Renounce Shameful Ways

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2 Corinthians 4:2 “We have renounced secret and shameful ways…”

Let’s talk about these words.

Secret – done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others, designed or working to escape notice, knowledge, or observation, something that is or is kept hidden or concealed.

Shameful – disgraceful or scandalous, mortifying, humiliating, dishonorable, shame = the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, disgraceful, regrettable.

Renounce – to give up or put aside voluntarily, to give up by formal declaration, to repudiate, to disown, to abandon.

We, as followers of Christ, are to abandon and give up all things (behaviors, thought patterns, words, etc.) that are shameful, disgraceful, improper… the things we’d rather keep a secret.

We so easily hide issues in our lives.

What do we hide? What would we be embarrassed about if it were known?  (And I’m not talking about events and sins of the past, that’s a different shame issue.  I’m talking about things you are doing or thinking right now.)

Part of the problem is that we think sin is like olive oil that floats in little bubbles on top of the water.  We think that sin can be compartmentalized and that it doesn’t affect the rest of our lives.  This is a LIE.  Sin is really more like food coloring in water.  It permeates everything.  The whole jar of water turns red.  Sin affects our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and is not easily contained.

I often ask this question when interviewing women who wanted to become Bible study teachers, “Is there anything in your life right now that, if revealed, would negatively impact your witness for Christ?”

How would you answer?  What is God bringing to mind?

We must renounce these behaviors as soon as they spring up (or Christ makes us aware of them). Renounce the whole thing until there is no hidden thing of dishonesty or craftiness about you.

If God is speaking to you about something, do not walk away from it.  Be obedient. Confess to God.  Acknowledge that you heard Him.  Ask for help, wisdom, direction, conviction.

Then confess to another person.  Ask for accountability.

We must maintain a continual watchfulness so that we have no secret, shameful things to be concealed.  Let us be women of integrity.

Screwtape’s Tactics Revealed

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This is a summary of various tactics used by Screwtape and his devil minions to bring ruin to the new Christian.  Chapters are noted in parentheses.  Scroll down through the list – it’s quite comprehensive!

Tactics of the enemy:

-Use of jargon in the church (1)

-Concerned not with true or false but trendy (1)

-Drawn constantly to immediate sensual experiences (1)

-Pressure of the ordinary without quiet time or peace (1)

-Pride, already knows everything, shallow, unteachable (1)

-Confused, no time for complex thinking (1)

-Old habits (2)

-Church is imperfect, full of hypocritical people (2)

-Disappointment with church and people (2)

-Boring, dryness of persevering (2)

-Keep dependent on emotional high (2)

-Mutual, daily annoyances of relationships (3)

-Keep blind to obvious faults of self (3)

-Distract from simple duties by thinking how hard bigger duties are (3)

-Make focus on irritations with spouse and family (3)

-Keep them from praying (4)

-Prayers lazy, unfocused, not concentrating (4)

-Make prayer a mood not effort of the will (4)

-Prayers focused on self and feelings (4)

-Praying to something/image not God (4)

-Ignoring reality of death, blind, refuse to consider (5)

-Contented worldliness *best weapon (5)

-Maximize uncertainty; focus on future (6)

-Fear, anxiety for future (6)

-Confusion about “cross to bear” (6)

-Direct malice toward neighbors, benevolence toward people he doesn’t know (6)

-Deny existence of spirit world (7)

-Lull into lukewarm complacency (7)

-Or fire up and divide into factions around irrelevant issue (7)

-Make saving the world the end goal (7)

-Mix politics and religion (7)

-Create partisan spirit in the community (7)

-Shock at period of difficulty, blind to cycle of life that is good and bad, feels unfair (8)

-In rough time tempt with sensual pleasure, esp. sexual (9)

-Addict to a declining pleasure (9)

-Isolate from experienced Christians (9)

-Despair (9)

-Effort to feel good by sheer will power (9)

-Circle of worldly and intellectual friends who lead astray (10)

-Create parallel lives Christian life vs. secular life, inconsistency (10)

-Debt, spending more than can afford (10)

-Neglect work or people (10)

-Domestic tension (10)

-Jokes as an excuse for behavior (11)

-Keep attending church but drift spiritually (12)

-Slow, gradual fade is more effective than a big sin (12)

-Social conformity, give up own interests (13)

