Damaged Goods

I was asked to tell my story at my friend Darryl and Mindy Wall’s church last month. I am attaching the sermon to this. I hope it encourages you. spoiler alert, it’s long and it talks about Jesus and how much he loves me. He loves you too.

Damaged goods. Leavenworth Foursquare, 7-23-2017

There 3 things that I want you to leave with today, your children or anyone you came with, a little bit of my story and when Jesus touched my life, and a deeper understanding of how much Jesus loves you.

Have you ever shopped for damaged goods? At the grocery store, there’s that table or shelf where the dented and dinged and torn label containers go, they usually have a sticker noting a price slash on them. It says something to the effect that because of the damage that occurred this merchandise is no longer as valuable as the others that are like it. These items are damaged goods. They have a reduced value.

Damaged goods. That’s how I felt about myself. I felt like damaged goods. Not my whole life, but at least after I was burned. Grace, God’s grace, stepped in and rescued me.

The word Grace. Unmerited favor. Being loved when you don’t deserve love. Being given worth when you feel worthless. I think the original word means something like “someone of high honor or stature, bending down or stooping to help someone of lesser stature or honor. Like a king, bending down to help a peasant.

My grandpa’s tractor was parked in the driveway. He had run it out of gas. There was a gas can nearby. I asked if I could put the gas in. My dad and my uncles were standing there with my grandpa talking. Telling stories and laughing. I got confused by the tractors fill ports. There was one on the front with the top popped open and there was one in the middle above the engine. I couldn’t remember which one the gas went in. I tried to quietly interrupt the men to ask but they were engrossed in the story that was being told. I had a 50/50 chance, I guessed the front opening with the top

Already open. I guessed wrong. I put about a gallon and a half of gas into my grandpa’s tractor radiator. Grandpa asked if I got all of the gas in, I said it wouldn’t all fit, slowly the men who had been busy swapping tales and telling stories were all looking as me, with looks of incredulity, Loeffelbeins, we were a bunch of car guys, we knew cars and trucks and tractors and knew which end of a tractor to put gas in. Well they did. I, apparently did not.

My dad was mortified at my mistake. He was very embarrassed that his boy had failed so badly. My grandpa? He smiled and chuckled and said, “that’s okay, that radiator needed to get flushed out anyway, you did me a favor”.

Grace. Unmerited love. Forgiveness we don’t deserve. It was my Grandpa’s constant and consistent love for me that showed what love could be.

I thought of that story because that little episode happened not far from here. My Grandparents had a small farm out on Pioneer avenue in Cashmere.

When I was born my parents had a pear orchard where the solid waste drop-off site is in Dryden. This valley always feels like home to me. Home in a magical mystical way, like my own Narnia. It’s a place that I don’t live in but that I somehow belong to.

My Family moved around quite a bit, from Dryden, to Wenatchee, to Moses Lake, to Pendleton, to Milton-Freewater, to Athena, to Pendleton, to Soap Lake.

I’m going to insert some scripture here:

Ever since I became a believer I have had several verses that I feel define my life. One of those is Romans 8:28 “28And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”

It was while we lived in Pendleton the first time that I got burned. I was 8, my brother Mick was 12 and we were at my dad’s place of work, Lindell’s Auto Salvage. In the back of the main building there was a repair shop. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1968 and my brother and I went to help my dad work on a project car he had there, a 59 Chevy El Camino.

We were asked to fill the up the space heater with kerosene, the kerosene was in a big drum outside with a hand pump. I held the bucket while my brother pumped. I was splashed by the kerosene. A few minutes later Mick took outside the shop. He had two Dixie cups full of some liquid, one, he explained had lacquer thinner, the other had enamel thinner and he was going to demonstrate how their flames were different colors when they burned. He lit them each and we watched them burn for a little while but then I thought I heard my dad coming so I told him to stomp them out. The first one went out right away but the second one, when squished it squirted a stream of burning liquid directly at me. The fumes from the kerosene that had splashed on my coat found the flame and I was immediately engulfed in flames. Mick told me to drop and roll but I didn’t get the roll part and fell to the ground in flames. He ripped off his coat and smothered the fire. I don’t know what my dad heard but he came running out of the shop and found us. All Mick could say was “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God…” It was a simple prayer, but effective. My dad slapped him into reality and Mick told him what had happened. My dad ran out and tried to get a car, any car to start but none of the cars there would start, not even the one we came in so he called my mom to come and get me and take me to the hospital. I remember standing in the gravel parking lot just dazed and confused, not really understanding what had just happened.

