Peter’s new assignment

It must’ve been hard to do.

Make the change from being a follower of Jesus to a teller about Jesus. From having him there with them to having him pop in and out of life unexpectedly.

This next bit is a paraphrase told from the perspective of the once disciple, now apostle, Peter.

I remember that day…

What to do? Let’s go fishing. Fishing is what we do, Simon and Thomas and Nathaniel, James and John. Fishermen. It’s what we do, it’s what we know, it’s how we provide for our families. Fished all night and got nothing. Some guy on the beach shouting instructions on how to catch fish…we’ll try it.

Whoa! Wow! So many fish, almost too many fish. One fish, two fish red fish, 152 fish. (Plus one).

This all seems so familiar, I’ve had this happen before. It was Jesus on the shore.

A quick swim, some breakfast, fish hauling ashore and then the “chat”.

For 3 years we’ve hung out with Jesus. On meeting me he said he would change my name. Now, after the denial, ( three denials, if you’re counting) and the resurrection we are back to Simon son of John. Not Peter. Simon.

Then the questions, do I love him more than these? Do I️ love Jesus more than my fishing buddies do? At one time in the not so distant past I️ claimed that I️ did.

Then the questions come. Jesus could’ve used 4 different words for the word love in his questions. He went straight to the highest, the strongest, the purest, do I Simon, love, agape love, Jesus?

It may be my failures and denials but all I can muster is “you know I love you like a brother, I️ phileo you Jesus”.

He gives me a job. “Feed my lambs”.

Then he asks me again, do I Simon, agape him, Jesus?

“Jesus, I love you, like a brother” is my answer.

“Take care of my sheep”.

He asks again, a third time. I didn’t get why he asked me twice but it becomes clear as he asks the third time, my mind went back to that horrible early morning, my third denial, “I tell you I do not know the man”….and then began swearing like a fisherman.

The third and last question Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me….like a brother?”

I’m hurt and frustrated, so my answer is terse, “ you know all things, you know I love you like a brother..”
Again, “Feed my sheep…”

And then I get the prophecy about my death.

“18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
John 21:18

There are 2 things that encourage me here. “When you are old,” it isn’t eminent, and “old” I will continue to follow Jesus for the rest of my life.

This is one of the memories I think about as I write to those followers of Jesus who will continue after I’m dead. They will continue to tell others about our Jesus.

Add to your faith…brotherly love, and add to that, Agape love, God kind of love, selfless, others first, die in your place, kind of love. Add that to your faith in Jesus. Then you will be able to be fruitful and productive in your faith.

Jesus welcomed me back, I fell, I fell further and harder but his love covered my failures. His love will always do that. It will always cover over our sin.

“Christmas is for Jesus! Everybody sing…“

When my son Aaron was about 18 months old he preached a very short sermon on Christmas. 
“Christmas is for Jesus,”
And then he enjoined us to participate, 
“Everybody sing, ‘Silent night, holy night….”
It’s Christmas, and Christmas is for Jesus. It’s about God stooping down, it’s about Jesus laying aside heaven, coming to earth and becoming one of us. He came to live an unblemished life, and then die in our place as a substitutionary sacrifice for my sin, for all of our sins, and then be raised to life to live forever to intercede, to be our lawyer before God the father in Heaven. 
What will we do today to respond to a God and father who loves us so much that he gave his son to die in our place?
He is inviting us home, will you take him up on his offer?
As my son Aaron so eloquently put it many years ago, Christmas is for Jesus, everybody sing. 

1. Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

2. Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly Hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

3. Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!

4. Silent Night, Holy Night
Here at last, healing light
From the heavenly kingdom sent,
Abundant grace for our intent.
Jesus, salvation for all.
Jesus, salvation for all.

5. Silent Night! Holy Night”
Sleeps the world in peace tonight.
God sends his Son to earth below
A Child from whom all blessings flow
Jesus, embraces mankind.
Jesus, embraces mankind.

6. Silent Night, Holy Night
Mindful of mankind’s plight
The Lord in Heav’n on high decreed
From earthly woes we would be freed
Jesus, God’s promise for peace.
Jesus, God’s promise for peace

Through the curtain

Hebrews 10b

Be encouraged.

