Sin

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May 23

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

“Of course I’m a responsible person!”

Perhaps you have heard the comedic exchange:

“Are you a responsible person?”

“Yes, I am. My wife tells me I’m responsible for everything that happens.”

I’m sure it isn’t quite that bad, but consider this: Do be a responsible person. Now, before you get all ballistic and huffy think this through with me.

We live in a culture today of what I will call “blame-shifters.” We would rather blame than take responsibility. In fact, Proverbs 24:12-13 is surprisingly contemporary, especially for those who want to say the Bible is an antiquated and outdated book. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’ For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul and knows you know.” (NLT) (Emphasis mine)

Shifting blame is nothing new. It is as old as…well…the Garden. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit and knew things had changed, they hid from God who had come for their daily walk. When Adam replied, “I heard you walking in the Garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

God: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I told you not to eat”

(WAIT FOR IT)

A: “It was the woman you gave me.”

G: (to Eve) “What have you done? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

(WAIT FOR IT)

E: “The serpent deceived me.”

Not a sliver of taking responsibility, bu they both were good at shifting blame. “The woman.” “The serpent.”

And we haven’t changed or stopped. We still shift blame.  “It wasn’t my fault. He or she did it.” Don’t you think it is time to start acting like men and women and assume responsibility for our actions? Growth can happen when we accept responsibility instead of pointing our finger at someone and say, “It’s his or her fault.”  Well…what do you say?

April 18

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

Popular today among many is what I will call (and possibly other have already done so) the “positive thought/confession” movement. Long story that strain of thought says “whatever you think or feel, whatever your heart says to do, speak it out loud and then go, follow your heart.

I know people who believed this so much that they stopped taking their meds because they “thought themselves” healthy. I’m not saying we are not sometimes over-medicated. Not at all. But there are some meds you just can’t quit cold turkey.

I’ve known people who refused medical treatment because some huckster or some “speak positive thoughts” guru told them to speak themselves well and to not act accordingly was a “an act of unbelief.”

Granted, these are some extreme examples. There are those who need to stop feeding negative images into their brain after they look into the mirror. The “I’m ugly” or “I’m fat” or “I’m worthless” comments need to go.  But frankly, there is a lot more money made in cosmetology and plastic surgery for unnecessary procedures than there should be.

What does all this have to do with being a Christ-follower? Many try to apply self-help gobbledygook to lifelong and lasting change. Victory over an addiction or a traumatic event in the past (or the present) will not be overcome by “I think I can, I think I can.” That only works with trains trying to climb mountains. The real transforming approach is this: “You were dead because of  your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.”  (Col. 2:13-15 NLT)

Real change, real transformation, does not come from thinking positive. Real change comes from allowing God’s Spirit to do His work in you. He makes permanent change. He disarms the enemy.

And I’m positive He will win the battle.

April 9

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

“I’ve sinned too much.” “I’ve sunk too low.” 

It is not unusual for me to hear those kinds of words. Add to it the thoughts of “God could never forgive me” or “There’s no way I deserve God’s forgiveness” and you almost have word for word what I often hear.

Well, they are correct and also incorrect in their assessment. Correct: “I’ve sinned too much” (once is too many).  “There is no way I deserve God’s forgiveness.”  Incorrect: “God could never forgive me.” The hard truth is that we have sinned (and as I said once is too much). AND we do not deserve God’s forgiveness.

The startling truth is that He reaches down to us no matter how far we have fallen. No matter how deep of a hole we have dug for ourselves.

I have just finished reading over the past two days a trifecta of chapters from the book of Psalms-chapters 104, 105 & 106. They read like a litany of bad history. 104 starts out well talking about the greatness of God and the goodness of God. It’s almost like preparation for what was to come. 105 opens with giving thanks to God for His care of them while in Egypt and how He brought them out of that strange land. Intertwined is how He cared for them in spite of their grumbling.  But 106! WOW! Talk about a past one would just as soon forget!! The psalmist (David?) gives a history lesson of the faithlessness of the Israelites- grumbling about water and food; worshiping a golden calf; sacrificing their children to a foreign god; the list goes on.

Through it all-in spite of His anger and yes, judgment that He must do-is a faithful God. A God who made and makes promises and sticks to them. A God of whom the psalmist writes, “Save us, O Lord our God! Gather us back from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you. Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, ‘Amen!'”

If He can do that for His wayward, faithless, stumbling people, what makes us think we can sink too far down and can’t be reached?

March 12

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest hurdles we have to need to get over.

