Seed faith

Seed faith. Size matters.

Pictured is a mustard seed. No matter what seed we talk about, inside the seed there are plans and genetic design plus the unknown life force packed into the seed to recreate the parent plant as soon as the conditions are right for growth. It’s magic or masterful at the very least.

In Matthew 17 Jesus talks about faith and how it affects our ministry.

“14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ‘

I don’t like being scolded. Who was Jesus scolding here? The dad? The son? The disciples?

In Mark there is more of Jesus’ conversation with the dad recorded.

“20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”’

If you can. The dads faith seems to be the faith in question. The Mark version adds prayer to the cure, some manuscripts also add fasting.

I have a list of people that I pray for, a written list. There are four names scribbled out. These four names represent four people who are dead now. I was praying for them and they died anyway.

Jesus says in this passage that if our faith is as big as a mustard seed that I can move mountains, that nothing will be impossible for me. So what size IS my faith?

If we look at the details of Marks version of the story I must ask myself, did I ever fast for these sick people? No. I did not.

I have an ineffectual prayer life in part because I don’t take it seriously. Who am I talking to? The dog? (Sometimes they are the only one in the room). Who am I talking to and what can He do about what I am asking him about? Gods will and his plan are sovereign but I am still seeing things that I would like to change. Do I believe God can do them? If I don’t believe, why am I wasting my time?

I have either never or seldom asked God to increase my faith. Today that changes.

God, please make my faith bigger. I want to see change in my world. Use me. Help me to see what to ask for and to believe in your bigness enough that people lives can be set free from torment and disease and the repercussions of sin. Grow me so the kingdom, Your kingdom can grow through me.

Amen?

Amen.

Hello my name is…

Did they have name tags?

When Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain top and spoke with Jesus, how did Peter James and John know who they were? Did Jesus say, ” Hey Mo, how are you Elijah? What’s up?” Or was it just deduced from the context of the conversation?

Maybe there was an introduction? “Peter, James, John, this is Moses, the law giver, and this is Elijah, the mighty prophet..”

Let’s read the text from. Matthew 17.

“17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”

The Jewish people were looking for a messiah, some one to come and shake off the oppression of Roman rule. They knew from the prophecies of the Old Testament that Elijah was supposed to come and usher in the messiah.

Here is Elijah, not an Elijah type but the real original Elijah standing before them. As a bonus the leader of leaders, a messiah of his own generation, freer of the Jews from Egyptian bondage, Moses, was standing there too. Two of the most influential humans to ever walk the planet. If they were talking to anyone other than God himself, they would be the ones to to listen to, they would have the message from God, they would be the star of the show but the voice from God said, “this is my son, listen to him”.

I think this scene may have been like a prize fight ring where the trainer and coach are in the corner encouraging and pumping up
The champion before he takes on the two ugliest and strongest forces known on earth. The forces Jesus was about to fight were Sin and Death. Up to that time these two, sin and death, were undefeated. Jesus was about to battle them not for himself but for us.

He will win. He did win. As he said from the cross, “it is finished”.

Jesus has defeated our enemies, sin and death. By defeating sin he removed the separation between us and God. Our debt is paid, the slate is clean and we have access to our loving Heavenly Father. By defeating death he took away the period at the end of the sentence so our life can go on with God. Physical death can now be the doorway to eternal life with God.

There is a questionnaire to fill out.

Who is Jesus?

What has he done for you?

It’s an open book test. There is a strong hint in Romans 10:9-10.

“9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

John 13

Dirty work

” It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I’m not sure how we got away from this, the foot washing. I guess some groups still do it. It’s a Maundy Thursday thing. Some groups do it more often. I have washed feet but never have I had my feet washed.

Washing feet is an act of saying we are all human. I fail at perfection. No matter how well I cover up, conceal, perfume or otherwise hide my imperfections my feet will still sweat and stink.

Will you help me not stink? Will I help you not stink? Life is dirty. Feet get dirty. We can cover up or we can confess our human-ness and participate in keeping each other less dirty and less stinky.

