Monday, November 30, 2009

A Little Recipe for Joy - November 30, 2009

Good Monday morning! Yurgh! The Monday after a good, long holiday; not the favorite day for many of us. We all have to get back to work. Do ya like how I'm including myself in this? :-) Okay, so my 'work' is right here and may not seem like real work to me. Praise the Lord for that! I do feel the God-given and God-driven urge to get back to it!

We have been going on with thanksgiving for a week or so now, what do we gain from this grateful attitude that the Holy Spirit develops in us? One thing we gain in our gratitude is more joy. We are joyful over the good things Christ provides, and the bad things cannot knock us off our joy. As we learn to be grateful for what we have, what we don't have cannot crack the walls of joy surrounding our hearts. Friends may at times disappoint us; all of us are human after all; but with a grateful attitude for having friends in the first place, we can forgive and have joy in the forgiveness. We too have caused our friends grief at times; how wonderful is the joy we gain from being forgiven?

What if you don't feel joy at the prospect of going back to work after a long weekend? Joy isn't a feeling like happiness that comes and goes. It is often said that joy is more than a feeling. Let's see if I can listen to the Holy Spirit and pass on a few things about joy.

Joy is knowing:

  • A dash of happiness that shouldn't be there - we might feel happy when things look quite dark in life.
  • A bit of eager anticipation - we know that Jesus will return soon and we eagerly anticipate His glorious return.
  • A cup of optimism - we know the promise that all things work together for the good of those whom Christ has called.
  • A jigger of peace - the storms may rage around us, but inside is the peace that only the Holy Spirit can bring.
  • A helping of love - the world teaches us to be suspicious of strangers, but Jesus told us to love one another.
  • A portion of generosity - we give because Christ gave to us. That feeling you get from giving and trusting in God is a part of joy.
  • And a generous measure of Christ's love - we know that to be loved by the Almighty One is a joy to our hearts.

Dare I say, enjoy the day, knowing that you are beloved of the Creator of all things? Yes, enjoy the day and know the joy of Christ!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fleas of Sin? - November 29, 2009

Good Sunday morning! Woo! 18° outside and it feels like 9°! A cold morning, but a great start to the day. What does one little sin matter to us; after all we are saved by Christ and all is forgiven, right? Think of a flea, just one little parasite. A flea might take more than its body weight in blood, but its body weight when compared to the host is so little that even the "more than" doesn't matter in the end. However, one flea tends to make more fleas...a lot more fleas. The parasites on rats destroyed much of the population of Europe back in the day. Which brings us to another problem: fleas taking just that little bit of blood can also leave a little something behind, viruses or bacteria - those little things we used to call "germs". Disease carrying vermin often referred to the little parasites the vermin carried, not the vermin themselves. Sin is much the same for us.

One little sin, that one small, unimportant, surely-that-can't-destroy-me sin in our lives can breed and grow much like fleas. One rationalized sin, one bad habit that we rationalize by pointing out that everyone has them, can become a cesspool of sins. If we all have 'em, then we are all doomed right? Might as well just give up now. Dooooom, gloooom. But no, someone thought of that before we were born. We are all condemned in our own sin, but that isn't the answer, only the question. Jesus came to provide the answer to the question of: how can all sinners be saved? Right, we are saved by Christ and in Christ we live. A part of this salvation is the provision of The Cleaner. We have called him Paraclete, counselor, Holy Spirit, and friend, but something else that Jesus promised is a cleansing of all sin. The Holy Spirit of God is the best at cleaning out those sins we have hidden in the deep, dark corners. Jesus came to bring light into a dark world, and His Holy Spirit will shine light on our little dark fleas of sin that try to hide from the cleansing. Trust in God; He will make sure that no sin parasites are riding on you when it is time to go home.

Have a great Sunday in Christ Jesus!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

How Encouraging! - November 28, 2009

Good um, Saturday morning! Sorry, some days I have to think a bit to recall which day of the week it is. I met Jack Harris at the Thanksgiving feasting and he made the mistake of admitting that he didn't always read the entire devotional. Excellent! Now all the bad rumors we need to pass along about Jack we can do in the second or third paragraph of the devotional. Be sure to send the gossip tidbits to me before 0600, as I sometimes get up and write early. :-)

To-do list for Saturday.
1. Encourage Jack to read the entire devotional. Done!

Encouragement, we know it is our duty to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but sometimes we might be tempted to use underhanded methods. We might want a friend to show up for a lunch date, and over the years we learn that the best way to make sure the friend shows up is to invite his wife... and then do our best to stifle the rumors when only his wife shows up dressed in her best outfit. Oops! Sometimes our clever methods can backfire. If any of the gentlemen are looking at their spouses with a raised eyebrow at the moment - stop it! The preceding was an example, not the story of an experience.

2. Encourage marital suspicion. Done...unfortunately.

Encouragement, we all need it from time to time; who is best equipped to provide it? The pastor of course! We all look to our pastor to provide encouragement, but where does his come from? We tend to assume that all pastors are receiving all the encouragement they need from God. We also tend to assume that pastors have conquered sin in this life; they're pastors right?! Both assumptions would be wrong, and if we search our messages from the Holy Spirit, (you know the ones that we tried to ignore) we will find a few encouraging us to pray for and encourage our pastors. A call to the ministry does not end all addictions, temptations, habits, and any other thing that all Christians struggle with; in fact, the call to minister might just add a few new ones.

The worst reaction to a pastoral scandal is the shock that most people express, as though their pastor was some kind of superhuman and they can't imagine a fall. We all depend upon the Holy Spirit to show us the way to fight or flee from temptations; that includes the pastor too. Did you ever stop to think that the scandals of the pulpit we have heard about from time to time are also tests of the church? Yes, that pastor may have failed in a test, but without forgiveness, the church did too. A church congregation who thinks their pastor is perfect, probably thinks somewhere deep down that they are the perfect congregation as well. Pride, it's a killer!

3. Encourage a wary eye on the pastor. Done...sigh! I'm going the wrong way here today.

Encouragement, the Holy Spirit gives it to us for the asking. Sometimes we fail to ask for it. In all the struggles in this life; temptation, trial, suffering, enduring, and learning, we look to the Lord to guide us. However, we have been told in the Bible that those who seek shall find and those who knock will find a door opened (paraphrasing a bit there). When it comes to the strength and encouragement we can receive from the Holy Spirit, we often neither seek nor knock on the door. We always have the freedom to go it alone; one day we will figure out that never works. At least, I hope I figure that out someday.

