Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Hamlet and the Apostle Paul

Recently I have been thinking about two famous people who expressed their personal feelings about life and death. They were Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Bible’s Saint Paul. The world view and the Christian.
"To Be Or Not To Be": Words Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Phil. 1:21-25)
Notice Hamlet’s fear of life and greater fear of death and the apostle’s difficult choice; “to live is Christ” and to die “is to be with Christ.”

It is very likely you do not identify completely with either of them. Meditate on them and see if you can get closer to apostle Paul’s.

Here are some additional thoughts of the apostle Paul.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Keep Warm and Well Fed

Today I want to bring to your attention several related passages that are clearly directed to individuals or households, not to the whole church.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deut. 15:11)

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13-14)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
We have managed to evade these clear teachings by delegating the responsibility to the state, the deacons’ fund, or charitable organizations. Giving to these organizations is not the same as inviting the poor home to dinner.

Or we might get involved at Thanksgiving or Christmas and feel good about it, apparently not realizing that these people would like to eat daily. Our response is that there are too many poor people. Yes, but that is not an excuse for not taking care of one of the many. When the state takes care of the poor, the money may be there, but the love is not.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Being Trustworthy

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12)

Stealing is a common characteristic of the natural man. It is sin (Exodus 20:15), and in most countries it is also a crime. When we think of it as crime, then we are grateful that we have not been caught. When we think of it as sin, we know that we are always caught.

Most stealing is not in burglary, robbery, or shoplifting. It is in being dishonest in very little and being dishonest in much. This crime is measured as petty larceny or grand larceny. The penalty is related to the crime: petty larceny is a misdemeanor, and grand larceny is a felony. Sin is also measured in size; however, the size does not affect the penalty. The wages of sin is still death.

The very small sin leads to the great sin. We are naïve to think the dishonesty we see in the scandals that break around us started out with big sin. If what Jesus said was true, the guilty ones had not been trustworthy in little. They had been dishonest in the little things first.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Definition of the Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal. 1:6-9)
This is a good measuring stick against which we can evaluate what claims to be true. It is the Gospel that saved us. This Gospel is succinctly expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Surgeon's Knife (guest post by Brad Scheelke)

This post was written by Brad Scheelke, manager of Oasis Books in Logan, Utah.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Heb. 3:13)
Notice that: 1) sin is deceitful, 2) this deceitfulness hardens people, 3) hardening can be prevented, 4) giving encouragement daily is a means of prevention, and 5) every individual is important. The important individual is the other person. “Self” died on the cross with the Lord Jesus Christ. Now it is His life living within and overflowing to others. This warning about hardness and unbelief continues through Hebrews 4:13, where the focus shifts to our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ's work for us. Notice verses 12 and 13:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)
Here the word of God resembles a surgeon's knife that is alive and at work. Notice what the tool is cutting on: the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Whose heart is it? It seems that God is getting rather personal with each of us. I am not exempt; none of us is. Some pretty ugly things get cut out of my heart. The question is, do I see this as good for me and for others? It is often uncomfortable and can be hard on one's reputation. In Psalm 51, King David, whose adultery and murder are recorded for all to see, clearly identifies his behavior as evil and calls on God to cleanse his heart. Notice that cleansing brings back the joy of salvation and enables him to lead sinners to God. Am I willing to deal with my own sin so clearly? Have I come to the point of welcoming the surgeon's knife? Is this not the kind of encouragement that Hebrews 3:13 is speaking of? As we speak to one another, God's word and how it applies to our lives and relationships, God's Spirit can apply it to my heart to cut out some wickedness unrecognized, excused, or even coddled by me.

The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ are sufficient to carry a person to the Father's presence in glory. So there is nothing to fear in having my sin exposed, unless of course I wish to enjoy it further. Whether a person is in God's Kingdom or still in the kingdom of darkness, there is intense cultural pressure to keep the surgeon's knife away from the human heart. Books provide a natural opportunity to speak to issues of the heart, so at Oasis we have a large display of “good books” near the front door. These books are generally of two types: 1) biographies that show God faithfully at work in people's lives and 2) those that point the way out of sin and into God's righteousness.

