Colossians: the Isetta of bible books

I got behind. In my daily bible reading I had a 4-day weekend and slept in and didn’t do my bible reading in the early morning. My suggested reading today was for Colossians 3 but I hadn’t read 1&2 yet so I started in one today and read through to 3.

In the automotive world the purpose of an automobile is to move a human and their cargo from point a to point b with more speed and less effort than would be required for the human to walk or run the distance. The BMW Isetta does this with no frills and no fancy do-dads. It is transportation in it’s simplest form.

The book of Colossians is like that. Compact but nothing missing. All the essentials for building faith and encouraging believers is here.

Chapter 1 tells us who Jesus is and what he has done. Chapter 2 tells us how our lives have been changed and transformed through Jesus death and resurrection and chapter 3 tells us how we should now live to reflect the changes that God has made in our heart, mind, soul and body.

To encourage followers of Jesus reading this, and to give a welcome and an invitation into following Jesus to the curious or onlookers who may be reading this I want to quote what Paul says about Jesus in chapter 1.

“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.
Colossians 1:11-23 – NLT

Followers of Jesus have have been bought and brought out of darkness into a kingdom filled with light because our savior is Jesus who is the light of the world and in him is no darkness or shadow or variation due to change.

Thank you Paul for writing this compact little letter to the believers in colossi. Thank you God for revealing yourself in the person of your son Jesus. Thank you Jesus for humbling yourself and coming to save us by dying for us. Thank you God for raising Jesus from the dead so he and all of us who believe in him can live together in your kingdom of light.

Loving me to death, his death

Luke 22. And so it begins.

The arrest and trial of Jesus. I cringe at what happens as it unfolds. Betrayed with a kiss. Denied by one of his closest friends, deserted by most, (John was there). He was Beaten mocked and ridiculed. The leaders finally ask the question that we all must ask, not to find the answer but to find cause to kill him.

“66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christ, ” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”‘

Jesus is the Christ, the one promised who has come and set us free from all our bondage. And yet he is about to die. It had to happen like this and yet I still want to jump into the story and stop it. Don’t beat, whip, spit on and crucify my Jesus! But it has to happen. He has to die so that I can live. He is about to take on the heaviest weight ever carried, he is about to shoulder a wooden cross and as they drive those nails into his hands, hammer blow by hammer blow and into his feet they also nailed all my sins there, all of our sins , everyone, every one. He will die there, on that cross but there is more to the story and I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Jesus I can’t imagine the pain, I can’t imagine the heart ache of going through all of this. It hurts to think about it. I love you Jesus. Thank you for dying in my place.

Forgiveness

Luke 20

Jesus is in Jerusalem. The struggle between the powers that be and the established order of things and the new covenant that Jesus is ushering in is growing. Jesus knew what was coming and he did it anyway.

“9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “May this never be!” 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ” ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ‘ ? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.”

There is a certain amount of satisfaction in fixing broken things. Finding something that doesn’t work the way it was designed to work and making it it work again. It’s thrilling. Restoring. That’s what God does in and for us.

Sin cannot be undone. Like ringing a bell or saying a word or doing a deed if we do something or say something that is wrong or hurtful or sinful we can never undo it. We can apologize and make amends but we can never undo what was done. We can’t fix it. But we can forgive and be forgiven. All our sins are not only against people. Our sins are also against God. The best we can hope for and best possible thing that can happen is that we repent, turn around, stop going our own way which is walking away from God and our other broken relationships and ask to be forgiven. It doesn’t undo anything. It isn’t magic, it is real. When we repent and ask to be forgiven we are really and truly forgiven. By God anyway. People can be a different story.

This doesn’t have much to do with what I read in this chapter but it has a lot to do with my life right now.

Please pray for Mary and I. It feels like there are changes coming. I know my hours are being cut. That is going to be really difficult and it might lead to other big changes. We just want to do what is right and good and the will of God.

