cuts like a knife

September 7, 2017

I was asked to do some counseling at a major college today, and do a group therapy session and then presentation to an auditorium full of young girls. The reason, cutting and self mutilation has become epidemic on the campus.

For the most part, she’s like any other teenage kid. Sometimes brash, sometimes sweet; sometimes mature, sometimes childlike; sometimes carefree, sometimes melancholy. It’s those melancholy times that set her apart. She carves her pain into her arms with a razor blade, or burns it into her flesh with a lighter.

She’s not alone.  As its publicity grows through movies, TV shows, books and music, so do the number of teens (and preteens) who try it.  CNN now reports that 1 in 5 teens have intentionally harmed themselves at least once. Many try it initially because it’s trendy (especially in goth and emo subcultures), but move on.

A portion continue the behavior as stress management or punishment or because of the addictive high they get.

Most of the habitual self-injurers are girls. Many of them are high achievers, have eating disorders, and/or have been abused. Most feel high levels of pressure, stress or expectations. The most prevalent self-mutilation is cutting, but behaviors like burning, choking, and throwing oneself down stairs aren’t uncommon. Though violent, self-injury is not a suicide attempt.

Unfortunately, because awareness of the behavior is so new, medical and mental health professionals often don’t know what to do with these patients. Parents bring their kids to a professional for hope, but end up even more discouraged when that expert tells them she or he can’t help their child. Think of it as the early days of AIDS. Most doctors were as confused as anyone else. It’s the same here. Most organizations specializing in cutting, self-injury and self-mutilation are created by laypeople directly affected by the problem. The medical community has pockets of advancement, but they’re slow in coming.

Behavior to watch for includes trouble dealing with stress, has an eating disorder, covers their arms or legs in all weather (wearing long-sleeved shirts, wide bracelets or sweatbands on their wrists, avoids swimming, etc) and explains away injuries.

If someone you know is a self-injurer, getting specialized help quickly is key. Find experts who deal specifically with this problem. They may need to be removed from people and media that encourage the behavior. They will also need your prayer support, unconditional love and a shame-free safe environment. For most habitual self-injurers, the problem won’t go away on it’s own. Our kids are under attack, and they need people to stand up and rescue them.

you need to check your kids social networks on a regular basis. Put a software program on your computer that will track and also keep them from web sites that can promote this behavior.

Don’t be shocked, Girls as young as nine years old are being pressured to have sex. I’m just going to be blunt here, let your young girl dress like a slut at age 7 and up and you are putting them at risk. Seriously,  get rid of your TV. no computer in the bedroom, have a community computer in the kitchen or dining room. Put locks on your kids bedroom windows to keep them from sneaking out. Put tracking programs on their cellphones.

It’s 1984 and your Big Brother. don’t be naive, talk to your kids everyday, about every topic in the world so they will talk to you about anything and everything.

Don’t put your head in the sand. My daughter was raped at church camp, cutting became her way of dealing with it. It’s taken 30 years for her to deal with it and be a healthy young woman physically, mentally and spiritually.

if you feel your in over your head get help.

God Bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

lasso that horse, partner

September 2, 2017

the Bible never says that the way to deal with lust is to pray about it. It commands me to flee (1 Cor. 6:18). It says that I should cleanse myself from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). It commands me to walk in the Spirit so that I won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). Pray, yes! But don’t just pray: Obey!

God puts the active responsibility for obedience in sexual purity on me. Somehow we’ve gotten the mixed‑up idea that actively to deny lust in obedience to the Lord involves the flesh. So we pray for deliverance and go on disobeying as if we can’t help it until that magic moment happens. But Paul never says, “Let go and let God give you victory over lust.” He says, “Run!” He says that the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:11‑12). I need to do it and can do it! Otherwise, God wouldn’t command me to do it.

Part of fleeing is guarding myself in advance. I used to play games with this. I would go into a store to look at the news magazines (so I told myself). After a few minutes of doing that, I would find myself thumbing through Playboy or Penthouse, which were always conveniently nearby. (“How could I help it, Lord?”) But now I avoid stores where I could be tempted to browse through sexually explicit magazines. The man in Proverbs 7 wouldn’t have wound up in bed with the loose woman if he hadn’t first gone near the corner where she lived (see Prov. 7:8).

I’ve heard Christian speakers say that one way to guard against sexual sin is to be satisfied with your wife. It’s true that being sexually satisfied with her helps me not to be lured by lust for others. But I’m uncomfortable with the approach which puts the focus on my needs rather than on my responsibility.

My responsibility as a Christian husband is not to satisfy myself, but to satisfy my wife. I’ve found that my sexual satisfaction is the result of seeking to meet her needs on every level—spiritual, emotional, and physical. When I focus on that, she responds and my sexual needs are met.

A lot of men are sexually frustrated in their marriages because they approach sex to meet their own needs. Jesus’ words about seeking your life and losing it and losing your life to find it (Mark 8:35) apply to sex in marriage. If I approach my wife to satisfy my needs, neither of us feels fulfilled. But if I work at pleasing her, then I’m deeply satisfied. The best sexual times for me are when my wife is pleased.

