Monday, July 16, 2018

Choose Now, The Midnight Cry Comes Soon

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:1

From instruction received in the Word we know the tale of the ten virgins and their lamps. Don't be foolish like the five who brought no oil for their lamps we are taught, and so we strive to keep our cupboards full and our refrigerators stocked. Does this parable teach us to be selfish with our oil? For at the exact moment of their greatest need, half of the bridesmaids were refused any sharing. As is the case with our Lord's parables, it is not so simple as that. We know from other teachings from our Lord about God's provision, and this is not about provision.

The world teaches us to accuse, kind of goes with the title of the prince of this world, aka the Accuser of the Brethren. We easily are moved by the flesh to find fault with the prepared virgins for not sharing with the foolish virgins. However, the parable is about a choice we all must make. Note that the ten virgins go out together to await the coming of the bridegroom. He appears to the virgins to be late, delayed by what they do not know and does not come at a decent hour. (Odd how the flesh seems to forget to accuse the bridegroom in this case.) Also, all of the virgins lay down to sleep together and all of them trimmed their lamps together. Caught unprepared at the midnight cry, the five virgins run to the store, at midnight no less, to purchase oil for their lamps. All the ten virgins did things together except in this one thing: choosing to take oil in their vessels with their lamps.

The choice is to believe in the Son of God or to be caught unprepared when His time comes. It is not about sharing, for there was always plenty of oil for all in the story, it is about being prepared while the door to the wedding hall is still open. A time will come when the gates of Heaven are shut up and closed down. The wedding of the Lamb and His Bride will take place and there will be some people left out. The parable is about those who want all the benefits of Heaven, but do not want to acknowledge the ruler of Heaven, the Son of God, as their Savior and Lord. The foolish virgins want to go their way and refuse His way until it is too late. The midnight cry sounds and they are found outside. We live in the time of choosing, but it will not last forever.

Our Lord wants to save all ten virgins; we who believe in Him want all of us to be there for His great wedding; the Holy Spirit of God works tirelessly to spread the oil of Christ around to every lamp. Choose now, before the midnight cry.

Love in Christ,

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tempted By Little, Tempted By Lots

“All small animals that scurry along the ground are detestable, and you must never eat them. This includes all animals that slither along on their bellies, as well as those with four legs and those with many feet. All such animals that scurry along the ground are detestable, and you must never eat them. Leviticus 11:41-42

The Law as written in Leviticus did not feature mouse pie on the menu it seems. Not messing with the slithering things was probably not a problem for most of the Israelites though. However, it seems from my observations that there are two times in life when eating the forbidden critters might be a problem. One, a famine and people are starving hungry. Understandable to us, we don't like to be that hungry either. The second time though is perhaps less easily excused, and that is when people are rich and well-fed. Yes, we are in such a time for many right now, and what do they want to do in this time? Yes, to try every sort of food.

You and I may find the second totally alien to us in that we have never experienced that sort of wealth. This is not the big bonus at work, so let's go have a steak dinner kind of wealth that many of us have done, but the wealth where money rolls in so fast that we can't spend it all and we move to the house on Easy Street and get bored with even the finer things. It is interesting that the two worst temptations to the forbidden are total absence of a necessity and overwhelming abundance. In neither condition do we behave very well when left alone.

When it appears that a necessity will not be fulfilled we easily fail to maintain our faith and trust in God. When there is so much of a necessity that we have no reason to worry, then we get bored with even the good stuff and reach for the exotic, especially if it is forbidden. It is funny that the time of plenty is exactly what we pray for when things are a bit short. Yet, when we are overwhelmed with plenty, we never pray for a time of doing without. In the flesh, it would seem, we are never to be satisfied. In God's place we might be well be tempted to throw up the hands in disgust and walk away. Thanks and praise to God that He is not like us!

