Staying Untangled

It seemed like a reasonable request to him, but to me it might be a bit much.  “Dad, you need to change the carpet in here right now.”  Why the sudden concern over the flooring choice in our living room?  Like most things in life with him, it starts with a John Deere tractor.  As it turns out, the new cultivator he bought with his Christmas money does not work well on the longer carpet.  It gets tangled up and it falls off.  We have ourselves a frustrated farmer. The only solution is to change the carpet.

We might laugh at that, but it isn’t actually too far away from how serious God is about our sin.  Jesus even went so far as to say that if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  Which, by the way, is hyperbole — don’t really cut your hand off. But what it does is show how serious it is to stay untangled in the “carpet” of your sin.  Run from sin. Stay away from sin.  Change your scenery if it is just causing you to stumble.

Remember that this world is doing everything it can to take you away from God. Change whatever you need to avoid the trap of sin.

img_0617
Stay untangled

Forgiveness is a lifestlye

Forgive me please?
Forgive me please?

Forgiveness is an important topic because other people so often hurt us.  That is the nature of relationships because they deal with people.  There are so many lessons in these situations for us!  God is not silent about this, but rather He has told us a lot about love and how to live with each other in kindness.  We need to love each other!

God desires fellowship with Himself; He offers Himself to us!  But so many people choose to live away from Him.   Even if you are someone who has received Jesus Christ as your Savior at some point in your life, you still might not be in full fellowship with God. Sin does that.  Sin does move us away from walking in daily dependence with God.

 Forgiveness is closely tied to this because forgiveness touches all areas of our lives!  You cannot walk in fellowship with God if you refuse to forgive people.  When you decide to hold grudges, gossip, hurt others it is directly opposed to God and pushes you away from fellowship with him to a place of isolation.

Forgiveness is needed for fellowship with God.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.- Ephesians 4:29

Unwholesome talk literally means “rotten talk” sort of like road kill in the hot sun.  No one would go down the road, pick up a rotting animal and serve it for dinner.  It is dangerous to eat rotten meat.  You will get sick. It says do not let this rotten talk come out of your mouth.

When you go to the zoo they have an important rule:  “Do not let animals out and do not let people in with them.”   Remember when the lady jumped in to the Polar Bear exhibit a few years back?  That didn’t end well.  You see, the goal is to set up boundaries so that people stay out and the bears stay in.  Do not let the bears out is really wise advice.

That’s the picture here.  Do not let those rotten words to come out of your mouth.  Instead you should let words that are helpful for building people up.

This is more than just saying curse words too.  This means other things as well that destroy relationships

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  – Ephesians 4:31

It says to get rid of these things.   Take them outside, pour gas on them and light them on fire because these things destroy fellowship with God.  But the difference is in verse 32 of Ephesians 4.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind, Be compassionate – why?  Because Jesus Christ is those things and He lives in you by His Spirit.

In Matthew 6 we have what is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus told His disciples that when they prayed, they should include certain things including forgiveness.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. – Mathews 6:12

Debts are obligations.  What are our debts to God?  Sin! Because the wages for sin is death.  We deserve death because of our sin, but God forgives us because of Jesus Christ.

So then it says, forgive us our debts as, or in the same way, that we forgive our debtors.

We forgive other people because God forgives us.  Except we aren’t very good at it.   But see forgiveness is not something we normally do, it is a lifestyle that needs to be constantly worked through in prayer so that it is lived out.

What sin must we forgive?  Are there limits?  No, we are to forgive it all and let God be the judge.

When we practice this we show God’s work in us because God true and good.  Forgiveness is freedom and forgiveness is where God blesses.  It is what He did for us and what we are to do for others.

People will hurt you. You will hurt other people.  At times this will happen intentionally and at other times not.  But we must not get hung up on it, but extend love, grace, forgiveness.  If we don’t we are running from God.

 

You are not good and it does matter.

