Dad

Dad…

DIY? There wasn’t any other way to get it done. He didn’t hire tradesmen. He was the ultimate DIYer. Plumbing, carpentry, automotive, body and fender, tree trimming, roofing, (including splitting his own Tamarac shakes) building a cabin, putting on an addition. There was one trade he wasn’t real comfortable with and that was electrical but he would still do it. He wired his shop and the addition. He wired his cabin with 12VDC. Of all the things he taught me I chose his weakness as a trade and became an electrician. But that wasn’t a conscious rebellious choice, just an opportunity.

Go to the store? No way, stores were for beer and bread. Use what you have. Dad had a lot of pieces and parts. People gave him stuff. He would take it apart and save the pieces. While working at wrecking yards, after disassembling something he would dump the hardware in a 5 gallon bucket. If dad didn’t have the hardware you needed then either it didn’t exist or you either didn’t really need it or you weren’t being creative enough.

I was recently reminded of how He became a surrogate father to Many of my and my brothers friends and who didn’t have a dad. One of my brothers friends reminisced about a trip he and my dad took to tear down a building. (Dad eventually used that lumber to build an addition onto our house).

He’s been gone for 12 years now. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was 53, he lived with that debilitating disorder until he died at 72. The last couple of years he had to be in a home to keep himself safe from himself. He was doer. He hated being incapacitated.

I don’t remember a single game I played with my dad, but I remember hundreds of projects and jobs we did together. He didn’t teach me how to to throw a baseball, still don’t know how. he did teach me how to pound a nail, cut a board on a table saw, how to turn a wrench, righty tighty lefty loose e, and a lot of other things. To stay busy, to work hard, how to not treat your wife. How to be tenacious and creative with problem solving.

I loved my dad but I didn’t know why or how best to show it until after he died.

Happy Father’s Day dad, sorry you’re not here to celebrate with a cruise in Rusty. I miss you and I’m sorry I wasted so much time while you were here. Thanks for the memories and the skills. I love you.

“…Someone must die…”

It was late at night or early in the morning. I was sitting in my 62 Mercury Comet station wagon outside my apartment. The dash lights were illuminating the inside of the car. The street light on the corner behind me dimly lit the outside.

I had blown it again. I knew the rules of Christian living. I’d spent the last 19 years in church at least once a week. I knew what the rules were. I just couldn’t keep them.

I was remorseful. I repented…again. It felt like it wasn’t just what I’d done that night. I was weighed down with what I had done on all the nights. All the nights and all the days. All the rules that I had broken. And now add one more to the pile of my sins. It felt like I was seeing it all at once. It also felt like God was sitting next to me staring at the huge pile of mess Then he asked me “what are we going to do with all of this?”

I was crying pretty hard at this point and I answered, “…I don’t know God…”

He said “Peter, someone has to pay for all of this. You know the rules, someone will have to die for all these sins…”

I said “ok” assuming he meant me.

I wiped away my tears and snot and went into my apartment and went to bed, expecting to wake up dead.

But life went on. I didn’t die, and life returned to normal.

In an animated version of my life, there would be a map of my spiritual journey and on that map would have a cartoon bubble that instead if saying, “you are here” it would say “for this someone must die”.

What did it mean that someone would have to die? How could God require a death?

Let’s look back to the beginning.

Not my beginning, but OUR beginning, the garden.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17

Adam and Eve broke the only rule. They ate the forbidden fruit. They sinned and fell short of the glory of God.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:6-10

There were consequences to Adam and Eves sin. Among them was being cast out the garden.

But God did two things. First, he made a promise to them (and so also to us) while speaking to the serpent , “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

God promised a helper, a savior. Someone who would be bruised in the fight, but that would crush or destroy Their enemy (and so our enemy) the serpent.

Second, God provided a covering for their nakedness.

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

Adam and Eve were covered by the skin of animals after attempting to cover themselves with plants.

Unlike the cartoon world of Wile E. Coyote, where Wile E. can unzip his skin, in the real world of Adam and Eve, (the same world we live in), the animals died to provide their skins. This is the first recorded death in creation, and it took place in order that Adam and Eves nakedness would be covered.

Sin caused Blood to be shed.

Sin must be paid for. I guess that is not entirely true. Sin doesn’t have to be paid for. But if we want to undo the damage that sin does, and the worst of the damage is the separation between us and God, we can go on without the sin being covered. If we do that, we die separated from God. Our inclination tends to be to want to even out the score. Do good stuff so we can outweigh the bad. It doesn’t work like that. We can’t pay for it with good works. Our good works, our best possible behavior appears to God looking like filthy rags.

Sin causes death, it must be paid for with a sacrificial death, life for a life.

The pattern of sacrificial death to atone for sin is throughout the old testament. We see it in Abel’s good sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock. We see it in Abraham offering Isaac and God intervening and providing the lamb. We see it in the lamb that was sacrificed on the eve of the Exodus, and then God used animal sacrifice over and over throughout the tabernacle worship that was prescribed for his people in laying out how to worship.

But I was in modern times. Animal sacrifice had faded away. Besides, God had said to me not something, but someone. Someone would have to die to pay for my sins.

My spiritual journey continued. I was trying to pay for my sins with good works and Christian service. I planned on becoming a Lutheran Pastor. Those plans were waylaid, and I was left wondering how I would ever clean up my mess. Then early one Sunday morning, I was alone in the back room of my parent’s cafe, getting breakfast for myself and my very pregnant bride and God continued our conversation that he had started sitting next to me in my car about a year earlier. I had left school to take over the café so I could support our little family. It seemed like I would never finish school and become a pastor so how could I ever right the wrongs that I had piled up?

“Peter, Your sin problem, I took care of it”.

“How God? You said someone would have to die? I’m still alive, I’ve tried to pay for it by being good and doing good, but that’s not working either, I just keep failing…..”

“Peter, I sent Jesus for you. I sent Jesus to die for your sins, it’s my gift to you and for you”.

And then he reminded me of the verses in Ephesians 2;

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10

I would later read and understand that over and over again God says in his word that he loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place. From the garden and even before, he had a plan to redeem us, us his beloved fallen race.

Another of my favorite verses is in Romans chapter 5.

“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. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 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! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” God has brought us reconciliation, he has restored the relationship between us and him through Jesus. That night, the night of tears, it was so hard and yet it was a stepping stone on the pathway back to my God. Jesus didn’t just die for me. He died for everyone. His one death covers all of our sins. He is waiting and wanting for all of us to return, through his gift of love, his gift of sacrifice, his gift of his own blood to cover our nakedness.

What will you do today about this gift? Will you receive it?

Jesus did not stay dead. Once his work was accomplished by his death, 3 days later he rose again and now he is busy preparing a place for us and also interceding for us. Going to his Father and now our Father and reminding him, that we are covered by his blood. Our sins are now forgiven.

There is room for all of us in his house. Will join Jesus and me in our Fathers house and in his family?

Get me to the gate on time.

The door was closed.

She couldn’t get on her flight.

She missed and no one could or would help her.

I was at Seatac. I was at my gate early. Not bragging, just saying I was there early. Next to my gate was another gate flying somewhere far away, Texas maybe? I had seen this lady on the other side,the main terminal. She was being seated in a wheelchair by an airport worker. When she showed up at her gate she was walking. Earlier I had seen the airlines hostesses walking the length of the terminal calling out names of missing passengers and heard multiple announcements asking for passengers to go to the desk, announcing boarding and then final boarding. Then they closed up the desk, walked through the doors and boarded the plane. After all of that happened the lady showed up. She was at the right gate but she was late. She couldn’t find anyone to help her. She walked through the seats asking for help, loudly asking for someone, anyone from her airline to help but they were all in the plane already.

She tried crashing the door. She could see her plane still parked at the gate but she couldn’t get on.

When she crashed the door an alarm sounded and security personnel arrived rather quickly. But they couldn’t get her on the plane either. It didn’t seem to make any difference why she was late or how loud she got with her protests. She could not ride that plane. Even with a boarding pass she could not get aboard the plane.

It was a scene that played out in my life that I️ watched like it was a performance for me. It made me wonder and now over 2 weeks later I am still pondering it. As the character Scrooge says in the Christmas Carol, “why was I privy to this conversation?”.

At the same time I have Been reading 2 Peter. In chapter 2, Peter mentions some times when God’s timing and the peoples time ran out.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings;”

2 Peter 2:4-10

So did God show me this so that I would present it as a cautionary tale? As a culture we are constantly exposed to and driven by schedules and time tables. Is it a surprise that God also has a schedule and a time table for his plan for us. Not one of us knows his time table and schedule. Not even Jesus knew when it would be. Can we say that God is a meany head for having a schedule? Or can we say thank you to him for his patience thus far?

