Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Are You Being Honest About Your Own Sin??



In Times of Stress and Turmoil We Are Tempted to Sin
Barbara Henderson

Well, it seems like a normal day but it’s not!  Most things are going along as usual, but just a few things are totally out of whack!  Have you ever had days like that?  Or maybe weeks?  Or months? Or even years!  There are just a few ‘issues’ that won’t go away.  It may have something to do with work, or home life, or church, or even a hobby that you love.  And in the middle of the turmoil or stress is usually one person, or one person and his/her followers.  What a mess one person can make of what should have been a lovely day.  It can get to the point that the mere thought of that person sets your teeth on edge like you have been eating sour grapes! 

The next thing you know, you’re grumpy!  You are a little too sharp with your replies to those around you.  Their feelings are hurt.  They are grumpy and they pass it on to those around them.  Somewhere in the middle of this turmoil is sin.  You aren’t the ‘original sinner’ in this case, but sin is still an issue in how you act.  And that is how the cookie crumbles, or how one rotten apple spoils the entire barrel of apples.  In times like this one of the most effective prayers we can pray is simply, ‘Help us not to sin’, or more specifically, ‘help ME not to sin’. ‘Lord help us not to sin’ is a prayer that is also relevant to every day of our lives – even the days that are as perfect as earthly days can be. 

Here is an article I wrote on that subject not long after my dad died.

Daddy Always Prayed, ‘Help Us Not to Sin’

My dad was a ‘oner’, meaning the Lord only made one like him. Mom is a oner as well. It was very obvious to anyone that a man as peculiar as dad needed a wife equally peculiar. I could tell you stories about daddy for a solid two weeks without even having to repeat myself one time. He carefully shielded his children from knowing the stories related to his time in the Navy during WWII, so I don’t any really bad stories. Most of the stories involve mom. Together they were able to ‘make it’. To ‘make it’ is an old fashioned phrase meaning to get through whatever happened. Their goal was to actually live the life of a committed Christian. They knew a great deal about what the Bible teaches, and they worked to apply Bible teaching to personal actions. Now, you can’t get any better than that.

At family gatherings, dad was normally the one who would ask the blessing on the meal. Sometimes he was asked to pray in church. Sometimes dad would get to pray over a new baby in the family. In fact, family members with a new baby were nervous until dad was able to pray over the baby. He didn’t do some sort of highbrow prayer. He just asked the Lord to mark the baby’s heart for his own and to bless the little one and his parents.

Whatever the occasion for prayer, dad always ended a prayer like this. He said, ‘And help us not to sin. In Jesus name Amen.’

Now, our youngest grandson prays like that, although he was not around dad enough to have learned to pray that way from dad. He is just very well aware that even though you set out to do right, you often do wrong. This little one is ten, and likely to burst out in prayer at the drop of a hat. He prays about everything, including indigestion and nightmares. He has no problem with taking all his problems and trials directly to God.

So, I see from the elder, my dad, to the younger, my grandson, sin is recognized as something that we do, but something that we ought not to do – but we do it anyway. It isn’t that strange. Paul, the greatest mortal to the Gentiles, had the same problem. What he wanted to do, he didn’t do. And, what he didn’t want to do, he did. That is all too familiar to me.

If you look around at the world today, you will see sin everywhere. I suppose it isn’t that shocking that sin is everywhere. After all, every human being is born with that sin nature. There is no escaping it in this life. People born into loving and wealthy families still sin. People born in poverty and sorrow still sin. Sin is in every economic and social level. Sin is inescapable, both in our own lives and in the world around us.

Sin is so common that people begin to take it for granted. Something as life changing and important as sin is trivialized to the point that it doesn’t mean anything really bad unless it is a sin that will get you jail time. Adultery and sex outside marriage are considered so trivial it isn’t even news. The teenagers and single adults NOT having sex are the odd ones. The consequences of sex in general like pregnancies and STD’s are even further trivialized. Pregnant? Just get rid of it. Pick up an STD? There’s an antibiotic or a shot for that most of the time. And that is just one area. There are many more.

Christians see the big or bigger sins all around us. They are easy to spot if you can even recite half of the ten commandments. It is so easy to say, ‘That is worse than what I do’. And, it probably really is worse than what you/I/we do.

If I had to pick two sins that cause the most trouble, the first one would be lying. That is not telling the truth. When we think of that sin we think of big lies. But, the truth is that most big lies start with little lies.
And, we think of lying to other people.
But the first person we have to lie to is ourselves.
We lie about stuff that doesn’t seem important, but it really is very important.

