Strangely Blessed

September 22, 2018

I’m going to tell a story about a parishioner that recently passed away. He told me that he came to church because it kept his wife off his back. He was a heavy alcoholic drinker, and he was a mean drunk, and he was often unfaithful because he was hung like a Missouri Mule (that was his wife’s description and she said the main reason she wouldn’t leave him was the sex).

I cannot tell you how many times his wife called me asking me to go get him out of a bar or restaurant where he was drunk and harassing a young waitress. And remember I said he was mean, this guy was 150 pounds of pure mean. I’ve saw him actually fall off a roof (single story) while welding and just get back up and go up the ladder.

There were several times that I had to taze him or Mace him in order to get him to comply and get in my car, he once told me he liked me because I was the only pastor that ever punched him in face (not a pastoral technique I recommend and one I don’t often use).

Funny thing is every time he saw me in the grocery store or the hardware store or Home Depot he would come up to me and hug me and cry and say that I was the best pastor in the world because I always came and got him, and always listened to his stories and I always talk to his wife and calmed her down and convince her not to divorce him.

Well his son has followed in his footsteps and the mother is called asking if I will go get her son and it is a mirror image of what happened with his father, he’s a mean drunk and he just ends up crying about how sorry he is and he’ll show up in church on Sunday and give his heart to the Lord which by the way never happens .

But his father dying from Cirrhosis of the liver accepted the Lord 10 days before he passed away. And it’s probably the only 10 days he’s ever had sober. So I was holding his hand as he passed away he told me that he was always grateful that I was gracious and loving to him and my love convicted him he said so often of his need for a Savior .

So pastors, the black sheep of the congregation you love them and so you going the extra mile out of your way to help them eventually pays off, so don’t give up on them, it’s your duty to go after that one out of the 99 that seems to always wander away .

I’ve been strangely blessed by having more of my share of the mentally ill, philandering, coke sniffing, alcoholic, pot smoking, sex addicted, ex-cons and bikers in my different churches. My family says I’m a magnet for weird, the “normal” people in church sometimes complain, but eventually they get with the program. God loves us all. And as the Apostle Paul said, “we were once one of them.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

DIRECTIONS

September 19, 2018

Yield_Sign_in_New_Hampshire

  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

  After years of reckoning with little or no deliverance from the dominion of sin, when you are just about to sink under the futility of it all, the Holy Spirit will turn your attention to the One who is your Deliverer. And by the Word, He will also begin to call your attention to the fact that where the Deliverer is, you are. “Hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).

  “‘. . . our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him’ (1 Thess. 5:10). Can anything affect your heart so much as the way the man in Christ is received in the new position? What I press now is the right that we have to be in the place, and that it is not only that I delight to be there, but the ineffable thought is that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ delights to have me in His place, sharing His joys.

If we do not enter by faith into the new position to which He in His grace has placed us. A further fact is, that we have no place but that; and when we get even a glimpse of it, it alters immensely this place; this world through which we are passing, and all things in it, appear in another color altogether. There is so much more to salvation than just the new birth, there is learning, growing, abiding, practicing, cultivating the gifts we are given, witnessing, bible reading, bible memorization, praying, learning to pray, self-discipline, being filled with the Holy Spirit.

 If I only think of my position in Him above and do not study Him and His ways while here, then, though there may be a sense of power, there is no direction given to it. That is why so many Christians think the thing they are doing is in the will of God, but it’s not, it is only self-will. It is only in the combination of both that there can be a true study of the Lord Jesus, and conformity to Him. The eye of the soul must be open and receptive to learn of His ways and walk here.

  “But now in Christ Jesus ye who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Ken in your prayers, he is struggling with chronic shyness.

Pray for Laurie, 54 and losing her eye sight.

Continue to pray for Maureen as she is trying to recover from shingles, pray it doesn’t get into her eye.

It is impossible to list all the people we’ve asked for prayer for, but everyone has been encouraged knowing that there are folks all over the world praying for them.

OUGHT NAUGHT TO BE

September 17, 2018

OUGHT NOUGHT TO BE

I’ve mentioned this before but want to revisit the situation.

I can walk into any bar or tavern. And say; “I’m cheating on my wife, my taxes, my boss, I’ve shot the neighbor’s cat and I just found out my mistress is HIV positive.”

And someone will come over and by me a drink. Or someone will come over and say; “I know what you’re saying.”

But have any failure in a Christian environment and well they shoot horses don’t they.

Mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, brotherhood, fraternity, grace, support, join AA because you may not get it from church.

Doesn’t seem to happen. It’s seems the membership for church is perfect people getting saved and leading perfect lives. Don’t dare tell them your past, you’ll find yourself not asked for dinner after the Sunday service.

Yet Jesus live and visited with the worst of his day, sinners. He laughed with them, broke bread with them and invited them to know Him better.

How can we expect a body of believers to grow intimate with each other when we hide our past, keep secret our current struggles and shove out anyone that fails?

So by pretending to be perfect we become false. And the brother or sister in Christ is afraid to share their struggles and failures, because on Sunday morning everyone is lying and saying, “all is well” and “I’m just fine.”

We don’t have an actual church plan in place to help the brother or sister to restoration, just condemnation and forced out of fellowship.

There must be a balance in church, yes, the mature believers acknowledging the less mature and their failures. And the saint that falls, needs support not an exodus.

Let’s pray that we as believers are gentler, more forgiving, and willing to acknowledge we are forgiven but still fall short of perfection.

There is a time for the rod, but we are to quick to use it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Maureen in your prayers as she deals with shingles.

Pray for Gwen that is struggling financially.

One of my favorites

September 16, 2018

Pinocchio and the unruly lady

Again unique to a Pentecostal church and for those of you that don’t attend a Pentecostal service you might just read this and think we are all just nuts; well maybe we are.

There was a lady who used to sit on the front pew in every service, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. Same place same spot. And she would wait for me to start preaching and as soon as I started to preach she would jump up and in the loudest voice start speaking in tongues and then give ‘her’ interpretation.

I asked her husband to please ask her to stop, because she would go on forever and I knew she had real issues with me and you just knew it wasn’t the timing of the Holy Spirit nor really a true message.

Well she wouldn’t quit, the deacons were upset, people in the church were upset and still she continued to do this.

I talked to her and she said she had no control over when the Holy Spirit wanted to move her. (which is not scriptural) I Corinthians 14:32 Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit…

Now I usually preach in series, so you can kind of guess each Sunday where I’m going to go because I give outlines ahead of time so people can study and follow along, and one of the adult bible study groups share the outlines with senior citizen homes and some use them in their home study groups or with shut ins.

So now a theme is developing in her messages in tongues where she’s trying to preach my sermons before I can start. So now the deacons have gone to her and she still won’t stop. I’m about to bring the matter to a head in the service, but I decide to wait one more week and just pray more about it.

So now it’s next Sunday and wham off she goes loud and blustery, I’m about to step down and I can see her husband actually balling up his fists, he’s going to literally fight me over this. (Pastoring is so much fun).

When over in the next section about two pews back out steps the oldest, sweetest woman in the church. You know the type, the spiritual grandmother to everyone.

She steps up front, reaches up and pinches the lady’s nose shut. Our self-declared prophet opens her eyes expecting to see me and slap me and instead sees dear sister Ellen, who stills has a hold of her nose, and with this nose hold forces said prophet to set down. Sister Ellen leans in and whispers something to our out of control prophet; and man the color that comes to her face.

Next Sunday, no interruptions, no displays of hysterics, nothing the whole congregation and I are pleasantly surprised.

That Sunday as I’m shaking hands while everyone is leaving, sister Ellen comes up last and I stopped her and said; “just what did you say to our little trouble maker?”

This dear old saint and spiritual grandmother to half the church looks me in the eye and with the straightest face said; “I told her if she didn’t start behaving and respecting you I was going to kick her boney butt out the door.”

