“Though in your sin you are undeserving and undesirable, He loves you when your mind disavows it, your heart dodges it, and your soul dismisses it. He loves you right now as you are, not as you think you should be.”
(Someone else said that. When I find the quote I will give them the credit).
I don’t have to shower or shave, to change my socks or undies or my habits before God will love me. He just loves me.
I put a period at the end of that last sentence but my emotions want to put a question mark there. Even me? Even me God? Have you seen me? Have you looked at all of my life?
Yes he has, and the truth is still the same for even me. For God so loved (my name here) that he gave his one and only son so that (my name here) would believe in Him, he gave the power to become a child of God and give him not death, but eternal life. That was John 3:16 from a paraphrased memory. Here it’s quoted:
“John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world (our name here)that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever (and here)believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world (and here), but to save the world (and here) through him. “
I rejoice that so many of my Christian friends read my early morning devotional ramblings but I also hope that someone who doesn’t know about Jesus love for them yet might read this or at least hear the message. Will you, the person reading this, tell one other person today that God loves them and Jesus came to die for them so they can share in God’s love and have eternal life? At least one?
King Hezekiah was a descendant of king David. He took the throne at age 25. “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 2 Chronicles 29:1-2 – NIV
Hezekiah was king of Judah, the southern tribes which were the tribe of Judah and Benjamin. The nation of Israel had originally been 12 tribes but under King David’s grandson Rehaboam, the northern 10 tribes had broken away, established Samaria as their capital and adopted pagan Gods to lead them. Judah, with its capital as Jerusalem had the temple of God but it had been neglected and abandoned because the people of Judah had also been worshipping pagan Gods.
Hezekiah made an effort to humbly return to the Lord and Invited his people and his neighbors to the north to return to the Lord.
“At the king’s command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read: “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but people scorned and ridiculed them. Nevertheless, some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem. Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord. A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread in the second month. They removed the altars in Jerusalem and cleared away the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley. 2 Chronicles 30:6-14 – NIV
The people of God as directed and invited by their king came and worshipped God. They repented of their sins, they humbled themselves and then they gathered together and cleared away anything and everything that wasn’t part of worshipping God and then worshipped God. God is always worthy of worship. No matter how bad things are.
Our worship of God is not determined by our circumstances. Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned, locked in chains inside a prison cell. Here is their story found in the book of Acts.
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved —you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Acts 16:22-34 – NIV
In the current pandemic the response of our government has been restrictive to us, with them imposing rules about if and how we meet, what we can and can’t do, all with the intent to keep us from spreading the COVID virus. No physical torture has been involved, no prison cells, no chains. Can we still worship? It feels as though our system of worship has been torn down, or filled up with distractions and road blocks like for King Hezekiah and his people. We can still praise our God. Our circumstances do not change who God is. They do not, cannot change what God has done for us. He has given us his son as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins.
Maybe our 21st century Christianity has gotten cluttered up with stuff that doesn’t belong in our worship of God, and through COVID-19, God has given us an opportunity to clear away the rubbish that has been a distraction to us, keeping us from mindful, soulful, heartfelt and rigorous worship of God.
I have a request for all my readers; Don’t quit worshipping the God who sent us his only son Jesus. Don’t quit worshipping the God who sacrificed his son to die and be raised to life on the third day. Do not quit worshipping the God who took Jesus to heaven so he could prepare a place for us and then sent Hod the Holy Spirit to be with us, in us and working through us.
No matter what, We can continue to worship God. Will we?
Romans twelve. The lifestyle chapter. If you want to know how apply Christianity to life this would be good chapter to memorize.
