Indelible

An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*

Indelible

“Ink”—slang for tattoos. Ink is actually an appropriate moniker for tattoos, as ink, in most cases, is indelible…permanent…un-erasable—like tattoos.

The most inked human I know is one I affectionately call “my boy.” He’s tattooed from the neck down—or so he says, as there are a couple of private spots I haven’t seen (and ain’t asking about and don’t wanna). Tattoos are kind of like indelible reminders of wear and tear from the past.

And he’s definitely got a past—drug use and abuse, civil disobedience, jail time. But that past also includes marrying a beautiful wife who kept his family—their family—together while his drug use ran its course.

And then one day there was an encounter with Almighty God, delivery from his demons, a sure and certain moment of salvation.

And now for the rest of the story…

Seedy

From the I Am the Clay “Story” Series

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A farmer went out to sow his seed… Matthew 13:3-8 NIV

“Ally?”

“Oh my goodness—Jess? Hey!” Ally stood up from her small table and gave her high-school friend a hug. “What are you doing back in town?”

“I’m here for the women’s conference this weekend at the New Life Center at Calvary Memorial.”

“It’s so good to see you!” Ally motioned to an extra chair. “Please—join me.”

Jess sat down. “I thought I might run into you at the conference, but this will give us a chance to catch up.”

“What are you having? Cappuccino? Latte?”

“A cup of tea would be great.”

Ally flagged down the server. “Evie? Can I get a tea for my friend, hon?” She turned to Jess. “How about the mango/peach tea? It’s amazing.”

“Sure.” Jess turned to the server. “Mango/peach it is. Thanks.” She looked around the small restaurant. “This is really cute. I don’t think it was here the last time I was in town. Didn’t it used to be a gas station?”

And now for the rest of the story…

Messy

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“…And this bedroom belongs to—” My friend stopped dead in her tracks. “Seriously?”

She quickly closed the door, but not before I got a shot of pretty-in-pink, teenage-girl chaos. Clothes festooned every surface; shoes were strewn about, with not a single one in near proximity to its mate; “delicates” littered the floor…indelicately…

“I’m so sorry you had to see that. I told them I’m not cleaning up after them.”

I just laughed. “If you think THAT’S bad, then you can NEVER come to my house!”

(I write this while sitting in my office that includes an elliptical machine, weights and a weight bench, a pair of crocs and socks to wear while ellipting, an unassembled bed leaning up against the wall, three dining room chairs, an unused scanner, a storage box full of shoes, various lengths of 4×4 pressure-treated lumber providing a make-shift corral for an exercise ball on top of the storage box full of shoes, and a zippered vinyl portfolio with Liberace’s logo on it holding a collection of Liberace piano books for the beginning pianist. She can NEVER come to my house.)

And now for the rest of the story…

10 Ways to Live a Holy Life, Part 4

[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life. 2 Timothy 1:9

I hope you’ve had the chance to read at least some of the first three installments of this series on living a holy life. Maybe, though, these last two list items will be just the ones you need to read. God has a perfect track record for getting us where we need to be, when we need to be there.

In Part 3, I included a powerful quote about holiness from a sermon by the late Oswald Chambers, one of my favorite preachers of yore. During that same sermon he went on to say:

God…did not come to save us out of pity – He came to save us because He created us to be holy. Holiness is not simply what God gives me, but what God has given me that is being exhibited in my life.

So don’t get the idea that living a holy life is some sort of means of earning salvation – that ain’t happening. But once we come to faith in Jesus and accept the free gift of salvation God has so graciously offered, then the desire to meet His higher standards for us should come naturally due to being filled with His Holy Spirit. In other words, we can’t not want to be holy.

If you’re indifferent to that desire, then you may want to do some deep searching, kind of like a virus scan on your computer – and not the “Quick” scan but the “Full” one. Not that these 10 ways to live a holy life are definitive or on a par with inspired scripture, but you should find yourself doing or wanting to do some of them. If not – “Full” scan.

