I really can change (part two)

Because each person is unique, God’s formative process is unique for each. And though the Spirit of God is the One who transforms souls, each individual has personal responsibility in the process. Many spiritual disciplines can contribute, yet God is primarily concerned with transforming the whole person, not just patterns of behavior. For this reason, no one method (be it a traditional spiritual discipline or another method) is the single critical component.

To understand our need for transformation, we must understand who we are currently, both as individuals and as members of the body of Christ. Who we are has undoubtedly been shaped by our past. Therefore, we explore various aspects of our identity, such as our heritage and temperament. What do these tell us about who we are and what we value? The interaction during this study bonds us and builds trust among us. Our goal is not to analyze, criticize, or control each other, but it is to grow and affirm what God is doing in and through one another.

In Identity, we ultimately want group members to see themselves in light of their identity in Christ. However, many of the values we actually live out stem from such influences as temperament, family background, and culture. Not all of those values are contrary to our new identity in Christ. For example, the value one person places on honesty, which he learned from his parents, is affirmed by his identity in Christ.

It can take a long time––more than a lifetime allows––for the Spirit of God to transform our values to line up with our new identity in Christ. We cooperate with the Spirit when we reflect on what our values are and how well they line up with our identity in Christ as described in Scripture.

One of the most significant characteristics of our identity in Christ is that we are now part of the body of Christ. The Christian life cannot be lived in isolation.

(I want to say this to all the door kickers, snake eaters, LEO’s and others, in the call of duty you may have “seen the elephant,” combat, war, taking a life. It is never an easy thing to live with. Isolation and “manning-up” doing it solo, is not the answer. Find a support group, talk it out, find other veteran’s, retired cops, talk it out). And Jesus love even you.

In order to experience intimate community in the biblical sense, we must learn to reveal ourselves to others. We need to honestly, freely, and thoughtfully tell our stories. Our modern culture makes it easy for people to live isolated and anonymous lives. Because we and others move frequently, we may feel it’s not worth the effort to be vulnerable in shortlived relationships. However, we desperately need to keep intentionally investing in significant relationships.

Real involvement in others’ lives requires more than what the term fellowship has too often come to mean. Real involvement includes holding certain values in common and practicing a lifestyle we believe is noble, while appreciating that this lifestyle doesn’t make us perfect. Rather, this lifestyle is a commitment to let God continue to spiritually form us.

Share your stories, the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t get a good reaction when you’re candid, find another group, talk to the pastor, your counselor, mentor, sober companion. But you will only find healing in the community of others who have made it through and out the other side. And it is a continuous daily struggle and renewal. One time isn’t enough, it’s not ‘one and done’ it takes being will to share.

Well that’s it for today.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

I REALLY CAN CHANGE

January 16, 2018

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of spiritual growth? Some picture a solitary individual meditating or praying. While that concept accurately portrays one aspect of Christian spirituality, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The issue of spiritual transformation is not new in the Christian faith. It has been a primary issue, though perhaps given different labels, throughout church history. From the time the Spirit of God descended upon the believers in Jerusalem, God has been transforming the souls of individual believers in the context of local Christian communities.

Preaching has never been and never will be the only element needed for the transformation of Christians into Christ’s image. Nor are small-group Bible studies, personal Bible study, Sunday school classes, or even one-on one discipleship sufficient for growing Christians when they focus solely on communicating biblical information. Transformation of the believer’s inner and outer life must take place as well transformation of the intellect.  “As a man thinketh.”

What do you think about the most each day?

That is the true measure of where you are in your Christian growth.

So think on that.

Let’s begin with some basic concepts of what brings change in our lives.

There is the fellowship model which focuses on corporate prayer for one another, growth of interpersonal intimacy, and support for each other in times of need. This approach effectively connects believers within a church body.

Spiritual disciplines include communal elements (worship, service, and fellowship). Folks need a venue of private, public and personal development.

Dealing with those internal obstacles (habitual sins, addictions, temperament issues, traumas, abuse) that prevent spiritual growth. Dealing with the issues is a key component in spiritual transformation, often done through spiritual counseling.

