Standing in the Gap

Ezekiel 22-23

Ezekiel 22 30 NIV sgl

 

Within chapter 22 of Ezekiel we see different messages that God is trying to send to us through His prophet that are about Judah and Jerusalem.  We see all the ways that they sinned and that God is going to punish them because of their sins.

 

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols,  you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made.” (Ezekiel 22:3,4)

 

In many ways our society does these same things.  The violence against minorities and the bloodshed in our streets in recent times has gotten to the point where many cannot take it any longer, and it is starting to rip our society apart.  The continued war against the unborn has cooled down compared to decades past, but continues to claim hundreds of thousands of innocent lives per year.

 

Our society also excels at creating new idols and finding things to worship besides God.  We have gotten so good at it that we dedicate whole tv shows to it.  Covid has helped to highlight some of the idols in our lives.  If the loss of a season of football or the delay of a tv show has you devastated, then that might be an idol for you.

 

In the day of Ezekiel God looked through the land for a person who could intercede for Israel before him, like Moses did when God saw the Israelites making the calf to worship and wanted to wipe them out.  Sadly this time God did not find such a person, Ezekiel was only there to record God’s word and pass it on to the people, so God’s judgement was poured out on the people when the Babylonians invaded.

 

 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31)

 

All of the Israelites welcomed sin into their lives and did not try to fight it, and in many ways our society today welcomes sin and chases after it.  If we follow their example and do not fight against sin then we will end up on the wrong side of things when God again pours out his wrath on the earth because of the overwhelming sin and corruption on earth. This is a call to action for us to stand firm on the battlements, even if we are alone, and fight against idolatry and evil, so that when Jesus returns he will find some righteous people left.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

 

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at the Biblegateway site by clicking here – Ezekiel 22-23

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 24-27 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Avoid Sin, Rejoice in Justice

Revelation 18

Revelation 18 4 NIV
 
Yesterday our focus was on the identity of this Babylon the Great. Today our focus is on the destruction of Babylon. 
Babylon (Rome and other anti-God systems of the world) falls. The beast and the heads turn against her and devour her in the end of chapter 17. The nations, kings, and merchants of the world weep over the fallen city. They will no longer have the power, authority, or wealth she provided to them, and they are sorrowful for their loss, not really her destruction. All this happens in “one hour”, or an instantaneously short time. She will be brought low, but heaven is told to rejoice. 
What do we learn from this chapter? Those nations and systems that oppose God (like Babylon and Rome) will not last forever. Revelation shows us that God will bring them down. But what are we called to DO with that information? Two actions seem to be demanded of us in Revelation 18. In verse 4, the people of God are called to “come out of her”. Did this mean literally pack your bags and move? Maybe. But it most definitely meant to not participate in her sin. Don’t act like the ones who don’t know God in Babylon. Today, that is still the case. In the words of Jesus, we are in the world (that is, the world apart from God), and have not been taken out of it. We do business with those who don’t know God, we work with them, and go to school with them, and even try to love them. But we don’t act like them, we don’t participate in the sins the world, we are not “of” the world. So firstly, we must behave in such a way that we are more like Christ than our neighbors, more like Jesus than the Joneses. (Compare to John 15:19, 17:15)
Secondly, we are called to rejoice over the judgement of God. Many times the justice and severity of God makes me sad. I want all people to be saved and God wants that too! (1 Tim. 2:4) In the case of Babylon the Great, though, we are talking about a city that drank the blood of saints, and persecutes the people of God. Rejoice that God will not allow that to continue. God will not sit idly by forever, ignoring the cries of his people. There will come a day when justice will be poured out on to the heads of those who righteously deserve it. In the way that Babylon “paid” (by torturing, tormenting, murdering), that is the way she will be “paid”, the author says in 18:6. Wickedness will be eradicated, and only righteousness will remain. Praise God!
 
Avoid Sin, Rejoice in Justice. This is the calling of Revelation 18 upon the believer.
Jake Ballard

Sweet or Sour?

