Being good

CS Lewis

From Mere Christianity on being good.

“Even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam – he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never acquire by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble- because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ himself carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position than other people who are trying to be good, to please God if there is one; or – if they think there is not- at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.“

In my early adulthood, I was on a quest to earn God’s favor and his love, I was enrolled in college taking a pre-ministry course. My plan was to become a pastor so God would have to love me and accept me. That plan was flawed. I could not earn Gods love by being good. And As they say life happens, literally a life happened, my wife was pregnant with our first child, our son Aaron, so I left school and took over my parents Cafe. It was in the back room of the cafe, standing next to the dishwasher when I heard God speak to me the words of Ephesians 2:8-9.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 – NIV

I realized that I didn’t need to become a pastor for God to love me, I didn’t need to do anything, God already loved me, and he completed my salvation through his Son Jesus and he was (is) willing ready and able to by his grace share his salvation, pour his salvation on me, over me, to cleanse me and envelope me and include me in His family.

That same grace is extended to every breathing soul on this earth. God loves us, loves you my reader. Will you accept his gift of love today? If you already have accepted his gift, will you share the good news of God’s love with one person today?

May God bless you and wrap you up in his love today.

Loyalties and Royalties

I could call myself a Seattle Seahawks fan but you would be hard pressed to find evidence of it in my life. I am a fan in the loosest terms. I watched more Seahawks football than any other team in the NFL. Unless you count the other team that was also playing the day I turned on the game and saw 2 or 3 plays. But I was rooting for the Hawks. Go Hawks!

Too little – too late?

Almost done reading through Matthew 7.

There are some people who call themselves Christians but there is no evidence to that fact in their lives. Calling Jesus Lord and living as Jesus being Lord (Lord means master or boss or the one who can give direction to us and we follow without question or hesitation) are two different things.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Prophesying, driving out demons, performing miracles, that all sounds like evidence of Jesus being Lord but those are all very public, very showey activities. God looks at our heart and our motives, not at our actions.

Later on in Matthew, chapter 25 Jesus will talk about behavior that proves a heart change. A heart ruled by Jesus will have evidence.

“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”’

Does my life show a concern for the physical needs of others. Do I care about and for those around me? Does Jesus have control of this heart of mine? I am I a show-er or a go-er?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

“Don’t delay…!”

“You need to act quickly the offer won’t last for long. Operators are standing by. Don’t delay, Call now”

A sales pitch to create a sense of urgency.

Jesus makes a declaration in Matthew 7.

Not all of these words bring comfort. All of these words are true.

““Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus doesn’t say it here, but he does say in other places that he is the only way to our heavenly Father.

In John 10 Jesus uses the example of a sheep pen where shepherds put their sheep to keep them safe. He says that he is the gate to the sheep pen. The only way in is through him.

Jesus said in John 14, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This is some news that isn’t bad, it’s just restrictive.There is only one way to God and it is Jesus. The good news is that he has come and died for us all. Not everyone will believe that. There is more good news and that is that he rose from the dead and now lives forever. Not everyone will believe that. These truths are true for everyone. No one is excluded from the promise of forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven but not everyone will believe it and receive it.

Every person will make their own decision. I have decided to believe in Jesus and be welcomed into the family of God.

We have a limited time to respond. We have today, well, we have now. Not all of us will make it through this day. God is always standing by waiting for us to respond to his offer.

Don’t delay, call now.

George MacDonald on hearts.

I’m reading an anthology of George MacDonald collected and published by CS Lewis. There are 365 selected quotes and life and following Jesus. One for every day of the year. I have read 22 so far and each one I think “I should share this” but I’m reading them late at night and I am a tired and lazy man.

Tonight’s reading is about how our hearts are affected by our treasures how they become like our treasures.

I have seen folks that are storing up earthly treasures and they seem on the surface to be successfully gathering, all the while winning favor with everyone and basically having it all. Feeding their flesh and their fantasies and all the while carrying the respect and admiration of all around them. As I watch and if i watch long enough, most every one of these people implode, or explode, or in some other fashion self destruct. It seems like something eats them from the inside out and no matter how many coats of sweet sugary varnish they apply over their life, eventually it all crumbles to the ground.

