Tag Archives: sin

Are You Building Up or Breaking Down?

Have you have ever watched a home or a building being constructed? It can seem to take forever to complete. Digging the foundation is a big job. Weather conditions have to be just right for many parts of the construction. There is an order that must be followed or you will end up with an unreliable structure. All of this to say that building or unifying is hard work. It is God’s work and it is often beyond what we are capable of doing on our own.

On the other hand, destroying is quick and easy. A couple of well-placed explosives and some front-loaders and dump trucks can clear a building or bridge rather quickly as we witnessed recently in our neighborhood. It is relatively easy to take down a building or a family. Divisiveness or destruction is the Devil’s work. He is completely thrilled when he sees us giving into this temptation. There is no need for help when it comes to sin. We are perfectly capable of doing this all on our own. The real lie we often believe is that our personal sin affects no one but ourselves. Ha, ha, ha. That is a really great “whopper” of a lie. Because when we sin, we separate ourselves even further from God. We separate ourselves from each other. Our sin can divide our friendships, our church, and ultimately our family.

Keeping a family together demands God’s help. We must practice forgiveness daily. We must serve each other, not use each other. We must practice charity when we would really like to “give them a piece of my mind.” We must keep God at the center of our family— not soccer, not television, not money. Unifying your family is a real challenge in today’s world. When the media is screaming that we should want more, do less, and live a life of vice, you wonder where the truth has gone. I say we must fight this good fight and not allow Satan to have his way with ourselves or our family. And it starts with visiting the church of two-knees!

 

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Never Argue with the Devil

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have read the story of the Temptation of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 4 but never even realized what exactly Jesus was doing here. All along, I thought that Jesus was outwitting the Devil! I was so focused on how Jesus could not be trapped by Satan and his empty promises, that I assumed that Jesus was just a better debater. I fundamentally overlooked the most important part of this Gospel and it has affected me terribly in life.

Let me start at the beginning:

  1. Jesus is “led by the Spirit.” That explains my first mistake. I have lived my life basically leading myself–my goals, my dreams, my life. Really, I did not leave a whole lot of room for the Spirit to even visit, let alone lead me anywhere. I wasn’t open to this or aware of the need for it as a young person.
  2. “To be tempted by the Devil.” Okay, so this should have taught me that in reality there are going to be temptations in life that are brought on by the devil. I live in a time when most people no longer believe or teach that Satan is real. And don’t even mention “sin” because according to those same people, sin no longer exists either. (P.S. I now know that these are both big lies!)
  3. “He fasted for forty days and forty nights.” I think about the self-mastery necessary to fast for this long, and realize that Jesus knew that he must cleanse himself first before facing “other.”
  4. “And afterwards he was hungry.” Do you want to know who you really are? Let yourself get really hungry–do not eat for an entire day or two while still maintaining your usual work load. By the end of the day, review how you have acted towards those around you. How kind were your words? Did you help others before helping yourself? Could you maintain your peace? When I am hungry, I feel my inner toddler coming out and it is not pretty at all. I can only imagine if I had to face Satan after 40 days of fasting. Would I have the inner fortitude to survive?
  5. “The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” A-Ha! Eureka! This is the passage that blew my mind and our good Pope Francis was the one who broke it open for me. Jesus was NOT, I repeat, NOT arguing with the Devil. He was quoting God! He turned to verses from the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament for Christians) and quoted God to the Devil. In fact, every single reply that Jesus makes is from the Scriptures.

Now, maybe you are reading this and wondering why I am so excited about this Eureka moment. I think it is because I have lately been seeing very clearly just how duped we are by Satan and his empty promises. People that I know and love are trapped by their ignorance of Satan and his lies and cannot even see it. I was becoming a bit depressed or despairing because I could not figure out how God could expect us to battle such a strong enemy with our limited human capacities. I mean, really? Human versus Angel is not a very difficult contest! That’s when I realized what a gift the Word of God is for us. We already have the answers we need to combat Satan, if we are willing to spend time turning to God’s Word and his Church in our times of temptation.  If Jesus Christ, Son of God, would not directly engage with Satan, then neither will I. As for me, I will let Christ’s example teach me how to fight this enemy!

I Found the Hidden Treasure

Remodeling is hard work! My son and I just finished ripping out most of our kitchen. We also pulled up carpeting in our front room. In my earlier post, “What Lies Hidden Beneath?” I was sharing that I was a bit afraid of what I might find underneath the carpeting. I found myself comparing the carpet removal process to our spiritual lives.

To recap:
Pristine carpeting yet full of dust = our souls  partially clean, partially murky
Carpet pad (with crumbling sections) = our hardness of heart/unforgiveness
Hardwood floor = beauty of ourselves (body and soul) made in God’s image
Staples (brittle, stuck deep) = sin that needs to be removed

So, we started working on the staple removal process. And let me tell you, it is S-L-O-W going! You cannot stand to do very much at a time because it overwhelms you. For every few staples we can easily remove, the next few break in half, right at the wood floor. Our knees and elbows hurt and are bruised (and we are even using knee pads!)

This was the most mentally demanding work of all because it was no fun and felt like progress was at a snail’s pace. This is much like getting rid of those long festering sins in our lives. When we finally decide to work on them, we think it will be easy. It is not. It can definitely be discouraging at first. Perseverance becomes a real word that means something more than you ever realized before in your life!

As you can imagine, my son and I were high-fiving each other when we pulled the last staple and swept up the final, horrible remains of the crumbling, chalk-like carpet pad. We were so proud of persevering and finishing the job. That’s when our friend arrived and pointed out to us that when they sand and refinish these hardwood floors, all those little holes from the staples will show right back up. We will have to use a special tool to tap the tiny staples that we could not extract back down into the wood. I suppose these small, unextractable “sins” are like what St. Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 12 when he says, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

But that’s not all! After tapping these down, we have to carefully find each single hole created by the staples or nails along the edges and fill them with a special filler. Aha! Now this is exciting and makes tremendous sense. I feel like I found the hidden treasure! It just came to me that once we are cleansed of sin, we must always remember to ask the Holy Spirit to fill those places we have emptied. I think St. Paul says it best: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” I think we’ll keep that as our prayer in mind as we are on our knees slowing filling each little hole…

What Lies Hidden Beneath?

I’m in the midst of a remodeling project. Because I am thrifty, my family is doing as much of the work as we can. This means tearing things apart which my sons find quite wonderful. We have pretty much redone this entire house except for the kitchen and two bathrooms. This week, we are dismantling the kitchen and pulling up carpeting. It was our hope and prayer that the hardwood floors would still be in good shape. The question we all were wondering as we began the ripping out process is “What lies hidden beneath?”

Okay, you may find this odd, but I am constantly finding that God speaks to me even through carpet that is 40+ years old! Think of a green from the 1960s…not avacado but a more of a classic light green. This carpet looks pristine because it is wool and apparently no one was allowed to “play” in this area. However, as we rip into the carpet, layers of dust come at us as we choke . This is like our souls. We may look fresh and clean and well-kept on the outside, but beneath this “surface” is some pretty awful stuff.

Next, we get to the carpet pad. It is thick and red. “Wow, this was nice stuff when they bought it,” I say to my son. However, some portions of this thick, red padding have become hard as rock! Crumbling, chunks of substance like chalk. “Huh,” I think to myself, “this is like parts of our hearts where we sealed off ourselves because of unforgiveness. There’s nothing left to work with here. It’s just crumbling away into dust.”

Finally, we get to the floor. It’s hardwood and it is beautiful. Oops. I forgot. There are rows and rows and rows of large carpeting staples that need removing. I try my usual method (pliers), only to find that these staples have been in here so long, they are brittle and just break, leaving me to wrestle the tiny nubs out of the hard, hard wood. These are like our sins that have gone deep into the depths of us. They have become us, and we must work hard to ply them out of the beauty that God made us.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of this remodeling job has in store for me. I must admit though I’m a bit afraid of what lies hidden beneath.