Proverbs 15

Proverbs 15 28 NIV

I love milk. I drink a lot of it, and the refrigerator on the hospital floor where I work is always stocked with the little 1/2 pint cartons like you get at school. Unfortunately, the fridge is often over stocked and the expiration dates are past due. I go through and throw out the old milk when I have time. But one night there were several cartons that were just a “little bit” expired (like at midnight) so I took them to have with my lunch. My coworkers warned me! “Don’t drink it!” they said. But I’ve done this before and the milk was fine (I think you know where this is going). The first little carton was good. So I took a big chug from the second…. and couldn’t run to the sink fast enough… the milk was sour, bitter, slightly chunky…. disgusting!!! Even after brushing my teeth, it took awhile to get that taste out of my mouth.

And so it is with our words. In Psalms 15, we read over and over about our words, lips, and mouth.  Verses 1, 2, 4, 7, 23, and 28 speak to how we use these things either for righteousness or destruction. We know those parts of us are not acting on their own. In Matthew 12:34, Christ states that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

According to Proverbs 15, the person who spurns discipline, correction, and mentorship has a heart and mind full of anger, jealousy, and malice. The words from that person will be destructive, bitter, foolish, and wounding. What is pouring from the heart and out of the mouth is as stinky as sour milk.

Conversely, the person who heeds discipline, wise counsel, and knowledge will bring forth words that are constructive, calming, healing, and wise. What is pouring from the heart and out of the mouth is as refreshing as someone chewing Orbit Sweet Mint gum.

So I’m going to avoid drinking expired milk from now on. I will also avoid behaviors that will turn my words sour. I will seek out behaviors that turn my words sweet; Scriptural study, prayer, and fellowship with the family of God. And I’m also going to keep gum in my purse at all times.

😉

Maria Knowlton

Don’t Slip to the Default

Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11 3 NASB

Today is another comparison between the righteous and the wicked.  This time most of the comparisons are about outcomes.  Although it may already be clear, there is a relationship between wisdom and righteousness.  There is also a relationship between fools and the wicked.  Because of temptation always trying to lead us astray, fools turn towards wickedness, but it takes seeking wisdom to be righteous.

Verse 3 through 6 say:

The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed

We see that the upright or righteous person will be delivered from death.  The fool or wicked person will be destroyed.  The money, possessions or whatever else they have gained from their crooked ways cannot save them.  We see people who have gained wealth and power from all kinds of things that are not pleasing to God.   We see people that appear to have it made who are not seeking God’s wisdom.  We see righteous people who are seeking God’s wisdom go through struggles.  However, It is made very clear that no matter what people gain from their wicked ways, in the end it will catch up with them and they will be destroyed.  In the end, the righteous ones will be delivered.

Another example from this chapter is verses 24-26

24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
25 The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.
26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

There are people who teach that this is specifically talking about wealth in the current time.  They say that if you give away $10.00, you will get $100.00 in return.  I don’t think that is accurate, and I don’t think it is even a great blessing compared to all the blessings that God does give us.  However, the generous man is the one who is doing what God wants, which makes it a wise decision.  The generous will be blessed.  The miser who withholds everything for himself will be cursed.  I think some of this comes in everyday life.  If someone who is generous and helpful has a problem, often people will help that person.  However, when someone who is greedy and never helps anyone else has a problem, people are unlikely to help that person.

Verses 29 and 30 say:

He who troubles his own house will inherit wind,
And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.

The outcome of seeking Godly wisdom and following in God’s righteousness is life for themselves and for the souls they win.  We have to choose daily to seek after wisdom.  If we make no choice, foolishness and ultimately destruction are the default choice.

Andrew Hamilton

Watch Your Words

Proverbs 10

Proverbs 10 8

This chapter contrasts the righteous person versus the wicked person.  There are so many things that could be written about, and I started to pick and choose a few to write about.  As I read the chapter a few times, I was struck by how many times the mouth, or what we say was mentioned.

Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence

The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

13 On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.
14 Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.

18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.

31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.

These are some of the verses, but maybe not all.  We can often see a lot about ourselves (and others) by what is said or not said.  Listen to what comes out of your mouth.  Are you listening, or receiving commands, or are you babbling and therefore unable to hear the instruction?  Are you choosing when to talk and when to refrain?  Are you speaking righteousness?  It is often hard to control what we say but doing this is a sign of wisdom and righteousness.

This topic is something that shows up several other places in proverbs, as well as other places in the Bible.  I think of James 1:19.

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

We often speak without thinking or think about what we should say instead of listening to the other person.  Then, what comes out of our mouth is either not appropriate or not helpful.  We often don’t like silence, so we say something just to have noise, even if it is not useful.

I encourage you to pay attention to what you are saying, and when you are talking.  Take time to listen.  Take time to gain from what others are saying.  Take time to allow silence to occur.  Our words are a good indicator of whether we are seeing wisdom or being fools.

Andrew Hamilton

A Word for the Fools

Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 35 NIV

This chapter is very poetic and filled with a personification of wisdom.  It is used to draw people in and make the writing more personal, and to have greater impact.  I think this is a way of showing how important Godly wisdom is, and how important it should be to each of us.  The idea that wisdom is calling out at the entrance of the city so that we can each hear “her” is an interesting idea.  Obviously, wisdom is a virtue that we should aspire to, not a being.  However, it is so important, and so beneficial to each of us, something that God desires each of us to have, it is as if wisdom is crying out to us, and we need to listen.

If wisdom is something that we aspire to, why do we need this chapter showing all the strengths of wisdom?  Why do we need to hear wisdom calling out to us?  Why do we need to be told again to heed instruction?  This has already been stated multiple times in the first 7 chapters of proverbs.

Verses 4 and 5 say:

To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
“O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.

Maybe this isn’t for all of us.  We are all “men” (or people) and sons (or children) of men, but verse 5 specifically talks to naïve ones and fools?  So, maybe this is just for people who aren’t getting it yet.  But, maybe if we are thinking it is just for the naïve or fools, we are being naïve and foolish.

Verses 7 and 8 say:

“For my mouth will utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
“All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.

When I look at this, I have to admit that not everything I say is done in righteousness.  I say things out of anger at times.  I say things at times when I should jut keep my mouth shut.  So, I still need help with wisdom.

I can read through this chapter and point out things in nearly every verse that shows how important wisdom is.  We obviously need to be reminded of this often, based on how often it is written about.  I encourage you to read through this and pick out each of these items.   The end of the chapter summarizes why we should do this:

“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
33 “Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
35 “For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.
36 “But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”

Wisdom comes from God and will only be gained when following God.  This will lead to eternal life.  If we turn away from wisdom, we are turning away from God, and that leads to death.

Andrew Hamilton

Dark Ways

October 2 – Proverbs 2 (& surrounding chapters)

Proverbs 2 12 13 NIV

Let’s continue to look at Proverbs 1-4.  Today we are going to focus in on the sections dealing with avoiding sin and living a righteous life.

Proverbs 1:10-19 issues a warning about hanging out with the wrong crowd.  “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.”  (Proverbs 1:10) It is critical to quickly and firmly resist even the smallest temptation.  Immoral people are often not satisfied with just doing bad things on their own, but they will instead often try to persuade others to join in their wrongdoing.  But Proverbs warns, “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinners).  Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood.”  (Proverbs 1:15-16) The wise will not give into negative peer pressure, but they will quickly flee from temptation and those doing wrong.  It is dangerous thinking to believe that you can associate with habitual sinners, but not be affected yourself.  Verses 18 and 19 then explain that those that set out to do evil will ultimately harm themselves.  “But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives.  So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.”

In chapter two Solomon continues to stress that a wise person will resist evil.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

However, it is not enough to just avoid sin, but it is important to go beyond that, and treat others with goodness and generosity.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28)

In chapter four a stark comparison is given between the righteous and the wicked.

