Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Someone is there for You! - September 30, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! The last day of September for this year. Much of 2009 has already passed us by. Longer school days, school open on weekends, less summer vacation... sounds like one of my childhood nightmares! Decades later, it isn't a nightmare, just one of the new plans put up by our President. Perhaps it isn't the amount of time spent in school, but how that time is spent. Just a thought...

I'm slow this morning. I'll blame it on the nice day yesterday. Not a very good reason to be slow, but it's all I can think of at the moment. The wind is supposed to blow hard today, more new weather coming our way. I am grateful for our changing weather; it keeps things from getting too boring. Does it sound like I'm reaching for things to be grateful for? No, we can never run out of things to be grateful for in Christ. Has anyone thanked you for being alive today? You do have a choice in the matter you know. Some people for one reason or another do opt to end their own lives. Let me tell you that I am grateful that you and I are here together. A group e-mail might seem like not the best way to tell someone that; but what happens if no one ever stops to remind you that we are glad that you are here with us in this life? Jesus tells us this often, but He also uses others to remind us that we are loved. In the darkest times in our lives, we find the suffering easier to bear when we know that we are not alone. Whatever you are suffering this morning, if anything, let me remind you that Jesus is glad that you are here with Him. Furthermore, let me remind you that we, your brothers and sisters in Christ, are thinking of you and praying for you on this fine day!

Look up and see the glory of God's creation, it's all there for you!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buttin' Heads - September 29, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! I'm getting that Outlook thing going again on my PC. You never know when I might need a backup method of sending out e-mail devotionals! :-) A lovely morning has dawned today. The air is cool, the cat is parked on his towel, and I'm up and writing the devotional; praise God!

How often do you find yourself butting heads with someone else? Growing up most teenage boys butt heads with their fathers, and probably a few teenage girls test their mother's will. We go through this while growing up until we come to realize that our father's heads are stronger, bigger, wiser, and they did the same thing with their fathers back in the day and aren't about to be taken by surprise in this. In Christ we often tend to go through the same adolescent phase where we try to butt heads with God. Our Lord sends ministers, counselors, teachers and our brothers and sisters in Christ to disciple and teach us. At first, in the child phase of our Christian life, we listen eagerly, absorb all that we can understand and praise God. As we grow into that teen phase, we pay them back for their service by arguing points of scripture, avoiding constructive criticism, and testing the limits of God's patience. The very things we hope to not repeat from our teen years in this life, we tend to repeat when growing in our Christian lives!

Praise God that this is part of growing closer to Christ. We argue points of scripture as we begin to understand more of God's Word. The key in this is not to become angry and to ponder the other viewpoint. Often I have found that my disagreements are not as far away from what my brother in Christ has said in the first place. At other times the Holy Spirit has led me to see the error in my understanding and the correctness of what a sister in Christ has stated. Sometimes the realization comes the other way, and the brother or sister in Christ will see that I have been given understanding. The main point in this comes from God's Word that commands us to submit one to another. As all of us grow to Christian adulthood, there should be no arguments in the media with our brothers in Christ, no backstabbing our sisters in Christ, and certainly no physical altercations.

If you're out in the church parking lot duking it out with Sallie Mae, both of you are in the wrong, period. You have let the anger go too far and need to seek forgiveness. Besides that, if you're a man, you will want to stop that before Sallie Mae lays you out. You don't want to be both wrong AND embarrassed. :-) Okay, so I'm letting my humor run away there. I have never seen an actual fight in church or Bible study, but we have seen heated arguments in churches, and worse, in the media over church doctrine or God's Word. As is often the case, prayer and listening to God will help us to come closer to each other as we grow closer to Christ.

Love your brothers and sisters in Christ!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Sometimes it takes a Losing Streak - September 28, 2009

Good Monday morning! Winning may not be everything in this life, but losing for a long time may not be so good either. Congratulations to Detroit. The Lions finally won a pro football game for the first time since December of 2007. Detroit needs some good news, even a little secular good news, in a tough time. Team sports may not be your cup of tea; but when we hear about a long losing streak, I think all of us start rooting for the underdog. Remember the long losing streak that Northwestern University had in college football back in the day? I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when that ended. Riding a long losing streak is often what brings us to Jesus. A sudden traumatic event can do the same thing. Mortal peril has caused many to call out to the Lord. Who is this person who uses our worst situations to bring us to salvation?

