why I read it

(I am cheating a little bit. This is a post from my Facebook page yesterday. Not everyone who reads my blog, reads my Facebook so I thought I could post this here and cover everyone who follows either one).

Somehow I got a day ahead on my daily bible reading so I just flipped open my bible to Psalm 19. Verse 14 was part of the Lutheran liturgy.

The Psalm praises God’s word.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:7-14 NIV

To recap for my easily distracted mind, Gods word is:
Perfect
Trustworthy
Right
Radiant
Pure
Firm
Righteous
Precious
Sweet
In them are warning and reward.

Through them I am lead and shown my own sin.

May the words that I say and even more deeply, the thoughts I think be formed and influenced by your words God, forgive me when I fail.

Grow

2 Peter, the last two verses, “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:17-18

These verses, especially verse 18, are significant to me.

When I was in my early 20s, an older guy took me under his wing and mentored me in my new faith in Jesus. He was a friend of the family, a dentist in the next town over. He would come over to our little cafe in the evening, once a week and lead a Bible study. He didn’t directly bring me to Salvation but he was around when I was saved, he did pray for me to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and he encouraged me to grow as a Christian by asking me to memorize verse 18 of 2 Peter, chapter 3.

I wasn’t part of his church (yet). But he invested in my life anyway. Thank you Floyd Jacobson for sharing your life, and your savior with me.

The second reason that this verse is significant is because of what it says.

Grow.

Get bigger. Expand. Mature. Take up more space in. In Grace. Grace, unmerited favor. Whose favor? God’s favor. Why? Because the world, my own evil desires and rebellious heart, along with the hateful and destructive enemy of my soul will be actively trying to shrink, kill, distract and destruct my faith. I need to be even more actively involved and invested in my relationship with Jesus, keeping it alive and growing.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever and he is always worthy of praise and glory, yesterday today and forever.

Ever heard of the phrase “to know me is to love me”? That phrase has never been truer than when we apply it to Jesus. To grow in the knowledge of Jesus is to grow in love and trust of Jesus. There is no darkness or shadow or even a variation in him. As I’m writing these things about Jesus I am convicted that I don’t always apply this knowledge to my own life. I encourage myself then too, to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, to him be the glory, both now and forevermore, do you agree?

(Originally posted 1/13/18)

Let’s take a test….

Jesus.

His test.

He prepared for his life and his ministry by fasting 40 days.

He fought temptations with just words, but they were Gods words.

“4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When his cousin John was arrested and sent to prison, awaiting the death penalty he took up where John left off.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”

He began calling disciples. He said to four fishermen, “come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” One of those first four would be dead in 4 years.

(For the sake of accuracy James was probably killed in 44 AD. He may have been run through or disemboweled or Beheaded. He was killed for believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Killed for following Jesus.

“2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”)

He started teaching and preaching the “good news”. He then began healing everyone who was sick or lame, demon possessed, or even just hurting.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[g] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

Jesus. Who is he? How did he do this stuff? Why did he do this stuff? What am I supposed to do with him?

Life is the test. The questions are listed above. You have the rest of your life to finish the test. The thing is, no one knows how long that is.

This is how I answered those questions:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

(Originally posted 1/12/17)

God in 3 persons

Part of the Lutheran liturgy came to mind this morning.

“Holy holy holy, Lord God almighty, all thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea, Only thou art holy, there is none besides thee, God in three persons, blessed trinity.”

I guess it’s a hymn.

I grew up believing in God. I have since childhood believed that this God I believe in is one God in 3 persons.

Today I read about it in Matthew 3.

“13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

We don’t have a plethora of gods to sort through when we pray like other cultures do. We have one God. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I have believed in God since childhood, but believing he exists and knowing and trusting him as my savior are two different things. I received him as savior when I realized that I couldn’t be good enough and God knew that and gave Jesus his son to pay for my sin. I confessed my need and received forgiveness all in an instant standing next to the dishwasher in my parents cafe.

Have you received Jesus as your savior yet? Today would be a good day to do that. He is waiting for you.

(Originally posted 1/11/17)

Our lifeline

How will they survive? How will the newly converted believers continue in their faith in Jesus? How will this group continue to reach a lost and fallen world with the good news (aka gospel)?

That had to be on Peters mind as he approached his death. How will these people who didn’t have the privilege of face to face time with Jesus survive, even thrive and grow, in numbers and in strength?

What would bind them together? What will unify them? What will keep them from drifting or straying away.

The words. God’s words.

As Peter said to Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”

(“Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68)

The Old Testament was a map to Jesus. The apostles had their stories of Jesus’ life and ministry, and then there were the letters being written by Peter and Paul, later John and others would write letters, and Luke would write about the miraculous lives, ministry and Acts of the apostles in the early church.

Peter mentions all of these types of books or letters here in chapter three.

“Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

2 Peter 3:1-2

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:14-16

We are believing in Jesus because generations of believers have studied and copied and preserved the word. Now it is our privilege and duty to carry it on. To tell it, to share it, to preserve it we need to know it. We need to know it, as my pastor Rory says, to assimilate it. One teacher I heard or read recently said we need to know it, on an intimate level, like a husband knows his wife, on that level of experiential full knowledge.

Forces are at work to discredit and dilute the Word. Our job is know it and share as best we can.

I want to Remember this one other thing too “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.” Salvation is a treasure meant to be shared.

(Originally posted 1/10/18)

The dreamers

It’s a new year so I started a new book. I started reading the book of Matthew. In the first 2 chapters one thing stood out to me. While in the Christmas story in Luke, angels are speaking directly to Zacharias and to Mary, in Matthew, Joseph is spoken to through dreams. There are 4 dreams recorded in the just these chapters.

As I was driving home yesterday listening to the radio I was reminded of another bible character named Joseph, (my daughter Lizzy used to pronounce it Jo-fiss). He was Jacob’s son, the favored son, the son of his much beloved wife Rachel. He was also a dreamer. Not in the sense that he lazed around just thinking about stuff, but that God gave him prophetic dreams, and gave him the ability to interpret other peoples dreams. He was able to be used to interpret Pharoh’s dream and it landed him at the number two position in Egypt.

Dreams. God has used dreams in my life to help guide me and my family. He used one dream to let us know that it was time to leave the church denomination that I was raised in and find a new one, one that emphasized salvation by grace, that taught the bible and that would help me raise my children to know Jesus as their savior.

God used another dream to let me know that my food service career was coming to end. That was a scary time but He was faithful and we never missed a meal or a house payment.

God is still speaking and moving. God is still gathering his people, still guiding and providing for his people. Sometimes he speaks through dreams. Always he speaks through his word and through his Holy Spirit.

As I imagine the scene of the angel of God visiting the house of Joseph and finding him asleep. I think about the hard physical labor involved in being a carpenter in the first century. Every step of forming wood into a table, or a chair, or just the process of making a tree into a board so it could be made into something else. Exhausting work. Did he arrive at the house ready to talk but found Joseph already snoring. Do you suppose when the angel saw Joseph asleep he said to himself, “Aw, isn’t he cute when he’s asleep?”

“19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

God sees us and knows us. When we are asleep and when we are awake. He longs to communicate with us. What he most wants to tell us is, “I Love You! I gave up my only son to die in your place so we can be together. I raised him from the dead and now we can be together forever. Because he lives, you can live. Forever with us.”

I don’t want to put imaginary words in the mouth of God so here is a verse that says it.

” 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.” Jn 3:16

Refreshed by liturgy

I grew up a Lutheran

I grew up a Lutheran, in our house we were not C&E Lutherans, where we occasionally attended, like on Christmas and Easter. No, my mom had some kind of built in radar and if the church doors opened, our family would be in attendance. Yes we would be late, but we would be there.

Lutherans have a liturgical service, and as part of that liturgy, we sang a lot. There were so many words and little songs. I was not an avid bible reader in those days. I didn’t realize that most of the words and the little songs were excerpts from the Bible. All the words drove me crazy as a kid but now I realize what we were doing, actually singing and reciting the Bible, as I have aged I now appreciate the hymnal writing and the writers and kind of miss the liturgical nature of the service.

My own personal bible reading recently took me to 1 John. As I read it I recognized it as part of the liturgy that I recited as a kid. Parts of Chapter 1&2 are part of the order of service.

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

1 John 1:5-2:2 -NLT

In Jesus, there is forgiveness for sin, but we need to confess our sins.

When we were raising our kids and they did something wrong we would make them say that they were Sorry. In addition to saying sorry we would often have them tell us what they did that was wrong. They had to confess. They to verbalize what they had done wrong, what rule they had broken, or how they violated boundaries or hurt someone else. In this way they had to think about what they had done.

We recently had an opportunity to visit a Presbyterian Church and participated in their Sunday worship service. Part of their order of service was a printed confession that we read together as a congregation. I thought it was good. I will quote it here and hope that whoever wrote it gets the credit due them.

“Father, you have revealed your will to us. It is clear. No other gods. No idols. No misuses of your name. We are to worship weekly and honor our parents. There is to be no killing and what we do with our bodies must come under your intentions for sexuality. We are forbidden to steal and speak falsely about our neighbors. And internally our hearts are not to covet what others possess. Such commandments reveal our absolute need of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for ignoring your word and our failure to take your commandments seriously. We humbly repent and ask you to forgive us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hear us in your mercy as we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us.”

Then we corporately prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

I thought this was a very good way to remind us of what Gods standard is and then how we have failed to measure up. The confession is a condensed walk through the 10 commandments. We can forget where we fall short if we don’t use the measuring stick that God said is the standard. Jesus is our ruler both in that he is our King and he is the standard we measure ourselves against. The Ten Commandments are not a whacking stick to punish us when we fail, but a guide to live by and beacon to bring us back to Jesus for forgiveness when we fail.

“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us… but if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”

I can be prideful at times when I consider my avoidance of sin, not stealing, or lying or killing or cheating on my spouse, but Jesus took it even deeper when he said that if we hate someone we have killed them in our hearts, or if we look lustfully at another person, that we have already thought about the act and are guilty. God looks at and knows our hearts so even if we have clean hands, our hearts can be dirty.

In Psalm 51 we get to read a confession from a man who had an adulterous relationship, got the woman pregnant, then had her husband killed so he could cover it up. He thought he had gotten away with it but was confronted by a friend.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 51:4-7,10-12 NIV

I remembered this verse in part because it was a part of the liturgy that I recited every Sunday for most of my childhood and adolescence.

We all sin. We all break the rules in one way or another. The rules are not there to shame us but to guide us and bring us back, through confession and repentance, to a relationship with our loving Heavenly Father who sent his son Jesus to die to pay for all of our mistakes and failures, our sin.

So I say to myself, as well as to you who are reading this, repent and confess and be restored. Our God loves us and wants us to come home to him.