A stroll across the lake

John 6

Jesus, being a man Walking on water

“16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[b] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”

The circumstances are unclear. Why did the disciples leave without him? Did they think he had left already? Jesus had withdrawn so they wouldn’t make King by force. Had there been chanting? “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”? The crowd was determined. But Jesus knew that wasn’t The plan. He would be made King, but not like that. His crown would not be gold, it would be of thorns. All that comes in time.

Jesus is on the shore on the east side of the lake his followers are headed to the west side and experiencing a brutal storm. Men know instinctively that the shortest distance between points a and b is a straight line. Jesus started walking. The lake was beneath him and in front of him. But why walk on water?

One thing that may have happened and it completely conjecture on my part.

Maybe after Jesus would not become king the disciples checked out. Maybe Jesus walking on the water was supposed to say to them “I am king, but my kingdom is bigger than Israel, bigger than Rome, bigger than you can comprehend right now and the battle is not about land or laws. The battle is about hearts and minds and lives and eternity.”

Or maybe it was the quickest way across the lake.

Jesus is still waiting to rule hearts. He rules mine (most of the time, I still struggle with things and don’t always obey). He wants to rule our hearts, all of our hearts. That means each heart and all areas of each heart. He doesn’t want to control us, he wants to protect and bless us. He wants the best for each of us. His best, not always the same as the worlds best.

Today the choice is up to each one of us. Who will be king of our heart?

Truth inside the Galaxy

It is said of Clarence the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, he has the IQ of a rabbit, but he has the faith of a child.

In Matthew 11 we find these verses.

“25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”’

Who is Jesus?

If we don’t use the word “my” in our answer then he isn’t all he can be to us yet.

I must’ve been 15. I was terribly snarky at that age. We were all in the 67 Ford Galaxy and it was a sunny spring Sunday. We were leaving church heading back home, my sisters Judi and Shari, My new friend Mary, my cousin Kathy, mom and dad, dad was driving. Out of the blue and probably because of my youthful Snarkiness my dad asked me, “Pete, who is Jesus?”

The car got quiet as I thought about an answer, but I said the safest thing that came to mind, “Jesus is my Lord and savior”.

The rest of the conversation is blurry but dad said something like, “you have answered well…” and “I wish someone had asked me that question at your age”.

I don’t know why my dad asked me that, but I’m glad he did. He pushed and popped a truth pimple out of me that I didn’t even know was down there.

It would be several years and many mistakes and blunders later when that confession of my mouth and the understanding in my head and the longing and belief in my heart would all come together and I would be “born again”. My dad helped me that day.

Jesus wants us to know his dad. Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven and our relationship with our Heavenly Father can be restored.

So I ask again, who is Jesus? May this question nudge you closer to a God is waiting with open arms to welcome you home.

Have you ever…?

John 6

Gods math

“Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”

God provides. Jesus is God. Jesus provided for 5000 men.

5 loaves + 2 fish = food for 5000 with 12 baskets left over.

I myself have many stories of need, usually $$$, and how miraculously our needs would be filled. Are filled. My current job and the things that Mary and I have done together are miraculous. Every day miracles happen all around us.

Sometimes when miracles happen we miss something. We stop asking about Our biggest needs and our biggest problems.

Even if we get food today death will meet us on another day. When death meets us we cash in morally. We need to settle up our debts.

How do we pay for our sin?

The form will look like this:
Have you ever said anything that was not true? Yes or no? If yes you are a liar- you cannot enter Gods kingdom

Have you ever taken possession of something that didn’t belong to you? Yes or No? If yes then you are a thief you cannot enter Gods kingdom.

Have you ever said the name of God in a way not referring to God? Yes or No? If yes you are a profaner of the name of God-you cannot enter Gods kingdom.

Have ever had sex with someone that you are not married to? (Or even thought about having sex with someone you are not married to?) Yes or No? If yes you are an adulterer-you cannot enter Gods kingdom.

The list goes on. There are 6 more. So far I’m not doing so good. Who will help me?

Jesus. Jesus has paid the price for my sin. He has paid the price for all
Of our sins. Do you believe that?

Seriously, that’s the question that is and will be posed to all of us- it will be on the bottom of the form at heavens gate, “do you believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins? Yes or No? If yes then enter into Gods kingdom and welcome to the family of God, we’ve been waiting for you. A place has been prepared for you.”

