Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saving Myself - May 31, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! The wild weekend is in the past and we have to get back to work now. Some may not consider writing to be in the domain of actual work, but I still need to get back to it. Looks like that mean ol' weatherman is predicting highs in the 90's for the next two or more days. I won't make any promises, but my landscaping work may slow down when that happens. Time I got that first book rewrite done anyway.

Have you passed your latest test? I must admit that not every test or trial that comes my way is passed with flying colors. Yup, sometimes my Christ-like colors look a bit droopy and dirty in the light of a test in my Christian life. Those times are when I realize that me and the Spirit have a ways to go before I am fully sanctified in Christ. Praise God that I am not alone in this. If my strength alone was all I had in these trials of life, I would be lost indeed. Trial or not, I did make my annual trip down to Lodgepole for the Memorial Day service, and the town did a good job as usual. I felt better after going, but each year I realize that it is not the easiest thing to do.

The political candidates are lining up for next year's election. Did you wish at any moment that all of them would just go away and leave you alone? Shame on you, we should enjoy the right to elect our representatives to government. Yes, I have wished that more than once already too. Ah well, I guess we are just not ready for all the political ads quite yet. Perfection in my democratic rights has eluded me like perfection in most every other area of living. Which kind of leads to the question: How would an imperfect, fallen person such as myself know what perfection is in the first place?

We tend to go by the standards thrust upon us from the world. How do we know the world's standards of perfection are actually perfect? Are they not set by people much like us? Imperfect, fallen, stained by sin, and yet we sometimes comparison shop to see if we can find a person worse than we are. However, we do have one standard of perfection that comes from God himself - the Law. That's too bad really, because I have already failed to live up to that standard too many times. Any chance we can get a standard of perfection that is easier to attain? The world's standards are easier, but like 99 percent of the human race, I cannot call myself perfect in any area even by human standards. How will I ever meet God's standard?

Like getting through a test or trial, there is not a chance that I will meet God's standard on my own. Hasn't happened, didn't happen, won't happen, in my strength alone... not ever. Once I realized this however, I began to look for a different way, perhaps one provided by God in his mercy. Not too hard to figure out what that way is; He said it plainly in John 14:6. You can't really miss it when Jesus says, "I am the Way..." You might choose to not believe it, but you can't miss it when reading his words in the Bible. Praise God for a better way to salvation, because I am another imperfect failure at saving myself much like everyone else who has ever looked to their own strength.

Welcome back to the good work! Live for Christ and trust in His saving strength.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Give Your Self - May 28, 2011

Good Saturday morning and welcome to the great Memorial Day weekend! Some of you are camping, some at the lake, and some right here at home watching the rain and wondering if the sun will shine today. Let us not forget what Monday is, but have fun this weekend.

Jesus said that we should have the attitude of humble servants simply doing our duty when we do good works. However, that doesn't mean that our good works go unnoticed or unrewarded in this life. God loves to reward the faithful servants in his army of believers. We do not work for an ungrateful Father in Heaven. We do not labor for nothing, and our sacrifices are storing more than just treasure in a future place. Certainly God also grants us blessings that seem to come for nothing at all. That is what a gift is all about.

Want to shock a coworker? Give a gift on some random day. Not a birthday, not at Christmas, no anniversaries or special holidays, just bring in a gift for no apparent reason. Tell him or her that the gift is just for being the person he or she is. You will probably never see a more suspicious person in your life. Give the gift to a boss and you will probably hear some uncomplimentary terms volleyed your way. We seem to think that the giving of gifts is limited to certain occasions. God gives us gifts all the time. We are to be like him, so....

Actually, we also tend to think that we can only give expensive, material gifts. God doesn't always bestow those kinds of gifts, in fact, many of His gifts to us are priceless and even gifts that cannot be bought with money. Not many of us could afford to buy gifts each day, though the merchants would love to have us do such a thing, and a material present would be much less special if you had to unwrap dozens every day. God's bestest gift was himself. We can follow Him in that by giving ourselves to each other each day. Enjoy the giving of your self; there are so many good ways to give.

Have a restful and fun-filled weekend in Christ!


Friday, May 27, 2011

He Knew You! - May 27, 2011

Good Friday morning! The Memorial Day weekend is upon us and the campers have hit the road already. Time for me to run around to the neighbor's homes and do some real artwork on their garage doors. On second thought, I would probably give the show away when they returned and wondered why someone drew a rock with spots on their garage door and I blurted out that it was a dinosaur. We artists are often misinterpreted, especially the artists who can't draw something recognizable to the average art critic. Imagine the humiliation if the vandalism came to a trial and the verdict came down to a hung jury.

Jury foreman: "Your honor, we have not reached a consensus. Juror One thinks that the drawing is a dinosaur and some kind of vague threat. Juror Two thinks its a rock and is definitely a threat. Juror Three thinks its a bear with arthritis and couldn't possibly be a threat. Juror Four thinks the drawing is of some kind of vehicle and is a cry of 'take me with you'... "

We can't have that kind of mess in our legal system. I had better just keep my art talents out of the public eye. I often have the same thoughts about my witness for Christ. What if no one can 'get' what I'm trying to say? Maybe I should just keep quiet. We all have heard those thoughts when we try to witness. Mostly the devil doesn't want us to speak out for Christ, but we also have that avoiding-the-critics instinct. We don't like public ridicule and that is certainly understandable. I have good news in this too! Those who do not believe in Christ will most certainly not understand you and me when we try to witness. We are changed creatures in Christ and everything we say about Jesus will be incomprehensible to the non-believer. But, we have an ally who speaks directly to the heart of the unbeliever. You will remember him; he spoke to your heart before you came to believe in Jesus.

Back then, you may have listened to a minister or even a friend tell you about Jesus, sin, Hell, Heaven, God, and you didn't feel the love; you felt guilt and shame, and you didn't like it. The Holy Spirit spoke these things to your heart. The message was all about love and eternal life, but you heard hellfire and damnation and it hurt. For a time you may have avoided Christian messengers in order to stop the message, but that quiet voice was still there. You may have dreamed about hell or in some rare cases even had a quick taste of it. When you first heard the message of Jesus you might have used a defensive reaction to push the message away. Perhaps you laughed off the messenger, or tried to bring your brilliant intellect to bear to crush the simple fool who dared to speak words of guilt and shame to you. Yet, someone kept reminding you of Jesus.

