The Roman Road: Follow It and See Where it Takes You.

The Roman Road system was an amazing accomplishment in the ancient world, and it allowed people to travel all over Europe. The zealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, was traveling on such a road from Jerusalem to Damascus when he had a life-changing experience.

In the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke describes it like this: “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.” (Acts 9:1-3)

Roads That Take You Somewhere

The actual road to Damascus took Paul on a life-changing journey; the spiritual “Roman Road” he outlined in the book of Romans can do the same for you. J R R Tolkien’s poem in The Hobbit said, “The road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began”, offering a hint of adventure and mystery about where a road might lead. And of course Robert Earl Keen pointed out that “the road goes on forever”, indicating he may have been aligned with today’s blog, although perhaps he wasn’t thinking about Rome in particular…

Roman road

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One of ancient Rome’s contributions to civilization was a system of public roads that was unrivalled in the ancient world. Their handiwork is still evident today, and in fact our tour group rode bicycles down the Appian Way, a road said to have been traversed by the Apostle Paul (among many others) back in the day…

In terms of its impact on life and culture, the Roman roads were sort of the equivalent of light speed in Star Wars, or a Star Trek transporter. Wikipedia says, “At the peak of Rome’s development, no fewer than 29 great military highways radiated from the capital, and the late Empire’s 113 provinces were interconnected by 372 great roads.“ It was the best means of getting to the desired destination in the entire world, and stretched from Rome all the way to Gaul and Great Britain.

Roman road

Many Roads, Many Possibilities

Robert Frost wrote about taking “The Road Less Traveled”, and the difference it made in his life. He pointed out that our choices can take us down roads whose destination is uncertain or unscripted. In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy met the Scarecrow at an intersection when she wasn’t sure where to go. We encounter many such crossroads in life’s journey, and some of our choices cause us to fall in with dubious companions or go down the wrong path.

In Scriptures, there is another “road” that provides the best means of getting to your desired destination. Do you want to go to heaven? Would you like assurance that your journey is leading to God’s Kingdom? The “Roman Road” is a series of verses in Romans that outlines man’s position relative to being judged by a Holy, righteous God, and outlines God’s provision for man’s salvation. If you’ve never travelled the Roman Road, I highly recommend that you follow its course.

Read through these verses from Romans and see where it leads you:

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (3:20)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (3:23).

“For the wages of sin is death…” (6:23a).

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8)

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23b).

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (10:9, 13).

It’s why Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (1:16). Take a walk down the Roman Road. And while you’re at it, take somebody else with you.

THE Roman Road

Roman soldiers built their roads to carry armies, men and loads
So Roman soldiers could be hurled to any target in the world.
Roads were built for one and all–Roads in Europe! Roads to Gaul!
Starting here and going there, your feet could take you anywhere.
Paul described a journey, too–a roadway built for me and you,
To transport us from earthly states up all the way to Heaven’s Gates.
Just read Romans, you will see the path laid out for you and me:
Walk that path around the bend. Who knows indeed where it will end?
Read in Romans, then take heed; who knows indeed where it will lead?


To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Jealous FOR Someone is Much Different than Jealous OF Someone

Have you ever stopped to consider that the Lord proclaims Himself to be jealous? What do you think He means by that?

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

God’s first instruction to Israel was to worship Him alone. That certainly makes theological sense, because given that He is GOD, He is Supreme and above all human frailty. He is worthy of our singular worship. He goes on to say that He is a jealous God. Wait, say what?! We normally see jealousy as a sin, akin to envy and driven by insecurity. Being jealous OF someone has overtones of selfishness, suspicion, and distrust, and often displays a resentment or hostility toward other people because they enjoy some advantage. It is possessive, demanding, and overbearing.

OF as Opposed to FOR

But God is not speaking here of being jealous OF someone. The Lord is talking about being jealous FOR someone. He is passionate that no harm come to those whom He loves. He has a righteous zeal and anger against anything that can cause pain or death for His children. The Old Testament word for jealousy literally comes from someone getting red in the face, and it has to do with a zealous emotional response.

