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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lancaster County farm pond (click to enlarge)
Lancaster County Farm Pond.
Click here to enlarge photo.

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"The Pleasures Of Sin"

"He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time" (Hebrews 11:25).

Here in Lancaster County we often pass a road that gives us cause to ponder.  It's called "Pleasure Road".  (Actually there are three different roads here in the county with that name.)

Sin can be pleasurable if we choose to enjoy the experience and ignore the long term consequence. Life, from our youth to old age, is filled with daunting questions and choices we must make. In making those choices we ponder the consequences that will result from two contrasting decisions; obeying God or succumbing to our flesh.

The problem is, thinking it out and carrying it out can bring about consequences different than our imaginings, for “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). We can't rely on our own vain wisdom, past experience, or well-intended actions. That's the value of Scripture; it teaches and shows by the examples of others, both good and bad, who've gone through tough decisions common to all people of all generations.

Principles established by God such as the Ten Commandments are meant to guide us in our decision making, in establishing the kind of person we want to be with moral values that guide our thinking and actions.

Moses had a critical decision to make as mentioned in our daily text: suffer mistreatment along with God's people or enjoy pleasurable sin for a season. I wonder how long he weighed that decision. Did it keep him awake at night as play by play he envisioned the consequences of his decision? We know from Scripture he questioned God repeatedly, "What if?" Who am I to go to Pharoah? What shall I tell them? What if they don't believe me? What if they don't listen to me? He excused himself by explaining that he was slow of speech. In Moses' mind he had very valid reasons for ignoring the voice of God.

Raised in the palaces of Egypt, the dominant world empire at that time, Moses was destined for its throne. He had the very best that Egypt offered to his generation and they included the "pleasures of sin" spoken of in the daily text. These pleasures may not necessarily have been evil deeds but were sinful, for in fulfilling them, Moses would have missed God's plan for his life. Again, we come back to the decision he had to make: temporal suffering to gain eternal pleasure or temporal pleasure but eternal loss.

An old definition of sin from the Westminster catechism states. "Sin is any want of conformity to and transgression of the holy law of God." We often think of sin primarily in the sense of transgression, that is doing something that is forbidden. This is typically stated as "sins of commission". But there are also sins of omission, that is, failing to do that which we are commanded. The apostle James wrote, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17).

As followers of Christ we can so readily be seduced by the world's ways and as individual believers we must ever be on our guard against this seduction. I consider the candid words to an old hymn, "O how the world to evil allures me, O how my heart is tempted to sin."  At 54 years of age the allurement and temptation is still there and I must daily determine along with my family that "we will serve the Lord."

One of the allurements to sin is that there is often a pleasurable dimension, at least initially. It's the sinister trap that Satan has used from the beginning. That's how he appealed to Adam and Eve in the first temptation recorded in Scripture.

The daily text speaks of enjoying these "pleasures of sin." But these pleasures only last for a short, unspecified time. The KJV translates it, "for a season." There is a sense of pleasure, but it will not last. Sadly, a few moments of sinful pleasure is often exchanged for a lifetime of sorrow and regret.

Consider the wonderful joy and lasting pleasures in living for Christ. I can proclaim with the Psalmist, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11). Today let's keep our focus on the joy of His presence and the eternal pleasures as we weigh our decisions from day to day!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, as we think about Moses we greatly appreciate his act of obedience. Not only did his choice to experience mistreatment along with Your people provide an exodus for the Israelites, but it also provided a Biblical foundation for our lives centuries later. We've learned so much from the spiritual truths taught through Moses' applied wisdom, his discipline, and his obedience in recording Your truths and principles. The very core of our Christian faith is realized through the books of Moses. Help us to realize that You have also called us to make a spiritual difference to those we influence in our generation and the generations to follow. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

A.W. Pink writes "God saves us from the pleasure or love of sin before He delivers from the penalty or punishment of sin. Necessarily so, for it would be neither an act of holiness nor of righteousness were He to grant a full pardon to one who was still a rebel against Him, loving that which He hates. God is a God of order throughout, and nothing ever more evidences the perfection of His works than the orderliness of them. And how does God save His people from the pleasure of sin? The answer is, “By imparting to them a nature which hates evil and loves holiness.” This takes place when they are born again, so that actual salvation begins with regeneration. Of course it does; where else could it commence? Fallen man can neither perceive his desperate need of salvation, nor come to Christ for it, till he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.

A Beautiful Labor Day

Brooksyne playing Hillbilly golf
Yesterday afternoon we went over to our friends Mike and Dawn Fleck for a back yard cookout with many from their family as well as some friends from our church. Following the meal we played a new game to us called "Hillbilly golf" (among many other names).  It looks like Brooksyne's getting the hang of it.

Roxie with wig
Later yesterday afternoon we visited Longwood Manor, an assisted living center where we serve as chaplains. We often take our dog Roxie along as the residents just love her (some of them probably enjoy seeing her more than us). We had fun with Roxie last week as we crowned her with this old wig we use for skits.  After all Roxie will be five years old next month (that's 35 dog years.) 

Geib pond fishing 9/7/09
Around dusk we went over to Larry and Yvonne Geib's for a time of fellowship and fishing in their farm pond.

Ester with fish 9/7/09Ester caught a bunch of fish and experienced the joy of fishing. This summer we went on a deep sea trip out of New Jersey but didn't catch much. But she stuck with it and I wanted her to have an opportunity to see what it is like to catch fish!

Geib farm pond 9/7/09
Another view of the farm pond.   Following our fishing time we went to Larry and Yvonne's home for some yummy vanilla home-made ice cream!

In the midwest where I grew up the farm ponds are often also stock ponds with the livestock having access to the pond to drink and wallow in, making them quite muddy. Generally Lancaster County ponds are not used this way and are much cleaner.  As a kid I would swim in these muddy ponds and the very first water baptism I conducted as a young minister was in a stock pond on Galen Sutherland's farm in southern Missouri. Galen had thoughtfully moved the pigs away from the pond so we could have the service. As I recall we sunk up to our mid calves in mud!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"I Must Tell Jesus"  Video  
This is the hymn that has the candid line, "O how the world to evil allures me, O how my heart is tempted to sin"

The second hymn I suggest today has a verse that I also believe speaks concerning our daily topic:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wan-d'ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.

Can you identify the hymn from this verse? Here's the answer.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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