Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Watchman to A Generation

Ezekiel 1-4

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Sunday, March 19

Ezekiel was a priest in Israel during a tumultuous time in their history.  The Northern kingdom had been decimated by the Assyrian empire and its people scattered and assimilated resulting in a complete loss in their identity as a distinctive people of God.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah was now being systematically taken apart by the Babylonians.  Ezekiel was among the early members of Judah’s elite leaders who were taken captive to Babylon.  Ezekiel was now a priest living in a foreign land where he had no access to the temple of Jerusalem and the religious symbols that helped shape his life and give him meaning and purpose.

In today’s readings God comes to Ezekiel in a series of visions.  These visions  are recorded as a type of scripture known as apocalyptic- where something is revealed or unveiled.  In addition to portions of  Ezekiel there are apocalyptic passages in the books of Daniel, Isaiah and Joel.  God reveals what is going to happen as He brings an end to the present age preparing the way for the age to come or coming Kingdom of God.  You will notice some similarities between Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 1 and 4.

Ezekiel’s description sounds like something in a science fiction movie- 1:27-28 says: “ I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.  Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Imagine if, for a brief instant, God permitted you to have a vision of himself in all of His glory.  You would probably struggle to find the right words to communicate what you saw.  So it is with Ezekiel.  He is overcome by the glory of God and he falls on his face.

The whole of Ezekiel is surrounded by the image of a holy God.  But God’s people, Israel, have been disobedient to God.  Ezekiel is appointed by God to serve as his “watchman” (3:17) for the people Israel in captivity.  His mission is to warn God’s people of their sins and to call them to repentance.  Ezekiel 2:7-8: “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.   But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you.”

The job of a watchman is to stay awake, keep one’s eyes open, and warn if anything dangerous or illegal is taking place.  It might also include a warning to those who are tempted to trespass.  Ezekiel’s job was to warn God’s people about the consequences of their sins and the coming judgment of God.  God tells Ezekiel essentially: “you need to warn the people about my coming judgment.  If they don’t listen to your warning, then they will suffer the consequences, but if you fail to warn them, then I’ll hold you responsible for their sins.”  God was letting Ezekiel know that he had a mission, to share God’s word with people.  If the people didn’t listen or heed the warning, it was on them, but if he refused to give the warning it was on him.

As followers of Jesus Christ today, we are called to be priests in this world.  Like Ezekiel,  we are living in an age where much of Christianity has been decimated by a massive turning away from God and people are scattered and assimilated into the world resulting in a complete loss in their identity as a distinctive people of God.  And like Ezekiel, we are to keep watch and issue warnings to the people of the world.  As with Ezekiel, sometimes we will warn people and they won’t listen.  If that’s the case, it’s on them.  But if we fail to do our job and give the warning, then it’s on us.  People won’t always like what we have to say- prophets and priests are sometimes labelled as intolerant and not very popular, but that should not prevent us from doing the work God has given us to be His watchmen to our generation.  (Note: our job is not to be the judge, it’s not our place to condemn the world, but to tell them what God tells us to tell them, which is the Gospel.)

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

My name is Pastor Jeff Fletcher.  I’m one of the old guys.  I first attended what is now FUEL (then it was called National Camp) back in 1977 and I’ve been a camper or on the staff for most of the past 40 years.  I’m a graduate of Oregon Bible College, (Now ABC) and I’m completing a Master’s Degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.  I’ve pastored Churches in Illinois, England, Louisiana, South Carolina and now Virginia.  My wife Karen and I have eleven children and 4 grandchildren and my daughter, Karee Anne is getting married this Saturday, March 25.  In addition to pastoring a Church I also work as a hospital chaplain.  I am passionate about bringing the message of God’s loving presence to people who are hurting and in need of hope and purpose in life.