It was I all I could do to not just burst out laughing.

Man, you just have to love your flock, all of them, pastoring what a great gig.

God bless

Special prayers for ‘k’ we are praying for your son.

Pray for Maureen Lindner, shingles on her leg, she is in misery

Send your prayer requests to scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

More than a muscle part four (the end).

Thanks for all your encouragement and especially your patience to read through these long posts. this series on the heart was a real blessing to me. I hope you have been encouraged as well. God Bless.

The Heart Needs Prostrating

Over and over again, we are told in Scripture to worship God with all the heart. This stresses the need of total involvement with God, an involvement that includes the mind, emotions, and the will. So, note the following passages of Scripture: With all our heart we are to:

  • Love God (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30).

  • Search for God (Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13).

  • Return to the Lord (Joel 2:12).

  • Rejoice and exult in the Lord (Zeph. 3:14).

  • Give thanks. This means learning to live by praise and thanksgiving with one’s focus purely on the Lord (Ps. 9:1; 86:12; 119:7; cf. Rom. 1:21).

  • Believe God and His Word (Acts 8:37).

The Heart Needs Pouring

Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

We need to go to the Lord in prayer in order to pour out our hearts and burdens to the Lord. The command here is based on the promise that He cares and wants to hear from us.

The Heart Needs Centering

Proverbs 4:21 Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.

God is never to be just a side issue. In this passage, the word “midst” is the Hebrew tawek which means “the middle, the center.” We need to keep God’s truth on center stage in our hearts. When the Word of God is not central to life, God will also get pushed aside by other cares, desires, and issues. We become like ships without a harbor, or an anchor, or rudder only to be pushed about by the varying winds and storms of life.

We need God’s truth center stage because of the importance of His truth to our relationship with God, our ambitions, our values and pursuits. When God is not center stage, we ignore Him and His purposes, principles, and promises (cf. Isa. 40:9; Heb. 2:9; 12:1-2). In fact, people often try to sanctify their self-centeredness into a kind of self-centered godliness. Concerning this problem, J. I. Packer writes:

Modern Christians tend to make satisfaction their religion. We show much more concern for self-fulfillment than for pleasing our God. Typical of Christianity today, at any rate in the English-speaking world, is its massive rash of how-to-books for believers, directing us to more successful relationships, more joy in sex, becoming more of a person, realizing our possibilities, getting more excitement each day, reducing our weight, improving our diet, managing our money, licking our families into happier shape, and whatnot. For people whose prime passion is to glorify God, these are doubtless legitimate concerns; but the how-to-books regularly explore them in a self-absorbed way that treats our enjoyment of life rather than the glory of God as the center of interest.

The Heart Needs Exposing and Convicting

Proverbs 5:12 And you say, “How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof!”

John 16:8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment;

Jude 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith,

Titus 2:15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Ephesians 5:11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

One of the purposes for centering our hearts on the Word is that of reproof.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Also, one of the purposes for testing the heart with trials is to bring about conviction with repentance that will lead to confession and changed living.

Jeremiah 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

The Heart Needs Cheering, Encouraging, Comforting

Proverbs 15:13,15 A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. … All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me …

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Life is full of pain and disappointments which bring sorrow and discouragement, so the heart needs to be cheered, comforted, and encouraged. But our tendency is to seek to cheer and comfort our hearts with the methods of the world—through our strategies for happiness, through the details of life as with the pursuit of power, pleasure, possessions, position, and the like. God has given us all things to enjoy, but God’s plan for lasting joy and encouragement comes from a heart that has been prepared and fixed to trust the Lord (Jn. 16:27; Ps. 37:4).

The Heart Needs Strengthening

Psalm 37:31 The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.

Psalm 40:8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.

Psalm 119:11 Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.

Psalm 19:7-9 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

(1) The absolutes of God’s Word provide a sure FOUNDATION that promotes right thinking and attitudes, direction and choices, values, priorities, and pursuits, etc. (Matt. 6:21f).

(2) Strength of heart comes through humility of heart. A humble person is one who walks in dependence on the Lord rather than in proud self-trust (Ps. 10:17; 31:23-24).

(3) Strength of heart comes through waiting on the Lord and trusting God for needs. What exactly does the Bible mean when it calls us to wait on the Lord? In essence, from the use of this challenge in Scripture, to wait on the Lord is a summary term for living by faith or living dependently on the Lord as explained for us in the Word. On the one hand, it calls us to throw ourselves on the Lord in childlike trust. On the other hand, it calls us to turn away from all forms of independent living whereby we seek to handle life by our methods and means.

In the Bible, waiting on the Lord stands opposed to running ahead and taking matters into our own hands by turning to our own human solutions. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!” (RSV).

(4) Strength of heart comes through making God our portion. This means God is the reward or greatest possession and companion of the heart (Ps. 73:26; 119:56-57). “Portion” in Ps. 119:57 is the Hebrew cheleq. It was used of a reward or profit, but also of a chosen portion as a habitual mode of life. As a contrast, compare Psalm 50:18b, “and you associate with adulterers.” The NIV reads, “you throw in your lot with adulterers (i.e., you have chosen this as your portion, your way of life, the companionship of adulterers).”

The Heart Needs Biblical Desires and Longings

One of the most fundamental and life changing needs of the heart is to have biblical desires and longings. Please note the emphasis in the following passages:

(1) Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart

Though this passage is filled with commands, we can summarize it into four key responsibilities:

  • Look up: get your eyes off of people and circumstances and trust the Lord. Do not fret, do not be envious, but trust, delight, commit.

  • Look ahead: Rest and wait on the Lord and what He is doing. Know that the way of life of evil doers is only temporal and unstable or insecure. God will bring forth your righteousness, you will one day dwell in the land, you will have eternal rewards.

  • Be productive: While resting in God’s provision for our needs and committing our way and our circumstances to the Lord, ever delighting in Him, we are to do good, cultivate faithfulness, and dwell in the land.

  • Be content: Compare Ps. 37:16f. with 1 Tim. 6:6f.

At the core or heart of all this is verse 4 and the words, “delight yourself in the Lord.” This is the basis of trust, commitment, and rest in the Lord.

First, the Command. “Delight” is anag which means (1) “to be soft, delicate, dainty.” In Arabic, a sister language, it meant “to allure” and “to entice” and was used of the amorous gestures of women in their looks and walk. There is a certain feminine quality to this word and it fits with the nature of God’s dealings with believers. Israel was the wife of the Lord and the church is the bride of Christ. As it was with Israel, so we are to respond to the Lord as His chaste bride and to be sensitive to His love and care. Knowing Him as such should build our trust and commitment and keep us from being lured away from Him. In the Hebrew text, the verb “delight” is in a reflexive stem which came to mean, “to take exquisite delight, to delight yourself in an exquisite manner.” So the Psalmist says in effect that God is to be our most exquisite source of joy. We are to delight in His person and being. He is calling us to pursue God that we might know and revel in His divine person and being.

Second, the Promise. “Desires” is the Hebrew mishalab which may mean, “prayers, requests, petitions.” Our requests are usually based on our desires, wants, or what we see as our needs, though this is not one of the major Hebrew words for desire. “Of your heart” points us to the source of the requests, our inner person through the function of the mind, emotions, and will. “Desires of your heart” refers to the results of the function of the mind, emotions, and will in the formation of aspirations, desires, and longings.

When our delight is genuinely in the Lord, our requests, the product of our desires, will be transformed and conformed to the will of God. When we start truly delighting in the Lord and trust in Him for our needs and desires, we will then stop depending on our own devices for security or significance. It is then that our desires and requests will naturally begin to change.

Therefore, God promises to give us those requests, as the context suggest, according to His timing.

(2) Psalm 94:19: “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.”

