SKOPOS is the Greek word for focus, to view, or to aim. In this editorial, Brett will take topics of leadership, morality, growth, life, etc., focus in on them and hope to provide some insight, or at minimum, thought provoking opinion. We hope you enjoy and are challenged!
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In John 14:8-9, Philip asked Jesus to show him the “Father” and that it would be enough to comfort and give him strength. Then Jesus said: “Don’t you know me…anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father.”
Oswald Chambers had a great perspective on this saying: “The mystery of God is not in what is going to be-it is now…”
How often are we looking for some grand exhibit of God to come show us the way, yet the entire time He is working in and through us and showing us His work. We wait for God in the experiences and that same awareness or hope for that experience is what is blocking us from realizing His work in us right now.
God is guiding you in the here and now, you need only to “Be Still” as the Psalmist says, and listen to His work in you today. God is not looking forward to developing His will in you at some point in the future, He is establishing His plans for you in the present. If you want to recognize His work in you, pray to that end. Stay close to Him through digesting His word and praying throughout your day. If you’ve been a Christ follower for any time, you can look back and see how He’s orchestrated your life. Well, He hasn’t stopped; God continues to work in you right now.
Father, allow me to patient enough, quiet enough, and open to your leading. Show me your work, give me faith like a child, and help me rest in your plan for me…in the present!
Dead to Live
By: Brett Larson
Galatians 2:20 says that we are “crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
While the basic meaning of this passage of scripture is fairly easy to comprehend, it’s easy to miss the enormous freedom that this passage gives to those who follow Christ.
Obviously, we haven’t been literally “crucified” with Christ and we are “alive” humanly speaking (or it’d be pretty spooky with me writing and you reading this)…so, what does it really mean? Well, being crucified WITH Christ means that whatever He did on that cross, we are tied to, we were a part of, and we are beneficiaries of. What did He do?…well, He defeated sin, He ripped the vale of the temple, defeating the old law. So, first point…we, those who surrender to Christ, are participants in His defeating of sin and the old law.
Second, because we are connected to Christ, we also receive His new life that was after the crucifixion…meaning we not only defeated sin and the law, we now live FREE from sin and the law. The New International Greek Testament Commentary tells us:
“Having died with Christ in his death, the believer now lives with Christ in his life—i.e. his resurrection life. In fact, this new life in Christ is nothing less than the risen Christ living his life in the believer.”
Think about that for a minute…the very same power that raised Christ from the dead, defeating the power of sin forever, now resides IN YOU!
So friends, we are not only covered for our sins, past, present and future…we are filled with power to defeat sin that creeps into our life. Paul said that “the life I now live in the body, I live by faith…” That means, “flesh” (sin) no longer controls us…our faith in Jesus empowers us to live a NEW life, filled with joy, filled with victory.
Having a bad day, disappointed in yourself, feeling hopeless, REMEMBER that you who have surrendered yourself to Him are no longer a slave to this earth and your old self. Never, ever, ever, will you have to worry that you are disconnected from the God who made you. He lives in you, He gives you power, and regardless of how bleak life gets, You (through Christ) will win for all of eternity…forever! That. Is. Grace. That. Is. God. That. Is. The. Gospel!!!!!!!!!
"Move the Sticks"
By: Brett Larson
My son cracks me up when he plays Madden (NFL Video Game for those who don’t know). He pretty much goes for a touchdown every play, and he’s usually successful. But, that strategy rarely works in real football. A far more effective strategy is to get 10 yard chunks and “move the sticks,” so that you get another set of downs to get 10 yards…until you get a touchdown.
The same is true with our walk with God. Rarely do we see huge “touchdowns” where this major miracle happens in our life…or our entire future is crystal clear. Usually, God leads by having us just move the sticks for a new set of downs; we grow incrementally as He teaches us, brings people and circumstances into our lives, and allows us to see just far enough ahead to stay close to Him. Look at the life of Mary, who found out she’d give birth to God’s Son…then imagine the wonder and stress that was on her throughout her life, taken from “Mary, Devoted To God’s Plan”:
While the subsequent steps of her journey do not get easier (imagine raising the Son of God!), her story teaches us a profound lesson: the life of faith is made up of a series of steps that bring us closer to the fulfillment of God’s will, but not necessarily farther from the challenges and struggles involved with moving ahead.
