That ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

  There should be neither undergrowth, nor overgrowth, but balanced growth. Spiritual equilibrium alone will bring forth much fruit both in us and in others.

A popular notion that the first obligation of the Church is to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false. The first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it. . . to spread a weak or worn out and degenerate brand of Christianity to pagan lands is not to fulfil the Great Commission.

 We were created for more than our own spiritual development; reproduction, not mere development, is the goal to mature being—reproduction in other lives. There is a tendency in some characters, running parallel to the high cultivation that spends its whole energy on the production of bloom at the expense of seed.

 The flowers (Christians) that are bent on perfecting themselves, by becoming double, (carbon copies, like a cult) end in barrenness, and a like barrenness comes to the soul whose interests are all concentrated upon its own spiritual well-being, heedless of the needs around. The true, ideal flower, (saint) is the one that uses its gifts as means to an end; their experiences are not for their own glory; but a godly, spiritual attractiveness, that draws others to the Lord, like a bee to a flower. That holy flame burning inside, lit by the Holy Spirit, draws strength from the Lord and produces a holy, sweet aroma, a life pleasing to God.

  “Holding forth the word of life, that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain” (Phil. 2:16).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Ann and her battle with abusing prescriptions.

Pray for Sharon as she fight vertigo, pray for a swift healing.

The Braying

April 10, 2018

  “The things that thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

  Truth based upon law will be presented legally—it will be legislated. Truth based upon grace will be shared graciously, in love. “Adorn the doctrine of God” by “speaking the truth in love” (Titus 2:10; Eph. 4:15).

  There are two things that have to be taken into account in communicating truth. Not merely should there be certainty that it is the truth from God, but it must also be suited to those whom you address. They might need it all, but they may not be in condition to receive it all; and the more precious the truth, the greater the injury, in a certain sense, if it is presented to those who are not in a state to profit by it.

We see a servant in Acts 8 taken away from an interesting field of service, to meet one man in the desert. “It is not a question of how we succeed; but have we the assurance that we are doing the Lord’s work? Happy is the servant of God, who is so led by Him that he always presents the right measure of truth suited to the maturity of the believer and refuses to supply the knowledge that is not fitting or proper to their spiritual condition.

If you thought preaching was easy, it’s anything but that. One of my hardest battles was realizing you can’t teach a fool, no matter how much you liked them.

  “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13).

A right word at the right time to the right person at the right moment; only when you are led by God.

And most of the time (99%) you will never know it when you do.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

the marriage list

March 24, 2018

been a long time since I’ve done a list, since I’m well known in the area for doing weddings not held in a church and have one tomorrow this is befitting.

I have two rules (besides the list) one, be sober, and two, show respect or I will either leave or jack you up. best behaved group of people I’ve ever had was a L.A. gang wedding. They flew out to the ranch so they wouldn’t have to worry about gun play.

MIXED MARRIAGES

  1. Don’t be yoked with an unbeliever.

2 Cor. 6:14-16. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

  1. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed.

Amos 3:3. Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

  1. There were sad results of mixed marriages prior to the flood.

Gen. 6:1-4.

  1. God’s people are warned against mixed marriages; unbelievers will lead them to sin.

Exod. 34:16. When you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

  1. God will reveal his anger if and when his people marry unbelievers.

Josh. 23:12-13. If you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.

  1. In Ezra’s time many did intermarry. This led to much sin, and Ezra confessed the guilt of God’s people.

Ezra 9:1-15.

Ezra 9:2. The leaders came to me (Ezra) and said, “The people of Israel. . .have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

  1. Men of Judah intermarried and were led into deep sin. God was angry with them.

Neh. 13:23-27. Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for your sons or for yourselves. Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”

MARRIAGE, HUSBAND/WIFE RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Marriage was instituted and designed by God.

Gen 2:18-25.

  1. At the heart of marriage is companionship and intimacy, which both husband and wife must promote.

Gen. 2:18, 24. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”. . .For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

  1. The relationship between husband and wife is similar to that between Christ and the church. Eph. 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Eph. 5:31-32. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.

  1. The husband is the head of the wife and the home.

Eph. 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

  1. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church.

Eph. 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

  1. Husbands must exercise headship in love.

Eph. 5:25-33.

Col. 3:19. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

  1. Husbands must treat their wives with the respect and as equal heirs of God’s gifts.

1 Peter 3:7. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

  1. The husband must manage his own home well; he is the manager.

1 Tim. 3:4. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

  1. The husband and father is primarily responsible for training the children.

Eph. 6:4. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

  1. God’s design for the wife is that of a helper suitable for man.

Gen. 2:18. The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

  1. Both husband and wife must seek to reflect the relationship between Christ and his church. Eph. 5:25, 32.

  2. A wife is to submit to her husband, as the church submit to Christ.

Eph. 5:22-24. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Col. 3:18. Wives, submit to your husbands in everything.

Col. 3:18. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

1 Peter 3:1-2. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

  1. A woman is not to exercise authority over a man.

1 Tim. 2:11-14. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adams was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

  1. The Bible gives a description of a wife of noble character, who uses her gifts faithfully.

Prov. 31:10-31.

Prov. 31:10-11. A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lack nothing of value.

  1. The fear of the Lord is more important than physical beauty.

Prov. 31:30. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

  • Peter 3:3-4. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

  1. Husbands and wives must not fight and destroy each other.

Gal. 5:15. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

  1. Both husband and wife must quickly pursue peace when trouble arises.

Matt. 5:23-24. If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.

Rom. 12:18. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

  1. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Matt. 12:25. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

  1. Keep loving those who are wayward.

  • 18:33. (David never lost his love for his son Absalom, who tried to kill him. When he learned of his death, he wept.) The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”

MARRIAGE

(Winning One’s Mate to Christ)

On a certain occasion, Jesus startled His disciples with a paradox. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. for I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36, NIV).

In no situation is the cost of discipleship more evident than in marriage where one partner is a Christian and the other is not. Life sometimes becomes complicated because the interests, activities, and goals are at variance. The conversion to Christ of one’s mate should receive the highest priority, but extreme caution should be exercised as to methods followed in pursuit of this goal. Many marriages end in divorce because of the insensitivity and overzealousness of the Christian partner in attempting to witness.

Counseling Strategy:

  1. Congratulate the inquirer for the concern in wanting to share the most wonderful of life’s experience with someone so dear. The caller must be aware, however, of the “sword” in the above quotation.

  2. Counsel the individual not to attempt to play God. He or she cannot force the mate to accept Christ, nor can one do it for the other. Those who attempt to take things into their own hands may be headed for disaster.

  3. Counsel him not to come on too strong but to maintain a humble attitude rather than a judgmental one. Attitude is extremely important.

  4. Counsel the Christian to devote himself or herself to personal spiritual maturity through the reading and studying of God’s Word, to learn to pray, and to practice it faithfully. Prayer is of great value. Commit the mate to the Lord and by faith claim conversion. It would be wise not even to reveal the prayer concern. Trust God. He has a wonderful way of working things out.

  5. Example is powerful! Let the mate see Jesus in the other’s attitudes and actions.

Let love overflow. True love cannot be counterfeited. Paul says: “Love is patient, love is kind. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4,8, NIV). Make an attempt to demonstrate that “God has poured out his love into our hearts. . .” (Romans 5:5, NIV).

  1. Never try to win the day through argument or sermonizing. This will usually produce antagonism and deepen resistance. Peaceful co-existence is a method suggested by the Apostle Paul. See 1 Corinthians 7:12-15.

