The Gospel according to Winter – Winter Warlock

On the way home I had two strong ideas that seemed linked.

The gospel according to Winter, Winter Warlock.

And these verses, especially the first 1/2 of verse 5.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”
2 Peter 1:5-9

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith.

Now how do theses verses and Winter Warlock come together? What if I add some words from James?

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
James 2:14-17

Well here is how they connected in my brain.

Peter tells us to add to our faith. When we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that his gift of love for us pays for our sin, we are saved, it is a done deal. Like when in “Santa Claus is coming to town” animated feature Winter Warlocks frozen heart is melted by Santa’s gift. But Peter said to add to our faith. If our salvation is secure in Jesus what is there to add?

When a baby is born it is a complete baby. But is that baby a finished product? No, it must be fed and nurtured and cleaned and guided and protected. The baby is added to, even though it is a complete human at birth. So it is with us we are born anew or born again. We need to add to our faith, grow our faith, nurture the new life that Jesus has birthed in us.

The verse in James says that we show that our new birth has made us new by our change of heart which is shown in our change in behavior. Winters heart was changed which changed the way he acted, and what he was able to do. He couldn’t curse, he could only bless.

Winter Warlock doesn’t mention Jesus, but he is changed by love. It isn’t a perfect fit but I hope it brings a new dimension to our Christmas season viewing.

Merry Christmas. Thank you Jesus for coming as a child, then finishing the grueling work of redeeming the world. Thank you to for continuing your work in me until I’m finished in your eyes.

Being a radio operator

Eph 6:18 “And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…continually keep on praying for all the saints”.

When I was a kid I used to play with green army men. My least favorite man was the guy with the radio. He wasn’t fighting anyone, he was to my mind useless. As I’ve have grown up watching documentaries on war, I have learned how important the radio guy is. He is the one to call for air strikes, to call in more troops, and to call in for medical help. Paul here in this passage is telling all of us that we all need to be radio men. We need to stay in contact with the God who controls the spiritual air strikes, supplies and troops and the medics. I need to pray more because God is my help.

Itch or a hunger?

Is it an itch or a hunger?

There’s a restless soulish urge that continues to plague me. I want to say it is spiritual in nature, or at least soulish. It comes from somewhere beyond my rational mind’s control. It is a longing but it doesn’t go away when I administer what should be relief measures. The more I attend to it the greater it becomes.

When I was in 7th grade I started to get some itchy spots on the back and side of my calves. I didn’t like the itchiness, but I loved the satisfaction of scratching. The harder and more intensely I scratched the more pleasurable the sensation, up to a point. Then it started hurting. It went on for what seemed like months. The bumps where the itching started grew in number, and as I scratched, they spread. first they were dime size, then quarter size, then half dollar size. They started oozing, and forming scabs.

The style in that day was to wear long white tube socks, all the way to the knee if you could find them. They were made of some type of acrylic fiber and they had two or three bands of color at the top. The half dollar size sores on my calves were covered by my socks. The scabs that would form on the sores sometimes would get stuck in the fiber of the socks. pulling the socks off or down tore off the scabs. (Sorry this is so gross). It became a cycle of itching, scratching, oozing, scabbing, spreading. What started as a sore on a leg became multiple sores on both legs. I don’t remember how my mom discovered what was going on, she worked full time and wasn’t home very much, but eventually She saw the sores and I was taken to the doctor and given some cream and antibiotics and the itching and infection went away.

I don’t remember how annoying the itch was. I do remember how pleasurable the scratching was. This plague of soulish unrest that I am experiencing is like that itch. And to answer the original question I asked, It is an itch, not a hunger. If you feed a hunger, it goes away, it is satisfied. If you scratch an itch, the itch only gets stronger the next time, and bigger. It covers more area and the scratching brings with it other problems, like infection and other ills.

The problem, the itch, is soulish. It lives in area beyond my intellect but under my spirit. I can’t think it away. I can pray it away. There are issues that my brain power can overcome, but soul issues live outside the realm of my intellect, like in an orbit that my brain cannot reach, but my spirit, now inhabited by the Holy spirit absorbs the orbit of my brain and my soul with its emotions and longings and itches.

