Spiritual Housecleaning: A New Series

Jason and I will be out of town for a mission conference this week, so I’ve set up a devotional series from several years ago to post each day. If there are any issues or if you need me, I may be able to check up on my laptop from time to time, but otherwise, consider me unreachable. Lord willing, all will go well, but you know how technology can be. Anyhoooo, I hope you enjoy this series on Spiritual Housecleaning.

We can get by with our homes in slight disarray, but not with our spirits..png

I love a clean house, but I hate cleaning. I'm one of those people who says, "No, you can't come over. My house is a mess!" and truly means it. I'm so embarrassed when people "stop by." I have friends and family members who claim to have messy houses, but I can never even find a speck of dust or a single pet hair. Nothing is EVER out of place. The sad part is that these people have kids, and I don't (although I do have an indoor dog who acts like a kid). I've often wondered how they keep their homes so immaculate. Every once in a while, I'll get a little energy burst and attempt to clean my house to the point where there is nothing out of place, nothing stacked up, nothing swept under the rug, etc. After a few days, I give it up and remind myself that God has given me many talents, but cleaning simply isn't one of them.

Now, before everyone gets the wrong idea, let me explain. I don't have food rotting in the corners of my kitchen or anything like that. But, there are dishes in my sink right now. There is dust on my furniture. There is dog hair on my floor. And no, I didn't make my bed this morning. (Some of the "neat freaks" just keeled over!) Again, I love a clean house, but unless there's a way for me to have it cleaned without having to do it myself. . .well, let's just say you won't want to come over to my house uninvited. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! I know you raised me better!)

I said all of that to introduce a new series we will be doing this week. No, it's not on housecleaning. It's on an even-more important form of cleaning. For the next several days, we'll be talking about spiritual housecleaning.

What is housecleaning? For the most part, it is setting right things that are wrong and throwing out things that are no longer needed, wanted, or useful. It is important to clean our homes, but it is imperative we do regular cleanings on our spiritual houses. It is amazing how much clutter can pack up when we're not paying attention. Things like pride, discontentment, and worry can slip in unnoticed, but oh, what a mess they can make.

For those of you who love to clean, you'll probably relate very well to these lessons. For the rest of us, we would do well to heed the insights. We can get by with our homes in slight disarray, but not with our spirits. I hope you will all enjoy the upcoming posts, and don't forget to share them with your friends!

In a Little While

Just because Godis out of sightdoesn't meanHe should beout of mind..png

Today, I’d like to wrap up the lessons I gleaned from the Sunday morning sermon by Pastor Roger Morgan. A couple of days ago, I shared with you about the whispered prayers. Yesterday, we talked about Peter and the two fires. For now, let’s talk about “a little while.”

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
— John 16:16

Biblical scholars can’t agree on whether Jesus is speaking of His death or His ascension in this passage, for on both occasions, Jesus went to the Father and was absent from the disciples for a time. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus knew what He meant, and that’s enough. The message is the same either way.

I want to look at the application of the verse in our lives rather than the interpretation of it in the lives of the disciples. How does this verse affect us? What can we glean from it?

In life, we (Christians) go through phases. Sometimes in our lives, we feel so close to the Lord, it’s like we can literally reach out and touch Him. Our walk is good. Our time with Him is precious. Doing His will is so easy because we want nothing more out of life than to please our Savior. We are so overcome by God’s love for us it moves us to tears. Sweet times. Precious times. Times we pray will never end. Times when we think, Yes, I’ve finally gotten the victory over my stinking flesh!

But then, there are the dry seasons. These are the times where God seems so far away, and no matter how often we seek Him, we can’t seem to find Him. The walk is a daily struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Our time with God looks futile because it seems we’ve arrived with a party of one. Doing His will becomes more difficult, and we wonder if it’s even worth it. We are so overcome by God’s absence that it moves us to tears. Hard times. Discouraging times. Times we pray will soon end. Time we think, What have I done to fall so far?

