Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Seven Deadly Sins - Part 2 - LUST

                                                                                                 Wednesday, August 31, 2016
But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Matthew 5:28(NLT)
The woman….saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.  Genesis 3:6a(NLT)
It’s pretty clear that lust is a term which describes what happens within when either the physical eye or the imagination entertains someone or something that connects with the inner, lower nature. 

And it may be worked out in different ways for women or men, but the principle of lust connected to our lower nature is the same. 

Lust began in Eden with a suggestion by the evil one that the fruit provide something really great for Eve.  She saw with her eye and it stimulated her craving to have it; her want blinded her commitment to be obedient. 

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that the roving eye of a man is connected to his heart, which is where adultery is first committed; the physical act may or may not follow, but desiring, planning and being ready to act on that lustful desire is adultery.  Being stopped short of the act by conscience or circumstance can’t change the blackness which lust has already created in the heart.

We often imagine we can be unaffected by the little temptations.  Pastor Tom Welch tells about the clown fish that lives on the ocean floor off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.  The clown fish are found around the poisonous sea anemone.  The clowns attract larger fish, and then dart toward the anemone, hiding within its long, deadly tentacles.  It lives like this for a while, with a temporary immunity.  However it eventually loses its immunity; the tentacles close in on it, and it too dies. 

Just like the foolish Christian, who flirts with sin and thinks he can remain unaffected by it; at first it seems only other, weaker disciples are hurt...but soon his spiritual health declines, and at last, he is completely overcome.  The apostle James put it this way:

These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.  James 1:15.(NLT)  
Lust begins a progression that eventually destroys all it touches.

So what is the Biblical way to combat lust?  Paul gave invaluable advice here; he told his young pastor protégé, Timothy:
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.  Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.  Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.   2 Timothy 2:22(NLT)  
Paul also shared his simple formula with the Galatian believers:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.   Galatians 5:16(NLT)

Here the Bible leaves nothing wanting for instruction.  The idea is two-fold:

1.     You make a commitment to run from that which will trip you up.

2.     And then, know that running from will create a vacuum, and so you run towards the positive, Christlike ways of living, including the fellowship of those who can strengthen you in living a Spirit-led life.  Get busy serving and it will overcome the desire to sin-away your relationship with God.

For You Today

Just like someone prone to give into substance abuse stays out of the neighborhood with pushers and bars, the Christian who is attempting to flee temptation that provokes lust leaves that neighborhood…and leaves no forwarding address!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!



[i] Title Image:  Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) or follower [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seven Deadly Sins - Part 1 - ANGER

                                                                                                 Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.  Ecclesiastes 7:9(NLT)
We are going to take a look at what has been referred to for many centuries as The Seven Deadly Sins.  We begin with one of the most common – anger.

We encounter so much anger in everyday life that most of us have become somewhat desensitized to it.  Everywhere you go, and in every realm of existence there is anger – some is miniature in its impact, some wildly excessive.  And some of it is our own!

·       It is a fact of life in business places and schools.

·       The media – TV, Internet, Cell Phones – all filled with anger.

·       Wherever you find yourself you cannot miss the road rage of the highways, lines at stores, and even in churches, families and close relationships.

Anger is “number 6” on the list commonly known as the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, anger and pride).  Our question today is

Why Is There So Much Anger?

In order to begin to talk about why there is so much anger you have to address the question’s forerunner – where did anger begin?

A number of years ago I watched a History Channel presentation called “The Seven Deadly Sins”.[1]  The episode on anger gave God credit, starting in Genesis 6 where God’s wrath (anger) destroyed all the earth.  But the very first reference to anger in Scripture predates the flood; it’s in Genesis 4, where God asked Cain why he was so angry. 

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain.  “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right.  But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”  Genesis 4:3-7

Cain responded to God’s questioning by acting out his anger; he killed his brother!  We have been angry and killing each other in various ways ever since.  There are so many references to angry persons in Scripture that I stopped counting after 100.

One side-road about anger in the Bible:  There is a difference between the anger (wrath) of God and human anger.  God’s anger is always righteous; man’s is not.  There is a different quality to God’s anger than just being ticked-off

Anger can be quick in the hot-tempered or short-fused personality.  But it can also be slow and deeply-formed.  However it happens there is always the danger of having it master you.  But God says to master it, subdue and keep it at bay like a rodeo cowboy lassoing an angry bull.

God’s instructions at this point may help us understand that our anger is inevitable, it will happen.  But that is all the more reason to examine our attitude often to see if this sin is creeping up on us.

For You Today

You do not know if anger will present itself today.  All the more reason to be on guard.  They are not called deadly sins for no reason at all!  And the person who doesn’t learn to master this one will wind up a fool.

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!



