Good intentions

May 19, 2018

Okay I’d like to tell you a story about how good deeds can backfire.

We were pastoring a small church and we had a lady named Gail who’s husband had run off and left her with four children, one of them and infant. And she had no marketable job skills and with the four kids and no income they were hard-pressed every month for groceries and rent, the church did everything it could to help them and she would bring her kids to church and clean and help with stuff and Gail felt like she had to do something to earn the money and help that we gave.

So one day I came to church and she was  in the sanctuary sobbing and crying and I asked her what was wrong and she said that by taking public transportation, (The bus) she had spent over six hours in the hot summer sun and she was sunburned. The kids are sunburned. The baby was sunburned. They’re all dehydrated and hungry and I had told her before we leave to go into the kitchen at the church and help themselves whenever they came here. Of course she felt bad about imposing in doing that, but I told her she needed to get fluids in everybody so they didn’t get sick.

So we decided that the church would buy her car, so we had several people in the congregation that were police officers and they  told us that a police auction was coming up soon and there would be a lot of cars to choose from.

So we went to the police auction and bought her a car large enough to haul four kids around and it was taken to a mechanic and proven to be reliable and we put new tires and belts and hoses on it just to make sure. well three days later it’s the weekend and I get a phone call from Gail and she is just about crazy with panic and fear, seems she came out of the grocery store and there the car was with all the doors open all the door panels tore out, the backseat tore out, the trunk open and all the carpeted panels tore out the trunk. the hood was up and several engine parts were laying on the ground and she just couldn’t believe what happened to the car.

So we went to get her and called the police. one of our men from the congregation who was a police officer was there and he said the car that we had bought at a police auction was probably a drug car and when the drug dealer saw the car back at the grocery store they thought maybe the drugs might still be in there and they had stripped the car looking for the drugs.

So Bill and I, we put the car all back together made sure it was running and we followed Gail back to her home.

Last Sunday when she came to church. She was a little bit beside yourself and I asked her what was wrong, and she felt that what happened to the car was a sign that she was not leading her life right or there was some unconfessed sin or some nonsense. I told her that was not the case and that it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t bad stewardship or anything else and let’s get over it and move on, the chances of it happening again are slim.

 I remember when I retired from that church as pastor one of the hardest things was hoping and realizing that the pastor that was coming in behind me would care as much for the poor folk that we had in that church and would do all that could be done to help them like we had. So, it’s been 30 years later, all her kids are grown up and become missionaries or evangelists or pastors and she is gotten remarried and life has turned out much better for her. that car is long gone. but you have to wonder sometimes why things happen.

The good news is that God is sovereign, and we won’t ever understand why things happen they way they do. But like the old gospel song. ‘trust and obey for there is no better way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.’

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

christ on cross

  “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (Phil. 3:7).

  Our Father has many reasons for administering trial —all good. Trial teaches us the futility of the old life, and the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus—our new life.

  “The Christian suffers the same calamities as others, perhaps even worse; he faces difficulties and losses in the things of this life; he has to be prepared to meet death itself. In all these circumstances he is calm and trustful; he is not only sure of ultimately going to heaven, but already abides there and enjoys something of it in his own heart.

 God is real to him and ever near. He knows a peace which passes all understanding, and he experiences a joy which no man can take from him. This, surely, should be our testimony in the world, but it can only be as the Lord Jesus Himself lives out this life in us.

  The world is divided into two things—pleasures and afflictions; I am more afraid of the pleasures than the afflictions. In afflictions you turn to the Lord. The danger is of being carried away by the very favors God has given to man.

  Those who suffer from chastening ought to be before the Father, owning His hand; and He who has wounded will heal. The Lord Jesus did not take the cup which He had to drink from us, from man, nor from Satan; but from His Father’s hand.

  “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Charlie, what he calls ‘man cancer’ he always has had a wicked sense of humor.

Pray for Paul C, a lost sheep,

Put off, Put on

May 13, 2018

Putting Off the Old and Putting On the New

(Ephesians 4:22-24)

This is the end of our series on this passage in Ephesians. And this last devotional is a little long, you may want to print it out. Blessings

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

In the first verses of Ephesians chapter 2, Paul described the unbeliever as being subject to the world, the flesh, and the devil. In most instances, the devil exercises control over lost men by means of the external pressure of the world and corresponding internal inclinations of the flesh. In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul has instructed the Christian to turn from the corrupting influences of the world in which we live (our culture). Now, in verses 22-24, Paul turns to the subject of our flesh, urging us to put off the “old man” and to put on the new.

I understand Paul to refer to the flesh as our “old self,” or as the marginal note in the NASB indicates, our “old man.” In Romans chapter 8 this “old self” would be synonymous with the “mind set on the flesh” (Romans 8:6-7). The “new self” would be our new “inner man” (Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:16), the “mind set on the Spirit” (Romans 8:6).

Beginning at verse 25, Paul will specifically identify those attitudes and actions which we should “put off” and those which should be “put on” in their place. But here Paul is dealing with our manner of life in principle, in general terms. Our fleshly behavior is the outgrowth, the expression, of our inner fleshly nature, just as Christian conduct is the outgrowth and expression of the inner man, created and empowered by the Holy Spirit:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:16-24).

