the longest journey

August 18, 2018

Danger Will Robinson, danger, danger.

 

You know what is truly rare, a true Christian counselor.

 

When someone bills themselves as a Christian counselor ask them what their school degrees are in. 99% will say a masters in social work.

These are not Christian counselors. They are maybe Christians, and definitely not Biblical counselors. Now ask what church they attend, if it’s not evangelical they are not Biblical counselors. Now ask them if they’ve been divorced, if they have, don’t go to them for marriage counseling.

If you need counseling, and it’s not psychiatric, (mental disorder that can only be fixed with a prescription) then call some of the churches and see if they have a pastor that is schooled in pastoral counseling. Look in google for “pastoral counselors”.

The reason I make a big deal about this is Christian are to live their lives according to the bible, period. Not psychology, not sociology, there is no mixing of biblical principles with psychological principles. Stay the heck away from hypnosis, or someone who is “holistic” or someone that says they have a natural herbal remedy that God revealed to them, including oils, candles or anyone that tells you to stick anything in any orifice.

If you have a diagnosed mental illness see a psychiatrist that is a Christian and stick to your medicine.

If your depressed, take your medicine.

If your addicted, see a doctor and stick to your group and your sponsor.

If your Pentecostal or charismatic, and been told you’ve been healed, don’t go off your meds. See your doctor first.

If your diabetic, the above is true.

Do I believe in divine healing, strangely enough, yes I do. But I also believe in using some common sense and not putting myself or others at risk.

The boundaries of the mind are vast and still uncharted. Spiritual illness is as real as any other sickness. It may take a team of doctors, pastors, counselors, sponsors, prayer and ministers to help you to wellness.

I ask all of our readers to pray especially today for our brothers and sisters that struggle with depression, mental illness and spiritual anguish, guilt and shame.

There is relief, there is healing, it is a journey. And there are relapses, there are new “do overs”. Time to begin again.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

dark days

August 17, 2018

rainy-sleepy-snoopy-peanuts

“For you have had the privilege granted you on behalf of Christ—not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf” (Phil. 1:29, Wey.).

  The Father prepares His sufferers, by means of their sufferings.

  “I believe in perpetual favor with God, but I do not believe in unbroken sunshine here. On the contrary, ‘we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake.’ I say this that you may not think it strange when the collar which you have rightly accepted becomes trying or difficult to you; for surely if it be service it must be so; the servant must be more or less a sufferer.”

  “The Lord grant you to be so assured in heart of His interest in you, that daily you may more and more answer to His pleasure; and not be in any way cast down because you apparently do so little. The fragrance of His name is a crown of glory to the greatest invalid.”

  “‘Unto you is given on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake’ (Phil. 1:29). Yea, ‘if we suffer, we shall also reign with him’ (2 Tim. 2:12). The gracious gift of suffering is as distinct and specific a gift as any other of God’s gifts. But this gift transforms the blessed recipient more surely perhaps than all the others into resemblance to Himself, and is for this fellowship, the highest, greatest, noblest of them all.”

  “We naturally shrink from trials and sorrow, but when we find ourselves enjoying the resources that are in our Father, to which our trials have caused us to have recourse, we remember no more the path of affliction which led us thereto.”

  “The child of God is ever in the light, though not always in the sunshine.”

  “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).

How different a message than what we hear from our popular authors and TV talking heads, that because they are false messengers. It will always be our lot to suffer sometime in some way. Think how oft you pray when in pain versus that shiny day.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

WALK THE WALK

August 16, 2018

This is one of those hot buttons on which there is a great deal of disagreement and what is given here by no means touches all the bases.

Summary: The Bible nowhere specifically forbids or denounces masturbation. It does, of course, denounce all forms of sexual impurity and fantasies that would involve adulterous relationships whether actual or mental. The problem with masturbation is that it not only can become habit forming and addictive, but men and women often engage in pornography and adulterous fantasies in order to reach a climax. Further, the difference in sex drive in a couple is often not the real problem or issue. It is rather a breakdown in the relationship and in an understanding of the role of sex in marriage as that which not only gives pleasure but expresses love, unity, and commitment to each other. Masturbation expresses the opposite unless done with the other partner. The husband may experience orgasm with his wife without actual intercourse. If away from his wife and he is experiencing strong sexual desire and he can have an orgasm by thinking about his wife, etc. then that could be appropriate.

More Detail: As mentioned, the Bible does not directly address the issue of masturbation or deliberate self-stimulation of the sexual organ to the point of orgasm. It does warn against all forms of self-indulgence, adultery of the mind, and fornication. One of the problems involved is that though God created sex for enjoyment and pleasure, it is to be confined to the marriage relationship because it is also designed to express love (not just sexual love), unity, and total commitment. Masturbation is an act of self-gratification rather than a part of giving gratification and pleasure to one’s partner. Here are a few of the dangers of masturbation that some have listed:

  1. Psychic effects. Masturbation has a tendency to isolate its captives psychologically and socially. In masturbation, the person is focused on self-alone even though he or she usually is fantasizing about someone else at the same time.

  1. Emotional deprivation. It is impossible for the one who is practicing this habit to experience the full extent of sex emotions. Therefore, in short-circuiting the emotions one can easily be removed from the world of reality.

  1. Damaged sensibility. The habit of masturbation has a tendency in numbing the mechanism of the sexual organs if practiced excessively. This lessens the sensibility and thus detracts from normal sexual relations of married life.

  1. Self-gratification. The emotional background of self-gratification is not the least bit healthy and usually militates against the home, wife and family because it is focused only on self.

  1. Control of the mind. Along with the act of masturbation comes the fantasy of the mind. When practiced often, a pattern or cycle seems to become established within the individual’s mind. Thus, perversion has a tendency to control the mind and this in turn initiates the act. The real danger lies in the guilt that increases as the individual dwells in this world of fantasy.

Much more could be said, but this will give you a few things to think about. There are plenty of theologians and pastors, etc., that I am sure would disagree with my comments on this, but here are some things for consideration.

The bible verse always quoted by those strongly opposed to any form of masturbation is always “you will not spill your seed upon the ground.” (genesis 38:6-10)wildly paraphrased. But you get the idea. Of course the topic in Genesis was not masturbation.

There are some biblical principles that can be applied to the issue of masturbation. Ephesians 5:3 declares, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” It is hard to see how masturbating can pass that particular test. The Bible teaches us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If you cannot give God glory for something, you should not do it. If a person is not fully convinced that an activity is pleasing to God, then it is a sin: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Further, we need to remember that our bodies have been redeemed and belong to God. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This great truth should have a real bearing on what we do with our bodies. In light of these principles, the conclusion that masturbation is a sin is biblical. Clearly, masturbation is not glorifying to God; it does not avoid the appearance of immorality, nor does it pass the test of God’s having ownership over our bodies.

