Sin

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October 2

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Pesky Varmint vs Death Trap.

It was 1984. I was in KY for a week as part of my Masters course; Jo was back home in Ohio. I was almost asleep-in never never land-when she called. We lived in a church parsonage, an old house, and she called to tell me there was a bat in the house. She was in the bedroom trying to hide from it. We were talking and I was trying to soothe her jagged nerves and was telling her to contact Jim, one of the elders to see if he would come down and try to get it out. (Remember what state of sleep I was in). Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream sent me off the bed into levitation and my heart into palpitations. You guessed it. The bat had come into the bedroom and had flown past her and had stopped to cling to the closet wall. I told her to hang up and call Jim, who came down and captured it and disposed of it. Actually, he used a cloth to cover it and hit it with a hammer.  🙂

To be honest, I’m not fond of bats. They may kill tons of mosquitoes a night and other pesky insects, but as far as I can see, their usefulness stops there. Guess I heard too many stories as a kid of bats that got caught in hair (not that I have to worry about that particular problem). What ever made me enjoy crawling through bat guano in the bat cave at Mohican State Park in Moorehead, KY is beyond me. But I digress. They say bats can get through an opening the size of the side of a coin. Ugh! Makes you want to be sure of having all holes caulked!

That reminds me of sin. The enemy will take advantage of even the smallest opening to lead us down the wrong path. Whether it be a persistent sin or one that suddenly makes itself known, he will take the path of least resistance to lead us into sin. Like bats who have some usefulness, what he offers us may “look” good, but in the end it is only destruction.

“Father, help me to resist the pull of sin. Help me to be prepared and close up any openings that can allow my enemy to enter. Help me to say, ‘No. Not today’ to his pull.”

July 26/Weekend

Friday, July 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Arrogance vs Repentance.

I think one of the things-bar none-that turns most people off is arrogance. When someone does something or says something or just acts a certain way where he/she is impressed with himself/herself and also wants others to be, it is a big turn off.

But repentance is something else. Repentance involves one characteristic an arrogant person doesn’t have: humility. Repentance involves a willingness to lower oneself, even admitting wrong.

The story of David in I Chronicles 21 is an interesting one. After stories of victory over giants, seemingly out of the blue comes David’s request for Joab to number Israel. Against Joab’s better judgment, David orders it done. David finds out soon that God was displeased with his actions and gives him three options. David chooses Door #3: Three days of pestilence. Soon David sees the distress it brings on the people and cries out for mercy on them because it was his fault! He took the blame. His repentance rings out loud and clear. About the same time, he is at Ornan’s threshing floor and sees the angel with his sword drawn. But David is sincere in his repentance and asks Ornan to sell him-at full price-a sacrifice. Ornan offers free to David the oxen and all the fixings (wood, wheat, etc) needed for a proper sacrifice. David says, “No he will not offer the Lord what belongs to Ornan, nor offer burnt offerings which cost him nothing.” So he paid full price and offered the sacrifice to God. God stayed the angel’s hand of judgment.

David’s arrogance/pride got him in trouble; it was his humility that rescued him.

“Father, may I be a man of humility not arrogance. May I be a man who is willing to admit my faults, and when it is my fault to repent with a sincere heart.”

Note: I’d like to thank each of you for being patient with me as I have been in and out in consistency with this blog. As I wrote on my other blog, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as far as going to Ohio and cleaning out the apartment.  This Monday that end of the saga will be over.  Both Jo and I say, “It can’t happen soon enough.”  We have seen a lot more of each other over the past month or so. It may change her mind about me retiring! 🙂

July 16

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Tight Hold vs Loose Hold.

I’m a big fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. No, not the books. The movies. Yes, I know they took great liberties in the movies. Maybe that explains why I’ve had a hard time reading the books.  I can’t get the movies out of my head. 🙂 One of the more intriguing characters is Golem. Definitely not my favorite. My first time watching it, I was stumped. Who is this creature with the love affair/obsession with the ring? It wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd installment (can’t remember) where they tell his story. Of the discovery of the ring while fishing. The struggle for the ring and murder of his friend. Then his obsession with the ring that drove him mad and made him into the emaciated creature he became. His whole desire throughout the whole series of movies was the ring. When he finally gets it and falls to his and its demise, it is a sad scene. Not sad in the sense of tears, but sad in the sense of poignancy.

