Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time to Give! - November 30, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Whee-oo, the house got chilly last night! That wind chilled things out yesterday and didn't stop blowing until late in the evening. But the clear skies speak of sunshine to come and the heaters are driving away the nighttime chill with a little help from some hot coffee. I didn't even go outside yesterday. Windy, cold days are just fine for sitting inside and drinking plenty of hot tea. How about a nice cup of freshly brewed faith for this morning? That's right, freshly brewed faith! Some days the darkness of night seems to come early. We get beaten down by the aches, pains, cares, frustrations, temptations, and addictions of the world. Some mornings we awaken after a night of little sleep and the next day just seems to be right there in our face, so close that we can hardly seem to breathe. Sit down, take a deep breath, grab a cup of faith and a roll of encouragement from the Lord's word. Pour out your problems and stress to God. You should have done it before going to bed, but your mind was on the problems instead of the Lord and now you don't feel rested at all. So take time before facing today's problems, push back on the stress, and sit for a nice hot cup of faith and a warm roll of encouragement. Feel the smooth taste of forgiveness, the energizing touch of the Holy Spirit, and the soft glow of Christmas. Take a few moments to think about a birth in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago and what that birth means to you on this day. You might even take out your Bible and turn to Matthew to read how the wise men traveled far to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Read in Luke about how Mary submitted to the Lord's will and think on how she is honored even today for bearing our Lord.

This weekend we endured a blitz of ads about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. All of us were in some way encouraged to spend money. That's a lot of pressure when we are worried about the future. Christmas is a season of giving as we celebrate the gift God gave to us in that little town of Bethlehem. Be careful in your spending, but give to honor the Lord. Enjoy the giving! Decorate the home, send out the cards, praise the name of Jesus, and enjoy the opportunity to spread the Good News! Jesus is born!

The "thorns" of this world will try to choke out our joy. This season is among the most difficult for many. Perhaps, just maybe, a gift given unexpectedly and at the right time can help someone in dire need of a little encouragement. The gift might be as little as a few words of love from your favorite Bible verses. The gift might be something the person can hold or something that only touches the heart, but a gift given will not be ignored. Touch a life this Christmas season, but above all celebrate the birth of The Son with God!

Have a very merry Christmas!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Still Working on Us - November 29, 2010

Good Monday morning! Is everything right in your life today? No sin, none of the bitter thoughts about past wrongs done to you, no adulterous fantasies, no thoughts of revenge, perfect in all your habits and holy in all that you say and do? Probably not. If you believe in Jesus, I can come up with a few things that I know about you... and I don't even have to know your name. I know that you were a sinner and still feel the lusts of the flesh. I know that all is not perfect in your life. I know that you still face trials. I also know that Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit into your heart when you came to believe in Him. I also know that God is still working to repair and regenerate the wonderful creation that is you and me. This is not news to you but we are always glad to hear or read it one more time. Today, you will be tempted in some way. Again, you already know this. All of us are called to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. You may not have the opportunity to speak any words of witness today. You may go home to be with Jesus today. Praise God if you are called home today. We are now in the area of things that may happen to any of us, but may not happen to all of us today. Your example of Christ's work in your life may not be perfect today. Repent, ask forgiveness, and join your brothers and sisters in Christ who will most likely be doing the same thing at some point today.

I'm not quite sure where I left off on the verses, so we'll just look at this one today.

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." John 4:34

Now that we have gone over how weak we all are when trying to do God's will in our own strength, we read about this fellow who was so good at doing God's will that he ate it up like food every day. Of course, we know that Jesus is our perfect example. As the woman is running around Sychar telling the good news about Jesus, we can imagine him enjoying the will of God like we would a fine turkey dinner. How does that sustain his human body? I have no idea. If I could do the will of God perfectly as Jesus did, I would probably understand. Is there any hope for us as imperfect, fallen, human creatures? Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit into us after he departed this earth. The Spirit has his own duties to perform in fulfilling the will of God. The Spirit comforts us and reminds us of the commands and words of Jesus. The Spirit cleanses us and makes us more like Jesus with each passing day. You and I may not realize just how far we have come from that first sinful state.

