Let’s Talk About Sin . . .

According to the Christian Bible, New Testament, John 1:29, when Jesus approached John the Baptist, John uttered the famous words, “There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!”

A great sentiment, but how does Jesus do that?  If we are looking for Jesus to come down from where He is exalted, wave a magic wand, and change the hearts of every human being, and perhaps nature, we may be waiting a long, long time.

Hearts are changed one at a time, like eating cashews.  We may spend our entire lives blindly living in sin.  We may not know there is light beyond the quagmire.  But there is.  Our hope is in the name of Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus lived on earth to teach us about how to connect with God, His Father and ours.  This crucial connection leads us away from sin, any thought, word or deed that is outside of God’s plan.  I am convinced that God has a plan for each and every one of us, and His plan is always for our utmost benefit.

It takes some effort to follow Jesus.  Like a game of Blind Man’s Bluff, we may flail around reaching for Jesus to come into our lives and make big changes.  And in reality, He is only a moment’s heart-prayer away.

If we are already following Jesus, sometimes we may still find ourselves flailing.  Take heart!  Jesus is always there for us, eager to help us center ourselves and focus on our re-creation.  As we follow Jesus, we are becoming new creatures, with a comfort and peace that the world alone cannot provide.

Stating again, becoming new creatures takes effort.

This does not mean that we do not receive absolution when we ask for forgiveness.  However, if we are sitting in the pew or the confessional, and we receive absolution from the minister or priest, we have choices to make.

If we leave the confessional with true confidence that we will work toward removing the cause of sin from our lives, we are on our way to becoming new creatures in Christ Jesus.

However, if we leave the pew or confessional thinking that we have been absolved, only to commit the same sin, then, “Houston, we have a problem.”

I pray with my heart each day that I am found worthy of a God so great.  Have faith.

W.S.

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It is THAT Time of Year . . .

The wind goes woo-oo-oo, the leaves are turning from green to brilliant yellow and fiery red, and themes of harvest time surround us in our stores and shops.  Halloween.  The Eve of All Saints is upon us.  It is an eerie time of year, with its black cats and jack-o-lanterns.  So, where does Jesus fit in all of this?

Yesterday, as I was shopping the dollar store for trinkets of fall to decorate the house, Washington Irving’s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” crossed my mind.  It is a story set in post Revolutionary War New York.  It is the one where there is an apparent love triangle, and an eerie ride through the forest after a harvest party.  Old Ichabod Crane sees something that might have been unusual to him, but is commonplace in our world today.  It is the “headless horseman,” a body with no head.

What came to mind as I recalled the short story was a memory of a time when Christ was far from me in my life.  Without the realization that Christ dwells within me, I was like a body without a head.  My head was someplace else, not with God.

After I came to know Christ, my life changed.  Slowly, I became aware of a partnership deep within, always having my best interests, always guiding, always protecting me.  Having Christ in my life was almost like attaching the mind and head of Christ to my body.  He is that real and that influential to me.

Okay, along with all the “goodies,” of having an every-loving, ever-accepting figure in my life came responsibilities.  I learned to be obedient to God through Christ Jesus.  I became, and am becoming, a different person, with a real head, not a superficial one.

As I recall, before Christ came into my life, I was like a body without a head.  I was like a bumper car at an amusement park, bumping into and sometimes injuring my fellow man through my ignorance.

But the truly scary part of the story of the “headless horseman” is that I was not alone.  I had lots of company in my body-without-a head phase of my life.

But there is hope.  One Christian at a time can make a difference.

As a child, I played a game of chase my friends called “Catch One, Catch All.”  One person was “it” and that person would chase down another kid.  After touching that kid, both were “it.”  Those two kids would chase down others, every one they touched becoming “it” until all the children were caught.  Then the merry game was over.

As we minister, evangelize, and give testimony, we are also playing a game of “Catch One, Catch All.”  Halloween is a time of child-like abandon.  Let us not be frightened by the “headless horsemen” of the world.  Let us go chase them down and let them join the game.  Have faith.

W.S.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall . . .

Long before Netflix, long before Disney, long before books were readily available in the home, there were fairy tales.  Some very smart individuals, a long time ago, came up with some stories that, if we let them, resonate within our souls.

Had a bad day at work yesterday.  A certain someone was acting like the Wicked Queen in the Snow White tale.  I stewed about it for a while.  Then I realized, there is probably a little of the Wicked Queen in all of us!

We gaze into the Magic Mirror of our souls, hoping to be validated, and told that we are beautiful, but instead we are told that someone is more pure that we.

Sometimes this news is difficult for us Wicked Queens to accept, so we seek to destroy our competition, our Snow White.  Or, at least we seek to put her out of commission.

But our Snow White self dwells within us.  The seven dwarfs, or the many aspects of our inner self, seek to work in the depths of our souls to mine for our goodness, to work to redeem our Snow White (here on earth).

Just as it seems that our Snow White will expire, sleeping, in enters our Prince, who revives us with a kiss of acceptance.  We are good.  We are validated.  We are worthy of our Prince (our Christ).

Through the work of our souls, and the acceptance of Christ, we may someday look into that Magic Mirror and see our true selves, our own Snow White.  Have faith.

W.S.

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Why Punt at the First Down?

It is college football season in America.  In Wisconsin the fall colors are white and red!  I caught the University of Wisconsin game this afternoon.  The Badgers looked pretty good!

