Itchy much?

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, or 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.

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.

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.

God’s word- the scalpel

Doctor God, report to surgery. Doctor God, report to surgery.

I quote large chunks of scripture when I post. I want to show what I’m reading so it can be seen in context.

The Bible is no ordinary book. It is the very words of God. It is alive and powerful. It can heal. It can save.

“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.”

By reading his word we open ourselves up to being changed by them, changed by him, made better, healed and repaired by God as we read his word.

Who is this Jesus? He is both fully God and fully man. In the Christmas season we will sing about Emanuel, which means God with us. This God whose words can heal us has sent his son to us to be with us, live as one of us, experience our life, and live it without sinning, and then die for us to pay for all of our mistakes, misdeeds and failures.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

So far I’ve only read four chapters of Hebrews and the writer has already quoted Psalm 97 3 times. It may be become my anthem.

““Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts.”

Guess what day it is? Correct! It’s Today. What will we decide to do about Jesus today? Will we accept his gift of forgiveness today?

Hold on…

Hold on a minute… or more.

I started reading Hebrews. No one knows who wrote it but it was written to Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and considered giving up their faith in Jesus.

I am encouraged by these words.

“14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[k] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

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.”

Jesus has destroyed death and the power of the devil and has made atonement (at-one-ment) for us. He has made a way for us to be with our father God again.

And here is the challenge for us who believe. Hold on.

“12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion.”[c]

Hold on to Jesus.

Forgiver

Forgiveness. That is Gods main business. Yes he is creator. Yes he is sustainer. Yes he is Judge. But primarily he is our forgiver.

Psalm 130

“1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

2 Lord, hear my voic

Let your ears be attentive

to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness,

so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,

and in his word I put my hope.

6 I wait for the Lord

more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,

for with the Lord is unfailing love

and with him is full redemption.

8 He himself will redeem Israel

from all their sins.”

I personally have no need of a God who rewards perfection. I need a God who forgives me and cleans me up when I fall, when I sin. Not if I sin. When I sin. In Jesus I have that.

Jesus is my hope.

All part of the plan

In my view The Christmas story started long before Bethlehem, long before the Star and shepherds and angels showed up, and before the wise men arrived.

It started way back in a garden, the first garden. Right after our first father and mother rebelled against God for the first time. God said this: “14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock

and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring[a] and hers;

he will crush[b] your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

God had a plan to restore our relationship with him.

Years later The prophet Isaiah gave us an update on the plan in Chapter 7.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”.

The best part of this message is in the name. Emmanuel , it means God with us. It doesn’t say God against us, God with arms folded across his chest tapping his foot, clucking his tongue. God is not looking down on us impatiently.

Instead a while later we get this message:

“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.”

I heard tonight, wait, it’s midnight, I heard yesterday that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfills. Little tidbits about the promise God made back in the garden that tell how his plan to restore our relationship with him would come about. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and of the promise. We have a way back to God. It’s not by good works, it is by Gods gift of Jesus. Jesus made the way back to our Heavenly Father by dying for our sins. Then he came back to life to show that he also conquered death.

The gift this Christmas is Jesus. And through Jesus we are brought back to our father in heaven.

Jesus, Emanuel, God came to us as a baby. He came to restore us. He came to save us. He came because he loves us. God loves me. God loves you.

Merry Christmas.

Emanuel

December 25

One of my all time favorite Christmas hymns is “O’ come o’ come Emanuel”.

O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring

Come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heavenly home

Make safe the way that leads on high

And close the path to misery

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

This song gives me hope.

Emmanuel, the word means God with us. Having God take on human form, God becoming man, It means life and hope and a future for us, but what did it mean for Jesus?

He gave up heaven.

He left his father.

He left the angels.

He left eternity and entered time.

He left omnipresence and became 3 dimensional.

He spent 9 months inside of his mother.

He spent 33 years traveling through dusty and dirty Judea and Samaria.

Paul says this about Jesus taking on flesh.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:5-8

The writer of Hebrews adds this:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:14-18

Jesus gave up heaven for a little while so we could share it with him for eternity. He took on living in the flesh so he could sympathize with us, his fallen creation. He took on living in the flesh so he could live the perfect human life. He lived the perfect human life so he could be the one and only perfect human sacrifice. He became the perfect human sacrifice so he could pay for all my sin, all of our sin. He paid for all of our sin by dying a gruesome and painful death. He died and was buried for 3 days so that though my body will die, I will live forever with him because he rose from the dead, he left the grave and death behind him, conquered forever.

We do not, cannot reach up to God. We can never be good enough. This would be heartbreaking and soul crushing except for this truth. Our God has come down to us. Emanuel. God with us.

Barney Miller Christmas

I was at church this morning helping the worship team set up. We sat down to pray and I was suddenly remembering a Barney Miller episode.

It was the one where the sweet older lady was arrested for writing bad checks. She was in the early stages of dementia. She was confused about why she had been arrested. One of the officers patiently explained to her that she owed several thousands of dollars to various people and businesses. She acted as though she understood and said “well let’s take care of that right now, I’ll just write you a check….”

That is where we all are morally. We are bankrupt but keep writing checks, asking for something or someone to cover us. We think that doing good deeds fills our checking account but according to the Bible, in God’s eyes our good deeds are like, this is kind of gross, like used menstral clothes, used sanitary devices. Our good deeds are worthless to God yet we hope to fill up our moral checking account with them, to balance the bad we do with some good deeds. It doesn’t work. It’s like writing a check on an overdrawn account to cover the overdrafts.

There is good news in all this. God himself has said that he can and will and has completely covered our debt. He did this in Jesus, in his death and resurrection. That is why his coming to earth is so important. It continues God’s plan forward.

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

Romans 5:6-11

He says this later in the same letter, “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 10:8-11

This Christmas God is waiting and wanting all of us to receive his gift, the best gift ever, forgiveness of sins, welcome into family and eternal life with him in a place where there are no tears or pain, only love and joy.