I’ve had to tear down my sexual expectations which were built from Hollywood and Playboy and rebuild them from Scripture. The world promotes my needs above all else. It knows nothing of the self‑sacrifice which our Lord taught. Many Christians have unwittingly bought into this philosophy: “If my wife can’t meet my sexual needs, then I’ll have to meet them some other way. But my needs must be met.” But the Lord’s way is that I am to love my wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church. The blessed irony is that when I work at that, my needs are abundantly met. I can honestly say with gusto, “They have been!”

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “War is a terrible thing. But if you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to get into it all the way.” That’s true in the war against lust. You won’t win by being halfway into it. But if you’ll get into the battle all the way—God’s way, using His strategy—you can win!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

coming home?

August 9, 2017

Backsliding is the process by which a believer falls back into former patterns of sin or reverts back to the habits and way of life they had before they became a Christian. While all Christians are sinners, not all Christians are backsliders. A backslidden Christian is one whose communion with Christ is waning and whose faith is weakening.

 What should a believer do if they find they are backsliding? John gives us a clue in his admonition to the church of Ephesus: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev 2:5). In this we find a three-part cure for the condition of backsliding:

  1. Acknowledge the problem and determine “how far you have fallen.” Backsliding is accompanied by a lack of communion with God and fellowship with other believers, so you can likely determine when the problem started by identifying when you last engaged in spiritual formation activities. Make a list that includes the last time you prayed (or prayed regularly), read the Bible and attended church. Next, examine the list and consider how you’ve changed since you began neglecting or stopped engaging in those spiritual disciplines.

  2. “Repent.” Repentance literally means a “change of mind.” It’s not about changing our intentions or beliefs, but rather it’s about changing from sinning to obeying God. To stop backsliding, take steps not only to stop your fall but also to get back on the right path of obedience to God.

  3. “Do the things you did at first.” What actions did you take when you were being faithful to God? What activities were you engaged in when you were leaning on the strength of God rather than on your own strength? Remembering what you did before can help you see what you must start doing once again.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son, far from home, far from sanity, his father was looking for him to come home. God wants you to come home.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Becky C, had a major fall today while wallpapering, fell of the step ladder on to a coffee table, was home alone for 4 hours before someone found her.

Larsen K, his grandmother passed today, 102 years old, singing today with the choir in heaven. Was saved when she was 9 years old

Kyle L, raised in a Christian home, good parents, went totally over to the darkside, now everyone is hoping he hit rock bottom and will start coming up. Drugs, booze, other things we won’t mention, pray someone reaches out to him.

Peggy N, 69 years young, looks like she is 45, and dementia is beginning. Keep her and her family in prayer.

 

Quack

August 1, 2017

Image result for picture of a rubber duck

 

Carl Hoefler (Will Daylight Come? [C. C. S. Publishing, 1979]) tells the story of a little boy who was visiting his grandparents. He was given his first slingshot and was having fun playing with it in the woods, but he never hit anything he was aiming at. But on his way home, as he cut through the back yard, he saw Grandmother’s pet duck. He took aim and let the stone fly. To his horror, it went straight to the mark and the duck fell dead.

The boy panicked. He quickly hid the dead duck in the woodpile. Then he saw his smirking sister Sally standing by the corner of the house. She had seen the whole affair.

They went in for lunch. Sally said nothing. After lunch, Grandmother said, “Sally, let’s clear the table and wash the dishes.” Sally said, “Oh, Grandmother, Johnny said he wanted to help you in the kitchen today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later in the day Grandfather called the children to go fishing. Grandmother said, “I’m sorry, but Sally has to stay here to help me clean house and get dinner.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all been taken care of. Johnny said he wanted to help today, didn’t you, Johnny?” Then she whispered, “Remember the duck!”

This went on for several days. Johnny did all the chores, both his and those assigned to Sally. Finally, he could stand it no longer, so he went to his grandmother and confessed all. His grandmother took him in her arms and said, “I know, Johnny. I was standing at the kitchen window and saw the whole thing. And because I love you, I forgave you. And knowing that I loved you and would always forgive you, I wondered just how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Guilt makes slaves of us all. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they tried in vain to hide from God. Guilt makes us want to hide from His holy presence. It also alienates us from one another. We’re afraid that if others find out what we have done, they will either reject us or use the information to hold us hostage. “Remember the duck!” Because we all have sinned and because God knows all of our sins, even our secret sins, what we all desperately need is the supreme blessing of God’s forgiveness.

Sometimes we feel like God hasn’t forgiven us. We “remember the duck” way to often. We need to remember how great the forgiveness given to us by God. I can explain it, but not really understand, somehow the very sin I’m going to do on Friday, God has already forgiven me.

Yet, I won’t forgive myself, I won’t say it out loud, but am I greater than God? Impossible, yet if I don’t forgive myself that’s exactly what I’ve done. Set myself up to be greater than God and have made myself into an idol, a false god. Jeez, get a grip you say, but think about it and that’s exactly what you’ve done.

Often it’s harder to forgive yourself when there are consequences from your sin, like you lost your virginity and you’re the pastor’s daughter, the abortion or pregnant, or jail or prison or the tattoo you wish 40 years later you never got. So, we carry the proof of our sin with us visible to all, or we harbor mental guilt.

