ARE YOU TROUBLED?

Last week in my reading through the Psalms I came to a phrase that really struck me. In the second part of Psalm 38:18 David states “I am troubled by my sin” (NIV). The Revised English Bible intensifies the thought with “I am troubled because of my sin” (italicize added).

When I first read the verse I thought I can identify with David. I won’t cite specifics, but there have been many times in my life when I have been deeply troubled by a specific sin in my life. But as I continued to consider the big picture it occurred to me that there are also a lot of sins in my life that ought to trouble me but don’t. Sins I don’t think of as big sins, but nevertheless are sins. So my question to you is, “Are you troubled by your sins?”

The purpose of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit in Christians is sanctification. That big word refers to our becoming the kind of people God has saved us to be. To move forward in actually becoming holy we have to make progress in dealing with our sin; one of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us is to make us aware of our sins.

I believe it is the Holy Spirit who is behind our being troubled by our sin. I think it is a good thing if we are troubled by our sins and that we should be thankful. For a Christian not to be troubled by his or her sins would be a bad sign and perhaps indicative of indifference to sin.  

Two pieces of New Testament instruction for Christians about the Holy Spirit came to my mind as I dwelt on Psalm 38:18b. The first was Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” What grieves the Holy Spirit? Since He is the Holy Spirit, and dwells in us, our sin (unholiness) grieves Him.

The second passage was I Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” To quench has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit’s thirst, but rather has to do with extinguishing a fire. I have always thought of this command in terms of not “throwing a wet blanket” on or spurning the Spirit. While the Holy Spirit wants to help us become more and more what God wants us to be, we can ignore and reject His help. And the more we suppress His urgings the easier it will be to do so.

So I ask you again, “Are you troubled by your sins?” Are your sins grieving the Holy Spirit who lives in you and could He be involved in your being troubled? I think the answer is yes. And a clear biblical response to being troubled by our sins is given in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” When we acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness we need to believe God’s promise and move forward. Those sins should no longer trouble us. But we should still expect the Holy Spirit to trouble us about future sins.

What you think of this idea of being troubled by our sin? Leave a reply below and share these thoughts on social media if you think others would benefit.

Photo from Photopin Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’M A HYPOCRITE, ARE YOU ONE TOO?

Being called a hypocrite by others is not a good thing, but it doesn’t seem quite so bad to call yourself one. In that light I am willing to acknowledge that at times I am a hypocrite. And I am fairly confident at times you are as well.

The designation hypocrite originally referred to an “actor” playing a role (holding up a mask) in Greek theater, but in our popular English usage it has a much different meaning. The way we use the word today comes from the way Jesus used it in His teaching. Hypocrites is what He repeatedly called the religious leaders of His day who constantly criticized Him. As a matter of fact, because of Jesus’ usage today Pharisee and hypocrite are synonymous as a negative designation for someone.

Hypocrite in Jesus’ usage and Christian usage today refers to someone who is acting as though he or she is much better and more holy than she or he really is.  A favorite example of this usage is in Matthew 6:1-18 when Jesus warns His followers “not to practice [their] righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” He gives three specifics regarding not calling undue attention to one’s giving, not praying in public to be seen, and not going overboard to make it obvious when fasting “as the hypocrites do.” The basic idea is about motive and a call not to show off your righteousness with the purpose of being seen and applauded by others.

A second way Jesus used the word hypocrite was in connection with deception. In Matthew 22:15-22 there is an account of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with regard to whether or not the Jews should pay the imperial tax to Rome and Caesar. Before they asked Him the question they “buttered Him up” with flattery. Verse 18 reports “But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?’” In this exchange the issue seems to be deceit by pretending you are something you are not with the goal of doing damage to someone.

The third way Jesus used the word hypocrite is the best known usage and has to do with judging. In Matthew 7:3 and 4 Jesus asks, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in our own eye?” Then in verse 5 He uses our word: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In this oft quoted teaching Jesus is forbidding the harsh judgement of others (remember in Matthew 7:1 He cautions, “Do not judge”), and especially with no awareness of or taking into account your own shortcomings.

