Sunday, November 22, 2015

Filth Factor

Have you ever considered skin--that outer layer of ours--as a reminder of forgiveness?

We live on a farm--with dirt, germs, yuck. There is clean dirt--grass, dead leaves, and soil that get under your nails and stick. There's dirty dirt--compost, manure, small animal droppings that create clinging aromas. And then there's decay--rotting grain, maggot-infested or decomposing flesh. that ascend one's sinuses and work their way into memory. I won't say more.

Those are the outer pollutants--then there's you-yuck: sweat, emptying pores, and other indiscriminate stinky things we don't talk about.

It happens. So, as soon as possible--especially before joining the company of others--we find a shower, a bath, or some method of removing it.

And that's when I'm particularly thankful that God made skin washable. Do you, like me, marvel in the wonder of disappearing stink? Filth floating down the drain? And fresh-smelling,clean-feeling, wonderful, amazing epidermis? No matter how gross, how overwhelming, how enduring the chore, the stink goes away in a relatively short time.

That's when I was reminded of my sin and shame. It might be brush-it-off, stay-with-you or infused in your memory sin and guilt, but God--through the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ--removes it. He cleanses us. From all of it. All. He refreshes and renews us, gives us the aroma of Christ, sends us back out amidst dust-filled streets and dung-covered walkways and draws us back to wash our feet again and again and again.

Have you showered lately? Or is it time to spend some time being washed with the Word and cleansed by the work of the Holy Spirit? What's your yuck factor? Come to Jesus today. Now. He's all we need.

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seasoned with Grace

Submission is a four-letter word. Some would say it's because of our culture, or post-modern era. Some would say it's because we live in America, land of the free, home of the brave. I am convinced it's because of my sinful heart that wants my way--the only way--all the time. But submitting to authority, to one's husband, or another person is not a negative.

To submit to someone else is to give a gift of grace. When my husband makes the wrong choice at the grocery store and brings home dried beans instead of canned, I can rail on him, go back to the store, or give him grace and get to work plumping those babies. When I work on a committee for the church Thanksgiving dinner and there's a decision to be made I can do it my way or ask the person in charge--and give her grace.

There are two choices in dealing with people: their way or mine. To submit to others out of reverence for Christ is to consider them better than, ahead of, myself--and give grace. Just do it. Unless it's terribly wrong, don't question it, give suggestions, or buck the system. Just do it: lovingly, patiently, gently, kindly, prayerfully fighting your inside voice that rants about how your way is better.

To do things lovingly is to do them God's way. And God's way is often difficult. It means giving up my identity (gasp!) because I am in Christ. It means seeing things from a different angle. It means not being the center of my world--or anyone else's. It means becoming invisible in a way that allows Jesus to shine through the cracks, brokenness and shame of my life.

If you're ready for a heart-check, follow this link. It will take you to a list of proud and humble responses compiled by Stuart Scott. I didn't get far before it was evident that I have a LONG way to go to grow in humility and submission. May God continue to put us in situations where we can learn and practice submission--because that's what Jesus did.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Phil. 2:1-16)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Thought for Dire Straits

Here is a brief thought from my Bible reading this morning:

Paul is en route to Rome via a trade ship. The timing is late. They've been overtaken by storms and the crew has fought for 14 days and nights. Now land is in sight. Paul is confident God will see them safely to shore....

Acts 27:35 Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God, in the presence of all and he broke it and began to eat.

Impression:  This phrase is so reminiscent of Jesus—and it just dawned on me that the act of taking bread, giving thanks and breaking it is one of hospitality. It’s seeing the need of others and providing for it in practical ways. Paul exemplified Christ by serving others when he himself was imprisoned and traveling against his will. The bread was not a representation of Paul, but a reminder of Jesus, who gave Himself when we were in dire straits. If nothing else, giving to others in this way was an encouragement and reminder for Paul of Jesus’ gift and the empowering of the gospel at a crucial time. We all need to remember the gospel—the precious life, death and resurrection of Jesus—daily, but especially when we are in difficult, desperate situations.

Application: When Jesus is at work in my life I will see the needs of others and serve them even when my own “needs” aren’t being met. And as I meet the needs of others God will encourage me, reminding me of Jesus sacrificial love and empowering Spirit. He has already provided. He will provide. He is good.