Monthly Archives: August 2014

This Sin Stops With Me!

A spacecraft needs to travel at 25,000 MPH to break free from the gravitational pull of the earth. It takes a tremendous amount of thrust and energy to escape the forces that pull it back to the earth. There are times when family exerts gravitational forces to prevent us from breaking free of their orbit.

In the third episode of season three of the BBC television show, Sherlock, it is evident that Sherlock has not escaped from the gravitational pull of home. When Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft, are together, Mycroft still sees his younger brother as a stupid little boy. Both Mycroft and Sherlock hide their smoking when confronted by their mother. Neither has become independent from their mother’s values.

While the gravitational pull of family is difficult to break, the gravitational pull of the old sin nature can feel even stronger.

Several months ago, I was teaching a series on the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I became aware of a pattern of sin that was passed down from one generation to the next. It fits in with a statement in Exodus 20:5 that a father’s sin will impact succeeding generations.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

Break the cycle of generational sin 2

Maybe you can see a similar pattern in your family tree. Your grandfather was an alcoholic. So was your father. Now, you struggle with the bottle as well. Perhaps your family includes five generations of women who were pregnant before they turned 16 years old. Maybe the men in your family have been angry and abusive for several generations.

We knew one family whose favorite meal on Sunday afternoon was “Roast Pastor.” Over their Sunday afternoon meal, they would routinely criticize the sermon, the music, the Sunday School teacher’s tie, the weeds in the parking lot, the coffee, the visitor who sat in their pew, and everything else about church that morning. The parents did it, their adult children did it, and their grandchildren were picking up the habit as well.

“How do we break the cycle of generational sins?” How can we be like Joseph and say, “This sin stops with me!” After pondering that question and researching what others have said, I put together my own list of ideas.

The starting point is to take an honest look at our family in order to Identify our family’s sin pattern(s). Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, sons graphically demonstrate a pattern of lies and deception. David and his son, Solomon, gave in to the temptations of women and sex. The generations of David, Solomon, and Rehoboam reveal pride, power, and pleasing self and others. I had to confess that my father was very passive and I have the same tendency. My mother was a worrier and I catastrophize and imagine the worst possible outcomes as well. Take an honest look at your family background, but remember that generational sins sometimes remain hidden through self-deception.

Once we identify the pattern, we then need to Confess our family’s sins and accept forgiveness for them. Nehemiah 1:6–7 and Daniel 9:5–6 provide an excellent example of men who confessed the sins of their ancestors before seeking God’s forgiveness and blessing. Confession alone is not enough, however. We also need to believe God’s promise that he will forgive us and our family (1 John 1:9).

The next step is to Forgive our father/mother for his/her shortcomings and any wounds he/she has given us. We need to grant our father/mother unconditional forgiveness.

Remember that the power of sin is broken through the cross (Romans 6:6-11). Because Christ has set us free, we can soar to new heights.

We also need to Practice true repentance. We need to change how we live. As Colossians 3:8-10 explains, we must replace our bad habits with holy ones.

Recognize that it takes hard work, patience, and sacrifice to break an addiction or pattern of sin. 2 Corinthians 10:4–6 explains that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. We need to change how we think and tear down strongholds of resistance. Not an easy task, to say the least.

If we attempt these changes by ourselves, we are doomed to failure. We must Involve others in our efforts to change. There is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We must find others who can encourage, support, and hold us accountable.

Even though our parents or grandparents may not have done this for us, we can still Proactively sow and seek blessings in our family’s life. Follow the pattern of Jacob (Genesis 49) in offering a blessing to your children and grandchildren.

If we break these sin patterns, God promises to bless our family for generations to come (Exodus 20:6).

break free of sin - posterize crosshatchThe “Ice bucket challenge” has become a trendy fad. Someone challenges you to dump a bucket of ice water on your head as a way of raising awareness for the disease of ALS. You have 24 hours to comply or donate money to ALS research.