James and John wanted to call down some Old Testament destruction on a town; Peter tried to stop Jesus from fulfilling God's will; and Paul held a bunch of coats so that the stoners could get better shots at the first martyr. Yet, each of these disciples and apostles became great in the faith. We read their Spirit-inspired words in our Bibles and glorify God as we learn. Most people are indifferent to the Good News of Jesus Christ; Paul went a bit further in his previous life as Saul and actively tried to destroy the followers of Jesus. Though Paul had a different perspective on how far the Spirit had brought him, we can read how he struggled with temptation and the lust of the flesh. Of course we don't look at these men to excuse our wrong actions, but to learn that God chooses who he wills, in whatever state he finds us, and begins his work in us from there. Trust in the Spirit's perfecting work in us; you might be surprised just how far the Spirit will take you!

Have a great week in Christ!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Grateful Thanksgiving! - November 25, 2010

Grateful Thanksgiving to you! Did you get up and wonder why the house was so cold this morning? Or did you know that the power went off for quite some time last night and kick your poor husband out of bed to fix the problem? Perhaps the lady of the house had to get up because the husband couldn't stand the cold? A whole bunch of folks in Sidney were glad to hear the furnaces come back just before 0600 this morning, me included. The homes were starting to get pretty nippy and it would have been tough to fire up those Thanksgiving turkeys in the dark. We all gave a brief prayer of Thanksgiving for the electric service. I certainly hope that wasn't some sort of plot to make me grateful after seeing my electric rate increase last month.

Somewhere in the middle of your "Black Friday Sale!" e-mail advertisements is this little devotional for Thanksgiving. I hope you will be able to find it! What are we thankful for this morning? Today is the time for that grateful attitude that we call gratitude! I am grateful to God for my family and friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ (and grateful there is quite a bit of overlap in those first two groups); my home and its feline inhabitants (trying not to clinch my teeth on the last part. The cats were picking on each other this morning after chow. Me: "It's Thanksgiving; what's the matter with you?!"). I am grateful for my truck that has served so well for almost 8 years now. I am grateful to God for our Tuesday morning prayer breakfast group, the Wednesday men's Bible study, and our Thursday life group. I am grateful for the sunrise on a cold morning and that we made it through a cold, windy night. Finally, though the list could go on much longer, I am grateful to God that He is God, and for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have much to look forward to in Jesus!

Today is a day to not only be grateful to God, but also a day to look forward to gatherings and social activities. Some will look forward to shopping tomorrow and hope for big sales. Others will anticipate good football games and parades on television. Some of us might have a simple wish for loved ones to arrive safely with the cold and/or snow coming down in many areas of the country. Thanksgiving is just a time to be thankful and enjoy the day, but part of that joy is looking ahead to good things in the holiday season. Christmas is one month away on this very day. I watched two of my Scrooges last night with more to come! I am especially grateful for the warmth of the house and hot coffee this morning since last night there was reason to doubt that I would feel either this morning. Praise God for Thanksgiving, may we have it in our hearts all the year!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

After the Funeral - November 23, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! You might be wondering if I made it through the memorial service yesterday, and there is good news on that. I did in fact make it through in almost the back row with people all around me. Of course, it helped that I knew about 90% of the people there and that I was in familiar surroundings. Only one problem came up: How does one solve the conflict between the joy of seeing so many friends that I have not seen for two years and the sadness of the occasion? I had a thought that perhaps I should have joined the line to greet everyone from my days at the Big C. However, the event was not about me; it was to remember Neil. The service was well done and we learned some comforting things, in particular the fact that Neil had given his life to Jesus at a summer camp during his junior high years. That alone made the memorial service much easier for all of us I think.

We'll get back to the verses in John in time. The events of the past few days are important to talk/write about for us as we seek to live out our faith in Jesus. I may be off on this, but does it seem like we were just talking about a suicide not very long ago? We had the same questions then I'm sure. What drove him to make this the last act of the earthly life given by God? What fueled the despair that finally overtook Neil? Could the same set of circumstances cause the same reaction in me or you? Yes, there is always that bit of self-interest that wants to raise its head. Of course, the answer to that last question is: "yes, it could happen to me or you!" If we lean on our own understanding or trust in our own abilities each of us may fall to the same or similar circumstances that overtook Neil. We must learn to trust in Christ!

All of us will experience pain and loss in this life. Some will choose to believe in themselves, perhaps even shrugging it off with a casual, "glad it wasn't me!" and a flick of the hand. Jesus calls us to humble ourselves and I believe that we must realize that not one of us is any better than those who choose to take their own lives. We can fall to the despair if we don't believe in Jesus and accept his gift of peace and joy. You and I do not have the tools on our own to get through this life. But, how do those who refuse to believe in Jesus get through life? Jesus told us the answer to this one: the way to destruction is broad and easy. So easy that anyone who refuses Christ will be on that broad way without even trying to get there. Now I'm stuck. The writing was going so well too.