In all honesty I don’t think I’m guilty of showing off my righteousness to be seen and approved by others. Nor am I aware of being deceitful by pretending I am something I am not with the goal of tricking someone. But when it comes to Jesus’ best known usage of the designation hypocrite I reluctantly admit there have probably been a few occasions in my life when I might have possibly judged someone harshly while not fully being aware of my own failing. Or to state it more succinctly—yes, I have certainly judged others when I shouldn’t have while being blind to my own sin. I hope we understand and will take seriously these important lessons from Jesus about not being hypocrites.

At the same time I am concerned that some Christians misunderstand and misapply the concept of hypocrisy. To avoid being a hypocrite does not mean you should or have to always be totally honest and forthcoming about what you think or believe. Sometimes we say things that hurt others we don’t really need to say. There are times in life when it is to our credit not to be absolutely transparent. I can’t tell you when those times are, but I can challenge you to realize that not always saying exactly what you think does not make you a hypocrite.

Think about these things and leave a reply below letting others and me know what you think. Also share this post with others on social media if you think it will be convicting and challenging.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/88197862@N02/26204325230″>DSC01540</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

A FATHER’S DAY OBSERVATION

My sense is that while we often sentimentalize mothers on Mother’s Day we often chastise fathers on Father’s Day. And both, of course, can be appropriate. As we come to Father’s Day this year I want to challenge and encourage fathers by relaying and commenting on the perceived common failure of fathers of a previous generation. 

In his 2013 book about celebrity Johnny Carson author Henry Bushkin briefly comments on Carson as a father. Bushkin knows what he is talking about because he was Carson’s best friend and lawyer for many years and had no ax to grind.

Bushkin reports “that by any standard Johnny was not a very good father.” He notes that Johnny was concerned about his sons and often “expressed real worry about their well-being—but he was not a significant presence in their lives.”

Then came the observation that so struck me: “Johnny was very much a member of a generation of men that saw their principal paternal obligation as providing for their family’s material well-being.” My family was by no means well-off, but to a large degree I think that was true also of my father, and probably of his father as well.

Not to minimize the importance of a father providing materially for his family, but that is not enough. Thankfully many, if not most, contemporary dads know that and are a significant presence in the lives of their children. I’m not well read enough to know exactly when things began to change, but I do know I was a significant presence in the lives of my two children. I was committed and intentional about being engaged in what they were doing through every stage of their growing up and education.

I don’t understand why some dads are not more involved with their children, their children’s activities, and their children’s friends. I can’t count the number of soccer games, softball games, baseball games, basketball games, golf tournaments, speeches, and debates that Jan and I enjoyed while Audrey and Rob were growing up.

We also made family vacations and getaways a high priority by saving for them and putting them on the calendar. Camping wasn’t my favorite way to vacation, but we did it and we have some great memories. Periodically we would vacation with other families who had children near the ages of ours.

As talented and successful as Johnny Carson was he missed something important and valuable by not having a significant presence in the lives of his children. Perhaps he and many other dads of previous generations did not know any better. But things are different today. If you are a dad I hope you have enjoyed, are enjoying, and will enjoy being a significant presence in the lives of your children.

Happy Father’s Day!

Feel free to share this post with others on social media and/or leave a reply below.

(If you receive email notification of my blogs I thank you for your interest and for reading. If you are not receiving email notification I hope you will click “Follow Blog via Email” in the upper right hand corner of any post and enter your email address to receive notifications. I realize many read the blogs from my Facebook posts but you may miss one from time to time. By the way, I will never share your email address with anyone else. If you know a couple of associates, friends, or family members who might enjoy these posts I encourage you to share this post with them and invite them to follow the blog via email.)

Photo Credit: Dad’s photo of a Father’s Day gift from Audrey when she was in preschool and a picture of Rob and me when he played in the US Amateur in Philadelphia.

 

YEAR ONE’S TOP FIVE

In the middle of June last year I launched my blog under the heading “Considering the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church.” In that first post I stated “My passion and dream is to write honestly about the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church.” This week marks the first anniversary of that “New Venture.”

Over the course of the past year I have published 62 blog posts. The original plan was to write one or two pieces a week, but I soon decided the quality would be better if I stuck to just one most weeks. As would be expected, some were better than others, but I stayed with the theme of considering the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church.

As we turn the page on a new year I thought you might enjoy rereading or reading for the first time the top five most read posts of last year.

