Archives For sin

Redshirts

January 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

Star Trek Redshirts

I’ve watched Star Trek my whole life. It’s the first show I remember ever watching, and I just watched one of the Star Trek movies last night – Khan! Khan!!! KHAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Except for J.J. Abrams Trek reboot, Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek movie ever, hands down.

One of the best parts of the show is the redshirts. For the Trek uninitiated, redshirts are the security guys on a starship. It’s odd how highly trained and exceptional Kirk’s crew is, considering how many security guys he’s lost over the years.

What happens is, the Enterprise warps into action, and when the doomed planet is in view, Kirk says, “Standard orbit, Mr Sulu.” Then, Kirk, Bones, Spock, a random other crew member and at least one guy in a red shirt beam down to the planet. Then, approximately 2.8 seconds later, some random yeti with a horn, or a giant angry rock pounces on the person with the red shirt. Bones, the doctor (blue shirt!) runs over and waves a spinny salt shaker over his face and says, “He’s dead Jim!”

Week after week, something like this happening, you’d think they would just change the color of the guy’s shirt, right?

It seems like common sense, when applied after the fact to a 1960′s tv show, but how many of us tend to live our lives this same way?

We have an experience, it is bad, and even though it was bad, we repeat it. Are we hoping to end up with a different result at some point? That is the definition of insanity.

The bible says it another way – and this is not pretty – “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

Would you agree that it is foolish to keep doing things the same way, when the end result is disaster, every single time?

Have you ever said, “Oy, I will never drink that much ever again!” That was me, every Friday and/or Saturday night my first two years of college. I would come dragging back to the dorm, somewhere between 1 and 6 am, stagger up to my room, sleep the sleep of the dead, then hate myself for it later. But I did it over and over again.

There’s a cure for whatever it is that ails you. It’s not hair of the dog, either. It’s Jesus! For those of us who have wrestled with our own foolishness, who have tried again and again to change, on our own, but keep falling into the same ditch over and over again – quit beaming yourself into whatever it is and try something completely different.

King David, from the Old Testament, was a man after God’s own heart. But he still had sin in his life! In other words, he was just like you and me, but he knew it – he knew he was sinful, and he knew what to do to get past it. This is from Psalm 51 – “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.”

Repentance – that’s what David was doing. And that’s what you and I need to do, when we’re trapped in our sin, when it seems like it will never end, when we have tried everything we know to do and it’s just not enough.

Repentance is simply changing your mind – by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can’t do it, but God can. You have to give up what you think is the right thing, the fun thing, the thing that everyone else is doing, and allow the Spirit to change you.

So – throw the red shirts in the trash – you’re not doomed, or cursed or condemned. You just need a relationship with Jesus! You can have it right now – ask Jesus to be your savior, put your trust in him, confess to him what he already knows, that you’re sinful and can’t save yourself, and ask him to fill you with his Spirit. Then – enjoy your new life in him! Tell everyone what he’s done for you, turn your back on your old life – because you’re brand new and the old things have no power over you anymore!

I’ve moved past my old, foolish ways. I’m not perfect – but when I’m in a bad place like David was, I take it to God. You can do that, too – right now! He’s listening, he’s ready to act. It’s up to you what happens next – trust him!

Mistake? Or Sin?

June 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve heard a lot of discussion these past few days about sin, shame, forgiveness, repentence, grace. I’m all about the grace. I write about it a lot because I’ve experienced it a lot.

I often reference my past, and hint that I was not a model citizen, and joke around and say things like, “I can’t tell you everything due to various local statutes, etc.” I know the statute of limitations has run out on various activities/atrocities I perpetrated as a youth, but if I were to begin a list of the horrible things I did, I wonder just how far grace would be extended?

I know God has forgiven me. That is a fact. I no longer live in regret, and where applicable, I have made amends. But there are some people I have hurt that I don’t even know who they are, how to get ahold of them – my change of heart and mind came many years after the fact, and in many instance, I literally do not know who or even where they are. I can’t make right what I did in those circumstances.

Am I guilty? You bet. For all of it. Were my actions mistakes? No!

A mistake is when I am at work documenting a file and I hit save and then realize I was in the wrong file. A mistake is when I think it’s 35 MPH in my neighborhood but according to the nice officer it’s actually 30. A mistake is forgetting to set my alarm clock back to 6:30 am after a week of vacation.

