Before

John 1

The beginning.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.”

Jesus being God. He pre-existed everything that was created by God. Jesus was there when there was nothing, not just darkness but a total void and vacuum, and God said “let there be light”. And light though it had never existed before suddenly came into existence. The creation was made through Jesus. Jesus is the word of God so when God said, that was Jesus right there.

Jesus is the light of the world. We see who we are when we encounter him.

I am feeling very inadequate to be talking about these huge spiritual concepts. But here goes…

Can you imagine building something big enough to walk through? A model village where you built every building, painted every detail, created beings to live in the village and use it. Their very existence and way of life was dependent on you. And you visit this village but no one knows you or recognizes you as the creator?

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

That is a big deal, a big thing, a change in the way that God had dealt with man. God had been a presence in the world. He revealed himself in very big, very Godlike ways, burning bushes, plagues on enemies, bread from heaven, water in the desert, water parting. Big ways, but now there was this man, a guy, a carpenter who started gathering a following.

A rugged prophet out in the wilds said that he was special.

“15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)

Jesus, fully God, fully man.

That is enough to think about for today for me.

Some assembly required

Titus

Paul’s True son in the faith.

Left alone on the island of Crete.

Left to straighten out, reinforce, assign leaders, good leaders.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

“6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Titus was also supposed to silence the opposition. If this were a movie that would mean snuff them out. I don’t think that’s what Paul meant here.

Once Paul was being harassed by an evil spirit that was in a slave girl. She followed him taunting him and mocking him.

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

Acts 16:16-18

This did not go smoothly for Paul and Silas. They were arrested, beaten and flogged and thrown into prison. And God even used that. They were in chains in the prison having a worship service and God sent an earthquake that set them free. But they didn’t use that to escape. They shared Jesus with their terrified jailer and he and his household were saved.

We have the Holy Spirit living in us, he can give us a heart for our taunters and words to use to change hearts and minds.

“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”[c] 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.”

A rebuke sharp enough to silence people with evil intent. I’m not sure what that would sound like. The Holy Spirit does know and can use us if we are listening to him and ingesting the words of God.

We will encounter some people that just don’t want what we have and will try to destroy what we teach.

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

There will be times when we are opposed. Answer this question and then proceed with caution. Are we trying to win arguments or win souls?

It is helpful to me to remember who i was, how i was and where i was headed before i met Jesus. It’s all about sharing Jesus with people like us, who don’t deserve His mercy and grace but can receive it freely, just like we did.

Two words

How many words does it take to change a life? It sounds like at a setup for a joke. It isn’t.

Matthew 9 tells us about when the author met Jesus.

“9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’

Jesus said two words and changed Matthew’s life forever. Matthew in turn has helped tell the world about Jesus.

Who can be included in this following of the teacher Jesus? It’s a special group of people. Who is Jesus looking for? Who is Jesus seeking? Who goes to a doctor? The sick. Who is Jesus seeking? The ones of us who admit we need his help.

The apostle John said in his first letter, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

When we are sick the first step to recovery is admitting that we need help.

I need help from Jesus. I need to be released from the burden off all my mistakes and blunders and disobedience. He is ready to help. He ready and waiting to forgive me yet again. His sacrifice, his bloody brutal death paid for all of it. And then he rose from the dead, victorious over sin and over death.

His mercy is inclusive. It is offered to all of us. Who needs a doctor today? A doctor who can wash away all of our sin? I do.

With two words Jesus changed Matthews life who in turned told the world about Jesus and by writing them down, has helped the world hear those words, follow me.

Are you coming?

Now and later

Long term or short term solutions? Why not both?

Matthew 9 starts out with the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. There is more details about the story in Mark 2 and Luke 5. The mans friends were so determined to get their sick buddy to Jesus that they hauled him up to the roof, made a hole, rigged some ropes, and lowered their buddy down from the ceiling. Kind of like a reverse jewel heist.

“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”’

(Matthews version is underwhelming in suspense and drama. )

I wonder what his friends thought about going through all the trouble to get their buddy to Jesus, only for Jesus to forgive his sin. But the story continues.

