Is change possible?

Can people really change? Does meeting Jesus and having him become our master really have any affect on us?

(Col 4)

Once upon a time there was a slave who lived in Colosse. He was a young man born into slavery. He stole some money from his master and ran away to the big city of Rome. He was hoping to lose himself in the crowds. In stead he met a man named Paul who introduced him to a God/man/savior named Jesus. This slaves name was Onesimus. Paul had this to say about the character of this guy; “He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.”

And this “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.”

The second quote is from the book of Philemon. Philemon was Onesimus’ owner. How strange to own another human yet he did and it was within his rights to do anything to his slave. Paul asked for mercy and forgiveness.

The name Onesimus means useful.

Jesus can change people from useless to useful. He can set the the heart of one enslaved free, even if his body is still owned.

There are many modern slaveries that we get sold into. Jesus can set us free by washing away sin and breaking chains, spiritual chains the keep us locked into patterns and behaviors.

Can people change? Hmmm. Can Jesus change people? Yes.

God loves puppies…and us

Get a long little doggy?

No, get along little doggy.

Colossians 3 (and a tiny part of 4)

The next bit of bible I’m going to quote is how to get along with people. How to live in community. The very next sentence is a very controversial, counter cultural bit of advice. The way our society recoils at it you would think it said that God hates puppies. God doesn’t hate puppies. He loves puppies. You know what he loves more than puppies? Us. People. Men and women. And he wants us to live in the best possible way. Since he created us he probably (probably?) knows how we can best live. He gives us the manufacturers recommended way to use this thing called life.

Here it is:

” 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

4 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Jesus loves us and has died to pay for all of our sin and now he lives forever and we can too, with him.

If we fail….when we fail at the above list of interpersonal relationships we have forgiveness in Jesus.

I recently read this in this very same book;

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Get along little people.

He stoops down

I don’t know much about other religions so I cannot really write much about them. What I understand is that in most faiths that are not Christian the practitioner must reach out to their God, they must appease.

The God of Christianity is different. The God I believe in has this quality about him where he stoops low, bends down to reach out to us. My God has done the appeasing through sacrificing his son. My God has been and continues to be gracious, stopping low and giving me what I do not deserve.

There is an story in John chapter 8 that is an excellent example of God’s graciousness.

“2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

John 8:2-11

Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. I speculate that he was writing names and dates of the dalliances of the men who were holding the stones to condemn this woman. This shows his grace and mercy to both the woman and to the men. The woman was rescued, her accusers silenced and all involved were handled with gentleness and love.

God loves sinners. That’s good because that is the only kind of human available to him on this planet. We all are sinners. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” and yet because our God is a God who stoops down, the verse continues, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23,24

I believe in a good and loving father God who is gracious and merciful. As a Father He disciplines those he loves. He has stooped down to rescue me, to rescue us. Jesus, God’s only son willingly sacrificed himself for us. He died, was buried and rose again the third day. He now is in heaven with our father preparing a place for us and interceding for us.

God is today, stooping down and asking us all, “will you receive my gift of life and forgiveness through Jesus today?”

He adds this, “I love you, please come home…”

Today, will you respond today?

How much are you packing?

We’re all travelers, my advice? pack light.

(Col 2, Matt 6)

Mary and I were talking last night as we sat out under the stars and watched the planes fly over. Seeing the planes makes us think of our adventures in Italy last year. We want to go back but we would change one thing. We would pack lighter. Images of the two of us taking busses, trains and boats with 3 suit cases pops into our heads. It was comical.

Have you ever been lugging around baggage (or is is bagging around luggage?). Carrying more than is comfortable? It’s so hard. Pulling around a huge box of stuff that seemed so very important at the time. It was meant to be an asset but in actuality becomes a liability.

I went to a family gathering this last weekend. One thing that happened there is that it reminded me of baggage that I carry of things done in my past. Things done Not to me, but by me.

Colossians 2 says this about our sins:

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

I know Jesus has forgiven me, but I haven’t done the next step and and confessed and repented to the offended. With every year it seems more difficult to do. Soon. I’m really tired of carrying this luggage or lugging this baggage.

I don’t hold any grudges, not with my family anyway but that’s another set of bags that we can drag around with us.

There is a warning at the bottom of the Lord’s Prayer, one that states Our own forgiveness hinges on whether or not we forgive others.

“9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]

but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

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.”

Forgiving others is like having your luggage sent ahead, like checking it at the gate. Something I wish Mary and I could’ve done on our leg of the trip that took us to Venice so we both could enjoy all that we were experiencing.

We are all travelers. How much luggage or baggage are we carrying unnecessarily? My goal is to lose as much as I can so I can be free to enjoy the journey. All of the “Venice’s” of this life are much easier to enjoy without baggage.

Church, why do we do it?

Why go to church?

Why do we go?

To worship? Worship who? How?

We worship the one who created us and then bought us back when we sold ourselves into sin. We worship With our words, with our music, with our gifts and offerings.

It is so easy to get caught up in business of church that we miss the real reason that wwe came together.

Matthew 21 records Jesus’ encounter with the folks who had lost their way.

“12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants

you, Lord, have called forth your praise’[g]?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.”

I lose my way. I’ve been there recently, so concerned about the mechanics of how we worship that I have forgotten who I worship.

Forgive me Father God. Help me see you and worship you well. You alone are worthy of my praise and adoration.

Snake bites and amazing grace.

Karma, I don’t believe in it.

I have seen evil people live long lives and prosper. I have seen good people live short lives full of suffering.

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t exist. Instead I believe in a God who sees and hears us. He has a plan and purpose for each one of us. Even if we don’t acknowledge him he will still use us.

I don’t know the whole story of Karma, who or what is supposed to be in control but We see how deeply imbedded the mindset is in a story in Acts chapter 28.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 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. 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.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 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.”

Acts 28:1-6

Doing good does not guarantee a reward and doing evil does not always cause bad to happen. It just doesn’t work that way.

When we come to Him through Jesus, God, who is merciful and gracious treats us with grace and mercy. He is merciful, not giving us what we do deserve, eternal separation from him, but giving us what we do not deserve, welcome into his open arms of love. He is our father and he wants all of his children to come home and to be embraced.

Knowing God, having experienced his graciousness and mercy, my human nature still reverts to that cause and effects mentality and I have to remind myself of who God is and what he is, almighty God, AND my father, in heaven.

He has provided Jesus to pay for my sins, he asked his own son to die in my place so that I could, so that we could, be welcomed back home to be with him.

Life happens, stuff happens, God has a plan for us and sometimes that stuff will be rudder on the ship of our life, guiding us. No matter what, God will use whatever happens in our life for our good.

For Paul and Luke “and the rest” that were ship wrecked and stranded, he used that to bring healing and salvation to Malta.

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”

Acts 28:7-10

The karmic mentality seems to be ingrained in us. There is something, someone better available to all. We have a Heavenly Father who longs for us to come home to him. He has given us Jesus as a bridge back to him. Will we accept and cross the bridge to a gracious and merciful Father?

I did.

I hope you will join me, join us, your father and family await you.

Who is this guy…?

He’s coming back.

He left to prepare a place for us. When that is ready and the full number of people who will believe in Him do believe in him, he will come back.

Matthew 21 records Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem before his death on the cross.

“21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,

‘See, your king comes to you,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]

“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”’

We who are alive today have an opportunity to ask the same question about Jesus.

Who is this guy?

Eternity is balancing on our answer.

He is coming back and it won’t be the same. I’m not trying to scare anyone. It is just the truth about his return. Will you be one of his followers? Or will you be one of his enemies? If you are a follower then you are one of God’s kids and are safe but as God’s kid, I am one too, we bear the responsibility of sharing the good news of Jesus’ and forgiveness to a world that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.

“11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.”

I ask, do you know him?

If you know him, will you share him with others?

#matthew21, #yesjesuslovesme, #yesjesuslovesyoutoo