Reasonable Facsimile

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us parables to help us grasp important concepts about the end of time, aka his return.

The first story is about 10 virgins. When my son Aaron was about 5 he asked me what a virgin was. From the look on his face and the discussion I had with Mary afterwards, I have determined that My answer was too accurate for a 5 year old brain. I recommend from experience that we define a virgin as an unmarried woman.

Let’s read the story.

Matthew 25:1-13 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

When I was in 3rd or 4th grade my mom bought me a basketball. Well I thought it was a basketball. It was a ball, it had lines on it like a basketball. It bounced and rolled like a basketball. I had a new friend Matt Millier that came over to play, I suggested that we play basketball he agreed, he was good at any and every sport he played. I brought out my new ball and he said “that isn’t a basketball”. I was deflated. I argued but it became evident that I had been wrong. My basketball was a reasonable facsimile. It was not the real thing. It was a cheap plastic play ball that was painted or printed to look like a basketball.

When I first read this story in Matthew and saw that the ladies fell asleep I thought that the sleep thing would be the point Jesus would make. It wasn’t.

Of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom it seems that 5 were genuinely part of the party. The other 5 were reasonable facsimiles. We can tell that they weren’t the genuine article because the bridegroom says “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”

We see in the virgins not preparing for the long wait that they were not genuine in their relationship with the awaited bridegroom.

We need to be careful to look at our own hearts and our faith to make sure we have the faith to wait, and the love and longing for our bridegrooms return. We need to be genuine Followers of Jesus, not reasonable facsimiles.

Matthew Millier, if I didn’t say it then I will say it now, you were right, that wasn’t a basketball.

A cautionary tale

The pull of adventure can sometimes feel like gravity.

I’m not sure if this memory is a Prologue to a cautionary tale about an untimely death or the first paragraph of a legend starring me.

The scene is me at about 4 years old. My butt and my right leg are plopped inside the big brown coaster wagon, it wasn’t a radio flyer but it was along those lines. It was a lot of work to pull the wagon up to the the top of the east hill. Grandpa Loeffelbein’s little orchard was divided east and west by a deep gulley and the gulley had a small creek at the bottom. There was a bridge across the creek, just wide enough to drive grandpas Fordson tractor over. The road to the bottom was a gravel two track trail. The west side road was the steepest. Dead mans hill. Only fools tried riding the wagon down the west side. I had pulled the wagon down the west side and up the east side.

It would be epic I thought to myself. I was sure there was an award ceremony in my near future if only. If only I could over come the crippling fear that kept my left leg on the outside of the wagon extended with my heal dug in. I had my hand on the tiller. I don’t know if I squinted as I stared down to the bottom the hill, charting the course. It wasn’t that complicated. The road went straight to the bottom of the hill. All that was required of those bold enough to try was use the tiller to steer the wagon and keep it on the road and get over the bridge. On the north side of the bridge was about a three foot drop into the creek. On the south side it was more like a 4 foot drop and there was the barb wire fence and stinging nettles. If I had to ditch I would head for the north side. I didn’t know much about stinging nettles but rumor had it that it could result in blindness and death. Nettles were to be avoided. The course charted, and the plan made. As soon as I could swallow the fear I would begin.

I don’t remember what the trigger was that released my left foot emergency brake. I have an older brother and I suspect that there may have been taunting or some other challenge. It could’ve been the thrill effect where the excitement and anticipation of a thing fills up and over flows the brain bucket to fill and over flow the logic bucket and boldness bucket. Like a teeter-totter these three buckets on one side tipped the scale. The left foot came up, brake off, left leg got pulled over and in, tucked in and gravity took over. The part that I couldn’t have or at least didn’t anticipate was the vibration of the wagon and how it affected the steering. I was all over the road. As the speed approached Mach 10 and the vibration took over the controls I did the only rational thing my preschool brain could think of, I ditched to the north. As an adult I look back at this scene and see some dangers. The water in the creek isn’t deep to me now, shin deep. As a four year old my shins weren’t that tall. I remember that I was suddenly very wet and very cold.

The house where the adults were was at the top of the west side hill. There were some stairs that were made of old truck tires stacked and terraced into bank of the hill. Somehow my parents and grandparents were alerted to my catastrophic accident and near death experience. I don’t remember those details but I do remember the thrill of the ride down and the moment of deliberation before the thrill.

There were consequences. I did crash. I did get wet. I did cry. I don’t remember the wagon being at grandpa and grandmas house on the next visit.

I have dreams not of this but like this. One where I am sitting in a parked car the car is parked on a steep hill which turns into a cliff. In my dream the car starts to slide toward the edge. Not matter how hard I press on the brake it continues to slide down the hill.

Why are these stories in my head? I was trying to think of an example of getting pulled away from safety into danger. How the excitement can overcome reason, and reasonable fear is pooh-poohed away. I walked away. Like a good landing is any landing you can walk away from, what doesn’t kill you makes you maimed, wait no, makes you stronger? Hmmm. Same guy who said that also said God is dead. Not a fan of the man or his philosophy.

Anyway, I did face a fear, I took a chance, had an adventure, scared my grandparents, (I’m not sure my parents were ever concerned about safety, they had a bohemian mentality in some areas), I had fun up to a point. I started writing this because I was feeling the pull of sin like I felt the pull of fun and adventure and sometimes it feels almost like the pull of gravity. Becoming a Christian didn’t make all of that go away however I have this working for me.

“Romans 6:15-23 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Are you ready?

(This post is from an hospital stay in 2016, Mary made a full recovery).

I’m sitting in a quiet hospital room. Watching my wife sleep. There are a lot tubes and gizmos.

We had just returned from a nice trip to see family and the ocean. She started to have stomach pain and it kept getting worse. Finally she let me take her to the ER.

Now we wait in this quiet room for things to improve either by Gods miraculous power or by surgery. It’s not a “death is imminent” situation but it is “death is possible”.

We have been here before. Twice in our marriage she was a surgery away from checking out.

Mary is ready either way. She has trusted her heart and life to Jesus.

I guess I just want anyone who’s not following Jesus because they think they have time to consider how unpredictable life is. And I hope that those people will hear the love of a Father who longs to gather his children in like a hen gathers her chicks, scooping them gently into her fluffy feathered bosom.

God loves you. He sent Jesus, his only son Jesus to die in your place, to die for your sins. He died for all of our sins. We are all lumped together in the group called sinners. We just need to admit it. Confess we need someone to help us because we cannot, not sin.

Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

We just don’t know the number of our days. Do not put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

I ask of you 2 things: 1. Pray for Mary and her recovery, 2. consider your own soul. Have you found a way to wash your sins clean? Jesus is THE way.

When tempted I …

In Luke chapter 4 we have the story of the temptation of Jesus. Jesus was victorious over sin because he was victorious over temptation.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Luke 4:4,8,12

Jesus crushed every temptation with the word of God.

What do I do? I explain to the temptation why it wouldn’t be a good idea. I explain the consequences of moral failure. Sometimes I just say, not now. So the temptation comes back again and again. Temptations are very persistent. They keep coming back. What else do they have to do?

I wonder how much less sinning I would do if I would just counter every temptation with “here’s what God says about that…..” But then I would actually have to know what he said. Hmm?

Stinking….

It stinks.

It gets everywhere and touches everything.

It’s odor is on everything.

Invasive.

Pervasive.

Sin.

Did you think I was talking about the smoke? Well that too. But it just keeps reminding me of the human sin condition. There is no escaping it. Young or old rich or poor ugly or beautiful, high or low. Sin and smoke. They are both permeating all of us.

What is the answer?

Rain.

Rain can wash the air clean. Rain will quench the fire that is causing the smoke.

There is a cleansing for the cloud of sin too. It’s not as pretty. The cleansing comes through blood.

The song asks, what can wash away my sin? Then answers, nothing…but the blood of Jesus.

Paul says this in his letter to the Ephesians about the effectiveness of Jesus blood in washing away the stain of sin: “Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. ”

Sin and this smoke are infecting and affecting everyone in the area.

Let’s pray for rain. Rain for cleansing and let’s pray for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.

We do because we do it because it’s what we do

Next up? The good news according to Dr Luke.

For 400 years there is silence from heaven. No prophets, no revelation. The people of God carry on. They continue to pray and worship. It becomes routine

Worship can become routine. We do it because we do it because that’s what we do. Then something happens. Last week our power went out right before service started. It broke up the routine and we had to decide to worship not because it’s what we do but because we want to connect with the God of the universe, with the great God of mercy, with the God who loves us enough to die for us.

Zechariah was doing his job, his routine and a messenger of the great God he was serving showed up and had an answer to his prayer. It’s what we should expect. We should expect God to answer. He is listening. He is aware. He is watching and waiting for His perfect timing. Sometimes the routine becomes the thing. We forget that there is a God and a relationship with this God behind all the trappings.

I guess what I’m getting out of this is don’t give up praying. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. We have a God who hears our prayers and will answer them. Sometimes the answer is NO, and sometimes it is WAIT. What’s the difference? Time.

There are people that I have prayed for to get saved for over a decade with no change. There are others who did decide to follow Jesus. So I keep on praying and believing that God is hearing me and that someday he will take away the barrenness in this relationship and bring new life.

Jesus is God’s plan

Gods plan for salvation has always been Jesus. When I follow his lineage back there were some nail biters in the generations. Cain killed Abel but God provided Seth. The entire world was flooded and God had Noah build an ark. He provided Shem. Abraham was old. Very old. Sarah was old, very old the time for children was gone. Long past. And then Joyous Laughter was born aka Isaac. And so it went, life almost snuffed out our hope but God made a way. Ruth’s husband died leaving her childless and hopeless then God provided Boaz, our kinsman redeemer. Over and over just before all hope is lost God provided a way all culminating in Jesus.

My take away is that Gods purpose and his plan are unstoppable. He did all of that so I could have a way of cleaning off my filthy sin and be welcomed with open arms back into His family.

“4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.”

That’s good news.