sin

Speaking to the Senselessness

I woke up this morning to more horrible news of injustice in America. Five Dallas police officers were murdered and six more wounded by a sniper who reportedly was upset about recent killiDepressed womanngs of African Americans by white policemen. 

Sadness, anger, and worry for our nation are growing in my soul day by day. I got physically ill watching a video of one of the killings that have been posted online. I live in Orlando, Florida, where on June 12 of this year the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in US history took place. Fifty people (including the murderer) died and 53 were injured in a shooting at the Pulse nightclub. That same weekend, a singer-songwriter was shot to death while signing autographs at an Orlando concert venue. A few days later a child was killed by an alligator at one of the Disney parks. Our city has been shaken to the core.

What’s a pastor supposed to do when overcome by the senseless violence of the world? He should speak to and for his congregation. But what should he say? Here is what I wrote in our weekly e-newsletter that went out today:

I am reading the book of Amos in my daily Bible time. The prophet Amos warned sinful Israel that because they “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted”…because they “oppress the poor [and] crush the needy”…because they “trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end”…in short, because they “have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray,”…therefore God would punish Israel with destruction by foreign enemies and exile. God cares too much for human beings—made just “a little lower than angels” (Psa 8:5)—to sit by and allow his image to be defaced and violence to prevail.

The hatred and oppression that characterized Israel in Amos’ day seemingly rule the streets of our cities today. From Orlando to Istanbul to Baghdad to Bangladesh to Baton Rouge to St. Paul and now to Dallas, the sin of Cain is uglier and more pervasive than ever. There are things we don’t know about the killings this week in Minnesota and Louisiana. Still, think of the families that will never be the same, the cities that will be inflamed with racial strife, and the attitudes that will harden into self-righteous hostility toward people who are “not like me.”

On top of these things is all the acrimony related to the upcoming election, the floods in West Virginia, the drama surrounding Brexit, the curse of human trafficking, and the continuing assault upon human rights in general.

I wanted to affirm how much all this hurts and sucks and infuriates and depresses us. We feel the prayer of the psalmist, “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (Psalm 89:46).

Church, let us continue to pray and love and lament and forgive and heal and repent and listen and make disciples. Despite the growing secularism around us, people are open and searching. Let us love our neighbors, hear their pain, and fear the Lord. Let us pray for our law enforcement community. In our congregation are at least one police officer, a firefighter, and several nurses, physician assistants, counselors, and EMT personnel. Thank them for their service and hold them up before the Lord.

And let us hope! In the final chapter of Amos, God promises that a day of restoration is coming. Even Edom—the nation descended from Esau and the constant antagonist of Israel—would receive God’s mercy. God says through Amos, “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11). The coming of Jesus Christ into this dark world was the initial fulfillment of that promise. Every day, as we get closer and closer to the end of time, God is at work repairing the breaches that sin has caused. The Bible promises that God will win the battle with evil. The reign of God is growing, despite appearances. So hang onto that hope and don’t let go.

Pastor Mike

Sin bubbles

Here’s an object lesson for kids that may help them understand “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).

Title: “Sin Bubbles”

Scripture text: Hebrews 11:24-26

Materials you need: Bubbles

Opening question: “Does sin make you happy?”Bubbles

Message: Sin may make you happy for just a few seconds. It might feel good to get away with a lie, or to hit your little brother because he did something mean to you, or to dump your dinner plate on the floor because you don’t like broccoli.

But after a while, does sin make you happy? (No!) How does sin make you feel later on? (It makes me feel bad, guilty, and sad.)

The Bible says that sin’s pleasures are fleeting. Do you know what fleeting means? It means short-lived. I brought along some bubbles. Let me blow a few bubbles. Look! It’s fun to blow bubbles, isn’t it? It’s fun to pop them too. But then they’re gone, aren’t they? And then all the fun comes to an end.

That’s like sin. Sin’s pleasures last just a few seconds, then you have to sin again and again and again to feel the same way. That’s not how God wants us to live. He loves us and wants us to be happy because he loves us. His kind of happiness lasts forever.

Jesus came to live a perfect life. He never sinned. He only did what made God happy, and he was always happy in the love of his Father. When we sin, we should trust in his death on the cross and ask God to help us obey. Then we will find true joy.

Watch Out for the Yeast!

Title: “Watch Outyeast for the Yeast!”

Scripture text: Mark 8:14-21

Main point: Sin, left in the heart without repentance, grows bigger and hurts more people.

Preparation: In your “Bag of Wonders” hide a dinner yeast roll, some unleavened bread, and a package of baker’s yeast.

Opening question: Have you ever heard of yeast? (interact with the children’s answers)

Message: Yeast is something your mom or dad or grandmother or the baker in the grocery store uses to bake bread. And the Bible talks about yeast a good bit too. Let me show you what yeast does. (Pull the yeast roll and unleavened bread out of your Bag of Wonders.) Both of these are types of bread. But they are different, aren’t they? What’s the difference between them? (Children will say one is flat and one is big and puffy.) Do you know why this roll is big and puffy? It’s because of this. This is yeast. (Show the package of yeast.) Yeast is actually a fungus. It’s little microorganisms that cause bread dough to rise. When someone wants to bake bread, she mixes a little bit of yeast in with the flour, water, sugar, and salt. Then she takes the dough and puts it in a warm oven for a while. Slowly but surely, the yeast causes air bubbles to form inside the dough. The dough gets bigger and bigger and bigger. That’s what made this dinner roll so big and light and yummy. But this flat piece of bread did not have any yeast in it. So it stayed real flat.

The Bible talks about yeast. Usually when God talks about yeast in the Bible, it’s because he wants us to think about sin. Now just so you know, yeast is not bad. Yeast makes bread taste good. But in the Bible, yeast is often a symbol for sin. That’s because when you let sin stay in the heart, without confessing it to God or other people, it gets bigger and causes greater and greater damage. In Mark 8:14-21, Jesus told his disciples, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees!” He didn’t mean to watch out for the kind of yeast your mom uses to bake bread! He was talking about sins like hypocrisy and false teaching and lying and things like that. When you tell a lie, for example, it often leads to other lies. The more lies you tell, the more likely it is that you or someone else is going to get hurt.

Let me tell you a story about a little boy I’ll call Timothy. His dad took him fishing one Saturday, and Timothy caught a fish. It was a little fish about 6 inches long, but Timothy was proud of himself. On Monday when he wen
t to school, he told one of his friends he caught a fish that was a foot long. Later, he told another friend he caught a barracuda three feet long. Later that week, he told another friend he caught a shark! Still later he told someone he caught a whale! When his father found out what Timothy was telling people, he said, “Timothy, have you been lying? What’s this I hear about you catching a whale?!” Timothy was very sad. He realized he should have confessed his first lie, because his fish story got bigger and bigger as time went on.

Sin is like yeast. It makes problems grow and grow. Watch out for the yeast! Confess your sin as soon as you’re aware of it. Turn away from sin and repent. You know why it’s OK to tell God and other people about your sin? Because Jesus’ love is a lot bigger than your sin! Jesus died on the cross not only for the sins you’ve committed in the past, but the sins you’ll commit today, tomorrow, and in the future. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”