Bowling for Jesus: A Bird’s Eye View

I have no idea how she got it to stick, but a very determined bird somehow built a nest on a highway sign near the entrance to Lake Arrowhead Village. Somehow defying gravity, the small nest is suspended on the hard metal surface of the sign that says California 173.

Every time I drive by the sign, I wonder why the bird chose to set up housekeeping just outside the breathtaking beauty of Lake Arrowhead. If she had flown only a few yards east, she could have perched in a sturdy pine tree and enjoyed a glorious home right by the lake. Instead, she has taken residence alongside a busy highway, adjacent to several other cold, hard metal road signs.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I am very much like that bird when it comes to my Christian walk. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am supposed to live an abundant, joy-filled, victorious life in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And what better invitation could I receive than to walk the path with the One who created it? But instead of entering His sweet fellowship, I usually camp right outside of His presence, fretting about temporal things like money, my diet and my to-do list. When I focus on my vaporous life, I am missing the whole point of being here. In His Word, God repeatedly expresses His goal for the lives He has given us:

“You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

~Psalm 16:11

“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our heart.”

~Isaiah 26:8

“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in your presence.”

~Acts 2: 28

 “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”

~Psalm 95:2

“These things have I spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

~John 15:11

So what are we supposed to do to set things straight? After all, we have to live our lives in these crude cartons until we die or the LORD returns. We have to shower, dress, and work, eat, pay bills, interact with other human beings, clean, pay more bills and sleep. How are we supposed to do all of that while practicing the presence of God? Is it possible? Is it worth the effort? You bet your life it is! In fact, it’s the only thing that IS worthwhile.

In his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper puts it like this:

“(Jesus Christ) is pushing us to see our lives with a single focus, and for the cross of Christ to be that focus.”

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes Him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that He really is.”

I love that Piper qualifies the way we are to live God-centered, God-glorifying lives: “If we try to display the excellence of God without the joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism.”

In my 49 years on this earth, I’ve discovered that the only way to live a joy-filled life that honors God is to stay in constant, unbroken fellowship with the Holy Spirit. When we commune with Him as we go about our day, we experience a deep sense of joy and purpose.

“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

~I John 2:28

The first time I heard about this type of faith-walk was when I read a book by the lay minister Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. In it, he discussed how he was at peace when he lived as if there were no one except God and him in the world. Sure, he lived a relatively normal life in France circa 1600 AD. But, somehow, in that normalcy, he challenged himself to pursue unbroken fellowship with the Father:

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things; I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees.”

In other words, stay connected to the LORD by conversing with Him throughout the entire day instead of only at certain prescribed times of prayer and Bible study. Instead of worrying, I’m slowly learning to turn my anxious thoughts into prayers. Rather than fretting about stressful circumstances, I strive to pray. And when I’m thankful, I remind myself to turn it into praise.

Admittedly, I’ve got a long way to go on this path. Hours go by when I realize I haven’t voiced a thing to my Constant Companion. I shudder at the thought that I so often ignore my LORD and Savior. But I’m trying to learn to include Him in everything because the reward of His sweet fellowship is the secret to living the abundant life.

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? He lays it out for us in easy-to-understand terms in I Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I suppose that instruction applies even to those of us who choose to build our nests on the highway.

Love,

~Bowling for Jesus

 

Bowling for Jesus: Natural Instincts

Our dog, Kuma, is a great workout buddy. Even when it’s snowing, he follows me around -and sighs loudly — hoping his guilt trip will work. And it usually does. Today, while we were walking on the dirt path that follows the lake, he stopped in his tracks and threw himself on the ground and proceeded to roll around. When I realized he was rolling on a dead animal, I yanked his leash and scolded him. But the stench remains. To clean him, I’m going to have to give him a thorough bath.

As we meandered back to the condo, I wondered what would draw him to death. Although scientists are unsure why dogs have this particular impulse, one thing is certain: it is an instinct. And it is not unlike my own natural instinct to rub myself in the things of the natural world, and in the process, cover myself with the vile stench of death. Apparently, I’m not alone:

For the good which I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.

~Romans 7:19-20

Despite the fact I desperately want to obey my Lord and Savior and keep myself unstained by the world (James 1:27), wretched woman that I am, I continue to sin. Now, mind you, I don’t plop down on the dirt and rub myself on dead carcasses. However, all too often, I participate in sin.

