sin

Heavenly Affections

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

I’ve grown so weary of bad news.  Day after day thousands of news outlets pour all their efforts into reporting tragic happenings; from images of flag-draped caskets to flooded streets and water rescues.  Video footage from drought stricken countries, war-torn nations, community violence, and school shootings have become commonplace and we’re barely even moved by the reports. It seems as if it never ends and certainly never gets better…especially if you’re a pastor.

Pastors often hear the worst things.  In counseling sessions, people pour out their hearts.  I will say this, nothing surprises me any more…nothing.  In nearly 25 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned that people endure horrendous and tumultuous events; and many on a regular basis.  I hear of financial failure, ruined relationships, bizarre addictions, and the list goes on… It never ceases.

Then there’s the video I saw today, of the little boy in Syria whose home was destroyed by a bomb.  He sits in the back of an ambulance, dirty, disoriented, and wiping blood off his forehead.  It was such a sad and sickening sight.

Sin is everywhere, and like a snail that leaves a slimy trial, or a tornado that leaves utter destruction in its path, sin devastates.  I’m sick of the result of sin.  I’m sick of it in my life, the life of my family, the life of the people I shepherd, and it’s far reaching effect throughout the whole of humanity.  In one sense, sin is the mother of disaster; where sin abounds, disaster thrives.  I am simply tired of it all.  The more suffering I see, the more I can be identified with Romans 8:19…

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

In other words, I long to see Jesus.  I long for the day when creation will be restored.  I long for the day that is described in the book of Revelation,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)

Sure, there’s a lot I want to do, a lot of gospel I want to preach, but the more I see this world, the more I want to see Jesus.  David felt the same many years ago when he wrote,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Psalm 63:1, ESV)

A “dry and weary land” gives you great thirst.  For those who are alive in Christ, he is consistently and perfectly creating a disdain in us for the things of this world and ever increasing our desire for him, to be realized ultimately in his presence.  Come Lord Jesus…

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Categories: bible, biblical, Brother, Christians, cross, Glory, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, king David, sin, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

God is Greater than our Messes

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I have several close friends who pastor churches much like the one I pastor.  We all love what we do and contribute an incredible amount of time, energy, and passion into it.  One of the major aspects of pastoring is what is called “preaching”.  Preaching, at least in the way my friends and I understand it and describe it simply means that we proclaim what the Bible says to the church when they gather together.  To each of us, this is a huge responsibility and an awe-inspiring task because we are telling people what God is saying and we are ultimately responsible to God for how we handle His Word!  Indeed, preaching the Word of God is a weighty thing.

Because of the weightiness of it, each of us want to do the best we can with the content of the sermon as well as the delivery, so we pour all we have into it every time we preach.  If you approach preaching the way we do, it takes a lot out of you.  It’s been said that preaching a 30 minute sermon as it should be equates to working an 8 hour physical job.  Now I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but I’ve done both and by in large that’s been my experience.  So when you couple the importance of preaching with the mental and physical aspect of it, the final result can make for some high powered Sunday night and Monday morning preacher talk!

Case in point… every Sunday evening or Monday morning my preacher friends and I take to Facebook Messenger and discuss how our preaching went.  We discuss whether or not our sermon content was true to the text; if our delivery was suitable, etc… Recently it seems we all, at least in our estimation, “failed miserably!”  Normally there’s a couple of us that seemed to do at least “ok”, but that particular Sunday appeared to have been an across the board disaster!  Some of the words and/or phrases we used to describe our sermons were, “I laid an egg…”; “I preached a clunker…”; “It was a real dud…”; “a downright debacle”; and even, “A deluge of garbage!”  One of my friends even threatened to do what I have thought about doing several times in the past, “I’m calling all my church members and apologizing for that sermon!”  It seemed like the loathing of ourselves and our sermons went on for hours.  Maybe it was a case of “misery loves company”; regardless, it was a genuine loser fest for sure!

In one sense, we all felt as if we had let our people down, but more so the very One who had assigned us to the task of preaching, God Himself.  We commiserated with each other for longer than we should have, then we moved on, looking forward to an opportunity to “redeem” ourselves the next Sunday.  It was at that point of our pity party that one of my preacher friends said something that we all knew, but were too busy wallowing in our ineptitude to realize, “I’m thankful that our God is a God that redeems messes.”  It was a sobering moment and a magnificent reminder as well.  It reminded me that God doesn’t need me!  On the other hand, He has chosen me for the task of preaching and privileged me to partake in His mission of redemption.  He will accomplish His will with or without me, but He has highly blessed me in giving me the privilege of proclaiming the “unsearchable riches of Christ” through preaching. It’s certainly not because of my ability, but in spite of my inability.  That’s a wonderful truth in any task we attempt for God!

The apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Corinthian church, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV).

So there you have it; “God redeems our messes” and uses our inabilities and even our flaws for His glory!  So the next time you attempt to serve God but fail because of your inabilities, learn from it, endeavor in the power of the Holy Spirit to improve, and leave it to God.  He will indeed redeem our messes and make diamonds out of coal.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Categories: bible, God, grace, hampstead, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mercy, messes, preaching exposition exaltation exultation church, sin | Leave a comment

Proper remembering of sin

“And Saul approved of his execution…” From Acts 8:1, speaking of the stoning of one of the first deacons and the first martyr, Stephen… Can you imagine how the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) must have struggled with the fact that he was responsible for the torture, imprisonment, and even death of Christians!  No doubt those words, “And Saul approved of his execution…” must have haunted him and lived in the forefront of Paul’s mind consistently.  If Paul was like most of us, the thought of his former self, his former sin, probably consumed his thoughts and brought him much agony.  But we must remember that this was before God breathed spiritual life into him, made his heart of stone a heart of flesh, forgave his sins, and imputed the righteousness of Christ upon him!  Let that sink in for a moment… This was the same man whose life seemed to be devoted to extinguishing Christianity and anything to do with it!

If you read a bit farther into the Acts 8 you will find these words, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (ESV).  Say what you want, but this is a clear case of human depravity manifesting itself.  This was a self-righteous human doing what self-righteous humans do… Saul, in one sense was the worst of the worst; the epitome of ungodliness; a picture of evil!  He hated the thought of Jesus and Christianity; so much so that he practiced what could be called an inverse Holocaust.  Saul simply wanted to rid the world of what was known as “The Way”, or what we know as Christianity, and he was passionate and good at it! He continued that endeavor until God rocked his world!!

There he was, on his way to Damascus, no doubt thinking he was in control and would soon put an end to this nonsense they call Christianity; when Jesus appeared to him, blinded him with his glory, and breathed life into his wretchedly dead self!  This is when the Christian killer Saul became the Christ exalting Paul and his purpose and desire in life was to bring glory to Christ and to take the gospel of Jesus to the entire world!!

So what’s my point?  My point is God’s grace is more amazing than any human can fathom and, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, can cover the most wretched of sins.  A.W. Pink described Grace like this,

“…grace is something more than “unmerited favor.” To feed a tramp who calls on me is “unmerited favor,” but it is scarcely grace. But suppose that after robbing me I should feed this starving tramp—that would be “grace.” Grace, then, is favor shown where there is positive de-merit in the one receiving it.”

This definition describes the apostle Paul perfectly.  It also describes the remainder of humanity!  All of humanity has sinned against the Holy God, not only in our actions but with our nature as well.  Our sin is sickening to the holy God and He has every right to pour out his wrath on the whole of us!  But for those who have been redeemed, bought with and by the blood of Christ, that sin is a thing of the past, never to be held against us!  The amazingly gracious God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)!  In other words, there’s no sin so large that the sacrifice of the righteous Jesus can’t cover!

If we say our sins are too large or horrible to be forgiven, we are doing nothing less than cheapening the sacrifice of Christ, watering down God’s grace, and making a mockery of the gospel. So, as a Christian, when we think about our sin before Jesus made us alive; when we have those, “And Saul approved of his execution…” moments; remember that we have been redeemed from that sin and that the remembrance of them should only be used to remind of of God’s grace, mercy, love, and glory!! 

Rest in God’s grace…
Categories: grace, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, remember, sin, the apostle paul, wrath | Leave a comment

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