We lie about things like:
That TV show won’t hurt me to watch because I don’t want the kids to watch it.
I have had a very bad day, so that gives me the right to vent my frustration on family.
I had a bad day and the cure for my frustration is a relaxing hour drinking fattening coffee and eating rich desserts.
I don’t have to be nice to that person because they are not nice to me.
I don’t have to do a good job because I am under-paid and under-appreciated.

These are all lies, and they all hurt.
Whatever the truth may be, it matters. We don’t need to lie to ourselves by making things worse than they are, or better than they are, or more important than they are, or more trivial than they are.

After lying to ourselves for a while, we don’t see the problem with a few small lies to others..

It does matter.

And, the second sin I see is that Christians seem to be sadly lacking in charitable love. Even Christians are predisposed to love ourselves more than we love others. That is a sin. We are to love others the way Christ loved us. That was charitable love, love that was not earned or deserved.

Loving ourselves more than we love others leads to what I call the ‘disconnect syndrome’. People are just going through the motions. Even in the middle of Christian families the family leaders are busy doing whatever they think they need to do above what actually needs to be done. They need to love family members more than they love themselves. You can work out the family dynamics yourself, but usually every family member could be more charitable to other family members. Everyone could give more time and attention to building a strong family.

I really miss my dad. I wish I could hear him pray again, ‘Help us not to sin’. We could all add a couple of lines to dad’s ending for prayer. We could say,
‘Help us not to sin,
Help us to tell the truth
Help us to love each other like Jesus loved us with charitable love,
In Jesus name,
Amen.

--End article--

1 Samuel chapter 12 gives us an example of people who had turned away from God’s spokesman Samuel and demanded a king.  Samuel was undoubtedly very hurt by their actions, but he said, ‘Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you’. (1 Sam. 12:23a)  

Luke 6:28 instructs us to, ‘Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

You may be tempted to think, ‘I’m not liking this at all.  THEY cause all the trouble and I’m supposed to pray for them?  The answer is,’ Yes, if you want to be obedient to God you are supposed to pray for them.  It will benefit them, but it will benefit you more. Praying for those who cause trouble in your life keeps you from growing bitter and harming those you love.  It  keeps the way clear between you and God.  Nothing is more important than that. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Did You Know that Bethlehem's Baby Grew Up to Be the Christ of Calvary?



The Story of Christmas is a Really Long Story
Barbara Henderson

There He was a tiny baby in the feed trough of farm animals.  How He came to be there is a very long story, and the story of that baby is not yet finished.  His story began before the world was even created.  It began in the mind of God.  The written story begins like this, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’  That is the first line in the Bible.  The end of that story is in the last few chapters of the Christian Bible.  You really need to read at least the last 2 chapters to see the full end, but here are 3 verses prophesying of the things God has promised to those that love him.
     ‘And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
     And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
     And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.’  Revelation 21:3-5

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  God is faithful.  He will keep His promises, so we can look forward to that promised day. The promises of God gives us strength to face difficult and even terrifying times. 

There really aren’t words to describe it, but there is a place called ‘eternity’ where God lives.  In that place God has a throne and wonderful things happen all the time.  There is no sin there.  For some reason God, who is actually three persons in one, decided to create earth.  And in the earth He set up time as we know it.

In the earth God created a perfect world.  When God created this perfect world, God knew it would not remain a perfect world.  He knew Eve would eat the forbidden fruit. He knew her husband would follow her example.  He knew what was going to happen then.

God had faced imperfection before in His own angels.  The angels had direct access to the Throne of God.  And yet one angel named Lucifer led a rebellion in heaven, and as unbelievable as it sounds, one third of the angels joined in the rebellion and got themselves kicked out of heaven and forever separated from the love and blessings of God.  What a tragedy.

AND THEN……

Adam and Eve did eat the forbidden fruit and became sinners.  Their sin separated them from God who is utterly and totally perfect. God quickly confronted Adam and Eve with their sin, made them clothing of animal skin, threw them out of the Garden east of Eden, and gave the first promise that a savior would one day come.  But first a lot of history was going to happen first.

People multiplied fast!  People sinned more than we can imagine.  A man called Noah built a giant boat called an ark.  It took over 100 years to build the boat.  As the years went by Noah provided a witness to the fact that Lord God was going to send a flood and drown all those who rejected Him as God.  In the end only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives got on the ark.  The rest of the world drowned.  Does that sound cruel?  It isn’t cruel. You see God made an offer to everyone to escape the flood.  All they had to do was come into the ark.  What would you say if the coast guard went out to rescue the crew and passengers of a sinking ship, but everyone refused to get on the rescue vessel?  Noah cried out to the people of the world for years!  Then the people watched as animals walked into the ark.  Yet they refused to enter in.  Then God Himself shut the door to the ark and the flood began.  Forty days and forty nights the rains fell and the storm raged.  But, in the safety of the ark the 8 people and all the animals were safe.