Relief is sometime easy to find if only we let ourselves forgive. There is some part of our lizard brain that needs a ritual in order to help release mental anguish. There are healthy ways and unhealthy ways. I still don’t know why to this day the Saints of God still will go down the wrong path faster than the right path. (I guess that is why we are called sheep).

So here are just a few suggestions to get you going.

One confess to a pastor or priest,

Two, go to an anonymous meeting, AA or SA or some other group,

Three, go out of town and confess to a different pastor

Four, now that you did that confess at home

Five, write down on paper and then burn it and say out loud it’s gone.

Six, write it on a helium filled balloon and let go.

Seven, tell yourself God forgave you, write it down in your bible with the date and every time you feel guilty, look in your bible and see the date and time and realize you are forgiven. (this is my favorite of all).

So let go of the duck.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

WILD FIRE

May 23, 2017

James 3:1-12

James has gone from preaching to meddling! He has just made it clear that genuine faith works. If God has changed your heart through the new birth, the saving faith that He granted to you will inevitably show itself in a life of good deeds. But now he moves from the generality of good deeds to the specifics of the words that you speak. Genuine faith yields to Christ’s lordship over your tongue. With David (Ps. 141:3), all true believers will pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” While the monster may never be totally tamed, if you know Christ as Savior, you are engaged in the ongoing battle to tame the terrible tongue.

In building his case that all have sinned, the apostle Paul zeroes in on the sins of the tongue (Rom. 3:13-14):

“Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness….”

It would be nice if conversion resulted in a total makeover of the mouth, but it is not so! Although we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we also carry around with us the old nature or the flesh, which wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The tongue is one of the major battlegrounds in the war. To become godly people, we must wage war daily on this front.

James is a savvy pastor who knows that we won’t gear up for the battle and face our own sins of the tongue unless we recognize the magnitude of the problem. We all tend to justify ourselves by pointing to others who are notoriously bad. In comparison with how they talk, I’m doing okay. But James comes in with vivid illustrations to open our eyes to just how serious our problem is. It’s interesting that he never gives any advice on how to control the tongue. He just leaves you reeling from his portrait of how huge this problem is. He’s saying,

To tame the terrible tongue, we must recognize the tremendous magnitude of the battle that we face.

It’s difficult to outline this section, but we can organize it under four truths that we must recognize to tame our terrible tongues:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that we will be held accountable for what we say (3:1-2).

Apparently the churches to which James was writing had too many men who were self-appointed teachers. In the Jewish synagogues, rabbis were highly respected and the office was often one that parents coveted for their sons. It was proper to respect the rabbis because of the sacred Scriptures that they expounded, but it was wrong to give men the honor that God alone deserves. Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders on this account (Matt. 23:6-11):

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.”

There’s a certain inherent prestige in becoming a teacher. Presumably, you know more than those that you teach, which means that in some way they should look up to you. Because of this, there is the built-in danger that some will take upon themselves the office of Bible teacher for the wrong reasons, or that those who took the position for the right reason later will fall into pride. If a man goes into teaching the Bible because of a secret desire for status or recognition, he is doing it for self and not for the Lord.

Because of the Matthew 23 passage, for many years I was uncomfortable with people addressing me as “Pastor.” Why not call me by my name, like everyone else? While I’ve grown accustomed enough to the title now that I don’t ask everyone to call me by my name, I hope that if they call me Pastor, they are respecting the office. But I’m also quite comfortable with being called Steve! I’m only a member of Christ’s body whom He called to shepherd His flock and teach His Word. Christ is the Leader!

James’ point is that a man should not take on the role of teacher unless God has called him to it, because teachers will incur a stricter judgment. We who teach God’s Word will be more accountable, because our words affect more people. Any time that we teach, we should keep in mind the serious fact that we will stand before the Lord to give an account!

Verse 2 further explains verse 1 (“For”). James includes himself when he says, “For we all stumble in many ways.” We’re all prone to sin! One popular author and Bible teacher emphasizes that we should not view ourselves as sinners, but as saints who occasionally sin. Well, by God’s grace I’m a saint, but I’m a saint who stumbles in many ways, not just occasionally!

James then zeroes in on the tongue, saying, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Perfect does not mean sinlessly perfect, but rather, mature. We can never achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we can grow to spiritual maturity. One important gauge of that is our speech.

One way to tame the tongue is to recognize that we all will be held accountable for our speech. Jesus said (Matt. 12:36-37), “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Jesus was not teaching justification by works. But, like James, He was teaching that our works reveal whether our faith is genuine faith. Our words either validate that we are true believers or reveal that we do not know God. If we sin with our speech, we need to ask God’s forgiveness and also the forgiveness of the one we sinned against. Genuine believers have this sense of being accountable for their speech.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize its power for good or for evil (3:3-5a).

James uses two analogies here to make the point that the tongue is small, but mighty: the bit and the rudder. A bit is a relatively small instrument, but when you put it into a horse’s mouth, you can control the entire horse. The same thing is true of a ship’s rudder. It is relatively small compared to the size of the ship, but with his hand on the wheel or tiller, the pilot can steer a mammoth ship, even in a strong wind.

