Summary: Thirteen points that call us to repentance ... a Lenten service.


2 Tim 2:22-26

Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.

Few of us like radical change ... unless, of course, the situation is so intolerable that it seems we will just die if something doesn't change, and change quickly!

Quite by accident, I came across an internet site that was headlined:

10 of the saddest words or phrases in the English language! I just HAD to check that one out! And here are the 10:

1. For kids, it's BACK TO SCHOOL! Back to school are three words that most kids loathe and all parents love. While there may be no studies to prove that, if you random polled a group of kids and asked them if they’d rather be hanging out at the swimming pool with their friends or waiting in the cold, before daylight, to get on the school might want to bet on the pool!

2. GOOD-BYE. It is so very sad, because we do not know if we say goodbye, is that the very last time? We always hope not ... but, for many, it is.

3. HEARTBROKEN - Heartbroken is a tough word. We define it as “crushed with sorrow or grief.” We’ve all been there at one time or another—you know it as soon as you feel it, and you can’t wait for it to go away. This concept tends to rear its ugly head ALL TOO OFTEN, on February 14.

4. IF ONLY - An on-line dictionary defines if only as “I wish that.” Example, “If only I knew you were coming, I would have baked a cake!” This expression can also be one of wistful regret. “If only we had met 10 years ago.” How many times have you said, "If only I hadn't said that last loud hasty word!"

5. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN - is a phrase often tinged with regret. Many novels use this concept. “He gazed into the sunset for a brief moment and watched her vintage MG head off down the long dusty road. With a casual shrug, he turned around and headed back into the now-empty and silent farmhouse, wondering what might have been.”

Or, that lament of the ages, written by John Greenleaf Whittier, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'".

6. LONELY - If you’re lonely, you are inherently sad. SAD and LONELY go with the other. There’s no possible way to put a positive spin on this one. So, let's just leave it be!

7. LOVE - this one is a bit different. The word love evokes a mostly positive and fulfilling emotion, and it has its own holiday every February. There is a flipside to the coin, however. If love is unrequited, unreturned, it’s the worst, and that’s why it’s on this list.

8. MELANCHOLY - melancholy is “a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression.” As an example, think about Charlie Brown lying on the pitching mound after getting drilled with yet another line drive.

9. TERMINAL - Terminal is never a good word when used in a medical context. It is another word one can never put a good spin on.

10. WHAT PARTY? - Carrie Fisher said two of the saddest words in the English language were "what party?" She was likely referring to the one to which she was NOT invited!

Now, we might truly relish a change from any of these 10 thoughts ... and, yes, they are funny, in a sense, but when they are OUR situation, the fun seems to run away, very quickly!

But what would happen if we were to look at 10 words from the Bible that would also be very unkind, un-nice, un-Christian words .... words from which, if they describe our lives or characteristics, we would want to change?

Yes, I know change can be uncomfortable... and I know there are a jillion jokes about the reluctance to change ...but I also know and believe the Scriptures ... in places like Revelation 9:20-21: The remaining men and women who weren’t killed by these weapons went on their merry way—didn’t change their way of life, didn’t quit worshiping demons, didn’t quit centering their lives around lumps of gold and silver and brass, hunks of stone and wood that couldn’t see or hear or move. There wasn’t a sign of a change of heart. They plunged right on in their murderous, occult, promiscuous, and thieving ways.

Look at the contract that is offered, though, in Joel 2:13-14: Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe.

Who knows? Maybe He’ll do it now, maybe He’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, there will be blessings full and robust for your God!

So... let's look at a dirty baker's dozen NEW TESTAMENT WORDS! All of these words are from Mark 7:21-23! The purpose of this exercise is to give you focal points on what you might like to change, in your life. And, if you don't like the word, change, you may substitute ADJUSTMENT!

1. Evil thoughts ... Have you ever been beset by evil thoughts? Mercy, have I ever! Any time anyone crosses me, I think of all sorts of things I could do to that person ... some are sneaky beyond belief. Just as an example, one time, years ago, an attorney got cross wise with me .... and my thought was to start sending his wife anonymous love notes, flowers, boxes of candy, and such (and no, I didn't even know her at all) and keep on sending them till he found out that she was getting them .... but not knowing who they were from ... hoping that it would cause a divorce.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when people do us wrong, we would only think to bless them, pray for them, encourage them, rather than plot ways to attack them!

2. Adulteries ... this is not a nice word! It's a taboo word ... it's one that we don't like at all, but, nevertheless, it is a plague on society, and in recent years seems to be about as widely accepted as OK as any of the other things that we used to consider evil. It ranges from the White House to the brothels of the back streets of probably every city in America. And we give it a pass. While you probably won't agree with me that it has become socially acceptable, you must agree that it is quite commonplace in today's society.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we might be tempted to the point of despair, we could still overcome, because of our Love for God, and for our brothers and sisters!

3. Fornications ... it is interesting that these two terms, adultery and fornication are side by side in the Scriptures. The difference, commonly speaking, is that adultery is between two married people who are not married to each other, while fornication involves two single people. In either event, they both are labeled as wrong doing, and regardless of the people involved, they all stand in need of forgiveness! We don't like these words, in Church, because, for whatever reason, society has tagged sex sins as worse than other types of sins ... we may even call them the red letter sins .... reminiscent of THE SCARLET LETTER, written back in 1850, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we may be caught up in them, that we could and would, with all due haste, confess, repent, and forsake our sins! What a change that would be! Oh, yes! We do want to change so that we won't be guilty of any further sin!

4. Murders ... perhaps murder is the most vile of all sins, at least, it seems to, to me. To deprive another person of their life is to deny them a chance to ever repent. We have no right to interfere with folks that way. And Jesus goes so far as to explain that when we have hatred in our hearts toward others, we are guilty of murder.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when people do us wrong, we would not hate, but, rather, would pray for that person, and pray for their blessing!

5. Thefts ... Some say that the number one economic depressor of our time is employee theft! I have heard folks say that Wal-Mart and K-Mart in Welch closed because the employees were stealing more than the store was making. The manager of Rural King is reported to have said that they would NEVER open a retail store in Welch!

Over 1.2 million shoplifters and dishonest employees were apprehended in 2015 by just 25 large retailers who recovered over $200 million from these thieves, according to the 28th Annual Retail Theft Survey.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that we could keep our hands in our pockets, and never ever take anything that wasn't ours to take! Let's turn away from this! Let's MAKE A CHANGE!

6. Covetousness ... desiring something, or someone, who belongs to another ... And there are so many ways of trying to get around this one! I had one friend once, who, when he would see something that belonged to someone else, but that he would like to have, would say, "I wish I had that one ... and he had a better one!"

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we see things that we might like, our thoughts would be on how we could work to obtain it, rather than make plans on how to steal it or somehow otherwise acquire it through various other illicit means!

7. Wickedness ... an on-line thesaurus gives the following synonyms for wickedness: atrocity, depravity, deviltry, evil, flagrancy, immorality, infamy, inquity, offense, sin, unrighteousness, vice. The term, wickedness, includes all the things in our famous dirty dozen, but even more things than that, too.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that NONE of these things would ever be applied to our lives. Oh how we wish for a change from our wicked thoughts to thoughts of wholesomeness and righteousness!

8. Deceit ... when was the last time you tried to deceive someone? Basically, it was the last time you lied ...and if the truth be known, it probably wasn't as long ago as you might wish it was! Lying is one of the most difficult things there is, to admit. We don't even want to recognize it when we lie, because we justify ourselves by saying we had a good reason!

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we are tempted to lie, we would just speak the truth, or show the truth, if we are lying by our actions. Wouldn't it be a healthy thing for us to ALWAYS be faithful in our words, in our deeds, in our everyday lives!

9. Lasciviousness ... there's a good old New Testament word that you may have never seen in literature anywhere, other than the Bible! Synonyms for lasciviousness include debauchery, lewdness, lust, prurience, wantonness ... more or less a total disregard for the sexual mores of a decent lifestyle.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that we could turn away from all the sins that befoul our souls, and live pure and blameless before God!

10. An evil eye ... In its most basic form, the evil eye is thought of as a look given to inflict harm, suffering, or some form of bad luck on those that it is cast upon. It is a look which clearly states that one intends for something bad to happen to the object of one’s focus, either out of jealousy or pure malice. There are those who believe the malicious look is powerful enough to bring about actual disaster for the unfortunate person that is the receiver of the glare. And MANY PEOPLE believe that it is true!

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we may temporarily wish bad luck on someone, we could swiftly turn that desire to a prayer for them, rather than wishing disaster upon them!

11. Blasphemy ... Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence toward God, or possibly toward holy persons or sacred things. Some religions consider blasphemy to be a religious crime. Examples are defacing temples or synagogues or mosques or churches. Ripping pages out of the Bible can be considered blasphemy. But the primary way we demonstrate it is in having contempt for God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Church.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we are tempted to demonstrate contempt, that we would, instead, breathe prayers of blessing upon those around us!

12. Pride ... it just might be right here that I, personally, have the most trouble. Even as I include this one in the baker's dirty dozen, I am thinking... "what would the people at Fincastle think of me, if they knew I had arisen at 4:30 this morning, striving very hard to put together a good and worthwhile sermon?"

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even in those moments wherein we HAD ACCOMPLISHED something good, or even great, that we could truthfully and honestly say, "It is not I, but the grace of God working through me." After all, it is not by works of righteousness we have done, but according to His mercy, He has saved us.

13. Foolishness... And the last one of our list is another one that causes me a bit of a problem, from time to time. I debated whether to claim this as my worst fault, or pride, but, when I look back over the list, I can find several others that also smack me right between the eyes. Yes, Friends, I have needed to make lots of adjustments, changes, repentances over the years, and still am very vulnerable to the whims of the flesh.

Wouldn't it be nice if our minds were so pure, so focused on God, that even when we live and act foolishly, when we blame God, or deny God, or say God doesn't love me ... wouldn't it be nice if we could simply say, JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW.

And there you have it. Thirteen points where we may need to make some changes in our lives. Not every point applies to everyone, of course ... but I dare say that you found at least one of these to be a point where you have decided to focus some attention during this Lenten season.

God will abundantly pardon! Amen.