Does it matter? Do I matter?

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.

Our provider

I’ve done the math. God is good.

Mary posted recently about how magical it was to raise 4 kids and the blessing it was to get them all ready on Easter Sunday morning. There was stress and confusion and chaos but was all very sweet too.

What I remember is the amazing way our very small, very limited, very tight budget would be stretched to its ultimate limit at every holiday. The money that we had that barely was enough to feed and clothe and house us would get asked to also help us celebrate.

That’s not entirely accurate, we believe now and believed then that everything we have comes from our father, our Heavenly Father. So we would ask him to provide so we could bless our kids and he always did. God always provided and yet I always worried.

Matthew 15 has Jesus providing healing and food for those he cared about, the multitudes.

“29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.”

If I did the math correctly, by noon today I will make what I used to make per week at my first job that I had raising four kids. Part of that is inflation. All of that is God’s provision. And yet I am worried. What will it take for me to learn to trust God’s provision? I don’t know.

Father God forgive my fearful, doubtful heart ❤️. Thank you for providing for me and my family. Thank you most for sending Jesus to die in my place, to pay a debt I could never pay, and for bringing him back to life to show me that there is more to life than life here. There is a life with you. Thank you.

Writing in the shadows

My wife Mary and I are in a small group. We are using a study guide where we read ahead and answer questions in preparation for the next weeks meeting.

I am in my usual place, sitting in the recliner, my dog Piper snuggled in and asleep next to me. The reading light is behind me so as I write in my answers in my study guide, my hand causes a shadow and I can’t see what I am writing.

I have been writing words on paper since I was about 5 years old, okay 6 years old. I wasn’t the prodigy like my son Aaron who was reading and writing at 3.

I should be able to write and trust my hand is doing what my brain is telling it to do, by without the visual feedback of seeing where the pen is and what I have written, I find it challenging to continue.

This seems like a metaphor for something. Like maybe these very posts. I write but I don’t get a lot of feedback so I don’t know if “my hand is doing” what my brain is trying communicate.

I think maybe the metaphor fits a lot of life’s efforts, like child rearing. We blabber on and on to our kids, doing our best, trying to instill and install the good stuff, and keeping them out of the bad stuff but it’s all done in the shadows of the business of life and we won’t know if they got it or what they got until the light shines on them as they live out their own lives. By then, the ink is on the page and we hope we got it right.

To my kids I say, your mom and I love you to the moon and back. We tried to introduce you to our best friend and savior Jesus. Please forgive our failures and foibles and hang on to the truth of the Bible. Sometimes the shadows of life kept us from seeing what we were writing on your little hearts.

The book of the Bible we are studying is Philippians.

I leave with the one verse that stood out to me from my study.

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”
Philippians 1:29 – NLT

Tax day

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 to 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?

My shepherd

John 10

Jesus is my shepherd.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”’

The bad news is that I have an enemy who wants steal from me, kill me and destroy me.

I have shepherd. My shepherd has laid down his life for me. That is usually mixed news. Yay he died for me but what now, he’s dead. Not so for Jesus. because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again. He is alive. Alive forever. Alive to forever shepherd me. To shepherd us.

That is good news

A poem.

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 from the inside out

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 is sanctification. The ongoing work to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

Cleansing us from the inside out.

EmPHAsis on the wrong SylLABle

EmPHAsis on the wrong syllABle.

I think I may be guilty of doing that.

I have been posting bible quotes and short studies and most if not all of them mention Jesus dying to pay for, or to forgive our sins. That is correct. He did die, he did rise again from the dead to be alive forever, our sin is forgiven but that isn’t the whole picture. I have said it but I have never emphasized the fact that the reason for Jesus’ death isn’t primarily for our forgiveness, the primary reason is so we can be restored to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We have to be forgiven to be in Gods presence but God doesn’t want us washed clean just so we can sparkle people with our brilliant white holy robes. He wants us to hang out with him.

As a dad I know how important it is for my kids to want to spend time with me. God is our Heavenly Father. God wants me to want hang out with him. He wants us to hang out with each other and with him.

