Author Archive for Scott

The Lifestyle Habits of a Disciple

A big part of becoming a disciple of Christ is to establish the lifestyle habits of a disciple. By that, I mean the things you learn to do on a regular, habitual basis that help orient you to a life of following Jesus daily. Let’s face it, the things you do on a regular basis are the things that will shape your life. That’s true whether we’re talking about binge-watching Netflix each evening, or reading your Bible each morning. Your daily habits are what shape your life for good or ill. This is why weekly church attendance is good and helpful, but if that’s all there is to it, and there is no daily follow-up to the things you sang and confessed and heard on Sunday, it will only have a minimal effect on your daily living. What is needed is some kind of plan for the daily application of the truth you’ve heard and learned on Sunday.

That’s where the conscious choice to establish “holy lifestyle habits” comes in. Because, it’s the things you do on a regular, habitual basis that truly begin to shape your life. Here’s an easy example, if you’re in the habit of beginning your day with a big breakfast followed by a long day at work characterized largely by physical inactivity behind a desk, you’re life (and body) will take on one shape. If, on the other hand, you learn to begin your day with a quick workout and a light breakfast while finding ways to up the ante on physical activity throughout the day, then your life (and body) will begin to take a different shape. That’s true physically. It’s just as true spiritually. The lifestyle habits you practice are what will shape your life.

And let’s face it, we all have such lifestyle habits – some we have chosen, others we’ve just settled into without thinking (And it’s the ones we settle into without thinking that usually do the harm!). So part of the process of growing in Christ-likeness is learning how to choose the kinds of daily, lifestyle habits that will shape your life by bringing you face to face with Christ in the Gospel on a regular basis.

In other words, you have to have a plan. For me part of that plan has meant establishing a specific place in my house (a chair in my basement) and a time of the day (first thing in the morning) when I will open the Bible to read, worship and pray. What I’ve found is, that by having a plan to do these things, even when I don’t get to them due to crazy busyness or unexpected interruptions, I always come back to them because they are now so much a part of my life. They’ve become such a habit that I can’t imagine living without them. They’re so “baked in” to me, that I no longer feel like “myself” without them! That hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when I did not have such a plan. Oh, I still “hoped” to read the Bible daily and pray. I knew I needed to. I really wanted to. But I usually didn’t because it just wasn’t an intentional part of my day. It wasn’t built in to the habit of my daily lifestyle. Changing that took a series of conscious choices on my part. It took an effort on my part to change the daily routine that had become my habit by accident, and replace it with a new daily routine that pointed me in the direction I needed to go. And sure, it felt odd at first, even fake. This wasn’t how I lived my life! But over time the “new habit” took over and worked its way into the rut of my life in a way that I truly can’t imagine living without today (nor would I ever want to, now that I’ve begun to experience the benefit!).

So what are the lifestyle habits that you have fallen into by accident? Take a look and see. They might be morally neutral, like having the television or iTunes on all day or binge watching old MASH episodes every evening. But if they are distracting you and stealing time away from you that could be redirected to something that helps you draw near to Christ (or point others to Him), perhaps you need another plan?

Or you may have adopted habits that are leading you to sin, or are sin in themselves. I’ve seen many people, even professing Christians, fall into the habit of regular porn use, or gambling, or even just sitting mindlessly in front of a “screen” flipping through websites or watching videos that only stoke a sense of depression and discontent about life. These things become habits. They’re what you turn to when you’re bored or upset. They begin to shape your life. But isn’t it time for a change? Isn’t it time to be done with these things that clearly are doing harm and replace them with new things, holy habits that help bring you again and again into the presence of Jesus to renew your mind and refresh your soul by reshaping how you see the world with God Himself at the center of all. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2 ESV)

God is a Consuming Fire

“ . . . for our God is a consuming fire!”    Hebrews 12:29

We ended the message on Sunday, February 12th (found here) with this startling declaration from Hebrews 12:29 describing God as a “consuming fire.”  What do you think it means? Or better yet, how should we respond to such words? I think we should respond in two ways: one is terrifying, the other is encouraging.

First, We must understand that God is a terrifying fire of judgment to unbelievers.