We know now that reminding us of Christ is in fact the Holy Spirit's job, and a good job of it He does! Before you came to believe though, the Holy Spirit was a nagging and painful presence in church. You didn't like it when the preacher spoke about sin and hell. Perhaps even in some churches you might have voted at a board meeting to find a preacher who spoke only of loving one another and doing good works. Your fellow board members, all upstanding men of business and banking, might have felt that those sermons that made them feel guilty were just driving away the congregation. Can't have that, the minister must go. After all how will the church pay its bills if too many people leave? How things have changed in you and me!

After we come to believe in Christ and accept his lordship, we become critical of ministers in a different way. Heaven help us, we might even call a minister too nice if he doesn't remind the congregation about the penalty of sin at least once a month. We might take a fellow Christian aside and offer a little correction if he is compromising with the world to keep his old friends. We might even notice that, gasp, we are becoming more Christ-like as the Spirit works in our hearts. How do these things get started?

Back at the point where some Christian messenger spoke, sang, or wrote some words that at first you couldn't quite get. However, before the words came to you, the Spirit had found a field that needed a little care and planting. Seeds were planted that perhaps you didn't realize and then the person came along with a little bit of water and the words of life. You might have been a drunk looking up from the gutter, or a person by all accounts succeeding in the world and wondering what you were missing, but something in you responded to the words from the witness. Though you may not have understood, something germinated in your heart and eventually God harvested another soul.

As Jesus told us in the parable of the different soils, not all of those seeds will grow in good soil. We have been given a watering can though, and our job is to keep on watering those seeds planted by the Holy Spirit. Someone who does not believe in Jesus may have no idea why he or she is asking you questions about life, death, Hell, or Heaven, but the Spirit has brought him or her to you. Don't be afraid; answer the questions, and trust in the One who makes himself known to the lost. He made himself known to you once, and what a life-saving blessing it was!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

We Are Provided For! - May 26, 2011

Good Thursday morning! The sun is shining today! By August my tune will probably change to something like: The sun is up, got the shades down to manage the heat as best I can, hope fall comes soon, boo-hoo. The seasons come and go, but sometimes not soon enough for our impatience. Last night I read in Genesis 1 a surprising thing. Did you realize that the plants were created before the sun and moo? Did the plants grow well in darkness? Perhaps not, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, perhaps it was not dark like we imagine. Oops, that should be 'sun and moon', the cows wouldn't arrive until the sixth day. In writing I should go back and correct my mistakes, but sometimes it's better to just have fun with them. On the other hand, if it was dark until the sun first came up, then God provided for the plants.

We often worry about our state of financial affairs. That is a nice way of saying we worry about money too much. God has promised to provide for us and Jesus commanded us not to worry about what we will eat or wear. You're worrying about rising food costs or your clothing for the next big event, aren't you. Something about stating that very thing the Bible says usually sets me to worrying in just the way I am not supposed to worry. A talent for worrying is not what I want to present to God at the end of my life. "Yes, Lord, I tried to do lots of good works, but I was just so good at worrying that I spent most of my time doing that instead." Ouch, that hurts. I shouldn't write quite so personally.

I have it on good authority however, that the Bible was not written for me alone. Evidently worry is a problem for a lot of folks on any given day. I have found that when Jesus took the time to address an issue to his disciples or to the people gathered to hear him that the issue has always been a common one. We all struggle with worry, sexual immorality, money, materialism, idolatry, and all those other things that the Bible calls with one simple name: sin. Not one of us is alone in our struggles. You come to believe in Jesus, and the struggle with your carnal desires begins in earnest. Well, God has provided for that too!

In the first part of 2 Peter you will find: He has given us everything we need for living a godly life. What? Then why do I struggle so much with the lusts of the flesh? Well, you do still have your flesh, don't you? God didn't immediately change our flesh so that we no longer feel hungry, thirsty, or the urge to mate. We don't often think that when we came to the cross we were signing up for service in God's army, but there it is. As soon as the Holy Spirit moved into our life, your flesh and my flesh went to war with the better nature God began building in our lives. As the Holy Spirit put up a new wall, the flesh came along at night and started knocking holes in the freshly painted drywall. The wall was to keep the flesh from seeing the temptations of the world, but the flesh wanted to see more. God gave us a great set of spiritual armor, but the flesh likes to put down the shield of faith, and raise the visor of that helmet of salvation to see what is going on in the world. We know that the world is just waiting for that, and its prince will pounce on us in those under-guarded and under-armored moments. The fight with the flesh will go on. Listen to Jesus; he is everything we need for living a godly life.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend for those of you getting started today. Family is coming to my house. If you want to tell them stories of a humbling nature about me... just stay home until they're gone, okay!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prepared for the Mission - May 25, 2011

Good wet Wednesday! The rain is back once more as it has been off and on all through the night. Today, walking along in the rain with your favorite rain coat or jacket on, you come across a bush that is on fire. Your first reaction after "Aaagh! Call out the Fire Department!" is to look a little closer. The bush is burning along merrily, but is not being burned up, nor is the fire being quenched by the monsoon rains. A mighty voice that brooks no disobedience thunders, "Take off your LL Bean galoshes; you are standing on holy ground!" Uh oh... You get a mission to a far country called Zerd; a country you have never heard of, or even happened upon in conversation until now. Is Zerd a monarchy? A democracy? Do they have Internet access there? You seem to be remarkably unprepared to head up a new mission to this place.

The first man to come upon a burning bush didn't have it like that. Moses was very well prepared to go to Egypt on a mission from God. Moses was born during a time of persecution in Egypt when a pharaoh had become fearful of the growing Israelite population. As often happens when fear rules, the pharaoh had ordered murder as a means of population control. Moses was literally cast adrift by his family, but, lo, his little boat did come ashore at the place where Pharaoh's daughter did bathe. Her first reaction, after "Eek! Do throw me a towel my handmaiden!", was to grab little Moses and adopt him into the royal family. Little Moses then began his royal education as a prince of the land.