George MacDonald must’ve seen this in his day too. (1824-1905) Here is what he said :

“What is with a treasure must fare as the treasure…the heart which haunts the treasure house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure… Many a man, many a woman, fair and flourishing to see, is going about with a rusty moth-eaten heart within that form of strength or beauty. “But this is only a figure.” True. But is the reality intended, less or more than the figure?”

What eats or treasure will eat us.

19 ‘“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21 – NIV

Where is your treasure? That’s where you will find your heart as well. Jesus can renew and replace our rusty moth-eaten hearts if we ask him to.

How is your heart today?

I also must ask myself, how is my heart today?

Making the impossible possible

Matthew 7 has some verses that keep me going. Here are a few.

“7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Continuing to pray for the impossible. Sometimes I’ve had to that. But the thing behind the praying is kind of like the beginning of the the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”

When we are praying, we need stop and think, Who is it that we are praying to?

We are praying to the God who said “let there be light” and suddenly, even though light had never before existed and without a source for the light, there was light. This is the God we are praying to. Powerful, creative, unlimited. Everything we see and know has limits. God does not. What if what we need doesn’t exist now? How can we ask God for something that doesn’t exist? We can Because he is limitless and creative and powerful.

Before we start to pray let’s remember who we are praying to and before we give up and stop praying let’s remember who we are praying to.

One of the impossible things God has done is to make a way for sinful man like me to be with him, a Holy God, for eternity. He did this by sending his only son Jesus to die in my place. Jesus death has paid for all my mistakes, those done in ignorance and those willful deliberate disobediences. All my sin, all of our sins, forgiven. Impossible yet true.

God can and does do the impossible. That’s part of who he is.

(Some of those who know me expected me to bring up my truck Rusty. I didn’t. Or did I?)

Golden, golden rule

When I was 5 I told a cousin that they were going to hell for something they were doing. I think it had to do with a bicycle or a cookie, both very important things to a 5 year old.

“7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

In the years since then I have changed my position. I hope that they don’t go to hell. In fact I hope they ask Jesus to forgive them and they go to heaven.

I cannot, in the few minutes I spent researching to write this, find proof of this but I believe that was Jesus was saying in this passage is do not condemn to hell another person. Do not condemn.

Later in this chapter we see the the golden rule. The one rule that if we follow it we will also be following all the other rules.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I don’t want to be condemned to hell. I will not condemn my cousin, or anyone else to hell. There are people that make me crazy but I must treat them not as they deserve but as I want to treated. This is hard stuff.

Not doing so well with this this morning.

I am today just as I was when I was 5 in need of my own forgiveness.

Father forgive my sin. Help me forgive others.

God is light

Was it my fear of the dark that eventually led me to become an electrician? It could just be a coincidence. It still thrills me to go through the process of wiring and conduit and termination of devices, to get to the reveal-drumroll- -click- then let there be light!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7

Electricians participate in what God started at the beginning of creation. He said “let there be light” and there was light. Since God is light, does that mean he just entered the void where nothing was and just him being there brought light? Or did he create light that would be part of creation?

I don’t know and I suppose it doesn’t matter. What matters is that God is light, his character is light. That’s one of the scary things about him. We can’t hide in the shadows, we can’t cover or shade ourselves AND be in his presence. He is light, exposing us his exposure is not intended to shame us, (shame not being the impetus for repentance) but to make us aware of our own condition, our own direction, so we can repent and get set right and get cleaned up.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7

I get dressed in our basement in the morning. I dress in one room then turn off the light as I leave and head for the stairs up and out. Many times the darkness disorients me, I can’t find the stairs or the switch for the lights and I have walked into the walls and or tripped. What if once I found the switch and could see the way up and out, I refused the updated information and continued on my misguided path? that would be silly. So it is when we meet with God and refuse the information that his light of revelation brings us.

Jesus, being God also has character of light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

This quote comes directly after Jesus defended a woman caught in adultery. His light exposed her sin but did not condemn her for it, instead he forgave her.

