

Back to the timeline.

All of 2017 it has been a series of: solving problems, waiting for decisions, new problems arising, solving those problems, waiting some more, and only to have new ones crop up. Month after month the overall process drug along until today.

Literally, today, our ministry focus in Wroclaw, Poland has changed. You might be wondering how Scott feels about the change. I am glad you wondered.

It is very much the right time. Praise the Lord the INCW has grown and God has provided some talented future servant leaders. Praise the Lord that He removed all the obstacles for the new leader to take over. Praise the Lord for it all.

This year starts a ministry focus for Denise and I on university students. I am so ready for the change.

So, enough rambling for my first post in literally years. Thankfully it is likely that nobody else will ever read this post. Yet I feel it is significant as it gets me back in the “saddle” again.

Our last six months

I just looked and it has been about six months since I have written.  A lot has happened in these months.  We prepared our Wroclaw apartment for our departure and moved for seven months to Richland, Washington.

We hit the ground running as we served at two Columbia Basin Baptist Association camps: girls and youth.  Then we made our families a priority by spending a month with them.  For me this included about two weeks at our cabin with my parent, brother, sister-in-law, and twin 1.5 year old nephews.

Starting in September we went into speaking mode.  Every Sunday we are speaking at a church until just before Christmas.  Also during this time I have represented the IMB in Alaska and Montana, and we attended DiscipleShift 1 training in Post Falls, ID.  I also completed my first Triathlon during this time, it went well.

Our last trip was to share at the Northwest Baptist Convention senior adult retreat meeting at Canon Beach, OR.  We had a great time leading the Bible study times starting at 7:30am and sharing with everyone what the Lord has us doing in Wroclaw, Poland.

A unique activity at the retreat for me was to run five miles barefoot on the beach, the weather was great, and then to change my clothes and get on my mountain bike and ride eight miles on the beach as well.  It was fun, but tiring.  I did both back-to-back because I was concerned the weather would go bad the next day, and it did.

The most exciting thing at the retreat, on top of studying the Great Commission each morning together, was to share our dream of a Multi-National Church Planting Team.  Denise and I are convinced that a team of retirees will be ideal church planters.  At this stage we are sharing the vision.  God has already revealed interest so we will keep sharing and preparing.  More on this in the future.

At the end of our last trip we shared at a Missions Conference in Springfield, OR.  It was a great three days as we shared about Wroclaw and Multi-National Church Planting.

While in Springfield we reconnected with longtime prayer supporters.  It was our joy to learn about one of their new business adventures – Cosmos Creations.  I strongly encourage you to find and buy their puffed corn products wherever you can find them, for example they sell Carmel flavored Cosmos Creations at Costco.

Today we started our next adventure.  We woke at 4am and will arrive in Richmond, VA later today some time.  Tomorrow we start a week long debriefing conference.  We attend these a minimum of every five years, so essentially every time we return to the states.

This meeting, we believe, may have special significance for us and yet we have no idea how.  We are trusting the Lord to continue to lead us according to His will.  It is so liberating to not feel like we have to control our present or future.  God takes care of those if we continue to seek Him and His will.

Is there something you would like me to share more about?  Please let me know any suggestions.

Wood Shavings – True Believer?

I haven’t had time to write for way too long.  Each week I look for time and end up with other more important tasks.  But today I am feeling “under-the-weather” and cancelled Polish class.  Cancelling class meant getting a lot of other stuff done, including time to write.

So, what to write?  I am not feeling the football lessons at the moment.  What is really on my heart is deeper spiritually.  The following is what is on my heart.

What does it really mean to have a relationship with God?  I find myself asking this question in various forms often lately.  It comes to mind most often as I deal with people who call themselves Christians.  These are “good” people who don’t have blaring contradictions in their life.  I am meaning the contradictions of people who look, sound, and act like perfect believers on Sunday morning and don’t the rest of the week.

