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.

We follow our leader by mimicking our leader

“Following the leader, the leader, the leader, we’re following the leader wherever he may go”🎼.

As I was typing this I could hear the tune in my head. I can’t remember what it’s from. Peter Pan?

Jesus actually said something like this in Matthew 20.

“20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”’

Where is our leader? Right now? He is in heaven, preparing a place for us. What else is he doing? He is interceding for us. What was he doing before that? Before that the greatest man that ever lived was dying for our sins.

Philippians 2 Paul stayed this principle in a more practical way.

“2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”

Christians, those of us who follow Jesus, should be the servants of all

And as I was typing this I was imagining a CEO leaving a boardroom to unstop a toilet, a nasty toilet, filled to rim.

As a Christian, There should be no job beneath our dignity. “What do you need? How can I help? Child care? Diaper duty? Dog doody duty? Teaching in Sunday school? Janitorial? Visiting shut ins? Visiting the hospital? Visiting the jail? Cleaning? Gardening? Cooking?

As I’m writing this it feels very flannel graph ish. Disconnected from life and pretend. The main truth, that no job is beneath me is there but my approach and how I’m saying falls short of honesty.

The reality, Jesus served us, following him we must strive to serve. Humility for the sake of humanity, to care about other people and care for other people. To do what needs to be done.

As Christians, how are we doing? Does being a follower of Jesus change how we act? Change what we do and how we do it? Does it change why we do it? Does Love compel us to serve?

Jesus make me more gooder at being good and doing good and serving and loving.

And yet…

We are a sorry lot.

The Psalms say this about us.

“God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 53:2-3

And yet he still loves us. And yet he still has provided a way back to him.

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

Romans 5:6-11

The Jewish patriarch Isaac had a son Jacob. Jacob was a conniving grasping weasel of a man. One night though he had an encounter with God and he wrestled with him throughout the night. That night he was changed physically and spiritually and God even changed his name from Jacob, which means supplanter, to Israel which means “he struggles with God” “may God prevail”.

At the end of of psalm 53 the last verse mention Both names of Jacob, his name before he encountered God and his new name God gave him.

“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Psalm 53:6

When God reveals to the world his plan to save us from our sin through Jesus, Let the old guy, the old selfish supplanter rejoice, and let the new man, the man God has touched and changed be glad. Now the world can know that there is hope in God through Jesus. Our sins can be forgiven and we can be given a clean start, maybe even a new name.

Hitting the time clock and headed home.

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?

Whether we have accepted him as a toddler and worked for the kingdom to our old age or if we lived our entire life in rebellion but on our death bed we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we receive the same reward, eternal life with our father in Heaven. God is as excited to welcome Home those who punch in into the kingdom time clock as they are punching out of life for the last time as he to welcome those who have served him long and hard “born the heat of the day”. He loves us all.

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?

Here is a preview:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Revelation%2022:1-5&version=NIV

How clean is your kitchen?

It’s about the heart. Or the kitchen.

Our external actions don’t always expose where our heart, our beliefs and motives and longings our true feelings are. We can mask where we really are, what we really are.

Jesus exposes one mans heart in a very gentle and loving way in Matthew 19.

“16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Would we eat at a restaurant that stored poison next to food prep areas? If you didn’t know about it you might. The front of the restaurant may be clean and inviting, the service excellent, the prices good, the food very tasty but the buying public doesn’t see the kitchen.

God sees our kitchen. We may never kill anyone but we have a long list of people that we hate. We have already murdered them in our heart.

We may never commit adultery but we cherish our fantasies, we have done the deed in our heart.

The front of the restaurant doesn’t determine the safety of the food. It’s in the kitchen. The public part of our life, no matter how squeaky clean it is can still be hiding a very dirty and perverse and dangerously poisonous heart.

God sees into our “kitchen”. God sees our heart. AND he loves us anyway.

