Category Archives: Faith

An Amazing Thing Happened On The Way To Our Son’s Grave

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Funny thing about rainbows, they’re actually circles, not half-arcs. Obviously they look like arches to us because of our limited perspective, seeing only half the story because the horizon kind of gets in the way.

My lovely spotted the colorful band stretched over the cemetery where our son’s body was laid to rest last Christmas as we made our approach. It was our thirty-first wedding anniversary and we wanted to share our celebration with our boy. Sandy often wants me to drive the long way around Mozley Gardens to pay respects to any of Graham’s new “neighbors” before we park at his marker, so I was poking along scanning the lawns out my driver’s side window when I heard her exclaim:

“Oh honey, look!”

I followed her graceful index finger as it stretched toward the windshield.

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A bow of beauty.

The Sovereign had kissed our evening by finger-painting a swath of grace over our Gra-Gra.

Well, that’s all she wrote. We were undone. Verklempt. A wet mess.

In a good way.

“I know about the promise of God to not destroy the earth with floods,” my bride offered, “but what else do you think God is saying?”

I was already in that vein, the Bible teacher in me calling up the Revelator’s vision of God on His throne in His abode of heaven. Verse three says “around the throne” was a rainbow and a quick study suggests it’s a full circle, as rainbows tend to be.

A perfect circle.

No beginning, no end. No pause, no break. No altered course, but fulfillment and wholeness.

Eternality.

God said, “look up.”

We lifted our watery eyes.

“See My initials in sweeping, color-laden script?”

We indeed saw the stamp of Resurrection.

The “all things new” seal of Certainty.

We’re two still-grieving parents encased in the drama of loss, sighing at the memories and could-have-beens, making our repeated pilgrimage to the sacred stone…

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BUT WE’RE

…gently carried all the while (yet again!) by everlasting Arms that scaffold our temporal home with rainbows to remind us

that Eternity awaits,

that these eyes only see half the picture,

that the Best is yet to be,

that the grace that pavilions us in these years of dust and ash,

will give way to Endless Dawn, forever illuminated by the Sun and Daystar of our souls, Jesus the Christ and Father of Lights.

That rainbow reminded us that His exhaustive archives of eternity and our place (and Graham’s!!!) in the Eternal Story is not a half-arc (half done), but a complete arc, and – my beloved fellow pilgrim – let it serve to tell you that God wastes none of your raw materials in preparing you for His Glory. All of it goes into the flourish of His finishing touches.

Just look up.

It’s there to remind you.

The Courage of a Young Lion

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Watercolor artwork by Dylan Pierce (another one of my young lions!)

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Over the past few years I’ve featured a “lion’s share” segment on my blog, providing a platform for the ‘young lions’ I’ve been privileged to mentor and father spiritually.

Today I share with you, my beloved readers, one of the great young men of his generation. Shawn Buck has been with me in the pride for a bit over a year and will soon be moving on from the den as God has called him away from us. Lord willing, Shawn will be leaving for Cape Town, South Africa for a two-year (or life-long?) commitment with the Ubuntu Football Academy.

I’m honored to serve on Shawn’s board but even more blessed to call him a son of the faith. This dude is as real as they come! In this post, Shawn bravely shares his greatest fight and offers hope in overcoming addiction to pornography. As the guys and I have discussed on numerous occasions, we don’t affix the slang “porn” too often because that has become a designation that makes it a culturally acceptable norm. To call it what it is – pornography – paints it in a more ‘graphic’ light, relegating it to it’s more insidious and self-destructive nature.

Thank you, Shawn, my son, for listening to Wisdom’s call and learning to pass by the “forbidden woman’s” house on the other side (Proverbs 7:4,5). I love you, courageous lion of God.

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When I was 13 years old, I came across pornography for the first time. It led me down a destructive road of getting deeper and deeper into the world of porn, of continuously lusting after girls and after self-gratification. It led to incredible shame, gut-wrenching guilt, and loss of self worth. It destroyed relationships and it built a dependence on something that doesn’t satisfy. It led me to lie constantly to cover my tracks. It consistently brought me into a world I never dreamt I would be a part of.

