Sin

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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.”

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.”