For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Halloween and Reformation Day

I've been thinking about this for some time, wanting to share thoughts about why our family has chosen not to participate in the Halloween festivities, and why we've chosen to focus instead on Reformation Day.  Yet, in recent days I've come across a couple of really good articles about the first, and a wonderful visual regarding the second.  

And so, instead of "re-inventing the wheel" I'll do the typical internet thing and just steal other people's stuff.  Well, steal might be a harsh word.  I'm not going to try and pass any of this off as my own.  I'll simply share links to two wonderfully written, well thought out articles about how Christians should view Halloween, and then share a wonderful graphic from  Then I'll say, "Yeah, what they said."

And here is the graphic: (click on it to follow to's page)

For those who read this far, here's a little bonus, just for fun

Monday, October 28, 2013

Can I Just Say...I Love My Family

Chalk it up to being over tired, over stressed, under caffeinated, overly nostalgic, whatever.  What's on my mind right now is how much I love my family.  What a blessing they are!

My wife and I have been married over 24 years.  We dated through the last two years of high school and all through college (not something I recommend, but that's for another post), so we've been "together" for just over 30 years.  That's a long time for this beautiful woman to put up with me; all my quirks and faults; all my bad days; etc.  Add to that what she's had to tolerate for over 20 years as a pastor's wife and you'll see that if I were Catholic, I'd nominate her for sainthood.

Together God has graced us to raise four amazing children.  Our oldest daughter is in her final year of college, our oldest son just graduated and is working like a mad man while preparing for college, our youngest daughter will graduate in the spring, and the youngest is a 9 year old summary of the other three!  

Time and space prevent me (as well as the lack of interest on your part) from going into a lot of detail about each of them.  They each represent an amazing portrait of God's grace at work, and I can honestly say I couldn't love them more or be more proud of each of them.  What a joy to say that my children are my friends, and we actually enjoy hanging out together (when we can).

We don't have much from a worldly perspective; falling apart house, cars that seem to be on a revolving door at the repair shop, bare bones budget due to 20+ years on only one income (and that's the income of a small church pastor!).  Yet through it all, my wife and kids have never complained, never whined about what they don't have, etc.  They are a remarkable bunch of folks. 

I am a blessed man.  I just want folks to know that.  Maybe I just need to remind myself of that. And after all, this is my blog so I can write what I want.  It's always been more about my writing it than anyone else reading it, so this is my selfish, personal time.  I love my family.  I thank God for each one of them.  And if there is anything good in me, it's because of God's grace and these people, so credit where credit is due. 

I love my family.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to Enjoy the World Series

It's a good time to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  Of course, that's more often true than not, but right now it's especially true.  In fact, this is a great time to be a baseball fan.  

For the first time in almost 15 years, the teams with the best regular season records are meeting in the World Series:  our Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox.  By all accounts, these are the best two teams in baseball.  

And they both have a rich heritage behind them. This will be St. Louis' 19th trip to the fall classic, with 11 rings to show for it. Boston has played in 11 and won 7. Rich history indeed.

CBS Sports has a nice article about how this is in many ways a "true World Series."  There is a lot of excitement in the baseball world over this series. It's going to be great fun.  (barring an embarrassing sweep by the Sox like they did the last time we met on this stage in '04!)

But not everyone knows just how to go about celebrating and enjoying such an epic sports battle.  I'm fortunate to live near the home of the Cardinals' Double A affiliate Springfield Cardinals.  And the boys over there have put together this nice little video to help you prepare for and enjoy this event properly.  (My favorite line just might be: "It's a proven fact that you can't enjoy major sporting events unless you're miserably full of unhealthy foods.")

So watch closely, get ready, and (after church tonight, of course) tune in and enjoy what should be a classic Fall Classic.  Go Cardinals!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy Babbling Day

Might as well just call it Blogging Day.  Or Social Media Day.  Since after all that’s what most of us do around here; babble.