Paul persists in emphasizing the continuity between our conversion to Christ and our conduct in Christ, which should be evident in our manner of life.

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:1-14).

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (Colossians 2:6).

In Christ, our old man has been crucified, put to death. In our daily conduct, we should crucify the flesh daily, and put aside the conduct which springs forth from fleshly desires. In Christ we were made alive, raised from the dead and seated with Him in the heavenlies (see Ephesians 2:5-6). We should therefore walk in newness of life, manifesting the work of the Spirit of God in and through us. It is by His power that we are both motivated and enabled to live in a way that pleases God:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.… 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. (Romans 8:1-4, 10-11)

20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20).

This expression, “lusts of deceit” is somewhat puzzling as to its precise meaning. What we can be sure of is that there is a direct relationship between “lust” and “deceit.” I believe it is safe to say that “lust” is “deceitful,” and also to say that “deceit” is “lustful.” Lust is deceitful in that it does not produce what it seems to promise. Lust promises pleasure, but it ultimately produces death (see Romans 6:15-23, especially verse 21). Deceit is lustful in that it never seems to be satisfied, it always wants more victims (see Proverbs 1:10-19).

Jesus warned of the danger of attempting to remove evil, rather than replacing it (see Luke 11:26). Paul’s words indicate that our old nature and its deeds are not merely to be rejected, they are to be replaced. We must “put off” the old man and at the same time “put on” the new. While the old nature is continually being corrupted by the lusts of deceit, the new nature is renewing us, in accordance with the nature of God and His righteousness and truth. The old nature is being corrupted, the new is being renewed. The old is deceitful, the new deals in truth. The old is sinful, the new is righteous. The old is driven by lusts, the new by the character and purposes of God.

Conclusion

Christ did not save us in order that we may live any way that we choose. He saved us to live godly lives, and thus to live in a way that is radically different from our lifestyle as unbelievers. Our conduct, as Paul has indicated in verse 1 of chapter 4 is to conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of our calling in Christ.

The conduct which God requires of Christians should not come as a surprise to them after they have been saved. The gospel, as preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles, called men to repentance as well as to faith in Christ. Men were required to turn from their sin to Christ, and it was clear that this meant a new way of life. The “gospel” of our day is not so clearly stated. It is as though we fear that men will be receive Christ if they know what is involved. The irony is that the gospel, the true gospel, is the power of God unto salvation. The more we seek to rid the gospel of its unappealing aspects (from the unbeliever’s point of view) the more we rob it of its power. We then rely more on our cleverness and deceit than on the power of the Holy Spirit to convince and convert lost sinners. When we share our faith, let us tell it like it is.

This text, and those which follow in Ephesians, make it clear that while salvation and sanctification are the work of God, they require man’s response. God is sovereign in the salvation and spiritual growth of those whom He has chosen. He also ordained that men are to be informed of the gospel and of God’s standards of conduct, and that we are to act in obedience to His commands, not in our own strength, but in that which He supplies. Let us not leave this text with a passive view of our spiritual life. God has made every provision for our sanctification, and we are to obediently make use of them, for His glory and for our good.

It is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of the truths conveyed in the passage before us. While the verses which follow it will spell out specific conduct which befits the Christian, this text speaks of the basis for our conduct in general terms. It is our commitment to the general exhortations of this passage which will greatly affect our compliance with the commands that follow.

The Christian lifestyle will not be lived out by those with a pagan mindset. It is the Christian mindset of our text which works itself out in the conduct which befits our calling in Christ. Allow me to point out some of the inferences of Paul’s teaching in our text and its implications in our practical daily living.

Our pagan culture believes that the past is the key to the present. What we think and how we act, we are told, is the result of our past. It is only by understanding our past that we can live as we should in the present. In other words, the past controls the present.

The Bible reverses this. Paul teaches us that our thinking and conduct in the past was the outworking of our unregenerate thinking. Paul insists that we refuse to allow our past to control us in the present. Instead, Paul teaches us that what we now are, in Christ, is what should override and overrule our past thinking and behavior. What we now are in Christ should cause us to put away what we once thought and did as unbelievers. Our past should not be resurrected, analyzed and dwelled upon, it should be buried in an unmarked grave. It is not what we were that matters, but what we are. Let us ponder what we are, in Christ, and not what we were without Him.

In our culture, what you believe seems to have taken second place to how you feel. The sensitive, intelligent, and probing thing to ask these days is, “How do you feel about that?” Paul would rather have us focus on what we believe. What we feel is often a far cry from what is true, and even from what we believe. Faith, as I understand it, calls upon men to act on the truth God has revealed in His Word, not on how we feel. Abraham did not “feel” like leaving his homeland and relatives to go to an unnamed place, but he obeyed God. Neither did he feel like offering up his son, Isaac, but he was willing to obey. Our Lord did not feel like going to the cross of Calvary, but He obeyed the will of His Father. Let us act on what we know to be the truth as revealed in the Word of God, more than on how we happen to feel. As a rule, faith acts on the facts of God’s Word and disregards our feelings.