Billy Graham touches on this: “The Apostle Peter had something to say about this. He said: “Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they may without the word be won by the (behavior) of the wives’ (1 Peter 3:1). This is no easy assignment, but the responsibility is upon you, not on your husband, to live a life that will challenge him to make his own decision. This cannot be done by nagging or lecturing, but by the manifestation of a spirit of meekness and submission that he had not discovered in you before. Whether it is the husband or the wife who is the Christian, as a Christian he must always accept and expect some ridicule and even mistreatment for the faith. Just bear this in mind: no one is in a better relationship to win the other to Christ than a life partner.”

  1. Do not insist that the mate attend church or special Christian services unless there seems to be a disposition to do so. An alternative to church would be introducing Christian friends into the home on social occasions. The husband or wife is bound to see the difference in their lives. The opportune moment for sharing Christ will come.

  2. Pray with the inquirer for perception, wisdom, and patience to await the right moment, putting into practice all the above as indicated.

SCRIPTURE

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

1 Peter 3:1-4, NIV

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

James 1:5, KJV

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”                                                                                James 3:17, KJV

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6, 7, NIV

MARITAL RELATIONS PROBLEM

The person’s marriage may be on the verge of breaking up; separation may have already occurred. In marital conflict, disagreement and mistrust are the rule rather than the exception.

BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

The scriptural ideal is that two shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24). God intended the man and the woman to be bound together until death (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11; Mark 10:9).

COUNSEL

Try to find the root cause of the marital conflict, i.e., inability to accept the other person as he is, unforgiveness, lack of submission to the other, etc. Intercede on behalf of the couple, praising God for what he will do. Denounce Satan (Matt. 18:18) He is a liar and a deceiver and desires to destroy marriages.

Pray for God’s grace on the persons involved (Ps. 103:8). The Lord desires to shine his face upon them and be gracious to them (Num. 6:4-6). He wants to ground them and plant their roots deep. He is keeping them according to his power working in them (Eph. 3:17-20).

Therefore, at each encouragement, praise God for restoring and blessing the marriage (Heb. 13:15).

If a person chooses to fast in behalf of the people involved, interceding in prayer and standing for the spiritually weak partners, God has promised to honor such a fast and repair the breach (Isa. 58:6-12).

Do not take sides yourself, creating a three way conflict.

Refer the person(s) to a pastor for counseling at a Christ-centered church that clearly teaches the Bible.

PRAYER

Offer thanks and praise to God for working out the rough places and giving hope and renewal.

FOLLOW-UP

Make a list of all the things for which you can honestly praise your spouse. Each day share five of these, instead of criticizing, for at least one week. Continue until your list runs out.

MARRIAGE, ANTICIPATING Background

Marriage is the most serious long-term contract a couple will make in their lifetime, but many enter into it with a lack of maturity and knowledge. The growing number of divorces shows how imperative it is that young people be adequately prepared for marriage.

Here are a few helpful marriage principles for all who anticipate repeating their wedding vows:

A good marriage is not made in heaven, but on earth. Love is a fragile commodity which needs to be cultivated and nourished constantly. Of course, those intending to marry should look to God for His guidance, but the success of their marriage will be largely dependent on the couple and their efforts in response to God’s leading.

A good marriage is not based on idealism, but on reality. The Cinderella syndrome where every girl finds a prince and “lives happily ever after” is usually a fairy tale. Far too many marry with unrealistically high expectations, and then spend years suffering and adjusting – if they stay together at all.

A good marriage is based on respect for one’s self and for the partner.

A poor self-image, inherited from a stressful home background or immaturity, can lead to stormy seas. A solid relationship with Jesus Christ and an understanding of one’s self in the light of that relationship are very important.

A poor understanding of each other can also lead to misunderstanding and conflict. It doesn’t take too much discernment to realize that male and female are different physically, but how many anticipate that their partner-to-be is just as different emotionally and mentally? Each partner must realize this and be prepared to make the necessary allowances and adjustments. “Male and female created He them; and blessed them. . .” (Genesis 5:2, KJV).

A marriage where there are similarities in the partners has a better chance to succeed. This means:

The same religious background.

Similar cultural and social backgrounds.

Comparable economic levels.

Equal educational advantages.

A stable home situation.

Marriage was never intended to be a “reform school”! One who marries another with the hope of “correcting” problem behavior is courting a disastrous future. What could not be changed before marriage is not likely to change at all. This should be taken seriously in those instances where alcohol, drugs, or immorality are involved.

Couples who “marry in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) have the potential for a much better relationship than those outside of Christ.

Billy Graham advises: “The home only fulfills its true purpose when it is God controlled. Leave Jesus Christ out of your home and it loses its meaning. But take Christ into your heart and the life of your family, and He will transform your home.”

Counseling Strategy

  1. Congratulate the inquirer on his or her initiative in seeking counsel about a forthcoming marriage. Share the following Scriptures:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him: (Genesis 2:18, KJV).

“Whoso findeth a wife (husband) findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22, KJV).

  1. Advise him that in order to have God’s presence and guidance in life and marriage, he or she would do well to commit his or her heart and life to Jesus Christ. Share “Steps to Peace with God,” page 5.

  2. Counsel the inquirer to take a firm stand for Jesus Christ whether previously a Christian, or having just received Christ. He or she should also begin to read and study God’s Word, to pray about all matters, ant to become involved in a Bible-teaching church. All these things will deeply enrich life, enabling him or her to offer much more to the marriage.

  3. When the individual marries, be sure that it is “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, KJV).

  4. Before marriage, the inquirer should improve the chances for making it a success by:

  5. Seeking God’s blessing and control over his or her own life and that of the partner

through prayer.

  1. Assimilating all the knowledge possible about a Christ-centered home and marriage.

Search the Scriptures for passages on marriage and the home.

Read books by Christian counselors and pastors. Such materials are available at a local Christian bookstore. Many church libraries are well stocked with books on marriage and the home.

Take advantage of seminars, courses, and films prepared for this purpose.

Seek counseling from a qualified pastor, marriage counselor, or Christian psychologist. Such counseling should include a comprehensive approach to marriage, including personal, spiritual, financial and sexual mattes.

  1. After marriage, practice the following:

Become grounded in a local Bible-teaching church where the marriage will be able to flourish spiritually, and where the future family can be received and nurtured in eternal things.

Resolve to communicate freely and honestly with the partner on all levels of life: mental, emotional, and physical. Such a practice will help greatly in problem solving as issues arise in the marriage.

  1. Pray with the inquirer for God’s blessing, presence and leading in his or her life and coming marriage.

Scripture

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”                                                          Ephesians 5:21, 22, NIV

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”       1 Peter 3:7, NIV

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

Proverbs 24:3, 4, NIV

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to so?”                                                                                                             Amos 3:3, NIV

2 Corinthians 6:14,15, NIV

MARRIAGE PROBLEMS Background

When two lives are bonded together in a long-term intimate relationship, there is bound to be an occasional problem. Many couples go into marriage with very little preparation for it. Sometimes they lack sufficient emotional maturity, stability, or flexibility – which a successful union must have.

What are the components of a good marriage?

Mutual Respect

Respect means that each accepts the partner as he or she is, not attempting to manipulate, and unselfishly nourishing the partner in such a way that he or she may become the person God intended. Respect distinguishes between the ideal and the real, and does not demand too much. “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV).

Genuine Commitment.

The marriage vow says, “Forsaking all others.” The Scriptures state, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matthew 19:5, KJV). Time and experience in marriage reveals that being “one flesh” does not mean an abdication of personality or personal rights. Rather, it is a fulfillment. Good Commitment.

In order to communicate, there must be understanding of the emotional, mental and physical differences between men and women. There must be companionship. “I’d rather be with my spouse than with anyone else.” There must be conversation, not only a discussion of differences when such arise, but a meaningful exchange on the intellectual and emotional levels.

