Holy and Dearly Loved

Near Frenchglen, Oregon, on a motorcycle ride

Last summer during their wedding ceremony, I asked Matt and Xeng to tell us who they are. I was using Colossians 3:12, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” I asked the same question during our worship yesterday and they remembered the answer, “holy and dearly loved”.

Here’s another question. Why? Why does God love you?

We read several scripture passages last week which can help us answer this question.

In Psalm 100, we read “It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We come to him and enter his presence with confidence “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.”

In Romans 5, we read “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

In Matthew 9, we read, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

So, we see that we are his. He made us, he owns us, he watches over us. He loves us. And his love for us is not because we are lovable, winsome and cute. In fact, we are loved by God at our worst.

Why does he love us? Because that’s the way he is. God loves us because of who he is. In fact, love only has meaning as it is demonstrated and given definition by God.

This is such good news! You and I are embraced by the love of God. He finds us harassed and helpless (have you been feeling that lately?) and brings us into his loving presence like a good shepherd does with the sheep.

Now notice another theme that Paul brings up in Romans 5. “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Paul wants us to see that our suffering exists in the context of God’s love.

When we suffer, we ask, “why?”. Did I do something wrong? Am I missing something that I am supposed to know? Does God want me to learn something? Why am I suffering?

Remember that we are holy and dearly loved by God. Paul tells us that good things do happen during our suffering. We are changed, we persevere, our character builds, and we find new hope, all in the midst of suffering. But this is not the answer to our “why?”. This is the good that God brings through our suffering.

God may not answer my questions about suffering, but he continually affirms his love, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

God wants us to see that we suffer, persevere, grow in character, and find hope, all within the loving embrace of God.

Pandemic, Privilege and Pentecost

Two of these things go together in the news right now and in our anxious hearts. We all know about the Pandemic and we are seeing the anger spill into the streets of our cities because of the disparity between blacks and whites and the Privilege that some of us own.
But what does Pentecost have to do with Pandemic and Privilege?
Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit. The story starts with setting the stage, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1) Where was this “one place”? I think is has to be the upper room. When Jesus was preparing to eat his last Passover meal, he sent two disciples to find an upper room in Jerusalem. (Mark 14:12-15) This is likely the same room where the disciples hid in fear after the crucifixion. “On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,” (John 20:19)
This is the room, the place of hiding, the place where they locked themselves in because they were afraid. This is the room that the Holy Spirit invades.
So how have I locked myself in during this Pandemic?
I have isolated myself and I feel proud of that. I am doing the right thing. After all, I have been told that it is my duty to isolate. It is a good thing that we are all doing these days. But with my isolation comes a peculiar feeling of disconnection with those who suffer. I see them on my screens but I don’t have to talk to them or watch them struggle. I can turn the channel.
How have I locked myself in because of my Privilege?
I cash the check. Like many of you we received a stimulus check a while back. It was appreciated but I can’t say that it was crucial to our needs like it was to many others. I look at my privilege like that stimulus check. I have received the benefit of being white, of being male, of having been raised in a loving two-parent home, of not ever having to go hungry. I did nothing to earn these benefits, I simply cash my privilege check. My privilege locks my brain in a room with others like me. In this room we tell each other the lie that we deserve these benefits and that others don’t have them because they are not as worthy.
Remember what the disciples said when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54) I’m thinking that some of their privileged feeling was still present in the upper room, with the doors again locked, while they prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit. Lord, those people, who rejected and killed you, don’t deserve what we have. Bring us your Holy Spirit so that we can be all the more blessed.
But the Holy Spirit comes with God’s agenda, not ours.
Look back to that locked room. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:19-23)
When the Spirit of Jesus enters our locked Pandemic / Privilege rooms he does three things. He brings peace. He sends us out. He equips us with the message of forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit.

The Temple is in Us

Psalm 66 is a call to come to the Lord.
“Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!” (66:5)

When we come to the Lord, we are blown away by what he has done and what he continues to do. The psalmist uses the crossing of the Red Sea as an example of God’s mighty power for our deliverance. “He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in him.” (66:6)

Think of all the examples in the story of the bible of God using water, crossing the water, being saved from the water, to deliver his people. This past week we read in first Peter that the story of Noah and his family being saved from the flood is a picture of baptism. (1 Peter 3:20-21) Your baptism is a reminder that you are connected to the great story of God’s deliverance.

Psalm 66 is a call to trust the Lord when we are being tested.

“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (66:10-12)

We will experience all of these tests in our daily lives. Maybe you are feeling it right now; you feel trapped, burdened, like others are running you over. This will not last. Abundance is in the future.

Psalm 66 calls us to respond to the Lord by entering the temple.

“I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you—vows that my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.” (66:13)

Jesus spoke of his body as the temple. This is revealing as we look through the story of the bible at the purpose and design of temple worship in Israel. The temple signifies God’s presence with us. The temple provides a way for the people of God to be in his presence even though his holiness and our sin cannot coexist. God provides the way through sacrifice.

In another passage we read last week Jesus tells his followers, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

Just as the temple worshippers entered the temple courts in order to be in the presence of their good and loving God, so we today are invited to enter into Jesus as our new creation temple. But this temple is so much better since, when we are in Jesus, he tells us that he is in us. The temple is in us.

We respond to the greatness of our God and to his testing in our lives by entering the temple that is within each of us. How do you practice this in your daily life? What spiritual disciplines (prayer, praise, listening, reading scripture, service, giving) are you committed to?

stronger than steel

When Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were drafted into the service of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, they must have wondered whether God was still able to be God even at such a great distance from Jerusalem and the temple.
At one point of conflict, Shad, Mesh and Abed have to decide whether to dump their old beliefs and give in to the pervasive pressure to just go along. The choice was, worship the false gods of Babylon or be thrown into a super-heated furnace. Their response says much about what was important to them.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
They lived and breathed a different way of life.
How can you and I live this way? How can we live according to the truth of God as revealed in the bible? The rhythms of following Jesus are central to the way of life he has for us.
If you don’t have a church home, please find one. You need the Jesus way of life. You are very welcome to come and be with us for our weekly Sunday rhythm of meeting together at 10 am.


On a walk in the park the other day, Barb and I came across this leaf hanging from a thin spider web strand. You likely have heard that spider web strands are stonger than steel. Amazing. Almost invisible. Yet very real and very strong. God will support you if you give him a chance. His way of life is stronger than anything you will ever face.

Advent Worship Sundays at 10 am

Each Sunday in December we will experience the joy of waiting. For centuries the Jewish people waited for their Messiah. They knew he was coming, but many found it hard to accept him when he did come. Now we wait for his return. We are given joy and power through his Spirit while we wait.

Journey3 and Intown together for 5 weeks!

Journey3 is joining Intown Church for worship for 5 Sundays, June 10, 17, 24, July 1 and 8. Intown meets in the Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, in downtown Portland. Worship is at 10:30 each Sunday morning.
Jay is preaching for these services as pastor Brian is on sabbatical. This is a great opportunity to connect with our sister church!
So, don’t come to Rivergate Church on these Sundays because we won’t be there!

women at the tomb

Two women had a chat with an angel early in the morning around 2,000 years ago. He told them not to be afraid.

What do you fear? There is much in this world to fear and, if I’m being honest, there is much in me to fear. Let’s gather this Sunday at 11 am for Easter worship and talk about fear, peace and courage.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. We are joining Rivergate Church for Good Friday worship at 7:30 pm.

Remember, you are the light of the world!

Growing

My grand daughter loves to be measured by her daddy. We all like to grow. My mentor, Clair, in his 80s, still loves to grow in Jesus. Journey3 is all about growth. It doesn’t matter where you are right now. You might be far from God or close to God. We are growing, each of us. Come and find out.
This Sunday, 11 am.28378763_10155442055787634_8490154363115814427_n (2)

Clair

Bring your Dreams

How to handle the death of a dream? The followers of Jesus were convinced that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. But then he dies in a horrible execution. What will they do? And what will Jesus do?
This Sunday is Easter Sunday. Journey3 invites you to come for worship and lunch. We meet at 11 am at Rivergate Church in North Portland. Come with your dreams and your desperation and let’s see what Jesus will do.WP_20170401_08_21_12_Pro