What dirt?  I am clean!
What dirt? I am clean!

Even with all that goes on in the world today, I still run into people who believe that people are generally good.  Often what they say is something like: “I am a pretty good person and God is alright letting me live my life how I think.”  Really?

It does not take very long to get corrected on that thinking when the Bible is opened up and read.

“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  – Colossians 3:1-2

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5

This section of Scripture continues to list off more things you are to take off and a whole list of things that you are to put on.  In other words, yes it does matter to God how you live and no you are not good on your own.  That goodness comes only as a result of a transformation that happens as you trust in Jesus Christ.   It is at that point that these sinful things come off and these new things get put on.

This realization is actually key to the Gospel message.  When we stop and recognize that we are sinful people in need of a Savior it positions us to receive the gift of new life in Christ.   The message is not about behavior modification; the message is about a new spiritual life.  That is where true freedom is found – not in doing things our own way!

Sin Always Kills, God Always Saves

On September 11, 2001 I was driving school bus before my college classes for the day.  When I got back to the bus terminal I heard that something had happened, but like most people I really didn’t have a very clear picture of all that was taking place.  When I was driving back to the college, listening to the radio, I knew it was serious.  The rest of that day revolved around news reports and confusion.  I remember a few key points of that day.  I remember how quiet it was without planes flying overhead.  I remember the feeling of despair that came with the realization of the amount of people who had just been killed.  There were just too many unknowns to be fully comfortable anymore.  We know that the world has not been the same since.  How could it be? This became a vivid reality for me when I flew home for a weekend in October of 2001 and there were people with large weapons all through the airport.  This was happening in the United States!

That day put a very real face to evil.  It showed us in vivid and tangible way what the result of sin is.  The Bible says that the wages for sin is death.  Sin will lead to death.  If you remember the story of Adam and Eve you will recall that it didn’t take very long for sin to claim its first victim.  Abel was killed by his brother Cain in cold-blooded, premeditated murder.  I guess things don’t change.

Yet we have seen that while sin still kills, there is a way around it.  Jesus Christ came into this world not simply to show us a better way to live.   He wasn’t just an inspirational leader for people.   He came to die for our sins so that we would not have to die for them.  He paid for them with His life.  The only way out of this cycle of sin is in a Savior.  While the world contemplates evil and how to counteract it, we know that evil has already lost.  We know that in Jesus Christ we have victory over sin and death.  Terrorists will kill.  Friends will turn on each other.  Marriages will break apart because of infidelity and sin.  But there is a better way.  There is an answer.  That answer is in Jesus Christ.

I am grateful that He has saved me from my sin.  He also can save you from anything you are dealing with.  There is no limit to what God can do.  He is truly stronger than the worst evil and sin we experience.

Never Forget

Freedom has given you a voice: use it or lose it.

After three days of feeling ill, I had finally reached a point where I had to stop.  I knew that I was not 100%, but I had a part in the worship service and taught a Sunday School class.  I needed to be at church on Sunday and didn’t want to miss it.  As the second service neared its conclusion, I thought I had made it.  I was feeling worn out and my head was a little foggy, but I had made it, or so I thought.   I got up to lead my part of the communion time, opened my mouth and realized that I had only a small part of my voice left.  My voice cut in and out from a whisper.  It caught me off guard.  I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or mad.  I didn’t know if my raspy voice was getting the message across, or just distracting the congregation.  One thing was clear,  I knew that I was out of time.  The next morning I woke up with no voice.

Happy Independence Day!

Not having a voice proved to really frustrate me.  I wanted to speak, but physically could not.  I had things I wanted to talk about with my wife, but could not get the words to come out.  I had to bang on the wall to get my kids’ attention.  Being forced to be silent is not something I enjoyed at all.  But, all of my frustration did me now good as I had very little I could do about it.  The fact of the matter was that I was without a voice.