My mom arrived in a few minutes and put me in her car and we headed off to the community hospital, there was St Anthony’s Hospital, just a minute away but because of horrible care and a financial debacle left over from an accident my dad had had exactly a year previously where he lost his right eye, we would drive to the community hospital which was 10 or 15 minutes away. In route, mom’s car ran out of gas. Fortunately, a state patrolman stopped to see if he could help, looked in and saw me and offered to drive us to the hospital.

When we finally got there, the doctors determined that my face and right hand and the tip of my right ear had sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns. I would end up staying at the hospital for 21 days, I received skin grafts from my right thigh and my neck. The recovery process was very painful. Each day the doctor and nurses would have to scrub off the dead skin so that it wouldn’t infect the part that was healthy.

When I got out it was just before Christmas. I still had bandages and open sores but I was alive and home. Life returned to normal, except for my scars.

In 1971 dad and mom decided to try their hands at running a restaurant, my mom had been working in restaurants off and on since my burn accident to help pay the medical bills, (we had no insurance). They found a drive-in in nearby Milton Freewater to lease called Curls Drive-in. The family started moving there in January of 72 but my dad and brother stayed behind to sell our house.

On February 18th, 1972, three of us kids, my older sister Kitti, my youngest sister Judi and two extras, my sister’s boyfriend Paul and my foster brother Rodney, were going to drive over to Pendleton for a weekend visit. We were using the family Forrest Service Surplus 65 Ford crew cab pickup truck. It was a foggy February night and with Rod driving we got behind a lady who was going very slow, Rod pulled out to pass but before we could get around her, we saw fog lights coming at us in our lane, Rod tried to get back over but ended up getting hit head on by the oncoming car and then hit again by the car we were passing. The force of the collision was so great that it separated the cab of the truck from the frame and tossed it out into the field next to the highway. Miraculously, even with none of us wearing seatbelts, we all stayed in the cab. I was knocked out. I came to with the cab upside down, I was laying on the roof, there were people shining in flashlights asking us questions, I could hear Rod yelling in pain as the people tried to extricate his crushed leg from the floor of the cab it would require a pin in his thigh, Paul was moaning, he had sustained a skull fracture, Kitti had broken her ankle and Judi had a broken wrist. I had a broken jaw, broken in 5 places so when I tried to talk my lower jaw felt like it was made of Jell-O. It was a Friday night and the Highway was busy, the visibility was poor, I have heard that eventually 17 cars ended up involved in the accident. I say that to explain what happened next.

As I was being put into the vehicle that took me to the hospital, I think it was an ambulance. Paul was in the same vehicle and was moaning in pain. I was beginning to panic with fear. But then I heard a voice that said, “Jesus will take care of you”, I don’t know if it was a person or an angel or the holy spirit but I heard it. Immediately I relaxed and that’s the last thing I remember until the hospital.

At the hospital in Walla Walla the hallway in the ER was jammed with people and activity. My mom had seen the emergencies vehicles and knew something was wrong. I don’t know how she found out what had happened but she knew we had been in an accident and were being taken to Walla Walla. She arrived at the hospital not long after I was wheeled in on a gurney, she saw the doctors checking on me and then walking away, she asked them if she could talk to me, they said “It doesn’t matter now” and continued walking toward the next patient. My mom started rubbing my leg and talking and I started coughing, the doctors spun around on their heels and started working on me again. What my mom didn’t know is they had checked me and I had no vital signs, not breathing and no pulse, I was clinically dead and there were a lot of other people needing care. Once I started coughing they came back to me cleared my throat out and wheeled me into an emergency room.

