Tag Archive | sin

Staying Between The Lines

Highway1

For the better part of the last century, any person driving the roads of America (and most other countries) have experienced something every time they get behind the wheel. It is something that, although we often take it for granted, guides every mile we drive down the highways and byways…

The painted lines in the road.

Whether double yellow lines, dotted lines, white lines, or any other lines that the DOT has taken the time to paint, we look to those lines without even thinking, to guide us in our travels, and to keep us safe.

Seems kind of crazy, huh? I mean, think about it: We are expecting an assortment of painted strips and symbols on the roadways to guide and protect us from the hazards and pitfalls of driving. Without thinking much about it, we typically abide by what the paint instructs us to do, and travel about from place to place, heeding its direction. We speed down the roads in relative safety, assuming that everyone else on the road will do the same, and abide by the paint’s instruction.

We have faith that the little strip of paint on the road is going to keep the 20-ton semi hurtling toward us on its own side of the road.

While we may not understand why a road is designated “one way”, the paint on the road reflects that it is so, and we don’t question its validity… we just do what it says.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, while driving down the road on a foggy night — when I can’t see the road ahead of me, or even the shoulder beside me — all I have to guide me is the reflection of my headlights off of the reflective paint on the road.

And through all of it, we are making a lot of assumptions. We assume the driver heading toward is alert, and is abiding by the same rules of driving etiquette we are. We take it for granted that, as we travel down that one way street, every other driver on the road recognizes the clearly stated flow of traffic, and abides by it. We hope and pray that, when we are driving slow and nearly blind on a foggy night, that the guys who painted the lines knew what they were doing, and didn’t dead-end the lines off the side of a cliff.

If you think about it realistically, what is keeping that other driver on his side of the road?

Absolutely NOTHING.

The vast majority of accidents on our roadways, in one way or another, are caused because someone didn’t follow the paint… someone didn’t stay between the lines.

“So, Pastor… what does this have to do with ANYTHING????”

I’m glad you asked.

God has painted lines on the road of human history that are intended to be followed. He gave us a driver’s manual called  “The Bible” that He meant to guide us along the journey. When we get into trouble — as individuals or as a society — it is generally because we have not stayed between the lines. We may not like the lines. We may not like the way they look, what they represent, or how they make us feel at a given time. We may not understand the logic, reasoning, or thought processes that went behind the formation of the lines.

But the lines are there nonetheless, and our wants, wills, desires, dreams, or intentions have no bearing on their existence… or the consequences of violating their borders.

Just as a 20-ton semi hurtling down the road, there is nothing there to stop us from crossing the lines God has drawn. Man has — from creation — been given a free will. Should we choose to go outside the lines of the laws of God, we do so at our own peril. Paul writes in Galatians 6…

 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

We can decide to travel against the flow of history, and ignore natural law. We can choose to ignore the “One-Way” signs, and presume that there are many ways to God… that as long as we are earnest in our belief, we will one day reach Heaven. But just like the person going the wrong way down that one-way street, it won’t take long before we are proven wrong. Jesus said…

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. ~John 14:6

It all comes down to faith. Following His lead, regardless of public opinion, political winds, or the fleshly yearnings of our own hearts. In Hebrews 11:6, Paul said…

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

And in those times when we can’t see clearly, and are fraught with fear, doubt, and insecurity, God has given us fellow believers (Godly friends, pastors, teachers, etc.) to reflect His love and wisdom, and help guide us along the path when the thick fog closes in around us.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. ~ Colossians 3:16

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In a culture that is more and more running off the road and into the ditch of immorality and unGodliness, it is more important than ever for the Church of Jesus Christ to lift high His banner, proclaim His Word, and keep the lines clearly painted on the roadway.

 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:14-16

Stone-Phillips

Join us for the 2015 Big Event: Spiritual Warfare Conference Click the image for info on how to register.

Living With Pythons

Through the Looking Glass

People make pets out of strange — and sometimes dangerous — creatures. While most of us are satisfied to keep dogs, cats, birds, or fish as pets, for some individuals, their tastes are a little more exotic. Many people have taken to making pets out of pigs, ferrets, lizards, tarantulas, and…

Snakes.

And in South Florida, that has become a rather big problem.

For many years, it was legal for people in the United States to own Burmese pythons as pets. While these snakes start off rather small and manageable, an adult Burmese python typically grows to a length of 12 feet, sometimes reaching 19 feet.

