Knock knock…

Luke 18

Have you ever knocked on someone’s door hoping they don’t answer? I had a paper route growing up. I had one family that scared me so bad I didn’t collect from them very often if ever. If I ever did attempt, my knocking was a timid and quiet tap. How do we knock when our getting in to see the person is urgent? I had neighbor who was a type 1 diabetic and who would sometimes slip into a coma from low blood sugar. There were times I had to bang on her door to get her to wake up and get help.

How do I knock on God’s door? Am I timid or am I bold? Do I really want God to “come to the door”? Let’s take a look at what Jesus taught us about prayer, which in some ways is a lot like knocking on his door.

We should Pray persistently. Pray like it’s our only chance, like God is our only hope. Pray like we’re trying to get someone’s attention.

“1 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 about men. 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 about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” 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?” ‘

Can we make a difference with our prayers? If we believe what Jesus says here yes we can. We can alter the course of the world and change eternity. Many years ago I prayed for a man I met in Safeway. Every time I thought of him I would pray that he would be saved. He is saved and goes to our church now. I can think of two other random people that I started praying for whenever I thought of them. They too are now saved. One goes to our church, one moved out of the area.

I am more organized now. I have a list. Friends, family , co-Workers. I pray for them like the persistent widow. I just keep coming back. Although the widow was probably just camped on the judges door. She had no other responsibilities and no other hope. I’m just at it once a day, unless I think of someone during the day. Yesterday I didn’t use my time well and I skipped praying. Sorry for those of you on the list.

God is not like a corrupt judge but even corrupt judges can be swayed so how much more should we persistently pray to a just and caring God?

Lord Jesus you know my list and the people on it. May they find you today and Lord meet their needs. I have 2 sick grandsons. Heal them Lord. I know women who are pregnant, protect them and their babies. Provide for us Lord Jesus. You are our only hope and our salvation.

Some assembly required

(This was written during a long work trip to China, probably while working in Xian, I didn’t know of any churches in that city. Dalian had made thriving multi-national church that I could attend. The main message in this is if you can go to church, go to church. We as a body of believers need each other, just like the cells and organs of our won body need each other. If you can go- go to church).

I love and miss my church

I am reading through the Psalms and saw this in Psalm 5:

“But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence I will bow down toward your holy temple.

Lead me, o Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies- make straight your way before me.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;

let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

Its Sunday morning here. I haven’t gotten to go to Church in 4 weeks. I can’t remember the last time I went this long without church. I’m feeling lonely and isolated. I haven’t sung in worship for 4 weeks.

Fellowship and the gathering of Gods people to encourage and teach and touch and heal and pray with and play with, it’s a privilege.

Don’t miss it if you can go, go! Be with other believers.

“Do not forsake the assembling together”.

I love and miss my church.

In the hands of a craftsman

This a picture of conduit. Notice the nice uniform bends. (Don’t look too close, they aren’t perfect). Conduit usually comes in 10′ straight sticks. It’s made to be bent and cut. It’s purpose is to protect the wires inside. It’s the way electricians can safely get power from a source to where ever it’s needed.

Christians are a sort of conduit. We distribute Gods power, his love, mercy, forgiveness, healing and supply. We distribute it from the source to the need. If we don’t let God mold, shape, shorten, bend or extend us He may not reach the people that need Him. We need to be submitted to The Craftsman’s hands so we can be put to good use.

“For we are God’s handiwork, (workmanship) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Entering the Kingdom

Luke 17. God’s kingdom.

Where is this kingdom? The kingdom of God, Can I find it on GPS? Can I visit it with my family? Can I go there and have an audience with the King?

“20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”‘

The kingdom is here. The kingdom is now. The kingdom of God is people. The borders of the kingdom are enlarged every time another person receives Jesus as their savior. The passport required is the cross of Jesus. Did he die to save you from your sins? If the answer is yes then welcome into the kingdom.

Some day our King will return to claim all that is his. All those that are his.

“22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”‘

We do long to see our King.

An audience with him is a prayer away. Unfortunately it’s still more like a landline call than a FaceTime chat but God does hear us when we pray and he speaks to us through his word, through other believers and through his still small voice in our hearts.

The kingdom of God is here now. Jesus is waiting and asking us if we want to be citizens. I am one. Will you join too?

The lost and found

Luke 15. The lost and found.

I have been both. I once was lost. Now am I found.

Here is how God feels about us when we are lost.

4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

This theme is repeated 3 times in this chapter. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and The lost son. Each time there is Someone actively seeking that which was lost and when they find it there is a party, a huge celebration because something or someone of value has been returned.

That is good news. Being lost is not fun. It is isolated and lonely and scary. Sometimes we start out to just hide, hide in our shame and then we lose our way back. Our return is not the walk of shame. It is a walk of humility and repentance. Turning around. But God is watching and waiting.

” 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ‘ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

God was waiting and watching for me as I returned.

God is waiting and watching for you to return to him too.

Come home and be overwhelmed by God’s love and forgiveness.

Trading up

He knew.

He knew how and when.

He knew and did it anyway. Jesus knew how and when he would die and yet he willingly stayed on the path that would lead to his execution.

“Matthew 26:1-5 When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”’

If we Think of the worst person that we know, (most of the time, in my mind that is me). Remember all the wrong things they’ve done. Now imagine Jesus walking towards Jerusalem and his death looking through time at this person and saying, “I know what you have done and will do. I forgive you, I will die in your place”. That is what is going on here as Jesus continues down this road.

Paul said it so well in his letter to the believers in Rome.

Romans 5:6-11 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

It’s Monday morning. Weekends hold many things for us, sometimes it’s a big box of regrets.

How about starting out this week trading boxes, trading a box of regrets for lifetime of forgiveness? Jesus knew what we’d be doing and died to forgive us anyway. He loves us that much.

Today is is good day to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a request away.

Root of it

Wikipedia says this about weeds. “A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, “a plant in the wrong place”. Examples commonly are plants unwanted in human-controlled settings, such as farm fields, gardens, lawns, and parks. Taxonomically, the term “weed” has no botanical significance, because a plant that is a weed in one context is not a weed when growing in a situation where it is in fact wanted, and where one species of plant is a valuable crop plant, another species in the same genus might be a serious weed, such as a wild bramble growing among cultivated loganberries.”

The picture is of a a group of baby quaking aspens. We replanted a volunteer and now the first tree wants to start a family. I have been just sniping off the sprouts but in two Weeks or so I just have to do it again.

Sometimes sin in my life is like this. Its source is a root buried in my heart and every time it gets a chance it sprouts up. I can spend time sniping off the tops or I can dig down and get to the roots and yank it out by the source.

The writer of Hebrews mentions this while talking about how God disciplines us.

“Hebrews 12:9-16 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. “

Some things, some “bitter roots” I deal with have origins in my childhood, some go back generations in my family. Chopping at the tops doesn’t kill these. I have to dig down to the root of the issue. God is both faithful to continue the process and patient with me we root out the weeds in my life.

Whom shall I fear?

There is a lot of fear and uncertainty right now. I recently read a COVID death statistic from a national news source that was purposely written to strike fear into the reader.

COVID deaths are still happening, one group yelling that they are on the rise, another yelling that they are leveling off and dropping.

There is a huge debate about vaccinations and masks that will start a loud discussion if not a fight in almost any group of people.

Fear and fear mongering is everywhere we look, especially if we are looking at our phones.

I am currently reading through Isaiah. The prophet was writing during a time of instability and upheaval. The Assyrian kingdom was out absorbing entire nations, like a snake swallowing a rabbit. Syria and the northern tribes Israel were next in Assyrian aggression.

Fear was rampant. yet God had Isaiah write this:

“The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many will stumble and fall, never to rise again. They will be snared and captured.”
Isaiah 8:11-15 – NLT

Whom shall I fear?

God. He is whom I shall fear because he is who will keep me safe.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am vaccinated. I did it because I am at risk. I have underlying health issues. I also did it to keep it from spreading from me. I wear a mask because I don’t want to spread the sickness.

I am vax-ed and masked, not out of fear but out of concern and care for others around me. I am being as wise and as careful as I can during a pandemic. I am doing what I am doing out of love and concern for others.

Whom shall I fear? I will fear God. It is he who will keep me safe.

He is watching…always watching…

He is watching.

Not Santa, Jesus, Jesus is watching. Not to see if i do wrong but to see if I do right.

Matthew 25s third story is about Jesus weeding us out, separating genuine believers from false believers.

“Matthew 25:31-46 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ‘

My behavior counts but not in a points score. My behavior shows the condition and attitude of my heart.

If I want to change my behavior step one is a heart transplant.

Ezekiel says about God’s intent for us, “Ezekiel 11:19-20 And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

What are the statutes and ordinances?

“Matthew 22:37-40 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” ‘

I have accepted Jesus as my savior, his death and resurrection cover my sin and make it possible for me to be counted as a sheep. The way I treat others will show Jesus my sheepness.

Weak? Or fake?

What is worse a fake Christian Or a weak Christian? At the end of the world it appears it’s worse to be fake than weak.

