‘Sneaky Sin’

Recently my two and half year old (Natalie) reminded me about the ‘sneakiness’ of sin.  Sin is sneaky isn’t it?  It begins so subtly.  A desire arises within me.  I allow it to linger.  It presents a case.  The desire matures to the status of a need like a tadpole making its transition to a frog.  Having refused to kill the desire in my mind it begins to make demands.  I move into the realm of rationalization.  I should be given this thing, this want…No, I DESERVE it!  Who cares about my diet, my health or my conscience…I DESERVE a chocolate covered donut!  Might as well throw on the sprinkles.  Why not make it a baker’s dozen while I’m at it?  I slump out of Dunkin Donuts defeated, in shame and with more sticky on my buns then when I entered. 

 

Sin is sneaky.  You see this pattern over and over in scripture.  Consider David in 2 Samuel 11.  He sees Bathsheba bathing in the second verse and desire was aroused.  Rather than killing the desire he sent and inquired about the woman in verse three.  In the next verse he takes and lay with her.  The transition in these three verses is rapid.  David then spends the next 23 verses (and the rest of the chapter) trying to cover up his sin.

 

The sin of Achan takes a similar trajectory.  Achan took some of the plunder of Jericho when God said it was all to be put into the treasury of the Lord.  When explaining his sin in Joshua 7:20 he said that he saw silver, gold and a beautiful robe; he coveted them; he took them; and he hid them in his tent. 

 

Sin is sneaky.  It always takes us farther than we are willing to go and costs more than we are willing to pay.  God told Cain that “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  (Gen. 4:7)  Good advice from a merciful God.  We must master our sin.  This means that we must be aware of our desires and kill them before they develop and mature into full-scaled rebellion against God.  

 

Natalie is fully aware of her desires.  She prefers ‘junk-snacks’ to healthy ones.  (The ones her mom gives her.)  She also knows where we keep the Nesquik.  I assume her desire for chocolate led her to the pantry.  She saw the bunny.  She coveted the Quik.  She took it.  She devoured it.  She hid under the table.  She made a mess!

 

By the way, though God is merciful, He still judges sin.  David’s son died.  Achan and his entire family were stoned.  Natalie’s life was spared, but she was punished nevertheless.  We decided to … well, I’ll just let you guess.

 

May you master the sin that crouches at your door as you pursue God this week.  May His Spirit empower you to victory.  May you experience holiness in Christ, with which the pleasure of sin simply can’t compete. Natalie and I will be praying for you.

 

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Do Your Axe Heads Float?

Do your axe heads float? I have found that many of mine don’t. Before you get too confused or frustrated to continue reading, I should tell you that I was reading through the ministry of the prophet Elisha recently. (1 Kings 19 – 2 Kings 13) He did some pretty strange stuff. I mean, he does the kinds of things that if you don’t believe Genesis 1:1, they’ll make you think that the Bible is just ancient Jewish folklore.

He really is quite an amazing prophet. After the spectacular departure of his master Elijah (2 Kings 2) he goes on to perform stunning miracles. Consider this…early in his ministry he made water rush into and fill a dry creek bed to water the armies of three kings. Next he took up the cause of a widow who was about to be sold into slavery along with her son and caused her single small jar of oil to fill enough jars to pay off their creditors completely. Then there’s the Shunammite woman’s son. He literally lies down on top of the dead boy and the child comes back to life! He goes on to purify a pot of deadly stew so the sons of the prophets can eat during a famine and he healed Naaman from leprosy.

It’s among these amazing, almost outlandish miracles that I came across one that made me stop and think. (as if the others didn’t spin the wheels a turnin’ in my mind) It’s found in 2 Kings 6. The sons of the prophets go down to the Jordan River to cut down trees and built a place to live. Elisha goes with them. While cutting down the trees one of the men looses an axe head that he borrowed for the task. The man tells Elisa who cuts off a stick, throws it in the water and makes the iron axe head float to the surface. The man who lost it reached out his hand and picked it up.

This is what I don’t understand. It was just an axe head. Okay, it was borrowed. So just replace it. Now I know that it required perhaps more money than the man had but there was a company of prophets there. Surely among all of them they could find the funds necessary to replace the borrowed axe head. It just doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me. Not exactly in line with watering three armies from a dry creek bed, saving a widow and her son from slavery, raising a child back to life and curing a Syrian commander of leprosy. This floating axe head feels out of place here. It’s just not important enough. That’s what caught me off guard with this story.