Someday this light will light the earth , until that day…? What will we do with the light we have experienced that did not condemn but forgave, forgives us? Will we share it? Will we use it? Will we spread it as we share the good news of what Jesus has done in us and can do for anyone else who will confess and believe?

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
Revelation 21:22-24

Godislight #1john1

Jesus is ______?

Jesus has an exclusive. It is Jesus plus nothing, and Jesus or nothing.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 1:1-4

There is no one else who can truthfully claim to be the Word of life.

Jesus said in John’s Gospel “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

Our culture wants to downgrade Jesus, to make him one of many ways to God, but that is not what he said. He said we can’t get to the Father without going through him. Can Jesus lie and still be perfect? Can he exaggerate and still be sinless? Can he be mistaken and still be trustworthy? It looks like I have a choice to make, he can’t be one of many if he said he is THE way, THE truth and THE life. I choose to believe what he said about himself.

John also said this about Jesus in his Gospel “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:1-5

I can’t imagine how cool it would be to hang out with Jesus. John, the writer of this Book was a close friend, maybe the closest friend of Jesus. “We heard him, seen him, touched him…” He’ll say it again, “seen and heard”. John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry. He was one of 3 who got to see him transfigured on the the mountain top.

“Make our joy complete. “ John’s joy was to see people believing in Jesus and being saved. Our family, my dads side, us four siblings, any cousins and aunts and uncles we can gather will be meeting again this year. Loeffelbein’s are descendants of German immigrants. Our family has a history of being hard working industrious people. We know how to work. We don’t know as well how to play, how to relax. We are learning. We do enjoy getting together. There is sweet fellowship. There is family love.

Fellowship with God will be like this except beyond it, way way beyond it. Love that knows no boundaries or limits. Love that knows us completely, faults and fears, failures and foibles and still loves us completely. Engulfed in love, like the security of a warm newborn swaddle and the freedom of a moonlight skinny dip, blended together in perfection. I believe that I cannot fully comprehend what fellowship with God will be but I think it will be like the garden of Eden, fully exposed and unashamed. We receive Jesus not only to escape hell and avoid its tortures but to gain fellowship, with each other, the family of God, and with God our Father.

Jesus knew that sweet fellowship before he left heaven. He left that to come here to earth, to to live and love and serve, and in completion of that service, to suffer and die for our sins, for my sins, then raise to life again and go to back to heaven to intercede for me and make ready a place for me to spend eternity.

Today the Word of life is reaching out to each one of us. What will we do with his offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal fellowship with a God who loves us more and better than we can know or deserve?

Hallowed

Anthropomorphism. I do it all the time. It means to give human characteristics to non-human things. I do voices for our dogs to explain their facial expressions or their behavior. I do it for my truck Rusty, ascribing to him traits he doesn’t really have, or feelings or even masculinity. ( trucks are in fact gender neutral, but don’t tell Rusty).

When I looked up the word to make sure I was getting it right it said anthropomorphism is something we do to non-human things, especially deity, gods.

That’s strange for me to write deity, like there are a multitude of gods. I believe there is only one God and he exists in 3 persons but that’s not what I want to write about.

Matthew 6 has the prayer in it that we call the Lord’s Prayer.

I’ll quote it here in context but I really only want to look at the first line of the prayer.

“5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

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

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

Hallowed be your name. Why would Jesus recommend we start our prayers like that? Hallowed. It isn’t a word we use often. It means revered or holy. Holy is a word that grasps the meaning for me. Holy means separate or special or “other”.

All we see around us, all we can know or experience, is all part of the things God created but God himself is not part of his creation. He is holy, he is other, he is not from around here, he is different. Jesus knew our propensity to anthropomorphize things around us to help us understand them, but we cannot treat God that way. We cannot understand God better by attributing to him human characteristics. He made us in his image, it doesn’t work to return the favor and recreate him in our image. One reason for that is that that puts limits on God and God is limitless. When we sit down to pray and we start out by stating, “God, you are not from around here, you are not limited like I am, you are not a created being, instead, you are the creator, you are separate from us and yet you love us and joined yourself to us in Jesus, you became God in the flesh, you are to be hallowed, you are so awesome and great and fantastic that it makes me want to worship you”.

