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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cleaned Slates

About a week or two ago, my daughter took down all her Christmas decorations, storing them away for another year.  All, that is, except one - a chalkboard on the mantle.  You see, it is erasable - so it can be sketched on every now and again to just change it to the appropriate "theme" of the season.  So, the chalkboard remains.  It was interesting to me because she posted a photo on Instagram showing this cleaned slate - with the thoughts of her hardly being able to wait to see what would come next.  I think we might just take a lesson from my daughter - for our lives have the ability of being made "clean slates", made ready for the next season in our lives.  I think we sometimes don't remember this part of how God sees our sin - erased, totally gone, no sign of it having been there.  This is the basis of grace - the removal of all which hinted of the first, and the readiness to be "written upon" anew with the freshness of the next "season" in our lives.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.
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He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.  For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:8-13 NIV)


I like this same passage taken from The Message Bible - especially: God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love.  He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever.  He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.  As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.  And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.  The part I like best is that he separates us from our sins - it isn't just that he wipes them away - he actually separates us from them.  As far as the east is from the west - sunrise from sunset - no longer connected to them.  Think on that one just a moment. As far as the east is from the west - I cannot reach that far, can you?  So, what does this have to do with our lives being "clean slates"?  Simply put, what has been erased has been "separated" from us - we are no longer in connection with it!  Our sins are no longer part of who we are - there is no "lifeline" connecting us.

This idea of being a "clean slate" implies a couple of things I think we might just need to latch onto this morning:

- Blank vs. Clean:  A slate has but one purpose - to be written upon.  Look up the meaning of blank slate in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and you will observe that a blank slate is really someone or something that is still in its original state and that has not yet been changed by people, experiences, etc. Hmmm...I don't think that accurately reflects the condition of our "slate", does it?  A "clean slate" is the ability to start over without prejudice - no unfavorable opinion or view of the one starting over.  This might just more accurately define what God's grace does for us - it gives us the ability to disconnect from what caused us so much concern in the past and to start over without "prejudice".  Yes, I think God creates us "anew" - kind of like a "blank slate", but really, we the slate has been "written upon", so he is actually helping us to "clean" the slate - to start over, disconnected from what was there, able to begin afresh.

- Ready to be written upon:  A slate has but one purpose - to be written upon. Until it fulfills this purpose, it is just a thin piece of rock.  What makes the slate valuable is also what God does with a "clean slate" - our "clean" state is his ability to write upon us as he imagines us to be - not as our life experiences have rendered us!  I think we have the hardest time with this one because we don't understand how much God desires to "write afresh" upon our hearts, minds, and souls.  He wants to take the "slate" of our hearts and transform them by the words of his grace and love.  We are cleaned in order to be "rewritten" - not just remain "blank".

- Slate is dull:  Until the slate is written upon, it is nothing but a bluish, grey dull surface.  What gives it life is what is written upon its surface.  In time, the "dullness" of the slate begins to be transformed by what is written upon it. Our lives are awfully dull without Christ - they taken on new life when he begins to write upon them the words of his grace and love.  To see the words of our "past" replaced with the words of our "present" and "future", God has to erase the past and begin to write anew those which will define our present and prepare us for our future.  It is only as my daughter will take up the chalk into her hands that the slate she has readied for her use will come to life again.  It is only as God takes up the "chalk" of his grace and love that our "cleaned slates" will come to life again.

These may not be profound words, but the truth is, God's Word is most profound - he separates our sin from us - cleaning the slate, so we might be rewritten with his graces.  That is indeed profound - just sayin!