Friday, July 30, 2010

Nothing Special Going On - July 30, 2010

Good Friday morning! I'll bet you're tired of hearing about the weather out here each day so we'll just skip it for this devotional. I'm tired of writing about it, except for all the times when I just won't shut up about it that is. We like to talk about our surroundings, and one of the things that surrounds us each day is the weather. Rain, sun, snow, or whatever else is given to us each day can affect our travel, work, and even what activities we can enjoy in that day. Our verse for today sets the stage for the verses to follow, but on its own the verse seems something like a weather report on a day with nothing special happening.

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (John 2:6)

Why six? We know that numbers are important in the Bible. Perhaps the owner of this house or building had one stone jar for each day of the week except for the Sabbath. That seems unlikely as most of us would go ahead and have the seven jars to match the days of each week. We have heard that six is often a representation of something just short of perfection. The number of the Antichrist is three sixes or 666. I may simply be making too much of that number; six may have been standing nearby because the seventh had broken the week before the wedding. The bride's mother might have gone back there to vent a little frustration and kicked a hole in the seventh stone jar. We don't know why there were six jars. What we do know is their normal function - Jewish ceremonial washing - and the jars volume.

According to WikiAnswers, a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 lbs, which makes the amount of water at the lower end weigh about 167 lbs plus the weight of a stone jar that size, we can figure at least a 200 lb load with a large stone jar. From that we realize that no one, other than a Samson, is going to be grabbing one of these jars and taking off with it. If the stone jars are on the larger side, the weight of water alone will be over 250 lbs. The impression we should take away from this is that these are large jars. Anytime a writer sets the stage like this, we know that we can expect something pretty spectacular. Large stone jars sitting there, the host has run out of wine, and Jesus is right there with servants waiting for his command... what is going to happen next? We'll just have to stay tuned for tomorrow!

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy this fine Friday in Christ!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do Whatever He Tells You - July 29, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Wow, I opened the windows about 0300 and simply let all the humidity into the house. Not what I was hoping would happen! The cat is doing his 'mighty king of the hills' pose, but I don't think anyone other than me is paying attention. Of course it would be more impressive if he did it outside in the world, but maybe just a small one-room kingdom is enough for the cat. We always seem to want it all: rich men strive to gain more wealth; powerful women struggle to gain more power; and all of us have felt the tug of material luxuries. I see that a teddy bear collector has admitted to a huge fraud, something on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars; obviously collecting teddy bears is dangerous - you could end up in jail.

This morning we continue with the wedding in Cana. Jesus has just told his mother that the lack of wine was not his problem and that his time had not yet come. Like most mothers when a son gives them a little back talk, Mary paid close attention to what he said.

But his mother told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

We could go on about how Mary didn't listen very well, but is that the answer? What I see in this is an abiding faith in her son, Jesus. Mary had an advantage at that time; she knew her virgin-born son was someone special. Even as Jesus said that this was not his problem, Mary believed that he would do something to fix it and even had the servants stand by to take action at his word. Jesus had not indicated whether he would do anything to solve this dilemma or not, but Mary still believed in him. We have that same situation before us.

We don't know that Jesus will do something to fix a problem we have, but in faith we bring it to him. Mary brought the problem to Jesus and he said that it wasn't yet his time. We have a bit of a cliffhanger for today. Will Jesus embarrass his mother? Will he simply tell the servants that this is not his problem leaving them confused by Mary's command? Most of us already know this story from years of reading God's word, but we do have an interesting moment here that we often miss by reading the entire story of the wedding in Cana quickly. At that moment, some number of servants would have been standing there waiting for Jesus to do something. At Mary's command to "do whatever he tells you" they now had faith in Jesus too. Perhaps they expected Jesus to produce a purse full of money and send them to buy wine somewhere (the town wine merchant would have been at the wedding) or to send them running to a distant village to buy whatever wine they could. Many thoughts would have bounced around in their minds while waiting for Jesus to give his word. I can imagine Jesus standing there smiling at how his mother had appeared to not listen to his protests at all. Jesus could not deny that he was the Messiah, and Mary seemed to know that he was going to do something about this worldly problem.

Tomorrow, will Jesus take up this problem and find a solution? We'll just have to keep reading.

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rigth on Time - July 28, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! I'm late getting back from my walk this morning, and that makes the devotional late, and that.... but who cares! It's not like I have a bunch of appointments today. You can be a little proud of me today; I rucked up my God-given courage and entered 6 photos into the fair yesterday. Actually, as with all things I get anxious about, the entry process wasn't at all bad. Of course, God led me to this great picture today, I guess I'll have to just enter it next year. If you take the Deadwood Trail to the hill that descends under the railroad crossing, this fox was just at the top.

This morning we come to a verse that might cause anyone to pause. Did Jesus tell his mother to get stuffed? Did he say, "That isn't my job, mother"?

"Dear woman, that's not our problem," Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." (John 2:4)

It certainly would seem that he did just that, but perhaps we need to look more closely. The first statement is nothing less than the truth. As an invited guest, supplying the wine certainly wasn't Jesus' problem. But he also said "our problem"; did that mean his and Mary's problem, or did he mean to imply the Trinity in 'our'? We know from other references in the Gospels that Jesus often spoke for the Father, the Holy Spirit, and himself. He might also have meant that Mary, his mother, should not have been worried about this problem. Possibly he meant both. One of the most important statements is the second one, "My time has not yet come." We know from the scriptures that Jesus did everything right on time, never too soon and certainly not too late. All that Jesus did to prove his claim to be the Messiah and all that he did on our behalf was done exactly at the time set by God. How many times have you tried to catch up after starting out the day late?

Jesus never had to run to catch up and he never arrived late for any meeting or task. That is amazing, but even more than that, Jesus didn't arrive early either. If you opened your shop at 0800, you would never have worried to find Jesus sitting outside waiting, staring in the door, putting pressure on you to open early and start the workday before that first cup of coffee. We know that it is rude to arrive late to appointment, but we often don't think that arriving early can be made rude too by the way we act. So just when would Jesus' time come in this case? We'll find out in the next couple of days!

Have a great and wonderful day with Abba, the Father in Heaven!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Take Your Problems to Jesus! - July 27, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Have you ever received a complaint from someone that you not only didn't know how to resolve, but also wondered what it had to do with you in the first place? More than likely all of us have had that happen at some point. Sometimes the problem brought to us is so far out of our abilities or job description that we don't even know what to say. If you were not at all familiar with Lake McConaughy, and if you're not from around these parts that is a strong possibility, and I ran up to you one month ago saying that the inflow is ten times what it was last year, you might be stopped in your tracks. Is that a bad thing? What should I do? Does that mean a dam is about to burst? Should I flee for my life? The lake is a large reservoir out here in western Nebraska and as it was down to about half of its capacity the additional inflow was easily handled this year and didn't quite fill up the lake. What could you or I have done to solve the problem had there been one? Not a thing. What if you were invited to a party and your mother came up and told you the host had run out of something important. What would you do?