My solution for the itch is to say NO to the urge to scratch, and then honestly pray to my Father in heaven about both the itch, and the urge to scratch. If I have scratched and caused an infection in my soul, God offers me salve. He offers me the salve of forgivenss in Jesus.

I have written this down so that I can share what I think might be a common problem and offer a solution that I am clumsily learning to use. I hope it helps. Jesus saves, he also salves.

The bill has been paid

The bill has been paid

In our modern culture we don’t talk much about sin. Sin is breaking the rules of God. Once the rule is broken it causes a debt between us and God. Somehow that debt needs to be paid.

In the book of Isaiah God speaks to his beloved children about their sin.

“But, dear family of Jacob, you refuse to ask for my help. You have grown tired of me, O Israel! You have not brought me sheep or goats for burnt offerings. You have not honored me with sacrifices, though I have not burdened and wearied you with requests for grain offerings and frankincense. You have not brought me fragrant calamus or pleased me with the fat from sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your faults. “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.

Isaiah 43:22-25 – NLT

Later on, he says this:

‘“Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you. I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.”’

Isaiah 44:21-23 – NLT

God lives in NOW. God is always in the present and somehow, all things past and present and future exist in the NOW of God. His plan for salvation, for redeeming our sins, paying our debt, has always been sending his son Jesus to die in our place. By having God the son die to pay for all sins, God’s justice was satisfied, the sin was paid for, not swept under the rug, the full price was paid in Jesus’ suffering and death. It literally cost God to pay our debt. It caused him pain, it was a sacrifice, but he did it willingly. He gave up his son Jesus. Jesus left heaven, was born as a human, lived life, was subjected to the human condition, he was just like us, except he never sinned.

He lived a perfect life but was killed using the most tortuous way to die, death by pain. The pain of hanging by nails driven through hands and feet slowly suffocates the victim because the pain of getting a breath is overwhelming. The body fights to breath and yet fights against the pain of the act of breathing. Pushing down into the nails driven through the feet in order to raise the rib cage enough to suck in enough air to stay alive, only to be shot full of pain from the nails in the hands, paralyzing the muscles in the arms and upper back. On and on the process goes until the pain actually kills him.

While Jesus was going through all this he uttered this statement, “it is finished “. The debt has been paid.

In Isaiah God may have been looking through the lens of Jesus payment on the cross because he sees things not as past, presentand future but everything is “now”.

Modern people may think, that’s nice Jesus, thanks for doing that, but I’m okay, I’m a pretty good person, better than most people I know, I’m no Mother Teresa but I’m also not Jeffrey Dahmer. I’m closer to Teresa than Jeffrey so I’m going to be okay. We tend to judge and grade ourselves on a curve, thinking that avoiding the big bad sins, murder, infidelity, stealing and adding in some good deeds along the way, picking up litter, holding open doors, being generally nice, giving to the poor occasionally. But have we ever lied? Then we are liars. Have we ever stolen? Then we are thieves. Have we ever lusted for someone we were not married to? Then we are adulterers in our hearts. Have we ever been so angry with someone that we fantasized their untimely death? Then we are murderers in our hearts.

But Gods holiness is beyond reproach. His purity is unmatched, unparalleled, his divine goodness has no shadow or blemish. Where I work we have clean rooms to handle the products that we manufacture. The air is filtered, and the workers are gowned and gloved and masked and netted to keep their dust and hair and cells from polluting our products. God is holy and pure; he cannot tolerate our impurities and yet he loves us. He longs for a way to have us in his presence. Jesus is that link, that clean room, that robing and masking and netting and gloving, his blood covers over our sin. Like a clean room suit, we are covered and yet naked at the same time.

We do have a debt we owe. Jesus has paid it for us, but we must admit that we need his help before we can have our debt washed away.

Later on, Isaiah he gives a more thorough description of the blessings to come.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations. Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards. You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches. Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”

Isaiah 61:1-7 – NLT

Good news for the poor, comfort for the broken-hearted, freedom for captives, comfort for the mourners, all of this hinges on us seeing our own need.

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins.”

