useless to useful

Can people really change? Does meeting Jesus and having him become our master really have any affect on us?

(Col 4)

Once upon a time there was a slave who lived in Colosse. He was a young man born into slavery. He stole some money from his master and ran away to the big city of Rome. He was hoping to lose himself in the crowds. In stead he met a man named Paul who introduced him to a God/man/savior named Jesus. This slaves name was Onesimus. Paul had this to say about the character of this guy; “He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.”

And this “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.”

The second quote is from the book of Philemon. Philemon was Onesimus’ owner. How strange to own another human yet he did and it was within his rights to do anything to his slave. Paul asked for mercy and forgiveness.

The name Onesimus means useful.

Jesus can change people from useless to useful. He can set the the heart of one enslaved free, even if his body is still owned.

There are many modern slaveries that we get sold into. Jesus can set us free by washing away sin and breaking chains, spiritual chains the keep us locked into patterns and behaviors.

Can people change? Hmmm. Maybe. Can Jesus change people? Definitely Yes.

Useless to useful, Onesimus.

A long or along?

Get a long little doggy?

No, get along little doggy.

Colossians 3 (and a tiny part of 4)

The next bit of bible I’m going to quote is how to get along with people. How to live in community. The very next sentence is a very controversial, counter cultural bit of advice. The way our society recoils at it you would think it said that God hates puppies. God doesn’t hate puppies. He loves puppies. You know what he loves more than puppies? Us. People. Men and women. And he wants us to live in the best possible way. Since he created us he probably (probably?) knows how we can best live. He gives us the manufacturers recommended way to use this thing called life.

Here it is:

” 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
4 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Jesus loves us and has died to pay for all of our sin and now he lives forever and we can too, with him.

If we fail….when we fail at the above list of interpersonal relationships we have forgiveness in Jesus.

I recently read this in this very same book;
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Get along little people.

Pack light

We’re all travelers, my advice? pack light.

(Col 2, Matt 6)

Mary and I were talking last night as we sat out under the stars and watched the planes fly over. Seeing the planes makes us think of our adventures in Italy last year. We want to go back but we would change one thing. We would pack lighter. Images of the two of us taking busses, trains and boats with 3 suit cases pops into our heads. It was comical.

Have you ever been lugging around baggage (or is is bagging around luggage?). Carrying more than is comfortable? It’s so hard. Pulling around a huge box of stuff that seemed so very important at the time. It was meant to be an asset but in actuality becomes a liability.

I went to a family gathering this last weekend. One thing that happened there is that it reminded me of baggage that I carry of things done in my past. Things done Not to me, but by me.

Colossians 2 says this about our sins:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

I know Jesus has forgiven me, but I haven’t done the next step and and confessed and repented to the offended. With every year it seems more difficult to do. Soon. I’m really tired of carrying this luggage or lugging this baggage.

I don’t hold any grudges, not with my family anyway but that’s another set of bags that we can drag around with us.

There is a warning at the bottom of the Lord’s Prayer, one that states Our own forgiveness hinges on whether or not we forgive others.

“9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Forgiving others is like having your luggage sent ahead, like checking it at the gate. Something I wish Mary and I could’ve done on our leg of the trip that took us to Venice so we both could enjoy all that we were experiencing.

We are all travelers. How much luggage or baggage are we carrying unnecessarily? My goal is to lose as much as I can so I can be free to enjoy the journey. All of the “Venice’s” of this life are much easier to enjoy without baggage.

Do not be silenced

Has anyone ever told you to shut up?

How about while publicly praying?

“Shut up, God is busy! Leave him alone!”

Basically that’s what happens in Matthew 20.

“29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

In Mark 10 one of these guys is named, Bartimaeus. Luke also records the story with one guy. (Mentioning one guy doesn’t say that there wasn’t two guys).

Keep quiet and don’t bother God.

Who would say something like that? Would they be a friend or an enemy?

Mary and I were praying together last night and I got so distracted by a disturbing thought that I stopped praying mid sentence.

It wasn’t “shut up! Stop bothering God!” But it did stop me.

