Parade dress

There is a battle raging. Are you dressed for it?

I was at the parade in our little town last night. There were many police, city and county sheriffs there to aid and to display. I saw one female officer who was wearing some type of body armor under her uniform. Body armor for a children’s parade? You never know.

As a Christian I am in an active war 24/7. A war for the hearts minds and souls of the people of our town, myself included.

Am I dressed for the conflict?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

The battle is real and so are our defenses. Truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith and the helmet, salvation are what we wear.

The word of God is our weapon, and prayer. We need to be dressed for battle, even at a children’s parade.

Clarification: bring a sword

Yesterday I posted about how christians battle. I said that we bring a pillow and bandages to a gunfight. That’s not accurate. What we bring to every fight is a knife, well a sword. The word of God is our sword and we bring prayer.

The fight is never against people. We are not fighting against people. I’ll say it again, our fight, our struggle as Christians is not against people because our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We are not fighting against people, we are fighting FOR people. The only weapons we have are the word of God and prayer.

Our weapons may seem weak but they are mighty. They are powerful to bring down strongholds.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

We have a war to win. Let’s get to it.

Bring a pillow to gunfight- and bandages.

John 15

Hate speech: we are the hated

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]

The Work of the Holy Spirit
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

No one likes to have their pet and or private sins exposed. We all have secret deeds done in darkness. Jesus came to us as the light of the world. Being around him, being around his followers is like lighting a lantern on a dark night. Those who want to stay hidden scurry away hissing.

Hissing? Ok, that may be just for drama.

People and things that want to continue in their activities that God has said, “don’t do that, it will hurt you” will hate the light of Jesus.

” They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]”

If we live in the light, there will be those people who hate us and our message.

This our rule, Jesus’ command; love each other. Jesus loved us to death, His own death. We are to love in the same way.

The world will hate us.

We will fight back, with love. Bring a pillow to a gunfight? Well yes. And bandages.

Jesus came to change hearts, not behaviors, starting with our own.

Living a fruit filled life

The fruits of the Holy Spirit living in us:

Loving.
Gentleness.
Kindness.
Goodness.
Faithfulness.
Peacefulness.
Joyfulness.
Patience.

When a person accepts Jesus’ forgiveness Jesus actually comes into our lives, into our hearts and starts living in us. Immediately he begins to remodel. His designs always include the aforementioned qualities.

Our lives change. Our behaviors change. Our interactions with other people change.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us how to properly go about confrontation in a way that is private, honors both parties, and is solution and relationship focused.

“15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”’

The Christian life is a life that is lived differently than the lives of people who don’t know Jesus. Why?

Love.

Jesus’ love for us.

Our love for the world of people, humans like us, fallen, bent and broken humans.

I don’t get this right all the time. But Jesus still
Loves me. Even me. Even you.

matthew18, #forgiveasyouareforgiven

Seeking the lost

Lost?

Found?

I’m both. I was lost but now I’m found.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells how our Heavenly Father feels about us.

“10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. [11] [a]

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

God watches over us and seeks us out. I was just thinking about the characters in a show I’ve been watching, none of them are seeking God. In the 11 episodes I’ve watched the only mention of God was in a swearing fit. No one seeks God.

Those are fictional people but in real life, me and people like me, we don’t seek God either. But it’s ok for one reason. He is seeking us.

In Jesus God prepared a way for us to to be gathered back into the safety of His flock.

It’s not about following rules or laws, it’s about coming to Jesus and being forgiven. It’s about then following Jesus, our good shepherd.

In Romans Paul says this: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God is actively seeking everyone of us. Not for punishment but for forgiveness, love and protection. Join us and we will all celebrate.

lovedbyGod, #matthew18, #lostandfound

And yet…even so…

I write this today with both hands and both eyes and both feet intact.

If I took this verse in Matthew 18 literally none of that would be true.

“6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

My eyes, my hands and my feet all cause me to stumble but only because my heart told them to. My heart, where all my thoughts are pondered and decisions made. It is desperately and decidedly wicked and selfish. My heart wants what it wants no matter what or who says differently. What can I do to be pure? What can I do To wash away sin and selfishness that is woven into my very fabric? My heart and soul are burlap, rough and coarse.

Jesus.

Jesus can and will take over our lives. He will cover us in his perfection so our Father God only sees his son when he looks at us, and as he is draped over us on the outside he begins to rebuild us on the inside. To restore and refine us. To turn our burlap souls into silk or satin or 600 count cotton.