4. Encourage suspicion of the writer of this devotional. Done...better stop before this all goes south!

We can pray for encouragement for ourselves, and we can pray for encouragement for others too! Try it, and enjoy the results. Encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ! Some of us will be better at encouraging than others, encouragement is a gift from God and a gift of faith that some will be quite good at performing. As you can see from the above paragraphs, my talent may be suspect in this area, or it may be just some Saturday clowning. I'll let you decide! :-)

Have a great weekend, and trust in God!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving, nothing to say - November 27, 2009

Good Friday morning! A day of recovery from feasting, a day of shopping for some, a day to look forward to the celebration of Christmas for most of us; and, of course, a day of work for more than a few folks. Today is the Friday after Thanksgiving and it is time for the Christmas joy to begin in earnest! We enjoyed a great feast yesterday, thanks and glory to God for the day of thanksgiving!

We can also be grateful for a couple of quite warm days, as yesterday was shirt-sleeve weather for much of the day and today is forecast to be equally warm. As you can see, we didn't run out of things to be thankful for after Thanksgiving. As with many after-holiday mornings, I'm a little slow writing and getting up today. Your humble writer visited not one, but two families yesterday; a good day for one who doesn't like to get out much. The good news is: my pumpkin pie urge hasn't quite been satisfied yet. Praise God that the holiday period goes on for about another month or so. :-)

...which should give me enough time to come up with something to write this morning. :-) I realize that some of you are already at the stores for the big Black Friday shopping specials. The retailers are hoping that someone will come out to shop this year. I hope you can find what you want for a good price today. Perhaps my God-given message for this morning is to simply shut up and give you a hearty, Merry Christmas! :-)


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day - November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to all! There is a slight chance that most of your devotional messages today will have something to do with giving thanks to God. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to give thanks to God? I saw an article last Sunday about what people were thankful for. While that is an important part of the equation, the article failed to note who or what was the object of that gratitude. The world wants to ignore or forget about God; we know that, but sometimes it is brought home to us once more. Today, no way are we going to forget God and what He did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Before the world began, you and I were chosen to receive the salvation that comes from Jesus. How did that happen? There would have been no need for salvation at that time. Well, God knew that as soon as He gave a couple of humans their freedom to choose, they would blow it and choose the wrong thing. They did, we do, and we all need salvation since we obviously can't keep the Law. I don't want to say that we don't make a valiant effort to keep the Law, but we do fall at times. Our Adversary has been practicing lying since before we came around, and he has gotten very good at it. Without the Holy Spirit, we wouldn't stand much of a chance. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we would have no chance at all. So to begin our "thank yous" for the day:

Thank you, God, for your Son, Jesus Christ, and His great sacrifice on the cross for all of us.

Thank you, God, for the Holy Spirit and his wonderful work in us each day.

Thank you, God:

That Jesus both acknowledged to Pilate that He was King, but refused to be forced into the kingship by the people of that time. We know that He will come as the King of kings in His own good time. We also know that Jesus had something more important to do before His crowing in Heaven. He chose to lay down His life for us!

For your divine providence in all that we receive in our lives.

For our families, friends, homes, pets, and hobbies.

For the difficult times in our lives that teach us about your love and gentle correction.

For the losses in this life that teach us how much you care about each and every human life.

For the good times in this life that remind us of our home in Heaven which you have gone to prepare for us.

For this earth and the wonders of the heavens; a place to live and grow while we wait for your return.

For your love which enfolds us daily in your embrace!

We love you, Lord!

Have a joyful Thanksgiving in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gratitude part 3 - November 24, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Praise the Lord for the new day! Yesterday we pondered how much we might have in this life; but what happens when it is suddenly gone? What if you find yourself in need? Have you ever tried to share with someone in need and been turned down? It does happen. Any of us can become a prisoner of pride whether we are wealthy or poor. Accepting a handout gracefully and with thanksgiving to God can be difficult or impossible for some of us when pride is in control. Yes, it may seem a bit odd that we take for granted all that God has done for us, and at the same time have too much pride to accept a gift in our need. Pride, of course, fails to acknowledge all that God has created and provided in the first place.

We know in the Holy Spirit that no matter how much we have in this life, we cannot earn eternal life. We must gracefully and thankfully accept salvation from our Lord Jesus in order to even begin the Christian life. Along the way, God may teach us how to accept gifts and handouts in our need. We think the difficult part is learning to give and share, and certainly that can be difficult, but learning to accept gifts may prove the more difficult experience in this life. Any or all of us might suddenly find ourselves in a needy situation.

Look at any disaster in the news; someone will have lost all their material possessions. We rush to give in their need, assuming that the gifts will be gratefully and humbly accepted. That may not happen, or the gifts may be accepted without the gratitude that should accompany the acceptance. Hearts can remain hard without the grace that comes from Jesus. The season of giving comes up very soon, right after that day of thanksgiving actually, but we need to remember that our gratitude should pour out with every gift we receive. What is the most difficult gift to accept? In my experience, it is the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Yup, what might be seen as an easy gift to accept has in fact proven quite difficult. Many of us run into that difficulty in our Christian life. "I'm too sinful to be forgiven" or "That sin is too bad for God to forget about!" You may not have experienced this problem; not every Christian faces the same trials. The grateful and graceful acceptance of Christ's perfect forgiveness has often given me trouble as I look at the sin and my capacity to do it again, instead of God's love and forgiveness in Christ. Accepting the gift, with grace and gratitude, is something we must learn. The gift may come from God, or through our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you find yourself trying to say "no", do a pride check and remember that your grateful acceptance will bestow a blessing on the giver.

Give someone the gift of your prayers today!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Gratitude part 2 - November 23, 2009

Good Monday morning! A short week of work for many this week; I hope you all get both Friday and Thanksgiving off. Today we are going to be thankful for all that we have, whether it is a lot or a little. Today, I wanted to see if God could use our stuff for His glory even if we had what could be considered a lot of that stuff. Many of us in America have a lot of stuff; much more than many folks in the world will see in their lifetimes. This stuff can be both blessing and curse as along with all this stuff comes responsibility and upkeep. In light of Jesus telling the rich young man to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor; the question we might ask is: can God use us with all of our stuff to spread His good news? The good news for many of us is, of course He can! Some may call for us to buy less, but in a faraway factory, a worker about to lose his job may call for us to spend more. You might also be called to host a family in need at some point. Even having others over for just one breakfast, lunch, or dinner takes effort and resources to accomplish. God can use those He has blessed with plenty to in turn bless those He has blessed with less. All of us depend on God for our needs whether we have much or little.

A little while back we examined our hobbies, some of which are quite expensive, and the good news that someone who didn't respond to the message of God directly, did respond to a shared interest in a particular hobby. Just recently we shared a time of good fellowship while hunting deer and pheasants for most of a week. As we have free and easy access to grocery stores and butcher shops, we must consider hunting more of a hobby than a necessity in this age; though as hunters we may state it that way only with reluctance. Some hobbies can and do take a lot of money and stuff to pursue, but that doesn't mean that God will not use all of it for His glory! If one of your hobbies is cooking, you probably know already how much God can use that hobby to bless others.