Jesus often met people in their worst situation or condition when He walked the lands of Galilee and Judea. Medicine was nearly useless in those days, demonic activity was up front and common, and the ruling teachers and priests burdened the people with a thousand traditions and rules. Jesus healed the sick, cast out the demons, and freed all of us from trying to be perfect before the law. Jesus should have been just as miserable as everyone else in that time. He was born a Jew in Roman occupied Judea, lived under the same conditions and law, and might have died from a dozen childhood illnesses that medicine had no way to stop or cure. Yet the Bible records no illness in his life, that He provided funds to pay the temple tax, and told his followers to give Caesar his due. Jesus observed the requirements of the Law including the holy days. However, upon fulfilling the Law, Jesus didn't come back to tell us "See, it can be done!" No, he came back and gave us the Holy Spirit and freedom from the penalty of sin.

Even with the Gospel to tell us that we are free only in Jesus, some of us seem to need a reminder that we cannot save ourselves with our own strength and abilities. It is in the worst situation that we come to realize our weakness and our need for God's salvation. Jesus didn't live the perfect life to put us down, but to become the final and perfect sacrifice for our sins. God doesn't use the tragedies of this world to torture us, but to make us realize our sorry condition in this sinful life. A person might seem successful in this life, but deep down that same person might be coming to the realization that his life is nothing but a long losing streak without Jesus. Let's be ready to help point the way!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Lies! - September 25, 2009

Good Friday morning! What makes up a lie? Why am I even worried about such a thing on a foggy Friday? Perhaps its the trick you often run into on Internet commerce sites. You know the one where an item page says "in stock", but when you go to check out the item is listed as "we ain't got none, and don't even try to backorder!" We run into situations fairly often where someone says or indicates that they will "be there", but when the day arrives, fails to show up. Are these lies or simply changes in stock or situation? As always, we should look at it from the other person's point of view. If an emergency or sudden illness occurs, a person might not get the time to notify us of their change in plans. Millions of people, at least the web site owner hopes it's millions, may be trying to order some item at the same time. Many of us know from our time at the big C that inventory levels can change moment by moment; kind of like my cat - here one moment, gone the next.

A lie is a deliberate sin; one in which we will have that moment of choice where the Holy Spirit reminds us of what we are about to do. A company that runs out of stock is not lying, but a con man who advertises an item, takes the money for orders, and has no intention of fulfilling the orders is a liar. A person who says "I'll be there!" but already knows that he or she will be at an appointment in Vladivostok at the same time is not telling the truth. Maybe the appointment isn't quite that exotic, but you know what I mean. :-)

We can also lie by deception. This deceiving is usually accomplished with what Scott Adams called weasel words. Not sure what he has against weasels, but there you go. A few years ago we had quite a few cases of deception from CEO's in the news. A spokesperson might indicate that the company had a "plan to become profitable", leaving out that the plan used dream interpretation, astrology, and wishful thinking to project reaching profitability around the year 2352. The company knew that turning a profit was a pipe dream, but led the investors into thinking that the imagined profit was a part of some five or ten year plan. Today, even though hundreds or even thousands of CEO's are quite honest, we tend to associate "CEO" with "crook". I'm even going to use it in my novels. A hundred years from now, if Jesus doesn't come first that is, a person might wonder why we assumed that all CEO's were crooks. An old timer might say, "We'll that's an interesting story. You see there were a few greedy corporations around the year 2000..."

Honesty starts with making the right choice. Trust in Jesus to guide you!


Share the Joy! - September 27, 2009

Good Sunday morning! We have a freeze warning for tonight. Is autumn over already? What is your joy dependent upon? This morning, I heard a sociologist put forward the point that our joy is dependent upon sharing that joy with others. What if you and I are not feeling any joy at the moment? First of all, we may not be feeling happy, but joy is not a passing feeling. You may be feeling sad, and I may be feeling depressed, and Joe Bob may be feeling a little irritated, but all of us need to share our joy with others to feel the good feeling that joy brings into our lives. Joy can bring happiness, contentment, and above all, more joy! However, we cannot get more joy unless we share the joy God has already given to us. Our container of joy can dry up from a lack of use, but it can never be emptied through sharing. As we share, God pours more into us; our cup of joy will literally run over!

I found that to be true in my devotional writing. Some of you will know that this summer I went through a time where I did not write on the weekends. The reason was that "they" are all going to church anyway... said the man who has trouble going to any meeting of more than a dozen or so. Yeah, not very good reasoning there. I may have listened too closely to the suggestions of someone else in that case, a certain adversary of ours. Sharing this devotional helps me to have joy, on the weekends and the weekdays. Without sharing you might say that I set myself up for a weak day.(ouch!) It isn't my place to say who is going where or whether this will be read or not; it is my place to share the joy and the Good News of Jesus Christ!