If the renewing of our minds is so vital to our Christian life, how is it done? The Bible is not a book of formulas, but I would like to focus your attention on one key element: the Word of God. When a person wants to learn a foreign language, what is the most effective way to do so? It is to enter into that culture and language and become saturated with it. This is how our children learn to talk and to think as we do. If we would desire to have our minds renewed, then we must find God’s thoughts and immerse ourselves in them. His thoughts have been incarnated in Christ, the Living Word, and recorded in the Bible, His inspired written Word.

I dare say that most Christians spend more time in front of their television sets, radios, magazines, and books than they do in their Bibles. Even many Christian stations and publications contain much that is secular thinking sprinkled with a smattering of spiritual jargon. If we would think God’s thoughts after Him, we will find them only in His Word. Let us become so saturated with His Word that we begin to reflect His ways, His values, His goals, His methods. This is the renewing of the mind which Paul calls for.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

In Tune

May 9, 2018

Putting the World Behind Us

Ephesians 4:17-19

17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

As we approach this passage, we need to remember what Paul has already said about our previous condition as unbelievers:

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

We were lifeless apart from Christ, dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul will take up this “lifeless” dimension of the unbelievers in our text in chapter 4, in verse 18. But what is central to our study is what Paul has to say above concerning the unbeliever’s relationship to the world and to the flesh. As unbelievers, we were the pawns of Satan, under his dominion, carrying out his dictates. We were unaware of this because he controlled us through the influence of the world and the flesh. We once walked “according to the course of this world” (2:2) and in accordance with the “lusts of our flesh” (2:3).

Now that we have been born again, in Christ we have been raised from our dead state spiritually to newness of life. And because of this, we are to renounce the world and its dominion over us. This is what Paul urges every believer to do in 4:17-19. We were also slaves to our own fleshly desires, and now as believers we are to “put off” fleshly things and “put on” the things of the Spirit (4:22-24). Being born again is meant to reverse the way we once were, apart from Christ.

In verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul introduces his teaching with a solemn reminder of the importance of what he is about to say: “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, …” The term “affirm” means “to bear testimony” or “to serve as a witness.” It is used elsewhere in the New Testament only by Paul. In every instance Paul employs this term to convey a sense of importance and urgency. When our Lord sought to convey this same sense, He employed the expression, “Truly, truly …”

Paul goes one step further in verse 17. He claims that his words are not his alone. What he is about to say is the instruction of the Lord Himself. Paul’s command is Christ’s command.

Now Paul lays down the command which all Christians are to heed: “That you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk …” Several things are implied or clearly stated by this command. Let us consider them one at a time.

First, faith in Christ demands a radical change in the lifestyle of the believer from the way he once behaved. The words “no longer” and “also” indicate that Paul’s readers once lived the way they are now to renounce and reject. Paul’s command is to cease living the way they used to live and to live in a way that glorifies God.

Second, this command deals with the Christian’s new relationship to the world. Once, as a part of the world system, we were alienated from God and strangers to His kingdom. Now, as those in Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His body, but we have become strangers and pilgrims to this world (see Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).

Third, this command deals with the Christian’s relationship to the culture in which they live. While the Ephesians saints once lived like Gentile heathen, their fellow-Ephesians still do live this way. This may very well result in the persecution of the Gentile saints, since their godliness poses a threat to the sinful ways of their peers (see 1 Peter 4:1-6). But in addition there will be considerable pressure on the Gentile believers to continue to live as they used to.

Paul does more than to simply command his readers to cease living like unbelievers; he commands them not to conduct themselves as their unbelieving Gentile peers. Why didn’t Paul command the Ephesian saints not to live like the unbelieving Jews? Because these Gentile saints were a part of the Gentile culture. It was this culture which threatened to influence them to live as they formerly did. The “world” is, to a great extent, the culture in which we live, which seeks to pressure us to conform to its values, standards, goals, and conduct. The “world” which most influences us is the culture in which we have grown up.

So how hard is it to separate yourself from the world?

Pretty hard, but God on our rebirth puts the desire into our hearts. Now we have to “put off” and “put on” the new man. Notice again the effort has to be ours first. Then the blessing.

Stay tuned (that’s a pun).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Heavenly thinking

April 27, 2018

In the past two years, as I’ve watched people I love die, I’ve thought a lot about that mysterious, distant place called heaven. Within the blessed fellowship of my spiritual community, we’ve buried parents, siblings, friends. We’ve walked through the grass of cemeteries, sat in quiet funeral rooms and breathed the scent of flowers and the smell only a funeral home can produce wafting off the wood-grained lids of coffins. We have stood tearful on this side of heaven, while those we love have stepped onto the other side into glory we can only try to imagine.

Sorrow and pain have pointed our hearts toward heaven.

For us post-modernists, it usually takes such an experience with intense sadness and death to make us think about life beyond the here and now. For most of us, only great losses turn our thoughts away from our obsession with making for ourselves a heaven here on earth; only deep piercing grief causes us to contemplate the end of our days.

It hasn’t always been so.

In early Christian thinking, meditating on the hereafter was a common practice. It was considered a valuable, worthwhile exercise to not only examine life but also to contemplate death.

Richard Foster wrote, “The notion of reflecting on our own demise is actually an ancient spiritual discipline.”

You don’t have to look very far into classic Christian writings to discover how true that is.