Not everyone has the skill of cooking in them; others have nothing to cook. I have seen the blessing from God in the sharing of meals and food too many times to count in my short life. This has gone both ways for me as at times I have had plenty and been able to share, and at other times had not so much and needed others to share with me. Jesus produces all food through His creation in the larger sense, but in His life on earth He often ate what others had to share. We know in our faith that those who shared with our Lord were blessed, but He also calls upon us to share with 'the least of these'.

All of us have an abundance of something. Those with no material possessions have an abundance of time; it's not hard to maintain nothing and the annual inventory is a breeze. I'm not making light of the poor, but trying to point out that there is something to be grateful for in all circumstances. Some of the most joyful and grateful people I have met in this life would be considered downtrodden by many standards. Gratitude doesn't require a whole lot of stuff, but we who do enjoy plenty have that much more to be grateful about!

Have a wonderful and grateful day in Christ! Tomorrow - Grateful acceptance when we find ourselves in need.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude part 1 - November 21, 2009

Good Sunday morning! The week of Thanksgiving begins! Why wait until Thursday to be grateful? Are you grateful that you have a job? What if you were expected to be grateful that you didn't? The same could be asked about many of the things we are grateful for - homes, cars, fancy clothing, electronics... you name it, we are grateful when we have it, but we are also to be grateful when we don't. We are right to be grateful for those things that God has blessed us with, but we can also be grateful when we don't have something we want. God provides for our needs, but doesn't give us everything we want. Sometimes it takes someone we think to be blessed beyond reason to show us the real value of material things.

We have all heard tales of the excess of rich folks. Sometimes a lottery winner will run out and buy a dozen different cars, or have some huge mansion built, and we look and say, "If only..." Years later we may find that same 'winner', broke and in debt after losing half their winnings to divorce and the other half to insane spending. They may tell us to hear their story of losing money, happiness, and family in hopes of getting us to stop playing the lottery. We look at them and say to ourselves, "I wouldn't fall like that..." We may want to take that up with God first, and learn to be not only content, but grateful for where we are now.

Some folks have learned the value of their stuff by giving it away. That may seem a bit on the backwards side. Wouldn't selling the stuff for a good price be a better measure of its value? If money were the only measure, then that would be true. On the other hand, too much stuff or placing too much value in stuff can be more of a burden to us than we realize. Test yourself in this. Take something you value highly and lend it out to a friend for a day. If all you can think about is what is happening to that stuff of yours, perhaps you have placed too much value in the stuff and not enough in your friend! Giving the thing away might free you of that boat anchor on your soul.

Tomorrow - as we look at our gratitude this week - you don't have a problem with placing your stuff before God in your life, but you still have a whole lot of it; can God use you and your stuff, just as you are?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Effort and Thanksgiving - November 19, 2009

Good Thursday morning! The ol' bod is tired and achy this morning, but deer season has come to a close. We'll send our friend John back to New York with some new tales to tell. I will head to Bayard with a carcass to process. As with any long task that takes a lot of effort, I am most grateful that we don't have to get up early again this morning! Sometimes we can lose sight of the reward in the effort of the cleanup. :-)

In this life, our bodies wear out and we need to rest frequently. An interesting omission can be found in Jesus' resurrection: He doesn't talk about taking a break, a nap, or going on a long vacation. After the extreme effort He made, and the terrible amount of damage done to His body, you might think that His first order of business after rising from the grave would be a good, long rest in Heaven. Instead He told the disciples that He was headed home to get to work. That's right; while we look forward to the end of a job or season to take a well-earned rest, our Lord went back to Heaven to start building the many mansions in His Father's house. For about 2,000 years the banging of heavenly hammers has been the sound of construction in Heaven. I know that if I had done even a small part of what Jesus went through, that I would have been asking God for a nice vacation.

Last night, we had another great Bible study, but the most fun came at the end when we went around the table a couple of times to voice a "thank you" to God. I wondered if in an activity of this type we might not feel an urge to compete? An "oh, I should have thought of that!" kind of thing? Well, in thanking the Lord, in our attitude of gratitude if you will, I say go for it! If you can come up with a thanksgiving for something the Lord has done for you that makes your brother or sister in Christ think, "Oh, I should have thought of that!" then you just go for it! We can have a good time trying to come up with the best of many ways in which the Lord has blessed us. And I don't think that we will ever run out of new material. Praise God for all that He has done for us!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dratted Power-hungry Device! - November 18, 2009

Good (not quite so early) morning on this frosty Wednesday! After testing the battery life of my GPS yesterday, my survival list for a week in the wilderness is one GPS and 84 batteries. Yup, it lasted about four hours; which seems a bit short for a survival device. I'll have to dig out the ol' GPS manual to see if there are ways to make the thing a bit less greedy. Turning your navigation device on and off frequently doesn't seem like the best way to get back safely. This brings us to a lesson in life of course, what did you expect in the devotional? :-) In life we are lost, greedy for power, and not very dependable. We also try to use devices that often have those same characteristics. We look to education, training, religion, physical skills, and many other things to lead us back or forward; we use machines to get us places that are just as close to nowhere as we were at the start, and we find that our spiritual batteries just don't last as long as we need them to last. Where does that leave us?

We know from our own experience that all of our own strength and ability combined with our undependable devices only leads us to ruin. We take long journeys of exploration into diverse beliefs and religions only to arrive at a destination that says the same as where we took off from: "Nowheresville". Jesus has a different way - himself. John 14:6 reminds us that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus goes on to say that no one can come to the Father except through Him. In Jesus, we know the direction, the destination, and the reward. We have a guide to walk with us and show us the steps to get to the Father in Heaven.

When another lost person looks around and realizes that his devices have failed him, her strength is not enough to go on, and the beliefs of the world lead to nowhere, God may have placed one of us right there at the end of that road to point to a better Way. Jesus is waiting to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life to all who seek the Father. Be ready to point to the Way!

Have a wonderful morning in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's no luck at All! - November 17, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Thank you, Lord, for the new day and new life we have in you this day! The holiday we celebrate as Thanksgiving occurs next week, but the day we celebrate with thanksgiving can occur today. The Lord gives us so much when we believe in Him: love, joy, peace, salvation, eternal life, a place in heaven, and the Holy Spirit, to name a few great gifts. However, have you ever thought much about how much He gave us even before we came to believe? Many in the world call it luck, good fortune, or fate, but God watches over us even before we believe in Him. God's love didn't start at our new birth, but before our creation.

