Archive for the ‘sin’ Tag

Recovering Stone-Chucker   8 comments

Feb 18, 2019

What was your best drop the mic moment?

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I guess it depends on how you define a “mic drop moment.”

Those who have followed my discussions on Facebook know that I don’t advocate for shutting down conversations, so quite often, when I could have a “mic drop”, I choose to let it go. I think mic drops are (mostly) arrogantly executed by people who believe they’re right and are unwilling to hear any evidence to the contrary. That’s not me (most of the time). I do believe I know some things a lot of people don’t know (and, I’ve tested that theory a bunch, so I have evidence to support my suspicion I’m right), but I like seeing a broad range of discussions and points of view. Sometimes they change my mind, mostly I’m hoping I can change their minds. If I do a mic drop, I’m shutting down that conversation and that rarely, if ever, changes anyone’s mind.

But I do have them occasionally. Often it’s not intentional. I’m a quippy person in my everyday life and I’ve gotten into some verbal sword-play and I’ve said something that caused the other person to go – “hmm, I can’t think of a comeback”. Since it’s not intentional, I don’t keep track. I don’t glory in it. I kind of think it was a failure because it stopped the discussion. A few times, though, I’ve had that person come back to me and say “You had a point and I changed my mind.” Good, but half the time, I can’t even remember what I said.

I had one to share with people on gun control (it really was a glory moment), but I changed my mind this morning after my pastor’s sermon mic-dropped a bunch of people in the congregation and I thought, yeah, there’s my topic.

The Bible is unequivocally clear that Christians aren’t supposed to participate in sin and I try to live my life accordingly. It’s been 27 years ago in December since I’ve drunk alcohol – not because I have a problem with alcohol. I’ve always been able to stop at one beer, wine, whatever and I’ve never really needed it to have a good time. But I take seriously that if I cause my brother (or husband) to stumble, I am as guilty of his sin as he is, and so, I chose to give it up and I don’t regret that. I don’t judge anyone for their ability to handle an adult beverage or two, it’s just that someone in my household can’t, so I judge myself accordingly. It certainly wasn’t a sin when Jesus turned water in REALLY GOOD wine, but it would be a sin for me to drink it because it stands a good chance of dragging my husband into what is truly a sin for him.

I also don’t cheat on my husband and that includes reading (or writing) books that have detailed sexual encounters in them because I take seriously Jesus’ admonition that if you commit a sin in your head, you’re as guilty as if you committed it with your body. I don’t judge you if you can read (or write) such books and feel fine in your marriage. It would be a sin for me. It might not be a sin for you. If you’re worried about it, consult your Maker, not me.

Lest you think I’m as pure as the fresh-driven snow, I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I slammed a lot of caffeine before writing this article, for example, and my heartrate informs me that is not treating the temple of God (my body) with the respect it deserves. I also still have some weight I’m trying to lose and that too is a desolation of God’s temple (my body). My lack of self-control assures me I am a sinner just like everyone else. My sins are just more socially acceptable than some people’s sins, but God isn’t a socialite, so I am without excuse.

Romans 2:1-11 is an interesting passage – I won’t post the whole thing here because it’s long, but it basically says (after talking about non-Christians in Chapter 1) – “Christians, you are sinners too, and you have no excuse for judging those who are non-Christians because God doesn’t see shades of grey when it comes to sin. And you will be judged if you treat non-Christians as if you are better than them because you’re not.”

My overindulgence in caffeine is not better than my husband’s past overindulgence in alcohol … just as an example. The teller of “white lies” is as much a sinner as the murderer. In God’s eyes, we’re the same, sinners one and all. The only thing that separates Christian sinners from non-Christian sinners is that Christians have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as salvation. He bought out our slave contract, in essence. WE didn’t do that. He did and He did it for the whole world, we’re just the ones who have accepted it. Anyone else wanting to join us is welcome … by me anways and certainly by Jesus … but more on that in subsequent paragraphs.

Now, understand, paired with other passages of the Bible, this passage is not saying Christians are supposed to join the non-Christians in their sin. No, we absolutely are called to be a counter-cultural movement within society. But we are absolutely wrong if we think that makes us better than those who compose the cultural tide we’re swimming against. We’re all wading through the same cesspool, it’s just Christians have heard that rescue is upstream, not down.

The mic drop here is that many many conservative Christians are judgmental stone-chuckers and I’m not really innocent of this charge. I’m a recovering stone-chucker. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can look at people who commit sins, clearly know that they are committing sins, commit to not joining them, and just say “Yeah, your choice, I’ll pray for you.” This doesn’t mean I condone their sins by any stretch of the imagination. Just as I am still working on learning not to make excuses for my own failures, I am not going to white-wash the world around me. There is a lot of crap in my culture that I know makes God’s heart bleed for my fellow humans and so I (try to) refrain from those activities because I don’t want to embarrass my Heavenly Father, but there were a lot of people in the congregation this morning who walked out trying to justify their own stone-chucker behavior. I could see it in their eyes. They were a little pissed at the pastor, but in reality, they were more than a little pissed at the word of God, and that’s on them – that’s their sin and I’m called to not join my fellow Christians in their immorality either.

