coming home?

August 9, 2017

Backsliding is the process by which a believer falls back into former patterns of sin or reverts back to the habits and way of life they had before they became a Christian. While all Christians are sinners, not all Christians are backsliders. A backslidden Christian is one whose communion with Christ is waning and whose faith is weakening.

 What should a believer do if they find they are backsliding? John gives us a clue in his admonition to the church of Ephesus: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev 2:5). In this we find a three-part cure for the condition of backsliding:

  1. Acknowledge the problem and determine “how far you have fallen.” Backsliding is accompanied by a lack of communion with God and fellowship with other believers, so you can likely determine when the problem started by identifying when you last engaged in spiritual formation activities. Make a list that includes the last time you prayed (or prayed regularly), read the Bible and attended church. Next, examine the list and consider how you’ve changed since you began neglecting or stopped engaging in those spiritual disciplines.

  2. “Repent.” Repentance literally means a “change of mind.” It’s not about changing our intentions or beliefs, but rather it’s about changing from sinning to obeying God. To stop backsliding, take steps not only to stop your fall but also to get back on the right path of obedience to God.

  3. “Do the things you did at first.” What actions did you take when you were being faithful to God? What activities were you engaged in when you were leaning on the strength of God rather than on your own strength? Remembering what you did before can help you see what you must start doing once again.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son, far from home, far from sanity, his father was looking for him to come home. God wants you to come home.

Blessings from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember Becky C, had a major fall today while wallpapering, fell of the step ladder on to a coffee table, was home alone for 4 hours before someone found her.

Larsen K, his grandmother passed today, 102 years old, singing today with the choir in heaven. Was saved when she was 9 years old

Kyle L, raised in a Christian home, good parents, went totally over to the darkside, now everyone is hoping he hit rock bottom and will start coming up. Drugs, booze, other things we won’t mention, pray someone reaches out to him.

Peggy N, 69 years young, looks like she is 45, and dementia is beginning. Keep her and her family in prayer.

 

Snoopy_in_a_Rainstorm_by_DewCrystal

Doubt is good.” “Doubt is evil.” “Doubt is necessary for faith.” “Doubt is the opposite of faith.”

Ask a group of Christians about doubt and you’ll likely get a range of conflicting answers about its role. While the responses are well-intentioned, they leave us confused about whether we should or should not embrace doubt.

Part of the problem is there are numerous types of doubts. For this article, all references to “doubt” will focus on the type of doubt most often addressed in the Bible: uncertainty about the truth and reality of spiritual things, as seen especially in a lack of faith in and commitment to God.

The Bible is not an encyclopedia where we can look for an answer to any sort of question we have. But on the topics the Bible does address, we must give Scripture more weight than other sources. So what does the Bible say about doubt?

With only rare exceptions . . . doubt in Scripture is seen as a negative attitude or action because it is directed toward God by man (or evil spiritual agents). The word connotes the idea of weakness in faith or unbelief.

Doubt in Scripture can be seen to be characteristic of both believers and unbelievers. In believers it is usually a weakness of faith, a wavering in the face of God’s promises. In the unbeliever doubt is virtually synonymous with unbelief. Scripture, as would be expected, does not look at doubt philosophically or epistemologically. Doubt is viewed practically and spiritually as it relates to our trust in the Lord. For this reason, doubt is not deemed as valuable or commendable.

To build our trust and faith in the Lord, we can apply these strategies for dealing with doubt:

➤ Recognize that doubt is not natural, but it is normal—Doubt, like death, is not a natural state for humans. If our minds were functioning properly we would be able to discern all of reality, including spiritual realities, with absolute clarity. But because of sin, every aspect of the image of God in humans—including our intellect—was corrupted by the fall. What had been a sound mind full of the light of truth, full of the God who is the Truth, became unsound and darkened by falsehood.

While doubt is not a natural part of God’s creation, it is a normal part of our fallen world. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, to find that people doubt—or that we ourselves are doubters.

