The Grammatical Structure in Scripture

Have you paid much attention to the grammatical style of the Scriptures in the Bible? How important is grammar in Scripture? It is everything. It is …

The Grammatical Structure in Scripture

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The Grammatical Structures of Paul’s letters

In my last blog, I examined the importance of grammatical structures in Scriptures, specifically in the writings of the life and words of Jesus which…

The Grammatical Structures of Paul’s letters

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The Constancies of Life

Last night, I went to bed with much fear and anxiety amidst this new world of unknowns concerning the Covid-19 virus. This morning, I woke up to the …

The Constancies of Life

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National Holidays…

Americans love holidays, especially three-day weekends. Our Federal government mandates the observance of the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In so many ways, our designated national holidays reflect the wonder and mystery of the American experiment. As “one nation under God” we celebrate the twists and turns of our history.

This week, our nation observed the “baby” of all our national holidays “The Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.” established in 1983 after years of debate. For those who may not remember Dr. King, he stirred the soul of our nation to confront the injustices of segregation and racism. As a Baptist minister, King called on our national leaders to confront bigotry and hatred institutionalized by unjust laws segregating people. Under his watch, no longer would those “created in the image of God” find themselves relegated to a lower class.

In prime of life, King fell prey to an assassin’s bullet as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. An archenemy sought to silence his voice with a deadly shot on April 4, 1968, but hatred never wins in the end. His voice still rings out today. In a nation being drawn back across lines that divide, we would be wise to heed his call in our day.

We may have all come from different ships, but we’re in the same boat now…” What would happen if we embraced this keen observation of King’s today? At times doesn’t it feel as if we row in opposite directions. Yet we wonder why we find ourselves stuck in middle of the sea going in mindless circles.

What counsel would Jesus give to those destined to sail on the same boat together? I believe the captain of our boat would call us to our higher selves saying,  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same.  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48 ESV)

Likewise, King echoed these timeless truths saying, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” He confessed, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” he affirmed.

In our day of divisive rhetoric lacking civil discourse, we would be wise to heed such counsel. Can you imagine how you could change your little corner of the world if you did as Jesus instructed saying, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 9:28-29 ESV)? Jesus did not give these instructions to the vacationers at Disney World, but to his followers who would share the same boat with those who opposed them. What if we treated people so?

On the night before his death, King proclaimed, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land…” As a nation we have come a long way from those dark days, but we have yet to cross over.

I pray the LORD will turn our national nightmare into the dream rooted deep in the heart of King. Hear him anew today—“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together…” Amen!

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The Secret of Contentment

Having grow up in a upper middle class family with practically all my wants, and especially all my needs met, I must confess I have a tendency to be “contentment” averse. The passion for more and more seems to run deep in my veins, as I aspire to greater influence, presitage and position. Jesus never condemned his followers for seeking to be the “greatest of all” He just warned against the path chosen. He knew all too well the highway to more races by the “road less traveled” that leads to true greatness, contentment and godliness. Yes, the narrow path to life is rarely seen from the front seat of a sports car racing headlong af full speed ahead. No, the narrow path to contentment emerges for those who slow down enough to notice a footpath in the dirt winding away toward a distant destination that cannot be seen even after taking the first few steps down the path.

Paul spoke of “learning the secret of contentment” in an age that lived for much closer to the margins of life than those of us who grew up under the neon lights of the American Dream, which has really turned out to be more of a nightmare than dream for most of us caught up in its death grip. Immanuel Kant observed: “Give a man everything he wants and at that moment, everything will not be everything.” Isn’t sad, when even the blind see better than many of us who seek to walk close to the Creator of all things. In contrast, A.W. Tozer observed: “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.” It sounds and ring true, yet so hard to attain in the flesh that wars against the Spirit.

So where does one learn the “secret of contentment”? At the feet of Jesus obviously but what path does He take to teach this vital lesson. It seems that the path leads down the path of “giving away” and “pushing away.” Giving changes the heart, and frees one from the grip of greed. Is it any wonder Jesus advised the rich young ruler to give it “all” away and to come follow Him. Jesus knew as long as the young man held on to his possessions, his possessions had a death grip on him, his heart and soul. The demand seems outrages to us who seek to find fulfillment in the things of this world, which only reveals how blind we really are. Show me a generous man or woman and I will show you someone taking the early steps toward contentment.

