Yes, You Can

September 12, 2017

It goes without saying that unbelievers pounce all over Christian hypocrisy and judgment. A Hindu professor once found out that a man in his class was a Christian. The professor said to this student, “If you Christians were like Jesus Christ, India would be at your feet tomorrow.” A learned Muslim who recently became a Christian said, “If Christians were truly Christians—like Christ—there would be no Islam.” A USA Today poll shows 72% of unchurched Americans agree that a God exists, but the same percentage says “the church is full of hypocrites.” 44% say Christians get on their nerves. People flat-out don’t like Christians. Yet, when is the last time you heard someone say, “Man, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists get on my nerves!” It doesn’t happen, does it? People show respect and honor to these religions. Now it’s easy to object, “This just isn’t fair. The media has turned Christians into cultural punching bags.” Yet, we must ask, “Have we brought some of this pain upon ourselves?” If we’re honest and humble, we would probably have to say, “Yes, guilty as charged.” Just stop and think for a moment. Are you notorious for criticizing the media? Politicians? Your teachers? Your pastors? Your boss? Your coworkers? Your neighbors? Your friends? Seriously, can you even watch a football game without being critical of the quarterback, the coach, or the referee? Most Christians are critical. Some are even bold enough to boast that their spiritual gift is criticism. Yet Jesus says, “Be slow to judge others and quick to judge yourself.” In Matthew 7:1–12, Jesus gives two exhortations dealing with judicious judgment.

  1. Judge with humility not superiority (7:1–5). In this first section, Jesus clarifies how you should relate to other believers in the matter of judgment. In 7:1, Jesus tells you what you shouldn’t do: “Do not judge.” No sentence in the Bible is more familiar, more misunderstood, and more misapplied than Matt 7:1. Therefore, we must first determine what this verse doesn’t mean. “Do not judge” doesn’t mean you can’t say anything critical or pointed to another person. In this context, Jesus Himself alludes to certain people as dogs and pigs (7:6). He also warns His disciples, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (7:15). In both of these examples, Jesus makes a judgment about various individuals. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus requires His disciples to confront believers who are in sin (18:15–17). Furthermore, the New Testament is clear that Christians are to judge both error and sin. So despite what many people believe, the ideal Christian is not an undiscerning, all-accepting jellyfish who lives out the misinterpretation of “judge not.” Christians can and should judge.

So what does this verse mean? First, you are not to pass final judgment on any person. Final judgment belongs to the Lord. You are not in the condemning business. If anyone needs to be condemned, God Himself can take care of that. You should have no part in it. This is why curses like “God damn you” or “Go to hell” are so wicked! The one who utters these curses is attempting to play God! Second, you are not to judge the motives of others. The Bible says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Often we are quick to come to negative conclusions about others based on why we think they did something. But try as we might, we see only the outside. God alone sees the heart. What Christ means when He says “Do not judge” is that we are to refrain from hypercritical, condemning judgment. There is a universe of difference between being discerningly critical and hypercritical. A discerning spirit is constructive; a hypercritical spirit is destructive. All of this means you can judge what people do; you cannot judge why they do it. You can judge what people say; you cannot judge why they say it.

In 7:1b–2, Jesus tells you what God will do. He says the reason that you shouldn’t judge is “so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” When Jesus says “Do not judge so that you will not be judged,” He uses a future passive verb. He is referring to being judged at the judgment seat of Christ. In other words, God will use the same basic standard you use to evaluate others when He evaluates you! In Matt 5:7 Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.” If you are gracious in your dealings with other people’s failures and shortcomings now, you will receive mercy in the future when the Lord evaluates your life. As the old saying goes, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” The longer I am in pastoral ministry, the greater my empathy for the struggles of my pastoral colleagues. The longer I walk with Christ, the more I empathize with my fellow believers. The longer I am married and strive to raise a family, the more I can empathize with other couples and parents. It is hard to be who you want to be, isn’t it? I want to grant grace and extend mercy to others. I want to believe the best and be kind. But when necessary I want to love brothers and sisters enough to call them on sin.

In 7:3–5, Jesus tells you what you should do. He uses an illustration that comes from His background as a carpenter’s son (13:55). He puts it like this: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 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.” Undoubtedly, Jesus didn’t say this with a straight face. He must have been smiling and giggling as He said this. Visualize a man with a plank in his eye walking through the lobby of the church trying to find a person with a speck of sawdust in his eye that he might remove it! But the very image of such a man looking into a mirror but unable to see the plank in his eye because he is blinded by the plank is funny indeed. Again, Jesus did not say that Christians are not to judge under any circumstances. His warning was against hypocritical judgment—someone with a “log” in his eye passing judgment on someone with a “speck” in his eye (7:3). He was warning disciples not to make the mistake of the Pharisees! Jesus’ concern was making sure that we are qualified to judge. This is why He said, “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” (7:5). Thus, believers are to judge error and sin, but in a gracious and non-judgmental fashion.

We naturally tend to exaggerate. We often inflate the faults of others while at the same time underestimating our own. You could say we are perfectionists when it comes to other people, but extremely tolerant when it comes to ourselves. We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin while we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope! Yet, when we let Jesus convict us of our sin, we will be able to judge others with humility, sensitivity, and compassion.

