A Row Of Houses

My mother and I have enjoyed having a friend visit this week.  We’ve been her tour guides and have loved every moment.  Earlier this week our friend and I spent the day in London.  We traveled by train.  As we whizzed through the countryside, villages and towns, I was particularly drawn to the terraced houses.  These are homes built in a long row, all attached to each other.  Basically each house in the strip is identical to its neighbour.  However, as I observed them, I knew that while they may appear alike, each home would be its own distinct place of habitation.

If we could open each door and peek inside, we would no doubt see homes that were very neat and tidy.  Others not so clean and orderly.  Still others might be an absolute mess. No one can see behind a closed door.

It’s the same in the spiritual worlds of our lives.  Mankind can look at the outside.  They may see some faces smiling while others appear indifferent.  Still other faces may be angry or crying.  While the outside may indicate what is possibly on the inside, like an overgrown lawn might suggest untidiness in the home, no one can know for certain.  You and I can only guess what another may be feeling or experiencing, but God knows all.

God says in I Samuel 16:7, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance,  but the Lord looks at the heart.”  The Lord knows our every intention, our every ambition, our ever desire.  He knows when we love and when we detest.  He sees when we smile on the outside because we are happy on the inside, and He sees when the outside smile is a fake, covering up the turmoil behind our facial mask.

God sees all, but that’s not the point of this blog post.  The wonderful point is the truth that God sees the pain and is able to comfort.  He sees when we are trapped by the deceptions of this world and is able to put us back onto a path of righteousness.  We cannot clean up the cluttered mess of our hearts, but our forgiving and loving Father is able to clean us up and then to make us like brand new again.  That is why the Apostle Paul could proclaim the wonderful truth of II Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new.”  Isn’t that amazing?

When our hearts become cluttered or downright unclean, that is no reason to keep the door shut tight.  The moment of such a realisation is the moment we need to open the door wide, inviting the Holy Spirit to please take the broom of holiness and clean us up.  The door can only be opened by us.  The key to unlock it from the inside is repentance; which is that sense of regret and desire not to live that way anymore, that stirs us to ask for forgiveness.  When we do, the Holy Spirit begins to clean, sweeping away the debris of this world that can never satisfy, but can only deceive one into thinking they have found joy, when indeed they have only sunk into deception.  When all is forgiven and hearts are clean once more, then true joy fills the rooms of our heart and mind.

A tidy home is pleasant in our physical world; it’s indescribable joy in the home of our spiritual heart.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Clothes After A Shower?

I love to travel, which is a good thing, because I’ve been traveling all my life. My father’s air force career kept me traveling with my family all through my childhood. In my own adult life, I’ve been traveling to countries across the oceans for 35 years. I love trying new foods, adapting to different cultures, listening to various languages, and observing God’s beautiful creation in every country.

In some of my travels, especially when spending numerous days in the mountains of Central Asia, taking a hot shower is non-existent. Often, changing clothes on a daily basis is also non-existent. These things are all a part of cultural adjustment and adaptation. I have learned, and maintain, that keeping a good sense of humor, helps to get one through these unusual situations with greater ease. Also, travel adventures make great stories, so plunge right in and enjoy cultural differences to the hilt!

As much fun as I might have on my traveling escapades, I confess that, on the return home, I start envisioning the hot shower awaiting me! Oh, how good I know it’s going to feel; hot water — endless hot water, flowing all over! Oh, and to put on fresh clothes that are clean and smell good, too! Now, wouldn’t it be absolutely strange if, upon taking and enjoying, my longed for hot shower, instead of putting on the good-smelling, fresh clothing, I put the dirty ones back on? Would that make any sense at all? Of course not! It would not only be strange; it would be foolish.

Knowing that such an act would indeed be a foolish thing to do, why do we sometimes do that very thing in our spiritual worlds? There comes a time in our lives when we realize what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross to pay the price for our own sins. Realizing that, we accept His gift of salvation, through a prayer of repentance and thankfulness for what He has done. Then, He washes us clean; and not only that, He puts within us a new heart, as Paul affirms in II Corinthians 5:17, “Those who have become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old is passed away, and all things have become new.”The becoming new means that Christ puts within us His Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us; to give us strength to actually keep on our clean clothes. It’s the only way of true joy.

Why then, comes the question again, do we pick up our old, dirty clothes, stepping back into the world from which we have been freed? As Paul reminds us in II Corinthians 4:7, although we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are also still trapped in our earthly bodies. We are troubled and perplexed, face difficulties, suffer physically, and are tempted on every front to, indeed, put our dirty clothes back on. What can we do?

It’s all a matter of focus. When we fall down, don’t lay there and focus on the failure; look up and focus on the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Focus on the truth of I John 1:9 that promises us, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” Remember, too, this wonderful promise found in I Corinthians 10:13, “Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” Isn’t that an exciting promise?

Therefore, if you find that you have gone and foolishly put your dirty clothes back on — don’t stand there and smell; ask the forgiving love of Jesus to dress you again in the new clothes that He died for you to wear. Did you know that, when Jesus dresses you, you are, as it tells us in II Corinthians 2:15, “…a fragrance presented by Christ to God…a life giving perfume.” Now, that’s a beautiful reason to get rid of those dirty clothes.

Better Than New

My mother and I took our visiting friends from England to New Orleans this week.  As I strolled about the French Quarter, I noticed a statue being renovated.  The passing of years and of weather had made the statue dull and splotchy in places.  It was easy to see, that with the renovation, the statue was going to be made to appear as it did when it was made — it would look like new.

A thought came to my mind — thoughts about the person who becomes a Christian.  Two things happen:

First, we are told in II Corinthians 5:17 that, “Old things are passed away and all things are become new.”  What a wonderful promise.  Jesus begins His work of making us into His own image.  He puts His thoughts into our minds.  He puts His desires into our hearts.  He gives us His own peace to face all situations.  He gives us courage and joy.  He fills us up with His love.  We are indeed made new, but not like the statue, restored to it’s original state; no, we are made even better because we are forgiven of all our sins.  The things that made our hearts blackened by sin, Jesus cleans up and presents us before God as if we had never sinned at all.  What love!

Second, we are given a promise of what is to come when we leave this earth.  II Corinthians 5:1 tells us, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down, that is, when we die and leave this earthly body, we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.”  What a hope.  Life for the Christian is filled with promises from God to give us all the holy assistance we need as we travel the road of our lives; then, when we reach the end of the road, our eternal home awaits us.  It’s a home where there are no more tears, no death, no pain — it’s a place of eternal peace.

When God does His restoration work in our lives — nothing at all compares to the wonder of it all!  How amazing is that!