Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gifting This Week: A Deep Clean Inside & Out

One of the perks of the Christmas holiday starting today is that I can give our home (and ourselves) the gift of a deep clean. I cranked iTunes radio and got to work, beginning with one of my least favorite areas: the bathroom. (Does anyone actually like cleaning the bathroom? I doubt it.)

I am very sensitive to commercial cleaners. Even when using plastic gloves, for example, my hands swell after I use a very diluted solution of bleach and water. Or Lysol and water. The swelling goes down after a day or so, but I still think the hand swelling is my body’s way of saying, “Hey, lady! Cut that out!” Several years ago, I discovered, thankfully, that you could clean your bathroom pretty efficiently with baking soda and hot water. It may take a little more elbow grease and require more time, but it is just as efficient as (if not more so than) commercial cleaners. At least aesthetically. And, at 50 cents a box, it is much cheaper.

Our tub has one of those “built-in” anti-slip things going on in the bottom, so the only way to get it good and clean is to scrub-a-dub-dub with a bristly brush. On the positive side, this means an even better workout is built-in to this humble task. 
Baking soda and my scrub brush.
Pa rum pum pum pum!

Kitty is obviously very faithful in her own holiday task of supervising from a safe distance.
"Hmmm? Oh, yes. I think you missed that spot in the corner again."

Cleaning our apartment reminds me of another important task that we often neglect because it is both utterly humbling and unappealing at times: The task of removing built up gunk from our hearts and minds.

This “gunk” could be any number of things: unconfessed sin, false doctrine, bitterness, lack of trust, etc. We cannot be efficient vessels for Christ’s work if we are not clean. Let’s look at 2 Timothy for a minute:
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself of these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (vv. 20-21)

To better understand these verses, it is necessary to look through the surrounding verses for the context. (You can read the surrounding verses here.)

According to verse 15, we are to STUDY God’s Word. Let me let you in on a little secret, my friends: Commercial cleaners don’t cut it here either. You need to learn to study God’s Word for yourself. Stop relying on your preacher; stop relying on your Sunday School teacher or small group leader. By all means, find someone to show you the ropes one-on-one, but don't let them chew your food for you. If you need someone who is not currently in your life, I would recommend starting with Kay Arthur. She has readers studying and marking their Bibles, and she is an excellent resource for anyone trying to wean him/her-self away from being, what one of my college professors called, a “baby bird Christian.” A “baby bird Christian” is someone who is fed only chewed-up bits of God’s teaching, but never any adult-sized portions. Spiritually we all start out like babies and have to be fed this way (cf. 1 Peter 2:2). Unfortunately, many Christians in America today remain spiritual babies throughout  their lives. (If you are interested in a very good, very disturbing read related to this topic, check out this article: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism-- the new American Religion. Additionally, you can check out what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:2-7.)

Second, we need to “shun profane and vain babblings” (v. 16). This makes me think about all those maxims people say in the Christian world, many of which are not true. For example, the popular saying “You may be the only Jesus a person ever sees” denies the existence of the Holy Spirit. It places the blame of another person’s salvation on a human being’s shoulders. If we aren’t doing the saving from sins, which Scripture clearly teaches we are not, then why is this burden placed upon our shoulders? There are many false sayings and teachers out there. You need to check the Scriptures for yourself to find out who/what is and who/what isn’t. This is partially why it is so important for you to study Scripture for yourself. I cannot emphasize that point enough. In fact, here are two  methods of study that I use:
Method #1: A Simpler Method (1) Pray before you begin to study. Pray for God to open your eyes to what He has to show you about Himself. Pray for His guidance about where to read. Pray that you will be receptive to what He has to say.
(2) Read God’s Word. Do not read a book or a commentary about God’s Word. Read your Bible. I won’t get into the translation debate here, although I feel very strongly about it for many historical reasons. I will say this, though: pick ONE version and use it only. I don’t care if you like the wording for a particular verse better in another rendering. We are not the masters of the Word. We need to digest what it says, not pick and choose whatever is most pleasing to hear.
(3) As you read, look for connections to other passages of Scripture (key words or phrases). Then, read those passages as well. The Bible is full of “pictures” and representations. For example, “bread” is a picture of God’s Word. If you read about the “bread of Heaven” in Exodus 16, this provides a much richer picture of what your relationship with the Word of God is supposed to be like (e.g. you have to gather it daily).
(4) Pray about how to apply what you’ve studied to your life. Sometimes this means changing the way you think about an issue.
Method #2: A Little More Systematic and Involved Method (1) Same as Step 1 above: Pray before you begin to study. Pray for God to open your eyes to what He has to show you about Himself. Pray for His guidance about where to read. Pray that you will be receptive to what He has to say.  
(2) Grab an exhaustive concordance (from the shelf or online). Look up a word to see how it is used throughout Scripture (I recently looked up "hart" for example). I like to make a chart on my computer of all the verses. Here is what the column headings are: “Verse”             “Context”            “Intended Audience”         “What’s it saying?” 
(3) Fill in your chart.
            (a) For the “Verse” column, I literally type in the reference.
            (b) For the “Context” column, I read the surrounding verses and put a quick 1-2 sentence summary of what is going on (Is Jesus talking to his disciples? Is Moses fleeing from Pharaoh?).
            (c) For the “Intended Audience” column, you have a few options. This column is important because many people claim promises that are not intended for them. Is the intended audience the Jews? Gentiles? Or everybody? Details are extremely important.            
            (d) For the “What’s it saying?” column, I type out what the passage is saying about the word I am studying.  
(4) Same as Step 4 above: Pray about how to apply what you’ve studied to your life. Sometimes this means changing the way you think about an issue. 

N.B. I do not claim originality with these two methods. They are a combination of my studies in undergrad, in seminary, and through my husband’s direction (which is based on his own studying and upbringing). 
Of course, 2 Timothy has much more to say than what I have expounded upon here, but I will leave you to your own studies of it. 

Like any relationship, your relationship with God takes effort. Above all, I pray that you will continue (or begin) to study God's Word for yourself. I haven't "arrived," I don't know it all, and it took me a while to figure out what I do know. But it is worth the effort, my friend.

Happy studying!

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