the complete life

March 20, 2018

  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

  The Word of life, the Lord of life, and the exigencies of life all must combine to give us a ministry of life.

There is no personal knowledge of God but as we count on Him, as we are practically conscious of depending on Him and of His caring for us. One without straits, and victories, really has no growing acquaintance with God; and where there is not this, however great the intelligence or sincerity, there is little or no savor.

It is the trials and difficulties of the way that are the opportunities for our hearts to grow in acquaintance with Him; and it will be found, while there may be a great enjoyment in ministry, and in the unfolding of truth, that really there is not strength but in proportion as one has learned how God has been for and with one in the trials and sorrows of the way; and as one has known Him in them, so is one able to speak of Him.

The one purpose which our Father has in view, in all His ways, is to conform us to the image of His Son. This may explain our perplexities as to the past; it will govern our behavior in the present; it is to be our guidance in the future. The chief concern of our Lord is not to instruct us about a multitude of details, not to explain to us the reason for the trials which we are called to pass through. He is working out everything to serve His supreme purpose in displaying the character of His Son in His redeemed ones.

  “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Praise report, the cancer in Rosie’s ear is a lot less both in scope and in kind and the surgery will be minimum with no radiation or chemo.

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 School of Faith part two

February 13, 2018

God wants you to know if your faith is real or whether it is bogus. Your faith is more precious than gold, 1 Peter 1:7, and again I want to tell you that a faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted.

Now, so many times we get the idea that if we’re trusting God—that if we are obeying God, if we’re doing what God has tell us told to be—it will be all milk and honey. As a matter of fact, that it’ll be all honey and no bees. That is not necessarily so. So many times when we get saved we say, “Now, wonderful, I’ve trusted God and He’s brought me into the land of plenty.” We think it’s all milk and honey, but it’s not necessarily so.

You’re going to meet the devil, you’re going to be tested in many, many ways. And, many of us are tested in ways after we got saved in ways that we never were before we got saved. Sometimes we get married and we think, “Oh, this is the land of milk and honey.” And, God brings heartaches and tears and trials right into the land of promise. And, you know, it is so. Sometimes in our prayer life we pray—and we’ve been told prayer is the land of promise—to trust God. And, we pray and people have simplified this matter of prayer. And they say, well, you know, God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, “Yes,” and sometimes He says, “No,” but He always answers prayer. (make sure you keep reading).

Sometimes He doesn’t say anything. Have you noticed that? I mean, sometimes you just pray and you don’t seem to get an answer. And, I mean, it just seems to be darkness out there. Famine in the land of plenty. Sometimes we go to church and we get the idea that, you know over in church everything’s going to be wonderful. Oh boy! You know, all the sinners are out there and all the saints are in here. Ain’t necessarily so folks. I think it was one great theologian who said that, “The church is kind of like Noah’s ark,” he said “We wouldn’t be able to stand the stench if it weren’t for the storm outside.”

I’m not saying that the church is a failure. I’m not saying that at all. But friend, I’m going to tell you whether it be in your prayer life, whether it be in your marriage, whether it be in your salvation, whether it be in your church life, or wherever it is God will bring you into the land of plenty, but He’s going to test you there. He’s going to test you there in ways you’ve never thought. He’s going to see what your reactions are going to be. Go and read the book of Judges, just read chapter 2, a land filled with lots of ‘ites’, Hittites, Canaanites, all these ‘ites’ with just one idea, something more appealing to your 5 senses.

When testing comes don’t try to understand it. Learn something else. As Christians we do not live by explanation. We live by promises. We do not live by explanations. God has not promised to explain it to you. As a matter of fact, he says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).

Real faith is obeying in spite of circumstances or consequences. Did you hear it? Real faith is obeying in spite of circumstances, a famine, or consequences. If I perish, I perish. I am going to go where God sends me, and I’m going to stay where God puts me until God moves me. I’m going to live by faith.

God will test your faith to find out whether you have the real thing. Now, God knows, but he wants you to know. God’s not trying to find out something about you, He wants you to find out something about you.

I’ve said this many times, being a Christian may be the hardest thing you ever do.

Stay tuned

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Nurses, especially Surgical Nurses in general, do you know they have one of the highest divorce rates. They harden themselves to not feel all the pain going on around them and they don’t realize they are shutting out their families as well.