Why would this become important? Moses would many years later be sent directly to the pharaoh with a message, "Let my people go!" However, it wouldn't be so easy for you and me. Where is the royal court in Egypt? Does it move around at different times of the year as the rich and powerful tend to do? Moses knew these things; he had been uniquely prepared by God for his mission. Even after 40 years or so, Moses knew names at court, where in the land the royal court would be at the time of his arrival, and he would have known the quickest and shortest set of royal flunkies to visit to gain access to pharaoh. Royalty tends to have a lot of filters in place to keep folks like you and me from walking up and asking a lot of questions. And royalty certainly wouldn't want us to walk up to them and say, "God says: Let all of your free labor go home to the Promised Land!" Moses knew the rules, the nuances, the protocols, and yes, perhaps even the right palms to grease in order to get in to see the current pharaoh.

Our little mission to Zerd would be off to a rocky start, but Moses didn't have to seek out an Ancient Middle Eastern Travel office and ask a lot of dumb questions. Once God overruled the excuses that Moses put up, he was off to his homeland to bring the people out of slavery. You and me? Well, we are stuck at the Fantasyland Travel office listening to things like: "You want to go where? To do what? Are you crazy?" We didn't receive a royal education and upbringing in the royal court of Zerd you see, and we are simply and totally unprepared. Somewhere in your life, God did prepare you for a mission though.

Your mission may be right where you live now, on the Internet, in a far country, or even on a moon base, but you did receive a preparation for this mission. Your preparation might have been working and learning in your mother's kitchen to cook wonderful dishes. You might have been interested in technical or scientific things much more than most other children. In so many and wonderfully varied ways, God has prepared each of us to do exactly what he would have us to do as a mission. "But, I didn't come to believe until later in life?" you might ask. That didn't stop God from getting you ready!

Put on your galoshes and enjoy the day in Christ!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

You Might Hear Something Wonderful - May 24, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Lots of rain last night and more expected this evening. A vast swath of the country is on storm alert today. If you own a vast swath you have been put on alert. Keep your vast swath safe! I know it isn't always politically correct to make jokes about alerts and disasters, but I just realized how odd and funny 'vast swath' sounds. Hopefully no one will run a vast swather over your vast swath today. Who would make such a thing? This is the new John Deere Vast Swather for mowing down your very own vast swath. I wonder if Jim Cabela would buy one? I think he lets much of his land 'go native' which doesn't require farm machinery. I didn't sleep long enough last night or got up too early this morning. Evidently ol' Bucky is just a short step from being around the bend today. Go plant that in your vast swath!

We want to listen for the sound of applause, but do we listen for that small voice that is the Lord trying to tell us something? I believe in Jesus and I believe that the Lord is always ready to listen to me. I don't always return the compliment and listen to Him though. Which of us do you suppose has more wisdom to teach the other? Right, I should learn to listen better and more often. A quiet time to listen to the Lord can be difficult to come by in our age. Noise from outside bombards us day and night, and we add to that with our electronic gadgets. The worst noise might even come from our own minds as we agonize in anxiety over what may come. How will the voice of the Lord get through all of that? Setting aside a time of quiet can be tough in our busy schedules as we can make a 'noise' of being busy all day.

We must learn to listen to the Lord though; day or night, morning or evening, the Lord our God has important things to say to each of us. You might even hear the unexpected from the Lord such as: "I am pleased with you." Gah, the Lord pleased with me? As we dredge up a quick list of our imperfections and sins over the past... oh, lifetime or so. Yes, you might be surprised to receive a message just like that. Listen for the Lord's voice! He has great and wonderful things to say. Perhaps even unexpected and surprising things to say that will encourage and strengthen us in our daily walk with Him.

Enjoy the day in Christ!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Could It Be? - May 21, 2011

Good Saturday morning! The sun is shin... was shining... what happened here? Clouds are moving across the sky and sometimes the sun is shining today. How is your intensity today? Some days or weeks we go through a season of more intense activity. Watching the little nest out back, things seemed pretty relaxed out there up until just about a week ago. Then one night both robins were staring in at something and then... the intensity of the season went way up. Yesterday as I moved bricks (so much for that day off from the heavy stuff) I noticed that the robins were seldom resting. All day long the pair could be seen searching the ground for food and bringing it back to the nest. Hungry little mouths would open every time a bird returned to the nest. But not only is the activity much more intense, there is an intense watchfulness too.

This reminded me of the times as we near the end. We watch intently for Jesus to return at times, while at other times we are too busy to watch. This is neither good or bad unless we get too sky-struck or too busy. We will have those times when we can take the time to look at the sky and wonder if it will be today. Other times we are so busy that we pause, look at the sky, and pray that it will be today. Some folks even claimed that it is today, literally. It is funny how many groups or persons will claim to know the day in direct contradiction to Christ's words that no man will know the day. We are told to watch the signs, and many of us enjoy doing just that, but we can only know that it must happen soon. Circle a date on a calendar though and you can pretty much bet that you will be wrong. I have written that many times and yet we still see people saying that Jesus will return or the Rapture will occur on thus and such day. Why don't they listen to me?

Okay, so I'm not the central information authority in the world, but I do know one bit of reading that those wannabe prophets should take the time to study: the Bible. Even during our periods of intense activity we should take the time to study the Word of God. The old excuse, "But, I don't have time!" should never be used when it comes to reading the Bible. We should always make the time, 'cuz if we ain't readin' the Word, we is screwin' up!

Of course, there could come a time when an emergency might prevent our Bible reading for a time. We can always think of exceptions to almost everything that we should do on a daily basis. Recall a few verses from memory during a super-busy day. You are memorizing a few verses at least, aren't you? Talk to God as you go about that super-busy day; prayer is always available to us. I like to talk about super-busy days on a Saturday. Hopefully, each of you will have some time to reflect on getting too busy and enjoy some intense relaxation today for at least a little while. Do a little sky-gazing today. Talk to the Lord, maybe he really is coming today!