Maybe a change of direction, eh? The memorial service is in the past, but we have memories in our hearts that will last much longer. Each day is a new day full of hope that Jesus will come on this very day! We don't go on to our jobs, homes, trips to visit relatives, and other activities without hope in Christ for his great return. Last week at our prayer meeting on Thursday, I noticed that, at least with me, I could not easily shift my emotions from prayers of sorrow and need to prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Emotions just don't turn on and off as quickly as I want to. Today, you probably won't get up and forget the sorrow of yesterday, but you can get up and look to Jesus to lift you in his love. Even during the service Pastor Doug gave a message of hope and comfort. Today, we can look to the source of such messages: Jesus!

Have a great new day of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,


Cold Circumstances - November 24, 2010

Cold Wednesday morning! ...and it's just going to get colder as the day goes on. Korea, another cold place, is in high tension today, and it does not appear there is much hope for the miners in New Zealand. This does not seem to be one of those bright cheerful days, even the weather is gray and cold. Yet, tomorrow is our Thanksgiving holiday. Is this a test to see if we can still be thankful? I don't know for sure, but certainly our circumstances at any given time could be a trial for all of us. Many people will be traveling in the cold today, although some will have made the journey already to beat the weather change. Those wishing for physical intimacy with a complete stranger can go through security at any major airport, and those wishing to risk their lives can drive across Utah today where a blizzard is expected. You can see how someone wishing to celebrate Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City might face quite the dilemma. "Let's see do we take a chance on being molested by a TSA agent or do we risk driving through the Utah mountains?" Other people will do their best to celebrate Thanksgiving in a place they would rather not be.

We have many military personnel deployed right now and home will be very much on their minds as they celebrate far away. Laura Stafford and her son may be celebrating the holiday in the hospital in Denver. As some of us have experienced, holidays in the hospital are just way too difficult. Some folks will simply have to work on Thanksgiving, and that is not easy to bear. So how do we remain thankful in all of this? For one thing, we can stop looking at the circumstances and look to our Lord, the one to whom we should be thankful both for what he has done for us and for what he has provided to us. All of us can look around and find things to grumble about, that is part of living in this fallen world. Looking to God and finding all the things we can be thankful for is rewarding and wonderful. Tomorrow, for Thanksgiving, I'll plan on just being thankful. That may require setting aside some of my staring at the circumstances and instead a turning of my view to the Savior.

Get ready to be grateful! Thanksgiving is upon us.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Funeral, Another Day - November 22, 2010

Good Monday morning! I'm back; the hunting season is over, and I still didn't see a single deer. That is all unimportant though in light of what we must face today. Last week we had the shock, the sorrow, the wondering and questioning, the discussions, and then perhaps some anger and seeking someone or something to blame. Just as all of that starts to fade a tiny bit, we have the funeral. Usually this is the point where we mourn and start to get over it. The grieving process may be a difficult road in this case. Many of you must return to the very place you saw Neil every day of your working life. You cannot drive into work to forget for a while when work is what reminds you of the person. Of course, this doesn't begin to touch what Neil's wife and children will be going through.

Mike Spaeth's funeral was held without me as my condition and location at the time made it quite impossible for me to attend. It only took me eleven years and some odd months before I could attend a funeral, and you might recall that happened just a couple of months ago. At Tanya's funeral, I ended up standing out in the foyer of the funeral home. Too many people, especially if sitting or standing behind me, and I get very uncomfortable. If I happen to be the one standing outside in the foyer or even outside the church this morning just let it be. The sun is shining today after two days of ice fog; it's not always bad to be standing outside just a little.

But, today is not about me; it is about all of us who knew Neil as a co-worker, friend, family member, or manager. We each have memories of the man from our first contact with him to what for some of you was the very day that he died. I never did get around to borrowing some history books from Neil; he offered that service way back when we first moved in to the new corporate headquarters building. At the time I didn't know that I would be writing historical fiction; we simply connected on the interest we both had in U.S. history. Neil apparently had an extensive library and counted it as one of his passions. I'm glad that he enjoyed his hobby. Perhaps we should all take a little time to enjoy some reading or other hobby in memory of Neil. As we are reminded once more, a life on this earth can end at any moment and we need to enjoy every one as given by God.

