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Your Sin Is Known

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Not too long ago I heard a pastor give this advice when praying, “Ask God to reveal your sins that may be hidden from you.”  Our sense of righteousness and pride can sometimes cloud over sins that only the Spirit can bring to full, bright light.  But then there are those other sins.  Those sins that we know we indulge.  We think we are keeping them secret.  The unforgiveness, or even hatred, we hold in our heart (because they deserve it!).  The hoarding of our treasures (because I need it!).  The partaking of bad behaviors (because I deserve it!).  

Charles Spurgeon once gave a powerful sermon on the folly of secret sins.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Pretender, thou art fair to look upon; thy conduct outwardly upright, amiable, liberal, generous and Christian; but thou dost indulge in some sin which the eye of man has not yet detected. Perhaps it is private drunkenness. Thou dost revile the drunkard when he staggers through the street; but thou canst thyself indulge in the same habit in private. It may be some other lust or vice; it is not for me just now to mention what it is. But, pretender, we say unto thee, thou art a fool to think of harbouring a secret sin; and thou art a fool for this one reason, that thy sin is not a secret sinit is known, and shall one day be revealed; perhaps very soon. Thy sin is not a secret; the eye of God hath seen it;”

Friend, we fool ourselves if we think God doesn’t know what’s going on in your private life.  He doesn’t take days off or turn His face away even for a minute.  He knows your heart and your mind.  He knows if you’ve truly forgiven that person or not.  He sees what you are doing with your body, always.  He is like an x-ray into your heart.  To truly renounce that sin start with the help of the Spirit to give you strength to turn it over.  He will forgive you each time you struggle to rid yourself of the hold it has over you. 

Merciful God, shine a light on my sinful ways, both ones I know about and the ones that seem hidden from me.  I know you will love me with grace and mercy.  Amen

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The Great Destructive Force

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?  Proverbs 27:4

When I delved into research about envy vs. jealousy I came across this interesting view from Psychology Today: 

“Although jealousy is a painful emotional experience, evolutionary psychologists regard it not as an emotion to be suppressed but as one to heed—as a signal or a wake-up call that a valued relationship is in danger and that steps need to be taken to regain the affection of a mate or friend. As a result, jealousy is seen as a necessary emotion, because it preserves social bonds and motivates people to engage in behaviors that maintain important relationships.”

Jealousy, unlike envy, is about emotional needs within relationships.  Be it between spouses, children and parents, or even between co-workers and a boss.  “My mother loves my sister more than me.”  “My wife pays too much attention to our neighbor.”  “He’s always playing up to the boss for compliments.”  These are all situations where a person is seeking to fulfill emotional needs through the wrong outlet.  When we feel jealousy arise in our hearts it should be a warning to evaluate where our prideful hearts are seeking to fulfill all its needs.

In the books of Mark and Luke a scene unfolds wherein the disciples argue amongst themselves who is the greatest of them.  They all want to be seen as the “top dog” alongside Jesus.  Who does Jesus love more?  Who does He rely on the most?  All signs of a strain of jealousy woven among them.  And true to Jesus’ ability to cut through the sin of man He reminds them all that they are to be the “least” among men.  To accept His love as little children, with innocence and grace.  James later reminds us of jealousy’s dangerous results: “You desire and do not have so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Friend, as Samuel Rutherford once wrote, “There is so much in our Lord’s pantry that will satisfy His children, and much wine in His cellar that will quench all their thirst.”  He admonishes us to live on Christ’s love alone.  When we place all our emotional needs in one human relationship we are sure to be disappointed. And disappointment can lead to jealousy.  As Rutherford goes on to say, “Let those who love this present world have it; Christ is the more worthy and noble portion; blessed are those who choose Him.”

Loving Lord, thank you for being a fountain of love that never runs dry.  A place I can return to over and over to refresh me.  Help me to seek your love above all so I can place my earthly relationships in the right place in my heart.  Amen

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Repetitious Folly

As a dog returns to its vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.  Proverbs 26:11

We’ve all heard the famous quote, “The definition of insanity is making the same mistake over and over and expecting a different result.”  It must have its roots in today’s graphic version of the illogical idea of continuing to beat your head against a wall (or beating a dead horse).  My version of this wisdom was telling my softball players that if you keep practicing something the wrong way, you’ll get really good at doing it the wrong way.

I have to think there’s so many versions of this admonition because we humans struggle with both breaking bad habits and the fear of the unknown.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s better to live with the pain you know than the pain you don’t.”  If, as a Christian, this speaks to you let me put what you are doing into a faith perspective.  You aren’t trusting God to take care of you.  God doesn’t desire for you to live downtrodden and joyless.  It’s why there’s proverbs like this one.  It’s why Jesus came to us.  He came to shake us up from our repeated follies.  It was time to take a different approach to life.

