Telling our story

Acts 22

It’s about to get ugly. We know how this part plays out so some of the tension of the moment is drained away but for Paul, living in the moment, being dragged away from a crowd that wanted to tear him, literally tear him apart, “rid the earth of him!”. To be spared their wrath only to be flogged by the rescuers. Fortunately the flogging didn’t happen and his imprisonment became more civil as his Roman citizenship was revealed.

Everywhere Paul went he told his story. What he was, who he met, and how it changed him. He was on the path towards destruction. The church and his own destruction.

I was on the path to my destruction. All of mankind is on that path until Jesus steps in. Any path that doesn’t get intersected by Jesus’ cross, his death and resurrection is a path to self destruction.

I am getting philosophical. Sorry.

We are all walking a path of life. While at a high school concert last night I looked back. I wrestled in the gym next door. I didn’t know when I was wrestling that I would be back 40 years later to listen to a choir concert. While waiting for the music to start i retraced the journey to that concert. It was convoluted and involved a trip to Italy to meet a girl and her family. A girl who now lives in our basement and who invited me to watch her sing. We can all look back but none of us can see into the future. We have today. We have right now.

Do you know Jesus? Do you know he loves you? He died to save you from your sins. Because you are reading this His cross stands in your path today. Will you accept his offer to forgive your sin and save you?

If yes, welcome to the family. Message me and tell me your story.

Promise keeper

Who is this God we serve?

Psalm 89 starts out with praise of God. It talks about how awesome He is. How he is the creator of everything and then it reminds God of his promises to King David and his line.

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;

with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known

through all generations.

2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,

that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

I have sworn to David my servant,

4 ‘I will establish your line forever

and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]

“11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;

you founded the world and all that is in it.

12 You created the north and the south;

Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.

13 Your arm is endowed with power;

your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.”

So God is good, he is powerful, he is creative and creator. He has promised special favors. Good good good. Yes.

But here’s the problem. Life is in shambles. Enemies have attacked and are tearing up home. Literally destroying and killing.

Now what? Why go through the process of recounting the goodness of God and his promises before telling God about the destroyer in the backyard banging on your door?

When we are reminding God of his power and his promises are we really reminding him? Does he forget? I think we are the forgetters. But it also sets up why we can expect anything more out of life than scraping up enough food to stay alive, procreating, getting sick and dying like animals. Aren’t we just animals? Not according to God. We wouldn’t know who we are or what we are or what more there was to life without Gods word. Reminding him reminds us that he is Almighty God. He is not some mighty, a little mighty, sort of mighty he is All Mighty. He is creator. He is sustainer. He is the maker and keeper of promises. Why did the psalmist have hope or expectations of David’s lineage? Because God said so. So what? We all make grandiose statements sometimes. God is the only one who can promise and keep his promises, all of his promises.

We can turn to God. We can vent. But while venting I will try to also say why I expect more from my existence. I have seen and heard God working. I have read his proclamation of love for me and for a sick and dying world and so now I have hope for more out of life.

“46 How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?

How long will your wrath burn like fire?

47 Remember how fleeting is my life.

For what futility you have created all humanity!

48 Who can live and not see death,

or who can escape the power of the grave?

49 Lord, where is your former great love,

which in your faithfulness you swore to David?

50 Remember, Lord, how your servant has[g] been mocked,

how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,

51 the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,

with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.

52 Praise be to the Lord forever!

Amen and Amen.”

Can God use my life?

Acts 21

Was Paul brave or was he stubborn?

In my mind the answer is yes.

“10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”’

Paul went on to Jerusalem. He went to the temple and there was beaten by a mob and arrested by a Roman commander.

We can only imagine what the world and Christianity would be like without Paul, his message to the people then and his message to us now. He wrote most of the New Testament 13 books. Much of that he wrote from prison.

Paul wrote in Romans 8: “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.”

God can use whatever situation we are in, and wherever we are for the good. Not just for our own good but for the good of the world. Jesus died to save the world, the people of the world. You and me, Us and our neighbors.

Good news. God loves us, died for us, lives again and is waiting to use us to enlarge his kingdom.

But why?

When is God worthy of praise? If he is who he says he is? Always. All of the time.

One of the many reasons I am still in love with my wife Mary is that she is an encourager. She is actively looking for the positive in people and in our life. With God you don’t have to search long to find something to praise. He is THE God. The almighty, the wise one, the one who knows, the one who loves, the one who forgives. It’s like looking at a diamond and trying to decide which facet is my favorite. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. He is all good. He is all beautiful.

Life isn’t always a great place to be. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going anticipating more of the same. But God is always good. He is always just. He is always loving. He is always compassionate. He is always all of the things he is. Like the sun is always shining, even on a cloudy day. Someday the sun will burn out but God will still be there being who he is and has been.

Psalm 86 is a plea for help but is dripping with praise for this God we worship. Why? Because he’s worth it.

“1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord,

for I call to you all day long.

4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,

for I put my trust in you.

5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good,

abounding in love to all who call to you.

6 Hear my prayer, Lord;

listen to my cry for mercy.

7 When I am in distress, I call to you,

because you answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;

no deeds can compare with yours.

9 All the nations you have made

will come and worship before you, Lord;

they will bring glory to your name.

10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;

you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, Lord,

that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,

that I may fear your name.

12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;

I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the depths,

from the realm of the dead.

14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;

ruthless people are trying to kill me—

they have no regard for you.

15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,

slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;

show your strength in behalf of your servant;

save me, because I serve you

just as my mother did.

17 Give me a sign of your goodness,

that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

I hope for us all that no matter what situation we are in today that we can pause just a moment and look at God and tell Him what we see in Him. Be honest. He can take it. An honest prayer of frustration is better than a fake prayer of praise. I believe He is worthy of praise, but I also know there is pain and hurt that we don’t understand and it can filter our view of Him like the clouds block the sun and make everything look shadowy and sad. I know he loves us. I know he loves me. I know he loves you.

How do I know that? Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, (Jesus) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Being perfect

Perfection, his name is Jesus.

I usually focus what I post on the grace of God. That quality he has of unmerited favor toward us.

Today I am brought back to the law, THE law, the 10 commandments. As I’m reading through the psalms they refer to them over and over. The law, the 10 commandments were to be the framework of life. They were to be on the wrists and forehead. (As Willy Nelson said, “you were always on my mind…”)They were to be written on door posts and gates. They were to always Be out there to remind the people of God what the rules to life are.

“6 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

7 “You shall have no other gods before[b] me.

8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

17 “You shall not murder.

18 “You shall not commit adultery.

19 “You shall not steal.

20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

(If you feel like you are doing okay with the list let me add 2 addendums. Jesus said if you lust after another person, you’ve already done the deed in your heart. If you hate someone, you have already murdered them in your heart. )

As a Christian I use the list to remind myself how I should live but do not live. What is the point? The point is I am reminded that I cannot live a perfect life. I need Jesus death to pay for my mistakes. In order to be in Gods presence I need to be not just good, but I need to be perfect. The only way a sinner like me can be perfect is be covered in a coating of someone else’s perfection. Who will loan me a covering of perfection? I only know one person both willing and able. His name is Jesus.

The not-so-merry-Go-round

Sometimes when I’m hurt or angry I don’t go to Jesus first. I know what he will say, forgive as you have been forgiven. I don’t want to forgive, I was wronged or damaged or disappointed and it hurts. I want to be coddled and soothed and petted and sided with. I have unmet expectations and the world is not serving me like it should.

That’s a dangerous place to be. There is someone who will cuddle me and soothe me and take my side. He is no friend. He is the enemy of my soul. He wants me to build a case, build a wall, build my resentment, build my anger all the while he wants to tear me down, tear me away, tear me apart. He will do anything it takes to keep me from remembering Jesus’ words, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:12,14-15

If he succeeds in getting me to stumble, then he has a wedge between God and me. Now not only am I angry but now I am also ashamed. I want to cleanse myself before I approach God but there is no way to pre-rinse the stain of sin.

Jesus always meets me where I am. Meets me in my need.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

If you who are reading this and are stuck in the hurt/anger/sin/shame cycle too, let us both jump off of this not-so-merry-go-round and ask forgiveness and also be forgiven. I also want to go back up the path of my life and see where I can begin to apply God’s word in my life so I can avoid this Nauseating cycle.

Jesus forgive me. I also forgive those who’ve hurt me. Help me avoid this cycle Jesus, show me in your word how to live better. Amen?

When faith feels old

Psalm 77 written by Asaph.

He was suffering from insomnia and here is what he did.

““Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.

What god is as great as our God?

14 You are the God who performs miracles;

you display your power among the peoples.

15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,

the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.”

There is much trouble today. I need to remember that God remains the same. The same God that rescued the Israelites through (not around) the Red Sea, brought them through, the wilderness, brought them through,(not around) the flood swollen Jordan river is working in my world today.

I’m not feeling strong or brave or even awake yet but I have this growing hope that God will be with me today.

I was wondering what I should add to this and that verse, God graciously giving us all things, if God is for us etc. I couldn’t remember where it was. Romans 8:28? I opened my bible randomly to start to find it and opened to the page. So here it is:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sometimes my faith feels like a month old get well balloon. It barely has enough gas to stay afloat. I need a refill. Theses verses help fill me back up. I hope they do the same for you.