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

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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

“We have allowed the enemy to come into our churches.

“What happens is we think we can fight the homosexual invasion by smiling and being real nice and loving,”   “We have to understand who the enemy is and what he wants — he wants to devour our homes. He wants to devour this nation.”

“We have to be so careful who we let our kids hang out with,”  “We have to be so careful about who we let into the churches. You have immoral people that have malice and wicked intent who get into the churches and  begin to affect the others in the church and it is dangerous.”

“So, I’m going to encourage you the church to take a stand for Christ,” “To be the a church, to take a stand for righteousness.  And homosexuality is still a sin, you can’t be a practicing homosexual and claim to be a Christian–  we have allowed them into our schools – that’s why I want to get the school boards back — homosexuality is taught to be okay in our universities, and you have all these diversity classes and all these nice names that they come up with promoting and pushing homosexuality.”

“Listen, I’m not here to bash gays, I don’t want to do that – and God does love them. I have people ask me, can a gay person go to Heaven? Absolutely, sure.”

“But the gay person is going to have to repent of their sins and turn from their sins, leave their sins,”  “And they have to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him as their Savior. They have to be willing to follow him as their Lord.”

“But you cannot stay gay and continue to call yourself a Christian,” “You can’t do it.”

“You know, it’s a whole lot broader than just the gay agenda. L-G-B-T. People are militant, intolerant and hate all Christians. When they say people have this inclination and want to fall in love and want to express this in the form of marriage and so on, they have no idea what a Godly marriage is and now want to adopt and spread their anti-god message.

 “L-G-B-T. You know what the B stands for? Bisexual.  That is lots of sex with lots of people.” The average homosexual (age 18- 50) has over 300 different sexual partners in a year. I believe there is a no unhappier person than the homosexual. We have an opportunity to show them the joy of the Lord that a changed life can bring.

Are there Christian churches and Christian people that have handled this all wrong and not been the love of God, yes, but we cannot be ignorant of the peril and accepting the idea that it is an alternate lifestyle. Read the first three chapters of Genesis, God had no plan, ever for this sinful lifestyle. I’ve said this before and it’s not a joke, there was only Adam and Eve and not two Bob’s. God’s plan has always been for a man and a woman to be wed in marriage and that is the basis for the family.

There shouldn’t be one pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder or day care worker or janitor or secretary working in a church that has not gone through a thorough background check.  We have a duty to protect our families and also not cause confusion on where the church stands.

Send your hate mail, questions, comments and prayer requests to scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

And yes,, people can leave this lifestyle and be set free and lead wonderful lives either celibate for the rest of their lives or in a consecrated marriage of one man and one woman.

SCREW YOU TOO!

November 26, 2016

SORRY GIRLS THIS IS JUST FOR MEN; ALTHOUGH YOU MAY WANT TO PASS IT ON.

WOMEN MAY HAVE A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING THIS BUT YOU MAY KNOW SOMEONE IN THIS SITUATION. I’M NOT MAKING EXCUSES BUT THIS IS REALLY MOSTLY A GUY THING; AND I HOPE THIS HELPS SOME GUY OUT THERE.

BECAUSE I GREW UP TO BE A VERY VIOLENT PERSON, I BECAME THE GUY THAT WAS ALWAYS GETTING IN FIGHTS AND I ALWAYS STARTED THEM AND PRETTY MUCH ENDED THEM I THOUGHT VIOLENCE WAS THE ANSWER TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING; I MEAN SCREW DÉTENTE.

NOW I WAS NEVER PHYSICALLY VIOLENT WITH MY FAMILY BUT I ALL TO FREQUENTLY SCARED THEM WITH MY RAGE AND VERBAL OUTBURSTS. EVEN AFTER ACCEPTING JESUS AS MY SAVIOR SOMETIMES THE ANIMAL JUST CAME OUT. I’M NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPENED BUT I DID GET A HANDLE ON IT, AND I WANT TO SHARE WITH ANYONE THAT IS STRUGGLING WITH RAGE, ESPECIALLY IN A FAMILY SETTING TO HELP YOU GET OVER IT.

