The Crime Blotter of Your Internal Soul

As a teen, avoiding sin seemed a simple enough proposition. You figured you could protect yourself from most risky business by avoiding bars, bad company, and back seats.

No problem. Not your scene anyway.

When you grew up, you discovered something distressing about sin. (Cue voiceover for a horror film trailer “you think you can escape it by locking the door but turn around – it’s already gotten in!”) In other words, some sins are external and can be avoided by avoiding their location, but there are other sins that are insidiously home grown. Continue Reading →

Awkward Evangelists, Bumbling Missionaries

nerd-294045_640Hey, pssst, you there – yes, you. We need to chat. This isn’t a post for someone else. Yes, I know you think I’m not aware it’s you reading this but I am. You’re precisely the one I mean to reach.

God’s not messing around, you know that, don’t you?

And by God, I’m not talking about the god who is so popular in certain circles. I’m talking about the God you and I know. The God of the Bible. The God who created the world. The God who deeply, passionately loves us. The God who talks about sin like it’s a really bad thing. So bad, He had to sacrifice His only Son to pay the price for ours. Sin is that bad. He loves us that much. The God who is Jesus. Yeah, that Jesus.

God is serious that there is no way to Him except through Jesus. He’s serious about how lethal unrepentant sin is for humans. It’s life-threatening and you and I know this because we’ve received the cure by grace, purely by grace. We aren’t smarter or more special than anyone else. But, really, no one needs to tell us that because we look into the mirror of His Word daily. We find love there. Forgiveness. Grace. Peace. But, we also find challenge. Exhortation. Confrontation. Sanctification. Hard truth. And a constant call to repentance. Continue Reading →

When You’re a Total Loser


Sometimes you think you’re getting somewhere, you know, with this whole growing up in Jesus business.

You’re hitting your Bible regularly and going deep, not just the quick pass over a verse and a thought but digging in and rocking it. Your prayer life is consistent and gets more involved than “Help!” and “Please!” (not that those words don’t feature frequently) They know your face at church and well, you get the point. You’re no soul slouch.

Then, whammo! You hit what is apparently a giant spiritual pothole of what was that? Instead of choruses of praise songs, your mind floods with whispers from the dark side. Continue Reading →

Do You Ever Act Like Adam?

person-691410_640Did you ever act like Adam? Find yourself hiding like great-grandma Eve? Probably not. Maybe I’m the only one.

Recently, I felt like something for five minutes. You know, I felt my potential. Glimpsed my worth.

Then, I read another woman’s blog and it was brilliant. God’s going to use her, not me. That was my thought – or the arrow, anyway, that struck it’s mark. Everything I am, she’s more. Plus, she has more followers. I can just tell. And then, I viewed her About Me page and, of course, she’s thin, so I believe God likes her more.

And I almost shared her post but instead, I crawled into some backroom of my soul and didn’t click. In refusing to make her bigger, I made myself smaller and not in the good way that John the Baptist said “I must become lesser so He becomes greater” but in the bad way that emerged when the disciples fought about who was greater.

Five minutes off a mountain top and I’m worried that the infinite God has a limited stash of grace and this stranger has been granted my portion. What’s wrong with me? Seriously, after a lifetime of following Jesus, What. Is. Wrong. With. Me? Continue Reading →

Isn’t It Always the Small Things?

tiger-mosquito-49141_640A lone gunman ends countless lives.

One rebel group terrorizes a dozen powerful nations.

A single decision derails a solid life.

One mosquito alters a generation.

A lone family member detonates an emotional explosion, rewriting a family’s story.

One wish from a dying boy unites a planet.

A cancer-laden cell.

A missing chromosome.

A wandering toddler.

A single predator.

A rebel voice in a crowd.

A single dose of heroin.

A relentless bully.

A broken heart.

Do you see the power of small things?

There is a sin we don’t name. A crime against our design. A rebellion against the message God’s communicated over and over. From the process of beginning each life with the meeting of a single sperm and egg to the sending of His Only Son to a small tribe wrapped inside a small package, He’s repeatedly emphasized that size is not an indicator of power, of favor, of influence, or of destiny. Continue Reading →

The Crime Blotter of My Internal Soul

There was a time for me when avoiding sin seemed a fairly simple prospect. When I was young, I thought I could protect myself from most sin by avoiding bars, bad company and back seats. No problem. Not my scene anyway.

Then I grew up and discovered something about sin. Like the voiceover for the trailer of a horror film “you think you can escape it by locking the door but turn around – it’s already gotten in!” There is a measure of sinful behavior that is external and public and can be dealt with by avoiding the situation of temptation but then there is sin that’s insidiously home grown.

For example, I don’t need to cruise the Internet to see pornography because my imagination can create movies that flicker on my frontal lobe. I can commit adultery in broad daylight without batting an eyelash thanks to the Kodachrome world inside my head.

I don’t need to buy a gun to destroy people who bother me. I simply let anger harden my heart and cut them out of my life. To me, they no longer exist. Without the messy accessory of a physical weapon, I can become a social and emotional serial killer.