James’ point of comparison is not so much the matter of control (the tongue does not really control the body), but of the inordinate influence of such a small part (3:5a): “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.” James is saying, “Don’t underestimate the power of the tongue, because if you do, you won’t be able to tame it.” There may be a comparison in the sense of influencing direction. If you control your tongue, it can direct your whole life into what is acceptable in God’s sight. If you don’t control your tongue, it will get you into great trouble!

Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces to direct the horse and the ship. A horse is a powerful animal that can do much useful work, but only if it can be directed. A ship is a useful means of transporting cargo or people, but if the rudder is broken, it will be at the mercy of the wind and waves, and could result in a shipwreck causing the loss of life and cargo. To work properly and accomplish good things, both bit and rudder must be under the control of a strong hand that knows how to use them properly. In the same way, the tongue must overcome the contrary force of the flesh and be under God’s wise control if it is to accomplish anything good.

James would vigorously disagree with the familiar children’s taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” James is steeped in the Old Testament, and it (especially the Book of Proverbs) has much to say about the power of the tongue, either for good or for evil. Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Imagine that all of us here today were carrying into church an unsheathed, razor-sharp, two-edged sword. It would be a miracle if we got through the morning without anyone getting cut! The fact is, we all have a razor-sharp, two-edged sword—in our mouths! We should use them with the greatest care to bring healing, not injury.

Proverbs has many other references to the tongue. For example (16:24), “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” If we all would read Proverbs frequently and pay attention to its wisdom, we would be a source of sweetness and healing in our homes and our church!

So James wants us to recognize that we will be held accountable for how we use our tongues, especially those of us who teach God’s Word. He wants us to recognize the inordinate power of the tongue, either for good or for evil, so that we use it carefully.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that it is a humanly untamable source of terrible evil (3:5b-8).

James uses two more word pictures for comparison and contrast: a forest fire and tamed animals. Living here in Flagstaff in the midst of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, we are very much aware of the potential danger and damage of forest fires. All it takes is one tossed cigarette or one campfire that is not totally extinguished and thousands of acres of beautiful forest can be destroyed. Under control, fire is useful; out of control, it is frightening and devastating!

In verse 6, James states directly, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” Scholars debate as to how to translate and punctuate that verse, but however it is done, the point is clear: the tongue is a deadly, powerful source of evil that taints every part of our being. If we do not use our tongues with great caution, we are like spiritual arsonists, lighting careless fires that cause widespread destruction.

James says that the one who is careless with his tongue is the first to be defiled. An unchecked tongue is “the very world of iniquity,” that “defiles the entire body.” This goes back to James 1:26-27, where he said that true religion requires bridling the tongue and keeping oneself unstained by the world. “The sense is simply that since speech is the hardest faculty to control it is there that one first observes ‘the world’ in a person’s heart” (Peter Davids, New International Greek Testament Commentary on James [Eerdmans], p.142). Like a spark that lights a bigger fire, it not only defiles us, but also it “sets on fire the course of our life.” If you have a careless tongue it damages your entire life!

Then James goes one step further and identifies the ultimate source of the problem, “and is set on fire by hell.” Hell translates the Greek gehenna, which is a transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, was where the Jewish worshipers of Molech burned their children as sacrifices to appease this pagan idol (Jer. 32:35). It later became a place to burn trash. The only other New Testament use is by Jesus (11 times) to refer to the place of eternal torment. James means that an evil tongue is set on fire by Satan himself.

Most Christians would shrink back from sins like homosexuality, molesting children, or murder as being satanically depraved. Yet we tolerate gossip, slander, deceit, half-truths, sarcastic put-downs, and other sins of the tongue as if they were no big deal. James says that all such sins have their origin in the pit of hell. They defile the one committing them. They destroy others. As a believer in Christ, you must confront these sins in yourself and you must be bold enough to confront them in others.

James goes on to use an analogy from the animal world. If you’ve been to Sea World, you’ve seen trained whales, dolphins, and seals. At the circus, you’ve seen trained elephants, lions, and tigers. But James says that there is one beast that cannot be tamed: the human tongue! He adds, “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Being restless means there is never a time when it sleeps. You must always be on guard against it. Being full of deadly poison, you should handle it as cautiously as you would a vial of anthrax.

James does not say that the tongue is untamable. He says that no one can tame it. It is humanly untamable. Only God can tame it. James does not state that because he wants us to get a clear view of the horrible monster that we must do battle with. When the Holy Spirit controls your heart on a daily basis, over time the fruit of the Spirit will appear. These include love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, which all relate to the control of the tongue. To tame this terrible tongue, you must daily walk in the Spirit, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Ultimately, an evil tongue is the tool of an evil heart. That is James’ final point:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that its inconsistencies are rooted in its source (3:9-12).

James points out a gross inconsistency that he no doubt had observed. Christians say, “Praise the Lord” in one breath, and in the next breath they say evil things about another person, made in the likeness of God. They sit in church singing hymns to God and no sooner get out the door than they whisper, “Did you see so-and-so? She makes me sick! She’s such a hypocrite. Why do you know what she did?” Etc., etc. James gets very direct (3:10b): “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Then he points out that what often happens among Christians is contrary to all of nature. The same spring does not send out fresh water one minute and bitter water the next. He asks rhetorically (3:12), “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.”