God is the God of “and yet” or “even while”.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners Jesus willingly died for us. He died for me. He died for us. He died for you.

If you don’t know him yet, do you want to? If you do know him, can you think of someone who doesn’t know him that you can gently show his love to?

matthew18 #doesJesusloveme?

“Hey, this fruit has seeds in it!”

John 15

Being fruitful, seeds and all.

“15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

An apple tree produces apples. We eat the fruit, throw out the seeds. The apple tree doesn’t care that we eat it’s fruit. It just want its seeds spread around. The apple tree wants to reproduce itself.

As Christians we produce fruit or I should say that the Holy Spirit produces fruit through us or in us; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self control. I’m not sure if this works like I think it works but here’s my understanding of this.

These are the things that grow on us that those around can take away from us and be nourished, but inside these fruits are the seeds to grow more of us. To reproduce christians we share the fruit that the Holy Spirit is producing in us.

Jesus longs for those that are lost to come back home. Can we be sharing the fruit that He is producing in us?

Succinct

I do a bible study on the weekdays. We are given a set of verses to read and to ponder, to reflect on. It is terrible of me but I hope for a short section. Just a few short verses that are succinct so I can grab the message and go.

Today was Psalm 99. The entire Psalm. Mary my wife has many of the Psalms memorized so she would know that it was short but powerful. It only has 9 verses.

I opened my bible to read and I got what I needed in the first three words.

“The Lord reigns…”

What else do we need to know? God is still running the world. He is still in charge. He is still actively working on bringing his children home to himself.

I am feeling like a bubble on the wind, vulnerable and not in control, useless and powerless to change myself or my direction but the Lord reigns, he sees me and knows me and has a purpose for me, and for us.

The last 6 words are as powerful as the first 3: “for the Lord our God is holy.”

God is holy, he is separate from us, he is not part of creation, but instead is creator. He is not limited in any direction or in any way. If what we need doesn’t yet exist, he can create it. He is not in a hurry, in fact he is not subject to time. He is not subject to anything or anyone. All this is true of him AND he loves us.

He loves us so much that he gave his one and only son to die in our place, to pay for our mistakes and create a way back into a relationship with him.

The Lord reigns.

The Lord or God is Holy.

The inconceivable truth

John 14

The Lord our God is one! (in three persons).

Deuteronomy 6:4 says “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”

Jesus quoted this verse when asked what was the most important commandment was.

And yet he says this here; “15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.”

Our God is one God. Our God is 3 persons. Our God is the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God. Three persons. One God.

This idea that Jesus states here was as radical a thought then as it is hard to understand now. God pre-existed creation, he became a man, not BOOM here I am a man, but like labor and delivery, smack smack “wah”, “it’s a boy!”, became a man. Lived life, had a job, ate, drank, went to weddings and funerals man, (while at the wedding turning water into wine, while at the funeral, raising the dead). He was a man a special God in flesh kind of man, who lived, he then died. But he didn’t stay dead! He rose from the grave! He hung around for 7 weeks and then went back to heaven to work on our home so he can take us there to be with him. While he is away he sent himself, as God in Spirit form, like the wind, we can’t see it but we feel it. We can’t see Him but we feel Him.

The Lord our God is one. To quote Mr Waturri from Joe versus the Volcano, “I’m not arguing that with you”. However, The Lord our God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is one.

I am bummed that I don’t get to hang out with Jesus in the flesh…..yet. But I do get to be filled with His Holy Spirit, have Him, God in Spirit live in me. I know that I have yet to fully understand or appreciate or take full advantage of this amazing truth. But it there for me, for us. He is there, for me for us.

Have you invited him in? Will you invite him in? I did.

Who is he?

Just a reminder about this Jesus guy we believe in and follow.

“12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”

“5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Jesus is the alpha and omega, first and last, he is the same yesterday, today and forever, he is the good shepherd, he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our king. Forever our king. He is our savior and redeemer. He is full of grace towards us.

I Just needed to remind myself.

Who is this Jesus? Who is this God/man that I pray to? Who is this savior, rescuer healer that calls me away from the business and pain and loss in life to spend time with me? Who is this this Jesus who sent His Spirit, his Holy Spirit to live in me and empower me? He is bigger than my imagination can make him. His presence is overwhelming and yet he calls to me, to come to Him and rest. He is big. He is powerful. He is strong. When we see him, we can do nothing but worship. All the beauty and majesty of the greatest art, color and texture and all of nature and music and love, he invented all of that. He is bigger and more beautiful than all of it put together.

