Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Poison?

Although I no longer watch "My Name is Earl" one of the early episodes had a scene in which Earl's Ex-wife was trying to kill him for insurance money, and sent him some poison cookies. The friend sent to deliver them warned Earl so he obviously didn't eat them, and set them aside. Later Earl's brother Randy shows up, sees the cookies, and is about to have one and Earl says "Don't eat those, they're poisoned". Randy hesitates, hand hovering, looks at Earl and asks "HOW poison?". We smile at that, that in order to enjoy a cookie Randy is willing to eat a poison cookie as long as it doesn't actually kill him.

Yesterday I flashed on that scene as I was considering how we sometimes consider allowing sin in our lives. We wonder if it's really all that bad. We think "sure, it's not ideal" but we try to think whether or not this little bit is actually going to hurt us. In order to enjoy a movie we might put up with a little violence or profanity, not enough to kill our christian walk, just enough to make us a little sick is all (we hope). Perhaps we indulge in harmful substances that truly are a poison over time. I don't need to list the examples, we all know what our temptations are.

While we easily recognize how wrong it is to eat a poison cookie, we have a little more trouble with "maybe just a little sin is safe" and although our Heavenly Father sees our every choice He is not forcing our decisions. My best advice is the next time you hear that soft voice warning you something is wrong, consider Earl's poison cookies and exercise your right to say "no" to temptation (or good times tainted with bad ingredients, as the devil loves to cook those up).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keeping it Real

It's easy to talk about how to beat temptation or how to choose the better path, but it has the negative effect of making the speaker appear holier or better than they are. This can make others lose hope, thinking that they have no willpower and see (seemingly) around them in their local fellowship with other Christians all these supposedly holy people.They start to think that church is not for them and that they don't fit in. I had spiritual downfalls this week, giving in to temptations and making poor choices, and as I come to God asking forgiveness and renewing my commitment for the one billionth time to try to do better and honor God, I realize I'm not alone. I feel bad, but this is a very real situation for so many, I just wanted to share for others who are struggling, battered by the feeling of failure. As Jesus told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you."

I have often wondered about the line "confess your sins one to another..." - that could simply mean going to those you've wronged and saying you're sorry, or maybe it means we should have a safe environment among the brothers and sisters in Christ that we can talk about the sins we have trouble with and get help and help each other. I wish there were more groups within most church environments where we can do that. Often it is the smaller groups that meet during the week for prayer where you can find this. I wish I remember where I heard this but I recently heard a quip: "Attendance to Church services shows how popular the pastor is, and attendance to the midweek prayer service reveals how popular God is!" That's not entirely true, but you get the picture. Your midweek prayer group will just be a different environment.

I myself have broken every one of the Ten Commandments, and while it may not be a good idea to share our sins randomly at church, I just wanted to take a moment here on this blog to say: Take heart, there is none good, except for God. Don't let discouragement try to convince you that you're not good enough to come to God. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off,  and take heart in the words of Christ "My grace is sufficient for you."

If you ever get the chance to hear the story of the man who wrote "Amazing Grace" - it's a good example of how God reaches out to offer forgiveness to us all.

This morning I read at Grantley Morris's site an interesting discovery he made when interviewing people who had been delivered from temptation by miraculous power - "I interviewed a number of people. I became increasingly perplexed to learn that it seemed everyone who had experienced such a miracle still had one addiction – often smoking, but not always – that caused them great shame and embarrassment as they kept floundering in their attempts to beat that particular habit." Why does God sometimes let us lose battles with temptations? - I always enjoy Grantley's insights.