The fellowship model can fail to guide believers toward growth. The spiritual disciplines model can neglect to emphasize authentic and intimate Christian community, which is necessary for growth. The counseling model can fail to value the role that spiritual disciplines can have in growth. It also risks focusing on deficiencies so much that the person never benefits from the resources of God’s grace. It can focus too intently upon the person’s sin and failure and not enough on God’s enabling power toward growth in holiness.

Authentic community in which people come to trust each other. Though one-on-one relationships can be effective, we believe that multiple relationships are more effective. While one individual can spur another toward growth, that one individual has limited gifts and abilities. Also, though we value the spiritual disciplines, we see them as means toward the end of complete transformation of the believer’s inner and outer life. Disciplines aren’t ends in themselves. Finally, we think believers need to seek greater understanding of sin’s dynamic in their lives. They need to see potential blind spots or obstacles to their spiritual well-being and learn to deal with the root issues beneath their areas of struggle.

Next up; how to make real growth and changes in our lives.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

God created the inside you

January 13, 2018

Moses was the most famously reluctant public speaker in history. When God called him to be the Israelites’ spokesman before Pharaoh, Moses protested that he wasn’t a good fit for the job because he had “never been eloquent” and was “slow of speech and tongue” (Ex 4:10).

 In Exodus 6:12 we find him once again making excuses for his lack of ability: “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” The more literal translation is, “My lips are uncircumcised.” Moses was not saying he had a speech impediment (“faltering lips”), but rather that he was “not ready for public speaking,” using the metaphorical language of circumcision. More precisely, he was claiming he didn’t have the temperament necessary to be the voice of the Israelites.

 Temperament is the combination of mental, physical and emotional traits that make up our natural predisposition. Like Moses, we all have natural abilities and inclinations that can affect how we respond to God’s calling. We might even, like Moses, use our temperament as an excuse to avoid following where God is leading.

 Because temperament can affect our obedience, both positively and negatively, it’s an area worth considering in more detail. Here are four key truths to keep in mind:

  1. Temperament is part of God’s design—For all of history, humans have attempted to understand and explain our natural dispositions. The Greco-Roman world identified four temperaments (sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic), thought to correspond with the four distinct bodily fluids (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood). Today, psychologists tend to rely on personality tests rather than body fluids when identifying temperaments.

 While some terms used to describe temperament (e.g., introversion and extroversion) can serve as helpful classifications  we don’t have to fully subscribe to any particular theory of temperament to recognize that temperaments and personality types are part of God’s design.

  1. Temperament is not a sin, though it can be affected by sin—As with everything else in creation, sin has tainted our dispositions and proclivities. But our unique temperament is amoral and not necessarily sinful. “Some people are ‘cold’ by temperament,” said C. S. Lewis, “that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity.”

  1. Temperament is not who you are—“Your temperament reveals the values that you most naturally hold. “They were given to you (like your body, talents, and intelligence were given to you) to be stewarded for a purpose.”

  1. When, like Moses, we define ourselves by our temperament, we can forget they were given by God to be stewarded for his purposes. This can lead, to pride or insecurity: “Both pride and insecurity begin to use God’s gift as a reason why we are the exception to God’s rules.”

  1. Temperament must be tempered by obedience—Our natural dispositions might make some spiritual disciplines easier and others more difficult. For example, the person who is “cold by temperament” might find it difficult to generate the emotions of charity. But that doesn’t negate the requirement to love our neighbor. It also doesn’t require that we manufacture emotions we don’t feel. “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did,” adds Lewis. “As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

  Moses often attempted to convince his Creator he didn’t have the temperament necessary to carry out the tasks required of him. But despite his frequent grumbling and protestations, Moses obeyed God. In this he can serve as a model for how we, too, can set aside our natural inclinations when they conflict with the requirements of obedience.

Remember that God created you and your temperament.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

SLOW AND STEADY

January 12, 2018

Slow and steady

  “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; fret not thyself” (Ps. 37:7).

  Our Father moves on the basis of His finished work, therefore hurry is not a factor with Him nor should it be with us. We are to ‘walk in the Spirit,’ and the blessed Holy Spirit will see to it that we obtain all that our Father has for us, step by step. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in His way” (Ps. 37:23). Don’t be discouraged—Enoch walked with God for three hundred years before he was translated!