It’s not just our feet is it? It’s my heart and my mind. My life and my actions. Will we help each other clean up our life and actions? Will we trust each other?
“But my feet have been in some really deep poop”.

We are all at times in deep poop. Life is at times, deep poop. Deep stinky sticky poop. Are we committed to clean others as we ourselves are cleaned?

Confession and forgiveness. Cleansing each other in a close and personal way.

Christianity isn’t living the perfect life. Christianity is living the forgiven and forgiving life.

Let the light in

John 12

Are you in darkness? Jesus is the light of the world.

“John 12

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews
37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[h]
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”[i]
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”’

I am afraid of the dark. As a child it paralyzed me. As an adult I’ve worked past the fear, and I carry a flashlight. All of us with phones carry a flashlight. Jesus can be our spiritual flashlight.

Jesus being light and bringing light into our lives is one of the things that can make us uncomfortable. There are things done in darkness, or memories hidden in dark corners of our hearts, things done by us, things done to us that we want to stay hidden. Hidden and forgotten.

Jesus came to expose those things not to shame us or hurt us, but to forgive us and free us from the pain and the stench and the mess and the clutter.

Some of us are hoarders of bad memories.

I challenge all of us today to let the light of the world into our darkest corners so that cleansing and forgiveness can begin.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

The horn button principle

John 12

The horn button principle.

” Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”

The horn button principal. I have A 57 chevy pickup. His name is Rusty. For close to 30 years before I had my truck, I had a 57 chevy truck horn button. It sat on a shelf in my garage. I wanted a truck. I had horn button. When anyone asked about the horn button I would say “I’m growing to grow a 57 Chevy pickup from that horn button”. A long time passed. Finally one day I gave away the horn button. That ended my dream. Or so I thought. Several years went by but around my 50th birthday I got a letter from an uncle saying he had a 57 Chevy truck that he wanted to give me. It was the same person that I had given the horn button to. The day I got the truck I also got the horn button back. I had planted the seed and it germinated and grew into a truck.

The principle is that you have to let the dream die so that it can come back to life. Bigger and better than you could hope for.

Jesus literally planted himself in the earth for us. He died and was buried and came back to life changed. The people who were following him had an idea of who and what Messiah would be. It was wrong or at least incomplete. Messiah wasn’t coming to set Israel free from Roman oppression. Messiah had come to set mankind free from sins oppression. Jesus had to die, the incorrect or incomplete messianic dream had to die so that Jesus could become the real and only hope of freedom from sin.

“25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Giving him me

John 12

Giving Jesus our very best.

“12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

Mary gave Jesus the best she had. She gave it freely and extravagantly. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

I don’t have a personal example of this. I can’t say, “it was like that time I…..” I say this to my shame, I am a stingy person. And worse yet, Jesus doesn’t get my reserved best, he gets what I have left at the time. Like right now, I’m scrambling to put thoughts together. It’s like my spiritual life’s feast is a Charlie Brown thanksgiving, toast pretzels and popcorn.

I come to him, just as I am, spent, tired and empty and he still loves me. I long for the day when I can present him me at my very best, but in the meantime he takes me as I am, worn out, broken, used up, confused, distracted and let’s me rest with him. Then he tells me he loves me.

He just wants me, he just wants us to be with him.

It’s a sign

It’s a sign.

In our little town at this time of the year there is a ginormous lighted cross at the top of a hill over looking our region of Washington State.

Why is it it there? It’s a sign, it reminds us of an execution that took place about 2000 years ago. A man named Jesus was hung on a cross, literally nailed to a wooden cross, and left there to die. It’s recorded that some men would hang for days. Because of the flogging he received before being nailed to the cross, he died in a few hours. The Jewish leaders of his day had conspired to have him killed. They succeeded.