What no one else there knew is that I was watching part of this scene from above them.

I don’t remember anything other than seeing myself from above my body and then a feeling of rushing back into my body and feeling pain again. Oh, then I threw up.

My jaw had been broken in 5 places and required a plate to repair it. The plate is still there to this day to fascinate and impress dental x-ray technicians, among other things which I will mention later.

We all recovered and life went on.

Then in late June of 1972 there was a grease fire in the kitchen of the Curls drive in. It gutted the restaurant. We had no insurance and we lost everything. We then moved to Athena and then back to Pendleton.

From being burned and then the accident I began to feel like God had messed up. Like he got the wrong guy. I was a good kid. I went to church, read my bible, I was wanting to be a pastor. Why were these things happening to a good guy like me? I kind of disconnected spiritually, even though my mom continued to drag us to church every time the doors were opened, I was rebelling in quiet and deliberately devious ways.

My rebellion continued in a push-me pull-you kind of way for the next several years. Between 7th and 8th grade we moved to Soap lake and I eventually met this girl named Mary Ledgerwood. Mary and I became friends and then began dating. We broke up for a while during my senior year of high school. While we were broken up she started attending a youth group. While attending the youth group she got invited to this crazy Christian gathering called Jesus Northwest. While attending Jesus Northwest she saw a concert given by this wacko piano player named Keith Green. And during that concert, she gave her life to Jesus. When she got back she shared this experience with me, how it affected her, changed her. I was skeptical. Later that summer Mary and I went to a movie together, after the movie we got back together and decided that we wanted to not just date but to get married.

This new relationship that Mary had with Jesus was intriguing. I began to imitate her, and go to the youth group she was going to. I didn’t understand all of it. I thought that it was about being good, and when you weren’t good, well, you had to do more good, better good to outweigh the not good. I was in a good works quest to earn my way into heaven, I wasn’t sure if I could get into heaven, I at least wanted to work my way into a better relationship with God.

I continued my childhood career path to become a pastor, a Lutheran pastor. I applied to Concordia College in Portland and was excepted. Mary and I got married in August and I was funded for school in September to start classes in October. Unbeknownst to the Mary and I, we had picked up a passenger on our honeymoon. We soon found out that we were going to have a baby. I was on my quest to get closer to God by becoming a pastor but that plan would unravel as the baby got bigger and Mary wasn’t able to work. I realized that I had to support my little family and becoming a pastor was an 8-year process which was too long. I decided to quit school and take over my parent’s small café back in Soap Lake. It was while we were there, the first month or so, I went to the café to get Mary some breakfast and I was pondering how I could continue my quest to get close to God, since I was no longer going to be a pastor and then right there, next to the dishwasher, just inside the back door of the Burger Bar Café, God spoke to my heart the words of Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It was by grace that we were saved, Jesus did it all for us on the cross. Jesus’ death had paid for all my sin. I didn’t have to work to earn God’s favor or his pleasure or his attention. I have all of those through Jesus’ death and resurrection. That what Jesus was talking about when he said as he was dying on the cross, “It is finished..” He finished my salvation. He finished our salvation. Everyone here. Every-one, every-where. Our salvation is complete in Jesus.

My new life in Jesus started right then and there.

As I look back over my life I can see how god can use anything for his glory, even my burn scars and the steel plate in my jaw.

The romans 8:28 verse has been a life verse. Two special ways and they both have to do with Mary and our relationship.

After I was burned I was sure that no one would ever love me. I was damaged goods. My face was disfigured. When I met Mary, I met her because of my scars. She saw me laughing with friends and thought that someone who looked like I did and could still laugh was someone she wanted to get to know.

Then, later on in our relationship, while we were broken up Mary met and started dating another guy. It made me sad to see them together so I tried to enlist in the Air Force. A kind of French Foreign Legion escape play. They would allow me to enter early and not finish my senior year, I just wanted to get out of town. I was working with the recruiter going through the paperwork, everything was going smoothly I was ready to sign and get sent off to basic training. Then he asked one last question on my medical history, did I have any metal pins or plates anywhere on my body? Yes, I had the plate in my jaw. The enlistment ended right there. They wouldn’t take me.