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother told him, "They have no more wine." (John 2:3)

This happened to Jesus as we can see in today's Bible verse. Our response to this crisis would probably be something like, "Oh well, I guess I'll have to drink something else." However, the problem was more serious than that. There probably wasn't another choice for a drink. In a wedding celebration today a similar problem would be running out of food while the guests were still finding their seats. The host looks out at the tables in his wedding celebration and realizes with a growing sense of dread that he is about to be embarrassed in front of dozens of hungry guests. The host leans over to a dear friend and asks her, "Can your son do something?"

We don't know if Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a dear friend of the host, but she did take the problem to her son. Was this right? Did Jesus have the responsibility for the wine supply at every wedding he was invited to? Probably not, just as you and I will not have a responsibility to solve every problem that we hear about. However, even if we don't bear the responsibility at the time of the request, we can take that responsibility and work to solve the problem. Solving problems brings a special joy to some of us. What if the problem is too big or beyond our abilities though? We can always bring it to God in prayer. Mary didn't know how to solve the problem the host had at this wedding celebration, but she did know where to take that problem.

Many problems in this life, both our own and those of other people, will be too large or complicated for us to handle on our own. Why do we have these problems? To remind us that God is a mighty provider and problem solver. You and I are not in this alone. Have you given your life to Jesus and received His salvation? Then your problems are now his problems! Bring your problems to Jesus in prayer.

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Too Well Trained? - July 26, 2010

Good Monday morning! The final week of July has begun for this year; have you met all your goals for the year already? Now that's a mean thing to do to you on a Monday morning! I can't even remember what my goals were for the year. As I grow in the love of Jesus and in my relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I find that the old goals are not all that important to me. The goals I set at the beginning of the year were all about accomplishment, either in the area of self-improvement or in something I wanted complete or accomplish. What about the work begun in each of us by the Holy Spirit? Can I set a goal for that and is not that much more important than any earthly goal that I have set? For years I have worried about goals and dates; contrary to the wisdom of the day, none of that has worked for me. Perhaps we should consider just abiding in the Lord and in living our relationship with Him. Sounds a bit frightening? We do like to hold on to what we think we know. The world has spent a lot of time training us to think the way everyone else does.

Today, we have a rather simple and straightforward verse:

...and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. (John 2:2)

Of course when we find a seemingly simple verse, we naturally want to add all sorts of complicating questions. Did they invite everyone then? Did the invitation state "Jesus and his disciples" or were they simply all known to the bride and groom? We could go on an on with more complicating questions, or we could simply take the Bible as the word of God and believe exactly what it says. As a group, Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. Did they attend? That we'll find out tomorrow, no sense worrying about it today. Someone cared enough to invite Jesus and his disciples, that is all we need worry about for today. Someone wanted them at their wedding celebration, an important time for all. Do you want Jesus in your life at the most important times?

We often wonder about that. Before salvation, we might have thought something like: "Oh, if he comes I'll feel guilty because he is so perfect and I am not!" You might have worried that Jesus would point out all the sins you have in your past life. "Don't marry that one; you ought to see what he did back a few years ago..." However, we need not fear Jesus. When you received salvation from Him, your sins were put away from you. Jesus isn't going to bring up all your sins at any time. God has cleared your record, which was probably extensive, and we don't need to constantly bring it up. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. Invite Jesus to your wedding; invite Jesus into your life - all of it!

I feel humbly grateful today. Does that make me weak? Not at all. We often read about the many times Jesus told someone to not be afraid. We think of a physical threat, which happened often too, but what if Jesus had another meaning for that? For a moment consider that Jesus wanted us to not be afraid of our own emotions. Men tend to fear emotions more than women and it seems that Jesus was more often telling men not to fear. How would the world view us if we quit worrying about what others think and just enjoyed the company of God and our brothers in Christ?

Start the new week with another dose of the grace of Jesus!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Wedding Celebration - July 24,2010

Good Saturday morning! How are you doing in the face of adversity today? I'll admit that I don't always remember to be grateful during the times when I want to whine and moan about the conditions of the moment. Sometimes we use some unknown or imagined situation in a far country to make ourselves feel better, but that isn't a very good answer. For one thing, we don't know what their situation is truly like from here; for another, the relative conditions could change at any time. What would we compare our situation against then? Today, let us resolve to be grateful to God, no matter how bad our current situation seems at the time.

Today, we change gears in our Bible verse, or a better automotive metaphor might be that we stop and change directions. Yesterday we read a fantastic statement that our little human minds have trouble with. Today, we are back on Earth in a very common situation.

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there... (John 2:1)

Not only have we come right back to Earth, but the Bible scholars broke the sentence in the middle again. Verse 2 starts with the conjunction 'and'. Perhaps the Bible scholars back in the day knew that attention spans would shorten in our times and so made every verse short even if it meant dividing sentences in two. However, be that as it may, we go from an image we have trouble visualizing in our minds to one that you might have going on even today. A wedding is something to celebrate in every country and time on the planet. We rejoice when our friends marry and we rejoice even more when it happens to each of us... at least that is what I have heard happens; I'll have to take your word for it. We get the impression as John sets up the next story that this event is important. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would be there and the words 'wedding celebration' give us the impression that she would not be the only one. Certainly a wedding celebration could be small, with only a few close friends present, but when we hear or read it stated that way we tend to think a lot of people and a large celebration.

John in writing the gospel doesn't have to launch into a lengthy description of the number of bridesmaids or how much the bride's father had to spend to convey the size of the wedding. We read about a wedding celebration and we compare it with the large weddings we have attended where we might use the word 'celebration' to describe the event and the rest is ready to go in our minds. A large wedding means more pressure on someone, probably the host, to provide a goodly amount of food, drink, company, and entertainment. We can think of trying to find a large reception hall for the banquet, invitations sent out ahead of time, clothing, catering, relatives coming in from far away, and all sorts of other details to worry over and prepare on time. One little sentence in one little verse to start off chapter 2 and we have a vision in our minds of what is going on.

Why no in depth description of the wedding? As we will read in the next week, the wedding is the setting for the story, but not the main point of it. Jesus is going to do something both compassionate and wonderful... and I'm cheating ahead again. One verse at a time!

Have a great weekend in Christ!


Friday, July 23, 2010

The Stairway to Heaven - July 23, 2010

Good Friday morning! This morning, I realized that some of you will not be reading this on Friday, but will get up on Saturday to read this devotional. Somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean, the next day has already arrived even as we get up to Friday morning. Back in the day, scientists or politicians or someone in authority, drew an imaginary line on the globe and said, "This is where we'll begin the next day!" They could have drawn the line right through a nation or city, but what if they drew it down the aisle separating the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate? I suppose the political rhetoric in Washington is crazy enough without having one party on Friday and the other on Saturday. What if the International Date Line were drawn at midfield of the World Cup? Okay, so I'm going off the deep end on Friday morning (Saturday for those of you on the other side of the Pacific). I think that a little odd thinking might even be necessary for today's verse.

Then he (Jesus) said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." (John 1:51)

And that ends Chapter 1 of John, thank you for your time and enjoy the day...

When I come to a verse like this one, I get a strong feeling to run away from it. How do you explain a statement like this? The experts who write the footnotes in my study Bibles say this is not a physical experience. Both footnotes use that exact phrase, not a physical experience. How can they be sure?