Once I have established that mind set, then I can get on with my prayer. I can pray for his kingdom to advance in our world because I believe only he knows what is best and can do what is best. I can ask for my needs to be met, I can ask to be forgiven, I can ask for guidance and protection because I am talking to my God, the creator of the universe.

Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Good news/bad news

The good news / bad news of Matthew 5.

Matthew 5 starts out with the beatitudes.

“3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I like what I hear until I get to verse 10. I’m challenged by 10-12. I guess I kind of want to think about persecution as a surprise and not an expected upcoming event. You can’t surprise God. And he doesn’t want us surprised by negative push back. Persecution will come.

Who can reject the gospel message? Who would ? I mean the very word gospel means good news. Who doesn’t want good news? Well unfortunately along with the good news there is bad news. The good news is that God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us. The bad news is that before we can receive Gods gift of forgiveness, we have to confess that we need to be forgiven. Everyone wants the forgiveness but not everyone wants to admit that they need forgiveness. Some people who have been hurt refuse the message of forgiveness because if they can be forgiven then so can the ones that hurt them. Everyone is invited to be forgiven. Not everyone will take God up on his offer. Some will rather damage or destroy the good news bearer than to hear and receive the message.

We are all in the same race. The human race. It’s a race that we all lose. We all lose to death. There was one who died and then came back from death. Jesus. If the race was to live life without sinning then there was the same one, Jesus, who lived his life as a man without sin. He is offering us to share in victories both over death and over sin.

There are many challenges in chapter 5. If we think our life is free if the “big sins”, he tells us that if we hated someone then we have killed that person in our hearts. If we have never touched another person sexually, but we thought about it, we committed the deed in our heart. It’s in the heart where sin is born and if our hands are clean but our hearts are dirty then we are dirty.

2 more challenges.

“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Love our enemies and pray for the very person who is persecuting us? That is a challenge.

The last verse is the topper. Being perfect. How can I be perfect? My heart goes places my hands will never go and God sees that. How can I be perfect?

I’ve heard it said that you do not have to be Good to get into heaven. You do not have to be good……you have to be perfect.

How can a sinner like me be perfect?

Jesus.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The bad news is we all need be forgiven. The good news is that God has already done that in Jesus

Growing in Grace

2 Peter, the last two verses, “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:17-18

These verses, especially verse 18, are significant to me.

When I was in my early 20s, an older guy took me under his wing and mentored me in my new faith in Jesus. He was a friend of the family, a dentist in the next town over. He would come over to our little cafe in the evening, once a week and lead a Bible study. He didn’t directly bring me to Salvation but he was around when I was saved, he did pray for me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and he encouraged me to grow as a Christian by asking me to memorize verse 18 of 2 Peter, chapter 3.

I wasn’t part of his church (yet). But he invested in my life anyway. Thank you Floyd Jacobson for sharing your life, and your savior with me.

The second reason that this verse is significant is because of what it says.

Grow.

Get bigger. Expand. Mature. Take up more space in. In Grace. Grace, unmerited favor. Whose favor? God’s favor. Why? Because the world, my own evil desires and rebellious heart, along with the hateful and destructive enemy of my soul will be actively trying to shrink, kill, distract and destruct my faith. I need to be even more actively involved and invested in my relationship with Jesus, keeping it alive and growing.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever and he is always worthy of praise and glory, yesterday today and forever.

Ever heard of the phrase “to know me is to love me”? That phrase has never been truer than when we apply it to Jesus. To grow in the knowledge of Jesus is to grow in love and trust of Jesus. There is no darkness or shadow or even a variation in him. As I’m writing these things about Jesus I am convicted that I don’t always apply this knowledge to my own life. I encourage myself then too, to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, to him be the glory, both now and forevermore, do you agree?

The test and the answers

Jesus.

His test.

He prepared for his life and his ministry by fasting 40 days.

He fought temptations with just words, but they were Gods words.

“4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When his cousin John was arrested and sent to prison, awaiting the death penalty he took up where John left off.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”

He began calling disciples. He said to four fishermen, “come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” One of those first four would be dead in 4 years.