I ended up staying and finishing my senior year and towards the end of the summer Mary and I got back together, and the rest is just history. Now 37 years together, 4 kids and more than 9 grandkids together, all loving and serving Jesus.

Every time I tell my story I remember different people who have influenced me along the way. There was my dad who would read the bible to me every night when I was little. I have no conscious memory of that, yet the bible stories still stuck in my brain and in my heart. There was my mom who lived her faith in a very open and honest way. She kept us in church and continued to talk about God and Jesus and the bible with a natural grace that continued to weave the bible into my life as truth. There was a dentist, I met, Floyd Jacobson who would pray for you and pray with you and went out of his way to share Jesus and share his life and family with us. There was my Grandpa, who just loved me no matter how messed up I was or how many times I made mistakes. I already shared about Mary, how her changed life showed me there was truth and love and grace to be had in living for Jesus. Each one of these people dropped seeds and watered the garden of my heart. Eventually those seeds germinated and grew into faith and hope and trust in Jesus.

Let’s take a look at the story Jesus told about spreading seeds.

Parable of the sower is in Matthew 13. We will read vs 1-9 and 18-23

I have been trying to grow a flower garden this year. Out where I work. I work at a chemical plant in Moses Lake called Moses Lake Industries. It is built on land that used to be part of the Larsen Air force base. The ground is rocky, it sits on a huge gravel spit formed by the Missoula floods that came down the Grand Coulee corridor. I am a diabetic, type 2, I try to maintain my blood sugars with Metformin, diet and exercise. Part of the exercise is walking. When I am at work I walk on an old road that heads north and out through some unused ground of the plant site. The ground is rocky, hard and dry but it still grows weeds so one day this spring I thought, “if it will grow weeds, why can’t it grow flowers?”

I picked a spot that was part of a dirt bank, and cleared an area about the size of sheet of plywood. The area has boulders and dirt and rocks, mostly rocks. I pulled the weeds, loosened the soil and spread the seeds then began to carry water out to it. 2 gallons at a time, 3 times a day. So far, this year, I’ve carried about 300 gallons, 2 gallons at a time. The result? As of this week I have had 2 wild mustard plants grow, then the gophers ate the roots. Then two other unidentified weeds grew up, the gophers got those too. I had 3 zinnias grow to a height of about 2” before either birds or rabbits devoured them. I have one lone plant, hunkered down in between the cleft of two rocks. I think it is a zinnia. It has yet to bloom. I have planted hundreds of seeds, two different times I planted wildflower seeds, 3 or 4 different times I planted zinnia and marigold mix of seeds from my garden at home. Since my overarching goal is to get exercise the lack of results of the weeding, watering and watching hasn’t deterred me. I keep planting the seeds and watering. A couple of things that I could’ve done differently is to amend the soil with some organic matter, improve the chances of water retention and ease the fight of those little seeds trying to break up through the hard ground as they germinate. I also could have terraced the soil so the water that I sprinkle wouldn’t run off. Both things are part of what God is telling me to do with the people that are in my life, my friends at work, he keeps saying to me, “prepare the soil”. Prepare the soil to receive the seed. If we go back to our bible story we remember that the seed is the word of God, the soil is a person’s heart.

In John chapter 4 we read about the Samaritan woman who was saved and then Her entire village heard and received the message that day.

1 Corinthians 3:6-9New International Version (NIV)

“6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

We might all be familiar with Romans 10, especially 8-10

“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: 9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For 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.”

Then Paul goes on to say…

“11As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’

Then he adds the go and do, the call to sow and water, to tell our story of the Good news….

“14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!””

The principle has been the same from the beginning of creation. Prepare the soil, sow the seed, water, water, water, water some more and then water again, wait for the tender shoots, then guard and tend and watch over the little ones, and water, and weed and water some more. We may never see the harvest from the seeds we sow but it’s our job to sow any way. To water anyway, and watch, and wait, and maybe find more ground to sow. There isn’t any shame in reseeding, again and again and more seed and then in another place and/or in a different way.