How many times have you heard your pastor say something like, "We believe the Bible is the incorruptible and indisputable word of God." And then we read in the footnote that something like this is too fantastic to be a physical experience. Jesus begins the verse with , "I tell you the truth..." followed by one of the more mind-bending statements in the Bible. The reference is to Jacob's dream in Genesis, but why do we immediately think the experience cannot be physical right after Jesus says, "I tell you the truth"? Do we know how large an angel is? How far it is to Heaven? Does any human know how heavy an angel is? If we cannot answer these questions, why do we automatically assume Jesus is speaking figuratively? We also know that Jesus often spoke in eternal terms. In other words, he may not have meant the disciples would see this the next day or even in their earthly lifetimes.

I will admit that I am not a college or seminary trained Bible scholar. Perhaps that is why I tend to disagree with them when faced with some of the more fantastic statements made in the Bible. My question is always the same, "Why do we assume that Jesus doesn't mean exactly what he said?" The fact that none of us can understand exactly how an angel could ascend and descend from Heaven on the Son of Man does not mean that it cannot happen. I'm thinking that a child would believe that statement without question, exactly the kind of faith we are to have. Jesus may have made statements like this to remind us of that child-like faith we are to have in everything that God says.

The imagery of the stairway to heaven or Jacob's ladder has fascinated us for centuries. We have both secular and Christian songs, poems, and even shows about the stairway, the great divide, and the way to heaven. My favorite is probably The Great Divide by Point of Grace. One of these days I want to take that stairway between Heaven and Earth. I'm sure that all of you want the same thing. In order to walk the steps up to Heaven, I suppose we had better start by believing what Jesus said!

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Greater Things - July 22, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Ah, the fine beauty of the early morning; it was even cool enough to keep the mosquitoes from bothering me too! Hundreds of photos to go through on this nice morning. The good news about is that I am losing fewer of them due to my own mistakes. The bad news is pretty much the same thing...

Do you sometimes think that you have believed something a little too easily? Perhaps even been taken in before you had a chance to really think over what you said? Nathanael was correct in calling Jesus "Rabbi", but Jesus had much more to show him as we read in today's verse.

Jesus asked him, "Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." (John 1:50)

I often get the same impression in my photography. I thank God for the wonderful sunrise and He says that I will see greater things. Nathanael was no doubt astonished at what Jesus had known and said about him. But there was more and greater things to come? I wonder what things Nathanael imagined right then, or perhaps he was too stunned to even think what Jesus might mean by his statement. In the Gospels and the Acts we get to read about only some of the greater things. The prophecies in Revelation, Peter, 2 Thessalonians, and in Christ's own words tell us that we have yet to see some of God's greatest works. Try to imagine the angel flying across the sky yelling "Woe!" to the nations or the darkening of the sun by a third. What longing we feel for the appearance of our Lord Jesus on his white horse or the gathering of the heavenly host at the last battle, or even the coming down of the New Jerusalem as God comes to live with His people on the New Earth! All of these things sound especially fantastic in the light of a new day on plain old Earth. However, the Bible assures us that these greater things will come in their appointed time. Trust in God for your salvation, and then trust in Him for the greater things that He has promised through His Son!

We have a new day to enjoy in Christ. Live it up!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conflicting News? - July 21, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Praise God for the new day! Quickly moving clouds have obscured our sunrise for this morning, but the joy of the Lord is in our hearts. You might recall an article on our local news station yesterday about the danger of mold this year with our unusual rainfall and humidity. The article recommended bleach as a way to remove and kill the mold. The very same day, I watched a show on television where a mold removal expert said to use any household cleaner, with the exception of bleach; never use bleach. Are we confused yet?

We get a lot of conflicting information in the news these days; Israel had a bit of a conflict too.

Then Nathanael exclaimed, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God - the King of Israel!" (John 1:49)

Nathanael, a genuine son of Israel, proclaimed Jesus as the King of Israel. Now, turn the pages of the Bible back a few centuries and we have the following:

Down with the dynasty of David! We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel! Look out for your own house, O David! (1 Kings 16)

The acceptance and then rejection of the throne of David would continue into Jesus' life from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, celebrated as Palm Sunday today, to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews in front of the Roman governor, Pilate ("We have no king but Caesar!"). The northern tribes of Israel rejected the throne of David in the days after Solomon died, and were eventually scattered by the Assyrians. The tribe of Judah remained loyal to the throne of David and became the nation we know as Israel. After the land of Judah (Judea) rejected Jesus before Pilate, they too were destroyed and scattered. Israel did not exist as a nation for centuries until 1948 when a remnant came back together. All written down by the prophets of God, and all fulfilled. Israel and the throne of David are linked together it seems, and Nathanael knew it.

The people of Nathanael's time would at least once try to take Jesus and make him king by force. Jesus escaped from them and kept his own counsel on when he would claim his throne. The people misunderstood the prophecies about the throne of David and wanted Jesus to be the king who forced the Romans out. We must believe in Jesus as who he is, not who we want him to be. Nathanael called Jesus, "Rabbi", which means 'teacher', but then made him king of the nation too. That isn't necessarily a mistake on Nathanael's part, but like him, we need to understand that Jesus is King on his own terms, not ours. Nathanael didn't try to make Jesus take the throne of Israel right then, but I think that like the other disciples and many of the people in Israel, he did think that Jesus was going to be the conquering hero-king of Israel at that time, not in the distant future after he had been crucified and rose again. The time will come when we can shout the praises of the King of kings, but for now we must follow the example of the suffering servant who died for our sins. Praise God for the good news of Jesus Christ!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jesus Knows You Already! - July 20, 2010

Good Tuesday morning to you! Cloudy this morning, dusty last night, but whatever would we talk about if not for the weather? Of course there are many things to talk about in place of the weather. We have family, friends, hobbies, careers, sporting events, the actions of our respective governments, and above all the Good News of Jesus Christ! Sometimes the best things come last in order, and the Good News of Jesus is the best thing in that list. When we set out to spread the Good News and talk about Jesus, we sometimes wonder if he can relate to us and our problems of today. Nathanael had a similar worry; a sort of "how can he possibly know me?" question in his mind.

"How do you know about me?" Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, "I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you." (John 1:48)

Jesus apparently had a special connection with his disciples even before they heard the call to follow him. Jesus makes the rather startling statement to Nathanael that he could see him under a fig tree. Can Jesus know you and your worries before you surrender your life to him? Look at it this way: Jesus saw Nathanael at the time that Jesus walked in his humanity; how hard would it be for him to see you as he sits in Heaven beside God the Father? We have the assurance from Jesus that the shepherd knows his sheep. We may not like to think of ourselves as sheep, if you know anything about sheep that is, but the description is accurate in describing us in our unsaved condition. Nathanael didn't know that he was lost, though he was seeking someone that he had not found, the Messiah. However, Jesus could see Nathanael and knew him even before he came seeking the Messiah.

Every one who will be saved is already known by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We spend some of our short lives wandering in search of something to believe in. At the time of our wandering we don't even know that it is some one we search for and not some religion. All the time we are wandering from this philosophy to that religion, Jesus sees us and knows exactly who his sheep are and where they are going. We may be lost in our ignorance of Christ's saving grace, but the Savior knows us. Turn to Jesus today and let him show you the way to eternal life! Get found by the One who knows you already.

