Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Good Year in Christ!

Good Friday morning! Oh yeah, I feel the urge to write about old things today. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah... those guys lived a long, long time. Kind of reminds us of someone else today, eh? Okay, no more teasing of the aged on this fine morning. The weather sent us quite the air change yesterday. At the speed the air was moving yesterday these molecules we have now must have been in Seattle on Wednesday. I think I saw a buffalo tumble by sometime in the afternoon, the cows were all laid out flat in the fields, and the freight trains went through town sideways, just another windy day in the West. Praise God for the good rain too!

Over the next couple of days, we will usually look back on the past year. We do this because the world will remind us that we are supposed to do this. News shows will have the top stories of the year. Magazines will have their lists of the best of 2011. Charts of this or that will come across our e-mails. And we will be told that regurgitating all that we did wrong over the past year is somehow good for us. The idea is that a list of our accomplishments for the year is supposed to be uplifting. Unfortunately, many will try to come up with accomplishments and come up with nothing. Depression and doom sets in for another year. Part of the problem is that we tend to think of accomplishments that are awarded by humans. We didn't win an Academy Award, or a Tony, or a Nobel Prize, or some political office, so we didn't accomplish anything. How wrong is that? Others will look at how their sports teams did and decide that they had a bad or good year. Some might look at the size of their trophy shelf as some indication of their accomplishments for the year. I don't know about you, but I don't even have a trophy shelf. We have a lot of ways to judge how poorly we did this year. Maybe we need a new yardstick.

This year we had a lot of Bible study meetings. Each one is a victory in this dark world. In some parts of the world Christians are risking imprisonment or execution by holding a Bible study. They held those Bible studies anyway. A victory for Jesus. Missionaries gave sermons all over the world this year. Some of them suffered for it. We supported missions work through prayer and giving - another victory for Jesus and for us. Pastors led churches in worship this year. We pray and give and attend and work behind the scenes and support in other ways all of these missions too. More victories for Jesus and for us. Each time we pray to God for our brothers and sisters in Christ is an accomplishment. Every time we pray for healing for those we love is a victory. All those good deeds we did to show our faith in Christ were accomplishments that Jesus used to adorn His bride, the Church. You know, looking back we had a pretty good year in Christ.

Take another look at your year, and praise God for the privilege of serving Him!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Suffering and Thanking

Good Thursday morning! Suffering, suffering everywhere I look it seems nothing but suffering. Aaaugh! What is a person to do? Just what we have always done: we can pray to the God of Heaven and Earth. Most of us were born too late to pray as Jesus suffered on the cross. But we have a lot of suffering to pray for right now. One of the major steps in our Christian growth is the gradual realization that not all of the suffering is our own. At the first as little Christian infants we are mainly concerned with the suffering we experience daily. We call out to God and He gives us rest, but we begin to see other suffering. In the pains and trials we have walked through with Jesus, we begin to gain an understanding and compassion for the suffering of others. Without a lengthy stay in a hospital, I would have much less understanding of what others are going through in their hospital stays. How would I know what Christmas in a hospital is like without celebrating one myself? The suffering you and I are going through may serve (may?) God's purpose even though we cannot see how at the time.

My sufferings are limited. God controls everything so that I am not overwhelmed in His strength, though I am often overwhelmed in my own. Some suffering I will not understand because I have no experience. Praise God that we do not have to suffer everything. In some things, others will be better able to comfort a brother or sister in Christ because of their own particular journeys through those dark valleys with Jesus. In all sufferings, Jesus has given us the Comforter to help us and lift us up. Not one of us stands alone in suffering. The times seem dark, but the light shines.

In all the tales of suffering that I see in the body of Christ, what stands out? "Thank God," "Thank you Lord," "Thanks to God"... always the gratitude of thanksgiving to our Lord. How sweet that must seem to our God when we give Him thanks in those tough times. How much more must our Lord have compassion and rush to ease our pain when we give thanks even in the darkest moments. See how quickly our Father responds as more prayers rise up to Him when we pray for the suffering of those we love. We must suffer for a time, but great are the promises of our Lord.

Look up to the heavens today, your hope draws near!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Those Emotions!

Good Wednesday morning! I got my feelings hurt. What does that mean? Everyone knows it. Yet the phrase can be difficult to define. You and I can point to examples, tell our stories, and we know when it has happened. does one explain how my feelings have been hurt? In Christ we often go to His word to see what we should do or learn from something like that. I can think of one story right off: the time when James and John earned their 'sons of thunder' nickname. Jesus rebuked them and I suspect the brothers had their feelings hurt as we like to say. Or what about the time that Jesus called Peter 'Satan'? That would certainly hurt my feelings.

Sometimes we get an emotional beating when we are in the wrong. The other person overreacts to something and says harsh things and we have our feelings hurt. That happened a lot in the Marines where so many of us were young men passing from teenage boy to manhood. Juvenile prank sometimes met with rank and responsibility and the prankster's feelings could end up hurt in a heated butt-chewing. Yes, there is a story behind that one. All of us probably had that passage in some organization or workplace. Part of that is in learning to leave behind the childish things. The other part is learning that others do have a certain power to cause emotional pain through words or actions. We also have the power to heal with more words when we have hurt another person.

Jesus didn't apologize for rebuking James and John, or Peter, or anyone else for that matter. Jesus was always right and He didn't have to apologize for being right. However, I'm am certain that Jesus did later take James and John aside and speak more gently to them. Scholars tend to think that John was the youngest of the disciples, so perhaps Jesus found him weeping somewhere away from the group later that evening. When a person is flat out wrong and respected authority rebukes him, the hurt can be rather intense. With gentle words, perhaps even a gentle laugh, Jesus healed the hurt though, maybe, not all the way. The lesson needed to be learned and Jesus would not have wanted his young disciple to forget.

Years later something may trigger a memory of a hard lesson in us. The same hurt feelings may be recalled in almost the same intensity. It isn't that God wants to rake us over the same coals again, but that the lesson stick in our hearts. Some emotional lessons are so harsh that we go far out of our way to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again. Emotions: can't stand 'em at times, don't want to live without 'em, love the good ones, hate the bad ones, praise the Lord for 'em and trust in God to train us up right.

Have a great new day in Christ!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Show Him The Way

Good Tuesday morning! Ah, the after-Christmas 'buy me' e-mails have begun. I was a bit disgusted by the e-mails that stated "Our gift to you this Christmas.... a special sale." Wait, your gift to me is that I buy something from you? No matter the price, that does not seem like a gift in any sense of the word. If you think that is the meaning of a gift, hang tight there for a bit and I'll get some $10 gift cards and 'give' them to you for the today only price of $20 (plus S&H)! Hoorah, ain't we a giving bunch now! Sometimes the marketing just steps over my line. Praise the Lord for the new day!

The methods of the world might cause anger at first. But sometimes we may see just a bit of desperation beneath the surface if we look more closely. Methods that seem downright dishonest to you and me may be the last desperate gasp of someone or some organization with no hope. What made that person lie like that? What made that trusted employee take what was not his to take? You have read the news reports and wondered why, and I have too. We know that our hope is in Christ. What about those who do not believe in Christ or believe in just an empty religion? We read of those who seem to have 'gone bad' and we don't always understand. The reasons may not be apparent at first, but I suspect that a lack of any hope is underneath it all. We know where to find peace, joy, love, and hope. But not everyone knows who we know.

Christ-ones throughout the world have endured seriously trying circumstances and have stood up to give the glory to God. Looking to Christ when things seem just downright awful is what we do for a living. You are correct, that isn't what the world considers to be a job. When things seem good and life seems easy, I thank God. When things seem bad and life difficult, I turn to Jesus and praise His name. I can't help it; it's my job you see. When a person without Christ turns during the bad times, he may find friends having the same problems, or family without the means to help, or even a hollow church with no real hope to offer. If that person should turn to you though, show him the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Yes, I do wake up worried some days, but I turn to Jesus. My Lord offers the only lasting solutions and I make up my mind each day to trust in Him.


Monday, December 26, 2011

My Mistake, No Surprises!

Good Monday morning! Happy Christmas to you! As this is sort of the official day for the holiday, many of you will be off work today. Some will be doing the annual return ritual at stores and such. Others will be recovering from the weekend's festivities. I built a Lego lighthouse for my Christmas treat and listened to Handel's Messiah. The turkey didn't come out too bad... given that it had been in the freezer for about 3 years or so. I don't think turkeys are supposed to be stored for quite that long. I might try a fresh one for New Year's just to check. Come to think of it the carrots might have been a bit old too. Unfortunately, I'm still alive this morning so God must not be done with me yet.

Did you ever stop to think that your most awful, humiliating blunders in life were serving God's purpose? We often think that God will win in the end in spite of our blunders and sins. However, those mistakes and stumbles we commit might be a part of God's plan. We are wrong if we think that something we do ever catches God by surprise.

"Oh, My goodness, did you see what that Bucky just did down there! Tell the Son that we'll have to rearrange things to make up for that. Send Gabriel to smite him one too."

We know that God is not taken by surprise. So how does God use our blunders for His good purpose? Oh, wait, the Spirit has taught me the answer to that... "I don't know!" I cannot say how it is that God uses my worst mistakes or your awful blunders or Joe's stumbles or Jane's errors as a part of His great masterwork. Many of us have been in charge of projects or supervised other workers. We know the difficulties of mistakes and miscalculations, and perhaps even the pain when a mistake doomed the project. God can use even our mistakes because, well, He is God. We strive in the Spirit to do right, but sometimes we err. God's plan is not halted; the plan of saving the world is not thrown out or reworked; the end of this world has already been foretold and the prophecies have not changed. Praise the Lord! God is in charge and I cannot upset His plans for me or for the world! What a relief.

