self responsiblity

February 29, 2016

binoculars

You will struggle with sin throughout your life. Your identity in Christ beckons you to a life of holiness, but your heritage as a sinner living independently of God continues to influence your attitudes and actions. “the changed life” addresses both resisting sin and pursuing growth in holiness.

 

“Dynamic Change” starts with an inventory of your personal values. What you truly value in any given circumstance determines your attitude and actions. The tool examines seven broad categories of sin, called the seven deadly sins. These categories describe tendencies in which personal values conflict with biblical principles and God’s will. Each person has unique tendencies to sin. Identifying your personal tendencies to sin will help you resist those tendencies. Confessing sin keeps personal sin tendencies from remaining hidden and therefore opens up opportunities for gaining support to resist sin. The exercise called “A Letter from Your Tempter” provides a creative way for you to confess areas of sin to others.

 

The second part of the “Dynamic Change” tool turns to positive growth. Exercising a spiritual discipline will enable you to experience dependence on God in a new way. Examining the fruit of the Spirit will encourage you to see how God has already been transforming you and to set your sights on new areas for growth.

identify several biblical beliefs that you have learned to practice in some area of your life. You might not practice a belief perfectly, and you might not practice it in every area of your life. Nonetheless, it is an area in which you have experienced significant growth.

 

For instance, maybe your faith has helped you lessen your anxiety about work deadlines. Or perhaps God has convicted you and helped you change from having a cynical demeanor to one of encouragement when you relate to your relatives.

 

The following list of biblical principles that may help you identify areas of past growth. It is not an exclusive list, so feel free to choose other biblical principles that apply to your own experience. Choose up to three biblical principles that you have come to believe and practice and two to three you struggle with. Record them in a journal, and in the appropriate space, describe the process by which you grew to practice that belief or the reasons you have problems with the other ones. Consider the influence that Scripture, prayer, and other believers played in your life-change experience and the influences in the areas that you fall short.

Liberality

 

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

Mercy

 

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Simplicity

 

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19)

Contentment

 

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matthew 6:25)

Hope

 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Christian Fellowship

 

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Faith

 

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:5-6)

Temperance

 

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more… . You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:19,22-24)

Edification

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Humility

 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Perseverance

 

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Praise

 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

Prayer

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Contemplation and Reflection

 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:2-3)

Forbearance

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Industriousness

 

If a man will not work, he shall not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Purity of Speech/Doctrine

 

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

Hospitality

 

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

Fidelity

 

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure. (Hebrews 13:4)

Confession

 

Confess your sins to each other. (James 5:16)

Sympathy

 

Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Evangelism

 

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

Loyalty

 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Generosity

 

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17)

Love

 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

 

Tomorrow we will look at the seven deadly sins and do the same exercise.

Remember the whole point of this series is to actually have a changed life, for the good and be proactive in our spiritual growth, not spiritual spectators confessing verbal manifestations as though they were power in themselves. (suck it Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and all the other name it and claim it bozos). See that’s my carnal minded cynical side that slips out. (right).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Giants

February 28, 2016

growth marks

To grow in integrity over a lifetime, we need to cultivate certain disciplines. For example, we must have consistent exposure to God’s Word through personal study and listening to preaching. We need to worship corporately and pray. But is competency in a variety of spiritual disciplines sufficient? Is the Christian life like a spiritual checklist: “I’ve learned how to share my faith, how to study my Bible, and how to be selfless in my relationship with my spouse”? What happens to our competencies in all these areas when we face new challenges? What happens to our morning prayer time when we have an infant who wakes at 5 AM every morning? How do we learn to love a new coworker who seems to be so different from the person he or she replaced? How do we adjust to these new circumstances?

 

many Christians want to make the spiritual life a simple, step-by-step process. We live in a culture obsessed with quick fixes and instant gratification, and this obsession can easily affect the way we approach the spiritual life. But when we reflect on our growth in the Christian life, we recognize that growth in integrity rarely comes quickly or painlessly. Rather, God works in us over extended periods of time and through diverse circumstances. Each season provides new challenges and new resources for growth in integrity. How would you describe the season of life you are in right now? What unique opportunities for growth does this season provide?

 

Consider, for example, the apostle Paul’s experience in learning contentment. He claimed he had learned to be content “in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12). In order to fully develop contentment, he had to learn how to be content in seasons when he had plenty as well as in seasons when he had little. Each of these seasons provided unique challenges and unique opportunities for growth.

 

In a time of want we may struggle with the temptation to envy others who are better off materially. Wanting more may be a basic desire to have adequate food, shelter, and coverings, or it could be the desire to change our social status. In a season of poverty we face a unique challenge for contentment.