The Christian life is simple but it’s not easy. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Trust in a God we cannot see. Believe promises spoken thousands of years ago. Continue to believe that Jesus death covers all my sins.

I still do.

What’s in your “wallet”?

Wallet for my Wages.

Working for wages. We get paid for what we do.

Some of us are familiar with the verse about the wages of sin.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 – NIV

Our sin earns us…? Death.

What can we earn with our good works?

It may not be what you are thinking.

I know I thought good works bought me favor with God. Here is what Paul said about that in his letter to the Philippian followers of Jesus.

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Philippians 3:1-11 – NLT

The wages of sin is death, that makes sense, rebellion results in rejection, but Paul says that good works, good deeds are just garbage, in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus.

If we are counting on earning points with God with our righteousness, it isn’t going to work. Our good works are rubbish – “filthy rags”. Jesus death on the cross and appropriating his value, is the only way to find favor with God.

Believers in Jesus are looking forward to this: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 – NLT

There is infinite value in knowing Jesus. in Gods economy, nothing else has any value.

What’s in your “wallet”?

Keep on…

Luke 18

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

“1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off ?8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” ‘

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

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

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

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

(Epilogue: I still have a list, I’m on rev 3 now. I am not as consistent because I don’t want my prayers to become vain repetition where I mumble words, I want it to be where I can consciously communicate with my Father in heaven about these people in my life. Final word, keep on. Keep on seeking keep on asking keep on knocking, for the people and situations in our lives. God is a good Father, and he wants good things for us and from us.)

Establishing His kingdom

Luke 17. Gods kingdom.

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

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

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

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

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

We do long to see our King.

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

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

Who am I trusting?

Luke 16

The chapter starts with the story of the shrewd manager. I have never grasped the story and was hoping for fresh insight today. Nope. But What Jesus says after the story hits me pretty hard.

“9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

On our way back from Spokane, a 2 hour trip where my lovely wife and navigator usually sleeps, I had some time to think. I thought a lot about how to adjust to less income and found myself getting very fretful. Then I realized that I haven’t been trusting God for our income, I’ve been trusting God’s agent, my employer. God doesn’t change when our circumstances change. He is still designer, creator, sustainer and savior of all that we know, of all that exists. His promises to provide for us his children have not been broken or rescinded.

It’s funny how money or the lack thereof can reveal so much about our hearts. I don’t like what I see about myself.

Father God forgive me. Cleanse my heart. I want to serve you so that means that money cannot also be my master. Let me see your plan for our lives as we enter what feels to be a season of change. I trust you Lord. Don’t let me fail you.

I want to be trusted and trustworthy, not just with money, but with the message and with people. I want to be trusted by God to share his love and his story faithfully investing in lives and families.

May I be found to be a faithful and a faith filled servant of God.

Smoldering and or bent and bruised

There’s a song by Elevation Worship that plays on PLR radio that I like, it asks some questions of us and then guides us to the answers. It’s called Come to the Altar.

Are you hurting and broken within Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself ? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling.

O come to the altar The Father’s arms are open wide Forgiveness was bought with The precious blood of Jesus Christ.

I thought of this song as I read two chapters of Isaiah, 42 and 43 this morning. I will quote a couple verses but I encourage you to read both chapters.

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction. ”
Isaiah 42:1-4 – NLT

Then in chapter 43 we read this, it is God speaking to his children.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Isaiah 43:25 – NIV

This encourages me. The servant God is talking about is Jesus. God looks down and sees me in my imperfections and he has compassion. When I am like a candle barely able to keep my flame lit, he doesn’t snuff me out, he cares for me, trims my wick and helps burn brighter for him. He sees me, that I am like a river reed bent over and almost snapped in half, then with care and compassion he rights me and heals me and helps stand up straight.

When, not if I falter and fail him, God himself has provided the payment for my mistakes, blunders, goofs, failures, and assorted and sundry sins. The good news is that he has forgiven me, me and you, he has forgiven all of us but we must claim that forgiveness by believing in Jesus’ life death and resurrection from the dead.

