Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Good Year in Christ!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Suffering and Thanking

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Those Emotions!

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

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

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

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

Have a great new day in Christ!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Show Him The Way

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 26, 2011

My Mistake, No Surprises!

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

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

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

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

May God bless you in this new day! Bucky

Friday, December 23, 2011

Special Christian Joy

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

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Better Gift? Better To Just Share!

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

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


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Spirit's Work

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You Very Much, Lord!

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to you! Bucky

Monday, December 19, 2011

Using His Name

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

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

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

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

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

Have a better day with Christ, Bucky

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fourth Quarter Miracles

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

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

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

Have a great weekend. Christmas is near! Bucky

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Same Spirit

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

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


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Home That Cannot Be Lost

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sergeant Major of Heaven

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

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

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

Be careful driving today, and trust in Jesus! Bucky

Monday, December 12, 2011

Labor Pains and Grave Cloths

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

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

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

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

Have a great new week in Christ Jesus! Bucky

Friday, December 09, 2011

That Boat Thing

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

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

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

Have a great weekend! Bucky

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Here I Am Not Knowing Again

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Clear Seeing

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

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

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

Rejoice in God's love today! Bucky

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Planet?

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

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

Stay warm in Christ! Bucky

Monday, December 05, 2011

Given God's Word

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

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

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

Glory to God in the highest! Bucky

Friday, December 02, 2011

What Happened?

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

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


Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Moving Pressure

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

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

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

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

Have a wonderful cold day! Bucky