Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Watch Out For What Can Kill Your Soul

January 12, 2017

Fear him who can kill both (your body and your soul). — Jesus

There does not seem to be a lot of attention paid these days to a spiritual person identified as Satan or The Deceiver in the New Testament. The medieval drawings of the Devil are often stuck in our memories.

Just as we talk about God whispering to us, someone else whispers to us. “Go ahead and do that. It’ll be fun. Everyone does it.”

There is a cartoon character who lives deep in the Appalachian mountains. A “good old boy”, he fishes, plays checkers, cheats at cards, and brews illegal moonshine. Sometimes the artist would draw Snuffy Smith with a small angel hovering over one shoulder and a small devil hovering over the other. These beings would engage in a verbal tug of war to influence Snuffy’s next decision.

Do you ever feel that same tug of war played out in your mind?

Andy Stanley has advised that whenever you get a feeling of uncertainty about a decision or proposed activity, you should stop and consider. Don’t just act rashly. There is that tug of war going on within you.

I’m teaching on Romans again. While studying about it, I ran into a commentator who said that while the other Pauline letters were written to people he knew or churches he had founded, he had never been to Rome and knew only a few of the Romans there. Therefore, he concludes, he wrote a dispassionate theological treatise.

Dispassionate? Where was this guy when he read the letter?

When I read the last half of the first chapter I feel the outrage and disgust of person who simply cannot believe the open flaunting of moral standards that he witnesses in Corinth–the city where he was when he wrote Romans.

“They became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.” And again, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” He talks about giving in to their passions and their debased minds. Then he lists all the things that he sees.

The Deceiver has cost them their souls. Fear him who can kill the soul.

How Long Does It Take To Sin

June 8, 2016

It’s only 20 minutes of his life. It shouldn’t take away from 20 years. (Sports Dad)

There are no moral giants in the story. Must be a story about real life. Privileged athlete takes advantage of girl. Has sex. Walks away.

His point of view–so what? It’s just sex.

Her point of view–I’ve been physically and emotionally violated.

The philosopher Ken Wilber once wrote, “Civilization is a race to overcome testosterone.” There is much to think about there.

Look at King David. A warrior-king. Doesn’t get any more “manly” than that. He saw a woman. An attractive woman. The hormones spoke, David listened. How long did it take out of his life to commit a sin that kept on giving? 20 minutes?

20 minutes with a woman led to murder of her husband and many of his own soldiers.

Some people have somehow gotten the idea that women are objects and think it is Biblical. Don’t know how they got that. The Old Testament records a time of warriors. The stories prize strong men who could fight against enemies. Yet, look at the stories of strong women, full of faith, who also led.

Paul, whom many cite as the philosopher of subjugating women, is often misread. As Andy Stanley put it in the recorded Your Move talk from last weekend said, “They didn’t read the verse before it” regarding the verse about wives being submissive to their husbands.

Quick test–who knows the verse before?

This is a story about men who think that women are only objects, not real people. Who think they only exist for their pleasure. It’s a story fed by pictures, TV, movies.

That’s not the story of people living under grace. Who value every human being as a person God created and loves. Every woman who is someone’s daughter.

That’s not 20 minutes of “slipping up” that would have been ignored if not brought to light. It’s 20 minutes that proves character.

Base or Grace

November 30, 2015

Kick ’em when they’re upKick ’em when they’re down

Kick ’em when they’re stiff

Kick ’em all around

Dirty little secrets

Dirty little lies

We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie

We love to cut you down to size

We love dirty laundry

Don Henley – Dirty Laundry

Someone asked the small group if there had been any progress made in society since Jesus.

“We’re still Romans 1 people,” replied the resident Reformed follower. “People are still sinners and commit the worst of sins.”

Don Henley’s 1982 scorching put down of mass media came to mind. All the newspeople you see on TV and read in magazines (of a type anyway) and newspapers seem to delight in Schadenfreude–taking pleasure in other’s problems and misfortunes.

However, that sort of news would have died away long ag0 instead of lingering into this century only because there are plenty of people who drink at that fountain.

Maybe we have not progressed beyond our base instincts as Paul so accurately described in the opening of Romans.

