Hidden Motives

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2, NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I have a fantastic ability to justify my own actions. In fact, according to my self-preserving analysis of my decisions, I almost never sin–there is always a reason behind everything. I even tend to do this when I apologize: “I wasn’t trying to snap at you, and didn’t even realize my tone was edgy. I’m sorry you perceived it that way.” Almost as if I didn’t really sin: “You just misinterpreted me, again. It sure would be nice if you would get better at understanding me. Do you know how hard it is to never be understood?”

And just like that, I’ve turned my crappy attitude that I need to change into something for which someone else (usually my wonderfully supportive wife who didn’t deserve to be snapped at) is supposed to apologize to me.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 says:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9–10, NIV)

My prayer for the week is that God will reveal the hidden motives of your heart and change them through the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.

Praying for Our Country

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, NIV)

We live in a time and social context in which our country is deeply divided over politics, sexuality, race, religion–you name it, we’ll split over it. We also live in a context in which sin runs rampant. Indeed, Romans 1:18-32 could almost be a description of our society today. Sin wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it appears, and while our nation is floundering, drowning in its own depravity, what are we doing to help?

Let me suggest that rage against those who disagree with us isn’t helpful. Wishing everyone from a particular political party or religious movement would just go away and live somewhere else isn’t going to fix any of the challenges we face. Now more than ever we need to be praying for our nation and its leaders. We need to be the light of the world that Jesus called His disciples (that includes us) to be in Matthew 5:14-16. We need to live righteous, holy lives devoted to our Savior, and we need to pray for those who haven’t yet heard or accepted the good news of Jesus. It is the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in true believers, that will exalt a nation–not its laws, its political views, its tolerance, its social services, or its GDP.

So, let me also suggest that aside from being a living picture of the gospel, a reflection of the Lord to your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers–the most important thing you can do for our country is pray. It doesn’t matter if we view our neighbors as friends or enemies. It doesn’t matter if we see our governing authorities as friends or enemies. If they’re friends, we should pray for them, and if they’re enemies… well, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, too.

My prayer for the week is that we will all remember to pray for the people who make up our nation, even the ones we don’t like.

Hold Your Tongue

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19, NIV)

Have you ever been in a discussion or an argument with someone and you can feel yourself getting close to the line of saying too much? You know if the conversation continues you will end up saying more than you want to, and the outcome of that is almost always sinful.

The temptation to say too much attacks me primarily in two ways: gossip and angry words. Sometimes when Corinne and I argue (yes, we argue, too), I can feel my temper start to rise, and I know if I don’t back out I’m going to say something I will regret later. It’s like I can see myself driving closer and closer to the side of the cliff, and if I don’t turn the wheel, I’ll go right off the edge. I need to stop my words before I get to that point! It’s always better to call a timeout and work through the conflict later after we’ve both cooled off than to keep pushing until we explode.

Gossip, on the other hand, is typically more subtle. It sneaks up on you, and you don’t realize you’re gossiping until you’re in the middle of whatever story you were sharing. Sometimes you don’t recognize the gossip until after the conversation is over, as you reflect on what was shared!

Either way, whether it’s in the form of angry words or gossip, sin is not absent when we flap our jaws too much. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep our tongues in check, and those of us who belong to Jesus have that power dwelling within us. We really have no excuse for allowing our runaway mouths to lead us into sin!

My prayer this week is that God will give us the wisdom and the power to hold our tongues and avoid the sin that comes from talking too much.

The Door of Her House

“Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house…” (Proverbs 5:8, NIV).

Are you strong enough to resist sin? Be careful before you answer! Proverbs 5 is a lesson Solomon taught his son about avoiding an adulterous woman. One of the most intriguing things about his instruction is that he doesn’t encourage his son to resist the woman. Instead, he says to stay far away from her.