He is the lamb of God that was slain for my sin, for our sin. And now he is alive. He is alive forever! He holds the keys to our greatest fears, our greatest enemies, death and hell. He is the one worthy of worship.

Who is this Jesus?

See above.

Ok, but what does it mean?

Born again.

That term or phrase sounds like something that was coined by a 20th century evangelist. In my mind I can hear the Reverend Billy Graham say it. “You must be born again.”

The truth is, It was Jesus who coined the phrase. He was talking to an influential spiritual leader who had come to speak with Jesus “after dark one evening”. The leaders name was Nicodemus.

“After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”’
John 3:2-3 – NLT

It was a new phrase to old teacher, a new concept. So Jesus explained what he meant and how it was possible.

“Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked. Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:5-17 – NLT

What about me? Have I experienced the new birth? Yes! I live with the promise of eternal life! I was physically born into the family of Herbert and Elaine Loeffelbein, but I was reborn into the family of God almighty.

What about you? Have you experienced the new birth?

The apostle Paul summed it up like this:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, you will be saved.

Here it is quoted in context: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’
Romans 10:9-13 – NLT

Staying on mission

“🎶the ships aground on the shore of this uncharted desert Isle…🎶”

For my generation most of my schoolmates would be hearing that song play from our TVs at 3:30 pm every week day.

Home from school, toss the books and coats and flip on the TV to Gilligan’s Isle.

It was a great distraction from life and school work and homework.

The Apostle Paul had a story about a shipwreck too. 15 days at sea in a terrible storm. We read about it in Acts 27.

In the midst of the storm Paul is visited by an angel and receives a hopeful message.

“The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
Acts 27:18-26 – NLT

The danger didn’t stop there, the soldiers he was sailing with wanted to kill the prisoners but…

“The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.”
Acts 27:42-44 – NLT

Up to this point Paul had been beaten, stoned, and whipped numerous times yet he just kept on telling people about Jesus. He stayed on mission, stayed on task.

I need that focus. It embarrasses me to to admit how little it takes to get me off focus and off task. My mission is the same as Paul’s, tell other people about Jesus.

Here is how Paul describes his mission:

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”
Philippians 3:7-11 – NLT

It’s time to go to work, both figuratively and literally, so I end here. I must ask myself, How am I doing? Am I staying on task? How are you doing?

19 cents.

God’s love is amazing

How small does a matter have to be to fall off Gods radar screen of our life?
In money value? Less than 19 cents. According to my exhaustive research , (2 websites from a google search) the drachma was worth about 19 cents. When the tax collector came around, Jesus knew, he cared and he provided.

“24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

It seems like a non story. Why is this little story even in the Bible? The Gospel writer Matthew was by trade, a tax collector. That may be why this story stuck out in his memory. But the Holy Spirit has something to teach me from this.

It has some odd things in it too, Jesus didn’t reach in his purse or pocket to get the money, he didn’t pull a 4 drachma Coin from behind Peters ear, he had Peter fish for it. Not catch a fish and sell it, but catch a fish and pull the coin out of the fishes mouth(?). What an odd way to provide. Jesus showed so much of his power and knowledge and ability in this coin retrieval system. The ocean is his piggy bank.

As Gods son, Jesus was exempt from the tax but he paid it anyway. Jesus was exempt from the punishment for sin, yet he paid it anyway. He paid the price for my sin, he paid the price for our sin.

My take aways from this story:
God hears our life story live, he cares about what is happening, he has knowledge of and possesses all the earth, it is all at his disposal, he will pay my way, he has paid my way into the temple and beyond, into Gods presence in heaven by dying for me on a cross.

Now he lives forever, not to brag about his own goodness and selflessness, but to continuously intercede for me to God as I am stumbling through life. Intercede for me, for us, the ones who put him on the cross.

God’s love is amazing.

Change my ♥️

I just found this rock on the road while I was taking my walk. It is rough and hard, but very much shaped like a heart. It doesn’t show up well in the picture, but it is even a dark shade of red. Sometimes it feels like I have one just like it rattling around in my chest. A heart of stone.

I have been reading the second half of John 14 but I keep stumbling over part of it.

“15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

If you love me you will obey my teachings.