His point is the same as that of Jesus (Matt. 12:34), “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Jesus also said (Matt. 15:18), “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” The mouth is simply the opening that vents whatever is in the heart. If there’s raw sewage in the heart, there will be raw sewage gushing from the mouth! That’s why Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Have you ever thought about how terribly embarrassing life would be if there were a direct open line between your thoughts and your mouth, so that you blurted out loud whatever you were thinking? Instead of your polite, “I’m pleased to meet you,” out comes, “I couldn’t care less about meeting you!” After listening to someone drone on about something, instead of, “Yes, that’s very interesting,” you blurt out, “How can I get away from this bore?”

I’m not suggesting that we should abandon politeness and become brutally blunt. I’m only pointing out that even if you control your tongue, you often have a heart problem. If you want to tame the terrible tongue, the place to start is with your heart. Work daily at taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:18). Renew your mind by memorizing Scripture (Rom. 12:1-2; Ps. 119:11). Memorize James 1:19-20: “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Memorize Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome [lit., rotten] word proceed from you mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

BUT GOD!

May 19, 2017

Isaiah 55:1-3

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Compassion of the Lord

55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

55:1, 2 In ch. 55 the Lord issues a general call to all who would call themselves by His name, to abandon the Babylons of this world and to find their satisfaction and their security in Him alone, and in that city of joy and peace that He will build. This passage is a call to revival for all who have wandered far from the Lord or from that grace which is the basis for our relationship with Him.

The human condition, we chase after things that won’t satisfy, that don’t bring any lasting satisfaction.

 

 

I remembering counseling a guy one time that was dealing with sexual addiction. The reason he came in was he just had fulfilled his ultimate sex fantasy, and as he was leaving the apartment where this act had taken place he understood that in 10 minutes he was wondering what he would do to top that, and all of a sudden he realized the lust was still there; it hadn’t been satisfied at all.

Sin is like that, lust of the flesh, the eyes, the mind; drugs, booze, sex, shopping; it never ends.

 

But God.

 

One of the greatest sermons in the bible; “But God.”

 

Only He can give us satisfaction, rest, peace, and end to self-destruction.

Come all that are weary, and He will give you rest.

 

The first move is up to us, come, seek, then He does His part.

 

It’s your move

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Pray for all those searching for a good church home

 

Only God can give real happiness and lasting joy, everything else is artificial.

 

NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR. TOUGH NUGGIES.

One of the most popular ideas to emerge in Christian circles is that we all need to build and maintain proper self-esteem. Dozens of best-selling Christian books are laced with this theme. It is frequently mentioned in sermons and on Christian radio shows. It is a fundamental assumption underlying most Christian counseling. For example, one well-known Christian treatment program, endorsed by top Christian leaders, states in a promotional brochure, “Part of [this program’s] success is found in the unique ability to target and resolve problems of low self-esteem. At the core of all emotional problems and addictive disorders is low self-worth. It is never the only problem; but it is so major an issue that, if not dealt with adequately, one is kept from experiencing lasting, positive results.”

An article by a Christian psychologist on the problem of pastors who commit adultery stated that one reason pastors fall into sexual sin is low self-esteem. If they would just love themselves properly, they wouldn’t have a need to find “love” from another woman. Another article asserts that low self-esteem is a major factor behind homosexual behavior. A popular Christian author even used the story of Lee Harvey Oswald to illustrate how low self-esteem led this man to shoot President Kennedy!

The question Christians need to ask is, does the Bible teach this? Does it teach that we need to build our self-esteem? Those who say yes usually support it with the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). They say that you must properly love yourself in order to love your neighbor. But that is not the meaning of the verse. It assumes that we all love ourselves just fine, thank you. If we would show the same regard for others that we do in fact show for ourselves, we would be loving them as God commands. Even those who go around dumping on themselves don’t need to focus on loving themselves. Their problem is precisely that they are too self-focused. They need to consider the needs of others ahead of themselves. The mark of biblical love is self-sacrifice, not self-esteem (see Eph. 5:25).

Even in the case of a suicidal person, the problem is not that he does not love himself. Rather, he loves himself more than he loves anyone else. He is not considering what his death will do to family or friends. He is only considering himself: he is in pain and he wants out of his pain.

Consider the adulterous pastor. He was esteeming himself above everyone else. He certainly was not esteeming God or he would not have dragged His name through the mud by committing adultery. Nor was he loving and esteeming his wife, his children, or the woman he defiled. He was esteeming his “needs” above all else.

The Bible teaches that love of self is at the root of all our sins. It warns that “in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2). This is followed by a list of terrible sins. You can’t find a single command in the Bible that even hints that we need to esteem and love ourselves more than we do. To the contrary, Jesus explicitly said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Many Bible verses tell us to humble ourselves and not to think too highly of ourselves (see James 4:6-10; 1 Pet. 5:5-6; Rom. 12:3), but none tell us to focus on how wonderful or worthy we are. In fact, God operates on the principle of grace, and grace is for the unworthy, not for the worthy.

In his devotional classic, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law writes of the “monstrous and shameful nature of sin” and then asks rhetorically, “Shall we presume to take delight in our worth, we who are not worthy so much as to ask pardon for our sins without the mediation and intercession of the Son of God?” (Westminster Press, pp. 106-107).

