Easy Off! (Angel in the Kitchen)

Hey, lady! There’s got to be an easier way!

A long time ago, in a kitchen far far away … we had one of those old-style ovens that had to be manually cleaned. We’d spray this formula called Easy Off! onto the walls of the oven — the label stated “No scrubbing necessary” (Heh! Yeah, right!) — then close the door and switch on the heat. An hour or two later there was this stinky sludge caked to the oven walls, which had to be sponged off. It was dark-brown and slimy and downright disgusting. We’d wear gloves while wiping it clean, but always managed to get greasy glop on our exposed arms.

But hey, it had to be done. A clean oven is a happy oven. Not to mention that a clean oven functions more efficiently — and doesn’t embarrass you when guests peak inside it to see what’s for dinner. So we really didn’t mind doing it. Well, maybe just a little. All right, all right, we hated it!

Then one day Sparky came into our lives! No, he’s not a professional oven cleaner — he IS our oven! And he’s self-cleaning!!! Which is a real blessing because, face it, in life stuff happens! For instance, while baking an apple pie, the lava-hot filling often bursts through the crust, flowing through the rack like magma to the oven floor below, where it hardens into rock!

I’m Sparky, and I’m pretty cool for an oven!

Not a problem! Sparky goes into his self-cleaning mode at the flip of a switch. When he does, he goes into full lockdown. You couldn’t pry his door open with a crowbar! And that’s when things really get hot — literally. We usually give Sparky plenty of space while he’s self-cleaning, about a four-hour process in which our oven incinerates all the crud that’s built up inside of him during the course of his kitchen duties!

Know what? That’s right, people are like ovens: in life, we tend to build up a crusty layer of stuff, and we need cleaning if we’re to be happy (like Sparky) and function efficiently. Things in life have a way of getting messy just like that apple pie filling. Regrets and feelings of hurt, guilt and shame can bubble over and leave us feeling “cruddy”; and if not dealt with, this layer of gunk can separate us, or make us feel distant, from our Heavenly Father.

But unlike Sparky, none of us have a self-cleaning feature. Oh, some of us think we do. We have a relative who once mentioned that he plans to get “right” with God one day, and even start going to church, but first he needs to “clean up his act.” Don’t we all? But that is NOT a prerequisite for being accepted by God. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us with open arms. He’s inviting us to come as we are. “…He has made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 American King James)

Some of us believe we can’t face God until we get out of an improper relationship, or stop drinking, abusing drugs, etc. Only we’re like those old-fashioned ovens. We’re good at cooking up a mess — even when we’re trying to be “good” — but we don’t have the right “formula” to de-gunk ourselves; or the “muscle” needed to scrub the innermost parts of our lives.

Not to worry. God does! And He has NEVER expected us to try  to clean up our own messes before approaching Him. That’s why He sent us His only Son as a Savior. Jesus Christ is the real, Spiritual Easy Off! (No scrubbing necessary!) So, don’t allow anyone to tell you otherwise!

But again, that’s why God accepts us as we are: who we are and where we are. He recognizes a good oven when He sees one, despite the grime on the inside. After the “oven” is in “His house,” then He sets about cleaning it (us) … until it sparkles like new. And as with an oven, He cleans us from the inside out! In other words, God loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way!

“But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 NLT)

Are you feeling gunked up today? Not “cooking” as smoothly as you should? Call out to your Heavenly Father. He collects ovens of all colors and models, and then restores them to showroom condition: sparkling clean inside and out!

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)


The Seeds of Faith (Angel in the Kitchen)

This guy knows what it takes to “cut the mustard.” What’s his secret?

We all have hopes and dreams, visions and goals. But the journey to accomplishing our goals, seeing our dreams fulfilled, or receiving a promise, can take years. Many people start the journey strong, but often, just short of the finish line, they run out of steam and give up. If we’re going to stay on course — and reach our goals — we need to be fueled by faith: an unshakeable belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel; an abiding trust in His goodness and lovingkindness; and a resolute confidence in His ability and willingness to fulfill His promises.

“…Faith is the reality of what is hoped for….” (Hebrews 11:1 Holman CSB) In other words, faith is treating God’s promises as a “done deal” — despite our circumstances or any obstacles, and regardless of what other people say.

But how much faith is enough? Jesus said, “…If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20 NASB) To fully understand this verse we return now to the kitchen, that endless source of wisdom and inspiration.

Mustard seeds are among the tiniest in the plant kingdom, usually about 1 millimeter in diameter, smaller than this asterisk: * ! And yet, each edible seed is packed with a strong spicy flavor. When properly planted, these small and seemingly insignificant seeds, grow in size and strength, producing the largest of garden plants, with tasty leaves. There are three major types of seeds, black mustard, brown Indian mustard, and white mustard.

When the seeds are ground, the resultant powder is a potent spice that enhances many dishes.  The English name mustard  is derived from a Latin word meaning burning must. “Must” is the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes, and “burning must” refers to the spicy heat of mustard seeds that have been ground and mixed with a little wine to create a sauce.

Mustard was originally considered a medicinal plant rather than a herb for cooking. In fact, the Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings, during the sixth century B.C.; and a hundred years later, Hippocrates used it in a variety of medicines and plasters to “cure” toothaches and several other ailments.

But in latter days, mustard was simply used to spice up dishes that needed … well … spicing up! And it’s been called a “food deodorant,” also, because it can mask any unpleasant taste of what the cook happens to be dishing out. Pope John XII was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position, Grand mustard-maker to the Pope. He then promptly filled the post with his nephew. (Was this the historical origin of nepotism?)

So, when Jesus spoke of mustard-seed faith, our Lord couldn’t have drawn a better comparison: a tiny bit of faith can produce huge results; faith is potent; it can soothe us in times of misery and heartache; it helps us endure the unpleasantness of trials, and “deodorize” any circumstances of life that may stink! When it comes to Faith — just like mustard — a little dab goes a long ways.

“But what if I don’t have even a little dab of faith?” Yes, you do. You already have plenty of faith: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” (Romans 12:3 Holman CSB) Would God ask you to put your faith into Him, without first giving you faith? Nah! God has given us everything we need to believe in Him and do his will.

A mustard tree: Huge results from such a tiny seed!

But we must activate our faith: One way we do this is by reading and listening to the Word of God. The historical account of His faithfulness to us, of His mercy and lovingkindness, of His miracles, encourages us and feeds our faith. “…Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 King James 2000) And by fellowshipping with other believers. “…Encourage one another and build each other up….” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

And by talking to God. Yes, we call this prayer, but that’s just a fancy word for sharing your thoughts, concerns, and problems with the Lord — in the same way you’d share with a really close friend, someone you totally trust and can confide in. We can trust and confide in our Heavenly Father; we can have total faith in our invisible God. No, we can’t see Him, but He’s there by our side at all times! (John 15:15) That’s faith!