Believing in luck is to set your hopes on something that comes and goes as it pleases. The luck-believer also fails to thank God for the providence our Lord gives. Ministers have often pointed out that the belief in evolution is to set God aside and allow sin free reign in a life. Without God, the person is free to blame bad luck for the problems we face in life. Without God, the person is free to take credit for good fortune or achievements in life. Without God, one wonders where a person will go after this short life ends?

The Bible gives us a pretty good idea about where those go who refuse to believe. This is not an exclusive thing; any person can choose to believe in Jesus or refuse to believe in Jesus. Included or left out due to our own choice - there is no luck involved. We want a yes or no, light or dark, choice in life, and there it is. Thank you, God, for life and all of your glorious bounty we share in it!


Monday, November 16, 2009

A Gift of Joy - November 16, 2009

Good early Monday morning! We are getting ready to head out early once more. Of course the privilege and duty of writing this devotional must come first. If, as Pastor Rogers points out today, peace is a fruit of righteousness, I wonder if joy might be a product of duty? Certainly doing our duty as Christians is expected through obedience to Christ's commandments. Doing our duty well brings the satisfaction of the good worker. However, Jesus gives us His joy. That's right, gives, not as payment for doing our duty or a good deed, for then we would have earned it, but as a gift.

Jesus also gives us His peace. Does that mean Pastor Rogers is wrong? No, for Jesus first gave us His righteousness as the gift of grace through faith in Him. You might say that we have peace through His righteousness. We also gain His joy from that same source. We do not have to earn joy through good works, though we do gain the satisfaction of the job well done. Regarding our duty, Jesus told us that we should have the attitude of humble servants simply doing our duty. Joy doesn't come from our doing something for Jesus, and it isn't lost, though we may lose touch with it from time to time, when we sin. Jesus gives us grace, peace, joy, his righteousness and His everlasting love through His glorious sacrifice and resurrection; we didn't earn any of it, but received the gifts of God.

Sing a new song of joy this day!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pray and Wait - November 15, 2009

Good Sunday morning! The new snow reminds me of some holiday; I'm not sure which one, but I do feel an urge to play some carols or something like that. Hmm, which holiday could it be? The anticipation of the holiday is here, but the holiday itself is not. Do we have to wait until a certain date on the calendar to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Of course not! We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. How terrible would it be if we had to wait until Easter Sunday to be born again? Now that's a difficult thought. Imagine that an Easter sermon touched your heart, but a deacon said, "Sorry, you're not on the list for today, we'll save you next year."

Jesus didn't set aside the Sabbath, but He did make each day a worship day. We don't have to wait for Sunday to worship, or for Christmas Day to celebrate our Lord Jesus. In this age of rush and speed, we like things that we don't have to wait for. Fast food, drive-thru windows, frozen entrees, next day shipping, and many other services came from the need for speed we feel these days. While some of these things can be bad for us, other fast conveniences are nice to have. Did Jesus see this coming? Well, he may have started it in fact. We no longer have to wait to pray because of His work. We no longer have to wait until a priest gets around to sacrificing an animal in order to be forgiven; we can ask immediately and repent. God forgives us straight away! The Holy Spirit even makes intercession for us constantly with God.

In all this rushing about, God has thought to provide us with immediate access to Jesus in prayer. However, we are also called to wait upon the Lord. God knows about the rush of events and demands of today, and has taken it into account; but He also calls us to slow down and know patience. Events are rushing to a final conclusion, but God is neither taken by surprise nor caught off guard. We can rush into prayer in a busy day, and yet feel the peace of waiting on the Lord.

What a beautiful day to come to Jesus in prayer!


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blessing and Trusting - November 14, 2009

Good Saturday morning! Yes, it is still dark out this morning and I am up and getting ready to go sit in a cold pasture. I was touched by a verse Pastor Schuller used a few days ago from Psalms: "Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord!" That sounds like a good, encouraging message to all of us. But what happens to those who cannot simply accept the Bible? Of course they will pick arguments with it. A fussy, detail oriented legalist might pick on "that" saying that it should be a "who", as in "the man who trusts..." However, worrying about something like that misses the point. So does the politically correct fusser who wants the verse to add "or woman" to the statement. Another person might fuss over what "blessed" means and say that the verse doesn't offer any concrete reason for trusting. At least that fusser is getting the point, even if he or she does not believe it.

We like the verse for what it speaks to our hearts: anyone who puts their trust in the Lord will be blessed. Man or woman, boy or girl, we all receive the providence of the Almighty One by placing our trust in Him alone. Hallelujah!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Luke 13 - Jesus' Ministry in a Nutshell - November 13, 2009

Good Friday morning! This morning I felt the call to read in Luke 13; kind of a Friday the 13th thing you might say. This chapter of the Luke's gospel has an interesting summary of Jesus' whole ministry. In the first passage, Jesus is reading the headlines of the day. Pilate has murdered some Galileans at the temple (a good passage to recall for those who might think Pilate innocent because he didn't want to execute Jesus) and a tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 workers. Often we wonder how to start up a conversation with those who are seeking but don't yet believe. Here we read how Jesus used the latest headlines to open a lesson on eternal life.

Jesus then tells the parable of the fig tree. Jesus is the gardener begging the owner to give the unproductive tree one more chance, just as He does for us in Heaven right now. He promises the owner to give the tree special attention and care for the next year in order to make it productive. We too have been given that one more chance to produce fruit, probably more than just the one more at that. Jesus loves each of us and begs for that one more chance for all those who will not believe.

Jesus then heals a woman held captive by Satan for 18 years...on the Sabbath Day. The religious leaders in Jesus' time would not let go of their blind spot about healing on the Sabbath, much to our Lord's disappointment I think, and they were once more rebuked for it. Not only does Jesus work 24/7 for us, He also frees the captives of the prince of this world. Jesus is not afraid of the religious and political authorities of this world and will rebuke them.

Jesus tells us illustrations about the kingdom of heaven, and how it will spread like a small amount of yeast in bread dough. Finally He mourns over Jerusalem and prophecies that He too will be killed there like the many prophets sent before his time. In a nutshell if you will, Jesus life is shown in this short chapter in one of the gospel accounts. He came to us; healing and teaching, rebuking those who would prevent belief in Him, and setting free the captives; finally He died in Jerusalem to save us from our sins. Even in this chapter there is more to be said about our Lord Jesus, and much more to read in the four Gospels. Take a short break today to read Luke 13. Marvel at the miracles and lessons of Jesus. Praise God for all that He has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ!

The weather is changing today, but our hearts remain fixed on Jesus!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Resolving the Conflict - November 12, 2009

Good Thursday morning! 2 weeks until Thanksgiving, if you need me to count it down for you. :-) Yes, the holidays are upon us. We hear about Christmas specials already, people shopping early for bargains, the so-called Black Friday sale starting, and many other indications of Christmas. What if this Christmas was going to be a special event? What if somehow we knew that all of us would be celebrating Christmas with Jesus in Heaven this year? Wow, that would change a few things about how we go about our Christmas preparation! We know from scripture that we will not know when Jesus will return, and we probably won't know the exact time of our departure from this world, if such is to take place before Jesus' return. However, we do know that what we see as Christmas and what the world sees are two quite different things.