We’ve started a group therapy for nurses to reconnect with their feelings and families and it has been amazing. And helping them to become better time managers and not get burned out if they want to stay in their career field.

 

Men of God (part 2)

January 5, 2018

Godly Men (part 2)

Paul exhorts 1 Timothy 6:11 to “flee these things.” The verb “flee” conveys the sense of running continually to escape a dangerous enemy. “These things” refers to what Paul has just been talking about in verses 9 and 10: the evils attached to the love of money. These evils include “foolish and harmful lusts” and even the danger of straying “from the faith in. . . greediness.” Greed is the sin of false teachers who pretend to speak for God, but whose true goal is personal gain.

Other things a man of God must flee from include sexual sin (1 Cor. 6:18), idolatry_ (1 Cor. 10:14), and youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). From anything which might distract his heart from God or detract from his ministry, the man of God must flee.

It’s not enough to just rebuke it or claim it. I saw a bible advertised online that is just for Pentecostals or the Joel Osteen ilk, that was supposedly filled with one sentence sayings that were spiritual defenses against dark forces. I mean that sounds more like an ad for Dungeons and Dragons than a bible.

But of course in this 1 minute world, what else could you expect.

Of course these are probably the same people that claim the devil made them do it or my personal favorite I hear all the time; “I just couldn’t help myself.” Really, what are you a zombie?

Ok, I’m done ranting, you see a temptation, flee, literally get away from it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Anne, she went off her medication and is living in panic attack city.

Seriously if you were prescribed a medication, don’t quit taking it unless you talk to your doctor. Or the side affects are worse than the illness, but still talk to your doctor.

One of our goals here at this devotional sight is to help you form a theology or simply put together a plan to help you understand God and His design. So here are some basic ideas to help with understanding the sovereignty of God. And hopefully a common ground all Christians can believe in. So…..

  1. It is admitted that God reigns; that his providence extends to all events great and small, so that nothing does or can occur contrary to his will, or which He does not either effect by his own power, or permit to be done by other agents. This is a truth of natural religion as well as of revelation. It is (practically) universally recognized. The prayers and thanksgivings which men by a law of their nature address to God, assume that He controls all events. War, pestilence, and famine, are deprecated as manifestations of his displeasure. To Him all men turn for deliverance from these evils. Peace, health, and plenty, are universally recognized as his gifts. This truth lies at the foundation of all religion, and cannot be questioned by any Theist, much less by any Christian.

  1. No less clear and universally admitted is the principle that God can control the free acts of rational creatures without destroying either their liberty or their responsibility. Men universally pray for deliverance from the wrath of their enemies, that their enmity may be turned aside, or that the state of their minds may be changed. All Christians pray that God would change the hearts of men, give them repentance and faith, and so control their acts that his glory and the good of others may be promoted. This again is one of those simple, profound, and far-reaching truths, which men take for granted, and on which they act and cannot avoid acting, whatever may be the doubts of philosophers, or the speculative difficulties with which such truths are attended.

  1. All Christians admit that God has a plan or purpose in the government of the world. There is an end to be accomplished. It is inconceivable that an infinitely wise Being should create, sustain, and control the universe, without contemplating any end to be attained by this wonderful manifestation of his power and resources. The Bible, therefore, teaches us that God works all things after the counsel of his own will. And this truth is incorporated in all the systems of faith adopted among Christians, and is assumed in all religious worship and experience.

  1. It is a necessary corollary from the foregoing principles that the facts of history are the interpretation of the eternal purposes of God. Whatever actually occurs entered into his purpose. We can, therefore, learn the design or intention of God from the evolution or development of his plan in the history of the world, and of every individual man. Whatever occurs, He for wise reasons permits to occur. He can prevent whatever He sees fit to prevent. If, therefore, sin occurs, it was God’s design that it should occur. If misery follows in the train of sin, such was God’s purpose. If some men only are saved, while others perish, such must have entered into the all comprehending purpose of God. It is not possible for any finite mind to comprehend the designs of God, or to see the reasons of his dispensations. But we cannot, on that account, deny that He governs all things, or that He rules according to the counsel of his own will.

I think this is a good starting point. As much as different theologies exist, believers have to have some common agreeable points to show some form of unity both to other believers and to the unsaved. This is especially true when sharing our faith with someone that wants to point out that Christians can’t agree on anything.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Ann says thanks for the prayers, Quintan is much better.

