Monday, February 22, 2010

The Seven Deadly Sins

The pastor at the church I have visited a couple of times has started a series on the seven deadly sins. I just love it! It is the first time in years I have heard sin addressed so directly from the pulpit. Not only is it addressed, it is made clear that we are responsible for our actions and there are very real consequences for them. He also addresses the results that these sins have on our relationship with God,our relationships with others and on our spiritual health. All the teaching has been so practical and what is so refreshing is that at the end of each service there is not just an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and savior but also opportunities for repentance and dealing with areas in our lives as Christians where we need to repent and turn away from sin in our lives that hasn't been dealt with.

The first lesson was on envy. The Bible says in James 3:16 where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you have disorder and every evil practice. I have seen so much of this firsthand and in the church at that.

At one church that I attended we were taught to never be satisfied with what we had materially and that our faith would become stagnant if we were not constantly "raising our vision" to the next level of material things and "believing God for them" we were instructed to write a "vision list " and write down all the material things we wanted, how big of a house we wanted, what we wanted our salary to be, etc..... along with our spiritual goals of course. Sometimes when someone achieved a material goal, huge house, being left large sums of money, etc. they would be called upon to speak on what their faith had gotten them and the whole service would be devoted to that. Hands were laid on the chairs in the auditorium and they were prayed over in diligence and instructed to "grow millionaires".

Envy is insatiable, envy cripples our ability to examine ourselves - to see our motives, envy cripples our trust in God, envy never stops at that sin - it always grows into other sins, it causes one to take matters into their own hands to make what they want happen, envy cripples our relationships, envy cripples our ability to enjoy what we have, envy is a heart problem and begins in the heart, envy is not something that happens to us..... it is something that comes from us.... from our heart.

I believe that this constant pursuit of and pressure to achieve material things and money with "our faith" bred envy within the church, and as a result bred evil practices that changed innocent peoples' lives in horrendous ways.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hocus Pocus

The other day I was reading some comments and someone commented on a sentence used in a pastors message. The quote was this..... "If you don't have a relationship with JESUS, if you don't believe it when you use His name, you might as well be saying hocus pocus". This struck a sore spot with me. Over the past years that seems to me, what the majority of using the name of Jesus is to many Christians, is hocus pocus.

In the past 18 years I have heard the name of Jesus used to call in the money, the vacations, change personal circumstances for comfort and want, keep people out of jail and twist the courts after they have committed horrible crimes, and almost every other selfish and self centered reason imaginable. Rarely have I heard it used in a way that a person was willing to sacrifice their life to Him in service. I have heard it used in prayers for others for healing but not nearly as much as for personal gain.

I wonder when Paul and Silas were in prison, why they didn't use the name of Jesus to get themselves out. The Bible says that they were "praying and singing praises to God" and an earthquake shook the doors of the jail and they were free. Funny how it doesn't say they USED the name of Jesus to get out or how they used their FAITH to get out. Unlike Christians of today they weren't miserable in their circumstances, even though their circumstances were that they were in jail. Even when God freed them they didn't even escape because they didn't want the heathen jailer to get into trouble. Wow!

How different from many Christians I know today who can't wait to USE the name of Jesus to get out of their circumstances. How different from many "faith" preachers of this day and time who would have used the incident to proclaim what they had gotten with THEIR faith and how they had USED the name of Jesus to get it.

Believing that the name of Jesus has power has nothing to do with having a relationship with Him. Doing what He says and practicing what He tells us to do is what a relationship with Him is about. Not using His name and knowing it has power.

In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked "Why do you call me Lord, Lord when you don't do what I say?" Matthew 7:15 -23 talks about those who stand before Jesus and say "Lord, Lord, didn't we cast out devils, heal the sick and perform miracles in Your name?" and He says he never knew them. Obviously they didn't have a relationship with Him yet they knew the power of His name. They used it and it worked for them. No different than saying "hocus pocus".

In the amplified version Jesus says to them "depart from Me, you who act wickedly, disregarding my commands". He didn't say, sin is no big deal as long as you know the power of My name and what My blood bought........ He dismissed those who "disregarded His commands"!!!! Now I haven't heard that preached in church in a very long time.

I was talking to a friend the other day and he told me that he would be surprised if it was many more years before Jesus returns. In the course of our conversation he said..... " folks just act any old way they want these days." When I asked him if he was talking about the world or Christians he was referring to Christians.

I think maybe the name of Jesus has been reduced to "hocus pocus" to many, many people and the blood that he shed has been reduced to a "get out of jail free" card that many think enables them not to be accountable for their actions.

Yes His name is powerful, and He did shed His precious blood and He deserves for us to take up our cross and follow Him every day and live a life of service and obedience, not a life chasing the health, wealth , prosperity and do whatever gospel.