Posts Tagged ‘sin’

1 Samuel 15:24-31
Saul Pleads for Forgiveness

Recently, I found out some dear friends of mine that live in another state have separated and are living apart now. That kind of blew me away. This couple was oh so very important in the process of my wife and I going deeper in our respective relationships with Jesus Christ. If it were not for this couple, we might have fallen away from church again when we moved to back home to South Carolina back in 2010. But, they instilled in us a hunger for a relationship with Jesus and instilled in us a hunger for the fellowship of other Christ followers. It is because of that hunger that they nurtured in us that we were ready for LifeSong Church when LifeSong Church came into our path in August 2010. They were our spiritual parents even though they were both 10-12 years younger than us. Without their one-on-one nurturing discipleship in that small but growing little church in California, we would not have been ready to take off and fly and grow in our walk with Jesus nor been ready for positions of leadership there nor been ready for where we are today – about to embark into full-time ministry when we move to Illinois in two weeks. To say the least, these two people were like the most pivotal people in our lives.

Yes, my senior pastor and my discipleship pastor, Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim, here at LifeSong have been incredibly impactful in our lives and wow, where would we be without their influence. These two guys are spiritual giants in our lives. But this couple while we lived in California set the stage for what Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim have done in our lives. They are like the parents that raised us up and then sent us off to school, ya know, and Pastor Jeff and Pastor Tim took what these spiritual parents had done and challenged us to deeper and deeper depths. So, the fact that this couple is separated now just profoundly saddens me. It demonstrates that sin can come into even the most ardent of Christ followers and devour and destroy a marriage. These guys were Christ followers since they were little kids. They fell in love as teenagers and had been together ever since. Then, ministry in Young Life. Then, seminary at the prestigious Trinity Divinity School in Chicago. He is an incredibly brilliant man with an eidetic memory. She is a brilliantly creative artist and about the most creative person you would ever want to meet. Her art and photography is amazing. He was an awesome pastor who could inspire you with his words. He could play the guitar with the best of them. An awesome athlete. They were like this super couple. Young. Good looking. Talented. You loved them and were jealous of how cool they were all at the same time.

The thing that saddens me the most about our spiritual parents is how this deterioration of what was once an awesome pastoral couple happened. Each one sins against their marriage have been made public to one another by the fact that each spouse caught the other in the midst of their sin. For him, it was a pornography addiction and for her it was infidelity. However, where they are at now is that they seem to be remorseful that they got caught in their sin. They are remorseful over the consequences that they sin has wrought. But neither are remorseful over the sins themselves. They say they are in counseling with a Christian couple that goes to the same church that they do (they got out of the ministry themselves several years ago as their marriage began to crumble toward where it is today). The trouble is that each one is blaming the other for the state of their marriage. She blames him for how his addiction and his controlling behavior drove her to her sin. And he blames his addiction and controlling behavior her because of his insecurities related to her flirtatiousness and infidelities. It is a sad sad downward spiral that has been going on now for 5 or so years. I covet your prayers for them. I beg your prayers for them. This is a situation similar to when you as an adult who has been living on your own for about a decade and have a life of your own now find out that your parents back home are split up. It just blows you away even though you are not living at home anymore. Then you talk to your parents and find out the skinny on the situation and you realize that your parents are each maximizing the sins of the other parent while using that to justify their own sins.
These spiritual parent of ours is what I thought of this morning as I read through Saul’s pleadings in this passage. The impression that I got from this passage is that Saul is more concerned with the consequences of his sin and how to minimize that rather than being truly repentant for having sinned at all. That’s the feeling that I get from my spiritual parents is that they are trying to minimize, justify, and deflect the impacts of their sin rather than being truly and humbly repentant for their sin. The only way to save the marriage will be when they reach that low place where they are on their face before the Lord and are truly repentant for their own sins. Let’s read the passage now, 1 Samuel 15:24-31:

24 Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”

27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul tried to hold him back and tore the hem of his robe. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

30 Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel finally agreed and went back with him, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Saul was more concerned about what others would think of him than he was about the status of his relationship with God (1 Samuel 15:24). He begged Samuel to go with him to worship as public demonstration that Samuel still supported him. Even in this scene where Saul is admitting that he disobeyed the Lord, he demonstrates that he is more concerned about his public persona and preserving his position than he is with any real repentance for having sinned. That’s the difference for us to when we often are simply remorseful that we got caught in some sin than we are remorseful about having committed the sin itself.

Are you in the same situation as my spiritual parents? Are you remorseful that you got busted in your sins or are you truly and humbly seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for the sin itself. We must get to the place where we see the sin for what it is – a wrongful and willful rebellion against God. We must get to the place that we are not justifying our sins because someone else hurt us. We must get to the place that we are not blaming others for the way we act and the things we do. We must stand before the Lord and make no excuses for our sin. We must see our sin as sin. We must not try to minimize it or justify it. We must not try to save face in front of others. We must be prostrate before the Lord and say Lord, I just royally screwed up. I have no excuse before you. All my excuses are just to save face in front of others or to gain pity from others. All my excuses are meaningless before you. Cover me in your grace even though I do not deserve it and I would not blame you if you condemned me to hell right now because I have no excuse. Cover me in your grace and please forgive me. I know I have wronged you and you are Lord. I fall at your mercy Lord.

That’s where we need to be. That’s where my spiritual parents need to be. That’s in a state of humble repentance wrapped in the grace of the Lord.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 14:16-46 (Part 1 of 3)
Israel Defeats the Philistine & Saul’s Foolish Oath

Today as we open up a three-part look at 1 Samuel 14:16-46, the first thing that struck me about this passage is the subject of using God as a last resort. How many times are we like that? I used to be like that.

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I was always aware of who God was. I was aware of Jesus Christ. I knew who he was. I knew He died on the cross and that it was somehow for our good. I attended church every Sunday growing up. It was the family business after all. I knew church. It wasn’t like I had no exposure to Christianity. I was not like the growing number of Americans today who are growing up in households that may be now either the second, third or even fourth generations of a family that has never darkened the door of a church. We were the church. My dad was a preacher. I knew the hymns. I knew the general overview of the Bible though I did not read it much growing up – surprisingly so growing up as a preacher’s kid. I knew the general nature of salvation was in Jesus Christ and when you said you believed in Him that you would go to heaven, but I did not really grasp why that was. I just knew that Jesus was the key to going to heaven. I knew that sin was bad. I knew that bad behavior was sin and that we needed to be on our best behavior. But being in the church all the time, it was the family business. It’s what we did. I knew that we were different from everybody else. My dad was a preacher. He worked at the church. He wrote sermons. He had meetings with people who attended the church. He preached on Sunday mornings. The church was the center of our universe. But I really never truly got it. Never really got the point of it all. I know people that have come to salvation as small children over the years but I never really got it. I knew that there was a God. But He never was the center of my being.