We all need to see ever more clearly the faithfulness of God and the deceitfulness of our own sin. For believers, James 1:2-4 is one of the clearest examples. It states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”

What does it say is God's way to the abundant life? Why do I (or you) hesitate to travel this path? Good testimonies can help work this verse deeper into our souls. Books that deal with sin clearly can help us deal with our resistance to His way to holiness. In conversations at Oasis, we often read aloud specific passages from good books to wet a person's appetite for the encouragement available. Sometimes it is an uncomfortable encouragement. Here are a few we recommend.

As she was dying of breast cancer, Isobel Kuhn wrote an encouraging autobiography called In The Arena. Here is her theme: “He [Hudson Taylor] said: ‘Difficulties afford a platform upon which He [God] can show Himself. Without them we could never know how tender, faithful, and almighty our God is.’ “I found it so too. From a bed of sickness I have had time quietly to review my life, and as I gazed, it seemed that my most valuable lessons have been learned on these platforms. How often I have failed Him, I do not like to think. But of His tenderness and faithfulness there was never an end. As you read, I pray that you may not focus attention on how dark the trial, but rather on the power of God that was manifested there and the emergence into light.”

In Green Leaf in Drought, Isobel Kuhn relates the story of a missionary family going through great trials. The theme is Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Here is the passage from Isobel's book that has encouraged some to a higher vision of trials. “These ‘four anchors’ they found in Andrew Murray's formula for trial: 1) Say, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place and in that fact I will rest. 2) He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child. 3) Then He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn. 4) In His good time He can bring me out again - how and when He knows. So let me say, ‘I am 1) here by God's appointment; 2) in His keeping; 3) under His training; 4) for His time.’”

In the booklet entitled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power, A. W. Tozer concludes with, “I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: ‘O God, glorify thyself at my expense. Send me the bill - anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I'll take the consequence.’ This kind of praying is simple, but it's deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe, if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit.”

In the simple booklet, The Key to Everything, Norman Grubb writes: “There isn't a single problem in humanity except our self-reactions, not one. The Devil is no trouble. He was dealt with 2,000 years ago. Your neighbor is not your trouble. Circumstances are not your trouble. The only trouble is your reaction.”

We also encourage those who know the Father to initiate conversations with other believers about God's word and faithfulness. Those who seem oblivious to their own sin but keenly aware of the sins of those around them, we seek to sensitize to the magnitude and deceitfulness of their own sin.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis begins his chapter entitled The Great Sin with these words: “Today I come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault that makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” Reading this paragraph to a person often leads to conversation about the corruption of the human heart, the deceitfulness of sin, and the power of the gospel. (You will have to read Lewis' chapter to find out what this vice is.)

It is encouraging to watch God at work giving people here and there the vision that difficulties are friends sent from Him to refine us into the image of His Son. Some folks seem even excited about it at times and are eager to tell others what they have found. May God mold us all to welcome these friends with “pure joy," and let us encourage one another to this end.

If God has helped you put out this welcome mat, then you might appreciate a little book If by Amy Carmichael. If you apply it to yourself, it turns up the heat to help you notice little sins, the purging of which will greatly benefit those around you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Highway of Holiness

A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray.

No lion shall be there,
Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;
It shall not be found there.
But the redeemed shall walk there,

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

(Isaiah 35:8-10)

I am not sure how literal this is, but it sure sounds wonderful! If it is spiritual, then the Redeemed should be experiencing this joy. It is part of Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Friday, July 14, 2017

Your Storehouse

Here are verses on three storehouses: earth, heaven, and heart.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break, in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (Matt. 12:34-35)
The first verse has to do with where your treasure is, on earth or heaven. Where that treasure is, that is where your heart is. The second verse is talking about the storehouse of your heart and what you put in it. What is stored up in your heart determines what comes out of your mouth.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:1-2)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our God Is In Heaven

“Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8) (Paul the Apostle, in chains, before King Agrippa and Governor Festus)

God is God! He created the universe and every microscopic part of it. “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3). I’m with Paul. I think it is incredible that anyone thinks God raising the dead is incredible. God is God!

Monday, July 10, 2017

How is Your Eyesight?

Our view of God, our view of our own sinfulness (or our own righteousness), and our view of the sinfulness of others all have an effect on how and when we repent.

David had a great view of God’s mercy and unfailing love and a great view of his own sin. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me, against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:1-4).

A simple parable presented by Nathan the prophet broke David into repentance.

Job had a great view of his own righteousness and a great view of God’s injustice to him. "As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live" (Job 27:2-6).