Blaise Pascal was a brilliant seventeenth-century mathematician. He often was ridiculed by his intellectual peers for shifting his genius from mathematics to theology and apologetics. But nothing mattered more to Pascal than pursuing God, getting to know Him, and experiencing an ever-deepening intimacy with Christ.

His life was short—he lived only thirty-eight years, but he was a man consumed with love for God. Listen in as he prays, “…Grant then that I may so anticipate my death that I may find mercy hereafter in your sight.”

Teresa of Avila lived a century before Pascal, and her writings still vibrate with her longing for heaven. “O my delight, Lord of all created things and my God! How long must I wait to see you?”

Madame Guyon, writing to a dying friend, said, “I feel my loss, but I am very happy for you. I could envy you. Death helps to draw away the veil that hides infinite wonders.”

John Donne wrote that it is our job to make a home in this world while remembering that home is not here.

This is a challenge to us modern Christians, isn’t it? We aren’t in the habit of “anticipating” our death. We believe in heaven; we just don’t give it much thought.

How much time during the day do you actually contemplate heaven, your salvation, your Lord and Savior, your walk with Christ. Unless you’re a seminary student or pastor or have learned the discipline of daily devotions; it is to long a pause in between times.

You’ve heard the quote; “18 inches between your heart and brain, the longest journey ever.”

How far is it then to heavenly thoughts?

Make the journey more often.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

battle fatigue

April 23, 2018

Our sinful hearts make us all prone to limit God by human potential. The disciples fell into this error when they were faced with the crowd of 5,000 hungry men, plus women and children. Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” John explains that Jesus asked this to test Philip, since He knew what He was about to do. Philip did a quick calculation and concluded, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little” (John 6:5-7). Philip may have thought that he was giving a faith-stretching answer, because the disciples clearly did not have 200 denarii to buy bread. But he was limiting God to work through normal human means. But God had a completely different solution, namely, miraculously multiplying the few loaves and fishes they had on hand.

So even if we’ve walked with God for years, when we are faced with a seemingly impossible situation, we need to look to our hearts, which are prone to limit the Almighty by human possibilities. God has given us abundant evidence in Scripture that He is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him. The source of our doubts is not a lack of evidence. It is rather our, sinful hearts.

That should be a sigh of relief right now. Whew, I don’t have to get more faith, I don’t have to feel a tingle or get Holy Ghost goose bumps. The object of faith is God. I only have to reckon, acknowledge, believe what I’ve already believed. Christ is my Savior, He died on the cross and so did I, I believe, position myself there. That’s all I have to do and the Holy Spirit draws me to God.

That’s why it’s so important to have a firm bible reading habit, God will pour all that you’ve read for years into you heart and remind us of whom we serve.

The battle is Lord’s.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

The Jesus Narrative (part three)

Jesus was now very active in His public ministry. He was traveling through the villages and towns proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand and His ministry was authenticated by the many miracles He performed. He had chosen His 12 disciples and they traveled with Him. They were back in Galilee and crowds were increasingly following him from all over Israel and neighboring countries

Luke 6:17-19

No one had ever seen a man do the miracles He did or heard the words He spoke. Yet busy as He was He always had time to stop and care for that one person with a special need. The crowd was not just a faceless mob to Him. They were individuals in whom He had a personal interest. They were like sheep without a shepherd and He had come to be their Shepherd.

Luke 7:11

Jesus left Capernaum where He had healed a centurion’s servant from a distance, without even seeing him. Now He and his disciples traveled on down to Nain, a town about 25 miles southwest of Capernaum.

Luke 7:12

Try to imagine the scene. Jesus and His disciples were approaching the town gate, followed by a large, excited crowd. Suddenly a hush fell on the crowd. There was a funeral procession coming out of the town. A litter with a dead body on it was being carried out to the cemetery. A weeping mother, dressed in widow’s clothes followed. She was accompanied by a large crowd of friends mourning with her. This was a noisy crowd in a different way. They were wailing, weeping and some had torn their clothes to indicate their grief.

The dead man was the only son of his mother and she was a widow. (NIV)

This poignant sentence tells a sad story. This woman had lost her husband, now her son was gone. In that day, parents depended upon their children to care for them in their old age. The death of her only son meant that she would not only be lonely but possibly destitute. Now the Mosaic Law provided for widows, orphans and the poor. They could glean in the fields after the reapers and gather their grain and fruit. There was also a special tithe taken every third year to be distributed to the poor. God warned his people that they were never to oppress or exploit the poor or the widows and orphans.

Ex. 22:22-23 (NIV) Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

Deuteronomy 10:18 (NIV) He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.

It was the responsibility of the community to care for the poor in that day. Jewish people today still care for their own to a greater extent than other ethnic groups usually do.

Now Jesus knew all this. He could have just passed by and assumed that this town would rally around the widow and see that she at least had food and clothes.

Luke 7:13

When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, “Do not cry.” (NIV)

Cannot you picture Him? He leaves His followers, walks up to her and with tenderness and compassion says just two words. They would have been unrealistic and unkind coming from anyone else. She had plenty to cry about. To me there is something very comforting in knowing that when I am in pain, God’s heart goes out to me. He is the One who really feels my pain, He cares for me and wants to comfort me. He is not a cold, distant, helpless deity. He is a loving, compassionate Father.

