False comfort

Sometimes when I’ve been hurt or am angry with someone I don’t go to Jesus first. I know what he will say, forgive as you have been forgiven. I don’t want to forgive, I was wronged or damaged or disappointed and it hurts. I want to be coddled and soothed and petted and sided with. I have unmet expectations and the world is not serving me like it should.

That’s a dangerous place to be. There is someone who will cuddle me and soothe me and take my side. He is no friend. He is the enemy of my soul. He wants me to build a case, build a wall, build my resentment, build my anger all the while he wants to tear me down, tear me away, tear me apart. He will do anything it takes to keep me from remembering Jesus’ words, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:12,14-15

If he succeeds in getting me to stumble, then he has a wedge between God and me. Now not only am I angry but now I am also ashamed. I want to cleanse myself before I approach God but there is no way to pre-rinse the stain of sin.

Jesus always meets me where I am. Meets me in my need.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

If you who are reading this are stuck in the hurt/anger/sin/shame cycle too, let us both jump off of this not-so-merry-go-round and ask forgiveness and also be forgiven. I also want to go back up the path of my life and see where I can begin to apply God’s word in my life so I can avoid this Nauseating cycle.

Jesus forgive me. I also forgive those who’ve hurt me. Help me avoid this cycle Jesus, show me in your word how to live better. Amen?

The second most important thing

In my estimation the next section of Matthew 27 records the second most important thing to ever happen in human history.

“On their way out of the city they met a man called Simon, a native of Cyrene in Africa, and they compelled him to carry Jesus’ cross. Then when they came to a place called Golgotha they offered him a drink of wine mixed with some bitter drug (or vinegar mixed with gall or myrrh in other versions of the New Testament), but when he had tasted it he refused to drink. And when they had nailed him to the cross they shared out his clothes by drawing lots. Then they sat down to keep guard over him. And over his head they put a placard with the charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Now two bandits were crucified with Jesus at the same time, one on either side of him. The passers-by nodded knowingly and called out to him, in mockery, “Hi, you who could pull down the Temple and build it up again in three days—why don’t you save yourself? If you are the Son of God, step down from the cross!” The chief priests also joined the scribes and elders in jeering at him, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! If this is the king of Israel, why doesn’t he come down from the cross now, and we’ll believe him! He trusted in God… let God rescue him if He will have anything to do with him! For he said, ‘I am God’s son’.” Even the bandits who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him. Then from midday until three o’clock darkness spread over the whole countryside, and then Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Some of those who were standing there heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic—Eli (or Eloi), Eli lama sabachthani?, and said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” And one of them ran off and fetched a sponge, soaked it in vinegar and put it on a long stick and held it up for him to drink. But the others said, “Let him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come and save him.” But Jesus gave one more great cry, and died. And the sanctuary curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The ground shook, rocks split and graves were opened. (A number of bodies of holy men who were asleep in death rose again. They left their graves after Jesus’ resurrection and entered the holy city and appeared to many people.) When the centurion and his company who were keeping guard over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening they were terrified. “Indeed he was the son of God!” they said. There were many women at the scene watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to his needs. Among them was Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”
Matthew 27:32-33,36,38,45,47,51,54-55

It is the second most important because without THE most important thing, the second doesn’t matter at all. Jesus was a good man. Many good men have died. Jesus was an innocent man. Many innocent men have died. Jesus died for a cause. Many men have died for a cause.

The second most important and miraculous thing Jesus did was die.

The upper most important miraculous thing Jesus did? Jesus rose from the dead. One act without the other makes both unspectacular. You can’t rise from the dead without dying first so the two events are inseparable.

Without Jesus dying, our sins are unforgiven. Without Jesus rising from the dead there is no power at work and he was just a nice guy who came to an unfortunate end.

He did die. He died not for his crimes or sins, he died for my sins, for our sins, for all sin for all time.

Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 –

In his letter to the Romans Paul says this, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Romans 5:6-11

When Jesus died, he became our sin. His death wiped away all of it. When Jesus died he showed how much he loves us, how far he is willing to go to provide forgiveness for us. When Jesus died, he took our punishment away.