Jesus told us to stop hating our enemies.  Stop being filled with vengeance.  Stop viewing others within a hierarchy.  Stop giving over our bodies and minds to immorality.  Stop hoarding our wealth.  Stop being afraid.  Stop returning to our own vomit.  And start living for His Kingdom.  Start looking towards the New Eden.

My friend, if you feel stuck ask yourself what do you keep doing over and over expecting a different outcome? Turn your issue over to God.  Listen to His answer which will come either through His Holy Word or through the most unexpected way.  And then take new action.  Start a new habit.  One that God will infuse with joy and goodness.  

God, you know my habitual ways.  You have a better plan for me.  I lift up my repeated sins to you.  Please show me a different path and guide me with your Spirit.  Amen 

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Self-Control for Success

Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho once wrote in one of his novels, “If you conquer yourself, then you will conquer the world.”  Sounds like a great plan, right?  But why do so many of us suffer from lack of self-control, either with our eating habits, exercise routines, emotions, studying, words and more?

According to a study revealed in Scientific American the act of self-control can be equated to using your muscles.  To be successful at it we need to practice and practice.  Our self-control muscles also get fatigued as we use them to keep our bad behavior at bay.  So it needs to be replenished.  Maybe that’s why the weight loss program, Noom, encourages its participants to indulge on occasion.  We need a break from our self-control workout which might come in the form of a spa day, special food treat, a day of binge watching, or in one of my daughter’s cases, a day free from talking to anyone.

Years ago, psychologists surmised we needed to work on self-esteem for success in life.  But they are now finding self-control to be the true factor.  Self-control leads us to higher self-esteem and success with relationships, careers, and more.

Friend, when we accepted Jesus as our savior, we were given a self-control workout coach – the Holy Spirit. He is there both through the Word of God and the Spirit’s nudging to remind us of the benefits of self-control. We keep our tongues.  Keep our emotions in check.  Treat our bodies as God’s temples.  Use our minds to better ourselves and those around us.  Self-control is not some Puritan dirty word.  It’s the secret word.  It’s the key to unlock all that God wants for us.  It’s the lesson Jesus taught the apostle Peter throughout the Gospels.

Gracious Father, so often I want to lean toward the desires of my flesh. Speak to me through your Word and the whispering of the Holy Spirit to refresh my self-control and keep me from falling off track.  Amen 

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A Lifeline

If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter. Proverbs 24:10-11

In one of the smallest books of the Bible there’s a very powerful lesson about our duty as believers.  Jude 22-23 admonishes us to be a lifeline to our fellow Christians who struggle with their faith.  

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Jude 22-23

I’m sure all of us have heard a Christian friend or acquaintance talk about their doubts at one time or another. How many of us, however, have stepped up and been that lifeline?  To help remind them of the promises of God?  To encourage them that, although they may feel far from the Lord, He will never leave them?  Or even with truth and love shine a light on a sin that is leading them to death?

We Christians during the last 50 years have been so hesitant to take up this mantle, worried we might sound “judgy” or “preachy” that we have allowed so many of our brothers and sisters to fall into the fire.  We have forgotten the final truth of Jesus.  He will come to judge the wicked who have turned their backs to Him.  Yes, Jesus is love.  But throughout His time here with us His underlining message was our salvation – saving us from the “slaughter.”  

Friends, the time is now to throw out that lifeline to that Christian who is faltering.  You know the one.  They’ve already popped up in your head.  They’ve been pulled to the way of the world because of its shiny offerings. With mercy, love, truth and fear, God is asking you intervene.  It may be through intense prayer.  It may also look like a tough conversation.  Ask Him to show you the way.

Heavenly Father, I get afraid sometimes when it comes to speaking truth into others.  With the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance I will be a rescuer in your name.  Amen

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Craving Influence

Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
    do not crave his delicacies;
for he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.  You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.  Proverbs 23:6-8

Today’s proverb takes two different points of view at what should be a time of generosity, joy and even love.  A scene of a great dinner set to impress.  And boy do we like to be impressed and to impress others!  We scroll through social media or magazines looking enviously at how the “other half” live.  But here’s the thing – even the “other half” are working hard to impress the “upper crust.”  Envy, jealousy and striving.  Trying to be accepted by someone or some group.

