Tag Archives: sin

Cabin 21: Sweat it Out

rustic-log-cabin-design-stunning-interiors-13-2Jesus led me out of the Fishing Room, down a corridor, deeper into the mysterious Fish House. The walls and ceiling were all of warm, sweet smelling cedar planking. Lanterns lined the walls giving the place a cozy cabin feel. Under my feet, the ice was replaced by granite tile covered by a long, Persian runner of crimson hues. The soft rug was a warm and welcoming treat for my cold wet feet.

You would never have guessed we were still inside that little fishing shack on the ice. With each step, the temperature in the room increased. My nostrils were tickled by all the soothing, warming aromas of a luxury arctic spa — eucalyptus and lavender the most potent. The cold, drafty environs of the icy fishing room were replaced with the steamy warmth of the Father’s Sauna.

We reached the end of the long hallway, and stepped inside  a changing room next to two doors that looked like a sauna and steam room. I was already beginning to sweat, even though I was still wearing just my shorts and t-shirt only partially dried by the fishing stove. The curved shape of the walls and ceiling reminded me of the inner cabin of a boat.

Jesus told me to get undressed and go sit inside the sauna. He would give me further instructions once inside. As I shed my last layer of clothes, I noticed a verse on the wall over the sauna door:

STRIP OFF EVERYTHING THAT HINDERS AND THE SIN THAT SO EASILY ENTANGLES.

-HEBREWS 12:1

Continue reading Cabin 21: Sweat it Out

Nic @ Night 5: Nicodemus at the Car Shop

Reposted from 2012.

I brought in the car for a $25 oil change this week, and came home with a laundry list of significant repairs estimating over $3,550. The car has 200,000 miles on it — so we knew this day was coming. Nicodemus probably came to Jesus hoping for a simple religious tune-up — a new teaching to consider or an old teaching with a new spin. Like me at the car shop, Nicodemus found out he had a bigger problem to address.

Recently I had a serious steering alignment problem. My alignment was so bad that if I let my hand off the wheel for a split second my car would veer sharply to the right into the ditch. Instead of getting it fixed, I decided to just fight it for months by gripping the wheel tighter. Eventually my wrists began to ache from holding the steering wheel straight.

The Bible describes a world completely out of alignment with God’s will and purposes. Human sin and rebellion have jerked everything out of whack. If we simply leave things, people, nature, government, etc. to do what comes naturally, we’re all veering into ditches, colliding head on and driving off cliffs.

Religion steps in at this point and provides some guard rails to help keep us on the road and out of the ditch. God gave us his Law to show us the righteous path, the holy road, that if followed will keep us from self-desctructive twists and turns, reckless off-roading adventures.  But unlike my car’s steering, the misalignment of the human will caused by sin has no quick and easy fix. Continue reading Nic @ Night 5: Nicodemus at the Car Shop

Going Green 5: Thorns and Thistles

Keri and I were out in the yard doing some spring raking a while back. Keri had made some piles of leaves and weeds, and I was coming around behind her to bag them up. I was in for a painful surprise when I grabbed a pile of leaves with my bare hands only to discover she had pruned a rose bush and left the thorny briers buried beneath.

“Ouch!” I exclaimed. Well, I’m afraid my language was a bit more coarse than that. I literally cursed the ground, and found myself suddenly transported back to the very beginning of history in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. I was experiencing the result of a creation under the curse. Because of Sin, God told Adam and Eve:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen. 3:17-18).

Ever since that moment most good things come only through painful toil and sweat. Thorns and thistles are everywhere! The ugly fact of the matter is this: The natural environment is cursed.

This profound truth about nature is lost on our world today. We live in an age that is ignorant of or denying the fact that the natural order of things is fundamentally flawed. Things as they currently exist are often not as God had originally intended. Tsunamis, earthquakes, disease, famine, drought, and the disturbing violence we see in the animal kingdom — these are all evidence of the curse.

Likewise, human beings are certainly not exempt. Human beings are fundamentally fallen and prone to all kinds of perverse inclinations.

Yet, this is not what we’re taught at university. In fact, we are bombarded with the opposite worldview — the conviction that for the most part people are basically good and we must never question or condemn an individual for acting in a way that comes most natural for them.

“Be true to yourself.”

“I was born this way.”

“I didn’t choose this orientation.”

“Every person should do what feels right to them.”

“If God didn’t want me to have these urges, then he wouldn’t have made me this way.”

This way of thinking assumes that the natural order of things is still good and that our natural inclinations are automatically in line with God’s design and will. But nothing could be further from the truth according to the Scriptures. Let’s look closer at the garden to see how dangerous and misguided “going natural” can be. Continue reading Going Green 5: Thorns and Thistles

GOLF & GOD (4): Out of Bounds

ob_stake_op_450x6001Almost every single sporting game involves the use of established boundaries and penalizes players for going “out of bounds.” Whether we’re playing football, baseball, soccer, the gymnastics floor exercise or the game of golf, every honest player accepts the established boundaries and agrees to abide by the official rules of the game.  And, if you’ve ever played with “a cheater”, you know that they disgrace the spirit of the game and bring dishonor themselves — not to mention suck a lot of fun out of the competition as well.

You see the thrill of any sport is the challenge of improving one’s skills through practice and increasing in one’s mastery of the game.  No game draws upon this desire for mastery through repetition and practice more than the game of golf.  Experiencing incremental improvement and gradually lower scores is intoxicating, making golf a borderline obsession and addiction for many.

Yet, those who love and respect the game of golf also respect the rules of the game that hold all players to the same standard.  One of the most basic rules of the game that all players naturally honor are signified by those white stakes lining the perimeter of each hole: the “out of bounds” posts.   Continue reading GOLF & GOD (4): Out of Bounds

Going Green 1: God Has Green Thumbs

God has green thumbs. There’s no doubt about that. You are never closer to the heart and purposes of God than when you’re on you’re on your knees in the garden pulling weeds with sweat running down your brow. Or tilling that rocky soil, pulling up thorns and thistles, or wringing your hands with frustration at those rabbits and deer who keep spoiling your hard work and preventing a fruitful harvest. See also “Peter Rabbit in the Garden of Eden.”

The story of the Scriptures is one long never ending lawn and garden expo. The opening pages of the Bible show the Creator as master gardener playing in the dirt, sowing seeds, bringing life out of the dust. God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds” (Gen. 1:11).

Then we read that “God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). Then God passed his love of gardening on to his human image bearers to carry on the task:

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed….The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:8, 15).

We are all gardeners. God created human beings in his image and placed them on earth to cultivate it and care for it.  We were to use our abilities to maximize human flourishing and honor God’s created order by exercising wise and benevolent dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms. Genesis 1:27-28:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Unfortunately, our first parents disrupted God’s original plans and brought a curse down on the entire Garden project. Ever since, we’ve been pulling weeds, fighting thistles and bruising our foot trying to drive our spade into rocky soil.  Continue reading Going Green 1: God Has Green Thumbs

Judas in the Mirror (Matt 26:20-28)

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of thecovenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:20-28)

Nobody names their son Judas anymore.  Judas has become synonymous with gross betrayal and wretched sin.  As we walk closer to the events of Good Friday, I was reading this passage above and thinking about the Judas factor again.

There are many questions that swirl around in my mind whenever I think of ole Judas.  Was his betrayal predestined?  If so, is he really to blame?  Should he instead be given some credit for “faithfully” performing his unfortunate role in the redemption story in helping Jesus accomplish what he came to earth to do?  Did he “betray” Jesus or merely “hand him over” to the authorities to help Jesus fulfill his destiny?  (The Greek word can mean either “betray” or “hand over.”)  Did Judas repent?  Will he be in Heaven?  Unfortunately, the Biblical narrative isn’t interested in addressing these questions.

Instead of answering these questions today, I’m offering a couple simple reflections I had as I read the familiar story again this week. Continue reading Judas in the Mirror (Matt 26:20-28)

EPHESIANS 10: A Terminal Diagnosis

ephesians“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else” (Eph. 2:1-3).

“Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news.” Never words we want to hear from a doctor — especially an oncologist looking over our latest test results. “I’m afraid its terminal,” is even worse.

The Apostle Paul is a trained spiritual doctor, and Ephesians is in many ways humanity’s lab results he’s now trying to explain to us. As much as we try to wish it away, or reinvent a more digestible version of Christian faith, if we are willing to trust the Bible and the Great Physician’s word, our diagnosis begins with some  devastating news. And it’s terminal. Our condition, according to this passage, was leading us to our eventual death. “What is it, doc? Cancer?” we ask. “No, even worse,” he replies. “Worse? What could possibly be worse than terminal cancer?” we protest.

“I’m afraid it’s SIN,” Dr. Paul says.

Well, in this passage he is speaking in past-tense, already celebrating the life-saving remedy he’ll spend most of the letter celebrating — and urging us to embrace and trust!

Without Christ’s regenerating Spirit at work in us, Paul would say we are dead in our sins!  We may appear to be walking, talking, raising a family and carrying on just fine in our lives, but Paul would say there’s still a core part of us that is unresponsive, comatose, dead.  We may be physically alive and well; but is that deeper part of our being — spirit, soul — alive and receptive to the things of God?  Jesus said something similar to a well-meaning but misguided religious leader in John 3: You cannot “see the kingdom of God”, that is, grasp or understand the things of God unless you are “born from above/again,” and that requires a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

This is extremely offensive to our self-determined egos. This pulls the rug out from under all attempts at a merely moralistic religion of good deeds, and the popular notion that God just wants us to live good, honest lives and do good to others. No, people need a heart transplant. People need to experience the “new birth.” Without a supernatural awakening whereby our fallen, fleshly nature begins to be regenerated by God’s Spirit, we are all still under the influence of the Devil, enduring the toxicity of the sin-cancer eating away our souls, and fighting the relentless pressures of the unregenerate powers of the fallen world’s systems. Continue reading EPHESIANS 10: A Terminal Diagnosis

GARBAGE DAY 1 – Got Junk?

The following Lenten reflections come from a chapter entitled “Garbage Day” from an unpublished devotional book of mine exploring the deeper realities of faith through the daily routines of life (read more about my “Sacred Analogies”).  This chapter explores the reality of the spiritual garbage (i.e., sin) in our souls and why we need to regularly take out the trash.  This is a fitting topic for the season of Lent.  Please enjoy!  JB

honda-element-in-the-1-800-got-junk-wrappingOne man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” as the old adage goes.  The saying has taken on a whole new meaning for Brian Scudamore, founder and owner of the multi-million dollar business 1-800-GOT-JUNK?  In 1989, Scudamore dropped out of his last year of college to start his junk removal business with only $700 and an old beat up truck.  A decade and a half later, the company expects to reach 250 franchise partners and profit $100 million by December 31, 2006.  Only in a society as affluent and wasteful as America can a person make millions hauling away others’ unwanted garbage! The amount of personal waste is quite mind-boggling. Take San Francisco for example.  California’s Integrated Waste Management Board reports that the average San Francisco resident generates 2 pounds of garbage per day.  When you add in business waste the number increases to 7 pounds of garbage per person per day. That’s a whole lot of nothing!  Dumpsters in America reach their peak capacity during the Holiday season.  Lisa Margonelli paints a picture of the super-abundance of trash this time of year:

January is a busy month for junk.  Start with the 38,000 miles of ribbon Americans use during December and work your way back.  There’s 25 million tons of extra holiday garbage, including turkey carcasses, cardboard FedEx boxes and enough Christmas cards to fill a football field 10 stories high.  And there are all the new gifts that need somewhere to go, so the old ones must be removed.

Clearing out the old to make room for the new.  That’s the name of the game.  What spiritual insight can be gained by sorting through life’s trash?  

THE JOB NOBODY WANTS

Getting the mail is a walk in the park compared to the drudgery of taking out the trash.  It smells.  Trash bags rip and spill the week’s refuse all over the floor.  Even worse, sometimes a small leak allows garbage juice to ooze down your leg as you scurry toward the door.  You walk to the dumpster and lift the lid, almost collapsing from the smell.  You toss the bag over the side, wipe your hands, and gratefully walk away from the most thankless of household chores. the-persistence-of-garbage-giant-ginkgGarbage-we all have it.  It is a necessary by-product of life.  Things get used and things go to waste.  We have to keep a check on the waste in our lives or things can pile up.  The garbage truck comes once a week and hauls all of our rubbish away.  Yet, forget to put it out some week and soon you have a problem.  Smelly bags begin to pile up in the garage until the entire house begins to smell. Few ordinary tasks of life “stink” as much as taking out the garbage.  But, much like waking up, getting dressed, driving the car and getting the mail, garbage duty is an indispensable part of life.  Nobody enjoys doing it, but nobody can avoid it-at least for too long! The life of Christian discipleship is “littered” (forgive the pun) with its own challenges in waste management.  So, what can taking out the garbage teach us about Christian discipleship?  Stay tuned…

NEXT: “The God Who Recycles”

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