NOW DON’T DISMISS THIS AS TO SIMPLISTIC BUT IT REALLY CAN HELP. I READ THIS STORY IN READERS DIGEST ABOUT 40 YEARS AGO AND IT WAS A LIGHT BULB MOMENT.

A PLUMBER GOES TO A LADY’S HOUSE TO DO SOME WORK AND ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG DOES, BUT HE DOESN’T LOSE HIS COOL. BUT WHEN LEAVES THE HOUSE TO GO HOME HE LEAVES A WRENCH THERE. THE WOMAN OF THE HOUSE REALIZES THAT HE MIGHT NEED IT AND FOLLOWS HIM HOME TO GIVE HIM THIS WRENCH.

WHEN HE GETS TO HIS HOUSE BEFORE SHE CAN GET OUT OF THE CAR SHE SEES HIM GO UP TO A TREE IN HIS YARD AND HE STARTS PULLING INVISIBLE THINGS OUT OF HIS POCKET AND TIES THEM TO THE TREE; AND SHE’S THINKING ‘GREAT I’VE JUST HAD A PSYCHO IN MY HOUSE’.

THEN JUST BEFORE HE GOES INTO THE HOUSE HE KIND OF GIVES HIMSELF A SHAKE LIKE A DOG DOES AND GOES IN THE HOUSE.

WELL SHE’S FASCINATED AND HAS TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON SO SHE GOES TO THE HOUSE WITH THE WRENCH AND RINGS THE DOORBELL. THE PLUMBER ANSWERS THE DOOR WITH A BIG SMILE AND SHE CAN HEAR CHILDREN LAUGHING AND SMELLS DINNER COOKING AND SHE HOLDS UP THE WRENCH.

(WHICH HE IMMEDIATELY TAKES AND KILLS HER DEAD; SORRY JUST KIDDING, SEE WHY YOU HAVE TO KEEP PRAYING FOR ME.)

SHE JUST HAS TO KNOW WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH HIM TYING INVISIBLE THINGS TO THE TREE OUTSIDE, SO SHE ASKS HIM. HE GRINS RATHER SHEEPISHLY AND STEPS OUTSIDE AND WALKS OVER TO THE TREE, AND HE SAYS; “I TIE TO THE TREE EVERYTHING THAT WENT WRONG TODAY, EVERYTHING THAT BROKE, DIDN’T GOES AS PLANNED, MY ANGER, MY FRUSTRATION AND I TIE IT THERE SO I DON’T TAKE IT IN THE HOUSE WITH ME.” AND SHE ASKS “WHAT ABOUT THE SHAKE YOU DID ON THE DOORSTEP.” HE SMILES AND SAYS I’M JUST MAKING SURE NOTHING BAD IS COMING IN THE HOUSE WITH ME AND I TELL MY SELF I LOVE MY FAMILY.”

NOW IF YOU ARE SERIOUSLY SCREWED UP AND THINK THIS IS TO SIMPLISTIC SCREW YOU IT WORKS.

BUT FOR YOU DIE HARD VIOLENT PSYCHOPATHS THAT ARE  SKEPTICS I HAVE PART TWO.

I TOLD MY WIFE THAT WHEN I GET HOME I NEEDED 20 MINUTES ALONE TIME TO RE-ADJUST TO A ROLE CHANGE. SO I WOULD STAY IN THE GARAGE AND THE KIDS WERE TOLD NOT TO COME OUT AND BOTHER ME; AND IN THAT 20 MINUTES I WOULD PRAY; “GOD DON’T LET A MONSTER WALK THROUGH THAT DOOR, THESE PEOPLE LOVE YOU AND CARE FOR YOU; YOU CAN’T BE MEAN, OR SCARY OR ROUGH OR MEAN SPIRITED BECAUSE YOU LOVE THEM. DON’T BE AN A$$HOLE WALK IN THERE AND BE A GODLY, LOVING CARING MAN.”