Without moving from my chair, I can refuse to acknowledge what is good in my life and think only on what I do not have. I can indulge in self-pity and envy until a darkness settles over my spirit. I can have a lasting detrimental impact on my family with a simple change of demeanor, temperament, mood, or countenance all without stirring from my favorite chair.

If I let an infection of pride go untreated, I can develop a protective coating of self-deception that makes me blind to the virtues of others, deaf to the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit and paralyzed when it comes to serving others. And all of this damaging sin can occur without taking a step off my back porch or leaving my pew.

So, the strategies I’d been taught as a child for avoiding sin – “stay away from temptation, don’t be there, don’t go to that place, make wise choices in friends, remain in well-lit areas and don’t stay out late after dark”. All these words of wisdom offered by older Christians meant to ward off sinful behavior – while quite effective on a whole set of nasty transgressions – suddenly proved quite impotent at the combination brothel/casino/gangland/personal-kingdom-devoted-to-me that I discovered lurked inside me.

Or were they?

Avoid temptation. Can this help me with internal sin concerns? Well, Matthew 6:22-23 says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” So, choosing carefully where I focus my attention is a useful strategy in this warfare. The writer of Hebrews encourages us “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” It’s harder for sin to take hold when our eyes are set on Jesus, easier when our eyes are focused on wrong goals or ideas.

Don’t be there. How can this help me with matters of the heart and mind? I can’t avoid myself! But, I remember a recent interview with a woman whose husband was nearing death. The reporter asked her how she handled her emotions when she watched her husband play with their children and thought perhaps it could be the last time. The wife replied “I don’t go there. I’ve learned when those thoughts crop up to say out loud ‘Not helpful’ and I don’t allow myself to wander into those rooms in my mind.” Yeah, that’s great stuff. Philippians 4:8 puts it this way, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Don’t go there.

Make wise choices in friends. This works on many levels. Don’t entertain sinful thinking. Don’t make friends with flirtation and fleeting infatuation because soon they’ll introduce you to their pals lust and adultery. Don’t have dinner with discontent because soon his gangland cousin, envy will be parking his RV in your driveway. Don’t tolerate irritation and aggravation because soon they’ll mate and give birth to their evil triplets: anger, malice and rage. Avoid rubbing shoulders with self-pity because soon his slobbering pet sloth will jump up on your lap and trap you for days. Make friends with the Holy Spirit and He will introduce you to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Remain in well-lit areas and don’t stay out late after dark. This is the best counsel of all. Shine the light of the Son of God on all the dark areas of your heart and mind. Confess – own up – come clean – admit – be honest about your thoughts and feelings to Jesus. Read the Psalms. David was an open book before God. Read the word of God, study it, meditate on it, memorize it – let it be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path! Receive the counsel of mature believers and enlist their help in keeping you accountable not just for your outward sins but for those that no one sees. Let the Son shine, baby!

If it appears I know this subject well, I do. I’m a sinner from way back. It’s an ongoing battle. I’m one of those Christians that really needs Jesus. Fortunately, He loves me even when I invite Him in to the horror show and He’s never shocked or afraid – He just turns on the light.

We’ve All Been to Chappaquiddick

Another well-known public figure dies and once again, God reminds us why He alone is qualified to judge a life.

I do not know the state of Senator Ted Kennedy’s soul. It is not my place to know nor is it my desire to speculate. The reporting on his life, however, can serve as a lesson for us all.

Because the truth of it is, that we all have our own personal version of Chappaquiddick.

When the young senator left the scene of a car accident caused by his own drunk driving and resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, he chose his own self-interest over what was right. And it haunted him even into death.

Today, anchor people and radio announcers sort through Ted Kennedy’s life and try to determine if his was a story of redemption through good works or a life that could have been brilliant but whose potential was marred by tragic personal choices.

Each of us lives our own version of that same story. For we are each capable of brilliance, goodness and altruism that astonishes and yet, we know too well, we are also capable of villainy, self-serving acts of cowardice and deception for the sake of saving our own skin.

God calls it sin.

Ted Kennedy’s life should be the answer for those who wonder – can’t I just live a very good life and have the good outweigh the bad? God tells us it doesn’t work that way.

He knew we could never overcome the results of our sinful choices even if we followed them up with a million choices for good.

God’s answer?

Salvation lies in Jesus Christ alone. He lived the only perfect life. He died as the payment for all the Chappaquiddicks in all of our lives. Trusting His sacrifice as payment for our sins is the only way to find redemption. That’s it.

My prayers are with Senator Kennedy’s family. I did not know him but I am grateful for the lesson of his life.

One reporter speculated this morning that “perhaps we no longer make room in our lives for stories of redemption.” I hope that isn’t true because redemption through Jesus Christ is the ONLY story worth telling for eternity.

A Stone’s Throw From Help

So, this morning I was thinking about how we all love the story about Jesus defending the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned by the self-righteous crowd. Remember that story?

There she is, standing alone (despite the fact that she couldn’t have committed adultery alone) and the crowd is ready to put her to death. Her guilt is sure. They are within their legal, cultural and religious rights to take action. They turn to Jesus looking for approval because if anyone knows the rules, He should.

