what can wash away my sin?

Having done professional housecleaning for a several years now, I’ve learned a few lessons, not least of which is: Cleaning products and rags are expendableThey don’t cost much and while they serve a vital role in the cleaning process, they aren’t precious to me at all.

Around our own house, rags are often made from discarded T-shirts and stained towels. These are the items no one wants anymore. They’ve already lived their life, served their purpose, and are only a step away from being thrown in the trash can. Nobody even enjoys the job of folding rags because they’re rags. 

If I showed up at one of my clients’ homes with diamonds and perfume to scrub down the bathroom, they wouldn’t say they hired the best house cleaner in town. Perhaps the richest, but also definitely the most foolish. Think of the utter absurdity of it! Diamonds and perfume? Those items are much too valuable, too precious, to expend on cleaning! I can buy more rags and cleaners at Walmart, but diamonds come from the Jeweler and perfume is for special occasions.

So, when I sang “Jesus Paid it All” early one morning in prayer, I stopped short at this line:

I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

“Wait,” I thought. “Washing in the blood of Jesus?” Washing and cleaning is done with unloved rags and expendable cleaners, and here I am singing of washing in Jesus’ blood. The thought shocked me right then and there. The blood of Jesus must be much too precious to wash in, far surpassing diamonds and perfume, more valuable than the finest silver and gold.

It is undeniably true: there is nothing more precious than the blood of Christ- nothing more worthy, sacred, valuable, perfect, limited. And all the while, that very blood is the one thing that will wash away the deep filthy sin which clings to mankind by our own choice.

Would you be clean? Then wash in the blood of Jesus. God has made it possible; Jesus has offered it up freely in His love. That sacred, costly cleanser is available for the guiltiest, dirtiest sinner who comes.

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” -1 Peter 1:18-19

Let the words shock and thrill and cause our hearts to tremble all in the same moment.

Blood of Jesus

the plans of GOD

He had treasured so many hopes for that boy, the firstborn of his beautiful wife Rachel. But then they were lost all in a moment, that one dreadful instant when ten of his sons brought him the coat of many colors drenched in blood. All the dreams he had cherished were gone. Even Joseph’s dreams, those dreams that seemed too preposterous to actually be true, were dead. Certainly, he’d give anything to bow before his son, if only his son had still been living. But in that instant, the cherished dreams had been ripped away from him, and all that stood in their place were years to mourn the loss. He would would go down to the grave in sorrow, sorrow more immense than he had ever known.

But now, what a shock! His eleven remaining sons returned from Egypt with impossible words: “Joseph is alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” Surely not. It had been over twenty long years of mourning.

Did God raise the dead? His grandfather Abraham had believed it that fearful day when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham rarely spoke of the day, but Jacob had heard the story nonetheless. Meekly his father and grandfather had made the journey to Mount Moriah  with trembling hearts uncertain of God’s plan, grasping only the hope that God would raise the dead. God could not break His Word. At that last moment when there was no hope but God, God had made another way: a way of life instead of death. Could it be now, after so many years, that God would do the same now for him and his own beloved son?

“And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘I am God, the God of your fathers. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make You into a great nation. I Myself will go down to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.'” (Genesis 46:3-4)

*                *                *                *                *               *                *               *               *                *                *                *

When Jacob married Rachel, did he have any idea of what their life together would look like? When Joseph was finally born, did he know the pain and heartbreak he would eventually experience over that long-awaited boy? It was as if their lives were taken from them, dedicated to God to fulfill a purpose and plan that far surpassed anything they could naturally understand. The tale of Jacob and Joseph is not simply the story of a father and son separated for painful years or God raising the dead, though that may all be true. Mostly, it is a story of God’s plan transcending weak human lives and using them for something much greater.

These words meet the tension I often feel. While I hold onto my own plans and dreams, I grasp that there is unsurpassed beauty in letting go and seeing God’s plan shine above my own. The darkest trials are the times when saints have come to know God intimately. The wrenching heartbreak and pain and hopelessness of everything else- those are the things to throw us entirely onto Christ. Am I willing to desire that?

Even in the painful plans of God, there is such kindness. How often would we complain over all the years of separation, and fail to glimpse the grace of the final reuniting? “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Jacob thought the end of that treasured relationship had already come. Joseph is no more. Instead, God’s plan, working through Jacob’s entire journey and heartbreak, brought life in the place of supposed death.

