Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whew! The End of the Year - December 31, 2009

Good Thursday morning! The last day of 2009, the final day of the first decade of the 21st century, and a day to review. I have included both of our devotionals from the big boys today, Pastor Robert Schuller and the late Pastor Adrian Rogers. The latter, not the former, included Hosea 6:3 from the King James version today which is this:

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”

Back in the day, when the earth wasn't quite up to speed and days still ran about 27 hours, I started sending out the more recent translations to the verse used in Pastor Rogers' devotional that I was forwarding on to 40 or 50 folks at my former workplace. We look at the verse today, or at least I looked at the KJV verse today and went "Eh what?!" I want to know what the Lord would say to me, but sometimes the King James version left me in the ancient dust of Old Idiom. As you know, idiom is the way in which words and phrases are joined together in the use of a language to express thought. To put it another way, the King James version's idiom doesn't always express itself to my thought very well. So, I started including the New Living Translation verse along with Pastor Rogers' devotional.

"Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring." (Hosea 6:3, NLT)

That not only helped me to understand the verse, but also led to a few comments that I felt led to write. A bit later, the earth had slowed to perhaps 26 hour days, the ancient Roman Staffordicus Maximus, once told me that he liked my comments at times better than the original devotional. At that time, the Holy Spirit led me to realise that people liked having a devotional from someone they knew, however marginally; or at least one coming from someone within smackin' range should that someone write something so far out of church doctrine that a good smackdown was called for. I fit both conditions and the devotional grew to about 90 or so e-mail addresses. Whether someone actually read the devotional at all of those addresses is any one's guess. The list is now down to 30, but still the recipients don't always read the devotional each day, as Jack confessed to me one grateful day.

Jack's excuse was that the devotional was sometimes written over his head. I write at about 5'9" (5'8 & 1/4" on the right side) and Jack reads at about 6'4", so I'm not sure that his excuse holds water. Anyhoo, the reason some people liked my devotional comments was that sometimes the big boys with theological and divinity doctorates did at times write over our heads. Probably not their fault, but all that education is going to show up in their writing no matter how hard they try to tone it down for us in the masses. As I was still working those 26 hour days, I didn't have time to look up big words and write over any one's head.

The mass of e-mails going out each morning just before work, but also from work, finally came to the attention of Big Brother, and some of you will remember when my devotional was booted out of the Big C. I didn't know it at the time, but I would follow some years later. God was preparing the way for me even as I was unaware of the currents shifting around in the stream of life. Had my writing not had to shift to my home e-mail and home computer, I might have lost all the e-mail addresses in 2008! Somewhere between the start of devotional writing and my exit from the Big C, I also competed my undergrad degree. I worried that it might show in my writing until another KJV verse showed up in Pastor Rogers' devotional that left me going "Eh? Could you translate that please?"

Along the way, (the devotional has gone out for 3-5 years now) we lost both Pastors Rogers and D. James Kennedy to old timers causes. Something that my older mates assure me will happen to all of us if Jesus doesn't come first. We get together from time to time to discuss the first pangs of these old timer's causes. I don't even feel grown up yet, how can I feel the onset of old timer's causes? How many of you have 5, 6, even 7 or more decades under your belt and still wonder when you are going to feel like a grown up? Some mornings, I feel like this devotional should be written by some old feller with a PhD on his name. Later that day the UPS lady will show up and need an adult signature for a package; I turn and look at the cat. The UPS lady says my signature will do, though I'm not sure why.

For the days that I still feel too young to be trying to dispense wisdom in a devotional, I still like to include a devotional from one of those old guys. Dr. Schuller is around 80 now and fits that description. His devotional today is a good poem for the end of a year.

A prayerful benedictionDecember 31, 2009Robert H. Schuller "Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence." – Psalm 21:6
As a great wave rises from the deepto wash away the scratches on the sand, come, O God,to dissolve forever in your sea of peacemy cares, my fears, my worries, and my anxieties.

As the blessed blackness of a quiet night comesto blanket from my sight the cluttered collection ofbillboards, buildings, and power polesuntil my eyes see only bright stars,
so come, O God, and blot out this day's drearyand weary accumulations of daily irritations, hurts, dents,and disappointments until I see only your goodnessshining in the shadows.

As an explosion of happy sunshine brings a joyful glowto dark corners, so come, O God, and explode your bright joyinto the gloomy corners of my mind.

As a great victorious general awakens his battalionswith a trumpet blast, and rallies his retreating armywith renewing power, so come, O Lord, and awaken meto "rise up, be done with lesser things, to give heart,soul, mind, and strength to serve the King of Kings."

As the spring rain gently, patiently, irresistibly fallsto soften the hard crust of frozen ground until it can receivefruit-producing seed, O God, may showers of your lovesoak in to soften the cold corners of my heart,allowing creative new life to break forth.

As a happy fountain leaps jubilantly and tumbles joyfully,come, O Holy Spirit, to transform my melancholy mooduntil my heart erupts in joy and happiness.

O Father, make my life a melody like that of a great wave,a calm night, a morning sun, a spring rain, a happy fountain!


I wonder if Pastor Schuller feels grown up yet? Did Paul feel grown up when he wrote about putting away childish things? (1 Cor 13:11) We can and do put away our childish actions and feelings even if we never feel completely grown up. What we don't give up is the feeling of hope we get at the end of one year and the start of another. Possibilities are always easier to envision at the start of a new year on the calendar. Is there something new I can start on the devotional? I don't know, but perhaps stability is something we all treasure a bit more as a result of this recession. Say goodbye to '09, and prepare for a great new year in Christ Jesus!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Us and With Us - December 30, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! The next to last day of 2009 has arrived in all its glory! I don't know that this day is any more glorious than the last, but isn't every day a glorious new day? The day comes in cloudy or sunny, rainy or dry, cold or warm, but each day is full of new possibilities for the glory of God the Father!

On the days when I sit down to write the devotional and my mind flutters about like an inebriated hummingbird, I try to concentrate on God. What message of praise and worship can I send out to you that will inspire, encourage, educate, or just remind you of the blessing you already have or know? We have passed through many painful times in our lives. The valley where death casts its shadow seems to have many shadows, some lighter and some very dark. Through all of them, we have Jesus beside us to lead and comfort us. We remember the words of Psalms 23 and gain comfort We find it easy to remember the bad times, perhaps our adversary helps to remind us of them too, but we need only look up in prayer to know that Jesus has never left us. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, he sent the Comforter to all of us.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was in the world with us, in the New Testament, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be not only in the world, but inside those who believe in Him. We can see the Holy Spirit at work in those who do not yet believe also. As Christians, our conversation often turns to Christ and what he has done for us. With those in the world, the turning of the conversation to Jesus will often provoke an uncomfortable reaction in them. Jesus told us that would happen as the Holy Spirit convicts the world of its sin. We may have trouble remembering when this happened to us back in the day. The times when the mention of Jesus would bring almost a physical wince as the Holy Spirit put a finger on our unforgiven sin.

Today, we do recognize the effect though, even if we don't recall the feeling in our memories. A friend might use vulgar language in an effort to drive us away from the topic of Jesus in conversation. Isn't it interesting how that kind of language can make us have a similar feeling to what the mention of Jesus did before? This isn't to say that a person's speech must be clean and perfect to be saved. We all have habits clinging to us that need to be cleaned up and thrown out; the Holy Spirit will take care of those as He enables us to overcome the things of this world. Trust in Jesus and live for the day!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It is Accomplished! - December 29, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! We are counting down the last few days of 2009! Are you glad to see the 00's go? We have endured some trying times in this decade. Wars and rumors of war, earthquakes and tsunamis, hurricanes, Enron, 9/11, Wall Street misbehavior (to put it mildly), a closely voted and hotly disputed presidential election, a major recession (too many worsts to list) and the Cabela's layoffs. Some of those may have touched you directly, others much less so, but even reading about tragedies in the news affects us. With all of that in mind, is it any wonder we are glad to see the last decade go into the history books? Of course, that is all bad news. What happened during the decade that we can look back on with joy?

That's kind of hard, isn't it? We are so accustomed to bad news, we hardly find a space in our overloaded brains for the good news. I don't have exact figures, but I would estimate that most of those reading this devotional today are alive. Many of us can even report that we are healthy and in fairly good financial shape considering how badly the economy has gone lately. A chap by the name of Arthur Blessitt has been carrying a twelve-foot cross through all nations and they have made a movie about his experiences. Many millions have come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior all over the globe. We have met many times in the name of Jesus in churches and homes throughout this decade. Some bloke even felt the calling to start a daily devotional! (The cheek of the bugger too!)