We cannot become spiritual all at once; we must be content to begin as babes. Spiritual maturity and strength do not come by effort but by growth; and growth is the result of being nourished by proper food. But if we do not grow by effort it is important to remember that we do not grow without exercise.

  “God begins by giving our hearts a sense of the blessedness of the grace in which He has called us, that we may be awakened and enhungered to pursue the knowledge of all this with purpose of heart and prayerful study.

 Whatever we do accurately must take time and collectedness of mind, and there is no accuracy in all the world like keeping company with God, and yet nothing so free from bondage or tediousness. By going slow with the Lord we accomplish more than by going with a rush, because what we do is done so much better and does not have to be undone. It is done in a better spirit, with deeper motives, and bears fruit far out in the future, when all mushroom performances have been dissipated forever.

  “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

RESOLVE

January 11, 2018

RESOLVE

R=reach the lost

E=edify the saints

S=study the word

O=obey His commandments

L=live for eternity

V=visualize the future

E=expect great things

You may have seen this acrostic before, but this is the first time for me (I think).

There is a basic and yet often overlooked principle: a leader cannot deal with problems that he is not aware of. Sometimes he cannot deal with problems even when he is aware of them, of course. But without exception, it is impossible to deal with problems when you do not know about them.

To resolve conflicts or problems biblically, go directly to the person responsible and talk about the problem. If someone comes to you with a complaint, ask if he has talked to one of the pastors or elders. If not, direct him to do so before he talks to anyone else. Many misunderstandings can be resolved at this level without causing larger problems in the church.

It’s easy to get angry but then to cool off and do nothing. After all, it is difficult and uncomfortable to confront those who are causing a problem. It is especially difficult to confront those who happen to be rich and powerful.

I had a young pastor travel all the way across the U.S. to ask me how to solve a problem. He was pastoring a very rich congregation, every one was at least a millionaire. Everytime there was a problem they tried money first. When he complained they bought him a Cadillac. They wanted to have coffee during the service, they bought fine china and some waiters to serve. Then they bought him a bigger house. My advice to him was to resign. He had already quit leading.

It doesn’t matter what job you’re in, but if you are the leader you’re going to get shot, wounded and hurt, attacked and smeared. How you respond is the mark of what kind of leader you are going to be.

Many Christian leaders fall into the trap of thinking that their position gives them certain rights and power. We should follow the example of the Lord Jesus, who laid aside His rights to take on the form of a servant and be obedient even to death on a cross. Pastors can never (or should never) be dictators. But church is also not a democracy. A two headed goat is never going to go anywhere.

Leaders need to hold people accountable to their promises before God and others. If there has been marital unfaithfulness or financial misdeeds, the guilty party needs to reestablish trust. The only way to do that is through very close accountability.

Thus to resolve conflicts biblically, people must air complaints to the proper authorities. Leaders must deal with those complaints in a biblical manner.

Sadly, when leaders confront people with wrongdoing, all too often the people either react with anger and defensiveness, or they just move on to another church or drop out of church altogether without dealing with their sin.

 From 40 years as a pastor, I can say that to see people respond readily to correction is rare! But it shouldn’t be. Hebrews 13:17 gives an exhortation that sounds strange in our day when people have no concept of being under spiritual authority: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

What a foreign concept that is today.

Someone has said that in a church quarrel, Satan remains neutral and supplies ammunition to both sides. That may not always be true, but he does like to divide God’s people by getting them to wrong one another and then not to deal biblically with problems. We must be committed to resolve conflicts God’s way. Then His work will go forward.

Pray for those in authority over you, (first admit there are people in authority over you.) and accountability breeds responsibility.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

walk the walk men

January 6, 2018

A MAN OF GOD IS KNOWN BY WHAT HE FOLLOWS AFTER

While the man of God is continually running from evil, he must also be running toward good. There is a sense in which, as long as we are in this body, we can never stop running. If we stop running from what is evil, it will catch us. If we stop pursuing what is righteous, it will elude us. We will never be at the point where we have finally outdistanced what is wrong, nor will we ever have fully captured what is fight. Our whole life consists of flight and pursuit.