 

In contrast, material excess presents us with a different challenge to contentment. We may be tempted to exceed the material success of others for the social distinction it can provide. Or we may become obsessed with seeking more material wealth in order to attain financial security for the future. In either case, we might lose a sense of contentment.

 

Though it may be possible for us to learn the virtue of contentment through experience in only one season of life, such as in a state of poverty, it develops more fully when learned in a variety of circumstances. When we apply this principle to the whole of our pursuit of biblical integrity, we realize that God constantly uses new life circumstances to develop in us a more complete image of Christ. In the many seasons of life, we will inevitably see times when we struggle in some area of our faith, even an area that we had previously considered a strength. This often occurs when we face an entirely new set of circumstances.

 

For instance, dealing with failure requires a consistent experience of God’s forgiveness and the perseverance to press on. Obviously, failure is not God’s desire for us, but He uses new circumstances, including failure, to develop our godly character.

 

That’s what happened to the apostle Peter. He experienced special revelation after Christ’s ascension that convinced him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (see Acts 10). He clearly understood that no dividing wall should stand between believing Jews and Gentiles. He even responded to the revelation by welcoming Gentiles into the young church (see Acts 11:118). However, when Peter was later in Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, he failed to live what he had learned. Some other Jewish believers came to town from Jerusalem, and Peter withdrew from Gentile believers in order to avoid offending these visitors (see Galatians 2:11-14).

 

Paul had to confront Peter. Peter had failed when he faced a new set of circumstances with a new form of temptation. Even though Peter had learned the principle that Jew and Gentile are one in Christ, he chose to live contrary to that principle when put under pressure. We cannot know from the text (Galatians 2) exactly what his reasoning was at that time, but he needed a brother to confront him, a fresh experience of the forgiveness of God, and an attitude of diligence to press on in his Christian walk.

 

God has us on a journey to transform our entire lives from how we are at our initial salvation to a life marked by Christian maturity. If we expect to learn to live out godly character the way we learn concepts in a book, we foolishly ignore the crucial truth that the fruit of the Spirit must develop over time amidst various life circumstances. By His grace, God works in us throughout the seasons of our lives, in successes and failures, teaching us crucial lessons about ourselves and about Himself, conforming us to the image of His Son.

 

Throughout our lives, we must (1) remain alert to the temptations that play into our weaknesses, (2) experience grace in Christ when we fail, and (3) maintain the attitude of a diligent learner, so that the Lord may continue to mold us into His image for the rest of our lives.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Thank God for saving grace, fellowship and His protection.

 

hand sign

A plant can’t produce fruit on its own. Plants need proper soil, moisture, and sunlight to mature to the point of producing fruit. If those elements are present, the plant will naturally produce fruit. Yet the fact that the fruit is born naturally doesn’t diminish the reality that work has to happen in the plant for the fruit to be produced. The work of that plant is consistent with the nature of the plant, so it’s natural, but it’s still work.

 

we have a responsibility to actively depend on Christ. In today’s devotion, we will observe what happens when we inwardly depend on the Spirit.

Just as we had to have an active faith in receiving Christ, we pursue holiness in Christ actively. Our faith in Christ for salvation was active in the sense that we had to respond, even though it was not active in the sense of any of our good works winning us merit for salvation.

 

In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said rebirth requires believing in Him (see John 3:16-18). Salvation is not granted in the context of passivity. Though the power for salvation is not our own, we are responsible to act. The action that ought to follow salvation is a movement of the heart toward dependence on God, or what is called “walking in the Spirit.” James tells us that walking in faith results in good works, the outward expression of dependence on God’s power (see James 2:14-26). God wants us to produce outward good deeds “so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21).

 

 

Scripture is filled with images taken from the world of horticulture. For example, the Old Testament repeatedly uses the images of an olive tree and a vineyard to refer to Israel (see Psalm 52:8; Isaiah 3:14; Jeremiah 11:16; Ezekiel 19:10-12). Christ refers to Himself as “the vine” and His followers as “branches,” promising that those who abide in Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5). And Paul talked about the kind of fruit that would characterize those who “walk in the Spirit” when he identified the “fruit of the Spirit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

the importance in the Christian life of both work and grace. All farmers know that there is always more work to be done than there is time to do it; nevertheless, these same farmers also understand that much of what happens to the crops is beyond their control. There is much for the farmer to do, but the farmer cannot make the seed sprout, the sun shine or the rain fall. In fact, it is only because the farmer trusts that these good gifts will continue to be given that the challenging and risk-filled enterprise of farming is undertaken at all. Grace and effort, gift and work: these must be held together.

 

Unfortunately, Christians often either pit these against each other or emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. The wisdom of the farmer reminds us that both are required, in full measure, in order to grow anything worth harvesting. The same holds for the life of the Spirit. There is always plenty of work to be done, but no one who undertakes that work should do so without realizing that growth in the Spirit is first of all the gift of God.

