Tag Archive | sin

Coloring Outside The Lines – How It Began

Sin never seems to just burst through the door waving a flag, blowing on a bugle and screaming “COME ON FOLLOW ME!”  Instead it creeps in slowly, at least in a believer’s life.  Like David on the roof top, maybe we look just a little too long, or take a second glance.  Someone flirts and we flirt back.  Someone gossips or speaks ill of someone, and instead of shutting it down by changing the subject or walking away we join in and make an unkind remark.  Someone tries to provoke us and instead of praying for our enemies as God commands, and loving them as His Word instructs, we poke back.  Maybe we reason away that one drink won’t hurt anything when we know we might have a problem controlling our alcohol intake.

Regardless of what it is, we let it slip in through a crack that forms in our foundation.  That crack happens when we take our eyes off the Lord, when we start letting other things come between us and prayer time, study time, and gathering with other Christians.  Maybe it is a TV show, or a football game, staying up late and over sleeping on Sunday morning.  Whatever it is we allow things to start taking priority in our lives.  In and of themselves they are not bad or wrong things, but we let them come before what is most important.  And anything that we put ahead of the Lord is an idol.  Over time we hold that up, giving it attention when something else should be getting our attention.  The crack starts there.

What begins as a hairline crack, nearly undetectable at first, starts to grow in length and width.  Not fast, mind you.  It takes time.  We start to notice short comings in others because if we are focused on them and their behavior, we are not focused so much on our own.  We become disgruntled, the crack grows more.  Dirty water from around the foundation begins to seep in through the crack.  Just a drop here and there, but then bigger drops, and more of them, until it is a tiny stream.

The bible says in James 1:12-15:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

We’re first tempted, when we let our desires seep in through the cracks.  We are enticed by fantasies and dreams, and we begin to breathe life into them, verbalizing and sharing them.  As time goes by they grow and become more prominent in our speech.  Before long those desires conceive and give birth to sin.  We act upon the desires and fantasies, and the crack breaks open more and sin is born.

That is exactly how it happened.  Time, events, “life” got in the way of what was important.  Little by little, we let more and more things become more important than being at church.  And the fantasies began to be voiced, talked about, used to entice and excite.  In time they were acted upon and we began to lead 2 lives, one that on the surface looked like we were good, church going, bible believing Christians.  The other was kept in secret and away from the eyes of friends and family.  We made new “friends” that helped us to justify what we were doing.  Consenting adults, it wasn’t sin if we both were in agreement.

The first clue that something is a sin might be the ‘secret’ part.  When you have to hide it, there is a reason.  Cheating on your spouse usually starts out with secrets…texts, flirts, emails, conversations, meeting up for drinks or lunch, things you do when your significant other is not around.  Things you would never do in front of them with their full knowledge because it is WRONG and you know darn well what their reaction would be.  If you cannot share it with the church family, or your blood family because they would ‘judge’ your actions as wrong, then maybe you need to be thinking again.  Hidden things, secret things, things that could cost you your position in the church, damage your testimony and/or reputation, cost you your marriage….yes those things are not okay, or you would not be hiding them.

We justified that they would not understand, even tried to convince ourselves that God never intended for us to be monogamous because after all, He made us with these desires and as long as we go home each time with our spouse at the end of the night or party, then it is okay.  If it was we wouldn’t have been hiding what we were doing.  I believe deep down we both knew very well what we were doing was completely wrong and sinful.  But oh the fun, the parties, the open mindedness.  Sharing intimacy wasn’t really my  thing, that was the other half’s joy.  But I enjoyed the parties, dressing inappropriately sexy and embracing the knowledge that I was sexy, desirable and so many men wanted me.  Sure, that was indeed a draw, but what I really wanted more than anything was for my spouse to feel that way about me, and me ONLY.  But I walked into this with him and saw no real way out.  Instead of shutting down those fantasies when they first came up, I put him on the pedestal and tried my best to be what I believed he wanted.  I am just as guilty as he is for where we went.  I could have prayed for him, steered things gently away from the sinful desires, but I opted to feed the flames.  I put my husband’s desires and happiness ahead of the Lord, I actually made him my idol.  I carried things entirely too far from his being my hero and center of my world, when I should have had his spiritual health, the state of his soul as my major concern.  Instead of praying, I added to the temptation.  I ate from the forbidden fruit through the images I’d verbally weave and handed the fruit off to him.

