Waiting

www.bible.com/72/psa.130.5.hcsb

in context, our brother David is waiting on forgiveness. He is feeling the iniquity of himself and his nation, and is waiting earnestly, like the watchman for the morning, for God’s grace to fall. There is a poignancy here to his request. He is feeling the stab of guilt and the crushing weight of sin. Sin is not kind once fostered in your life. It is like a growing gangrenous wound, slowly eating away at your healthy spirit until you feel dead inside.

I wonder if I feel this. It is one thing to be aware that you have sinned, but do I notice the guilt and sense of iniquity that comes along with it? Or have I ignored it, with my conscience seared and burned away to certain sins that I commit so frequently? Lord I pray restore to me my sensitivity to sin, that I may feel that guilt again and seek your forgiveness, that you may cleanse my heart afresh upon my confession. May I like David wait upon the Lord and put my hope in the grace He has promised through His Son.

We have these precious and certain promises, that if we confess our sin, He will forgive us our sin and cleanse our hearts from unrighteousness (1 John 1:7).

My prayer is also for you today, dear reader, that you have not let sin get under your radar by stealth and familiarity. May your eyes be open to sin and alert to temptation. Help us Lord to watch as the Watchman for the morning, waiting for your cleansing blood to move through us and make us clean, unshackled by the sin that so easily entangles us. (Heb 12:1-2)

God bless you all today.

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Nowhere to Hide

Jesus Reached Out

No matter where you run, or how buried you are in work and circumstances, there is no place that God cannot find you. This is a comfort to some, and a fear for others. Don’t add God to your list of fears. When Adam sinned against God, he ran and hid. God called out into the garden and said, “Where are you Adam?” Adam hid because of his sin, but his sin did not hide him from God. God knew exactly where Adam was, just as our parents could always see our foot sticking out or our hair just above the back of the couch. We pretend that we can hide from those that love us the most, but we are only fooling ourselves. God sees us in our sinfulness, our wretchedness, even our busyness, and stills calls to us. He still reaches out His hand. God loves us, even when we sin against Him. God loves you, especially today.

Taking Sin Seriously

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Do you take sin seriously? As Christians, it is one area that we are especially good at: identifying sins in others. Since we know the Bible, we usually have no problem pointing out the sins of others for their correction. After all, aren’t we supposed to do that?

Jesus once addressed this problem with the Pharisees. He likened their “helpfulness” as one who has a log in his own eye helping someone else get a speck out of theirs. Honestly, the reason we know sin so well is probably because we’ve committed a few ourselves, not out of any serious study of Scripture.

But one thing that our culture is famous for is miscasting sin as “disease”. There are lots of diseases, like alcoholism, substance abuse, sex addiction (and the host of addictions), obesity, and the like that are caused not by a virus or a malady which the victim was helpless against, but by the power of his own elbow. The result is that many of these sins are being “treated” by medicine rather than cured by the power of God.

What happened if we took God at His word and treated sins like, well, sins? What if instead of “mental health” we strove for soul health? Who can truly change the heart of a man? Is it medicine? Therapy? Conversations with a psychiatrist at $200/ hour? Or is it Jesus?

Surprisingly, many of the things we diagnose as mental disease may only be diseases of the soul. And who can cure all our soul’s diseases? Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. But in order to pursue this “soul health” we must first identify the problem, and admit that it is the problem. There are actual mental problems that have to do with biology, and they fall into a different category that what we will deal with, and I will try to help you discern the difference. For example, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are actual diseases of the brain, not necessarily a result of sin directly.

Are you suffering from something that a psychologist has told you is a mental health issue? Have you been told only a long series of one-hour a week sessions are the only thing that will keep you sane? Do you really think God has nothing to say about “mental health”?

Calling Out Sin

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February is the month we honor presidents, among other things. But the recent batch of presidents we’ve been witness to has been a bit lacking. When you read about the early men who held this post, you wonder where men like that have gone to. Where are the honorable men who sough to defend the honor of this country and the sacredness of freedom? When you think about it, those men began to disappear when we stopped talking about sin.

We turn to look at the sins that we commit, and how we can deal with them as Christians. God did not leave us orphans. He intends to be with us every step of the way.

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  (Heb 13:5)

So it’s time for a personal inventory. Sin is the very power of Satan over our lives. As long as we resist confessing sin, we resist the will of God in our lives.

  • Check your worship
    • Does God have your attention when you worship?
    • Does your prayer life and Bible study reflect God’s hold on your life?
    • Does your church attendance reflect your commitment to the Kingdom?
    • Are there any areas of your worship you need to improve?