 

We must keep this understanding in mind as we explore the Spirit’s fruit. Only the Spirit can enable us to bear fruit, but our contribution to cultivating the fruit is essential too.

 

Growing fruit takes time, and the fruit of the Spirit grows particularly slowly. Sometimes the growth is imperceptible, but the Spirit’s presence in our lives guarantees that growth will occur. Our commitment to growth wanes easily when we grow tired of waiting, but we must not become discouraged. Rather, we must continue to do our part by laying aside our preoccupation with ourselves and focusing on others—both God and our neighbors. As we learn to do this, we will see fruit grow that only the Spirit of God working within us can produce.

 

Every time a farmer plants a seed he is practicing both faith and science. He knows how seeds grow, how fertilizer works, how to till the soil, yet he still prays for a good crop.

We do the work, we practice the Christian discipline, yet it still comes down to belief that God is at work in us, even when we screw up royally, it doesn’t negate His plan.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

upstream

February 26, 2016

full custody

We must never forget that sanctification is a process. One of the ways that we open ourselves to the Spirit’s work is in exercising the spiritual disciplines. The spiritual disciplines are activities we do to practice dependence on Christ. They include studying the Bible, prayer, and others to be mentioned in this session.

 

However, they are means to an end. The Christian life is not a call to simply study the Bible and pray. The goal, as we discussed last session, is to grow in moment-by-moment dependence on God through the Spirit of God who indwells us. From the time God sent His Spirit to live with us, after Christ ascended to heaven, all believers have had the privilege of depending on the Spirit. He brings to mind revealed truth in our times of need and supports us in our pursuit of holiness. The spiritual disciplines, when we develop them into habits, help that process.

Introduction

 

Jonathan Edwards was one of America’s premier theologians and greatest preachers. Edwards lived by a list of resolutions. For example: “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” This statement shows how serious he was about pursuing holiness. It reveals a man who understood the fear of the Lord and sought to live it.

 

Yet look at another of Edwards’ resolutions: “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” What marvelous balance! Edwards resolved to fight the sin in his life but recognized that it would be a slow and painful process, one that would often feel unsuccessful. Defeat didn’t weaken his resolve.

We need to develop habits of holiness while guarding ourselves from the dangers of both heartless discipline and slothfulness. The path of sanctification must avoid two pitfalls: legalism and passivity.

 

The terms disciplines, exercises, and habits make some of us fear that legalism will stifle our growth. For many, spiritual discipline means putting oneself back under the Law with a series of Draconian rules which no one can live up to—and which spawn frustration and spiritual death. Legalism reduces the sanctification process to a list of dos and don’ts and becomes an exercise in self-sufficiency. But there is a difference between legalism and disciplines, and this difference is in the motivation. Legalism says, ‘I will do this thing to gain merit with God,’ while discipline says, ‘I will do this because I love God and want to please Him.’ Our motives aren’t always clear, even to us, but we can ask the Spirit to show us where we are practicing disciplines out of self-sufficiency rather than out of love for God.

 

The second pitfall to avoid is passivity. This is an attitude of “wait and see.” To avoid any appearance of earning merit, this approach promotes “letting go” and “waiting for the Spirit to move” before taking any action. The motivation for this approach can be nothing more than personal laziness. This position sets up a false dichotomy between grace and action. Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. The way of disciplined grace. It is ‘grace’ because it is free; it is ‘disciplined’ because there is something more for us to do. Spiritual disciplines don’t guarantee that we’ll avoid the pitfalls of legalism or passivity, but they can serve as channels of grace.

 

 

For spiritual disciplines to help us grow, the Holy Spirit’s work must accompany them. However, the Spirit can’t force us to grow. We must be active in our dependent faith. Foster notes, “God has given us the disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”

 

Practicing the disciplines is like placing yourself in a channel for grace, with results similar to placing yourself in a channel for water. If you place yourself in a channel for water, you have a greater likelihood of getting wet. It’s not a guarantee; sometimes the channel is dry and one must wait for the water. Likewise, sometimes the rains come and soak those who are not in the channel as much as those in it. But on the whole, those who are in the channel will regularly receive water.

 

As we practice the disciplines, we place ourselves in channels where God can pour out His grace into our lives. On the whole, those who make a commitment to pursue holiness through these channels of grace will find refreshment that only the Spirit can bring.

 

Paul tells us that self-control, or self-discipline, works hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. God gave us spirits of power, love, and self-control (see 2 Timothy 1:7). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:23). Personal discipline and the Holy Spirit work together to produce fruit in our lives. So, just as we discipline ourselves to become godly, we must also always depend upon the Spirit to be fruitful. Therefore, we now turn our attention to the topic of the fruit of the Spirit.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Susan H, still battling vertigo

Randy B, heart problems

Patricia d, just found out her perfect Christian kid (age 10) isn’t so perfect, major problems on the home front with rebellion.

