Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dirty Laundry

Hand washing dirty laundry is not an easy task. In some countries people carry their laundry down to the river and spend most of the day getting their clothes clean. For those of us who have the luxury of washing machines, this might be tough to imagine. But for a moment, I want you to imagine what it would be like if you did have to take your clothes to a river each day. Sifting through your dirty laundry you find the sweaty t-shirt you wore on a hot summer day. Thinking it should be easy; you decide to clean that one first. Having success you gain some confidence and decide to tackle your pair of khakis. The ones with that spaghetti stain after the waiter dropped the plate at last night’s dinner date.

Grabbing them from your laundry basket you squirt on some liquid soap and start rubbing them together. It works! The little bits of onion that have glued themselves to the fabric are now coming off. All that’s left is the red stain left by the tomato sauce. With some enthusiasm you keep on rubbing. A couple minutes pass and all it’s doing is making the spaghetti stain bigger. Being persistent you grab your grandmother’s old washboard hoping it will help. Ten minutes pass and all that remains of last night’s spaghetti stain is a weird color scheme of pink and beige on the thigh of your light brown khakis. Now frustrated, you bring out your instant stain remover; soak them in some water and hang to dry; vowing never to do that again. There’s a great parallel with this story in the psalms I want to share with you today.

The psalms are a collection of prayers by God’s people alive during the time of the Old Testament. Some psalms are written as praise to God – either for his awesomeness, or for interceding at the right time. Some of these prayers are God’s people in their rawest moments venting out their frustrations and revealing their brute honesty. Then there are psalms written after God has exposed a person’s sin, leaving them feeling guilty, bearing the stains that sin leaves behind. And they long to be clean. The scripture used today comes from one of those psalms.

Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.
Psalm 51:7-15
(The Message)

Israel’s King David wrote this psalm shortly after the Lord exposed him as an adulterer who got Bathsheba pregnant. He attempted to cover it up, and then created a conspiracy to have her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). After being confronted about his conspiracy he writes psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance for sleeping with Bathsheba.

When reading this psalm it’s clear to see that David longs to be forgiven and to be free from the consequences of his actions (2 Sam 12:13-14). His longing to be clean can again be seen in David’s request to be scrubbed clean and not thrown out with the trash. When David asks God to scrub him clean, the actual word he uses suggests that David needed to vomit out of his body whatever sin was dwelling within him that was displeasing to God. David’s hope is that his life will be transformed, and he will teach people about God’s ways instead of breaking God’s law.

Everyone that wants to follow God faces an internal war. This internal tug of war is a struggle with our human nature that seeks to satisfy our most sinful impulses and desires. Greed, jealousy, racism, sexism, violence, sexual exploitation, and chauvinism are all examples of the impulses we struggle with when it comes to pleasing the Lord. These are also areas in our lives the devil tries to use to pull us away from God.

The bible tells us to resist the devil and he will leave us be (James 4:7). But how does someone do that? I have spent the last few weeks wrestling with this issue in an attempt to provide an answer, and I’m still left wondering. Perhaps you can provide one that applies to your own “stain of sin”. With that said, let me provide you with the following scripture verses to stimulate your thinking:

Eph 4:17-24
Eph 6:10-18

if you have any thoughts or comments regarding this, please feel free to share, Tim bits

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