Gods master plan wasn’t interrupted by the cross of Jesus. Gods master plan was the cross of Jesus. Don’t think for a minute the Jews conspiring to kill this man was an accident. Jesus knew ahead of time what was coming. He knew he would die a death that pain itself was the killer. The victim is slowly suffocated by pain. He knew. And yet he loved us so much, he did it anyway.

Matthew 16

“16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.”

The sign of Jonah. Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights. Jesus would soon be in the earth 3 days a 3 nights. The fish couldn’t hold Jonah and death will not, did not, can not hold Jesus.

If you added up what Jesus had done in front of these people to this time in his ministry, like feeding 5 thousand the another 4 thousand with a bag of bread and some fish, healing every person who asked for it, raising the dead back to life, walking on water, calming a storm, all of this had already been displayed, then they asked for a sign from heaven.

What nudge are we waiting for in our generation? It’s always Gods love that draws us in. God loves us. He showed us his love in the sign of Jonah. That Jesus was swallowed up by death but he defeated it. He didn’t need to beat death, he is God, but he knew we needed it because death waits for us all. At death we must cash in our chips to pay for all of mistakes, our sins, our selfishness but we don’t have enough. Our pockets are empty at the grave but Jesus not only beat death, he paid for our sin too. His perfect life sacrificially given up pays for it all.

My photo is grainy and blurry, forgive me. If you live in Ephrata look up to the top of Beasley hill tonight, you will see it, there’s a sign there, a sign for each one of us. It’s a cross. God loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place.

“(Your name here) come out!”

John 11

Jesus brings the dead back to life.

“38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

This story was hard for me to write about. I couldn’t get images of rotting flesh and Zombies out of my mind.

The weird thing is that I have personal experience with being clinically dead. I was in a car accident when I was 11 and was without pulse and not breathing when I arrived at the hospital. My mom arrived just then, saw me and asked some doctors who had just checked me and were walking away if she could talk to me. They said ” it doesn’t matter now”. My mom touched my leg and I started coughing. The doctors spun around and started working on me again. I remember being above my body in the hallway and the return to the pain of being damaged but in flesh.

Jesus spoke to Lazarus. “Come out” and the mound of flesh and bones that was rotting inside a cave came back to life and walked out of the grave. The same voice that had said to pre-existing darkness, ” let there be light” and light came into being, reanimated the body of his friend with 3 words. “Lazarus,come out.”

We are all dead in our sins.

“2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

We are all dead in our sins but we don’t have stay that way. Jesus speaks to each one of us and says “(your name here), come out”.

My heart and the toilet bowl. 🚽

My heart and the toilet bowl.

Toilets are nasty. They are filled with all kinds of bacteria and germs and ugly nastiness. Even after cleaning them they are still a host for filth. In the part of the world I live in even the cleanest of toilets get a hard water ring at the water level from the deposits in the water. No Matter how much I clean my toilet, it is still just by the nature of its function, contaminated and dirty.

The Bible says our hearts are like that, desperately wicked. Dirty. nasty. 

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9 

There are no exceptions. 

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.

Romans 3:10-11 

I was doing my semi-annual toilet bowl scrubbing which doesn’t take a lot of concentration so my mind was free to drift. I’ve been reading Philippians and there are a couple of spots that ring in my head, not because I have these areas licked, but because I stumble over and over them. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:3-4 

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

Philippians 2:12-15 

I generally do value others better than myself. But there are some that I just have trouble raising their value in my eyes. These are usually the same people that ask me to do stuff I don’t want to do and I respond with both grumbling and complaining. 

If I could fix the first part,  valuing them above myself, the second part, doing what they ask of me without grumbling or complaining, would probably fix itself. I think it goes back to my toilet like heart. 

What am I to do?

There was a king over Israel who had dalliance with a beautiful woman. The woman was married. Her husband was a soldier deployed to a battle front. The woman got pregnant from the one night stand. She told the king. He had the soldier brought home so he could hide the pregnancy in the marriage bed. It didn’t work. The soldier was too honorable to enjoy his wife’s company while his men were in battle. So, the king sent him back and had him killed by the enemy.  He then took his widow into his home. All cleaned up and tidy. No one was the wiser. But God knew. And the king knew. And the toilet bowl of his heart would not come clean until he confessed his sin. So the king wrote this, we know it as Psalm 51. 