Psalm 103:13

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. (NIV)

In 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 He is called the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”

But that is not all Jesus said and did. Now He walked over to the litter and touched it. The pallbearers stopped. Imagine what they must have thought. Touching the dead made a person ceremonially unclean. Here was a rabbi, a teacher, doing it. But that still was not all. Jesus then spoke directly to the dead man.

“Young man, I say to you, get up” (NIV)

Jesus stood and faced our worst enemy, Death. And with the ring of divine authority He exercised His power over it. This is the first time He raised a person from the dead. In each of the three recorded cases, He spoke to the corpse. And the dead heard His voice and obeyed. John 5:28.

Luke 7:15

The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (NIV)

Cannot you sense the gentleness, the understanding, the personal interest in her that these words reveal? Can you imagine the joy Jesus felt being able to do this for her. I wonder if we realize what it meant to Him to reverse in a tangible way, the curse which is the result of human sin. I think He smiled as He saw her tears turn to unbelievable joy. Her son was alive. She would not be left alone. She would see her grandchildren, her future was secure.

What impact did this miracle have on the crowd?

Luke 7:16-17

They were filled with awe, reverence, fear of God. They praised God. (NIV)

Surely they were reminded of the dead child that Elisha raised from the dead over 800 years before in the town of Shunem which was just on the other side of the hill from Nain. But did they actually realize that God really had come and was living among them? They may have remembered the Scripture:

Isaiah 35:4-6 (NIV) Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

This was what the Messiah would do when He came. And that was exactly what Jesus was doing! This miracle also illustrated some important truths. We have seen that God is deeply concerned with our grief and pain. Jesus actively did what He had the power to do to alleviate this woman’s suffering. In this he modeled for us what we are supposed to do to relieve human suffering today.

All around us are people who are hurting, without the essentials to sustain life, lonely, or disabled. Some have suffered broken marriages, or estranged children. Some are homeless, jobless, hopeless, and lost. There is something each of us can do. It may be very small in comparison to their degree of need, but that is not the issue. We can bring a meal, make a visit, bring clothes, blankets, listen to their troubles, pray with them and for them. We can counsel and support women in crisis pregnancies. We can give money so that ministries like Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, the largest men’s shelter in the world or The Mission Shelter program or Veterans Cause who minister to the down and out so they can continue their work. We can share the Gospel. Remember we are Christ’s Body on earth. He works through us to show God’s love and concern.

We all can and must do something. We cannot close our eyes and pretend there is no one out there that needs our help.

We find the next effect of this miracle in the following verses. John the Baptist had been in prison for quite a long while and he may have expected that Jesus coming would have different results. In his uncertainty he sent directly to Jesus.

Luke 7:18-23

The purpose of miracles in the Bible is always to accredit the messenger and the message. Jesus was saying to John:

Remember the prophecies in Is. 35 and 61, see what I am doing, and put it all together.

Thus he reassured John that He was the Messiah.

But I believe this miracle also illustrated visibly what the Lord Jesus came to accomplish by His death on the cross and His resurrection.

2 Timothy 1:9-10

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed (abolished) death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (NIV)

How did death become a part of human existence. It was not part of God’s original design. Adam and Eve were created to live forever. In that beautiful garden God gave them every provision and perfect freedom to enjoy each other, to enjoy life and to enjoy their Creator. There was one prohibition.

Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day you eat of it you will surely die. (NIV)

We all know the story. Satan tempted them and they ate the fruit and experienced spiritual death immediately, which is separation from God. We know this because for the first time they were afraid and hid from Him when He came to walk with them in the Garden. Then their bodies began to die and death has been the expectation and experience of every human being since. The penalty for sin is death, both physical and spiritual. Since were each born with a sinful nature, we all sin and we all will die unless the Lord returns first and takes us home.

God commanded an approach to him that constantly reminded his people of that truth. Israel could never worship God without a blood sacrifice. When they sacrificed a lamb, goat or bull, they were offering a substitute to die for their sins in their place. When Jesus began His public ministry it was John who identified him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He was the only substitute God would accept. When Jesus hung on that cross He took the full penalty for our sin in His own person. When he cried out, My God, why have you forsaken me? It meant he experienced spiritual death, which is separation from God. And of course, He died physically. But then he rose from the dead. If there was even one sin that could not be forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ, He would still be in the grave. His resurrection proved that every sin ever committed since the world began has been paid for in full.

Thank God for the Gift of His Son, our Savior and Risen Lord.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Revival

March 5, 2018

THE CANDLE AND THE BIRD (an essay by F. W. Boreham)

It’s not often that I quote someone to this extent, but to try and re-write this would be a crime, so in its entirety from his book “The Golden Isles”

After reading this, you hopefully will feel inspired and encouraged about the spiritual condition of your nation.

To all peoples there come, sooner or later, periods in which the maintenance of a Christian life and an evangelistic testimony becomes so extremely difficult as to seem almost impossible. This spiritual sterility may be precipitated by any one of an innumerable array of causes—the horrors of war, with all their attendant hatreds and excitements; a wave of materialism, frivolity, or sensuality; the concentration of the public mind on subsidiary issues; or some other development that tends to hurl serious thought into obscurity.