So, I didn’t do that. It was done to me and to the people sitting around me by a man (our pastor) with an incredibly tender heart and a son sitting in SuperMax lockup. Do I think my pastor might be a recovering stone-chucker? Oh, yeah! And, I know people in my congregation who are WAY bigger stone-chuckers than I am (some of them have recently written letters to the editor so that we know how judgmental they are) — but God doesn’t see it that way. In His eyes, my little tiny pebbles of judgment are the same as the meteors some of my fellow church-goers hail down on secular society. There is a fine line between recognizing that something is a sin that Christians shouldn’t participate in (and choosing not to participate even when there are big consequences for our refusal to comply) and using that knowledge as a bludgeon against an unbelieving world. I AM CALLED to NOT PARTICIPATE in the world’s folly, but I am NOT called to try to make the world conform to my morality. I’m supposed to be a spiritual salmon, swimming upriver, but not trying to change the river’s course. Let the river go where it will. I know my destination.

So, the mic got dropped on me this morning and I am without excuse. And, as with all mic drops, now that I’ve been rendered without defense, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. Not “What am I going to do to other people about it”. Judgment of others is always the temptation, right? No, I must decide “What am I myself going to do with this knowledge?”

Posted February 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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It Isn’t Over … Yet   Leave a comment

The apostle Paul covered a lot of topics in his first letter to the Corinthians. Some subjects are so big, it’s not a good idea to try to address them in one blog post. And, so we continue from where we left off last week.

Image result for image of it's not over until it's overPaul was discussing  how the Christian life is a lot like a race or other sporting event. It required self-discipline, focus and endurance. In a race, it doesn’t matter where you start. Sometimes the future winners start out far back in the  field. Nobody remembers that when  you cross the finish line. Victory is won at the finish line, not in the starting blocks. Furthermore, the Christian life is not a 100-meter dash; it is a marathon that requires endurance and a lifetime commitment to keep running with the intent of finishing strong. Because we are not competing against other Christians, but only on how well we follow God’s guidance for our individual lives, if we have fallen far behind in our Christian race, there is still time to finish well.

Just because you’re saved does not mean you will finish well

Just prior to our subject passage, Paul shared that he strove to keep himself in check because he didn’t want to end up being disqualified from the prize of God’s approval. He followed with a major history lesson, imploring the Corinthians and us to learn from the past. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

All of God’s people experience great spiritual privileges. The Corinthians had been blessed with the same spiritual blessings as Old Testament Israel. All Christians are blessed with those same blessings. The Israelites that left Egypt were saved and protected as they wandered in the wilderness. They observed Passover, which is an act of faith, then came out of Egypt … a picture of salvation. Paul correlated the Passover Lamb of Exodus 12 with the cross of Christ. The Israelites experienced salvation as a nation – ALL were under the cloud; ALL passed through the sea; ALL were baptized into Moses; ALL ate the same spiritual food; ALL drank the same spiritual drink.

Related imageChristians are heirs to many of the spiritual privileges the Old Testament Israelites experienced.

  • As Israel “was under the cloud”, we experience God’s protection and guidance.
  • As Israel “passed through the sea”, we have “passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
  • As Israel was “baptized into Moses”, Christians have been “baptized into Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  • As Israel ate of the Passover, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).
  • As Israel was “followed” by Christ, Christ follows us (Hebrews 13:5).

Can you honestly say that you are awed by the fact that God saved you? Do you ever pause to wonder that out of all the people in the history of the world, God chose to save you?

Having noted the privileges enjoyed by God’s people, Paul drew a sharp contrast. God was displeased with most of the Israelites. The word “nevertheless” emphatically brings out the contrast between how many were blessed (“all”) versus how many with whom God was not pleased (“most of them”). This declaration is an obvious understatement as over two million Israelites came out of Egypt, yet only two adults (Joshua and Caleb) were allowed to enter the Promised Land. The rest died before Israel was allowed to enter. Tragically disqualified by death, their carcasses literally scattered across the wilderness, Notice that they did not go back to Egypt and get “unredeemed.”  The blood of the Lamb, which had taken them out of Egypt, was irreversible. They did not lose what they had, but they lost the reward God wanted to give them.

Just focus on one individual — Moses. Obviously, Moses was saved, yet on account of unbelief (Numbers 20:12; Jude 5), he did not finish well. If this can happen to Moses, it can happen to you and me. We must humble ourselves and take God’s warning very seriously. 

Many of God’s people experience great spiritual failure.

These things happened as examples for usso that we will not crave evil things as they did. So do not be idolatersas some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” And let us not be immoralas some of them were, and 23,000 died in a single dayAnd let us not put Christ to the testas some of them didand were destroyed by snakes. And do not complainas some of them didand were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instructionon whom the ends of the ages have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13

Note the liberal use of “us” Paul brought himself, the Corinthians and all Christians into the story through use of this pronoun..