What specifically must a man of God pursue? In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul lists six qualities that distinguish a man of God: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. The first two are general virtues, one having to do with external behavior, the other with internal attitude and motivation.

Righteousness simply means doing right, both before God and before man. This is not the imputed righteousness we have in Christ through faith, but the practical righteousness of living according to the standards of God. When a man who claims to preach God’s word leads an ungodly, lascivious, ego-centered, materialistic life—a life that would make a black mark on a piece of coal—that man is not a man of God. A man of God pursues what is fight.

Godliness, on the other hand, refers to the spirit of holiness, of reverence and piety in the heart. This spirit is the source of fight behavior. It is living one’s life in the conscious presence of the holiness of God. This consciousness comes from devotion to the Word of God, prayer, self-denial, discipline, accountability, worship, communion, and all the other means God provides for bringing one’s heart captive to Christ. A man of God must not be so concerned for the welfare of his flock that he neglects his on spiritual health. If he falls short of God’s standard of holiness, his ministry cannot be effective. A man of God must tend his own garden and bring forth the fruit of godliness.

From these two general virtues flow the more specific ones named. The two internal virtues Paul mentions are faith and love. Faith means confident trust in God for everything, complete loyalty to Him, unwavering confidence in His power, purpose and provision. The man of God lives by trusting the sovereign God to keep His word and meet His servant’s needs. He lives in a kind of relaxed desperation: desperate because of the tremendous ramifications of the ministry, but relaxed because of his confidence in the sovereignty of God. He lives in faith.

Coupled with faith is love: agape love, beautiful, volitional, unrestricted and unrestrained. It is a love that includes everyone, God and men, Christians and non-Christians. The man of God understands the great commandment: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37–39). His love for God is so deep that it overflows into love for God’s children. He loves them enough that, when necessary, he is willing to confront them with the truth.

The other virtues named may be considered outward virtues: patience and gentleness. Patience does not mean a passive resignation, but a victorious, triumphant endurance, an unswerving loyalty to the Lord in the midst of trials. This is the endurance of the martyr who will give his life for the cause, of the shepherd who will lay down his life, if need be, for his flock, just as his Master did. The man of God endures the inevitable and constant trials of ministry, not just with resignation, but with victorious joy.

Finally, the man of God must pursue gentleness, or meekness. This is the selfless attitude of one who, though consumed with a great cause, recognizes that he makes no contribution to its success. The man of God must be humble.

Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness: if a man does not pursue these virtues, but pursues the things of the world, he cannot be a man of God.

The carnal life or the walk in the spirit life. A life long battle, although age seems to help, and drop in testosterone helps as well.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

OCCUPY

December 30, 2017

OK, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GOING TO USE THIS AS A TITLE.

“OCCUPY”

  “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us . . . hath made us alive together with Christ . . . and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–6).

  Believers are not occupying their position! At best, most are trying to attain a victorious position by means of prayer, Bible study, commitment, reconsecration, surrender, and so forth. But the answer is simply to abide where we have already been placed—in our risen Lord Jesus Christ. Abide above, and keep looking down!

  “Our Father has taken us over Jordan and placed us in Canaan, but the reality of it is never known until by faith we accept the fact on the basis of having died with Christ, and that therefore heaven is our place, and we know it to be our place now; and that this side is not our place, and we know that it is not.

The more we abide in the Lord on the other side, the less disappointed we will be here, for when we are there we import new joys and new hopes into this old world, from an entirely new one, and we therefore in every way surpass the inhabitants of this lost world.

 You must abide in Christ in heaven before you can descend with heavenly ability to act for Him down here. The great secret of all blessing is to come from the Lord. Most Christians go to Him.

 Christian experience is our measure of apprehension of that which is already true of us in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  “Stand fast (occupy) in the Lord” (Phil. 4:7).

One thing I tell every struggling pastor who has problems with his sermons. “You are not spending enough time in prayer, you have to come out of the heavenly throne room and into the pulpit.”

Isaiah 6:7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Look, this coal has touched your lips. Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Chris R, gallbladder surgery tomorrow.