Retail and manufacturing companies have become dependent upon Christmas as an excuse to sell more stuff. And therefore we have longer and longer advertising seasons in an attempt to increase the buying of that stuff. That 'stuff' is out in Wal-mart already in case you haven't been there since Halloween. I'm sure other places have 'decked the halls' as well. We can sit at home and rail against this to ourselves, or as customers we can let it be known that we will do any Christmas shopping after we give thanks to the Lord on November 26th. The soapbox moment for the day!

What about that old soapbox? Have you ever tried to mediate a settlement in a conflict from a distance? I'm not talking about e-mail or letter distance either, but the distance that comes from keeping your suggestions only in your own mind. We sometimes see a conflict between people or organizations and try to settle the fight inside our own heads. We make suggestions: "that person should just give in, because he's obviously wrong;" or "This person should talk to this other person and apologize." We have all the answers in the court of our own consciousness! The world will be just fine as soon as it starts doing what we think, hoozah! ...or at least it will as soon as we work up the courage to publish those suggestions.

On the other hand, we know at least a little of what we don't really know. Observing snippets of a conflict from a distance doesn't make any of us very qualified as peacemakers. We can make guesses about one side or the other from what we might think based on our own experience, but we don't know what is going on in hearts and minds. If the opposing sides are close to us, such as this fellow lives next door and that other fellow lives just down the street, we can work on getting them together for prayer and peacemaking, but often we choose sides from the safe distance of ignorance. Not stupidity ignorance, but the ignorance of how to contact each party and a certainty that they don't need our two-cents worth anyway. We do know that little something about every conflict though.

What can we possibly know about each and every conflict the world over? Easy, we gave our lives to someone who knows the thoughts of every person who ever lived. We know that He is interested in repentance and forgiveness; mercy and grace; love of God and the love of our neighbors. We know that Jesus wants us to love one another even in conflict. We might disagree with each other and we may need the help of a friend to resolve the conflict. Blessed are the peacemakers! Jesus wants to see all conflicts resolved; especially the one between us and God. In fact, Jesus himself provided the way and is the Way to restore us to God through his grace. Now that's conflict resolution!

For the conflicts that we can only observe from a distance, we can bring them to God in prayer. Remember, we may care about a conflict and have no personal means of contacting the people involved; but God does know those folks and does have a personal means of contacting them. You may wonder how God will contact someone who does not yet believe in Him since He never forces belief. All I can say in response is: At some point in our former unbelieving lives, He made Himself known to you and me, didn't He?

Live for the day and pray for each other in Christ Jesus!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can't Yet see the Good from the Bad - November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day! There's some good-looking photos of some vets in our paper's special edition from yesterday. I hope everyone has a chance to honor your local veterans today. A term of service often begins in unexpected ways. Some joined to avoid the draft; serving to avoid serving if you will. It sounds a bit odd, but back in the day, if you waited to be drafted you might have no choice in what branch or occupation you served. If on the other hand you joined as a volunteer, you would get at least a limited choice in the matter. I know a man who served in Europe instead of Vietnam by taking this option. Some volunteered purely for patriotism, others to honor their family history of service, and others because they were lost in the world and had nowhere else to go. I volunteered to get out of college, before I wasted more time and money in a losing cause. Whatever the reason for starting, we all served.

Service is something all of us are called to in Christ. In some cases, a man or woman may need a bit of time serving something here on earth to prepare for serving God. I believe that I was that way. Paul told us that all things work together for the good of those who believe in Jesus. The things that Paul spoke of began well before we came to believe. We may think back in time and wonder just how God could make something good out of some of the events in our past. One day I believe that He will show us. All those things went into us to make us ready to serve God. Relatives, parents, environment, DNA, toys, clothes, things we wanted but didn't get, work, school, holidays, pain, suffering, happy times, sad times, mean kids, nice kids, and anything else that makes up our lives, all went into getting us ready for God's service. Yes, you or I may have prayed that an elephant would drop out of the sky onto that mean kid from down the street, and that probably didn't happen, but somehow that helped get us ready to serve.

'All things' includes a lot things that I cannot see the purpose for in my life. I'm sure you have some examples too. However, we cannot see from God's vantage point or with His great wisdom; we cannot yet see the good that came out of, or is yet to come from, events that may have left us staggering in pain and grief. Trust means that we let God worry about making something good come out of the bad in our lives. Service in Christ might mean setting aside a few bad memories and soldiering on until we see the goodness of God in all of His glory.

Have a great Veteran's Day!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prayer Patience - November 10, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Another day of great anniversaries or birthdays today. As you should know, today is the 234th birthday of the United States Marine Corps! Oorah! However, there is another that is so important that I can't believe the Commandant failed to mention it... the 40th birthday of Sesame Street! I wonder if generals have to give up watching Sesame Street? As it is a show aimed at preschool age children, I would imagine that most of us gave it up at least a few years ago. If you gave it up more than a century ago, congratulations on being really old! In the early part of the Bible, one hundred years old was nothin', as we like to say. The Bible tells us that what we consider to be really, really old, will one day be considered tragically young should a person die at that age. The Left Behind series of novels takes up this issue in the last couple of books, and that is an interesting issue. If only people who refuse to believe in Jesus die at a young age, one hundred in this case, as the Bible foretells, how would you feel if someone you knew suddenly died at that age? That is painful to think about!

I would rather think about Sesame Street, but as adults we have put aside childish things. However, we will yearn for the love of Jesus when we look at the complex chaos that is our world now. We read or view reports of exactly what Jesus warned us about: wars, rumors of war, earthquakes, and many other calamities. What did Jesus say about those events though? Right, don't worry about them! Not easy to do, but we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in these dark times. Even those who do not believe in Jesus seek certainty and comfort.

I meet with a friend fairly often who does not yet believe in Jesus. The question most on his mind in our meetings is: "what are you going to do?" I say that I will trust in God. And the response is always something like, "Yeah, but what are you going to DO?" To many the love of Jesus and trusting in God, are abstract concepts not useful in today's world. To those who do not believe: we cannot help ourselves by waiting on the Lord in stillness; nothing will happen if we don't make it happen; or God is not even real and we are fools for waiting on Him. When speaking with a friend who tells you these things explicitly or through his doubtful demeanor, we too can begin to doubt. What if my waiting is actually procrastinating? What if I should be looking for something else? What if I should go back and take a job for less salary? The doubts are whispers of the enemy of course, and what we need to do is look to Jesus, reading His Word daily and coming to Him in prayer.