AND THERE IS A PART THREE; “CUES” ONE REASON I GOT MAD WAS I HAD A SCENARIO IN MY MIND OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WHEN I GOT HOME, MY EXPECTATIONS; PROBLEM WAS I NEVER TOLD ANYONE WHAT THOSE EXPECTATIONS WERE. I WANTED MY WIFE TO KISS ME AND TELL ME SHE MISSED ME (I TRAVEL A LOT DOING SEMINARS) I WANTED THE KIDS TO STOP WHAT EVER THEY WERE DOING AND JUST HUG ME FOR A SECOND, THAT’S ALL, JUST THAT LITTLE BIT.

YOU KNOW WHAT IT WORKED, I WOULD WALK IN THE HOUSE SAYING MY LITTLE MANTRA; “YOU LOVE THESE PEOPLE DON’T SCARE THEM.” AND THEY WOULD TAKE THE 5 SECONDS JUST TO GIVE ME WHAT I NEEDED, CRAVED FROM THEM A MOMENT OF LOVE AND IT WOULD ALL WORK OUT.

SO IF YOU ARE A SCARY DAD, HUSBAND, FATHER, PLEASE WORK IT OUT, GIVE THIS A TRY.

DON’T BE A SCARY SCUM

GOD BLESS FROM SCUMLIKEUSCHURCH@GMAIL.COM

whoa man

November 8, 2016

Image result for picture of eve

The first two chapters of Genesis show that God granted man and woman a unique status and a unique responsibility. Rocks were made to roll and rivers to flow but they were slaves to gravity. Flowers would bloom and trees would grow because of inbuilt genetic codes. Lions would roam and seagulls would fly in accordance with divinely implanted instincts, but man and woman while subject to gravity and genetics and instincts were given the uniquely enriching and challenging capability of choice.

Man’s freedom to choose was not the freedom to choose of a Communist government where people can freely choose any of the one candidates! Man and woman had the whole of Eden to enjoy; they were to eat freely, in every sense, of the tree of life, but they were to leave the other tree severely alone on pain of death. This restriction was not restrictive. It was a gracious reminder that man was created to live in an environment of dependent obedience in the same way that albatrosses were created for air and whales for water.

Without preamble strange character enters this idyllic environment—”Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1). There are many things Genesis does not tell us about this creature, but there are two things we do know—one, that it was created by God and two, that it was subject to man. However, Scripture fills in some of the gaps in other places. For example, the aged apostle in exile wrote: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). We are led to believe, therefore, that the serpent was indeed a “cunning” (the Hebrew word can also mean “prudent”—see Proverbs where the word is used eight times, always in a positive sense) creature, but at the same time Satan was utilizing the serpent’s own natural brilliance for his own nefarious ends. We must note, however, that the Genesis narrative gives no indication of any tempter other than the serpent, does not mention Satan, and therefore gives no explanation of his existence or origin. Calvin suggests that Moses’ “homely and uncultivated style, accommodates what he delivers to the capacity of the people; and for the best reason; for not only had he to instruct an untaught race of men, but the existing age of the Church was so puerile, that it was unable to receive any higher instruction.”

  1. The serpent and the woman. The serpent approached the woman and said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?,'” to which she replied, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'” (Gen. 3:1-3). The Hebrew word used to introduce the serpent’s statement is difficult to translate. Luther said, “I cannot translate the Hebrew either in German or in Latin; the serpent uses the expression aphkı̂ as though to turn up his nose and jeer and scoff.” Some commentators see this approach as a questioning of God’s Word—”Has God said?” Others point more to a questioning of God’s goodness—”You don’t mean to tell me that God has deprived you, do you?” Either way there is a definite albeit subtle and disarming attack on the woman’s love for and loyalty to the God who made her. She responds in a commendable manner pointing out that far from being deprived by a spoilsport God, she and her man have been wonderfully provided for, and she gives no indication of any feeling of restriction or deprivation. It should be pointed out that there may be a little coloring in her response in that she does add some things that we have not heard God actually say! On the other hand this may indicate a less than adequate grasp of what God had told her man. The serpent’s response, “You will not surely die” (v. 4), flatly contradicts the word of the Lord. Some translators suggest the Hebrew allows for “You shall not die utterly” or “You shall not die immediately,” pointing out that while there is contradiction it was presented in a subtle and ambiguous manner. Evidently by this stage in the sad proceedings the woman was so well and truly hooked that the serpent threw subtlety and shrewdness to the wind and stated, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). Opinions differ as to whether the word ˒elōhı̂m should be translated “God” or “Gods” (see KJV) but the possibility of “knowing good and evil” independently of God was the draw.

