Sin

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March 13

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Sometimes I just don’t like the Bible. Sometimes I just don’t like the Holy Spirit. Now…hang on! Don’t leave me just yet thinking “I can’t listen to that heresy or heretic anymore.” I have an explanation.

This past week I sinned.  A surprise I know. 🙂  But it’s true. I passed along to someone something I’d heard. It’s called gossip if you want to put a handle on it. I had been told something that I had not verified and I told someone else.  And I passed it along as though it were fact.

And here is why I said what I did at the beginning of this devotion: CONVICTION.  The conviction of the Holy Spirit. The conviction of God’s Word. Neither would leave me alone.  Even after I found out it was partially/mostly true,  I knew what I did was wrong. And it put the other person on the spot. Yesterday I did the only thing I could do (at least in my heart): I called and apologized for gossiping and putting him on the spot. No accolades please of “good for you.” I would not have had to even do that nor would it have been an issue if I had kept my blasted mouth shut to start with.

What prompted this devotion? How about when I read this verse this morning: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Pr.13:3) Need I say more?

“Father, help me to keep my mouth shut when it doesn’t need to be opened. Help me to guard my mouth and lips.”

March 6

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard (I know I have) that there are certain people we ought to avoid. Growing up I was warned about hanging around certain people. “Avoid them Bill” they would say. No worries. I wasn’t interested in partying anyway. I was once invited to a Friday night party.

  • Him: Would you like to come to a party Friday night?
  • Me: What you going to do?
  • Him: Drink. Get drunk.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Drink some more. Get drunk some more.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: This is going to cost me what?
  • Him: $20
  • Me: Sounds like fun. (Read: sarcasm). Nope.

He asked me 3 times.  Each time same convo. I was never asked again. Wonder why?  🙂

The word we use today is “toxic.”  Avoid toxic people. Get rid of toxic people in your life. Proverbs 6 has a description of toxic people: lazy. Worthless. Wicked. Crooked speech. Sneaky.  Perverted heart devises evil. Sow discord (9-15). Toxic people and the actions of toxic people are even listed in verses 16-19 of the 7 things God hates.

Word to the wise: Avoid toxic people. People who do not have your interest in mind. People who bring you down.

“Father, help me to be discerning in my choices of people and to let go of those who are toxic, who do not help me in my daily walk.”

March 2

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Last night in small group we were studying the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. No one who reads that parable-whether for the first or the 100th time- can understand the ingratitude of the servant. An astronomical debt (over 1 billion in our currency) vs a miniscule debt is the non-level playing field.  The failure to forgive blows us all away. We wonder “How?”

Our discussion took a turn though when we talked about our forgiveness of others when they don’t ask for forgiveness.  It is then we can feel our insides churn and scream out for justice. It is also when the struggle against resentment kicks in. Resentment is often a silent killer. It lurks inside us churning away at our spirit until it has grown so big that it has to come out. It has grown like a monster within us and has this insatiable appetite for more. It is this resentment and bitterness which often leads people to fly off the handle. Mild-mannered, meek people on the outside explode in a hail of gunfire. Seemingly quiet students take guns to school or an event and unload.

Resentment is an ugly thing. I’m reminded of two Scriptures.  One is Hebrews 12:15-“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” The other is found in Ephesians 4:27- “And give no opportunity to the devil.” There is no question he will take advantage of any root available.  One less root for him to use is the absence of bitterness and resentment.

“Father, release me from resentment. Help me to turn over to You all my hard and harsh feelings and allow You to heal me.”

February 28/Weekend

Friday, February 28th, 2020

After finishing the OT I decided some extended time in the NT was needed, specifically in the Gospels.  Late last year I read them leading up to Christmas, but other than sermon prep my NT reading was miniscule.  So I began to scour my library and ran across a book I had received several years ago but never used: One Perfect Life by Pastor John MacArthur.  He takes the story of Jesus and puts it in order while including other Scriptures to help set the context.

Reading #2 takes me back to the Fall of the human race into sin. Genesis 3:1-12 and others.  As I read his compilation of verses and some of his notes, three idea became evident.  (He also put them in bold type in the footnotes).

  • Satan’s lie was “you shall not die.”
  • Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. That’s not saying they were blind. They suddenly became aware of their sin, guilt, and shame.
  • Shame manifested itself big time in hiding from God. His question “Where are you?” is painful to read.

Take note that sin entered the world, not sins.  So, adultery or murder or cheating or greed didn’t come in with Adam’s sin.  What came in was the spirit of rebellion against God. Mez McConnell-“The Creaking on the Stairs”-p.63

What a great thought!  The sin that came, that revealed itself was rebellion against God.  All else comes from that. And what the Scripture teaches us is that didn’t first sin at the age of 3 or 6 or 10 or whenever.  No.  It reaches us we have that sin nature in us at birth.  Wait, make that in your mother’s womb. (Ps.51:5; 58:3).  Sin is a deadly poison and the only cure is the blood of Jesus.  That is the antidote.