Eventually the ark landed.  The eight people got off and began to build a world anew.  But you can guess what happened next.  Sin abounded.  But through all this God did not abandon His creation.  The path to that baby in Bethlehem was still very long.

As the earth became populated sin abounded also.  One day God called out a man named Abram. Abram became a follower of the God of creation, and God made a very serious promise to Abram.  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.  God Himself made the change.  He gave Abraham a promise.  He said you and your wife Sarah are going to have a baby!  And through your baby boy’s children the savior will come. (See, we are getting closer to Bethlehem now.)  In spite of ‘distractions’ Sarah and Abraham had their promised baby boy.  There was a lot of drama going on while God’s promise was being fulfilled.

Then their son married, and had twin boys.  Eventually the younger boy was the one who grew into the man that God chose to carry on the line of Abraham’s children. His name was Jacob.  God later changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  Still, there was a lot more time that must pass before the promised redeemer would arrive.

Jacob’s children wound up living out their days in a land called Egypt.  From Jacob’s twelve sons was to come the line through which the Messiah would come.  The son chosen was Judah.  So, the line from which our Savior would come was narrowed down. The promised savior would be born from a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.  Four hundred years after the children of Israel first went to Egypt the Lord sent a champion to lead them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham.  Their mortal champion was Moses, who not only led them out of their captivity in Egypt, but also wrote the first 5 books of the Bible.

Many generations passed.  A great grandson of Abraham named David became King of Israel.  There were quite a few wars under King David, and a lot of sorrow and tears in his life.  Time went on…..

Then….Finally…. the time was right for the prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus to happen.  Hundreds of years after Abraham and David the Israelites had a very clear knowledge of who descended from who.  The genealogy records were kept so accurately because of the land inheritances that went to each of the sons of Israel.  There was no question as to who the descendants of Judah were.

An amazing part of this long long story is how Jesus’ mother and earthly father wound up in Bethlehem.  There was a census, and everyone had to go to the city of their birth to be counted.  The census is always for more than just counting people.  In this case, it was for taxing the people.  So, at just the right time a very pregnant virgin Mary and her husband Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem.  There was no nice room for rent. They wound up sleeping in a barn where Mary had the most famous baby of all creation.  Poor Mary, she must have been so tired.  She was very pregnant.  She road on a donkey to get there, and then she had to have the baby in the same place where the animals lived. 

Now the world focuses on this baby every year on December 25th.  We honestly don’t know what exact day He was born.  What matters is that we know He was born.  We know that shepherds were told the good news by angles singing, and they went to see Christ the Lord.

All these historical events are just part of the story.  Of course it is significant that Jesus came at all.  Thank the Lord that He did come.  But that isn’t the end of the story.  People like to take the idea of Christmas and get all misty eyed and emotional.  The love the thought of seeing that sweet little boy in the humblest of circumstances. And people come right up to this point in the story of this Baby, and then they stop.  They stop dead in their tracks.  The idea of a tiny helpless baby gives them a chance to form an image of God as a tiny helpless baby.  They forget to go forward to the ministry of Christ, His suffering on the cross, and His death, burial, and resurrection. They don’t consider His power over death.  It is easier to leave their image of Christ as that helpless baby in the manger.  Otherwise they would have to consider that He has the power over death, and that Christ alone holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  After all, is there another who raised Himself from the dead by His own power?  So, far too many people spend months fussing over Christmas and ignore the Sunday on which Christ arose.  Some dress up for Easter and actually go to church.  After all, how could everyone see their new clothes if they didn’t go to church?

AND……even with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the story is still only half way finished!!   From there we go to the next 2,000 years spent  spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.  So many people have lived a life totally dedicated to righteous behavior and preaching the Bible that we can’t count them.  The number of people who have given their lives for the gospel is unknowable.  We do know that currently thousands of people are being murdered by Islam around the world.

The world still has to go through that Great Tribulation.  Suffering such as the world has never known will abound during that seven year trial.  You can argue whether Christians will go through that time or be raptured out of this world and avoid it, but you can’t argue that it won’t happen.  The Bible teaches that the Christians will taken out of the world by Jesus Christ Himself before the tribulation begins.