The woman who by this time was captivated by the possibilities being presented to her turned to consider the tree in question. She “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, [so] she took of its fruit and ate” (v. 6). “Good, pleasant, and desirable” are the operative words used to describe what she saw. Physical food, aesthetic satisfaction, and moral and intellectual advancement were the things she saw hanging on the delicate branches. Eden being the place of delight had no quarrel with anything that the woman saw, no argument with what the tree offered, no problem with what she desired to have. For all these things had been created by God and given to mankind, yet were to be had and enjoyed only in the context of obedience and dependence. The serpent was offering freedom and fulfillment, delight and discovery, advancement and autonomy. God offered these too, except the autonomy. To offer man autonomy would have been to make him other than man was created to be. You can’t offer a bird free-floating flight without air, nor can you let a fish swim and swirl without surf. They, like man, have their God-appointed environments outside of which all are less than they were divinely appointed to be.

  1. The woman and the man. One of the most remarkable things about this story is the utterly passive and docile role which Adam plays. The woman had at least made an attempt to answer the serpent; she had given some indication of considering the issues. But all we hear about Adam is, “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (v. 6). Where he was during the serpent-woman confrontation we do not know, although John Milton suffered from no such uncertainty, stating unequivocally that he was “waiting desirous her return” and while waiting he “wove of choicest flours a garland to adorn her tresses.” Poets are allowed such freedom while we can only ponder their imaginative interpretations! If he was nearby his silence is inexplicable; if he was not near, his apparent immediate, unquestioning acquiescence to his wife’s suggestion is equally inexplicable.

In the same way there is no record of Adam having had any dealings at all with the serpent-Satan. All we know for sure is that he faced his wife and succumbed to her suggestion. Again Milton explains, “He scrupl’d not to eat against his better knowledge, not deceav’d but fondly overcome with Femal charm.” This may say a lot for the woman’s charms but it says little for man’s competence! Whatever the reasons for Adam’s transgression, the results were catastrophic: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (v. 7). The serpent, of course, had promised that their eyes would be opened and he was right about that, but he didn’t tell them the truth about what they would be opened to. The knowledge of good and evil, which they now acquired experimentally and experientially as opposed to academically, was that good is doing the will of God and evil is the converse. The problem for man then and ever since was that the Pandora’s box was open. There was no going back.

While the Genesis record of these momentous events is spare and lean, the New Testament amplifies them in detail. Paul states, “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men … by the one man’s offense many died … through one man’s offense judgment came to all men … by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:12-19). He then goes on to describe Adam as “a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:14) and in another Epistle he sharpens the contrast considerably when he states, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). For the New Testament writer the action of Adam in Eden was of such magnitude that it required nothing less than the activity of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, in Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection to remedy the ills and reconcile man to God. Well might Esdras, the intertestamental writer, ask with horror, “O Adam what hast thou done?”

  1. The man and woman and God. Some scholars have suggested that mankind was put on probation in Eden and that if they had passed the test they would have been introduced to a new standard of experience which would have delivered them from the necessity to confront tests like the one they had just failed. Others have theorized that mankind was in a kind of juvenile state and that the test they failed served only to teach them a lesson from which they emerged sadder and wiser! One advocate of this view said, “If ever there was a Fall it was a Fall upwards.” Jesus Christ would have rejected this view. Speaking on the subject of divorce He stated the original creation ideal of marriage and then added that Moses permitted divorce because of the “hardness of your heart.” This hardness of heart was a factor introduced into human experience after the creation and it was clearly not a beneficial factor. It was a product of what we commonly call the Fall although the term is never used in Scripture.