I think that far too many times in my life I fail to take the little things that stress, worry, concern or bother me to God because I imagine that they are too small and I don’t want to ‘inconvenience’ God with my unimportant matters. But if they’re unimportant, why do they stress me? And if they bother me, why wouldn’t I take them to God?

Isn’t God busy being concerned with the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the sex-slave traffic in Asia, the persecution of Christians around the world, the plight of the gospel among unreached people groups, wars, famine and injustice around the globe? You know, the important things that are happening every second on the planet? The things He had Elisha engaging in during his brief ministry?

I mean, it’s not like my child is dying, or I am suffering from a life-threatening disease or my family is going to be sold into slavery. It’s more like…we need a building for our church…I need to get a project done for work and the pieces aren’t falling into place…I’m overcommitted but I need to honor my word.

These are the little ‘axe heads’ in my life. And rather than taking them to God, I just often just let them sit there at the bottom of the river and try to figure out how I’m going to replace them. Meanwhile, God is sitting firmly on His throne. And yes He is engaged in the AIDS epidemic and everything else mentioned above. But He is not ‘busy’. Not like we, or at least I, sometimes think.

While He is present and actively engaged in all of those things He is also present and engaged with you and me. He’s watching as our axe heads fly out of control toward the river. He’s waiting for us to take our problems and concerns to Him. He’s wondering why we go out and busy ourselves trying to replace them. He’s wishing that we would just turn and release all of our cares and concerns to him. (Phil. 4:6-7)

So many of my axe heads lie lifelessly at the bottom of the river. All the while God stands ready to throw a stick into the water and make iron float. He wants me to marvel at His power over the physical laws of nature. To wonder like David did that the God of the universe knows my name. To experience His peace that surpasses all of my pitiful understanding. To experience Him as He provides for my simple needs.

You’re axe heads can float. So can mine. Just like the son of the prophet in 2 Kings 6. This week, give them all to God. Ask and allow Him provide for you. Worship Him as He meets with you. He is worthy! He is waiting!

Serving On God’s Jury Duty

God has a distinct sense of humor. Have you noticed? I sure have. I’ve been preaching through the book of Malachi recently and marvel at the ability of a prophet who preached 400 years before the birth of Christ to convict the hearts of us who live 2,000 years after His resurrection. But God’s word is good and it always accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Malachi speaks of God’s electing love upon the people of Israel. He speaks of God as a Father who deserves honor and a master who deserves our fear, reverence and obedience and respect. He warns us to repent of hearts harboring careless worship of our awesome God and reminds us to be faithful to one another in the church and in our marriages.

Then, last week I preached through a great text in Malachi 2:17 where the prophet’s audience asked, “Where is the God of justice?” I went on for a while about how God is the only just being in the universe and our pitiful ignorance of the totality of injustice, suffering, crime and evil happening at any given moment on our planet makes us pitiful judges and unworthy of questioning God at all. That’s all true. I didn’t make it up.

But back to God’s sense of humor…

I remembered on Monday that earlier this month I got a summons for jury duty. The instructions said to call the Maricopa County Court on Wednesday, April 30 to see if I needed to report for duty the following day. So I called today. And I have been summoned for jury duty tomorrow.

I wanted to complain. But God, don’t you know how much work I still have to do? I need tomorrow to study for Sunday’s sermon. I’m behind as it is already. Nobody likes jury duty. Then God reminded me of a sermon I preached with my own lips on Sunday and my heart was changed. I was rebuked.

So where is the Sovereign God of Justice? Seated securely and majestically on His throne. Perhaps with a smile on His face. Perhaps speaking to me. “Yes Heath, you are correct.” “No human can question me. I am just and holy because I AM! But I have called you to me and chosen you just as I chose Jacob. I have placed my Holy Spirit within you. So, quit complaining and go. Go and reflect my justice. Judge well according to my laws. Remember that you will someday judge the angels and all who’ve rebelled against me. (1 Cor. 6:2-3) So go in my Name and do my will on earth, in the Maricopa County Courtroom, just as it is done in Heaven.

I have my marching orders. Straight from the throne room of God. He has called me to glorify Him by reflecting the infinite greatness of His laws, commands, statutes and measures. (see Psalm 119) Tomorrow. In a courtroom. In His presence. I need to practice. The angels are waiting.

God Uses Potty Training for my Sanctification

God is good. Not because I say He is. He is good because He is and He proclaims it as truth. That pretty much settles it.

But He has shown me recently that He is. He humbles me in humorous ways.