Every church held at least 520 Sunday morning opportunities to get to know Jesus better in this past decade. Many held thousands of Bible studies, prayer services, funerals, weddings, and other opportunities to celebrate life and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Now we're starting to see the value of a decade! Imagine how many meetings Awana has held in this decade, or the number of one to one meetings where the Good News of Christ went out. Billions of dollars, pounds, Euros, and many other currencies were given in honor of God and in lovingkindness during this decade. Countless acts of kindness and hours of volunteer work have been committed to God in the past ten years. We have much to be proud of and to thank God for!

I graduated from college in this decade. Twenty-some years late, but a degree have I! Many millions of students throughout the world graduated on time with many types of degrees, making the world a little more knowledgeable along the way. Only God can be sure of how many babies came into the world during the decade; each one of them a blessing from His mighty Providence. Three times we elected a new president; a matter of no small concern to much of the world. You may not have agreed with the choices, the results, or even the method (urp, hanging chads again!) in each case, but the elections successfully placed a person in office each and every time. We had a man of African-American ancestry run against a woman in a major primary election. Again, you may not have agreed with... but you get the picture.

We sometimes let bad news overcome good news for a moment. During this decade, I received a certificate for fifteen years of work at Cabela's. I wanted to smash it into small pieces when they ended my job. However, a little voice said, "hold on a moment there..." The achievement didn't vanish with my termination. For many of us, our situation has changed a little or a lot during this decade. We may look in despair at the current situation and fail to note how God has brought us through some very trying times in the past. We have not only no good reason to think that God will fail us in this one, but his promise that he will never leave us at any time. Look back at your achievements during this decade. See how God has strengthened you and brought you here. You and I may stand at the bottom of that valley, deep in death's shadow, but God tells us to look up to the peak where he wants to lead us. Perhaps the peak is so high we cannot see it right now, but God sees it and wants to lead us there. I put the certificate back up on my wall. Like the cross of Jesus, that achievement is recorded in history. The world cannot take it away. Whatever you may think of this past decade, like Jesus said on the cross, "it is accomplished!"

Have a great new day in Christ Jesus!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Days, we don't know nuthin' - December 28, 2009

Oh dear! I am ever slow this morning. Time moves on without me as the devotional should be going out and I'm just getting started on it. Many others will find it tough to get going this morning as we come out of a nice three-day weekend. The good news is that another one looms at the end of this week! The Christmas-New Year's holidays can kind of spoil us with extra time off. Back in the day, I often took the whole week, sometimes even two weeks, off from work around this time. The problem with all of that time off was of course, going back. Sooner or later, we gotta get back to work, even us writers.

With my slow start today, many of you will have already gone to work to face the e-mail pile, which is our time's equivalent of the old in-box. We even call it the in-box in our e-mail programs, just to give us a link to the olden times of 1980 or so. If you are old enough to remember the ubiquitous interoffice envelopes, some places still use them, you will be able to think back to the piles of tan-colored envelopes waiting your attention on a morning such as this. To help prioritize, some even came in red or orange to call attention to themselves as important or from a company VIP. Other envelopes might be marked "urgent" or "rush" to help set them off from the general mob of envelope traffic.

On a morning like this one, you might feel a certain dismay at the size of the workload awaiting your attention. Did all those urgent matters really come up over the holiday weekend? Did someone sneak in this weekend and add to my workload? The sad part these days is that someone probably did work over the holiday weekend, probably quite a few someones. Work should be rewarding and enjoyable, but is there ever enough reward or fun to be had when so many have to work so much? And then we also have those who cannot find work these days. Some doom criers are saying to look for a decade of high unemployment; others say that the recovery has already begun. Who do we believe? How did this world get so messed up in the first place?

Well, we have to go way back to the time when a certain man and woman, the first of their kind actually, fell for a con and decided that God didn't really have their best interests in mind when he said to stay away from one particular tree. From then on we were doomed to a life of toil. However, God did provide some hope to go with that toil. He would send a savior to us at the proper time. Only one problem with that. The rebellion against God was so great that it would take two trips for the savior to get everything back to where he wanted it. Jesus made the first trip to earth to redeem us from sin. The toil and sweat wouldn't end with that trip though. That part may have disappointed those waiting for Messiah as much as anything else. Some went so far as to say, "you ain't really Messiah" and executed the best hope of the world.

Jesus accomplished his mission on the earth over the best efforts of the world and its prince to destroy him. One of those efforts, one that seems very odd indeed, is when the people tried to take Jesus by force and make him king. How do you force someone to be king? Isn't that kind of upside down? If you do manage to force someone to be king; wouldn't that person then command you to do some things that you might not like? What if the person won't stay on the throne? Do you then tie your "king" to the throne and force him to stay there? I'm being a little humorous here, but the Bible does record that the people wanted to force Jesus to be king. We find it hard to understand now, but if Jesus had waited until a few years ago to come to the earth, would we have done any better? Would the headlines have read, "Jesus wins presidency in greatest landslide in voting history! Wins popular vote by 200 million to 1! Claim that he isn't running for office rejected by Supreme Court!" That may seem far-fetched to us, but the equivalent did happen. Jesus had to hide himself and escape from the crowd wanting to make him king.

Do we still try to make Jesus king as we want him to be king instead of accepting him as King? In looking for the reasons we have all this work to do, I had to wonder if greed and coveting isn't much of the reason we are so overworked. We see some ministers on the telly telling us how God will bless us with piles of loot, and we work overtime to try to make it come true. I realize those same ministers would deny telling anyone that God will make them rich, but at the same time I have seen those shows and it is easy to see how someone might leap to that conclusion. We always seem to want to add something to "Trust in God"; usually it's a "for" we like to add, as in: trust in God for a big house, or trust in God for lots of loot to spend. How about this one: trust in God for contentment!

One thing I can see today is that I don't have all the answers. I trust in God to guide me in writing this devotional, and it's taking just short of forever this morning. There may be an unwritten devotional writers rule that says never admit that you don't know something, but today I'll have to humble myself and make that admission: I don't know everything. We strive to learn in this life, but we must trust in God for his wisdom and knowledge. Yes, we do trust in God for a great many "for's", but sometimes we also try to force the issue. Jesus will be the King of kings in God's own time. You and I may not die rich in loot, but we will live in Him!

Praise God for the day!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

It Looks Like the Same Ol' Backyard? - December 27, 2009

Good Sunday morning! The outside weather and my weather (which I was under this past few days) are both clearing up. However, as the cold outside will tell you, we ain't all the way there yet. The news isn't all bad though, the temperature is better already this morning than it has been for a couple of days; perhaps we'll even make it up to freezing today! Yay!

What to write about this morning? Christmas has passed, the New Year stuff isn't quite ready yet this morning, so what is the subject for today? I asked God what to write and was told that I was stuck because I worried too much about what to write. The saying was something like "worry less, write more." This morning I have also enjoyed some good stories about salvation.

What struck me about these stories is that none of them included the oft feared "mission to the Congo." You might say that in every story the person was called to a far country, right here. When we face our sins and look to the cross, one of the lies the devil likes to run up the mast is that all of us will have to sign up for a mission to the Congo. For one thing, the Congo probably isn't as bad as our fears would have it, and for another, the growth of Christ's church in many areas of Africa is both dramatic and full of the miraculous. As one minister over this-a-way once said, "maybe they will be so kind as to start sending some missionaries over here!" For another, God doesn't have to wait for our salvation to start putting us in the place that he wants us to be.

You may have thought that you had your hand on the wheel when you got that transfer to the town you now live in. You may have felt in control when graduating from college and accepting that great job in the city you live in. However, you might also want to consider the possibility that God had already sent the missionary to the place he wanted the mission performed even before the missionary (that's you!) knew that God had called him or her to the mission! Whoo, let that sentence sink in for a bit...

When we accept the salvation of Christ, we enter a far country even when our physical location remains the same. The world looks different as the Holy Spirit begins his great work within us. For some of us the work is quick and we notice huge changes in a short time, for others of us the work goes more slowly and only by looking back over time do we see the dramatic changes wrought upon our mind and spirit. We become more of a foreigner to the world even though our bodies stand upon the same ground we have walked on for years.

Your far country might look much like the same ol' back yard, but God has called you to spread the Good News right where you are. The light of Christ shines in you; let it shine out for all to see!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After - December 26, 2009

Good Saturday morning! It's the day after Christmas... waaaah! Why does the day after Christmas always seem like something great has passed? Well, it has, but that doesn't mean that Jesus came last night and left us behind. Stoke up the fires of that eager anticipation for that great day of the Lord!

