Archive for January, 2020

The Oven Cleaning

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

No one can prepare you for the aftermath of an oven cleaning. If Mike Row, from the TV show “Dirty Jobs” is looking for his next episode spotlight, I’ve got one lined up for him.

It seemed simple enough: spray the oven cleaner at a 45-degree angle on all surfaces of the oven. Avoid contact with the skin and eyes. Close the door. Leave it alone overnight. Wipe clean the next morning. Out of all the warnings listed on the outside of the product bottle, one vital notice was missing—mentally prepare yourself for the depths of black goo pooling at the bottom.

I had no idea how dirty the oven of my new home would be. When I popped my head in the other day, I saw a few areas that obviously needed some elbow grease. I figured I’d get around to cleaning it upon the oven’s first use, but there was a nagging concern at the back of my mind. What if the grime was worse than I thought?

After a quick trip to the store, spray-down, and brief waiting period (a smelly one at that), I was ready for a quick clean up. However, the wipe-clean process was anything but fast. There was black sludge everywhere and it didn’t remain stationary as I attempted to sop it up with a sponge. By the time I was finished, my oven still looked black and grimy. While the surface goo was no longer present inside the oven, it was now all over me.

Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Sovereign LORD (Jeremiah 2:22, NIV).

But if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations] (I John 1:7, AMP).

Our lives are a lot like my oven. We’re covered inside and out by the filth of sin. Most of us have no conception of how dirty we actually are because we only see small spots and blemishes. But, God looks deeper and knows just how unclean our hearts and bodies are.

In our journey of reading the Word, God helps us see how our lives are filthy with sin. He convicts us with His Word; we repent, are baptized in Jesus’ name, and receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost. The waters of baptism wash away all the black goop from our lives, which is immensely worse than we could have imagined. That pollution isn’t something we could have removed in its entirety on our own.

Unlike my oven which still isn’t 100% clean—some of the dirt and grime was re-spread out as I attempted to remove it—the blood of Jesus, applied through baptism, does more for us than just repositioning sin. It completely eradicates sin and makes us truly clean. God’s Spirit helps us keep our vessels spick-and-span, so we don’t get a rebuild-up of black goo in our life all over again.

We all need to take a moment today and examine our spiritual ovens. It may look like we just have a few spots of baked-on food that need to be chipped away, but in reality, there’s more grime to be removed. We need the Lord to speak to us and help us remove the gunk from our lives. We don’t have to spray and wait at least 6 hours to be cleansed. The blood works immediately to remove our sin-stains. Every day’s a good day for an oven cleaning. Have you had one lately?

Heads I Win; Tails You Lose

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

If I’ve learned anything in my years on the planet, it’s that sibling rivalry never dies. But, as a caveat, I’ll add that the rivalry takes a new form over time—physical to prank; hurtful to hilarity. Instead of using one another as a punching bag we set each other up to be the punchline.

One perfect example is a simple coin-toss game. My sisters and I would each assign ourselves to a side of a coin: heads or tails. After the coin was tossed in the air and landed safely (on a legally-sanctioned surface) the individual assigned to the upwards side would “win” the coin toss. This all seems to be a legitimate amusement, unless it’s coupled with a new set of rules: heads I win; tails you lose.

Sadly, I’ve prefaced a few coin-tosses in my day with this verbiage. And, the unexpectant opponent readily agrees to the terms of the game. The only words with value in their minds are “tails” and “you.” They have no idea the rules of engagement have changed and that they’ve been set up to fail every time. After innumerable coin-toss victories in a row, I’ve certified the player knows I’m the winner and they’re the loser.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice… (Romans 12:15, KJV).

Sibling rivalry, coin-tosses, and arbitrary rules aside, it’s interesting to me how far humans have taken the concept of assigning winners and losers. We have determined if someone wins, or receives a blessing, those who have not experienced the same fall into a category of “losers.” But, that’s an incorrect concept according to God.

When someone experiences a miracle in their life, we’re admonished to rejoice with them. Why? We’re all apart of one Body of Christ. When someone has a victory, we shout with them on the winning side. When a person gets a blessing, we all get a blessing in our praise.

