Giving thanks and praise

I finished reading through the Psalms. I actually finished yesterday but I read through the last 3 again today.

148 is great because it reminds all of Gods creation from sea creatures to stars to praise the Lord.

Why?

“13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.”

God’s s horn was the psalmists’ hope. That “horn” we know today is Jesus. Our hope is in God’s son Jesus. Our hope for forgiveness, for freedom, for life both here and in eternity is all in Jesus. This hope is not disappointed.

Psalm 149 has a different reason to praise God, still valid but not as light and hopeful.

“6 May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
7 to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
9 to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the Lord.”

There is a day coming when evil will be punished. God will set things right. Injustice will be punished. God is watching everyone and everything. The pain that I have caused, the rules that I have broken, the people that I have hurt, the damage I have done? All these things are under the covering of Jesus’ forgiveness. Somehow God will set it right and I will not be punished because Jesus took my punishment upon himself. His beating and death on a cross should have been mine. But he loved me enough, loved us enough, to die in my, in our place.

Psalm 150 ends with an admonition.

“Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”

If I am breathing? I should be praising. God is always, eternally and in each moment of my life, worthy of praise.

My post election post

This morning I read Psalm 146. The psalms even cover and/or apply to post election America.

“1 Praise the Lord.[a]
Praise the Lord, my soul.
2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.”

As christians, We have a mission. It hasn’t changed since Jesus left to prepare a place for us. We are to let the world know about Him.

After Jesus rose from the grave and before he ascended into heaven he left us with these words, “4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In light of the election don’t lose hope. In light of the election don’t put your hope in the wrong person. In light of the fact that we are alive today let’s remind ourselves of who is King no matter who is president and let’s get on with our mission. Who can I tell about What Jesus has done in my life? How can I live to best show the change in my heart?

And as the psalmist started and ended his song, Praise the Lord!

James 2b.

Or not 2b. That’s not the question.

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Can we have a saving faith in Jesus without it changing our behavior? Is our faith in Jesus real if it doesn’t prompt us to act on the behalf of those around us with needs that we can meet? Real faith will change us. Real faith will not only cleanse our hearts, cleanse our minds, break chains from the past, change our thoughts and emotions but it will also cause us to do. Do stuff. Do stuff for people. Otherwise this faith in Jesus is not faith but an idea about or an opinion about Jesus. It’s not faith in Him until it grabs ahold of us and we start sharing the love and the possessions we have been given with others.

The 2 examples James gives us, Abraham and Rahab acted on what they believed and showed by their actions that their faith in God was real.

“You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
James 2:20-26 – NIV

At the end of the storm in Spokane this week there were 206,000 people without power. No heat, no way to cook, no lights, no refrigerators. 2 of those households are my kids. I’m not sure how I will help but can it be just “stay warm guys, love ya”? How will I help? How will my faith take action?

“26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Gross

Ten gross. A gross is 144. 1440 is ten times 144. Ten gross. That’s how many minutes we have in a day. I have recently been told by my governor that for 25 minutes once a week I cannot corporately sing with other believers in Jesus inside my church building. That leaves me a lot of minutes to praise my Jesus in all the other ways and all the other places in my life. 1415 minutes per day. I can probably think of something or some way to express my worship of the king of kings and Lord of lords in that amount of time. Hmmm. 1440 times 7 Minus 25. That’s still a lot of minutes to praise the one who died for my sins and rose again and now lives forever to intercede for me❤️

The original counter culture

James 2

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Maybe it’s contagious. This wealth thing. We tend to want to hang out with wealthy people. Remember the show “lifestyles of the poor and destitute”? No wait, that wasn’t it, it was the “rich and famous”. Our human nature wants to associate with wealth and success. Could it be that we think it might rub off? At the very least, rich people have cool stuff. Cool stuff is fun and expensive and so it is rare. Hanging with rich people we might get to play with their stuff. But human nature is almost always counter to Christian belief and practice.

The kingdom of God is upside down to the world. Our king laid down his life and died for us. Our king washed his friends feet. Our king never had a palace or a throne or a scepter. Our king was born in a barn and slept in a feeding trough. Our king carried his own cross.

Christianity is counter cultural and sometimes counter intuitive. It doesn’t always make sense.