But today, October 21, is officially Babbling Day.  I have no idea what the origin of the day is.  I have no idea how you’re supposed to celebrate it.  I’m assuming that it’s a day in honor of those who simply babble on and on; those who talk gibberish; those who can take one simple little thought and turn it into a 42 word sentence which truly amounts to absolutely nothing.   Sounds like my kind of day.

I do have the tendency to babble.  If you’ve read here, you know this.  Because of that tendency, I actually manuscript my sermons.  I know the jury is quite divided about that little issue, but I do it simply because I love my church and don’t want them to have to endure my endless ramblings.  I manuscript it out so that I know exactly what I want to say, how I want to say it, and roughly how long it will take.  Of course, I don’t always stick to the manuscript, but…

Anyway, hope you enjoy the day.  If you’re a babbler, take time to enjoy the sun.  Be proud of your verbosity.  If you’re not, and you can’t stand babbling, well not to worry.  I don’t think too many folks know about this, so for the most part it’s just business as usual.

Well, in honor of the day, I’ve not only offered you this completely meaningless rambling; but I also offer this:

Some time ago I found this amazing little piece from Lutheran Satire on the Trinity.  It’s really quite profound, and also quite funny.  But what’s even more funny is the version below.  It seems that the folks at Youtube provide closed captioning for videos.  In this case, due to the theological concepts being discussed and the silly little accent being used, the close captioning made a valiant effort, but came up a little short.  The end result is the perfect clip for Babbling Day.  Enjoy.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Have a Slice - Revisited

This is from October of last year.  Can't believe I got this far into the month without reminding folks of this issue.  So I'm looking to fix that.  It's a repeat, but hey....

I’m in the minority on a lot of things.  At least it seems that way.  A Conservative, Reformed, Homeschooling pastor who also loves Christian rock music, NASCAR, and guns.  Odd, I know.  In fact, one time our daughter was talking with some folks and when they found out she was a pastor’s kid and a homeschooler, they said, “Wow, you’re really on the fringe!”

But as odd as I may be, there is at least one area in which I am solidly in the majority:  Pizza Lover!  94 percent of Americans eat pizza regularly, according to some random statistic; so that makes me just a regular guy.  Of course, although most eat it regularly, many may not be quite as fanatical as our family.  

Between frozen and restaurant versions, we often have pizza 2-3 times a week.  Add in a quick slice for lunch, and I guess I eat pizza more than a “regularly.”  In fact, we have frozen pizzas every Sunday for lunch. We decided a long time ago that if this is a day of rest, mom should get to rest as well.  Easy cooking, easy clean-up; pizza is the answer.   

I can’t prove this, but I believe pizza will be a main part of the “marriage feast” in heaven.  Just my hopeful belief, since pizza isn’t exactly mentioned in the Bible.  (However, if you can tolerate this borderline sacrilegious list, someone had some fun replacing the word “peace” with “pizza” and came up with some great verses!)

Anyway, October is National Pizza Month.  In honor of that celebration, I have resolved to eat as much pizza as possible.  Which makes this no different than any other month, it just gives justification to my habit.  Of course, this also means I have to make the 35 mile trip to the nearest Imo’s Pizza, which is the absolute best pizza on the planet.  But, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

To help you celebrate, here are a couple of fun things to do.

Here’s a list of some interesting pizza facts.

Here’s a fun little online pizza trivia game.

And of course, the most fun song about food, sung by food, every made.  Pizza Angel: 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Never Satisfied

These are pretty good days for Missouri sports fans.  The St. Louis Cardinals are up 2-0 in the National League Championship Series, this after posting the best record in the NL this year.  The Kansas City Chiefs are undefeated.  The Missouri Tigers are undefeated (and better move way up in the rankings after their defeat of the #7 Georgia Bulldogs this weekend).  Even the St. Louis Blues are undefeated at this early stage of the season (that's NHL, hockey, for those who are only into the "big three" sports).   

And this weekend was pretty good as well.  Every Missouri team won, even our poor St. Louis Rams.  So you'd think a guy would be happy.  You'd think the sports nut in me would be content.  And yet...