Are you like me, hurting and broken within? Are you like me, feeling like a bruised reed or a smoldering wick, Not dead yet but not fully alive? God has a plan for us and a place for us in his family!

Many of the folks who read my posts have already met Jesus. So this next part is to You who have met Jesus, will you share your story today with one person? Look for someone to help then look for an opportunity to share what God has done for you in your life.

God is good and kind and gentle with bent reeds and smoldering wicks. He loves us. He has forgiven us. Not everyone has heard this yet so Let’s share this good news today.

Rain come today

“Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.” Joel 2:23

I have never been more grateful for rain and it’s pair purifying ability than I am this autumn. We drove through some cloud bursts yesterday on the way back from Spokane and you could almost hear the earth and all the folks driving give a huge sigh of relief. The fires in west have left a lingering cloud of smoke. Our only hope was that the rain would come and wash the smoke out. It’s happening and now the air is cleaner and clearer.

Spiritual application time. The Holy Spirit is like the rain in our life. Sometimes our life, well at least my life gets chocked full of choking smoke from the troubles of the rest of the world. Smoke isn’t like the trouble of fires but it spreads and influences and affects many more than the people directly in harms way. We get affected by others troubles just knowing about them. The smoke comes in and blocks our vision, clutters our heads and hearts and can easily distract or disorient us.

The Holy Spirit comes into a believers life and gently raining, purifying the smoke until true vision is restored. I get all the stuff of what is going on up in my mind and I can’t see the the truth, that God is still in control, that he has a plan and a purpose and his plan will prevail, and that I still have a mission to tell the world about a God who loves them and sent his only son to die for them and was raised to life again.

Jesus bring the rain. Into my my world and put out the fires and into our smoke filled skies and clear away the smoke and into my own head and heart and clear away the confusion and chaos that wants to distract me from you, your plan and purpose for my life.

No stopping Him

He knew.

He knew how and when.

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

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

If we Think of the worst person that we know, (most of the time, in my mind that is me). Remember all the wrong things they’ve done. Now imagine Jesus walking towards Jerusalem and his death looking through time at this person and saying, “I know what you have done and will do. I forgive you, I will die in your place”. That is what is going on here as Jesus continues down this road. He not only saw that one person, he saw all of us, for all time and all of our sin and instead of being disgusted with us, he had compassion on us and suffered a horrible death, to pay for all of our sin.

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

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

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

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

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

A weed by any other name…

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

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

Sometimes sin in my life is like this. Its source is a root buried in my heart and every time it gets a chance it sprouts up. I can spend time sniping off the tops or I can dig down and get to the roots and yank it out by the source. Some times sin is the right thing in the wrong place. Like this little group of trees. Right thing, wrong place and time.

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

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

(Epilogue: quaking aspen grow from seed and grow from the roots. Cutting off the roots only creates two trees from one root. To stop the spread, The entire tree must come down. instead of doing that, I moved to another house with no trees. The spiritual application? Sometimes leaving a potentially dangerous situation, “flee youthful lusts”(?). I loved that tree but it was me or the tree that had to go. Turns out it was me that left. Sometimes we have to remove ourselves from a tempting situation or a situation that continues to be problem. Sometimes God as a good father just steps in and takes away the thing that is the problem, for example, we moved to a different house).

Bent over and rules broken

Luke 13.

Jesus healed The woman after being doubled over for 18 years. And got in trouble for it.

First let’s be amazed at the healing power of God. Some chronic illnesses we have to adjust to. We have a condition and this is my life now. For the rest of my life. Then Jesus “put his hands on” and we are healed. I want that. I want that for Mary’s celiac and my diabetes. I will keep praying for those but in the mean time, I will keep showing up at church. That’s where she was. At church. Worshipping God in spite of being bent in 1/2. I will Contend for healing but I will not let my condition keep me from praising God. She walked to church bent in 1/2 and came home healed. Set free. God is amazing.