➤ Be merciful to doubters—Just as we should not be too surprised by doubt, we should not be too harsh on doubters (including ourselves). We should try to overcome doubt gently and with grace, for as Jude says, “Be merciful to those who doubt” (v. 22).

➤ Identify and question your doubt—Most doubt about the truth and reality of spiritual things is due to a deficit in either knowledge or experience. This type of doubt is the least worrisome for honest seekers because God will show them the truth they seek (see Jn 8:32).

Too often, though, we are quick to think the questions that arise from our doubts do not have answers or that the answers we’ve been given must be wrong. In such cases, we must continue to search for answers while also questioning our motives. For instance, do we not want to believe a particular claim in the Bible because it would require that we give up a favorite sin?

➤ Don’t give your doubt so much attention—“We need to learn to be relaxed about doubt,” Doubt is like an attention-seeking child. The more attention you pay to it, the more attention it demands. By worrying about your doubts, you get locked into a vicious cycle of uncertainty.

➤ Pray and meditate—The most powerful tools we have for dealing with doubt are prayer and meditation on Scripture. Ask God to take your doubts away as you focus on meditating on his Word.

Blessings from God and salutations from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember, prayer requests, questions or comments to the email please.

Pray for Emily and her husband Brian, he is only in his mid 30’s and his heart is giving out, and is not a candidate for a heart transplant.

Sue H, she is in her 60’s and is a trust fund baby, never grew up, never had a job and never became responsible, and now she is almost broke and has wrecker her health and mind with fear and worry.

Single?

July 29, 2017

A story is told of a woman approaching 35 without a husband. Late one afternoon she went into the woods to pray for a husband. She didn’t notice the hour growing late as she continued to pray. An owl in a nearby tree awoke and in a low voice said, “Who-oo!” Startled by the sound, the woman looked up and said, “Just anybody, Lord!”

A lot of you know how she felt. But, if God wants you to be married, He doesn’t want you married to just anybody. We all know that the bottom line is that Christians must only marry Christians. But beyond that, how do you know whom God wants you to marry? How do you know if God wants you to marry at all? Maybe His will is for you to remain single. What should be your motives if you’re seeking a mate? How can you know God’s will on this important decision?

I’d like to offer some practical advice to those who are single, based on Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7. He was writing to a church in a pagan, sex-saturated society. Many in that culture thought that satisfaction in life comes through gratifying sensual lusts. There were problems with immorality even among the members of the Corinthian church. Apparently, in reaction to the sensuality of the culture, some in the church were saying that all sex is wrong. The celibate life is the truly spiritual life. Perhaps they even pointed to the Apostle Paul as their hero. Even some who were married concluded that it was more spiritual to abstain from sexual relations in marriage. So Paul addresses these and some other problems in this chapter. We can’t deal with the entire chapter in detail. But, his word to singles is:

Singles should pursue a course that leads to the greatest devotion to Christ and His cause.

This advice applies to every Christian, single or married, of course. But it is Paul’s word especially to singles.

  1. If you can remain single and be devoted to the Lord in purity, do it.

While marriage is God’s normal design for most people, He has gifted some to remain single so that they can serve Him without the encumbrances that necessarily go along with marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (7:1), he is using the word “touch” as a figure of speech that refers to the physical relationship in marriage as representing marriage as a whole. Thus, he means, “It is good to remain single.” He restates the same idea in 7:7-9, and discusses it at length in 7:25-40. He is not commanding being single, since he recognizes the single state as a gift which God only gives to some (7:7-9); but he is strongly commending it, since it was a gift he himself had, and since it provides a number of advantages for serving the Lord that being married precludes.

This is perhaps a word that needs to be spoken more often in our day. Many Christians put pressure on singles, especially those getting along in years, to get married. Sometimes we communicate an unbiblical attitude: “I wonder what’s wrong with him (or her) that he’s never married? He seems like a nice person.” But Paul teaches that being single is good if a person is gifted for it, since it opens some opportunities for serving Christ that are closed to married people. To say this is not to deprecate marriage, which both Paul and other biblical writers esteem as God’s good gift (1 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:4). It’s just a matter of how God has gifted a person.