I’d like to propose a new challenge. With God’s help, we could be the generation like Joseph to say, “This sin stops with me!” Rather than a trendy fad, I believe “the quitting sin challenge” is timeless. I challenge you to make that commitment today.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 31, 2014. It is the final message in a series on the life of Joseph. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Three County Fair

This afternoon, Carol and I took in the Three County Fair in Northampton, MA. According to its history, its the longest running fair in North America, 197 years and counting. The exhibits included monster trucks, motorcycle trick riding, tractor pulls, kiddie tractor pulls, pig races, ox pulls, carnival rides, midway games, agricultural displays, farm animals, and of course, food. It was an enjoyable time.

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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Massachusetts, Photos


A day is to be filled with praise

Psalm 113-3

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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Chicopee, Photos, Scripture, Sunrise


Refuse to Cruise!

“Coasting does not cut it. If you try to coast physically, you wake up one day to find yourself overweight and out of shape. Coasting relationally leaves you either dealing with a lot of conflict or all alone. If you try to coast as a parent or spouse, you end up with an empty or broken heart. If you coast on your job, you soon find yourself missing out on receiving promotions and discover that you are no longer getting raises. Eventually they find someone else to do your job. Coasting does not work in any area of life. This is especially true of our spiritual lives. You cannot coast spiritually. You are either going forward or going backward. You are either getting closer to God or getting farther from God.”

Dave Earley in Ministry Is … : How to Serve Jesus with Passion and Confidence, by Dave Earley and Ben Gutierrez



Great is Your Faithfulness!

Slide 1

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Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Photos, Scripture


Our selfish selfies point out our need for the gospel

selfie_graphicLove Thy Neighbor as Thy Selfie” is a thought-provoking post on Tim Challies blog. The author, Nathan Eshelman, starts out by explaining that “selfie” is the Oxford English word of the year.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

The author goes on to point out that “The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind” and it points out our need for the gospel.

So let’s be honest- we are selfish selfies. May we find grace to deny ourselfies as we cling to Christ that he might cure our selfish fallen hearts.

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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Culture, Tim Challies


In-N-Out fans are everywhere

in-n-out burgerIn-N-Out Burger has developed a cult following. In-N-Out is a burger chain out west (CA, AZ, UT, NV, TX). They only do one thing–burgers–along with fries and shakes, and they do it well. When we lived in Seattle, the closest store was in Redding, CA (northern CA). We knew friends who would drive twelve hours just to get a double-double.

Whenever we head for SoCal to visit family, we always make at least one trip to In-N-Out. It goes without saying that I have 2 or 3 In-N-Out T-shirts in my wardrobe. Which points out the fact that In-N-Out has fans everywhere.

Last week, Carol and I were in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire. We were getting ready to board the aerial tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain. The operator looked at me and said, “Nice T-shirt.” I asked if he was familiar with In-N-Out. He replied he used to live in Arizona and there was a store five minutes from his house.

A few days later, we were on Boston’s north shore. We were eating lunch at the Blue Lobster Grille in Rockport, MA. A server walked by, saw my t-shirt, and commented, “Best burger ever.” He said he was from the San Fernando Valley and ate at In-N-Out often.

It truly is a small world. Sometimes, we are united by our common interests and loyalties.


Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Fun


Simple steps towards a fantastic grilled dinner

The Big Flavor GrillBook Review: The Big-Flavor Grill: No-marinade, No-hassle recipes, by Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby

While I don’t consider myself a grill master, I have been known to grill in the heat of Texas, the rain of western WA, and the snow of western MA. Since I’m willing to try new recipes and grill and/or smoke most any kind of meat and vegetables, I was curious to try out the recipes in The Big-Flavor Grill: No-marinade, No-hassle recipes.

The authors point out that the cardinal principle of grilling is that it’s fun. It is supposed to be unpretentious and promote casual living. “So by its very nature, grilling tends to be at once celebratory, low-key, and happy.” Their approach to grilling is that it should be easy and uncomplicated. With that philosophy, they avoid any type of marinades that require hours or days of preparation. Instead, they prefer simple spice rubs you add before you grill, and sauces and flavor boosters that can be added after the meat comes off the grill.

In the Introduction, the authors cover the basics of tools, fuels, and fire. While they prefer charcoal grills, I use a gas grill unless I am smoking meat. They included a section on how to adapt their recipes and concepts for gas grills which I found helpful.