When it comes to forgiving others, I have often shared that the failure to forgive others; the desire to hold a grudge; the unwillingness to move on; holding onto hard feelings or even feelings of hate, makes me a slave to that person. They own me. They control me.

But what about that which I consider possibly even harder-the ability or willingness to forgive ourselves? I have seen way too many people able to forgive others, but then wreck their own lives because they can’t or won’t forgive themselves. Big or little sin (usually a whopper) just will not let go. It’s like an albatross around the neck, choking the life out of us.

David’s psalm-known as Psalm 51-deals with this straight on. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up, is exposed by the prophet Nathan (full story in 2 Samuel 11). David is convicted of his sin and his guilt is palpable. One can feel his anguish as he lays it all out. “Have mercy. Wash me clean. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Forgive me for shedding blood.” One can not read those words and not sense David’s pain and agony over his sin. But one can also see David is moving on. He wasn’t going to allow his sin to define him, to hold him down.

Neither should I. Neither should you. There is nothing you or I have done, there is no sin you or I have committed, that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Confess it. Repent of it. Now…walk away in freedom being sure of God’s limitless grace.

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

#ToughChallenges

Friday, February 16th, 2024

There are two ways to coach someone. You can coach down. Or you can coach up. I’m guessing you are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about.  Real briefly: coaching up is a positive way to coach.  Look for signs of improvement. Look for signs of progress. To get to this week’s Scripture I would say read Colossians 3:1-4. To wrap up from last week:

  • We need to set our minds and hearts on things above. (v.1)
  • We need to reshape our perspective. (v.2)
  • We need to redefine our purpose. (verses 3-4).

Sadly, there is also a need to “coach down.” Let me explain. Coaching down in this instance means to “put to death” certain things. Verses 5-11 is a list of things Paul says we are to put to death. Here they are:

  • We are to put to death our sinful passions. (5-7)
  • We are to put to death our sinful practices. (8-10)
  • We must put to death our sinful pride. (11)

This Sunday’s message is Part 1 of Tough Challenges are Given. Pastor Ryan will be preaching Part 2 while Jo and I are gone. If you have a chance to visit, we would love to have you. If you are unable to join us in person, please check out our live stream. We meet at 9:00 and 10:45.

For another perspective on this sermon, please check out my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can link to it here.

February 7

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

I’m convinced that one of the hardest things to do is for a person to forgive himself of past sins or discretions. I’m guessing we have all been there-either personally or with a friend or someone we know.

It might go something like this:

  • Person: Does God forgive all my sin?
  • You: Yes. I firmly believe He does.
  • P: I’m not too sure about that.
  • Y: Why?
  • P: I’ve done some really bad things. If I told you everything, you would turn away from me or it would at least curl your insides.
  • Y: Try me.
  • P: I just couldn’t. You would no longer like me or want to be my friend.
  • Y: First, that is not true. Second, what does my reaction have to do with God?
  • P: Because He would turn away and say, “That’s too much. I just can’t.”

You can carry that conversation on if you like. I want to stop it and add my thoughts. This conversation or one like it, and the thought of that person, came to mind when I read Psalm 130:3-4 this morning. “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Can it be any clearer? Consider I John 1:9 which says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I relish the truth that God forgives and when He does He forgives totally and completely. No hanging on. No crossing His fingers. It is not only forgiven but also forgotten.

Now…if we can just forgive and remind ourselves of that.

January 11

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

“Honesty is the best policy.”

I’m not sure how old I was when I first heard that, nor how often I heard it. I suspect it was when my mother lined us up to ask, “Okay, who did it?” and reminded us that telling the truth was best. (I’m glad it was always my brothers’ fault when things went wrong). 🙂

My blogging friend, Pam Williams, wrote a great post yesterday on honesty. You can access that post here. She stated it correctly that honesty is in every part of our life. (Please take a moment to read what she said).

If I think of someone in the Bible who stands head and shoulders above others in the honesty and integrity department, it would be Joseph. Perhaps never is that put more to the test than his lack of an affair with Mrs. Potiphar. The fact that the Lord was with him is stated twice at the beginning (Gen. 39:2-3) and three times at the end (39:21-23).

Consider the scenario. A teenager with raging hormones. A stranger in a strange land (no one knows him…no family to check up on him). A seductive woman. No one around so who would know? The possibility of advancement as Mrs. P puts in a good word. I repeat: who would know?

