A warning or an encouragement?

A warning or an encouragement?

“There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us. If you are a nice person- if virtue comes easily to you- beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature-poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels- saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion- nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends- do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom he has blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that)He will fling it on the scrap heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all-not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be fist and some of the first will be last).”

C.S.Lewis. Mere Christianity

How did Professor Lewis know me and my family so well? In a recent conversation with my older brother, he reminded me of a fight my parents had behind closed doors. It was the swinging 60s. We don’t know what happened but my mom used words that we never heard her say before or since. At some point she left us for weeks. That house, that home, that atmosphere of perversion and anger, it colors me still. And God knows. He knows my innocence was stolen. He knows the wreck of a life I was given to drive. Someday I will be free of it all, but in the meantime I am helped and I am understood. I am forgiven and am loved. So I keep on and I do what I can.

I hope this helps someone today.

“3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-10 – NIV

“I sum up“

“I sum up”

It’s one of my favorite quotes from “the Princess Bride”.

Jesus summed up the law and the prophets in two small quotes.

In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked this:

“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’

My favorite commandments are the ones that are easy not to break like , don’t murder. That WAS easy until Jesus said that if you hate someone, you’ve already murdered them in your heart. That one I’ve broken.

They seem be about behaviors to avoid. But the commandments Jesus lists are things to actively do. Love God. Love people.

So this Christian life, it may not be about not doing the don’ts, but more about doing the do’s.

Jesus says later, recorded in Johns Gospel, that the way the world will be able to tell us apart from the rest of the population is how we love one another.

If you look at how Christians are portrayed in our culture, that isn’t how we are known.

How do I appear? How do I live? How do I love? Do I treat people the way I want to be treated? Do I love self-sacrificially?

Things to ponder and correct if necessary. Paul gave us a summary of how we should live in his letter to the Romans.

“9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

How are we doing with this?

  1. Love God
  2. Love people
  3. Repeat

Final Travel blog from Italy 🇮🇹

Before I go to sleep tonight I wanted to share one more travel story.

Early in our trip Mary was having trouble finding food to eat. Celiac and dairy issues were eliminating much of the menus at restaurants. She was basically eating salad twice a day. We found a place that had grilled meat on the menu. We were so excited we ordered 2. It came with a first course of antipasti, meats and cheeses. Then they brought out platters of meat. There were sausages, a skewer of meat a pork steak, a veal steak, and ribs. A platter for each of us. We did our best but we barely made a dent. Our waiter Luigi was concerned that we left so much food. We told him everything was great just too much food. He was pleased when we told him that we would be back but split the platter.

We did come back. Twice and did just that but because we also ordered ensalta mista too, (mixed salad-awesome) we never did clean the plate. The staff would fuss and ask if everything was okay. We would always say it was fine but I think that their feelings were hurt.

On our last night there we came for dinner but we switched it up, I ordered a pizza- fantastic – and Mary had a large salad (we heard Luigi say to his staff in Italian, 2 salads, one plate) and potatoes. It was fun to see the relief on Luigi’s face after telling him what we wanted. He looked happy that we weren’t going to be leaving with 1/2 full plates.

That’s the story. It just gives the feel of how the Italians we met welcomed us, and were concerned for us. How they are so relational.

Thank you to those who supported us and those who enjoyed our travel journal of pics and gave us such positive feedback.

Epilogue: I am always impressed by a person with the gift of hospitality. It moves me. I notice the gift because it’s something I lack. Hospitality is sharing, “what’s mine is yours”. It is the ability to know how to make people feel welcomed and cared for. I am reserved. I hold back. I keep things in reserve, my head, my heart, my stuff. A person with the gift of hospitality is open and generous and cares for the needs of others.

I want generosity and warmth and welcome to be what I am known for. there is no reason to be stingy or miserly.

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38 – NIV

Maybe I need to go back to Italy and learn from the masters of hospitality.

Merry Christmas in July

In my view The Christmas story started long before Bethlehem, long before the Star and shepherds and angels showed up, and before the wise men arrived.

The Christmas story started way back in a garden, the first garden. Right after our first father and mother rebelled against God for the first time. God said this:

“14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

God had a plan to restore our relationship with him.

Years later The prophet Isaiah gave us an update on the plan in Chapter 7.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”.