How did you spend your Christmas? I had to call in sick. Are you kidding me? Sick at Christmas? Yes, and I had to call in to the same fellow I used to call in sick at work to. Believe it or don't, I had planned to have Christmas dinner out at Gary's farm and then go to Burt's place for the evening. Alas, my plans were not in line with what God knew was coming and I stayed home to get over the flu bug. It seems like I had the flu on another Christmas back in the day. Does that make me dread Christmas? No way, I still love Christmas and I will not renounce it for a little bug or two! Praise the Lord for Christmas!

Want a black cat for next Halloween? I have one with a bit of a sneer. One of his fangs is growing longer than the other for no apparent reason; it gives him a sort of single-sided sabertooth sneer. Hee, hee, tell me you didn't see that one coming. :-) I am feeling better, even with the level of Kleenexes growing in the trash cans around here. The snow is still howling by the windows outside. We didn't get much, but all of it has been blowing by at about mach 2 for the last 36 hours or so. Looks cold out too!

Some folks may look outside and decide that a gift exchange isn't worth it this morning. I wouldn't blame them; the blowing snow makes for a good day to stay inside and enjoy the comforts of home and family. Much of the country had a white Christmas this year, and a few even complained about it. Travel may have been difficult, even dangerous, for many, but staying at home for Christmas is not so bad. With Christmas on a Friday this year, we have the whole weekend too!

Enjoy the weekend in Christ!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! - December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! The day has come to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! What is that gift under the tree this year? Do you see it? Can you hear it? The tree is too small; the gift too large to contain! One hundred of the largest Christmas trees could not hold this gift we have today. The Christ child brought it, the Son of Man died to pay for it, and the risen Savior brought it forth into new, glorious light. There is steel in this gift, but it will never rust. There is power in this gift, but it does not corrupt. Batteries are not needed, fancy paper makes it no brighter, and lights pale in comparison to this great gift from above.

Of course you know about the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. The glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people is the gift that God gave to us on that first Christmas long ago. The gift has not grown old or tarnished with the passage of two millenia. The gift has gone out to all corners of the world through voice, song, prayer, Bible, and yes, e-mail. We have seen the Good News spread far and near just in our lifetimes. Ministers stand in pulpits and on television; in Internet chat rooms and on radio; in huge, ornate cathedrals and in little mud huts, to spread the Good News of this great gift. We talk to each other, text each other, send cards, letters, and messages telling of the great gift of salvation in Christ the Lord.

The more we give this gift, the more we get back. Try to hold it, and you find yourself held in it. We cannot lose this gift, nor would we want to push it away. We can't forget it, even when we fall into sin. A reward so great that we cannot earn it. And yet, Christ gives it to us for one simple admission - I am a sinner in need of salvation. Those who do not believe will never "get it", but to those who will believe, the gift is given!

Have a merry, beautiful Christmas in Christ the Lord!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Magi Arrive! - December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve! The cold has arrived, but we seem to have escaped the big snow this time. We might even have some cold sunshine today from the look of the sky. You may not be able to tell yet, but the days are getting a bit longer too! Now, with a critical mind, you can see a lot of factual errors in the preceding lines. Days don't actually get longer than 24 hours with the passing of the winter solstice, nor is the sun any colder or warmer than it is in the summer. We do the same thing with our tales of the three wise men visiting Jesus.

The Bible doesn't say how many there were, but it does say they came from eastern lands. The magi, I don't know if the Greek term is open to women or not, may have travelled for as much as two years before arriving in Jerusalem. Herod may have been giving himself a margin for error in killing all the children of less than two years of age also. If the wise men travelled for two years, they might have come from as far as China. This would indeed be interesting, but not as interesting as having them come from Iran. We know that Daniel lived in the area we know as Iran now; what if the wise men were descended from Daniel? The Bible doesn't say whether the wise men were Jews or some other race of people; what if they were the ancestors of those who hate Israel so much now? Interesting to think about, eh?

However many wise men there were, we know they made a great journey to Jerusalem, and then followed a star from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The Bible says that the star even came to rest over the house where Mary and Jesus were living. The Bible does not say the star guided them all the way from the eastern lands. If it had, they probably wouldn't have missed by several miles and had to stop in Jerusalem to ask directions.

We know from their questions that they also knew the star they had seen pointed to the arrival of the king of the Jews. The question gave Herod enough concern that it caused him to commit a terrible atrocity. Why did Herod fear a baby so? We may never know, but Jesus from his very birth caused people to decide to follow him or try to destroy him. The wise men, showing they weren't called wise for nothing, worshipped the Christ child and presented gifts to him. Tomorrow and tonight, we will worship the child we know as our Lord and Savior. We will also give gifts to each other to celebrate the gift God gave to us on this day so long ago. May God bless you with a worshipful and generous spirit this Christmas holiday.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Great Christmas Approaches! - December 23, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! Christmas is coming... closer and closer the day draws near. Yes, tomorrow begins the Christmas holiday for most of us. Some have already taken off to holiday destinations and some will leave today. Will some find the hotels and motels at their destination full? ("Should've called ahead like I told you, dear") Mary and Joseph found the inn full in Bethlehem. What happened there? Well, you see there was this little census ordered by the Roman government for taxation purposes. As Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem. That doesn't seem like much until you realize the rest of those claiming to be descended from the royal line - and who wouldn't want to be counted in the royal line? - also had to descend upon poor little Bethlehem. Inns, spare rooms, and even the little stone couches were probably full of travelers in town for the census.

Isn't it funny/interesting that we like to think that somehow folks from back then had stone couches or something like that? I'm sure their little behinds yearned for a comfortable chair just as ours do. However, arriving late or simply not early enough, Joseph and Mary could not find a room in Bethlehem. This seems rather uncharitable given that Mary would have been visibly ready to deliver at this time. Years later though, people would argue that Jesus had been born in Nazareth, forgetting already that the census had sent all of King David's line to one little town. Perhaps the infanticide ordered by Herod made them think all the children had been killed around Bethlehem? We don't know, but God knew and announced the birth of his son in a big way.

So much in this world we don't know. Our government has become a juggernaut and we don't know from day to day what it might do. The world is more connected now than it has ever been, and events far away can affect us as never before. Our history probably isn't what we thought it was from our school texts; and our current military actions are open to controversy. Is it any wonder that Zechariah, an old man, wanted more assurance? We could find ourselves just like poor Zech in this age. How can we be sure you'll come back, Lord? Of course, we already know that asking "when?" is not going to work.

God requires faith in this. Prophets, kings, and the people waited for more than a thousand years for the first Christmas; and they had no idea what the exact date would be. Before John the Baptist arrived, Israel had been treated to 400 years of silence from God. The prophets simply stopped showing up! We find it hard to wait weeks or days for the next Christmas day, but we have also been waiting around 2,000 years for that one great Christmas that we call Christ's second coming. The length of the first period of waiting doesn't set the length of the second; yet like the counting down of days to this next Christmas celebration, we know that Jesus will surely come on the day God has set. We cannot know the countdown, but God does know the exact hour of Jesus' return.

Christmas this year falls on a Friday, but that final Christmas might fall on any day. There will be no exchange of gifts on that great day; only an exchange of lives. Be ready and remain faithful; Jesus is coming soon!

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Confusion or Unbelief? - December 22, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Another winter storm on the way this evening; we may be in for a white Christmas like much of the east coast is this morning. Are we ready to sing the snow song yet? The Christmas story has a few angels in it, but no snow. Actually, the shepherds got to see more than a few angels. We don't have an exact number only that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared. Other angels came individually to spread some good news. Zechariah saw one by the incense altar in the temple, Mary met one in her room, and Joseph saw one in a dream.

This morning, I was interested in the reactions Zechariah and Mary had to the message from God. Why did Zechariah get nine months of silence for his question, while Mary got to go visit her cousin? Does that seem fair? As usual, we need to read carefully those Bible verses and understand what happened. The first is in Luke 1:11-20

Zechariah was in the sanctuary when an angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar.
Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear.

But the angel said, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice with you at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or hard liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will persuade many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God.

He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom."

Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I know this will happen? I'm an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years."

Then the angel said, "I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! And now, since you didn't believe what I said, you won't be able to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly come true at the proper time."

Mary's visitation comes next in Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

"Don't be frightened, Mary," the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"
Mary asked the angel, "But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin."

The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she's already in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left.

Gabriel gets a bit irate with Zechariah, but not with Mary. What is the difference here? They both asked questions when given the message, but one gets punished and the other does not. As we look at Zechariah's response, we see that he wants to know how he can be sure. Of course, we have the advantage of the Bible and would wonder how someone might crave more assurance than an angel coming straight from the presence of God. Zechariah did though and Gabriel gave him nine months to be quiet and think about it.