Remember Calvin? Who almost put out his eye while on his tractor. Doctor says his eye is in perfect condition.

Thanks for all those that pray for our folks here, and remember prayer requests, questions or comments just send to our email address.

Tomorrow if I remember we will do another bible give away.

THE RABBIT TRAIL

December 17, 2017

The main idea behind the Hebrew concept of wisdom is “skill.” The men who were able to construct the tabernacle according to God’s plan as revealed to Moses are called “wise,” meaning skillful (Exod. 31:3, 6; 36:1-2). Just as a skilled carpenter can take a piece of rough wood and shape it according to a plan into a beautiful and useful piece of furniture, so the wise person is able to take the rough elements of life and shape them according to God’s plan into something beautiful and useful to Him. Spiritual wisdom requires learning about God and how He wants us to live so that our lives will not be ruined by sin, but rather will become a finely crafted product that will cause others to be attracted to the Maker, who displays His glory in us.

So where does that bring us today?

God wants us to have knowledge and wisdom and skill to discern and comprehend His plan for our lives, our brothers and sisters in Christ, (the body) and to understand the spiritual warfare we are in.

We need to understand the pluralism that has taken deep roots in our culture.

Diversity and Inclusion are the battle cry of those who seek to pull down every standard and symbol of Christianity. Our core concepts of decency and morality no longer matter.

How rampant and successful are they?

Imagine this you’ve sent your precious child (I’m not being facetious here) to Wheaton College, a Christian college and there a tenured well known professor makes this statement in class; “The God of the Bible and the god of the muslim faith are the same god.”

Thankfully the majority of students walked out, this time.

So even our sacred halls of Christian education have succumbed to pluralism.

Fourth most disturbing word I hear in Christian dialogue, Christian consumerism in the place of worship.

“Our worship of God needs to be defined by Christian consumerism, if not we will lose a generation of young believers.” WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

If the snowflake generation can’t have wifi during the service we are going to lose them. If that’s the case we’ve lost the battle already. Encouraging ‘selfies’ during the sermon posted on the church website to show enthusiasm. That’s not worship but disrespect to God and others in service.

Ok I have to quit before I have stroke.

REVERENCE, HOLINESS ARE WORDS I UNDERSTAND.

GOD BLESS FROM SCUMLIKEUSCHURCH@GMAIL.COM

 

oh yes you are

November 25, 2017

Bring back solid biblical thinking, stop apple picking, you know where you get to ignore the bible truths you want and pick the ones you do. Making all kinds of excuses. It’s either all the bible or none at all.

I argue that one of the most important truths that needs to be re-emphasized in our day is the doctrine of the total depravity of the human heart. If we do not properly understand the Bible on this matter, we cannot fully understand the gospel for ourselves, let alone make it plain to others. Nor will we understand what the Bible teaches about sanctification (growth in holiness) if we are not clear on the evil that lurks within our hearts, even as regenerate people.

That doctrine could hardly be stated more emphatically than it is in Genesis 6:5: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We are not basically good, decent folks who will do what is right if we’re only given the chance. The very core of our being–”every intent of the thoughts of our hearts” is “only evil continually.” It’s not just that people have a mean streak or that we occasionally sin. God’s declaration is that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In case we missed it or are inclined to apply it only to the Hitler’s of the world, God repeats the assessment after the flood with reference to the most godly man on earth, Noah, and his descendents, “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21).

Because the doctrine of total depravity is often misunderstood, I first will define it. Because it is often disbelieved, minimized, or attacked, I then will defend it biblically. Finally, because we live in a day that often despises doctrine as boring and impractical, I will apply it.

Total depravity defined:

  1. WHAT TOTAL DEPRAVITY IS NOT:

Total depravity does not mean that people are as wicked and sinful as they could be. Nor does it mean that people are incapable of doing good deeds. Even those who have never heard of Jesus Christ are able to love their children and even sacrifice their own lives for the sake of family, friends, or sometimes even for strangers. Many people who do not know Christ are honest, even when it costs them.

