Tag Archives: sin

Lent, a season of mindfulness Did God really say that?

given on Sunday, March 5, 2017:  Week 1 of Lent 2017

Each Sunday of Lent a memory verse and a challenge will be given as an exercise in mindfulness. The memory verses are selected from O. S. Hawkins’s book, The Joshua Code and the Jesus Code. This book has 52 verses from the Joshua Codes and 52 verses from the Jesus Code recommended to commit to memory. In Hawkins’s introduction, he states, “Scripture memorization enables us to take God’s Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles. It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds, and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power.” (p.11)

 Opening scripture: Genesis 1:1-5 (NLT)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

Scripture connection: Romans 5:12-19 (NLT)

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.


Closing scripture: Romans 5:20-21 (NLT)

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Week’s memory verse: Genesis 3:1 (NLT)

“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

Week’s challenge:

Identify the Devil’s 5 Ds in your life this week: Doubt, Discouragement, Division, Defeat, and Delay.


Reflection: Did God really say that?

Setting up for today’s sermon began weeks ago as I kept thinking about Lent and what can make it meaningful, challenging and even memorable. Lent is a season that traditionally is filled with negative images and I struggle with framing my faith in negative thinking. Then the phrase, a season of mindfulness, filtered into my thoughts and stuck.

Lent is a time for reflection but also discipline; and that lead me to mindfulness. Discipline is mindfulness. Discipline guides Christians in their faith journey and, just like New Years Day when resolutions are made, Lent provides Christians a 40-day timeframe to honestly examine whether or not they are living the Christian principles they profess.

Therefore, maybe we could call Lent a time for “true confessions.” Admittedly that is a catchy phrase, and in my frame of reference, that phrase was considered to be a racy publication. So I had to discard that. I did not want any misunderstanding that Lent is a time for confessing one’s personal forays, rather Lent is for private reflection and recommitting to following God’s commandments.

Let’s begin Lent with a commitment to memorize one Bible verse each week. Today we begin with a verse from Genesis 3:1. The setting is the Garden of Eden, after creation, and God tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The conflict develops when the serpent, also known as Satan a fallen angel or the Devil, challenges Eve that eating that fruit will not cause death. The serpent says, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

That one question is sometimes accredited as all the start of sin, but is it really that question or is that question just the critical line in the story that changes everything? If we trim that one verse down to one reflective question and memorize it, we have a self-check available at any time: Did God really say that?

The author of The Joshua Code and the Jesus Code, O. S. Hawkins, writes:

Scripture memorization enables us to take God’s Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles. It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds, and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power. This is exactly what our Lord did during His days of temptation in the wilderness of Judea. With each temptation Satan brought Jesus’ way in Matthew 4, Jesus answered with, “It is written . . .”  The word received and retained in our hearts and minds overcome temptations when recited with our mouths. (Hawkins 2015, 11-12)


The challenge for this week is to memorize “Did God really say that?” Those few words provide us a tool to use whenever Satan confronts us.

Of course using that question to reflect on our own behaviors successfully must include an understanding of what sin is and how Satan/the Devil can lead us to sinful behaviors. John Wesley identifies sin as one of his ‘core terms’ defined in the study notes of the Wesley Study Bible:

. . . convinced by his study of Scripture, the cumulative wisdom of the church, and reflection on his life and the circumstances of his time that there lies within us a power, working with such force that it is capable of destroying us. Wesley saw that naming the source of our problem as sin, that is, willful action setting us against the will of God and turning us away from communion with God . . . (2009531)


One’s definition of sin can vary, but primarily Wesley states sin is knowing what God expects from us, but then giving in to a “force” that causes us to turn away from God’s expectations. This is not “original sin” that some denominations profess. This is a believer going against what they believe God tells them.

In the Life Application Bible study notes, sin is defined as “giving in to temptation.” (199112) As Christians we are to realize that temptation alone is not the sin, but giving in to that temptation is sin. This definition parallels Wesley’s and places us in the position to know what temptation or what Satan does to influence us.

How do we recognize what Satan or the Devil is doing that makes us consider going against what God tell us? There are 5 Ds listed in the Life Application Bible notes that help clear this up: doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat, and delay. (199113) Beginning with the memory verse, “Did God really tell you that?”, add these questions and thoughts for reflection:

  • Doubt: What made you question God’s words and goodness?
  • Discouragement: What caused you not to trust God to manage it?
  • Diversion: What happened that caused you not to follow God’s commandment?
  • Defeat: What did you not do because you thought you would fail?
  • Delay: What did you put off you knew you should do?

