Better than Mr. Clean

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

For several summers I have cleaned a 5 bedroom lake house that is rented by the week for families to vacation together.  Each Saturday I’m scheduled, the owners and myself have five hours to launder linens, change bedding, dust furniture, wash windows, clean bathrooms, maintain the lawncare and so much more.  Each Saturday we take a well vacationed home and turn it into a brand new adventure for the next arrival.  It’s amazing what we can do in the limited time when we roll up our sleeves and determine to make it shine for the new renters.

Yesterday was no exception.  As I headed upstairs preparing to clean four out of the five bedrooms,  I turned on Pandora.  Music always helps me work more diligently.  Perhaps I learned that from the Seven Dwarfs-they did love to “whistle while they worked” didn’t they? Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful Beautiful” was just starting.  The song opens with these lyrics:

“Don’t know how it is you looked at me

“and saw the person that I could be…”

After the first verse, she bellows these lyrics in the chorus:

“Like sunlight burning at midnight,

“making my life something so beautiful, beautiful…”

This is one of my favorite songs that depict a beautiful image of redemption.  As I listened I couldn’t help but compare the work I do as a cleaning lady (job number 3 that I work) to how Jesus cleans up our lives.  I spend my Saturdays cleaning up somebody else’s mess in preparation for someone else to come in and mess it up again.  Jesus gave up His very life to clean up our messes knowing we would mess up again.

As a cleaning lady, I’ve faced my share of dirt and stains that were difficult to remove.  Some in fact I couldn’t get out at all.  I’ve seen bedding and walls colored on, stoves covered in thick grease, etc.  In fact, the kitchen counter of the house I clean had a stain on it that seemed impossible to remove and had been there for a few years.  One day I bought a new organic cleaner and asked the owners if I could try it out on that stain.  With their approval, I sprayed the cleaner on the stain and let it sit for a few seconds.  Scrubbed a little and wiped it away.  It wasn’t removed but it had become a little lighter.  So, I sprayed again and let the cleaning solution sit longer.  Scrubbed and wiped again to find it was almost completely gone.  The third time was the charm and the stain was completely gone.

Like the organic cleaner’s ability to remove that impossible countertop stain, Jesus can remove every single sin stain our lives display.  Did you not save your virtue for marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Were you unfaithful to your marriage?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you lie and cheat your way to success?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Did you catfish someone or many others?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you addicted to sex, drugs and/or alcohol?  Jesus can wipe those sins away too.  Do you struggle with anger, rage and unforgiveness?  Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Are you a womanizer or a man-hater? Jesus can wipe that sin away.  Have you attempted to fill voids with toxic relationships, loveless sex or other self destructive behaviors?  Are you addicted to pornography?  Jesus can wipe it all away.  No matter the mistakes you’ve made, the mistakes you continue to make or the mistakes you will make, Jesus’ death wiped every sin away.

You are not the stains of your mistakes. Our enemy uses our mistakes to keep us locked up in sin, despair and drudgery.  We beat ourselves up for repeating the past.  We continue to chase after dead end relationships, we argue with the toxic person in our lives and we harbor unforgiveness toward those who’ve hurt us.  We can even fall into the trap of not praying for our enemies.  We can’t enjoy the life Jesus wants for us because we can’t see past our stains.  We buy into the lies of our enemy and choose to remain stained.  We live rejected and therefore reject the love of others because we believe we are too damaged to ever be loved again.  We live like a garment so muddied it’s not even worth donating to Goodwill and ultimately ends up in the trash.

Just like cleaning that seasonal summer home takes time to clean so it goes with Jesus’ cleansing for us.  There’s no magic wand waved, there are no fingers snapped and poof we are magically cleaned.  It took three times of spraying cleaner on that countertop to completely remove the stain.  Jesus’ cleansing is a similar three-step process and it begins with confession.  1 John 1:9 states it perfectly: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  If we want to stop living like stained rejects and damaged goods, we have to be honest with Jesus and ourselves.  We have to admit our mistakes, confess how we’ve been living and confess the mindset we’ve been living in.  Very similar to an alcoholic beginning their road to sobriety by admitting they are addicted to alcohol.

The second step is forgiveness.  We have to seek His forgiveness, possibly seek others’ forgiveness, forgive ourselves and forgive those who have hurt us.  That too is not something that happens overnight or instantaneously.  Forgiveness is a lifetime practice of choosing to acknowledge the wound, let go of it and allow Jesus to heal it. Forgiveness is also about trusting Jesus to vindicate us rather than seeking out our own revenge.  I have always been one who is quick to defend myself.  One of the hardest verses I’ve had to learn to stand on is Exodus 14:14-trusting God to fight for me and choosing instead to just be still.  Forgiveness is like being on the battlefield with arrows pointed at you and choosing to stand still, unarmed, trusting that God is avenging you. No matter how badly you want to throw an arrow back, you instead, choose to lay it down.

The final step in Jesus’ cleansing process is healing.  If we want to be made clean, we have to let Jesus heal us.  That can be the most painful part of the process.  If you’re like me, you’ve let your mistakes define you to the point that it’s become your identity.  When you look in the mirror all you can see is brokenness looking back at you.  People continue to build you up but you just throw their building blocks back at them.  Being broken has become your comfort zone and being healed just feels like an open door to get hurt all over again.  But God did not make us to be a broken people.  We are His light to the world.  A broken light bulb cannot shine into others’ darkness.  It can only exude more darkness.  If you’re living in brokenness, you know too well how dark and lonely that kind of living truly is.  We attract what we are.  If we are living as damaged goods, we will attract the same mind set which only seeks us deeper into despair.  When we walk in His healing, instead of attracting more brokenness, we can become His tool in healing others.