The first eight ways to live a holy life are:

Part 1

  1. Go to Church
  2. Read the Good Book (and other good books)
  3. Pray

Part 2

  1. Be Honest
  2. Be a Giver
  3. Be Peculiar

Part 3

  1. Watch What Goes Into Your Body Temple
  2. Watch What Comes Out of Your Body Temple

Just as we did for the first eight, for the final two we will use the only yardstick by which any of these ways to be holy should be measured: Jesus.

The Holiness Listicle (9-10)

9. Don’t Turn That Dial

I know a fine Christian individual – grew up in church, loves to dig deep into the Bible, supports all manner of ministry opportunities. Great sense of humor, loves to laugh – which leads to watching a few sitcoms on TV. In my best “speak the truth in love” voice, I pointed out that one of those sitcoms, while hysterically funny, presents a world view that’s the exact opposite of this person’s world view.

“You know,” I said, “all the characters on that show are sleeping with other characters they aren’t married to. One of them is an atheist and has spoken sacrilegiously about Jesus on several occasions.”

The response: “I know, but it’s just so funny and there isn’t much else on TV I like to watch.”

Apparently, turning off the TV and not watching that program wasn’t an option.

I don’t have a TV, so I can only go by the names of some of these, but with names like “Good Christian B-tches”, “Californication,” and “Dating Naked” I know all I need to know. Shows I used to watch, like “Glee,” “Modern Family,” and “Big Bang Theory,” may not have been as overtly offensive as the others, but they still present a world view that is anything but Christian.

I know there are some fine programs on TV – sports, news, arts, and DIY shows – but for every minute I sit aimlessly scrolling through the channels, I could be writing for this blog or reading my Bible or just getting alone with the Lord. And every dollar I spend on cable just to watch HGTV could be used to feed hungry children in my county, a much greater need than my being entertained by the Property Brothers.

As far as movies, although there are some fine Christian-themed ones that have come out lately (not Noah), thanks to the 21st century obsession with sharing every detail of one’s life through social media I know of Christian brothers and sisters who go to decidedly non-Christian-themed movies, some of which cause them to comment: “They used the ‘F’ word so much we almost got up and left.” (“Almost” – that only counts when playing horseshoes.)

We all have to (or should) listen to that still small voice inside us. And that voice has told me I’m not to go to movies with cursing or other things He doesn’t approve of and to totally do away with my TV. Why? Actually the owner of that still small voice doesn’t ever owe me an answer. “’Cause I’m God and I said so” would work just fine. However, venturing a guess, I suspect it would relate to what Paul told the folks at his church plant in Philippi:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8

And that doesn’t include sitting in front of the TV laughing at sacrilegious atheists who sleep with their neighbors across the hall.

Would Jesus watch “Big Bang Theory?” No, but He might enjoy watching a YouTube video of a cat wearing a shark suit while riding a Roomba and chasing a duck.

You don’t know.

10. Save it For Marriage

No one reading this needs a detailed dissertation on sex and sexual immorality in the 21st century. It’s up in your face just as much as it’s up in mine. Likewise, no one reading this can claim to be unaware if they happen to be dabbling (or drowning) in sexual immorality. If you are, you know it.

These Bible passages were all written to and about church members:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans…And you are proud! 1 Corinthians 5:1,2

Neither the sexually immoral…nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9,10

Flee from sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:18

(Those 1st Corinthians must have been a rowdy bunch.)

Sex is everywhere – it’s used to sell everything. Sexual innuendo is so prolific that we’re fast becoming immune to it and we’re so inundated with sexual imagery that it’s almost to the point of having to gouge our eyes out to avoid it. Jesus said that was actually a better choice than ending up in hell, but there are ways to be sexually undefiled and still keep your eyesight.

Regarding sexual immorality, the Bible is plain: JUST STOP IT. And while I can’t really quote many actual words from Jesus about sexual immorality, let’s use this as a benchmark: If you would be OK with Jesus sitting right outside knowing what you are doing right inside, then go for it. Otherwise…

JUST STOP IT

No sex outside of Biblical marriage – period. That should make the rest of these reasons unnecessary, but so many, including Christians, have begun to justify their proclivity to do some of these things with statements like: “We love each other; besides, we’re soul mates.” Jesus cares about your soul, not its mating practices.

And no living together before marriage. Pictures posted by one member of a romantic relationship of the other member still in bed asleep with the caption, “Look who was being a sleepyhead this morning” and photos showing “how nice the view was from our hotel room” scream trash. “Besides, we’re get married soon anyway.” I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t care how soon your wedding is.

Stop watching or reading porn. The statistics on porn usage among Christians are staggering. Men, it’s demeaning to women and is ruining marriages and destroying families. Would you want someone to watch your daughters or your sons doing what you’re watching someone else’s daughters and sons doing in those movies?

And women, that includes reading “50 Shades of Gray.” If a “Search inside this book” on Amazon.com turns up 17 hits for the word “orgasm” and 10 hits for descriptions of the 21-year-old female lead character being tied up – and not tied up as in “I’m busy” but as in sadistic bondage – then it’s porn.

Stop flirting with/messaging/sexting someone else if you’re married. Would you hand your phone password over to Jesus? Guess what – He already knows it.

Sex is beautiful, sex is amazing, sex is FUN, but only when it’s enjoyed by a husband and wife – you and your husband or your wife.

Otherwise… (Don’t make me say it again.)


 

I’m kinda glad this series is over – sometimes it felt a little harsh. I had much rather write about love and joy and blessing, but this is what the Lord laid on my heart.

I’m not sure what you believe about the end of this life as we know it, but I believe we’re getting close. It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s now or never.

Are you ready to see Jesus face-to-face? There may not be a second chance. I don’t want to meet the Lord jacked up on caffeine or in the middle of watching porn or doing anything that does not bring absolute glory and honor to Him. I want to hear, “Well done.” If you don’t really care – “Full” scan.

Don’t make these 10 list items into a check list or print yourself a holiness certificate once you’ve conquered them. They’re just for starters. However, they all boil down to one thing: make God first and most important in your life.

  1. Go to Church because God says to “not give up meeting together.” (Hebrews 10:25) The Church (capital “C”) is Jesus’ body, meant to travel through this life together.
  2. Read the Good Book because God says that we are to live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Every word in it – whether penned by Isaiah or Malachi or Paul – is “God-breathed.”
  3. Pray because God says to do so “continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Who do we generally want to talk to when something good or bad happens? The person who’s most important to us.
  4. Be Honest because God hates “a false witness who pours out lies.” (Proverbs 6:19) Hates it. Period.
  5. Be a Giver because Jesus said that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Give because God has given you everything.
  6. Be Peculiar because God said that we should “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Romans 12:2) If you’ve been called to salvation God has set you apart.
  7. Watch What Goes Into Your Body because God said His “temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3:17) Don’t let your god be your stomach.
  8. Watch What Comes out of Your Body because God says “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) It literally defines who you are.
  9. Turn That Dial because God said to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) What we fill our minds with affects who we become: garbage in; garbage out.
  10. Save it for Marriage because “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Is that few minutes of pleasure really worth it?

If you only remember one thing from this series, remember this: God said, “Be holy because I am holy.”

And He never said anything he didn’t mean.

10 Ways to Live a Holy Life, Part 3

[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life. 2 Timothy 1:9

By now, I hope that Part 1 and Part 2 of this series have convinced you that setting our sights on living as holy a life as humanly possible is God’s will for us. Oswald Chambers, the early 20th century preacher, said it perfectly:

God has only one intended destiny for mankind – holiness. Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind – placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself.

These words are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago when he preached them. Putting everything we do, say, and think under God’s holiness microscope is the only way to live the life for which He created us.

