Monday, June 6, 2016

An Open Letter to Hillcrest Baptist Church

On August 28th, 2011, Scotty and I stood at the front of FBC in Clinton surrounded by friends and fellow believers praying over us. Just a few minutes before, Scotty confessed adultery to this congregation while giving his resignation. Honestly, we didn't know what to expect when we entered the worship center that morning. We knew what Scotty had to share, but we had no idea how they'd respond. They saw our pain, felt Scotty's remorse, and they felt burdened to pray healing, restoration, and redemption over us. God gave them grace to be HIS church to us, because He knew we NEEDED it.

On the exact same Sunday a year later, our family sat in the worship center of Hillcrest. We'd been visiting another church for over a month. New Albany had been home for nearly 2 months. When I woke up that August morning, the memories of Scotty's confession the year before hit me like a freight train. For whatever reason, I looked at him and said, "I can't go to that church today." At his suggestion, we chose to visit Hillcrest. From the moment we entered, we felt the Presence of the Lord. On that day, I'm sure we looked perfectly fine physically, but emotionally and spiritually we were a wreck. It seemed every song sung spoke directly to our pain. And, the message was genuine and practical. I believe we knew immediately that Hillcrest was home for us.

I don't think that would have been obvious to anyone else, though. We were slow in getting involved. To many, it probably seemed we'd NEVER plug in and serve. And, there were spans of weekends (particularly in the summer) when most people probably wondered if we even attended Hillcrest still. 

You see.... we came to you, Hillcrest family, broken, bruised, wounded, and sick. We knew we were exactly where we needed to be. We just didn't know what we were supposed to be doing. God had revealed to us with extreme clarity that our focus had to be inward. Our family needed to be rebuilt, and that was going to take all (every! single! bit!) of the energy we had. So, for much of the time we were part of the Hillcrest family, we may have seemed cold, and isolated, and unavailable.

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

During our time in New Albany, God did amazing works in us. Much of that work came through even more trial and even more struggle. Relationships were hard. Finances were problematic. Work and school were all-consuming. In so many ways, our time here has been our desert experience. God was bringing about good in a way that we could feel! The heaviness of it all, though, made us hard to relate to. Our conversations were darker, more serious, and required more depth than most want in everyday chatter. I know that we were difficult!

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

Most of you don't even know that Scotty and I spoke with Pastor Whit in January of 2015. We were unsettled and heavy hearted. We weren't involved, and we felt detached. We had a yearning in our hearts for more, and we couldn't figure out what that more could be. He listened to us, counseled us, prayed with us. Ultimately, the decision was ours. Soon after that meeting, we realized our heavy feelings were God's whispers telling us, "It's time to serve again."

Oh my! We'd almost forgotten what that felt like. But, once we knew we had a story to tell and God had released us to tell it, there was a fire in our belly to share. And, you let us! Every time we expressed the desire to do something, begin something, get involved in something, our leadership said, "YES." Many times, I know, we were overbearing, bossy, and maybe even insensitive in speech. Our desire to help others made us a bit bold.

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

Sunday morning, June 5th, 2016, we stood in front of our worship center surrounded by friends and fellow believers commissioning us back into ministry. The prayers of FBC Clinton were fulfilled and realized at Hillcrest over the past four years. Ultimately, God deserves all the glory. But, I will forever believe that He handpicked YOU to be THE church for us. With thankful hearts, we have come full circle. We have been given the opportunity to enter into ministry again. This time we do it with MORE humility and MORE understanding of the calling on our lives.

As excited as we are to see what God will do in Florida, we are equally as excited about what He will continue to do at Hillcrest. For a little while now, I've felt a powerful moving of the Holy Spirit in our midst. We are praying for even more! As you study Mega Faith this summer, I encourage you to "pray that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you," because I believe He's calling Hillcrest to BIG things.

Thank you for receiving us kindly, loving us BIG, and for sending us off expectantly. As long as we live, there will be a special place for Hillcrest Baptist Church and New Albany, MS, in our hearts.

"Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you, not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives."

"Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did." 

1 Thessalonians 2:8; New American Standard & The Message

Sincerely,
Scotty, Amy, Caleb, Collin, and Claire


Friday, July 31, 2015

Heart vs. Parts

Sexual purity is a lot about the heart; not just the parts. Staying pure is not just a matter of "not sinning." It's understanding that your soul and heart have longings that too often we try to meet sexually, rather than spiritually and emotionally. We go "wookin pa nub in all the wong places" as Eddie Murphy sang on Saturday Night Live. Crazy remix of another song, but you get the point. 

Heart and soul pain and longings actually INCREASE our vulnerability to sexual sin. It lowers our focus on purity and guarding our hearts and can leave us exposed to temptation that should be obvious. We seem to get "flanked" or blind sided by certain situations that otherwise would have been very easily avoided. 

Proverbs 7:1-5 (NASB) shows this "heart vs. parts" truth very well. Adultery plays to the heart strings. Our hearts and minds will lead us astray if we stop loving/pursuing wisdom, truth, purity, and our relationship with God. Problems and disaster comes when our focus is on selfish desires that mislead us; we fall victim to the lies of adultery. 

How's your heart? Are you vulnerable to temptation that may be headed your way? Guard your heart. Find your true love in God's wisdom and fellowship; not adultery. Find out what the longings are really about, without believing the lies that say "flattery and false validation" will make you feel better. When a dog drinks anti-freeze, it may taste sweet at first, but it quickly kills him by shutting down his organs. Adultery is very much the same. You may not die physically (though people have been killed from it), but spiritually and emotionally it can crush you.