  1. WHAT TOTAL DEPRAVITY MEANS:

Total depravity refers to the nature of fallen persons, not to their deeds. The word “total” refers to the total person–that every aspect of the person–mind, will, emotions, body–is corrupted by sin; and to the total human race, that every person since Adam and Eve, except for Jesus Christ, has been born with a nature that is alienated from God and in rebellion against God. Also, depravity must be viewed in relation to God, not by comparing men with men. With reference to God, total depravity means that no one is able in and of himself to do anything to choose God, to seek God, to please God, to love God, to glorify God, or to merit His salvation. Left to himself, every person will seek the things of self and sin. We are as unable to seek God as a corpse can choose to get up and walk (Eph. 2:1-3). The Westminster Confession states it clearly. Speaking of Adam and Eve it says (VI:II, III, IV),

By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

So total depravity refers to the extent of the damage, not necessarily to the degree. To illustrate, if you put a drop of deadly bacteria in a glass of water, it contaminates the entire glass. You may add a spoonful of bacteria, which makes it more potent, but the little drop is enough to pollute it all. Adam’s transgression was imputed to his posterity, so that all are polluted by sin.

Adam was the representative of the human race, so that his sin was charged to all who followed. Some will protest, “That’s not fair!” But several things must be said. First, there is nothing unfair about the concept of representation. Our entire government is built on it. The decisions our elected officials make affect us. But you may still protest, “I didn’t vote for Adam to represent me.” But, God did! God determined that Adam’s choice would represent the human race. We have no reason to believe that we would have acted any differently had we been there ourselves. When our representative fell into sin, the human race was linked to him, so that all are born in sin. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because by nature we are sinners. This is what total depravity means.

Total depravity defended:

We can only look at a few of the many verses in both the Old and New Testaments which defend this doctrine:

In Psalm 51:5, David laments, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” We are born in sin.

Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” The word “sick” is used of an incurable wound; here, the meaning is metaphorical of sin that is beyond human hope of fixing. We’re terminal!

The doctrine is also inherent in Ezekiel 36:25-27, when the Lord promises, “I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from al your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” The sinner cannot follow God unless God performs a heart transplant and gives him His Spirit.

Jesus taught the depravity of our hearts in Mark 7:20-23: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

In John 8:34, Jesus taught that “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin,” and that only He could set us free.

Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, spells it out forcefully in Romans 3:10-18 (citing only 10-13 here): “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

In Romans 8:7-8, he emphasizes the inability of the sinner to follow God: “… the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul states that the natural man not only does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, but cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he explains that Satan, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, …”

In Ephesians 2:1-3, he says that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins and that by nature we are children of wrath. In Ephesians 4:18, he states that unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts.”

While believers are freed from sin’s penalty and from sin’s power, so that we can now live to please God, our sin nature (or, “the flesh”) is not eradicated until we are with the Lord. Romans 7 clearly teaches this, as do many other verses, such as 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

If you compile all these and many other verses, we see that fallen man is incurably wounded; blind; ignorant and unable and unwilling to know; born in sin and with a nature oriented to sin; hard-hearted; enslaved to sin; polluted at the very core of his being; and, dead. The Westminster Confession (IX:III) sums it up: “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”

In spite of the overwhelming biblical evidence of man’s total inability to do anything about his state of alienation from God, man’s proud flesh keeps inventing ways around this doctrine. Many deny it outright and insist that people are basically good at heart. Others deny it by insisting that fallen men have the “free will” to choose God, and thus be saved. But this gives man a part in God’s work of salvation and a ground for boasting, which contradicts many Scriptures:

John 1:13: “Who were born [spiritually] not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Romans 9:16: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

1 Corinthians 1:27-31, where three times Paul stresses that salvation rests on the fact that “God has chosen,” so “that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…”

Those who argue in favor of so-called “free will” say that it is pointless, absurd, and a sham for God to command men to believe in Christ if they are not able by their own free will to believe. This objection was soundly refuted by Martin Luther in his diatribe against the Roman Catholic scholar, Erasmus, The Bondage of the Will [Revell], where he argues, rather, that by commanding us to do what no fallen sinner can do, God brings us to something we proud sinners deny, namely, the knowledge of our utter impotence, pride, and independence from God. In his words, “by thus breaking him down, and confounding him in his self-knowledge, he may make him ready for grace, and send him to Christ to be saved” (p. 162). Or, in the words of Augustine (1,000 years before Luther), “God bids us do what we cannot, that we may know what we ought to seek from him” (cited by Calvin, Institutes [II:V:7]).