I did not come to know Jesus Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old and it has been the Holy Spirit’s work since then to make Him also my Lord. Prior to my acceptance of Christ as my Savior, God was my fallback position. I knew who He was and would even talk to Him and I recognized that He existed. However, He was always in the background. He was a side thing to me. He was the one I would go to when things weren’t going my way. He was my superhero that you called in at the last minute when things looked bleak and things were falling apart. I would shine my bat signal in the night sky when I needed God to intervene on my behalf. I called upon Him when I needed a supernatural, super power, superhero intervention. When I was down and out and blue, I called upon the Lord. I did not have a real relationship with God. He was not part of my daily lifestyle. I did not walk with Him and talk with Him and I did not ask Him to tell me I was His own (old hymn reference there! LOL!). Is that you? Is that where you are at today? Do you know God exists, but He is your superman, superhero that you call on when the chips are down?

That seems to be the case with Saul after we read this passage. That was what I thought of when I read this passage for the first time of three reads today – how Saul reminds me of myself back in the day. I would call upon the Lord when I could not work things out myself. God was my superman but He was not my Lord. I did not put Him first in my life and I treated Him as that las resort supreme being that so many of us treat Him as. Let’s read this passage now, 1 Samuel 14:16-46:

16 Saul’s lookouts in Gibeah of Benjamin saw a strange sight—the vast army of Philistines began to melt away in every direction.[a] 17 “Call the roll and find out who’s missing,” Saul ordered. And when they checked, they found that Jonathan and his armor bearer were gone.

18 Then Saul shouted to Ahijah, “Bring the ephod here!” For at that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod in front of the Israelites.[b] 19 But while Saul was talking to the priest, the confusion in the Philistine camp grew louder and louder. So Saul said to the priest, “Never mind; let’s get going!”[c]

20 Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. 21 Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. 22 Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away. 23 So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle continued to rage even beyond Beth-aven.

24 Now the men of Israel were pressed to exhaustion that day, because Saul had placed them under an oath, saying, “Let a curse fall on anyone who eats before evening—before I have full revenge on my enemies.” So no one ate anything all day, 25 even though they had all found honeycomb on the ground in the forest. 26 They didn’t dare touch the honey because they all feared the oath they had taken.

27 But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command, and he dipped the end of his stick into a piece of honeycomb and ate the honey. After he had eaten it, he felt refreshed.[d] 28 But one of the men saw him and said, “Your father made the army take a strict oath that anyone who eats food today will be cursed. That is why everyone is weary and faint.”

29 “My father has made trouble for us all!” Jonathan exclaimed. “A command like that only hurts us. See how refreshed I am now that I have eaten this little bit of honey. 30 If the men had been allowed to eat freely from the food they found among our enemies, think how many more Philistines we could have killed!”

31 They chased and killed the Philistines all day from Micmash to Aijalon, growing more and more faint. 32 That evening they rushed for the battle plunder and butchered the sheep, goats, cattle, and calves, but they ate them without draining the blood. 33 Someone reported to Saul, “Look, the men are sinning against the Lord by eating meat that still has blood in it.”

“That is very wrong,” Saul said. “Find a large stone and roll it over here. 34 Then go out among the troops and tell them, ‘Bring the cattle, sheep, and goats here to me. Kill them here, and drain the blood before you eat them. Do not sin against the Lord by eating meat with the blood still in it.’”

So that night all the troops brought their animals and slaughtered them there. 35 Then Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first of the altars he built to the Lord.

36 Then Saul said, “Let’s chase the Philistines all night and plunder them until sunrise. Let’s destroy every last one of them.”

His men replied, “We’ll do whatever you think is best.”

But the priest said, “Let’s ask God first.”

37 So Saul asked God, “Should we go after the Philistines? Will you help us defeat them?” But God made no reply that day.

38 Then Saul said to the leaders, “Something’s wrong! I want all my army commanders to come here. We must find out what sin was committed today. 39 I vow by the name of the Lord who rescued Israel that the sinner will surely die, even if it is my own son Jonathan!” But no one would tell him what the trouble was.

40 Then Saul said, “Jonathan and I will stand over here, and all of you stand over there.”

And the people responded to Saul, “Whatever you think is best.”

41 Then Saul prayed, “O Lord, God of Israel, please show us who is guilty and who is innocent.[e]” Then they cast sacred lots, and Jonathan and Saul were chosen as the guilty ones, and the people were declared innocent.

42 Then Saul said, “Now cast lots again and choose between me and Jonathan.” And Jonathan was shown to be the guilty one.

43 “Tell me what you have done,” Saul demanded of Jonathan.

“I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”

44 “Yes, Jonathan,” Saul said, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this.”

45 But the people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.

46 Then Saul called back the army from chasing the Philistines, and the Philistines returned home.

In this passage, we see many things that are distressing to God. The first one that is important is the fact that after being king for several years, Saul built his first altar to God, but it was only as a last resort. Throughout Saul’s reign, he constantly approached God only after he had exhausted all other avenues. This was in sharp contrast to the priest, who suggested that God be consulted first. How much better would it have gone for Saul if he had consulted God first. God is too great to be an afterthought. When we turn to him first, we will never have to turn to him as a last resort. Often, we turn to God only after we have messed things up so badly we cannot figure out how to fix them ourselves. What if we treated God as the center of our lives rather that some rabbit’s foot, good luck charm, or get out of jail free card?

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are to pray without ceasing. God is to be God of our every moment. He is to be our Lord. We are to have intimate conversations with Him. He is to be a part of everything that we do. We must do more than simply recognize His existence, but yet try to live our lives though we are in charge. We make the calls. We do not consult God. We do everything the way we want it done and then even have the audacity to claim that God wanted it that way. The only way that we can know God’s will is if we live in it. We must be in a relationship with Him. Just as many people in cartoons did not have a relationship with Superman or Batman, they sure would call upon their names when times got card or things had turned into a disaster.

