Tag Archives: Sinful nature

Imperfect Me

Though I know I’m deeply flawed
And sometimes I fear I’m a fraud
Grace I do see
I’ve been set free
Because I am loved by God


Day 4 Lesson at Blogging U involves the topic of the imperfect, the form of limerick, and poetic device of enjambment. I think I managed all 3, though the limerick is not traditional in that it’s serious rather than funny.


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Ash and Sackcloth

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It is somber holiday when we are called to consider our sinful nature and our need for a savior. As a result, it tends not to be the most popular of holidays, and yet it is an important one. For only when one understands their sinful nature, their own wretchedness, can one truly see the need for the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus as their savior.

Many churches have services on Ash Wednesday, including my church—Community of Faith—and the focus is on repentance. As part of the service, the pastor or priest places a cross of ash on the forehead of the worshippers.

Ash and Sackcloth

To repent in ash and sackcloth
Is a concept we scarce understand
To revel in our pleasure and sin
Is a right we fully demand

Yet repent is what God commands us
Deep down we know that we should
Still we cling to our sinful behavior
Thinking obedience will hinder our good

Disobedience displays a lack of trust
That God yearns for our perfect peace
If we repent in ash and sackcloth
Only then will our wretchedness cease

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Choosing to Trust

I’ve been thinking about trust lately. It has been said that trust must be earned, and that once lost it is hard to regain. But it occurs to me that trust is a choice, and that sometimes we must choose to trust even when it isn’t earned.

I decided to check The Quotable Lewis to see what C.S. Lewis had to say on the subject of trust and I found this little gem:

To love involves trusting the beloved beyond the evidence, even against much evidence. No man is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved. No man is our friend who will not be very slow to accept evidence against them. Such confidence, between one man and another, is in fact almost universally praised as a moral beauty, nor blamed as a logical error. And the suspicious man is blamed for a meanness of character, not admired for the excellence of his logic.
C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night, “On Obstinacy in Belief” (1955), p. 26.

It seems that Lewis agrees with my thought that trust is a choice. (I always love it when I discover that Lewis and I agree on something.)

We choose to trust God in spite of the lack of absolute proof that He exists and is on our side. In the face of tragedy and the existence of evil in this world, we choose to trust God to have our greater good as His chief aim. We choose to trust “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV). We trust God because we believe that He is inherently trustworthy.

But to live we must trust others as well. There would be no basis for a civilized society without some degree of trust. Such trust can be difficult because experience and scripture often tell us that humans are inherently untrustworthy. The prophet Jeremiah observed that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV).

In spite of evidence of untrustworthiness all around us, we must trust someone. So we also choose to trust our spouse, our family, and our close friends; we choose to trust those we love, because as Lewis says, “love involves trusting.” Sometimes we encounter evidence that suggests even our closest beloved family and friends are untrustworthy—not surprising, since they are human. It is then that we face the real choice: to continue to trust or to give up on love.

It occurs to me that this is the point at which we must really examine the situation with a critical eye—not critical of others, but critical of our own hearts. If we can honestly say that we have always been trustworthy ourselves, perhaps we can justifiably decide to give up on love and choose to no longer trust. But I suspect that none of us can honestly reach that conclusion. To do so in and of itself is evidence of our own untrustworthiness. As the apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NIV). If we think we are inherently more trustworthy than our loved ones, we deceive ourselves.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that we do not deceive God for He alone fully knows our untrustworthiness. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV).

This day you and I must choose. Will we trust God, who is unequaled in His trustworthiness? If we do, then we are free to choose to also trust our loved ones because we know that God is in control and will bless our choice with His grace and love.


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Escape from the Fowler’s Snare

The other day I was reading Psalm 124 during my morning prayer time. As often happens when I’m reading Psalms or other Old Testament books, I saw Jesus in this short Psalm, specifically in the last two verses:

7Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:7-8 (NKJV).

Each of us is ensnared by our sinful nature just as a bird becomes trapped in the fowler’s snare. We cannot free ourselves from this snare no matter how hard we try. To struggle alone attempting to free ourselves only causes damage. Our situation is hopeless.

But in verse 7 we find hope. This verse says, “The snare is broken.” This sentence is written in classic passive voice where there actor of the sentence is not named. But verse 8 tells us who the actor is. It is the Lord who is our help.

The snare of our soul is broken by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, and by His blood “we have escaped.”