If anyone needs to talk or pray, I have the time for you.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beyond Understanding - November 17, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! I'm taking the day off from deer hunting, not that the deer have been in any danger from me so far this year. I read part of an article in the paper this morning that mentioned, "flush with cash" and "neighboring farmers" in the same breath. I have a feeling that if I were to ask the farmers around these parts about all that cash they would one and all say that it must be their neighbors who have all the extra cash. Now that we know* the farmers are set for cash, I guess we can stop worrying about them and worry for the unemployed folks all over the world. Nope, sorry, Jesus didn't tell us that worrying was okay if it was for someone else. We are to trust in God at all times, whether the potential worry is for our selves or for someone else.

Today, why won't Jesus eat?

But [Jesus] said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." John 4:32

I'm out of coffee. We'll have to tackle this verse in a few moments. Okay, all better now. Actually, I just needed some time to wait on the Lord while he gives me inspiration and words for the day's devotional. The disciples have come back from buying food in that Samaritan town, no doubt feeling the urge to brush off the 1st century cooties of racism, and here the rabbi won't eat anything. Of course we can predict the next question, "Who brought him something to eat?" We'll see it in the next verse. We also have learned that you can't always take the words of Jesus in the way that we know, that is in strictly the physical, worldly sense. Jesus told Nicodemus to go find his mother and get birthed one more time. He told the woman who had just left the well that he had living water; she may have wondered if the water in their well was dead water.
Speaking over our heads, or beyond our current understanding, does not make Jesus the Son of God. Any number of experts can speak over our heads in their area of deep knowledge. However, we can see that as the Son, Jesus holds an understanding that is beyond our own.

Born again, living water, and food that we don't know about, all speak to something beyond our understanding. Nicodemus could not explain being born of Spirit and the woman didn't understand living water. You and I cannot explain these things on our own; we need the words of Jesus, Paul, John, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our best witness is still the way we live, not how much we know or think we know.

Praise the name of Jesus on this fine day!


* It was in the paper!

Friday, November 12, 2010

They Came Out - November 12, 2010

Happy Friday morning! The fog has lifted and the sun is now shining. Conditions to change at any moment. Deer season begins tomorrow; devotionals next week may be sporadic. Not that they weren't this week, but at least you will have some notice ahead of time for next week. The weather has changed to winter too. Wasn't it last weekend that we had sixties and seventies for temps each day? It's 22°F this morning and snow is on the ground; I think winter began yesterday morning. Such brilliant observations is no doubt why you read this devotional...

They went out of the town and were coming to him. John 4:30

This verse seems like another one of those just imparting a little background or setting information. Nothing to worry about and no great inspirational themes to explore. However, if you think of "town" as the culture of the world and "they" as those coming to Jesus to be saved, you have an interesting metaphor for what happened to Christians around the globe. We all came out of the world to give our lives and hearts to Jesus, and one day, Jesus will call us out of this world to be with Him forever. The townsfolk of Sychar owe the woman at the well a note of thanks for telling them the good news about Jesus, and somewhere we each have another person who first told us the good news. For many of us, that may have happened in our childhood and we may not be able to recall the name of that first minister or family member who told us about the Bible and Jesus. One day in Heaven, each of us will have the opportunity to say a "Thank You!" to that person and the many others who helped spread the Word of God to each of us.

The new snow is beautiful in the sunlight,eh? In Christ we can learn to appreciate that God could have made snow dull and not reflect sunlight. The stain of sin causes a lot of ugliness in this world, but God's creation shines through in many ways. Enjoy the new day!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010 - November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day! I'm happy because my Internet connection appears to be working just wonderfully today, very much NOT like yesterday. Thank you for the invitation to lunch, but I think it will be stone cold this morning. It's amazing how much one can miss when the primary communication link is suddenly gone. Whooee! The Christmas catalogs and e-mails are really piling up in my house. It must be about time for... Veteran's day? Do you detect a note of desperation in some of the e-mail and television ads this year? Will the customers come? I don't know about you, but no one should depend on me to drive the economic recovery. I can't give anyone a job and I cannot take away their fear. But maybe now some companies are thinking about how dumb it was to put fifteen million potential customers out of work in the U.S. alone? Eh? Dumb! Greed will always come back to bite ya!

