We had an interesting experience at supper-time yesterday. We were having a rather spicy pepper-steak meal. I've told the kids that if they're eating something spicy, and it's too hot for them, instead of drinking water (which can make the spiciness even worse), they should eat some bread, or drink some milk.
While we were eating, Laura and I simultaneously realized that our son was sitting in his seat with his leg propped up and his foot resting on the edge of the table. We gave him a quick rebuke and reminded him that putting his feet on the dinner table was not acceptable (which he already knew). He removed his foot, and dinner continued on in peace.
But a few minutes later, our son emphatically announced, "Mama! I asked for a glass of milk! I've been waiting for you to get it!"
Laura and I looked at each other, puzzled. Neither one of us could remember hearing him ask for anything. Certainly it was possible that we were both in our own little worlds and not listening, but as I thought back on the last few minutes of mealtime, I realized something - what had drawn our attention to the foot on the table was the fact that he had spoken to us. In fact, he had asked for a glass of milk, and as soon as we looked at him, our attention went not to his question, but to his foot on the table. We didn't even realize he'd asked us a question!
As I thought about that little experience, it reminded me of this verse from the Psalms:
David recognized this interesting dynamic between himself and God. When there is something wrong in his heart, God's first and highest priority is dealing with that which is inappropriate, rather than in granting David's requests.
I love thunderstorms. I love to sit and watch the bolts of lightning that streak downward in stunning displays of light and power. But after yesterday, I don't think I'll ever look at lightning the same way again.
I was driving down Route 3, on my way home from a week as the Bible teacher at Camp Fairhaven, and the thunderstorm warnings came on the radio. I smiled. Then I watched as bolt after bolt of lightning flashed across the sky in the distance. The stikes were quite far away.
Or so I thought.
Then, suddenly, as I was zipping along at 50 miles per hour, the most extraordinary thing happened. There was a bright flash of light, a sudden bang (much more than a clap or a boom -- this was deafening!) and my car seemed to lift up off the roadbed and slam back down about a foot to the right of where it had been a second earlier.
For a moment I felt as though both my brain and my heart had shut off. The shock (not electrical) of the moment was really quite astonishing. It took me, perhaps, two or three seconds to realize that my car had just been struck by lightning. Though the electrical shock had passed through the metal shell of the car and left me untouched, it was several minutes before my hands stopped trembling and my breathing and heartbeat returned to normal.
And now, I don't think I shall ever enjoy a thunderstorm in quite the same way again.
I was thinking, as I continued driving home, that we often think of sin in the same way that I think of thunderstorms. Sin entertains and amuses us. It fascinates us. We think that we can dabble in it, stay on the fringes of it, and remain untouched by it.
But sin is far too powerful for us to "dabble" in it. As frighteningly powerful as lightning is, sin is just as powerful, and just as deadly. Sin has a way of catching us off-guard when we least expect it, and striking a blow that can ruin our lives.
Numbers 32:23 says that eventually, sin will always catch up with you, and in one of his great debates with the Pharisees (John 8:34), Jesus said that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.
Did you know that sin had such power?
For the most part, I suspect that most Christians don't have enough of a good and healthy fear of sin. When it comes to sin...don't dabble. Steer clear.
A few years ago I was asked to take a trip to Dimona, Israel to do some computer work. It was springtime when I left Maine, and I love springtime! The lawns are turning green, the trees are budding and blossoming, and the leaves are such a beautiful, rich, deep green, after a long winter. I love it.
When I arrived in Tel Aviv, I thought "These are ugly trees." Not a lot of trees and plants, and what there was, the leaves were a pale, sickly green. Didn't look healthy to me.
But then I went from Tel Aviv to Dimona, and found that Dimona's vegetation was even uglier! All dried up, hardly any leaves, scraggly, and looked like it would blow away in the wind.
That comparison made me think of Psalm 1, which says the righteous are like a strong and healthy tree, and the wicked are like the dried up grass that'll get blown away in the wind.
Of course, we all want to be full of life and health, like a strong, green tree. But in reality, our sin makes us shriveled and dried up (and let's even go as far as to say it makes us dead -- after all, that's what the Bible says!) Sometimes, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others and say, "See, I'm not so bad!" But when we do that, we are comparing ourselves to the wrong person. Our measuring stick is Jesus Christ, in whom there was no sin at all (1 Peter 2:22).
The odd thing about my trip to Dimona was this: on the way home we returned to Tel Aviv, and I found myself thinking, "These trees look really green and healthy!" Then I thought, "Wait a minute...just a week ago, I was saying how ugly they were! What happened?" What happened is, I was comparing the trees to the Dimona trees instead of the Maine trees!
We get ourselves in trouble when we compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus.