Tag Archives: sin

Zechariah 8-11; John 8; Psalm 147

I may have pondered it from a sermon or a commentary, and certainly if I linger over the words I would wonder too: what did Jesus write in the dust that day? Whatever it was was not meant for future knowledge. But his words were recorded–the words he spoke. The doctor sent to heal. The One who came to seek and save the lost. He who can take a heart of stone and turn it into flesh. What did he say?

In Zechariah, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “16 But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. 17 Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 8:16, NLT)

To the people gathered around, he said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

To the unbelieving people he warned, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. 24 That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24, NLT)

To those who believed in him, he said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:31b-36, NLT–and don’t stop reading there.)

His words light a fire in me. I fix my eyes on Jesus.

For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has arrived
    to look after Judah, his flock.
He will make them strong and glorious,
    like a proud warhorse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
    the tent peg,
the bow for battle,
    and all the rulers.
They will be like mighty warriors in battle,
    trampling their enemies in the mud under their feet.
Since the Lord is with them as they fight,
    they will overthrow even the enemy’s horsemen.

I will strengthen Judah and save Israel;
    I will restore them because of my compassion.
It will be as though I had never rejected them
,
    for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries.
The people of Israel will become like mighty warriors,
    and their hearts will be made happy as if by wine.
Their children, too, will see it and be glad;
    their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
When I whistle to them, they will come running,
    for I have redeemed them. (Zechariah 10:3-8, NLT)

What did he say that day to the adulterous woman caught in (enslaved by) her sin?

And Jesus said, “… Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11b, NLT)

Had the father of lies spoken instead, he would have told her to go back to the man in her bed. He would have condemned her as weak or championed her personal freedom (a personal “freedom” to stay in sin). He would have told her there are worse things. He would have said everyone is doing it–it’s normal. But he would not have empowered her freedom to walk in light and truth, to turn away from sin.

Father God, thank you that you give me your Spirit to speak truth to me and lead me in the light. You call me daughter, empowered by your compassion to fight the good fight. You do not condone sin. You came to set people free from its grip. You came to set me free. Why would I ever want to return to slavery when I can have freedom in you?

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36

A siege that lasts two years. A famine. A city succumbs. Its king (Zedekiah) tries to escape at night past enemy (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon’s) troops. Zedekiah is caught. The last he sees before his sight is taken is the slaughter of his sons. A city is dismantled as an enemy carries off bronze, silver and gold that had been used by Solomon to adorn and uphold the temple of the Lord. That is one side of the story in Second Kings.

Second Chronicles tells another perspective–of a lineage that repeatedly did evil in the sight of the Lord. It tells of prophets who came to warn and a leadership that mocked, scoffed and refused to listen.

11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.

14 Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. (2 Chronicles 36:11-17a, NLT)

While this may not be the birth of the saying, “Pride comes before the fall,” it certainly is another example of deceitful pride’s consequences. I wonder if one examines hardship or catastrophe, what would be the root? Even here, a list of heart attitudes that set a man, his entourage and an entire population against the Lord: refusal to humble; deceit; hard and stubborn; unfaithful; mocking and scoffing; disdain and contempt for/of truth. These thoughts are the birth of catastrophe–strong enough to not only bring down a man but an entire city, leaving behind ruin.

Lord, may I always be mindful of my heart attitudes, open to your direction and truth, and discerning of influences in my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 9-10; 2 Chronicles 21; 1 Thessalonians 1

A young prophet was given instructions for an important task–to deliver a message and run (for his life!).

So Jehu left the others and went into the house. Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the Lord’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the Lord’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her.” Then the young prophet opened the door and ran (2 Kings 9:6-10, NLT).

Jehu was tasked with an important role the Lord had appointed, and to fulfill the words the Lord commanded, an instrument in the Lord’s vengeance. The suspense builds as troops approach.

Then King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah rode out in their chariots to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of land that had belonged to Naboth of Jezreel. 22 King Joram demanded, “Do you come in peace, Jehu?”

Jehu replied, “How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us? (2 Kings 9:21-22, NLT, emphasis mine)”

Jehu was obedient to the Lord’s command as I read of the ensuing bloodbath and destruction. However:

28 In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin.

30 Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” 31 But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit (2 Kings 10:28-31, NLT).

Destroying the gold calves would have been the easiest of all the things he had to do. Why did he destroy every trace of Baal worship but not these? How did he justify salvaging the golden calves? Was it easier to see idolatry in someone else than it was to recognize it in himself? It seems possible that one can love and serve the Lord, but not with all his heart. Oh, how can there be peace as long as idolatry is around?

Jehu had a story of purpose and might, a story punctuated with a pivotal however. In 2 Chronicles 21, Jehoram is designated successor king because he’s the oldest, kills off his brothers and marries one of Ahab’s daughters. He’s also known for doing evil in the Lord’s sight. When Jehoram dies a miserable death, no one mourns him and he is not buried in the royal cemetery. Jehoram’s story speaks of his heart, focus and desire.

In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul writes of a people’s reputation:

And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:8-9, NLT).

Not only did they turn away from idols to serve the living and true God, but they kept their focus on His kingdom and eagerly awaited his return.

Lord, show me places of my heart that I haven’t given you. Remind me when my focus strays.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 13-14; 2 Corinthians 4; Psalm 51

This week, I tapped into a podcast of interviews with adults who shared an event in their lives that had a lasting effect upon them. They painted vivid pictures with their words, and the interviewer followed up with questions to the now adult speakers. They were only two people in this whole world, each marked by a memory from childhood. I wondered perhaps all of us have stories that have had such an effect upon our lives.

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her (2 Samuel 13:14-15, NLT).

***

So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister (2 Samuel 13:20b-22, NLT).

Sin separates. It separates us from God and it separates us from each other. In motion, it destroys. Amnon’s sin and violence led to his sister’s desolation, a brother’s thirst for revenge/justice and murder, and an estrangement in a lineage. Sin’s reach is vast–don’t ever be fooled.

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him (2 Samuel 14:13-14, NLT).”

Psalm 51 was written after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you (Psalm 51:1-15, NLT).

Oh, that Amnon would have repented.

I look long on the image of spilled water in 2 Samuel 14:14. Thank you, God: Redeemer, Father, Healer. You devise a way to bring us back to you. Sin’s reach is vast, but You are greater. God, I hand you my memory, knowing You to be the Good Father, full of mercy, unfailing love, compassion. Bring healing to all the broken places.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20; 2 Corinthians 3; Psalm 20

2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

Ah, David. How far you fell and how fast you slipped.

How easily I stand in contempt of you – and yet, are we not more alike than I’d want to admit?

You made one small decision, and that one small decision changed the course of your life and many other lives. You took that one step, and that one step led to another, which led to another, which led to yet another. And before you knew it, you’d reached unspeakable places – places of adultery, betrayal, and murder.

And while I have not reached those unspeakable places, I’ve often found myself unexpectedly in places I’d never set out to reach – places like bitterness, anger, resentment, and discouragement. Where did it start? How did it happen?

One small step.

Your first small step was staying home instead of leading your army to war. I’m sure you felt justified. You wanted a break; you deserved the rest. You trusted your leaders. So you stayed behind.

My first step is often the same. I need a break. I deserve a reward. I have to rest. And so I withdraw.

By withdrawing, you found yourself in a place you weren’t supposed to be, you saw things you weren’t supposed to see, and you acted on the desires and impulses of the moment.

And when I withdraw, I find myself alone, vulnerable to temptation, and acting on the desires and impulses of the moment.

Because one indulgence makes the next easier. Until you’re out of control. Until I’m out of control.

But God was faithful to you, even after your shocking failure. In His mercy, he sent you Nathan. Nathan, who so eloquently pierced your heart with the truth. Nathan, who warned you of the dire consequences of your actions. Nathan, who came back when you repented and showed you the love of God.