May God bless you in this new day! Bucky

Friday, December 23, 2011

Special Christian Joy

Merry Christmas! The shopping e-mails are slowing down. That must mean that Christmas is almost here! Christmas music is on the sound system and Christmas cheer is in the air. The final Scrooge is in the player and we are ready for the big holiday. But, the world can do all of that just as well as we can. What is so special about the holiday that gets Christians so much more excited than the secular world? All of us, believer or non-believer, can open gifts, give gifts, put up lights, send cards, watch the Christmas specials on the telly, and even go to church. Only God could give a gift that means eternal life. Only a believer in Christ can accept the gift bestowed by God's own grace.

As a single person, I cannot buy the gift of grace for myself. As married folks, you cannot purchase the gift of grace for your spouse. As persons having family and friends, we cannot pool our resources to give the gift of grace to one lucky person. However, God gives the gift of grace freely to those who will believe in the One responsible for the name of this particular holiday. Christ and Christmas do kind of go together if you think about it. Christmas means so much more to us because we believe in the root of the title. Without Christ in my life, Christmas just wouldn't be the same. Without Christ in your life, the act of giving would not grow from God's gift to you. Without Christ, the family gathering would be short the most important member. Without Christ, the party of friends would seem empty. Christ is the root of our Christmas, and the source of our special joy.

Enjoy the Spirit and Joy of Christmas in Christ Jesus! Bucky

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Better Gift? Better To Just Share!

Merry Christmas! Today we can start winter and it even looks like winter outside. Today I want to give you a gift of love. How do I out give God though? I have no kids to give; God gave His only Son. I could possibly give up my life, but my sinful nature has corrupted the sacrifice. Jesus was not born in sin and did not sin in His earthly life. His sacrifice was perfect and acceptable to God. My birth happened in the usual way. The birth of Jesus was accompanied by angels and sung by the hosts of heaven. It would seem that I don't need to worry about what to give to you. The gift of love I seek to give was given by God many years ago.

I worry, you worry, we all worry too much about what to give each other during this season. The perfect gift of love has already been given. We cannot give each other the perfect gift except by re-gifting the Son, the gift God gave to us. Any of us might have good news about something in our lives, but the Good News is all about Jesus. You might have been blessed with the very riches of Solomon, but God's gift is beyond price. Empty out the almost bottomless wealth of King Solomon's mines and you will not have enough to buy a gift better than God's own precious baby Jesus in that manger. Truly we live in a privileged time when we can have Jesus in our hearts. None of us need worry about how much we can spend. We give the greatest gift by sharing the one we already have. And our gifting does not in the least diminish the Lord Jesus in our hearts. What a great gift to share!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Spirit's Work

Good Christmas joy to you on this fine day! Only a few people knew that Jesus had arrived. A few wise men from the east began their journey; a few shepherds in the field stared in awestruck fear at the angels; Mary and Joseph sat near a manger; a few relatives knew that Jesus and John were something special, but the birth did not make the Roman News Network report for that day. The birth looked forward to for hundreds of years kind of came and went. No big deal for the biggest deal of all time. The Son of God had become a human baby in a manger in a small town in Judea.

Most young couples might have taken off for home as soon as the registration was complete. It seems that Mary and Joseph stayed put though. Did the registration Rome commanded require a long stay? Was Joseph broke after the journey or Mary unable to travel after her first birth? Perhaps the reason for the stay had to do with a sense of responsibility. We know how fragile a baby is. Now imagine that fragile baby is the Son of God, the promised Messiah waited for since the first prophecies. How would you like to have that responsibility? Joseph and Mary might have been careful to do everything possible to make sure the child would grow up strong and healthy; no easy task in those days and not all that easy in our modern times. But who was responsible for Jesus as an infant and toddler? Well, he is the Son of God.

We often have that same problem. We have given our lives to Christ and now God the Father is responsible for bringing us up in the right way and time. We grasp at the responsibility for our own development having some idea of the direction we should go from the Word of God, but we see poorly as in a bad mirror. The work of saving me was completed by Jesus on the cross. Yet if it were up to me today, I would concentrate on making myself acceptable through external changes. You might try to gain acceptance through good deeds that people can see and applaud. Another person might sit on a mountain peak and meditate for days on end. We have the wrong way of going about this thing that God has taken over in our lives. I suppose the real repentance is in turning from what we think we know and from telling God how good we are or what we are going to do to make ourselves ready for Him. Jesus started out His perfect life as a very incapable infant. When we are born again we start out the same way, but we sometimes forget that and start planning our own sanctification. Trust in the Holy Spirit of Christ to do His own good work in you!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You Very Much, Lord!

Good Tuesday morning! Last night was my annual sniffle and sob through It's a Wonderful Life. Some of the sniffling came from my annual Christmastime cold that seems to have arrived at the same time. I wonder if there's a connection? Hmm, movie and a cold anyone? Personally I blame the dentist. Colds seem to lie in wait until disturbed by unauthorized drilling activities in my teeths. We'll just blame the old dentist. He's retiring at the end of the year anyway. Annual traditions can be (mostly) wonderful. The ones that center on Christ such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are all full of joy and gratitude. The ones that involve communicable illnesses...well, not so much. We love the ceremonies of worship and the good fellowship of the Christmas tradition. The good news for us all is that the big celebration is this weekend!

The carols, the songs of praise, lights, trees, worship, gifts, cards, shows, movies, parties, celebrations, ah the wonder and joy of the season! I watched my seventh Scrooge last night too. This one is the musical version with Albert Finney in the title role. The script takes quite a few liberties with some key lines, and I startle the cats by hollering at the screen, but I do like one song in particular. As Scrooge is looking for a little tenderness related to this man's death - refusing to realize that the death is his own of course - the very musically-gifted and dance-trained peasants who owe Scrooge money express their gratitude. With the death of their lender, they are free of their debts it seems. "Thank you very much. That's the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me." is the line that got me to thinking about the parallel with our own Savior.

The reason we celebrate Christmas so much is the long-expected gift of the Messiah. The Christ child born at Christmas was a gift unlike any ever given. Like the peasants we live crushed under a load of debt that we can never pay. However, Jesus did a nice thing for us by dying to pay that debt for us. Our celebration at Christmas should have a lot of Thank-you-very-much in it.

Merry Christmas to you! Bucky

Monday, December 19, 2011

Using His Name

Good Monday morning! Might be a bit icy this morning, be careful. Okay, so we have done as Jesus commanded and put off the worry for tomorrow until tomorrow. But that day has finally arrived and the worry like a predatory beast has sprung on the mind and set in to devour. The problem is that I'm almost certain that Jesus didn't mean for us to schedule worries like we set appointments. Ignoring the approaching doom until the day it arrives is not quite the same as trusting completely in God. Giving all of our worries to God means ALL of our worries. I don't know about you, but I can pack a whole lot of fret and worry into one morning, even one part of one morning. Tearing myself up with worry on the day may seem to follow the letter of Jesus' command, but I don't think Jesus meant to create a worry loophole.

That old diabolical nature just likes to beat us down every chance it gets. Worry, fear, anxiety, depression, lack of self-control, it all points back to following the way of the world instead of our Lord Jesus. How it attacks too! At times it feels like a truce has been declared with that sin nature, but just when I think to relax a bit... it comes roaring into the assault. Whether you attribute the attack to your sin nature or to that old roaring lion of Peter's, the result is the same if we let our eyes stray from Jesus. You and I are not strong angels. Alone we cannot stand. Looking at the fear or the cause of our fear will not save us. Looking to our Lord and standing firm in prayer will give us the victory.

Some of you have already guessed it, so I'll just say it.

"I just love going to the dentist." Hmm, nope didn't work on my own.

"I just love how Jesus takes me to the dentist in His gentle loving care." Much better! Try it for yourself. When I bring Jesus into the matter, I can feel the peace flowing through me from His precious name.

Have a better day with Christ, Bucky

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fourth Quarter Miracles

Good Friday morning! A warm spell has arrived in our area. Will we have a white Christmas this year or just a warm Christmas? Eight weeks ago a football team from 'round these parts was done for the year. A 1-4 record, stick a fork in it, call the funeral director, say 'so long' to the season, and get ready for a draft pick near the start. But! Along comes a player who has the scorn of the football media. This football player has something interesting going for him: a vocal and right-up-front belief in the Lord Jesus. True to form, the Lord provides an example of what could happen far and wide for those who will return to worship God and believe in His Son. Suddenly, it seems, the football team has won 7 of the last 8 games, 3 in overtime and one in the final seconds, and the season is found again. First place in their division, playoff hopes renewed, celebration in the home city, and say 'so long' to the first draft pick. What lesson can our nation lost in an economic depression and a spiritual drought learn from this example?

Actually, the Word of God provides a very direct quotation on situations just like this. "...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14) At that time, God had called a people from out of the other peoples on the Earth. We know them as the Hebrew nation of Israel, but the Bible is always ready to speak to us in this day as well. Are you called by the name of God? How about Christ? Christians or Christ-ones, must be ready to take the message of humility, prayer, seeking after the Lord, and repentance to the world that is hurting right now. Many of us are looking a lot like a team that is 1-4 and ready to give up the fight. We have lost a lot and we look ahead expecting to lose it all. We need healing.

In truth, I never expected the Lord to provide such an obvious example in the world of sports. I watched as the analysts unleashed their experience and knowledge on a team and a particular player. It's part of their job and they are good at that job. Why then have they been proven so wrong? Why are people talking of Tebow time and fourth quarter miracles? No surprise to those who will believe in God. We pray and God answers. This time the answer is a 'yes' and those who look from worldly eyes cannot figure it out. While some need to learn the power of faith in God, others need to remember who we believe in. If your life looks like the season is lost, remember who loves to turn lives around. God can turn your life around economically too. Don't think that God only takes care of spiritual turn-arounds!