It changed my life.

Lust and porn is a cruel drug. That isn’t just some saying. It acts the same way as cocaine by releasing large amounts of dopamine into your brain. The fact that it is so easy to get can make it more dangerous than cocaine, because you can keep your brain doped up for hours (fightthenewdrug.org). It truly is one of the most dangerous things on this earth.

Have you ever heard of a healthy marriage where either the husband or wife wishes they would have slept with more people or watched more porn?

No.

Lust and porn are damaging to our future relationships. There will be images you can’t get out of your mind, unfair expectations you will put on your spouse and even damage done to your own confidence.

I pray that people realize just how destructive lust and porn are. This isn’t just some harmless thing that everybody does. One, it is so degrading to women. Women are amazing and deserve to be held up and shown so much more respect than porn. It truly does alter your view of them subconsciously and starts to paint them as objects in your mind. Two, it plays a large role in human trafficking. Chuck Norris actually wrote an incredible article about that here (http://www.wnd.com/2013/11/porns-part-in-sex-trafficking/). And three, it ultimately hurts you by making you think that that’s what it should be like: by bringing down your confidence, and by taking something so beautiful as sex and making it a cheap, non-committal and perverse action between two random people.

I say all of this not to judge you, be pessimistic or throw hatred on you, but to convince some of you that this is not some cute pet to keep around and play with. It is a dangerous destructive lion just waiting to destroy you completely.

I wish so badly that I could sit here today and tell you that it is something that I’m free of and have victory over, but it’s not. I still have a sexual addiction that I struggle with daily. I have seen significant, positive change in my life with this sexual addiction, though, and that is the only reason I am able to open up enough to write this blog and share my story with you.

I want you to know that you aren’t the only one dealing with this. You haven’t gone too far and or done something too awful. You aren’t defined by your addiction and you can see freedom from it. I have tried every cure/fix there is: accountability partners, Internet filters, multi-step programs, books, and everything else under the sun, and can I tell you the only thing that has made a lick of change in my life? Honestly, Jesus.

I know that is going to turn someone off and I hope you continue to read because I’m going to tell you the difference between all of the things I’ve tried and Him.

He knows you’re going to mess up. He doesn’t guarantee that everything will be fixed after 5 easy payments. He understands exactly, let me say again, exactly what you are going through. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t happy you are failing like this, and yet he takes you back anyways. You will never go too far, mess up too much or be too unworthy of his acceptance. He loves you and delights when you realize that you can do nothing but lean on HIM. That’s called dependence, and when you start to depend on something that can truly satisfy instead of the false hope of pornography, that is when you will start to see change.

That is my story. Here it is for the world to see and know about. I hope that one day you can open up about your struggles and share your story with people.

If you don’t know whom you can tell, my email is scbuck27@gmail.com. I would love to listen and help in anyway I can.

Thank you so much for listening to my story!

H/T to Karlye – one of our lionesses! – over at flower roots.com. Her layout is way better than mine anyhow. And more pictures.

IT’S STILL TRUE

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When we are invited into the “fellowship of His sufferings” and the “gospel of weakness” is preached to our soul and makes us its convert, and, like Job, we are left with hanging hands, questioning heart and smitten soul…we need to be able to face the most urgent questions of our lifetime.

IS GOD IN CONTROL?

and

CAN I TRUST HIM TO BRING ME THROUGH THIS INTO A BETTER PLACE?

The Psalmist said,

“it is GOOD for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn to trust Your ways.”
Psa 119:71

He preceded that with this stunning piece of insight:

“YOU ARE GOOD, and You do good…”
Psa 119:68

(Notice the order; we want to reverse those clauses)

Allow me to share some insights God showed me recently from Romans 8:18-39 – one of Paul’s strongest sermons ever.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait…

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I saw it again recently. It wasn’t overt; it was subtle, not evident. But it was there, even if only a flicker or quickly passing guarded judgment.

I opened a gate into my personal space for a friend I hadn’t seen in many years. I chatted about our lives, what’s been happening…and the truest and most painful update of all. I revealed to them that we buried our son – who they remembered as a young child – the weekend of Christmas, each revelation more difficult and dark. Might as well say it all, I was thinking. Someone said, “there’s no valor in faking it; there’s tremendous valor in facing it.”