When Jesus rose from the grave he showed his great power and his defeat of death.

Jesus has defeated our two greatest enemies, sin and death and he has bridged the gap between us and God so that we can be welcomed back into God’s presence again.

It is all a conversation (some would say a prayer) away. God has arranged it all, we just need to accept and show up.

This morning I received an email with a confirmation of my travel to Dalian China for our company. It’s all paid for, I just have to show up at the gate and show my passport. This Jesus thing is like that. All paid for. Just show up.

Sent from my iPhone

The journey continues…

Acts 18

The homespun chapter.

There is still much travel. We start out in Athens and then travel to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea and Antioch. How can this be the homespun chapter?

The chapter talks about making new friends, meeting Priscilla and Aquila, meeting Apollos. And old friends reunited- Timothy and Silas rejoin the team. Then it also talks about just living life, making tents.

“2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

I like this chapter. Maybe because it shows real life. Maybe because it shows friendship and fellowship, maybe because it shows discipleship and inclusion,maybe because God speaks encouragement. But I think mostly because it shows that Christianity isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s a part of a life, a real life.

I know I haven’t arrived. I’m not done learning, growing or failing. I haven’t outgrown the need for grace and forgiveness. Thank you Jesus that you know me and love me and forgive me. Forgive me.

Save, heal, protect and bless my friends and family. Become more real to us Jesus.

The unknown revealed

Acts 17

Paul Timothy and Silas travel to Thessalonica and preach and teach about Jesus and many people believe but opposition soon lands some new converts, Jason and friends in Jail. They post bond and that night the team is sent to Berea.

“11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

Soon the rabble rousers in Thessalonica came and stirred up trouble. Paul was sent to Athens, Timothy and Silas stayed on in Berea.

Athens wasn’t the next town over. It was 250 miles away, a 3 day sea journey or 12 day land journey.

While there he was asked to tell his story. He said this, it’s long but I’m going to post the entire message,

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”’

Today We don’t have idols we worship. Mostly We have ideas and philosophies.

Here is what I need to know. Gods plan to save all the people on planet earth is Jesus. Jesus’ death paid the cost of my sin, the fact that he rose from the dead and then went from here to heaven gives me hope of a life beyond death. All of my mistakes are covered by that one act. Those things that I’m too ashamed to even mention, all of that, of those things. All covered and forgiven. And that forgiveness is available to all people.

Today

(Ironically I wrote this 5 years ago but every morning we get a new gift called today).

Today.

I’ve been wondering if what I say about Jesus is enough. I simplify the gospel and tell people that Jesus died for our sins. All of us and all of it. I often leave out the part, the important part that he rose from the dead and now lives forever. Death has no hold on him and if I accept his gift of forgiveness, death will not hold me either.

In Jesus we have the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

All the rest our human heroes of the past have a grave we can visit. A grave where our heroes body is turning back into dust. Not so with Jesus. There is a grave but it’s empty. He was physically raised from the dead, body and spirit.

I want to make sure that I’m sharing the whole story.

Psalm 69 says this: “5 You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
6 Lord, the Lord Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.”

I am not perfect. In fact I was a sinner from birth and even after God met me in my need as a 20 year old, I still stumble and fall. Jesus continues, is continuing to forgive me even now. I expect more of myself. He continues to forgive. I fail and shrivel and hide from him but when I confess and repent there is a fresh supply of grace and mercy waiting for me. Like fresh muffins in the morning his mercies are new at every place I need Him.

Today. It’s the only day we can count on. Today. Consider the offer Jesus is making to all of us; forgiveness and eternal life. Today.

Not pulling punches

I’ve been reading the Psalms. They are ancient songs, most written by David who was the second king of Israel.

It is not politically correct. Living in our American PC world where morality is upside down its strange to read non PC literature. But I guess none of the bible is PC. It is true, it is right and it pulls no punches to appease those of us who read it.

I found this today in Psalm 68.

“1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

There is only one way to be righteous, and that is to covered over in the righteousness of Jesus. It’s like it’s a cold winter day and all of us are naked standing in the cold freezing. We have no protection from the coldness of our sin. Jesus comes along and wraps us in his coat, his warmth, his love, his protection, his perfection. We can be covered by his righteousness.

Evil will lose. God will reign. God is worth all our praise because he is a God who has not abandoned us but provided a coat of protection through his Son Jesus. Among all of the rest of us, He is the God of the fatherless, the widow and the lonely.

“19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.”

A blessing and a warning.

Be blessed today. Come in out of the cold. Take the warmth of Jesus offered to you today.

Blockage vs Flowing

We have a guest author today, my wife Mary Loeffelbein.

She wrote this several years ago, sharing about our journey through life.

Shared with permission.

An observation : (warning – this may get graphic)
I learn things best the hard way. Here is what I have learned about blockage versus flowing.

Firstly – interesting to me that the word “damage” contains the word “dam” which is a form of blockage.

A few years ago – I had tumors in my intestines. Yuck. I know. I was within an hour or so (estimate from a nurse who intubated me in the ER when my belly was swollen as if I were ready to deliver a baby and was becoming septic but refused to go to the hospital when my poor husband begged me to go. Thank you Peter for your long suffering and getting through that with me). That tumor blockage was killing me. As gross as it is – flow keeps us alive.

Then this past month I have been miserable with headaches. I kept calling them mini-migraines, tension headaches or blaming them on my fall allergies. I have been too dull to think, too tired to work and too grumpy to play. (Again I am grateful for my awesome hubby, sorry Love!)

Then, wonder of wonders – I took my own advice that I constantly dole out to students – I hydrated the air in my house constantly, hydrated myself, took a barrage of sinus draining meds on a consistent basis, slept more, drank water religiously. The “dam” broke. I am free. I woke up feeling like suddenly my body was oxygenated, my brain even feels brighter.

How many other areas of my life am I “blocked” and allowing something to be starved of what it needs to live?

I know I need to keep the living water flowing in my life (thanks God for Your Word) and I need to keep relationships flowing – keeping them from stagnating and creating dams that bring damage.

Just an observation. I want to clean up all of my blockages.

Mary Loeffelbein.

Persecutor to pastor

Acts 11

Can a leopard Change its spots?

I don’t think so. But that is what is usually asked when there is a question about some person changing their mind or heart or character or position. Can a person really change or is our die cast at birth and we are just living life the way we are designed?

Just two chapters ago this is how Saul is described, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Can people change? I don’t think we can change ourselves. But that isn’t really the situation here. The real question is, can God change a person once Jesus is their savior? Can people be rehabilitated by Gods spirit living in them?

“19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. “

Can God change a person? From the evidence here in this chapter the answer is YES. From the evidence in my own life and my experience of other people who have received Jesus the answer is YES.

God through the living in us spirit can change us. Saul started pastoring here in Antioch. It’s here that we get the name Christian. It means little Christ. An imitator or clone of Jesus. I like it. It doesn’t always apply to me, I am not always Christlike but I bear the name as something to grow into.

Saul who will soon change his name to Paul and go on to write most of the New Testament is brought into the ministry by Barnabas. Son of encouragement, that’s what his name means. That’s what I want to be. That’s what I need in my life. That’s what role my wife Mary has played in my life. Encouragers, the world needs more of those.

I sum up. Jesus is for everyone. Jesus can and will change people. Jesus is changing me. Jesus can and will change anyone who admits they need forgiveness and accepts Jesus death as payment for their mistakes. Persecutors can become pastors and bible writers. I want to be a little Christ (Christian) who encourages people.

And the rest.

Acts 10

And the rest…..