Then we come back to God’s instruction to me.

Prepare the soil. On a farm, plowing is one of the first things to do. It’s hard work. The steel plow, the cutting implement that turns the soil over is one of the wonders of the industrial age. It made the difference being able to farm larger and larger plots of land.

In Hosea God says through the prophet,

“Sow for yourselves righteousness;

reap steadfast love;

break up your fallow ground,

for it is the time to seek the Lord,

that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Jesus said in Luke, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In Jeremiah God says through the prophet, “For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, “Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.”

I am here today because people in my life kept planting seeds in my heart. Then others watered those seeds and still others cared for me as I developed as a believer.

I pray today that we would all begin to look around at the fields with an eye to the harvest. But we would also continue to plant seeds and water the seeds and care for the tender new plants so that there can be a harvest.

What is Jesus waiting for? Why hasn’t he returned yet? He is waiting for the full number of those who will believe in him to be saved. We can participate in that by continuing to build Gods kingdom one believer at a time. Today is a good day to start.

The code

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.”

Even me?

“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.

Very Mayberrian

Romans twelve. The lifestyle chapter. If you want to know how apply Christianity to life this would be good chapter to memorize.

This morning I can’t stop thinking that this chapter is the Mayberry RFD of Christianity.

-Bullet points-

Offer our bodies as living sacrifices

Don’t conform but be transformed by renewing our mind

Be humble and also know that we have a place in the body of Christ and so to we have a job to do for and with the body of Christ

Love, love with sincerity

Be joy full, be hope full, be patient full (?)

Be real with those around us, cry and laugh when appropriate

Be humble

We don’t get to get our revenge. Our story should never make a good spy novel.

Live at peace, as far as it is possible, with everyone

Give your enemy his needs, food and water

Do not be overcome with evil but reverse that, overcome evil with good

And now i will whistle a tune and smile. Knowing who i am and whose I am. Probably won’t fish for fish but I might fish for men. A very mayberrian life.

Not about the don’ts

Sadly sometimes us Christians are known more for our restrictions on life than for the way we live life.

During a break time my supervisor saw me drinking coffee and he was shocked. He knew I was a Christian and some how thought that I wouldn’t drink coffee. I find it a strange thing to think about Christians, our restrictions. ( I do not restrict myself in that area. I do have strong beliefs about God’s view on coffee drinking. I believe the reason God created water was so we could make coffee).

I don’t want to be known for what i don’t do. As Christians, What should we be known for?

Jesus said that we would be known by our love for each other.

“34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

What if we’re not? What if we just cannot get along? It’s actually a pretty big deal. If we cannot love the people we can see, how can we claim to love a God we cannot see?

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

1 John 4:16-21

It sounds like the way we treat others is a window into our heart for God. This sobers me. It makes me look closer at how I treat people.

But what about those difficult people? Is there like a “pass” for difficult people or situations?

Not really.

“27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36

What if I fail? verse 36 gives me hope. God is merciful. God’s forgiveness is on a conveyer belt that doesn’t quit. He is committed to completing the good work he began in me. What is true for me is true for us, for all of us that are following Jesus.

Is this expectation or requirement to love just about how we feel towards others? The apostle James makes it clear that following Jesus means living a life of love in action.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 2:8-17

I am to live a mercy filled life, full of love in action, knowing that God is watching and so is the world.

Mary and I were trying to move from our neighborhood to a house closer to my work. We made a couple of attempts at selling out and moving away. They both failed. When we asked God in prayer about why we couldn’t leave we felt like he told us, “you aren’t finished there yet. You have neighbors who haven’t heard about how much I love them, they haven’t been told yet about how I gave Jesus to die for them. Finish the work I sent you there for, then we will talk about where you go next.”

We are on a mission to tell the world about Jesus. Part of the world we have been sent to is a block of cute little 1940s cottages filled with 21st century families smack dab in the middle of Washington state. One of our best advertisements for the benefits of following Jesus is, how we treat each other.

Let’s get to it.

Oars in or oars out?

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.

I am part of his family

The book of Romans has some hard things. Chapter 9 is especially hard in places. Election, mercy and where do we fit?

The take away for me this morning is this:

“What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” 26 and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ “

I have been adopted into Gods family, not because of anything I have done but because God is a merciful God.

In All Things

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 10 grandkids and still be married 38 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 38th anniversary. Happy anniversary baby! Love you SO much.

The tug-of-war

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil that I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.”

The voice of my sinful nature is never silent and the pull of my fleshly appetites never goes away. Like gravity there is a constant tug to go the opposite way that God is calling me to follow. How do I do what is right? Like a dog being called by two “owners” I am conflicted. I need to follow the one who loves me the best. The one who loves me the best is the one who made me, paid for me, and wants my the best for me not only now, but in the life to come. The “owner” that loves me best may not have a treat in his hand, but he has love in his eyes and his voice as he says, “come, follow me”.

“…Who will rescue me from this body of death?thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:18,19,24,25

Reconciled

Reconciled. I can’t get past that word. I’m reading in Romans chapter 5 today and the word reconciled is like a road detour or a stop sign. I have to sit here and think about this for awhile.

Being reconciled. Two parties that have been separated have been brought back together. Another definition is making what is into what it should be. At McDonalds we had to reconcile the cash drawers. Making sure the amount we had equaled what should be there from receipts. I don’t remember what we would do if it came up short. Somehow we had to make up for what if anything was missing.

How can a morally bankrupt person, someone with a moral cash drawer that is empty be reconciled to a God who has the receipts of what should be or what could be in our moral cash drawer?

“…we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation.” Romans 5:11b

And this is how and why he did this.

“You see, at just the right time, when we still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will Anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man some one might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrate s his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God himself made up for our morally empty cash drawer through Jesus. He paid our debt. He reconciled our debt AND he has reconciled our relationship to him.

“Since we now have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him! For if, when we were Gods 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.” Romans 5:6-10

Our Account with God has been reconciled and now we are free to have a good and right relationship with Him. Him who made us and loves us.

Jesus- not just for Jews anymore.

Jesus- not just for Jews anymore.

I have been working my way through Matthew 22 and it ends on this verse about whose son is the messiah. What does that matter?

“Matthew 22:41-46 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. “

If the messiah is just the son of David then the kingdom he will rule is at a minimum, Jewish. Even if he were to rule the Jews and the Jews were to take over the world, his kingdom would be earthly and only continue as long as he or his son would maintain the throne.

But, if the messiah is God’s son? The playing field just got bigger. The players list just went from exclusive to inclusive.

Jesus had come as the messiah, the redeemer, the savior from the Jewish people but he was promised to all people, all the way back in the garden of Eden, God would provide a way for us to re establish our relationship with Him. He was from the Jews but he will be for all people.

We have a king, we have a savior, we have a redeemer. His name is Jesus. He has beaten our two biggest enemies; death and sin. He has restored our broken relationship with our creator God.

It is a transaction that you must initiate. If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Today is a good day to start.

Oh what a world

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.

Overcoming

There are things that I used to to do as a child. Childhood bad habits. Did I outgrow them or did I overcome them?

I was a thumb sucker. I was a serious callous on the thumb thumb sucker. My parents tried many things to make me give it up. Nothing worked and then? I quit. I no longer suck my thumb. Did I overcome or outgrow thumb sucking?

More painful to admit, more embarrassing, I was a bed wetter. I don’t remember getting spanked for it but I do remember a couple of humiliating instances where the entire extended family got involved. Many things were tried. Fluid restrictions etc. nothing worked. And then it did. I quit wetting the bed. Did I overcome and or outgrow bed wetting?

What was it that changed? In both instances of leaving behind a childish behavior I had to change a pattern of action. I had to want change more than I wanted comfort.

I struggle with believing all of the Good News that the bible has to give me. I continue to fail and flop, trip and transgress so where am I once I have misbehaved?

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

1 John 5:1-5

Today I was making a change in part of our control logic in a control module. I made the change, saved the change, downloaded the change and opened up the module to find? It had reverted back to the original logic. Sometimes my life is like that. I find a fault in myself, confess it, vow to change it and then…? I repeat the same offense. Back at work I spent several minutes repeating the same scenario, change, save and download and each attempt was met with the same result. The logic reverted to the original unchanged version. Then i found the problem. The issue? It’s the same in me as it was inside the logic I was working on. It had to do with permission to change. There is a click box and an expansion arrow where I had to choose what information got rewritten. Once I told the logic to save and rewrite the logic with the new information my changes stayed when I went online.

In my life I have control over what gets rewritten in my heart soul and mind. If I don’t choose to save the new information, that I am loved by God, that I have been forgiven by God, that I am saved and adopted by God through Jesus, then the same lies and garbage, that I am unloved and unlovable, unforgiven and unforgivable, that I am alone in the universe,  get up loaded into my life. In order to save the changes I need to grant permission to the Saver, that what he has rewritten on my heart will now become the truth about me.

Paul tells us in His letter to the Romans that salvation is a 2-step process.

“Moses writes of righteousness-by-the-Law when he says that ‘the man who does those things shall live by them’—which is theoretically right but impossible in practice. But righteousness-by-faith says something like this: ‘Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven?’ to bring Christ down to us, or ‘who will descend into the abyss’ to bring him up from the dead? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart’. It is the secret of faith, which is the burden of our preaching, and it says, in effect, “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation. And the scripture says: ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame’.

Romans 10:5 – 11 PHILLIPS

There step one, confession that Jesus is the Lord of all the earth, and more specifically, he is the boss of me. And then there is step 2, believing that God has raised him from the dead.

I believe that the issue with saving the changes in my heart soul mind and spirit has to do with recommitting myself to Jesus being Lord of my life. It’s like when I first got saved I told Jesus, “you are my Lord”, but that was only over the part of my life that I was consciously aware of. As God continues to rummage through my heart soul mind and spirit we keep getting into new areas, and once again I have to turn to Jesus and say, “Jesus You are Lord of this area too…”

It’s taken me a couple of days to write this. This morning I was struggling to shake off the cobwebs of sleep. My mind and body wanted to either sleep or be entertained. Being transformed by the word of God was not even on the menu so I had to choose. Would I click the box that allowed change to take place? Who would be the boss of me this morning? My self seeking flesh or the spirit of God saying “wake up Peter, God has something new and fresh for you this morning!”

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. ….And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

When I began to write this blog it was the above verses that I wanted to highlight. By believing in Jesus, that he rose from the dead on the third day, that he is in fact the one and only son of God and that his sacrifice is the one and only way to be reconciled to God, by believing that, we are born of God. By being born of God, we overcome the world.

I overcame some things as a child. I made choices that changed my behavior. I chose self discipline over lazy comfort. I cannot choose self discipline and change my sin nature but God can change me from the inside out as I submit to the changes that he makes in me. I will never be made perfect as long as I am breathing, but as long as I am breathing, I am in the process of overcoming the world and its influences in my life. Because of Jesus’ death, I am adopted by God into his family and have access to the amazing well of forgiveness. There is no bottom to it. As I fumble and stumble along in life, God continues to forgive my sin and welcome me back as a child of his.

All of this is open to all.  Who so ever….

Peculiar

We watched an episode of Midsomer Murders last night. One of the characters was a Christian. Usually if a Christian is portrayed in modern fiction, they are the crazy ones and some how they will be the one who murdered in Judgement of a fallen character.

in this episode They weren’t crazy. They didn’t murder anyone. They prayed for the situation, offered hospitality, read their bible. They hated sin but were compassionate towards sinners. I was relieved.

Why do fiction writers portray us so badly? Why are Christians in fiction so weird? Is it that the writers have never met a genuine Christian? We are different, we are a peculiar people but we are not peculiar in a bad way. Well we shouldn’t be. How should a Christian act? We should be peculiar in a good way.