But, whatever the cause, such distressing conditions do emerge; and the thing to be remembered at those times is that this unhappy state of affairs represents, not the snuffing out of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird. The distinction is vital. If you extinguish a light, the act is final: you plunge the room into darkness without creating any illumination elsewhere. The flame does not flash into being in some other part of the house. But if you startle a bird, the gentle creature flies away and sings its lovely song upon some other bough.

Several illustrations of this essential principle confront us in the annals of the early Church. A time came when, at Antioch, the Jews refused Paul and Barnabas a hearing. `Very well’, exclaimed the Apostles, `it was necessary that the Word of God should first have been preached to you; but, seeing ye put it from you, lo, we turn to the Gentiles!’ The light was not snuffed out. The bird flew to another bough, that was all!

A little later, the two Apostles journeyed through Asia, intending to preach the word in every city. But, to their dismay, every door was closed against them. They were amazed and bewildered. But when they reached the end of the long road and saw nothing but the sea in front of them, a vision was vouchsafed to Paul. He saw a man of Macedonia bidding him cross the intervening waters and invade Europe!

Think what these two transitions have meant to history—the evangelization of the Gentiles and the conquest of Europe! And when you have grasped their momentous significance, you will have realized the importance of the principle that we have set ourselves to establish. When the Church is overwhelmed by an apparently crushing reverse, it is never the snuffing out of a candle: it is always the frightening away of a bird.

I

That principle is inherent in the eternal scheme of things. On the ancient monuments of Egypt there are crude drawings representing the soul, in the form of a bird, leaving the body of the monarch or hero to whom the memorial has been raised. In the form of a bird, mark you! Even the ancients felt that death is not the snuffing out of a candle; it is the escape of a bird. There is a divine element in humankind—an element which no tomb can imprison. And, similarly, there is a divine element in the Church-an element that no persecuting fires can devour and that no convulsion can destroy.

It was a dark day for the faith when, in the seventh century, the Saracens swept through the world, obliterating the Cross, overthrowing the Churches, and converting into Mohammedan mosques the most imposing Christian and Jewish structures. It certainly looked as if a glorious light had been put out. Yet, at the very moment at which all this was taking place in the old world, something of infinite significance was happening on an obscure group of mist-enshrouded islands in the northern seas.

Paulinus and the other missionaries whom Augustine had led into England caught the ear of the court and of the people; the preparatory work of St. Columba in Scotland and of St. Patrick in Ireland began to bear fruit; and thus, whilst Christianity was suffering eclipse among the lands of Yesterday, it was laying a powerful and formative hand upon the lands of To-morrow.

Similarly, on the very day on which the French mob tore the Cross from Notre Dame in Paris and angrily abjured the Christian faith, William Carey landed in India and claimed a new continent for the Saviour whom France was renouncing. Both events took place on November 11, 1793. A pessimist in France would have regarded the act of the populace as the extinction of a great light: anybody who reviews the incident in the calm perspective of history can see that it was merely the frightening away of a bird.

II

I cherish the hope that, one of these days, a writer learned in such lore, and with a flair for such a task, will trace the influence of this principle upon the history of revivals. Few studies are more stimulating than the study of those tremendous movements that have swept like a divine fire across the various nations. They stir the blood and quicken to new life the most sluggish and apathetic soul. But the striking thing about these historic revivals is that they are so transient, so evanescent, so temporary. They never endure. And the fact that, although so obviously divine, they never endure, sufficiently proves that they were never meant to endure. Martin Luther used to say that a religious revival always exhausts itself in thirty years. Isaac Taylor set a more liberal limit: he fixed fifty years as the maximum period: no revival, he declared, ever lasted longer than that. But the question that immediately concerns us is not the question as to how long a revival can last, but as to what happens when it fades out. And the answer to that question is that it never fades out. If it seems to vanish at one place, it is only that it may appear at another. For the end of a revival is invariably the beginning of a revival. Its termination is never the snuffing out of a candle: it is always the frightening away of a bird.

Is there, in our own annals, or in the annals of any other country, the record of a revival comparable with the Puritan revival of the seventeenth century? Beyond the shadow of a doubt, it was a period of divine illumination. Like the sunrise playing simultaneously upon many snow-capped peaks, the light was caught and reflected by many totally diverse but really majestic personalities. John Hampden, George Fox, and Samuel Rutherford, for example, have little or no connection with each other, yet each represents a focal point in this celestial movement. As we project our minds into that memorable time, the stately and satisfying figures, the sturdy and eloquent faces of Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, and John Bunyan, moving amidst a cloud of kindred spirits, leap at once to our minds. We instinctively feel that Puritanism was no frolic of circumstance, no freak of history. The movement that has left as its indestructible monuments such works as Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim’s Progress can only be regarded as a heavenly revelation. The Puritans, as Macaulay says, were `men who, instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, aspired to gaze full on His intolerable brightness and to commune with Him face to face’. The entire country was made to feel that God was palpitatingly near: the hush of the eternal brooded over city and hamlet. With the light of heaven on their faces and the fear of God in their hearts, the Puritans overhauled and rearranged everything. They put the king in his right place, and the Parliament in its right place, and the Bible in its right place, and the Church in its right place; and they did all this by putting God in His right place; they enthroned Him as Head over all. It was a time in which earth seemed crammed with heaven, and the songs of the angels filled with divine melody the English sky.