Time and Effort

Love must be given the opportunity to mature. The climate for this is set in God’s Word. When the going gets rough, a couple just doesn’t “fall out of love”; they stay together and work things out. They do not consider themselves a martyrs of a “bad bargain,” but “heirs together of the grace of life” (Peter 3:7, KJV). “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV).

Problems and differences are resolved through forgiveness. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).

Cliff Barrows often gives a message to Christian couples, entitled, “Ten Words that Will Safeguard a Marriage.” They are:

I was wrong.

I’m sorry.

Forgive me.

I love you.

This same formula will work to safeguard one’s spiritual life as well. Couples need to learn to clean up issues as soon as they develop and to erase the slate every day. See Ephesians 4:26.

Spiritual Unity.

Understanding the spiritual dimension in marriage has profound implications. Paul compared marriage – the union of husband and wife to the eternal relationship between Christ and the Church. (See Ephesians 5:22-33.)

Billy Graham writes: “The perfect marriage is a uniting of three persons – a man, a woman and God! That is what makes marriage holy. Faith in Christ is the most important of all principles in the building of a happy marriage and a happy home.”

Counseling Strategy

  1. Be supportive and encouraging. Listen carefully with understanding. Don’t judge. Don’t take sides. Sometimes the inquirer is at fault.

  2. Attempt to discover reasons for disagreements and problems. Ask questions, if necessary. Does the inquirer feel that he or she has any responsibility in any of the negative developments?

Ask how the inquirer would rate the marriage in the light of “What Constitutes a Good Marriage” found in the BACKGROUND. How has he or she fallen short? What might be done to improve the relationship? In humility he or she could ask forgiveness for insensitivities, hurts and offenses. It may take time, but it is worth the effort.

  1. Ask if God has ever been brought into their life and marriage. Share “Steps to Peace with God,” page 5.

  2. Where does the individual go from here? Share follow-up steps.

  3. Get into the Word of God, reading, studying and applying it to his or her life and

marriage.

  1. Learn to pray daily. Pray for each other. Pray about existing or potential problem areas.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Better attitudes lead to a deeper sensitivity as to the needs of one’s mate, producing better relationships. This is one of the values of Bible study and prayer: it will help us to anticipate problems as it makes us more spiritually sensitive.

  1. Become involved with spouse and family in a Bible-teaching church. Active

participation in a dynamic church can revolutionize a marriage and family. Spiritual resources and support can be found in fellowship with committed Christians and in consultation with a committed pastor.

  1. Should further counseling be needed, and it often is in troubled marriages, help could be

found through contacting a qualified pastor or a Christian psychologist or marriage counselor.

If the inquirer is a Christian, encourage him to start serious counseling with a Christian marriage service or qualified pastor. Often many concessions and adjustments have to be made on the part of each partner, requiring prolonged professional sessions. The important thing is for them to honestly and sincerely face their situation in the light of the Word of God. A good place to start might be an application of the Cliff Barrows formula from the BACKGROUND.

Scripture

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem (the) other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of the others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 2:3-5, KJV

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”                                                                  1 Corinthians 7:3,4, KJV

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”                       1 Peter 3:7, KJV

Ephesians 5:22-23

MARRIAGE

(Pressure to do Wrong in Matters of Conscience)

Background

When a person is converted to Christ, his body becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19,20), and his conscience is subject to the Word and will of God.

The Christian’s conscience is cleansed from the sins and disobedience of the past in order that he may serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).

The Christians conscience is made holy and sincere, according to the Word of God, so that he may walk with integrity in this world. “Now this is our boast: our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace” (2 Corinthians 1:12, NIV).

If a Christian has a weak conscience, he is apt to submit to evil and thereby become defiled. (See 1 Corinthians 8:7.)

Our goal as Christians should be that of the Apostle Paul: “And herein do I exercise (exert) myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16, KJV).

Many Christians have problems in the area of conscience. For example, one may be married to a nonbeliever or have become converted to Christ after marriage and find that he or she is pressured to submit or to act contrary to the Scriptures in conduct, worldly involvements and even sexual practices. This can lead to unhappy conflicts in marriage.

The Bible teaches that the role of a wife is to be submissive, but it also enjoins a husband to love his wife as his own body (see Ephesians 5:22,28). Thus, neither mate has the right to order his or her partner to do something contrary to the Scriptures that would offend conscience.

Counseling Strategy

  1. If this problem is presented, commend the inquirer for being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in his or her life, and for wanting to do right.

  2. Encourage a firm stand for Christ, in the light of Romans 12:1,2.

  3. Urge the individual to keep the lines of communication open with his or her mate in order to discuss freely and fully the problems involved and the reasons why it is not possible to agree to such requests.

Make an effort not to be critical or judgmental. “We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If one is not careful at this point, the point of no-return could quickly be reached, bringing conflict and hostility.

  1. Love covers a multitude of sins. Counsel the caller to love sincerely, demonstrating it through word and action. The Christian partner should express appreciation, admiration, and praise as much as possible in those areas where it is due.

  2. Encourage the inquirer to pray, first for wisdom and guidance in both the discussion and suggested action (see James 1:5), and then for the partner’s obedience to the Word of God and commitment to personal faith in Christ. Caution: One should not be too aggressive in attempting to win a husband or wife to Christ. Please see chapter on MARRIAGE (Winning One’s Mate To Christ).

  3. Pray with the inquirer in order to encourage and fortify his or her resolve.

Billy Graham comments: “Complete fulfillment in marriage can never be realized outside the life in Christ. It is written in the Scriptures that Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. Christ’s power over the devil is available to the Christian, and the destroyer of the ideal home can only be routed (put to flight) through the power of Christ.”

Scripture

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

Hebrew 9:14, NIV

“We must obey God rather than men.”                                                  Acts 5:29, NIV

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. . .For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. . .Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. . .

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

1 Peter 3:1,2,5,7,815,16 NIV

Slow Motion

March 16, 2018

  “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12).

  In faith we apprehend the growth truths; in fact the Lord Jesus apprehends us for growth in those truths.

  “I have been much struck by the thought of the hiddenness and slowness of God’s workings. It must be a matter of distinct faith. If we do not understand this it will make us impatient. If we understand it will teach us to rest in God and to yield ourselves all the more joyfully to Him to work out His purpose. In all creation time is the great perfecter of growth. So with us, God will perfect that which concerns us.”

  “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ (Rom. 4:3), when his faith apprehended the promise of God; yet it was nearly 40 years after that this Scripture was fulfilled, when he offered his son. The faith had its apprehension and enjoyment for many a year before the work of faith.

  “In proportion as the revelation is of God, in like measure must there be an answer to it sooner or later. Effect must follow cause. If the light has been received, the day will come that it must assert and obtain an expression of itself.”

  “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

answer the call

March 14, 2018

On my business card, it mentions all the counseling services I offer.

Sex Addictions

Anger Management

Drug and Alcohol Addictions

Marriage Counseling

Family Counseling

Biblical Counseling

Psychological Testing

Expert Court Witness (Sex offenders and Counseling)

Plethysmograph or SAST (Sexual Addiction Testing)

(yes it fits on a business card-Duofold)

Here’s the interesting part, when I hand the card to a woman, 80% of the time she’s going to say, “oh could you test my husband?”

For what I don’t know.

When I hand the card to a man 80% of the time he says, “could you fix my wife?”

Again for what?

10% of the time someone will say “oh my God, can you help me!”

5% will say, “ah, I’ve never needed counseling.”

And the last 5% will say something not listed on the card and usually weirder than what I can think of. Which in my line of work that is a surprise!

For a few years, I did cult abductions and deprogramming, more dangerous than high-risk warrant serving.

Yes, I have done a few exorcisms.

Had a face off, square off, whatever you want to call with a witch doctor.

I always leave my card with a tip in it at restaurants. The number of “over the phone can you fix me anonymously calls is interesting.”

