IF I PERISH, I PERISH!

                                            

King Ahasuerus reigned from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces. He gave a feast that lasted 180 days. That’s a lot of food. It was followed by another feast lasting a week.  On the 7th day he ordered his seven eunuchs to bring in Queen Vashti, who was giving a feast for the women. She refused. The king burned with anger and asked his seven wise men what should be done. One of them said that she should be forever banished from his presence and the king should choose someone else. Esther, adopted by Mordecai when her parents died, was one of those chosen to be beautified for twelve months. Mordecai checked up on her daily. She won the contest and was made queen in place of Va

One day Mordecai heard about a plan of two eunuchs of the king to assassinate him. He told this to Esther, who passed the plot along to the king. He investigated the matter, found it to be true, and had the men hanged. Meanwhile, a man named Haman rose to a place of prominence next to the king, and people bowed down to him, all except Mordecai, because he was a Jew. Haman in anger decided that all the Jews of the empire should be destroyed. He lied to the king about the Jewish people and said they should be exterminated. He promised to give the king money to help in the destruction. This decree went out to every province. When Mordecai heard of it, he tore his clothes and cried bitterly, as did Jews throughout the kingdom.

Esther sent clothes for Mordecai through one of the eunuchs, but he would not put them on. He sent word back to Esther, showing her the written decree, and telling her that she had to go before the king on behalf of her people. She sent word back that it had been thirty days since she had been before the king, and if she went without being called, her life was in danger. Mordecai sent this message back to her: “Don’t think that because you are in the palace you will escape. If you keep silent, deliverance will come from another place, but you and your house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Esther replied to Mordecai, “Gather all the Jews in Susa and hold a three-day fast. Don’t eat or drink. I and my young women will do the same. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (15,16).

On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes and stood in front of the king’s quarter. When the king saw her, he held out his golden scepter. She approached him and touched the end of the scepter. He asked her what she requested and promised up to half of his kingdom. She requested that the king and Haman come to a feast that day that she has prepared. At the feast the king repeated his promise. She requested that the king come the next day to a feast and she would let him know. Haman left, passed by Mordecai, and despised him for not bowing. He went home rejoicing for the favor he was being shown by Queen Esther two days in a row. But he told his wife, “It means nothing as long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (5:13). She said, “Prepare a gallows 75 feet high and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it,” which Haman did. 

That night the king couldn’t sleep. He read through the book of memorable deeds and found how Mordecai had uncovered a plot on his life. He found out that nothing had been done to honor him. It was morning by now, and Haman was coming up the court. So the king asked him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” Thinking he was the hero, he recommended lavish acclamation through the square with someone proclaiming praises. The king said, “Good. Do this for Mordecai.” Haman had to be the town crier for his enemy, after which he hurried home in shame. His wife said, “Doesn’t look good for you now.”

At that moment the eunuchs arrived to bring him to Esther’s feast. As they were dining, the king again asked the queen about her request. She told him the grief she felt concerning the decree regarding the annihilation of her people. The king asked, “Who has dared to do this?” and she replied, “This wicked Haman!” While the king stepped out to the garden in anger, Haman fell on the couch with Esther, pleading for mercy. The king returned, and it appeared that Haman was assaulting her. He commanded that the gallows prepared for Mordecai be used for him. And the authority that Haman had enjoyed was now given to Mordecai along with a crown and a royal blue robe. He was received in Susa the capital with great cheers.

Esther then pleaded with the king on behalf of her people, the Jews. The king could not reverse his edict but allowed the Jews to arm and defend themself against all who wanted to destroy them. The Jews gained mastery over their enemies and defeated them. The ten sons of Haman were hanged on his gallows. The day that the Jews were to be annihilated that they reversed was turned into a feast day–the Feast of Purim. “Pur” means to cast lots. Lots were cast to crush them, and the reverse took place. Purim this year is March 16! Rejoice with your Jewish friends!

