Friday, May 3, 2013

A CLEAN HOUSE




Every spring at the conference center we finally finished our chores, and the place sparkled. Every Saturday after our cleaning foray in my childhood home, the house smelled and looked clean at the end of the day. The dust was gone, the furniture shone, the bathrooms gleamed, the stove glistened. We were ready for whatever activities ensued.

For some chores, we must take inventory frequently. Some cleaning must be done every week, or, in some instances, every day. That’s the way it is with our spiritual inventories as well. We may brush our hands gleefully after a penetrating look at our hearts and feel satisfied that we have taken care of the insidious filth. But we need daily dusting off and consistent cleaning out of grime and grease in order to reflect an accurate image of the Lord Jesus to those around us.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and clean our spiritual houses through the daily washing of the Word, the frequent cleansing of pet beliefs and traditions, the clearing away of anger, gossip and offenses and the diligence of a vibrant prayer life. Nothing feels better than being clean, physically and spiritually.

Friday, April 26, 2013

THE DISCOLORATION OF PRAYERLESSNESS





Discoloration takes place through neglect or carelessness. Draperies fade over time or because of being exposed to light. A few years ago while touring castles in Great Britain with one of our daughters, I noticed that many of the ancient tapestries on the walls were covered so that they would not fade and lose the vibrancy of the colors of the thread.

Many times doing laundry I have carelessly thrown in a red sock with a load of whites or a royal blue shirt with the white tee shirts and come out with pink underwear or sky-blue tee shirts.  There is not much that can be recovered at that point.  The damage has been done.  Prevention is the way to avoid these two issues of discoloration—paying attention to the fading of the draperies and being careful to properly separate the clothes before throwing them into the washing machine. 

Prayerlessness is much like discoloration. Through subtle neglect our prayer life can become faded and less vibrant. We get busy or distracted and suddenly realize we’ve not spent time with the Father all week. Our prayer life is fading. And if we do not separate ourselves and get into the prayer closet, we take on the colors that are around us. The influences of the world begin to attach themselves to our thinking and our behavior.

Ask yourself these questions: How can I maintain a vital prayer life? What culprits will attempt to steal that relationship?

Friday, April 19, 2013

THE STAIN OF A CRITICAL SPIRIT




A stain is one of the most stubborn of all the blemishes we must clean. The proper cleaning agents must be applied at precisely the right moment and in just the right manner or the stain sometimes becomes worse than ever. Simple elbow grease usually doesn’t accomplish the task of eliminating a stain.

I remember a house we bought one time that was new—everything already installed.  I had no choice as to colors or fixtures or carpet. The carpet in the dining room and family room was a light sage green. With three active little girls, I would never have chosen that color. It was a challenge to keep clean. One day cherry Kool-aid was spilled on that sage green carpet. As diligently as I worked on it, I never was successful at completely eliminating the red stain.

A “critical spirit” is one of the most difficult stains to remove from the human personality. In reality, it is the root of all gossip and backbiting. It is an obsessive attitude of criticism and fault finding which seeks to tear others down. Critical people see the glass half empty and dwell on the negative. They complain and usually have a problem with everything and everyone. They exercise little control over their tongue and delight in gossip and slander and in knowing each juicy tidbit about every situation.

There is only one word in the New Testament Greek for judge and criticize: krino. So when Jesus spoke the words, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2), He could just as well have been saying, “Do not criticize, or you too will be criticized.”

May God help us to see others and situations with a positive rather than a negative outlook. After all, if indeed "... all things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose," is there any reason to be negative? "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thess 5:18)

Friday, March 29, 2013

THE DIRT OF GOSSIP



David said in Psalm 39:1, I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle.” The problem of controlling the tongue is not a modern phenomenon. The cleaning issues we have discussed heretofore could be hidden, not noticed, swept under the carpet, but gossip is plain, old-fashioned dirt that is slung around like mud tracked in on dirty boots over the floors and carpet. And the more the person goes in and out of the situation, the more mud and dirt is tracked in.

For nearly 18 years we lived in a mountain area with lots of dirt, mud, and snow. My husband was raised in South Texas in a home with a beautifully groomed St. Augustine grass lawn with a winding stone walkway to the front door – no stickers, no dirt, and no mud. He had no need to remove his shoes before walking on the carpet in his childhood home. He still does not like to remove his boots to come inside and walk on the carpet, even though I have chastised him through the years, shown him the dirt he is tracking in and grumbled as I clean up the dirty spots on our floor. And the more he goes in and out doing chores, the more dirt I have to clean up. Simply wiping the boots off on a mat, or taking them off and setting them in the corner on the carpet doesn’t solve the problem. Even in the corner, they still get a portion of the carpet dirty. They must be removed and left on the porch—put aside.

We must deal with gossip and slander the same way. It simply has to be put aside. The Bible clearly tells us to lay aside all slander and manner of evil speaking.

Friday, March 22, 2013

THE MUCK OF UNFORGIVENESS




A television commercial of recent years depicted foaming bubbles with happy faces that whiz into the bathtub on their own and voile! – the bathtub is instantly clean. Every housewife and housekeeper wishes cleaning were that effortless. Cleaning a bathroom is not easy. It is hard work to clean the mirrors until they sparkle. It’s not easy to get the hard water build-up off of the tile. Sludge gathers around the faucet and you wonder “Where in the world did that come from?”

When I was a child, Saturday was cleaning day at our house. My mom worked all week, so on the weekends we cleaned. I usually volunteered to clean the bathroom, because when I was finished, the result of my labor was evident. It felt good. I felt I had accomplished something. The house didn’t feel clean until the bathroom was clean.

There is nothing quite as burdensome as walking through our days with a buildup of unforgiveness on our shoulders. It weighs us down. It colors our attitudes. It puts a barb in our tongue. And there is nothing quite as freeing as getting rid of the onus of bitterness through forgiveness.

The Greek word for forgiveness means to “let it go,” “release it,” “abandon it.” When I learned that and realized that I didn’t have to feel forgiving toward someone who had offended me, I was able to begin to exercise forgiveness. Every time that particular situation came to my mind, I would say, “Lord, I release it. I let it go.” Eventually, the burden lightened, and I was able to move on.

Forgiveness is not for the offending party. They are not “getting away with it.” Forgiveness is for you, for me. Don’t walk around with the build-up of the muck of unforgiveness in your life. Let it go. Release it. Let God deal with the other party.

Friday, March 15, 2013

THE GOOEY MESS OF BITTERNESS





The gooey, sticky mess of cleaning the grease from a commercial stove can be compared to the difficult job of clearing up offenses. If grease is not cleaned from a surface immediately after it splatters over the stove and walls, it becomes quite laborious to remove. It requires concentrated effort with special scrubbing instruments and cleaning solutions. Sometimes the surfaces are irreparably damaged because the glutinous spots were not promptly addressed.

As I speak to women’s groups around the country, this problem of bitterness and unforgiveness emerges time and time again.  I have watched people from all walks of life—from a young, newly-divorced, battered wife to an eighty-year old great grandmother—struggle with this issue.

When anger is turned inward, bitterness results. God’s Word warns us about allowing a root of bitterness to spring up in our relationships (Hebrews 12:15). Like the grease splattering on the walls and cabinets, bitterness can splatter onto those around us and defile many. Left to gel and harden, it becomes a daunting task to remove. That's why God warns us to never allow the sun to go down on our wrath or anger (Eph. 4:26).

Do you have any splatters of anger or unforgiveness that have turned unto a gooey mess of bitterness? Turn those offenses over to God and let Him clean them up for you. 

I love a sparkling clean oven, don't you?