He is a raging fire of holiness that burns against all sin. He’s not to be trifled with! He is Who He is, and He will do what He will do! And what He will do in the end is judge and destroy all sin!  As Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  It’s no surprise, then, that hell’s judgment is often pictured as a raging and unquenchable fire  (Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43). If you are outside of Christ you should fear this fire!

But Second, we should understand that the fact that God is a consuming fire is a comfort for believers.

It means that He is a raging fire of holiness and love at work in our lives! This is the consuming fire of sanctification. His presence in the life of the Christian consumes and burns away all the dross of remaining sin as He works to purify our lives for Christ. Malachi 3:2-3 says that God sits like a refiner at work to purify the gold and silver of our lives. That is, He is at work in us daily to reduce the presence of sin and increase the presence of Christ in us! His presence in our lives burns away all that does not glorify Him, while at the same time purifying and increasing all that does! Leading us more and more to glorify HIm.  Not only that, but His presence in us also brings the fire of His purity for living into our lives. Never forget that He is present in us through the Holy Spirit!  That means the fiery purity of His love and holy character are in us and are being burned into our lives as we are daily submitted to be molded and shaped into His image. Just as metal, when held in the fire, begins to glow with the light and heat of the flame, so the Christian who has been in the fiery presence of a holy God will begin to glow with the light and heat of His character! (Think of Moses coming down from the mountain of meeting with God and how his face glowed in Ex 34:29). So must our lives be aglow with his presence.  In other words, something of His radiance should begin to fill and shine through our lives as we spend time with Him. And that reality gives us hope!  It demonstrates that we are being re-made like Him!

Oh to be filled with the flame of His presence daily!

In His Love

Pastor Scott

So, How Do I Pursue Holiness?

“Pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord
Heb 12:14b

Last Sunday after the message, a young man approached me and asked, “So, how do I pursue holiness?” It is an excellent question. To answer it, we must first go back and remember what holiness is. Holiness, as I’ve been defining it in the last few sermons, is “a life that is centered on God and shaped by your relationship with God.”  The Old Testament word most often used for  holiness means “separation,” as in to separate something from common use in order to dedicate it to the use of God. So the Temple was “holy” because it belonged to God in a special way. It was set apart for Him. You couldn’t rent a room to throw a party there, because it was dedicated to God. That’s the holiness of a thing. But what does holiness mean for us? At heart it is a life that is set apart for God, a soul that is turned toward God. It is the life of a person who forsakes sin in order to pursue God.   Such a person refuses to be satisfied with sin, because they are determined to be satisfied in God.

And how important is holiness in the life of a believer? It is absolutely essential.  Without it, no one will see the Lord. With that in view, here’s a quick Bible study you can do to demonstrate just how important it is that we be holy.  Look up each of the following verses and you’ll see why this is so.

– Holiness is God’s command to us. We must “be holy.”. 1 Pet 1:15-16
– Holiness is God’s warning to us, without it, no one will see God! Heb 12:14b
– Holiness is the key to enjoying the presence of God. Lev 20:26
– Holiness is central to the promise of God’s blessing. Eph 1:3-6
– Holiness is essential to our usefulness in the Kingdom. 2 Tim 2:21-22
– Holiness is foundational for joy in God Isa 12:6; Acts 13:52; Rm 14:17

So, with all that in mind, how do we pursue holiness? If holiness is a heart turned toward God, then it must begin with those things that help us see God.  That would include, first of all,  giving our attention to the Word that reveals God (John 17:17, Eph 5:26).  It would also include taking time for regular prayer and communion with God (1 Tim 2:8), as well as the regular practice of worship (Ps 99:5); and daily repentance toward God (Isa 30:15).

These are just some of the “means of grace” God uses to make us holy.   Holiness is and always remains a work of His grace.  But it is a grace that enables us (indeed enlivens us) to pursue Him with delight, joy and determination.

Seeking a life that is centered on Him!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Scott Lee

PS — Three great books on this subject:   The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges;  The Holiness of God by RC Sproul; and Holiness by J C Ryle.

What is the “Holiness without which no one will see the Lord?”

“Pursue . . . Holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”
Heb 12:14b

So what exactly is this “holiness” that is so essential that, without it “no one will see the Lord”?  At heart, it is a life that is centered on God! A life that is turned toward God. It does not mean that we are sinless (though one day we shall be, when we see Him face to face – 1 John 3:2). Instead, it is a heart and life that seek to know God and walk with God and be satisfied in God daily. It is a mind-set and heart-set that seeks to turn from sin in order to turn to God; to be dissatisfied with sin, because I am seeking to be satisfied in God. It is a refusal to be happy in sin, because I am learning what it means to be happy in God.

So holiness is something that is dynamic and growing in the Christian. It is ultimately less about figuring out how to get rid of this or that particular sin, and more about learning how to have more of God! Because the more I have of God, the less I will want to do with sin! So, yes, holiness hates sin. But it does so because it loves God – and you can’t have God and sin at the same time. It turns from sin because it is turning to God – and you can’t serve two masters who are leading in two different directions. It refuses to be ruled by sin, because it is determined to be ruled by God! Holiness is God-centered.

And it is this God-centered focus of holiness that keeps it from degenerating into legalism! It is it’s grace-orientation that prevents it from being all about keeping rules. Holiness is not about rule keeping! It’s not primarily about the sins I avoid, but about the God I pursue! It’s less about my personal victory over this sin or that, and more about my growing obedience to God and joy in Him. Holiness is a life separated unto God that leads to a joyful pursuit of Him! And is it sweet, not suffocating! It is light and joy, not dreariness and dullness! And that’s what we must pursue with all our hearts!

Seeking a heart that is satisfied in Him,

Soli Deo Glora!

Pastor Scott.

A Plea to My Fellow Pastors on Facebook

Pastor, I love you. I love what you do when you’re faithful to Christ. I love your commitment to the Word. I love your self-sacrifice and willingness to go the extra mile. And, if I know your name, I pray for you as often as it comes to mind. So please hear this as an earnest plea from a brother who’s been in this calling for more years that he cares to admit.

Pastor, consider Who you represent before you post! “You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:19b-20). Like it or not, we who serve as pastors never get to stop being pastors or representing Christ. When we post something on Facebook or tweet on Twitter, many of those who read us still associate us with the One we proclaimed on Sunday. We may see a difference between our half-baked political opinions, snide remarks and casual criticisms of those with whom we disagree, and what we said on Sunday. But most of our readers will not. We are in a unique and sacred position. That gives us a unique and sacred responsibility.

As a result, we can all too easily dishonor Christ. Pastor, think before you post. Think about how, what you say today could confuse your non-Christian neighbor into believing that Christianity really is little more than a shell for your favorite political movement or social action cause. Think how your young Christian followers will be emboldened to post in the same vein, only with much less discernment. Consider how easy it will be for you, since you’re good with words, to win an argument over some minor issue, yet lose the opportunity to ever speak meaningfully about Christ and His Gospel of grace again.

Oh, dear Brothers, guard your pastoral integrity. Think before you post. You always represent Jesus to someone.

With love from someone who appreciates so much that you do,

Pastor S. Scott Lee

Children in Worship at Rockport

“Assemble the people, the men and the women and children . . .
so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God,
and be careful to observe all the words of this law.”
Deuteronomy 31:12

Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding (ie, children) . . . and read from it.
Nehemiah 8:2

I’ve always loved this picture of Ezra, in Nehemiah 8:2, standing before the assembled people of God with the Scroll of the Law in his hand reading to them from God’s Word. For many, this was the first time they’d actually heard the Word read to them personally. Ezra then went on, with the help of teachers he had trained for this purpose, to explain it’s meaning, making sure everyone had a chance to understand exactly what God was saying. But what is really striking to me is the fact that this great assembly, who were being taught to cherish, understand and obey God’s word, was made up not just of men alone, nor only of adult men and women, but men, women and children – “all who were able to listen with understanding.”
Passages like this (and in Deut 31:12 above) are one of the reasons we believe our children should participate in worship with us. So while we do have a nursery available for babies who are too young to understand, we believe that every child who is old enough to begin comprehending what is being said to them should worship with the rest of the church.
That does, of course, present some challenges for parents as well as for the congregation as a whole. As a congregation, we have to put up with little disruptions from time to time as our children are learning to sit still and listen. And that will be true as long as we have children which, Lord willing, will be always! But we believe, in the end, that it’s worth it. Our children gain much from participating in worship with us, much more than they would in a so-called “children’s church.” By being included in the worship of the church as a whole, they have the opportunity of seeing their parents submitting to the Word of God, hearing the same messages and singing the same songs. Handled right, this can provide many opportunities for further discussions and rich experiences parents and children get to share together.
And yet, there are some things parents can do to help their children get the most out of these times. Let me mention just three here this morning.
(1) Review the expectations you have of your children with your children each week. Children, and especially the younger ones, tend to forget what you expect of them if you don’t tell them. So remind them each week that it is our privilege to come together to worship God like this, and not everyone gets to do it. Remind them that they are expected to participate, to stand and sing the songs, to sit quietly and listen when the time comes for the message, and to try to understand what is being said. Teach them to expect that God just might speak to them through His word and show them something very important.
(2) Prepare them for the message each week. You can do this by reading the passage to them ahead of time, if you know what it will be, and discussing with them what they think it means. This is one reason I try to publish the text ahead of time on Facebook and Twitter. But since we’re usually working through a book of the Bible, you can usually assume that the next passage will be whatever comes next. Also, encourage your children to take notes, as they get older. Help teach them good habits of listening and understanding.
(3) Review what they have heard with them later. Ask them over lunch or later in the evening which songs they liked and why. Ask them what they learned from the message. Check to see what they wrote as they took notes and discuss it with them. And share with them what God may have taught you.
Practices like these will help our children get the most from weekly worship.
Learning to be Disciples of Jesus!

Pastor Scott.

Thinking About Worship

But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
1 Corinthians 14:40

Those who lead the church in it’s worship are called to lead in a way that is faithful to Scripture, Christ exalting, and humbly directed by the Holy Spirit so that God’s people are not entertained, but are instead helped to set their minds and hearts more fully on what God has done in Christ through the Gospel. The result of this God-ward focus, is that the church is better able to respond to Him with appropriate actions of praise, gladness, repentance, prayer, confession, singing, trusting, and all other expressions of worship that arise from a living faith. With that kind of worship in mind, I have been thinking a lot lately about what biblical worship in the church should be like. I have likewise invited Nevin, as Elder in Training, and Stuart, as our Intern for Worship to do the same, so that the three of us can come together and prayerfully consider how we might provide more faithful leadership in this area. Would you join us in praying for wisdom in this matter?

One clear principle from Scripture, in 1 Corinthians 14:40, is that our times of worship must be “proper” and “in order.”. I take that to mean that they must be well-planned and led in such a way that the distractions of disorder and confusion are kept to a minimum while the truth of the Gospel is kept in the forefront. It is that undistracted focus on Christ and His Word that will free us to respond to Him with genuine expressions of worship. In the coming weeks, I will be giving instructions and guidelines that I hope will help us “order” our worship in an increasingly God-honoring fashion. I ask that you join me in praying and seeking the Lord as we try to think and plan biblically so that every aspect of our weekly gathering in God’s presence will serve to encourage the body and exalt the Savior.

Serving the One Who is Worthy of Our Worship!

Pastor Scott

Grace Bible Conference Registration is Open!

Grace Camp for FB

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:9-12

We’re looking forward to this year’s Grace Bible Conference (Formerly Grace Camp Meeting).  This year’s theme will focus on our calling as “Strangers and Aliens in this world:  Living as Christians in an increasingly alien world” (1 Peter 2:9-12).  We as Christians are no longer at home in this world.  So what should our response be? It’s not to “circle the wagons” and retreat into our own little spiritual ghettos. Instead, we must be willing to engage this world with the life-giving Gospel of Christ.  We’re on a rescue mission, even as we seek to bring up our children and love our neighbors in a way that refuses to compromise with truth, even as it embraces with love.  That is our challenge.

This year’s speakers are drawn from friends of Rockport who are engaged in planting, renewing or helping lead churches from a Gospel-centered perspective.  Many of these men have recently partnered with us in church planting or pastoral ministries, or are former members of Rockport.

Our goal in this conference will be to encourage and challenge you with fellowship, worship and the clear teaching from the Word.

You can find more information by going to our Bible Conference page here.

Registration is here.

We hope to see you in April!

In His mercy,

Pastor Scott

“Restore the Joy!”

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
Psalm 51:12

        Whenever there is trouble in our lives or in our relationships, the first thing that seems to go out of the window is joy. This was certainly true of David. Many times in the Psalms we find him crying out to God in his trouble, asking for a recovery of the joy he once knew. We see this in Psalm 51, which as you may remember is a song of repentance. David had sinned. His sin had created a distance between him and the God he once worshiped so freely. And now with a broken heart, he turns in repentance, crying out for God to restore the joy.

      “Restore the joy!” That phrase has been on my mind a lot lately. It has seemed to me that this past year and a half, though filled with many good gifts from God, has also been stewn with many troubles. Some of these have stolen our sense of joy. The result has been that the glad passion for Christ and for making His name known among the nations that once characterized our congregation has been muted in some ways. Perhaps that’s just my perception, and yet it’s something that has continued to press against my mind.

With that in mind, it is my intention, starting  September 15th, to begin a ten part series focused on our need to “Restore the Joy!” We’ll be looking at what we need to do and believe in order to recover a grace-centered vision for the whole of our life together as a church. The topics we’ll focus on are the following

1) Getting a clear view of the glory of God in all things.  Real joy springs from a genuine knowledge of God and a longing for his glory.

2) Holding firmly to justification by faith alone, as the true ground of our joy.  It is only when we know that we are truly forgiven based on what Christ has done (not what we do) that we are able to serve him with confidence.

3) Resting in God’s sovereignty over all things, especially our troubles.  The Christian is not exempt from sorrows, but he or she is strengthened in sorrow by the assurance of God’s all-ruling hand.

4) Celebrative worship fixed on the accomplishment of Christ.   The redeemed will rejoice as they keep their focus on His faithful finished work of salvation.

5) Encouragement expressed freely to one another in the body of Christ.God has not only given us Himself, but also one another to encourage and help each one finish the race.

6) Our joy is spread as we engage in missions broadly, globally and persistently.  This faith is meant to be shared freely.  And our joy is increased as we do so.

7) Our joy grows brighter as we join together in a generous fellowship with other believers in Christ.  Faith in Christ does not turn us inward on ourselves.  It drives us outward to engage and love our brother for Christ’s sake.

8) Our joy is deepened by an open-handed generosity that willingly uses material things for the good of others.   Why has God blessed us?  So that we might be a blessing to others.  And there is joy in that!

9) Joy goes deeper still through united, God-focused prayer.  The greater we grow in dependence upon Him and learn to see His faithful hand at work for our good, the deeper grows our joy.

10) Our families ought to be the seedbed where we bring up children who hope in the Lord and are ready to declare the glories of his name to the next generation.

This is just a sketch of where we’re going over the next few months.  My prayer is that it will be an encouragement to you to “restore the joy” of your life by regaining a Gospel-centered confidence in Christ.

I am gratefully yours in Christ!

Pastor Scott

“Finally…..” Returning to Our Study of Ephesians

Finally, Lord willing, we will be returning to our study of Ephesians this Sunday.   The final section of this wonderful letter begins at 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”  Beginning here, the Apostle Paul will both sum up and apply all that has gone before in Ephesians, drawing us into the conclusion that life itself is a battle we must continually and prayerfully fight in the strength provided (by grace!) in the Lord.

With that message in mind, let me challenge you to consider doing two things this week.

(1) Read through the Book of Ephesians again (either alone or as a family).  Let that reading refresh your thinking about these great themes of grace and gospel power that are alive in this letter.

(2) Consider beginning to memorize Ephesians 6:10-20 as we make our way through this vital portion of Scripture.

As my wife reminded our C-Group last week, it is often the little “nuggets” of God’s word that we have tucked away in our memory that God uses to equip us to stand against the sudden assaults of the enemy.   Such “nuggets,” called to mind by the Holy Spirit, can very quickly be hammered into an effective sword, and offered up as a faith-filled prayer on the spot, bringing us into remembrance of the victory and help that are ours in Christ.  His strength prevails when it is stood upon by faith and called into action by believers who are resting, not in their own power, but in His which grace amply supplies.

 May the Lord fill you with the knowledge of His power and grant you grace to rest all upon Him as you wage war in the strength He supplies.