Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

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Check Your Seed

 

Proverbs 19

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Wednesday

A person’s own folly (foolishness) leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3

When I was in college I remember sitting by a young lady who just loved Professional Wrestling. You know the form of athletic performance art with theatrical events and lots of shouting, not the sport of wrestling.  She could tell you in great detail about the striking attacks, holds, throws and acrobatic maneuvers that she had witnessed while attending the recent matches. One day while she was telling me about what had happened last night during the wrestling match we received our graded science papers.  That is when I saw her completely change.  She had received a failing grade and she was furious. She became so angry at the teacher.  She said things about him under her breath and in her mind he could do “nothing right” during that semester. Her reaction is still vivid in my mind.  She began hating this professor because he had given her a grade that indicated her level of knowledge on the material. She completely removed herself from the equation. She put all the blame on the professor, but did not see that her lack of interest and absence from study was the cause of her grade.

Today we are exploring Proverbs 19.  Verse 3 reminds us that oftentimes we are the ones deciding how our lives will go.  God has created the world with governing principles and laws that manage the earth. Human beings are given free will so there is cause and effect from our actions. We might think of it as sowing and reaping. As Galatians teaches us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (6:7) Rewards or negative consequences are the result of our actions.  I think this statement says it best: If you don’t like the harvest you are reaping, check the seed you are sowing.

There are repercussions of our actions, but we want God to rescue us from the pain and consequences of our bad decisions. Many times we must experience the real pain to move us to the point where we desire to make lasting change.

Now there are many troubles that we will encounter in this fallen world and many of them we have no control over, but the advice of Proverbs is addressing the areas of our life that we can control. God is on our side and He wants us to make the best decisions. He provides correction through the scripture and if we want to be wise (and avoid a lot of pain and drama) we should follow it. Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise (verse 20).

By Rebecca Dauksas

 

Gumdrops and Kittens…or Not?

Joel

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Wednesday, April 12

Let’s be honest, when God sent prophets to His people, they didn’t come with messages of gumdrops and kittens.  Joel is no different.

  • For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
  • Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—
  • The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

God’s judgement is no joke.  But (thankfully) He is also a kind and compassionate Father.

Joel 2:13 says,

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate

Living in a different culture, we miss some of the meaning here.  Have you ever been so angry that you threw something (or wanted to)?  It’s kind of the same idea.  Grief so overwhelming that you pull at your hair, your clothes…you are beside yourself.  In Jewish culture, tearing one’s garments was a common outward sign of tremendous grief.

But here, Joel is calling for more than an outward sign.  He’s telling the people that God wants an inward change more than….

….more than going forward on ‘decision night’

….more than posting a touching quote on Facebook

….more than acting holy around your parents and church friends

Our Father is merciful and kind, but he cannot tolerate sin.  Like most prophets, Joel gives two options:  Repent or Reap the Consequences.

-Susan Landry

 

And Another Thing…

Hosea 5-9

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Monday, April 10

Have you ever experienced this?

Your parents are lecturing you about something you’ve done wrong.  Really laying into you.  It seems to go on and on and on.  Finally, they pause and take a breath and you think they’re done.  But instead, they start in again with a new wave of, “And another thing…!”

In chapters 4-6, we see God get riled up.  He’s mad.  He is laying it all out in phrases like:

  • You ignored the law of your God
  • You exchanged glory for disgrace
  • Your deeds do not permit you to return to God
  • You’ve moved boundary stones. (I love this phrase, would be an interesting one to dig into)
  • Your love is like a mist…here one minute, gone the next.
  • God has withdrawn from you.

Yeah, He’s mad.

Then He pauses, takes a breath, and starts the second round, where he lays out the consequences of all of this (9:7-9):

The days of punishment are coming,
    the days of reckoning are at hand.
    Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired person a maniac.
The prophet, along with my God,
    is the watchman over Ephraim,
yet snares await him on all his paths,
    and hostility in the house of his God.
They have sunk deep into corruption,
    as in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their wickedness
    and punish them for their sins.

Don’t miss these phrases:

  • Punishment is coming.
  • The days of reckoning are at hand.
  • God will remember.
  • Punish them for their sins.

We are so fortunate that, because of Jesus, we don’t have to have our sins remembered by God.  They can be wiped away.  Forgiven here and now.  That doesn’t let us off the hook, though.  Jesus calls us to continued repentance and obedient living.

But what wonderful news that we get to choose if our parental lecture ends with punishment or forgiveness.  When does THAT ever happen?

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Listen Up!

II Chronicles 35-36

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Sunday, December 4

Have you ever wondered if God gets frustrated when people don’t listen to Him?  The people of Jerusalem had a great king while Josiah was ruler of Jerusalem but things quickly turned sour after his death.  Under King Josiah the people had experienced the re-instatement of the religious commemoration festivities of Passover.  The celebration was even mostly funded with animal sacrifices given by  Josiah and his officers on behalf of the laypeople.  We are told that such a tremendous Passover had not been celebrated like that in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet, and that no other Passover celebration was quite like the one that Josiah had with the Priests of God.  But then something tragic happens.  Josiah, who normally would have listened to God, and his messengers decides to not heed God’s warning and goes to war unnecessarily where he is wounded and dies.

