Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Genesis 30:33 In the future, you’ll be able to verify my honesty because, when you come to check what I’ve earned, if you find a goat that’s not speckled or spotted or a sheep that’s not black, then it will have been stolen by me.”

dirtyrottenscoundrelsIt’s a Steve Martin and Michael Caine classic, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”  This is a movie about two men who are con artists.  They pretend to be someone they are not in order to scam wealthy women out of their money.  Their hoaxes are elaborate and the movie is hilarious!  While it’s entertaining, it certainly isn’t right.  I can enjoy such a thing on the big screen but real life is a different story.  I mean, who would pretend to be someone they aren’t?  Who would be upstanding in front of others, but do evil in private?   Do you know anyone like that?  Does your mirror know anyone like that?

Jacob was a dirty rotten scoundrel.  He tells Laban, “I am being honest with you… let’s shake on it.”  Apparently Laban didn’t know Jacob’s history; he was anything but honest.  Sure enough when Laban wasn’t watching, he did some of his own genetic modification of sheep.  I mean, this guy was an all out cheater.  He pretended to be his brother to his blind father and now he colors sheep to fatten his inheritance.  What a scoundrel!

The thing that strikes me most about this whole episode is how different Jacob’s words are from his actions.  He claims to be this honest man, full of integrity.  But in secret, there’s a whole other story.  His home life is riddled with crazy soap opera drama where his wives try to one-up each other by having the most babies.  They even get their servants in on the competition.  It’s crazy!  But here is Jacob proclaiming his integrity to his father-in-law.  The next thing you know, he is cheating in secret.

I want to judge Jacob.  I want to point my finger at him and point out all his errors.  I want to shake my head in disbelief that he would say one thing and then do another.  Then the Holy Spirit grabs my finger and points it back at me.  He shows me my own frailty and my own hypocrisy.  He shows me the places in which I say one thing and do another.  And in that place, I am humbled and broken before my God.  My eyes are opened to the places where I need to surrender.  I have fresh vision of where I am in and where I need to be.

*Will you join me in this prayer? Lord, strip away everything within me that is not of you.  Forgive me Lord where I have failed you.  Lord, raise me up in your great mercy to places where I will walk with you unscathed by my own humanity.  Bring me to a place where my life is consistent, faithful, and honoring of you in all things.  Lord, I thank you for your gentle rebuke and your love that calls me forward. 

You have got to be kidding

Acts 25:13-15 13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.

april-1-foolThis is just ridiculous.  Is it April Fool’s day or something?  How is it that after two years of sitting in prison under Felix, the chief priests and elders still have a beef?  Seriously, they are still working up a conspiracy plan to kill Paul.  Two years of him sitting in jail.  Two years of the church growing like crazy.  Two years of the Holy Spirit at work.  Two years worth of leaders raised up.  Yet they are still gunning for Paul.  Move on, guys.  It’s time to get over it.

When I read this passage today my thought was: you have got to be kidding!  How is it that after all this time, these guys are still ticked off?  They killed Jesus and that didn’t help them, so what good will it do to keep a grudge against Paul?  It won’t help at all.  Hanging on to lame arguments and past hurts injures the person hanging on.  It kept their focus on taking care of Paul while the church of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire all around them.

We can read this story and wonder what their problem is.  We can point our fingers and mock their stupidity.  We wonder how it is that they just couldn’t let go of this one.  In fact, the text says that they were charging him with stuff they couldn’t prove.  I bet they couldn’t even remember why they were mad in the first place.  Yes, those morons just couldn’t get over it.  But what about us?  Are we hanging on to foolish things that are only hurting us?  Are we remaining stuck because our feelings got hurt two years ago?  Hanging on to the past hurts you.  You might be laughing at the chief priests and elders today, but if you are doing the same thing… the joke’s on you.

*Are you hanging on to stuff that is hurting you?  Stop looking back, forgive, and see what happens when you start looking forward.