  1. ADVANTAGES OF REMAINING SINGLE:

Paul mentions at least two advantages for the person who is gifted to remain single.

(1) Singles have more freedom in difficult times (7:26). Paul is quick to add that a person who marries at such a time has not sinned (7:28). But the married person will have more trouble (the Greek word means “pressure”), and Paul is trying to spare him. Interpreters differ, and so I can’t be dogmatic, but I think that Paul sensed an impending time of persecution against the church. In such a time, it’s easier to be single than married. It’s one thing to be martyred for your faith as a single person. But it’s much more difficult to be imprisoned or face martyrdom if you’re married, both for you and for your family.

If you sense God’s call to be a missionary to a part of the world where you may likely suffer persecution or severe hardship for the sake of the gospel, you should consider remaining single. Or, if you have a ministry that requires long periods of travel, it might create such a strain on your family that it would be better not to get married. Some countries are not conducive to raising a family because of the political, economic, or educational situations. Many missionaries send their young children away to boarding schools. But I believe that if God is calling me to be a missionary and a father, then my children should stay with me on the mission field. If that isn’t possible, my first responsibility is to raise my children. So being single means that you will have more freedom in difficult situations than a man or woman with a family will have.

(2) Singles have more freedom to devote themselves fully to God and His service. In 7:32-35, Paul points out that the married person, of necessity, cannot be as devoted to the Lord as the single person. Marriage carries with it certain responsibilities and obligations that take time and effort which otherwise could have been given to the Lord. Of course, many single people are not as devoted to the Lord as many married people are. But Paul’s point is that if a single person gives himself fully to the Lord and His service, and a married person does the same, the single person will be more devoted since he does not have the family obligations that the married person has.

In one of his books, Peter Wagner mentions that John Stott, the well-known British pastor and author, is single. Wagner says that while he spends time with his family, Stott is writing another book or planning another conference or traveling to another country. There’s no way for a married person to match the output of a devoted single person. Perhaps you’re thinking, “If staying single has all these advantages, then why shouldn’t we all stay single? Why get married?”

More on that tomorrow.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Just Do It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

more than one day

July 17, 2017

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

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

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

REMEMBER: GOD’S DELIVERANCE IN THE PAST

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

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

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

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

REMEMBER: GOD’S BENEFITS IN THE PRESENT

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

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

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

REMEMBER: GOD’S PROMISES FOR THE FUTURE

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

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

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

do your part

June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to:

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

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

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

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

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

someone talking (Paul)

things spoken (gospel)

someone listening (Lydia)

the Lord opening the heart.

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

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

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

good faith

June 10, 2017

What is faith? A common misperception—held even by some Christians—is that faith is believing something without sufficient evidence or reason. Biblical faith, however, is the exact opposite of “blind faith.” As Elton Trueblood said, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

 The most foundational definition of faith in the Bible is found in Hebrews 1:1. Notice the two parts to the definition. To understand faith, we need to understand the meaning of both parts:

  ➤ Confidence in what we hope for—We tend to think of hope as an emotional state that reflects what we would like to happen in the future but are unsure will actually happen. For instance, we may “hope” our favorite sports team will win the championship. Despite our earnest desire, though, we have no assurance they will win.

 In Scripture, though, hope means something entirely different. Hope is a desire for a future outcome that is absolutely certain. Because we trust in God’s promises, we can be completely confident about the outcome. Because we know God can and will do what he says, our hope is a form of knowing. “Hope is faith looking forward.”

 ➤ Assurance about what we do not see—“Seeing is believing.” “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We like to see for ourselves, and there’s a tendency to think that if something can be seen then it’s tangible and real, while what cannot be seen (or experienced by one of our other senses) is less certain or even unknowable.