Alright, I think I'm done ranting at the wind there. It sure is nice to have an Internet connection again this morning. Snow too! We have our first snow on the ground this morning! It's time to head out for some photos.

Today, if I can remember which verse we are on...

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you seek?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" John 4:27

Now someone might marvel if they caught me talking with a woman, but Jesus wasn't some recovering computer geek like me. Why would they marvel at Jesus talking with this woman? Back in the day, Jesus' day that is, I suspect that the traveling rabbis - would that be rabbies?- spoke only with the men of a village. We already know from other references that women in Jesus' day were treated at best like second class citizens, but more often like property. The woman was also a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew, so their marveling may have been from the racism bred into them in Judea. Actually racism isn't bred into someone, but is taught by the parents and adults around the child as he or she is growing up. John notes that while the disciples wondered, none asked Jesus what was up with this marvelous thing.

Now a crowd of men, a mob of unruly disciples, is gathering around. What will the woman do? Soon to be surrounded by, ack!, a bunch of Jewish men! She.. drops her jug and flees!

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, John 4:28

Did you ever drive away a woman by your silence. Women often hate for men to be silent and the disciples were afraid or waiting for another of their group to ask Jesus what they all wanted to know. The woman may have simply not liked the silence that suddenly descended when the disciples came back. Or maybe she had some good news to spread... she did after all leave her water jar after making a special trip to the well.

"Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" John 4:29

Did the woman still have some doubts about Jesus being the Messiah? Or did she use the question to put that possibility in the minds of those she spoke to. A tantalizing question to get them to look for themselves perhaps? What did Nathanael say when the disciples told him they had found the Messiah? "Yeah, right, what good ever came out of Nazareth?" (my paraphrase) The woman may have been convinced, but she didn't try to force the knowledge on the town. She told them what he had done for her and asked them to come find out for themselves. We often want to grab people and show off our knowledge of the Scriptures. But the good news is what Jesus has done for me, not how much I think I know.

Remember to hug a veteran today, and be sure to tell him or her how much Jesus loves us!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Who is Jesus to You? - November 9, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! The weather change is to arrive this morning with colder temps and possibly snow later in the week. Winter may begin this week. We might as well get it out of the way... the time changed on Sunday morning. Are your meals all out of whack with your tum? Hungry an hour before it's time to eat and snacking to fill in that gap from dinner to bedtime? Welcome to the fall time change! Are you getting up way too early now and heading to bed before your favorite show comes on? Yup, that's the fall time change. And we won't even get into the darkness you see coming out of work. How depressing is that? I still say the whole daylight savings thing is the world's most successful practical joke. The only problem is that no one wants to be the one to admit it and get the thing stopped.

No practical jokes in the Bible, though Paul does mention once that if our belief is the result of such a cruel thing then we are miserable folks indeed. Today, this verse would be the grab line of the cruelest of practical jokes...if it were not true.

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." John 4:26

The woman had just told Jesus that Messiah would explain everything to the people of Samaria, the village of Sychar, or all people in general, depending upon which "us" she was referring to. In case you think that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, sorry, that verse is a direct claim to be Messiah. Hmm, something is missing here. Does Messiah equal the Son of God? According to the search feature on Blue Letter Bible, the word Messiah appears twice in the English Standard Version of the Bible, both in the first part of John. That's it. John 1:41 we did way back in the spring of summer and tells of how Andrew found his brother Simon, telling him, "We have found the Messiah!" And we have this verse today. Is Messiah mentioned in the Old Testament at all?

The lexicon on that same web site shows that the Hebrew word means "anointed". The word is used often in Samuel and the Psalms, but is used as Messiah in Daniel 9:25-26. These verses are a prophecy that looks very much like the crucifixion and death of Christ. Verse 26 says that Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself, which is exactly what we believe happened when Jesus died for our sins. The English Standard Version of the Bible translates the verses in Daniel to "anointed one" while the King James leaves the Hebrew name, Messiah. I kind of like leaving the Messiah in there, but perhaps the translators of the ESV were ordered to translate all words. Whatever the technical differences, by the time Jesus arrived, the people were looking for the Messiah, God's anointed one. Jesus told the woman that he was that Messiah. The word doesn't translate to "Son of God" that would be another word. We do know that Jesus will ask the disciples who they think he is and Peter responds with that answer we know so well, "You are the Son of the Living God."