Ronnie V, she celebrates 44 years sobriety today.

Bill F, 98 years young, tomorrow we are going trike riding.

 

GOT WOOD?

December 29, 2017

GOT WOOD?

From the dawn of creation until today, in backyards and rainforests across the earth, there have been trees—trillions and trillions of trees. Imagine you are given the task of identifying the most important trees in the history of humankind. In retrospect, a trio of candidates would appear to be obvious contenders: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, and the tree that provided the wood for Jesus’ cross.

But what if you had to identify the tree before it changed history? Even if we were told which country it came from or the forest it grew in, the task would be absurdly improbable. Certainly no one would have suspected the importance of a tree cut down in Egypt to make staffs for goat- and sheep-herding shepherds. But just such a tree made a stick of wood that became the staff of God (see Ex 4:20), a staff Moses and Aaron used for stunning displays of God’s power.

“Consider the mighty ways in which God used a dead stick of wood,” wrote Francis A. Schaeffer. “ ‘God so used a stick of wood’ can be a banner cry for each of us. Though we are limited and weak in talent, physical energy, and psychological strength, we are not less than a stick of wood. But as the rod of Moses had to become the rod of God, so that which is me must become the me of God. Then, I can become useful in God’s hands.”

“God so used a stick of wood”—and he will use us, too, if we are,

➤ Consecrated—To be consecrated is to be set apart or dedicated to the service of God. In what ways has God set you apart for his work?
➤ Shaped—Before it became the staff of God, the stick of wood was shaped into a shepherd’s staff. While we might not fully understand how God is shaping us, we must trust that it is being done so we will become more useful in his hands. Add to your prayer request list that God will form you for Christlike service.

From a little acorn to a mighty oak, who knows what God will turn our lives into.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

HANG IN THERE

December 28, 2017

Hang in there

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations” (1 Peter 1:6).

We have our troubles. My dear friend, this world is not our home. We’re just passing through. We’ve got a home laid up somewhere beyond the blue. And, down here we have troubles and trials. You say, “Well, if I weren’t saved, maybe I wouldn’t have these trials.” Ok, listen up you’d have them anyway. “Man that is born of a woman… is full of trouble” (Job 14:1). But, listen what he says here, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Now, what does that mean? It means that living for Jesus is not all honey and no bees. It means that there’s going to be heartaches and tears. But, it means though our trials are many and though they are heavy, they are all under God’s control. And, notice he says, “But for a season.” Now, the idea here in verse 7, is of a goldsmith, who puts gold in a furnace. And, the idea is that he’s purifying the gold. And, they say that the goldsmith can know the gold is pure when he can see his face in it.

And, if you’re going through heaviness and heartache here don’t let that discourage you. The Lord is just simply working on you. For your good and his glory. Job said, in Job 23:10, “… when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). And, the trials are for his purpose and in his time and when he’s finished you’re coming through.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Lisa and Ty, been married 13 months and she walks out and says she wants a divorce. Ty is a wonderful guy, great husband. This is where a good guy marries a bad girl and thinks it will all work. She’s already out of town and waiting to party hard this New Year.

Pray for Lyle, great guy, has throat cancer,

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 25, 2017

bad santa

WELL THIS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME IN 6 YEARS THAT I’M NOT POSTING MY ANNUAL GRUMPY CHRISTMAS LETTER.

The truth is, this is probably the best Christmas ever for me mentally and health wise. For 7 months I have had the opportunity to do nothing but spend every day in bible study, prayer worship and devotion.

Second for the first time in 5 years I almost have my IBS and Barrett’s disease under control (almost). It has been debilitating and a huge drain on me mentally and spiritually. But the last 4 weeks have been great.

Spiritually it has been amazing in spite of all the other problems. I really praise God for the trial and tribulation and without going into detail the comfort and peace of God have been a blessing.

I’m actually enjoying Christmas, which if you’ve ever read my past “I hate Christmas” rants you’d know it was a miracle.

I have one prayer for all of you, a closer walk to the Lord and growing in knowledge, wisdom, and peace.

To the all the encouragers, God bless you greatly.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com