Before we vent

Who is this God we serve?

Psalm 89 starts out with praise of God. It talks about how awesome He is. How he is the creator of everything and then it reminds God of his promises to King David and his line.

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]

“11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
12 You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.”

So God is good, he is powerful, he is creative and creator. He has promised special favors. Good good good. Yes.

But here’s the problem. Life is in shambles. Enemies have attacked and are tearing up home. Literally destroying and killing.

Now what? Why go through the process of recounting the goodness of God and his promises before telling God about the destroyer in the backyard banging on your door?

When we are reminding God of his power and his promises are we really reminding him? Does he forget? I think we are the forgetters. But it also sets up why we can expect anything more out of life than scraping up enough food to stay alive, procreating, getting sick and dying like animals. Aren’t we just animals? Not according to God. We wouldn’t know who we are or what we are or what more there was to life without Gods word. Reminding him reminds us that he is Almighty God. He is not some mighty, a little mighty, sort of mighty he is All Mighty. He is creator. He is sustainer. He is the maker and keeper of promises. Why did the psalmist have hope or expectations of David’s lineage? Because God said so. So what? We all make grandiose statements sometimes. God is the only one who can promise and keep his promises, all of his promises.

We can turn to God. We can vent. But while venting I will try to also say why I expect more from my existence. I have seen and heard God working. I have read his proclamation of love for me and for a sick and dying world and so now I have hope for more out of life.

“46 How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
48 Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
49 Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, Lord, how your servant has[g] been mocked,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
51 the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,
with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
52 Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.”

Compassionate, loving and forgiving God

When is God worthy of praise? If he is who he says he is? Always. All of the time.

One of the many reasons I am still in love with my wife Mary is that she is an encourager. She is actively looking for the positive in people and in our life. With God you don’t have to search long to find something to praise. He is THE God. The almighty, the wise one, the one who knows, the one who loves, the one who forgives. It’s like looking at a diamond and trying to decide which facet is my favorite. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. He is all good. He is all beautiful.

Life isn’t always a great place to be. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going anticipating more of the same. But God is always good. He is always just. He is always loving. He is always compassionate. He is always all of the things he is. Like the sun is always shining, even on a cloudy day. Someday the sun will burn out but God will still be there being who he is and has been.

Psalm 86 is a plea for help but is dripping with praise for this God we worship. Why? Because he’s worth it.

“1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
they have no regard for you.
15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
just as my mother did.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

I hope for us all that no matter what situation we are in today that we can pause just a moment and look at God and tell Him what we see in Him. Be honest. He can take it. An honest prayer of frustration is better than a fake prayer of praise. I believe He is worthy of praise, but I also know there is pain and hurt that we don’t understand and it can filter our view of Him like the clouds block the sun and make everything look shadowy and sad. I know he loves us. I know he loves me. I know he loves you.

How do I know that? Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, (Jesus) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Kiss a boo-boo

Sometimes when I’m hurt or angry I don’t go to Jesus first. I know what he will say, forgive as you have been forgiven. I don’t want to forgive, I was wronged or damaged or disappointed and it hurts. I want to be coddled and soothed and petted and sided with. I have unmet expectations and the world is not serving me like it should.

That’s a dangerous place to be. There is someone who will cuddle me and soothe me and take my side. He is no friend. He is the enemy of my soul. He wants me to build a case, build a wall, build my resentment, build my anger all the while he wants to tear me down, tear me away, tear me apart. He will do anything it takes to keep me from remembering Jesus’ words, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 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.”
Matthew 6:12,14-15

If he succeeds in getting me to stumble, then he has a wedge between God and me. Now not only am I angry but now I am also ashamed. I want to cleanse myself before I approach God but there is no way to pre-rinse the stain of sin.

Jesus always meets me where I am. Meets me in my need.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

If you who are reading this are stuck in the hurt/anger/sin/shame cycle too, let us both jump off of this not-so-merry-go-round and ask forgiveness and also be forgiven. I also want to go back up the path of my life and see where I can begin to apply God’s word in my life so I can avoid this Nauseating cycle.

Jesus forgive me. I also forgive those who’ve hurt me. Help me avoid this cycle Jesus, show me in your word how to live better. Amen?

(Our name here)

I did it again. I said I wouldn’t. I swore I wouldn’t. I promised that I wouldn’t but I did. I did it again.

