Tag Archives: Sin

I Will Fail You

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NRSV)

ryanClarkHave you ever been failed by anyone? Have you ever put your trust in someone, almost elevating them to the status of “perfect”, only to be let down by how not “perfect” they actually are? Perhaps you have done this with celebrities? Perhaps you have done this with public officials, perhaps you have done this with pastors, with friends, and/or with family members. You think that they are wonderful people, that they can do no wrong, that they have your best-interest in mind, only to find out that they were not able to live up to all you thought that they were.

Have you ever failed anyone, including yourself? Have you ever had people put their trust in you, have you had people look up to you like you could do no wrong, only to let them down for one reason or the other, revealing to them how much wrong you could actually do? Have you ever been relied on, looked up to, and placed in a position that you felt you had to live up to, only to find out that your attempt, in the end, was an epic fail? My guess is that, like me, everyone can pretty much answer “yes” to each one of the above questions.

I have been listening to my favorite Christian metal band, “Demon Hunter”, a lot lately. On their latest album, “Extremist”, there is a song called, “I Will Fail You.” In that song, Ryan Clark sings, “I will fail you, of that I’m sure. I will remind you of the pain forevermore. And when my sins are just a memory, faith restored, I will fail you to the core.” In the video for the song, Clark is seen driving a car at night…like for the WHOLE VIDEO. As the song progresses, Clark goes from just driving, to lighting up a cigarette and smoking. Finally, he opens up a bottle of  pills and takes several of them, which are presumably narcotics. In the end, Clark becomes dazed and incoherent as headlights shine through his window. The video then pans to the passenger side of the car where a man who is bound, whose mouth is shut with duct tape, tries screaming to wake the drugged driver up. The video cuts to black; the video, like the driver and passenger in the car, has come to an abrupt end.

Clark, who is the frontperson and chief song writer for the band, explained the song by saying that, especially as Christian artists, there is a lot of pressure for them to be perfect. Because they are Christian, people expect them to be the ultimate role models, to be the staunchest Christians (as defined by each individual looking to them that way), and to live perfect lives. The reality is, however, that at some point they will be let down. Imperfection and the tendency to fail are a part of the human condition. What’s more, if we try to be perfect or elevate someone up to the status of perfection, we are totally setting ourselves up for epic failure.

The only one we should look to for perfection is God. While Christ called us to “be perfect as God is perfect,” Christ was not calling us to raise up anyone, ourselves included, as idols of perfection. Rather, Christ was calling us to strive to live into the essence of God, which is to have compassion, to be a peacemaker, to forgive others, to be agents of hope, healing and wholeness, to seek justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. If we do those things, if we seek after God’s righteousness rather than an unattainable human perfection, we will find that God’s righteousness will be flowing in and through us for the transformation of the world around us. I will fail you…but GOD WILL NOT!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” – Benjamin Franklin

PRAYER
Lord, help me to place my faith in you for you will never fail me. Help me to grow in my love and compassion to others who, like me, embody the human condition. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #9: The Terrorism of Gossip

Read Romans 1:28-32

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. ‘Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.’” (Leviticus 19:16 NLT)

evildead_620_101512I can clearly remember my time in Elementary School. I remember that I was not quite in the “popular” group, in fact, I wasn’t “popular” at all…whatever that actually means. I remember what it was like being someone who was being talked about, I remember what it was like having rumors spread about me. By the time I was a junior in high school, I had given up trying to be liked by people. In fact, I used to spread rumors around about myself to see how fast they traveled back to me. Have you ever played that game?

The truth is, I wasn’t guilt-free in the department of participating in gossip, either. None of us are. Each of us have, no doubt had rumors spread about us and we all have, no doubt, participated in the spreading of rumors. What’s worse than that being done in high school or in the world, where it is common place and expected, such gossip is just as prevalent in the church and in the lives of Christians as well. This leads us to Pope Francis I’s 9th Ailment of the Church.

Ailment of the Church #9: Committing the Terrorism of Gossip. According to Paul, we who follow Christ are all a part of Christ’s resurrected body. What does this mean? This means that we are supposed to have died to our old ways, we are supposed to have died to our sinful nature, and we are supposed to have resurrected from that death into a new life. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)! If we have died to our corruption and resurrected back to life, then we shouldn’t be living corruptible lives. Gossip is, perhaps, one of the greater corruptions within the church and it is a blasphemy against the Spirit of the living, resurrected Christ.

