Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How Can I Rid My Heart of Bitterness in My Marriage?

The following exercise was developed to help someone who sought help to deal with bitterness in her marriage. Hopefully you can glean biblical principles and insights for your heart as you seek to grow in your love for God and love for others.

1. Continue your own, personal pursuit of the LORD. as you grow in your love for the LORD, you will grow in your obedience.
2. Study the Gospel of John chapters 12-17; note how your obedience is motivated & enabled by your love for Christ & abiding in Christ and His love for you.
3. When your focus is on Christ’s love for you, when His Word is dwelling in you richly (Col. 3:16), your growing love will produce obedience (Jn. 14:23) and will either prevent bitterness or dispel it (compare Eph. 4:22-24 & 4:31).

1. Each night before you go to bed, ask the LORD, “Are there any 'logs' that I need to deal with from today? (Mt. 7:1-5), confess your sin(s) to God and each other.
2. Then, ask your spouse, " Do you see any 'logs in my eye” that I’m not aware of?
3. If/when you see sin in your spouse, ask, “Should Love cover”? (1Pet.4:8) or should love confront"? (see Eph.4:15-16, 25, 29 &  Love Covers | Desiring God]. Love should generally confront repetitive sinful attitudes and actions that hinders one’s walk with the LORD, and adversely affects others around them.

1. Pray that God would reveal any unresolved conflicts, harbored bitterness or resentment in your own heart from the beginning of your relationship. Don’t leave any ‘stone unturned’.
2. Pray for wisdom to compare your spouse’s actions or failures with the standards of scripture. Have they violated God’s standards, or have they violated your standards and preferences? If it is simply a matter of your standards or preferences, pray for the grace to let ‘love cover’.
3. If they have truly sinned against God,
a) pray for the grace to release your spouse from culpability, relinquish them to God and trust Him to deal directly with the other person regarding the sin or hurt;
b) go to him/her and graciously talk about what the sin(s) with a balance of grace and truth, so that he/she can confess to God and seek forgiveness and restoration.

D. WHEN CONFRONTED ABOUT YOUR SIN (taken from Peacemaker)
1. Assume an attitude of humility. Resist pride which says, "I can't believe I did that" or "I can't believe he/she is making this an issue". Humility says, “I’m thankful I didn't sin worse”.
2. Address everyone who is/was effected.
3. Avoid excuses ("if", "but", "maybe").
4. Admit specific sinful attitudes, actions, failures. General statements are not true confessions.
5. Acknowledge th.e hurt you've caused and express sorrow.
6. Accept the consequences, commit to doing what you can to make right what you can where you've done wrong.
7. Ask for forgiveness.

E. WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? Forgiveness has two elements, a contract and a commitment. The contract of forgiveness involves 4 promises modeled after God’s forgiveness. The contract of forgiveness promises:
1. I will not bring this up again with you.
2. I will not bring this up again with others.
3. I will not bring this up again with myself and dwell on it
4. I will not allow this to destroy our relationship. Forgiveness is an instant, one-time action that requires a commitment to repeatedly honor the 4 promises.

God’s love for us that enables our forgiveness through Christ is the power and motivation to help you rid your heart of all bitterness.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:29-5:2)

Pastor Kent

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thoughts on Purity and Modesty, Part 2

Image from
There is a push to ask questions on the relationship of culture to sexuality and lust. Statements like, "God made my body, why shouldn't I and others love it," "Aren't we just animals anyway," and "How can this be wrong when it is accepted in so many other places in the world" are now common place and with them is the overarching idea that modesty and purity are based, not upon absolute truth, but instead on cultural subjective norms. To this thinking we look today.

The human body, like all creation, was created perfect by God (Gen 1:31). However, sin did mar that greatly. The misguided premise has been made by some that clothing is a result of the fall and man should pursue a pure view of the body rather than seeking to cover it. This, however, is based on a false notion. While man takes fig leaves and recognizes his shame and need for covering, he is not the only one who clothes himself. God, actually knowing man's plant clothing would not work, kills for the first time in creation and makes clothes for man (Gen 3:7 & 21). What is the extent of that clothing? We don't know, but it would seem to at least involve that which primarily makes humans men or women. The shame of physical nakedness is a result of the fall, and is something that we don't biblically see fully corrected till eternity. Marriage is really the only reprieve from this to be had (Eph 5:31), and even that comes with work. We don't see Paul write about us pursuing "pure" nudity or see Christ return in a nude resurrection body. Rather Christ's statement about no marriage in heaven would seem to show the lack of the act or focus on sex in relation to the eternal sexuality we will each maintain for all time (Mat 22:30).