My analysis is that most American church-goers need to grow in a sense of their unworthiness, not their supposed worthiness. They need to see what the old Puritan writers called “the exceeding sinfulness of sin.” Then perhaps we would see how much we need the Savior. Being forgiven much, we would love much.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

FIX OUR MISTAKES

January 11, 2017

How to Fix a Bad Decision

The first step is to answer the following question:

Was this bad decision a morally bad decision (right vs. wrong), or was it just a stupid bad decision? The way you deal with the bad decision will vary depending on your answer to that important question.

How to Fix a Morally-Bad Decision

1)   Confess it to God.

1 John 1:9

The first step to fixing a sinful mistake is to confess it directly to God. By “confess,” I mean that you should agee with God about how bad it was and ask Him to forgive you for what you did. Amazingly, once we confess our sins to God, He will cast them as far as the east is from the west, and He will remember them no more.

2)   Stop doing that bad thing.

Proverbs 28:13

It’s one thing to confess your sin, and it is another thing to forsake your sin. You must do everything you can to turn away from that sin. This begins with an utter commitment to do whatever it takes to change.

3)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about that issue in the Scriptures.

Joshua 1:8

It is absolutely essential that you learn everything you can about what God has to say about that sinful mistake you have made. When you learn His thoughts, you will begin to pave a path away from that sin and toward restoration. But you just can’t wing it. You must study the Scriptures to know God’s heart on that issue.

4)   Ask for forgiveness from any who were hurt because of your bad decision.

Matthew 5:23-24

When we sin, we often hurt others. Sometimes we don’t even realize how badly we’ve hurt others while we are in the midst of the sin. So, take time to look around and take an honest look at what harm you may have caused others. Then, go to those you have hurt and apologize and do whatever you can to fix that hurt. You may not be able to fix it completely, and they may not even forgive you. But you need to do all that is within your power to make it right.

5)   Set up guardrails in your life that will help you keep from doing that again.

Proverbs 27:12

Proverbs 26:11

We all have sinful desires, and so we must establish guardrails that will keep us from careening off the road spiritually and wiping out in sin. If you struggle with Internet sin, then enlist an accountability partner who can monitor your online activity. If you struggle with anger, then enlist an accountability partner (a godly friend) who will lean into you to help you do right and correct you when you do wrong. Set up boundaries that will make it impossible for you to do that wrong thing even if you wanted to do that.

6)   Seek godly counsel for solutions in getting back on track.

Proverbs 11:14

We all need people to speak into our lives to give us a fresh perspective on how to fix our problems. None of us can solve all of our own problems alone. When you find godly advisors who can help to guide you, you will be amazed at how great of ideas they can come up with at times that will help you to find victory. They will see things that you cannot see yourself. It’s sort of like you’re walking around with a “kick-me” sign on your back. Others can see it, but you cannot. A godly counselor can help to remove it from your back.

7)   Surround yourself with a godly support system that will help you to do right.

Hebrews 3:13

In addition to one or two close advisors, you need a whole network of Christian friends who can help you to do right in your life. And the best places to find these close friends will be at church, small group Bible studies, and when you get involved in ministry. These relationships will make a huge difference in strengthening you and helping you to stay on the right path.

8)   Make a long-term commitment to change.

Matthew 16:24-26

To change, you must be committed to the long term. Plenty of people get into trouble in their lives and show up at church to find a “quick fix.” But then you often see those people fade away after just a few weeks or months. They return to the same old paths of sin that got them into trouble in the first place. So, up front, you must understand that this is a long-term commitment, and you must be committed to changing over the long haul. The Christian life is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

But what if the bad decision you made was not necessarily sinful, but it was just stupid?

How to Fix a Stupid Decision:

1)   Take full responsibility.

Proverbs 28:13

If you made a mistake, own it. Don’t explain it away, minimize it, or shift the blame to others. Just admit that you blew it, and take full responsibility. If you fail to own it, then others will question your integrity, and your problems will mount. It takes guts and true character to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

2)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about this specific issue.

Joshua 1:8

The principles of God’s Word are miraculously able to help you navigate the paths of life, so take advantage of that treasure trove of wisdom. Saturate you mind with God’s very own thoughts. Allow His thoughts to become your thoughts. The principles of God’s Word will guide you in getting things back on track.

3)   Work to understand fully what it was that went wrong.

Proverbs 10:23

It’s one thing to make a mistake. And it’s another thing to make the same mistake over and over and over, week after week after week. To stop the cycle, you must take time to stop, evaluate your situation, and figure out what it was that went wrong. Do everything you can to gain knowledge and understanding that will prevent you from making the same mistake repeatedly.

4)   Stop doing the stupid thing (if possible).

Proverbs 26:11

It may seem odd to have to actually make this point, but… you need to stop doing that thing that has gotten you into trouble. The reason I’m making this point is that I have counseled with too many people to count over the years who have recognized that they’ve made a bad decision, but then they go on to do it over and over again. So, stop doing that stupid thing. This means making a COMMITMENT to putting it to an end. You’ve got to want to stop it so badly that you will do whatever is required of you to forge a new path. Make that commitment right now!

5)   Ask for forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt by your bad decision.