Have you ever had someone attempt to help you remove something from your eye? If so, you can readily understand the amount of gentleness and tenderness that’s required. The eye is very sensitive. It takes a compassionate hand and a delicate touch to do surgery in the eye. When you have eye trouble, you need a doctor who knows what he is doing because even the slightest mistake can have catastrophic consequences. In the same way, when we minister to one another in the Christian community, we must do so only after careful introspection to make sure our own motives are pure. Then we can proceed with appropriate care and humility. Sometimes in our haste to help others, we can cause more damage than the original speck of dirt caused. This doesn’t mean you must be perfect before you can correct another Christian. However, Jesus’ words do require you to have dealt as decisively as possible with any obvious areas of disobedience in your own life before you attempt to correct someone else. Otherwise, it is as if you are attempting to perform surgery blindfolded. In that situation, neither the patient nor the doctor feels confident! Moreover, if you are committing the same sin, the judgment you pass on someone else boomerangs on you. And you definitely don’t want that! Remember, be slow to judge others and quick to judge yourself.

There are a number of ways you can lovingly confront a person.

  1. Make sure your own heart is right with God before you confront someone.

  1. Pray for the person that needs to be confronted.

  1. Set up a time with the person to talk, in private without interruption, but don’t put it off.

  1. When the occasion calls for it, confront immediately.

  1. Don’t take out your own anger on someone.

  1. Begin with a word of encouragement.

  1. Ask the person, “If I could share something with you that would help you, would you want me to?”

  1. State the issue as you see it. Give your perspective on the issue. Say, “This is the way I see it, please help me to understand.” Admit that maybe you misunderstood or got the wrong perspective.

  1. Ask how you can help the person.

  1. Be confidential.

  1. Pray for the person.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

never 2nd best

September 10, 2017

Because all Scripture testifies about Jesus we shouldn’t be surprised to “see Jesus” in the first chapters of the Bible. Although we can find testimony about Jesus throughout Genesis, two aspects from chapters 1 and 2 deserve special consideration: creation and the second Adam. (you may or may not be familiar with this title for Jesus, but he is considered the second Adam, in that Adam was created without sin or a fallen nature, Christ was born without sin or a fallen nature, thus ‘the second Adam’ but unlike Adam, he never sinned. Imagine for that moment on the cross, forsaken by God, when he (Jesus) took on the weight of all our sin).Thank you Lord.

  ➤ Creation. Too often in considering the creation account we get distracted trying to figure out what the story means to us. We debate issues of evolution and creation or the age of the earth and overlook the fact that these chapters are about Jesus. As Paul writes, “All things have been created through him and for him” (Col 1:16). That “for him” is not only the main point of Genesis 1–2; it’s also the main reason for creation. Creation exists for Jesus. That’s a powerful thought, isn’t it? Does it change how we relate to our world? What about how we respond to God?

 ➤ Second Adam. Adam held three roles that would later become distinct offices in Israel: prophet, priest and king. As prophet he was the representative to speak about God and his creation. As priest he was anointed to directly offer prayer and praise to God. And Adam and Eve were king and queen in that they were given dominion and rule over creation. In Jesus we find the “second Adam” (or “last Adam”), who is the perfect prophet (fully declared God to us), the perfect priest (offered the supreme sacrifice on our behalf) and the perfect king (he will reign forever over the new heavens and new earth).

  We are called to imitate Christ in each of these roles. As prophets, we proclaim the gospel to a fallen world. As priests we offer our good works and our bodies as sacrifices pleasing to God (see Heb 13:16; Ro 12:1). As kings and queens we share in ruling over the earth as stewards of God’s creation (see Ge 1:28).

 In what other ways can we fulfill the role of prophet, priest and king?

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Continue to pray for Calvin and his eye.

Pray for Liam, from Dublin, wants to come and visit America, as he’s following his family tree.

STUMBLE AND FALL

September 9, 2017

Looking forward, thinking backward?

“Has the Lord not taken the lead?”

Judges 4:14

I look back with a great deal of regret over wasted years and opportunities in my life. But Paul says that the only way to move forward is to put the past behind and focus on what is ahead: “Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14). Forgetting the past means that I accept God’s forgiveness and grace; however, it does not that I overlook the lessons learned from those years. I hope to make the most of every opportunity God gives me now because of my regret over those missed in the past.

As you think through those in your own life, don’t wallow in them with guilt or regret but use them as bridges to the future where you take advantage of the circumstances into which God puts you.

This last week I was struck by how many times my mind wandered to the past. Have you ever done that? Why did this happen or that happen to me? Why didn’t I do better with that opportunity? Why didn’t I react differently to that person? I realized how easy it is to get stuck in that negative thinking. The worst part is it keeps you distracted and looking backwards.

When we are hurt or upset is our natural reaction to forgive and move forward?  Or is it our tendency to go back over the hurt? Do we accept the apology or do we dwell on the hurt and replay the event over and over? Do we keep going back to it? Or do we move forward?

When we keep looking backwards, we lose our ability to focus on what is right in front of us. It steals our ability to heal.  When we stay in the past and continue feasting on past hurt we perpetuate a cycle of unforgiveness and bitterness –and we are going to fall down.

By going over the injustice or the hurt we relive it over and over and that keeps us locked in a cycle of pain. How can we see what is ahead of us if we don’t ever face the right direction?

The Bible says in Psalm 103:12 (NIV) as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

What an example of forgiveness Christ is. There are instances that even though forgiveness is given there are consequences and even  serious punishment. In those extreme cases granting forgiveness can be very difficult. But by forgiving we are freeing ourselves and we are not excusing the hurt nor any injustice done.

The Bible says, Press on towards the prize. In Philippians 3:14 it says, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. I think that is an amazing promise to share with our children.