All that being said, the extent of the shame or guilt over one's nakedness, while possibly being culturally influenced, does not mean there is or should be no shame at all over nakedness. In other cultures from the most prudish to most nudist, each has some form of dress they do wear which shows the universality of the effect of the fall. Also, at least the majority of cultures who do different activities completely naked are far more godless societies without the gospel or God, as of yet, having affected their hearts. This accounts for a great deal of the third world and tribal groups we know of today. This is not a new thing however, actually, throughout time we see sinful men seeking to do away with the laws of God and the guilt that comes with breaking them. Because one culture has possibly eroded their conscience does not mean we should participate as well. An example of this is nude beaches in much of Europe. On the other hand, we do want to teach liberty in the context of dress and should help to inform other cultures of right standards. For example, we would encourage a Muslim woman with truth and, as she comes to know the Lord, help her retrain her conscience to not think a burka is necessary to conceal herself for modesty. Also, as a quick note, the values and views of the United States are not a healthy middle ground between these two extremes. We also are culturally bankrupt in this area and as believers need to put far more thought into what is truly biblically acceptable.

Much of the desire for a view like that of a self-proclaimed "Christian" nudist seems to stem, rather than from Scripture, from psychological beliefs that people are not comfortable with their bodies or other's bodies and don't love themselves and thus all the problems of sexuality and lust are caused. These views, rather than being helpful, are actually dangerous at the least and a very useful excuse for pursuing sin. Some take this and use the argument that viewing pornography is actually just looking at art. Others might call it "window shopping." All of it, however, stems from a wrong view of God and the stewardship of our bodies He gives us. "for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:20). "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." (1 Cor 6:13).

Phil Smith
Youth Minister

Friday, December 9, 2016

Parenting and Sexuality

On December 11 and 18 (both Sundays), I will be leading a two-part Gospel Institute class/discussion called Parenting and Sexuality in the Washington library from 10:30-11:45am. I'd love for you to join me. This class is for those with teens or those who are preparing to be parents of teens and will cover topics like helping our kids see a higher joy as they mature, resources for parents, gospel-centered tech use, and how our marriages can help shape our kids' view of sexuality.  I was reviewing my notes and found something I have quoted in the class that I wanted to share. The quote is from Matt Smethurst on an post he made on the Gospel Coalition site and can be found here
"I think it's a series of conversations beginning around puberty where we help them see that their new desires for romantic and sexual intimac
y can either lead them into sin or lead them to greater fellowship with Christ and (possibly) to a future spouse. The self-control we hope our children learn before puberty will play a huge role here. Moral purity is about delaying gratification—it's about saying no to a lesser pleasure now for the sake of a greater pleasure later. We err if we deny the lesser pleasure is real. And we also err if we fail to warn them that this lesser pleasure is followed by pain, because God wired us to experience physical intimacy in the context of a lifetime commitment. Therefore, he forbids that we express ourselves sexually outside the context of marriage. And the Holy Spirit can empower obedience in this area."
I’d love for you to join Casey and me as we unpack this quote and discuss more about God’s plan for us as parents. 

Take care, 
Ben D.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thoughts on Modesty & Purity

As someone who works with youth the issues of modesty and purity seem to come up rather often in conversations. How does one pursue modesty and purity in a self-centered and sexually driven culture? What are they even? How are we as a church to help others pursue these things? There are so many questions in these areas and our culture certainly does not help answer them in any way that honors the Lord or upholds His Word and desires. Thus, it seems good to at least delve into these topics a bit and, if nothing else, hopefully start us thinking and conversing on these topics a little more.I believe it necessary first to define a few terms and to do so Biblically...
  • modesty - choosing to act in such a way as to not draw away attention from Christ or others to oneself. 1 Tim 2:9-10 is not talking about the women wearing too little clothing and needing to put more on in any way, nor is the dress described necessarily seductive in any way in that cultural time. Paul's issue has very little if nothing to do solely with sex and is rather focused on attention seeking. By making modesty simply a "sex" or "amount of clothes/skin covered" issue we miss the entire point. Modesty is about drawing attention to oneself rather than being selfless and humble. That goes far deeper because it applies not just to outward dress, but to the heart. Thus, while this is an issue typically linked with women, it is for men too. Both are susceptible to desiring attention from others. In the context Paul then goes on to note what godly women should be noticed for, i.e. godly actions and service done in humility. Notice the key end he puts is "humility." Even serving in the church can be done immodestly seeking after the attention of others rather than to serve Christ. That does not mean it should not be done either, but rather than the deeper issue is of the heart in all our actions. 1 Pet 3:1-4 proves this and shows how dress is not the issue at all in comparison, but rather the heart attitude of humble servant-hood is what is key.
  • purity - a heart attitude that desires to run from sin's tainting in all areas of one's life and thus live in an ever more Christ-like manner. This is not simply changing outward actions or only dealing with sexuality. Rather, it is a much bigger and broader issue. Jesus in Mat 5:8 shows the extent of this where harboring sin keeps us from seeing and interacting with God and in converse running from it allows us to draw close to Him (Prov 28:13). This is a far bigger issue than just not "having sex or lusting" it affects my very heart's desires of why I do everything I do. Am I in every action seeking after Christ's glory and ownership of my life or my own desires?