I thought the best illustration of this idea was in something I read this morning at crosswalk.com in an article by Kelly Needham called “Are You Using God?”. In that illustration she said, “Have you ever been used by someone? Maybe you have needy friends or family members who only pursue you because of your wealth. Or it might be that your husband only seems interested in you when he desires physical intimacy. Maybe you are a single woman and all your married friends tend to assume you are most valuable as a babysitter. Whatever the case, it feels horrible to be used.” She goes on to talk about the difference between a God-seeker and a God-user.

We will never experience the fullness of a relationship with God until we are intimate with Him. We will never experience the fullness of a relationship with God when we put ourselves first in that relationship and not Him. When we put ourselves first, we can make Jesus a friend not a necessity. When we put ourselves atop the list, we can excuse our sins by thinking we can be good enough by trying to make our good deeds outweigh our bad (a foolhardy dream that many of by into). When we put ourselves first, we can make certain sins that we favor go away as not being sin. When we put ourselves first, we can ignore certain eternal facts and call ourselves enlightened and modern.

When we put ourselves first, we do not need God. He is the God of last resort. He is our fallback good luck charm that we can wave around when we need it the most. He is not the Lord of our lives and we define the game as a result. What we fail to see is that God is the Creator and we are the created. He defines the game not us. He is the one who gave us His Word. It is eternal truth. It is not something that is subject to change and it is not something whose meaning changes with the times. It is through God’s Word that we know that God is perfect and that we must be perfect to exist in His presence in eternity (and there is one!). However, because of the Fall of Man in the garden and that Fall is substantiated by the evil that we have seen around us and in us since the beginning, we are not perfect. In fact, we are ugly sinners. God hates sin and it cannot exist in His presence. Yet, we are sinners every day. Just one sin though, that first one, not to mention a lifetime of sins that we commit, disqualifies us from existing in God’s love in eternity. We are doomed to hell, the place for sinners. Just one sin sends us there. That’s it! That’s all it takes! The first sin sends us there. All the other sins that we commit daily are just character references in the court of our judgment. It just takes one and we are done. There’s nothing we can do in our own power to change that. There is no bat signal that can change that.

That’s where salvation comes in. That’s the moment that we realize that we are hopeless sinners in the crosshairs of a just and perfect God. That’s where we must through ourselves at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to become our Savior, our Interventionist, our Reprieve from our just and deserved punishment in hell. When we call on the name of Jesus Christ and we believe that He is the Son of God who died on the cross as an intervention for our sins and our just punishment for our sins. Then we are saved.

When we believe that we do not have the power to be good enough, when we believe that we are sinners through and through and that God saved us through Jesus, then we can begin to have a real relationship. When we realize that we are sinners saved by grace not by our works and our ability to control our lives, that’s when relationship starts. When we realize just what God through Jesus Christ saved us from, then we can put Him first in our lives. When we realize that just how unmeritoriously lucky we are to have Jesus step into the courtroom of righteous justice and claim us from the jaws of a just and righteous sentence to hell then and only then can we really have relationship with God where we are his thankful servants and seek Him in everything that we do and put Him first in every moment of our lives. Instead of calling on God as a last resort, we seek Him daily because we are so thankful for the gift of salvation that He gave us in Jesus Christ. We are forever in God’s debt because of what He did through Jesus. Because of that we are and should be like the little yapping dog in the old Looney tunes cartoon that followed the big bulldog around saying repeatedly, “what are we doing now? What are we doing now? Huh? Huh? Huh?” That is the way we should be with God. We must seek Him in everything and in every minute, not as some altar built at the last minute because we are unsure of what to do next? Not as some promise we make while hugging the toilet? Not as some last minute prayer when things are falling apart around us!

What are we doing now God, huh huh huh? Lead on God. You are my Master. You are my intervention and my key to life. I would be destined to hell in the absence of your grace through Jesus Christ. You are my Lord. Where are we going and what are we doing today? What are we doing this minute? Be the Lord over it all God! Lead me. Show me. Teach me. You are my Lord!

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 4:1b-11 (Part 3 of 3)
The Phillistines Capture the Ark

There was a song back in the 1990s power surge by country music when artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain were the biggest selling male and female artists of any musical genre that Shania had one of her biggest hits that got airplay on more than just country stations. It was a huge crossover hit. It was called “Looks Like We Made It!” It was a beautiful song about her relationship with her songwriter husband and how they had been through thick and thin together. How they had been through rough times together and here they were all grown up and mature. The words Shania sang were a tribute to lovers who are still together after all these years. It is often used at like 25th anniversary, 50th anniversary celebrations for couples. The reason that I bring that beautiful song is that I want to borrow the title for a little bit. Sometimes, we can easily sing this song when we talk about our walk with Jesus Christ. Looks Like We Made It can be a dangerous song title for our lives in our Christian walk.

Sometimes in ministry, you run into people who once were great servants of God, but have gotten sideways in the walk with God without even realizing it. I hope that I never get that way. It is so easy to do. Luckily right now in my walk, I am still far enough behind people that I consider my spiritual mentors to realize “when I am getting too big for my britches.” OK. Let’s get that joke out the way. Yeah that’s why I am exercising 5 days a week now is ‘cuz I got literally too big for my britches (and for those not born and raised in the American South, “getting too big for your britches” means that you are acting as if you are high and mighty when you really aren’t). I am not speaking of my weight but of the figurative meaning that I just mentioned. I am close enough to ground zero in my spiritual maturity to still be able to check myself when I begin to get prideful in where I am at spiritually.

However, over the past 7 years of leadership at church in one form or another, you do run across those that have been Christians as long or much longer than me that think they have cornered the market on spiritual maturity. The ones that speak proudly of their past performance in the church. You know the ones that have done everything at the church and are quick to tell you about it. You know the ones who pontificate with all the right buzz words of Christianity. You know the ones make you feel as though you are less spiritually mature than they. You know the ones who decide what churchwide discipleship activities they will and will not participate in. You know they can choose that because they are spiritually mature enough to decide for themselves. The spiritually mature ones, you know, that know as much about leading a flock of Christians as the pastors do. You know the ones. You know the ones that say that they don’t need to participate in a church wide book study because they’ve grown beyond the need to do what less mature Christians need to do. You know the ones that are quick to criticize but slow to praise. You know the ones that read the latest Christian books but no longer read the Bible. You know the ones who think that they are too mature to go through training classes for leaders at church because, well, they just don’t see the need.