Part 1 in the Holiness Listicle included three things to do – or start doing – to inaugurate your holiness journey:

  1. Go to Church
  2. Read the Good Book (and other good books)
  3. Pray

Part 2 included three “Be”-haviors from the lifestyles of the saved and holy:

  1. Be Honest
  2. Be a Giver
  3. Be Peculiar

Continuing on with Part 3, we’ll look at two things to watch out for, while continuing to use Jesus as our benchmark. In my own experience (as you’ll see), these two items may require a heaping helping of enablement by the Holy Spirit.

The Holiness Listicle (7-8)

7. Watch What Goes Into Your Body Temple

Although I think total abstention from liquor is a pretty good idea, this list item isn’t really about that. After all, Jesus drank wine. (However, I can’t imagine that he would sit out on the back deck with you and split a case of cold ones.) The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking – drinking too much, though…

Do not get drunk on wine… Ephesians 5:18

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks. Isaiah 5:22

(That would definitely rule out Mai Tais and Margaritas.)

What this item is about is socially acceptable and the next-best-thing to drug use; notably, the use and abuse of caffeine and other chemical stimulants.

Maybe I’ve just never paid attention, but I’m seeing brothers in Christ coming into Sunday school with the largest cups of coffee McDonald’s sells – one in each hand – that are gone by the end of the 45-minute lesson. I see dear sisters in Christ posting cellphone pictures of enormous whipped cream and caramel drizzled concoctions from Dunkin’ Donuts that are almost too big to fit in their automobile console. When they’re not posting pictures of coffee, they’re posting humorous cartoons about not being able to face the day without coffee.

When caffeine and sugar addiction is a reality in someone’s life, it’s hard to laugh at it.

We (Christians) have joined the world in allowing ourselves to be super-sized, Big-Gulped, venti-ed, and Red-Bulled literally to death. After all, energy drinks are just a little jaw grinding and a couple of dilated pupils away from a bump of crystal meth, and sugary soda is the one thing that has been definitely linked to obesity. And companies catering to the ever-growing market for those things are more than happy to pump our bodies full.

In short, we’ve become a chosen people jonesing for caffeine and chemicals and sugar and saturated fat.

While I don’t expect that everyone reading this holiness series will see themselves falling short in all 10 of these items (maybe even none of them), I certainly did. I found my “aha” moment while writing this very one (and the next one).

I don’t talk much about the details of my pre-salvation life here on “clay,” because I’m not proud of it and want to make this blog about God’s grace and not my sin. For a few dark months during that prodigal period, though, I became fairly well acquainted with recreational “stimulants.” (That jaw grinding and pupil dilation I mentioned was something I lived with for a while.) Although I was not seeking God at the time, I know now that it was Him who gave me the strength to just walk away from it one day – no lasting effects, no need for a 12-step program. I quit and never looked back. Several party buddies from that era weren’t so fortunate.

But caffeine soon took its place. (I could easily chug a two-liter bottle of Diet Mt. Dew during the work day.) When God made me a new creation, though, I realized that I was using caffeine for the same reason I used those other chemicals – to alter my mood, to make me feel like something I wasn’t. He showed me that I didn’t need chemical stimulation – His grace was sufficient for me in every way. So I ditched the sodas and switched to decaf.

Over the past few months, though, I decided – all by myself – that I was ready to handle drinking regular coffee in the morning. Then I decided – again, all by myself – that I could repeat that in the afternoon. (We have an industrial-size Keurig and unlimited K-cups in our kitchen at work.) I also decided I could start drinking sodas again, as well – all by myself.

I’ve mentioned before that quite often I think what I write here on “clay” is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone else’s. This is one of those times. Right in the middle of writing this sermon on caffeine use I got the “practice what you preach” speech from the Lord. I realized that I had gradually justified falling back into those old habits.

The Lord reminded me that I wasn’t living for myself anymore – I belonged to Him. As Paul told the 1st Corinthians:

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So a few days ago I switched back to decaf. Other than a couple of headaches, the Lord has done for me just what He told the Israelites He would do for them in Isaiah 41:10:

I will strengthen you and help you…

How about you? What would you do if you woke up to a broken coffee maker tomorrow morning? What if there was a sudden sugar shortage, or if Red Bull was banned by the FDA?