It is impossible to understand what God’s plans will entail, but there is assurance that He will do all things well. What are the plans and cherished dreams that remain in tightly clenched hands? Not one of them is too precious to be entrusted to the Lord. The Kingdom of Heaven, after all, is a pearl of great price worth selling everything to buy.

“Gladly would I leave behind me all the pleasure I have known,
To pursue surpassing treasures at the Throne of God the Son.”

zittau-1021288_960_720

the boldness of compassion

Picture the scene on this Sabbath day, certainly similar to so many others. There is a man with a withered hand, and perhaps parents tell their children not to stare at him. Some of the crowd likely feels what they consider pity inside themselves, but they don’t dare to show it. The religious leaders have already made it clear what they think of “sinners” such as this man.

The man named Jesus is also here on this Sabbath, and the air feels tense as the religious leaders watch him. He also watches them carefully, as if it is possible for Him to understand exactly what they are thinking of Him. Then He calls the poor man to come. With an air of uncertainty and hope, the man cautiously makes his way to Jesus. What will the religious leaders think? Is it possible that Jesus is taking notice of him?

The question Jesus asks is striking: “Shall we do good or harm? Save life or destroy?” It makes sense: a withered hand is enough to destroy this man’s life and leave him as a poor outcast from society, no matter how hard he works with his good hand. Jesus deliberately looks around at all the people, before instructing the man: “Stretch out your hand.”

How does someone stretch out a withered hand? Certainly, if such a thing were possible, he would have done so long before now. For once, the parents are no longer whispering for their children to look away because now all eyes, including their own, are fixed on the man standing before Jesus.

Incredibly, the man obeys Jesus, doing precisely what he has never been able to do before. Thrusting out his hand, it is there before him, whole and well just as his other hand.

The reactions to this miracle are as unmistakable as they are varied. The man himself appears overcome with wonder and gratitude. He moves and feels his hand, experiencing the wholeness that he never could so much as dream of. But the religious leaders, they turn to one another to speak, and they are filled fury. Impossible as it seems, rage is written on their faces and laced in their low voices.  Over the rest of the crowd looking on, a hush has fallen.

A good deed has been done, praise the Lord!
This Savior, God with us, is setting at liberty those who are oppressed,
proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor!

(Luke 6:6-11)
hands

Jesus knew their thoughts, comprehending that healing on the Sabbath would enrage the religious leaders- He did it anyway. There were only two options according to Jesus: save a life or destroy it. Could a truly compassionate heart do such a thing as Jesus suggested: that is, decide to destroy? No. Jesus had true compassion; therefore, He had boldness to do good for a person in need.

Let’s not think of compassion as something for sensitive or weak people, or boldness as something that lacks mercy. Jesus brought these two traits together in a beautiful, revolving way.

Over and over, the example of Jesus is compassion coupled with distinct boldness. Shall we feel compassion inside ourselves but do nothing outwardly? Then it should not be called compassion. True compassion is bold. True compassion does not care what people think of it or shy away from offending. Instead it is exactly what Jesus demonstrated time and again while he walked on earth: love for hurting people that acted to save lives, no matter the cost. 

afternoon at the coffee shop

frappe

I was sitting at a coffee shop with my favorite caramel frappe. It was one of those times when you just want to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the life you’ve been given.

Of course, I come to coffee shops to write. The afternoon slips away: peacefully, because there are no interruptions and thoughts come out more smoothly when I don’t have a to-do list sitting beside me.

I did my writing, but I also spent plenty of time people-watching because it’s fascinating business.

What stories do these people have? What are they up to?

The coffee shop was busy until the evening. By then there were only a few of us still there. I put away my writing and continued reading my way through Isaiah. A middle-aged couple sat at a table in the corner, probably twenty feet from me. They’d caught my eye upon walking in because this lady had the most tired eyes. Maybe it had just been a long day and coffee with her husband tonight would be a nice break? Continued observation seemed to disprove this idea. They talked in hushed voices and solemn faces, or just sat staring off into the distance. They looked weary and distinctly sad.

I sat in my chair watching the sorrowful people and reading Isaiah, chapters on the sin of God’s people and their impending judgment, and it all overcame, the feeling of a great burden.