The best part of this message is in the name. Emmanuel , it means God with us. It doesn’t say God against us, God with arms folded across his chest tapping his foot, clucking his tongue. God is not looking down on us impatiently.

Instead a while later we get this message:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

I heard tonight, wait, it’s midnight, I heard yesterday that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfills. Little tidbits about the promise God made back in the garden that tell how his plan to restore our relationship with him would come about. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and of the promise. We have a way back to God. It’s not by good works, it is by Gods gift of Jesus. Jesus made the way back to our Heavenly Father by dying for our sins. Then he came back to life to show that he also conquered death.

The gift this Christmas is Jesus. And through Jesus we are brought back to our father in heaven.

Jesus, Emanuel, God came to us as a baby. He came to restore us. He came to save us. He came because he loves us. God loves me. God loves you.

In the heat of July, Merry Christmas.

Away from Venice

Away from Venice

(This is the post that started Peter’s Posts)

On the train ride from Venice back to Milan there was a storm brewing to the north. There were huge thunderheads forming. As we travelled along I saw one that looked like a man, (a king?) He was seated on a big chair (throne?) but he was rising up. We must’ve turned because the next time I looked out, the formation I saw looked like a crouching lion about to pounce.

The third time I looked out, the window it looked like a popped corn kernel.

We changed trains in Milan and the second train didn’t have air conditioning. Mary began to wilt. She hadn’t had a meal since breakfast at 7 and it was after 5. The clouds continued to gather and the sky darkened to the north. There were 3 train stops between us and our hotel and it looked like Mary would be a puddle of her former self. The temperature was in the lower 90s with 40% humidity

Then the clouds let loose just a little, like a single sweep of the old oscillating sprinkler and the temperature cooled down about 10 degrees. (God applause!)

We exited the train at our our stop but there was no cover. The rain had stopped already. After the two of us working together to figure out how to dial a + (plus sign), Mary called our hotel which was supposed to have a shuttle service. They informed us that the shuttle wasn’t available but that they were only 2 blocks away and suggested that we walk.

I know that this doesn’t seem connected to the clouds but wait.

As we began trudging toward the hotel dragging our 3 suitcases there was a loud thunderclap and then a second one.

(Lest you think us wimps, the first block was like DKs to division, with no sidewalk and no parking lane, just 2 lanes of Italian dinner hour traffic, 4 lanes if you count the scooters, and the there was also the thunder).

We briefly discussed the possibility and probability of being struck by lightning. It was mutually decided if God brought us all the way to Italy, to a tiny train station parking lot to strike us dead? Our number was up.

Instead of braving the traffic we called back to ask for a taxi. The hotel said the shuttle had just got back and would pick us up in 10 minutes. (I think this when the whole “struck by lightning ” came up but I’m too tired to cut and paste).

We did get picked up. We did get our lovely room. We did eat at the hotel restaurant. We did get greeted by the owner who welcomed us in a booming Italian accented voice. We did eat one of the best meals ever eaten by either of us, possibly by anyone ever.

The storm clouds are still all around but the storm seems to be on pause.

Make of these observations what you will, but here is what I think about them.

God is seated on his throne in heaven, but not forever. Not that he will be unseated but that he will arise and stuff will begin to change very rapidly down here.

The lion is the symbol of Venice. Venice needs Jesus. Italy needs Jesus. Churches are everywhere but they are empty. Empty of His people and empty of his spirit.

If God is rising up from his throne we His church need to get busy gathering the harvest. There will be a time when harvest is over. At that time judgement starts coming in buckets and barrels.

I do not know what my role is in this but I’m pretty sure it isn’t what I usually do.

Are you ready for the change that is coming?

Quitting time

Quitting time. My favorite time of day. Packing up my gear, putting away the tools. Cleaning up and setting up for tomorrow. It’s a great time of day. What if you walked onto the job at quitting time and still got paid for the whole day?

Bonus!

That’s what happened in Jesus’ story in Matthew 20.

“20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”’

Some of us are reaching quitting time, not just of a job or a career but of life. It is the eleventh hour. The sun is setting. What does God want from us? What will God do for us?

Jesus died to pay for our sins. All of them. Whether it’s the grocery sack full of the at age 16 or 26 or a cargo ship full at 56 or 66 or 76. The age doesn’t matter and the amount doesn’t matter. Jesus died to pay for our sins. You only have to ask. Forgiveness is for all at any age, even at the eleventh hour.