Have a great Saturday!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Amen to God's Plan! - May 20, 2011

Good Friday morning! I'm not sure where he came from, but I know he is going out to help with landfill operations. Some slug was dangling from my garage door this morning. The weather has been wet lately, but that wet? I'm sure the landfill will keep him occupied in a gainful manner. Last night I looked into the darkness, and things seemed very dark. This morning I decided to look to the light of the world, and things seemed so much better. In the dark dream last night, I tried to teach some other dream characters to trust in Jesus. What is going on here? In the old days dreams just happened to me. Must be growing in the Spirit I guess. I wonder what would cause such a thing? I mean, other than slugs dangling from your garage door that is.

Sometimes we are going to have one of those moments where we come to realize our growth in the Spirit of Christ. This probably doesn't happen every day for you; I can report that I don't see it each day in my life. The growth seems to be slow from my point of view as temptations still seem to grab my attention far too easily. Selfishness seems to be my first reaction or thought too often and Jesus my last resort instead of the first. However, that doesn't happen all of the time now. And to dream about comforting others with the good news of Jesus? Well, my heavens whatever is going on here?

Today, I'm going to plan not lifting and carrying heavy things for at least this day. We'll see how that turns out. My plans don't always come to pass. Some days the mind wants to do what the body would rather put off for another day too. One thing I do know: God's plan for the day is already in motion and will be carried out - with or without me. In the old days I would have different and rebellious thoughts about that. Today, I am comforted and glad that God's plan will happen: on time and on schedule. There is only one thing to say about God's plan today, "Amen!"

Have a great Friday in Christ! I hope the sun shines some today.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

We Need His Strength - May 19, 2011

Good wet Thursday morning! I heard the rain arrive last night as I lay resting my tired bones in my bed. I have come to the conclusion that retaining wall blocks start getting heavy at about the third time a person loads or unloads them. A good workout to be sure, but as the old saying goes: If you don't do it every day, in aches and pains you will pay! Actually, I may have just made that one up, but you are welcome to use it. I see that a feast is going on outside. The birds are feasting on all the worms that are out in the wet street this morning. Someone always likes the rainy weather. The rain also keeps the cat from sitting out back staring up at the new robin chicks. Imagine the stress that must cause the little cheepers so early in life. As they grow, I'm thinking the racket from out back may just increase to the point that it bothers me. Of course, I'll worry about today's worries for today.

As a writer, I get a kick out of a misused word when someone writes a letter to the editor of a newspaper and we all get to see the mistake. It takes a certain amount of courage, or outrage, to put your writing out in the public eye. Make a mistake in your letter and everyone gets to read it and laugh... at the mistake, not you, though the writer might feel that the laughter is directed on a personal level. Anyone of us could make a mistake like that and we tend to fear putting ourselves up for public ridicule. Depend on your spell checker program too much and you might just lay an egg in public.

Last week in our life group we talked about things that keep Christians and non-Christians from speaking up for their beliefs. One of the reasons is that very thing: mistakes are often ridiculed and re-ridiculed until the writer or speaker wishes that he or she had just kept quiet. The world is a rough and tough place. Public ridicule is so effective that at times it was used as an official punishment back in the day. If you are one of those called to speak or write in public for Jesus, you are going to need some help from our Lord. We like to grab one of Paul's verses for the tough times: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." There is a context to this verse that we should pay attention to, but the important part is not the "I can" as much as it is the part about who is doing the strengthening. We should always take comfort in the fact that Jesus is with us in all things and strengthens us.

Seldom would one of us need more strengthening from Jesus than if we get up in public and really blow it. The larger the audience, the more we would need Jesus and his mighty power. But even on a personal level, say you only blew it in conversation with one other person, we need the strength of Christ to apologize and seek forgiveness. Words cannot be taken back once written or spoken, but we can seek healing in our relationships through Christ. Jesus is very good at healing relationships. After all, the first thing he must do when saving us is to heal our relationship with God the Father.

Praise God for the healing of the Son!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peace at the Center - May 17, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! The wind was supposed to stop last night. Who didn't ask the wind to stop? Hmm? Fall down in our weather intervention duties a bit, did we? I'm divided on the outcome last night. The wind blew from the south all night which is hard on my new plants, but my bedroom is on the north so I slept without the wind noise. The robins out back just had a hatching, but I'll stay clear and let them do their thing. I may try to get a few photos though. Time to rail at the moment.

Wind, I have written about the wind in devotionals and novels, but all my writing hasn't changed it one bit. I have talked about the wind with friends and both praised it and complained about it to God. Yet the wind still comes up for days at a time. The blowing rattles the windows and makes the plants sway about. I turn up the radio to drown out the noise, but it's still there. Constant pressure can drive a person to do things he or she might not normally do. I have read that the Santa Anna winds out in California make people crazy. It strikes me that sin or the temptation to sin acts in much the same way. Like a constant wind driving us batty, the temptation to sin beats on us daily amid the normal cares and worries of the day. At some point you may have committed a sin just to relieve the pressure. It might even have seemed to work for just a bit, but then the pressure came back. An important verse comes to mind - John 14:27

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

Why do you suppose Jesus made it a point to say this to the disciples? First of all we know from the next verse that Jesus would be leaving and that they should rejoice for him. However, we already know that the peace the world gives is an illusion and a temporary illusion at that. The wind may stop for an hour or a day, but we know that it will return. Giving in to temptation will relieve the pressure for just a short time, but the temptation will return in greater force. The peace of Jesus must be something greater. The end of the storm; the quiet of a calm sunrise; the silence in a library, these things can be easily broken. The peace of Jesus must not exist in circumstances or surroundings. Is the peace Jesus gives in Heaven? We read in Revelation where there will be or has been war in Heaven. And Jesus spoke of something he would leave with them, not something the disciples would gain in Heaven. The peace that Jesus gave to his disciples and to us must exist at the center.

