Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Day...of the Year

Good morning! Oddly warm out there this morning, and then I looked at the thermometer. The temp is only about 25°, but it felt much warmer and is very quiet outside. I heard an alarm clock from across the street belting out some Cyndi Lauper. Low clouds, no animal noises and no trains make for a hushed morning, well, with the exception of Cyndi that is. There are many things to write about today, but this is the last day of 2012 and that kind of calls for a shout out or something like that.

What did 2012 mean for us? This is the day we most often look back at the year and take stock of how far God has brought us. For some of us it is a new town or a different house. Others got married, had babies or grand babies, or did none of the above. The real distance is how far Jesus brought us along His way. That is much more difficult for us to measure, for we do not know the end. The Mayan calendar thing apparently didn't work out, if that was the end you were counting on. Your end may come in the next year, or maybe not for another 50 years or more. As we grow closer to Jesus, 50 more years on this earth sounds like a terrible sentence. Perhaps it is better that Jesus doesn't tell us how far we have to go yet.

After we take stock of the year passing today, we look forward to the year that is coming. For those terrified of the number 13, this next year may seem like a monster waiting just around the corner. For at least one of us, the number 50 waits just around the corner. I won't say who he is just yet, but, bwaa ha ha! Que the Jaws theme, here it comes!

Celebrate the old year today, and the new year tomorrow!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Master Doesn't Do That

Whoo Hoo! It's Saturday! You've seen the situation before. Dog is across the street doing what dogs do, master is at the house wanting the dog back in the yard. Neither is paying as much attention to the things the street is designed for as is warranted given the situation. The master calls, the dog obeys in the full-out mode that dogs often employ. The driver locks up the brakes and the dog is narrowly missed. Everyone pounds on their chest a little to get the heart going again and the dog runs on home. Another potential tragedy averted by the slimmest of margins.

We surrender our lives to Jesus in repentance and are born again. One day, we are across the street doing what Christians tend to do, and our master calls. Whoa, instead of obeying in the full-out mode, we stop and look for traffic. You see, we often don't trust our master to watch for traffic for us. We say that our God knows all and sees all, but then we immediately fail to trust Him to, well, see all.

Let us get this straight right now. My Master does not call me out into the path of oncoming buses, trains, steamrollers, or speeding tortoises. These things may physically happen in our fallen world, but when God calls, we should obey first. No, I'm not speaking of crossing the street without looking first. The call we get is more like a mission. When we receive that call, our first thoughts are usually reasons why we cannot do what God is calling us to do. We tend to be like the dog who once nearly got run over, and now will never cross the street for fear of another vehicle. Our Master crosses the street and says, "I am with you always..." Whatever 'street' is in front of us now, let us not be afraid to step off the curb with our Master.

Have a wonderful Saturday in Christ Jesus,

Friday, December 28, 2012

Because It Takes Eternity

Good Friday morning! Another holiday weekend is here, at least for those who do not have to work on Monday. Given the prevalence of parties on Monday night and the holiday on Tuesday, I suspect a lot of work places will be rather sparsely populated both on Monday and part of today. If I may take a moment to state the obvious, it is cold outside. Yup, got that out of the way. Now on with the devotional. Praise God that I won't need to write obvious things for all eternity. That might be more of a characteristic of the dark place than of God's new heaven and new earth.

Have you ever thought that God does not intimately describe this new place because it changes throughout eternity? Another possibility is that the new eternal home will be so extensive that all the books of the world could not contain the description. Still another is that our new eternal home will be so different from what we know here that we are not capable of understanding God's description right now. We can use words like marvelous, wonderful, overwhelming, and joy, but maybe the new heaven and new earth are so amazing because it takes eternity for us to appreciate God's handiwork properly.

Wait, isn't that a bit like the old two parallel lines gag from geometry class? How can we take eternity to appreciate eternity? I don't get it either, but then we are talking about God whose thoughts are so far above our thoughts that metaphors inevitably fall short of the reality. We live eternally with Christ because that's what it takes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Joy Swells in My Heart

Good evening! A special greeting to those of you at work. The world will never make it easy for us to feel the joy that God gives to us. If we wait on circumstances to become perfect, we will wait until Jesus returns to express our joy. In December, with the bulk of winter yet before us, we may want nothing more than a nice pair of warm socks to feel really happy for an evening. Ha! That might work in a book or movie, in this life we seldom realize such simple needs. Usually, a lengthy list of wants comes to mind when we think of the perfect evening. Turning that mind of wanting to think of Jesus can help us reconnect with that joy living within us.

Circumstance does not magically become perfect when we remember our joy. But the world's roar can be put in its proper place when we think on the joy of our Savior. The news of the world gives us cause to believe in chaos; the good news of Jesus Christ gives us cause to share a little joy. We may think of a thousand reasons to be fearful, but the Holy Spirit dwelling within gives us one overwhelming reason to be joyful. The cat howling at the Rolling Stones on the radio may cause a little grief, but the joy that swells my heart gives me a little compassion. The cat had a tough year too. Praise God for our joyful home.