Have a great weekend. Christmas is near! Bucky

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Same Spirit

Good Thursday morning! Among your messages in the ol' inbox, do you ever get messages from God directed right at your heart? I don't mean that the sender says, "God", or something that would cause your spam filter to boot the message. Sometimes in the devotionals I read, I find answers to questions that I have been asking. If my faith in God wavers, devotionals from three or four unconnected ministries will have verses and words of faith and encouragement for me. If I think about falling off course, devotional messages about staying the course arrive. Take my eyes off the Lord and start looking to the world for help, and sure enough messages will arrive telling me where my sight should be fixed. Of course we know that all ministries who believe in God are not really unconnected. Your pastor may not know the pastor at the church on the west coast sending out the daily message, but the Holy Spirit in your church knows the Holy Spirit at that cathedral down under. The Holy Spirit in me knows the Holy Spirit in you. If we get bombed by messages directed right at the current issue in the heart, we can know that the one Holy Spirit is behind it.

And brother do we ever need it! Staying the course Christ has set before us can be a difficult thing. The wisdom of this world might speak out against all that we do. You may be called to do something that the world considers totally and utterly stupid. Folks with letters behind their names may scoff at your faith. (May?) Friends and relatives may not understand your decision to follow Christ. You might even look back at what God has put in the past and think of how good it looks when things get dark in the present. We all have similar problems with temptation and sin; good thing we all have the same Lord in our hearts! Stay the course, trust in God, and believe in our Lord Jesus.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Home That Cannot Be Lost

Good Wednesday morning! Ahh, the last few days before Christmas. Will we have a white Christmas this year or just a cold one? "In My Father's house are many mansions; if not, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2 In the past couple of years we have seen that the dream of owning a home can be a fleeting kind of thing. For many folks, one week they had a job and a home of their own, and the next week the job was lost and the home foreclosed upon. The verse today speaks of a home that is not fleeting. A home so permanent that one day God's house will come down from Heaven to be set on the new Earth. A home of such wonder that Jesus left almost 2,000 years ago to begin the preparation. A home so beyond our present imagining that the Son, He who implemented God's Creation, went to do the building himself. I cannot conceive of what that home might look like. We all look forward to that home.

This verse is the basis for much speculation in our Christian learning. However, the important parts are the actions. Jesus would have communicated and kept us informed if the fact were not what He said. Jesus didn't ascend to Heaven because His work was finished, He goes to prepare a place for each of us. Notice the service performed: Jesus is still serving us though we only deserve it because of His own sacrifice on the cross. How many of our friends have said, "Well, I'm moving to Poughkeepsie. I think you'll like it there so I'll build a house for you when I get there." We would never expect such a thing. Houses are too expensive for us to build or buy more to have our friends join us in another town or state. Jesus is going to build a bunch of them! We would like our friends to join us when we find a great place to live, but we don't have the resources. Jesus wants His friends to be with Him forever, and He does have the resources to accomplish it.

One day we will all gather together with God and the Son. None will lose his position, no family will lose their home, and the temptations we face in this world will be thrown out forever. We look forward to those days with eager anticipation and growing joy. Take that hope with you today.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sergeant Major of Heaven

Good Tuesday morning! There are so many 'buy-me' e-mails this icy morning that I will get on the devotional first and that other stuff can just wait. Something buzzing around in my head for a couple of weeks is going to come out this morning. In Revelation as John is called up to Heaven, an angel asks a question, but not just any angel. "Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" (Rev 5:1-2) This is the only place in the Bible that I can find a strong angel. Strong's concordance (coincidence there?) lists a couple of mighty angels later in Revelation, but only the one strong angel. Jesus mentioned twelve legions of angels, not strong angels, in the Garden of Gethsemane. So who is this strong angel? We are given no name, but from my experience in the military I tend to think of this angel as the Sergeant Major of Heaven.

This proclamation by the strong angel is a challenge. We can see that Satan does not answer the question. Certainly John doesn't step forward. And none of the thousands and tens of thousands in Heaven step forward. The twenty four elders remain seated. Even the four creatures before the throne do not volunteer. The strong angel may be Michael, but he is named elsewhere in the Bible and not here. Not only is this angel strong, but he is standing before the throne of God. Whoever is deemed worthy is facing more than a strong angel. Worthiness to open the scroll had better be without the slightest doubt if any creature or angel is going to step forward in this case. When none can be found to open the scroll, John begins to weep. What is so important that an unsatisfied curiosity will cause a grown man to weep?

Of course, we know from our Bible study that this scroll is critical to us. John represents all of humanity as he stands there hoping the scroll will be unsealed and read. The strong angel must give way to the Lamb of God, at this time referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. We can imagine the angel bowing as the Lamb comes forward to take the scroll. Jesus takes the scroll from God's right hand and indeed the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fall down before the Lamb in Rev 5:8. The rest is not history but the future.

Be careful driving today, and trust in Jesus! Bucky

Monday, December 12, 2011

Labor Pains and Grave Cloths

Good Monday morning! Have you ever thought that you are bearing a child? Some of you will have more direct experience with this than others. However, Paul compared his yearning for the sanctification of the Galatians to laboring in birth again. Since we can safely assume that Paul wasn't comparing this to his experience of bearing children, he must have made the comparison to his own birth pains in becoming a Christ follower. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you." (Gal 4:19) Now, Paul wasn't pretending to be Mary, and he wasn't saying that the Galatian Christians would be like Mary in the physical sense, so what are these labor pains about? How many Christians have you known who got saved and never sinned again? Right, not one. We can't even be sure about that one who died right after his confession in faith.

Our salvation is accomplished by Jesus right on the spot, but sanctification takes a bit longer. We have compared this to the grave clothes that bound Lazarus, and now Paul also compares our Christian growth to the pains a woman experiences in giving birth. Not only this, but Paul also felt those pains again as the Galatians worked out their faith in Christ. Those who watch each of us learn and grow in Christ will be reminded of their own pains in treading the path of sanctification. As we grow and mentor others who come to believe in Jesus, we too will take our turn in feeling the labor pains of sanctification even as our own growth continues. Why the metaphors of grave cloths and labor pains? Sin hurts.

We often don't think of those private sins as hurting others, especially not our Christian brothers and sisters. Some might not even think that a public sin of a Christian leader wouldn't affect all of the body of Christ. However, I think that each of us could point out a time when we felt a great disappointment and even a mourning when a news report of some sin in the church reached our ears. When an evangelical Christian pastor sins in Colorado Springs, the body of Christ is affected. When a priest in New York sins, the body of Christ is affected. Why? Christ is affected and we are all connected in the body to our head who is Christ Jesus. Even those private little sins that we think no one else knows about can affect the body because our Lord knows about them. Sounds like a dark day for the body of Christ, eh?

Praise God that like the human body heals from pain, so does Jesus heal the body of Christ constantly. We sin, but we seek forgiveness as we repent of even the smallest mean thought. We heal each other as the sweet savor of our prayers rise before the Almighty One. Christ takes responsibility for His bride and His body by healing and empowering us to obey, trust, and believe in Him. The Savior is not done sanctifying us!

Have a great new week in Christ Jesus! Bucky

Friday, December 09, 2011

That Boat Thing

Good Friday morning! For hundreds of years the Jews had looked for Messiah. The prophet had foretold of a time of drought. Not a drought of water, but a drought of God's word and that time had stretched for centuries. Why didn't it stretch a bit further? Why didn't Jesus arrive sooner? We don't know. God keeps His own counsel on the 'when' of things in His plan. Much like the years before the star shone over Bethlehem, we are in a time of eager anticipation. The Rapture could happen at any moment, yet we have no way to know if it will even happen in our lifetime. Each day is given to us to use in the wisdom God has granted us for that day. We look forward to another Christmas celebration, but the Church may not be here. At the moment I can hear and read God's word pouring out from television shows, radio programs, Internet blogs, e-mails, Facebook postings, my brothers and sisters in Christ, ministers in pulpits, and even my own copy of the Bible. We have no drought of God's word at the moment. Is this a sign that the end is near or that we can expect another drought of the word soon? The Rapture of the Church could start that very thing.

What if every Christ-one spreading the good news of Jesus was suddenly gone? If you or I had to stay for that, the silence would be difficult to bear. Today we have the opposite problem. There are so many speaking the words of life given to us by Jesus that the world turns to wilful ignorance. Like the ark a-building over yonder in Noah's day, the world must turn away to avoid the truth. The mother of the bride insisted in Noah's time that the wedding be held over the mountain so that, "we don't have to see that awful boat thing". Today the wedding is removed from the church and the minister isn't invited so that the bride and groom can sign an agreement to prepare for the imminent divorce. The similarity sounds a lot like something Jesus pointed out in his prophecy about the end time.

As you speak the words of life to an ignorant world, you may be dismissed by some, ignored by others, hated by many, held in contempt by a few, or even attacked with words or stones. As the ark grew larger, no doubt there were some who wanted to burn the thing to the ground, possibly even with Noah in it. We face that same hatred today. The persecution may be subtle or it may be waiting for God to turn it loose as the final tribulation begins. We must take advantage of this time of relative peace. The end will be upon the world soon.

Have a great weekend! Bucky

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Here I Am Not Knowing Again

Good Thursday morning! It's a strange reversal. Last night, the thought came to me that at one time, I was the champion of science and medicine for all of our ailments. Human wisdom and intellect had all the answers for me and I could save myself simply by knowing enough. Solomon once said that increasing knowledge increases sorrow in a man. I would agree with that, especially if you have lots of knowledge of the current media reports around the world. Knowing too much of that increases sorrow exponentially! However, it seems that now I champion prayer first in all things healing and problem solving. The economy is in the tank; turn to God in prayer. Someone suffering in mind and body? Turn to God in prayer. This is not to say that we should ignore those who spend their lives studying God's creation and learning to heal the body and mind. God has provided these men and women of medicine and science to glorify His name.