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Life by the Spirit the Way to Overcome

I have recently been pondering Galatians 5:13-26. Usually when I read Galatians 5, my focus is on verses 22-23, that wonderful list of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But lately I’ve been considering the bigger context of what this passage has to teach me.

In the NIV, the heading for this passage of scripture is “Life by the Spirit.” Paul calls us to walk by the Spirit and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But then in the middle of the passage he provides a contrast. Paul lists the “fruit” of our sinful nature, the behaviors that are common to mankind because of the fall, and follows it up with a warning:

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. . . . The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:17, 19-21 (NIV).

There is a tendency by many (myself included at times) to focus on just part of this list. It is easy for someone to judge another because of his or her drunkenness without giving a second thought to their own selfish ambition, or to judge another for their sexual immorality without ever looking into their own heart to see hatred and jealousy running unchecked. It is far too easy to point out someone else’s sin than to reflect on our own.

I hear people all the time wonder why our world is the way it is, why there is so much violence and debauchery, and why so many lie and steal without giving it a second thought. “It’s only wrong if you get caught,” the joke goes. But as people complain about the mother who left her child in her car to go inside and gamble, or the twenty-something who drove through Portland, Oregon randomly shooting a gun out of his car window, they often don’t look at their own less-than-perfect behavior. People see the sin of others and wonder why such things happen or if the world will ever get any better.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” What scripture teaches me, and what I believe, is that our world is in the mess it is in because people live by their sinful nature and do not even try to live by the Spirit. For those who believe, there is at least the conflict within of the fruit of the Spirit trying to grow and overcome the sinful nature. But for those who have rejected God or who don’t understand the power the Holy Spirit provides, the sinful nature runs rampant. The result is, as Paul says, quite obvious.

The worst thing is when Christians point fingers at the sins they do not themselves struggle but fail to confess the sins they do struggle with and how the Holy Spirit helps them to overcome that sin. Let’s face it, everyone struggles with at least one of the items on the Galatians 5:19 list, and it is only by cultivating the fruit of the Holy Spirit that we can overcome that struggle.

What if we Christians were honest with the world about our own struggles with sin and how the Holy Spirit has helped us overcome? What if, when we pointed out someone else’s sin to them, we also shared how the fruit of the Spirit can help them to do what is right? What if we turned to the Spirit to heal the ills of world as only He can?

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Taming the Wild – A Poem

The poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today was to write about the WILD. My first thought was of a song by Johnny Cash called “The Beast in Me” (see video below). I thought of the line in that song, “God help the beast in me.” There is a little of the beast in all of us, and we need God to tame that beast, as we have no power to overcome the beast on our own.

Taming the Wild

The wild in me
I am powerless to tame
It would consume and
Obliterate my name

I walk the dark valley
of death in my heart
If I walk all alone
it will tear me apart

To be like You
is impossible to see
Instead I must die
and You live in me

I’ll not know tameness
nor escape from this hell
unless the divine
in my heart does dwell


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Sin, Redemption, and Grace – My Tuesday Three

This is week two of “My Tuesday Three,” and I am so excited about what I’ve found for this week. As I determined to find three separate but related posts, I was blessed to have God lead me to the perfect three for this week. They all touch on the themes of sin, redemption, and grace, but from different perspectives. I am pleased to share these posts with all of you, and hope you are as blessed by the message of hope that they bring as I was.

The first post I want to showcase is titled Saddened by My Fallenness by Pastor Bryan Lowe over at Broken Believers. I’ve been reading Bryan’s blog for quite some time, and he has a wonderful ministry for Christians struggling with mental illness, though his posts are equally uplifting for all Christians. This particular post really spoke to me in its brutal honesty. From the first paragraph Bryan revealed such truth about what I have come to know about myself without God:

Scripture never flatters the human heart.  It acts on us directly, “dividing the spirit from the soul.”  I find no glowing review of our common humanity, nothing leads me to draw any other conclusion.  At our deepest essence, we are depraved, separated from truth and goodness.

He goes on to explain that it is those who recognize and mourn their own sinful and depraved heart whom Christ came to save and whom God comforts and heals. We must never think that we are completely cured of our depravity, but must continually turn to God for strength and healing. Bryan concludes with a wonderful quote from Martin Luther, but you’ll have to go check out the post to read it.

