Sin, Spiritual Growth and Food Allergies? Huh?

ImageI have some kind of dairy allergy. It has never been officially diagnosed, but what good would that do? A test would simply tell me something which my stomach tells me every time I eat dairy products.

My problem is that I love ice cream, cheese, and sour cream. Even though they make me very ill, the temptation is more powerful than my will power. Sometimes I am convinced that I am committing a slow and painful suicide by udder.

I am convinced, I will not give up dairy products until the pain and discomfort overwhelms my desire for the pleasure of dairy product.

When you came into the world, you were handed over to people who practice sin. I don’t care how saintly your parents or guardians were, they had not arrived at sinless existence yet. They still practiced pride, self-protection, self-gratification, lust for pleasure and possession, and were controlled, at least in part, by passions, maybe in more subtle ways. But they were still there.

As soon as you were able to grunt and crawl around, you began elbowing a place for yourself among those who practiced sin. You observed and adopted some of their coping systems and formed them according to your sinful tendencies, or bent. You learned, according to your tendencies, how to get your way, at least a little. You learned how to express your dissatisfaction and manipulate those around you to adjust to your demands.

The Psalmist said the he was shaped in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). His parents were no worse than ours, so that would apply to us. The Apostle Paul explained that this was because of Adam’s failure and applies to everyone who is born with a human father (Romans 5:12-14).

When you were saved, accepting God’s offer for forgiveness through Jesus Christ, you developed a new spiritual allergy. It is the allergy to sin (1 John 5:18). It no longer is digested right in your soul, but causes bad ripple effects in all of your life. Sin is accompanied by a discomfort that really messes you up.

The problem is you just can’t seem to overcome the training and habits that you acquired in your rearing.

Paul put it like this:

 Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope.” Romans 7:15-24 (The Message).

 Christian growth, in its most simple form, is developing new responses to life that are “God dependent” and not self-dependent. These new responses are chosen when the discomfort from our sin allergies is so uncomfortable, we forsake the sin for more healthy spiritual substance.


Why Universalism Flies in the Face of Love

ImageThere was a breach in our relationship. My friend and I were not speaking. Pride, wounds, unkind words and plenty of negative emotions separated us and stole our fellowship.

 I swallowed my pride, owned my responsibility, confessed my selfishness and anger to God and determined that I was going to try to restore the relationship. I took hat in hand, took a caring brother with me, and approached my wounded friend.

I took 100% of the responsibility for the conflict, expressed my sorrow in what I did, tried to express how I understood my friend’s pain and ask my friend if he could forgive me. His words stung me and still hurt today….

 “Oh, I forgive you, but I will not be your friend anymore.”

 Needless to say, I attempted to offer reconciliation by attempting to pay the price for it, but it was not accepted.

 When we were alienated from God, God sent His only Son to forgive us and restore our relationship with Him. He paid the full price for reconciliation and simply offered it to us.

 Universalism teaches that since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, every sin is forgiven and everyone will ultimately end up in heaven. This is the message of the book “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. The weakness in this theology is that love must be accepted. The gift must be received. If not, it is not love.

 It is my hope that my friend will eventually receive my love so the relationship can be restored. It is also my mission to help everyone see their need to receive Jesus’ gift of love and be reconciled to God.

 1 Corinthian 5:20 – “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Why Shepherd David was not immediately ready…

ImageThen Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:11-13.

A young shepherd boy was anointed the next king of Israel after King Saul was rejected of the Lord. He had the Lord’s heart, a heavenly passion, was wise beyond his years, faith to defeat those who others feared, and a shepherd’s understanding of care. But he was not yet ready to reign. Not yet.

 God took 15 years to complete the development of the first important king of Israel. 15 years of trials, running, fear, some victories, many personal defeats, and constant conflict. What was missing? Why was David not ready?

 Maturity. Specifically, emotional maturity. It is a problem with passionate people. David was a passionate person.

Most define “a passionate person” as one who seems to feel emotions deeper and more powerfully than normal. That is a workable description. In return, “emotional maturity” is defined as being able to experience the same deep, powerful feelings and emotions without altering course, changing priorities, or turning to the right or to the left because of them. David had to mature emotionally.

 Our feelings and emotions are beautiful gifts from God. They add such important color to our days and importance to our experience. However, they were not given to us to give us direction. The direction to which they call for us is typically, almost universally, wrong.

 Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin”. The common acceptance of this scripture is that anger in itself is not a sin but is to serve as a warning light that something is wrong. What is a sin is to obey its suggestions. This is true for any emotion or feeling, even mania, something that would cause you to remove your clothes and dance in the street at a victory (2 Sam. 6:14).

 David never fully learned to experience feelings without it affecting him. Much of the Psalms reflect that battle for a passionate person, but typically end with the affirmation that God calls us to do right by His instructions regardless of how we feel.

 Psalms 13  “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

How to love someone who hates you…

ImageThis is one of the most difficult questions, not to answer, but to live. The answer is easy. The fulfillment is all but impossible.

The answer is, “Just like Jesus did.” Thus, as is most things asked from the believer, the fulfillment is beyond the accomplishment of our flesh, the limits of our emotions and the best of our reasoning.

We know it was God’s love that sent Jesus into a hostile world to purchase the salvation of those who hated Him (John 3:16).

The Apostle Paul picked up the theme of God’s love for us in the demonstration of Jesus’ love in Romans 5:6-8. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The sentiment in this was that Jesus showed His greatest gift of love to the most hateful men during His most painful moments.

Consider that Jesus had been whipped, his beard pulled from his face, beaten with a staff and ridiculed. About 700 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah foretold the demeanor of the Messiah when He was afflicted. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7.

Please keep in mind that the Jewish writer, Josephus, reports there were thousands of crucifixion between the years 6 BC to 4 AD. The goal of the Roman officials was for every person to see a crucifixion as a deterrent to rebellion. So those Roman soldier had seen many people go to death by the cross.

Mark 15 records the reaction of Jesus’ death in the eyes of a Roman centurion. “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” Verse 39.

The truth is, in Jesus’ worst possible moment, He loved His enemies. That difference, as observed by a professional executioner, was a testimony to the love of God. It should motivate us to love our enemies in our worst possible moments. But that knowledge and observation does not empower us.

How to love those who hate us is accomplished as is everything that counts as righteousness in our lives. It must be through a complete dependency upon God to love them through us.

Jesus had already said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30.

Those people who hate us are gifts and provide us with the greatest opportunities to allow Christ to live through us the most. No wonder James instructed us to “Count it as joy…” James 1:2.

Christ’s Vulnerability For the Collision

When someone anticipates a collision, he prepares himself. We have air bags in our cars and seatbelts in light of the simple risk of an accident.

Athletes wear protective gear in order to take the impact of their sports. Motocross bikers wear rugged suits with pads on the knees and elbows. Helmets are worn to protect the head.

Football and hockey players dress in something just short of full-body armor because their sports require them to crash into one another at full speed.

Yet Christ, when He prepared to collide with our sins and sinful condition, stripped away all His divine powers and protection. He clothed Himself instead with mortal flesh and the collision killed Him, leaving him shredded and bled-out.

In our minds, we reason that God could have confronted our sinfulness completely fortified with divine power, undamageable strength, and unmoveable stability. But in love, He forfeited all His protection and became vulnerable, weak and helpless.

No wonder we cannot grasp the depth, width, and height of His love for us!

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8.


Do you hear the sermon of the slime and weeds? (short devotional thought)

On my walk today, I noticed the weeds in the ditch and string algae, green and slimy, growing in the remaining puddles in the bottom. I had to ask, to what end?

There they were, striving for life, straining against competitors, reaching as far as they can to live for a short while. Soon the moisture will be gone and the weeds and algae will be dead, living and dying with no purpose, so it seems.

To what purpose do they grow, straining, reaching, only to be dried and dead in a short while? Contributing nothing, the examples of futility and worthlessness. As I said, so it seems.

It occurred to me that there is only one purpose that these forms of life find a place, wrestle with the elements and then die. They do so at the command of their Creator. He said, “Grow, strive, reach.” They care not for any other purpose, no other goal, no fruitfulness or satisfaction. They heed the Master’s command, and that is enough.

They praise God, not by the fruits they lay on His table or by any beauty that speaks to all about His creativity. They praise God by simple obedience. They worship by honoring God’s command.

In that, ditch weeds and puddle slime are nobler than me. I long to see purpose, results and fruit. I must be validated in my own eyes, and often that validation comes by means of those I seek to impress.

I repented, hearing the sermon of the slime and dandelions. They seem to preach much better than I do.

Father, teach me to reach, grow and strain in this life simply at your command. May that be enough. Amen.

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,  for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” Psalms 24:1-2

(To hear sermons from Pastor Tim, please go to

One-armed soldier….

Today, I posted Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” (ESV).

As I was getting ready for my day, I was thinking about the verse. My first image was, of course, of a little boy holding his daddy’s hand. Yet another image came to mind; that of a soldier entering the battle.

The almost absurd image of a soldier holding another’s hand while battling seemed out of the question. But in reality, that is what God is saying. Put verse 12 with verse 13 and you see the picture.

“You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”

Not too long ago, a church member came to me and said, “Bro. Tim, don’t fight, just stand. God has called you to just stand.”

Now I understand what she was saying. I don’t have to worry about the enemy as long as I stand by my Captain and hold His hand. Praise His wonderful name!