I think this principle applies universally. Many times in my life I have prayed for the strength to resist temptation. But the Lord has reminded me time and again that wisdom is better than strength. When we think we’re strong, we’re in great danger! Rather than taking pride in our strength to resist, it’s far better to admit our weakness and avoid the temptation altogether.

If I avoid the opportunity to sin, I avoid the sin (whatever sin it may be). Maybe I could withstand the temptation and remain faithful, but why risk it? In seminary, I remember reading about a pastor who went into a strip club to meet with one of the strippers who’d visited his church. I hope he was strong enough to handle that and didn’t fall into sin. I will never know if I have that kind of strength because I’d rather have the wisdom to avoid testing my strength. I don’t want to find my limits!

Avoiding the “door of her house” is why I have Covenant Eyes on my computer and phone (and I highly recommend it for everyone). I’d love to be strong enough that I don’t need it, but I’d rather be wise, avoid the battle, and stay pure to the Lord and to my bride. My prayer for the week is that in whatever your struggle is, God will not only give you strength to endure but also wisdom to avoid.

“But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out…” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).


Photo by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash

Unintentional Sin

“If any member of the community sins unintentionally… when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known…” (Leviticus 4:27-28, NIV).

Sometimes we sin without even realizing it. Maybe as a new believer, we didn’t understand that a certain decision or lifestyle is sinful. Or maybe as a mature Christian, we sin without even thinking about it. Or sometimes, our sin isn’t unintentional. Sometimes even those of us who follow Jesus choose to disobey.

In the sacrificial system laid out in the Book of Leviticus, there is a distinction made between intentional and unintentional sin. What many of us don’t realize, however, is that Leviticus has no sacrifice available for willful, intentional sin. All of the “sin offerings” in Leviticus are for unintentional sin. Thankfully, Christ’s sacrifice is superior to that of bulls and goats, and His blood can even cleanse us from our rebellious hearts!

This phrasing in Leviticus 4, however, is interesting. If someone sins unintentionally, when they realize their guilt, they should come to offer the sin offering. How much unintentional, unrealized sin is in my life? Sin can hinder our relationship with God and our effectiveness in ministry–even sin we’re not aware of!

My prayer for the week is that of David in Psalm 19:

Who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep Your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.


Photo by Hunter Newton on Unsplash

The Evil Within

We look at Mark 7:1-23, and discuss what is it that makes a person clean or unclean. Do you consider yourself to be presentable to God, or do you think of yourself as defiled and “unclean”? How do you know? And more importantly, if you are unclean, how do you become clean? These questions are answered in Mark 7:1-23.


Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/11/2018.

Prayer for the Fools

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1, ESV)

We live in a society that largely has declared, “There is no God.” While it’s true that the majority of Americans claim to believe in God, it’s also true that the majority of Americans (including the majority of Christians in America) live as though God doesn’t exist. When we fail to acknowledge God, we not only overlook an entire Universe of evidence that He is real, we also reject the foundation of right and wrong. If there is no God, there is no morality–no real justice to build a society on.

We’ve all seen where the path of denying God leads. This is true whether we say He doesn’t exist, or whether we claim to believe and yet live as though He doesn’t matter. To deny or forget about God is to be a fool, and that will ultimately lead to “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. [Those who ignore God] are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32, NIV).

Sadly those words are a pretty accurate description of our society. This week, let’s pray for the fools who deny God (knowing that sometimes we’ll be praying for ourselves when our actions fail to acknowledge the Lord).


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?

The tornado that ripped through Pontiac this week wreaked havoc, injured at least one family, and left thousands without power.  Thankfully, it didn’t claim any lives.  But, this isn’t always the case.  Other natural disasters in recent years have claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives and cost hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to homes, cities, businesses, and the like.  Given that those of us who live in central Illinois, especially Livingston County, just had a near brush with a destructive and deadly natural disaster, we might be asking the question, “Why?”  Why does God allow natural disasters?