A reprise

A reprise is something that is repeated but in an edited, condensed way. In the movies they do it with music where a meaningful moment in the movie will have a deeply moving music track that helps us feel the emotion of the characters in the scene and then towards the end of the movie, after all the conflicts have been resolved, they play a reprise of the music we heard earlier to remind of us of that emotion we felt.

Yesterday I jumped ahead and read Isaiah 53 so today’s reading was again Isaiah 53. Today I am going repost it, to paraphrase it, make it personal and use the new living translation. But just a piece, call it a reprise.

Yet it was my weaknesses he carried; it was my sorrows that weighed him down. And I thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for my rebellion, crushed for my sins. He was beaten so I could be whole. He was whipped so I could be healed. I , like a sheep, have strayed away. I have left God’s paths to follow my own. Yet the Lord laid on him all of my sins.
Isaiah 53:4-6 – NLT

Jesus’ death seems unreal and I remain unaffected until I make it about me.

He died for me.

I won’t point a finger but I will leave the reprise soundtrack playing, he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for sins…

Skipping ahead

My Bible reading today was Isaiah 50. I read that and then skipped ahead a few chapters to Isaiah 52 and 53.

All of these chapters look into the future and describe a suffering servant who would die, not for his own sins but for the sins of others. I have heard it said that There are those who could not believe that the messiah would be both a conquering king and a suffering servant. There are those who believe that it has to be that these are 2 different people.

In Isaiah 50 the prophet says this about one to come.

“The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.”
Isaiah 50:5-7 – NIV

We see this prophecy fulfilled in Luke 23.

And in Chapter 53 the prophet shares in great detail how the suffering servant will suffer and why and what will be accomplished through his suffering.

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah 53:1-12 – NIV

Followers of Jesus recognize that this suffering servant is Jesus. He has taken away our sins. And he is the Son of God, the king of kings!

We see in John’s revelation chapter 5 both of these roles, suffering servant and king are fused in the person of Jesus. We see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the lamb who was slain.

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:1-14 – NIV

I’m not sure what to say next so I will skip ahead to the chapter of the last book and leave you with these words:

“12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Revelation 22:12-21 – NIV

When are rules > people’s needs

John 5

Rules rule (not)

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] [b] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.”

How could they miss the miracle? It astounds me. Whenever I am astounded by someone else’s mistakes I try to pause and look at my own life. Where am I missing a miracle? I know I can be judgmental and prudish, excusing myself from the same scrutiny I give others.

But 38 years of torment erased by a single command of Jesus!? It says that Jesus found out how Long he had been there, I think Jesus may have enquired, “who has been here the longest?” and picked that guy out of the “great number” of people there to heal.

I don’t want to miss the miraculous by tripping over the mundane. The religious leaders of the day had written volumes of rules to live by, very specific rules that were like application for the 10 commandments. Somehow these rules were given as much or more importance than the original word of God. Jesus exposed the ridiculousness by telling this man to break the rules. God said rest on the sabbath, do no work. man said well this is what work is. Carrying a weight, the mat.

I don’t want to miss the miracle by explaining the background. Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years.

“Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.”

I really wish Jesus hadn’t said this or that John forgot to write it down. “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”.

Is there a cause and affect relationship between my behavior and the consequences of my life? I don’t have the answer for that here yet.

There’s a difference between following rules made by man and following rules made by God. Breaking the rules have different consequences too. Jesus saves us from our broken rule records by paying for all those blunders with his life, dying in our place on the cross. Following rules doesn’t get us closer to God, following Jesus does.

I have accepted Jesus’ death as payment for my sins. Will you too?

When are following rules greater than a person’s need? I can’t think of one right now. There may be an occasion but this mans illness and healing were not it. The situation revealed the heart condition of the religious leaders. They had forgotten the two most important rules, Jesus had distilled following God to two rules; love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Am I guilty of that? Do I forget to use this as my basic approach to life; to love God and love others?

Is life about following rules or about relationships and rules guiding our relationships? Love God with everything we have and love our neighbors in the same way we want to be loved 🥰. Its pretty simple. But even at that It’s not easy to do. In fact it’s impossible to it perfectly, and that’s why Jesus came to die for us.