Number 5 was written three months ago and titled “On Turning 65.”

Here’s the link https://bobmmink.com/2016/03/11/on-turning-65/

Number 4 was posted August 11 and is titled “Where’s the Joy?”

Here’s the link https://bobmmink.com/2015/08/11/wheres-the-joy/

Number 3 was written at the end of September and was titled “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

Here’s the link https://bobmmink.com/2015/09/25/ive-been-everywhere/

Number 2 came out in January and was titled “My Baseball Coach.”

Here’s the link https://bobmmink.com/2016/01/20/my-baseball-coach/

The most read blog of the past year was published in April and titled “It Still Hurts.”

Here’s the link https://bobmmink.com/2016/04/06/it-still-hurts/

Two of my personal favorites were posted in April and are related. The first was “Must We Be So Harsh?” (https://bobmmink.com/2016/04/20/do-we-need-to-be-so-harsh/) and the second was “Humble and Kind” (https://bobmmink.com/2016/04/22/humble-and-kind/).

I would be interested in knowing if a particular post stood out as especially meaningful to you—one that you could call your favorite. It could be one of the top five or another one that you remember. If you have one tell the rest of us about it by leaving a reply below.

If you receive email notification of my blogs I thank you for your interest and for reading. If you are not receiving email notification I hope you will click “Follow Blog via Email” in the upper right hand corner of any post and enter your email address to receive notifications. I realize many read the blogs from my Facebook posts but you may miss one from time to time. (By the way, I will never share your email address with anyone else.) If you know a couple of associates, friends, or family members who might enjoy these posts I encourage you to share this post with them and invite them to follow the blog via email.

If you have any observations that you think would help me improve my blog posts please leave a reply below or email me (bobmmink@gmail.com).  If you have any suggestions for future topics please do the same.

My plan is to continue in the coming year to write honestly about the Christian life, the Bible, and the Church at least once a week. I hope you will be encouraged, challenged, and informed by reading my posts.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21450297@N06/7172581051″>1</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU

In reading the opening verses of the book of Revelation this morning I noted the salutation “Grace and peace to you” in Revelation 1:4 and paused to think about it. I then wondered about the greetings in the other New Testament letters and after checking found that all but four (Hebrews, James, I John, and III John) include “grace and peace to you.” I and II Timothy, II John, and Jude include “mercy” as well.

Why is this salutation so frequent and what is the implication? Part of what is going on is the adaptation of standard letter writing practice of the time. It is somewhat similar to our “Dear” at the beginning of many letters and “Sincerely yours” at the end. But for Christian writers and readers it is much more than just convention. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger observes “None of the ancient pagan letters has anything like the magnificence of ‘Grace to you, and peace’.”

“Grace” is primarily the Christian component and “peace” (shalom) the basic greeting and farewell of the Jewish people—richer and deeper than the Greek word for “peace.” The two together are filled with meaning and significance for Christians.

Every time these two words are used in a New Testament letter greeting the word grace comes before the word peace. Both, of course, come from God and in that order. The same New Testament scholar quoted above, but in a different book, notes “it is because of God’s grace that his people can enjoy peace.”

Grace is God’s unmerited (unearned and undeserved) favor shown to us through the coming and work of Jesus. We are forgiven and saved by grace through our faith in Him–“not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:10). Peace—peace with God because we have been redeemed and the inner peace of God—is the result of God’s grace.

I’m not suggesting we incorporate this New Testament salutation into our letters, notes, cards, and emails today. Readers would probably think we had been in the sun too long! But when we read this greeting in our Bibles we should not simply blow by the writers’ call for these blessings upon us as Christians. We should rejoice in God’s grace and peace and give Him thanks.

Even though we don’t include the greeting in what we write, we can wish and pray for others and ourselves what Peter asked for his readers in I Peter 1:2, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7b).

Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share these thoughts on social media.

ON BEING PROMOTED

After we celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary Jan and I went to Texas to spend the week with our two grandsons. Bobby, the older of the two, is now six and had just graduated from kindergarten. Ryan is two and out of daycare for June and July.