FATHER, FORGIVE THEM…

Imagine the torture Jesus experienced at the trial, then at the cross. Multiple beatings by the religious leaders, who said mockingly, “Prophesy. Who struck you?” They laughed as they assaulted him. Pilate knew he was innocent. Then his wife sent a message to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, because I have suffered much because of him in a dream today” (Matthew 27:19). He is going to hear about his cowardice for years to come from that woman. Pilate ordered him scourged before sending him to the cross. Jesus probably no longer looked like a human being. Pilate to turn him over to killers and released a true murderer. Then he had to carry his cross, but he couldn’t manage it. Way too weak! 

Then they nailed him to the cross. People who passed by mocked. Same for the religious leaders. This was happening near a public thoroughfare. And Matthew says that the robbers on each side of him also reviled him. Non-stop ridicule for the man on the cross, the one said to be the King of the Jews. Jesus had prayed in the garden, “Is there any other way?” But he concluded, “Not my will but yours be done.” Hard to imagine this is the glorious Son of God. The prophet Isaiah had written accurately, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10).  The Father is allowing all this. Why? So you and I could be forgiven and be received into His family.

Then Jesus did something that no one anticipated. They were his first words from the cross. With all the bloodshed and beating, it was very hard to talk. But he prayed out loud, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When most people would be full of bitter anguish, animosity toward the killers, a desire for revenge, Jesus forgives them, the rowdy religious leaders who are below him mocking him even as he prays, the thieves who deserve to die railing against him, one on each side of him, the soldiers making fun of the pretend king. How merciful can you get! He is dying of the torture, and yet he forgives his assailants as the first order of business on the cross. No one expected it, because no one would have done it. 

Then something happened to one of the thieves. When his partner on the other side continued the assault, he rebuked him and said, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” How did he know that? God chose to reveal it to him. The words, “Father, forgive them…” must have broken through. He was convicted of his own sin and of the man’s righteousness who was dying between them. He then says, “This man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41).  What revelation! Conviction of his own sin turns to understanding of the true character of Jesus. God is speaking to the dying thief.  A transaction is about to take place. (Part 2 coming).

PEOPLE AREN’T THE ENEMY…

…your spouse, boss, competitor, relative, neighbor. May seem like it. If they have skin on, they aren’t. “We wrestle NOT against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12). Feels like it when they come against us or stand in our way of happiness or success. They may be used by the devil, but they are not the devil. The real adversary is the prince of darkness, the deceiver, the accuser, the temptor, intimidator. He uses people to do his work. If you fight with them, thinking that they are the reason for your misery, you lose big. We often wrestle against flesh and blood. Sad!. 

We are commanded to love those who make life difficult for us, those who persecute us or come against us. We are never commanded to love Satan. People may act like the devil, but they are not the devil. We fight against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (12b). If we can thank God that He is using our boss, our neighbor, our spouse to accomplish His purposes in our life, we just won. And we will turn a test into a testimony.  It was Jesus who said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27,28). Wow! Not an easy assignment.

Doing the opposite of our natural response brings the high favor of heaven. It moves us into the realm of the miraculous. When Paul chose to worship when he was unjustly thrown into prison, he knew that his real enemy was not the people who beat him up and put him in a dungeon, and agreement with heaven brought a new church into existence and salvation to an entire family– and beyond. If we obey when it is not our first inclination but our final answer, we are coming powerfully against the forces of darkness and defeating them.

Are you tired of tangling with the people you live with, work with, even worship with? Are you losing more than you are winning? Change your battle strategy. Start loving them and hating the one who is using them for his purposes. Don’t be fooled by his plan. Learn to “stand against the schemes (“methodia”) of the devil” (11). There is a method to his madness. It is to trick you into fighting the wrong enemy so you lose every time.

As Jesus approached the cross, he knew his real enemy: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31,32). So he was able to forgive the soldiers who crucified him and the thieves who railed against him. He even led one of them into paradise, because he wasn’t fighting flesh and blood. Did he win? “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). He publicly embarrassed the powers of darkness by fooling them. They thought they were winning. They were dead wrong!

When you love those who feel like your opposition, you are dying to yourself as Jesus died on the cross, and you are fulfilling the admonition of the apostle: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It is fighting smart and well. Try it next time you feel like swinging at flesh and blood–and win big!