The question comes from a decade of or more of wondering why it seems there are so few ecstatic and “on-fire” followers of Jesus.  (Matthew 7:21-23 is a huge insight and maybe where this blog post should end, but I will continue and risk putting my foot in my mouth or worse.)  I am not meaning those who flame out quickly, I mean people who burn more brightly (Matthew 5:14-16) each year as they serve the Lord.  By about this time the people I most talk to about this start giving qualifiers.  Qualifiers such as: but you can’t judge their hearts, not everyone is a “preacher”, I am so busy, not everyone is a missionary ready to sell all and move to the jungle, etc.  It seems to me the “qualifiers” are sometimes excuses.

It is true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Not all faithful believers in Jesus look or act the same.  As a mater of fact, they are all different.  But I believe more often than not there is an obvious difference between a true believer and a ______.  (I really don’t know what should be written there.  One sized does not fit them all.)  But a qualifier I do believe is legitimate is we are all at different stages or levels.

So young believers tend to have similar traits with each other, but are rarely as mature spiritually as those who walk with the Lord for say 50 years.  But I still haven’t really touched the original question.

The first thing I try to keep in mind is I don’t know!  Only God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit know the true spiritual state of anyone.  Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1, and 1 Corinthians 4:5.  These verse all help us see that we can’t judge another person’s heart.

But there are many more subtle ways to recognize a person’s probabl spiritual condition – the “fruit inspection”.  Probably the best way to start this is to recognize a person’s spiritual power source.  John 15 came to mind and the whole chapter is full of indicators of a person who is attached to the true vine.  Galatians 5 is also a great “gauge” to measure fruit.  Maybe one of the bigger challenges with Galatians 5 is the modern day, so called, interpretation of the meaning.  The standard for the fruit of the spirit (5:22-23) seems to have moved way down for many church attenders.

And this is where I will almost end.  (Yea, I have left more loose ends than maybe answers and yet it is still just about time quite.)  I wonder if the overall standard of faith has come down so far it is hard to tell the believers from the world?  This is nothing new as Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught long ago about – cheap grace.  Part of this, I believe, is people are looking around the church at each other to determine the spiritual standard.  Jesus is THE spiritual standard and we are to be conformed only to Him (Romans 8:27-29).

I will end with this thought.  If I don’t want to grow more spiritually (I want to say nearly every day), am not free to share my sins and struggles with other believers to pray with me and keep me accountable (James 5:13-18), and I don’t feel compelled to tell others about my Lord and Savior through word and deed…  Something is wrong, something is very wrong!

Youth Winter Camp Wood Shavings

I will get back to exploring my lessons from the Seahawks in my next blog.  But this week I want to share about youth camp.

Last week I was in Belice, Poland.  About the only way you realized you are entering a town is the sign.  There are so few houses on the pitted road it looks more like small ranches in the hill country.  The main attraction is a single ski run, but this year there was no snow.  It was my first time to the retreat center, and I was told it looked more like summer than winter.

Apparently about 15 years ago 1st Baptist Church Wroclaw bought a barn with two outbuildings in Belice.  Over the years they converted it into a very nice and rustic retreat center.  By rustic, I mean bunk beds and lots of tight spaces for everyone.  But every February there are two winter camps back-to-back.  First is children’s camp and then youth.  The main attraction, most years, is the snow.  This year we had to get creative.

There were 36 youth, 9 staff, plus kitchen workers.  For seven days we had a great time.  I was asked this year to be the camp pastor.  I was told about 60% of the youth were not believers.  By the way, I love going to camp, especially youth camp!

Last year I lead a smaller retreat group of youth to study Joseph.  I felt limited time this year meant using the same general theme.  I had hoped the youth would start each day with a time of Bible reading and self study, but in the end we chose to work through small groups.  Then each evening I had time to share and then more small groups.  The focus was on learning “Life Lessons” from the life of Joseph.  I think some day I will try to put all my notes together into a study of some sort, I have lots of notes.