Related imageThere’s a warning given to “us” collectively as Paul summarized five disqualification stories from the 40 years of wilderness wandering. It is important for us to understand these Old Testament accounts, because all Christians are as accountable as Israel was. “Now these things happened as examples for us so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” (verse 6) “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (verse 11) Everything between these bracketing comments are lessons drawn from history. Paul wanted us to see ourselves here because there’s a danger that we too might fall into sin like Israel and be disqualified from our reward.

There is a single source for all four of the sins Paul addressed – craving evil things (10:6b). This references an event that took place about a year after the Exodus (Numbers 11). Israel had been given the law, built the tabernacle, and begun to travel when they began to crave these evil things called … fresh vegetables. Yeah, they were fed up with manna, and they wanted to go back to Egypt where there were cucumbers, garlic, and onions. That gets a laugh from most modern audiences, but take a pause and consider it in modern terms. How often are we guilty of “craving” a new car, a larger home, a new partner, a new wardrobe? In light of eternity, these cravings are on par with cucumbers, garlic, and onions. No, really! Consider it! In eternity, what difference will it make what kind of car I drove or how large my home was? What difference will it make how successful I was at my job? Who will ask me what material possessions I provided for my children? Will I even care about those things? Of course, I won’t. I’ll be in paradise and those things won’t matter. Yet, Paul wanted us to know that craving evil things can keep us from finishing well.

Paul focused on four sins and we should pay attention to these because they are so like us..

1) Idolatry: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” The idolatry Paul referred to took place during the giving of the law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32). While Moses spent 40 days on the mountain, the people became fearful and restless. They started to distrust that God even existed, and they asked Aaron to create an alternative god for them. Clay-footed Aaron gave in and created the golden calf. The result was an orgy with eating and drinking. Similarly, the Corinthians were guilty of idolatry through their temple feasts (10:14-22).

For you and me, idolatry is putting anything or anyone in God’s rightful place in our lives. Anything can become an idol, even our Christian experience. Fearful of intimacy with the living God of the universe, some of us try to stay very busy in Christian activity, so we don’t have to deal with Him. Yeah, success in ministry can be an idol. Love relationships in the body of Christ can become an idol. A concern for a healthy self-image can become idolatrous, because we don’t believe that God Himself can be enough. When we demand that our Christian experience and activity give us meaning and purpose, it has become an idol. And, by the way, I struggle with this too.

(2) Immorality: “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and 23,000 fell in one day.” The Israelites engaged in sexual immorality throughout their wilderness wandering. Further on in the desert, the Israelites participated in one of the Moabites’ religious feasts (Numbers 25:1-9) that involved sexual immorality. One of the Corinthian church members was having an affair with his step-mother (5:1-2), and others had to be commanded to flee sexual immorality (6:18).

The Corinthian church wasn’t the only New Testament church to struggle with sexual immorality and we’re not exempt either … not in thought and action. So here are some ways to guard yourself against sexual morality:

  • Stay honest with your spouse. Even though it may be difficult, tell your spouse when you are struggling with sexual temptation.
  • Monitor your marriage. Beware of child-centered marriages. Invest, first and foremost, in your spouse.
  • Recognize that work can be a danger zone. Baltimore psychologist, Shirley Glass, has studied adultery and has determined that 25% of women and 44% of men have affairs. Of those men and women that do have affairs, the majority of them have their affairs with a coworker.
  • Beware of the lure of the Internet. Use various safeguards to keep yourself from succumbing to on-line sexual sin.
  • Commit to an accountability relationship. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, has studied 237 instances of Christian leaders who have experienced moral failure. He found one common factor: not one of the 237 had accountability relationships with other men.
  • Spend time in God’s word. All of us have seven days each week and everyone has 96 15-minute periods of time every day. Surely we can find a little time to read God’s word every day.

Sexual immorality can keep us from finishing well. We have seen this again and again in the Christian world.  Persevere in your marriage vows. If you are single, stay pure and wait on God to provide you with a spouse. The consequences can be severe when you take matters into your own hands. However, if you wait on God, He will reward you with a greater sense of intimacy with Him.

3) Testing God: “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.” In Numbers 21, the Israelites tested God by taxing His patience. They continued to complain, even though He faithfully provided for them (21:4-9). His provision of manna and water was inadequate from their point of view, and they despised it (21:5). As a result, God destroyed them with serpents! God does not look kindly on a lack of faith.

The Corinthians had given evidence of being dissatisfied with God’s provision. They were disgruntled with God’s servants (1 Corinthians 1:12). They repulsed God with their sinful arrogance (4:18; 8:1). They indicated dissatisfaction with the Lord’s Supper by participating in pagan feasts (10:14-22). They were divided over class distinctions (11:17-34). We modern Christians can test God in similar ways and risk the chastening hand of God. Paul wanted us to know that idolatry can keep us from finishing well.