I’ve heard a great many respected preachers fall on both sides of the fence on this topic. The first principle to me is the issue of control, walking in the flesh (bible code for being carnal or selfish) or walking in the spirit (self control and spiritually minded).

One word I will say, if you consider it sinful it is a forgivable sin and does not and will not damn your soul. If you do think it is sinful then ask for forgiveness and move on.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

drowning?

August 14, 2018

Have you ever saved some one from drowning? Or have you ever taken a course on being a life guard? One of the first things they teach you is that you must get the drowning person to stop struggling. Second they teach you that you might have to get a little physical so the drowning person doesn’t drown you as well.

So this devotion isn’t about drowning it’s about why we need to cease struggling with God. This isn’t the same as wrestling with God, this is about the all to frequent struggle that believers have with God.

It’s frequently expressed through the thoughts like; “does God really love me?” “Am I really saved?”

Let’s look at some scripture that if you are struggling, hopefully you will find solace in the following scripture, these are some of the verses that are what I call “foundation verses” meaning you will build a solid Christian life if these are memorized or marked in your bible as ‘emergency verses.

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” ( Eph. 1:5 , 6 ).

See it was a pleasure for God to adopt us, and we are accepted.

The problem that I see in most struggling Christians is that because they are conscious of sin, they think they must do something more to please God, and the devil traps them in a snare of repetitive getting saved, going down to altar again, some good works, praying through. The fact is we must stand on the work that Christ has done and not try to add anything to our salvation of our own initiative.

Please read Romans 5:1-11 to get a great view of what has been done for us. This is another foundation set of verses that we should ‘get to know’ in order to not be persuaded by those well-meaning but seriously wrong Christians that tell you the problem is you’re not doing enough good works, or you are not enjoying the fruits of the spirit. The best thing you can say to all these well-meaning advisors supposedly sent from God to help you is ‘NUTS.’ (or swear at them; pick one its really multiple choice)

In order for our souls to find rest and have peace we must always understand that as long as we live on earth in these very carnal bodies, we will wrestle with failure and feel like we have failed God. The Holy Spirit shows us what we really are, not to make us feel condemnation, but to remind us that every day I need a Savior, that every day I awake I must accept the fact that today is a good day to die. That is what dying to self is about.

I am washed, cleansed redeemed accepted, loved and can be totally at peace with God even though I know I still sin and have my battles and failures.

Yet we are loved, with the greatest unfailing love from God.

God bless from scumlikuschurch@gmail.com

To the Victorious LIfe

August 12, 2018

This devotional material has been requested several times, but it is really a small booklet. So once a year I will repost this. Blessings to all that keep us in prayer and encourage us, God bless.

This is 33 pages of material, so you’ll need to print it out, if you want it sent to you directly as an email let me know.

Okay, this is where the rubber hits the road, if you want to really be free from a sin(s) that plagues you, you have to take the following steps. It’s not rocket science but you do have to do it to make it happen.

Slowly read the definitions of each category of sin and the descriptions of how each manifests itself in a person’s life. As you read, underline any phrases, lines, or sections that describe your behavior. Be honest.

After you have worked through all seven, take time to review what you underlined. There may be many areas of sin that God wants to address in your entire life. The key now is letting Him reveal what He wants you to address right now. However, we are often blind to our own sin. The Spirit may bring to mind some areas of sin, or He may use recent interactions with others to point out areas to you.

Identify one or two of the seven that you would say are the predominant sin categories you are currently struggling with. Make notes for yourself describing the personal dynamics of those particular areas of sin. For example, if you struggle with greed, the personal dynamic may be as follows: “When I’m around my old college buddies and see the cars they drive and the homes they live in, I find myself obsessed with having those nice things too. I don’t desire to have more than they have or to be better than they are. I particularly want to enjoy the luxuries of a car and a house like theirs.”

You may want to include in your notes descriptions of those sins from various angles in your life. For instance, how does the struggle with greed show up at work? With friends? With family?

Be prepared to share with someone you are accountable to the areas of sin with which you struggle. You won’t have to go into detail about the dynamics of those areas of sin at this point, only the category (envy, greed, and so on).

Seven Deadly Sins

Slowly read the definitions of each category of sin and the descriptions of how each manifests itself in a person’s life. As you read, underline any phrases, lines, or sections that describe your behavior. Be honest.

After you have worked through all seven, take time to review what you underlined. There may be many areas of sin that God wants to address in your entire life. The key now is letting Him reveal what He wants you to address right now. However, we are often blind to our own sin. The Spirit may bring to mind some areas of sin, or He may use recent interactions with others to point out areas to you.

Identify one or two of the seven that you would say are the predominant sin categories you are currently struggling with. Make notes for yourself describing the personal dynamics of those particular areas of sin. For example, if you struggle with greed, the personal dynamic may be as follows: “When I’m around my old college buddies and see the cars they drive and the homes they live in, I find myself obsessed with having those nice things too. I don’t desire to have more than they have or to be better than they are. I particularly want to enjoy the luxuries of a car and a house like theirs.”

You may want to include in your notes descriptions of those sins from various angles in your life. For instance, how does the struggle with greed show up at work? With friends? With family?

Be prepared to share with the group the areas of sin with which you struggle. You won’t have to go into detail about the dynamics of those areas of sin at this point, only the category (envy, greed, and so on). Also, if you are in a coed group, you will probably separate into single-sex groups for this discussion.

Envy

Envy is being dissatisfied with our lives, talents, and gifts and focusing on the circumstances of another’s life. It begrudges someone their status, material possessions, or the relationships and good will that they have earned from others in the community.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang:

        “Saul has slain his thousands,

        and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1 Samuel 18:6-9)

With respect to envy, many of them are wont to experience movements of displeasure at the spiritual good of others, which cause them a certain sensible grief at being outstripped upon this road, so that they would prefer not to hear others praised; for they become displeased at others’ virtues and sometimes they cannot refrain from contradicting what is said in praise of them, depreciating it as far as they can; and their annoyance thereat grows because the same is not said of them, for they would fain be preferred in everything. All this is clean contrary to charity, which, as Saint Paul says, rejoices in goodness.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, VII

Manifestations:

Actively trying to dissuade others from admiring or accepting anyone we envy. Setting up an unfair rivalry or competition with that person. Being happy and satisfied when bad fortune befalls another. Belittling and planting seeds of doubt about another’s character. Gossiping. Devising ways of destroying someone, sometimes with a long-range plan. Being dissatisfied with our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves. Being unwilling to be content with our station or lot in life. A person can become our flash point for an obsession. We encourage criticism and antagonism against the person through sarcasm, teasing, or cutting him down. Envy can be masked as contempt for a person’s culture, position, and talents or for someone who is in authority over us.