In Matthew 25 the second of three stories is about 3 servants.

“Matthew 25:14-30 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I am looking for the key, for the definition of a true believer so I can point the way or help other people not end up like the one talent guy.

It seems to lie in their beliefs. What do we believe about God? Is he hard and harsh or loving and compassionate? Once a person has met Jesus it’s difficult to continue to see God as hard and harsh. Once a person has met Jesus and received him as savior our view of God has to change.

There is a day of reckoning coming. Christian believers, there is a day coming for us when we will show what we have done. We will be judged on how well we did with whatever God has given us to use.

Paul says this in his first letter to the people in Corinth, “1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”

Later he added this in his second letter, “2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

There is an old song we used to sing in church, the refrain, based on John 13:35 is this, “they will know we are Christians by our obedience to a list of rules”. No, that’s not it, “they will know we are Christians by our successes and wealth”. No! “They will know we are Christians by our LOVE!” Yes, that’s it!

“John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‘

“Who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10. An expert in the law was close but not there yet. He summed up the entire Old Testament in two sentences.

27 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

He understood it all intellectually and could sum it up better than anyone But with his next question he showed that the message hadn’t taken his knowledge the 12″ south to his heart.

Who is my neighbor?

I have talked about the list of people that I pray for. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to pray through my list so while I’m on my way, I will ask the question “who should I pray for?” Who should I pray for? Come on Peter! Let’s make it quicker, Who should you not pray for? No one. Everyone, every person I know that’s who I should pray for. And every person I don’t know.

The answer to the mans question, who is my neighbor is “yes”. Yes, they are your neighbor. The person in trouble, they are your neighbor, the ethnic group the has historically been outcast, they are my neighbor, the downtrodden, those in power, those in prison, those that are sick, those that are well, the young the old. If they are breathing, they are my neighbor.

Who is my neighbor? Yes. Who should I pray for? Who should I be actively involved in sharing Jesus with? Yes. Who should I be servant to? Yes.

How am I doing? Not so good all the time.

Resolutely set

Luke chapter 9. I never noticed this before. The numbers don’t seem to line up. Jesus’ ministry lasted 3 years. Luke has 24 chapters. Luke 9 Jesus is already thinking, planning and talking about his departure. That means that most of what we see about Jesus life and ministry in Luke happened in the last few months.

We will see Jesus entry into Jerusalem in Luke 19. It’s as if maybe Luke 9-18 is a flashback or synopsis of all that Jesus taught and then we rejoin the story or maybe all of this happened on the way to Jerusalem. The point is Jerusalem was always the end of the journey. Jesus knew what was coming and did it anyway.

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

There is so much in here: he sends out his team to minister, he feeds 5 thousand people with 5 loaves and 2 fish, (that’s about the entire population of my little town of Ephrata), Peter makes his statement about Jesus, “You are the Messiah (Christ, savior, long awaited hope of Israel, the One, the Man/God), the transfiguration where Moses and Elijah pop in for a minute, healing a demon possessed boy that disciples couldn’t help, the discussion of who is the greatest ending with Jesus stating the upside down logic of Christianity, for whoever is the LEAST among you all, he is the greatest. The chapter ends with Jesus telling us all that following him is free but it will cost us everything.

My take away is knowing all that he was going to have suffer through, knowing all the sins of the world, my sins, our sins he did it anyway.

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Repentance is better than sacrifice

The church I attend is about as devoid of pomp and circumstance as a church service can get. We still have a service order but there are no robes, no vestments, no draperies, no candles on candlesticks, no acolytes, no ceremony.

You’re probably thinking, Sounds devoid of content. What is there? Well, we have 4 or 5 contemporary worship songs and a message. Once a month we celebrate the communion supper.

As I read through Isaiah chapter 1 this morning I thought about our service, how even the simplest style of worship can still be all wrong if our hearts are not right.

“Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Isaiah 1:10-17 – NLT

God was NOT impressed by his people’s pomp and circumstances and ceremony. God does not want a religious ceremony performed to perfection, rather he wants people who long to follow him, and who humbly repent when they fail. God wants people who care about and care for others, who make daily sacrifices of service to the people around them. People who help and protect those of the weakest among them.

The goal of worship is not to put on a show to impress God. Church is not a talent show with God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit sitting in chairs watching us put on our worship acts, judging our creativity, or talents.

Worship is, as my old pastor used to say, us telling each other who God is.

What if we get to church and our hearts are not right? What do we do then? Go home and try again next week? No. God has another way.