She then watched Jesus flourish. Then slowly he was conspired against, then betrayed, then killed…then resurrected. Moms, can you even imagine? If God would’ve revealed all of that at one time, she could never handle it, but He took her in steps. So take steps, move the sticks, take action…but don’t expect an immediate touchdown, moving the sticks is progress. You might say “how?” It all starts by getting on our knees in prayer, I mean really praying for God to show you the next step, ask Him what He wants to do, tell Him you’re ready for anything!
Proverbs 3:6- “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
By: Brett Larson
If you've ever experienced a symphony playing at its finest, then you know the unmatched beauty and sound that no electronic system can match.
Within that beauty, there is a surprising complexity of movements and individual performance that alone, would make little sense and sound nothing like a song. But, the culmination of the parts, paints a beautiful picture!
The same is true of our lives and journey with God. Many times the individual roles we are playing make little sense as we look at them in isolation. However, God's master conducting of the symphony of our lives paints a beautiful picture and sound to His ears. (Is. 48:13, Ps 16:8-11, Jer 18:6, I Cor 8:6).
Sometimes it's really hard for us to hear or understand the "symphony." The best way to get a glimpse of God's symphony is to stay close to Him. The more we develop our relationship with Jesus, the more and more clear we hear the music that He has orchestrated our lives to be a part of. It's not easy...in fact, it's often scary and frustrating, but in the end, He has us in His grip and His word says that He will always care for those who are in His "orchestra."
“The Monuments Men”
By: Brett Larson
“The Monuments Men” is a recent movie that tells the story of a special military unit of art experts who were commissioned with recovering the many masterpieces that Hitler had pillaged and had stolen from across Europe. It was a very fascinating movie, as it showed the value placed on these timeless pieces, even to the point of sacrificing one’s life.
Ephesians 2:4-10 tells us that we are God’s very own masterpieces. He has rescued us from living in the bondage of sin, from being spiritual slaves…full of doubt, disappointment, discouragement, lies, uncertainty, and so many other terrible things. I don’t know about you, but I find it so easy to forget that I am His masterpiece. Much like “The Monuments Men,” God treasures His masterpiece, His work of mercy and grace, His redeemed children, and He protects them with a strength that only He has. And, because we are His work of art, we don’t have to live like a crumpled up piece of paper, or something that’s incomplete, or thrown in the trash. We should live like a Masterpiece. Ever-seeking to please the divine artist who painted the beautiful picture of us, and of our lives.
If your feeling discouraged today, like you just can’t seem to get the Christian walk right or if you feel like you can’t please God, or you don’t know how…
Be encouraged, you are His masterpiece, He delights in you and me and no matter what, He will do anything to get us back into His presence. He enjoys you! So, today, live like that…live like a masterpiece, painted to please the God who has given you hope, life, and a forever-future with Him! What a privilege!
By: Brett Larson
Oh, how I love to have the reins. I’m a control freak. There, I admit it and I really am trying to release that issue and give it over to God. But, man, is it difficult!
The more scary our world gets, the more uncertainty about our future there is, the more we want to grab the reins and steer things in the direction that we want them to go. And, while hard work, and planning, and vision are all important and wise things, God says that we need to let go of the reins and let him establish our plans.
Proverbs 16:3- Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
“But God, what if I don’t like Your plans?” “What if Your plans are a harder, scary, and fearful path?” “What if I’m wrong and I think it’s You, but it’s me convincing myself?”
These (among others) are all real questions and real fears that I face, as I’m sure you do too.
What I can tell you is that it’s okay to ask God what His plans are for you (Psalm 25:4). Getting on your knees in prayer, I mean really praying with all that you have, will keep you close enough to Him that His plans will develop…many times without you even knowing. James 4:8 says to draw near to God and He will draw near to you!
So, as hard as it is (and I’m speaking to myself here), let go of the reins and give God The "reigns". Take delight in His plan for your life, it won’t always be easy, but He will be by your side and give you joy in hard times…there is always joy available when we are walking with Him! God, I pray for a broken and willing heart and for wisdom to follow your design for my life!
The Certainty of Uncertainty By: Brett Larson
I turn 40 this June; yup, it’s the big one.
To be transparent, I’ve always been a very easy-going guy. I rest in my current situations, I’m pretty simple, and I don’t need much to be happy. I often joke that I’d be just as happy “in a van down by the river” as in a mansion. In fact, give me the van if it has woods and hunting and fishing around it!
However, recently I’ve been really struggling with trusting God with my future…scratch that, not so much MY future, but my family’s. Anyone else have a really hard time 100% trusting God with your wife and kids, their security, their safety? I am. I love them so very much that I want to control their circumstances, their future, their well-being and I feel very responsible for it. I know all the verses and all the theology that combats those thoughts, but they are real thoughts and real stresses that I (and likely some of you) face.
I find myself, perhaps more than ever, running to God for help, “I believe, help my unbelief.” God, I believe you have our future in our hands, I believe you have my sons in your hands, I believe you love my wife more than I do…Lord, help me to rest in that and really believe, down deep, and help me to carry out that faith in my life…allowing me to take risks for your sake and to be efficient and wise and successful for you!
It’s amazing to me that, when I need it most, God shows up and reminds me how blessed I am and how much He has done for me. The very one person that I’m so thankful for is my Dad. I cannot even write in words how wise he is. Beyond that, He is the display of unconditional and sacrificial love. He and my mom are Hall of Fame parents that should start a parent-help consulting company. They are amazing people! Then there’s this incredible, one-of-a-kind, radio ministry that God has placed me in. I heard at least two of our radio speakers reference my exact struggles within the past month or so. One of them, Chuck Swindoll, talked about how God keeps us on the edge of crisis so that we trust Him and grow our faith in Him. That is so very true and I love that what my family has poured our lives into also blesses us! (Shameless plug for listening to WDCX more, it WILL help you in your life!)
God’s word says that He knows the hairs on our head, He keeps record of every sparrow that falls to the ground…you don’t think He fully knows your crisis, your future, your needs? He does. He loves you more than you can comprehend. If you’re having a difficult time, even a crisis, rest in that FACT that the God of the entire universe has a personal interest in you and is working through your difficulties to grow you and make you even stronger in Him.
Pick out one of our strong bible-teaching programs, listen each weekday morning with your bible open (if you can) and WATCH God grow you and watch your anxiety, problems, stresses, etc. SHRINK. God is real, He is good, and He loves you, yes YOU!
New Beginnings By: Brett Larson
Yes, this is another “blog” about New Year’s resolutions…but, stay with me, I’ve got a different take.
I like new beginnings, new goals, and restarts as much as anyone else. However, I’m not a big fan of the resolution-mania that seems so popular in recent years.
From my experience, resolutions are usually attempts at major shifts in behavior or habits. And, we all know that they usually don’t make it past a week or so, maybe a month.
“Sprinting” toward major resolution-change is rarely successful because the issue is usually impossible to fix so quickly. In reality, real change happens slowly with little positive steps in the right direction.
For instance, rather than saying that you’re going to workout 6 days per week and lose 50 lbs, how about just committing to exercise more regularly and try for 3x this week…or even 2x. Take baby steps or you won’t last past January.
Going to read your Bible more and pray?…Awesome! How about starting with today and then wake up and go for it again tomorrow. Stop overwhelming yourself with monthly-yearly timelines and far-out goals, just win TODAY!
Life is a marathon, positive change is a marathon, take it piece by piece and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. If you fall down, get up, there’s always tomorrow. Long-term success at your resolutions happens by winning a culmination of small victories!
Beauty In The Storm
By: Brett Larson
As we watch scenes from the largest snowfall amounts ever to fall over the Buffalo snow-belt areas in such a short time period, it is easy to mistake the beauty of the big picture for the difficulty of the real life trouble this storm is causing.
Many, including sick and elderly, are struggling in their homes right now. Some, are unable to get medical treatments they need, others are experiencing anxiety and fear. The pictures from the sky show just a beautiful white blanket, but the details of the storm are much less pretty…and then comes the clean up.
Kind of like our lives. In the middle of storms the details of dealing with real-life seem almost impossible to overcome. A situation might seem daunting to you, with no real solution in sight. Well, take comfort in that God sees the big picture, the overall beauty of your life, not just the storm. He knows the good days that are ahead for you and He can see the path to lead you out of the storm and into sunshine. When you can’t see through the storm, trust His hand to lead you through; trust His heart to see the whole picture. While He may not choose to end your storm, He will certainly help you to eventually see the beauty in it. He’s in control.
By: Brett Larson
I’ve been holding my tongue (keyboard) lately. I have seen several bloggers and so-called internet-theologians (save that for another day) write about the recent happenings regarding ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Quite frankly, some of what has been written in the name of “a Christian response” really bothers me. I really have a hard time even writing about how much it bothers me without a whole smorgasbord of frustration coming out at once. In an effort to keep this brief, I’ll only come at this from two points. First, the theological:
In recent months, too many have posted pseudo high-minded articles about how we are supposed to “love our enemies”, “not seek vengeance”, “love as Jesus loved” and a whole host of misplaced anecdotal themes. The article would go something like: it’s easy for us to hope for vengeance and be angry, but as Christians, we are called to love our enemies… and on and on it goes.
I think the bible draws a clear difference between personal responsibility to “love our enemies” and governmental responsibility to enact justice (Romans 13:1-5). The two are very different.. On the personal side, “loving” your enemies, doesn’t mean you let them commit absolutely disgusting and despicable acts while something can be done about it. “Loving them” means that you grieve for their souls, but support removing them from this earth so that they can no longer rape, torture people, and kill babies; that justice sure does seem like a righteous act to me! All throughout the bible, God calls on governments as the arms of His justice. We need to be careful not to apply our personal Christian responsibility to what God has ordained as His method of justice here on earth.
Secondly, as mentioned above, I’m weary of the pseudo-theology that is permeating social media. If you’ve taken a few classes or self-studied and think you’ve got it all figured out, think again. 2,000 years of church history…and you’re the one that’s finally figured it out? Nope. (And, I’m not either). This topic could go on forever, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
The reality is the issue of military action, governments, terrorism, fighting back against terror, etc., is enormously complex…both from a governmental point of view and from a personal-biblical perspective. I find it odd that the very same Christians who always champion being relevant to culture, totally make themselves irrelevant by not showing righteous anger at horrible injustices. I guess maybe it comes from trying to be “edgy” by being anti-establishment or hipster, but to normal, everyday-people, it appears arrogant, removed, and unreal. How can any human being with a moral conscience not want justice to be brought upon ISIS?
Sometimes, I wish I’d never heard of Facebook… but, I guess iron sharpens iron.
Finally, if you’re reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian (Christ-follower), I’m sorry you had to sit in on a family debate. However, know that Jesus loves you, we love you and the one thing we all agree on…is that God wants to know you through His son, Jesus. Email WDCX for more info…
Have you ever been worn out? I’m not talking about the kind of tired that comes after a good workout. And, I’m not talking about when work or school has you tired from a crazy a week. I’m referring to more of a deep, just about had it, kind of feeling. One where you feel like you just need about a month to go to the woods and just walk, think, and decompress.
To be transparent, that happens to me at times. To be even more transparent, working in Christian work/ministry can be really tough. It is so easy to get discouraged and frustrated with our brothers and sisters in the Church. I have the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the ugly side of Christian organizations from time to time. Yes, there is an ugly side to every organization or ministry. They are run by people and people -this side of heaven- are nowhere near perfect and this translates through every organization, Christian or not.
If we (I) are not careful, we can quickly become cynical, disengaged, disinterested, and negative about Christian ministry and work. When that creeps in, we begin looking at people rather than God…when really we should be looking at people THROUGH God. God loves all of us enough to provide unlimited grace and ultimate and instant forgiveness for all of our faults…past, present, and future! When we look through His lens of grace, we begin to have empathy for others, rather than disdain.
I’ve been struggling with this issue lately and this morning Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost” really helped me renew my spirit. It discussed the significance of clouds and their association with God. Clouds represent our sorrows, struggles, bad circumstances, frustration, frustrating people, etc. Those situations in our lives that seem to contradict God. Yet, it is through those clouds that God is teaching us how to walk by faith. In the Bible, clouds are often associated with God’s presence. The clouds come along with Him, but he always appeared through them and then the clouds seemed to vanish or blur out and the focus then turned to Him.
It’s not that God wants to teach us something through the clouds or our trials; it’s that He wants us to unlearn something. That is, He wants to simplify our relationship with Him and bring us back to that child-like faith where all that matters is Him and the rest of the “noise” is ignored.
So, whatever clouds are in your life today, look for God in them, and then focus on Him. The clouds will blur out and your perspective will change.
A changed perspective often leads to a changed circumstance.
Sweeter As The Days Go By
By: Brett Larson
The news has spread far and wide that little Ben Sauer is "petting Lions" in heaven, as his little brother, Jack, puts it.
This morning, I told our boys that little Ben, whom we prayed for at every meal and every bedtime (and many other times) was now with Jesus. I wondered what questions they would have and if it would make them insecure about their own mortality. They took it as fact and wondered more about what animals he could pet and if bees could sting in heaven. Yup, bees, it's been a frequent topic in our house.
I've experienced this several times with kids and dealing with earthly death. It's very factual and in their hearts, there exist little doubt that Ben is in heaven and with Jesus. It seems this is what Jesus referred to when He talked about a "child-like" faith. (Matt 18:2-4).
How often we over-complicate and distort the simple truth. We try to add our human wisdom and reason to a miraculous God. We all prayed for a miracle here on earth, we desperately wanted Ben to recover, to miraculously beat cancer and we would be able to show the world who God is, what He can do. I caught myself thinking that at times, almost bargaining with the God of the universe that He should heal this little guy so that we can point to Him and show His goodness, even that He's real, He loves. Then I'd catch myself, He's God of the universe, the great I Am, the Beginning and the End; who am I to think that he needs to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to prove Himself. He's God. His ways are higher than ours. Without faith, this would be a point of frustration, that God is in control and yet would let this happen. To me, it's a point of comfort. I rest in the fact that He knows better, He has the big picture in view and He is sovereign. I take comfort, realizing He is not subject to mankind's desires, but rather, has eternity- past, present and future, in mind. Who knows what Ben's short life did in terms of Eternity? God knows. Ben is in the best place ever imaginable, perhaps being rewarded for helping more people enjoy paradise in God's presence through his story.
When my brother died suddenly, I remember the sadness, but even more, I remember the sense of certainty it gave me about heaven. Eternity with our loving Creator became more real and a bit sweeter. And now, it has yet again... As time on earth passes, the more tragedy we face causes heaven to get sweeter as the days go by.
But, right now, we mourn the earthly end of a sweet little boy. We cry for the Sauer family and the pain that they have, and will, face. We give latitude and grace for them to question, to cry out, to have any range of emotion they need.
And, we rejoice with Ben. Amazingly, he's the winner, he's having the best time ever and in heaven's time, it'll take less than one day for all of his loved ones to join him! (2 Peter 3:8)
I Thessalonians 4:13
Weak or Strong
By: Brett Larson
It's funny how trends work. They are temporary, but in the moment they seem like eternal necessities. Mom, I HAVE to have those certain sneakers...or clothing.