What a great day God has made for us!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Complete Integrity - July 19, 2010

Good Monday morning! My walking battle with the mosquitoes is done for the day and it's time to get on with something new. Yesterday, we enjoyed a good lesson on the Creation. Once again though we are faced with the choice - the Earth as about 6,000 years old or the earth as 4.3 billion years old. It seems that at no point can you have both the Theory of Evolution and the Creation. I choose what the Bible says, and as Henry William Sydow pointed out to us yesterday, there is in fact scientific evidence to back that up. And you thought his names were 'Billy' and 'Bob'... shame on you!

What if your name wasn't as important as your reputation? Suppose you walked up to someone you didn't know and he called you a man of integrity? What if that someone was in fact the Messiah and he described you as a man of complete integrity? That would be quite the compliment. You might run out to have that quote printed on your business cards: Nathanael, 14 Market St., Bethsaida: "A Man of Complete Integrity," - Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah. You wouldn't need to put a job description or title on the cards; that quote from the Messiah would be quite enough to bring customers flocking to any store you wanted to open. Everyone wants to deal with a man or woman of complete integrity when doing their shopping or business.

Unfortunately, in this world we have little assurance of integrity in most cases. Jesus pointed out something valuable in Nathanael in today's Bible verse: Integrity.

As they approached, Jesus said, "Now here is a genuine son of Israel - a man of complete integrity." (John 1:47)

Depending upon what baggage you bring on the journey, you might assume that Jesus is saying something sarcastic, perhaps in response to what Nathanael had said about Nazareth. However, as the Holy Spirit has been my guide to the scriptures, I do not see anything that would cause me to take Jesus' statement for anything other than its face value. Nathanael had more than just a reputation among friends and relatives; he had the open acknowledgment of his integrity by none other than the Son of God! That is quite the ultimate stamp of approval.

Notice that Jesus also called Nathanael a genuine son of Israel. This statement tells me that not all of Nathanael's fellow citizen's could be described that way. When someone has to describe something as genuine, that means that there are fakes to be found as well. In products or in people, some can be found to be genuine and others to be false. The problem is: we don't have the vision of Jesus in our own strength; we can easily be fooled. Trust in God to give you the ability to spot the false pastors and prophets through His Holy Spirit. The Bible reminds us that as the end times approach in this world, we will see many false prophets who will set out to deceive as many as possible. For our own part: strive to be a man or woman of integrity. Hold your reputation for integrity as precious.

Have a wonderful new week in Christ!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Come and See for Yourself! - July 17, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Is it fair that a day predicted to be so hot should also start off with near 100% humidity? We had a fog bank roll in and while chasing mosquitoes away from my ears, I wondered at the unfairness of it all. For that terrible attitude, I had but one answer: "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!" (PS 118:24) Some mornings conditions do not live up to my ideal. When I stop to think about that in a better environment, that is one where the mosquitoes are safely held outside by the window screens, I realize that conditions will never be ideal on this fallen earth. We can make conditions worse through cutting corners as BP did in the Gulf, or we can whine about the conditions as I was doing this morning, but the conditions will remain until other forces act upon them. A breeze might blow my skeeters away for a while, or a storm might stir up the Gulf of Mexico and deposit all the remaining oil in one spot for easier cleanup. (Not that any town or beach wants to be that one spot of course.) Conditions can and will change on this Earth, but never will they be just perfect for everyone. The verse from the psalm reminds us to rejoice in the day God has made for us. Some mornings that is more difficult than on others.

Yesterday we ready how Philip took the good news to Nathanael. Today, we get the response:

"Nazareth!" exclaimed Nathanael. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

"Come and see for yourself," Philip replied.

Now that seems a bit of a derogatory comment. Was it simply an inter-town rivalry. Perhaps the Nazareth Peach Pits defeated the Cana Mud Hogs in the latest soccer game, and Nathanael made a rude comment to voice his displeasure. Perhaps there was something more? My footnotes say that Nazareth held the Roman garrison for the area. As we know, military bases can bring a lot of not-so-nice activities to an area such as payday loan sharks, exotic dancer bars, and other temptations to sin. Nazareth may have gained an unsavory reputation in the area. Nathanael might have simply expressed his loyalty to his own home town, Cana, in a backwards sort of way by disparaging Nazareth. We don't know for sure, but the comment came out with feeling. Philip had been with Jesus for only a very short time and yet already his reply is gentle. "Come and see for yourself."

We have a similar job to do. If our friends don't believe the good news of Jesus Christ, invite them to come and see for themselves. Invite them to church, hand them a Bible, or be with them through a tough time. Let your friends see the results of a changed life. We have many gentle ways to show the love of Jesus and to proclaim the Good News.

Have a wonderful Saturday; we will rejoice and be glad in it!


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Special Person - July 16, 2010

Good Friday morning! Out of milk and out of bread this morning, but there is plenty of ice cream in the freezer! What's a growing boy to do for breakfast in that case? Right, get cleaned up and go out to get the proper breakfast stuff. Doing the right thing doesn't always come to us as a matter of habit; we have to learn to do the right thing. Jesus had only just begun his ministry when his followers began spreading the good news.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the Prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth." (John 1:45)

The good news had arrived in person and Philip couldn't wait to find Nathanael! What good news he had to spread in a dark time of the Roman Empire. "We have found the very person...!" Not only does this mean that someone was looking for Jesus, but that they understood that the prophecies pointed to a particular person. Not just any person, but the very person they were looking for in the prophecies and the Law. This is quite different from what happened to me this morning.

The mosquitoes weren't looking for a particular person, just any person. Once they found me, breakfast was served. No prophecy was involved, no seeking for a very special and specific person, anyone would do. Philip, Andrew, and the others on the other hand were looking for just one person, one very special and specific person. God send John the Baptist to point out the very person of Jesus Christ, and the men knew who he was in an earthly sense too: Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth. We know from the accounts of Jesus' birth that he was not actually Joseph's son. Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and his mother, Mary. For the first part of his life on earth though, Jesus was known as the son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth. This is another of those connections the Bible gives us. One of us could be descended from Mary and Joseph, probably not, but it is certainly possible as they had several children after Jesus was born. Is that something to worry about on a hot day in July? No, we have more important news: Jesus lives! Like Philip, we have some wonderful news that our friends very much need in a dark time of this world.

What great and wonderful things await us in Christ!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where are ya from, mate? - July 15, 2010

Good Thursday morning! There I go again having trouble remembering what day it is. Oh,yeah, it's the day after I learned that our old Prestolite plant has changed hands one more time. I read that sometime in the fourth quarter, we will have a Tyco Electronics cabling plant in place of our Prestolite plant. Congrats to Jeff E. our soon to be Tyco employee. Over the years we have seen that plant sign change from Prestolite to Krone and then to ADC, as it is now. Soon we will see a Tyco Electronics sign out there I suppose. What's in the name? The first company was fairly small and specialized. The next one, Krone, had more business overseas and more products to go with the cabling. ADC added even more products, though they spun off some electronics lines that we once used at the Big C. (ADC Kentrox is one I recall by name.) Tyco Electronics is in to a lot of different things in telecommunications and electronics.