Greed

Greed is a desire for inordinate amounts of personal possessions or status. Greed uses others for our personal gain in spite of any harm that this manipulation may cause them.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

This is greed: living to possess anything—stamps, dolls, autographed balls, books, CDs, paintings, figurines, toys, property, cars, contacts/acquaintances, whatever—with the primary objective of owning, the preoccupation with having, the obsession of getting, and/or the dedication of too much of our lives or the investment of too much of our hearts.

    —Dr. William Backus

Now you can see, my son, how brief’s the sport

of all those goods that are in Fortune’s care,

for which the tribe of men contend and brawl;

for all the gold that is or ever was

beneath the moon could never offer rest

to even one of these exhausted spirits.

    Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto VII

Manifestations:

Putting possessions in place of God. Being ambitious and disdaining morality, the law, or the rights of others. Pursuing status, material possessions, reputation, or power. Believing that all’s fair in competition and, thus, becoming ruthless and unjust. Being too possessive or protective of our children, spouse, or friends. Being self-centered. Refusing to set boundaries. Avoiding conflict by not correcting or disciplining children for fear they will not love us. Deliberately engaging others in illegal or unethical activities. Manipulating others … to do our will through threat of physical violence, withdrawal of affection, cajoling, or whining. Letting control and power be motivating forces in our lives. Being too eager to give advice or possess authority. Attempting to have others in debt to us so we can exert power. Using flattery, gifts, favoritism, or even covert bribery to win support, affection, or authority.

Backing down from personal standards or refusing to be involved with or defend people of lesser means or position; fearing being stigmatized by leaders or the wealthy. Being dishonest by stealing or fencing stolen goods, cheating on exams, falsifying records, or evading taxes. Being narcissistic. Believing we are entitled to something because of who we are. Wasting possessions, talent, or natural resources. Living beyond our income in order to impress others or sustain our present standard of living. Embezzling. Gambling in such a way that gambling controls us. Intriguing or conspiring. Borrowing, sponging, weaseling, or playing on the good will of others in order not to use our own money, time, or talent. Being stingy or being indifferent to the homeless and hungry. Failing to engage in teamwork in our workplace or at home.

Lust

We lust when we seek another god or material satisfaction to fill the emptiness in our lives. Lust is an excessive, driving desire for personal sexual gratification, disregarding God’s intended purpose for sexuality, in order to fulfill our own inordinate needs.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Lust is often defined as the desire for inappropriate physical intimacy with a person, or the image of a person (such as computer-generated images), other than a spouse. It is a sin that many people must guard against throughout their entire lives.

However, within marriage, there is an additional element of lust that is often overlooked. When a husband feels lonely and demands that his wife engage sexually with him to fulfill his desire for intimacy, he is sinning. In Ephesians, Paul lifted the bar for marriage higher than it has ever been before or since. He said a husband ought to tenderly care for his wife’s best interest, not primarily with a view to his own desires:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:28-29)

Sexual intimacy can become the focal point of marriage, even for the believer. If a husband uses manipulation to persuade his wife to enter into sexual activity with him, he may be lusting after his wife. For instance, a husband comes home after work loaded with flowers and eager to help cook dinner, wash the dishes, and clean up the house. Then he initiates physical intimacy with his wife, and she asks to postpone it until tomorrow. The husband suddenly changes demeanor and becomes very short with her. He withdraws from her and goes to bed without a word. Could it be that he wanted only her body? Was he lusting after her physically while not truly caring for her interests before his own? Did his longing for physical intimacy interfere with his ability to see what would be loving for her?

In other words, lust may include an inappropriate pursuit of your spouse. If we are consumed with a pursuit of sexual intimacy beyond its proper role as an expression of love between husband and wife, we are struggling with lust.

Hostility toward sex also falls under the category of lust, as the following manifestations describe. It is no more godly to be obsessed against sex than for it.

Manifestations:

Misusing sex for personal gratification. Violating the church’s marriage laws, such as those concerning adultery. Lack of consideration for one’s partner in the marital relationship. Indulging sexually outside marriage in thought, word, or deed, alone or with others. Acting or fantasizing that leads to sexual perversion or addiction. Frequenting adult movie houses or reading sexual magazines. Engaging in voyeurism or indecent exposure. Molesting children. Raping. Engaging in prostitution or other promiscuous activities. Sodomizing. Stimulating sexual desires in others. Being immodest with intent to seduce. Condemning sex as evil in itself. Repressing sex. Refusing to seek help or adequate instruction for problems concerning sex. Prudery. Deliberately inflicting pain (whether mental, sexual, or emotional) on others. Tormenting animals. Holding someone against his or her will. Teasing. Denying that one’s own sexuality is a gift from God. Being unwilling to inform our own children about sex.

Sloth

Sloth is the act of refusing to use our natural gifts and talents for emotional and spiritual growth. It is laziness or an unwillingness to perform our duties, work, and studies or pay attention to our needs and those of others.

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13)

If once they failed to find in prayer the satisfaction which their taste required … they would prefer not to return to it: sometimes they leave it; at other times they continue it unwillingly… . These persons likewise find it irksome when they are commanded to do that wherein they take no pleasure. Because they aim at spiritual sweetness and consolation, they are too weak to have the fortitude and bear the trials of perfection. They resemble those who are softly nurtured and who run fretfully away from everything that is hard, and take offense at the Cross, wherein consist the delights of the spirit.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, VII

Fulfilling our responsibilities requires some effort on our part. God designed human beings to work. Even in Eden, Adam was given responsibility: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Human beings have labor as a fundamental, divinely mandated purpose.

Spiritual growth also requires effort. If people desire to experience the abundant Christian life while remaining idle in their faith, they will be disappointed. Consider Paul’s example of exertion:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Manifestations:

Neglecting our family, such as being unwilling to follow through on relationships, courtesies, and concern for family members. Avoiding working through conflict. Procrastinating when we do not find immediate payoffs. Living in a dream world. Avoiding social obligations or becoming busy with irrelevant tasks in order to avoid important commitments. Spending an inordinate amount of time on rest, recreation, television, reading, etc. Always looking for easy answers and shortcuts to solutions. Putting pleasure above all else. Not assuming responsibility for our work by wasting time,… producing inadequate work, not meeting deadlines, or leaving our tasks for others to complete.Avoiding spiritual growth. Ignoring the needs and concerns of our employees. Not treating people of lesser means with dignity and being unwilling to go out of our way to accommodate those in need. Lacking concern for injustice done to others. Being unwilling to undergo hardships without complaining….Failing to fulfill spiritual and religious obligations, such as attending church regularly.

Gluttony

Gluttony seeks happiness, pleasure, and security in the obsessive use of drink, drugs, sex, smoking, work, or any activity that is harmful to ourselves or others.

While you may not find yourself craving food compulsively, gluttony may still be a concern. Gluttony is often associated with food, but basically it is a pursuit of pleasure. Whereas lust is concerned more with intimacy and the satisfaction that comes with feeling connected with another person, gluttony pursues physical pleasure for its own sake. Gluttony involves an addiction to a physical pleasure.