The only way to make sure this will be read by everyone on any particular day is to make some outrageous gaff; not something I want to do. :-) It's much more fun to share some insight or joy that God has given me on a fine morning. I will let the Holy Spirit worry about who is reading the e-mail or blog. I'm sure that pastors feel like they are preaching to the air on some Sundays, but that doesn't steal their joy. Our joy is based on Jesus, not on how we feel. You may feel down one day, but don't let that be a reason for not sharing your joy in Jesus!

Have a wonderful Sunday!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leave the Old Boat Behind! - September 24, 2009

Good Thursday morning! Houston! We have a problem! The contacts won't load on Google mail. I didn't think that I would ever need to memorize everyone's e-mail address, but it seems that I may have to work on that. The men's Bible study group started up last night and we had quite a few men there. Praise God! This year, 1 Peter is our book to concentrate on. Be prepared for lessons learned and insights gained to be passed on to you in the devotional. Sorry, but memorizing a bunch of e-mail addresses was not one of the lessons from last night. We did go over the incident in Peter's life where he had the courage to get out of the boat and walk on water. He did sink, but not in the manner that you and I would if we stepped out of a boat a few feet short of the dock.

You would have been proud of me last night. When introducing myself, I held back on mentioning my former employer and other comments that came to mind. Stepping out of the boat and walking to Jesus may involve leaving something behind. Relationships that God has decided to end - such as your employer telling you to hit the trail - might need to be left behind in that boat. Jesus may even have a new boat for you to sail, or He may simply say "Walk with me!" At times we may wish for a do-over, but Jesus would remind us that we are starting over in Him. Getting back into your old boat may not be part of God's plan for your life. People have occasionally asked me about going back to my former employer or job. However, I have noticed that God does not often send his children back. Jesus might tell us that if He wanted us there, He would not have brought us out in the first place. :-)

Peter only began to sink when he looked at the wind and waves instead of Jesus. In getting out of our old boats, we must do the same thing. Looking at our problems and conditions will cause us to despair and sink. Looking at our Lord and Savior will cause us to rise above the waves of world and personal problems... including all the notices from G-mail about connection problems and such. I'm staying out of that old boat, but some of the knowledge gained may help me to get this e-mail sent out this morning! :-) When leaving our old boat and moving on with Jesus, He will use the knowledge and experience we have from our old life. I have often thought that my IT knowledge is what He wants, but perhaps the whole point of all those years was not the technical knowledge, but the relationships and interaction with people. Sometimes we look out the wrong side of the boat...


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where do I fit in? - September 23, 2009

Good morning on this cool, wet Wednesday! What place do we take in each other's lives? Should Christians put others first or second? The answer is not first, God must take first place in our lives and hearts. Second place then? Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, so second place tie at best. However, we also may have spouses and family. Certainly we wouldn't expect our brothers in Christ to put us ahead of their wives. We would not expect a Christian mother to put us ahead of her children, not even on a day when the child's behavior is so bad that she is seriously contemplating how much the kid might sell for on E-bay. :-) How about the church? Should a friend in Christ put us ahead of the church as a whole? No, for we serve the body of Christ while we serve individual friends. We sometimes think that we should put others ahead of ourselves, but then we run into what Jesus told us again. Paul told us to think of others as better than ourselves, but that is to keep us humble, not to love them more than we love ourselves. So where do we fit in this scheme of things?

This is one where it might be best to turn that question around. Why do we think we have to be ranked somewhere in the affections of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Much of the issue is already decided anyway. God must be first in the lives of all Christians or they cannot claim the title of Christ-one. Of course our brothers and sisters in Christ will put their spouse ahead of friends and other obligations, or they will not long be married. Children must be cared for daily, whereas an adult friend should certainly be able to care for himself. None of this is to say that when an event or emergency occurs that we won't rush to the aid of a friend. The devil would like us to believe that we take a distant place in the lives of our friends in Christ. This could not be less true and is a part of our adversary's strategy of dividing us from one another. The adversary's ultimate goal is to separate us from God. The Bible makes it clear that nothing can separate us from God's love. The only thing that will separate us from God is our own decision to walk away. Believe in Jesus and there will be no separation. Don't worry about some imaginary ranking in the love of other Christians. If you have a serious need, the Holy Spirit will make sure that you have a prominent place in the hearts and prayers of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Every one of us has a special place in the heart of Lord and Savior!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Armor and Fortress - September 21, 2009