The pastor yelled at Jesus because he broke a man made rule about how we should act at church and on the rest day. People are amazing. How we can get so mixed up about what is important? Rules over relationship. It seems so obvious from this side of the story. That obviousness makes me question my own life. Where do I have blind spots? Where am I putting the established order of things in place of caring for people?

There is grace and healing for the sick and broken and bent in 1/2. Even for rigid misguided rule followers if they repent and seek the One who rules.

Sheep hearts

He is watching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the statutes and ordinances?

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

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

Weak or fake?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue: Mary and I have been watching a show about folks in Great Britain who are rebuilding derelict homes. One guy who spent 10 years rebuilding an old church building into a house and home said it best. “It’s not one really big job, it’s a million little jobs, otherwise I would have been overwhelmed.”

And so it is with the Christian life. God takes us where we are. We submit to him and give him control of our derelict lives and he begins the process. We call it sanctification. It basically means to clean up and set apart as special or holy.

Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

At salvation God starts something new in us. We need to trust him to be the loving Father that he is and let him have his way in rebuilding us.

There has to be a beginning point where we say “Jesus, I am a sinner. I am broken. I accept your death on the cross as payment for my sin and I ask you to forgive me and heal me. I believe that you died and rose again. You now have me. I am yours to cleanse and rebuild. I am your Child and you are the boss of me. Jesus you are the one who saves.

The life of following Jesus, It’s a process. A million little jobs. We have to trust God and give him control of our lives. In order to trust him, we have to get to know him. Truly, to know him is to love him.

Longing for home

In 2016 my wife Mary had to have abdominal surgery to correct an obstruction. It was her fourth surgery since 2007. It was going to be a slow painful recovery. Her surgeon told us after the surgery that it was likely to happen again. After we got back home I wrote this.

Are you struggling through something now? I hope after reading this, you will be encouraged.

While we were in the hospital the question came up, “why can’t I just go home to Jesus?”

Who wants to suffer? Who wants to keep slugging it out? Why keep working and fighting? Paul wrestled with the same question in 2 Corinthians.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

If we wake up in the morning and are still able to fog a mirror, There still must be a purpose on this earth for us.

Then again in his letter to the Philipians he says, “eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”

Keep on. Who needs to hear the good news? Everyone! Who will accept it? Some. I say this to myself, keep on going, Keep on sharing, keep on serving…He could come back today…or more likely, I could go to Him.

Smoke is a bear

The year is 2020.

We live in the Pacific northwest.

The season if it were any other year would be fall, but this is 2020 and so the season is FIRE.

There are wildfires all around our state, and the neighboring states.

Smoke is a constant.

There are hills across from us in our little town of Ephrata. We are less than a mile away. Yesterday morning I couldn’t see the hills because of the smoke. 2 days ago, we couldn’t see the sun because of the smoke.

I read this portion of the Psalms this morning:

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

Ps 121:1-2 NLT

I heard in a sermon recently that the reason the psalmist mentioned the hilltops is that the top of the hills and mountains were where the people had set up altars of worship to other gods. The psalmist was looking over at the false worship and saying, “Nope, I will not go there for help, my help comes not from a god who people have to go out of there way to worship, to climb a mountain in hopes of getting closer to them. No! My help comes from the Lord, the God who made the hills and mountains and made the heavens that exist above the mountains. I don’t have to go anywhere to be near him, He is everywhere. Because he loves me, He is near me.”

In my life and world, Smoke has covered up the mountains so even if I was looking to them for help, I couldn’t see them. This year of 2020 has exposed much of what we as a culture have depended on to support us, has exposed it all as weak, frail and undependable.  God has stood silently by waiting for us to call out to Him.

Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the God who made it all.

When Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well they discussed where to worship, Jesus had this to say about that, I’ll start where the woman asks Jesus where to worship.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim,[c] where our ancestors worshiped?”