(For the sake of accuracy James was probably killed in 44 AD. He may have been run through or disemboweled or Beheaded. He was killed for believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Killed for following Jesus.

“2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”)

He started teaching and preaching the “good news”. He then began healing everyone who was sick or lame, demon possessed, or even just hurting.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[g] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

Jesus. Who is he? How did he do this stuff? Why did he do this stuff? What am I supposed to do with him?

Life is the test. The questions are listed above. You have the rest of your life to finish the test. The thing is, no one knows how long that is.

This is how I answered those questions:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Three in one

Part of the Lutheran liturgy came to mind this morning.

“Holy holy holy, Lord God almighty, all thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea, Only thou art holy, there is none besides thee, God in three persons, blessed trinity.”

I guess it’s a hymn.

I grew up believing in God. I have since childhood believed that this God I believe in is one God in 3 persons.

Today I read about it in Matthew 3.

“13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

All three of the persons of the Godhead are here, the Father is speaking from heaven, the Holy Spirit is descending in the form of a dove and the Son is there in the flesh.

We don’t have a plethora of gods to sort through when we pray like so many cultures do. We have one God. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I believed in God since childhood, but believing he exists and knowing and trusting him as my savior are two different things. I received him as savior when I realized that I couldn’t be good enough and God knew that and gave Jesus his son to pay for my sin. I confessed my need and received forgiveness all in an instant standing next to the dishwasher in my parents cafe.

Have you received Jesus as your savior yet? Today would be a good day to do that. He is waiting for you.

Dreamers…

(From 2017)

It’s a new year so I started a new book. I started reading the book of Matthew. In the first 2 chapters one thing stood out to me. While in the Christmas story in Luke, angels are speaking directly to Zacharias and to Mary, in Matthew, Joseph is spoken to through dreams. There are 4 dreams recorded in the just these chapters.

As I was driving home yesterday listening to the radio I was reminded of another bible character named Joseph, (my daughter Lizzy used to pronounce it Jo-fiss). He was Jacob’s son, the favored son, the son of his much beloved wife Rachel. He was also a dreamer. Not in the sense that he lazed around just thinking about stuff, but that God gave him prophetic dreams, and gave him the ability to interpret other peoples dreams. He was able to be used to interpret Pharoh’s dream and it landed him at the number two position in Egypt.

Dreams. God has used dreams in my life to help guide me and my family. He used one dream to let us know that it was time to leave the church denomination that I was raised in and find a new one, one that emphasized salvation by grace, that taught the bible and that would help me raise my children to know Jesus as their savior.

God used another dream to let me know that my food service career was coming to end. That was a scary time but He was faithful and we never missed a meal or a house payment.

God is still speaking and moving. God is still gathering his people, still guiding and providing for his people. Sometimes he speaks through dreams. Always he speaks through his word and through his Holy Spirit.

As I imagine the scene of the angel of God visiting the house of Joseph and finding him asleep. I think about the hard physical labor involved in being a carpenter in the first century. Every step of forming wood into a table, or a chair, or just the process of making a tree into a board so it could be made into something else. Exhausting work. Did he arrive at the house ready to talk but found Joseph already snoring. Do you suppose when the angel saw Joseph asleep he said to himself, “Aw, isn’t he cute when he’s asleep?”

“19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

God sees us and knows us. When we are asleep and when we are awake. He longs to communicate with us. What he most wants to tell us is, “I Love You! I gave up my only son to die in your place so we can be together. I raised him from the dead and now we can be together forever. Because he lives, you can live. Forever with us.”

I don’t want to put imaginary words in the mouth of God so here is a verse that says it.

” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16

Some encouragement

1 Thessalonians

Highlights

I read through the book of 1 Thessalonians this morning and it was so refreshing. Paul really loved these people and the entire letter is filled with encouragement.

I wanted to share 3 quick snippets.

This first was Paul reminding the folks how his group treated them. I see it as A word to fathers: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Then a word about the end of all days. It was written to comfort those who had lost loved ones to death: “13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Jesus is coming back! No one who knows Jesus and dies is really gone. We will meet them when we meet him. That is good news.