-Always thinking, never acting (13)

-Proud of humility (14)

-Self focused (14)

-Too afraid (15)

-Too confident (15)

-Living in the past or the future (15)

-Fear, anxiety, greed, ambition, discontent (15)

-Church hopping, critical, uncommitted (16)

-Always comparing, critical not teachable (16)

-Sermon too easy, watered down (16)

-Sermon too hard, too strident (16)

-Focus on superficial church differences not doctrinal (16)

-Gluttony as excess, or as extreme pickiness, dominated by food (17)

-Deceive about love, sex, and marriage (18)

-Deceive about spiritual significance of sex (18)

-See everything as black and white (19)

-Marry one who makes life difficult (19)

-Make feel like temptation lasts forever, the only escape is to yield (20)

-Use media to create picture of perfect woman, impossible to find, create discontent, focus on sensuality (20)

-If cannot tempt to sex outside of marriage, then marry poorly (20)

– Darken intellect, no critical thinking allowed (20)

– Multipronged attack, several directions at once (20)

-Interruptions, lose free time, irritate with loss control of time (21)

-Focus on illusion of ownership of body, time, life, things – then frustrate (21)

-All that is good twist it for evil (22)

-Constant noise (22)

-Isolate him, dumb down spirituality (23)

– Remove spirituality, or corrupt it (23)

-Change picture of historical Jesus (23)

-Spiritual pride *strongest vice (24)

-Superiority of belonging to special group (24)

-Mocking those outside the group (24)

-Love for change and novelty, desire for constant change (25)

-Distract with trendy thinking, desire to be trendy (25)

-Disguise the real threat (25)

-Blinded by love, erotic enchantment (26)

-Chase earthly happiness (26)

-False spirituality (27)

-Confuse about prayer.  No means it doesn’t work.  Yes can be easily explained with secular. (27)

-Historical ignorance.  Non-intellectual. (27)

-Cut off every generation from others, intellectually, socially, etc. (27)

-Never ask if it’s true, evaluate author’s bias instead (27)

-Confuse about death.  Think death is the end.  Think survival is the greatest good. (28)

-Middle aged adversity, so long, so hard. War of attrition. (28)

-Adversity causes to lose hope, not persevere (28)

-Prosperity creates worldliness, attachment (28)

-Preoccupy with safety! (28)

-Noise, danger, & fatigue.  Wear them down.  Conscience muddled. (29)

-Create fear, hatred, shame, cowardice. (29)

-Keep peace!  War & calamity awaken them from spiritual stupor. (29)

-False hopes.  Disappointment. Tiredness. (30)

-Disappointment perceived as injury (30)

-Confuse/deceive with idea that death is the end (31)

Screwtape Reveals the Battle

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Book club discussion last night of The Screwtape Letters was quite lively!  We were unanimous – it was a hard book to read, it required concentration, note-taking, and head scratching.  It was a bit like being back in school.  BUT, it was really worth reading.  It was the kind of book that changed how you looked at the world.

Probably the biggest shift in our thinking came from the global message of the book.  In the modern preface C.S. Lewis writes,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

In general we agreed that we believed in Satan and devils (his minions) – but we never really gave much more than a passing thought to their existence.  We tended to think of temptation as something obvious – something that felt a bit wrong but we wanted it anyway.  That was the temptation “feeling” we were familiar with.  We also tended to – somewhat flippantly – credit devils with things like a day full of drama or other negative things or thoughts that happened to us.

We were shocked at the battle being waged in the world unseen.  Caught off guard at the all-encompassing nature of the warfare being waged against Christians… Persistent.  Specific to each man’s weakness.  In good times and in bad.  In his relationships.  In his thoughts.  In his community.  Every single day.  Whether he sees it or not.  It’s more focused on what we THINK than what we DO.  It’s not big obvious sins – we catch on to those too quickly and repent.  It’s a slow fade (thank you Casting Crowns).  It’s complacency, ignorance, apathy, and pride.

It’s scary!  We must pray that the Lord will reveal to us where we are weak, to keep us from being blinded by the temptations and distractions that are thrown our way.

More tomorrow.

Not “Accept” but Follow Christ

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* Guest blog, Susie Walther, http://www.thewellbiblestudy.org

Did you know that the religion of Jesus begins with the word follow (as in follow Christ) and ends with the word go (as in go into all the world and make disciples)?