5 TRUTHS ABOUT TESTS!

WE EMBRACE TESTS WITH JOY.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). That is not our normal response. We either want to avoid trials or, if they come, get through them quickly. If we learn to come with a positive spirit, it will change the process AND the outcome.That’s why we respond with joy when we face them, not finish them. Tests reveal the attitude of our heart.  You know me in pain better than in pleasure. A response of joy indicates that we are believing in God more than our circumstances. We are expressing confidence that trials serve His purpose, not the devil’s. Joy says that the trial won’t take us under; God will take us higher. Joy says that we are expecting a good outcome out of a potentially bad situation.

“Whenever”—not “if ever”. We are all going to have tests. (I Peter 5:9; I Cor. 10:13)). “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (I Peter 4:12). It’s not strange; it is common. Face it with joy!

TESTS ARE OF MANY KINDS.

Why? “…that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (4) We do different exercises for different muscles. Why? To be fully developed. Same with tests.

TESTS DEVELOP CHARACTER.

“You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (3). It is what we know that enables us to embrace tests instead of trying to avoid them. Paul agrees with James: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character…” (Rom. 5:3). The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. People who have developed perseverance live with hope, with eternity in view. They hit the tape running, knowing that the end is not the end. 

TESTS CAN CONFUSE. ASK FOR WISDOM.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (5).  “…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials” (I Thess. 3:3). Here are some distorted but common messages that we sometimes hear in testing:

God is angry with me. God isn’t listening. God did this to teach me some kind of lesson, but I don’t know what. God is getting even with me for something I did years ago. God is not as good as I thought He was. God causes everything (He doesn’t), and everything is given for a purpose.

Suffering can paralyze us or turn us into victims. Attitude is 90% of the struggle. What if Satan tries to wear you down as he did Job?  In all things resist the devil and submit to God. Anchor yourself in His goodness. Tests tempt us to change our picture of God (James 1:13-18). It is not so much what we experience but how we interpret what we experience. Joseph said to unkind brothers,  “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”`

TESTS PASSED BRING A REWARD.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Crowns speak of victory and authority, an upgrade and a new revelation of God. Pass a test in finances and know better the God of provision.  Am I saying to rejoice when trials come? No. God is!! It works. Have at it!

FORGIVENESS–3 GENERATIONS WORTH!

Karen was taking Karis to church twelve years ago. She backed out carefully, but did not see Gabriel’s car parked behind the other van. The small Nissan was no match for the Suburban that we had named “Big Red,” and the front right bumper was messed up pretty bad. Karen used her cell phone to call inside. She was crying. I came out, surveyed the damage, and told Karen to head for church. “What about Gabriel’s car?” she asked. “We’ll be home before he sees it. I will explain it to him,” I assured her.

Wrong. Erikka saw the damage and asked Gabriel what happened. When he looked, he was angry and kicked the garage in disgust. He prided himself in keeping the car clean and looking good. Maybe he liked it a little too much. I walked into the study to find Gabriel sitting silently. “Sorry, Gabriel,” I said. “Get an estimate and I will pay for it.” Mom then found Gabriel as he was on the way out and added her apology, which he accepted quietly. 

About a minute later, after Gabriel had left, he called and said to Mom, “It’s okay; it’s only a car.” Then a minute after that he called me and said, “Would you pray for me? I don’t know what’s happening?” He was sobbing. He had to pull over and stop the car because he couldn’t see to drive. I responded, “I know what’s happening. You just passed your test, and God’s presence filled your car.” He answered, “Just last night at the meeting Kyle said that the devil would go after us at our weakest point. My weakest point has been my relationship with Mom.” “And you won the fight,” I said. “Way to go.”

Then Gabriel added, “Thanks for not getting mad at me when I messed up your car.” He was leaving church about five years before on a wintry Minnesota day with icy conditions. He tried to turn in the parking lot to miss the oncoming car, but the old wagon wouldn’t cooperate. Totaled our car and thoroughly aggravated the passenger in the other car–a lady pulling up for a wedding.

I reminded Gabriel that when I was sixteen I borrowed another wagon, a 1960 Chevrolet. When dropping friends off, I pulled into their driveway and scraped one whole side on a metal picket fence. My friend Johnny jumped out and said, “Doesn’t look good, Paul.” I responded, “Thanks, Johnny.” When I walked into the kitchen and handed my father the keys, I said, “I messed up the side of the car.”  My dad’s response was, “It’s bound to happen sooner or later.” He didn’t even go outside to check it out. His response made me feel more important to him than metal.

He gave me forgiveness. I was able to pass on forgiveness to Gabriel, and Gabriel gave it to his mother. It started with a kind and understanding father, whose godly response bore fruit forty-four years later in his grandson. In fact, it started long before that, with a kind Father who loves to forgive, who grants forgiveness with ease.  Two lessons: granting forgiveness releases power and presence. One of the ways God expresses His holiness is in His forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great gift to give to someone who has hurt you!

HOW TO PASS THE BATON WELL!

Moses passed it to Joshua–and died. Elijah passed it to Elisha–and was swept away into heaven.

1  PRACTICE HANDING THE BATON. 

It is a bit tricky. Races (and ministries) are won or lost in the passing of the baton. Talk about it. Ask yourself, “What is it going to look like?” What will I be doing? Will I be available to my successor? How? Larry asked me how it was going. I said, “Not good.” He asked why. I said, “Because you are still around. People will always key in on you.” He had to leave temporarily for me to step successfully into my calling as a senior pastor.  Ask yourself, “How will this look?”

2  HAND IT OFF AND LET GO.

It needs to happen at a point in time. People in the stands need to see it. The one who has passed the baton quits running. He cheers but he doesn’t run. That would be silly. You don’t have the baton. Some may wish you were still running. You ran your part of the race. Congratulations that you did it. Some never get around to truly passing the baton.

3  CHEER THE RUNNER ON.

Speak well of him/her with others. Support any way you can. Moses was dead, so Joshua could not rely on his gifts. Elijah was carried away, so he couldn’t influence Elisha. Larry was available, but he didn’t pry. I called him from time to time. Be careful of how you speak with others about the race. Some people may come to you and complain. Plan ahead of time what you will say.

Give whatever help is asked for. Moses was not around to be available to people who liked his kind of leadership. Elijah wasn’t around either. Nor was Jesus when he told the disciples that it would now be their turn. They never wished for him back once the Spirit came. The words of a pastor to an incumbent are important.

4  SOME DON’T PASS THE BATON–THEY DROP IT.

It sadly happens often. You lose your momentum. The American men and women were expected to win the 4×100 relay race at the Olympics and maybe smash the world record. They dropped the baton. The men never finished the race. Passing the baton well is essential for the next runner to run a good race.

Joshua didn’t pass the baton. Read the book of Judges and see the confusion over leadership. Likewise with Elisha. He had a great ministry, but he failed to pass the baton to someone who could capitalize on the momentum.

So who picks the person to pass the baton onto? The one who is carrying the baton. That should not be simply given to a committee, unless it is under the leadership of the pastor. A pastor should normally participate in the choice of the replacement IF he is finishing well and has the full support of the congregation. Who chose Timothy for the church at Ephesus? Paul. He knew the churches he planted well, so he also knew who would be able to lead them.

Important to draw up a plan with dates and objectives. The congregation needs to know when the present pastor is finished with his race and when the new pastor begins. Clarity is important. The congregation needs to know specifics about who is running what when. The plan should include any training the pastor may give to the successor or any time to talk together about the congregation. There needs to be a time of celebrating the pastor who is passing the baton. 

NAOMI, WE LOVE HER

(Celebrating her 43rd birthday, to the tune of 

“My Jesus, I Love Thee,” from Dad and Mom)

Naomi, we love her, she’s one of a kind

She’ll reach out to neighbors, she’ll look and she’ll find

She’s friendly, inviting, and makes a great host

She helps us with Grandma and makes her a toast

She loves watching movies, join her if you can

She loves cheese and bagels–tortillas are grand

She’s full of surprises, she hides in the dark

She jumps out and scares us and calls it a lark

She takes care of babies like they are her own

She talks to her friends when we give her our phone

She knows all employees who work Trader Joes

They’re all in her family–she knows of no foes

The month starts all over and she’s first to know

She sends a “white rabbit”–she’s really a pro

She sure does like laughing at Israel’s jokes

She’s kind to all people like they’re her own folks       

Her ipad stays busy with nothing to do

She keeps herself active and each day is new

The seizures and cramps she is made to endure

We’re joining in prayer that they leave her for sure

We’re grateful God made her so kind and so fun

She keeps our place joyful until the day’s done

To meet her you’ll want to become her best fan

We’re thankful she’s part of the Anderson clan!