For those of my readers who are not familiar with American football, the game is played on a 100 –yard field.  Each of the two teams has an “End Zone” at opposite ends of the field, where they are able to score.  A winning score is called a “Touchdown.”  The team who is playing the offensive role has 4 chances to move the football at least 10 yards toward their End Zone.  Each chance is called a “Down.”  The team who is playing the defensive role is trying with all their might, to keep the offensive players from moving the ball the required 10 yards.

If the offensive team fails to move the ball at least 10 yards within 4 downs, the ball is turned over to the opposing team, who tries to move the ball down the field to their own End Zone.  USUALLY, if the 10 yards are not achieved within three downs, instead of advancing the ball on the 4th down, the offensive team will kick the ball, or “Punt” the ball as far away from the opposing teams End Zone as possible, to make it as difficult as possible for the opposing team to move the ball into their own End Zone.

As I watched the game today, I was struck with the thought that Christianity is a lot like an American football game.  However, at least here in America, the offensive team is stuck at the first down.  In fact, many people do not show up at the line of scrimmage at all, let alone make the effort to advance toward the End Zone, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Many Christians view the New Testament Bible verse, John 3:16, as a means to loaf off and assume they are going somewhere really, really special when they die.  John 3:16 instructs us to believe in God through a belief in Christ Jesus.  Unfortunately, to some this is the end of the game.  Many people believe their salvation is assured, therefore, they go back to warm the bench.

Well, friends, the world is living on borrowed time.  It is over two thousand years since Christ Jesus was physically in our midst.  Because of a sense of apathy, many Christians forget that the opposing team is trying to keep us away from the End Zone.  John 3:16 is only the First Down!

I guess this post is a bit of a rant, but some of our churches need a wake-up call.  The only way to the End Zone, the Kingdom of Heaven, is through effort, grunting, exhausting effort.

We may be tackled along the way, but if we do not show up for the game, or if we do not put forth the effort, the enemy may win, and our children and our children’s children will live in the same quagmire state the earth is now experiencing.

How do we advance the football?  By engaging whole-heartedly in Christianity, including inviting Christ into our souls to guide and direct our paths, and obedience to His direction.

With Christ as our Quarterback, we will win this game, one rookie at a time!  Have faith.

W.S.

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Please Pass the Salt!

Here in the United States salt is all around us.  We have our salty potato snacks, and we even find salt in our ice cream.  In the U.S. salt is the gold standard for seasoning our food, and yet it is so common that it is almost insignificant.  But what would we do without it?

Jesus, in His sermon on the mountain, instructs us to be the “salt” of the earth.  What did He mean by that?  To be the salt of the earth?

Just as we use salt to season everything from soup to nuts, I believe Jesus was asking us to season the world with Christian love, and Christian knowledge, and Christian works.

In this age of “big brother,” (to borrow from the novel 1984) our neighbors see our every move.  Someone may be watching us at any given time, paying attention to how we relate to others and how we live our lives.

I believe that the famous quote from Jesus, “You are the salt of the earth,” is even more germane today that it might have been those two thousand years ago.

What would happen if the “camera” on our neighbor’s smart phone caught us giving to the poor?  What would witnessing about our Savior look like to our neighbors on the street?  What if the “camera” caught us in a prayer for peace?  What would all of this look like?

Our every move seasons the lives of others.  It is up to us whether we salt the world with thoughts of Christianity, or hot pepper sauce of something else.  It is our decision.  We decide how we season our relationships with family, coworkers, and strangers.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, made several requests of us with His loving guidance.

Jesus asks so little of us, yet He provides so awfully much!  Have faith.

W.S.

The Sermon on the Mount can be found in the Christian Bible, New Testament, Book of Matthew, Chapter 5.  The verse that contains “You are the salt of the earth,” can be found in Matthew 5:13.

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Let’s Cross the Bridge Together

It seems as if the closer I follow Christ, the clearer my mind is and the less stressful life seems.  The last few days I have been meditating on why this is so.

 America’s dear Billy Graham invited literally millions of people to follow Christ in his “crusades.”  (Crusades is in quotes because this is what media called Graham’s sermons.  I do not wish to offend my Muslim friends by this term.)  Billy Graham would call his followers up to the altar to begin a life of fellowship with Jesus Christ.  We usually did not hear what happened to those who answered that altar call.

 Okay, what happened?  Graham often illustrated the problems an individual might be having in their life.  Addiction, money problems, relationship problems to name a few.  As a child watching Graham on my small black-and-white television screen, I was always under the impression that those who went up to the altar call would have their problems instantly swept away, never to return.  How naive!

 Yet, keeping our eyes on Christ allows us to navigate through life over a quagmire of sin.

  A vision of seeing myself walking on a rope-and-plank bridge over a swamp filled with hungry alligators, with Christ Jesus at the end of the bridge, comes to mind.  Keeping my eyes on Christ as I determinedly cross the bridge keeps me focused on One who loves me and who actually has my best interests at heart.  I keep my head up and do not even glance at those hungry scavengers below.

 The alligators, my problems, are still there.  They may nip at my heels.  They may try to grab me, but I keep my focus on Christ.

 One by one, the alligators give up the hope of devouring me.  I ignore them, and keep my eyes facing forward, toward the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ as my beacon home.

 Outside of my vision, in reality, it may take some effort to ward off the demons.  But the battle against sin is championed by Jesus Christ.  With His help I find the comfort in each step I take across that wavering rope bridge.

 Together we triumph.  Sin has no hold on me.  Have faith.

 W.S.

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