My family is trying to potty train our two year old daughter, Natalie. It’s been interesting. Last week she took off her diaper in her room, pooped, and then paraded through it before letting me know. After her bath, and scrubbing her poopy footprints off the carpet I let her know of my displeasure concerning her actions. No, No Natalie! No pooping on the floor! That’s just a good rule for all of us at the Taylor household.

The next morning, our four year old woke me up at 7:00 a.m. to tell me that Natalie had pooped on the floor again. Again? You’ve got to be kidding me. Before breakfast?

So I walk into the family room to discover her discarded but clean diaper. As I walked into the bathroom I saw her waste prominently displayed on the rug as if it were a work of art. Really? She had to do it right there? Two feet either to the right or left and cleaning up the tile would have been much easier.

At this point, I’m angry. Not mad, angry! I began to pick it up and clean the floor. She was three feet from the toilet. Why didn’t she just keep going? She knows that this is wrong. I had made it abundantly clear the day before that the Taylor’s DO NOT poop on the floor. It is simply unacceptable. Why did she do this? What was she thinking as she looked at the potty and shook it off like a pitcher determined to throw a fast ball rather than the curve?

That’s when God used the moment for my sanctification. He clearly said this to me. “You do this every day Heath.” “My commands are clear. You know them well. Yet you continue to ‘poop on the floor’ every day with sin in your life don’t you? I ask you why and you give me your daughter’s little shoulder shrug and downcast eyes. As if to say I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why I chose to disobey. Sorry. And what is my response to you? How do I interact with you when you poop in your pants or on the floor or in your bed?”

God’s words cut deep into my soul. Because rather than fierce deserved wrath or anger, He makes His mercies new every morning. He has said so in His word. (Lam. 3:22) He passes over my sin and pardons my iniquities. (Micah 7:18) He removes my sin as far as the east is from the west. (Ps. 103:11-12) He forgets my sin and remembers it no more. (Jer. 31:34)

He simply requires my confession and repentance. He is good, not only because I see and experience it in my life, but because He is. An because He is, I do see and experience His love, goodness, grace and mercy. I have come to agree with David that it is sweeter than honey and better than life!

By the way, Natalie was sorry. She owned up to it and confessed her poopy disobedience. And repentance? Well, we’ve gone three days without discovering her waste scattered about and displayed on the floor. That my life, and obedience to God and purging of sin in my soul would go so well. I encourage all of us to embrace sanctification and the refining fire of a loving God in your life until the great day of glorification when sin will no longer have a place in our lives. He is good! (Ps. 119:65-68, Lam, 3:25-26) He has said so. And I agree!

Beginning the Blog

Does the internet or the world for that matter need another blog?  Of course not!  Is the world crying out for me to share my thoughts, passions and opinions with it?  Probably not.  Why then is Heath Taylor beginning a blog?

Well, Abraham Piper convinced me a few weeks ago that every pastor should blog.  He listed a few very good reasons that you can read here: http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1156_6_reasons_pastors_should_blog/

I started thinking about it and asking God if He was talking to me through Abraham Piper, a man I’ve never met.  God began to show me that He frequently speaks to me through men I’ve never met.

Consider Adam.  God says to me through Adam, “I did not create you to be alone Heath.”  “I have given you a help-meat in Lisa your wife.  Love her.  Cherish her.  Protect her and provide for her.  Remember that I love her more than you ever will and one day I will speak to you face to face as I did with Adam in the garden and you will give an account so take this sacred responsibility seriously.”  God says this to me through Adam in Genesis 2 and 3.

He speaks to me through King David in Psalm 51. He says, “Your sin is against me and me alone, and I consider it evil!” “Ask me for mercy and I will hide my face from your sins.”

God speaks to me through Micah. He says, “There is none like me Heath!” “I pardon your iniquity and pass over your transgression. I do not retain my anger forever but delight in steadfast love.”

He has spoken to me through Peter and Paul and the New Testament writers. He speaks to me through dead saints who knew Him and honored His name such as Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield.

So God speaks to me through His word and through men who love His word and I think God spoke to me through Abraham Piper. So I will begin a blog. Not because we need another one and not because the world wants to know what I think. I begin this blog because I want to reflect the glory of God in all things. Because I was not created to be alone. Because God may use you to sharpen my thinking about Him and to grow me more in knowledge and love for Him.

Feel free to interact, to complement and contradict. Just speak the truth in love and in all that you and I do, may we seek to bring glory and praise to our incredible Creator. The God that Nahum reminds us is ‘slow to anger, great in power and jealous for our affections’. (Nahum 1:2-3)