This morning I can’t stop thinking that this chapter is the Mayberry RFD of Christianity. Our pastor for the last 27 years has been Rory Lewellyn. One of his favorite TV shows is the Andy Griffith show which is about a simple little rural town called Mayberry. It is set in the simpler times of the early 1960s Over the last 27 years Mayberry has come up frequently in Rory’s sermons. Now to me, the Andy Griffith show will always be linked to my faith in and my following of Jesus. Romans 12 seems like the back story for the characters of the Andy Griffith show but my life isn’t fictional, I don’t have writers feeding me my lines. Life is real and Romans 12 gives me, gives us, the guidance we need to live in reality, here and now, even through a pandemic.
Offer our bodies as living sacrifices
Don’t conform but be transformed by renewing our mind
Be humble and also know that we have a place in the body of Christ and so to we have a job to do for and with the body of Christ
Love, love with sincerity Be joy full, be hope full, be patient full (?)
Be real with those around us, cry and laugh when appropriate
We don’t get to get our revenge. Our story should never make a good spy novel.
Live at peace, as far as it is possible, with everyone
Give your enemy his needs, food and water
Do not be overcome with evil but reverse that, overcome evil with good
And now, like the show begins and ends with a dad and his boy whistling while walking to the fishing hole, I will whistle a tune and smile. Knowing who I am and whose I am. I Probably won’t fish for fish but I might fish for men. A very mayberrian life.
Epilogue. Our pastor Rory is retiring and moving out of town. He has been a faithful friend and guide and teacher to Mary and I and our family. This Sunday will be the his last Sunday in our churches “pulpit“. (We don’t actually a pulpit, he usually preaches from a music stand). We wish him well and send him with many blessings onto and into his new adventures in service and ministry. We are forever changed because of his serving us here. May God bless and provide and guide you Pastors Rory and Debbie Lewellyn and bring much more fruitful ministry into your life. Thank you for sharing your life and faith with us. We love you both.
I had it all wrong as a child. It was a pleasant idea. It made my parents smile when I told them how I thought it worked. As a kid I thought everyone believed in Jesus. I also thought that Jesus was running the world from an office building in New York City
I was about 6 at the time. Something I heard on the news was talking about Israel and the Jews. I didn’t know that some of Gods people hadn’t accepted Jesus as their messiah. I was shocked that not everyone believed in Jesus.
Romans 11 talks about this.
“25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.”
I am one of those Gentiles that God has been gathering in. I am so grateful. When he is all done with that, all of us gathered, things are going to change here. Wouldn’t it be cool to be part of the action that brings the last Gentile to Jesus? What can I do to participate in that?
Once that happens something miraculous is going to happen amongst the Jews, The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the sons and daughters of Israel will see Jesus for who he is, the son of God and the savior of us all.
I can’t do it. I want to but I can’t. Fit in. Mold myself to the culture around me. I try but I can’t. I get stuck half way. Wanting to conform but this whole Jesus thing, his love for me, his sacrifice, he died for me, it calls me back. Most of my day I spend running back and forth between two masters. How can I just stop being drawn away from Jesus who loves me, to the world and worldly pleasures that I love?
I read a verse today, I have read it many times, but if I put this into practice, I will be launched and supported in the way I should go.
“Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.
Putting this into practice will mean I act on this verse by adding the rest of the Bible, bit by bit, to my heart and head. Head and heart, I know what it says, and I believe it, and I do it.
I have been a Christian since 1981 and in that time I have gone through seasons of intensely following Jesus and seasons of coasting, like journeying up a river, against the flow, and then at times pulling in the oars, laying down and taking a nap, waking to find that the boat that is my life didn’t stay where I pulled in the oars. What a rude way to wake up, with the roar of the falls of destruction in my ears, and the mists of the tears of the fallen on my face.
The Christian life is rowing the boat against the current of our culture and our world, but not in judgement of those around us floating with the flow, in concern and care of them, warning, loving, helping.
I’ve been reading through the book of Romans this year. I started in January. I read through a chapter a day and start over when I’m done with chapter 16.
This month I have been posting as I read through and verses jump out at me.
I am up to chapter 8.
