Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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Pandemic Perspective – Part 23 Hate

Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

It’s here in Romans 12 that we see some powerful and pointed words, we are called to hate evil and cling to what is good. What if we stopped hating skin and started hating sin? How different would our world be if we would choose to have a sincere love that honored others above ourselves? Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.” How serious are you when it comes to sin? James 1:14-15 reminds us that sin seeks to kill, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” We need to realize that just because we are finished committing the sin, doesn’t mean that sin is not finished with you. Sin may be fun for a season, but the season is always short, and the payment is long. While the initial cost is often high remember it is only the initial down payment. Often, we keep paying in our conscience, our body, in the suffering we bring on our family, friends, and community. We can be forgiven but we don’t escape the consequences. Ravi Zaccharias put it so well when he said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” Sadly, in many churches we have split sin into the serious and the socially acceptable. We are ok with gluttony but notsmoking. We preach against alcohol but not gossip. But how much damage is done by the sins of gossip and gluttony? Instead of killing sin we have become comfortable with it. Do you know why most diets don’t work? Because on that diet you are asked to go without and say no to things that you really enjoy. Often you can have as much of the things you are allowed to have as you want. But in a fairly short amount of time all of the things that you like and are allowed to eat begin to lose their appeal. The diet says I can have as much as I want but you know what I want. I want the doughnut I can’t have. I want the starch and all the things I am not supposed to have. As with any diet over time, what really starts to sound good is what I am not supposed to have. The diet plan tells us to use our human willpower to avoid eating things you really enjoy. But what if the real key to diet is understanding why certain foods are unhealthy and learning to “hate” all the foods that are bad for you! Why do so many experience this rollercoaster ride with sin, where we have seasons of success followed by seasons of slavery? Because we see sin as a dieting instead of a lifestyle change. What we want to do is diet for a season and then go back to sin. Let me ask you a seemingly strange question, if I were to ask you to make a solemn commitment to not knowingly eat any insects for an entire year how many of you could commit to that? No more flies! No more spiders! Laying off the ants! Not even one more cockroach, could you do it? I think with confidence and enthusiasm, we could commit to that. Why, because we don’t want to eat insects! We don’t like them and probably the thought of eating them makes you feel sick. So why is it so hard to follow through on our spiritual convictions and commitments and to stop a particular sinful behavior? Why do we have certain patterns of failure and weakness that plague us for years? Because we don’t hate sin. In fact, we like sin, we enjoy it and so we crave its sinful pleasures. Like the dieter who is waiting for a secret moment to sneak and indulge in a handful of potato chips or a piece of chocolate cake we find ourselves surrounded by temptation and don’t know how to handle it. While some “human strategies” may work with chocolate cake they won’t work with the temptation to sin. Things like just trying to ignore it or the temptation to compromise and make a deal with it. When we say just this once or just once more and then I will stop. Fortunately, God doesn’t call us to fight sin with willpower. In fact, the Bible gives us some specific strategies for dealing with sin. So, let me share a few practical steps to learn to hate sin:

1.) Know God better.

Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” Focus on the Savior not the sin. Those who love the Lord, this is not a casual acquaintance this is the one we love. How much time do you spend with Jesus, in prayer and in His Word? Because either sin will keep you from the bible or the bible will keep you from sin.

2.) Remember the price of sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Remember that our sin cost Jesus His life. The bread of communion reminds us that Jesus took the punishment for our sin in His body. He was bruised, beaten and broken in our place. The cup reminds us that “without the shedding of blood there is no way for the stain of sin to be removed from our souls”. Don’t minimize the seriousness of sin.

3.) Remember God’s Spirit lives in you.

1 Corinthians 6:15-20 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Paul uses a very graphic temptation to make this point. The believers in Corinth were being tempted to go into the pagan temples where immorality with prostitutes was a part of the “worship”. Paul makes it clear that they drag their Savior into that immorality with them because His Spirit is in them. The same is true for us, everywhere you go He goes. Everything you see He sees. Every secret place you take HIM too. Every relationship you put HIM right in the middle of it. Proverbs 5:21 says, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD , and he examines all his paths.” If your Pastor spouse or kids were tied to you so that wherever you went they had to go, are there any places that you currently go that you would avoid. Any flirtations you would cool off? Any conversations you would skip? Any entertainment you would change? If you would answer yes then my question is why? They are just human not the Holy God. Why would you change things for their sake but be willing to do it in the sight of God?

4.) Recognize the results of sin.

Hebrews 11:24-25 says, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” While sin advertises itself as fun, adventure and excitement it always leads to pain, prison and death. Sin is a cockroach not a cookie. Its death cloaked in desire. We must be aware of our desire to be easy on ourselves. We all tend to be most understanding and forgiving of our own passions and prides while being quick to take offense at another people’s attitudes or behaviors. So, let me ask you what are you hating, are you hating the right thing? Because if we are not careful we will love sin and hate the wrong thing.

 

 


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Pandemic Perspective – Part 22 Division part 2

Matthew 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.

As we continue to see division in our world, we are reminded that God has already given us the solution to dealing with division:

  • Love covers it all.

When it comes to resolving differences we need to be reminded of the power of love. God’s love, which according to 1 Peter 4:8 covers a multitude of sins. When it comes to faults and failures we tend to turn to legalism not love. God’s love is very forgiving and accepting. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a very helpful description of God’s Love. “Love is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”. Are you living a life of love? I think God is less concerned with our political preferences and more concerned with how we treat those who differ from us. Is your life and your lips revealing God’s love to a hurting world? When it comes to healing the divide not only does love cover it all but:

  • The Golden rule says it all.

How many of you have heard of the Golden Rule?  Is it:
A. Do unto others before they do unto you.
B. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.
C. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

In Matthew 7:12 Jesus gave us a very simple and practical rule by which to live, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” Really the Golden Rule is a combination of A and C, but we often look at is as B. We think of it as don’t do it unless I’d want it done to me. We teach our children not to make fun of other people unless we want them to make fun of us. And not to hit our sister unless we want to get hit as well. That is a complete reversal of the Golden Rule that’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In reality the Golden Rule is a positive command a command to do not a command not to do. It’s meant to guide us in how to bless others. Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. It’s what the Good Samaritan did and the priest and the Levite failed to do. I think the story of the Good Samaritan is great not because of the story itself but the way in which Jesus answers the man’s question. The man asks Who is my neighbor? In other words, who is it that I have to love? He wants something to do a rule to obey. Jesus answers by saying, Be a neighbor.  Jesus tells the man an attitude to embody, that of a loving person. Loving your neighbor isn’t a rule to obey it’s an attitude to embody. In truth loving your spouse isn’t a rule to obey it’s an attitude to embody and live out. Loving your kids isn’t a rule to obey it’s an attitude to embody and live out. Loving your friends isn’t a rule to obey it’s an attitude to embody and live out. We have to ask ourselves in our relationships are we the Priest, the Levite or the Good Samaritan? Authentic Christianity is expressed by a love for others and in Matthew 5:13-14, 16 it says “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. So why are we here? To be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. Several years ago someone gave me a gift. When I unwrapped it I discovered a jar of salt with these words, “Thank you for living a flavorful life keep it salty!” Are you living out loud for Jesus, are you living a bold or a bland life? You’re here to be light in a dark world. Are you living a life of light? When we are divisive, we bring darkness to the discussion not light. But light livers bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We need to be generous with your lives and live life as an open house. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God. When we make the mission lighting up our world with love the way God loves us, it takes the focus off of self and puts it on serving others. But many times we would rather make excuses and justifications as to why we can’t and won’t love others because of what they have or haven’t done for us and we end up with the focus on US! But our faith in Christ is supposed to spill out into our relationships with other people. We’re not supposed to hoard the good news of Jesus, and we’re supposed to do good for others in His name. This great commandment pushes us out and helps us to truly grasp what it means to be an authentic Christian. It is our roadmap and checklist so to say. Are you touching others with the love of Jesus? There are a lot of ways to do that but let me suggest three to get you started.

* Start with your closest neighbor your family! How many of us easily give to those that we don’t know and withhold from the ones we know best! When you treat your spouse as the special gift to you that God intended you are letting your relationship with God spill out into your marriage. Listen to your child’s heart is letting your relationship with God spill out into parenting.

* Volunteer your gifts. Look for ways to help someone in your neighborhood in some area in which you have abilities. What has God gifted you to do that you can use to bless someone else? It could be as simple as shoveling someone’s sidewalk, or helping them clean out their gutters. Maybe you are a gifted griller, and you can have some of your neighbors over for a cook-out. Just to get to know them better and share some good food.

* Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with your neighbor. Our neighbors, your marriages, kids, friends, co-workers and bosses all need Jesus, just like you do.