The book covers pretty much everything you can grill—steak, lamb, pork, chicken, shrimp & fish, vegetables, and even drinks. Before giving specific recipes, the authors open each section with some basic information on how to choose the best cuts of meat for what you want to grill. They explain their favorites and why they like them. I found these explanations helpful and informative. They then include 4-6 recipes in each section.

Before writing my review, I felt I should try at least one recipe in order to give an honest review.   I choose to try the grilled pork skewers with grilled peaches and arugula. The recipe is essentially a large salad with the pork and peaches on top. The pork was tender, juicy, and quite tasty. I never thought of putting fruit on the grill, but we were pleasantly surprised by the taste of the peaches. My wife and I concluded the recipe was a keeper. If the first one we tried was this good, I look forward to trying more of the recipes.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Books


Sometimes, the Detour is the ONLY Way to the Destination

Peanuts - Why me - life philosophy

Calvin and Hobbes

If anyone had the right to play the victim card, it was Joseph. When we are first introduced to him, we notice that he is loved by his father (Genesis 37:3). He is Jacob’s favorite of all of his sons and receives a special coat that announces that fact to the world. Not only is he loved, but Joseph is also gifted. He can dream dreams and interpret them (37:5-11).

Unfortunately for Joseph, his favored status and dreams of the future create jealously among his brothers. They hate him and cannot stand to be near him (37:4, 8, 11). Rather than live in peace, his brothers want to kill Joseph. Coming to their senses, they sell him to a passing caravan of traders who take Joseph to Egypt (37:28). He becomes a stranger in a strange land.

As you read the story of Joseph’s life, you find yourself asking the question, “Could things get worse?” Sure enough, they do. Joseph is purchased by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard and he becomes a slave in his house (37:36; 39:1-19). Joseph’s life goes from bad to worse when Mrs. Potiphar frames him for rape and Joseph lands in prison (39:20-40:22). There, he interprets dreams for the royal butler and baker. His circumstances go from worse to worser when the butler doesn’t keep his promise and forgets Joseph for two years (40:23).

Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery (37:2). He is 30 years old when he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh and becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt (41:46). It will be nine years later when his brothers come to Egypt during the famine and Joseph’s earlier dreams are fulfilled (45:6).

During the dark nights of the soul that Joseph experienced, one phrase is repeated over and over. “The Lord was with Joseph” (39:2-3, 21, 23). While he may have been alone, he was never abandoned.

Summary of Josephs life

As you read the account of his life and see that Joseph’s dreams are delayed, you ask yourself the question, “Had God changed his mind about Joseph? Had God changed his plans for Joseph?” The answer to both questions appears to be, “No.” The only remaining question is, “Then what was God changing?” God was changing Joseph.

As a have shared elsewhere, I was fired from my first church and entered into my own dark night of the soul. I was distraught, discouraged, and dejected. I was ready to quit and change careers. During that season, I met with Dr. Howard Hendricks at a conference. He later sent me a letter expressing great insights I still treasure to this day. Prof wrote, “Often the disappointments of life are a part of the Lord’s curriculum to prepare you for an even more determinative ministry. Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God. … Your future is as bright as the promises of God.”

Joseph’s life started out so promising. And yet, his story is seemingly filled with one detour after another. If you look closely, however, you discover that each detour is part of God’s sovereign plan to prepare Joseph for an even greater assignment.

God’s curriculum was designed to prepare Joseph in four areas—pride, perseverance, performance, and perspective.

Joseph was a prime candidate for pride. He had a special place in the family (37:3), even though he had brothers ten years old then himself. His two dreams verified his place in the family and God’s plan (37:5-11). He was well-built and handsome (39:6). His performance at home and in Egypt indicated intelligence.

While he had great potential, Joseph needed to be refined, like gold in fire (Job 23:10; 1 Peter 1:7).

Samuel Rutherford once stated that we should “praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace.”  He went on to explain that the “hammer molds us, the file shapes us and the fire tempers us.”  All three experiences of course are painful, but we can praise God for them because we know and love the God who wields them.

