Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beware! - March 31, 2011

Good Thursday morning! We are getting some fine rain, but the weather folks say it will be followed by a day of wind. Sorry, our taste of weather perfection will have to wait for Heaven it seems. I didn't see you all at the land auction meeting yesterday, I see that you have decided to sit on your millions for a while longer. Ah well, I went to do research for my writing. I don't want you to think that I have any millions to sit on, or spend on land for that matter. Today, I wonder what would happen if land suddenly became worthless out here. What if all those thousands and millions spent on big tracts of land just didn't matter any more? That day might even be today. A farmer or rancher might have an immediate need for land to perform their trade. Most of us have no need for hundreds of acres of cropland or thousands of acres of pasture. We might be tempted to stockpile land like a miser stockpiles his loot. Sitting on a bunch of anything and declaring yourself secure sounds a lot like that fellow with the new barns that Jesus spoke of in the Bible. It is easy to go to a land auction and wish for enough money to buy up some big parcel. You might even come up with a reason to have that land. But looking at the imminent return of Christ, do we really need all that we think we need or want? Here in America and in most of the western countries, most everything is for sale. But not everything that is for sale is good for us to have. Almost nothing that can be bought with money will go with us into Heaven. We do need many things, but we also want many more. The two men who owned all the land that will be coming up for auction in a couple of weeks lived as farmers, but even as farmers the land is doing them no good now. The men were brothers and within a couple of months both of them died. Thousands of acres of land sits here for sale; they are somewhere else. They won't even get to spend the money that will be raised from the sale. Why go into this? Any of us can go to a land auction and feel the lure of becoming one of those wealthy, big land owners. If we just had this much land, we would be set and secure. We could raise a big garden and have plenty of food. Never mind the work that a 400-acre garden would take, we just feel that temptation from the great tempter. Would the purchase of just one of the parcels cure us of that temptation? I suspect not, because yesterday I saw folks there who already own more land than they can use. Even more of those types will be at the auction. The big land owners want more land, the wealthy want more wealth, and the collector wants to add to his collection. Do we see a pattern here? I didn't even get to the part where the person who earns more than enough in his job still wants big raises each year and fights for that next promotion. There is something broken in this world's system; something that means us harm and desperately wants to keep us caught up in looking away from the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must be watchful for that desire toward accumulation and acquisition that can drive us to a place we don't want to go. I suppose the wind will soon blow all of these clouds away and we will see the sun shining. I'm trying to make the best of the day. I pray that the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus will make your day shine too! Bucky

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who Are You? - March 30, 2011

Who are You? This morning I had a question about who we are in Christ. There is a gang of motorcycle hoodlums in our town that call themselves the Whoevers, probably so that no one knows their real names. Members of this roving gang of thugs will answer officials queries with the standard, "whoever!" when stopped. Town official: "We have reports of someone handing out this literature at the fair; do you know who did it?" Local Motorcycle Goon: "Whoever!" Bigger town official: "I don't think you understand the question, son. Someone was spreading the Good News here in this secular town; now who did you see doing this!" Goon's buddy: "Whoever!" Town mayor: "I can see we're not going to get anywhere with this one. Lock the whole gang up!" Actually, we know quite a few of their names, but the Whoevers tend to point to the name of Jesus. The gang name comes from one of the translations of John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (emphasis added) This morning, I wondered what or who else we could be. All of us can be whoevers, even if we don't ride anything stouter than a bike with pedals. In Romans, we can also be a 'one who' as in Romans 3:26 "It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Whether we want to be a 'whoever' or a 'one who' we have only to believe and Jesus justifies and saves us. The work seems to be all on Jesus. As Paul explains further in Romans, we cannot save ourselves and our works will not justify us in God's sight. Each of us is already a one who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so we might as well be a one who believes in Jesus to be justified by His sacrifice on the cross. Not one of us can have eternal life without believing in Jesus. Any of us can have eternal death by simply doing nothing. I think that I'll add the action word to my name. I'll be a whoever believes and a one who believes in Jesus, the Son of the Living God. Love and joy to you from the One who died for your sins and rose again on the third day, Jesus our Lord! Bucky

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's With the Heavens? - March 29, 2011

Tuesday morning, and my idea bank for devotionals is empty. Nothing. Hmm, maybe the devotional is not about me, or me amongst a group. Has 'amongst' been deprecated as a word now? Is it archaic? I like to throw in the odd archaic term every now and then just to show how old I am. I see an article today suggesting 8 other things to do after high school in place of going to college. While college has always been the gold standard so to speak for graduating seniors, from my experience it is good to consider alternatives. Not every high school student is ready for college at 18, I certainly wasn't and it took about a year and a half for me to realize that... an expensive year and a half at that. What is missing from the 8 alternatives in the blog post? Service to your country. Must be one o' dem liberal blogs. Oops, knee-jerk reaction for the day! Okay, the intro is over; what is the writing to be about this morning? When I am stuck for ideas, the answer is almost always the same, "Write about me!" Not me as in yours truly, but Me as in the answer from God to: "What should I write about, Lord?" When we look at the news headlines, we can hardly help but wonder why God puts up with all that he sees in the world. I don't need to cite a bunch of examples to darken your day, you can read all that you can stomach on pretty much any day in the news. Not too long ago, we learned the answer in our Bible study. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) We may not be sure how long the Lord put up with Sodom and Gomorrah, but we do know the Lord has been patient since Jesus ascended to Heaven for around 2,000 years. To us that is a lot of patience, but Peter also reminds us that to God a day is as a thousand years. However, we can turn back a few books in the Bible and read about the coming time when God's patience with the evil world system will finally run out and the judgments will come. We don't know when this end time will begin, but we do know that it will happen quickly. Jesus told the disciples that in Noah's time, life was going along as it had for some time with weddings and babies, sin and suffering, and the normal stuff, when suddenly Noah held a gathering of the beasts of the field, then hollered, "All Aboard!" like any good ship captain, and shut the door of the ark... miles from the sea, not even on a good sized lake, and certainly amid the laughter of the people. "Hee, hee, look old Noah just shut himself in his boat with a bunch of animals!" "Imagine the mess those animals are going to make!" "Yeah, ho, ho, he'll be gasping for air in a day!" "Where are these water drops coming from?" "Yeah, why do I feel wet all of the sudden, and what's with the heavens?" The great flood came soon for those folks just as the end times will come soon for many in our day. As Jesus warned the disciples about the end times, we can see the weddings and babies, sin and suffering, and all the normal stuff going on each day just like in Noah's time. While some might take the daily news and think that God isn't there or doesn't care, we can read in the Word that God is simply being patient in allowing all to hear the Good News of His Son and repent. Time is a luxury right now, just as it was for Noah and his family until the final moments, but the timer is still counting down to zero. No man knows how much time is left, only God knows, but the end will come. Today, we have the modern versions of the scoffers Noah had to listen to in his day. Peter wrote about that too. It won't be long before another scoffer in a later time asks: "What's with the heavens?" Grace, peace, and love be with you today from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ! Bucky

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Bread of Anxious Toil - March 28, 2011

Good Monday morning! Okay, the finals are in, I actually picked one of the final four teams correctly in my bracket. While that may be a personal best, that also means that I missed the other three. Of course now that a number 11 seed has made it to the final four, I'm rooting for the underdog: Go VCU! What underdogs are you rooting for today? How about you and me? We can root for each other. In this world we are that low seed that shouldn't win the tournament. If life had a bracket, we would lose the play-in matches. If life had tournament seedings to rank us we would be seeded dead last. Does it seem like that in all cases right now? Perhaps not, but in Revelation we can read about a coming time when the Man of Lawlessness or the Antichrist will have the ability to overcome God's own people. Does that sound like a dark, Monday kind of message or what? Today, that time has not yet begun. We have the Good News of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We have the wonderful teaching of the Holy Spirit to remind us of God's love. We have an advocate who presents our prayers to the Father. We have our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage each other. We also have the promises of God the Father to take care of our daily needs. God the Father sent His own Son to save us from the penalty of sin. We are beloved creations of an almighty God, and not freak accidents of a random chain called evolution. Whatever tomorrow may bring, we know that God is sovereign. Work can be tough. You may not like where you must go this morning for your work. You may even wish that Jesus would return and call us home at 0759 this morning, just in the nick of time so to speak. You might even be wondering why we can't work two days of the week and have a five day weekend. I have some bad news for you... The Bible does say to honor the Sabbath, and that six days we shalt labor. However, the Bible does not demand a 14-hour workday, or that all six days of labor must be spent with an employer. No doubt there are employers who would like to read it that way, but I'm sure there are plenty of labor tasks to do around your home on Saturday, and maybe Friday as well. You may have felt the tug and temptation of listing among your accomplishments the six long days of labor for an employer. I once boasted of working an 80-something hour week as a good thing, an accomplishment of merit as I thought it. If we were to stand in the judgment hall of God right now, more than likely a common defense would go something like: "Your Honor, I worked hard all my life, putting in six-day weeks of 12 or more hours each day. I'm a good person!" Others might claim that they showed great love by sacrificing their life on the altar of work. In the Psalms we have a verse that might shed a little light on the issue. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (127:2) When I read this verse a few days ago, it really struck me. For years, I ate that bread of anxious toil. That bread is what causes so many of our mental and physical health issues today. I chatted with a Christian friend this weekend on this same thing and I feel compelled to share again with you today. Jesus told us in John's gospel that he is the bread of life. We seem to have that confused in our modern times. The person in the world today eats the bread of anxious toil and calls it success. As I look at a picture or our little town on my desktop this morning, I wonder how many are even now going in to work on this Monday morning, and they are already weary. One day, perhaps less, of rest can in no way prepare them for another long week of anxious toil. When did the so-called "rat race" become a good thing? Jesus tells us that we are to come to Him, and he will give us rest. This is not the rest of the grave that so many proudly claim will be the end to their wheeling and dealing, but actual rest from that treadmill of anxious toil. Perhaps the modern illnesses we call anxiety and depression should be known as "Eating the Bread of Anxious Toil" The only cure is to come to Jesus for rest. Have a wonderful Monday! Bucky

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lost Friends in Need - March 26, 2011

Good Saturday morning! The snow has stopped for the moment and the links are cooking on the stove. Hot coffee is ready and the cats are fed. Sounds like a good start to the morning. Another friend has broken out of that place on the hill and I feel like celebrating. Anyone feel like a pizza and a party at 0730 on a Saturday? I may be a little out of sync with the world. Back in the day the only ones still partying at 0730 were those who had not yet passed out from too much alcohol in their bodies. On the other hand, I can't help my feelings. I am so happy for my friend, and yet, he will be leaving the area much like the last few who have gone. I am glad and sad, but mostly glad for his sake. What if a person you love is in a situation that is bad for him, but you can do nothing to get him out of it? What if that person thinks that he is in a good situation and cannot see the harm his circumstances are doing to him?

Actually, that pretty much describes everyone who has not given themselves to Jesus. We can tell our friends the Good News of Jesus Christ, but only the Spirit can move them to surrender to Jesus. Most of the time it would be easier to argue, browbeat or hornswaggle a person into believing that red is actually green than to convince someone to believe in Jesus. We just don't have the right words in our own strength to save anyone. The Spirit knows exactly what needs to be said and does give us the right words. The Spirit also touches the sore spots on the heart of a person who does not yet believe in Jesus. The Spirit is very good at this too. At times, I still feel the touch of the Spirit, that little whisper of "this area of your life is not right with God," and it hurts and humbles me. A person who does not believe in Christ will have a most difficult time with this. Imagine a wound that won't heal on its own and someone keeps touching it, painful no? Those sore spots on the heart can only be healed when a person surrenders and gives himself totally to Jesus.

Our words from the Spirit may not be an immediate relief to someone still in the world. The words may hurt and that person we love may react defensively to the hurting. A friend you have known all of your life might react harshly to a note of love you wrote to him. A best buddy or partner might turn her back on you because of the words of life given to you by the Spirit of God. But your salvation has given you a point of view that they do not have. You and I can see that the circumstances of sin are not good for our friends, but we cannot make them leave the frying pan they know for what seems to be a blank unknown from their point of view. We need the Holy Spirit to help them make the right decision, just as you and I needed the Spirit's help when we made the decision to believe in and surrender to Jesus, the Son of God.

Don't give up hope for those you love, trust in Jesus to save them!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Morning, I think - March 25, 2011

Good Friday morning! Someone, somewhere, and at some time in this life has warned you about disturbing content. Probably the MPAA as you most often see it at the start of movies or in the little review capsules. What exactly is disturbing content? Of course, we know that it is a scene in a movie, or a paragraph in a book, or a picture in a gallery that causes a person to be disturbed. What disturbs you may not disturb me and vice versa. After the dinner last night, we watched the sequel to the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons. The author and screenwriters returned to the usual target, the Catholic Church. What makes the Church such a tempting target for so many writers and directors? Any institution that has been around for centuries and grown large might become a target for many to aim at. One of the great things about a country where free speech is upheld for the most part is that you and I can be insulted and offended in so many different ways.

If a performer or writer decides to pick on your particular branch of faith, or the entire Christian faith, you can have fun and be offended at the same time! The Catholic Church draws the 'fire' of many because it has been around for centuries, has hundreds of millions of followers, huge cathedrals, lots of money, and even its own country smack in the middle of Rome. Over the centuries, secrets have been kept and things declared off-limits, which all by itself would make for plot elements and wild guesses from the entertainment industry. We often feel the temptation to belittle the great and the mighty. Whether you agree with everything the Catholic Church believes or you don't, you must admit that the organization is among the great and mighty of the world.

Poking fun at the great and mighty can make for interesting entertainment, but it can be easy to go too far as well. We don't poke fun at God because we respect our Lord too much. How important is our respect for the Lord? In the ten commandments, the first three speak of respect for the Lord. The first is to keep the Lord first, having no other gods before Him. The second tells us that we are to make no idols or bow to them; for to bow down to an idol is to turn your back on the Lord your God. And third we are to keep the Lord's name sacred, not using it in place of 'ouch!' or "that makes me mad!" or any of the other casual uses we see and hear all around us. Respect for the Lord, our God, is of paramount importance to us. Does this mean we grab our swords when someone makes fun of our religion or God himself? No, actually the ten commandments don't say what we should do to others, the ten are all about what each of us is responsible to God for. Jesus told us what we are to do to others: love one another, and do to others what you or I would have them do to us.

When a Danish newspaper ran some cartoons that featured Muhammad, you will recall that some Islamic cleric basically issued a decree to kill 'em all. While something like that might make a person feel like a righteous defender of the faith, God had a different command. Vengeance belongs to me, says the Lord, I will repay those who deserve it. We are not to be an avenger of the faith, which is a much simplified version of what happened with those awful crusades back in the day, but we are to be ready to defend our faith.

Man, am I ever slow at getting the devotional out today... must have something to do with staying up late watching a movie last night. The sun is shining and the wind is calm for the moment, although I see some branches starting to move out there. Praise God for the nice rain last night! We need it in this area. I hope some went down south to help with the fires in Colorado. Have a nice weekend, I will pray for a bit less wind for us.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Struggle and "Them" - March 24, 2011

Good Thursday morning! Praise God for the new day! Whoo, it got cold last night. As of now we are all the way up to 20° right here in western Nebraska. As we might have expected from the late start in December, winter is not ready to let go yet. Last night the pastor had a bee in his bonnet, and he shared the buzzing with us in our Bible study. When the Holy Spirit puts something on your heart, rest assured that it is going to come out. I have felt the same thing on my heart at times the night before I sit down to write the devotional. You can bet that the Spirit will not let me forget just because I had a night to sleep it off. We started with homosexuality last night, but what struck me most was that some people struggle with it. As Christians we can run into a host of problems with this, but one of the sneakiest is where we first thank God that we don't struggle in that area, and then we puff out the chest a little and look down on those who do.

You probably struggle in some area. I have found that not many Christians seem to have it easy in that regard. There is almost always some sin that is the thorn in our side. Sexual immorality including; homosexuality, pornography, adultery, fornication, masturbation, imagination, and probably quite a few others is one that many of us struggle in. Others may struggle with gossip about those who struggle with the above list. Name any sin and you can find a Christian struggling with it. The sneaky sin is when we look at that other fellow, or even "them", the ones who struggle with a particular sin, but we don't know any names to go with the group. We find it easy to look down on "them" and wonder how God could put up with "them". We might even discuss "them" behind their collective backs, perhaps not knowing that one of "them" is in our very group. Surely that group of "them" people are facing imminent judgment and God has a special smiting reserved just for "them"! As usual, I tend to inject a little humor into a serious subject, but you may have to admit that at some point you and I have been guilty of that sneaky sin.

Not one of us is holier than the other. When Jesus found you and me, we looked to him just like all the other sinners he had rescued from a world of sinners. It doesn't matter which sin you and I struggle with, each reminds us that we are no better than "them". If you cannot think of a sin in which you struggle with almost daily it seems, you can praise God, and get to work praying for those of us who do struggle. Of course the sin you struggle with might be that sneaky one; that looking down on other Christians as being somehow less than you because of their struggles with other sins.

When we look down on some group of our brothers in Christ who struggle in an area of sin that has never tempted you and me, we might tend to think that is because God has made us strong in that area. The truth is that it could be just the opposite. It may be that we are so weak in that area that God has held up the stop sign to Satan and we are protected from that particular temptation. Perhaps we are strong in an area of life, but before we become puffed up with some of that pride, we may want to consider that opposite viewpoint. Are we all just lost then? No hope at all for us in our struggles? If you are counting on your own goodness to save you, then yes your doom is at hand. But! That is not the good news.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ came to save us and died to save us from the penalty of all of our sins. Not just those before we came to believe in Jesus, but those we may commit tomorrow or the next day. Jesus knew all of your sins and my sins when he died on the cross. Now if you are like me, you might feel a certain curiosity about that list, but then again, we are probably better off not knowing what those future sins might be. When Jesus told the disciples about the sins of the mind, like committing murder by hating in your mind, or committing adultery by looking at a woman with lust, the disciples despaired a bit. "Who then can be saved?" they asked the Lord. Jesus told them that what is impossible for man, is possible with God. In other words, with man it is impossible to save ourselves through good works and remaining sinless. However, with God it is possible to have the Son of God come down to earth, die to pay the penalty for our sins, even the ones that happen only in our hearts, and save us through faith in Christ.

I would like to boast about my good works, but not one will save me. I would like to boast of my victory in the struggle with sin, but that battle has only been a long defeat in my own efforts. I will boast of what Jesus has done in me, and of the forgiveness I have even in those sins that I still commit in my life. We consider Paul one of the best of all Christians, but we can also read of his struggle with sin in Romans. We all struggle with sin and temptation to sin, therefore we have no reason to look down on "them" in their struggle with a sin.

We do have a reason to boast of the victory of Jesus over sin and death. Have a great day in Christ!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stronger Than You Know - March 23, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! Spring marches on, or in our case, blows right on by through the night. Word has it that if we want any spring, we will once again have to chase it down today. Yesterday, I learned that wheelbarrow wheels come in different bearing sizes, and that it works better if you have the correct one. I did manage to get the correct wheel and tire size, but didn't quite have all the numbers I needed when placing the order. Of course, without a wheel, you just have a barrow; a thing apparently only good for planting your body in. However, if you have two wheels, you also get a barrow and can then become a street vendor in jolly old England. I'm not sure if some joke is implied there, but two wheels - barrow; one wheel - wheelbarrow; no wheels - barrow. If you can't figure out the English language, don't worry you ain't alone!

Jesus was placed in a barrow, the ancient burial place that is, for a brief time. I have often thought that our symbol should be the empty tomb, but I don't have the artistic ability to draw one, at least not one that anyone would recognize. People would say, "What is that?" to my drawing of an open tomb or barrow. Funny thing is they say much the same thing about my drawings of crosses. Have you ever noticed that we all desire to do everything well? We have a desire to be the greatest artist: "Your stick figures really speak to my lighter emotions! I take it the little triangles denote the female characters then?" We also want to be the professional baseball player: "I wrote a nice novel while you ran to first base there. It's not every day you see the batter thrown out at first by the left fielder!" Maybe a jet fighter pilot is your dream: "Wow, I've never seen someone eject before taking off before!" Not all of our dreams work out as we wanted them to in our youth.

In your life, you may have been told quite a few things that you cannot do. I have been told many times that I cannot drive without my corrective lenses. They even print the restriction on my driver's license. I beg to differ. If someone would be kind enough to clear the streets of traffic and parked cars, lock up all the kids and small animals, and stopped the trains, I could probably drive down to the courthouse and prove to them that my driving without glasses or contact lenses is in the realm of possibility. However, they might also find me several hours later stopped in the street waiting for a tree to cross the road. Sometimes it is better if one person accepts his 'cannot' for the safety of all other persons involved. Sometimes a 'cannot' is not entirely true. I could play baseball, but at the professional level people pay to watch those who are really good at what they do; I do not fall into that category when it comes to baseball. I could also pilot a jet fighter for a little while, probably even manage to get it off the ground, but again governments are about the only organizations who have enough loot to buy jet fighter planes and they typically don't want to lose them on the first flight. It is much better for the taxpayers if I am kept well away from the fighter planes. Mostly because unlike professional baseball, if I had access to a jet fighter I might be tempted to give it a try. Some 'cannots' need to be reinforced by higher authority.

God gives us several thing that we are not allowed to do. Obeying these ground rules will not save any of us from Adam's sin, only Jesus can do that. On the other hand, obeying God's rules for living is better and safer for us. Sexual immorality results in all manner of dire consequences. Without sexual immorality we would not have terms like sexually transmitted disease, or cheating on a spouse, or adultery, or infidelity, and the list goes on. God doesn't give us his "do nots" for his own good, but for our benefit. We strive to obey our Lord not because we have to, but to show our love for our Father in Heaven. When we take up the challenge to obey God, we are in for the war of our lives. Not only will we fight the Adversary, but we will war against the urges of our own flesh. That doesn't seem like a fair fight.

And it wouldn't be if we had to do it in our own strength. The Spirit reminds us of scripture in this: You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Who is this person in the world? Both the Adversary and your own physical lusts. Who is in you? Both the Holy Spirit and your own heart. While we are still here in this world, we have the war within us. John is telling us that our desire to obey and the Holy Spirit within us are greater than our lusts of the flesh and the temptations from the Adversary. We are not alone in this fight! Trust in God and take up the fight to do right. With the Spirit in you, you are stronger than you know!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Half a Journey is No Good - March 22, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Spring is blowing across the plains today. You can enjoy it if you can catch it. Did you know that half a walk doesn't help very much? Nope, walking out to a destination and then calling it good leaves you out in the cold and away from home. Many want to go halfway with Jesus. By that I mean that while they are fine talking about Heaven, and all the bounty that God will grant them in this life if they tithe faithfully, but they want nothing to do with God's justice and Hell. They want only half of the story.

When I wrote about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar from the parable Jesus told, we looked at the differences between the two men. But if I quote only half the parable it would go something like: Lazarus had a rough life and he went to Heaven. That sounds just right to many folks, after all we all have a rough life down here except for a few of those big-name athletes, stars, and CEO's, of course we all deserve to go to Heaven. Yes, and where do the big-name people go then? Well, if they give away enough of their fortune then they get to go to Heaven too. Right.... (said in my best Bill Cosby voice).

We know that there is the other side to the parable Jesus spoke and that both halves go together. Not only does Lazarus go to Heaven, but a certain rich man who did nothing but enjoy the bounty of life goes to Hell. Not only does the rich man go to Hell, but he asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus over to Hell to give him a little relief. There is no thought in the rich man that Lazarus certainly wouldn't want to come there, or that he might even refuse such an 'offer'. But that story Jesus told about the rich man is just too mean for a loving God, isn't it?

Mean doesn't come into the story, unless you count how mean it was for the rich man to ignore the suffering Lazarus at his gate. Mean, as in cruel 'mean', seems to be reserved for the fallen down here on earth. How we know God is to learn his justice through the condemnation of the Law. When we look at the Law, we all fail to measure up to God's standard and we all deserve what the rich man got - punishment in Hell. We need to not only realize all of God's great plan, but we need to look at the fulfillment of that plan: Jesus Christ. Paul laid it out for us in Romans: The Law condemns all of us, and Jesus redeems all of us. God in his great mercy grants us salvation through Jesus who paid the price God's justice demanded for our sin.

So, why then are we to not believe the 'feel good' ministries that tell us how nice everything will be in this life with plenty of money, great houses, and nothing but the lighter side of the Good News? Isn't everyone already saved through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus? For one thing, Jesus had a few warnings for the first apostles about what the world would do to them. Suffering was to be the lot of any who would believe in Christ and follow him. The world would hate those who follow Jesus, because the world first hated Christ himself. This last bit does not sound like everything will be sweet and soft for those who follow Jesus! We might bear more suffering and sorrow than what we would like when we accept the lordship of Jesus Christ. Since our likes are just as fallen as the rest of our earthly lives, I am glad that God keeps his own counsel on how much we can bear. Also, just because Jesus has a gift of eternal life for all those who will believe in him, does not mean that everyone will believe in Him and accept that gift. Many still believe in and count on their own goodness to save them.

A person cannot go halfway with Jesus. We accept that we are all sinners in need of salvation, and that the road through the narrow gate may be more difficult than we can imagine. We accept our call to spread the Good News, but we don't sugarcoat it by ignoring God's justice. Without Jesus, none could be saved and made right with God. There is a Heaven, but because there is a Heaven where God sits on his throne, there is also an outer darkness called Hell where God sends those who would have nothing to do with His Son. I wish there wasn't such a place, but I notice in my Bible reading that God wanted no one to perish long before I came around to wish that same thing. Looks like God is forming me to think more like His Son. Jesus hasn't returned yet because he wants everyone to be saved. Hallelujah!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is Here! - March 21, 2011

Good Monday morning and welcome to Spring! Well, at least the calendar says Spring on it. I would call it cool and damp outside as opposed to cold and icy, so perhaps Spring is getting started. Some guy with a camera bag went out for the first time today too, another sign that Spring is here even if he did get a little dampish and didn't take a single photo. After the long winter, it's good to take the first full day of Spring, no matter the exact weather, and get out in the morning. Of course, I didn't set any distance records in my walk today. The winter has been long and fairly stationary for me; it will take some mornings before I can tackle the big hill again. We could still have snow and blowing snow, cold and freezing weather, but Spring has begun! Some days in April may not look much like Spring, and the rest of March is always doubtful, but we know from the sun and the calendar that Spring has arrived. Why is this so important when we may yet have winter-like weather? The same way that the first visit of Jesus to John the Baptist was important.

Jesus didn't need to be saved, but he told John that things must be done in order. All of the years that Jesus walked this earth, he was aware of prophecies that had to be fulfilled and he was careful to obey His Father in all things. Jesus' first trip down here to the world accomplished much of what had been foretold by the prophets. His second coming will be like the Spring of Springs to those who believe in Him and look forward to His coming. We cannot look at a calendar to see when that will happen, but we can look at the signs to see when it will start. If you have not been aware of the earthquakes in diverse places then you really have been living under a rock as they say. The wars have been going on pretty much constantly for hundreds of years, so we can know that the beginning of the end has been underway for some time now. Why do I think the end is soon by that?

Jesus told us that these things would be just the beginning of the troubles that will make up the end times. However, soon everyone around the world will have access to the news media. The earthquakes and the wars and rumors of war will be news to everyone at about the same time. You can travel the back roads of most any continent and find the humblest shack with a satellite dish outside. You can travel to the deepest jungles and the wildest deserts and there is a good chance that you might bonk your head on a cell tower if you're not watching your step. The cell towers are not everywhere yet, but each day the world gets a little closer to world-wide coverage. Along with the cellular towers, as any of a dozen commercial ads will tell you these days, is the ability to surf the Internet. It won't be long before the entire world will know of the latest news at the same moment, and perhaps more important to some figures, be able to hear the latest orders from on high at the same time.

Why does the arrival of Spring make me think of the Second Coming of Christ? It does at times seem that winter might be more a reminder of the tribulation of the end times, but for some reason the renewal and green of Spring is what reminds me that Jesus will return for us soon. The first day of Spring reminds me that God knows the date when Jesus will return and our Lord may very well be counting down the days just as we do for the coming of Spring. Look up, for your hope draweth nigh!

Have a great Spring as you think of Jesus returning for us soon!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not There Yet - March 19, 2011

Good Saturday morning! Slightly better news in the news this morning. One reactor may be stabilizing in Japan; Britain and France will enforce a no-fly zone over Libya; and I missed less games on my brackets yesterday. One of those news items may be less important than the others, but I'll let you decide which one. I left some birthday greetings on a Facebook page this morning and noticed that her status was not up to date. My status is out of date too, and so is yours. Our addresses are all wrong, and our photographs don't show who we really are or what we look like. This is not a problem with any social media site. This is a problem with our perspective and our temporary location.

When a person surrenders his or her life to Jesus, that person's status is updated in The Books. Not the Facebook or the books of this world, but the eternal books that God keeps. Our address is updated to one with a street address in Heaven. Every time a person believes in Jesus and surrenders to His will, the order goes out from God, "Son, prepare a place for Joe!"; and Jesus adds another work order to his list of places to prepare in Heaven. Joe's exact status here in this world has just become a temporary thing; his address is no longer permanent. We have a new home in Heaven with Jesus; we just can't go there quite yet.

The home we have here looks pretty rough. We can't see our heavenly home with our human eyes, and the home we do see with our eyes has a lot of problems. Some days the storm clouds seem darker as they do now with the catastrophe in Japan ongoing and the possibility of our nation joining the war in Libya, and other days the storm clouds seem to lighten a bit like the day when our government started pulling our forces out of Iraq and the Middle East uprisings had not yet begun. Sometimes we can discern the ups and downs of the world situation by the price of gasoline, and this can give us an up or down day. In this world of ups and downs, it's kind of hard to imagine a home in Heaven that has all ups. We see the pain of our loved ones and feel our own pain, and it's hard to imagine a place where pain and suffering are banished forever. You can far too easily think back to your last time of sorrow; and it is understandable that we would have trouble imagining a place with no sorrow and every tear wiped away forever.

We may have trouble imagining, but the Bible assures us that our permanent and eternal place is there and not here. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us - rest in His assurance.


Friday, March 18, 2011

A Better Greeting - March 18, 2011

Good Friday morning! As the 2nd Century philosopher Knukelhedicus said: Waking up is the start of mourning. Words of wisdom for your Friday. How did your first NCAA bracket picks go yesterday? I like to make out my bracket each year, but I haven't gotten any better at picking the winners. I think I missed at least 6 games yesterday and my final four may already be wrong. So far no latent talent in foretelling has emerged in my bracket picks. You can see why I don't bet on the NCAA tournament. Casinos don't need a donation from me anyway.

Greetings of love, joy, and peace to you from the Lord God Almighty today! Whatever you may be suffering, the Lord wants to send his greetings to you on this day. In reading Jude the other day, I thought that we don't give greetings and benedictions like they used to back in the apostle's day. If you take a few minutes to read the greetings at the start of each letter in the New Testament, you get an idea of what encouragement means. Our greetings today are more neutral like the "How are ya?" we get in the hallways at work that means nothing and doesn't really want an accurate answer. We then sign off the letter or e-mail with an insincere 'sincerely' or an untruthful 'truly yours' or even just a name with no 'cordially'. In the apostle's epistles we get good greetings.

Paul to the Romans: To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul to the Corinthians: To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Greetings to the Thessalonians: Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter to several churches: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you." What a great thing to ask for someone. In the letters Paul wrote, he also gave a greeting of grace and peace in his introduction. Matters of grave concern could wait while Paul poured out a greeting of love and encouragement to those waiting for his next words. I wonder if we have become too rushed in our lives when we forget to give a powerful and biblical greeting to each other. How about that greeting to the church in Thessaloniki? How would you feel if you knew that someone thanked God for you in prayer always? We might remember to thank God for many things, but do we remember to thank God for the people he has sent into our lives?

The Scriptures provide a wonderful example for us in these dark times. We should look to our Bibles often to learn how to greet each other and take our leave. Perhaps some of the things we have lost to the past should be revived near the end.

May grace and peace be given to you by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and God the Father as you go through this day!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Scared, Lord! - March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I know; watching the news lately makes it kind of hard to be happy. Yesterday, the news announced that the US life expectancy average had gone up. I thought, fabulous, more time to enjoy what is on the rest of the news: nuclear emergencies, earthquake tragedies, shootings, broken governments, rebellions, dictators... the world is just full of bad news. Food and gas prices are on the way up too, in case you have any money left to live on. What to do with news like that? Don't ignore it, we are to watch for the signs of our Lord's return. However, we shouldn't focus too much on the bad news either. The Light of the World will come back soon. Fear dominates the news headlines, but it should not dominate our lives.

We have talked, and I have written, about system failures before. The systems of this world are subject to catastrophic failure. The problem with the nuclear reactors in Japan is basically that a plant that generates electricity when things are operating normally cannot get electricity to cool the reactor cores. That is one of those crying jokes we hear from time to time; it would almost be funny if we weren't crying so hard. The fear in Japan must be thick enough to cut into blocks and stack by now. What would you say to a person consumed by fear? "It'll be alright." just doesn't seem to cut the mustard when it is nothing more than a vague assurance based on the words coming from a human mouth.

Jesus told the disciples to "fear not!" and then he calmed the storm. He did not give the disciples simply a vague assurance, but backed up his assurance with his authority. Jesus showed that he had the ability to calm the storm outside the boat, and the storm of fear going on inside the boat. The disciples had become afraid when the storm escalated beyond what they thought they could handle together. I wonder which of the disciples first looked at another and said something like, "We're sinking!" Soon the fear had spread to all of the disciples so much that when Jesus came walking across the waves one of the disciples had to throw some fuel on the fear fire by saying "a ghost!".

When we get in a fearful situation, our minds can be overwhelmed. Not usually by the first thing, or maybe even by the second thing, but as the fearful events begin to pile up, we look at the fear and forget to look at the Lord. The disciples had just watched Jesus feed thousands with a boy's lunch box, and yet they were surprised to see him walking on the water. Would they have been afraid if Jesus had walked out to the boat without the storm and the terrified, "We're gonna die!" that one of the disciples must have spoken in his fear? Probably not. But the storm, the darkness, the noise of the wind and thunder, the sight of Jesus walking out on top of the storm-tossed waves, and perhaps any of us might have wanted to do the foolish thing and given up with the Savior standing right there at hand.

In Daniel 10:12 we find this:

Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words." The angel not only told Daniel to not fear, but assured him that his words had been heard.

Why is this action so important? One of our great fears is that our prayers are going nowhere or that no one is listening as we pour out our fears in prayer. The angel assured Daniel that his prayer had been heard and that action had been ordered because of his prayer.

Far to the east, across thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean, fear is spreading too. Fear has always spread quickly, but our modern telecommunications systems allow the spread of fear to be almost instantaneous worldwide. However, those same systems also allow us to spread words of comfort and love. Our prayers are heard by God too, and that is a great comfort to all of us. One of the simplest, most needed and most often overlooked prayers is that very basic, "I'm scared, Lord!" Push the pride away and try that one in a moment of fear or stress. Listen to what God says. I have felt the peace of God come over me in response to a prayer very much like that. Of course I tried to use bigger words and not admit to being frightened (see, bigger word), but the plain fact was that I just needed to admit before God, "I'm scared, Lord!"

Have a courageous day in the Lord!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Still Another Tragedy - March 16, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! The cat is showing off by licking the back side of his rear leg. I'm not going to suggest that anyone try that; I don't have liability insurance on my devotional. We continue to pray for the people in Japan. Hardly an hour goes by it seems without some more bad news from there. If you lived there right now, you might be tempted to walk with your head on a swivel with so many dire perils to lookout for. In any situation like that, we tend to look for someone in charge; a person who has answers we can depend on, and solutions that we can implement with complete faith.

However, the scale of such tragedies puts it beyond the reach of the most capable human leaders. For a time during a catastrophe, any human leaders will be desperately searching for simple and accurate information about the situation. Leaders on the ground will be caught up in the event as everyone reacts to situations far beyond their control. Leaders farther back, a step or two away from the front lines, will have trouble assessing the situation and doing the right thing because of so much conflicting information or an outright lack of any comprehensible message. When we look to governments as people have done in many a catastrophe, the reaction is often slow, late in coming, and even overwhelmingly wrong. But that isn't entirely the government's fault as every government is made up of people trying to get the straight scoop in any catastrophic event. How do you send the relief trucks to a city when the roads are all gone? How many helicopters are available for rescue and is it safe for them to fly? We can sit here and imagine the confusion.

We know as believers in Christ that God is sovereign. At any moment, we might wish that God would step in and stop these catastrophes dead in their chaotic tracks. Only one problem with that. God sent His Son to tell us that these things would happen just before the end time. Wars and rumors of war, earthquakes in diverse places, famine and signs in the sky will all occur near the end of time as we know it. God is not likely to stop the very events that he has prophesied will occur at the end. So then do we blame God for the great tragedies that take place all around the world?

In my life, the tragedies that have come do not cause me to blame God, but rather to call out to Him in my time of trouble. God didn't cause Adam to sin or the world to fall. When sin entered Eden through Adam's disobedience, the Serpent gained a power over the world that he should never have gained. That serpent, the Devil, wants to make people curse God, their Creator. Is the Devil, Satan, then the cause of these tragedies? I don't know. I do not know what is caused by a fallen world cursed with sin or what is caused directly by the Adversary. What I do know is that God can overrule anything on this earth. Why doesn't God stop these things then? As Jesus said, these things must happen before the end.

When a great tragedy happens, pray often and earnestly for those suffering. Help in every way that you are able. Use the sorrow you feel to draw close to Jesus. Pour out your heart to God and listen for his comforting voice. As we might be tempted to ask when a great earthquake or other tragedy occurs, "Where was God in this?" We always get the same answer: Ruling on His throne in Heaven, just as he was when His Son died for our sins on the cross.

I have written of this before, and like you, I would rather that I not need to do it again. But until Jesus comes to take us home, the times will produce tragedies until the final tribulation... when the tragedies will get much worse. As prayer warriors, we have much to pray for in these times just before the end.

Have a better day with Jesus!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Coming Nemesis - March 15, 2011

Top o' the Tuesday to you! Did you determine to get to bed on time last night, even if it meant clubbing yourself over the head to get to sleep? Making the time adjustment sometimes involves drastic measures. I did manage to get to bed and go to sleep, and it did make a difference this morning. The warm day yesterday meant time to start cleaning up the shrubbery... and this morning I get to pay for doing motions my body has not done for a while. Getting older hurts in so many ways. Tylenol, it's what's for breakfast as you grow older!

The battle of wills continues. The cat sneaks under my bed to make a nest, and I try to prevent the ensuing mess. Praise the Lord that her nemesis, the vacuum cleaner, is on my side. My Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines nemesis as: a means of punishment or downfall that is deserved and unavoidable. If you believe the Bible, you can see that God has no nemesis, but the Devil does have a nemesis. Which side would you choose to be on? Jesus has no nemesis, though the world may believe otherwise. According to the Bible, Jesus lived a sinless life and was not born into Original Sin, therefore he deserved no punishment. Jesus also chose to sacrifice his life willingly, which is not a downfall. What is frightening is that those who have sinned or have been born into Original Sin do have a nemesis. There is an agent who is a means of punishment and downfall that none can avoid.

Do we despair then? Is all hope lost? Not quite, what if the punishment demanded by our nemesis was taken by someone else? A person who lived the perfect sinless life and was not born under the curse of Adam's sin might serve as a sacrifice on our behalf like the Passover lamb did for the Israelites. That same Bible tells us who the Lamb of God is and how he died for our sins and took the punishment in our place. If we choose to believe the Bible, we get it all. A nemesis that demands our punishment and downfall, but also a Savior who died to atone for that sin. No longer do those who believe in Jesus have a nemesis! The deserved punishment and unavoidable downfall has been paid for by another!

As the clouds of darkness give way to the light of Jesus, we can see that the clouds were the smoke of Hell that blotted out the light. When you came to Jesus and accepted his salvation, you also began to realize just how close the hell fires were to receiving you for all eternity. Each one of us has been literally snatched from the jaws of eternal death by our Lord Jesus. Like little lost lambs we wandered in darkness, each seeking his own way, but lost nonetheless. Into that darkness came a great light as the prophet Isaiah wrote centuries ago. Those living in darkness have seen a great light, but not all will come to that light. Jesus, who John pointed out as the light of the world, also told us that many would stay in the darkness.

We use the phrase lightly as we do many words today, but we all know someone who has refused to see the light. Prayer and supplication is not for our personal needs alone; bring the tools of our trade to bear on the matter. Let God know that you care enough for that unsaved friend to kneel down in prayer and supplication for his or her eternal soul. We may never be called to show the greatest love by laying down our life for a friend, but we can show love by giving time in prayer and supplication for that friend. As Jesus told us, God sees that effort and love. Perhaps you know of a friend who could use some intercession between him and a coming nemesis today.

Have a wonderful spring-like day today!


P.S. ...and try to not overdo it on the yard work!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A New Time...Again - March 14, 2011

Great Monday in the morning! The time has come to pay the piper. The spring time change can usually be put off on the Sunday by sleeping in a bit, but on Monday we all have to pay the price for this stupid, unnecessary, ridiculous, politically-motivated, time change thing. The spring time change is so bad that I almost wrote "Good Thursday..." that's how messed up my poor little brain is today. And my workplace is right here in my home! I can only imagine how the corporate minions feel today. I very much enjoyed the sun coming in the window during my devotional time. Now, darkness with only a hint of dawn. This is a sad day.

However, God says to be joyful today. The day is what we make of it, no matter how early the quacks make us get up today. After a couple of weeks dragging around, our bodies will get accustomed to the time change and we'll be good to go, at least until the next one. Crab, crab, crab... every stinkin' time the time changes you have to listen to me crab about the time change; it's time for a change! Hee, hee, sorry about that; the times they are a changin'. Oops, I done it again! What can we do about the things we cannot change? We can laugh about them! My body feels sleepy and out of sorts, but my mind can laugh and delight in the joy of the Lord. What do I look forward to about Heaven? No time changes! Woo hoo!

When we think about the Holy Spirit reminding us of scripture, we think that in a difficult moment the Spirit will remind us of John 3:16. But who reminded John of John 3:16? John didn't write the gospel according to himself until about 50 years after Jesus had gone to Heaven. I don't know about you, but I can forget a lot of conversations in fifty years. I know 'cuz I ain't there yet and I have forgotten most of the conversations that took place in my youth. In fact, I have forgotten most of the conversations that took place a year ago. So how did the Gospel According to John get written? The Holy Spirit reminded John of what Jesus would have him to write in the book we know by his name. All of the Gospels could be entitled: The Gospel According to the Holy Spirit. How did John remember the events and words of 50 years ago in his life? The Holy Spirit reminded him!

What happened long ago in your life that you would like the Holy Spirit to remind you of? We often have no trouble being reminded of those awful conversational gaffes; the ones where we would dearly like another chance to say a different thing. I don't think the Holy Spirit is responsible for those reminders. We need to be reminded of scripture because our past words are often not good to dwell on, especially if long ago you believed in only your own self. In learning to say and write the right words at the right time, it certainly helps to have a set of brakes on that tongue. The Holy Spirit not only provides a helpful, "Whoa there!" when we are about to blurt out something mean, but can remind us of a good verse or two that might fit the situation better. Imagine how many words passed John's ears and lips before he sat down in Ephesus to write his gospel, yet the Holy Spirit reminded him of all that we read in John.

We might be tempted to think that John was one of those people who never forget anything, but that probably wasn't the case. More than likely John was no better at recalling the things of the past than you or I. Like us, John probably had some devilish help in remembering the time that Jesus rebuked him and his brother for wanting to demolish a town. You may have missed the part in John's gospel where he referred to himself as, "the one Jesus thought was a complete buffoon." That is because the Holy Spirit reminded John of the many words that Jesus wanted John to write and the love of our Lord for the one named John. If you are like me and many others around us, we tend to apply derogatory labels to ourselves that Jesus never spoke to us or saw in us. John and his brother probably had several episodes where Jesus had to correct them. We don't need to read about those, we need to be reminded of John 1:36 where John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" and the many verses in John's gospel that tell of the Christ, God's Son, Messiah, and certainly, God's love for us shown in the person of Jesus Christ.

Wake up, put on the coffee, and praise the Lord for the new day!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Doubts That Bring Us to Prayer - March 12, 2011

Good Saturday morning! Hoo boy, huge earthquake, tsunami, fires, destruction, and a nuclear plant. If your prayer list has been short for any reason, you certainly have much to pray over now. The news from Japan is full of tragedy and sorrow after all of that. The aftershocks continue even as help is rushing to the scene. Do you feel powerless in events such at this? If you don't, you have a real ego problem, and someone might ask why you didn't stop the quake. We can't stop earthquakes, and there is never enough warning when a big earthquake occurs. However, unlike the miserable and hopeless world, we know someone who can stop earthquakes, create the Sun and Moon, and even heal a broken heart. What we don't always know is the timing of God's work. We can pray and pray, but will God act on our request? If there is no further earthquakes for the next twenty years does that mean that God acted or that the pressure that caused the first one had been released? Many questions in this little lifetime of ours will go unanswered. That leads me into the next question.

Yesterday, you will recall that I wrote about not giving up from Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4:1. The question came: How do we know the difference between a trial sent to refine our faith and a roadblock that God has sent to turn us around? In other words, in the first case, we want to be like Paul and never give up, enduring our trials patiently while calling upon God's strength to help us persevere. In the second case, we obviously want to get turned around because God has sent the message that we are going the wrong way. The problem is of course: How do we know?

I could write things like: each situation is between you and God, or, you need to pray more, but that kind of answer doesn't really help. Each person's situation is indeed unique, but the reason we call out to each other for help is that in order to refine our faith, each situation is not perfectly clear and easily discerned. We'll use me as an example since I'm writing this. (Makes a dumb sort of sense, eh?) You know that my employer decided that it didn't need me anymore about 2 1/2 years ago. Since then I have been working on two novels. Not because I want to show off by writing two at once, but because my attention span is such that I get bored with one and turn to the other to break up the lack of mystery. Reading a good novel that another writer has produced is full of surprises and plot twists. Reading your own work kind of eliminates all the surprises and plot twists. The point is that since neither of the novels is completed, reviewed and ready for publication, I haven't earned a dime in that span of time. If money alone were our measure of God's will, as some of those televangelists might lead one to believe, I might be tempted to say that I am on the wrong path and that God has set up a roadblock to stop me.

Do I have doubts about being on the right path? Absolutely! And like the Christian on the falling airplane, I like to remind God of his promise to care for me on a regular and even fervent basis. In a time of doubt such as that, God may send you a message. A few years ago, I had an idea that I wrote in a spiral notebook and then lost. I remember writing down the idea, and even used it in my Toledo Ted novel, but where was that piece of paper? Just a few months ago, I was cleaning up some old notebooks and saving ideas that I had not used yet. In an unexpected place, I found that idea. Now since, I had already re-written the idea and even changed which character was involved, the idea was pretty much useless. However, down at the bottom of the page, I had written a message that I had received from God.

The time will come for you to let go of the security of Cabela's, and then you will need to trust in Me!

One way that I found to help ease the doubts was to listen for God's voice and write down what I heard. Sometimes the messages are set aside for God's perfect timing. God knew a long time ago that the steady paycheck and the 401k funds would not be there for me to depend on. My trust would need to be on God alone. Coincidence? An advertisement to "shop the world's foremost outfitter" is showing on a web page underneath the one I am writing on - reminding me of that old message. I cannot read the logo on the ad, but I know where that copyrighted phrase comes from, I only saw it for years and years. I didn't notice the advert until I had dug up the message from my pile of papers. The idea for writing down these messages did not come from me. You can get some help in this by reading, Into Abba's Arms by Sandra D. Wilson. If you are a visual person, you might find a print of Prince of Peace by Akiane and place it on a chair in front of you. This idea comes from the appendices in that same book. If you are a verbal person, go pester your pastor with questions or seek out a Christian mentor. As a bookish person, I tend to reach for a book to help answer my doubts and questions. Whatever way God has placed in you is perfectly fine, God answers our doubts in His own way, but He can listen on any wavelength. Of course, the best source is the source, God's own Word. Certainly it helps to have some direction in God's Word as the Bible is a wealth of reading material. Prayer can help direct us to the specific verses in the Bible we need, and prayer can direct us to the right person as well. One thing we often don't consider enough is the direct answer to prayer. If we will learn to listen, God may have something to say to you directly.

You may not have realized it, but the Tuesday - Thursday devotionals required a great amount of struggle and rewriting. That was a trial, and what I heard when I brought my doubts to God was not "stop" but, "endure!" This is important because we can easily mistake a trial for a roadblock. Bring your doubts to God in prayer, pour them out before Him. God is not afraid of our doubts. Jesus didn't send Thomas away because of his doubts. Jesus said, "blessed are those who do not see, and still believe." Yes, there is a bit of an implied rebuke in that to Thomas, but Jesus pointed out a better way - faith.

Do you doubt that God will take care of you? I read in two books of God's miraculous provision. The first is So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore: An Unexpected Journey by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman, the other is making the rounds in these parts by excited word of mouth, "Hey, did you read...!". Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo tells of a short trip to Heaven taken by a little boy from a town not that far away from here. Both books tell of God providing financially as well as spiritually. In this world of lost jobs, climbing prices, and vanishing savings, we want to hear about our financial state and God's provision. We want to hear that God can erase a huge debt from medical bills or other situations. We have doubts and we want to know that God can and will answer.

What if it seems that you have reached only obstacle after obstacle and still don't know that you are on the right path? Three years ago this month, I graduated from college and started thinking about writing. Obstacle after obstacle has fallen in my way, but I still believe that this is not my way, but God's way. Many is the tale of authors collecting piles of rejection slips for their first work. The time has come for me to make the leap. Soon the first and, not long after, the second manuscripts will be ready. What will happen? Only God knows for sure. However, I'll share another message with you - this one is so old that the sunlight has faded the writing where I posted it on my bulletin board years ago.

Write! I have cleared a path for you. I want you to have all the good things I have in store for you. Some of these things cost money. Write. I am the Lord and I have prepared a path for you my son!

It isn't often that you get to read two of my personal messages from God, but there you have it. I suppose the answer to the question is that we may never know without the slightest doubt. Think of how many sermons about the surety of salvation would have to be scrapped if all those doubts stopped. Think of how many prayers would never be spoken because we didn't reach out to the Lord to bring our doubts to Him.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Never Give Up! - March 11, 2011

Good Friday morning! The weather thingy actually says that we are starting well above freezing today, what a change for the better! However, there is also a weather alert that I cannot view yet because the Weather Channel's desktop thing is sooooo slow today. I'm guessing that it will be a wind warning though. Praise the Lord for the nice day that yesterday was when speaking of the weather. We will not give up hoping for another nice day with only a gentle wind! Giving up on some things is easy. If a collection is taking over your house, perhaps you should give up on that endeavor. But we also have a journey to walk with Christ. A calling for which God has created you and me specifically to accomplish in His strength.

Yesterday, I heard at least twice the phrase 'never give up'. We have come to realize that when God wants us to get something we will probably hear it in more than one place within a day or two. The first time it came to my attention was in my personal Bible study of 2 Corinthians 4:1 - Therefore, since God has given us this new ministry (or way), we never give up! This came from a man who probably felt tempted to give up and go write his letters from a nice villa on the coast of Capri at some point. Paul and his companions suffered terrible persecutions as the Devil tried to stop his missionary journeys and his letters to the churches. I expect that Paul felt much as we do at times and asked the Lord when he might be able to retire to a life of reading and relaxation with only the odd letter or two to write once in a while. However, Paul affirmed his intention and urged on the Corinthians at the same time with his assertion to never give up.
The next time came when watching an old movie last night. One of the main characters pledged to never give up. That makes for a very dramatic moment, but movies aren't real. Of course they are not, but we are here and we need to hear and read about not giving up. We also need to stand before the Lord and say it out loud! Therefore, since God has given me this new ministry, I never give up! Personalizing Bible verses can help to get the Word into our hearts. God wrote the Bible especially for you and for me. Take His Word and make it personal. Let others know that your Bible is about Jesus and about you! And then let each person know that Jesus has a Word written especially for him or her too.

Perhaps the singular calling you have in your little life poured out for Christ is to do nothing but support the printing of as many Bibles as you can. Another person might be called to take those Bibles to as many places as he can during his lifetime. And yet another might be called to translate the Bible into as many languages as she can with her gift for tongues given by the Spirit. Each of us may have only one gift and one mission in our lives. We tend to want all of the gifts of the Spirit, or at least to pick the few that we want.

I fall into the same thinking as many others. Prophecy sounds great; wouldn't it be cool to know the future? Healing, yeah give me some of that too so I can heal the suffering in this world. Oh, and teaching, wouldn't it be great to know everything too! Praise the Lord that the Spirit decides who gets what gift. When I ask the Lord what I should be doing or whether I should be going somewhere, I get one single word response over and over again - Write! At no time has it ever came to me as "Right!" as in yes, do what I want to do. Always it is the "Write!" as in do what God would have me to do. You may have a similar one word mission in your life. God's command to you may not be as complicated and diverse as you might expect.

We fear that God will call us to be busy from dawn to dark, perhaps even earlier and later than that, each and every day of our lives. We get used to what the corporate world demands and we expect God to be the same way. However, your first command or mission in your new life in Christ might very well be to stop, listen, meditate on the Word, learn discipleship, or study slowly and other things that don't go with our rush-rush life of today. Try meditating on the Word where someone can see you today. You may very well be told to stop daydreaming and get to work. We have those busy, rush, hurry, trained minds that the corporate world likes to instill in its minions. No wonder little or no creative thinking happens in a corporation!

Take up your mission for God, no matter how little that mission may seem to fit your paradigm for Godly missions. God may call you to slow down and listen for His quiet whisper today. If you don't hear God's command right away, keep listening and never give up!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Knowing Too Much, Realizing Too Little - March 10, 2011

Good Thursday morning! It is a new day, what adventure shall we go on today? When was the last time you heard or read from someone who knew Scripture, but didn't know Jesus? Probably fairly recently, if not just yesterday. Colleges and universities, at least here in America, are famous/infamous for this depending upon your point of view. Professors of religion or religious studies can quote chapter and verse from the Bible all day long. They can turn and do the same from ancient Greek mythology, the Roman pantheon, Norse legends, the Abythian Trunge Cycle... actually I made that last one up, but it probably comes much too close to the truth. Many scholars know the Bible far better than I do, and yet when you hear or read their words it is obvious that something is missing. These non-believing smart folks do like what Jesus had to say for the most part, especially the part where Jesus told everyone to be nice, listen to your teacher, and be quiet in class. Don't quite recall Jesus saying exactly that? That's the problem.

If a person reads the scriptures, but fails to see the One the scriptures are all about, he will tend to read what he wants to hear in the words of Jesus. Naturally a professor dreams of that class where the students are nice to him and each other, quiet when he is speaking, and attentive to his every word. We can fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus told everyone to be nice to 'me' in much the same way. Jesus did say to love one another and spoke the Golden Rule, but both of those start with 'me', as opposed to serving 'me'. And service to each other in the love of Christ does not always mean that we are nice to each other. We can correct each other gently and humbly, but if we only wanted to be nice then the correction part would have to be left out. A person can be nice to me and let me continue to be wrong on some point, or he can be loving to me and gently correct my errors. Jesus often lovingly corrected the Pharisees, and just as often they didn't think that he had been very nice to them.

Jesus once called some Jewish leaders the spawn of Satan; now that's not very nice, is it? Jesus said it in a more loving way than I did though. Jesus told them that they were the children of their father the Devil. This is not nice either, but is more gentle than 'spawn of Satan'. When we start out in sin, as everyone does, we are children of our father the Devil. When we believe in Jesus and receive his salvation, we are adopted as children of the Father in Heaven, who is God. First, we must surrender to Jesus and give our lives to Him. Anyone who has a wealth of knowledge or, sorry about this, a wealth of wealth, has a hard time surrendering to anyone, much less a man who lived a couple thousand years ago and started another religion. Of course you know and I know that Jesus didn't come to start a religion. The world already had a host of religions when Jesus arrived.

Jesus gave us a choice - believe in Him and be saved, or choose the world and be lost. He also said that the second option isn't really a choice so much as a condition we are all in from the start. Before we came to believe in Jesus, we didn't like that choice either. In fact, we feared the consequences of sin even if we didn't believe in the cure for it. Those who know the Bible but believe it is just another religious system don't like that Jesus said that Hell is a reality. It is much easier to believe in a loving God who surely wouldn't send nice people to Hell, than it is to believe in a just God who sent His Son to say that you are condemned already for not believing in the Son. No one likes to hear that we are all born in sin, a terminal condition that not one or all of us together has the cure for. Yet we also hesitate when confronted with the One who will save us when we surrender to His lordship. How did Jesus make this possible? He paid the penalty that God's justice demanded for our sin. Praise the Lord for the sacrifice of Jesus. And praise God for a young lady who was willing to serve as the mother of Christ.

God bless us all this day!


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Struggle, Struggle - March 9, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! Not as cold as expected last night; we'll take it. One sign of spring has arrived; the long-hair is starting to mat up. No, I got a hair cut a couple of weeks ago; why do you ask? I think she will lose about a quarter of her body weight in fur over the next few weeks. Spring is coming! Speaking of that, are you prepared for yet another time change? Yes, this weekend is the next dreaded event in our government's effort to muck up our lives. No need for me to go into my stance on this matter! March is well underway, which begs the question: will this be the final snowstorm, or do we have another to look forward to? All of this sounds a lot like worrying about tomorrow. I guess we can just see what happens today. The sky is clear at the moment, we should see the sun shining soon. Praise God for the sunrise!

In fact, I believe that I would see the sunrise by now if my neighbor's house wasn't in the way. Grab a big saw and take that puppy down! So, lemme get this straight; I want to see the sunrise earlier, so my neighbors must lose their shelter on a cold morning? Not good, and certainly not in keeping with loving my neighbor as myself. We can find a lot of humor in our wants at times. How many times have you found yourself wanting something that would most likely drive your family into bankruptcy? Someone coined the saying that a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into. If you own a boat, you probably know exactly what the saying means. The same thing could be said about cars, trucks, most collections of collectibles, and even our homes. With so many money holes in our lives, it's no wonder that money isn't around when we need it. What's really funny is when your retirement funds act the same way, as we saw happen in 2008.

Okay, maybe you will have to laugh through the tears on that one, especially if you were one of those hoping to retire when the big recession came. I remember that my 401k plan had shrunk to less than half of its top value in less than a year, and all the time I kept putting more money into it! Of course the experts say that is what you are supposed to do. Sometimes the advice of the experts seems to make no sense at all. What about advice from God's Word, or advice directly from the Holy Spirit? Do you sometimes feel completely in the wrong when you look at what the world is doing? I feel that a lot. The wisdom of the Spirit often seems to make no sense to my worldly trained intellect. Perfect! The Bible says that will happen. Jesus even took the time to thank God that the good news had been hidden from the wise men of the world and made plain to the simple.

If the complexity of this world we live in today makes you feel pretty simple, praise God for His Good News!

Although life may seem difficult now, we have much to be thankful for. In some ways the world might think me a fool. I can praise God if following His instructions makes me foolish in the world's eye. On the other hand if I really am a fool, then I'll trust in God to deliver me from that too. Thank God that His saving grace does not depend on smart or talented each of us may be in our own strength.

Have a great day in Jesus!


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fat Tuesday - March 8, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! "Love is patient and kind..." (1 Cor 13:4) These simple words from the Apostle Paul are very similar in many Bible translations. The King James says: "Charity suffereth long and is kind." Many times we read the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 with its 13 verses. As if to remind us that God is not in any way afraid of numbers, we have the 13th chapter of the book with 13 verses. One of the great chapters in the greatest of books, the Bible, speaks of what is truly great: love. In the prior chapter, Paul writes of spiritual gifts and how much we should desire to use them for building up the church. Then, Paul introduces the best thing: "And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts. First, however, let me tell you about something else that is better than any of them!" (1 Cor 12:31)

We hear much about the gifts given to us by the Spirit, prophecy, teaching, healing, and others. We like to hear about the gifts, but sometimes we forget the thing Paul calls better than any of them. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, and often some are fired up and ready to go spread the good news. But Jesus also gave two commandments that he called greatest. When asked which of the ten commandments was the most important, Jesus replied: " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." (Matt 22:37-40)

The spiritual gifts often call attention to the one holding those gifts; this can be a dangerous thing if pride is allowed a foothold. Love on the other hand is not proud. Right after writing two things that love is, Paul goes on to say four things that love is not. " is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude." If a person has the gift of prophecy there is always the danger of becoming boastful. "You should believe what I say!" Special knowledge can cause any of us to say 'look at me!' instead of, 'Look to God!" In the next verse, 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul writes, "Love does not demand its own way." The greatest of these things holds the answers to so many of the problems we tend to cause ourselves. "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (13:7) Enduring through every circumstance sounds like a pretty good thing, but this is not just that old grit or toughness that puts up with circumstances. This is about showing the love of Jesus in every circumstance and rising above the feelings of selfishness that might say "Me first!" when things get tough. Sounds difficult, and it will be, but nowhere in this chapter do I find where Paul said anything like: love is easy to do.

Have an interesting day in the snow!


Monday, March 07, 2011

No Worries, Mate! - March 7, 2011

Good Monday morning! Winter is back, but the big storm is now down south apparently. Last week we were warned of the potential for 10-18 inches of snow, this week the expected total is far less. All that preparation, all that anticipation may be for nothing. However, my formula for storm preparation is still good. Here it goes: 1. Keep informed, know what storms are forecast in the weather and in any other areas of life. 2. Bring the expected storms to God in prayer, trusting in Him. 3. Prepare as best I can. 4. Trust in God. Today we find out the storm will probably miss us. Bang, all that prayer, prep, and trusting has worked! Is that it? No, now we pray for those still in the storm's path. We don't think only of me or us, we think of those who may yet face the snow and winds of a blizzard on the plains.

We can worry about a lot of things in this life, but many of the storms will miss each of us. You can worry about cancer, but that storm may not hit you. You can worry about your house burning down. This used to happen much more than it does now, but it does still happen. However, chances are good that this particular storm will miss you. Any of us can worry about floods, tornadoes, hurricanes (unlikely where we live), blizzards, ax murderers, quacking ducks, and all manner of other potential storms in life. Jesus told us to avoid worry. You can worry, sometimes we do, and some of us even worry too much. Jesus said to not worry. We are not obeying the command of Christ when we worry.

Worry is not caution. Caution keeps a fire extinguisher or two around the house, installs smoke alarms, and keeps the house free of bad habits like throwing oily rags in a pile under the stairs or smoking in bed. Worry lays awake at night imagining the dreadful event that may not arrive. Caution keeps a little money around the house in case there is no power to the ATM. Caution might even install a backup generator to the house. But worry paces the hallway saying "Oh no! Oh no!" Anxiety is taking a loan of worry from tomorrow and paying fear on it today. You would rightly be called crazy if you went into a bank, took out a loan of Monopoly money, and paid 50 percent interest in real money back to them each month until you were done playing with the "loan". That sounds absolutely nuts, but that is what anxiety does when the worry piles up on your head or my head instead of each of us giving that worry to Jesus.

God sees all, and that includes the future. We cannot see past now. So which of us should hold onto the worries about tomorrow? If we listen carefully, we might just hear God going through all of those worries we give him at 3 in the morning. "You don't need this one; that isn't going to happen. Ha, ha, where did you come up with that? No, throw that worry out right now! Hmm, what's this? Yes, that one would make for a good trial of your faith, but let me worry about that when the time comes." Instead, each of us tends to hold onto the worries, even letting them pile up into an ominous mass that chokes off our light. Take up your Bible, read the last three chapters of Revelation. God wins! This is one time that it is good to read the last three chapters first. God wins and the saints live joyously ever after; now read the rest of the Bible and see how to be among the saints.

Happy Monday to you!


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Down the Hatch on a Saturday! - March 5, 2011

Good Saturday morning! Did you ever have a storage space in your home that just cried out to be filled at times? I have one in the bathroom that is too high for convenience, but still wants to be filled. So I fill it up with rolls of toilet paper. A person can't be too prepared you know! The clerk at Walmart commented, "That's a lot of toilet paper..." I told her that you never know when a college marching band might drop by your house. Yes, right there on the spot, not later after I got home. My brain was up and functioning this morning. Ouch, that mug is quite warm, meaning that I had better drink my hot coffee before the mug becomes filled with something less savory. We like to have filled things for the most part. A filled bladder is another matter entirely. I have heard that there is a subtle relationship between an empty coffee mug and a filled bladder, but who cares what the experts have to say. Down the hatch on a Saturday!

Jesus promises to fill us with righteousness if we hunger for it. As I have grown in Christ, I like that promise more and more. Wouldn't you want to be filled with righteousness like Jesus? The problem is in the confusion over just what righteousness is. In my younger days during the "Me" show, I would have thought that being filled with righteousness was when everything went my way. I remember not quite understanding why I could never seem to get filled with 'righteousness' in this manner. After all it sounded right. Later, when the Holy Spirit pointed out all of my sin, I couldn't understand how I could ever be filled with righteousness with so much sin in my life. The line from Jesus goes something like: Filled with joy are those who hunger and seek after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. You probably read the "filled with joy" part as "blessed". When I learned that the Greek word for blessed means to be filled with joy, I started putting that into each of the Beatitudes and it meant so much more to me. You could also say 'happy' in place of 'blessed'. What a blessing it is to be filled with joy by hungering for and seeking something we don't have!

So much on this earth that we hunger for does not satisfy. How many CEO's, athletes, and entertainers have returned some of their salary or fees because they have been satisfied by money? How many drug addicts have stopped because their urge has been satisfied for good? What is more sad than a big lottery winner who keeps buying more tickets? How many RF fanatics have stopped buying more RF stuff due to a surplus of satisfaction? Right, none. Some have tried to stop, even going as far as to join an RF Anonymous program and swear by a higher power, but none have just stopped cold turkey. I hear that the affliction is terrible, ranking right up there with the worst of narcotic habits. And never get between a big lottery winner and RF fanatic who is on a mission to the hobby store. You don't want to be trampled by a need like that!

We can have a little fun with our lack of satisfaction with the things of this earth, but underneath we do have a hole in our beings that only God can fill. Why this terrible hunger? Adam became separated from God by his sin; we have been trying to fill the void left behind ever since. The only way to be satisfied is to put back what was lost. When we lost God, we lost our righteousness. The way to regain that righteousness is to find the righteous One and ask Him to fill us. The temporary things of this earth will never fill the place left by God in our hearts. Seek, search, look for, and thirst for God's righteousness; you will be satisfied!


Friday, March 04, 2011

Increasingly Likely - March 4, 2011

Good Friday morning! Snow? I didn't hear anything about snow on the weather report. We did wake up to just a light covering of snow this morning, but nothing serous. The serious is due to arrive on Monday or Tuesday. The message from the weather folks this morning goes something like: a major winter storm is increasingly likely... I like that 'increasingly likely', we have the same message for folks everywhere. It is increasingly likely that Jesus will return soon. Not one of us can say it is this day or it is that day, but we know He is coming soon. Thinking about the end will frighten many, but Jesus would remind us that the end is about God's love.

That last seems to be rather remarkable given all the prophecies of dragons and beasts, violence and persecution, and then the earthquakes, famines, wars, hail, sores, darkness, cold, and on it goes. Where does God's love come into all of that? Where did God's love show while Jesus hung on the cross in pain? Jesus confirmed to Pilate that his kingdom was not of this earth. God loves us enough to set aside a kingdom that will come at the appointed hour. Jesus even revealed to John some of the wonderful things about this coming kingdom. Jesus also asked His Father in Heaven to forgive those who crucified him. It takes a powerful love to forgive a bunch of folks performing your own execution in a ghastly and painful manner. Jesus also looked down and made sure that his earthly mother, Mary, was taken care of even as he was dying on the cross. What kind of man would love enough to remember the welfare of others during his own execution? Jesus did! We can be rest assured that in the middle of the world's execution, God will look down and remember the welfare of those who love Him.

Again, that last may seem a stretch to believe. However, the same book that speaks of the horrors of the end times also speaks about God's reaching out in those times. We have 2 special witnesses in Jerusalem who are given great authority to speak for 42 months. These two witnesses will speak about Jesus, salvation, grace, baptism, joy, peace, and the kingdom to come. And, God has given them special protection for this time of ministry; no one will be able to harm them until God lifts His protection at the appointed time. Who appoints that time? God does! Another group of witnesses will go out 144,000 strong to reap a mighty soul harvest. The people who believe in Jesus from this witness are known as the Tribulation saints and they are given a special place before God. The 144,000 witnesses also have protection during their witness. While the saints will suffer persecution and execution in the Tribulation, God has given them eternity with Jesus in His great love.

Violent and horrible though the Tribulation seems, I'm am sure that not one of those Tribulation saints would trade their salvation for the alternative. If God's love is so great though, why a Tribulation at all? Some folks need an attention getter to realize that Jesus is asking them a question. Do you believe in Me or do you love this world? Many of us have come to believe in Jesus and have surrendered our lives to Him only after suffering some accident, war, earthquake, or other personal disaster. God used the evil chances of this world to get our attention. In the end times, God will put forth His might to get the attention of the world. In a backwards way, we can read in Revelation that everyone will know who is sending the judgments against the world. We read how those who have chosen the world and its beast will shake their fists and blaspheme God in the midst of their suffering in the last 7 judgments. After this show of hatred comes the Son and His reward for the faithful.

In the final chapters of the Bible, Heaven comes down to earth in the new Jerusalem. God, Jesus, and the Spirit will make their home with man on the new Earth. Sin will be banished; pain and suffering gone and yes, at the end of this story, His story, we live happily ever after.

There is Revelation in a nutshell, hope you enjoyed the ride!


Thursday, March 03, 2011

God's Patience, part 1 - March 3, 2011

Good Thursday morning! We have an interesting sky this morning, and just maybe some rain on the way. Yesterday, the verse about the roaring lion had been in my ear a lot. Today, 2 Peter 3:9 has at least twice been brought to my attention.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

We have read together verses about our own patience, but this one brings up God's patience. We studied this last night in our Men's Bible study, and Dr. Charles Stanley featured the same verse on his radio broadcast last night on MyBridge. When a particular verse keeps coming up like that, I like to pay attention. I'm going to lay out a guess here, but I'll guess that not all of us surrendered to Jesus right at the age of discernment, usually somewhere between the ages of 7 to 13 for most of us. In fact, I can tell you that I didn't, so it isn't too much of a guess. Therefore, at least in my case, God had patience with me while I walked around in sin. I can even point out times where God watched over me even when my path in life was all about me and my will. If you could go back with me, we could attend sermons where the pastors of my youth spoke on that ol' fire and brimstone that frighten us so much. Yet, at the time it didn't frighten me to commitment. Those were the times when the seeds fell on thin soil.

God not only has shown his patience with each of us, but he also has patience with the world in general. Not one of us would have to walk very far to find someone who has not repented and surrendered to Jesus. With a few more steps, we might even find someone who is not only unsaved but an outright enemy of Jesus. Perhaps a person has even gone so far as to sign a contract with Satan in her own blood, as in the story of a young lady I read recently. God was patient with Saul when he zealously sought to destroy the early church, and then sent His Son on a special trip to turn Saul into Paul the Apostle. Paul called himself the worst of sinners, and God still had patience with him.

I would not contest the wisdom of Saint Paul in his taking first place among sinners, but if anyone tries to claim the second spot I might say, "Hold on a moment there!" Why would I try this? Because God sent many sermons from many minsters before I saw the light. Not only that, but I cannot remember a time when I didn't have a Bible of my own. Certainly I was worse than those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ! Does that make me stand alone as the second worst of sinners? No, I think that many of you could make the same claim. We all stand just behind St. Paul as the second worst. Of course, God may have his own standard and opinion on who is worst and second worst among sinners. Praise God that He sent the cure to this dreadful disease!

God sent Jesus to heal the world of sin, but more than that: Jesus paid the price for the sin committed against God from sin day number one in Eden until the last day before the final judgment. After Jesus paid the price and rose again. God started patiently waiting for sinners to come to Jesus. About 2,000 years later, God is still patiently waiting for every last sinner who will be saved. The world is still here because God has not run out of patience. God is patient with our stumbles, and patient with those who are still fallen. The world has a lot of experts on this and that; people who are confident in their own knowledge and wisdom. However, the only reason they can continue spouting off is that God is not finished gathering his sheep to himself. One day, even the great and mighty patience of God will run out. Don't wait!

Have a wonderful day in Christ Jesus!


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

We Do Not Stand Alone! - March 2, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! The scripture calling out to me lately comes from 1 Peter 5. You will remember the one about how our adversary the devil stalks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour whom he may. Here is the exact verse from the ESV: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I finished the book from Adrian Rogers yesterday, the book is Unveiling the End Times in Our Time if you want to get it, and near the end he spoke of this verse and said that we should be watchful like we would if a real lion was loose in our neighborhood. That got me to thinking of course. Imagine that very scenario, but instead of just watching out the windows of your house, you need to be outside watching. Choose a view outside your home that has hidden places. You cannot see every place in your view: fences, hedges, other buildings and cars allow the lion places to hide out of your direct view. You have only the clothes on your body and your hands and feet if the lion should decide to attack you. Pretty frightening! That is how those who refuse to believe in Jesus face that lion the Devil. Naturally they are easy prey.

Now, imagine the same scene, but God has given you a suit of armor. We tend to imagine the Roman armor with lots of holes and skin showing, not much protection really. But God gives us armor that is more like those storm trooper fellows we see on the Star Wars movies. That isn't a perfect metaphor either because I don't recall that armor doing any of those guys any good in any of the six movies, but we are looking at bodily coverage here. The belt of truth is more of a girdle covering your hips and upper thighs. The boots of peace go all the way up and over that girdle. Some versions of the Bible use "shoes" as the translation, but that doesn't give the impression of enough coverage to me. Above the girdle and boots is the breastplate of righteousness. This mates to the girdle below and covers all of the torso, upper arms and neck. The helmet of salvation covers the entire head and face. No holes for the lions claws to penetrate. Now, something is missing from this. Yes, the gauntlets or gloves. Why did Paul not give us armored gloves in our whole armor?

Paul probably used his Roman guards as a model, and their armor when guarding prisoners would have been much less than the full combat suit we tend to imagine. A better model might have been the knights from the Middle Ages, but Paul used what he had. Perhaps Paul left the hands free to help others. In combat the hands hold the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Against this lion we are well prepared in Christ. Now imagine yourself standing against that physical lion in real armor. We'll use titanium and carbon-fiber for the weight advantages. This armor has a comforting weight. Enough so that you know it is there, but not so little that if feels too weak. The armor feels right, strong enough to deflect any attack from the lion's teeth or claws. Then you have a big shield in case he throws something at you and a sword to strike him with. Sounds a lot better!

Now we run into one of the problems. Instead of imagining a sword, imagine you hold a machine gun with all that armor on. You pass confidence and become cocky. That is when the lion sneaks up behind you, makes the slightest noise to get your attention, and hooks the rug out from under you. With a mighty clatter you crash to the ground. The lion walks up, sits on your helmet and piddles into the visor. Yuck! But that is what sin does to us when we get cocky instead of standing confidently in Christ. God didn't give us a gun with His armor because it is not within our power to destroy the Devil or even the least of his demons.

The other problems comes in the spiritual realm. Paul said that our shield of faith was to be used to quench the fiery darts of the Devil. How often does it feel like your shield is nothing but empty air? You look back on the day, but it seems like every dart went right through your shield and breastplate and burned right into your heart. That seems to happen to me quite a bit. The Devil cannot defeat God's armor, so he took to throwing those flaming arrows or darts. Over the centuries we can see that he has become quite the marksman. The flaming arrows seem to home right in on any chinks or holes we have left in our armor. If you are tempted easily by sexual sin, the arrows will zip some images right into your thoughts. If your weakness is in other areas, you can count on the Devil's arrows hitting there with unerring accuracy. Part of the problem is in looking at the enemy and saying, "man, he's really good at what he does!" Yes the Devil is, but God is still God, and He alone is sovereign. That armor is better than we know and we do not stand alone.

God knows your weaknesses too, and He does allow the trials to strengthen and refine each of us. Look at it this way. If some disease invaded your body and began destroying cells, but produced no symptoms that you could detect such as fever, chills, coughing, and others, you and your bodily defenses would do nothing about it and suddenly you would drop dead when enough cells had been destroyed. Sin works much the same way on our spirit. The Holy Spirit points out the holes in our armor to us, and works to close them. We tend to resist this closing and the Devil does his part by shooting his darts into those holes. The part that resists the closing is that treacherous sinful nature we also call the lusts of the flesh. What are we to do?

Take heart! God knows all about the Devil and his ways, the lust of the flesh we inherited from Adam's sin, the weaknesses in our armor, and how far along the Spirit's work has progressed in us. God also knows his own strength and ways, the cleansing work of the Spirit, and the strength of the armor He gave us. God also knows the power of His Son's sacrifice on the cross and the fact of His resurrection. We do not stand alone!

Have a marvelous new day in Jesus!