Today is Independence Day.  A day in which we celebrate our freedom as a country and our freedom as individuals.  We celebrate our ability to have a voice in the direction of our country.  We celebrate that we can be heard.   This is a right that we have as citizens of the United States of America.

 “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment of the Constitution

We are able to worship God openly in this country.  We are free to say, “God Bless You” and “Merry Christmas” to whomever we want to.  That is the nature of free speech.  However, these freedoms are always at stake.  I recently had someone tell me that I am free to believe whatever I want, but should keep it to myself.  Really?  What about them telling me their belief?  Doesn’t it work both ways? That is not what free speech is.  Free speech means I can share what I believe.  If someone doesn’t like it, that is their choice.  This is the same right that atheist or other secular groups have.  I don’t go bother them when they share what they don’t believe.

This is nothing new for those of us who follow Jesus Christ.  There been many circumstances where tolerance is promoted as a virtue until the person is promoting Jesus Christ.  Once Jesus is brought up then they are not allowed to talk anymore because Jesus is supposedly so “divisive.”  The claim is that Christians are “out of touch.”   At Christmas time it shows up in the use of the word ‘Christmas’ or the displays of the nativity.  In the Spring people would rather talk about bunnies and chocolate than a Savior who left His throne to die for humanity.

Freedom isn’t easy.  It never has been.  Freedom does not just naturally occur.  In the history of our country, something needed to be done to release us from the control of England.  In the history of our faith, we needed someone to come release us from the sin that entangled us and condemned us to eternal separation from God.  In both cases, freedom came at the cost of human life and in both cases, this freedom is still worth defending.

But, we do  have a voice.  We have the ability and right to speak up.  We have a conscience which still reminds us that we are not controlled by what is popular in the culture.   We have a God who leads us by the power of His Word and Spirit to be a voice for Him in a world that doesn’t naturally want to hear it.   We are directed by the Word of God.  We must use the voice we have been given so that we don’t lose that voice.

As you celebrate today, remember those who served to defend your freedom.  Also, remember the God who left His throne, took on flesh and died in our place.  Lastly, remember those you are able to be a voice for.  There are those who live in poverty, slavery of different kinds,  the unborn, the young and the vulnerable.  They need us with a voice to speak out and help them find the freedom they too deserve.

You are free to live a life of obedience to God and to tell others why you do that.  That is what freedom does; it wants others to be free as well.

More than hot dogs and summer

united-states-flagIsn’t it interesting that the people who really ought to be able to celebrate Memorial Day are not able to?  There are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom we honor on this day.  They have already paid it all giving up promising lives for freedom.  There are those who are currently serving in combat zones for our freedom right now.  They fight so that we don’t have to.    They are not able to take a break from their work to have hot dogs with their families.    We are thankful for them and for their families.

We take a lot for granted as a society.  We might have a great experience at some restaurant 100 times and never pay anyone a compliment.  Then on visit 101 there is an issue with the food and every social media website hears about it.  We will make them pay for their sin. How about the freedom we enjoy?  Do we ever take it for granted?  I know some parts of the world don’t live in such a peaceful environment.  And with our recent terrorism we are all the more mindful of how quickly things can change.  May we never take it for granted.

So, while we love the official start of summer and all that goes with that.  We must also remember that the freedom we enjoy was not free.

Of course we can’t forget about the sacrifice made for our eternal well-being without which all of this world wouldn’t matter anyway.  It was Jesus Christ who  paid the ultimate sacrifice in dying to set us free from the power of sin.  We owe Him everything.  Every morning we are alive should be another opportunity to praise His name and live in Him.

Summer begins
Summer begins

So, today as you celebrate, thank God for this great country we live in and the people who fought for what we have,  but don’t forget about Jesus.  He died for us and now we are called to live for Him.   Make this memorial day about more than eating hot dogs and dreaming about summer.  Make it an opportunity to praise the God who saves!

White As Snow

White as snow

White as snow

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18