The second post that I want to showcase is titled The Good Shepherd: Tending a Blemished Flock by Chris Yeager at Chris Yeager Writes Blog. I found Chris’ blog because he submitted a poem to Idylls for the King, the Christian literary blog I contribute to. I read a few of his posts, which were all wonderful. But this one in particular struck me as one I wanted to include in My Tuesday Three because it fit so well with Bryan’s post, and then the third post I found later fit wonderfully, too. This post also includes the cutest picture of his young daughter and a story of her getting in trouble and locking herself in the bathroom that perfectly illustrates our relationship with God when we sin and don’t know how we will ever be able to make it right. Chris writes:

It is very easy for us to lock ourselves away from God and fear what He will think of us if we open up the door.  Our sin or disobedience can seem so great that we would rather try to hide it away and hope that He will ignore us.  But God is a seeker…He is a good shepherd who finds His sheep wherever they may try to lose themselves. He is the healer and redeemer, cleansing us of our blemishes so we can stand before Him unashamed. 

It is when we know we have done wrong, and that we can’t do anything to make it better on our own, that we must turn to God for redemption. God knows our depraved hearts, and yet He loves us enough to send His only Son to die for our sins so that we could be redeemed.

The third post that I want to showcase is titled Abraham and David: Saved By Grace by Loren at Answers From The Book. I’ve been reading Loren’s blog for some time, and always learn something new. His posts are well supported by scripture and always encouraging. This post rounds out My Tuesday Three by reminding us of how we, depraved as we are, can nonetheless be justified before God through His grace. He starts with the Old Testament stories of Abraham and David that Paul points to in Romans 4. Neither Abraham nor David was perfect, but both were justified by faith in God. Loren points out that both of these men were perfect examples to cite to the Jews Paul was writing to, because no Jew would have argued that either was not justified before God.

But what did David claim was the basis for his Justification before God? Certainly not works or strict adherence to the Law. David had committed murder and adultery (2 Samuel, Chapter 11). Yet in Psalm 32 . . . he described the blessed man not as the one who was without sin, nor the one who had worked to earn God’s favor, but the one whose iniquities were forgiven and whose sins were covered.

In spite of our depraved heart and the sins we commit, we can be justified before God because of His abounding grace; because Jesus has forgiven and covered our sins. Our salvation is a gift from God and He alone is glorified when we are saved by grace alone.

Taken together, these three posts tell the whole story. Mankind is depraved and sinful by nature, and though we think we can hide from God or try to repay our own debt, the truth is that our redemption is only available because of the grace of God offered to those who recognize their sinful condition and need for a savior, and choose to rely in faith on Jesus Christ.

I know I cannot save myself, and neither can you. But God loves us anyway and has made a way for us to be redeemed through faith. Do you understand the wickedness of your own heart? Have you tried to hide from God or turned to Him for redemption and healing? Are you trying to earn your own salvation or do you know the joy of being justified by grace alone? I pray that, if you don’t yet know the grace of God, you will read these three wonderful posts and that the Holy Spirit will grant you understanding of the awesome truths they reveal.


Filed under Blogging, Faith, Jesus, Life, postaday2011

Prayer Habits Affect Prayer Quality

On the plane home from San Francisco this past Wednesday, I started rereading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The last time I read it was 8 or 9 years ago, and I thought it was time to see if there was something more I could learn from this classic work that I missed the first time through.

For those unfamiliar with this book, let me give you a brief synopsis. The entire books consists of a series of letters from Screwtape, a high-level department head in Hell, and his nephew Wormwood, a low-level tempter in England during the war. Wormwood is assigned to “the patient” and his task, as is the task of all demons, is to keep his patient from becoming a Christian. Wormwood fails in this initial task, and it them becomes his responsibility to deter the patient from becoming a useful and strong Christian, or to perhaps give up his faith altogether.

Throughout the letters, Screwtape refers to God as the Enemy, because, of course, God is the enemy of Satan and his followers. It seems odd that one could learn anything useful from this series of letters, but there is much wisdom regarding what to guard against when it comes to the temptations of the devil.

In the preface, C.S. Lewis makes a statement about demons that I think continues to be true today:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. Screwtape, pg. IX.

As I am reading through these letters, I am noting some advice that I find particularly useful and relevant to remember. Each one could be developed into its own blog post. So for this blog post I am going to focus on just one of the letters and its advice. Then I will discuss others in future blog posts.

Screwtape’s fourth letter to Wormwood is on the subject of prayer. He first of all suggests that the patient should be persuaded to avoid the practice altogether, if at all possible. However, in the event that the patient does actually pray, Screwtape offers some advice as to how Wormwood can try to make that prayer less than useful to the patient.

One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray ‘with moving lips and bended knees’ but merely ‘composed his spirit to love’ and indulged ‘a sense of supplication’. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. Screwtape, pg. 16.

This passage reminded me of the many years I thought kneeling to pray was unimportant, so long as I was praying to God. Since I have started  praying on my knees each morning, I have come to realize how important this position of supplication is in bringing honor and glory to God, and in drawing me closer to Him because of the humility it requires.

Another thing about kneeling to pray is that it is easier to remain focused on God. When we pray standing or while we are driving or sitting in a chair where we frequently read or watch TV, it is much easier to become distracted or to be only half focused on the fact that we are trying to pray. Praying in any one of these positions sends the message to our own soul that communication with God is not a priority but a side thought. When we kneel, however, we are saying to God and to our own soul that we desire to give communication with God the priority it deserves.

I’m not saying that we never get distracted when we pray on our knees. I know that I certainly do, but it is easier to get back on track and return our focus to listening to our Lord. As the decision to kneel to pray is repeated regularly, it becomes a habit and then communication with God becomes a habit as well. As we put a priority on communicating with God, He is faithful to respond. Even Screwtape knew this and warns Wormwood of this fact.

But of course the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. He is cynically indifferent to the dignity of His position, and ours, as pure spirits, and to human animals on their knees He pours out self-knowledge in a quite shameless fashion. Screwtape, pg. 17.

As Screwtape reveals, one of the most wonderful things about praying on our knees is the truth about our own condition and need for God that He reveals to us. For some, this revelation of their own sinfulness is too much and will result in less direct communication with God. But for those who truly love and appreciate our Lord, His revelation of wherein we need to rely on Him to overcome our selfish nature is a wonderful result of humble prayer.

Do you desire more direct and close communication with God? Have you nonetheless been avoiding literally getting on your knees to pray because you think you (and God) are happy with your current prayer habits? I challenge you to stop listening to the tempter’s suggestions that you do not need to humble yourself and bend your knee before God. Open your eyes and your heart to see the lie that how you pray is not relevant to the quality of your prayer life. If you consciously decide to kneel to pray each day, you will develop a wonderful habit that will draw you closer to your Creator and will cause Him to draw closer to you.


Filed under Book Review, Faith, Jesus, Life, postaday2011

Focus on the Inside

This morning one of my fellow bloggers posted a comment with a question about this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.” She asked, “Are the Christians the only ones who see the ‘ugly and bad’ side of the world?” I posted an answer to her question in a reply comment, but the more I thought about it I realized this was a question that was worthy of a regular blog post.

The question brought up memories of reading Nietzsche in college. I never like his writing. Something else he wrote is that God did not create man, man created God. He was definitely an atheist, and though I didn’t realize why at the time, his writing always made me feel uneasy. I couldn’t avoid reading it  because I was a political science major and it was required. But no one could make me like it.

I disagree with the quote my friend found. There is no Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad, but rather Christians are resolved to find God holy, good, and merciful. As Christians, we do recognize the sinful nature of mankind, but that is not what makes mankind sinful – or “ugly and bad.” Consider this, if I see the grass as green, that is not what makes it green, even if someone else does not see what color it is at all. There is evil and ugliness in the world. The fact that I and generations of Christians have seen it isn’t what brought it into existence.

I also don’t think Christians are the only ones who see the evil in the world. Even Nietzsche could see that there was something ugly and bad in the world. But Christians are often (though not always) the ones who can see the evil in our own hearts. Non-believers can easily point to others and see their evil and blame the ugly and bad in the world on them. This is essentially what Nietzsche has done in this quote. He saw external ugliness and blamed it on Christians, but never saw the evil in his own heart.

We have no control to change others and are often powerless to do anything about the evil and ugliness outside ourselves. But we can do something about the evil within; we can invite the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the ugly and bad in our own hearts. That is the Christian resolution – to rely on God to help us overcome our own evil.