Anticipating what I would say about chapter 8 before I read it because it holds my “life verse”. That verse that explains me and my relationship with Jesus better than any other single verse in the bible.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
My childhood was traumatic. I have a steel plate in my jaw and some nasty burn scars on my face. I got these before I turned 12. When I was burned I almost died. Getting the injuries that resulted in the steel plate I was actually clinically dead by the time I reached the hospital.
Again, ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
You’d think scars on a face would be a deterrent to finding love. It worked the other way around for me. Mary was actually drawn to me because I was scarred yet I was still laughing. Our story reminds me of the joke about the soldier in a doctors waiting room with a spear stuck through him. He was asked if it hurt. His answer was “only when I laugh”. Mary and I became friends in part because of my scars. We became friends, then boyfriend and girlfriend and then we got?
Broken up. You thought I was going to say married. Well we did, eventually but first for almost a year we were broken up. We even dated other people. I did not do well with that. I wanted out of town. I decided to join the Air Force. I was going to quit school, I had all of my credits already, quit and join and get out of town. I had all the papers signed except one. The medical release form. The recruiter went through rather casually until we got to the question about steel pins or plates. As it turns out the Air Force wouldn’t take folks with steel plates in them. I was stuck in Soap Lake and that and a big blue Dodge Polara are how Mary and I got back together.
The steel plate in my jaw God used to keep me around so that I could participate in the greatest blessing of my life. That blessing was to make up with Mary and get engaged to Mary on the same night then get married, have 4 kids and 6 grandkids and still be married 35 years later.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Even burn scars and a brief dance with Death with a steel plate as a bonus prize. God has used all things in my life, even ugly and painful things for my good.
Tomorrow is our 40th anniversary. Happy anniversary baby! Love you SO much.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil that I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.”
The voice of my sinful nature is never silent and the pull of my fleshly appetites never goes away. Like gravity there is a constant tug to go the opposite way that God is calling me to follow. How do I do what is right? Like a dog being called by two “owners” I am conflicted. I need to follow the one who loves me the best. The one who loves me the best is the one who made me, paid for me, and wants the best for me not only now, but in the life to come. The “owner” that loves me best may not have a treat in his hand, but he has love in his eyes and his voice as he says, “come, follow me”.
“…Who will rescue me from this body of death?thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:18,19,24,25
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ” Romans 6:23
I believe that I will live forever but at the same time I’m not sure that I will survive the next China project at work. Does that make sense? Sometimes the pressures at work feel like they are crushing the life out of me. Always demanding more than I possess.
I need my faith to effect not just my eternity, I need more of Jesus in my here and now. Right now Jesus as I pull on my boots for another day, fill my deflated lungs and strengthen my weak arms. Give my brain clarity, make my heart compassionate. Let me continue to see the eternal significance of my daily life.
That was my post back then.
I posted this 5 years ago so I did make it through this rough patch of work and both facilities we built are now running smoothly and are profitable enterprises. Life is hard sometimes and I can make it harder on myself by taking too big a bite of it. I try and figure out too much at a time. God provides for us daily, not weekly or monthly. The manna that was provided for Israel in the wilderness was enough for a day. God got me through the construction in China. Can I trust God to get me through the current COVID crises? Yes, but he will do it as he always has, one day at a time.
Today I read Nehemiah 1. When Nehemiah was given a report about how things were going back home, and they were going poorly, he took immediate action, in that he mourned and fasted and prayed.
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.”
Nehemiah 1:4-11 – NIV
What has been my reaction and what have I been doing? Is There room for me to do something beyond social distancing and masking up and washing up? Yes. I can take action. I can go to my Father in heaven, humble myself and pray and seek his face and pray for his mercy and his healing.
It’s not my place to sort it all out and figure it all out. I can pray, pray for the sick, pray for a vaccine, pray for the souls of men and women who are lost and looking for help, like sheep without a shepherd, pray that they may find Jesus the good shepherd.
The nation of Judah had been exiled from their home. Rounded up and herded off to Babylon. Now some of them had made it back home. Their capital city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The center piece of the city and the center of worship, their temple, had been torn apart and burned.
What did they do?
They worked on and for rebuilding. It took labor effort and cooperation and coordination and it took money.
“When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”
Ezra 3:1-3 – NIV
Once the altar was rebuilt and sacrifices could be made once more, they turned their attention to the rebuilding of the temple.
“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord , as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord , because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.”
Ezra 3:10-13 – NIV
Praise erupted for the great God of their fathers who had preserved them, and brought them back home.
God is good. God is always worthy of praise. God is overflowing with love, displayed in his abundant and abounding grace and mercy. He showed us that in his sacrifice for us all. He loved us so much that He gave his only son that whosoever would believe on him…well here is the verse..”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 – NIV
As I’m writing this it is the beginning of August 2020. Our church building has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic shut down. Through online technology We have maintained a service and weekly message. Last Sunday we had an outdoor service. Our congregation seemed to be starving for public worship. Having Church took on a whole new meaning and a bunch of people worked very hard to set it up and carry it out. It wasn’t a passive activity, it was a choice to do it and then a ton of work to pull it off but our worship resounded throughout the neighborhood our church building sits in.
Now more than ever, at least more than in my life time, having church, being in a public worship service is an active act of my will. How much work will I do just so I can worship my God? How much effort is he worth? There is a risk of exposure, exposing myself to a virus yes, and also exposing myself publicly and purposefully in my worship of my God. Our church leadership did everything possible to keep the setting safe for all who participated.
God is always worthy of our worship and our praise. Even in and maybe especially in a pandemic. Church is different now. It is more active. More of a conscious choice and a conscious effort.
Because of what I read this morning and what I experienced last Sunday, I want to be involved in the rebuilding of worshipping my God. The people of God who returned from Babylon couldn’t be passive, they had to jump in with hands and feet and wallet to make the temple worship happen. I may need to do something similar to be able to return to worship. I am committed to keeping all safety protocols in place for everyone’s safety.
Come, Let us worship our God together with shouts of praise! With cymbals and trumpets or whatever we have! God is worthy of our praise!
Reconciled. I can’t get past that word. I’m reading in Romans chapter 5 today and the word reconciled is like a road detour or a stop sign. I have to sit here and think about this for awhile.
Being reconciled. Two parties that have been separated have been brought back together. Another definition is making what is into what it should be. At McDonalds we had to reconcile the cash drawers. Making sure the amount we had equaled what should be there from receipts. I don’t remember what we would do if it came up short. Somehow we had to make up for what if anything was missing.
How can a morally bankrupt person, someone with a moral cash drawer that is empty be reconciled to a God who has the receipts of what should be or what could be in our moral cash drawer?
“…we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation.” Romans 5:11b
And this is how and why he did this.
“You see, at just the right time, when we still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will Anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man some one might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrate s his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God himself made up for our morally empty cash drawer through Jesus. He paid our debt. He reconciled our debt AND he has reconciled our relationship to him.
“Since we now have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him! For if, when we were Gods 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.” Romans 5:6-10
Our Account with God has been reconciled and now we are free to have a good and right relationship with Him. Him who made us and loves us.
I have been working my way through Matthew 22 and it ends on this verse about whose son is the messiah. What does that matter?
“Matthew 22:41-46 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. “
If the messiah is just the son of David then the kingdom he will rule is at a minimum, Jewish. Even if he were to rule the Jews and the Jews were to take over the world, his kingdom would be earthly and only continue as long as he or his son would maintain the throne.
But, if the messiah is God’s son? The playing field just got bigger. The players list just went from exclusive to inclusive.
Jesus had come as the messiah, the redeemer, the savior from the Jewish people but he was promised to all people, all the way back in the garden of Eden, God would provide a way for us to re establish our relationship with Him. He was from the Jews but he will be for all people.
We have a king, we have a savior, we have a redeemer. His name is Jesus. He has beaten our two biggest enemies; death and sin. He has restored our broken relationship with our creator God.