“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Go to church. We need each other. We are a body. As a body we need each other. The kidneys need the lungs and vise-versa. We all need the function of the others. The heart can’t function without the lungs, the lungs need the heart, the brain needs the lungs and heart and so on. We need each other. I need you and you need me to keep on functioning as His body the church.

More about the curtain. In chapter 23 of Luke’s Gospel he says that when Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn in two. In Matthews Gospel he said in was torn in two, from top to bottom. That curtain was the divider between the Holy place and the most Holy place Where God resided on the mercy seat. Only the high priest could go behind the curtain and even he could only go once a year. Jesus’ death opened the way for us to God and his mercy seat.

Be careful.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God….For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

I don’t know how to talk about this passage. While writing this my Facebook started freaking out and kept closing, my nose started bleeding so I put my phone down and started to nap. (I frequently default to a nap).

While I was waiting for sleep and/or coagulation for my nose I got this picture in my mind.

If sinning means missing the mark, Like at an archery contest. The archer tries his best to hit the bullseye. Then Any shot that is not a bullseye is a “sin”. What if that same archer turns 180 degrees and lobs a few shots into the crowd? Is that kind of miss the same? He misses the target. A sin. But a deliberate miss. Does this kind of miss get the same kind of forgiveness? This should make me avoid deliberately sinning.

I’m going back to verses 12-14.

“12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

We must hang onto Jesus and hang onto, stay connected with each other. By God’s undeserved forgiveness we are saved. There is no other way.

From Psalm 67:

“May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere.”
Psalm 67:2 – NLT

May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you.

Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us.

Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him.
Psalm 67:5-7 – NLT

My Rock, my refuge and my Tower against the foe

This part of Psalm 61 was encouraging today.

Psalm 61 For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

1Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.2From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.3For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I had a rough day followed by a rough night. Even those I usually count on for help were not available. I made a choice before I went to bed. Every time I woke up last night, and it was many, I praised God for who is and for what he has done and is doing in my life. Things are better today, partly because God intervened in some things, but part of it is my attitude and my focus. Yesterday my focus was on me and what I needed, that still lingers but today I am also sharing my focus on what those around me need, and what they are going through and trying to give them help where I can.

My tendency last night was to think about my foe, but I kept seeing him with flesh and bones. (For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12) My foe does not have flesh and bones. He is wily and determined to make me fall. May Savior did have flesh and bone. He was born as a baby. He lived a perfect life, filled with miracles of healing and provision. And then He died to save me, then His father raised him back to life again and now he lives forever in glorified flesh and bones. I don’t know how that part works. I know that Jesus the Son, God the father and the Holy spirit are all watching and helping me. They are my refuge, they are my strong tower against my foe.

My Gift for the King

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah wrote this.

“Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the Lord.”
Isaiah 60:6 – NLT

Then Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and there Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. They named him Jesus.

“After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:9-11 – NLT

Jesus, the promised messiah, the savior of the world. What will I bring to my king this year? I will bring him me; all of my heart, my soul, my mind and my strength.

Jesus I am yours. I want to give you all of me. Even the parts that I formerly partitioned off and kept from you. Fill me up with your Holy Spirit leave no space in me empty. I need your light and truth in every nook and cranny of my being.

Connect the dots

Hebrews 9

Connect the dots.

As a kid I was more of a free hander drawing what else? Race cars. Occasionally I would allow someone else to dictate what the drawing would be and follow the numbered dots with my crayon. Most of the time I wouldn’t follow the order and just guess by the suggested shape of the dots. If I drew straight lines between all the dots the shape would look funny. In nature, Very rarely are there straight lines.

Judaism and its practices were a connect the dots so to speak. The temple sacrifices and ceremonies were, once completed, a set of things to show us who Jesus is and what he came to do.

“When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”[a] 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

In my bible I have verses 22&28 underlined.

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It can’t be my blood. I am sinful. Jesus sacrificed his perfect blood for our sins.

“and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

I’m waiting for him. Will you watch and wait with me? There is much to do while we wait. Many who don’t know that their sins are all forgiven. We must let them know. Jesus left us with an open invitation and it read, Bring a guest. Bring lots of guests.

Simeon’s song

There was a very old man in Jerusalem who God was speaking to through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had been quiet for 400 years. No new prophets or prophecy and yet he spoke to this man, his name was Simeon, and God promised Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the messiah.