4) Grumbling: “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” The Israelites grumbled throughout their wilderness experience (Exodus 15 through Numbers 17). This sinful behavior began one month after the Exodus. God’s people grumbled incessantly for a period of two years, and then God decreed that all those 20 years old or older would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land. They would be made to wander in the desert until the last rebel was dead (Number 14:26-35).

Paul’s deliberate link with testing God (10:9) demonstrates that grumbling is particularly associated with putting God to the test (Exodus 17:2-3). Specifically, it seems that the episode Paul reflected upon was the Israelites’ grumbling about food. On these occasions, God’s anger was particularly kindled against them (Numbers 11:1; 14:2-4). In Numbers 11:1-3, God sent fire that consumed some of the people on the edge of the camp. As the primary cook in my family, I can appreciate the sentiment.

In Numbers 16, Israel also grumbled against both Moses and Aaron. This resulted in Korah leading a rebellion where nearly 15,000 died. How would you feel if today’s newspaper reported that the military had executed 15,000 people? Suppose the victims were not criminals, foreign agitators, or political radicals, but ordinary citizens who were protesting the way their country was being run. We like to think it can’t happen here, but in Numbers 16 we read that God responded like that to ancient Israel. He took the lives of 15,000 of His chosen people because they were complaining about the way He was caring for them.

This section is marked by the theme of ingratitude for all the blessings that God had given the Israelites. He’d given them His presence, provision, availability and power, but God’s people wanted more. Can you relate? Have you ever thought about the fact that when you grumble and complain, either against God directly or against those to whom He has delegated leadership over you (parents, teachers, pastors, bosses), you are really questioning God’s wisdom, grace, goodness, and righteousness?

I find no evidence for personal guardian angels in Scripture, but I believe various angels are protecting us from spiritual and physical harm. Yet, there comes a time in the lives of certain rebellious believers when God “lifts the shield” and we face a death sentence. Instead of dispatching angels to watch over us, He assigns the destroying angel to take us home to heaven early!

Stand on Firm Ground

Image result for image of no temptation has overcome youThe last two verses of this section (10:12-13) give a wonderful summary that balances warning with hope, encouragement and grace. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Those who have great beginnings may still fall and ruin the latter days of their lives. The child of God who thinks he has arrived is being set up by the devil to be knocked down. Those on the mountain top are the most vulnerable to attack. The higher you are, the farther the fall. Elijah was on the mountain when he defied the prophets of Baal. The next day he ran across Israel as fast as he could, away from the painted face of Jezebel. He went from one magnificent, climatic victory to dismal defeat. As he sat under a juniper tree, defeated and discouraged. God came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He went from bravery to shrinking cowardice. Are all the breaks going for you? Beware, because defeat could happen to you.

Fortunately, we can choose to avoid disqualification and finish well. Paul closed this passage with these powerful words: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” The Greek word translated “temptation” (peirasmos) can also be translated “testing.” Practically speaking, this term could be translated “temptation and testing.” Every temptation is a test; every test is a temptation.

Temptation is:

Common to every person. There is no temptation that is unique. A literal translation of the Greek would be, “No temptation has seized you that is not human” (anthropinos, i.e., manlike). No one can hide behind the argument that his sin is unique and so he can be excused. It is impossible to be in business and not be tempted to sacrifice people for profit. Government workers can be regularly tempted to forfeit integrity for promotions. A mother of preschoolers will be tempted by this culture’s priorities to think of herself as a victim of her family’s needs. All of these are sins that come as a result of temptation.

 God controls the context of our temptation. We’ve all seen load-limit signs on highways, bridges, and elevators. Knowing that too much strain can cause severe damage or complete collapse, engineers determine the exact amount of stress that various materials can safely endure. Posted warnings tell us not to exceed the maximum load. Human beings also have their load limits, which vary from person to person. Some people can bear the pressure of trial and temptation better than others; yet everyone has a breaking point and can take only so much. In this verse, Paul promised that God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tested or tempted beyond what you are able. Yet, we must draw on God to deliver us. Mother Theresa once said, “I know God won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

God personally and providentially provides a specific way of escape. The use of the definite article (“the”) with both “temptation” and “way of escape” points to a particular way of escape that is available in each temptation. Paul did not mean there is only one way of escape that is available regardless of the temptation. His point is: Look for the escape route! There is a way out! Overcoming temptation is not a matter of simply sitting down on a sofa with a box of chocolates and telling God to make the way of escape from whatever sin is tempting us. We are responsible to do our part. Paul use of the words “bear,” “stand up,” and “flee” tell us this. Paul wants us to be victorious. He wants us to persevere through our tests and temptations. He is there for us!

