The code

Is there a standard that we can live by? Is there like a code of conduct that if we applied to our lives, it would make the world a better place? I didn’t say a code to force onto others, I said a code to live by, one that I apply to myself and my children.

Romans 13 has a code of conduct.

“Romans 13:7-10 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

It could work.

But it isn’t something to muster up, to force on over our lives like a wet suit that’s 2 sizes too small. It is only possible from a heart change that takes place when we have received God’s forgiveness through Jesus death on the cross.

Step 1. Admit our need. Which means we will need to one or all of the list below:

I). Stop justifying ourselves by either saying what we’re doing isn’t wrong or by comparing ourselves with someone else and seeing ourselves better than the other person. (Unless we are comparing ourselves to Jesus which should be done).

II). Stop trying to pay off our mistakes with good works. You can’t pay off mistakes with used sanitary products, which is what Isaiah called them “Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. “

Then, confess, say out loud, that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.

From that beginning our hearts are changed and we will have Jesus living in our hearts. He can empower us to live out “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s not just the code of the west, it’s the code of all who believe in and follow Jesus.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Even me?

“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.”

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?

Thank you.

Very Mayberrian

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.

-Bullet points-

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

Be humble

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 i will whistle a tune and smile. Knowing who i am and whose I am. Probably won’t fish for fish but I might fish for men. A very mayberrian life.

Not about the don’ts

Sadly sometimes us Christians are known more for our restrictions on life than for the way we live life.

During a break time my supervisor saw me drinking coffee and he was shocked. He knew I was a Christian and some how thought that I wouldn’t drink coffee. I find it a strange thing to think about Christians, our restrictions. ( I do not restrict myself in that area. I do have strong beliefs about God’s view on coffee drinking. I believe the reason God created water was so we could make coffee).

I don’t want to be known for what i don’t do. As Christians, What should we be known for?

Jesus said that we would be known by our love for each other.

“34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

What if we’re not? What if we just cannot get along? It’s actually a pretty big deal. If we cannot love the people we can see, how can we claim to love a God we cannot see?

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

1 John 4:16-21

It sounds like the way we treat others is a window into our heart for God. This sobers me. It makes me look closer at how I treat people.

But what about those difficult people? Is there like a “pass” for difficult people or situations?

Not really.

“27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36

What if I fail? verse 36 gives me hope. God is merciful. God’s forgiveness is on a conveyer belt that doesn’t quit. He is committed to completing the good work he began in me. What is true for me is true for us, for all of us that are following Jesus.

Is this expectation or requirement to love just about how we feel towards others? The apostle James makes it clear that following Jesus means living a life of love in action.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 2:8-17

I am to live a mercy filled life, full of love in action, knowing that God is watching and so is the world.

Mary and I were trying to move from our neighborhood to a house closer to my work. We made a couple of attempts at selling out and moving away. They both failed. When we asked God in prayer about why we couldn’t leave we felt like he told us, “you aren’t finished there yet. You have neighbors who haven’t heard about how much I love them, they haven’t been told yet about how I gave Jesus to die for them. Finish the work I sent you there for, then we will talk about where you go next.”

We are on a mission to tell the world about Jesus. Part of the world we have been sent to is a block of cute little 1940s cottages filled with 21st century families smack dab in the middle of Washington state. One of our best advertisements for the benefits of following Jesus is, how we treat each other.

Let’s get to it.

Oars in or oars out?

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 said enough. I need to get back to rowing.

I am part of his family

The book of Romans has some hard things. Chapter 9 is especially hard in places. Election, mercy and where do we fit?

The take away for me this morning is this:

“What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” 26 and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ “

I have been adopted into Gods family, not because of anything I have done but because God is a merciful God.

In All Things

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 10 grandkids and still be married 38 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 38th anniversary. Happy anniversary baby! Love you SO much.