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:1-17

When I sin, My course of action must be similar to the kings, I must confess, tell God what’s really in my toilet bowl heart and repent, change direction, and ask to be forgiven. 

What can wash away my sin?

We sing a song about it. The chorus goes something like this:

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing. 

Nothing. 

Nothing…..but the blood of Jesus. 

Through confession and repentance I bring my filthy toilet bowl heart to God and he washes it with the cleansing blood of his son Jesus and my heart is clean again. Not for long. Just like the toilet in my house, my heart gets dirtied so I go back to God and forgives me yet again. 

Everyone can have their toilet bowl heart cleaned by the blood of Jesus, even me, even you. We just need to confess that we need it, repent and ask for God to clean us. He wants to help us because he loves us people with toilet bowl hearts.

Anxious for nothing

Remember 2019?

Back in 2019 I suggested to our grow group that we do a study “Anxious for nothing” that Max Lucado has prepared. It is on how to deal with anxiety.

The study focuses on Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:5-8.

I highly recommend this study. I have mentioned it in my posts before and do so again today.

Why mention it again? Well, because taking that course and studying those verses hasn’t meant that I am now anxiety free. In the last 2 months Life’s anxiety dial has gotten cranked to 11. The course doesn’t teach us how to avoid anxiety, it teaches us how to deal with it when it comes. The way to deal with anxiety is given in the verses in Philippians.
“Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:5-8 – NLT

There are 2 parts of this that I keep forgetting. The first I keep forgetting, and it is essential for my heart and soul and spirit, is yes to pray about everything, AND be thankful for all that God has done already. I forget to be thankful.

The second part I forget to do is to fix my thoughts on the good things. “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”

I keep peeking into the news, looking for bright spots but get sucked into blood clots, and death Rates and who gets it worse, etc. just writing those things kicked up the anxiety levels. But the news is not my reality.

My reality is this: I’m sitting in a warm-ish basement, on a very comfortable couch, I’m listening to my sprinklers sprinkle my lawn, my dog snore, the birds sing, a heater in my bathroom heating where there is a flush toilet AND at least another couple of days supply of toilet paper.

Not everyone reading this has life this good. Some have it worse and some have it better. I need to maintain an attitude of thankfulness to God because he is God. I owe him my very existence.

There are good things to think about and I have to actively guard my thoughts to focus on the good. I recently saw a Facebook post of a proud father helping his son rope a calf. There was a lot of motion and action and determined concentration for everyone involved. It’s like that. Active motion. Thoughtful and mindful thinking. Concentration. I have to police my thoughts like that young man policed his calf.

So here I am confessing I failed- again. I’ve been worried and anxious. I have been ungrateful. The Forgive me father. Thank you for all that you have done in my past and are doing right now in my present and all that you will do in my future. Help me stay in a state of gratitude and thankfulness and to be amazed at all you have done and are doing all around me and even inside me.

Wait…what?

John 11

Wait, what?

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”’

There are a couple of things that happen here that make me scratch my head.

Jesus said that the sickness wouldn’t end in death but Lazarus dies. But it doesn’t end there.

Lord willing I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

The second thing is that John mentions a thing about Mary washing and anointing Jesus’ feet as if he had already told us about it but it doesn’t get written in until the next chapter.

I have often felt that in the story of my life I only play a minor supporting role. In the credits of “Peters life, the movie” towards the end, right before they thank the caterers and the city of Ephrata there will be “and Peter Loeffelbein”.

I think lazarus’ sister Mary may have felt that way about her life but her simple act of ministering to Jesus was so well known that John could reference it before he had written it.

I think this says our service to Jesus may be more significant than we know. He remembers it all.

Do the right thing and do it for the right reason and for the right person.