“5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

Favoritism = adultery = murder. That is not good math. Not in my mind. It’s like saying a penny equals a million dollars because favoritism is a penny sin, murder? That’s a million dollar sin. Am I right? No. I am completely wrong. Sin = all other sin. Sin is sin.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

There is hope. Our God is merciful. He expects us, once we have experienced his mercy, to extend his mercy to the world around us.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Mercy. Not getting what we do deserve. Grace. Getting what we do not deserve. They are what distinguishes Christianity. That and the fact our savior rose from the dead. Yes, I said fact. Feels harsh to leave I there but I’m going to.

No I can’t. Jesus loves us. He died to wash away our sin. He lives to intercede on our behalf. Won’t you accept that gift today?

Boogers and sewage and how to deal with them

James 1 part 2

We left off at verse 13.

“13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

The wages of sin is death. That is not good news. It’s not even news. It’s on the news.

But the gift of God is eternal life, throughJesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

That there? That is good news.

Every good thing comes from God who does not change. He doesn’t adjust himself to fit in.

“19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

The righteous life is not brought about by anger. The word brings life.

We can’t just listen to the words of God, we must act on them.

“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Have I ever looked in a mirror, saw a booger hanging out of my nose and just walked away without getting rid of the booger? What if Gods word shows us we have spiritual boogers? Do we leave them and go on with life or do we act to change the boogers?

(Be honest, did you just touch your nose? I did. I hate boogers. Spiritual or otherwise.)

“26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Are we about the real business of Christianity? Are we Helping those who cannot help themselves? And are we keeping ourselves from being polluted?

There is raw spiritual sewage that people are drowning in. Our job as Christians is to rescue them from the sewage without getting ourselves sick. I have had to check monitoring devices in our sewage lift station at work. One rule is to Keep our mouth closed, another is to keep our hands clean. Wash up after. Is there a spiritual application there?

Jesus help us. Keep us healthy as we go about the rescue.

How long will His love last?

Moon is out.

Psalm 136

“1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.”

The moon was God’s idea. The moon, he created it. He spoke into being. There once was no moon or stars but God created them and now they exist and we gaze at them and wonder.

I give thanks to this God, my God who can create moons out of nothing and suspend them in nothing to brighten up my night.

His love endures forever.

Our work and our money

1 Timothy 6

“6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.”

Slavery was a reality, just part of life. If a person was enslaved and a believer, they should be the best slave possible. Respect their master, even more if the master is a believer. I am not a slave but I still have people in authority over me. My direct boss is a Christian. I need to respect him and do my best for him and for Jesus who is watching us both.

And speaking of making money:
“6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Money is a reality. We need it to do what we have to do. Even good and Godly activities take money. Money is not the end, it’s a means to an end. For about $15 we can provide a kid whose parents are in jail a Christmas present through Angel Tree. For $39 a month we can support an impoverished kid in a 3rd world country through compassion international. There is Samaritans Purse and shoebox gift program. There is no end to the needs of people. There are people who need help right where we live. Make as much money as we can not so that we have more but so we can give more.

“17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

If I could have a sign off I think this next section of the letter would be it.
“11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

Yes! Amen.

(If you’ve been reading these posts of mine and you have given your heart and life to Jesus, to make it official you need to tell some one. Tell a friend. Tell a pastor, tell your spouse, tell me. Leave me a note in the comments. Thank you for reading and studying Gods word with me. May God bless you and make your faith in him and your understanding of him grow.)

And this how we live it out

1Timothy 5

Practical advice for followers of Jesus.

Our pastor will often say this to our congregation, “when you’re here, you are family”.

Paul says pretty much the same thing, ” Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

We are a family. Family takes care of our own.

“3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

There were no programs or institutions for the care of the less fortunate. It was all done person to person. I guess that’s not completely true. There was the “list”. Widows who were over 60 and had no family but who were still active in their faith doing good could be put on a support list.

Paul is very practical and realistic here. He notes that younger women will want to remarry, that idle people tend toward gossip and being busybodies. My mom’s favorite saying was “idle hands are the devils playground”. I had at least 4 after school jobs. And yet still I found time to get into mischief.

More advice; if we have a widow in our family we should take ownership of their care, pay your pastor well, don’t believe every accusation that you hear, require witnesses, if an elder sins rebuke them publicly, don’t show favoritism, don’t be hasty to advance people in the church, wine occasionally is good, we are being watched, our sins and our good deeds are being noted, by God and by those around us.

Long chapter. Jesus loves us and cares about the needs of our lives. We need to help others when we can and be open to receive help when we need it. To be The church, we need to act as Jesus with skin on.

Is it time?

1 Timothy 4

The food network got this one right; All food is good. (Even beets?) no food is on the naughty list. And speaking of naughty, marriage isn’t naughty, it is good. I would add that for me it has been very good.