Let my coloring book stand as a warning.  We cannot allow even the smallest temptation to cross over into our lives.  Once we let just the smallest sin in, it takes over and grows.  I have no idea who said it, but I’ll stop tonight with this thought, as it is so very true:

Sin  will take you further than you want  to go.  It will keep you longer than you want to stay.  And it will cost you more than you want to pay.

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Psalm 51 – The Way Back To God

I’m re-reading a fantastic book, The Way Back To God by Clarence Sexton.  The dedication in the book reads:

This book is dedicated to all those who have come back to God. I mean by this, true children of God who have drifted and have repented of their sin and cast themselves on God’s mercy for the way back to Him.

In the introduction it mentions that “David’s heart cry in Psalm 51 is the sinner’s guide back to God”. 

A dear friend gave me this book in December of 2010, when I first went back to my church home.  I was the prodigal child, who had gone into the “world” and squandered my riches.  In this case my riches were the blessings, love and support of fellow believers, my testimony of faith, various friendships etc.  At the time I had no idea what was really going on was an issue within MY heart.  Oh, I did not agree with somethings that were being done at my church home, but I did not react in love.  My heart was growing black with a sinful secret life being led while each week attending services to worship.  What could have been an opportunity to share my heart with the elders in my church, and perhaps open their thinking and hearts to a different perspective, became my springboard of justifying leaving.  I still believe things were not handled as they should have been, but I certainly was not behaving in a Christ like manner.  The problem with any church body and leadership is…they are human.  Therefore prone to make mistakes, and we expect them to somehow behave as anything other than sinners, be they saved by grace or not.

King David was “a man after God’s own heart”, precious and blessed by God, protected and loved.  And he loved God too, and served Him and found great favor with God.  Of all people we would not imagine could not only sin, but then keep digging deeper into the pit of darkness, it is King David.  He went from sinful lust, to adultery, to lying, to murder.  This was because, as the book says, “If you allow something to come between you and your walk with God, there is no telling how far you will go and what terrible things you might do if you keep going in the wrong direction.”   Oh true words these are!  I did not take every thought captive to to Christ as the bible teaches to do.  Instead, my thought life led to dabbling in sin, just sticking my hands in the water, then my feet, and before long I was sinking beneath the surface and no longer hearing that still, small voice inside.  I had not dealt with sin before it started, and as I let it in, it took over.  My fault.

David didn’t do what he did over night, it went on for a long time.  It wasn’t until after a child had been born as a result of his sin, a year after the murder of Uriah, who’s wife David had committed adultery with and had a child with, that his sin was revealed.  And while God did in fact forgive David and reconciled their relationship, there were consequences for that sin.  The child died and David’s house never was a place of peace again.  I have seen the consequences of my sins.  But I also know that as a child of God, daughter of the Most High, I’m forgiven when I repented of what I have done.  It was not easy to pull away from those ways either, I was pulled back to the edge of the pool many times to wad in the waters before pulling myself out again.

I’ve lost much that I believe came as a direct result.  While I was not wealthy by any stretch, I did have a pretty nice life with a good husband, a home, pool, hot tub, nice cars etc.  But sin broke down the foundation of the marriage, both mine and his sins, and over time I took things even further.  While I had his blessing to go down that road, and even his support, it was wrong.  I knew it and yet I went there willingly.  It was even my own idea.  Perhaps that is why I am now without  those things I held dear to me.  In this lifetime I will likely never have that answer.  But I do know that as  I have examined my life up until now, I know what I must do and where I must turn.

I have my issues with where I had been in a church family.  But sound  doctrine is more important than feel good music and gospels, or being liked for that matter.   Watering down the Word of God may win over ‘friends’, but it won’t convict the sinner to repent.  So that is why I will go where I once was, I need solid teaching as I progress through this walk and yield to God’s will for me.

A Prayer of Repentance

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,[a]
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

What Brought You Back?