Consider the saying “Some eat to live, I live to eat.” You may put in the place of eating any activity of physical pleasure: “Some men enjoy sexuality with their wives as a natural part of their relational intimacy; I am obsessed with my wife as an object of pleasure.” Any number of things that result in physical pleasure can be the object of a glutton’s desire. It is quite possible that both a lust for intimacy and a gluttonous desire to experience sexual pleasure are involved.

Addiction to one object of physical pleasure might not be the only expression of gluttony. Shrewd gluttons realize what Søren Kierkegaard wrote about in Either/Or. Kierkegaard explained that physical pleasure reaches its pinnacle if the person diversifies the experience of pleasure from various objects. If the glutton pursues pleasure in moderation from various objects, he will more fully experience the pleasure from each source. So gluttony can be hidden by the diversity of pleasure sought. For example, you get a massage, go out for a good meal, and retreat home for sex with your spouse. Having all of these experiences in a given day is not in itself sinful. However, if you rely on these diverse objects of pleasure to escape the struggles of life, you are misguided. One way to test your heart is to determine how you might feel if these pleasures were removed from your life. Would you demand from God that He return your meat entrees, or would you be content with bread and potatoes?

Manifestations:

Being self-indulgent in any pleasure—such as food, drink, drugs, or sex—that may lead to an addiction or, at the minimum, interfere with our social or vocational abilities. Being a perfectionist or demanding unrealistically high standards. Exaggerating our self-importance or being preoccupied with fantasies involving power, wealth, and reputation. Acting as if we are superior to others. Neglecting our health through lack of rest, recreation, exercise, wholesome diet, or balanced lifestyle. Refusing to care for our teeth. Refusing to seek counseling and face our participation in the addictive or dependency processes. Manipulating in order to sustain our addiction.

Becoming rigid and intolerant. Condemning others’ pleasures as evil to squelch our own attachment to pleasure. Being a religious fanatic about sex in order to help ourselves detach from an inactive addiction that we have just under the surface. Denying the seriousness of our attachments and how the object of these affections consumes a great deal of our time. Substituting addictions for reality in order to block out pain, suffering, and our circumstances. Allowing them to become our false gods while turning our back on God. Being unwilling to accept help because of our love and loyalty to our attachment. Neglecting our spiritual walk. Having a tendency to become manic and unrealistic. Lacking self-discipline. Looking for a shortcut to success in order to get something for nothing. Having an over-attachment to grief because of past failures and feelings of unworthiness. Refusing to use things of the world in a balanced way.

Gluttony changes into an addiction when the attachment and any ensuing illnesses become a means of escape from intimacy and the responsibilities of our relationships with God, self, and others.

Pride

Pride occurs when we push God aside, become the center of our own universe, and act as if the world revolves around us and is under our control. It is a rebellion against God’s sovereignty.

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1, NET)

As these [young Christians] feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity … there often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II

Pride at its essence is an attitude that denies the existence of God. It is an attempt to exert oneself as an independent being. However, when we foster such an attitude, we are merely deceiving ourselves. In a culture where independence is so highly valued, pride is often hard to notice. We fail to realize that any movement we make with an independent attitude is rooted in pride.

When we think that we can, through will alone, accomplish a goal, we are deceived. Even “Christian” behavior can be done pridefully, in independence. If we try to live up to some status quo of behavior in our church community on our own power and merit, we are deceived. We are ignoring the reality that the Almighty gives us life and breath.

Besides being dependent upon God’s sovereignty, we are also dependent on other people. We are not individual islands. To say to oneself, It’s just me and God, is a form of pride. To be Christian is to be part of the body of Christ. We must not think we can live the Christian life as God intended in isolation from other Christians. We need others to sustain us.

Manifestations:

Depending on ourselves rather than on God. Expecting others to treat us as if we are a god. Being self-absorbed and leaving no time for God. Refusing to love and trust God; refusing to accept forgiveness from others, ourselves, or God, because we judge ourselves as not perfect (as we should be, since we are taking God’s place). Pitying ourselves because we think our sins make us less respectable.

Attempting to control or predict the future by using spiritualism, astrology, fortune-telling, black magic, or superstition. Not practicing gratitude for others’ gifts, knowledge, or good works.

Being territorial about our status. Acting as if we were better, further advanced, or more virtuous. Practicing hypocrisy (judging others harshly for faults that we ourselves possess). Refusing to recognize our own sins because to admit wrong or lack of perfection reveals that we are less than we think we are. Discounting our sins by minimizing or rationalizing: “Boys will be boys,” or “That is just natural for women to do,” or “That is the way teens normally act.” Being too sensitive and refusing to see that we can grow from constructive criticism. Refusing to receive guidance from our community.

Refusing to take responsibility for … what we have done. Being unwilling to make amends and restitution. Lying or deceiving to escape discipline. Letting someone else take the blame because he is dispensable and we are not… . Exaggerating, interrupting, talking too much or in hyperbole. Taking center stage in an attempt to claim wisdom or abilities that we do not possess. Behaving ostentatiously in order to focus attention on ourselves. Having inordinate shyness because we feel we are not perfect. Being performance driven. Refusing to admit wrong or apologize in order to save face and avoid damage to our status in the community.

Refusing to accept less than excellence in food, drink, lodging, or another’s performance. Being aggravated by the irritating habits of others. Being a bigot and saying our customs, race, religion, dress, and culture are superior to those of others. Overspending time and money on how we present ourselves, our home, or office in order to impress others. Showing superiority by thinking that we should not have to do what others do, such as work, chores, etc. Taking credit for our abilities and accomplishments rather than giving God or others credit for thoughts, insights, etc. Having to be the only one who has a credible idea or plan. Reinforcing our superiority by being overbearing, argumentative, and opinionated. Being legends in our own minds.

Anger

Anger becomes a sin when it takes the form of rebellion, revenge, or retaliation; causes harm to self or others; or sets an obstacle in the way of our relationship with God.

When their delight and pleasure in spiritual things come to an end, they naturally become embittered, and bear that lack of sweetness which they have to suffer with a bad grace, which affects all that they do; and they very easily become irritated over the smallest matter—sometimes, indeed, none can tolerate them… .

There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they become irritated at the sins of others, and keep watch on those others with a sort of uneasy zeal. At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them angrily … and set themselves up as masters of virtue… .

There are others who are vexed with themselves when they observe their own imperfectness, and display an impatience that is not humility; so impatient are they about this that they would fain be saints in a day. Many of these persons purpose to accomplish a great deal and make grand resolutions; yet, as they are not humble and have no misgivings about themselves, the more resolutions they make, the greater is their fall and the greater their annoyance, since they have not the patience to wait for that which God will give them when it pleases Him.