These days of Lent are the ideal time to review your life—its decisions, its lifestyle, and its present state. Are you listening to God through prayer and through scripture? Are you listening to God through the words of family and friends serving as God’s spokesman? Or are you listening to the Devil’s 5Ds?

Lent is the ideal time to review what practices can help defend you from the Devil’s temptation. Wesley recommended the acts of piety as the tools to remain in right relationship with God:

Works of piety are acts we do that express reverence and love for God. They include such means of grace as studying Scripture devotionally, hearing Scripture read and sermons preached, receiving the Lord’s Supper, praying, fasting, and coming together for conversation and mutual support as we seek to live faithfully. (20091066)


The acts of piety may seem daunting at first, but implementing these acts defends us from the temptations to doubt, to give in to discouragement, to be diverted, to sense defeat, and to delay action. The acts of piety keep us from sin.

On the same page as the definition of sin in the Life Application Bible, are three steps to resisting the Devil:

  1. Pray for strength to resist temptation.
  2. Run, sometimes literally run away from temptation.
  3. Say no when confronted with what we know is wrong. (199112)


Three simple methods to defend one’s self from sin.


During this first full week of Lent, keep practicing the memory verse: Did God really say that? To complete the self-reflection, ask yourself which way is Satan trying to get you to sin. The challenge to put the memory verse into action is easier if one knows the Devil’s 5D’s well enough to identify them, too. Did the Devil try to tempt you through doubt? Through discouragement? Through a diversion? Through defeat? Through delay?

As Christians, we must acknowledge our humanness. We cannot live in today’s world unaffected by the influences that swirl around us. Sometimes the evil is so evident we can easily spot it, but sometimes evil quietly sifts into our thoughts distracting us from what God teaches us in scripture and by the disciples that have lived before us.

God accepts us even with our sins, but through his grace we are forgiven. The scriptures share the stories and the lessons of those who believed so that we may learn how to live as disciples, too. Paul personally knew God’s forgiveness and turned his life completely around accepting Jesus as the promised Messiah who died so that we may also be forgiven and receive life eternal.

Use Lent as a season of mindfulness to memorize a weekly verse and then accept the challenge to purposefully reflect on how that verse can strengthen your faith.

Closing prayer:

Dear Forgiving Father,


In your story, we find grace.

In your story, we find love.

In your story, we find guidance.


Help us to avoid temptation.

Help us to hear your words.

Help us to live our faith.


Let the bread and the cup

Bring us closer to you

As we reaffirm our faith.


In the name

Of the Father,

The Son,

And the Holy Spirit, amen.

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Breaking Sin’s Code: The Leaders

given on 2nd Sunday of Lent, February 24, 2013

Let’s continue tackling the question of how to break sin’s code or, in a slightly different approach, figure why God decided to break sin’s code?  Unlocking the secrets or solving a mystery takes time, and we are now over 2,000 years since Malachi prophesied that God had run out of patience.

Last week the process began with a look at the chronological layout of the Bible.  In doing so, the timeline indicated that Malachi is indeed the last book of the Old Testament and Matthew/Luke have the first entries for the New Testament.

Malachi was written about 400 years before God sent the Messiah.  What happened in between Malachi’s prophecy and the birth of Jesus?  Did sin have such a grip on humanity that it took that long?  Or was there enough faithful people that God was not fully convinced that a Savior was the answer?  What clues are there to sort all this out?  Is there a secret to unlocking sin?  Is there a reason it took so long to prepare for the birth of Jesus?

Remember that Malachi has four chapters and four main points.  Last week the first point was made when Malachi said that God had loved his people even when they were disobedient.  In the first chapter, God explains his love is like that of a child to the parent and that the parents deserve respect.

As he states this, the chapter transitions into looking at the priests who were responsible for leading his children to live a faithful life.  The second major point Malachi delivers is God’s displeasure with the disobedience of the priests.

From Malachi 1:6-14, readers are given a clear example of how the priests have failed to show disrespect towards God:  making sacrifices using the worst quality of offerings rather than the best (sick, aged or injured animals).  The second chapter develops God’s displeasure with the priests as Malachi continues the prophecy:

“Now I am giving a warning to you priests. Listen to it. Honor me with all your heart,” says the Lord who rules over all. “If you do not, I will send a curse on you. I will turn your blessings into curses. In fact, I have already done that because you have not honored me with all your heart.”