God wants his kids to come home. Will you accept his gift of salvation today?

Judging by results

Judging by results

If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non- Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all. The reasonable part is this. If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement to a mans outward actions-if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before- then I think we must suspect his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better; just as in an illness ‘feeling better’ is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up. In that sense the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. The wartime posters told us the Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true that Careless Lives costs Talk. Our careless lives set the the outer world world talking, and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself.

C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity

For my errors and failures and weaknesses I apologize. Look at and look to Jesus. He is the author and finisher of my faith.

“Peter James!“

When you get called by your formal name….

“Peter James!”

Just typing that sent chills of fear through my body because even though you couldn’t hear it, there was my mothers voice in my ear ringing with an angry tone as I typed.

John 21

I think that is what the apostle Peter heard in our text today. Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John. Jesus had just miraculously provided a huge catch of fish to Peter and his crew who had fished all night with no luck and no fish.

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’

Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John. There is language here that’s worth looking into if you have the time but what I got this morning was Jesus telling Simon Peter that he would never deny Jesus again.

He had denied Jesus. He denied him 3 times. The last denial was vehemently and with cursing.

On this day, through the catch of fish Jesus provided for this ex-fisherman, he gave him his mission, feeding the sheep Jesus would provide for him and he told him that Peter would die a horrible death rather than deny Jesus again.

It’s a good thing to hear that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Even open denial can be forgiven.

Thank you Jesus for forgiving that Peter and for forgiving this Peter all of our sins.

Who is the “I am”?

🎶When you’re down and troubled, and you need a helping hand…..🎶

Who do we call when we need help? How about calling out to the God who preexisted existence?
His name? one name he calls himself, I AM.

Jesus tells us a little about life after death and a little about The character of God in Matthew 22.

“23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[b]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”

I am. The pre-existing God continues to be the God of people who have died centuries ago. Not because he and they continue in our hearts or in our memories but because they continue to exist in God’s presence.

I AM. God exists outside and beyond the creation, his creation. We can continue to exist beyond our existence. Through Jesus who died and lives again, we can be part of that eternal existence.

Jesus said this in his conversation with Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

The same God who said said, ” let there be….” and there was, is the God who wants us to be with him in eternity. He sent Jesus to pay for our sin on the cross, and then defeat death so if we will admit we need him and receive what he has done as our payment then…

….You know wherever I AM, I’ll come running, running, running, to see you again.

(Thanks James Taylor for letting me borrow your lyrics)

RSVP

He’s talking about us.

In Matthew 22 Jesus was talking to the religious leaders of his day about you and me.

“22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

“‘So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’”

We are invited to the wedding! God has invited us to the party. In days gone by it wasn’t so easy to become part of God’s family and to be invited in but now through Jesus all we have to do is confess and believe to become part of his family and to be invited to the party.

Paul explains it in his letter to the Romans:

“21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Then later in his letter he says this:
“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[e] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’

Come today, come to the party, God’s invitation is open to any and all. Welcome.

On our last night in Italy we stayed at a hotel that had a wonderful restaurant. As we entered the restaurant the owner stood at the door with his arms stretched out and said “hello! My name name Guido and this is my restaurant, come in and enjoy!”

That’s how I see God right now waiting for anyone who will hear his voice.

Listen! He’s calling us! Today, Right now, today.

Okay Will you enter? Today?

Believing Thomas

There had been 12, twelve men. Now There were 2 missing. One was dead, suicide, and the other was AWOL.

John 20

Where was the second guy? The group had been tight for 3 years now it seemed to be unraveling.

I speculate that the second guy, Thomas, was being proactive. He was moving on to plan B. Plan A had been to follow and work with a miracle working messiah but he was dead. I think Thomas had seen Jesus body some where, either on the cross or on the way to the tomb. He struggled to get past the sight of his messiah, his master, his teacher, his healing life giving friend now lifeless and dead.

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

I don’t blame Thomas. I have seen dead bodies before. My uncle Charlie and my mom. They don’t look the same. Jesus was dead. But not for long. Thomas said “unless I see, unless I touch”. He got to do that but today we don’t have that option. We do however receive a blessing by believing without seeing.

Jesus suffered and died. He was dead. But he came back to life in a way that a doubter could see and believe.

What do you believe about Jesus?

If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

There is a lot weighing in the balance of your answer. Believe and come home to our Father.

An IRS agent and a sex worker walk into a kingdom…

An IRS agent and a sex worker walk into a kingdom.

Sounds like the setup for a joke but it’s part of a story Jesus used in Matthew 21.

“28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

What we do, or have done will not keep us out of Gods kingdom. However, once we are part of God’s kingdom, a member of his family, we need to get on with the business of that kingdom.

It isn’t enough to preserve our life and family, there is a bigger job still to get done. There are lives being lived without hope or truth. There are untended wounds, uncared for people who don’t know that God loves them, loves them enough to send his only son to die on a cross for them.

We Christians are in the same danger as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day of missing the point of the gospel. The point is that Jesus came to save sinners, sinners like the worst people that we know, sinners like us.

The worst people of Jesus day were the prostitutes and the IRS guys. They were hated.

Who wrote this book we are reading? Matthew, an IRS agent.

God changes lives and changes people with love.

He Knows, he sees, he loves

Jesus knows.

He knows stuff. He knows the future and he knows the past. In Matthew 21 Jesus predicts not only what would happen within days but then what would happen in about 37 years.

“33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’[h]?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[i]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

It all came true. They will arrest him. They will try and convict him. They will beat him. They will force him out of the city. They will kill him. And then God will boot them (the religious leaders) out of the city, destroy the temple and the city in 70 a.d.

Jesus knows stuff. Not just general events kind of stuff but heart and mind stuff. He knows my heart. Even when my heart wants something bad, something wrong, or when it will not forgive, or when it hates. He knows that stuff about me, about us. And yet…

And yet he died for me, for us. He died the death we deserve. And then…

And then he rose from the grave! Jesus is alive! Today, right now, he is alive and well and is waiting for us to choose to accept his deal, the deal of all of eternity, we confess we need him, and he forgives all of our bad and we become part of his family!

He knows stuff. He knows stuff about us. And he still loves us.

Today is a good day to accept his offer.

Let the remodeling begin!

Change. Jesus brought it with him. He could change people physically and change them spiritually. He changed water into wine. He changed blind and lame and deaf and mute people into seeing and walking and hearing people. He changed dead people into living people. When he entered the temple he changed it from a market back into a house of prayer.

I can change my house, we’ve done a lot of changing it. I have the authority to do so because I own it. (I will own it after 456 more payments).

In Matthew 21 the religious leaders of the day questioned Jesus’ authority to make the changes that he did.

“23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”‘

Does the owner of a thing have to show his deed to the place at the hardware store? I never have. There are times when I should have. Maybe not questioned my authority but my ability.

Jesus has both, authority and ability. He has a master plan for each one of us. He is standing on the front porch of our lives with blueprints and tools and supplies patiently knocking on the door. He is the owner, we are only tenants.

Remodeling is a lengthy and messy business. Last night I just finished painting over the spackle that I used to fill in holes that I made by mistake. It was a project that I started almost a year ago. There is dust and junk and unexpected detours. But God has a plan. He actually knows how best to change us to make us into what he needs to expand his kingdom. That is the goal, kingdom expansion. God wants his flag flown over every home.

Will we let Jesus into our lives so he can change us?

Today is a great day to get started.

Strike 4

Strike four! 4 strikes? My mom would give us unlimited strikes in wiffle ball or kickball. As I got older and started playing those same games at school It was a shock to find out there was a 3 strike limit. Mom was merciful. Usually we find Jesus being merciful, he died to save us from our sins. In this next section of Matthew 21 we see him use his authority in a different way. [ 612 more words ]
https://followingjesus.life/2018/07/10/the-fig-tree-is-up-to-bat/

A-C-T-S

ACTS

Many years ago someone taught me the acronym a-c-t-s as a sort of form for my prayers to God. It is based on the essential elements found in the Lord’s Prayer.

A Acknowledge who God is. He is King. He is Lord, master and also our(my) father

C Confess, confess my sins. Tell God where I failed. Admit my weaknesses. He knows it already but sometimes I need to say it anyway.

T Thanks. Thank God for all he has done for me. Salvation is a gift from God. Life is a gift, family and friends, food, clothes, housing, and households all are gifts from a loving God and my heart is made thankful when I recount all he has done in my life.

S Supplication. Ask God to meet my needs. Remembering this, “You have not because you ask not..” Jesus said to ask and keep on asking. Like a persistent widow seeking justice, keep at it.