Mary on the other hand is simply confused. No doubt her mother and a few of the ladies in the village had taken her aside and explained the mechanics of the process when she got engaged to Joseph. Gabriel's explanation probably meant no more to her than it does to you and me as far as the mechanical/biological details go, but she accepted that God would do as he said and her response is just right. For our part, we simply accept that God did as he said.

The difference is that Zechariah basically said, "I don't believe you." while Mary said, "I don't understand." God is very patient when we don't understand, but much less so when we try to tell one of his messengers that we need more than just a message from God to be sure something will happen. Looking back from our point of view with Jesus already come and gone back to heaven we might gasp a little at Zechariah's question and wonder "how could you?" Zechariah may have prayed in silence for nine months asking forgiveness and wondering the very same thing of himself. His question might be the same unthinking one that many of us could do in a similar moment of fear and awe.

In both cases though, God gave his blessing just as he promised. We know the result of one message was the birth of John the Baptist, and the other was the birth of Jesus the Savior. John was the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Jesus saved us all through his death and resurrection. Belief in the moment may have come with a little difficulty for Zechariah, and with a bit of confusion for Mary, but we who have the words of the Bible need not be confused; we have the great hope of the Messiah!

Gabriel did give Mary a wonderful assurance, "for nothing is impossible with God..." We can read a very similar message in Matthew 19:26 when Jesus speaks about what is impossible for man and possible for God. If you haven't got it by now, get it as soon as you can; God can do anything he pleases.

Rejoice in the mighty saving power of God!

And have a wonderful, white Christmas!


Monday, December 21, 2009

A Powerful Witness! - December 21, 2009

Good Monday morning! Guess what you didn't get yesterday! Yup, a devotional. Some of you may have seen someone in church yesterday. That would be me, invited and encouraged to attend. I asked God to take away the fear and he responded with messages and invitations all around. What a weekend too! I helped a couple friends do a lot of work over the weekend; making deer sausage and painting an old bedroom, and then going out hunting a couple of times too. I'm a little worn out this Monday morning. Praise the Lord that devotional writing is a work of the mind and soul, and a few stiff and sore fingers.

Today, we look at one little verse out of the entire Bible. This verse tells about an amazing man. Luke 1:17 tells us the great things that he will do.
He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom."
If you knew nothing about Jesus, the man John preceded, and had never read the many prophecies concerning Messiah, you would still get a pretty good idea about his standing from this verse and from what John had to say about him. The angel Gabriel gave John's father, Zechariah, the prophecy in this one little verse concerning his son.

"A man with the spirit and power of Elijah" would have made any of the folks in ancient Judea sit up straight and listen. Elijah was one of the great prophets in their history. Elijah called down fire from heaven to defeat the prophets of Baal, restored a child to life, and shut off the rain for a while. Elijah fled to the wilderness, and was fed by an angel. Elijah annointed a king over Israel. You can read these and other tales of his life in 1 Kings. No doubt the Jewish children grew up on tales of Elijah and the power of God. John would have that same power and spirit.

John would precede the coming of Messiah, something the people in Judea looked forward to with longing, and he would prepare them for the great arrival. Next, "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children..." We live in a time when fathers often have children out of wedlock and take off, leaving young mothers alone with a new child to care for. For John to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children would take a miracle then just as it does in many cases now. Can you imagine John arriving right now at the house of the young fellow down the street, who is busy packing up his car to abandon that young lady, and with a few words restores a wayward heart to love and understanding of his new child? What a great thing!

Finally, "he will change the disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom." Another translation uses the word "rebellious" in place of disobedient. If someone barks some good advice at you, what is your first reaction? Often it is one of rebellion. We are naturally rebellious and never more so than when the advice is good. God gives us ten commandments for our own good, and we feel the urge to violate all ten of them. God says to love one another and we immediately think of someone we don't really want to love. Rebellion seems to be hard-wired into our circuits! Yet John will turn those rebellious hearts to accept godly wisdom? Wow, what a miracle!

So after all this about one little child blessing not only his elderly parents-to-be, but all the world as well; what does that child say about Jesus when he grows up and begins this marvelous ministry? "Here comes one whose sandals I am not worthy to tie!" Merry Christmas! Jesus must be something very special indeed! A man with the spirit and power of Elijah is sent to point to one much greater. A man who turns rebellious hearts to godly wisdom says that he must become less while Jesus becomes greater. That is one powerful witness to the precious and powerful life of Jesus.

We know from the Bible that John fulfilled his mission of heralding the arrival of Jesus Christ. We also know that Jesus did go on to become greater, while John died in prison. However, John the Baptist went to heaven with "mission accomplished" stamped on his life. Jesus gave his own life to save us all. He did the greater things that John said he would. Believe in Jesus; he comes with a powerful witness!

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

He's gonna make your Christmas! - December 19, 2009

Good Saturday morning! Time to hit the trail once more; I pray that the holes avoid my feets this time. We don't always get to choose what happens in this life, but we are more than welcome to pray for anything; Jesus said we could! Do you sometimes wonder about praying for a safe trip, or that a child will get something he wants for Christmas? We all do at times. Should I bother God with this; it seems kind of selfish?

James tells us that "you don't get what you want because you fail to ask God for it. Paul tells us to "make our requests known to God." Jesus told us to "ask anything in my name and the Father will grant it." Are we starting to get the picture here? God wants to know our every request! Notice that doesn't say "demand". We do sometimes tend to make our requests into demands as though God is at our beck and call. Does God sometimes say "no" to a request? Yes, we may ask for something that isn't good for us to have, and God always wants what is best for us. What may disappoint God more is our failure to ask out of fear. "Well, God might think I'm a selfish bozo if I ask for that." Too late, if you are one, God already knows. And apologies to the real Bozo the Clown for this little illustration. :-)

As we grow in Jesus, we will learn to ask for the right things. God already knows our needs, but I think He likes to hear us ask Him just to make sure that we know where all good things come from. The few days before Christmas are a good time to make our requests known to God. Take a few moments to verbalize that request you have been putting off from fear. Request something for someone else too. Perhaps you will make their Christmas!

God loves you and wants you to have the very best this Christmas!


Friday, December 18, 2009

No Sex? - December 18, 2009

Good Friday morning! The next Friday will be Christmas! I chose to add the LWF devotional this morning as it hit near what Burt and I spoke briefly on last night. We enjoyed one good movie last night, White Christmas, and had a bit of chatting too. Burt said that he was grateful that the movie didn't have all the sex, violence, and bad language we have grown accustomed to seeing in so many movies of today. This is true though the movie does allude to war violence at the start and sex throughout. Of course it does; we ain't trying to say these things don't exist! What bothers us is the images that stick in our brain. Our mind doesn't want to dwell on the naked bodies, the blood, or those words that are too easy to use in a moment of stress. But if we expose our mind and brain to that stuff all the time, we will have too many memories that cannot easily be suppressed.

Speaking of great stories, I wonder if anyone has made a movie about a young couple, the wife obviously pregnant, trying to reach a small town because the government had ordered a census? It sure seems like a great story could be had there. Hmm, I suppose one problem for most of the late model film directors and producers would be the lack of sex in the story. Yep, the woman went and got pregnant out of wedlock, they would like that part, but wait a minute, no sexual intercourse? You got it; nothing happened between Mary and Joseph before the pregnancy. Those in the world wonder how we could be so gullible. We wonder how we could have ever thought that the almighty creator of the universe would have a problem with one little pregnancy.

In any case, the celebration of that one little pregnancy is upon us once more! We had a good fellowship last night with lots of goodies and one movie. Have you noticed that as we get a little older, starting a movie after 8:30pm just doesn't sound like a good idea anymore? I could have started another after my guests decided to call it a night, but it doesn't take a mathematical genius to add 2 or 3 hours to 8:30 and come up with, "oh dear!" Yes, I am no longer the all-night movie watching animal of my younger years. Okay, so maybe I can't actually recall even one instance of staying up all night watching movies. Either the movies were not that memorable, or I never actually managed to do it. Probably both, we don't get too many movies that are worth watching after 11:00pm or so in any case.

Give some thought to that first Christmas today, and have a wonderful Friday in Christ!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giving up the Old Stuff - December 17, 2009

Good Thursday morning! Tonight some layabouts will be in my house. Yup, we plan to layabout watching Christmas movies and eating a little Christmas cheer. We know of course that Christmas cheer in whatever form, chocolate chip cookies included, doesn't cause the waistline to expand as other forms of cheer might. :-) May it never end!

Never end... I wonder about that this morning. Last night, I called to end a subscription that I had begun many years ago. Back in the day, we hit the road for weeks at a time and traveled through some sparsely populated areas. The subscription to satellite radio made sense at the time and we/I used it a lot. This morning, I had to wonder how many other things I have been clinging to from the old days. I do enjoy the service in my truck still, but I don't drive more than across town very often these days. The cost to renew was more than $500 for my two-year plan. Don't use it much, costs a lot, seems like a straightforward decision. Yet I fought with it for weeks.

