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 Hello everyone. Judy and I are going to be on vacation for a week and then I am going to be in St. Louis for a week. I am serving as a mentor for Pastor Dawa who is going through the LCMS Seminary process in the EIIT program which is for ethnic pastors.  It is a four year study program and I will be helping him through the process. There will be no other trips required for me to go to St. Louis. I wrote a Good Word article for the September edition but was not happy with it. I received this devotion from Leo Stone. It is written by Pastor Harry who serves at the Rancho Bernardo Church. It really resonated with me so I am sharing it with you. Hope you are blessed by it.

Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

Genesis 6:9 "How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Father in Heaven knows us completely. No tattle-tale can inform on us; no enemy can accuse us of something He doesn't already know; no skeleton can come tumbling out of the closet that He hasn't already seen; no weakness in our character can be hidden that His light has not already exposed. The truth is, He knew us completely before we knew Him and loved us and adopted us in the full knowledge of how messed up we all are."

A.W. Tozer, "The Knowledge of the Holy" 

When I first heard the story of Noah in the Bible, I decided right then and there that Noah was my hero. Noah stands in a world taken over by evil, violence, and corruption as a righteous man. Not only this, but he is the only follower of God left on earth. So, when God decides to start over… that is, to wash away all the filth and darkness in the land… He calls Noah to build an Ark and to fill it with his family and with two animals of every kind.   

Remember the flannel graph in Sunday school? The rains come… for 40 days and 40 nights… and then the sun comes out… and a rainbow… as a promise from God to never again flood the earth. So, what does our hero do? He lands the boat… he plants a vineyard… and then he got drunk, and he got naked. What?! Somehow the church I grew up in left out that part. That part wasn't in the flannel graph… thank goodness!

A lot of us have been raised in churches that edited out all the failures of the Bible's heroes. I mean, Moses committed murder, David adultery; Elijah tried to take his life; Jonah ran from God; and Peter denied God… and these were just the greatest saints. So, the theology of the church and the faith you were introduced to was this…you're messed up, then you come to Jesus and everything gets fixed, right? After you meet Jesus things are going to be great, you're going to get fixed, you're going to be perfect.

The problem is that about the only thing that's consistent about me… is my inconsistency! So, because I don't pray enough, read the Bible enough, share my faith enough, give enough, serve enough, defeat temptation enough… I must not be a very good Christian. And Jesus says: "You're right! But I love you anyway!" Friends, we will not experience the good news of what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the resurrection until we understand that!

John Wimber was a wild pastor who started the Vineyard Church movement. Whenever you see a Vineyard Church, it's because John believed that the kind of people Jesus was hanging out with and the kind of things Jesus was doing in His day should be the kind of people we're hanging out with and the kinds of things we should be doing in our day. John was called to pastor a little church of about fifteen people in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. The church had been there forever… people would joke that Moses was in the youth group back in the day.

So, John started teaching about the kinds of people Jesus hung out with, and he started preaching about the kind of things Jesus did…and people started getting healed, and people started repenting of their sins, and people started getting baptized, and marriages got strengthened, and families got connected, and before long there was this long line of cars winding their way up the narrow highways from Los Angeles to this little church.

The problem was that these people were…messed up! One day, after a crazy, chaotic, noisy church service, an old deacon (who knew Moses when he was in the youth group!) came up to John, pointed a finger in his face and said, "Pastor… you ruined it… you ruined it… we had a good thing, and you ruined it!" John said, "I know… I know… But someone had to tell them that Jesus loves them just as they are!" ‘Cause…that's where it all has to begin!

I was sitting with a friend of mine at Alesmith Brewery in Kearny Mesa when someone overheard our conversation and asked him, "Are you religious?" He laughed and said, "Hell no! But I do have a personal relationship with Jesus!" The Bible does not edit out the flaws of its heroes, and neither should we.

The church is the loneliest place in the world when everyone is busy pretending they have it all together.

True spirituality is not a formula…it's a personal relationship with Jesus, and your life gets better, not by trying harder, but by following Him closer! Open your eyes to the deep spirituality of being loved, shortcomings and all, by the God who meets you and transforms you in the midst of a messy and unpredictable life.

Listen… ...If today you feel like you don't fit in... you're not spiritual enough... ...or good enough... ...if you feel like a burned-out believer... ...or a moral misfit... ...or a religious incompetent... ...or a faithless failure…

Listen… Jesus came to earth because of His fondness for the imperfect…for people just like you. Why? Because He loves you and wants to lead you into the life He created you to live. If you're feeling just a little like Noah the day after…then why not start at the beginning by whispering this prayer to Jesus:

"Dear Jesus... You have always enjoyed the company of people who knew they had messed up. So, that means…I qualify! I understand that all the things I thought drove You away from me…have actually drawn You to me…my problems, my struggles, my inconsistencies, my failures. I know that what You want is not a flawless prayer life…it's not a squeaky clean life…it's not perfect faith…it's just me…messed up me. So I invite you to surprise me…that I am loved…and use my most profound weakness to work Your greatest wonder. Amen.” Pastor Harry