The Enemy is on the Prowl – May 14, 2021

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that the cross was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.  Because of that, I’m always loath to allow other potential stumbling blocks (or foolishness) into my preaching/teaching ministry, BUT I must never shy away from warning against cultural abominations that are potentially slipping into the way Christians think.  Jim Denison, out of Southwest Baptist, does a pretty good job of doing biblical, non-partisan analysis.  Please, for the soul of your family, give this a read.

Pastor Scott

 How Satan Is Using the Lie that Personal ‘Authenticity’ Is the Pathway to Personal, Social Flourishing

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Wednesday, May 12, 2021


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced this week that it will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their statement requires healthcare providers and other organizations that receive funding from HHS to provide medical services to transgender individuals. Such services include sex-change procedures for any and all patients who request them—even children.

The HHS announcement does note that its Office for Civil Rights “will comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” However, if the so-called Equality Act now before the Senate becomes law, such appeals to religious liberty will be expressly forbidden. In that case, faith-based hospitals would be required to perform sex-change surgeries on children and adults.

This is just the latest step in a spiritual conflict that involves every evangelical Christian in America.

“THE MOST IMPORTANT CULTURAL BOOK OF THE YEAR”

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, by historian Carl Trueman, is being called “the most important cultural book of the year (maybe even decade).” I just finished other reading and began the book yesterday; so far, I would have to agree.

For example, Trueman utilizes the work of sociologist Philip Rieff to offer a concise explanation of our cultural progression from the ancient world to today. Rieff notes that we have sought meaning and purpose in four stages:

1.     Political man: the Greco-Roman ideal of people engaged in community life.

2.     Religious man: the medieval ideal of people engaged in church services and religious pilgrimages.

3.     Economic man: the modern ideal of people finding their sense of self through financial activity and material success.

4.     Psychological man: the postmodern ideal of people finding their identity through the inward quest for personal, psychological happiness.

Trueman is quick to note that this formulation is far too simplistic on its own. For example, the Apostle Paul was clearly aware of his inner self and its challenges (cf. Romans 7), as were St. Augustine in his Confessions and Martin Luther in his struggles with personal failings. However, Rieff’s stages do describe the larger narrative leading to the present moment.

According to Trueman, the psychological stage created the cultural context for the sexual revolution. Friedrich Nietzsche taught us to cast off social norms and restraints that inhibit us; Karl Marx taught us to resist the oppression of ruling classes; Sigmund Freud taught us that we are at core sexual beings and that our sexual desires are decisive for who we are.

As a result, we are urged to seek personal authenticity with regard to our sexual orientation and gender identity and to reject any individuals or institutions who inhibit us. This worldview has come to dominate secular society and seeks to replace the biblical worldview it rejects.

HOW SATAN WAGES WAR TODAY

Now, let’s recast this narrative in the context of spiritual warfare.

The Bible warns us that “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As a result, we must “resist him, standing firm in your faith” (v. 9). Like lions in the wild, Satan adopts strategies that are suited to the victims he seeks to “devour.”

During the “political” phase of Western history, he used persecution by the Roman Empire to attack the Christian movement. The Holy Spirit responded by leading Roman leaders such as Constantine to faith in Christ and the legalization of Christianity, which led to the medieval “religious phase.”

Satan responded by seeking to institutionalize the faith, turning Christianity into rules and activities rather than a personal relationship with a personal Savior. The Spirit responded with Luther’s call of sola fidei (“only faith”) and the success of the Protestant Reformation.

Satan responded by seeking to commercialize the faith, turning the Christian movement into a transactional quest for economic and material gain. The Spirit responded with the evangelical movement’s emphasis on salvation and transformational spirituality.

Now Satan is responding by seeking to psychologize the culture with the lie that personal “authenticity” is the pathway to personal and social flourishing. This strategy takes us back to the first stage as evangelicals face antagonism and opposition from those who caricature us as dangerous to society and seek to replace our worldview with theirs.

There are clearly exceptions to my narrative, such as medieval and Reformation-era Catholics whose faith was deeply personal and evangelicals whose spirituality is coldly transactional. But my arc illustrates the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves today.

“YOUR COMMANDMENT MAKES ME WISER THAN MY ENEMIES”

How do we respond to a culture that condemns us as opponents of the authenticity it demands? One answer is to be just as authentic as believers as our opponents seek to be as secularists.

The key to being authentically Christian, of course, is being authentically with Christ.

