Sin

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September 21

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

One of the “things” that has captured our world is jumping to conclusions. You know…make a decision and let that decision be made before all the facts are in.

This has been especially true in our world of instant news-Twitter, FB, Instagram and the like. We see or hear something and we are ready to be judge, jury, and executioner before knowing all the facts.

Case in point: Our Daily Bread had a story of an event which happened during the 2018 baseball season. A Chicago Cubs coach wanted to give a baseball to a young boy sitting by the dugout. When the coach tossed him a ball, a man sitting next to him scooped it up. He was excoriated by the media. He was called a brute. I vaguely remember seeing that video and I’m ashamed to admit that I thought, “How rude!” The first reaction of the media was to call him out about his cold-heartedness and lack of class. It took 24 hours for the truth to come out that those two had made a deal (after the man had snagged a ball for him earlier) to share any additional balls that came their way. By then, he was blistered.

Jumping to conclusions. We are strong on condemning “obvious” sins-adultery, homosexuality, stealing (unless it is during a riot), lying (sometimes but not always), but we give a free pass to jumping to conclusions and jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation. Exodus 23:2 tells us not to “join together with a crowd in order to pervert justice.” (NASB2020)

Let’s stop jumping to conclusions. Let’s get the facts-the truth-before ruining someone’s life with untruth.

“Father, may I be a truth-gatherer and not a lie-spreader.”

September 8

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

It is not uncommon for us to think we need some one or some thing to make us complete.

A young man or young lady thinks he or she cannot live without a member of the opposite sex. So they pine for someone to complete them.  (It often leads to an illicit relationship).

A couple thinks a child will complete them. So they crave a child to make them whole.  (I’m not knocking the desire to have a child but to be obsessed by that desire).

A person (man or woman) thinks a better job, a better paying job, will do the trick. And while their professional life may be more complete,  their personal life tanks.

A person (man or woman) thinks one more hit, one more drink, one more trick will satisfy. Soon they find themselves slaves and in a downward spiral.

You get the picture. We have this mistaken idea that some one or some thing will fill the empty hole we have. I think it was Augustine who is reputed to have said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in us that only God can fill.” Take a moment please and read Psalm 49: 5-8a. Those are powerful words I read this morning. Sounds a bit like Jesus’ words in Mark 8: 36-37.

“Father, may I choose You and not pursuits which are nothing and ultimately empty.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

June 23

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Just a few short words this morning that are on my heart. One of the weapons of attack the enemy (Satan) uses against us is our words. More specifically, what we tell ourselves. The battle is tough enough and explosive enough without all the things we tell ourselves. A list but certainly not all of it:

  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You will never amount to anything.”
  • “Who would want you if they really knew?”
  • “You are a fake, a liar and a hack.”
  • “You are a hypocrite.”

On and on it goes…where it stops nobody knows. The enemy gets inside our head with those ugly words. Worse. He gets in our heart. We start to believe his lies. It is one thing to endure failure, but the worst part of failure is usually the story we tell ourselves.

I don’t know how many times I have to beat that demon who says, “If they really knew Bill about the ‘secret sin’ or ‘secret thought,’ they wouldn’t listen to you. They wouldn’t give you time of day.”

Shame becomes a real problem. This coming Sunday I’m preaching on John 8 and the woman caught in adultery.  A life of shame, now made public with humiliation by some arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees. That shame did not matter to Jesus. That shame was never an issue. It was never seen. The forgiveness Jesus gave her never mentioned her shame. He never said, “Shame on you!”

All He did say to her was, “Where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

How much more clear can we get? He was telling her that her sin, her shame, her failure did not define her. His grace was bigger than her sin.

Now that! I can live by!!!

“Father, thank you for not seeing my shame and letting me wallow in it. Thank you for Your grace.”

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.”