Talk, or Substance?

Whoa, it snowed again last night. This must be that winter thing we only talked about last year. For me the question might go something like this: Do you just write about the Christian life, or is there substance? We all have a form of that question directed at us, though it may never be spoken in our presence. Suffering people want to know, is there something of substance in this Jesus we hear about? Our lives must be ones that show that indeed there is a change that comes from our rebirth in Christ.

Few of us have trouble looking like keepers of the Law when we go out in public. We are known to be 'good' people, just like many others. The test of our substance comes in private when the world, we think, is not looking. What do we read, what shows are on the television, is there a secret stash of certain magazines or literature that would cause the world to say, "Aha, you Christians are just like us!" We know that too, and perhaps our home has seen a 'sin' cleaning such that no trace of our former sinful lives shows in any corner. However, we are like the world in one respect - we started out this life as a sinner enslaved to the flesh just like everyone else.

A bit of our substance must be shown in honesty. If your Ephesians armor is polished, shiny, and clean, then you are most likely a rear-echelon pogue who has never seen combat with the forces of this world. If we could see the Christian armor of a front-line soldier, we would see the patched-over gashes that separation from our loved ones in this world causes. We might see a few flaming darts that got through the armor and the suffering from those burning wounds. In fact, the Christian soldier may at times be found flat on his back from the dreadful assault of the enemy. She might be found weeping in prayer over the cruelty of the world's ambush. Soldiers who are in the fight do not always look ready for inspection. Look closely and anyone will find something wrong with the front line warrior.

If there is an admission of substance in us, it is that we struggle in this fight. Spiritual wounds lay us low at times. Praise Jesus for His healing and mercy! We fall, but God lifts us up again. We sin, but Jesus paid for that sin and grants forgiveness. We live in Christ, and we will win this war because the victory already belongs to our Lord Jesus!

Yours in Christ,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Can't Go Home Yet

No, not because it's Wednesday evening and I haven't sent out the devotional for this evening, but because Jesus hasn't sent for you or me. We live in our Lord's grace, and we live to serve His church, and we hope for that day when we might go home for good. However, if we want to go home just to escape this world and think nothing of those who may be left behind then just maybe that is too selfish. We just ended the season of giving (Christmas gifts that is), but we did not go into the season of thinking only of just me.

I wouldn't mind if the Rapture came tonight. I think the celebration would be marvelous with Jesus in the clouds of Heaven. Sadly, the mission God has for you and me does not end just because we think now would be a good time to go home. Joyfully, the mission God has for you and me goes on! Those who do not yet believe in Jesus still have time to make their eternal decision. You and I can find someone who needs the good news of Jesus Christ. Time is not over and the world goes on for a bit. How long that 'bit' will be, we cannot know. Looking around at the condition of the world, time for deciding seems short to me. I don't think we have long to wait for our Lord's call!

Take a hope break this evening for our hope in Christ draws near!

It's A Negative Morning

Not every day is one that begins with thoughts of peace and joy, but that wasn't what I wanted to write about today. The temperature is below zero, we are starting with a negative morning out here on the cold plains of Colorado. The music on The Message is delightfully positive, and there is the message for us today. You and me have a positive message to bear in a negative world.

Some would speak of evolution and some sort of electrical-chemical accident that began all life. Speaking of millions and billions of years sounds smart with all those big numbers. The bottom line though is that no god is required for evolution and accident. Without a higher power or a greater good, the evolutionist is free to do any deed to justify his goals. Without a Creator, the creation is responsible to no one and uses others in any way he pleases to accomplish selfish desires. But God calls upon the simple things to confound the wisdom of the world.

We are responsible to a Creator, and it is not a burden to surrender to the Creator's Son. We who believe in Christ are not restricted, but set free. The world will have its day, and will point to us as examples of weakness, powerlessness, and poverty. At the moment, the world is correct. We are glad to submit our small strength to the all-powerful God, to bow our little power before the Almighty, and to give our poor riches to Him who owns all gold and silver. The moment belongs to the world, but eternity belongs to God. The moment is gone in the blink of an eye. Those in the moment are gone with a puff of wind. God's throne stands over eternity, and that my friends is where we want to be. We give up the moment to gain eternity. We remember to love those reveling in the moment, even when they scoff at our faith. Praise God, the Lord of all eternity!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Merry Christmas Message

Happy Christmas to you on this white Christmas morning! I often wonder if Joseph made plans other than having a child right away. If Joseph had plans for travel, he got to do that. Visit another country with his young wife? Yes, he got to do that as well. But what if Joseph's plans were to settle down near family and have a child maybe in a few years after the finances stabilized? Nope, God had other plans. Now, imagine Joseph's thoughts upon learning that his betrothed was pregnant. Christmas may not bring us quite the news that we would like every year. However, Joseph got to raise God's own Son.