Anxious thoughts multiply when a man’s delight is off the Lord. When this occurs, his trust will also be off the Lord and on his own devices and solutions to life. So what does the Psalmist say? “Thy consolations delight my soul.” What is God’s greatest consolation or source of comfort? It is God Himself. When Christians fail to delight their heart in the Lord by seeking Him as their number one source of comfort, they will begin to unravel and they will turn to their own devices.

Note also the emphasis of the following passages:

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God.

Psalm 62:10 Do not trust in oppression, And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.

Psalm 73:25-28 Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works.

Such Psalms do not just express the desire of a highly spiritual man, but they acknowledge man’s need as a human being created with a vacuum that only God can fill. They acknowledge the fact that nothing else can truly satisfy.

Finally, compare Psalm 86:11 with Matthew 6:21-24. The greatest indication of man’s fallenness is his capacity to try to handle life, or to seek satisfaction, significance, and security apart from clinging to the Lord.

Psalm 86:11 Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name.

Matthew 6:21-24 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Even at his best, such a person is guilty of a divided heart trying to walk with one foot stationed on the Lord and the other one stationed on his own solutions. So what does the Psalmist say? “Unite (remove any division of trust) my heart to fear Thy name.” To fear the Lord is ultimately to trust the Lord or to turn to Him in complete trust (Ps. 40:3; 115:11).

Problems of the Heart

(1) A wrong focus or thought pattern.

  • In Psalm 19:14 the Psalmist prayed for a right focus and thought pattern. He recognized the danger of a wrong focus or center.

  • The heart, when dominated by the sinful nature and man’s viewpoint, gathers wickedness to itself like impure imaginations, slander, false beliefs, false aspirations and solutions, impure desires, and deceit, etc. (Psalm 41:6).

  • Because the heart is the wellspring of life, and because the heart is incurably wicked, unrighteousness begins in the heart (cf. Ps. 36:1; 58:2; Matt. 15:18-19). Remember, the flaming missiles of the evil one, as with Eve, are aimed at the heart (the mind, emotions, and will) (Eph. 6:16).

(2) An unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12). An unbelieving heart is what causes us to pursue our own solutions to life. This is what happened to Eve.

(3) Fear and anxiety (Isa. 35:4; 51:7). Fear or anxiety is removed through a believing heart or trust in God’s plan and supply regardless of the problems or how things look from our perspective (Ps. 112:7; 13:5; 27:3).

(4) Agitation, frustration of heart. The absence of peace because the heart is not truly centered on the Lord (Ps. 38:8-10).

(5) Fainting, depression, losing heart. The absence of endurance (Ps. 40:12; Lk. 18:1).

(6) Turning away from the Lord. Turning away into sin, unfaithfulness, backsliding (Deut. 17:17; Ps. 44:18; Pro. 7:25; Heb. 3:12).

(7) Trusting in the wrong sources of hope as human strategies for security, significance, or happiness (Ps. 62:10; cf. 64:6 with vs. 10; 73:25f. Also cf. Ps. 81:12, “to walk in their own devices”).

(8) Loneliness and brokenness of heart (Ps. 69:20; Pro. 15:13; 17:22).

(9) Bitterness of heart (Ps. 73:21; Pro. 14:10; Ja. 3:14).

(10) Stubbornness of heart (Ex. 7:14; Ps. 78:8; 81:12; Jer. 3:17).

(11) Divided heart, the opposite of singleness of devotion (2 Chr. 25:2; Ps. 86:11; Matt. 6:21-24; Ja. 1:6-8).

(12) Arrogance or pride of heart, the opposite of a humble heart (2 Chr. 32:26; Isa. 9:9; Ps. 101:5).

(13) False values of the heart (Matt. 6:21; Phil. 3:8).

(14) Hardness of heart (Pr. 28:14; Heb. 3:7-13).

Is it any wonder then, that Solomon challenges us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

As emphasized previously, the heart is where our character is formed and maintained, the place that determines who we are, and what we do. As Scripture warns us, issues of life flow from the heart. It alone holds the secrets of true success or meaning in life. If our heart is filled with what is good, our actions and words will follow. If it is filled with what is evil, so will be our actions and words.

So then, the treasures of our hearts are priceless, but as stressed, they can be stolen. We face three thieves, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and these three stalk us always seeking ways to steal the good treasures of the heart and to replace them with what is evil and worthless, or at least, with those that are not the best.

How well am I guarding my heart? Is the condition of my heart my greatest concern? It should be because it is so determinative of every aspect of life. It ultimately determines my love for God and for others. It determines who I am and what I do.

Conclusion

As we have seen, God is terribly concerned about our hearts. But the thing that makes this even more difficult is the fact, as Jeremiah 17:9 warns us, the heart is deceitful above all things and incurably evil. Part of the deceitfulness comes from the self-protective nature of the heart and its commitment to trust in its own solutions. We would rather trust ourselves than someone else, even God.

Because of this, even our worship of God is suspect and needs to be cleansed or purified of selfish pursuits. Remember, God warns us in His Word that we can be very religious while we withhold our hearts from true faith and worship of the Lord (Isa. 29:23).

Since most people spend an enormous amount of time working, their time in church must be only a fraction of their involvement with God. As a result, unless we are challenged and equipped to live all of life for God from a heart fixed and prepared to trust in Him in the daily routine of life, Christianity degenerates into mere external religiosity in which people play church.

Unless we really deal with our hearts, our religious striving or our worship of God becomes egocentric. And though this can be purified and brought into the service of God through the Word, too often true religion is corrupted and nullified by cravings and striving for self-centered concerns like power, comfort, and security. The Word of God is more than a handbook of doctrine and a set of prescriptions for proper living that we can apply to make life work out the way we want. It is a God-breathed book designed to involve us passionately with the living God so that we trust Him even when life doesn’t seem to make sense. All we can do is trust God that He is in charge and a good and eternal plan continues fully in place.

What we often try to do is develop “trust in God by understanding why things happen and how to organize our lives to rule out severe misfortune. If we understood the whys and hows of life, of course, there would be no need for trust. A predictable world would require nothing other than conformity to its principles.”

Christianity and the promises of the Bible are matters of trust, and trust is a matter of the heart

Like the old song goes; “Trust and obey, For there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Ronne and Tim, they knew their daughter was devoted to being a missionary to Africa. So, they will travel to Africa to bury her there.

More than a muscle part three

September 13, 2018

The Heart Needs Giving

To balance out your character you need to do more than guard your heart. It is the flip side that makes you authentic … you also need to give your heart. To resist releasing yourself for fear of getting burned may seem safe, but in the long run it is lethal.

(1) Giving the heart means risk, entanglements, becoming vulnerable: It means having to step out in faith, believing God rather than one’s own strategies. It means having to give up something … sometimes a lot. It can even mean having your heart broken and wrung like a towel. But to fail to give it means to lock it up safely in the casket of selfishness. And like a body laid to rest in a casket, the heart will change; though safe, dark, and motionless, it will rot and become a bag of bones.

(2) Giving the heart also means accountability: “As the maxim goes, ‘People are willing to give God credit, but not cash.’ As long as accountability is in the future and suspended in space, I will accept it. But if it actually starts interfering with my personal life, forget it.”

To believe you can give your heart without accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train. It is the means of quality control, facilitates leadership, protects the congregation, makes ministry a joy, helps people keep their commitments.

(3) Giving the heart means involvement: Involvement with God, involvement with family, involvement with other Christians, and involvement with non-Christians. And what does involvement include? It includes: sacrificial love, walking by faith rather than sight, spontaneity rather than rigidity, the risk of vulnerability, and a willingness to become accountable. In Webster’s Dictionary, we find that being involved means “to draw in as a participant, to relate closely, to connect, to include.”