It was that thought of how we sometimes feel like we no longer need help, how we sometimes have gotten “all growed up” as Christians, where we define for ourselves what is best for us as Christians. How we get to that point where we rest on our laurels of the past and feel as we no longer have nothing to learn and no more need to mature. That’s what I thought of this morning as I read this passage and how Israel felt as though, since God was good to them in the past, He would protect them now even though they had strayed from God in reality in the here and now:

At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek. 2 The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. 3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it[a] will save us from our enemies.”

4 So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were also there with the Ark of the Covenant of God. 5 When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!

6 “What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. “What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?” When they were told it was because the Ark of the Lord had arrived, 7 they panicked. “The gods have[b] come into their camp!” they cried. “This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! 8 Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness. 9 Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don’t, we will become the Hebrews’ slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!”

10 So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents. 11 The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.

In this passage, we see that the Philistines were afraid because they remembered stories about God’s intervention for Israel when they left Egypt. However, Israel had turned away from God and was clinging only to a form of godliness, a symbol of former victories. People and churches often try to live on memories of God’s blessings. The Israelites wrongly assumed that because God had given them victory in the past, He would do it again, even though they had strayed far from him. Today, as in biblical times, spiritual victories come from a continually renewed relationship with God. Don’t live off the past. Keep your relationship with God new and fresh. Because if we don’t pride tends to kick and we began to think that we have cornered the market on spiritual maturity and begin to stray from God.

That thought of those who feel like they have “made it” as Christians and no longer need spiritual guidance, no longer need spiritual leadership, and no longer need to grow is the beginning of pride for us. Just as Israel got prideful and began to stray from God, it is so easy for us as Christians to think that we have made it. That is where pride sneaks in. That is where sin begins to sneak in to our lives. When we think we no longer need to check ourselves is when we get in trouble. That’s when the sin slippage begins. This is OK because I can handle it. I am mature. I got this. But a lot of times, we may not slip into moral turpitude but we simply stop growing as Christians because we think we got it made. Looks like we made it Christians. But the fact of the matter is .. is that we are never mature enough. We need to realize that we are only sinners covered by grace. We are just God’s grace away from be a lost person. In the absence of grace, we are all just stinking, ugly sinners in the eyes of God. It is only because of the beauty of salvation in Jesus Christ by grace through faith and faith alone that we are saved. We are nothing compared to Jesus Christ and we always will be less than Him. We will especially be less than on this side of eternity. We must forget our puffed up pride in how long we have been a Christian. We must realize that even if we have been Christians for 30 years that we still have so much we can learn from the Bible that we may have read cover to cover 100s of times. We still have to humble before our Lord and Savior. We are not, never have been, or never will be worthy of His grace and we will never come near His knowledge and perfection. We will never have it made. We will never arrive. We must always be humble enough to realize that we can still learn more and go deeper in our relationship with Jesus. We are just scratching the surface of our relationship with him at year 1 after salvation and we have only pricked the top soil like an ant at 30 years down the road. We can go deeper. We can learn more. We can become more and more and more in love with our Savior and make him more and more and more our Lord. We can not let ourselves increase. We must continue to make ourselves less and less as He becomes more and more. May we as Christians never sing “Looks Like We Made It” because our relationship with Jesus is a continuing journey not a destination.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 4:1-12
Boaz Arranges to Marry Ruth

In this day in age in which we live, if you are single and in your 30’s or 40’s, it is a great likelihood that you have been married and divorced at least once. In you are a woman in your 30’s or 40’s and you are single, you most likely have either small children, pre-teens, or teens at home with you. It is a statistical fact that mothers of children end up with custody of their children in 90% of divorces nationally. Either men don’t want the responsibility of day to day care of children, the mothers don’t trust them to do the myriad of things that are required to get children up and out the door each day, or the men don’t trust themselves. It is also a statistical fact that 27% of fathers see their children only when required by their court order or do not see them at all.

So in the American dating scene out there (not that I am familiar with it anymore myself, but these statements are made based on statistical probabilities), any time a guy meets a gal in her 30’s or 40’s (heck sometimes even in their 20s), there is a high probability that she has kids at home. Somebody’s keeping them while she is having a girl’s night with her gal pals. If you really want to get to know her, the breaking point for any such relationship is going to be about the fact that she has kids or that the kids get in the way of the relationship. There are too many guys out there that just want to have fun with the gals with kids but want none of the responsibilities or the drawbacks of dating a woman with kids in tow. With so many of these men, they are absentee fathers themselves. They feel “tied down” when they have their own kids with them. I know there are some great dads out there but there is a growing majority of dads who disappear from their own kids lives and shy away from any relationship with a woman who has kids. There are a growing number of men out there that just want to have recreational sex with women (even if the woman has kids at home) but split when there is mention of getting to know her kids. These men don’t want women with baggage. They want the fun but not the baggage that comes with most women who are “single again.” With the divorce rate out there where 50% of first marriages fail, 67% of second marriages fail, and 83% of third marriages fail, there is a great possibility of any woman a guy meets is going to have had a past and is most likely to have children at home. But like I said, there is a growing number of men who are baby daddies out there and not fathers. They want the fun of women but none of the responsibility that comes with having a relationship with a woman with kids.

There was a movie out there a while back called “Courageous” that was a faith-based film that was extremely popular even with the secular movie going public. The famous tag line from that movie was “Where are you, men of courage?” It was the story that men are often removed from their kids lives and are even less involved with their kids when it comes to faith issues. The point of the movie was to urge men to take hold of their God ordained place as being the priests of their homes, leading their family in all things but especially in leading their families in the family’s relationships with God. It takes courage to be a man of faith. It takes courage to be a real dad these days when it is so easy to wash your hands of the family your procreated. Where are you men of courage today in this broken world where practically every woman you meet has kids at home? Where are you men of courage willing to accept the baggage that comes with a woman who has kids? In this broken world we live in, it is a simple fact of life that virtually everyone who meet and potentially can have a relationship with is a person who has been married before. It’s not the world that God wants for us. He wants us to examine who we will marry before we marry them. He wants us to think long and hard before we get married the first time because He wants us to stay married to who we married the first and only time. However, in this sin-filled broken world, we will most like be married at least twice in a lifetime. That’s a sad fact but a true one. So, given that, we must be willing to accept the baggage of the person that we are attempting to have a relationship with and potentially marrying any time after the first marriage is done. Men especially must be willing to accept what a single mom is bringing to the table of the relationship.