 In reality, though, we place a great deal of “faith” in what can’t be seen. We can’t see tomorrow, yet has that ever stopped us from making plans in expectation it will come? We have faith that tomorrow will occur because we’ve experienced a lot of “tomorrows” throughout our lives. Our assurance is based on our prior experience.

  Similarly, we have assurance that God will do what we cannot see because we know and trust him. If God tells us something is going to happen, we can have absolute assurance it will actually happen. We have faith in God because he’s proven he’s absolutely trustworthy.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

zippity do da

June 7, 2017

Everyone wants joy in life. On the surface, Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) are some of the simplest in Scripture to read and understand. But when you scratch beneath the surface, they raise a pile of questions: Is it really possible to rejoice always? What does this mean? Am I supposed to go around with a perpetual smile on my face? Is it a sin to feel depressed or sad? Am I supposed to deny pain or sorrow? How can you command a feeling, anyway? Are these the words of a bubbly, incurable optimist, or what? Just reading the verse might get some people depressed, because they despair of ever being able to do it!

We need to recognize that what Paul commands here is not just a cheerful disposition, which many have by nature, but rather something that requires supernatural power–it is joy in the Lord. And, while we may never perfectly attain such joy in this troubled world, Paul repeats the command for emphasis, as if to say, “It is possible, so don’t shrug off what I am saying.” His emphatic words show us …

Abiding joy in the Lord should be the aim of every Christian.

First, I want to define what Paul means when he commands us to rejoice in the Lord always; and then we’ll look at how we can obey such a command. Scripture must be our authoritative and sufficient source, not human wisdom or psychology.

What does “rejoice in the lord always” mean?

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE WILL NEVER FEEL DEPRESSED OR SAD.

The Bible is realistic and balanced. We must look at the totality of Scripture rather than taking a verse like this as if it were all that is written on the subject. It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy, even as He faced the cross (John 15:11). Paul commands us to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12;15), and yet to rejoice always. The Bible says that godly people are marked both by mourning (over sin, Matt. 5:4; James 4:9; 5:1) and yet by irrepressible joy. Scripture acknowledges that discipline and trials are not joyful at the moment, but that afterward they yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness if we submit to God (Heb. 12:11; John 16:20-22).

Thus we would misapply Paul’s words if we took him to mean that a Christian should deny or never feel sadness or grief. The Psalms are helpful in this regard. The psalmist often is overwhelmed with despair or sadness, and he readily acknowledges his feelings to God. He never puts on a happy face and denies the intensity of his troubles. But in the process of crying out to God for help and re-focusing his thoughts on the Lord and His great mercies, by the end of the psalm his mood has changed, even though his circumstances are no different. So the psalmist often experiences a flood of God’s joy even in the midst of tremendous pain. Thus to rejoice in the Lord always does not mean that we deny our feelings or that we stoically endure our trials by ignoring how much we hurt.

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS IS NOT PRIMARILY A MATTER OF FEELING, BUT OF OBEDIENCE.

Philippians 4:4 is a commandment, repeated twice for emphasis, so that we will not shrug it off. It is a command that we must deliberately choose to obey, especially when we’re in difficult circumstances. It has to do with our attitude which depends on our mental focus which depends on our choice. The choice to rejoice often must go deliberately against how we feel. When we go through trials, when we’re treated unfairly, when we’re disappointed by people or circumstances, we are faced with a decision: Will we obey this command to rejoice in the Lord or will we allow ourselves to be swept along by our feelings?

I just wish that Paul had been more realistic and had said, “Rejoice most of the time”! But if he had said that, most of us would have justified ourselves by thinking, “I usually do rejoice.” But we wouldn’t have had to confront our grumbling and complaining when things don’t seem to go our way; our lack of trust in God in the midst of trials; our anger when we’re treated unfairly; our disappointment when people let us down or, to be honest, when we feel that God has let us down.