“God knows people’s hearts.” Acts 15:8a. Only God knows how we have grappled with our own sinful desires and turned to Him for redemption. The prophet Samuel learned this when he thought one of Jesse’s older, taller, stronger sons would be anointed King of Israel.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

God had David, the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons in mind to be king. He saw David as a man after His own heart. Acts 13:22. Though David was not perfect, he consistently saw his own sinfulness and repented. He was able to look within his own heart and see the evil and ugliness therein; he grappled with his sinful desires and turned to God for redemption.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to grasp Nietzsche’s view and blame evil on everyone else. Rather, I want to be like David and confess the ugliness in my own heart, casting my lot on God for redemption and healing. If every person grasped the Christian resolution to not “worry about a speck in my friend’s eye when I have a log in my own” (Matthew 7:3) and sought the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to overcome my own sinful nature, then imagine what a wonderful place the world would be.


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Lessons from My Laptop’s Demise

I had a post planned for yesterday, a summary of our last adult education class on discipleship and leadership. But I was delayed by the untimely demise of the hard drive on my laptop. It was the victim of a frustrated 15-year-old who couldn’t get a program to work and thought the laptop was tougher than it was.

Two lessons came out of this experience that I want to share. (Don’t worry, for those of you interested in the discipleship class summary, that’s still coming).

First, I was reminded of how grateful I am for my wonderful husband who is thoughtful, intelligent, and quite handy with computers in spite of no formal training. As soon as we realized the poor computer hard drive had bitten the dust, he went to work trying to fix my computer. He attempted to restore the hard drive with the data backed up on an external back-up drive we have. When that didn’t work, he got up first thing yesterday morning, removed the hard drive from the laptop, and headed out to our local computer store to purchase a new one. He found me a 500 gigabyte hard drive (almost twice the size I had) for a great price. He installed the hard drive in the laptop and restored all of my programs and data to the point they were at the last time it was backed up. I was able to check my email last night, but didn’t have time to post anything.

I seem to have forgotten lately how special my husband is. I’ve allowed myself to be irritated by little things that are of no consequence. I was reminded by this occurrence that what is important to me is important to him. I was reminded of how much he loves me.

The second lesson that came out of this experience was a bit more involved. As I mentioned, the demise of my hard drive was caused by my frustrated 15-year-old. He is a perfect example of that old adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” He sometimes exhibits the same frustration and short fuse I have since I was a child, and still do sometimes even now. I was reminded by this that I need to help him learn how to deal with his frustration in a more constructive manner. I know what has helped me to overcome my tendency to become easily frustrated, but I don’t think I have done a very good job of conveying what I have learned about this over the years to him.

Then this morning I was listening to my Christian playlist on my iPod. Just last week I added a CD by a band called Skillet, which my son listens to and recommended to me. They are a Christian band, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole CD yet. So this morning, while I was getting dressed, their song “Monster” started playing. This is one of their songs that I have heard before, but I hadn’t paid attention to the words or thought about what made it a Christian song. At first listen, one would probably not think it is a Christian song. These are just some of the lyrics:

I feel it deep within, it’s just beneath the skin
I must confess that I feel like a monster
I hate what I’ve become, the nightmare’s just begun
I must confess that I feel like a monster

My secret side I keep hid under lock and key
I keep it caged but I can’t control it
‘Cause if I let him out he’ll tear me up, break me down
Why won’t somebody come and save me from this, make it end?

As I listened to it this morning, I was pondering what this song could mean from a Christian perspective. I realized that the “monster” is our sinful nature. The first step to realizing we need Christ is to realize that we all have a monster living “just beneath the skin.” This monster would like to tear us up and break us down. We all need someone to come save us! Just then the song ended and the very next song to play was “Consuming Fire” by Third Day:

Set this place on fire
Send your Spirit, Savior
Rescue from the mire
Show Your servant favor
Yesterday was the day that I was alone
Now I’m in the presence of Almighty God

I always have my iPod on shuffle, so I never know what will be next. I am convinced that God often takes control of what song will be next to help me learn something from the lyrics. In this case, the message I heard was that the answer to our struggle with the monster within, our struggle with our sinful nature (which can come out as frustration and a short fuse), is to call on God to send His Holy Spirit to rescue us from the mire and help us to overcome the monster.

Have I taught my son this truth as I should? He believes in Jesus, but I’m not sure I’ve helped him to understand the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. This is an important truth that must be passed on to the next generation. Have you passed this on to your children? I pray that you and I will ensure our children will spend now and forever in the presence of Almighty God, so that they will never be alone and never have to try to save themselves.

I was 24 hours without my laptop! It seemed like forever, and yet the blessings and wisdom that came from it were well worth it.


Filed under Blogging, Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Music