Paul told us that we must learn from our fathers—from Israel. We don’t have to repeat their mistakes. We can be obedient to God and finish well. Remember, it doesn’t matter how you begin, it only matters how you end. It’s not over until it’s over

Bar Churches for Alcoholics   Leave a comment

Brad wrote this post 2 1/2 years ago and I think it deserves a boost.

https://aurorawatcherak.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/bar-churches-for-alcoholics/

 

Brad, my husband, asked to post on my blog. Since he has something worthwhile to say and he managed to organize it into sentences, I agreed. Lela

 

 

It’s rare that Lela allows me to grab the microphone from her. She worries about having a Taylor Swift-Kanya West moment without Beyonce around to protect her, but if I give her convincing material, she agrees to post it. Brad

 

A while back, we (Lela and I) watched a PBS special on “welcoming and affirming” evangelical churches across America. I don’t know how big this movement really is. I don’t know many evangelicals who agree with it and this is PBS, which has strong anti-Christian political biases. If we don’t have a lot of these churches cropping up in the oh-so-very libertarian state of Alaska, I tend to think the story focused on the three churches in America that are actually doing this, but I could be wrong. Lela says the Internet might beg otherwise, but then maybe the churches that are not “welcoming and affirming” just aren’t advertising that … sort of like our church fails to publicize that we don’t serve alcohol during the service.

The basic story on Erbe’s program was about how loving these “welcoming and affirming” churches were, how God would not judge people for loving someone/anyone and that the church is completely wrong about what the Bible says about homosexuality. The destruction of Sodom had nothing to do with the men of Sodom wanting to have sex with the angels God sent to Lot (Genesis 19). God was angry for the city’s lack of hospitality. Pay no attention to Lot’s offering his virgin daughters to these men and them rejecting the girls because they’d rather have the unwilling angels. No, that’s not evidence of mass homosexuality and the desire for gang rape! That’s just not being friendly.

You get my point?

Someone in the Erbe broadcast said “it was all in the interpretation” whether you think the Bible condemns or accepts homosexual sex. Which got me thinking about Bill Clinton’s “it depends on what your definition of is is.”

Clinton, who claims to be a Southern Baptist, wanted the world in general to pass over his sin of lying by stressing the tense of the word. He was not currently having sex with Monica Lewinsky, so he didn’t lie to the press when asked if he was having sex with Monica Lewinski. Of course, he had had sex with Monica Lewinski – in the past. His rhetorical game worked. He got away with it as far as the press and his supporters are concerned.

Of course, he had a much deeper problem with the catholic (small c intentional) evangelical church of which he claims to be a member. Christians still see him as a sinner and, worse, we see him as an unrepentant sinner. You see, we’re all sinners. You, me, Bill Clinton, and Pope Francis – we’re all sinners. Yes, the pope is a sinner! And so am I!

My particularly favorite sin is alcoholism. I come by that naturally. My father, most of his brothers, his father and his grandfather were alcoholics. Irish Catholic, don’t you know? It’s what we do. On my mother’s side, every one of her husbands, several of her brothers, her father and grandfather were all alcoholics. I’ve personally had trouble controlling my drinking since I was 16. And, I’m an ass when I drink. I do stupid, dangerous, unloving and unChristlike things when I drink, which is why I usually don’t.

When I don’t, I am repentant for my sin. I just wrote that above paragraph. That is repentance. I admitted my sin, I called it what it was, I acknowledged its wrongness. And then, more important than anything else in repentance, I try not to do it anymore. I didn’t say I have never done it since salvation. I said I try not to do it anymore.

That’s my sin and repentance as opposed to Bill Clinton who justified his adultery and his lying about it and is probably doing both again and will justify both again if need be. Until he comes before God and then his excuses won’t do him any good.

What separates me from Bill is my dependence on God. I’m not superman. I am a sinner, but I don’t rely on rhetorical tricks to justify my mistakes. Instead, I continually turn to the “I Am” Who tells me there is “no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the Spirit. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1. My sin has been set aside and God will not hold it against me … not because of anything that I have done, but because Jesus died on the cross for all of us who accept Him as Savior and Lord.

We all like the idea of a Savior, but most of us don’t like the idea of a Lord. That means submitting to an Authority greater than ourselves and most humans don’t like that idea. I don’t like that idea. And when I dislike it the most is when I’m drinking. One is the symptom of the other, though I’m not sure in what order. When I am embracing my sin is when I am relying on the “I is” … me, fleshly man with feet of clay. I will justify my behavior – I come from a long line of folk who like to drink and Christian morality gets in the way of my good time – but it doesn’t change that I am violating a covenant I made with God. Jesus saved my soul, and I (in continuation of Romans 8) acknowledge my debt to Him by living according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

Which is why I wouldn’t and couldn’t be a member of a “welcoming and affirming” church. It’s not that I think God hates homosexuals. I think He feels about gays the same way He felt about me when I was drinking. Drinking wine is not a sin. No, it is not! Jesus turned water into wine and it was GOOD! The best wine at the wedding!

Drinking wine the way I drink wine is a sin! It was destructive to my body, mind and relationships. God still loved me enough to die for me on the cross and eventually I accepted that love, but in order for me to fully live in that love, I had to give up my favorite sin, because the way I drink doesn’t show God in a good light and is destructive of His temple in my body.

Sadly … when I was drinking, I didn’t know that. I couldn’t see the harm it was doing to me and I definitely wouldn’t to acknowledge the harm it was doing to my relationship with Jesus. And, I think that may be the sad plight of the “welcoming and affirming” movement. They think the problem is that the church is against them when the real problem is that God loves them so much that He wants them to give up something that He knows is harming them … and they can’t see that.

Thank God, literally, for putting Lela and other Christian friends in my life to point me away from sin, even when I didn’t want to give it up.

Thank God we don’t hold church in bars!

Which is kind of what I think a “welcoming and affirming” church is. If an alcoholic’s utopia is church held in a bar and the drinks are free, wouldn’t a homosexual’s utopia be a welcoming and affirming church that denies key portions of Scripture?

Posted December 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

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Cottonpatch Wisdom   1 comment

Alaska has a really pretty invasive weed called bird vetch that will grow pretty much anywhere and strangle just about every other plant.

The thing is, it’s very pretty and delicate-looking, so people don’t recognize the problem until it’s too late.

Image result for image of bird vetchI had never encountered it in all my years in Alaska until about 12 years ago when I decided to plant a wildflower/perennial meadow along the road next to my house. The former owners had neglected this area because it was outside of the fence, and I didn’t want to work very hard at it, so I raked up the couple of years worth of leaves, mixed my perennial/wildflower seeds with top soil and hand-broadcast the results.

For the first couple of years, I had fireweed, yarrow, bluebells, lupine, and many others, plus wild rose and raspberries that had already spread through the fence from our yard and just needed to be uncovered.

Every summer, I would renew with another broadcast of seeds. Occasional “volunteers” would join the party and mostly were welcome. Dandelions seemed intimidated, oddly enough.

There was this pretty purple vine that joined the party and at first, I didn’t think any of it. I had heard of wild sweet pea and I figured it might be that. That year, the fireweed didn’t bloom. Well, fireweed likes old burn areas and my citified meadow didn’t really see a lot of flames, so …. The next summer, I saw a lot more of the pretty purple vine. So, one day, I walked around to the outside of the fence to pick raspberries and realized that the tendrils of the pretty vine were wrapped around several yarrow stalks, choking the life out of them and that some of the raspberry plants hadn’t produced because they were being covered by this vine.

Image result for image of bird vetchResearch showed that this bird vetch does not play well with others. I burned my meadow and started all over again, but the next year, I still had vetch coming up. I started hand-pulling it so that I could keep my meadow and I’m still doing it, every Sunday during the summers.

I like to do it after church on Sunday because it’s a quiet time for contemplation of the sermon. Lately, our pastor has been preaching from Hosea, the Old Testament prophet who married a harlot and reaped the consequences, but kept his covenant with her, even buying her back from a slave brothel.

Hosea’s marriage was a metaphor for Israel’s relationship with God and it could just as easily be a metaphor for our relationship with Christ.

If you ever wonder why truly faithful Christians flee sexual immorality, the answer is found in Hosea with some cross-reference with the New Testament. Jesus said the church (Christians) would be the bride of Christ. He would take, love, adore and protect her and she would wander away and cheat on Him. He would go find her in the brothel she had sold herself to and bring her back because He had made a covenant with her.

So when I’m out there in the sun or the rain, pulling vetch up by its roots, I have these lessons clicking around in my head. And last week, I thought about how vetch is a lot like sin. It’s going to crop up in your life because mankind bent his own nature when he disobeyed God about that stupid fruit. We are incapable of walking with God and accepting His love without any bumps in the road. We wander. He never does. And because we wander, sins (which are anything that stands between us and God) will crop up. Often sin will look pretty and it may even seem similar to things that are desireable, just as vetch looks a lot like jacob’s ladder.

Image result for image of jacob's ladder flowerWe have to stay on top of vetch and sin. Just like vetch, we can’t let sin flower or produce seeds because sin also has long roots that burrow all over the place and push through where we least expect them. Our bodies breed corruption today just as vetch binds nitrogen and therefore out-competes the plants we would prefer. We want to do what is right. We want to serve Jesus. We fail to do what is right and we all too often spit in God’s face in our haste to do what feels good.

Image result for image of bowing before jesusVetch seeds will stay in the soil and able to spout for six years, meaning that if you turn your back on it for a summer (or even two weeks), it will sow the seeds of corruption for years to come. Sin in the same way. When we encourage it or even pretend it doesn’t exist, we allow it to spout from seeds that might lay dormant for decades.

That’s hard to do because often sin seems so attractive. It doesn’t look harmful. Look how pretty and delicate and purple it is. But it destroys everything around it if you let it gain a foothold.

If we want to be a beautiful bouquet to  God, we must stay vigilant and weed out the pretty vines that will drag us astray and strangle our beauty.

Disintegrating World   2 comments

This will be a series. Check out the links at the bottom as they come.

We live in a world that is disintegrating, so why are we surprised when our world shows its rotten parts?

God created the universe to be perfect. You can discover that truth scattered throughout the Bible, but it’s actually in the first verses in Genesis. There was no death. Death is a function of disintegration. Logically, if the world God created was not subject to disintegration, it was perfect.

But that state of perfection soon ended. God didn’t do that. Even Satan didn’t do that, though he played a part. Human beings did that. Eve listened to Satan’s lies, but the Biblical account makes it appear that Adam was standing right there.

Mankind had a choice. God created mankind with the ability to make a choice. God placed Adam and Eve in a garden where all their needs were met and He gave them ONE rule to follow so that they would have a freewill choice in how they wanted to live their lives. God placed a tree amid all the other trees. He told them about it so there was no surprise, no secret plot to mess them up. They had a choice.

Eat of any plant in the garden, but that one and you’ll live forever in this beautiful garden and have face-to-face relationship with God, Who is absolute goodness. But don’t eat of that tree because you will lose your life when you do. Enjoy the garden I have you. The price of staying here is obedience to my ONE rule. Genesis 3

We don’t know how long it took for Adam and Eve to screw up the great deal. I tend to think it wasn’t really long. Satan … or maybe it was just Eve’s self-will … began questioning God’s purpose in keeping the fruit from them. God wasn’t telling the truth about the consequences. God was keeping them from hidden knowledge. The fruit was good to eat. What could it hurt?

A lot!Adam and Eve didn’t physically die when they ate the fruit, but they died in all the really important ways. They were cut off from their relationship with God and thrust into a world of decay. Their own bodies began to decay. They blamed each other. They raised a murderer. Their damaged genes were passed onto their offspring to the whole of mankind.

Adam and Eve didn’t physically die when they ate the fruit, but they died in all the really important ways. They were cut off from their relationship with God and thrust into a world of decay. Their own bodies began to decay. They blamed each other. They raised a murderer. Their damaged genes were passed onto their offspring to the whole of mankind.

We lost perfection, but we didn’t lose the memory of perfection. We want the world to be perfect. We rail against the rot in the world, we are puzzled by human beings who act in fallen ways. We know things should be different, but the vast majority of us have no knowledge of why things are not what we dream them to be.

We want a bent and damaged world to pick itself up and act like the perfect world our ancestors sacrificed to their self-will. When that doesn’t happen, we blame the one Being who didn’t cause this mess – God.

Mankind screwed this up all on our own. God has provided a way for the world to be returned to perfection == If we will believe Him and lay aside our self-will to accept it.

More on that in future posts.

Disintegrating World (this post)

 

Posted March 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity, Uncategorized

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The Struggle   1 comment

Romans 7:14-23 is unique in the New Testament and in Paul’s writing in that it contains a series of laments–desperate, repetitious cries of a distressed soul in great conflict. Each lament follows the same pattern. Paul first describes his condition, then gives proof of it, and then explains the source of the problem.

Lament #1

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me (Romans 7:14-17).

The “for” at the beginning tells us Paul isn’t introducing a new subject. Romans is a letter, written from Paul to the church in Rome. It is not a series of verses or passages that can be broken out into separate topics. One passage flows into another. Paul here continues to answer the hypothetical accusation in verse 7 that his preaching salvation by grace through faith apart from the law implies that the law is evil. He states to the contrary that “the Law is spiritual,” meaning that it comes from the Spirit of God and is a reflection of His holy, just, and good nature (cf. v. 12).

“The Law is not evil. It is spiritual.”

Although Paul delights in God’s law, he confesses there’s a barrier that prevents him from always obeying it — his carnal, fleshly nature. He doesn’t say he was in the flesh or controlled by the flesh. Romans 8:8-9 says to its Christian audience, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh.” The phrase “in the flesh” refers to an unregenerate condition. These people are not Christians.

Although Christians are not in the flesh, the flesh is still in us. We are no longer held captive to it, but we can still act fleshly or carnal. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul says, “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ…for you are still fleshly.For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (verses. 1, 3). He reproved the Corinthian Christians for acting in a fleshly or non-Christian way.

Here in Romans 7 Paul says, ” For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh … with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin ” (verses 18, 25). He admits that the flesh is still present.

Flesh is simply a term for our humanness.

Any Christian could make the statement in verse 14. Saying you’re carnal is the same as saying you’re a sinner. For example, when I am angry, insensitive, or don’t pursue God as diligently as I desire, I see my humanness getting in the way of accomplishing all I ought to do.

Paul states in verse 14 that he is “sold into bondage to sin.” Verse 23 gives us a similar statement: ” I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” How can that be if Christians have been delivered from sin? It pays to look at the Greek, which I did and then confirmed with a friend who actually knows the Greek. The phrase “sold into bondage to sin” is literally translated “having been sold under the sin.” That refers to the product of the Fall of man, not to individual sins committed.

Being “sold into bondage to sin” doesn’t mean Paul actively committed himself to sinning. It means he recognized that in this life we as believers will constantly have to battle sin because of our human nature, which is always tainted by the sin of the Fall..

Can Paul’s lament of being sold under sin come from a true believer? In Psalm 51:5 David (a man after Gods own heart) says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” That sounds like a man who had never been redeemed, but David was simply looking at one reality about himself. His lament is similar to Isaiah’s upon seeing a vision of God: “Woe is me , for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips ” (Isaiah 6:5). All the prophet could see against the glorious holiness of God was his own sin.

Paul put all our experiences with sin into words in Romans 7:14-25. We all know there is sin in our lives even though it shouldn’t be there. Although sin is not the product of our new self, we’re still bound to some degree by the body we dwell in. Verse 14 could be paraphrased, “The law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, experiencing a bondage to sin at times.”

What If Characterr Went ViralSelf-righteous people deceive themselves into thinking they are inherently moral, but verse 15 shows that a Christian led by the Spirit will not think that way. He sees the proof of indwelling sin. Paul’s failure to do what he desired and his doing what he hated reflects a profound inner turmoil. His will was frustrated by his sinful flesh. It’s not that evil won all the time, but that he was frustrated in his attempt to perfectly obey God on occasion and far more often than he wanted.

This is part of an ongoing series “What if Character Went Viral”.

Don’t Avoid the Conflict   4 comments

In Romans 7:14-25 Paul the apostle wrote a poignant description of a soul in conflict with himself.

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the goodthat I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Paul loved God’s moral law and wanted to obey it, but felt pulled away from doing so by the sin that was in him.

The scholars and many Christians are conflicted about this — Is Paul talking about a Christian (perhaps even himself) or a non-Christian? Can Christians feel such bondage to sin? Do non-Christians often express such a desire to do good? It’s a conundrum. Christians cannot be bound by sin, but non-Christians don’t desire to keep the law of God.

Paul wrote “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (verse 14) and “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh; I want to do good, but I cannot do it” (verse 18). Those who believe this passage speaks of a non-Christian say that Christians know how to do what is good in God’s eyes and they see an obvious lack of the Holy Spirit’s power in this passage.

Verse 24 “Wretched man that I am!” does seem distant from the promise of Romans 5:1-2 of “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 6 has many examples of the believer’s freedom from sin’s power. How can the person who said all that turn around and say “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin?”

Paul did a marvelous job of capturing the messiness that is grace. Chapter 6 emphasize the new creation, nature, and identify in Christ. Now redeemed, the believer has broken sin’s dominion. Chapter 7 shows the other side of the Christian life.

Honestly, every Chrisitan knows from experience that though she is a new creature in Christ, sin is still a problem. Chapter 6 even points out the conflict in verses 12-13: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.” Because it is still possible for Christians to yield to sin, we are commanded not to.

Arguing that chapter 7 cannot refer to a Christian because of statements in Chapter 6 is to misunderstand the entire gospel as presented in the letter to the Romans.

We are saved through grace by faith, not from anything that we have or will do, so that we have no cause to boast of our accomplishments. But Jesus isn’t done with us after that. We don’t get our “fire insurance” and go on upon our merry way setting fire to the world with our sin. Faith without works is indeed death because it is a mental and verbal assent that returns no fruit.

Romans 8:7 explains that the unregenerate person (the non-Christian) is not subject to the law of God. You didn’t consent. You don’t have to comply. Christians, however, did consent and we owe God the respect of our compliance with His laws. Paul proclaimed that he joyfully concurred with the law of God in his inner man (verse 7:22), but he struggles with his desire to do right because his flesh is weak.

Ah, a carnal  Christian! the gossips among us pounce. Surely it couldn’t be a Spirit-filled missionary to the European continent! It must be someone with a low level of spirituality who is trying in his own strength to keep the law.

Poppycock!

My own experience is that the more spiritual or mature a believer is, the greater his sensitivity to his shortcomings are. An immature Christian doesn’t have such an honest self­ perception. The legalist is under the illusion that he is very spiritual. I believe Paul was describing himself, which should certainly explain the extensive use of the personal pronoun “I.”

What If Characterr Went ViralWas Paul describing his struggles before he was saved? Really? No! Paul was persecuting Christians before the bright light on the road. There’s no evidence he struggled with his conscious or with righteous living at the time. Besides, it is the mature Christian who possesses an honest self-evaluation, which Paul often exhibited (1 Corinthians 15:9-10Ephesians 3:8). Paul was very precise in his language in Romans 7. He states that he hates committing sin (v. 15), that he loves righteousness (vv. 19, 21), that he delights in the law of God from the bottom of his heart (v. 22), and that he thanks God for the deliverance that is his in Christ (v. 25). Those are the responses of a mature Christian.

The change in verb tenses is a clue that this passage applies to a Christian. The verbs in Romans 7:7-13 are in the past tense. They refer to Paul’s life before his conversion and the process of conviction he experienced when he stood face-to-face with the law of God. However in verses 14-25, where we see the battle with sin taking place, they are in the present tense.

Romans 7:14-25 is Paul’s own testimony of the struggle between living as a Spirit-controlled, mature believer who loves the holy law of God with his whole heart, but finds himself wrapped in human flesh and unable to fulfill it the way his heart desires.

This is part of a series What if Character Went Viral?

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