If I remember, tomorrow I will tell you of the millionaire sex addict that wanted “help” over the phone, but to famous to risk coming in to my office.

So if you are looking for a career in the bizarre, become a counselor or psychologist.

Most rewarding? Maybe trauma counseling for surviving police officers of shootings or fatal encounters.(This was before we had the term ‘PTSD’).

Anyway, always say yes to people that God brings into your life when you are a minister. You will never be bored or rich for that matter, but you will feel blessed.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Got Pruned?

March 12, 2018

Got Pruned?

A great mystery surrounds the spiritual growth of the hungry-hearted believer.

The Spirit gives a foretaste of a deeper life before the believer is led into the fulness of it. Many believers mistake their foretaste for the fulness, not realizing that the Lord is just beginning to lead them

The hard-heartedness of our nature is the failure of our youth—our spiritual youth, as well as our natural youth; eagerness to run in God’s path, but not apprehending what the path is, or what it requires to walk in it. On the other hand, when the cost is counted, and our weakness known, the energy begotten of self-confidence being gone, we need a stimulating call on God’s part, to get out of the persistent occupation with our weakness now, as with our strength before.

Suffering is not meant by God to be loss and deprivation. Satan says that it is. God means suffering to result in increased spiritual capacity, which is the basis of added responsibility, trust, and fruitful sharing. The branch of the vine may bleed from the drastic pruning and feel stripped of much glory; but more and better fruit is the vinedresser’s vindication.

But we being of such stubborn nature, like the Apostle Paul, ‘kicking against the prods.” Thus, the school of the desert, the wilderness wanderings, the warring in our hearts with what we should and what we most heartily do naught. There is as much left undone in our lives as what ought to be done. Thus the reason that God is a Vinedresser and we the vineyard.

  “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Thank God, He is patient, or we would be branches thrown in the fire.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

A special thanks to our prayer warriors, and a big shout to the encouragers. I can’t tell you how many nights I come to the keyboard and think there is no more to be poured out. And yet He gives more, all glory to God, He is worthy of all our praise. And to Ms. Kelly, yes, these are all rough drafts, “grammar be damned “ (G. K. Chesterton)

READ, READ, READ

March 8, 2018

Can we know truth? Where is it found? Can we logically verify it? Is there an ultimate authority? Are there absolutes which can guide our lives, our world? Is there meaning to life? Why are we here? Where are we going? These questions—questions that all rational people contemplate—have haunted the human intellect since the beginning of time (Eccl. 1:13-18; 3:9-11).

Many claimed to have answers to these ultimate questions, but after research and reflection I found that their answers were based upon (1) personal philosophies, (2) ancient myths, (3) personal experiences, or (4) psychological projections. I needed some degree of verification, some evidence, some rationality on which to base my world-view, my integrating center, my reason to live.

I found these in my study of the Bible. I began to search for evidence of its trustworthiness, which I found in (1) the historical reliability of the Bible as confirmed by archaeology, (2) the accuracy of the prophecies of the Old Testament, (3) the unity of the Bible message over the sixteen hundred years of its production, and (4) the personal testimonies of people whose lives had been permanently changed by contact with the Bible. Christianity, as a unified system of faith and belief, has the ability to deal with complex questions of human life. Not only did this provide a rational framework, but the experiential aspect of biblical faith brought me emotional joy and stability.

  1. I believe the Bible is the sole inspired self-revelation of the one true God. Therefore, it must be interpreted in light of the intent of the original divine author (the Spirit) through a human writer in a specific historical setting.

  1. I believe the Bible was written for the common person—for all people! God accommodated Himself to speak to us clearly within a historical and cultural context. God does not hide truth —He wants us to understand! Therefore, it must be interpreted in light of its day, not ours. The Bible should not mean to us what it never meant to those who first read or heard it. It is understandable by the average human mind and uses normal human communication forms and techniques.

  1. I believe the Bible has a unified message and purpose. It does not contradict itself, though it does contain difficult and paradoxical passages. Thus, the best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.

  1. I believe that every passage (excluding prophesies) has one and only one meaning based on the intent of the original, inspired author. Although we can never be absolutely certain we know the original author’s intent, many indicators point in its direction:

  1. the genre (literary type) chosen to express the message

  1. the historical setting and/or specific occasion that elicited the writing

  1. the literary context of the entire book as well as each literary unit

  1. the textual design (outline) of the literary units as they relate to the whole message

  1. the specific grammatical features employed to communicate the message

  1. the words chosen to present the message

  1. parallel passages

Recent statistics (which can mean anything you want them to) show that actual bible reading is down by 37%. I blame it on social media, everyone is more concerned about ‘likes’ than heaven or hell.

Of course, we have no idea what segment of society was polled or where.

I have often written about the versions of the Bible, and although I still stand by those suppositions, I’d like to say “read any version you want, just read”.

It’s about quality, not quantity. I still remember reading a ‘comic book’ style of the bible and quite enjoyed it. if you are worried about understanding the bible while you are reading then get the “life application bible” that comes in many different versions. Get large print so it’s easier to read. Read with a plan or just flip it open and read anything you want.

I just bought Chuck Swindoll’s study bible, it’s a little lighter on notes than I expected and there isn’t a large print version yet, but it’s an excellent place to start and to trust.

You can find any version you want free as an app online, just read. Used bookstores are filled with bibles (I’m not sure that’s good or bad).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Revival

March 5, 2018

THE CANDLE AND THE BIRD (an essay by F. W. Boreham)

It’s not often that I quote someone to this extent, but to try and re-write this would be a crime, so in its entirety from his book “The Golden Isles”

After reading this, you hopefully will feel inspired and encouraged about the spiritual condition of your nation.

To all peoples there come, sooner or later, periods in which the maintenance of a Christian life and an evangelistic testimony becomes so extremely difficult as to seem almost impossible. This spiritual sterility may be precipitated by any one of an innumerable array of causes—the horrors of war, with all their attendant hatreds and excitements; a wave of materialism, frivolity, or sensuality; the concentration of the public mind on subsidiary issues; or some other development that tends to hurl serious thought into obscurity.

But, whatever the cause, such distressing conditions do emerge; and the thing to be remembered at those times is that this unhappy state of affairs represents, not the snuffing out of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird. The distinction is vital. If you extinguish a light, the act is final: you plunge the room into darkness without creating any illumination elsewhere. The flame does not flash into being in some other part of the house. But if you startle a bird, the gentle creature flies away and sings its lovely song upon some other bough.

Several illustrations of this essential principle confront us in the annals of the early Church. A time came when, at Antioch, the Jews refused Paul and Barnabas a hearing. `Very well’, exclaimed the Apostles, `it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been preached to you; but, seeing ye put it from you, lo, we turn to the Gentiles!’ The light was not snuffed out. The bird flew to another bough, that was all!

A little later, the two Apostles journeyed through Asia, intending to preach the word in every city. But, to their dismay, every door was closed against them. They were amazed and bewildered. But when they reached the end of the long road and saw nothing but the sea in front of them, a vision was vouchsafed to Paul. He saw a man of Macedonia bidding him cross the intervening waters and invade Europe!

Think what these two transitions have meant to history—the evangelization of the Gentiles and the conquest of Europe! And when you have grasped their momentous significance, you will have realized the importance of the principle that we have set ourselves to establish. When the Church is overwhelmed by an apparently crushing reverse, it is never the snuffing out of a candle: it is always the frightening away of a bird.

I

That principle is inherent in the eternal scheme of things. On the ancient monuments of Egypt there are crude drawings representing the soul, in the form of a bird, leaving the body of the monarch or hero to whom the memorial has been raised. In the form of a bird, mark you! Even the ancients felt that death is not the snuffing out of a candle; it is the escape of a bird. There is a divine element in humankind—an element which no tomb can imprison. And, similarly, there is a divine element in the Church-an element that no persecuting fires can devour and that no convulsion can destroy.