 

 

dark side

February 25, 2016

moon_zro2

Walking by the Spirit affects our ability to avoid the seven deadly sins. When we walk by the Spirit, we cannot simultaneously walk in sin. But walking by the Spirit leads to more than avoidance of sin; it leads to a godly life. In this session we will remember that in order to walk by the Spirit, we must see Him as a Person to whom we relate rather than as a lofty concept of goodness and power. In order to walk by the Spirit, we must orient our lives around Him.

 

 

In his article “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?” Daniel Wallace tells a story that made him profoundly aware of his need for a vital relationship with the Spirit of God. Dr. Wallace is a highly respected professor in the New Testament department at Dallas Theological Seminary. His Greek grammar textbook is used worldwide. In 1992, Dr. Wallace’s eight-year-old son, Andy, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a dangerous form of kidney cancer rarely found in children. In the midst of his pain and fear, Dr. Wallace sought solace in his faith, only to find that it had become what he calls “Christianity from the neck up.” He writes,

 

 

Through this experience I found that the Bible was not adequate. I needed God in a personal way—not as an object of my study, but as friend, guide, and comforter. I needed an existential experience of the Holy One. Quite frankly, I found that the Bible was not the answer. I found the Scriptures to be helpful—even authoritatively helpful—as a guide. But without my feeling God, the Bible gave me little solace….I believe that I had depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him, I didn’t know how to relate.

 

 

In describing his own experience, Dr. Wallace has identified a challenge that we all face. We easily allow God to become the subject of our study, a fascinating topic of theoretical investigation, but not the personal Lord to whom we are subject and on whom we are dependent. In the same way, we acquire head knowledge of the third person of the Trinity without experiencing heart connection with the Spirit who comforts us in our sorrow, guides us in our confusion, and enables us in our struggle against the flesh.

 

Learning to live the spiritual life requires that we move beyond a merely cerebral form of Christianity into a dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately for us, there is no simple formula for learning life in the Spirit. In our quest to become people of integrity, people whose lives are characterized by single-hearted devotion and fear of the Lord, we don’t have a concrete set of instructions to follow. Rather, Paul gave us a simple admonition: “Walk by the Spirit.”

 

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NASB), Paul indicated that these two are polar opposites.

 

If the life of the flesh is “the outlook oriented toward the self,” then we can understand the life of the Spirit as “the outlook oriented toward the Spirit.” If the life of the flesh is “that which pursues its own ends in self-sufficient independence of God,” then the life of the Spirit is “that which pursues God’s ends in complete dependence on the Spirit.”

 

In general, we see something fundamentally important here as to how Paul depicts the Christian life. It is life in the Spirit, the life of a person who is surrendered to letting the Spirit have complete control. But we see here also that one does not gain this life by discipline or by mustering up the energy. One does not huddle with oneself in the morning, gather together his or her forces, and charge onto the battlefield of life full of self-determined direction. Rather, the Christian life is a life of complete surrender to the Spirit.

 

It’s really quite simple, as a Christian, every time you sin you have left the good, godly spirit walk and have entered the dark zone, walking in the flesh, out of fellowship with God how ever brief and open to demonic oppression. And the suppressing of guilt and rationalization is the chief ingredient to hardening your heart and making the “good” walk harder to establish and keep.

 

So enjoy your sin and forget about being close to God, you can’t have it both ways, close or far, your choice. Why spend the majority of your Christian life repenting and trying to get close to God, or trying to know his will, when your life is centered around your will.

 

Wake up.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Enterprise_5_hr

been a long time since we’ve used a rock tune for a title, so I think it fits todays devotion.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7)

 

Having addressed how sin works in our lives, we now turn to how we grow in holiness. Growth takes knowledge. When we talk about sanctification, we must emphasize knowledge. Sanctification is not a list of steps or self-help principles that we can check off. It calls for great knowledge to know how to walk with God through the diverse circumstances of life.

 

And to grow in knowledge, we need to fear the Lord; that is, to be whole, to be single-minded, and to live according to the biblical standard requires a continual process of learning who God is and realizing how desperate our situation is apart from Him.

 

Keep in mind how a reverence for God helps you guard against failing in the areas of struggle you discussed in previous sessions and motivates you to pursue positive growth in holiness.

When Abraham moved his family to the Negev region, (Gen 20) he told residents there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister.The king of that region,Abimelech, took Sarah to become one of his wives. Before having Sarah as his wife, Abimelech had a dream in which God warned against it because she was Abraham’s wife. Abraham admitted that the reason he lied about Sarah was because he thought, “There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife” (Genesis 20:11).

