There will be a test

You can have chili, cedar cheese crackers and raspberry sorbet for dinner but there is a day of reckoning or in my case, a morning of testing. That meal doesn’t sound like a diabetic rebellion but wow. Ding ding ding! High score for blood sugar.

Spiritually there is stuff we do and get away with that’s off our spiritual diet. We ingest and partake of things that we shouldn’t and because of grace and mercy we are forgiven when we apologize to God.

But there are 2 things I wonder about. The first is, is saying we are sorry the same as repentance? Repentance means to turn around, change course, do a 180 degree turn. The second is, what does this cheating on our spiritual diet do to our spiritual health? We may be forgiven but are we killing the spirits moving and working in our lives?

In the Lutheran liturgy each week as he began his sermon the pastor would say “grace and peace to you, from God our father and from our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ”.

It’s the greeting Pail used in many of his letters, Peter used it too. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The reason I mention these scriptures is that they state Jesus’ dual role in the life of the Christian. he is our savior, his death pays for our sin and he is our Lord, our boss, our master, our sovereign King. It means he can tell us what to do and we will obey him. He can also tell us what not to do and we will obey him.

Do we really need a boss in our life telling us what to do and even harder, what not to do? Yes. Yes We do need that because this boss ordering our life Is the same boss who can and will forgive us when we fail him. And besides that His orders are always for our best good.

I sum up.

I fail, in my diet, in my spiritual life. There is forgiveness but there may be consequences, physically and spiritually. Jesus wants to fulfill his dual role in my life, save me from my sins and lead me as a good King. When I fail I should repent, turn around, throw the cheese crackers away! (the sorbet is gone already, burp).

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The horn button principle

John 12

The horn button principle.

” Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.”

The horn button principal. I have A 57 chevy pickup. His name is Rusty. For close to 30 years before I had my truck, I had a 57 chevy truck horn button. It sat on a shelf in my garage. I wanted a truck. I had horn button. When anyone asked about the horn button I would say “I’m growing to grow a 57 Chevy pickup from that horn button”. A long time passed. Finally one day I gave away the horn button. That ended my dream. Or so I thought. Several years went by but around my 50th birthday I got a letter from an uncle saying he had a 57 Chevy truck that he wanted to give me. It was the same person that I had given the horn button to. The day I got the truck I also got the horn button back. I had planted the seed and it germinated and grew into a truck.

The principle is that you have to let the dream die so that it can come back to life. Bigger and better than you could hope for.

Jesus literally planted himself in the earth for us. He died and was buried and came back to life changed. The people who were following him had an idea of who and what Messiah would be. It was wrong or at least incomplete. Messiah wasn’t coming to set Israel free from Roman oppression. Messiah had come to set mankind free from sins oppression. Jesus had to die, the incorrect or incomplete messianic dream had to die so that Jesus could become the real and only hope of freedom from sin.

“25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

I am a throne tipper but one day…

John 12

Our king is here.

“12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna![d]”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;

see, your king is coming,

seated on a donkey’s colt.”[f]

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”’

Kings usually care about controlling real estate. They want to control parts of this planet. Our king cares about a much smaller but more significant area. My heart. Our hearts. Jesus wants to rule from where we love. From where we decide. He wants to rule in our hearts.

Personally I struggle with allowing him to sit on the throne in my heart. One minute I say “welcome King Jesus!” As I show him to the throne. The next minute I’m tipping the throne forward and dumping him onto the floor.

Why? Why does he put up with me?

Thank you Jesus for being patient with my willful and wayward heart. I long for the day when the struggle will be over and you will be my permanent King. Forever enthroned in my heart.

Whole, hole-y and holy

Beware!

Sorry celiacs but you may want to skip this next post. I’m going to talk about the glory of bread.

Bread glorious bread! The crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy insides. All of the yummy ways we can use it to carry other delicious food types into our mouths like pepperoni and garlic butter and sandwich fillings! I think the best part of bread is the delightful aroma as it bakes. The yeasty smell.

Yeast is pretty amazing stuff. It turns a ball of dough into a loaf of bread by puffing it up. As the yeast activates thousand of bubbles create little pockets of nothing.

In Matthew 16 Jesus talks about yeast. It’s not always a good thing.

“5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Just like yeast in dough, self righteousness can puff up a person. A puffed up

Person thinks themselves larger and better and self approved and not in need of a savior. But they are, as is a loaf of bread, Full of holes.

When Jesus died he got holes put into his hands and feet. But his death paid for my sin and restores my relationship with God. His holes make me whole. It is nothing I have done. I receive his holiness as a gift because he was willing to receive holes in his hands and feet.

Jesus called himself the bread of life.

“32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”’

Beware.

Beware of bread? No.

Beware of yeast, the yeast of the self righteous. Receive the bread of life, Jesus who became hole-y to make us holy and restore us to wholeness.

My best or what’s left?

John 12

Giving Jesus our very best.

“12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

Mary gave Jesus the best she had. She gave it freely and extravagantly. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

I don’t have a personal example of this. I can’t say, “it was like that time I…..” I say this to my shame, I am a stingy person. And worse yet, Jesus doesn’t get my reserved best, he gets what I have left at the time. Like right now, I’m scrambling to put thoughts together. It’s like my spiritual life’s feast is a Charlie Brown thanksgiving, toast pretzels and popcorn.

I come to him, just as I am, spent, tired and empty and he still loves me. I long for the day when I can present him me at my very best, but in the meantime he takes me as I am, worn out, broken, used up, confused, distracted and let’s me rest with him. Then he tells me he loves me.