In fact, Pope Francis I calls Gossip a form of terrorism and, honestly, it truly is. Anyone who has been gossiped about knows that terror and damage that it causes. It damages one’s psyche, it damages one’s self-image, it damages one’s soul. Conversely, those who engage in gossip are in great peril themselves because they are hardening their own hearts, growing calloused, and the gossip is consuming their own souls. Like the demons in the movie the Evil Dead, gossip enters in and it consumes who ever participates in it. It destroys them and it seeks to destroy the people being gossiped about as well. How can gossip ever have a place in the body of Christ? It can’t, and the truth is that those who continually engage in it separate themselves from that body.

Christ is calling us to stop the terrorism of gossip. We were not meant to participate in such a pernicious sin, one that so closely walks the line between sin and evil. If you are one who is engaging in gossip, if you are one who engages in cutting people down behind their backs, if you are one who slanders people and murders them with your words, then Christ is calling you to die to that part of your life. Let that be nailed to the cross so that you may join Christ in the resurrected life. We, as Christians, are filled with the Holy Spirit and are new creatures in Christ. We are the ones who have been called to bring the hope, healing and wholeness of Christ as opposed to the despair, decay and death that comes from the terrorism of gossip. I pray that you are freed from those bonds that you may live into the resurrected Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me, I pray. Kill any traces of gossip within me and heal me from the times that I have been gossiped about. Resurrect me into a new life, free from gossip and any other kind of slander. Amen.

Evil Begotten

Read Romans 12:9-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Maleficent2Boy do my wife and daughters know how to make me feel special. For Father’s day, following church and fellowship, they treated me out to see: Disney’s “Maleficent”, which stars Angelina Jolie in the title role. What a spectacular film to get to see and it actually exceeded my expectations, which were quite high, in ways I never foresaw.

While I am not going to ruin the film with spoilers, I will address a theme that is predominant in the film in a way that does not give away anymore of the plot than the trailers and/or previews give. The movie starts off with a young fairy named Maleficent, who was actually anything but Maleficent. She was kind-hearted, thoughtful and filled with the love of life. But all of that changes after her heart, her trust and her hope are broken because of the evil deeds of a greedy and vengeful king.

The evil that was perpetrated against her land, and the evil that was perpetrated against her and her kind, caused her to grow angry and resentful. It drove her to hate the king and all humans for what they had done toward her. It spiraled her downward into becoming a hellish, shadowing, and vengeful queen seeking to bring curses against the ones who sought to destroy her. Evil had begotten evil.

For those of you who have seen the original Walt Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, you know what becomes of Maleficent and what the evil begotten above did to her. Evil never stays in one place and it found it’s way into the life of an innocent girl named Aurora, who was to be princess of the land. Because of Maleficent’s evil curse, this princess was doomed to be in a “sleep like death”, which could only be broken by “true love’s kiss.” What a sad and tragic story indeed. Where does the evil end?

Some of you might be screaming, “Time out! Why is it that this world wants you to sympathize with the villains? Who cares why Maleficent did what she did?!?! It was wrong and there is no excuse for it!” That is true, there is not excuse for the evil that Maleficent perpetrated on others; however, the world is not so black and white. It is easy when we look at the Maleficents of the world and point the finger, but not so easy when we are forced to look in the mirror at ourselves. How has evil affected you? How have you let the hurts you’ve endured and the challenges that you have faced to effect you? Have you ever lashed out at others because you yourself were hurt and/or vulnerable?

For each of us, the answer to these questions and others like them will be different. Each of us carries around our own set of baggage. Each of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have been a participant in sin, and even evil, whether we realize it or not. The point of this is not to shame you or make you feel guilty, but to humbly liberate you from the judgmentalism we so often get trapped in.

Sitting in the judgment seat of God (as Maleficent ended up doing), is not the way to stop evil in its tracks; rather, the best way to stop evil is to simply choose not to participate in it and to counter act it with our love and compassion. We have the choice to repent of our own participation in evil, to reject its pull on our lives, and to rise up out of it with the strong wings of God’s grace. Though we have all suffered, one way or the other, as a result of evil…we can choose not follow suit. So, say NO to evil and YES to the “true love” that God is willing to fill you with.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:44-45

PRAYER

Lord, pull me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Fill me with your forgiveness so that I may forgive. Amen.