So I faced it.

“Our son was a heroin addict. He died of an overdose.”

It was there. I saw it. The quick unspoken interview, dying to ask, holding back, not wanting to judge, but still…

How did that happen?
(He was such a sweet child)
What drove him to drugs?
(It had to be something in his upbringing)
How could you, the gatekeepers of everything that influenced him, his protectors, his spiritual guardians, let him sink so low?
(Couldn’t you see the signs?)

All that in the quiet space of about two hundredths of a micro-second. I saw it. I could tell. Then I thought, I know what you’re thinking because those are the very first questions – even accusations – that would pop into my head if I were sitting where you’re sitting.

This time I didn’t react to the look and quickly go to a defensive tack and say how it was the bent of his heart mixed with bad company, adding to that the “mark of Cain” of being given up for adoption, placed in a minister’s home, and calling a disabled man “Dad.”

What I did, instead, was to say that the Father saw my son – yes, with a needle in his arm and hating himself for it (I know he did) – He saw the pain in his soul and heard his cry for mercy and RAN to him, met him in the back seat where he was all alone on a Minnesota December morning, and, as his life was ebbing away, said, “Graham Scott, you’ve had enough of this pig sty, and I’m going to do two things: I’m going to hug you with the stench of offal and sour earth still on you, yes; and then I’m going to escort you to the kingdom I’ve prepared for you.”

I told my friend that God is a Good Father, a Gracious King and a merciful Rescuer. I told my friend that Sandy and I, though wrecked with an earthly grief that persists to this morning and beyond, we’re confident that even in this God is good. That is STILL TRUE. Taking Graham from us was an incredible act of mercy on His part.

GOD.

IS.

GOOD.

And now, perhaps one or two are having a similar internal dialogue in response to what I’ve just said.

Wait. Your son was an addict. He died from a heroin high. He had been partying with friends. How is it you’re so sure he’s with God?

I have to tell you, when I got inboxed on Facebook from Graham’s birth mother on the day he was found in that pitiful condition, saying that he was on life support but no other info was available to her, that when I finally was able to get through to her, understood that our boy was grave and the next 24 to 48 hours were critical.

My first thought?
Oh, God, what if he dies (didn’t know he was already gone)?
Lord, will our boy be with you?

My theology doesn’t allow for a “say a prayer” one-and-done salvation. It is constructed of the message of the Kingdom, that salvation is “from faith to faith” and thoroughly “from first to last.”

I suppose you can see the conflict, knowing what you know now.

Lord God, Father of mercies, what will become of my son?

And, as sure as a burning bush glowed in my dining room, as sure as if an angel made an entrance into my space and time, as sure as Elijah hiding out in a mountain cranny, the Father’s Word split through the gauzy mist of the moment and reassured me.

Psalms 85:2-3,10
[I] forgave the iniquity of your [son];
[I] covered all [his] sin.
Selah
(Now I can say:)
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
[Your] steadfast love and faith meet;
[Your] righteousness and peace kiss each other.

I read those words from that day’s scripture on my Bible app and knew without a shred of doubt that my son was in that moment dressed in white, being carried by angels and laid at the feet of sinful man’s Redeemer and Eternal Hope. There Graham bowed and was hugged by God Himself.

How can this be?
How can God call “holy” that which, from all appearances, seems so unholy?
Does He, then, save everyone, universally, unconditionally, no questions asked?

Well, no, of course not.

What “saves” us?

Romans 8:24 says “hope” saves us. Hope in something we can’t see.

YET.

Specifically, the “redemption of our bodies” (v23) is what the saved hope for. What, then, does this entail?

(1) Firstly, The understanding that there’s something past the grave, that death doesn’t end it.

(2) Secondly, The submission to the truth that we need something outside ourselves to extend our lives on into eternity, namely a Somebody, a Redeemer.

(3) Thirdly, The recognition that there’s something in us worth redeeming, that we are not lost causes.