A selfish, insecure person is never justified in being jealous of and resenting someone else; but a husband can be passionate about his wife’s affection; a mother can be jealous FOR her children’s safety. The entire Bible is centered on God’s jealousy for us and His concern that we would allow anything else to come between ourselves and Him. You can take every sin there is and relate it directly to idolatry. We may not bow down to little carved statues, but we all dabble in idolatry from time to time…

jealous

There’s a Reason

Sin is selfish. It leads to death, according to Romans 6:23. It is ultimately destructive to those who practice it. Idolatry is dangerous because, in taking us away from our Creator, it will try to kill us. God’s concern about idolatry is not merely that He won’t get the attention He deserves. He hates it because it draws His children deeper into selfish sin.

All selfish sin, whether it is generated by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16) comes from putting your own desires before God’s, so it is essentially worshiping yourself instead of your creator. Therefore, when we follow our own carnal desires, we are actually placing them ahead of our feelings about God.

Why do you think He hates that so much? It is not because He is petty and selfish and jealous OF. It is because He knows that our payment for sin is death, and that we can only find life in Him. Tell me, what things do you worship instead of God? What selfishness do you justify, and what subtle desires do you rationalize as “OK”? It can be easy to leave God out of the picture when there are hundreds of idols to choose from. Here’s a suggestion:  Don’t. Bow. Down.

The Jealous Suitor

“I am a jealous God”, said He, “And I’m calling you to worship Me,
Instead of statues carved of stone, or images made of wood or bone…
For worshiping such idle things will end in death and all it brings,
And take from Me adoring eyes, to things they shouldn’t idolize.
So this commandment I will give: Worship Me, and you will live.
Listen, please, and don’t ignore; a thousand generations more
Will feel the love I have because it’s you that I am jealous FOR.

The Gift that keeps on Giving: Who Says Christmas Only Comes Once a Year?

It’s that time of year that we leave Christmas behind, isn’t it? Gifts have been unwrapped (and exchanged), gift cards have been redeemed, and we are putting away Christmas lights and decorations until next year… Here’s the thing: don’t stop celebrating the season when the season is over!

Why Christmas?

When you think about it, for many of us Christmas was all about giving and opening gifts! It is a tradition that goes back to the gifts of the Magi, which were presented to Jesus as a young child sometime after he was born. Some folks relate it to Saturnalia, a pagan Roman festival which pre-dated the birth of Christ, and which was supplanted by the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth. Since people gave each other small gifts during that winter festival, the custom was appropriated by early Church Fathers. (Although some Christians today refuse to celebrate because of those early roots, but I say, why let the devil have all festivals? It’s ok to celebrate the birth of Christ and give gifts!) Which gift was your favorite this year?

gift

The Gifts of the Magi, and Some Others Worth Mentioning

We give each Holiday season to commemorate the actions of the Magi in Matthew 2:11: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Gifts are a wonderful part of our Christmas celebration. But as you start enjoying the presents you received on Christmas, remember that there are gifts, and there are GIFTS:

There is the gift of life. There is the gift of love. And then there’s this: “For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).

“But the free GIFT is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the GIFT by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15, NIV)

“For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)

It’s About Living

No matter where you are and no matter what your circumstances today, never forget that Christmas is not about toys or things. It’s about a new history being made. It’s about new life. And it’s about a new KIND of life. To me, eternal life is an attitude that not only transcends time and space but it begins here and now! I like to think it is what Gus McCrae meant in “Lonesome Dove”. He said, “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you LIVE.”

gift

This new year, don’t limit Christmas gifts to a single day. Celebrate it all year long! Embrace life wherever you are. Live with an awareness of the gifts that matter. Don’t get so caught up in your new iPhone that you miss the greatest gift of all! Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Rhyme

Sing Hosanna, peace on earth! Celebrate the Savior’s birth!
As Angels sing, Rejoice with them! This baby, born in Bethlehem,
Made every earthly power shift, and offered us His matchless gift.
Give “Peace on earth” and spread “Good Cheer”! But tell me, if this isn’t clear:
Since Jesus showed that “God came near”, why celebrate just once a year?
Don’t take your faith from Christmas nights and pack it away with the Christmas lights!
In winter, summer, spring, and fall, open the greatest gift of all—
At home, abroad, at work or play—Celebrate Christmas every day!
Whenever you recall this rhyme: it’s Him, it’s you, it’s Christmas time!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If the Best Things in Life Really Are FREE, Why Do We Spend So Much on Mere Stuff?

As we come into the season of giving, retailers are banking on a ton of Christmas business to give them a profitable year. We all say the best things in life are FREE, but we don’t really live like it, do we? If you look around this Holiday season, the world is focused on material satisfaction disguised as Christmas gifts.

Isaiah had something to say about that: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3a, NIV) When Isaiah mentioned “the richest of fare” I’m sure his listeners could picture a sumptuous banquet table. I’m also pretty sure it didn’t sit well with them…

free

A Strange Message for Times of Turmoil

Isaiah preached in Judah (the southern Kingdom) at a time when he witnessed the invasion of Israel by Assyria. He also observed a civil war going on between Judah, and Israel, who allied herself with Syria and Damascus. He then saw the Assyrian conquest of Syria and nearby Samaria, and he observed Israel’s ultimate defeat when they were carried away into captivity.

In short, he lived in violent times filled with war and political unrest. I don’t know if you have ever been in a war zone, but they are not great places to live. Everyday life is disrupted, and refugees displaced by battles and marauding soldiers put an added economic burden on everyone else. In an agrarian society, crops are destroyed or stolen, and the cycle of farming gets interrupted. Trade also diminishes, so sources of food become more scarce than usual.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

That means that people who heard Isaiah preach either lived by their wits hand-to-mouth, or worked especially hard to protect whatever assets they had in order to survive. So how well do you think Isaiah’s sermon was received by his audience? “Come, you who have no money: come, buy and eat! Buy milk and wine without money and without cost.” Uh, Say what?

Isaiah was delivering a message that had to be confusing and perplexing to those who heard it. Picture the crowd as they listened: some of them were homeless, displaced by the violence and carelessness of the world. Some were poor and needy. “Where is this free wine and milk, Isaiah? Why do you torture us with images of rich fare, when we barely have a crust of bread?”

Other listeners were more fortunate, still untouched by war or perhaps stronger and able to fend for themselves. They would be more arrogant, scoffing at Isaiah’s sermon: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, Isaiah! I have worked hard for what I have, and have gotten it without any magic help from you or your God. I do not need your promises of satisfaction and rich fare, I am busy taking care of my own.”

The More things Change…

What fascinates me about this scenario is that some things never change. The reactions of those listening to Isaiah preach about God’s deliverance then were exactly the same as the way people react to the gospel today. Some people will say, “God couldn’t possibly love me, look how hard my life has been. Don’t bother me with a spiritual solution when my world is upside down.” Or, “I asked God to bless me but He ignored me.” “Where is this free food, this richest of fare?”

Some people reject God because he doesn’t come to them on their terms, but rather insists on His own. Those who are self-sufficient might say, “Why do I need God? I have worked hard and can take care of myself. Don’t try to sell me on free food and rich fare that money cannot buy. There’s no such thing.”

The Best Things in Life Are Free

The gospel can be confusing and perplexing because it is free. You can’t earn it and you can’t buy it. It is “wine and milk without money and without cost”. It promises satisfaction for free, and offers “the richest of fare” to all who accept it. “Come unto me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is “the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In a world full of materialism, greed, distractions, and conflict, God still offers the richest fare for free. Don’t let politics or circumstances keep you from seeing that Isaiah’s message was true then, and it still is. Listen, and live.

Isaiah’s Warning

The thing about the Gospel that is hard for us to see
Is even though it cost so much, God gives it to us free.
The world may lust for costly jewels, and men are killed for gold,
But values in God’s kingdom are not trifles bought and sold…
Isaiah called to everyone with hunger and with thirst
To listen to a word from God and put His teaching first!
He uttered exhortation to the congregation there,
And promised that his words would lead them to the richest fare.
And everyone who comes to God, the greatest to the least
Is welcome to the table at the Savior’s wedding feast.
The invitation beckons you: what answer will you give?
Isaiah says, “Give ear, and come to me, that you may live!”

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Ransom for Sin: It’s A Matter of Life and Death

The Price of Freedom

While it is usually reserved for kidnapping victims today, in ancient times it often applied to prisoners of war, or anyone who was unfortunate enough to fall into the wrong hands. Those holding the prisoner would request that a ransom be paid to free the captive, using their leverage to extort money from the victim’s family or government. If the captive didn’t have enough resources to pay ransom, they were usually sold into slavery or killed.