As my editor might say, that is a bold statement. Can you back it up? Why, yes, I believe in Jesus and I believe that His word can back me up in this. You know from your Bible study that all things work together for the good of those who will believe in Christ. Paul said it in Romans 8:28. In case I am making a mash of it, here is the ESV quote: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Now if you go to one of the intellectuals at a prestigious university, you might find him telling you that he is not working for God and doesn't even believe a god exists. How can this person be working together for our good with, oh, sin for example? I don't know. But God's word says it, so I believe it. Don't you just love the humility and freedom in being able to say "I don't know"?

I don't mean that we should be ignorant of basic knowledge in the world or in the Word of God. We should always strive to learn more from God's word and get an education in school too. But when it comes to the mysteries of how He is going to make such far apart things as sin, atheism, love, hope, belief in Jesus, science, faith in God, and dare we say, creation and the theory of evolution, all work together for our good and His purpose, I am indeed content to say that I do not know. Does this mean that the Accuser is working together with our Savior for our good? I'll bet you won't hear the Accuser admit that. Somehow, God is making that temptation and accusation work together with His mercy and grace for your good and my good. How does He do it? I don't know!

Trust in God, all things are working together for your good! Bucky

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Clear Seeing

Good Wednesday morning! Considerably warmer out last night and this morning. I don't mean that we'll be throwing the lawn chairs outside and having a barbecue for breakfast, but after yesterday the temp is a big relief. Sometimes a little clarity brought on by a bit of 'worse' makes us appreciate the 'better' more. About ten thousand years ago, or when I found myself chained to a desk in second grade, I gave up on my dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Yup, spectacles, glasses, four-eyes, and all the fun that goes with near-sightedness came into my life. No doubt the teacher, Mrs. Reichart if I can recall back that far, betrayed the sight of my squinting little mug to my parents. The conspiracy then brought in the eye doctor and I suffered the consequence. Those spectacles would be with me in one form or the other for many years. The other form being in several pieces from various youth 'sports'. The spectacles did provide some small advantages in my schooling though, such as the ability to read the board, consisting of slate and chalk back in prehistoric times, and avoid bumping into walls and teachers and such.

Seeing clearly is something we must do when opening God's word. While some of us need spectacles to read and others do not, all of us will find the need for something to make God's word clear to us. In the years of unbelief, I was like that squinty little kid back in the day. I could read the Word up close, but I often failed to see the application to my life. My application needed a certain negative reinforcement in those days. Steal something - get spanked. Lie to the teacher - get spanked. Break things - get spanked. You get the pattern. What God wanted from me is to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and obey out of love. We can all be trained up to avoid the rod, but we need some spiritual spectacles to read the Word clearly.

Belief in Jesus brings to us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reminds us of the Law by making clear what it is God wants us to see in His Word. As an unbelieving child I read God's desire to punish me and I trembled. Later in my growing years I would feel the guilt of having violated pretty much everything in the law through thought or deed. Without the Spirit, I still couldn't see clearly the grace and mercy in the Word, so I ran away from the church for a time. Through some eye-opening events in my life, the lost sheep got turned around and saw... Jesus! As a believing person, bought and paid for by Jesus at Calvary, I can read of God's love for us and embrace His law as right and good for me. God did not take delight in punishing Israel. He wanted His people to return to His tender care through worship and praise. God is not waiting in Heaven for the next sinner to step over some final tally of sin so that He can punt the little reprobate over the lake of fire. God is not willing that any of us should perish in our sins. Through the Spirit, I can read of forgiveness, mercy, justice, righteousness, grace, joy, peace, and of course, God's great love for you and me.

Rejoice in God's love today! Bucky

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Planet?

Good Tuesday morning! It's a good day to use that 'c' word again. Below zero and way below freezing, welcome to the day. Good news in space today, NASA may have discovered a planet like Earth out there in the cosmos. The question might be: How soon can we get there? For those of us who grew up as science fiction fans that has always been a tantalizing dream. What if someone is already there? What if no one is there? Looking at some of the conditions around this planet, one would have to wonder if we should be allowed to touch another planet. Does this mean that we have some sort of manifest destiny to spread the good news of Christ to this other planet? As we can see the fact that such a planet exists raises more questions for which we do not have answers. Once upon a time I would have been lining up to help us get there, preferably as one of the crew or passengers. However, the good news of Jesus has been given to us here. We have it now in our Bible and in our hearts through the Spirit. I don't need to travel to a planet in outer space to find some new answer or new life.

Did you ever wonder if Paul meant that we are to be content with our current world too? No dreaming of reaching the stars in space ships. No other worlds to seek out. Seems a bit dreary. The speed of this world has made me ill-suited to thinking about space travel. A couple of years just to get to Mars? Man, I have trouble sitting in a car for more than an hour or two. The last four-hour flight in a commercial airplane was a unique torture that I would rather not repeat. Whoof! I just opened a shade to look out at the cold, cold world and a blast of icy air smote me a good one. Even the sun seems to be getting up slowly this morning. I do feel for all of you with vehicles out in the cold this morning. I pray your cars will start and the heaters will get going quickly.

Stay warm in Christ! Bucky

Monday, December 05, 2011

Given God's Word

Good Monday morning! I think I have the right description for this morning. Cold pretty much sums up the conditions outside right now. From the weather forecast, I suspect we will be using that word a lot this week. We live in an area of the world where our coldest weather often occurs right before the official start of winter. We can also experience a 70ยบ day on Christmas day as well. The strange days of extreme cold or heat have been happening out here for a lot longer than global warming has been fashionable. However, we also know that global warming is a world-wide effect and not something that happens locally. Yup, that is how I meant to write that last sentence. There are times that we read or watch something in the news, walk outside and take a look around our house, and then say that it can't be true because, "It ain't happenin' here!"

Chances are that sometime today you will see or hear something that fits a notion you have rattling around in your head about how things are going. It is also likely that you will hear or see something soon that goes against that notion and you might dismiss your notion, dismiss the new evidence, or even, just maybe learn that our notions and theories fall short of the view we need. Some of us have this problem of adding up what we know and coming to a total that we think is a higher percentage of all there is to know than is correct. That last is a difficult way of saying, we know less than we think we do. I'll admit it right now: I know less than I think I do. But in one thing I will take pride in what I know: God knows everything there is to know. Some folks would call that a religious belief and not an actual fact that I can know. I will respectfully disagree with that.

When I surrendered to Jesus, the word of God was given to me. Anyone can pick up a Bible and read it, but only to those who believe in Jesus is the Word given. Now that I have the Word of God, I can know many things the world only assumes to be religious beliefs. Does that mean I have everything right and correct each time I read God's word? No, I still fight some of those notions and theories from the old days when I was smart in my own estimation. God's word is at times quite simple and obvious, and at other times quite deep and mysterious to me. Even the verses that I think I know well can suddenly have more meaning in light of new experience. The Christian life - a learning experience where we plumb the unfathomable depths of God's word, and love every minute of it!

Glory to God in the highest! Bucky

Friday, December 02, 2011

What Happened?

Good 'n Cold Friday to you! Oh yeah! Single digit temps and sun on the white snow; it's December baby! Even the grinchiest must feel a bit of that Christmas cheer and hear the sound of Christmas music by now. Whoo hoo! The first Friday in December. Praise the Lord and pass the hot coffee! I'm too chicken to even go out for my paper this morning. Only one problem with is trash day, and sooner or not much later I will have to go out and set the dumpster by the curb. Eh? What do you mean it warmed up overnight? Actually, the thermometer says 20, and the weather channel says 17. It was 8 when I came home last night. What happened? Things change on us without our knowledge or will. You and I may think we have some knowledge or, dare we say it, a little bit of control over things, but what do we really know? How little is under our control?

If you have pets, you have some idea about how little is actually under control. If you have kids around, you probably realized long ago that nothing much is really under our control. When my word goes out, it just kind of goes out. When God's word goes out, things happen and His word does not return to Him empty-handed. God is in control; me, not so much. The world says to believe in yourself. Evidence and experience causes me to ask, Why? The Bible says to believe in God. Evidence shows that is the way to go. What evidence? Why the evidence of His holy word, the Bible. Jesus commanded demons to depart and they did. Jesus desired the healing of the lame, the blind, and the sick, and those conditions were healed. If I command something in my own strength, nothing much happens. When God commands in His strength, the action cannot fail to follow the word. Who should I believe in? I do believe the Bible has the right and proper answer to that! Praise God for His holy word!


Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Moving Pressure

Good Thursday morning! The snow and cold have arrived with the start of December. Right on schedule! I see one of those headlines today that makes me wonder. Often we can see the end of a political candidacy when the candidate suddenly spouts a statement or two that just makes a person pause to ask: "Did he really say that?" Some statements stand out so much and insult so many people, i.e. voters, that no amount of damage control or public apology can salvage the election. Yes, there may indeed be someone in America who can be labeled as stupid, but guess what? He gets to vote!

In a pressure-filled situation, you or I might do the same thing at some point. The pressure may become so burdensome that prayer even seems to provide no relief. In such a situation one of us may simply attempt to pull the plug. We might say something insulting to the boss, a career-killer kind of statement. We might write a note or e-mail that can only have one outcome - the termination of the situation. The words might not be in anger, insulting, or sinful, but the end has been spoken. At first, we might be ashamed of our action, but could there be a plan involved, perhaps even a plan of God's own doing? In the first century, God used persecution to scatter the Good News of Christ around the world.

The first century Christians were centered in Jerusalem, but the pressure of persecution became so great that the people had to scatter. At first the action may have seemed cowardly or shameful, but it may also have been the only way that God could get the people to move where he wanted them to go. Paul wrote some great words from prison. Probably not his ideal situation. I'm sure he would much rather have written from a nice balcony at an estate overlooking the Aegean Sea. Of course, we might have today some epistles that read like travel brochures to a nice resort, not quite pictures of the Christian suffering we face. God may have a plan for the pressure in our lives, a plan that will turn to our good.