Elihu spoke to Job for five chapters and God for four chapters before Job broke down in repentance. "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).

Jonah had a great view of God’s graciousness and love and his own hatred for the Assyrians, the Ninevites. "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live'” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Job did not want God to forgive Nineveh. There is no clue in the text that Jonah ever repented, though God continued to reach out to him.

We know of people who think they are too bad to be forgiven, others who think they are too good and do not need forgiveness, and others who think others are going to hell and should not be forgiven.
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20)

Friday, July 07, 2017

Evangelizing Unbelievers or Stumbling Them?

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. (1 Cor. 6:3)

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. (2 Cor. 10:32)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Pet. 3:15-16)
One of the most effective means of evangelism is to keep from stumbling unbelievers. Read how Paul does it:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)
Amazing, isn’t it! Are we willing to apply this list in our lives so that people will be saved? It is easy to stumble unbelievers. We can do that without trying. If we live godly lives in Christ Jesus, we will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12), but the persecutor will feel ashamed because of his slander.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Ministry Update

I have had requests for more information on Community Christian Ministries.

Over the years, we closed all but two of our stores. The reason for this was that they had become ineffective both in evangelism and in book selling. The two remaining stores are and The Brushfire Coffee House in Gunnison, Colorado, serving Western State College, and Oasis Books in Logan, Utah, serving Utah State University with Brad Scheelke and Eldon Peterson on staff. We will send you Brad’s ministry letter. Oasis is located on Center Street. It is attached to a bakery with access both from the street and from the bakery.

Here in Moscow, Rodger Boothman has succeeded Matt Meyer as director. Matt succeeded me at the end of 2006. In addition to his responsibilities as director, Rodger is our main evangelist for both Washington State University and the University of Idaho.

CCM has a new office at 212 E. 6th St., 1½ blocks east of Main Street. (We have just moved into that location, so there is no signage out front yet.)

Our other evangelist is James Urquidez, whose beat is the county jail and other places where you will find drunks and druggies. We will also send out an update from him.

Barbara Friedman is now retired because of a very poor memory. She is living with her sister Nancy in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She seems to be very content and has an “up” attitude.

My present ministry is here in my house. I see three to five people every day, some by appointment, and some just walk in. I have a bookcase full of free books. The rest of my time is spent writing letters, booklets, and books.

CCM has begun publishing again. Here are a few of the recent titles:
Dead and Alive: Obedience and the New Man (Obedience)
The USNA 12: Following Christ in the Academy, the Navy, and Beyond (Testimonies, including mine)
Wisdom, Not Knowledge: Thoughts on Christian Counseling (Counseling)
How to Be a Responsible Man (booklet)
How to Lead Your Wayward Children Back to the Lord (booklet)
Revolutionary Love by Festo Kivengere (3rd edition)
• The Lordship of Jesus Christ by Bill Pape (4th edition)
We are preparing Kindle editions for all of CCM’s books and booklets. Several of them are already available on Amazon (Saturation Love, Wisdom, Not Knowledge, The USNA 12, The Lordship of Jesus Christ, and Assurances of Salvation). Many of the books will also be available on the Olive Tree app soon.

A new edition of How to be free From Bitterness will be printed soon. We also have some future books coming: I Have Given Them the Glory (Unity), How to Be Free (a sequel to How to Be Free from Bitterness), Answered Prayer (not sure of the title yet), and Grace upon Grace (my autobiography). Several others are planned but have not been started yet.

The book table at the Farmers’ Market is no longer manned by me. It is manned by volunteers and is still an effective event.

I have some bigger projects planned. Please pray. I will keep you informed.

Monday, July 03, 2017

All Authority

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt 28:18)
Following this statement from Jesus, we have commands from the Supreme Commander, the one with all authority: Therefore “go,” “make disciples,” “baptize,” “teach them to obey everything.” When Jesus was on earth, the people saw his authority:
• To teach (March 1:22)
• To cast out demons (Mark 1:27)
• To forgive sins (Mark 1:10)
• Over the wind and the waves (Mark 4:41)
• To raise the dead (Mark 5:41)
• To heal the sick (Mark 5:30)
• To not let the demons speak (Mark 1:34)
• “I have authority to lay [My life] down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).
We are to believe and obey the one with all authority.