“Face forward child and look at the path in front of you because, God has called you! What is the reward? Well the reward is a life in him for all of eternity! Don’t let the pains of the past pull you down. Let those go so you can focus on all that God has for you.”

In Jeremiah 29:11 he tells us, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God tells us he has a plan for us. He tells us he has a future and a hope. He doesn’t tell us that he has a past. If we are striving towards a goal then we stay focused on the path ahead. But if we are looking backwards,  we can wander off course and can and often do fall down.

What do you do if your child is weighted down with unforgiveness? Or maybe they are stuck and angry because someone has been mean to them.

Teach them the joy and freedom of granting forgiveness. It will be a lesson that they will use the rest of their lives.

As I’ve said before I’m not a fan of the new “shortened” bible. Every word has some importance. Let me give you an example, ‘Ai’ or ‘Bethel’ Jacob is told to look toward Bethel, not Ai, why, several reasons, but do you know that the word Ai means rubble and Bethel means ‘house of God’ so we have a choice, we can look back at the rubble of our past or look forward to the promise.

“Stumble & Fall”

I heard that it was a really big deal

But then I found out it was just nothing at all

You always say it’s such a big deal

But we both know that that’s nothing at all

And I get over the breaks

And I, I stumble and fall

And I get over the breaks

And sometimes stumble and fall

You just wont admit that it’s all in your hands

So I have to try so hard to make you understand

But all you can say is “It’s just part of the deal”

And I never asked you to understand

How I keep myself to myself in the crush of the crowd

But all you can say is

“Who cares? It’s part of the deal”

And I get over the breaks

And I, I stumble and fall

And I get over the breaks

And sometimes stumble and fall

Well I, I get over the breaks

And I stumble and fall

And I get over the breaks

And sometimes stumble and fall

Yes I fall

Yes I fall

I stumble and fall (by Razorlight)

Keep praying for Calvin, they may have to do a series of eye surgeries.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

We must learn to give thanks to God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18). God is not asking you to be thankful, but to give thanks. There’s a difference between feeling thankful and giving thanks. The first involves trusting our feelings, the latter involves trusting God. While our feelings will mislead us, God will not (Proverbs 3:5,6)

.

As we mature spiritually (1) we learn to give thanks to God for all circumstances (Ephesians 5:20). This is because we understand that everything (including bad things) that have come our way can be caused to make us more like Jesus Christ as we turn to God our Father in childlike FAITH (1) trusting Him (Romans 8:28,29).

Note those two previous verses are not saying that God is causing all things to make us happy! But rather all things can be used to fulfill God’s “purpose” of making us Christ-like as we trust Him in “loving” childlike faith. We can demonstrate this trust to God by thanking Him – by faith – that what He has promised is as good as done (Colossians 3:17. Colossians 4:2).

 

 

Sometimes we have to trust God through difficult circumstances, recognizing that He is sovereign and in control. Even if we don’t immediately see the fulfillment of His promise it does not mean we will not see it fulfilled eventually (Philippians 4:6,7. 2 Peter 3:9. Hebrews 11:13).

 

 

Realize, you become like what you think about in your spiritual heart for good or for bad (Proverbs 23:7. Ephesians 5:1-4. Philippians 4:8). If we continually are thankful to God for what He has done, is doing and will do in our lives our faith will be strengthened (Romans 4:16-20).

 

 

When we live a lifestyle of thanksgiving we communicate to God that we appreciate what we have already been given – no matter how small – causing God to desire to give us more than we can ask or think (Psalms 37:3-5. Proverbs 22:11. Luke 17:12-19. Ephesians 3:20). Furthermore, if you continually give thanks to God for everything you will live a life filled with the contentment that only God gives (Isaiah 26:3. Philippians 4:11-13).

 

 

We initially were saved by faith that received the grace of God (i.e., unearned favor Ephesians 2:8,9) and we are to live the rest of our Christian lives in this manner (Colossians 2:6,7). That is, living a life of faith receiving grace which is best demonstrated by a thankful heart! (Psalms 100:4) . While it is easier to thank God when things are going well; however,  when they are not we have a unique opportunity to offer up the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). That is, thanking God when every one of your emotions wants to have a “pity party” is costly – hence the “sacrifice”.

 

 

Having an attitude of gratitude will keep our spiritual hearts tender towards God (Psalms 107:1,2,43).  Consequently, we will have a heart through which God’s grace can pour to meet the needs of others and ourselves.  Remember, when the trials come our way we can either get bitter or get better.  The stones in our path can be either our stepping stone or tombstone.  Therefore, let us stop whining and start winning! (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

Some suggestions for living a life of thankfulness to God:

  • Be humble and focused on God (Jonah 2:8,9)

  • Be thankful for everyday blessings (Matthew 5:43-48)

  • Spend time in the Word of God to learn His promises and how He plans to fulfill them in your life daily (2 Peter 1:3,4)

  • Always thank God in the midst of adversity and trials (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

  • Record blessings in your Bible or a journal and continually reference them when you encounter difficulty (Malachi 3:16)

  • Express your gratitude publicly (Matthew 10:32,33)

  • Continue God’s cycle of thanksgiving by blessing others in the Spirit of Christ 2 Corinthians 9:10,11

Remember Tim S in prayer, he has struggled for over 40 years with grief over a lifestyle of drugs, even though he has been clean all these years he wonders about his sanity in light of the heavy drug use.