A. W. Tozer, commenting on Rutherford’s statement, wrote, “The devil, things and people being what they are, it is necessary to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in the holy work of preparing the saint for the sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

(Gene Getz, Joseph: Overcoming Obstacles Through Faithfulness.  Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996, p. 109.)

In the end, Joseph had no bitterness, a forgiving spirit, a servant’s heart, self-confidence balanced with God-confidence, and a strong memory of the grace of God sustaining him through the trying years.

High-level leadership brings with it people who are jealous, rumors, false accusations, misunderstandings, breakdowns in communication, responsibility for the mistakes of others, and unsolved problems. Unless prepared for these pressures, no man or woman will persevere. As much as we desire easy lives, we have to recognize that trials help develop perseverance (James 1:2-4). Joseph’s years of slavery and prison helped prepare him to endure a famine.

With advancement comes greater responsibility, pressure, and the need for greater skills. With greater pressure comes greater personal growth and more meaningful and lasting fruit. Joseph starts out taking care of his father’s sheep. He then is charged with running a house. Later, he is placed in charge of a prison. He eventually oversees the agricultural program of a nation. Taking a big picture look at Joseph’s life experience, you discover that God took him through a 13-year MBA program with graduated responsibility to prepare him for greater effectiveness. His performance increased at every level.

Rather than see himself as a victim, Joseph recognized that God was sovereignly in control of the details of his life (45:7-8; 50:20). Joseph gained the perspective that God was with him every step of the way and he orchestrated all of the events to accomplish his plan and purpose.

Just like Joseph, we can see God’s fingerprints on the detours of our lives. We can have the confidence that God can be trusted even when it appears we are off course.

When you find yourself on one of life’s detours, remember that God is with you, and let him transform your character while you wait for him,

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on August 24, 2014. It is part of a series on the life of Joseph. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


What’s with all the discouraging words?

The longer we live in the city, the farther away we move from a home on the range. You know, that place where “seldom is heard a discouraging word.” Discouraging words is one place where the world has crept into the church. Negative talk is a region where we seldom reflect what we claim to believe. Language is one area where Christ followers are seldom different from the world.

I’m not talking about profanity. While we flavor our speech with the occasional #@%^* and !%@@##!!, we generally feel guilty and know we are out of line. No, I’m referring to the acceptable sins of gossip, criticism, and negative talk. We practice those with regularity and think nothing of it.

“I really shouldn’t mention this, but …” “Have you heard about …” How often have we started a conversation with these phrases and then proceeded to dish the latest dirt on someone? Is it our fault if we accidently embellish the story by adding a few editorial comments? Does it really hurt anyone if we fail to double check the accuracy of the supposed facts?

“Can you believe what she said to me?” “I’m so angry at him that I just needed to vent to someone!” So what if Matthew 18:15-17 says I am to go privately to the one who offended me and that if all else fails, I tell the church as a last result. C’mon, it’s a lot easier, and more satisfying to boot, to vent about it to all my Facebook friends.

“Did you hear the joke about the lawyer … the politician … the congressman … the welfare recipient … the Muslim … the Catholic … the Baptist … the President … the illegal immigrant …?” Derogatory humor has become so common place that one is astounded when you choose not to repeat their jokes. Subtle jabs and snipes find their way into church newsletters and no one thinks anything of it.

“Our mayor is so stupid.” “People in Washington are idiots.” “Politicians are crooks.” “You can’t have integrity and serve in politics.” Criticism of elected officials and those in leadership is so prevalent that one would think that the United States Declaration of Independence contained the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … and the right to criticize anyone in leadership.”

As those who claim that the Bible is our standard of living, have we forgotten the instruction of Ephesians 4:29-30 that we are to choose our words wisely, and only speak words of grace which will build up others? Have we forgotten that our critical speech makes the Holy Spirit sad?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Have we lost sight of the charge in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to encourage one another?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Choose your words carefully. Season them with grace. Strive to build up the one you are talking with. Think twice before you open your mouth.

And remember what you mother told you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Maybe mom knew what she was talking about after all.

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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Personal growth, Scripture