 

Ash Wednesday

Read Matthew 4:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

ash_wednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the Lenten journey, a journey that starts today and ends at the foot of the cross. It is a journey that begs of us to reflect, to meditate on who we are and who God is calling us to be. It is a forty day period out in the wilderness. Just as Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in preparation of his ministry in and around Galilee, so too we are called into such a time of reflection and preparation.

What does Ash Wednesday mean to you? Is is a religious obligation? Is it something that you have always done and continue to do for tradition’s sake? Is it a ritual observance and nothing more? Is it something that makes little to no sense to you? Is it something that you don’t observe at all? How do you spend your time on Ash Wednesday or do you focus on it at all?

Throughout this past year, I have written a number of devotions on the importance of having Spiritual Discipline. The observance of a day such as Ash Wednesday is certainly an important part of the Christian’s life and is certainly a discipline we should all be practicing. But it is also important for us to understand the meaning of Ash Wednesday before we set off to observe it.

Many people observe Ash Wednesday and the forty day period of Lent that follows by “giving up” something for the entire forty days. Some Christians give up meat on Fridays, others give up chocolate. Some give television and others give up their favorite pastimes. Regardless of what your practice is, if you have one, why is it that you are doing it? Is it because you have always done it and you don’t give it much more thought than that? Is there some other reason that you have understood your fasting to mean?

One of the things that is vital in our growth as a people of faith is that we really evaluate the reasons why we do things. Doing something just for the sake of it doesn’t necessarily cause us to grow from who we are to God wants us to be. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that your spiritual practice is wrong or mistaken, nor am I saying that you should give that discipline up. Rather, whatever your Lenten discipline is, KNOW WHY you are doing it.

Use your discipline as a way to reflect on where you are at this given point in your life and faith journey. What ever your discipline is, use it as a vehicle to draw you closer to God. If you are abstaining from something during Lent, let that be an reminder of the excess that we have and also let it be a reminder of the fact that GOD is truly all we need.  Whatever your spiritual discipline is for observing Lent, allow GOD to transform you through it. Open yourself up to the transformative power of GOD!

Today is Ash Wednesday! Make today the day you truly begin reflect on your spiritual health and on your well being in general. Take an assessment of yourself. Understand why it is you do what you do. Seek the deeper meaning behind your rituals. Open yourself up to the transformation that God brings to each of us as we need it. Allow your spiritual disciplines, whatever they are, to shape you and guide you throughout the next forty days and forty nights. My prayer for you is that God shows you your true purpose and that you embrace that purpose with your whole being.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It’s a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are.” – Thomas Keating

PRAYER

Lord, guide me during Lent so that I may better understand who I am as well as who’s I am! Amen.

Easy A for Antithetical

Read Colossians 3:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

easy_a_TRUE

At first she liked the attention. She even tried to help one of her bullied friends, letting him tell people that he had a tryst with her too. This led to other bullied kids asking her, and even offering to pay her, to let them claim to have had a tryst with her. At first, Olive agrees to all of this, thinking that she is in control of the situation; yet, as they often do, the rumors spun way out of control.

I won’t give anymore of the film away so as to not spoil it for those who haven’t watched it; however, I mention it because it is worth noting how easily people can get caught up in rumors. People just love gossip. All it takes is for one person to catch wind of something and, before long, the story has grown by leaps and bounds and has spread around an entire community and beyond.  What’s more, rumors are seldom, if ever, based on truth.

As Olive found out, rumors are nothing to play around with. While most people don’t start rumors about themselves, people often participate in them about others. They catch wind of something about someone they don’t know well, or perhaps of someone they don’t like, and they begin to talk about it with others, who then continue to spread the gossip. At first, gossip often seems very innocent and harmless; however, gossip is anything of the sort. At best, gossip emotionally and psychologically hurts and scars those who are subjected to it. At worst, it can be spiritually and physically damaging, causing the subjects of such gossip to devalue themselves and even, in some cases, harm themselves.

