I was late to a meeting; I'm sure that's what must have triggered the antagonism that followed. Okay, so I was 20 minutes late, but still... to take it out on part of my ministry? Let me explain.

We're past the 'me being late' part, the meeting is now in full swing, I'm just beginning to get comfortable and the attention has been mercifully drawn away from me for the time being -- and my shields are now down. Bad mistake. I discover, too late, that the penalties for lateness remain latent until vigilance is lax and vulnerability is laid bare (sorry... having too much fun with alliteration...). I discover this only when it's my turn to talk. Everything I'm saying is good, it's sound, it's even oddly respectable. Then I slip up. I reveal too much of a certain amount of cheesiness in an area of ministry and he pounces -- Lead Pastor of Neighborhood Church, Dr. Bill G., pounces.

I was telling them about how fun “Pick-up Play” is, the Outpost iGroup (small group) that opens up the elementary school gym on Sunday nights so that anyone from the community can come play basketball after helping us tear down our Sunday morning church set-up. “Do you do some sort of Bible lesson before you start?” came the sincere question. “Yes,” I replied, and explained how our short 3-4 min. devotional worked. Then I said the words that exposed my weakness. “I call it ‘Something To Think About.” The room went deathly silent. My inner 'guardian of Josh's dignity' put his head in his hands and wept silently. That's about when Bill started laughing. I mean really laughing. The kind of laughing where the person is trying to make sure they ‘understand what you just said but can’t quite get it out because they’re still laughing’ kind of laughing. “You should have a sound effect that goes off whenever you say that” advises Bill between laughs, “you know, like (insert annoying computer sound here), or (repeat with different computer sound effect)!” Soon, pastor of The Well Todd Skinner joins in. “Or how about this?” he offers (chuckling), and proceeds to play a portion of the Star Wars sound track on his iPhone. Clearly, they had found a chink in my otherwise robust armor. Humiliated, I stayed quiet, but was secretly annoyed that the only thing I could think of as they continued their good-natured jeering was the 4-tone jingle employed by NBC in their “The More You Know” series.

Besides appreciating the rich intellectual content of the following short clip, I’m grateful for how useful it is for the average American. Yes Bill, thanks to you, the 4-toned soundtrack of this commercial and all those like it will forever echo through my brain each time I stand and speak to those eternal souls in basketball shoes…

Seriously though -- here's something to really think about...

The other night we had a discussion about the parable of the 'Sower and The Seed' at our Men's Bible Study, and I wanted to address an important follow-up question. Jesus makes it clear that the seed is the 'word of God,' and that the 'good soil' is a receptive heart, or a person who 'takes in' the seed, who 'takes in' the word of God so that it doesn't stay in the shallows or on the surface to get 1) eaten by the birds (removed by Satanic means), 2) scorched by the sun (the hardships of life in the world), 3) choked by the weeds (the pleasures and distractions our inner mess chooses over the first -love that should be God). I made the point that all of these things can happen to a Christian, even one who goes to church and loves God -- but how? These things can happen when we treat the word of God like fast-food instead of a gourmet meal meant to be savored, when we treat the word of God like just another item on a daily checklist instead of the central agenda that can set the tone for the entire day. So how do we prepare the soil of our hearts on a daily basis, like someone in our group was talking about -- how do we make sure that we are daily that "good soil? How do we ensure that our hearts daily 'take in' the word of God so it is able to put down roots, so that it is able to produce fruit?

Here's the Biblical suggestion: Meditate on it. Meditate on God's word, and it will go deep. "What?" you say -- "Meditate?" Not the 'cross your legs, do weird things with your fingers, chant a funny chant and go cross-eyed in search of your inner child' kind of meditation, but rather, do the kind of meditation that is Biblical -- the kind that is simply "deep thought." Think deeply about what you have read so that what you have read can go deep! Or at least think deeply about something you have read in your Bible today! I know each of us is busy, that we all live busy lives. I know when we're doing our 'read through the Bible in a year" thing we can't possibly "think deeply" about the entire volume of Scripture we've covered for that day! But we can pick out a verse, or a promise, or even something we didn't understand from what we read, and take that with us into our day, mulling it over from time to time and mixing that mulling with the kind of prayer the Bible would describe as "unceasing" -- referencing the presence of God as we would reference a map or a compass, frequenting His presence with requests for clarification and direction so that we are able to grow in understanding of His word and recognize the opportunities for application in our daily lives.