Matthew 16:24-26

Even though your bad choice may not have been sinful, it still may have been hurtful to others. If so, do what you can to rebuild those relationships. Humbly take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Don’t add any qualifiers to your apology. In other words, don’t say, “I’m sorry I did that, but….” Just apologize and ask them to forgive you for blowing it.

6)   Do whatever you can to offer restitution to anyone you have hurt by your bad decision.

Exodus 22

The Bible speaks of confession and forgiveness, but it also speaks much of restitution. If your mistake has caused a loss for others, then it is your responsibility to repay that loss. And if the loss is not a clearly tangible loss that can be quantified, you need to do whatever you can to fix the problem you have caused. This is difficult at times, but it is the right thing to do. And God will bless you greatly when you pay restitution to those you have harmed.

7)   Seek wise counsel to help you formulate a solid solution. (Formulate a “board of directors” for your life.)

Proverbs 11:14

1 Corinthians 15:33

I highly recommend that you find several godly advisors who will sort of act like a “board of directors” for your life.  No, you probably won’t conduct annual meetings or hold votes, but these advisors will be your go-to people when you need input for making decisions and resolving problems. These godly friends can help you to make good decisions and help you to resolve problems that arise when you make bad decisions.

8)   Create a plan for getting yourself back on track with where you should be.

Proverbs 21:31

Proverbs 16:9

Now it is important to prayerfully establish a plan to get yourself back on track, and then allow God to lead you each step of the way as you move forward within that plan. Determine what the best potential outcome can be considering the circumstances, and then think through the specific steps you will need to take to get to that preferred outcome. Write out those steps, and then assign deadlines for when you plan to complete those steps. Once you have your plan in place, share it with your closest advisors (someone you are accountable to). They can help you greatly by giving you additional input and by holding you accountable to sticking to your plan.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

BAH HUMBUG STRIKES

December 19, 2016

bad santa

I thought this was the year I wouldn’t write this, but today it hit me, my wife saw it on my face like I had wrote it on my forehead, she started making up Christmas songs with nonsense verses to make me laugh, a few minutes and it passed. Whew!

But for those who suffer in the holidays, know it can get better, but don’t suffer in silence, share with someone.

It time for my annual Christmas story, the reason it’s an annual story is from Thanksgiving until about March, I suffer from seasonal affect disorder (SAD) winter depression. The worst part about it is the feeling of not being connected to anyone or anything. I have one word in my vocabulary, actually it’s two, “I quit”, but I get through it and some years are worse than others. Its Christmas time, and I hate the songs, and I hate the sentiments, and the best thing for me is to keep my mouth shut. Here is my version of a Christmas Carol.

Our trip to cut down a Christmas tree starts out as a normal family time. Everyone in the car, my sister and I hoping and praying for a pleasant day. “One stop at MacDonald’s Bar and Grill for a quick one. You guys sit tight,” Dad says.

And a few hours later a neighbor or a state cops comes by and takes you home.

Its three days before Christmas and there’s a knock on the door. In come three giants in police uniform. They set up the tree that you never got and decorate it, and they put down the toys and candies and bring in bags of groceries because somehow they know you have been eating nothing but cheerios and spam. You can’t believe someone cares, and as they leave, they tousle your hair, saying “Be the man, hold it together.”

It’s Christmas Eve, and you and your sister huddle in bed without any visions of sugarplums in your head. All you can hear are the sound of your drunken father, shooting his gun in the air, laughing and saying, “That fat SOB isn’t stopping here tonight so get your asses to bed.”

Christmas morning dawns, and you race down the stairs. But there’s no Christmas tree, no toys, no decorations. Nothing is said, but you and your sister are packed up to grandma’s house, where you can get a semblance of Christmas, where you can feel safe and can be a child again.

The Christmas tree is sold with all the toys and decorations right there in your home. Maybe it’s because your father owes someone money, or maybe it’s just because he thinks it’s funny.

Oh, but everyone has to love Christmas.   Not me!

I never shot the gun into the air. I never sold the goods out from under your nose. I never got drunk and laid in a stupor for the holidays.

I just bitch about everything.   Why do I have to do it? Why ask me to participate? Oh, well, the martyr syndrome kicks in, and I say just get it over with. I create the tension, I crate the threats, and it’s me who hates Christmas.

I am fully saved. I am fully justified and sanctified. But I can’t get through the depression that falls upon me. It hovers all year and descends in full force at Thanksgiving time.

Ho, Ho, Ho. I can’t do it. My first full time position as an associate pastor, I try to play the Christmas Pastor.   I reach the point of thinking if I hear another Christmas carol or poem or get invited to another church Christmas party I’m going to puke.

It can’t be hidden. Finally I get called into the office two days before New Year’s Eve and asked what’s wrong with me. Must be a “seasonal effect disorder.”

And so in a wind blown field, all is lost, all is gone; the holidays have robbed me of everything. No one can love me, no one comes near, they are afraid of the anger, the tempest. The depression is black, the Gallic curse is full blown, and a berserker mentality is taking root. A siege engine is gripping my thoughts.   Why surrender? Why strive? Give up, give in, stop fighting.  Give it up!

The lies and seduction call you to rest. The serpent is whispering, “Pull the trigger, stop fighting, you’ve lost. There is no shame, it’s the family curse.”

