The cross was draped….

Easter. It’s not about a dead guy. It is about a guy dying. Same guy. A guy died. He just didn’t stay dead.

This how my childhood went, “What’s that? The church doors are open? Well then, we must attend. “ My mom.

Church attendance. Optional for guests. Mandatory for minor children.

Tradition tells me, We will be late. When we do arrive, We will smell of French fries, coffee and cigarette smoke. It was the perfume of the cafe my parents owned and operated.

We attended a Lutheran Church so the services were predictable; 3 hymns a 20 minute message and liturgy.

Sometimes there was a bonus.

Sometimes there was food in the fellowship hall in the basement.

Good Friday service In 1978 was just such a night. The service was somber but then there was food and noisy fellowship afterwards. It was winding down and my family was getting ready to leave. I had left something in the pew above us so I clambered up the stairs to grab it. The lights in the sanctuary were off, just the back lights by the alter and the cross on the wall. This year someone had added a rough wooden cross and it was standing on the platform between the pulpit and the lectern. The ladies of the church, two of them were ceremoniously draping the cross with a black cloth.

It suddenly hit me. This guy Jesus? The one we talked about, the one that had performed miracles. He healed. He delivered. He set free. He forgave. He brought back to life. That guy. He seemed so friendly. But tonight, for me in my understanding, he was dead.

He was dead. Even though there had been almost 2000 years elapse since it happened, the weight of the news hit me as though it had just happened that afternoon. I was washed over with grief and sadness.

I don’t recall the rest of that years Easter holiday. If I’m remembering it right, Our Pastor, a fantastic old school bible preacher Joe McGaw didn’t use the term Easter, he called it resurrection day. If I had been listening, maybe the Good Friday service and the resurrection day service would’ve brought me into faith sooner. I had other things to preoccupy me though, I had guys to hang out with, a pretty girlfriend, a 57 Chevy truck that wasn’t going to restore itself. I was busy. Too busy to connect the two pieces.

A few years went by and it all started to make sense. Well, not in a worldly way of making sense. But i understood that i was a sinner. God hated sin but he loved me. He sent Jesus to die, and that death, Jesus sacrificially dying for me, brought God and I back together. All of my sin was washed away by the blood that Jesus spilled dying for me.

Then 3 days after he died, death could not keep him any longer and he rose. The tomb was emptied by him, walking out of it.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”

Jesus died. I am so sorry and yet so grateful. Jesus died But he didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave.

Easter Sunday is a few days away. Resurrection day. We celebrate this event and would love for you to join us. We attend Ephrata Foursquare Church. Our service is at 10am. Most Christian Churches will be celebrating this Sunday so if you can’t make it to our service, please just pick one and join us in the celebration.

Whether or not you come to church, I hope that you will come to understand and believe the truth about Jesus.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Being known and being loved

I heard it on the radio yesterday, the two most basic and important needs of a human being are to be known, and to be loved.

If you know me, the more you know me, the deeper and longer you know me, the more you have to keep from loving me. You know my junk, my annoying habits my weaknesses. The trick of any relationship is to find someone who will love me after they have gotten to know me.

There is one who knows me completely.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

Psalm 139:1-6 –

We believe God is omniscient, he knows everything about everything and everyone. If we go back to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, just after they had broken the rule and eaten the forbidden fruit we find them hiding from God, and from each other. They had been completely known by each other and were content in that and with that but sinning made them hide behind fig leaves.

God knows it all, in my life he knows everything about me, the cheating on tests in 5th grade math, the burying some of the circulars I was supposed to deliver on my paper route, (my dad found out about that one too) the toy army truck I stole from my friend Miles, the things I did that summer late at night, the magazines I had hidden in my room, the cigarettes I stole from my parents cafe and tried to smoke but got sick, all of that and the stuff I can’t write here, and he has chosen to love me, and to die for me.

I am known fully and completely and I am loved fully and completely. You are too. You are known by God fully and completely known, and he loves you, he loves us, and he died to pay for all of our sins. How do I know that? What do I base my belief in? Many verses in the Bible tell us this but my absolute favorite is in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 5.

“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 –

I am writing this on Thursday of Holy Week 2019, it’s almost Easter. If you have not accepted Jesus love and mercy and had all your sins washed away, will you today? Will you be fully known and fully loved by the God who created you? If you have already made that choice and you are already known and loved, will tell one person about this amazing God who knows us and loves us?

We are known by God and we are loved by God. You are known and loved by God. May you Have a happy Easter, the happiest yet, being known and loved by Jesus our savior and by God our Father.

Listening sheepishly

John 10

We are known, we will live and we are safe.

“Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.”

Are you one of His sheep?

I am. Of course that is a metaphor. I’m not really a sheep. I am a follower of Jesus and I have accepted his offer.

