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

Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent Message #1

In these trying times, it's good to be reminded that God is Sovereign.  

As we enter the Advent season, thinking about, meditating on the coming of our Savior, I've decided to return to one of my favorite holiday vacation spots for the next few weeks at Faith Southern.  Galatians 4:4-5 may not be the first text that comes to mind at Christmas, but it's a favorite, and I know several others have gone here often as well. 

As we began our study yesterday, we looked at the phrase "fullness of time," reminding ourselves that Christ came exactly when God had planned, when He had moved history to the precise moment, when the circumstances were ripe for the fulfillment of His plan to save His people.  Our amazing, Sovereign King at work. 

And remember, this same sovereign King is still on the throne, never surprised by world events, never having to back peddle and try to get things "back on track."  Even in 2020, our God is in control.  I pray this is a blessing to someone.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Prayer for My Heart - A Hymn

So, I had another of those nights where I just couldn't sleep.  As I often do, I got up and read a few psalms, and then felt led to put down a few words of my own.  Sometimes these come out better than others.  A few we actually end up singing at our church.  I'll have to wait and see on this one. 

I had in mind to write a Thanksgiving hymn, since we will be celebrating that tomorrow, after all.  But after the first few lines, the thing took on a different shape.  What I'm left with is a daily prayer for my own heart. 

Every day we need to be seeking God's grace for that day.  Asking for our hearts to be conformed to His image, according to His purpose, for His glory.  These words express a bit of that prayer for my heart.  I hope it might be some encouragement to someone else as well. 

Prayer for My Heart   

Give me a thankful heart, O Lord,
Show me what blessings are mine;
Grant that Your Name would be adored
For all Your mercies divine.

Give me a humble heart, O God,
Lead me away from my pride;
By grace I have been spared Your rod,
In love I’m drawn to Your side.

Give me a heart of prayer, my King,
Keep me ever on my knees;
Seeking Your will in everything,
Trusting in You for my needs.

Give me a servant’s heart, I plead,
Use me as Your hands and feet;
Reaching out to others in need,
Sharing Your grace so complete.

Give me a heart of worship, Lord,
Praising You for grace each day;
With all Your saints in one accord,
For Your glory, this I pray.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Giving Thanks in 2020

 I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday morning.  We've told our folks at church to please stay home when they aren't feeling well, and I thought it would be hypocritical of me not to do the same.  But I didn't have a backup plan, this last minute, for the morning service. So I sat in my office and recorded the morning message which was then shown on the PowerPoint screen.  Not the best solution, but it was functional.  And I've had several tell me it worked out well. 

It was interesting because the theme of the message was being thankful regardless of the circumstances (as in 2020, anyone?)  So I need to be thankful, even though I felt crummy, even though I couldn't be with my church family, even though I had to resort to this video technology. 

In the end, it was a good reminder of what we were looking at in Colossians 3.  The standing we have in Christ, and the blessings we have in the church, all amazing reasons to be grateful; regardless of what else is going on around us.   Hope this is a blessing to someone.  

Monday, November 16, 2020

Jesus' Judgment ON Pharisaical Religion

 Yes, I know it sounds like last week's message.  The key is "of" vs. "on."  In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounces a series of "woes" on these pharisaical men about whom He is speaking.  Far from the "Jesus meek and mild" picture we often think of, this is Jesus speaking frightening things. 

But before we look down our noses at those scribes and Pharisees to whom these "woes" are addressed, we ought to take a moment of self examination to see if these same attitudes exist within us.  To apply tough words to ourselves may not be fun, may not be popular, may not "entertain" us, but the goal of the Word is not any of those things.  It is to speak truth to the hearts of men.  

So, I guess maybe I should say, "Listen at your own risk."  (I know the truth of this message hit me harder than I care to admit)

Friday, November 13, 2020

 A few months back I was having a couple of bad days.  A bad week.  The details are irrelevant.  The point is that in the midst of it I was reminded of what an amazing blessing each moment is.  Every breath is a gift from God, and He deserves our praise.

As I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself, and then being reminded of that truth, I put a few words down to help me remember in the future.  Given the situation in our nation/world these days, I thought someone else might need the encouragement as well. 


Every Moment is a Miracle 


Every moment is a miracle,

Every breath is a blessing,

Every sunrise should make hearts joyful

Every sunset, cause to sing


We take for granted so many things

The simple gifts in our lives

The refreshment which a kind word brings

The love of husbands and wives


In times of suffering and trial

We are tempted to forget

These hardships are only for awhile

Our God will deliver yet


Meanwhile He continues to provide

Each blessing both great and small

Each breath and heartbeat we feel inside

Our God in love grants them all


So even in depths of grief in pain

When everything seems adrift

Look for the simple joys that remain

Our gracious God's daily gifts.


Every moment is a miracle,

Every breath is a blessing,

Every sunrise should make hearts joyful

Every sunset, cause to sing.