Did you know that Jesus never told anyone to “accept Me,” but instead said in no uncertain terms to “follow Me?” Did you know, then, that the opposite of rejecting Jesus is not accepting Him, but rather choosing not to follow Him?

Until we begin to export en masse to the Church and the world the same kind of gospel Jesus lived, died and rose again to give us, bucket loads of people will continue to flounder in sin and compromise and/or remain spiritually sterile believing a version of “Christianity” that has no power to transform them or bear eternal fruit. But that will mean we’ve got to stop making this stuff up as we go along and just start believing what the Christ of the Bible told us, whether it fits our denominational SOP for doctrine or not.

And while I still have the mike, I’d like to say one more thing about this business of “acceptance.” Do you know that the ones who need to be accepted are us? We are rotten, miserable, self-centered creatures who intrinsically don’t know a thing about holiness or righteousness and we are the ones who need to be accepted by the Father, and He has ordained that the only means for His acceptance of us is through the blood sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. For crying out loud, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Why does He need to be accepted by us? We need to be accepted by Him!

So, we can make “decisions” and “professions of faith” and we can be baptized and confirmed all day long, but the Bible still says that to be accepted by God we must receive Christ which means we must repent of our sin. To repent means to surrender all rights and control of our lives. To surrender means to follow after Jesus. To follow means to obey Him, and to obey is to love God and others enough to go and make disciples!

This is Christ’s version of Christianity, ladies, and it’s the one that’ll revolutionize your life, this city, and the world.

Laws of Moses – No Other Gods

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BJ First Commandment“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.” – Deut. 5:6-7

We know this verse as the FIRST commandment.  It is the cornerstone of all the commandments.  The SECOND is like it.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” – Deut. 5:8-9

Got that?  We are to worship only the LORD, nothing else.  All our allegiance is to Him.

There is a whole collection of laws related to this command.  They could be grouped into the following categories:

A. Laws Against Idolatry and Paganism.

Don’t make other gods (out of any material you can imagine), don’t sacrifice to other gods, don’t swear by other gods, and don’t sacrifice your children to other gods.  Do not tolerate anyone among you who worships other gods and, in fact, you (nation of Israel) must completely destroy any city that worships other gods.  You also cannot worship the LORD wherever and however you choose – there is a specific way to worship Him, and a specific place (the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem).  (ref. Lev 19-20,26, Deut 12-14,17)

B. Laws Against False Spiritualists

Do not practice witchcraft, divination, sorcery, consult mediums or the dead, or cast spells – all such people must be put to death.  Do not listen to those who tell the future, interpret dreams, claim to be prophets, or lead you to serve another God.  Test the prophets and have no fear of them.  (ref. Deut 18, Lev 20)

C. Laws Regarding Blasphemy

Do not take the name of the LORD in vain, do not misuse the name of the LORD.   (ref. Deut 5, Lev 24) Did you recognize the third commandment?

D. Laws Requiring Dedications

In order to instill a proper sense of priorities and gratitude, God required that the first and best of everything be dedicated to the LORD.  The Law of Moses required dedication of the firstborn son, all firstborn male animals, and the first crops/grain/fruit.  The son can be redeemed and may return to the family, but the other dedications are used to support the work of the priests and Levites and to care for those with special needs. (ref. Ex 22,23,34, Deut 15)

E. Laws Requiring Tithing (ref. Deut 14,18)

F. Law of the Sabbath

The sabbath rest is noted twelve times in the giving of the laws and it is to serve as a day or remembrance and corporate worship and assembly.  It was the fourth commandment and symbolizes the day God rested after creation. (ref. Deut 5, Ex 31, Lev 19,23, Num 15)

Whew.  So what can we learn from this group of laws?

The LORD our God wants to be respected and honored – in our worship, our words, our labors and income, our children and all we own.  He does not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything else.

“You shall have no other gods.”

* This format of the Law of Moses is found in The Daily Bible (Chronological) by Harvest House Publishers, commentary by F. LaGard Smith.  I am so glad that someone grouped all the laws together and made sense of them for me!!

** Graphic from series, “What if God had texted Moses?” http://bjdhorehartford.blogspot.com/2011/05/if-god-had-texted-moses.html

The Laws of Moses

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Leviticus.  Sigh.  Leviticus is usually the point at which my Read Through The Bible plan comes to a screeching halt.law

Then I skip over most of Deuteronomy and start again in Joshua.  Let’s go conquer Jericho!