The plan may be that we stand against the pressure and endure, or the plan may be that we move out from under the situation. You and I are not called to hold up the planet; Jesus takes care of that with his command. We are to follow where Jesus leads, but sometimes our Lord may give us a push from the backside to get us moving in a new direction. We tend to cling to what we know, no matter how difficult the situation has become. A new life may await just over the side of that rut a Christian is holding onto right now. I have experienced a couple of those pushes in my life, and I think most of you will be able to recall similar times in your own life. A push up and over the side of a rut may hurt a bit at first, but God has our good in mind and will never leave us.

Have a wonderful cold day! Bucky

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comfort in the Greater

Good Wednesday morning! Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. Did you ever stop to think that the person or being that is in the world might be someone other than the Devil? We know the greater He is the Spirit of God in our hearts, but could this other he be a she? That animal nature that we call the flesh could also be the he or she that is the lesser in this world. We might also be confronted by powerful men and women who are in this world. Men and women who might not have our best interests in mind or want to persecute us because of our faith in Christ. There are many he's and she's in this world who will seek to oppose Christ. Even our own sinful and animal nature opposes our walking in the righteousness of Jesus. We stand against all of these influences by remembering the greater He.

Jesus also told us that He has overcome the world. Jesus gave to us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to comfort and advise us. We may stand surrounded by foes, but we stand with the very Spirit of God within our hearts. We may not even realise which 'he' is opposing us at the moment, or maybe even all of them at once, but we do have our strong tower, our fortress in the time of storm. Martin Luther didn't write up a song about a mighty fortress because he thought that he could stand in his own strength. David didn't write up the psalms that insired hymns because he could stand alone. God didn't give us His Spirit because we have the ability to stand on our own. We have battles within and without, but greater is He that stands within us. Take comfort in the Holy Spirit this day.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Good Tuesday morning! Okay, the holiday shopping madness is over for the year...what do you mean, only just begun?! It seems kind of odd to us that all of the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is only the beginning of the holiday shopping season. People have been hurt over the last item in the store on Christmas Eve just as often as the first item on Black Friday. We can bemoan the cold material heart during what should be the warmth of Christmas, or we can spread some warmth ourselves to combat this coldness of heart we see. Shine a light out into the darkness! Shine the light of Christ to those most in need of it. Some will flee farther into the darkness, that is true, but we must continue to shine for Christ.

I'm guessing that by now you have heard the tales from the past few days, so I won't repeat them to darken the morning. One thing we must remember is that Jesus did warn us that the love of many will grow cold in the last days. I think the verse is Matthew 24:12 - "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold." Let's see...quick check of Blue Letter Bible and, yes, I am not quite right as usual. I remembered 'will increase', but Jesus said 'will be increased'. A minor difference or something profound? What I remember would be prophecy enough, but the words of Jesus speak of a bit more. For lawlessness to be increased speaks of an outside pressure or opportunity, such as a breakdown of civil government. In our case, perhaps because someone foreclosed on it. I'm trying to make light of it, but it isn't all that funny. One day we might be surprised how quickly things get lawless even in the communities we think we know.

This week in our life group Bible study, we begin the part of Revelation where we start to find out what will happen in the end. Oh dear! How bad does it get? Very bad... for the world. For us? We have a great hope arriving soon and all the lawlessness of the end times cannot stop Him from coming for us!

Love your neighbor today! Bucky

Friday, November 25, 2011

Held Up For the World To Gloat

Good Friday morning! Whew, I have waded through the "Black Friday" e-mails and sent them where they belong. One small victory to start the day! For those of you already out enduring the lines and traffic, you have my sympathy. Practice your patience and lovingkindness this morning! How did your Thanksgiving feast go yesterday? I couldn't eat the evening meal. There just didn't seem to be a need for it. Sounds like what the Thanksgiving feast is supposed to do. My thanks also to Ric and Cheryl for hosting the feast this year. I saw some others going on around my neighborhood too. Other neighbors had obviously gone somewhere to share Thanksgiving dinner and perhaps the traditional football games. Did you see our famous Husker alum get ejected in the Detroit-Green Bay game? Not a good thing at all.

Whether his actions have been misinterpreted as he claims, or the result of his losing control of his emotions, we can take a lesson from that. The players in the NFL are trained to play with emotion and use emotion. However, this can backfire when emotions get out of control. Large, physically-powerful men can do a lot of damage even to each other out on the football field, let alone what might happen if you or I wandered out onto the playing area. How does one control his or her emotions before we do damage to another person?

The first answer that we can all use and should use is prayer. We must pray for control of our own emotions. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians. We can also pray for others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now if someone is calling on 'the man upstairs' as our football player did yesterday, then I very much want to pray for him. As Christians we can make mistakes in ways the world loves to point out and hold up to gloat over. It is sometimes amusing and sometimes tragic that Christians are expected to model perfect moral behavior at all times, and yet we are the ones who have admitted before the cross of Jesus that we are sinners and need the grace of God! Pray earnestly for our brothers and sisters in Christ. You never know when one of us might be next in line to make a mistake in front of the world.

Enjoy the holiday weekend! Bucky

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving! Today we give thanks to God! There are many possible devotional subjects each day, but on this day I must write of gratitude. One way to show how much we love our God is to thank Him. We should strive each day to show our gratitude spontaneously, but how does one develop a talent that does not come naturally? As sinners we find that gratitude does not come easily. On the other hand as followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit will grow His fruit in us as we grow in Christ. Gratitude to God is one of those fruits of the Spirit that will grow and grow as we are watered with the living water.

In place of launching into a lengthy lesson on gratitude, I will take today to simply be thankful. As the Holy Spirit grows this gratitude in me, I want to show off my gratitude more and more! I am thankful for what I have, but even more thankful for who I have in my life. I am thankful to God for who I am, but even more thankful for who He will make me in His own perfect time. I am thankful to God for the love of Jesus, and even more thankful for the love that saved so many. Although I struggle with it daily, I am grateful that God does not see me as a problem to be fixed, but as a person to be loved.

Perhaps that is my lesson for this day of thankfulness: to see my brothers and sisters in Christ as persons to be loved and not as problems to be fixed. What is more, to do the same in my very own mirror.

Thank you God for this day of gratitude! Bucky

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just Before Thanksgiving

Good Wednesday morning! Well, the holiday of giving thanks to God, not just giving thanks as I hear too often in the media, is upon us at last. People are traveling already to visit relatives and friends, turkeys are being stuffed, deserts prepared, and pumpkin pie season is open. The bag limit on pumpkin pies has been raised this year; you may hunt them to near extinction this weekend. We celebrate the day, but we also celebrate the reason for the day - expressing our gratitude to the Almighty, our God and our Provider. What a great day to put God first in our hearts and just give thanks to Him. A lot of work goes into Thanksgiving, both in preparation and in earning the provision, but without God all of that would not be possible. In giving our thanks, we also acknowledge that we are dependent upon God alone in this life.

God has provided to us the ability to work and earn money. We buy our Thanksgiving stuff with that money. We prepare the stuff with more work that God has provided us the ability to perform. And finally we sit down together to give our thanks and enjoy the feast. Did you ever think that enjoying the feast is also a form of giving thanks to God? How rude would it be to sit down at a feast provided by God and start a fast right there on the spot? Your human host would be upset at such treatment, and I'm certain that God would be too. Thank God for the feast and enjoy!

Have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!


Pray today for those enduring difficult times and tough decisions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not Worthy, so I Take it out on Poor Will

Good Tuesday morning! With coffee mug empty, I greet thee this fine dawn. I wonder if Shakespeare ever started out that way? Perhaps not. Behold! The light doth passeth the window pane; the muggeth be emptied into the man! In humble jest we do mocketh our forbears; in laughter we doth taketh our easeth. Hoo boy, hook up the generator to old Will Shakespeare, his body in the grave would generate a potent current this morning. Some mornings when I sit down to write, other than having my first cup of coffee, I am not sure where to start. Often I begin in prayer, and when nothing comes right away I turn to clowning around with words. Shakespeare fans might wish that I wouldn't-est, but there it is.

Last night I heard a small anecdote about a profound lesson. The lesson was simply: Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Just the first lines from the childhood song we learned so long ago. What does the Bible say to us on this and why is it so profound? God hates sin; we are all sinners. Sin incurs a penalty and God's justice demands that penalty be paid. Jesus came from Heaven to pay the penalty for us. He rose again from the grave after paying the penalty for our sin on the cross. God loved us so much that His Son died to save us. Only the greatest love can explain the cross. Jesus loves me. This I now know. For the very word of God tells me the entire story of God's great love for those who will believe in Jesus Christ. We deserve eternal death, but Jesus bought us eternal life.

When I examine myself, I don't see a person worth God's love. But the proof has already been written in the Bible, God's own word, I cannot deny that fact. Therefore, I am only made worthy through God's love in Christ. Not from any deed or thought of mine does God love me. His love I cannot earn; His grace is freely given. I am unworthy, but Jesus did not base his actions on my worth. Jesus loves me; this I will claim!

Enjoy the love of Jesus today,

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Superpower of Prayer

Good Monday morning! Thanksgiving week is here! You may need a superpower to be thankful on a Monday so have some prayer this morning. That's right, the one superpower that we all have immediate access to at any time of the day or night is the power of prayer. Does that mean a simple mention of the name of Jesus will get us anything we want? Not necessarily, but sometimes those "I wants" don't seem quite so important when we bring them to God in prayer. Many a time I have found something I thought I wanted oh-so-bad to be not that important after a little bit of prayer about that thing. That 'thing' has never been limited to material possessions either. The thing might be the desire to see a person to tell him something that day. A little prayer does not make the person any less important to me, but the meeting might be able to wait for a day or two as the Holy Spirit reminds me to consider the situation of the other fellow. A bit of selfishness does sometimes keep our prayer from rising as it should.

Selfishness in prayer is a bit like a heavy lid on top of the bread pan. Why won't that dough rise? You pop off that heavy lid of selfishness and find that your bread dough has been trying to rise and is in fact all squooshed up against the lid. (Heh, I got to use 'squooshed' this morning!) The superpower of prayer is muted by our selfishness. We cannot take off and fly in prayer when the dumbbells of selfishness are strapped to our feet. Selfishness in prayer is a long list of 'I wants'; super power in prayer is asking God what He wants. Selfishness in prayer is all about me; super power in prayer is bringing up the needs of that other person. Each of us will have supplications to bring before God. Not a problem with that, but maybe those requests can wait until after we listen to God or talk over the spiritual condition of a loved one with Him. We have access to this superpower, but we don't always use it well.

Sometimes when I am in pain of some sort, i might send up a prayer that is all about my hurting. I can imagine after those times the Holy Spirit making intercession for me and telling God, "He really isn't as selfish as he sounds tonight. It's just that he is caught up in the pain of the moment, sir." We do have an advocate in Jesus and an intercessor in the Holy Spirit. Our prayers, imperfect as the one making them, do not go to God without the influence of the Spirit within us. Want to think in terms of your superpower? Remember that when you pray, you and the Holy Spirit are praying to God together. You are listening to God with the Spirit, making intercession for others with the Spirit, and making supplication for yourself with the Spirit. How can God not listen to His own Holy Spirit? Prayer, the super power we all have in us!

Be grateful for today in Christ!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Imagination Beast!

Good Friday morning! Walking in a forested area, far from the noise of civilization, you stop breathing the air. Wait, no, that should be: you stop, breathing the air. One little comma missing and suddenly you're a goner. The forest surely is a dangerous place! One time I was pursued through a forest by a killer squirrel. That isn't what my imagination thought the noises were of course. I had visions of pursuing bears, mountain lions, and maybe a stray yeti or two. Little noises in a quiet place can take on a whole new meaning. An imagination can be a treacherous beast too. Some of the most hair-raising and pulse-quickening moments in my life have come purely through an assault on me by my own imagination.

An imagination can be like living with a partially obedient lion. Sometimes I get together with my lion and produce stories of fiction that are fun to write and fun to read. At night I ride my lion through a dream world. Other times the lion is feeling peevish and rips me to shreds with visions of spooks, dangers, pain, and other things that will never happen. My lion is not by any means a tame beast.

God has given me a rich imagination. Because of Adam's curse, that imagination doesn't always serve me well. It's kind of like my relationship with God. I do well sometimes, but other times I rebel. I want to do what is right all of the time, but sin seems to be always ready to pounce on me. That isn't quite right either, because I am the one who decides to sin after entertaining temptation as an honored guest instead of fleeing from or resisting it as I should. Sin doesn't really pounce on me, it sends temptation to knock on the door first. I open the door thinking maybe that it's Jesus again, but he is already inside warning me to send temptation packing. I am like the overly polite host who cannot say 'no'. "Let's see what he has to say first!" Temptation is like that pushy salesman of course and he immediately shoves a foot in the door and spreads out a nice brochure to accompany his fast talking. The more I listen to temptation, the more likely it is that Jesus will be forgotten in the kitchen while I entertain temptation out back. That is about the time that temptation convinces me to let Sin in the door too. Fallen once more.

Like many things in this fallen world: money, possessions, jobs, and time, to name a few, a good imagination can be a good servant, but it makes for an evil master. An imagination can help you craft a good song or a fun story, but it can also place spooks in the closet, boogies under the bed, and the worst possible scenarios in your head. Let Jesus be the master, we all gave our lives to Him, and let the Master teach us how to control that imagination beast.

Have a lovely Friday in Christ Jesus!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Prayer Over Anxiety

Dear God the Almighty One,
Please forgive me for coveting imaginary terrors,
from a future I cannot see,
from a past already written,
and a day not yet begun.

Forgive me Lord for not trusting in your strength,
and for leaning on the weakened crutch that is my own ability.

Thank you, Lord, for guiding me and growing me
in your wisdom and discernment.
Thank you for turning anxious thoughts
to praise and joy for my Savior and Comforter.

Bring on the day as I sing songs of your glory
and think thoughts of the glorious future
you have written for me and those whom I love.

In the precious and powerful name of Jesus I pray

It's God's Fault!

Good Thursday morning! Did you get up blaming God for something today? I did, and I kind of like it. I'll give you a moment to gasp and wonder when the smiting will come down upon me... Okay, I told the Lord that it was His fault that I am not the same as I used to be. Praise and glory to God the Almighty, but I have been changed over the years as I have come to know Jesus more and given over those parts of my old life that still cling. You can say the same thing if you believe in Jesus. We can 'blame' God for changing us to be more like His Son. The world does not know us anymore. We also don't understand how the world cannot see the light of Jesus shining in the darkness.

The self-improvement programs I start all on my own and in my own strength seem to go nowhere. What I have tried to change is still the same. Of course, I try to change the outside. God works from the inside and His work goes forward. My work tends to go forward a little, turn around, jump off the tracks, halt, back up, and end up right back where I began the work. If I were a sword, I would jump into the fire too soon, jump out because it felt too hot, burn whatever I landed on, jump in the water before my metal was ready, and succeed only in making a useless lump of metal with all sorts of scorch marks on it. As we know, God is the master craftsman and Creator. If God wants to make me into a sword for His kingdom, then I will be made into the perfect sword. Best to let Him do the crafting in His perfect time.

You know it, and I know it, but we also know that I keep trying to tell God how to get the job done. Imagine the sword shouting up to the master sword maker, "No, no, this way, do it this way! I feel too hot! No, not in there!" Whatever will cause me to learn to let God change me from the inside with changes that will last? When will I learn? I guess the answer to that question will arrive at the same time that I learn to give the self-improvement up to God and leave the improving to the One who knows all.

Enjoy the new day in Christ!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Good Wednesday morning! Praise unto the Lord, our God and Savior! As we approach Thanksgiving, I like to recall as many gratitudes as I can. I see that by the spell checker that 'gratitude' has no plural. I disagree; we should be able to have lots of gratitudes and bring them all before God! If you wonder how the English language got so messed up, this would be one clue: writers messing around with words until a person trying to learn American English has no chance of understanding what we are talking about. On the other hand, many of our wonderful words would not be with us if our ancestors had been too conservative with the English language. So as the holiday of grateful attention to God's blessings approaches, I might just take the time to list my gratitudes on paper!

Have a grateful day in Christ!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No Hovering Allowed!

Good Tuesday morning! Today we float down over Peetz Place and hover over the home of Marla and Jeff: world-famous agent and supposedly retired person respectively. The home sits on a partially wooded lot and is in the style of a California bungalow from the 1920's. However, we don't know what is going on inside that home. You might be familiar with the furnishings, all of us might be able to guess at what is going on from the time of day, but we don't absolutely know what is going on there. As Jeff reads this we might be able to see the phenomenon called the 'creeps' beginning up his spine as he realizes that several dozen people are hovering outside his home trying to stare into his privacy. We might even chuckle a bit as he drops his coffee mug on his slippered foot. Ouch!

Okay, so we can't really hover over someones home in an effort to find out what they are up to on a cool autumn morning. We assume that our Christian brothers and sisters are not actually plotting our ruin in the privacy of their homes. I can write up a little Twilight Zone kind of intro to a story, but I cannot know as God knows what happens inside of homes unless I go in, preferably through knocking and an invitation to enter. Even if one of us goes into our friends' homes, we cannot know what is going on inside their hearts. Is he thinking, "Gads, where did these people come from? How soon can I get rid of them and go back to the football game?"? Hmm, I'm thinking, "How do you punctuate a quoted question?"

The point of the fun and games, other than to point out my lack of punctuational professionalism of course, is to point out how much God knows about each of us. You can stand outside of my home and stare in all you like, but you will not be able to see everything going on inside (nor would you want to). We may get a sense of shame in realizing that God can see everything, but we shouldn't. God created us. He knows more about us than anyone. The little cellular processes going on all the time in our bodies are known by God. If you or I were to suddenly become aware of every little process keeping us alive right now our minds would be overwhelmed with the knowledge. Yet, all of it, the good and the bad, the righteous acts and the sin, that is known by God does not prevent His love for us.

God loves you; love Him back!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Religious Fundamentalist Extremist Nut!

Good Monday morning! Did you enjoy the sudden wind on Saturday night? The wind snapped a little sign in my yard right off at the ground. Things fell over outside, downspouts hit the deck with a bang, and sleep fled far away for a while. Thoughts of that castle tempted me once more... do you suppose anyone would build a genuine stone castle for a couple hundred bucks? Probably not. The house held up, though at times the sound gave cause to fear otherwise, but I began to think about the things we think are solid in this world. Economies are apparently all tied together now. If one country goes bust, the media delights in telling us that ours will too. Governments appear pretty much dysfunctional all over the world and, lo and behold, it seems that families are too. We eat too much of this, too little of that, our strength is too weak, our speed too slow, our height to low, and our depth too shallow. Just give up on the world, ain't no sense in being here on a Monday anyway.

Wow, I kind of sound like one of Garfield's totally miserable Mondays. Ha, ha! I know that I am too little or too much of many things the world considers precious. I wonder how long those standards will hold up when the Tribulation arrives and God decides to knock down so much that the world believes to be strong and lasting. The end times of this world are all about removing the false hopes of the world and bringing in the final hope of Jesus Christ. University research labs will have no solution to a plague of demons; wealthy athletes will not be strong enough to outrun worldwide judgments; and the strongest buildings will be flattened by enormous earthquakes. Who or what will the world believe in then? I wonder if God will line up His judgments on Mondays? That's kind of a mean thought. Shame on me for thinking of that on a Monday before you all go in to work. So why am I snickering over my coffee?

Obviously, I believe that the predictions in the Bible are going to happen. Does that make me a religious fundamentalist extremist nut? To some, well, yes, they would put me in that category. Before we get to the dire judgments poured out in Revelation, we get to a promise that God is not willing that anyone should perish. Love comes before judgment, and we know that God's judgment is sure and certain. What then does that make God's love?

Make your choice, the time of the end is soon!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Good Veteran's Day!

Good Veteran's Day to you! Goals are important; goals are fine, but God is in charge of me and mine. At times we may come to realize that a goal is not going to be met or perhaps is not even possible for us to fulfill. The day we set the goal we knelt down in prayer and asked God's blessing on our goal setting. We listened as the Holy Spirit guided our steps, and we set that goal. Now, months later, that goal looks impossible. What went wrong? It may be that nothing at all went wrong.

We do not know all of God's ways and plans. It seems odd to say it from my worldly trained point of view, but there may be times in your life that God's goal for you was only to go part way down some path to a goal you set. The lesson God wanted you and me to learn may not lie at the end of our goal. We grow up with the thinking that every goal must be met, every dream is possible (in our own strength no less!), all the riches and fame will come to those who work hard enough. Then the childhood dreams, the teenage goal setting, and the idle wishes begin to fall one by one. What did that child do wrong? Again, perhaps the child did nothing at all wrong.

When we come to Christ and give up control of the life we have so bounded by goals, dreams, and wishes, He may have different plans for us. Plans that are not bounded by what we think is possible or even necessary to accomplish. One command of Jesus comes to mind: "Abide in me..." Just abide, that's all? My dictionary has an old use for abide: live in a place. Simply live in Jesus? There it is. No list of what must be done today or tomorrow. No long range plans or grand goals; just abide in Christ.

Goals are good and plans are great when we bring them to God. We will accomplish great things in Christ as we live in Him. However, if that one goal you cherished is not going to happen, or just seems like it may not happen, remember that Jesus the Christ has not changed. His love for you and me is still of overwhelming potency. His grace has not stopped working like one of our machines. His faithfulness is still what we can fully trust in. Praise the name of our Lord Jesus!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ceremony and Beginning

Happy Birthday! Today is the 236th birthday of the United States Marine Corps! We like stable things: nations that have been around for centuries, buildings that have lasted for decades or more, people who have been around for decades... Okay, sometimes we forget to appreciate the old folks. But we do like some stability in this chaotic life. How much do you appreciate the cross today? We don't know exactly when some Romans cut down a couple of trees and made one particular cross, but we do know that Jesus died on that cross. The wood of that same cross has probably long since rotted away, or perhaps God is saving it for a place of honor; but honor and remember the cross we do.

The cross did not at first become a symbol of the Christian faith. We started out with the sign of the fish, as in fishers of men. The fish went out of style so much that you might at first be mistaken for a fan of fish fishing when you wear the fish sign these days. The cross took over about 3 or 4 hundred years after the time of Christ. The cross is much older than many of the things we celebrate, such as most nations and organizations. The cross is not as old as some things like the pyramids of Egypt, some other nations, and your mother-in-law. However, how much the cross has aged is not the point. What happened on the cross is a part of it, but who died on the cross and rose again from death is more important still.

As I get older, and that seems to happen to most of us, I find a better appreciation for stability and other old things. I can remember trying to find ways to get out of celebrations and such when I was younger. Standing around for a ceremony, especially when ordered to do so, seemed like such a waste of time. These days a proper ceremony seems to be needed to commemorate these things. The ceremony might be just one or two of us, or even a few more, or something with thousands that I have to watch on the telly, but a ceremony is a good thing. A few important ceremonies will come our way soon. The holy day of Thanksgiving when we take a special day to show our gratitude to God; the Christmas holy day when we remember the birth of Christ, and the day of Christ's resurrection that we call Easter.

On some days we remember the end of something, like we will on Friday for World War I, and other times we remember the beginning like we do at Christmas. The cross was the beginning of something too - the day when our sins were paid for by Jesus and we became free to accept the grace of God. That is quite a beginning!


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Feel a Bit Whiney?

Good Wednesday morning! Bright, sunny morning here; the storm missed entirely and now we can enjoy the aftermath without the math. Sounds just wondermous! The roof is finished and the cats have calmed down once more. I think that the valley of death's shadow must sound like six men with hammers pounding on your roof with no sense of rhythm or melody. The cats would agree with me on that one! The wood frame construction of the homes we have does not lead one to substitute words like 'fortress' or 'castle', nope just ain't gonna happen. A man's home is the one that creaks in a stout breeze? Nope, doesn't have the same ring to it. Yet we count ourselves blessed because a thatched hut would stand up to even less, and a bed on the bare ground is not good even for sleeping most of the time.

A blessed life is a contented life. I don't mean that contentment that comes from tallying up the disadvantages either. Realizing or rationalizing that a castle is not desirable because castles are expensive to heat is not really contentment. Not wanting a bigger house because bigger houses are too much to clean is a poor kind of contentment too. How are we to become content then if finding disadvantages to some other situation is off limits? We can start with God. Are you content with God? I kind of feel guilty for even writing or thinking such a thing! However, I know that God is quite above my little questions. I cannot make our Lord any less than He is simply by asking the wrong questions. How can you and I not be content with the Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and all-wonderful Creator of the heavens and the earth? Well, He gave us the curse and it is so hard to live under.

God took care of that too! Salvation, freely given by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, is ours for the asking. We didn't earn it, can't buy it, don't have the strength of will to achieve it, and are in all ways unqualified to even claim it. Yet, Jesus died for our sins that we might have it freely. Complain against God? Shame on me for even having such thoughts in my little brain! Yet, God will answer our complaints, even those that we shouldn't have, and gave us His Word that we might read of other times when our heroes of the faith didn't feel or act very heroically. Paul didn't like his thorn in the flesh and wanted God to remove it. Peter probably didn't like putting his foot in his mouth several times, and he might wonder if we need to tell that bit about the rooster and the three denials in so many sermons. In our lives we might think or do the wrong things at times. We might even come up with a major whining complaint against God at some point. Don't try to hide it; bring it before God and let Him answer the charge. Above all, let the Holy Spirit comfort you. Jesus didn't send the Comforter because we are going to feel good all the time.

Have a blessed day in Christ, and listen to the comfort of the Comforter!


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Island of Despair

Good Tuesday morning! The island of despair, have you ever been there? I heard another sad story on the radio last night and once again it had that thing in common. The one the devil very much wants us to think about our own particular problem or condition - no one knows what this is like but me, poor pitiful me. The 'It's only me' symptom has been used by despairing folks for as long as problems have been around I'm sure. I have used it before. You may have too. The devil wants us out there on that island of despair wailing about how alone we are. How the devil must have whooped it up when Jesus said those very similar words on the cross. But... then... Jesus gave up his precious soul to who? God! Out on that island of despair we too have a realization. Jesus has not left us alone. Though the friends in this world seem to have gone off their own way, Jesus is here! When even the spouse you love seems to be ignoring the problem, perhaps because you are hoarding it, the Savior knows all about the problem and is there with comfort. Alone? Never!

The words of Jesus, a promise to hold tightly: "I will never leave you nor forsake you, even unto the end of the age..." Have a great day with Jesus!


Monday, November 07, 2011

An Odd Dance

Good Monday morning! Another winter storm headed our way this evening. The bulk of it is supposed to go further south, but be careful just in case. Hmm, how many just-in-cases have you already pondered this morning? Some of us have a love of anxieties that exceeds even human reasoning. We fret about things that might happen, imagine things that won't happen, and even throw in a few things that might have happened in the past had this or that gone a bit differently. The latter one is the most ridiculous of all, yet we tend to entertain a few visions like that. Praise God that His Holy Spirit is developing a stop sign in my mind.

You might call this stop sign discipline, or self-control, or the control of Jesus in my life. All of these relate to the same thing: the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is growing in my life. When the diabolical self tries to descend into that maelstrom of anxiety, the big stop sign is held up. I believe that I am getting better at holding it up sooner in the process too. Do I give myself a pat on the back for this? No, the glory and credit belongs to God in this. I am powerless on my own to stop these things. Much like a person with a phobia, I need intervention at the perfect time. And who better than the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach me this self-control!

You may have a phobia yourself, or you know someone who has one. I am not talking about fearing spiders more than bees, or height more than depth, but the real full-blown, flee-the-room kind of phobia that is more uncommon. I have come to realize that doing an odd version of the funky chicken dance when a bee or wasp takes a strange interest in me is not all that uncommon. Stopping suddenly or even immediately and taking an involuntary step back when first seeing a snake is probably a good cautionary reaction and not a phobia. Some folks suffer from real phobias. A spider in the room can cause immediate flight or a snake on the ground can cause a panic attack. The fear reaction is much more than it should be; we might even go so far as to call it unreasonable, though there may be a good reason in the person's past. This anxiety thing is much the same, unreasonable and much more than it should be.

On the other hand, I have come to think that shame does not need to be added in to do its insidious work. All of us have grave clothes that need to be given up to the Holy Spirit and laid at the foot of the cross. Jesus has raised us from the spiritually dead and now we need to stand and let the command of our Lord be carried out. You know the one, Jesus said it to those watching Lazarus hobble out of the grave bound in his grave clothes: "Release him and let him go!" Stand and let the Holy Spirit release you from the grave clothes of your past life. Phobias, anxieties, bad habits, dependencies, worries, and much more must be given up in favor of our new life in Christ. And if you see me doing an odd dance outside sometime, just know that some buzzing insect caught me off guard, or maybe its just part of some new fad workout I'm trying.

Have a wonderful and blessed Monday!


Friday, November 04, 2011

Why Do We Do That?

Good Friday morning! Just learned last night that someone is not coming to see us as planned. No problem then, two weeks of devotionals about treachery, betrayal, breaking faith, and general wimpyness coming up! Just kidding, we all have obligations that at times will interfere with what we want to do. You may hear sermons that tell of what God wants us to do, slaves of (or in) Christ, bond servants and others that don't sound like a whole lot of fun. We tend to come before God expecting that what He will want us to do will rank right up there with grazing out of dumpsters or sleeping in the pig pen. Why do we approach our mission in that way before we even know what the mission will be?

Imagine that a young man has grown up with a particular talent for playing the piano. He not only has received the best training, but he also very much enjoys what he does well. One day the young man receives Jesus into his heart and asks that question we all ask - what now Lord? However, in this young man's mind is the dreadful thought that surely the Lord God Almighty is going to assign him to the hammer testing line at a local factory. He even prepares for this by meeting the old hands, or at least what's left of them. Stumpy, Lefty, One-hand Joe, Paddle-fingered Pete, and the entire crew are glad to meet the new prospect. You might think this completely ridiculous.

Surely the young man is listening to the whispers of the Devil. God would never train up a young man like that and then destroy his talent in that way. We don't know everything that God may or may not do. The young man's talent may be the pride that stands in the way of his sanctification. What is more likely though is that God has a use for that piano player. Perhaps he will play in a far country where music has not been heard. He may, horror of horrors, actually be called to continue on doing exactly what he loves to do, only now he will do it for the Lord's glory! Don't laugh, you have probably feared something very nearly as ridiculous as that little fiction of mine. I know I have fallen into this temptation.

Trusting in the Lord may lead you into doing something for a living that you very much enjoy doing. Now there's a thought for the day!


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Admitting the Truth

Good Thursday morning! Oh my, ice on the windows, cold on the outside, it's like winter here this morning! Have you ever denied the truth of something in this life? Coming to the Lord to admit that I am wrong can be a tough thing to do. It can be especially tough when the wrong-headed thing has gone on for a long time. For some months and perhaps years now, I have told God that I didn't want to do something. I have repented in words and asked forgiveness, but yet I still say that I don't want to do this anymore. So why do I continue to do it?

First, I realized just this morning that a part of me does want to do this. You might recall the words of Paul in Romans 7 on this subject. Why did I think that I was better than the great apostle? I must first admit to God that a part of me does indeed want to do exactly what the spiritual part of me does not. C.S. Lewis defined three parts of man: the spiritual, the animal, and the diabolical. The animal is where the desires are for sex, eating, sleeping, and others that we call natural wants and desires spring from. The diabolical is that part that wants to rebel against God's law. The spiritual is the part that realizes that something is missing from us before we are saved in Christ. After salvation, when the hole in the spiritual is filled by God's Holy Spirit, the battle begins in earnest.

The animal desires are in themselves not good or evil. When the diabolical part of us teams up with the animal to produce adultery, fornication, gluttony, greed, and so on, we end up in sin. The spiritual can also team up with the animal and we can enjoy a social night with friends, have sex in marriage, earn money to provide for the family, and other actions that are not sin. The hard part can be admitting our imperfection to God and saying that we do have these animal desires the same as the sinner down the block does. I want to be perfect before Christ now! But I must come to God and admit that I am not.

Honesty in our prayers can be undermined by the diabolical in us. Admitting to God that I have the same animal desires and diabolical rebellion that everyone else does is the start of healing and cleansing. I cannot cleanse myself, that is the work of God's Holy Spirit, but admitting the truth opens the doors to those locked rooms in my heart that need the Spirit's cleansing touch. The diabolical nature in me where pride dwells might try to tell me that I am better than that, but God's word tells me that I am not better than anyone else. We all need the salvation of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit!

Go with God today,


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Light

Good Wednesday morning! Trying to get past the almost painful whiteness of the new G-mail compose screen. Ouch! I'll have to check into dimming that glow just a bit. That kind of makes me wonder how dim my glow might be. Has my initial flame in Christ kind of sputtered a little? How can I tell? We don't want to be like the church that became lukewarm, but how do we measure our spiritual brightness? This may not be something that I can see on my own. Can a flashlight measure its own light? Unless the light is reflected off something else, the light has no way to tell how it is doing. This may be related to the question of why we need each other. After all, wouldn't Jesus alone be sufficient? Do we need to walk with anyone else?

If I shine my light at Jesus there is no reflection; I only see His great light. Jesus does not reflect our glory; we are made to reflect His. I must shine my light out into the darkness. Once in a while, I will see my light reflected. We meet our brothers and sisters in Christ at times and then we can see a reflection of our lamps. Other times we might see a little glimmer as the Good News is received by a person lost in that darkness. We hope to point that person to the true Light of the World.

There is a lot of metaphorical stuff going on in the devotional this morning. I hope that I don't lose myself in it. As Christians we have been made clean in Christ. A lot like the new snow, we are white and cleansed by our Lord. However, the snow under the cloudy skies is much easier to look at than that same snow when the sun shines on it directly. The closer we get to Jesus, the more our light will shine. So much that the world may one day have trouble looking at us so bright will be the light of Jesus in our faces. Stephen, the first martyr, became that way just before the world stoned him. The world wants to shut out that painful Light, but let us go forth and shine!

God be with you!


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

His Strength, not Mine

Good Tuesday morning! Yesterday I wished you a happy Halloween. Today, with much greater feeling, praise God it's over for another year! Late in the evening one in a veritable parade of little Scream ghosts came trudging up the sidewalk. Moving slowly, head down, obviously worn out, if they had used this one in the movies no one would have been frightened in the least bit. By that time I was dragging a bit myself. Just before that, one candy-grabber had commented how tired of walking he was, but I noticed that he had not stopped yet. This morning I had the thought that at the end of this life we should be in the same shape. Dragging slowly over the finish line, obviously worn out, but still going as long as any unsaved persons remain. We just cannot stop while we have life and breath left in our poor old bodies. Doesn't that just sound easier for kids to do?

As we get older, working to the point of exhaustion just seems to be so much less desirable. Nothing is worth that anymore, certainly not a bag of candy. The body doesn't recover as quickly; the pain in the joints seems like it will never heal. Praise God there are other ways to serve the Kingdom! If salvation for the unsaved depended upon a bunch of older Christians running two marathons each day, the unsaved persons would probably be doomed. Only in God's strength could any of us run one marathon tomorrow, much less two. Wait a minute... maybe that is the key, God's strength. We see how much God's strength is needed in that absurd example, and yet why do we think that our faltering weakness is the only thing that holds us to the narrow path to the promised land? Jesus doesn't walk beside us just for the conversation, ya know!

The only way to finish this race strong is in Christ. Your strength, my strength, it ain't gonna happen! We need to have the Holy Spirit in us, Jesus beside us, the hand of God upholding us to finish this race. You and me do not have it in us to finish or even go in the right direction when we depend only on our own strength. We need Jesus and we need Him all the time. Praise God that His strength is made glorious in my weakness, because I certainly have plenty of that!

Have a wonderful new day in Christ!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween?

Good Monday morning! I feel like singing 'It's not My Job Anymore'! Someone may have used that for a song title at some point in history, but I don't recall hearing it. My song may never make the Billboard Top 6,000 list and my caterwauling may not put the X in the X-Factor, but I feel like singing it anyway. Monday morning and more cold is on the way. November is on the way too, so I suppose that kind of fits with the cold. Happy Halloween! "Gasp! How dare you put that in a Christian devotional!" I know. This is one of those things that some Christians have a problem with, even to the point of denying the little spooks and spectres their candy treat. What are you putting into the day? I am not celebrating the creatures of the night and I have no problem giving out candy to children; after all they might as well have the opportunity to get fat like me. I did replace my door chime this year to get rid of that nasty clanking the old one had. The cats appreciate it. Do I accuse those brothers and sisters who have a problem with Halloween? Nope, t'aint my place to do that anymore. Besides, why miss the opportunity that Halloween provides? Little kids at your door with bags open, slip a real treat into the bag. One of those little New Testaments, some tracts (an idea I heard last week at Life Group), along with the candy treat perhaps? The kids may not realize the real treat isn't the candy one, but one day one of those seeds may blossom.

In Christ we have gained freedom from the penalty of the Law and from the slavery of sin. We still have our animal desires and our diabolical nature from before, but we are no longer in chains. From that I can think of a few things that are no longer in my job description. A being already bears the title, accuser of the brethren (and sistren), so we don't have to run to God in our prayers with accusations against our brothers and sisters in Christ. You have never done that? Never spoken a prayer something like, "Please Lord convict old so-and-so because I saw him going into that place and you know what goes on in there..."? Hmm? Never been caught praying something like that? Good for you; I have, and while I may have known what went on in that place when I was with old so-and-so, I don't know for sure what he did in there after I became a child of God and stopped going with him. My attempt at disguising the accusation might not smell so sweet to the Lord.

What else is no longer in our job description? Vengeance! We see it in our culture and in our media. "You have to stand up for yourself; you must get even. If you don't take care of this, he/she/they will just come do it again!" We are to defend what the Lord has given us, but that does not speak of feuds and wars and the vengeance the world loves so much. God gave the command, "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. I will repay those who deserve it!" As new creations in Christ our Lord, we no longer have to follow and carry out that desire for vengeance we feel. It isn't in our job description now.

We should not feel the need to compete in our new job. Paul used several sports metaphors in his epistles, but we are not competing against our brothers and sisters in Christ. In straining to reach the prize like the Philippians we don't reach over and snip the drawstring of our brother's girdle of truth. "Whoops there, brother! I have to win that prize!" Not so! We are in this race together with Jesus our Lord. We do our utmost to help each other through prayer and supplication, service and sharpening, and above all, love. That cutthroat competition the world loves so much is no longer in our job description.

You can think of many other things the world cherishes that no longer fit the job description of Christ-one. We are new creatures in Christ. Live like it!