Obedience, do what he says AND don’t do what he says not to do.

I was thinking about this and how I fail and being hyper self critical when my dogs crawled up on the couch with me. We have 2 dogs one smart one and one cute one- (I hope I can bring this all together, stone heart, obedience from love, dogs), and I realized something. My dogs love me and I love them but they are not always obedient. They don’t do what I tell them every time. Sometimes I will even change my command so that what they are doing matches what I’m saying. (The analogy sags a bit here). My heart feels stiff because my will is not always His will. Sometimes my will is counter his will. He still loves me. Jesus died for me and forgave before I committed any sins because he knew I would need to be bathed in forgiveness from birth.

I constantly need to have my heart softened towards God and towards the people around me. I have received grace, I need to dispense grace.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote this about our hearts, this the Lord speaking;

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – NLT

In my early 20s I worked for my parents in their cafe. We had a number of regulars who came in every day. They became like an extended family. George and Ruth were a couple who came in a lot. Ruth got sick and died. My mom, who had a huge heart of flesh, opened the cafe to the funeral party and I begrudgingly worked serving George and the extended family. I was miffed that we were giving away the food and I was having to work and then something happened. I don’t remember why I did it, it could be that George was crying, I don’t know, but I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder, when I did that, I felt his humanity, he was just a man, like me, and he lost his best friend, his love, the mother of his children, and he was hurting. I understood his pain. My attitude changed immediately. The mere pittance of my service changed to willingly giving whatever George and his family needed to comfort them and to help remember Ruth.

When I have a tendency to be hard towards others, I need to often remember that people are just people like me. May God continue to give me a tender heart of flesh towards others who are suffering, lonely, hurting, or afraid.

Change my heart o’ God make it ever true, may I be like You.

Run to his banner

Jehovah Nissi. The lord our banner. It’s one of the names of God that I struggle to connect with… Or did until today. I saw a picture in my mind in a flash. It was like a second. I’m going to try to describe to what I saw In my mind. I was a young soldier reporting to battle. It was ancient times. I couldn’t see the battle field until I was almost on it. As I cleared the last hill a huge valley spread out in front of me. As far as I could see there were soldiers and horses and weapons, every menacing tool imaginable was there. The valley was filled with encampments, each encampment had at its center a banner. Every banner was the name of the tribe… Or so I thought, but as I got closer the banners each listed one of my sins. One banner I read said “Peter Loeffelbein should die because he on May 5th 1970 he stole Mike Hancocks green army truck.” That was the only one I feel comfortable sharing here but all my sins were there. My enemies wanted to destroy me for them. Myriad of enemies all ready to do battle against me because my sins. I was overwhelmed. But then I saw it. In the center of all this hatred of me I saw another banner. It said ” I love peter Loeffelbein! my son Jesus will die in his place”. There was Gods camp. His banner declared his love for me. He would send out his son, his only son to die in my place. All of my sins which in the enemies hands had become weapons would strike him and not me. I ran to that banner and fell down and wept at the feet of my king and my Champion. Jesus.

Jehovah Nissi, his banner over me is love. He has a banner for each one of us. Run to his banner.

Committed

Mark 14:3
While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.

I heard a radio pastor speak on this section of scripture and his explanation really moved me.

He pointed out that the jar was very special. It would normally be used for either a dowry in marriage or a burial ointment.

The woman didn’t just crack the seal and dip some out. She broke the jar. She was all in. This jar that would either marry her or bury her she gave it all to Jesus.

Her commitment, her willingness to throw it all in poked my heart. Am I willing to commit like this? Am I 100% given over to this Jesus who has given all of himself for me?

In the Glow

It happened again today as I was on my way to work. The light, it takes on a glow, it’s diffused and kind of golden. I was on the back side of a rainbow. How can I know? Every time the sun shines through falling rain there is a rain bow. If the rain is between me and the sun I can’t see the rainbow but I know it’s there because it has to be.

I wonder if the Christian life is like that. We live in the light of Gods revelation but we don’t see it because we are in it. Those with their backs to the the sun (son) can see the rainbow. Those of us facing the the sun (son) live in the glow of the rainbow.

Come home❤️

John 14

Come home.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

God our father is beckoning us to come home.

He stands on his front step of his house smiling and waving, scooping the air in a “come here” motion. He is smiling and pleading. “Come home! Come and spend time with me, rest here with me”.

As we approach we are scared and disappointed by the fact that between us and him is an expanse. The expanse is uncross able, impossible. We recognize the expanse for what caused it, our sin. We stop and shout across to our father, “how? How can I get to you? I want so much to come home to you but how?”

He smiles and points. There is a bridge that we didn’t see. As we run towards the bridge we notice it’s odd shape and as we get even closer we see the bridge is covered in blood and then we hear a voice, his voice, Jesus’ voice, “it is finished” and we realize the bridge isn’t something, it is someone. The only bridge to our father is his bloodied and beaten son, stretched across the expanse of our sins.

The only way to God our Father is across the bridge of Jesus’ death. Will we take it?

The father is calling us, come home.

Seed faith

Seed faith. Size matters.

Pictured is a mustard seed. No matter what seed we talk about, inside the seed there are plans and genetic design plus the unknown life force packed into the seed to recreate the parent plant as soon as the conditions are right for growth. It’s magic or masterful at the very least.

In Matthew 17 Jesus talks about faith and how it affects our ministry.

“14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ‘

I don’t like being scolded. Who was Jesus scolding here? The dad? The son? The disciples?

In Mark there is more of Jesus’ conversation with the dad recorded.

“20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”’

If you can. The dads faith seems to be the faith in question. The Mark version adds prayer to the cure, some manuscripts also add fasting.

I have a list of people that I pray for, a written list. There are four names scribbled out. These four names represent four people who are dead now. I was praying for them and they died anyway.

Jesus says in this passage that if our faith is as big as a mustard seed that I can move mountains, that nothing will be impossible for me. So what size IS my faith?

If we look at the details of Marks version of the story I must ask myself, did I ever fast for these sick people? No. I did not.

I have an ineffectual prayer life in part because I don’t take it seriously. Who am I talking to? The dog? (Sometimes they are the only one in the room). Who am I talking to and what can He do about what I am asking him about? Gods will and his plan are sovereign but I am still seeing things that I would like to change. Do I believe God can do them? If I don’t believe, why am I wasting my time?

I have either never or seldom asked God to increase my faith. Today that changes.

God, please make my faith bigger. I want to see change in my world. Use me. Help me to see what to ask for and to believe in your bigness enough that people lives can be set free from torment and disease and the repercussions of sin. Grow me so the kingdom, Your kingdom can grow through me.

Amen?

Amen.

Epilogue:

For several years I used a prayer list and would faithfully pray for everyone on the list every day that I did my devotion time, usually just work days. After 4 years of doing that I started to feel like it was just vain repetition so I stopped.

Here are some thoughts; some where the Bible says We have not because we ask not. when Jesus was teaching about prayer he said to keep on asking, and he also told of a persistent widow who was heard by a wicked judge, not because her cause was just, and it was, but because of her persistence. so for for things that just don’t seem to change I believe our duty is to keep on praying.

Persistence.

“Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”’
Luke 11:5-13 – NLT

And faith. Believe that God is able. He is not a Genie, he is a good father.

Sometimes it will require us to sacrifice, to fast and pray. Always ask, then keep on asking. Always believe and trust in our Father God. God wants a relationship with us. Like a dad and his kids, he doesn’t want to be our ATM but he does want us to ask as part of our relationship. I love spending time with my adult children, God wants to spend time with me and wants me to share my heart and share my needs and wants and cares and concerns with Him. My list didn’t seem to fit into that framework. I haven’t found the middle ground yet.

How can I be praying for and with you today? Do you have a need that you would like me to pray for with you? Let me know in the comments.

Anyway

John 13

Knowing what was coming, Jesus did it anyway.

“18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned[a] against me.’[b]

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

Jesus, knowing what was about to happen, who would betray him and who would deny and abandon him, did it anyway. He knew his future.

He knows ours too. He knows our weaknesses and strengths and loves us anyway. We don’t have to hide, we can’t really hide, not from him. He knows our hearts, he knows our secrets and loves us anyway.

Anyway.

Once I was talking to a friend, another friend came up, interrupted our conversation to spill her guts, I stood and listened then as her story ended, with all the compassion I could muster I said “anyway…” And carried on with my original conversation. I destroyed my friendship with the second friend that day.

Anyway.

Jesus loves us, anyway, in spite of our failings. In spite of our own misused “anyway”s.

Jesus known us. AND he loves us and is committed to making us more like him so some day my anyways will restore and not destroy.