Rescue

Mary and I have been binge watching Leverage. It’s an action series and on almost every episode there is a rescue. Audiences love to watch a Rescue.

If the Jesus story were rewritten for a modern audience Matthew 11 might be very different. John the Baptist was in prison. He had endorsed Jesus as the messiah, Jesus was showing himself to be powerful in word and deed but John was still languishing in prison.

“11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.[a]

2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’[c]
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I think what John was asking in a roundabout way is, “when may I expect my release?”

The release doesn’t come. John will be beheaded while in prison.

Jesus answer to Johns disciples was to affirm that he is the messiah and God’s plan is moving ahead. It may not look like what John was expecting. No daring prison break. No overthrow of the Roman Empire.

Sometimes the center of God’s will is to be unjustly imprisoned. It may even to be unjustly killed.

Does God know? Yes.
Does he care? Yes.

Now a question for us, can we still trust and believe in God if life is not going the way we want?

What if there is no rescue? Can God really be God if there is no rescue?

Yes.

But there is a rescue for each of us. A freeing us from a prison that each one of us is in, The prison of sin.

Jesus came to set us free, free from sin. No one else can do that and without it no other freedom matters. We will all face death. Without Jesus our sin will forever separate us from God. With Jesus even the physically imprisoned can be spiritually free.

God is good. Life is sometimes hard. God is always good.

Ask and keep asking

John 5

Take him at his word

“Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.”

I think I would’ve insisted that Jesus come with me to see the boy.

This father just accepted what Jesus said and went back home.

Maybe the circumstances of the water to wine incident were well known, so I propose this Galilean conversation.

“How did he do it? What did he put in the jars?
“Nothing, he never touched the jars or the water.”
“Did he do any incantation or have a wand or magic powder?”
“No, none of that, he said ‘fill those water jars’, they filled them and it became wine…!?”
“Well that’s a miracle!”
“Yup, miracle”
“Who is this guy again? Jesus? The carpenters son…?”

He can turn water into wine. What else can he do? He can heal people. He is not a genie. He is not obligated to us to do whatever we ask but we can ask anything. I’ve asked him to heal my grandsons. I have 2 with bad allergies. Not immediately life threatening, unless a peanut comes into play. So I’m kind of annoying God with requests for healing and so far the answer has been no or not yet. I continue to ask because I believe he can do it. I believe he will do it. I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet but I believe it will.

I contend in prayer for friends family and coworkers who haven’t met Jesus yet. That they will meet and believe in him. Believe that his death paid for their sin and his coming back to life guarantees our eternal life.

I take him at his word.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God is not a genie. He is better. Genies have no conscience and no foreknowledge of how what we ask for will affect our lives and those lives around us. You wish for a bazooka, you get a bazooka. You ask God for a bazooka and he knows what you really need. If you’re a weapons specialist involved in a military conflict or if you are a 7 year old boy with bully issues. The answer will fit the situation.

One of the sillier things that I’ve prayed for is a 57 chevy pickup. I prayed for 30 years. Then out of the blue My uncle gave me this one. I had to work on it a bit but here it is. Answer to prayer? I think so.

What is it that you want? What do you need? Ask and take Jesus at his word.

Read more about Gods answer to my silly prayer here. https://www.facebook.com/Rustys-Page-532927836827647/

He makes me think…

I have been reading a devotional of collected works of C.S. Lewis.

He was a brilliant person and sometimes I have to read and reread what he wrote several times before I understand what he means.

He makes me think. Most of the time he brings very complex ideas into focus so that the subject can be understood by common folks like me. Like looking through a telescope or a microscope, he brings hard to see things into view, and explains them in ways that make sense.

This morning the devotional was from a portion of “Mere Christianity”. He talks about the sin condition, why its here and where it came from.

“The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first-wanting to be the center-wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’- could set up on their own as if they created themselves- be their own masters- invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history-money, poverty, ambition, war prostitution, classes, empires, slavery- the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. ” C. S. Lewis “Mere Christianity”

Some of us have a humble smugness, seeing the depravity of some and assuming God grades on a curve, we deem ourselves “pretty good”, assuming that the most evil among us pushes the meek and moral yet irreligious further forward. Like a recent test I took, I scored an 80% and passed. I didn’t have to be perfect. We need to realize that God does not grade us on a curve, he does not compare our “pretty good” behavior to the most vile and evil and sigh and wave us on in to eternity, while sadly shaking his head and muttering, “well at least he’s better than that guy…”. Thinking like this is made up non-sense. We tend to take our week and wimpy ideas about our own “goodness” and paint God with that same brush of wishy-washy standards, thinking he is scoring us, keeping track of the good stuff and winking at the not so good stuff.