Good Monday morning! Something has stolen our warmth! The sound of the wind this morning reminded me of winter; the sight of rain and moving trees reminds me that autumn begins today, in spite of what the calendar says. Yesterday, the warmth of summer in the pasture; today, the cool, wet, and wind of autumn. Has someone or some event stolen your warmth? Do you find it harder to meet new people because your past is littered with incidents of: confidence scams, threats, intimidation, and even physical abuse? Perhaps your past meetings have been difficult but not quite so serious as all of that. We all have faced ridicule, embarrassment, and scorn from those we have met, or even the loss of those we have met and come to love. At times it may seem better just to stop meeting new people or making new friends. The rewards of having a new friend may not seem to be worth the cost of what has and may happen to us. What has happened doesn't change, but our dwelling on it makes our adversary quite happy. What may happen is in God's hands, but we are too willing to visualize the potential bad things in our future. This also makes our adversary quite happy.

When going out, I often find a fear nagging at me. If I don't dwell on that fear, another one appears to take its place. I don't particularly want to dwell on this kind of thing in my mind, but it seems to come in waves like some kind of spiritual attack. Ah ha! I may be onto something there. I began to call it the fear du jour; as in: what is the fear du jour for this day? Yes, our adversary, who as Peter reminds us, stalks about like a roaring lion, does not want us to get out into his world.

Christians can become like a village in the bush that has been terrorized by lions too much. The villagers build a wall of thorns to keep the lions out, but succeed also in keeping themselves in. While the harvest rots in the fields, the terrified villagers hunker down inside their thorny wall. The Bible reminds us that God is our fortress, and we know that He is not stuck in one place. We are also to put on the full armor of someone. Body armor like a police officer might wear? Full military garb? No, you know that this is the full armor of God. Not only is God our fort, He also provides armor for us to stand guard, patrol, pray, read, write, speak, and to go out into enemy-held territory, whatever our calling is in Christ.

As you start a new workweek, know that God does not build a hedge about you to keep you in, but to provide a secure place to talk to Him and to learn from him. Our thorny place may keep the lion out, but unlike the poor villagers, it is not fixed in place and works no matter where we may find our calling leading us to in this world. We will find that attacks are battering at the hedge and our armor as we go forth to work on God's harvest.

Enjoy the coming of autumn!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

A New Light - September 20, 2009

Good Sunday morning! When thinking of the commandments in the Bible we often think that the first commandment starts with "Thou shalt" However, looking in Genesis, we find the first spoken commandment by God is "Let there be light" This light is not the light we commonly see from the sources around us. The sun and moon were not created until later. In Eden there seems to have been another light. We see the stars and moon at night, we see the sun in the daytime and we have all manner of other forms of light in the modern world. If all of those lights were extinguished, we would have some serious darkness, often called "total". What if this other light were to shine though; that light that God created first but seems to have been lost somewhere? Isaiah foretold a new light coming into the darkness when he spoke of Messiah; "Those living in darkness have seen a great light." He wasn't speaking to cave people and certainly the people back in the day had the same sun and moon as we have now. So what is this other light? A light that shines when all others are dark, I want some of that!

We have learned in various ways that good people can do bad things; we also learn that bad people can do good things. So why do we need salvation if even bad people can do good things? First, bad and good as we tend to judge others is a relative measure. One bug can call another bug good or bad based on its actions, but they are both still bugs. The Bible does not say that all people are bad or good, but that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard. If you were born of Adam, and all of us were, then you have sinned even before that first conscious decision was made. Doesn't seem fair, does it? Even if that were not true, all of us have at one time or another committed a sin. We like to call some of them little sins, but sin is sin. Children of rebels and rebels ourselves, we have all fallen short of God's standard which is perfection. We don't know the way to gain salvation, the truth about our condition, or what life is in truth. We don't have God's first light and we are lost in the darkness. What are we to do?

The answer is one man and one God. Jesus came on the scene and fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy. Two statements make the choice clear. Jesus said: "I am the light of the world" and "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus is that light seen in the darkness, the one not dependent upon sun or moon. Jesus doesn't know the way or point to the way; He IS the way. Jesus pointed out the truth of our condition, much to the discomfiture of the Pharisees, and created the way to have life in Him. The choice is to scoff at his bold statements and not believe in Him, or to stand with Him and believe. One way offers eternal condemnation, the other eternal life. Adam and Eve decided to lean on their own understanding, believed a serpent, and brought sin into the world. Jesus had God's wisdom, told the serpent to go away, and brought the light of his life into the world. Praise God for a new day in Christ!


