Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Even at Our Worst - August 31, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! August will go out with one last shot of heat today, and then we can look forward to Labor Day weekend! Whoo hoo! least for those of you doing something special this weekend that is. Ahh, now the fallout from the Hurricane Irene coverage. Apparently it has become somewhat entertaining to find a Weather Channel live shot and, um, get in the scene so to speak. The line of the day: "People don't really know what's coming." That is from just one hurricane. As we prepare to take up our study of Revelation once more in our life group, you could use that same line for the entire world. Anyone can pick up a Bible and read what is coming, but so few believe what is written there.

We get the same thing out here when a big winter storm comes. There are always people out driving around and inevitably the snow plows will come the next morning and vehicles will be stuck where they shouldn't have been in the first place. I guess the videos from the hurricane confirm that people can be just as dumb out on the East Coast of the USA. Jesus might have said that people would be acting stupid just before the Great Tribulation arrives or the Son of God returns. Instead our Lord used the example of marriage and weddings and such. Sounds like He might have been nice to us in the future generations. Actually, you know all this already, might even have a few incidents in your past where you played the idiot. I'm guilty.

It is easy to act outraged at the foolish behavior we see in others, and not quite so much fun to remember the times we did it ourselves. I have thanked God that somehow His divine protection saw me through my teens and twenties. Many of you have done the same I'm sure. Then I see the headline: Man in domestic dispute decapitates himself. Probably didn't survive his moment of playing the fool. How can God allow all of this foolishness in us? Allow it? All that foolishness you see is perfectly under God's sovereign control. Nothing surprises our Lord, nothing catches him with a, "Wow, didn't see that one coming!" Realizing this takes a mental and spiritual shift that I cannot quite get my poor little human mind to understand on its own.

On the other hand, I find it comforting that no matter how big the mistake I might make, God will not be surprised and will still be comfortably in control of the situation. Yes, even those jokers on the television have the love of God and are under His sovereign control. Of course, God is not making anyone do dumb things. But we can know that even in our worst moments, God is watching over us.

Have a great day in Christ!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Do Count! - August 30, 2011

Good n' foggy Tuesday morning! Did you see the video of the old covered bridge going down? Kind of sad when the old things are swept away like that. Then I found out that the bridge had been rebuilt in the 80's. Some 'historic' things aren't quite as historic as we are led to assume. I would suggest we build one out here, but we get enough damage to our overpasses and bridges without putting a big shed over the top of one. A covered bridge probably wouldn't last one harvest out here. Not to mention the inevitable, "Why'd someone build their tool shed over the crick?" I try to be funny this morning, but of course all that water out in Vermont is no laughing matter. We had a little hint of that ourselves yesterday with another afternoon of big rains over the area.

Our question for the day: Have you ever had to raise your hand after someone blurted out a question about some group only to be told that you don't count? It's always kind of depressing to find out that you don't matter or that you don't meet the standards even if it is in response to some angry blurted out question. Then one day someone came up to you on the street, or met you in a bar, or came over to your cubicle at work, and said that you do matter to a certain man who lived in Judea some 2,000 years ago. At first you may have dismissed them with a bit of wit, "Meh, I've heard about this Jesus before!" Later you may have dismissed another invitation with the reason that you didn't need anymore guilt in your life from church. After all, your boss at work provides more than enough guilt every day. You may have been one of those who provided your own exclusion for years and years until something reached through that fog of doubt, guilt and other barriers to touch your heart.

I could list all of the awful events some of us have met in this life that God turned to our good. Many a story of salvation came from the bottom of some pit. "I hit bottom at that point and there was nowhere to look but up, and that is when I saw the light of Jesus!" Many of us could insert that in our own life's story. In some cases at a young age, others in middle age, and some even at death's door, but somewhere in life we came to realize that salvation lay not in the direction we had been going, but in the other way.

In a love we may never fully understand, Jesus pointed at you and me, and said, "You do count. You matter to me. I will never let you go!" The funny thing is that if a person thinks he is special and God's gift to the world, then he will probably never reach the bottom and feel the need to look up. If another person thinks she is beautiful and good, she may never see the light of Jesus. We may feel that some folks have it all too easy in this world, and we may be right. But what a tragedy to suffer no tragedy in life that would cause a person to look to the Savior! Praise God for the tragedies in my life that have brought me running to our Lord Jesus!

I pray that you feel the love of Jesus guiding you and protecting you this day,


Monday, August 29, 2011

In Control - August 29, 2011

Good Monday morning! Sorry, it isn't Labor Day quite yet. I have heard "it could have been much worse!" a lot these past few days. The indication of answered prayers refer to the hurricane that hit most of the East Coast over the weekend. As we look at the damage on the news, try to imagine what a Category 5 hurricane of that size might have done on the same path. Not a pretty picture and yet the old imagination probably falls short. But have you ever thought back to the days before you gave your life to Jesus and thought that just maybe some sort of invisible shield was over you even in those sinful days? Many incidents in my own life could have turned out much worse but for some inexplicable protection that seemed to be in operation.

You might call it a guardian angel, some might attribute the results to chance, but somewhere along the line I learned to give the glory to God. This is not without basis in scripture. No assault could be made on Job until God authorized it. Even with that, God controlled how far the devil could go each time. Did you ever think that the temptation of Christ could have gone on for over a year? The devil didn't have a pressing engagement elsewhere I'm sure. Once more the events must have been controlled by God. We learn very near the beginning that God told the ocean, "thus far and no farther shall you go." We do not know where exactly that point was and is, and so it might be that we have some homes and buildings built up on borrowed land so to speak. However, while every direction we look seems to hold nothing but chance and chaos, we must look to the one in charge and see that nothing is out of His control.