I think we all need a reminder that when someone experiences a blessing in their life, it doesn’t mean God’s only allocated “one” blessing and we just didn’t get it. It’s not “heads they win; tails we lose.” We’re not losers. We didn’t miss out. Our blessing is still in the making; it’s still on the way. We haven’t lost anything. We’re just waiting on God’s perfect timing. I have to think that possibly our blessing could manifest after God sees us rejoice with those who rejoice.

God’s rules of engagement with Him have never changed. We’re never a loser in His Kingdom. There’s always a blessing with Him and with the Body of Christ. It’s time for us to rejoice and be unified. It’s time for us to all lift up a shout of praise to the One who is worthy. Remember: someone’s win doesn’t mean you lose. It’s not heads or tails. It’s what you and God make of it.

Slowing Down God’s Plan

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Decades past, my family would frequent a local waterpark during the summer months. It was a haven for anyone eager to cool off from the heat. One of the main features of the park was an exhilarating water slide. To reach the top, you’d voyage on a five-minute ascent, on a questionable wooden staircase that towered floors from the ground and disappeared into the clouds above. Exhausted after arrival, you had but a brief few moments to normalize your breathing before embarking on a thrill of a lifetime.

On one such adventure, I reached the apex of the staircase, and witnessed as a father and child were given the green light to plunge to their deaths. I watched as they slid, quite slowly, down the curvature of the slide. After a significant span of time, the duo crested the safety point—a juncture determined as a safe distance for the next daredevil to be released for their own cruise to a watery grave.

Warning bells rang in my mind. The pair had taken much too long to reach the safety point and clearly would traverse the remainder of the slide at the same pace. I hesitated to step forward to mount the slide. The lifeguard signaling riders became impatient with my dawdling. I expressed my alarm, but the highly-educated teenager wasn’t going to heed the concern of a lowly grade-schooler. Shoved into position, I reluctantly slid down the waterslide.

My fear quickly faded as I became overcome by the thrill of the ride—sloshing around every bend and closely hugging the edges. But, my thrill was short-lived. In a matter of seconds, I was upon the father and son, my legs crashing painfully into their backs.

With rushing water all around me, there wasn’t anything to grab onto to slow my progression into the backsides of these poor people. Then, by nothing short of a miracle, I was able to spider my appendages in such a way to “clog” myself in the middle of the slide. Hanging on for dear life, I prayed silently that I could hold on long enough to give room for the pair to safely reach the pool below.

Mid-prayer, I was ripped free of my literally man-made dam. The next water-slider, carrying on his own merry way, had caught up to me, slamming into my wet, feeble frame. Together we whisked down the slide, unable to stop ourselves from the shear force of the water. Seconds later, we tumbled into the water together. Soon after, we were both out of the pool, aside father and son, all bewildered, bruised, but not broken. We were amazed we all made it in one piece.

For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time; it hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail (Habakkuk 2:3, AMP).

In my walk with God, I’ve been a position many times when I don’t want to step into God’s plan because it’s moving too fast—it looks weird to me or something seems a bit off. Once I eventually get shoved into it, I find myself colliding with stumbling blocks left and right. I try desperately to stop what God’s trying to do because it doesn’t seem to be right by human standards.

As in the case of my water-slide experience, it was God’s will (and maybe gravity’s) for me to make it to the bottom of the slide. I didn’t get to progress according to my timeline, and the ride wasn’t as smooth as one would expect, but I made it to the bottom. I didn’t die, and I took a few people with me, who also survived by the miraculous hand of God.

God’s plan will happen whether we’re ready for it or not. It will come to pass, sometimes quickly, no matter how adamant we are about delaying it. But, if we give in and let God take control of His plans, we’ll see how He’ll guide us through, sometimes the most turbulent of waters, and bring us safely out on the other side. We might just take a few people with us who will enjoy the ride too. If you’re in a waterslide moment in your walk with God, don’t try to slow down His plan. Jump in and embark on a thrill of a lifetime.

A Shining Light and a New Garment

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

January has snuck up upon me and caught me unaware once again. And, this means one thing for me: the retirement of my Christmas decorations. Now for all of you, judgmental people, who think I leave my Christmas decorations up too long, there’s enough of you weird ones who put yours up in October and November. Enough said.