While the world rages on the outside and the storm of temptation pressure assaults our minds, the peace of Jesus grows in our hearts. From the heart fed and tended by the Spirit grows the fruit of peace. This peace calms our minds and we look up in hope and joy as Jesus draws nearer with each day. The peace of Jesus can even calm the world around us a bit when others see that we have a hope they do not. Someone pushes and a Christ-one doesn't push back. Peace instead of vendetta when a Christ-one does not take vengeance for a wrong. We can make a difference around us when the peaceful fruit of the Spirit grows from our hearts.

Have a peaceful day in Christ, even as the wind demolishes any hint of calm outside.


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Neighbor's Moment - May 16, 2011

Good Monday morning! The sun is up and I am too! The cat, well, already up and starting to doze off again. Yup, eyes just went closed for a while there. Must be the mesmerizing effect of my keyboard clicking. Dan, the boat boy across the street, caught a fish yesterday. But not just any fish, he won some sort of fishy prize for the largest fish of the tournament it seems. The prize money covered his entry fee was his statement. That seems a little disappointing given the cost of fuel these days. Netting the largest fish should at least pay for the fuel expended. Looking at the other side of it though, I can see how the tournaments might all go broke if they gave out enough money to cover fuel costs for too many prizes. As for me, I could see that it looked like a fish. Must be a big 'un, he brought home a goodly portion of the lake in his live well to keep the fish alive for the trip home. Do fish get car sick?

Ah, time for the morning cup o' brew! I am hearing and thinking a lot about moments lately. Special moments like neighbor Dan's yesterday that we watch with satisfaction are nice to see and enjoy with the other person. I had been thinking about my moments, but today I realize that not all moments belong to me. How often have you felt the selfish temptation to steal someones moment with a cutting remark? That is an easy one to fall for! Letting the other person enjoy the moment is a part of our growth in Christ. An example of this is when someone gets a new whizamagig and the first thing that happens back home is the neighbor who points out the shortcomings of the new purchase. We have all been on one end or the other of that, and it isn't a pretty thing. Perhaps you or I have even been the one to steal the moment by opening our mouths at that wrong time. We might be reminded of too many events from the past of that type. The good news is that we learn and grow in the Spirit.

Yesterday, neighbor Dan had a fine moment, and I am glad to have been able to see it. After Jesus began his ministry you might expect many similar moments would have happened with his neighbors back home, but the Bible would disagree. Jesus didn't gain any small moments of fame back in his hometown. In fact, his family even poked some fun at him in the early days of his new ministry. If we want small moments of fame here in our own neighborhoods, we will have a greater chance if we buy a boat and take up fishing than to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and hope for those same moments. Your neighbors and friends might not even want to see you coming up the street with your good news and the light of Jesus.

Of course we don't want to give up our friends, neighbors, and family, but if it came to a choice, I would rather have Jesus than any thing or anyone.

Enjoy the moments of this new week in Christ!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Makes No Sense - May 14, 2011

Good Saturday morning! That wind is a bit cold out there, and this morning I have found no evidence that landscaping does not involve some hard work. Things ache, you see...

Ah well, the price of becoming famous among my blades of grass and little bugs. The blades of grass all know about the giant who kneels on them and the bugs know about the large movable feast that comes into their domain. We bug and grass celebrities might start the day wondering: What in the world am I writing about? It's a fine Saturday morning, and apparently the walk in the cold has got to my brain. Like many things, I make no sense sometimes. What about this Jesus, does he make sense?

If you call common sense what is common among people then, no, Jesus does not seem to make sense to the world. If you go to scrub out your kitchen and tell someone to grab that bucket of blood, the other person would naturally assume that you meant to pour it down the drain. However, we in Christ claim to be cleansed by the blood. That makes no sense at all. Blood doesn't cleanse; it makes a big mess. Isaiah wrote that by his stripes we are healed. Whose stripes? The stripes someone wears on his clothing wouldn't heal anyone. However, in Christ we know exactly what Isaiah is referring to, and yet it makes no sense to the world. By the way, how could one man being executed remove the penalty of sin from me? Again, in the world this makes no sense at all, but in Christ we understand that Jesus died as a substitute by paying the price we owed to God for our sin. Maybe we don't have what you could call common sense.

If you don't think the world considers you senseless, then join in a good discussion forum at any secular university. You will learn just how far out the intellectual powers of the world judge us to be in our thinking. Praise God that His Son makes the very bestest of sense to me!

Have a great day in Christ!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Playing with the Bubbles - May 12, 2011

Good Thursday morning! The rain has come...and the camper has gone! I'm so alert in the morning; I didn't even notice its absence when I opened the shade almost an hour ago. Maybe it wasn't gone then, I honestly can't remember. A mind is a terrible thing to wake up too early. I think I heard rain every time I woke up last night. Praise the Lord for the rain! Of course this means that I can't crawl around on the grass playing with stone blocks today. Ah well, I'll just have to bear up.

I'll have to admit to some inconsistency over the past few days. On one day an unexpected change in plans might put me into a questioning God mode, and just a couple of days later an unexpected change has me praising Him. The Apostle Paul had learned to be content in all circumstances. It seems that I still have some learning to do. Trusting in God may involve changing plans in a moment or with the breaking of a new day. Change may seem to be a sacrifice, a terrible unfairness, or a blessing, but when God sends a stumble into our stride we know it is for our own good.

The first change of plans caused me a whole lot of work. That is what makes today's change so welcome, I'm still recovering from Tuesday's change. God knew on Monday what would happen on Thursday, so He started changing my stride well before I could see what Thursday morning would bring. Of course I whined and moaned a bit at the change of plans on Tuesday, and now I realize what God was up to. One glorious day in the future, I hope to be able to trust in God right from the start and leave off the moaning and complaining. God is very patient with me, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to show progress to my heavenly Father toward the standard Jesus showed in his life on the Earth.