It was a dark day for the faith when, in the seventh century, the Saracens swept through the world, obliterating the Cross, overthrowing the Churches, and converting into Mohammedan mosques the most imposing Christian and Jewish structures. It certainly looked as if a glorious light had been put out. Yet, at the very moment at which all this was taking place in the old world, something of infinite significance was happening on an obscure group of mist-enshrouded islands in the northern seas.

Paulinus and the other missionaries whom Augustine had led into England caught the ear of the court and of the people; the preparatory work of St. Columba in Scotland and of St. Patrick in Ireland began to bear fruit; and thus, whilst Christianity was suffering eclipse among the lands of Yesterday, it was laying a powerful and formative hand upon the lands of To-morrow.

Similarly, on the very day on which the French mob tore the Cross from Notre Dame in Paris and angrily abjured the Christian faith, William Carey landed in India and claimed a new continent for the Saviour whom France was renouncing. Both events took place on November 11, 1793. A pessimist in France would have regarded the act of the populace as the extinction of a great light: anybody who reviews the incident in the calm perspective of history can see that it was merely the frightening away of a bird.

II

I cherish the hope that, one of these days, a writer learned in such lore, and with a flair for such a task, will trace the influence of this principle upon the history of revivals. Few studies are more stimulating than the study of those tremendous movements that have swept like a divine fire across the various nations. They stir the blood and quicken to new life the most sluggish and apathetic soul. But the striking thing about these historic revivals is that they are so transient, so evanescent, so temporary. They never endure. And the fact that, although so obviously divine, they never endure, sufficiently proves that they were never meant to endure. Martin Luther used to say that a religious revival always exhausts itself in thirty years. Isaac Taylor set a more liberal limit: he fixed fifty years as the maximum period: no revival, he declared, ever lasted longer than that. But the question that immediately concerns us is not the question as to how long a revival can last, but as to what happens when it fades out. And the answer to that question is that it never fades out. If it seems to vanish at one place, it is only that it may appear at another. For the end of a revival is invariably the beginning of a revival. Its termination is never the snuffing out of a candle: it is always the frightening away of a bird.

Is there, in our own annals, or in the annals of any other country, the record of a revival comparable with the Puritan revival of the seventeenth century? Beyond the shadow of a doubt, it was a period of divine illumination. Like the sunrise playing simultaneously upon many snow-capped peaks, the light was caught and reflected by many totally diverse but really majestic personalities. John Hampden, George Fox, and Samuel Rutherford, for example, have little or no connection with each other, yet each represents a focal point in this celestial movement. As we project our minds into that memorable time, the stately and satisfying figures, the sturdy and eloquent faces of Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, and John Bunyan, moving amidst a cloud of kindred spirits, leap at once to our minds. We instinctively feel that Puritanism was no frolic of circumstance, no freak of history. The movement that has left as its indestructible monuments such works as Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim’s Progress can only be regarded as a heavenly revelation. The Puritans, as Macaulay says, were `men who, instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, aspired to gaze full on His intolerable brightness and to commune with Him face to face’. The entire country was made to feel that God was palpitatingly near: the hush of the eternal brooded over city and hamlet. With the light of heaven on their faces and the fear of God in their hearts, the Puritans overhauled and rearranged everything. They put the king in his right place, and the Parliament in its right place, and the Bible in its right place, and the Church in its right place; and they did all this by putting God in His right place; they enthroned Him as Head over all. It was a time in which earth seemed crammed with heaven, and the songs of the angels filled with divine melody the English sky.

It was very wonderful; but it did not last. The spirit of Puritanism decayed with the accession of Puritanism to political authority. As soon as it became fashionable to dress as the Puritans dressed, to talk as the Puritans talked, and to do as the Puritans did, all people became Puritans. They might have felt no regenerating power in their hearts, but they could at least wear drab clothing, allow their hair to fall about their shoulders, interlard their conversations with pious ejaculations and give to their children biblical names. And then, the movement having become rotten within, it quickly received its deathblow from without. Two years after the death of Cromwell, the Stuarts were restored to power. A swing of the pendulum immediately followed. The nation experienced one of those violent reactions that so frequently mark the pages of history. Paradise was lost.

III

No revival, according to Isaac Taylor, can live for half a century. Fifty years after Puritanism had achieved its crowning triumphs, England was knee-deep in mire. The glory had departed, and its departure had broken Milton’s heart. Joseph Addison, who cherished the spirit and ideals of the Puritans in an age that had renounced and repudiated Puritanism deplored the fact that English standards and English manners had fallen to their lowest ebb. Politics had degenerated into an undignified squabble; society was as corrupt as it could very well be; music, art and literature were all degraded; the sports and pastimes of life were universally squalid and usually obscene; religion itself had become formal, sanctimonious and largely hypocritical. `Even the saint’, says Addison, `was of a sorrowful countenance and generally eaten up with spleen and melancholy.’ And, worst of all, the number of people who saw anything to be deplored in all this was so small as to be almost negligible.

Now the question is, did this degeneracy represent the snuffing out of a candle or the frightening away of a bird? Let us attempt to survey a wider horizon in the hope of sighting the tree to which the bird has flitted! And what is this?

On the morning of August 13, 1727—eight years after Addison’s early death—a number of young people were gathered for prayer at Herrnhut in Germany. Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the little band, was only twenty-seven, and it is doubtful if any of the others were very much older. What happened they could never precisely define. All that they could say was that a radiant sense of the nearness of Christ suddenly visited them, and, when their little gathering broke up at noon, they `scarcely knew whether they still belonged to the earth or had actually gone to heaven’. In telling the story of their lustrous experience to their friends, the wondering hearers quickly contracted the sacred contagion.

Thus was born the Moravian movement—one of the most intensely spiritual and most passionately missionary organizations of all time. Fifty years before William Carey had inaugurated the era of organized missions to the heathen, these inspired Moravians had undertaken the evangelization of the world. Within five years of that memorable meeting at Herrnhut, they had sent missionaries to the Negro of the West Indies and to the Eskimo in the frozen North, quickly following these experimental ventures by despatching evangelists, not only to every country in Europe, but to the four quarters of the globe. See, sings William Cowper,

See Germany send forth

Her sons to preach Christ in the farthest North;

Fired with a zeal peculiar, they defy

The rage and rigour of a Polar sky,

And plant successfully sweet Sharon’s rose

On icy plains and in eternal snows.

When, later in the century, William Carey endeavoured to persuade the English Baptists to initiate a missionary crusade, he held in his hand the inspiring records of the Moravians. Throwing the pamphlet on the table, he exclaimed: `See what these Moravians have done! Cannot we follow their example and in obedience to our heavenly Master go out into all the world and preach the gospel?’

Now the striking thing is that this impressive and fruitful outbreak in Germany exactly synchronized with the evaporation of the Puritan revival in England. It was not that a light had been extinguished: it was that a bird had been frightened away.

IV

But, like the English movement, the German movement also spent itself. That never-to-be-forgotten meeting at Herrnhut was held in 1727. Whilst those young people were passing through that Pentecostal experience, Voltaire was bending over the finished manuscript of his first book. The writings of Voltaire quickly captivated the mind of a young German prince who was destined to be known to history as Frederick the Great. Frederick at once entered upon an admiring correspondence with the brilliant Frenchman, eventually inviting him to share the splendours of his palace at Berlin. And, in the hurricane of materialism and militarism that swept over Germany under that regime, the Moravian movement shared the melancholy fate that had befallen Puritanism in England.