     

  • Check your witness
    • Does your walk match your talk?
    • Does anyone else know you are a Christian?
    • Do God’s values show clearly in your conversation and friendships?
    • Do you have strong Christian friends that help hold you accountable to your Christian commitment?

These questions are designed merely to get you thinking more in depth about your faith in Christ. I want to encourage you to find a deeper path this month as we learn how to put aside the sins that so easily entangle us (Heb 12:1) and learn to take a closer walk with Christ.

Jesus Christ is like a Pan of Brownies

How, you may ask, is that news? Why it is the single greatest news story in the history of the world. All of us, whether young or old, have been victims of an insidious conspiracy. We have been led to believe a lie! We have been told that if we do enough good things in our lives, that the balance sheet at the end will show us to be good people. We hear it everywhere, from TV, Movies, Radio and the like that our eternity can be earned. “Just do enough good deeds to get by,” and then our eternity is secured in a Heaven filled with all the things we want, like gold, good food, and so forth.

While there is always time to do good, and good people should do good deeds, we’ve been lied to. How do I know this? Because of Jesus.

Rather than think of our lives as a balance sheet, think of it as a pan of brownies (Mmmm). A balance sheet has two columns, for good deeds and bad deeds, which we’ll call sins for short. A pan of brownies on the other hand is everything mixed together. Now I could probably eat a pan of brownies if the only ingredients were good, like flour, salt, cocoa, sugar, milk, eggs, and so forth. But when you put not so good ingredients in there, like coffee grounds, egg shells, kitty litter, and such, the brownies don’t smell, or even taste very good at all.

All of our lives we’ve been laboring under the delusion that our good deeds erase the bad ones, but in reality, our lives are the sum of both our good deeds, and our sins. There is no amount of good that we can do to erase the bad. It’s just not in our power. We can’t do it. No one can. This is why the Bible says, “No one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3) The more I think about it, the more I wonder what God wants with us at all.

This is why I have such good news! Jesus Christ is Lord! Remember the events of just a few weeks ago we remembered at Easter? Jesus, the Jew of first-century Palestine, died on a Roman cross at the hands of sinful men, only to rise from the dead three days later. While that information may seem merely remarkable on the surface, and interesting tidbit of history, it has profound implications for you.

The New Testament (which is proven true every time it is tried) says that that cross was God’s instrument to solve our sin problem. When Jesus died, he wasn’t just anyone, He was God’s Son. As such, he was perfect, and sin-less. Jesus’ pan of brownies smelled wonderful. He was absolutely pure. And it was his death on that cross which was a vicarious (vocabulary word meaning, “instead of me”) sacrifice. He died for you, so that when you put your faith in Him, His death covers your sin. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death.” Jesus had no sin to die for, so he died for yours. Only his death (and his blood) can erase your sins.

There are consequences for this of course, which is why you may have put off putting your trust in him. I don’t blame you, because everyone needs to make this decision with their eyes wide open. Putting your faith in Christ means you will now need to live like Him. His death can save your life, but only if you become like Him, in faith, in confession, in repentance (from your sin), and in immersion. Only then does He guarantee eternal life with Him.

The down side of trusting Jesus, if you consider a down side, is that you give up your effort to earn your salvation by good works, and give in to Him. I think it’s a really good trade off, since you don’t have to wonder anymore if you will go to Heaven when you die; you know you will. That’s good news too.

Jesus Christ is Lord! Not that he was, or will be, but is. He is Lord now! He wants you, not to use you, or make you do stuff, but to love you, more purely, more lovingly, and more wholly that anyone person ever could. Do you feel unloved? Do you need a friend? Or are you just tired of trying to live life by your rules? Turn whatever you’ve got over to God. Let Him work with your ingredients, so that your brownies will smell GOOD!

One Wrong Move

“And you shall be like God, knowing good and evil.” Innocence is lost. Sinlessness is lost. Now, with the fruit from the fatal tree, man must decide to follow good or evil. And for his trouble, he will die in his sin. Is knowing good and evil all it’s cracked up to be? Are we really better off that we know what is good, or even evil? What price have we paid for the knowledge of evil? Is it worth it?

We may tell ourselves that evil is easy to recognize. Plague, war, genocide, anti-semitism, Nazism, bigotry, murder all claim some degree of evil and revulsion. And certainly many top personal lists. But the Bible includes other areas we might not think of:

“lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

It would seem evil is a bit more subtle than we imagined. I can think of times I’ve been reckless, even ungrateful, yet God considers each of these signs of evil. Why is God’s sense of good and evil so refined? Because God defines evil by what He is not. God is good. (Ps 7, 48, 54, etc.) He is righteous. God is the standard of good, and what is not God is evil.