Dumpster Diving God

Nahum 2:2 The LORD will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.

dumpster-dive

I’m starting to think God is a dumpster diver.  It’s not because He is hungry or homeless or in need.  It’s just that He seems to find some pretty good stuff in there.  He finds things that the world threw out and considered worthless.  He uncovers valuable gems that others thought had no value.  It’s dirty stuff He finds, too.  But He is a restoration master!  He can take what others thought was junk and make it into a work of art.  Yes, He finds some good stuff in there.

Maybe that’s where He found you.  In the second chapter of Nahum, the prophet states that destroyers have laid the people of Jacob to waste and ruined them.  They were trampled on, destroyed, thrown out with the garbage.  There they lay in the dumpster waiting for the garbage truck to pick them up.  They were without hope wallowing in their worthless life.  But their dumpster diving God was on His way.  He was going to restore their splendor, clean them up, and make them new.

That’s what God does.  He reaches down into that dumpster  and pulls each one of us out.  When we feel outcast, He finds us.  When the world calls us worthless, He gives us worth.  When we are covered in the slime of sin – He extends His hand, His grace, and His forgiveness.  Yes, my God is a great dumpster diver!  And for this I am ever thankful.  I am thankful that He is willing to push through the garbage and find me in barren places.  I am thankful that He finds value in those who find no value in themselves.  As the king and psalmist David once said: “God you have pulled me out of the dumpster… er, I mean, pit.”  Thank you Lord!

Lame at hide-n-seek

Hosea 7:2 But they never consider that I remember all their evil. Now their sins are all around them; they are right in front of My face.

I am a master at hide-n-seek… especially when I play with my 3-year-old.  Have you ever played with a young child?  They really aren’t that good at it.  They hide in obvious locations, giggle when you walk by, and sometimes even say “I’m over here daddy.”  Seriously they seem to hide right in front of my face.  But they think they are hiding; they think they are a master illusionist act.  No, not so much.

Mankind is pretty lame at playing hide-n-seek with God.  It started with Adam and Eve, really.  Their sin caused them to try and hide from God.  Walking through the garden, God did what any good dad would do, “Where are you Adam?  I can’t find you.”  All the while, God knew where they were.  They were really lame hiders.  The Israelites thought they could hide their sin, too.  But they were covered in it.  Their sins were right in front of God’s face – He saw it all! It’s like the kid with chocolate all over his face who says, “I didn’t eat the candy bar.”  Buddy, that chocolate on your face is giving you away.

This isn’t saying that God was sitting there holding the past over Israel.  After all, Isaiah 43:25 says, “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.” But if you want God to forgive and forget your sins, you’ve got to come out of hiding first.  You need to confess.  Most of us are afraid to do so, thinking that once God discovers our sin, it will mess up our chance at heaven.  Or maybe we will make Him mad.  Here’s the thing: the chocolate is already on your face.  Because we are really lame hiders.  God sees it so why try to hide it.  Instead, go to Him in humility and confess your need for Him.  Receive His grace and forgiveness.  He’s calling out “Olly olly oxen free!”    So come on already.  Get out from behind that couch and run to your Savior!

The Messenger

1 Kings 14:7-9  7 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and made you a leader over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.

Uh oh… someone’s in trouble.  Remember when you were a kid and your brother got into big trouble and you were the messenger?  Yikes!  Sometimes it was exciting to tell them they were in trouble, because they had just clocked you in the face with a plastic toy.  Other times, you were afraid for them as the wrath of mom and dad was about to come.  Imagine being Jeroboam’s wife in this situation; she had to be the messenger.  “Hey Bo, I’ve got some bad news for you.”

And what a message it was! “I raised you up,” God told him.  “I called you out among the people, chose you, and made you king.  I told you to follow all my commands and I would be with you.  I wanted to be your God, your one and only.  I was ready to bless you and your descendants.  But you couldn’t manage to set me alone in your heart.  You didn’t follow my commands, but followed the evil in your heart.  You turned your back on me and now I am angry.  You have experienced my blessing, but now you will experience my wrath.”

