Against You Only

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

These verses are taken from Psalm 51.  The inscription attached to this Psalm tells us that it is a Psalm of David, written after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba.  David knew he had done things that were very wrong.  He had sinned against Bathsheba by leading her into adultery;  he had betrayed the trust of her husband and then had him killed;  he had disgraced his people by abusing his power as King and setting a poor example for others.  He tried to get away with his sin, and he thought he had, but he was wrong. God knew, and ultimately the sin was about his disobedience to God.  That’s what stands out for me in this Psalm.

We can hide our sins from others and sometimes we even hide them from ourselves.  We ignore them, cover them up or deny them.  We tell ourselves that in the great scheme of things, our sins are petty and not worth worrying about.  This is what a Pastor I knew once called “stinkin’ thinkin’.”  ALL sins affect our relationship with God, and we need to repent and make things right with the people we have injured and with Him.  Whenever we sin, we sin against God.

Fortunately for David, and for us, God is forgiving.  1 John 1:9 tell us:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In order to lead a life of repentance, we must first, like David, recognize our sin– we must repent daily.  Then God is His lovingkindness will restore us.  He forgave David, and He will forgive you and me.

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Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World–Movie Review

I borrowed this film from our local library and watched it last night with my husband and some friends. I may be going a little off topic for the month with this review, but if you know anything about Martin Luther, you’re aware that he was well acquainted with the concept of repentance!  He spent so much time confessing that he was told to go away and come back when he had something worthwhile to report!  Released in 2017, this  movie depicts the major events in Luther’s life, interspersed with comments by theologians and historians.  Every word spoken by Luther was taken verbatim from his writings.  It was well done and gave a good, basic chronological account of the history of the Protestant Reformation.  Even if you’re well versed in this history, there were any number of interesting facts you may not know.  For example:

  • Luther wrote about 25% of the materials printed during his life
  • He was not paid for any of his writing
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s name was originally Michael King.  His father changed both of their names to Martin Luther out of admiration for the great reformer
  • Luther stated that his reason for marrying his wife Katie, was to please his father and spite the pope

Lutherans and history buffs will enjoy this PBS production, and I would certainly recommend it for confirmands.  I give it five stars!

Have any readers seen this film?  If so, I’d welcome some other comments.

Churches Need to Repent, too

As part of our Fanning the Flame process, my husband, our Pastor, has asked the church council to do the exercise I described earlier:  pray and meditate, making a list of sins and repenting.  There’s a little twist for them as leaders, however.  In addition to their personal sins, they are to consider the sins we have committed as a church.

One of the council members told me she is having a hard time with this. ” I can easily think of things I’ve done wrong”, she said, “but what has the church done wrong over the years?”

If you read Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, you will find that Jesus rebukes the churches for things like this:

  • Losing their fervor for good works
  • Listening to false teachers
  • Putting a stumbling block in the way of some who might believe
  • Practicing or allowing sexual immorality among the members
  • Depending upon themselves instead of God
  • Doing good works for the wrong reasons
  • Being “lukewarm” instead of passionate about following Christ

In the same chapters, Christ commends these churches for many things, but he still tells them they need to repent (hmmm…. back to Luther’s first Thesis again.)  Hopefully this exercise will raise our consciousness as a congregation.  Have we been too preoccupied with ourselves?  Have we focused on maintenance instead of spreading the Gospel to those around us?  Have we given sacrificially?  Have we ignored bad behavior instead of lovingly correcting it?  Our church is made up of people, and people are sinful.  There’s no getting around it.  We need to repent and allow God to change us into the church he wants us to be.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen;  repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.”  Revelation 2:5

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Need for Repentance

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No Limits Attached

In a previous post, I wrote about the talk by Pastor Lynn Downing our Fanning the Flame team listened to together.  In that talk, Pastor Downing stated that true repentance means allowing God to change us in accordance with His will –NO LIMITS ATTACHED.  That reminded me of a quote by Henri Nouwen, who was a Catholic priest, professor and author of many book on spirituality.  Here’s Henri’s confession about that:

“I love Jesus, but want to hold on to my own friends even when they do not lead me closer to Jesus.  I love Jesus, but want to hold onto my own independence even when it brings me no real freedom.  I love Jesus, but do not want to lose the respect of my professional colleagues even when their respect does not make me grow spiritually.  I love Jesus, but do not want to give up my writing, travel, and speaking plans even when they are often more to my glory than God’s.”

I suspect we all have a list like this;  I know I do.  I love Jesus, but don’t want to give so much of my income to the needy that I can’t buy what I want, go out to dinner or take vacations. I love Jesus, but I don’t want to give up all or even part of my secular reading and tv shows in order to spend more time in prayer and study.  I love Jesus, but I still like to impress others with my accomplishments — and so on.  My point?  I’m still pretty far from that “no limits attached” ideal of repentance.  I guess this is what Luther meant in his first thesis — living a life of repentance is a life-long project.

In later life, Henri Nouwen did grow closer to NO LIMITS ATTACHED.  He went to work at a facility for the disabled, became a chaplain and caregiver, and always took one of the residents with him on speaking engagements.  He repented of his pride and neediness and He did allow God to change him. With God’s help you and I can do the same.

Create in me…

Create in mePsalm 51 is David’s cry to the Lord for forgiveness.  It’s one of my favorite passages in the Psalms.  David has just realized his sins against the Lord, which happen to include adultery and murder.

I don’t see myself as a “bad” person.  I’m basically good.  I work everyday, try to be nice to all I meet.  I pay my bills, go to church, put money in the collection plate.  I’m usually slow to anger, letting others be who they are.  So why would I need to repent?  How sinful can a good person be?

I don’t want to think that I’m sinful.  It’s our culture, it’s in the world.  If I am basically good, I’m OK, I’m a “good” person.  But even with what I described above,  God considers me sinful.  What about those thoughts that I don’t act on?  What about the “self-talk” that goes on in my head?  God knows those thoughts.  Paul says in Romans:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:18-20

I need to come before the Lord daily and pray this Psalm.  God knows my heart and if I come before Him, with a contrite heart and pray, He can do wonderful things in my life.  Do you want to join me?

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis–Book Review

Why would a middle class teenager who “had it all” choose to move to Uganda, thousands of miles away from her parents, her brother and the love of her life?

Why would she choose to become the adoptive single mother of thirteen girls?

Why would she open her home to ill, dying and needy people?

It’s actually simple.  Katie Davis loves Jesus and her greatest desire is to be in the center of His will for her.  Kisses from Katie is her story.  It humbles me and brings me face to face with the fact that I often say “no” to God’s will for my life, or worse yet, don’t even make an attempt to discern what His will is.  I need to repent of my headstrong desire to have my own way.  I also need to repent of my callousness toward others who have so much less than I do.

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After reading Katie’s second book, which I reviewed last week, I was hungry to learn where and how her story started.  I highly recommend both.  These books are a wake-up call to American Christians (and I am one of them) who live their comfortable lives obliviously forgetting the Bible’s command to feed the hungry and help those who are without  basics like clean water, shelter, education and medical care.

Katie makes the point that we don’t all have to go to Uganda.  We can love those around us who need our care, one person at a time.  It’s not that hard, and it’s the only fitting response to those who have been saved by His grace.  Read this book.  It may change your life.