Back in the day, I would often run into all four companies at the same conference; soon they will be just one large corporation. One of the questions we often asked of the other conference attendees is the old "where are you from? Oh, do you know Joe Smith?" Insert whatever name you like for Joe Smith; we often tried to make some sort of personal connection to make people from far away seem not quite so far away from us. Of course seldom did the person from that far away city know the person we asked about. Today's verse is along those lines:

Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter's hometown. (John 1:44)

At first glance this verse may seem only useful in Bible trivia contests, but we should look a bit deeper. This was personal information about three of the first disciples; this is a connection. I don't know how many people lived in Bethsaida back in the Jesus' time, but there is a chance that Philip, Andrew, and Peter at least knew each other by name, even if they were in different lines of work or only saw each other on the Sabbath. Just mentioning their hometown might give someone else a connection to them. Perhaps one of you has an ancestor who came from Bethsaida, or was a Roman officer stationed in that town. Or, like most of us here in the U.S., you have no idea if your ancestors in the first century even knew where Rome or Israel was or if those ancestors could read a map if they saw one. Some nations have a lengthy and detailed knowledge of their past; in the United States many of us don't have so much of that kind of knowledge.. .which might explain some our fascination with history and genealogy.

Connections in the Bible are important to us. We like to know where people live and come from. A hometown might say something about a person, even though generalizations are a bit risky. The region a person lives in might give some indication of their knowledge in some areas. A person raised in the desert southwest of America would reasonably be expected to know what a cactus is. A person from an Inuit town of the Canadian north would be expected to have a pretty fair knowledge of snow. More than likely that person could tell you much more than you want to hear about snow. We like those little tidbits of knowledge about people. "Where are you from?" is a standard question we ask of people we meet. We like to make connections with people. Jesus made quite a connection with me; I wonder where exactly He came from?

Have another great day in Christ!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jesus Found Me! - July 14, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Word has it that the wheat harvest will begin any day now, but most likely tomorrow. After yesterday many things have a new coating of dust on them. The eye doctor had a 'back to school' special going yesterday that reminded me of the dwindling days of summer for the kids around here. Yes, by my count the halfway point of their summer vacation has been passed and the dreaded return to school looms on the horizon. As one who no longer has to attend school, I am glad to see the new school year approaching. Does that mean that I can no longer learn though? I wonder if a man named Philip had reached a point in his life where he was ready to become a learner again? In today's verse, we meet Philip for the first time in the Gospel of John.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Come, follow me." (John 1:43)

Wait a minute, "Jesus decided"? I thought that all of Jesus' life and ministry was laid out in prophecy long ago; what would he have to make decisions about? While Jesus did fulfill many prophecies in his life and ministry, he also had the same day to day decisions that we all face in our lives. Where do we go today? Perhaps you work for an employer and that is already decided for you. Jesus, as a traveling rabbi or teacher, could wander from town to town at will. However, Jesus also had appointments to keep with a group of men called to be his disciples. I don't think that any of the first twelve disciples were chosen at random. However, that doesn't mean that Philip wasn't going to the same place every day to do some kind of work, or simply to take his morning coffee break. God may have invented the morning coffee break so that Philip would be sitting in exactly that spot in Galilee when Jesus arrived. I don't know if coffee had been discovered at this time, but whatever first century equivalent they had for our morning break may have been when Jesus came up to Philip.

Was Philip in a place of searching in his life? Did God prepare him for the discipleship by having Galilee Exports, Inc. hold layoffs the week before Jesus arrived? We don't know, but certainly Philip was ready for his new life when Jesus arrived. I notice that in selecting disciples Jesus didn't run into anyone who said, "Let me think about that a while; that's a big step for me and I need to check with the wife on that." We don't know how long Peter, Andrew, Philip or any of the other disciples had to wait before their new life began. We do know that Matthew was busy collecting taxes when Jesus called him; James and John were fishing with their father, but Philip seems to have been waiting to be found. Could it be that Philip was lost when Jesus found him? Philip may not have been physically lost, but he may have reached a point in life where he started to question his beliefs or his career. Suddenly, into the darkness of introspection and wandering... "Come, follow me." We don't know from this verse what Philip did at that moment, but we do know one important thing - Jesus found him.

We spend time lost in this world. At times we wonder many things about our beliefs, our government, our employers (or lack thereof), our friends, neighbors, family, and just about everything else in this life. We can easily get lost in distractions in this digital age, but Jesus is still in the business of finding new disciples. Are you the next one?

Have a great day in Christ!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A New Name in Christ - July 13, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! I just realized this morning that I don't know how I am going to make it through the end of the year, through the next year, to this place or that, or any other place or situation I need to make it to or through. That is correct and it's about time that I realized that. Instead of depressing me, the thought makes me realize that I am not on my own. God has promised to take care of each of us and Jesus told us not to worry over the daily things; yet we always try to go back and take the worry seat. How am I going to make it this year? Here is a little bit of wisdom to answer that question: I don't know.

That's right, we don't have the answers to all of our questions about the future. If you think that you are completely secure financially, in your profession, and in your family, maybe you are, but how are you going to make it to that wonderful eternal life in Heaven? How are you going to save yourself? I don't know how to save myself in this life; what ability or possession could help save me for the next? Nothing I am or have can save me. The plain fact is that in all things I am at the mercy of God. I gave my life to Jesus and He is now responsible for me. Want to eliminate the worry? Recall often that you and I are now God's responsibility. Does today's verse offer any help in this?

Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, "Your name is Simon, son of John - but you will be called Cephas" (which means "Peter"). John 1:42

Each of us have been brought to meet Jesus by someone. In some cases that someone may not even know they planted that meeting. Each time one of us comes to Jesus, I believe that our Lord treats that person in the same way that He treated Peter. Jesus looks intently at you, at me, at all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He may give us a new name right away as he did with Simon Peter, or He may wait to give us a new name in Heaven, but Jesus sees you and me. You may not feel like it right now, but perhaps the new name Christ has given you means "Mighty Conqueror" or "Steadfast in Battle". Simon received a name that translates to 'rock'. What might your new name be? Whatever your name or my name might be, we are conquerors in Christ; we stand strong in this spiritual battle in Christ. When you come to believe in Jesus, you get one new name right away - you are called by His name, Christian or Christ-one.

Today, I came to realize once again my own weakness in many things. It's about time. Only by trusting fully in Christ alone, and not in my own strength or abilities, can I be free of the worries and despair that constantly attack us in this life. Jesus has looked intently at me and He is now reminding me to trust in Him for all of my needs in this life and in eternity.

Let's face the new day in Christ!


Monday, July 12, 2010

News That Couldn't Wait - July 12, 2010

Good Monday morning! I know of at least one person who has already gone to work this fine, somewhat muggy, morning; I saw'r him go by me after he honked me. The morning kind of reminded me of the those fun, wet PT mornings on Camp Lejeune, except about 20 degrees cooler and 20 degrees less on the ol' dew point. Saturday, I got out and took some photos of a nice creek flowing through a little valley. The storm as you all know was Tuesday evening. Saturday, still flowing, we just aren't used to that. I'm uploading photos from the camera now, and I'll get them posted to Facebook sometime this morning... if I don't get caught up in the writing that is.