(4) Fourthly, The sometimes-painful truth that what we see now is not the finished product, that the Father obligates Himself – through our yielding and repentances – to make us fit for eternity

The apostle says hope that can be seen with our natural sight is not the hope he’s referring to. Thank God THAT’S not what saves us! If we have hope of future glory based solely on going to church, being moral, living clean, minding our tongue, giving to charities, and the like, we’d be sunk.

Where the Lord looks – not where we can see – is into the heart. If Graham walked in here this morning, looking the way he did before December 16, 2013, most of us would see a lost soul. Covered in tattoos, fully sleeved, face, neck, legs and hands, thick with the cloying smell of nicotine, pants sagging, and ghetto-speak, we’d start praying for his soul.

And I’d be praying right along with you!

It’s sad that many of us put ALL our trust in our performance to save us rather than God’s foreknowledge and grace. In the end, when we appear before the King Who Reigns – and all of us will – the question (forget the St. Peter at the gate jokes) that will be asked will be “What did you do with My Son?” and the only response accepted will be “I looked to Him and cried out for His mercies to save me from beginning to end.”

The Father will say “I know. I saw you choose My Son before you were even born. It was in eternity past that I elected you based on your disposition toward My Son. Enter into the joy of the Eternal Kingdom!”

The woman of Sychar wouldn’t pass inspection either. But Jesus wouldn’t write her off. Nor would the woman who was face-planted at the feet of Jesus in John 8 be most churches’ candidate for membership. But Jesus wouldn’t condemn her. The shady woman that interrupted a dinner party in Luke 7 wouldn’t make the grade but Jesus didn’t interrupt her love-fest on His feet. I’ll bet most of the Twelve who were in Jesus’ band wouldn’t be our cup of tea either, but they were the Master’s Men.

Yeah, one was a devil…and we know he’s in hell.

What you’re thinking is what I assure you I still preach: “but,” you say, “the woman at the well surely ceased her wild ways, the woman of John 8 who got a divine reprieve most likely took Christ’s counsel to heart and repented, the grateful whore of Luke 7 certainly mended her ways, and the disciples were noticeably different after having been with Jesus.”

Yes. All that is true.

I twice warned my son “as long as you’re looking for a way OUT instead of the way HOME, you’ll always remain a prodigal.”

The Father, it says, “searches the hearts” (v27) and who are we to “condemn His elect?” (V33) because “it is God who justifies” whom He will (v33) and who He justifies,”He also glorifies” (v30).

These great verses are preceded by one very important qualifier: God offers His Holy Spirit to help the weak (v26). We’re too weak to save ourselves. We’re even too weak to hope for the redemption of our bodies! We need God to accomplish in us what we are too weak to do for ourselves.

Andrew Murray, in The Two Covenants, wrote long ago:

“There are some still looking wistfully at this blessed life [New Covenant], and yet afraid to trust themselves to this wondrous grace. They have a conception of faith as something great and mighty, and they know and feel that theirs is not such. And so their feebleness remains an insuperable barrier to their inheriting the promise. Let me try and say once again: Brother, the act of faith, by which you accept and enter this life in the New Covenant, is not commonly an act of power, but often of weakness and fear and much trembling. And even in the midst of all this feebleness, it is not an act in your strength [that saves], but in a secret and perhaps unfelt strength, which Jesus – the Surety of the Covenant – gives you.”

The Spirit in the believer “groans” for the believer to be fitted for eternity, to make it Home (v26). Do you think any of the Holy Spirit’s prayers will be unanswered? Of course not! Verse 27 tells us that the Holy Spirit prays according to the will of the Father! AND GETS RESULTS! (Grk meaning)

What is the Father’s will?

(1) To call sinners too weak to save themselves.
(2) To justify sinners too weak to reconcile themselves to God
(3) To transform sinners into holy beings.
(4) To make us overcomers in this life.
(5) To give sainted sinners the same glory He gives His Son.
(6) To pray us into His eternity (vv27,34).
(7) To remove all condemnation by making us His own, and loving us unconditionally and never letting us go.

What if the elect don’t look elect?
What if they do not overcome in this life?
Can there still be hope?

