Tag  |  sin

taking calls

When asked what’s the coolest thing about being the commander-in-chief, US President Barack Obama said, “For me, I think the coolest thing is that if there is somebody interesting who’s doing anything—a scientist, a sports figure, a writer, anybody in the world—if I want to call them up they will answer my phone call. That’s a pretty cool thing.” His response followed a question from a reporter’s daughter who said she thought the coolest part of being president would be spending time with pop-singers Beyoncé and Jay Z.

happy endings

In the 1880s, Daeida Wilcox and her husband bought 160 acres of land with the aim of creating a town. But this wouldn’t be any old town. Daeida’s dream was that “Hollywood” would be nothing less than a Christian utopia—free of alcohol and guns, a place of peace.

Hold On

After reaching the top of Dog Tooth Peak in the Sierra Nevada National Forest in the US, Larry Bishop began his descent. On his way down, he took a tumble off the trail and landed on a slim ledge of granite. Staying on that perch required him to cling to the side of the mountain for 52 hours—the alternative was a 10,000-foot drop! Eventually, Larry was airlifted to safety when a member of a rescue team risked his own life to reach him.

Fatal Hesitation

In the fall of 2003, a string of wildfires claimed two dozen lives in the US. The flames had spread fast, and firefighters begged people to leave their homes in Southern California. But many hesitated. Some wanted to take the time to pack clothes, while others wanted to battle the inferno with garden hoses.

Like New

When our washing machine malfunctioned, it spewed water through a heating vent and into our basement—drenching wallboard and carpeting. To prevent mold, we had to hire a company that set up special fans inside our house. The company’s motto read: “We will make it like new.”

What’s To Like?

A spiritual mentor once asked a disheartened young man, “What do you like about yourself?” He looked down and stared at his feet in silence. Minutes later, he finally shared a few things he had done. The mentor patiently shifted the focus away from external behaviors to who the young man was as a person.

decisive

The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.

completely good

As I watched the news of a commercial flight that had been downed by a missile last year, my heart sank. Why would people wantonly take the lives of 298 people? Why? This small, three-letter word sits at the root of all our experiences with pain and suffering. It lingers, and sometimes even haunts to the point where faith and understanding collide in crisis.

balance

In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright points out the imbalance of spending 40 days observing Lent while spending one day celebrating Easter. He suggests, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.”

scum like us

I hate them. They’re _______!” (He used a euphemism for scum.) As I continued to converse with the teen, it became clear that he strongly disliked a certain group of students at school because of the way they talked and acted. The offending ones were unpleasant for him to be around and my young friend had no love for them. Although a believer in Jesus, he couldn’t stand to be around people he viewed as scum.

louder

Having proceeded with my fellow teachers to our seating for our school’s graduation ceremony, I was amused to find I was sitting directly behind the band. Just 18 inches stood between me and some skilled trumpet players. I wondered how my ears would fare after the first few measures of “Pomp and Circumstance.” And later I stood in wonder as we began a congregational hymn. I couldn’t hear myself singing, however. Only the sound of the majestic brass instruments resonated off the church walls.

boiling water

In the classic tale of the two frogs, one is placed into a pot of boiling water and is so shocked by the experience that it quickly jumps out. The other is lowered into a pot of cold water over a low heat. The heat is gradually turned up to boiling point, but the frog doesn’t realize the subtle change in temperature and allows itself to slowly boil to death.

Dark Secrets

Do you have a dark secret that you’ve kept from others? Maybe you did something you think is so bad that if people found out about it they would have nothing to do with you. Perhaps you’re hooked on watching porn or you struggle with substance abuse. Maybe you’re carrying deep hatred for someone who hurt you.

Tempting With “Good”

I’ve endured many cycles of success and failure in my long struggle with healthy eating and consistent exercise. Whenever my efforts fail, however, it’s because I’ve succumbed to the allure of something that seemed to offer me true pleasure: another slice of apple cake with fresh maple frosting or a series of leisurely mornings where I don’t have to drag my body out to the road for another run. The truth, of course, is that poor nutrition and a lethargic body yield nothing good at all.

Gateway to Grace

When my oldest daughter was very young, it was always difficult to get her to admit when she had done something wrong. She was skillfully evasive and seemed to have a knack for explaining away a bad situation. Her indiscretions were usually very minor—she was essentially a “good girl.” But her habit of never admitting her mistakes was a source of concern to us.

Related Topics

> christian living

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

> daily devotional

no worries

How often do you find yourself worrying about something? We worry about tomorrow, the economy, our jobs, and friendships. We worry about our kids, our parents, and our health.

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

dangerous friends

One of our sons has endured bullies on his elementary school bus. Two weeks ago, he walked into the kitchen after school and with a quivering lip said, “I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.” It’s been hard for him to learn how to protect himself while also staying open to forgiveness (if the bullies show repentance) and the possibility of extending friendship to them.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

taste and see

A friend posted a crockpot recipe on her Facebook page. The meal looked good, so I downloaded the recipe—intending to use it one day. The following week, another friend said she was looking for some good slow-cooker meals to prepare, so I emailed her the crockpot recipe I had seen on Facebook. She, in turn, forwarded it to several friends who passed it on as well.

Whose Opinion Matters?

I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”

> health

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

hope deferred

As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

> relationships

alone in the dark

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone—a brilliant biomedical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Her partner for the journey is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. During a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone, tethered to nothing but each other, and ominously spiraling out into blackness.

small spark

In 2004, a man went over a dry, brown patch of grass while mowing his lawn. A blade on the mower struck a rock and created a spark, which resulted in a fire that soon raged out of control. The resulting catastrophe, known as the Bear Fire, blackened 10,484 acres of land and destroyed more than 80 homes. To put out the blaze required the efforts of 33 fire crews and 42 fire engines.

True Success

What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world