That’s the thing that came to mind this morning as I read through Ruth 4:1-12 – the difference between Boaz and the unnamed man who was closer in line to be the redeemer of Naomi and Ruth. The unnamed man wanted the property but not the women who came with it. Let’s read through the passage here right now and then we will finish our discussion after that:

4 Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. 2 Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. 3 And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

5 Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

6 “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”

7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”

In this passage, we see that Boaz cleverly presented his case to the relative. First, he brought in new information not yet mentioned in the story – Elimelech. Naomi’s deceased husband, still had some property in the area that was now for sale. As the nearest relative, this unnamed man had the first right to buy the property (Leviticus 25:25). But then Boaz said that according to the law, if the relative bought the land, he also had to marry the widow, Ruth (because Mahlon, Ruth’s deceased husband and Elimelech’s son, had inherited the property). At this stipulation, the relative backed down. He did not want to add a complication to his own inheritance to his existing children because of the new children he would have had with Ruth. That was the most likely reason, but he could have just not wanted to complicate his life with another woman. Whatever his reason for backing away, it cleared the way for Boaz to marry Ruth himself.

That’s the thing that made me think of today’s messed up dating world out there is because in this story, the unnamed relative wanted the property but not the baggage that came with it – Ruth. He wanted the additional wealth that came with owning more land but he did not want the responsibility of another wife and raising more kids and complicating his financial situation. That so reminded me of how men out there today just want women for recreational fun but they don’t want the baggage that often comes with women in today’s world of divorce. They want the fun but not the responsibility. That’s why men are often divorced anyway is that they could not face up to the lifetime of responsibility that is marriage – kids, mortgages, schooling, kids activities, and no time for themselves.

What if God was like that with us? What if He did not want all our baggage? Our sins condemn us in His sight. He could just throw us away into the pit of hell and walk away and be right in doing so. He could just say I don’t need this and that be it! However, God has greater love for us than that. Even though our first sin condemns us to hell and not to mention the lifetimes of sins that we commit, He could say that you have too much baggage for me to deal with and cast us into hell. But He doesn’t. Boaz represents God’s love for us. Boaz did not care about all the baggage that came with Ruth. He simply loved her. He knew that she had a past and had been married before and knew that she was not originally from the people of Israel. He knew all the baggage she brought to the relationship. But he loved her anyway. He was willing to marry her when the unnamed relative was not. He was willing to set aside all the things that would make Ruth undesirable for marriage and took her in marriage anyway. God is the same with us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to earth to become the perfect sacrificial lamb to take on God’s punishment for our baggage, our sins. In that way, through Jesus, He can set aside the punishment we deserve. He can set aside our sins because Jesus paid the price for them. Through Jesus, we are made clean before God. We are made into marriage material before the bridegroom. We are made new and desirable again to God. We are redeemed by a God who loves us despite our past sins, despite our past baggage. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, we no longer carry around the baggage of our sins that condemns us in the sight of God. Through Jesus, we are made into a beautiful bride ready for the bridegroom. We are made into something beautiful and desirable by God. He loves us that much. He loves us enough to redeem us when we have all this sin baggage. He sets it aside, through Jesus, and welcomes us into His house and makes us His bride with all the rights and privileges that go along with being a child of God.

Amen and Amen.

 

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech Moves His Family to Moab

Recently, this past week, I had someone make a comment on a blog that I had written about two and a half years ago, yeah, that’s right. Two and a half years ago. So, the dude really must’ve been examining my blog space to find a blog from two years ago to take issue with me. This blog from two years ago was about the wonders of the grace offered us through Jesus Christ. I used myself as an example of the wonders of grace and how grace is superior to legalism. In that blog, I noted that according to Scripture that divorce is a sin. The only reason that God gave Moses rules about divorce was to regulate the way that it was handled. Since God’s people were stiff-necked sorts, God wanted to ensure that women were treated properly in this distasteful and sinful marriage breaker. Under the law, divorce is sin. Plain and simple. It is validated by Jesus himself. In Luke 16:16-18, Jesus says,

 

 

 

16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[a] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 

 

 

18 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 

 

 

Under the law, I stand condemned as does my wife of the past 7 ½ years, Elena. We both have been married twice before. However, both of our previous marriages (two for her and two for me) each began prior to each of accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord. That does not make divorce any less sinful, but it does go to our motivations for marriage. It does go to the fact that we did not have Christ at the center of our lives at the times that we were choosing our spouses during those years. We were not Christ followers during those years. I did not come to Christ as my Savior until near the end of my second marriage (which crumbled under the weight of her adultery, my mistakes with money, and the death of her oldest son). Elena came to know Christ as her Savior about six months before we got married (as we sat in the small group meeting at our pastor’s house when we lived in California). Under the law, we both stand condemned. Under the law, we are sinners because of our divorces even though the marriages began when we were rebels against God and we chose poorly as to who we should be married to. Under the law, we are condemned as should have no access to God or to worship in the temple. We should be excluded from the people of God because of just this one sin much less a lifetime of other sins committed. According to my commenter at my blog, my mention of how God can redeem a second or third marriage is giving him the thought that he could steal money from a bank, beg for forgiveness from God, and then say that because he begged for forgiveness that it validates the stolen money as OK to spend. I think this fellow missed the whole point of the blog which was that God is in the redeeming business. Elena and I did not steal anyone’s spouse when we met. We were already divorced when we began dating but that does not minimize the sin of divorce for us. We are condemned by this sin alone and, like I said, not mention that we have mountains of sin that convict us as well. On our own merits, we stand convicted before God for the sins that we have committed. We do deserve a sentence to hell on the merits of our divorces alone. We can’t pretty that up or make that right or go back and change. According to the law, yes, we should be excluded from the pleasures of God’s righteousness. We should be excluded from heaven. We should have no claim to enter the gates of heaven on just this one sin alone. Just this one sin. What are we to do? How can we fix this? How can two sinners who have these sordid, sinful pasts that we cannot undo before the Lord before we met one another. How do we reconcile our sinful past to the purity required before God?