But had the light been extinguished? Was it that a candle had been put out or that a bird had been frightened popular atmosphere for evangelism. This was his supreme triumph. In his famous Memoirs, Greville graphically describes Mr. Spurgeon—whose physique struck him as singularly reminiscent of Macaulay’s—preaching, at an ordinary service, to nine thousand people. It impressed him, as it impressed all thoughtful observers, as an arresting and epoch-making development. It forced the evangelical pulpit into the glare of public attention. The world was compelled to take notice. It made thinkable and possible the work of all those ministers and evangelists who have since captured the attention of the populace. And it is only when we attempt to estimate the spiritual, ethical, and civil value of the impact of Mr. Spurgeon’s flaming intensity upon each individual unit in the surging crowds that flocked every Sunday with wistful hearts to hear him that we realize how generously and how vitally he contributed to the new order that sprang into being in his time.

And so we bring our study down to within living memory. Let no person become unduly depressed because, here or there, the good work seems to flag. If, with us, the sun seems to be setting, you may depend upon it that other people, far away, are gratefully greeting the dawn. In a public reading-room, I one day picked up a London journal in which I read a series of somewhat dismal letters concerning `The Dearth of Conversions’. On the very same table I found a couple of magazines. One contained an article by Dr. A. W. Hitchcock, telling of the sensational progress of the work of God in Korea, whilst the other told of a single church on the Congo that is welcoming to its membership more than five hundred converts a year. And thus—

… while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far off, through creeks and inlets making,

Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright!

So true is it that a period of spiritual sterility invariably represents, not the extinguishing of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird. I have here attempted but a few fugitive illustrations. It will be the duty of that happy historian who undertakes to expound the principle more exhaustively to show that there have been times when the holy flame has visited other lands than those which I have mentioned, flitting from Holland to Switzerland, and from hemisphere to hemisphere. Often it has confined itself to no national frontiers, but has swept across an area that has included many peoples. But the principle is the same. When we have occasion to lament the spiritual poverty immediately around us, we may be sure that the bird that has forsaken us is singing his lovely song, to somebody else’s rapture, on a distant bough. And so it shall continue until that day dawns for which the Church has ever prayed, when the Holy Dove shall feel equally at home on every shore and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

F W Boreham, ‘The Candle and the Bird’, Boulevards of Paradise (London: The Epworth Press, 1944), 103-113.

What a great truth, do not despair if your home, your state, your nation is in a spiritual decline, for that Holy Dove is a lit somewhere else.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Tim G, he pastors a small church in a small town and his stance on holy living is causing the whole town to turn against him. The church has cut his already small salary, they’ve killed one of his dogs. A wave of discouragement hit him this week and he almost quit. Several ‘old timers’ met with him today and prayed for a breakthrough. Keep him and his wife and two kids in prayer.

Several of us drove down with him and the wives refilled his pantry and we fixed things around the house and we all chipped in some money to help him through the month. Pray this candle burns bright.

 

Paid in Full

February 26, 2018

My three favorite books of the Bible, Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans. If I could have only one Book it would be Romans. I’ve done more sermons in the Book of Romans and more in chapter 7 and 8; so here is one of my favorite passages.

Romans 8:1-13

In Romans 7, Paul showed us that Christians still wrestle with remaining, indwelling sin are defined in the Glossary.. He says: “But what I hate I do” (7:15). But, at the same time, Christians have experienced a revolution in consciousness—a real disgust over sin and (now) an inability to find any lasting pleasure in it: “But what I hate I do.” These two facts keep us from either the legalism that says: Real Christians don’t struggle with sin anymore, or the permissiveness that says: Real Christians are human; they sin just like anyone else. The Spirit of God has come in and transformed our “inner being” and self (7:22) so we want God and holiness, but our “flesh” or “sinful nature” is still powerful enough to keep us from doing what our new desires want.

But Romans 7 does not say everything about the Christian life. Our new condition—a “double nature”—can actually lead to more distress unless we “live … according to the Spirit” (8:4*.). Paul gives us directions on how to live in the Spirit. Unless we do, we will find ourselves continually doing what we hate.

No Condemnation

Before showing us how to live according to God’s Spirit, though, Paul wants to show us how God’s Son has given us life. Verse 1 begins “therefore”—he could be reaching right back to sections such as 3:21-27 (as John Stott suggests) or to the previous two chapters (Douglas Moo’s position), where Paul has characterized the Christian as one in whom sin is still powerful, but whose inner “true” self is “a slave to God’s law” (7:25), and who can look forward to being rescued “from this body of death … through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

However far back in his letter Paul is looking, the great truth of 8:1 is captured in two words: “no condemnation *.” These two words tell us of our position as Christians. To be “not condemned” is, of course, a legal term; it means to be free from any debt or penalty. No one has any charges against you. A person who is in Christ Jesus is not under any condemnation from God. Paul already said this in Romans 5:16 and 18.

This is tremendous! It means God has nothing against us! He finds no fault in us. He finds nothing to punish us for.

However, the phrase Paul uses is not simply that Christians are “not condemned.” This is a much stronger phrase than that. He says that for Christians there is no condemnation at all. It doesn’t exist for us. It’s not that we have moved out from under it for a while, but that it could return. No; there is no condemnation for us at all—it doesn’t exist anymore.

The reason it is important to mention this is that many think that a Christian is only temporarily out from under condemnation. Many want to limit the meaning of this phrase to our past, or to our past and present. But Paul is saying categorically that condemnation no longer exists at all for a believer. It is not waiting in the wings to come back and cloud our future!

Many believe that Christians who confess sin and then live a good life are forgiven and are, at that moment, not condemned. But they believe that, should they sin, they are back under condemnation until they confess and repent again. In other words, if a Christian man were to sin, he would again come under condemnation and could be lost if he died in that state. If this were true, then Christians would be people who are always moving back and forth, in and out of condemnation.

But this view doesn’t square at all with the comprehensiveness and intensity of Paul’s statement. Paul says quite literally that condemnation itself no longer exists for us—“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). Thus, the moment we come into Christ Jesus, condemnation is gone forever. There is no more condemnation left for us—it is gone. There can never be condemnation for us. There is nothing but acceptance and welcome for us!

The Problem of Forgetfulness

The great twentieth-century Welsh preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that: “Most of our troubles are due to our failure to realize the truth of this verse.” What happens if we forget that there is “now no condemnation”?

On the one hand, we feel far more guilt, unworthiness and pain than we should. From this may come drivenness from a need to “prove ourselves”; great sensitivity to criticism, defensiveness; a lack of confidence in relationships; a lack of confidence and joy in prayer and worship; and even addictive behavior, which can be a reaction to a deep sense of guilt and unworthiness.

On the other hand, we will have far less motivation to live a holy life. We have fewer resources for self-control. Christians who don’t understand “no condemnation” only obey out of fear and duty. That is not nearly as powerful a motivation as love and gratitude. If we don’t grasp the full wonder of “now no condemnation,” we will understand each word of the rest of 8:1-13, but completely miss the sense of it! Lloyd-Jones summed this up with a useful illustration:

“The difference between an unbeliever sinning and a Christian sinning is the difference between a man transgressing the laws of … [the] State, and … a husband [who] has done something he should not do in his relationship with his wife. He is not breaking the law, he is wounding the heart of his wife. That is the difference. It is no longer a legal matter, it is a matter of personal relationship and … love. The man does not cease to be the husband [legally, in that instance]. Law does not come into the matter at all … In a sense it is now something much worse than a legal condemnation. I would rather offend against a law of the land objectively outside me, than hurt someone whom I love … [In that case] You have sinned, of course, but you have sinned against love … [so] You may and you should feel ashamed, but you should not feel condemnation, because to do so is to put yourself back ‘under the law.’”