That means that Jan and I had them all day every day for five days. What a week—and I’m still exhausted! Even though I need my right knee and my left hip replaced, I’d do it again without hesitation. As a matter of fact, we will be doing it again later this month. The only difference will be I will have them without Jan for two and a half days. (Pray for me!)

One of the tee shirts I wore while there was a gift from Audrey (my daughter) a few years ago soon after Bobby was born. While walking in the park I asked Bobby if he could read it and concentrating on the front of my shirt he read, “Great DADS get promoted [I had to give a little help with this word] to GRANDPA.” And he flashed his wily smile.

I love the shirt and what it says, but I wouldn’t say I was or am a great dad (perhaps a good dad). I realize not every man wants to or can be a dad, but being a dad is one of life’s greatest privileges. It is also one of life’s greatest responsibilities. And it is a privilege and responsibility that never ends.

Often being a dad does provide the opportunity of becoming a grandpa. And if my daughter thinks that is a promotion I am thrilled. Promotion or not, being a grandpa, like being a dad, is a privilege and a responsibility. But most of the time being a grandpa is higher on the privilege side and lower on the responsibility side than being a dad.

Last week I was reminded of all of this and more. One thing that disappointed me was the realization of my lack of patience. Two year olds and six year olds need to be permitted to be six years old and two years old. But there were other times when I was at the other extreme being too lenient and permissive. That I believe is part of the privilege of being a grandpa.

Another thing I realized last week is that I am the grandpa and not a parent. There is a difference. While I have some responsibility of oversight and care when with them, that is not my primary role—I am a backup. And that again is part of the privilege and responsibility of being a grandpa.

But there are a few things that I’m not a backup for in being a grandpa. I’m not a backup in terms of loving those boys, caring about those boys, encouraging those boys, modeling the Lord to those boys, praying for those boys, and worrying about them. I know I’m not supposed to worry—I wasn’t and am not supposed to worry about my own children, but I did and do—and I do and will worry about my grandsons.

In case it isn’t obvious, I love being a grandpa–it’s a promotion!

Don’t hesitate to share these thoughts with others on social media and/or leave a reply below.

Photo courtesy of their grandmother—my wife!

 

 

 

JESUS’ REPLACEMENT?

I can’t remember where it was I heard him say it, but I’ll never forget something Dr. Lewis Foster said in a Bible study I was attending. Talking about Christians he said, “I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us.”  I didn’t grasp the full impact of what he was saying that day, but after all these years I’m coming to understand it.

When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death, resurrection, and return to heaven He told them the Father would give them another advocate to be with them (John 14:16). A little later He told them: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7b). There is a lot more from Jesus about the Holy Spirit in chapters 14, 15, and 16; but I want to focus on the designation another advocate for the Holy Spirit and as a replacement for Jesus.

The Holy Spirit really isn’t a replacement for Jesus (that is my word to get your attention), except in the sense of Jesus’ presence with and in His followers. Jesus’ absence from them when He returned to heaven was replaced by the coming of the Holy Spirit. I certainly don’t understand exactly what and how it all happened, but after His resurrection Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Following His ascension they “were filled with the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born (Acts 2:4).

The rest of the New Testament makes it clear that every follower of Jesus has the gift of the Holy Spirit. While much more can and should be said about His role, the basic purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit in believers is to help them live the Christian life. But the Spirit does not force us—He does not make us do what is right or keep us from doing wrong. He invites us to allow Him to help us and to cooperate with Him.

I’m intrigued by this term advocate for the Holy Spirit. (Remember Jesus said the Spirit would be another advocate, indicating He was the first one.) The Greek word literally means “one called alongside of.”  In addition to advocate, the word is variously translated comforter, helper, counselor, strengthener, supporter, and exhorter. There are no clear distinctions among these meanings as they overlap, but I’m confident we all would agree that at times we need what each meaning suggests.

We will never perfectly understand how God can be three in one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or exactly how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. But we know God is three in one and that as Christians we have received the Holy Spirit. Our challenge and privilege is to continue to invite Him more and more into our lives and to cooperate with Him in what He wants to do in us and for us and through us.

I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us. Do you?

Let me and others know what you think by leaving a reply below and I hope you will share this post on social media.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/45409431@N00/2522669590“>”Flying gull” – Möwe im Flug</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/“>(license)</a>