Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Out in the Wilderness - June 30, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Well, here we are at the halfway point of the year already. Is it still more of the same for you? Work, stress, family, stress, watching TV, stress, and maybe some more stress thrown in just for good measure? Or are you growing in Christ Jesus and coming to realize the peace he gives in all things? Jesus has some answers for you if your life is full of stress questions.

Today, Jesus arrived at the Jordan, but John didn't recognize him as the Messiah. Eh? Didn't we already go over John's job as the herald of Christ? Yes, but today's verse has an admission from none other than John the Baptist.

"I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel." John 1:31

So John the Baptist didn't immediately recognize Jesus as the Messiah? How can that be? Actually, John didn't remember that he had in fact recognized Jesus quite a few years before that. We can recall the story of Mary and Elizabeth and how John leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb when Mary arrived with some good news. However, as the mothers knew each other, John and Jesus probably spent some time together as children, although they may not have grown up together. Mary and Joseph had to flee Israel for a while and after moving back to Nazareth the contact with Elizabeth and her son John may have been only in the manner of occasional visits.

It seems that though John knew Jesus as Mary and Joseph's son, and that he knew the Messiah would arrive soon, he didn't put the two together until that moment at the Jordan River. John's entire baptismal ministry was so that Jesus would be revealed to Israel, not to the nations yet, just Israel. The warnings to turn from sin and repent, the messages about the One coming soon, and the baptisms were all for one moment - the arrival and baptism of the Messiah. How John must have been surprised to suddenly realize that he knew the Messiah, not only as the Son of God, but earlier as the eldest son of Mary and Joseph. Does the Bible specifically say that Jesus and John hung out together as kids? I don't know of any verse that says that, but considering the bond shared by the two mothers, I am convinced that they would have visited each other at times.

At some point the two families separated though. Tradition has it that Joseph may have died before Jesus grew to manhood. We read in Luke that John didn't become 'the Baptist' right away either. Perhaps Zechariah and Elizabeth died early in John's life. This might be the explanation for John living in the wilderness. John may not have learned a trade and without the support of his parents, he had to move out of the towns and cities. Whatever the cause, Luke tells us that when the message came from God, John was already living in the wilderness. We don't know for sure, but John may have lived more than 20 years in the wilderness. He may have been "that weird hermit over by the Jordan" before he became famous as a voice crying in the wilderness. However the events came together, John and Jesus were in their places at God's perfect time.

One day, perhaps after 20 years in the wilderness, you and I will be right where God wants us to be at just the perfect time. Your life might seem to be stuck in neutral right now. Perhaps you even feel the urge to eat some locusts and wild honey so far out in the wilderness does your life seem to be. God's perfect time approaches; be patient and wait on the Lord!

Praise God for the new day!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming After Me - June 29, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! A lot of little things came after me this morning; every one a whiny, bloodsucking coward too! Tomorrow, I'll have to remember the Deep Woods Off® for my little stroll in the morning. I don't know why anyone would think a vampire can't come on holy ground. Mosquitoes are bloodsuckers and they seem to like the church grounds very much. Not quite so much as they like a nice, juicy photographer I think, but they do seem to be at home there.

Today, someone was coming after John the Baptist, but not in the way of hurting him. Jesus came after John to boot him out of the top preaching job of the day. Of course, there is no shame in stepping down to let a far greater man step up.

"He is the one I was talking about when I said, 'A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.' John 1:30

Notice particularly that John said 'a man is coming...' We tend to think that either Jesus is God in the flesh, perfectly true, or just a man. Jesus was both God and man; we are not allowed to believe one or the other; we get the entire package. Not only did a man come after John, but this man existed long before him. If you think with the intellect of the world, you will have to deny one or the other: that Jesus existed long before John, or that he had just walked toward John. We know that humans don't live long enough to do both from our human learning. However, when we believe in Jesus, we get both - the man who came to John to be baptized at the beginning of his earthly ministry and the Son of God who created the heavens and the Earth with the Father in the Beginning.

John had made this statement earlier, but he now repeated it as he pointed out Jesus from the crowd. "This is the one! Believe in Him!" John couldn't over-emphasize the coming of this Jesus, the Lamb of God. Even in his humility, John told the people about someone far greater coming right at that moment. We wonder at times, how many times John was going to say something like, "He is here!" For the short time remaining in his life, John took a back seat to Jesus and continued to shout, "He is here!"

We cannot point to Jesus in his physical person as John did, but we can continue to point to our heart and say, "He is here!" We also point with our changed lives that say 'he is here' for us while we go about our work and play to his glory. Jesus is here, in your life, in my life, in the love of God for all of us, and in our gathering together. Jesus is the one John spoke about, and he is the One foretold in scripture. Have a beautiful day in Christ!


Monday, June 28, 2010

The Lamb of God - June 28, 2010

Good Monday morning! Looks like the summer dry pattern has begun; we are expecting temps in the low 90's and dry this week. That shouldn't surprise anyone, this time of the year is almost always exactly this way. The winter wheat harvest is coming soon, and that is the weather that starts it. John had a similar knowledge in his day. The Son of God was coming and John knew it. However, he still had to wait for the event to arrive. We can't speed up the harvest by jumping in a combine today. The wheat needs time to dry out in the hot weather. God's set times must come up in order and in his perfect timing. Some great days, a long expected message arrives.

Today in our verse, John gets to point and say, "There he is!" much as we will soon see the fleets of combines taking to the fields and bringing in the harvest.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1: 29

More than a thousand years of prophecy came to fruition right then. The Messiah had arrived among those standing by the river. Of all the names in scripture to choose though, why call him the Lamb of God? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say the Almighty One is here? Or perhaps simply say that the Messiah is here? What John says about Jesus as the Lamb of God is very important to all of us, not just the Jews standing there with John.

The sacrificial system had for centuries demanded a spotless lamb to sacrifice each year for a family's sin. At last, God had provided a Lamb to take away the sin of the world. One Lamb to take away all sin. This was a monumental moment in time. The sacrifice at Passover had been going on since Moses' time. No doubt at least a few of the Jewish listeners would have wondered what John meant by this. No more annual sacrifices? Would Passover be cancelled the next year? A system that their fathers, grandfathers, and even the ancient kings had observed might be in jeopardy.

We all have run into similar problems in our lives. We cling to the old, and when someone announces the new, we balk and cluck and sweat and stammer in our fear. The person making the announcement feels that he has this great news, and when he announces the change, everyone stares in stunned silence. No doubt, "the Lamb of God" announcement by John brought a similar reaction. This was a stunning thing to say to the Jews under the Law.

What would you or I say to such an announcement? We might begin to doubt almost immediately. Certainly we might have a few questions. Some announcements are so startling that you can't think of anything to say. Seldom has an announcement rocked the world as this one did. From a system of laws that pointed out our every failure to a perfect sacrifice that would take away our sin. A perfect announcement of the arrival of the Messiah, I can't help but think. "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," to borrow a slightly different translation. Good news doesn't come much better than that!

So much changed in one little moment in time. Not only for John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord, but for all of us. There would be no hiding it now; John had announced the arrival of Messiah. Those gathered at the river that day would have run back to their cities and towns to tell the story. What a great story we have to tell.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bethany or Bethabara? - June 26, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Yowch! I saw three digits on the temperature a couple of times yesterday. I mentioned to God that I really didn't think we needed any more of that this summer, but His will be done. I didn't get out a whole lot yesterday afternoon, and I did pity the folks out in the heat in Omaha for the College World Series.

Today, we have a bit of disagreement in some of our Bibles. How can this be?

John 1:28 - This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.

My NKJV names Bethabara as the place where this took place. What is the problem here? How can God's own Word say two different places? Perhaps they are not different places. When I say the CWS is played in Omaha, another person might say Nebraska, and still another might get more specific and say Rosenblatt Stadium. My concordance says that Bethabara is translated from the Greek as 'ferry-house' which would name a specific place on the Jordan River.

This would make some sense as John would have been sent to a place on the river where people came often already. River crossings even on a small-ish river such as the Jordan would not be safe at just any point along the banks. John came to preach to those waiting for the ferry. The New Living Translation uses: "Bethany, an area east of the Jordan". This is like the person who names Nebraska, an area west of the Missouri, as the location of the ball game - a more general area rather than the specific place on the river. Both locations are correct, and by going to the area, Bethany, a person would certainly find someone who could point out John's specific location.

What does this verse mean to us though? The encounter with the junior Pharisees is over, and our lesson from their conversation is done. What purpose does naming the place serve? Imagine if about 2,000 years later you and I wanted to find the place John baptized without a location. We couldn't look for artifacts; John lived in nature as they say, eating locusts and wild honey, and dressed in natural garb. John's lifestyle wouldn't have left any artifacts to find. On the other hand, a ferry-house might have a ferry or two sunken in storms or through accident; some tools that were used to repair the ferries, and even stuff that people might have dropped overboard during the crossings. A location is also something we could look up on old maps, lending a place and time to all of this.

The footnotes within the text become very important in this regard. John the gospel writer gives us historical clues to follow by naming locations and times. We know the location in our future time and we know that Jesus began his ministry here. We can know that this event happened at this place named in the Bible on this same Earth that we live on. Jesus is no myth, and his baptizer, John, lived and worked right there at Bethabara in Bethany on the Jordan River.

Praise the name of God!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Second in Precedence - June 25

Good Friday morning! We had a most excellent gathering last night for our life group. I hope you are enjoying Christian fellowship wherever you may be. Enjoy the start of the weekend this evening

We have a thing with precedence. The oldest manuscript is given more credit, the highest scoring team finishes first, and no one remembers the second place runner in the race. This morning, John stated that he was first. Does that mean we should be worshipping him because he was first? Here is what John the Baptist had to say about that:

"Though his ministry follows mine, I'm not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal." (John 1:27)

Wow, that is one of the most humble statements in the Bible. John states that he came first, but then he says that he is not even worthy to be the slave of him who follows. You would certainly be looked down upon if you said that to someone at work today! Oh, we hear it in jest fairly often, but no one means it like John did.

Jesus came after John, but that does not make him second in anything but the date of his first speaking in ministry. Even someone who chooses not to believe in Jesus would admit that John the Baptist was a holy man. So to admit that the one coming after him was in all ways greater than himself is a strong claim from John. Who is it that makes John so unworthy? We will have our answer in the many verses to follow in the Gospel of John. For now, we read that John the Baptist must have known much about the one who followed him in the ministry.

To state that [John] was not even worthy to be his slave says much about who the junior Pharisees should have been looking for at that moment. If we happened to be questioning our president and Mr. Obama stated a line like that to us, we would be looking around to see who he was talking about. If the Queen of England said something like that, we would be wondering, "Who is this person she speaks of?" Many had come to be baptized by John, this was a huge statement!

In the Gospel of John, we don't find out if the junior Pharisees were satisfied with these responses or what they reported to the Pharisees and priests back at the Temple. John uses this to segue into the beginning of Jesus' ministry and his confirmation by the Holy Spirit. Someone great was coming; someone to pay attention to and to look for. It is as though the most important group, the watchmen for the Jewish people, had been dismissed for dereliction of duty. Now that the one John the Baptist spoke of has arrived that other group is no longer important; the junior Pharisees and their masters are dismissed from the text and we move on.

Tomorrow, one more important verse before John points to the one.

Have a great Friday!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unrecognized - June 24, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Thank you for all your kind prayers; yesterday went very well. Right now you are probably wondering whether some great event happened in my life such as a surgery or a publishing deal, but no, just one of those good days that come from our prayers for each other. The truck went in for a checkup and had no problems, which proved my anxieties unfounded as usual, and the dental bill that I feared was not as bad as my fear made it. Our fears are often proven unfounded and only reflect how far we have to go in our learning to trust in God completely.

Today, what if you were assigned to guard something or more specifically, to watch for someone? In my time in the military, I stood guard duty at times, my job was to keep watch. When I failed to keep watch for an officer or got a little sleepy on post, I usually got a surprise. There are worse things in military guard duty than failing to recognize an officer until he is standing right in front of you, but most of them involve courts martial, destruction, or even death; officers just remember the incident forever and ever.

The Pharisees knew Ezekiel and his words about the watchman. The job of the priests was to watch for the coming of the Messiah. In today's verse, John the Baptist gives our junior Pharisees one of those surprises you get when you fail to see what you are assigned to watch for.

John 1: 26 - John told them, "I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize."

The junior Pharisees were probably taken aback by this statement. More than likely they didn't recognize many of the people there, but one among the crowd was obviously the one they were watching for. John gave them a hint, a clue to help them, a "look around you, He is here!" kind of hint. Perhaps the translation should be "some ONE you do not recognize" for the Pharisees knew their mission. The questioning of John was a part of watching for the Messiah. However, the Pharisees had fallen into the trap of pride.

Each time they found a false prophet, the group said something like, "look how smart we are in the scripture; no false prophet can fool us!" In counting on their own strength and taking pride in it, the one they should have seen stood right there in the crowd and they didn't recognize him. Many is the time that I stood in my own strength on guard duty, alert and ready for anything...only to find myself rudely startled by someone or something. The cold hour just before the dawn is the hardest to stay awake in, and I assure you that it is quite possible to fall asleep on your feet. We stand in that hour even now. Awaken! Watch for Jesus and don't be caught as the junior Pharisees were.