God did not lose control of His creation when Adam and Eve sinned. The world was not given over to chance and accident. The serpent gained a certain amount of authority when Adam gave up his birthright by his rebellion against God's commandment, but God was not affected the smallest bit. We either believe in and acknowledge God's complete authority or we are lost in that world of happenstance and dreadful chance. Perhaps that should be: lost in the that world of chance with a dreadful enemy on the loose. As for me, I need God to be in sovereign control. I have little control over life and events. I certainly don't want that serpent, the devil, to be in charge. Leaving the world to chance seems downright frightening. Ah, I know, everyone wants the world to be as each person wants it to be.

The only problem there is figuring out how to satisfy some 7 billion different opinions on how the world should be right now. I wonder how many of those diverse opinions would rather that, gulp, you and me not be in the world at all? Praise the Lord that God is in charge! I know so little; I am glad that the omniscient Creator is in charge of His creation. My power is so small that I am glad the all-powerful God is in control. Are you worried today that things seem all of out control? Perhaps you are trying to control too much; let go and let God control what is already under His almighty authority.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Jesus is the Victory - August 26, 2011

Good Friday morning! The first victory of mine in a contest (that I can remember at least) came in the first grade. A kid named Gary Bishop and I got on a teeter-tooter and tried to buck each other off. I won. Gary fell off the other end at its highest point and hit the ground breaking his arm. I remember the teacher coming over and the other students in the class surrounding Gary while I was left alone. Some victory. Gary also got to wear this really neat cast for several weeks. After that, perhaps jealous of the attention he got, I wanted a cast too. It would be decades before I got my cast and then the world gave me double. Yup, casts on both arms. I got attention alright, more than I ever imagined, but once more I decided that my 'victory' was something I would rather have left alone. Of course these were not the only victories in my life, but I find it interesting how they relate with so many years separating the events. In neither case did I come off as heroic and the trophies were a bit on the depressing side. Not quite what the ol' daydreams had in mind I'm sure.

This world can be a tough place. Our victories may look a lot like defeats and the even the real awards can never satisfy. How many gold medal winners have left the Olympic training behind forever? How many Oscar winners have announced their retirement at the awards ceremony? How many lottery winners have stopped playing the lottery? In the cases where we think enough would be enough, it seems to never be enough for the winner. The cases where enough is quite more than enough, thank you very much, seem to be broken things, injuries, accidents, and other events that we might rather not be awarded. Yup, in case you haven't noticed it before, this fallen world seems to have a lot of things very backward-like.

So it kind of seems appropriate that the one great victory in this world came at a very inglorious, humiliating, and degrading execution. Not only all of that, but the 'victim' of this horrible death didn't hang around his stone-cold tomb waiting for the end of the world. Then, the way for those to share in this eternal life comes not by great accomplishments, but simply by accepting mercy and grace. In a way that seems most strange, we are saved in a seemingly backwards-like way by what would seem the ultimate form of defeat - death by criminal execution.

What a wonderful savior we have in Christ Jesus! The God who became a Son of Man, worked within the world to save the world, and then triumphed over the world's worst feature, death, to establish a Way that we might have eternal life. Praise God for the Son!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good News to Show the World - August 25, 2011

Good Thursday morning! The week is coming to a close for you weekday watchers. August is getting in a few good licks on us here at the end too. It is supposed to be hot once again today. In whatever way you have been called to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, today also seems like another good day to let His light shine on through! Several prophets and apostles met angels or had visions of Heaven and their reports have much in common. One thing we notice is the light. The sevenfold Spirit before God's throne is seven brass candlesticks or seven flames. God's throne is surrounded by colors of surpassing beauty. The one seated on the throne is too bright to look at. The one like unto a son of man is very bright of countenance and his feet are like molten brass. Everywhere we look in the reports the colors are amazing, the whites are brilliant, and it sounds like I'm describing the perfect laundry detergent or something. Actually, we wish we could have clothing that even compares to what the prophets and apostles saw in their visions.

Purity, brightness, light, amazing and indescribably colorful, Heaven and its residents must be really something to see. However, there is much more. We hear reports from those who have spent just a little time in Heaven of rich sounds, angelic choirs, praises to the King, and even colors that taste good. The last is not as far-fetched as it may sound as apparently some folks on earth have this ability, though I suspect that it is an imperfect copy like the senses we have now. But the news gets better still. One day, Jesus will come to take us there to see and experience all of this wonder.

You have what we like to call the golden ticket. For reasons of his own, God chose us before the world began to believe in Him and to be with Him for eternity. If you and I choose to believe in Jesus at some point in our lives, God knew that would happen long before we were born. Not only did God know, but He chose each of us to believe and sent His own Spirit to enable that belief. Truly you and I had nothing to do with our salvation. You might say that we said 'yes' to Jesus because Jesus had already said 'yes' for us. Right about now in this kind of discussion is where we pile up the 'what if's' until we are buried in them. However the right response is simply to accept that Jesus chose us and that we have a purpose in Him. I don't know why Jesus chose you.