Religious striving is far too often egocentric, and though this can be purified and brought into the service of God through His Word, too often true fellowship with God and loving Him with all our heart is corrupted and nullified by craving and striving for power, security, or other selfish desires that stem from a heart that is kept from God as our source of strength, joy, and meaning in life.

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous” (Isa. 29:13).

Obviously, withholding the heart means our inability and our unwillingness to give our hearts to either God or ministry to others. Certainly, since we never arrive at ultimate maturity in this life, there will always be room for growth in giving the heart because it is so difficult to give up our various methods of self-protection.

The Heart Needs Preparing

Psalm 78:8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Psalm 108:1 A Song, a Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.

The word “prepare” in Psalm 78:8 and “steadfast” in Psalm 108:1 is the Hebrew, kuwn. Its basic meaning is “to be firm, established, stable.” From this it came to mean (a) “be set up, established, fixed” and is used in the Old Testament of a house fixed on a foundation, of the establishment of a throne or kingdom, and of persons being established, secure and enduring. (b) Then it came to mean “to fix so as to prepare, be ready, arrange, set in order.” As such it was used of preparing words for wise speech, of the preparation of food, of preparing the foundation for the temple of Solomon, of prayer being prepared, arranged, and set in order before God, of preparing a road, a sacrifice, one’s steps or path (Ps. 119:133), of God’s creative activity, of what He has established as the heavens by His understanding, and of preparing the heart.

This word is used in Psalm 78:8 of preparing the heart to be firm, focused, and fixed on the Lord in the sense of trust and rest in God’s love, goodness, wisdom, grace, and power (cf. Ps. 112:7-8). The point here is that the heart can only become steadfast, stable, when it has been properly prepared in a biblical sense.

This same word is used in Psalm 108:1 of preparing the heart to worship the Lord. The KJV translates this as “My heart is fixed” while the NASB, NIV, and RSV all have “My heart is steadfast.” The Amplified Bible has “My heart is fixed—steadfast [in the confidence of faith].” But the idea here is that it is steadfast because it has been spiritually prepared. Remember, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” As the heavens were prepared, fixed, and established by God’s understanding, so our hearts are made stable by the understanding which comes from God’s Word (cf. Col. 2:1-6).

Just as the human heart needs preparation through proper diet and exercise in order to handle strenuous activity and be healthy in general, so one’s spiritual heart must be properly prepared if it is going to be able to effectively respond to God in the varied situations of life.

This is one of the ways we can guard the heart, but the emphasis here is on the need of spiritual preparation through the various biblical disciplines—honest, deep down confession of sin, fervent prayer, careful Bible study, meditation on the Word, Scripture reading and memory, and fellowship with believers. We need these disciplines to stabilize the heart so we can respond positively to God in trust for the varying situations of life.

The Heart Needs Purifying

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

(1) The heart is purified by being renewed. The mind needs renewing in its ideas, values, motives, and beliefs. The thoughts and intents of the heart need to be changed through storing and meditating on the Word. Included here is the idea of exchanging our viewpoint for God’s (Rom. 12:2; Isa. 55:8f; Ps. 51:10; 119:9-11; Pr. 3:3; 7:3; 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 2:23).

(2) The heart is purified by being tested (Deut. 8:2; Jer. 17:10; Ps. 139:23-24). One of the reasons for suffering and trials and the varied irritations that God either brings or allows is to reveal the condition of our hearts, to show its true colors that we might see our sin and deal with it through confession and faith in God’s provision.

(3) The heart is purified by confession or repentance (Acts 8:22). This is vital to the whole process, of course.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Ronne and Tim, their only child, a missionary to Africa was martyred this week and they just found out.

my heavenly home

September 10, 2018

  “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs” (Rom. 8:16, 17).

  It is the Holy Spirit alone who can draw us from the flesh and its earthly environment. He does it in the practical sense by manifesting to our hearts, via the Word of God, the risen Lord Jesus Christ in our heavenly environment. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

  “We have died with the Lord Jesus, our old man was crucified with Him. The flesh is in us still indeed, but in us a foreign thing; a thing we are to reckon as dead, we are not in it before God, nor identified with it in any wise, but we are hidden with Him in whom it was never found. We are in Him, as He is and where He is. (you may have to read that paragraph a couple of times, I keep rewriting it, and that’s the best I can come with).

  “Can we say quite confidently, each one of us, ‘Yes, we are identified with Him who represents us there before the eye of our Father—as Christ is, in whom no sin was ever found nor can be, but perfectness after God’s own heart wholly’?

That is to be in Christ—a new creature. Our rule is, to walk in Him, as being what we really are—heavenly, citizens of heaven, pilgrims and strangers upon earth.

  “Heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ—if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Rebecca, she is going to have back surgery this week.

Pray for Charmaine, she needs back surgery but has no insurance.

Pray those brothers and sisters in the church that have been hurt and are having a hard time because they have allowed bitterness to take root in their heart.

WORD OF MY DEMISE IS PREMATURE!

Imagine my surprise today to find out from my insurance company that my family (mother’s side) have signed and witnessed a statement that I’ve been dead three years now and they have collected the death benefits.

The insurance company is admitting negligence on their part and will be asking the family to return the money (good luck).

At first, I thought it was funny, hey my family is very dysfunctional. But as the day wore on it became a very grievous thought. That my family, full well knowing that I’m alive would have that much animosity to commit a crime and be that thoughtless of my feelings about my very own death.

Then I remembered this was the same family that never notified me of my mother’s death, or of my grandmother who raised me.

Now I will be the first to admit that as a kid I was one rotten hooligan.

I will take responsibility for being a delinquent. And I did give my mother a nervous breakdown. But hey, that was over 46 years ago.

Which proves a point, unforgiveness will lead to bitterness and possible revenge.

I took me a better part of the day to go to prayer and ask God to help me forgive them. I also know that this is a bridge that I burnt, and it will never be rebuilt.

I’ve never been home after I joined the military, my mother gladly signed the paperwork when I was 16 years old to get me out of her life. I thank God for the surrogate family that He gave me and the same for my children. That we were “adopted” by the family of God; and given new parents and my children their own grandparents.

And the irony has not escaped me that I haven’t heard from my daughter or grand-daughter for over 20 years. They followed the same destructive past I did. I can only pray (which I do) that they are godly adults, love the Lord and Serve Him.

Maybe our reunion may have to wait until we meet in heaven. I honestly don’t know what my initial reaction would be if I were to see my daughter. Hopefully not in a morgue.

Well enough of that gloom and sadness. I don’t have a monopoly on dysfunctional. Each of you could probably tell a tale yourselves.

But for the grace of God, thank God, that He gives us grace and gifts of wonderful people to fill our lives. I’m especially blessed as a pastor to have baptized infants and then did their weddings and now get ready to dedicate their grandchildren.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

And a word of advice, if your family is abusive, toxic and harmful, get out, and get away. It is not “the Christian thing” to do and be harmed mentally, sexually and or emotionally. Run for your life and sanity.

sex, sex, sex

September 4, 2018

THIS IS RATHER A LONG POST, YOU MAY WANT TO PRINT IT OUT. AND IT IS SAFE FOR WORK. ( I JUST FIGURED OUT WHAT NSFW MEANS)

SEX, SEX, SEX

If you think about it, you will have to agree that sex is a subject frequently addressed in the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New. Though the Bible handles this subject matter much differently than the secular world, it does have much to say on the subject. I can only think of one reason for matters pertaining to sex to be so frequently discussed in the Bible—sexuality must be very closely related to spirituality.

The beliefs and practices of the Corinthian saints seem to vary greatly when it comes to matters of sexual values and conduct. We have already been introduced to the liberal extreme in chapters 5 and 6. In chapter 5, Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for failing to exercise church discipline on a man living in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. In the second half of chapter 6 (verses 12-20), Paul confronts those who feel that having sex with a prostitute is not contrary or detrimental to one’s spiritual life. There are those in Corinth whose sexual values are shocking, even to the pagan Corinthians (see 5:1).