In addition to “giving away” those treasures entrusted to your stewardship, we also must learn to “push away” the things that lure us away from simple joy and peace in the things of God, His quiet presence, and a joy not tied to entertainment. Push away those things that distract. Push away this “cotton candy” of distracting and numb entertainment, for the true intimacy of being in relationship with God even when heaven is silent. Our enemy, plus the imposer of our flesh urges us to seek happiness instead of joy, entertainment instead of peace, busyness instead of being still, static and noise instead of quiet reflection and prayer.

Let’s covenant together to seek the secret. Let’s stop robbing ourselves of life as it was meant to be chasing after the fantasies of our secular culture. Slow down, give more, listen more, love deeply, pray, mediate on the words of Jesus and His lifestyle while learning the secret from the master, and the lover of your soul.

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Translating Hugo: “L’Autre” from “A Guernesey”

My French Quest

Guernsey beach-xlarge

This is the third post in a series of my English translations from Victor Hugo’s L’art d’être Grand-Père.Hugo wrote a series of poems to his grandchildren, Georges and Jeanne, after he became their guardian following their parent’s untimely death in 1871. Several of these poems were written about his daily walks with his grandchildren in the Jardin des Plantes and my next three blogs will refer to these precious promenades in the Jardin des Plantes; however, I am writing today’s blog as a tribute to my blog followers in Guernesey.

Guernsey (Guernesey is the French spelling) is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel (or known as La Manche to those who live in France!) near the French coast. There is evidence of Roman settlement from 100 AD  in the ruins of La Plaiderie and St Peter Port.  The most interesting fact about Guernsey, for me…

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Texas Baptist Executive Board makes wise decision, yet heart-breaking.

Yesterday the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas face once again a very trying and difficult decision. In response to the actions of three prominent churches who decisively choice to affirm “same sex unions” and to be open and affirming to those who have chosen to openly live a homosexual lifestyle, the Executive Board voted 63-6 that these three congregations were “outside of harmonious cooperation.” This action terminates long standing and cooperative relationships with these congregations much to the dismay of many who long to find a better way.

Wilshire Baptist Church of Dallas, First Baptist Church of Austin, and Lakeshore Baptist in Waco, all three churches, knew without doubt that their actions would lead to this showdown of values and principles, yet they moved forward putting the relationship at risk. There are no victims here, except for those who will be disillusioned once again as the sons and daughters of God squabble over love, grace, truth and holiness.

On a personal level, I believe the actions of the Executive Board were right, yet difficult beyond measure. Standing firm for one’s convictions about revealed divine truth cannot be for the faint of heart in our day. What decades ago seemed to be timeless principles and standards are now all called into question, yet truth stands the test of time.

Our partnerships with Wilshire, First Austin, and Lakeshore will be missed, but choices have consequences especially in relationships. I wish them well. I pray God will continue to manifest Himself in their midst and guide their actions. I only regret they choose the path that divides rather than seeking ways of greater cooperation and understanding.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.–Jesus (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

Once again we feel the cutting edge of division in the ranks. I pray I will be found in step with the Lord.

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Thought for Today

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
William G.T. Shedd

In a world that longs for safety, adventure calls many to go deeper and farther in a quest for significance. I pray I will be the kind of person has a heart willing to set sail into the unknown.

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Pass the Hat

 

Years ago I heard a story about two men knelling at the altar late at night in a dark remote sanctuary. The younger of the men was a struggling young father between jobs pleading for help to pay his rent. He desperately needed $500 to keep his family from being evicted from the tiny apartment. Meanwhile the man next to him knelt in his expensive pinstriped Armani suit pleading with God to help him close a deal for $10 million for his investment firm. As the rich man overheard the pleas of his poor neighbor at the altar, he decided to interrupt.

Tapping the young man on the shoulder, he smiled and said, “Here, let me help you.” He pulled out his billfold and removed five crisp $100 bills and handed him the money saying, “I hope this helps.” The young father with tears in his eyes awkwardly hugged the rich banker thanking him over and over again until he finally ran out of the sanctuary heading home to tell his wife of the miracle he had just experienced.