 

Abraham knew that the people of the Negev had no knowledge of his God and did not live according to His standards. He assumed God could not or would not take care of him in such a place, so he took matters into his own hands by lying about Sarah’s identity. The irony of the story is that Abraham was the one who showed that he didn’t fear God.

 

The situation is different in Genesis 22. In this situation, many years later, Abraham showed his obedience to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. In Genesis 22:12, the angel of the Lord said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy… . Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God reaffirmed His everlasting covenant with Abraham because He knew that Abraham feared Him.

 

What changed in Abraham? He gained faith. Earlier he didn’t trust God to protect his life. Later he was willing to sacrifice his hope of descendants, trusting that God would honor His promise to raise up a nation through Abraham’s offspring.

 

 

There are two broad categories of Old Testament people who had “fear of the Lord.” The difference lies in how and why they feared Him. The first group feared the Lord in terror (see 1 Samuel 11:7; 2 Chronicles 14:14). They expected imminent destruction. They often hid in caves and holes to escape the day of the Lord and His terrible judgment (see Isaiah 2:10,1721). In some translations the term dread captures this sense effectively.

 

The second group’s fear was consistently associated with long life, knowledge, and wisdom (see Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; Proverbs 1:7,29; 2:5). To fear God in this way is to rightly ascribe to Him all authority and power. Generally, those who reject God will eventually dread Him, while those who are His prudently fear Him.

 

So what about us? What tension should we feel between intimacy with our Father and awe before Him as the Creator of the universe? Exodus 20 provides an interesting insight. Immediately after receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were terrified by the thunder, lightning, and smoke that signaled God’s presence. In response, Moses told them, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (verse 20).

 

God didn’t come simply to terrify them. He wasn’t trying to get an emotional response just to prove His power. But He did want the people to fear Him for their own sake. He wanted to give them a glimmer of the One with whom they had made promises of loyalty. God intended for this revelation of who He was to affect them so deeply that they would take His instructions seriously, even when disobedience felt better. Author and theologian Craig Blaising described the balance for all of God’s children: “God has not come maliciously, but neither has He come permissively; and in between the two is grace.”

 

the fear of the Lord: an inward attitude of humble reverence toward God, in light of His self-revelation, that results in outward expression of Christlikeness

 

According to this definition, the fear of the Lord involves two parts.The first is the inward attitude. This attitude is humble because as the Lord reveals His character, His majesty, His power and holiness, we are humbled before Him. We realize that God alone is worthy of our devotion and reverence (see Job 38–41; Psalm 33:8; Hebrews 12:28-29). The second part is the outward obedience, which flows from this inward humility. God reveals Himself to us so we will obey Him (see Deuteronomy 6:2-13). The two parts are linked.

 

As Christians, we express obedience by modeling our lives on Christ’s. Christ Himself, the greatest revelation of God, is the best example of how we can live properly fearing Him (see Philippians 2:5-16).

 

How can we grow in our fear of the Lord? Here are three suggestions:

 

1. We can immerse ourselves in God’s Word (see Psalm 119). The fear of the Lord grows with revelation of how magnificent He is. As we see His character and authority through the events and teaching of Scripture, our hearts will be drawn to have a proper reverence toward God.

 

2. We can ask the Lord regularly to unite our hearts to fear His name (see Psalm 86:11). God desires to reveal Himself to us and to align our heads and hearts to His character. This is a prayer He longs to answer.

 

3. We can live moment by moment in the reality of God’s presence (see Psalm 139:7-12). When we forget about God in our daily schedule, we are not living in reality. We must cultivate a mindset that is ever aware of God’s presence.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember in America it is time to vote, so get out there and vote, if you don’t vote you have no opinion. And remember we get what we deserve with those that rule over us.

 

 

your dirty little…..

February 23, 2016

christ on cross

In your last devotion, hopefully you began to share some of the main areas of sin in your life. Identifying those areas is one step in the process of confession. However, it is critical to move beyond that initial acknowledgment of sin to an examination of the inner dynamics of it.

 

Over the next two devotions, I’m asking that each you talk about how a particular sin issue affects his or her life, using the creative format of a letter from an imaginary personal demon (as in the screwtape letters )as a means of opening communication and increasing vulnerability. This exercise will encourage you to think about how your specific sin operates, what payoff you hope for from the sin, and what habits and ways of thinking from our culture or your personal history the sin stems from.

There’s a key phrase in the above paragraph, one you’ll find few if any preachers ever talk about, “the payoff or benefit” of your favorite sin. There is a benefit to the one sin you keep falling into. I could name them but if I missed one you’d use it as an excuse to think I wasn’t talking to you. But I am talking to you and the sin you love, oh, I get it, you fight it, struggle against it, make vows, count the days in between. It’s like teens never carrying a condemn because they would have to admit they were planning or hoping having sex would happen, but when it did it was an accident, it’s wasn’t something I planned.