You see…Golem is me. I am Golem. I, too, have given myself over to “My Precious.” Not a ring; a thing. Who knows what it might be? It may be a thing I can hold in my hand (too tightly). It may be an event or an activity (like cycling), or a person (spouse, child, grandchild). The battle for my heart goes on. Who will be/what will be “my precious?”

I was struck by Psalm 120:1-2 this morning: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” It sounds like the psalmist is praying for deliverance from others. But perhaps he is praying for deliverance from and for himself. Maybe he is praying he won’t give in to the “siren song” and pull of things that would draw him-much like the ring did to Golem.

“Father, help me to hold things loosely, to not be drawn away from You by things which lie and deceive in the the promise to fulfill. Help me to find ‘my precious’ in You and is You.”

June 11

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Wisdom Given vs. Wisdom Wasted.

One of the most intriguing, confusing, unbelievable, disheartening, and incredible stories in the Bible is Solomon.  At a young age, Solomon did not ask for riches or a big kingdom but for wisdom. It was seen on one occasion (the 2 prostitutes and the dead baby controversy), but it was also marveled at and spoken about (Queen of Sheba).

But in chapter 11 Solomon’s life takes a disturbing turn. After a description of his wealth in chapter 10, chapter 11 opens with these words: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…” The list of women reads like a list of Who’s Who of heathen nations. It even says he married women from nations God said, “You shall not enter into marriage with them…for surely they will turn your heart after their gods.” And turn they did.  For the sake of ease-and because this is the way my preacher mind works-here’s how I noted it in the margins of my Bible:

  • The warning: “You shall not…” [v.2]
  • The numbers: 700 wives/300 concubines  [v.3]
  • The fall: “And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned his heart after other gods.”  [v.3b-4]
  • The false gods: Ashtoreth. Milcom. Chemosh. Molech. A Who’s Who of false gods. [vv.5-8]
  • The consequence: The kingdom would be torn. [v.11]

Even the wisest man on the earth could not resist the pull of fleshly pursuit. Wisdom was asked for and given; wisdom was cast aside as he allowed the influence of his wives to grip and consume him.

“Father, if it could happen to someone like Solomon, who am I to think it won’t or can’t happen to me? Keep my focused on You and not the side attractions. Solomon’s foreign wives are not me, but I have those things clamoring for my attention, calling for my affection as his wives did for him.  Help me to resist and be strong in You.”

May 9

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

My title today is Speak Against or Speak For.

Have you noticed how easy it is to speak against someone? You’ve been done wrong. You’ve been attacked. You’ve been misrepresented. You’ve taken it on the chin. What to do? What to say?

I found an interesting tidbit today as I read in I Samuel 21.  First, the backdrop (I read it yesterday). Saul had threatened to kill David. Jonathan warned him by shooting arrows. David and Jonathan had made a covenant with each other and that covenant came into play here. David fled. Saul found out what Jonathan had done and 20:30-34 records the exchange. Saul called Jonathan a “son of perverse, rebellious woman” (wonder what that translates to in 2019?). He ends up throwing a spear at Jonathan. So much for fatherly love!!

Now to Chapter 21. David and his men are hungry so they go to Ahimelech, the priest, and ask for something to eat. The only thing there is the bread from the Table of Shewbread. But what interested me was David’s conversation with Ahimelech. Twice David would not speak against Saul.

First, David tells Ahimelech “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.'” [21:2] Second, David needed a weapon. No man of war leaves without his weapon but when asked where his was David said, “…because the king’s business required haste.” [21:8]

Twice David had the opportunity to speak against Saul but he didn’t. The backstory tells us why David fled. But instead of railing against Saul and seeking Abimelech’s sympathy and support, David covered over the real reason. He refused to speak against the king.

This is not a devotion on “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” and how we ought not say anything against the pastor. That is a bunch of nonsense. I have yet to meet one who is infallible. This is a devotion on how it is sometimes better to keep our mouth shut than to say anything against someone-friend or foe. Very often the best defense is that which is not said. Let me round it off with this verse from Psalm 49:20: “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” I’m inclined to believe we need to come down off our high-and-mighty judge’s chair and just keep quiet.  Let’s choose our words we say about others or for others wisely.

“Father, put a guard on my lips. Put a door over my mouth. In other words, help me to put a lid on it.If I don’t have something good to say, help me not to say it.”

May 7

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is Position of Unbelief vs Position of Trust.