I’ve been asked this a lot recently, especially by some of the younger adults, the ones I taught in Kids Club or assisted in the Jr./Sr. High Youth Group…What brought you back?  They didn’t really know much other than one day me and my family just up and left.  We turned in our membership certificates and walked away from our church family.  In the years that I’d been away, close to 6 years it would seem, much water has passed under the bridge.  That water was mostly dark and polluted, clouded with a lot of sin and sinful ways of life.

The better question would be, what kept me away?

In a word:  Pride (aka: self love)

Nothing but pride can really be to blame.  Sin took me away, pride held me there.  My heart, that most deceitful part of me, turned me from what I knew was sound and right, and took me on a long and twisted path through a very dark and godless place.

There were many reasons that we chose to leave our church family, but each boils down to one thing, ME.  Issues with the music (it was too slow for me, all those hymns, not upbeat enough or contemporary enough), the teaching (I felt unfed and uninterested) the people (hypocrits, gossips, unloving). I wasn’t living a Christ honoring life, there was a private, sinful side that was well hidden from everyone, that I entertained.  Sure I went where my spouse went, and I could easily point a finger in judgment and blame him, but then no one put a gun to my head either.  One can carry that whole submission to your spouse thing too far when it is used to cover your sin.  And for a while, when dissatisfied in that dark way of life, I inwardly tried to cover my sin with that.  At any time I could have walked away.  I blamed the music, people, teaching, ex..when in reality the problem was within me, my own sinful heart.

First…submission ends at sin’s door.  I have no problem being the godly wife that submits to the husband’s authority.  But when the leader/head of the wife begins down a wrong path, that is  right where the submission ends.  I was enticed by sin and once it was conceived in my heart it gave birth to a wretched way of life of my own chosing.  I should never have taken those first steps, which started with the mind with fantasy.  What is it about God’s people that when they fall, sins of a sexual nature are where we stumble?  Maybe because the most intimate display of love for each other is the one most used by the devil.  Once you destroy that fabric,  the physical bindings of the marriage, the rest will unravel.  Trust me on this, it is true. 

When I focused on MY likes and dislikes, rather than on the Lord,  I was no longer on solid ground, I was standing on sinking sand.  See, the worship service isn’t about me at all. It is about GOD, it is about WORSHIP.  Worship of the Lord, adoration and praise of my Savior, not about me.  I focused on ME, not Jesus.  My heart was in a wrong place outside of the church, already on a road to destruction.  I had  taken my eyes of Christ and put them on me.  He was no longer the object of my passion, I was.  Worshiping the Lord  through music  isn’t about the beat, how fast or how slow, how old or how contemporary….it is about the content of the words I’m singing to God.  Those words of the old hymns are timeless treasures.  But I was hung up on me and missed that.  YES there are many wonderful contemporary songs, but the point is not the music, it is the words I am singing, from the heart, that matter.

God’s word, no matter what passage, is right, holy and perfect.  But I wasn’t leading a life that sought His Word, I was seeking my own desires.  I began to find fault with the teaching, then the teacher, the elders, and the church family.  The further away I withdrew, the quieter that still, small voice of God  within grew, until I could no longer hear it at all.  I heard instead my own thoughts, desires, and followed myself.

There were times that the Lord sent a  gentle nudge my way to bring me back.  A brief light pierced the darkness but I shyed away. Light uncovers things and I certainly did not want anyone to see my sins, so I turned away and hid.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I was far from home, squandering the priceless gifts God had given me, but caught up in the sin it was hard to go back.  The further away I got, the more I sinned.  When at last I brushed off the last of that sinful way and turned around, pride got in the way for a while.  I was terrified of being judged.  I knew that many were aware of where I had been. 

I feared what others that might know would say, what people might think.  When I left I was married and  my spouse had  sat as chairman of the deacon board. We had been very active in the body of believers, and now I was divorced and smelled of the pig pen I had been living in, my sin.  Pride  wouldn’t allow me to take the steps to return.