“3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.”

My long term problem is the sin that separates me from God. If it isn’t taken care by the time I die I will go to hell. My short term problems, health, wealth (or lack of), clothing, shelter, they are what I pray about, what I worry about, what consumes my focus and energy but the real problem of sin is much more serious.

As I’m writing this I’m listening to an icy wind howling outside. It’s 19 degrees with a 9 mph wind. According to my weather ap It feels like 8 degrees. It reminds me of the harshness of our world and how real our problems are. Life can seem long but it’s measured in years. Death and what comes after? We can’t measure because you can’t measure something that continues forever. Eternity is eternal.

Is it easier for Jesus to heal me or forgive me? Which is more important? Healing seems very important when I’m sick but Since healing will only last my lifetime how important is it? Forgiving my sin will change my life for now and forever.

I am so grateful that I can go to Jesus and be forgiven and ask for healing. I know I will be forgiven, I don’t know if I’ll be healed. I think I’m still getting what’s important.

More…

But wait, there’s more…

How many times have we heard that line in a TV ad?

The next story in Matthew 8 is about Jesus healing 2 demon possessed men that lived in tombs.

When I read it through I was distracted by the fact that Matthew talks about two men but when Mark and Luke tell the story they only mention one.

I did some extra research and read what the experts had to say. While reading about that, one expert mentioned the fact that while Jesus was in the midst of a successful ministry time, crowds were gathering, he hopped in a boat and went to the very place where two men who were being tormented by a demonic legion lived. No one could contain these guys. Not only were they busting ropes, they were breaking chains. If they couldn’t be contained then they also couldn’t be helped. Jesus dropped everything and crossed a lake in a storm to get to These men.

“28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[c] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

Jesus knows us, knows our troubles. He knows where we are and what we are going through and how to set us free and is able to set us free. No matter who or what or how many, Jesus can set us free. These men were not able to be held prisoner by anything but were in fact enslaved by evil. Jesus set them free with a a word. He said to the legion, “go!” And they went.

I want add just a little from Luke’s telling of the story.

“34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

Jesus can restore us. He can bring release from enslavement to evil, he can bring sanity back. Jesus sought these guys out. He then set them free when no one else could. They couldn’t be chained or freed.

Today, right now, Jesus is still seeking the lost hurt and damaged. How do I know? I am one. I am damaged on the inside and the outside yet, Jesus loves me. He sought me out and is in process of making me whole.

He loves us. Will we allow Jesus into our lives and let him clean us, clothe us and set us right?

February 18, 1972, the day I died

This is the anniversary of the day that I died.

The date was February 18, the year was 1972.

There were 5 of us in the old crewcab truck. My foster brother Rodney was driving, my sister Judi was sitting in the middle of the front seat, my sister Kitti and her boy friend Steve were in the back seat and I was riding shotgun. The truck was a Forrest service surplus. Seating for 6 and under the hood each passenger was represented by one cylinder, the long way to say it had a small 6 cylinder engine. It was not fast.

The night was foggy and cold. It was February fog, thick and sticky. We were driving from Milton-Freewater to Pendleton. The Loeffelbein’s had started a great adventure in leasing Curl’s Drive in in Milton-Freewater but were having trouble selling the house in Pendleton. The trip was supposed to be a chance for us kids to see our friends and help pack up the house. We didn’t make it very far.

Just outside of town there is a long steep grade that at that time had only two lanes. (I believe it’s 3 lanes now). I don’t know the ladies name in the slow car that was in front of us, I think she was driving a Rambler. Rodney thought it would be safe to pass. We were slightly ahead of her car when we saw the lights of the on coming car, they weren’t headlights, just park lights but it was a car in the lane in front of us. Rodney tried swerve back into our lane, there just wasn’t enough time.

I’m not sure which car hit us first but both cars did. I’ve heard that by the time it was all over there were 17 cars involved. The impact tore the cab we were in free of the truck frame.