Once the swinging of the back doors of the sanctuary stopped, and the room returned to silence, the rich banker knelt again looking up to the heavens saying, “Lord now that I have your undivided attention…as I was saying…”

Generosity can come in all shapes and sizes, and for all kinds of different reasons. A few days ago I witnessed a very moving act of generosity in a much unexpected place. Just before lunchtime I decided to drop in on one of my favorite ministries in the life of our church called “Camino de Luz.” This neighborhood group meets twice a month for Bible study, fellowship, training, and lunch. What started out as an outreach to the senior adult women of our neighborhood some eleven years ago now has become a thriving community of men and women, who love God, love each other and see themselves as a force for good in the world.

As I slipped in the back of the room I spotted a couple of the ladies gathered over a baseball cap full of money. Like a large green salad of ones and fives I witnessed the ladies with smiles on their faces counting the money.

I asked Edgardo Martinez, our Minister of Missions, what was up and he informed me that a young man and his mother from South America had shared their plight. They shared their story of how they needed the prayers of the people. However, “Camino de Luz” was not willing to simply pray, this group of neighborhood friends most of whom live week to week on meager incomes, decided to literally “pass the hat” and gather an offering.

As I watched the ladies counting the offering which amounted to $111.00 I was deeply moved. Over the last few years, I have witnessed this group be transformed from a gathering of friends sharing lunch to a movement determined to make a difference in their world. When we give God half a chance with our hearts and lives He loves to transform us more and more into His image.

After the offering I sensed a deep abiding joy in the room, I could tell those who gave had received the joy that comes only through generosity. It should not be a surprise to us that Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 ESV). Interestingly enough cheerfulness follows generosity. Happy people give. Sad people hold on too tight.

Let me close with the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi who wrote:  “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek–To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”
By the way, “Camino de Luz” means “path of light.” Giving lights the way!

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President and the Prince

 

Imagine opening up a brand new restaurant in El Paso? Obviously you would want to start with a world-class chef and then you would want to find a prime location because most everyone knows that often success revolves around “location, location, location.” If you doubt this adage just check out where you find McDonald’s located then look around and see all the people and traffic. You don’t think “Big Macs” sell by accident do you?

However, a great chef and a strategic location alone cannot spell success, as any successful restaurateur knows; you also have to have a great team serving the customers. Danny Meyer, a New York City legend in the restaurant business hires for success. Forbes Magazine in June 2015 ran an article entitled: “Hire Like Meyer: Danny Meyer Reveals His 6 Secrets Of Great Customer Service Hiring.”

 Always looking for tips about leadership and service his secrets intrigued me. Here are his six secrets to great customer service hiring:

  1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full);
  2. Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning);
  3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done);
  4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel);
  5. Self-awareness (an understanding of what makes you tick);
  6. Integrity (a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).

 

As I read the list, I realized I could capture what he described so well in one biblical word—the word “hospitality.” You find this word popping up time and time again in the New Testament for instance: the writer of Hebrews recommended: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2 ESV) What an amazing concept, showing simple kindness can open you up to a whole new world of reality right under your nose.

Paul added:  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV) Did you notice right in the middle of his description of the attributes of godly leaders you find his reference to being “hospitable.”

The word “hospitality” in Greek is a compound word literally meaning “to love a stranger like a family.”  When you see someone with the gift of hospitality get them on your team as quickly as possible. In fact as I review the qualities of great customer service, I see in the list the essence of “servant leadership” demonstrated by Jesus himself. We need more humble leaders.

Speaking of “servant leaders” a few days ago, my grandson George Walker Scott, who I affectionately call “Prince George”, had the rare opportunity to meet face to face his namesake President George W. Bush in his office in Dallas. In a remarkable act of hospitality, President Bush welcomed my daughter Lorin, son-in-law Philip, and especially Prince George into his world treating them like family during an extended visit. For nearly half an hour my kids became the center of his attention. He even nicknamed my little grandson “Little W” as he terrorized his office rifling through his personal items right under the nose of the Secret Service.

Once again I was reminded why the LORD selected President Bush to serve in the Oval Office at such a critical time in human history. His humility demonstrated through hospitality reveals the depth of his character. Today more than ever we need leaders like that, and I pray my little Prince George grows up to be like his namesake George W. Bush, if he does…watch out world because he comes “Little W.”

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