Just Do It!

Sometimes I have people ask me, “how can I be a better Christian?”

They’re always surprised when I ask them questions about obedience. I know we are going to have problems when they say things like; “I didn’t know religion was so legalistic, or you’re bumming me out.” (what adult still says that?)

How do we know God? In 1 John 2:3 we find the surprising answer: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.”

 We tend to think of “knowledge” as purely intellectual activity, but in Scripture knowledge is often gained through experiences. It’s the difference between knowing about something or someone and knowing because we’ve gained understanding through an experiential encounter. Think of the way we can have knowledge about swimming through books, but we don’t really know what swimming is like until we are immersed in water and flailing our limbs in an attempt to stay afloat. We only fully gain “knowledge” of swimming by swimming.

 Similarly we don’t come to know God through abstract speculation but through living our lives the way the Lord requires. Specifically, we come to know God by understanding and then doing what he commands.

 We gain the first part by searching Scripture to understand exactly what God commands of us (see, for example, “32 Commands of Christ”). Once we know what God wants us to do, we then come to know God by doing what he wants us to do.

 What that means, in light of 1 John 2:3, is that the process for Christians to know God occurs through the following steps:

  Step #1—We learn what God requires through reading and meditating on his Word.

 Step #2—Powered by God’s grace, we obey and keep his commands.

 Step #3—Through keeping God’s commands, albeit in our flawed way, we gain experiential knowledge of the One who kept the commands perfectly, Jesus Christ.

 Step #4—By increasing our knowledge of Christ, we grow in communion with the Father.

 Step #5—This knowledge, gained through the experience of keeping God’s commands, gives us assurance, as John wrote, that “we know that we have come to know him.”

 Step #6—This knowledge reveals God’s beauty and glory, motivating us to delve deeper into Scripture so we can gain a better understanding of how to obey him even more.

  Obedience thus becomes not just our means for knowing God but a motivation that drives us to know him more.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

my apologies for falling behind on email responses, hopefully i can get caught up this weekend.

Pray for Bobbie K, his wife slept with a homeless man, pray that as they go through counseling that the Lord will work on both their hearts.

Pray for Lauren M, 25, has a boyfriend that is pressuring her to have sex, they’ve been together 6 years and he’s never discussed marriage. She needs to keep vows to God and not succumb to his negative comments, i.e. like he’s going to bail. I asked her to ask him to see me, and he won’t, so I kind of know where this is going to go.

For S.K. he wants to stop using drugs and acting out in a very dangerous manner that could get him killed

For Sammie, she’s been cutting herself and just entered the hospital this afternoon of her own accord.

The Gift

July 17, 2017

The Secret of Contentment

“We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.” Uncle Screwtape’s diabolical counsel to his nephew Wormwood in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is a reminder that most of us live more in the future than in the present. Somehow we think that the days ahead will make up for what we perceive to be our present lack. We think, “When I get this or when that happens, then I’ll be happy,” but this is an exercise in self-deception that overlooks the fact that even when we get what we want, it never delivers what it promised.

Most of us don’t know precisely what we want, but we are certain we don’t have it. Driven by dissatisfaction, we pursue the treasure at the end of the rainbow and rarely drink deeply at the well of the present moment, which is all we ever have. The truth is that if we are not satisfied with what we have, we will never be satisfied with what we want.

The real issue of contentment is whether it is Christ or ourselves who determine the content (e.g., money, position, family, circumstances) of our lives. When we seek to control the content, we inevitably turn to the criterion of comparison to measure what it should look like. The problem is that comparison is the enemy of contentment—there will always be people who possess a greater quality or quantity of what we think we should have. Because of this, comparison leads to covetousness. Instead of loving our neighbors, we find ourselves loving what they possess.

Covetousness in turn leads to a competitive spirit. We find ourselves competing with others for the limited resources to which we think we are entitled. Competition often becomes a vehicle through which we seek to authenticate our identity or prove our capability. This kind of competition tempts us to compromise our character. When we want something enough, we may be willing to steamroll our convictions in order to attain it. We find ourselves cutting corners, misrepresenting the truth, cheating, or using people as objects to accomplish our self-driven purposes.

It is only when we allow Christ to determine the content of our lives that we can discover the secret of contentment. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we must realize that the Lord alone knows what is best for us and loves us enough to use our present circumstances to accomplish eternal good. We can be content when we put our hope in His character rather than our own concept of how our lives should appear.

Writing from prison to the believers in Philippi, Paul affirmed that “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12). Contentment is not found in having everything, but in being satisfied with everything we have. As the Apostle told Timothy, “we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8). Paul acknowledged God’s right to determine his circumstances, even if it meant taking him down to nothing. His contentment was grounded not in how much he had but in the One who had him. Job understood this when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The more we release temporal possessions, the more we can grasp eternal treasures. There are times when God may take away our toys to force us to transfer our affections to Christ and His character.

A biblical understanding of contentment leads to a sense of our competency in Christ. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). As Peter put it, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want, but the realization of how much we already possess in Christ.

A vision of our competency in Christ enables us to respond to others with compassion rather than competition, because we understand that our fundamental needs are fulfilled in the security and significance we have found in Him. Since we are complete in Christ, we are free to serve others instead of using them in the quest to meet our needs. Thus we are liberated to pursue character rather than comfort and convictions rather than compromise.

Notice the contrast between the four horizontal pairs in this chart: (which I don’t know how I got this to work this time!)

WHO DETERMINES THE CONTENT OF YOUR LIFE?

SELF

CHRIST

Comparison

Covetousness

Competition

Compromise

Contentment

Competency

Compassion

Character

As we learn the secret of contentment, we will be less impressed by numbers, less driven to achieve, less hurried, and more alive to the grace of the present moment.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

more than one day

July 17, 2017

A young man with a bandaged hand approached the clerk at the post office. “Sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The clerk did so gladly, and then agreed to write a message on the card.

He then asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The young man looked at the card for a moment and then said, “Yes, add a PS: ‘Please excuse the handwriting.’”

We are an ungrateful people. Writing of man in Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky says, “If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.” Luke’s account of the cleansing of the ten lepers underscores the human tendency to expect grace as our due and to forget to thank God for His benefits. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18).

REMEMBER: GOD’S DELIVERANCE IN THE PAST

Our calendar allocates one day to give thanks to God for His many benefits, and even that day is more consumed with gorging than with gratitude. Ancient Israel’s calendar included several annual festivals to remind the people of God’s acts of deliverance and provision so that they would renew their sense of gratitude and reliance upon the Lord.

In spite of this, they forgot: “they became disobedient and rebelled against You . . . . they did not remember Your abundant kindnesses . . . . they quickly forgot His works” (Nehemiah 9:26; Psalm 106:7, 13). The prophet Hosea captured the essence of this decline into ingratitude: “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me” (13:6). When we are doing well, we tend to think that our prosperity was self-made; this delusion leads us into the folly of pride; pride makes us forget God and prompts us to rely on ourselves in place of our Creator; this forgetfulness always leads to ingratitude.

Centuries earlier, Moses warned the children of Israel that they would be tempted to forget the Lord once they began to enjoy the blessings of the promised land. “Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth’” (Deuteronomy 8:14, 17). The antidote to this spiritual poison is found in the next verse: “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (8:18).

Our propensity to forget is a mark of our fallenness. Because of this, we should view remembering and gratitude as a discipline, a daily and intentional act, a conscious choice. If it is limited to spontaneous moments of emotional gratitude, it will gradually erode and we will forget all that God has done for us and take His grace for granted.