Then this, my prayer for myself and family and all who read this today: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Jesus loves us and he is coming back for us. In the meantime he is continuing to perfect us. Woo hoo!

Answered prayer and seed faith

My truck Rusty has recently received some attention. Our story of how we came together is unique.

I would like to stress 2 things that maybe faded to the the background in the retelling of the story.

The first is I prayed, I asked God for another 57 Chevy pickup and for the years and years when I didn’t get one and His answer seemed to be “NO”, I kept asking. “God I know this is stupid, and there are so many more important things, like salvation for my family and friends, keeping us safe, keeping us healthy, providing for us, but God, after you have taken care of all that, may I have another 57 Chevy pickup?”

Then I went on with life but God wasn’t saying “no”, he was saying “wait”. While I was waiting the answer seemed like “no”. In a world where everything is available and can be had through the wonder of the internet and credit cards, I waited. I wasn’t a faith filled man, I was a poor man. Financially there was no other option.

My truck Rusty is an answer to a prayer that I kept on praying. I don’t want to highlight my persistence, I want to highlight our God who hears silly prayers and answers in His perfect timing.

The second thing I wanted to emphasize is the seed. Just recently I read through 1 Corinthians and in chapter 15 Paul is talking about the resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection.

“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”

I had a horn button for a 57 Chevy truck. I called it my 57 Chevy truck seed. I gave it away. I had kept it for decades but I gave it away. In doing that I symbolically buried it. From it grew my truck Rusty.

The analogy breaks down here because Rusty is not eternal but he has been “born again”, given a new life.

That can happen to each one of us too, except being mortals, we are given the opportunity to become immortal, to live forever.

“42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we confess our need for a savior, admit we are broken, accept Jesus gift of forgiveness, he has paid for all of our sin, we can be forgiven, cleansed and made immortal. We will live forever with Jesus. Come and join our family who call God our father and live forever.

Tool maker

A very long time ago a man who is gifted in the prophetic gifts gave a bible verse to Mary and me. He gave us more than one but as I was reading through 1 Corinthians 16 I saw it and remembered that day.

The verse is 9 but I will put it in context and add some at the beginning. This is Paul speaking to his congregation at Corinth.

“After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”

This verse and this event take me back to a time when my belief was new and exciting and scary. God spoke to me then through this man, a prophet. He is speaking now through the Bible and through other believers but it isn’t as specific as that verse was to me that day.

I don’t know how that verse has been fulfilled in my life, at the time, it made me think of mass evangelism but that isn’t what I have done. I raised a family. I worked and lived and Mary and I stayed married. I haven’t started any churches like Paul did. I served in one, the same one for about 32 years.

This verse though makes me think of another verse that explains my life a little better.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

This verse makes me think that God isn’t a trophy maker, He is a tool maker. When we are saved he changes us into tools that he can then use to enlarge His kingdom.

As a electrician I know that every job requires specific tools to get the job done.

Father God, May I be one of those in Your hands today.

Living beyond

(I wrote this in 2018, 3 years ago. Mary and I did travel to Scotland that year but this isn’t necessarily about international travel, it’s more about moving outside the status quo, the stagnant ruts our lives get in. Please read on and see if there is a challenge for you here.)

I want to live beyond.

It’s a longing of my soul that nothing here can satisfy, no drink can slake my thirst.

Part of the call is a call to adventure. Mary and I took a trip to Italy, that’s how it looked on paper. What we really did was answer a call to an adventure.
I recently read this quote by Chesterton “an adventure by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing we choose”. Mary and I have had many late night talks about going back but if we do, it would be a trip we planned, not an adventure. I keep watching and waiting to hear adventure call again. Two years before that we went on the adventure of recording her album. An adventure has at its core, a greater purpose, a bigger story where even if our role is only as an extra, or a gaffer, (whatever that is, I’ve seen it in movie credits) we are part of a bigger story.

I said that I want to live beyond, not the great beyond necessarily, I would gladly go there, but while I’m still in this body on this planet with all of you, I want to live in the beyond. I want to live beyond hopeful, and be confident. (Right now if my wife is reading this she’s probably thinking “I’d settle for hopeful”, I tend to be doubtful). I think this is new thing.