If God is just a stern bookkeeper ticking a box every time I sin and clucking his tongue, shaking his head sadly as he gazes down at me across the void of time and space, arms crossed and a sad but stern look on his face, then I am sunk. I am done. Sin wins. I am out.

But hang on. Maybe God isn’t like that. Maybe God is instead a loving father. Maybe he cares about me. Maybe he even loves me. Maybe he forgives my sin and once they are forgiven forgets my transgressions.

What evidence do I have of that. There is much but today I read Psalm 130 and found more evidence of a loving, merciful and forgiving God.

“From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?

But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him.

I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.
Psalm 130:1-8 – NLT

We can put ourselves into this psalm.

O (our name here)hope in the Lord.

He himself will redeem (our name here) from every kind of sin.

It’s been done. Jesus’ death on the cross was the payment for our sin. His resurrection was the sign that he is God’s son and that he has won the victory over sin and death.

The apostle John records this about that.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17 – NLT

A new relationship with a loving God is a prayer away.

Change is not always welcome

Acts 19

Paul is in Ephesus.

Jesus can change lives. When he changes lives cultures begin to change.

“On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[a] and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”

Paul preached, the people believed, then started living life in a new way. It started to change the culture, even shifting the economy.

“24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”’

What businesses will we change as Jesus becomes our master and our behavior becomes less selfish, more caring, more forgiving, more loving? Can we change divorce court? Can we share so much that we don’t need welfare? The goal is not to change the world but to share Jesus’ love with each person. As He changes hearts and lives our world and our culture will change.

Demetrius caused a riot because Christianity had changed the world around him and he didn’t like it or understand it. I wonder if anyone ever shared Jesus with him? Are there influential people in my life that I can talk to about how Jesus has changed me?

Jesus use me. Keep me clean. Help me tell the people around me about you.

The second most important thing in human history

In my estimation the next section of Matthew 27 records the second most important thing to ever happen in human history.

“On their way out of the city they met a man called Simon, a native of Cyrene in Africa, and they compelled him to carry Jesus’ cross. Then when they came to a place called Golgotha they offered him a drink of wine mixed with some bitter drug (or vinegar mixed with gall or myrrh in other versions of the New Testament), but when he had tasted it he refused to drink. And when they had nailed him to the cross they shared out his clothes by drawing lots. Then they sat down to keep guard over him. And over his head they put a placard with the charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Now two bandits were crucified with Jesus at the same time, one on either side of him. The passers-by nodded knowingly and called out to him, in mockery, “Hi, you who could pull down the Temple and build it up again in three days—why don’t you save yourself? If you are the Son of God, step down from the cross!” The chief priests also joined the scribes and elders in jeering at him, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! If this is the king of Israel, why doesn’t he come down from the cross now, and we’ll believe him! He trusted in God… let God rescue him if He will have anything to do with him! For he said, ‘I am God’s son’.” Even the bandits who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him. Then from midday until three o’clock darkness spread over the whole countryside, and then Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of those who were standing there heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic—Eli (or Eloi), Eli lama sabachthani?, and said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” And one of them ran off and fetched a sponge, soaked it in vinegar and put it on a long stick and held it up for him to drink. But the others said, “Let him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” But Jesus gave one more great cry, and died. And the sanctuary curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The ground shook, rocks split and graves were opened. (A number of bodies of holy men who were asleep in death rose again. They left their graves after Jesus’ resurrection and entered the holy city and appeared to many people.) When the centurion and his company who were keeping guard over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening they were terrified. “Indeed he was the son of God!” they said. There were many women at the scene watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to his needs. Among them was Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”
Matthew 27:32-33,36,38,45,47,51,54-55

It is the second most important because without THE most important thing, the second doesn’t matter at all. Jesus was a good man. Many good men have died. Jesus was an innocent man. Many innocent men have died. Jesus died for a cause. Many men have died for a cause.

The second most important and miraculous thing Jesus did was die.

The upper most important miraculous thing Jesus did? Jesus rose from the dead. One act without the other makes both unspectacular. You can’t rise from the dead without dying first so the two events are inseparable.

Without Jesus dying, our sins are unforgiven. Without Jesus rising from the dead there is no power at work and he was just a nice guy who came to an unfortunate end.

He did die. He died not for his crimes or sins, he died for my sins, for our sins, for all sin for all time.

Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 –

In his letter to the Romans Paul says this, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Romans 5:6-11

When Jesus died, he became our sin. His death wiped away all of it. When Jesus died he showed how much he loves us, how far he is willing to go to provide forgiveness for us. When Jesus died, he took our punishment away.

When Jesus rose from the grave he showed his great power and his defeat of death.

Jesus has defeated our two greatest enemies, sin and death and he has bridged the gap between us and God so that we can be welcomed back into God’s presence again.

It is all a conversation (some would say a prayer) away. God has arranged it all, we just need to accept and show up.

This morning I received an email with a confirmation of my travel to Dalian China for our company. It’s all paid for, I just have to show up at the gate and show my passport. This Jesus thing is like that. All paid for. Just show up.

Living the life of a follower

Acts 18

The homespun chapter.

There is still much travel. We start out in Athens and then travel to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea and Antioch. How can this be the homespun chapter?

The chapter talks about making new friends, meeting Priscilla and Aquila, meeting Apollos. And old friends reunited- Timothy and Silas rejoin the team. Then it also talks about just living life, making tents.

“2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

I like this chapter. Maybe because it shows real life. Maybe because it shows friendship and fellowship, maybe because it shows discipleship and inclusion,maybe because God speaks encouragement. But I think mostly because it shows that Christianity isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s a part of a life, a real life.

I know I haven’t arrived. I’m not done learning, growing or failing. I haven’t outgrown the need for grace and forgiveness. Thank you Jesus that you know me and love me and forgive me. Forgive me.

Save, heal, protect and bless my friends and family. Become more real to us Jesus.

(I wrote this 5 years ago. There is a good chance that there are multiple copies here on my blog. I hope that’s okay with you my reader. If I think back to five years ago, we have added 5 grandkids since then, we lost my Father in law Harold and my Uncle Delvin, many friends too. We went to Scotland. We moved to a new house. Our family dynamic changed radically. Many, many changes and yet the message of this stays the same. Life is to be lived. Following Jesus isn’t a destination it is a journey. Focusing on our master, following him, listening to him, allowing him to lead me as I lead my family. Letting him correct me when I am wrong, seeking his forgiveness when I have failed. A lot has changed in 5 years but following Jesus is still the same. May you be encouraged today to keep following. Or if you are not a follower, please join us and be loved and forgiven and follow with us, our kind master, Jesus.)

He and his household…

Acts 16

We meet Timothy.

Paul is told where not to preach(?)

Paul is told where to preach. (Macedonia)

We meet the lovely (of heart) and gracious Lydia.

Paul is joined by the author, Dr Luke, (“We” & “us”).

Households come to know Jesus.

“15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”

“33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.”

Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and still do a prison worship service. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”’

The question still gets asked today, what must I do to be saved? To be free of my sin, all of my mistakes that I drag around with me, like a cesspool on wheels.

The message of Paul is still the same today. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.

That is some good news.

What about you and your household? Will you receive Gods gracious gift of forgiveness today?

Today

Today.

I’ve been wondering if what I say about Jesus is enough. I simplify the gospel and tell people that Jesus died for our sins. All of us and all of it. I often leave out the part, the important part that he rose from the dead and now lives forever. Death has no hold on him and if I accept his gift of forgiveness, death will not hold me either.

In Jesus we have the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

All the rest our human heroes of the past have a grave we can visit. A grave where our heroes body is turning back into dust. Not so with Jesus. There is a grave but it’s empty. He was physically raised from the dead, body and spirit.

I want to make sure that I’m sharing the whole story.

Psalm 69 says this: “5 You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
6 Lord, the Lord Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.”

I am not perfect. In fact I was a sinner from birth and even after God met me in my need as a 20 year old, I still stumble and fall. Jesus continues, is continuing to forgive me even now. I expect more of myself. He continues to forgive. I fail and shrivel and hide from him but when I confess and repent there is a fresh supply of grace and mercy waiting for me. Like fresh muffins in the morning his mercies are new at every place I need Him.

Today. It’s the only day we can count on. Today. Consider the offer Jesus is making to all of us; forgiveness and eternal life. Today.

Feeling chilly?

I’ve been reading the Psalms. They are ancient songs, most written by David who was the second king of Israel.

It is not politically correct. Living in our American PC world where morality is upside down its strange to read non PC literature. But I guess none of the bible is PC. It is true, it is right and it pulls no punches to appease us who read it.