As Isaiah recorded what God said: ‘“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

Isaiah 1:18 – NLT

How is this possible? God has already said that the blood of bulls and goats are not what he wants, what does he want, how can we please him? How can we be made clean again?

Here is what Paul said in his letter to Romans.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Romans 5:6-11 – NLT

I hope I haven’t implied that our church is doing church wrong. I am just saying we need to be careful to not perform at church and live like hell the rest of the week. Our church worship would be best if it reflected a week long, life long lifestyle of humble service to all the humanity that Jesus died to save. We can’t make up for living a selfish and self focused life all week just by putting on the “God Show” for an hour on the weekend.

Can you imagine a relationship where for one hour a week you were passionately devoted to your lover, and for the other 167 hours of the week your passion and devotion were offered to whoever excited you the most?

Is that what we do with our relationship with God? Most of my reading audience are followers of Jesus. How are we doing with this my friends?

If we are struggling in this, God promises to make clean again, white as snow. We can only start where we are and confess, repent and start over.

He is faithful and just, he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Our worship needs to be from a pure heart and a pure life. We can’t make ourselves pure, our only hope is to be washed in the blood of our savior Jesus. We can redirect and refocus our lives to look for opportunities to serve and to protect and to aid.

And to clarify, it’s not our worship style that is in question, highly liturgical or monastic chants or contemporary choruses, style doesn’t matter, it’s our hearts that matter, and it’s our behavior and attitudes throughout the week that tell where our heart really is and who it belongs to. We worship with our lives, not just our church attendance.

Search our hearts Hod and show us if there is any wickedness hiding inside us and lead us into right living and true worship.

Breaking rules but keeping the commands

Luke chapter 6 starts out with Jesus breaking a rule, a man made rule. He did not break a commandment. The commandment is to rest on the 7th day. To do no work. Then someone asked, “what Is work?” and the answer to that question became the man made rule that Jesus broke.

Rules became more important than people. Do I do that? I’ll have to think about it. I don’t want to do that.

Jesus has given us a new way to live and it’s not to amass wealth or possession or power. It is to love and to serve.

“27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

The Christian lifestyle is simple but it is not easy.

How am I doing? If this is a test God I fail. Forgive me when I fail. Thank you for your great mercy.

The Christian life is counter cultural. Come join the, I want to say revolution but it’s not a fight, not with flesh and blood anyway. There is a battle but it is not against people. People are what we are fighting for. Join me as I follow Jesus. Help me up when I stumble and I will help you.

“If you are willing…”

Luke chapter 5 has a lot going on. Jesus calling of the disciples, but first providing a miraculous catch of fish, healing a leper, healing the paralytic with four faith filled friends, (it doesn’t say 4, I’m just thinking one on each corner), calling Levi the IRS guy and then answering the question about ministry style with a parable.

2 things stand out to me. What the leper said, “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

More importantly Jesus answer, “I am willing, be clean”

And the second is Jesus reply to the Pharisees about who he hung out with, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”.

I need Jesus to touch me and make me clean today. I need a savior who is seeking me out not because I’m so good but because I need spiritual healing.

Thank you Jesus for seeking me out and touching my unclean life and bringing me back into a relationship with you.

Timing is everything

Spoiler alert: Mary survived. I wrote this in 2016. The message is still appropriate. Have a look.

I’m sitting in a quiet hospital room. Watching my wife sleep. There are a lot tubes and gizmos.

We had just returned from a nice trip to see family and the ocean. She started to have stomach pain and it kept getting worse. Finally she let me take her to the ER.

Now we wait in this quiet room for things to improve either by Gods miraculous power or by surgery. It’s not a “death is imminent” situation but it is “death is possible”.

We have been here before. Twice in our marriage she was a surgery away from checking out.
Mary is ready either way. She has trusted her heart and life to Jesus.

I guess I just want anyone who’s not following Jesus because they think they have time to consider how unpredictable life is. And I hope that those people will hear the love of a Father who longs to gather his children in like a hen gathers her chicks, scooping them gently into her fluffy feathered bosom.

God loves you. He sent Jesus, his only son Jesus to die in your place, to die for your sins. He died for all of our sins. We are all lumped together in the group called sinners. We just need to admit it. Confess we need someone to help us because we cannot, not sin.

Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

We just don’t know the number of our days. Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

I ask of you 2 things: 1. Pray for Mary and her recovery, 2. consider your own soul. Have you found a way to wash your sins clean? Jesus is THE way.

It stinks

It stinks.

It gets everywhere and touches everything.

It’s odor is on everything.

Invasive.

Pervasive.

Sin.