Of course, before Augustine the Apostle Paul dealt with this same objection. In Romans 9, after arguing that man cannot choose God by his free will, but that salvation depends on God’s choosing men according to His sovereign mercy, he states (9:19), “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’” Note carefully Paul’s inspired answer, because it strikes at the very root of human depravity: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (9:20). In other words, our very question shows the arrogance of our sinful hearts! If the righteous God chooses to damn the entire race of rebellious sinners, that is His just prerogative. If He chooses to save some who otherwise would helplessly perish in their sin, that is His right. But no one can boast by saying, “I chose God by my own free will.” Scripture is clear that if God had not rescued us by His sovereign grace, we all would have perished in our willful, proud rebellion against Him.

In the same vein, the Lord Jesus Christ stated (Matt. 11:25-27) that God had hidden spiritual truth from the “wise and intelligent,” and that no one knows God except “anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Then He proceeded to command men to do what He just stated they cannot do: “Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Total depravity applied:

The doctrine of total depravity is at the very heart of the gospel, and thus the applications are many. But I must limit myself to four:

  1. THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY SHOULD CAUSE ME TO DESPAIR COMPLETELY OF MYSELF, MY ABILITY, MY MERIT, AND MY WILL, AND TO CAST MYSELF COMPLETELY UPON CHRIST ALONE FOR SALVATION.

If my salvation depends upon my choosing Christ, it is most shaky, because I may decide to walk away from Christ and go my own way. But, if it depends upon Christ’s choice of me, wretched in my sin, with absolutely no merit of my own, then it is as certain as the promise of God who cannot lie. Scripture is abundantly clear, you can do nothing to save yourself from God’s rightful judgment. Only Christ can save, and He has promised to save all who trust in Him. If you say, “But I cannot even trust in Him,” you are right! Call out to Him for mercy and faith, with the man who said to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Or again, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

  1. THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY HUMBLES MY PRIDE.

Ever since Eve thought that she could be like God, the human race has been infected with pride. Even many who profess Christ dislike this doctrine, because it removes every ground for boasting. Luther said it well (Bondage of the Will, p. 100, 101),

God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another–God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation.

So these truths are published for the sake of the elect, that they may be humbled and brought down to nothing, and so saved. The rest of men resist this humiliation; indeed, they condemn the teaching of self-despair; they want a little something left that they can do for themselves. Secretly they continue proud, and enemies of the grace of God.

  1. THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY CAUSES ME TO FEAR TRUSTING IN MYSELF.

As I grow to know my own heart, and the sin that still indwells me, I realize that if I am to know victory over sin, I must not trust in myself at all, but only in the Savior who said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Apostle Paul warned, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). He affirmed from his own experience, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10), because when he was aware of his own weakness, he relied totally upon God’s grace and power, not at all on himself.

  1. THE DOCTRINE OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY MOVES ME TO GREATER LOVE AND DEVOTION TO GOD FOR HIS AMAZING GRACE.

One of the problems of the weak gospel being preached today, the gospel that does not wound and totally disable the proud sinner from thinking that he has anything he can bring to God, is that those who profess faith in Christ have no idea of the awful pit from which He rescued them, and of that fact that He did it in spite of their sin, not because they were “worthy.” The truth is, even the best of us were worthy a million times over of spending eternity in the lake of fire! Forgiven little, such “Christians” love little!

The Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.” (C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography [Banner of Truth], 1:54). When we see the utter depravity of our sinful hearts, and then realize the abundant grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior, we will be caught up in wonder, love, and praise to Him for His glorious, sovereign grace! I pray that God will impress on each of us the biblical doctrine of total depravity.

Thanks for wading through this long devotional post.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Lydia, she fell and broke her hip, she’s 88

Pray for Robert C, 32, and told he has prostate cancer (and yes that is the correct spelling).

Praise from Jorge, he just finished his 100th bible correspondence class, that’s every single class, Congrats.

THE RIGHT WAY

November 21, 2017

THE RIGHT WAY

Maybe one of the most misquoted verses in the bible and certainly one of the most misunderstood verses.

Matthew chapter 7:1-2; “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

And of course people don’t usually quote the next several verses.

Matthew 7:3-8 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

So let’s cover verses one and two;

7:1 This verse does not disallow the right of making moral and spiritual judgments (cf. 7:6; 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:9; 2 Cor. 11:4; Phil. 3:2; 1 John 4:1) but forbids a bitter, hostile, and unkind spirit which delights in finding fault with others. Hypocritical self-righteousness has no place in the life of a Christian. The verse is particularly applicable to the area of motives. No one of us can know the heart of another, and thus to draw conclusions as to the “why” of people’s actions, especially when those actions are indifferent or even good, is to invite God’s judgment upon one’s life.

And now verse 6; This verse does not mean that the blessings of the gospel are not to be offered to the Gentiles, but rather that spiritual mysteries should not be pressed upon those who are either unready or unwilling to accept or appreciate their value. The verse continues logically in the train of thought developed in the sayings which immediately precede it. While judging others is not the prerogative of man, there are, nonetheless, those whose uncleanness and violence prevent the sharing of the sweetest and most noble insights of the Christian faith.

So we are to judge ourselves, if we judge others we are to use the same measure applied to ourselves and finally there are people not ready to receive or perceive the Gospel message. We are not to force it on them or even share it with them as it will actually cause harm.

Therefore our witnessing has to be done in love and in God’s timing. Which if you are in harmony and sync with God (walking in the Spirit) living in the vine, you can count on being led of the Lord.

Bottom line, don’t be harsh, cruel, mocking, or a hypocrite. But be loving, kind, long suffering.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Lisa, she is getting divorced and will be a single mom with a 3 year old. She has to sell her home and is a pediatric ER nurse (stressed). Please keep her in prayer.

Pray for our nation, that revival will once again sweep our country.

 

TOUCHED

November 20, 2017

THE NEED FOR TOUCH

I’m always amazed by how unloved people in the church feel. In one church we mentioned in the bulletin that on Thursdays you could come to my office from 9am to 9pm and just be hugged. There would be two other people in the room, usually my wife and I.

I was amazed at how many people “snuck” in for a hug and a prayer. Now I’m a big hugger, you gonna know you were hugged. No sissy, barely held you, nope you’re gonna get the works. What amazed is how many people just wept when embraced.

The other comment was “thank you for hugging me like a real man.” That puzzled me at first, but I always ask, “what do you mean?”

The most common answer was from married women who said how their husbands barely touched them any more and if they did they felt like they were being hugged by their sister not their husband.

Well the church all on its own started a hugging revolution. All the services had everyone hugging, before during and after. And then it spread outside of church. How did I know that? People started coming to our church to be hugged. We actually roped off two front pews with a sign that said “need hugs.”

Those two pews began to fill up with the threshold crowd, mentally ill, homeless, broken, and they sat there with a childlike presence waiting for someone to reach out and hug them. We actually had some parolees with warrants and one escaped mental patient call and said they would turn themselves in at the church if they could get a hug first. The police were shocked, but they cooperated, and I’ve lost count of the people that came in to be arrested if they were hugged first. And never a problem.

I try to stop by my son’s business at least once a week, we always hug and he kisses me on the cheek and we say “we love you.” Clients there will ask if we will hug them as well. And then so many ask or say about how loving every one there is. Or that they haven’t seen an adult son and father hug and kiss in forever.

When I leave my son and daughter in law will shout out again; “we love you Pop.” And the whole place goes silent waiting for my heart felt and loud, “we love you too.”

Friends, it might take you a while to get used to invading someone’s space but start hugging. And spouses start hugging.

People are surprised but filled with joy over a hug.

I have a big Aryan ex-con friend, all tatted up and everything pierced, he never wears a shirt just his biker vest. This guy is a muscled bound steroid abuser (ex) we meet every other month at a nice restaurant. He always gets there first so he can sit in their real fancy bar. And when I come in the door he rushes at me like he’s going to kill me. (a few people actually screamed a few times) but we give these huge bear killer hugs and he picks me up off the floor and always says. “I love you man.”

People need the Lord, and everybody needs touched. That was the hallmark of Jesus’s ministry he touched the unwanted. We need to touch everyone.

So spread the love.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

the fortress of solitude

November 14, 2017

I was going through a stack of old bibles that I’ve collected over the years and I’m always interested in the old sermons I find in them or notes scribbled on church bulletins, sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. The same with sermons, I’ll read an old sermon of mine and think “oh my poor congregation” they sat there so feigning interest. This time the bible is one I bought from a collection and this sermon was in it. after reading it several times I thought I would share this gem that I found today.

“Beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:17-18)

Is there a path of steady growth in the presence and power of God for the one who has placed their confidence in Jesus? Should we assume that it is God’s intention our lives would be increasingly pervaded by the action of his hand, until “all we do in word or deed” would be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”? (Col. 3:11) Is this something we can arrange for, so that the command to grow in grace makes sense?

We are told repeatedly by Paul to put off the old person and to put on the new. How does one do that?

The answer is actually rather simple. One must intend to do it, and then one must sensibly implement the means. Putting on the new person, growing in grace, is something we must do. Appropriate action is the key. True, as Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) But it is also true that if we do nothing it will be without him.

The path of spiritual growth in the riches of Christ is not a passive one. Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning. Effort is action. Earning is attitude. You have never seen people more active than those who have been set on fire by the grace of God. Paul, who perhaps understood grace better than any other mere human being, looked back at what had happened to him and said: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (I Cor. 15:10)

As to “means of grace” placed in our hands, well-directed action is the key. The disciplines of the spiritual life are simply practices that prove to be effectual in enabling us to increase the grace of God in our lives.

That grace is, of course, “unmerited favor.” But the form it takes is the action of God in our lives and with our actions. If we wish to know more of this and see the deliverance it works in and around us, we must do the things that will bring it to pass. These things are spiritual disciplines or the disciplines for the spiritual life.

A discipline in any area is something in my power that I do to enable me to do what I cannot do by direct effort. This is the general nature of discipline, and there is simply no area of human attainment–from playing a musical instrument, to sports, to speaking a language or being friendly–that does not require discipline.

The need for discipline does not change when we come to all that is involved in walking in the holiness and power of Christ. Would we do the things that Jesus himself did and taught? Then there is a way. It is the way of disciplined grace: discipline under grace and grace in the midst of discipline.

What are some of these disciplines? A primary one is solitude, which must go hand in hand with silence to be complete. In solitude I arrange to be alone, out of human contact, for lengthy periods of time. This allows my inner compass to stop whirling in response to the demands of others. The elasticity and wholeness of my soul is restored as I grow “still and know that God is God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Only solitude and silence, extensively practiced at wisely allotted intervals, can take the world off my back and forever release me from both hurry and loneliness. They open the door to productive engagement with other disciplines. I begin to find myself increasingly before God in such a way that he can safely fill me with himself.

Study and worship, fasting and sacrifice (of time, energy, money), journaling and prayer, confession and service are also among the disciplines. Some disciplines may be freely chosen. But often our circumstances will impose activities on us which, if taken as such, can be marvelous disciplines enabling us to receive extraordinary grace. “Tribulation works patience” is only one illustration of this principle.

But there is no such thing as a complete list of spiritual disciplines, chosen or imposed. Many different activities might be entered into with the aim of finding the manifest grace of God which enables us to do what we cannot do–and be what we cannot be–by direct effort. But the ones that emerge as most beneficial in Christian history should all be considered very seriously.

And of course “what we cannot do by direct effort” covers all that Jesus taught us. We cannot keep his teachings on our own. He never intended it. But by whole life training in the well-known disciplines of the spiritual life we can become inwardly the kinds of persons who naturally (supernaturally of course) do what he said and did. That is how the gift of a holy and powerful life comes to us.

Now disciplines are not law, they are wisdom. We have to learn how to do them, and we always fail at the outset. But to fail here is not to sin. The sin would be in not adopting and following up on a wise program of disciplines under grace. For then we are not really intending to do what Jesus said. We are planning to fail.

Also, disciplines are for disciples–apprentices–of Jesus, not for dabblers or mere consumers of religious services. They are for people who intend to learn from Jesus how to live their whole lives in the kingdom of God as he would live their lives if he were they. Such people are serious about this and will not be denied.

Thus they are prepared to experiment and learn from their failures until, under their constant teacher, they find that disciplines truly are full of grace and strength.

Fasting becomes feasting on God, meditation on scripture becomes celebration. Religion is no longer an additional burden to be carried in an already overburdened life, but is replaced by a joyous confidence that God is present and prevailing in every situation of life and death.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Jennifer she has her second eye surgery at 7am Tuesday morning.