SMW 8-11-20


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

On Being An "Uncool Pastor"

 I've been called a lot of things over the years.  Some of them not even repeatable in polite company.  Yet, some of them have been complimentary.  Then there are those compliments that may not seem like compliments. 

A few days ago, a wonderful person from our church posted an article on social media, tagging me, with an introduction which said:  "Thanks for being an uncool pastor, Scott Weldon."  

Again, I've been called a lot of things, but this one took me a second.  Then I read the article.  Is was a post from John Cooper, founder/singer/bassist for Christian Rock's mega star band Skillet.  In case you haven't heard, Mr. Cooper has been saying a lot of really good things recently.  He even has a book coming out that has been endorsed by none other than James R. White.  Never would have thought to put those two together.

Anyway, the post basically says pastors shouldn't be looking to be rock stars (a bit ironic coming from, you know, a rock star).  It bemoans the celebrity pastor epidemic in the Church, instead longing for those pastors who simply teach God's Word faithfully, ministering to the church in happy anonymity.  It's a great article.  I hope Mr. Cooper doesn't mind me re-posting it here.  It's worth your time to read.

And, while I don't think I always measure up, I'm grateful that someone out there thinks I'm an uncool pastor.

Make Pastors Uncool Again, by John Cooper

Pastors shouldn’t be rock stars. Yeah I said it. A rock star promotes himself, builds his brand, and entertains people. It’s his job. A pastor is supposed to lay his life down for his sheep. He serves, he protects, and he equips the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). So why does it seem like many of our celebrity pastors are obsessively self-promoting, building their own brands, and protecting themselves by never preaching or teaching anything that would put them in Twitter prison? Yes, it’s sad and devastating to watch our leaders fall into sin, but when the foundation is built so poorly it shouldn’t be all that surprising. 
Many Christians have been saying this for years and its past time that I join them: I’m tired of celebrity pastors. Pastors aren’t supposed to be cool. They’re not supposed to be fashion trend setters. We are ALL called to decrease, that Christ would increase both in our hearts and in our lives (John 3:30). HIS fame should be known, not OURS. Celebrity Pastors, get out of the way! You’re hogging the spotlight by making yourself the story. Instead, you should be taking some hits on the front lines by stating clearly what God commands. Celebrity pastors seldom do this. Instead, most of what we hear is rhetorical gobbledygook, veiled mysticism, and repackaged new-age movement self-help promotional material disguised as the work of the Spirit. 
My pastor helped change my life in college. “Really, who?” Exactly. He remains faceless, nameless, and will never get the adoration of the world because his desire was for Jesus to have all of the glory. He taught me how to read and understand the Bible. He took my midnight phone calls, he instigated the necessary but uncomfortable conversations, he taught me the importance of sexual purity, and he even taught me how to paint a house and balance a checkbook. It almost sounds more like being a father, doesn’t it? Working, serving, teaching your kids and never expecting a “thank you” or a hand clap is what pastoring is all about. 
Pastors, I am thankful for you. Many are serving faithfully and you will be rewarded by God. But for the pastors who are receiving their reward on earth, I have a request for you: please stop looking for adoration from the world. We don’t need you to look “awesome”, we need you to be fearless and preach the gospel according to the unchanging, authoritative Word of God. Stop finding clever ways to evade questions. You know the ones—God’s commands about sexual morality, Gods authority structure in the Church and at home, biblical justice instead of the religion of modern social justice. Answer them. And answer them clearly for heaven’s sake. Please stop trying to find new ways to explain the perceived inconvenient truths of God’s Word. You ought to love what He loves and hate what he hates. This used to be a prerequisite for church leadership. Today, its deemed radical and even bigoted.
Play time is over. The spiritual battle is raging, and the field is full of wimps and boys who have never picked up a sword because it just “feels mean.” We need generals and leaders who don’t care about their brand, their look, their “likes”, or making allegiances with the world. In short, it’s time to make pastors uncool again.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Jesus' Judgment Of Pharisaical Religion

 In the last election cycle, both "sides" were claiming Jesus as their own.  Liberals were claiming the tolerant, compassionate Christ, while Conservatives basically acted like Jesus was a Republican and Donald Trump was the next Messiah.  

As we moved in our study of Matthew to chapter 23, I think the text addresses both of those issues.  On the one hand, the woe and judgment from Jesus (here as well as several other places) shows that He is anything but the uber-tolerant pushover that winks at sin and looks the other way. And on the other hand, we are reminded that His harshest condemnation was often reserved for the religious "conservatives" of His day.

In the end, the church needs to be reminded that the world will never be reached by a bunch of self-satisfied, arrogant, prideful Christians looking down our noses at them.  We need to heed this warning from our Lord about avoiding the pride and hypocrisy of the "scribes and Pharisees."  Instead, in humility, knowing all we have we have by grace, we share that grace with others.

Here is Sunday's message on Jesus' Judgment Of Pharisaical Religion:

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

I Voted...Now What?

