Sin

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October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”

October 8

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

I read the following statement recently:

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.  (Good Morning Lord…Can We Talk?- Chuck Swindoll-p.280)

That struck me. I have often said from the pulpit that sin is not ugly or distasteful or unappealing. To clarify: it is not made to look that way. Why would the enemy try to entice us with something that was a turn off? He doesn’t say, “Here try this drug. Oh…by the way…let me show you how it will end up if you do.”  Nor does he entice us sexually with a woman (in a male’s case) who is 200 pounds overweight and bald. No he entices with someone who looks inviting. He doesn’t entice a young athlete to use steroids by showing ‘roid rage or weight gain or unneeded hair growth to a young woman. No, he will not show the ugly side of sin.

What he does offer is paradise. A taste of heaven. A false reality. He’s like the circus shyster offering more than he can deliver.

Paul wrote about that. In Galatians 6:7 he wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” In spite of what we think, there will come a day when each one of us will give an account. We will then find out that sin was not cheap, nor was it honest.

“Father, may I not be deceived by the ‘beauty’ or allure of sin. It is empty. It is ugly at the core. Its consequences are long-lasting. Help me break free from its pull.”

September 24

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It is good to be self-confident. It is good to have self-confidence. It is not good to be too self-confident. It is not good to have too much self-confidence. Seriously, it isn’t bad to have self-confidence. We have to believe we can do something or we won’t. I was speaking with one of our teenagers the other day. She has developed into a pretty good golfer and as a senior will graduate with a high GPA (Valedictorian I think…or close to it) and is one of the finalists for what is called the Lilly Scholarship. (We actually have two young ladies who are finalists). This young lady was playing in the Regional golf tournament this week (Monday) and said, “I hope I do well, but I’m not sure.” I stopped her right there and pointed to her head and said, “Whoa! It’s all right there.” {Note: she had one bad hole and came in fourth}.

I was thinking of self-confidence when I read I Cor. 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  As a young pastor, and like many who are young, there was an air of invincibility surrounding me. “I will never do that” was said more than I care to admit. Can you hear the splat or the kerplunk as I do a face plant? I forgot the basic truth of this verse. I repeat what I said at the beginning: It is good to be self-confident; it is not good to be too self-confident. It is called arrogance, pride. It is also called “look out below!”

“Father, you have had to teach me humility big time, especially when I had the audacity to think I was invincible. Help me, in my old age, not to forget.”

{Note: Jo and I left for Ohio yesterday  to visit Janna and watch our grandson play football, even though we will have to watch outside the fence.  They are only allowing 2 people for each player inside the stadium. So I’m not sure I will post here tomorrow. I am not planning on taking my computer.}

August 18

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

As I write this devotion, I hesitate. I have, in the past, said I would not write on politics. But, even though I can say this is not political, there would be some who would take it that way. Such is the state of our world. But this truly is not meant to be a political statement.

There are always catch-words or catch-phrases people use. Some catch on but others go by the wayside after a time. One that is big right now (2020) is the term “social justice.” It has been spurred on by the different social events that have happened, and while it may sound innocent on the surface, those two words have become the rationale for all kinds of lawlessness and other actions. It has also become the litmus test for many in the church.

Right up front I will say social justice-the desire for equality according to the law (my definition)- is good. There is one factor which must never be forgotten. Social justice, especially when it involves right/wrong or evil, must never, never (did I say never?) usurp the gospel of Jesus Christ. Churches, and even pastors, who push aside the gospel of Jesus for the social justice banner have stopped being gospel churches and gospel pastors. If they are not going to preach the gospel of Jesus as the cure to this world’s ills, and if they are going to spend their time protesting and breeding hatred, they need to step down from their pulpits, get rid of the “pastor” or “Reverend” in front of their name and be what they really are-a social justice warrior. Speaking of which, don’t call Jesus a Social Justice Warrior. I don’t see Him marching in protest; burning buildings; hating cops; throwing molotov cocktails; looting. screaming and inciting riots; or any other type of inflamed rhetoric.

I repeat: Social justice should never, never, never take the place of preaching the Gospel message.

“Father, Your Word changes lives.  Our world doesn’t know that. Many people in pulpits don’t know that. And it stand to reason many in the pews/chairs don’t. Help me to always preach the gospel.”

*Note: I have more to say but kept it to this length to be more readable. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

July 20

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Have you ever played the “If only” game?  I suspect we all have.

  • If only I had married someone different.
  • If only I hadn’t had that first drink or that first smoke or that first snort. 
  • If only I hadn’t bought that item.
  • If only I hadn’t let my responsibility slide.
  • If only my list would end. 🙂

Yeah, I suspect we have all had those moments of regret. Martha had a case of the “if onlys” when Jesus finally arrived on the scene in Bethany. Lazarus had already died and Martha looked at Jesus and said, “If only you had been here my brother would not have died.”