(Romans Chapters 7:1 – 8:4, pages 271-272)

No Slavery

Verse 1, then, reminds us of the central argument of Romans 1 – 7: there is no condemnation for sin for believers. Verse 2 explains a second aspect to God’s victory, on our behalf, over sin—there is now no bondage to sin, either. “Through Christ Jesus” (v 2)—through faith in him—”the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” As we saw in Romans 7 (see Romans 1 – 7 For You, page 168), Paul uses the word “law” to mean:

God’s law or standards.

A general principle.

A force or power.

So in 8:2, “the law” seems fairly clearly to carry the third meaning. The Holy Spirit comes to free us from bondage to the sin within our hearts. So verse 1 tells us we are delivered from the legal condemnation of sin; verse 2 that we are being delivered from the actual power of sin. Put another way, salvation deals with our legal guilt (v 1) and our internal corruption (v 2).

Some people wonder about the relationship of verse 1 to verse 2. Paul basically says: There is no condemnation for Christians because the Holy Spirit frees us from sin. This could be read to mean that our sanctification by the Holy Spirit is the cause or the ground of our justification —that it is as we fight sin and obey God that we are made right with God.

But all of Romans up to this point denies that. Instead, Paul is likely saying: We know we are out of condemnation because God has sent the Holy Spirit into our life to free us from sin.

How God Did It

In verses 3-4, Paul shows us how God has achieved the two aspects of salvation (no guilt, no bondage). First, God sent his Son to become human (“in the likeness of sinful man,” v 3) and become a sin offering. In other words, the death of Christ defeats sin legally, by paying the debt. Second, God did this not simply to defeat sin legally, but to wipe it out actually in our lives: “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who … [live] according to the Spirit.” The work of the Holy Spirit within us empowers us to obey the law (albeit never perfectly, and thus never in a way that contributes to, nor undermines, our salvation). The great British pastor John Stott explained it this way:

“We are set free from the law as a way of acceptance, but obliged to keep it as a way of holiness. It is as a ground of justification that the law no longer binds us … But as a standard of conduct the law is still binding, and we seek to fulfill it as we walk according to the Spirit.” (Men Made New, pages 82-83)

But why did God send his Son to bear our condemnation, and send his Spirit to break our bondage? Verse 4 tells us that everything Christ did for us—his incarnation (“sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man,” v 3), his death and his resurrection—was all in order (for the purpose) that we might live a holy life. This is an amazing point. The thing Jesus lives for, the purpose of his entire life, is to make us holy, fulfilling “the righteous requirements of the law.” This is the greatest possible motive for living a holy life. Whenever we sin, we endeavor to frustrate the aim and purpose of the entire life, death and ministry of Jesus Christ! If this doesn’t work as an incentive for living a holy life, nothing will.

Mind Matters

In the rest of this section (indeed, in the rest of the chapter), Paul is going to focus on the second great benefit of being “in Christ”—overcoming sin in our lives. After all, as he has shown in heartfelt detail in chapter 7, not only is there no hope in ourselves for our salvation, but there is also no hope in ourselves for our obedience. For any real change, we cannot rely on our own efforts, but only, as Paul now explains, on the work of the Spirit.

How do we overcome sin with the Spirit? Or, to put it another way, how do we “live in accordance with the Spirit” (8:5), in the way that our inner self truly desires (7:22)? The people who do this are those who “have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (8:5). Paul says that the connection between living and thinking is a tight and close one. Literally he says: “For those being according to the flesh mind the things of the flesh, but those being according to the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit.” In other words, whatever you have set your mind on shapes your lifestyle and character. What does it mean to “mind” something or “set the mind”? Even in English, when the word “mind” is used as a verb, it has a stronger meaning than simply “to think about.” It means to focus intently on something, to be preoccupied with something, to have the attention and the imagination totally captured by something.

The twentieth-century Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said: “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.” In other words, wherever your mind goes most naturally and freely when there is nothing else to distract it—that is what you really live for. That is your religion. Your life is shaped by whatever preoccupies your mind. The overcoming of sin in our lives begins in our minds; and victory over sin is only ever the result of having minds set on the Spirit.

Questions for Reflection

Do you ever feel under condemnation? What causes you to feel this way; and how will you make sure you remember “there is now no condemnation” next time?

In what way(s) will knowing that Jesus’ ministry was in order to make you holy motivate you to live differently today?

What do you do with your solitude? How will you fix your thoughts on the gospel today?

Part Two

The Things of the Spirit

So a successful fight against sin begins by “mind[ing] … the things of the Spirit” (8:5, AV translation). This is not the same thing as simply thinking about religion all the time, or theology in general. The “things” of the Spirit would be those things to which the Spirit draws attention; to “mind” the Spirit would be to be preoccupied by the things that preoccupy the Spirit.

What are those things? In the rest of chapter 8, we will see that the Spirit comes to show us that we are sons and daughters of the Lord. We will explore this more in the next chapter, but it is worth seeing here what the “things” or truths the Spirit wants us to “mind” are:

Verse 14 will tell us that: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Verses 15-16 will tell us that the Spirit removes a fear of rejection and assures us that we are God’s beloved children.

Verses 26-27 will tell us that the Spirit gives us confidence to approach God in prayer.

In other words, the rest of Romans 8 tells us what the Spirit is preoccupied with: how in Christ we are adopted, loved and welcomed.

A parallel passage is Colossians 3:1-4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated … your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Here, Paul tells us to be preoccupied with “things above”: We are to remember that we have been raised with Christ and are accepted in him before the Father. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned here, but the principle is the same. We are to be preoccupied with our standing in Christ. We are to drill into our minds and hearts his love and adoption of us. To “mind … the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) means never to forget our privileged standing or the fact that we are loved, and to let this dominate our thinking, our perspectives, and therefore our words and actions.

Everybody Minds Something

Ultimately, Paul says, everyone will “mind” something—we will either be preoccupied by the things of the Spirit, or “the sinful nature” (v 5). “Sinful nature” is how the NIV1984 translates the Greek word sarx—ESV and NIV2011 render it “flesh.” It is the desires and would-be-dictates of our senses, a worldview that is worldly rather than godly and self-centered rather than Christ-focused.

Whatever preoccupies the mind controls the life—and one preoccupation results in death, the other in life and peace (v 6). Clearly, someone who does not possess the Spirit of God, and is therefore not a Christian (v 9b), is facing the eternal death of just condemnation from God. But it is not simply, or even primarily, future life and death that Paul has in view here. Rather, he is referring to the brokenness and sense of dislocation that are experienced in this life by those who “have their minds set on what [the sinful] nature desires” (v 5). God created mankind to flourish in relationship with him, enjoying knowing him as we live in his world. So being controlled by our own desires rather than his can only lead to a life that is far less than life should be. It must lead to conflict (internally and with others) instead of peace, to slavery instead of freedom (see Romans 6), and to death rather than life.

We can take any negative emotion and see how this works out. Let’s say I am becoming extremely worried about something. Concern is unavoidable unless you are a totally uncaring and indifferent person. If you care about causes or people or goals, you will worry or have concerns. But if the worry becomes debilitating , it is because I am forgetting that I am a child of God, and that my heavenly Father would only exercise his control over the universe in a way that would be loving to his own. Over-worry is forgetting the “things of the Spirit.”

Another example is when guilt and a sense of unworthiness drive us. A sign of this is when we take on too many things, when we assume a crushing number of responsibilities, because we are trying to “work off” or “make up for” our sin. In this case, we are also forgetting the “things of the Spirit.” 1 John 3:20 says: “Whenever our hearts condemn us … God is greater than our hearts.” If we remember we are adopted children, we “go over the head” of our hearts when we feel unworthy.