We see this choice to rejoice illustrated in Paul’s life in this very epistle. He has been incarcerated for well over two years and is facing possible execution because the Jews in Jerusalem falsely accused him of bringing Gentiles into the temple and of stirring up rebellion against the Jewish people and their Law (Acts 21:28). Though he should have been released, the Roman governor kept him in custody because he was hoping to receive a bribe from Paul and because he wanted to do the Jews a favor (Acts 24:26, 27). The next governor also should have released him, but he, too, was playing politics with the Jews (Acts 25:9).

Not only that, but on the way to Rome Paul had gone through a shipwreck at sea. Once he arrived, many of the pastors in Rome were not only distancing themselves from Paul the prisoner, but were preaching out of envy, selfish ambition, and strife (Phil. 1:15, 17). Paul had good reason to be angry and depressed at the treatment he had received over the past few years. You would think that he would have been in need of the Philippians writing to cheer him up. But instead, this short letter to them is filled with joy (15 x). As Paul’s words in 1:18 show, his joy was not an automatic feeling, but rather a deliberate choice: “… in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”

  1. TO REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS IS AN ATTITUDE OF CONTENTMENT AND HOPE THAT TRANSCENDS CIRCUMSTANCES.

Though our hearts may be heavy with sorrow or grief because of trials, beneath the surface is the abiding confidence that our God is sovereign and that our lives are in His hand, so that not even the hairs of our heads fall to the ground without His knowledge. Paul had learned to be content in every situation (Phil. 4:11-13). “Every situation” for Paul included some severe trials, in some cases where he despaired even of life. But this, he writes was “in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;” then he adds, “He on whom we have set our hope” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).

This joy in the Lord which we must aim for is not a superficial happiness based on circumstances or on the absence of trials, but rather is a solid, abiding contentment and hope that is as steady and certain as our faithful God who has given us His promises in His Word. Our Lord Jesus knew that joy even as He faced the cross (John 15:11; 17:13). The apostles knew that joy when they were flogged for preaching the gospel, and they went on their way “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Paul and Silas knew that joy when they were unjustly thrown in the Philippian jail, their backs torn open, their feet in the stocks, as they sang hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25). Many martyrs, like John Hus, knew that joy. He died singing praises in the flames as his enemies gloated.

God intends for every believer to know this same joy in the Lord, especially in difficult times. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the Bible is filled with commands, such as our text, to rejoice (Ps. 5:11; 33:1; 64:10). It’s a matter of obedience, not of temperament. If we’re constantly depressed and weighed down with care, we’re not attractive advertisements for our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t be effective leaders in the church or godly examples to our families if we are dominated by depression. So we must work at developing this abiding joy in the Lord. Stay tuned!

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

Sunday’s Coming

June 3, 2017

In the movie Man in the Moon, a young girl asks her mom why her dad goes to his “church” (fishing) every Sunday morning instead of attending worship services with the rest of the family. The mother replies, “When he asked my daddy if he could marry me, my daddy said only if he agreed to find the Lord. And he says it’s a lot easier finding the Lord out fishing than in any church he’s ever been in.”

 Many Christians take a similar view, thinking they can “find the Lord” better by spending time in nature or hanging out with friends than by worshiping in a church service. But the Bible is clear that as obedient Christians we are to not only regularly meet with fellow believers (see Heb 10:24–25), but we must also have confidence in the authority of church leaders (see Heb 13:17). Commenting on this passage, Derek Rishmawy says,

  The point is very simple. In the Bible, Christians are commanded to submit and listen to the elders and deacons (pastors, etc.) whose job it is to guide, guard, and love them. Well, if you’re not a member of a church that has those leaders, you can’t very well submit to them now can you? The implication is that everyone who has professed faith in Christ is also simultaneously a part of a local body of believers.

  Why would we shun what others cherish? In many parts of the world today Christians risk their lives to attend worship services. Spending many years visiting “church folk” that wouldn’t attend church it always amazed me that they all had the same excuse, something didn’t go their way. Few churches are actually growing today they just recycle grumpy Christians.

