Category Archives: Sin

Matthew 8-10; God Help Us

A middle-aged woman was grateful when her adult son moved back into their home after her husband died. She’d been so lonely in that empty house, and welcomed the company. He was a good boy. Clean cut. Had a good job. He was friendly, polite, and helpful. He was a son any mother would be proud of. Except for one thing.

Every once in a while her son would meet a nice young lady. They’d go out a few times, and eventually he’d invite her to the house. The mom would fix a meal, and welcome the girlfriend with a hug. They’d eat together, laugh together, and enjoy a relaxing evening together. Then the son would invite the girl to see the game room in the basement.

As the two young people would head downstairs, the mom would leave the dishes and head upstairs, to her bedroom. She’d turn on the TV as loud as it would go. She didn’t want to hear the sounds that would inevitably come from her son’s game room.

You see, he was a serial killer. He tortured and murdered the girls he took to the basement. But what was the mother to do? He was her son. She loved him. She couldn’t turn him in, or kick him out. She was his mother.

I totally made that up. But I hope you had some reaction to the mother’s response to her son’s actions. How could she let that happen in her own home?

I was part of a difficult conversation not too long ago. And, honestly, I wish I wasn’t thinking about it now. But it’s something God has laid on my heart. So here goes:

The subject of our conversation centered around a woman whose son had brought home his boyfriend and announced they were getting married. The question was: What would you do?

As we were talking, the verses from Matthew 10 came to mind. So when I read them today, I felt God nudging me to write about it. I’d really rather not, but I want to obey. I’m praying as I write. And I’m praying for you as you read.

First off, if you are tempted to be enraged because I seem to be putting serial killers and homosexuals in the same category (which means I must be homophobic) let me stop you right there. My story could have been about a thief, or a drug dealer, or a child molester, or a liar, a gossip, or a glutton. Would that have made you feel better? I could make this post about any number of sins.  Sin is sin, my friend. And enabling sin in any way is wrong. But God has laid the sin of homosexuality on my heart today.

And let’s get one thing straight. Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Unless you can show me a verse to the contrary, I’m going to proceed with that truth, because there is more than one verse that calls homosexuality sin, an abomination, unnatural.

Jesus, in Matthew 10:34-39, tells us His Presence will divide families. That’s hard to hear. He also said if keeping your family together is more important than following Him, you aren’t worthy of Him. If you put anything – including your children – above Him you are wrong.

I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to choose. Talk about a cross to bear. It has to be harder than losing a limb. God help us.

I’d like to say something to parents of young children. Sadly, the media has taken away your privilege of deciding the right time to have the “birds and bees” conversation with your children. The time is now. Don’t think that the subtle (and overt) messages that are imbedded in cartoons, kids programs and movies, video games, and commercials aren’t effecting your kids. They are impressionable. And once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it.

Your children spend hours every day in school. Do you know what they are being taught? Are you familiar with the curriculum? Most schools teach tolerance, some use books that promote homosexuality. Are you aware of any of that in your child’s classroom? What if your child’s teacher is homosexual? What do you say to your child about his friend’s two daddies, or the two women next door who just got married? How do you want your child to react when a boy in their second grade class starts wearing dresses to school?

How are you helping your children embrace their God-given sexuality, when Satan is telling them it’s not determined by DNA, that it’s “fluid.” When Satan is telling parents they should let their two-year-olds choose what sex they want to be, what are you telling yours?

How important is it for you to follow Jesus according to Scripture? How important is it that your children choose to follow Him, too? Please start talking to them today about how they can know the truth. I pray that none of you will ever have to choose between your children and God.

But I’ll tell you right now, if you are forced to make that impossible choice, I pray you choose God.

I’m praying for you.

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes Are Not About Happiness

I have read these beatitudes more times than I can count. Even today, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I blew past these verses without giving them much thought. “Yeah, yeah. People who are “poor in spirit” are happy. People who “mourn” are happy. People who are “meek” are happy. And so on, and so on…”

I pulled out my commentaries, fully intending to write a post about the whole sermon Jesus shared, when God threw a wrench into my plans through William Barclay. This is just too important not to slow down and feast on Jesus’ own words.

It was enlightening to read what Barclay revealed about the word Jesus used for “blessed.” It’s not about happiness at all! In a nutshell, the Greek and Hebrew translation boils down to this: “Oh the blessedness of…” (The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of Matthew volume 1, Revised Edition; William Barclay; 1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 88)

Jesus wasn’t saying that if you experience these things, He would give something to you. He was saying:

“O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” (Barclay, p. 89)

It’s not about what God gives as much as who I am in Him. So, using Barclay’s insight, here is what God spoke to me today through His Word:

