Tag Archives: confession

His Grace Will Tune You Up

Story of the Day for Saturday December 31, 2011

His Grace Will Tune Us Up

            God’s grace teaches us to renounce godlessness and worldly desires, and to live wisely, justly, and godly in this present time.                                                                                               Titus 2:11-12

 I like New Year’s Day, for the obvious reason that there’s a lot of football games on TV. But, in a deeper sense, a new year is refreshing because it’s the closest that Time comes to picturing the grace of God.

 

When we begin a new year, the slate is wiped clean.

And what happens when we put the past behind us? Inevitably, we look forward. We’re optimistic, and make resolutions to lose weight or to clean the broom closet. When we don’t have to lug last year into the future, we feel light and cheery. We don’t want to be slugs (for more than a day). We want to live.

 

Some think that, when Jesus forgives your sins, it makes you want to sin more. If you assure a criminal, for example, that, if he robs a bank, he will be immune from prosecution, wouldn’t that motivate him to rob more banks?

It would seem so. But let me ask you this: does the arrival of a New Year make you want to fail in your new resolution to lose fifteen pounds by summer? No, whenever we put the past behind us, we’re fired up to do better.

 

When I was an adolescent, we visited my grandma in Upper Michigan. I sat down at the piano, and, not knowing how to play, sounded awful.

Then my sister, Lois, who was a child prodigy at piano, sat down to play. Not to brag or anything, but she has gone on to play piano for the Detroit Metropolitan Opera. A vocalist demanded that she be flown to London as her accompanist. She has even performed at Carnegie Hall.

From memory, my sister played an intricate piano piece. And you know what? It sounded awful too!  If Beethoven played this piano it would have hurt your ears, because grandma’s piano hadn’t been tuned since sometime before the French Revolution.

 

In the end, the New Year can evoke God’s grace, but cannot replace it. If we resolve to play a better song with our lives this coming year, but our piano is still out of tune, then we’ll produce nothing of beauty.

That’s why we need to confide in the Lord and to confess that our life is out of tune. His grace will tune us up.

I can hardly wait to start hammering away at “Chopsticks.”

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Walking Out of the Manure

Story of the Day for Monday December 5, 2011

Walking Out of the Manure

                    In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea, saying, ”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”     

                                                                    Matthew 3:1-2

When I was in kindergarten, the circus came to town.  They promoted the circus by sending “frontrunners” to Gosling’s store.  They let you wrap a boa constrictor over your shoulders.  But the thing I remember most is that they let you pet a porcupine.

Did I just say they let you pet a porcupine?  Wouldn’t you get quills in your hand?  Actually, you don’t.  The circus people told us to pet the porcupine in a smooth motion, but you must move from head to tail.

Now, what if some kid didn’t want anyone telling him what to do or how to do it?  What if he defied instruction and petting the porcupine from the tail to the head?  Could he do that?  Of course.  But it would be unpleasant.

God instructs us in the best way to live.  Whenever we defy God, it is like petting a porcupine from tail to head.  We end up with a handful of needle-sharp quills.

 

The first words recorded of John the Baptist are, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  He called the people of Israel to change their minds about how they lived, to confess their ways as wrong, and to find the forgiveness of sin as they were baptized in the Jordan River.

 

Whenever I hear the word, “repent,” it sounds severe and threatening.  I don’t like it.  I have learned to associate the word, “repent,” with God sternly threatening that I better shape up or He’s going to scorch me in His wrath.

Actually, repentance is a gracious word from God.  The Lord is telling us we’re walking in the wrong direction and he’s saying, “Hey! I’m over here. Turn around.”  God uses repentance to make our life better.

 

When I was an adolescent, our family stopped at a farm in Ohio so my dad could visit with his old buddy from the war.  One of the farmer’s sons was my age so we went to do fun stuff.  We climbed to the top of the silo, rode boar hogs, and built a fort in the hay mow.   But our crowning adventure was trying to ride cows.  I say trying to ride cows because I didn’t do so well.  I fell off in the barnyard and splatted into several inches of watery manure.

Did I mention that we were going to a funeral later that day and I was wearing dress clothes?

Repentance began when I admitted that riding cows in dress clothes was not a good idea.  But only when I was willing to walk out of the barnyard and go to the house could I get a bath, and have my clothes thrown in the washer before we left for the funeral.

God can cleanse no one who refuses to walk out of the manure. We repent when we leave the stench of our ways and let Him wash us clean.

We smell so much better.

                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Repentance Leads Us to Good Places

Story of the Day for Saturday November 19, 2011

Repentance Leads Us to Good Places

                                                     Look what this godly sorrow has worked in you. . . 