God will never say “shut up”. He will never say “stop bothering me with this”.

He will say, “what do you want me to do for you?”

Would these guys have been healed if they weren’t persistent?

In Luke 18 Jesus gives us a parable.

“18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”’

We should not let anyone or anything silence our prayers. We will Pray, keep on praying for healing and for salvation for our friends and family and for protection and for provision and for guidance.

I will not be shut up.

Do not be sileJesus, son of David, have mercy on me……

Peekaboo I see you!

John 17

Jesus prays for me and everyone else who will believe in him.

“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”’

Jesus prayed for me. He knew about me, about us. We were on his mind and in his heart as he was preparing to go to the cross. In less than 24 hours he would be dead. Crucified. A form of killing that kills with pain. Knowing how and why he would die, he prayed for us.

Earlier in this chapter Jesus says something that’s very important and I don’t want to skip over it.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Eternal life is gained by knowing God, and knowing Jesus, God in the flesh.

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

I don’t get it right all of the time. I fail, I stumble but I keep coming back to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and the weird thing is, he does. He forgives me.

He knew about me and prayed for me. He knows about you too. He longs for all those who will believe to jump in and do it.

Two questions

I just had a vision of heaven. It was just a flash. I will try to describe what I saw.

There was a glorious walled city. Gleaming white. There was only one way into the city. There were two lines of people approaching the city. One group was allowed into the city. The others were walked off into darkness.

The line of people that were let in were all wearing the same thing, a beautiful crimson red robe.

I recognized some in this line. They were notorious sinners. Then I looked at the other line line and saw some really good descent people. It confused me deeply.

I looked back to where the lines were forming. I could see that it was one line from deaths door, then it split. At the split I saw Jesus. As each person approached him he would gently ask them two questions, if they shook their heads no, he would sigh and point them towards the darkness. If they nodded their heads yes, he embraced them, kissed both cheeks, took off his robe and put it on their shoulders. Smiling he would say ” well done good and faithful servant, welcome home!” Then guide them towards heavens gate.

What were his questions?

Maybe it was Are good enough to be in heaven? That couldn’t be it, I saw some bad people in the line moving towards heaven. Was it how much did you give? That answer couldn’t be a yes or a no. Was it did you behave? Did you follow the rules? Did you keep the commandments?

I had to know so I went up closer to listen. Here is what he asked them.

“Do you know me?”
“Would you like my help?”

That was the vision.

Could it really be that simple? Is that all there is to getting into heaven?

The apostle Paul said this about that. “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Evidently it is that simple. It isn’t about the following the rules, but it’s about following a savior.

Do you know Jesus? Do you know this man who died on a cross and came back to life 3 days later? Have you heard that he loves you? Have you heard That he suffered and died so that our sins could be forgiven? Your mistakes and my mistakes? will you accept his help today?

We will all step through death’s door. What is on the other side? Will it be like the vision I had? Which line will you be in? It is your choice. Will you accept Jesus’ help then? How about starting today?

Childish or childlike?

Childish or childlike?

When I was little my grandparents had an old bathtub buried in their garden. It was a garden for water lilies. My brother told me to be very careful around it, there was no bottom. I believed him. I walked a wide circle around that white rimmed hole to the center of the earth.

I was told another story as a child. I was told about this man who did miracles. That he healed sick people, even raising some from the dead. He was killed by being nailed to cross. He was put into a grave carved out of rock and three days later he came back to life. He stayed here for a few more days with his friends and then he was taken up in the clouds where he said that he would build a house for me, and he would come back some day.

Kids believe the stories that they are told. They have child like faith.

Jesus talked about that in Matthew 19.

“13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

I think I was there the day they pulled up the old bathtub in grandmas garden. There was a bottom after all. That story wasn’t true.

As for the other story? No one can disprove. Many have tried. I still believe the whole thing. Even the part about him coming back someday.

I heard more of the story as I got older. I found out why he died. He died to pay for my sin, to pay for our sin. The sin that keeps us separated from God. He died because he loves us so much he would rather suffer and die than to be kept apart from us.