Whether you like the Hebrew term, Messiah, or the Greek, Christ, or his given name, Jesus; you might want to go with Peter's answer, or even just Lord and Savior, but the real question to answer is: Who is Jesus to you?


Saturday, November 06, 2010

He is Coming! - November 6, 2010

Good Saturday morning! I see a photo of President Obama arriving in India for the start of his Asia tour. Last year I read about the horde of Secret Service agents and others who arrive at every stop well before the President arrives. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world where a nation's leader takes off to chat with another nation's leader whenever he feels the need? No horde of security agents, no gaggle of political hacks, just a quick trip to discuss an issue or solve a problem. There is a promise just like that in the Bible. Well, almost like that. The rulers of the world will go up to Jerusalem and Jesus will mediate their disputes. That day has not arrived yet, but we do have much to look forward to in Christ.

The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." John 4:25

This woman did not have all of Jesus' words yet, the gospels would be written in her future, along with Revelation and the Epistles. From our point of view this verse bears a particular significance. Who explained the Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament? Who gave us words to live by now? Jesus did these things while he lived on the earth, and then even further through Paul, Peter, Luke, Jude, James, and John. Finally, Jesus gave us his Revelation. All of that explanation, and yet we have more evidence. Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day. The woman at the well doesn't have all of that yet; what will she believe?

Praise God for the new day!


Friday, November 05, 2010

Seek First, Worship Anywhere! - November 5, 2010

Praise the Lord for the new day! And it's a Friday too! I find it interesting that across the great Pacific Ocean, Friday is old news and they are moving onto the weekend already. I wonder if we can move that date line on Thursday at noon and then put it back on Sunday night? Whatever you call the day, we get one dawn and one sunset, and the time in between to do our work. Fooling around with the calendar will not free me of the responsibility to get to work. Ah well, an extra weekend day seemed like a good idea!
This morning we get more to learn:

"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24

Jesus has repeated this bit about worshiping in spirit and truth. When that happens, we know that the lesson is important. "God is spirit", according to my Bible notes we should remember in our worship that God is not limited to a place or time. Jesus voluntarily limited himself in his physical body, but God is never limited to a place. We can worship him anywhere and at any time. I have never had a pastor, minister, priest, or one of my brothers and sisters in Christ tell me that I could only worship in the sanctuary. Taking my break at work to worship God would not be refused, except that I don't do that corporate thing anymore.

Oh, now I've gone and made some of you sad and envious. Maybe you can hug your paycheck and feel the love. Didn't work? I can tell you from personal experience that if the paycheck is the only thing keeping you there then you are better off without it. We are to work in our Christian life, but that work might mean a big change as it has for me, two of my sisters, some friends, and millions like us who jest ain't workin' where we was back before this recession thingy. Imagine all of us going to Jesus like this woman did.

"Sir, I don't have a job," we might state what he already knows.

"Worship God in spirit and in truth," Jesus tells us.

Eh? We might wonder when the Lord was going to get around to our physical needs like food, clothing, money, etc. However, Jesus gave us some advice on that in Matthew's gospel.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt 6:33

We have a tendency to think of the world and our needs first. Jesus reminds us to seek God's kingdom first and that we are to worship in spirit and in truth! I like to look at this as worshiping in genuine faith with the Holy Spirit's help. I didn't make that part up myself; it came from the Bible study notes. We have junk in the way sometimes. Am I at the right place? In the right church? Should I try the early service or the late? I like this pastor better than that one. What if I tried to start my own church? These and many other questions rattle around in our heads when our focus is not on worshiping God. Paul had words for those who had preferences between Paul and Apollos as a preacher. Jesus brought the woman at the well to the important things of worship and away from the issue of location. And before you try starting your own church, ya might want to speak with the Lord about that! I can tell you one little thing.

If you sit in a pew thinking that the pastor's work looks easy, try speaking on one subject for 20 or 30 minutes to a group of people some time. God has blessed us with pastors, priests, and ministers who make their sermons flow easily and look easy to do. I haven't moved beyond reading off my printed page very much in our life group. One thing I learned right quick is that a person can read a page of notes in much less time than you might think. I'm working on just speaking to the group, but I don't always have much to say. It takes a lot of practice and hard experience to become interesting to listen to for even as little as a half hour at a time. (Yes, there are young girls who should learn that.) I wonder how long Jesus spoke at the Sermon on the Mount? Hours? Days? But Jesus is very interesting to read, I can only imagine how he held their interest back in the day!