“Father, thank you for the antidote to sin.  I am a rebel against you.  Thank you for your forgiveness of my sin.”

February 13

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Slave vs Free.

For some odd reason I woke up this morning thinking-of all things-about the commercials that play on TV around Christmas time. Weird I know. There is one about neglected pets and for $19/month you can…I can’t even remember the initials of the organization. The person doing the voiceover sounds like she has just come from 5 funerals (‘course that is what they want). I’m cynical though. “Save the animals but kill the babies.” Sorry. No can do, so no money to you. There there are those which choke me up. St. Jude and kids with cancer. Those wipe me out.

Here’s a thought: why are we not seeing commercials about girls, boys, children, women, men caught in sex trafficking? Why are we not seeing those, who like Rachel Hollander, are being sexually abused by “trusted” adults? Why not more commercials on those who are slaves (addicted) to alcohol, gambling (and hurt the online betting on sports?), opioids, and porn (a multi-million dollar industry)?

Slavery to any evil is ugly. I know of pets who have been rescued and then adopted who never get out of their “cage.” They forever cringe. They forever snarl. They are forever aggressive. They have separation anxiety. They forever act like they are still in the cage.

People in slavery is worse than any animal. Who can they trust? The military vet with PTSD? The abused child? The one caught in a web of deceit and lies that hold him/her down? I can go on and on. I’m listening to a podcast right now (Hole in My Heart-Episode 110) of a woman who was groomed at 18 and a slave until she broke out at 26. Heart-wrenching.  Convicting.

One of my favorite songs we sing is “No Longer Slaves.” It is also the favorite song of one our ladies. I know why. My heart reaches out to those who are still enslaved and chained to their past and even their present.

My ending will be different this morning. A short prayer then a video. “Father, You promised freedom. Set me free from my chains, from those things which enslave me. I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

The video.

January 31/Weekend

Friday, January 31st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Tandem vs Solo.

I read something this morning that struck me. I must admit that even though I know this, I’ve never quite articulated it this way:

Belief and faith are almost interchangeable words, and make sense to deal with them together. Belief is about truths of which we are persuaded or confident. Faith goes further because it implies action, putting what we believe into action. (“A Good Old Age-Prime-p.23)

How simple is that? So simple yet almost missed. And here is how it rolls out:

  1. First, it is important to know what we believe. There are essentials of the Gospel-the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. God is Almighty, the Creator of the universe. Jesus is God’s only Son, born of a virgin, born fully God and fully man. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd member of the Trinity, Christ in us. Sin is the disease that we all have. The physical death of Jesus on the cross and His physical resurrection save us from sin’s punishment. All men must come in faith to Christ, believing the above truths to receive salvation.
  2. Second, faith is action. Believing the message above requires action. We need to repent of our sins and come to Christ in faith. We must accept the truth of the cross and its need for blood to be shed. Hebrews tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (9:22)

Simple. Easy. Plain. Belief and faith are best seen in tandem. It is like you can’t have one without the other. So many say they believe but are unwilling to take the step of faith. And why take the step of faith if you don’t/won’t/can’t believe the truths of the Scripture? Belief alone is not enough. It is essential to put “feet” to that faith.

“Lord, I know there’s more to say about this. I know this is basic. But I have to remind myself of Your death and how just believing it is not enough. Help me not just to believe those truths but also to act on them.”

January 30

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Flirtation vs Faithfulness.

One of the more intriguing OT books is the minor prophet book of Hosea. I do not see it as an allegory or a book of fiction. No, I see it as truth and true. But I also see it a book with lessons to learn.

Hosea is told by God to marry Gomer, a prostitute. Right off the bat that sounds totally strange. Marry a prostitute? They have three children- Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People. (Try those names out today!). They, of course, are not named that just for the fun of it, just because God wanted to give them dumb-sounding names. Each name had significance. He was using those names to describe how the people of Israel had treated Him and His reaction to their rejection. Eventually there is hope and redemption. Mercy will be shown to No Mercy; Personhood will be bestowed on those who were Not a People.

But then Gomer returns to her former way of life. Can you say, “Israel?” Can you say, “Me?” But Hosea is to go and get her back-only this time things seem different. In chapter 3 we are told Hosea redeems his wife (v.2). To me that implies she was at a slave auction. Was she used up? Was she too old for her profession? Was she no longer wanted? Was she past her “prime” and her services were no longer needed? It doesn’t matter to Hosea. He buys her back. I have no clue how much she was worth but the lesson seen is not wasted. Hosea gives directives to Gomer which God is giving to His people. “You must live as mine. You can’t whore around any more. You cannot belong to someone else.”

Because I know there is more, Hosea holds some very rich lessons. But one that stands out to me now is God’s conditional but unconditional love. The choosing of the names shows He is fed up with their waywardness. But Hosea’s redemption of Gomer shows God’s unconditional love and willingness to forgive…with directives tacked on. He demands loyalty. He doesn’t want flirtation with the world. He doesn’t want His people playing the whore and give themselves over to the world’s charms.  He wants me to apply that to myself as well.