I found this today in Psalm 68.

“1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

There is only one way to be righteous, and that is to be covered over in the righteousness of Jesus. It’s like it’s a cold winter day and all of us are naked standing in the cold freezing. We have no protection from the coldness of our sin. Jesus comes along and wraps us in his coat, his warmth, his love, his protection, his perfection. We can be covered by his righteousness.

Evil will lose. God will reign. God is worth all our praise because he is a God who has not abandoned us but provided a coat of protection through his Son Jesus. Among all of the rest of us, He is the God of the fatherless, the widow and the lonely.

“19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.”

A blessing and a warning.

Be blessed today. Come in out of the cold. Take the warmth of Jesus offered to you today.

Paul – the Timex of preachers

Acts 14

Timex had an advertising slogan that said of their watches, ”it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’”. They were selling the toughness of their watches. In this chapter will see that statement is even more true of Paul.

The cities change but the message never changes. It is the good news that all of our sins are forgiven through the sacrificial death of Jesus.

Jews and Gentiles (we are all one or the other) we all have the same gift from God. Jesus is the savior for everyone, for every one.

This chapter is encouraging to me. Not just because a great number believed in every town they went, and not just because miracles followed them.

“8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.”

Not just that but also because not everyone accepted the good news, in fact Paul was stoned and left for dead by a crowd who opposed the message of good news. Paul was not dissuaded by angry mob who tried to kill him. An angry mob was not able to kill the messenger or stop the message.

“19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

They just kept preaching. I sometimes determine whether or not I’m doing the will of God with the opposition test. None to little opposition means I am in God’s will, opposition means try something else but that isn’t what we see here. When opposition came they changed locations but not vocations and message stayed the same. Jesus came to save sinners. Paul even went back into the city for the night.

“21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[a] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.”

I don’t think that God is asking me to travel and share his message for a vocation. I think God is saying through this text that the opposition test is not a valid test.

Share the good news everywhere I go and don’t be deterred by opposition.

That’s what I’m hearing.

What are you hearing from God in these texts?

May I suggest…?

Acts 13

What did Paul look like? I’d like to think that he looked Tom Hanks, medium build, handsome, friendly, approachable. But what if he looked like Woody, not the doll, but the actor writer, director Woody Allen? It’s more likely. He was Jewish. What about Barnabus?who did Barnabus look like? I think of Patrick Warburton. The voice of Kronk in the emperors new groove.

Now with that picture in mind read the chapter.

“Acts 13:2-5New International Version (NIV)

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.”

Saul changes his name to Paul. And he begins to do what he was created for, build and build up the Church.

“9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.”

“15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!”

Paul then goes onto do a very thorough explanation of the person and mission of Jesus.

The Jewish people would reject him and so he immediately began to speak to the gentile population.

I think that Paul was a small man in stature but a giant in intellect, in passion and in purpose.

He jumped into the new role of traveling evangelist with everything he had and everything that he was.

So a guy who looked like Woody Allen and a guy who looked like Patrick Warburton walked into a synagogue….and the world would never be the same.

“49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus use me to change the part of the world that you have set me in.

Ransom

Entry 1 of 3) 1 : a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity. 2 : the act of ransoming.

Merriam-Webster › dictionary › ran…

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.

How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.

Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.

He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our Lord! He gives food to those who fear him; he always remembers his covenant.

He has shown his great power to his people by giving them the lands of other nations.

All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.

He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.

What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!
Psalm 111:1-10 – NLT

When I read this psalm the word Ransom stood out. God has ransomed us.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all slaves, more than that, we are prisoners. We are slaves to sin. We are all also owned by death and one day death will demand payment.

God has a plan to set us free. The payment is the life of his son, Jesus. Jesus death is the ransom for our sin. His resurrection is proof and payment that sets us free from death.

I’m apologize that I keep yammering in about this Jesus guy and him setting us free. If you are a believer in Jesus and your reading this good for you. Share your faith with someone who doesn’t know him yet, doesn’t know that he has paid the ransom, our ransom, my ransom, your ransom. We are set free.

My hope is to be read by a person who does not know and has not heard of Jesus. My hope is that you my reader, if you haven’t heard of this before, this God/man Jesus dying and paying our ransom and setting us free, that you will consider accepting the offer of forgiveness and freedom. I hope you will.

Jesus loves us. You and me. He is our ransom.

Can we truly change?