God's blessings go with you on this day,


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Right do You Have? - June 23, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! A nice cool and breezy morning with the sun shining over the plains. Every new thing in my life seems to bring the need for more learning. What if someone ran up to me and demanded what right I had to make such a dramatic change in my profession? What if someone demanded of you what right you had to work where you do now? Any of us may face questioning of that type at any time. John the Baptist was asked what right he had to do what he was well known for: baptism.

John 1:25 - [and the Pharisees] asked him, "If you aren't the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?"

We are accustomed to baptism in many churches, but according to my Bible footnotes, the Jews were not baptized; only when a Gentile was converted to Judaism was baptism performed on a person. The Jews, as all the Pharisees would have been, wanted to know why John baptized Jews as if they were Gentiles. This was one of those things the Pharisees got all insulted about. Racial, religious, and even national pride came into play in their taking offense at this. You might see their question as more of a "how dare you!" kind of demand.

As we know, John was sent by higher authority to do exactly as he did. The Bible doesn't say that John ever suffered doubts while out in the wilderness, and I think from Jesus' own words we can infer that he did not have any doubts about his mission. We know that later John will suffer some doubts in prison, but until Jesus came, John had a mission and no band of junior Pharisees was going to stop him.

We need to develop a devotion to our duty much like John had. This doesn't mean that we are rude or obnoxious about it, but we do need a boldness about our faith. Tomorrow we will read about John's answer to the question asked today. What right do we have to talk about Jesus? Perhaps John will give us some help in his own answer.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Um, what? - June 22, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! How do you attract children? I don't know all the methods, but a bunch of puppies does seem to do the trick. Someone brought some puppies to the neighbor's house last night and kids were popping out from everywhere. As kid bait, puppies work to near perfection. I noticed that puppies don't work too bad on adults either for that matter.

Today, we come to a verse in John that is a bit of a question mark. For whatever reason, the translators cut off the verse not only in mid-sentence, but between words. Sometimes a verse will stop at a comma or some other natural stop, but this one just seems to be oddly placed.

John 1: 24 - Then the Pharisees who had been sent...

I'm certainly tempted to add in verse 25 today, but I started the one verse at a time method and it's too early to give up on it. "Then the Pharisees who had been sent..." brings to mind many more questions than answers. Sent where? Sent to whom? and of course the basic, "Um, what?" that comes to mind when reading only this one verse.

Perhaps if we try a different translation in this case: Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. (John 1: 24 NKJV) Okay, now that is at least a sentence; this in turn gives a little more meaning to those of us trained since an early age to grasp the thought in a sentence. A nice declaration of who had sent these people.

Who sends you may be more important than who you are. John the Baptist was sent by God to announce the arrival of the Son, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. Peter and the other apostles were sent by Jesus to spread the Good News. Paul was sent by Jesus to the Gentiles with more of the Good News. The Pharisees sent some of the junior Pharisees to question John. The Pharisees also sent Saul, before he became Paul, to arrest and persecute the early Christians. The Pharisees refused to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah and worked with other groups to have him executed. Wow, not sure I would let it be known that the Pharisees had sent me.

We must take note of who has sent us. For us as Christians this is a very important question to answer. Have you sent yourself on a mission of material gain or pleasure of the flesh? You may attain your goal, but what good will that do you in eternity? Has Jesus sent you to wherever you may be to be a shining light for Him? Yes, we are sent by the Son of God! Wherever you may be: at work in a job you may or may not enjoy; at home in retirement working to help others through crafts or volunteer time; at the church making the most of your talents in service; or even, dare I say it, at your home office writing devotionals that may go too long on some days; we are all sent on missions by Jesus.

Where has the Holy Spirit guided you today? Whoever has sent you has a motive in the sending. The Pharisees wanted to discover another charlatan or fake to denounce. Jesus wants to save the world. Which is the better motive? The junior Pharisees were undoubtedly proud of who had sent them and their own status in being given the mission. They pursued their questioning diligently and hoped to please their masters. We have a mission much different, but our efforts should be much the same. Work for Jesus, our Lord, with perseverance, diligence, and strength, hoping to please your master. Don't feel like you have any of these qualities today? Trust in the Lord to give you the qualities you need to complete his mission!

Enjoy the peace of Jesus this day!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Fulfilling the Prophecy - June 21, 2010

Good Monday morning! The humidity is a slick 93% this morning; slick being what your skin feels like after a few minutes walk that is. The daylight is one minute shorter than yesterday though. We are on the way to Christmas! Actually, there is much more to celebrate before we get to the big holiday at the end of the year.

John 1:23 - John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Clear the way for the Lord's coming!' "

Just as Jesus told the people plainly who he was, so John did also. Notice that John didn't reply with the words of the prophet, but in the words of the prophet. John the Baptist put himself in the prophecy when he stated that "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness..." John had been foretold too!

What do the words mean about clearing the way though? Jesus had no trouble walking into Jerusalem or the temple, so that wouldn't be it. Jesus moved about much of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee without any problems so the prophecy must not speak of physical limitations. Jesus did however run into many roadblocks when it came to belief. Clear the way to your heart might be what is meant in the prophecy. To accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we must clear the way to our heart. Learn that we are not strong and that we are often way too busy to have a way clear for the Lord to come in.

A Monday is a good day to remind ourselves that the busyness of our business can come between us and our time with the Lord. Our minds are filled with tasks, to-do's, trivia, things we must remember, and probably a few worries that we should forget. Each morning we should get up and clear the way for the Lord's coming. We too have a part to play in fulfilling the prophecy. Jesus is ready to enter into our hearts, clear the way for him! The Holy Spirit is ready to work out our salvation, clear the way for him!

Easier to say than to do I realize, but Jesus is also ready to help us by giving us his peace. John didn't let the priests upset him, and then he replied with words they would have known. Words that should have set them leaping for joy; the prophet announcing the Messiah had arrived! Should have... but we'll see their reaction tomorrow.

Have a wonderful new week!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

What do You say for Yourself? - June 19, 2010

Good Saturday morning! The new Pony Express Monument (PXM according to the news) was unveiled last night with fireworks and a dance among other things. I didn't go; it seemed inappropriate to remember the lonely riders of the plains with a huge social event. Actually, I have nothing against the social event; I just wore myself out with a long walk yesterday morning and lots of traveling around later on. While today's worries are enough for today, we may suffer the consequences of yesterday's exertions too.