 

 

 

Grace is the answer. It is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross for all sins of all time that we can now approach the throne of God. Jesus paid the price and the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. I get the commenter on my blog is afraid that people abuse grace. I get that. But you have to ask the question that if a person claims grace over his apparent and unrepentant practice of sin, then, you may have to question their salvation to begin with. However, those that are truly saved have the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us and changes us from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit’s working in my soul, I know that my past divorces are sin and it is because of just the divorce sins alone that I stand convicted by God and condemned to hell on my own merits. In the absence of the Holy Spirit, I would see that my divorces were OK and find reasons to justify them just to make myself look good. It is through the Holy Spirit that I am convicted of that sin and it pushes and prods me to make this marriage my last no matter what comes at it. I will no longer duck and run when our marriage hits a rough space. I will work on it and get through it. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross that I stand pure before God and the everyday working of the Holy Spirit that we become more and more like Christ every day. So, just as Peter stood convicted before Jesus for something he could not go back and change, Jesus asked this obvious sinner to feed His sheep. Jesus redeemed Him. Jesus made him useful to the kingdom. Jesus does the same for us through the cross. We can have our marriages that are sinful in the sight of God be made clean and holy through repentance and through grace. That is what makes for the joy of salvation and sanctification. We made free from the penalty of our past. We are given new life. We are made children of God. He can make the foulest clean!

 

 

 

What does this have to do with the passage at hand today? It has everything to do with it. Let’s read Ruth 1:1-5 together now and then I will explain:

 

 

 

1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.

 

 

 

3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. Moabites, who were related to Israel through Lot (Gen. 19:37), occupied parts of central Transjordan at various times. It was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (see Judges 3:12 and following verses), so there were tensions between the two nations. The famine must have been quite severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his family there. It is a demonstration of how sometimes we compromise our beliefs to get what we want or think we need.

 

 

 

Marrying a Canaanite or anyone who previously occupied the Promised Land was against God’s law. Moabites were not allowed to worship at the Tabernacle because had not allowed the Israelites pass through their land. If an Israelite married a Moabite woman, they would have been prevented themselves, even though they were Israelite, from worshiping at the Tabernacle because of their marriage. Sometimes, when we are in desperate circumstances we compromise our beliefs and that is what we see here. Desperate times had come but as God’s chosen people, these Israelites, even in the land of Moab, should have set the standard for moral living for other nations. However, they mixed in with the culture and even married into it. How often do we compromise our values to just fit in with the culture around us? How many times have you and I stood quiet when people were Christ bashing and we should have stood up and said something? How many times do we commit sins that we try to justify later as being OK? How many times do we ignore God’s Word because we are in desperate circumstances? How often do we do an end around on God’s Word because that’s the easiest way from Point A to Point B. All of us stand convicted on this point. We have all sinned and grieved the Spirit of God. We have all made mistakes that somewhere down the road the Holy Spirit makes us want to throw up over the kind of person that we used to be.

 

 

 

Here in this passage we see that something bad happened that was against God’s law for the people of ancient Israel – to marry outside God’s chosen people, to marry into cultures that did not worship God. And, that is something that Elimelech’s sons did. They marry the wrong kind of person according the law. They clearly did this. There was no hiding it or justifying it. They compromised because of conditions. They went against God’s own law because of their situation. Bottom line, they stand convicted. Bottom line, they broke the law. However, because of the redemptive nature of God’s love and because Naomi and Ruth had such great faith, they were eventually redeemed from the horrid life that they were going to have to live. Because of their faith, they were rewarded. Because of their faith, the bad situation that began with a sin of marriage to the wrong crowd, God actually redeemed it. God made Ruth, who was from the wrong side of the tracks…I mean….wrong side of the Dead Sea, into one of the great women of the Bible. God made Ruth into part of the lineage of King David. She was his great grandmother. She also became part of the earthly lineage of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. She became part of God’s family and the line through which Jesus’ earthly family came. Her marriage was born in sin but it was redeemed. She would not have come to know God had it not been for this apparent mistake or sin of marrying outside the people of Israel. God used this mistake of the past because of the faithful obedience of Ruth after she came to know God and turned it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

No matter where you are at right now in life. Murderer. Idolater. Adulterer. You name it. God can redeem it and make it part of His plan. Your past you can do nothing to change. All you must do is admit before God that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for your sins that you personally deserve. And proclaim with your mouth that He is indeed the rightful one to do this because He is the Son of God and that as the Son of God He arose from the dead to give you victory over sin and death and you will be saved. You will be redeemed. Your sins are forgiven through your repentance and revulsion over your past sins. Your sins are forgiven through the grace that covers them at the cross. You are now redeemed. You are now made new. Through the Holy Spirit, you will come to repent and be grieved over each and every sin you commit from now on and you will be changed from the inside out by Him. Through the Holy Spirit, you can see how we really do deserve hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit process of sanctification, we are made useful to the kingdom. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we see joy of our salvation as we stand at the precipice of what was our eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Through Jesus Christ, we are pulled back from the brink. Through Jesus Christ, we are made clean. By God’s grace, we are made into a part of the kingdom of priests. By God’s grace, we are made part of those who are useful to God in bringing about His kingdom here on earth.

 

 

 

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, thank God, I am redeemed. Yes, thank God, he has made my marriage clean. Yes, thank God, He has made two mistake-makers into a couple that is useful to His kingdom. No cheap grace here. Changed lives here. Joy here at what God has redeemed, made clean, and made part of the fabric of His redemptive plan. Joy here at God taking filthy rags and clothing them in the embroidered cloak of grace.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

Joshua 8:1-29 (Part 1 of 3)

The Israelites Defeat Ai

There is a Christian phrase that floats around these days. I cannot say for certain who coined it because you see it everywhere when you do a google search but it is true of what God does through us when we seek forgiveness for our sins. The saying is “God turns our mess into a message.” It simply means that through salvation we are redeemed and that through faith in God our past becomes our testimony to His greatness. Our mess of our past becomes our testimony. Our mess of our past becomes our ministry.

 

Yesterday’s blog was just that. My choices in life that had an atomic bomb affect with ripple effects on my life can be traced back to a decision to pursue a relationship with a woman who was not my wife that led to an affair and adultery. The course of my life was profoundly affected by that decision and I was using in my last blog to warn against the seductive siren call of an extramarital affair as a testimony, as a ministry. My life, in general, is a testimony to the first commandment. You shall have no other gods before me. I made acceptance, particularly female acceptance, the point of my life.