REMEMBER: GOD’S BENEFITS IN THE PRESENT

“Rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant” (Os Guinness, In Two Minds). The apostle Paul exposes the error of this thinking when he asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Even as believers in Christ, it is quite natural to overlook the fact that all that we have and are—our health, our intelligence, our abilities, our very lives—are gifts from the hand of God, and not our own creation. We understand this, but few of us actively acknowledge our utter reliance upon the Lord throughout the course of the week. We rarely review the many benefits we enjoy in the present. And so we forget.

We tend toward two extremes when we forget to remember God’s benefits in our lives. The first extreme is presumption, and this is the error we have been discussing. When things are going “our way,” we may forget God or acknowledge Him in a shallow or mechanical manner. The other extreme is resentment and bitterness due to difficult circumstances. When we suffer setbacks or losses, we wonder why we are not doing as well as others and develop a mindset of murmuring and complaining. We may attribute it to “bad luck” or “misfortune” or not “getting the breaks,” but it really boils down to dissatisfaction with God’s provision and care. This lack of contentment and gratitude stems in part from our efforts to control the content of our lives in spite of what Christ may or may not desire for us to have. It also stems from our tendency to focus on what we do not possess rather than all the wonderful things we have already received.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We cannot give thanks and complain at the same time. To give thanks is to remember the spiritual and material blessings we have received and to be content with what our loving Lord provides, even when it does not correspond to what we had in mind. Gratitude is a choice, not merely a feeling, and it requires effort especially in difficult times. But the more we choose to live in the discipline of conscious thanksgiving, the more natural it becomes, and the more our eyes are opened to the little things throughout the course of the day that we previously overlooked. G. K. Chesterton had a way of acknowledging these many little benefits: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” Henri Nouwen observed that “every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until, finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace.”

REMEMBER: GOD’S PROMISES FOR THE FUTURE

If we are not grateful for God’s deliverance in the past and His benefits in the present, we will not be grateful for His promises for the future. Scripture exhorts us to lay hold of our hope in Christ and to renew it frequently so that we will maintain God’s perspective on our present journey. His plans for His children exceed our imagination, and it is His intention to make all things new, to wipe away every tear, and to “show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” in the ages to come (Ephesians 2:7).

Make it a daily exercise, either at the beginning or the end of the day, to review God’s benefits in your past, present, and future. This discipline will be pleasing to God, because it will cultivate a heart of gratitude and ongoing thanksgiving.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

do your part

June 20, 2017

Today as never before, Christians are being called upon to give reasons for the hope that is within them. Often in the evangelistic context seekers raise questions about the validity of the gospel message. Removing intellectual objections will not make one a Christian; a change of heart wrought by the Spirit is also necessary. But though intellectual activity is insufficient to bring another to Christ, it does not follow that it is also unnecessary. In this essay we will examine the place and purpose of apologetics in the sharing of our faith with others.

The word “apologetics” never actually appears in the Bible. But there is a verse which contains its meaning:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you the reason for the hope that is within you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).

The Greek word apologia means “answer,” or “reasonable defense.” It does not mean to apologize, nor does it mean just to engage in intellectual dialogue. It means to provide reasonable answers to honest questions and to do it with humility, respect, and reverence.

The verse thus suggests that the manner in which one does apologetics is as important as the words expressed. And Peter tells us in this passage that Christians are to be ready always with answers for those who inquire of us concerning our faith. Most Christians have a great deal of study ahead of them before this verse will be a practical reality in their evangelistic efforts.

Another question that often comes up in a discussion about the merits and place of apologetics is, “What is the relationship of the mind to evangelism?” “Does the mind play any part in the process?” “What about the effects of the fall?” “Isn’t man dead in trespasses and sins?” “Doesn’t the Bible say we are to know nothing among men except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?” “Why do we have to get involved at all in apologetics if the Spirit is the One Who actually brings about the New Birth?”

I think you will agree that today there are many Christians who are firmly convinced that answering the intellectual questions of unbelievers is an ineffectual waste of time. They feel that any involvement of the mind in the gospel interchange smacks too much of human effort and really just dilutes the Spirit’s work.

But Christianity thrives on intelligence, not ignorance. If a real Reformation is to accompany the revival for which many of us pray, it must be something of the mind as well as the heart. It was Jesus who said, “Come and see.” He invites our scrutiny and investigation both before and after conversion.

We are to love God with the mind as well as the heart and the soul. In fact, the early church was powerful and successful because it out-thought and out-loved the ancient world. We are not doing either very well today.

People respond to the gospel for various reasons—some out of pain or a crisis, others out of some emotional need such as loneliness, guilt, insecurity, etc. Some do so out of a fear of divine judgment. And coming to know Christ brings a process of healing and hope to the human experience. To know Christ is to find comfort for pain, acceptance for insecurity and low self-esteem, forgiveness for sin and guilt.

And others seem to have intellectual questions which block their openness to accept the credibility of the Christian message. These finally find in Christ the answers to their intellectual doubts and questions.

Those today who are actively involved in evangelism readily recognize the need for this kind of information to witness to certain people, and there are many more doubters and skeptics out there today than there were even twenty years ago.

We can see more clearly where we are as a culture by taking a good look at Paul’s world in the first century. Christianity’s early beginnings flourished in a Graeco-Roman culture more X-rated and brutal than our own. And we find Paul adapting his approach from group to group.

For instance, he expected certain things to be in place when he approached the Jewish communities and synagogues from town to town. He knew he would find a group which already had certain beliefs which were not in contradiction to the gospel he preached. They were monotheists. They believed in one God. They also believed this God had spoken to them in their Scriptures and had given them absolute moral guidelines for behavior (the Ten Commandments).

But when Paul went to the Gentile community, he had no such expectations. There he knew he would be faced with a culture that was polytheistic (many gods), biblically ignorant, and living all kinds of perverted, wicked lifestyles. And on Mars Hill in Athens when he preached the gospel, he did somewhat modify his approach.

He spoke of God more in terms of His presence and power, and he even quoted truth from a Greek poet in order to connect with these “pagans” and get his point across: “We are God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28).

One hundred years ago, the vast majority of Americans pretty much reflected the Jewish mentality, believing in God, having a basic respect for the Bible, and strong convictions about what was right and what was wrong.

That kind of American can still be found today in the 90s, but George Gallup says they aren’t having much of an impact on the pagan, or Gentile community, which today holds few beliefs compatible with historic Christianity.

To evangelize such people, we have our work cut out for us. And we will have to use both our minds and our hearts to “become all things to all men in order to save some.”

As we’re considering how we as Christians can have an impact on our increasingly fragmented society, we need to keep in mind that many do not share our Christian view of the world, and some are openly hostile to it.

In fact, a college professor recently commented that he felt the greatest impediment to social progress right now was what he called the bigoted, dogmatic Christian community. That’s you and me, folks.

If we could just “loosen up a little,” and compromise on some issues, America would be a happier place. What is meant by this is not just a demand for tolerance . . . but wholesale acceptance of any person’s lifestyle and personal choices!

But the Bible calls us to be “salt and light” in our world. How can we be that effectively?I don’t have a total answer, but I’ll tell you after 30+ years of active ministry what isn’t working. And by my observation, far too many Christians are trying to address the horrendous issues of our day with one of three very ineffective approaches.

Defensive Approach Many Christians out there are mainly asking the question, “How strong are our defenses?” “How high are our walls?” This barricade mentality has produced much of the Christian subculture. We have our own language, literature, heroes, music, customs, and educational systems. Of course, we need places of support and fellowship. But when Paul describes spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10, he actually reverses the picture. It is the enemy who is behind walls, inside strongholds of error and evil. And Paul depicts the Christians as those who should be mounting offensives at these walls to tear down the high things which have exalted themselves above the knowledge of God. We are to be taking ground, not just holding it.