In our text, it seems that for some believers spirituality is a pretext for sexual immorality, while for others spirituality means abstaining from sex altogether. In chapter 7, Paul turns his attention to those who seem to regard all sex as dirty, and who therefore advocated celibacy. For those who are single, it means staying single and, unlike today, celibate as well. For those who are married, it seems to mean that these couples should also refrain from sexual relations.

The Corinthian Error and the Culture of that Day

In the matter of sexual conduct, the Corinthians live in a very troubled world, not unlike the world of our own day. The ancient world of Paul’s day has a very distorted view of women, sex, and marriage. A. W. Verrall, the great classical scholar, once said that one of the chief diseases of which ancient civilization died was a low view of women. The Greeks were not known for sexual purity:

Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the common and accepted rule of life: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”

The Roman sexual ethic was no better:

But at the time of Paul, Roman family life was wrecked. Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers; they called them by the names of their husbands. Martial the Roman poet tells of a woman who had ten husbands; Juvenal tells us of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her twenty-third husband and she herself was his twenty-first wife. We find even a Roman Emperor Augustus demanding that her husband should divorce the lady Livia when she was with child that he might himself marry her. We find even Cicero, in his old age, putting away his wife Terentia that he might marry a young heiress, whose trustee he was, that he might enter into her estate, in order to pay his debts.

One would hope the Jews would be exemplary in matters of sex and marriage, but this simply is not the case.

In Paul’s day Judaism reverenced neither women nor marriage. “It was Josephus who wrote, ‘The woman is worse than the man in everything’ (Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2, 201). No wonder, in the light of such harsh attitudes, that the Synagogue prayer book has the man offer the daily prayer, ‘I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast not made me a Gentile dog nor a woman.’” In the age of the coming of Christianity, even with Judaism the marriage bond was in peril. So great was its peril that the very institution of marriage was threatened. Jewish girls were refusing to marry at all because the position of the wife was so uncertain.

Even in our own time, the ancient ritual of “female circumcision” is practiced. This surgical procedure (if one dares to dignify it by such terms) is of no benefit to the woman, but imposed upon the female so that she may never have the enjoyment of sex. It seems that in the minds of those men who impose this on women, it is the woman’s place to give pleasure to the man, but never the woman’s place to receive pleasure from the man. Sadly, among pagans and Christians alike, there is a similar (if less brutal) belief strongly held by some today. The man expects his wife to give him sexual pleasure at any time, but he feels little or no obligation toward fulfilling his wife sexually.

Paul’s words concerning sex and marriage were desperately needed in his day and no less needed in our own day. Let us listen to the finest sex education available to men—a word from God on sex and marriage, through the Apostle Paul.

An Overview of the Teaching

of the Bible on Sex and Marriage

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 are in response to a question asked by some of the Corinthian saints who correspond with him. Paul is required to address a group of Corinthian saints who have adopted an extreme view of sex and marriage. Paul’s words in the first seven verses of chapter 7 should be understood in light of the broader teaching of the Bible concerning sex and marriage. Before devoting our attention to the distorted views of sex and marriage which some of the Corinthians hold, let us remind ourselves of what the Bible as a whole says on the subject.

In Genesis 2:18, we read that God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone: I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Being alone, that is, being single, was not good, and so God created a helper suitable for Adam, a wife to be his companion and counterpart. From the Book of Proverbs, we know that God designed marriage and sex not only as a means for bringing children into this world, but also as God’s appointed means for a man to find pleasure in his wife:

15 Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love (Proverbs 5:15-19).

In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus attended a wedding and then miraculously provided wine when their supplies were exhausted (John 2:1-11). The Apostle Paul assumed that elders and deacons would be married, with children (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Paul also encouraged younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). He claimed the right as an apostle to “lead about a wife” (1 Corinthians 9:5). The writer to the Hebrews also held marriage in high esteem, and the proper realm for sexual enjoyment between husband and wife. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

In the Bible, marriage is viewed as the norm, and the single life as the exception. Marriage is viewed as holy, righteous, and good. Those who seek to prohibit marriage as something evil are identified as false teachers by Paul (1 Timothy 4:1-5). When we approach 1 Corinthians 7, we must do so confident that marriage is a good gift from God, a gift many Christians gratefully receive and enjoy.

A Touchy Issue

(7:1)

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman (NASB).

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry (NIV).

It is generally assumed that the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul asking his advice on certain matters. Beginning with the statement, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” in 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul continues to go back to their questions (not necessarily in the order they raised them) and to give his answer. It seems good to ask our own question, like the little lady in the TV commercial who asks, “Where’s the beef?” Where’s the question? Paul does not say, “Now concerning the things you have asked,” but rather, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote….” There is a considerable difference here.

Some people ask a question which is not meant to be enlightening. Many questions are asked in a way which cleverly “teaches” the one who is asked or others who are listening. Some seek to undermine the teaching or authority of the one asked. This is surely the purpose of the questions the scribes and Pharisees asked our Lord. But here, we should recognize that we are assuming something not specifically stated. Were the Corinthians really asking Paul questions? And, if so, were their questions sincere?

I raise this issue because of what Paul has already told us in his letter to the Corinthians. There are divisions in the Corinthian church. Various little groups have their own leaders and their own doctrines. Each group takes pride in itself, in its leader, and in the “wisdom” it possesses. Those in one group look down on those in another, because they are not so wise nor so persuasive and powerful, nor well esteemed by the pagan world of that day. One thing many Corinthians share is their disdain for the Apostle Paul. They believe they are wise, and Paul is foolish:

8 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. 9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now (1 Corinthians 4:8-13).

In the light of Paul’s assessment of his standing in the hearts and minds of the Corinthians given here, it seems we should be very careful about assuming too much when we come to those things the Corinthians have written to Paul. Are they—wise as they are—trying to enlighten Paul? It is indeed possible. Are they writing to Paul as their spiritual father and mentor, wanting to hear and to heed his wisdom? It is not very likely. I am therefore inclined to view their communication with Paul with some suspicion. Paul may very graciously avoid giving us any greater detail than to specify the issues raised by their communication with him, whether rightly motivated or not.

We know from Paul’s words in chapter 5 that when a man is found to be living with his father’s wife, the church does not mournfully exercise church discipline; rather, they become proud (5:2). Some Corinthians are proud as a result of sin and their response to it. When Paul raises the issue of sex and marriage in chapter 7, he is dealing with the opposite extreme in the church … those who have overreacted to fleshly lusts, seeking to overcome them by asceticism. These folks are just as proud of their asceticism as the others named in chapter 5 are of their fleshly indulgence. Perhaps these ascetics have become so smug they assume Paul will applaud them. After all, when it comes to sexual abstinence and remaining single, Paul stands out among the apostles, and among those in the churches (see 1 Corinthians 9:4-5). They may not agree with Paul on many matters, but these ascetics seem to want Paul’s endorsement here. Paul’s words in response to their communication will shock them. They will not get what they expect nor what they want. They will get much more than they asked.

Before attempting to interpret Paul’s words in verse 1, we must pause to point out that the translation of the NIV is inaccurate. The expression, “not to touch a woman,” is a reference to sexual intercourse, not marriage, and thus the NIV is in error when it translates as it does.

The idiom ‘to touch a woman’ occurs nine times in Greek antiquity, ranging across six centuries and a variety of writers, and in every other instance, without ambiguity it refers to having sexual intercourse. There is no evidence of any kind that it can be extended or watered down to mean, ‘It is good for a man not to marry.’