 

Once I became old enough to recognize what the female body has to offer a man, the pursuit of that became my god. Chasing after it, doing what I had to do keep access to it, has led me to so many mistakes in my life. I no longer blame the women in my life for taking advantage of my willingness to do anything, say anything in the pursuit of or the protection of my access to their charms. I did it to myself. My teenage and adult life was like a drug addict doing anything and saying anything to keep access to his supply of drugs. A drug addict will slowly forget any morality or pride or whatever just to keep access to a supply of drugs. I was the same way when it came to the physical charms of a woman. I allowed the pursuit of feminine charms to rule my life. It was my god. Whatever sacrifices I needed to make at its altar I was willing to make. In my first marriage, it seemed that there was this wedge that my first wife needed there to be between me and my family. I gladly eschewed my parents and my family when it was what my first wife needed so as to prove my love to her. With my second wife, it seemed that how I proved my love was eschewing anything to do with my past before I met her. That included my children. She expected me to only do what was legally expected of me for my children and no more. She expected that I elevate her children above mine. I bought it all just to keep access to my god, her feminine charms. I practically did not have a relationship with my children for those nine years all because my drug, my god, the charms of the feminine body demanded it. It was my drug. I would do whatever it took to please it and keep access to it. Even after my salvation, this was the one sin stronghold that the Holy Spirit had to hardest time getting me to let go of. This was my most entrenched sin, acceptance from others, and access to what a woman has to offer a man. Even after the breakup of my second marriage, because I refused to ignore my children any longer and lied about to my second wife, I was still addicted to female approval. As a single guy I was all about finding and keeping access to my drug, my god. It was not until I met Elena that I learned that it’s not all about the access. She taught me that love was not measured by access. Love is not conditional. Love does not demand. Love just is. I know that God sent this woman, Elena, who became my third and final wife, to save my life, to break the chains of my addiction, and to show me what love that He has for me. Unconditional love. Forgiveness. No hoops to jump through. But we cannot realize that until we put God first. Whatever we have on the throne of our lives before Him will rule us, disappoint us, and destroy us.

 

I know that I would not, literally, be alive today until I learned this lesson. I could make Elena my god for having saved my life but it was the through the mess that my life had become that I realized that I could no longer make access to feminine charms the god of my life, the ruling factor in everything I did. When I look back on my life and how all this happened, I get so angry at myself and so disgusted by what I look back on that it almost brings tears to my eyes for all the wasted time. But as the line from Steel Magnolias says, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” When I look back on what my life was and what it is now, it also gives me great thanks to the Lord for being patient with me, looking out for me, and saving me for what He has for me now. We must use our past as motivation to love God more for what He has done. Let our past become part of the reason we love Him so much.

 

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 8:1-29 this morning for the first of three times. It is the fact that Joshua and Israel let their eyes get taken off God by their success and it led to utter failure. But, they did recognize what their sin was and repented of it. God then led them to victory. That is our story. How we let our mess become our message. Israel screwed up big time but they fell humbly before God and restored them and gave them blessing. That is my story. That is my mess and my message. Let’s read the passage together this morning:

 

8 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”

 

3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night 4 with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. 5 I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. 6 They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, 7 you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”

 

9 Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.

 

10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. 11 The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.

 

14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.

 

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.

 

20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.

 

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.

 

28 So Joshua burned Ai[b] and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.

 

From this passage, we see that, after Israel had been cleansed from Achan’s sin, Joshua prepared to attack Ai again – this time to win. Joshua had learned some lessons that we can follow. First, confess your sins when God reveals them to you (Joshua 7:19-21). Second, when you fail, refocus on God, deal with the problem and move on. The lessons we learn from our failures should make us better able to handle the same situation the next time around. Because God is eager to forgive, the only way to lose is to give up. We can tell what kind of people we are by what we do after our failures. In this passage, the Lord gives Joshua the city. Yesterday’s defeat becomes today’s victory. Once sin is dealt with, forgiveness and victory lie ahead. With God’s direction, we need not stay discouraged our burdened with guilt. No matter how difficult a setback your or my sin may bring, we must renew our efforts to do God’s will. Our setbacks can become our ministry. Joshua and Israelites show us proof that through repentance and forgiveness, we can demonstrate that God redeems our failures and makes them victories.

 

I can certainly identify with the message of this passage. It is redemptive. It is about letting something other than God become your focus and letting it rule your life. It is about making something other than God the most important thing in your life. It is about being addicted to something other than God and letting rule your life – even when you know that your drug is causing you to do things that you would not normally due as you slowly decline into a complete loss of godly morality. It is only when our gods chew us up and spit us out on the sidewalk that we can see what our god, our addictions, have done to our lives and come humbly before the Lord to redeem. And the Lord will redeem. He is eager for us to have an intimate relationship with Him. He is eager to have us put Him in His rightful place in our lives, on the throne of our heart. He is eager to forgive and willing to redeem us and make us new. He is eager to give us a new life and new perspective. He is eager to get us to see our past for what it was and help us to use it to reach others through the message that comes out of our mess. He made us each with our own stories to tell so that we can reach certain people as only you or I can. He uses our mess turned into a message to reach similarly situated people to show them that God does redeem. Through Jesus Christ, we can have new life, a life where we seek to give Him glory for just the way that He saved us from the horribleness that was us before salvation.

 

Let you mess become a message through Jesus Christ and His saving and redeeming grace. Let us be so thankful that Jesus Christ does redeem. What I was before Him disgusts me, but it is my mess than is part of my message of redemption through Jesus Christ and process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit that is perfecting us daily from our iniquities one by one, day by day, adding to the message that we have to offer others of just what God can do!

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 7:16-26

Achan’s Sin

Although my first wife had been addicted to drugs that made my life a living hell cleaning up her messes both literal and figurative and although she had an affair during the height of her drug abuse that I had forgiven but that had changed my feeling toward her from love to responsibility and although after she got clean she transferred addictions to spending money causing me to have to chase bad checks all over town, it was my affair that crashed our marriage. It was my affair that seemed to have the most side effects. Although my affair was legitimized after my divorce was final and my paramour became my second wife, it was my affair for which I am responsible.

 

I can give you a hundred reasons for why it was OK for me. I had suffered so much with my first wife. Sure, we had some good years but those years quickly paled into surrealistic nightmare of drug abuse, arrests, near arrests, forking out money for lawyers and for rehabilitative care, cleaning up after her, literal burning of beds because she persisted in smoking in bed at night while zonked out of her mind on painkillers and God knows what else. There were threats on my life by her when it fits of rage such as threatening to drop a running hairdryer in the shower with me in it. All of these things should be good enough reasons for anyone to DESERVE to find peace and solace in another woman’s arms. After marrying my first wife when I was eighteen years old in 1980 and then suffering through all the pain and heartache of my first marriage, I began having an on again/off again affair in 1991. That began the inexorable decline of my first marriage to its ugly end in 1993.