The roads out in the country can be a bit hair-raising. Some places I crossed have just enough room for one vehicle with drop off's on either side where the water has washed out much of the road bed. I also got a pretty good picture of a lake with a road running through it. Our county is of course somewhat infamous for its lack of a lake of any kind, at least until last Tuesday that is when suddenly we gained lakes, ponds, creeks, and even a river through Lodgepole. Praise the Lord, I still haven't heard that anyone got hurt in all of this. And maybe, just maybe, and if God is willing, BP may get the flow of oil shut off in the gulf today. What a great day that would be!

All this news makes me want to spread it around, and that is what Andrew did back in the day:

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means "Christ") John 1:41

From this verse we can infer that Andrew, Simon, John, and probably John's brother James, were part of a group who were looking for the Messiah. Was it looking as we are for the Second Coming as a part of distant prophecy, or was it from a more specific knowledge such as they had heard what the two prophets, the wise men, and the shepherds had said around the time Jesus was born? From the ministry of John the Baptist and the news from Bethlehem that would have traveled far by that time, I suspect they were looking specifically for the Messiah who had already arrived. After John the Baptist pointed out Jesus, the new disciples took their first leave from Jesus to go tell their brothers the good news, "We have found him!" Jesus compared the Good News to a pearl beyond price or a treasure found in a field. If you wandered the countryside around here and found an old wooden box with gold coins in it, you would have a difficult time keeping the news to yourself. Andrew had some news that he couldn't wait to spread. We have the same problem. In writing, singing, speaking, and even in conversation, we have this Good News that just wants to come out. We have found the Messiah, and our lives will spread the Good News as we live and walk in the glory and love of Christ Jesus!

Have a wonderful new week!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brothers? - July 10,2010

Good Saturday morning! It seems cool out there, but the humidity combined with a dew point near the ambient temperature makes for a sweaty kind of morning. However, the East Coast has had it much worse and so we thank God for the morning we have! What do we often forget though? We should thank God for the new day no matter what kind of morning we think it is or if it is better or worse than some other place. I always want to check the weather first and then thank God for the new day; I have that completely backward of course.

Today, we read the confirmation of the identity of one of John's disciples and run into an old friend from scripture.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. (John 1:40)

Simon Peter is the fellow we have heard about since childhood in the Bible verses. We have heard much about this man, Peter. Andrew, not so much, but he does come up more often than some of the other disciples. We are introduced here to one set of brothers from Jesus' twelve original disciples. What are the odds of having a set of brothers in the original twelve disciples? That isn't the right question of course. Jesus chose the disciples; they were not drawn in some Galilean lottery. Jesus could have chosen a family of twelve brothers to start as his first disciples.

You have been chosen as well. If you have given your life to Christ by believing in Him, then you were chosen long before you were born. I can't explain that, but praise God that he chose you and me! Simon Peter and Andrew would not have known why they were chosen, nor did any of the other disciples. Somewhere inside of you and me are the bright, shining people that God wants to save. We struggle with the sin nature from Adam, but one day God will bring us home. All of this begins with our choosing by God, and our choice to believe in Jesus Christ.

Have a wonderful weekend in Christ!


Friday, July 09, 2010

Come and See! - June 9, 2010

Good Friday morning! What a clear and cool morning it is too! Hmm, my second Facebook friend request from someone I do not know. The first was a politician, but the second was a very attractive young lady. I'm not sure what a 'ndue' picture is, but I'm fairly certain that I don't need to be looking at them. Some mornings it is best to avoid a temptation.

Oops, major goof yesterday. If you looked up the Bible verse in your own Bible, you probably saw that I only quoted half of the verse. The verse should have read:

Jesus looked around and saw them following. "What do you want?" he asked them. They replied, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?" (John 1:38)

Today we will try to get the entire verse, no sense making it harder than I have to.

"Come and see," he said. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

My footnotes to this one say to read the entire verse... just kidding; there is no footnote for John 1:39. What do we notice first about this verse? Jesus didn't turn them away! These days we are so used to having "what do you want?" said in a snarly tone and followed by a dismissal or disparaging remark that we often fail to tell someone what we want. Jesus simply invited them to come and see. Once the disciples saw where the Teacher was staying, they stayed for the remainder of the day. In the summer this might have meant several hours after 4pm, in the winter somewhat less, but Andrew and John got to stay with Jesus. We kind of tend to miss that when we read many verses at once. They got to stay with Jesus! Imagine what the two disciples might have learned in that short time with our Lord. Even a non-believing intellectual might put up some good money to spend a few hours with Jesus of Nazareth today. For those who believe in Him, Jesus gives us his own Holy Spirit all day and every day. What questions might Andrew and John have asked in that short time though? Or, maybe they just got to know each other for a bit. You have a precious few hours with the Messiah, what do you say to him? The better answer of course might be to keep quiet and listen.

Whatever was said in this time was not recorded in John. Private words in a private first meeting. We might feel a little left out, but Andrew and John got to stay with Jesus! We can't help but feel great joy for the two disciples. Whatever Jesus said that evening, we can be sure that the two men learned a lot even though the teaching wouldn't come completely together for them until after Christ rose again. Not all blessings are given equally to everyone. Certainly we feel a curiosity about what was said, but we are glad for Andrew and John. Feeling joy with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a blessing for us all.

Enjoy the day in Christ!


Thursday, July 08, 2010

What do you Want? - July 8, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Don't forget Lodgepole in your prayers; they are still having flooding problems over that way. Of course, many of us would like to have a farm with a creek running through it. Yesterday, a lot of farms had creeks running through them, and they weren't so happy about it. What is usually a dry valley with just a few reminders of a creek, now has three or four distinct channels with , get this, rapids! I know 'cuz I have pictures of 'em. The gravel roads are washed out all over the county, water is running over the paved links to I-80, and at least as of yesterday, both railroads were down due to washouts. We had a quiet night here, but some folks didn't even get to go home last night. However, God is great, we are alive, and these things can all be fixed or waited out, as the deputy did when his car was washed right off the highway on Tuesday night. We have had quite the adventure over the past couple of days. As with most adventures in real life, we have a big mess to clean up too.

Yesterday, John's disciples took off on him to follow someone else. Today, they get to meet their new master for the first time.

Jesus looked around and saw them following, "What do you want?" he asked them. (John 1:38)

These days we might hear that same question, but have it sound more like, "leave me alone!" Jesus asked the question just as it was intended. What did these two disciples expect from their new master? What do you and I expect to gain from following Jesus? What do you want? We don't start out following a teacher for what we can offer to him or her, we start out to gain something: knowledge, wisdom, a lucrative sports contract, or even a bit of their fame and fortune as a part of the great one's entourage. Remember that at this time, Jesus had offered nothing and had not asked anyone to follow him. John the Baptist pointed out the Messiah and his two disciple took off on him. Andrew and John didn't even get the chance to make an offer of loyalty or undying affection for the new master; they had to first answer his question, "What do you want?"

Bound up in that seemingly simple question could be a few other questions such as: "Why are you here?"; "What do you expect of me?"'; "What do you expect to gain here?"; and, "How far are you willing to go with me?" The two disciples probably wouldn't have been able to answer most of these, they knew so little about Jesus at this time. On the other hand, it is important to know what you or I want when we take off to follow Jesus. Today, we can probably honestly and faithfully answer that we want eternal life with our Lord Jesus. However, when we first came to believe that may not have been so easy to answer. All we might have been able to answer then was that we didn't want any more of the old life without Jesus. Our lives may have been so messed up at the start that when the Good News came to us we grasped at it like a drowning victim will grasp at any object in reach. Andrew and John learned a better answer in time, just as we have grown in Christ in our journey with Him. Tomorrow, we will look at their first answer.

Have a great day in Christ, and try to keep your feet dry today!


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Left Him? - July 7, 2010

Good, soggy, and wet, Wednesday morning! I have been out among the wrack and ruin; I have walked a street or two in search of the elusive perfect photograph; I have seen the closed highway and the wrecked trailer; I have seen the closed donut shop (what's up with that?), and I have rescued Old Glory from further desecration. Yes, walking at the other end of our street, I came upon a sorry sight indeed, a flag (pole and all!) half-buried in the silt from last night's storm. The flag is now drying in my basement after a careful and lengthy hand washing; that is also my excuse for being late with the devotional this morning.

Each time I tell tales about how big and bad the storm was the night before, a bigger and badder one comes along. We are having quite the year for thunderstorms. I have a video of the storm winding up just to the west of us last night. The video might have picked up the 'tink' of a softball bat down at the ballpark too. Hardcore softball players or foolish knotheads? You be the judge.

Today, John pays a price for pointing out Jesus: He loses his disciples.

When John's two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. (John 1:37)

My footnote says that this was Andrew for sure, and probably John the Gospel writer. In either case, it is interesting that two of John's disciples became the first two of Jesus' disciples. Is this a breach of loyalty though? No, a greater teacher has arrived and the disciples have been sent to him by their old teacher. John the Baptist wanted everyone to go and follow Jesus. Not many teachers would have John's humility. Jesus was a special man, and John the Baptist knew it. John had no trouble stepping back to allow the Messiah to have his time in the limelight... and to have John's own disciples.

We too have the opportunity to step back and allow Jesus his time in our lives. In the first part of my adult life, I had the chance to be my own teacher and disciple. I knew things, I could learn things, and I thought that I knew what was best for me. Then along came Jesus. Christ showed me that I didn't know very much, that I had much more to learn, and that God alone knew what was best for me. One of the best decisions in my own life was to follow Jesus and leave that old teacher behind. John and Andrew felt the same, even though their old teacher was not themselves, but none other than John the Baptist. They moved on to greater things with the greatest teacher.

Last night, I tried to remind God a few times that we had quite enough rain for the day. He kept telling me that He kept His own counsel on that matter. We had to do the bailing brigade thing across the street again, but this time no water made it to their basement, praise God! We have quite a bit of damage across the town again, but no one was hurt to my knowledge. Tornadoes came close, but none made it to town. As in all things, I can see this morning that God was in control.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Still on the Job - July 6, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! We are under another flash flood watch today. I am starting to think about the possible advantages of a stockpile of sandbags. The church parking lot is still a bit mobile in the downpours, but it doesn't get as far as it did before the big project. A dirt and gravel parking lot is just too water flowable, but unless someone wants to pave the entire hill... Yes, some days we are content to work with what God has given in place of wishing for what we don't have. John didn't miss a beat after Jesus came on the scene. Today, we find him still doing his duty.

As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, "Look! There is the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36)

This statement is going to cost John something, but we'll get to that tomorrow. Today, we work with what we have, just as John did back in the day. In my new professions, I can think of a score of new tools that would help me immediately; I can think of dozens more that might help, and even more that would be nice to have but not necessary to get started. On the other hand, I have a job to do for God, and I can do it well with a lot of learning and plenty of effort, along with using the tools I have right now. John didn't receive any new tools when Jesus arrived; he still had the time given to him by God, his voice, his brain, a river, and his disciples: all given to do the job God sent him to do.

Jesus walked by in our verse this morning, and John was right there to do his job, "Look!" John wanted people to realize who was walking by. To us a call of 'look' means to pay attention, to notice something interesting or vital, to see an interesting scene or person; we holler, "Look!" to those we love in order to prevent them from missing something important. We might holler the same thing to a cat and get no response at all; they respond to different stimuli than we do or they simply ignore us as a part of their job, I haven't figured out which yet.

John wanted people to know who was the important one to notice now. Like a relay runner cheering on the one to whom he has handed the baton, John wanted people to see Jesus now. People looked at John the Baptist, and John said, "Look!", there goes the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lamb of God. The people listening would have known exactly who John meant when he said, 'The Lamb of God'. John continued to point to Jesus.

Can you imagine a minister today saying something like that and encouraging people to leave his congregation to follow Jesus instead? Actually, yes; every minister I listen to in fact would do the very same thing I do believe. My brothers and sisters in Christ are doing that same thing every day. One and all of those who believe in Christ point to Him alone as the source of salvation bringing eternal life to those who will believe in the Lamb of God. The message is good news and we can't stop bringin' it! Go forth today with a new encouragement in Christ!


Monday, July 05, 2010

John's Disciples - July 5, 2010

Good Monday morning! Today is the observance of Independence Day. This means that the day was actually yesterday, and many did celebrate last night I assure you, but that today is the day off work. I heard the poppin' and bangin' going on until right near midnight. We almost had a rain out last night as the rains came once more to the area. If you watched the line of storms come our way last night on the weather map, you might have said something like, "oh my!" We got hit with another gully-washer. Those poor guys on the county road crew will be busy all year trying to repair our county roads...and we are still under a flood warning until 0900 this morning. Looking at the weather forecast for this week, we might also wonder if summer is done for the year. Whatever may come, God is in control!

Today, John gives me one of those verses that don't seem to have much to work with:

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. John 1:35

To approach this verse, I first realize that God holds wisdom in his hands, and I do not. However, God's wisdom is ours for the asking! What do I see in this verse after asking God for wisdom? John had disciples, and apparently he had more than two of them. John also stood with them as a part of his ministry it would seem. I can also read that after John pointed out Jesus to the crowd, he didn't stop his ministry and go away. There is much in this verse to work with!

His mission completed, John got up the next day and went right back to work on that following day. Your mission in life might be completed with your witness to just a few people, but God may have more work for you to do after that mission is complete. For one thing, the trial of your faith may not be complete, or the working out of your salvation may need some more time after the completion of your life's mission. We might wonder why we have to hang around after our retirement from an active mission or a job. John the apostle tells us that John the Baptist had a following day, and we may very well have one too. Perhaps my mission of ministry in this life ended yesterday, but, the following day Bucky got up and wrote another devotional. This fall after Rick's final call-out for the railroad, he will get up the following morning and go mow the church lawn. Mostly because we seem to have plenty of moisture this year and the grass will probably need mowing until December or so. We all may have a following day to our ministry or mission on this earth.