In John, Jesus told the disciples, “For a while, you’ll see me, then for a while, you won’t.” Likewise, we go through seasons when for a while, we see God at work in our lives, and for a while, we don’t. But does that mean God is not still there? Does it mean He’s not still working on our behalf? No, it means we FEEL like He’s not there or not working.

Feelings lie! God has promised He will never leave us or forsake us, no matter what our feelings tell us. He didn’t say, “For a while, I will leave you.” He said, “For a while, you won’t see me.” It’s not the same thing. Think about it, if we always saw God working, we would cease to grow. The Bible tells us “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Things not seen! Though it seems our faith is greater during those times God feels so close, our faith actually grows during the times we struggle because we have to choose to believe God’s promises over our feelings. And when we choose to believe God, we increase our faith.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the times when God feels close, and everything about my spiritual walk is precious. I don’t like feeling that God is nowhere to be found. I dislike the times I can’t see Him, but I know it is a necessary part of growth. After all, look at what happened to the disciples after Jesus’ ascension. For three years, they walked with Him on earth, and it seemed like they grew very little in the spiritual sense. But after Jesus’ ascension, these men turned the world upside down through their spiritual fervor. While Jesus was out of their sight, He was certainly not out of their mind.

Yes, the Christian life has seasons. Times we see God at work and times when He seems nowhere to be found. But the good news is, it’s just for a little while.

Peter and the Two Fires

It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been. God can change hearts and lives..png

When I think of the disciple, Peter, a few words and phrases come to mind. Denier. Hothead. Liked to stick his foot in his mouth. Outspoken. Dedicated. Yes, the thought of Peter evokes many other ideas and images, but today, I would like to give you a new way to remember Peter. It sounds like a story you could read in a book of myths and legends, but I assure you, this story is true. It is the tale of Peter and the two fires.

The first fire is easy to remember, for it is the setting of Peter’s greatest failure. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter followed in the shadows. Close enough to see what was happening but far enough away so as not to be caught up by the angry mob. During the mock trial of the Savior, we find Peter warming himself by the fire of the enemy, and it is there, he is first recognized. Just as Jesus predicted, in the moments to follow, Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus. The last denial took place just as Jesus was ushered into the morning light. Peter’s eyes met those of the One he had denied, and the disciple ran off and wept bitterly, ashamed of his betrayal.

And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
— Luke 22:61-62

So consumed are we with Peter’s first fire, we often fail to remember his second one. This one occurred after the ascension of Christ. Between the resurrection and the time Jesus was caught up to Heaven, Jesus and Peter had a heart to heart. I believe it was during this brief conversation that Peter became a new man. No longer worried about his wellbeing, the disciple became a faithful servant of God, and we see the evidence of that in the book of Acts.

Instead of running, Peter stands tall before the people. Instead of fighting, he becomes an encourager. And instead of allowing his mouth to spout off whatever he thought, he let the words coming out of his mouth be those of the Holy Spirit. He was on fire for God, and his enthusiasm spread like wildfire.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
— Acts 2:38-47

That, my friends, is a revival! The fire of one man led to the explosion of thousands. And this was not a numbers game either. How do I know? Because the passage says, “they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship.” This wasn’t about feelings. It wasn’t a case of getting caught up in the emotion of a good camp meeting. No, this fire was real, and it was consuming. And it all began with Peter, the one who denied Christ.

We’ve all done stupid things in our lives. Each of us has things in our past we’re not proud of, but if we’ve learned anything from Peter, it’s this—God can still use us! Who would imagine a God-denier would become a soul-winner? God did. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been. God can change hearts and lives. He can set us on a new path and create something beautiful out of the mess we were. But like Peter, we have to be willing. Willing to accept difficult lessons. Ready to learn from our mistakes. And willing to allow God to change us from the inside out.

God is willing today. Are you?