Simeon was prompted by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple. Joseph and Mary had brought the baby Jesus to offer the sacrifice for a first born baby boy.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

Luke 2:25-33 – NIV

Simeon was not just looking for a savior for the Jewish people but be he looked further ahead, to a light also for the Gentiles which meant everyone else. Simeon saw God’s heart for lost people and saw Jesus as the hope and salvation for all people everywhere, for Jews and for gentiles.

Jesus is that light.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 8:12 – NLT.

This “song of Simeon” brings me back to my childhood. I was s Lutheran and as part of the liturgy the pastor would sing this song. It was a blip of time in the service but it always touched me. The song had four or five notes and was sung as a chant. It was only later in life that I connected the song in liturgy to place in the Bible.

One last thought about this. The verse says Simeon was very old. From the context I believe we can deduce that God had given the promise of seeing the messiah to him when he was a young man. Years went by. No messiah. I think that Simeon may have had doubts about whether or not he heard God correctly. He is alone in the Bible passage, this may mean that he had outlived his friends, maybe outlived his wife, and possibly even his children but he hung onto the promise and continued to come to the temple to find “the light for revelation”. This tells me that God keeps his promises. It also tells me that waiting can be and usually is part of God’s plan.

Now we are waiting for the return of the light. God hasn’t forgotten. He will come back. It may be soon. Are watching and waiting and working while you wait?

Why he came

Sometimes I forget that this is here.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations.”
Isaiah 61:1-4 – NLT

This what Jesus came to do. He quoted the first 2 verses while in the synagogue in his hometown and then told his townspeople “the scriptures you just heard were fulfilled this very day”.

Are you poor in any sense of the word?

Are you mourning a loss of any kind?

Are being held captive in any way?

Are you imprisoned in any sense?

Personally I answer yes to all of these questions. Jesus has come to bring us good news and freedom. Even more, he will exchange beauty for ashes.

This part is particularly special for me. I can take this part literally. I am a burn victim. 52 years and 9 days ago I had kerosene spilled on my coat and it caught fire. I was badly burned and disfigured. But God has given me beauty for ashes. I have a beautiful wife and she has made my life sweet with beauty, giving me 4 beautiful children and they have given me 11 beautiful grandchildren.

I know that not everyone has a story like mine with something literally burned to ashes but we all have experienced loss, where something we have put our hopes in gets utterly destroyed. God says he can takes the wreckage and ashes of our hopes and give us back a future and hope that are more beautiful than we could have imagined. I am the poster child for his restorative plan and power. ❤️

He sees you

Hebrews 4b

The song lyrics terrified me when I was a kid. From Santa Claus is coming to town.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake. “

Why did we behave better at Christmas time? As kids? Santa was watching us.

Guess what? God watches us too. All year long. He doesn’t just watch our behavior but he sees inside our hearts and knows our motives.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Back in James we were told that the word is a mirror reflecting us so we can see ourselves and I suggested it was so that we could wipe our nose. Here the writer says the word of God is an x-ray. Seeing inside our hearts and exposing our motives. God doesn’t expose us to humiliate us. He shows us our hearts so that we can know ourselves and know where we need healing.

After a meeting at work yesterday a friend asked me how I was. I said that I was fine. He probed just a little deeper and exposed a festering boil that caused a 3 minute rant from me. I hate that. But a faithful friend will help us heal.

Jesus is a faithful friend.

We don’t have to be afraid of exposing our inner self to him. He already knows it, he sees our hearts, but waits for us to stop denying, confess and get on with the healing.

Lance my boils Jesus. I’m tired of living with this spiritual infection. Heal my heart. Make me clean.

What about today?

Today would be a good day to seek God. He is calling out to all of us.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:1-13 – NIV

God our Father is calling us to his banquet where he is prepared to shower mercy on us. He longs to love on us and make new life spring up. ❤️

The gospel according to Winter…Winter Warlock

On the way home I had two strong ideas that seemed linked.

The gospel according to Winter, Winter Warlock.

And these verses, especially the first 1/2 of verse 5.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”
2 Peter 1:5-9

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith.

Now how do theses verses and Winter Warlock come together? What if I add some words from James?

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
James 2:14-17

Well here is how they connected in my brain.

Peter tells us to add to our faith. When we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that his gift of love for us pays for our sin, we are saved, it is a done deal. Like when in “Santa Claus is coming to town” animated feature Winter Warlocks frozen heart is melted by Santa’s gift. But Peter said to add to our faith. If our salvation is secure in Jesus what is there to add?

