Whatever Became of Sin

Whatever Became of Sin

We live in a world where the word “sin” has almost disappeared from our vocabulary. Even as this has happened, the sense of guilt from sin remains in our hearts and minds, causing us to engage in self-destructive behavior. In 1973 a well-know psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book with the title, Whatever Became of Sin? In the book he wrote, “Clergymen have a golden opportunity to prevent some of the accumulated misapprehensions, guilt, aggressive action, and other roots of later mental and mental disease. How? Preach! Tell it like it is. Cry it from the housetops. What shall we cry? Cry comfort, cry repentance, cry hope. Because recognition of our part in the world’s transgression is the only remaining hope.”

Sin by its very nature is a three letter word all of us would like to avoid. This is true particularly when it comes to taking responsibility for our own sins. Yet Jesus had a lot to say about sin. He knew that unless we came face to face with this cancer of sin, it would ultimately destroy us.

It is the “I” in the word sin that is the real problem. Facing the “I” means taking a close look at the sin in my own life. That can be not only depressing, but down right devastating. As Paul said in Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” You know how frustrating it is to have the desire to do the right thing but then not have the ability to carry it out. Well, Paul’s intention is not to frustrate you, but to identify with the struggles you and I have on a daily basis and show us a solution. He goes on and says in verses 24, 25 of Romans 7, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Saying that Jesus is the answer is not just a trite religious phrase. His death and resurrection overcome the curse of sin…

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Are These Promises For Me?

Are These Promises For Me?

Dear Friends,

My heart is heavy because of the restlessness, the sad struggle that plays out before me every day. So many people are the victims of rootless poverty that seems endless. As I was preparing this sermon I met a man who said he had just been wandering around for days. He hasn’t slept because he just wants to get back home to Kansas City. He says he just needs enough money for a one way bus ticket. But as I listen it becomes clear that he came to this area homeless looking for work on craigslist and when it didn’t work out, he’s headed back to the same situation. He wants to go back to his fiancé who is giving birth right about now. And he’s just wandering around trying to scrape together whatever money he can get to be back in time for his baby’s birth. That’s his story.

There are so many more stories like this one. No real plan beyond, “Maybe I can find a job” or “I’ll make it somehow.” When I ask, “Who knows you?” I’m told, “Well, my fiancé has a cellphone without any minutes.” The travelers aid society we partner with needs verification. They don’t want to just move people around who don’t have contacts in the destination city. I recommend some other ideas to this man. Ways he can settle for a few weeks in order to rest, eat, find work, and then travel in time. He turns it down and walks out.

I walk over to our front desk and ask a group of men who are crowding the phone operator to have a seat and assure them that their requests will be answered in time. A young man yells out, “I just want a hygiene kit.” I answer him by name and say, “You’ll get it when we call your name.” With that he calls out a curse on the building and on my father by name and walks out. Just because he doesn’t want to wait five minutes. So much impatience and hostility. So much controversy and weariness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As we set a course for our lives based on God’s word, we can learn to fear Him and walk in His ways.

Let’s go to the Lord now in prayer…

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Don’t Give Up

Don’t Give Up

My Dear Friends,

So many are giving up and giving in to despondency, discouragement, disappointment and depression. You may have lost everything, but you can start all over if you do not lose hope. We are told in Is. 43:18, 19, “Forget what happened! Don’t think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.”

So many are now depressed because the pain of the past and the unmet expectations of the present have removed all real hope for the future. As a result, all they can think about is how are they going to escape the present situation they are in which appears hopeless with no real future. David felt that way when he said in Ps. 55:6-7 “Oh that I had wings like a dove… Then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.” Paul in a moment of distress told the Galatians, “Lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Gal. 4:11). All of us have had those periods in our lives when we have felt like quitting…

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The Theology of Equality

The Theology of Equality

Dear Friend,

When Jesus Christ invaded planet earth with the dual natures of divinity and humanity, He turned the status quo upside down. His revolutionary message, presented in word and deed, declared that if it is going to last, you have got to be last. It was Jesus who, being fully God, became man and revealed to us the art of downward mobility resulting in the Theology of Equality.

When the rich man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus cuts to the core of extreme capitalism, where net worth equals net value. Listen to these words of revolution that Jesus spoke in Mark 10:17-22, “A man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’…Jesus looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this (the rich man) was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

This man’s reaction looks like that of many today when it comes to the Theology of Equality. They claim they are followers of Jesus Christ and even believe it is alright to have equality in the spiritual realm but when it gets quite practical like raising the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour or addressing the great inequalities between the rich and the poor, they then like the rich man go away grieving because they do not want to give up the many possessions they have.

The unwillingness to accept the Biblical Theology of Equality is obvious by the spiritual depravity in America…

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My Significance in Christ

My Significance in Christ

Dear Friends,

We know there is so much hurt and pain in this world and it is not only just out there somewhere, it can easily be found in our minds and hearts. Jesus promised that “in this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33, The Message) It’s typical, when we encounter hurt, to want to blame, shame, or problem-solve. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we have to continually remember 1) the change He made in our lives, 2) who we belong to, 3) what kind of persons to be, and 4) what sort of work to do. Without keeping first things first, we’ll get spun around and lost.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the victory in Christ that overcomes the devil, the world, and our flesh. We thank you for your words of life that bring healing and light. We ask you today to show us your will in the midst of all that concerns us. We cast all of our cares upon you, knowing that you care for us. Have your way in us completely, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

It’s so easy to forget about where we truly belong. When I was my middle daughter’s age I visited my grandfather at his home in southern Texas. During that trip it seemed like every time I turned around I was breaking something or had my nose into something I shouldn’t. I broke his garage door by playing with the door open switch. For days after that I just couldn’t catch a break from his teasing. He just seemed so irritated or had some comment about everything I did. And I felt at the time like I just couldn’t understand him.