    —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, V

But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:8-10)

One of the most common ways anger tempts the believer is with the simple phrase “I’m right.” The issue is not always who is logically correct. The person who struggles with anger may well be “right” most of the time. However, we shouldn’t impose our judgments in any manner we choose, even if our judgments are correct (and often they aren’t). We are called to love, not to be “right.” Sometimes loving others involves communicating what is right and what is not, but that communication shouldn’t be guided by a passion-filled anger.

Manifestations:

Hating God. Refusing to allow Him into our lives. Turning our backs on a personal relationship with Him. Refusing to use our talents and gifts or pursue the mission God has given us. Blaming others (God, parents, spouse) and not accepting responsibility for the negative conditions we have brought on ourselves and the inner decisions we have made that have contributed to our unhappiness.

Being cynical. Purposely trying to ruin someone’s reputation. Gossiping. Using profanity, grumbling, or attacking someone verbally (such as quarreling, nagging, rudeness, or raging) or physically (such as hitting, torture, or murder). Harsh or excessive punishment of children or others over whom we have authority. Forcing our will on others. Seeking revenge and retaliation.

Turning our anger against ourselves, such as through self-mutilation, overeating, bulimia, anorexia, or pushing ourselves to overwork or be perfect…. Refusing to let anger emerge and thus causing depression. Allowing anger to manifest itself in disease and conditions harmful to the body. Self-pity.

Anger is out of order when we refuse to forgive and are unwilling to let go of bitterness or love another as God does. We refuse to love the unlovable or our enemies. Anger in the form of passive-aggressive behavior is demonstrated when we ostracize another person, spoil another’s pleasure (by snubbing or being moody or uncooperative), or physically or emotionally sabotage someone.

In order to identify areas of sin that the Spirit is prompting you to address, make time in your schedule this week for solitude. Go to a park, on a hike, or for a drive by yourself. You know best how and where you experience solitude and peace from life’s demands. Ask the Lord for wisdom. Seek to understand what the Lord wants you to change in your attitudes or actions. Use the space below to note your one or two main categories of sin as well as how you play out those categories in your life.

As a believer, if you are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s transformation process. The Spirit opens your eyes to your sin, convicts you of it, and leads you to repentance. When you spend time in this kind of reflection, you become aware of the sin in your life.You realize that the Enemy loves to use whatever means possible to promote you to sin. Both your strengths and weaknesses can be twisted to sinfulness. For example, one of your strengths might be that you are a gifted encourager of other believers. How might your personal tempter twist this strength to make it an area of sin? Likewise, in an area of your weakness, perhaps pornography, what is your tempter’s strategy? How does pornography rob you from experiencing joy in Christ?

choose one specific sin you struggle with, and write your letter about that. Your goal is to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and evaluate how sin affects your life. Your goal isn’t to understand and write about every area you struggle with. If you cultivate an attitude of attentiveness to the Spirit of God and His conviction of sin in your life, you will experience a lifetime of growth in your struggle against sin. Therefore, choose only one area and try to clearly describe the dynamics of how your flesh, the world, and the Enemy tempt you in that area.

Think about yourself in practical terms. How does it happen that you are prone to react in anger toward your kids? How is it that you find yourself spreading gossip instead of remaining quiet? Why do you do it? What payoff do you get or expect to get? What lie are you falling for? What selfish motive makes you susceptible? Why do you let the world’s pressure get to you in this area?

Be as transparent and vulnerable as you can appropriately be with yourself and those in spiritual leadership around you. The more transparent you are, the more meaningful this exercise will be for you and them.

answer the following questions about your area of sin:

     When are you most susceptible to temptation in this area?

     What consequences can you associate with the sin?

     What payoff do you feel you get or might get from the sin? In other words, when you are tempted, what do you think you will gain or what benefit will you receive as a result of giving in?

     How do you tend to rationalize this area of sin? What does the reasoning process look like when you are rationalizing?

Practicing these disciplines is not a formula for sanctification, but it can be a great way to refocus your attention on God and others and off yourself.

Types of Spiritual Disciplines

    Scripture: Reading, memorizing, meditating on verses

    Prayer: Praying silently, taking prayer walks, reading written prayers and liturgies

    Fasting: Abstaining from food to focus on God and prayer

    Journaling: Writing to God, tracking growth, expressing thoughts and feelings

    Silence and solitude: Taking time to be alone in absolute silence before God

    Stewardship: Managing your resources according to godly principles (for example, generous giving)

    Service: Finding opportunities to do acts of service for the benefit of others

    Evangelism: Sharing the gospel regularly through various means

    Confession: Confessing sin individually and in a group

    Simplicity: Limiting your lifestyle in order to free yourself for God

    Worship: Partaking in corporate and individual worship

    Learning: Reading, taking courses, participating in discussion groups

    Meditation: Contemplating biblical truth in order to better understand the character of God and its relevance to your own life

    Fellowship: Developing a partnership with other believers as an encouragement to your pursuit of personal holiness and corporate witness for Christ.

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine character qualities that you should seek to put into practice in your own life, they comprise the fruit the Holy Spirit bears in a believer’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Read about each quality and respond to the questions about each. Identify friends, family members, and members of your small group who exhibit that quality.

Love

As pride can be seen as the root of all sin, love is the root of all godly deeds: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:78)

Unfortunately, love often lacks the force it ought to have for believers because the English word love has lost much of its meaning as used in Scripture. People use the word in many ways to refer to a variety of sentiments expressed toward an even wider variety of objects.We have a critical need for our understanding of love to be biblically, rather than culturally, informed. However, cultivating love requires more than simply correcting our misunderstandings; it requires a personal reorientation.

Our world caters to our self-centeredness.Yet the love we find in Scripture, exemplified most profoundly in Christ’s life, is an others-oriented love:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

If we are to cultivate love, we must learn to shift our focus from ourselves to those around us. None of us will fully rid ourselves of our ever-present preoccupation with self. And indeed, we benefit greatly from loving God and our neighbor. But cultivating love requires that we learn to love for the sake of the other rather than merely for our own benefit.

Biblical love is not just others-centered in our thinking but also in our actions. Love physically gives to others. It listens to those in pain and offers words of sympathy. It offers encouragement in the form of a smile. It gets its hands dirty helping a neighbor fix a car. In short, one who loves lays down self-interest for the interest of the other.

  1. Do you currently have any relationships in which you love another for his or her sake, not just your own? How would you describe that relationship?

  1. How do you seek to demonstrate others-oriented love in those relationships?

  1. List those you know (including members of your group) who exhibit love. Describe how they demonstrate that characteristic.

  1. How does observing love in those people spur you on to love similarly?

Joy

Those around us often understand happiness in terms of the absence of undesirable elements of life —pain, suffering, disappointment. In contrast, Christian joy is a response to the presence of something positive in our lives—the presence of Christ through the Spirit, along with the hope we have in Him. This presence and hope enable us to have joy in the midst of pain, suffering, and disappointment.