Do it for Jesus. And keep doing it because he remembers it all. Keep serving him. Love people. Serve people. Keep going. He remembers it. He remembers us. It is significant.

We are significant to him.

Sheepishly His

John 10

We are known, we will live and we are safe.

“Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.”

Are you one of His sheep?

I am. Of course that is a metaphor. I’m not really a sheep. I am a follower of Jesus and I have accepted his offer.

I got to a point where I realized that I had done things that had stained me. No matter what I did I could not wash away the stains. Jesus offered to wash away my stains but he did it with his blood. By dying the death I deserved to die he paid for and in a sense, washed away all of my stains.

In that transaction I became his sheep. One of many. Will join me and become one of his flock? There is no better shepherd than Jesus. Since he died and rose again death no longer has a hold on him or on me. My body will die but my spirit will live forever. I can never be “snatched away” from Jesus.

Bahhh. He now leads me to work. I must follow.

Walks in the cemetery(s four weird things about that)

Walks in the cemetery
(and four weird things about that)

Isaiah 26

Covid-19 has me self quarantined in my home practicing social distancing and working from home. My home is house built in 1940 in the downtown of a sleepy little rural community. I have an office set up in my basement. It is cool and damp and I feel a little weird working from 6 feet underground.

I take a walk on my work breaks. Within a 2 minute walk I can reach 3 church buildings. Within a 5 minute walk I can reach a cemetery. During my work breaks walks I have been walking through the cemetery. I read once that a cemetery is a good place for a writer to gather names for fictional characters. (It’s true, i found the name James Bond on a head stone. Do you suppose Ian Fleming walked through this cemetery?) So as I walk I’ve been reading the names and also noting the dates of life. The oldest death dates I’ve seen so far are from 1918 and I wonder if they were victims of the Spanish flu. That would be ironic for me to visit a grave of a victim of a flu pandemic because I am home, isolating myself, trying to avoid a flu pandemic.

Another irony that I saw in this cemetery is a man with the last name Wood that has a giant cedar tree growing out of his gravesite. Really has nothing to do with the topic, just a fun fact.

I am avoiding sickness and death by visiting the repository of a town’s dead. Weird thing one. Avoiding sickness and death by visiting a cemetery which is a collection of death sites.

We’ve been watching a TV series where the main character doesn’t believe in an afterlife. We meet him because he is avenging the murder of his wife and daughter. His job before their murders was as a spiritist or a psychic, faking connections and deceiving people into thinking they were conversing with their dead loved ones. His supporting character is a believer in the afterlife. She wears a cross. The main character frequently states, “there is no such thing as a psychic”. In his view there can’t be because there is no afterlife. You can’t talk to the dead, they are dead.

Then there’s the cemetery. His wife and daughters remains rest, slowly decaying in the ground. The last couple of episodes of the series he loses a friend and co-worker to a gun shot wound. She is laid to rest in a cemetery.

Weird thing two. People who don’t believe in an afterlife.

Back in reality, in our real world, If we’re lucky we will end up in a grave with a grave stone. I read a story about New York City’s Covid 19 victims. They are dying so fast that they can’t do individual graves. The unclaimed bodies have been unceremoniously dumped in a trench in a “potter’s field”. No gravestones, no funerals, no mourners.

Weird thing 3. Death.

Speaking of mourning, but the other kind, This morning my suggested bible reading guide took me to Isaiah chapter 26. Isaiah the prophet believed in a God who offered an afterlife.
“Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord. We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”
Isaiah 26:16-19 – NIV

Believers in the God of the Bible believe that death is not the end. We believe that God is the God who gives life to the dead.

During Jesus’ time on earth he was questioned by the Sadducees. They did not believe in life after death and they brought Jesus a question that they thought proved their point.

“That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
Matthew 22:23-33 – NIV

In Jesus’ answer notice the tense of the verb. “I am”, am being the present tense of to be. In contrast God did not say “I was” as in “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ” but he said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. Abraham Isaac and Jacob died and yet continue to exist.