The Corinthian ascetics would not sanction sexual immorality. Indeed, they would not sanction sex. They feel that sex is dirty, whether within marriage or without. This tells us more about the ascetics than it does about biblical morality: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Having concluded that all sex is evil, these folks follow out the implications of their false doctrine. If all sex is evil, then it is evil to enjoy sex in marriage. Husbands and wives should abstain from sex, unless for the bearing of children (if that). And those who are single should avoid the “temptation to have sex” by avoiding and abstaining from marriage. Paul cannot and will not endorse such a view.

What is most impressive in chapter 7 is the gentleness of the Apostle Paul. He is certainly practicing what he preaches. Remember these words Paul wrote to Timothy about dealing with those who are in error:

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

How easy it would have been for Paul to come on strong with these Corinthians. Instead, he gently seeks to show them the error of their thinking and conduct. He clearly distinguishes between his personal convictions, his counsel (advice), and his authoritative apostolic commands (see 7:6-7, 40). His approach is to introduce the issue at hand and then gently correct the errors. In later chapters (e.g. 8-10), Paul’s initial gentleness leads to a very clear and forceful conclusion.

The ascetics of the Corinthian church have over-reacted to the immorality of that day, concluding that all sex is dirty and should be avoided, even within marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” I think he is repeating the position held by the Corinthian ascetics. This was their slogan. Paul repeats the statement, not because he agrees with it in its entirety, but because he agrees with it in part. He will shortly set out to clarify the circumstances in which celibacy could serve a beneficial purpose. I am going to advance to verses 6-9 at this point to suggest just how sexual abstinence could be beneficial. I do this because the main thrust of verses 1-7 is to address the role of sex within marriage. Later verses will expand upon the benefits a celibate lifestyle can produce.

The Benefits of Staying Single

(7:6-9)

6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.

The first thing we should observe is that celibacy does have its benefits. When celibacy (abstaining from sex, and thus from marriage) contributes to the cause of Christ, it is depicted positively in the Bible. Our Lord spoke positively of celibacy:

11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it” (Matthew 19:11-12).

Paul speaks positively of it as well in 1 Corinthians 9 in reference to his choice and to that of Barnabas also to remain single (1 Corinthians 9:4-6). Finally, in the Book of Revelation we are told that the 144,00 will be celibates:

3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:3-4).

When Paul speaks of sexual abstinence and celibacy, he does so in a very carefully defined manner. Notice the qualifications Paul sets down regarding sexual abstinence:

(1) Paul does wish that all of the Corinthians could be single (and thus sexually celibate). Paul indicates his “wish” that all men were as he. It is clear that this could not and should not be. Paul simply desires that men might be free from distractions in order to devote themselves to serving God (see also 1 Corinthians 7:34-35).

(2) Paul does not seek to impose this on the Corinthians; he indicates this is his wish, stated by concession and not as a command (oh, that we might be so honest). The ascetics seem to have imposed their view of spirituality upon all. Paul does not represent his preference as a biblical imperative, but as a personal preference which God has allowed him to express as such. Unlike many of us, Paul carefully distinguishes between those commands which are from Christ, and must not be ignored, and the counsel he offers which men can (and perhaps should) disregard. I am reminded of Paul’s advice to Apollos, which Apollos declined to accept and apply:

12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12).

(3) This distinction between concession and command is not an indictment against the inspiration of the Scriptures, but an affirmation of them. Some might question why anything we find in the Scriptures is less than a command, but this is the very nature of convictions. When Paul indicates that a certain view or preference of his is not by divine revelation, and therefore not binding on his readers, he is demonstrating personal integrity by not trying to give the impression that his desires are God’s desires. By doing so, he also underscores the fact that the rest of the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative:

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

If any of Paul’s statements are less than a “thus saith the Lord,” we can count on Paul to tell us so.

(4) Paul does not speak of celibacy as a spiritually superior state but as a less distracted state, a way of serving our Lord with greater focus and consistency. The Corinthian celibates surely thought of themselves as more spiritual and were proud of their celibacy. They must have looked down on those who were married. But it doesn’t take a Harvard graduate to recognize that many singles today who know Jesus Christ as Savior are not serving God with the intensity and focus of some who are married and have families.

(5) Paul sees this singleness and celibacy as a matter related to one’s gift and calling. Unlike most students of the Scriptures, I am not saying that celibacy is a spiritual gift. I am saying that celibacy is related to one’s gift and calling. If one were to conclude that there were such a thing as “the gift of celibacy,” it would have to be from this passage, and quite frankly, this passage does not compel one to reach this conclusion. Consider the reasons that there does not seem to be such a thing as a gift of celibacy:

Nowhere else in the Bible is celibacy identified as a spiritual gift. There are several texts in Scripture where various spiritual gifts are enumerated. In none of these texts is celibacy listed as a spiritual gift.

In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul does not call celibacy a gift. Paul simply says each one has his gift, “one in this manner, and another in that.” The expression, “one in this manner, and another in that” is unusual, if Paul means for us to conclude that celibacy is a spiritual gift. One would have expected him to say, “one has this gift, and another that,” or something to this effect. Paul seems to be speaking about the manner in which different gifts are exercised and not what the particular gift may be.

If celibacy were a spiritual gift, it differs from all the other spiritual gifts. Every other gift is related to a function. Every other gift can be converted to a verb. The gift of helps entails helping. The gift of teaching entails teaching. The gift of exhortation entails exhorting. Just exactly what does the gift of celibacy do? So far as I can tell, it does nothing other than to prevent one from having sex.

If I correctly understand those who believe celibacy is a gift, then the gift of celibacy is the absence of sexual desire. If not the absence of desire, celibacy is an added measure of self-control. Those whom I have heard speak of celibacy as a gift do not define it very carefully. Usually it would seem as though the one who is celibate is the person who does not desire sex or marriage. I have never met such a person, at least as far as the absence of sexual desire is concerned. There are many people who may not wish to marry, but few of them claim to lack sexual desire. How does the absence of sexual desire (if there is such a thing) minister to the body of Christ? If there were a gift of celibacy, I know of a number of people who are widowed or divorced who would welcome such a gift, but I have never seen it.

I understand celibacy to be the conscious choice to control one’s sexual desires and to remain single so that one’s gifts and calling may be more effectively utilized. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. Apostleship, along with other gifts, was bestowed upon Paul at the time of his conversion. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Paul to carry out his calling if he had been married and the father of a number of children. Can you imagine a family man going from city to city, living in one home and then another, sometimes being self-supporting, and other times living on the gifts of others? Can you see Paul’s wife and family being cast into prison with him, or being left alone without any support? Celibacy was the ideal state for a man like Paul, who had his gifts and calling. I think that is what Paul means when he says, “… each man has his own gift, one in this manner, and another in that.” We might paraphrase Paul’s words in this way: “Each man has his own gifts and calling, which are carried out in one manner or another, some serving God through marriage, and some serving Him through remaining single.” Some ministries are conducted much better in the context of marriage and the family. Paul would have trouble, for example, showing hospitality. Whether one chooses to marry or to remain single should be determined on how that person’s gift and calling can best be fulfilled. For some, this will mean marriage (and all that comes with it, like the pleasures and responsibilities of sex); for some it may mean celibacy (with the freedom and undistracted life that comes with it).

Staying single (and thus sexually inactive) may be the calling of some. If it is your calling, it is for the glory of God and for the promotion of the gospel. But the single life and sexual abstinence is not the rule, as Paul knows. And so in verses 2-5, we find Paul speaking of the role of sex in marriage.

Sex and Spirituality in Marriage

(7:2-4)

2 But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Notice the three-fold parallel structure in verses 2-4 which stress the mutuality of sexual pleasure and sexual duty:

Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband (verse 2).

Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband (verse 3)

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (verse 4).