A sin is something you do knowingly, blatantly, often times hiddenly. Sin is always on purpose, which is why there’s such as thing as grace to begin with.

Remember when God asked Adam, “What have you done?” He’d already sinned – the first sin ever – and he followed it up with the second – blame. It fell to Eve, and she committed the third sin ever which was blame as well. In fact, how it went down was like this, “It’s just some fruit. Maybe God was wrong. Maybe he won’t notice just one piece missing.” Then Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed God.

God gave us power of choice. I learned that a long time ago, but it was recently reinforced by pastor Alan Smith in his brilliant post which you can read here. I said it once already, and I’ll say it again – this post on blame is the most important thing I’ve ever read. You would be doing yourself a huge favor to read it now.

My choice is either to do the right thing and be rewarded, or do the wrong thing and suffer consequences. Sometimes the reward is just a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes the consequence is a kick to the conscience and an “I’m sorry.”

I have done some things, and I have had to give way more than an “I’m sorry.” My sins have cost me money, time, reputation. I completely lost my ability to be a witness in an entire geographical region. I’ve tried to go back several times, but it’s just not the same, and may never be.

So – is it sin or is it a mistake? Well, is someone else hurt over it, or do you just need some whiteout?

Another brilliant article, this time by Michael Hyatt, gives some insight. He writes, “The term ‘mistake’ implies…something done unintentionally. Unlike a mistake, we choose to sin. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for it—and the consequences that follow.”

He goes on to suggest five actions when you have sinned:

  • Choose your words carefully – Agree with God that your actions were sinful.
  • Take responsibility – There is no excuse. If you’ve sinned, you need to own it.
  • Acknowledge guilt – Don’t make excuses.
  • Change your behavior – True repentance = true change.
  • Ask for forgiveness – I would change that to say you’re sorry. Asking forgiveness puts burden on the ones you have sinned against. They don’t owe you anything, you owe them. A little lesson I learned from Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church.

I’ve sinned horribly. I have hurt and offended many people. I am guilty. Do I deserve a second chance? No – but I got one anyway. And a third, and fourth, and fifth.

There are do overs. Unlimited chances. When people give up, turn their backs on you, when you are all alone in this world, there’s always going to be God. He’ll never quit on you, he’ll never condemn you, he’ll always be there to clean up the mess you’ve made of your life. Nothing you do will ever be too horrible to make him love you less. There is hope, and there is grace.

It was springtime, 1984. I was 18, my nephew John was a few years younger. We were mowing one Saturday, and had come to a patch of ground that was guarded by a pretty mean bumblebee. He was a kamikaze – every time we’d get near, he would dive-bomb us. We were both scared to death, and my dad was yelling at us to just get in there and get it done.

I would grab the mower, rush in, cut a small section, then run away, then John would do the same. It was going to take hours though, and we were all getting frustrated. The very last time I ran from the bee, I saw an acorn on the ground, scooped it up, jumped and twisted in mid-air, and threw the acorn as hard as I could. And it knocked that bee right out of the sky.

John said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” How right you were, John. And it’s in the top 5 coolest things I’ve ever done.

As Christians, we hear a lot about “hitting the mark.” We’ve been taught that sin is missing the mark, so we struggle and strive to hit it – whatever “it” is. Sometimes, the result of this is a theology based on performance – “I must do XYZ or God will not love or accept me.”

What I have learned is, there is nothing farther from the truth. God IS love! He already loves you, and since he is God, he could never love you any less because of any bad thing you have done, and he can’t love you any more because of any good thing you have done.

We have heard that sin is missing the mark, but what if our definition of sin is wrong? What if sin is not something we do or don’t do? What if the things we do are just the outward signs of sin? What if sin is actually a condition – the condition of being separated from God?

Definitions are important, or so I have learned, from a pastor at my church. His name is Bob Hamp, and his book Think Differently, Live Differently: Keys To A Life Of Freedom has helped me redefine a lot of things in my life. Starting with sin.

The metaphor of hitting the bee with an acorn is appropriate when discussing trying to hit the mark. I really did hit the bee. How unlikely was it that I would, though? I hit an acorn size flying insect with an actual acorn. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of deal. I couldn’t have done it on purpose, and I think the purpose of that happening is so I can share these things with you now.