The problem with owning these pets — it is speculated — is that when these snakes grew too big for their owners to care for, the owners simply released them into the wild of the Florida Everglades. Once in the wild, these snake began to breed. Without a natural enemy capable of combating this species, these pythons not only began populating at an alarming rate, but subsequently began having a detrimental effect on indigenous species, native to the area. It is now estimated that the Burmese python population of South Florida is well in excess of 100,000, and climbing.

When we refuse to deal with sin in a way prescribed by God in His word, we are asking for trouble. We hold on to our “pet sins” until they are out of control, and too big for us to handle on our own. If we don’t deal with our sin appropriately, God assures us that…

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

If we try to cover our sin, it will grow into a stronghold with the potential to destroy our walk with God, our relationships with others, and our testimony in the world. However, when we approach God in humility and repentance, our fellowship with Him is restored. As He promises in 1 John 1…

 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So what are those things you think you are hiding from an all-seeing God?

Don’t fool yourself… that “pet” you are hiding will turn into a monster with the potential to consume everything that is important to you.

Just confess it to Him. Repent and turn it over to Him. Let Him lead you to a place of forgiveness and peace in His presence.

Allegorical or Absolute: Finding Faith in The Bible

Bible        Over the last few weeks, Americans have been captivated by The Bible on television. The record-setting series garnered huge audiences, and brought many of these most well-loved Bible stories into our living rooms in living color. Congratulations to Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, for the wonderful job they did in bringing the Book of the Ages, God’s Holy Word, to life.

But lest we get lost in the fanfare surrounding the success of Christian-friendly programming, I would like to mention a few of things that would be good reminders for all of us regarding The Bible:

Now that you’ve waited for the movie, don’t forget to read The Book. All in all, The Bible was very well done, and the producers should be commended in trying to “stay true to the spirit of the book”. However, be sure not to base your theology entirely on what was depicted on the screen: Read the Bible for yourself, and let the Holy Spirit of God reveal to you personally what is the holiness, righteousness, and love of the God of the Universe.

You can’t make this stuff up. In the course of promoting The Bible, I saw Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey on a well-known (fairly conservative) talk show. The interviewer (who said he was religious), while discussing the series, stated repeatedly, “Now, we all know that the Bible is just allegory (good moral stories, but not factual, historical accounts)”. When he pressed the issue, and asked the producers their opinion, they stated, unequivocally, that they believed the Bible to be a historical, factual account of actual events.

As Christians, our faith depends on the factual and literal life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9 states it very plainly:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 Now, I could go on for hours about historical fact, archaeological evidence, as well as personal observation (having personally traveled to the Holy Land more than a dozen times). However, in the interest of time (and not to be overly simplistic), I’ll sum it up as a friend recently noted:

“If you are going to pick and choose ‘truth’, and if the death and resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith (and thereby must be factual truth), which story is easier to believe: That a boy killed a giant with a stone, or that the God of the universe became a man, was born of a virgin, was killed by His own creation, and got up out of a grave after being dead for three days?”

Eating at the buffet of truth. It would be impossible to cover every significant event of the Bible in the 10 hours that it took to portray what ended up on screen. Just as God’s plan for the ages cannot be contained in a mini-series, truth is not a “buffet”. Unlike the stories chosen for the series (for time and content purposes), we cannot pick and choose what truth we want to believe and what we want to leave at “the bar”. If we cannot trust God in matters of judgment and justice, how can we trust Him on matters of grace and mercy? When it comes to truth, it’s all or nothing. God does not operate on the shifting winds and whims of the masses or mobs. Even if “the majority of Americans believe” that which is contrary to the Word of God, God is not going to change His opinion. Truth is truth… regardless of polls, public opinion, or political correctness.

When we come to Christ, we must come to Him on His terms…

We must recognize our need for Him. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

We must recognize that we have sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

We must recognize that our sin separates us from God. (Romans 6:23… 1 Corinthians 6:9-10… Romans 1:28-32)

We must believe, accept, and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

When we come to Jesus, we are invited to come and die; die to our old self… die to sin and the sinful nature. We are invited to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24). If you did see The Bible, then you realize that taking up the cross (even figuratively) is not to be taken lightly. But although the path in following Him may be steep, stony, and wrought with peril, that which awaits us at the finish line is joy, peace, grace, mercy, and life eternal… all found in the open and nail-scarred arms of Jesus.