Today, John the Baptist is still putting up with those priests who are acting more like reporters after some juicy gossip:

"Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?" (John 1:22)

"What do you have to say about yourself?" That is a tough question! People often try to speak too much about themselves, embellishing an old story or laying claim to an honor they don't deserve. Other people fail to say enough about themselves, keeping quiet when they do deserve recognition or honor. Most times we are just flat uncomfortable with a question like that. We need to remember that we have a good answer for that question now. Instead of searching fruitlessly for some good answer about ourselves, we can tell the world about what our Lord has done for us.

John the Baptist was like a lightening rod for the Jews of the time. Even those who didn't make it out to see him probably talked and gossiped about 'that wilderness preacher'. The leading priests and Pharisees demanded answers from him through their representatives. If John attracted a little lightening, he held his copper rod up a bit higher to attract some more. It is interesting that the questioners would bring up those who sent them. John had been sent too, and he wasn't about to run and hide in the face of a little questioning by a bunch of irritating fellows sent by the temple. We may face the same thing one day. When they demand to know who you are, let them know who saved you!

Have a wonderful Saturday in Christ Jesus!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Nosy Folks - June 18, 2010

Good Friday morning! Some of you may be getting away from town for the weekend. I have seen some missing boats and campers already this morning. Many of you will head into work today, and some even tomorrow. Wherever we go, we might run into someone who just doesn't like our answers and will not stop grilling us about something. John the Baptist seems to have run into a few of these nosy folks in John 1:21

"Well then, who are you?" they asked. "Are you Elijah?"
"No," he replied.
"Are you the Prophet we are expecting?"

Now these nosy folks were not just the idle curious; they had a job to do and went about it zealously. John had a one-word answer for their questions in this verse. This is one of those times when we wonder why he didn't just say who he was; I mean, he's like, John the Baptist, dude! Of course we weren't there and we don't know that even that answer would have satisfied the questioners in this case. Jesus ran into similar questioning, probably from the same group and told them the truth about who he was. They didn't believe him. Both John and Jesus were at times short in their answers to the religious officials of Judea. I think both were disappointed that this group of men who had spent their whole lives studying scripture could be so blind when it came to the Messiah and his herald, John.

We need to learn and study, especially the Bible, but having a head full of facts and Bible trivia might just stand in your way of seeing the grace of Jesus. We also need to stop, pause, listen, meditate, and pray to God in a quiet time. God speaks through his word, but at times he also wants to say something to us directly. We also need to pause in our study to let the Word sink into our hearts. I think that if those questioners of John's would have stopped for a bit and listened to him, the answers to more than just John's identity would have come and they might have believed.

Be patient with the nosy folks. Who knows, they might just believe one day!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Ain't Him! - June 17, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Our life group met last night, so I'm having a bit of trouble keeping the day straight. Last night we used our together time to help set up a whole bunch of chairs for a wedding this weekend. Big weddings remind me of a certain wedding that is in the future for all of us - the wedding of Jesus and the Church.

Today, John 1:20 - He came right out and said, "I am not the Messiah."

Umm, that wasn't one of the answers to "Who are you?" we talked about yesterday. John the Baptist had special understanding; a gift given to him by God for his role as the herald of Jesus. John knew what the Jewish leaders wanted to know and didn't mess around with trying to explain who he was. We find many examples of that in Jesus too, and will get to those in time as we move through John. Getting right to the point was something John did just as the coming Messiah would after him. John told them first that he was not the promised messiah. This is an important point for us.

One of the first things we learn after our salvation is that: God is God and I am not. That is even a line from a Christian song. We learn that God is the provider even when we are often given smaller parts to play in providing for a family or an organization. How many times have you felt the urge to take God's place in providing? You hear about all the Christian charities and ministries in need of funds and you think something like, "If I win the lottery, I'll give all of them more than enough!" Right, so you say now. But the worst thing about that is in trying to take God's place in being the provider of all needs.

We must remember Paul's advice to take an honest look at our own place and resources. I'm betting that no one reading this will have the ability to provide for all the needs of God's children throughout the world, probably not even close. Few of us could even provide all the funds needed to support one little church in a small town; it takes a lot to run a church financially. I think God did this to remind us that we need Him; we need a God with big resources who can provide for all needs and promises to do so. John knew from day one that he was special, but he also knew his place.

The cure for pride is humility. We have a tendency to think that humility is getting down on ourselves and acting lowly. John the Baptist didn't shrink back from the Pharisees, but neither did he claim to be what he was not. Stand up, you are a child of the King! But also remember that you are not Him.

What a friend we have in Jesus,


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Are You? - June 16, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! An interesting question came up in the Bible verse today; a question that each of us has to answer at some point in our lives. Who are you? Some of us are still working to discover that. Who we are is not our job, though a career can be a part of it. Who we are is not our hobbies, though once again that is a part of the answer. Who we are is also not our circumstances; those happen to everyone. The officials in Israel wanted to know what was going on with this wilderness preacher fellow, John the Baptist, and so they sent some dudes out to ask.

This was John's testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, "Who are you?" (John 1:19)

We don't get John's answer yet, that will have to wait for tomorrow. The Jewish leaders had a job to do, and one major part of that was to watch for the Messiah. John the Baptist was certainly different. We read in Matthew that he dressed in camel-hair clothes with a leather belt, and ate locusts and wild honey. John didn't drink wine and knew from birth what was right and to avoid what was wrong. John, even without his testimony, would have been considered a holy man, with emphasis on the 'set apart' meaning of holy for sure.

When we read of John's diet and attire, we have a tendency to think 'smelly and dirty', but the Bible never says anything like that. We know from other verses that John spent a lot of time standing in the Jordan baptizing folks; in other words he was probably cleaner than most in both body and spirit. In spite of John's obvious differences, the leaders were not sure about him. And so John still had to answer the question, "Who are you?"

How we answer that question is important to our own testimony. Your answer might be that 30-second testimony that each of us should have polished and ready at all times. Many of us would first try to blurt out our career or current job. Other times we might simply give our name. However, every chance to answer that question is an opportunity to tell the good news that we are saved in Christ Jesus. You want my name? Let me tell you about Jesus!

Uh oh, a wind warning for us today. Try to enjoy the morning before the wind starts blowing!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Revealed to Us - June 15, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! I tried to get out before sunrise this morning, but I'm still here in the house and the sun is well up. Part of the problem is me, but the other part is that that sun gets up pretty darn early at this time of the year. It would be a lot easier to catch the sunrise in, oh about August or September, I think. What a beautiful sunrise it is though! The sunrise after days of clouds and rain is always appreciated just a little more than usual.