Psalm 119:11 says "Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You." How do we do this? How do we ‘hide God’s word’ in our hearts? We do it by meditating on it. By reflecting on what we’ve read, by thinking about it long afterwards and throughout the day, letting it sink in, deep into the soil of our soul.

Psalm 1:1-3

1 "Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers."

The next time you pick up your Bible and read, don’t just hold God’s word in your hands – hide it in your heart. Just ‘something to think deeply about.’

Surrounded By Grace,



If you were there that day, you won’t likely forget it.  It was a Sunday morning almost two months ago at The Outpost when, after our normal string of weekly announcements, first time visitor Jesse Reiter of Weaverville’s “White Tiger Karate” stood up and made this plea: ‘Donna Fowler was brutally killed 28 years ago and has our county dump for a final resting place. She was 7 years old at the time of her death.  I have daughters of my own that are almost the same age, and it just doesn’t sit right with me that this girl should be remembered in this way, and in connection with that place.’  Jesse then went on to ask for signatures on a petition he was circulating in hopes that a memorial could be created in Donna Fowler’s honor, something that could perhaps even be placed in Lowden Park for other kids to enjoy. ‘I think it would be much more fitting if her memorial was something meaningful to other kids, something they could enjoy,’ said Jesse, ‘something that brought out the sound of children’s laughter.’  Here is an update on Jesse’s efforts.

Several weeks after the announcement in church, Jesse had enough signatures (approximately 500 members of our local community) to take the next step, and presented his petition for a special memorial before the county Board of Supervisors.  With overwhelming response, the project was supported and approved by all 5 supervisors, Trinity County general services director Mark Lockhart, county administrative officer Dero Forslund and, very importantly, the Fowler family.  In talking with Jesse again this week I was told that ‘another community organization has pledged a financial donation and the labor necessary for installation of the park memorial.  Bill Fischer of Allen and Dahl in Redding has also agreed to donate a bronze plaque for the memorial.’ 

So what will this Lowden Park memorial look like?  Check out the

picture! The memorial will be a piece of playground equipment called “Goat Rock,” both a climbing structure as well as a cave, made of concrete and reinforced steel and sure to be a source of the kind of laughter that will honor the memory of one precious little girl.

Surrounded By Grace, 



I received this link from a friend in Weaverville and, well, I just thought it was cool.  I'm pretty sure that's still allowed.  Enjoy!

While this is a great message for the world in general, the importance of unity and community hold even truer for the family of God. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Even more importantly, when circumstances beyond our control work to isolate us from other followers of Jesus, we have from Jesus Himself the promise of an 'ever-present help in times of trouble' -- "...surely I am with you always," says Jesus, "to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).  

Now if only the people in the video had been singing "Amazing Grace!"

Surrounded By Grace,

LIFE ACCORDING TO SPOCK (Part 2) ~ 2/13/09

“…the secular world struggles with the logical conclusions of life without God because something within them rebels at the coldness of life according to Spock. There is a bleakness to the logical conclusions of Darwinism that is so chilling, most are not brave or honest enough to look them in the eye and live their lives accordingly. Instead, most avert their gaze in search of some feel-good ‘middle ground.’”

Even Spock did not have the courage to live life strictly according to logic. I would be so bold as to suggest that that was the main genius of his interactions with humans in the Star Trek series – he was there to supposedly aid the crew in tough decision-making matters, and yet, over and over throughout the series, it is Spock who seems repeatedly aided by the inconsistency of human nature, Spock who seems aided by revelations that his perfect Vulcan logic is somehow flawed. He may have appeared externally emotionless, but it would be hard to deny that even Spock was frequently racked by inner turmoil in situations of ethical and moral importance on the show. And so is the case with many who have chosen a world without God; they are ‘fine,’ “everything’s fine,” but inside they are troubled by an inexpressible angst. What is the source of the angst?

Don Richardson calls these people “doubly haunted.” I think that’s a perfect description. “Doubly,” because there are two parts to the angst. The first part is something I’ve brought up frequently in the past several weeks – the testimony of “General Revelation.” Whether or not an unbeliever in the God of the Bible acknowledges it, he/ she is nevertheless surrounded by a created world that points to the power and existence of an intelligent Designer. What’s haunting about this? The created world is unable, on its own, to disclose the Way to know the Designer.