THE TWO COMINGS OF CHRIST!

THE FIRST COMING

1 A glorious angel choir sings from heaven–to a small group of shepherds.

2 Shepherds show up to congratulate the couple. Not the crowd we might expect for the Son of God’s birth. Wise men from the East come months later and worship the babe, now a child.

3 In humility. No room, no dignitaries. Caesar gets the world moving to register. Hectic time.

4 Christ the baby, helpless. The family flees the wrath of Herod. Christ the Man: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Itinerant ministry. Shameful to his family.

5 Absolute poverty. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). 

6 Time frame:  thirty-three years.

7 Purpose: die. As priest he atones for sin.  Comes as a lamb to be sacrificed (Isaiah 53:4-12).

8 Conclusion: life, death, resurrection, ascension. Here for 33 years and gone.

9 The cross, the reason for his first coming, “…that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16,17).

Many thought Jesus was going to do on his first trip to earth what he will do on his return, annihilate evil and rule forever. James and John wanted to rule with him, one on each side. He will rule, but first he atones for sin to allow people entrance to his home. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, many figured this was his moment. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13). They were disappointed when he didn’t take over. He went for the cross, not the crown. His only crown was made of thorns. See Hebrews 10:12-14. Jesus “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…”

THE SECOND COMING

1 Glorious warring angels accompany Jesus to take over. 

2 All will see him, like it or not. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds (same way he left), and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him…” (Revelation 1:7).

3 In glory. Jesus is returning to take charge and rule (see I Thess. 4:16).  “And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30).

4 Christ the reigning king. All enemies are dealt with, including the antichrist, the false prophet, and Satan himself (Revelation 19, 20).

5 Riches beyond measure. He is the Son, the heir. He owns it all–and shares it with his family!

6 Time frame–an eternity. “…And he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

7 Purpose: Rule forever. As king he abolishes sin, rewarding the righteous and punishing the unrighteous. He judges wrong and does away with all evil. “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…” (Rev. 5:5). “Let us rejoice…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and the Bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). See Psalm 110:1-4. “The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter” (v. 2). 

8 Conclusion: Never-ending reign in glory with all those who have put their trust in him.

9 The crown. He is the rightful King, a descendant of David. He will fight as David fought in the Battle of Armageddon, after which he will set up his earthly and eternal rule. Hallelujah!! Amen!!

TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE (part 2)

We don’t focus on garbage. We focus on Jesus.  Garbage is not beautiful. It is not something to concentrate on. As a high school student I thought it must be holy to look at my sins, to say how bad I was, which only drew attention to the garbage. We become what we behold (2 Corinthians 3:18). Looking at Jesus brings healing and the power to overcome the garbage in our lives. Unconfessed sin that has been allowed to stay in our soul is gross, like the spaghetti in the back of the fridge that we forgot about–a month ago! Confessing sin and focusing on it are two different matters. Focusing on sin does not change us. The garbage is hidden in containers while in the house and placed in trash bins with a cover on them.

Take the upper hand. Don’t call yourself a sinner. You are a saint who sins. Identity drives behavior. My dad used to say to me often, “Remember who you are.” He said it long before Mufasa ever spoke it to Simba. He was establishing our identity so we could walk into our destiny. A skewed identity produces distorted behavior and an inferior destiny. We behave our beliefs, as my friend Kevin McClure says. We are what we think we are. The cross deals with the penalty, the power, and the presence of sin, but not all at once. Most of us know about how Jesus dealt with the penalty of sin on the cross–suffering and death. But He also dealt with its power, so Paul was able to write, “Sin shall have no power over you, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Romans 5-8 says nothing about forgiveness but a whole lot about freedom from sin. Believe it. However, sin is still present with us until the King returns. Then sin, death and the devil will be done with forever! Good riddance!

We have two big bins at our house, one for recycling, the other for garbage. We recycle things like cardboard and empty bottles and cans. We do not recycle food particles or used Kleenex or crumbs we sweep up from the floor. Not a lot of use for the spaghetti that is turning colors. Some people are recycling sin. They are dumping it on so-called friends rather than getting rid of it as James commands. Don’t treat your friends this way. Don’t pretend to be sharing important personal information, then dump a load of garbage on them. If you happen to have a compost pile, the month-old spaghetti can go there. 

Unattended garbage is not pretty. I helped Israel clean out a duplex he owned. The people had left quickly without cleaning up. Food was left out. You could smell the chemistry as soon as you walked in the front door. We had the fun job of cleaning up after them. You may think that you want to take your time to forgive someone, like you don’t have to do it right away. Be careful: you will start smelling like that abandoned duplex. You are not realizing what lack of attention to forgiveness is doing to your insides. It is putrid.

The Gospel is the best way to handle garbage. We deal with two systems–mercy or merit, law or gospel, old covenant or new covenant. If you are saying, “I can’t just forgive them; that is letting them off the hook,” you need to know that you are operating under the law, not the gospel. Fairness is “an eye for an eye.” The gospel is Jesus from the cross saying, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus brought in a new culture. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” That was radical. It is a totally different way of dealing with sin than under the old system, the system that most people in the world operate with–but not Christians, at least not those who want to live in the freedom of the gospel. We are not overcome by evil. We overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). 

Forgiveness is power! Learn to use it to keep your insides clean and to transform others.

TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE (part 1)

 I had taken daily trips to the garbage bin and the recycle bin.I had filled the garbage container to the brim–and then some. Had to jump on it to get everything in. Two hours later the garbage truck pulled up. A feeling of joy came over me as I watched it being emptied. I know–strange!  I do the same thing every week. And the same feeling of well-being comes over me when I see it gone. Someone tell me I am not weird!  

May we experience a similar relief when we take out the garbage that accumulates in our souls. We can forget it is there, until our soul begins to smell putrid. I take my garbage on during my time of morning prayer. I do the acrostic “PRAY.” After I have spent time praising God for who He is and what He has done, I turn to repentance. I have a long list of sins of the heart–a critical spirit, jealousy, a victim mentality, and many more. I look over the list, sensitive to the Spirit to see if He highlights any that I need to confess. It becomes my time to take out the garbage, anything inside that doesn’t belong there, that needs to be removed so it doesn’t grow putrid. Here are some truths about taking out the garbage:

Sin is garbage. Don’t try to make it sound nice. When I am carrying the garbage out and a sack breaks, cleaning it up is gross. No getting around it–Satan makes sin look beautiful.  Movies often highlight affairs. Ugly and putrid just became attractive. Sin carries disease and is deadly. Deal with it. Garbage can hide behind a victim mentality. Someone sinned against us, and we feel the need to hold that person accountable, so we keep our garbage rather than eliminating it. Bad idea. It festers. We may even feel it is important to share with a friend. So we dump the garbage on them rather than in the garbage bin, and they commiserate with us. An interesting word. They share our misery. Do we call that fellowship? It is walking in the darkness, not the light. Far better to deal appropriately with garbage.

Confession is part of a Christian’s routine. As Cornelius Planting wrote, “Recalling and confessing our sin is like taking out the garbage; once is not enough.” Garbage that hangs around gets exponentially more putrid. Ours turned into maggots while we enjoyed our vacation once. We came home to garbage that had multiplied. Confession is a part of my regular prayer time, so I hopefully don’t take up an offense or respond in a reactionary way. If I ignore sins, I start smelling like the garbage outside by the garage.

The longer you wait, the more putrid the smell. You don’t realize it, but you are smelling up the atmosphere with the toxic poison of bitterness, resentment, and hostility. That is why James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “”Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…” (James 1:19-21). Garbage that goes in the truck is not typically recycled; it is dumped and used for landfill. Dump yours–don’t hold onto it. (Part 2 coming).