Joseph would (a godly conscience is good at reminding us of stuff like that). More importantly: God would. And THAT was the kicker! Joseph said to Mrs. P, “Look, my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (39:8-9) (NLT)

That didn’t stop her. She kept putting pressure on him day after day, but he rebuffed her advances. Eventually, the saying came true: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Here is the tale of the story though: Joseph was aware of God’s presence and that He sees and knows all. There is no sin He does not know about-behind back doors or out in the open. So…besides my mom’s words mentioned at the beginning, another favorite of hers comes into play: “Remember, I may not see what you do or say, but God does.”

Sheesh mom! Why don’t you just throw down that Ace of hearts? Why not throw down the BIG ONE? But…she is right.  I’d like to say just like when she found out my brothers committed all the mayhem. But I would not be telling the truth. 🙂

January 3

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion under Goal #2 that I read recently read how Eve diminished God’s Word; she added to God’s Word; and she softened God’s Word. I’d like to elaborate on that very briefly in this devotion.

First, those thoughts came from Daily Strength-A Devotional for Men published by Crossway and compiled by various writers. These thoughts are from the January 2nd devotion and the writer is R. Kent Hughes.  The main thoughts are his. Much of the supporting material is mine. Now to the thoughts:

1. Eve diminished God’s Word. In Gen. 3:2 she tells the serpent: “Of course, we may eat from the trees in the garden.” She diminished God’s Word by leaving out the word “every” as in “every tree.” Her shrunken rendition left out God’s generosity.

2. Eve added to God’s Word. In 2:17 they are told not to eat the fruit, but in 3:3 she adds that touching the tree was also forbidden. Seems like a small thing but by adding the word “touch” she magnified God’s harshness.

3. Eve softened God’s Word. She left out the word “surely” in 3:3 that we find stated by God in 2:17. Her omission removed the certainty of death which the serpent exploited in 3:4.

So…here is what I see as it applies to today. God’s Word is often diminished as we see feelings and “follow your heart” become the mantra and take precedence over “What does God’s Word really say?”  Second, people are constantly adding to God’s Word to make it say what they want it to say. Add a little here; add a little there. What’s the harm? Third, we see God’s Word softened often. “Hell? There’s no hell, no eternal punishment for sin. Speaking of sin. What’s that?” Or we will hear “Everyone makes their own path to God. God doesn’t care.”

One more thing (and I’m grateful to John Eldredge from Wild at Heart for pointing this out years ago): The whole time Eve was having this exchange with the serpent, Adam was standing right there. (See Gen. 3:6b). Yep, good old Adam. Standing idly by. He sinned with his eyes wide open, watching the exchange. He never stepped in. He never put a hold or a stop to the conversation.

Perhaps the best way to conclude is a word from Mr. Hughes: “Eve followed the snake, Adam followed Eve, no one followed God.”  Jesus once said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Mt. 4:4) Let’s allow His Word to guide us.

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Please let me remind you again about my review of Martha Orlando’s The Glade Series I posted at Cycleguy’s Spin. You can access that here.

December 27

Wednesday, December 27th, 2023

I had totally planned as I sat down for my Encounter Time this morning to write about the aftermath of Christmas. What’s it like? Why do we feel let down? How can we overcome this “down” affect?

But then I read a psalm this morning. Psalm 51 to be exact. For those who don’t know, Psalm 51 was written by David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband (and his subsequent cover up). Having his sin exposed to him by Nathan, the prophet, David fell to his knees. Psalm 51 is the result of that guilt and repentance. You can read the whole sordid story of David and Bathsheba and the surrounding events in 2 Samuel 11-12.

I thought I would hit the highlights of Psalm 51. This is, by no means, exhaustive. Please just keep in mind that David was living in guilt and shame for his actions. His words speak to all of us:

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.” David knew where and to Whom He needed to go. He relied on God’s unfailing love.

“Wash me clean from my guilt.” There it is! The albatross around his neck and heart.

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Sin had left its crimson stain as an old hymn says. He needed the stain removed. He needed to be cleansed as white as newly fallen snow.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit in me.” A clean heart wasn’t enough. His whole “self” needed cleansed and redirected.

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” It is important to see that sin didn’t cause him to lose his salvation, but he did lose the JOY of it. One can’t enjoy something if guilt is hanging around.

“Forgive me for shedding blood.” David realized there was more than just adultery involved. Murder was too. He needed forgiven and cleansed for that.

He ends with a statement: “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

The road to healing; the road to forgiveness; the road to a renewed and restored relationship with the Father begins with a repentant heart. I don’t know if you needed this today or not. If you don’t then please feel free to pass it along to someone who may. If you do, may you have the restored joy which comes from a renewed relationship with God. End the old year and start the new year with a clean slate. 

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation.