• Topic > Christian Beliefs > Sin >

    Who Are You?

    The leader of our video conference said, “Good morning!” I said “Hello” back, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was distracted by my own image on the screen. Do I look like this? I looked at the smiling faces of the others on the call. That looks like them. So yes, this must be me. I should lose some weight. And get a haircut.

    In his mind, Pharaoh was pretty great. He was “a lion among the nations . . . a monster in the seas” (Ezekiel 32:2). But then he caught a glimpse of himself from God’s perspective. God…

    A Tree to Heal

    For $300,000, you can buy a new McLaren 720S sports car. The vehicle comes with a V8 engine pumping 710 horsepower—considerably more than you’ll need for your morning commute.

    Of course, you might be tempted to use all that power. One Virginia driver learned his McLaren was so “fast” it could go from an upscale showroom to the scrap heap in just twenty-four hours! One day after buying the car, he slammed it into a tree. (Thankfully, he survived.)

    Just three chapters into the story of the Bible, we learn how a different bad choice and a tree marred God’s good creation.…

    Rebuilding the Ruins

    At seventeen, Dowayne had to leave his family’s home in Manenberg, a part of Cape Town, South Africa, because of his stealing and addiction to heroin. He didn’t go far, building a shack of corrugated metal in his mother’s backyard, which soon became known as the Casino, a place to use drugs. When he was nineteen, however, Dowayne came to saving faith in Jesus. His journey off drugs was long and exhausting, but he got clean with God’s help and with the support of his Christian friends. And ten years after Dowayne built the Casino, he and others turned the…

    Morning Mist

    One morning I visited a pond near my house. I sat on an overturned boat, thinking and watching a gentle west wind chase a layer of mist across the water’s surface. Wisps of fog circled and swirled. Mini “tornadoes” rose up and then exhausted themselves. Before long, the sunlight cut through the clouds and the mist disappeared.

                This scene comforted me because I connected it with a verse I had just read: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist…” (Isaiah 44:22). I had visited the place hoping to distract myself from a…

    God’s Guidance

    When their bank accidentally deposited $120,000 into their account, a couple went on a shopping spree. They purchased an SUV, camper, and two four-wheelers in addition to paying off bills. Discovering the deposit error, the bank told the couple to return the money. Unfortunately, the husband and wife had already spent it. They were then charged with felony theft. When the couple arrived at the local court, the husband said to a reporter, “We took some bad legal advice.” The two learned that following bad advice (and spending what wasn’t theirs) could lead to making a mess of their lives.

    In contrast, the…

    The Triumph of Forgiveness

    Mack, having struggled with drug abuse and sexual sin, was desperate. Relationships that he valued were in disarray and his conscience was beating him up. In his misery, he found himself unannounced at a church asking to speak with a pastor. There he found relief in sharing his complicated story and in hearing about God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    Psalm 32 is believed to have been composed by David after his sexual sin. He compounded his wrongdoing by devising a sinister strategy that resulted in the death of the woman’s husband (see 2 Samuel 11–12). While these ugly incidents were behind him,…

    Removing the Intruder

    It wasn’t quite dawn when my husband rose from bed and went into the kitchen. I saw the light flip on and off and wondered at his action. Then I recalled that the previous morning I’d yelped at the sight of an “intruder” on our kitchen counter. Translated: an undesirable creature of the six-legged variety. My husband knew my paranoia and immediately arrived to remove it. This morning he’d risen early to ensure our kitchen was bug-free so I could enter without concern. What a guy!

    My husband awoke with me on his mind, putting my need before his own. To…

    Never Too Sinful

    “If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” my English professor at a community college said. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse; and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.

    There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but…

    Don’t Be Deceived

    The spotted lanternfly is a pretty insect with speckled outer wings and a splotch of bright red on its inner wings that flashes when it flies. But its beauty is a bit deceptive. This insect, first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014, is considered invasive to North America, which means it has the potential to harm the environment and economy. The lanternfly will “eat the innards of practically any woody plant,” which includes cherry and other fruit trees, and leaves a sticky goo that leads to mold—killing trees outright or leaving them with little energy to grow fruit.

    In the story of…

    Spiritual Driving

    I don’t remember many specifics about my driver’s education class. But for some reason, an acronym we learned, S-I-P-D-E, remains firmly lodged in my memory.

    The letters stood for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute, a process we were taught to practice continually. We were to scan the road, identify hazards, predict what the hazards might do, decide how we’d respond, and then, if necessary, execute that plan. It was a strategy for being intentional to avoid accidents.  

    I wonder how that idea might translate to our spiritual lives. In Ephesians 5, Paul told Ephesian believers, “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise,…

    The Battle’s Over. Really.

    For twenty-nine years after World War II ended, Hiroo Onoda hid in the jungle, refusing to believe his country had surrendered. Japanese military leaders had dispatched Onoda to a remote island in the Philippines (Lubang) with orders to spy on the Allied forces. Long after a peace treaty had been signed and hostilities ceased, Onoda remained in the wilderness. In 1974, Onoda’s commanding officer traveled to the island to find him and convince him the war was over.

    For three decades, Onoda lived a meager, isolated existence, because he refused to surrender—refused to believe the conflict was done. We can make…

    His Scars

    After my conversation with Grady, it occurred to me why his preferred greeting was a “fist bump” not a handshake. A handshake would’ve exposed the scars on his wrist—the result of his attempts to do himself harm. It’s not uncommon for us to hide our wounds—external or internal—caused by others or self-inflicted.

    After interacting with Grady, I thought about Jesus’ physical scars, the wounds caused by nails pounded into His hands and feet and a spear thrust into His side. Rather than hiding His scars, Jesus called attention to them.

    After Thomas initially doubted that Jesus had risen from the…

    A Wide, Sweeping Grace

    Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled device, has an interesting feature: it can erase everything you say. Whatever you’ve asked Alexa to do, whatever information you’ve asked Alexa to retrieve, one simple sentence (“Delete everything I said today”) sweeps it all clean, as if it never happened. It’s too bad that the rest of our life doesn’t have this capability. Every misspoken word, every disgraceful act, every moment we wish we could erase—we’d just speak the command, and the entire mess would disappear.

    There’s good news, though. God does offer each of us a clean start. Only, He goes far deeper than merely…

    Debt Eraser

    Stunned is just one word that describes the response of the crowd at the 2019 graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The commencement speaker announced that he and his family would be donating millions of dollars to erase the student debt of the entire graduating class. One student—with $100,000 in loans—was among the overwhelmed graduates who expressed their joys with tears and shouts.

    Most of us have experienced indebtedness in some form—having to pay for homes, vehicles, education, medical expenses, or other things. But we’ve also known the amazing relief of a bill being marked “Paid”!

    After declaring Jesus as…

    Useful Temptation

    Fifteenth-century monk Thomas à Kempis, in the beloved classic The Imitation of Christ, offers a perspective on temptation that might be a bit surprising. Instead of focusing on the pain and difficulties temptation can lead to, he writes, “[temptations] are useful because they can make us humble, they can cleanse us, and they can teach us.” Kempis explains, “The key to victory is true humility and patience; in them we overcome the enemy.”

    Humility and patience. How different my walk with Christ would be if that were how I naturally responded to temptation! More often, I react with shame, frustration, and impatient…

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