Can it be true?

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

This is going to sound stupid but this is one of those verses that bugs me. It bugs me because its sounds like it can’t be true. Like it’s the picture of the imaginary Christian life, the pretend Pollyanna Christian life.

The reason is that I have been utterly terrified before. Waking up after having your head bashed against a dashboard, the vehicle upside down and family members moaning and crying can bring on overwhelming fear. I have been in stark terror.

That car accident has been my scariest moment, but my most blissful peaceful moment came only minutes later. Somehow the people who came to the wreck got me out of the wreckage and put me in an ambulance. As I laid there fear was almost to crazy level which is 5 clicks past 11 on the fear dial, then I heard words,in my head or my heart or my ears I don’t know, the words were “Jesus will take care of you”.

Peace flooded over me and I relaxed. That could be when I died I don’t know. When we arrived at the hospital I was clinically dead, no pulse and not breathing.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Maybe in the days since then when I’ve encountered fear, it wasn’t God’s fault, it was mine for losing sight of him. How can we fear if we know the God who said to nothingness “let there be light” and there was light, who created mankind and watched as we as a race defied him, then he provided a way back to him through giving up his only son to be punished in our place. If we know that God, and can keep him in our sights and believe and trust in his existence and receive his persistent love, maybe our souls can experience peace.

Love in action

How then shall we live?

Love in Action

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” NIV Rom 12:9-21

This is how followers of Jesus should live. It is the expanded version of “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

So live like this.

Impossible?

Without a change of heart and mind, yes, impossible.

Followers of Jesus get a bonus guide. When a person makes Jesus their master and believes that Jesus has raised from the dead, they go through a rebirth and at this birth God’s spirit comes to live inside them as a guide, an internal spiritual gps. All of our confessed sin is washed away. We are made clean and new.

When the new birth happens a new heart is transplanted into us, one that loves God and loves our neighbors. And as we grow, and learn how to follow Jesus by reading his word, our mind is renewed.

We get a restart, a new beginning with A guiding Spirit, a new heart which loves and a renewed mind.

From that place we can begin to live this new lifestyle. A life of love, mercy, grace and service.

Get it to give it to get it

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

God is merciful.

For some of us that is the problem. His mercy attracts us but also repels us. If he can forgive me, and welcome me, then what’s to keep him from forgiving and welcoming my enemy? How can he forgive the person who hurt me so deeply? It isn’t fair.

Some of us are stuck in the attraction/repulsion zone. We know what Jesus said about forgiveness, that to receive it we must give it.

“Matthew 6:12-15 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. “

We get stuck right here.

There are 3 things to consider if we find ourselves stuck, needing forgiveness, but unable to forgive.

  1. God knows. He knows our hearts. He also knows what happened. He will take us where we are, how we are. We may not be able to forgive today, but once we are God’s he begins to make us new.
  2. God will change us from the inside out. The person that enters a relationship with God through Jesus death for them and his resurrection, will be transformed, from the inside out. Hurts will be healed, slowly, sometimes instantly but always persistently he moves to completeness and wholeness and health. We won’t finish our lives, as we Have started them, once we have given control over to God. Like a master carpenter/engineer/builder remodeling a shambled wreck, he restores, renews, rebuilds us.
  3. God is infinitely merciful and he is infinitely Just. We find this in Acts; “Acts 17:26-31 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. 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. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “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. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 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.” ‘

There is still a day of accounting to come. This will be the day when all things wrong get righted. I don’t know how it will work. I know Jesus has paid for my sins so I will not be punished, but somehow he will make up for wrong that I did. His way of Justice will be as perfect as his way of Mercy. He is infinitely powerful and infinitely creative and solutions are unlimited to him.

Today, please consider surrendering to the great God of mercy and let him begin the process of renewal in you.

Our Father’s heart for us

I had a spiritual experience on the way home. It’s kind of private but I am going to share it because it might encourage someone else.

My dad and I were not very close as I grew up. This has made it difficult for me to understand the fatherhood of God in a loving way. At best it has felt that God tolerates me.

Tonight a radio pastor asked his listening audience to imagine themselves alone in a room with Jesus. Jesus sitting toe to toe and eye to eye. What would he say to you?

I knew right away, in spite of my sinfulness Jesus first words to me would be “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”

But then my mind wandered to the Father, what would he say to me?

It was as if I heard his loving voice say, ” I sent him for you…”

My Father in heaven sent his only son to die in my place, to die for my sins. Why would he do that? Because he loves me “so much!”