I serve a God who gives away eternal life. Of all the gifts a person could get, eternal life is like way up there, top ten for sure. I joke, it is the ultimate gift. He also gives another gift which is a tie for ultimate gift-ness, and it has to be given first. That gift may not seem as big of a deal but it’s required that we get it before we can get the gift of eternal life and that gift is? Complete and total forgiveness. Past and present and future sins forgiven upon confession. What an awesome gift. For those of us who have the attitude of “I ain’t so bad…never killed anyone…” We will discuss this more in the future but everyone is guilty of killing at least one person. That one person? Jesus. I killed Jesus. You killed Jesus. How? It was our sin that brought Jesus to the cross. For my sins Jesus died. Still feel like you ain’t so bad? It’s probably who we compare ourselves to that gives us the smugness and feeling of superiority. “I ain’t as bad as my neighbors.” “I ain’t as bad as Fill in the blank”. Let’s just switch the focus off of known sinners and all compare ourselves to the true standard. The standard is Jesus. He is the spotless lamb of God. Sinless and perfect in every way! Next to him my merit badges seem to disappear.

Weird thing 4. God loves me enough to allow his son to die for me.

I need forgiveness. I want every lasting life.

So here I am, sheltering in place in my basement. Already 6 feet under. (In my basement). And yet I am alive. Visiting a cemetery to avoid death, knowing some people believe death is the end even if God said it isn’t, just knowing death will eventually grab me, but having confidence that my sin is forgiven because I killed a guy, who in turn forgave me and gifted me with eternity with him.

Make sense of this if you can. Be encouraged if you will. Be forgiven and gifted with eternity if you want.

What is this Easter thing all about?

Easter. It’s not about a dead guy.  It is about a guy dying. Same guy. A guy died. He just didn’t stay dead. 

For me growing up my life was like, “What’s that? The church doors are open?  Well then, we must attend. “ My mom. 

Optional for guests. Mandatory for minor children. 

It was Good Friday. We were on our way to church-again. 

Tradition tells me, We will be late. When we do arrive, We will smell of French fries, coffee and cigarette smoke. It was the perfume of the cafe my parents owned and operated. 

We attended a Lutheran Church so the services were predictable; 3 hymns a 20 minute message and liturgy. 

Sometimes there was a bonus. 

Sometimes after service, there was food in the fellowship hall in the basement. 

Good Friday service In 1978 was just such a night. The service was somber but then there was food and noisy fellowship afterwards. The meal and fellowship were winding down and my family was getting ready to leave. I had left something in the pew upstairs above us so I clambered up the stairs to grab it. The lights in the sanctuary were off, just the back lights by the alter and the cross on the wall. This year someone had added a rough wooden cross and it was standing on the platform between the pulpit and the lectern. The ladies of the church, two of them were ceremoniously draping the cross with a black cloth. 

It suddenly hit me. This guy Jesus? The one we talked about, the one that had performed miracles. He healed. He delivered. He set free. He forgave. He brought back to life. That guy. He seemed so friendly. But tonight, for me in my understanding, he was dead. 

He was dead. Even though there had been almost 2000 years elapse since it happened, the weight of the news hit me as though it had just happened that afternoon. I was washed over with grief and sadness. 

I don’t recall the rest of that years Easter holiday. In general, If I’m remembering it right, Our Pastor, a fantastic old school bible preacher Joe McGaw didn’t use the term Easter, he called it resurrection day. If I had been listening, maybe the Good Friday service and the resurrection day service would’ve brought me into faith sooner. I had other things to preoccupy me though, I had guys to hang out with, a pretty girlfriend, a 57 Chevy truck that wasn’t going to restore itself. I was busy. Too busy to connect the two pieces. 

A few years went by and it all started to make sense. Well, not in a worldly way of making sense. But i understood that I was a sinner. God hated sin but he loved me. He sent Jesus to die, and that death, Jesus sacrificially dying for me, brought God and I back together. All of my sin was washed away by the blood that Jesus spilled dying for me. 

Then 3 days after he died, death could not keep him any longer and he rose. The tomb was emptied by him, walking out of it. 

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”

Jesus died. I am so sorry and yet so grateful. Jesus died But he didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave. 

Easter Sunday is a few days away. Resurrection day. We celebrate this event and would love for you to join us. We attend Ephrata Foursquare Church. Our service is st 10am. This year we are offering a pancake Breakfast at 9 am.  Most Christian Churches will be celebrating this Sunday so if you can’t make it to our service,  please just pick one and join us in the celebration. 

Whether or not you come to church, I hope that you will come to understand and believe the truth about Jesus. 

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

He has risen, he has risen indeed.

Image bearers

It’s April 15th, in America that means income tax day, Where we pay the government our taxes due for the year. Some do it willingly, some begrudgingly, some avoid it or deny it all together.

Looking at a Roman coin, Jesus said to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God, what is God’s. The coin had caesars likeness pressed into it. Each of us, each person on the planet has an image pressed into us. We are created in God’s image.

Give unto God, what is God’s.

C.S. Lewis wrote this in his book The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters is written from the demonic point of view. The Enemy then is God.

“Screwtape acknowledges the truth about ownership:

Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by ‘my teddy bear’ not the old imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but ‘the bear I can pull to pieces if I like’. And at the other end of the scale, we have taught men to say ‘ my God’ in a sense not really very different from ‘my boots’, meaning ‘the God on whom I have a claim for my distinguished services and whom I exploit from the pulpit- the God I have done a corner in’.

And all the time the joke is that word ’Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either our Father or the Enemy will say ‘Mine’ of each thing that exists, and specially of each man. They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong- certainly not to them, whatever happens. At present the Enemy says ‘Mine’ of everything on the pedantic, legalistic ground that He made it: Our Father hopes in the end to say ‘Mine’ of all things on the more realistic and dynamic ground of conquest.”

Whose are we?

We get choose. God has already bought and paid for us through the death of his son.

On this April 15th tax day, To whom do you belong?

3 guys…

Three guys….

Why do so many jokes start with 3 guys?

The next thing I will say here is no joke.

On this day about 2 thousand years ago three guys hung from crosses on a hill outside of Jerusalem. They weren’t tied to the cross, they were nailed, through the hands and feet. Two of them were thieves, the third was a man named Jesus.

We have a record of his Jesus’ last words. The last thing he said was, ” it is finished “

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Jn 19:30)

What did he mean?

He meant that the job of paying for all of the sin in the world, all the wrongs, all the hurts and hates, the stains on the souls of men that could not be removed by men had been removed by God.

This is no ordinary man this guy Jesus. He is the very, the only son of God.

Much to our relief he did not stay dead. 3 days later he rose from the dead. He is alive! Jesus is alive.

He died to finish the plan of our salvation and he rose from the dead to give us eternal life.

Three guys hung on crosses to their deaths. One guy said “It is finished”. And so it is.

Do you want to be forgiven and made clean this Easter? All we gotta do is ask.

Grow up

Grow up.
You never have to tell a tree or a tomato what to do
They just do, past tense is grew.
Grow up.
Kids do it, baby goats that is. They grow up.
They give up teats for grassy treats.
Grow up.
Tulips do and daffodils too.
Oaks, and pines and peaches and vines.
Grow up.
Babies of the human type
Hopefully will learn to wipe
As they grow up.
They wobble and bobble and work so hard
To master the gate and get out in the yard
But grow up?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no,
Sometimes fast and sometimes sooo sloooow.
Grow up.
What is needed
How can we help
To mature the inside little whelp?
I have parts of me that are eighty-one
Tired, broken, worn and done.
I have parts that never heard
That little command of just two words
Grow up.
What does a baby need to walk?
What does a baby need to talk?
Time and practice and some teacher(s)
And cheering squad filling the bleacher(s)
We build up endurance
We build up our muscles
With every failure
With every tussle
Grow up.
Get stronger
Grow up
Last longer
Fall fail then stand up
Fall fail then man up
repent and Confess
and show God the mess
and by his compassion and grace
He will wash shame off my face
And allow me to grow up.

