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?

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Am I Habituating?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

If you follow our blog, you know I’ve been currently dealing with a difficult situation.  Due to water damage, our condo is currently unlivable, so we have moved in with friends and are cooking at our daughter’s apartment.  This has been going on for a few weeks now, and I’m starting to adjust.  What seemed uncomfortable is becoming normal.  I’ve started to habituate.  Now in this instance, habituating is probably good.  I’m developing a new routine and that allows me to feel better about my life and the things that are going on.

However, we all habituate in less healthy ways.  Consider our television viewing habits, for instance.  When I was a child in the 1950’s, the “I Love Lucy” show could not even portray a married couple sharing a double bed, or use the word “pregnant” (referring to a married woman).  Now we routinely see unmarried couples unclothed and embracing on the screen, and the words we hear are certainly not fit for children (or sensitive adults) to hear.  We’ve habituated to the world’s standards, and they are very, very low.

In the same way, when we’re around people who gossip, brag, complain or criticize others we can easily find ourselves falling into the same patterns and developing the same mindset.

We may be told so often to “look out for number one,”  that we begin to find cheating on our taxes, running a red light or cutting corners at our job to be acceptable.  After all, doesn’t everybody do it?

As soon as we begin to tolerate such behavior, we’ve habituated to sin.  Pretty soon, we don’t even recognize it as sinful; and  then we start believing that sin doesn’t really exist.  People simply “make mistakes.”  We say sorry (because we got caught) but inside, we don’t really repent.  We become more and more self-centered, which is the very definition of sin.

The verse above warns us about this kind of faulty thinking.  We need to be influenced by the WORD not the WORLD. We can’t avoid sin unless we avoid all people (including ourselves);  but we can “transform our minds” by reading and meditating on God’s Word, praying, and  attending worship So today I challenge you (and myself) to take a realistic look at our lives.  What sins have become habitual?  What can we do to “habituate” to Godly behavior instead?

 

 

Does the World’s Environment Change?

Sometimes we agree with that famous quote from A Tale of Two Cities, 

“It was the best of all times and the worst of all times.”

We look around and see deep divisions between people of different ethnic and religious groups, scammers, fake news, wars and immigration problems.  Recently I read a book about the famous “Siamese twins,” Eng and Chang.  They became Americans and lived through the Civil War.  The author followed the personal and professional life of the twins, and the history of the times in which they lived.  Guess what?  Many of the problems that worry and distress us today were around then as well.

At that time, the nation was divided politically, economically and racially.  I imagine many citizens could not imagine how the United States could come back together and truly become one again.  Resentments and economic problems abounded.  The scammers of that day were men like P.T. Barnum who preyed on the public’s appetite for the bizarre and unusual, and Yankee peddlers who sold useless remedies to gullible customers.  Fake news was around too, as newspapers then saw how sensational (although fictitious) stories fueled sales.  There were immigration issues as well–but they centered around the Chinese rather than Mexicans.

My point?  The worldly environment will never be perfect.  The “good old days” weren’t really so good.  The Bible tells us that:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

We can’t change the fact that sin is in the world and will remain with us until Jesus comes again.  However, we can make positive changes in ourselves, and those changes will affect the environment around us.  Go in peace and serve the Lord!

P.S. If you are interested in reading the book I mentioned it is Inseparable:  The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with History by Yunte Huang

New Month – New Theme

Wow, it is hard to believe February has come and gone already.  We are all currently in the season of Lent, that period of sacrifice that leads up to the Good Friday, and thankfully Easter.

I hope you have found the posts this past month to be fun, enlightening and most importantly – true to God’s word.  For the month of March it seems appropriate to talk about direction.  You know what I mean – Are you sure where you are going?

Let me put it another way – Are you in the non smoking or smoking section?

Follow us this month and let us help you figure it out if you are not sure.

 

As always

God Loves You And So Do We

Michele

Undeserved Love #2

My husband and I often borrow DVDs from our local library, and recently we began watching some of the classic musicals.  We started with “My Fair Lady.”  You may recall that this play (originally Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw) tells the story of a language professor who through training, betters the speech of a flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) to such a great extent that she can successfully masquerade as a fine lady.  In the movie, Eliza’s father describes himself as being one of the “underserving poor.”