Acts 11

Can a leopard Change its spots?

I don’t think so. But that is what is usually asked when there is a question about some person changing their mind or heart or character or position. Can a person really change or is our die cast at birth and we are just living life the way we are designed?

Just two chapters ago this is how Saul is described, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Can people change? I don’t think we can change ourselves. But that isn’t really the situation here. The real question is, can God change a person once Jesus is their savior? Can people be rehabilitated by Gods spirit living in them?

“19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. “

Can God change a person? From the evidence here in this chapter the answer is YES. From the evidence in my own life and my experience of other people who have received Jesus the answer is YES.

God through the living in us spirit can change us. Saul started pastoring here in Antioch. It’s here that we get the name Christian. It means little Christ. An imitator or clone of Jesus. I like it. It doesn’t always apply to me, I am not always Christlike but I bear the name as something to grow into.

Saul who will soon change his name to Paul and go on to write most of the New Testament is brought into the ministry by Barnabas. Son of encouragement, that’s what his name means. That’s what I want to be. That’s what I need in my life. That’s what role my wife Mary has played in my life. Encouragers, the world needs more of those.

I sum up. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus can and will change people. Jesus is changing me. Jesus can and will change anyone who admits they need forgiveness and accepts Jesus death as payment for their mistakes. Persecutors can become pastors and bible writers. I want to be a little Christ (Christian) who encourages people.

“And the rest…”

Acts 10

And the rest…

Here is where we come in.

Up to this point in the story Christianity was as a sect of Judaism. God had other plans. God had bigger plans. God had plans that would eventually include me, not exclude me.

“34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus had said that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, the city, Judea, the area, Samaria, the area next door, and the utter most parts of the world, and the rest. I think that they were thinking geographically. That they would travel and tell their story to the Jews in the utter most parts of the world but God wasn’t talking about land masses. He didn’t come to save the land masses. He didn’t come to just save Jewish people. Jesus came to save the masses. Jesus came to save the masses that are messes. I am one. I am one of the mass that is a mess. I am a sinner. I’ve done things. but more than that, I still, even after accepting Jesus as my savior want to stray away. My heart is self centered and bent on wanting what it wants. Jesus knew all that and he died for me anyway because he loves me, he loves us.

Because of Cornelius and his family, and Peters obedience I can be welcomed into the family of God without becoming a Jew first. I don’t know all of the details but The process of becoming a Jew was not easy and would leave a convert always on the outside.

Bob Denver wanted equal billing for all of the characters on Gilligans Isle. The first seasons theme song did not mention 2 of the characters, it only said, “and the rest”. Again I don’t know all the details but Bob Denver went to the producers and requested equal representation so after the first season we get to sing, “the professor and Maryanne,”. Because God so loved the world, the masses of people not the masses of land, he gave his only Son that whosoever would believe in Him, would not perish but have everlasting life. God loves us who were not born into the Jewish line and we can become his children through faith in his son Jesus.

Good news for ALL of us. In Gods song of salvation our names can be included.

Revealing his feelings

How do you feel about God? What do you believe about him? What does he think of you? Does he think of you?

God has revealed himself through his word the Bible. He has shown his character throughout time in the way he deals with us his…children? Yes. God views us like a loving father.

“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!
Psalm 103:8-18 – NLT

God loves humanity. He sent his son to save us because we are all broken on the inside. Jesus came because God so loved the world. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Jesus came to heal the sick, it is the not healthy that need a doctor but the sick. Jesus came because we need him. God wants us to obey his commandments but because of our brokenness, we cannot. Jesus came to fulfill all of the commandments and then die to pay for the all the broken commandments that we have stacked up.

Does God think about us? If he does, how he think about us?

““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17 – NLT

Even now

God is big.

God is eternal.

God is powerful.

God has a plan and He is still moving it forward.

Right now our world is like a rusty old hulk of a ship that has slipped from its moorings and the sea is getting rough. No one seems to be piloting the ship, or more accurately, everyone is piloting the ship, there is no standard direction and it looks bad for all of us.

Is there any hope for us?

I read Psalm 93 this morning and my hope and trust in God and his plan are renewed.

“The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past. The floods have risen up, O Lord. The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves. But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore— the Lord above is mightier than these! Your royal laws cannot be changed. Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever.”
Psalm 93:1-5 – NLT

In Revelation we get a peek into heaven and we see Jesus. He is God, and he is magnificent.