Have a wonderful weekend in Christ! And feel free to start playing those Christmas tunes!


Prayer requests: The volcano in Indonesia has erupted once again, killing many and injuring more. We should keep those folks in our prayers.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

In Spirit and Truth - November 4, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Ah, the late autumn racket of the outside cat trying to fit into the household once more! Of course, she sniffs around to find the most irritating place to steal, mine or the other cat's in that order. The inside cat is giving her a good smack down just for being here I think. A cool night to be sure. Something we are not quite accustomed to this year. I see 25°F on the display this morning... and a breeze is blowing to make sure that you feel every bit of it.

A tough verse today. Meaning that we struggle to understand the depth and simplicity of something that Jesus is telling us.

"But the time is coming - indeed it's here now - when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way." John 4:23
What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? Since the Father is looking for that type of worshiper, how do I become one of the those? Some possibilities for worshiping in truth are:

1. Don't lie to God in your heart. He knows all; what good does it do us to try to hide something from God?

2. Don't go to church for the wrong reasons. Many go to make business contacts, others treat church as a kind of Sunday morning (Saturday evening, Friday night, et al.) social club. Still others think that simply going to church makes them good. And let's not leave out those who treat church as their favorite napping spot.

3. Related to the first one: tell God everything you feel. Pour out your heart to God as David did in his psalms.

I have a suspicion that by worshiping in spirit Jesus didn't mean that we should all give our heads a good bonk so that we can worship the Father as ghosts; it ain't that kind of spirit. Apologies to the winos and drunks, but I don't think he meant distilled spirits either. You may get to see dancing pink hippos when you have too many drinks, but that isn't worshiping the Lord. What I do believe is that we must be given the Spirit in order to teach us how to worship in spirit. Romans 8:16 - The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And Romans 8:26 which tells us that we have help from the Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

One weakness that we have is that we don't know how to worship God. The Spirit gives us help and intercedes with the Father on our behalf. We will also come to John 14:6 where Jesus tells us that he is the truth. The verse may be as simple as saying that God is searching for those who will worship him in Christ and the Holy Spirit. When we accept the salvation of Christ, we believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts. But there we must be careful about changing the words of Jesus. If Jesus had wanted to say, "Worship in the Christ and in the Spirit..." I'm quite sure that he would have said exactly that. Perhaps the simplicity is in God wanting our hearts to be truthful and our spirits to be focused on Him when we worship.

Glory to God as we go about our day!


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Post-Election Day - November 3, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! With a collective sigh of relief, we all applaud the ending of the political foofarah in Colorado. Unfortunately, the race itself is apparently too close to call and a recount will have to be done. So while the political ads are finished, we will have to see the news reports for a while yet. There is nothing quite like a good election season to make you glad to get back to the normal commercial ads on television. Did your candidates win their respective elections? The fellow I voted for in one race finished dead last. I guess the people spoke and I was on the wrong side of that one! Did you know that Nevada has a "none of the above" option on their ballots? That is actually a pretty cool thing to have. Except for the candidate who had one percent of the vote... trailing the none of the above option which had 2%. Ow, finishing second to "none of the above" would seem to be a pretty harsh rebuke! I wonder how Colorado would have voted in the Bennet-Buck race if they had the option of voting for neither of the two candidates? From the ads that I saw, both of them deserved to finish behind "none of the above", but that's just my opinion. The problem I see with a "none of the above" line is: what happens when it wins the election?

This morning, Jesus continues to answer the woman at the well.

"You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews." John 4:22

Apparently the Samaritans, probably due to the racism that had divided the peoples, had lost their knowledge of God from the time of the ten tribes in Israel. It is possible that in the Assyrian invasion that scattered Israel all written materials related to God were burned and all the temples were destroyed. The people of the ten tribes, the Jews of the northern kingdom had been scattered and other peoples brought into the land. The reason that Jews hated the Samaritans was due to their mixed blood. The knowledge the Samaritans had of God may have been only what could be passed down from the few Jews who survived the invasion in Israel or had managed to return after being scattered to far nations.

"While we Jews know all about him..." The Jews still have the scriptures and a temple. They also have a legion of scribes, Pharisees, Sadduccees, and other experts in the Law. So here is the Son of God, fresh from leaving Jerusalem where the Jews know all about God, sitting in front of one of those despised Samaritans who know little of God; who do you suppose is going to believe in Jesus? And some say there is no humor in the Bible.