News this week is that our brains are much more active when not thinking than scientists assumed. Yes, this includes your mother-in-law. The blank mind rests in an apparently very active brain. The activity is lowest or nonexistent in those with problems relating to the real world. Interesting, we are told to have quiet times and the rush of the modern world is an enemy of the quiet time. We are taught to abhor slow thinking even though we have all stopped to wonder where in the world our mind was at some point when we didn't decide very well. Perhpas, oops, that isn't some ancient Greek hero, thy this: perhaps a little quiet time before the decision would have helped.

Today we have a great verse to meditate upon. To meditate in the Lord we are sometimes told to choose a Bible verse and this one has a wealth of thought provoking words.

No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us. (John 1:18)

Moses came the closest to seeing God, but was shielded from God's full glory by clouds. Even then the people of Israel could not look upon his face for a while and begged him to put on a veil. When Jesus came, a lot of people suddenly were able to see God in his human form. God revealed himself in a form that we could speak with, ask questions of, and look upon without harm. This of course leads people to say that Jesus could not be God. We do not understand how God can be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but that points to our own shortcomings rather than an impossibility. We don't understand many of God's ways, perhaps none at all, but that doesn't make them not real or impossible. I can't throw a 100 mph fastball, but it would certainly be wrong of me to assert that the action is not possible.

Jesus is God and He revealed God to us. You and I don't know how God could be in Heaven on His Supreme Throne and yet walking around with Peter and John on Earth. Nor can we say how God the Father and Jesus the Son are side by side in Heaven now while the Holy Spirit is both in the world and in our hearts. Faith is in accepting the fact and praising God for His grace and mercy.

Enjoy the sunshine today!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Unfailing - June 14, 2010

Good Monday morning! We are drying out a bit, but still overcast. Did you get a chance to see the few spots of sunlight yesterday afternoon? I went out just to stand in a couple of them. Sunlight sure looks wonderful after a couple days of rain. Have you ever bought a shirt for a championship team? A team, by the way, that you have never supported until they won the championship. Perhaps you have only Nebraska championship t-shirts, in which case your wardrobe is starting to get a little frayed. The key word in today's verse seems to be: unfailing. No team is unfailing and we are not always loyal to just one team. Our support is not unfailing. This verse today tells of someone who is unfailing.

For the Law was given through Moses, but God's unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

From this verse it would seem that the Law didn't work. Not that the Law given through Moses was imperfect, but those who had to keep the Law failed to uphold their end of the covenant. That hasn't changed, we still fail to uphold the Law. Do you want to uphold the Law and get into Heaven? Jesus told us how: be ye perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect. I wonder if Jesus had a twinkle in his eye when he said that? He knew very well that none had kept the entire law then and none have now. We don't stand a chance of getting into Heaven by our own keeping of the Law.

Where we have failed, God has shown his own unfailing love and faithfulness. We fail; God does not fail. To get into Heaven on our own, we cannot fail, but we do. Since we are all hopelessly lost in our own imperfection, God sent Jesus to bring His unfailing love and faithfulness to us. God offered a way to Heaven that is unfailing to those who were far from His own perfect standard.

Unfailing, that just seems like something I strive for all my life. Yet, even in my best moments something can easily come up to disrupt even a long standing accomplishment. You have witnessed the same thing at work. Someone never fails to produce a daily report.. until they are sick one day and suddenly the entire office is turned upside down. The big boss gets mad, the fingers start pointing; why didn't the boss assign a backup? Why didn't the person do it yesterday before getting sick? Yup, even the unreasonable gets a nod when unexpected failure occurs. The 'expect the unexpected' poster goes up in the office to highlight our failure at foretelling the future too. In all of this, God remains sovereign, strong, steadfast and unfailing.

Things are so wet around the state today that someone probably will not be able to make it into work. When chaos comes from their absence, remember the unfailing love and faithfulness of God sent through His Son, Jesus Christ. Unfailing, I like that quality in God; it gives me reassurance when the world goes all haywire.

I pray for a day of unfailing in our work today, so that we may gain just a small hint of the unfailing nature of God.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wet - June 12, 2010

A wet Saturday morning to you! We are under a flood warning today, but the stories coming out of Arkansas are much worse. Driving around the country roads is probably not advised this morning as we had a pouring rain yesterday evening and more through the night. Just when we think we have cause to worry: too much rain, the basement flooded (mine isn't, but there will be some), saturated ground and full creek beds, the voice of God comes through with reassurance. A crisis can make our prayer a bit more urgent than the usual; we might take a moment to pray like we mean it. God may allow a bit of chaos to invade our cautious life, but we may fail to see how carefully controlled that chaos is in the heat of the crisis.

Carefully controlled chaos would seem to be a complete contradiction, but only when seen from our viewpoint. We see chaos and pray urgently like a child; God sees just the right amount of crisis to get us to open up to him honestly and without holding back. We are blessed to have what seems chaos and crisis to us, carefully controlled by God at all times.

What seems to be the wrong verse comes along today - John 1:16: From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

Eh? Some mornings don't remind us of blessing after blessing. I'm tired; the cat didn't even get up to be fed this morning, which is really saying something about our sleep last night; and many people have it worse than we do. This just doesn't seem like the morning to talk about blessing. Yet, the Internet is working, the power is on, the house is still where it was last night, the hail was small and the wind didn't turn into the dreaded tornado. We may be tired, but we are still alive and able to glorify God with our life and attitude. And above all, the verse comes from God's eternal and omniscient view, not our short-sighted and 'poor, pitiful me' view.

Sometimes we concentrate on how we feel. A little chaos and our sleep is interrupted and we feel down the next morning. Yet one cup of hot coffee says much about the state of our situation. We have coffee in the cupboard which speaks of needs met, we have water to fill the coffee maker and electricity to run it which speaks of systems working, we have the ability to get up and make the coffee which speaks of health... and then of course I have the time and ability to yammer on about it which speaks to the peace of the morning. Yup, kind of looks like gracious blessing after gracious blessing this morning. Maybe the day isn't so bad after all! God has managed the chaos and brought blessing to the morning.

What a great day in Christ!


Friday, June 11, 2010

A Fantastic Testimony - June 11, 2010

Good Friday morning! Thank you for the opportunity to write to you once more on this sunny morning! I feel like I'm accepting some kind of award after that last sentence. :-) We had a stormy night last night, but, with praises to God, I didn't see or hear any of that 3 inch hail they warned us about. Today and tomorrow we are under a flood watch and that's no joke if you have seen the level of our one and only river up to the north of us. We have lots of high hills to park on if things get too bad though.

I helped build the East Grand Forks, MN store back in the day after the Red River flooded in the late 90's. Their terrain doesn't help the flooding problem. Once the banks of the river are crested, the water in that area can spread out just dern near forever... which is just what happened to them in the big flood. I can testify about the rebuilding effort, but my knowledge of their flood comes from stories and photographs. What about this baptizing fellow, how did he know what Jesus would do since at the time of his testimony Jesus had not even started his ministry?

John 1:15 - John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds: "This is the one I was talking about when I said, 'Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.' "

We often testify about things we have seen or experienced, and even things we have read in books, but John testified about someone still to come. This is one of the times when a prophet testified about someone who literally came to stand right in front of him. God had sent many prophets hundreds of years before Jesus arrived, but John got to stand on the river bank just as the flood crested the levees. We tend to think that prophecy means "way out there in the future." John said, "... and here he is!"

John is a special prophet in that his prophecy walked up to him. But then he testified that Jesus had existed long before... Wait, we read in the Bible that Elizabeth was six months along when Mary showed up with her own good news. The people of Nazareth and Elizabeth's home town would have known that too. It seems that both John the Baptist and John the Gospel writer knew that Jesus wasn't just the young child born to Mary. John, who doesn't refer to himself by name in his gospel, may have been a disciple of John the Baptist or at least went to see him at the Jordan, perhaps even at the moment John the Baptist saw the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus. We have quite a testimony from both men named John.

John the Baptist knew that Jesus was far greater than himself, and from the testimony of the Gospels, the prophecy of Revelation, and the wisdom of the epistles, we too know something of how great Jesus is. Our testimony is much the same as John's or Paul's, "look what Jesus has done for me!" We don't need to dazzle someone with our deep Bible knowledge and scriptural recall. We can tell our story - and most everyone does like to tell his or her own story - and communicate what Jesus has done in our own life. Your story is a fantastic testimony, be sure to let someone know.

Have a great weekend in Christ!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

At Home With Us - June 10, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Things are damp and sticky this morning as the wind blows the humidity in and around everything. My house is hardly in perfect cleanliness this morning, and the same can be said about me. Would the Son of God really feel welcome here? Wouldn't He reach down from his throne in Heaven and do a bit of sanitizing and cleaning first? John 1:14 doesn't mention any preparations of that type when the Word came down to Earth.

"So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son."

Jesus didn't wait for the heavenly cleaning crew to make a run through Israel. Diseases, disabilities, and demons all awaited his arrival, but he came anyway. Corruption in the courts and sins in the home didn't change at his birth. The Word, the very Son of God, became human and lived with people just like us. At times those people would have been at their best: feeling good and free from sickness, dressed to the nines and in fine shape, such as the wedding at Cana. Other times, Jesus came upon the very worst of people: tax collectors in the act of ripping off their own people; politicians seeking the high seats of the corrupt, and religious leaders burdening the people with rules and worse, failing to see the very Son of God. And then Jesus came upon those of us who didn't have the house swept spotless, or were suffering from disease, or sneaking around in shame to the well at mid-day, or the many other situations we find even to this day.

Jesus didn't come looking for us at our best; he came to heal us at our worst. Jesus also came to live among us. That may not be quite as amazing as dying for our sins, but would you or I come down from Heaven to live here? So the verse tells us then how they worshipped and adored the Son? Nope, as we find throughout the Bible, we learn the important things about Jesus: "He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness." Jesus didn't take a quick look around Judea and announce, "Whewee, this place has to go!" Nope, he came in humility, gave us peace and joy, and left in love.

And lest we forget, showed a select few his glory. John saw it with Peter and James at the transfiguration, many others saw it after Jesus rose from the grave. But in case we should doubt, one more time John affirms his eyewitness, "...and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." We have yet to see the glory of the Son, but we will one great day see the glory of God's one and only Son. John made sure that we got the point in this verse. There will not be another Jesus and God is not going to send more sons. We believe on the one and only Son of God, or we lose all the grace, peace, love, joy, and eternal life that Jesus offered to those who will believe.

Praise God the Father for His one and only Son, Jesus Christ!


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reborn! - June 9, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Each morning is like a fresh start, and we all like fresh starts. Each year one team wins the Women's College World Series, and each year at least seven other teams would like a fresh start. We feel very much like all those teams that didn't win the championship victory; we want a fresh start. Is it any wonder then that the news of Jesus Christ is called the Good News? We can have more than a fresh start; we can be reborn into the family of God.

John 1:13 - They are reborn - not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

We all want a fresh start at times, and then we want more than that. The world remains the same even if we take a fresh start at something. We also remain the same, albeit a little wiser perhaps, when we make a fresh start. More than a fresh start would be to start life over, to be reborn. We know that to be physically reborn is not possible for us, and the very thought might give our dear mothers reason to cringe. However, there is a new beginning in Christ. "They are reborn - not with a physical birth..."

We can argue whether a physical rebirth would help at all, but most of our rebirth desire involves somehow keeping the knowledge and experience we have now. We don't in our worldly mind want to start over as a beginner. We want to start again with the knowledge to put our childhood pennies into some company's stock and be rich by the time we hit our 20's. That would be too easy, everyone would want that. Rebirth in Christ only offers eternal life.

Wait a minute... you mean that all the time I spent yearning for earthly wealth from a physical rebirth, there was a far better option? Yes indeed! The spiritual rebirth that comes from believing in Jesus 'only' gives eternal life. When we come to believe, one thing we learn is that our aims in the world were much too low. Why wish for a few bucks here on Earth when we can have the very riches of eternity in Heaven? Why trade the security of God for the anxiety of our own ability and worry? I like God's plan better. Give me a birth that comes from God; a new life in Christ Jesus!

Why dither in the decision? Believe in Jesus and be reborn in Christ today!


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Right to Become Children of God - June 8, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! For the folks on the blog, I'm back! The blog wasn't working yesterday for a reason Blogspot didn't explain on their support page. Praise the Lord, we're back today. Lots of flashin' and bangin' around here last night as a thunderstorm arrived just at bedtime. Flash flood warnings came over the phone lines and we had some good rain. I just heard on MyBridge that the wonderful flows into Lake McConaughy are expected to continue for the next several weeks. Will we get 100% on the lake this year? Probalby not, it's a huge reservoir and can hold a lot of water. Praise God it's coming up though! Of course, if you missed the chance to get your dream lake-house cheap, sorry the prices will be going up for sure.

A house on a nice lake is rightly expensive in this world; many of us would like to have one and so the price goes up. What price would you pay to become, not just be called but actually become, children of God? John 1: 12 brings us the answer to that question this morning.

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

The answer is: it doesn't cost anything that this world considers valuable! You cannot save up enough money, or give up your lake house to gain the right to become children of God. For those without money, don't worry - money is no object! For those without something of material value to give up - none of that matters. For those who want to control their own destiny... uh oh, you do have to give up being in charge of your life, your burdens, your worries, sin, hatred, rage, lust, and quite a few other things that each of us could do without, when you believe.