I don’t know how accurate the description is, but my view of the worldview of Reformed and Fundamentalist  theologies is that they are always looking at the downside of humans. Followers seem to be more dark and dour. While acknowledging grace, they focus on the bad. They are Romans 1 people.

My response–looking at society in general–focused on the great advances of society because of the influence of followers of Jesus. Hospitals and education to name a couple. Even though evil still exists in the world (as it will always until the “new earth and new Jerusalem”) much of the world is much more “civilized” than ever. And many areas are struggling to break free of the past.
Romans 1 people? Yes, we all start that way. Many stay there. However increasing numbers of people are now Romans 8 and 10 people. We live under grace. And many of those are following Jesus’ commands about loving our neighbors. And this draws more people into grace.

I live in grace and in the hope that it brings. Rather than focus on “dirty laundry”, I rather focus on the hope of changed hearts under grace. 

All The Stuff I Put Up With

October 6, 2015

“You can’t believe all the stuff I had to put up with.” 

That was a person justifying an adulterous relationship that was quite public and resulted in the breakup of two families.

The relationship was not abusive. One party just got frustrated with the other. Actually, they were  both frustrated. Communication was nonexistent. 

Then came the opportunity for passionate sex. Emotions–dangerous things if not handled.

To this day the people who initiated the affair fail to see where there was sin in the situation.

They had put up with so much stuff, they couldn’t take it any longer.

I heard the quote the other day. I thought, gosh, we all put up with a lot of stuff. It’s called living with someone who isn’t 100% devoted to fulfilling my needs. I’m not so sure I could stand that, personally. But maybe a little would be nice….but I digress, and jest.

Paul spent much time on reconciling relationships. The letters to the Corinthians, for example. More to the point would be Philemon.

Adultry is a sin. It breaks relationships and draws the people away from God.

Paul spends the first couple of chapters of Romans talking about the ways we sin. Then he talks about how we have to recognized them, and our part in the situations, and then our confession, healing, and restoration.

I have a great deal of empathy–and even anger–with abusive relationships. The abused must leave, somehow. But for those who justify “lots of stuff” as grounds for adultry, well, that’s too much a stretch. 

God likes to see us grow in maturity. We work out stuff one way or another. That is what grown-up people do. Heck, even kids know that.

The Truth About You

March 19, 2014

John Ortberg, senior pastor of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, is teaching a series now on “The Truth About You.” He says, “The truth about you is that you don’t know the truth about you.”

The most famous phrase on this subject is the inscription at the Temple of Delphi, home of the so-called Delphic Oracle, which says, “Know Thyself.” Christian theologians have picked up that phrase over the centuries–including Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, John Calvin.

During the course of years of my meditating, there have been periods where recurring images would come to me. I’d explore the images during meditation. Sometimes reflecting on them. Then some conclusion would happen, and I would never revisit that image again. Doesn’t mean that I forgot them. I just never went back to that experience.

Paul begins his letter to the Romans talking about how sinful we are. Those can be just words. In my meditations many years ago, there was an image that recurred over the course of many months.

One day during meditation, I opened a door and came face-to-face with all of my sins and all of the sins that I was (am) capable of committing. It was a a shocking experience.

Later, I could understand Romans. And other such works. Forget that I’m so good. I know that within me is the power if unchained has great capability for committing evil deeds.

I’ve said that I’m not really a “Lent” person. It was just never in my heritage and I’ve not picked it up very much. If we take it as a time of reflection of how much bad we have done and how much we are capable of doing, then the release from all that sin and evil (a subsequent experience in that series of meditations) is all the more sweet. That would be the climax of Lent–the celebration of Easter and the Resurrection.

Know yourself. It’s hard. It’s necessary.

Watching The Status of Your Heart

November 25, 2013

Last summer, my doctor thought he found some severe heart problems–in me. I spent a little more than a day in the hospital. Saw my heart on the echocardiogram. Underwent several other tests. Mostly we learned that, while my heart isn’t in perfect condition, it’s not all that bad.

That’s much like my “other” heart–the one Jesus talks about. The one Jesus was most concerned with. He always probed people for the state of their heart. His point about the Pharisees was that they were more concerned with what was outside while the status of their hearts seemed to be sick.

I’m reading Andy Stanley’s book “Enemies of the Heart” right now. He discusses some diseases of the inner heart, the root causes of the diseases and then some practical advice for correction. I heard his sermon series that precipitated the book, so I had a head start. I’m sure I’ll be analyzing more later as I finish the book.

For now, I think I’ll tie into my last post about listening to yourself.

What do you often say that you wish you didn’t? Would you say, “That really doesn’t sound like me?” What about when someone does something wrong and people always say, “He was such a good person.”

Stanly says that no, they weren’t. What comes out of you is a reflection of the state of your heart. You can’t always hide what’s in your heart. It comes out eventually. That is why it is so important to listen to what you say and observe what you do. This information is an indicator about your heart. Just like the probes and tests I underwent last summer.

Paul tells us in Romans that we are all sinners, but also that we have a way out. That’s called God’s grace. But we have to be aware of that and ask for it.

Awareness of the state of your heart helps to focus prayers on fixing your problems–sort of like the medicines I’m on. I’m pondering comments I’ve been making lately. What is in my heart that causes them? I am looking for insight into the causes so that I can change. Life is a series of these corrections which over time we would hope would become smaller and smaller as we achieve maturity in the Spirit.

Stay Pure Guard Against Infiltrators

February 15, 2011

Do you ever watch what things and emotions and thoughts insinuate themselves into your life? Sometimes much time has passed before you realize that some thought or obsession has taken control over you. God called this activity prostitution in the Old Testament. He was always complaining that the Hebrews were prostituting themselves.

When they entered into the “Promised Land,” God told them to wipe it clean of other people. He knew the weakness of a man for a woman. And He knew that women are typically the bearers and pro-creators of culture. Therefore, He knew that if the Hebrew men had access to the women of other tribes, they would begin to marry them. The women in turn would bring their gods and culture into the house.

And, sure enough, it happened. Time after time. The men never learned (OK, I can hear all the women reading this…). So God even sent “crazy” guys, like Hosea who married a prostitute then tried to make her an honest woman symbolizing God’s “marrying” the Hebrews in their prostitution and trying to make them pure God-followers.

It didn’t work. The people didn’t listen to Hosea at the time and followed their prostitution into destruction. First the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, then the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Pffft. Gone.

So, what “foreign gods” have you prostituted yourself with? Pride? Envy? Obsession with sex, alcohol, drugs, TV? What diverts your attention away from God? Recognize it and prune it. Seek help from a friend or counselor if need be.

If you love someone, you pay attention to them–that is, you give them your attention. To live with-God, pay attention to Him. Don’t let the outsiders in.

Thinking about sin

February 1, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about sin. Not to the point where I want to purposely try them all out, I suppose. But I wonder what you first think when you hear the word. What does it mean to you? What pictures come to mind? Is it just a “church” word? So you immediately picture a controlling person who has a strong judgmental streak in them who enjoys telling you what to do and especially what not to do?

Sin is something (action, attitude, uncontrolled emotion) that many times you think feels good and is a result of freedom. Then you discover that living that life is not really a life of freedom because now you are controlled by whatever it is that you chose–or thought you chose.

The early Christian “desert Fathers” spent a lot of time exploring this topic and several developed something akin to family lineages of emotions that would keep you away from living with God.

So, what if I didn’t use the word “sin?” If I used another word, would it have less visceral judgmental reaction and cause you to stop and take a look at your life. See what attitudes, actions, uncontrolled emotions are controlling your life and preventing a God relationship?

One thing I know–humans have continuously for thousands of years tried to draw up a list of rules for other people to follow so that they would not sin. In Jesus’ time, they were called Pharisees. We have them today. “Let’s just pass a law,” they say, “and everyone will behave–or we’ll send them away.”

Jesus said that we should just have a relationship with him. Then those things will lose their power over us. We won’t need the list of laws. We’ll do what Jesus wants because he’s walking with us.

I didn’t know where this thought would lead when I started, but ending with Jesus seems like a good thing.