                                                                                               2 Corinthians 7:11

 Craig Brian Larson tells the stories I would like to pass on today.

New York’s Citicorp skyscraper was completed in 1977.   Structural engineers hailed the work of architect, William LeMessurier, as they praised this seventh tallest building in the world.

But a year after the building opened, LeMessurier noticed a frightening error.  Certain joints in the superstructure had been bolted.  Nothing wrong with that, except that LeMessurier had neglected to calculate the extra force of a non-perpendicular wind.  He learned that, once every 16 years, a wind comes along which would be strong enough to collapse the joint on the 13th floor.

No one knew about his mistake. If LeMessurier admitted the error, he could face lawsuits, bankruptcy, and disgrace.  LeMessurier took a deep breath and informed city officials.  Welding, costing several million dollars, began immediately and in three months the structure was pronounced one of the safest structures ever built.

And LeMessurier?  Rather than seeing his career in ruins, his reputation soared.  One engineer praised LeMessurier for having the courage to say, “I got a problem. I made the problem.  Let’s fix the problem.”

 

When we recognize and admit our sin, we usually experience a time of sadness.  We feel a genuine sorrow for how we have failed God and how we have hurt others.

But repentance lifts us out of the pit of sorrow.  Jesus has come to inspect the sorry mess we have created, and to forgive us.  How do you describe the utter relief that comes from being released from your sins?

 

When a child wanders from the path his parents tell him to take and winds up falling into a deep pit, it is comforting to know his parents will come looking for him.  It is more comforting to know that they are more concerned than angry.  But the greatest relief is in knowing that they will do anything to help us climb out of the pit.

The final step, however, is the determination to stay on the trail and avoid the pit.

In 1989, University of Michigan basketball player, Rumeal Robinson stepped to the foul line late in the game.  Down by one point, his two shots could put them back in the lead.  He missed them both and Wisconsin won an upset victory.

Robinson felt bad that his two missed shots cost his team the game.  But he didn’t leave it at that.  He “repented.”  He determined that he would work to become better at shooting free throws and began shooting 100 extra foul shots after each practice.

The University of Michigan made it to the national championship game.  With three seconds left, Rumeal was fouled and went to the free throw line with two shots.  First shot, swish.  Second shot, swish, and the Michigan Wolverines were national champions.

Repentance leads us to good places.

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Stoned to Death With Popcorn

Story of the Day for Friday November 18, 2011

Stoned To Death With Popcorn

                 He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will find mercy. 

                                                                                Proverbs 28:13

 A church in our neighborhood had a dirt parking lot.  One summer they paved it and it looked so much nicer.  No members tromping into church through mud puddles.

But a year later, the pavement was broken up in many places.  It looked awful.  Know why?  They paved over lots of weeds.  And when they started to grow, the pavement looked like it had suffered a heavy mortar attack.

Ever since the Garden, where Adam and Eve grabbed fig leaves and decided that hiding from God was a good plan, we have been trying to cover up our sins.  Maybe we like our sin far too much to let go of it.  Maybe we are ashamed of it and are afraid of the consequences if we are exposed.  Whatever the reason, from time to time we all get the dopey notion that we can hide things from God.

This is a just a friendly reminder: YOU CAN’T HIDE ANYTHING FROM GOD.  What were you thinking!

 

I am a master at the art of self-deception.  Here is the trick I use.  I throw God some “confession scraps” and see if He goes for them.  It’s really quite simple.  You confess in generalities.  Tell God you’re a sinner and you haven’t always been the person you should be.  (The implication to God is that, yeah, I’m not perfect – but, then again, neither is anybody else.)  If you confess to other people, don’t even call your behavior a sin.  Tell them you made a “mistake,” or an “error in judgment.”

A Roman Catholic priest once said that hearing confession from nuns is like “being stoned to death with popcorn.”  That’s what I try to do with God sometimes.  Throw out the small stuff and see if it works.

Well, it doesn’t work.

 

This proverb is trying to teach us that hiding our sins and paving them over is a boneheaded idea.  It’s like trying to deny you stole a beach ball by hiding it underwater.  it’s not easy and you must exercise constant effort to keep it down there.

The second half of this proverb is crucial: if you tell God your sins – all of them, and especially the ones that hurt a lot to admit – He will show you mercy.

This is the wonder of God.  Even when we know in our bones that he ought to destroy us, or at least make us suffer, He wants to give us mercy.  God is merciful, but we receive His mercy when we uncover ourselves to Him.   When we hide stuff, it’s like having something rotting in a dark, dank cellar.  Confession is telling God what smells so bad and letting Christ clean up the mess, and open the windows to let in the fresh air.