Thankfully a dear friend (actually many) had prayed long and hard since the day we left.  This one dear friend was nearing the end, ready to give up and accept that perhaps I wasn’t meant to come back.  God was faithful to her, and the others, and when she was reaching the point, His divine  intervention allowed circumstances to roll into place and we reconnected.  The Lord used her and my favorite comfort food, to open the door and let the light shine inside my heart again.  Instead of hiding it, I confessed it.  And I listened to the wisdom of God, shared through this beautiful vessel of my long lost sister in Christ, and it grabbed hold.

2 days later I walked back into my former church.  I was very apprehensive and afraid of being judged.  Again,  pride got in there.  I have nothing to fear of the judgment of others, believers or not.  I have a judgement coming my way, we all do,  one I need to be concerned about, and that  was only a piece of what she had shared over dinner.  Nothing I wasn’t aware of, just nothing I was thinking about as I should have been.  The Father is gracious to His children, and as I entered those doors my heart and soul knew peace.  I felt  like the prodigal child come home.  There may have been those that stood in judgment that day, but I never saw them.  I instead saw open arms,  warm embraces, and no shortage of tears of joy that I was home again. 

I want so much to say to those young people who have slipped away, the ones whose parents I now worship with once more….swallow your pride, put to death the self, and please, come home again.

Ever Seeking

Being sick derailed me a bit, I missed church 2 Sundays and a Wednesday thanks to the cold/sinus infection/flu bug…whatever that was.  But today I was there and SO thankful.  Great Sunday school lesson on eschatology and a great sermon on the two cups, one of God’s wrath and one of the blessings to the believer.  I was so thankful pastor opted to preach first today, and hold  communion until after the sermon.

I really needed to think hard about the wrath that was poured out on Christ for my sins, a cup He prayed and asked the Father if there be any other way at all to let it pass when in the garden the night before He was crucified.  God’s wrath toward our sin must be unimaginable.  Equally the cup of blessing to those that are redeemed by the blood that was spilled under that wrath, must be unimaginable.

The teaching time was very important to my considering if I take my sin too lightly.  The answer of course is yes.  I needed that  focus before  communion, to pray and refocus on my walk.  The more I seek God, the more I will see my sin for what it is and turn from it.  I will not do it perfectly.  I will slip, stumble and fall.  But I will keep brushing myself off, standing back up, and continuing to walk on the road less traveled.

Ever seeking.

The Same…But Different

A  number of years ago we got to hear Pastor Mark Webb preach at the Mid-American Reformed Baptist Family Conference, and he used that phrase throughout one of his rather amusing sermons.  To this day if someone says it and others laugh,  you know they attended that conference.

I was noticing this past Sunday, my 5th one in a row back in my church home, how that applies.  So much is the same  and yet different. 

Many of the same faces are there, but many are not and have been replaced by new ones.  Of  those that are the same, many have grown up from little kids that I last recall! Some families expanded in number through natural and adoptive means. 

I am now sitting on the ‘sheep’ side of the church.  That was a running joke that we had always sat on the goat’s side, so when I came back I was told I needed to sit with sheep this time.  So in that sense it is different, from the view to the pew occupants. 

That is something I’ve noticed that has been a bit of a brief emotional moment here and there, the absence of half of a couple that at one time were so precious to us (me and the ex) as friends.  He is there, the remaining half of that couple, with their  kids, in the same pew as always.  Second row from the front, goat side.  For years we all shared that pew, often had lunch after church together, played Rook on Friday or Saturday evenings, attended the men’s softball games while our husbands played and we socialized with the women.   It was a far more relaxed and fun time back then, and for a moment I sat and looked over at that pew noticing who was missing, and it hurt a bit.  I stopped and prayed for my friend, I miss her in my life so much.  For years she was my best friend, we shared so much, including some dark parts of our hearts, and some horribly painful times in our lives.  Our friendship was truly forged in the fires of trials when we came together and leaned on each other, prayed for each other, and sat on ‘attitude row’ together at women’s bible study on Friday mornings. (we were your non-conformists of sorts back then!)  Later she and I  would also go on to walk those dark and sinful roads together as well.  I prayed for her while sitting there in church, that one day she too would return to her faith.  Her and my ex.  Where  they land  not so important, but that they do in fact return to where  I know their  hearts truly believed, where fruit was evident in them and where one day again their lives would be honoring to the Lord.

