Sunday, July 10, 2011

Old Snow

As a humid, 95-degree July day comes to a close, I am reminded of something I saw after the biggest snowstorm of last winter in Chicago. New-fallen snow is beautiful and bright white. When it's untouched, it looks so white, so pure. Then we start walking on it, driving on it, pushing it around with shovels, snow blowers and plows. Whatever that mixture is they put on the roads to melt the ice gets mixed in. That once pure snow becomes dingy, dirty, hard, crusty and anything but clean.

When Snowpocalypse 2011 hit, all of the Chicago area was covered in a foot or two of new-fallen snow. Many weeks after Snowpocalypse 2011, I still saw a giant pile of snow in one spot on my train ride home every day. But what used to be pure white, fresh and almost breath-taking was now black, gray, crystalized, hard and ugly. What happened? Human intervention. Time. And no more new-fallen snow.

The same thing happens in our lives. A fresh touch from God after a time of confession in our quiet time, a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit has us walking in the Spirit. Then life happens in this fallen world. And I start adding some sinful, fleshly decisions, words, attitudes and that fresh, white landscape starts looking less and less like new. If I am truthful, it goes from fresh, white and clean to ugly, dirty and sinful.

What should we do? How do we get back to that pure, white landscape? Go back to God again. Recognize, acknowledge and confess your sin to the Lord. Repent and be washed clean by a holy God.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Hallelujah for the cross!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slippery When Wet

On a recent vacation to the Big Island of Hawai'i, I noticed an abundance of "Slippery When Wet" signs to apparently help stop vacationers from slipping or falling. As I saw more of these in the first few days of our vacation on the island, it got me thinking two things:

  1. Do we need all these signs? After all, aren't most things slippery when wet? And do items that don't get slippery when wet -- and I am having trouble thinking of any such items right now -- pose a problem for us? Couldn't we just assume surfaces are slippery when wet?

  2. Since there are so many of these warning signs, does anyone pay attention to them?

That last question plus the presence of cairns ( my wife and I followed to stay on the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on a hike later in our trip got me thinking about the spiritual equivalents of those "Slippery When Wet" signs that I think most of us are ignoring and of the spiritual equivalents of the cairns that are placed along the trail to let us know we are still on the right path. Scripture hits this issue head on in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

While reading the Bible in your daily quiet time -- you do have a daily quiet time with God, right? -- have you ever caught yourself thinking how dumb or foolish or sinful those people were? As our pastor says, honesty in church. Of course you have thought that. Hopefully you have caught yourself. It happens to me. We have to ask ourselves if there is a sin to confess, if there is a lesson to be learned, a change that God wants in our life based on what we are reading in His word.

We also need to watch for the cairns that show us we are still on the right path even if the hiking is hard right now and we cannot see our destination and are questioning whether it will be worth it. Remember you are walking with Almighty God, your loving Father. He is good. He loves you. It will be worth it.

As you set back out on your daily walk, pay attention to the warning signs along the trail. Have others help point them out to you. Keep way back from the guard rails and from the unstable cliffs (check out the picture above from the cliff at the end of the Chain of Craters Road in the same national park). And don't hike alone. Walk with brothers or sisters to help you stay on the trail. They can help you see the cairns along the way. In fact, the Holy Spirit often uses them to setup those cairns.

Now if we can just do something about those "Click it or ticket" and "Buckle your seat belt. It's the law" signs.