Peculiar

We watched an episode of Midsomer Murders last night. One of the characters was a Christian. Usually if a Christian is portrayed in modern fiction, they are the crazy ones and some how they will be the one who murdered in Judgement of a fallen character.

in this episode They weren’t crazy. They didn’t murder anyone. They prayed for the situation, offered hospitality, read their bible. They hated sin but were compassionate towards sinners. I was relieved.

Why do fiction writers portray us so badly? Why are Christians in fiction so weird? Is it that the writers have never met a genuine Christian? We are different, we are a peculiar people but we are not peculiar in a bad way. Well we shouldn’t be. How should a Christian act? We should be peculiar in a good way.

The apostle John says this in his first letter to Christians to remind us who Jesus is, what he has done and how we are to respond to his gift of salvation.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 3:16-18

Jesus loves. He loves us to death, his death. His love for us compelled him to die in our place. He is our example of love towards people who don’t deserve love. We are to care about and for others, to have concern and act on that concern.

John says more about it.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 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 4:7-21

We are a peculiar people, we have the spirit of God living in us. That alone should make us seem different. We have the Spirit at work in our lives. That should be what makes us stand out, the way we love, the way we live and the way care for each other.

Fictional characters are based on real people in the writers life. If someone based a character on me, how would I look? Am I peculiar? Yes but am I a Spirit guided person who loves self sacrificially?

How about you?

If we fail all we have left to do is confess our failures and start over, loving, being gracious, sharing life by sharing ourselves and our stuff with whoever needs it.

Accepting Jesus gift, his death that brings us life, that is the first step forward into a new life, the life of being a follower of Jesus. From that point on we are on a journey, a new adventure of change and remodeling of our our heart and our life. God is at work with the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside out. He is changing us into people that resemble his son. Changing us into people that love like his son loves, self sacrificially.

“I sum up”

“I sum up”

It’s one of my favorite quotes from “the Princess Bride”.

Jesus summed up the law and the prophets in two small quotes.

In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked this:

“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’

My favorite commandments are the ones that are easy not to break like , don’t murder. That WAS easy until Jesus said that if you hate someone, you’ve already murdered them in your heart. That one I’ve broken.

They seem be about behaviors to avoid. But the commandments Jesus lists are things to actively do. Love God. Love people.

So this Christian life, it may not be about not doing the don’ts, but more about doing the do’s.

Jesus says later, recorded in Johns Gospel, that the way the world will be able to tell us apart from the rest of the population is how we love one another.

If you look at how Christians are portrayed in our culture, that isn’t how we are known.

How do I appear? How do I live? How do I love? Do I treat people the way I want to be treated? Do I love self-sacrificially?

Things to ponder and correct if necessary. Paul gave us a summary of how we should live in his letter to the Romans.

“9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

How are we doing with this?

1. Love God

2. Love people

3. Repeat

3 books

1 John 3, Hosea and Romans 3

I was already reading through 1 John and I came to some verses in chapter 3 that sounded harsh. Maybe they wouldn’t sound harsh to someone who was behaving themselves, but to someone who struggles?

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

1 John 3:4-10

How does that go? This isn’t about me, you see I have this friend…..

It has been months that I have been just kind of stuck here.

I have wanted to post about these verses but just have not been confident in my understanding. I still am not.

Then I felt like God said, “let me help you understand me better, read Hosea”.

Hosea is a book about a prophet who God told to marry a prostitute. But God had Hosea do this as a lesson for his people, the nation of Israel.

“When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”

Hosea 1:2-3

They went on to have 2 more kids. And then they lived happily ever after. No. They did not. Gomer left Hosea and went back to prostitution.

Then God said this: “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. ” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”’

Hosea 3:1-3

God loves people. He loves real people with real problems and real pasts full of real baggage. God loves people who are sinners.

Later in the book Hosea writes some poetry, beautiful prophetic poetry. It predicts a time when Gods people will return to him.

““Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. ”’

Hosea 6:1-3

After reading the Book of Hosea and thinking about God and his love of the wayward I felt prompted to reread Romans and in chapter 3 I was reminded that we are all “wayward”,

“What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:9-12

God loves sinners, the wayward, the lost, those of us sold into a lifestyle of sin. He loves us and has come to set us free.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:20-26

We get no epilogue from the book of Hosea. We don’t know how the story ended. We don’t know what the end of our story is either. We do know this much, that God loves us so much that Just like Hosea bought his wife back from her pimp, God has sent his only son to die for us, to buy us back from whatever has us enslaved.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-18

God loves us and has bought us back. If we fall how we be rescued? God loves us and has bought us back. How many cycles do we get? How many times will God forgive and follow and free us? If there is a number I don’t know it.

Is there a word for this number? As many as it takes? As many as it takes to get us home.

Christmas in July

In my view The Christmas story started long before Bethlehem, long before the Star and shepherds and angels showed up, and before the wise men arrived.

It started way back in a garden, the first garden. Right after our first father and mother rebelled against God for the first time. God said this: “14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock

and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring[a] and hers;

he will crush[b] your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

God had a plan to restore our relationship with him.

Years later The prophet Isaiah gave us an update on the plan in Chapter 7.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”.

The best part of this message is in the name. Emmanuel , it means God with us. It doesn’t say God against us, God with arms folded across his chest tapping his foot, clucking his tongue. God is not looking down on us impatiently.

Instead a while later we get this message:

“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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

I heard tonight, wait, it’s midnight, I heard yesterday that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfills. Little tidbits about the promise God made back in the garden that tell how his plan to restore our relationship with him would come about. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and of the promise. We have a way back to God. It’s not by good works, it is by Gods gift of Jesus. Jesus made the way back to our Heavenly Father by dying for our sins. Then he came back to life to show that he also conquered death.

The gift this Christmas is Jesus. And through Jesus we are brought back to our father in heaven.

Jesus, Emanuel, God came to us as a baby. He came to restore us. He came to save us. He came because he loves us. God loves me. God loves you.

Merry Christmas.

Venice to Milan

Away from Venice

On the train ride from Venice back to Milan there was a storm brewing to the north. There were huge thunderheads forming. As we travelled along I saw one that looked like a man, (a king?) He was seated on a big chair (throne?) but he was rising up. We must’ve turned because the next time I looked out, the formation I saw looked like a crouching lion about to pounce.

The third time I looked out, the window it looked like a popped corn kernel.

We changed trains in Milan and the second train didn’t have air conditioning. Mary began to wilt. She hadn’t had a meal since breakfast at 7 and it was after 5. The clouds continued to gather and the sky darkened to the north. There were 3 train stops between us and our hotel and it looked like Mary would be a puddle of her former self. The temperature was in the lower 90s with 40% humidity

Then the clouds let loose just a little, like a single sweep of the old oscillating sprinkler and the temperature cooled down about 10 degrees. (God applause!)

We exited the train at our our stop but there was no cover. The rain had stopped already. After the two of us working together to figure out how to dial a + (plus sign), Mary called our hotel which was supposed to have a shuttle service. They informed us that the shuttle wasn’t available but that they were only 2 blocks away and suggested that we walk.

I know that this doesn’t seem connected to the clouds but wait.

As we began trudging toward the hotel dragging our 3 suitcases there was a loud thunderclap and then a second one.

(Lest you think us wimps, the first block was like DKs to division, with no sidewalk and no parking lane, just 2 lanes of Italian dinner hour traffic, 4 lanes if you count the scooters, and the there was also the thunder).

We briefly discussed the possibility and probability of being struck by lightning. It was mutually decided if God brought us all the way to Italy, to a tiny train station parking lot to strike us dead? Our number was up.

Instead of braving the traffic we called back to ask for a taxi. The hotel said the shuttle had just got back and would pick us up in 10 minutes. (I think this when the whole “struck by lightning ” came up but I’m too tired to cut and paste).

We did get picked up. We did get our lovely room. We did eat at the hotel restaurant. We did get greeted by the owner who welcomed us in a booming Italian accented voice. We did eat one of the best meals ever eaten by either of us, possibly by anyone ever.

The storm clouds are still all around but the storm seems to be on pause.

Make of these observations what you will, but here is what I think about them.

God is seated on his throne in heaven, but not forever. Not that he will be unseated but that he will arise and stuff will begin to change very rapidly down here.

The lion is the symbol of Venice. Venice needs Jesus. Italy needs Jesus. Churches are everywhere but they are empty. Empty of His people and empty of his spirit.

If God is rising up from his throne we His church need to get busy gathering the harvest. There will be a time when harvest is over. At that time judgement starts coming in buckets and barrels.

I do not know what my role is in this but I’m pretty sure it isn’t what I usually do.

Are you ready for the change that is coming?

Quitting time

Quitting time. My favorite time of day. Packing up my gear, putting away the tools. Cleaning up and setting up for tomorrow. It’s a great time of day. What if you walked onto the job at quitting time and still got paid for the whole day?

Bonus!

That’s what happened in Jesus’ story in Matthew 20.

“20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”’

Some of us are reaching quitting time, not just of a job or a career but of life. It is the eleventh hour. The sun is setting. What does God want from us? What will God do for us?

Jesus died to pay for our sins. All of them. Whether it’s the grocery sack full of the at age 16 or 26 or a cargo ship full at 56 or 66 or 76. The age doesn’t matter and the amount doesn’t matter. Jesus died to pay for our sins. You only have to ask. Forgiveness is for all at any age, even at the eleventh hour.

God wants his kids to come home. Will you accept his gift of salvation today?

“Peter James!”

When you get called by your formal name….

“Peter James!”

Just typing that sent chills of fear through my body because even though you couldn’t hear it, there was my mothers voice in my ear ringing with an angry tone as I typed.

John 21

I think that is what the apostle Peter heard in our text today. Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John.

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’

Jesus used his given name, Simon son of John. There is language here that’s worth looking into if you have the time but what I got this morning was Jesus telling Simon Peter that he would never deny Jesus again.

He had denied Jesus. He denied him 3 times. The last denial was vehemently and with cursing.

On this day, through the catch of fish Jesus provided for this ex-fisherman, he gave him his mission, feeding the sheep Jesus would provide for him and he told him that peter would die a horrible death rather than deny Jesus again.

It’s a good thing to hear that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Even open denial can be forgiven.

Thank you Jesus for forgiving that Peter and for forgiving this Peter all of our sins.