The Apostle Paul certainly dealt with division and rumors in his churches. In fact, he did not hesitate to clearly state that gossip, slander and other abusive behaviors were sinful. There is nothing good or Godly that can come from the spreading of gossip. Paul went so far as to even say that anyone who participates in any sort of wrongdoing such as gossip, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. After all, if God is love, and God is at the center of the Kingdom of God, then it logically follows that Love is at the center of the Kingdom of God. Gossip is certainly not an expression of love. It has no place in love. Gossip seeks to separate not to support. It seeks to discriminate not to accept. It seek so to destroy not to build up. When one really thinks about it, gossip is antithetical to love; therefore, those who actively seek to participate in gossip are choosing to not participate in (aka inherit) the kingdom of God.

This, perhaps, is not an easy message for many of us. Most of us have been caught up in one form of gossip or another; however, it is a message we need to hear all the same. God does not want us to participate in gossip, no matter what reason we feel we have for doing so. In God’s eyes, there is NO REASON to gossip. Rather, let us seek to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Let us seek to truly get to know someone, rather than scorning them based off of hearsay. Let us live into, and inherit, the Kingdom of God rather than sowing the seeds of envy, gossip and hate. That is what LOVE calls us to do!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us, to talk about the rest of us.” – Edward Wallis Hoch

PRAYER

Lord, steer me clear of gossip, no matter how innocent it may seem. Let my words reflect your love for all people, and plant that love in my heart. Amen.

Living in Sin

Read Matthew 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:22-23, NLT)

Bon-JoviAnyone who knows me knows that my favorite rock band is Bon Jovi. From a young boy through the present day, I always found Bon Jovi’s music to be relatable. Their songs are often about life for the average person. If you’ve ever had to work hard and struggle to make end’s meat then you can certainly relate to Bon Jovi’s music. If you’ve ever been jaded in love, or fallen head over heels for someone, then you will certainly find a home in Bon Jovi’s lyrics. Over the course of nearly thirty years, Bon Jovi has written and recorded an extensive musical catalog that speaks to almost every aspect of life.

One of my favorite songs off of their album, New Jersey, is a song called “Living In Sin.” The song actually tells the story of two lovers who are wanting to be with each other and are meeting resistance by the girl’s parents. In the song Jon sings: Is it right for both our parents Who fight it out most nights, then pray for God’s forgiveness when they both turn out the lights. Or wear that ring of diamonds when your heart is made of stone. You can talk but still say nothing…stay together but alone.”

Here, Jon is questioning the “moral” restrictions that people put on being in love. If you cross the boundaries without being married, then you are living in sin; yet, in our culture, the same people upholding those restrictions are also failing in their relationships. Jon, in the character of this girl’s boyfriend, points out the hypocrisy that is often found among people who claim the moral high ground all the while failing to reach the moral high ground themselves.

This song, while it certainly does not excuse bad behavior and while it certainly does not eliminate the need to strive to live a moral life, causes the listener to ponder the nature of hypocrisy. How often have we, as an individual, failed to live up to the standards that we put forth for others to follow? How often have we preached one thing and failed to follow what we preach?

While the Bon Jovi song, “Living in Sin”, is about love and marriage, the song should cause us to reflect on the bigger picture. Are we so quick to judge another person’s behavior without carefully examining our own? Are we living examples of what it means to be holy or are we besmirching Christ with a holier-than-thou persona teeming with hypocrisy. Does our attitude represent Christ or repel people away from Christ?

When people see us preach one thing and do another, it causes them to look at the message itself as flawed, judgmental and hypocritical. Jesus warned against being the type of person that does not practice what he or she preaches. Jesus grew angry with people who taught one way and lived another. According to Jesus, if you are going to claim the moral high ground, you had better live up to that claim. The question is, which one of us can truly claim the moral high ground?

We are not called to be kings and queens of the moral mountain; rather, we are called to be ambassadors to the kingdom of compassionate mercy and unceasing grace.  Rather than trying raise the bar up to a level we have yet to live up to, we should embrace humility and extend to others the grace and love that God has extended to us. Once we do that we will no longer be living in sin; rather, we will be living in the love that conquered all sin on the cross.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 6:41-42

PRAYER

Lord help me to live out your love so that I may adequately be a reflection of your hope, your healing and your wholeness. Amen.