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

 

help me I hurt

March 24, 2017

Probably one of the hardest things we have to face is loss. It could be the loss of a child. We also lose parents and friends to death. We lose mates through death or divorce. We lose health and have to adjust to an entirely different lifestyle. We lose the companionship of friends because someone moves. We lose jobs. Engagements are broken. Friendships are betrayed. These losses cause us to sorrow and to grieve, deeply affecting our emotions.

Grief is a feeling of deep mental anguish caused by loss. It can be the loss of a loved one, loss of possessions, loss of a career, or some other life-changing loss. Grief can also be sorrow for something that someone has done or failed to do.

Because we live in a fallen world, life inevitably includes sorrow. When sin entered the human race, it brought death—physical death and spiritual death with all the accompanying ramifications. Death or loss of anything we value causes grief. However, God has a higher purpose for His people, and He is faithful to use our most painful times to mature us, to draw us into closer dependence on Him.

One Grieving Woman

A woman in the Old Testament suffered the loss of everything. She was no stoic, no super saint. She felt the bitterness and hopelessness that accompanies grief. As we study Naomi, we will learn a lot about the God who cares for us in our grief.

Here’s how Naomi’s story unfolded: Because there was a famine in Israel, a Hebrew man named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, to live in a neighboring country called Moab. The family only intended to stay temporarily, but once they settled down in that godless society, they remained there for ten years. In that time the two sons married pagan women.

During those Moab years, I’m sure Naomi, in particular, felt a sense of loss. They were aliens, away from family and friends, and now she had two Moabites for daughters-in-law. She must have thought, “If only we had stayed in Bethlehem. I’d have daughters-in-law from my own people who understand our faith and customs.” But the worst was yet to come:

“Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. . . . After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:3-5).

Naomi’s future could not have been more hopeless, because she had no one to provide for her. In Israel, if a widow had no family she was cared for by the community. But they didn’t have such humane laws in Moab. So when the news came that the famine had ended in Israel, she prepared to go back home. When she told her two daughters-in-law what she intended to do, they wanted to go with her. But she said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?” (Ruth 1:11).

TAKE TIME TO FEEL YOUR PAIN

It’s clear that these women loved each other. They had all suffered terrible losses, and they wept together at the thought of separation. They demonstrate something important: God gave us tears to express our grief. As the beautiful passage from Ecclesiastes reminds us, “There is . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:1, 4).

Here is a primary lesson: If you are experiencing grief for any reason, allow yourself time to mourn and weep. If you try to hold in your tears and to ignore your pain, there may be serious problems later. God gave us tears to shed in our grief, an outpouring of our inner pain.

One of the most freeing verses in the Bible is also the shortest one. When Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died, He saw their grief. Even though He knew that in just a few minutes He would raise Lazarus from the dead, the Scripture simply says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:38).

Those two words give us permission to weep in our sorrow because they reveal how Jesus modeled for us this normal response to grief. Don’t think it’s more spiritual to hold in your tears.

Naomi wasn’t afraid to feel her grief. Not only was she in extreme pain, but it is quite clear who she blamed for her loss. “‘The Lord’s hand has gone out against me! . . . Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me”‘ (Ruth 1:13b, 20-21).

I would say Naomi was pretty depressed, wouldn’t you? “The Lord’s hand has gone out against me. He has afflicted me, emptied me, brought misfortune on me, made my life very bitter.”

Her misery was evident in her demeanor, because once she got back to Israel, her old friends hardly recognized her. She still had no certainty about the future. By now, her daughter-in-law Ruth had insisted on returning to Bethlehem with her, but how were they to live? Naomi felt abandoned by God, and she had no reason at this point to think otherwise.

We can learn some valuable principles about grief from Naomi and her amazing story. Throughout the rest of this chapter, we’ll study these principles and learn godly ways to deal not only with our own grief but with the grief of others.

