Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
We are in the process of painting the rooms of our house. Now that our first-year warranty has come to an end and drywall cracks and nail pops of a settling house have been repaired, we have the green light to start painting the walls of our home. And it was really in desperate need of a paint job. The painters that finished all of the homes in our neighborhood weren’t exactly the most careful or polished painters. No doubt they initially came in with their fancy sprayers to do a quick coat, without concern for drips or smudges. They clearly never came back to touchup missed or poorly done spots. Furthermore, they used a near-white, flat paint. This means that the paint is impossible to clean. It hides nothing. Any attempt to remove a spot either smears the stain or adds new water spots to the already infected area. I’m convinced that if you even looked at a wall too long you would leave some sort of marking.
For the past year, our walls have shown every mark. Scuffed up. Stained. Chipped and flaking. Water spots, handprints, and all sorts of other blemishes. Time to paint indeed!
We are making slow, steady progress. One bathroom and all the kids’ bedrooms have been completed. We’ll get the rest done… eventually. This is certainly not a labor of love. Painting is probably my least favorite home improvement task to accomplish. But as much as I despise painting, I must admit that there was something rewarding for my wife and me as we applied that first, fresh new color of paint to the walls. Whether it was by brush or by roller, watching our various new shades of color cover up every prior blemish on the walls was oddly gratifying. Gone are the scuff marks of furniture and bedframes. Gone are the unknown stains and markings of a house inhabited by three children and a dog. With great satisfaction and via two coats of paint, we covered up every spot and blemish. It took plenty of time and money, and I certainly would not call it enjoyable, but what a good feeling to step back and look at a wall that previously looked so horrible, and see it now just about perfect and scuff-free. The walls look brand new… for now. 😉
God deals with us in a similar fashion. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Sin leaves each of us so very much scuffed up. This is an understatement of course; we don’t need to look hard to find the blemishes and stains on the walls of our lives. Our sins stand ever before us and they are undeniable. We are desperate for far more than just a proverbial fresh coat of paint. Truth be told, we need to knock down the walls and start the whole building process over. But alas, this is no task we could ever complete ourselves.
This is why God steps down from heaven… to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. He washes us clean and to makes us new. And unlike my experience painting, for God this spiritual cleansing is absolutely a labor of love. It is the love that God has for each of us that led Him to take redemptive action—coming to earth to suffer and die so that we could be forgiven. Of course, He does not use the stroke of a brush or swipe of a roller, but instead His body is pierced by thorns and nails. Our merciful God paints over the blemishes and iniquities of our sin-stained lives with the very blood that flowed from His cross. In an extraordinary, once-and-for-all moment (and at no cost to any of us), God gives us a purifying makeover with eternal consequences. No more spots. No more stains. No more sin.
Do you remember these words from the Apostle Paul? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17) Something to ponder next time you pick up a paintbrush.
We are cleansed.
Our spots have been covered.
We are made new.
Thanks be to God!
“Forgiveness is God’s greatest gift because it meets our greatest need.” (D. Platt)
I did it!
After many months of thinking and talking about it, I finally made the commitment. No more empty words and good intentions. No more excuses or procrastination. No more being lazy or apathetic. After more than two years without, I have signed up for a gym membership again. As of last Wednesday evening, I am a member of Planet Fitness. Now I know what you’re all thinking… How can Pastor Steve possibly be any more buff, toned, and studly than he already is? But alas, over the past 2+ years, my regular early-morning, gym-rat routine has become non-existent. This change was long overdue. Getting back into a routine of regular exercise and intentional healthy habits will be good for me. It is certainly needed. I can no longer use moving across the country or even a global pandemic as reasons to not exercise. As of last Thursday, everything has changed. I am now an official gym member once again!
One week into my brand-new Planet Fitness membership, I must be honest. I should probably admit that I haven’t actually gone yet. I have tried, and had every intention to go, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
But wait! I have my reasons. Here’s why…
Do you see where I’m going with this? These are my excuses, err I mean, reasons, and they are all legitimate and reasonable. But such things will always creep into my life, and unless I start to prioritize going it simply won’t ever happen. A gym membership is only could if it gets put to use. Thought about going. Planned on going. Downloaded the app. Paid the processing fees. But in the end, best of intentions will not do me a lick of good in shedding a few extra pounds. Sure, I even have a gym bag packed and sitting in my car, but I actually have to show up at the gym in order for good habits to form and lasting effects to take shape.
It is also this way with worship. Worship matters. It’s important. It is essential to the spiritual well-being of us all. Worship is where the Word of God trains us and keeps us from going off the rails. It prevents from becoming lazy or spiritually weak. This is where the Spirit of God softens the strains and soothes the pains brought on by the sins and stress of the past week. Worship is where we find encouragement and love from our fellow pew-sitters. It is where our eternal Father, reaches down from heaven to quench our thirst and relieve our burdens. This is where God shows up to serve and save us with tangible vessels of forgiveness and prayer. Only in church will we hear of a powerful God who is filled with infinite grace towards His people; that we are so tenderly cared for and loved that He was willing to die for our sake. What an awesome message! We dare not neglect it. We dare not keep putting it off. But don’t take the word of a pestering pastor, God said it too (and first): “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 11:25) Here God tells the church to keep gathering, keep worshiping, keep growing stronger.
Jesus wants genuine commitment; He wants faith-filled follow-through. He doesn’t just want us to sign-up; put our name on a church membership list and then walk away. There are strong words of warning from Jesus here in his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants followers who are devoted to Him and who hear His Words; then take them to heart and live by them. That’s a hard thing to do when we are deserting the word and worship of God. There is a joy that is found in gathering around the Word of God and with the people of God. Again, don’t take my word for it. Look here. Or here. Or here. Or here. I’m just the messenger; God wrote the book. He's the mastermind behind this. Just like my week above, there will always be things that come up and try to prevent you from worship. Power through. Persevere. Come back and join us for worship—whether that be done in-person or virtually.
Who knows?!? Maybe I'll even go to the gym today! Oh wait, I have a... 😉
“God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises ‘before the nations.’ We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.” (T. Keller)
“From your heroes you pick up mannerisms, phrases and tones of voice, facial expressions and habits, demeanors, convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.” (J. Piper)
As of last Thursday, we have officially been owners of our new house for one whole year. How quickly the time flies! When we signed the closing documents twelve months ago, one of the “perks” of a new-build, was a fairly comprehensive one-year warranty. If any issue arose, all we had to do was fill out an online form and a repair person would (eventually) show up. This was also true for much of the furniture we purchased to fill the new home.
As such, for the last couple of weeks, I have had to wait around for people to come and fix things. Vinyl flooring. Carpet. Refrigerator. Garage door. Furnace. Dining room table. None of these things were major, but they were covered by our expiring warranty, and it would have been foolish for me to not get them serviced for free while I still could. On one hand, it is nice to know that the repair would be covered free of charge—even if it was only a temporary benefit. Yet on the other hand, in each instance, we had to wait… and wait… and wait. We had wait to for calls back and open schedule slots. We had to wait for replacement parts to arrive. Wait for the arrival of the service people. We were helplessly captive to their schedules, entirely dependent on whenever they could fit us in. And when they gave me an option, I had to take it, no matter how inconvenient it was, or risk waiting another three months. For the dining room table alone, I waited over three months for an open timeslot and was then given an unhelpful arrival timeframe of 8am-4pm. Thanks for narrowing it down!
Pastor Steve Vera