It just happened, how many times have you told yourself that.

In his marvelous book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis used the correspondence between a supervising demon, Screwtape, and his young apprentice, Wormwood, to give a behind-the-scenes look at the machinations of evil. Readers get a glimpse of how evil conspires to work with a person’s strengths and weaknesses in order to encourage moral and spiritual failure or at least to make the person live a baneful existence. The young demon is supposed to manipulate “his” human’s desires and twist his efforts at love and wisdom so that they end up in sin or failure.

 

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)

If you don’t confess your areas of greatest struggle to someone, the secrecy of that sin and the bearing of that sin on your own may be giving that sin even more control over your life. Make sure that someone in your life whom you trust and respect is aware of that sin and can support you in overcoming that area.

The power of a secret is broken, once it’s no longer a secret.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

7 could be an unlucky number

February 22, 2016

sugar coating

If we desire to pursue integrity wholeheartedly, we must be willing to acknowledge sin’s presence in our lives. The next few devotions are designed to prompt honest assessment of where sin has taken root in us. We expect the Spirit to produce heartfelt conviction in areas of needed change—the kind of conviction that will lead to repentance. As a community, we are called to “confess [our] sins to each other” (James 5:16). In this devotion we will identify and share areas in which we are most likely to struggle with sin. This will prepare us for the following devotions, in which we each will write and present an assessment of how one area of sin affects us.

 

 

The list known as the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, greed, lust, sloth, gluttony) was used as early as the sixth century AD to help Christians identify and address the roots of sin in their lives. The list isn’t meant to cover all sin or even the worst sins but rather seven foundational sins that underlie and nourish the rest.

 

 

Medieval theologian St. John of the Cross wrote that God digs out these seven root sins most deeply when believers enter a “dark night of the soul.” John said such dark times are inevitable and are opportunities for growth because they force the believer to deal with areas of sin otherwise dormant in them. During such times, according to John, God removes some of the “consolations” the young believer has enjoyed. Young believers are like nursing babies who must mature in their faith, but the process of growth brings trials, including temptations to stumble in these seven ways. Yet while life brings such temptations, believers can be confident that God will remain diligent to continue His work of transformation:

 

His love is not content to leave us in our weakness, and for this reason he takes us into a dark night. He weans us from all the pleasures [of the Christian life] by giving us dry times and inward darkness. In doing so he is able to take away all these [seven deadly] vices and create virtues within us. Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength.

 

    —St. John of the Cross (if you read this book; “the dark night of the soul” get a modern version)

Every sin includes an attempt to attain a desire in ways that are contrary to God’s purposes and His ways of attaining those purposes. Consider envy. If people desire others’ recognition, they may spread gossip about someone they envy. Decreasing a competitor’s reputation may seem like a means to increasing one’s own reputation in comparison. In this case, the purpose (obtaining more recognition from others) and the means to that end (spreading gossip) are both contrary to God’s will.

 

In contrast, consider gluttony. Eating and drinking are not contrary to God’s will. However, the purpose that drives our desire to eat and drink can be. If we are eating and drinking excessively for the purpose of escaping hardships in life, we are gluttons. We should not substitute eating and drinking for dependence on God to sustain us through hardship. The purpose of eating and drinking is to sustain our bodies and, in some situations, to celebrate. (Feasts in the Old Testament and the “potlucks” of the early church [see Acts 2:42-47] show that celebration is a valid reason for eating and drinking.)

 

Most of the categories of sin occur in human relations. When a person struggles with greed, he desires some material thing that another person has. If he did not observe another person possessing that object, greed might never have sprung up. When a person struggles with anger, she typically is enraged at another person’s actions or words. Therefore, interpersonal communication often plays a central role in sin and virtue. Lying is not on the list of seven deadly sins, perhaps because many of the sins involve deceptive communication. Deceptive communication includes blatant and subtle forms of lying as well as nonverbal communication. Suggestions can be made without words. For example, a person might want others to think he is grieving a coworker’s failure, when in fact he envies his coworker. When he hears of that person’s failure, he may use facial expressions that communicate sadness for the coworker, while inside he is secretly rejoicing.

 

In The Inferno, Dante Alighieri describes the various levels of hell. In the deepest levels are those who engaged in what Dante calls fraud. Dante means lying, which is the use of communication to deceive others for personal gain or pleasure. The point is that though we may struggle with being deceptive in our communication with others, deception is usually only a means to some other end. There is some larger issue of sin driving that mode of communication.

It is difficult to face our sins honestly and even more difficult to share them honestly. The “Seven Deadly Sins” exercise and the sharing that will take place in the next two devotions are designed to help you identify not only some important areas of sin in your life but also some of the root causes.The exercise will require some thought and creativity, but it is worth the effort.

 

We must always guard against the temptations presented by our flesh, the world, and our spiritual enemy. But the struggle with sin is not the central focus of the Christian life. The Christian life is not chiefly about avoiding sin but about learning how to love God and people. Keep this in mind as you go through this part of the study.

I know I recommend a lot of books, but trust me, they are both classics and time honored, they will prick your pride, your conscience and your heart, build and nurture. So with that another book that fits in with this devotional series; “the screwtape letters” by C. S. Lewis

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Ana Marie. She’s 18, and is having a problem with porn ruining her life. (in her words, to fast to far, to often)

 

outlook

February 21, 2016

thinking over feeling

In the last devotion we recognized that practicing what we believe is hard. Why are we so prone to living contrary to what we say we believe? Scripture tells us that both the fallen world in which we live and our enemy, Satan, influence us to live contrary to biblical principles. But another major factor is what the apostle Paul calls our “flesh.” We will examine the concept of the flesh to see what exactly the Scriptures mean by the term. We will also explore the way our struggle with the flesh shows itself in our lives.

 

A Gallup survey indicating that 94 percent of Americans claim to believe in God, 74 percent claim to have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, and about 34 percent profess to have had a “new birth” experience. These figures are shocking when thoughtfully compared to statistics on the same group for unethical behavior, crime, mental distress and disorder, family failures, addictions, financial misdealings and the like…. Could such a combination of profession and failure really be the ‘life and life abundantly’ that Jesus said he came to give?

 

What could possibly account for such a disparity between profession and practice? We might suspect that many who make such claims are mistaken as to what a commitment to Christ is. But all of us can probably think of men and women who we think are genuine believers yet whose lives exhibit this same inconsistency. And in our moments of honest self-reflection, we recognize that often we don’t need to look any further than our own hearts and lives to see the evidence of this disparity.

 

 

Paul makes a clear distinction between those who “walk by the Spirit” and those who “carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NASB). “Flesh” in this passage is often understood as a reference to a sin nature that remains in the believer, doing battle with his new spiritual nature. (The NIV renders “flesh” as “sinful nature.”)

 

However, such an explanation seems inconsistent with Paul’s view of human nature. While Greeks in his day saw a dichotomy between the human body, which to them was inherently evil, and the soul, which was inherently good, Paul knew of no such dichotomy.

 

When Paul uses “flesh,” he is not thinking primarily in terms of “body” and the inferiority of the body in comparison to the spiritual aspect of human nature. This is a Platonic notion, not a biblical one. What Paul has in mind is “the total person living outside of God’s will and apart from God’s guiding influence through the Spirit.”

 

For Paul then, sin is not restricted to one part of us. Nor is there another part of us that transcends sin’s corruption. Rather, Paul sees that though we are redeemed people, we are still fallen people and part of a fallen creation. While we are no longer what we once were, we are not yet what we one day will be. It is not our nature but our allegiances that are divided. Our practice often fails to line up with our vow of faith because rather than submitting to and relying on the Spirit, we assert our self-sufficiency.

 

The conflict between the flesh and the Spirit is not between one part of us and another part of us but rather between us and the Holy Spirit of God. We continue to sin, but we cannot blame our struggle on a particular part of ourselves… . To do so would be to avoid full responsibility for our behavior, and that avoidance would only compound the problem.

 

Anthony Thiselton defines the flesh like this: “The outlook of the flesh is the outlook oriented toward the self, that which pursues its own ends in self-sufficient independence of God.” Here is the reason we often fail to practice what we say we believe. We are born with this selfish disposition, our culture reinforces it, and it remains with us even after we are born again. We are all in the process of having our hearts transformed from an outlook oriented toward the self into an outlook oriented toward God and others. But part of the transformation involves recognizing our selfish disposition and submitting to God’s will. Such recognition and submission does not come easily.

 

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul identified the “works of the flesh” as “sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.” These overt manifestations of the flesh can be summed up by two broad categories of motivation that express an outlook oriented toward the self: (1) the desire for control and power and (2) the desire for self-gratification. For example, those in Paul’s day who practiced idolatry wanted gods they could control and use to gain power. Those involved in drunkenness used alcohol to gain self-gratification.

 

For those of us who have spent much time around the church, such overt manifestations of the outlook oriented toward the self may not be our primary struggles. But Paul’s list is not intended to be exhaustive. Honest reflection will reveal that we all still have behaviors and attitudes, subtle or overt, that express our desire for control or self-gratification. We all still struggle with an outlook oriented toward the self.