Old things can cling to us; that is why Paul encouraged us to cast off the weights that slow us down in our personal race for Christ. When the race changes for each of us, God may be calling us to go more slowly up a tough hill on our course or he may be calling us to speed it up, but in either case we might need to shed some old weight. That weight may be old habits, subscriptions, credit cards, friends who will not believe (we're still allowed to pray for them!), employers, possessions, and many other things. Giving something up from the old life may be difficult, but at the same time it may be necessary or even vital to our effort in Christ.

Take time to listen to a bit of Christmas praise music today, and grab some of that Christmas cheer too! :-)


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

History, My story, Your story - December 16, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! What did I learn yesterday? For one thing, I learned that a brother in Christ had been called home last Saturday. As is the case with us, I felt both sad for those of us left behind, and glad for Glenn. That sad-glad feeling we have at the same time is simply a product of our life in Christ. The disciples were sad that Jesus would be leaving them, but He told them to be glad for not only himself, but for themselves as well since He would be able to send the Holy Spirit. Every time a brother or sister in Christ departs this world we get that sad-glad feeling. Part of it is certainly that eager anticipation we have of knowing that it will be our turn one day.

I learned more about Christopher Columbus yesterday and this morning. Depending upon how much you want to take from the stories surrounding his life, you can cast him as a pious man struggling to bring the glory of God to a far land, or as a complete monster destroying a beautiful and simple lifestyle. As with most historical figures, we tend to seize upon the parts of the complete story that we like and play down those that we don't. The truth of the man is somewhere in between, much like our own life stories. We like to make historic figures into either great heroes or terrifying villains. Is there anyone we cannot build up or cut down? Paul began life as Saul and was as much a terror to the early church as he was a blessing later. David built a mighty nation and slew a giant, but also stole a wife and put out a hit on poor Uriah the Hittite. Adam was created in God's own image, but then decided to go his own way. Okay, I can hear everyone running ahead of me, but I did ask. Yes, Jesus is the answer to that question.

Among all historical figures, Jesus stands out as different those who will believe. In His story, like the other histories, we like to grab the parts we like. Forgiveness, love, mercy, grace, and eternal life are certainly parts of the Jesus we know and love. However, justice, holiness, judgement, intolerance of sin, and that dividing sword are also parts of this story. Jesus told us that he came to save the world and not to condemn it. We like that part, but tend to set aside the part where Jesus said that he came not to bring peace, but the sword. Jesus sent out a few messages the world doesn't want to hear:

Isaiah 53:6; "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way..."

Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no, not one."

In between the first message in the Old Testament and Paul's message in the New Testament, stands Christ Jesus. We can come to the Father through Jesus, but only after we face those two messages and admit that both do in fact refer to each of us. Once I came to face that I was a sinner in need of salvation, only then could I see Jesus as the Savior. In Christ, I could see that my way led to destruction, while His way led to God and eternal life. In Christ, I can see that I am a sinner under condemnation, while He has paid the price and saved me from judgement. How can I know this? Easy, the rest of the passage in Isaiah reveals the true mission of Jesus: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5

We read the stories of Jesus healing the multitudes and the individuals, and we like those stories, but the healing that saves the world came during his trial and crucifixion. Jesus suffered torments that we tremble to imagine to save us from our own sin. All that, and many still refuse to believe. Boggles the mind it does, eh? :-) We can't make anyone believe. My brow isn't strong enough to beat anyone with and make them believe that way. We have a mission to give them a chance to believe by hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We can't force belief; we can't touch their hearts, but we can give them words and show them by our actions that we have heard the Good News. The Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and convict them of their sin. How they respond to that is their own decision to make. We know that some will refuse and some will believe; what we don't know is which ones. Spread the Good News to everyone!

Have a merry and joyous Christmas in Christ!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bestest Christmas is still to Come! - December 15, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! Whoohoo, ten days to Christmas! Even old Scrooge admitted that Christmas had arrived late on Christmas eve. We who look forward to the celebration of Christ's birth have a much greater anticipation. I remember the anticipation from years and years... that makes me look kind of old, perhaps just a few years back. Some years were filled with a lot of work as we endured long days in an effort to fulfill a little Christmas joy for many other folks at the distribution center. However, even those days had their rewards in the form of overtime pay and the arrival of the days just before Christmas when the shipping was done. In looking back at things this morning, I am often struck by how I tend to emphasize the bad when I feel anxious. Simply turning it around a bit and remembering the good things can lift my mood right up closer to God; where it should be!

Memories can be good or bad, not so much from what happened, but by what we remember of the events and what light we shed upon them. All of us have traumatic, painful, and embarrassing or joyful, wonderful, and educational memories to look back on. Often all of those qualities rest in the same memories; strange as that may seem to us. When we give our lives to Jesus and the Holy Spirit arrives in his new heart home, the light begins to shine on some old memories that might at first be painful or humiliating. Those memories do not have to remain that way though. What did you learn from that time back then? Most of all, remember that you are forgiven!

Christmas brings out the good memories for us in a big way. We often look back fondly on the Christmas times of our childhood, but there is a day much better on the way. All of our bestest (bestest?) Christmas memories will pale when compared to the second coming of our Lord Jesus! Of course they will; what better to trump our celebrations of Christ's birth than to have Him come again? Praise the Lord for the coming day!

Merry Christmas in Christ Jesus!


Monday, December 14, 2009

In Someone's Place? - December 14, 2009

Good Monday morning! Tired of the cold yet? We haven't even started winter as of today. It's been cold for a couple of weeks now and we might feel a bit worn out when we think that all of winter has yet to begin (next week it will arrive). The good thing about the arrival of winter? Christmas comes right on its heels. Like our trials in this life, God has something great waiting just a short time after the difficult season begins. We don't know how long the trying time will last, but we do know that God is with us.

Did you catch the 60 Minutes interview with our President yesterday? I feel the same way about the bonus-baby bankers in the bailed out banks. Why do they not get it that some of us might feel more than a little angry when a firm getting billions in aid from the taxpayers pays out huge bonuses? Perhaps it's their worshipping at the shrine of money. In this modern world, two gods from old have made a strong comeback.

These gods have always been worshipped, in some empires and kingdoms more than others. However, today they have made a comeback in the land of the free. Money and knowledge are those 'gods' that I am talking about this morning. We live in a world of highly paid entertainers, athletes, bankers, and businessmen. Yet, most folks in these professions are not highly or even moderately paid. You might wonder about the bankers and business persons, but there are far more of these folks in small and medium sized institutions than the fat cats we hear about on Wall Street. Even in the bailed out firms that we can complain about, I'm sure there are hundreds or thousands of folks not making the huge bonuses and working under a modest salary. But now I'm drifting away from the point.

Any one of us can be caught up in the religion of money or knowledge. It's fun to know more than other folks and it's fun to have lots of loot to spend. Neither is evil of itself, but both can seduce a person to worshipping something we should be grateful to God for having. People can make a living as researchers, librarians, professors, teachers, and other knowledge professionals without worshipping knowledge. However, some do fall into making knowledge their god, just as some fall into the dreadful trap of making money their god.

Last night I dreamed along these lines. In the dream, I had bought a different house, relatively new but I wasn't the first owner. There was no furniture in the living room or dining room, which was a good thing because some of the ceiling had started to fall in from water damage. A tall friend had come by and he started poking the drop-ceiling tiles to check for roof leaks. Above one, he found a beautiful Cabela's blanket. Perhaps my covers had slipped in the real world at this time because that blanket looked mighty fine to my dreaming mind. I put the blanket on my bed and talked about how much I appreciated the previous owners leaving that behind. In effect, I put "mine" on that blanket. My thoughts on waking up this morning were to question why my dreaming self behaved so badly in not thinking about how I could return that property to the rightful owner!

Those who worship at the shrine of money find some way to claim more and more for themselves. Those who feel that the big bonus checks should still come to them from that money we the taxpayers loaned them might have made the mistake of putting "mine" on something that they may not deserve in light of their firm's current position. You and I might wonder why a pay czar, as the position is known, would even be necessary. We might think that if we had a job in that bailed out firm we would be ashamed of needing government money to stay afloat and be working hard to pay the money back as soon as possible. We might even take a pay cut, if we earned more than we needed, to help the company get that loan paid off. We like to think that... maybe we would and maybe we wouldn't. It's hard to put yourself in another's position; or perhaps I should say, it's all too easy to put yourself in another's position and say we would do this or that. :-)

That's a lot to think about on a Monday morning! I am glad that the president we elected understands that something might be wrong with millions in bonuses being given out at bailed out banks and companies. As a taxpayer, I want that money back in my government and am kind of sad that some folks still have their hand out for bonus money from the loan proceeds. As a Christian, I also wonder if I would behave in a manner that Christ would approve of if I were employed in that bailed out firm.