It is a transaction that you must initiate. If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I am sitting here in Ephrata Washington reading this tiny little book in the Bible , only 4 chapters long, about a person from Ephrata. Bethlehem Ephratha, the original, in the land of Judea, which is now in the nation of Israel.
It’s the story of a regular working class guy Elimalech, who tries to make good for his family when famine strikes, he leaves town and goes to another country. He heads East to neighboring Moab. He had a wife, Naomi and 2 sons, Mahlon and Kilion. I see it’s a little like Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies show from my childhood, “They loaded up the the ox cart and moved to Moab”…Doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Beverly Hillbillies theme song and the story line runs in the opposite direction, the TV Show was a bad to good story and the Bible story is bad to worse. Naomi’s sons both find wives among the Moabite women but then one-by-one her men folk die, leaving her and her daughters in law widows.
Naomi hears that things had gotten better back in Bethlehem so she packs up and begins the journey towards home. Her daughters in law begin the journey with her but Naomi encourages them to go back their families. One daughter in law, Orpah takes her advice and heads back to her family but her daughter in law Ruth says this about that: “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 – NIV
Naomi and Ruth end up back in Bethlehem Ephratha as 2 poor widows with no visible means of support. Ruth begins to glean the leftovers of the barley harvest. The harvest crew she works with just happens to be that of a family member, a rich farmer named Boaz.
Boaz takes notice of Ruth, her hard work and dedication to her mother in law and begins to help her.
Boaz becomes Ruth’s kinsmen redeemer, marries her and has a baby with her.
“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Ruth 4:13-22 – NIV
Because there was a Ruth, there was an Obed, because there was an an Obed there was a Jesse, because there was a Jesse there was a David, as in King David. Jesus is a descendant of King David.
Was it the right thing to do for Elimelech to leave town and go to Moab? Was it the right thing to do to allow his sons to marry foreigners? It looked like the trip was not sanctioned, the activities were not permissible or at least not advisable, the entire enterprise looked like it was cursed, all 3 men dead and buried in a foreign land and the return trip included a foreigner but no family.
But God can and does uses detours as the main path to accomplish his desire and complete his design. The apostle Paul says this about God and the way he works in our lives; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 – NIV
In my own life I was badly burned when I was 8. The burns left my face scarred and deformed. Later we moved to a new town and on a trip between towns my family was in a bad car accident which among the other injuries, broke my jaw in 5 places. The doctors were going to wire my jaw closed but because of the burn scars, instead they chose to install a steel plate.
The scars and steel plate were instrumental in me meeting and marrying my wife. The scars made me stand out among my peers, she liked me and we became friends then started dating. The steel plate kept me from joining the Air Force and leaving town during a break-up period my senior year. In a couple of days we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We now have 4 kids and 11 grandkids.
God used what looked like detours if not complete roadblocks in my life to bless me.
For Naomi and Ruth God uses a famine and death and loss and poverty to not only bless them with marriage and a baby but he has blessed us all, every human who has ever drawn breath because in 3 generations from Ruth and Boaz would come a simple shepherd who became king of unified Israel and God promised David that a descendant of his would have an everlasting kingdom.
“and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies. “‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’”
1 Chronicles 17:10-14 – NIV
That king was and is Jesus. Jesus’ reign will never end. He was crowned king with a crown of thorns. He bought all of us back from a life of slavery to sin. He purchased our freedom not with gold or silver but with his own blood.
I sit in my recliner, reading about Elimalech and his famine avoidance strategy and marvel at a God who never loses track of us, no matter where we scamper off to. Then an alarm goes off and I am brought forward from Bethlehem Ephratha in BC days to Ephrata Washington in 2020, COVID-19 days. Can I still trust a God in this pandemic to be working “all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”?
I think so, no I believe so. How about you? Can you trust God even in this? Do you have any stories of how God used detours and roadblocks to get you to a better place? Will you share them in the comments?
In 2015 Mary and I had an opportunity to travel to Italy. We rode a lot of trains and busses. One thing I noticed that many of the plants and trees that I saw in Italy were also back home in the USA. One plant in particular is what we call Virginia Creeper. Spotting that very familiar plant in an unfamiliar place got me thinking…
As I’m looking out the window of our train to Venice I’m realizing that the air, the water, the plants and trees don’t know or seem to care what country they are in. They listen to and obey a higher authority than a man who draws a line in the dirt and says “this is mine and that is yours”. They obey a higher authority, the one who made them.
People have some strong opinions about who belongs where. I’m sure that there were meetings in a smoke filled room somewhere. men wearing suits looked at a map and argued where the lines should go.
I don’t think that God sees it that way. The planet that is. One reason might be his vantage point looking down from Heaven it all looks the same. No colors of states or countries. No lines.
Another reason could be that it is all his. All the land, all the animals, the trees plants fish birds all are his. He made it. He made it and he made us. All of us. No matter what hue our skin is or what language we speak or inside which lines drawn on the map we find our feet or our home. We are his. God is an international God because he only made one planet earth.
Growing up I thought God dressed like captain America Except he wore a robe but his robe was red white and blue because he loved America more than any other country. We were right and they( whomever) were wrong. In any fight, God was on our side.
In the revelation of John the apostle described the vision of the city of God. In that vision he describes the foundation stones of the heavenly city. It is made of 12 different colored stones. I wonder if those 12 colors encompass the colors of all the flags of all the nations?
From Johns description There isn’t going to be an American heaven and an Italian heaven and a French heaven. There is just going to be heaven, the place God dwells. Neither will there be sections for Catholics and a part for Protestants, a space for Jews there will be an all inclusive home for those who believe and receive Gods gift of salvation, being bought back to be a child of God from slavery to sin. No denominations of Protestantism , one God, one heaven, one family. Strange to think about.
One of the creeds I learned as a child said about us believers that we’re one holy catholic, which means universal, church. We are after all part of one body, the bride of Christ, his church.
My heart is heavy. I grieve with the families. I am so sorry for your loss.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1Thes 4:13-18
This life is fragile and uncertain.
Choose the gift of life that Jesus offers us. Choose today. Forgiveness and freedom are a prayer away, and a reunion with the God who created us, sustained us and redeemed us with the blood of his only son Jesus. Like the father of the prodigal son, (Luke 15) He is watching and waiting for our return.
I’m not sure when I tasted my first red vine. In my family we called it red licorice. It immediately became a favorite candy of mine. Being red you would think the flavor would strawberry or cherry or raspberry but it’s actually more like vanilla. Later in life we visited a Costco store and there they had pallets of 3 pound tubs of red vines. Every Costco visit would be a chance to reconnect with a humongous supply of my favorite childhood candy.
I’ve had to quit, or at cut way back on my candy consumption. About 8 years ago I found out that I have type 2 diabetes. I now get one small package of red vines at Christmas in my stocking and that is my annual supply. It’s July. I haven’t had one since January and won’t get another until December and yet this morning I was thinking about red vines.
This seems random and insignificant until you read what I read in my daily bible reading.
The nation Israel was camped on the east side of the Jordan. Their mission was to cross the Jordan and begin taking the land that God had promised to their ancestor Abraham. The leader of the Israelites, Joshua, secretly sent 2 spies in to scout the city of Jericho. The spies spent the night in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Somehow the king of Jericho found out about it and he sent soldiers to apprehend the spies. Rahab hid them on the roof and then lied to the soldiers, telling them that he spies had already left the city, and that if they hurried, the soldiers might catch them in the hill country.
Rahab had a reason to protect them. Here we find out what her reason was.
“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them —and that you will save us from death.” “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.” Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear. ” “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
Joshua 2:8-21 – NIV
I have established my love for red vines. A red vine. A scarlet cord. Coincidence? I don’t know. The Israelites will come in and destroy Jericho and every man woman child and animal will be killed, except for the family in the house with the scarlet cord, (red vine) hanging from the window. Rahab and her family were held back from the slaughter. Rahab ended up marrying one of the spies.
Hooray for the rescue! But wait, there’s more. Rahab’s name will continue to show up in the Bible, her faith in God will be praised, but she also becomes a link that makes us all eternally in her debt. In Matthew chapter 1 we read the lineage of Jesus. Verse 5 we see the link.
“Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,
Matthew 1:5 – NIV
The scarlet cord, the red vine, became a link in the chain of events that led to the birth of Jesus.
In one way I could say red vines made me sick, but a scarlet cord saved my soul. No, that’s too corny. It’s true but not completely accurate, red vines didn’t give me diabetes. Instead I will say I love red vines, and I love the scarlet cord that brought fulfillment of Gods promise to save and redeem all of mankind. Because Jesus came a died for us and was raised to life again, a restored relationship with a God who loves us is always just a prayer away.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” Isa 25:7,8. The hill was Golgotha, the place of the skull where Jesus died once for all. He defeated death and sin. Sin and death like unholy debt collectors waiting to haul us each away but Jesus paid it all for everyone of us. that day. On that hill.
There were 2 missing. One was dead, suicide, and the other was AWOL.
Where was the second guy? The group had been tight for 3 years now it seemed to be unraveling. Thomas was no longer hanging with the the 12, now eleven, (Judas had hung himself).
I speculate that the second guy was being proactive. He was moving on to plan B. Plan A had been a miracle working messiah but he was dead. I think Thomas had seen Jesus body some where, either on the cross or on the way to the tomb. It is not stated in scripture but his firm belief that Jesus was dead, hints to me that somewhere between the cross and the grave, Thomas had caught sight of the nail pierced hands and spear pierced side of Jesus’ dead body. Let’s read about how the resurrected Jesus changed his mind.
“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of This Book 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
I don’t blame Thomas. I have seen dead bodies before. My uncle Charlie and my mom. They don’t look the same. It was difficult for me to even recognize my mom in her coffin. I think Thomas saw the body of Jesus and so in his mind, Jesus was dead. And he was dead. But not for long. Thomas said “unless I see, unless I touch”. He got to do that but today we don’t have that option. We do however receive a blessing by believing without seeing.
Jesus suffered and died. He was dead. But he came back to life in a way that a doubter could see and believe.
What do you believe about Jesus?
There is a lot weighing in the balance of your answer. Believe and come home to our Father.
It cost him his life but he did it. Jesus saved the world.
John 19 & 20
Superheroes are doing it all the time, supposedly saving the world but they never fight our two worst enemies; sin and death.
Jesus took on the battle over sin and death and beat them both.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”’
It doesn’t read like a victory but wait, there’s more to the story.
Jesus rose from the dead.
“11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.”
From the cross Jesus said “it is finished”. The battle over sin in our lives has been won. Sin wants to enslave us but Jesus paid for all of us and all of it on the cross. What is left for us is to confess our need of forgiveness and to receive the gift. It sounds too simple.
Paul summed it up in his letter to the Romans, ” if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’
Today could be the day that changes eternity for someone. If you have already received Jesus’ gift then take the next step and tell someone. Once everyone has heard we get to go be with Jesus in the home he has built for us. Maybe the last person that’s waiting to hear the good news is sitting across the aisle from us at work, or lives across the fence from us, next door. We need to Tell our story.
He knows stuff. He knows the future and he knows the past. In Matthew 21 Jesus predicts not only what would happen within days but then what would happen in about 37 years.
“33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’[h]? 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[i]
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”
It all came true. They will arrest him. They will try and convict him. They will beat him. They will force him out of the city. They will kill him. And then God will boot them (the religious leaders) out of the city, destroy the temple and the city in 70 a.d.
Jesus knows stuff. Not just general events kind of stuff but heart and mind stuff. He knows my heart. Even when my heart wants something bad, something wrong, or when it will not forgive, or when it hates. He knows that stuff about me, about us. And yet…
And yet he died for me, for us. He died the death we deserve. And then…
And then he rose from the grave! Jesus is alive! Today, right now, he is alive and well and is waiting for us to choose to accept his deal, the deal of all of eternity, we confess we need him, and he forgives all of our bad and we become part of his family!
He knows stuff. He knows stuff about us. And he still loves us.
My wife Mary and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. I snuggled up and smelled her hair. It was like walking through flower a garden.
Then I moved a little and got a whiff of my own fragrance, or should I say stench, okay we’ll settle on smell. Woof! I was not smelling good. I told her that she smelled like the flowers and I smelled like the soil.
It was just before bed time so I chose to shower but I didn’t prepare very well. I got a towel and under garments but I didn’t grab any fresh pajamas. After I got out and dried off, I had to dress in last nights jammies. It had been warm I get sweaty at night. Sure, I had showered but all I had to wear was my used sweaty pajamas. What good did it to to shower and put on dirty clothes?
I kept thinking about how this situation and started thinking that this seemed familiar. Being clean, but having to put on unclean things. How many times have I done the same thing with my sins? I repent and confess and then go right back to my old ways. How long will it take till I’m stinky again? Or how long will it take until my patterns of life lead me back into sin?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 – NIV
I need to break free from the patterns of this world.
In my morning reading I read Exodus 19. It is a little out of the ordinary but in it, God tells his people to wash their clothes and consecrate themselves in preparation for meeting him.
“And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.” On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
Exodus 19:10-11,14-19 – NIV
The washed clothes, I almost missed that. Clean clothes and a consecrated heart. They even abstained from sex. They set their heart right, cleaned their external appearance and set aside marital relations just to be ready to meet God. They changed the habits of their lives.
Our sins can only be washed away in the precious blood of Jesus. His sacrifice is the only thing that can make us clean. However, we are responsible for our actions, our habits and hangouts. Jesus blood won’t necessarily change our surroundings. Repentance means a change of direction and will sometimes require a change of location and/or of activities.
2 Corinthians chapter 5 says this about our new clean life.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 5:16-21,6:2 – NIV
Sometimes when I have confessed a failure and repented the desire to repeat the sin is also removed but most of the time I would say it is not. My sin nature usually continues to want what it wants. Then enters my choice. Will I choose to alter my life so that I am less likely to be tempted?
Here is an example. As a diabetic I have to be diligent with my diet. The food I put in my mouth is always my choice. If I get week and have a candy bar at home I can toss the rest of the candy out and not be tempted. However if I am in the candy aisle at the grocery store and I fail and eat one, Even if I repent and say I won’t have another I will be surrounded by temptation. My best plan of action is to leave the store(after paying for what gobbled up). So it is with life. I can’t surround myself with temptation and expect to not fail.
This has been a long post to say something short and sweet, once clean, don’t put on the stinky pajamas. Meaning, if I have been forgiven and cleansed of my sin, I can help my self by setting out new pajamas, new habits, new routines, new ways of living life that keep me away from temptation.
If I am diabetic, i should Stay out of the candy store, or at least the candy aisle. I still want the candy in the candy aisle. Change may not be overnight. It may take me years to reduce my cravings and gain control. We are all spiritually diabetic. We have a sin condition that makes us want what isn’t good for us. God will help us, but he won’t do it for us. He paid for our sins and now we must begin the journey to spiritual maturity so that we begin to be able to say no to temptation. To walk free.
My post is not intended to burden anyone with guilt or shame but to show to the way to an escape ladder out of temptation or at least make us aware of the process to find the escape.
Jesus understands our weaknesses.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 – NIV
Another encouragement: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 – NIV
To sum up I say this to myself; Put out fresh pajamas, don’t go down the candy aisle, don’t walk into temptation but if you are there, look for the escape.