Isaiah 64:4-7 – NLT

There it is, in order to break the cycle, to get out of our rut of sin we need to call on God for mercy.

For our sin, our deeply rooted selfishness and rebellion, we owe God our lives, but instead of demanding payment from us only to be disappointed, he paid our debt himself, with his only son Jesus.

How about today we start fresh with God? Confess our need and call out for mercy and forgiveness? Today is a good day to be cleansed and forgiven. Today is a good day to have our debt paid off.

Even our scars

It’s not hypothetical. (Am I using that word correctly?)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

It was 53 years ago today, December 1st 1968, I was eight years old. It was probably around this time of day, maybe a little later, it was dark. Fifty three years ago I was burned. My face and right hand would never be the same. But God used even this horrible thing, especially this horrible thing to preserve me and lead me into a relationship with the most perfect woman to share my life with.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

These words more than any other in the Bible show me, remind me, that God loves me and will use even the worst things in my life, the worst things in our lives, for our good. Why? Because of two things. One, He loves us. Two, he is a good father, and a third thing, he doesn’t waste anything.

He uses all things for our good when we love him, even our scars.

Dr God report for surgery…

Doctor God, report to surgery. Doctor God, report to surgery.

The Bible is no ordinary book. It is the very words of God. It is alive and powerful. It can heal. It can save.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

His word is like a scalpel with which he can cut straight down to the heart of the matter. Like a surgeon he can cut away the superfluous stuff that covers up our illnesses covers over our problems. He can cut away the hurts and disease that is poisoning us, the sin and rebellion and the damaged parts of us.

By reading his word we open ourselves up to being changed by them, changed by him, made better, healed and repaired by God as we read his word. His word is alive because his word is empowered by the Holy Spirit who becomes an onboard surgical team in our heart mind soul and spirit, using the words to correct and reprove and change us from the inside. Our triune God works together. The Holy Spirit will always point us to Jesus and Jesus always points us to the Father.

Who is this Jesus? He is both fully God and fully man. In the Christmas season we will sing about Emanuel, which means God with us. This God whose words can heal us has sent his son to us to be with us, live as one of us, experience our life, and live it without sinning, and then die for us to pay for all of our mistakes, misdeeds and failures.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

So far I’ve only read four chapters of Hebrews and the writer has already quoted Psalm 97 3 times. It may be become my anthem.

““Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts.”

Guess what day it is? Correct! It’s Today. What will we decide to do about Jesus today? Will we accept his gift of forgiveness today?

“Now boarding…“

“Now Boarding…”

The door was closed.
She couldn’t get on her flight.
She missed and no one could or would help her.

I was at Seatac. I was at my gate early. Not bragging, just saying I was there early. Next to my gate was another gate flying somewhere far away, Texas maybe? I had seen this lady on the other side,the main terminal. She was being seated in a wheelchair by an airport worker. When she showed up at her gate she was walking. Earlier I had seen the airlines hostesses walking the length of the terminal calling out names of missing passengers and heard multiple announcements asking for passengers to go to the desk, announcing boarding and then final boarding. Then they closed up the desk, walked through the doors and boarded the plane. After all of that happened the lady showed up. She was at the right gate but she was late. She couldn’t find anyone to help her. She walked through the seats asking for help, loudly asking for someone, anyone from her airline to help but they were all in the plane already.
She tried crashing the door. She could see her plane still parked at the gate but she couldn’t get on.

When she crashed the door an alarm sounded and security personnel arrived rather quickly. But they couldn’t get her on the plane either. It didn’t seem to make any difference why she was late or how loud she got with her protests. She could not ride that plane. Even with a boarding pass she could not get aboard the plane.

It was a scene that played out in my life that I️ watched like it was a performance for me. It made me wonder and now over 2 weeks later I am still pondering it. As the character Scrooge says in the Christmas Carol, “why was I privy to this conversation?”.

At the same time I have Been reading 2 Peter. In chapter 2, Peter mentions some times when God’s timing and the peoples time ran out.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings;”
2 Peter 2:4-10

So did God show me this so that I would present it as a cautionary tale? As a culture we are constantly exposed to and driven by schedules and time tables. Is it a surprise that God also has a schedule and a time table for his plan for us. None of us knows his time table and schedule. Not even Jesus knew when the end would be. Can we say that God is a meany head for having a schedule? Or can we say thank you to him for his patience with us thus far?