In cycling, there is an add-on available to all but not good for all. They are called aero bars. For years I had a set. In short, they are extensions off the front that attach to your handlebars. They allow for a “stretched out” position, a more aerodynamic position (hence the name aero bars). They take some getting used to in both control and also in physical comfort. Over time it becomes a very comfortable position, but not right away. The cyclist has to work up to extended periods in the aero position.

And learning to feel comfortable, learning to trust that position did not happen overnight. I learned when to use the bars and when not to. While some were more “daredevilish” than me, I chose to be selective. I chose not to use them on very steep descents. Yeah, I wasn’t very comfortable at all with speeds of 40+ mph trusting some bars out front of me that I’m leaning on. I used them on the flats (especially when riding against the wind) and rolling hills and even some descents, but I was shaky at other times.

I have put off reading Gay Girl Good God by Jackie Hill Perry because I didn’t want to read another “I was born this way” book. But too many good and wise reviews have crossed my eyes, so I started reading it last night. I’m glad I did.

“Unbelief doesn’t see God as the ultimate good. So it can’t see sin as the ultimate evil. It instead sees sin as a good thing and thus God’s commands as a stumbling block to joy. In believing the devil, I didn’t need a pentagram pendant to wear, neither did I need to memorize a hex or two. All I had to do was trust myself more than God’s Word. I had to believe that my thoughts, my affections, my right, my wishes, were worthy of absolute obedience and that in laying prostrate before the flimsy throne I’d made for myself, that I’d be doing a good thing.” (p.19) (emphasis mine)

See what she said? Whom I choose to believe makes all the difference. I can trust myself and my flimsy system or I can trust God’s Word.

But I can’t stop with JHP’s words there. She goes on to write: “But what God said would come from disobedience, happened. Their (Adam & Eve) refusal to trust Him over and above their inordinate affections, their distorted logic, and their desire for autonomy rendered them no longer friends of God but enemies.” (p.19)

BAM! That’s the sound of the truth hammer hitting the nail on the head!! My position in life, particularly as it applies to sin does matter. Whom will I trust? Whose side will I take? Who will I put on the throne of my heart?

“Father, may my position be one of trust in you not one of unbelief, i.e. trust in myself.”

Sorry this devotion is so long today. I had so much to say.

 

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

My title this morning is Blatant Disobedience vs Whole-Hearted Obedience.

I had it in mind to do another devotion this morning but God “arrested” that thought by putting another one its place.

One of the saddest stories in the OT is found in I Samuel 15. It’s the story of Saul’s disobedience and subsequent rejection by God as king.  He is told to battle the Amelekites and destroy everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G! Instead, he spares the king and spares the best sheep, oxen, fattened calves and lambs. Then he lies to Samuel and blames the people for the “spared” animals. Twice he blames them! To all of this Samuel says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (15:22-23)

As if to make a point, I was reading Psalm 40 and came across these words: “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’ “  (40:6-8)

I started giving this devotion the title Partial Obedience vs Whole-hearted Obedience, but then began wondering: Can there be partial obedience? Is there such a thing? Actually, no. Disobedience of any measure is still disobedience. Saul’s disobedience was just that: disobedience. What was he going to do with Agag? And while it may seem virtuous to spare the best of the animals, it was a blatant disregard for God’s mandate. Everything must go!!

“Father, please give me a heart abandoned to you and fully obedient. Completely compliant. All in. Help me not to think I can substitute good works or outward compliance for an inward obedience.”

April 25

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

I have a confession to make. I actually wrote this early on April 24th but we were in Ohio and I was unable to post it. So I am posting it a day late with today’s date.

My title is Following vs Disobedience.

I began reading I Samuel several days ago. I have read it before, of course, but a slower read has highlighted a few things. I’m going to put them under the banner of Following vs Disobedience.

The life of Samuel begins with his mother’s (Hannah) empty womb and cry to God recorded in I Samuel 1:11. There is no question Elkanah, her husband loved her and semi-understood. While at the temple Eli saw her and thought she was drunk. When Hannah told him she wasn’t, Eli told her whatever was on her heart would come true. (1:17)

Her life was one of obedience:

  • Committing to and keeping her vow of purity (no strong drink).
  • When Samuel was old enough, she brought him to the Eli at the temple. (1:24-25)
  • Hannah tells Eli who she is and her promise. (1:26-28)

Samuel’s life was one of obedience:

  • His call- “Speak for your servant hears” were the words Eli told him to say.
  • His growth is noted as “Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with man. (2:26)  Note: Those sound an awful lot like those describing Jesus in Luke 2:52.