Offerings, feasts, clean and unclean animals and other things, sacrifices, altars, washing bowls, incense, and blood poured out and sprinkled on all kinds of things.  Really?  Who wants to read the Laws of Moses?  The whole system certainly seems confusing.  Complicated.  And extremely exact.  There is only one right way to keep the Law, and if you screwed it up you were guilty of trespass – ignorance was no excuse.

Well, by golly, it’s been at least five years since I read the Laws of Moses.  How about you?  I am determined to get through them… and not only that, but to make some sense of them.  As I read along, I would like to share with you the big pieces of the puzzle – the broader framework that the Laws of Moses hang on.  I hope you’ll find the Big Picture helpful.

The explicit purpose for each law or statute is rarely given.  However, most of the laws are designed with fundamental principles in mind:

The Laws of Moses were designed to teach the Israelites:

1. To honor and respect God above all else,

2.  To honor and respect people and their property, and

3. How to be holy and aware of their separateness (from the nations around them) as a God’s specially chosen people.

The Laws of Moses provided a national framework for what was right and wrong.  As Moses told the people, “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing what is right in his own eyes!” – Deut. 12:8

The laws must also be viewed in the context of the life and times in which the Israelites were living.  They were surrounded by death, wicked kings, and nations that practiced child sacrifice.  Keeping that in mind, we realize that the Laws of Moses impose an incredibly high standard of ethical conduct on the nation.  We also find that the laws are unique (for that era) in teaching the value of a human life, the importance of due process, and the necessity of judicial fairness/equal justice.

Indeed, the laws were established for the good of the people.  (Why do laws not always feel like they are for our own good?!)

As Moses said, “Now, Israel, what does the Lord require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statues which I am commanding you today for your good.” – Deut. 10:12-13

We also know from reading Romans that it is the Law that makes people aware of what is sin (3:20), even though our conscience often makes this clear to us anyway (2:14-15).  We also know that no one was ever justified before God by keeping the Law (3:20, 3:28, 4:13) and only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law.  And we know that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away the guilt and sins of the people (Hebrews 9:9-10 and 10:1-4,11) and that we are cleansed only in the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.

So just remember that the Laws of Moses were a framework of right and wrong, were designed to teach important principles, and were for the good of the people.  I am so glad that Jesus Christ came as our perfect high priest and instituted a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10-11) so that we are not bound by the Laws of Moses!

However, we’re still going to read them – because we can learn from them!

Here is an excellent commentary on the purpose of the law:  http://agapegeek.com/2010/05/14/understanding-the-bible-definition-and-purpose-of-the-law-of-moses-pt-1/

Thinking About Hell

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DamnedIfYouDoI heard a great sermon on  hell last Sunday.

“Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:2-5

I’ve been thinking about hell all week – and rereading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.  Here are a few quotes that have stuck with me,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”

“The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ –or else not.”

Did you get that?  “All that are in Hell, choose it.”  The reoccurring theme here is choices… Little choices, big choices, choices every day and every hour.  Choices to love, to obey, to surrender, to seek truth, to reach out, to engage, to labor…. Or choices to disobey, to turn away, to be independent, to seek our own good, to hide behind falsehood, to ignore, to not love, to be lazy…

Over time our choices will define us and the path that we walk on.

One day we shall come to the end and discover that we have chosen our own destiny.  God, in His grace and mercy, desires that we choose to follow Him… to take the narrow path, the path of surrender and obedience… And if we do He will do everything in His power to help us along, making us stronger, sustaining and encouraging us, and using us to bring about His kingdom on earth.

If we chose not to follow Christ He does not give up on us but continually pursues us… Yet, like a warm coal that is separated from the fire, as it draws farther and farther away it becomes harder and harder to breathe life and flame into it… It cools and eventually there is no possibility of a fire left in it.

God is calling – You choose.  Hell is a reminder that the choices we make matter, right now.

Here’s the sermon: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fusion-sermons/id554555824 under the title “Hell And Who Goes There”.  He covers what Jesus meant when He spoke of gehenna, God’s love and justice, universalism, exclusivism, and inclusivism, and more.  It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.