While we could do more terms, these should be a good foundation. What then do modesty and purity look like for a (young) lady? For a lady to be modest is in many ways a subjective issue, especially when looking at her outwardly. It could involve her clothes whether wearing a shirt or skirt that is  too short or too long, what she does with her hair making it ultra flashy or intentionally overly plain, what sort of makeup or decorative jewelry she wears or doesn't. Other forms of outward modesty involve a woman's actions. It means she won't act certain ways that draw attention to herself. These actions cover the spectrum of extremes. They could be  such things as flirting to gain a guy's attention, or on the other side, belching loudly to gain other forms of social attention. They could be constantly fidgeting and poking people so they "feel" your presence, or the opposite of drawing away and refusing to engage others rather than pursuing people,... Any of these actions and dress styles or lack of them has the possibility to be immodest since all can be used as a way to draw people's attention to herself.

Here is the issue, ultimately, more than the outward things, the real question of a lady's modesty is why she dresses or acts like she does. In Luke 6:45 Jesus states, "…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Outward statements and actions are really only results of the inward thinking and desires in a person's inner self. Thus, a lady can be modest when her focus and goal is on God being glorified in her life and others around her are being cared for and served. Her purity then, will be shown in how she deals with all of her sin, daily taking it before the Lord and leaving it at the cross. Her desire for purity and to be rid of sin will inform her desire for modesty as well, for just as she wants sin rid in her life she will want God all the more pronounced.What then do modesty and purity look like for a (young) man? Once again, modesty will involve a man not seeking after the attention of others, which for guys is more typically done by physical, mental, or artistic prowess, rather than wanting God magnified in all he does and serving other in the church. For a young man to be pure, there is an aspect of fighting sexual sin both in his outward actions and heart, but also so much more. His pursuit of purity extends far beyond his sexuality to every aspect of his life. The question for him as well is why he does everything he does. Is he pursuing God's kingdom or his own? For a young man to be pure he will be actively seeking to be rid of sin in all areas of his life. For him to be modest he will seek to have God made much of in his every thought and action.Whose job is it to pursue and encourage purity?Because of our definitions, we realize it is everyone's job to pursue purity. Every believer is called to personally pursue purity in their individual life and every believer is called to help his or her brother or sister in Christ pursue purity in their life. I must do whatever it takes to be rid of sin and find greater joy in Christ! If I love my siblings in Christ, I will do whatever I can in my power to help them do the same. This may look like me dressing differently, even if my heart before God was fine with something else I would normally wear. It may mean being an accountability partner. It may mean being extra careful how I interact with members of the opposite sex, not paranoid, but being careful to not encourage wrong thoughts and heart attitudes like gossip, grumbling, lust, etc. Whatever it may mean, it always means interacting with others in a way that seeks to love and show them love to the best of my ability (Mark 12:31). Is that hard and does it take effort? Yes, but by my Savior's strength I can do what seems impossible. On top of that I can do these actions joyfully rather than in a paranoid "did I cause them to sin" fashion or the opposite side of the coin, grumbling outwardly or in my heart about having to care for the "weaker brother."Are sexuality and person-hood to be separated? Would we get along better as Christians in the church if there were no such thing as sexes?Sexuality is part of who a person is and how God made them. To seek to separate the two is not only foolish and unbiblical, but impossible. Men and women, while completely equal in value before God, where made differently to function, act, and think differently. This is not a bad or sinful thing, nor is it something to be either hidden or flaunted. Rather, it is to be both recognized and enjoyed within the realm of love for one another. What can happen often in all relationships (not just opposite sex ones) is we view people as objects and stepping stones for us to use and abuse to get what we want. Rather than loving and serving others, we see them as a means to benefit ourselves. This can apply to the way both sexes view and treat the other in relation to sexuality, but goes way beyond that as well.Because this can be such a big deal in opposite sex relationships, it has been thought by some to cut it out our sexuality completely and  just ignore these different parts that make each of us who we are. This is a poor response, however. Our sexuality (not just physically, but our very nature and make up) should be neither something we use to control others, nor something to be shunned and hidden. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). As Christians seeking to love and serve one another the strengths each sex brings to the table of the church is wonderful and can be enjoyed wholly and purely and are necessary for Christ's church to function well. A desire for purity and service among all will lead to right actions and valuing of one another in both their person-hood and the sexuality that is part of it.Should I be thinking about myself so much anyway? Do I need acceptance?One other note on modesty... The thought can occur that rather than being noticed for my body, whit, or accomplishments, my goal is to be noticed for good deeds. While this can seem better on the surface, it really is not, nor is it "modest." The goal still comes from a heart that desires to be made much of and exalted above God. It is just simply wrapped in a more "righteous" shell. A godly person does not need the acceptance, notice, or approval of men to survive or function well in the church. They stands or falls before the Lord alone (Rom 14:4). They are made to function alongside people but not in need of them. The only need each one of us has is Christ alone. When we are filled with Him, we will be able to be givers of life to people, rather than those who need affirmation and take from others. We are not here on this earth to be benefited and accepted by others. We are here to glorify God and unconditionally love others no matter their response to or treatment of us.Praise the Lord we can, by His power, live whole, modest, and pure and by doing so, bless those around us and "see God" (Mat 5:8).