I cannot save myself with improvement or good works, but I can show the Father that I care enough to work on what I can work on. On the other hand, I also know that Jesus will complete the work he began in me. Much of my attempts at improvement involve polishing the outside of the cup; Jesus works on the inside. Did you ever wonder that Jesus didn't immediately make us all beautiful to look upon at salvation? That witness would of course be unmistakable. Why not put a real polish on the outside of each cup right at the cross? We know that the real stain of sin is on the inside of this little cup. The cleanup work on the inside of us is so important that Jesus spends our lifetimes in getting us cleaned up. Paul admitted that he still had far to go; I'll admit that I still have far to go to meet God's standard, and I'm sure that each of you can look at the inside of the cup and see that all is not perfected yet in your life as well.

Sin will not be present in Heaven. That means that those who believe in Christ must be cleaned up before we can come to the Father. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through me" in John 14:6. He also could have said, "I am the Scrubber, the Soap, and the Bath; no man comes to the Father until I have cleaned him completely." In our efforts at self-improvement, we play with the bubbles and move the suds around a bit, but the real work is done by Christ himself. Perhaps Jesus gave us imperfect outsides to worry about so that we would stay out of the way while He cleans up the inside. Just a thought to consider while I play with my bubbles in the bath and move the suds around a bit.

Have a glorious new day in Christ!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Even as We Wait - May 11, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! The hot and dry weather has moved on and we may get some rain now. Did you get to run around shutting windows last night? I think that is one of my signs of spring, a sort of ritual of the evening. Sun goes down, open the windows to cool the house, go to bed, get a little sleepy... uh, oh, did I see a flash? Yup, the thunderstorms move in, the wet cold wind comes in erasing any sleepiness from my eyes, or the lightning strikes close enough to cause a tremendous thunderclap and levitation occurs. Either way, the windows get closed in a hurry. As summer arrives, the storms usually come earlier in the day for us. If the storms come like they did last year, we get our bailing buckets out and go help the neighbors save their homes; a good brisk evening workout that also erases any trace of sleepiness from our eyeballs. A small storm is going on right now in my house. I'm not sure what set the Captain off, but he is tearing around the place this morning. Must have been some good stuff in that can of cat food!

I have a picture of the sunrise on my computer screen, but that isn't happening this morning. Yet, it doesn't quite look like rain either. The day seems undecided, kind of like me. Have you made yourself available to the Lord, and then...nothing. No word from above, no opportunity came knocking, no event happened, no meeting met, and a cloud of waiting settled on your head like a bag of soggy dryer lint? You have begun to wonder what the Lord meant by being available and if it is just like rotting in place. You banish that thought as unworthy, but waiting can be difficult and patience hard to find. Yes, sometimes the Lord wants us on hold or in reserve. Some events critical to the Lord's plan have not arrived yet and we are to wait for those events. However, the Lord doesn't always tell us this. I think He wants to see how well we wait on Him. And I don't always do very well.

Waiting on the Lord and trusting in Him are closely related when we are in that period of waiting. We learn to wait patiently by realizing that God has us in mind at all times and that His plans and actions might not involve you and me directly for just a bit. As that bit of time stretches on, the waiting can become more difficult if we insist on looking everywhere but to God. Trusting in God, we realize that we are waiting for a reason. God may not tell us the reason, but we learn to trust that the waiting is necessary. Of course this may not mean that we wait by sitting on our couch watching the door between commercials! We have little planes to fly, yards to landscape, people to visit, shopping to do, Bible studies to study, and the many other things that are useful and glorifying to God.

Have a joyful and productive day in Christ, even while you wait!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ding-a-ling Devotional - May 10, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Does a door keep closing in your face? My nose is starting to get a little flat spot from one particular activity. I tried two different plastic things, then a metal thing, and then went shopping for something online and ran into "out of stock" twice, and finally got the hint that the Lord wants me to try something else; something closer to home if you will. I almost took off on a trip to Cheyenne this morning to spend at least $60 worth of fuel to pick up a $30 item... I got a message after going to bed last night that the item was, you got it, out of stock. Their computer inventory was wrong. Yep, I'm a little slow in this, but I guess I'll go over to the neighborhood store and look at their solutions to my problem.

The wind came up late in the evening yesterday and tried to blow me out the other side of the house. This can be embarrassing when you are clad only in your favorite smiley-face pajamas. When the wind blows through the neighboring houses from a certain direction, it tends to hit one of my windows more than others. If I happen to be in bed and have this window open wide to cool off the house in the evening, the curtain will stand straight out and smack the lamp shade beside my bed making the brass lamp stand ring. Not that I need the extra 'ding' there is enough of that going on in my head already. What? I say something funny? Why is everyone chuckling?

Praise God that he loves me! Even the occasional ding-a-ling devotional is not enough to stop God's love for me. On a day when I get up early only to find that my plan is not the one God would have me to do, I can count on God's love for me. Can you or I sin enough to stop God's love? What kind of spiritual shape were you in when you gave your life to Jesus? That should answer the question quite well, thank you. If Jesus didn't refuse any of us right from the git-go, then he certainly isn't going to lose one of his sheep later on. In fact, I seem to recall a passage in the Bible where Jesus told the Father that he had not lost but one of those given to him. We know that one was Judas Iscariot who betrayed our Lord. If you aren't Judas, and it's likely that if you are reading this you are not that guy, then Jesus isn't going to lose you after you come to Him.

Hmm, the sun is hitting the back of my grape and I see steam rising in the shadow on my screen. I must have started thinking back there a bit.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Pray Today! - May 9, 2011

Good Monday morning! Urrgh! Four walking days this season and I'm feelin' it. Of course the prevailing advice is to start out slowly and yesterday I kind of overdid the walking. So, actually I'm only feeling one day of walking and that feeling is my own fault. I don't have enough coffee beans for a pot today and the toaster smoked the kitchen, so I had warm bread. You know, this reminds me of something.... oh yeah, it's a Monday! Praise God for Mondays! Without Mondays we wouldn't know how to enjoy the other six mornings of the week.