When a baby is born it is a complete baby. But is that baby a finished product? No, it must be fed and nurtured and cleaned and guided and protected. The baby is added to, even though it is a complete human at birth. So it is with us we are born anew or born again. We need to add to our faith, grow our faith, nurture the new life that Jesus has birthed in us.

The verse in James says that we show that our new birth has made us new by our change of heart which is shown in our change in behavior. Winters heart was changed which changed the way he acted, and what he was able to do. He couldn’t curse, he could only bless.

Winter Warlock doesn’t mention Jesus, but he is changed by love. It isn’t a perfect fit but I hope it brings a new dimension to our Christmas season viewing.

Merry Christmas. Thank you Jesus for coming as a child, then finishing the grueling work of redeeming the world. Thank you to for continuing your work in me until I’m finished in your eyes.

Christmas with COVID

The prophet Isaiah lived about 700 years before Jesus was born. Somehow God gave him a window into the future and he saw what Jesus would be doing, how he would act, what he would accomplish.

Isaiah 36 has yet another peek into the future.

“Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”
Isaiah 35:4-10 – NLT

Jesus made lame beggars walk and blind men see. He also unstopped the ears of the deaf. When Isaiah wrote this did they believe it would be literal? Or did they expect this to be just metaphorical? What about those enemies Jesus would destroy? Was that literal too? I had a bully in 7th grade named Billy, what about him or the bully I now have at work? No. Jesus came to save both of those people in the same way he came to save me.

In Paul’s letter to the Believers in Ephesus he sorted out just who is our real and true enemy.

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:10-12 – NLT

Jesus did destroy two enemies, enemies we all have in common, sin and death.

When Jesus died on the cross he paid for every sin. While hanging from the cross he said, “it is finished”. The job he came to do was done. The debt, my debt, your debt, was paid in full.

But there was one more enemy to defeat, and the victory was already in process. In 3 days Jesus rose from the dead and with set us free from the control of death.

Paul wrote this to the believers in Rome.

“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:20-23 – NIV

I get excited when I see God use a prophet who lived 700 years before Jesus arrived to describe how Jesus would act and what he would do. It confirms in my my heart that Jesus is the one God sent to rescue us.

As I write this it is early December 2020. We are in a pandemic. COVID-19 is working it’s way through our country and it is circling closer and closer. It seems to be spreading darkness and fear. First The country, then our state, next our county, our town, our church and hospital, our neighborhood.

But Jesus came to bring hope and light.

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:9-13 – NIV

Our enemies have been defeated. Jesus has come to bring light and hope a healing. we can become children of God. We can have our biggest enemies destroyed, our sins washed away and be given eternal life. This Christmas with COVID can be the best Christmas ever if it includes receiving Jesus as the gift he came to be, the forgiver of sin and the bestower of eternal life.

Fixed on the faithful one

Hebrews 3

Are you a fan? A fan of a team or a movie star or an athlete or anything? I am a Chevrolet fan. I own 2. When I talk about one of the two, my 57, (his name is Rusty) my eyes glass over, my lips curl into a smile, my speech speeds up and even gets a little louder. I am a fan of Rusty and I love to talk about him.

The writer of Hebrews is a fan of Jesus. One of the biggest fans. Rightly so. Who else is worthy of our attention and affection? Who else has saved us and who else intercedes for us? There have been great men, great servant leaders, Moses was one. But as great as Moses was as a leader, Jesus is better.

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”

We have only one day to do what we have to do. That day is today. All we can do is work in the moment that we are in. If we knew we were dying what would do? Put our affairs in order. What day do we put our affairs in order? Today.

““Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.””

We get right now. What will we do with it?

Jesus loves us and died to
Prove it. He lives now to intercede for us. Have you accepted his gift yet?

I think I slipped into rabid used car salesman mode. “What’s it going to take to get you into this…?.” Im not selling anything. Jesus is giving us freedom, forgiveness, family and salvation.

““Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.””

It’s today. Now what?

My efforts are like giving birth to wind

Isaiah 26

Are you feeling weak and weary?

I am.

Do all your efforts end up like a big burst of gas from your backside?

Mine do some times.

Let me offer you, and me some hope.

“Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord. We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

Isaiah 26:16-21 – NIV

What can we hope in? Who can we hope in?

Isaiah 11. A branch from the stump of Jesse.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord — and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:1-6 – NIV

God is going to rearrange the order of things. There will be true justice. There will be disciplinary action against wrongs done. Somehow God will set all things right. The wrong I have done will be set right. Not by me, and I will witness the miracle but I won’t pay for it because Jesus has already paid for it. He paid for my wrongs by dying on the cross. He paid for your wrongs too. Jesus is the root from the stump of Jesse. Have you asked him to forgive you yet? He will. I know he will do it for you because he did it for me. He forgave me.

He doesn’t look on the outside, he looks on the inside.

“A broken and contrite heart oh God you will not despise”. I don’t remember where that is in the Bible. I said it hundreds of times in the Lutheran liturgy.

I have loosely scrapped two sections of the Book of Isaiah together and I told you God has forgiven you because he loves you. Now it’s up to you. What will you do about Gods great loving gift?

Timeline

Our race, our culture, all human beings, have a timeline and it has been marching forward steadily forward as steadily as the earth turns on its axis and as calendar pages get used up and torn off, the timeline just keeps plodding on. I vaguely remember my geometry teacher Mr Ivan Hoyt talking about the properties of a ray. A ray is a pointed line that goes straight from a point out into eternity, it goes on forever. 🔜

From Wikipedia: When viewed as a vector, a ray is a vector from a point to a point . In geometry, a ray is usually taken as a half-infinite line (also known as a half-line) with one of the two points and. taken to be at infinity.

(Eternity- infinity…whatever…)

Isaiah chapter 9 has 2 prophecies about what God was going to do. God’s timeline started in the garden of Eden. It continues through the life of Abraham and the patriarchs and continues on through the history of the nation Israel and then when Israel is divided into two nations, north and south, focuses on the nation of Judah. The book of Isaiah is God speaking to his people, warning them of upcoming devastation and promising restoration and reconciliation in the future. But it goes beyond Just Judah and Israel and the Jews as a nation and God broadens the focus of his message to include everyone, all the people of the world.

Our, earths that is, timeline is just that, a line. It is not a time ray, at least not yet. It is a time line. A line has two fixed points, a beginning and an end. God started it and he will finish it.

In between those points he developed a plan to save us. the plan has always been to send his son Jesus.

The book of Isaiah is stuffed with hints and peeks into how this this will work and what this savior will act like and what he will do.

Isaiah chapter 9 is one such place.

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Isaiah 9:1-7 – NIV

Earlier in chapter 7 we get another peek, a virgin will bear a son.

“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. ” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test. ” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.
Isaiah 7:10-16 – NIV

The date today is December 2. On the church calendar we are in the season of advent, which kind of means, the season of anticipation. During this season we try to remember what it was like to anticipate the new thing that God would do, and do we try and put ourselves in that mindset. the Jewish people had a long history of oppression and servitude to nations that occupied them and ruled over them. They were looking forward to God setting them free. Not many anticipated all that God would do when he sent this redeemer to earth. God’s plan wasn’t so limited. His plan was to set all people free, not just Jews, and not from just political slavery but from spiritual slavery to sin and physical slavery to death.

So our timeline is a line. It has a beginning and an end. Speaking of ends, I woke up from a dream last night filled with fear about the end of time being imminent and the struggles involved in the last days. It could be soon. Or not. It will be, we just don’t know when.

There will be change at the end of our timeline, time will be exploded out on both ends to infinity, in all directions. Eternity is infinity in all directions.

Are you ready? Have you met Jesus the Christ, the promised messiah and redeemer?

He is a prayer away. He is waiting for you. He loves you. he wants to spend eternity with us, you and me. It requires a transaction. We have to trade our sinfulness for his righteousness. Otherwise eternity will be without him. That is a place no one should be. He died and he rose again and then he ascended into heaven and now waits to complete our home, to complete the number of people who will be saved and wait for the signal from the Father that it is time.

Timeline. Tick tick tick. Please consider his offer.

In all things…

It’s not hypothetical. It isn’t hyperbole. They aren’t just nice words to give us warm fuzzies. They are words spoken by God through the apostle Paul.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

It was 52 years ago today, probably around this time of day, maybe a little later, it was dark. Fifty two years ago I was burned. My face and right hand would never be the same. I was eight years old. But God used this horrible thing, even and especially this horrible thing to preserve me and lead me into a relationship with the most perfect woman to share my life with. My wife Mary has been the single most supportive person and the biggest blessing in my life. Besides meeting Jesus, and being saved and forgiven by him, Mary has been the most important person in my life. We met after I was burned. After I was disfigured. Somehow she saw something in me that attracted her to me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

These words more than any other in the Bible show me, remind me, that God loves me and will use even the worst things in my life, the worst things in our lives, for our good. God used the worst thing that happened to me the bring the best thing to happen to me. Why? Because of two things.

One, He loves us.

Two, he is a good father.

Scratch that itch?

Is it an itch or a hunger?

There’s a restless soulish urge that continues to plague me. I want to say it is spiritual in nature, it is at least soulish. It comes from somewhere beyond my rational mind’s control. It is a longing but it doesn’t go away when I administer what should be relief measures. The more I attend to it the greater it becomes.

It reminds of something I dealt with back in Jr High.

When I was in 7th grade I started to get some itchy spots on the back and side of my calves. I didn’t like the itchiness, but I loved the satisfaction of scratching. The harder and more intensely I scratched the more pleasurable the sensation, up to a point. Then it started hurting. It went on for what seemed like months. The bumps where the itching started grew in number, and as I scratched, they spread. first they were dime size, then quarter size, then half dollar size. They started oozing, and forming scabs.

The style in that day was to wear long white tube socks, all the way to the knee if you could find them. They were made of some type of acrylic fiber and they had two or three bands of color at the top. The half dollar size sores on my calves were covered by my socks. The scabs that would form on the sores sometimes would get stuck in the fiber of the socks. pulling the socks off or down tore off the scabs. (Sorry this is so gross). It became a cycle of itching, scratching, oozing, scabbing, spreading. What started as a sore on a leg became multiple sores on both legs. I don’t remember how my mom discovered what was going on, she worked full time and wasn’t home very much, but eventually She saw the sores and I was taken to the doctor and given some cream and antibiotics and the itching and infection went away.

I don’t remember how annoying the itch was. I do remember how pleasurable the scratching was. This plague of soulish unrest that I am experiencing is like that itch. And to answer the original question I asked, It is an itch, not a hunger. If you feed a hunger, it goes away, it is satisfied. If you scratch an itch, the itch only gets stronger the next time, and bigger. It covers more area and the scratching brings with it other problems, like infection and other ills.

The problem, the itch, is soulish. It lives in area beyond my intellect but under my spirit. I can’t think it away. I can pray it away. There are issues that my brain power can overcome, but soul issues live outside the realm of my intellect, like in an orbit that my brain cannot reach, but my spirit, now inhabited by the Holy spirit absorbs the orbit of my brain and my soul with its emotions and longings and itches.

My solution for the itch is to say NO to the urge to scratch, and then honestly pray to my Father in heaven about both the itch, and the urge to scratch. If I have scratched and caused an infection in my soul, God offers me salve. He offers me the salve of forgivenss in Jesus.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
James 4:7-10 – NLT

The spiritual prescription in James’s is pretty simple, Resist temptation AND run towards God our loving Heavenly Father. now comes the hard part, the act of my will, will I do it?

In seventh grade I didn’t start to heal until I revealed to my mom what was going on. There was a confession of sorts, I had to accept that I needed help, that fixing this thing was beyond my ability, it was also beyond my mom’s ability, we had to go to a physician. Jesus is the great physician. My job is to run to him. His job is to heal my wounds, even those that are self inflicted.

I have written this down so that I can share what I think might be a common problem and offer a solution that I am clumsily learning to use. I hope it helps. Jesus saves, he also salves.

At the gate but late

The door was closed.
She could not get on her flight.
She missed it and no one could or would help her.

I was at Seatac. I was at my gate early. Not bragging, just saying I was there early. Next to my gate was another gate flying somewhere far away, Texas maybe? I had seen this lady on the other side, the main terminal. She was being seated in a wheelchair by an airport worker. When she showed up at her gate she was walking. Earlier I had seen the airlines’ hostesses walking the length of the terminal calling out names of missing passengers and heard multiple announcements asking for passengers to go to the desk, announcing boarding and then final boarding. Then they closed up the desk, walked through the doors and boarded the plane. After all of that happened the lady showed up. She was at the right gate but she was late. She couldn’t find anyone to help her. She walked through the seats asking for help, loudly asking for someone, anyone from her airline to help but they were all in the plane already.
She tried crashing the door. She could see her plane still parked at the gate but she couldn’t get on.