This is a common question after a storm like the one we had this week.  Churches in our area may experience higher attendance this Sunday, as people’s close encounter with the power of Nature gave them pause to consider the frailty and mortality of human life.  This leads some to seek the answer in a church, while others shake their fist at God and curse Him for allowing a tragedy.  Personally, I find it troubling that natural disasters are often labeled “acts of God,” and yet little or no credit is attributed to God for the many good things that we experience daily.  When was the last time we stopped to thank God for a sunny day at the park, or the perfect morning fishing trip?  When was the last time we gave credit to God for the little breeze that cools us on a hot Summer day, or the beauty found in the colors of the Fall leaves?  We often take these little blessings for granted, and then respond with anger at God when our basement floods, or, worse, when a tornado rips through our town and hurts people we love.

Looking at natural disasters from a biblical perspective, we may discover a few things.  First, Genesis 1 teaches that God is all-powerful, the Maker and Master of the entire Universe–including the planet Earth and our own lives.  Indeed, Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.”  This means God has power over the weather.  And yet, science has shown us that God created the Universe to function according to certain natural laws, and there are natural cycles and weather patterns that are simply part of the natural world in which we live.

Second, even though the Universe operates according to the natural laws God defined for it, sometimes God intervenes.  In Deuteronomy 11:16-17, God warned the nation of Israel that if they turned away from him to worship the false gods of the other nations, he would “shut up the heavens so that it will not rain.”  This warning was fulfilled in 1 Kings 17, under the prophet Elijah.  Yet, just as every instance of good weather is not directly caused by God’s intervention, every instance of bad weather is not directly caused by God either.  Sometimes a storm is simply the normal result of the natural laws by which our world functions.

Third, it is wrong to say that every natural disaster is caused by God to punish sinful people.  The Bible teaches that we live in a world that is twisted by sin.  In Romans 1:18-32, we learn that sometimes God’s judgment on sinful people is to allow them to continue in their sin.  This is the worst kind of judgment because sin takes us further away from the love and blessing and protection of God, while at the same time wreaking devastation, pain, suffering, depression, addiction, and ultimately death in our lives.  Sin destroys everything and everyone it touches–and it doesn’t just affect you.  Sin will systematically track down and destroy everyone you love.

Yet, God allows us the freedom to choose to sin, and that sin is reflected in humanity at large–just look at ISIS if you don’t believe me.  In the same way that sin is reflected generally in humanity, Romans 8:19-21 teaches that sin is reflected generally in the Universe as well.  This often expresses itself in the form of natural disasters.  Our world is twisted by sin, and that means sometimes the laws of nature spin out of control and create tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the like.  The Bible doesn’t hide this reality, or shrink away from it.  We live in a world wracked by evil, suffering, and death.

Fourth, even though the world is full of evil, ultimately good will triumph.  Evil is not the victor.  Sin will not prevail.  Death is not the end.  Light overcomes darkness–every time.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by his death on the cross, and then triumphed over the power of sin through his resurrection on the first Easter Sunday.  All of humanity, and the entire Universe, is longing for the curse of sin to be broken.  In Jesus Christ, we find the strength to break the power of sin in our own lives, and to work together to overcome the effects of sin in the world around us.  And one day, as Revelation 21:1-8 teaches, God will wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new.  In that day, we will not only be free from the penalty and the power of sin, but we will also be free from the presence of sin in our lives and in this world!

Ultimately, we may not ever truly know why God allows natural disasters to occur.  We do know, however, that God is good, and he is wise, and he knows what is best for this world.  And in the midst of the struggle that is this life, God offers hope: a ray of sunshine in the darkness.  That light is the Light who gives life to all who will believe in Jesus Christ and receive him as their great God and Savior.  Then, we will have the power to work together, help those in need, respond to disasters, and overcome the sin in the world around us.

For other great resources on this topic, visit:

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/responding-disasters
http://www.gotquestions.org/natural-disasters.html