“3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

There are things we should avoid.

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.”

And here is the thing to not forget, the key, the center of the message, the reason for it all, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Jesus saves. Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus wants to restore us. Restore the broken parts, the parts that hurt us. He wants to heal us from the the inside out. When I think about restoring I think about my old truck Rusty and what all I’ve done to get him drive able, useful. A labor, a labor of love. The goal has never been to make him glisten but to make him road worthy. To get him back in service. In many people’s eyes he was just an old carcass, a pile of junk, a waste of space but I saw what he was meant to be. (https://www.facebook.com/Rustys-Page-532927836827647/ )

Some of us feel that way, like a pile of junk but God sees us through eyes of a loving Father who knows our potential. No one knows better the capability of a thing than the designer/architect/craftsman who designed and built it. I am
Limited in my skills, abilities and resources for Rusty. God is not limited in any way with us. He knows what we can be and has the skills and resources to make us just that.

Today are you ready to surrender yourself to our father for rebuilding and restoration? The process can begin with a prayer.

A word to the men

1 Timothy 3

Overseers (Pastors) and deacons qualifications.

“3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

The online version that I’ve been using is just a little different than the one that I have been reading. My hard copy says “the husband of but one wife” where this one says “faithful to his wife”. Same idea, being faithful.

Men this is a gold standard list. Orderliness, a life of order and self control. A man who has himself under control. A man who can bring order and control to a system prone to disorder and chaos, his family. It’s not by might or power or vocal volume. It’s by a heart and mind lead and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God in my head and in my heart can bring order first to me then help show, guide and direct those around me to what God has shown me in his word. It is so much easier to read and write about than to do it. Husbands and Fathers, this is the list we are to aspire to. It won’t be easy but that’s why God has called us specifically to the wife and family that we have. We are the specific men for our specific families.

Men, We may not ever lead a church but we are given the opportunity to lead our families. It won’t be by grit or self determination it will be by humbly submitting ourselves to God and being servant leaders in our own homes.

Men the call on us is to pastor our families. Are we up for the challenge? What if our family is a basket case? The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. The same goes for pastoring our families. We can only use the second best time, today. Give God our past and present and see what will grow in our future.

What color is your poo?

I apologize for the grossnicity of this but I have come to the conclusion that we are not fed by what we poop out. We are fed by what we digest and absorb.

I recently met with my pastor Rory Lewellyn and we were talking about some struggles I was having. He said that he thought part of my problem was I wasn’t assimilating the word that I was reading. To Paraphrase, I wasn’t digesting the word.

It wasn’t too long after that that God gave me a picture of what Rory was talking about. It was big pile of red poop. There is a colony of rock chucks out where i take my walks. On my daily walk I came across a big pile of red poo. Not red with blood, red from whatever the pooper had eaten. Upon closer inspection (not too close) I could see fruit pits, like from cherries. The body of those animal that pooped this didn’t absorb much from this food. The food was unchanged and so the animal didn’t get much nutritional value from the food.

I read in the book of James this morning. Here is what I read: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:22-27

Read the word, then Assimilate, absorb, digest, act on, allow it to change, guide and direct me.

Is the study of God’s word having an effect on me? Is my life changing? Am I doing the basics of caring for those in need around me? Am I guarding my tongue?

Is the word of God in me coloring my life? Or just coloring my “poo”? How about you? Are you reading God’s word? Is it changing how you think? How you act? What you value?

Hmmm. Something to think about.

Living in the now

Living the Matthew 29 life. There is no Matthew 29. Matthew ends at chapter 28 now the followers of Jesus get to carry the message forward.

“And thenHe ascended into heaven from whence he shall come to judge the Quick and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

I quote from memory, part of the apostles creed. (It was my favorite, the Nicene creed was longer ).

3 of the 4 Gospels have a commissioning by Jesus before his ascension. Matthew’s goes like this: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus ascended into heaven. In Acts Luke says “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:10-11

Editorially I will add that the angels were implying “didn’t our master and your master just give you a job to do? Will you now get moving on that job?”

Here we are, His church, His people, and we still have the same job to do. We are to make disciples of all nations. When we think about sharing the story of Jesus with the entire world it is overwhelming. Let’s just start with one. A neighbor or a co-worker. That too can be scary. It scares me. But what is the alternative for these people we know who don’t know Jesus? The alternative is that they will enter eternity not hearing about the God who loves them, who suffered and died to save them and now lives forever to intercede for them.