When I came to realize that all my ambitions for gain, promotion, accolade, and wealth in this world didn't amount to a hill of beans in the sweep of history, control of my life wasn't so difficult to give up. Uh,yeah... of course it was. That sounds very noble, but it isn't quite what happened. We tend to think that we know best in so many things. We are trained to believe in ourselves and to make our own way in this world. Actually, I had to realize that I had no chance at all of saving myself before I could see the saving grace that is the gift of Christ Jesus. Those who have many 'accomplishments' in this life have the most difficulty in accepting the grace of Jesus.

A huge pile of loot in the bank, awards and honors from organizations, trophies from academies and athletics, and our own 'good luck', can all stop a person from believing in Christ. How many lottery winners have taken their check and said, "It's all yours, Lord!" Probably none. How many Oscar winners have said, "Thank you, Lord!" and walked off the stage to let God have the glory? I think we all know the answer to that one. Belief in Jesus is easy/hard. Easy because those called to believe have usually hit bottom in their own efforts to have a successful life. Hard because many with talent and ability are encouraged to believe in themselves first. Easy because Jesus has no strings attached to the offer of eternal life. Hard because we cannot see eternal life from our little viewpoint on this world. Eternity is in our hearts, but not in our vision. We are trained to not admit guilt or fault, which is what we must do when we come to believe in Jesus.

A person without guilt cannot admit to Jesus that he or she is a sinner in need of salvation. A person who believes in his own ability cannot believe in the strength and ability of Christ. Of course we speak not of confidence here, but of placing our own ability on the throne of our lives. There is no room for Christ when we occupy the throne of our own life. We become children of God when Jesus sits on the throne of a life given to Him. The right to become children of God has been given to people who still sin, struggle with the lusts of the flesh, and in all ways deserve only eternal judgment? All through the love and blood of one man who gave his unique life for us? Belief in that fact humbles the mind, does it not?

What would cause God to give us such an important right as this one? I can only answer that it must be a love greater than we know. To become God's children just seems like throwing pearls before swine; something Jesus warned us not to do. Does that mean that God is doing as he does and not as he says? Who are we to question God in this? But, in this case, God must be doing something to us to make us not swine. The pearl is beyond question and price - the right to become children of God, so the change must be in those who believe. When you feel down and discouraged, remember that God has changed you. He alone and on His own, has made you into something valuable enough to die for. What love from Him! What joy for us! Believe in Jesus and gain the right to become a child of God. Hallelujah!


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Get it, the Second Time Around - June 5, 2010

Good Saturday morning! The sun gets up kind of early these days in June. I couldn't quite get up the hill in time to catch sunrise this morning. Since it occurs at 0520 and I must walk a bit to get up on the hill, I'll give myself some slack on that... and try again another day. This morning we also have a herd of kids with long sticks headed for the park to join in Kid's Fishing Day. If you resemble a fish in any way, avoid the park at all costs today.

Today, we have John 1:10 - "He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him." How could the world not recognize the Creator? Didn't the events of his birth give away his identity? Yes, the hosts of heaven singing to the shepherds, the wise guys, and the star in the East certainly said that something special was up, but time erases knowledge and memory of some things. The people also knew that Herod had killed all the children born around Bethlehem at that time. That one had escaped to Egypt may not have been known until much later. Jesus was also about 30 by the time he began his ministry; three decades is long enough to forget some things. Whatever excuse the people had, by the time Jesus arrived to teach, the glad tidings of great joy had passed from memory. Few recognized the Son of God when he arrived to teach. John the Baptist saw him and made the announcement, but many refused to believe his message.

The next time Jesus comes, the Bible tells us that all of us will recognize Him without a doubt. There will be no choice at Christ's second coming. Every one of us faces the choice to recognize him now in this time, or to wait for all doubt to be removed at the end. Waiting does have some dire consequences though. The Creator came into the very world he created to save it. In order to make salvation possible, He walked around with a magic cloak of darkness and stayed hidden from all but a few... We know better. Jesus walked about plainly, teaching and doing great miracles. When questioned directly, Jesus plainly stated that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and King. The choice to believe is the same now as it was in the first century A.D. To those who will believe, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to enable us to recognize Him.

Praise God for the opportunity to recognize Jesus now; this is one case where we don't want to get it, the second time around.


Friday, June 04, 2010

The True Light - June 4, 2010

Good Friday morning! The WCWS is underway! If you watched yesterday, you might be calling it the IPWCWS for illegal pitch Women's College World Series. As a fan, I grew quite irritated at the seemingly constant illegal pitch calls. The series also seems to be dominated by PAC10 and SEC teams this year. I count 3 out of the 4 match ups yesterday between the two conferences. Our lone Big12 team (Missouri) lost to the team from the way out there conference (Hawai'i).

John 1:9 - The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Oops, this is a Christian devotional, I'll have to set aside the sports talk. We get excited about things in this world. Imagine getting so excited about the darkness that you ignore, wilfully ignore, the true light of the world. God sent word through Isaiah that the light would shine in the darkness (Isa 9:2). And when Jesus, the one who is the true light arrived here on earth, that prophecy came to pass. Jesus gave light to everyone, but many refused that light. Jesus told us that there would be those who loved the darkness more than the light. We see it all around us today; this is not some condition that only prevailed in the first century.

To wilfully ignore the Messiah that the people had anticipated for around 400 years seems kind of dumb to us, but we can read about it in the Gospels and Acts. How much more dumb is it then to wilfully ignore the light when we have not only Moses and the prophets, but the Gospels and Epistles? We live in a time with that much less of an excuse for not believing in Jesus. I am constantly impressed by the light shining in the darkness.

We live in a time where missions to far places are fast. A church can place a missionary in the remotest parts of the world in just a few days. The light shines in far away places. We also have access to the Word in many forms on a daily basis. The light shines near to home. There is also much argument about the True Light. We all correctly say "Jesus!", but ministers argue with other ministers, Christians with other Christians, and cults sneak off to the bush to worship in small, secret conclaves. Which is the true light?

A long time ago for us, but the blink of an eye in history, a man wrote about two forms of Christianity.

"for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference - so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of "stealing the livery of the court of Heaven to serve the devil in." I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me."

That was only a portion of a condemnation of a dual Christianity in the land... our land unfortunately. Frederick Douglass wrote the above words in the 1840's; if we removed but one word, slaveholding, from the quote, we might have trouble placing the words in the 19th Century. However, the more we learn about the darkness around us now, the more we realize that those words, slaveholding included, fit our times just as well. We have a Christianity of Convenience competing for hearts with the Christianity of Christ. Is it any wonder that Jesus prayed that all future believers would be one in Him? We have a good reason for confusion in our faith - there's a whole lot of somewhat different messages out there!