We can’t hit the mark. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying, a lifetime striving, a lifetime feeling guilty when all God wants is for us to be free. We can’t wake up one day and decide we will stop drinking or cursing or lusting or whatever symptom of sin we are struggling with. We can’t exchange one set of behaviors for another and declare we are free. We can’t change ourselves. Only God can help us to think and live differently.

In Bob’s book, he tells the story of the creation and fall of mankind. Adam and Eve had a choice – life or knowledge – they chose knowledge and we have been trying to gain life on our own ever since by trading the knowedge of evil for the knowlegde of good. In other words, we make resolutions, we go to 12 step programs, we read self help books, we wear a nicotine patch, we improve ourselves by learning and even doing good things. But trading one type of knowledge for another doesn’t really change anything, when you consider eternity.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all one tree, and it’s still not life. God offers life to us, and we choose to do good things and call it even, while on the inside we are killing ourselves trying to do what we think is right.

When we choose life, everything changes. It’s like a blind person seeing for the first time, a deaf person hearing for the first time. We don’t have to have intentions anymore, we don’t have to struggle to gain God’s love and acceptance anymore, we don’t have to worry about whether or not he loves us. He does! We don’t have to worry about our lives making a difference or being important – they will, and we are!

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is what repentance is. Another definition – I was taught that repentance is me choosing to turn the other way, away from my sin toward God. This goes back to making it about me and my performance. No – repentance is me doing the only thing I can do that is right – submitting my will to God. When I give my soul to him, he changes my mind, and he frees me from the trap of being me.

What is the Spirit saying to you right now? Have you been laboring under a false definition of sin, of repentance? Let God renew your mind, let him show you a new way of thinking – not thinking different, but thinking differently. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain and all you have to do is one thing – the only thing you can do - release control of your will and give it to God.

 

I’m a child of the 80′s.  Springsteen, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. 501 jeans, popped collars, ropers and, yes, dew rags.  I even had parachute pants.  Lordy.  There are pictures of me all over Facebook wearing that stuff.  I can never escape that past.  I’ll admit it – I was a teenaged idiot.  If they would have had Axe back then…well, I would have bathed in the stuff.

Times have changed.  There’s a little place called Old Navy now, and the flip flops that went out of style came back with a vengeance.  We called them “thongs” when I was a kid.  No joke.  I think that means something else now, I just can’t put my finger on it.  Baggy jeans instead of skin tight, you wear just one shirt and collar is anything but popped.  At least my beloved Chucks are timeless.  But then again, everything comes back around.  Everything.

Beyond what you wear, have you ever had something you said or did in the past come back around?  Something that you would have rather forgotten about that maybe other people won’t let die?

It is like that for me every time I go home to Harrah, OK.  Harrah was a cozy little farming community of about 3500 people when I was a kid, so when I did something stupid during lunch, my mom knew about it before I got home from school.  My friends and family remember every stupid thing I ever did as a kid.  And they remind me all the time.

How do you live down your past?  How can you ever deal with the things you did that were so stupid and uncool, that nobody will let you forget?  Do like me and move away.  Far, far away.

Well, honestly, I have come a long way, and so have a lot of you I’m sure, but people never forget our bonehead mistakes.  If you live long enough, your past will always come back to the future to haunt you.  How do you deal with that?  Here’s three good ways that I have heard of, in other words these are not originally from me and I can’t remember where I heard it but I would love to give someone credit.  See – I have changed.

First you have to tell it like it was.  I Timothy 1:12-16 tells about the Apostle Paul’s checkered past.  Before he became a church planter, he persecuted Christ followers. Some of us have done terrible things that we continue to feel bad about even though we are not that person anymore.  When people bring it up, do what Paul did.  Say “yes I did those things.” And leave it at that.  Tell it like it was and move on.

Then, tell it like it is.  Jeremiah 31:33-34 tells us that God wants to forget about all the stupid things we have done.  To me that is the best promise of the Bible, because I have a long and glorious history of messing up everything good that ever happened to me.  The prophet Micah tells us that our mistakes in life are cast into the deepest sea and they will never resurface.  Forgiven sins are forgotten sins and nobody has the right to drag the sea of forgetfulness to try and dredge up all the things in your past.  If it’s forgiven, it’s over and forgotten according to God.  Tell it like it is.