The consequences of their actions became apparent to man and woman as soon as they confronted the Lord. When they realized He was coming to meet with them they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This exercise in futility has been re-enacted by mankind ever since and will still be attempted by many at the end of the ages. In response to the Lord’s inquiry as to their whereabouts Adam replied, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (v. 10). Their pathetic attempts to hide their newly discovered nakedness spoke of their sense of guilt and shame as clearly as their hiding in the bushes admitted to their state of fear. In one brief, swift action three of mankind’s perennial problems, shame, and fear—had been introduced into what had been a place of delight and peace. These things which plague all relationships, however, were first experienced in the relationship between God and man and still need to be recognized as problems with a spiritual foundation, which accordingly, among other things, require a spiritual solution.

The fact that nakedness and fig leaves were so much a part of the shame felt by fallen mankind has led many to suppose that the original sin was in some way sexual. In fact, some older commentators seem to suggest that the forbidden fruit was sex although it is hard to see how they could make that position fit into God’s clearly stated objective that mankind should be fruitful and multiply. It would be extremely difficult for them to obey that command without resorting to their sexuality! It might be safer to view the covering of their nakedness as an attempt to hide from each other the fact that they were made differently and it was God who had made them that way. In this sense they could not look at each other without being reminded of God. As their desire was to be like God (or Gods), any reminder of the true God would be an embarrassment. So they did what mankind has done ever since when confronted with embarrassing reality—they covered up! Their sexuality also showed they were made for each other but being like God suggested to them an independence of everything including each other. Better to cover up the reminders of that, too!

Perhaps Adam and Eve were suddenly aware of the awful truth that having declared themselves independent of God they were now totally dependent on themselves and a new sense of inadequacy overtook them. They were aware for the first time that all they could count on was wrapped up in themselves and having rejected their spiritual dimension they were left only with the physical. Their bodies were suddenly all that they had and they were stricken with a sense of inadequacy and impotence. In the poverty of their independent ability the best they could do was to try and patch things up with fig leaves and in so doing they showed that the path to freedom which they had chosen had led to a pit of bondage from which they could not escape and they were ashamed. All that was left for them was to try pathetically to hide from themselves and each other what they had done.

Further questioning by the Lord elicited a reluctant, self-serving admission from Adam that he had indeed eaten from the tree but he was quick to explain, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (v. 12). Man was showing God that while his conscience might be pricking him, his wits had not deserted him. They were as sharp as his conscience was sore. “If You hadn’t given her to me and if she hadn’t eaten first I would never have partaken myself,” appeared to be the thrust of his answer leading to the unspoken suggestion that he was not really all that culpable after all! Similar but more sophisticated views are in vogue today. One line of reasoning goes something like this: “Sure I do things that are wrong, but that’s what I’m like and that’s how I’m made. I was presented with a packet of genes that made me the way I am, so I can hardly be held responsible for what I do.” Those who reason like this are called “naturists.” Another line of thinking suggests, “The family into which I was born lived in an area that was the pits. The kids I ran around with were a bunch of hoodlums. To survive I had to go along with what they were doing. So don’t try to make me feel guilty about the life I lived because I didn’t have any options.” The ones who think like that are called “nurturists.” It would be futile to tell Adam that God did not give him the woman or that the woman did not give him the apple. Clearly he was right on both scores. Similarly it would be unwise to suggest that nature and nurture do not play a part in our development as persons. But when men and women stand before God, as did Adam, they will be asked to account for their actions on the basis of their human responsibility, whatever the contributory or extenuating circumstances might be.

The woman’s response to God’s question was short and to the point, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (v. 13). She did not say, “The serpent whom You created deceived poor little old me and I ate.” There was no prevarication, no excuses, but sad to say there was apparently no remorse either. The woman’s deception explanation was utilized by the apostle Paul when, writing to Timothy, he denied women the privilege of teaching and exercising authority over men and gave as his explanation, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Some commentators interpret Paul’s statement to mean that the woman was easily deceived, that women are more easily deceived than men, and therefore men should handle the teaching and the leading in the church. Others take issue with this interpretation and point out that the woman’s deception is related to her coming on the scene after Adam, which meant that she did not hear God’s Word firsthand and therefore being much less informed than he, she was more readily deceived. The women in the Ephesian church about whom Paul wrote to Timothy were like Eve in this regard. They had certainly not had the opportunities afforded to the men and were therefore less qualified. If they were engaging in authoritative teaching, as has been suggested, they were probably speaking with formidable authority from the depth of their ignorance and we all know how destructive that can be. The resultant error and confusion was of major concern to Paul and Timothy, and therefore they advocated the denial of teaching opportunities to the women in order to get the church back on track.