The enigma of Jesus was that as God incarnate, He never felt the need to impress or even be impressed.  He could have so easily waved His hand and wowed the crowd during the Sermon on the Mount.  Gold coins falling from the sky.  The finest roasted meats and delectable fruits suddenly appearing for all to partake.  No, instead He took the humble offering of a few fish and loaves and told His disciples to just start passing them out.  The folks in the back of the crowd probably never even knew how scant the food quantity was to begin with.  

Each time Jesus encountered a rich or powerful person He treated them as any other.  But with the poor and downtrodden He showed so much gentleness and kindness.  Quite the opposite one would expect for the King of the Jews.  

Friends, we need to shun the way of the pharisees who sought to not only be impressed by Jesus but also to impress.  Humility was foreign to them.  Hierarchy was necessary for their way of life.  However, Jesus asks us to wash the feet of all men and accept the washing of our feet in humbleness.  God does not need us to impress Him with our works and money.  He knows the sacrifices we make large and small in His name.  He knows the genuine love we show to any and all of His people.  

Holy God, help me each and every day to be humble in my ways, serving you and others with love.  Amen

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Your Good Name

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  Proverbs 22:1

If we were honest, how would you answer when asked if you’d rather have money or respect?  Some might say money can buy you a form of respect but you would certainly know the people who bow down to you simply because of your wealth.  And that would sit there in the back of your mind at all times.  Resentment would probably grow.  And resentment destroys our hearts and minds.  

When I quit my regular job to become a stay at home mother, I struggled with the idea of not having an income of my own.  Since I was a child, I brought in money in some form or another, be it collecting cans and newspapers to babysitting, and then working in restaurants and finally my career in public relations.   Not only did I “pull my weight” with money I found pleasure in the accolades others gave me for a job well done.   When I “retired,” what I found was wherever I would volunteer it was my reputation that was the more important factor.  People knew they could count on me to get the job done right.  They knew I would show up when promised.  In every volunteer position I have ever had I found myself being asked to take on more responsibility – because my reputation was that of someone to be trusted.  

I was recently reading about Elizabeth Kenny (died 1952).  She was a self-taught bush nurse from Australia. Without any formal medical training she became well respected for her volunteer work with polio patients.  She hailed from a farming family and through her passion for helping others earned the title of “Sister” during World War I as she tirelessly gave aid and comfort to the wounded.   In 1932, her polio work caught the attention of the wife of the Trade Commissioner.  She was invited to create a makeshift clinic to treat hundreds of children.  She eventually set up clinics all over Australia.  In recognition of her work, in February 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman signed a Congressional bill giving Kenny the right to enter and leave the US as she wished without a visa. This honor had only been granted once before, to the French leader in the American War of Independence. 

While Kenny’s work eventually brought her wealth from patents, she contributed much of it to her work with children and polio.  She never seemed to reach for that wealth, rather for the recognition of the results of her work.  Like so many others we may admire isn’t it their gutsiness, commitment to bettering society, willingness to forgo comforts in their quests, and their faithfulness to truth and honesty that we hold up higher than their income?

Friend, if you are grasping for wealth at the expense of your good name, I want to remind you that gold flows easily through our fingers and can disappear in an instant.  It is the good we do, the trust people place in us, and the commitment we make to do our best that will stand the test of time.  Our touchstones for living a life based on a good reputation can be found in the apostles and Jesus.  They never sought wealth.  Only to be trusted with the expansion of the Gospel.  Today we can say they succeeded. 

Heavenly Father, when faced with a path to take that diverges from wealth or reputation, please help me make the longer term choice to be a faithful servant to you and stand firm on the principles of honesty and integrity.

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His Plan Won’t Fail

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.  Proverbs 21:30

I was listening to a podcast from White Horse Inn the other day featuring Tim Keller as its guest. The host asked Pastor Keller about how he sees the current status and future of the church.  His response?  “While there may be fewer people who profess to be Christians there’s still millions and millions of faithful Christians.  And I know that no plan will ever succeed against God’s plan.”

It’s a message that so many of us need to hear these days.  Faced with religious persecution in places typically seen as stalwarts of religious freedom, the ever encroaching sinful teachings of the world in our schools, and the disdain so many seem to have toward Christians, it may at times feel like this is it.  The one time God’s plan is going to fail.  But like the song says, “It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You.”  

We humans have such a limited view of the world’s timeline.  What’s happening now can seem like “the worst ever.”  We need to remember the state of the world during Jesus’s life and the years following.  The Jews being persecuted by the Romans.  Christians being persecuted by the Jews, the Romans and so many others.  All but one of the apostles faced terrible deaths. It’s a miracle this thing we call Christianity and the Bible even survived.  Not only did it survive but it has thrived because it is God’s plan.