Then this came next:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

All in the moment of reading those words, I felt a sudden, surprising peace. Even on beautiful days there will be reminders of sin and sadness and pain, a life mankind chose for themselves that day our first parents believed the lie of Satan and disobeyed God. It’s a life we chose for ourselves over and over while rejecting God in our fallen state. But even then God made a way of Salvation, offering Life while we were caught up striving after death. There is a Savior promised in the midst of pain. There is glorious, life-giving hope for us residing on earth, and the Prince of Peace will reign forever. 

all of our lives?

Do any of these questions sound familiar?

“How is your prayer life?”

“How is your thought life?”

“How is your devotional life?”

I’ve heard these a lot over the years, and I appreciate them because of the heart that lies behind these sorts of questions.  However, I wish we would not hint that our lives can be compartmentalized so distinctly. We say each one is a ‘life,’ as if each part could exist independently of the others.

Can you live your life without thinking? Even in our sleep, our minds work (it’s so incredible!), and besides a moment here or there where we might “zone out,” we are constantly thinking, processing, and making decisions. Our actions and words are all directly tied to our thoughts.

We should no sooner be able to live without thinking or eating than we can live without praying or relying on the Lord. In reality, all aspects of our lives are intricately connected with threads that we are unable to unravel. Each part influences and interacts with all the others, forming one whole life, not a separate prayer ‘life’ and a thought ‘life’, etc.

One of my favorite passages is John 15, in which Jesus share final words to His disciples before His death.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5 ESV)
(Emphasis added)

purple-grapes-553462_960_720

We abide in Christ, and through His Spirit and life-giving strength, we express the beautiful qualities of love and joy and peace. We seek Him and so we understand our place before Him, thus growing in humility and constant dependence. We hide the Scripture within ourselves so that we overcome sin. We experience His love and therefore put on hearts of compassion and make supplication for all people.

Do we see the way it works? Our lives are not separate sections, all functioning individually. We abide in Christ or we do nothing at all.

“How is your abiding-in-Christ-and-bearing-fruit life doing?” It likely sounds funny, but this captures the essence of our living so much more. Let’s consider that with one another. And then while we’re at it, let’s discuss how prayer has been, and humility and patience; discuss evangelism and serving and loving God. But just remember, they’re all part of the whole, part of abiding in Christ.

“Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for THEE.”

rejoice evermore :: a guest post

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, but today I have a guest post to share with you from Kaleigh S. who has written for us about 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Thank you for sharing this with us, Kaleigh!!

“Rejoice evermore.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16

Two simple words. Yet the weight of that command carries further than outward actions.

Paul speaks a lot about joy. As a man who endured great persecution, he is continually encouraging others to find their joy in the Lord, in other believers, and in their salvation.

Paul found his joy in the Lord.
He couldn’t base it on his circumstances because they were constantly changing. Imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, wayward churches and “believers”, and false teachers provided Paul with more than enough hardships to complain about. Yet, he didn’t. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he says “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation”. Paul knew where to find his joy, and because he clung to the steadfast joy of the Lord, he was able to say, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” We have the hope of a Savior who is sovereign, and not only do we have that hope, but along with that God provides joy when we believe and trust in His will. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13) God fills us with joy! We can’t outwardly express joy every single minute, because some of our circumstances are truly not joyful. But that is not what determines what we feel like. The only way to be genuinely joyful is to allow Christ’s joy and peace to reign in our hearts. Jesus said to His disciples “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full”. (John 15:11) It is the commands of Christ and the comforts of the Spirit that will fill us with joy.

Paul found his joy in other believers.
“Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.” (2 Corinthians 7:13) There should be (and often is) joy among fellow believers. We share the same faith; we encourage one another in our walks with the Lord; we rejoice with those who rejoice. Titus’ “spirit was refreshed” and that caused joy for Paul and many other fellow believers. Joy is contagious; often it’s a domino effect. You can’t help but pick up the joyfulness of someone when they are happy. And that’s a good thing. Paul also had joy in other believers because he had confidence in them. “I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.” (2 Corinthians 7:16) Paul was joyful when lifting up fellow believers from Philippi in prayer. He greatly longed to be with them in person, but his joy stemmed from pleading for them before the throne of God. “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.”(Philippians 1:4) He knew that his and their joy would once again be fulfilled when they could fellowship in person again. “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:25-26)