Paul does not stress the submission of the wife to her husband here, as though it is his role to get pleasure from his wife, and her role to give pleasure to her husband. There is mutual submission here, so that both the husband and the wife are to subordinate their interest (pleasure in sex) to the interest of their mate. Consider the guiding principles for what we might call “Spirit-filled marital sex.”

(1) The norm is that Christians will marry and that as a Christian couple, the husband and wife will enjoy regular sexual relations. The ascetics are absolutely wrong in thinking and teaching that sex is unspiritual and thus inappropriate even within the bonds of matrimony. Consistently abstaining from sex in marriage is not only unnatural, it is unholy.

(2) A healthy sex life is a preventative for immorality. A healthy and pleasurable sex life between a husband and wife is a normal and natural release of sexual tension, and thus it is helpful in the prevention of sexual immorality. Good sex in marriage is not a guarantee that there will be marital fidelity. If one mate is unfaithful to the other, it does not necessarily mean that the offended spouse has failed to satisfy the other. David certainly had enough wives to satisfy his sexual appetites, but he committed adultery anyway. The lusting eye is never satisfied. Nevertheless, Paul speaks of sexual relations in marriage as a preventative for sexual immorality outside of marriage: “Because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” The ascetics are wrong. To abstain from marital sex proves to be a temptation; to enjoy marital sex promotes edification.

(3) Both husband and wife should eagerly engage in the sexual act as their duty, both to God and to their mate. It is not just the wife who is commanded to give herself to her husband; the husband is likewise commanded to give himself to his wife. In fact, the husband is first commanded to give himself to his wife, and then the wife to her husband (see verse 3).

(4) Both husband and wife should not only give themselves for sex, but each should seek to produce the ultimate pleasure for their partner. Reaching the ultimate pleasure in the sexual union is what best insures against immorality. Frustratingly unfulfilling sex to one partner or the other will also tempt one to be immoral. The “use me” mindset in sexual intimacy falls far short of the mark which Paul sets for us here. The duty of the husband is to satisfy his wife sexually, just as the duty of the wife is to satisfy her husband. This is the best one can do to stay sexually pure and to encourage one’s mate to do likewise.

(5) Neither the husband nor the wife has the authority to deprive their mate sexually. If I have not said it clearly enough, I will say it bluntly here: it is wrong to deprive one’s mate of the pleasures of sexual intimacy. There is nothing spiritual about avoiding sex. I think I should also say that there is nothing particularly spiritual about demanding sex either.

(6) Those Christians who have been forcibly making a celibate of their mate by withholding sex are commanded to stop sinning in this fashion. Paul’s command to “stop depriving one another” in verse 5 strongly implies that a number of Corinthian Christians are already withholding sex from their mates. Paul tells us that withholding sex from your mate is sin, a sin which must be repented of, and a sin which we must correct by obeying our Lord’s command through Paul. Paul spoke of the benefits of staying single by concession, rather than by command. But the instruction to husbands and wives to sexually fulfill each other is a command, not a wish or a suggestion. To refuse to change in this area is to willfully disobey one of God’s commands.

(7) Sexual abstinence is to be a rare and temporary exception to the norm of regular sexual union. There are obviously times when normal sexual relations are temporarily interrupted. In the Old Testament, a man was not to have sex with his wife during her monthly period (see Leviticus 15:19, 24; 18:19). Here, Paul speaks of the temporary interruption of a couple’s marital sex life to facilitate prayer. The reason should be obvious, especially for parents with children in the home. Bedtime seems to be the only “private” time two parents have. This means that besides sleep, closing the bedroom door affords the opportunity to enjoy sexual intimacy; it also affords the opportunity for prayer. Frankly, it is difficult to have both prayer and sex on the same agenda, especially if the prayer is urgent and extended. For a bachelor, Paul seems to understand married life very well.

Paul sets down some very stringent requirements regarding the cessation of normal sexual relations in marriage. First, the decision to abstain from sex must be mutually reached by the husband and the wife. There must not be a unilateral decision made by one spouse. Second, a cessation of normal sexual relations should only take place for matters of great urgency. I understand Paul’s words in verse 5 to refer to specific, urgent matters of prayer, and not normal prayers. The King James Version may well be the original text, and it includes fasting with prayer.

Third, normal sexual relations should be resumed quickly, so that Satan may not take advantage of their lack of self-control. This statement should have really irritated the Corinthian ascetics, who thought of their sexual abstinence as the epitome of self-control. Not according to Paul! Sexual abstinence did not strengthen these saints in their battle with the flesh and with Satan; it weakened them, and it made them vulnerable.

Unfortunately, I have known of situations in which “prayer” was the excuse of one mate for avoiding sex with the other. Who can be more pious than one who gives up sex for prayer? And who can be so unspiritual as to criticize anyone for neglecting their sex life to enhance their prayer life? It is the ultimate spiritual “lion in the road” (to use an expression from the Book of Proverbs). A “lion in the road” is a compelling reason (excuse) for avoiding what one really doesn’t want to do. If the truth were known, a healthy sexual relationship between a man and his wife may facilitate a richer prayer life. I say this on the basis of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:7 “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Surely “living with one’s wife in an understanding way” includes the sexual relationship. A sexually frustrated and irritated mate is not a good prayer partner.

Conclusion

The church at Corinth did not write to Paul about divisions and factions, about false wisdom or pride, about leaders who looked down on Paul and his gospel. They wrote to Paul about sex, and specifically, about abstaining from sex. They do not want advice from Paul on their sex lives; they only want his endorsement. But if they had wanted advice on matters of sex, do you think they would have expected wise counsel from Paul? How can a man who is both a bachelor and a preacher teach these “worldly wise” folks anything about sex? They must believe they know it all. They may have been the Dr. Ruth’s of their day. But, wonder of wonders, God chose to give the finest sex education available, the best counsel on sex in marriage, through Paul. Once again, the wisdom of God is vastly other than the wisdom of men!

I wish I could have seen the looks on the faces of the Corinthian ascetics as they heard Paul’s response to what they have written. These folks must be so puffed up with pride at their self-control and victory over fleshly desires. While they differ with Paul in many matters, surely they think Paul will applaud them for maintaining that sex is dirty and should be avoided, even in marriage. They do not want Paul’s advice or instruction, only his endorsement. What they receive is something entirely different. Paul agrees that abstaining from sex can be beneficial, but only in the most restricted applications. Instead of applauding them for abstaining from sex in marriage, Paul instructs them to engage in sex with their spouses as a duty. This must not be done with gritted teeth, and the goal of each mate should be to satisfy the other.

The Corinthian ascetics think that spirituality is antithetical to the enjoyment of sex within marriage. Paul wants his readers (which includes us) to understand that spirituality encompasses every aspect of one’s life, including sex. If you are married, have you ever thought of whether your sex life is Spirit-filled or not? You should. Paul is teaching husbands and wives that servanthood is the fundamental ingredient to satisfying sexual intimacy in marriage. How many times have you read these words penned by Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians:

1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

How often have you considered Paul’s teaching here as governing your sexual relationship with your spouse? If marriage is a reflection of the union Christ has with His church, then how would we think the physical union of a man and his wife is not of great importance to God? True, this is a “private” matter, between man and wife, but why would we think the angels would not be watching and learning (see 1 Corinthians 11:10)? Sex is not “dirty;” it is a gift of God, which is to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage and to portray the most precious “union” of all, the union of God and His church.

God has uniquely fashioned the man and the woman so that they are very different. I do not mean different in the biological sense, but different in their makeup. Husbands tend to respond very quickly; wives are not as quickly stimulated and not by the same kinds of things. I have heard it said by some that men and women are mismatched, sexually speaking. And so they are, by divine design. Sex cannot be mutually satisfying without real love. In this sense, biblical sex is “making love.” And love is manifested in sacrifice. Only as both the husband and the wife sacrifice their own interests (sexually speaking) is the other satisfied. Sacrificial servanthood is the key to Spirit-filled sex.