No, no, I can’t afford ’em, gov’ner. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any ‘arm, mind you, but if Eliza’s getting a bit out of this, why not me too? Eh? Why not? Well, look at it my way – what am I? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor, that’s what I am. Now think what that means to a man. It means that he’s up against middle-class morality for all of time. If there’s anything going, and I puts in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: “you’re undeserving, so you can’t have it.” But my needs is as great as the most deserving widows that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same ‘usband. I don’t need less than a deserving man, I need more! I don’t eat less ‘earty than ‘e does, and I drink, oh, a lot more. I’m playin’ straight with you. I ain’t pretendin’ to be deserving. No, I’m undeserving. And I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it and that’s the truth

Read more: http://stageagent.com/monologues/616/my-fair-lady/alfred-p-doolittle#ixzz562eN4vQd

Of course, we find this laughable — who would admit, even be proud of the fact that he’s undeserving.  Actually what he says is quite true.  The underserving need help even more than the deserving, and guess what?  Folks, we are all one of the undeserving in God’s eyes.  Sometimes, like Alfred Doolittle, we even like our sin.  We’re usually not so honest about it though.  We prefer to think “we’re good people” who are “doing the best we can.”  That’s what a Pastor I used to know called “stinking thinking.”  The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans tells us:

“None is righteous, no not one;  no on understands;  no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside;  together they have become worthless;  no one does good, not even one.”  Romans 3:10-12

Love, Died, Cross, Thorns, Crown, Heart, Bible, Shadow

Fortunately for us, the undeserving, there is good news:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

Be honest.  Admit you’re undeserving.  Then rejoice in the gift God gave you and love others in the same way.

Who Do You Fear?

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matt. 10:28

I’ve started reading a book by Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black;  maybe you’ve heard of it.  Piper is the typical upper middle class girl.  She graduates from college, and unfortunately is attracted to the wrong person — a woman whose life seems exciting and adventurous.  turns out her lifestyle is funded by drug money.  She invites Piper to travel with her as she manages drug mules and money laundering couriers in exotic places;  it’s fun … for a while.  Eventually Piper is put into a situation where she crosses the line and delivers a suitcase full of dirty money for her friend.  The stress and fear she experiences while committing this act wakes her up to the fact that she’s in over her head, so she flees.  She moves, gets a regular job, reconnects with family and eventually is engaged to a nice young man.  She’s recovered her “normal” life and nobody  is aware of that brief, foolish, lapse in judgement.

Ten years later federal agents knock on her door to tell her she is being indicted for drug trafficking.  At this point she must confess to her fiancé and family.  She is humbled and embarrased as she agrees to plead guilty to a charge of money laundering and serve three years in prison.  Then something even worse happens — shortly after sentencing, her date with prison in postponed indefinitely, as the authorities want her to be available to testify against one of the drug kingpins “in street clothes, not an orange jumpsuit.”

Okay, I’m finally getting to the point.  For years Piper lives with a jail sentence hanging over her.  Can you imagine how awful that would be?  She knew she had committed a crime and she was going to prison, she just didn’t know when or where.  It was a miserable way to live. I could empathize with her pain and terror, trying to lead a normal life, yet knowing the punishment that was waiting for her.  But, think about it, without Jesus, wouldn’t we be in the very same situation?

Like Piper, we go on living our lives, telling ourselves that our sins don’t have consequences.  They’re not big sins anyway.  Just the kind of things we fell into without really thinking;  things somebody else lured into;  things that happened when we were young and inexperienced.  We foolishly think we’ll never be called to account.

The Bible tells a different story.  Judgement is hanging over us and we don’t know when it will come.  Most of us, like Piper, would be terrified at the thought of going to prison, even for a short time — so why aren’t we worried about spending eternity separated from God?  Piper was humbled before an earthly judge;  at some future date, we’ll all bow before the Lord God Almighty!  She was pathetically grateful for those who spoke up for her in order to reduce her sentence because she knew what she really deserved — how grateful should we be to Jesus who died to save us from the fate awaiting us?

Christmas is a time to rejoice in the good news that our sentence has been commuted, thanks to the God who came as a helpless baby, willing to bear our punishment. We’ve been released from the penalty of sin. We don’t have an eternity of darkness hanging over us.  Now we need to live a life that reflects gratitude for that grace.  Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to appreciate the gift we’ve received.

 

“The Oath” by Frank Peritti

My mom gave me this book a couple of years ago and I finally read it about 6 or 7 months ago. I was expecting the usual horror genre we usually exchange, but was I in for a shock.

This is a fictional story that addresses the very real sin that dwells within each of us.   What makes The Oath memorable is its metaphor for sin and how it can numb the sinner.   Peretti’s dragon is a great analogy for how sin blends in around us and works almost unseen until it devours us.  His opening remark “Sin is the monster we love to deny”  is absolutely brilliant.

I won’t say too much, since this book is hard to explain without giving spoilers, but I will say that The Oath is a deep, thought-provoking novel with a theme that sticks with you long after you’ve read the final page. It’s creepy, as in don’t-read-before-bed creepy, and is definitely not a fun, light read. But I love how Frank Peretti isn’t afraid to include overt Christian themes in his books.