Pray for another Great Awakening, I do think that our country needs it.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Footprints of Gracelessness - December 13, 2009

Good Sunday morning! You have probably seen the inspirational poem 'Footsteps' somewhere in your travels, but in case you haven't; the story is about two sets of footprints in the sand. The story teller looks back and sees his or her footprints and those of Jesus walking beside. However, the storyteller notices that at times there is only one set of prints and those times coincide with some of the worst times in his or her life. The question naturally comes up, "why did you leave me at those times, Lord?" Jesus as you may recall responds with the truth, "No, those are my footprints, those are the times that I carried you!" Yesterday, the footprints told a different story.

No, of course the Lord didn't leave me; the footprints were mine and my friend Gary's. In this case, we are out hunting in the hills. Gary sees a deer and takes off through the snow. His son, Dylan, and I follow his long stride as best we can with me bringing up the rear. Watch the footprints tell the story. The long, eager stride of Gary first, and the not quite as long stride of Dylan beside his. My shorter footprints follow Gary's... right into a hole that his footprints went over.

One of the prerequisites of leadership is the ability to charge in and miss the pitfalls that the rest of us fall into. Maybe that only works with earthly leaders. In Christ we find a leader who didn't miss or avoid the temptations and trials that we experience. Jesus did not choose to remain up in heaven, but came to earth and experienced much more in a shorter time frame than we will face in our lives. Our leader leads by example and pulls us out of those pitfalls with a few words of comfort. Every time I have found myself in a hole; Jesus has been there. His words are often the same, "Don't be afraid. I have been here, and I am here. It will be alright!"

The hole yesterday was no different; I was able to hobble after the charging hunters, who having seen their prey had quite failed to notice my graceless contortions in the snow behind them. The first question as I caught up with them betrayed their deep concern, "do you see all the deer down there in the trees?" Sometimes we get to charge into the breech, and sometimes we fall in the hole back yonder. Gary did get his deer yesterday, and I get to keep my Tylenol bottle close today. :-) No serious injury to me, proof enough that God was with me all the way!

A recovery day for me, but what is the most important lesson? Don't reinforce the trauma by thinking on it too much! This might go for others too this fine morning. Don't go over the event in your mind too many times. Read the Word of God, distract yourself from the pain. Of course, I will tell the story to friends and loved ones a few times. The problems only come when that tape reel of the event starts going in my mind over and over and over... Don't do that self! Keep your eyes on Jesus! Sometimes that dreadful recall likes to add in the worst possibilities. Stop! Halt! Don't let it go there. Trust in the strength and healing that comes from Christ alone!

Go with God this fine Sunday morning, and have a merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Give with your Head and Heart - December 12, 2009

Good Saturday morning! Whew, I won't pretend to have all the answers on this one! The growing trend this year is cyberbegging. This comes from the many ads on E-Bay asking, perhaps I should say 'selling', donations through online auctions. Whatever the term, soliciting a donation for the family is for the most part made of similar stories of woe. No doubt many of them are legitimate, but we will of course see the opportunity for scam artists to post a fake story. This is certainly another symptom of the recession and the increased joblessness. But, do we donate money to someone we don't know in an unknown location? I don't expect these 'auctions' are going to work very well; there are too many con artists online. We want to help, but none of us wants to increase the take of a scammer or con artist.

So what about this help for the poor? We run into this every holiday season. We know that Jesus wants us to help feed the poor, but He never said anything about buying them I-Pods or the latest toy. The claim of 'donate so the kids can have a Christmas' kind of rankles me too. Christmas comes each year, with or without presents, and the receiving of gifts certainly isn't the main reason we celebrate Christ's birth. On the other hand, I like to give gifts and I'm sure you do as well. Giving is a good tradition that shouldn't be stopped if it does not interfere with the main reason for Christmas. God gave us His Son at Christmas, and we like to give what we can in our turn.

I would suggest we let E-bay be an auction site for stuff and do our donating elsewhere. Your local community will have many of the very same needs as those on the donation auctions. In Sidney, there is a tree in the courthouse with needy families. If I'm getting this right, you take an envelope and do your best to fulfill the needs as listed in the card. The Salvation Army is also in most areas of the country, as are church food banks. Of course, you might ask your pastor too. Many folks in need will come to a pastor before they go anywhere else for help. Churches that are able will have a fund or store of food to help out those in need.

I'll bet I can find a very similar devotional in the past couple of Christmas seasons. We do seem to get into this every year. Praise the Lord for all of you who do respond to the needs in your community and among all of us in Christ's church. We can demonstrate God's love for us in giving, but we also need to use our heads and eyes in this. Look around, unless you live in the Rich n' Easy Acres section of town the need is probably quite close to you. Pray for those raising funds for churches and charitable causes, I'm sure the recession has made their ministries quite difficult.

Have a wonderful and merry Christmas in Christ!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Jesus is Owner! - December 11, 2009

Good Friday morning! The air looked cold at the Steelers-Browns game last night; perhaps not so frosty as the Steelers' coach will be this morning. The Steelers lost their fifth game in a row and now may not make the playoffs after winning it all just last February. What do you do in this life when you seem to be faltering? The team of 'me' has lost several games in a row and now stands way behind in the current match. You look to your bench, but it's empty. You look at your resources and then at the other team's, and you don't stand a chance. You stand on the sidelines as coach, and on the field as the team captain, and when you look up to the owner's box; there you are. No wonder things seem overwhelming; all you have to work with is you! This is the moment we realize that something is missing in our lives. When 'me' is the only resource, and 'me' is trying to coach and own the team, there is no team.

When 'me' finally hears the Good News of Jesus Christ, each of us makes the decision to hire another player Correct, Jesus doesn't join our team; he is not a high-priced quarterback to hire from some other team. We each must give up ownership to our Lord. Jesus doesn't sit on the bench or occupy a spot in our team's line; He sits in the owner's box. When we want to run this play or that, we check with the owner. Want to add a player to your team by getting married or having children? Check with the owner. Want to try a new career? Check with the owner of the 'me' team. Suddenly life turns around for us.

Oh, not all at once to be sure. The game of life has many new trials and temptations for us, but we do notice that the 'me' team is suddenly winning a few games. We look to the bench and there are now just enough resources at just the right time to run a good play. Some problems remain and sometimes we fumble the ball or throw an interception. Yes, we also may walk out onto the field and trip over a blade of grass at times, but on the whole we feel a new confidence in the outcome. And well we should, for Jesus has already won the victory!

A new life in Christ is not an easy walk to the league championship. You and I may have to play tough games for years before we are called home. However, with Jesus in the owner's box, we have whatever we need to make to the last game.

Live the game of life with Jesus in the owner's box!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas is Coming! - December 10, 2009

Good Thursday morning! We have two 'ones' in the temperature this morning, a big improvement over the past couple of days. I see that Grand Island had a record snowfall this week, 10". The folks around the Great Lakes are like, "Eh? That ain't no record, try three feet!" Sometimes records aren't all that impressive in a different area or circumstance. The sun is coming up! Hooray! Thinking about that Hudson's Bay low that has caused so much cold weather and snow in the U.S., I wonder what would happen if God just left it there for a year or two?

We tend to take for granted that the weather will in general be good enough to raise crops and even allow us to get outside fairly often. A big part of the coming Great Tribulation will be some odd weather events; odd, as in deadly that is. God takes care of all of humanity, though many are ignorant of the fact or refuse to acknowledge it. We hear a lot of hoopla about what man may have caused in the global warming thing, but what if God decided to make His presence known through weather once more? Notice that I like to think about this AFTER the storm system has passed on to the east? Yeah, having God withdraw his favor and send serious storms is not a comfortable thought. Thinking about it with the sun rising is much easier, even if it is still cold outside. :-)

Last night, we studied how Peter called us priests in God's service. Not the pastor, or the church organist, or one of the big televangelists on TV, but all of us. Doesn't that make you want to hold your head a bit higher and give a rousing, "Glory to God!"? We don't have to shuffle up to someone, whisper "Jesus is love", and sound the retreat for our witness. We are all of the priesthood now! No, that doesn't mean you have to be celibate.

If I'm not mistaken, Paul said that he wished all of us could be celibate like he had decided to be, not that we all need to take the vow of celibacy to serve God. People like to take things too far. A priest and his wife were the parents of John the Baptist; looks to me like God likes to have us bear children. Why would someone think that God wants all priests to be celibate? Boggles the mind that one does!