Defeatist Approach Other Christians have already given up. Things are so bad, they say, that my puny efforts won’t change anything. “After all, we are living in the last days, and Jesus said that things would just get worse and worse.” This may be true, but it may not be. Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour of His coming. Martin Luther had the right idea when he said, “If Jesus were to come tomorrow, I’d plant a tree today and pay my debts.” The Lord may well be near, He could also tarry awhile. Since we don’t know for sure, we should be seeking to prepare ourselves and our children to live for Him in the microchip world of the 21st century.

Devotional Approach Other Christians are trying to say something about their faith, but sadly, they can only share their personal religious experience. It is true that Paul speaks of us as “epistles known and read” by all men. Our life/experience with Christ is a valid witness. But there are others out there in the culture with “changed” lives . . . and Jesus didn’t do the changing! Evangelism today must be something more than “swapping” experiences. We must learn how to ground our faith in the facts of history and the claims of Christ. We must have others grapple with Jesus Christ, nor just our experience.

We need to:

  1. Go to people. The heart of evangelism is Christians taking the initiative to actually go out and “fish for men.” Acts 17:17 describes for us how Paul was effective in his day and time: “Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”

  1. Communicate with people. Engage them. Sharing the Gospel involves communication. People must be focused upon and then understand the Gospel to respond to it. It is our responsibility as Christians to make it as clear as possible for all who will listen. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

  1. Relate to people. Effective witness involves not only the transmission of biblical information; it also includes establishing a relationship with the other person. Hearts, as well as heads, must meet. “So, affectionately longing for you,” said Paul to the Thessalonians, “we were well pleased to import to you not only the good news of God, but also our own lives, because you have become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).

  1. Remove barriers. Part of our responsibility involves having the skills to eliminate obstacles, real or imagined, which keep an individual from taking the Christian message seriously. When God sent the prophet Jeremiah forth, He said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth . . . and I have ordained you to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Sometimes our task as well is one of “spiritual demolition,” of removing the false so the seeds of truth can take root. Apologetics sometimes serves in that capacity, of preparing a highway for God in someone’s life.

  1. Explain the gospel to others. We need an army of Christians today who can consistently and clearly present the message to as many people as possible. Luke says of Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart so that she heeded the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Four essential elements in sharing the gospel:

someone talking (Paul)

things spoken (gospel)

someone listening (Lydia)

the Lord opening the heart.

  1. Invite others to receive Christ. We can be clear of presentation, but ineffective because we fail to give someone the opportunity and encouragement to take that first major step of faith. “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we beg you in Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

  1. Make every effort by every means to establish them in the faith. Stay with them, ground them in the Scripture, help them gain assurance of their salvation, and get them active in a vital fellowship/church.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Scripture makes it clear that our eternal salvation comes by grace through faith; it does not come from ourselves but is wholly a gift of God (see Eph 2:8). So what does James mean when he asks, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (Jas 2:14).

 James is saying a faith without accompanying works is no saving faith at all: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (v. 17). Is James contradicting Paul? No.

  Paul is describing true and living faith; James is arguing against a false faith which consists of nothing but spiritually dead intellectual assent (vv. 17, 19, 20, 26)

. . . Faith and good works are both necessary. But one is the root and the other is the fruit.

Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption. And as John Piper adds, “All the obedience of believers necessary for final salvation is obedience that comes from faith (1Th 1:3; 2Th 1:11; Gal 5:6; Heb 10:35–36; 11:8). If it does not come from faith it is legalism and gains nothing but deeper condemnation (Ro 9:32).”

 Hundreds of verses in Scripture confirm that growing in holiness is necessary for our salvation. Because holiness is so important to spiritual formation—and for our eternal destiny!—let’s look at some of these verses (emphasis added):

  ➤ The necessity of holiness—“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).

 ➤ The necessity of doing good—“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (Jn 5:28–29).

 ➤ The necessity of obedience—“Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person” (1Jn 2:4).

 ➤ The necessity to forgive others—“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt 6:15).

 ➤ The necessity of being free from the love of money—“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Mt 6:24).

 ➤ The necessity of love for God—“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1Jn 2:15).

 ➤ The necessity to love others—“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1Jn 3:14).

 ➤ The necessity of being childlike—“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).

 ➤ The necessity to bridle the tongue—“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (Jas 1:26).

 ➤ The necessity of perseverance—“Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Heb 3:6).

 ➤ The necessity of walking in the light—“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1Jn 1:7).

 ➤ The necessity of repentance—“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Ac 3:19).

  While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all relevant verses on the connection between sanctification and salvation, it’s enough to convey the importance Scripture places on the subject.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

if you struggle with frequent depression, you should get a medical checkup, since it can be due to physiological causes. Also, you may need personal counsel from a mature Christian who can help you apply Scripture to your situation. Avoid anyone who mingles the Bible with psychology. The joy Paul is exhorting us to is decidedly not the kind of joy the world offers through psychological insights. Over 50 years ago, Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented on this verse, (Philippians 4:4)“… there is perhaps no greater travesty of the gospel of Jesus Christ than psychological teaching which presents itself in Christian terms” (The Life of Peace [Baker], p. 146). It is joy in the Lord, joy that comes from the very life and power of God operating in the believer, not through some supposed insights into your unconscious mind or how your parents treated you.

Every believer must learn to apply the biblical principles I am going to enumerate.

  1. MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE IN A RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH SAVING FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

As we saw in chapter 3, where Paul first exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord (3:1), many who claim to be Christians are not relying only upon Christ and His shed blood for salvation, but rather are trusting in themselves (3:2, 4-6). Paul explains how he had to come to the point of counting everything of himself to be a total loss so that he could be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own derived from keeping the Law, but rather that which comes from God through faith in Christ. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed, “There are many people who never know the joy of the Lord because they have failed to see themselves as miserable sinners. The only way to be happy in Christ is to be desperately unhappy without him” (ibid., p. 148).

  1. WALK IN SUBMISSION TO THE SOVEREIGN SPIRIT OF GOD.

In Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” He goes on to catalog some sins that characterize the flesh. There is a direct correlation between many of those sins and depression. Then Paul lists the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). To walk by the Spirit means to live in moment-by-moment submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit, saying no to self and yes to the Lord. It means to trust in the sufficiency and power of the Spirit because you distrust your own ability (see Prov. 3:5). As we learn to walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, including joy, will grow in our lives.

The words “walk” and “fruit” imply a process, not something instantaneous. If you have spent your life walking in the flesh, it may take some time before you experience steady joy in the Lord. Also, walking in the Spirit is a deliberate process that involves putting self to death and submitting to the sovereign God. This means confronting your anger, because anger usually stems from not submitting to God’s sovereign dealings in your life. A crucified self doesn’t shake its fist in God’s face, saying, “I don’t like what You did to me when I was a child (or, what You’re doing to me right now)!” Anger and depression often go together (Gen. 4:6-7; Jonah 4:1-4). So if you want God’s abiding joy, you’ve got to walk in submission to His sovereign Spirit.

  1. VIEW YOUR TRIALS THROUGH THE LENS OF SCRIPTURE.

Paul was going through some pretty intense trials and could easily have become depressed. Instead, he had abundant joy because he viewed his trials in light of God’s Word. He submitted to God’s sovereignty over his imprisonment (1:12-14), over the preachers who were trying to cause him distress in his imprisonment (1:17), and even over his possible impending execution (1:20). He was living for the gospel, to proclaim Christ in every way (Phil. 1:18). He knew that when he died, he would be with Christ for eternity, so he could write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21).