It's been awhile since I've talked about it, and I've really been doing much, much better in the last couple years; but for awhile I had a real NASCAR addiction.  Obsessed might not be too strong a word.  We did away with our satellite several years ago, so that helped; I don't get to see many races any more.  But I still follow it.  And I still root for my driver, Jeff Gordon. 

Now, I won't go into all the details of the championship race this year.  Those who care, know; those who don't care, don't want to know.  Anyway, this weekend wasn't so bad for the 24 team either.  Jeff qualified 1st for Saturday night's race in Charlotte.  And all in all he had a good night.  He finished 7th.  Unfortunately, he finished behind the three guys he's battling for the championship, and so he lost ground in the big picture.  And so I was a little down.  

Sad, isn't it?  All my other teams won this weekend.  Can't remember the last time that happened.  For a sports fan, this was a great weekend, and my teams are having great seasons.  The fact that Jeff is even in the championship hunt is a miracle.  But I was a little disappointed because he didn't win on Saturday. 

Now, what's the point?  (other than the fact that I'm a pretty pathetic whiner when it comes to sports)  Simply this:  as human beings, we're often a pretty dissatisfied lot, aren't we?  If we want ten things to go right, and nine of them do, we often spend more energy focusing on the tenth thing, the one that went wrong.  I know not everyone is like this.  I know there are the Pollyannas out there who are always chipper and happy and...yuck.  But most of us are like this, even if only from time to time. 

Same way in the church.  We have been given the ultimate victory, the ultimate gift...salvation.  We have been given forgiveness when we deserved wrath.  We've been offered life when we deserve death.  We have been given Christ!  What a joy.  What a blessing.  With Christ we have everything and without Him we have nothing; so we have been given everything.  And yet...

We're dissatisfied with some aspect of life.  We're disappointed because God didn't do this thing the way we wanted.  We don't like the way our church does this or that.  We are unhappy about this or that person.  Sad.  Instead of having joy over the ultimate victory in Christ, we're disappointed because things don't always go our way.  Even if they still go mostly our way.  Instead of satisfaction because of the nine things, we whine about the tenth.

I understand that this is a largely Western church problem.  In places where daily survival isn't a given, in places where the mere confession of Christ puts your life at risk, I don't imagine too many folks are down and out about the kind of music we sing in church or the struggles we're having with one of two or three cars.  Priorities are a bit different for those folks. 

And they should be for the rest of us as well.  Christ is all.  In Him I should be satisfied.  In Him I should rejoice regardless of anything else in life. O God, give me that satisfaction!  Give me that joy!  Let me truly see Christ as my all in all.  

And if I find myself getting upset because ALL my teams didn't win, let me get a little bit of that Pollyanna (or maybe Apostle Paul) in me and rejoice anyway.  At the very least, help me not to whine.  Maybe I need to sing Ross King's kid's song...

When I have bad days
Sad days, make me mad days
I don't get my way
I wanna cry and lose my temper
But then I stop and smile
And try to remember that

No one likes to hear the sound of whining
Whining makes you want to plug your ears and run away
Everything sounds better when you're smiling
So no more whining today. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do Your Children Sound Like You?

I'm a huge fan of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  I know, that comes as a shock to so many.  But I thought I might need to begin with that for someone who stumbles across this blog for the first time (which is for the most part the only people who read it...those who stumble on it.  To you, I apologize and I hope you didn't hurt yourself).

Anyway, one of my great disappointments is that there are no recordings of the Prince of Preachers, since the era of his ministry predated such technology.  I read his sermons, and in my mind I'm trying to imagine what he would have sounded like.  In fact, we were talking about heaven awhile back with some friends, and I joked that the best part for them was that there would be no more preaching to listen to.  And as I thought about it, I thought, I hope that maybe there will be.  If nothing else, maybe God can just pretend there are a bunch of lost sinners there long enough for me to hear Spurgeon let us have it!