  I feel grieved and embarrassed wondering how Christians outside the contemporary West—Christians who walk a dozen miles to meet with their church, or who meet underground for a 10-hour service—would feel about the idea that sitting in an air-conditioned sanctuary for 90 minutes is just too difficult.

  While a person can be Christian and never step foot inside a church, Scripture makes it clear that to be obedient to Jesus and become more like him it is essential to consistently attend church.

Sunday’s coming, go to church

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

who manages who

May 28, 2017

Firefighters know the danger of letting a fire get out of control. They are trained to respond quickly. You, too, must respond quickly to control the flames of anger before they consume your life and leave a smoldering ditch of destruction. “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (PROVERBS 29:22).

 WHAT ARE THE DEGREES OF ANGER? Anger is an emotional agitation that occurs when a need or expectation is not met. Like heat, anger has many degrees, ranging from mild irritations to hot explosions. Indignation—simmering anger provoked by something unjust and often perceived as justified Wrath—burning anger accompanied by a desire to avenge Fury—fiery anger so fierce that it destroys common sense Rage—blazing anger resulting in loss of self-control, often to the extreme of violence and temporary insanity

WHAT ARE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ANGER? Is it a sin for a person to be angry? No, the initial feeling of anger is a God-given emotion. The way you express this emotion determines whether your anger becomes sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” How can a person keep from feeling guilty when he is angry? Your anger is a signal that something is wrong. The purpose of the red warning light on a car dashboard is to propel you into action—to cause you to stop, evaluate, and do what is needed. For example, Jesus became angry at the hypocritical religious leaders who interpreted “resting on the Sabbath” to excess: “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’…and his hand was completely restored” (Mark 3:5).

WHAT ARE THE FOUR SOURCES OF ANGER?

Hurt—Your heart is wounded. Everyone has a God-given inner need for unconditional love. When you experience rejection or emotional pain of any kind, anger can become a protective wall that keeps people and pain away.

 Injustice—Your right is violated. Everyone has an inner moral code that produces a sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust. When you perceive that an injustice has occurred against you or others (especially those whom you love), you may feel angry. If you hold on to the offense, the unresolved anger can begin to make a home in your heart.

Fear—Your future is threatened. Everyone is created with a God-given inner need for security. When you begin to worry, feel threatened, or get angry because of a change in circumstances, you may be responding to fear. A fearful heart reveals a lack of trust in God’s perfect plan for your life.

Frustration—Your effort is unsuccessful. Everyone has a God-given need for significance. When your efforts are thwarted or do not meet your own personal expectations, your sense of significance can be threatened. Frustration over unmet expectations of yourself or of others is a major source of anger.

WHAT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ANGER? When we feel that our real or perceived rights have been violated, we can easily respond with anger.

 Wrong Belief: “Based on what I believe is fair, I have the right to be angry about my disappointments and to stay angry for as long as I feel like it. I have the right to express my anger in whatever way is natural for me.”

Right Belief: “Because the Lord is sovereign over me and I trust Him with my life, I have yielded my rights to Him. My human disappointments are now God’s appointments to increase my faith and develop His character in me. I choose to not be controlled by anger, but to use anger to motivate me to do whatever God wants me to do” (see 1 Peter 1:6-7).

HOW CAN PAST ANGER BE RESOLVED? Unresolved anger is a bed of hidden coals burning deep wounds into your relationships with God and with others. This powerful emotion robs your heart of peace and steals contentment from your spirit. So how is this anger resolved? Realize Your Anger — Willingly admit that you have unresolved anger. — Ask God to reveal any anger buried in your heart. — Seek to determine the primary reason(s) for your past anger. — Talk out your anger with God and with a friend or counselor. (Proverbs 21:2)

We need to remember that it is not a sin to get angry, it’s what we do while we are angry that is important. Good, godly responses are what important.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Remember all those on our prayer lists, especially Joe and his shoulder, a great deal of pain.

And Dave as his fights his 5th battle prostate cancer. He’s a brave guy.