THEN… after the tribulation, or more precisely, at the end of the tribulation there will be that horrible battle called Armageddon. 

Then God sets up a kingdom that will last 1,000 years.  The Lord will rule the world from the throne of David.  The devils will all be locked away in hell during that time.  This will be such a wonderful time in future history.  It will begin with all people being believers in Christ. People will live to remarkable old age.  BUT….evil doers will come, proving the fact that the sin nature of mankind will find a way to do evil even without the influence of the devil. 

When the Millennium Kingdom ends the devil and his angels will be set lose for a short time.  Evil will abound.  I suppose that will be earth’s final war.  Heaven and earth will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will melt with a fervent heat.  BUT……  God’s children will be taken to heaven for eternity, and unbelievers will face the judgment where they will be cast into hell forever.  Followers of Jesus Christ will live eternally in heaven with God.

All that is the story of creation from start to finish – with a lot of details left out.  If you want all the details then you need to read the entire Bible. 

The point of this article is really that Christmas, while a wonderful time to reflect on the birth of our Savior, is not the whole of history.  Obviously His birth was a point in time of major importance, especially when you consider all the prophecies leading up to His birth that were fulfilled by His birth.  It is easy to see that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior.  It is a point of wonder that this tiny baby was God.  Prior to His birth, Jesus was not marooned in one time and place.  As a human being He walked where ever He needed to Go, and where He could go was very limited.  So, to become a man Jesus shut Himself up in one time and place at a time.  That alone is mind boggling when you think about it. 

Even more mind boggling is that Jesus died.  There is no way to estimate the emotional and mental abuse He suffered, not to mention the physical torture during the crucifixion.  Really. The time from the date celebrated as Christ’s birthday until resurrection Sunday/Easter should be a time of deep thanksgiving and contemplation on the life of Christ.

Don’t let your thoughts become trapped in the idea of Christmas as a time of year when wonderful things happen to you and your family.  With Christ as your Savior every day is the most wonderful time of the year.  The most wonderful thing that could possibly happen already happened – Jesus Christ our Savior was born.  He was born knowing His full destiny, and yet He came anyway. 

So many people look at Christmas as a day that will change everything into a day of magic and wonder.  The truth is that Christmas is just another day with no more magic than any other day.  It can be a day that is as blessed as you make of it.  Don’t be one of those people who spends the day mourning over joys departed.  Don’t be one of those people who is looking for Christmas day to somehow transform into a perfect day where everyone is overwhelmed with their gifts, food, and company.  Don’t expect family and friends who can’t get along to suddenly become best friends for that one magical day.  None of those things are going to happen.  What can happen is a lovely day that is spent enjoying whoever you have for company that day.  You can be the one who refuses to gossip about someone who isn’t there.  You can be the one who sets a cheerful tone for the day.  You can be the one who sets realistic limits on gift giving.  If you are not careful you can also be the one who realizes the day is not turning out perfect in spite of your super efforts, that nothings has changed, and that tomorrow will be another imperfect, dull day just like the other 364 days of the year.  Believe me, no one wants to be around the ‘Christmas worshiper’ when they come off their Christmas high and emotionally crash about 4 in the afternoon.  (Honestly – I may be over exaggerating the ‘I love Christmas crash’ that happens around 4pm.  It could be something to do with hypoglycemia, pre-diabetes, and diabetes since sweets are usually available in over abundance during Christmas.  Or it could be a combination of both blood sugar problems and the Christmas crash.)

If there is a time in the history of the world that the mind of a Christian should think on, it is the resurrection.  Without the resurrection, there is nothing.  Why would there be a celebration of someone who made very grandiose claims, got himself crucified, and stayed dead once he was buried? 

The reason that people get stuck thinking about the baby of Bethlehem is that the baby was just that.  He was a helpless baby.  He needed someone to care for Him like any other baby.  It is easy to worship a baby.  You can mentally lock Him up in a box where He has everything he needs.  You can take Him out once a year to play with Him at Christmas time.  But you never have to acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior.  As an eternal tiny baby, there is no need to be obedient to Him.  There is no need to set aside your personal desires to do the things that Christ requires of His children. 

Let this be the year that you allow Christ to grow up!  Don’t keep Him chained to the manger in Bethlehem.  Acknowledge Him as the Lord of creation.  Acknowledge that obedience to His teachings is the most important thing you can do.  Whatever happens, your life will never be the same once you acknowledge that Bethlehem’s baby is the Christ of Calvary.