Joy comes from knowing that though we will experience the hardships that come with living in a fallen world, our present experience is nothing like the future that awaits us. As Karl Barth once said in the face of distress, Christian joy proclaims “a defiant ‘Nevertheless!’”5

Even Christ’s experience on the cross involved joy:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who

for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and

sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Cultivating joy, like cultivating love, requires us to move beyond ourselves. We must move beyond our present circumstances, beyond our short-term pains and pleasures. Cultivating joy requires that we not pursue it as an end in itself but rather that we pursue God and one another in other-directed love. When we do so, we find that joy is a by-product. As John Stott writes, “The self-conscious pursuit of happiness will always end in failure. But when we forget ourselves in the self-giving sacrifice of love, then joy … comes flooding into our lives as an incidental, unlooked for blessing.”

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your

gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

When joy characterizes our lives, we aren’t shaken by the tides of our circumstances. We still grieve during times of loss and rejoice in times of celebration. We’re not stoic, lacking any expression of emotion. But we don’t despair in times of loss, nor are we overly taken by temporal success. A joyful person has a strong awareness of God’s good providence.

  1. In what circumstances has a sense of joy been most evident in your life?

  1. What circumstances most “steal” your joy?

  1. How might others help you cultivate joy in your life?

  1. List those you know (including members of your group) who exhibit joy. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing joy in those people spur you on to joy?

Peace

Our contemporary definition of peace can be misleading. We think of peace as the absence of conflict, but Scripture gives a much richer perspective. Biblical peace involves total well-being, wholeness, and harmony. Cultivating that kind of peace in our lives and relationships is hard in a fragmented world like ours. A fallen world is full of obstacles to personal wholeness, unity with our brothers and sisters, and justice in the world. God has provided the way of ultimate reconciliation through Christ: “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). We can be agents of reconciliation as we walk by the Spirit: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Though conflict is common in human relations and is necessary to a certain degree, it should not be an end in itself. Christians should aim not to be in conflict, either internally or interpersonally. Peacemakers pursue harmony in relationships. They aren’t necessarily averse to conflict, but they want it to lead to resolution.

Internal peace comes from integrity. Peacemakers avoid living double lives. They seek to integrate areas of their lives. If possible, they want to work, go to church, and live in the same community, so as not to have unrelated sets of relationships. People characterized by peace are not secretive because they have nothing to hide.

  1. What are some practical ways you can embody God’s peace in your life context (for example, in your home, church, and community)?

  1. How can you avoid acting as though your attitudes and actions in one area of life don’t affect other areas? How can you avoid being a different person in different settings?

  1. List those you know who exhibit peace internally and in relationships. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing peace in those people spur you on to peace?

Patience

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:7-11)

Time has become a commodity, and to some people, time is the most valuable commodity they have. We speak of spending time, saving time, wasting time, and buying time. Many professionals attend seminars that will teach them to invest their time wisely in order to get the greatest possible return on their investment. Yet in this world where we view time as a commodity and spend it expecting results, we are called to cultivate patience. Patience requires a willingness to lay aside our to-do lists and our incessant demands for quantifiable results for the sake of others’ needs, our own spiritual development, and the worship of God. A patient person does not hoard time.

Another aspect of patience is restraint from taking matters into our own hands. Patient people, when circumstances necessitate, are willing to wait. They wait for clear direction from the Lord when confused about a job opportunity. They wait for a child to finish explaining an incident before rushing to judgment. They restrain their anger when their son embarrasses them in public. They wait for God’s healing hand after the disappointing breakup of a relationship.

  1. What circumstances consistently test your patience?

  1. How do you typically react to those circumstances?

  1. How might such circumstances help you cultivate patience?

  1. How can you cultivate patience? How can others help you cultivate it?

  1. List those you know who exhibit patience. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing patience in those people spur you on to patience?

Kindness

When autonomy and self-sufficiency are cherished, little room is left for kindness. Philip Kenneson observes that “kindness is a particular manifestation of love’s other-directedness. Kindness seems to manifest itself as a certain way of being helpful to those who need help. Such helpfulness stems first of all from God’s helpfulness, of which the Christian is imminently mindful.”

For the self-sufficient individual, to seek such help is to admit one’s inadequacy, and to be offered such help is an affront to one’s sense of independence. Cultivating kindness involves the reciprocity of freely giving and receiving grace between needy people, not independence but interdependence. As with all of the Spirit’s fruit, kindness is essentially an expression of other-directedness in that it calls us to be freely available to those around us.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus demonstrates the close connection between love and kindness. The Samaritan finds a victim of assault and robbery, personally bandages him, takes him to an inn, cares for him that evening, and then pays for his ongoing care. After telling the parable, Jesus vividly makes His point about the connection between love and kindness with a final question:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

  1. What keeps you from expressing kindness to others? What aspects of your culture, personality, or personal heritage (family and cultural background) hinder you?

  1. List those you know who exhibit kindness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing kindness in those people spur you on to kindness?

Goodness

When the rich young ruler called Jesus “good teacher,” Jesus reminded him that “no one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18). Like all of the Spirit’s fruit, goodness is a reflection of God’s character. However, many people in our time consider goodness to reside in the nature of humanity. What those people fail to recognize is that the only good inherent in humanity is what remains of the image of God placed in us at Creation (see Genesis 1:26-27). Goodness always has God as its source.

The London Times once asked a number of writers to submit essays on the topic “What’s wrong with the world?” G. K. Chesterton’s reply was the shortest and yet the most profound. His reply simply read, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely, G. K. Chesterton.” Such an acute awareness of our fallenness leaves no room for the kind of self-affirmation and self-actualization prevalent in our society. John Stott affirms this truth:

Christian believers are able to affirm only those aspects of the self which derive from our creation in God’s image (e.g. our rational capacity, moral responsibility, and capacity for love), while at the same time denying (that is, disowning and repudiating) all those aspects of the self which derive from the fall and from our own personal fallenness. These Christian forms of self-affirmation and self-denial are very far from being expressions of a preoccupation, let alone an infatuation, with ourselves.”

We are not inherently good, but the Holy Spirit who indwells us is. Only through deferring to His power and presence in our lives can we develop the characteristic of goodness.

In John’s gospel, Christ defines goodness by referring to Himself:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10:11-12)

In this passage, a good person not only avoids thinking maliciously about others but he also goes so far as to make personal sacrifices for them. Onlookers can see that a good person acts for others’ well-being. Further, good people aren’t fickle in their intentions. People don’t say of the good woman, “She let us down, but she had good intentions.” The good person follows through on good intentions.

  1. In your mind, what qualifies a person as a “good person”?

  1. If you consider yourself a “good person,” in what sense do you think you are good?

  1. List those you know who exhibit goodness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing goodness in those people spur you on to goodness?