Friday, September 18, 2009

Burnin' Right Through! - September 18, 2009

Good Friday morning! As of this morning, you can use $1,014.49 per ounce to figure how much your weight is worth in gold. That seems like a lot of money to pay for a one ounce block of metal to set in your safe. In reading the Bible verse for Pastor Rogers' message this morning, it is interesting that while the world calls gold an inert and incorruptible metal, the Bible says something different. From our science classes we know that gold is valued for its properties: it doesn't tarnish or rust, you can store it in sea water and it will not fade, acid won't eat it like most metals, and it conducts electricity very well. Gold is also relatively rare. At least it is in my house. You could melt the gold off my entire supply of jewelry in but a few moments and it would be far short of an ounce. I'm not even sure what solid gold is. This only makes me just like most everyone else. Few people in the world will ever have so much as an ounce of gold to hold in their hands. For the most part, we are much more concerned with having enough money to buy food, clothing, shelter, and many other needs. A starving person cannot eat a chunk of gold, and a thirsty person cannot drink a gold coin. Gold will not save a person, no matter how much we give away in an attempt to please God. We can buy things with gold, but they are even more corruptible and temporary. Gold apparently is not the answer to many of our deepest needs.

Sharing is the way to fulfill a need to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. We began our six-week course on sharing last night. It will take us longer than six weeks due to taking time off to fellowship together a time or two, but we will learn more about sharing through the Holy Spirit. I must share something that happened last night. In the group, one of our members had the courage to confess something deep. That is not easy to do even in a group of people you are familiar with. The Holy Spirit placed the desire to make a bold request in prayer upon my heart. I remember thinking: "Okay, Lord. If you want me to make that request, have Burt call on me to lead the prayer." Now you know that I should know better than to ask for signs like that. :-) Burt hesitated not in the slightest before calling me to obey the Lord and make that request public. The Holy Spirit of God moves among us. Now that is something of great value! I had to get up early this morning just to make sure that I shared that in the devotional. Sometimes the light of Jesus burns right through any bushel basket we try to put over it!

Praise the Lord for sharing in His holy name!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's all About the People - September 16, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! The sirens are going off on the other side of town; I always hope that no one is hurt when I hear that noise. Why, you might ask? Because it's all about the people. Even those I do not know and have never seen are loved by God. Persons who I like or dislike; those who make me feel good and those who would rather I jump in a fast-moving current, all are loved by God. We cannot scan through a crowd of strangers and know who will be in Heaven and who will not, but God knows each and every one of them. My books may be made up of fictional characters, but the stories are still about people. Whatever genre of reading or movies you enjoy, the stories are about people too. Robots and insects are odd images of us in some movies, but everything still comes down to people. Our relationships with each other and the world we live in, and the most important relationship, or lack thereof, with God our Father in Heaven.

I think back at times to the moments that I met a person in passing and failed them. Not even a "God bless" or "Praise Jesus!" coming out just when I might have lifted someones day. However, we won't always fail and we must trust in God to save those who will choose to come to Jesus. Writing, reading, praying, speaking, and loving: it's all about people and God. All of us 'peoples' need salvation from the one true God. Pray for those around you and love them as Jesus loves them.

Better news and a link I promised to pass on - In the bookstore search for "Nohr" and you will get a page with four books. There used to be five, but one of them seems to have become a collector's item. Burt, save the pink one! Seriously, these books are written by none other than my sister, Kerri. The original copies I purchased a couple of months ago are receiving some good reviews around here. You should spend a few bucks and give them a try.

God bless!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Far, Far Away - September 15, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! I read an interview with a college coach this morning wherein he complained that because the college had turned itself in to the NCAA and punished the staff and students involved that they should be free of further punishment. Do you suppose that would work with God? Somehow I don't think so. For one thing if turning ourselves in and levying our own punishment upon ourselves would work, then Jesus need not have died for our sins. Secondly, who would choose eternal punishment in Hell as fitting for their own sin? Not me, I'm quite sure that I would let myself off somewhat easier than that. We can turn ourselves in, we have to in fact to repent of our sins, but we cannot decide our own punishment. Instead we turn ourselves in and beg for mercy and forgiveness.

While a human organization such as the NCAA will never catch every rules violation, God already knows of our every sin. Turning ourselves in is only the beginning of forgiveness. We may still suffer punishment even though the price for all of our sins has been paid for by Jesus. At the same time, God will not constantly remind us of sins already forgiven. In this life, you may hear about a humiliating mistake at times for the remainder of your earthly life. People often delight in extended psychological torture; we sometimes call it "going home" or "visiting my hometown." Each of us have had it happen to us: "I remember the time you..." and the torturer will tighten the rack of memory another notch. God doesn't bring up old sins in that manner. The Bible tells us that once a sin is forgiven, God puts it as far from him as the east is from the west. I like to be reminded of that, especially when old sins are paraded through my memory. Trust in God and leave your old sins where He has put them; far, far away.