It’s been a long time since he left. We don’t know when he will come back. One thing is for certain, his return is closer now than ever. He is waiting for the last one who will believe in him to hear the story I was told and to believe it.

Are we telling the story? Some one needs to hear the story today. Will we tell them the story of Jesus?

tellourjesusstory, #Matthew191315

The Lord reigns

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.

God in 3 persons

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 this Jesus?

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?

See above.

<= 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.

Heart exchange

I just found this on the road while i was taking my walk. 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.

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

The Lord our 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.

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.

Hello my name is…

Did they have name tags?

When Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain top and spoke with Jesus, how did Peter James and John know who they were? Did Jesus say, ” Hey Mo, how are you Elijah? What’s up?” Or was it just deduced from the context of the conversation?

Maybe there was an introduction? “Peter, James, John, this is Moses, the law giver, and this is Elijah, the mighty prophet..”

Let’s read the text from. Matthew 17.

“17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”

The Jewish people were looking for a messiah, some one to come and shake off the oppression of Roman rule. They knew from the prophecies of the Old Testament that Elijah was supposed to come and usher in the messiah.

Here is Elijah, not an Elijah type but the real original Elijah standing before them. As a bonus the leader of leaders, a messiah of his own generation, freer of the Jews from Egyptian bondage, Moses, was standing there too. Two of the most influential humans to ever walk the planet. If they were talking to anyone other than God himself, they would be the ones to to listen to, they would have the message from God, they would be the star of the show but the voice from God said, “this is my son, listen to him”.

I think this scene may have been like a prize fight ring where the trainer and coach are in the corner encouraging and pumping up
The champion before he takes on the two ugliest and strongest forces known on earth. The forces Jesus was about to fight were Sin and Death. Up to that time these two, sin and death, were undefeated. Jesus was about to battle them not for himself but for us.

He will win. He did win. As he said from the cross, “it is finished”.

Jesus has defeated our enemies, sin and death. By defeating sin he removed the separation between us and God. Our debt is paid, the slate is clean and we have access to our loving Heavenly Father. By defeating death he took away the period at the end of the sentence so our life can go on with God. Physical death can now be the doorway to eternal life with God.

There is a questionnaire to fill out.

Who is Jesus?

What has he done for you?

It’s an open book test. There is a strong hint in Romans 10:9-10.

“9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

John 13

Dirty work

” It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I’m not sure how we got away from this, the foot washing. I guess some groups still do it. It’s a Maundy Thursday thing. Some groups do it more often. I have washed feet but never have I had my feet washed.

Washing feet is an act of saying we are all human. I fail at perfection. No matter how well I cover up, conceal, perfume or otherwise hide my imperfections my feet will still sweat and stink.

Will you help me not stink? Will I help you not stink? Life is dirty. Feet get dirty. We can cover up or we can confess our human-ness and participate in keeping each other less dirty and less stinky.

It’s not just our feet is it? It’s my heart and my mind. My life and my actions. Will we help each other clean up our life and actions? Will we trust each other?
“But my feet have been in some really deep poop”.

We are all at times in deep poop. Life is at times, deep poop. Deep stinky sticky poop. Are we committed to clean others as we ourselves are cleaned?

Confession and forgiveness. Cleansing each other in a close and personal way.

Christianity isn’t living the perfect life. Christianity is living the forgiven and forgiving life.

Let the light in

John 12

Are you in darkness? Jesus is the light of the world.

“John 12

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews
37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[h]
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”[i]
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”’

I am afraid of the dark. As a child it paralyzed me. As an adult I’ve worked past the fear, and I carry a flashlight. All of us with phones carry a flashlight. Jesus can be our spiritual flashlight.

Jesus being light and bringing light into our lives is one of the things that can make us uncomfortable. There are things done in darkness, or memories hidden in dark corners of our hearts, things done by us, things done to us that we want to stay hidden. Hidden and forgotten.

Jesus came to expose those things not to shame us or hurt us, but to forgive us and free us from the pain and the stench and the mess and the clutter.

Some of us are hoarders of bad memories.

