In August 2013, large crowds gathered at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to witness the blooming of the tropical plant known as the corpse flower. Since the flower is native to Indonesia, and may flower only once every several years, its blooming is a spectacle. Once open, the huge spiky, beautiful, red bloom smells like rotten meat. Because of its putrid fragrance, the flower attracts flies and beetles that are looking for rotting meat. But there is no nectar.
Like the corpse flower, sin holds out promises but in the end offers no rewards. Adam and Eve found this out the hard way. Eden was beautiful until they ruined it by doing the one thing God urged them not to do. Tempted to doubt God’s goodness, they ignored their Creator’s loving warning and soon lost their innocence. The God-given beauty of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil became like a corpse flower to them. The reward for their disobedience was alienation, pain, emptiness, toil, and death.
Sin looks inviting and may feel good, but it doesn’t compare with the wonder, beauty, and fragrance of trusting and obeying God, who has made us to share His life and joy.
It was time to fix the trim on the windows of our house. So I scraped, sanded, and applied wood filler to get the aging trim ready for paint. After all of my efforts—including a coat of primer and some too-expensive paint—the trim looks, well, pretty good. But it doesn’t look new. The only way to make the trim look new would be to replace the old wood.
It’s okay to have weather-damaged window trim that looks “pretty good” to our eye. But when it comes to our sin-damaged hearts, it’s not enough to try to fix things up. From God’s point of view, we need all things to become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
That is the beauty of salvation through faith in Jesus. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin and rose from the dead to display His power over sin and death. The result is that in God’s eyes, faith in Christ’s work makes us a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and replaces the old with a “new life” (Acts 5:20). Looking through Jesus and His work on the cross for us, our heavenly Father sees everyone who has put his or her faith in Him as new and unblemished.
Sin has caused great damage. We can’t fix it ourselves. We must trust Jesus as Savior and let Him give us a brand-new life.
When I was a young boy, my mom warned me that I should never play with fire. Yet one day I decided to see what would happen if I did. Taking a book of matches and some paper, I went out into the backyard to experiment. With heart beating fast, I knelt on the ground, struck the match, and set the paper aflame.
Suddenly I saw my mother approaching. Not wanting to get caught, I put my legs over the flames to hide what I was doing. But Mom shouted, “Denny, move your legs! There’s a fire underneath them!” Fortunately, I moved my legs quickly enough and was not burned. I realized then that my mother’s rule about not playing with fire was not to spoil my fun but because of her concern to keep me safe.
Sometimes we don’t understand the reasons behind God’s commands. We may even think He is a cosmic killjoy, setting up rules and regulations to keep us from enjoying ourselves. But God asks us to obey Him because He has our best interests at heart. As we obey, we “remain in his love” and are filled with joy (John 15:10-11).
So when God warns us not to sin, He does it for our own good. He really wants to protect us from “playing with fire” and getting burned.
The St. Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to make the choir their first priority and commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.
One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.
I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).
As members of Christ’s body on Earth, we should not fear admitting our wrongs but welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.
During a trip to Peru, I visited one of the many caves found throughout that mountainous country. Our guide told us that this particular cave had already been explored to a depth of 9 miles—and it went even deeper. We saw fascinating bats, nocturnal birds, and interesting rock formations. Before long, however, the darkness of the cave became unnerving—almost suffocating. I was greatly relieved when we returned to the surface and the light of day.
That experience was a stark reminder of how oppressive darkness can be and how much we need light. We live in a world made dark by sin—a world that has turned against its Creator. And we need the Light.
Jesus, who came to restore all of creation—including humanity—to its intended place referred to Himself as that “light” (John 8:12). “I have come as a light into the world,” He said, “that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (12:46).
In Him, we not only have the light of salvation but the only light by which we can find our way—His way—through our world’s spiritual darkness.
My friend Ed was telling me a story about his little son. He was standing in a mud puddle, so Ed told him to get out. But instead, his son began running through the puddle. “No running through it either,” he said. So the boy began walking through the water. When Ed told him, “No walking!” the boy stood with just his toes in the water, looking defiantly at his dad. The child knew what his father wanted, but he didn’t want to do it.
Noise. Vibration. Pressure. Fireball. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used these words to describe being launched into space. As the rocket raced toward the International Space Station, the weight of gravity increased and breathing became difficult. Just when he thought he would pass out, the rocket made a fiery breakthrough into weightlessness. Instead of lapsing into unconsciousness, he broke into laughter.
British pastor Joseph Parker was asked, “Why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of His disciples?” He thought deeply about the question for a while but could not come up with an answer. He said that he kept running into an even more baffling question: “Why did He choose me?”
Crunch. Crunch. Whoosh! In the early days of film, Foley artists created sounds to support the story’s action. Squeezing a leather pouch filled with cornstarch made the sound of snow crunching, shaking a pair of gloves sounded like bird wings flapping, and waving a thin stick made a whoosh sound. To make movies as realistic as possible, these artists used creative techniques to replicate sounds.