Have a wonderful day in Jesus!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Glorify God Today - September 14, 2009

Good Monday morning! Since I am once again slow getting started on a Monday morning, most of you are probably already at work and wondering when I'm going to get to it. The answer is now of course! I have much to work on today, and it's time to get started. Yesterday I didn't have much to say, so what will I write today to the glory of God the Father? I find it a good goal to have each day; do something to glorify God. Did you know that while the various anti-Christs and their father demand worship to glorify themselves, God demands worship for our own good? God is God as He told Moses back in the day when He said, "I Am that I Am!" Our worship will not make Him any more God than He is already. However, our worship and obedience will make us better and more like our Lord Jesus. Even the angels refused worship when delivering messages in the Bible saying, "worship only God!"

Doing something to glorify God each day is a form of worship. If we spend each day glorifying ourselves then we have entered into pride. Since we know that pride won't get us any closer to God, I choose to glorify God! We yearn for a choice in this life where so much is forced upon us. There you have it. God doesn't force anyone to believe in Him or worship Him, but doing both is a good option to choose. I love the Lord and choose to believe in and worship only Him!

Have a wonderful Monday in Christ!


Friday, September 11, 2009

A Christ-one First! - September 11, 2009

Good Friday morning! What is a common question to ask of persons when getting to know them? Please don't send answers to that. I'm sure there are as many different questions as there are curious people in the world. One common one that I hear is: what church does he/she go to? Which is followed by some comment like: oh, so he/she's a Catholic/Methodist/Lutheran etc. Why wouldn't any of us be a Christian first? All of us should strive to first live as Christians and let it be known that we follow Christ first in our lives. Certainly we have found by now that a person can be a denomination-ist without being a Christian. Simply attending a certain church building on a regular basis and agreeing to become a member can make one some kind of 'ic, 'ist, 'an, or even an 'al, like a Pentacostal or Evangelical. It's easy to be one of those, no one has to surrender to anyone to pick up those labels. Becoming a Christ-one though, that's a different story. The Christ, Jesus, will not take second place in our lives. He is Lord. We surrender our lives to Him and He sends His own Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Any of us can become a member of a denomination or church by simply saying "Okay". But to become a Christian, we must first accept Jesus as Lord.

The problem mentioned earlier comes when Christians forget to be Christians first. We might want to remember to answer the question of where we attend services with: I am a Christian and I attend this church. We might introduce a friend as: "This is John, he's a Presbyterian." The better way would be to introduce John by putting his faith in Christ first, "This is John; He is a Christian and attends the Presbyterian church." Perhaps we can even get to the point where we are happy to make the introduction, "This is Burt, my brother in Christ!" The denomination or church Burt attends can be, pardon the pun, attended to later. The answer might also be found by asking yourself: what do you want to be known as? Try this, pretend you are being introduced to God before His throne. Would you want Jesus to introduce you as a Protestant or Catholic? I'm thinking that all of us would want our Lord to introduce us as one of His own, a Christ-one!


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Debt has been Paid - September 9, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! Whoohoo! The holiday weekend is over and the "buy me!" e-mails are back with a vengeance! Okay, so that may be the wrong thing to get happy about this morning. I had a long talk with an old friend last night and a prayer breakfast with the guys from life group yesterday morning. In both cases, I found out that things at the Big C are not as bad as rumor has painted them. Call it what you will, but I call that an answer to prayer! :-) Throw it out there, run it up the flagpole, but I think it's time that we saw some good news in the job market too! Tell the government to quit throwing money around like they own Ft. Knox and let's get America back to work. What? They do own Ft. Knox? Oh, well, the new administration doesn't have to spend it all away even if gold did hit $1,000 per ounce yesterday.

The spending ways of our elected officials reminds me of the story about ol' Sven and Ole. If you're from the north, you might remember the old Sven and Ole stories. To cut it short and to the chase, Sven and Ole stories were about two dudes who weren't, shall we say, the most wise and intelligent gentlemen of their community. The one in question is about writing a check as a opposed to actually having money in the bank. Ole got a new checkbook, learned how to write a check, and proceeded to spend checks like there was no tomorrow. Of course, the punch line goes something like; "vat do you mean, balance ze checkbook?"