Throughout Galatians 5, Paul spoke of Christian freedom, but Paul’s understanding of Christian freedom did not mean self-sufficiency or autonomy. The quest to be self-sufficient and autonomous reflects the outlook oriented toward the self. Christian freedom means freedom from the law and the power of sin, but it also involves submission to God’s will and dependence on His Spirit. Unfortunately, Christians can and often do make the illogical choice to behave as though they were self-sufficient and autonomous. Then they carry out the “works of the flesh.” In calling Christians to “walk by the Spirit,” Paul pointed out this irony: In dependence on the Spirit and in submission to God’s will lies great freedom, while the assertion of one’s self-sufficient independence brings only bondage.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

integrity

February 20, 2016

the sky is the limit

We want to be men and women of integrity with the Lord, in our homes, with our friends, and in the workplace. But what does that mean? This devotion hopefully will help us get a better grasp on the term integrity.

 

integrity: (1) soundness of and adherence to moral principle and character; uprightness; honesty; (2) the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire; (3) a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of the text; the integrity of a ship’s hull

 

To have integrity is to live and think according to a standard of truth, which is God’s character as revealed in His Word. Integrity involves wholeness or soundness. It is more than abiding by a list of dos and don’ts. It involves loving God in our hearts by affirming His standards in our minds through godly living with our bodies. Integrity involves a commitment to self-scrutiny to determine whether our affirmed beliefs match our daily lives.

It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks [many intellectuals] out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary; it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

    —C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

 

Sometimes gaining more information about God and the Christian life can be oppressive. If that statement seems strange, consider a consequence of acquiring such knowledge. One major consequence is that learning brings a greater responsibility to live according to that knowledge. If we take our growth seriously, we can leave our sanctuaries many Sunday mornings burdened by an understanding of a new biblical principle that we feel obliged to practice in our lives. The more clearly we understand God’s holiness and His expectation that we become like Him in holiness, the more the pursuit of holiness can seem an overwhelming task. Yet Jesus said that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

 

Though following Jesus certainly involves a yoke and a burden, it is not meant to be overwhelming. As we look at the inner workings of our lives, remember that our Master is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). If we remember the grace He bestowed upon us by granting us forgiveness, we will experience that grace anew as we honestly see our heart condition. In addition, we may be surprised to see how dramatically our Master has already transformed us from the time we placed our faith in Him.

Theologians use the term sanctification to describe the process whereby Christians become set apart from the world’s ways of thinking and behaving. Sanctification is how Christians grow in holiness. It describes how, for example, a person who approaches life with an attitude of “win at all costs” is transformed into a person who can turn the other cheek. Sanctification is all about life change.

 

However, if we honestly evaluate our lives, we might find that though we have beliefs about how to live the Christian life, we do not always practice them. While we won’t list in this session all the biblical beliefs that ought to guide our daily practice, we must recognize the importance of biblically grounded beliefs and evaluate our own. The Savior commissioned the apostles to teach new converts “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus doesn’t want us to conform to an ethic generated by the world and our own creativity. Our standard is what is laid down in Scripture, not what we fancy or what the world affirms:

 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

 

Life change begins in our minds. Scripture reveals to us the beliefs we should profess.

 

The second step is equally significant. It is no easy task to practice what we believe, because the world operates by different standards. In addition, practicing biblical beliefs in the midst of a fluid and complex world is enormously challenging. Often, our biblical beliefs don’t adequately permeate our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors in the course of a day. What we really value at any moment is expressed not exclusively by the beliefs we affirm but also by how we react or respond to our life events, role models, and cultural background —by the strategies we use to cope with life as a whole. We usually live by a mixture of principles acquired from sermons, Bible study, and fellowship, along with approaches we’ve acquired from what the Bible calls “the world” and “the flesh.”

 

Our past life experience and our culture often hinder us from practicing our beliefs more fully. For example, even though a believer may intellectually understand that God is faithful, if he never experienced consistent care and protection from his own father, he may operate as if God is not trustworthy to provide for his basic needs. Instead of trusting God during a financial crisis, he may react to the crisis with overwhelming anxiety and decide to compromise his Christian business ethics.

No matter how biblically accurate our beliefs are, head knowledge alone cannot make us holy, because our hearts still hold to the patterns of the flesh (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:14-23; James 1:15; 1 John 1:8). Even though we know we are utterly dependent upon God for life, we all try to manage our lives independently of God at some times and to varying degrees. To understand more deeply why we fail to live by our beliefs, in the next session we will look at the biblical concept of the flesh.

 

Lest we become too discouraged by the gap between our beliefs and practice, we should celebrate our progress with Christ thus far. By evaluating our past attempts at life change, we can better understand how we help and hinder God’s sanctifying work in our lives.

The fulfilled Christian life isn’t a myth, it can be done, there are no real secrets, just honest sweat and toil.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Betty C; she’s the first person I’ve ever met that’s afraid of rain. The weather forecast rules her life. She wants to get over this.