I don’t get it all, but today I understand a little better how my Heavenly Father feels about me. He loves me so much! So much that he will sacrifice his own son to save me.

Here is some good news for anyone reading this, he loves you “so much!” too!

The inclusive Family of God❤️

In the same way that it’s difficult to imagine that the world existing before I was born. There was a time when I was not. Now I am. Before January 1960 I was not. In that same vein there was a time when me and people like me were not welcome in Gods house. I am a gentile. I was not born a Jew and so I would have always been an outsider. But Jesus changed all that.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews[b] on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”[c]
10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”[d]
11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”[e]
12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”[f]
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I am an adopted son. My father loves me very much. He gave his son to bring me and people like me into his family.

The code of the blessed

Is there a standard that we can live by? Is there like a code of conduct that if we applied to our lives, it would make the world a better place? I didn’t say a code to force onto others, I said a code to live by, one that I apply to myself and my children.

Romans 13 has a code of conduct.

“Romans 13:7-10 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

It could work.

But it isn’t something to muster up, to force on over our lives like a wet suit that’s 2 sizes too small. It is only possible from a heart change that takes place when we have received God’s forgiveness through Jesus death on the cross.

Step 1. Admit our need. Which means we will need to one or all of the list below:

I). Stop justifying ourselves by either saying what we’re doing isn’t wrong or by comparing ourselves with someone else and seeing ourselves better than the other person. (Unless we are comparing ourselves to Jesus which should be done).

II). Stop trying to pay off our mistakes with good works. You can’t pay off mistakes with used sanitary products, which is what Isaiah called them “Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. “

Then, confess, say out loud, that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.

From that beginning our hearts are changed and we will have Jesus living in our hearts. He can empower us to live out “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s not just the code of the west, it’s the code of all who believe in and follow Jesus.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“He loves you right now, as you are…”

“Though in your sin you are undeserving and undesirable, He loves you when your mind disavows it, your heart dodges it, and your soul dismisses it. He loves you right now as you are, not as you think you should be.”

I don’t have to shower or shave, to change my socks or undies or my habits before God will love me. He just loves me.

I put a period at the end of that last sentence but my emotions want to put a question mark there. Even me? Even me God? Have you seen me? Have you looked at all of my life?

Yes he has, and the truth is still the same for even me. For God so loved (my name here) that he gave his one and only son so that (my name here) would believe in Him, he gave the power to become a child of God and give him not death, but eternal life. That was John 3:16 from a paraphrased memory. Here it’s quoted:

“John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world (our name here)that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (and here)believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world (and here), but to save the world (and here) through him. “

I rejoice that so many of my Christian friends read my early morning devotional ramblings but I also hope that someone who doesn’t know about Jesus love for them yet might read this or at least hear the message. Will you, the person reading this, tell one other person today that God loves them and Jesus came to die for them so they can share in God’s love and have eternal life? At least one?

Thank you.

The future roundup

I had it all wrong as a child. It was a pleasant idea. It made my parents smile when I told them how I thought it worked. As a kid I thought everyone believed in Jesus. I also thought that Jesus was running the world from an office building in New York City

I was about 6 at the time. Something I heard on the news was talking about Israel and the Jews. I didn’t know that some of Gods people hadn’t accepted Jesus as their messiah.

Yet.

Romans 11 talks about this.

“25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.”

I am one of those Gentiles that God has been gathering in. I am so grateful. When he is all done with that, all of us gathered, things are going to change here. Wouldn’t it be cool to be part of the last Gentile coming to Jesus? What can I do to participate in that?

A living sacrifice

I can’t do it. I want to but I can’t. Fit in. Mold myself to the culture around me. I try but I can’t. I get stuck half way. Wanting to conform but this whole Jesus thing, his love for me, his sacrifice, he died for me, it calls me back. Most of my day I spend running back and forth between two masters. How can I just stop being drawn away from Jesus who loves me, to the world and worldly pleasures that I love?

I read a verse today, I have read it many times, but if I put this into practice, I will be launched and supported in the way I should go.

“Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.

Putting this into practice will mean I act on this verse by adding the rest of the Bible, bit by bit, to my heart and head. Head and heart, I know what it says, and I believe it, and I do it.

I have been a Christian since 1981 and in that time I have gone through seasons of intensely following Jesus and seasons of coasting, like journeying up a river, against the flow, and then at times pulling in the oars, laying down and taking a nap, waking to find that the boat that is my life didn’t stay where I pulled in the oars. What a rude way to wake up, with the roar of the falls of destruction in my ears, and the mists of the tears of the fallen on my face.