Robin M, almost the same request, except one difference, where Tim remembers all the things he did, Robing has lost 20 years of memories including friends and even family members, although functional, she has burnt out a huge chunk of her brain (her words)

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

LOOK UP

September 3, 2017

crown of thorns

Look Up!

  “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

  Our Father allows the believer to struggle with self, not for victory, but for defeat. Then the “wretched man” learns to rest in the Victor.

Once you have begun the Christian walk, and know the blessedness of it, you are not trying to correct yourself, for you know that all has been removed from the eye of God; and you insist on the fact that self has been to the Cross, and that Christ is your life. The old man was crucified, and you cannot reform him; all attempts of amiable people to reform him are only denying the fact that he has been dealt with in judgment. The responsible (law) man is not before God now. It is now the day of grace. Everyone who receives His grace is set free from the domination of the old man. The appeal to the believer now is not to do, but to look.

  “The believer is never told to ‘overcome sin,’ but to reckon, on the ground of his death with Christ, that he has died to it. On the basis of death, he is told not to ‘let’ sin reign in his life. It is to be dealt with by an attitude of death, not by ‘overcoming.’ The believer therefore is not to be spending his whole life in getting victory over sin, but understanding his position as having died unto sin.”

If you are struggling with sin, you are not ‘reckoning’ or looking at the cross, just as you say, “I’m born again and Jesus is my Savior” you say the same thing to sin, “I’ve been crucified with Christ.”

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BELIEVE ANY SERMON OR BOOK THAT TELLS THE STORY OF THE WHITE DOG AND THE BLACK DOG. AND THEY FIGHT, AND THE ONE THAT IS FEED THE BEST, WINS

IN THE GOSPEL, BOTH DOGS ARE DEAD. DON’T BELIEVE IT’S ALL LAID UPON YOUR SHOULDER AND YOU ARE MASTER OF YOUR FATE, CAPTAIN OF YOUR DESTINY. YOU CAN DO NOTHING BUT GAZE UPON THE CROSS.

It took faith to be saved, it takes faith to be in the right place.

Faith to believe “We are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Be safe, be blessed, believe. Be changed.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

best thoughts

August 29, 2017

One of the most helpful things I have learned about the Christian life is that all sin begins in our thoughts, which the Bible often calls “the heart.” Jesus said, “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” (Mark 7:20-23). No one commits these outward sins without first having committed them in his mind. If we want to grow in godliness, we must win the battle over sin on the thought level.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul exhorts us to develop a Christian thought life. His words should not be divorced from the context. Practicing verse 8 is essential if we want to develop and maintain healthy relationships (4:2-3, 5). A Christian thought life is also integral to a life of joy (4:4) and peace (4:6-7) in every situation. Since our thoughts form the basis for our behavior, a godly thought life is also essential for the obedience to which Paul exhorts us in verse 9. Clearly, Paul’s thought life was at the heart of the contentment he had learned in every situation (4:10-12). So Paul is telling us the way to be whole people in our relationships with God, with one another, and within ourselves. But before we look specifically at what Paul is teaching and how to obey it, we need to think about:

  1. What Paul is NOT teaching: the power of positive thinking.

I need to focus on this for a moment because the Christian world has been infiltrated with the false teaching of “positive thinking,” popularized by Norman Vincent Peale and, with only slight variations, by Peale’s protege, Robert Schuller. If you are at all familiar with the teachings of these men, you know that they are not Christian in any orthodox sense of the term, even though they both have been welcomed into evangelical circles. Through their influence, the idea has crept into the American church that it is wrong ever to be negative or critical. This has resulted in the loss of discernment.

 

In one church I was pastoring at a family stopped coming whenever we had revival meetings; they said all we talked about was sin and repenting. My response may have not been the most pastoral comments I’ve ever made (boy is that a long list) “how would you know you’ve never been to a revival meeting”. They didn’t leave the church, they just never came to revival meetings.

 

 

The positive thinking heresy has further spread through the so-called “Positive Confession” heresy, also called the “Health and Wealth” or “Name it and Claim it” teaching, that whatever you confess positively by faith, God must do it. This heresy attributes power to faith itself, and says that even if you are sick, you must not give a negative confession by admitting it, but must claim your healing by affirming, “I am well!”

Also a number of purportedly Christian sales companies or successful salesmen have utilized a form of this error through a sales motivational teaching called “positive mental attitude.” You’re never supposed to entertain negative thoughts. You’re supposed to use “positive self-talk,” have faith in yourself, and visualize yourself as successful and wealthy so that it will become a reality.

 

 

I’ve had to counsel a number of pastors that when they had to supplement their income by taking on extra work in the form of real estate salesmen, got pressured into buying all sorts of books and attending all sorts of seminars and they would go off the deep end of “positive thinking” and “wealth speak”, to the point where they had to be removed from their pulpit.

 

 

The Christian life is best supported, grown, developed, matured by two things; bible reading and prayer. I believe it to be in that order. Your prayer life will never be great if you don’t read and pray your bible.

The more you read your bible, the more you will think your bible.

 

 

John Bunyan great author of Pilgrims Progress was said that if pricked he would bleed bible.

 

 

Many of the “positive mental attitude” methods are effective in making you a successful sales person. But the question is, Are they biblical? We must test everything by God’s Word, not by feelings or pragmatism or by experience. If not based on scripture it is always a lie.

 

 

“Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8). To think on what is right means to think on the holy nature of God, especially as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, and to model our behavior after Him.

 

 

Right thinking, Righteous thinking, equal Right deeds, Right actions.

