Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Crimson Tide

by Barbara Early

And no, I’m not talking about the University of Alabama.

Years ago, I knew a woman who…well, let’s just say she was a tad obsessed with her house. I don’t mean to be uncharitable; I don’t think she had a lot growing up, and it must have been a joy to her to build a home and fill it with pretty things.

But after she decorated her living room with Oriental carpeting, a lovely grandfather clock and custom furniture, she needed a way to keep it all fresh and clean and pristine. So she put plastic all over it and nobody was allowed to use the room. Ever.

The rest of the house was used sparingly. One day, she had a few people over for ice cream sundaes.  After they left, a spot was found on the kitchen carpet. (Yes, her kitchen was carpeted.) So she got down on her hands and knees and picked at the stain--tasting it to try to determine what the offending substance was--so she could choose the right cleaner for the job.

I’m not nearly as obsessed with cleanliness. (If you could see my house, that is painfully obvious.) But I’ve often contemplated her example when considering the ideas of holiness and cleansing.

The Bible word translated “holy” means “to separate” or “to cut.” When we say God is holy, we imply that he is separate from sin. Habakkuk 1: 13a says of God:  Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:

While I’m not implying that God is obsessive, His reaction to sin is similar to this woman’s reaction to an offending stain. She doesn’t want to see it--and if it’s there, she wants it gone. Obliterated. Not a comforting thought when I realize that I am, by nature and by choice, a sinner.

Some might say--No problem. See, that holiness is over-rated. And it’s soooo Old Testament. Our God is a loving God, and He loves us with all of our flaws.

And it is true God loves us. Abundantly true. Amazingly true. But it’s not our flaws that separate us from God, that offend His holiness. It’s sin. And just because God is love doesn’t mean He’s going to open wide the doors of His kingdom for a bunch of sinners to muck up, any more than the woman of my example would open her house to a herd of muddy pigs.

Not happening. Not unless they’re clean first.

And to get clean, we need the right kind of cleaner.

What can wash away my sin?

If you grew up in Sunday school, the answer probably comes automatically in song: Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Those of us not raised in such an environment struggle to find the right answer. We try ceremony, ritual, good works, turning over a new leaf, hoping the good will somehow outweigh the bad. Or that our sincerity will count for something. Some even resort to inflicting physical pain upon themselves. Martin Luther was one such person,  known to whip himself and lay prostrate and naked in the snow. Until one day he realized the answer didn’t lie in himself--not in his works or in his sufferings-- but totally and completely in the grace of God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. --Martin Luther

Blood? Grace? Faith? How does that all work?

When we have faith (believing) in the grace (God’s unmerited favor) that we receive through the blood of Jesus, shed at the cross, we can be cleansed.

It’s by faith, believing, trusting--and not by any works or ritual.
It’s through grace, God’s unmerited favor--and not by any merit we can deserve or earn.
It’s by the blood, and nothing else. For Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.

I love hymns for their ability to convey spiritual truth so beautifully. 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today. 
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?--from Grace Greater than our Sin

Question: Has God recently used a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song to communicate truth to your heart?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder will be released from White Rose Publishing in time for the holiday season. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog:


  1. Beautifully written, Barb!

    You asked: What song or hymn has God used to convey a spiritual truth? For me, over the summer is was "Our God" by Chris Tomlin.

    Water you turned into wine,
    opened the eyes of the blind
    there's no one like you
    none like You!

    Into the darkness you shine
    out of the ashes we rise
    there's no one like you
    none like You!

    Our God is greater,
    our God is stronger,
    God you are higher than any other.
    Our God is Healer,
    Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!

    And if our God is for us,
    then who could ever stop us.
    And if our God is with us,
    then what could stand against.
    And if our God is for us,
    then who could ever stop us.
    And if our God is with us,
    then what could stand against.
    What could stand against.