 

It’s a whole lot better than lurking behind trees with a handful of fig leaves.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

Two Wagon Loads

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 13, 2011

Two Wagon Loads

                    For you became saddened as God intended. . . Godly sorrow works repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. . .   

                                                                  2 Corinthians 7:9-10

 Have you ever been driving in an unfamiliar area and slowly realized you were going the wrong direction?  You may not be happy about it, but the fastest way to get to where you want to go is to turn around and go backwards.

If you refused to turn around, even though you know it is the shortest way to your destination, and stubbornly bulled your way in the wrong direction, do you know what you are?  You’re an idiot, that’s what.

When we repent, we admit we’re presently moving in the wrong direction, and that the shortest way is to turn around and go backward in order to go forward.  (You might want to pause here for a minute if you need some time to think about that last statement.)

 

Maybe repentance is not a joyful word to me because I think of the disappointment when I realize I’m going the wrong way in life.  But maybe it will help if we think of the sadness as preceding the repentance.

The whole process looks like this: First, we discover that we are going the wrong way.  We’re not living the way God wants us to.   Now, we are sad about our failure to please God.  We’re sad because we have hurt other people by our sin.  And we’re sad because we have wasted our time going the wrong way and now we will have to turn around and start over.

The sadness over our sin comes first.  But then the repentance is the act of turning around.  Repentance is turning around to find that God forgives us and is encouraging us.  This is the order the apostle Paul is teaching us.  First, the believers at Corinth were saddened by the realization of their sin.  Their “godly sorrow” then led them to repent.  Their repentance now opened up to them the life of God’s “salvation,” – and now they have no regrets about the direction God is taking them.

 

We need to be careful here.  Many people get the notion that repentance means we got caught sinning and now we just say we’re sorry.  But we’re not sorry about our sin; we’re only sorry we got caught.  But, after we say we’re sorry. . . nothing changes.

Did you ever hear the story about the farmer who goes to his priest for confession?  He confesses that he stole two wagon loads of his neighbor’s hay.  The priest is surprised, and simply remarks, “Two wagon loads!”  The farmer then clarifies himself, “Well, I’ve only stole one wagon load so far.  I plan to steal the second load tomorrow.”

Telling God we’re sorry is not a “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free” card that gets God off our back so we’re free to continue botching up our life.  True repentance always leads to the desire to change our ways and live as God wants us to.  We may continue to flub up a million times, but each time we repent, it must be with the intent to find the right direction and go there.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

The Singing and Dancing of Angels

Story of the Day for Friday June 10, 2011

The Singing and Dancing of Angels

                  And coming to his senses he said, “. . .I will go to my father and tell him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven
and before you. . .’”

Luke 15:18-19

Our heavenly Father is not always the best listener. At least, not as Jesus tells it in his parable.

The younger son demanded his share of the inheritance. This was an audacious insult – tantamount to saying he
wished his father was dead. He did not want a relationship with his father; he only wanted things from his father. Once he had what he wanted, he left home.

He partied hard. But in the end, he was hungry, homeless, and lonely. Sitting in a pig sty gives you time to think. The broken
son realized that even his dad’s servants enjoyed the security of a roof over their heads and bread from his father’s table.

With nothing more to lose, the son decided to head for home. He carefully rehearsed his speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

The son was still a long way off, when the father saw him walking home. What happened next was so shocking that those in the Middle East could not even bear to translate it in their Bibles for 1800 years. Not until 1860 did the first Bible from a
Middle Eastern culture translate Jesus’ words that the father “ran.”

Men of wealth or prominence in this culture never, ever run. It is disgraceful because honor is shown by the slowness of your pace. The rabbis taught that dignified men must always keep one foot on the ground.

But the father is so overwhelmed at the sight of his lost son that he utterly humiliates himself – he races to meet his son.

The rules of etiquette would have the son initiating the greeting by kissing his father’s hand – or, if he had wronged him, by kneeling to kiss his feet.

The son did neither. He never got the chance. His father wrapped him in a bear hug and kissed him on the neck.

With his father’s hot tears on his shoulder, the son began his prepared speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be. . .”

But, as Jesus tells it, the father was not a good listener. He doesn’t wait for his son to finish before he calls out to his servants, “Bring him the long robe! And the family signet ring! And sandals!” The party is on!

Don’t ever forget this. When you turn toward home, you may not receive respectful silence for the recitation of
your confession. The singing and dancing of the angels may very well drown out your nice speech.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)