Lukewarm and intermittent

What is worse than a device that doesn’t work at all? I think one that only works some of the time is worse. Intermittent, the word that sends chills down the spine of trouble shooters everywhere.

Phone call to service person.

“When does this problem come up?”

“Intermittently”

Click buzzzz.

At least that’s how I wish i could respond to requests. It is so frustrating to be ready to fix or replace a part, but when I arrive, it’s all working. How can I troubleshoot a problem when it isn’t happening?

I was thinking about this and somehow the words of Jesus came up in my memory.

““I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

Revelation 3:15-16 –

Intermittent Christianity, is that the same as lukewarm? How am I doing with that? Am I a fire lit disciple sometimes but not others? Does my fervor, my heat, my passion go out? Why?

On the other hand I think of the smoldering wick that Jesus won’t snuff out and the bruised reed that Jesus won’t snap off.

Maybe if I were the wick or the reed I would have been broken by external forces, but lukewarmness is a decision I make on my own. My own will will decide what I will be passionate about.

“Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”’

Matthew 12:15-21 –

Maybe I stumbled on the answer. I almost typed “my heart” but changed it to “my will” because my heart is deceptive and wicked. It wants what it wants and will chase any feel good experience it can find. My will, my decisions, I own those. I choose those. Sometimes I choose wrongly but there is forgiveness for mistakes.

I don’t want lukewarmness or intermittent failure. Jesus help me to remain passionate about sharing your love and your truth until I breathe my last breath.

Who are we fighting for?

I am working on a message and I found this verse in Nehemiah 4. The people who had returned from Babylonian captivity were being ravaged by their enemies. They determined to rebuild the walls of the city for protection. Their enemies ridiculed them and threatened them. Nehemiah was undeterred and he encouraged his countrymen with this.

“Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.

Nehemiah 4:14-18 –

As Christians we have learned that we battle not against flesh and bone we battle against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. (Ephesians 6) Our weapons are not Spears and arrows but the word of God and prayer. God loves people and has come to save the lost. I believe the rebuilding we are now doing is rebuilding lives, rebuilding broken hearts and broken homes and giving people sanctuary from very real spiritual enemies.

We work at this rebuilding while wielding the word of God and prayer.

Created in his image

I am his.

Only Jesus can take a tax question and turn it into a spiritual lesson.

God created me. I sold myself into a life of slavery to sin. Sin is in my nature. I’ve committed them all. I’ve never killed but I have hated and Jesus says it’s the same thing. I have never strayed from Marriage vows but I have had thoughts. Jesus said it’s the same thing. I have lied, I have stolen, I have envied and gossiped, and been gluttonous. Of the commandments I have broken them all, from the first “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.” To the last, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ( thanks HGTV).

But I digress. Here is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 22.

“15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

I belong to God because he created me.

“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.”

God’s stamp is on me. But I sold myself to sin. I cannot belong to sin and God at the same time. God wants me back. Not to punish me, but to love on me, like a father does to a repentant wayward child on their return.

He sent Jesus to die a sacrificial death. It’s a death I deserve but Jesus did it for me. And then he raised him back to life so we can be forever together.

Paul said it very well in his letter to the Romans, “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 longs for us all to come back to him. He has made a way through his son Jesus.

Today will you receive the welcome back? If you already have, will you invite someone else to do the same?

Parting message from Venice

Away from Venice

(Originally posted 7-24-2015)

On the train ride from Venice back to Milan there was a storm brewing to the north. There were huge thunderheads forming. As we travelled along I saw one that looked like a man, (a king?) He was seated on a big chair (throne?) but he was rising up. We must’ve turned because the next time I looked out, the formation I saw looked like a crouching lion about to pounce.

The third time I looked out, the window it looked like a popped corn kernel.

We changed trains in Milan and the second train didn’t have air conditioning. Mary began to wilt. She hadn’t had a meal since breakfast at 7 and it was after 5. The clouds continued to gather and the sky darkened to the north. There were 3 train stops between us and our hotel and it looked like Mary would be a puddle of her former self. The temperature was in the lower 90s with 40% humidity

Then the clouds let loose just a little, like a single sweep of the old oscillating sprinkler and the temperature cooled down about 10 degrees. (God applause!)

We exited the train at our our stop but there was no cover. The rain had stopped already. After the two of us working together to figure out how to dial a + (plus sign), Mary called our hotel which was supposed to have a shuttle service. They informed us that the shuttle wasn’t available but that they were only 2 blocks away and suggested that we walk.

I know that this doesn’t seem connected to the clouds but wait.

As we began trudging toward the hotel dragging our 3 suitcases there was a loud thunderclap and then a second one.

(Lest you think us wimps, the first block was like DKs to division, with no sidewalk and no parking lane, just 2 lanes of Italian dinner hour traffic, 4 lanes if you count the scooters, and the there was also the thunder).

We briefly discussed the possibility and probability of being struck by lightning. It was mutually decided if God brought us all the way to Italy, to a tiny train station parking lot to strike us dead? Our number was up.

Instead of braving the traffic we called back to ask for a taxi. The hotel said the shuttle had just got back and would pick us up in 10 minutes. (I think this when the whole “struck by lightning ” came up but I’m too tired to cut and paste).

We did get picked up. We did get our lovely room. We did eat at the hotel restaurant. We did get greeted by the owner who welcomed us in a booming Italian accented voice. We did eat one of the best meals ever eaten by either of us, possibly by anyone ever.

The storm clouds are still all around but the storm seems to be on pause.

Make of these observations what you will, but here is what I think about them.

God is seated on his throne in heaven, but not forever. Not that he will be unseated but that he will arise and stuff will begin to change very rapidly down here.

The lion is the symbol of Venice. Venice needs Jesus. Italy needs Jesus. Churches are everywhere but they are empty. Empty of His people and empty of his spirit.

If God is rising up from his throne we His church need to get busy gathering the harvest. There will be a time when harvest is over. At that time judgement starts coming in buckets and barrels.

I do not know what my role is in this but I’m pretty sure it isn’t what I usually do.

Are you ready for the change that is coming?

Run the race

Dt 34

This passage reminds me of the sovereignty of God. He has the ultimate authority in our lives, even if we don’t acknowledge his existence but especially if we do follow and believe in him.

My finish line may not be the finish line. I trust God to lead me in his way. I confess that I typed those words with trepidation.

Moses got to climb a a mountaintop and see the goal line but he would not get to cross it. The Israelites were camped on the east side of the Jordan river. The promise land was on the west side. 40 plus years Moses had led the people. He was 80 when God spoke to him from the burning bush. He was now 120 years old and as strong as ever yet God said he could not cross over.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.”

Deuteronomy 34:4-7 –

It seemed so minor, Moses’ infraction, his blunder, his sin and yet it kept him out of the promised land.

“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.”

Numbers 20:12-13 –

God is sovereign. We may think we have a plan but God’s will prevails.

“But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory— for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”

Psalm 33:11-22 –

This morning I read Ruth chapter 1.

It is a simple little book about a family from Bethlehem who suffered great loss. Naomi went with her husband and 2 sons to Moab to escape a famine in Israel. Her sons find Moabite wives. But then one by one her men die and she is left with her 2 daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth.

(I want to mention that the family were called Ephrathites. I live in Ephrata Washington and am also an Ephrathite. Our town was called Ephrata because it reminded a visitor of the area around Bethlehem.)

Naomi heard that God had blessed Israel with a good harvest so she decided to go back. Her daughters in law both said they would return with her. She dissuaded them and Orpah returned to her parents but Ruth said this: “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17 –

Ruth’s devotion is touching, but it becomes history changing. Because she would become a part of the lineage of Jesus.

Thank you Ruth for you loyalty and dedication and thank you God for having a plan to save me…and all the other folks too.

Peter James!

(originally posted July 20, 2016)

When you get called by your formal name….

“Peter James!”

Just typing that sent chills of fear through my body because even though you couldn’t hear it, there was my mothers voice in my ear ringing with an angry tone as I typed.

John 21

I think that is what the apostle Peter heard in our text today. Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John.

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’

Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John. There is language here that’s worth looking into if you have the time but what I got this morning was Jesus telling Simon Peter that he would never deny Jesus again.

He had denied Jesus. He denied him 3 times. The last denial was vehemently and with cursing.

On this day, through the catch of fish Jesus provided for this ex-fisherman, he gave him his mission, feeding the sheep Jesus would provide for him and he told him that peter would die a horrible death rather than deny Jesus again.

It’s a good thing to hear that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Even open denial can be forgiven.

Thank you Jesus for forgiving that Peter and for forgiving this Peter all of our sins.