This warning leaves no room for misunderstanding.  God is not happy and he blames the priests for not preserving the behaviors his people who were to be obedient and respectful children.

The prophecy is a warning, but it can also provide clues to unlocking sin’s code.  Malachi certainly does not sugarcoat the warning, as the description of the priests’ curse is graphic:

“Because of what you have done, I will punish your children. I will smear the guts from your sacrifices on your faces. And you will be carried off to the dump along with them. You will know that I have given you a warning. I have warned you so that my covenant with Levi will continue,” says the Lord who rules over all.

Pretty nasty, but look at that last verse again.  There is another clue—the covenant with Levi.  What is the covenant with Levi?  That started a new search to find what that covenant entailed.

Breaking codes is not easy and this clue seems to be a mystery even to the theologians and Bible experts.  Covenants are not unfamiliar because the Old Testament uses them in a variety of settings.  The most familiar is the covenant with Moses as God delivers the Ten Commandments.  In the New Testament, the old covenant is replaced with the new covenant—simply to love one another.

Yet beginning with a Biblical concordance, the covenant with Levi is not listed.  Instead the explanation can be found only by looking up Levi, which leads to Levites.  Complicated.  Therefore, to simplify the mystery, one might be tempted to say there is no covenant with Levi.

Unfortunately the covenant is complicated and not stated in concrete terms.  The experts indicate that something happened in which the tribe of Levi was originally given land, but in a takeover, they lost the land.  Levi and his subsequent offspring became known as Levities and were given the responsibility of serving as priests.  No longer did they have dominion over land, instead they were assigned cities over which they were to serve as the priests.

Reading the Old Testament book Numbers gives more insight into the covenant with Levi, and if looking through the genealogy of Jesus, as listed in Luke, the Levite relationship is maintained.  The connection was important to the Jewish people, even though our culture may not see it as a key to maintaining a relationship with God.

Regardless of the ancient history, the Levites were assigned to maintain the religious teachings, the worship, and the sacrifices at the temples in the Jewish territories.  They became the defenders of the relationship with God, the peoples’ faith, and even the tabernacle itself.

When Malachi shared that God was displeased with the priests, he was displeased with leadership, with education, and with preservation of faith.  No wonder God was angry.

Malachi 2:5-7 explains God’s relationship with Levi, therefore his offspring the Levities:

“My covenant promised Levi life and peace. So I gave them to him. I required him to respect me. And he had great respect for my name. True teaching came from his mouth. Nothing but the truth came from his lips. He walked with me in peace. He did what was right. He turned many people away from their sins.

“The lips of a priest should guard knowledge. People should look for true teaching from his mouth. After all, he is my messenger.

When God saw that the priests were not fulfilling their responsibilities correctly, His anger surfaced in the next verses:

But you have turned away from the right path. Your teaching has caused many people to trip and fall. You have broken my covenant with Levi,” says the Lord who rules over all. “So I have caused all of the people to hate you. They have lost respect for you. You have not done what I told you to do. Instead, you have favored one person over another in matters of the law.”

Sin was winning!  God was angry.  Malachi was making sure that everybody knew what was going on and what needed to be done!  If the leaders could not keep sin away, how could the people?  Maybe another example could help.

The responsibility of the priests is to maintain the purity of the sacraments.  Certainly the manner in which they handled the sacrifices was wrong, but another issue shared in Malachi deals with marriage.

The men of Judah (a territory) were divorcing their Jewish wives and marrying pagan women.

Why?  A touchy question, but as always, the issue needs to be viewed through the filter of culture.  The Jewish marriages were sacraments.  What was happening was men just tired of their wives and divorced them and married pagan women–ignoring commitments within the Jewish faith.

God’s anger was first directed toward the priests as they were not maintaining the covenant with Levi, not preserving the sacraments as they were trained, not leading the people to preserve their commitments within the faith.  What a mess!

Have we broken sin’s code?  Not yet.  Maybe we have cracked open the problem, but we have not found the solution.  Malachi has more to share with us.  There is more to explore and to understand.  And there still is the 400-year delay before God’s savior will be born.  Sin still is winning, and now, 2,000 years later we confront sin, too.  Is sin still winning even today?  We need more work to break sin’s code.

Dear Patient Father,

We hear Malachi’s warnings.

We read to understand the warnings.

We evaluate the message in his prophecy.


Speak to us today.

Use words we know well.

Make sure we understand.


Lead us with Your commandment.

Let us model our faith in You.

Open others’ eyes, hearts, and minds

to Your endless love.  –Amen


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