I have done one other thing in these posts that I think I should correct. I have avoided using the word “you”. I felt like I was pointing ☝️ a preachers finger and so avoided it. We are all in the same boat. All sinners, every one of us. What I say of my condition is true of you and what I see in your condition is also true of me. I may begin to use you, I mean use “you”.

Speaking of boats, we have a boat, a boat story in Matthew 14.

“22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”

Why did the savior walk across the lake?

To get to the other side!

We don’t have all the answers. We know what and who, we know where and when but we don’t know how or why. Jesus can walk on water. I don’t think he was showing off. He does show his divinity or at the very least his supernatural power over the elements in this act.

Then there’s Peter.

“If it’s you then call me over,” (????) He did it but then sank. Peter walked on water. Then he doubted and sank.

This Peter, me, I would’ve stayed in the boat. I have stayed in the “boat”, most of the time but sometimes Jesus will call us out of the “boat”, call me out of the “boat”, call you out of the “boat”. (The “boat” meaning the secure safe place in our life.) He will also catch us when we sink. Why? Because he loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.

My home is his embassy

Home-ambassadors-embassy

I was watching a movie, an action adventure movie about an embassy plopped down in the middle of a hostile and suspicious country. The embassy seemed like the only safe place to be in this wild setting, a mysterious place where plots to rebel and overthrow are rampant and everyone and anyone could be a spy for the enemy.

For some reason this story brought to mind the Bible story of Abraham and his rescue of his nephew Lot. I wasn’t as mindful of the military special forces mission where lot was rescued and the stolen loot recovered as I was about afterwards, Abraham finding Melchizedek, a priest of God in the city of Salem. The culture of the day back then was polytheistic. There were many gods. For each god a temple and a priest. Monotheism has always been unique, believing in only one God. One God who created and sustains everything. One God who hears and knows everything. One God who is all powerful. One God who is everywhere all of the time. One God? One God can do all that, is all that? Yes. In the bustling city of Salem in the times of Abraham, Abraham sorted through and sought out the priest of God, Melchizedek.

Actually according to the Bible story in Genesis 14, Melchizedek went out to meet Abraham in the valley of the kings and he brought bread and wine.

“When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives. After Abram returned from his victory over Kedorlaomer and all his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.” Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.”

Genesis 14:14-20 – NLT

I imagine the temple or home of Melchizedek was like the embassy in the movie I was watching, a safe place. A place that was familiar because of the family connection of worshiping the one one true God.

My Grandparents bought a house on 4 1/2 acres in 1939. In 1996 when my grandfather who survived my grandmother, when he passed away, he still owned that home. For My Dad’s Childhood and my childhood and my children’s childhood, my grandparents house was the family home. I didn’t know anyone else in the town they lived in, but I could always go to that house and be welcomed and loved on and cared for. It was a home base, an embassy for our family.

For my wife and I, We moved from our kids childhood home. Twice. Same town. Different sized house. One move was upsizing for more room and the next house was a downsizing for less room. Because of COVID and other reasons, only 1 of our 4 kids have been in our new house. It isn’t the home base that I had as a kid in my grandparents house but we do try to make people comfortable when they visit or stay with us. For me, hosting is not innate. I struggle against my inherent hermit nature and have to consciously work at thinking of others needs before my own. I’m rambling but I’ll keep it here as a confession and a marker to see if God will work a change in me.

But back to home base, embassy, Abraham, Melchizedek and what I started to say.

I want my home and by extension, wherever I roam, to be an embassy of the country I am a citizen. You see I am a citizen of heaven, where God rules, and everything is done right and done well, and is good. I am a citizen of that place. I want my home and my life to reflect that citizenship. I want others who come into my home or encounter me to feel the presence of God, to feel the order of God, to feel the care and compassion of God.

The gift of hospitality is the ability to make our guests feel seen and heard and to put their needs ahead of our own, doing unto them and for them as we would have done unto ourselves.

God cares about us and for us and in sending Jesus, he put our needs ahead of his.

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

John 3:16-17 – NLT

Just like God to think of our needs and provide for them. May that be true of me, his ambassador, at his embassy, my home and my life.

Feeding the hungry, stomachs and souls.

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.

Two kinds of blind.

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?