I can see qualities that Jesus has raised up in you, but I don't know why he chose you or me or anyone else who has decided to believe in the Son of God. That I think is a good thing too. If we knew some quality, hidden or obvious, that God looked for or that believers had in common, we would narrow down our search and spread the good news to only a few. Since we don't know how or why God makes the choices he does, we go on out and spread the good news to everyone. Today we can pray for the missionaries, the ministers, the singers, the preachers, the talkers, the writers, the friends, and all those brothers and sisters in Christ who will have a bit of good news of Jesus Christ to show to the world.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ambushed Again - August 24, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! So.... while our Internet was out yesterday: Washington and much of the East Coast held an earthquake; Hurricane Irene became a Category 3 storm; and Wall Street held a big rally. Which one of these doesn't belong? Wrong! They all happened. Oh, and that Libyan dictator fellow who apparently has already fled the sinking ship called upon his supporters to resist. Nothing like the smell of cowardice in defeat. But I suppose one of the requirements for dictatorship is a certain 'me first' attitude.

This morning, I was reminded at least once of Peter's warning in his first epistle. The one where the devil stalks about as a roaring lion. Yes, that one. If the devil is always roaring, why do we allow him to sneak up on us so often? When is the lion most difficult to spot? Right, when the bushes are in full bloom with flowers to catch our attention; the trees are in full leaf; the birds are singing for joy, and everything looks just fine. We are not walking through the valley of death's shadow as in the 23rd Psalm, but we are walking through the peak of life's best. That is when we are least likely to be vigilant and the lovely bushes more easily hide that roaring lion. What happens? Things are going so well and 'bango!' you are ambushed by the lion and thrown down.

Just about the time we are saying, "Praise God! I have it made!" we suddenly find ourselves flat on the old toosh again. Temptation, pain, calamity, whatever the method, the devil has rolled over laughing and we are asking God, "Why me?" It seems backwards to say it, but in our Christian walk the suffering and trials will come. Even worse, I didn't come up with this idea on my own. Jesus said it to all of us, and he said that we should be very glad. Actually, Jesus said this: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt 5:11-12

I find it unlikely that these 'others' that Jesus is referring to would all be complete strangers. Rejoicing in some of the worst things people we know can do to us may be about the most difficult thing there is to accomplish. If someone you knew as a teenager, or someone you work with, or even a friend suddenly turned on you and began reviling, persecuting, and uttering all kinds of evil against you falsely because of Christ, you are going to be very hurt. To rejoice in that seems rather a large mountain to climb; don't you think? However, that is a command direct from Jesus.

Praise God that what may be difficult, if not impossible, for us is possible with God.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God is Listening to Us! - August 23, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Aaiigh! A predicted high of 103º today! Did someone forget to tell the weather folks that this is the end of August? I guess they would be like the umpires: we call 'em like we see 'em. We are having a heat wave to start the school year it seems. I'm hoping it's a mini heat wave. Time for fall to start I say! Of course, the weather has not shown a history of listening to me. Isn't it nice when some big organization or someone in power listens to what you ask? Yet in this world that is seldom the case. But... we are not in this world.

I do not know why we have gained the ear of God, the Creator and Almighty One. With our past behavior and our birth into a rebellious state, we should have no right to have our words heard by God the Father. Yet, the Bible says that our Lord listens to our every thought. Of course that might make one take a gulp or two. Our every thought? Uh, oh....

Yes, we also have the right to petition God and the Bible even tells us how to do it. Jesus gave us a model for our prayers; Paul said " everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Moses was given the Law and set up a system of bringing offerings to God, but often God spoke to Moses about hearing the grumbling from the Israelites. Even when addressing their complaints to Moses, God heard all the people said. We are also reminded that we will answer for every idle word we speak. I can only ask: what makes you and me so important that God would even listen to us?

The answer must be something to do with the fact that He is God. His great love sent His Son to the Cross. God's love may be a quality of His that allows our Lord to listen to a bunch of sinners with selfish motives. God's love may even reach out in the Spirit to change us. A change in heart would make me a lot easier to listen to I figure.

The good news is that we don't have to complain to God. We are not required to curse or condemn anyone. No one has to spread idle rumor or gossip. Through the love of Christ we can come to God and speak requests, words of love, songs of praise, and just talk to our Father in Heaven. That is just plain amazing! What a privilege to be able to pray to God.

Take some time to have a chat with your Creator today. Listen too! He may have something to say.


Monday, August 22, 2011

To God and Right Quick! - August 22, 2011

Good Monday morning! School is back in session around these parts and we expect record high temps today. Oh joy! Actually, none of that matters because I have regained the ability to type with both hands. Yeehaw! Praise the Lord! These days there is little that is more worrisome to me than losing the ability to type. But, I am not supposed to worry. Not quite correct. I believe that Jesus said something like: don't be worried about tomorrow, today's worries are enough for the day. Of course we should never take that as some license to worry all day. After all today is always today, and we can certainly find enough things to worry about on any given day. What we should practice is growing our faith in God each day. One way to start today: put aside some of those worries. Just toss one or two away. Throw one out; don't let in another. Yeah, sounds so easy, right?

One thing I am reminded of during these last few days is that good old-fashioned pain is impossible to ignore. I'm not talking about a little boo-boo, but that pain in a limb where the entire body feels slightly ill in sympathetic partnership with the pain and even moving the uninjured parts causes the pain to give you another good kick. What is all that pain good for though? Job had a time of pain, first emotional and later physical, as the devil was allowed to take away his family and his possessions, and then his health. Job still said those important words: blessed be the name of the Lord. I couldn't help but think that if Job had a copy of God's word as we do, he would have spent much time in reading his Bible while in his pain. As you have probably found out several times by now in your Christian walk, pain brings us back to God right quick.