Many Christians get depressed because they do not understand God’s purpose in trials or they do not mentally deal with their trials in the light of God’s Word. Often it can start with a simple disappointment–something you hoped would happen didn’t happen. Someone you were counting on let you down. A situation you were hoping and praying for did not come about. If you don’t consciously yield your disappointment to the Lord and thank Him by faith, trusting in His sovereign love, you can slip into depression. Satan often comes to you in a moment of disappointment and tempts you to doubt God’s loving care. Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, casting our cares on Him, and to resist the devil, firm in our faith, in such times of trial (1 Pet. 5:5-11).

  1. DEAL PROPERLY WITH RELATIONAL CONFLICTS.

The verses before and after verse 4 deal with proper relationships. If we have wronged others and have not done all we can to make it right, we will not have joy in the Lord. If we humble ourselves and go to our brother or sister and ask their forgiveness, we will be flooded with God’s joy. It’s no accident that love precedes joy in the list of the fruit of the Spirit.

  1. SING PRAISES TO GOD.

I have not validated it, but I’ve heard that the most frequent command in the Bible is, “Sing!” You may be thinking, “Singing is the last thing I feel like doing when I’m depressed.” Well, where did you ever get the idea that the Christian life is living by our feelings? God doesn’t need to command us to do what we already feel like doing. It’s no accident that the longest book in the Bible is a hymn book. When you’ve feeling down, turn to the Psalms and create your own tunes to the words. Put on some praise music, or get out a hymnal and get alone and begin to sing to the Lord. Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn (Ps. 118) as they went out to Gethsemane (Matt. 26:30). Paul and Silas sang in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25). “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

  1. SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS.

(See Ps. 100:2.) Quite often people who lack joy are not involved in serving Christ. As we’ve seen in Philippians, Paul had great joy even in facing execution because he was living for the gospel (1:12-20). Get your focus off yourself and your problems and on to what God wants you to do for the furtherance of the gospel. There is great joy in seeing others trust Christ as Savior (Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 32; Acts 8:8; 15:3); and, in seeing them stand firm in the Lord (Phil. 2:2; 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 3:9; 3 John 4). A Christian woman once told me that she had been depressed every day of her life. She had been going to psychologists for years, to no avail. I finally asked her, “What’s your ministry? God has gifted you to serve Him. How are you doing that?” She was dumbfounded. She said, “I’ve never thought about that.” She was consumed with self. If you want joy, get your eyes off yourself and on to how God wants you to serve Him.

  1. FOCUS YOUR MIND DAILY ON THE LORD AND THE THINGS HE HAS PROMISED US IN CHRIST.

This joy is in the Lord and we are in Christ! Daily meditate on the cross of Christ and all the riches that are ours through His death. Think on the fact that you are risen with Him, seated in the heavenlies, with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3; Col. 3:1-4). Revel in His abundant grace that is greater than all our sins. Marvel at His sovereign grace that chose you before the foundation of the world in Him, that predestined you to adoption as His son or daughter (Eph. 1:4, 5) and that will “keep you from stumbling” and will “make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). The Philippian jailer went from being suicidal to rejoicing greatly because of his salvation (Acts 16:27, 34). How can you be depressed if you are focusing daily on the marvelous grace shown to you in Christ?

  1. LIVE BY FAITH, NOT BY FEELINGS.

The Christian life is a walk of faith, of trusting in things not seen, not of “getting in touch with your feelings.” Peter wrote to Christians going through intense trials, “… though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Or, as Paul wrote, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

  1. each morning start the day with your grateful list, this is the real appreciation of the basics; “I’m grateful I have a roof over my head,” and “I’m grateful that I can see and hear, taste and touch,” “I’m grateful Lord for my spouse.” You will find this list will grow longer and longer as you change your focus.

  2. get the bible on cd or on your phone, and stop listening to secular music and stop watching tv shows that glorify living in sin.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

WILD FIRE

May 23, 2017

James 3:1-12

James has gone from preaching to meddling! He has just made it clear that genuine faith works. If God has changed your heart through the new birth, the saving faith that He granted to you will inevitably show itself in a life of good deeds. But now he moves from the generality of good deeds to the specifics of the words that you speak. Genuine faith yields to Christ’s lordship over your tongue. With David (Ps. 141:3), all true believers will pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” While the monster may never be totally tamed, if you know Christ as Savior, you are engaged in the ongoing battle to tame the terrible tongue.

In building his case that all have sinned, the apostle Paul zeroes in on the sins of the tongue (Rom. 3:13-14):

“Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness….”

It would be nice if conversion resulted in a total makeover of the mouth, but it is not so! Although we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we also carry around with us the old nature or the flesh, which wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The tongue is one of the major battlegrounds in the war. To become godly people, we must wage war daily on this front.

James is a savvy pastor who knows that we won’t gear up for the battle and face our own sins of the tongue unless we recognize the magnitude of the problem. We all tend to justify ourselves by pointing to others who are notoriously bad. In comparison with how they talk, I’m doing okay. But James comes in with vivid illustrations to open our eyes to just how serious our problem is. It’s interesting that he never gives any advice on how to control the tongue. He just leaves you reeling from his portrait of how huge this problem is. He’s saying,

To tame the terrible tongue, we must recognize the tremendous magnitude of the battle that we face.

It’s difficult to outline this section, but we can organize it under four truths that we must recognize to tame our terrible tongues:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that we will be held accountable for what we say (3:1-2).

Apparently the churches to which James was writing had too many men who were self-appointed teachers. In the Jewish synagogues, rabbis were highly respected and the office was often one that parents coveted for their sons. It was proper to respect the rabbis because of the sacred Scriptures that they expounded, but it was wrong to give men the honor that God alone deserves. Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders on this account (Matt. 23:6-11):

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.”

There’s a certain inherent prestige in becoming a teacher. Presumably, you know more than those that you teach, which means that in some way they should look up to you. Because of this, there is the built-in danger that some will take upon themselves the office of Bible teacher for the wrong reasons, or that those who took the position for the right reason later will fall into pride. If a man goes into teaching the Bible because of a secret desire for status or recognition, he is doing it for self and not for the Lord.

Because of the Matthew 23 passage, for many years I was uncomfortable with people addressing me as “Pastor.” Why not call me by my name, like everyone else? While I’ve grown accustomed enough to the title now that I don’t ask everyone to call me by my name, I hope that if they call me Pastor, they are respecting the office. But I’m also quite comfortable with being called Steve! I’m only a member of Christ’s body whom He called to shepherd His flock and teach His Word. Christ is the Leader!

James’ point is that a man should not take on the role of teacher unless God has called him to it, because teachers will incur a stricter judgment. We who teach God’s Word will be more accountable, because our words affect more people. Any time that we teach, we should keep in mind the serious fact that we will stand before the Lord to give an account!

Verse 2 further explains verse 1 (“For”). James includes himself when he says, “For we all stumble in many ways.” We’re all prone to sin! One popular author and Bible teacher emphasizes that we should not view ourselves as sinners, but as saints who occasionally sin. Well, by God’s grace I’m a saint, but I’m a saint who stumbles in many ways, not just occasionally!

James then zeroes in on the tongue, saying, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Perfect does not mean sinlessly perfect, but rather, mature. We can never achieve sinless perfection in this life, but we can grow to spiritual maturity. One important gauge of that is our speech.

One way to tame the tongue is to recognize that we all will be held accountable for our speech. Jesus said (Matt. 12:36-37), “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Jesus was not teaching justification by works. But, like James, He was teaching that our works reveal whether our faith is genuine faith. Our words either validate that we are true believers or reveal that we do not know God. If we sin with our speech, we need to ask God’s forgiveness and also the forgiveness of the one we sinned against. Genuine believers have this sense of being accountable for their speech.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize its power for good or for evil (3:3-5a).

