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Stains . . . of Hope

As I struggled to remove a stain from my husband’s white shirt, I thought about the stains that we each struggle with. Stains of the soul – from hurt and embarrassment – from pride or greed – from our own making and the making of others – from circumstances beyond our control – from childhood and recent stains from yesterday.

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

 God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12:4-11 The Message

Some stains on my husband’s shirts were old – they were not caught until the shirt went through the dryer and become baked in. Some of the stains were recent – caught quickly.

The old stains were much harder to remove. They required soaking, rubbing, washing and bleaching. The newer stains – not so much. They were caught in time – before the drying occurred – before the stain became permanent.

Isn’t that how it is with our souls? The stains of old are much harder to get rid of – they seem to resurface at odd times – never quite resolved – never quite gone. We struggle with the “how” of getting rid of them. It seems they come back time and time again – like a train circling the mountain never quite making it to the top.

When we catch the stain quickly, many times it is an easy fix – an apology, a choice to review the “intent” of the person before jumping to conclusions, or a refusal to allow the stain to stick to us, because it is not of us- it is someone else’s stain for them to deal with.

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. Hebrews 12:12-17

Stains over time without proper treatment become permanent bitter roots of the soul that spew poison throughout. Those bitter roots are deadly.

Thankfully, we have a Savior. Thankfully, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who also know our Savior. Thankfully, there is hope.

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:1-3

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! Hebrews 12:28-29

Stain Removal Tip: When we seek God, we are much more able to identify the stain early on and address its removal more quickly by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

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