Category: Salvation

Clean

Clean

I’ve never been an immaculate housekeeper. Okay, let’s be real. My housecleaning skills are definitely subpar. I’m quite comfortable with dirty dishes in the sink and dust bunnies in the corner. I only clean for company.

But lately, I’ve become a bit of a clean freak. My daily chores now include disinfecting cabinet knobs and door handles, wiping down countertops, and sanitizing sink faucets. My house has never been this clean.

Thank you, COVID-19.

My cleaning frenzy began the last week of March. Our youngest daughter had spent the previous week on spring break in Florida, before hastily flying home to finish her college semester online. Our middle daughter and her husband’s family were enjoying their spring break in Mexico. That is, until an impending border closure led to a sudden change of plans, subjecting them to a sleepless night in the JFK airport as they awaited their connecting flight home. Concerned that some corona viruses might have hitched a ride back with them, we all socially-distanced and self-quarantined.

And I cleaned.

Even though I don’t love cleaning, I’ve come to love the feeling of being clean. At the end of the day, I can sleep peacefully, knowing my house, and my hands, are clean.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be clean, not just from viruses and germs, but spiritually. I’ve been reading through the book of John, where the word “clean” has been calling out to me like a prized package of Lysol wipes. Let’s take a look at one of those passages, a familiar one, found in John 13.

Jesus and His disciples are sharing a final meal before His final sacrifice. During supper, He suddenly gets up, gathers towels, and fills a basin with water. The Master then kneels as the Servant, cupping dusty feet in His almighty hands. The disciples are speechless, but submissive. All except for one. In characteristic fashion, Peter is outspoken in his objection.

Allow me to paraphrase John 13:6-9:

Peter: “You’re not washing my feet!”

Jesus: “Peter, it’s important that I do this for you.”

Peter: “Ok, then don’t just wash my feet; give my whole body a bath!”

Peter is a black-and-white kind of guy. With him, it’s all, or nothing. Jesus pauses to give Peter a brief lesson in personal hygiene.

“He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean…” (John 13:10a, NASB)

Completely clean. I liked the sound of that. Especially now, with my newfound appreciation for sanitization.

But Jesus is speaking of a spiritual cleansing. The kind that occurs the instant a repentant soul appeals to a righteous Savior to remove all the stains. The kind that results from standing naked under the blood-red flow of forgiveness and mercy.

It’s a deep clean. Permanent and pristine.

Jesus also offers His followers a second cleaning service. This one is to be received regularly, as we brush up against a contaminated world. Because our feet will get dirty. Our fingers will get germy.

“It is the daily cleansing which we are taught to seek…is it not a relief to be permitted thus to wash our feet after a day’s contact with the earth?” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

It is a relief, indeed, to slip freshly scrubbed feet between the sheets at night.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9, NASB)

This is a season for cleansing. For washing, not just our hands, but our hearts. For sanitizing, not just our surfaces, but our very souls.

Whether it’s a sin-weary body, or just two tired feet…would you let the Servant-Savior do this for you today?

It feels good to be clean.

Calling Home

Calling Home

The twelve men had been with Jesus long enough to know that He enjoyed a unique relationship with God. On more than one occasion they discovered him missing, only to stumble upon him praying. Like someone on an extended journey, homesick, frequently compelled to call home.

They saw how He derived strength and serenity from those conversations. The intimacy He had with the Lord was intriguing. For months they had watched and now they wanted what He had.

One day, one of them finally had the courage to verbalize what they were all thinking.

“Lord, teach US to pray.”

They waited. Would He be willing to share His secrets?

Sensing their readiness for what He was about to reveal, the Rabbi began.

“When you pray, say…Father.”

Father?

Had they heard that right? Did He really just say…Abba?

Their Scriptures referred to God as “Father,” but only rarely. Just 15 times, to be exact. No God-fearing Jew would have the chutzpah to approach the Most High God and address Him as “Abba.” It felt irreverent. But, at the same time, inviting.

It was, indeed, an invitation into the intimate fellowship of Father and Son. A new way of relating to Almighty God was opening up. The Teacher continued to instruct and prepare them for this coming change.

It took some getting used to, this idea of familiarity with Yahweh. His was a name so holy it could not be spoken out loud, and could only be written if the vowels were omitted. It seemed outrageous that the great “I AM” would now answer to the name “Abba.” He was a God to be kept at a safe distance.

What they didn’t understand at the time was that Jesus Himself was The Way to closeness with the Father. He was the means by which men could be brought near to God. He was the path to Heaven, which would be paved by His death, and opened by the Spirit upon His return to the Father.

Soon it would all make sense. Then they would begin to call Him Abba, Father.