James uses two analogies here to make the point that the tongue is small, but mighty: the bit and the rudder. A bit is a relatively small instrument, but when you put it into a horse’s mouth, you can control the entire horse. The same thing is true of a ship’s rudder. It is relatively small compared to the size of the ship, but with his hand on the wheel or tiller, the pilot can steer a mammoth ship, even in a strong wind.

James’ point of comparison is not so much the matter of control (the tongue does not really control the body), but of the inordinate influence of such a small part (3:5a): “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.” James is saying, “Don’t underestimate the power of the tongue, because if you do, you won’t be able to tame it.” There may be a comparison in the sense of influencing direction. If you control your tongue, it can direct your whole life into what is acceptable in God’s sight. If you don’t control your tongue, it will get you into great trouble!

Both the bit and the rudder must overcome contrary forces to direct the horse and the ship. A horse is a powerful animal that can do much useful work, but only if it can be directed. A ship is a useful means of transporting cargo or people, but if the rudder is broken, it will be at the mercy of the wind and waves, and could result in a shipwreck causing the loss of life and cargo. To work properly and accomplish good things, both bit and rudder must be under the control of a strong hand that knows how to use them properly. In the same way, the tongue must overcome the contrary force of the flesh and be under God’s wise control if it is to accomplish anything good.

James would vigorously disagree with the familiar children’s taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” James is steeped in the Old Testament, and it (especially the Book of Proverbs) has much to say about the power of the tongue, either for good or for evil. Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Imagine that all of us here today were carrying into church an unsheathed, razor-sharp, two-edged sword. It would be a miracle if we got through the morning without anyone getting cut! The fact is, we all have a razor-sharp, two-edged sword—in our mouths! We should use them with the greatest care to bring healing, not injury.

Proverbs has many other references to the tongue. For example (16:24), “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” If we all would read Proverbs frequently and pay attention to its wisdom, we would be a source of sweetness and healing in our homes and our church!

So James wants us to recognize that we will be held accountable for how we use our tongues, especially those of us who teach God’s Word. He wants us to recognize the inordinate power of the tongue, either for good or for evil, so that we use it carefully.

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that it is a humanly untamable source of terrible evil (3:5b-8).

James uses two more word pictures for comparison and contrast: a forest fire and tamed animals. Living here in Flagstaff in the midst of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, we are very much aware of the potential danger and damage of forest fires. All it takes is one tossed cigarette or one campfire that is not totally extinguished and thousands of acres of beautiful forest can be destroyed. Under control, fire is useful; out of control, it is frightening and devastating!

In verse 6, James states directly, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” Scholars debate as to how to translate and punctuate that verse, but however it is done, the point is clear: the tongue is a deadly, powerful source of evil that taints every part of our being. If we do not use our tongues with great caution, we are like spiritual arsonists, lighting careless fires that cause widespread destruction.

James says that the one who is careless with his tongue is the first to be defiled. An unchecked tongue is “the very world of iniquity,” that “defiles the entire body.” This goes back to James 1:26-27, where he said that true religion requires bridling the tongue and keeping oneself unstained by the world. “The sense is simply that since speech is the hardest faculty to control it is there that one first observes ‘the world’ in a person’s heart” (Peter Davids, New International Greek Testament Commentary on James [Eerdmans], p.142). Like a spark that lights a bigger fire, it not only defiles us, but also it “sets on fire the course of our life.” If you have a careless tongue it damages your entire life!

Then James goes one step further and identifies the ultimate source of the problem, “and is set on fire by hell.” Hell translates the Greek gehenna, which is a transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, was where the Jewish worshipers of Molech burned their children as sacrifices to appease this pagan idol (Jer. 32:35). It later became a place to burn trash. The only other New Testament use is by Jesus (11 times) to refer to the place of eternal torment. James means that an evil tongue is set on fire by Satan himself.

Most Christians would shrink back from sins like homosexuality, molesting children, or murder as being satanically depraved. Yet we tolerate gossip, slander, deceit, half-truths, sarcastic put-downs, and other sins of the tongue as if they were no big deal. James says that all such sins have their origin in the pit of hell. They defile the one committing them. They destroy others. As a believer in Christ, you must confront these sins in yourself and you must be bold enough to confront them in others.

James goes on to use an analogy from the animal world. If you’ve been to Sea World, you’ve seen trained whales, dolphins, and seals. At the circus, you’ve seen trained elephants, lions, and tigers. But James says that there is one beast that cannot be tamed: the human tongue! He adds, “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Being restless means there is never a time when it sleeps. You must always be on guard against it. Being full of deadly poison, you should handle it as cautiously as you would a vial of anthrax.

James does not say that the tongue is untamable. He says that no one can tame it. It is humanly untamable. Only God can tame it. James does not state that because he wants us to get a clear view of the horrible monster that we must do battle with. When the Holy Spirit controls your heart on a daily basis, over time the fruit of the Spirit will appear. These include love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, which all relate to the control of the tongue. To tame this terrible tongue, you must daily walk in the Spirit, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Ultimately, an evil tongue is the tool of an evil heart. That is James’ final point:

  1. To tame the tongue, we must recognize that its inconsistencies are rooted in its source (3:9-12).

James points out a gross inconsistency that he no doubt had observed. Christians say, “Praise the Lord” in one breath, and in the next breath they say evil things about another person, made in the likeness of God. They sit in church singing hymns to God and no sooner get out the door than they whisper, “Did you see so-and-so? She makes me sick! She’s such a hypocrite. Why do you know what she did?” Etc., etc. James gets very direct (3:10b): “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Then he points out that what often happens among Christians is contrary to all of nature. The same spring does not send out fresh water one minute and bitter water the next. He asks rhetorically (3:12), “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.”

His point is the same as that of Jesus (Matt. 12:34), “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Jesus also said (Matt. 15:18), “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” The mouth is simply the opening that vents whatever is in the heart. If there’s raw sewage in the heart, there will be raw sewage gushing from the mouth! That’s why Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Have you ever thought about how terribly embarrassing life would be if there were a direct open line between your thoughts and your mouth, so that you blurted out loud whatever you were thinking? Instead of your polite, “I’m pleased to meet you,” out comes, “I couldn’t care less about meeting you!” After listening to someone drone on about something, instead of, “Yes, that’s very interesting,” you blurt out, “How can I get away from this bore?”

I’m not suggesting that we should abandon politeness and become brutally blunt. I’m only pointing out that even if you control your tongue, you often have a heart problem. If you want to tame the terrible tongue, the place to start is with your heart. Work daily at taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Walk daily under the control of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:18). Renew your mind by memorizing Scripture (Rom. 12:1-2; Ps. 119:11). Memorize James 1:19-20: “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Memorize Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome [lit., rotten] word proceed from you mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

a life of pain

May 13, 2017

There’s “sad,” and then there are those times when sorrow seeps down into your soul and collects there into an aching pool of grief. You sleep. You wake up. And for a minute it’s better. Then the drip… drip of pain begins again. After thirty-two years with rheumatoid arthritis I would rather spend a day in significant physical pain than a day in significant emotional pain, although sometimes the two are inextricably linked. When we find ourselves in that kind of pain, how might we find relief? If you believe that the Universe has randomly arranged itself and there is no ultimate goal of history or relationships or our own lives, then neither is there any comfort in the ultimate sense. If life is a cosmic lottery then you have simply drawn a losing ticket and there’s nothing to be done about it. In the face of such bleakness, when sorrows come it’s understandable that so many self-medicate themselves into addiction or spend most non-working hours in some kind of escapist diversion. I wonder if this view of life could ever have gained credibility in any times but these, so rich in resources and options for entertainment and diversion.

If you believe in the Eastern view of things then you might seek relief in the conviction that all suffering, indeed all pain and everything attached to this world is illusion. What is needed is more detachment from this world and its sorrows, more enlightenment and becoming one with the impersonal life force that has created all things. Become less of your individual self and more of the One.