 

 

An unholy thought always precedes an unholy deed.

 

That is why Jesus changed everything when he said every thought will be judged.

 

 

So don’t despair right now, God forgives anything.

 

Blessings on your thoughts, your heart and mind, Jesus wants to be Lord of all of you.

 

Regards, from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

The Encouraging God

August 28, 2017

Perseverance seems to be an outdated concept in our day of instant everything. If it doesn’t come easy, why pursue it? If it’s hard or requires endurance, maybe it isn’t your thing.

It’s easy to start a new diet. It’s tough to stick to it when you crave that cinnamon roll. It’s easy to start a new exercise program. It’s tough to persevere when your aching muscles scream, “No more!” It’s easy to get married. It’s tough to hang in there and work through problems over a lifetime. It’s easy to begin a new ministry in the local church. It’s tough to keep on when problems arise or when the results don’t match your initial expectations.

That describes the people in Haggai’s day, just shy of a month after they had obeyed his first message and resumed work on rebuilding the temple. The foundation had been laid about 15 years before, but the project had been set on the shelf. But now, in response to Haggai’s word from the Lord, the leaders and people had begun to rebuild on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius (Sept. 21, 520 B.C.; 1:15). The seventh month in Israel began with the Feast of Trumpets on the first day, followed by the Day of Atonement on the tenth day. Then the Feast of Tabernacles went from the 15th to the 21st. On the last day of that feast (Oct. 17th), Haggai delivered his second message to the people (2:1-9). It is a message of God’s encouragement to discouraged workers. We learn that …

God encourages His discouraged servants to persevere in His work.

These verses teach us three things about persevering by turning our discouragement in serving the Lord into encouragement:

  1. God understands and cares about the discouragement we face in serving Him (Haggai 2:1-3).

The Lord did not gloss over or ignore the reality of the situation. He knew what they were thinking and feeling, and He brings it up to show them that He understood and that He cared for them. If we do not keep in mind that in all our troubles the Lord understands and cares for us, we will easily become discouraged. The text and historical context reveal several potential sources of discouragement when we get involved in serving the Lord:

  1. THE LOSS OF INITIAL EXCITEMENT CAN DISCOURAGE US.

There is always a certain sense of excitement when you begin a new ministry or project. But the glow easily rubs off in the grind. There were probably piles of rubble that needed to be removed. Perhaps some of the workers had envisioned putting the finishing touches on some gold work or other craftsmanship, but they hadn’t thought about hauling rubble. Their initial enthusiasm was already wearing thin.

The summer after I graduated from seminary, I was involved with a group of men in starting a new church that was branching off of an existing church. We received some wise counsel from the elders of the mother church. They said, “What you’re doing now is new and exciting. But the time will come when the glamour wears off and then you’ll need to know that God has called you to this work and persevere in it.” The leaders did persevere, because last year I received an email from the pastor telling me that they were celebrating their 25th anniversary.

  1. DELAYS CAN DISCOURAGE US.

Work for the Lord seldom moves as quickly as we had hoped. Perhaps working around the numerous feasts and Sabbath days in the seventh month had dampened the initial enthusiasm because the work was going so slowly. It’s easy for that to happen in anything we do for the Lord, and the delays get us down.

  1. OUTSIDE OPPOSITION AND CRITICISM CAN DISCOURAGE US.

In verse 5, the Lord says, “Do not fear!” He would not say that unless they had a reason to be afraid. Probably the same men who had threatened them and lobbied against them at the Persian court 15 years before were at it again. Any time you attempt to do God’s work, Satan will stir up opposition. We’re in a battle with the forces of darkness that are opposed to the church of Jesus Christ. Expect opposition!

  1. INSIDE PESSIMISM, COMPARISONS, AND FAULTY EXPECTATIONS CAN DISCOURAGE US.

When I began in ministry, I naively thought that most of the opposition would come from outside the church. Boy, was I wrong! Most opposition comes from within, and it takes different forms.

One common form is pessimism. “We tried that before. It won’t work!” When they had laid the foundation years before, there was great joy mixed with weeping (Ezra 3:11-13). The young people who had not known the glory of the former temple were rejoicing. But the old-timers, who had seen Solomon’s Temple, wept at this new temple, because it just didn’t measure up. Although they would be in their seventies or older by now, a few were still around when the work got started again. Maybe they were saying, “God’s blessing just isn’t on this temple!” Pessimism!

A second form of inside opposition comes from those who drop little comparisons on you. The old-timers were saying, “You should have seen Solomon’s Temple. Now that was a temple! This new one is hardly worth calling a temple compared to the old one!” Sometimes people will say, “That church on the other side of town really has their act together!” (Implication: You don’t!) Or, “Have you ever heard Chuck Swindoll preach? He’s really good! You ought to listen to him.” Thanks for the encouragement!

And then there are those who have faulty expectations. This usually operates in conjunction with comparisons. “Where is all the gold? Solomon’s Temple was lined with gold. Why isn’t this one?” I’ve had people tell me about their former pastors who must never have slept and changed into their pastor uniforms in a phone booth! These pastors would visit everyone in the church, preach superb sermons (with great illustrations), attend all the youth activities, and always have time for drop ins. Besides that, they never neglected their families! Implication: “Why aren’t you like they are?”