Paul found joy in his salvation.
It was from Paul’s deep faith in Christ, that his joy increased. “…but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:11) If Christ had not provided a way of salvation, then our happiness in this world would be painfully temporary. While the happiness in this life is still short-lived, we have an ever-abiding joy because of the cross. The Man of Sorrows, the one who endured the excruciating death of the cross, bore the shame of the world with joy! And He it is who is the author and finisher of our faith. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Paul found joy in seeing the steadfast faith of the Colossian believers: “…I [am] with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5) Watching others–maybe even people you’ve discipled–increase in their faith and grow in their stedfastness in the Lord is truly a joy. And you rejoice with them, because, as Matthew Henry states, “For by faith we stand firmly, and live safely and comfortable. Our strength and ability are owning to faith, and our comfort and joy must flow from faith”. When you see others standing firmly for the Lord it provides great joy for the people around them. David, in his Psalm of repentance, prayed“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…” (Psalm 51:12). Salvation carries with it the joy of forgiveness–nothing held against you in spite of continual failures. The grace and mercy freely given to us provides us with a restored vision and a humble spirit to continually press onward.

And then in conclusion, Paul commands the Thessalonian believers to “rejoice evermore”. Not just through wonderful circumstances; not just on a cheerful Sunday morning; not just when the depth of salvation is so real. No, he says “evermore”. Always. Continually. Never-ending. The joy of the Lord is our strength. His joy and strength never fails, and the Author and Finisher of our faith has no end, either.

Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)

When we come boldly to the throne of grace, there…only there, will we find that in His presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)

About the author: Kaleigh is a 21-year-old senior in online college, seeking to walk worthy of the Lord’s calling and encouraging other believers to hold fast to One who saved them. You can read more of her writings at her blog Facing the Waves

My Name Will Be Great

“Go forth through the earth,
and my gospel proclaim,
Teach sinners the truth,
and baptize in GOD’s name.

“This good news of Christ
to the world shall be preach’d.
The truth shall not fail,
all nations be reached.

“Though evil seems great,
I triumph over sin.
The Lamb that was slain
shall the victory win.

“My Name will be great,
for the earth is My own.
The nations will fall
and bow down at My throne.”

“For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”
~Malachi 1:11

“And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
 from every tribe and language and people and nation'”
~Revelation 5:9

{poetry © 2014 amy nicole}

little people see Jesus

If you came over to my house on any given day, you’d probably hear someone singing “Zacchaeus” at some point.

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man
and a wee little man was he. 

He climbed up in a sycamore tree
for the Lord he wanted to see…”

And so on, the song goes. The other morning I began thinking about it, finally.  “Poor little Zacchaeus,” I thought, “forever known to history as being a wee little man.” I mean, that’s not the way I’d like to be remembered. (Yes, it took me long enough to get past the fact that I’m shorter than my younger sister).

Zacchaeus needed his sycamore tree to see Jesus (at least, so he thought). He was too short, after all, to see Him on his own. Maybe children giggled when they saw him perched up on a branch, straining to see catch a glimpse of Jesus. “Oh look! It’s Zacchaeus up there. He’s so little he has to sit in a tree!”

Poor little Zacchaeus.

But, Zacchaeus’ small stature, wasn’t the only thing that I thought about–because being a wee little man wasn’t the only thing that happened to Zacchaeus. He also got to see Jesus.  Actually, I doubt he would have heard anyone laughing at him, because way up in his sycamore tree, it’s likely the only thing on his mind was making sure he caught sight of Jesus.  Then Jesus came up to him and talked with him and came into his house and declared salvation had come to his house!

Greatly blessed Zacchaeus!

It dawned on me then. Little people see Jesus. Not necessarily just the short ones, or the young ones, but the little ones.  The people who recognize they’re too little see Jesus on their own, the ones who need help, the ones who are truly humble–those are the people who can see Jesus.

Maybe Zacchaeus is remembered to history as only a wee little man, but every lofty Pharisee ought to look with humility on that wee little sinner who got to see Jesus.

“‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God….
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
-James 4:6,7,10

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” –Luke 19:1-10