Further into his letter Peter had this to say,
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:3-9

Mary calls me Debbie Downer because I see the dark side of things, I really don’t want this to be that.

God loves us. He sent Jesus to us not Just to say I love you, but to do I love you. Jesus came to die for sins we cannot pay for or erase. Then he rose from the dead to lead us into God’s heaven. He made a way for us.

We get today. We have today to choose.

I don’t know the outcome for the poor lady who missed her plane. I do know the outcome of everyone who missed Noah’s boat. I do know the outcome for everyone who misses God’s grace in Jesus but I would rather talk about the splendor waiting for those who receive God’s great gift of forgiveness in Jesus.

Today, God is saying”Now Boarding..” or as they used to say “all aboard!”

“What kind of people ought you to be?”

(From a few years back)
It’s cyber Monday. A busy day for shopping. Mary has been asking me what I want for Christmas and I I’ve been humbly replying “I am content with life, I want for nothing” but then I went to Home Depot with my son in law Michael. SO much stuff, so many tools and gadgets that I don’t have yet.

But I caution myself with what the apostle Peter says in his second letter.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
2 Peter 3:8-13

Everything we see and know will eventually be destroyed by God as he prepares a new heaven and a new earth. Only two things will remain, the word of God and the souls of men. We are created to live forever. And we will, but where will we spend eternity?

God loves us and longs to spend eternity with us but our sins separate us from him. He knew that and prepared a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin through his only son Jesus. By accepting Jesus death as payment and believing in his resurrection we can spend eternity with our Heavenly father.

I’m going to try to not let this holiday season be about the stuff of life in stores but about hastening the return of Jesus by expanding his kingdom through sharing the story of a God who loves me enough to die in my place. A baby who came to save me, save us.

Who can I tell this to today?

Wealth and its dangers

James 5.

Riches. Having some makes us want more. On the eve of the day we as a nation give thanks for Gods abundance that he has given to us, James has this to say to us.

“And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.

4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.”

Will our fattened corpse that we leave behind testify against our indulgent lifestyle? How much is enough? What have we done to earn what we have? Is having more our goal or is having enough and sharing the rest?

“7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

9 Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.”

Patience, waiting, delayed gratification. Those are not popular practices in our culture. We are not of this culture. Christians have been waiting for the return of our messiah for 2 thousand years. He is closer now then he has ever been and each day is closer still. We Look around, we watch and wait, we stay busy building the kingdom planting the flag in a heart here or there. Gods kingdom doesn’t exist on the soil, it exists in the hearts of people. We can’t claim America for Jesus but we can claim Americans for Jesus.

Pray. Pray for America, pray for each other, pray for the sick. Prayer works because is all powerful and He works. Not like a genie but like an all knowing, all powerful God.

Sing praise to our great God because no matter what situation we are in, he is worth praising. There is none other like him.

“19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.”

“The fun and games are over, get serious”

(A look at James 4 from 2015)

James 4

I abruptly left off in verse 6 yesterday. It was an unusual morning, there was a baby asleep in the bedroom off the kitchen and my truck was on loan so I scrambled for a ride and for food and for the liquid of life, (aka coffee) and for quiet, for me and the sleeping baby.

Plus I kinda chickened out of the next verses. I will quote them using the message because it makes more sense to me. Besides it uses the word graffiti. First we’ll talk about how to deal with temptation.

“7-10 So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”

Say no. Yell no, then run. Do not run away, but run to God. I tried this the other day. I told God exactly what I was being tempted by. And then I napped. That is not a practical way to live my life 98% of the time but that day? It was just what I needed.

“11-12 Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?”

I was driving home last night and some one to my left didn’t yield to my right of way, then didn’t signal or stop at the stop sign. I didn’t either but this is not about me, or is it. How many times have I pronounced judgement on the terrible driver in front of me while being guilty of the same mistakes? What if I take a broader picture of my life? Can I condemn someone when I am guilty of the same or worse? I will try to leave the condemning to our gracious and merciful God, who knows men’s hearts.

“13-15 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

16-17 As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.”

Who knows what a day will bring forth? No one. No one except God. Honor God in our plans and in our speech.

Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it? That’s just as wrong as doing wrong thing. Sin. Sinning and repenting and being forgiven. That is the Christian Life.

Another thing to be thankful for…

I finished reading through the Psalms. I actually finished yesterday but I read through the last 3 again today.

148 is great because it reminds all of Gods creation from sea creatures to stars to praise the Lord.

Why?

“13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.”

Gods horn was the psalmists’ hope. That “horn” we know today is Jesus. Our hope is in Gods son Jesus. Our hope for forgiveness, for freedom, for life both here and in eternity is all in Jesus. This hope is not disappointed.

Psalm 149 has a different reason to praise God, still valid but not as light and hopeful.

“6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
7 to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
9 to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the Lord.”

There is a day coming when evil will be punished. God will set things right. Injustice will be punished. God is watching everyone and everything. The pain that I have caused, the rules that I have broken, the people that I have hurt, the damage I have done? All these things are under the covering of Jesus’ forgiveness. Somehow God will set it right and I will not be punished because Jesus took my punishment upon himself. His beating and death on a cross should have been mine. But he loved me enough, loved us enough, to die in my, in our place.

Psalm 150 ends with an admonition.

“Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”

If I am breathing? I should be praising. God is always, eternally and in each moment of my life, worth praise.

Free but not cheap

Free but not cheap

Gods grace is free to us. His unmerited favor, favor that we do not deserve comes to us without cost. But that doesn’t mean that it was cheap or easy for God to obtain for us.

About 700 years before Jesus was born a prophet of God named Isaiah got a glimpse of what Jesus would go through to lay hold of the grace God freely gives to any who will ask.

The description starts at the end of chapter 52 and carries through the end of chapter 53.

“See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about.”

Isaiah 52:13-15 – NLT

Jesus was flogged by the Romans by command of Pontius Pilate. He was whipped with a leather whip that had multiple stands of leather with bits of pottery and bone embedded in the lashes meant to tear the flesh from his back. His hands would be tied in front of him so there was no way to protect himself and there was no limit to where the torturer could land his whip.

Jesus body was destroyed by the flogging but then he still had to go to the cross.

“Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”

Isaiah 53:1-12 – NLT

If God showed Isaiah a glimpse of how horrible the death of the messiah would be, then Jesus knew what was coming before he left heaven.

Jesus had a mission and a purpose and a reason for coming to earth and dying as he did.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”

God’s Grace is free, but it was very costly.

Jesus did die but he didn’t stay dead. He rose from the dead.

The death he died, the suffering he endured, was to set us free from our sin. To pay debts that we owe. To wash stains away in our lives.

He knew what it would cost and he came and lived and died and rose again because God loves us.

God’s grace, his unmerited favor is free, but it’s not cheap. Have you received his grace yet? If so, have you begun to tell the world, your world, about all that Jesus has done and continues to do to save sinners like us?

Staying on task

This a repost from 2016 but it still has application for 2021.

This morning I read Psalm 146. The psalms even cover and/or apply to post election America.

“1 Praise the Lord.[a]
Praise the Lord, my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.”

As christians, We have a mission. It hasn’t changed since Jesus left to prepare a place for us. We are to let the world know about Him.

After Jesus rose from the grave and before he ascended into heaven he left us with these words, “4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In light of the election don’t lose hope. In light of the election don’t put your hope in the wrong person. In light of the fact that we are alive today let’s remind ourselves of who is King no matter who is president and let’s get on with our mission. Who can I tell about What Jesus has done in my life? How can I live to best show the change in my heart?

And as the psalmist started and ended his song, Praise the Lord!

2b or not 2b

James 2b.

Or not 2b. That’s not the question.