Jesus knows more than the rules, however. He knows what is in their hearts. So he tells them, “Let him who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” One by one, they drop their stones and walk away.

And we in the modern age stand and cheer! Go Jesus! You nailed ‘em! The self-righteous sons of (well, you know.). Anyway, rock on, Jesus. You know how to put the judgmental religious hypocrites in their places.

But, as Paul Harvey says, there’s more to the story. “Only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

What’s that? “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Did Jesus just call her a sinner? Oh, yeah, baby. Because that’s what she was. She couldn’t have thrown a stone either.

OK, so back to us. Like I said, we love this story but I’m not sure why since it illustrates a point that we hate to acknowledge in 2009 – we are ALL sinners.

That’s right. I said it. I called you a sinner. I resurrected that archaic word that you’d like relegated to the pulpits of yesteryear along with its companions “hell”, “damnation” and “repentance”. Man, one thing we modern American’s hate is to be called sinners or to have any of our behavior characterized as sin.

OK, sure, we have weaknesses. We’re not perfect. We make MISTAKES. We have our moments. I mean, everyone has faults. But, we’re in recovery. We’ve made resolutions. We’re in therapy. We’re trying. We’ve been under stress. Our whole family is like this. We’ve signed up for a retreat, a conference, a seminar, a program. We’ll fix this. Back off, it’s not like we killed anybody. We’re not hurting anyone. Don’t worry, man, it’s all good.

But it isn’t. It’s sin.

And we know it.

See, if we’re going to cheer Jesus on when he says “Let him who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” then we’ve got to acknowledge that we’re standing in that crowd and that makes us sinners. Even if we identify with the woman caught in adultery, we still wind up sinners. So, unless you think you’re Jesus, everyone else in the story had a sin problem and so do you.

Jesus knew that woman sinned. She knew she’d sinned. The angry mob was so full of self-righteousness, however, that they were blind to their own sin. Jesus wasn’t saying the woman didn’t need to change, He was saying the mob needed to change, too.

We’re the mob.

I really think that we may go down in human history as the most self-righteous generation that ever walked the planet. And yet, we are just like the ancient Israelites when Isaiah the prophet cried out “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you;” Isaiah 64:6-7a

The truth is, in 2009, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a sinner.

The answer is to take ourselves out of the blind, misguided crowd and place ourselves in the place of condemnation with the woman who was caught.

Better to be caught in our sin. Better to acknowledge that our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Better to be left alone with Jesus and find our sin recognized, named for what it is, ourselves in need of change.

Best to be left alone with Jesus and walk away forgiven with a righteousness – not our own – but one that will defend us in the end.

So yeah, I just called you a sinner. What are you going to do about it?

Believe me, you’re just a stone’s throw away from help. His name is Jesus.

A Bad Diagnosis

My husband and I love watching House. That’s the medical drama about the damaged but brilliant doctor who solves medical mysteries that elude other doctors. He is usually the last hope for his patients and because of that, unlike other medical shows where a patient is devastated to receive a dire diagnosis; these patients welcome the life-altering news.

Why is that? Often because the patients have suffered with symptoms they know are real. They’ve tried, sometimes, dozens of other avenues for treatment and cure. More often than not, the incorrect treatment was not only ineffective for solving their problem; it created more problems and sometimes threatened their lives. The correct diagnosis, even if it is a terrible one, is better than not knowing the truth.

My husband’s life has been a real life House episode for over five years now as he’s battled a mystery illness and pursued courses of treatment that created more problems than they cured. When we prepare to visit a new doctor to receive test results now, we’re more devastated to have no answers than we would be if we were receiving news of a life-threatening disease with a name.

My college psychology professor used to say “the facts are our friends; truth is always on our side no matter what that truth is.” An inaccurate diagnosis, a wrong course of treatment, false hopes – these are the enemies – not the truth.

This is why most Christians were relieved to learn the condemning news that they are sinners with no hope of saving themselves.

See, we knew something was wrong inside us – something life threatening. We suffered from the symptoms but could not find the root cause no matter where we looked – and we looked. We pursued all kinds of false diagnoses. We tried every self-help treatment available and followed every healer who told us they knew the cure for what ailed us. Those false cures were not only ineffective; they usually created more problems, some of them life-threatening.

Then, one day, someone told us they knew what was wrong with us. That person may have exhibited compassion or they may have been as cold as Dr. House, but they knew the truth about our condition – we were sinners with no hope of saving ourselves facing a sentence of death. Rather than be offended or devastated by the news, we were relieved to hear the truth that somehow we already knew. We’d suffered the symptoms of our sinful condition for so long we were ready for the cure.

And THAT was the good news. The cure was available for us. The cure of trusting Jesus Christ with our lives. No longer did we have to search bookstores and drugstores, gurus and shamans, backrooms or bedrooms for treatments that only quieted the symptoms but did nothing to touch the disease. Now we were free to pursue the effective treatment available through a relationship with the God of the universe.

Just like on House, for some the evidence of the cure was immediate but for others it took time but the Great Physician has a 100% survival rate among those who are willing to receive the truth and trust His prescription for their lives.