Prayer, speaking of that, we are praying for a list of non-believers for a year at the suggestion of our Thursday night lessons. The year has barely begun and one thing I see already: my patience is not what it should be. The year of prayer might only be the beginning; we may need to pray over someone for decades! These days we expect instant answers to prayer, but God keeps his own timetable. A year of prayer for a specific person or need is a good exercise for us. We can learn much about patience and perseverance in a year.

God bless you on this great day of the Lord!


Monday, November 09, 2009

Good from a Bad Situation - November 9, 2009

Good Monday morning! This morning I'm going to make one of those assumptions that doesn't involve a lot of risk on my part. I am going to assume that somewhere or sometime in your life you have faced a difficult, perhaps even a traumatic, situation. Like I said, not much of a reach there. The verse selected to begin the Hour of Power devotional this morning struck me. Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." We recognize what Joseph said to his brothers as they stood quaking in pools of their own sweat after finding out the one they had sinned against was now what we would call the chief operations officer of the mighty Egyptian nation. The power of this verse, however, was not only in the context, which is a wonderful tale of forgiveness and mercy, but also as a standalone statement.

Take your difficult or traumatic situation, the one you thought of when I mentioned it as my assumption, and speak that verse to the world or the devil, whichever you think caused that situation. Often we kind of wonder if God didn't send a situation to test us, but this verse seems to make it clear that the intention to harm us in any situation does not come from God. Instead, God's intention is for our own good and to accomplish more of His great plan - the saving of many lives.

Recall the story of Job. He suffered much harm, but all of it came from Satan. God allowed Satan to harm Job, but only in limited ways. The Bible is clear that God was always in control of Job's situation. We read in Genesis that God carefully and perfectly controlled Joseph's situation as well. A woman of the world even levelled a serious (and false) accusation against Joseph resulting in his imprisonment for many years. I'm sure from the dark cell in the prison, Joseph could not see his future position as administrator of all Egypt.

In the same way, we cannot see our bright future in the darkness around us. A traumatic situation can be as simple as going to work this morning, or as serious as the death of a loved one. In all of these things, God is in control and will bring good from the worst of situations. Again, when we are in one of those situations, staring hard into the darkness with tears streaming from our eyes, we cannot see the good. Jesus reaches down at those times and turns our eyes to Him, the light of the world.

Thank God for the Light; who has come into this dark world!


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jesus is Right on Time! - November 8, 2009

Good Sunday morning! How is your rush-rush this morning? Does it seem a little more distant than the weekdays? Some of us like a routine in the morning, some like variety, some like to get up at the last possible moment and rush from the first moment and throughout the day. The cats and I tend to go for the slow starting routine, as long as the first part of that routine includes feeding the cats at least. In whatever manner you choose to start the day, prayer should be a part of that start-up procedure. Your prayer might be for strength to make it through the day, or as simple as a "Good morning, Lord!" We need to start-up the communication with our Father in Heaven at the start of each day.

I like to make coffee jokes about the start of my day; for some of you, coffee at the start of the day is no joke, but a dire necessity. My coffee remarks are only funny by the fact I drink decaf. My coffee might start my day, but it doesn't really start up anything at all. I just like the taste of coffee in the morning...a taste that I doctor up with cream and sugar. So, not only do I drink coffee without the caffeine, but I mask the taste with dissolved substances. When I make a comment about using coffee to get up in the morning, you might wonder if pouring the stuff over my head might not work faster. This is true, that alternate method would get me going, if painfully, in a rapid and excited manner. I think I'll just go with my slow method! :-)

Your normal speed control may be set to fast or slow, but Jesus loves you! When looking at our own self, we often note many imperfections. We may pause to wonder how we will ever make it. Of course, if we look only at our own strength and weakness, we come up short of what is required. Those who tally up their own might and think, "I've got it made!" will never see their need for Jesus. Praise God that I have weaknesses and that my strength seems far short of what is needed. Realizing my need for Jesus, I can come to him with a humble heart. Do you want to be strong? Trust in Jesus. Do you have trouble keeping up with the rat race? Trust in Jesus. Your strength will become like Jesus' own strength, your speed will be just right.

Do you recall Jesus rushing about Galilee, trying to get everything done in time? Of course not, Jesus often waited, saying "My time has not yet come." One time he waited only a few seconds, as in the wedding at Cana. Another time, when waiting for Lazarus to die, he waited for two days to begin his journey. If it seems as though you are always two days behind, it could be that you're not operating on Jesus time. If your tardiness is due to procrastination or bad habits, you may need to ask for strength to change that. But if you are doing all you can and still can't seem to catch up, you may need to grasp the peace that Jesus offers. We may find ourselves striving for too much. Usually this too much is too much of the things of this world. We strive to earn more to buy more when Jesus tells us to be content.

This may seem a bit counterproductive at a time when the Christmas shopping season is just around the corner. However, when did Christmas become all about shopping? No one is saying that you cannot buy gifts and send out cards. Just don't make that the number one reason for Christmas! The corporate world may just have to come to terms with the fact that we love Jesus first.

Some mornings the devotional message comes to me like a bolt of lightning. Other days are more like today, where I hop around a bit and struggle to write something that makes sense. Just like the singer who produces a joyful, but rough, note, we don't write, sing, or speak for ourselves, but for the glory of God! May God bless and keep you on this fine Sunday morning!


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Be Content Right Here! - November 7, 2009

Good Saturday morning! Look around your "home" right now. Is there anything wrong with it? I think one answer will suffice for all of us, and that is "Yes!" We can all find something wrong with our earthly homes. If a person had a billion dollars in cash to spend on a home, spent years planning it, hired the best architect, general contractor and construction firm, and spent every day during construction checking and rechecking the workmanship; that person would end up with a very nice home. We could imagine some of the amenities and art work in the home. A few days, weeks, perhaps months, after moving in, that person could start a do-over list. "Next time I'll spend 2 billion and make these changes..." the person might say. The search for a perfect home here on earth will never end.

Jesus gave us his peace. That peace includes a valuable component called contentment. Your house, my house, and the Joneses house will never be perfect, but in Christ we can find contentment right where we are. Being content with where God has planted you is also a great cure for that green pasture syndrome. You know the one where we think that a ranch out in the country, or over in that state, or back where we grew up would be just perfect and would make us just that much happier, if only... Yeah, that green pasture syndrome. We don't realize it every time, but when we have that yearning for a better home or different pasture, we are yearning toward that heavenly home that Jesus has gone to prepare. We can think of what a perfect home might be, but Jesus has gone to actually build one for you. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what it's like!

Have a great Saturday and grab a hold of that contentment!