“It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
Revelation 1:10-18 – NLT

God is big, bigger than we can imagine and his plan and his purpose will prevail.

John begins his book with a declaration of God’s eternal nature and off the work that Jesus accomplished in us and for us.

“Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
Revelation 1:4-6 – NLT

To him who was and is and is still to come, our Jesus. Jesus I trust you to get me safely home to you.

The truth is not received

Acts 7

Stephen preaches.

His sermon is long and filled with history, Jewish history, Israel’s history. His words point out that the plan all along was Jesus. Gods role in the history of Israel was all to bring out Jesus. All the patriarchs and prophets and people were providing a path to Jesus.

Jesus is THE plan and path for our salvation.

What is salvation? It is having all of our sins washed away because one perfect man who was in fact God in the flesh, willingly died in our place. He willingly took on all of our sins. All of us. All of it. And he died. And then he came back to life. All we have to do is confess that we need forgiveness and then accept the forgiveness God offers us in Jesus.

The surprise of this chapter is that after preaching eloquently, and passionately the crowd doesn’t receive what Stephen said. Instead they pound him with rocks until he is dead.

He didn’t go out fighting, he went out contending, contending for the faith. He went out like Jesus did, he went out forgiving. I hope I follow his example.

“59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

And we meet Saul, Professional Christian hater. Little did he know how this Jesus would change his life.

“Peek-a-boo, I see you…“

John 8

What if God knew our secrets?

“8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

We don’t know what Jesus wrote with his finger on the ground. We can only guess. The Text says that the older men left first. This was a society that esteemed elders and they would’ve been in the front. They would’ve seen what Jesus was writing first. I believe Jesus was writing out the list of each mans dalliances, names and dates.

Who was without sin? not one in that crowd. There is no crowd where the outcome would be any different. No one is without sin.

The one man who lived his life without sinning, Jesus, stood there completely justified to condemn this woman but instead he forgave her.

What if God knew our secrets?

He does.

He knows all of them. He knows all of our past. Here’s the hard part to understand, he still loves us. Jesus knew us and and our sin and yet went to the cross to pay for them all, to pay for us all.

I did some stuff, bad stuff. I was young and stupid. I cannot undo what I did. I recently met an older gentleman who knows part of my story. I can’t see him without thinking about that part of my life and feeling shame and remorse. He only knows part of my story. God knows it all. Every detail. Every motive. Every move I made, he was watching me. He has enough on me to condemn me for eternity but instead he has forgiven it all.

Jesus paid it all. It’s not fair, but it’s true. I walk away forgiven.

Thank you Jesus. You have set me free!

title: Entitled

“You ain’t from around here are ya’…”

I remember hearing that line in many a western i watched on Saturday afternoons as a kid. The saloon doors swing wide and the stranger enters the bar looking for a beverage to slake his thirst. some crusty local would notice something about the stranger that made him stand out.

When Paul wrote to the Jesus followers in Philippi he encouraged them to stand out with their way of living.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
Philippians 1:27-30 – NIV

Jesus told his disciples that they would be known by how much they love each other. But this following Jesus life, it’s not all cocoa and warm hugs. We are to love a world full of broken people, even if and especially if they don’t love us back.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter and he makes no apologies for his suffering nor does he sugar coat what life will be like for those who follow Jesus.

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

As a follower of Jesus we can expect to suffer from the hands of the world we are trying to reach with the good news of forgiveness in Jesus.

So why does suffering still surprise me? As a 21st century American I have grown up feeling entitled to certain things, i have grown up on a steady diet of being told that I deserve comfort and rest and refreshment and recreation; I’ve been told I deserve the best the world has to offer. I have been brainwashed into believing that all pleasures are good and I deserve them whenever I want them and all suffering is bad and is to be avoided at all costs. I should not be surprised and I don’t have to allow myself to be fooled. I live in a broken world filled with broken people, myself included and in this world bad things happen. Add to that painting a target on myself by identifying myself as a follower of Jesus and suffering will come.

I started out talking about citizenship and belonging and sticking out as different for all the right reasons. How we deal with suffering can be one of those differences. One version of 1 Corinthians 13 when describing a God influenced and infused love says, love suffers long, and is kind.

We aren’t from around here. Our loving behavior should be our the sign that says our citizenship is from another place. We belong to God and our home is in heaven with him.