However, if you believe in a personal God then a very different kind of comfort is possible. When I am hurting, when the pool of grief and loss grows deeper until I feel that I am drowning, then the thing that I long for most is the loving presence of another person.

When I was sad this week I called a friend and shared my sorrow. The empathy in her voice soothed me. Her loving presence, even on the phone, cheered me. She has known deep sorrow as well and she really understands me. Her tangible love and prayers for me comfort me. And the fact that she is probably in more physical pain than any one I know. Soon you forget your pain as you begin to remember hers.

In the same way, God longs to comfort us because he longs for relationship with us. The reason we long for the presence and touch of another person when we are hurting is because it is the image of a personal God in them that is able to comfort us. Love desires personality. The wit, the courage, the honesty, the tenderness of another person that comforts and delights us points us to the personality of our Creator. The Bible says that “God is near the broken hearted.” God’s presence, especially in our pain, is real. And it is not the presence of one who is remote emotionally.

In the person of the Son God knows what it is like to suffer. And when we are suffering, that matters.

“I have come to give you life.” “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “I will work all your suffering together for your good.” Jesus does not simply offer us pretty words of comfort. He knows what it is to be abandoned and betrayed by his closest friends. For his family to misunderstand him to the extent that they plan an intervention. Jesus knows what it is like to be homeless, tired, thirsty, hungry. He knows what it’s like to stay up all night, sick at heart, sorrowful, even to the point of death. He knows what it’s like to be tortured and die a slow, excruciating death. He knows what it means to become sin—selfishness, greed, lust, murderous anger, pride, jealousy and the rest. So when he comes near the brokenhearted he can deeply, truly empathize. More than that, he can bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. “Cast all your care upon me,” he invites us, “because I care for you.”

When we are aching God can comfort us. He can heal that which is broken. He may not always change our circumstances, but he can change us. If we give up our claim to our right to ourselves, he will fill us with his life and his joy. When we can thank him for the life we live, the air we breathe and the songs we sing then there is hope beyond imagining. Because…not only can he comfort with his presence and deep empathy, he can, through the power that raised Jesus from the dead, do more than we can possibly imagine to restore us to life. We needn’t give up our individuality. We remain very much ourselves yet more fully alive. We don’t retreat from this world but find the power to live and love joyfully with hearts of thanksgiving, fully engaged with the people and happenings around us.

At least, after thirty-two years this month of rheumatoid arthritis, that has been my experience. I’ve learned a very hard lesson, that is saying to God, “Father, I love you. I thank you for all the pain and all the good you have accomplished through it, mainly, giving me yourself, I know I really never ever experience pain like my Savior, your Son ever experienced, but I know you understand and I remind myself time and time again that it is not punishment, it’s just life.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

And speaking of pain, remember Joe R, in your prayer for his shoulder pain from a torn ACL and a bone spur.

Remember Liz and her mother Sara as her mom goes through chemo.

Please pray for Virginia Mc. She is in terrible pain and is wondering why God hasn’t taken her home yet.

speak up man

April 15, 2017

thinking over feeling

MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY: TO WALK IN GOD’S IMAGE

Genesis 1:26 says that man was created in God’s image and one purpose was to rule over the rest of creation. Man was to help keep the order. One of the first things Adam did was to name the animals. That did three things:

It demonstrated his superiority over them, and fulfilled the command to rule over creation.

It helped fulfill his role of being in God’s image and taking part in creating order out of chaos.

Adam was also “like” God because naming the animals involved speaking into the disorder.

I imagine that naming all those animals was not easy. Imagine if someone brought a few hundred species of animals to you and asked you to name them. Would you be overwhelmed? Sure you would. It was probably all you could do to think of a name for your baby. And if you’re like us, you didn’t decide until they were rolling mom and baby out of the hospital.

So, Gen. 1:3 says God spoke and then in Gen. 2:19-20 man spoke. There is a logical connection between the two. Man was reflecting the image of God by speaking into the chaos and creating order.

That is the theological basis for our study. God spoke into chaos and created life and order. Man is created in God’s image and part of man’s responsibility is to speak into chaos and create life and order. (don’t read to much into this statement, I’m not quoting Derek Prince or some other wackado spouting name it or claim it nonense).

How does that apply to us today? We don’t need to name the animals.

For me, that means that when life is chaotic, I need to speak. I need to say something and I need to do something. I need to get involved. I should not remain silent. If I remain silent, I am like Adam in the garden. I am sinning.

But man’s natural tendency is to remain silent. That takes us to the next topic.

MAN’S NATURAL TENDENCY: TO BE SILENT

If Adam were the only man in the Bible who was silent, then perhaps one could say that this conclusion is doubtful. But, there are several examples in the Bible of men who were silent. Let’s look at them and see where it got them.

THE EXAMPLE OF ADAM

We’ve already looked at this one, but I just wanted to make it a part of the list so I could ask you what were the consequences of Adam’s silence? The result was that billions of people have lived miserable lives and then died and most have gone to hell.

THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM

Everyone probably knows of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 15)—that he would have a son and be the father of a multitude, through whom God would bless the world. After ten years, and no children, Sarah comes to Abraham and says, take my slave, Hagar, and have children with her so that God’s promise can come true. What did Abraham say to that? Nothing. Gen 16:2 says He listened to the voice of Sarah.

Then later after Hagar has Ishmael, Sarah is jealous and Abraham tells her to do what she wants to her slave. And he lets her treat Hagar harshly.

So, Abraham was silent and did what Sarah said. What was the result? The Arab/Israeli conflict that still rages today.

THE EXAMPLE OF LOT

We know from 2 Peter 2:7f that Lot was a righteous man, but you would never know it from the Genesis account. He stayed in Sodom and Gomorrah and was silent about the evil around him. When he offered his two daughters to a crowd of men to protect God’s messengers, that was not the action of a strong man. At the end of that account, when they are fleeing the city, and Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom and turns into a pillar of salt, it becomes obvious who it was that wanted to live in Sodom and Gomorrah and who was in really running the family. If Lot was tormented in his soul by the evil around him (2 Pet 2:8), then why didn’t he leave? Because his wife didn’t want to. Lot remained silent and passive.

Some time later Lot’s daughters commit incest with Lot while he is drunk and they get pregnant. So, we see further damage result from Lot’s silent passive life.

THE EXAMPLE OF BETHUEL

Do you remember the story of how Isaac got his wife? His father, Abraham, sent a servant back to the home country to get a wife for his son, Isaac. In the account in Gen. 24, the servant goes to a well, meets Rebekah, follows her home, and then proceeds to bargain with her brother Laban for her hand in marriage for Isaac. At the end of the account, (24:50) it says Bethuel agreed to the arrangement. It seems to me that Laban was the one who was involved, and Bethuel was along for the ride. I can’t swear to it, but nothing is said about him, and he doesn’t speak until the end of the account.

What was the result? He had two very controlling children. Laban and Rebekah. We know that Rebekah was very involved with the deception of Isaac when Jacob deceived his father out of the family blessing. And we know that Laban made life miserable for Jacob when he tried to marry Rachel and got Leah instead. So, by being a silent and uninvolved father, Bethuel helped create at least two manipulative and very controlling children.

THE EXAMPLE OF ISAAC

We don’t have to read much further in Genesis before we come to the next silent man — Isaac. He was a very passive man. If you read through Genesis, you see that he didn’t do anything right except allow his father to almost sacrifice him.

Isaac knew the prophecy of God that his older son, Esau, would serve the younger son, Jacob, but he preferred Esau who appeared to be a strong, manly man always out hunting. And at the end of his life, he was going to go ahead and bless Esau in spite of the prophecy. Why? I think it was easier to go along with the tradition of blessing the oldest son than to trust God and bless Jacob. Why? Perhaps he was afraid of Esau’s reaction? After all, Esau was the hunter. Perhaps he was afraid of what others might say when they found out. Because he was afraid to act, his wife tried to take over and handle the problem. It backfired and the family was split up and Isaac and Rebekah never saw Jacob again.

CONCLUSION

Here we have five examples of men who were silent. In each situation the result was much harm to others. We might say the result was chaos.

When God spoke, He made order out of chaos. When man fails to act in God’s image, and speak, the result is more chaos. And very important to recognize: It brings the severing of relationship. And that is what this is all about – relationships. How is my silence going to affect my relationship with others? The Bible shows that it wll definitely destroy them.

Adam’s silence destroyed his relationship with God and his wife.

Abraham’s silence resulted in the Arab/Israeli conflict.

Lot’s relationship with his daughters and his wife was not good.

Isaac had almost no relationship with his wife or son, Jacob. This is obvious when you read the story of Isaac’s deception at the blessing. Isaac never talks to Rebekah. He never talks to Jacob (except when he thinks Jacob is Esau). Rebekah never talks to Esau. And Jacob never talks to Esau. You see a family divided right down the middle.

Notice also that in each of these situations, when the man was silent, the women stepped in and took control. God said that was going to be the woman’s natural tendency in Gen. 3:16, and we can see it happening over and over again.

So, man’s natural tendency is to be silent. But what we’ve seen so far ought to do away with the description of a man as “The Strong Silent Type.” When you understand these principles, it makes you want to change it to “The Weak Silent Type.”

SUMMARY

What we’ve seen is that God speaks into disorder and creates order and life.

Man is created in God’s image and should also speak into disorder and create order and life.

But man’s natural tendency is to avoid the chaos and to be silent.

When he does that he creates even more chaos and destroys relationships.

Do you know why the African American community is in chaos? Simple, no dads.

Men need to fulfill their roles at home, at work and in their community.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

In the “Pardon My Planet” cartoon, an earnest young man is speaking in candlelight to a young lady and says, “From the day you marry me I’ll spend the rest of my life making your dreams come true. ‘Till then, I’ll work myself to the bone trying to lower your expectations.”

The objective, of course, is not to lower expectations. It is simply to make them realistic. Unrealistic ones that are unachievable only set us up to fail.

She was a young excited bride-to-be eagerly anticipating married life with her fiancé. In a burst of enthusiasm, in the midst of one of our pre-marriage counselling sessions, she exclaimed, “I can’t wait until we get married and we can be together all the time!” Immediately the lights went on. “Hold it! Wait a minute! You mean that’s your expectation of married life?” Simply unrealistic. If the record isn’t set straight right now, they are heading for some rough water ahead. Managing expectations involves having expectations that are realistic.

My wife and a good friend were having lunch together when her friend lamented over the conflict she and her husband were having with their adult children. Due to circumstances of school and finances the 22 year old and 25 year old were living with them. The friend felt she was doing all the mother-chores for the adult children who were taking some advantage of her, showing little respect and taking on little responsibility. She and her husband were exhausted and frustrated.

So, in an act of desperation, the parents created a list of “expectations” – they called them rules – curfews, lunches, laundry etc. etc. They laid it all out – “If you are going to live in our home, this is what we expect.” It seemed quite reasonable to the parents. But with the children it was horrible. The son stormed out of the room stating he was moving out if he had to comply with them. The daughter raced out of the room and fled to her bedroom crying. “We are in a turmoil,” said her friend. What went wrong? What can we do?

My wife replied, “You made an excellent first step – writing down and presenting your expectations. However, you failed to do the second important step – give a person an opportunity to do some negotiations.”

When confronted with expectations that are being placed upon you, you have three options. You can say; “I’ll do it to the best of my ability.” Or you can say; “I’m sorry, I just can’t do it,” and explain the limitations that prevent that. But, there is a third option.” You can say; “Can we negotiate?” Managing expectations well, often requires some negotiation. This is the third essential.

  1. THEY MAY NEED TO BE NEGOTIATED

With negotiation, unrealistic expectations can be transformed into realistic expectations.

Here is a simple strategy for negotiating expectations:

  1. a) Identify the issue, problem, area of conflict.

  1. b) Choose the category. For example, it could be time spent together. Narrow it down to the conflict point:

“We miss having you home for supper.”

“I miss our date nights.” “We haven’t had a date night for weeks.”

“We need time to talk.”

“I am feeling very alone when it comes to family decisions.”

  1. c) Express your differing expectations re: the category you have chosen. Take turns, being sure to listen to each other. It might even be wise to write the expectations down.

  1. d) Focus on the problem, not the person. Sentences should begin with

“I think,” “I feel.” Don’t start sentences with “You!”

  1. e) Take time listening and speaking with a Christian attitude.

Phil. 2:2-4; Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. (NLT)

Be selfless, sacrificial and serving.

Eph. 4:25-32: So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbour the truth” because we belong to each other. And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you, Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil…. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

Speak the truth (25)

Settle your differences quickly (26-27)

Speak constructively (29)

  1. f) Work toward a compromise. Adjust, revise, reject, create until you can agree on your expectations in the category you have chosen. They are now expressed and realistic! Write them down (just in case someone forgets!)

  1. g) Reinforce each other’s positive fulfilment of the expectations.

Re-evaluate regularly. It may require a little adjusting before you get it right.

Done over a period of time, you will soon establish a set of specific expectations for a variety of areas that have been clearly expressed. You have agreed on them. You have committed yourself to do them. You are accountable for them.

It must always be remembered, however, that some expectations are non negotiable. Certain legal, moral and biblical directives fall into this company. Parents, for example, can negotiate curfew hours, but never underage drinking or immoral conduct. Biblical absolutes are just that – absolutes!

Roles/Responsibilities

The scripture identifies a variety of roles in our society today. In Ephesians 5:22-6:9 there is the husband, wife, parent, child, slave (employee) and master (employer). In 1 Peter

As a father, my responsibility is not to exasperate my children (Eph. 6:4). Children are different. What exasperates one, may motivate another. This is where expectations come in.

As a husband I am to live with my wife in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). That is in the light of my understanding of her. Wives are different. What my wife needs from me may be very different from what your wife

needs from you. This is where expectations come in.

As a Christian leader I am to manage my family well, be above reproach, have a good reputation. As a Christian businessman, I am to be a person of integrity. What do these and many more biblical directives involve?

There is a sense in which our responsibilities in relationships are not fully defined until we have a clear set of agreed upon expectations. Then, and only then do I know my responsibilities.

Stability

What an amazing place to be in any relationship. Managing expectations is the price of peace in a marriage, a family, a business and a church. This may be an oversimplification, but I have often traced major “wars” between a husband and wife, parents and a child, members in a congregation, pastoral leaders and elders to the mismanagement of expectations.

When this problem is addressed and negotiated it can go a long way toward peace in a home or at a church.

Change

More than ever before, we are convinced today of the reality of three things in life; death, taxes and change. Change will come and it will affect your expectations.

Just consider a few such changes: the first child, an unexpected fourth child, a visit from the in-laws, grandparent moving in, a layoff at work, moving from a two career family to an one career family or visa versa, the results of a medical test, a child obtaining a driver’s license, leaving home for college, getting married, promotion at work, new responsibilities at church, retirement and a hundred more.

Any one of these changes will require some adjustment in your expectations. How will you know? You will feel a pinch in the relationship.

Pinch

It’s not a crisis. It’s not an explosion. It’s not a meltdown. It’s just a pinch. The change makes it less possible to meet the expectations that you have been meeting in one category or another. Or, it makes you feel as though your expectations are being ignored, neglected or overlooked. You feel short-changed. Something is different in the relationship.