It was very wonderful; but it did not last. The spirit of Puritanism decayed with the accession of Puritanism to political authority. As soon as it became fashionable to dress as the Puritans dressed, to talk as the Puritans talked, and to do as the Puritans did, all people became Puritans. They might have felt no regenerating power in their hearts, but they could at least wear drab clothing, allow their hair to fall about their shoulders, interlard their conversations with pious ejaculations and give to their children biblical names. And then, the movement having become rotten within, it quickly received its deathblow from without. Two years after the death of Cromwell, the Stuarts were restored to power. A swing of the pendulum immediately followed. The nation experienced one of those violent reactions that so frequently mark the pages of history. Paradise was lost.

III

No revival, according to Isaac Taylor, can live for half a century. Fifty years after Puritanism had achieved its crowning triumphs, England was knee-deep in mire. The glory had departed, and its departure had broken Milton’s heart. Joseph Addison, who cherished the spirit and ideals of the Puritans in an age that had renounced and repudiated Puritanism deplored the fact that English standards and English manners had fallen to their lowest ebb. Politics had degenerated into an undignified squabble; society was as corrupt as it could very well be; music, art and literature were all degraded; the sports and pastimes of life were universally squalid and usually obscene; religion itself had become formal, sanctimonious and largely hypocritical. `Even the saint’, says Addison, `was of a sorrowful countenance and generally eaten up with spleen and melancholy.’ And, worst of all, the number of people who saw anything to be deplored in all this was so small as to be almost negligible.

Now the question is, did this degeneracy represent the snuffing out of a candle or the frightening away of a bird? Let us attempt to survey a wider horizon in the hope of sighting the tree to which the bird has flitted! And what is this?

On the morning of August 13, 1727—eight years after Addison’s early death—a number of young people were gathered for prayer at Herrnhut in Germany. Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the little band, was only twenty-seven, and it is doubtful if any of the others were very much older. What happened they could never precisely define. All that they could say was that a radiant sense of the nearness of Christ suddenly visited them, and, when their little gathering broke up at noon, they `scarcely knew whether they still belonged to the earth or had actually gone to heaven’. In telling the story of their lustrous experience to their friends, the wondering hearers quickly contracted the sacred contagion.

Thus was born the Moravian movement—one of the most intensely spiritual and most passionately missionary organizations of all time. Fifty years before William Carey had inaugurated the era of organized missions to the heathen, these inspired Moravians had undertaken the evangelization of the world. Within five years of that memorable meeting at Herrnhut, they had sent missionaries to the Negro of the West Indies and to the Eskimo in the frozen North, quickly following these experimental ventures by despatching evangelists, not only to every country in Europe, but to the four quarters of the globe. See, sings William Cowper,

See Germany send forth

Her sons to preach Christ in the farthest North;

Fired with a zeal peculiar, they defy

The rage and rigour of a Polar sky,

And plant successfully sweet Sharon’s rose

On icy plains and in eternal snows.

When, later in the century, William Carey endeavoured to persuade the English Baptists to initiate a missionary crusade, he held in his hand the inspiring records of the Moravians. Throwing the pamphlet on the table, he exclaimed: `See what these Moravians have done! Cannot we follow their example and in obedience to our heavenly Master go out into all the world and preach the gospel?’

Now the striking thing is that this impressive and fruitful outbreak in Germany exactly synchronized with the evaporation of the Puritan revival in England. It was not that a light had been extinguished: it was that a bird had been frightened away.

IV

But, like the English movement, the German movement also spent itself. That never-to-be-forgotten meeting at Herrnhut was held in 1727. Whilst those young people were passing through that Pentecostal experience, Voltaire was bending over the finished manuscript of his first book. The writings of Voltaire quickly captivated the mind of a young German prince who was destined to be known to history as Frederick the Great. Frederick at once entered upon an admiring correspondence with the brilliant Frenchman, eventually inviting him to share the splendours of his palace at Berlin. And, in the hurricane of materialism and militarism that swept over Germany under that regime, the Moravian movement shared the melancholy fate that had befallen Puritanism in England.

But had the light been extinguished? Was it that a candle had been put out or that a bird had been frightened popular atmosphere for evangelism. This was his supreme triumph. In his famous Memoirs, Greville graphically describes Mr. Spurgeon—whose physique struck him as singularly reminiscent of Macaulay’s—preaching, at an ordinary service, to nine thousand people. It impressed him, as it impressed all thoughtful observers, as an arresting and epoch-making development. It forced the evangelical pulpit into the glare of public attention. The world was compelled to take notice. It made thinkable and possible the work of all those ministers and evangelists who have since captured the attention of the populace. And it is only when we attempt to estimate the spiritual, ethical, and civil value of the impact of Mr. Spurgeon’s flaming intensity upon each individual unit in the surging crowds that flocked every Sunday with wistful hearts to hear him that we realize how generously and how vitally he contributed to the new order that sprang into being in his time.