” 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so. Hebrews 5:11-6:3 NIV

Cleanse me

No matter how good my shower head is ( and we have a doozy, a brand new $24.79 Walmart unit) a thorough cleaning of my outsides will not clean up my insides. Humans cannot be cleaned from the outside in. We must be cleansed from the inside out.

Matthew 15 starts out with Jesus telling us about this.

“15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

With humans we have this heart condition. It is deceitfully wicked. Kind of like a snowflake. The lovely pure white snowflake at its very center is a speck of dirt or dust. At our center, in our heart where we decide things, is a selfish center that we can’t fix or change ourselves. We are hopelessly imperfect. We need a heart change.

The problem with this selfish heart is that it keeps us separated from God. Jesus came to begin the heart change. First, his death and resurrection covers us with a perfection coating that restores our relationship with God. Then he begins to work on our heart. We get a new heart but our nature wants to go back to the “me first” selfishness and there will always be that struggle.

The word for this process is sanctification. It is The ongoing work of being conformed to the image of Jesus.

If we are following Jesus, if we have confessed him as Lord of our lives and believe he has been raised from the dead, then we can be sure that God the Holy Spirit is busy and active, dutifully Cleansing us from the inside out.

Providing what others need with what we have

What would it be like to grow up without parents? I know that some children do. It would be so sad and lonely. So many things I learned from my parents just through example, just by being around them, honesty, working hard, love, how to care for people, how to respect the property of others, how to forgive, how to resolve conflict, how to worship God, how to know that there is a God, and on and on. I know about God because my parents told me. Not everyone gets that foundation.

( thank you mom and dad)

Matthew 14 has the story of the feeding of 5000 men, not counting women and children, with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

“13 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. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

The thing that stuck out to me as I read it this time is that Jesus said, “you give them something to eat.”

The disciples would be shown that what they had was enough because God can multiply, he can make it enough.

Personally this story says that I don’t have to have it all figured out. Mary and I are moving out past our comfort zone and I don’t know what the month of May will hold for us. What will our address be? I don’t know. Can I trust that the God who has supplied all of my needs so far will continue to be my Father God and supply me? Probably. The God who feeds 5000+ with 5 loaves and 2 fish is still working miracles today.

There are many people who don’t know about this miracle working God. I think Jesus is saying to those of us who know Him “you give them something to eat, you give them something to believe in in, you tell them about me”.

If that scares you like it scares me, the overwhelming need for God on this planet, we should remember the miracle, he used what they had and made it fit the situation. I guess we should look at the need and then ask the God of miracles to provide so we can tell our story.

Just like there are orphans growing up without parents, there are spiritual orphans living life without knowing about our Loving, miracle working God. The biggest
miracle he has performed is forgiving all of our sin.

Forgiveness is available today to all who will ask.

“I was blind, but now I see”

John 9

Blind to the giving of sight.

“13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.”

It was one of the most miraculous things that Jesus did. He healed a man born blind. The Pharisees couldn’t see past the broken sabbath rule.

Jesus has come to heal.

They were annoyed with Jesus because he did heal. I am annoyed because he hasn’t healed yet, not completely. My grandson Jonah is getting better but it’s slow. I know 2 mothers who are bereft and bewildered because he didn’t heal their children’s cancer. Their babies had babies so now there are children without parents and parents without children.

God is not a genie that we control him. He is a loving father who knows best. We do not know but we ask believing that he can heal and that he will act.

I’m rambling. I went to my uncles funeral on Saturday and met my new granddaughter on Tuesday. Meanwhile 2 friends lost their kids to cancer. Life and death continue.

There is an eternity that sits just at the edge of our last breath. When we stop breathing we cross the border.

Jesus has come to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Our bodies will die. We don’t know when or where or how. But we know it’s coming.

Have you decided yet? Who is this Jesus?