Have a great new day in Jesus!


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Worship Wherever You May Be - November 2, 2010

Happy Election Day! Be sure to get out and vote on this great day! I had only one politician stop by last night, but perhaps politician is too strong for someone running for the local school board. I think we usually refer to them as candidates and not politicians. In either case, he was too late, I voted last week via the early ballot method. What a privilege it is to vote. Don't miss out on the opportunity!

This morning, Jesus responds to the woman's question about the location of worship. Okay, our Lord responded many years ago, but we get to read the verse today. Voting may be an important privilege, but much greater is the opportunity we have to read the word of God!

Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem." John 4:21

The time is coming... Jesus gave us quite a few messages about times that are coming. We have much to look forward to in Christ! Imagine how difficult it would be for us to make a weekly or even an annual trip to Jerusalem to worship God. How about two hundred years ago when sailing ships and horses were the main modes of transport? We have the joy of gathering in large or small groups; in houses, churches, chapels, or cathedrals; but for the most part we gather only a short distance from our homes. The importance may be found in the worship and not so much in the location.

In my research for writing, I found that the American pioneers were often good about attending church services, and often not so good about attending services. Much depended upon who was around at the time. Women, especially wives, tended to reinforce church attendance. Traveling or circuit preachers would hold services in a farmhouse. And the towns and villages had preachers and each other to help remind them of church services. Of course the Old West as we like to call that period of our history also had a lot of opportunity for getting away from any and all religious activities. Our little town of Sidney went through a period when taverns were common, but churches were far away. Not everything went so well for the residents during that time.

In saying that the two locations would not matter so much, I think Jesus reminds us that there is no excuse for not stopping to worship God wherever you may be. An antelope blind in the remote areas of Wyoming is not too far from God to worship. A trip to the wilder parts of Alaska, the Yukon territory, or southern Tasmania would still leave a person not far from God. (I should peek at a map here, Tasmania's largest city might be in the south!) A cold, cold base on Antarctica is still close to God, and a base on Mars would still be close to our Lord. We don't have to worry about traveling so far that we leave God behind. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." Philippians 4:5

We know that worship takes place in the heart and in our actions; the physical location is not so important as it was under the Law of Moses. Jesus has set us free!

Praise God for the new day!


Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy All Saints' Day! - November 1, 2010

Good Monday morning! Okay, the Halloween thing is over and done with for another year. Did you know the "Trick or Treat!" thing started first as a bribe to stop pranks and then moved into a bit of extortion? Yup, a lady out east came up with the idea of giving out candy to prevent kids from playing pranks on the town, and then kids started using the "give me candy or I'll play a trick on you" line. As we sometimes say, tomorrow is another day, which is another of those dumb sayings, but in this case today is All Saints' Day! If you don't particularly feel like a saint today, I can completely understand. However, you may be interested to know that the word 'saints' is used many times in the Bible. In Daniel's vision the saints aren't doing so well as the blasphemous horn destroys them and wears them out (7:21, 7:25, 8:24). In each case though the triumph is temporary. Other verses in Daniel remind us that the saints shall possess the kingdom (7:18, 7:22, 7:27). Paul mentions the saints in his letters many times; many more than I want to count at this hour of the morning at least. Finally, in Revelation we can read that Daniel's vision is confirmed as once again the forces of the evil one are allowed to overcome the saints for a time until the final mention of the saints in Rev 20:9-10: And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. All Saints' Day seems like a good time to remember that the saints are on the winning side!

Today, our woman at the well changes the subject, or at least tries to. She may be trying to deflect Jesus from his discussion of her marital status or she may have asked this question of others and found no satisfactory answer.

"So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim where our ancestors worshiped?" John 4:20 NLT

Aha, the old 'let's talk about something else routine'! Have you ever come across a part of the Bible that presses on your heart and felt the urge to go back to that part about how God loved the world? We can't take only the parts of God's word that we like. The times Paul condemns sexual immorality must be read and applied to our lives just the same as the command to love one another. We can read the parts about singing praises to the Lord (1 Cr 14:15; James 5:13), but we cannot put aside that bit about staying away from crude language and jokes (Eph 5:4). In our prayers we might try to stay away from certain areas of our lives. Don't bother; God knows all already. We might as well bring it out to Him, admit it, and let the Holy Spirit do his cleansing work in us.

Do try to stay out of the kids' candy today. Have a wonderful Christ-like day!