I want to live beyond thankful and I’m not sure what that is, possibly generous? Generously.

I want to live beyond forgiven. What is that? Forgive-ing? There are more of these than i can think of now, living beyond, and I’m hoping that I live the rest of my days in the beyond.

It starts with feeling like this about God.

“Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind! Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.”
Psalm 66:5,8-9

Starting at grateful but living beyond it, worshipful? My acts of worship sometimes focus on the warm fuzzies I get when I touch the heart of God, those are so beautiful, I always cry…then the snot. Being so grateful that worship becomes my normal. But actually focusing on blessing God with my worship, without the hoping and planning for what it does for me.

Anyway, If were going to say how I want this next year to be different, that would be to start living in the beyond, and maybe my adventure will never take me outside the boundaries of my life now, but it will be moving into something new. I can feel spring breezes of change faintly blowing in my soul already, scented with petunias and pines and ocean sprays and I can faintly hear the babble of babies and rivers and i hear the unfamiliar languages of the angels.

Beyond is calling, no, Jesus is calling, he is calling me to begin to live beyond…

Religion & Rocketry

From C.S. Lewis
I am reading a book by C.S.Lewis called “the world’s last night” in it is a short article called “religion and Rocketry”. The article discusses the possibility of life outside our planet and the implications of that possibility to Christianity. Many who don’t believe in God or in Christ use this possibility as an argument against both God as creator and his son Jesus as redeemer. I recommend reading the book and especially this short article.

Lewis asks 5 questions, I was most provoked to thought by question 3.

“If there are any rational species other than man, are any or all of them, like us, fallen? This is the point that non-christians always seem to forget. They seem to think that the incarnation implies some particular merit or excellence in humanity. But of course it implies the reverse: a particular demerit or depravity. No creature that deserved redemption would need to be redeemed. They that are whole need not the physician. Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it. Notice what waves of utterly unwarranted hypothesis these critics of Christianity want us to swim through. We are now supposing the fall of hypothetically rational creatures whose mere existence is hypothetical!”

Paul in his letter to the believers in Rome said 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.”
Romans 5:6-8 NIV

We don’t have to be good for God to love us. He just does. He came to earth not that he needed us but that we need him.

It is a new year today, 2020. I am struggling for new ways to say the same old thing. Right now I’m gazing at our beautiful Christmas tree completely covered in sparkles and shiny and color. Light is refracted and reflecting every which way. I’m thinking that If I could turn a phrase like a twisting ornament and flash truth just right so it can sparkle into a heart and mind so that someone understands in a new way, the love that God has shown us in sending us Jesus, that would be a fantastic gift to end this Christmas season and start a new year.

Is it you today?

Forgetting and forging ahead

(I wrote this in 2018 so I had to update the dates. the information and the challenge apply to this year too. Happy New Year to you. May the new year bring us new life and new hope.)

It is New Year’s Eve. 2020 is almost in the books. Some of this year has been very good. Some of it not so much. We did some amazing things. But some of my bad habits followed me. I tend to focus on my failures because I want to not repeat them. I opened my bible ap and this is what I read:

“This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I believe in and worship and follow and am lead by an invisible God. I believe he created and sustains everything that exists. The earth will revolve on its axis and the sun will appear on the eastern horizon because a God who can create everything from nothing has said it should be so. God has revealed himself in a couple of ways, through his word, the Bible and through his son, Jesus. This Jesus lived a perfect life, and yet was brutally killed. We sing about his death. I was struck with how odd that must sound to people who don’t know the story. Why do we sing about his death? We believe that his death paid for our sins and we believe that death could not hold this Jesus, that he physically rose from the dead three days later. We believe that since death cannot hold Jesus, that it also has no power over those who believe in him.

This is the eve of a an old year being changed into a new year. Will you give some serious thought tonight about asking God to make changes in your life? I am. I am asking God to help me in how I spend my time and how I spend my money. I have already given him my heart and life and he has forgiven me all of my sin and welcomed me into his family. He will do the same to anyone who will confess with their mouth that he is their Lord, and believe in their heart that he rose from the dead.

Will you let God do a new thing in your life in 2021?