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”[d]

If the hills or the little gods on the hills are our help, what do we do when smoke blocks their view. If we can’t see them, can they see us? But I don’t have to worry. I serve a God who is Spirit. He is everywhere at the same time. He never loses sight of me. He isn’t closer when I am elevated or further away when I am in a valley. He is always with me. Even if I stray away from him, he tracks me down because he is a loving father and is like the best of good shepherds and he will find me and bring me back.

Little g gods are no help because they are not capital G God. There is no help outside of God. Life in 2020 is full to the brim of scary things that make us cry out for help. From the virus that has us all hiding, to the toilet paper shortage, and all the other deprivations and sufferings and now there is fire raging and even those not threatened by the flames are being sickened by the smoke. Where does my help come from? Where does your help come from? Does it come from something somewhere where circumstances can separate us from help?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven of earth. Nothing can separate me from him. Will you reach out to him today?

Soil testing

Luke chapter 8. It starts out with the parable of the sower and the seed.

“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ” ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

There are hard hearts that will not receive the seed of good news that Jesus loves them and died for them. There are other hearts that will hear, accept it, flourish for a short time and then die away because their hearts are like rocky soil and the good news can’t take root. Then there are some hearts that will hear, will accept the word of God, will grow for awhile but will eventually be choked out by the cares of this world, money gathering, feeling good.

These three situations make me so sad. Thinking there are those who won’t make it. But I recognize myself and my life before I got saved in all of these situations. So it’s like the Christmas carol when Ebenezer is faced with his eminent death and he says “why show me this if I am beyond all hope?” Why would Jesus point out these heart conditions if there wasn’t a chance for us to recognize ourselves and ask God to change our hearts so that we can receive the word and become the soil that produces a hundred fold? Where am I today? Where are you? If we are bad soil will we pray for God to loosen up our hearts , to remove the rocks and weeds? If we are the good soil are we producing? Are we multiplying the seed that was planted in our hearts?

I have been the hard soil, I have been the rocky soil, and even now without diligence and Gods help and mercy I can easily be overrun with the cares of this world and be like the soil choked with weeds.

In The letter to the Hebrews the writer warns against falling into unbelief.

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”’
Hebrews 3:12-15 – NLT

Jesus keep my heart clean and receptive to your word. Make me fruitful. Remove the rocks and weeds from my heart and help me be productive for your kingdom.

A son restored and a daughter forgiven

Luke chapter 7. Being dead isn’t the end. Jesus encounters a funeral procession and is moved with compassion for the mother of the deceased, a widow.

Jesus said “don’t cry” and to the son he said “get up”. And the story for the widow and her son changed.

In a similar way God had compassion on my mom. When I was 11 I was in a car accident. My sisters Kitti and Judi , my foster brother Rodney and my sisters boyfriend Paul(?) were headed to Pendleton from Milton-Freewater. It was a dark and foggy night. We didn’t make it to Pendleton that night. A couple of miles out of town our truck hit a car head on and then we were immediately hit again by the car we were passing. The impact tore the cab of our truck off the frame and it was tossed out in the field. We were all alive. Busted up but alive.

It was a busy foggy night. Before it was over I understand that there were 17 cars piled up in the crash. It was busy at the hospital. I was on a gurney in the hall when my mom arrived. She saw doctors checking me then leaving me. She asked if it was okay to talk to me they said “it doesn’t matter now” and walked away. My mom touched my leg and I started coughing. The doctors turned on their heels and rolled me into ER. What my mom didn’t know was that I was dead. By the time I got to the hospital I was clinically dead. No pulse, not breathing, dead.

But being dead isn’t always the end.

The story about the boy being raised back to life isn’t really the one I wanted to talk about but it gave me an opportunity to share my story.

I want to talk about a notoriously bad person and how they were changed.

Read the story of the woman who lead a sinful life, Verses 36-50.

“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:36-48 – NLT

Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus did not come to reward self righteous folks. In life There seems to be those two camps; People who claim goodnesses of themselves and declare themselves better than others, and believe that they are in no need of help, then the other are those who know and understand their own failures, admit them and seek forgiveness for them.