That pain we have that prevents us from going to work or school and even, just maybe, makes us consider going to that most dreaded of places, the doctor's office, can bring us to the Word and to our knees in prayer. Being laid up for a bit can be a wonderful time of fellowship with God in prayer and in His word. And I have noticed that he doesn't seem to mind my moaning and groaning either. When God says, "I know it hurts, bear up for just a little while." I believe Him and know that He is sympathetic to my pain. I say that because I have heard the "I know it hurts" line from more than one person who had the most insincere delivery I have ever heard in an actor delivering lines. The sad part is that the persons were not actors but medical personnel.

I love the Lord and I love that His Spirit has given me the ability to believe exactly what He says. Glory to God in highest, and glory to Him who is the healer of my ways.


Friday, August 19, 2011

That's All For Today - August 19, 2011

Good Friday morning! Please excuse the brevity; perhaps it will be a nice break for you from my usual devotionals. I somehow managed to injure my elbow last night and doing a lot of things hurts today. I read in Matthew today about the angels separating the righteous, who will shine like the stars, from the unrighteous, who will be tossed into the fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth. I suspect all who believe that scripture would want to be among the righteous. Those who do not believe in Christ, naturally don't believe the words he spoke. It isn't that they want to be among the unrighteous, they just think that they are righteous already and accuse us of excluding others. What is the answer to my request to be among the righteous? Endure the suffering. Not quite what I wanted to hear, but I do believe that agrees more with scripture than my wish for the easy life free of pain and full of plenty.

Have a great Friday and a better weekend!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Knowledge of Good and Evil - August 18, 2011

Good Thursday morning! Did you have any knowledge of good before you came to the cross and asked forgiveness to receive the mercy of Christ Jesus? I have quite a few times, I think, pointed out that children do not need to be taught how to lie, cheat, steal, and all of those other bad things that most of us have done in our lives. However, C.S. Lewis makes a good point that the tree was of the knowledge of good and evil. I have tended to point out the evil side, but we have all been born with that legacy from Adam and Eve that is the knowledge of good as well. It is certainly possible to have what is called a 'good' kid. By that we mean a child who chooses to do good more often than evil, and I think most kids are this way. How much the world trains them to lean one way or the other is a matter of circumstance and choice.

The first day of school is a good day to remember that kids can do the right thing when making a decision too. We know this to be true by the many good works people have done though they have not heard the Good New of Jesus Christ. This knowledge of good and evil is what makes cults work. No one would want a collection of folks who did nothing but evil, even the cult leaders aren't that crazy. We are born with the Law of God written on our hearts, both the good and the evil (you might say the Thou Shalt's and the Thou Shalt Not's). Too often we don't obey it. The problem must be deeper than those surface actions of good and evil.

Perhaps before the Holy Spirit is sent to our hearts we have no power to do good consistently and from the right motives. We may only think selfishly until we are saved. But that sounds much like us as we are even right after that moment of salvation. So, if we were not immediately made perfect before God at salvation, how can we have eternal life? We may tend to lump things together such as the removal of the penalty of sin, which we did gain at salvation, and the process of sanctification where we are made perfect before God through trials and suffering.

At the cross, Satan was judged, but we know the penalty has not yet been carried out. At the cross, we the condemned were saved by the removal of our penalty through Jesus Christ, but we have not yet received our reward. To simply let us into Heaven right now would be premature as, at least in my case, I can tell through the knowledge of good and evil that I still have too much capacity for evil. I am saved and forgiven in Christ, but perfect cleansing deep in my innermost thoughts I cannot claim...yet! We who believe in Jesus the Messiah know that one day we will receive that final work of the Spirit that will let us see Jesus face to face. One day, probably that same day, we will have no more knowledge of evil in our hearts. We will be what we desire almost every day in this life - we will be healed by the Master!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Retreat! - August 16, 2011

Hmmm, what happened to the post for yesterday? Tuesday's devotional:

Good Tuesday morning! I few months ago I wrote down some notes from one of the sermons on the radio. This one had a quote from Bill Borden, a missionary from back in the day. His quote: "No retreat, no return, no regrets" I have brought that quote in to place over my desk because I need to add one more 'r' word - remember. What do I need to remember? God's provision. Mr. Borden gave up a large inheritance to become a poor missionary. Quite the opposite of the prosperity gospel we sometimes hear on the telly these days. We have this tendency to judge our position with God by our bank balance. Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear tomorrow. I also need to remember that God does not bring us to a new place just to turn around and head back to the old.

That is where ol' Bill's quote seems to hit me most. That temptation to look back on parts of my life with regret, to attempt to return to some other part, or to sound the retreat on what I believe God would have me to do. All of these things must have happened to Bill back in his missionary days. Perhaps when his cupboard was bare he thought back to the fancy meals served in his father's mansion. He must have faced that desire to return with same words we have: remember your Father's mansion in Heaven. Bill may have felt the regrets of leaving what appeared to be an easier life, but at the same time remembered God's words of comfort and love. Bill may have felt the strongest temptation of all to retreat from his mission location and go back to America to take up that soft, warm mantle of a high position in his father's company. However, like you and me, he would have remembered his position in the Father's church and faced the future with all the hope of Jesus in his heart. Our now doesn't look so bad when we remember who has called us out of wherever you and I were a few days or years ago.

It may be that you are not living where you did before and now miss those old friends. It could be that you can no longer afford some of the things you once took for granted, but now you have more time to walk and talk with Jesus each day. The next call may be to go home to be with God in Heaven for all eternity. What a terrible shame to miss that call by looking back in regret, returning to something from the past, or retreating from where God would have us to be right now.