Paul said of Christians, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Spirit of Christ lives in us as his temple (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16). But we must cooperate with the Spirit in thinking like Jesus: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

How? Begin your day by meeting God in his word. Ask him to speak to you through Scripture, agreeing with J. I. Packer that the Bible is “God preaching.” Memorize God’s word regularly, then ask the Spirit to bring biblical truth to mind as you face the challenges and opportunities of your day. Pray for the strength to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

If you will say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), you will be able to testify, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” (v. 98).

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that “a man is what he thinks about all day long.”

What—or who—will you think about today?

 Publication date: May 12, 2021

https://www.denisonforum.org/about/denison-forum/

Moms! May 7, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day

The following was written, in the “voice” of Paul Harvey, by Heather Sears, a young mom of three on her seventh Mother’s Day.  ~Pastor Scott

SO GOD MADE A MOTHER

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a mother.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up throughout the night, nurse and change the baby, get little sleep, work all next day, attend the kids events, fix dinner and then clean up the kids for bed and the kitchen and stay up past midnight going over and prepping for what needs to be done the next day.” So God made a mother.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to carry groceries in one and a child in another, be strong enough to watch them leave 18 years later and yet gentle enough to wipe all their tears and kiss their boo boos. Somebody to discipline, make sure they have clothes to wear, run errands, do three things at once, and to take pictures of every special moment. Tame the kids from fighting with one another, and tell them that God is watching – and mean it.” So God made a mother.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a sick child. And help them throw up in the bucket. Then wipe their mouth and say, ‘I think I’m getting sick, too.’ I need somebody who can feed, dress and get their kids off to school on time, take them all to the grocery store with her, who can plan birthday parties, buy Christmas gifts for everyone and host a holiday dinner for 12. And who, by school time and summer break, will finish her 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pained from cleaning the house and being climbed on all day, put in another 72 hours.” So God made a mother.

God had to have somebody compassionate enough to be there for their first heartbreak, spend their bonus check on a trip to Disneyland, and yet stop and offer a hug to another mother who has hung her head in frustration and remind her that she’s doing a great job. So God made a mother.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to stand up for her child who’s been bullied at school, or herself when she’s been harassed at work,  yet gentle enough to tame teenage tongues and potty train a toddler, and wipe her own tears and tell herself it’ll all be okay. One who will dance in the rain and squeal in laughter with her kids. It has to be somebody who’d work on letters and numbers and reading and not cut corners. One who would have the embarrassing and private talks with them and stand by their curfew, hold her children in her arms and sing them a lullaby,  yet bake cookies and say ‘yes’ when they ask to lick the bowl.  Somebody to teach kids how to play sports, cook, clean, have compassion and confidence, not to give into temptation, be independent, be true to who they are, teach them chores and color in the lines, ask for help but not give up, have common sense, tie their shoes, and reply to my daughter, ‘Yes, you can do anything a boy can do,’ and finish a hard week’s work eating a big ice cream cone with sprinkles. I need somebody who’d hold a family together with the soft strong bonds of love and forgiveness, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when her daughter says she wants to spend her life ‘doing what mom does.’” So God made a mother.

Let’s Be Intentional – April 30, 2021

 Individuals are individuals. We each have our own temperaments, experiences, and backgrounds. That said, there are certain things that are hardwired based on whether or not we have an XX or an XY chromosome. There has been a huge disruption out in the world the last five years about these truths, but I want to just talk about us (believers).

 A frequent source of tension in marriage can arise from these differences.  

An impatient man is annoyed that he has to get up again to check that noise downstairs. It’s probably just a branch falling. Why’s she so fearful? 

A hurt wife is sad because her insensitive husband didn’t get it when she said, “I’ve been too busy with the kids’ homework to fix dinner,” that he was supposed to say, “Let’s get takeout,” not, “Cereal’s fine.”

These two scenarios are normal and maybe even familiar, but they, if never discussed, will turn into a cycle that can run marriages into the ground. I want to dissect what is happening so we can be sure we aren’t doing unto our kids what the world is doing – at least in this small arena!