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Proverbs 7:1-5, New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Wiles of the Harlot

My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.
Keep my commandments and live,
And my [a]teaching as the [b]apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your intimate friend;
That they may keep you from an [c]adulteress,
From the foreigner who [d]flatters with her words.
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stupid?

Have you ever felt stupid? I have. Even recently. I used to get so ticked off and mad about it. I don't like it still, but I hope I am growing in my reaction to these feelings. Alot of my stupidity has been due to pride, fear, shame, and stubbornness. Instead of asking for help, reading instructions, looking up "how to" videos, etc, I will often jump right into something, only to struggle a bit. In most cases, I will get the task at hand done, but it usually comes with a lot of frustration and redoing it several times.

For years, I ignored personal and spiritual wisdom and instruction. I hid in shame, pride, guilt, fear, and stubbornness. I lacked discipline. It cost me dearly. I betrayed my wife and family and was found out to be a fraud. Now, I try to do life different, better, though I have a LONG way to go. I hope I am humble enough now to at least admit when I need help while seeking wisdom and knowledge. I don't want to repeat the same failures.

Look at this Proverb that speaks rather bluntly:

Proverbs 12:1New International Version (NIV)
12 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but whoever hates correction is stupid. 
There are tons of Proverbs that speak about wisdom, folly, instruction, etc. Much to be gained from that book of wisdom.

Here is another powerful quote about discipline from Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine:

Discipline is the key to success. Success is seldom found on the path of least resistance. Discipline is a skill; not talent. To live without discipline is to die without dignity.
Let's not be stupid today, or any day for that matter. But, when we do something that reveals our lack of discipline or "lapse in judgment," let's regroup, reevaluate, and get refocused on seeking Christ, building discipline, and enjoying the fruits of that pursuit God calls us to.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Is transformation possible without pain?

This is an article/interview with Paul Young, author of The Shack, called Is Transformation Possible Without Pain? http://wmpaulyoung.com/is-transformation-possible-without-pain/

God allows pain. God uses pain to heal us, teach us, humble us, and lead us to Himself. I have probably learned more about God through pain than anything else. Pain has come through heartache, betrayal, failure, fear, etc. When we see Christ more clearly, the pain starts to make sense and becomes clearer as well. Instead of feeling forsaken, we realize that we are never alone.

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Adultery Prevention Strategies

Walking in the fullness of who we are in Christ is the #1 way to prevent and heal from adultery. See a previous blog post. Hands down. There are additional ways to aid in prevention but can't be a substitute for the #1. They flow FROM the #1.

Here are a few...

* Learn (and apply) as early as possible and as quickly as possible that you MUST take responsibility for your mistakes. Blame shifting, denial, defensiveness, entitlement, etc. creates major problems, including the path of adultery.

* Teach your children/teenagers/adult children the same concept. Don't neglect to instill this in your children ASAP! If you haven't been, then start. Expect resistance. Lead by example. Hold them accountable. Be gracious but firm. Stick to it. It is a gift.

* Discipline lying, cheating, stealing, etc. swiftly, firmly, graciously in your children/teenagers.
Lying snowballs. It won't go away without effort. It compounds. Deal with it early on in your children's lives. Probe and ask good questions about what seems to be triggering it. Pray desperately for heart change and transformation by Christ Jesus. Lead by example. Love always.

* Save your No's. We grow up hearing hundreds of thousands of "No's." A lot of them are vitally important and needed. Our children need to hear no to things that are harmful to them, to others, that they aren't ready for, etc. However, as a parent, I am guilty of telling my children no just because I don't want to deal with something right then. At times, I will admit that my "No" may be more for my benefit than theirs. Therefore, I am learning from my wife and the Lord, that it's good to tell my children Yes to positive things. Yes, we can go play. Yes, I will hang out with you. Yes, let's go do that. Yes, let's eat. Yes, I love you very much. To name a few. I struggle to save my "No's" and pick my battles. I fear that my kids will grow up to be lazy, entitled, etc. so I react negatively, rather than pray for wisdom and let the process move slowly and purposefully. They hear No quite a bit. They hear wait quite a bit. They also need to hear yes quite a bit to things that are for their good and needed.

* Teach your children/teenager to save up/wait/delay gratification. Adultery is about instant gratification, giving in to the lie that something "feels good" or is deserved (falsely though), etc. It's about letting 'little sins" become big ones over time. Children who learn the value of saving up for something, setting healthy boundaries and goals with money, time, etc, and who learn to work hard for something and feel the positive benefit of doing it for themselves can prosper. Children who never have to wait on anything, who never have to work for something, who don't get taught how to work for something, etc. have an insecurity and emptiness in them that may be met in inappropriate/unhealthy ways, like adultery. Waiting to have sexual contact with someone until marriage is a good thing. Not giving in to pornography, smoking, drug, alcohol, etc. is a good thing. Having positive relationships that are balanced, lead to growth, etc. are a good thing.
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***Disclaimer - For some reason, I didn't grasp many of these concepts as a child or teenager or young adult. I was very stubborn and strong willed, but I was also very insecure and full of shame and lacked confidence. I was very vulnerable to adultery for many reasons. I am attempting to instill many of these values listed above in my children's lives, though I mess up often. Pray for your heart to be open to God's best. Pray for your children's. Fail forward. Grow daily. Be persistent. Enjoy the fruits of your labors, even if delayed.
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