A little quote from Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21



Set Down the Scripture Bat! - August 17, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! Where are you this morning? If you are where I am, you will keep thinking that this is Monday morning. For you corporate monkeys that is just the most horrifying of thoughts. Thank God there is only one Monday each week! What if your week had nothing but Mondays? You could look over each day and praise God for the week ahead, the services you can do for your neighbors, and the glory you can give to God the entire new week. Ah, the entire week starting today to bring glory to God the Father!

Of course, we know that it does not have to be a Monday for us to seize the day and give the glory to God. Be it Tuesday or Saturday or whatever day this is, you and I can go forward knowing that people will see the light of Christ in us and give the glory to God. Now that isn't what I wanted to write today. Today, I felt the strong urge to beat y'all with a scripture bat, to pronounce a good helping of doom and gloom upon us all, and to crush our spirits with a conundrum of Calvinism (I might have to look that one up). If Jesus said that he came into the world not to condemn it but that through him it might be saved, why do I sometimes have the feeling that doom and gloom needs to be heaped upon the devotional?

While it is true that the Good News has a component of guilt to help us realize our need for salvation, we can become tempted to crush the congregation with a conflagration of Christian condemnation. When God gives us a little authority, we try to go play with the power. The time that Jesus gave his disciples the authority to cast out demons, I can imagine that one or two of them may have tried some things that didn't make it into the scriptures. James and John, the Sons of Thunder, may have done a little misbehaving with their newly-given power. You and I might have done the same in their place.

Perhaps before we give in to the urge to condemn, we should take the time to remember what it means to be saved. Before we dive bomb the depraved with a depth charge of doom and demonology, we may want to remember the price Jesus paid to redeem us. Before we set out to scramble the sinner with our scripture bat, let us instead kneel down before God and lift up that sinner in prayer to the one who can gently save the lost.

...and while you're at it, sing a song of praise to God today!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Born Sinner to Born-Again Saint - August 15, 2011

Good Monday morning! Oh, man... school starts this week. Phoo, where has the summer gone? It will be good to see the little rats locked up again though...oops, I mean it will be good to see the darlin' children have another opportunity for learning and growth as the school year commences. Ah, fun with words on a Monday morning!

This morning you may have got up from the bed.... I said, "get up from the bed!" Anyway, you might have given more thought to the difficulty of getting up than you did to the opportunities awaiting you. Have you ever thought that as our bodies are aging, our spirits are growing more child-like? I had that thought yesterday as this dual process of aging and growing in the Spirit is worked out in me. Of course we would like to halt the former, perhaps even back it up a bit, and keep the latter going forward. However, the process must go on for the born sinner to finish the race as a born-again saint. That process hurts in more ways than just the physical too.

It is a wrenching, hurting process that takes what was a sinner knowing nothing else and make it into a saint that knows only Christ. This is the work the Holy Spirit will finish in us. This is not something we can do for ourselves. How could a born sinner know how to cleanse itself? Instead, the sinner is given an opportunity to surrender to Christ. We lower the flag of self, and raise the banner of Christ over our lives. After that, the change is up to the Spirit as we are now owned by the Master.

This process of change as you well know by now is difficult, painful, full of fatigue, misery, and even joy. We do suffer emotional trials and physical tests, but one day a child-like spirit bearing the exact image of Christ will arrive in Heaven to the cheers of the heavenly host.

Praise the name of Jesus!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Jesus Has the Word - August 12, 2011

Good Friday morning! I don't have any good news for you. I have no words of wisdom, no smattering of encouragement, or platitudes of patience. Not one of my words can help you get through the day or make the sun shine a little brighter to your eyes. I am a fallen sinner in a world of darkness, just like you. There is another who does have words of hope and salvation. A man like us and yet unlike us who brought words of life and grace. He called himself the Son of Man, but we know him as the Son of God. This man freely admitted to equality with God, often inciting the self-righteous anger of those near him. This man refused to lift a finger or a word in his own defense when the authorities came to arrest and crucify him. Yet, this man also rose out of a stone-cold and stone-sealed tomb into a new dawn for all of those who will believe. We know this man as Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

My words will not save anyone, but the words of Christ are to a believing heart the very words of eternal life. My words of compassion, encouragement, and faith can only grow when Jesus, the True Vine, sends his Word through me. I can write words of comfort, but the true comfort comes from the Spirit of God sent to us by Jesus. I can repeat the scriptures and even attempt to explain those words with commentary, but the words came from His Word first and any understanding of mine comes from His Spirit. Some days I start the devotional full of energy to write a bang up paragraph or two of love and encouragement, but if Jesus does not provide then no provision will happen.

We are but conduits for the Holy Spirit of Christ. We may be lighthouses for Christ, but He provides the power and the ability to shine. We may show the cross to the world, but He died on it. We may show our love to each other, but His love gave us that opportunity. We may have gifts of the Spirit to share, but God first gave us those gifts. We may feel the temptation to peel back our shirt to show a big "SC" for Super Christian emblazoned upon a costume over a body of strength. But our chest is not invulnerable, our words are not those of life, our strength is but a weakness. Only when we come to Jesus are we given the full armor of God to protect that chest; the Word of God that makes our words ring true, and the faith that can move the mountains our strength is far too weak to budge. I don't have the answers; you don't have the answers; but Jesus has the very Words of Life.