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were required to pay something like a ransom for sins, in the form of an offering. “And he brought the bull for the sin offering. Then Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull for the sin offering, and Moses killed it. Then he took the blood, and put some on the horns of the altar all around with his finger, and purified the altar. And he poured the blood at the base of the altar, and consecrated it, to make atonement for it.” (Leviticus 8:14-15, NIV)

ransom sacrifice

The Only Way Out

I have wondered about sacrifices, the physical act of slaughtering a bull or a goat and burning it upon an altar. It was a messy, bloody business, certainly an uncivilized way to do church. And yet the Hebrew priests and people participated in all manner of animal sacrifices to atone for sin. Why? Because the justice system of the universe treated sin like a deadly disease (which it was), Sin always ends in death, and sacrifices reminded everyone of that grisly reality.

Very early on, in Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam about the forbidden tree: “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Guess what? Adam and Eve didn’t die that day, but they both experienced the certainty of sin’s penalty thereafter. So have all of their descendants. In essence, mankind was kidnapped by sin in the garden, and Satan demanded the appropriate ransom.

ransom for sin

A Permanent Problem Required a Permanent Solution


In Romans 6:23, Paul reminds us that sin has a result: “for the wages of sin is death”. Leviticus 17:11 points out that Life of the flesh is in the blood. Sin is a life and death matter, and sacrifices provided a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty. Every time the Israelites killed an animal they were reminded that only death could satisfy the legal requirements for being disobedient. The ransom had to be paid.

There is no other way to deal with sin, and no way to get around it. Only by being sinless could someone avoid sin’s ultimate penalty, but no one could accomplish that, so God provided a temporary means for men to illustrate how that penalty would be paid until the permanent solution could occur. These temporary animal sacrifices helped prepare the way for the permanent necessary sacrifice that was to come. Sin required death for its participants, and the penalty was acknowledged through the sacrifices that were made.

But sin required a more permanent solution, one on the cosmic scale that death demanded. It was only by the willing substitution of the perfect man that sin’s debt for mankind could be paid. It’s important to remember that Jesus was a volunteer, not a victim. As he said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

To bring that statement home, you should take it personally: Sin and death kidnapped you, with the worst of intentions, and demanded that you pay the full price for all that you have done. You and I were held for ransom by death and needed full payment in order to be free from its clutches. But the Bible has some AMAZING NEWS! If you have been captured or held hostage by sin, the ransom has been paid! Your freedom has been secured.

Blood Price

Think, today, as you draw each breath,
the wages for all your sin is death!
Whatever you think, and whatever you’ve planned
Is hostage, held by death’s demand.
You pled your case to the Righteous Judge,
But He said the Law just couldn’t budge,
So Jesus took your ransom cost
And satisfied it on His cross:
In spite of every mistake you’ve made,
When the Reaper swings his deadly blade,
In spite of the way you’ve disobeyed,
Great news! Your ransom has been paid!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

An Ode to Debt: To the One Who Paid the Debt We Owed

Something We All Have…

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 12:8-10, NIV)

First Corinthians 13 is certainly a wonderful description of love, but Paul wrote another love chapter in Romans 12 that actually extends about halfway into Romans 13. It is chock full of practical applications about love. The first seven verses exhort Christians to respect authority and to obey those in authority over them, because love is not rebellious or selfish. He encourages us to “give everyone what you owe them”, whether it be financial, social, or spiritual. (Taxes, revenue, respect, honor…)

Who do you owe something to? Paul says we are to live as if we have a “continuing debt of love to one another.” Think for a moment about the people in your life; who are you indebted to? Is there anyone to whom you owe a heart-felt ‘thank you’, an apology, or a kind word? Is there anyone to whom you should express respect or honor? What is keeping you from completing that transaction? Paul then draws his logical progression of thought to a close with an important conclusion about love: it is debt-free.

Free From Debt

The law is based upon debt. When you break the law, you owe a penalty for what you did. It is only by paying the penalty that you can atone for your transgression and obtain pardon. The fundamental problem with sin and selfishness on a cosmic scale is that we accumulate more debt than we can repay, and God’s righteousness requires payment for justice to be served.

debt paid

But Not For Free…

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Love paid the debt, and Paul says the only way to keep from incurring further debt is to live in love. Once again he echoes the teachings of Jesus (how did he know so much about what Jesus taught without a printing press or even the internet?), who said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Love fulfills the law in several ways. It offers payment for the penalty of the law; it offers freedom in the presence of the law; and it prevents our falling further under the power of the law. It’s not money or stuff that enables you to live debt-free, it’s only love. Go do something loving today. Send a word of encouragement. Mend an old fence. Say that ‘thank you’ to someone you once carelessly forgot to thank. Give a hug. Or just get down on your knees and remember who you were most indebted to, and who paid the debt.

