Sin

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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.”

November 21

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Fool or Wise?

Over the past couple of months I have read two books that came from a unique perspective. Their authors were former atheists who came to know Christ as their Savior. They wrote for different reasons. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca MacLaughlin was written to answer 12 arguments that Christianity (God) is accused of. Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp was written to counteract actions in the church which threatened to turn MJ away from her life in Christ.

The denial of God’s existence is very real. There are those whose life mission is to disprove or argue His existence. The late Stephen Hawking. Dawkins. The late Christopher Hitchens. And others. But Psalm 14 puts a word on them that is ominous and no one wants to be called: F.O.O.L.

No one like to be called a fool and yet the ultimate foolishness is the denial of God.  But what concerns me is the one who believes in God and yet lives as if He doesn’t exist. What do I mean by that? Glad you asked. 🙂  It’s the one who lives:

  • As though God is a second thought not a first thought.
  • As though he is the master of his own fate
  • As though he is the ultimate ruler of his life and doesn’t need God’s authority.
  • As though he is smart enough to act and doesn’t need God’s wisdom
  • As though he has it within himself to overcome sin and temptation and doesn’t need God’s power in his life.
  • As though he gets things done by merit and does not need nor have to rely on God’s grace.

Could it be that every time I/you do or think the above thoughts we are saying, “God, I don’t need you. I’m going on this alone” even though we may not verbalize it?

I want to borrow from Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him:

A fool has no ability whatsoever to rescue himself from his own foolishness. A fool is always a person in need of eternal rescue…He (Jesus) was born to rescue fools like you and me. (pp.122-123)

“Father, help me not to live in such a way so that it appears I don’t believe in You. Instead, help me to live a life of wisdom-a life of surrender to You and not to myself.”

November 8

Friday, November 8th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Me vs You.

It’s always interesting watching and being around young children.  We have a pretty good number at the church and I absolutely love interacting with them. One minute they are running up to me and giving me a fist bump or a hug and the next minute hiding behind their mom or dad’s leg or just ignoring me.  Just this past Sunday a young girl-I’m guessing about 6 y/o-came running up to me as soon as she got inside to ask me a question. You need to know that she plays a game with me-she’s hot and cold. She has a beautiful head of hair and I asked her once if I could borrow some since I’m bald. Anyway, for her to come running up to me is unusual but she had to ask me a question: “Pastor Bill, who made God?” Aaaaah yeah.  🙂

Kids have their own world and to be honest want you to conform to their world. But we adults are not much different are we? I get irritated in slow traffic or when I’m cut off. Right now I’m dealing with some construction issues at home where I’ve been put off for 3 weeks. Is it him putting me off or is it me upset because the job isn’t getting done on my timeline? It seems to be an unending war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of light. You bug me because you are not conforming to my kingdom wishes. AND YOU NEED TO CONFORM!

“Father, the battle always rages. My kingdom, my little fiefdom vs Yours. Help me to put mine to death and live in your kingdom as your subject.”

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.”