  1. O the bliss of knowing I am lost without God, that I am utterly helpless in and of myself, that I am totally dependent on the One who is totally capable!
  2. O the bliss of being broken over sin, of realizing what my sin cost Jesus, of repenting, of laying my sins at His feet and being totally forgiven. O the blessedness of mourning the sins of the world, and wanting others to know His forgiveness, too.
  3. O the bliss of turning my emotions, my actions, my very being over to God and allowing Him to control those things in me. O the bliss of recognizing my ignorance and weakness, and allow Him to be my knowledge and strength.
  4. O the bliss of being totally, completely filled by God Himself, and understanding that every longing, every need, every hope and dream are perfectly satisfied in Him. O the bliss of being to the point of desperation, empty, barren, and then filled to overflowing by the Presence of my Savior and God.
  5. O the bliss of setting myself aside, and really seeing other people, really getting into their skin, really feeling their emotions, and really being what they need me to be – not what I need to be for them, or what I think they need. O the bliss of putting others above myself for Jesus’ sake.
  6. O the bliss of pure motives, the ability to see God in every situation, in every breath I take. O the bliss of not always seeing the seedy side of things, or getting a chuckle out of the filth that exists in the world, because my eyes are on a holy, pure, and perfect God alone. (Barclay says its the bliss of a clean heart, (p. 105) and reminds me we “see what we are able to see” (p. 107). I can see the filth of things if that is what I’m looking at. I don’t see the filth if I’m looking at God. O the bliss!)
  7. O the bliss of making peace, not by tolerating, condoning, or ignoring sin, but by facing it, calling sin sin, then leading sinners to repentance. O the bliss of making peace between myself and God, and by making peace between my lost friends and family with God through the blood of His Son.
  8. O the bliss of being singled out for being a follower of Jesus. O the bliss of losing a job, a relationship, worldly comforts or freedom for Jesus’ sake. O the bliss of sharing in His suffering if it will lead one soul to the Savior.

You’ve probably heard it said that this portion of Jesus’ important sermon are “attitudes” the we should “BE.” After spending a few hours thinking about these verses, I’m inclined to agree.

Reading these beatitudes challenges me to be the person Jesus died for me to be. And it helps me know that there is a joy that comes from being that person, a joy the world can’t understand or manufacture. O the bliss of knowing Jesus.

 

Habakkuk; Wait For It…

The prophet understands that God must punish sin. “But come on, God. How long? How long are You going to let me cry out, and You not answer? How long are you going to make me look at the evil in this world, the unfair treatment of Your people while the wicked go on their merry way, and prosper?”

God answers Habakkuk: “Wait for it! You’re not even going to believe what I’m going to do.”

Then Habakkuk replies, “Ok. If You say so. I’ll stand my watch.”

God continues to talk to the prophet and gives him a glimpse at what is ahead for the wicked. There is a series of “Woe to’s” that reaffirm that God’s got this. In God’s timing, evil will be addressed, severely addressed. No one is getting away with any wrong-doing. So Habakkuk takes God at His word. (which probably is a good idea for all of us)

But Habakkuk asks God for one thing: “Lord, while you are allowing your people to go through this storm – have mercy.” (3:2) And then this:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:17-19a)

We should not be surprised when we are faced with trials. We deserve much worse than anything we’ve had to face, or will face in this lifetime. We can let those hard situations break us, cause us to turn from God and make us bitter. Or we can take God at His word… Wait for it.

Wait for Him.

I imagine many of you can attest to times when God gave you supernatural strength to face a tough thing with confidence and joy. I imagine you can share times when God lifted you above the situation and gave You peace in the storm, when He gave you the “feet of a deer” to keep you moving through the valley of the shadow of death.

God uses difficult times to refine His children, to drive us to our knees so that we depend only on Him and find He is all we need. God uses difficult times to discipline His children, to punish the sin of the wicked, to reveal Himself through our examples.

May God show us mercy by being our Comfort and Strength when life seems unbearable. And may we, like Habakkuk, rejoice in the Lord, in God our Savior.

Then, wait for it. You’re not even going to believe what He has in store.

 

 

Nahum; Jealous and Patient

We read about Jonah a few days ago; how he went into Nineveh, a city condemned to destruction because of their sin, and told them the truth about God. 120,000 people confessed their sin, and God forgave them. The city was spared.

But now it’s about 100 years later, and God is warning them once again, this time through Nahum, that their sin-debt has come due. They will be destroyed because they were back to their old sinful ways.

My parents were born in the 1920’s. My sisters and I were born in the ’50s. My nieces and nephews were born in the ’80s, and their children have been born in the 21st Century. We are six years from the 100th anniversary of my parents’ births. It puts the number “100” into perspective.

It took Nineveh only the span between a man and his great-grandchildren to go from repenting of sin, to living in sin once again to the point God had had enough.

Nahum tells us God is a jealous God, and I know that offends some people who define jealously as a middle-school girl whose BFF has a boyfriend or something. God is NOT envious.

But God demands our total devotion, and will jealously protect His throne. He will not tolerate worship of any other god, or thing, or desire, or person.