Ode To Debt

Heaven: everyone wants in,
But everyone is touched by sin;
Remember as you draw each breath,
The wages for your sin is death.
You owe a debt you cannot pay
No matter what you do or say.
In spite of all the plans you’ve made,
You have a debt that must be paid.
But God reached out to you, and me,
And Jesus paid our penalty.
He superseded time and space,
And offered us amazing grace:
He paid our debt. He took our place.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

If You Like Betting, Here’s a Tip About Sins: They Always Pay Off

Truth and Consequences

Sins are something we hear about from the time we are little. Sure, it starts out as “Make good decisions”, but eventually we know what they are really talking about. There are actions that are forbidden. Some of those actions are big and obvious, and some of them are smaller and don’t seem to mean as much. The truth is, though, everybody commits sins as if there are no consequences.

Perhaps every now and then we should remind ourselves that sins have a price, and they have to be accounted for. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…” Isaiah 1:18-19

So, Define Sin

The Bible seems to make a big deal about sin, but the whole idea of sin is not a real popular topic in our culture. If you call something sin, then you are defining what people should or shouldn’t do, and we should all be able to decide that for ourselves, right? If you call me a sinner, then perhaps you are being biased or judgmental. Who are you to judge what is wrong or right?

Sin suggests personal failure and individual accountability, but when people do something wrong in our society there are suddenly a vast array of excuses and explanations about why it’s suddenly ok to break the law or disobey authority. Somebody else did something wrong, so it’s ok for me to do something wrong in return. (Whatever happened to “two wrongs don’t make a right”?)

A Definition that Hits the Bulls-eye

The New Testament uses the Greek word amartano for sin. It means “I miss the mark”. It was a term also used in archery to describe any shot that didn’t hit the bulls-eye. The whole notion of sins is not so much connected to every individual act, but rather the impact of falling short, of failing to achieve perfection. If you miss the mark, then you have sinned. Perfection equals sinless-ness. Anything less than perfection equals sin.

In Romans 3:23, Paul says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Since nobody is perfect, then everybody is a sinner. Them. Me. You. We are all subject to sin, and yes, we all lie, cheat, disobey, disrespect, demand our own way, and do wrong. Here’s what Paul says about that in the first part of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”

sins wages

So, what’s the big deal about sin? The presence of sin provides a certain payday, and its ultimate reward is always death. Isaiah uses graphic terms to describe it. He says your sins “are like scarlet”, and “red as crimson”. If you have ever killed a deer or butchered an animal, then these descriptions make sense. The blood price of sin is death, and Isaiah reminds us that sin is an ugly, messy, despicable business. When sin entered our world, death came with it as an inescapable consequence. (See “Adam and Eve”)

sins pay off

Don’t Take Away My Fun!

Isn’t it interesting that Satan, who wants us all to die, markets sin as fun, when ultimately it’s really just the opposite? He told Eve she could be like God. He tells us today that the Lord is like a cosmic kill-joy who wants to take away all our fun, but if you drill down into the logical extension of sin, perhaps there is a larger picture. They say that the most common last words in Texas are “Hold my beer and watch this!” That’s probably not true, but consider:

Getting a nice warm buzz on cold beer helps us to party, but when you find yourself crossing out of your lane into that semi, or dying in a hospital bed from cirrhosis of the liver, then sin is not really so fun anymore… Recreational drugs can get you high and provide escape, but when you are fighting addiction and can’t shake it, then sin suddenly stops being fun anymore. The heat of passion might be exciting, but when you find yourself in a broken relationship, or sitting in a clinic about to have an abortion, then sin is really not so fun anymore… Satan’s marketing plan is to sell sin as fun in order to sow tragedy.

The Real Reason God hates Sin

God doesn’t hate sin because it’s fun. He hates sin because it’s deadly. God created us in his image, blessed with His love and possibilities, offering us all the trees in the garden and eternal life in return for obedience—and instead we chose self-will, fun and death. Be grateful today that our Father understands the impact of sin, and provided the answer.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus Christ offered himself in our place as a sinless substitute to pay our sinful death penalty.