Disobedience:

  • Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were evil and worthless men (2:12). They were abusing their place as priests when observing the sacrifices, as well as unacceptable behavior. 
  • They despised their father’s words of rebuke. (2:25b)
  • They were slain along with the capture of the ark. (4:11)

That begs a question: which am I? Would Samuel’s life be an example of mine or would Eli’s sons?  I know which one I would choose.

“Father, the choice is easy to make…on paper. It is another thing to live it. May I choose to follow you and not be disobedient to your call on my life…no matter where it may take me.”

April 12/Weekend

Friday, April 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Inching Toward vs Walking Away.

I wanted to finish my devotional thoughts about Samson that I started in yesterday’s devotion. Two statements bookend Samson’s life. The first I discussed yesterday: “Get her for me, she is right in my eyes.” That seems to be the guiding principle of his life. Even in today’s reading I can see it. Judges 16:1 says, “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her.” Besides the whole moral issue, what was he doing there to begin with? The Philistines were his enemies! The second event is the one all, or at least most people are familiar with: Delilah.

Taking a closer look at this story shows Samson inching closer toward his source of strength with each nag from Delilah. Seven fresh bowstrings. New ropes. Tie my hair in a loom. (Careful there Samson). Shave it off. Done. Dead in the water.

Several things hit me in this:

  1. Samson’s compromises were incremental. He didn’t just spew it out. Over time his defenses wore down.
  2. He may have thought his strength was his hair. It wasn’t. It was the symbol of God’s presence in his life. God was the source of Samson’s strength.

Judges 16:20 are sad words: “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” The symbol was gone. Worse. The presence and power were also gone.

But then we read the other bookend statement: “But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” Seemingly innocuous words which are loaded with meaning. I’d like to believe that as Samson turned the millstone grinding grain, he thought about his life, its waste, and how he had thrown this great privilege away. All of it, including his Nazirite vow. Controlled by the flesh, he realized it wasn’t his hair where his strength came from. His strength came from God. His final words were a cry out to God for strength. Am I too far off in my thinking?

“Father, Samson’s life story is a tragedy. But it ends with a good note. His death. Yes. But more: his restoration. Help me not to compromise-full bore or incrementally. Help me to be constantly aware of Your presence in my life.”

April 11

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Eyes vs His Eyes.

I’m reading in Judges these days. One huge cycle over and over. Sin. Taken captive. Live under oppression. Cry out to God for relief. God raises up a judge. Defeat of the enemy. All good while judge lives. Judge dies. Rinse and repeat cycle.

Of all the stories in Judges the story of Samson has always captivated me. His special birth which actually began with special instructions to his mother before he was born. Nazirite vow which had several “rules” (No wine or strong drink. No touching dead bodies. No cutting of hair. To name a few).  Maybe I was drawn to his story because of the “specialness” of his calling. Maybe it was his battle with the flesh.  Maybe it was his up and down life. Maybe it was his strength and feats of strength. Maybe it was his hair (of which I have none). 🙂 Maybe it was his failure to see God’s hand or to care. I don’t know.

His life reads like a Hollywood tabloid. From his first feat of strength brought on by the deception (shall I say nagging) of his wife; to catching foxes and releasing them; to taking a jawbone of a donkey and killing 1000 men; to sleeping with a Gaza prostitute only to escape by carrying the city gates up a hill; to his ordeal and eventual capture with Delilah; and his ultimate death while collapsing the temple and killing more at his death than while alive. Yep, Hollywood tabloid. Or tragic misdirection of life. 

Two statements bookend his life…least to my eyes. In Judges one statement seems to sum up his life: “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (14:3) That phrase is repeated in verse 7: “She was right in Samson’s eyes.” Those two phrases seem to tell the whole story of Samson from start to finish. He did what was right in his own eyes. How many of us can say, “Yep. That’s me” and raise a hand? I know I’m one. Far too many times I have been ruled by my flesh and done what was right “according to me.”

The other saying I’m saving until tomorrow.

One insight does need mentioned. After his first “Get her for me” in verse 3, an interesting interjection is found. “His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” (v.4) God did not lead Samson to sin, but He could use this for His purpose. And He did. Too bad Samson couldn’t see it. His vision, like mine, is often my eyes not His.

“Father, Samson strikes home so closely. Too closely. Blinded by his flesh, he fails to see with eyes of the Spirit. Forgive me when I have done what was right in my own eyes. Help me not to be enamored by sight, by the flesh, but to live and see and breathe through Your Spirit.”