Friend, our shortsightedness may make us scratch our heads or even worse, fall into despair, when we see evil succeed.  That script needs to be flipped today.  Evil people and their plans that are celebrated are short sighted victories.  Our victory, God’s victory, is eternal.  We need to keep our eyes forward and upward asking Him for help in following His plan, not ours, and definitely not someone else’s.  The Bible is filled with stories of people jumping ahead of Him or worse, leaving God out completely.  Let’s learn from their mistakes and believe that He is the Way, the Truth and the Light.

Victorious Lord, I want to follow your plan, your path to eternal victory.  Guide my steps, my mind and my heart so that I am not following the way of the world but instead your assured plan.  Amen

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Be Prudent with Vows

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.  Proverbs 20:25

prudent:  (ˈpruːdənt) adj 1. discreet or cautious in managing one’s activities; circumspect

Years ago, when I was heavily involved in our elementary school PTA, there was one woman who put her hand up for just about every activity for which we needed volunteers.  The first to offer to be a chair for an event, she was well-known at the school.  There was just one problem.  She rarely followed through with what she promised.  Without fail, those events she promised to shepherd fell into chaos.  It’s difficult, when someone steps forward to volunteer, to tell them, “no thanks.”  And so, year after year other volunteers assisted with the clean up behind her wake.

Today’s wise words remind us that making promises we can’t keep leads us into traps.  In the case of the rash volunteer that trap was a destroyed reputation.  For others, it may look like a broken marriage which effects finances, children, livelihoods and more.   A failed promise to pay back a debt that leads to more indebtedness.

Judges 11:31-39 tells of Jephthah who is desperate for victory against the Ammonites.  He promises God that should He give him victory he will sacrifice whomever first walks through the door upon his return from the battlefield.  And, of course, his favorite young daughter dances out the door, being the first to greet him after his victory.  He is devastated realizing too late his vow.

Friend, we make little and large promises all the time.  A promise to make dinner.  Promises to show up on time.  A commitment to the bank to repay your loan.  Those promises we make to ourselves to lose weight, get fit, read our Bible and more.  God wants us to slow down and be more cautious with our word.  There’s only one person who walked this earth who has and will keep every promise He has ever made – Jesus.  We will fail to keep a promise or two.  But we can minimize the destructive results of broken promises by limiting them and being careful with them in the first place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a promise keeper.  You show me that making promises is something to be taken seriously.  Help me to step back when facing a situation where a promise may be needed and take the time to evaluate my ability to keep that promise.  Amen

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The Drippy, Leaky Roof

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
    and a quarrelsome wife is like
    the constant dripping of a leaky roof.  Proverbs 19:13

Last month I finally found the right time and place to open up to my husband about something new that was bothering me in our relationship.  We have always been good about communicating with each other.  However, I’d been sensitive to not bringing him any more discordancy than he was already experiencing in his work life.  My, albeit made in love, approach to the problem didn’t make it go way.  In fact, I found myself pulling back or lashing out in other ways.  I was getting resentful for not feeling like I could present the issue to him.  

According to the wise marriage folks at Marriage 365, communicating our feelings or needs is easier for some people than others.  “The truth is,” they write in a course on Confident Communication in Your Marriage, “no one is born with great communication skills, everyone has to learn them.  Communication is what connects us and in order to have a healthy marriage, you have to learn techniques that work.”

Isn’t it so often the case though that we think, “If he/she loved me they would just know what I’m feeling (or needing)”?  Or “I’ve told him/her a thousand times and they just aren’t listening!”  The fact is, if there’s some discord going on in a spouse and proper communication isn’t occurring, it will find its way to the surface in destructive ways – like a constantly dripping leaky roof.  

We all need to learn how to communicate effectively with others, whether it’s work partners or life partners.  We can’t assume we are experts at it and we certainly shouldn’t assume they are either.  The Bible tells us to take all our problems to the Lord with prayer and thanksgiving (don’t miss that second part).  I have to think a response back from God when it comes to marital issues is to first remember your commitment to love one another.  Secondly, to respect each other.  And then actively pursue knowledge and wisdom on how to communicate.

Friend, when I took the Lord’s advice and came to my husband in humility, respect and love he was surprised as to what I had been holding back.  And because he loves me as much as I love him, we resolved to work together on our communication.  Because no one wants to be tortured by a leaking roof or a nagging spouse.

Father God, in your Word you have shown us how to be good and loving spouses.  Direct me each day to grow in knowledge and wisdom to reflect your Word.  Amen