Further into his letter Peter had this to say,

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:3-9

My wife Mary calls me Debbie Downer because I see the dark side of things, I really don’t want this to be that.

God loves us. He sent Jesus to us not Just to say I love you, but to do I love you. Jesus came to die for sins we cannot pay for or erase. Then he rose from the dead to lead us into God’s heaven. He made a way for us.

We get today. We have today to choose.

I don’t know the outcome for the poor lady who missed her plane. I do know the outcome of everyone who missed Noah’s boat. I do know the outcome for everyone who misses God’s grace in Jesus but I would rather talk about the splendor waiting for those who receive God’s great gift of forgiveness in Jesus.

Today, all aboard.

A different Peter’s story

It must’ve been hard to do.

Make the change from being a follower of Jesus to a teller about Jesus. From having him there with them to having him pop in and out of life unexpectedly.

This next bit is a paraphrase told from the perspective of the once disciple, now apostle, Peter.

I remember that day…

What to do? Let’s go fishing. Fishing is what we do, Simon and Thomas and Nathaniel, James and John. Fishermen. It’s what we do, it’s what we know, it’s how we provide for our families. Fished all night and got nothing. Some guy on the beach shouting instructions on how to catch fish…we’ll try it.

Whoa! Wow! So many fish, almost too many fish. One fish, two fish red fish, 152 fish. (Plus one).

This all seems so familiar, I’ve had this happen before. It was Jesus on the shore.

A quick swim, some breakfast, fish hauling ashore and then the “chat”.

For 3 years we’ve hung out with Jesus. On meeting me he said he would change my name. Now, after the denial, ( three denials, if you’re counting) and the resurrection we are back to Simon son of John. Not Peter. Simon.

Then the questions, do I love him more than these? Do I️ love Jesus more than my fishing buddies do? At one time in the not so distant past I️ claimed that I️ did.

Then the questions come. Jesus could’ve used 4 different words for the word love in his questions. He went straight to the highest, the strongest, the purest, do I Simon, love, agape love, Jesus?

It may be my failures and denials but all I can muster is “you know I love you like a brother, I️ phileo you Jesus”.

He gives me a job. “Feed my lambs”.

Then he asks me again, do I Simon, agape him, Jesus?

“Jesus, I love you, like a brother” is my answer.

“Take care of my sheep”.

He asks again, a third time. I didn’t get why he asked me twice but it becomes clear as he asks the third time, my mind went back to that horrible early morning, my third denial, “I tell you I do not know the man”….and then began swearing like a fisherman.

The third and last question Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me….like a brother?”

I’m hurt and frustrated, so my answer is terse, “ you know all things, you know I love you like a brother..”

Again, “Feed my sheep…”

And then I get the prophecy about my death.

“18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

John 21:18

There are 2 things that encourage me here. “When you are old,” it isn’t eminent, and “old” I will continue to follow Jesus for the rest of my life.

This is one of the memories I think about as I write to those followers of Jesus who will continue after I’m dead. They will continue to tell others about our Jesus.

Add to your faith…brotherly love, and add to that, Agape love, God kind of love, selfless, others first, die in your place, kind of love. Add that to your faith in Jesus. Then you will be able to be fruitful and productive in your faith.

Jesus welcomed me back, I fell, I fell further and harder but his love covered my failures. His love will always do that. It will always cover over our sin.

Invited into the family

Jesus has an exclusive. It is Jesus plus nothing, and Jesus or nothing.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

1 John 1:1-4

There is no one else who can truthfully claim to be the Word of life.

Jesus said in John’s Gospel “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Our culture wants to downgrade Jesus, to make him one of many ways to God, but that is not what he said. He said we can’t get to the Father without going through him. Can Jesus lie and still be perfect? Can he exaggerate and still be sinless? Can he be mistaken and still be trustworthy? It looks like I have a choice to make, he can’t be one of many if he said he is THE way, THE truth and THE life. I choose to believe what he said about himself.

John also said this about Jesus in his Gospel “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1-5

I can’t imagine how cool it would be to hang out with Jesus. John, the writer of this Book was a close friend, maybe the closest friend of Jesus. “We heard him, seen him, touched him…” He’ll say it again, “seen and heard”. John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry. He was one of 3 who got to see him transfigured on the the mountain top.

“Make our joy complete. “ John’s joy was to see people believing in Jesus and being saved. Our family, my dads side, us four siblings, any cousins and aunts and uncles we can gather will be meeting again this year. Loeffelbein’s are descendants of German immigrants. Our family has a history of being hard working industrious people. We know how to work. We don’t know as well how to play, how to relax. We are learning. We do enjoy getting together. There is sweet fellowship. There is family love.

Fellowship with God will be like this except beyond it, way way beyond it. Love that knows no boundaries or limits. Love that knows us completely, faults and fears, failures and foibles and still loves us completely. Engulfed in love, like the security of a warm newborn swaddle and the freedom of a moonlight skinny dip, blended together in perfection. I believe that I cannot fully comprehend what fellowship with God will be but I think it will be like the garden of Eden, fully exposed and unashamed. We receive Jesus not only to escape hell and avoid its tortures but to gain fellowship, with each other, the family of God, and with God our Father.

Jesus knew that sweet fellowship before he left heaven. He left that to come here to earth, to to live and love and serve, and in completion of that service, to suffer and die for our sins, for my sins, then raise to life again and go to back to heaven to intercede for me and make ready a place for me to spend eternity.

Today the Word of life is reaching out to each one of us. What will we do with his offer of forgiveness of sin and eternal fellowship with a God who loves us more and better than we can know or deserve?

Lighter of my world

Was it my fear of the dark that eventually led me to become an electrician? It could just be a coincidence. It still thrills me to go through the process of wiring and conduit and termination of devices, to get to the reveal-drumroll- -click- then let there be light!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7

Electricians participate in what God started at the beginning of creation. He said “let there be light” and there was light. Since God is light, does that mean he just entered the void where nothing was and just him being there brought light? Or did he create light that would be part of creation?

I don’t know and I suppose it doesn’t matter. What matters is that God is light, his character is light. That’s one of the scary things about him. We can’t hide in the shadows, we can’t cover or shade ourselves AND be in his presence. He is light, exposing us his exposure is not intended to shame us, (shame not being the impetus for repentance) but to make us aware of our own condition, our own direction, so we can repent and get set right and get cleaned up.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7

I get dressed in our basement in the morning. I dress in one room then turn off the light as I leave and head for the stairs up and out. Many times the darkness disorients me, I can’t find the stairs or the switch for the lights and I have walked into the walls and or tripped. What if once I found the switch and could see the way up and out, I refused the updated information and continued on my misguided path? that would be silly. So it is when we meet with God and refuse the information that his light of revelation brings us.

Jesus, being God also has character of light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

This quote comes directly after Jesus defended a woman caught in adultery. His light exposed her sin but did not condemn her for it, instead he forgave her.

Someday this light will light the earth , until that day…? What will we do with the light we have experienced that did not condemn but forgave, forgives us? Will we share it? Will we use it? Will we spread it as we share the good news of what Jesus has done in us and can do for anyone else who will confess and believe?

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.

Revelation 21:22-24

Buckle up

We love our stuff. Americans, we love our teams, our beers our coffee, our political parties, our birthday parties, our jeans, our sneakers, our car brands (or truck brands). We love our stuff. I love my stuff.

I love watermelon and I love pepperoni pizza and i love sitcoms and crime dramas and tools and toys. I love cars and trucks, some more than others (wink-wink Rusty!) I love my wife and kids and my grandkids. (This is not a prioritized list).

To not love stuff, well it’s downright unamerican. Who doesn’t love stuff? Who shouldn’t love stuff?

As it turns out… me. I shouldn’t love stuff.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

Everything in the world is good, God declared it so at the end of creation but it has in it an enticement that can lead me away from my love of God. My little human heart has only a certain amount of love. How will that be divided?

If I love God first and foremost it opens the chambers of my life to more love. Like when I see my wife from across the room my pupils dilate. They open up as if to get more of her visage and likeness into my head and heart. When I love God first, my heart is opened up to allow more love for people. When I understand that God is creator of all things then things take on a different level of respect and admiration. I see things as part of a creators creation and I start to see people differently. I start to see Each one as a person created to spend eternity in fellowship with God but just now separated from him by sin.

Unless.

Unless we meet Jesus and accept his gift of reconciliation.

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

Romans 10:9-13

Say out loud “Jesus you are now my Lord, (master-boss-king-ruler-leader) and I believe that you rose from the dead. “

Can it really be that simple?

Yes, but try it and see.

What changes? Down here? Not much. In heaven? There’s a party, in your heart? Sin is forgiven. And the driver seat of your heart is now occupied by the Holy Spirit.

Buckle up. You are beginning a new adventure.