And the hammer starts to fall, and the laughter gets louder. Everything slows to a crawl.

“Does He matter more than this, a voice whispers, God still speaks

You fall to your knees, and weep, tears freeze on your face.   You think all is lost, all is gone, never to regain.

I live through Christmas. The trigger is not pulled. I know by March all will be well, and winter will be gone. Easter will come and the depression that has been with me most of the year, the weight like going down the mine, crushing, suffocating, the blackness, rage, and desperation will disappear for awhile.

And the epiphany always comes. Christ Precious. “Is Christ precious to you?” It’s more than saying you love Him. It’s more than calling him Lord. It’s a fact that you must lose all, watch everything crumble, but there is no companion, no possession worth anything more than Christ.

On bended knee the cry escapes my lips, “Take it all, you’ve taken it all, and you are precious. With this and no more I crave, not one thing can be added, and I will say you are most precious to me.

You shout, “Yes, He is more precious, nothing else matters, if all I have is this moment, it is enough, because He is most precious.”

He is most precious, and with His arms of grace about you, you fall asleep. It is lifted.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

And Merry Freak’n Christmas

200514520-004

If you are the victim of domestic violence, get out, get away and get help. It will not get better. I don’t care what they promise, the honeymoon phase always ends and you will get hurt.

Truthfully, I kind of hate to admit this, but the only husbands’ I’ve seen reform is where I took them out and beat them myself. I have had more luck helping men with porn addiction or drugs than violence, they don’t listen, they leave the church and do it somewhere else.

Every year in the US, more than 4 million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners. One in three female homicide victims are murdered by their current or a former partner. Young women, ages 18 to 34, are at greatest risk.

And it’s not happening only outside the church. Domestic violence is rampant in our churches, yet we rarely talk about it. Many people who pass themselves off as good Christians seek to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. In doing so, the abuser betrays the trust that should be inherent in such a close relationship. And he or she has a mentality of entitlement that says, “I’m justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain power and control.”

According to domesticviolence.org, most victims are women (one in four will experience it in her lifetime). But men can be victims, too. And it is worth noting that children in homes where domestic violence happens are more likely to experience abuse and/or neglect, as well (30–60%). Most children in such homes know about the violence. And even if a parent never physically harms them, they suffer emotional harm and experience behavior problems from witnessing it.

The abuse is most likely to happen between 6 PM till 6 AM. And it usually happens at home, though 40% of the time, it takes place elsewhere. Sometimes, but not always, it involves alcohol. In both of the cases described above, there was no alcohol involved.

For victims who leave, the result can be homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, about 1/3 of families in shelters are there due to domestic violence. But many choose to stay in the abusive situation. And most incidents go unreported.

So how can we and our churches help?

  1. Go public. Speak out in public against domestic violence, and encourage pastors to preach on the subject. Periodically include in your church bulletin a domestic abuse hotline phone number as well as contact information for a church member trained to help in cases of abuse.

  1. Teach accurately. Verses interpreted as teaching that a good wife must always bring only honor to her husband (e.g., Prov. 31:12) can keep victims trapped in silence. And misguided teaching about males leading and wives submitting, especially when such teaching presents “lead” as the husband’s verb instead of agape “love” (Eph. 5:25) can reinforce the entitlement mentality. Some reports say abuse is actually higher in traditional churches than in the population at large.

  1. Use your words to bless. The abused person is probably beat down emotionally and mentally, and the lies he or she has heard can creep into the thinking process. Expect victims to have a lot of self-doubt and be paralyzed by fear. The abuser usually wages a mental war that leaves the victim cowering both physically and emotionally. So speak truth. Remind victims of God’s love and their value. Pray with and for them. Promise confidentiality and keep your word. When possible, lead both victim and abuser to get wise counsel.

  1. For the sake of safety, allow divorce as an option. Divorce is not ideal in a healthy relationship—Jesus pointed to the beginning as the ideal. But when hardness of heart makes living unsafe (Mark 10:5), whether emotionally or physically, we do not help victims by making divorce itself the enemy. The marriage is destroyed by the abuse, not the legal document that comes as a result of the abuse. That is not to say divorce is the first course of action; but often a no-divorce policy ends up further victimizing the victims who feel they have no choice but to file.

  1. Most instances of abuse go unreported, so suggest notifying authorities. Encourage the victim to photograph any physical evidence, and report the crime to police. But in the process, avoid giving the impression that only physical abuse counts. Emotional abuse is every bit as damaging.

  1. Believe that abusers can change. (if confronted and not allowed to escape accountability) Abusers are among the captives whom Jesus came to set free (Luke 4:18). Still, have realistic expectations. Most abusers choose not to repent.

  1. Encourage victims that they are under no obligation to stick around till change happens. Nor are they responsible for making change happen.

Proverbs 31:8–9 says to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Part of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) is standing up for those beat down by abuse. The church should be known as a refuge for victims, not a shield for the violent-tempered or manipulative. With God’s help, those of us with influence in the church can help make Christ’ Body a place where the helpless run for solace and find they are finally safe.

Be a safe haven for the victims, rescue them before they are killed or maimed.

Comments, questions, emails or prayer requests to scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com