The Deceitfulness of Sin


I woke up the other night with a nagging thought. It gripped me. I was instantly awake. It was urgent and insistent, and the weight of it remained with me when I woke up again to get up and go to work.

I will get back to the thought that woke me from my sleep in the middle of the night, but first I need to explain the backstory.

We have established protocols and precautions for COVID in my office based on the consensus of advice from the experts. We decided that we would only set appointments according to the protocols that are designed to keep our staff and the people who meet with us safe from the risk of exposure to COVID.

We don’t allow walk-in appointments. We encourage “meetings” over the phone or video conferencing. Certain meetings, though, have to be in person, such as meetings to sign documents. I do a lot of estate planning, especially lately, and we must have two witnesses and a notary to sign Wills and Powers of Attorney. Everyone must be together in the room at the same time to satisfy the statutory requirements for those documents.

The protocol includes advising clients when the appointment is scheduled to wear masks, to bring their own pens (or use one of ours and take it with them) and to answer a list of questions. The questions include the following: have you tested positive for COVID; do you have a fever; do you have symptoms, like a dry cough, fever, loss of taste of smell, etc.; have you traveled out of the area in the last 14 days (and, if so, where); have you come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID in the last 14 days; etc.

Our staff is instructed to call people who are scheduled to come in to the office the night before the appointment to ask all the questions, and to explain the protocol in detail. When people come in, we make sure they are wearing masks, we take their temperature, ask them to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and we have have them sign off on the same list of questions.

We have been taking the threat of COVID seriously and doing what is in our power to protect people and ourselves from possible exposure. The battle of the experts and expert opinions in the media and conflicting “facts” about COVID, including reports of intentional embellishment of the number of cases reported, raise many questions, but the protocols are the least we can do to love and protect the people who work for us and our clients from the potential risks.

Our staff and I developed the protocols. All the attorneys in the office agreed that we should follow these procedures, and we have been following them.

I have some very long term clients. It isn’t unusual for me to meet with staff at their offices or for them to meet with me at my office. Most of my appointments are set up by my legal assistants, but I work very directly with our bigger, long-term clients on an ongoing basis, as I try to be as responsive to their ongoing needs as possible. We have represented one entity continuously since the 1960’s, so our diligence and conscientious work has been rewarded.

One staff member I work with often asked for a meeting with me sometime last week. He suggested meeting with me at my office to review the documents we were going to discuss. He set up the meeting through an Outlook calendar invitation, and I accepted it.

I didn’t think anything of it. This is how I have done things with them for years, and I didn’t follow the protocols we set up. I didn’t think about it.

You can probably see where this is going.

Continue reading “The Deceitfulness of Sin”

Learning to Walk in God’s Way: A Life Journey


Solomon’s story is a tale of a wise and noble man, as far as men go. He was the wisest of men. (1 Kings 4:30) He had everything. He was handed the kingdom of Israel from his father, David, who had subdued all the warring nations around them.

Solomon had peace for the entire 40 years of his reign because of David’s prowess and provision. Solomon was also a great statesman in his own right, maintaining strong relationships with foreign leaders.

Without the ever-present threat of war, and with the help of favored nations, Solomon was able to build a stunning Temple for God and a magnificent house for himself.

Solomon was also called Jedidiah (beloved of the Lord).

When God offered him whatever he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. The wisdom literature in the Bible, and possibly Ecclesiastes, were written by Solomon, along with some Psalms that remain with us today. Leaders from around the known world traveled to take counsel from Solomon.

Among the things Solomon wrote was Proverbs 5:1-4:

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.

In Proverbs 5:15-16, these famous poetic words were penned:

Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?

Surely, Solomon was too smart and wise to be tripped up by lust, right?

Well… no. I am not sure that Solomon committed adultery (like his father David did, taking Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who gave birth to Solomon). He didn’t need to, because he took for himself hundreds of wives and hundreds of concubines on top of that! (1 Kings 11:3)

God had spoken many years before to Moses about the conduct of kings. Solomon in his wisdom certainly would have known these words: “[The king] must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” (Deut. 17:17)

Of course, Solomon did both. We learn in 1 Kings 11 that those hundreds of wives turned Solomon’s heart from God, which tarnished his legacy and led to the break up of the nation of Israel forever.

What does the story of Solomon tell us?

Some people might conclude (too easily) that the Bible is full of contradictions. Is this the lesson: don’t do as I do; do as I say?  If Solomon, as wise as he was, got tripped up by common lust and greed, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Continue reading “Learning to Walk in God’s Way: A Life Journey”

God and the Impossibility of Goodness

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to be good enough for God.

The story of the rich young ruler resonates with me today in the seeming impossibility of living without sin. I suspect that I am not alone in the experience of certain sinful inclinations that I just can’t seem to shake. Try as I might, I fall into the same traps of temptation over and over again. I get angry at myself. I ask for forgiveness. I renew my resolve, but I inevitably trip and fall. And sometimes I despair.

God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life….” (Gal. 6:7-8)

I know this, but it doesn’t seem to help. My sinful flesh often overcomes the spirit within me. While the spirit is often willing, the flesh is weak; and sometimes, let’s be honest, my spirit isn’t as willing as it should be.

I think, “If I could just resist more and try harder and find just the right combination of thoughts and habits and resolve, I could lick this thing.” But, days come and go. Things change: busyness, or worry, or distraction, or boredom, or some dryness in my spiritual life, or difficulty, or disappointment or any number of things (or a combination of them) sets in, and when my guard is down, temptation comes and catches me off guard in a moment of weakness.

I truly believe it is possible to overcome the sin within me. Scripture seems to require it of me. What I reap I will sow. Yet I fail. I fully identify with Paul, who said:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:15-19)

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Free Will and Free Won’t

Science suggests that the decisions we make are actually prompted by brain activity before we are conscious of making the decision.


Do we have free will? Modern materialists say, no. This is what I learned watching an episode in a series on science that was hosted by Stephen Hawking on Public Broadcast Television.

Hawking explained the experiments that informed this view. In the experiment, the subjects were told to choose to push a button and to note the time on the clock at which the decision was made. At the same time, the subject’s brain waves were being monitored for activity. Over and over again, the brain waves were measured showing that the uptick in brain waves happened before the subject was conscious of the actual decision being made to take the action.

The experiment demonstrated the following sequence: (1) a brain signal occurs about 550 milliseconds prior to the finger’s moving; (2) the subject has an awareness of his decision to move his finger about 200 milliseconds prior to his finger’s moving; (3) the person’s finger moves.

This was interpreted as evidence by Hawking that we don’t have free will. The decisions we make are actually prompted by brain activity before we are conscious of making the decision. The conclusion is that we are responding to some prior stimuli and only think that we are making independent decisions. Hawking concluded, therefore, that we are determined, as everything is, by natural laws in an endless stream of cause and effect.

But wait, there is more. The scientist who conducted these experiments, Benjamin Libet, actually came to the opposite conclusions. And lest you think this is only an interesting experiment with no practical application, I find some interesting applications to our struggles with sin.

Continue reading “Free Will and Free Won’t”

Where Is God in the Messiness of the Church?

I have never participated in a perfect church and have never met a perfect person, yet I believe in a God who is perfect and who is perfecting us, His people.


Toward understanding and healing the wounds of the church, I write this blog piece. The context is the very public struggles of two mega-churches in the Chicago are where I live. Last year, Bill Hybels resigned as the head of Willow Creek Church, after allegations of misconduct came to light. Just today I read about James MacDonald deciding to step down from leadership of the Harvest Bible Church in the wake of a lawsuit and allegations of poor leadership.

The two situations are different, though they both involve allegations against longtime leaders of two of the largest and most prominent churches in the Chicago area. Bill Hybels is accused of inappropriate relationships with women in the church. MacDonald is accused of mismanagement of money, heavy-handed leadership and related allegations. Both situations expose the nature of the human side of the church and the prevalence of sin in the church, even at the leadership level. (The Catholic Church is not alone in this respect.)

In the 1980’s, I became involved in a church that I thought, at the time, was the “perfect” church. It was a vibrant engaging church community. Worship was spirit-led and dynamic. The leadership was charismatic and inspiring. The church community was tight-knit and familial. This church had planted many other churches that were also thriving and growing. I spent 6 years there and knew the church intimately.

It wasn’t as perfect as I first thought, of course. People are people, even people who go to church. Within a year of my leaving to pursue what I believed God was directing me to do next, the church was splintering, disintegrating and falling apart. My pastor, the man who married my wife and I, divorced his wife within a few years of our leaving. Neither he nor his wife are involved in a church today (as far as I know).

We were devastated. This was over 25 years ago, and it still puzzles me. The coming apart at the seams of this church that I viewed as a model of what churches should be impacted me more than I would care to admit.

I realize now that I had invested more of my spiritual capital in the church and its leaders than I should have.

A friend of mine, a fellow church-goer, has been struggling with issues in his church – the leadership in particular. I have listened to him, recognizing the disappointment and disillusionment in his voice. Though I don’t know the details of the issues he has had with the leadership, I do know that he feels cut adrift; he is hurt; his faith is shaken. He has stopped going to church. He isn’t sure he can trust Christians anymore, and he is struggling to make sense of his experience. I can relate.

We left the last church we attended because of leadership, trust and personality differences that affected the people to whom we were closest in that church. Our friends were financially and personally hurt by leadership in the church. We felt we needed to stand with our friends and support them as they drifted away from the church, unable to remain in a church led by people who could not be trusted with their spiritual well being.

These are just the experiences I have had, but I don’t think I am alone in having difficult and painful experiences in churches and with the leadership of churches. Church is a messy business.

Many people turn away from the church and even from Christianity because of similar experiences. How many times have you heard someone say they don’t go to church because Christians are hypocrites? And the fact is that Christians are hypocrites!

But that shouldn’t be the end of the story.

Continue reading “Where Is God in the Messiness of the Church?”