The worst part of the un-decorating process for me is taking down the tree. I miss the soft glow of the lights that penetrate the darkness of the living room, and greet me early in the morning before the sun ever crests the horizon. They bring a smile to my face, and elate my heart. But, when the tree is down, and the lights are gone, my living room appears dark, dismal, and uninviting. The excitement of getting up in the cold, winter months disappears. And, if I’m not careful, I’ll allow my joy to go with those lights and I can very easily slip into a sad state of depression.

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever (Psalms 30:11–12, KJV).

I know the lack of Christmas lights in my living room seems a puerile reason to fall into any kind of state of unhappiness or even depression. However, if I’m being honest, it does happen to me from time to time. It’s Christmas lights for me, but it’s something different for you. Regardless of the reason, there’s something in our lives that triggers us to slip away into a realm of misery.

People wore sackcloth in ancient times to resemble a period of mourning and humiliation. Accompanying the garment adornment was a sense of loss and sorrow. When our spiritual state declines into a realm of darkness, we get out our sackcloths and toss our garment of praise into the laundry bin. But, this isn’t where it belongs! Our garment of praise isn’t a seasonal outfit (or decoration, like my Christmas tree). It’s to be out and on at all times! Realize, God never intended for us to digress into depression. His desire is for us to praise Him and never leave the light of His presence. We’ve got do some laundry and get on our garment of praise once again.

Call it the winter blues, the circumstances of life, or just getting up on the wrong side of the bed. It doesn’t matter because we don’t have to stay that way. We serve a great God who gives us occasion to cast aside our state of hopelessness, and rejoice in hope. He gives us gladness for our grumpiness and smiles for our slumps.

I might be missing the lighted shimmer of my Christmas lights this month, but I’ve got a light shining forth into any possible darkness of my life. The Holy Ghost has given me a new garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). God’s Spirit within me puts a spring in my step, joy in my heart, and a smile to my face. When I praise Him, He reminds me that it is He who gives me true joy and happiness in this life. I don’t need my Christmas lights. I just need Him. And, with Him, He can break every chain of darkness and depression that could ever creep into my life.

Remember, He can do the same for you, dear reader. If you’re bound by any depression today—large or small—He’s got a new garment for you and a way for you to find your shining light once more.

The Transcendence of Remembrance

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

It’s the New Year, and the struggle is real folks. It’s a struggle for me to get back into the rhythm of getting up early and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Somehow staying up late to ring in the New Year comes back to get you the older you are. But, I struggle with other things…. Other things, like remembering what year I’m in. This struggle lasts for a while.

Does this happen to anyone else? You’re weeks (and for me, ashamedly months) into the new year, and still write last year’s date. No matter how hard I try to remember we’ve past the cusp of 365 days, and have existed several days into a new epoch of time, I’m still writing the wrong year. It’s a long time before I gain enough confidence not to pause before writing the date and can just rely on instinctual repetition. It takes significant time and investment to overcome the yearly struggle just to remember!

Entering the realm of a new era of time isn’t just cause to remember the former year, or that the date has changed. It’s important to remember a few other things too:

Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth (I Chronicles 16:11–12, KJV).

Scripture reminds us our remembrance should transcend beyond acknowledging the passing time or crossing the finish line into another realm. Our remembrance should take quite a different turn: a turn toward God.

We’re called to remember God’s marvellous works. Our recollection doesn’t just need to be confined to the previous year, but can expand to reflect on the ones beyond the yearly marker of time. The dawn of a new year should remind us to look back in awe and reverence at what God has done, and how wonderful He truly is.

But, remembrance of our Lord doesn’t just come with the new year, but follows our desire to seek Him continually. Seeking a relationship with God doesn’t just occur at the start or end of a year. This happens every day—continually throughout the past, present, and future years in which we exist this on side of Heaven.

So, what does this mean? As you enter this year, don’t just praise God for making it and the future ahead. Praise Him for the past. Praise Him for the present. Seek to develop a deeper relationship with Him. Stand in awe and wonder at His greatness. And, do it all continually—all year and into the next—and see just where the act of remembrance and praise takes you with God.