Nahum tells us God is a jealous God, but in the next verse he tells us this same God is slow to anger and great in power. Nahum tells us these people were depending on their wealth, power, position, on intellect – on themselves – when they should have been depending on God alone. They might have acknowledged God, but their devotion was divided. And God will not accept that. Not even a little.

Are you single-minded in your worship of God? Or is God just one of the several things you are devoted to? God does not accept an “and.” He demands an “only.”

I’d like you to consider the level of commitment to God that you see in your own “100.” Are you singularly devoted to God? Do your children share the same devotion? How about your grandchildren? We may be one generation from experiencing what God is telling Nineveh through Nahum, unless we heed Jonah’s warning, and repent.

Because, as true as it is that God is a jealous and avenging God, that He will not let the guilty go unpunished, He is still slow to anger. He still forgives sin. And He still is not willing that anyone should die without Him.

Yes, God is a jealous God in that He will not accept partial worship of Him. But He is also patient, long-suffering, gentle, and kind. In fact, He went ahead and paid the awful penalty for our sin Himself, and pours out His grace on all who believe.

God demands our exclusive worship. And He deserves it.

 

Obediah; There is Hope

I can’t help but think of the sweet reunion between Esau and Jacob as recorded in Genesis 33. A lot had gone down between the two, but when the brothers met after years of separation, they hugged and kissed each other. It seemed all was forgiven. It seemed they would finally live in peace.

If you know their history, you know peace was short-lived. That makes me sad.

Obadiah tells the descendants of Esau that judgment is coming because of their hatred for and mistreatment of Jacob’s family, the family God chose above all other nations to be His instrument. Edom will be punished for rejecting God.

Once again I am reminded how serious God is about being obeyed, about being honored as the only true God. All other religions are doomed to destruction.

But I love how God, even after rendering a death sentence for sin, points to the Messiah. No one has to die in their sin. There is hope. There is salvation through the blood of Jesus for anyone who believes.

The kingdom is the Lord’s. I pray you are a citizen.

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

Daniel 5-6; Parenting In The Lions’ Den

My Mom and Dad used to love taking their young grandchildren on adventures. One of their favorite destinations was the Columbus Zoo.

Dad said that one time, while visiting the lion exhibit, my nephew who was about three at the time, got the attention of one of the adult lions. Ryan walked up to the thick glass wall, and the lion met him there, face to face. Ryan walked a few steps to the right, the lion followed. Ryan walked to the left, the lion followed. It soon became a game between boy and lion, and the crowd of people at the exhibit laughed at the silliness.

“Isn’t that cute? The lion likes the boy.”

“Yeah,” my dad said. “For dinner.”

That lion wasn’t playing a game of follow-the-leader with the boy. That lion was stalking its prey. And only the glass wall prevented my nephew from being torn to pieces and savagely eaten by the wild beast.

Do you remember Roy Horn of Seigfried and Roy, entertainers who used white lions in their act? Roy raised those animals from a young age. He treated them like kittens, loved them, played with them. They were his pets.

But one night, one of those “pets” savagely grabbed Roy around the neck, and began to drag him off stage. Roy sustained life threatening injuries, and his life has never been the same.

A wild animal is not a character in a Disney cartoon.

Throwing Daniel into the lions’ den was sentencing the man to an awful, violent, and terrifying death. But we know he didn’t die.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Darius, the king who had been tricked into condemning Daniel, had the men who deceived him thrown into the den of lions. He sentenced those jealous, evil, conniving low-lifes to the same death they’d planned for Daniel.

Now if that was the extent of it, I’d say they got what they deserved. But the Bible tells us Darius didn’t stop with the men who’d plotted against Daniel. The king had their wives and children thrown into the lions’ den as well. Their wives and children met with the same gruesome end as the men.

I can hear you shouting, “NOT FAIR.”

I’m not going to try to argue that except to say, if you read this you’ll not see God tell Darius to kill those people.  I know the God of the Bible takes no pleasure in people dying without Him. He doesn’t want anyone to suffer the agony of hell. In fact, He paid the awful, violent, and terrifying death we all deserve.

But the Bible is also clear: the guilty will not go unpunished. Hell is real. And people who die without honoring God really do go there.

Here’s what occurred to me today: Many people – maybe you although I pray not – are ignoring God, or disobeying Him. Some deny Him or defy Him. The Bible tells us if that’s the case – be prepared for an awful, violent, terrifying existence for eternity, knowing you had a chance to avoid it all.

But I want to ask you – how many of your loved ones are you willing to take down with you?

You might brag like a post I read on FaceBook recently, “Yeah, I’m going to hell, and enjoying every step of the way.” But what is that message saying to your children? You do know, don’t you, that you are the single greatest influence on your children for the good or for the bad.

You might be appalled at the story here in Daniel, when you are doing the exact same thing. Your life does have an effect on your loved ones… an eternal effect. You may be foolishly willing to go to hell. Just understand that that precious child in your lap is watching you, imitating you, learning to think and believe like you.

It’s NOT FAIR of YOU to take them with you.