  1. A WRONG VIEW OF SUCCESS CAN DISCOURAGE US.

Some view success externally rather than internally (or spiritually). “This temple isn’t as big as Solomon’s Temple was. This temple doesn’t have all the gold and fancy workmanship that Solomon’s Temple did.” But God says through Haggai, “I own all the gold and silver in the world, and I could cover this temple with gold if I wanted to. But I’m going to do something better. Instead of gold, I’m going to fill this temple with glory, the glory of My Messiah” (paraphrase of 2:7-9).

God doesn’t view things as we do. Just because one church isn’t as big or outwardly slick as another church doesn’t mean anything to God. A church may have a multi-million dollar facility, but if it doesn’t honor God’s Word or promote His glory among the nations, that facility is a big pile of wood, hay, and stubble! God is looking for the glory of Christ formed in the hearts of His people, not for the outward, superficial signs of success.

Another wrong view of success is the instant view as opposed to the eternal. None of the workers on this temple lived to see its glory exceed that of Solomon’s Temple. That didn’t happen until Messiah came into this temple over 500 years later, and even then many missed it! God says, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land” (2:6). While there may have been a partial fulfillment of that prophecy within a few years of Haggai’s day (in the overthrow of powerful kingdoms), the ultimate fulfillment is still future in our day! God will shake all the nations at the Second Coming of Christ, and they will bring the wealth of the nations to His temple in the Millennium.

If the people in Haggai’s day were viewing success from the short range, they would have been very discouraged. With God, a thousand years is as a day. True success will be measured in the light of eternity, not in our lifetimes. We need to keep this in mind as we labor for the Lord. The harvest is at the end of the age, not at the end of the meeting. God’s timing is not our timing.

Whatever our source of discouragement, God understands and He cares. But He doesn’t coddle us or let us stay there.

  1. God’s word to us when we discouraged in serving Him is to persevere (2:4a).

Three times the Lord repeats, “Be strong!” (“Take courage!”) And He tells them to work. Keep going! Persevere! There are two aspects to this kind of perseverance: an attitude and an action.

  1. PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES THE RIGHT ATTITUDE: BE STRONG!

The people had the wrong attitude. They were weak because they had gotten their focus off the Lord and onto the slow, disappointing progress on the temple. Maybe they were thinking, “This will never get done. We’re just wasting our time!”

Have you ever noticed how much your attitude affects your ability to persevere? If you’re motivated, you can stay up all night on some project. But if you get discouraged, you procrastinate and never get around to finishing it.

We hear about many pastors burning out and quitting the ministry. While in some cases the cause of burnout is not properly managing one’s schedule, often the real cause is an attitude of discouragement because of setbacks or disappointments. I recently read that 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression. Eighty percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their ministries. I think every pastor should feel unqualified (2 Cor. 2:16), but not discouraged. As Americans, we’re far too emotionally fragile. Someone offends us, so we get our feelings hurt and drop out of service. Someone doesn’t do what we had expected, so we quit. Someone criticizes what we’re doing, and we say, “I’m out of here!”

But God says, “Be strong!” We aren’t to be strong in our own strength, of course, but in God’s strength (2 Cor. 3:5). But, be strong! Have the attitude that hangs in there in spite of obstacles. The real question is not how do we see things, but how does God see things? If we have not factored God into the equation, we don’t see things in the right perspective.

Do you remember the story of the 12 spies who went into the land of Canaan? Ten of them came back focused on the giants in the land and said, “We’re like grasshoppers in their sight. We can’t conquer them!” But Joshua and Caleb came back and said, “Because God is with us and He has promised us that land, we will eat them for lunch!” (Num. 14:9, paraphrase). Be strong in attitude!

  1. PERSEVERANCE REQUIRES THE RIGHT ACTION: WORK!

The attitude provides the motivation, but motivation without work won’t get the temple built. Joshua and Caleb had the right attitude of trust in the Lord. But they still had to go into the land and fight the giants. Much of the Lord’s work is far more perspiration than inspiration! That is certainly true of my weekly sermon preparation. These messages don’t come floating down from the sky! I have to work hard to prepare them. Just because you’re gifted in whatever you do for the Lord does not mean that it just flows effortlessly. To persevere we must not only be strong; we also must work.

Thus God encourages us in our service for Him by showing that He understands what we’re feeling and He cares. His word to us is, “Be strong and work!” Finally,

  1. God assures us when we are discouraged in serving Him by His presence, His promise, and His prophecy (2:4b-9).

  1. GOD ASSURES US WHEN WE ARE DISCOURAGED IN SERVING HIM BY HIS PRESENCE (2:4B).

After telling Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people to be strong and to work, God adds, ‘“For I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” The Jews may have feared a hostile host against them, but God is the Lord of hosts, the Supreme Ruler over all the armies of heaven and earth. If the Lord of hosts is with us, who can defeat us? If we’re serving Him, then nothing can happen to us accidentally or without His express permission. The assurance of His presence should lift our discouragement and enable us to press on.

After many years of hardship and danger in the heart of Africa, David Livingstone received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow. On that occasion, he said, “Would you like me to tell you what supported me through all the years of exile among people whose language I could not understand, and whose attitude toward me was always uncertain and often hostile? It was this: ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ On those words I staked everything, and they never failed.”

  1. GOD ASSURES US WHEN WE ARE DISCOURAGED IN SERVING HIM BY HIS PROMISE (2:5).

“Promise” (2:5) refers to the covenant God made with Israel when they came out of Egypt. He promises them now, as He had then, that His Spirit would go with them and abide in their midst. Therefore, they need not fear.

God has made a better covenant with us than He did with them, the New Covenant, enacted on better promises (Heb. 8:6). Jesus sealed that New Covenant with His own blood. He promised us the indwelling Holy Spirit to be with us forever (John 14:16). When we grow discouraged in our service for Him, we should remember His promise, that He would not leave us as orphans, but would come to us and that in the meanwhile, He has given us the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve Him.

 

Housekeeping; questions, comments and prayer requests please send to

scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

thank you especially to those that reach out and say thanks, or “like” or tell us you are part of our prayer partners, your encouragement means more than you can know.

 

Pray for those that have been hit hard by hurricane Harvey, I have some dear friends living in and about Houston and 50” of rain is not an easy thing to deal with. Please keep Joe and Randall in your prayers and countless others.

God bless and thanks

I received a phone call today from an old Marine pal of mine who spends a lot of time calling into talk radio shows as he is pretty much home bound and like me lives off the grid and hard to get to. So to pass the time he calls into these shows and very courteously disagrees with most of what they say.

What put a burr up his saddle today was the lady talk show host who claims she is Christian, has a Christian Tattoo artist on the show and if you came to the station they would have a “Christian Inking” discount and “film at 11” soiree.

Well this old Marine jumps into his handicapped equipped pickup and drives to the radio station with his tattered bible on the seat. Surprisingly the station manager takes him into the studio and the debate begins live and on the air.

Now I have to tell you this Marine was at Iwo and Guadalcanal, Tarawa, he’s fought with nothing but rocks and his helmet, he’s done Island clean up with a flamethrower. He’s spent a large part of his life fighting demons, nightmares and the bottle, and now with about 40 years sober and spending almost every waking moment reading his bible. He takes bible correspondence courses and is one smart cookie.

So I get roped into a radio conference call because he doesn’t want to surrender to a fast talking pseudo Christian radio talk show host. I say pseudo because her defense of tattoos is the Old Testament isn’t relevant as she’s a “New Covenant believer. And since Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament it’s no longer relevant to New Testament believers and is only considered ancient history good for its mythical stories.” Well I’m the guy that sincerely believes in not casting pearls to swine, so I tell my friend to leave and let’s meet up at a Jim’s Restaurant and give him moral support. And a good answer.

So part one, you have to have the whole bible to be a whole Christian. Can you get saved and be a Christian after hearing only John 3:16, certainly, but if you are going to develop into a complete, mature Christian, then it’s going to take the whole bible to grow you to completeness. Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament, there was no New Testament while the Apostles walked the earth. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to do away with it.

Ok, part two, tattoos;

Houston pastor Chris Seay told the Associated Press last year, after asking his

followers to get inked for Lent, “there are definitely some Old Testament

passages that have something to say about (tattooing), but we don’t think they

have weight in this contemporary circumstance. If we thought the Scriptures were

prohibiting it, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

Leviticus 19:28 ” Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor

print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

These pagan practices were most likely associated with Egyptian idolatry and

were therefore to be avoided. The practice of making deep gashes on the face

and arms or legs, in times of grief, was universal among pagans.

Mutilation of the body created by God was incompatible with holiness, for the

holy God is perfect life.

Holiness requires Israel not to act like the pagans in any areas of life.

Getting back to Pastor Seay; “we don’t think (the scripture) has relevance or

weight in our modern times.”

And that my friends is what is wrong with the modern church today, that popular

culture is more important than the Holy Word of God. Because 1/3 of young

Americans have tattoos we should deem it ok, and ignore what the Word of God

says.

Is it a sin, I personally wouldn’t go there, we should not preach condemnation.

But if someone came in for counseling and asked me if it was ok to get their first

tattoo I would say no.

One of the things I told my kids a lot was; “I’m not here to be your best friend, I’m

Here to be your father not win a popularity contest.” That hasn’t changed, popular is not what I’m going for.

I think pastors that want to be cool, hip and drive Harleys and ignore what

Scriptures teach in EVERY area are IDIOTS and HYPOCRITES. (I’m kidding about the

Harley, (almost, I drive a Gold Wing).

You cannot choose what parts of scripture to follow or ignore. It is all or nothing.

God bless.

Sorry if I’m not cool enough for you. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t change a thing. And to all my “inked” brothers and sister you are loved by God and myself. Just don’t expect me to give you my approval, I will also give you respect and love but will ask you to not give counsel to other church members to violate what the bible teaches.

The basic history of tattoos is that it is to give unchanging stability to a person’s life, i.e. that the tattoos are static, everything else in the world and even my body may change, but the tattoo is constant. Well I can trump that with a bigger, better constant. God; never changing, also constant and the word of God, inspired, inerrant, and infallible. If Christians are seeking a constant in their life other than that, they are in rebellion.

So let’s agree to disagree, because this is on my long list of things that don’t affect salvation.

Blessing and regards from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

TINA THE EXOTIC DANCER

August 26, 2017

TINA THE EXOTIC DANCER

NO WAIT THAT’S REALLY THE TITLE

So there’s Mark, nice guy, shy, quiet and a young Christian. He meets this girl online, she cute, perky and funny. They start dating, she has more experience than he, they start having sex, it’s his first time, bang (pardon the pun) and he’s in love and proposes. She realizes he’s a nice guy, good job and he thinks he’s in love.

She starts coming to church knows the Christian lingo, he thinks she’s a Christian. Tell them marriage counseling is mandatory, bang they elope. Come back and his excuse for not following through “love can’t wait”.

