Daily Devotions

Sins as a Divine Compass?

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But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — (Ephesians 2:4-5)


As I’ve shared before, our society and even the Christian faith itself, either over-emphasizes or under-emphasizes the idea of sin. Those who over-emphasize sin give it too much power. This group of people give sin more power than Divine grace. When our sin can force God to withhold grace, we become, in some way, more powerful than God. This is blasphemy. 


Likewise, one can under-emphasize sin. Sin is real and has power to destroy. When one does not take sin seriously, individuals and societies can walk into destruction. Personally, I believe in the idea of Original Sin. Now, I don’t believe in the historical reality of Adam and Eve, but I do believe in the larger story that we have somehow “fallen,” and through free-will separated ourselves from God.


Lent is a time for each of us to ponder the reality of sin, and how it affects us. Sin can be a blessing. When sin acts successfully as a deterrent, it keeps us from making bad and calamitous decisions. The way we recognize sin is through our conscience. In our previous Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order, it stated, “God alone is Lord of the Conscience.” I love that phrase. Any guilt we feel is the hand of God upon our hearts, leading us through the sinful minefields of life. When our conscience is dulled by sin, God is unable to fully help us.


Too often sin is viewed as something that keeps us from fully experiencing the fullness of life. That is a mistaken notion. Properly addressing sin is the way to true freedom. When I was in High School, I ran Cross Country. At least once per week, we would run by Cobb Cook Elementary School. The school had a fence around it, and the kids would run up and playfully give us a hard time, and we would bang on the fence and tease them back. We would make the circle around town and go past Washington Elementary. They had no fence, and the kids stayed close to the school building and its teachers.


Now you could say that Cobb Cook’s kids were fenced in like criminals because of the fencing, but they were actually more free than the kids from Washington. The Washington kids were more free, but the freedom was too intimidating and left the kids too scared to venture too far. Within protective limits, the Cobb Cook kids could run and play in every inch of their playground. The Washington kids had so much more room, but they were unable to take advantage of it.


In the same way, people who don’t know, think we are imprisoned by God’s concept of sin. But actually, within the Christian guidelines, we are free to act fully within the parameters and are truly free. When we have no parameters, we play it safe and do not fully experience the freedom or, symbolically speaking, run out into the street and get hurt. Either way, there is little real freedom.


On this Lenten day, focus on the benefits of God’s gift of sin. Think about how you’ve viewed sin at different points in your life. How has sin motivated or guided you, for better or worse? What are your beliefs on sin’s role? Then, pray for God’s wisdom on the issue of sin. Ask God to let your conscience be a compass that leads you safely through life’s challenges, safely into the arms of our loving God.

Oprah Got It Terribly Wrong

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For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)


Christian people have an obligation to worship the one true Triune God. Idolatry is subtle and horribly inappropriate for a person of faith, or anyone for that matter. Often, people do not even realize they are doing it. One of the individuals who has sold idolatry, whether consciously or unconsciously, is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah got all excited about Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Secret,” on at least two different shows. Oprah is so powerful that giving any author two shows in which to peddle their New Age wears, provides an enormous venue for idolatry.


“The Secret” is basically a new way of packaging “the law of attraction.” According to “The Secret,” if you think about something hard enough, it will somehow come to you. Time Magazine’s May 25, 2011, issue addressed this dangerous form of idolatry. People were taking this ridiculous idea so seriously that they were literally putting their lives in danger. The Time article tells the story of a woman with breast cancer who took this book to heart, and decided to focus on “The Secret” and not on her medical treatment. She took this “law of attraction” so seriously that she stopped her chemotherapy treatment and trusted that healing would come to her if she focused strongly on “The Secret.” Oprah encouraged the woman to walk back from her decision to give up on medical science, but she continued to stubbornly stand by her belief in “the law of attraction” and “The Secret.”


As people of faith in the one true God, we need to remain vigilant in our commitment to God and to not get sucked into seemingly harmless New Age myths. God is a “jealous God” because any belief system apart from God leads down a road to unnecessary pain, suffering, and loss. Idolatry isn’t something that just happened in ancient Egypt or in Biblical times, it continues today. It is incumbent upon every Christian to share the faith and call out idolatry when it raises its ugly head.


“The Secret” was ridiculous. But through one misguided celebrity, Byrne’s simplistic myth became a powerful idol that hurt far too many people. Today, ask God to provide the wisdom necessary to recognize idolatry in our midst. Help us focus on God, and not get side-tracked by a celebrity’s false wisdom. God’s truth is the only true wisdom, and the only guide that can transform lives.

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