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.)

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.

Student BBQ

Have you ever heard the song “Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave?  I strongly encourage you to listen to the song, it is on YouTube.  One version on YouTube has the words.  Are you overwhelmed by the Lord today?  Too often I realize I am underwhelmed as I forget all that He has done and who He is.

Thanks for praying for California Baptist University (CBU) volunteer mission team.  They have especially focused their time on one university and two English classes.  As often as possible the CBU students would meet with the Polish students after classes.  A BBQ was also planned and 70 students signed up.  It was awesome, because not only did they sign up, they came.

20160521_193609 20160521_192423
From about 5pm until nearly 10pm there were lots of students chatting, eating, playing games, and having a great time.  I heard many wonderful spiritual conversations were also taking place.  Pray now for the follow-up with the Polish students who showed interest in spiritual things.

20160521_195553 20160521_191119
Praise the Lord for His many blessings.  We are truly overwhelmed by what He is doing.

Thanks for praying

Aiming for the Best.

It is said that the “road to hell is paved by good intentions”. As I start this very “overdue” post I reflect on my good intentions of many kinds.

I comfort myself with the idea that my good intentions were a series of some kind of experimentation. Though this is somewhat true, I am concerned that the greatest truth is that I too often fail to make the best use of my time.

How does the spectrum of bad to best work? This is a question to ponder. It occurs to me that it is quite rare that most of us choose the bad side of this spectrum. My guess is that most of us fall in the ok to good area. Does this area leave a bad taste in your mouth?

I am reminded of what the Bible says God will do with everyone in the ok to good area of the spectrum, Revelation 3:16-18. Without going into a deep discussion I hear the need for a focus on the area of the spectrum from good to best or great.

We are told in this passage how to live in the good to great spectrum. I believe it is teaching us to not be satisfied with the lesser and to seek God for the greater. This is easy to say and more challenging to do. This also opens up a huge discussion to which I have too few answers. The one answer I believe summarizes them all is the necessity to repent and surrender everything to God.

As I wrap up this short foray of thoughtful meandering, I think a summary is prudent.

I believe Solomon already pondered and revealed the summary – Ecclesiastes 12:9-14.

Experiential “Proof” God and the Holy Spirit are REAL

This week I lived a series of events that I believe affirm again, without any doubt to me, that God is real.  Only a loving Heavenly Father or The Matrix (as in the movie) can explain what happened.  And only the work of “something or someone” real here on earth, the Holy Spirit, can explain who directed me.

For the last few weeks I have been feeling – extremely weird.  I am a bit weird, but even this has been extreme for me.  I won’t try to elaborate much as I have tried to tell others and can’t find the words.  The only metaphor that kind of fits is as if I am a computer and someone removed an essential, but non-essential part.  What I mean is I was still functioning though as if somehow also broken at the same time.

I know when it started, March 23rd after I finished trying to share a message that Sunday morning.  I write tried as I felt it was a total flop I shared.  It had been a busy week, had very little sleep that night, I was getting sick, but there was more.  After the service I felt emotionally horrible and I am still coming out of – it?  This brings me to Thursday last week.

I meet a great friend, brother in Christ, and active attender at the InterNational Church of Wroclaw (INCW) nearly every Thursday at 10am.  It is truly one of those situations of “as iron sharpens iron” Proverbs 27:17.  Each time we meet I am challenged on nearly literally every level of my life.

As I was preparing to go to the meeting I got a message from a person who left their cell phone at our apartment.  They wanted to come and get the phone.  The timing put me leaving a little early, but no problem.  I met them outside our apartment in-route to my meeting.  But before I picked up the cell phone I felt I needed to bring a book I started reading; The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers.  It is a huge book so I opted for a smaller book as a sample.  The smaller book is one portion of the big book; So Send I You, Workman of God.

I was finally ready to go out the door with my Bible, So Send I You, my transportation pass,  my cell phone, etc., and my friends cell phone.  As I left the front entrance it stared to rain so I waited with half of my body in the rain and the other against the door.  My friend soon came and I declined an offer for a ride because public transport was going to be easier for both of us.

I ended up arriving at the meeting place about 25 minutes early.  So I plopped down in a chair and pulled out my Bible.  I read and truly felt directed to certain passages in Luke before the following.  As a church the INCW was studying the passages in the Gospels that were the events during the week prior to Palm Sunday.  Thursday was Jesus going through Jericho and meeting Zacchaeus.

I don’t remember any specific insights from the Bible, but in general I felt so encouraged and energized.  This was one of the first times I felt so at peace in weeks.  Then I felt led to put down the Bible and read the book I had brought.  I had not brought it to read, I didn’t think.  It was just going to be a discussion topic with my friend.

The first line of the book hit me emotionally, as if physically almost.  “When we speak of a call we nearly always leave out one essential feature: the nature of the one who calls.”  I felt like a fish and the hook was set in my mouth.  I was hooked and had to continue.  What is extra weird is that the statement was not the message I needed to hear to bring me out of my struggle.  But what I felt was that the missing part to my computer had been reattached and this was one more part of the process.

I had woken up early that morning to pray, sadly the time went pretty much as usual for me recently, without the ability to focus well.  Despite my struggle I felt like I had been with the Heavenly Father.  Then the time in the Bible had been meaningful and He had touched my heart.  After the first sentence of So Send I You I realized how directly, powerfully, intentionally, personally the Lord was speaking to me.