Faithfulness

Few words come nearer to capturing God’s character than the word faithful. All of salvation history testifies that God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. In light of His unyielding faithfulness to His people, being called to imitate Him in this respect is an exceedingly high calling.

Cultivating faithfulness is difficult in a world like ours that downplays the significance of commitment and is obsessed with instant gratification. We must have what Eugene Peterson has called “a long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful husbands and wives keep their promises “until death do us part.” Faithful students finish all their assignments on time. Faithful employees do not fudge on their work but rather press on diligently to complete a high-quality product. Faithful parents don’t throw their hands up and give in to their children’s disobedience; they continue to train and discipline them.

For Christians, faithfulness involves more than fulfilling one’s commitments. It involves consistent dependence on God’s power. The pages of Scripture are filled with tragic stories of men and women who sought to chart their own course rather than remain steadfast in following God’s direction. The entire history of Israel demonstrates that when memory grows short, commitment and dependence grow weak. Our faithfulness to God in the present requires a profound appreciation of His faithfulness to us in the past and an unreserved confidence in His promises for the future.

  1. What are some of the most significant ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness to you?

  1. What are some of God’s faithful acts that you often forget to be thankful for?

  1. In what areas do you struggle the most with being faithful to your commitments?

  1. How can others help you cultivate consistency to follow through with your responsibilities?

  1. List those you know who exhibit faithfulness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing faithfulness in those people spur you on to faithfulness?

Gentleness

All of our lives are, to some degree, ambition-driven. We want to be significant and have our lives count for something. These desires aren’t necessarily evil, but if left unchecked, they can choke out the fruit of gentleness. In a world where those who wield power are the ones who make a difference, ambition-driven Christians can easily give in to the seduction of power.

Our culture tells us, “If you want to get anything done … if you want to make an impact, you have to be in a position of power to do so; otherwise, you are doomed to ineffectiveness, and ultimately, failure. Hence, people who want to make their mark on the world will have to make peace with doing so by using the world’s ways, which are usually the ways of power and coercion.”

Gentleness, meekness, and humility involve “the strength to refrain from power and coercion.” Those who are gentle are not the opposite of those who are strong. They simply refrain from using their strength for intimidation or manipulation. They realize that by being gentle, they can encourage and edify another. A gentle person is one by whom others don’t feel threatened when they’re vulnerable. They will reveal their fears and confusion because they know that this gentle person does not inflict pain on those who are vulnerable.

If someone tells about his demotion at work, the gentle man does not accuse the person of poor performance. (“Well, you must not have worked hard enough.”) The gentle woman does not condemn her friend who admits to hitting her child in a moment of anger. (“How dare you do such a thing!”) The gentle person will try to channel personal strength toward helping others, not condemning them.

  1. Can Christians be ambitious and at the same time cultivate gentleness? If so, how? If not, why not?

  1. How does an initial response of gentleness rather than correction communicate love to someone who reveals a failure or sin?

  1. How does that initial gentleness provide a platform for later influence in the person’s life that can lead to repentance?

  1. List those you know who exhibit gentleness. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing gentleness in those people spur you on to gentleness?

Self-Control

The final quality mentioned in Paul’s list of the Spirit’s fruit may seem out of place. The others share a common theme of other-centeredness. Yet at the conclusion of the list we find what most translations call self-control.

In the Greek world of Paul’s day, self-control was a chief virtue, foundational to developing all other virtues. If one was to master the virtuous life, he first must learn to master his own emotions and desires; he must learn to be controlled by nothing. Yet when Paul identified this virtue as a fruit of the Spirit, he used the term differently from the way others used it. In calling self-control a fruit of the Spirit, Paul attributed the control of the self not to the individual’s work but to the Spirit’s work in that individual’s life. For Paul, self-control meant to be controlled by God.

When we understand self-control in this way, we see that perhaps the best way we can cultivate this fruit is not necessarily through more concentrated efforts of our will. Instead, we should do what we can to nourish the other aspects of the Spirit’s fruit, all of which call us to forget ourselves in the service of others and in the worship and service of God.

  1. In what areas do you struggle to control desires or emotions?

  1. How can others help you cultivate control over those areas?

  1. List those you know who exhibit self-control. Describe how they demonstrate it.

  1. How does observing self-control in those people spur you on to having self-control?

This ends our series in this part eleven on leading a Godly controlled life.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

New Dwelling Place

August 10, 2018

Resurrection-Doubting-Thomas

  “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

  Few see and stand upon the fact that our history in Adam ended on the Cross. Our past will plague us until we acknowledge that we are now clear of Adam and safely hidden in the risen Lord Jesus—newly-born creations in Him. One of the penalties of self-occupation is self-pity and corroding remorse.

 Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in the Lord Jesus that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only His past and that is perfect and acceptable to the Father. In the Lord Jesus he died, and in Him he rose, and he is now seated in Him within the circle of the Father’s favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding: hence there is no place for regret.

  The knowledge of our union with the Lord Jesus is what will deliver the believer from all that is low and feeble, and will lift him to a life of joy and peace. To gaze upon our risen Lord in the Father’s presence, to whom all things are subject, will transform us into heavenly Christians, dwelling all the day in the Father’s presence.

The believer shares the Lord Jesus’ Cross (‘knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him’ Rom. 6:6); His death (‘ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God’ Col. 3:3); His burial (‘we were buried with him by baptism into death’ Rom. 6:4); His resurrection (‘as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we’ Rom. 6:4); His ascension (‘made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ Eph. 2:6).

  “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Annissa, she is HIV positive, tests just came back

Pray for Dave I, still battling prostate cancer

Pray for Andrea and Todd, really struggling with finances.

a shot of courage

August 9, 2018

John-Wayne-p15

Courage

Adrian Rogers tells about the man who bragged that he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocket knife. Asked why he hadn’t cut off the lion’s head, the man replied: “Someone had already done that.”

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. Eddie Rickenbacker, Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, p. 12Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was an American fighter ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient. With 26 aerial victories, he was America’s most successful fighter ace in the war world I.

David, a 2-year old with leukemia, was taken by him mother, Deborah, to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to see Dr. John Truman who specializes in treating children with cancer and various blood diseases. Dr. Truman’s prognosis was devastating: “He has a 50-50 chance.”

The countless clinic visits, the blood tests, the intravenous drugs, the fear and pain—the mother’s ordeal can be almost as bad as the child’s because she must stand by, unable to bear the pain herself. David never cried in the waiting room, and although his friends in the clinic had to hurt him and stick needles in him, he hustled in ahead of him mother with a smile, sure of the welcome he always got. When he was three, David had to have a spinal tap—a painful procedure at any age. It was explained to him that, because he was sick, Dr. Truman had to do something to make him better. “If it hurts, remember it’s because he loves you,” Deborah said.