We are broken. We are all, each and every one of us, broken. the bible says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The word sin, it doesn’t mean much anymore to our time. Our culture has watered it down, allowing each person to define right and wrong and with that, have an individual definition of what sin is. What I have heard about the bible word sin, is that to sin is to miss the target, the bullseye. We are all shooting at moral perfection and declaring ourselves excellent marksmen even if the arrow we shot lands behind us. At least it left the bow, right? No, wrong. God in his ultimate holiness, for us to be near him, needs us to be absolutely perfect. No missed arrows. Every action, every thought to strike the bullseye.

That sounds impossible. It sounds impossible because it is impossible. There has only been one person who lived a perfect life. One, just one. His name is, and it would normally be said of anyone else, his name was, but his name is, although he was born around 2000 years ago, he was killed around 2000 years ago, his name is, because he rose from the dead around 2000 years ago, his name is, Jesus. He is God’s son.

The really unbelievably gracious thing about Jesus is that he can and he will and he does share his perfection with us. It doesn’t sound doable, sharing perfection, but it is. Jesus’ perfect life is like a robe, he can and will hand us his perfection and we can wear it like a robe and have it cover over our sins and then God looks at us, and sees his sons perfection and we are accepted. The way it is transferred is through the blood that he poured out as he was sacrificially crucified for all of us. Because God’s son Jesus was willing to die for us, we can be covered over with his sacrifice, with his blood and with that we are clean, cleansed, absolved, forgiven, freed, redeemed, adopted and welcomed in. We are loved and accepted.

The bible say this about Jesus in the letter to the Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 4:15-16

And later the writer says this, “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” 7:26-27

The transaction goes something like this, “Jesus I need what you did to cover me, I want to be clean and forgiven, I believe in what you did and that you rose from the dead.” Then tell some one, tell some one about the cool robe of purity that you just got given by Jesus. You can message me if you want.

If you are reading this and your are already a believer, would you do me a favor and share this post? Send it in email, put it up on Facebook or some other social media. Maybe someone who has never heard about Jesus will read this and receive his gift.

If you don’t like how I wrote this, write a better one and then share it. Write your story and share it.

#sharethegoodnews# #goodnews#

Behavior vs belonging

John 3

Behavior vs belonging

Did this ever happen to you? As a kid You invite a friend to join you for a day of family fun. Then this friend out shines you in every way in front of your parents. They are more helpful, more courteous, more polite. By the end of the day you can’t stand your friend anymore and you are pretty sure that your parents are looking into trading kids. But then the friend goes back to his house and you go back to live with your parents. You are still their kid.

Good works don’t earn us salvation like behaving for our parents doesn’t make us more of their child. The good behaving neighbor kid didn’t earn his way into our family through their good behavior. Our bad behavior didn’t make us lose our last name. Birth makes us a child of our parents. Being “born again” makes us a child of God.

New birth makes us a child of God. Our good works please him but they won’t make us part of his family.

“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b]gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”’

God wants us in his family.

“‘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. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”‘

When I sin as a Christian, what do I do?

The same man that wrote the Gospel of John also wrote this in one of his letters: 1John 2

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

If we are born again we belong to God, we are part of his family. Our behavior won’t change our family status. If we’ve sinned we need to confess it, admit it and get it cleansed by the blood of Jesus. It’s his death that washes away our sin. We need to Stay clean, but if we stumble, we get back up and get cleaned up. Then we get on with sharing About this amazing God who forgives sin.

Where’s my lovin’ focus?

We love our stuff. Americans, we love our teams, our beers our coffee, our political parties, our birthday parties, our jeans, our sneakers, our car brands (or truck brands). We love our stuff. I love my stuff.

I love watermelon and I love pepperoni pizza and i love sitcoms and crime dramas and tools and toys. I love cars and trucks, some more than others (wink-wink Rusty!) I love my wife and kids and my grandkids. (This is not a prioritized list).

To not love stuff, well it’s downright unamerican. Who doesn’t love stuff? Who shouldn’t love stuff?

As it turns out… me. I shouldn’t love stuff.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17

Everything in the world is good, God declared it so at the end of creation but it has in it an enticement that can lead me away from my love of God. My little human heart has only a certain amount of love. How will that be divided?

If I love God first and foremost it opens the chambers of my life to more love. Like when I see my wife from across the room my pupils dilate. They open up as if to get more of her visage and likeness into my head and heart. When I love God first, my heart is opened up to allow more love for people. When I understand that God is creator of all things then things take on a different level of respect and admiration. I see things as part of a creators creation and I start to see people differently. I start to see Each one as a person created to spend eternity in fellowship with God but just now separated from him by sin.

We are separated Unless.

Unless we meet Jesus and accept his gift of reconciliation.

This is how that reconciliation happens: “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. 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. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-13

Say out loud “Jesus you are now my Lord, (master-boss-king-ruler-leader) and I believe that you rose from the dead. “

Can it really be that simple?

Yes, but try it and see.

What changes? Down here? Not much. In heaven? There’s a party, in your heart? Sin is forgiven. And the driver seat of your heart is now occupied by the Holy Spirit.

Buckle up. You are beginning a new adventure.

Anniversary of 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 family had embarked on 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.

Thank you mom for pursuing us to the hospital, for your loving and gentle touch that brought me back.

Thank you Jesus for bringing me back. My story could have ended on February 18, 1972, that may have been the date on my tombstone but you have other plans for me. Plans to prosper me, not to harm me. Plans to give me a future and a hope. Not only a future on earth, my future then, is now my past, but you have given me a future in eternity.

We can read about Jesus raising the dead on more than one occasion. Here’s one example.

Jesus was traveling with his disciples and they came upon a funeral procession.

“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
Luke 7:11-17 – NIV

Jesus will go on to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead, and then he will raise his young friend Lazarus from the dead. And although the leaders of the day condemned him, Jesus, to die on a cross. He rose on the third day. Death has been defeated.

There are a couple of things that are true of all of us. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Truth. The wages of sin is death. Truth. We are all going to die. Truth. Ok so that’s 3 things.

I personally stepped through the door of death. I was on the other side looking back at my body. Death is not an end. It is a doorway.

I stated earlier that Jesus died and rose again. The thing is, he was a perfect man and he was also God. Fully man, fully God, living life without sin and then killed. Why? His death was a sacrifice. He was our sacrifice. The Jews have an annual celebration to commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egyptt. They sacrifice a lamb. The lambs blood kept them safe from the angel of death. The lamb had to be perfect, spotless and without blemish. Jesus was our perfect, spotless lamb, without blemish. His death paid for our sin and protects us from death.

There is only one thing left to do. We have to claim that for ourselves. We have to say, “Jesus I accept what you did, dying on the cross as payment for my sin and I believe that you rose from the dead and are now living forever in heaven, preparing a place for me in eternity with our Father in heaven.”

If you have stated that, tell someone. And welcome to the family of God.

I need a shower

In August of last year we moved into a new house, not just new to us but brand new. We are as surprised as anyone that we are here. We feel very blessed and grateful.

One of my favorite parts of our new house is the ensuite bath. Our last house did not have this feature. My favorite part of the bath is the tiled and glass enclosed walk-in shower.

Because of COVID-19 I have been working from home. I used to have to shower every night after coming home because my clothes would pick up the smell of one of the chemicals we make, it smells like old fish. Now that I work from home I lose track of when I showered last.

I showered last night. I had spent a long weekend in the garage working on a project and i was dusty and sweaty and dirty. It felt good to get clean.

Getting clean, washing away dirt and sweat and stench and filth. It feels good. What about our inner person? How do we clean our souls?

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the hot shower of the soul. Who can we go to to get forgiveness?

Let’s read a bit of Luke 7 and find out.

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured 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 who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”’
Luke 7:36-50 – NIV

Are you feeling dirty?

Our sins, whether few or many can all be forgiven and washed away by Jesus.

Like in my shower whether I am caked mud and filth or just need to wash off a stinky smell, the forgiveness of Jesus works to cleanse me, cleanse us.

Seeking and finding

John 1

Seeking and finding

What are we looking for?

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.”

The disciples of John were looking for the messiah. John pointed them to Jesus. When they met Jesus he seemed to already know them.

“Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe[h] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,[i] you[j] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’[k] the Son of Man.”’

Jesus know us. I mean knows us. Every deed done in secret. Every deed done by us. Every deed done to us. He has seen it all.

Here is His message about all that.

It is forgiven.

We don’t need to look for anything or anyone else. Jesus knows us and has come to forgive us and welcome us into his family.

Gentle gentle Jesus

(Winter is loooong. Life can be cold and hard and messy. I hope this helps. God is in the beautification business, it may not show on the outside because he always starts in our hearts).

I was listening to a radio pastor yesterday and heard something new or at least fresh. A fresh thought.

As I get closer to Jesus , the light he brings into my life continues to expose more and more of the mess in my life.

Like if I were with Jesus in a dark room. He asks me if the room is clean. Hmm, the room is dark, nothing under my feet, I say yes. He then lights a match and we see just a little way around us. There are dirty dishes, litter, a pair of underwear that didn’t make it to the hamper. Then he turns on a flashlight and we see deeper into the room, more mess, then he flips on a light and we see clearly, smudged walls, mildew and mold.

The longer I hang out with Jesus the more stuff he exposes. Sometimes the pain and shame of a life exposed is too much and I want to push Jesus back out of my life and shut the door and please oh please, kill the light. The mess doesn’t go away when Jesus leaves and the light goes out, but if we don’t have to see the mess of our lives, we can pretend it isn’t there, and the pain and shame fall and fade.

Meeting Jesus and inviting him into my life will not make my life a blissful rose garden. Well not just the flowery part. Jesus will begin to clean up and the fascinating thing he will do is to use the poop of my life to grow beauty. The bible says the he will give us beauty for ashes. Ashes are the waste product of the end of something, something gone and useless. God has the ability to turn that part of life, and poop is a useless waste end of life product too, the poop and ashes and reuse them to bring us beauty, like roses.

This will only happen if we allow him into our lives and trust him enough to expose the mess behind the door. Denying a mess doesn’t make it go away. Admitting to a mess doesn’t make It go away either but it can start the process of cleansing.

Isaiah 61:1-6 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.”

Today will you let Jesus into your life to help you declutter your your heart and soul? He will turn it around for you. Beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for despair. He loves us and just wants to help.

Rough beginnings

In the fall of my 5th grade year I got the mumps. Mom and dad both worked full time so I stayed home alone for a week. I had a children’s bible that had been given to me by my God parents, Mr & Mrs H. H. Rieky. (I’m probably spelling that wrong). I read it. I read the entire Old Testament and the gospels and acts. I tried reading the Epistles but got bogged down when there was more words than pictures.

At the back of the Bible was a sinners prayer, a place to confess your sin and receive forgiveness, accept Jesus as Lord and savior. I did that. And waited. Nothing changed. My dads stack of Playboys didn’t go away, mom and dad still fought, my dad still drank and got angry.

I thought my Prayer didn’t work. I expected my world to change but it was my heart that changed. A transaction had occurred but I wouldn’t realize it for 11 years, when I finally understood that salvation comes by grace.

Matthew 9 talks about how you can’t add new things to old. They don’t go together.

“14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”’

Christianity is a new way of life. It’s not Judaism. It’s not animal sacrifices and rituals. Christianity is about Jesus, what he did for us. He forgave, once for all and all eternity, our sin. He paid for it, covered it over. It is no longer animal sacrifice. It is a human sacrifice, one human man died to redeem all of mankind.

The transaction is simple.

“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.” Romans 10:9,10

It’s a new life in the same world. The sin and sadness and anger and all of the yuck will all be there, but now we can shine on it.

Darkness does not overcome light, light overcomes darkness.

Jesus is the light of the world.

Simplicity

Titus 2

I love the Andy Griffith Show. I long for life in Mayberry. Living life, doing what’s right, fishing, (what? I’ve fished before), talking with folks, living in a black and white world.

The instructions that Paul gives for the folks on Crete sounds like a life from a bygone era but it’s the life of a christian. The way we live today may seem antiquated to the world and culture around us and that’s ok.

“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”

This lifestyle won’t sell more beer, or guns or pickup trucks. It’s not what our culture wants but it is what our culture needs. We are Not to impose this on anyone but to live this way in front of everyone.

Ladies, your turn.

“3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Busy at home and subject to our husbands? Be pure? Think pure? 50 shades of white?

Yes.

Young men what can your lives look like?

“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Next are the Slaves, not many of those this century but there are a lot of employees. If we have someone to answer to at our job this week lets try and live like this:

“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

Why? Why this self control and good behavior?

“11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Jesus died to save sinners. Not all the sinners have heard that yet. Let’s Tell somebody about Jesus today.

Winter snuggles

The winter.

It means short days.

Short days means that when my work day is over at 5 pm it’s already dark outside.

We have two small dogs, Piper and Cooper. They use our backyard for all of their bathroom needs. When it’s dark outside I can’t go and pick up their stinky deposits so they accumulate.

Dogs are weird. They like to stink. Sometimes they will roll in and on stinky stuff to make themselves smell “good”. Smelling good to them is smelling bad to us. We won’t let them share the couch if they stink. Their behavior has separated us.

Another thing that happens is that between groomer visits the hair in all areas of their body gets long, even on their backside so sometimes they collect an unsavory berry, what we call dingle berries. This also adds to their unpleasant odor.

Their smell, in part brought on by their behavior and in part brought on just being dogs has separated us.

I was already thinking about how my relationship to our dogs is similar to my relationship with God, how he feeds me and cares for me and cleans up my messes. But then bathtime came for our dogs. We had to take action, do something to make them clean again so we could both enjoy a snuggle on the couch.

God has taken action to make me clean. He couldn’t stand the stench of my sin so he sent Jesus to die for my sins, so I can be made clean again. Why would he do that? Because he enjoys snuggling with me. Or at least the God/human equivalent of a snuggle, we call it fellowship, but that word doesn’t really convey the sweetness of a couch snuggle with a puppy.

This idea started with me reading Matthew 14, Jesus heard about John the Baptist being beheaded and he got into a boat and sailed off to be alone and mourn but when he came ashore there were a bunch of needy people waiting for him.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Matthew 14:13-14 – NIV

God has had compassion on me, on us. He wants a couch snuggle but we stink, from our behavior yes but from our very humanness. He sent Jesus to provide a way to wash away our stench and make us clean.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17 – NIV

It’s winter and it’s cold outside and I long to snuggle with my dogs. Is God feeling a similar thing about me? About us? Are we clean enough to approach his couch? We can be through Jesus. Need a bath so you can snuggle? I did. How about you?

Cooper looking away and Piper facing the camera

But wait… there’s 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 man who were being tormented by a demonic legion. No one could contain theses 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 prisoners 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 loves us. Will we allow Jesus into our lives and let him clean us, clothe us and set us right?

Quarantined

Quarantined

In the first century a person with leprosy was made to isolate themselves from everyone, they were were required to stay a certain distance away from everyone, even their own family. They were not allowed to enter the temple. They were alive but dying slowly. The disease was highly contagious. They were not allowed to touch anyone and no one could touch them. In public places They had to shout “unclean! Unclean!”

Here and now during the COVID-19 pandemic we understand the quarantine, we understand the fear of contagion. My wife and I have been isolating ourselves for months so that we could provide and clean and safe place for her mom to recover from heart surgery. We haven’t allowed anyone to visit and we have been staying home, working from home, worshiping from home. We understand a tiny bit, the loneliness and isolation of quarantine.

In Matthew 8 Jesus met a man with leprosy. He did the unthinkable. Then he did the impossible. Then he told the man to do the traditional.

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:1-4 – NIV

The unthinkable was touching an unclean, untouchable person.

The impossible was healing an incurable disease.

The traditional was showing himself to the priest. The first century equivalent to passing a COVID-19 Test and completing a 14 day quarantine.

Here’s my take away. I was spiritually unclean when Jesus came into my life, I was a sinner and Jesus is a Holy God and yet he was willing then to reach out and grab me and hold me and heal me and wash me clean. Now he asks me to “show myself” to declare that I am changed.

He will do it for you too reader.

Jesus says today to us all, “I am willing!”