To become His light, we have to open the wounds and allow Jesus to scrub away the stains.  Depending on how stubbornly we hold on to any specific stain will determine how uncomfortable and lengthy the process can be.  If you’ve made brokenness your comfort zone it’s going to feel like jumping off a high platform into an unknown abyss when you finally choose to let Jesus heal you.  But when you do, your light will shine again, you will be a lighthouse to someone else’s darkness and you will see Jesus as the Mr. Clean who washed you white as snow! Confess your sins, forgive yourself and others.  Close your eyes and metaphorically jump into His healing.  When you open your eyes and look into the mirror again, you will see the man or woman Jesus truly made you to be!

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Can We Change God’s Mind?

“But Moses objected. ‘What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?’ he asked the Lord…”

Numbers 14:13a

I’m currently on my second round of reading through the Bible in its entirety.  Right now I am in the middle of the book of Numbers.  It’s not one of my favorite books to read.  I find all the census stuff and statistical information to be boring.  But when I start reading about Moses and the Israelites, God gets my attention.  Chapter 14 is a prime example.

In this chapter, the Israelites are complaining about God’s way of rescuing them.  In fact, they don’t feel rescued at all.  They not only grumble, but they question if God is even helping them.  The chapter begins with the Israelites saying, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!…Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?…” (Verses2b-3a)  This grumbling makes God’s anger boil.  Enter Joshua and Caleb to intervene by reminding them of what the Promised Land looked like.  The Israelites want nothing to do with their encouragement.   Instead, they actually discuss stoning Joshua and Caleb.  Now, God is enraged.  He appears before all of them but He speaks only to Moses.  This is where the passage gets interesting.

God is so fed up with the Israelites doubting Him that He declares He will disown them.  He is ready to wipe them out with a plague and make a new nation “greater and mightier than they are!” (verse 12)  But Moses objects.  Now if you’re familiar with Moses, then you’re probably aware He questioned God’s calling for Him to even lead the Israelites.  He ended up with Aaron as a helper because He doubted God’s ability to make Him an effective leader.  Now He is in the wilderness with this same group, they’re mad and grumbling, ready to stone Joshua and Caleb.  God is enraged and Moses is caught in the middle.  Suddenly he gets a bout of courage and objects, TO GOD!  Here’s a paraphrased version of how Moses responds to God (and by paraphrase I mean my own modern day terminology of Moses’ rebuttal to God’s wrath.)

Moses musters up courage and responds to God with,

“Dude listen-I get it.  You did all these amazing acts of rescuing them from slavery, providing for them every step of the way and defeating every enemy they crossed paths with.  I mean You’ve literally made it rain with bread (manna) and foul (quail) just to prove Your power in their lives and again, to shut them up from all their whining.

“Here we are again dealing with their doubts, lack of faith and grumbling.  But the Egyptians are still around.  I’m just curious, and I mean no disrepect in asking this question, what do you think the Egyptians would say if You wiped out the Israelites now, here, in this wilderness?  What message would this send Your enemy?  They know the power You displayed rescuing Your people from their land.  They know You’ve appeared to us face to face and that it’s Your cloud that hovers over us.  They know that You go before us by day and by night.  If You destroy Your people now, Your enemy will say, “The Lord was not able to bring them into the land He swore to give them, so He killed them in the wilderness.” (Verse 16.)

Moses continues by asking God  to prove His power once again and even reminds Him of His own words that He is a God “slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion…” (verse 18.)  God responds by agreeing to pardon the Israelites as Moses requests, but denying all who have grumbled against the Lord access to the Promised Land.  Their death sentence is secured right in that wilderness.

If you read this passage at face value, it could be interpreted as Moses changing God’s mind.  In fact, it’s almost as if God is being irrational and Moses steps in and says, “Ok God, before You bring the plague, let’s take a deep breath and see if there’s another solution that won’t ruin Your reputation with the enemy.”  Seriously, it almost looks like God is flying off the handle and Moses is like, “Calm down! Let’s rethink this.” Did Moses actually change God’s mind?  Can you or I change God’s mind?  The answer is, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

God is not a being who can be reasoned with or who’s mind can be changed.  God is also not a being who gets irrational.  God is God.  He is omnipotent and omnipresent.  He always was and He always will be.  He ordained everything that has happened and will happen throughout the entire world’s existence. He is the Master of the Universe.  Therefore, nothing that happens, not even an entire nation grumbling against Him, surprises Him.  Before God even ordained Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God knew most of them would be faithless and never see the Promised Land.  But He chose to rescue them anyway. I don’t believe He ever intended on destroying them with the plague he threatened either.  I believe God said what He said to Moses in chapter 14 to test Moses’ character and to sharpen his leadership skills.  God already knew how Moses would respond to His wrath against the Israelites.  He knew yet He made the threat anyway.  He did so, giving Moses the opportunity to intervene for the people God called him to lead.  I also think God did this to remind Moses of the kind of Power God really has and that His word is not void.  God always keeps His word.

Numbers chapter 14 is a great reminder of God’s faithfulness and His ability to test our character.  If your character is being tested, God is simply sharpening you for the position He’s called you into.  If His direction or response seems irrational, step up and speak out His own word to remind yourself that He is in control, He is all powerful and His word is never void.  Don’t try to change God’s mind.  If you or a loved one is messing up, do intervene, with prayer, concession and confession.  Like Moses, your confession and intercession could be the game changer in their life or your own.