Hostile to God

Romans 8:7 is simple and stark: “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” The mind is not neutral ground, and cannot love one preoccupation without rejecting the other. A mind “that is set on the flesh” (ESV translation) must also be treating God and the desires of his Spirit as an enemy. This is why our minds are, naturally, unable to deal with sin. We may realize that a particular impulse is unhelpful, or that a certain course of action is destructive. We may even decide to cut it out, and may do so successfully. But the root of sin is still implanted in the mind—hostility to God. So sin will still grow unchecked in our lives.

And that hostility makes us incapable of pleasing God. Verse 8 is an equally striking statement: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Left to ourselves, we are totally unable to live in a way that causes our Creator to approve of us. Why? Because the mind that drives the actions is acting out of hostility to him. The person controlled by their own flesh is able to have a thought that is good, or perform an action that is right. But it cannot please God, since it is thought or done in enmity toward him.

Here is a helpful illustration: a man in a rebel army may look after his comrades, may keep his uniform smart, and so on. Those are “good”—but they are done in hostility to the rightful ruler. You would never expect that ruler to hear of this rebel’s conscientiousness or generosity and be pleased by his conduct in rebellion!

But none of this needs to be, or ought to be, the way “you”—Christians—live (v 9). Every Christian is “controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit,” since the Spirit lives in anyone who belongs to Christ. When we received Christ and became righteous in God’s sight, the Holy Spirit came in and made us spiritually alive. The Christian has a body that is decaying (v 10), yet also enjoys a spirit, a mind, that is alive.

And, Paul says, not only must our spirits/minds not follow our flesh now, but one day our flesh will follow our spirit. In Greek thought, the physical was bad, to be rejected and hopefully one day to be left behind; the spiritual was good, to be embraced. Verse 11 overturns all this: ”He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Someday, even our bodies will be totally renewed and made eternally alive by the Spirit. There is no dualism (body bad, spirit good) here—one day, both will be perfected.

For now, though, there is still within us the remaining sinful nature, which is hostile and inimical to our growing spiritual life. And even as we look forward to our bodies being given life (v 11), we must “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (v 13—the end of this verse is best seen as the end of a sentence, unlike in the NIV). As John Stott argues, Paul is still likely referring to an experience of life, and death, now—not in the future. Paul says here: If you let the remaining sinful nature alone—if you allow it to prosper and grow—there will be terrible trouble. Instead, you must by the Spirit attack and put it to death. The more you put to death the sinful nature, the more you will enjoy the spiritual life that the Holy Spirit gives—life and peace (v 6).

Mortification

This process of “putting to death” is what earlier theologians used to call “mortification.” They got it from the old King James Version translation of the verse: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (v 13).

So what do verses 12-13 tell us about what mortification is, and how we do it? First, it means a ruthless, full-hearted resistance to sinful practice. The very word translated as “put to death” (Greek word thanatoute) is violent and total. It means to reject totally everything we know to be wrong; to declare war on attitudes and behaviors that are wrong—give them no quarter, take no prisoners, pull out all the stops.

This means a Christian doesn’t play games with sin. You don’t aim to wean yourself off it, or say: I can keep it under control. You get as far away from it as possible. You don’t just avoid things you know are sin; you avoid the things that lead to it, and even things that are doubtful. This is war!

Second, it means changing one’s motivation to sin by remembering to apply the gospel . This process of “mortification” goes deeper than merely resisting sinful behavior. It looks at the motives of the heart. Verse 12 says: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature.” This is a critical statement. “Therefore” refers to the statement before, in which Paul tells us we have been redeemed by Christ’s righteousness and will someday be totally delivered from all evil and pain in the bodily resurrection. Then Paul turns and says: “Therefore … we have an obligation…” Some translations express it differently: “We are debtors, not to the flesh” (NRSV). Paul means that if we remember what Christ has done and will do for us, we will feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.

Paul is saying that sin can only be cut off at the root if we expose ourselves constantly to the unimaginable love of Christ for us. That exposure stimulates a wave of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness. Sin can only grow in the soil of self-pity and a feeling of “owed-ness.” I’m not getting a fair shake! I’m not getting my needs met! I’ve had a hard life! God owes me; people owe me; I owe me! That’s the heart attitude of “owed-ness” or entitlement. But, Paul says, you must remind yourself that you are a debtor. If you bathe yourself in the remembrance of the grace of God, that will loosen, weaken and kill sin at the motivational level.

Therefore, “put to death” (v 13) is just a sub-set under “mind the things of the Spirit” (v 5). Mortification withers sin’s power over you by focusing on Christ’s redemption in a way that softens your heart with gratitude and love; which brings you to hate the sin for itself, so it loses its power of attraction over you.

In summary, then, we kill sin in the Spirit when we turn from sinful practices ruthlessly and turn our heart from sinful motivations with a sense of our debt to love and grace, by minding the things of the Spirit.

Preaching Grace to Our Minds

This means that, if we are serious about mortifying the misdeeds of the body (and verses 6 and 13 should offer sufficient motivation to take this seriously!), we need to preach grace-centered mini-sermons to ourselves throughout our day, and especially when tempted.

Remember, your life is an expression of your mind (v 5). And many Christians try to control themselves with law-centered mini-sermons. We say to ourselves things like: If I do that, God will get me or: It’s against my Christian principles or: It will hurt people around me or: I will be embarrassed or: It will hurt my self-esteem or: I’ll hate myself in the morning. Some or all of these may be true—but Paul tells us they are inadequate! They don’t kill sin. That is taking your temptation to the law and using fear to deter yourself.

But we are to use the logic of the gospel on ourselves. Look what God’s done for me! Is this how I respond to him? We’re to take our temptations to the gospel, and find God’s love for us, in sending his Son to the cross and his Spirit into our hearts, showing us the vileness of that sin, motivating us to love our Savior, and removing our desire to live according to the flesh.

Here is how one Puritan pastor, John Owen, preached to his heart with the gospel:

“What have I done? What love, mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on? Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Spirit for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash? … What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? … Do I account communion with him of so little value? … Shall I endeavor to disappoint the [very purpose] of the death of Christ?” (John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin in Believers)

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Matthew, he’s been really ill and in the last week has been rushed to the emergency room twice, they still don’t know what’s happening.

Pray for Rosie, cancer in her ear, removed a tumor the size of a grape. Long process ahead for her, she’s 36. Pray for healing and calmness.

THE ACT

February 24, 2018

As God made plans to appear before the people in the form of a cloud, he said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Ex 19:10–11).

 Consecration means making holy, making acceptable to be close to God. The consecration demanded of the Israelites for this encounter involved becoming spiritually ready to get close to God (thus the two days of preparation indicated in the words “be ready by the third day”).

 Like the Israelites, we, too, must consecrate ourselves when we gather to worship the Lord. Here are four ways you can prepare your heart for worship:

  1. Prepare before you go—On Sunday mornings, many of us find ourselves rushing to get dressed and out the door so we can get to church on time. The result is that we enter the worship service without having adequately prepared for an encounter with a holy God.

  1. Prepare to listen—During the worship service we hear God’s Word read, his message proclaimed and ymns sung to his glory. Prepare your mind by ensuring you are focused, mentally alert and ready to engage in active listening.

  1. Prepare to respond—In worship we enter into real and direct encounter with God. Prepare yourself to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit by expecting that the presence of God will move you in some way.

  1. Prepare to edify others—We join together in worship in part to bless others.

  take two minutes to pray for a friend, or greet a new person, or encourage a child. You have a part to play. This Sunday, prepare for gathering with your church family by asking God how he might use you to edify his church.

And the best way to be ready for church is by your worshipping and praising God during the week.

Originally I thought this idea was a little flaky, but it has produced some interesting results; any time something good happened in the presence of others I have said out loud, “well thank you Jesus.” What happens next is a real eye opener. The self-professed false believer shuts up, the true believer says ‘amen’ and the unconfessed either get verbal or walk away disclaiming my sanity or my Lord. Think about it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com