And so we bring our study down to within living memory. Let no person become unduly depressed because, here or there, the good work seems to flag. If, with us, the sun seems to be setting, you may depend upon it that other people, far away, are gratefully greeting the dawn. In a public reading-room, I one day picked up a London journal in which I read a series of somewhat dismal letters concerning `The Dearth of Conversions’. On the very same table I found a couple of magazines. One contained an article by Dr. A. W. Hitchcock, telling of the sensational progress of the work of God in Korea, whilst the other told of a single church on the Congo that is welcoming to its membership more than five hundred converts a year. And thus—

… while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far off, through creeks and inlets making,

Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright!

So true is it that a period of spiritual sterility invariably represents, not the extinguishing of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird. I have here attempted but a few fugitive illustrations. It will be the duty of that happy historian who undertakes to expound the principle more exhaustively to show that there have been times when the holy flame has visited other lands than those which I have mentioned, flitting from Holland to Switzerland, and from hemisphere to hemisphere. Often it has confined itself to no national frontiers, but has swept across an area that has included many peoples. But the principle is the same. When we have occasion to lament the spiritual poverty immediately around us, we may be sure that the bird that has forsaken us is singing his lovely song, to somebody else’s rapture, on a distant bough. And so it shall continue until that day dawns for which the Church has ever prayed, when the Holy Dove shall feel equally at home on every shore and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

F W Boreham, ‘The Candle and the Bird’, Boulevards of Paradise (London: The Epworth Press, 1944), 103-113.

What a great truth, do not despair if your home, your state, your nation is in a spiritual decline, for that Holy Dove is a lit somewhere else.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Tim G, he pastors a small church in a small town and his stance on holy living is causing the whole town to turn against him. The church has cut his already small salary, they’ve killed one of his dogs. A wave of discouragement hit him this week and he almost quit. Several ‘old timers’ met with him today and prayed for a breakthrough. Keep him and his wife and two kids in prayer.

Several of us drove down with him and the wives refilled his pantry and we fixed things around the house and we all chipped in some money to help him through the month. Pray this candle burns bright.

 

THE MAN

February 23, 2018

THE MAN

I had a business meeting downtown today and after it was over I saw a bookstore; it’s one of the oldest in town. It’s famous for being feminist, liberal, (redundant right?) New Age and never has carried a bible in the store.

But there in the most prominent spot, the Man, Billy Graham’s first book, originally published in 1953, and then again in 1984, “Peace with God.”

I was very surprised, I picked up the book and went to the counter and said, “how many Evangelicals come into your bookstore?” her answer; “only those from out of town, but he’s the Man.”

I was surprised at first but then thought she’s right, he is the Man. From dirt poor to one of the most recognized Christians in America and respected probably by all.

It has been a long time since I have read any of his books. What took me by surprise was the passion. Right from the very first sentence. His deep conviction that America has gone off the rails and is skidding into the abyss.

I waver sometimes about how bad it really is versus maybe it’s not so bad.

Truth is it’s probably worse than any other generation. Simply because we suffer from electronic brain rot. With most people, especially kids, spending a minimum of 8 hours a day on an electronic device.

But that’s not what this devotion is about. It’s about what is the legacy you have as a Christian. In your home, on your block and in your world. Where is your heart, and money and time being spent? How much money do you have saved and how much do you contribute, not just to church, but to other good works.

How about swearing? Fidelity or chastity?

Like the old Christian rock tune says, “how much evidence is there if they had to convict you of being a Christian?”

Just food for thought.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Preston Ryan, 11 years old and has brain cancer.

For Billy J, 13 years old and shot his neighbor 9 years old….on purpose.

Pray for his family, his dad is a police officer.

For Randall H, his brother 77, had a stroke today.

And so you don’t get bummed out. Jessica, a young drug user and prostitute gave her heart to the Lord today and has been taken into a Christian Home for Girls. When I laid my hand on her shoulder to pray for her she flinched, big tears welled up in her eyes and she just sobbed that someone would touch her and it would be innocent.

No Exceptions

February 16, 2018

  Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:7).

  Lincoln said that “a short speech requires great preparation; a long speech can be given anytime on short notice.” Now, are we going to “spend our years as a tale that is told” (Ps. 90:9); or are we going to settle down and grow in the image of our eternal Lord?

In our spiritual experience we often find that not least of our trials is the fact that God seems so slow to respond; sometimes it would appear that He is careless or indifferent—and that just when our needs are most acute. Two of the major elements in the spiritual life and experience of His own are the seemingly slow and hidden ways of God, and the demand for persistent faith in His servants.

  “The work of God in the lives of His people is designed to make them ‘partakers of His holiness.’ He undertakes their training in His school with the intention that, however difficult in practice the course may be, it will yield ‘the peaceable fruit of righteousness’ in the lives of those who undergo it.

This evidently represents His norm—no shortcuts and no exceptions. At least, He did not make an exception of Abraham, or Joseph, or Moses, or any of the great men and women whose names are listed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Their training lasted for decades and led them into painful situations and difficult places. But their lives, as a result, were incomparably fruitful.

  “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5).

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Pray for Matthew who became quite ill yesterday and spent a large part of the day in the emergency room.

Pray for Barbara D, who also is rather ill.