Tag Archives: sin

Returning The Slave (Reflection for 9/22)

“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account”

-Philemon 1:18

ROTD: Christ has redeemed us to return us

Why?

 First of all, I apologize for the short break. Life caught up with me this weekend.

 The book of Philemon is such an interesting story. One chapter, it tells of how Paul came across the slave of Philemon, Onesimus. He discipled him and then returned him to his master, asking (firmly, in love) that he receive him not in anger as a slave, but as a brother.
I do not wish to stretch beyond reason here, but in this little story I see a picture of Christ. At the end of the day, we all belong to God. He made us. We are his-and even more so, when we are in Christ we are His. Paul calls himself a “Slave to righteousness” as he goes about the work of God. But-even as we walk with God, and under His authority, we fall. We try to run, we backslide, we look for escape, we lose our way. We become an Onesimus, unfortunately, because we are still human. Imperfect. Now, this is not to excuse sinful behavior, but simply to recognize that these things do happen.

Praise be to God that we have Christ. What He did for us is what Paul asks of Philemon-that any charge God might have against us, be put to His account. He took on all of our debt, all of the charges God could bring against us, and paid for them with His own perfect blood. We also know that He intercedes on our behalf to the Father, asking Him to look on us not as the sinners that we are, but as saints, covered in His own blood. And God listens.

Oh, it’s good to be reminded of the simple truths. This is at the core of our belief, and yet so often we lose sight of who we are, and who He is. We are sinful, creatures trying to surrender ourselves to Christ, to let Him disciple us, walk along with us, and at the end of the age present us before the Father to hear Him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant”

Prayer:

Lord, we come before you grateful for all you have done for us. We know that we mess up, run away, and try and hide from your authority and grace. We thank you that you sent Jesus Christ to take on our debt, so that we may be able to continue to strive forward and have a relationship with you. You are merciful, and just, and righteous, and you can deal with us in any way you please-and yet, you chose to deal with us in mercy and grace. Let us not take that for granted, and let us ALWAYS remember what it is that you’ve done for us.
In Jesus’ holy name, amen.

A Father’s Love (Reflection for 9/18)

“For the LORD will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men”
Lamentations 3:31-33

ROTD:   God’s reactions to our actions are always perfect.

Why?
This is one of the hardest things for anyone to grasp. Why would a God who is so good send trials? Why say no? Why delay the fulfillment of our prayers? Why is there still consequence?

There are many factors into these, but we can look at at least one aspect here in Lamentations. The narrator speaking in chapter 3 is a man who has directly felt the wrath of God, who has seen his punishment firsthand. The best way to explain this, I think, is with an illustration we all can understand.

Parents. (Yes, this is where I am going with it. Hear me out.) As kids, parents have rules for us to follow. They love us and inspire us and better us as people, but there are still rules of the household. What are the worst words you could ever hear when you got caught breaking one of those rules?

“Just wait till your father gets home”.

Terrifying. Because you knew that there was some type of consequence to your action. And dad gets home, and punishment is doled out, and reconciliation occurs as you tearfully swear to neverevereverever do it again. But of course you do. And the cycle continues.

Look at the nation of Israel throughout the whole Old Testament. They are constantly disobeying God, leaving His commandments, following other gods or people, complaining, whining…and then when God acts accordingly, they shape up. And so it continues. To read, it looks like Israel is really, really, stupid. Just follow God and it’s all good!

But don’t we do the same thing?

God is our Father. He is also a perfect Father. So while many of us have had horrible, terrible experiences with parental discretion here on earth, we need to be able to look past those to see what God is doing. Because we constantly are disobeying Him, sinning, blowing off His words, not talking to Him, trying to do life without Him. We disobey our Father all the time.
“He does not afflict from his heart” is such a cool statement, because it shows that God doesn’t bring punishment because He enjoys it. He brings correction to discipline us, to grow us, to help us to better understand Him and draw closer to Him. And, thanks be to God for His Son, we have the ability to turn around, repent, and continue to follow hard after Him.

Being a Christian does not mean that your actions no longer carry weight to them. God is love, yes, but He is also righteous and just, holy, mighty (for more on that, click here). What the speaker realizes is that all of the correction we receive from God comes out of a place of love, not evil sinister joy. Punishment doesn’t last forever. The trial you are going through does have meaning and purpose. All things do. So if God is trying to teach you to let go of some recurring sin, it might hurt a bit when that sin comes to light in the worst possible way. Or if He is trying to grow your patience, life might become quite stressful for a time. Finance and trust issues? Money might be a little tight for a while. We may not always understand the method, or the timing, but we MUST KNOW in our hearts that God knows perfectly how we learn and what we need to push us forward. These things always move us toward a deeper relationship with God, if we let them.

Now, I realize this leads to some bigger questions that have harder answers. Why do people suffer in general? Why is this world full of evil? My sister got raped, is that part of God’s plan? Why do babies die? How much does God send, and how much does He allow to happen to us?

These are questions that I have heard over the years, and some I struggle with to this day. We will dive into some of these later on, and look at the different aspects of God’s relationship to us, and sin’s affect on the world as a whole.

For now, though, rest in this: That just because it seems like God is angry at you, He’s not. He derives no joy from our pain.God loves you more than you can fathom, and with love does come discipline, and correction. Anything that God is using to teach us and correct us-any trial ,situation, person, circumstance-is done in love. We just have to open our minds and hearts to see it as such.

Prayer:

Lord, we do not always understand the means and ways that you work. We struggle to grasp that a loving God can also punish and correct and discipline. God, help us to know that you love us. Help us to recognize Your hand in our lives, in every situation. We pray for forgiveness, for we know we are a sinful, messed up people. Show us where You are at work in us, and correct us in whatever way you see fit. However loud You have to shout to get our attention, do so. However fall You let us fall before we face our eyes to You, let us. However much You have to strip away from us in order to build us up correctly, break us down. Whatever You need to do, do in our hearts today.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

How Long Will We Forget His Might? (Reflection for 9/16)

“He has cut down in fierce anger
all the might of Israel,
He has withdrawn from them his right hand
in the face of the enemy; 
He has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, 
consuming all around”

-Lamentations 2:3

ROTD: We must not forget to fear the Lord.

Why?

Another prevailing attitude of the day, among Christians and non alike, is a lack of the fear of the Lord. Going along with our lack of forethought of the consequence of our sin, it appears as though we have set out to deny that God is a God to be feared. We overemphasize His love, mercy, grace, tenderness, forgiveness (ALL of which are good things) but we forget that God is equally a God of wrath, of justice, of righteousness, of holiness, of perfection. This deserves and demands our respect, reverence, and fear.
But what does it mean to fear the Lord?
The best way I have heard it explained is in Eshon Burgundy’s song, “The Fear of The Lord“. He says, pretty simply, that

“To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of the reality of God”

So this means that we don’t necessarily go around quaking, wondering if our next wrong step will earn us a lightning bolt from the Man Upstairs. It means that we recognize and are humbled by the sheer magnitude of who God is.
Have you ever just taken a moment to consider God? Who He is? What He is capable of?
That’s why it is a good thing to fear the Lord. If we make God into someone who is not to be feared, what reason at all have we to listen? If I am more powerful than the God I serve, who does that serve better-God, or me?

When we begin to look at just who God is, what He can do, and compare that to who we are, and what we have done, it should send a little shiver down our spine. It should humble us, as we look at the reality of God and His majesty. Reading these verses in Lamentations, and throughout the Old Testament, God isn’t just some mean old God who kills people, as some would seem to believe. God is perfect, and holy, and sin is simply unacceptable.  This is what the response is to disobedience, and He told them it would be so. Does not a father discipline His child? How much more so, the perfect God of the universe?

Every other religion in the world is man reaching out-either to God, or just self-enlightenment, or to just living-everything else is us trying to do it on our own. God says, “This is what Christianity looks like as a religion”. It’s an impossible task, and we would inevitably fall to our own destruction trying to reach out to God.  So He made a way for us. Thanks be to God that His power is on display in His pursuit of us, and that when we recognize just how mighty our God is, we see that in all of His omnipotence He DESIRES to be with us. He wants us to be with Him, and He has made a way for us to do so through the death of His Son on the cross.

Prayer:

Lord, we recognize that You are holy. You are perfect, and deserving of all the praise and honor and glory. Help me to recognize the reality that is You. Help me to stand in awe of you, help me to fear you properly. Lord, we thank you that we don’t have to strive to try and reach you, but instead while we were yet sinners and rebellious You sent Your Son to make a way for us to join You. Help us to have a reverence and fear of you all of our days, and give us the joy and peace that come in knowing Christ and being known by Him.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

P.S. to find more works by Eshon Burgundy, here is the album in full: http://www.humblebeast.com/the-fear-of-god/. Eshon and other hip-hop artists write God-inspired, deep works through the label HumbleBeast. God bless!

Why Don’t Our Hearts Cry? (Reflection for 9/15)

” Look, O Lord, 
For I am in distress; my stomach churns;
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves; i
n the house it is like death”
-Lamentations 1:20

ROTD:

Falling down in life must be followed by falling to our knees.

WHY?
In this day and age, it is a rare thing for people to be willing to take responsibility when things go wrong in life. This isn’t to say that things DON’T happen that are outside of our control, but we like to think that everything is outside of our control. We are just helpless victims of circumstance, we were born this way, we can’t help it. And what this kind of attitude creates is equal parts apathetic, attention seeking, and aggressive. We don’t care about our own end in our walk in life with God. When things go wrong, it’s always because of some other source other than ourselves. We sound like Jerusalem in the beginnings of this book. “Look at me, look at me, and see what the Lord has done to me, I have nothing!” is the cry of the desolate city for the first two chapters. We seek pity and comfort from those around us-that surely, these things aren’t MY fault, that life is just cruel and hard and it’s just best to live for myself and do what makes ME happy. Then, when we have those few people who are willing to call us out on some things we need to change, we become very aggressive, defending our “goodness” and that the other person is just hateful, or wrong, or both.

Where are the heart cries? The late nights, the yelling and pleading and earnestly seeking some answer as to what’s going on? Because even with all of her lamenting, Jerusalem says one recurring theme that is correct; “I have been very rebellious (v. 20)”and again, “The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against His word; (v. 18)”.

Even though she still is seeking comfort, Jerusalem gets it. She brought this fall upon herself, and now she cries out to God to hear her in the midst of a horrible time in life. That is a place we need to get back to. That, when we fall down, and our choices lead to some pretty heavy consequences, that we don’t try to rationalize it or ignore it or blame others. We cry out. We tell God, truly, how we feel. And we admit our need for Him. We admit that we are messed up, torn apart, desolate, ravaged by the choices we have made, and cry out.

Again, this isn’t to say that every time we mess up, God is striking us down. Or that every bad situation is tied to something we did or thought or said. But when we sin, sometimes we do experience consequence to that sin. Instead of running from it, we need to own up to it and continually be leaning into our Lord.

Prayer:

God, bring me to a place where my heart cries out for you. Break me down if need be, but help me to see my eternal need for You and You alone. Help me not to put blame elsewhere for the consequences of my sinful actions, but to see and admit that I have rebelled against You. Teach me, keep me, and help me to learn how to pray. 
In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Where Did I Go Wrong? (Reflection for 9/14)

“Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future. Therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. ‘O Lord, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!”
-Lamentations 1:9
ROTD (reflection of the day):
Don’t let your arrogance lead to your consequence.
WHY?
If we go through life thinking we can follow God AND continue in our same patterns of sin. There is an inevitable spiral that will occur. You can’t serve God and yourself. Because of our sinful nature, allowing ourselves to continue to dwell in a place of sin only strengthens those desires and ways, and we fall into them more and more. The bible tells us to resist the devil and he will flee, but we often forget that first we must “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We must have an attitude of continually trying to draw closer to God, to fixate our eyes on Him, to do all that is within us to serve Him wholeheartedly. If you keep living in sin, don’t blame God for why life has suddenly gotten harder to live-examine the way you are living, first. Oftentimes, when we try to blame God for why some things in life have taken a turn, He points us back to our own actions. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean that your actions never have consequences anymore. So think of your future-think about whether what you want to do is aligned with the way God would have you act and conduct yourself. Be conscious of the fact that Satan is ALWAYS around, waiting for that moment when he can trip you up. So be alert! Be in the Word, in prayer, in communication, in fellowship, and always looking up. Then you won’t have to ask, “where did I go wrong?”
Prayer:
Lord, keep my mind focused on the long run. There is more to life than just this life, but what I do here does affect what I’ll be doing for eternity. Help me to not worry about tomorrow, but to continually be aware of Your presence with me. Help me to pray, to read, to seek, and to be aware that the things I do, do have consequences. I love You, God, and I want to serve you with all that I have. Keep me awake to the workings of Satan, and help me to be aware of my actions.

In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

I’m Not That Strong..But He Is (Devo, February 16)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
-Philippians 4:13

“The Lord our God/is mighty in battle/ we are not afraid/ His hand upholds us/ through our trials/ our God is strong to save!”

These are the lines of the chorus to “Strong to Save” by the Vertical Church Band (find the song and more by them here). I think it rings so true with where I am at in life today. This past Saturday, I was in a car accident. On a grand scale, it was quite minor-but for me, it was traumatic. I flipped my car after hitting a patch of black ice and skidded on my roof into a field. By the grace of God, I barely missed ramming a telephone pole, or the other car that was coming towards me, or anybody. I walked away with barely a scratch. It was terrifying, but because of my faith in God I knew I would get through it. I was supernaturally alert, I was calm and knew how I needed to respond to the situation. Yes, later on I broke down a bit, but I know that God was working through me to keep that situation under control. I was scared and confused, but not afraid. I knew God had me in His hand.

Most people look at this verse and think, “Yea! With God on my side I can do anything! Nothing can stop me!” and this is true. With God for us, there is none that can ultimately stand against us. But I want to talk against the thought that, because we have God, NOTHING will stand against us. This simply isn’t true. Jesus proclaimed again and again that if we were to follow Him, our lives would actually become increasingly difficult. Paul quoted in Romans that “As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom. 8:36). This life is going to bring suffering. God is with us, sure, but we are going to suffer. Life is going to suck sometimes. That is the truth.

So when I look at this verse, I see a God that is so great that He can overcome all the obstacles of our lives. We humans, marred by sin as we are, live in a world where bad things are just bound to happen. It’s the curse of sin. But again, our Savior is bigger than our sorrows. We have a God who doesn’t give us a free pass in life but helps us to pass into the freedom that His life brings. We have a God who, through ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We have a God that can take a young kid from a mediocre school and transform him into a speaker who sees lives changed. He can take a car accident and turn it into a testimony, a financial crisis and turn it into humble dependency, a broken family and turn it into a proclamation of His love, a prostitute and turn it into the message of the Gospel. When I see that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, it doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to conquer every obstacle or climb every mountain. Rather, it lets me know that no matter what the circumstances of my life, I have a God who is alive and active inside of me-a God that can give me strength to endure, hope that is eternal, and joy that is unexplainable. I know that He is there to guide and to lead and to comfort and to exhort me on to greater measure. He may not always change the situations (although He clearly can and does) but He does change my response to them. God uses situations and people and all sorts of means to work His strength through us. Because of Him we have the ability to change the world.

The bottom line is this:

My strength doesn’t come from
the change in the reality
of my situation,
but in the change in the response
to my Savior.

http://bible.com/59/php.4.13.esv

My Savior is Bigger Than My Sorrows (Devo, February 3)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord ; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
-Psalm 5:11-12

     Now, how does it feel to know that God’s got your back?
Yea. The God who created everything that ever existed. The God who created the moon and the sun and the infinite expanse we live in, the God who made DNA and calculus and other things way beyond our (at least my) understanding. He is for us. And that sounds fantastic, but when you get down to it its much harder to really believe this.

    As humans, we generally just see the day-to-day. We see what is happening NOW, what’s happening in our immediate future. We see a girl with cancer and can’t possibly imagine that God has plans for her life 15 years from now when the doctors give her 3. We look at our bills  and see the debt and we wonder where the plans to prosper us and not harm us are, to give us hope for a future when our future looks like the streets. We don’t know where God is when he has been abused since he was 5 and has had depression and bipolar disorder for 18 years. Where is this God then? Where is He now?

     I am here to tell you that He is there. It requires something we are not willing to give-faith. And trust. And commitment. And it’s hard. I personally know people who are going through situations in which the “favor of God” upon them seems like an impossibility. But He is there, working. The Israelites didn’t think God was gonna come through for them, too. He was leading them with a pillar of fire, and they approached the Red Sea and realized that the Egyptians were behind them. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die. God, however, had other plans, and the rest is history-Israel was saved.

We see the immediacy of the chariots bearing down on us in life. We feel the stones hitting our sides as the challenges and trials of life drag us down. But we forget that there is a God we serve who is greater than our struggles. As hard as it may seem-when we come into those hard times we need to lean into God more. We need to pursue harder, push further, cry longer, pray more fervently, and trust more securely. I personally have had my life flipped upside down within the past year and a half. I’ve moved three times after never having moved at all, lost all my friends, my mother committed suicide, my father almost died, i changed schools, started college, became depressed and suicidal, and was on the verge of falling apart. Because the world is cruel. It was good, but it is tainted by sin and it is messed up out there. And when everything fell out around me, I was barely hanging on to the feet of Jesus.

But He never left. He never left my side, He never let me down. The prayers weren’t answered right away. But He came through in only the way He knew was best for me. The tears still fell, the hurts still came, the pain is still felt deep. But my Savior is so much bigger than my sorrows. He is good. All the time. And that is a fact I will die for, that my God is good. He is my shield and my strong tower, and He desires to be yours, too.

Will you rest in the presence of the Lord today? Will you allow Him to be your shield?

http://bible.com/59/psa.5.11-12.esv