This is when you ask yourself, your spouse, your child, your colleague, your associate: “Is there anything going on in our relationship right now, which, if it continues, will drive us apart in some way.” Expectations in one or more categories are not being met the way they once were. Why?

This is what we call a “CHOICE POINT.” Don’t ignore it in the interest of peace-keeping. You will only create a pseudo-peace. It will be artificial and superficial. Unless you identify the problem and address it, you certainly will drift apart. You will build up frustration and anger, become bitter and watch the relationship deteriorate.

An unforgettable Candid Camera’s episode illustrates the point. An undercover actor enters a diner, sits at the counter beside a person eating a hamburger and french-fries. He quickly reaches over and helps himself to a french-fry off the person’s plate. The neighbour notices it, frowns, but turns away and ignores it. Another fry is taken, eaten, then another. No reaction from the neighbour, just frowns, scowls, disgusted looks. Several different neighbours were subjected to the same treatment. Not one person said anything. They internalized their frustrations and irritation. They obviously wanted to keep the peace but it was a pseudo-peace. Underneath there was lots of agitation. This type of thing is relived in real life over and over again.

Don’t ignore the pinch. Something is gong on which will drive you apart if you don’t do anything about it. Something has changed and it’s affecting your relationship. You are trying to keep the peace but you are slowly losing it.

So what do you do when you feel the pinch? You go back to the first line; EXPECTATIONS. Identify the category which has been affected by the change in your life. It could be time spent together, curfew, sermon preparation time, or any one of the categories you came up with when you deal with expectations. Now you renegotiate the expectations in that category.

The “Pinch” is a CHOICE POINT. It’s the time for a PLANNED RENEGOTIATION. Do not renegotiate every category of “Expectations,” just the expectations affected by the life-change at that time.

xxx Disruptions xxx

Disruptions occur because of the violation of expectations. Anxiety, resentment, blaming, guilt, anger, bitterness are just some of the unhealthy fruits.

Far too often, this is when the pastor or marriage/family counsellor enters the picture. There have been months, even years of mismanaged expectations. There are emotional bruises and scars, shattered dreams, devastated self images.

This brings us to the second CHOICE POINT.

Crunch

At this point a person has at least four options:

  1. EXIT: We may choose to terminate the relationship. It is generally hurtful, resentful, painful, even a devastating conclusion. In marriage it is a divorce. In family it’s a moving out. In our work it’s a resignation. In ministry it’s leaving a church. Often it’s unbiblical. Never is it easy. It may actually be unnecessary because there is a better option.

  1. QUIT AND STAY: We may choose to stay in the relationship but withdraw from any ownership, participation and responsibility. The husband or wife quits the marriage but stays until the children have all left home. The couple quits the church but decide to stay in the church for the sake of the children who love the youth ministry. The teenager quits the family but stays in the home until he/she leaves for work or college. The elder or Sunday school teacher withdraws from participation – just fulfills their term but no joy in ministry. Every case is a sad, pathetic story – settling for so much less when there is a better option.

  1. FORGIVE AND FORGET: This is the option most Christians choose when the situation is not too serious. We may go back to the second line in our model – ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. We review our biblical roles and responsibilities, face up to the fact that we have failed to live up to them, apologize, ask for forgiveness and promise to try harder. The problems have not been settled or addressed and we probably will be shortly repeating the cycle through the PINCH down to the CRUNCH again.

This is a PREMATURE RECONCILIATION. It’s a reconciliation for sure, but has the cause actually been addressed? Too often they are setting themselves up for a repeat breakdown in the relationship. This is a poor solution because there is a better option.

  1. The PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION: This is the fourth and preferred choice. It requires returning to the top line of our model and renegotiating expectations. Not all of them, just the categories affected by the changes and disruptions creating the crisis.

Check the completed model in the next illustration.

Did you notice the two CHOICE POINTS: PINCH and CRUNCH? Which of the two is the preferred choice point? Of course, it’s at the PINCH in any relationship. Recognize it and act on it. Don’t wait for the CRUNCH!! It’s so much more painful and difficult. Avoid it at all costs.

Did you notice there are three strategies?

PLANNED RENEGOTIATION

PREMATURE RECONCILIATION

PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION

Which of the three is preferred? Of course, it’s the PLANNED RENEGOTIAION. The PREMATURE RECONCILIATION doesn’t eliminate the cause. The PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION is acting with an ultimatum on the table. So much better to plan to renegotiate any expectations affected by a life-change at the time of the life-change. That’s really being smart!!

Think about a relationship which you are in – whether at home, at work or at church. Where do you place yourself on the Expectations model? If you are at STABILITY, then you know why you are there – you have in one way or another expressed and negotiated the expectations pertaining to that relationship and for the most part those expectations are being met. If you are at the PINCH you don’t have to stay there – you know what to do. Change has come into the relationship. Think about the category that has been affected by that life-change. Now renegotiate those expectations. Many relationships today are feeling the CRUNCH. They find themselves in a desperate situation not knowing where to turn. Now there is hope. Don’t QUIT, QUIT AND STAY or just FORGIVE AND FORGET. Go back to the EXPECTATIONS, think through the categories where the relationship is falling apart and renegotiate those expectations.

Here is the goal in all of our lives:

Unity and Stability in the church. This is God’s ideal as we see in Ephesians 4:1-6

Harmony and Stability in the home. This is God’s ideal, as well, and in Ephesians 5:21 – 6:4 we see the critical factors to achieve this.

Harmony and Stability in the workplace. Ephesians 6:5-9 offers the critical factors, once again.

Unfulfilled Expectations

Not only do men and women have different expectations, they often handle unfulfilled expectations differently. Take wives for example. Martie Stowell in Promises Promises (p, 177) writes;

“A wife has assumptions about time with her husband, about money, about meals and about the children. Her husband has different assumptions. So every time he acts in some way that differs from her assumptions, she feels as though he has broken a promise to her.”

The effect; she feels betrayed and crushed. This, of course, is not really the case. What has happened here? There has been a failure to express, discuss, negotiate and agree upon a set of expectations in these categories. Think of the damage done when a wife thinks her husband has broken a promise. This can all be avoided through better management of expectations.

How do men, characteristically, handle unfulfilled expectations? They feel personal rejection. They feel neglected and usually withdraw or become aggressive and redirect their energy to their job, sports or hobby. This can all be avoided also! Now you know how to do it!!

What About Our God Relationship?

After all, our relationship with God is the most important of all. It is our primary relationship affecting every other relationship. Understanding and meeting expectations are as important in our relationship with God as with one another.

The Bible makes an important distinction between being a creature of God and a child of God. We are all His creatures; every breath we breathe is a gift from our Creator. Speaking of God’s Son, Jesus, coming into this world of humanity, John 1:11 says; “He came unto his own and his own received him not.” Then verse 12 says; “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

That’s the difference. Children of God have personally received Christ into their life, recognizing He is the Son of God who died to pay the penalty for their sin. This is what God expects.

When we receive Christ into our life, turning from our sin, trusting Him to become our Saviour, we are delivered from the penalty of our sin. We are committing ourselves to be one of Christ’s followers. That’s what God expects of us. That person becomes a child of God.

1 John 5:12 – “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

What can followers of Christ expect of God? Forgiveness; a personal relationship with God as our Father; a new life with the joy of the Lord, the peace of God, the guidance and energizing of the Holy Spirit, the privilege of prayer, a new freedom and ultimately a home in heaven.

If you have never received Jesus Christ personally into your life perhaps this prayer from The Four Spiritual Laws will help to guide you.

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins, I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com