What ever Happened to Sin?

With all the debate about highly paid kneeling athletes one might be led to believe that racism is something new and shocking. In a way it is good and healthy to be able to talk about right versus wrong but that conversation apparently begins and ends with only one or two subjects. Any conversation about sin in the church seems to run into a dead-end. We don’t want to judge or worse be thought of as hypocritical because of our personal failures. Yet while here on earth, Jesus minced few words when it came to pointing out sin. He regularly pointed out that the Pharisees were adulterers, covetous and in danger of hell for their hard-hearts and attitudes.

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The preaching of God’s grace was never meant to end up as an accommodation of sin. Yes we are all weak and we are all in need of a great Savior to forgive us. But sin remains sin. Adultery has grown to be so much the norm that we forget that it still destroys families. Gambling which is simply the marriage of stealing and covetousness continues to march through our nation with new and bigger casinos in every state. The idea of honoring the Sabbath has been so completely abandoned that even a brief Sunday morning feel-good meeting is too inconvenient to sacrifice the chance for overtime pay. Jesus’ sermon on the Mount has lost its message as a revolutionary overthrow of sin and is  today looked at as some kind of nice collection of sweet ideas.

 

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15

Maybe those kneeling athletes who have at least started a debate about racism have stumbled onto a starting concept that we as Christians ought to consider following. What would happen if we began to take a stand no matter the price for the things that Jesus taught us to do? What if like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, people actually knew that we would do without conveniences in order to live for Jesus Christ? What if this year instead of a trip to a theme park we spent a week volunteering in a homeless shelter. What if we turned off the Super Bowl and went to church to pray? Just standing for the national anthem will not move us one inch closer to God while our children grow up without a father or mother in the home because of the failure of yet another marriage. We need to do more than smile and just talk about grace. It is time for the mighty power of that grace to be allowed to radically change our lives and we will discover that there is nothing more joyful, more peaceful and more liberating than being cleansed from real sins by a real God who really sent His Son into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief!

A Life Worth Living

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 ESV

Your life may be the only Bible someone else will come across. Live it true to the hope that God has pit inside us and they may stop to read

When we forget our eternal hope in Christ and begin focusing on the things of this world His light shines just a little less to the people around us. But when we sink under the waves, others will be sure to ask us what it felt like walking hand in hand with Jesus when we climb back into the boat!

And Can it Be?

And can it be that even on our darkest days when we face our most difficult people God is giving us opportunity to show mercy? Maybe He leads us through the valley of the shadow so that we can learn to forgive even there. A bit further on and on sunnier days we may discover how merciful and forgiving He has been to us when we were most dark and difficult with others.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy  Matthew 5:7

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Gone Fishing

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus         John 21:3-4

 We used to live in a very small town. There was one store, a gas station, and a post office the size of a large bedroom. Moving there from the city was something of a culture shock and one of the most intriguing discoveries was to come to a small store in the area and find it closed during business p1020212hours. Usually there was a sign reading, “Open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 12-3PM: or “gone fishing”. In the city it was unheard of to close down when there was business to be done, but not in farm country.

In the same way the disciples chose to be laid back about the things that Jesus had called them to do. They didn’t know where to begin, so going fishing seemed like as good an idea as any. You might think that Jesus would show up and give them a long lecture. But instead of treating the disciples the way any “normal boss” would do He chose instead to show up and cook them all breakfast! Can you imagine the conversation around the breakfast table that morning?

The good news for us is that even when we act a lot like the disciples by “going fishing” Jesus comes where we are with grace. He doesn’t wait for us to get everything just right. So once we finish the breakfast He stayed up all night to cook, let’s remember to share His message of love with the same grace which he gave when He waited all night for us to come to shore.

Grace at the Hem of His Garment

 

And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment Matthew 9:20

There was only one hem on the garment of Christ. In fact when the soldiers went to divide his clothing they gambled for His outer garment because it was all on piece. The only hem available for the woman to touch was at the very lowest point of the robe of Jesus Christ.

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Like this woman in the crowd our own needs may have dominated our focus for years. Friends, family, holidays, and even her ability to enter a place or worship all were consumed by the power of her need – until that day. On that day as Jesus was passing by in the crowd a new found hope welled up in her heart. We are not told if she had listened to Jesus’ words herself or if she had simply believed what others had told her about him. What we do know is that the message she had heard about Jesus Christ was sufficient for her to throw off her reserve and by faith determine that she would do anything to get to Him. The power of her need was for that one single moment had no ability to prevent her from pressing through the busy crowd in order to fall to her knees and reach up and touch the hem of His robe.

The good news for us is that our invisible God gives us a visible point of contact but it may lie only in the lowest of places. Grace can always be found at the lowest place. When we are willing, when we are looking, when hearts are are humbled He will pass by and give us a small but visible connection to His invisible power and grace!

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble James 4:6

 

Yet God

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

I like nothing of weakness infirmity or disability. I despise the inability my weak state brings me to. There is so much that needs to be done which requires, strength, endurance and intelligence – Yet God-delights in those moments when I am utterly incapacitated and cannot meet my daily demands.

I hate sitting and only listening when I feel I should speak or spending sleepless nights tossing and turning over struggles which are beyond my ability to face -Yet God- has promised that when I trust Him when I can no longer trust myself that He will give me grace.

His grace is enough in every need. His grace is enough when I cannot understand. His grace is enough when my plans end like tangled threads which His fingers alone can unknot and weave into a carpet of grace. His grace is enough when I can not sing a note to give me song in the night. Oh yes – I do not love my weakness -Yet God- has promised that in my weakness His power and strength are made perfect.

2 Corinthians 12:9b Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Seventh Christmas Gift

Seventh Gift of Christmas – Grace 

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6

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If Jesus came as a barefoot child to your home would he be welcomed in? If He knocked at your door would He be considered a stranger? If He asked for your time would he be treated as an honored guest? If He was rejected by your neighbors would He be defended as a part of your family?

The good news of Immanuel (God with us) is that Jesus passes through our little world every day in all these hidden ways. If we want to know the riches of the gift of His grace, what better way than to give it away?