All of this was brought back to my mind as I read Psalm 66 this morning.

Do you see the A-C-T-S in here?

“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.”
Psalm 66:16-20 – NLT

From black to red to white

I am damaged goods. I’m not just talking about my body. My heart, my soul are damaged. They are always wanting their own way. I am sitting in church listening to songs about how much God loves me, but my mind keeps flashing back to my failures, telling me I don’t belong here. Then over all the other voices and memories I hear Jesus words from the cross, “it is finished”.

Jesus finished the work it took to forgive my sins. I entered black with sin, but bathed in his red blood I am washed white. I don’t understand it but I cling to it like a drowning man to a life raft.

Join me if not in this place at least in this position. I have Asked Jesus yet again to cleanse me and his blood is just as effective today as it was the very first time a I called out to him to save me.

Church starts at 10 am here but there are church’s every where and if you can’t make it to church Jesus is available 24/7 and makes house calls.

Join me.

Converting useless into useful

Can people really change? Does meeting Jesus and having him become our master really have any affect on us?

(Col 4)

Once upon a time there was a slave who lived in Colosse. He was a young man born into slavery. He stole some money from his master and ran away to the big city of Rome. He was hoping to lose himself in the crowds. In stead he met a man named Paul who introduced him to a God/man/savior named Jesus. This slaves name was Onesimus. Paul had this to say about the character of this guy; “He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.”

And this “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.”

The second quote is from the book of Philemon. Philemon was Onesimus’ owner. How strange to own another human yet he did and it was within his rights to do anything to his slave. Paul asked for mercy and forgiveness.

The name Onesimus means useful.

Jesus can change people from useless to useful. He can set the the heart of one enslaved free, even if his body is still owned.

There are many modern slaveries that we get sold into. Jesus can set us free by washing away sin and breaking chains, spiritual chains the keep us locked into patterns and behaviors.

Can people change? Hmmm. Can Jesus change people? Yes.

Get a long little doggy

Get a long little doggy?

No, get along little doggy.

Colossians 3 (and a tiny part of 4)

The next bit of bible I’m going to quote is how to get along with people. How to live in community. The very next sentence is a very controversial, counter cultural bit of advice. The way our society recoils at it you would think it said that God hates puppies. God doesn’t hate puppies. He loves puppies. You know what he loves more than puppies? Us. People. Men and women. And he wants us to live in the best possible way. Since he created us he probably (probably?) knows how we can best live. He gives us the manufacturers recommended way to use this thing called life.

Here it is:

” 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
4 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Jesus loves us and has died to pay for all of our sin and now he lives forever and we can too, with him.

If we fail….when we fail at the above list of interpersonal relationships we have forgiveness in Jesus.

I recently read this in this very same book;
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Get along little people.

Getting lost at church

Why go to church?

Why do we go?

To worship? Worship who? How?

We worship the one who created us and then bought us back when we sold ourselves into sin. We worship With our words, with our music, with our gifts and offerings.

It is so easy to get caught up in business of church that we miss the real reason that we came together.

Matthew 21 records Jesus’ encounter with the folks who had lost their way.

“12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’[g]?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”

I lose my way. I’ve been there recently, so concerned about the mechanics of how we worship that I have forgotten who I worship. The spiritual leaders of the day had gotten very focused on the mechanics of church, that every detail be exactly as prescribed, even the the money used in the offering had to be the temple money, so there was an exchange of currency from one to the other and if those offering those services made a little extra for their trouble…? No rules against that. No rules against providing animals for sacrifice to the weary travelers who had come from far and wide to worship and if we make a little profit…? No rules against that. So the heart of worship was lost in the details. Worship became a business. Worship is not a business, it is a loving response to a loving father God.

My own life doesn’t have a direct correlation to this, but I do tend to go through the motions at times. Reading the daily Bible readings and coming out the other side unchanged. Not digesting any of what God is speaking to me from his word. Sometimes attending church on Sunday because, well it’s what a good Christian does, leaving unchanged and unchallenged.

Forgive me Father God. Help me see you and worship you well. You alone are worthy of my praise and adoration. Help me open myself to you. Crack through the shiny hardened shell on my heart and bring me life, change me, enlarge my vision and compassion for a lost world filled with pain and brokenness. Help me be a healing force bringing help one hope and grace and mercy to everyone around me.