[1] © 1996-2010, A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.(Premiered Dec 29, 2009 – January 4, 2010)

[i] Title Image:  Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) or follower [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, August 29, 2016


                                                                                                             Monday, August 29, 2016
We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.  Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp.  So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore.  For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.   Hebrews 13:10-14(NLT)

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August  28, 430) was one of the early church fathers, whose writings give us great insight into the formation of Christian living.  He was very restless as a young man.  One of his most well-known sayings is:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.[ii]

This statement is echoed by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century who offered the concept that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts which can only be filled by the embrace of God with the human.[iii]

The Hebrew letter writer (who many believe to be Paul) encourages followers of Christ to go outside the mainstream of human wisdom and bear the same disgrace as Jesus; Paul got this from Jesus, who told his followers to take up the cross.  Paul echoed it also in his letter to the Corinthian church:  I die daily[iv]

Much of Christian doctrine and principles turns the world upside-down:
          ·       To live for Christ is to die to self
          ·       To give stuff away is to store up riches
          ·       To give your life away is to find it
          ·       The first will be last, and the last, first.

For those who see the threadbare inconsistency of the power structures and systems of this world’s ways, and long for a better way, something with substance and integrity, a life of purity and strength, following Jesus Christ is the choice exhibiting the epitome of wisdom. 

In what other way can you find the meaning that God-shaped hole craves than to do what Paul suggests happens to those who take a step towards God in Christ?

And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  Galatians 3:27(NLT)

For You Today

Got restless?

Put on Christ, give yourself away, die daily, be last to be first.  Better than drugs, booze, power-lunches or a new car!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!



[i] Title Image:  See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] quote attributed to Augustine of Hippo in Confessions
[iii] Christianity Stakexchange
[iv] 1 Corinthians 15:31b

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Series: Without Ceasing - No.3 - PLANT

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.  Luke 6:38(NLT)
For the Christian there are a number of lifestyle hallmarks that aren’t vague or up for debate.  Praying without ceasing, Proclaiming God’s Word without ceasing, and today we look at Planting without ceasing.

To “plant” is to drop seeds in the ground.  In order to do that you must let them go into the place where they will grow…the soil.  In the Kingdom of God the soil is something like an offering plate; the seed is whatever God places in your hands.

It’s all about giving with generosity…and getting so good at it you learn to love being a blessing with your giving like God loves you.

Jesus said a lot about motives.  And when it comes to our motives in giving, this text gives us great insight into human nature.  Jesus knew people, and the condition of the human heart.  He knew (and knows) how much we are more likely NOT to give.  Especially when we can get out of it!  We are most naturally bent in the direction of keeping, and then trying to defend why we keep rather than give.  (This is the age-old ploy, do I tithe on the net or gross?)

One Pastor probably came the closest to nailing that whole rationalization proclivity when he announced from the pulpit one Sunday, Brethren, let us all give now according to what we reported on this year's Federal Income Tax return.

If you are a believer, you have heard many times how it is a Christian's responsibility and joy to give.  If you are human, your heart probably rebelled, alerting you to the fact that you really didn't want to give.  You might have even had the thought cross your mind, who does that preacher think he is, telling me I should put MY money in HIS plate?  There are three responses I've come to understand:

1.     It's not my plate; 

2.     It's not your money; 

3.     The preacher is supposed to tell the congregation to put the Lord's tithe in the Lord's plate on the Lord's Day, and in the Lord's way, which is cheerfully!

Cheerful giving is what I want to talk to you about today.  This speaks not so much about how much, but how we give our gift. 

I have read the Bible, attended seminars on Biblical stewardship, studied human nature and history.  In all, I have not been able to discover more than two basic motivations, or reasons why people give.   We either give because we have to; it’s a legalism thing.  Or we give because we trust what God said about giving and receiving (which is how God gives).

Jesus warns many times that we should not elevate self.  Drawing attention to self by giving makes us hypocritical; we announce our humility.  Jesus said giving for personal glory or popularity is wrong. 

In Matthew 6 Jesus saw a poor woman humbly and quietly put two little coins in the offering.  He also saw rich folks having trumpets blaring while they dropped in a fortune.  Jesus abhorred the "blowing of horns" because it put people on different levels.  When rich people loudly gave a large contribution, it announced to the poor person that in the Lord's house poor folks are excess baggage. 

Chuck Swindol told about a hi-tech offering box he heard about in a church.  This box has a laser that reads the contribution immediately.  When you drop in a $5 bill or more nothing happens.  Any coins that total fifty cents or more sounds a little bell.  A quarter will get you a gong; and a dime sets off a siren.  If you walk past without giving, a camera pops-up, takes your picture, faxes it to the treasurer, and puts a flag on your membership record.  Some churches would run out of film!

This is why the Lord's chosen way of stewardship is tithing.  No matter how much or little you earn, 10% is still 10%.  God's way is equal sacrifice, not equal amounts.