Now, as I’m turning forty in a few weeks, I think I’m finally coming to understand him a little bit better. There’s this thing called….

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Experiencing A New Beginning

Experiencing A New Beginning

Dear Friends,

Life has a way of swallowing people up and then spitting them out on the ocean of hopelessness and despair.  Perhaps you are one of the growing multitudes who have experienced such.  Wouldn’t it be great to start over and to begin to live a life free from all the hurt, pain and poison of the past?  Such freedom is possible if you will but let God’s promises and provisions unfold in your life.  In Is. 43:18, 19 He tells us, “Forget what happened long ago!  Don’t think about the past.  I am creating something new.  There it is!  Do you see it?  I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.”

We are able to experience a new beginning because of the forgiveness provided through Jesus Christ.  This forgiveness has been made available because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through His death and resurrection.  To be forgiven means to be set free from the sins of the past to the extent we can receive the new work God wants to do in us today.  It also means letting go of the hurt and pain that others have inflicted on us as let God’s forgiveness flow through us in the lives of the ones who have hurt us.  It is this miracle of forgiveness that allows us to experience a new beginning.

Through the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ it is possible to…

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Grace Must Answer Grace

Grace Must Answer Grace

Dear Friends,

I think there’s a terrible misunderstanding about what a gift is these days. We’ve all become so accustomed to buying and selling and paying for subscriptions to various services, that the quality of free gifts has become swallowed by the maxim, “the first one is always free.” Gifts are used as incentives anymore. A bait and switch tactic. Draw them in with the gift and then hook them. Keith Green sang about how Jesus was not a “salesmen who will sell you the things you just want to hear.” What sort of quality do we look for in gifts anymore? And what is expected of the giver? More importantly, what sort of gift was it when God gave his only son for this world?

Now if I offer you this antique taxidermied squirrel, would you think that strange? Or this dapper bowler hat, could you use that? Most of you would answer no. We’re accustomed to picking out our own items carefully, irrespective of what people might think we need. We might take a gift so that a giver won’t feel bad, but…

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Standing Firm in the Victory

Standing Firm in the Victory

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

When I encounter hopelessness and depression I have to do something more than engage in fight or flight.  Psalm 143 shows me a better way.  There I see the  Psalmist David is desperate.  He cries out, “O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.”(verse 1)  Like David, I must admit I sometimes feel like declaring, “my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (verse 4).

As I continue to meditate on Psalm 143 I see that not only does David identify with my needs but he also shares some very practical steps to live victoriously when it seems that the world is falling apart.  He says, “I remember the days of long ago” (verse 5).  There I see that the first step for victoriously living, David says, is recalling the situations God brought me through in the past when the situation seemed hopeless. (Example, 1 Sam.30:1-20)

The second thing David does is to meditate not only on the promise of God’s Word but also upon the wonders of His works.  This includes not only God’s miraculous intervention in times of hopelessness but also the works and wonders of His creation.  But the wonders of God’s works go far beyond creation.  As John 3:16 says,…

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Content with the Miracle

Content with the Miracle

Dear Friends,

My little girl has a problem. She really wants this particular art set for Christmas. But from looking it up everywhere online she has determined that it is out of stock, so she knows she can’t have it. The more she thinks about this, the more upset she becomes. She moans out loud and writhes around on the couch holding her tablet device. “I really want it”, she says.

It’s that time of year for wanting and not knowing, not realizing her wishes. She asks me about it and of course I can’t answer any questions about Christmas gifts. I usually bow out of knowing what everyone is getting every year, because I don’t want to divulge anything and get myself into trouble. So I have to be hopelessly vague. “Honey, you just have to trust that your family has your wish list (it’s hanging in huge letters on a list that takes up half of the refrigerator) and knows what you want and will do the right thing.”

That answer does not satisfy this 11 year old. Ten minutes later she asks again, “Dad, can you look up this art set on your computer, please?” “No.” She no doubt feels like I don’t care, and that her wish will never be realized. I cannot say one way or the other whether her wish will come true. I have to wait with her for her miracle until Christmas Day. Yes…

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The Water Sheep

The Water Sheep

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What does Christmas mean to you? Some would say it is the celebration of the birth of Christ and yet they give more attention to Santa Claus than they do Jesus Christ. Others would say it is the coming of the Prince of Peace but these same individuals remain silent, as a materialistic cult of hateful individuals try to shut down the only remaining overnight shelter in the downtown area.

In Matt.1:21 we see that the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus was born and He will “save His people from their sins.” The reality of this fact offers hope to those who realize that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet even though we were sinners destined to hell, God loved us and came among us. The symbols of Christ’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life are everywhere during the Christmas season. There are Christmas trees, brightly decorated to remind us of the fact Jesus is the light of hope in a dark world. The evergreen Christmas tree itself reflects life even as all the other trees have lost their leaves.

Then there is the candy cane….

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