When my dad who was at work in Pendleton heard about the accident from the state patrol all he knew was that his kids were in an accident and that there had been a fatality.

When he and my brother arrived on the scene our crewcab was in pieces strewn around the hi-way. The cab was upside down just off the road.

I don’t know the sequence of events except from my experience so that’s what I’ll tell you. When I woke up I was laying on the ceiling of our truck. People were all around, there were flashlights and people were asking me questions. I tried to talk but the lower half of my face felt like jello. I would find out later that my jaw was broken in 5 places. Somehow all 5 of us stayed in the cab. None of us were using seat belts (seat belts?).

Rodney had been pushing so hard on the brake that his foot had gone through the floor. His femur was shattered. Judi broke her wrist. Kitti broke her ankle. Steve was the worst of us. He had a skull fracture. At that point we were busted up but alive. The driver of the oncoming car had died on impact. My condolences to his family.

Somehow they got me out of the truck and into an ambulance. As I lay there on the gurney I started to panic but I heard a voice in my head that said “Jesus will take care of you”. I relaxed and either passed out or fell asleep or died. I don’t know. I just know that I’ve never known rest like that before or since. It was blissful.

At the hospital things were a little hectic. My gurney was in the hallway and when my mom arrived the doctors in triage were working on me. When My mom arrived she saw the doctors walking away from me she asked if she could talk to me, one doctor answered, “well it doesn’t matter now “. She started gently rubbing my leg and I started to cough. The doctors spun around and started working on me with renewed vigor.

I remember this scene but I remember it from a view above my body. As the gurney was wheeled into a room I remember sort of sqooshing back into myself.

All of this kind of got shoved aside as the crisis of all of us was being taken care of.

My jaw was set with a plate. They were going to wire it shut but my burn scars were too tough to cut through so they went with the plate. At a follow up orthodontic appointment the doctor who had been at the hospital when I arrived told my mom that I was clinically dead when I arrived. She almost fainted. After we got home we talked about all the details. I remembered the weird way that I recalled the event, from above my body.

I’m not sure how to close this. I’ve given the facts but it doesn’t seem complete. Dying and coming back to life. It happened. It changed me I’m sure but since I was so young (11) I don’t know how different things would be without the experience . One thing that happened because I had the plate in my jaw. Mary and I broke up

My senior year. I was trying to get out of town so I signed up to join the air force. I was going to leave early, before graduation. I had scored pretty high on my ASVAB so they were excited to get me. Everything was a go until during the medical questionnaire they asked me if I had any pins or plates. I told them

About my jaw and everything came to a screeching halt. Due to the plate I would not be joining any of our armed services. I stayed in soap lake. I graduated in June of 1979 and eventually (August of 1979) Mary and I went to a movie and before the sun rose the next day, we were not only back together, but engaged. The rest of the story is our marriage and family.

I died, I don’t know how long I was gone. I have no other memories from that experience. I don’t know why it happened. I do know this, God works all thing together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. I do love him and he has brought good to me even though life, at times was very rough.

Waiting for the final act

2 Thessalonians 3

The end of another book.

While we are waiting for the return of Jesus here are some things we can do:

1. Pray for the workers who are out there spreading The news that Jesus has come to forgive our sins.

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

Wim and Jennifer Dufoort

Chris Bowman and his wife Vicky

Marc O’Dare Shaw and his wife Kathy

Rory Lewellyn and Debbie Lewellyn

Brandon Bee and Leanne Bee

Just a few that I know. Please join me in praying for them.

I’m not sure what all has to happen before Jesus comes back but when the very last person who will accept the message of salvation has heard about Jesus, I think he will come and get us. We should be praying for these to get those. And let us not forget our own role in sharing Jesus with our world, our neighbors and coworkers and friends, The folks we see everyday.

2. Work. Earn the bread we eat.

“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”’

3. Live a life that reflects Jesus. Live morally, with grace and mercy.

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn him as you would a brother.”

My shift is almost over. I just want to finish up and go home.

I will end today with what I grew up hearing at the beginning of every sermon,

“Grace and peace to you, from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”