The True Light did come into the world though; heralded by John the Baptist and carried to the nations by 12 disciples and many others. We have only to believe in Jesus, read His word, and pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. God will make sure we are not deceived.

I want to read all the words Jesus had about God taking care of my needs, healing the nations, and loving me. However, I also must read the words Jesus spoke about the world hating me because it hated Him first, how persecution will come, and the ones about suffering for Christ. I cannot just read the words that I want to read. When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He didn't leave us at a free amusement park to have fun until His glorious return. Part of me wishes He had done something like that, but instead Jesus left us with a group of leaders who talked about suffering and wrote letters telling us to arm ourselves for combat with God's armor. The True Light gave it to us straight; and to me at least, having to take up the full armor of God doesn't speak to a world of health, wealth, and constant happiness at all times. We may get to enjoy all three of those for a season, but the times of testing will come as well.

Oh dear! I think I blew my 10-minute time limit today. Sorry, try to read real fast. :-)


Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Witness to the Light - June 3, 2010

Good Thursday morning! I got to see a few of the working folk doing their various workout activities this morning, but most of the streets were quiet. Not everyone wants me taking their picture at 0530 it seems. I can understand that; that's why I'm behind the camera at that time of the morning and not in front of it. I am not the subject of the photos, simply the witness of God's wonderful creation in the morning. Okay, I must be leading up to something there... and it's true! John 1:8 - John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. Once again that sums up our job on this earth and in this life. We are witnesses to the light.

We are often told not to hide our light under a bushel basket. A kind of mash-up of what Jesus told the disciples back in the day. Jesus said that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. However, just before that Jesus spoke these words: "You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden." (Matt 5:14) If John was a witness to the light and spoke specifically of Jesus Christ, how can we also be the light of the world? Well, we are what Jesus told us we are.

You and I may not feel like a shining light to the world; we tend to focus on our failures and faults. Jesus must have seen something else in us that would shine out into the world. Certainly the disciples he was speaking to directly had no claim on perfect light in their own lives at that time, and neither do we when looking at our sins. Evidently we must look elsewhere to see our own light.

A light shone into the darkness of the world and into the darkness of our souls. That light was so strong that he made all of us light bearers too. We became witnesses to the light, shining brightly in the darkness, when we believed in the one who died for us.

Trust in the light that Jesus saw in you long before you even knew your own name. Be a witness to the light and shine for Him!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The War Goes On - June 2, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! John 1:7 has the remainder of that sentence we started yesterday. With John 1:6, the verses go like this: "God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony." However, if we take just verse 7, we have a command for each of us. What is our main duty in Christ? tell about the light! We want everyone to believe, but the war for the souls of men goes on.

Today, I read a news article about 3 men killed by a bomb exploding. We might not even blink an eye about another far away bomb in this day of homicide bomb attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this happened in a western country where war has been absent for more than 60 years. The war goes on in Germany though, as three bomb disposal experts lost their lives trying to defuse another bomb from the days of World War II. Some wars may continue in small ways until Jesus returns. The world is a dark place.

We need some good news, and Jesus provided just the right news for us. To tell about the light we have many good means of communication these days. The Internet didn't bring light to the world, but we can use it to spread the Good News about the Light of the World. We can use radio, telephone, and television in the same way. All means of communication have been used to spread the Good News, and all those means have been abused in spreading sin. Support those who are called to spread the Good News by computer and electronic means. Help your local church spread the Good News in the same way. We have some light to tell about!

"...that everyone might believe because of his testimony." John the Baptist had a message that was also his testimony. John testified about the coming of the Son of God. John had even met him as an unborn baby. John met the Light of the World again while baptizing folks in the Jordan River. I want to rush on ahead with this, but the next few verses tell us more. This seems like a good time to practice waiting on the Lord!

I have studied the Gospel of John many times in my life, but always before when trying to stay one verse at a time, I have rushed on ahead. We all want to get to those famous verses like 3:16, 14:6 and others. John has many great verses and stories of Jesus.

The one verse at a time method comes from John MacArthur and his ministry, Grace to You. John MacArthur started his study in Matthew back in the 70's and took many years in getting through the book. I'm sure that at some point, probably just a few verses into the book, he had some doubts about the strategy. The first sixteen verses of Matthew set down the genealogy of Jesus. Such names as David, Solomon, Rahab, and others certainly provide some fodder for a sermon, but some of those names are a complete mystery. The key to writing or preaching on something like that is to listen to the Holy Spirit. God wrote the Bible; He will know what to say about verses that by themselves seem to have little meaning for us. How valuable to us is each verse in the Gospel of John? We'll find out!

Have a wonderful day in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sent by God - June 1, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! A bit hazy this morning. The haze is even more apparent from a high place. The town didn't give me its best view this morning; I'll have to try the early rising again tomorrow or the next day. I am learning the difference between the amateur and the professional photographer. Some things are out of my control, but the basic idea is to be able to repeat those great shots I get from time to time. A lucky amateur basketball player can make a half-court jumper now and again, perhaps in the desperate moments at the end of a game and perhaps not. However, the professional can make the shot more often than not, and is the one you pass the ball to in a desperate moment because you know he has a better chance of making the shot than you do. In my new hobby, I'm the one you don't count on to repeat the great shot just yet. I'll keep working on it. :-)

John 1:6 is one of the few verses that doesn't complete a sentence, but does say something interesting. "God sent a man, John the Baptist," According to the foot notes, the Greek reads, "God sent a man named John," Since John doesn't name himself in his gospel, we can infer that a man named John is the fellow who lived out in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey. What an introduction though, from God himself no less. How would you like to be introduced as someone sent by God? That would be quite the honor and would certainly give a person a feeling of importance. Guess what? God did send you.

Perhaps you didn't know your mission from an early age, as John the Baptist did, or you don't seem to have special insight as John did. You have the same message that John brought: repent, the Son of God is at hand! We live in a time when many need to repent and many face eternal death without the light of Jesus who is coming soon. Our message is the same one John the Baptist was given. We all point to the light of the world; from Abraham all the way to the final prophet or Christ-one who will walk the earth sometime soon. I believe the last prophet will be a Jew; called just as Abraham was to begin the nation and John was to herald the first coming of Jesus. The last prophet will probably be one of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses during the tribulation. God will send a man named... we don't know the name, but he may be alive even now.

What an honor for John to be the messenger sent by God to announce the arrival of Jesus! You and I may not be the last ones sent by God to spread the Good News, but sent we are and with that honor in mind, we have no reason to hang our heads in shame.

Praise God for the new day (and month)!