While there is no agreement on this issue in the church it should not be hard to reach agreement that this passage does not teach that because woman was deceived all women are stupid and inferior any more than it teaches that because Adam was not deceived all men are smart and superior. That being the case, great care should be taken in all aspects of male-female relationships to show proper regard and respect for each other and to avoid all stereotypes which would tend to elevate men to a superior status over women for no other reason than they are men while relegating women to an inferior status for no other reason than they are women. For example, I have been called into marital counseling situations where the husband is abusing the wife sometimes physically but more often verbally and perhaps even insidiously through disparaging attitudes and remarks. Quite often the man excuses his behavior because of some ill-defined sense of superiority which he cannot explain but for which he finds some degree of misplaced justification in what Eve did to Adam and what Paul apparently thought about Eve!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Chasing God

October 28, 2016

Image result for picture of a runner

In Hebrews 10:36, the author exhorted his readers, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” [lit., “the promise”]. Then he devotes chapter 11 to many examples of Old Testament saints who endured by faith, although they did not receive the promise (Christ), which we have received. In our text, he returns to the theme of endurance, saying, “We have both this great cloud of witnesses from the Old Testament and Jesus Himself, who is the supreme example of one who endured horrible suffering by faith. He endured the cross and now is at the Father’s right hand.”

 

To run the Christian marathon with endurance, faith focuses on Jesus, who endured the cross and received the reward.

  1. The Christian life is a difficult marathon that we must run.

Many years ago, a young woman who was a drug addict found my name in the phone book and began calling me frequently. She was married with two small children, but she was hooked on drugs. She had no concept that normal people sleep at night, and so she would call at 2 a.m. from some phone booth where she was stoned out of her mind.

 

She professed to believe in Christ, and said that she wanted to follow Him, but she had no idea of what that meant. On one occasion when she was relatively sober, I described in detail what a daily walk with Christ looks like. I explained what a daily time in the Word and prayer was like, what obedience to the Bible means, how to think like a Christian, etc.

When I was done, I asked, “Have you ever done anything close to what I’ve just described?” She said, “Yeah, I did that once for two weeks, but it didn’t work.” She thought that she had given it a fair try in two weeks! I explained to her that the Christian faith isn’t a two-week sprint. It’s a lifelong marathon.

 

 

The Christian life is a lifelong, grueling race that entails some long hills to climb and some swampy marshes to plod through. To make it to the end, you need self-discipline to get into good shape, you will need to maintain your motivation, and you will need sustained effort. No one enters a marathon with the thought of dropping out after a mile. Finishing well is everything. In this race, you are not competing with other believers. We’re all on the same team. We’re competing against the enemy of our souls, who opposes God’s kingdom and wants us to drop out.

  1. To run the Christian marathon, we must get into shape and stay in shape.

The primary thing, as I said, is self-discipline motivated by the goal of finishing well. But it specifically involves two things:

  1. We must lay aside every encumbrance.

The word means weight. It can refer to physical weight (obesity), or to unnecessary baggage. Ancient Greek runners would actually run naked so as not to be encumbered. Olympic athletes in our day wear some pretty skimpy outfits. They don’t want anything to slow them down or drain their energy.

 

 

Encumbrances are distinguished here from sins. They include things that are not intrinsically wrong, but they’re wrong because they keep you from running as you should. If you got rid of those heavy hiking boots and put on some jogging shoes, you’d run better. If you dropped the pack and dressed in shorts and a tank top, you might finish the race.

 

 

At the risk of stepping on some toes, but to help you apply this, let me get more specific. Let’s say that in the morning, you don’t have time to read your Bible and your favorite blog before you head out the door to work or school. Which do you choose? You protest, “But I need to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world!” Really? Where does the Bible say that? It does say that you need to drink in “the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). Maybe you don’t have time to read anything because you don’t set your alarm early enough to spend just 10 minutes with the Lord. You need to shed the encumbrance of loving sleep or the paper more than God.