He just wants me, he just wants us to be with him.

Hissing and roaring

I take a walk down a gravel road every day. In fact I walk the same path 3 times every day. I take the same route so I can just pray or think and let my brain relax. Last week for the first time I saw a snake. I saw a gopher snake, a little baby one less than a foot long. Then 2 days later I saw a much bigger one. It stretched across about 1/2 the road. Now that I know they are there I can’t just mindlessly wander. I am vigilant and watching. These snakes are harmless but they scare me.

I wonder if my spiritual life could use a wake up like this.

The bible warns us to be vigilant, not because our enemy is a gopher snake but …”Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

We have an enemy who is actively seeking our destruction not a harmless gopher snake, a powerful and destructive killer, A lion. Maybe I should wake up and watch where I’m going. There is so much good and so much evil just a click or two away.

If we look at the Christian life like Jesus described it in John 10 where Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep then the lion analogy brings on fresh meaning.

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

There is a lion who wants to destroy me but he knows that he has to separate me first. Isolate me from my flock and from my shepherd. I need to stay close enough to hear his voice.

Being lost and not knowing it.

When I was 16 I was sent on an errand. I was supposed to drive from Ephrata to Longview, pick up a transmission and drive back home. Simple plan. Against the advice of my elders I chose to take White Pass. They recommended Interstate 90 and Snoqualmie pass. I had gone over Hiway 12 and Whites Pass 3 years before and liked the view. I chose white pass.

I didn’t remember a left turn. After Natches there is a big, well marked left turn. I didn’t take a left turn. So Hiway 12 turned into Hiway 410 without me even noticing.

I continued on my way and soon the road became unfamiliar. “A lot has changed since I was here last” I thought to myself. Blissfully unaware I drove the cascade mountains and I arrived in Enumclaw. I stopped at a store to exchange fluids. I bought some and left some. The woman behind the counter asked about my journey. I told her I was headed to Longview. She asked, “do you know where you are?”

I confidently replied in the affirmative. I asked “which way to the freeway?”

She snickered and told me to just keep going and watch for the signs.

I didn’t ask for specific directions because I thought I knew where I was. I know now what I didn’t know then. I was LOST!

I tell this story for one reason.

We can’t get help unless we first know that we need help. We can’t be found until we first know that we are lost.

I have some bad news for mankind. We are all lost. From conception we are lost and estranged from God.

“9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

11 there is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one.”[b]

13 “Their throats are open graves;

their tongues practice deceit.”[c]

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]

14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”’

This is not good news. This news can be turned around though.

Here is the good news!

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man (Jesus)came to seek and to save the lost.”

To be saved, to be found by Jesus the first step is the same for each one of us, we have admit that we are lost. We cannot find our way back to God on our own. Our only hope is to accept Jesus’ help. His death pays our debt of sin and his resurrection shows that he is the way to eternal life.

I could not get to Longview through Enumclaw without a drastic course correction. I had to turn. Enumclaw is about midway on the I-5 corridor between the northern border of Washington state and the the southern border. To show how lost I was, Longview, my destination borders the Columbia river and Washington’s southern border. I was L-O-S-T lost.

At that very same time as a teenager, I was in a search for God. I knew I was a sinner and so I was in the constant cycle of sinning and trying to be good enough to outweigh the sin. But I would fail and sin some more. In my spiritual life I also had to change course. I had to repent which is a fancy way of saying I must turn around. I was in a Spiritual Enumclaw but I thought I was heading towards my spiritual Longview.

I think one of the best examples of a person turning around, repenting, is the story of the prodigal son. Jesus tells the story in Luke 15. To shorten the tale, the younger of two sons tells his dad in so many words, I can’t wait for you to die so I can get my inheritance so I will just cash out now. The dad agrees, gives his son the money and the son leaves and squanders it all on a loose partying lifestyle. He ends up broke and friendless, feeding pigs, the lowest job imaginable.

But then a light dawns, “15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:15-24 –

My story has many almost aha moments, where I almost see the light but then early one Sunday morning after leaving college and a pastoral ministry degree path which I thought was how I would my way into Gods approval, i was mentally fretting about if i wasn’t going to become a pastor how i could ever earn Gods love but just then the words of a couple of verses in Ephesians came into my mind and I finally understood them.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 –

God my father had been watching and waiting for that moment and just like in the prodigal son story he ran to me ,”But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

I was welcomed home.

When I was lost in Enumclaw, I couldn’t get where I was going until I realized I was going the wrong way. I did finally figure it out and I found the southbound interstate 5 and got to Longview, but not before going through a torrential downpour, both outside the truck cab and down my face as I bawled my eyes out.

If on your life’s spiritual journey you have found yourself anywhere but at the feet of Jesus then you are lost. Jesus said that he is the way to the Father.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 –

The most important part of this story, the part that I want to stress , is that I was lost but I didn’t know it. I had missed a turn and ended up miles from my destination but I didn’t know it. That was also true of my spiritual journey in life. I thought I was on the right path, trying earn my way to God.

There are many ways to get to Longview, I found a very long and circuitous way. But there is only one way to God our father and that is through his son Jesus. Jesus came to earth to live a perfect human life and then die the death that We deserve, he took our place, he took my place.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.

John 3:16-18 –

Jesus came to save us. Jesus came to be the way to the Father.

Where are you today? What destination are you headed to? I can tell you how to get to Longview, I can also tell you how to go home to a Father who loves you, who loves us, and that way is through Jesus.