Did you think I was talking about the smoke? Well that too. But it just keeps reminding me of the human sin condition. There is no escaping it. Young or old rich or poor ugly or beautiful, high or low. Sin and smoke. They are both permeating all of us.

What is the answer?

Rain.

Rain can wash the air clean. Rain will quench the fire that is causing the smoke.

There is a cleansing for the cloud of sin too. It’s not as pretty. The cleansing comes through blood.

The song asks, what can wash away my sin? Then answers, nothing…but the blood of Jesus.

Paul says this in his letter to the Ephesians about the effectiveness of Jesus blood in washing away the stain of sin: “Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. “

Sin and this smoke are infecting and affecting everyone in the area.

Let’s pray for rain. Rain for cleansing and let’s pray for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.

The plan

Gods plan for salvation has always been Jesus. When I follow his lineage back there were some nail biters in the generations. Cain killed Abel but God provided Seth. The entire world was flooded and God had Noah build an ark. He provided Shem. Abraham was old. Very old. Sarah was old, very old the time for children was gone. Long past. And then Joyous Laughter was born aka Isaac. And so it went, life almost snuffed out our hope but God made a way. Ruth’s husband died leaving her childless and hopeless then God provided Boaz, our kinsman redeemer. Over and over just before all hope is lost God provided a way all culminating in Jesus.

My take away is that Gods purpose and his plan are unstoppable. He did all of that so I could have a way of cleaning off my filthy sin and be welcomed with open arms back into His family.

“4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.”

That’s good news.

Is it “no” or “wait”?

Next up? The good news according to Dr Luke.

For 400 years there is silence from heaven. No prophets, no revelation. The people of God carry on. They continue to pray and worship. It becomes routine. The church I attend uses a contemporary worship service format. One reason I left the church of my childhood is that it used a liturgical service. All the words we said were written for us in a book.

Worship can become routine. We do it because we do it because that’s what we do. Then something happens. Last week our power went out right before service started. It broke up the routine and we had to decide to worship not because it’s what we do but because we want to connect with the God of the universe, with the great God of mercy, with the God who loves us enough to die for us.

Zechariah was doing his job, his routine and a messenger of the great God he was serving showed up and had an answer to his prayer. It’s what we should expect. We should expect God to answer. He is listening. He is aware. He is watching and waiting for His perfect timing. Sometimes the routine becomes the thing. We forget that there is a God and a relationship with this God behind all the trappings.

“When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”’

Luke 1:5-20 – NLT

I guess what I’m getting out of this is don’t give up praying. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. We have a God who hears our prayers and will answer them. Sometimes the answer is NO, and sometimes it is WAIT. What’s the difference? Time.

There are people that I have prayed for to get saved for over a decade with no change. There are others who did decide to follow Jesus. So I keep on praying and believing that God is hearing me and that someday he will take away the barrenness in this relationship and bring new life.

What to do with poop and ashes

I was listening to a radio pastor yesterday and heard something new or at least fresh. A fresh thought.

As I get closer to Jesus , the light he brings into my life continues to expose more and more of the mess in my life.

Like if I were with Jesus in a dark room. He asks me if the room is clean. Hmm, the room is dark, nothing under my feet, I say yes. He then lights a match and we see just a little way around us. There are dirty dishes, litter, a pair of underwear that didn’t make it to the hamper. Then he turns on a flashlight and we see deeper into the room, more mess, then he flips on a light and we see clearly, smudged walls, mildew and mold.

The longer I hang out with Jesus the more stuff he exposes. Sometimes the pain and shame of a life exposed is too much and I want to push Jesus back out of my life and shut the door and please oh please, kill the light. The mess doesn’t go away when Jesus leaves and the light goes out, but if we don’t have to see the mess of our lives, we can pretend it isn’t there, and the pain and shame fall and fade.

Meeting Jesus and inviting him into my life will not make my life a blissful rose garden. Well not just the flowery part. Jesus will begin to clean up and the fascinating thing he will do is to use the poop of my life to grow beauty. The bible says the he will give us beauty for ashes. Ashes are the waste product of the end of something, something gone and useless. God has the ability to turn that part of life, and poop is a useless waste end of life product too, the poop and ashes and reuse them to bring us beauty, like roses.

This will only happen if we allow him into our lives and trust him enough to expose the mess behind the door. Denying a mess doesn’t make it go away. Admitting to a mess doesn’t make It go away either but it can start the process of cleansing.

Isaiah 61:1-6 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.”

Today will you let Jesus into your life to help you declutter your your heart and soul? He will turn it around for you. Beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for despair. He loves us and just wants to help.