Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring Cleaning


[Photo of a woman cleaning]

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
—Psalm 139:23-24

After a long winter of road sand tracked into the house and the build up of dust and grime that hides in the darker days of winter, the time comes for a good spring cleaning. My mother and grandmothers pulled everything out of pantries and cupboards, wiped down walls, and scrubbed floors. They laundered bed linens and window curtains, polished silver and swept away cobwebs.

Similarly, but more strictly, the Jewish people prepare for a full month before Passover by thoroughly cleansing their homes from all “chametz” or leavening products. Just after the Israelites left Egypt and took with them unleavened bread, God prescribed for their celebration in Exodus 12:15 that they were to:

…remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel.

Even today, Orthodox Jews search for bread crumbs under the cushions of sofas and chairs. They look in the pockets of jackets and slacks and remove every trace of leaven. The kitchen appliances get a complete cleaning. Once they finish cleaning the rooms, no one is allowed to eat in them until the celebration of Passover has ended.

Jesus referred to “leaven” as belief in the wrong thinking of the Scribes and Pharisees. The Apostle Paul, referring to sin in believers’ lives in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 wrote:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The leaven represents to us anything that corrupts and keeps our inner lives from being the temple where the Lord God may dwell through the Holy Spirit. In these days, we need to doggedly search out every trace of sin that would keep us from following Christ with our whole beings.

Puritan writer, John Gibbon preached these words 1:

Do not be a stranger to yourself. Unlock your bosom, and ransack every corner of your heart. Make a diligent search. Feel the pulse of your soul. Don’t let any region of your mind be undiscovered. Watch how the tempter has taken advantage of you in the past. Make these searches daily and compare them to the eternal law of God. These considerations will greatly help in the prevention and cure for the sins which so easily beset us.


1 From “Puritan Sermons,” by John Gibbon as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Cruise Control


[Photo of cruise control]

“In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths.”
—Proverbs 3:6

I know people who like using the cruise control in their cars. Not me! There’s something about trusting myself and my passengers to a machine that maintains a constant speed as we rocket down the highway that makes me very uncomfortable. I would much rather control my own pace from moment to moment.

My attitude towards cruise control makes me think about my life, as I travel with God “at the wheel,” so to speak. I often feel uncomfortable giving Him the controls, too. Yet, there comes a time when He asks all of us to trust Him with the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brake, and all other “controls” we may have over our lives—especially when the road isn’t clear and visibility seems especially poor!

I think of Abraham. In Hebrews 11:8 we read:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

Now that’s giving up control! The Bible tells us of other times in Abraham’s life when he trusted God’s leading even though it must have made more sense to do something else.

We see the reason why we call Abraham the “Father of our Faith.” His faith in God controlled his actions time and again. And, because of that, Abraham saw magnificent acts of God’s power and love.

We also clearly see when we read the account of Abraham’s life that those times when he did not choose to obediently take his hands off the wheel of his life and surrender to God’s control were the times that he faltered. The consequences of those few times when Abraham pushed God’s hands out of the way and all-too-eagerly grasped the wheel for himself have reverberated down through the pages of history, right up to the present day.

It always helps to remember Who controls the wheel. While good driving for me may mean disengaging the cruise control, good faith means putting all we see and can’t see through the windshield totally in the control of our God. We can rely on His vision, His hearing, His wisdom, His reflexes, and, of course, His unfailing love.

Join me in learning to “cruise” through this life giving up the control to the One who loves us best and Who can always see what’s around the corner of the road ahead. There are no accidents on the road He chooses for us. And, though it may seem rough, narrow, steep, and dangerous at times, it is always in our very best interest to leave the driving of our lives to Him!



Monday, February 9, 2015



[Photo of a young girl with a lipstick kiss on her cheek]

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
—Jeremiah 31:3

“Having believed, you were marked in him
with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
—Ephesians 1:13

Everyone knew Rosa’s mom loved her. Every school morning she wore a lipstick “kiss” on her cheek. And, to be sure, Rosa knew her mom loved her, too.

Jeremy also knew his mom loved him. Every day she hid a little note in his lunch box that he would discover and open to read her loving and encouraging words when lunchtime came.

Some of us frequently seem to forget that God has an everlasting love for us. We particularly tend to forget that God loves us when we believe that we’ve failed Him, or when we believe we have done less than a sterling job in some task He has given us to do.

We may not love ourselves very much in such moments, but we can rest assured that God truly does love us every bit as much whether we feel satisfied with our behavior or performance and also whenever we wish we had done so much better.

I have a theory—and this may or may not be true—that the Apostle John called himself “the disciple Jesus loved” to remind himself of God’s incredibly deep affection for him. Perhaps we need to consider ourselves, “the person Jesus loves.”

Think about how that reminder of God’s love might help us through our days.

Keeping God’s love for us always in the forefront of our minds can help us overcome our own weaknesses. Knowing that He loves us can mitigate the feelings we have that others underestimate our value. Recognizing that God’s love for us remains constant and unconditional can give us a buffer against the hardness of a lonely day.

Let’s learn to begin each day asking God to give us tangible reminders of His never-failing love. With that assurance, we need little else!



Monday, February 2, 2015

A Choice Instrument


[Photo of a grand piano]

“So whoever cleanses himself [from what
is ignoble and unclean, who separates
himself from contact with contaminating
and corrupting influences] will [then
himself] be a vessel set apart and useful
for honorable and noble purposes,
consecrated and profitable to the
Master, fit and ready for any good work.”
—2 Timothy 2:21 Amplified Bible

Since I began playing piano at age six, I have had opportunity to play on hundreds of instruments. I have played on pianos with sticking keys, with wildly out-of-tune strings, and even some pianos that leaned to one side like a sinking ship. Often, someone at the venue housing the piano will remark, “Well, it’s better than nothing!” Though I understand that person’s somewhat apologetic sentiment, frankly I’m not too certain that’s true.

Other pianos I’ve played do the job quite well in a utilitarian kind of way. They may sound in-tune, be fairly regulated (a piano technician’s term for how evenly the hammers produce sound), and play loud and clear enough for accompanying.

But, less frequently I have had the opportunity to play on an unusually fine instrument: built well, maintained well, placed well in a good acoustical environment, even beautiful to look at. What a difference for a trained musician who listens for nuance of dynamics, beauty and warmth of tone, crisp response time, and reliability for every style of playing.

I can remember when I turned from a fairly good technical player into a musician. My college professor had given me a key to her studio and allowed me to practice frequently on her Steinway grand piano. All the technical exercises, the hard listening and careful pedaling paid off. That piano allowed me to fully express all that I possessed of work and talent to play the music on the page.

God has chosen us as His superb instruments for honorable and noble purposes. Just as one who knew young King David said of him in 1 Samuel 16:18:

“He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

So, God wants us to exhibit the qualities of a masterful servant.

Similarly, the Lord spoke of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:15:

“This man is my chosen instrument.”

Though we may not have the influence of a King David or a St. Paul, God has still purposefully chosen us to represent Him, to carry out noble tasks, to give full expression—like a fine Steinway—to the purpose that He has for us.

The qualifying words in our theme verse at the beginning of this blog post tell us that, in order to offer ourselves to God, we must cleanse ourselves from the unclean things, and separate ourselves from evil influences. “Holiness” is the theological term for this. It sounds stuffy and unattainable, but God expects all of us who carry His name—we whom He has specifically chosen—to live holy lives in order to carry out noble purposes.

What a high calling He has given us! May the “music” we make with our obedient lives glorify Him to the fullest.