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:18-19)

How important to realize that with every choice we make, we are choosing to either live in the light or the darkness.

Then Solomon ends chapter four with some straightforward advice about how to keep choosing to live in the light.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

We must read the word of God, not only looking on it, but keeping it in our heart, or following through and acting on it.  We have to guard our heart and mind, always being vigilant of our thoughts, actions and priorities. We must be careful of what we say.  We must keep our eyes focused on God and his plans for our lives.  And finally, we must make sure that we are always moving in the right direction, drawing closer to God, and never turning away from him.

Jill McClain

 

Wealthy?

psalm 37 16

Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37.  Today we look at verses 12-17.

This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means  morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).

There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible.  With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.

1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

2.  Meditate:  Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.”  He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth.  I wonder why he makes those associations?  Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?

What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life?  He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day.  Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering.  According to Jesus, it was his wealth.  He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).

In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil.  It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous.  But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy.  So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness.  Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money).  If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.

To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy?  I live in a pretty nice house.  I have enough money to buy groceries.  I have access to excellent health benefits through my work.  I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water.  I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go.  If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy.  If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy.  So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?

As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues.  That is what it did for me.  Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you.  Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13.  What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”?  Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?

 

3.  Pray:  Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer.  Talk it over with God.  Bring him your questions.  Bring him your complaints.  Bring him your fears.  Bring him your gratitude and joy.  Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating.  Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Do not just speak, also take time to listen.  Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.

 

4.  Rest in God:  As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God.  Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient.  Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector.  He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior.  Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

What We Deserve

eccles 9 10

Ecclesiastes 8:2-9:12

Solomon begins here with examples of improper decorum before a king. In his great authority he can do whatever he pleases, his word is law. So who in their right mind would say to him. “What are you doing?” We see this same idea applied to God in Job 9:12 and Isaiah 45:9. So Solomon says to obey the king, be loyal and not rebellious. Do not do something that is bad or wrong just because you do not like or agree with someone. Seems like common sense but we see it every day on the street level all the way up to those with the greatest wealth, power, and influence. There is even a saying that goes with it, “You cut off your nose to spite your face.”

So do not ask, “What are you doing?” but submit, for “whoever obeys will come to no harm.” This is the way of the wise. The wise person has a better chance of knowing the best course of action and when to act, knowing the proper time and procedure. And yet they still find misery as none knows what the future holds. Misery because we do know that there are consequences for our wickedness. And just as no one can control the wind or delay death, no one can escape the consequences for our wicked, sinful ways.

Life is not fair! … Solomon talks about the wicked being buried. In this context it implies that they receive undeserved respect. A proper burial given to an undeserving wretch. False believers who say the words and make a show of faith. So much so that they receive praise, but they are wicked none the less. They reach this status when justice is not dealt out in proper time. He may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Worse, he is adored by others who wallow in their own sin, rejoicing that this glorious example has been set for them to work towards. But there will be judgment! The righteous, God-fearing man will have life and the wicked … death!

Life is not fair! … Righteous men get what the wicked deserve and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. Circumstances and choices can lead to what might appear to be unrighteous judgment. Verse 13 tells us that justice will come … in time. Until then, verse 15 points to the wisdom of trusting God and enjoying the many ways in which we are blessed. See, we do not see the “big picture” that God does so we cannot fully understand why things happen when and in the ways that they do. It is better to accept what we are capable of and not stress ourselves with what we are not.

We are in God’s hands. He alone knows what awaits the righteous and the wise and all that they do. “All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.” … Death! Death is the destiny we share and the answer to the question, “What does the future hold, what awaits us?” Solomon refers to this as “the evil in everything.” It cuts down the young and old alike. Death does not care whether you are good or bad. Some believe that because death is so arbitrary that it is excusable to rush into sin, to relish in it all their days. It is where we get sayings like, “Live like there is no tomorrow, live life to the fullest” and of course the most popular one in recent years, “YOLO, you only live once.”