Praise God for the new day!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

A God-like Patience - August 11, 2011

Good Thursday morning! If your treasure is stored up in stocks, the market fluctuations (mostly down) may have left you gasping for air over the last few days. What will today bring? The world is full of uncertainty; Christ offers complete surety. How are we to know this? Even if you set aside faith, read the Bible and ask: when was the last time God changed? We read about the beginnings, but God didn't change when Adam got the boot from Eden. Not long after their new life began, God asked Cain why his brother's blood cried out to him from the ground. Moses went from murderer to lawgiver, but God remained the same. David went from young hero, to adulterer, to murderer, to forgiven, and a man after God's own heart, yet God didn't make any changes to himself. The kings of Israel and Judah sometimes repented, but more often sinned, yet God kept all of his promises. Jesus arrived, but God still sat on his throne in Heaven. Jesus made payment for our sins on the Cross, but God didn't change.

We would like to think that with the ascension of Jesus that God somehow became, well, a little softer toward our sins. Perhaps since the cost of sin demanded by God has been paid, we want to think that our Lord will now wink at some of those little sins. However, we also know better. We can read about the terrible judgments in the Revelation and realize that God has not grown soft with age. But we also read right up to the end that his mercy only runs out when the final decision is made by those who would have nothing to do with God or His Son.

All that compassion and mercy for so many centuries toward saint and sinner alike. I look at the second chances to repent that I have had in just my own life. We read of the many opportunities for repentance that Israel enjoyed in the Old Testament. We look to the prophecies of what is to come in the Bible and see the effort God puts into giving people time to repent. We pray and yearn for America to repent and come back to God. Behind all of that is a God of mercy and grace. But like Israel did finally fall to the enemy and go into 70 years of captivity, we too know that God will execute the final judgments he has promised to the world. Until then, we marvel at how much time God has given us for repentance. We marvel at patience that must be... for lack of a better term, God-like in setting the date of the tribulation so far back that so many have a chance to live for Christ. Praise God for his great mercy and grace. If there is but one more person to be saved in this world, or if there are a billion persons yet to surrender to Christ, we know that God will wait for each and every one of them.

Have a beautiful new day in Christ!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Hail? - August 10, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! We survived not one, but two hailstorms yesterday. Of course the homes look a bit more um, holy, you might say. Some of us survived just a bit more than others. Yesterday, Jeff and I went up to the golf course cafe for a late lunch, just in time for the hail, rain, wind, and tornado warning. Not the place I would choose to wait out a tornado warning, but God watched over us just as He always does. Hey, praise God the wheat harvest is done. We have much to be thankful for this morning. What else can we put out there to God's glory? Either of the storms could have been much worse. The damage might have been total such as other places suffered this year. The morning is cool for an August day. Burt is on the way home, aaannnd, Jesus is still Lord!

Praise God that our home in Heaven cannot be damaged. Praise the Lord that our treasure stored in Heaven is perfectly safe. I find it easy to look around here and take the damage too much to heart. The plants look so depressing on the morning after the storm. But this is not our home. What we call 'home' is merely our assigned quarters in the field. We live in the Lord and one day He will bring us to a home that cannot fall.

This morning, you may be walking around the house, looking at your car, and wondering how much more of this you can take. Me too. You might wonder if your insurance company will be pleased to send out an adjuster yet again. You might wonder what insurance will cost us next year. God knows all of these things; He does not have to wonder. Find God's Word this morning, even just a verse or two. Ask God to give us all the right perspective. Whatever you have suffered today or yesterday, let God take care of it. Let the Spirit comfort you. The sun is shining and it's a new day!


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Noah and Sons, Boat Builders - August 9, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Today we come upon an ancient...

"Hey now! I am not that old yet!"

Sorry, today we come upon Noah of Noah and Sons, Boat Builders Ltd. Noah has just received his first order, and it comes from on high so to speak.

Our Action News reporter> "So, Noah. I suppose you got started with canoes or rowboats, perhaps even a small skiff in your boat building business?"

Noah> "Nope, gots me an ark to build."

AN> "Uhh, do you even know what an ark is?"

Noah> "What does that matter? The Lord said, 'build it'. I'm buildin' it!"

AN> "Kind of a big project for a starter; don't you think?"

Noah> "Yup"

AN> "I understand that you are kind of busy, but wouldn't you like to try a dinghy first?"

Noah> "Gotta big cargo comin'. Dinghy won't do."

AN> "Big cargo?"

Noah> "Yep. Hundreds of animals, all in pairs from the smallest to the real big 'uns! You tell me whether a dinghy will do the trick, Mr. Big City reporter man."

AN> "I see your point.... But do you have any experience in boat building, especially one of this size?"

Noah> "Nope! I told you, the Lord said to build it, and I'ma buildin' it!"

AN> "Okay, so you do everything this 'lord' says to do?"

Noah> "Yup!"

AN> "I see. So you kind of like living in complete faith then?"

Noah> "Not always. It will rain for forty days and forty nights. My family and I will be shut in with hundreds, perhaps thousands of smelly animals for two years or more, and I get to watch the entire world die."

AN> "Uh huh, sounds rough... I don't suppose you can tell us what this 'rain' is?"

Noah> "As I understand it, water pouring down from the sky. So much that there won't be a single dry spot left, even the mountains will be drowned."

AN> "Sounds awful. Did you ever doubt that you are right in believing this 'lord' fellow?"

Noah> "Nope!"

AN> "Well, ha, ha, here we are, out of time again. A man and his family building a boat on dry land, while expecting a whole bunch of animals to just show up for boarding. Crackpot or just plain crazy? You decide. Back to the news desk in Babylon."

Are you one of the Lord's boat builders, or just another unbeliever? Have a great day in Christ!


Monday, August 08, 2011

Uriah the Hittite - August 8, 2011

Good Monday morning! I'm a little slow getting underway this morning, must be a case of ... don't you say it; don't you dare even go that way. Okay, whew, mad urge to say a stupid movie line has passed. I had an interesting question this weekend. Who do we have to share Heaven with anyway? We look up toward Heaven and we look forward to that wonderful first meeting with our Lord Jesus, but who else might be there? This is a question we all might have wondered from time to time. That bully from back in grade school, will I meet him up there and have him remind me of all those times when he.... That is a hypothetical question there, my growing up years were not a tale of woe and misery. How about two guys that have every reason to be uncomfortable meeting in Heaven: David and Uriah the Hittite.

You will remember Uriah the Hittite: He was Bathsheba's husband before the king, that's David, arranged to have him knocked off at the front, so to speak, and then stole his wife. Actually, the order of events was worse than that. David took Bathsheba, tried to make friends with Uriah, got him drunk, took him from his place in the army with Joab, and generally tried all sorts of kingly shenanigans to hide his sin with Uriah's wife. Finally, with Bathsheba knocked up, David had Uriah knocked off. Now just suppose that one day these two run into each other in Heaven. That conversation might be quite interesting from our earthly point of view. However, let's just say that you and I get there.

We go to meet Uriah because we have some questions. Mainly, how does he feel when he sees King David ruling over Israel after so much sin that Uriah was the direct victim of. However, Uriah talks about God, the Son, the hosts of Heaven, his mansion in Abba's house... everything but what we think he would be worried about. It may not be that God erases the memory of all sins, but that those terrible events we experience here on earth just won't matter as much as we might think from our life here looking up. Uriah might even offer us some of that fruit to heal the nations; he might tell us that we are worried about the wrong things. As we eat the healing fruit and look around and finally see where we are, we might agree that ol' Uriah is quite right to not worry anymore about those things that have passed.

Even in this life we look back at our past, and worry too much about those things that have passed. Yes, the Accuser will maliciously dig up every sin from every regrettable incident from our past, but Jesus will tell us the same thing every time: "Forgiven!" If we ask God about that sin, we get the same answer each time, "What sin? I don't remember that." Grace is such a wonderful and undeserved thing. We might think that David should first be begging forgiveness of Uriah, wherever they might meet. But we would be looking at what we think we know from this world instead of what Jesus has told us in His word. When faced with his sin, King David begged God to forgive him. Even though David hurt Uriah, he went to God for mercy.

All sin is against God, even when we have hurt others in the commission of our sins. We can make restitution to the living and ask their forgiveness, but that will not save anyone. Repenting, seeking God's mercy, and obtaining the grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ will save anyone who comes to the Cross. Yes, it is right to ask forgiveness of those we have hurt, but like King David, we must bring our sins before God in repentance, seeking his forgiveness and obtaining his mercy to live.

Have a wundermous Monday!


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cookies for the Soul - August 4, 2011

Good Thursday morning!

Christianity and Chocolate Chip Cookies

"When making a batch of chocolate chip cookies it is of course essential that the baker sample to make sure the batch has been mixed and baked properly. As conditions change from tray to tray, it is also essential to sample each tray after it cools just a bit. Before packing the cookies in the jar or other container, the conscientious baker must make sure that nothing has happened during the cooling process and another sample is required." Excerpt from The Fat Baker's Guide to Cookies.

I should do a search to make sure that isn't a real book title, but you cannot copyright a title anyway. Yesterday I thought that the Christian life should be more like baking chocolate chip cookies. We should sample from the tray of patience, and then again from the tray of kindness, and perhaps one more delicious sample from the tray of love. In fact, we may want to keep on baking delicious cookies until we have sampled a goodly amount from every tray that bears the Spirit's touch. On the other hand, our baking should be more like the Christian life in that we share more than we consume. If we take one patience cookie from the dozen, we have eleven left to share. The same goes for each batch of the fruit of the Spirit. As we partake of the fruit of lovingkindness, we share more than we need for ourselves. As the Spirit grows self-control in us, we can share some too.

Sharing of what we have is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. We are certainly encouraged to share our stuff, but material goods tend to wear out and fall apart. We have a higher privilege in sharing the fruit the Spirit grows in us. Loading up a trailer full of stuff we don't need and donating it is okay, but taking what the Spirit has given us is easier and more lasting. Giving away our money may be honorable, but giving away our love, our knowledge of the Lord, our passion for the Word, and our grace found at the foot of the cross can be an offering that honors God. As we share the fruit of the Spirit, God pours much more into us. The branch that shares its fruit is blessed with more fruit from the vine. Not one of us little branches can out give the Creator and True Vine. The fruit of the Spirit that we receive from the Vine is sort of like a batch of chocolate chip cookies that just keeps on a comin' from the oven.

Have a sweet day in Christ our Savior!


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Looking For a Big Loss - August 3, 2011

Good Wednesday morning! Have you suffered big losses in this life? Many of us have, well, except for the big losses we want such as those extra pounds from last Christmas. Now the hard question: have you entertained an anxious daydream or two about big losses? Any of us may be tempted by those thoughts, the fiery darts from the devil, but we should get rid of them as quickly as possible. Stewing in anxiety is a good way to become discouraged and even depressed. Visions of big losses that seldom come to pass can make us want to hide our light under the covers and stay in bed. For every big loss that I have suffered, I have been tempted many thousands of times with those visions that have not happened. The big losses that have come arrived without warning, meaning that all those visions of doom and dread were for nothing anyway.

I heard a psychologist on the radio telling folks that these anxious visions we have are the mind's way of preparing us for disaster. That sounds like hogwash to me. Perhaps the fellow was trying to ensure future business for his profession, but diving into those visions has done me no good at all. And how could it? We already now that they don't happen! I can tell you that on the days I suffered great losses, my mind in no way prepared me for them. No sudden premonitions, no prophetic visions that stopped me in my tracks (obviously), just a day of going through my routine and getting to work on whatever I had on the schedule for that day; in other words, no anxious warnings or preparations. So that means I have conquered the anxious visions and always shove them away before they wreak havoc on my body and mind, right? No, I must say that I am still working on that in the guidance and comfort of the Spirit.

There is no specific time, although 0300 is certainly infamous in that regard, that I must watch out for. The visions can come at any time of the day or night. Sometimes I do strike back in the authority God has given me, halting the thought and remembering to put my mind on Jesus. Other times, I still indulge for a while, failing to listen to that voice of the Spirit telling me to trust in Jesus. Like many areas of this life in Christ, I don't always do it right, but I don't always do it wrong either. Losing my life of fear, worry, anxiety, and depression and giving all that to Jesus is a slow process. I know that my Lord wants all of it thrown down at the foot of the cross. One day, I know that I will suffer a big loss: Jesus will have taken all of my fear and worry and thrown it all away, never to be allowed back in. That big loss I look forward to!

Grant us a pure heart, dear Lord Jesus. Take away the fear and dread we feel in this life.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Hope in Christ - August 2, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! A milder day is promised and I have opened the windows to August... only to remember what August brings to me. The sneezing has stopped for now, but it is that time of the year for all the fun that goes with weed allergies. To God be the glory! I hope to survive the season one more time. Do you ever use 'hope' in the way the world uses it? If I say the word as Christ gave it to us through Paul's writing, then I have just placed God's stamp of complete assurance on the fact that I will survive this allergy season. However, if I use the word as the world uses it, I am sort of throwing up a prayer to the sky filled with doubt and self-pity.

People play the lottery in the faint (very faint) hope of winning. We don't want to live under that kind of hope. We want to live under Christ's solid assurance that He will come again. God as Jesus the Son stated that He will return to gather us up. If God wills it, we know without doubt that it will be done. We may not know when, but we know. We don't live under the faint possibility as in a lottery ticket, but under the complete and trustworthy assurance of God himself. The hope we choose to live under can be the weak-kneed hope of the world, or the solid fact of the Word of God. We can hope in what only one or two out of tens of millions of people will win, or we can hope in what everyone who believes is assured by God of winning. Doesn't seem like a choice that is too difficult.

Yesterday I read about the start of the second Great Awakening. I had heard about and read of the first one that preceded our nation's birth, but this second one may be even more interesting. The revival began in a county that would be described today with a crude anatomical term. Even then the county might best be given the title of the worst county in America. However, right there is where God chose to start a nationwide revival. Not in New England where the Pilgrims and Puritans had settled; not in Philadelphia where the Constitution had finally been compromised together, or any other place that might seem more likely at the time, but in a county in Kentucky known for chewing up anyone who chose to live as a Christian. How great and awesome is our God?

The construction/destruction noises have begun for the day. Praise God for the potential we have in today!


Monday, August 01, 2011

What We Choose - August 1, 2011

Good Monday morning... I think. I feel a little old-fogeyish this morning. Kind of an everything hurts kind of morning. Time to look for those blessings and count 'em up! This day starts a new month, August, and we will have football this month! There was some doubt that we would have a NFL season this year, but it starts on the 11th. Of course, some of you may doubt my definition of 'blessing'. School starts on the 18th here in our little town. That too may not be regarded as a blessing by everyone. August usually brings a break in the heat. This would be a blessing as some folks have been enduring 100º plus heat for almost a month now. The government may, just may, have a done deal on the deficit reduction plan today. That would be a blessing too. Less than three weeks until the start of school. How horrible, and I don't even have to go!

Life is good. No worries about tomorrow and plenty to eat and wear today. Why do I have to remind myself of that so much? Do you realize that believing in divine guidance of our footsteps and living as the wind blows us seem very close in outward appearance? In fact, to one who does not believe in Christ, we may appear to have simply given up our dreams and now live as the winds of fate blow us here and there. Yet, I believe that God guides us as His word says that He will do. So what is the difference? How do we know?

Perhaps it isn't a matter of knowing, but a matter of believing. In faith we take our next steps. The cruel winds of this world may blow us a little here and there, but we believe that God will use even that for our good. Our decisions are directed by God's Holy Spirit as we walk with our Lord Jesus through this life. It may not be that the results of our life will look so different to those who refuse to believe, but that we have chosen to believe in God's divine guidance. Do you choose to believe that God will provide your daily needs or in your own ability to provide for your needs? Do you choose to believe that God has plans to prosper you or are you hoping the world will cut you a break? Do you choose to believe that Jesus will raise you up at the end to eternal life, or do you choose to believe the end of this life only means that your evolution will be terminated to no good purpose?

Ow, that last one is more than depressing. Sometimes eternity is in the heart, but denial is in the brain. I am glad that my Redeemer lives and that one day He will come for me! I look forward to eternity with Jesus and the eternal praising of God the Father. In fact, let's start now: Praise God from whom all blessings flow.... Hey, sounds like a song or something!

Have a wonderful and praise-filled day in Christ!