This is where the story of the people of Jerusalem takes a dramatic, terrible turn for the worse.  Under their next two kings who are ungodly men the country goes into a spiritual downward spiral.  The people forget the goodness of God, their devotion to Him and refused to listen to the prophets such as Jeremiah that God would send to warn the people to turn from their wicked ways.   Again, and again they were warned but they continually mocked the messengers of God, thus  raising  the wrath of God until there was no remedy.  The people and their kings did not listen, so God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to overtake their beloved city and carry many of the people off into exile in the land of Babylon.  To make matters worse the Babylonians carried off the sacred vessels and treasures of God’s house to their own land, slew many of the people, burned the house of God, and tore down the protective wall around Jerusalem.  The people stayed exiled in Babylon, and the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins for 70 years before God brought about a change by stirring up within Cyrus King of Persia’s spirit that the people that had been taken captive in the previous conquests should be allowed to go back to their homeland and worship in their beloved city once again.

What caught my eye in this passage is that the people would not listen and mocked the messengers of God and scoffed at the prophets God sent.  Doesn’t that  sound like the society we live in today?

Many of us have friends who are unbelievers, or even friends who claim to be Christians but their life choices and their actions don’t seem to follow God’s standards.  Many of them are doing the same thing today by scoffing at the idea that there is a God who is in control of the Universe or mocking God by not following his standards instead choosing to do whatever makes them feel good.  People often make excuses why they are the exception to God’s rules.  Does God like this?   From what we have read, God doesn’t.   Scripture reminds us that we should not be deceived, God will not be mocked, people reap what they sow.  By sowing disobedience to God, in turn God removed his protection from the people of Jerusalem and allowed them to be overtaken by enemies.

Every action has a consequence, every choice has a consequence.  Choosing not to listen to God, and honor him  has its consequences as well.  The people of Jerusalem found that out the hard way.  If only they had just  listened to  God how differently things might have turned out!     Key thought:  Choose to hear when  God is speaking to you!

-Merry Peterson

 

A Little About The Writer:

Merry Peterson is an Associate Pastor at Freedom In Christ Church in Welland, Ontario, Canada.  She grew up in Canada and recently moved back there after  pastoring a church in Wenatchee, Washington for 15 years.  She is a graduate of Atlanta Bible College, and Clayton State University.  She enjoys hiking, baking, reading, and often has pet goldfish.  Merry has enjoyed being at FUEL as a camper and as part of the staff. 

 

 

Winning the Battle, but Losing the War

2 Chronicles 23-25

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Wednesday, November 30

I am enjoying the trailers for Rogue One, the soon-to-be-released film that chronicles the rise of the rebel alliance, setting the stage for Star Wars movies four through six. The search for the rightful ruler lies behind many such stories.

 

We see the same throughout Judah’s history. In today’s reading alone, we read of four different regime changes. The first is the best, as God’s priests serve as warriors defending the rightful king and overthrowing the usurping daughter of Ahab.

 

Stuart (1987) writes that the Chronicler likes to show immediate retribution for sin amongst God’s people, and we see that several times in today’s passage. One really sad event begins with King Amaziah trusting God and winning a battle against great odds, but then returning home to set up the defeated kingdom’s idols for Israel to worship. God’s prophet rightly asks him, “Why have you resorted to a people’s gods who could not deliver their own people from your hand?” (2 Chron. 25:15). Before long, Judah was overthrown by Israel.

 

Does life work like that today? How quickly do we experience the consequences of bad behavior?Sometimes it happens very quickly, but not always. The Apostle Paul warns us, “The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgment, while the sins of others follow them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden.” (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

 

We must remember, however, that our life as Christians is not simply a matter of good things happening when we are good and bad things happening when we are bad. We are called into a life better than anything we read about in the Old Covenant because now we have entered into a wonderful new relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us. We must not be dominated by the cycle of good and bad behavior that occurs in almost everyone, and instead live in faith that God loves us and enables us to live out our lives through the power of his Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

-Greg Demmitt

Douglas Stuart, Hosea–Jonah, WBC 31; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 262.

God’s Grace Brings Release (2 Kings 24-25)

Sunday, November 13

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Chapter 23 ended with Jehoiakim becoming king and doing evil in the eyes of the Lord just as his fathers had.  Then moving into chapter 24, Nebuchadnezzar comes onto the scene.  He invaded Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim his servant, to carry out his orders over Judah.  After 3 years Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.  The Lord sent armies against him for the evil he had done and he is killed.  His son Jehoiachin became king and continued doing evil in the eyes of the Lord as his fathers did.  The cycle is continuing.

After Jehoiachin had ruled only 3 months, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem.  Jehoiachin surrendered and is taken prisoner.  All the treasures of the temple were taken, along with treasures from the king’s house.  All but the poorest people were exiled to Babylon.  Things were as low as they had ever been for Judah.  However, they kept getting worse, and Jerusalem was eventually destroyed.

This seems to just be a story of kings doing evil, and suffering consequences for it.  Fast forward 37 years and Nebuchadnezzar dies and Evil-Merodach becomes king of Babylon.  He releases Jehoiachin from prison and gave him a place of honor.  What a transformation overnight to go from prison to a place of honor with the king.

Have you ever felt that because of some mistake you made or some circumstances, that you can never get past it?  Have you felt that things are just going from bad to worse and you will never get past the problems you have?  I am guessing Jehoiachin felt that he was condemned to being in prison the rest of his life, and lacked hope at times.  However, his life turned around.  Doesn’t this sound like the grace of God?  There is nothing that shows Jehoiachin deserved this improved position, however he was granted it anyways.

Whether our problems are caused by our own mistakes or just circumstances we are in, we can have the hope of God’s grace, and have everything turned around.  We just need to accept God’s gift, along with repentance for our sins.

We can always have hope.

Andrew Hamilton