I was delighted to discover that while Spurgeon was never recorded, his son, Thomas was.  Thomas Spurgeon assumed the pastorate of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London after his father's death and served there for 15 years.  At some point during that time, he was approached by the folks from Edison-Bell Records, and he recorded just a brief snippet of his father's last message at the Tabernacle.  (You can read a little about it here, but the link there seems to be problematic, so I've included another link below)

What's interesting is how he introduces the clip.  Thomas says:  "It is cause for real regret that none of my late, dear father’s words were preserved by means of the phonograph. Perhaps the next best thing is for me, his son and successor, to repeat what proved to be his passing message."  He reminds us that truth is no less powerful 14 years after it was spoken, since the Word of God remains true, and then he launches into the quote.

The whole purpose is that by listening to the son, we might get a glimpse of the father's voice.  Now, apart from the obvious theological point of hearing the voice of the Father through His Son, another thought struck me.  Do my children sound like me?  That is, can my faith be seen and heard in the lives of my children.  Have I passed along a legacy of faith to them to such a degree that when I die someone can say, "If you want to know what Pastor Scott was like, just look at his kids."

Now, part of me cringes at the thought.  We've joked before about how our kids seem to have inherited all our bad traits.  (My one poor daughter seems to have received the boatload of those things.  Sorry Joy-Joy).  But aside from hereditary things, have they picked up my other bad habits?  If they do sound like me, is it a positive impression?  Or has my life be so inconsistent that their reflection of me isn't very flattering?

The idea of "generational faithfulness" has fallen on hard times in the American Church, though there are some sparks of revival.  We need to not focus so much on the here and now, our own fame and fortune, that we forget that our primary purpose is to declare the wonders of our God so that our children will speak them to their children, and His glories will be passed on to a generation as yet unborn.  

How great would it be if years from now, someone came to my son and said "You sound just like your dad," and they meant it as a compliment.  How fantastic would it be for my grandchildren to know my Savior and to know that their grandfather loved Him and them enough to build my faith into my daughters and sons.  I thank God for the reminder of my need to focus on my role as husband and father, and I pray that He might use me to show Himself glorious to generations of my progeny.

For those who are interested, here's a link to Thomas Spurgeon's recording followed by a transcript.  

It is cause for real regret that none of my late, dear father’s words were preserved by means of the phonograph. Perhaps the next best thing is for me, his son and successor, to repeat what proved to be his passing message. It should not be less forceful now, fourteen years after its delivery, for the truth of God is unchanging.
If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. His service is life, peace, and joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of JESUS CHRIST!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lessons from a Little Known "Legend"

Today, October 7, is the 267th anniversary of William Billings’ birth.  I can hear it now:  “Who?”  William Billings was actually quite well known in his time.  He was known as one of the most prolific musical composers of his day; some even call him the “leading composer” of his generation.  He wrote and published collections for both the church and “secular” singers. 

From a musical standpoint, in addition to his prolific writing, singing instruction, etc. it was Billings who introduced the practice of using a pitch pipe to get a choir started on the right note.  He was involved in much of the “evolution” of church music in Puritan New England.

From a patriotic/historical standpoint, Billings wrote a little piece that went like this: 
Let tyrants shake their iron rods,
And slavery clank her galling chains:
We see them not; we trust in God:
New England’s God forever reigns.

It’s said that this little ditty “was almost as famous in its day as the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ at a later time. This source goes on to say: “Everywhere, in church and home, by the children and the aged, these words were sung with passionate fervor. The soldiers knew them by heart, and to the sound of fife and drum they sang them as they advanced to meet the foe. This Battle Hymn contributed not a little to the winning of the Revolutionary War.” (see here)

Billings obviously was a man of influence and impact.  So what’s the point?  Well, a few things I can think of.

One, Billings had no musical training at all.  In fact, as prolific as he became as a composer, he was never able to actually make a living as a musician.  He was apprenticed as a young man to a tanner.  He later worked as a hog wrangler and street cleaner before eventually becoming a singing instructor and church choir trainer.

In fact, it’s said that his own voice was “loud and rasping” and his physical appearance was not exactly one that inspired great confidence.  But he saw some needs in the church as it applied to music, and would often jot down notes and ideas on scraps of leather in the tannery where he worked. 

The lesson here, as far as I’m concerned, is that worldly appearances and expert training aren’t all their cracked up to be.  If God has called us to a task, we should give ourselves to it, and He can do amazing things in and through us.