To keep this short, recently I've noticed a huge trend on leading through your weaknesses or being so open as to let people know your insecurities and fears, etc. While I really do see the value of being honest and transparent with the people following you, I think leaders need to be wise in what and how they share.
For instance, if William Wallace (Braveheart) said something like "follow me into battle...but, I'm not really strong and not really good at holding this sword and make sure you all get around me because I really can't do this..." I'm pretty sure things turn out a little different. Let's take a biblical example, David. David was strong, even when he was a scrawny kid. He was confident in his relationship with God, he was confident in his abilities to fight with a sling, he knew God would watch over him, he didn't waiver. He didn't say, "I'm not real big, I'm not real strong, so if you all think it's a good idea, I'm gonna try to get this mean giant guy." No, it was more like "show me this big goon, so I can kick his tail in the name of God."
Lesson: no one wants to follow someone who's unsure of their abilities or justification for being in a position of leadership. People want to know that you've got the wheel, it's going to be ok and that you're strong enough to complete the task and win. If you're leading a ministry, they want to know that you have the chops to lead them and that you have the relationship with God that will allow you to draw on His strength for success.
So, yes, be transparent, let them know how you will lean on God, let them know where you need them to help you...what areas you're not as good in and what you're working on. BUT, also let them feel that you are strong enough, capable enough, dedicated enough and brave enough to lead them through and help them win.
In God's strength, lead with confidence.
By: Brett Larson
First, I need to apologize as I have neglected SKOPOS for awhile now. It’s not that it isn’t on my mind, it’s just that we’ve experienced a very busy season at WDCX and when I did have time to write, I really didn’t feel like I had much to say that was unique.
Well, unfortunately, now I do. This is going to be an honest post; fair warning has been issued. In my humanity, sometimes I just don’t like what God allows. Let me explain; right now, there is a little 4 yr old boy we know that, barring a miracle, has weeks to live. Brain cancer has attacked him and within literal weeks, he’s in a really bad situation. 4 YEARS OLD!? I barely slept last night, thinking of my own boys and what an absolute nightmare for his parents, devastating, sad, doesn’t even come close to describing the pain. I also found out one of my best friends just lost his brother to a heart attack, at 42 yrs old. He has kids. And, a lady in our church is in very bad shape due to surgery complications.
Ok, getting real here, I really can’t trace God’s hand here. I find myself saying “c’mon God, this is ridiculous, a 4 yr old boy, 4 YEARS OLD!” I find myself a little rocked, feeling a bit like God’s hands are off the wheel.
When my brother died suddenly 11 years ago, I remember asking God “why,” I remember telling Him that I just don’t understand. It didn’t really rock my faith at all, in fact, it strengthened it. And, even now, thinking about that 4 yr old, my faith remains strong, but boy oh boy am I having a hard time seeing anything but destruction toward a godly, strong, sweet family. It’s so hard with only part of the story, so hard with our finite minds. So scary.
I consider myself a pretty tough guy. I’m a country boy, an outdoorsman, I exercise, run tough mudders, etc. There is not much that scares me, physically speaking. But, I admit, I’m scared. I catch myself thinking that God is going to allow another tragedy and then another and pretty soon it’ll be my family’s turn…what’s lurking in our future? I know we are supposed to trust Him…but this family trusted Him and look at the monstrous pain they are going through.
I pray, “Lord, help me, give me a glimpse…I believe, help my unbelief.” I sooooo bad want God to come through with a miracle on this one. I want this so bad for that little boy and family. I am praying without ceasing on this one. Please join me.
Well, before I close, I want you to know that I DO trust God, I trust His plan and I trust his heart. His Word is true, His plan is bigger than our discomfort. He is God, and we are not.
“God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”
Even writing this and reading God’s Word, I feel better about trusting that He has this situation in His hand too. From our perspective, we don’t like what’s happening one bit, but the problem is, that’s only our perspective. God’s Word says His ways are higher than our ways…it also asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians “who can know the mind of God?”
Well, I admit it Lord, I don’t trace Your hand on this one and I don’t know Your mind…but I trust Your heart, and I’m trying to rest in that.