I challenge all of us today to let the light of the world into our darkest corners so that cleansing and forgiveness can begin.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

The horn button principle

John 12

The horn button principle.

” Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”

The horn button principal. I have A 57 chevy pickup. His name is Rusty. For close to 30 years before I had my truck, I had a 57 chevy truck horn button. It sat on a shelf in my garage. I wanted a truck. I had horn button. When anyone asked about the horn button I would say “I’m growing to grow a 57 Chevy pickup from that horn button”. A long time passed. Finally one day I gave away the horn button. That ended my dream. Or so I thought. Several years went by but around my 50th birthday I got a letter from an uncle saying he had a 57 Chevy truck that he wanted to give me. It was the same person that I had given the horn button to. The day I got the truck I also got the horn button back. I had planted the seed and it germinated and grew into a truck.

The principle is that you have to let the dream die so that it can come back to life. Bigger and better than you could hope for.

Jesus literally planted himself in the earth for us. He died and was buried and came back to life changed. The people who were following him had an idea of who and what Messiah would be. It was wrong or at least incomplete. Messiah wasn’t coming to set Israel free from Roman oppression. Messiah had come to set mankind free from sins oppression. Jesus had to die, the incorrect or incomplete messianic dream had to die so that Jesus could become the real and only hope of freedom from sin.

“25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Giving him me

John 12

Giving Jesus our very best.

“12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

Mary gave Jesus the best she had. She gave it freely and extravagantly. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

I don’t have a personal example of this. I can’t say, “it was like that time I…..” I say this to my shame, I am a stingy person. And worse yet, Jesus doesn’t get my reserved best, he gets what I have left at the time. Like right now, I’m scrambling to put thoughts together. It’s like my spiritual life’s feast is a Charlie Brown thanksgiving, toast pretzels and popcorn.

I come to him, just as I am, spent, tired and empty and he still loves me. I long for the day when I can present him me at my very best, but in the meantime he takes me as I am, worn out, broken, used up, confused, distracted and let’s me rest with him. Then he tells me he loves me.

He just wants me, he just wants us to be with him.

It’s a sign

It’s a sign.

In our little town at this time of the year there is a ginormous lighted cross at the top of a hill over looking our region of Washington State.

Why is it it there? It’s a sign, it reminds us of an execution that took place about 2000 years ago. A man named Jesus was hung on a cross, literally nailed to a wooden cross, and left there to die. It’s recorded that some men would hang for days. Because of the flogging he received before being nailed to the cross, he died in a few hours. The Jewish leaders of his day had conspired to have him killed. They succeeded.

Gods master plan wasn’t interrupted by the cross of Jesus. Gods master plan was the cross of Jesus. Don’t think for a minute the Jews conspiring to kill this man was an accident. Jesus knew ahead of time what was coming. He knew he would die a death that pain itself was the killer. The victim is slowly suffocated by pain. He knew. And yet he loved us so much, he did it anyway.

Matthew 16

“16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.”

The sign of Jonah. Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights. Jesus would soon be in the earth 3 days a 3 nights. The fish couldn’t hold Jonah and death will not, did not, can not hold Jesus.

If you added up what Jesus had done in front of these people to this time in his ministry, like feeding 5 thousand the another 4 thousand with a bag of bread and some fish, healing every person who asked for it, raising the dead back to life, walking on water, calming a storm, all of this had already been displayed, then they asked for a sign from heaven.

What nudge are we waiting for in our generation? It’s always Gods love that draws us in. God loves us. He showed us his love in the sign of Jonah. That Jesus was swallowed up by death but he defeated it. He didn’t need to beat death, he is God, but he knew we needed it because death waits for us all. At death we must cash in our chips to pay for all of mistakes, our sins, our selfishness but we don’t have enough. Our pockets are empty at the grave but Jesus not only beat death, he paid for our sin too. His perfect life sacrificially given up pays for it all.

My photo is grainy and blurry, forgive me. If you live in Ephrata look up to the top of Beasley hill tonight, you will see it, there’s a sign there, a sign for each one of us. It’s a cross. God loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place.