In August of 2000 my oldest child, Ashley, who had been homeschooled since the 6th grade, was about to enter her last year of high school. She was doing well enough academically at home, so we’d been exploring the option of having her attend a local community college to start acquiring some college credits that she could potentially transfer to Florida College, where she planned to attend college the following year.
Then her dad picked her up from Florida College Camp in Turner, Oregon, and upon her request, granted her permission to leave within about two weeks for Florida College instead of going to the local community college. I remained cheerful in her presence, so as not to take away any of her joy and excitement, but cried a lot in private that summer over her flying so abruptly from the family nest and losing the companionship of one of my best friends. As it turned out, it was a good thing she went to Florida College because she met her future husband, Brian. One of their favorite professors that year was Shane Scott, and since Shane Scott is now the preacher at the Valrico church of Christ, we thought it would be great to meet him and the congregation while we were in the Tampa area.
I was very glad we did. I had been reading the book of Isaiah in my “three chapters a day” program. To slow myself down for a more thoughtful/meditative read I’ve been copying and pasting entire books of the Bible into a Google doc in red font, then highlighting
everything that God is in yellow (including descriptions, proper names and adjectives referring to Him), everything that God does in orange (including all three Persons of the Godhead), highlighting in green everything people do (or are told to do) that finds the favor of God, and highlighting in red everything that loses the favor of God, and in blue all the blessings God grants those who obtain His favor. Next, I bracket in black my own clarifying cross-references, practical applications, praise, observations and prayers to use for the podcasts Mark and I record together on our Nomads You And I podcasts. That being said, no matter how slow or thoughtful my Bible reading, I don’t think I’d have ever picked up on what I learned the evening of our visit.
Shane Scott is an outstanding Bible teacher who digs deep. In fact, I’d go so far as to say if you are moving into the Tampa area and have expert-level Bible knowledge, Shane Scott will challenge even you. In addition, I appreciate how he asks the hard questions of his Bible class students. Those are the questions we want to answer, after all. Have you ever noticed if a question is too obvious, everyone waits around to let someone else to hit that easy lobbed ball, until someone finally gives the obvious answer just so the class can keep progressing? Not so at Valrico. Shane Scott throws a fast pitch to his congregation and they’ve become trained and ready. In addition, if there’s a build up of information, he allows his students to give the “punchline”, so to speak, that is, to state the main point. I liked how the class was taught, but to my delight, the congregation in Valrico happened to also be studying the book of Isaiah! In fact, during this study of Isaiah which Shane led, I had a record number of lightbulb moments within a single Bible class.
I came to realize years ago that the key message of the Old Testament scripture is “By those who come near to me, I will be treated as holy” (Leviticus 10:3) and in the New Testament message we too must “be holy” because God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). What I learned from Shane Scott was the connection of being holy to wholeness, and that though the two words are not identical, they are quite connected. God created us whole, but when we sin we become broken, except for the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which, when combined with our faith, repentance and rebirth in water for the remission of our sins, makes us completely whole again by uniting us with Him. We are for the remainder of our lives, set apart, like a sacred object, to shine the beauty of God’s character by living a holy life, thus bearing the image of His Son. In this way, he makes us “complete” or “whole” once again. We become whole by being holy.
Another light bulb moment was this: The eunuch, a man who was physically “unwhole” enough to be prevented from trespassing into the “inner court” (Deuteronomy 23:1)— a more intimate, privileged position, during Old Testament worship, was reading Isaiah 53 when he invited Peter into his chariot. We know after his baptism into Christ he goes on his way rejoicing, but Shane made the point that if, after that baptism in Acts 8, he continues to read where he left off, how absolutely beautiful and amazing that he would soon come to the glorious truth of chapter 56:1-8.
“Thus says the Lord,
“Preserve justice and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed.
“How blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who takes hold of it;
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”
Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord,
“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
My third light bulb moment had to do with an amazing literary device I would never have noticed on my own. As it turns out, the jaw-dropping prophecies now fulfilled and other stunning features of the book of Isaiah are written in various artistic structures, one of which is called a chiasm. Here’s a more complete explanation from an informative website: A chiasm (also called a chiasmus) is a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a “mirror” effect as the ideas are “reflected” back in a passage. Each idea is connected to its “reflection” by a repeated word, often in a related form. The term chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like our letter X. Chiastic pattern is also called “ring structure.”
The structure of a chiasm is usually expressed through a series of letters, each letter representing a new idea. For example, the structure ABBA refers to two ideas (A and B) repeated in reverse order (B and A). Often, a chiasm includes another idea in the middle of the repetition: ABXBA. In this structure, the two ideas (A and B) are repeated in reverse order, but a third idea is inserted before the repetition (X). By virtue of its position, the insertion is emphasized. (gotquestions.org/chiasm-chiastic)
Shane’s example was this beautiful reality was the following:
*A day is coming when foreigners will be obedient (56:1-8)
**Israel must practice righteousness (56:9-59:15a)
***God will fight for Israel (59:15b-21)
****Jerusalem will be the light of the world (50-62)
***God will fight for Israel (63:1-6)
**Israel must practice righteousness (63:7-66:17)
*A day is coming when foreigners will be obedient (66:18-24)
“Other passages that provide examples of chiasms include Ecclesiastes 11:3—12:2; Genesis 6—9; Amos 5:4–6a; Isaiah 1:21–26; and Joshua 1:5–9 Joel 3:17–21. Chiastic patterns in the Bible are just one more example of the richness and complexity of God’s inspired Word.” (gotquestions.org/chiasm-chiastic) Surely, the scriptures are amazing on so many levels, that even the most dedicated scholar can never exhaust them.
Very much a side note: If your congregation is looking at floor plans for a large building, call Valrico and ask about their design. It is modern and gorgeous without being too showy. It was also smart that they opted for chairs rather than pews — which makes a lot of sense because it offers more flexibility for seating arrangements unique to various teaching situations. I found them to be as comfortable as a pew and roomy enough for a young child to catch some good z’s. And if there’s ever a Miss America Pageant for church buildings (heaven forbid), I’d like to nominate this gorgeous church house built about a year ago for this great congregation. Their church building even smelled fabtasmic — like Miss America was already in the building.
Valrico Church of Christ
PO Box 947
1610 S Miller Road
Valrico, FL 33594