Tag Archives: Repentance

He Paved the Way – A Poem

John the Baptist did not care
What people thought of his wild hair

Repent and be baptized his hue and cry
Messiah is coming, His kingdom is nigh

John the Baptist lost his head
But because of Jesus he is not dead

John paved the way for eternal life
Found in the Son who gave His life

Content with his place in history
John showed the Way for you and me

Jesus increased in wisdom and power
John decreased at the proper hour

Jesus now reigns as King of kings
To our Lord and Savior we sing

John is an honored martyred soul
Under God’s altar for his prophetic role

So now we find our identity in Christ
Who gave His life and paid the price

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True Regret Leads to Victory

The other day I was thinking about why Christians sometimes continue to struggle with sinful behavior when Jesus has given us the power to overcome by His Holy Spirit living in us. I pondered writing a blog post about this topic, but wasn’t really sure what to write or what the solution was.

Then I was reading book two of The Chronicles of Brothers by Wendy Alec and came across a statement by Jether, one of the twenty-four elders of heaven (see Revelation 4:4), in response to a question from Gabriel the archangel:

“Michael . . .” [Gabriel] raised his face up to the abandoned west wing, his eyes filled with intense sorrow. “Do you think Lucifer has regret?”

“No,” a soft voice echoed.

Gabriel turned. Jether the Just, imperial angelic monarch and ruler of the twenty-four ancient kings of Yehovah, stood on the gilded steps above them, his silvered hair and beard blowing in the soft zephyrs off the sea. . . .

“If he has regret, Gabriel . . .” Jether walked toward them across the sands, the pearls covering his lime green jeweled slippers as he walked. “. . . it is regret for himself, as he realizes the consequences of his choice . . . of his fall. But true regret . . .” Jether stared upward, north of the two trees of Eden, to the colossal golden, ruby-encrusted door . . . the entrance to the throne room.

True regret is based on repentance—grieving for the sin, not the consequence of sin. The two are quite contradictory. Completely opposed.” Jether’s pale blue eyes blazed with an uncharacteristic fervor. “And they must never be confused.”
Messiah—The First Judgment, pg. 49-50 (emphasis added).

So often I think we do confuse the two. When we regret the consequences of our sin and change our behavior as a result, we think we have repented. But the change in behavior doesn’t stick and we eventually return to our old habits and behavior.

For example, we are gluttonous and overeat, never thinking of those who have little or nothing to eat. As a consequence of our overeating, we gain weight and our clothes don’t fit. We don’t really regret the sin of gluttony, but we regret that our favorite pants won’t button.

So we go on a diet and for a while we change our eating habits. But once we lose weight and get back into those favorite clothes, we go right back to our gluttonous behavior.

It is only when we truly repent and regret the sin of gluttony itself, confessing our sin to God and asking His help to overcome, that permanent change occurs.

There are a number of other examples I could give, and it’s easy to think of the sins of others and how they struggle. It’s harder to look inward and examine whether I have true regret for my own sin. There are definitely sins in my life that God has helped me completely overcome because I have had true regret based on repentance.

Victory over sin is within the Christian’s grasp. True regret and reliance on the Holy Spirit are the answer.

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Out of the Heart

I know that we are not supposed to judge others (see Luke 6:37), and that only God is able to see into the heart of a man (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

But right after command us to not judge, Jesus says:

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45 (NIV).

So even though we are not to judge others in terms of pronouncing their ultimate fate — for only Jesus is our ultimate judge — we can still sometimes tell what another has stored up in their heart, whether it be evil or good, by the things that they say.

One who stores up anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, and pride in their heart will often speak ill of others, revealing the evil that they cling to. They will constantly complain about and judge others. Having people such as this in our lives can be truly exhausting as they are difficult to love as the Lord has commanded us to love.

Each of us must be careful of the words we speak and be aware of any evil in our own hearts that words of bitterness might reveal. When we see such bad fruit in the lives of others it is a good time to take an inventory of our own fruitfulness. It is also a good time to practice the lessons our Lord has taught us about how we are to live and not allow such evil to spread to our own hearts.

Above all, I believe the Lord calls us to be a witness to and pray for those in our lives whose bitterness, envy, and pride can cause us such grief. Quoting in part from Proverbs 25:21-22, the apostle Paul wrote:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NIV).

When Paul, quoting from Proverbs, says being kind to your enemy “will heap burning coals on his head,” what exactly does he mean? According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, this phrase signifies “retribution by kindness, i.e., that, by conferring a favor on your enemy, you recall the wrong he has done to you, so that he repents, with pain of heart.” Vine’s pg. 107. In other words, by repaying another’s evil with kindness, you might cause him to return to the Lord and be saved so that Christ might reign in his heart.

But it is important to remember that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to treat the one whose bad fruit seems to plague our lives with love. It is Christ living in us who loves them and wants to change their heart, to destroy the evil in their heart and replace it with good, who is alone able to give us the capacity to show them love. For it is when we store up Christ in our own hearts that we are able ourselves to bear good fruit.

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God Desires What Is Best for Us

Our wonderful youth minister Colie offered the sermon for our Ash Wednesday service this past week because our terrific Pastor Dave was busy moving his whole family here to Oregon from North Dakota. During the sermon Colie shared an illustration that got me thinking. As I pondered the illustration, the idea for this blog post came to mind.

Colie was talking about how much we love our own sin, we find pleasure in it, but that God wants something better for us and wants us to see how harmful our own sin is. The illustration she used was of a young child who loves sweets and only wants to eat candy and sweets. The child’s parents are saddened by his excessive sugar consumption and the damage it is causing to his teeth and overall health. So the parents present to the child some healthy foods and encourage him to eat the healthy foods instead. But the child refuses and just keeps eating the candy and sweets.

We are like that with God when we cling to our sinful behavior that we find pleasure in. We think that the life of obedience that God offers to us is designed to prevent us from the good things in life, when in reality the damage that is caused by our sin saddens God and He only wants what is best for us.

In this illustration it is easy for us to see the point because we all know that eating only candy is bad for us. And there are sins that we easily agree are bad and should be avoided by all of us.

But as I thought about this, it occurred to me that sometimes the world tells us that a certain behavior is okay, or even beneficial, when in God’s economy it is not. Some sinful behavior is not so obviously sinful.

It reminded me of my recent discovery that I am allergic to dairy. All my life I’ve been told that consuming dairy products is not only okay, it is beneficial. According to the USDA Food Pyramid, we are all supposed to eat 2 – 3 servings of dairy products every day. Milk is supposed to promote healthy bones, and the probiotics in yogurt are supposed to promote a healthy digestive system.

But for me, following the Food Pyramid on this recommendation is just as unhealthy as consuming nothing but sugar. And yet for years I have kept consuming dairy having no idea the damage it was causing me. I didn’t realize that the health issues I struggled with in large part stemmed from a dairy allergy.

This revelation has me thinking about what sinful behavior I have allowed to take hold in my life because I don’t realize it is sinful and damaging to my spiritual health. What blessings have I been missing out on that God wants to give me? What blessings does God offer that will only come from turning away from behavior that the world says is beneficial but that God knows is not in my best interest? What healthy alternatives does my Heavenly Father have in store for me if only I will turn to Him and live?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but during this season of Lent and beyond I want to find out. I want to turn towards God and seek His best for me. I pray you will seek God’s best for you, too.

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Mad Is Easier than Sad

As we enter the Lenten season, and I ponder the sins I struggle with, a thought occurred to me that encapsulates my struggle: mad is easier than sad.

In other words, when someone hurts me and I feel sad, it is easier to decide to be angry or mad about what they have done than to feel sadness. If I decide to be mad, then I can cling to the illusion of control that is absent in the midst of sadness.

But the control I feel really is only an illusion. When I choose anger instead of sadness, I have given over control to the devil because it is the devil who wants to see me angry and unforgiving.

As I opened my Bible to our scripture readings for the Ash Wednesday service last Wednesday, my eye fell upon a passage that preceded our reading. We were reading from Matthew 6, but my eye was drawn to these words of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV).

This is not the only place in scripture where we hear Jesus telling us to not be angry. In fact, He says that if we do not let go of our anger and forgive others then we will not be forgiven. See Matthew 6:15. He also tells the wonderful parable of the unmerciful servant who is forgiven a huge debt by his master, but then refuses to forgive his fellow servant’s debt owed to him. Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV).

It is clear from scripture that as easy as being mad may be, it is not what our Lord wants for us or from us. Anger and unforgiveness are serious sins that need to be repented of. I must turn to God and ask His help in overcoming this sin.

As I thought about how much easier it is to be mad than to be sad, it occurred to me that the latter is not a sin. Nowhere in scripture (that I am aware of) does God tell us not to be sad and to turn from our sadness. In fact, in the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV). In Romans 12:15, Paul tells us to “mourn with those who mourn.” Mourning and sadness are not a sin, but an acceptable response when we encounter trials and tribulation. Even “Jesus wept” and mourned. John 11:35 (NIV).

During this season of Lent, my goal is to turn to God and turn away from the sin of anger; to seek His help in being more forgiving. I want to not take the easier path, but to take up my cross and follow Christ.

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Lent – A Poem

For Thankful Thursday today, this first Thursday in Lent, I decided I just want to post a simple poem about how thankful I am for this season that draws our focus towards Christ.

LENT

Lamb of God, slain for me
E
ternal One, Thy love I see
N
ow and forever, I turn to Thee
T
hou are my life – set me free

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To Repent in Ashes and Sackcloth

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. If you are interested in the history of Ash Wednesday, check out the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church website.

The focus of Lent is often on giving up something, of sacrificing something to draw us to a closer understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. But this year for Lent, I think I want to focus more on the repentance aspect of the season that is signified by the ashes of Ash Wednesday.

Even in Old Testaments time, ashes were a symbol of repentance before the Lord. The prophet Daniel wrote: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3 (NIV). Perhaps this is what we should be doing for Ash Wednesday and during Lent – turning to God and pleading with Him in prayer, fasting, and in repentance. It seems to me this would help us keep our eyes more on Him and less on ourselves and our own sacrifice.

Jesus also spoke of repentance in sackcloth and ashes:

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 (NIV).

We have been told of an even greater miracle than the cities of Korazin and Bethsaida. Eye witnesses have told us of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection – the greatest miracle that has ever happened! When we believe, we experience the miracle of having the Holy Spirit come to dwell in our hearts and the regeneration of our hearts that follows.

As we travel through the season of Lent towards the celebration of the miracle of the resurrection, the knowledge of this miracle should lead us to repentance. Dictionary.com defines the verb repent: “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better.” To truly repent, we can’t just feel sorry for the wrong we’ve done, but we must also turn towards God and ask Him to help us do better next time we are faced with temptation.

So during Lent, I want to turn towards God and seek to know Him better. I want to be in awe of the miracle of His grace and love.

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