GRIEF MAY CAUSE DESPAIR OR DEPRESSION

During times of sorrow, our emotions are like a roller coaster. On the downside, we shouldn’t be surprised by feelings of despair or depression—those feelings don’t mean we’re unspiritual. In her despair, I’m sure Naomi asked the questions we all ask when sorrow comes. Why? Why did God allow this? Couldn’t He have stopped it? Couldn’t He have saved my job? Why did my husband have to die so young? Couldn’t He have healed my child? Couldn’t God have restored my marriage?

he Old Testament saints did not believe in second causes. They believed in God’s sovereignty over the world and the people in it. When Elijah held the dead son of the widow he stayed with during the famine, he cried out to God, “0 LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” (1 Kings 17:20).

When Job heard the news that he had lost everything, he said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).

God can handle it when we question His ways and put the blame on Him. But He wants us to accept what He sends us and still trust His goodness and His love. He has a purpose for our sorrow and loss.

BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL USE YOUR SORROWS FOR YOUR GOOD

Some of our afflictions come as consequences of sin, and others are intended to keep us from sin. Some come to make us draw closer to God and to enable us to grow spiritually. Some heartaches simply make us realize that God’s way is best. Whatever the pain, God means it for good in our lives just as he did in Joseph’s. It’s worth repeating what Joseph was able to say twenty years after he lost everything through the hatred and cruelty of his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).

Joseph certainly couldn’t have said those words the first thirteen years of his life in Egypt, but he saw God’s purpose clearly seven years later. Sometimes it may take years for us to see the pattern God had in mind when He brought sorrow into our lives. But we do know this: God is sovereign. Nothing happens in heaven or earth that He does not know about and even permit. That is tough theology. But if we don’t believe it we will swing aimlessly over an abyss of unbelief, uncertainty, and despair.

Think of the worst loss you have ever suffered, and consider these important questions:

Can you think of anything good that’s come out of it?

Did it draw you closer to God?

Have you seen answers to prayer because of it?

Have you been able to help others just because of what you’ve experienced yourself?

Do you have more compassion for others?

God uses everything in our lives to make us more like Jesus. And Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isa. 53:3 NKJV). How can we bypass sorrow and grief and still expect to develop emotional and spiritual maturity? We just can’t decide to skip that course!

Even though Naomi didn’t see it, God had a plan to meet her need and restore her faith and joy. He used her hopeless situation to get her back to the land where He could bless her. And best of all, He gave her Ruth, a daughter-in-law who was committed to her for life.

RUTH—NAOMI’S GREAT BLESSING

Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the beginning of harvest time. There was no welfare system in those days, but there was a way for the poor to get help. Farmers could only reap their fields once. Grapes could only be picked from the vines once. The widows and the poor were then to glean what was left over. This was workfare, not welfare. And since Ruth was the younger and stronger, she spoke up: “‘Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.’

“Naomi said to her, ‘Go ahead, my daughter.’ So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:2-3).

“She found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz.” Ten little words. But behind them is the hand of Almighty God keeping His promise to defend “the cause of the fatherless and the widow, . . . giving [them] food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18).

GOD IS WORKING EVEN THOUGH WE CAN’T SEE IT

God’s plan for Ruth and Naomi was not an endless struggle for existence. He had a wonderful future planned out for them, but He didn’t reveal it to them ahead of time. It would be nice if God would tell us His plans before they come to pass. But what He really wants from us is faith—simple, childlike trust in His goodness, power, and love.

When Naomi heard whose field Ruth had gleaned in, she responded enthusiastically.

“‘The LORD bless him!’ Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and to the dead’ She added, ‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers” (Ruth 2:20).

Boaz was a close relative of Elimelech’s. The law in Israel stated that when a man died childless, his brother or closest relative was to marry the widow and have a child by her. That child would belong to the dead man and inherit his property. When Boaz stepped into her life, Naomi’s faith was given a shot in the arm. God had not abandoned them; He had arranged things so Ruth would end up in Boaz’s fields. And Boaz treated her with kindness and generosity.

LOOK FORWARD TO THE FUTURE WITH HOPE

When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, she arrived in a hopeless state of mind. That is often one of the results of grief When we grieve, we can see nothing but a bleak and empty future. But if we keep remembering that God loves us and has the power to help us and provide for our future, we are able to keep hope alive and our faith will remain strong.

The rest of the book of Ruth is a wonderful romance. Boaz loved Ruth, and Naomi instructed Ruth in the way to claim her rights under the covenant. Boaz immediately and gladly did all the legal things necessary to make Ruth his wife.

“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. . . .

“Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:13, 16).

Ruth had been barren all the years she was married to Mahlon. Now the Lord gave her a son, and Naomi had a family again. Naomi’s old age was secure. God had not abandoned her. In fact, He had arranged all the details to fill her emptiness, provide for her needs, and restore her faith and her joy. This little grandson didn’t carry a drop of Naomi’s blood, but he was hers! And though she didn’t live to see it, Obed became the ancestor of King David and ultimately of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:5, Boaz and Ruth are specifically mentioned in the genealogy of the Savior.

What Naomi and Ruth enjoyed in their happy ending was much more than they had lost, even though they couldn’t comprehend the full dimensions of the compassion and blessings of God.

Jesus Showed Us That God Has Feelings

Jesus came, in part, to reveal to us what the invisible God is like. What Jesus felt, God still feels. Listen to the Lord’s description of Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

Compassion, anger, and love are all emotions. God feels, so He knows how we feel when we suffer loss. As the psalmist wrote, “But you, 0 God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you” (Ps. 10:14).

During Jesus’ ministry, He came upon a funeral procession. The dead person was the only son of a widow, and she was accompanied by a large crowd of mourners, who shared her grief. In Luke 7:13, we read of Jesus’ reaction to this tragic scene: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.”

Then Jesus touched the coffin, “and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”

Can’t you see Jesus gently saying to this grieving mother, “Don’t cry”? Then He simply brought her son back to life. The response to this wonderful miracle demonstrated to the people that God was a God of compassion. The people “were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people” (Luke 7:16).

The widow’s loss and the ensuing miracle were used by God to validate the claims of Jesus that He is the Son of God. God will still use our grief to bring glory and praise to Himself if we keep on trusting Him.

Avoid Emotional Extremes

When we are hurting, there are two extremes to avoid. One extreme is to block our emotions, determined that we will never care so much that we can be hurt that way again. It is unhealthy to block our emotions to protect ourselves. God wants us to feel so we are able to taste life in its fullness. The other extreme is becoming so consumed by our grief that nothing else matters. The best thing to do is to get back into the normal process of life again.

Comforting Those Who Grieve

Those who have suffered loss know better than anyone else some important principles for comfort. Let’s consider a few of those guidelines for encouraging the grieving:

BE AVAILABLE FOR THE LONG RUN

Everyone is there in the midst of the crisis, but after the funeral is over and the visitors are gone—that’s the time to check up on the grieving person. Be there just to talk. Go with them to help handle legal details if she needs it. Suggest doing things with them to help get through this period of sorrow. If you and your spouse have been friends with the couple, don’t leave the widow out of social invitations now that they are alone.

BE SENSITIVE AND FLEXIBLE IN YOUR COMMUNICATION

Don’t assume that the grieving person doesn’t want to talk about their loved one. You may be tempted to say, “Let’s not talk about it; it’ll only make you feel bad.” Many times, it’s a comfort to talk about the person we’ve lost. It keeps the memory real. It helps to know someone else valued our lost loved one, too.

If you’re visiting those who are dying, don’t pretend they are going to get well. Give them a chance to talk about their death if they want to. Remind them about heaven, and assure them you will meet them there. Since the Lord Jesus Christ proved His victory over death by His resurrection, death for the believer is the entrance to eternal glory. There will be normal grief, but we shouldn’t sorrow as those do who have no hope.

DON’T USE PAT PHRASES TO COMFORT OTHERS

It’s hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving. It may be easier to remember what not to say. For example, avoid saying, “I know how you feel.” One young mother whose child had died at birth was told, “I know just how you feel. My cat died last week.”

Don’t say, “Time is a great healer.” Don’t even quote Romans 8:28 when the wound is raw. Tell the grieving person you are praying for her or him. Say something like this: “I can only try to imagine what you must be feeling. But I want you to know that I love you and I am available to do anything you want me to.”

Don’t say, “Call me if I can do anything.” That puts the burden on the grieving person. Instead, you take the initiative. Offer to run an errand, pick up relatives at the airport, clean the bathroom, or answer the phone.

TRUST GOD TO BE THE COMFORTER

We must recognize our limitations and remember that God is the one who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). We should do all we can do to ease others’ pain, but we can’t do what only God can do. He is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” with a comfort that is transferable.22 In a fallen world where loss and grief are guaranteed, God will use us to comfort others when wounds are raw and deep.

As the Chosen of God, we have authenticity because we ourselves have come through the valley of sorrow and tears, and our faith remains stronger than ever. God is real. The promises of Scripture are true. There is life after loss. The future is as bright as the promises of God. And time is not even the size of a period on this page when compared to eternity. All separation is temporary for believers. One day we will be forever with the Lord and with each other.

In the book of Revelation, God offers one final word about our grief: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:1a, 3-4).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Always believe that when you don’t have anything to say God will give you something to say.

 

flash bang

March 13, 2017

MOST OF YOU PROBABLY AREN’T OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER A SHOW CALLED “THIS IS YOUR LIFE”.

WELL THINK ABOUT THESE QUESTIONS, AND THEN I’M GOING TO THROW YOU A CURVE BALL.

What special memories do you have about your childhood?

  1. How did you get along with each of your parents? What were they like’

  1. What did you like and dislike about your parents’

  1. What were your hurts and disappointments as a child’

  1. What were your hobbies and favorite games’

  1. How did you usually get into trouble’

  1. How did you usually try to get out of trouble’

  1. What did you enjoy about school and its activities’

  1. What pets did you have? Which were your favorites and why’

  1. What did you dream about doing when you were older’

  1. Did you like yourself as a child? Why or why not’

  1. What were your talents and special abilities’

  1. What awards and special achievements did you win’

  1. Did you have a nickname’

  1. Who were your close friends? Where are they today’

  1. What would you do on a hot summer afternoon’

  1. Describe the area where you grew up—people, neighborhood, etc.

  1. What were you afraid of? Do you have any of those fears today’

  1. How did you get along with your brothers and/or sisters?

  1. If you had none, which relative were you closest to?

  1. Who did you date and for how long? Where did you go on dates?

  1. How did you feel when you liked someone and that person didn’t care for you?

  1. What was your spiritual life like as a child? As an adolescent?

  1. How has being an adult changed your life?

  1. How are you different today than you were 20 years ago? Ten years ago?

  1. What have been your greatest disappointments? How have you handled them?

  1. What have you learned from them that you would want me to learn’

  1. If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently’

  1. What do you want to be remembered for?

  1. How did you meet my mother?

  1. What was your first impression of her?

  1. What was happening in your lives at the time you met?

  1. How did your parents respond to your dating and engagement? How did her parents respond’

  1. How did you make the decision to marry? Who proposed and how’

  1. What have been the strengths and weaknesses of your marriage’

  1. How did you get along with your in-laws at first?

  1. How did you feel when my mother was expecting me?

  1. What was it like to have children? How did it change your life’

  1. What did you like and dislike about being parents?

FLASHBACKS, GOING DOWN MEMORY LANE ALL THE QUESTIONS ABOVE WERE PRETTY SOFTBALL QUESTIONS. EVEN IF YOU HAD A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY, SALVATION AND THE NEW FAMILY GOD GIVES YOU MAKES UP FOR A LOT OF PAINFUL MEMORIES, AT LEAST FOR ME. I TRY NOT TO DWELL IN THE PAST EVEN ON FOND MEMORIES. BEING PRESENT TENSE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND TO ALL AROUND YOU.

BUT!!! IF YOU HAVE MEMORIES YOU ARE ASHAMED OF, FEEL GUILTY ABOUT LET ME RECOMMEND A COUPLE OF THINGS THAT HELP.

DURING YOUR NEXT COMMUNION SERVICE SPECIFICALLY CONFESS THOSE SINS.

OR, WRITE THEM DOWN, THEN BURN OR BURY THEM. I PREFER BURNING.

IF IT’S REALLY BAD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP.

HOPE THAT HELPS, GOD BLESS FROM SCUMLIKEUSCHURCH@GMAIL.COM

 

He Restores my soul

March 1, 2017

THE PATH OF RESTORATION REQUIRES REPENTANCE.

Remembrance of God’s Word.

Luke 22:61King James Version (KJV)

61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord….

“Peter remembered the word of the Lord” (Luke 22:61). All repentance begins when we remember the word of the Lord. What does the Lord say about what I have done? That is the issue. Men may minimize my sin: “Don’t worry about it! Everyone slips up occasionally. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” But God’s Word is the final authority. It tells me that I have sinned.

  • Conviction of our sin.

The Lord’s look penetrated down to Peter’s conscience. Jesus didn’t have to say anything. Peter was deeply convicted in his heart. He didn’t try to paper over it or make excuses or rationalize it away. Conviction acknowledges that God is right and I’m wrong.

Godly sorrow over sin.

This will vary with the seriousness of the sin and the personality of the sinner, but when our consciences realize that we have sinned against a Savior who loved us enough to die for us, we will mourn over our sin. We won’t be flippant or shrug it off.

  • Appropriation of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.

Jesus had already begun to suffer for Peter’s sins as He endured abuse at the hands of sinners. That sacrifice would be completed on the cross, where Jesus cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). We cannot atone for our sins by our sorrow or penance. Christ fully paid the penalty that we owe. We can only appropriate Christ’s sacrifice to cover our sins.

  • Appreciation of God’s abundant grace.

Christ’s look not only conveyed the pain He felt at Peter’s failure. It also communicated His great love and grace. Peter remembered the word of the Lord, which included the fact that he would be restored because of Jesus’ prayers for him (22:32). What amazing grace, that Christ chose Peter and us, knowing full well how we would fail Him! His grace saved us and it keeps us unto the day when we shall be with Him forever. If you say, “I’ve sinned too badly; I just can’t accept God’s forgiveness and grace,” you’re not trusting in Him alone. You’re proudly trusting in your own method of atonement. Christians believe in and thank God for His grace as the only basis for forgiveness. If you need to be restored, you must repent of your sin and trust again in God’s grace and mercy.

  1. THE PATH OF RESTORATION RESULTS IN RENEWED SERVICE.

As you know, the Lord personally restored Peter and did not kick him off the apostolic team. When the Day of Pentecost came, it was Peter who stood in Jerusalem, before some of the same people who had heard him deny Christ, and boldly proclaimed Him as Savior and Lord, risen from the dead. If Peter had clung to his pride, he would have said, “I’m never going to show my face in Jerusalem again. Someone else can preach, but I’m going back to fishing.” But thankfully, Peter recovered from the fear of what people thought and was restored to care about what pleases Christ. So he preached and God was pleased to save 3,000 souls.

The hymn writer Robert Robinson, was a wild young man who lived a debauched life as a teenager. At age 17, he went with some friends to scoff at the famous evangelist, George Whitefield. But Robinson was so impressed by Whitefield’s preaching that he got saved. At 23 he wrote the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” For many years he served as a Baptist pastor, but later in life he got involved with the doctrines of Unitarianism and strayed from the Lord.

One day he was riding in a stagecoach when he struck up a conversation with a woman. When she realized that he was well informed on spiritual matters, she asked him what he thought of a hymn she had just been reading. To his astonishment, he found that it was the hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” which he had written as a young man. He burst into tears and told her, “I’m the poor, unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago. I would give anything to have back the joy I knew then.” The woman assured him that the “streams of mercy” referred to in the song still flowed. Robinson was deeply touched, turned his wandering heart again to the Lord, and experienced His grace and forgiveness.

That same grace is available to all who have failed the Lord. If you will turn back to Him, He will abundantly pardon and restore you to fellowship with Him and to service in His cause. You may be a great sinner, but Jesus is a greater Savior!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

evil vs good (finale)

February 28, 2017

Image result for picture of good fighting evil

Psalm 73:15-26

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”

Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.

16 When I pondered to understand this,

It was troublesome in my sight

17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God;

Then I perceived their end.

18 Surely You set them in slippery places;

You cast them down to destruction.

19 How they are destroyed in a moment!

They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!

20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused,

You will despise their form.

21 When my heart was embittered

And I was pierced within,

22 Then I was senseless and ignorant;

I was like a beast before You.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;

You have taken hold of my right hand.

24 With Your counsel You will guide me,

And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?

And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:1-26).

The turning point in Asaph’s relationship with God was brought about by a change in his perspective. The psalmist says his perspective changed when he “came into the sanctuary of God” (verse 17). I believe Asaph means by these words that he came into the tabernacle (the temple was later constructed by Solomon), and doing so changed his perspective.

How can going into the Tabernacle, the sanctuary of God, produce such a dramatic change in Asaph’s perspective? The tabernacle (and later the temple) were symbols that were an earthly picture of heaven. I get this from the writer to the Hebrews:

1 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN” (Hebrews 8:1-5,).

The earthly tabernacle (and temple) were but copies of the heavenly reality. Thus, when Asaph (or anyone else qualified to do so) entered the tabernacle, he was immediately reminded of the heavenly realities not yet seen by man. From this heavenly perspective Asaph now views the temporary “success” of the wicked as just that, a very short-lived period of apparent blessing, to be followed by an eternity of judgment.

17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God;

Then I perceived their end.

18 Surely You set them in slippery places;

You cast them down to destruction.

19 How they are destroyed in a moment!

They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!

20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused,

You will despise their form (Psalm 73:17-20).

27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;

You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You (Psalm 73:27).

An eternal perspective enables Asaph to see his spiritual condition, his present circumstances, and his future destiny clearly:

21 When my heart was embittered

And I was pierced within,

22 Then I was senseless and ignorant;

I was like a beast before You.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;

You have taken hold of my right hand.

4 With Your counsel You will guide me,

And afterward receive me to glory (Psalm 73:21-24).

Asaph’s envy of the wicked and his anger toward God was beastly: His earthly perspective failed to grasp spiritual and eternal realities. It was not God who was in the wrong; it was Asaph. The prosperity of the wicked did not turn them toward God; it turned them from God. Asaph’s suffering drew him closer to God. Not only was he assured of spending eternity in the presence of God; he was assured of God’s presence with him in the midst of his earthly adversities. His present distress made him more aware of the nearness of God.

Asaph’s problem boiled down to a proper definition of “good.” Initially, he thought that “good” meant material prosperity and a trouble-free life. Then, when his perspective changed, so did Asaph’s definition of “good” and “evil”:

27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;

You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.

28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

That I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:28).

If “nearness to God” is our good, then whatever draws us to Him is good, and whatever draws us away from Him is not good. The prosperity of the wicked lures them away from God. The suffering of the righteous is intended to draw them into closer fellowship with God. When we look at life from a divine and eternal perspective, we can see that.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

 

true dat

February 23, 2017

All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes. All that God does agrees with all that God is, and being and doing are one in Him. He cannot act out of character with Himself.

I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from over-emphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology, and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that.

For instance, the Bible teaches that God is love; some have interpreted this in such a way as virtually to deny that He is just, which the Bible also teaches. Others press the Biblical doctrine of God’s goodness so far that it is made to contradict His holiness. Or they make His compassion cancel out His truth. Still others understand the sovereignty of God in a way that destroys or at least greatly diminishes His goodness and love.

We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God’s self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable

And yet it is happening, it’s not just unbelievers distorting God, it’s charlatans and imposters that are fleecing the flock, preaching a false gospel for their own fame, fortune and a form of self-idolization.

Some preach that God is all love and there can’t be a hell, some preach racism and hate, others are just feel good spin doctors weaving a hype that few can find in the real world. So it’s up to the those that are faithful to the Word of God to not be liars and self-promoters.

So here’s an easy thing to do just google false preachers, or preacher’s with bad doctrine, you will be surprised who is on that list. So if you want to send a good chain letter send that list.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

OVER COMING FEAR

February 21, 2017

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.

A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.

– Dr. E. Stanley Jones

FEAR. You know how that feeling hits you. The pit in your stomach. The pounding of your heart. The rush of your thoughts as you go from just the possibility of a job loss to starving and being homeless—all in a matter of seconds. Gripped by fear. And, as crazy as it sounds, we need to think of fear as a gift. What?! Hear me out.

Fear is a normal human emotion designed by God to alert us to danger so that we will take action against it. But, we know fear has a dark side as well. I heard someone say that women are a fear-driven, performance-oriented species. Just reading the daily news feed can panic us. Fear-driven. What does fear drive us to do? Usually nothing good, right?

Is it realistic to think we can live without fear? No! Our faithful God understands this about us. He doesn’t want us to stay there, disoriented and hopeless. He gives us the answer—Himself! This is the action He wants us to take.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (PSALM 56:3-4)

Fear will happen. We can let fear take root in us so that we give way to panic and hysteria. Are you prone to that? When we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him and not give way to fear. Learning to do that is our walk from fear to faith.

Here are 4 consistent truths that we can embrace and apply to our lives today on our WALK FROM FEAR TO FAITH.

Truth #1: God Loves You

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus, so you could believe in Him and receive eternal life. You are part of that world that God loves. And, once you accept His gift of eternal life through your faith in His Son, you get even more of God’s love for you.

Jesus said in John 16 that “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27) He loves you!

Paul wrote in Romans 5 that God pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

As a believer in Jesus, the Father Himself loves you. He pours out His love into your heart so you can experience that love. You can count on Truth #1 — God loves you.

Truth #2: God Knows What Is Going on in Your Life

Jesus knew that His followers were stressing about food, clothing and shelter. Those essentials for daily life. So He told them in Matthew 6, “…do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the [unbelievers] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31-32) 

In Psalm 139, David describes how God is everywhere and knows everything about him. And, that is true for you. God knows what is going on in your life. And in my life. If He doesn’t, then He isn’t really God. He knows your needs and how best to meet those needs. You can count on Truth #2 — God knows what is going on in your life.

Truth #3: God Can Do Something About It

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)

That’s what the angel of the Lord asks Sarah in Genesis 18. Since the angel lives in heaven with God, he should know. So, is anything impossible for the Lord? The answer is, NO! Another angel declared the same thing to Mary in Luke 1. “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) 

Both of these statements are made to women. We need that assurance, don’t we? Our God is all-powerful. He is capable of doing anything He chooses to do that is in agreement with His character and His purposes. We can count on Truth #3 — God can do something about IT. Whatever IT is.

Truth #4: You Can Trust His Goodness in Whatever He Chooses to Do

This is the sticky part, isn’t it? Can I believe that God is always good? And, I can think of a zillion ways that He can be “good to me” that don’t include bad things

The Bible says that God is good, and what He does is good. (Psalm 119:68)

The day before my sister in law died of breast cancer, she softly spoke to me these words, “God is good.”  I finished her sentence with “all the time” because I had heard her say that repeatedly. She replied, “I don’t understand all of this.” Who does?

Here’s some wisdom from Proverbs, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5)

It’s a choice to trust God and bank on His goodness. So, here’s Truth #4 — You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!

A Biblical Example of These Truths in Action

One of the best biblical examples of these four truths in action comes from John 11. Martha informed Jesus that her brother Lazarus was sick.

  • Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).

  • Jesus knew what was going on in Martha’s life—Lazarus died (verses 6, 11, 14).

  • Jesus could do something about it—He had healed from a distance (John 4:50-53).

  • But, Jesus chose to do something different, even better than what anyone could imagine though it caused pain and suffering to those He loved and a lot of waiting, too (John 11:14-15).

After 4 days of being dead, Lazarus was brought back to life, and good things happened. God’s goodness showed up—Lazarus had his life restored, his sisters saw their now healthy brother returned to them, the disciples witnessed an amazing work of God, and many people now believed in Jesus who had not yet believed in Him. Martha could now say to herself with assurance, “God loves me. God knows what is going on in my life. God can do something about it. I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do.” And so can you in any situation.

Your Walk from Fear to Faith

Dear friends, God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can embrace and apply these four truths. So, pick one thing that is causing you fear today. What are your choices for acting on that fear? Apply these 4 truths to your situation. Another step on your walk from fear to faith!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Debbie Littlewing, her family has been hit hard by just so much

Pray for Paul k, a cancerous tumor in his right kidney

For Paul C, to find his way back