The apostle John says this in his first letter to Christians to remind us who Jesus is, what he has done and how we are to respond to his gift of salvation.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 3:16-18

Jesus loves. He loves us to death, his death. His love for us compelled him to die in our place. He is our example of love towards people who don’t deserve love. We are to care about and for others, to have concern and act on that concern.

John says more about it.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:7-21

We are a peculiar people, we have the spirit of God living in us. That alone should make us seem different. We have the Spirit at work in our lives. That should be what makes us stand out, the way we love, the way we live and the way care for each other.

Fictional characters are based on real people in the writers life. If someone based a character on me, how would I look? Am I peculiar? Yes but am I a Spirit guided person who loves self sacrificially?

How about you?

If we fail all we have left to do is confess our failures and start over, loving, being gracious, sharing life by sharing ourselves and our stuff with whoever needs it.

Accepting Jesus gift, his death that brings us life, that is the first step forward into a new life, the life of being a follower of Jesus. From that point on we are on a journey, a new adventure of change and remodeling of our our heart and our life. God is at work with the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside out. He is changing us into people that resemble his son. Changing us into people that love like his son loves, self sacrificially.

“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

3 books

1 John 3, Hosea and Romans 3

I was already reading through 1 John and I came to some verses in chapter 3 that sounded harsh. Maybe they wouldn’t sound harsh to someone who was behaving themselves, but to someone who struggles?

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

1 John 3:4-10

How does that go? This isn’t about me, you see I have this friend…..

It has been months that I have been just kind of stuck here.

I have wanted to post about these verses but just have not been confident in my understanding. I still am not.

Then I felt like God said, “let me help you understand me better, read Hosea”.

Hosea is a book about a prophet who God told to marry a prostitute. But God had Hosea do this as a lesson for his people, the nation of Israel.

“When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”

Hosea 1:2-3

They went on to have 2 more kids. And then they lived happily ever after. No. They did not. Gomer left Hosea and went back to prostitution.

Then God said this: “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. ” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”’

Hosea 3:1-3

God loves people. He loves real people with real problems and real pasts full of real baggage. God loves people who are sinners.

Later in the book Hosea writes some poetry, beautiful prophetic poetry. It predicts a time when Gods people will return to him.

““Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. ”’

Hosea 6:1-3

After reading the Book of Hosea and thinking about God and his love of the wayward I felt prompted to reread Romans and in chapter 3 I was reminded that we are all “wayward”,

“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. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:9-12

God loves sinners, the wayward, the lost, those of us sold into a lifestyle of sin. He loves us and has come to set us free.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:20-26

We get no epilogue from the book of Hosea. We don’t know how the story ended. We don’t know what the end of our story is either. We do know this much, that God loves us so much that Just like Hosea bought his wife back from her pimp, God has sent his only son to die for us, to buy us back from whatever has us enslaved.

“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

God loves us and has bought us back. If we fall how we be rescued? God loves us and has bought us back. How many cycles do we get? How many times will God forgive and follow and free us? If there is a number I don’t know it.

Is there a word for this number? As many as it takes? As many as it takes to get us home.

Christmas in July

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.

Venice to Milan

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?

Quitting time

Quitting time. My favorite time of day. Packing up my gear, putting away the tools. Cleaning up and setting up for tomorrow. It’s a great time of day. What if you walked onto the job at quitting time and still got paid for the whole day?

Bonus!

That’s what happened in Jesus’ story in Matthew 20.

“20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”’

Some of us are reaching quitting time, not just of a job or a career but of life. It is the eleventh hour. The sun is setting. What does God want from us? What will God do for us?

Jesus died to pay for our sins. All of them. Whether it’s the grocery sack full of the at age 16 or 26 or a cargo ship full at 56 or 66 or 76. The age doesn’t matter and the amount doesn’t matter. Jesus died to pay for our sins. You only have to ask. Forgiveness is for all at any age, even at the eleventh hour.

God wants his kids to come home. Will you accept his gift of salvation today?

“Peter James!”

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.