One of the staples of television viewing of my childhood was “Gilligan’s Isle”. There were only a few seasons of the show. We were watching the reruns. We saw an episode every day. After the fist season of shows in black and white, two things changed. First the show switched to color, meaning it was filmed in color film instead of black and white. The other thing that changed was the theme song. The opening theme song in the first season mentions 5 of the seven cast always by name, but the professor and Maryanne were only mentioned in passing “…and the rest.” Bob Denver was the star of the show, he played Gilligan, he didn’t like that there wasn’t equal billing for the the cast so he requested that the theme song be change add in “🎶the Professor and Maryanne, here on Gilligan’s Isle”. Inclusivity. Invite all in.

In the beginning part of the book Acts Christianity is just a sect of Judaism. And then something miraculous happened.

Here is where we come in.

Up to this point in the story Christianity was as a sect of Judaism. God had other plans. God had bigger plans. God had plans that would eventually include me, not exclude me.

“34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus had said that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, the city, Judea, the area, Samaria, the area next door, and the utter most parts of the world, and the rest. I think that they were thinking geographically. That they would travel and tell their story to the Jews in the utter most parts of the world but God wasn’t talking about land masses. He didn’t come to save the land masses. He didn’t come to just save Jewish people. Jesus came to save the masses. Masses of people. Jesus came to save the masses that are messes. I am one one. I am one of the mass that is a mess. I am a sinner. I’ve done things. but more than that, I still, even after accepting Jesus as my savior want to stray away. My heart is self centered and bent on wanting what it wants. Jesus knew all that and he died for me.

Because of Cornelius and his family, and Peters obedience I can be welcomed into the family of God without becoming a Jew first. I don’t know all of the details but The process was not easy and would leave a convert always on the outside.

Bob Denver wanted equal billing for all of the characters on Gilligans Isle. Again I don’t know all the details but after the first season we get to sing, “the professor and Maryanne,”. Because God so loved the world, the masses of people not the masses of land, he gave his only Son that whosoever would believe in Him, would not perish but have everlasting life. God cares about each one of us individually. In John 3:16 it states “

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 – ESV

“The world” is a pretty broad term but “whoever” brings it down to each individual. God loves you my reader. Will you accept his gift of love and forgiveness today? If you already have received his gift, will you share the gift of forgiveness today? Will you Tell someone that God loves them and that Jesus died for them?

Thank you.

Good news for ALL of us. In Gods song of salvation our names can be included.

It’s a gift…

“Del, It’s a gift…. “

That’s what Neal Page tells his friend Del Griffith when Del frets about repaying a debt. (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

Being indebted to someone or something is a terrible place to be. I got money from the US. Government to go to college. I don’t have to ever pay it back because it was a grant. That’s what you do when you give something of value to a person when you know they can’t repay you. It’s a gift. It’s a grant. No payments, no interest, free. A gift.

That is what God has done for us in Jesus. He has gifted, granted, graced us with forgiveness. It’s a debt we cannot pay. Our sin is a stain that we are powerless to wash away. We can’t pay for it. We cannot clean it up or cover it with a pile of good deeds.

Do you know what God calls our good deeds? He calls them filthy rags (think used feminine protection). Our good deeds look like used tampons to God. How can we ever expect to pay for our sins with used tampons?

The good news is we don’t have to. “Though our sins be as scarlet, he will wash them whiter than snow”.

We cannot pay for a gift. If a gift is a gift then it is free.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:4-10

We are forgiven by the grace of God.

(your name, my name here)It’s a gift.

Faith of my Father’s

I was at a worship conference this weekend and was given a sweet reminder about one of my favorite things about my dad.

First I want to quote this verse that gives me an admonition to follow my parents example.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

My dad believed in Jesus. He struggled to follow him but he never denied him. One thing he would do at family gatherings as the eldest son, instead of saying grace would lead us in singing the doxology.

At the worship conference We sang the doxology. I was reduced to a snotty puddle of tears as I remembered my dads strong voice singing “praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Thank you dad. Thank you for your strong and steady belief, even if practicing your faith saw dips and swells. Thank you for hanging on to Jesus. Thank you for giving me these precious memories.

Isaiah to Revelation connection

Isaiah to revelation connection

The world is getting darker. Maybe not physically but spiritually.

God is light and him Him there is no darkness or shadow and no variation due to change.

Jesus proclaimed that he was the light of the world.

What could this mean for us?

Well first the I must share the bad news.

I am reading through Isaiah. In the first part of his book, the prophet Isaiah has been prophesying about the destruction of the nations around Jerusalem (which all happened). In chapter 24 he talks about the end of days and the destruction of the entire earth which is yet to come. Spoiler alert, God will judge and punish evil.

“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap, and those who escape the trap will be caught in a snare. Destruction falls like rain from the heavens; the foundations of the earth shake. The earth has broken up. It has utterly collapsed; it is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunk. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for the guilt of its rebellion is very heavy. In that day the Lord will punish the gods in the heavens and the proud rulers of the nations on earth. They will be rounded up and put in prison. They will be shut up in prison and will finally be punished. Then the glory of the moon will wane, and the brightness of the sun will fade, for the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will rule on Mount Zion. He will rule in great glory in Jerusalem, in the sight of all the leaders of his people.”

Isaiah 24:18-23 – NLT

God will reign on earth.

Evil will be punished.

God will rule.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

Revelation 21:1-7 – NLT

God is Light. He is light.

“I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Revelation 21:22-27 – NLT

When Isaiah said that the sun and moon were dimmed did he see this future state of the earth that the apostle John was shown with the glory of God outshining them?

Evil will be judged and punished AND God will forgive sin.

Isaiah 25:

“In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”’

Isaiah 25:6-9 – NLT

It is God who will rule and reign.

It is God who will judge and punish evil.

It is God who forgives sin.

It is God who saves.

God is light. It can be overwhelming and intimidating to be in his presence. We are disrobed by his light. His light penetrates all our efforts to cover up our sin. Once exposed what will we do?

Hide?

Lie?

Argue?

Fight?

Bargain?

Defend?

Or will we confess our need and fall on his mercy? God is light, and he is gracious and he is merciful.

In revelation 21 The one who was on the throne said, “it is finished!”

The one on the throne is Jesus. He declared while dying on the cross, “it is finished”.

It is finished. The price has been for our sin. My sins, your sins. It is finished.

Will you accept God’s gift of salvation today?

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
1 John 1:5-10 – ESV

Who is he…?

We are at the point in Matthew 26 where Jesus is going to make a statement that condemns him. He claims to be God.

what are we to do with this information. Here is what C.S. Lewis said about the matter,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here is the story from Matthew 26:
“57-58 The men who had seized Jesus took him off to Caiaphas the High Priest in whose house the scribes and elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a safe distance right up to the High Priest’s courtyard. Then he went inside and sat down with the servants and waited to see the end.

59-61 Meanwhile the chief priests and the whole council did all they could to find false evidence against Jesus to get him condemned to death. They failed completely. Even after a number of perjurers came forward they still failed. In the end two of these stood up and said, “This man said, ‘I can pull down the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62-64 Then the High Priest rose to his feet and addressed Jesus, “Have you no answer? What about the evidence of these men against you?” But Jesus was silent. Then the High Priest said to him, “I command you by the living God, to tell us on your oath if you are Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “I am. Yes, and I tell you that in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven.”

65-66 At this the High Priest tore his robes and cried, “That was blasphemy! Where is the need for further witnesses? Look, you’ve heard the blasphemy—what’s your verdict now?” And they replied, “he deserves to die.”

67-68 Then they spat in his face and knocked him about, and some slapped him, crying, “Prophesy, you Christ, who was that who hit you?”’

It isn’t a crime to claim you are the son of God, if in fact you are the son of God.

Jesus is the son of God, I say is, not was, because he lives, he is alive today. He suffered, he died, he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and he is returning some day, one day, possibly soon.

Our eternal destiny hangs in the balance of our answer to this question: What do you believe about this man Jesus?