I want to be very clear here that we are not just talking about some kind of technique, which, if followed, brings maximum pleasure to the one who employs it. The husband should be sensitively attuned to his wife, seeking to bring her fulfillment. But this is not just because it is the way he will find his own fulfillment. Love-making in marriage seeks to bring pleasure to one’s spouse at one’s own expense. There is a lot of talk about “maximum sex,” but sex should never be approached selfishly as the means to the ultimate goal of self-satisfaction. “Taking up one’s cross” applies in the board room and in the bedroom.

In his Epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul specifically deals with sex as a part of the believer’s sanctification:

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Sanctification includes the avoidance of sexual immorality (verse 3). It also involves the Christian relating to his or her spouse sexually in a way that is distinctly Christian and not pagan (verses 4-5). It is clear that we may sin in the matter of sex, and that God is the avenger is such cases (verse 7). God has not called us to impurity but to holiness, and this holiness will be evident in the way we sexually relate to our spouse (verse 7). To reject Paul’s “sex education” is to reject the Spirit of God (verse 8).

I am not amazed that the unbelieving world, sex-and self-crazed as it is, finds frustration more than fulfillment in the bedroom. I am deeply distressed that many Christians are living defeated lives in relation to sex. Some are simply not having sex, usually due to the disobedience of one of the two partners, and sometimes due to the apathy of both. Some are engaging in illicit sex, either by means of pornography or illicit sexual unions outside of marriage. Others find sexual stimulation in the workplace by telling off-color stories and by suggestive dress and talk. The latest temptation is “cyber sex,” illicit sex by means of the computer. I don’t think I will tell you all of the ways this can be done. Hopefully, I do not know them. Here is a definite area of danger, and I hope that you can see that it is totally self-serving.

Paul’s teaching in verses 1-7 present us with two apparent problems. First, Paul speaks of marriage and sex as a preventative to immorality: “But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (verse 2). These words seem to suggest that Paul views sex and marriage in a less than noble way. Is sex only a preventative and not a pleasure for the Christian? Paul’s second statement raises similar questions: “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (verse 3). Is sex only a duty and not a delight?

I would say first that in our fallen world and culture, sex is viewed primarily in terms of selfish pleasure. Sex, apart from biblical servanthood, is self-centered pleasure seeking. I would like you to consider sex in the light of the “great commandment” of the Bible:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).

The whole Law can be summed up by two commandments: (1) love God with all of one’s being, and (2) love your neighbor.

How does one love God? Peter tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in relation to God:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers (1 Peter 1:14-18).

Loving God requires being holy. Being holy means not being conformed to those lusts which once dominated us as unbelievers. Immorality is one of the sins which characterizes the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Thus, the Christian should fervently desire to avoid immorality. And so when Paul speaks of marriage and sex as a preventative for immoralities, why should we think Paul is taking sex lightly? Righteousness is the higher goal, and marriage (and sex) are a means to this goal. Paul does not think little of sex; he thinks more highly of righteousness. Isn’t being godly a higher goal than being sexually fulfilled? The problem is not with Paul; it is with us. We value sex more highly than pleasing God.

The second dimension of the great commandment is that we should love our neighbor as ourself. How does this relate to the subject of sex within marriage? Our wife (or our husband) is our neighbor. We are to love our spouse as we love ourself (see also Ephesians 5:28-32). To do so, we must put the (sexual) interests of our mate above our own. Living by the law of love makes it my duty to sexually fulfill my spouse. Is my duty demeaning, something for which I should apologize? It is my duty to keep the commandments of my Lord. Is this demeaning? Not at all! The goal for which I should strive is to see my duty as my delight. This is the way David and other godly men approached God’s law (see Psalm 40:6-8; see also 119:9-16, 24, 137-144).

I would like to suggest to you that sex is similar to worship. Indeed, in the pagan cultures (such as with the Canaanites in the Old Testament and the Corinthians in the New) sex was a part of worship (see also Exodus 32:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 10:6-8). And no wonder, for making sex a part of worship assured the “worshippers” of instant satisfaction.

I fear that we approach worship in a way that is all too similar to the way many approach sex. Some, who feel like worship does not satisfy or fulfill them, are inclined to avoid it. We evaluate worship more in terms of what we have gained than in what we have given. I would remind you that the operative term when it comes to worship is sacrifice, not fulfillment. I would further say that worship (like sex) is not so much about seeking pleasure for ourselves as it is about giving pleasure to God.

Sexuality and spirituality are very closely related. Paul calls for each of us who knows God through Jesus Christ to elevate our sexuality to the standard God has set, to make sexuality an expression of our spirituality to the glory of God, and ultimately for our good.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

MAKE AMERICA SPIRITUAL AGAIN

September 3, 2018

balance

Let me tell you this: The America that I knew as a boy is gone. I say that with a broken heart. The people of God in this country have sold their spiritual birthright in order to be tolerant and lazy. We have been taken captive by a foreign entity and carried away into a strange land. Up is down and down is up. Morality is attacked and our youth in church and out are persuaded that anything goes. And, I must confess to you that America has been taken captive by the world, the flesh, and the devil, multiculturalism and tolerance and diversity blathering.

God has blessed America. God gave us abundance, but the abundance has turned to greed. God gave us freedom, but the freedom has turned to license. This nation was dedicated by our founding fathers to Almighty God; and now, there are powerful forces in America that are endeavoring to make it illegal for us to make mention of His name in public places, for boys and girls to carry Bibles to school or to wear Christian emblems on their clothing. America has been taken captive. Did you know that America is the most sinful nation on Earth? Now, you say, “Wait a minute. What about the pagan nations?” They have not been given what we’ve been given. We have sinned against light.

Did you know that the United States of America is doing more to corrupt other nations than any other nation? We are exporting pornography around the world. People are watching American movies and American filth around the world; and, as Christians, we have been unfaithful to God. All of this has happened, as we’re going to see in our study, today, on our watch. And, all of the problems, the debauchery, in the world today is a monument to the failure of the Church. I’ve already read the newspaper this morning, but it’s like yesterday’s newspaper, and the newspapers of the past year: crime, abortion, divorce, violence, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, unwed teen pregnancy, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, sodomy—that is America, so-called God-blessed America.

It’s no wonder our enemies call us the Great Satan. Look how we are acting. The sad truth is you can’t tell the American pagans from the Christian Sloths.

Our need in America today is for a recovery, because we’ve been taken captive, and for revival to get back to where we ought to be, and then to rebuild, because we have lost our moral foundations.

How ironic that our president is making America great again in every way but spiritually. That’s ok, he is a political leader a Spiritual Leader. I think it very interesting that Billy Graham has passed away, he was called the Pastor to the Presidents. And there is no one I can name that I would trust to fill that position.

America needs a spiritual recovery, a revival. Those that are truly bible believers need to get on their knees and pray. Then they need to get on their feet and share what God has done for them. The door hasn’t closed yet, we might be oppressed as Christians, but we are not shackled, nor have we lost the right to speak the truth. Is there a risk for some people to do so, yes, there is.

But Christianity has always grown stronger when oppressed.

There needs to be a weeding out of sheep from the goats, and the fake spiritual leaders need to be challenged and thrown out.

The problems we are facing are not because of illegal aliens, or the Muslim scourge, it’s the lazy, to fat, easy believism and carnal, worldly Christians that are the problem. We are the church that no longer has Christ as our first love.

So my prayer today is we pray for pastors to either get in touch with God or step down from their pulpits and become car salesmen and that people would yearn to hear the truth about the bible as still relevant and that fact that sin is still sin.

Will you join me in praying for America? I hope you become as burdened as I am.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

MAKE AMERICA SPIRITUAL AGAIN, FOLLOWING AFTER THE GOD OF THE BIBLE.