The second part of this “double-haunting” angst is more along the lines of what we’re talking about in this letter – that there seem to be many unbelievers who inexplicably fight the logical conclusions of the secular world philosophies they profess to follow in order to do “good,” or to seek “justice.” Why would they do that? I am incredibly encouraged with some of the reasons given by missionary and anthropologist Don Richardson, in an excerpt from his book, Eternity in Their Hearts:

“Paul observed that Gentiles often behaved as if they were consciously conforming to the law of Moses, when in fact they had never heard of Moses or his law! How can this be? he wondered. Later the Spirit of God guided Paul to an amazing answer: ‘When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves.’ (Rom. 2:14). In other words, the law expressed within pagan man’s nature serves him as a sort of interim Old Testament. That is certainly inadequate, but it is ever so much better than having no law at all!

Paul continues: ‘They are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.’ Paul was manifestly fair to the Gentiles. He gave Gentiles, even the crudest ones, credit for possessing God-given moral sensitivity quite apart from Judeo-Christian revelation” (p. 113).

That is the second part of the “double-haunting” – a degree of “God-given moral sensitivity” that, without the custom-made foundation of a relationship with Christ, functions the way a stone in a shoe does – as a source of troubling angst. And yet, what a bridge! What a tool God has given us for leveraging the truth of the Gospel into conversations with our family and friends and neighbors! Because not only does an unwanted presence in a person’s shoe cause consternation as they walk, it also tends to function as added encouragement to take off the shoe and discover the problem! And this is my uplifting point: You are not alone in your efforts to reach the lost people you love – because God has gone before you, placing stones in the shoes and peas under the mattresses of those He is waiting to call princes and princesses in His Kingdom.

Surrounded By Grace,


In my last post, which was about 98% light-hearted, I slipped in a series of serious questions (the ‘other’ 2%) that all inferred the same thing:

It is a logical contradiction/ logically inconsistent to believe in the process of Natural Selection as the basis for who survives and who doesn't and at the same time help the weak to continue surviving. If you really believe that the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection is the tool chance ‘uses’ to allow us to evolve into higher and stronger life forms, then helping those not ‘chanced’ for advancement (the sick, the disabled, the impoverished) only gets in the way of Nature, or the ‘natural order of things.' 

Immediately and inevitably, there will be objections from those who are non-religious and yet retain a high regard for human life.  Why?  I think what Ernie said in her comments on my last post have some strength to them – that even the secular world struggles with the logical conclusions of life without God because something within them rebels at the coldness of life according to Spock (stay tuned for “Part 2”).  There is a bleakness to the logical conclusions of Darwinism that is so chilling, most are not brave or honest enough to look them in the eye and live their lives accordingly.  Instead, most avert their gaze in search of some feel-good ‘middle ground.’

For example, one of the highest profile secular humanitarian organizations today is “Medecins Sans Frontiers” (MSF), or  “Doctors Without Borders,” who have on their official website this statement from a physician: “There is so little care available that the only responsible ethical position to take is action.”

Here is the problem, as simply as I can state it:

1) Without God, there is no basis for any sort of “ultimate,” absolute, universal ‘moral principles.’

2) Without any sort of ultimate, absolute, universal moral law, the basis for any ‘ethical’ behavior boils down to a matter of opinion, emotion or perspective.

Without any sort of universal moral law, there is no ‘Right’ and there is no ‘Wrong.’

By what standard can that physician with “Doctors Without Borders” make the claim, “to take action… is the only responsible ethical position?” None but what seems ‘right’ to him. Without some unchanging and universal definition of what is “ethical,” what is “moral,” what he said is at best his passionate opinion, but not a fact.  And if it’s not an objective fact, then the man who kills the sick and weak and old of a village because he passionately believes they are robbing resources from the healthy is in possession of an equally valid, right, “responsible ethical position.” How does that sit with you?