Friday, November 06, 2009

Different, but Similar - November 6, 2009

Good Friday morning! The past couple of days we have noted some of the differences between us and the world. What about similarities? Can we claim a kinship with those of this world? In our human aspects, we are very much the same. I state the obvious when we talk about the need for water, food, companionship, shelter, mobility, and many other things that we need most days of our lives. We also feel something we highlighted last night in our life group; we all feel temptation to sin. We also give in to the urge to compare ourselves to each other. We do have much in common with those who do not yet believe in Jesus.

What do we have in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ? One of the fallacies the intellectuals like to point out is the "us against them" thinking that becomes common in a subset of the human race. The smart folks of this world cannot understand that a group such as ours can be apart, but reach out in love. We are not against the sinners, for we resemble them too much, but in Christ we come to be very much against the sin. Temptation still attacks us daily, but we know that Christ has freed us from the penalty of sin - that invoice has already been paid! We have that in common with each other. Did you know we also think alike?

You may not see it as much in church where we hear the thoughts of a pastor and learn as the Holy Spirit guides us. However, come into a Bible study or life group setting and note how your unspoken thought might be taken up by another in the room. That same pastor might be there, and yet now you are in a giving/receiving setting instead of only receiving. Both worship gatherings are good, but I imagine that a leader or pastor in the church gets a special blessing from hearing and seeing the Holy Spirit move through the group as points of scripture are discussed. We gain a blessing too as we realize that our thoughts and those of our friends in Jesus are moving along the same lines.

In the corporate setting, which I enjoyed some experience with until recently, the group discussion often is more of a contest than a sharing. The college courses try to teach collaboration, but in a setting where all are competing for that raise or promotion, it's hard to avoid the clash of egos that comes with competition. In Christ, we gather together to learn from each other and from the Holy Spirit.

Oh my! This subject does open up the vista of things to write about! However, the devotional is supposed to be relatively short. The novel-length piece will have to wait for my own time. Did you know we had the life group at my house last night? "You? At your house?!" Yeah, not easy for me, just as it is very difficult for me to join a new group or go to a new house. As usual, I share that challenge with more people than the devil would have me to realize. I'm not alone in Christ! However, some brothers and sisters in Christ like nothing better than to join new groups and go to new places. Just as we share many similarities in Christ, so we also have many differences. God will use both to build a great church for His Son!

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend in Christ Jesus!


Thursday, November 05, 2009

It's a Gut Reaction - November 5, 2009

Good Thursday morning! Remember, remember the 5th of November.... yeah, yeah. We know it's Bonfire Day or Guy Fawkes Day in jolly old England. Here it's just another work day for the those who have jobs. When was the last time you saw a bonfire around these parts? I think the practice has fallen out of fashion, but I may just be not paying attention. Nebuchadnezzar built a bonfire back in the day. He had three fellows tossed in who refused to worship the king's own statue. We are all familiar with the story from our Sunday School days, but what did Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah feel before their famous meeting with destiny? If you're thinking, "who?", you might remember their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Is it possible they felt faithful, but terrified?

We often think that we are never to feel fear. After all God commands us many times in the Bible: "Don't be afraid!" If we are full of faith, are we also fearless? You might have a more urgent question in your mind: Does feeling fear mean that our faith is weak? When Jesus appeared on the water, walking on top of something the disciples knew to be a yielding surface, they felt fear. Some of them might have felt a strong urge to exit the other side of the boat and try running across that same surface. What we feel as fear is partly a reaction of our bodies. That surge of adrenaline happens before we can think: "stop!" Jesus said, "It is I, don't be afraid!" In a similar situation where we have startled our friends, we might say, "calm down, it's just me!" The reaction has already happened, but just as Jesus calmed the wind and waves, He also calms the storm in our minds when we fear.

Daniel's three friends probably felt the adrenaline reaction in their bodies when the strong warriors bound them and threw them into the blazing furnace. The fire had been made so hot that Nebuchadnezzar's strongest warriors died when the door to the furnace was opened. Those warriors felt fear, but had only their own strength to rely on. We can see that it wasn't enough. We will feel the reaction of fear to certain situations, but we learn to trust in Christ to calm the storm that springs up in our mind in those moments.

God bless you on this fine day!


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is the Difference? - November 4, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! Is there a difference between you and the world? We hear about this difference; we even read in the Bible that we no longer belong on this earth, that our home is now in Heaven with Jesus. The differences are shown in both extreme examples and less obvious ones. Here are a few that I've seen recently:

1. An openly gay actor is known for his habit of tearing one page out of every Bible he finds in hotel rooms. Of course the page contains a certain verse in Leviticus that states: "Do not practice homosexuality. It is a detestable sin." To detest is to dislike intensely; to hate. God gave the law of Moses, so we can read that God hates the sin of homosexuality. The act of tearing out the Bible page reminds me of those who used to burn their draft cards or notices to report - burning the message does not relieve one of the duty. Most people who do not believe in Jesus do not tear pages out of hotel Bibles. However, there is still a great difference here. When you and I go into a hotel room and see a Bible, we are glad. I like to see the Bible on the lamp stand, right beside the lamp where it is obvious. The difference is in the value: the Bible has great value to us. Not only would we not tear out pages, but we are glad of its presence.

2. A celebrity in an interview chides a reporter for lowering his voice on the word "divorce", telling him that it is not a dirty word. Experience has taught us differently. Divorce harms both parties, the children, and God does not like it. Seldom will you see a man and a woman act with more meanness than in a divorce. A few years ago I heard about a wife selling all her husband's hunting and fishing gear for next to nothing so that he would not get it in the settlement. While that has a certain humor to it, we do tend to value our hobby gear a bit too much sometimes, there is also a note of mean in that tale. As a never-married person, my example is probably very tame in this matter. Some of you might have some chilling examples of your own, but we don't need to darken the morning.

3. Most university classes on religion will treat all religions as things to be studied from a dispassionate distance, and that all religious extremists are the same. We know that Jesus is not a religion and is certainly not the same as the many religions of the world. Some would say that we don't "know" in the same meaning of the word as what the "-ists" and "-osophers" know. Faith is certainty and no it doesn't quantify well for study. We know that Jesus is the Son of God in the same way that Peter did; we believe what Jesus said about himself. I cannot say that I have 26lbs of faith and Burt has 25 or 27lbs, we cannot measure faith in quantity. And that tends to drive those who would study our belief in a scientific manner just a little nuts.

4. "You had a lucky break!" said when someone lives through a traumatic event or avoids that flight that crashed. Events will lead up to our choosing to believe in Jesus. However, while the world says "lucky", we see the hand of God guiding us to exactly where He would have us to be when we face that one critical choice: do I believe in Jesus or continue to believe in my "luck"? We soon realize that luck is a vaporish thing and runs out quickly. We also know that belief in our own strength is a false god. The world will tell us to be strong, to believe in our self and abilities. Throughout our lives our own strength has fallen short so many times we cannot help but wonder how people cannot come to believe in Jesus. I suspect that most of us came to believe in Jesus through running up against the wall of our own weakness in some manner. If a person never faces up to their own weakness, in other words continues to believe that he or she is strong, that person will never see the need for God.