We live in the next chapter, we live in the era of being The commissioned. We live in Matthew 29. How are we doing on sharing our story, the story of being redeemed, bought back from slavery by a loving God?

Here is a Facebook challenge, share your redemption story with one person this week.

(P.S. It occurs to me that not everyone has a redemption story. If you are reading this and you don’t have a story to tell about how Jesus forgvave all of your sins and became your Lord and master you can begin the story today. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that he rose from the dead, you will be saved”)

An inconvenient truth

An inconvenient truth. That is what Jesus’ resurrection was to the Jewish leaders. They got the story, the whole story from the guards but chose to invent a lie to maintain the status quo.

Matthew 28 tells us the story.

“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Matthew 28:11-15

They did the wrong thing. They lied and bribed to cover the truth about Jesus.

The question always comes back to us though, what do we believe about Jesus? Who is he? What do his life and death mean for us? Did he really rise from the dead? Where is he now?

The apostle Peter said this to the Jewish leaders after healing a man born lame.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

The inconvenient truth is there is no body in Jesus’ tomb because God raised him from the dead. The truth is inconvenient only for those who don’t believe that Jesus came to die for us sinners and to be raised back to life on the third day.

What do you believe about Jesus?

The letters from Paul

1 Timothy 1

Timothy, that young man that joined Paul and Barnabus in Lystra. He is now Pastoring the church in Ephesus.

Paul calls him “a true son in the faith”.

This is a tough town. It’s where Paul & Silas got thrown into prison for setting a slave girl free from her demonic possession. Then they had church in chains and were set free by a God Ordained earthquake.

Paul was asked to leave the city but he sent Timothy back in.

This letter is advice to pastor in the thick of it and to a young man living in a sensual city.

We’ll get to the advice later, I was impressed with this in my reading this morning.

Paul sums up his life and ministry I chapter 1.

“12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Yes Paul, what you said. Yes.

The gospel equalizes us all. We are all sinners who need a savior. Jesus has died for us all. The state of grace, being forgiven, is a confession, belief in His resurrection and an acceptance of His gift away.

Someday by God

Dare to dream with me. But first the current situation.

From Wikipedia:

The military budget is a large portion of the discretionary United States federal budget allocated to the Department of Defense, or more broadly, the portion of the budget that goes to any military-related expenditures. The military budget pays the salaries, training, and health care of uniformed and civilian personnel, maintains arms, equipment and facilities, funds operations, and develops and buys new items. The budget funds five branches of the U.S. military: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Space Force.

For Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020), the Department of Defense’s budget authority is approximately $721.5 billion ($721,531,000,000). However, total U.S. military spending is estimated to be around $934 billion in 2020-21.[1][2] Approximately $712.6 billion is discretionary spending with approximately $8.9 billion in mandatory spending. The Department of Defense estimates that $689.6 billion ($689,585,000,000) will actually be spent (outlays).[3] Both left-wing and right-wing commentators have advocated for the cutting of military spending.[4][5]

There is a day coming when we will no longer spend time or money on defense. Weird to think about. Difficult to imagine. What will all those who have served in a military capacity do? Live. Love. Grow. Build. Worship God. (?) thank You to all who have or are serving in a military capacity. May God bless you and protest you.

But someday all this will change…

“In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the Lord ’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.”

Isaiah 2:2-4 – NLT

This will be accomplished, not by human will or imagination or effort. It will be accomplished by the power of the same God who raised Jesus from the dead.

We as a culture seem to think that we can do it on our own, create a world of peace. I don’t think that it is possible. Our hearts just aren’t capable because of our inborn proclivity towards selfishness.

Imagine what we could do, who we could help, how we could help those who need help if we weren’t spending our time and money and attention on defending ourselves. Someday, by God, it will happen. By God.

Final chapter but the story continues

Acts 28

The final chapter but it isn’t the end.

Paul and crew arrive safely on Malta. They winter there. While there Paul shows Gods love and power by getting bit by a snake and not dying and healing all of the sick on the island.

Life is more than cause and effect. Karma doesn’t work. “3 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. 4 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.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 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.”

What I’m getting out of this is that Life is neither random nor predictable. Our life and our time is ordered by God.

After leaving Malta, Paul finally arrived in Rome and was able to stay in a rented house under Roman guard. He first went to the Jewish population, when some rejected his message he went to the Gentiles.

“30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”

What was next for Paul? Well he wrote most of the New Testament. And then? Tradition says he died for his faith.

“Concerning the time, place, and manner of his death, we have little certainty. It is commonly believed that, when a general persecution was raised against the Christians by Nero, about A.D. 64, under pretence that they had set Rome on fire, both St. Paul and St. Peter then sealed the truth with their blood; the latter being crucified with his head downward; the former being beheaded, either in A.D. 64 or 65, and buried in the Via Ostiensis. “

Thanks for following with me as we read through Acts. Even in ship wrecks and snake bites God was working in Paul’s life. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves today, God is still working in our lives to bless us and expand his kingdom.

May God bless your day.

Though our sins be as scarlet…

Isaiah

God is fed up. Can I say that? God is frustrated. But is that accurate? God is weary of his people and their sins.

The people of Israel are wearing and living in the fruit of their rebellion, the desolation of their homes and the injuries to themselves and to the land.

Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot— covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds— without any soothing ointments or bandages. Your country lies in ruins, and your towns are burned. Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes and destroy everything they see.

Isaiah 1:4-7 – NLT

The people are continuing to show up at church with their offerings like nothing is wrong. It’s just part of the week. They spend one day, well a few hours-of one day with God, then go on in their rebellion.

Traditions go on. Sacrifices and celebration with no thought to what they mean or why they are performed. Sacrifices without a change in behavior or more importantly, a change of heart and mind. God hates that.

Hate is a strong word. When our kids were still little the word hate was a four letter word, well I guess it still is, but it was like a curse word. It wasn’t allowed in our house. Yet here we have God saying he hates something his people are doing. What he hates is that church just keeps on going. All the pomp and ceremony. But the people’s hearts are not in it.

“Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Isaiah 1:10-17 – NLT

There is hope for them then and there is hope for us now. God is a God of love and mercy and grace. He longs to forgive and restore.

‘“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!”’

Isaiah 1:18-20 – NLT

I am not one of the people referred to in this section of scripture and yet my heart and mind are susceptible to the same things. I am just as easily numbed to my own sin and will carry on with all my religious repetition to maintain the status quo.

There have been times when my body may be in church but my heart is far from God. God does not want my limp and lame participation in pomp. He wants my heart, my passion to be for him and for his cause. In a love relationship both parties want the heart of the other to desire, to long for intimacy and closeness. God, in his love for us, longs for us to love him, heart, soul mind and body.

Someone asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. His answer?

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40 – NLT

Our sins can be forgiven. Our worship can be from the heart and not from rote or ritual. Our relationship with God can be a passionate love of a God who first loved us. Our relationship with the rest of our needy broken world can be as a loving servant caring for the weak and needy.

Where are we today? Is confession and repentance needed? God longs for our hearts to be clean and to be completely his.

Rough seas on the way to Rome

Acts 27

Luke Aristarchus and Paul along with 273 sailors soldiers and prisoners set sail that day…I really want to sing “for a three hour tour..” But it was towards Rome. Things did not go well.

A really bad storm came up. Luke says, “when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we gave up all hope of being saved.”

Storms are a part of sailing. Troubles and trials are a part of life. Every life will encounter them. How will we respond?

Paul was told by Jesus that he would go to Rome. Then while on the ship he was encouraged again by an Angel.

“Last night an angel of God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t without struggle or peril. “42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.”

There is no standard or rule that I can see that God uses to get people where he wants them and we do not know how our patience and confidence in an unseen God is affecting those around us. An all-knowing God makes plans that baffle the unknowing people who serve him. Yet, he cares, yet He sees, yet he knows and provides.

I think I can say safely this, if you are his, you are, right now right where he wants you. I am right where he wants me. Today that is a very uncomfortable spot. I am out on a figurative ledge way beyond my comfort zone, not even in the same ZIP code as my comfort zone. Help me Jesus. Use me while I’m here. But don’t leave me here.

Here is Paul’s story

Acts 26

Paul’s trial before King Agrippa.

We hear more of what happened on the road to Damascus. We get more of the conversation.

“12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[a] ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

Paul loved God. He grew up
Loving God and learning about him. During his days persecuting the church he was defending the God he loved from attack, or so he thought.

It seems as though Judaism was a vehicle to bring us Jesus who is the fulfillment of all the promises of the past. Kind of like the ark of Noah binging mankind from one place to another. We don’t still live in the ark but we still live because of the ark.

As Paul said, “22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”’

“29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”’

So I invite you to receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness for your sins. Today. I did it by just admitting that I needed forgiveness and then acknowledging that Jesus’ gift was for me too.

Thank you Jesus for your ongoing work in my life. I fail you so often yet you are always faithful to forgive.