I was listening to a talk about ‘Meaning’ by Dr. Ravi Zacharias when he read this piece by secular English journalist, Steve Turner.  See if you can detect Turner’s discomfort…


“Here is the creed for the modern thinker ~

We believe in Marx, Freud and Darwin

We believe that everything is okay, As long as you don’t hurt anyone, to the best of your definition of hurt, and to the best of your definition of knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during and after marriage,

We believe in the therapy of sin,

We believe that adultery is fun,

We believe that sodomy is okay,

We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything is getting better, Despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated, and you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes, UFO’s and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man, just like Buddha, Muhammad and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher, although we think, basically, his good morals were really bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least all the ones that we read were, they all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation.

We believe that after death comes nothing, because when you ask the dead what happens, they say nothing. If death is not the end, and if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all except, perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Ghengis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson, what’s selected is average, what’s average is normal, and what’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.

We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.  Americans should beat their guns into tractors, and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good, it’s only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of Society, Society is the fault of conditions, and conditions are the fault of Society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him and reality will adapt accordingly, the universe will readjust, history will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth except the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds and the flowering of individual thought.

P.S.  If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky, and when you hear ‘state of emergency, sniper kills 10, troops on rampage, youths go looting, bomb blasts school,’ it is but the sound of man, worshiping his maker.”

This is life without universal moral principles.  This is life without God.  Christian, are you grateful yet?   In his talk, Ravi Z. went on to show how, for those who choose a world without God, there is not only a lack of universal moral law, but there is also no ultimate hope, no overarching meaning, and no recovery if they find out they are wrong after they die.  But with God, we already possess all of these things, and can live our lives accordingly!  Christian, are you grateful yet?  Stay tuned for a more uplifting “Part 2.”

Surrounded By Grace,



So, after a long and tedious silence, I hereby offer the long-awaited answers to my own 'odd questions' posed to you, dear readers, a couple of posts ago:
1) If you could pick any super power, what would it be and why?
The one from the show "Heroes" where the person has to just see someone doing something once to know how to do it perfectly themselves.  Think Karate. Construction. Grinding the perfect knife blade. Think perfect sermonizing. Oh sweet mamma.
2) Name the funniest book title you've ever seen?
"The Unpublished Letters of Horace Wallpole" (???)
3) "You know you're a hunter when..."
You wish you could "borrow" one of these for a portable tree stand.................>
4) If Bill wasn't a Pastor, he'd be a...
rock star? (Hey, he's my boss...)
5) If someone put a gun to your head and ordered you to pick a cheese to put on the perfect steak, what kind of cheese would you choose?
This is a ridiculous question.  I'm trying to remember why I asked this...
6) If we were all issued another economic stimulus check, what would you spend yours on and why?
Weapons.  Or weapon "accessories."  (Give peace a chance... but have a "plan B.")
7) If you were going to ask a probing, witty question of your fellow blogger, what would it be?
These are some probing questions to ask those who stand on the theory of Darwinian Evolution as the basis for understanding the world, and yet dare to claim authority in the realm of ethics...(and were stolen from my Dad's new book, "The Truest Mercy") ~ "How does helping the weak survive advance the process of Natural Selection?  How does mercy help Man evolve into a higher, more intelligent and stronger species?  Aren’t these humanitarians impeding human progress?"  (Sorry for the serious turn) 
8) If you could have picked your own name, what would you have called yourself? 
'Scott.'  It's a long story.  Okay, okay - when I was little, my brother and I had make-believe alter-egos who traveled the world on Indiana Jones -type adventures.  He was called "John," and I was called "Scott."  Good memories.

1) If someone was to make a movie of your life, what actor/actress would you want to play you?
2) Do you do this blog on company time?
3) If you had to have a tattoo what would you pick & why?
4) Do you find yourself unconsciously making your own mental soundtracks to your life ever, like a song comes to mind at a certain moment that has a strange appopriateness for your situation, much like in a movie when there is background music?
5) If you could choose your top 3 spiritual gifts what would they be?
6) If you were to pick the inscription on your own headstone, what would it read?
7) How does helping the weak survive advance the process of Natural Selection?  How does mercy help Man evolve into a higher, more intelligent and stronger species?  Aren’t these humanitarians impeding human progress?"   

A special thanks, once again, to all who contributed these new "probing questions" -- I look forward to reading your responses and those of the additional 'new arrivals' to the outpost-it community!

Surrounded By Grace,
*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~