 

The consequences of that decision to have an affair, even though I felt justified and even though others wondered why it didn’t happen sooner, were far reaching. When my first wife and I split up for good in April 1993, it started years of ripples of cause and effect that really did not end until my second wife and I split up in 2004. There were the harassing phone calls. There were the claims that I had molested my oldest daughter that I had to defend myself against. There were confrontations between my first wife and my second wife. There was DSS involvement in our lives after the molestation charges and eventually led DSS to see that my first wife was a woman who had gone off the deep end. Her emotional instability led DSS to remove my two girls from her care. It led eventually to my daughters living with my parents for over two years. It led to me being awarded custody after all that. It led to my first wife undermining my and my second wife’s authority with the girls. It led to your kids vs. my kids jealousies on the part of my second wife. It led me to have to almost ignore my own children to keep the peace with my second wife. It led to this high level of tension about our kids between my second wife and me to the point that our marriage was irrevocably damaged by it. Although my first wife finally remarried and backed off some of her craziness toward me, she hated me, was always in competition with me, measured her life by what the kids were doing for her or for me as the sign of their love. She loathed me until the day she died in July 2015, at age 55, a shell of the woman she once was, a woman consumed by hate.

 

The consequences of that decision to have the affair, even though it seemed as the right thing for me, personally, a kind of take that to hand in life that I had been dealt and even though I was madly in love with the woman who became my second wife, the whole thing had its effects on my children. I will never forget the day that my first wife and I broke up for good (and it is was probably a good thing from a physical safety standpoint that we separated because things had escalated to the point of physical violence). I will never forget seeing my oldest daughter, at this time 8 years old, holding her little 2 ½ year old sister, crying as I was packing my clothes into the car. I will never forget that pain that I saw. That started in motion a period of time that my oldest daughter actually at age 8 became head of their household (her mom, her sister, her). Their mom came so unglued over the next several years that my oldest daughter had to grow up way too fast. She was a mother to her mom and to her sister. She plowed down whatever she was feeling inside just to survive in her mom’s household. Her sister, just in those formative years of age two, three and four never really knew anything other than chaos, as a result of the change that happened that April 1993 day. To this day, each outwardly displays the effects of what happened during those years after April 1993. My oldest seeks stability in life. She wants family. She wants to fix things so that everyone gets along. She is too mature still for her age, at age 32. My youngest who never knew nothing but constant change and chaos from the time she can remember things is now age 26 and seems to just be living life on the edge and everything is everyone else fault for the state of her life. She lets life defeat her rather than embolden her. I worry deeply about her future.

 

It was this idea of the ripple effects of sin that came to mind and how others get washed up in the wake of our sins was what I thought about as I read about Achan’s sin this morning. Let’s read the passage together now:

 

16 Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen. 17 The clans of Judah came forward, and the Zerahites were chosen. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was chosen. 18 Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen.

 

19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

 

20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

 

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.

 

24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”

 

Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore, that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

 

In this passage, we see that Achan underestimated God and didn’t take His commands seriously (Joshua 6:18). Taking a robe, along with some silver and gold, may have seemed a small thing to Achan, but the effects of his sin were felt by the entire nation, especially his family. Like Achan, our actions affect more people than just ourselves. Beware of the temptation to rationalize your sins by saying they are too small and too personal to hurt anyone but you. Beware also of trying to rationalize away your sin because of trying to make yourself happy (I deserve this! God just wants me to be happy! I have a right to have this affair because my spouse is the way he/she is!). If it is contradictory to God’s direct commands or is inconsistent with the theology of the Bible, then, it is sin. Sin has its consequences. Sin is a cancer that affects more than just us alone. We wonder why Achan’s whole family was stoned here. That seems so drastic. However, we must remember that there were families of the 3,000 men that were impacted by Achan’s sin too. Many of the 3,000 probably lost their lives and their families are suffering loss because of what Achan did. To us this punishment seems unfair, but think about how our families often pay the price for our sins.

 

When I look at my own life, I can see now when I look back at those crucial years beginning in 1991 and continuing through 2004, all of it revolves around my decision to start a relationship with a woman who was not my wife. Although she became my wife later, she was not my wife at the time. It was adultery. Although this woman made me feel normal again and safe again and loved and although most people who know me during my marriage to my first wife would say hell yeah Mark had a right to do what he did, it was adultery. It was sin. No matter how what. I look back on it now and no longer try to justify it. The impact of that affair was freaking enormous. That affair, though justified in my mind, caused sin ripple effects on my life that were felt for 13 years. That affair, though it got me out of a marriage that probably would have ended with my death at the hands of a woman who had lost control, had effects on my children that still resound today. Adultery is a sin for a reason. God says it is because people get hurt and it defiles marriage. It creates sex outside the marriage covenant that leads to disastrous consequences. We live in a society where the social fabric is deteriorating rapidly because of unrestrained sex. God says it sin so it is so. God does not give us rules because he wants to keep us from doing things. He is God and He knows the impacts that sinful actions have on our lives. That’s why He has commandments for us. Because He knows what’s bad for us, bad for society, and what ripple effects are of each kind of sin. I am a walking, living, breathing testament to the ripple effects of sin – even when we think it is OK for us because of our circumstances. I am a testament to the fact that sin is sin no matter how you justify it.

 

So if you are married and you don’t like the spot that your marriage is in, and some girl is rubbing up against you, before you take the bait, think! Even if you feel justified by worldly standards and by the court of public opinion of your friends and confidants, think! Sin is sin no matter how you slice it. Whatever sin you are contemplating, but particularly adultery, think before you pass those boundaries from which you can never return. Think! Are you ready for the fallout of your sin? There is always fallout. Somebody gets hurt. Always the children. Think! Flee from sin. Adultery is an atomic bomb that leaves the landscape scarred and leaves people damaged.

 

Just as Achan’s sin destroyed his family. Just as my sin, though justified in my mind, was sin and it had such astounding effects on me and my kids, so is the sin that you are justifying in your mind right now is OK. Sin is Sin. Sin always has atomic bomb consequences on our lives.

 

Is it worth the atomic bomb and the aftermath? Flee from it before the bomb is released on your life. Flee from it! Now!

 

Amen and Amen.