Isaiah says that our scarlet sins will be made white as snow, and our crimson stain will be as white as wool. When you read ALL of Romans 6:23, Isaiah’s words make sense: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have ever sinned, be glad. If you have ever sinned, be grateful.

The Wages of Sin

Every man or woman who has ever drawn a breath
Will someday learn that wages of the sin they did are death.
Adam and Eve discovered that when Paradise was Lost,
And made their own decisions without reckoning the cost.
And so it is with all of us. The courtroom we are in
Demands we pay the deadly, scarlet penalty for sin.
But God allowed His Son to pay our penalty in full:
Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool!
Though Satan calls for us to join his deadly, angry horde,
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Wake Up and Live Today! Don’t be One of the Walking Dead

Too Late?

Lazarus had died, and it seemed to everyone that his good friend Jesus had arrived too late to help him live. But like he does on so many occasions, Jesus offered a different perspective: “These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11, NKJV) And of course the rest is history. Lazarus was raised from the dead and was given new life! Have you ever thought about how Lazarus must have felt AFTER Jesus called him out of the tomb? We know how much his sisters loved him, and I can only imagine the joy when their family was reunited in such a dramatic way.

John described Lazarus’ post-resurrected celebrity as well as how the Pharisees felt about him in John 12:9-11: “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” Different people had different motives for wanting to get a glimpse of Lazarus. Some wanted to confirm that their friend was newly risen from the dead; some were just plain curious.

Some People Will Hate you Just For Being Happy

The Pharisees had a different motivation. They wanted to kill him. They had been planning to kill Jesus, but they figured they better get rid of Lazarus, too, since he was living proof of the Master’s work. It’s kind of amazing to think that not everybody was happy with Lazarus’ new life. But I bet Lazarus was! Do you think he lived each day with heightened appreciation, with a greater sense of joy and purpose? Surely he did, because he had been brought back from the dead by the Living God. He had new life! He was given a second chance! He went from being one of Jesus’ friends to perhaps his most devoted follower. Of course, that brings up a couple of questions.

1) Have you been given new life by the Son of God? Theologically, that’s the position and experience of everyone who follows Jesus. Paul says in Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin are death, which means we can be spiritually dead even while we are physically alive. However, once we decide to accept God’s grave by faith, Paul says this: “God has made you alive, who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) That means our world has two kinds of people: those who are alive, and those who are walking dead–physically alive but spiritually unaware.

Live, Today

We can live a fresh new day of our eternal life TODAY! So, do you live each day with a heightened sense of appreciation, and with greater joy and purpose? One of our daily themes at Eagle Lake Camp was, “I will live today as if it were my last!” Perhaps we can learn from Lazarus, who truly knew what that meant.

Come to think of it, what would life be like if you took the inverse of that and said, “I will live each day as if it were my FIRST!”? What if you looked at life today as if it were brand new? What if you saw the world today as if it was a brand new experience? What if you were experiencing love for the first time? Laughing? Meeting and interacting with people as if was your very first day? Lazarus did, and so can we. If you’ve been the recipient of new life, act like it!

2) Are you a member of the walking dead, or are you awake like Lazarus? Are you living proof of the Master’s work? When Lazarus came forth, do you think he had a new vision and a new set of dreams? Did people around him look at him differently, and did he change his behavior, breaking free from his grave-clothes to walk towards new life and new possibilities? Paul Valery said, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” It happened for Lazarus. It can happen for us.

live Lazarus
A Most Unusual Funeral

Jesus wept. His good friend Lazarus lay there in the grave,
And everybody mourned the man who Jesus came to save.
They'd all come for a funeral, from the south and from the north;
But Jesus prayed and then he cried out, "Lazarus, come forth!"
And somewhere, from within the grave a rustling sound was heard;
From within the darkened cave a waking man had stirred!
Lazarus, blinking in the light, was walking! People froze,
Astounded at the man who stumbled in his burial clothes.
Lazarus must have paused and wondered how this came to be;
So Jesus said, "He lives. Unloose his bonds, and set him free."
You might think this miracle was something rare to see,
But I was dead; and Jesus also said those words to me!
Now, I walk this earth alive, and I am very sure
That death would take us all, but Jesus is the only cure.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread