Monday, February 28, 2011

Awards and Rewards - February 28, 2011

Good Monday morning! And a Happy Birthday to my mother, who in celebrating her birthday will start rehab on her broken wrist today. Now that's...not really the way I would choose to celebrate a birthday. Did you watch the Academy Awards last night? Many of us in America watch this awards show, and many also watch the Espy's and the many, many other award shows for people who earn way more than you and I do. Yes, that's part of what I was thinking last night when I watched the first hour or so of the Oscars. These people are paid hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars for their performance, and then we watch them get awards too. The other part of what I was thinking was: I assure you they have all the reward they will ever get. I may not have the words of Jesus exactly correct, but we do seem to have something wrong in our world.

When someone performs well at their job, sometimes he or she will get an extra award, but more often than not the only reward is the paycheck. The sad part is that we often think that isn't fair, but we think it in the wrong way. The paycheck we receive should in fact be the reward, but like our celebrities on their pedestals, we want more. We watch as some of the most well-compensated employees on the planet receive awards at shows watched by millions. We go to work and naturally expect the same thing: awards on top of the paycheck. What is at the root of this thing of ours? What do we really want to see?

I think that the world wants to see that ultimate award show where the wealthiest and most physically attractive persons are handed immortality as their reward for a job well done. A graven image of the rarest and most expensive materials will accompany the awarding so that the persons selected can display the image in their homes. People would then come from all over to bow down at the feet of the image in the hopes of that success being granted to crown their own efforts. The world wants its own achievements to take the place of God. If any of us can earn enough, look good enough, perform well enough, and receive that highest of awards... the world will no longer need God, at least according to the fallen thinking lurking deep down in our wicked hearts.

Jesus told us some very opposite things: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt 6:33). "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12) Blessed are you when other revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11-12) Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. (Matt 6:19) And finally this passage that speaks to us today.

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:25-28)

The one who accomplished the most for us, received the least of awards from us. Jesus died on a cross among criminals and in doing so opened the way to salvation. Crucifixions in his day were exactly the opposite of the big award shows on television in our day. Instead of celebrating the best of people, the Romans hung the worst of people on crosses to die and everyone came tramping out of the city to watch. While I agree that celebrating the best (at least according to the world's measure) is better than watching executions for entertainment; where did Jesus accomplish his great redemption?

May God have mercy on us and this world we live in.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fear Not! - February 26, 2011

Good Saturday morning! The snow covered ground and low clouds made for one bright night. The roaring of the furnace covers most noises from outside, not that many people are up and about yet on a Saturday morning. Our town is hosting a basketball tournament this weekend. I don't know how many of the expected 3,000 persons have showed up, but I will stay home and write or de-clutter today. The cats are in cold weather mode which means that hours go by without much going on out in the living room. It gets kind of peaceful around here during snow days. Until the day comes when the cabin fever sets in and all of us start going a little nuts. We haven't had it bad this year. The snow has come and gone for the most part within a few days. We have enjoyed short breaks from the windy days every now and then. Some warmer days have broken up the cold this year. Not too bad really. Of course, my hate part of the love/hate relationship I have with winter will soon arrive. March is always that month when a hint or two of spring arrives between the cold spells. The winter has gone on for long enough in my mind, but the spring snows may come and the wind certainly will. However, today is still February and we are not to borrow trouble from tomorrow.

Taking out a loan of possible trouble from the future is one of an anxious person's most common activities. There is nothing quite so disabling as thinking about the many potential problems any given future condition might cause. Few of these potential troubles are even likely, some are downright impossible, but we grab a few off the shelf of our false foreseeing and tremble in fear. Rolling a few anxieties around in the mind can even make a person physically ill. Anxiety likes to team up with its buddies too. Stress, depression, rage... the usual rogue's gallery of bad emotions. When the bad emotions team up to defeat a person, they can usually do a pretty good job. Jesus only had one thing to say about this kind of thinking, and he said it many times - fear not!

The cornered dog is the most dangerous when it fears you. Anxiety is fear borrowed from the future we cannot see. Depression is fear piled on fear bearing us down to the floor. Stress is the fear of losing your job that an employer likes to heap on you, or the fear of performing poorly that we like to heap upon ourselves. Rage can be a reaction to that pile of fear when we throw all that fear into a vat and drink deeply of it. Jesus said, "Fear not!"

It is easy for us to fear many things. The things we fear range from the beast snarling at us in the present to the uncertainty of the future. Some things we fear are completely imaginary, others are all too present in reality. A rattlesnake in front of a person can be dealt with by backing off. The fears that cause us the most damage though are the the ones we make up from our own imaginations. It is hard for our brothers and sisters in Christ to help with something that only happens in our fearful minds. I can't restrain the beast that snaps only in your imagination. You can't stop the tiger that slashes only in my dreams. Both of us can, and do, pray often for our friends in Christ. Prayer doesn't get enough credit in our fight with fear. Oh sure, we pray fervently and with great concentration when the grizzly bear hops out of the bush in front of us and yells, "Boo!" in grizzly bear talk. However, when those daily fears sneak up on us during the quiet times we sometimes forget to pray. We also tend to forget that others may have those same fears and need our prayers as well.

Take a moment to pray for some other person today. There is a pretty good chance that the other person is afraid of something too! Together, let us pray for all of us to obey the command of Jesus and "Fear not!"


Friday, February 25, 2011

Hurry, Hurry! - February 25, 2011

Good Friday morning! The snow looked impressive last night, but it stopped before too long and we only have a couple of inches on the ground. If you were hoping for another day off of school, I don't think you are going to get it today. The Cactus League starts play today down in Arizona. I hope you are ready for some baseball! It certainly looks like baseball weather outside under the snow and above the clouds. Well, actually the grass is brown beneath the snow, so maybe only above the clouds does it look like baseball weather. I guess we can always hope for spring. Kind of explains why they don't have a Buffalo Chip league for spring training. We had a good lesson on hurry last night. Does it strike close to home for you as it did for me? I was once asked why anyone would look at my life and see the value of believing in Jesus. One of the best examples we can be is to live the Christian life. At the time, I was still working for my old employer and attending counseling sessions with a therapist every other week. Diagnosed with PTSD and suffering the pains of several anxiety-induced conditions in my body and mind; why would anyone look at my example and want to follow Christ?

From my example alone, no one would have wanted to join such a thing at that time. Much of what we saw in the lesson: the pursuit of money and job titles, the rush-rush of deadlines and long hours, college and a full-time job with the occasional late or early hours, and the almost manic acquisition of stuff, all cost me in my life example. I experienced all of it. Hurry was my life and I fought it all the way. It seems strange that at the same time I would want all the things I thought I wanted, and yet be fighting it at the same time. Sounds like an unnatural condition, doesn't it? More than two years removed from that time, I am still recovering, but the difference is remarkable. My life before under the cloud of hurry could be likened to the high thin string on a guitar; the one the goes "ting!" when you pluck it and looks thin enough to break easily. Now, I am more like the thicker, stronger strings toward the bottom of the guitar that give a deeper sound when plucked. There are still situations that cause me anxiety, but none quite like my old life produced in me.

We used to call it stress, but our lesson used "hurry" to describe the same conditions in life. The pursuit of money and stuff is the usual fire starter for a life of hurry. Like many other things in life, money and stuff is not evil in and of itself. The problems and the hurry start when you accept either as lord in your life and begin to serve either or both. You will soon find, as many have, that no amount of money is enough and stuff produces only a desire for more stuff. A couple of times I have found myself in an informal gun acquisition contest. Both times I eventually had to ask, "What the heck am I doing?" Eventually, that is after finding myself broke and in possession of more guns than I could possibly use. The suggested word our lesson used for this problem was: de-clutter. Paul said much the same when he advised us to put away those weights slowing us down in our race. Jesus told us that it would be better to cut off a part of our bodies than to go to Hell because of it. All point to the same thing: serving Jesus is far better than serving stuff or money, and we cannot do both. Jesus pointed this out too, when he said that no one can serve both God and mammon.

I like it when our Bible and life group lessons hit right on the mark in my own heart. I love it that God cares enough to teach me. Have a great day in Christ!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guided Experience - February 24, 2011

Good Thursday morning! The icy-cold fog has arrived; the next cold weather trial has begun. Where do I find my joy this morning.... spoken in the depressed tones of Mr. Snuffleupagus. Did you know the spell checker is no help when trying to spell some of those Sesame Street character names? I didn't either. I also found out that Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name, Aloysius. I didn't know that either. In fact, I can't recall Mr. Snuffleupagus ever having a first name in my years of Sesame Street watching. Of course, even with the spelling of his last name in front of me I'm having trouble typing it the same way twice. If a child can spell "Snuffleupagus" no word in grade school should give him any trouble at all. I, on the other hand, couldn't spell the word at all without looking it up online. The question of being smarter than a 5th grader is a foregone, or perhaps I should say long gone, conclusion in my case.

Fortunately for you, I turn over the writing and inspiration for this devotional to the Holy Spirit. Otherwise you might find yourselves caught up in some discussion of characters from a children's show. Wouldn't want that to happen on a fine, cold Thursday morning, would you? I actually like to go back a bit and answer questions that a child should, and probably does, know. Paul tells us that knowledge can puff up. We can easily become proud in our knowledge. Finding oneself unable to answer questions that grade school children know is a good way to remind one of the slipperiness of knowledge. Facts we memorized in grade school aren't always readily available for recall on the spot to most of us. Some few people can remember and recall everything, but I'm not one of those. I spend a lot of time researching facts for my books. I gain a lot of knowledge and must therefore fight the urge to become proud in it. Looking over the questions God asks Job starting in chapter 38 of that book is another good way to humble oneself.

In a discussion I listened to the other day, a couple of professors made an interesting point about our language. English is apparently one of the few languages that does not have separate words for knowledge gained by experience and knowledge gained through scholarship. We tend to differentiate (Look how I'm trying to sound smart now!) by saying things like "street" knowledge and "book" knowledge. Some people call a scholar book smart with no common sense, or in Texas you might hear: "Big hat with no cattle". These descriptions are aimed at person who has a lot of book learning, but no actual experience "in the field" as they say. Just last night someone told us that experience is not the best teacher, but guided experience is the way to go. This is true in my experience (pun fully intended). Experience is a tough way to learn at times. It is far better to have Mom guide you to avoid burning yourself on a pan of hot water than to learn by sticking your hand on the side of the pot. Even though we all have a natural rebellion to any good advice, your mother may have showed you by holding your hand close to the pot to let you experience the heat without burning your skin.

I like the guided experience we gain through God's Holy Spirit. Many is the time that an experience of mine could have been much worse had I not observed the hand of God limiting the damage. Of course, I may not have noticed God's hand at work until a few weeks later when I had the opportunity to look back and wonder, what if...? Yesterday, I got the chance to wonder what if both the nice old lady and I had not bothered to look to our left at that intersection. One of us didn't, but God helped me to stop my truck before an accident happened. To my knowledge the little old lady is still under the impression that no one was there. I checked the mirror this morning and my eyes have receded back to their normal size. It's a good thing too. My cats took one look at me yesterday and fled the room, perhaps thinking that something with large teeth and claws had followed me home. Having your eyes popping out of your skull like that is a social nuisance.

Be careful driving out there today; the snow is supposed to start sometime later in the day. Dress warm and wear your mittens! And praise God for the day.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Looking Up! - February 23, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! The weather report has one basic fact in it - spring ain't here yet. We are to expect a prolonged period of snow and cold starting tonight. Oh, joy...

There must be some better news to report from the Bible today. Jesus is coming soon! Hey, now that's some good news for those of us looking and yearning for our Lord's return. I cannot make this world and its weather any better for us, but I can remind you and me of the good news that we have in Christ. Of course this wouldn't be the first time that a secular wag could accuse me of looking past reality to a future of fantasy. I agree, the present reality does sometimes cause me to look to the hope I have in Jesus. It seems that someone has set the Middle East to "broil" and I do not know whether it is God, Allah, or the Prince of this world who has done this. Whoever started it, I know that God will finish it. In the same way, we can read in Genesis that the Serpent started sin by tempting Eve, and in Revelation we can read that God will finish sin. That is good news. We have that hope of freedom from the presence of sin to look forward to.

The end times will start with wars and earthquakes, famine and persecution, but we can also read beyond that to the triumphant return of Christ. Good news and more good news. We are called to endure in our faith in our daily lives, and in the end times up to the very end. Endurance does bring to mind something that must be endured. We don't want to think about the suffering that wars and earthquakes, famines and persecution will bring, but we are called to endure to the end. Another promise is that Jesus will never leave us even to the end of the age. Along with the exhortation to endure, we get the good news that Jesus will be right there with us. Good news! Your end may come before the end of this age. The end of this age may not occur until the year 2532. I don't think any of us would want to endure quite that long, even though we don't know how long God will have us stay here. The end of your life or my life on this earth is cause for celebration when we submit to the sovereign will of Christ in this life. It seems strange to think of the great terror we face on this earth as a cause for celebration, but there it is. We are not at home anymore.

Jesus tried to make his disciples see the good news in his death. Just as we do now, the disciples had some trouble seeing what could be good about anyone dying. Death seems like the end, but God assures us many times in his word that this life is not the end. Even the suicide bombers commit their heinous acts because they expect more life after this one. The knowledge of eternity must be in our hearts somewhere for so many to believe there is in fact an eternity to look for. God must have placed this knowledge there because we have no evidence from this short life to build such a story on.

A paw... the cat is telling me that if I ain't typin' then I'm fair game for kitty attention. Sometimes my thoughts wander off to far regions when a pause in the devotional happens. Even when thinking on eternity, the reality of the moment does make its presence felt. I would like to live my life in fantasies of a wonderful future with Christ in Heaven, but I have work to do in the here and now. However, we are to give some thought to the Heavenly places where God sits on his throne and Jesus sits at the right hand of the Almighty One. We will be called to appear there one day, and what a wonderful day that will be!

Look up, for your redemption draws near. Look to the side, and see Jesus with you always. Look forward, to the hope we have in Christ. Look around, for the harvest is ripe and we have work to do.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Slaves for Christ - February 22, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Revolution in Libya, Iranian ships in the Suez, and another earthquake in New Zealand. The signs continue around the world. Did you see the news that a couple of Libyan fighter pilots took their planes and defected rather than fire on their own people? That is a brave act as there is no guarantee when you take off that another country will let you land your plane. It is also a brave act to defy your own nation's orders. Even if the current regime is removed from power, the pilots may never be welcomed back. Yet, firing on their own people could have made them wanted criminals under a new government. What would you or I do in their place? Not so easy to answer that one.

In the Bible we find another interesting question. Onesimus the slave ran away from Philemon his master. Paul called slaves to be obedient to their masters so that by their example the masters might be saved in Christ. But Onesimus had heard the good news of Christ and very much wanted to be a free man. Paul sent him back to his master. What? Are we not made free in Christ? Paul also wrote on our responsibility to our governments. It would seem that Paul didn't bring political revolution in his message. Rome and its slavery would exist for some time after Philemon and Onesimus were long gone from the earth.

Today, we look back on the slavery in our own country with a sort of collective guilt. Politicians and others like to sprinkle their speeches with phrases like "this great nation", but this nation hasn't always acted 'great' in its affairs. When we look back in our history at the conditions of slaves, we shy away from using that word in the Bible. Last week and into this week, John MacArthur has been speaking on the Greek word 'doulos'; what is translated as slave or bondservant. The New Testament uses the word more than one hundred times; I counted 107 in my Strong's, but may have missed some. Yet what word did you read growing up with the various Bible translations? Right, servant. We don't like to use the word 'slave' and we don't like the thought of becoming one. As usual we miss the target.

When looking at the condition of slaves in our history, we are quite right in not wanting to become that for Christ. But Jesus told us to look to him, not the world's perversion of something used in the Bible. The fault of the slaves' condition in the old South was not an indictment of the slaves, but of the masters. Becoming a slave or bondservant to Christ will never result in the evil things we have read in the historical accounts of the way slaves' masters sometimes acted in the antebellum South. We admit that Christ paid the ransom to save us, but something in us resists admitting that he now owns us. This rebellion is the slavery we are born under, original sin. Jesus paid the price to redeem us, but we are like the fearful slave cowering in the dark shadows behind our former master who abused us, afraid that nothing new can be any better. How wrong that old nature within us can be!

Jesus reassured us in His Word that his yoke is easy and his burden light. Many a person has feared the infamous "mission to the Congo" before accepting the grace that is our salvation in Christ. However, every person I have met who has actually gone on a mission trip has felt the call, often even before he or she surrendered to Christ. In other words, the call to missions was never something they feared, but something they looked forward to. I will gladly name myself a slave of Jesus Christ. The fearful connotations and associations we have with the word come from the lies of the world - not from our new Lord and Master, Jesus.

Enjoy the new day in Christ!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Day - February 21, 2011

Happy Presidents Day! Shoo, get those clouds out of the way; it's time for some sunshine! I don't know about you, but I haven't been outside much this winter. This year seems especially cold for some reason, must be that global warming we keep expecting. We did just have a couple of days with record high temps last week, but somehow enjoying the warm temps while desperately clinging to a pole on the side of my house just doesn't seem to be a lot of fun. When your 3/4 ton truck feels like a boat on the ocean, you know the wind is blowing hard. Well, the snow missed us for the most part. We did have some ice and a few flurries, but nothing to write home about as far as snow accumulation. The ice is probably still out there, I may wait a bit before venturing out this morning. Yesterday I could have slid down my driveway, across the street, and up into my neighbor's garage on a thin coating of ice. I'm getting old enough to make that seem just too dangerous, but yet it still sounds like fun. I worry about me sometimes...

Can you imagine Heaven? A place without the fear of danger, but with the thrill of speed. A place without the sorrow of death, but with the fierce joy of living. A place to glorify God without the self-interest that taints our worship now. A place to be overjoyed in the company of those we know, without a single stranger to be found. A place where we revel in God's perfection, and see not the slightest imperfection in our fellow creations. A place to see the Son in all his glory, while we remember that He is the one who got us there! I have trouble imagining that place, but I can start to see the wonderful awesomeness of God's eternal home.

It is hard to imagine a place of work without toil or of healing without suffering. Here on earth, work is a burden, we get fatigued, and the toil of our labor wears us down. Scabs itch, needles stick, and casts are a load to carry, and those only work for the relatively minor injuries. When we get to Heaven, the trees beside the river of life will bear fruit for healing. Can you imagine literally eating an apple and healing perfectly? And not just you and me, but entire nations will be healed by this fruit. That's some wonderful fruit; I wonder if Heaven is in the export business?

Right now, we only have one way between Heaven and us, Jesus. Goods don't seem to cross over that bridge, although from some of our advertising you might think that the products of heaven do make the trip at times. Without our Good Shepherd, we couldn't even find the bridge, much less cross over. The bridge to Heaven is long and narrow, and the entrance to this bridge is so narrow as to be almost hidden. Jesus said that only a few will find the way. Heaven seems like such a great place to be when compared with the world we live in. Yet, so few seem to want to go there in the only way possible. Don't get me wrong, everyone it seems wants to go there, but only after living a full life of wealth, fame, happiness, and selfish excess. Not many want to surrender their lives to Jesus and live in His way.

If a person does not want to admit to the Good Shepherd that he or she is a sheep in need of salvation, then there is no finding of the narrow way. A whole fleet of comfortable buses are waiting to drive folks down the freeway to destruction. Look for that narrow pathway with the Good Shepherd standing beside it.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coming Soon - February 19, 2011

Good Saturday morning! There seems to be an anti-dictator movement going on in the Middle East these days. Even that old guy in Libya is having problems. How does this relate to the expected arrival of the Antichrist, that dictator of dictators we expect at any time? Could be that we are making room for him and eliminating the old guard of dictators as it were, but perhaps it has nothing to do with that dreaded arrival. If I read the prophecies and books about the prophecies correctly, I understand that people who don't believe in Jesus will want this ultimate dictator. So if the sea of nations doesn't want a dictator, but will want the Antichrist, what has to change?

Many systems started out with great hope for something new and better. Communism didn't start with a dictator, but allowed Stalin to become one. Monarchs have been good or bad depending upon the person on the throne. Democracy or a republic can be good or bad depending upon the people who have power. Corporations and governments can accomplish mighty works by bringing a lot of people together as a team. We all have experience with what happens when those same organizations forget about the individuals who serve and start serving only the bottom line of their accounts. No human system is perfect, and it seems that every human system will eventually start hurting those who start, run, and serve it. Perhaps a new form of government will bring the Antichrist out of the sea of humanity. We may be witnessing the first labor pains of that new system in the Middle East.

We tend to think that democracy is the best form of government, but that may not be true. Something new may suddenly catch the world's fancy. Or, something old may raise its head once more. Could the Middle East become an empire with an emperor? Maybe we will see a King of Arabia in the next few years. Only God knows what is in store for this century. What if the rapture of the church happens tonight? What form of government would the world take then? I don't have the answers to these questions; at least I don't think I have the answers. The funny thing is that we probably do have the answers, right there in Revelation, Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew, and other books of the Bible. We just don't understand all that Jesus revealed to us in those prophecies. If the Antichrist gathers an army and walks in the vanguard carrying a banner with a great red dragon on it, we might pause for a moment with our jaws a bit unhinged.

These are some deep things for a Saturday morning. I think my brain hurts now. The bacon will be cracking soon and I will go to fix breakfast on this Saturday morning. I don't know for sure that I will even make it to breakfast. The rapture may happen within moments, leaving the bacon to burn on my stove. Sometimes we think we know so much, but we truly know so little.

With that thought, have a great day!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Critical! - February 18, 2011

Good Friday morning! Happy Black Cat Day! I just made that up; I don't know that it is any particular day other than a Friday here. The very fact that it is already Saturday in the other Sydney gives a different perspective on whole 'what day is it thing'. It's no wonder that no man can name the day of Jesus' return, we can't even agree to be on the same day around the world! Hey, did you see that Russia has done away with daylight savings time! Praise God! Now if the dimmer bulbs in the other parts of the world will wake up, we can stop this nonsense. We can at least come to some agreement on the time if not the day. What am I doing wrong today?

Each day, I can get up, open a news webpage such as, and start criticizing other groups or persons. It's too easy. People are dumb and act dumb on any given day. Not all of us at once fortunately, but each of us is apparently capable of the grossest dumbness at any time. Often it seems to be leaders of this group or that nation. Sometimes the dumbness comes from a love of power, other times a love of money. Sometimes the dumbness is inexplicable as in that terrible accident in Denver yesterday. Not only is it easy to criticize, it is easy to leap to all sorts of wrong conclusions about folks in the news.

This morning, I took my old Cabela's mug and taped a message for myself above the company logo. The message is one word - forgive. I like to use this mug to remind myself of one of the important duties we have as slaves of Christ - to forgive all those who have wronged us in this life. We forgive so that we may receive forgiveness. This deal is even spelled out in the Lord's Prayer: forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. We can also remember to forgive because often the wrongs are not all on one side. In my almost 20 years at Cabela's, you can be assured that I did some wrongs to the company and the forgiveness needs to go both ways. Any long term relationship has a need for the apologies and forgiving to go in both directions; any married folks with 20 years under their belts can tell us the same thing. No relationship here on earth is perfect.

So knowing that no relationship is perfect, why do we still feel the need to be so critical? I suppose you could blame it on the fact that as imperfect creatures in our own state, we like to point out the faults in others. This is not a skill that needs to be taught. How many of us have had a small child tell us that we are weird, or look funny, or some other innocent comment that can cut right to the heart? Probably all of us at some point. It hurts when that happens. We want to be wonderful in the eyes of a child, but often the child sees right past the pretend stuff we put on and puts a finger on our heart. At times it is easy to fool a child, but other times we aren't fooling anyone.

Jesus told one of his more humorous parables regarding this tendency to criticize. The beam and the speck. Your Bible might use board or mote or splinter in the same parable. I was told that the Greek word Jesus used referred to the main beam used to build a house, in other words a very large and heavy board. Obviously this wouldn't fit in anyones eye. Jesus used a funny metaphor to show us just how bad this tendency is in each of us to ignore our own faults and bring up the faults of others. Removing the beam from our own eye allows us to start looking for the good in a person. Finding the gifts God has given each of us is so much more rewarding than pointing out the faults that any fool can see.

Have a wonderful weekend in Christ Jesus!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Forecast - February 17, 2011

Good Thursday morning! You may or may not have glanced at a clock, but I'll bet that you know when the weather front arrived last night. I recall the moment quite clearly. I think the whole house moved a little when that first wind blast came through town. No doubt some folks received quite the surprise. Anyone could have read the weather forecast and had fair warning that a front was due to arrive. We know that some will not bother to read the forecast though. A dismissive, "They're never right anyway!" and on they go with their lives. Of course you can see what a fine example of the return of Christ this makes.

In the same way, Jesus gave us a forecast in Revelation and in his Olivet discourse in Matthew 24. We have fair warning that Jesus is coming, but some will still be taken completely by surprise. I don't think anyone knows how many Bibles are available throughout the world, many millions certainly, but many of those are not read. Even among those who read their Bibles, we don't always watch the signs as Jesus told us to do. One night, much like last night for us, we may awaken to something new arriving. We can look for it and be overjoyed to see the Son coming, or we can be caught like one of those dumb criminal we hear about. When the surprise comes, all will know that the forecast was correct.

Meteorologists are getting better at forecasting the weather. Often today we are told about when the storm or weather front will arrive, and just as often the forecast is correct. In the same way we should be getting better at forecasting the return of Jesus. There are signs to watch for and we have more access to information today than at any time in the known past. I note the protests going on in the Middle East and realize that a "sea" of humanity is tossing much like an ocean. We could see a beast rising from this "sea" very soon. We can read about piracy and corporate crime and realize that lawlessness is on the increase. Just last night the news warned of increasing food prices again, which reminds us of the seal speaking of high food prices. In the same news report, we heard about kidnapping of children and realize that the love of some has grown cold. Of course the wars and rumors of war are ongoing, but did you see the efforts put forth in Israel and Palestine to achieve a lasting peace?

Then there is the other side: can I say that Jesus will return within the year? No, even with the signs and information available, we still cannot name a date or range. Like Paul and John centuries ago, we still know that Jesus is coming soon. We still have the command of Jesus not to worry. And we still have the assurance of Jesus that when things get dark we are to look up as our redemption draweth nigh. While it is tempting to stop working and camp out on our rooftops looking to the sky - okay, maybe not last night when the campsite would have taken flight - we are to keep our noses to the task at hand and continue to spread the good news of Christ.
Sorry, but each of us still has work to do and people to love, responsibilities to shoulder and lives to touch, before the day of the Lord's return arrives. If Jesus returns in the daytime, I want to be caught working. When the final trumpet sounds, that's an interruption I look forward to!

Enjoy the windy day in Christ!


A computer named Watson stomped the two best human players in Jeopardy - a sign? Possibly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Backwards Again? - February 16, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! The wind did come up yesterday, though not as much as on Monday. Wind is a fact of life out here, but only a small part of life. I always like the old saw about "if you don't mind, it doesn't matter" that some folks use to try to belittle your pain. If the wind blows hard enough to knock you off course in your walk, it matters! However much attention we pay to something does not make the something appear or disappear. If you stand strongly in the wind telling yourself that you don't mind and the wind blows a garbage can lid up against the side of your head, you are going to mind and it will matter. Wind is a part of life, but wind is not life itself. Jesus told us that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

Sometimes we are tempted to take that as meaning that Jesus will provide a pile of abundant loot for us to spend frivolously. However, saying life is money is like saying marriage is sex. Money is a necessary part of life, just as sex is a necessary part of marriage, but neither is all there is to life or marriage. We often give some things more credit for the whole than they deserve. Some things that we give less credit are actually more important in life. Relationships are certainly important in life. We don't always spend enough time working on our relationships, and too much time worrying about money. In Luke, Jesus puts the worries in a different light.

Don't worry about food, clothing, money, and other things that we spend too much time thinking about. Love God, and love one another are commandments that are the most important in the words of Jesus. (Yes, my paraphrase doesn't sound as good as the actual verses.) Love means a relationship. A relationship you choose and work at. Don't worry means we don't work ourselves into anxiety over those things. Worry says that we don't trust the Lord to provide. Trusting in God means we give up the worries to Him. We tend to keep the worries and let the relationships go where they will. Why do we always seem to have it backwards?

We don't get an instant and complete cleansing when the Holy Spirit enters our lives. Some habits and sins the Spirit may take away right from the start. But more often I think, we will grow slowly in the Lord as He takes us and makes us in the way and timing that suits His great wisdom. We may not like how slow some things seem to grow in our lives. Does your love seem to grow as slowly as mine does? How would you know? We cannot see from God's all-knowing perspective. Our progress, since the Holy Spirit is in charge and not us, may be right on schedule. If it isn't, the Holy Spirit is not to blame but our own rebellion. However, we are assured by Paul that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in us.

Have a wonderful Wednesday in Christ!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waiting - February 15, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Well the excitement of Valentine's Day is over. The deliveries of flowers and candy to various businesses and homes has come to a halt for another year. I wonder if anyone has thought of being the only one to send flowers today, February 15th? Other than those who forgot yesterday entirely that is and must now make up for the lapse. Good news! There is no wind warning for today, perhaps we can enjoy the warm day without holding on to our hats with both hands.

I'm waiting on the Lord this morning for something to write to you. Did you ever 'wait' on the Lord by amusing yourself with a video game, putting on a movie, or grabbing a secular book? Entertaining your mind isn't really waiting on the Lord. We tend to wait by moving our attention over yonder instead of keeping it centered on the Lord. Meditating on the Lord's Word has become a lost art in a world of distraction. In most homes there are several methods of distraction ready at a moment's notice. We hear the command to wait on the Lord, and there is a shelf of books, a television with 100 or more channels, a radio with several stations, a DVD player with a library of movies, and perhaps the biggest distraction of 'em all... the Internet.

The best waiter is going to have plenty of time to wait on your table. He will let it be known to you that he is available and you are at that moment his most important assignment. If you pause for a moment or two while perusing the menu and the waiter pulls out his Blackberry® and starts checking his e-mails, all that work to make you think that you are the most important customer is now useless and the effect is destroyed. You might even be a bit irritated and reduce the tip accordingly. When God tells us to wait, we shouldn't take that as leave to run off and do whatever we want.

By waiting, I don't mean the answer to prayer where God says, "not yet". The waiting that I am writing about today is the waiting in prayer for an answer that God sometimes commands to see if we are really listening to Him, or just rattling off a list of demands. We bring a request to God, and God says "wait!" We bow our heads and listen for the Lord. Our mind doesn't have to be blank, but should be open to hearing the Lord's whisper. The television isn't blaring, the radio isn't rattling off the shelf, and the place where we wait is quiet and peaceful. I have found that God doesn't leave me waiting for long. The answer may be "not yet" to a request of mine and God may desire me to bring the request back to him many times. Other times the answer is "no" and no amount of waiting is going to change God's mind on a matter. What I did realize this morning is that when God says "wait", I often have all manner of distractions that suddenly clamor for attention.

Our minds are active beasts constantly seeking some kind of diversion. We think faster than a person can speak, so we start daydreaming in a meeting. This is of course different than those corporate meetings where people are talking without saying anything. We think faster than we can read so we lose track of our place in the book and have some unrelated thoughts and visions. We have to learn to concentrate on prayer, and then learn to wait sometimes for God to answer. The Lord knows all of the things clamoring for attention in our lives. But how many of those distractions are more important than listening to God?

Thank you Lord for taking the time for each of us, personally. You have an entire universe to run and yet, you are always ready to listen to our prayers. Help us to learn to wait and listen to you, our Lord and Creator.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day - February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you remembered to send your valentine to God this morning. A prayer expressing our love for God, the Savior and Creator, the Almighty One, may be just what your soul needs today. After we give our prayer of love to God, we can also remember our loved ones on this day. The cats got their valentines over the weekend: new water fountain, mouse toys, and separate food dishes to show them the love on this Valentine's Day.

I hope you feel the love at your workplace today. Oh, sorry, you may not have wanted me to go there. In these days of high unemployment, your corporate master may have taken the opportunity to wring every last drop of sweat from you on a regular basis. You may not feel anything but the lash when you arrive for work after the weekend. Oh, wait, did I say weekend? Sorry, you may not even know the meaning of 'weekend' anymore. Some places have done just that to folks all over our country. If you enjoyed a nice weekend away from work, then praise God! If you do feel the love when you go into work today, praise God all the more!
I heard an interesting story about the origin of Valentine's Day on MyBridge this morning. I seem to recall the origin dating back to the 15th Century, but they had a story from the 3rd Century about a Roman priest named Valentine who defied the emperor's order to cease marriage in the army. Apparently the emperor's solution to homesickness in the army was to ban marriage and keep the soldiers in the field until the emperor got tired. Valentine married the young people anyway and eventually went to jail for it. The grateful people brought him notes to express their appreciation and these became known as valentines. On his execution day, Valentine managed to leave a note of love to his wife and the legend that came to us as Valentine's Day was born.

I don't know if the legend is true, but that does make for a great love story for Valentine's Day. Like the story of Paul or Peter, Jonah or Daniel, Moses or Adam, I don't know the stories are true from my own experience. I wasn't there! However, when we choose to believe in Jesus, we get to believe in his word. And God's Word is full of wonderful stories. Some stories are cautionary tales of disobedience and its consequences. Other stories tell of God's great love for us. Of course the greatest love story is Jesus. His birth in Bethlehem and the glorious appearance of the heavenly host are but the start of God's greatest expression of love for us. Soon we will celebrate the culmination of that great love when Jesus went to the cross in our place and rose again on the third day. God said, "I love you!" in a big way; a way that opened the gate of salvation to any who will believe.

From Jesus, we know that God loves us. The command to love one another becomes that much easier when we stand upon the fact of God's love for each of us. Today, we get a special day to express our love one to another, not just in marriage, but in all things. God loves you, and so do I! Have a wonderful and special Valentine's Day.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eye Opening - February 12, 2011

Good Saturday morning! Last night I had the experience of both talking about a condition that now exists and realizing the extent of it later in the evening. As we separate from groups of people, we begin to grow apart from them. God leads some of us down one path, others down a different path. Even those who do not acknowledge that God directs their steps may serve his purpose in growing others. Groups may have characteristics we share while we are a part of the group. After a separation for a time the one now apart from the group may come to realize that he no longer fits or even likes a particular characteristic of that group. All of this seems kind of distant and out there, like a theory or something.

Last night we celebrated the departure of a long time friend whom I worked with back in those days up on the hill. He has received a promotion that requires him to relocate to Omaha. As I am one accustomed to more listening than talking in a group, I learned more about how far I have grown away from that former group. Was I really like that once? Certainly, and until the Holy Spirit began working me over, I shared many of the characteristics I witnessed last night. In fact, if we were to go back a few years further, before I gave my life to Jesus again, I would have sounded exactly like one person I heard last night. Meeting the realization of your former faults can at times be eye opening; as in the line from that song, "open the eyes of my heart, Lord." I don't recall who sings the song or the title, but the line does fit.

What will the Lord open the eyes of my heart to see today?

Have a great Saturday in Christ!


Friday, February 11, 2011

The Terror of the Tooth-grinding Cat - February 11, 2011

Good Friday morning! Gasp...the monster approaches with hideous growls and teeth grinding; the helpless victim trembles and shrieks! What comes next, oh mercy, it's too much to look at! A commercial break... and the mood is almost ruined. Almost because the sound of teeth grinding is still present with me in my very house! I look down at the cat sitting right in front of me grinding his teeth; something I have never heard him do before this moment. What are you doing, cat? He looks back at me as though grinding his teeth at that moment during a monster movie is the most natural thing in the world. Sometimes between the natural world (or unnatural kitty sounds) and the electronic systems of modern life, we get taken for a ride. Our senses are fooled by a conjunction of sights and sounds that our brains cannot quite catch up with. Our first instinct might be to flee the immediate environment for one that is quieter and more peaceful. When that means fleeing from our own house, we might get more than a little confused.

Of course some of the most popular hairy-scary movies involve strange and frightening happenings in the home. You can match up the scripts to many a movie with a few suggestions: a couple moves into a new house, or an old house. After a brief spell of seeming bliss, odd things start to happen to their child or the wife at home alone. Others don't see the same things, but suddenly the neighbor speaks of something the real estate agent must have forgotten to mention such as the family that disappeared one night, or the murder that happened there back in the day, or the bodies buried.... and on it goes. With just that you have probably thought of at least a dozen somewhat interchangeable plots for movies that you have seen over the years. We like to think of our houses and homes as a safe place against the world. So naturally the movie writers and directors like to invade the home with their scary movies. And it works too!

Just thinking about trying to fight something that you cannot touch, see, or hear can bring up the goosebumps. A recent movie shows the helpless victims being drug away by an invisible force, aaaieee! What a thing to think about on a bright Friday morning! Of course, even the most frightening movie comes to an end and the people file out of the theater or turn off the television. We leave the fictional story behind and go home to stay up all night with a light on. A falsehood, whether as a fictional story or as a lie, can stick to us for a while. The body still jumps at commonplace sounds even though the mind tries to tell it that it was just a movie or story in a book. The trouble comes when we take the lie that is ghosts, goblins, and other scary beasts and drag them into the real world.

Jesus had to comfort the disciples when they thought he was a ghost coming across the waves toward them. We watch a scary movie and then seek comfort in our own minds, and come up short as our minds come up with all sorts of things to be afraid of. Our best comfort is found in Christ, even after watching that movie we probably should have left alone. I'll admit to being a hairy-scary movie fan. The only problem is that I have taken to criticizing the characters while the movie is playing. "You might try praying to Him instead of taking His name in vain!" is one of my favorite suggestions to give during a movie. Of course the characters don't listen, but I can't seem to stop making the suggestion. It would seem that something has changed in me from back in the days when I would simply follow the movie plot blindly.

I hope you are listening to MyBridge this morning. They visited with Danny Woodhead just after the news every half hour or so. A good time for the football fans and it's always good to learn about the faith of a young man in the NFL. Many of us can look back to our mid-twenties and wonder at our own lack of faith or outright unbelief in Christ during those years. Praise God for giving us the chance to come to believe in Him and to grow mature in our faith with the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Serve God and Not Stuff - February 10, 2011

Good Thursday morning! Snow still present, check; cold, not as bad, check; the sun a bit clouded, check; looks like the day has begun for us. It seems that New York City now has a garbage collection problem. All of that snow we heard about has already melted, but their garbage has now piled up rather alarmingly. I have difficulty in imagining the amount of garbage that 8 million or so people produce in such a small area. Just in my house with one person and two cats we manage to produce quite a bit of garbage to haul away each week. Much of the garbage is biodegradable; we save the cardboard, aluminum, newspaper, and magazines for recycling, and I store any dead electronics and batteries for the Chamber recycling drive. But there is still some things, plastics mainly, that might sit in a landfill until long after I am gone from the earth. We seem to have developed a talent for making things that are both too permanent in their material, but not permanent enough in their usefulness. Anyone with a garage or storage shed can tell us how various plastic containers build up over time. A few years go by and garages and sheds tend to get full of stuff. We know that too much stuff can be a problem in our lives yet... when it comes time to move the first thought when we look around is... oh my word, where did all this stuff come from?

Guilty as charged! For many years I worshiped stuff: the acquisition of stuff, the showing off of stuff, the stuff to service other stuff, and of course, the stuff-I-don't-need stuff. Should we get into the stuff I got 'cuz a friend got it first stuff? I have held a couple of garage sales and got rid of a lot of stuff, but still there is quite a bit of stuff in this house and garage of mine. We even have organizations called thrift stores to help us get rid of all that spare stuff we have. When the economy has troubles, we are encouraged to go out and get more stuff. Are we beginning to see what Jesus was talking about when he mentioned serving mammon: the Greek word for money and possessions?

If a person accumulates too much, he can end up serving those possessions instead of the other way around. We had that problem back at Cabela's too. When my crew installed the cabling in stores we needed various tools and supplies to get the job done. Then, the company decided to have contractors do the work. Suddenly we had this stockpile of stuff that cost a lot in the acquiring but had practically overnight become a pile of useless stuff. Every time we had to gather and move that stuff from one storage area to another, we were serving the stuff. To my knowledge they are still dealing with the stuff left over from those days. If you look around your home and find things that are not beautiful (decorations), or handed down from ancestors (heirlooms), or better have a definite function (necessities and entertainment), you probably have too much stuff and end up serving it as you move it around, clean it, store it, and wonder why in the world you got it in the first place. I'm there with you brothers and sisters! It's time to make sure that my stuff serves me and not the other way around. As spring arrives in a few weeks, I'll be looking at having yet another garage sale or making donations or whatever to get away from serving stuff.

Serve God and not the stuff!


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Too Much Like Us - February 9, 2011

Good ummm Wednesday morning! Had a bit of trouble deciding what day this was. Hopefully, I'll wake up here before too long since typing the devotional while I'm asleep could make for a rather strange devotional. How strange? I dreamed last night that I saw a Cabela's 90th Anniversary sticker on the wall of an elevator. Their 90th anniversary would occur the year I turn 88 so that leaves us a bit of time (40 years) to prepare in case my dream was prophetic.

There are times in a man's life when he wonders at everything. Usually those times occur at right around 0300 when sleep has for some reason been shattered by a strange dream or an unusual noise in the house. Often the noise isn't repeated to ears straining to catch the encore. In my case the noise is seldom repeated because the cat knows that trouble comes from repeated noises in the night. One noise, however, is good for keeping the big guy on his toes in a manner of speaking. The cat knows this and takes advantage at irregular intervals to keep the household in tip-top shape. What does one wonder about at 0300 on a cold winter night? This morning the subject to wonder about was just how bad things could get when the Comforter is withdrawn as foretold in the Bible.

One example of this is the treatment of prisoners or POW's. Some have been treated with respect, others not so well. The treatment of Allied POW's in the Pacific during WWII is an example of the not so well. But before we get a self-righteous attitude toward our own nation, we have the example of the Abu Ghraib incident in Iraq just a few years ago. I won't go into specifics in either case to turn your morning sour, but what might disturb us most is how like us the actual persons involved were. The attention has since shifted elsewhere in the world because more stories of that type have appeared since then. Police beatings are always good for the prime time news, especially with video. We don't get a video report of the 99 plus percent of police officers doing a good job at the same time, just the one or two who "went off" for some unknown reason. What scares us though is that again, in the same situation any of us might commit the same heinous act of beating on a helpless person. What is even more frightening? The people who read something like this and say, "No way I could ever do something like that! I'm too good..."

We can read about it small ways too. A Marine colonel is charged with shoplifting about $65 worth of stuff from a Wal-mart near Camp Lejeune. A colonel's pay certainly is more than enough to cover a purchase of that size; the act the man is charged with makes no sense. Wealthy celebrities have been caught doing similar things. People who are not in financial distress have been caught embezzling. What do you and I have in common with these folks? The capacity for doing the same thing exists in us too! We would rather not face that, but there it is.

Didn't Jesus clean all that up in us when we were saved? Have you left your flesh yet? Then no, not all the lusts of the flesh have been removed. We were born into a fallen world, and in a fallen world we still walk in our flesh. The sexual urge is a case in point. Certainly God could remove that lust of the flesh from us, but when used properly between a man and his wife, children come into the world. Without it, you might hear tales of honeymoon nights that went something like: "We watched a couple of Hogan's Heroes reruns, then she read War and Peace while I read the first Harry Potter book again, and then we went to sleep." You would probably wonder why the couple had rushed to get married. The world population might be stuck at a few hundred thousand or so, most of them conceived by accident. While many of the problems we face in the world would be gone, the blessing of children would be left to random chance. Kind of hard to procreate and populate the earth when no one is interested.

What God does give us at salvation is the Holy Spirit, a counselor and guide who gives us the power to resist the wrong urges and temptations. You and me are not left alone to face the trials that will come our way when Jesus moves in to our hearts. We need God's help to resist the wrong lusts and urges we feel. It isn't that you or I might not resist the one time, the one urge, but that we face the same lusts of the flesh day after day. Without the Holy Spirit, we get worn down and resistance in our own strength becomes weak. Come to God in prayer and get a recharge of resistance to continue the fight. Resist the devil and he will flee from you! Just don't try to resist on your own.

Have a wonderful Wednesday in Christ!


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Shining a Bit More - February 8, 2011

Good cold morning on this Tuesday. Yes, another week, another frozen Tuesday. Ah, hot coffee, that's the ticket! This cold snap isn't supposed to go as deep or last as long as that last one did; praise God for that! Infatuation: a term you probably haven't used since your teenage years. Back in those days we used the term a lot. A teenage girl or boy might have feelings for another, but we didn't credit those feelings as love. We would give them up to their infatuation. You might have used 'crush' as the way to describe the intense attraction a young person felt at a moment in time. As we grew older we began to recognize that love in a marriage or relationship is more of a decision. Once the initial intense feeling drifted away, the reality of the other side of that relationship began to set in. People are not perfect, and many a young person has awakened one morning to realize that the person he or she had an infatuation with is now a real person. The armor of that knight has become a little tarnished; the flowing locks of the damsel now have a kink or two in the flow. An annoying habit left unnoticed before might suddenly become a reason to ask, "Why did I choose this other person?"

When we repent of our sin and begin a new relationship with Christ, we may experience some of those same intense feelings we had during an infatuation period. But living with Jesus is not based on feelings. Instead our feelings we have for Jesus grow from the love he gives to us and that he grows in us toward the Father in Heaven. The decision to love Jesus will not wake up one morning to find that Jesus has grown an annoying habit. We will not look to Jesus and suddenly find imperfection that we overlooked before. I might look over and find my beloved cat slurping his nether regions, but I still keep him around. It isn't like that with Jesus! Quite the opposite really, it is Jesus who looks over and decides to keep me around.

Let's face it. We still have some sinful habits that might look a bit like a cat licking his nether regions. Our sin is a little gross, not fit for the public view, and certainly not something we would see in Heaven. Jesus looks beyond that to what He is making of us. He sees the glory of God the Father reflected in the finished product, while at the same time knowing full well that we are not fit for Heaven in our present state. More than that, Jesus sees our state before salvation takes place when we are still stuck in the filth of sin that stains this world. Yet, Jesus gave up his own life to ransom our lives on the cross. Only the greatest love could have made Jesus go to the cross for us.

Right now, you can look at your state and wonder how Jesus or anyone else could love you. Of course, looking at your sin and faults is looking in the wrong direction. We must look to Jesus and see in Him what He sees in us - the reflection of God's own glory and righteousness. We cannot see that in ourselves just yet, but trust in Jesus - He makes that reflection shine a bit more with each passing trial.

Have a glorious day in Christ!


Monday, February 07, 2011

Another "I Am" - February 7, 2011

Good Monday morning! And a congrats to the Green Bay Packers, winners of Super Bowl XLV! The singer muffed the national anthem, we liked Sam Elliott in the intros, and there seems to be a difference of opinion over the half-time show. Some commercials I liked a lot, some not so much. We enjoyed an evening of entertainment and shared a football game with many fans who watch no other football game all year. For a bit there at the start, I wondered if any players were going to be left to finish the game. The teams appeared to have a parade going down to the locker rooms. The Super Bowl is a huge stage and it shouldn't surprise anyone that football players, referees, halftime performers and anthem singers might all have a bit of trouble under the pressure. How many times would you have to tell yourself, "This is the biggest audience ever!" before you started feeling some big ol' butterflies in the tum-tum? Once or twice would serve to get the butterflies going I think. I'm just glad that it wasn't my job to coordinate all those dancers at the halftime show!

The halftime show by the Black Eyed Peas got me to thinking this morning about what we can say about ourselves. When God met Moses way back in the day, He introduced himself as "I Am". The lead singer of the group we saw last night uses a clever rendering of William spelled "", with all of the periods and pronounced as the three separate words, if I'm not mistaken. We use "I am" to introduce our job usually. As in, "I am a writer" or, "I am a plumber". Sometimes we have to provide evidence such as writing a devotional each weekday or working on two novels. One day I hope to point to books on library shelves instead of providing as yet unverifiable evidence of my novels, but that is beside the point. A plumber will usually provide evidence by stating what company he works for or that he owns his own business. We have to provide extra information along with our, "I am"

God didn't need to provide any further evidence beyond his stated, "I Am". We use the second capital letter in English writing to note the difference between the Hebrew for "I Am" (hayah) and the more common usage of "I am" which may be the same Hebrew word just like it is in English. The same words when spoken by God, just don't come out the same when spoken by you and me. I don't know if the ancient Hebrews would state their occupation with an "I am a priest" or not, but when the Lord spoke "I Am" they knew. A few years down the road of time from Moses, a man came along and answered questions at times with an "I Am". The folks around Jerusalem would then start looking for rocks of just the right shape for throwing hard at a person's head. This was their duty to the Law.

If a person used the godly "I Am", the Jews were bound by the Law to kill that person. The only problem was: one person had been promised that would come as Savior, another name of God. Messiah would arrive and his use of "I Am" would not be blasphemy. If the Jews didn't believe the person referring to himself as "I Am", you can see the problem. Another prophecy states that the chosen people would not recognize the Messiah. So in fulfilling both prophecies, Jesus had to duck some rocks a few times. In the Gospels, we can read that Jesus often took that moment when the people bent down to look for choice rocks to make his escape. Why didn't he stop the rocks, or transfigure himself as he did for Peter and John?

Those who believe in Jesus know that he could have done these things. However, we also know that more than enough evidence of Jesus' divinity existed in the miracles he did perform during his time. Many people were healed in full view of anyone who wanted to watch... and believe. Some did believe, but many chose not to. Jesus might have transfigured himself right in front of the rock throwers, and the stones might have dropped to the ground that time, but would those people have chosen to believe? Today, we can read the eyewitness accounts of Jesus in the New Testament. We still have that same choice though; choose to believe in Jesus or choose to be skeptical and believe in the world.

The next time Jesus comes, there will be no choice. Jesus will come in his glory and the choice will be taken away.

Enjoy the week in Christ Jesus!


Friday, February 04, 2011

The Great Girl Scout Cookie Famine - February 4, 2011

Good Friday morning! When the wrist bones no longer connect to the arm bones, the song ends and your trouble begins. Me mom is going in for wrist surgery this morning to reattach 'dem bones, 'dem bones. I wonder if the surgeon sings that old song to remind himself of what goes where in the body? Should I run up there (across the state) to take pictures for you? No, I probably wouldn't make it in time, but there is another little formula that shows a problem. Wrist + surgery + hospital = Bucky out on the floor. Probably best if I just pray from here. My wrist hurts just thinking about it! A little kitty therapy is needed here.

What else is going on in this world today? Egypt wants their president gone today. Syria is now having some problems. Yemen is still seething, and some girl scouts are going on strike during the cookie season. Whoa, did you say that some folks will not be able to buy Girl Scout cookies? Yes, apparently to protest the closing of some camps in Minnesota and Wisconsin, some Girl Scouts have decided to sit out the cookie sales. Now that is serious, President Obama should get involved in this. I can't believe he missed it in the State of the Union speech. You can't blame me for this one; no little salespersons have come to my door for the past couple of years. I did buy some Boy Scout popcorn not too long ago. This is serious though, a Girl Scout strike in Minnesota during the winter is bad news. You will probably see the headlines in the media right after Egypt, Yemen, and Syria: "Girl Scout Radicals Join Protest in America!" I'm not being serious of course. Hey! Stop throwing cookies at my house!

Last night we spoke a little about what might become of the turmoil in the Middle East. Of course, our little group doesn't have the answers. Many groups and nations will no doubt try to influence the outcome in their favor. Tourism is a big industry in Egypt, and the tourists will have made tracks to get out of the area by now. Some say violence never solves anything, but we can see that violence does cause changes, for better or worse remains to be seen. What does the scripture, God's Word, say about this? It doesn't say that the start of an uprising in Egypt means that there is 180 days to go until the Rapture if that is what any of us were hoping. Nope, the no man will know the day quote is still in effect. We can see a sign of the end in the unrest. Does not the view of massive crowds resemble a sea tossing in a storm? It may be the beast from the sea will arise from this. But maybe not. The unrest is a sign of the end, like many other wars and rumors of wars, but not an exact sign that we can say starts some countdown. Some scholars point to the signing of a treaty between Israel and the Antichrist that starts a seven year countdown we know as the Tribulation, but I don't see a sign like that here. There are Egyptians who want a new leader, but there are also Egyptians who do not. It is interesting that the president of Syria has said that his nation is immune from the kind of protests going on in Egypt and Yemen. Sounds like a throwing down of the ol' gauntlet to me...

What did the customers do to deserve having their cookies cut off? That sounds like the removal of a body part, but don't read that into it. I don't know about this protest though; withholding sweets in America could get you into a real protest situation. Never upset a nation of chubbies by taking their sweets. Schwan's just sent me an email advertising their sweet stuff for Valentine's Day. How sweet is that? The Great Girl Scout Cookie Famine of 2011, oh the humanity!

Okay, so what do we see when the world goes all higgly-piggly like this? Right, we see the time of the end approaching. Never before in history have we been able to see so much so quickly as we do today. We can turn on our Internet connection or other media reception device and see the earthquakes in diverse places, the wars and rumors of war, and any other disaster all at once with color video to display the suffering. No matter how dark it seems to be in the world, we can still know that God is in charge. Satan could not breach God's hedge of protection around Job until God gave him permission. We are protected in the same way. If the world "goes crazy" and the tide of riots and protests reaches our shores, know that God is right where He has always been: Savior and Sovereign, still on His Throne reigning with Jesus by His side.

When it gets dark in the world, look up! Your salvation draws near! Someone dear to us said that a while back. Take a moment to find the verses in your Bible today.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Just Plain Silly - February 3, 2011

Good Thursday morning! Well, you can actually tell the difference in the ice level of the window panes between -15 and -6. Not that I have it down to an exact science yet, but there is a noticeable difference. Now to see how much difference my body feels when the temp gets up into the 30's or 40's today. We have endured some cold weather the past three or four days, but at least we didn't start the fun with an inch or two of solid ice as many areas of the country did. This had to be one of the largest and coldest storms on record. People will start talking ice age again here pretty soon. Global warming: probably a very risky subject to bring up in the eastern parts of the U.S. right now. Keep your head on your shoulders (literally) and keep quiet about that subject until things have thawed out for a bit.

Speaking of off-limits subjects, what subject is off-limits between you and God? I don't think the Bible forbids any subject between us and God. But I have in the past avoided talking to God about some things, usually things in which I am guilty and know it full well. Just as Jesus told us not to hide our light under a basket, so we shouldn't try to hide a subject from God. Hide a subject from the One who knows our innermost thoughts already? Now isn't that a silly notion? Absolutely, but I can assure you that I have tried it. "Don't want to pray about that, God might tell me to stop doing it!" Of course, if God has already told you in the Bible to stop, and God would tell you to stop if you asked Him about it, more than likely you already have the conviction of the Holy Spirit on your heart. So why didn't I stop?

When we put a subject off-limits in our prayer life, we don't get to ask God for the strength to stop doing what we shouldn't be doing! Not only do we need to confess the sin and repent, but we need to ask God for the strength to succeed in our efforts to bring it to a halt. We cannot do any of that if we try to hide the subject from God. Not one of us will succeed in our own strength, and yet we don't ask for help because we are uncomfortable with bringing it before God. Silly, just plain silly. And we have all done it.

The other side of that coin is true as well. When we should be doing something, and we haven't started, we need God's strength to get going and keep going. If we don't bring up the request to God, how can He grant it? We need God in everything we do. As we get older, we often have a little extra incentive to remember to ask for God's strength. Taking the trash out may be something you do as a routine chore, but what if you grow prideful in doing the little things? "Don't need God's help for this. No need to bother the Almighty when I do this all the time!" Suddenly, when you reach down and pull up the bag, a little catch on the side of the container, just a bit of that friction really, causes you to pull harder than you normally do and... "urk!" the ol' back goes out on you for the first time. Now the trash is forgotten as you stagger over to an open patch of carpet and fall down and roll over, flopping on the floor like a cockroach in distress. The dog gives you an odd look like, "What the heck are you doing?" and then jumps on you to 'help out'. So much for that little task you were so proud of doing in your own strength.
We have learned over the last several weeks in our Thursday Bible study to invite God into everything we do. Our strength and abilities are such untrustworthy things, here in a moment and gone in a flash as the old saying goes. We must learn to trust in God in everything and certainly bringing up any subject with Him in prayer is a good start.

Have a great and hopefully a little warmer day today!


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Groundhog Day? - February 2, 2011

Good and very cold Wednesday morning! I see a big minus before that 15 this morning, yeeowch! Happy Groundhog's Day! I don't think we give a hoot what the rodent has to say this morning. All of us are just hoping this latest cold, cold storm moves on soon! Actually the rodent predicted an early spring, but I don't think anyone believes him today. The rodent may want to watch out if he is wrong though. Back in the day, false prophets could meet a rough end if they didn't say what the people or king wanted to hear. A false prophet could have a sudden and painful end too if he or she tried to make a real prophecy and failed. Strangely, you might think that real prophets who spoke real prophecies would have great reward and an easy life. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real prophets foretold a future that the idolatrous Israelites didn't want to hear. Real prophets had to confront kings with their sin and tell the king that God was not pleased. Real prophets in Jerusalem seldom lived to a ripe old age. That little rodent in Pennsylvania is treated far better than the prophets of old were.

Take encouragement from the one who did everything right, Jesus the Son of God. Jesus also shared in the early and painful death that Jerusalem dealt out to those who would bring them the Word of God. Some of his apostles and followers would get the same treatment until Rome decided to take over as the top persecutor of Christ-ones some years later. Life as a chosen one of God can be short and tough here on this earth. Jesus gave us his assurance that this would in fact be the case. Today we get scoffed at.

Jesus told us this would happen too when he inspired Peter's letters. Today we have an entire industry of scoffers. They scoff at the President, Congress, politicians of all levels, CEO's, celebrities, and of course, believers in most anything. One group can really draw the scoffing though and that is those who believe in Christ. Some nations have outlawed the worship of God, other nations have tried to regulate it, some nations have come out in complete hatred of it, and a few nations have denied the existence of God. Intellectuals have called it silly or superstitious, other intellectuals have ignored it or lumped it in with other religions, and of course there was the one who said that God is dead. Imagine the fun he will have at the Judgement Day of God! All of this, and the world sets aside a day to watch a groundhog?

Hey, we will see some crazy things in this life as we walk with Jesus. The funny thing is, you and I will probably be called crazy at some point. Perhaps the scoffer won't use the word 'crazy', but will say the same thing in a different way. Jesus was called that too, and He understands completely when you and I feel the sting of rejection in this world. We wouldn't feel that sting if we didn't reach out in love first, just as our Lord Jesus did.

Have a great and blessed day in Christ!


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cold, Cold, Morning! - February 1, 2011

G-G-Good c-c-c-cold Tuesday morning! This is the kind of morning where a person seriously considers the aesthetic and physical benefits of building a small nuclear heat source in the basement. Not that I would know how to contain such a thing or even how to start the construction process, but a little piece of the sun shining in the basement sounds pretty good on this cold, cold morning. A mere 15 below zero at the stroke of 0600 and possibly colder down here in the Lodgepole Valley. The good news is that we all get to share it as this cold front is huge, extending all the way into Texas and from Washington to Maine. What a joy to share the freezing and moaning with you today! Okay, that might be laying it on a bit thick.

The glory of the Lord shines through us today, even under the thick hats, heavy winter coats, and mittens. You and I might have a bit of trouble getting started today. Getting out from under warm blankets might be tough. Getting naked to step into the shower might be a real test of faith this morning. Maybe you will even wait to shower on Thursday when the temperature is predicted to be in the 40's. Perhaps we should be thankful for what we have. A morning like this does help me come up with a quick list of things to be thankful for, such as: a house, furnace, a pile of blankets on the bed, warm cats, and of course, hot coffee in a mug. The hot days of July can make us grateful for different, even opposite, things that the Lord has provided. That verse from the Psalms we read last week might be a bit harder to say in a convincing voice today, especially with your teeth chattering like that! But the Lord didn't provide his Word for only the nice days.

You know, I think every bit of moisture in the air has been frozen to the window panes this morning. The cats gobbled down every bit of their food this morning, and I know they will soon want more. The sky is starting to lighten up; will the sun shine across the frozen prairie this morning? Will it do any good? Just the sight of the sun shining does our hearts good, even if the bitterly cold air doesn't give much in the way of warming. There is something positive that happens when we can just see the sun on a cold morning. God put signs on this earth to remind us of his Son's return. We may not always appreciate the signs until things seem very dark or get really cold. A morning such as this gives us a new appreciation for our Lord Jesus.

Try to stay warm today!