Speaking of debts that we cannot pay... how long do you think it would take each of us to pay what we owe for our sins? Would we even know where to start? Some might answer, and I have seen this in books and movies, that one good deed equals one bad deed or sin. The theory is that somehow a person can balance his spiritual bankbook by making up for whatever sins lurk in his checkered past. How would we know in the first place that giving money to someone in need could possibly make up for embezzling money from an employer, for example? What if you got to the pearly gates and it turns out that you forgot the exact amount you embezzled and came up short by a few bucks? I suppose the closest biblical equivalent is the system of sacrifices God laid out in the Mosaic law. However, this system didn't particularly work as I recall. Actually, the idea of sacrifices goes back before Moses, but that isn't what we're getting at here. Dead animals could never make up for sin unless God allowed it. So even under the system of sacrifices it was God's grace that "made up for" sin rather than something we could do.

No, I think that I like the grace of God better. For one thing I know that the sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and sufficient for the debt owed. God's grace is not dependent upon how well I perform my good deeds, nor is it tied to how many good deeds I do in my lifetime. God's grace can't be taken away by the powers in this world or those in the unseen places, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul. Since we cannot possibly earn it, God has also given His grace to us as a gift. I didn't know the way to salvation, but when I turned to Jesus I found that He is the Way. I didn't know how much to pay for my sin, but in Christ I found the debt had already been paid.

Look up, rejoice, and enjoy a grateful day in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Trusting God to use Our Mistakes - September 8, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Labor Day is over and back to laboring we go! :-) Some go to a labor of love and others to just labor. Have you ever tried to explain your reason or wish to trust only in God and then blown it by saying too much? I did just recently and I do regret it. For all of us, it is far too easy to answer the call of reliance on God with the world's methods and means. For example: "I am trusting in God; what else am I going to do?" The last part leads a worldly person to answer with things like finding another job, setting up a business, and other things that may not be what God would have a person to do. Such things may not even be possible in this economy or at this time. However, what is worse is adding that little question makes God sound like a last resort when I want to let the world know that trusting in God is my first and best hope. Well, I apologized to God a lot this weekend for that, and asked forgiveness for that slip of the tongue. What did I hear from the Holy Spirit? "I'll take care of it, you make sure to keep going out there."

In our witness, we can and probably will screw up from time to time. God can use our mistakes as well as our talents in spreading the Good News. What we cannot do is stop reaching out to someone that God has sent our way. It would be easy for any of us to say: "I'm not going to try witnessing any more, I just mess up every time I open my mouth!" Wrong answer; there was one perfect witness in Jesus Christ, the rest of us must trust in Him and learn from our mistakes. I like this one: "My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in your weakness." God said that to Paul when the great apostle had a moment of self-pity, not unlike what you and I do at times.

Have a better day in Christ Jesus; trust in Him completely!


Sunday, September 06, 2009

No Conditions! - September 6, 2009

Good Sunday morning on this fine Labor Day weekend. My mind seems to be a bit wandering this morning, probably the sleep wasn't all that I had hoped it would be last night. The question I have this morning is: Does our love have conditions? If your love of another person requires that the person also love you, then that love is not like Christ's love. Some people like pets because "they love you back." If our love requires that the object return our love, then it is not like Jesus' love for us. What if a person decides not to love another because they haven't been introduced, or don't know them well enough, or they are from a foreign land? We have heard all of these reasons before, perhaps we have used them in our own denials. Praise God that Jesus didn't wait until He had met everyone before dying for our sins! Praise God that Jesus made no excuses for loving every person: past, present, and future. Jesus prayed for those who refused to believe in Him, those who believed but didn't understand his mission, and even for those of us not yet born when He knelt in prayer in Gethsemane. Thank you, Lord, for loving me without condition!


Saturday, September 05, 2009

No Security Here - September 5, 2009

Good Saturday morning! The Labor Day weekend is underway, and I can also report one more set of neighbors on the road. Maybe the traveling for this weekend won't be as bad as I thought. Then again, maybe more folks decided to travel because they figure their job might be gone by Thanksgiving. The job situation does look rough, especially if you define your worth by your job, or perhaps worse, your job title. The LWF devotional has a few words from the late Pastor Rogers about defining our worth by what we see in the world as opposed to remembering whom we belong to. Jesus died for me, not because I held a good job for almost 20 years, or served in the military, or even because of [in spite of?] what I look like. Jesus died for you and me because He values us above even the perfect life He lived on this earth. Let that sink in for a moment...