Then you have to tell it where to go.  Romans 8:1-2 says we are free, not condemned, but part of being truly free is learning to rejoice, celebrate, consistently thank God for His forgiveness.  We have to rejoice in the fact that He has purified us and cleansed us from every stain and all the effects of sin.  When we do this, we tell our past sins to go back to the Devil, right where they came from.  Tell it where to go!

Listen, we all have a past.  I have things in my past that nobody can know.  Legal issues, statute of limitations, etc.  Seriously though, I can’t be beating myself up for something I did in 1986.  That’s not the freedom that Christ died to give me.  We have the opportunity to live like we are forgiven.  And we are forgiven because of God’s great love for us.

It is not my purpose to stir up a lot of bad memories for you all here today, but to remind you that there is power from the Holy Spirit to help you get past your past.  Don’t dwell on it anymore.  It’s over.  Let it be.  Take your past and lay it before the only one with the ability to put it where it belongs.  In the past.

It was a beautiful morning.  Sun was shining, birds chirping, flowers blooming.  I was a sophomore at Oklahoma Baptist University, studying Youth Ministry.  I was also a 7th grade Sunday School teacher at the church I grew up in, FBC Harrah.  Also, it was 10:45 am.  I had missed Sunday School, and I didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t coming.  Church would be starting in 15 minutes, and I wasn’t anywhere near ready to go, so I did the next best thing you can do on day such as this – I called my friend Jim and asked him if he wanted to go fishing.

He picked me up 30 minutes later.  We stopped for bait and beer – after all, we were fishing, and it’s Oklahoma.  We were going to Chandler Lake, about an hour drive.  The beers were gone before we got there.  For the record, Jim didn’t have any.

We were driving through Chandler, and I heard a noise in the back of the truck and saw that the minnow bucket had fallen over.  Jim was distracted, and ran head-on into an oncoming vehicle.  I was partially ejected through the front window of the truck.

Here’s a picture of the intersection where the accident occurred.

See the truck on the right, making a left turn?  Pretend that’s me and Jim.  There’s a stop sign there, because oncoming traffic has the option to go straight.  On that day, the stop sign was turned sideways.  We didn’t stop even though we were supposed to, and the oncoming traffic didn’t stop because they weren’t supposed to.

I was knocked out briefly.  Jim had a seat belt on but I didn’t.  Jim looked at me pretty weird, and I kept seeing something moving out of the corner of my eye.  It was blood squirting out of my face.  Both my arms were covered in blood, and my right leg as well.  And blood was squirting from my face with every beat of my heart.

I got out of the truck, fell, tried to get up again and couldn’t.  I sat for a moment, and remembered the minnows, so I pulled myself up and saw that the minnow bucket was not even there anymore.  And that my brand new fishing pole was broken.  That’s what I was most concerned about.  I had ordered it a few weeks prior – it was $50! – and it had just been delivered on Friday.

A man ran up, asked if I was ok, I turned around, blood still shooting out, and he bent over and vomited.  Then he gave me an old t-shirt to apply pressure.  I passed out again, and when I woke up I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Shawnee Regional – right across the street from my college.

It took 6 hours to pick all the glass out, clean the cuts and stitch them up.  I had about 150 stitches total, and a wicked concussion.

What makes all this so funny (which it really isn’t) is that I was/am a known prankster.  It was April 1st.  I called my parents to come get me and they didn’t believe me.  I called some friends from church – “Ha ha, you’re funny.”  I called my Grandmother, and about an hour later she was there to take me home.

In the years since, I have toned it down a little just in case.  It’s been 22 years.  Jim is still my good friend.  I don’t see him near enough – which is odd – even though I moved to Texas he still only lives a few miles from me, just like always.  I don’t drink anymore.  Well, I say that.  Maybe 3 or 4 beers a year, maybe some bubbly stuff on our anniversary.

I still bear the scars from this.  I see them every time I look in the mirror.  I’m reminded that I shouldn’t joke around so much, and that when Sunday rolls around maybe I should be in church.  I’m reminded how fragile life is, how I should not take it for granted.  And I’m reminded how blessed I truly am.