The procedure was horrendous. It took three nurses to hold David still, while he yelled and sobbed and struggled. When it was almost over, the tiny boy, soaked in sweat and tears, looked up at the doctor and gasped, “Thank you, Dr. Tooman, for my hurting.”

Miracles of Courage, Monica Dickens, 1985

And now the Duke: Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.

Or ; don’t pick a fight, but if you find yourself in one, I suggest you damn well make sure you win.

Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from today.

And lastly from the Duke; When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it.

John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering; but have courage, I have conquered (overcome) the world.

The Original Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases lists boldness and fearlessness as synonyms of courage, but courage often exists in spite of the presence of fear. In fact, it is probably true that courage is doing what one is afraid to do. Indeed, courage is the capacity to resist fear, to master it, not its absence. Thus, courage is that quality of the heart or mind that gives one the ability to encounter danger and difficulty with firmness and resolve in spite of the presence of fear. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

  1. S. Lewis wrote, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Without courage, men and women will fail to be loving, to sacrifice, to count the cost, to tackle the challenges or take on the responsibilities that God calls them to.

What ever your trial, Jesus is with you going before you, alongside you, and He is interceding for you to the Father.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

AS HE WILLS

August 7, 2018

  “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7)

John 13:7 New International Version (NIV)

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

  When our Lord takes us down into an area of processing and trial it seems as though He deliberately takes away our understanding, and we often react as though we had never gone through anything before. One of His reasons for this is that we may receive the full effect and benefit of the training as a child learning to obey his father.

 We should give our consent to our Father when He seeks to lead us through devastating processes. And we need have no fear, for He knows how to apportion our suffering. He exactly matches the suffering to our condition. He measures all things with unfailing accuracy and selects the particular trial suited to our particular need.

 He invariably chooses the lot of each with this in view—an increase of the divine content in our lives. If He chastens us, it is always ‘for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.’ And ‘all things work together for good to them that are called according to his purpose.’ What good? What purpose? This, ‘that we may be conformed to the image of his Son.’

  “Let suffering come from any cause in the universe, if we give it over entirely into the hand of our Father, and sink ourselves into His divine will, with the desire for Him to work His purpose in us, He will make every pain, every tear, every particle of our suffering work in us a death to sin and to the old man, and to all things on earth which will be for our highest development and for His glory.” -G.W.

If we lay claim to the blessing of our Father, we must not fear what may lie in the path of blessing. It is ever through suffering to glory, through the Cross to the Crown.

  “In every circumstance of life be thankful; for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus respecting you” (1 Thess. 5:18, Wey.).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for those that suffer from depression

Pray for Sally H, she is concerned about her husband’s prescription abuse.

Pray for Dan F, that he forgives and comes back to the straight and narrow.

Pray for Harry S, a master carpenter, who is loosing the use of his hands.

Pray Janell, fear rules her life

GROWING DOWNWARD

August 3, 2018

the old pine box

“Death working in me works life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12,).

“The great lack in servants is not having a sufficiently self-less walk, because you cannot lead anyone beyond where you have been led yourself. Moses was himself many years in the wilderness before he led the people. I cannot ask anyone to leave anything that I have not left myself. It is not the man who sees defects, but the man who removes them who is being used of God.”

Would you like the Apostle Paul choose the path of death that others may have life? Will you choose to ‘fill up the afflictions of Christ for His Bride’s sake’? But what does it mean? It means living, weeping, suffering, loving with infinite patience, infinite tenderness, unwearyingly love for every member of the Body of Christ. It means the whole being bound up, not in your own progress, but in the progress of the Body of Christ. It means sinking all the personal element into the service of God, wanting neither credit, nor notice, nor recognition. It means an utter dropping of yourself, and a handing over of yourself to God to be poured out for His Body’s sake, the Church. It’s a growing downward.

Our joy in the Father’s presence, as He Himself and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, are made manifest to our hearts, gives us the character of the joy of true fellowship one with another.

“I, Paul. . . rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:23, 24).

The downward path is the path to death. It is the constant act of putting off the flesh. Are you actively seeking to end bad habits? Have you stopped giving in to temptations? As I’ve said many times, the Christian life is the hardest life there is to lead, yet the easiest, a contradiction of our life, loosing it but gaining it. Only in Christendom.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for our country, that this liberal, left wing plan to socialize our nation doesn’t succeed.

Pray for Veterans, especially those that are homeless.

curses, foiled again

August 2, 2018

This topic “generational curses” has come up in counseling everyday this week. It is crossly exaggerated, and the term is not exactly carried out in it’s true biblical context.

The Bible does not mention “generational curses” it does however mention sins of a family being continued in its lineage for generations, not curses; several places (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). God warns that He is “a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

It sounds unfair for God to punish children for the sins of their fathers. However, there is more to it than that. The effects of sin are naturally passed down from one generation to the next. That is after all what we call the Federal Headship Theory, of how all we in Adam sinned. And how it is the blood that carries this stain. Thus Jesus had to be borne of a virgin, without sin.

When a father has a sinful lifestyle, his children are likely to practice the same sinful lifestyle. Implied in the warning of Exodus 20:5 is the fact that the children will choose to repeat the sins of their fathers. A Jewish Targum specifies that this passage refers to “ungodly fathers” and “rebellious children.” So, it is not unjust for God to punish sin to the third or fourth generation – those generations are committing the same sins their ancestors did and are not saved, Christian people, but idolatrous and not following the Lord.

There is a trend in the church today to try to blame every sin and problem on some sort of generational curse. This is not biblical. God’s warning to visit iniquity on future generations is part of the Old Testament Law. A generational curse was a consequence for a specific nation (Israel) for a specific sin (idolatry). The history books of the Old Testament (especially Judges) contain the record of this divine punishment meted out.

The cure for a generational curse has always been repentance. When Israel turned from idols to serve the living God, the “curse” was broken and God saved them (Judges 3:9, 15; 1 Samuel 12:10-11). Yes, God promised to visit Israel’s sin upon the third and fourth generations, but in the very next verse He promised that He would show “love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6). In other words, God’s grace lasts a thousand times longer than His wrath.

For the Christian who is worried about a generational curse, the answer is salvation through Jesus Christ. A Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). How can a child of God still be under God’s curse, simple answer, you can’t (Romans 8:1). The cure for sin is repentance from sin and believe in the life-giving promise of faith in Christ, and a life consecrated to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2).

Let me just repeat this so I’m crystal clear. A Christian cannot be cursed, under a curse, plagued by a generational curse, nor can a Christian be possessed of a demon or a bloodline demon (no such thing).

You can be affected by your family’s lifestyle choice. Nature versus Nurture. You might have to unlearn family habits, like violence or lying. But it’s not a curse. You are free in Christ, under a new bloodline, a son of God.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Linda H, hip problems

For Dave I, prostate cancer

For Matthew, going in for tests.

For Marilyn waiting for test results.