 

 

Too much recreation can be another encumbrance in the race. We all need some free time free to be renewed, but the question is, “How much time do you need?” Many Christians fill every evening watching TV or playing video games, but they don’t have time to study the Bible or read good books. They view the entire weekend as a time for recreation, even if it means missing church. To run the race, you’ve got to lay aside these encumbrances.

 

 

Some Christians ask the wrong question here. They ask, “What’s wrong with this movie, or listening to this music, or participating in this activity?” The right question is, “Does this help me to grow in godliness?” If not, cast it off as dead weight.

  1. We must lay aside every sin that so easily entangles us.

In biblical times people wore long robes. You can’t run with a long robe entangling your legs. You must either pull it up and tuck it in your belt or cast it totally aside. In the case of sin, you must totally get rid of it if you want to run the Christian race.

 

 

This doesn’t refer only to certain besetting sins, but to all sins. Sin always begins in the mind, and so we must judge all sin at the thought level. Pride, lust, envy, greed, anger, grumbling, selfishness—all of these things originate in our thought life. If you cut it off there, it goes no farther. If you entertain these things, they incubate and develop into sinful words and actions (James 1:14-15). But the author’s point is, you can’t run the Christian race if you keep tripping over your sins.

  1. To run the Christian marathon, we must run with endurance the course set before us.

Note two things:

  1. God sets the course.

If you’re running a marathon, you can’t make up your own course. If you stray from the course, you’ll be disqualified. The race is “set before us,” just as Jesus had “the joy set before Him.” God is the Sovereign One who sets the course for each of us, just as He set the course of the cross for Jesus.

 

 

To finish the Christian marathon, it’s important to keep in mind at all times that the Sovereign God sets the course. You may not like parts of the course. You may be prone to grumble, “Why did the course have to go over this hill, or through this swamp?” The answer is, “Because the Sovereign God planned it this way.” You won’t be able to run by faith unless you submit your will to His will.

  1. We must run with endurance.

Running with endurance requires adopting a certain mindset. If you have in mind that you’re running a 400-meter race, you’re not going to do well when the pack keeps going after 400 meters. When you learn that the race has barely begun, you’re going to quit with a bad attitude.

 

 

This is what Jesus meant when He talked about counting the cost of following Him (Luke 14:28-33). Before you make a glib commitment to be a Christian, think it through. Are you willing to put out the effort, the sweat, the endurance, and the pain of going the distance? If not, don’t start the race, because you’re going to look pretty silly when you drop out after 400 meters!

 

 

Obviously, one key to running the whole distance is motivation. But where do you get the motivation to run the Christian marathon? Our author suggests two sources, both valuable, but the second is incomparably greater than the first.

  1. The encouragement to keep running comes from those who have run before us, but primarily from Jesus Himself.

  2. The great cloud of witnesses encourages us to keep running.

The opening phrase of 12:1 refers back to chapter 11. All of the Old Testament saints, who endured all sorts of trials by faith, should encourage us to keep running when we feel like quitting. The word cloud was a classical Greek metaphor for a large multitude

There is a question about whether these witnesses are watching us from heaven as we run the race; or, more in line with the meaning of the word witness, do we look to their testimony as an example of how to run the race? There is no indication in the Bible (unless it is here) that those in heaven are watching us on earth.

Probably, with the race metaphor, the picture here is that as we run the race, along the route we encounter the Old Testament saints (and, by extension, other heroes of the faith in the New Testament, plus those who lived after biblical times). They are calling out to us by their examples of faith, “Keep going, I made it and you can, too! I know it’s hard, but the reward is worth it! Don’t quit! The finish line is not too far ahead!”

 

 

I would encourage you to study both the many interesting characters in the Bible and the great men and women who have run the race of faith over the course of church history. You’ll learn how they failed, so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes. And you’ll learn how they ran well, so that you can imitate their faith (13:7). Many of the battles they fought, whether on a personal level or in their ministries, you will have to fight, too.

 

 

No matter how tired, how worn, the bible promises rest and strength, they are both found by taking time to be with God.

 

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com