He invites us to call Him Father, too.

Regardless of what kind of dad you had, whether he’s in heaven or still on earth, you can experience the love of a perfect Heavenly Father. Jesus makes this possible. He closed the gap between Holy God and unholy man. He brings us before His Father’s throne and introduces us as family. We are welcomed as sons and daughters.

We are Embraced. Chosen. Forgiven. Adopted. Loved.

When we pray, we say Abba, Father.

He Hears. Responds. Cares. Answers. Acts.

It’s Father’s Day. Why don’t you call home? Your Father is waiting to hear from you.

Father

Notes:

–Some of the thoughts I shared in this blog were inspired by a commentary on the Fatherhood of God by Robert H. Stein. Here is an excerpt: “The teaching of the Fatherhood of God takes a decided turn with Jesus, for “Father” was his favorite term for addressing God. It appears on his lips some sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels and over one hundred times in John. The uniqueness of Jesus’ teaching on this subject is evident for several reasons. For one, the rarity of this designation for God is striking. There is no evidence in pre-Christian Jewish literature that Jews addressed God as “Abba.” A second unique feature about Jesus’ use of Abba as a designation for God involves the intimacy of the term. Abba was a term little children used. This was not just a way Jesus taught his disciples to address God; it was the way.”

–Jesus’ teaching on prayer can be found in Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 11:1-13.

The Star in Our Faults

The Star in Our Faults

Star painting

I am weak;
Sinner, still.
Faults exposed,
Heartsick, ill.
 
Head bowed low,
Hand raised high.
Who will free me?
This, my cry.
 
Mercy dawns,
Purest light.
Heaven to earth,
Piercing night.
 
Perfect Life,
Violent death.
Faultless Lamb,
Final breath.
 
Veil now torn,
Victory won.
It is finished!
Love’s work, done!
 
Grace sufficient,
Covers scar.
Faults, forgiven!
Hero!  Star!
 
 

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25, NIV)

Free for the Taking

Free for the Taking

Last night I chaperoned my first (and, Lord willing, last) junior high promotion dance.  Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of junior high dances, and seeing as how misery loves company, I roped my good friend Julie into joining me in the Concessions Booth for the three-hour duration of the dance.  (Julie is not only a good friend–she’s a good sport.  She’s even still talking to me today.)

It turned out to be quite the entertaining evening!  While minding the cookies and cotton candy, we were treated to a bonus fashion show  featuring a variety of hemlines (Hello, high-low!) and hues (Mint green and coral were both well represented).  Our booth was strategically located near the girls’ bathroom, so we also witnessed our fair share of wardrobe malfunctions and tears.  Every now and then we’d sneak into the gym to spy.  It was just how I remembered it from my own junior high days–awkward slow dances, wallflowers, and all.

I was reminded of all the reasons one’s promotion to high school is indeed cause for celebration.

The most memorable moments for me, however, came whenever a group of kids would approach the Concessions Booth to inquire about the cost of a particular food item.

“It’s FREE,” we’d reply.

Their reactions were priceless.  All seemed surprised.  Some doubted.  A few hesitated.

“Help yourselves,” we’d encourage.

Most would then eagerly grab a bottle of water and a candy bar (or two or ten) and return with their entourage to the gym, scattered sequins sparkling in their wake.

I enjoyed being the bearer of the good news that, thanks to some generous donors, it was all free for the taking.  It was fun seeing the looks on their faces as they absorbed the fact that they really could help themselves to whatever they wanted, without charge.

The spiritual parallel was not lost on me.

Because Salvation is not For Sale.

It cannot be purchased with good works.  It cannot be obtained through church affiliation.  It cannot be earned by living a good life.

It’s FREE.  A gift.

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NLT) 

Thanks to God’s generous heart and Jesus’ perfect life, eternal life is ours for the taking.  It’s not just about Heaven.  It’s about a simple, honest, real relationship with Jesus.  Right here, right now.

Surprised?  Hesitating?  Wondering what the catch might be?

Yes, it IS free.  But it may also “cost” you…your pride, your popularity, your plans.  You must humble yourself.  Surrender yourself.

HE’s worth it.

I think life without Jesus is a bit like a junior high dance–big on glitz and drama, small on meaning and substance.  Isn’t it time we graduated to something better?

If you haven’t yet received the free gift He is offering you, might I encourage you to do so?  I’m delighted to be the bearer of this Good News:

“It’s Free!  Help yourselves!”

Just reach out and take it.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12, NIV)

Laurel and Friends dancing in the park before the Dance.
Laurel and friends dancing in the park before the dance.

(Photo Credit:  Rugged Grace Photography)

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