John also had disciples; we tend to think that only Jesus had disciples, but taking on a younger man as a disciple was a common practice in those days. Of course, I doubt that many parents in John's time wanted their sons to grow up to be the follower of a wilderness holy nut like John the Baptist. Today we want our children to go to law school or medical school, perhaps even pharmacy school, but school of some type so that they can make a good living. Following John the Baptist was sort of like having a kid grow up to go to bell-ringer school for the Salvation Army... there's no wages in it! So much for the practical, non-trusting in God part of John's discipleship. Obviously John's disciples didn't come for the money, or even the fine vittles John put on the table. Locusts and wild honey? That might get a little tiresome. Was the wild honey enough to make a locust palatable?

Just as John's life changed with the arrival of Jesus, so his disciple's lives would change too, but we ain't there yet. Stay in the verse! Evidently something that John said appealed to some young men enough that they chose to follow him as disciples. The young women were probably not permitted to stay with a wilderness preacher as disciples since disciple training went on 24/7 as we say these days. John had disciples, he stood with them, and he kept on working. Not a small amount of wisdom there in that one little verse. Praise God for the new day!


Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Chosen One - July 3, 2010

Good Saturday morning! A few clouds are helping to keep the heat away this morning, but we should still see the low 90's today. I saw a mere 99 on the temperature display yesterday in Scottsbluff. Of course the official reading is not taken while parked on a hot concrete parking lot. They should though; why not take the reading where people have to be? What was I doing in Scottsbluff in the first place? A funeral for another friend killed in yet another car accident. My friend and I parted ways about 20 years ago which made the grief easier to bear for me. The family endured the same burden that all families do when a daughter or sister is lost unexpectedly. This kind of sudden death and grief is among those things we yearn to have abolished forever when Jesus returns. That time is coming, but in order to have a return, we had to have a first time. John the Baptist discovered the Christ right among those he was preaching to one day.

"I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God." John 1: 34

John knew Jesus and his name from before, but we have already seen that he didn't expect Jesus to be the one right away. God gave John the sign, and John pointed out Jesus in his testimony. What God started with the Holy Spirit descending, we get to read about in all of the Gospels, Acts, and even through the end of Revelation. The end of Revelation is the start of eternity. This Jesus whom John pointed out that day is the master of all the days of eternity.

Do we wonder what the purpose of another death is? Jesus knows and someday we can ask him. Do we wonder why we are still here when another person is called home in their old age? John showed us the man to ask. The Chosen One of God had arrived to begin the greatest ministry the world has ever seen. You and I would have been utterly embarrassed to be pointed out with a title like that: we are not the Son of God, Jesus is. Jesus, humbly accepted the Holy Spirit onto himself.

We often fail to notice that Jesus, after receiving a title like that from John's testimony, did not step up on a rock to receive worship and adoration from the people gathered there; he didn't immediately march up to Jerusalem and demand an ornate throne be built in the temple. Jesus didn't do any of the things we might expect the Chosen One of God to do. Jesus didn't say anything to that royal announcement. We rightly wonder how any man could be so humble. We have the advantage of the entire Bible to read; we know that Jesus came with a different purpose than to claim the kingship on his first coming to this world. We can read that Jesus also did not deny the truth of John's testimony. Whether the King ascends his throne immediately or much later, he is still the King.

Have a great weekend as we celebrate our independence as a Christian nation!


Friday, July 02, 2010

I Didn't Know - July 2, 2010

Good Friday morning! Does it seem to you that a definite sign of salvation would be just peachy for us? What if we could all see the Holy Spirit descending like a dove whenever someone was saved? Even better, we could have a sort of ghostly dove sitting on the shoulder of all those already saved! Of course, if you could see your own 'dove' and have that assurance, where is the faith in that?

John the Baptist saw this happen to Jesus in today's verse. Why did John get to see a sign like this? My thought is that John was just reaching his peak in ministry. Perhaps the initial stage fright was over, his voice had become powerful and his delivery had become attention-grabbing. John then saw the sign that it was time for him to step back; his job was done. Just when pride in his own ministry might have been a danger to John, he received a powerful sign to step down. The Bible verses don't say that of course, but I thought that in John's place, any of us might have run into just that kind of problem. Any of us could reach a point where we pridefully say, "Look at my great ministry!" Before that happens, God may step in with a clear sign to take a step back for Jesus.

In the next couple of verses, John has a final announcement to complete his mission.

I didn't know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, "The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." John 1: 33

The first humble admission is one that we also run into throughout our lives, "I didn't know..." Sometimes it is a fact of Scripture that we don't know until we read it in God's word; other times it is a condition of a loved one that we don't know until later. One time it is simply the fact that Jesus loved us enough to die on the cross that is something we don't know; at least until we accept that He did do just that and the Holy Spirit comes to remind us. You might say we willfully don't know that until we step back and let Jesus reign in our life.

John stepped back after his mission was completed. He stepped back in order to let Jesus have the center stage. We step back in order to let Jesus have control of our life. As we do this, the Holy Spirit descends on us too. We don't get to see the sign that John did, but as Jesus told Thomas, "blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe." (John 20:29)

Oops, I borrowed a verse from the end of John there. Of course there is nothing wrong with the verses in John supporting each other as we are to do in this life. God gave a clear and direct message to John in this case, and God is still in the business of directing our steps. The people John spoke to had not heard God's message to John, but John boldly repeated it anyway. Give God the glory, and don't be afraid if you receive a direct message; God wants all of us to spread the good news about His Son, Jesus Christ!

The Independence Day weekend is upon us once more. A couple of my neighbors have already begun their trips for this weekend. Have a long and restful, even playful, weekend in Christ!


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Descending Like a Dove - July 1, 2010

Good Thursday morning, and welcome to the second half of 2010! Did you hear about the fellow in PA who bowled 47 consecutive strikes? That is an amazing feat and, yes, it did set a new record for strikes bowled consecutively. In that string was 3 - 300 games and the streak was stopped by... quitting. Yup, the last game was done, so the man stopped bowling for the night. Now you have heard my testimony about a feat of bowling that I didn't even witness, a second or third hand testimony if you will. The reporter who wrote up the article I read probably didn't actually witness the event either. What happens when you testify to something you actually witnessed and that no one may ever see again?

Then John testified, "I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him." John 1: 32

A testimony is a report or a witness about what you saw or know. You might be asked to do this in court if you see an accident or crime. John the Baptist got to see something quite special; something we don't see these days. This thing would happen in a different manner to the apostles at Pentecost, but I cannot recall a single testimony of anything like this in my lifetime. Here's the kicker: if you did hear a testimony like John's today, would you believe it?

I suppose for my part, it would depend upon the source. In John's time, I would expect that the audience was split between those who believed the testimony and those who did not. John stated an amazing thing about Jesus right then. Jesus started an amazing ministry just then. What a moment in time this was back on that great day!

We have a testimony to share just like John did. Testify to what Jesus has done for you. Testify to the wonderful works of God you see all around you. We cannot change persons who don't want to change, but we can share the good news we have in Christ. We can witness. John saw an awesome sight; we can share what we have seen in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can even get personal and share what we have seen in our own life.

Don't fear the sharing! Trust in Jesus.