When Adam ate the fruit from the tree, he committed the equivalent of opening Pandora’s Box. He opened a door that cannot be closed. We cannot go back, this side of Heaven, to ignorance of evil. It was the very act of eating the fruit that opened Adam’s eyes to evil, since this was exactly what God told him not to do.

Everyone remembers the first time they did something they weren’t supposed to do, whether it was not to eat a cookie from the cookie jar, or run out into the street. I remember because my parents very loudly and sharply slapped my hand and told me NO. But it wasn’t just the sting of their words, but the sting of my conscience. I had violated it and did what I knew was wrong. There was no going back.

But there is hope. For there is one called Jesus, by whose standard all are judged. His blood paid for all of our sins, both past, present and even the future. This is grace. The judgment seat of Christ is passed by a simple task, put your faith in Him. If you will commit your life to Jesus, you will find all the evil can be put back into the box. You are not condemned to follow the path of your temptations. You are free to live without have to serve Sin as a slave.

All will bow at the feet of Jesus, but as a follower of Christ, you can do so without fear. You conscience can be healed, even if its “seared with a hot iron” because the salve of the Holy Spirit can heal such burns.

“This is the story of Star Wars”

I remember as a kid I would hear that line every time I pulled out the Star Wars Book and Record set. This calm voice would begin reading the main plot points while I slavishly turned the pages. To this day, I still remember dialogue from that book before I think of the actual dialogue from the movie (of which I now own several editions). I still have that book and record, somewhere, but the story of Star Wars has been fully revealed with the latest chapter, Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.

You might know, unless you live under a rock somewhere, that George Lucas has finished his six-part epic. Viewers of Episode 3 usually come away with one of two reactions: either they loved it, or they come away feeling dirty. What I mean is, watching Star Wars III is like watching the Passion of the Christ, or Titanic. You know how it’s going to end, and it won’t be good for the hero. It is the story of Anakin Skywalker’s “temptation and fall [, which should be] of special interest to Christians,”1 because there are many parallels between Anakin and ourselves, that we have more in common with Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker.

This is what the story of Star Wars truly is. It is a story about the Fall and Redemption. It is a story that says, regardless of how evil you have become, or how lost you believe you are, or if you think that you’ve done too much to deserve grace and forgiveness, remember this, “There is still good in you.” There is still that spark of divinity from our Creator that offers hope. In Star Wars, it is the son that brings the father from the dark side, and back to the light side. For us, it is the Son, and obedience to Him, that will bring us to the light and into eternity.

The Bible describes this in simple terms: “Whoever has the Son has life.” (1 John 5:12) Does it sound too easy? Well, it actually is. Christ went to great lengths (the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection) to make it easy for you to come to Him. He doesn’t demand great sacrifices or powerful deeds, or even a life cleaned up. All he asks for is you. He wants you just as you are. Let Him worry about cleaning up the mess. “The Spirit and the Bride [His Church] say come. … Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:17, 20)

But note one more lesson we learn from Star Wars. Darth Vader could not merely believe he was changed, and let that be enough. His belief required action. You cannot change your heart and ignore the rest of your life. Vader took the source of his evil, the Emperor, and cast him into the depths of the Death Star, eliminating the source of evil and deception in his life. Then he embraced his son, honestly and truthfully. “Let me look on you with my own eyes.”

Belief in Jesus also requires action. Though it costs nothing to believe, it costs everything to follow that belief with life-changing attitude. Though we come to Christ dirty, He makes us clean. No more can we wallow in the mud. But He helps us make those changes that make us disciples. He helps us grow. Like Vader, our change is made evident, not merely by our mental agreement, but by working to eliminate the evil in our lives, and casting them in God’s sea of forgiveness.

The Bible describes it this way: “Repent [that is, cast off your sins and your desires to do them] and be immersed, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [who will help you learn how to live according to Jesus, and resist temptation].” (Acts 2:38)

The Story of Star Wars is my story, and it is your story. It is the story about sin, grace, and redemption. This forgiveness is freely available to you. Just let Him in. Please call or stop in today to speak with one of our ministers or myself, and we’ll be glad to tell you about God’s love for you.

1Gene Edward Veith, “The Fall of the Jedi” World Magazine (May 18th, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 21),12.