Just lacks finishing

One truth about Jesus and my life following jesus.

He won’t quit.

He will not give up on me.

He has plans for me and he will keep building toward that goal.

Even if I tear down what he’s doing as he’s doing it.

He will not quit on me.

This is true for all of us.

It is true for me and it is true for you.

Another thing that I believe is true for every follower of Jesus. At one time all of us will experience a version of what the apostle John experiences that he recorded in Revelation

“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.”
Revelation 5:1-6

There has to be a time when we see Jesus as the lamb slain. We have to see Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin

And.

And we will see him as the Lion of Judah. Lions are the king of The jungle. Jesus is the king. Is. Not was. Jesus is the living King.

Romans 10:9-10 “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.
Romans 10:9-10

These verses show us this same thing, Jesus as Lord, the lion, the king, and we believe that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb, that he died but now lives forever. The lamb that had been slain standing in the middle of the throne.

I encountered Jesus in these two ways. And now he promises to complete the project he has started in me.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6

My prayer for any and every person who reads this is that they will see Jesus as the Lion and the lamb and that they will do as I am doing, stumble on toward completion.

I do wood working. My favorite part of any project is the design and build part. I dislike the finish work part. The tedious sanding and coat after coat of paint. The filling in of nail holes and all the other things that go into “finishing”. Jesus loves it all, every part of the process, he doesn’t tire of it, any of it.

Where am I in my own finish process? I don’t know.

How do you see Jesus? Is he your Lion? Is he your Lamb? He wants to be.

The bright and steady

(A post from my memories)

On the way to work this morning I saw 3 things in the sky. I saw 2 stars that were bright enough to still be seen in the predawn light of a March 31st morning.

Those two “stars” turned out to be Saturn and Venus.

The third thing I saw was so brief and so unusual I’m not really sure I saw it. I was driving in a SE direction and I saw a bright orange light. It looked like a chunk
Of paper flying, like when an ember gets lifted out of a fire by the heat, but it was falling. It was only there for a second. My copilot Steve Selig didn’t see it at all.

Matthew 14 tells us about the end of John the baptists ministry.

“14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”

Johns place in the life of Jesus is so important yet so brief, it’s like that orange light I saw. It’s over before you can say “look over there!”

The time it took to do his job isn’t as important as the fact that he did the Job. He pointed the people to Jesus.

Ephesians 2:10 says that once we become believers in Jesus, we have a to do list to get done. I want so bad to see the entire list but God in his wisdom gives us one task at a time. Sometimes we may get a couple at a time but we don’t get to see the whole thing.

One thing we all have on the list is to go and make disciples, to tell our story of how Jesus has met us in our need and how he changed us.

I mentioned 3 things I saw. One was bright and brief. Two were bright and steady. Jesus is like that bright and steady light. He made the planets, hung them in the heavens. He died to pay for our sins and he rose from the dead to give us life, eternal life. Longer than the life of a planet.

Why is it called Good Friday if he dies that day?

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.

My childhood and teen years were like this:

“What’s that? The church doors are open? Well then, we must attend. “ My mom.

Optional for guests. Mandatory for minor children.

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 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. It was winding down and my family was getting ready to leave. I had left something in the pew 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. 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. 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

Getting un-EnTangled

About 12 years ago we received a black iron obelisk. We set it in the yard and planted honey suckle at the base. 12 years have gone by and the obelisk has become invisible. The vines wrapped in and around and choked themselves and over grew and died off. It was time for a change. My job was to set the obelisk free. As I struggled to cut the vines free it made me think of a verse in Hebrews.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 – NIV

Sin + time can leave our lives looking like this. Jesus has come to set us free. The Christian life is compared to running a race. It isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. It is very hard to run a marathon but imagine running with these vines wrapped all around our legs. Difficult if not impossible. Jesus came to set us free to run unencumbered. Need help getting set free? Just ask him.

I originally wrote this post a while back. It popped up in my memories today. Today was also the day to read Psalm 32. Psalm 32 is about confession and repentance and forgiveness and freedom. I thought it fit here.

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
Psalm 32:1-11 – NIV

Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

Me and God. Walking around a chair. The music is playing. I am determined to get that chair. God is just looking into my eyes. The chair is nice. It’s big. Big arms, covered in velvet and soft furs. It looks old. It looks royal. Then it dawns on me. It is a thrown. I want it. I have my game face on. God has a face on. It’s not a game face. It’s a face that says “I am present and involved” but it is not determined, it is kind and compassionate and loving and concerned.

When the music stops, I am going for that seat. But what do I win if I get it?

This scene is playing in my sleepy half dreaming brain. It’s 5:30 am. I’ve been awake since my alarm went off at 4:35. In reality I am in my recliner with my dog Piper snuggled up next to me, warm and content.

I slowly realize that I want that with God, to be snuggled up next to him, to be resting in his presence. But my dream/vision shows me another part of me really wants the throne.

In my dream, what is the moment when the music stops? Is it death? Or is it a decision point? At work we have a chart on how to do projects. There are several points in the process that are called decision gates. Yes or no. At each point a decision needs to be made. Back to the dream. When I am asked will I be the boss of me? Who gets the throne? Who gets to decide right or wrong?

I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 7, 21 ‘“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Matthew 7:21-23 -NIV

In the back of mind there is the scene of heaven and God’s throne from John’s revelation playing. The throne and the one who deserves it and the one who will ultimately be seated there.

“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

My sleepy dream state may have revealed my own struggles to relinquish the throne in my own head, heart and soul so now this morning I will join the declaration of those in heaven.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!

Welcome King Jesus! Like my wise puppy, May I be snuggled next to you and rest in confidence and peace while you rule and reign in my life!

Thinking very important thoughts…squirrel!

Facebook asks “what’s on your mind?”

I didn’t sleep well and my mind feels like a two year old on a sugar rush. I can almost hear the rapid random foot steps racing from thought to thought.

What’s on my mind?

Yes.
Oh and that too.

Paint.
Coffee.
Windshield wipers.
Concrete.
Push button.
Friends.
Funerals.
Lord of the rings monster.
Coffee.
Jesus.
Mustard seed.
Mustard seed?
Tiny little mustard seed.

In Matthew 13 Jesus talks about the tiny mustard seed. He said the kingdom of God is like it.

“31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”’

I know about A man who lived 2000 years ago. I know what he said and what he did. He was from a different ethnic group than me, he spoke a different language. Thousands of kings and kingdoms has risen and fallen. 2 millennia have passed since he died. More importantly, 2 millennia have passed since he rose from the dead.

This man had 11 guys that were his disciples. Because of their faithfulness the tiny group of men have impacted the planet.

I found this on the internet:

“As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,” the Pew report says. “Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent of the global population.”Apr 2, 2015

Jesus said in Matthew 28, “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’

In Luke 24 Jesus says this, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Did I mention my mind behaving…squirrel….

I hope I am understanding the parable of the mustard seed. If I am the church has done well but is not finished. 2.2 billion believe. Good. We need to continue to care for and encourage each other.

4.7 billion do not believe. How many of those have heard the message that Jesus died to forgive our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life? Some will reject the truth. But some will believe and receive.

Today is a Good day to start sharing the good news.

Pants.

Keys.

Coffee.

Squirrel.

Make like a tree and ….

Make like a tree and … the punch line to the old joke is leaf(sounds like leave) but today I will say make like a tree and repent.

I was doing my civic duty of social distancing by doing drive through at Rite Aid. I looked over at this tree and I saw this hook shaped branch. I thought wow! That branch completely changed direction and I felt like God said, “what is that a picture of Peter?” At first I didn’t recognize it but then I thought about repentance. Repentance is just that, a change in direction. Spiritually I was going my own way but it was in a direction that took me away from God. When I repented initially and every time since then, I get repointed to God.

This branch was growing straight down and down is the wrong direction for a branch. Branches need to grow up, up towards the sun and the light and life giving. But it was growing down. Away from the sun and light and life. But now it has turned and is growing straight up. Repentance. A change of direction.

Luke 15 has one of the greatest stories of repentance and reconciliation.

“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:11-24 – NIV

Today would be a good day to repent and come to our father who loves us so much that he gave us Jesus to pay for our mistakes.