God sent His Son to save us because we do not have it in ourselves to simply be grateful for His provision without a profound change within that which we call the self. Always we would be running from one temptation to the next, and falling for all of them, if it were not for a new spirit born within us of the Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord. In Christ, we are no longer temptation's plaything, and it is time we remember that as He leads us on toward home.

Kind of a long-winded day there, I hope that your weekend is just as long! Love and joy in Christ Jesus!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

One For You

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
​​May the name of the God of Jacob defend you. Psalm 20:1

Diligent in my seeking in prayer after my needs, I lifted up my head to find a little time to request one for you.

It is true that our needs for ourselves are always right there, in the face and on the mind, and first at most times in our prayers. It is hard to ignore those immediate pains for example. A bit harder is to recall the needs of others and to send up a prayer for his or her need. Here we see the king offering up a heartfelt prayer for something that perhaps has not yet arrived. For each person, the day of trouble will arrive, and we do well to remember before the need is too great to ignore. It is that proactive prayer from King David, perhaps centuries before the word became a business buzz word.

Today, it feels good to offer up one for you, not that I wish a day of trouble upon you today, but that the Lord may bless you in this day and all days.

In the love of Christ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Trust Begins...

“They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you." Deuteronomy 28:52

I have been known to bring my requests to God with a burden upon them, the burden of what I think is the best answer. It struck me last night that trust begins not when the Lord does what I think is best, but when I give my request to the Lord and wait on whatever answer He knows is best.

Now, with the power of prayer in mind, this technique seems to be fraught with peril. The Lord might not do what I want in this thing I have requested! The Lord God may provide for my need through a channel I had not thought of during my request. He might provide in a way that had never occurred to me. Dare I put it into words? The Lord may even say no!

Yes, trusting completely in the Lord's response is the beginning and where we may go from there will cause us in the fullness of time to declare Him wonderful. In time we will even name the Lord Wonderful, says so right in Isaiah 9:6. So, how does today's Bible verse relate to this?

This verse is a part of the curses on disobedience of the Law, but it also shows within itself where that disobedience was: they were trusting in earthly walls instead of the Lord! Indeed to begin our journey toward full trust in the Lord, He may have to knock down some earthly walls in which we have placed some trust. Does life seem unfair in the moment with a job lost, financial setbacks, health failures, or other pains and sufferings? Mayhap God is pulling down some of those trusted earthly walls we don't need anymore.

Trust in the Lord Jesus our God and Savior.


Monday, July 09, 2018

Learning Our Place

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13

Tax collectors in Roman occupied Judea did not enjoy a wholesome reputation. In the minds of the people they were the worst. Not soldiers who had conquered, their attitude might be understandable, but betrayers from within - Jews who sold out their nation for a profit. The tax agents had a master in Rome to satisfy, represented by the governor, and a people not to upset so badly that rebellion broke out. The Pharisee sect enjoyed a rather different reputation.

The Pharisees were the rule keepers heroes. They kept the Law of Moses to the letter and added a few hundred traditions on top which they also kept to the last jot and tittle. The Pharisees in some or perhaps all cases were also rather proud of themselves and liberally awarded themselves pats on the back for their piety. If human effort alone could save a man, these would have done so and proudly told God all about it. Then Jesus came.

You know the rest of the parable from Luke 18, the tax collector lives with God in our memory as the humble sinner who knew his place much like the repentant thief on the cross. The Pharisee carved a place for himself at the top of society and religion, and was a hero of the law in his own mind, a real self-made man. However, our Lord's opinion of the Pharisee was not one of approval.

It is tough to learn our place before God. Some will never admit that they need help to be saved, much less that salvation is the work of Christ alone. I had to be humbled first and so did you in order to ask Jesus to save us. How do I know you did? Well, all have sinned and pride will not come to the cross to be saved. Pride stands before the altar and proclaims how good he is. Humility stands before God and admits our need for His Son.

Have a great new work week in Christ!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Giving Up Control...To the Lord

Take control of what I say, O LORD,
and guard my lips. Psalm 141:3

Most of us have watched a medical drama episode where the young doctor wants very much to solve the problem and goes too far in saving the body while losing the patient. The patient for their part ends up brain dead and connected to what we call life-sustaining machines. There is debate over whether this is life or not. Most careers involving problem solving have similar situations, though perhaps not involving a human life.

The story of my first laptop repair while here in Julesburg goes much the same, and I have probably told it before. For those new to this daily devotional, I get to tell it again. For the others, you can chalk it up to me practicing to be an old man, if you wish. A new friend had suffered a financial disaster in his life, and presented to me a dead laptop. (Presented, heh, watching too many medical videos.) No question, it was a dead laptop.

I had the owner buy a replacement battery. Nope. Then I began digging into the problem in earnest with no stopping point except to fix the laptop and give the man some good news in the midst of his financial and now legal and personal disaster. Before I quit, I spent about $300 of my meager funds and put at least $1,000 in labor into a dead laptop. My friend could no way afford this sort of bill in his condition and I never invoiced him.

In learning from this lesson, I realized that what I wanted was control, not over his life of course, but over mine. The focus of that control in the moment being that particular dead laptop. It still does not work and I still have the thing in a plastic tote down in my basement as a reminder. Even from strictly worldly terms it did not make sense to expend the effort and money that I did since the thing could be replaced for $200 with a refurbished model of the same brand and size on EBay. Sending my friend after a new replacement laptop would not cost anywhere near what I put into the dead one, though he could not afford to do that at the time. Problem solving can become an idol if we nudge the Lord aside by not listening to Him and by forcing control on that which we many have no control over.

The thing was dead and I could not fix it; deal with it and give up control to God our Father. And indeed once I quit sinking money and expending effort flogging the proverbial dead moose, the Lord provided a laptop of a larger size that someone no longer wanted which I sold to my friend. Wait, what? Provided, sold? Yes, by that time my financial situation was no better than my friend's and he would have in no case accepted charity from me. I hope that the lesson of that first laptop sticks with me, because in any career there is the danger of letting that which we think we have control over deceive us into thinking we have control over all things. That is called humanism and you will see it presented in many an entertainment and educational vector. Like that doctor in the show, we could also do harm with a manic grasping after control over life or death, and I do believe that God calls the shots on those things and many others. Perhaps that is why we know Him as Sovereign and Almighty.

Have an out of (your) control Saturday, give up control to God!


Friday, July 06, 2018

Sport To A Fool

​To do evil is like sport to a fool,
​​But a man of understanding has wisdom. Proverbs 10:23

We can easily see the first line of this verse by thinking of a group of young boys. That's all it took, right? The script goes much the same: one of the boys suggests to another some act that the parents or elders (or even the law enforcement authorities) would disapprove of without delay. Others of the group may join in suggesting that the second boy is not all that he should be if he does not perform this act, and it is typically one of cruelty toward another. We can see that the parents of that boy are soon to be embarrassed. The group of boys will laugh about it until word of the deed spreads. Young boys tend toward the foolish like ducks to water; to them acts of cruelty can easily become sport if such things are not stopped and punished.

I passed through this phase of life without incident of course and can give no stories of my own to support my point. Mmm, hmm, sure I did. The problem is rather an overabundance of examples to choose from and a firm upbringing in the church and morals by my parents which saved me from many more stories of the regretful sort. So, how do we grow up and gain understanding to have wisdom?

Those we hurt during the growing up often remind us that such actions are not loving and kind, but these actions also store up a wealth of regrets along the way to wisdom. One would hope for an easier way or if easy is not the way at least one that manufactures no regrets along the way. You and I know already that our God is the source of all wisdom, and He gives for the asking. And, as our Lord would rather we not hurt each other, I'm thinking He will give this wisdom generously too! That is of course no startling deduction for my part, words and examples throughout the Bible show how generously our Lord gives to us His love and wisdom.

Rejoice in our Lord's loving generosity this weekend!