He stoops down

I don’t know much about other religions so I cannot really write much about them. What I understand is that in most faiths that are not Christian the practitioner must reach out to their God, they must appease.

The God of Christianity is different. The God I believe in has this quality about him where he stoops low, bends down to reach out to us. My God has done the appeasing through sacrificing his son. My God has been and continues to be gracious, stopping low and giving me what I do not deserve.

There is an story in John chapter 8 that is an excellent example of God’s graciousness.

“2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

John 8:2-11

Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. I speculate that he was writing names and dates of the dalliances of the men who were holding the stones to condemn this woman. This shows his grace and mercy to both the woman and to the men. The woman was rescued, her accusers silenced and all involved were handled with gentleness and love.

God loves sinners. That’s good because that is the only kind of human available to him on this planet. We all are sinners. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” and yet because our God is a God who stoops down, the verse continues, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23,24

I believe in a good and loving father God who is gracious and merciful. As a Father He disciplines those he loves. He has stooped down to rescue me, to rescue us. Jesus, God’s only son willingly sacrificed himself for us. He died, was buried and rose again the third day. He now is in heaven with our father preparing a place for us and interceding for us.

God is today, stooping down and asking us all, “will you receive my gift of life and forgiveness through Jesus today?”

He adds this, “I love you, please come home…”

Today, will you respond today?

How much are you packing?

We’re all travelers, my advice? pack light.

(Col 2, Matt 6)

Mary and I were talking last night as we sat out under the stars and watched the planes fly over. Seeing the planes makes us think of our adventures in Italy last year. We want to go back but we would change one thing. We would pack lighter. Images of the two of us taking busses, trains and boats with 3 suit cases pops into our heads. It was comical.

Have you ever been lugging around baggage (or is is bagging around luggage?). Carrying more than is comfortable? It’s so hard. Pulling around a huge box of stuff that seemed so very important at the time. It was meant to be an asset but in actuality becomes a liability.

I went to a family gathering this last weekend. One thing that happened there is that it reminded me of baggage that I carry of things done in my past. Things done Not to me, but by me.

Colossians 2 says this about our sins:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

I know Jesus has forgiven me, but I haven’t done the next step and and confessed and repented to the offended. With every year it seems more difficult to do. Soon. I’m really tired of carrying this luggage or lugging this baggage.

I don’t hold any grudges, not with my family anyway but that’s another set of bags that we can drag around with us.

There is a warning at the bottom of the Lord’s Prayer, one that states Our own forgiveness hinges on whether or not we forgive others.

“9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]

but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Forgiving others is like having your luggage sent ahead, like checking it at the gate. Something I wish Mary and I could’ve done on our leg of the trip that took us to Venice so we both could enjoy all that we were experiencing.

We are all travelers. How much luggage or baggage are we carrying unnecessarily? My goal is to lose as much as I can so I can be free to enjoy the journey. All of the “Venice’s” of this life are much easier to enjoy without baggage.

Church, why do we do it?

Why go to church?

Why do we go?

To worship? Worship who? How?

We worship the one who created us and then bought us back when we sold ourselves into sin. We worship With our words, with our music, with our gifts and offerings.

It is so easy to get caught up in business of church that we miss the real reason that wwe came together.

Matthew 21 records Jesus’ encounter with the folks who had lost their way.

“12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants

you, Lord, have called forth your praise’[g]?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”

I lose my way. I’ve been there recently, so concerned about the mechanics of how we worship that I have forgotten who I worship.

Forgive me Father God. Help me see you and worship you well. You alone are worthy of my praise and adoration.

Snake bites and amazing grace.

Karma, I don’t believe in it.

I have seen evil people live long lives and prosper. I have seen good people live short lives full of suffering.

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t exist. Instead I believe in a God who sees and hears us. He has a plan and purpose for each one of us. Even if we don’t acknowledge him he will still use us.

I don’t know the whole story of Karma, who or what is supposed to be in control but We see how deeply imbedded the mindset is in a story in Acts chapter 28.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

Acts 28:1-6

Doing good does not guarantee a reward and doing evil does not always cause bad to happen. It just doesn’t work that way.

When we come to Him through Jesus, God, who is merciful and gracious treats us with grace and mercy. He is merciful, not giving us what we do deserve, eternal separation from him, but giving us what we do not deserve, welcome into his open arms of love. He is our father and he wants all of his children to come home and to be embraced.

Knowing God, having experienced his graciousness and mercy, my human nature still reverts to that cause and effects mentality and I have to remind myself of who God is and what he is, almighty God, AND my father, in heaven.

He has provided Jesus to pay for my sins, he asked his own son to die in my place so that I could, so that we could, be welcomed back home to be with him.

Life happens, stuff happens, God has a plan for us and sometimes that stuff will be rudder on the ship of our life, guiding us. No matter what, God will use whatever happens in our life for our good.

For Paul and Luke “and the rest” that were ship wrecked and stranded, he used that to bring healing and salvation to Malta.

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”

Acts 28:7-10

The karmic mentality seems to be ingrained in us. There is something, someone better available to all. We have a Heavenly Father who longs for us to come home to him. He has given us Jesus as a bridge back to him. Will we accept and cross the bridge to a gracious and merciful Father?

I did.

I hope you will join me, join us, your father and family await you.

Who is this guy…?

He’s coming back.

He left to prepare a place for us. When that is ready and the full number of people who will believe in Him do believe in him, he will come back.

Matthew 21 records Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem before his death on the cross.

“21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

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

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”’

We who are alive today have an opportunity to ask the same question about Jesus.

Who is this guy?

Eternity is balancing on our answer.

He is coming back and it won’t be the same. I’m not trying to scare anyone. It is just the truth about his return. Will you be one of his followers? Or will you be one of his enemies? If you are a follower then you are one of God’s kids and are safe but as God’s kid, I am one too, we bear the responsibility of sharing the good news of Jesus’ and forgiveness to a world that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.

“11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.”

I ask, do you know him?

If you know him, will you share him with others?

#matthew21, #yesjesuslovesme, #yesjesuslovesyoutoo

He was and is thinking about us

John 17

Jesus prays for me and everyone else who will believe in him.

“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”’

Jesus prayed for me. He knew about me, about us. We were on his mind and in his heart as he was preparing to go to the cross. In less than 24 hours he would be dead. Crucified. A form of killing that kills with pain. Knowing how and why he would die, he prayed for us.

Earlier in this chapter Jesus says something that’s very important and I don’t want to skip over it.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

Eternal life is gained by knowing God, and knowing Jesus, God in the flesh.

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

I don’t get it right all of the time. I fail, I stumble but I keep coming back to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and the weird thing is, he does. He forgives me.

He knew about me and prayed for me. He knows about you too. He longs for all those who will believe to jump in and do it.

It was on purpose

He knew what was coming and and he did it anyway.

He was innocent and he did it anyway.

Jesus knew how and when and what was coming to him and for him in Jerusalem and yet he went there willingly.

Matthew 20.

“17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”’

Why? What prompted him to continue on into Jerusalem knowing he was about to die in the cruelest, most painful way that mankind had ever invented?

Obligation?

Duty?

Compulsion?

No.

It was love.

In Isaiah we read this:

“4 Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus knew we needed him to die in our place so he suffered the death we deserved. Then he was raised to life that we can live forever with him, this man who willingly walked into Jerusalem, knowing it would kill him.

He did it for us.

He did it for me.

He did it for you.

Today, what will we do about this?

Today.