Remember, hope that is logical, *makes* sense, *looks* like hope, *holds up* to our standard of hope…still hasn’t even come close to the Hope of Christ. Isn’t that amazing?

His Hope accomplishes “ALL THESE THINGS”.
The reason we can overcome in “ALL THESE THINGS” (v35) is because of ALL THESE THINGS:

“The Lord searches and knows our hearts” and still accepts us (v27)
“The Lord sees our weakness” and helps us (v26)
“The Lord intercedes for the saints” (v27)
“The Lord works it all together for our good”(v28)
“The Lord elects”
“The Lord predestines”
“The Lord conforms” (v29)
“The Lord calls”
“The Lord justifies”
“The Lord glorifies”(v30)

What is the common factor in all those blessed promises? What is constant?

Our salvation – from first to last – is the Lord’s doing! It’s all of grace! Not of works, else we’d make salvation less divine and more human. God prophesied that He’d take our hearts of stone and make them flesh…FOR HIS GLORY! (Ezk 36:25,26)

But isn’t there some expectation that those who have had heart transplants (I.e., born again) should walk in holiness?

I say amen.

Am I resetting the standard just because it’s my son? No, and God hasn’t reset His either. Not by a long shot.

That’s why my son was taken out of this earth – he put himself under the severest discipline of the Lord who is both merciful and “severe” (Rom 11:22) and committed the “sin that is unto death” (1Jn 5:16). How God handled Graham Scott in the end shows us two things:

(1) God saves “sinners”, that salvation is messy because it forgives the unforgivable, and,

(2) whom God saves, He lays claim to, and has rights to, He owns and can treat how He will (we know from the Romans 8 passage that He only deals with His own in love).

>The Lord searches the hearts
>The Lord knows who belongs to Him (2Ti 2:19)
>God is FOR His own
>No charge, no accusation, no condemnation stands up against His decree

If you’re struggling with condemning thoughts, do THREE things:

(1) Examine yourself, whether you’re in the faith

The quickest way to determine this is to answer “Who/What are you trusting for your day to day strength and eternal destiny?”

(2) Exhibit yourself under the holy gaze of the Spirit of God (Psa 139:22)

Let Him show you where you are failing in the grace of God, where you are being overcome instead of overcoming…and REPENT

(3) (Then) Excuse yourself from self-condemning thoughts and evil accusations

If the Lord set His affection on you to save you…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If Jesus ever loved you before…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If He adopted you, not based in your ability to measure up and qualify, but in His foreknowledge and provision to save you,

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If grace saved you at the first…and you were not worth saving…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If God began the work of salvation in you…

IT’S STILL TRUE…

…and He will finish His work, fit you for His eternity and redeem your bodies, your spirit and your soul.

I just read this morning – a quote by Perry Noble – and it’s spot on for all of us who are kinda looking at ourselves as we are, our circumstances, all the things that really, well, stink, and wonder if there can be a miracle in my mess…

“If it ain’t good, God ain’t done.”

Forget the grammar; embrace the grace.

God forgives, forgets, makes new and makes it permanent. When my son died, I was overcome by a massive tidal wave of emotions but God channeled them all to the harbor of Truth and I wrote these words:

“God blessed Sandy and me with the gift of a lifetime, our son Graham. We were blessed to have our baby boy (our only) for twenty-four fun-filled, amazing, tragic, adventurous, never-a-dull-moment, heart-wrenching, miraculous, painful, sweet, cuddly, hard, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, hand-clapping, sweet-as-pie, soft-as-silk, abrasive-as-sandpaper, thrilling, magical, wonderful years.

Yesterday, he went Home. He’s with Jesus. The war is over. The struggle has ended. Devil, you scoundrel, you wanted to destroy him but God promoted him. You can’t touch him anymore. Can’t. You lose. Gra-Gra is with God now. Praise Jesus, his chains are gone. Amazing, amazing grace.

Hallelujah. Selah.”

And, beloved struggler on the way: He is for you too. It ain’t done. But when He finishes you out – if you trust Him to do it – you’re gonna be breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s true.

Selah.

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