Men are born with different sensitivities than women.* Therefore, we tend to be less afraid of spiders, mice and noises in the night, but can’t tell when things aren’t “okay” with our teenage daughter until the shouting or crying starts. Women read social cues much better. I believe this is because God designed them to be moms who need to be able to understand nonverbal cues, and He designed men to be the protectors who are unafraid of predators and enemies. Now in a marriage, when we each try to get the other to be more like us, we just cause frustration. I will never have the social senses my wife has, and she will never rehearse the rhyme “red touch yellow, kill a fellow.” She’ll just want me to kill it. So we each need to stop trying to change the other. I need to let her be my social guide, thanking God for this help mate. She needs to let me be her protector, as decrepit as I may be.  🙂

The marriage issues, however,  simply illustrate a larger concern. Boys playing dress-up and girls being tomboys have always been around. Yet this concept of making it permanent, while not new, has exploded, first with effete men thinking they are women, and most recently with teen girls thinking all of their troubles would go away if they became men.

My prayer is that we would raise our kids to be strong, confident believers, who are also strong and confident in who God made them to be. I would hope we wouldn’t expect our little boys to read our moods but to obey (listen to and act on) our words. I would also hope that we wouldn’t tell our little girls that men have it easier. Go ahead and teach them how to maintain their cars and do basic home repairs; I’m not counseling a return to the “Little House on the Prairie.”  I just want to send up a red flag and say we are entering really dangerous waters. As you are the primary spiritual influencer of your children, make sure they not only know who they are but WHAT they are!

Hang in there and pray like your grandchildren’s lives depend on it!

Pastor Scott

*Yes, this is a generalization. Yes, there are VERY sensitive men, typically with the spiritual gift of mercy.

The Holy Spirit – April 23, 2021

As I prepared to preach on 3 John, I planned to discuss the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.   Thumbing through my illustration file I found two about the Holy Spirit that I loved, but that had NOTHING to do with my message. I almost let them fall back when a still, small voice said, “That’s what blogs are for!”  Hope these touch your heart, too! 

Blessings,

Pastor Scott

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive role is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:29, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to church one winter evening to preach on the words, “He will glorify me” (John 16:14), seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are placed so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder onto Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, “Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,” but always, “Look at Him and see His glory; listen to Him and hear His word; go to Him and have life; get to know Him and taste His gift of joy and peace.” The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together. 

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

Gordon Brownville’s Symbols of the Holy Spirit tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird’s cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, “He’s alive! My husband is still alive!”

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to His promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus

Thomas Lindberg

Self-Destruction – April 9, 2021

As I prepare to preach about Idolatry on Sunday, I’m reading through sermon illustrations and found one that not only condemns idols, but says a lot about the dominant political philosophy of our day! Be warned! Pastor Scott

“In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.

“I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it.”

“I,” said the second, “know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.”

The third said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair.”

“And I,” concluded the fourth, “know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete.”

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialities. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion’s. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can turn and destroy us–unless we first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.”

Jesus, as time allows…. April 2, 2021

John 21 begins at least nine days after the resurrection. John records it as Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples. Most scholars believe that John 21 is where Peter is restored; it’s often referred to as Peter’s recommissioning. If you search out Peter’s forgiveness for the three-part denial, you always get the three-part “do you love me” story in John 21, which makes the opening of John 21 that much more interesting. As the chapter begins, Peter takes some of the guys fishing. They are out all night and don’t catch a thing. As they are coming in, a guy calls to them and tells them to cast on the other side, and John recognizes that it’s the Lord. Peter jumps in the water and swims 100 yards to shore! Then, when he gets there he helps haul in the huge load and they all have breakfast.

The thing that challenges me the most is how excited Peter was to get to Jesus. I don’t know if he still had some ‘splainin’ to do or not. He threw himself into the sea and swam to His Savior and Lord, like a moth to the flame. Like Jesus was his PRIORITY!   

In the ‘70s I wrote a story wherein I postulated that an archeologist digging up our homes would assume we worshipped the televisions. Now I wonder if it wouldn’t be our cell phones or our coffee makers. I want to live making Jesus and His Word my priority!

Give ear to my words, O Lord,

Consider my groaning.

Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,

For to You I pray.

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;

In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Psalm 5:1-3  

Male and Female He Created Them – March 26, 2021

As a kid in the ‘70s, I rode my bike everywhere. By the time I got to junior high, I still couldn’t dribble a basketball or hit a baseball with any consistency, but because I had put so many miles on my bike, it turned out I could run! Not particularly fast, but for long distances. My junior high PE teacher connected me to the high school cross-country coach, and a month before my freshman year started I was out running everyday with the team. That year I ran three seasons of track in Wheaton, Illinois, and had started to think I had a future in distance running. Then we moved to the desert southwest (Arizona). My sophomore year I ran cross-country for Mesa High School with desert rats and kids that grew up on the reservation. They lapped me like I was standing still. Yet it was cross-country and I was allowed to run with the herd, which brings me to the point of this story.