I got to a point where I realized that I had done things that had stained me. No matter what I did I could not wash away the stains. Jesus offered to wash away my stains but he did it with his blood. By dying the death I deserved to die he paid for and in a sense, washed away all of my stains.

In that transaction I became his sheep. One of many. Will join me and become one of his flock? There is no better shepherd than Jesus. Since he died and rose again death no longer has a hold on him or on me. My body will die but my spirit will live forever. I can never be “snatched away” from Jesus.

Bahhh. He now leads me to work. I must follow.

7 + a few = 4000 meals?

I’ve done the math. God is good.

Mary posted recently about how magical it was to raise 4 kids and the blessing it was to get them all ready on Easter Sunday morning. There was stress and confusion and chaos but was all very sweet too.

What I remember is the amazing way our very small, very limited, very tight budget would be stretched to its ultimate limit at every holiday. The money that we had that barely was enough to feed and clothe and house us would get asked to also help us celebrate.

That’s not entirely accurate, we believe now and believed then that everything we have comes from our father, our Heavenly Father. So we would ask him to provide so we could bless our kids and he always did. God always provided and yet I always worried.

Matthew 15 has Jesus providing healing and food for those he cared about, the multitudes.

“29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.”

If I did the math correctly, by noon today I will make what I used to make per week at my first job that I had raising four kids. Part of that is inflation. All of that is God’s provision. And yet I am worried. What will it take for me to learn to trust God’s provision? I don’t know.

Father God forgive my fearful, doubtful heart ❤️. Thank you for providing for me and my family. Thank you most for sending Jesus to die in my place, to pay a debt I could never pay, and for bringing him back to life to show me that there is more to life than life here. There is a life with you. Thank you.

It’s Tuesday

It’s Tuesday. One of 53 for 2019. Nothing special about a Tuesday. It’s not Monday (thankfully) it’s not Wednesday, (wistfully). 53 Tuesday’s this year but will I see them all? Who knows? God knows. He has my days numbered and I’ve been walking towards the last one. Some might think that this is morbid to think about this but I find it sobering. Like a person who builds skyscrapers and lunches on an I-beam thousands of feet in the air, forgetting how close to the edge one sits can be deadly, remembering can be sobering and keep him safe.

I rose at 4:05 am because that’s when my alarm goes off. It’s a Tuesday, me and my two dogs need to relieve ourselves. As I walk out on the side porch on the north side of the house, I notice how light it is and then I look west and see a huge glowing orb just suspended in the sky, the moon, not full but waxing to fullness, yet bright and still cold.

The dogs are cared for and back in bed and I have my breakfast and coffee and I open my bible randomly to psalm 8.

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you. When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents. O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”

Psalm 8:1-9 –

The same God who somehow hung that shiny orb in the sky has made it his goal to have a relationship with me, on a Tuesday, one of 53 this year. He sent his son Jesus to die for my sins so that by confessing his lordship in my life and believing in his resurrection, all of my sins, all my mistakes and willful disobedience is not just pushed aside, but washed away and forgotten and I get to be called a child of the God who made the moon and Tuesdays.

I hope you saw the moon this morning. It will be there tonight too, even bigger. I hope you know Jesus and his love and grace and mercy. I hope if you haven’t yet chosen to believe in Jesus that you will today, this Tuesday. God wants us all in his family.

Have a great Tuesday, there’s 53 of them in 2019.

My good shepherd

John 10

Jesus is my shepherd.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”’

The bad news is that I have an enemy who wants steal from me, kill me and destroy me.

I have shepherd. My shepherd has laid down his life for me. That is usually mixed news. Yay he died for me but what now, he’s dead. Not so for Jesus. because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again. He is alive. Alive forever. Alive to forever shepherd me. To shepherd us.

That is good news

From the Inside

No matter how good my shower head is ( and we have a doozy, a brand new $24.79 Walmart unit) a thorough cleaning of my outsides will not clean up my insides. Humans cannot be cleaned from the outside in. We must be cleansed from the inside out.

Matthew 15 starts out with Jesus telling us about this.

“15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

With humans we have this heart condition. It is deceitfully wicked. Kind of like a snowflake. The lovely pure white snowflake at its very center is a speck of dirt or dust. At our center, in our heart where we decide things, is a selfish center that we can’t fix or change ourselves. We are hopelessly imperfect. We need a heart change.

The problem with this selfish heart is that it keeps us separated from God. Jesus came to begin the heart change. First, his death and resurrection covers us with a perfection coating that restores our relationship with God. Then he begins to work on our heart. We get a new heart but our nature wants to go back to the “me first” selfishness and there will always be that struggle.

The word is sanctification. The ongoing work to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

Cleansing us from the inside out.