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

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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