  2. A lot of powerful truth in that chorus, Gina. A great message from Romans 8:31.

    I remember going through a difficult time in an area of Christian service. On my way home, I remember listening to a tape (yeah, this was a while ago) of a song that talked about storing your treasures in heaven. It always put me in a better frame of mind before returning home.

    Wonderful how music can minister to your heart.

  3. Barb, first of all, you laid out clearly the gospel message and I hope this gets in front of the person who needs to hear this today.

    Second, I love the old hymns. The prose is old-fashioned of course but what beautiful prose it is. Love the old ones and they quite often bring me to tears. Of course, many of the new ones do too.

    Thanks Barb.

  4. Lovely.

    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  5. This is great, Barb! And yes, I answered the rest of that line with the words of a song! :)

    Music is so important to me. I get so caught up in praise and worship songs, that I don't feel complete without them. They truly inspire me and draw me closer to the Lord.

    I love the old hymns, too, and really love when a contemporary artist incorporates the chorus of a hymn into their praise and worship songs. Chris Tomlin did this recently on a newly recorded version of "How Great is Our God" by adding a chorus from "How Great Thou Art" at the end. I loved that song before, but I love it even more now. And I love the song Gina quoted, too. Some of the songs that ministered to me during a very dark time in my life are "Who Am I", "Rescue", "Loss for Words," and a song by Bebo Norman whose title escapes me right now, but it starts out "Oh God, my God, your beloved needs you now".

    I know someone who has a house with plastic on all the furniture, and who only uses one room of her house: my husband's grandmother who came from Italy.

  6. Thank you for this message, Barb. We never made it to church this morning with JJ feeling sick and keeping a bucket handy and my aching, stuffed up head. So your words were a blessing.

    I'm not sure about God communicating a truth to my heart, but each morning this week I've woken with the song Mighty to Save on my lips. It's probably because I was working on the video of Nick and Nelson leading worship with it. Whatever the reason, I really like waking up like that.

    My Warrant Officer used to have plastic covering the furniture in his living room. We were invited for a Christmas party once and I was so conscious of his white fabric even with the uncomfortable, sticky vinyl covering it. I was so happy when we went down to his den. He was quite different as a boss because he kept his office spotless instead of making us do it. On the other hand, he expected us to keep the commcen spotless, too. Ugh. He started his own cleaning company when he retired. I always remember him saying to me, "I'm going to clean houses for people who respect cleanliness, not for those who leave there papers and laundry all over the place and let their house get filthy." Something to think about, eh.

  7. Deb,thanks--that is my prayer too.

  8. DeAnna--

    That song is so simple even the smallest child can learn it. I have to wonder how many kids learn it in VBS, and then remember it years later.

  9. Suzie--

    When I was looking for a picture of furniture covered with plastic, I got the impression it is more common than I had originally thought.

    Ah well, it works as an example anyway.

  10. And if I may put in a good word for pigs... the only reason pigs are always muddy is because God didn't give them sweat glands. The result is that the only way they can stay cool is to wallow in cool mud and cover themselves, much like the people of desert countries who wear headress and long sleeves to protect themselves from the sun.

  11. Anita--

    Being in that house was stressful. I don't think I live in a pig sty, but I do live in my house. To me it's kind of like what Erma Bombeck used to say about using the pretty soaps, because life is short.

  12. Anita--

    I like pigs. Our neighbor has them, and they are fun to watch.

  13. Powerful post, Barb. I loved the furniture story, btw. Cracked me up. Not that I know anybody like that. ;)

    I love a lot of hymns, and Charles Wesley wrote some great ones. "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" helps me fix my eyes on the prize when I feel like the world and my sin overwhelm me:

    Finish then thy new creation;
    pure and spotless let us be;
    let us see thy great salvation
    perfectly restored in thee:
    changed from glory into glory,
    till in heaven we take our place,
    till we cast our crowns before thee,
    lost in wonder, love, and praise.

  14. That's a great one, Susanne! I'm fond of Wesley's hymns too. That one contains so many precious Biblical promises for the future. Just the cure for the perils of the present.


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