While these habits aren’t the ones that Christians (erroneously) rank as the “worst sins” [God says all sin is sin. I John 5:17a “All unrighteousness is sin.”] But, believe me, I am a dirty rotten sinner desperately in need of God’s grace. And one sin I am repeatedly guilty of is filling up with the world’s sewer water, leaving myself stuffed and without room for the Living Water available to me as a child of the King of Kings.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.  

~Jeremiah 2:13

Jesus answered and said, “If you knew who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

~John 4:10

Living in 21st Century America provides us with plenty of great opportunities and benefits. But it also offers tons of distractions and a veritable bottomless pit of material with which to fill our time and attention. Movies, television, magazines, music, computer and video games, social networking — the list is endless. Our freedom in Christ enables us to decide how to spend our time — feeding our flesh or feeding our spirit.

Next time you are deciding whether to participate in something the Holy Spirit has shown you is not profitable, picture yourself standing by two bodies of water. One is clear and clean and blue, bubbling and moving, while the other is a stagnant pool of brown sewer water, filled with dead bugs, empty beer cans and sludge. Which one do you dive into?

“For you were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

~Galatians 5:13

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

~Romans 13:14

Satan tries to convince us to spend our valuable, precious time on earth engaged in what he assures us are harmless worldly pursuits. In more than 2,000 years, his MO hasn’t changed a bit.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’”

~Genesis 3:1

God makes it clear that He wants us to be wise with our time on earth.

“Look therefore carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

~Ephesians 5:15-16

“All things are lawful for me; but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

~I Cor. 6:12

“What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

~James 4:14

“I am the living bread which came down out of heaven; if any man will eat of this bread, he shall live forever.”

~John 6:51

So, next time you have some down time, I challenge you to partner with me in rebuking the enemy and making a better choice. Put down the remote, magazine or video…and head to your Father for nourishment. Grab your Bible, spend time in prayer or call someone who could use a friend. Or, if you prefer, you could wash my dog — because that’s gross.

Only by grace,

~Bowling for Jesus

Bowling for Jesus: Dead Wait

The first person I knew who died was my kindergarten teacher. My mother tried to break the news as gently as she could, reading select portions of the story which appeared in The Denver Post. Particularly unsettling was the fact she had died in a high rise hotel fire. I wasn’t sure what it meant to die. But my mom said I would never see Mrs. Dale again. And that realization made me cry.

Later that summer, as we were driving along I-25, I sat in the backseat of our Pinto and marveled at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. With my nose pressed against the window, I stared at the trees, flowers and birds. And, despite my youth, or maybe because of it, I instantly understood a simple but profound truth—someone had to have created the world…and me along with it!

When I asked my parents if they believed in God, they said, “Of course.” But religion wasn’t something we routinely discussed. My father was raised Catholic, serving as an altar boy before his family sent him off to reform school when he was 12. My mother’s family occasionally attended a Presbyterian church in Michigan while she was growing up. But neither of my parents went to church at the time. So I wondered how it was possible they could know there is a God and yet fail to acknowledge Him or include them in their everyday lives.

When my dad died nine years later, I was thankful that he had since professed faith in Jesus and had been baptized along with my mom and me at a non-denominational Evangelical church in Englewood, Colorado. I loved my father. But I didn’t cry when I found out about his death. As shell-shocked as I was by his passing, I knew that his body was in the casket…not his soul.

If you think about it, it’s a bit odd how human beings accept death as a normal part of life. Not that we have a choice. Like taxes, it’s unavoidable. No doubt you know someone who has died…maybe even recently. The past few weeks alone have brought the deaths of American astronaut Neil Armstrong, comedienne Phyllis Diller and the voice of Sesame Street’s Count Jerry Nelson.  In fact, on average, 150,000 people die every day!

So we all know the deal. Even if we enjoy an extraordinarily long life, we will eventually die. So why do we invest so much of ourselves on earth when we know…whatever our beliefs about life after death…that our days here are numbered? And if our days here are numbered, how then shall we live? Here are a few hints from Scripture:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”~ James 4:14

You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.~Psalm 39:5

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.~Ephesians 5:15-16

I find particularly poignant the spiritual writings of people who have died—heroes of the faith including every single apostle, Dietrich Bonheoffer, John Bunyan, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, Keith Green, Brother Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer and David Wilkerson…to name a few. Equally heartrending  is the work done by people, now deceased, who lived their lives on earth apart from Christ. The reason this affects me is because…ready or not, they are all standing in eternity, where we too will be.

So what should we do with the time we have while we’re here? For my part, I want to take my cue from the Apostle Paul:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

~ II Cor. 4:18

By grace alone,

~Bowling for Jesus