We started off the week with choosing a “camp culture”.  I believe strongly that youth do best when they have as much buy-in as possible.  A great way to start this is by them choosing what kind of camp they would have.  I generally followed the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, and gave them options.  Ok, so they were pretty obvious options.  A camp filled with love or hate.  They chose love.  In the end there were six choices, they wrote them in the front of the booklet, and signed their name as a commitment to each other.  We never had to go back to enforce the camp culture.

The lack of snow meant the typical two times a day skiing became hikes, games of nearly every type, flying kites, crafts, and learning skills.  The lack of snow also meant some of the focus that would have been on skiing went to the Bible.  Hurray!

On Thursday evening the time focused to an invitation.  The believers were challenged to get out of their seats and sit in a chair in the middle of the room.  The chair would symbolized a step of faith in obedience to the Lord.  The non-believers were encouraged to make their first step of faith.  I believe 11 came to sit in the chair including one who gave his life to Jesus for the first time.  Praise the Lord!

In the end everything went far better than I had hoped.  The general evaluation of the Polish staff was that this was the most spiritual retreat they have ever had, even compared to camps for only believers.  God answered lots of prayers.  This was all despite the camp pastor, a foreigner, needing a translator.  Today I was formally asked to lead the summer camp as well, and it is the youth that want me back, not only the leaders.  I am totally shocked and honored.  Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways through the Holy Spirit.

Now, I believe, some of the most important work continues by the Polish staff.  They will follow-up on the commitments made at the camp.  Please pray that the end result is disciple makers of all ages.

Introspective Wood Shavings

It has been too long since I have written.  Over the last weeks and maybe even few months I have been reevaluating the role of the Wood Shavings (WS).  Maybe role is not even right, if it is even God’s will.  A big struggle is related to the nature of writing.  In general I feel it is a bit narcissistic.

I want what I share to be an encouragement to pray for all who take the time to read the WS.  Another motivation for me is the chance to challenge people spiritually as well (disciple making).  Further reasons to write are that it forces me to think about what I write and to process some of my searching.  But in the end it is basically about me most of the time.  I want it to be all about our Heavenly Father.  Any advice or feedback would be appreciated?

As I search for the next sentence to write, I believe the Lord just put in my mind the word discipline (D).  One of the other motivations for writing is to develop D.  I don’t like the D word.  I like to go with the flow and to generally react to the moment’s needs.  The problem is that too often I end up doing too little for the lack of D.  If other people were to plan my activities I would be a lot more efficient and effective most likely.  But I could waste a lot of time waiting for others to schedule meetings, plan what needs to take place in the church, etc.  The bottom line is that God has made it clear He expects me to be more D-ed.  The reason this is true, probably the most important, is spiritually.

The more I seek to lead others, it is truly shocking that I am the pastor of the InterNational Church of Wroclaw (INCW), the more God leads me to Himself.  Me leading others is not fundamentally what is needed.  That He can use me in the life of others is the key.  This applies for every believer, I believe.  Though our Father has different callings for each of us, He first must have us!  He must have me.  This starts with salvation and continues until death as discipleship, I believe.

Jesus modeled this so perfectly in Mark 1:35.  “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”  Jesus greatest desire, I believe out of His greatest need, was for intimacy with His Father.

I believe one of the things I am learning is the principle of – want or desire.  Maybe this is one of the fundamental changes when a person become a true believer.  Our desire shifts from what I want to wanting Him and His will.  So the simple test is if I don’t want Him, or Him very much other than some kind of habit like attending a Sunday service, then something is wrong.  Isn’t it true that if I don’t need to be in relationship with Him every day then something is wrong?  I need food and water or I will die.  If I don’t want intimacy with God, because of my fundamental need, am I not dead or dying spiritually?

So to conclude, I probably lost you already, what do you want?  I am asking what I really want.  I am asking why I too often decide to read other things like the news about the  Seahawks going to the Super Bowl before reading my Bible and praying.  I do so little praying.  I fail to memorize scripture.  I don’t have a burning desire/need to get up before it is light to be with my Heavenly Father!

But I do want to want Him over everyone and everything (Luke 14:26).  Thank You Lord!