Phil Smith

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Working Definition of Faith

Have you ever had difficulty understanding what it means to “have faith”? I remember asking my Sunday School teacher what the word “faith” meant. He read Heb. 11:1, but at the time, it just didn’t make sense to me. I find that many adults wrestle with what it means to “have faith” and certainly all of us have difficulty continuously living by faith.

Years ago, I came across a very practical definition from Dr. Ron Alchin at the Biblical Counseling Center, Arlington Heights., IL. As I meditated on this and studied through the principles, I began to share this with others. Over the course of time, I’ve added several nuances that helped me gain understanding and motivation to practically apply the truths of this definition. Dr. Alchin has graciously given me permission to do what I wanted to with his initial ideas so, I offer you the following definition of faith. You may recognize some of the phrases, as James MacDonald quotes the original definition often in his radio broadcasts.

Hopefully this will encourage you towards faithful obedience as you respond to your daily trials and trust in the character and promises of God.

Faith is believing God’s Word (Heb. 11:1; Romans 10:17; Ps 18:2; Ps 25:2; Ps. 26:1; Ps. 31:1; Ps 32:10; Ps 146:3; Isa 50:10;1 Peter 1:17-21)
And acting on it (Ja. 1:22-25; Ps. 19:11a; John 13:17; Genesis 6:22; Exodus 40:16; Psalm 19:11; 119:1-5; Matthew 7:24-25; 12:50; John 15:14; Gal. 5:6)
Out of a heart of worship (Matt. 4:10; 2 Kings 17:36; Psalm 29:2; Ps. 99:5; Rev. 14:7)
For the Glory of God; (1 Cor. 10:31; John 15:8; Isaiah 24:15; Romans 4:20; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 1:11; 2:13,15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:11; 14-16)
No matter what I think, (Isaiah 55:8-9; Deuteronomy 29:29; Psalm. 25:10; 40:5; 92:5; Ezekiel 18:29; Luke 5:4-6; Romans 11:33) 
Or how I feel, (1 Corinthians 9:27; Heb 11; Daniel 6:9-28; 2Samuel 12:7; Esther; Neh. 4:9; 1 Cor 6:12; 8:13; 9:25; 2 Cor 6:4-10), 
Knowing that God promises a good result, (Psalm 19:11; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 8:28-29; Habakkuk 2:4) 
In His own time. (Isaiah 54:7; Psalm 30:5; Eccl. 3:11)

The life lived in faith is the life that pleases God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6 

(see also 1 Thess. 4:1 Rom. 8:8; Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 1:10; Heb. 13:16; 1 Jn. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:9-10)

Pastor Kent

Friday, November 4, 2016

What a Day That Will Be!

 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” I John 3:2-3  (NIV)

It was in early September of last year that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. We were told that it was not curable, but with aggressive treatment, there was a high percentage its harm could be minimized if not put into remission. Less than three months later, a year ago today, I said, “I love you” to my mom for the last time. She passed from this earthly life into eternity and met Jesus face to face. 

Today as I think about my mom, my heart is filled with sadness and joy. It is overwhelmed with sorrow and hope. It is filled with sadness because I think about the things I miss: talking on the phone with her as I drive to Peoria, hearing her laugh at my corny jokes, watching her interact with my kids like no one else, her unconditional love for her family. But my memory of her does not end with what I miss, for that would truly be sad and sorrowful. My heart is filled with joy and hope to know that my mom is with Jesus! She is in His very presence, the One who died to save her soul, the Jesus who lived a perfect life, endured the cross, rose to life victoriously over sin and death. She is with the same Jesus whom she served and testified of faithfully before others and before me.   

The greatest joy I find is that when I see my mom again, we will be in the presence of Jesus and we will worship Him forever! What a day that will be! May we all find joy in knowing that God loves us and provides eternal hope through faith in Jesus Christ. 

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” 
 Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

~ Pastor Mike