Followed by my shadows

Psalm 25

Do you ever wake up at night a rehearse all the stupid things you’ve done? The feeling of shame wraps you in a suffocating hug. Where is the escape hatch? Where is tag out button? How can we get separated from our past? It’s like our shadow, we can’t get away from it.

We have 2 options: forgetting it, or forgiving it.

“6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.[b]
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

God forgives sin. Jesus died to take away the sin that we confess to him. The memories don’t go away but we can cling to him and his forgiveness.

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”’

Forgiveness is a prayer away.

A new thing begins

Yesterday I got to go to church for the first time in a month. I missed the entire month of September. I was working in China, the city of Xian and I didn’t know of any churches near our hotel.

Is my salvation still secure you ask? Thank you for your concern and your question. My salvation is unshakeable. Jesus died for me, that is how I am saved. I have received his gift. I am his, he is mine and he will never let me go. He has promised to never leave me or forsake me.

Then why go to church?

I need to meet with my friends and family. To be prayed for, to help and pray for others, to be reminded of how good God is to us, to be washed clean from the dust and dirt and filth that collects on a body while living in the world, to worship our God together as we tell ourselves and others what kind of God we serve.

He loves us. By us I mean not just our church but us, you reading this, and me writing this.

I’ve made a long post longer. Sorry. Please keep reading, if nothing else read the parts in quotes, it’s the Good stuff.

Acts 2.

One of the most important events in the history of the world happened and is recorded here. The birth of something brand new. The birth of an entirely new concept, the church.

“36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”

I have an old truck. I like to imagine back To when it was new. It was a bold new design. The series of trucks were called Task Force Trucks. I like everything about them. Well, almost everything about them. Inside the cab behind the seat is this large metal container. It looks like it would hold about 17 gallons. It does. It holds 17 gallons of gasoline. There is 17 gallons of gasoline riding around with me right behind my seat.

What does the gas tank of my truck have to do with the birth of the church? It’s the power source. When they designed my truck it’s like they mocked up this beautiful shapely form, every curve and corner a total stroke of design genius and then realized after finalizing the design that they forgot a fuel tank and so then they looked around, found a space and crammed it in.

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.

Hundreds of years before it happened God described how he would power a new thing that he would build. He would power it by his Holy Spirit. It’s different than the way things were. It’s a new design and new source of power.

Jesus told the disciples that they would be empowered. Empowered to be witnesses of this new thing.

A New covenant, new wine into a new wine skin. Something different. Something new.

It’s been 2 thousand years of this new thing. To some it has lost its luster. To some it is powerless.

To me it is the frame work of my life. The church has not always gotten it right. It does not always get it right. But the church is a group of sinners following a savior. I must not look to them, I must look to Jesus. I have however joined them as we follow Jesus together.

Even if you don’t

The next story in Matthew 26 is about the garden of gethsemane. I don’t like this story.

“Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”’

What happens if you pray for a problem to go away and it doesn’t go away?

Mercy Me has a song that I think deals with this.

Even if you don’t.

“They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons
Even If lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Music Services, Inc

I see two things to learn here. The first is that God said he will hear our prayers. He has said that we can move mountains if we pray. But if the mountains don’t move, will we still trust in God? Jesus prayed that there be another way to save the world but he trusted God and God’s best plan.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.”

The second thing for me to learn is that Jesus knew what was coming, the whipping, the hitting, the spitting, the mocking, the beating, the thorns, the nails, the hanging by the nails, the pain, the spear, and did it anyway. He loves us so much he continued on in the plan that would destroy him but make a way to save all of us.

And now the offer is open to all of us, “if you will confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that he was raised from the dead, you will be saved”.

Luke chapter 25

Luke 25?

There is no Luke 25.

What we have instead is the book of Acts which was Luke’s second writing to a man named Theophilus. The name Theophilus means love of God.

It is the last place we will see red lettering until we get to
The book of The Revelation of John. Not all bibles have red letters. Some times the publishers put the words of Jesus in red letters so that they stand out. The book of Acts is the story of what Jesus’ followers did after Jesus ascended into heaven.

The last words Jesus spoke to his followers are:

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”

Jesus ascended into heaven to accomplish 2 things: 1) intercede for us his followers and 2) send his Holy Spirit down upon his followers to empower them, power them to be witnesses of what Jesus can do in a human heart.

I don’t believe Jesus wants to change the world. I believe he wants to change a human heart. The heart is where we decide to do good or to do evil. Without Jesus working in us our propensity is to do evil.

I have given my heart to him. He is the boss of me. I don’t always obey… But when I do? Good things happen. When I don’t? Sometimes nothing happens and sometimes I see right away the consequences of going against the better plan that God has for me. I’m thinking of my burn scars right now. I knew it was the wrong thing to do to play with fire but I did it anyway. Not all rebellion carries with it the horrible consequences of my burns. And even my burns have brought good things into my life ( wife and family)

Rambling a bit.

Jesus loves us. He left, but sent his Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us to tell our story of how HE Can change a heart, change a life, change the world.

Jesus- friend of sinners- like me

Luke 24

Jesus is alive.

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.”

Jesus is alive. He died for all our sins but he rose from the dead 3 days later just as he had said he would. Back in chapter 18 of Luke Jesus predicted his death and resurrection.

“31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”’

After raising from the dead he ascended into heaven. He went back into heaven for two very important reasons. The first is so he could send his Holy Spirit to us, the second is so that he can be interceding for us.

Hear is what Paul says about it in Romans 8:
“31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We have all sinned. We have all fallen short of perfection. The good news is we have a savior who died to pay for our sins. Not only that but he came back to life and will live forever and his main job is to intercede for us in heaven.

When I mess up Jesus says to God, ” I died for that sin, it’s covered”. He can do the same for all of us if we will accept his gift of forgiveness.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me. For forgiving all my sins. I accept your offer today to be my savior and the one who will be the boss of me because you love me.

He really died

Luke 23

“38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus’ Death
23:44-49pp — Mt 27:45-56; Mk 15:33-41; Jn 19:29-30
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

Good Friday service. I was 17. I was in church but was the furthest from God that I could get. There was a cross erected at the front of the church. It wasn’t normally there. It was made from rough lumber. At the end of the service the ladies of the church draped the cross with a black veil. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Jesus was dead. I had lived my life being told about this man. The healer, the miracle worker, the one who cleansed lepers and gave sight to the blind, who forgave and protected prostitutes and tax collectors. He was dead. What did it mean?

What does it mean? The perfect man was killed. Why? What does it mean?

It means God hasn’t forgotten us.

It means God loves us.

It means that we can be forgiven.

He took my place.

He took our place.

He took all of our sin upon himself and paid the price for it with his death on the cross. Now he offers us forgiveness. For free. For reals. For keeps.

Will you accept his gift of forgiveness today?

I did.

Spoiler alert. He didn’t stay dead.

He is alive.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”’
Luke 24:1-7 – ESV

He is risen.

Predictions

The meal was over. Jesus knew what was next. Did he heave a heavy sigh before he said these words?

“Matthew 26:31-35 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. “

Was Jesus face stern and angry when he looked at his friend Peter and told him the truth about his bravado? I don’t think so. Why? Because that’s what I would do. Thank God Jesus isn’t just like me.

Jesus is like me in that he is human but he is not like me In That he is also God, his heart is pure, he loves purely and completely.

Mary says my face speaks volumes. My expressions tell what my heart is feeling even if my mouth is saying something different. Jesus’ heart loved his disciples, even the one who would deny even knowing him 3 times in the next several hours.

The truth: “Matthew 26:69-75 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Jesus came to the earth to suffer and die the death that we deserve, that this Peter deserves. He did it because he loves me, he loves us. Even if we’ve denied him.

If you are estranged from God right now, Repent, turn around, 180 degrees and come back to the God who loves you enough to die for you. And then live your life with and for the God who has defeated death by rising from the dead.

If you already know Him and have been restored then can you share your story with one person today?