Mesa High was a big school and late in the season we hosted a state-wide invitational. At this event we all lined up like they do at the Boston Marathon; the boys and the girls ran the same two-mile course. At the two-mile mark, the girls ran into their chute, and the boys ran past it to complete their third mile. After two miles, I and three other pasty white boys were dead last.  About 30 yards after passing that two-mile chute we heard a HUGE crowd roar, like nothing you ever hear at a cross-country meet. I asked the guys I was running with, “What just happened?” and a senior said, “The female state champion is here today; that must have been her finishing her race.”  

This happened in 1978. I thought nothing of it, but recent events have brought this personal experience to mind. To be fair I was a slow cross-country runner, but I was still a cross-country runner. In a boys’ PE class I was far and away the best distance runner every time. So this is not to say that any man could beat the state champ. However, it says something, that the entire men’s division beat the entire women’s division, including the state champ.  

It says that God made us differently.  And that difference is reflected in every cell, from our brains down to our toenails. One to nurture and one to protect. Change my mind. 🙂 

Loving Others – March 19, 2021

A fellow student of the scripture pointed out, regarding the past Sunday’s sermon on 1 John 5:1-5, that I might have missed an important point in connecting loving others and keeping the commandments. I admit I did. Most of the commentators I read are very diligent to keep in mind that the New Testament authors are all of Jewish background and that any scriptures to which they refer must therefore be Old Testament. I fell into that and used Exodus 20 as my example of what John may have been thinking. John, however, knew Jesus and was present!

Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Consider these 14 instructions that the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent, breathed regarding how to love one another well as we seek to “love God and keep His commandments.” 1 John 5:3

#1 – PRAY FOR One Another

James 5:16 (NLT) says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

#2 – GREET One Another

1 Corinthians 16:20 (NLT) says, “All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss.”

#3 – BE KINDLY AFFECTIONATE to One Another

Romans 12:10 (NLT) says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

#4 – GIVE PREFERENCE to One Another

Romans 12:10 (NKJV) says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;”

#5 – LIVE PEACEFULLY with One Another

Romans 12:16 (NLT) says, “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”

#6 – ENCOURAGE One Another

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

#7 – ACCEPT One Another

Romans 15:7 (NLT) says, “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”

#8 – ADMONISH & WARN One Another

2 Thessalonians 3:15 (NLT) says, “Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”

#9 – SERVE One Another

Galatians 5:13 (NLT) says, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

#10 – BE PATIENT with One Another

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NLT) says, “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”

#11 – BEAR One Another’s BURDENS

Galatians 6:2 (NLT) says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

#12 – BE KIND to One Another

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

#13 – SUBMIT to One Another

1 Peter 5:5 (NLT) says, “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

#14 – BE HOSPITABLE to One Another

1 Peter 4:9 (NLT) says, “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

Be Of Good Cheers?

“Sometimes you want to go

where everybody knows your name

and they’re always glad you came….”

I’m sure I’m not the only writer to mention that it’s been a year since we first closed down our hospitals and nursing homes to visitors in order to stem the tide of this pandemic.  So, for me, it’s been a year since I’ve visited many of our own homebound members. . . and a year since I’ve walked by the beds or rooms of others who I didn’t know, but who watched me to see if I would come sit awhile with them, too.

I have been thinking about them a LOT since we flew back from Phoenix after leaving my very social mother in a skilled nursing facility during COVID quarantine.  She was lonely within hours.  Some of our own people, who built this church, have been lonely for months.   Because of the pandemic, the ache of loneliness (unmet fellowship needs) has crept into most of our lives.   I remember many years ago hearing the Cheers theme song (see above) and thinking how glad I was that God gave us the church to meet that very human need; because, beloved, it is a need.  It’s not a need all of us feel as quickly as others, but it’s a need all of us have.

It’s harder to connect when there are fewer gatherings.  It’s harder to connect with masks and social distancing. But our texts, phone calls, window visits, even cards and letters mean that much more now, precisely because we have fewer gatherings!

Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know,” said Mamie, ‘but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.”

Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, p. 2.

Take 30 minutes TODAY and call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.  Take an hour and drive over to someone’s house and honk outside their window.  I know this thing is stretching out forever and we are getting tired of it, but it seems like God knew that might happen… “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)

Let’s keep loving God by loving each other,

Pastor Scott