I just thought of her again this evening and stopped to pray.  On one of the shelves of my desk is a Zingle-Berry she gave me one year long ago for my birthday.  I love this thing, it is cute and reminds me of us both.  But especially me, as chocolate to me is a food group and should be the base of the food pyramid!

I miss you, C, very very much!  I’ve made it my goal to pray for you whenever I see the Zingle-Berry. 

Music, Messages and Tossing The Baby Out With The Bath Water

I recently saw a song/video from Youtube on a friend’s Facebook.  The song was one of many that of late have ministered to my heart.  My heart, the one that has come crawling out of the sin swamp and back up onto a road that is uphill, steep, and full of obstacles that often seem insurmountable.  My heart that was drawn back over several months not only by the gently shared faith of a man I dearly love, but also through music being played long before Thanksgiving on a local Christian station, Christmas music.  Many a Scroogy type whined about it but my boss played the station at work and a number of the  songs  like “Breath of Heaven” kept eating at me.  I had wanted to go back to a church a number of times in the past years but never could convince the ex to go.  I should have gone alone.

Music finally was the key that turned the lock of my heart and I returned to my former church and been SO thankful.  And in this time I’ve been listening daily the K-Love radio and a number of  CDs  I had collected (Oh so thankful I didn’t toss those out during the dark valley years), and a CD my friend, Jane, gave me  my first Sunday back in church.  Music and the message in many of the songs have been ministering to my heart and soul a great deal.

The friend had  someone that responded  with an article about the band that sings the song, and their  warped theology.  In fact it takes issue with a large  number of  contemporary Christian music artists of late.  I will be the first to admit that yes, many do NOT walk a very straight path and many  flat out  make me question their salvation.  Until I remember where I just came  from recently myself.  My walk was very real, my heart very much the Lord’s years ago, the fruit, I believe, was there.  However I allowed seeds of sin to take  root in me and little by little those sins were  cultivated into lush wrongs  and the Lord let  go and let me have  my way.  My way was very far from Him.   I am thankful  that  the consequences of  my sin, though quite the prices to have to pay for rebellion,  were not far worse.   Would my faith and that which I share be less a blessing to someone in need because of where I have walked in darkness while professing to be a believer?

Many of the artists in the article were favorites of mine.  One, Amy Grant, sings the song I mentioned, ‘Breath Of Heaven’.  There  are lines of that song that are SO good they make a great prayer  from the heart.  She herself may be a lousy example of walking with Christ, but does that  diminish the message in the song? I think not!  The David Crowder band, despite whatever maybe wrong with them, have some very good songs out there being played that are ministering to believers, in spite of the  sinners singing them!  In fact, EVERY christian is a  sinner, and has areas of  sin in their life, but that doesn’t mean that the message of the gospel they share is wrong because they have areas of sin to deal  with.

What of the many hymns that, my understanding, were once bar tunes that the words were changed too.  Does that make the hymn useless that is packed with truth because the tune originated as a beer bash melody??? Of course not!  And oh what  of the hidden sins, and maybe not so hidden,  of those that wrote the words  to the hymns we now cherish?  If it is discovered that  Thomas Chisholm was a terrible sinner would we rip “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” from  our hymnals? Let us hope not, the song is written from scripture and very powerful.  Certainly we would not condone the sinner but we wouldn’t remove the music/message over it  I  hope.

If we tossed all the music/songs because the writer is a sinner, the book of Psalms would  be pretty small.  David was guilty of coveting his neighbor’s  wife, adultery, and murder all while being a man after God’s own heart. Even Paul admitted to be a sinner at times!

Romans 7:15-21 (New American Standard Bible)

15For what I am doing, (A)I do not understand; for I am not practicing (B)what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with (C)the Law, confessing that the Law is good.

17So now, (D)no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my (E)flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

19For (F)the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, (G)I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then (H)the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

Just because the artist may have a wrong walk, the music and the message in the music can still be worth sharing as you just never know who it will touch and how it will  minister.  Don’t  toss  the baby out with the bath water!