Which suggests a second lesson.  Billings was used in great ways in his day, both in the church and in the national spirit.  No one remembers him today for the most part, but he had tremendous impact.  Today, so many are concerned about being big and famous and think that unless we are, we won’t have influence or be remembered.  Billings reminds me that we can have influence whether we’re “remembered” or not; and we shouldn’t even be thinking in those terms.  Just go out and do what God has called you to do.  Let Him worry about the results.

And third, even though you may have dreams of doing one thing, you’re not too good to get a “menial” job and work for a living.  Though Billings would eventually teach music and lead choirs, he spent a lot of time in that tannery, not the “cleanest” of professions.  And let’s not even talk about the street cleaning and hog chasing.  He certainly had his musical dreams even in those days, but never was too prideful to work for a living. 

Our American heritage is filled with stories of men like William Billings.  People who weren’t afraid to work and get their hands dirty.  People who weren’t as caught up with looking good and having the right pedigree, but simply put their skills to work.  And people who didn’t set out to make and “impact”, but had a great one none the less.

So Happy Birthday, Mr. Billings.  Even if no one remembers my name in years to come, even if I’m not the most gifted and famous preacher, even if I have to slop hogs to make ends meet (which may happen one day soon!), I pray I live my life in faithful obedience and that God will use me to touch someone for His Kingdom and His Glory. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Convention of States: The Time is Now

It's obvious our Federal Government is broken.  It's just as obvious that the two party status quo is broken as well.  Anyone who's read this blog for the last five years knows that I gave up being a Republican in 2008 when McCain was shoved down our throats based on the whole "electability" argument (how'd that work out for ya?).  For the last several years I've supported the Constitution Party, fighting for a third party option that more clearly reflects the intent of our founders and the whole concept of a representative republic.  It's a radical idea to some, this third party thing.  But difficult times call for radical ideas. 

And here's another one.  With the Federal Government in "shut down", perhaps it's more obvious than ever that we need to call a Convention of States.  Because so many Americans are Constitutionally illiterate, they may not even be aware of what that is.  Our founding fathers provided two ways to keep things in check moving forward, two ways in which amendments to the Constitution can be offered. 

Article V of the U. S. Constitution states: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments..."

That means:

  • Congress can amend the Constitution at any time if 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree.
  • A convention of states can be called if 2/3 of states submit applications. These applications must all deal with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government).
  • - See more at:
    1. Congress can amend the Constitution at any time if 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree. OR
    2. A convention of states can be called if 2/3 of states submit applications. These applications must all deal with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government). (taken from this post)

    What we fail to remember is that the Federal Government was intended to be quite limited in its power and scope, and the states were always intended to have the power to "trump" the boys in DC.  In fact, Article X of our Constitution says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    In short, Article 10 tells us that unless we give specific power to the Federal Government, they don't have it.  Sadly, we've ignored that article for years now and let the Feds run rampant, exercising authority in all kinds of areas where they have no right to do so.  (Can anyone say "Affordable Healthcare Mandate?")

    It's time for the states to take back what is rightfully ours.  Articles 5 provides a way for Article 10 to be enforced.  It seems that our founding fathers knew a day might come when a Federal Government might become a little power mad, and might need to be held in check by the states; by the people.  That time may have come.

    Again, it's obvious that the Federal Government is broken, as is the current two party system.  This recent "shut down" is just the most glaring recent example.  It's time for the states to stand up.  It's time for this nation of, by and for the people to become that again.  Check out the information at the Convention of States website.  Find out what you can do to urge state lawmakers to call for this convention.  If the power mad folks in DC, who gladly put others out of work while still collecting their own checks, can't get it done, let's put in motion the process that will.   

  • Congress can amend the Constitution at any time if 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree.
  • A convention of states can be called if 2/3 of states submit applications. These applications must all deal with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government).
  • - See more at:

  • Congress can amend the Constitution at any time if 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree.
  • A convention of states can be called if 2/3 of states submit applications. These applications must all deal with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government).
  • - See more at: