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

 

KNOW FEAR

May 18, 2017

Know Fear

Yes, there has been much bad teaching about the Holy Spirit and yes the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches have probably done more harm than good. But one thing they did right was allowing genuine emotion to be a part of Christian Life. There is nothing worse than religion devoid of passion.

In my sober judgment the relation of the Spirit to the believer is the most vital question the church faces today.

Satan has opposed the doctrine of the Spirit-filled life about as bitterly as any other doctrine there is. He has confused it, opposed it, surrounded it with false notions and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church of Christ to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought patrimony. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth—that there is now for the child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying anointing with the Holy Ghost.

The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people. There is nothing about the Holy Spirit queer or strange or eerie.

Unless you are convinced that it isn’t an added, unusual, extra, deluxe something that you have to go to God and beg and beat your fists on the chair to get, I recommend that you don’t do anything about it yet except to meditate upon the Scriptures bearing on this truth. You don’t have to persuade God at all. Dr. Simpson used to say, “Being filled with the Spirit is as easy as breathing; you can simply breathe out and breathe in.”

Before you can be filled with the Spirit you must desire to be filled. Are you sure that you want to be possessed by a Spirit other than your own? That Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your Life! Do you want to hand the keys of your soul over to the Holy Spirit?

Again, are you sure that you need to be filled? Can’t you get along the way you are? But maybe you feel in your heart that you just can’t go on as you are. If you feel that there are levels of spirituality, mystic deeps and heights of spiritual communion, purity and power that you have never known, that there is fruit which you know you should bear and do not, victory which you know you should have and have not—I would say, “Come on,” because God has something for you.

Here is how to receive. First, present your body to Him (Rom. 12:1–2). God can’t fill what He can’t have. Now I ask you: Are you ready to present your body with all of its functions and all that it contains—your mind, your personality, your spirit, your love, your ambitions, your all? The second thing is to ask (Luke 11:9–11), and I set aside all theological objections to this text. He chooses to have us ask; so why not ask? Acts 5:32 tells us the third thing. God gives His Holy Spirit to them that obey Him. Simply live by the Scriptures as you understand them. Simple, but revolutionary. The next thing is, have faith. (Gal. 3:2) We receive Him by faith as we receive the Lord in salvation by faith. He comes as a gift of God to us in power. First He comes in some degree and measure when we are converted, otherwise we couldn’t be converted. But I am talking about something different now, an advance over that. I am talking about His coming and possessing the full body and mind and life and heart, taking the whole personality over, gently but directly and bluntly, making it His, so that we may become a habitation of God through the Spirit.

When the Spirit presents Christ to our inner vision it has an exhilarating effect on the soul much as wine has on the body. The Spirit-filled man may literally dwell in a state of spiritual fervor amounting to a mild and pure inebriation. God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He pursues His labors always in a fulness of holy zeal.

The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from the books of apologetics into the human heart. The Spirit of the living God brought an evidence that needed no logic; it went straight to the soul like a flash of silver light.

One blessed treasure we have missed is the right to possess the gifts of the Spirit as set forth in such fulness and clarity in the New Testament.

In their attitude toward the gifts of the Spirit Christians over the last few years have tended to divide themselves into three groups: those who magnify the gifts of the Spirit until they can see little else—those who deny that the gifts of the Spirit are intended for the Church in this period of her history—those who appear to be thoroughly bored with the whole thing and do not care to discuss it.

More recently we have become aware of another group—those who want to know the truth about the Spirit’s gifts and to experience whatever God has for them within the context of sound New Testament faith.

It is usually said that there are nine gifts of the Spirit. (I suppose because Paul lists nine in 1 Cor. 12.) Actually Paul mentions no less than seventeen (1 Cor. 12:4–11, 27–31; Rom. 12:3–8; Eph. 4:7–11). And these are not natural talents merely, but gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit to fit the believer for his place in the body of Christ. They are spiritual gifts.

For a generation certain evangelical teachers have told us that the gifts of the Spirit ceased at the death of the apostles or at the completion of the New Testament. This, of course, is a doctrine without a syllable of Biblical authority back of it. The result of this erroneous teaching is that spiritually gifted persons are ominously few among us. This frightening hour calls aloud for men with the gift of prophetic insight. Instead we have men who conduct surveys, polls and panel discussions. We need men with the gift of knowledge. In their place we have men with scholarship—nothing more. Thus, we may be preparing ourselves for the tragic hour when God may set us aside as so-called evangelicals and raise up another movement to keep New Testament Christianity alive in the earth.

The truth of the matter is that the Scriptures plainly imply the imperative of possessing the gifts of the Spirit. But I must also add a word of caution. The various spiritual gifts are not equally valuable, as Paul so carefully explains. Certain brethren have magnified one gift out of seventeen out of all proportion. Among these brethren there have been and are many godly souls, but the general moral results of this teaching have nevertheless not been good. In practice it has resulted in much shameless exhibitionism, a tendency to depend upon experiences instead of upon Christ and often a lack of ability to distinguish the works of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit. Those who deny that the gifts are for us today and those who insist upon making a hobby of one gift are both wrong, and we are all suffering the consequences of their error.

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart, but holiness and spiritual worship come first.

One obstacle to the reception of power is a widespread fear of our emotions wherever they touch the religious life. Feeling and faith are opposed to each other in modern teaching. This anti-emotionalism is nevertheless an unwarranted inference, not a Scriptural doctrine. Where in the Bible are feeling and faith said to be at odds? The fact is that faith engenders feeling as certainly as life engenders motion. Faith as a cold, unemotional light is wholly unknown in the Scriptures. The Book of Acts is almost hilarious with joy.

Another hindrance is fear of fanaticism. Instinctive revulsion from fleshly excesses and foolish undisciplined conduct on the part of some who profess lofty spiritual attainments has closed the door to a life of power for many of God’s true children. They have made the mistake of putting all teaching concerning the Holy Spirit in the same category. Such victims must be taught that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and is as gracious and beautiful as the Saviour Himself. The Holy Spirit is the cure for fanaticism, not the cause of it.

The doctrine of the Spirit as it relates to the believer has over the last half-century been shrouded in a mist such as lies upon a mountain in stormy weather. A world of confusion has surrounded this truth. This confusion has not come by accident. An enemy has done this. Satan knows that Spiritless evangelicalism is as deadly as Modernism or heresy, and he has done everything in his power to prevent us from enjoying our true Christian heritage.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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

 

shackles

  You were set free from the tyranny of Sin” (Rom 6:18, Weymouth Transl.).

  The tyranny of sin over the lost necessitated the death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross. The tyranny of sin over the saved necessitated the death of the believer in the Lord Jesus on that same Cross. The dual truths of Calvary: His death for our sin, as payment; our death with Him unto sin, for deliverance.

The believer sees that Christ by dying for him has completely delivered him from the penalty of sin. So it is his privilege to see that because he is identified with the Lord Jesus in that death, he is also delivered from sin as a ruling principle. Its power is broken. He is in that sense ‘free from sin’ (Rom. 6:18, 22).

Through my life-union with Christ in His death and resurrection, I have ‘died to sin.’ His death to sin is my death to sin. In my very humanity, Christ so took me up with Himself in death that, when He died unto sin, I too was executed and there died to sin’s reign and power. Has Christ so dealt with sin that He has exhausted its every claim and dominion? And do I share with Him His death unto sin? With bold and explicit reckoning, then, let me count on my death-resurrection relationship to God through the Lord Jesus. In Christ crucified I have been discharged from sin’s domination.

When victory does not tend to worship, we and God part company, so to speak, as soon as the victory is achieved. How sad to see victory often leading to mere joy, instead of still greater dependence on, and delight in, God!

  “But now, being freed from the bondage of sin . . . your fruit is growth in holiness” (Rom. 6:22,)

 

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

 

the third guy

April 3, 2017

Is it not strange that so much is made of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and so little in Christian writings supposed to be based upon the New Testament? One of the church fathers, in a treatise on the Trinity written in the third century, devotes to the Holy Spirit but six pages of a book 140 pages in length. While defending the deity of the Spirit, he yet says twenty times as much about the Father and the Son as about the Spirit.

I think it would be only fair to admit that there is more in the New Testament about the Son than about the Spirit, but the disproportion is surely not so great as in the writings referred to above, and certainly the all but total neglect of the Spirit in contemporary Christianity cannot be justified by the Scriptures. The Spirit appears in the second verse of the first book of the Bible and in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, as well as hundreds of times between the first and the last.

It is not, however, the frequency of the Spirit’s mention in the Bible or in other writings that matters most, but the importance attached to Him when He is mentioned. And there can be no doubt that there is a huge disparity between the place given to the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures and the place He occupies in popular evangelical Christianity. In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is necessary. There He works powerfully, creatively; here He is little more than a poetic yearning or at most a benign influence. There He moves in majesty, with all the attributes of the Godhead; here He is a mood, a tender feeling of good will.

According to the Scriptures everything God did in creation and redemption He did by His Spirit. The Spirit was found brooding over the world at the moment God called it into being. His presence there was necessary. The life-giving work of the Spirit is seen throughout the entire Bible; and it is precisely because He is the Lord and giver of life that the mystery of the Incarnation could occur. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

It is highly significant that our Lord, though He was very God of very God, did not work until “God anointed [him] with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:38). The Son did His work of love as a Spirit-anointed Man; His power derived from the Spirit of power.

It has been wisely suggested that a more revealing title for The Acts of the Apostles would be The Acts of the Holy Spirit. The men whose mighty deeds are recorded there could have done not one lone act of power if they had not been filled with the Spirit. Indeed the Lord specifically forbade them to try to do anything in their own strength. “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem,” He told them, “until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

The only power God recognizes in His church is the power of His Spirit whereas the only power actually recognized today by the majority of evangelicals is the power of man. God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus (inspiration).

Everything that men do in their own strength and by means of their own abilities is done for time alone; the quality of eternity is not in it. Only what is done through the Eternal Spirit will abide eternally; all else is wood, hay, stubble.

It is a solemn thought that some of us who fancy ourselves to be important evangelical leaders may find at last we have been but busy harvesters of stubble.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Keep Lori in pray as she goes through chemo

Remember Joe R, he sees the doctor Tuesday, pray the insurance company changes its mind and lets him have the surgery.

Remember Daphne, she has throat surgery on Thursday.

Roger E and his prayers for his grand daughters salvation

 

TRUMP (NOT THE PRES)

April 2, 2017

It’s traumatic when thieves steal your identity and your money, but there is something far more traumatic and tragic, namely, when spiritual con artists, who claim to be Christian, deceive the unsuspecting. The stakes are much higher than someone’s life savings. The eternal destiny of souls is at risk! Since the days of the New Testament, Satan has planted these deceivers in Christian churches, where they prey on the untaught or on those who are disgruntled. To avoid spiritual deception, you must develop biblical discernment and be vigilant at all times.

But we live in a day when the whole idea of spiritual discernment is minimized because spiritual truth is minimized. The slogan is, “Doctrine divides. Let’s set aside our doctrinal differences and come together on the areas where we agree.” Another popular mantra is, “Jesus said that they will know that we are His disciples by our love, not by our doctrine.” The implication is, “Set aside your doctrinal views and accept anyone who says that he believes in Jesus.” Tolerance, unity, and love are viewed as much more important than doctrinal truth, which often smacks of pride.

I have had my share of unpleasant encounters with those who arrogantly claim to have the truth. They beat you up with it, not showing much grace or kindness. But we should not allow such experiences to cause us to throw out the biblical emphasis on sound doctrine. It is not a minor theme in the Bible!

It is highly significant that John, the apostle of love, who has just written that love is an essential mark of the true Christian (2:7-11), now calls these false teachers “antichrists” and “liars”! He doesn’t call them “brothers in Christ,” who just have different ways of understanding things. He makes it plain that they were trying to deceive the true Christians and that they were not Christian in any sense of the term. True biblical love is not divorced from an emphasis on biblical truth. To compromise the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ is to be hateful to the core, because such error results in the eternal damnation of those who embrace it.

In these verses, John applies his third test by which you may evaluate the soundness of a teacher, as well as your own life. He has already given us the moral test of obedience to God’s commandments (2:3-6). He has given the relational test of love (2:7-11). Now he gives the doctrinal test of truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ (2:18-27). He says,

To avoid spiritual deception, be discerning of people and doctrine.

The section (2:18-27) falls into three parts. In 2:18-20, John shows that to avoid spiritual deception, you must develop discernment with regard to people. In 2:21-23, he shows that you must develop discernment with regard to doctrine, especially, the truth about Jesus Christ. In 2:24-27 (which we will study next week), he shows that the means of developing such discernment is to abide in the Word and in the Spirit.

  1. To avoid spiritual deception, be discerning of people (2:18-20).

John contrasts the false teachers with true believers. He addresses all of his readers as “children,” (see 2:13), implying their vulnerability and the need to be on guard against these unprincipled men who were trying to deceive them (2:26). As a wise spiritual father, John is giving important counsel that will help us avoid being deceived.

He says, “It is the last hour.” The way that we know it is the last hour is that “many antichrists have appeared.” Some have said that John mistakenly thought that Jesus would return in his lifetime. Such a view undermines the divine inspiration of Scripture. If you buy into it, you cannot trust anything that the apostles wrote. You become the judge of Scripture according to what strikes you as true. This view also impugns the intelligence of the apostles. John had heard Jesus say that no one knows the hour of His coming (Matt. 24:36). It is not reasonable to accuse him of being mistaken here about the time of the second coming.

Rather, John is calling the entire period between Jesus’ ascension and His return “the last hour.” No one knows how long this period will last, but the phrase, “the last hour,” implies a sense of urgency, in that Jesus may come at any moment. Jesus concludes His teaching on the end times with this application to the wise hearer: “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mark 13:33).

John says that a distinguishing feature of this age is that antichrist is coming and that even now many antichrists have appeared. John is the only New Testament writer to use this word, and it only occurs five times in four verses (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). But the concept of the antichrist is more frequent. Daniel 7 talks about the horn and Revelation 13 talks about the beast, both of which refer to antichrist. Paul (2 Thess. 2:1-12) mentions the man of lawlessness who will exalt himself and display himself as being God. His coming will be “in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). He will deceive many, who will perish. When John says that antichrist is coming, he refers to this future evil leader.

But when he says, “even now many antichrists have appeared,” he means that the evil spirit that will characterize the final antichrist is already working in these false teachers who have left the churches. The prefix, “anti,” can mean either “instead of” or “in opposition to.” It may contain both ideas here. The false teachers rise up within the church and present a system that subtly presents something instead of Jesus Christ. The false teacher may use the same label, “Jesus Christ,” but he will not be the same Jesus that is presented in the Bible. If a gullible person takes the bait, he is led farther away until finally he is in total opposition to Christ.

These false teachers, whom John labels antichrists, did not carry pitchforks and wear red suits with horns and a tail, or T-shirts saying, “Warning: I am an antichrist!” Rather, they arose in the churches. Some of them may have been elders or pastors, who for a while had taught the truth. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Now these men were leaving the churches to form new groups, saying, “We have come into a deeper knowledge of the truth. Follow us and we’ll let you in on this secret knowledge.” John gives three guidelines to watch for:

  1. BEWARE: SATAN WORKS IN THE REALM OF RELIGION.

False teachers invariably adopt Christian terminology and posture themselves as being Christians, but they are not. They usually begin within the church (2:19) and at first, their teaching is orthodox. They often have attractive personalities and they build a following of people who seem to be helped by their teaching.

But, eventually, they begin subtly to veer from the truth. There may be multiple motives. Sometimes, they fall into immorality, and to justify their sin, they have to deny Scripture. Or, they may love the acclaim of being popular, along with the financial rewards that often go along with a successful ministry. It feels good to be in demand as a speaker, to stay in luxury hotels and speak to large crowds. As a man’s popularity grows, he grows in power. He hires a loyal group of lieutenants who carry out his wishes. No one dares to challenge the man’s teaching or lifestyle, even though he is preaching heresy and living in disobedience to Scripture. But, in spite of his deviance, he is still trafficking in the realm of religion.

Note, also, that there has never been a perfect church, even in New Testament times while the apostles were still living. We sometimes idealize the early church, thinking that if we could just get back to the New Testament principles, we wouldn’t have all of the problems that we constantly battle in the modern church.

But, these early churches had gone through the damage of false teachers in their midst, who now had left the churches to form new groups. Undoubtedly, they took with them people from the churches. Whenever that happens, those who still are in the church are confused and wounded. They wonder, “Why did our friends leave? They claim that they have found the truth now and that we are in the dark. Maybe there are problems here. Maybe we should leave, too.” This is how the enemy has worked from the earliest days of the church. Don’t be surprised when it happens.

  1. BEWARE OF ANYONE WHO BREAKS FROM THE TRUE CHURCH TO FORM A NEW GROUP WITH NEW THEOLOGY.

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (2:19). John’s words here do not apply to people who get disgruntled in one evangelical church and leave to join or form another evangelical church. While that practice is usually regrettable and sad, it is wrong to label those who left as heretics, unless they also have abandoned core Christian truth.

Heretics not only eventually separate themselves from true Christians to form their own groups, but also, they deviate from orthodox Christian doctrine on major issues. They claim that they have the truth and that others do not, or that they now see things that others do not see. And, invariably they try to recruit others from within the church to join them.

While such situations are painful and unpleasant, John’s words here should prepare us not to be surprised or disheartened when it happens. If it happened to the churches under John’s care, it can and will happen to churches today. But, when it happens, we need to think biblically about some issues.

First, true Christians are born of God. The key issue with these false teachers was, they were not of us. They did not share the new life in Christ that brings us into His body, the church. So, they felt free to leave. You can be on the membership list of the church without having experienced the new birth. While I believe that it’s important to join a church, it is far more important to make sure that you’re truly of the church through the new birth.

Second, if you truly know Christ, you will persevere with the church. It is imperfect. It contains difficult and irritating people. But, it is family! You were born into it through the new birth, and so was everyone else who has truly trusted Christ. While you may not have picked these folks to be in your family, God picked them and you’ve got to learn to get along with them! Although they often grate like sandpaper against your soul, it’s by persevering with them that God smoothes your rough edges. You will experience hurt feelings and misunderstandings if you get involved in a local church! Be committed to work through these matters. Don’t bail out on the church!

Third, note that John was more concerned about purity of doctrine than he was about church growth or unity. He never says, “We should go after these dear brothers and bring them back!” Or, “Let’s set aside our differences and love these men.” Rather, he says in effect, “Their departure shows their true colors. Let them go!” Of course, we need to evaluate the seriousness of the doctrinal matter at hand. Sometimes sincere Christians have to agree to disagree or even to work in separate parts of the Lord’s vineyard. But if the doctrinal issue is a core matter of the faith, purity is much more important than unity or church growth. We should not measure a church’s success by the numbers who attend, but rather by its faithfulness to the truth of the gospel.

So John says, “Beware, Satan works in the realm of religion. Beware of anyone who breaks from the true church to form a new group with new theology.”

  1. BEWARE OF ANYONE WHO OFFERS “NEW TRUTH” THAT OTHERS HAVE MISSED.

The test of orthodoxy is submission and adherence to the apostolic teaching contained in the New Testament. If someone comes up with some new “truth” that no one else has discovered since the days of the apostles, beware! The heretics claimed that they had now been initiated into a deeper level of truth than the average church member had experienced. It always flatters our pride to think that we have some level of truth that others lack, or we have had some special spiritual experience that other poor souls are missing out on. These false teachers were claiming such knowledge and offering it as bait to those who had yet to be enlightened.

This is probably the background to verse 20. There is a textual variant here. The KJV (and New KJV) follows the reading, “you know all things.” Most other versions follow the reading (probably original), “you all know.” John is telling his readers that spiritual knowledge is not restricted to some elite inner circle. Rather, they all know the truth of the gospel because they all have the anointing from the Holy One, which refers to the indwelling Holy Spirit that Jesus, the Holy One, promised to send.

The false teachers may have been using the word “anointing” as a technical term for being initiated into their special gnosis, or knowledge (John Stott, The Epistles of John [Eerdmans], p. 107). But John takes their term and uses it of the Holy Spirit. At the moment of the new birth, God’s Spirit opens our blind eyes to see the truth about our sinfulness and the all-sufficiency of what Christ did on the cross to pay for our sins. This simple gospel message is what these believers had heard from the beginning (2:24). Rather than moving on from it to some “new truth,” they needed to abide in the old gospel truth that they had believed from the start.

So John’s first point is that to avoid spiritual deception, be discerning of people. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14, 15). But, they are liars and deceivers!

  1. To avoid spiritual deception, be discerning of doctrine (2:21-23).

The late philosophy professor Allan Bloom began his 1987 best-seller, The Closing of the American Mind ([Simon and Schuster], p. 25), “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” He goes on to say (pp. 25-26), “The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance. Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating.”

He was right: We live in a day that has rejected the idea of absolute truth, especially in the spiritual realm. It smacks of arrogance to say that you know the truth and that others who do not share your view are wrong. You’re free to have your own spiritual opinions, as long as you don’t claim that your view is the only true view.

This prevailing tenant of postmodernism has now invaded the church through “the emergent church.” This growing movement downplays preaching (what could be more arrogant than for one man to stand up and say that he is proclaiming the truth?). And it magnifies sharing personal experiences in an accepting, non-judgmental atmosphere.

Notice how contrary this is to John’s statement in 2:20, “you all know,” and to 2:21: “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” That sure sounds like John believed in absolute truth in the spiritual realm, and that you can know when you’re right and others are wrong! There are three implications here, which I can only touch on briefly:

  1. SOUND DOCTRINE REALLY MATTERS!

John says (2:23), “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father.” He goes on to say (2:25) that all of this concerns God’s promise to us about eternal life. That’s fairly important! If you deny the truth about God’s Son as revealed in the New Testament, you do not have the Father and you do not have eternal life!

A popular sentimental, syrupy view goes, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.” When you share Christ with someone who buys into this thinking, he will respond, “It’s nice that you believe that, but I have my own beliefs.” According to this view, sincerity is the main thing; truth doesn’t matter. That is utter nonsense! You can sincerely drink poison, believing that it is medicine, but it will kill you just the same. Sound doctrine really matters!

  1. SOUND DOCTRINE IS INEXTRICABLY LINKED WITH A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

John says that if you deny the Son, you do not have the Father. He goes on to talk about abiding in the Son and the Father (2:24). “Abiding” is John’s word for fellowship or a close relationship with God. His point is that if you deny cardinal truth about Jesus Christ and yet claim to know God, you are deceiving yourself. This is not to say that a new believer must be able to give precisely correct theological statements about the trinity or the two natures of Christ in order to be truly saved. But it is to say that if someone knowingly makes heretical statements about Christ and is not open to correction, his salvation is suspect. Sound doctrine necessarily goes along with a genuine personal relationship with God.

  1. SOUND DOCTRINE ABOUT THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST IS ABSOLUTELY VITAL.

Most heresies go astray with regard to the person or work of Jesus Christ. John Calvin pointed out that since Christ is the sum of the gospel, heretics especially aim their arrows at Him. The only way that we can know the Father is through the Son (John 14:6). These false teachers were denying that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). This probably was more than a denial that Jesus was the Old Testament Messiah. The context here, which refers to Jesus as the Son of God and which closely links the Father and the Son, indicates that these false teachers denied the full deity of Jesus Christ. They denied the incarnation, that God took on human flesh in the virgin birth of Jesus. They taught that “the Christ” came upon the human Jesus at His baptism and departed at His crucifixion. John says that they denied both the Father and the Son.

The modern cults all go astray on the person and work of Jesus Christ. They deny His deity and His substitutionary death on the cross. They deny the trinity. Some of them speak in Gnostic fashion of “the Christ within us all.” By denying the Son of God, they do not have the Father. In the words of this apostle of love, they are liars, deceivers, and antichrists.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Comfort from God

March 30, 2017

  “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us” (2 Cor. 7:6).

  All of us are going to have sorrow, and none of us should miss its spiritual benefits. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance…while the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Cor. 7:10).

 God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus. God had one Son, without sin, but not without sorrow.

  “Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one. It takes sorrow to widen the soul.”

  “We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper must first be a sufferer. ‘Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God’ (2 Cor. 1:4). We cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which our Lord Jesus drank. The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.”

Well, it is but a little while and He will appear to answer all enquiries and to wipe away all tears. I would not wish, then, to be of those who had none to wipe away, would you?

  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17)

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Continue to pray for Lori

Pray for Dave I and prostate cancer 5th time

Pray for Joe R, his shoulder, pray the Ins company approves surgery

For Steve L, calmness and peace

 

God Mind

March 27, 2017

Image result for picture of wise man

It has been said, “Any idiot can be complicated; but it takes genius to be simple.”Indeed, the most effective oral and written communicators are those who take profound truths and make them simple. This has bearing on every area of our lives. When we communicate with others either individually or corporately, we must be clear and simple. The well-known acronym K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) applies here.

Although the apostle Paul is a deep thinker, he always strives to bring his great learning down to common folks like you and me. However, the passage that we will be looking at has endured a most unfortunate history of application in the church. Almost every form of spiritual elitism, “deeper life movement,” and “second blessing” doctrine has appealed to this text; however, each of these is nearly 180 degrees the opposite of Paul’s intent. Unfortunately, this trend continues today. By appealing to “the deep things of God” and “secret wisdom” all kinds of false doctrines are being perpetuated and widely accepted. Therefore, we must be on the alert against this passage and others like it being abused. Our goal must be to understand why Paul has written this section of 1 Corinthians and how it applies to our lives.

The book of 1 Corinthians expresses Paul’s heart for a disunified church to become unified (1:10). Thus far, Paul has humbled everyone including himself. He has said to the Corinthians, “Your message is foolish (1:18-25), you yourselves are foolish (1:26-31), and I am foolish (2:1-5).” Outside of that everyone and everything is just fine. Now in 2:6-16, Paul states that the only way the Corinthians and you and I can live a wise life is by having the right perspective and power. He will argue that without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark. Paul begins by addressing the right perspective in 2:6-9.

  1. True wisdom is cross-centered (2:6-9). In order to be truly wise and to consistently exercise a wise perspective, we must have a proper view of wisdom. Throughout this overarching section (1:18-2:5), Paul has declared that wisdom is found in “the word of the cross.” Thus, in 2:6-9, Paul can write, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.’” If you are a Bible student it is worth underlining the word “wisdom.” The word “wisdom” (sophia) is repeated five times in the first three verses. The apostles (“we”) speak the message of the cross to those who are “mature.” The “mature” are those believers who recognize and embrace God’s wisdom in the cross. Since Paul does not divulge who among them is “mature,” the readers must decide for themselves whether they qualify or not. This same principle applies to us today. Are you a mature Christian? If so, how have you arrived at that conclusion? Paul argues that we are only mature if we have the right perspective on the cross. Is the cross your solution to church conflict? Is it the means of unity? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to your marriage and family difficulties? Is it the means of reconciliation? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to work conflict? Is it the means of getting along with your boss and coworkers? Then you are mature. We never move on from the cross of Christ—only into a more profound understanding of the cross.

Although in the next chapter (3:1-4) Paul will discuss those who are immature and fleshly in their Christian walk, his expectation is that all Christians will live according to the right perspective. We cannot make excuses for ourselves and assume that maturity belongs to the spiritually elite. God’s heart for you is that you press on to a cross-centered life. Will you refuse to settle for stale Christianity?

In these four verses, Paul will tell us three aspects of God’s wisdom:

The wisdom of God is eternal (2:6). The wisdom that Paul declares is “not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away.” It is not like the wisdom that may come from Oprah, Dr. Phil, or influential political officials. The wisdom they utter is here today and gone tomorrow. However, God’s wisdom is eternal. Isaiah the prophet said it best, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8). Since God’s wisdom revealed through His Word is eternal, how can we not invest in it?

The wisdom of God is beneficial (2:7). Paul informs us that God’s wisdom is a “mystery.” The word “mystery” refers to truth that God had not revealed previously. The message of the cross is a further unfolding of God’s plan and purpose beyond what He had revealed and what people had known previously. Paul makes this clear when he writes that the cross is “the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” This stresses the plan and sovereignty of God. It also demonstrates that God has our good in mind—our glorification.

The wisdom of God is supernatural (2:8-9). The Jewish and Roman rulers responsible for Jesus’ death did not understand the purpose and significance of the cross, so they crucified “the Lord of glory.” The phrase “Lord of glory” implies the divine fullness. It also ties in with the saints’ glory (2:7). It is through union with Him that we will experience glory. Paul explains that the reason these authorities crucified Christ was because they lacked the supernatural wisdom of the Spirit. Paul then cites Isa 64:4. This passage is not about heaven, although it’s often used at funerals. It is clear in the context of Isaiah 64 that it means life, here and now. God wants to reveal these things to us. He has done so out of love. Trusting Him for understanding and cultivating this love relationship with Him means that we will grow in greater and greater understanding of wisdom. Yet, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.

[Paul has just said that the right perspective is to recognize that true wisdom is cross-centered. He goes on to share with us the right power in 2:10-16.]

  1. True wisdom is Spirit-directed (2:10-16). Paul will state that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals deep things to Christians. Therefore, if we want to grow to maturity in Christ we must rely upon the Holy Spirit’s power. In 2:10-11 Paul writes, “For to us [the apostles and mature Christians] God revealed them [deep thoughts] through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The wonderful mysteries God has prepared for those who love Him are not knowable only by a select group of Christians. Any and every believer can understand and appreciate them because the indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten us. However, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.

Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit searches the very depths of the heart and mind of God. He can do this because He is God—the third member of the Trinity. Paul’s point is that the Holy Spirit functions within the Trinity the way our human spirit functions within us. Our spirit is the innermost part of our being. It’s where our deepest, most private thoughts reside. To put it another way, no one knows you better than you! The reason is that you live with you. I don’t care how well your spouse knows you or how long you have been married, no one knows you like you do. No one knows your private thoughts and those deep internals struggles you keep hidden. Because we have a spirit, we are usually our own best interpreter. That’s why when two people get into an argument, one of them will often say, “Don’t try to tell me what I mean. I know what I am saying!”

Therefore, if you really want to know someone perfectly you would have to tune into his or her spirit. The Holy Spirit is tuned in to the deepest thoughts of God. He has access to the innermost workings of the Godhead. So just as no one knows the deepest thoughts of a person better than his own spirit, no one knows the deepest thoughts of God better than the Holy Spirit.

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).

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