5. We have an adversary. This point is almost as contentious as belief in Jesus. The world doesn't want to believe in either Jesus or the Devil. We see the comic devil, and the monstrous devil, but seldom do we see the Adversary, as Jesus and Peter warned us about, in our media. Horror movies show us a devil that no one would fall for. Comics show us a devil that is silly. The Bible paints a different picture, one the world would rather not hear. When the Serpent told Eve that she would become like God by eating the forbidden fruit, he lied. As we know, Adam and Eve became like the Serpent by eating the fruit and it took Jesus to open a path back to God. The world would prefer to believe that we can save ourselves by a whole slate of actions that can be difficult to keep. The world would also have us believe that the only real enemy is our own weakness. No, we know that there is an entity interested in our destruction.

6. Ahh, I think I could continue all day in finding differences between those who believe in Jesus and the world at large. You have work to do and I need to get on it too. A parting thought for the differences we see today: You are not an accident of evolution; you are a creation of God, who loves you!

Praise God for the day!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Closed Door - November 3, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! The clock says it's a little early, but my mind says it's okay. Let's vote out the time changes! What do you think? Is it time for a local grassroots political effort to stop the time change nonsense? :-) What does the Bible say about this? Hmm, now there's a thought. Often we want to take off in one direction or another; we are ready to go, but we forget to check with God. We get up and make our plans for tomorrow, the plans for today were made yesterday or last week, and off we go. Jesus commanded us to only worry about today, and to make plans if God is willing. The point he made is that only God knows what will happen tomorrow. Paul planned to go to a city on one of his missionary journeys, but the Holy Spirit would not allow them to go. One might wonder how he knew this, the Bible doesn't tell us.

You might imagine Paul and his companions planning their trip; perhaps Paul was flush with cash at that time and tried to hire a cart or donkeys to ride on their trip. More than likely, they had to walk, but in either case they may have found a barricade on the road. We see them all the time, perhaps he ran into the Roman version of "Road Closed". The Holy Spirit might have told Paul in a dream or even with a whisper in the ear. We don't know, but somehow Paul had clear knowledge that he was not to go on that particular trip. He changed his plans to go where God wanted him to go.

In our lives we often use the metaphor of doors. We use the saying, "where God closes one door, He opens another." Paul might have literally run into the same thing. The gate to the city he planned to travel to was stuck closed, or locked by order of the governor. He had to take a different gate and road. We might face the same thing in our lives. It seems that no matter how hard we push against a particular door in our career or ministry the door just will not open. We may not be listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit that tells us not to go there or to go to a different door, and so God overrules us by keeping the door closed.

A closed door in our lives is not an opportunity lost, but is simply a chance to try another door and find a new opportunity!

Praise God for closed doors!


Monday, November 02, 2009

Enjoying the Moment; Losing the Game - November 2, 2009

Good Monday morning! Rain and clouds once more, but what a weekend! Yesterday we had little wind and much sunshine, a rather nice day if I do say so myself! Luke shot a couple of pheasants yesterday, and gave me one to cook; thank you very much! I shot at a pheasant; scared the poor thing too. The weekend was a split, Nebraska won, but the Broncos lost. The Phillies have decided to get their licks in on Alex Rodriguez by bonking him with the baseball; he on the other hand has decided to win the games by hitting it back at them. I'm not sure the Phillies' strategy is the right one, though it may feel satisfying. That strategy sounds kind of like the way we deal with sin sometimes. We give it a try and it feels good, but sin wins the game while we enjoy a brief moment of pleasure.

The seductive temptation of sin will not go away until Jesus returns. We need to find a better way to deal with that temptation than giving in. When Jesus told us in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We often think only of the Way to Heaven. However, what if He also wanted us to think of Him as the Way to defeat sin and temptation? Certainly truth is the way to defeat lies, and lies are the devil's main weapon. The less sin we have in our lives, the more life we have in our lives. I have found that nothing quashes those tempting thoughts as well as thinking about Jesus, even if it's simply repeating one of his verses from the Bible. We need not limit our thinking to narrow definitions. Jesus is the way to learn to love one another; the way to find peace in a world of conflict; the way to learn faith over fear, and, certainly, the way to eternal life, the definition we think of first from John 14:6.

Enjoy a wonderful, new week in Christ Jesus!


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Get Something You Can Trust? - November 1, 2009

Good Sunday morning! Welcome to November. We are into the final two months of this year. And for some reason that I don't yet know, my little UPS is wiggin' out this morning. I will have to look up the alarm and find out what is going on. Hmm, looks like the battery needs to be replaced. Do you ever get up some mornings and feel the need for a battery replacement? Maybe it isn't just some mornings. :-)

Today, one of the first things I heard on the radio was a commercial. While this is no real surprise - more than likely the first thing I will see when I turn on the TV today will be a commercial too - the main line of the commercial was "get something you can trust." I thought about that line for a bit. What exactly can we trust in this world? Some cars last longer than others, but all will eventually end up in the junk pile. Some buildings last longer than others, but all will eventually be replaced or destroyed. The Roman Empire lasted for centuries, but it too served its purpose and is no more. The pyramids have lasted a long time, but aren't of much use to anyone. Can we trust in others then?

Humans last quite a while, but even our peak years may be difficult as injuries and disease can lay us low in a short time. Friends may be described as trustworthy, but none have all the answers and are only capable as far as their own strength and ability will take them. Even in our own trustworthiness we find reason to doubt. How much of your own candy did you snitch before the trick-r-treaters arrived last night? Even together we are not a source of trust as communities and states struggle to satisfy the majority without upsetting the special interests too much. And all of us are the special interests in some form or other. The aim should not be to seek some thing to trust in, but to seek some one we can trust in. Look not to the things of this earth, look to the One who died for us.

Jesus told us to trust in Him. If you believe in Him, you will soon realize that you never had any other viable option. Even the planet we stand on is not to be trusted, solid and huge though it may seem from our little point of view. And don't get me started on that slippery ol' Father Time. The clock says 6:09, but my tummy says, "where's breakfast?" We cannot put our trust in the powers and principalities of this world, but we can trust the One who will begin the next world. Does that require faith? You bet it does. Not one of us can see the next world, and to the secular folk that seems like an utter absurdity. They believe that this world is it; the end of this world is the end of all. Jesus says something quite different; and believing that requires faith and trust in Him!

Have a great Sunday in Christ Jesus!