“Father, the lessons are poignant. Help me to not be like the Israelites but to be faithful to You. Help me not to give myself over to flirtation and being engulfed by the world.”

January 23

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Update: Alexander did have surgery. The doctor said they would do nothing if they found no way to do the surgery. We are praising the Lord for this! The surgeon said he was optimistic. Thank you for praying and please continue.

My title for this devotion is Lesson Learned vs Lesson Ignored.

Have you noticed how often we have events happen to us but we ignore the obvious lesson? We go on our merry way as though what happened has no significance to us.

Take, for example, my reading this morning. King Nebuchadnezzar has already seen how God blessed Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It started with their “education.” Then he had seen S, M, & A survive the fiery furnace. But still it was not enough. He even made a decree that anyone who speaks against the God of S, M, & A would be torn limb from limb and their house laid in ruins. (3:29) He even praised God to the people. (4:1-3)

Please tell me then what possessed him-after having a dream and Daniel interpreting it for him (unfavorably for the king)-to arrogantly get up one morning and proudly proclaim his state of mind (“Look at all I have”). He ignored all the lessons along the way and thought that he was all that and more. The dude got too big for his britches!

But what would posses him to do this- besides the fact the Scripture says, “The heart is desperately wicked”? For the same reason I do: I think I know better. Or I simply forget. OR I don’t want to learn! I become oblivious to the lessons. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to knowledge.” There are lessons to be learned in all things, but I have to be willing to see them. I have to be willing to see them, apply them, and take heed.

No lesson-good or bad-should ever be wasted. They should never go unheeded. They are in front of me not to ignore but to learn.

“Father, each day lessons come from You. Sometimes they are good; sometimes they are warnings. But good or bad they are never to be wasted. Help me to apply my heart and hear Your words.”

January 20

Monday, January 20th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Blessing vs Curse.

We use the word a lot. We use it in mundane expressions. We use it off-handedly. We use it in times of heatedness. We use it when referring to a certain food. We use it when referring to an individual.

The word? HATE.

Do I exaggerate in that first paragraph? No, I don’t think so.

  • “I hate it that that has happened to you.”
  • “I hate it when I can’t see what’s ahead.”
  • “I hate coconut…and cinnamon…and Parmesan cheese…to name a few.” 🙂
  • “I hate you.”

It is the latter which is most devastating. HATE is such a strong word. So strong I “hate” to even use it. And yes, that was on purpose. I prefer to use the phrase “I dislike it a lot” since the word hate is so strong. How devastating it is to tell someone “I hate you.” A mate to a mate. A child to a parent. A sibling to a sibling. From one person to another. There seems to be almost no finality to that word.

Not just for the user but also for the receiver. I wonder if that is what is behind the use of curses and  meaning of Pr.20:20- “If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” Sure sounds like there is a finality to that doesn’t it? It strikes me hard to realize the devastation hatred can cause. To read that a person’s lamp goes out. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people so miserable because of hatred. They can’t hardly breathe a kind word about anybody. I read a good quote today that sort of sums it up: “Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” Hatred solves nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. It does nothing good. It ruins lives. It ruins homes. It ruins outlooks. It ruins relationships. the list is endless what it ruins.

IT NEEDS TO STOP…..N.O.W!!!

“Father, search my heart. If there is hate please cut it out. Reveal that blackness in my heart and perform surgery on me. Cleanse me and purify me.”

January 6

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I have no title for today’s devotion. I gave part of this as my Communion thought yesterday before we observed the Lord’s Supper. I was going to disregard it afterwards but then I felt God saying, “No. Share this.” So here it is (expanded from its original).

When we think of titles for Jesus, we think of names like Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We think of Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. We might think of the names given to Him in Revelation: Alpha and Omega; Beginning and the End; the First and the Last; the One who was, and is, and is to come. King of kings. Lord of lords. The list seems endless.

But there is one that I seriously doubt comes to our minds or our lips. It is one used in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 by Jesus’ enemies. They call Him the “friend of sinners.” ‘Course they used it in derision because He was the friend of the tax collector, the demoniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, and other less-than-acceptable people. I’m glad. You see, I’m not a member of the intelligentsia. I’m not a great preacher. I’m not well-known. But I can tell you this-I am a sinner. And that I love that title: Jesus-Friend of sinners.

The story in the OT of Hosea and Gomer is a love story for the ages. Hallmark has nothing on that one! Taking a prostitute as a wife; fathering some children; Gomer returns to her former profession; Hosea buying her off the auction block (she was used up). I’d like to suggest reading the book of Hosea for the whole story.

That story shows me many things, two of which are 1) God never gives up on me; and 2) I have no grounds for despair in my daily life.

As the song says, “Jesus, friend of sinners. Jesus, friend of mine.” How soothing. How reinforcing.

“Father, may I never forget this title given to Jesus. Even tough it was given in derision, it is true. He is my friend.”