None of those things are nourishment; they’re not what God had in mind when he created food for us to eat. It was not named the McGarden of Eden.

How can we set ourselves apart from the world if we can’t face life without mood-altering chemicals? The potential short- and long-term effects of even moderate caffeine and sugar use range from anxiety to heart disease and cancer. Is it worth that? It appears God doesn’t think so:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16,17

What are you filling your temple with? What does your waistline say? What does your coffee house spending say? Does it say, “What would happen if you took as good care of the inside of your temple as you do the outside?”

If it does, listen.

Can you picture Jesus stopping by the Jerusalem Starbucks for a double-shot Caramel Macchiato because he needed all that sugar and caffeine to help him stay awake while He prayed all night in Gethsemane?

Neither can I…

8. Watch What Comes Out of Your Body Temple

David wrote:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Had he lived today, he would have most likely added “…and the things I type or share on Facebook…”

As Christians, it’s important that everything we say or otherwise express is honoring to God – which requires constant vigilance, as we’re inextricably entangled in an age of immediate and never-ending communication. We can share instant messages, tweets, status updates, and have phone conversations to and from anywhere on the planet any time of the day or night. Within seconds everyone from your close friends to the entire Twitterverse can watch that video you liked or know where you were 35 minutes ago or that you call your pets your “fur babies.” And with ever-increasing and alarming regularity, I’m seeing respected brothers and sisters in Christ carelessly saying, texting, and sharing things that are crude and off-color.

Sometimes it’s from a lack of information; other times, it’s because we’ve just gotten used to talking and tweeting like the world around us.

I grew up in an era when Wally and the Beaver were innocently “gee-whizzing” their way through every TV episode. However, a quick visit to dictionary.com confirms that:

  • “Gosh” and “golly” are actually just euphemisms for “God.”
  • “Darn” is a euphemism for “damn,” as is “dang.”
  • “Dadgum” and “doggone” and other variations are euphemisms for “God” and “damn” combined.
  • “Gee whiz” is a euphemism for “Je-sus.”

C’mon – really?! It’s “Leave it to Beaver” for crying out loud – which is a euphemism for “for Christ’s sake.”

The sad thing is that most people who say “oh my God” or “gosh darn it” are not trying to insult God. It’s just that His name doesn’t mean anything to them and has become nothing more than a trite way to express a negative emotion.

And then there are the various digital communication abbreviations, like “OMG” for “Oh My God.” You can say that you mean the “G” to stand for “gosh,” but even when trying to soft-pedal and substitute “safe” words for the real ones, the intent remains the same. No matter which combination of “G.D.” words you use, the meaning doesn’t really change.

Additionally, simply by “Like”-ing, commenting on, or sharing a video, status, photo, etc. that is off-color to any degree or has cursing in the content, the title, or even the name of the page you shared it from, is basically the same as saying, “I, John Q. Christian, approve of everything you see written, implied, or displayed here.” If we wouldn’t say it or show it to Jesus, we shouldn’t show it to all of our friends, some of whom may be looking at our lives as representative of our faith.

So what do we – I – do? I say “for crying out loud” all the time and am just now learning what it means myself.

I do what list item #3 in Part 1 says: I pray. More specifically, I pray that God will help me change my language – even the mild stuff. And since I pride myself on my vocabulary, surely with God’s help I can manage to express myself effectively without using His name for any other reason than to express thanks and praise and honor and glory.

Of course, the easy way out would be to say, “Who’s even going to care?” But if we stick to our benchmark test, then we have to face this fact:

“Gee whiz” will care…


 

Just be careful what goes into your “temple” and what comes out. Jesus said:

Men [and women] will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36

But if you always make sure your heart is full of Him, you’ll find it much easier to answer to Him on that day.

Look for Part 4 soon…