My Worst Enemy


I won’t waste your time:  My worst enemy is my own sin.  

I am always tempted to look at what others have done to me, or are currently doing to me, or how I’m being shortchanged in a certain way as my biggest problem.  It makes sense to a shortsighted, self-centered mind.  

“The thing that’s really screwing up my life is that I’m not getting __________.”  

“Man, if I didn’t have to deal with _________ anymore…”

But the reality that my own sin is far more deadly, and robs me of far more joy and peace, than any other single thing.  My own sin kills far more of my peace, my friendships, my ministry than any single other person or circumstance.  
My idolatry is deadly, as I value pleasure and creature comforts more than communion with God.  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

My anger and unforgiveness are deadly, as I hold a grudge in my heart against someone rather than trusting the Lord to deal with it.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:18-21)

My pride is deadly, as I think that such and such a thing would never happen to me, because I don’t make bad choices like so and so.  “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:  God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14)

These things are far more toxic to me than any gosippy coworker, any politician, any cultural trend, any career threat, any backbiting relative.  The sin in my heart poses a far greater threat to my joy than any external force that might come against me. 

But thankfully my worst enemy is the very thing my Savior and His Spirit offer, day by day, to free me from.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

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30 Seconds On Idols

  
One of the duties of a child of God is to call the people of his day, of his nation, to stop worshiping their idols.  
Their idols, mind you.  Not somebody else’s.  It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell 21st century Cincinnatians to stop falling down before a golden calf, and it wouldn’t do any good for me to have told Moses’ brothers and sisters to stop worshiping their smartphones and square footage.  

But to stand here, in this day and place, and to magnify Jesus for the people around me who put their identity and emotional weight into gadgets or political battles or job successes or social media following, that is a Christian calling on my life.  

We have idolatry in America.  We worship many false gods.  We seek meaning and ultimate hope in many, many things which we were not made to seek them in.  

And no idol, Egyptian or American, can do what God can do.  

The Republican or Democratic party cannot bear the weight of your soul.  

Your Facebook likes cannot truly and throughly satisfy you.  

Success at work cannot give you deep, abiding peace.  

All of the things of Eden that we seek, restored relationships and contentment and perfect love, can only be had through the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

And so, if you have never come to Jesus empty handed, looking for what only He can give, my word to you is this:  His Father is seeking worshippers.  He is adopting many sons and daughters.  He has much to give away.  

Come to His altar.  

He can deliver on all of His promises.  

Love and Hate


A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

Augustine:  Better Hopes

  
I want to share one of the most beautiful descriptions of a conversion I’ve ever read, from Augustine’s Confessions.  It’s his brief account of 2 young men who were born again while reading as visiting guests in the house of a Christian.  

16 centuries between us and these 2 guys.  But there’s a common thread, stretching across that time.  The same Spirit who could breathe eternal life into their sinful souls offers to regenerate us.  

Here’s to better hopes.  

Happy Monday!

He spoke these words, and in anguish during this birth of a new life, he turned his eyes upon those pages.  He read on and was changed within himself, where Your eye could see.  His mind was stripped of this world, as soon became apparent.  For as he read, and turned about on the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for a while, but then discerned better things and determined upon them.  Already belonging to You, he said to his friend, ‘I have broken away from our former hopes, and I have determined to serve God, and from this very hour and in this very place I make my start.  If it is too much for you to imitate me, do not oppose me.’  The other answered that he would join him as a comrade for so great a reward and in so great a service.  Both of them, being now Yours, began to build a tower at that due cost of leaving all that they had and following You.


  

Poisonous Root

  

I have known people who have chronic physical pain, at least one with intense back and hip problems, who still smile and generally speak to neighbors and family with warmth. I know at least two people who have vicious relatives they have to interact with weekly and yet who still treat the offending family member with grace and relative cheer. They help to support and care for people who insult them and condescend them and gossip about them, and they, by and large, still live out their lives and help these family members with a measure of joy and optimism. I know a person who has been through almost constant financial hardships for at least the last fifteen years, and who still talks to strangers at the grocery store and his family at holiday meals about how his life is good and how he’s grateful to the Lord for getting him through some (often very long) difficult times. I knew happy kids at a Christian orphanage in Haiti, a place where no one had jobs or plumbing, and where none of the kids had parents or what we would think of as a home.  

I know other people who start to remove joy from a room after a few sentences of conversation. Who view life as unfair (chiefly as it relates to them), and view themselves as having been subjected to a particularly, uniquely tragic existence.  People who are offended very easily and who forgive with great difficulty.  They overlook almost no wrong that is done to them, but their eyes somehow miss their own poisonous tongues and violent, heart-held grudges.  

What’s the difference between these two groups of people?  Why does the first set remain pleasant and hopeful through pain and the other become bitter or despairing?

Generally speaking, the answer doesn’t lie in the circumstances around them, but the kind of heart and attitude within them.   

Now, I am often in that second group.  I’m repenting of it and seeking Jesus’ grace for change in it, but I still often am.  But I’m blessed in that two of the people closest to me are in the first group, and as I’ve watched them go through every bit the pain I have (and if I’m honest, more), I’ve been forced to acknowledge that the roots of my bitterness and anger are my own sinful motivations and idolatries and sense of entitlement. 

The good part is that healing and forgiveness and change can happen when turning from my sin and believing in Jesus’ grace for me have occurred.  Repentance and faith can lead to the Holy Spirit’s changing the darkest, angriest parts of my heart.  

If you think you might be in that second group, I’ll exhort you with the same words I need to hear:  Resist the temptation to blame your circumstances for your sin.  Their may be legitimately difficult circumstances around you, you may truly be being harmed by others, but the heart is where sin comes from.  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

1 John 1:9-10

There is no forgiveness without repentance, and almost as tragic is that there is no change, either.  To continue to lay the blame for your anger, grudge holding, or gossip on the doorstep of your circumstances is chain yourself to that way of life indefinitely.  

Bitterness, like all sin, kills.  Kills relationships, kills the heart, and can even kill the body.  And of course, in the end, after eating your earthly life from the inside out, kills your soul by sending you to Hell.

But praise be to God that Jesus gives life.  Full-throated, self-spending, unimaginable life.  

By grace through faith in Him alone, Jesus can work back the poison of the bitter person’s heart.  Purer blood has never been bled, and it’s offered free of charge to every sinner who asks in faith.  

Trade death for life.  

It hurts, having that poison spilled from your veins, but a lot less than dying.  

Plus the good part lasts forever.  

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Hebrews 12:15

15 Seconds On gods and People

A person will inevitably begin to look like his god. It’s the same for a group of people.
So, if you want to know the god of your heart, look at your life. If you want to know the god of your church, look at her members. If you want to know the god of your country or culture, look at its citizens.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. 

Psalm 115:4-8

15 Seconds On the Happier Life

  

 You can’t have a happy life and a fretful one at the same time.  The happier life is the self-forgetful one, the one where you don’t take your worldly standing or pecking order very seriously.  The one where you cherish Jesus and His Kingdom more than wealth or physical comfort or whether other people thought you were sexy or smart. 

The happier life starts with worshiping God, and with taking your heart back from whatever shadowy prize this world and your tortured psyche promised they’d give you if you were just anxious about it for a few more hours.  

Offered from one anxious hand to another.