The problem with our “if onlys” is we tend to look at them from the worldly perspective. We see the here and now. We see the consequences of a choice we made years ago. I recently read the memoir of Jonathan Cain, a member of the rock group Journey. By his own admission his double life came back to haunt him in the breakup of his second marriage to his children’s mother. The consequences of choices made and actions taken broke up his marriage. That’s a perfect time to say “if only.”

As hard as it is we must move on from the “if onlys.” I know for some that is harder than for others. But if we don’t, we will forever live with regret. What happened can’t be changed. What can be changed is our response to our choices and the ensuing actions. We can forever be a slave to them or we can choose to be free.

“Father, I can’t change the ‘if onlys’ in my past. But I can change-with your help-how it affects me. Help me to overcome those regrets from my past.”

July 3

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

I think one of the hardest things as a pastor is trying to help people and them either not accepting it or continuing to struggle. One of the most difficult things to overcome is anger, especially that which is caused by betrayal or insensitivity. Or worst of all, by gossip.

That last one is an ugly poison, a cancer that afflicts many organizations, but is especially devastating to a church. I remember reading about an old Quaker pastor who had one insidious lady in his church who loved to gossip. But one time her gossip ruined people. She came into the pastor’s office to apologize and ask what she can do to make it right. He gave her a bag of feathers and said to go outside and release them. She did. When she was done, and thought all was well, she asked him what she was to do next. He told her to go around and pick up all the feathers. “That’s impossible. They’re scattered all over!” And he said, “So are your words and you’ll never be able to take them all back.”

  • There are mean people out there in this world. Don’t tolerate them.
  • There are self-righteous, opinionated people in this world. Dismiss them.
  • There are gossipy people in this world. Rebuke them.
  • There are evil people in this world. Avoid them.

Know what is ever sadder? Many of those people are so-called “Christians.” (Yeah, you saw the change from Christ-follower to “Christians”).  Gossip N.E.V.E.R. heals or helps. It always hurts and destroys. Even gossips sometimes tell the truth, even if it hurts. Or is that especially if that hurts. I had one who justified her gossip with “I told the truth” to which I said, “Why say anything at all?”

James 3 says our tongue is a flame that quickly gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy is wrought when a fire gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy and damage is wrought when a tongue gets out of control.

“Father, words can be used for good or for evil. May my words bring healing to others and glory to You in all things.”

 

July 1

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Have you ever boasted? To my way of thinking, boasting and pride are like two children from the same mother. Pride is a false perception of oneself; boasting is putting that pride to words. Pride is sinful. Boasting is dangerous.

This hit me today as I read the Scriptures this morning. Jesus had just spoken to His disciples in the Upper Room and had prayed what I consider “The Lord’s Prayer.” No, not the one in Matthew 6 (The Model Prayer), but the one found in John 17, also known as the High Priestly Prayer. But in Mark 14:26-31 we have an account of Jesus and His disciples heading out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden. On the way Jesus tells them they would all fall away (Gk word stumble). Peter boldly and brashly confronts Jesus and says that if everyone else falls away he will not. To which Jesus reassures him that “Oh yes you will.” Peter replies, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (14:31).  ‘Course we know how that ends.

Boasting is dangerous. I think some of the most dangerous words a Christ-follower can utter are “I will or would never do that” or some variation of that. Using those words is like a set up, a challenge to the enemy to make it happen. When I used those words I can now picture him licking his chops and rubbing his hands together with a silly grin on his face. Be careful making boasts in the heat of passion that you may not be able to back up. All the best intentions in the world do not stop susceptibility. Nor does it take the target off your back.  It probably makes it larger and harder to miss.

“Father, help me to be strong without boasting. Help me to endure in Your strength not in my bravado.”

May 21

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

We are a judgmental lot. We think nothing of judging others’ sins, ripping flesh from their bones, gutting them and leaving a carcass laying on the side of the road. Sort of like the carrion birds were doing to the dead possum the other day. They scattered as I rode by. I didn’t look back but I can pretty much guarantee they “re-congregated” at the carcass to pick it apart some more. It didn’t dawn on me till this morning how much like us they are. Obviously, I’m not talking physical appearance. We are not so hideously ugly as they are.

Unless…

Unless you consider what we often do. The old saying is way too often true:

“The church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.”

I go back to my original statement: We are a judgmental lot. We tend to do that even more when, after classifying sin, we pick someone apart. Their sin is worse than mine or one sin is worse than another.

Those thoughts hit me as I read an exchange from Luke 13:1-9 that Jesus had with His audience about some Galileans Pilate had killed. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worst sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worst sinners than all the other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no.” I confess I don’t totally understand this passage but it appears to me they thought the Galileans were worse sinners and deserved their lot, but Jesus was correcting that line of thinking.

Maybe it time we stopped the “It is a worse sin to do or be (fill in the blank)” and start seeing all sin for what it is- an affront to God ALL of us are guilty of and in His eyes there is no sin worse than another, except one-the rejection of Jesus. From that there is no return except repentance. 

“Father, help me not to be judgmental, but to turn the searchlight on myself. Help me to stop classifying sin and putting it into files of degrees of sin.”

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.”