Speaking of Mondays, I wonder how many sunburned folks will be wandering the halls of their workplaces today? The days were hot and dry this weekend and I saw a lot of boats headed down the road. That usually means some "don't touch me's" will be found in your work area this morning; some of whom will have red or half red faces to show for it. I always liked the red raccoon faces where the big sunglasses kept the sun from burning around the eyes, but left the rest of the face sunburned. Oops, second food stain on the manuscript. Good thing it's just a copy for making corrections on. Must be a Monday!

Does it seem like God sets up your Monday to get you into the proper mood for appreciating Him more? Maybe it feels as though God has turned the Devil loose on you on Mondays, kind of like he did with Job back in the day but in a small way. You haven't lost your children and livestock, but the car keys simply will not be found, you're already running late for work, and the dog just committed a little faux pas on the living room floor. Your manic searching of the house for the car keys and the language employed to lubricate your search may have helped to upset the dog; you realize this too... and the Monday has only just begun.

No question, some days seem worse than others. Mondays seem to bear more than a fair share of the daily burden, but we can tell that not every day goes just the way we would wish. Do you imagine that God's will is being done each day on this earth? Jesus taught us to pray that God's will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, but I think we can tell that God's will is not the things we see in the news each day. This does not require a giant intellectual leap for any of us. God wrote: Thou shalt not commit murder, and we can read about murders every day. The same goes for stealing, adultery, coveting, dishonoring parents, and taking God's name in vain... along with any other commandments that are violated on a daily basis. Yeah, God's will seems to be pretty far away from the world right now. Does that mean we can stop praying that line?

Oh no, quite the contrary. The world needs those who would pray to God, perhaps now more than at any other time in the world's history. We need to joyfully and gratefully take our posts as prayer soldiers for Christ. We can see the need and the need is for us to pray for those all around us and throughout the world. Take time to pray today, and perhaps your Monday will go better too!


Friday, May 06, 2011

Listen Anyway - May 6, 2011

Good Friday morning! The temperature was spring-like again this morning; we may yet have what a person can call spring this year... for a month or so. I tried to say that I made my first official walk of the season this morning, but I realized that I cannot say that until I have my second walk. Otherwise there is no 'season' to speak of. I did take a few photos, but the green has not come out much in the trees yet. The grass... looks nice, but now I'm writing about trees and grass when I should be writing a devotional about Jesus our Lord. Actually, when trying to encourage someone the dumbest things can be distracting from their present grief or trouble. We can say, "Jesus loves you!" and the person realizes that, but telling about the love of God for his creation is also good and sometimes more immediate to the person.

Yes, we should feel that Jesus is closer to us that anything else, but in grief and distress it may not seem that way. So we can show the love of Jesus through the way he cares for the trees and grass each spring. How the plants all come back to life after a long and cold winter shows that each new spring is a season of promise and hope in Christ. We may be able to see more of Jesus by his works at times of distress. This is what James wrote so long ago in his epistle when he exhorted us to show our faith through good works. We can tell a friend about our faith, and that is a good witness, but proving our faith through our good works really speaks volumes about what is in our hearts. Activities like our church moving ministry are a very good witness. People notice even if they say nothing at the time. Neighbors may not come out, but behind the panes of glass in their windows they see what is going on. So... we should all trade houses once a month just to show our moving ministry! Right? Hey, where did everyone go?

Anything can be taken too far of course. Moving a household is a lot of heavy work; we might want to pause for a little consideration before we get too out of hand there. Of course, in speaking for myself anyway, if I had to move each month, there would be a whole lot less to move in short order. Which would kind of ruin the witness from moving all that stuff. I think I'll stop trying to improve the ministry and just enjoy the opportunities that God has provided. When we set out to witness, we can become too controlling. Ideas shouldn't be ruthlessly stomped on of course, but we can let God run the show too. After all we did surrender our lives and commit to Jesus at the cross. Surely we can let go and let God provide the opportunities just a little maybe. Accept what He provides and praise His name... before we get in trouble telling Him all that needs to be done in our humble opinions.

Sound a little contradictory there? God did provide us with human brains and a spirit full of ideas too. That is why we talk with God often, daily, even constantly! We just finished the National Day of Prayer, but we shouldn't need such a thing in the first place. Every day is a chance to present our ideas to God. Some of my ideas, like the one above, He might say "Whoa, there!", but God is always the first one to hear my idea anyway. I might as well listen for an answer!

Praise the name of Jesus!


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Every Day is a Prayer Day - May 5, 2011

Good Thursday morning! Today is the National Day of Prayer. Hey, I have one thing we can all stop worrying about: Don't worry about who else is stopping to pray today. Don't worry about who is not praying today. Leave the President out of the discussion; don't worry about the members of Congress or the Supreme Court; leave alone which celebrity is speaking without a script; and let the rock stars be rock stars. Instead, worry only about praying with Jesus on your own or with a small group of family or friends. The National Day of Prayer is for each of us. We can pray for our nation without fear. Lately that seems almost contradictory. We can pray together while closing the door on our individual prayer closets if we wish. God is not limited by time and space as we are.

Our nation has designated one day as a national prayer day, but God is not reserved for today. Our Lord is not especially listening on this one day over all others. However, we can go to prayer alone if we wish and know that all over the country people much like you and me are praying too. There is certainly something to be said for praying for our nation together on at least one day this year. We can pray for how our nation acts toward other nations. We can pray for national policies that hurt our country. That one is likely to send up a bunch of contradictory requests to God, but praise God for his wisdom in answering. That brings up another one: we can pray to God that our leaders would listen to His wisdom in their decision making. We can pray for God's wisdom in electing our representatives to government. We are responsible as a people for who goes to Washington. Do they have to be Democrats or Republicans? We can even pray that God's will is done in our nation.