Which camp are you in? Need change? Need forgiveness? As for me, I know my sin and I know a savior who has forgiven me.

Hear what Jesus said to her. “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you ; go in peace.” Weep in repentance and be forgiven. I did. I was and am.

A new way of living

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

On 2 different occasions Jesus broke the rules, once as he pulled wheat off the stem to eat and once when he healed a man. In the Jewish lifestyle The rules outweighed compassion and mercy.

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

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

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

The Christian lifestyle is simple but it is not easy.

How am I doing? If this is a test God I fail. Thank you that because I have accepted Jesus as my savior, you Forgive me when I fail. Thank you for your great mercy.

The Christian life is counter cultural. Come join the, I want to say revolution but it’s not a fight, not with flesh and blood anyway. There is a battle but it is not against people. People are what we are fighting for. As a Paul said in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, We are fighting against principalities and powers, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Join me as I follow Jesus. Help me up when I stumble and I will help you.

Self made

There are some folks who deny that God exists. Some will say there is a God but say we can’t know him or it and then deify the universe. There are a lot of ways to explain the universe, us and all that exists without acknowledging a god or believing in the God.

There was a time when I was in my early teen years that I was embarrassed by my parents. I was a child of the hip and happening 60s and my parents were children of the depression. They had suffered through deprivation and worked hard for everything they had but they were not hip or happening, definitely not cool like the TV moms and dads and at large social gatherings I would pretend that I didn’t know them. I am remembering a summer church picnic at the lakes where I avoided them all day long, even joining in conversations about how uncool “those people” were.

And yet at the end of the day I helped pick up our stuff and put into my dads big green Ford Galaxy and rode with those people home to the house my dad provided with his uncool job. I wanted to be self made but in reality I wouldn’t exist without “those people”, the uncool, unhip Herb and Elaine who birthed me, and raised me and loved me even if I didn’t want acknowledge them.

Fast forward to life in 2020. We live in central Washington State. It is early September and there are wildfires all around us. Yesterday the smoke literally choked out the sun. We live miles from the nearest fire yet the smoke and ash made it so dark that the street lights came on. I started to go out on an errand but turned back when the smoke made it impossible to see beyond the end of my street. There was ash falling. It was black fibers, it looked like strands of the stuff used to make tarps. I’m guessing it is from the grasses that are burning. The air did clear out and we could see the sun but news of multiple collisions due to poor visibility and the multiple road closures kept us home.

This morning I read Isaiah chapter 40. It reminded me of the fibrous ash piled up on my sidewalk.

“A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”

Isaiah 40:6-11 – NLT

Some of us live life like I lived my teen years, denying God’s existence and wanting no part in believing in him or following him. And yet he exists and because of his will being done, we exist and are sustained and supported and alive because of Him. We can deny it, but it doesn’t change who he is or how we came to be. Like my rude and rebellious youthful self we deny our parentage but there comes a time when we got to pack up and go and we will be rejoined with our Father. Our time on earth seems long but it actually is very brief, like the grass that has been the fuel of the local wildfires we live just a season and then we are gone, our grasslike bodies turned to ash.

Our God is coming. He is humanities God. The last part of Isaiah says this: “Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:21-31 – NLT

Humanity, our God is coming. Our season will come to an end. Do you know the God who created you? He not only created us, but when we as a race rebelled against him and sinned and made it impossible to be reconciled, He made a way by sending his son Jesus to die in our place and use his sinless life to pay for our sin filled lives. We can be restored to relationship with God.

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

John 3:16-17 – NLT

We moved recently and in the move we found sets of baby clothes my wife had saved for each of our 4 kids. We found a shirt my oldest, our son Aaron wore. We are not self made, we are in fact, like the shirt Aaron wore as a 2 year old said, “handmade by God”. Will we embrace our parentage, being created children of the most high God and accept his gracious gift of new life and reconciliation through Jesus his son?