In Romans Paul tells us this about God’s heart for us:

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

And later in Romans he says this:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus loves us. Even me. Have you seen my kitchen? Sometimes it’s a mess, (not my literal kitchen, it’s very clean) but the kitchen of my soul. Yet Jesus loves me. Jesus loves even me, even you.

Today will you ask him to forgive your mess and take you into his family? I did.

The garden, Pruning

There are so many parallels to find in gardening to living the life of a Christian. I mentioned a few the other day, weeds and sin, the constant battle, the seasons, planting of, caring for, harvesting of and the seasons of life.

One part I didn’t mention was pruning. Pruning is one of this activities that to me, seems counterintuitive. I want more from my plants so I cut back branches from them. (?)

Another counterintuitive practice is thinning, but Jesus didn’t talk about thinning. He did however, talk about pruning. In John 15.

““I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:1-8

God has a plan for us. Part of that plan is to be fruitful. Part of being fruitful is be pruned back. Not all areas of growth in our lives will be fruitful. The way to success is not in having a bunch of branches and leaves, it is to have only fruitful branches.

If God is our gardener or vine dresser, if he is the Lord and master of our life and our faith, and we have in faith prayed, “God, father, please make me fruitful.” We should not be surprised if our lives suddenly lose some branches.

I do want to be fruitful. I do not not want parts of my life to be cut off. I do trust God, my father to skillfully shape me and cut off parts of my busyness so I will be fruitful for him.

Will we trust him with his pruning shears? Snip-snip. Who knows better how to shape my life? Me, or the one who created me with a specific purpose? And still as I write this I am wondering and a little nervous about what will he take away so I can be more productive?

Could this be heaven?

I just had a vision of heaven. It was just a flash. I will try to describe what I saw.

There was a glorious walled city. Gleaming white. There was only one way into the city. There were two lines of people approaching the city. One group was allowed into the city. The others were walked off into darkness.

The line of people that were let in were all wearing the same thing, a beautiful crimson red robe.

I recognized some in this line. They were notorious sinners. Then I looked at the other line line and saw some really good descent people. It confused me deeply.

I looked back to where the lines were forming. I could see that it was one line from deaths door, then it split. At the split I saw Jesus. As each person approached him he would gently ask them two questions, if they shook their heads no, he would sigh and point them towards the darkness. If they nodded their heads yes, he embraced them, kissed both cheeks, took off his robe and put it on their shoulders. Smiling he would say ” well done good and faithful servant, welcome home!” Then guide them towards heavens gate.

What were his questions?

Maybe it was Are good enough to be in heaven? That couldn’t be it, I saw some bad people in the line moving towards heaven. Was it how much did you give? That answer couldn’t be a yes or a no. Was it did you behave? Did you follow the rules? Did you keep the commandments?

I had to know so I went up closer to listen. Here is what he asked them.

“Do you know me?”

“Would you like my help?”

That was the vision.

Could it really be that simple? Is that all there is to getting into heaven?

The apostle Paul said this about that. “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Evidently it is that simple. It isn’t about the following the rules, but it’s about following a savior.

Do you know Jesus? Do you know this man who died on a cross and came back to life 3 days later? Have you heard that he loves you? Have you heard That he suffered and died so that our sins could be forgiven? Your mistakes and my mistakes? will you accept his help today?

We will all step through death’s door. What is on the other side? Will it be like the vision I had? Which line will you be in? It is your choice. Will you accept Jesus’ help then? How about starting today?

Let me tell you a story…

Childish or childlike?

When I was little my grandparents had an old bathtub buried in their garden. It was a garden for water lilies. My brother told me to be very careful around it, there was no bottom. I believed him. I walked a wide circle around that white rimmed hole to the center of the earth.

I was told another story as a child. I was told about this man who did miracles. That he healed sick people, even raising some from the dead. He was killed by being nailed to cross. He was put into a grave carved out of rock and three days later he came back to life. He stayed here for a few more days with his friends and then he was taken up in the clouds where he said that he would build a house for me, and he would come back some day.

Kids believe the stories that they are told. They have child like faith.

Jesus talked about that in Matthew 19.

“13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

I think I was there the day they pulled up the old bathtub in grandmas garden. There was a bottom after all. That story wasn’t true.

As for the other story? No one can disprove. Many have tried. I still believe the whole thing. Even the part about him coming back someday.

I heard more of the story as I got older. I found out why he died. He died to pay for my sin, to pay for our sin. The sin that keeps us separated from God. He died because he loves us so much he would rather suffer and die than to be kept apart from us.

It’s been a long time since he left. We don’t know when he will come back. One thing is for certain, his return is closer now than ever. He is waiting for the last one who will believe in him to hear the story I was told and to believe it.

Are we telling the story? Some one needs to hear the story today. Will we tell them the story of Jesus?

#tellourjesusstory, #Matthew191315

People are messy.

People are messy.

Life is a mud-puddle and we are the players in it.

Divorce is that painful institution that I haven’t experienced and don’t feel qualified to talk about. I can see that it hurts. I’m sorry for those who are forced to go through it.

Jesus talks about in Matthew 19. Let’s see what he said.

“19 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”’

I heard it said that being married is like putting two pieces of tape together sticky side in. “The two will become one flesh.” Divorce is a process of pulling those pieces of tape apart. No body wins. Parts are damaged. Abilities to be joined together again are diminished.

May God keep our hearts soft and keep those of us that are together, together and May God bless, heal and restore those of us who have gone through the process of tearing apart.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, time just makes you older. Jesus is our healer, when he and time get together amazing things can happen. He will require that forgiveness be brought into the mix, forgiveness must be distributed liberally, all around. With that combination healing and restoration can take place.

I started out talking about life as a mud-puddle. Marriage should not be part of that dirtiness.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Prevention, forgiveness, restoration, healing, all available in Jesus. I just want to pray quickly here.

Jesus, please protect and bless those of us who are married. May our marriages be rich with your blessings. For those of us who are hurting now, for those in a rocky painful place, heal restore and renew joy and bring new life to stagnant places. For those who are recovering from divorce bring healing and hope and restoration. Allow forgiveness to blanket them.

Help us love each other better Jesus.

#matthew19, #learningtolovelikejesus

It’s a river…

It’s a River not a lake.

God’s love, his forgiveness, his mercy, his grace they flow out from a boundless reservoir but as they flow into our life they must also flow out of our life. We cannot get it but then not give it.

Matthew 18 explains this.

“21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”’

Remember Newman from the Seinfeld show? A nemesis. An arch enemy. As a Christian I do get to have one and only one. I do have one. You get one too. In fact it is the same one.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

But let’s not talk about him.

Let’s talk about this amazing love and forgiveness we get to be bathed in. We just need to remember to give it away as freely as we received it or we won’t receive it anymore.

Maybe it’s like a water pipe. The only way a water pipe gets fresh water in, is to have the water it has now pass through it. It has to give away what it has so it can get more.

God’s mercy must flow through us to get to us.

His love is like a river.

#Godsloveisariver, #matthew1821thru35

Addendum

Yesterday I posted about how christians battle. I said that we bring a pillow and bandages to a gunfight. That’s not accurate. What we bring to every fight is a knife, well a sword. The word of God is our sword and we bring prayer.

The fight is never against people. We are not fighting against people. I’ll say it again, our fight, our struggle as Christians is not against people because our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principles and powers and forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We are not fighting against people, we are fighting FOR people. The only weapons we have are the word of God and prayer.

Our weapons may seem weak but they are mighty. They are powerful to bring down strongholds.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

We have a war to win. Let’s get to it.

Bring a pillow to a gunfight

John 15

Hate speech: we are the hated

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]

The Work of the Holy Spirit

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

No one likes to have their pet and or private sins exposed. We all have secret deeds done in darkness. Jesus came to us as the light of the world. Being around him, being around his followers is like lighting a lantern on a dark night. Those who want to stay hidden scurry away hissing.

Hissing? Ok, that may be just for drama.

People and things that want to continue in their activities that God has said, “don’t do that, it will hurt you” will hate the light of Jesus.

” They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]”

If we live in the light, there will be those people who hate us and our message.

This our rule, Jesus’ command; love each other. Jesus loved us to death, His own death. We are to love in the same way.

The world will hate us.

We will fight back, with love. Bring a pillow to a gunfight? Well yes. And bandages.

Jesus came to change hearts, not behaviors, starting with our own.

Bring a pillow to a gunfight

John 15

Hate speech: we are the hated

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]

The Work of the Holy Spirit

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

No one likes to have their pet and or private sins exposed. We all have secret deeds done in darkness. Jesus came to us as the light of the world. Being around him, being around his followers is like lighting a lantern on a dark night. Those who want to stay hidden scurry away hissing.

Hissing? Ok, that may be just for drama.

People and things that want to continue in their activities that God has said, “don’t do that, it will hurt you” will hate the light of Jesus.

” They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]”

If we live in the light, there will be those people who hate us and our message.

This our rule, Jesus’ command; love each other. Jesus loved us to death, His own death. We are to love in the same way.

The world will hate us.

We will fight back, with love. Bring a pillow to a gunfight? Well yes. And bandages.

Jesus came to change hearts, not behaviors, starting with our own.

Remodeling me

Loving.

Gentleness.

Kindness.

Goodness.

Faithfulness.

Peacefulness.

Joyfulness.

Patience.

When a person accepts Jesus’ forgiveness Jesus actually comes into our lives, into our hearts and starts living in us. Immediately he begins to remodel. His designs always include the aforementioned qualities.

Our lives change. Our behaviors change. Our interactions with other people change.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us how to properly go about confrontation in a way that is private, honors both parties, and is solution and relationship focused.

“15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”’

The Christian life is a life that is lived differently than the lives of people who don’t know Jesus. Why?

Love.

Jesus’ love for us.

Our love for the world of people, humans like us, fallen, bent and broken humans.

I don’t get this right all the time. But Jesus still

Loves me. Even me. Even you.

#matthew18, #forgiveasyouareforgiven

Loved by the shepherd

Lost?

Found?

I’m both. I was lost but now I’m found.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells how our Heavenly Father feels about us.

“10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. [11] [a]

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

God watches over us and seeks us out. I was just thinking about the characters in a show I’ve been watching, none of them are seeking God. In the 11 episodes I’ve watched the only mention of God was in a swearing fit. No one seeks God.

Those are fictional people but in real life, me and people like me, we don’t seek God either. But it’s ok for one reason. He is seeking us.

In Jesus God prepared a way for us to to be gathered back into the safety of His flock.

It’s not about following rules or laws, it’s about coming to Jesus and being forgiven. It’s about then following Jesus, our good shepherd.

In Romans Paul says this: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God is actively seeking everyone of us. Not for punishment but for forgiveness, love and protection. Join us and we will all celebrate.

#lovedbyGod, #matthew18, #lostandfound

Changing Burlap to silk

I write this today with both hands and both eyes and both feet intact.

If I took this verse in Matthew 18 literally none of that would be true.

“6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

My eyes, my hands and my feet all cause me to stumble but only because my heart told them to. My heart, where all my thoughts are pondered and decisions made. It is desperately and decidedly wicked and selfish. My heart wants what it wants no matter what or who says differently. What can I do to be pure? What can I do To wash away sin and selfishness that is woven into my very fabric? My heart and soul are burlap, rough and coarse.

Jesus.

Jesus can and will take over our lives. He will cover us in his perfection so our Father God only sees his son when he looks at us, and as he is draped over us on the outside he begins to rebuild us on the inside. To restore and refine us. To turn our burlap souls into silk or satin or 600 count cotton.

God is the God of “and yet” or “even while”.

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

While we were yet sinners Jesus willingly died for us. He died for me. He died for us. He died for you.

If you don’t know him yet, do you want to? If you do know him, can you think of someone who doesn’t know him that you can gently show his love to?

#matthew18 #doesJesusloveme?