As we are a nation of individuals with more freedoms than most nations, we can also pray that we have wisdom of our own. The Supreme Court might say that the Constitution does not forbid abortion, that is their job, but that does not mean that anyone has to choose to kill an unborn baby. We can pray that the people of this nation will listen to God's wisdom and do His will. We can pray that all of us will behave less selfishly, both in our jobs and in our lives at home. We, that's you and me, certainly have much to pray for today! And after... or maybe before all of that we can start our prayers of thanksgiving. We have even more to be grateful for in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The good thing about a National Day of Prayer is that it reminds all of us to take some time on at least this one day to pray to our God. After that we can work on reminding all of us that every day is a day of prayer.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

You Have What It Takes! - May 4, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! Today the morning actually feels like a spring morning. And the season is only half gone, how did we get so fortunate? The SEAL teams are getting a recruiting boost now thanks to their successful operation on Sunday. Of course the number one question is: do you have what it takes to become a SEAL? At my age that question is easy to answer. At a younger age in my life, I might have tried out first before realizing the answer. Another question in a similar vein is: do you have what it takes to be a Christian? Jesus told the disciples that anyone who wants to follow him should first count the cost.

This 'cost' is another one of those English words that gets abused. Jesus didn't mean that becoming a Christ-one was like a country club where a person needs a minimum pile of loot to join. Some cults have abused that in the same way by having applicants give up all of their material possessions to the cult. Usually someone at the top of the cult gets to enjoy the proceeds from all of those material goods. Jesus may not ask for all of your material goods in that way. Rich folks might remain wealthy by giving their lives to Christ. Poor folks may not become rich by giving their lives to Christ. There is no rigorous physical and mental test to becoming a Christ-one in the manner that SEALs go through in their training. There is no vote by the membership like you may find at a country club. No one is born into Christ's family, but no one who asks is refused either. All of us have passed the initial qualification since everyone must be born a sinner in order to need salvation.

Once accepted by Christ, and all who seek him shall find a Savior, a person cannot be voted out. A person can be tempted to quit, but Christ holds us with an everlasting grip. A Christ-one will face intense physical and mental trials in the training, but God gives us the strength to endure. A Christ-one who loses his life for Jesus is promised both that he will find it and that his eternal life is safe in Christ. Finally, a Christ-one is recruited with the assurance that the world will hate her as it hated Christ first. Don't see many recruiting posters like that in the world. Why would anyone join this particular army? Search the gospels and see what else Jesus had to say about believing in the Christ: Matthew 11:28-30 is a good place to start, and John 3:16 is the promise we all love.

Have a great new day in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Just Watchin' the Fruit - May 3, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! The morning after the big day; now I'm just older. The celebrations and hurrahs are done for the year. I had better grab my cane and oatmeal. Has anyone seen the cat? Do I have one cat or just two? This underwear has two holes in it; which one does my head go in? Of course old age is all funny until they find you having a political discussion with a street lamp one day. In my defense the street lamp would have made a better senator in many states; unfortunately he was made in China and was thrown off the party platform.

So, my birthday was so important that our President had to stage a raid on bin Laden's home to upstage my special day. Well, I'll take it. We have waited for almost a decade to have the man behind 9/11 brought to justice, and now he can join those waiting for the Lord's judgment. Why not rush to some judgment of my own? The fruits of this man's life certainly seem to be that of an enemy of Christ, but still, only God can see into his heart. An enemy has fallen, and now we ask that God have mercy on his soul. Does that seem a little different from what the world is saying today? Yes indeed.

bin Laden's supporters would call me various names for even having the gall to ask for mercy on a martyr, but my definition of a martyr seems to be a bit different from theirs. Jesus died on the cross, and Stephen died at the hands of those same people a little later. Neither man took up arms or planned an attack on some folks just going to work for the day. And of course, we believe that every one of us is a sinner in need of God's mercy. So when we ask that God have mercy on a fallen enemy, we make no claim to any self-righteousness. Might one of us be caught saying, "I need your mercy, Lord, and that guy really needs your mercy!" Yes, I might have been caught in that myself. I'll just claim to be a fruit inspector, and not a judge.

Does the rising sun look a little brighter today with one less enemy in the world? It may, it just may. Have a great day in Christ! Pray for our enemies as well as our friends.

God's grace and peace to you on this day, Bucky

Monday, May 02, 2011

Happy Birthday! - May 2, 2011

Good Monday morning! And a happy Early May Bank holiday to you! What? Did you expect something else today? Hee, hee! Yes! I am 48 years old today! Whoo hoo! I made it another year on this earth! Jesus isn't finished with me yet and I have more days of loving him and doing the good work of Christ! At just after 0500 in the morning, the temp is a balmy 30°, May 2nd and we are still freezing. After all of that, you might be thinking something like, "this guy is full of barnyard waste!" I'll admit that looking forward to each new birthday after 40 might seem a bit odd, but when a person comes to the realization that all of us are only here for as long as God would have us to stay, then you appreciate each new year of life. Did that work for you? Nope, didn't for me either. After 35 or thereabouts, I was just like most everyone else, ready to mope about being on the downhill slide toward old age. Then Jesus changed my life for the better!

No, that change didn't go easily at first. I missed the old life of general good health, being in charge of my destiny, or at least thinking that I had it all under control, and being pretty much responsible to no one. The lost sheep wasn't sounding off because, well, he firmly ignored the fact that he was lost. Jesus knew better, but the lost sheep wasn't listening at the time. I have heard several of your own personal stories of salvation, and I know that each of us can remember a similar time in our lives when we lived only for "Me" and thoughts of serving the Lord came only as an irritation. I realize now that my control over my own life was a complete illusion. Jesus was knocking, but I was inside with the TV turned way up, in a manner of speaking. Praise God that Jesus made sure I didn't stay that way!

A new life in Christ will make a person realize how precious our time here is, and how short. Each day I am one day closer to being with Jesus forever in a place where the pain and suffering is banished. Getting older is a blessing... that doesn't always feel like a blessing. Another example of a time when we must look to our Savior and not to our feelings. Praise the Lord for another year of writing devotionals and living in Christ!

When you get older you get suggestions like: "Amazon recommends Kirby vacuum cleaner belts..." That message just popped up on my screen, a sure sign that I am not a spring chicken to continue the farm metaphors. Vacuum cleaner belts? What a suggestion for my birthday. The problem is that once a person gets past a certain age, you actually check to make sure that you don't need something mundane like that. Come to think of it, I had better go to the grocery store today.

Have a wonderful day in Christ, even if you don't feel the blessing in our poor old body today!