The Christian life is rowing the boat against the current of our culture and our world, but not in judgement of those around us floating with the flow, in concern and care of them, warning, loving, helping.

I’ve said enough. I need to get back to rowing.

Through broken bones and burn scars, God works for the good

(This post is from 7 years ago. So now we have been married 42 years, and we now have 11 grandchildren. God is good.)

I’ve been reading through the book of Romans this year. I started in January. I read through a chapter a day and start over when I’m done with chapter 16.

This month I have been posting as I read through and verses jump out at me.

I am up to chapter 8.

Anticipating what I would say about chapter 8 before I read it because it holds my “life verse”. That verse that explains me and my relationship with Jesus better than any other single verse in the bible.

“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

My childhood was traumatic. I have a steel plate in my jaw and some nasty burn scars on my face. I got these before I turned 12. When I was burned I almost died. Getting the injuries that resulted in the steel plate I was actually clinically dead by the time I reached the hospital.

Again, ” 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.”

You’d think scars on a face would be a deterrent to finding love. It worked the other way around for me. Mary was actually drawn to me because I was scarred yet I was still laughing. Our story reminds me of the joke about the soldier in a doctors waiting room with a spear stuck through him. He was asked if it hurt. His answer was “only when I laugh”. Mary and I became friends in part because of my scars. We became friends, then boyfriend and girlfriend and then we got?

Broken up. You thought I was going to say married. Well we did, eventually but first for almost a year we were broken up. We even dated other people. I did not do well with that. I wanted out of town. I decided to join the Air Force. I was going to quit school, I had all of my credits already, quit and join and get out of town. I had all the papers signed except one. The medical release form. The recruiter went through rather casually until we got to the question about steel pins or plates. As it turns out the Air Force wouldn’t take folks with steel plates in them. I was stuck in Soap Lake and that and a big blue Dodge Polara are how Mary and I got back together.

The steel plate in my jaw God used to keep me around so that I could participate in the greatest blessing of my life. That blessing was to make up with Mary and get engaged to Mary on the same night then get married, have 4 kids and 6 grandkids and still be married 35 years later.

“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.”

Even burn scars and a brief dance with Death with a steel plate as a bonus prize. God has used all things in my life, even ugly and painful things for my good.

Tomorrow is our 35th anniversary. Happy anniversary baby! Love you SO much.

Not no, wait…

Rusty took me to church. The message was about faith from Hebrews 11. Faith is the substance of things not seen. For over 30 years I asked God for another chance to own and drive a 57 Chevy pickup. I thought his answer was no. It turned out his answer was wait.

Don’t quit praying. Believe God is a good father who wants to give us good things at the appropriate time.

“Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. “

Words from our Father

I’ve been doing it wrong

I am reading a book by AW Tozer. So far I am only into the introduction. But he has already taught me something that will help me immensely.

You see, I have been reading the Bible wrong. I have been reading the Bible to learn the words written there. But those words that were written were written by a person who was trying, by writing the words, to reveal Himself. That person is not the human author of each book but is the God who inspired the human. God is attempting to reveal himself to us through his word. The words are important but the God who stands behind the words, the God who spoke the words through his apostles and prophets, it’s Him I am trying to learn about, it’s Him I am trying to hear, it’s Him who I am trying to get close to.

This morning I am reading a Psalm, what is God showing me about Himself through these words? What is he saying to me? What can I learn about Him today? What will he teach about myself? About others around me?

It’s not that the words of the Bible don’t matter, but they aren’t the end. They are the map to find the treasure that is God Himself.

“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
Psalm 108:3-5 – NIV

And I add my own words, show me who you are God my Father, and show me how to live.

Universally His

Train musings:

As I’m looking out the window of our train to Venice I’m realizing that the air, the water, the plants and trees don’t know or seem to care what country they are in. They listen to and obey a higher authority than a man who draws a line in the dirt and says “this is mine and that is yours”. They obey a higher authority, the one who made them.

People have some strong opinions about who belongs where. I’m sure that there were meetings in a smoke filled room somewhere. men wearing suits looked at a map and argued where the lines should go.

I don’t think that God sees it that way. The planet that is. One reason might be his vantage point looking down from
Heaven it all looks the same. No colors of states or countries. No lines.

Another reason could be that it is all his. All the land, all the animals, the trees plants fish birds all are his. He made it. He made it and he made us. All of us. No matter what hue our skin is or what language we speak or inside which lines drawn on the map we find our feet or our home. We are his. God is an international God because he only made one planet earth.