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Can a we have a saving faith in Jesus without it changing our behavior? Is our faith in Jesus real if it doesn’t prompt us to act on the behalf of those around us with needs that we can meet? Real faith will change us. Real faith will not only cleanse our hearts, cleanse our minds, break chains from the past, change our thoughts and emotions but it will also cause us to do. Do stuff. Do stuff for people. Otherwise this faith in Jesus is not faith but an idea about or an opinion of Jesus. It’s not faith in Him until it grabs ahold of us and we start sharing the love we have been given with others.

The 2 examples James gives us, Abraham and Rahab acted on what they believed and showed by their actions that their faith in God was real.

At the end of the storm in Spokane this week (from 2015) there were 206,000 people without power. No heat, no way to cook, no lights, no refrigerators. 2 of those households are my kids. I’m not sure how I will help but can it be just “stay warm guys, love ya”? How will I help? How will my faith take action?

“26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Counter-cultural counter- intuitive

James 2

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Maybe it’s contagious. This wealth thing. We tend to want to hang out with wealthy people. Remember the show “lifestyles of the poor and destitute”? No wait, that wasn’t it, it was the “rich and famous”. Our human nature wants to associate with wealth and success. Could it be that we think it might rub off? At the very least, rich people have cool stuff. Cool stuff is fun and expensive and so it is rare. Hanging with rich people we might get to play with their stuff. But human nature is almost always counter to Christian belief and practice.

The kingdom of God is upside down to the world. Our king laid down his life and died for us. Our king washed his friends feet. Our king never had a palace or a throne or a scepter. Our king was born in a barn and slept in a feeding trough. Our king carried his own cross.

Christianity is counter cultural and sometimes counter intuitive. It doesn’t always make sense.

“5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

Favoritism = adultery = murder. That is not good math. Not in my mind. It’s like saying a penny equals a million dollars because favoritism is a penny sin, murder? That’s a million dollar sin. Am I right? No. I am completely wrong. Sin = all other sin. Sin is sin.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

There is hope. Our God is merciful. He expects us, once we have experienced his mercy, to extend his mercy to the world around us.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Mercy. Not getting what we do deserve. Grace. Getting what we do not deserve. They are what distinguishes Christianity. That and the fact our savior rose from the dead. Yes, I said fact. Feels harsh to leave I there but I’m going to.

No I can’t. Jesus loves us. He died to wash away our sin. He lives to intercede on our behalf. Won’t you accept that gift today?

Getting down to business

James 1 part 2

We left off at verse 13.

“13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The wages of sin is death. That is not good news. It’s not even news. It’s on the news.

But the gift of God is eternal life, throughJesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

That there? That is good news.

Every good thing comes from God who does not change. He doesn’t adjust himself to fit in.

“19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

The righteous life is not brought about by anger. The word brings life.

We can’t just listen to the words of God, we must act on them.

“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Have I ever looked in a mirror, saw a booger hanging out of my nose and just walked away without getting rid of the booger? What if Gods word shows us we have spiritual boogers? Do we leave them and go on with life or do we act to change the boogers?

(Be honest, did you just touch your nose? I did. I hate boogers. Spiritual or otherwise.)

“26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Are we about the real business of Christianity? Are we Helping those who cannot help themselves? And are we keeping ourselves from being polluted?

There is raw spiritual sewage that people are drowning in. Our job as Christians is to rescue them from the sewage without getting ourselves sick. I have had to check monitoring devices in our sewage lift station at work. One rule is to Keep our mouth closed, another is to keep our hands clean. Wash up after. Is there a spiritual application there?

Jesus help us. Keep us healthy as we go about the rescue.

Trials, just stay on.

James 1

I said earlier that I would be studying Titus and 2 Timothy next but I read chapter 1 of Titus and it was so similar to 1 Timothy that I felt it may be better to take s one book detour. I felt compelled to read James. So James it is.

This was written by James, Jesus’ little brother. He was a leader in the Jerusalem church which was at the time, headquarters for the entire church.

(I wrote this about 5 years ago. I would like to add a short comment. There is a type of motorcycle racing called trial riding. You win, not by being fast, but by staying on your motorcycle and not putting your foot down. It takes skill and patience and being nimble because the “track“ is over rocks and logs and through streams and over holes and up and down embankments. Trials. It’s a metaphor for our life with Jesus. We need to “stay on” Jesus and he will carry us through the rough terrain of life. I hope the images help us understand the ruggedness of life and the strength of Jesus to get us up and over and through all the obstacles of life).