The feeling was so tangible I almost wondered if my heart had been what was perviously missing and it was beating again.  I took a few moments as if somehow I had oxygen back in my body again, I felt alive!  But the feeling was not euphoric, it was more of a sense of peace, intense joy, and completeness.  It was a sense of AWE.  God was interacting with me in such a way that it was visceral, something I was experiencing and could touch.

I can not prove in a court of law or a laboratory that God had been working in me through the power of the Holy Spirit, but nobody can convince me otherwise.  Everything I was experiencing was too perfect to be chance, too real to be dilution, too right to be luck.  The God of all creation was “speaking” to me through the Bible and insight God had given another man about 100 years ago.

I had to keep reading.  I wanted more of what I was experiencing.  I never wanted it to end.  Slowly I read and took pleasure in the insights, the truths, in the book.  Then I came to page 18 and the focus became perfect.  “If we have been getting hard and metallic, untouched spiritually – not backsliding, but getting out of touch with God – we shall find the reason is that we are allowing things to come in between us and the sense of God’s call.”

This statement does not likely resonate with you.  But it was just what I needed to hear at the moment.  Now that I read the statement it doesn’t even have the same impact as that day.  God’s message yesterday is not exactly the same message today.  God’s will for yesterday is not exactly His will for today, or for tomorrow which never comes.

The point of all this is not to bring you into my mind through those events last week.  My goal is not to teach you a truth or inspire in some way.  I really don’t know if there is a profound reason for me to write this post.

But my deepest hope is that you have personal experience the work of the Holy Spirit.  I want everyone I ever meet to know experientially a personal relationship with God.  There is nothing else that can match the love of Abba Father.  I am privileged, as I hope you are as well, to have the “living water well up in me”  John 4:14.

Do you know the tasted of “living water”?  About 2000 years ago Jesus experienced the reality of God’s perfect love.  He lived and suffered that week leading to the cross so that you and I can experience the living water.  You and I should have lived and suffered that week instead of Jesus.  Praise the Lord the story doesn’t end at the cross!

“He is Risen”!

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.

The right kind of dissatisfied.

Though the American football, you might think there is only one kind of football and that is not so, season is over it is still fresh in my mind.  There are so many great lessons to be drawn from the Super Bowl 48 (SB48) champion team.  Yea, you know the ones.

I think the next lesson has been reenforced this week in various ways.  I noticed that “champions” are never satisfied.  This first hit be as I was considering the losers of SB48.  Looking at them after the game you would have thought they never made it to the playoffs instead of a multi-record breaking year.

Last year when the Seahawks lost to Atlanta one of the first reported comments was from Russell Wilson, the quarterback.  He didn’t even make it off the field before he was looking  forward to the coming season.  This was one of the greatest almost-comebacks in the history of the NFL.  The team was devastated, but Russell was merely disappointed.  He didn’t dwell on the past, but sought to live in the moment with a healthy view toward the future.  He was not satisfied with the ending of the season, but instead of letting it consume him, he chose to move forward with anticipation toward unfinished goals fueled a little bit more by the disappointment.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow”.  I believe Jesus was teaching to be present now, and not future or past.  But maybe the most important lesson Jesus was teaching is to not worry.  I am driving at the point that we are to focus on the present with a healthy view of the future.  God has the future and we can trust Him to manage it since we can’t anyway.  But I don’t believe we are not to anticipate the future with healthy expectation.

James 4:13-17 has such great insight into proper perspective of time.  We don’t know what will happen tomorrow and for sure next year, so we should never say we do.  But this passage does not even imply, I don’t believe, not to have a future goal and that maybe even of being a “champion”.

The Broncos have every reason to be proud of their season and achievements, but loosing is not an acceptable option.  I wrote never at first, but I do believer there are times to choose to loose.  For example, when legal, to encourage the other player or team.  We do this with our children and others when appropriate for a greater purpose.  I read about the Biathlon Olympic hopeful Tracy Barnes who gave her spot on the team to her twin sister this year.  There are times when we are to give our very lives for another – maybe the greatest form of choosing the other person’s victory.

Ok, I will try to focus.  My ultimate conviction is that as a Christian I am to aim for a “championship faith”.  1 Corinthians 9:24 teaches that we are to aim to win.  Jesus told us in Matthew 5:48 to “be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.  James 1:2-4 teaches us the right perspective on “trials of many kinds” because the end result when we leave God in control is “lacking nothing”.  We will not be perfect until we die physically and go to heaven.  But it sure seems like Jesus taught we are never to be “satisfied”.

The Broncos were right in not being satisfied with the loss in the Super Bowl.  To draw a non-perfect parallel, no Christian should be satisfied in their journey of faith.  I believe I have noticed that actually the opposite is true.  The more I grow in faith, the more I pursue obedience to God, the more I want to grow and be obedient.  I get more and more “hungry” for God’s work in my life and through my life.  I want more and more to please and love Him through obedience to His perfect will.

Ok, I will cut to the chase.  I believe Jesus told us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) because it is God’s will.  It breaks my heart that for many years, as I served as a pastor, I really didn’t live this truth.  I mostly went though the motions.  In many ways I went with the flow of modern Christianity.  There is a general problem, I believe, that saying I have become a Christian is the main goal.  I don’t believe this is true.  I believe salvation is the absolutely essential beginning point of becoming Jesus disciple maker (Matthew 28:18-20) = “spiritual champion”.

It seems crazy to stop here, but I must and unless the Lord comes back in the next few weeks I can continue.  I look forward with anticipation (aka not satisfied) to sharing more while desiring that what I have written is God’s truth and not my own (aka not worrying).

Please add your convictions in a comment below.