For the wicked I guess this is pretty much true. They have no hope for the eternal life promised by God through His son Jesus so this is all that they have. But the living, those who have life through Jesus, they have hope. But in death we will know nothing. No longer able to learn or grow and in time we will be forgotten. God will not forget you though. We can believe this, we can trust it. He did not forget Saul who became Paul. He did not forget Peter, who denied Jesus. He did not forget Ezra, Nehemiah, Joseph or Job. He will not forget you!

Life is not fair! … I hear this all the time from people of all ages. I used to say this myself in frustration, thinking of the ways that I have been hurt or wronged. I stopped saying it when I took Romans 6:23 to heart, “For the wages of sin is death.” If life was fair and was as immediate as our impatience would hope it was, we would be dead the moment we sinned for the first time. In other words, man-kind would be extinct! If we got what we deserved we would not exist! Instead we have received mercy and compassion that goes beyond our comprehension and that we do not deserve.

I for one am grateful, not for what I deserve but for what I do not.

-Jeff Ransom

Wise Words Regarding Sin & Discipline

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1b

Welcome back friends!

Today we’re talking about sin and discipline.  Very bright and happy topics I know!

To start off let’s take a look at verse 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”  I want to focus on the sin that so easily entangles.  We are told to throw off everything that hinders us because there is a great cloud of witnesses.  And if we remember from yesterday, we were just reminded that God has a perfect plan for us that will come someday, so this verse is reminding us to keep pushing and running the race until that day.  So why does the author specifically mention sin?  Wouldn’t that be included in the things that hinder us?

Now, obviously I am not the author of this book so truthfully, I don’t know exactly why it was written this way!  However, as I was reading it my eye was drawn specifically to the phrasing of “sin that so easily entangles us”.  I know for me personally at least, you almost forget that sin can creep into our lives SO easily!  People who grow up in the faith tend to recognize (and hopefully avoid) what we term as “big sins”, don’t we?  I’m talking things like sexual immorality, murder, drunkenness, etc… We are quick to recognize those and turn our nose up at them.  But what about things such as lying? Or jealousy, anger, greed, anxiousness and impure thoughts?  Sin is sin no matter what.  When we ignore the “smaller” sins, that’s when they easily entangle us!  The bigger issue is not that we are sinners, because everyone is and everyone has been offered the same grace.  The issue is when we fail to recognize our own sin and shake it off in order to keep running the race.

And now that we’ve covered sin… we get to move on to the discipline.  Yay?

Verse 6 reads “…Because the LORD disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  This is a common message that is still hard for me to grasp at times.  God disciplines, corrects, humbles, however you want to word it, BECAUSE He loves us.  He is working to create a righteous and peaceful life for us (vs. 11).  Verse 8 even says that if we do not undergo discipline, we are not true sons and daughters!

I am not a parent, but I do have the joy of watching a lot of un-biological nieces and nephews, as I refer to them.  I love my kiddos!  Just the other day one of the kids I was watching kept trying to stick his finger in an electrical outlet.  I continued to swat his hand away and tell him no.  Not so surprisingly, he started crying with his head thrown back and huge tears falling from his eyes.  Obviously, my intent was never to upset him, but I also didn’t care!  I wanted to make sure he was safe and understood how dangerous that could be.  I think God works in similar ways.  He knows that our sins in our life are going to lead us to pain and suffering.  When I was watching that little boy, I could not believe how frequently he went back to the same outlet despite my corrections, almost like he didn’t even notice I was steering him away from it!  I wonder what God is thinking when we keep trying to go back to the same thing He knows is going to hurt us not matter how often He corrects us.

God loves us.  He loves us as sinners and disciplines us in order to protect us from ourselves.  He will one day give to us a kingdom that will not be shaken and because of that, we should worship Him with reverence and awe (vs. 28).  In what areas of your life is God correcting you?  Do you even realize it yet?  Although the discipline may be painful now, rejoice in what it will create later!

-Sarah Blanchard