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Right away we are slapped with 2 counter cultural statements. Be joyful when being tried and believe in someone we can’t see. Not only believe that they exist but also believe that they can do what you are asking of them.

There is so much in this chapter. That I will take two days to cover it.

The next statement is not only counter cultural but counter intuitive. Getting rich and having lots of stuff gives us a lower status as s believer than being poor.

“9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

The one who possesses lots of stuff is in turn possessed by the stuff. You have to take care of it, house it, maintain it, care for it. There is much to be said for a simple life. Living simply by choice is different than being made poor by circumstance.

We have been poor. God provided everything we needed.

I am off subject.

“12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

The trial that James speaks of here is believing in Jesus even if that means losing everything we possess, up to and including our lives, because we believe in Jesus. At that time in Jerusalem People were being told to renounce their faith or die. Many died. They would first lose their family, be thrown into prison, all of their belongings would be taken away and at the end of that they would face the question, do you believe in Jesus? If they renounced him they would get it all back. If they continued to believe they will be killed, by stoning, beheading or by crucifixion.

How is this like the world we live in today? It’s a reality for many Christians.

Here is what I believe. Jesus, he really lived, he really died, he really came back from the dead. He really ascended into heaven and he really is coming back to get us. He did all of that because he loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. His death paid for our sin, when he came back to life he showed his power over death.

This confession may cost me my life someday but it gives me eternal life from today onward.

The thing is that being a Christian does not guarantee me anything in this life. Not safety, not wealth, not health. “12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

He is watching

Psalm 139

God is watching

“1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

God knows us. He is watching over us. Not to squash us like a bug, but to help us. He sent his only son Jesus to do what we couldn’t do. To pay for OUR mistakes.

God loves us. Even as I type these words I wonder if it it’s true for me. I think it is. If it’s true at all it’s true for me too, and you. God is watching over us because he is a good father and he loves us.

What’s the point?

1 Timothy 6

“6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.”

Slavery was a reality, just part of life. If a person was enslaved and a believer, they should be the best slave possible. Respect their master, even more if the master is a believer. I am not a slave but I still have people in authority over me. My direct boss is a Christian. I need to respect him and do my best for him and for Jesus who is watching us both.

And speaking of making money:
“6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Money is a reality. We need it to do what we have to do. Even good and Godly activities take money. Money is not the end, it’s a means to an end. For about $15 we can provide a kid whose parents are in jail a Christmas present through Angel Tree. For $30 a month we can support an impoverished kid in a 3rd world country through compassion international. There is Samaritans Purse and shoebox gift program. There is no end to the needs of people. There are people who need help right where we live. Make as much money as we can not so that we have more but so we can give more.

“17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

If I could have a sign off I think this next quote would be it.
“11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

Yes! Amen.

To answer my original question, I look to verse 18, Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Being part of God’s family ❤️

1Timothy 5

Practical advice for pastors.

Our pastor will often say this to our congregation, “when you’re here, you are family”.

Paul says pretty much the same thing, ” Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

We are a family. Family takes care of our own.

“3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

There were no programs or institutions for the care of the less fortunate. It was all done person to person. I guess that’s not completely true. There was the “list”. Widows who were over 60 and had no family but who were still active in their faith doing good could be put on a support list.

Paul is very practical and realistic here. He notes that younger women will want to remarry, that idle people tend toward gossip and being busybodies. My mom’s favorite saying was “idle hands are the devils playground”. I had at least 4 after school jobs. And yet still I found time to get into mischief.

More advice; if we have a widow in our family we should take ownership of their care, pay your pastor well, don’t believe every accusation that you hear, require witnesses, if an elder sins rebuke them publicly, don’t show favoritism, don’t be hasty to advance people in the church, wine occasionally is good, we are being watched, our sins and our good deeds are being noted, by God and by those around us.

Long chapter. Jesus loves us and cares about the needs of our lives. We need to help others when we can and be open to receive help when we need it. To be The church, we need to act as Jesus with skin on.