Bang, six months into the marriage Mark comes in he’s shattered, she wants to go out dancing, have some drinks, seems a lot of guys at this club know her; he’s ashamed, for the first time ever he drinks, dances, gets a little drunk, and bang, she wants to bring home another guy to ‘spice things up’.

Bang, he wants a divorce, but hey in a Pentecostal church that’s like practicing birth control in a catholic church (sorry old school). Now he’s really ashamed that he’s gotten into this situation, she moves out, he’s heart broken and hears from a ‘friend’ at work his wife is already sleeping with someone else.

He comes in for counseling and here’s where we get controversial. (now thanks to google you can look this up, I did and I have to say there are some people that are twisting what I am about to talk about right out into outer space, so filter this through your theology and pray about this, don’t take this principle to far, and don’t over apply it to some sort of spiritual warfare and setting blockades against satan, because this isn’t about that.)

The prophet Hosea is told to marry a prostitute and she runs away and here is what God says he will do.

Hosea 2:6-7

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
which they used for Baal.

“Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens,
and my new wine when it is ready.
I will take back my wool and my linen,
intended to cover her naked body.
10 So now I will expose her lewdness
before the eyes of her lovers;
no one will take her out of my hands.

I told this story to Mark, and told him that if what he was saying was true and he really wanted her back to pray this prayer; a prayer of hedges around his wife and wait for God to do something; nothing less nothing more, just pray and wait.

The real principle here is believing God can do something, the second principle is to not feel powerless and try to do something in your own strength, the third is if God did this for Hosea cannot he not do it for you.

So we prayed that she would be unseen to other lovers, she would get no benefits from other lovers, no one would take care of her, and that as verse 7 says she will go back to her husband.

So what did Tina do, she went back to stripping (exotic dancing if you are more sensitive) and guess what, she was hired right back by her old boss because she used to be a great ‘producer’ (read cash cow, ouch that seems rather insensitive).

Six weeks later she’s fired, reason given by her boss, and I quote; “Tina, it’s like you are invisible, no one tips you, no one asks for lap dances (you are blessed if all this is foreign to you) it’s like you don’t even exist.

Ok no binding dominions, no commanding spirits or satan to let go just believing God can do his thing.

She comes back to Mark begs forgiveness and asks him to take her back. I caution him (because sometimes after being a prison chaplain I can really be cynical and I confess a skeptic, not always but sometimes).

Mark believes its God’s will to honor his vow he takes Tina back, it’s a bit bumpy at first but a year later she truly gives her heart to the Lord and is baptized (full immersion, still old school).

Guess what, they are still married and she’s expecting their first child.

Like an old time radio show, will it work out, will she truly stay ‘saved’. Stay tuned, and wait.

So also being a hopeless romantic and having some measure of faith I think it will.

And don’t believe that old saw about 50% of marriages failing, it’s the same 10 people getting divorced all the time.

God Bless

Stay in touch at scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

PS, it’s five years later, they are still married, still coming to church and she’s a Sunday school teacher and he’s the principle at a Christian school. So for skeptics and cynics like me, it’s good to remember that God never changes but he can change us. No matter what.

It’s why we called this devotional site, scumlikeuschurch, because, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

CLOSE THE GAP

August 23, 2017

I’ve lost track of the top ten questions, but this is in the running; “how can I pray better?”

When I’m asked this question I always ask; “how much do you pray now?”

The answer shouldn’t surprise me but it still does; “not at all or not very much.”

So the real question isn’t really even a question, it’s a comment on how like everything else we want it now, fast, and convenient.

So in the spirit of simple, fast and now, here’s the answer, you have to read your bible to pray better and you have to pray in order to understand your bible. It’s symbiotic. It’s not two halves, it’s one whole.

Second step, (to all the pastors) stop making people feel guilty, guilty people don’t make good praying people. Now convicted people do and that’s not our role either, it’s the Holy Spirit’s. Our job is to put people under the spigot. If under anointing preaching you can get heaven to come down, people will want to get under the flow. (if this statement makes no sense to you at all; to you a pastor or to you a layman. Then we’ve got bigger problems).

Third…..

  And we have an assured confidence that whenever we ask anything in accordance with His will, He listens to us” (1 John 5:14).

  The Christian life is the expression of the Lord Jesus Christ through the believer to men in the world, and in the church. The prayer life is the expression of the Spirit of Christ through the believer to the Father in Heaven. As there is growth in Christ, there will increasingly be prayer in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26).

Through the Lord Jesus every true believer is united to God in Heaven by a life-link. We are not praying down here on earth to One who is a long way off in Heaven. We are one with Him there and He is one with us here! The devil is all the time trying to create a sense of distance between us and the Lord: but there is no distance between if we abide in Christ, for no one can be closer to the Father than the Son, and we are in Him!

Effective prayer is to the glory of the Father (John 14:13), in the Name of the Son (John 14:14), and in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26, 27).

Compliance with these conditions insures that the human will is in agreement with the divine will. Transforming things, mighty indeed, are wrought by prayer, but only such things as comport with the will and purpose of God.

  “If we want our own way we will find that everything is against us; but if we have chosen that God shall be sovereign in our lives then everything is for us.”

  “And since we know that He listens to us, then whatever we ask, we know that we have the things which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:15).

So, pastor, close the distance, make people feel closer to God and they will pray more, in fact they’ll do everything good more. (I know terrible sentence).

So for those that like catchy slogans for church programs “we are closing the gap”.

Feel free, it’s not copyrighted and it’s a great idea.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com