And God is faithful to me, even when I fail Him. Over, and over again. In His mercy, He sends me people. He sends me His word. He sends me the truth to pierce my heart. And He opens my eyes to the course my feet have chosen and the consequences that await me.

And like you, I cry out for repentance. And like you, the Lord loves me. He restores me. He refreshes me. He affirms His love for me. And He helps me to move past my mistakes and find my identity in Him instead of my failures.

 

Oh, Lord. I could never thank you enough for caring enough about me to chase me when I wander. Father, open my eyes to the weight of my choices and help me to recognize that there are no harmless steps when it comes to my relationship with you. I can either chose to move closer to you or father away; and Lord, I want to be closer! Help me to seek you more than me, and help me to desire your rewards more than my personal comfort. Thank you for your mercy and love, even when I fail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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1 Samuel 18; 1 Chronicles 6; 1 Corinthians 4; Psalm 11

The wicked are stringing their bows
    and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings.
They shoot from the shadows
   at those whose hearts are right. (Psalm 11:2, NLT)

The making of an enemy. The battleground of spiritual warfare. Warring spirits cloaked in human armor of tender flesh. It starts in the heart.

In 1 Samuel 18, I read of David and Saul. It started well. Saul really liked David. Saul’s son loved David. The people liked David.

From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home.

Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike (1 Samuel 18:2,5, NLT).

Songs are sung about David’s greater victories. Perspective takes new light.

So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David (1 Samuel 18:9, NLT).

David plays the harp, and Saul tries to impale him. Twice. And twice, David eludes the spear.

12 Saul was then afraid of David, for the Lord was with David and had turned away from Saul (1 Samuel 18:12, NLT).

Saul offers a daughter in marriage to David, who declines from a place of humility. Saul offers another daughter with a price David could afford–but this manipulation was meant for David’s death.

24 When Saul’s men reported this back to the king, 25 he told them, “Tell David that all I want for the bride price is 100 Philistine foreskins! Vengeance on my enemies is all I really want.” But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight (1 Samuel 18:24-25, NLT).

Vengeance on his enemies … perhaps both the Philistines and David.

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, 29 Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 18:28-29, NLT).

Enemy for the rest of his life. Hatred enduring to the end. The grip of sin embedded in a human heart. It threatens with jealousy and hatred and fear. When sin roots, nothing good will come from it.

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;
    the Lord still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
    examining every person on earth.
The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.
    He hates those who love violence.
He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked,
    punishing them with scorching winds.
For the righteous Lord loves justice.
   The virtuous will see his face (Psalm 11:4-7, NLT).

The Lord watches. He examines. He reveals. He judges. I read Paul’s words and check my thoughts against them.

Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due (1 Corinthians 4:2-5, NLT).

Lord, your word highlights the cunning craftiness and deceit of sin. It takes deadly aim. I want to work with a clear conscience and pure motives. Help me to guard my heart. You care for me. Help me to purge every obstacle and sin that keeps me from following you well. Help me to steward what you have given me for your glory.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 19-21; Mark 16

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT).

These are the opening words to a tragedy. A story that ends with this:

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).


The tragic story in Judges 19-21 didn’t begin when the troublemakers of Gibeah beat on an old man’s door.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him” (Judges 19:22, NLT).

It began here:

There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem (Judges 19:1b-2, NLT).

Whatever happened between them, I don’t know. But something happened, and she reacted. Likely, he didn’t count the cost of his actions. Surely, she didn’t count the cost of her actions. Catastrophe starts small, with an unchecked thought, word or action.

I sit with words, watching a scene unfold, grimacing at the abandonment (a host abandoning his daughter; a husband abandoning his wife; troublemakers abandoning all decency and mercy), eyes widening in shock as deaths mount by the thousands in a warfare of tribe against tribe.

I can look all over these scriptures and point out places where there’s fault. And maybe there’s something to their opening and end:

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT) … 25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).

Father God, you are Lord over all. Be Lord over my life. Be Lord over my heart. Be Lord over my words. Be Lord over my actions. I don’t want to be right in my own eyes. I want to live right by your standards. I only want your approval.

Courtney (66books365)

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