When she crashed the door an alarm sounded and security personnel arrived rather quickly. But they couldn’t get her on the plane either. It didn’t seem to make any difference why she was late or how loud she got with her protests. She could not ride that plane. Even with a boarding pass she could not get aboard the plane.

It was a scene that played out in my life that I️ watched like it was a performance for me. It made me wonder and now over 2 weeks later I am still pondering it. As the character Scrooge says in the Christmas Carol, “why was I privy to this conversation?”.

At the same time I have Been reading 2 Peter. In chapter 2, Peter mentions some times when God’s timing and the peoples time ran out.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings;”
2 Peter 2:4-10

So did God show me this so that I would present it as a cautionary tale? As a culture we are constantly exposed to and driven by schedules and time tables. Is it a surprise that God also has a schedule and a time table for his plan for us? None of us knows his time table and schedule. Not even Jesus knew when the end would be. Can we say that God is a meany head for having a schedule? Or can we say thank you to him for his patience with us thus far?

Further into his letter Peter had this to say,
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:3-9

Mary calls me Debbie Downer because I see the dark side of things, I really don’t want this to be that.

God loves us. He sent Jesus to us not Just to say I love you, but to do I love you. Jesus came to die for sins we cannot pay for or erase. Then he rose from the dead to lead us into God’s heaven. He made a way for us.

We get today. We have today to choose.

I don’t know the outcome for the poor lady who missed her plane. I do know the outcome of everyone who missed Noah’s boat. I do know the outcome for everyone who misses God’s grace in Jesus but I would rather talk about the splendor waiting for those who receive God’s great gift of forgiveness in Jesus.

Today, all aboard.

What kind of people ought we to be?

From 3 years ago:

It’s cyber Monday. A busy day for shopping. Mary has been asking me what I want for Christmas and I I’ve been humbly replying “I am content with life, I want for nothing” but then I went to Home Depot with my son in law Michael. SO much stuff, so many tools and gadgets that I don’t have yet.

But I caution myself with what the apostle Peter says in his second letter.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
2 Peter 3:8-13

Everything we see and know will eventually be destroyed by God as he prepares a new heaven and a new earth. Only two things will remain, the word of God and the souls of men. We are created to live forever. And we will, but where will we spend eternity?

God loves us and longs to spend eternity with us but our sins separate us from him. He knew that and prepared a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin through his only son Jesus. By accepting Jesus death as payment and believing in his resurrection we can spend eternity with our Heavenly father.

I’m going to try to not let this holiday season be about the stuff of life in stores but about hastening the return of Jesus by expanding his kingdom through sharing the story of a God who loves me enough to die in my place. A baby who came to save me, save us.

Who can I tell this to today?

Thanksgiving Eve: how much is enough?

James 5.

Riches. Having some makes us want more. On the eve of the day we as a nation give thanks for to our God for his abundance that he has given to us, James has this to say to us.

“And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.

4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.”

Will our fattened corpse that we leave behind testify against our indulgent lifestyle? How much is enough? What have we done to earn what we have? Is having more our goal or is our goal of wanting more so we have enough and sharing the rest with others who don’t have enough?

“7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

9 Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.”

Patience, waiting, delayed gratification. These are not popular practices in our culture. And that is okay because We are not of this culture. Christians have been waiting for the return of our messiah for 2 thousand years. Does that mean he isn’t coming? No, it means He is closer now then he has ever been and each day is closer still. We Look around, we watch and wait, we stay busy building the kingdom planting the flag in a heart here or there. Gods kingdom doesn’t exist on the soil, it exists in the hearts of people. We can’t claim America for Jesus but we can claim Americans for Jesus.

Pray. Pray for America, pray for whatever country we live in, pray for each other, pray for the sick. Prayer works because God our Father is all powerful and He works. Not like a genie where we ask for selfish gain but like an all knowing, all powerful God he gives us what we need within his all knowing wisdom about what will help us grow up.

Sing praise to our great God because no matter what situation we are in, he is worth praising. There is none other like him.

“19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.”