Sin

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June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”

April 23

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Sunday morning Jo and I drove to Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute. While Scot, Maryland’s Senior Pastor did not preach, the Discipleship Pastor, Nick Strobel, did an admirable job speaking about Greed.  Using the story of Elisha, Naaman and Gehazi found in 2 Kings 5, he brought some good thoughts to the table. {Please take a moment and read the Scripture}.  After Naaman went on his way with Elisha’s blessing, Gehazi chased him down and lied about Elisha wanting his money. Here are the three points Nick brought out: (Main thoughts his; commentary mine)

  1. Greed starts small. It warps our purpose. God’s ultimate purpose was that Naamen know and acknowledge God as the only God. But Gehazi’s greed warped that. Man will always pursue what we think will save us. We will not pursue things because we think it’s dumb.
  2. Greed warps our reality. Sin multiplies. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman to get what he wanted. God will never ask us to do something which is against His Word. N.E.V.E.R. When someone says or does something sinful or evil with the caveat of “God told me” you can pretty well guess He didn’t.
  3. Greed warps our understanding of salvation. God gave Gehazi what he wanted. The sin he chased became his death warrant. Greed can’t save. If you read the story, Naaman was healed of leprosy. Gehazi spent the rest of his life as a leper. Sad ending to what had been a promising future as the understudy/servant to Elisha.

“Father, help me not to be greedy toward what others may have. I don’t want my life to be warped because of my preoccupation with things I don’t have.”

April 19

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Reading Proverbs is always enlightening. During 2020 I broke a long-standing tradition I had. From January 1-December 31, I would constantly read and reread Psalms. Every other month I would read Proverbs-one chapter a day. I’m not sure why I broke that tradition. But recently I picked it back up. I started reading the NT in the New Living Translation on January 1. I started reading Psalms on February 1. And through the month of April I have been reading Proverbs. It has been a rich experience again.

On the 17th (chapter 17) I read this verse:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

That reminded me of a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Wise words. From both.

How many time have I opened my mouth and it would have been better to have kept it shut? More than I care to admit. How it would have been better to speak less and listen more! And how it would have been better to not have spoken at all!! It pains me to think of the lives I have hurt by speaking first and thinking last.

I go to another verse in Proverbs 17 that stood out to me:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (v.9)

I’ve needed that forgiveness more than I can say. It is starts with keeping my mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. And I follow it up with this: “A truly wise person uses few words.” (v.27a)

“Father, help me to watch my words and to speak wisely.”

April 15

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

I’ve been reading lately about the Sadducees and Pharisees in preparation for some sermons which are coming up. It was this group of men-throw in the scribes also-whom Jesus had the most difficulty with.  But like today, not even the religious could agree.

The Sadducees were the political ones of the group. Their influence at the time wasn’t necessarily religious. Their influence was more political. Although they would deny it vehemently, they were in bed with the Romans. Oh, they had some religious quirks too. They did not believe in the resurrection, angels or anything supernatural. The also only believed in the validity of the Penteteuch (first 5 books of the OT).

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the super religious. They were religious legends in their own mind.  The Pharisees were very legalistic, wanting to hold all 600+ laws as a hammer over the heads of the people. They were opposed to the Sadducees when it came to their beliefs, especially on the resurrection.  They were united with them on one thing: getting rid of Jesus.

One aspect of the Pharisees’ belief was the separation from unclean people. They would not dare get their hands dirty. “Come out from among them and be separate” applied to contact and interaction.

There some who take that literally, even today.  They withdraw from society.  Form communes. Want no influence (outside) to soil them. But I don’t believe that idea is to be taken physically. I believe it has to do with our hearts and minds. “Set your mind on things above not on things on earth” is what Paul told the Colossians. (3:2)

The word we are searching for is holiness. Sanctification. It means “to be holy, to be set apart.” Not physically, but in our hearts and minds. Devoted to Him.

The Pharisees thought they needed to physically separate.

The Sadducees thought they needed to ideologically separate.

The Bible speaks of devotion to God not the world.

Am I separated from the world? Am I dedicated for the Lord’s use? Are you?

“Father, may I be Yours completely. Help me not to be as concerned about physical separation as I am about having my heart and mind consecrated to You.”

April 7

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 22

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

You have probably heard the saying, “You learn something new every day.” And that’s a good thing. Well…I can say that this morning. It’s probably not that I haven’t heard or read this before, but this morning something struck home. The lesson comes from Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp.

But first…you must stop and read Psalm 51 in its entirety. Not just one or two or five verses but all 19 of them. Go ahead. It won’t take you that long.

The story behind the psalm is familiar. David has a tryst with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant. When he found out he has her husband, Uriah, murdered. Adulterer. Murderer. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance. All that information I/we know. But what I learned anew this morning is David used 3 words to describe his sin. And this is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Transgression. A transgression is a willful stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign and climbing the fence anyway because there is something you want to get to on the other side.
  2. Iniquity. This word means moral uncleanness. There is something more in me than even the spirit of rebellion (see #1). This is like water which is no longer pure.
  3. Sin. Falling short of God’s wise and righteous standard. It’s like the pole vaulters or high jumpers who-try as they will-cannot clear the bar. And just as the vaulter or jumper seeks answers/help, embedded in sin is a cry for help.

David’s prayer is sincere because he recognized his rebellion against God’s boundary (fence); that deep within him was the uncleanness/impurity; and no matter how hard he tried he would fall short. Psalm 51 is a cry for help and forgiveness.

That’s my story. Is it yours? I talked with someone the other day who relayed a story that he has a relative who doesn’t know of any sin that he struggles with.  He needs a heart check because I can think of one just by his statement: pride. 

But that’s not me.  I’m guilty.

“Father, David’s prayer is mine. Guilty on all three counts. But I pray with David that you will renew a right spirit within me and give me a new heart.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

January 13

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I actually had two thoughts bouncing around in my head this morning and thought I would use them both. But I was unsure how to tie them in together. As you will see, that was not necessary. Maybe I’ll do the other one tomorrow.

My first thought was after reading Matthew 23. I’d encourage you to stop right now and read that chapter. If this is an “on-the-go” devo reading, I’ll summarize it for you. It is what is called the “7 Woe” passage, where Jesus pronounces 7 woes against the Pharisees. He’s blunt. He minces no words. I have a sneaking suspicion He wasn’t smiling trying to soften the blow of His words. I also have this feeling He didn’t look at the sky and drop His eyes and look at His feet. No, I can picture Jesus with eyes boring right through the chests and into the depths of every Pharisee’s heart and soul as He spoke.

He had enough of their hypocrisy. Let’s clarify that: self-righteous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one thing; self-righteous hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother level. I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. I know I am. Why do I say that? Because not always does my walk back my talk! Yep, that’s me. Saying one thing but doing another. I recognize that and can honestly say I don’t do it maliciously or purposely. That is the sinful nature, the old man in me, who wants to still make an appearance.

Self-righteous hypocrisy is different. It is doing something then trying to cover it up with self-righteous talk. Religious talk. It is looking down on someone but not acknowledging my own sin. That is Matthew 23 in a nutshell. The Pharisees could not see their own sin because of the self-righteous log in their own eye. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They were tombs and monuments that looked good on the outside but were fill with dead man’s bones. There is more, but you get the point. Time to stop being a self-righteous hypocrite and put the cards on the table.

“Father, help me to be real-to You, to myself, to others. You see me as I am. Help me to stop pretending.”