Growing up I thought God dressed like captain America Except he wore a robe but his robe was red white and blue because he loved America more than any other country. We were right and they( whomever) were wrong. In any fight, God was on our side.

In the revelation of John the apostle described the vision of the city of God. In that vision he describes the foundation stones of the heavenly city. It is made of 12 different colored stones. I wonder if those 12 colors encompass the colors of all the flags of all the nations?

From Johns description There isn’t going to be an American heaven and an Italian heaven and a French heaven. There is just going to be heaven, the place God dwells. Neither will there be sections for Catholics and a part for Protestants, a space for Jews there will be an all inclusive home for those who believe and receive Gods gift of salvation, being bought back to be a child of God from slavery to sin. No denominations of Protestantism , one God, one heaven, one family. Strange to think about.

One of the creeds I learned as a child said about us believers that we’re one holy catholic, which means universal, church. We are after all part of one body, the bride of Christ, his church.

I sum up

“I sum up”

It’s one of my favorite quotes from “the Princess Bride”.

Jesus summed up the law and the prophets in two small quotes.

In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked this:

“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’

My favorite commandments are the ones that are easy not to break like , don’t murder. That WAS easy until Jesus said that if you hate someone, you’ve already murdered them in your heart. That one I’ve broken.

They seem be about behaviors to avoid. But the commandments Jesus lists are things to actively do. Love God. Love people.

So this Christian life, it may not be about not doing the don’ts, but more about doing the do’s.

Jesus says later, recorded in Johns Gospel, that the way the world will be able to tell us apart from the rest of the population is how we love one another.

If you look at how Christians are portrayed in our culture, that isn’t how we are known.

How do I appear? How do I live? How do I love? Do I treat people the way I want to be treated? Do I love self-sacrificially?

Things to ponder and correct if necessary. Paul gave us a summary of how we should live in his letter to the Romans.

“9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

How are we doing with this?

  1. Love God
  2. Love people
  3. Repeat

Whose image is this imprinted on my soul?

I am his.

Only Jesus can take a tax question and turn it into a spiritual lesson.

God created me. I sold myself into a life of slavery to sin. Sin is in my nature. I’ve committed them all. I’ve never killed but I have hated and Jesus says it’s the same thing. I have never strayed from Marriage vows but I have had thoughts. Jesus said it’s the same thing. I have lied, I have stolen, I have envied and gossiped, and been gluttonous. Of the commandments I have broken them all, from the first “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.” To the last, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ( thanks HGTV).

But I digress. Here is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 22.

“15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

I belong to God because he created me.

“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

God’s stamp is on me. But I sold myself to sin. I cannot belong to sin and God at the same time. God wants me back. Not to punish me, but to love on me, like a father does to a repentant wayward child on their return.

He sent Jesus to die a sacrificial death. It’s a death I deserve but Jesus did it for me. And then he raised him back to life so we can be forever together.

Paul said it very well in his letter to the Romans, “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 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! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

God longs for us all to come back to him. He has made a way through his son Jesus.

Today will you receive the welcome back? If you already have, will you invite someone else to do the same?

Our king is returning

I had this experience 7 years ago, traveling from Venice to Milan on our way home. Make of it what you will. I think God was speaking to me.

Away from Venice

On the train ride from Venice back to Milan there was a storm brewing to the north. There were huge thunderheads forming. As we travelled along I saw one that looked like a man, (a king?) He was seated on a big chair (throne?) but he was rising up. We must’ve turned because the next time I looked out, the formation I saw looked like a crouching lion about to pounce.

The third time I looked out, the window it looked like a popped corn kernel.

We changed trains in Milan and the second train didn’t have air conditioning. Mary began to wilt. She hadn’t had a meal since breakfast at 7 and it was after 5. The clouds continued to gather and the sky darkened to the north. There were 3 train stops between us and our hotel and it looked like Mary would be a puddle of her former self. The temperature was in the lower 90s with 40% humidity

Then the clouds let loose just a little, like a single sweep of the old oscillating sprinkler and the temperature cooled down about 10 degrees. (God applause!)

We exited the train at our our stop but there was no cover. The rain had stopped already. After the two of us working together to figure out how to dial a + (plus sign), Mary called our hotel which was supposed to have a shuttle service. They informed us that the shuttle wasn’t available but that they were only 2 blocks away and suggested that we walk.

I know that this doesn’t seem connected to the clouds but wait.

As we began trudging toward the hotel dragging our 3 suitcases there was a loud thunderclap and then a second one.

(Lest you think us wimps, the first block was like DKs to division, with no sidewalk and no parking lane, just 2 lanes of Italian dinner hour traffic, 4 lanes if you count the scooters, and the there was also the thunder).

We briefly discussed the possibility and probability of being struck by lightning. It was mutually decided if God brought us all the way to Italy, to a tiny train station parking lot to strike us dead? Our number was up.

Instead of braving the traffic we called back to ask for a taxi. The hotel said the shuttle had just got back and would pick us up in 10 minutes. (I think this when the whole “struck by lightning ” came up but I’m too tired to cut and paste).

We did get picked up. We did get our lovely room. We did eat at the hotel restaurant. We did get greeted by the owner who welcomed us in a booming Italian accented voice. We did eat one of the best meals ever eaten by either of us, possibly by anyone ever.

The storm clouds are still all around but the storm seems to be on pause.

Make of these observations what you will, but here is what I think about them.

God is seated on his throne in heaven, but not forever. Not that he will be unseated but that he will arise and stuff will begin to change very rapidly down here.

The lion is the symbol of Venice. Venice needs Jesus. Italy needs Jesus. Churches are everywhere but they are empty. Empty of His people and empty of his spirit.

If God is rising up from his throne we His church need to get busy gathering the harvest. There will be a time when harvest is over. At that time judgement starts coming in buckets and barrels.

I do not know what my role is in this but I’m pretty sure it isn’t what I usually do.

Are you ready for the change that is coming?

Jesus, the forgiver of friends

When you get called by your formal name….

“Peter James!”

Just typing that sent chills of fear through my body because even though you couldn’t hear it, there was my mothers voice in my ear ringing with an angry tone as I typed.

John 21

I think that is what the apostle Peter heard in our text today. Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John.

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 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.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’

Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John. There is language here that’s worth looking into if you have the time but what I got this morning was Jesus telling Simon Peter that he would never deny Jesus again.

He had denied Jesus. He denied him 3 times. The last denial was vehemently and with cursing.

On this day, through the catch of fish Jesus provided for this ex-fisherman, he gave him his mission, feeding the sheep Jesus would provide for him and he told him that peter would die a horrible death rather than deny Jesus again.

It’s a good thing to hear that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Even open denial can be forgiven.

Thank you Jesus for forgiving that Peter and for forgiving this Peter all of our sins.

What happens when we die?

When you’re down and troubled, and you need a helping hand…..

Who do we call when we need help? How about calling out to the God who preexisted existence?
His name? one name he calls himself, I AM.

Jesus tells us a little about life after death and a little about The character of God in Matthew 22.

“23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[b]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.”

I am. The pre-existing God continues to be the God of people who have died centuries ago. Not because he and they continue in our hearts or in our memories but because they continue to exist in God’s presence.

I AM. God exists outside and beyond the creation, his creation. We can continue to exist beyond our existence. Through Jesus who died and lives again, we can be part of that eternal existence.

Jesus said this in his conversation with Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

The same God who said said, ” let there be….” and there was, is the God who wants us to be with him in eternity. He sent Jesus to pay for our sin on the cross, and then defeat death so if we will admit we need him and receive what he has done as our payment then…

….You know wherever I AM, I’ll come running, running, running, to see you again.

(Thanks James Taylor for letting me borrow your lyrics)

On a hill far away…

7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.” Isa 25:7,8.
The hill was Golgotha, the place of the skull where Jesus died once for all. He defeated death and sin. Sin and death like unholy debt collectors waiting to haul us each away but Jesus paid it all for everyone of us. that day. On that hill.

Proof

There were 2 missing. One was dead, suicide, and the other was AWOL.

John 20

Where was the second guy? The group had been tight for 3 years now it seemed to be unraveling.

I speculate that the second guy was being proactive. He was moving on to plan B. Plan A had been a miracle working messiah but he was dead. I think Thomas had seen Jesus body some where, either on the cross or on the way to the tomb.

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

I don’t blame Thomas. I have seen dead bodies before. My uncle Charlie and my mom. They don’t look the same. Jesus was dead. But not for long. Thomas said “unless I see, unless I touch”. He got to do that but today we don’t have that option. We do however receive a blessing by believing without seeing.

Jesus suffered and died. He was dead. But he came back to life in a way that a doubter could see and believe.

What do you believe about Jesus?

There is a lot weighing in the balance of your answer. Believe and come home to our Father.