Ahh, Christmas music! If you don't have some going on the stereo (just to date myself a bit there), you should get up and get that fixed. December 10th! It's time to start the Christmas celebration in earnest! Praise the Lord that Christ is born in us!


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Just a Bunch of Smelly Sheeps - December 9, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! The cold is moving on least that's what they claim. We have a wonderful morning out there today. The temperature might have a minus sign in front of it and the wind chill is particularly risky outside, but we have the warm love of Jesus in us! The big, cold storm is moving east, hooray! Icebergs in the Hudson, glaciers on Wall Street, a foot of snow on JB's tree stand; yeehaw, let the next ice age begin! Speaking of ice, it's rather thick on my window panes this morning; kinda hard to see what's going on out there. I guess that's better than having to go out in it! :-)

Have you pronounced doom on anyone today? Is that the message we are to bring to a world already weighed down with a zillion problems? Perhaps a message of peace and joy might be of more help to those living in darkness. Jesus came to be a light to the world, not a cloud of gloom and doom. While we don't ignore the reality of condemnation for those who refuse to believe, we do have something better to tell; a tale of joy, peace, and Christ's love for us. Isaiah tells us that all of us have gone astray like sheep, but the Good News is that we can all be saved through Christ Jesus!

Sheep, like all livestock, can a be a wayward and smelly lot. When God sends a message to His lost 'sheep', that isn't a very flattering reference for us. We want to think of the bright white, odorless, and happy sheep of comics or dreams as a better picture of our state. However, God sees the reality; the stinking, dirty, aimlessly wandering in search of basic needs, animals lost in the barren wastes of this world. We don't like to think of ourselves that way! Good news! You can find help in the Good Shepherd. Admit your sin to Jesus, ask forgiveness, and be free of the guilt!

The cleanup may take a while, the sin we were born in goes deep. Don't despair if every bad habit isn't immediately taken away. You and I face a lifetime of cleaning and purifying, often through trial. In this new life we have a champion to help us though. Jesus will guide us, strengthen us, and carry us over the worst patches in that dreaded valley of death's shadow. We all must walk that valley; why face it alone?

Have a gre... don't tell me you're still in bed waiting on the spouse to get up and turn up the thermostat? I tried, the cat wouldn't do it. Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Light or Dark? - December 8, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! We have more cold and more snow this morning; it's really winter here! I pray that the cold and snow makes our hearts just that much warmer for Christmas. Looks like several schools have already called it off for the day. However, the e-mail must go on, snow or no! Heh, heh, that's kind of lame. How hard is it to sit in a warm house and type on a computer? We should check into online classes for the little kiddles on snow days. I have my best go-to-school ideas after I'm done with schooling! Hmm, the cat is trying to sneak into the devotional typing this morning; must have something to do with the cold morning. Do you feel like cuddling up to something big and warm this morning? That sounds pretty good to me!

We have a conflict at this time of the year. On the one hand we have the short days of winter coming on. Dark in the morning and dark in the evening with work in between. We also face one of the colder parts of the year. Then, we have the Christmas season of joy and cheer. Is it any wonder that some feel torn in two at this time? Our body says sleep longer, slow down, stay in from the cold; our mind says get out, visit, be of good cheer. What are we to do?

Jesus came to be the light of the world. He also came to show us the difference between Himself and the world. The world is that part that argues for evolution, depresses us with less daylight, and tells us to hunker down in a cave alone. Jesus brings the light, joy, cheer, and good fellowship that we enjoy at this time. What better time than Christmas to see the truth of: "those living in darkness have seen a great light"?

Feeling a bit down because of the cold and darkness? Take a drive to see the Christmas lights. The new snow should make them quite the sight this evening!


Monday, December 07, 2009

The Standard Already Met - December 7, 2009

Good Monday morning! We have that one degree thing going again this morning, and a winter storm watch for tonight. The cold weather fun never stops in December! I hear we can blame all this on a low pressure system sitting over Hudson's Bay. Perhaps it needed a break and decided to have a little vacation up there? We haven't set any records that I know of, but whoee, has it been a cold one for a while. I will admit that it takes some of the fresh-air fun out of hunting when you sit in a pickup cab running the heater because it's too cold to sit outside.

What to write about this morning? Certainly it's much easier to be grateful for a warm house with a cup of hot coffee on a morning like this, but even a pagan might send up a thank you to God under these circumstances. What would set us apart from the world then? Going to work? Nope, even the worldly folks will go out because they must to keep their jobs. Would we be more likely to get out and help someone on a day such as this? Maybe, but that isn't what sets us apart. Of course, we know that we are set apart because of what Jesus has done, not from what we do or might do. We also are not saved by a set of circumstances or weather. Our example should be obvious to all in spite of the weather, but that goes for nice days too.

You can probably name an instance of when you did a good deed in the cold, and just as easily recall one where you failed to do the right thing on a perfectly nice day. I often blamed the pressures, and let's admit it, stress, from my former workplace for failing to do the right thing at times. That pressure and stress is a thing of the past, but does that mean I always do the right thing now? No, I realize that you may still be looking for the perfect devotional writer or minister in this life, but I ain't him. We will just have to stick with our current pastors, writers, singers, and even train conductors; 'cuz we ain't perfect. We have one perfect example, and to be on the subtle side, ain't none of us measured up to Him! I'm using 'ain't' so much today to show how imperfect I am, as though you needed another example of that! :-)

We have an entire Bible full of what it takes to meet God's holy standard. I think God gave us this to appreciate Jesus that much more. We struggle and struggle to meet that standard; some even try to save themselves by it. All of us fail to meet it. We give our lives to Christ to be saved, and then we try to meet the standard to please God. What a difference though! Trying to meet the standard without guilt, knowing that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, gives us a source of strength to turn to when trying to meet that glorious standard. Perfection is a long way off for me, and you most likely would say the same of yourself. Praise God that Jesus already paid the penalty that we cannot pay, and met the standard that we cannot meet!

Have a wonderful, merry Christmas in Christ!


Sunday, December 06, 2009

We Like New! - December 6, 2009

Good Sunday morning! The new snow has come on a new day of a new week in Christ Jesus! That's a lot of 'news' there! We rejoice in our Lord making all things new! Most of us like new; we try to buy new when we need something, especially in regard to food products; and we try to build new when we need a more complex object. We can't always afford new. Houses and cars can last for years and take even longer than we like to pay for with the complex and expensive loans we obtain to afford them. The continents were not explored by people looking for used vistas and resources; they hoped to find something new and, hopefully, unoccupied. We like new, but we don't always get it.

Jesus will return to make ALL things new. Can you imagine a new life where you can move into a new home, and then set out to explore a new land where everything is new? None of the old has survived! None of those old aches and pains from your old body, none of the old sin from the old world, and none of the worries, fears, and tears from that old life, are allowed in this new place. We see our new Lord too! Gone is the ragged, beaten, whipped, and crucified man who died for the sins of the world; in His place stands the glorified, risen Savior of all who have believed in Him!

We like new, but in this world we have a hard time imagining everything as new. All around us are things that are aging quickly or slowly. We grow older each new day, not that you needed to be reminded of that, and our loved ones and pets grow older with us. However, as we grow older, we sometimes yearn for that which isn't new. We like to hear the old songs of our youth and we celebrate the birth of a 2,015 year old fellow named Jesus. Killed, you say? Yes, but hundreds of people saw him after he rose from the grave! If the Roman calendar is a bit off from back in the day and this man was actually born around 6 B.C., I think that makes him about 2,015 years old this year. Gosh, what if he had started a savings account at a mere 1.5% interest back then; how wealthy would he be now?

Actually, Jesus did start a kind of savings account back then, but he had to deposit His life in it. The interest has been compounding for centuries. Starting with Peter, John, and a few other disciples and compounding with Jude, James, Paul, and Timothy among others, the interest has continued to grow over the years. You and I are the present fruits of that new investment Jesus made so very long ago. How great has that investment become? We won't know until Jesus returns and "cashes out" that account. Then we will see His glory reflected in the faces of that host beyond number of those redeemed from the earth!

Hmm, too much fun writing this morning; my coffee is stone cold. I pray that you have a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the another birthday in a long line of Christmas days celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Private Little Sin - December 4, 2009

Good Friday morning! Whew, it's good to keep a spare keyboard handy; I got nothin' on my regular PC keyboard when I started typing this morning. I blame it on the cold outside! We had one whole degree when I got up this morning. Yikes! Even the cats are semi-hibernating these days. The weatherman said we can expect 1 1/2 to 2 weeks more of this too! Looks like a good time to get on that winterizing that I've been putting off. My lack of action in one area has hurt me in another.

A private sin, the ones we think no one saw or got hurt by, is like a boy sitting beside a still pond. The boy sees no one along the shores, and thinking that no one will be hurt, he tosses a big rock into the pond. He may be right in the physical sense; no one else is there and the ripples spreading out from the splash only bounce back from the sides of the pond. However, like our private little sin, God is there and He does see the ripples. God may even feel them in His Creation. We might think that no one has been hurt by our private sin, but we are wrong. God is hurt and disappointed in us.

We also may not see all of the aftereffects of that sin. We may act differently, our testimony may be hurt by the knowledge of that sin, we may treat others differently because of the rotting effect in us of that sin. Imagine that besides God, all along the edge of that pond are legions of little lives that we cannot see because we think we are alone. The rock we throw that is our private sin does far more damage than we can see or realize. That is why God says "don't" or if you prefer the King James version, "thou shalt not!" One of the easiest rationalizations to make in falling for a temptation is that it won't hurt anyone else. That's a lie, and I have fallen for it, more than likely you have too. Kind of a heavy load to lay on you for a Friday morning, but next time we face that private temptation, we should think of those ripples spreading out from that point of sin.

Have a wonderful, if cold, day in Christ Jesus!


A Choice! - December 5, 2009

Good Saturday morning! Hey, it takes fingers AND toes to count the degrees in our temperature this morning; it's a heat wave! Unfortunately, another cold front is due in sometime today or tonight. Of course we would choose a low around 32 during December with a nice, beautiful snowfall each night; followed by a daytime high of around 60 or 70 to melt the snow away after we enjoy it in the morning, but...we don't get to choose the weather. We could change our location, but then we would only have a different set of weather, and it wouldn't be entirely to our liking either. Much of what we experience in this world is beyond our choosing. Events happen and we may feel something about them or have some opinion on them, but the event may or may not affect us directly.

On the other hand, we have those events that do affect us directly and immediately, but we still have no choice in the matter. We may experience a reaction over which we have little or no choice, and then face a choice of how to respond, but no choice in the original event. We're starting to get more choice here! Finally, I guess on the third hand, we have those things that we have some choice to make. A friend calls and needs help; we can choose to respond or not, and how much or how well to respond. We can choose to go visit a friend, or to receive friends into our home. Sometimes in this life we have a choice to make and sometimes we don't. We can rail against the elements as our worldly friends do when things go wrong, or we can trust in God. We can put aside our own interests for a bit and spend time with a friend, or we can remain in our selfish little world and not see anyone at all. On the other... we do face a dizzying and confusing array of possible choices and responses in this life!

In the end though, it will all come down to how we chose in one important decision - did we believe in Jesus or refuse to believe in Jesus. The choice seems rather simple, a yes or no kind of thing, but so much of what we grow into, perhaps all of what we grow to become, depends on that choice. You can't put your faith into action as James tells us to do unless we first believe in Jesus through that faith. We won't receive forgiveness for our sins unless we first believe that Jesus has the authority to forgive. In so many things we wish we had a choice; in the most important thing of all - where we will spend eternity - we do!

Have a wonderful Saturday as the Good News of Jesus Christ lives in you!


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Digging up Dirt - December 3, 2009

Good Thursday morning! Okay, so the LWF devotional asks about unconfessed sin in your life. Did you immediately answer, "yes", and then start searching for something to confess? I certainly did, and then I asked the Lord to show me. The answer today wasn't quite what I expected. We may be too well trained in some things. Someone says "boo!" and we jump.

Jesus died to pay for our sins, and rose again on the third day to bridge the dreadful gap between us and God. He also lifted us up through our belief in Him and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Confession is good, but it isn't our job to knock down what Jesus died to raise up. We have a tendency to think that every sickness is punishment for some sin we can't recall. And if someone mentions unconfessed sin, we start immediately trying to find some sin, usually an already confessed one, to start berating ourselves before God with. We can easily see how the self-flagellation thing got started back in the day! Today, we may not whip ourselves with an actual whip, but we do tend to beat ourselves up mentally whenever someone mentions sin.

We are all sinners, and we all have a savior in Jesus Christ. Humble yourself before God, but don't punish yourself with constant mental beatings. Too often we want to come before God and show how we have punished ourselves. We may face some tough-love correction from God at times, but Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. We don't seem to want to accept the covering, cleansing blood of Christ! If you have unconfessed sin, confess and get on with praising God and glorifying His kingdom. When God lifts you up and proclaims you a child of the King, don't jump back down in the muck and bleat about how sinful you are. Who is that going to glorify?

We do sin, and we need to confess and seek forgiveness. We don't, however, need to dredge up all the old stuff every time someone mentions sin or confession. Don't confuse "unconfessed" with "already confessed". And how often do we find ourselves confessing temptation? We will have enough to confess without going there! We don't have to apologize for the actions of our Adversary.

Time is running short and I am rambling on again. Have a Merry Christmas and rejoice in Christ Jesus!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Feeling the Wind of Temptation - December 2, 2009

Good Wednesday morning! I am a little late this morning; I got caught up watching the temperature go down while the sun comes up, not the usual mode of the morning. Yo ho, it's cold out this morning! The cat has snuck into my lap already, must be a bit cool in the house too. :-) Sunday, I learned that God gives us wisdom for the asking, and common sense in our daily lives. Why then do I not feel like I'm getting anywhere? The reason may be that I am looking to a feeling instead of the less emotional evidence around me. Feelings are not good measures of progress. We know this because one day we may feel on top of things and the next that the things are on top of us. However, most of the time the "things" have not changed from one day to the next, only our feelings about them and the self have changed overnight.

Feelings are good when we listen to uplifting music, but not so good when used to measure God's work within us. God didn't ask our feelings for their input when He sent the Holy Spirit to clean up the mess. We are not going to 'feel' cleaner each morning and know that the Holy Spirit did some cleanup work through the night. We also have a bad habit of looking at our temptations and judging our progress by them. "Well, I'm still tempted by lust. When is God going to fix that? How can I get into Heaven with that still around my neck?" Uh oh, we don't get into Heaven by failing to respond to a temptation; we get into Heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ! We still find ourselves trying to earn what has already been given, simply because we don't feel perfect.

We tend to be like the driver who says his car isn't running right because a wind is blowing on the side of it. Sure, if the driver lets go of the steering wheel the car will drift to one side. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the car! At times we too will let the 'car' drift too far when the wind of temptation blows. We might even drive into the ditch of sin. Jesus is the best at bringing that car of ours right back to where it belongs. Trust in him, and don't judge by your feelings.

Merry Christmas in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Closer to Jesus? - December 1, 2009

Good Tuesday morning! The tradition of giving out Christmas cards has been revived. At least I hope the pile of cards in my front seat that I worked on for 3 hours or more yesterday is proof that the tradition has been brought back. Whew! Talk about a labor of love! If you aren't on my Christmas card's cuz I don't have your address! The funny thing about this little tradition of mine is that I thought that I had only skipped a year or two for college. The date on my spreadsheet? December 2004. Yikes, that's like, um, five years ago! I must be getting old to lose five years like that. :-) That's bad news for those of you who can claim more years in this world than I can. Of course, we don't call it "getting old" anymore; we call it "closer to Jesus." Doesn't that sound a bit more respectful?

The world likes to use some things as put downs. People might hate to get old these days, but surely we won't object to getting closer to Jesus! I could say that an elder is really old, or I could say that person is getting really close to Jesus. In the church, our elders aren't a bunch of old fogeys, but are a group of leaders closer to Jesus than we are. That young pastor is not as close to Jesus as I am... oops! Okay, so using one in place of the other doesn't really work for us. In truth, we don't know which of us is closer to Jesus if you use it in place of the date God has set for each of us to go home. Also, if a person accepts Jesus as Lord, then Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in that person's heart; ya can't get much closer than that! All of us who believe in Jesus are close to Him, no matter how many human years we have lived on this earth.

The date when we will go home to be with Jesus? We don't know it and God won't tell us ahead of time. The Bible tells us that it could be today or tonight when we are called home. At the same time you or I might be here for another 300 years until our mission to this world is finished. At a young age, we might have thought that living for 300 and some years would be pretty cool. As we get older and the years weigh more heavily upon us, we tend to think that might be just a bit of a curse. Our time here is limited, and thank God for that! This life is a difficult journey, and we now realize that we need God's strength and encouragement to get through the road laid out for us.

Now we look forward to meeting Jesus at just the right time. Of course we don't want to leave our loved ones behind, but at the same time we do not want to hold each other back from going to our heavenly home. No, I don't have a premonition of death this morning. I simply find it much easier to write about death when the life of Jesus lives in my heart! That may be the second step toward losing all fear; the first being to believe in Jesus!

Have a wonderful new day in Christ!