We are to give cheerfully, but without drawing attention.  When we give either grudgingly or with attempt to get credit for our giving we do two bad things:

A.    We sin against those who are poor, telling them church is no place for a poor man.  And if we do that…

B.    We lose our real reward – God’s approval.

The appropriate attitude when giving is with trust that God will not only use the gift to build His kingdom, He will also supply our needs.  To give because we trust means that we have decided to affirm that it is right to obey God.

Trust is a fragile thing.  Sometimes our faith grows weak, and we doubt God's wisdom in teaching us to be givers.  We may want to hold back our giving because we don't like the Pastor's haircut, or the way the choir sings.  We're not certain the Treasurer or Finance leaders will do things the way we want.  We worry that our Conference Office might give to something we disapprove.  That is the problem – we think! 

When we begin to trust our own opinions, personal preferences, or base our giving on whether we like the personalities of leadership we move into control giving, and away from trust giving.

A high-school grad went off to college, leaving her Mom to care for her plants and goldfish until semester break.  The mother had a black-thumb and the plants died.  The goldfish didn't make it either, and Puddles the dog ran away from home.  Mom was dreading the call.  When it came, she had to admit to her daughter that the plants had all died.  Are my goldfish and Puddles O.K.?  Again the Mom had to tell the truth.  After a pause that seemed an eternity, the freshman asked, Mom, is Dad feeling OK?

Jesus said that we are to have trust in the sovereignty of God, and give; we must entrust our giving into His hand.  We are to do it as God has so plainly stated in His word:

·       The tithe belongs to the Lord

·       It belongs in the Lord's house (the local church where I belong)

·       It belongs in the Lord's house on the Lord's day (in regular worship)

·       It belongs there in the Lord's way  (cheerfully, no horn-blowing)

How can I give cheerfully if I have trouble trusting?

The famous psychiatrist, Karl Menninger has stated that one sign of mental health is the ability to release money, to give it away.  How many generous people do you know who exhibit mental instability?  It is often the stingy, controlling person who is neurotic. 

God created us to be healthy.  One way to contribute to your mental health is to practice generosity.  Jesus did, and we are supposed to be growing into His likeness.

Some people give to their church, and then criticize everything that is done.  That, my friends, is not letting go.  That is not trusting God for the outcome.  It is also opposite to the purpose of giving, which is to create in you a sense of trust for God's way, and provide a tangible way of expressing your faith.

We have choices in giving.  We can withhold; we can give grudgingly; we can draw attention to our giving...or...we can be Biblical Christians, giving with a cheerful heart, trusting God for the outcome. 
The choice is simple:  trust God, or try to control everything. 
From experience I can tell you, it’s much better to trust God! 



[i] Title image:  Alexander P Kapp, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rumor Mill

                                                                                                 Friday, August 26, 2016
Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.   Proverbs 18:8(NLT)
It was so long ago when I read words that stung, instructed, appalled, and changed me.  The words were by Alan Redpath, a pastor and author who wrote, I once formed a mutual encouragement fellowship at a time of stress in one of my pastorates.  The members subscribed to a simple formula applied before speaking of any person or subject that was perhaps controversial.

T – Is it TRUE?
H – Is it HELPFUL?
K – Is it KIND?[ii]

The meaning, of course, centers on the Biblical criteria for passing information along about someone who is not present to hear the words.

I wish I could play the tapes of all my life’s conversations in an instant, and find that I have never been guilty of gossip.  I know that’s not possible.  I am as guilty as any of you.  But there is one thing I can do about gossip; I can refuse to be part of it in the future.  I can squash it whenever it comes my way. 

I can ask God to help me tame my tongue.  I am one who needs that help.

What do you do when someone is trying to unload some gossip in your direction?  Bill Gothard suggests that we should ask five questions before listening to a carrier of an evil report:

     1.     What is your reason for telling me?  Widening the circle of gossip only compounds the problem.  

     2.     Where did you get your information?  Refusal to identify the source of information is a sure sign of an evil report.   

     3.     Have you gone to those directly involved?  Spirituality is not measured by how well we expose an offender but by how effectively we restore an offender.  

     4.     Have you personally checked out all of the facts?  Even facts become distorted when not balanced with other facts or when given with negative motives.  

     5.     Can I quote you if I check this out?

On this last, and most important question, when a person is not willing to have his or her words brought into solving the problem…chances are about 100% they really don’t want to help the person – they really just want to gossip.  They’ve got what the Proverb writer called a dainty morsel sunk deep into their heart, and they just can’t wait to feel the power rush of blabbing it all over town.

For You Today

If you’ve found yourself at times tempted with spreading rumors and gossip, here’s a good way to begin the day, so you can begin to break the habit, pray like this:

Lord, help me guard my tongue this one day;
Help me to bless others with what I say, not curse;
Lord, make me an instrument of peace,
not one who separates brothers and close friends with what I say.
Lord, help me tame my tongue!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!



[i] Title Image:  By Wayne Short [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] David L. Olford, ed., A Passion For Preaching, p. 159-160.