Monday, January 25, 2010

Don't Tease The Lion!

“When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. ‘Why are you so angry?’ the LORD asked Cain. ‘Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master’” (Genesis 4:3-7).

The temptation to sin is not an enemy that waits passively until we just happen to stumble upon it. In the text above, God pictures sin as an active predator who eagerly stalks its victim. This description fits well with what the Bible reveals in other places about the devil and his tactics. In another vivid word picture, Peter tells his readers: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

No one in their right mind messes around with a hungry lion. And yet, people continue to play around with sin. You don’t have to look far for examples, do you? We are all surrounded by people who are foolishly making this grave mistake in their lives. We shake our heads sadly over neighbors, friends, relatives, or business associates who are taunting a ferocious beast and are about to be attacked.

But if I am honest, I must admit that there is a closer and more familiar example of the problem – me. I convince myself that I can tease the cat and get away with it or that my sins are not as bad as other people’s sins but it is a self-delusion. Lord, please help me to stay as far as possible from the lion that seeks to devour me!

God loves you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


“What have you done?” (Genesis 3:13). How those words must have reverberated in the stillness of Eden. There is no way to know what tone God used as He uttered these penetrating words to Adam and Eve. Perhaps you imagine God speaking angrily with a booming voice. That is certainly possible. When I read the question, I’m more inclined to believe it was spoken in a quieter way, tinged with sadness and regret.

Standing before God in their fear and shame, the parents of the human race had no clue as to the full significance of what they had just done. After all, this was the first case of human sin. Adam and Eve had no benchmark from which to assess the potential fallout from their actions. In fact, they were already beginning to think of the feeble excuses they would offer to the Father for their sin.

But God knew. Only God could fully comprehend the consequences of that initial act of rebellion. As a result of that one act, an entire world would change. Weeds would grow. Pain would increase. Relationships would be altered. A sin-free world suddenly became infected with a deadly virus. The apostle Paul described it this way: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12). And only the death of God’s own precious Son would reverse the curse and provide the antidote for the spiritual plague.

Every sin has consequences. But it seems to be so difficult to remember that fact when I am faced with an appealing opportunity to disobey God. Do you suppose Adam and Eve would have still chosen to sin if they could have foreseen the problems that it would cause? Maybe or maybe not. Who knows? But I do know that I make better decisions when I pause to consider the consequences of my choices. Perhaps I can avoid the question “What have you done?” if I learn to first ask myself “What might happen if I do?”

God loves you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Being Right With God

“For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:28-29; NLT).

Paul certainly knew something about taking pride in his “Jewishness.” There had been a time in his life when he could have compared pedigrees with the best of them (Philippians 3:4-6). As Saul of Tarsus, he had been well-schooled in all of the externals which many Jews believed afforded them a special relationship with God. But Paul learned, at great personal cost, that his belief in what it took to make himself right with God was misplaced. He learned that all the externals in the world were useless without a change internally. Perhaps that is why he speaks out so strongly and clearly as a preacher of the Good News against the dangers of trusting in anything other than the finished work of Jesus Christ to make us right with God.

This is a lesson that I have to continually take to heart. Just because I don’t deal with the same specific issue that Paul and his contemporaries faced doesn’t mean I can’t make the same mistake in other ways. I need to remind myself that my relationship with God doesn’t depend on my ability to keep His commandments. It doesn’t hinge on whether I worship correctly. It doesn’t rely on my understanding of Bible. I am made right with God by God’s effort, not my own.

Do I want to obey God? Of course! Do I want to offer worship to God that pleases him? You bet! Do I want to understand the word of God? Certainly! But my success or failure in any of these areas doesn’t determine my standing with God.

God loves you!

Rust-out, Burn-out, or ???

“But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:15-16).

“But Jesus, don’t you know there is work to do?” “But Jesus, don’t you know there are people who need help?” “But Jesus, if you don’t do it, who will?” “But Jesus…” I don’t know if our Lord ever heard comments like this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. Surely Jesus felt the pressure of having more to do than hours to do it. Surely Jesus experienced the stress of an unrealistic workload. And yet, He made time for rest and fellowship with God.

I’ve heard others say, speaking of their service to God, that they would rather burn-out than rust-out. I think I understand what they are trying to say. And if burning-out and rusting-out were the only two choices, I suppose I would agree. But I believe that there is another alternative for those who are devoted to the service of their King.

It blesses me to read that even Jesus took a break now and then. Even when confronted with pressing needs, he “slipped away” for awhile. Sure, He could have driven Himself to emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion in His service to others, but such a burn-out could have jeopardized His overall mission for God.

Surely no serious disciple desires to rust out for Jesus. But perhaps you have been called by God to burn-out in His cause. If so, then by all means do it with all your might. But it is also possible that others may be called to serve-out their lives instead of burning-out or rusting-out. God still uses the long-term testimony of a lifetime of steady, faithful service for Him. Such lives may not flash with the brilliance of a burn-out, but they do offer a steady beacon that shines for Christ day after day for a lifetime.

God loves you!