Day 27 (Friday) -“Coffee Stains…”

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”  Matthew 23:25-26

Jesus had some harsh words for the religious leaders of his day…but first let me share with you a story.  I love coffee…a lot!  I also have my favorite cups that I like to use every day. cup It’s the daily routine.  Every morning I wake up my children and get them ready for school.  Then I shuffle to the kitchen and brew myself a nice hot cup of coffee.  Most days my cup is clean but then there are days when my favorite cup was left in the car or in the sink…and it’s dirty.  There is a dilemma that happens, do I wash it or just rinse it out.  If I rinse it out I will know that the inside wasn’t clean…and I will be thinking about how it will affect the taste of my coffee as well as how it could affect my health to ingest bacteria from a dirty cup.  I could drink from it, but I won’t.

I would imagine that you would do the same – wash the cup.
If you’re anything like me, you care about your health and you want to ensure you take care of yourself…and cleaning is one way to help prevent illness and all-round health issues.

createJesus addressed a very real spiritual health issue with these religious leaders.
He was harsh, but straight with them.  They looked the part, but on the inside they were unclean.  Instead of dealing with their spiritual dirt, they pretended everything was okay.  They pretended to have it all together, but in their personal lives it was all falling apart.  Have you been there?  Have you at times pretended everything was okay, but deep inside you knew that there was dirt that needed removing?  That’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit!  He longs to cleanse us completely.  Without this continual cleansing – a full surrender is impossible.  We cannot run from this heart issue.  We have to confront the dirt.  Without confronting it, we will have this barrier between us and God.  The cleansing which comes from getting rid of the dirt is freeing as well!  Jesus went on to call these Pharisees “white washed tombs” – they looked good on the outside but on the inside they were dead inside.  This is a scary commentary by Jesus.  I hope and pray none of us receives this kind of appraisal of our spiritual lives.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be dead inside.  I don’t want to pretend everything is “holy” on the outside but inside it is anything but holy.

Are you prepared to clean the inside of your cup?
Are there areas that still need cleansing in your life today?
It can be a barrier and without that cleansing a detriment to our faith journey.
So let’s confess to the Lord today and allow Him access (perhaps once again) to our hearts and hidden spaces of our lives that no one else sees.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, cleanse me from the inside out.  I want to be yours completely.  Show me the places that require your cleansing.  Cleanse my mind from all malice and unhealthy thought.  Wash me clean and make me whiter than snow so that I can move past any barriers that keep me from full surrender.  Lead me today Lord and show me your glory!  In Your name I pray all of these things.  Amen.

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“The Exchange”

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” -Proverbs 18:10

Hands Passing Baton at Sporting Event
Hands Passing Baton at Sporting Event

I used to run track when I was in high school.
I was a sprinter.  I would train with my team every day after school even when it was hard.  I would run the 100 meter, 200 meter and the 4×100 meter relay.  The relay was where team work would come in.  Each runner had their own part to play in the race.  Each ran their respective portion…but it would be all for naught if the exchange of the baton was mishandled.  Sometimes failure in the exchange came by way of holding on too tightly to the baton as one attempted to pass it on.  Sometimes failure in the exchange came by way of holding on too loosely as one attempted to pass it on.  That’s why we practiced day after day.  We needed to be a synced group.  We needed to have a simple, nondramatic hand-off each time in order to even consider winning the race.  The relay’s success of failure hinged upon “the exchange”.

Have you ever felt weak?
I imagine we all have from time to time…some of us probably just thought to themselves “I feel weak all the time”.  I want to encourage you today.  There is strength in knowing the Lord.  There is joy in this “knowing” as well.   What happens within this fragment of time (when we allow God’s strength to become our strength and exchange1when we “know” whose strength it is coursing through us) is an exchange of lordship.  The success and failure of the Christian walk sometimes hinges on this pivotal exchange!   Within this exchange of lordship, what we are saying is “Lord I abdicate my human authority that is frail and weak and I exchange it for your Lordship in my life!”  When we allow this lordship exchange to take place within us, we knock down pride and selfishness and erect a stronger, more firmer foundation found only within complete humility and selflessness.

The Apostle Paul puts it like this – “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:10)
Despite Paul’s sufferings, despite his weaknesses, despite everything kind of persecution he faced, he recognized that even in weakness Christ would be strong!

I wonder if any of you are kind of like me.  I am stubborn.  I am often prideful.  I am sometimes insecure.  I am quick to repay wrongs done to me in similar reciprocating responses.  I am still far from the prize of holiness.  BUT… there is something within this confession of mine.  I have to recognize that in all of these shortcomings I cannot attain the strength that I need on my own.  I require this exchange of authority in my life.  I require the Holy Spirit’s presence within me.  I cannot afford to run aimlessly, full of myself and on my own.  My own efforts will, and frequently have, failed.

run1Oh that we run to the Lord!
Oh that we allow His presence to transform us.
Oh that we are filled with His strength by emptying our weaknesses out at His feet.
This is where the exchange of lordship begins…and the prize of holiness (the very reflection of Christ) is seen.
May we allow this exchange of lordship to occur within us.
It is a very private matter for most of us.  It isn’t something that often happens overnight, but instead His presence begins to urge us to relinquish things.  His presence begins to remind us of what could be.  His presence prompts us to run to Him and lay down our pride and self-assurances at His feet.

How’s your “Exchange of lordship” going?
Something more to ponder today, to God be the glory!

Devotional Pondering – “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you!”

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
    but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
    the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children.” 
Hebrews: 12:4-10 (The Message) 

No likes to be disciplined.
I remember as a kid getting in trouble with my mother and she sent me to my room.  Then she said that horrifying phrase: “Wait until in your room until your father gets home!”  I remember sitting there on my bed, empty pit of a stomach just dreading the punishment that I knew I had coming to me.  I contemplated many things while waiting.  I thought of the various phrases I would say like, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean it“, or “I’ll never do that again!“…they all sounded hollow and empty.  Humorously (not then though) I also contemplated things about my punishment, like “how many books can I put in my underwear without my father noticing so that my spanking won’t hurt?”  I was very dramatic then.  

No one likes to be disciplined.  I didn’t then and I still don’t enjoy the moments when it happens today.  

Wait until your Heavenly Father gets home!
God has a way of shifting us from our own private spaces of ignorance and sin into correction and discipline.  It hurts.  It’s not fun.  It is most certainly not enjoyable and yet it needs to take place.  

Just as a parent disciplines and shapes a child so that when they grow up they have learned their lessons and are good people, so too God disciplines us (His Holy Children).  Did you know that you’re a child of God?  He loves us so deeply and He longs for us to grow up as health and strong righteous men and women who are worthy of being called HIS!

Sometimes He disciplines through the words of a friend or an elder.  These truthful words can be painful to hear and they strike directly at the heart.  But these moments are never to wound us or harm us, they are for our correction and growth.  

There’s something about  a Rose Bush:

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In order for a rose bush to grow the next season following autumn and winter is for the gardener to prune and cut it back.  So the gardener cuts the branches and the excess away despite the sharp thrones this plant is beautiful and magnificent when it blooms.  The gardener knows this and so takes great care to cut just enough away in order to make room for the rose bush to grow again.  When the next season comes around the rose bush thrives in the sunshine and the rich soil that the gardener has placed it in, and because of the pruning process it flourishes and grows even more beautiful.  Soon roses bloom in full and the scent of its aroma fills the air and many people come and admire the beauty of this rose bush.

Stand firm in your pruning!  

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 I believe that God is not done with us yet!  There is still more to prune from us.  Sometimes the pruning process is painful.  Sometimes there will be tears as He corrects us, but He does this so that we will bloom and grow until we are Holy just as Christ is Holy.  When we allow stand firm and allow Him to prune us through His discipline we are able to flourish and produce the kind of love that has a sweet aroma of God.  Without the pruning process in our lives, we cannot grow, we will be stunted and limited in this life.  

Discipline hurts for but a moment and then when we allow it, God brings to us peace of His presence and the assurance that we can bloom and grow in His holiness.  

 

 

Questions to consider:

 

What pruning has God done in your life so far?
What is He teaching you through this discipline?
What still needs to be pruned?
Are you willing to stand firm amidst His loving correction? 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for loving me so much that you seek to discipline and correct me.  Forgive me when I have been stubborn and refused your correction on my life.  Show me what your holiness looks like in me and how I must change and surrender that which stunts my growth in you.  -Amen.  

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