I don’t know about you, but I would be freaking out right about now.  Nobody wants to get news like that.  It’s news that cuts to the heart and makes you want to throw up.  It was too late for Jereboam to do anything about it, too.  He had already messed up so bad that God had made up His mind.  But today God has mind up His mind about something else.  He has made up his mind to forgive you and accept you regardless of how bad you’ve blown it.  He sent His Son to usher in forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation.  And each day you get to choose to serve Him.  He wants to be loved with all your heart; He wants to be your one and only.

He gave us the Holy Spirit to not only comfort us, but to correct us.  He warns us of our sin and gives us the power to cut off our allegiance to other gods.  He helps us in our weakness and gives us strength to remove our idols.  That’s our God!  So if the Holy Spirit is bringing you some bad news about the allegiance of your heart, do something about it today.  Fix your eyes only on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.  It’s not too late.

Oops, I did it again

Luke 15:21-22  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

Oh man, I blew it again.  I can’t believe it.  Will God really forgive me?  I don’t feel like I deserve it.  Have you ever been in this situation? No?  Okay, check your pulse for me, I’ll wait…   I think it’s safe to say we can all identify with those thoughts.  We’ve all made mistakes and at some point feel unworthy.  What is God’s response to that?  What is His response to our sin?

Forgiveness.  What we see in verse 21 is a repentant heart.  We see a young man who completely messed up and he knew it.  His only option was to come back to his father and admit he was wrong.  He had to confess his sin.  He even expressed that he didn’t expect to be a son anymore.  Rather, he recognized his unworthiness.  But the father did something remarkable – he put a clean robe on him.   It was his best robe, too.  The father covered his filthiness.  He covered his mistakes and forgave him.  By putting the robe on him, he was symbolically saying that the son was made clean.  (Yes it is symbolic, this is a parable).

Secondly, the father put a ring on the son’s finger.  A ring is a symbol of dignity.  By putting the ring on his finger, he was telling him that he was restoring his dignity.  He was removing the shame of his mistake.  Third, he put sandals on the son’s feet.  Now you must know that the boy had plans to come back and be a servant.  Typically in those times, the servants didn’t have sandals.  They weren’t given to them.  Money spent on shoes was for the family, not for the slaves.  So by putting sandals on his feet, he was telling him, “I restore you as my son.”

It’s a remarkable parable, really.  Leave it to Jesus to be a good story teller.  In it, Jesus reveals the Father’s heart.  When we mess up, we can come to Him with a humble heart and confess to Him.  Do you know what He will do?  He will cover our filthiness and make us clean.  He will take away our shame and restore our dignity.  And He we remind us that we are sons and daughters.  He is a God of restoration and healing.  If you are still wondering and wandering, go home today.  Just go home.  He’s waiting on the road, ready to receive you.

The burden of unforgiveness

2 Samuel 3:26-27 26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the gateway, as though to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

What is up with these people?!  They just keep killing each other like crazy.  Is that really the best solution that they could come up with?  Here we have Joab who is still pretty ticked off about his brother Asahel getting killed by Abner.  Not to mention that Abner had told Asahel to stop following or he would kill him.  So Joab gets all bent out of shape when Abner tries to make peace with David… and he kills him.

That’s the best response you could come up with Joab?  After all this time you are still that messed up that you have to kill the guy?  There was another option, you know.  He could have forgiven.  It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.  Here he was, living with that feeling inside him that he needed to get even.  It kept him trapped, locked up, imprisoned.  The only way to take care of that feeling was to act on it.

If only he knew the power of forgiveness.  It takes that burden away and places it on the shoulders of our God, who can handle it.  It gives us peace and restores order to our hearts.  Forgiveness.  It’s what Jesus died for.  If you are trapped today by wrongs done to you and feelings of hate and anger, you have a choice to make.  Will you kill that person in your heart or choose to forgive?  I promise you that if you will choose forgiveness, you will find that you are the one who is truly set free.