Jesus lived the perfect life to save all of us. Did He stop for a moment and do an end-zone victory dance? Did He run down and crow in the devil's face? Nope, He lived again and gave us life. Did Jesus tell a parable where someone in the story would not believe even if a person returned from the dead to tell them the Good News? Why yes, he did! We know that many still refused to believe even as Jesus walked the earth in His risen form. He was so glorious that even Mary Magdalene had trouble recognizing him. What a great weekend to take a moment or two and think about our risen Lord! Now, isn't that a lot more comfortable and encouraging than thinking about your job and the vapor-ish security we have in our earthly employers?

Trust only in God, live for Him!


Friday, September 04, 2009

Trust and Jobs - Sept 4, 2009

This morning I walked in the fog. The noises from the interstate were muted and the trains don't seem to be running this morning. A diesel pickup truck half a mile away could be heard clearly and a few steps in gravel were enough to make me feel like apologizing to sleeping folks. Of course if the walk had been in one of those movies, I would have heard footsteps behind me and turned to see... nothing! As we don't live in a movie, I walked in the near silence and thought about trusting in God completely. We all need frequent reminders of where to place our faith these days.

God has not left the scene and He is still sovereign. While so many are out of work, God has not thrown in the towel on His great work. Many wags are predicting years until we see recovery of lost jobs. Try holding a national revival. Let the nation return to God, and watch how quickly we see prosperity and employment return. Until we come back to the worship of God and belief in His Son, we as a nation may suffer. This will not be comfortable news to those who do not believe in Jesus. While we do need words of comfort, we cannot deny that our nation has allowed sin to flourish in many ways.

So, starting the weekend on that very non-comforting note doesn't seem quite right either, but I don't take it back. No matter what happens in the world around us, we may just have to be like the little, green farm in Pastor Schuller's story this morning. We may be surrounded by a desert of sin and unbelief, but God is our rock and our support. We have nothing to fear and a whole desert to minister to! We have Jesus in our hearts and each other in our prayers. Live gently in Christ on this fine holiday weekend!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Walk Without Fear - September 2, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! The paper is full of back to school stuff this though kids need to be reminded. It's kind of like a big, black cat parked in front of your computer screen. When the thing is a fact of life, you don't need to be reminded of the obvious. :-) "Meow!" Yeah, get out of the way, you!

Another nice, autumn-like morning today. I hope you have the chance to get out in it by your own choice. Some of you are already headed to work. Somehow the condition of the morning just didn't sink in when crossing the parking lot to go to work. The alternative was to let it register and regret having to go in on such a nice morning. Now I can walk the morning trail without fear of getting started late. Walking without fear; that is something we should do in every situation. Have you ever managed to walk without fear at all times and in all circumstances? Me neither. Jesus tells us to obey his commands and one of those commands is to not be afraid. Once again we seem to find ourselves not living up to God's glorious standard, Jesus.

Take courage though, the removal of our fear is a part of the Holy Spirit's work in us. One day you and I will meet Jesus face to face and He will take away the last part of our fear and sorrow. Today, God can use our current imperfect condition to bring glory to His name. He once told Paul that His strength was made glorious in Paul's weakness. Our fear can cause many bad behaviors in this world, but it can also lead us to seek God. And Jesus promised us that he who seeks will find. What happens of course is that we turn in our seeking Jesus and find that He has been there all the time, waiting for us to turn from our self-rightness to His righteousness. The grace of Jesus is sufficient for you and me.

Enjoy the day! Live in Jesus.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Words of Comfort - September 1, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! At first I wanted to write on rebellion today, but that isn't very comforting in these difficult times. All of us are familiar with that subject as well, probably spending no small amount of time in wondering why we have such a problem with that in our lives. However, better news for us all. Last night I asked God for words of comfort and received an answer. That answer was Isaiah 41:9-12. If you could have been inside my head last night, you would realize just how perfectly this passage of scripture fits. Of course, God was inside my head last night and He knew exactly what was needed to quiet the storm.

"I have called you back from the ends of the earth so you can serve me. For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."

"See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and ashamed. Anyone who opposes you will die.
You will look for them in vain. They will all be gone!" (Isaiah 41:9-12, NLT)

My enemies at the moment are not other men or women, but God can certainly "kill off" the problems and obstacles that we face. Enemies in the spirit realm? God can take care of those too. My enemies may simply be my own fears and weaknesses. God says they will die. Verses 9 and 10 are the most comforting to me. How great does it feel to have God let you know that first: you are called, and second: He will not toss you away? Wonderful indeed! Of course each of us could take verse 10 alone and put it over our desk at work or home. All of us together could not count how many believers throughout history have been encouraged and strengthened by God simply telling each of us: "Don't be afraid, for I am with you..."

Rest in the grace and comfort of God,