A Blackened Mess

 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. –Proverbs 28:13 NIV

When I bought a self-cleaning range, I thought I’d have a nice, clean oven without all the work. All I had to do was push a few buttons and let the range do the job.

But after 20 years, the self-cleaning feature stopped working. Which meant if I wanted the burned-on remains of spilled lasagna sauce and an upended pizza gone, I’d have to carve out the time and apply the elbow grease myself.

Who has the time for that?

So I let it go, and my once shiny oven became blacker with each use.

Before Thanksgiving I caved in and called the service department where I bought the range. Unfortunately, there was no simple fix. In fact there was no fix at all for a range that old. But an over-the-counter oven cleaner would work just fine, the storeowner told me.

But he hadn’t seen the burned-on, blackened messes.

So I let it go. I just had too much to do to take the time to clean the oven the old-fashioned way. After the holidays I’d tackle the messy job.

Thankfully all the holiday baking and roasting was done when something happened that put the oven out of commission.

Since my youngest son, David, was coming for Christmas Eve with his girlfriend and her parents, and David’s birthday was the day after Christmas, DH baked David a birthday cake. We wanted it to be a surprise, so before we left for church, he hid the cake in the oven. Two number-3 candles rested atop the plastic cover.

After the church service, David and company arrived home before we did. He didn’t know about the hidden cake when he preheated the oven to make something for our meal.

So while he beat out the flames with a metal spatula, Dean and I opened the windows and patio door, and got the fans going to disperse the smoke.

The cake was fine. The cover was a little melted, but still usable. But the candles! Suffice to say we wouldn’t be using the oven until the mother of all oven messes was cleaned up.

Which DH did last Saturday.

I’m like that oven. With use, I, too, become dirty. My “inner person” that is. Even though I received Jesus as my Savior, even though my sins are forgiven and my guilt washed away. Even though the Holy Spirit resides within me, I still fight my human nature. It doesn’t rule me, understand—but I still have the choice to obey or not to obey God.

And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I let my emotions take over and say things I shouldn’t. Or allow my resentment to simmer until it boils over into anger. Or I avoid doing something I know I should.

Although we don’t come with a self-cleaning feature, we do have a simple way to remove the sin that blackens our souls—before it becomes a burned-on, hardened mess. It’s called confession.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

Forgiveness and cleansing—I need these daily. And to get them, all I have to do is ask.

Thank You, Lord, for providing the way for my sins to be forgiven. All I have to do is ask. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 32

Other Scripture to think about:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord“Though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.. – Ps. 103:12

He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:19

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

 

The Greatest Commandment

For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJ)

According to The Merck Manual, an online source of medical information, vascular disease is a leading cause of death in the Western world. Arteriosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, is a silent killer, as gradually the walls of the arteries, which carry the blood to vital body organs such as the brain and the heart, become hardened and thick with plaque, restricting the flow of blood. When blood can’t get to the brain, a person suffers a stroke. When it can’t get to the heart, a heart attack occurs.

Most of the time, a person doesn’t know his arteries are becoming blocked until physical symptoms, such as chest pain, occur. Often there is no warning. A person may appear healthy and strong until suddenly a heart attack or stroke takes his or her life.

Life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14), and what pumps this life-giving liquid throughout the body? The heart. Our hearts, however, are only as healthy as our blood vessels.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve delved into the Ten Commandments, exploring how these 3,450-year-old laws apply to us today. But which of the ten is the most important?

One of the rulers during Jesus’ day asked Him the same question. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” He replied (Mark 12:30). Heart, soul, mind, and strength represent the total person: emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical.

Is that possible? Can we finite human beings love anyone or anything so completely?

I know I struggle with loving God the way He demands to be loved. Too much of myself gets in the way. Like the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Mark 10:17–30), I, too, struggle with “one thing you lack.” There always seems to be something that gets in the way of total surrender. It might be feelings and attitudes of envy, self-pity, smoldering anger, or resentment. Perhaps it’s a bad habit I refuse to give up or wanting my own way rather than God’s way.

These unhealthy feelings and attitudes, also known as “sin,” are the plaque that builds up in my spiritual blood vessels, restricting the flow of life-giving blood to my heart. Sin is the leading – and only – cause of spiritual death.

According to the Bible, our hearts have been giving us trouble since the beginning.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” God said through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13).

What is the cure for our sin-plagued, hardened hearts?

“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed,” God commands in Ezekiel 18:31, “and get a new heart and a new spirit.”

But how? We are powerless to cleanse and purify our own hearts. We must turn to the Great Physician, the Healer of our hearts.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,” David wrote in Psalm 51:10, “and renew a right spirit within me.”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” the apostle John wrote (1 John 1:9).

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them,” God promises through Ezekiel (11:19). “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

Only when my heart has been softened, cleansed, and renewed by the hand of God – only when the sin-plaque is carved out of my stubborn will – only when my heart has been changed can I truly love Him as He demands to be loved. Then and only then, with a changed heart, will I find the Ten Commandments – all ten of them – easy to obey.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

Read and meditate on Mark 12:28–34; Psalm 119:161–176

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. All images in public domain.