 It's Election Day in these here United States.  After what has been the most contentious campaign cycle in my lifetime (though maybe not all time), folks all over the country are standing in lines, exercising their American right and responsibility. Tens of thousands have already cast their vote in early, mail in voting.

Some have said the "soul of the nation" is on the line in this election.  Maybe.  I would think the soul of the nation is more the purview of the Church in America, but that's a whole other post.  I don't deny that there are major differences between the two major parties, as well as the various "third party" platforms.  I have strong feelings about many of those things, and will gladly share them with anyone who asks. 

But I'm writing this long before any of the results of this particular election are known so that what I say here doesn't seem to be gloating if you think my candidate wins, or sour grapes if you think my candidate lost.  The truth is, I've not voted for a major party presidential candidate is some time, so...

Here's the point.  As an American, I am thankful for the freedoms we enjoy.  And I certainly have my opinions about which candidates will support those freedoms, and which ones would rather work to see them deteriorate.  But in the end, my allegiances in life are not changed. 

Primarily because while I am an American, and proud to be so, I am the citizen of another Kingdom.  As such, my hope is not in this world.  My hope is not in a president or political policy.  My hope is not therefore dashed when my political opinions are opposed or even defeated.  My hope is in my King, and King Jesus still reigns regardless of who sits in the White House, or Governor's Mansion, etc.  

Here's the bottom line:

The early Church survived Nero.

The English Church survived Queen Mary.

The German Church survived Hitler. 

The Chinese Church survived Mao Zedong.

The American Church even survived Obama (sorry, couldn't resist).

So, the Church will survive either another four years of Trump, or the Presidency of Harris...I mean Biden.   

Please don't misunderstand.  I'm not saying we should not be involved.  We should.  I'm not even saying we shouldn't go out and voice our opinions, support our candidates, etc.  We should.  It's our right and our responsibility as good citizens of this great land.  In the end, however, if Christians say our hope is in Christ alone, we should live like it.  We shouldn't act like everything comes down to this election.  I know our freedoms as Christians may be affected by the political future, but we know that our future is still in the hands of our Sovereign King who rules over the nations, causes kings and presidents to rise and fall, all according to His plan, all for His glory.  

So go vote.  Thank God for that privilege.  Then go home and trust in your King to work things according to His will.

Now, as a little added bonus, here's a song from one of my favorite song writers, Ross King, who expresses what many of us have felt in recent years with our frustration in the political world.  Enjoy.  

A Better Country
Ross King/Paul Duncan

I wish that I could choose a side
Set my feet on party lines,
follow them with peace of mind
Wherever they go
It would be much easier
If You would tell me, word for word
Who to bless and what to curse
And how to cast my vote
Cause I believe without a doubt
That either side would sell You out
If they thought You were dragging down their ratings
I will not align myself
With whitewashed tombs and sons of hell
Who’s gods of  war and power and wealth are fading

Here I am, like Abraham
I long for home, a place I know
Is so far from me
And on this earth, a foreigner
With eyes above, dreaming of
A better country

I wish that I could find a thread
Clearly marked in blue or red
Directing this conflicted head
Toward something close to truth
But all I see are warning signs
And hastily drawn battle lines
Where hearts are swapped for crooked spines
And nothing points to You
Cause all my life I was so sure
That on our side, we had the cure
Our words were true, our motives pure and righteous
But now I’m seeing to my shame
That right and righteous aren’t the same
And what if God Himself is not behind us

I’m going to the city, that my faith-fathers sought
It’s foundations are sturdy, cause it’s builder is God
In the bright sky above it, there is no moon or sun
The Lord is its light, no darkness or night shall ever come

Monday, November 2, 2020

One Day, You Will Meet God

 It was a great joy for us to welcome back Rev. Stephen Atkinson from Christian Witness to Israel, North America.  We have supported this ministry in the last few years, ever since I met Bro. Stephen at a conference in St. Louis.  

I was sitting down to lunch when I was joined by this brother with an interesting accent.  Sounded Irish to me, but when I asked where he was from, he said "Arkansas."  That was the most shocking Arkansas accent I had ever heard.  He finally admitted he was originally from Northern Ireland, and then began to share with me this ministry of taking the Gospel to the Jewish people.

I came back to Faith Southern and told our folks about this Irishman from Arkansas with a ministry to the Jews, and we immediately invited him to come speak to us.  He graciously agreed to preach in our morning service, and then share with our folks during Sunday School as well.  We've repeated this pattern for the last few years.

I always enjoy hearing my brother preach, and this year was no different.  Preaching from Isaiah 6, he shared the story of this man who met God.  Reminding us that we will all meet God one day as well, he pointed out the thrice-holy nature of our God, focusing on the Gospel, and then the application of sharing that Gospel with our Jewish friends.

I urge you to listen to this wonderful message, and then go and check out (and support) the ministry of CWI, N. America.