Bad or good, news that disrupts our plans may be just the thing God uses to bring us closer to Him and to make us productive in our fruit-bearing. A time of trial and suffering may raise us to a higher level of faith and commitment to God. Does that happen at Christmas? Yes, I think that God gives out gifts at this time too. The wrapping on the gift from God may seem a bit distressing. That next gift I receive may look a lot like a lump of coal, but that is only the wrapping. The best gift God sent didn't look like much at first either. A baby in a trough where the animals ate? A man dying on a cross? I'm sure Joseph might have thought of a few other items for that first Christmas list.

"How about a nice Roman palace with hot baths and a few servants, Lord? Then we'll have the baby in the usual way! We'll raise him in style to be king when he reaches fourteen or so How does that sound?" Joseph didn't get a wish like that though.

Within a couple of years, just after a rather interesting visit from some magi from the east, Joseph and Mary had to pack up and flee the country in the dark of night. What sort of king is this? A king who needed God's protection and his parents' efforts, just like we did at that young age. Did Jesus grow up wealthy? Sorry kid, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh financed a sudden trip to Egypt. We don't know that of course, but Jesus didn't begin his ministry with a sack of gold from what we read in the gospels. At the end, the body of Jesus didn't look like a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift. On the third day, things changed forever!

We too may look at our lives and see a very tarnished and beaten wrapper, full of holes where loss caused us great pain and suffering. Our bodies may not look very glorified right now, in fact we probably don't see the glory in us at all. But one day, Jesus will raise us up and under that wrapper of sin and suffering is a new creation, a gift our Lord has been working on for a long time!

Have a wonderful, happy Christmas in Christ!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Eve of The Thing

Oh! Oh! Oh! Sometimes the anticipation of the day before the thing, the very eve of the coming event is almost too much to bear. The emotions run high, the sense of the thrilling appearance is soooo difficult to contain. And then we wonder why God didn't give anyone the date of Jesus' returning. Can you imagine how awful the anticipation would be if we had the date circled on the calendar? What if the date was so far out there we couldn't buy that year's calendar yet? Aiieee! Some things are best left unknown. The eve of our celebration of the birth of the Christ child is enough for us to bear right now. Today we look for the worship and celebration to begin for yet another anniversary of that blessed night in Bethlehem. We have all we need for today.

The eve of Christmas is a wonderful time to gather with Jesus and thank Him for coming down to this place. Some put pressure on us to have large gatherings of family or friends, but that isn't always possible. Others say that a certain amount must be spent to make children happy. Many cannot afford to do that. Still others will use the holiday to further their own cause or agenda. However, we can gather always with our Lord, whose holiday this is, and celebrate His birth with Him in quiet prayer. We don't need noise, or sugar treats, or gifts, or singing of carols, or any of the other things commonly associated with Christmas to celebrate a time with our Lord Jesus.

Before you go tossing all the Christmas decorations in the box though, all of these things do add to the festive atmosphere of the season. I think God likes a good celebration. Did you put lots of effort into the holiday? Good work! Did the cost of your gift-giving hurt a bit? Excellent job! Are you remembering the central reason for Christmas, the very root of the word? Better still! Let your let shine for Christ on Christmas!

Have a wonderful, merry Christmas!

P.S. I do plan to write a Christmas devotional tomorrow, if God is willing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Can't I Do That?

We may ask that question of God, and we may receive an answer immediately. I had just such an experience last night. Watching an interview with some author's friends, the work habits of the author made me a bit envious. Why can't I write like that? I asked. The friends then went on to enumerate some of the other habits of the author and the result: he died of a heart attack at 50. Oh! There was my answer. It may very well be that God wants me in this for the long haul. We shouldn't look at other people as our example. God has a plan for me and a plan for you. We should not look at each other as our primary examples of how to live in Christ.

The author in this story also began writing when he was 12 and pretty much drove his brother and father nuts with late night typing. At that age, I destroyed a typewriter for fun but had no intention of using one as part of a career. The world contains more than enough people who claim responsibility for their own success. To us they may appear almost magically endowed with some ability. We don't see the years of practice behind the 'overnight' success story, but we do see the glory given to them and want some of that too. We are called to glorify God, and you and me may not get to be like that success story we see over there. Our glory may be the "Well done, my good and faithful servant." we get when we see Jesus our Lord in Heaven. And that, my dear friends, should be all the glory we desire!

Merry Christmas dear children of God,

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Deserve My Best; God Gets My All

Good Friday morning! The Christmas holiday is upon us as I'm sure many will take Monday off as well and leave for their holiday break today. I hear the DJ on the radio saying much the same thing just now, so I may not be completely off my rocker in this matter. Of course, anytime that happens there is at least a small chance that I have only confirmed that two of us are out of whack. I pray that you have a merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday from work!

I always want to do my best writing for you, but does not God deserve my best as well? Certainly I try to do my best for God, but actually He gets my all. Jesus didn't die on the cross just for that time I did well in that one task. You know, that good memory I recall so fondly? Yes, God gets that too, but He owns everything of me now. The time I said the wrong thing to that person over there. The times I did the wrong thing and sinned against another (and always against God). Those times belong to God too. My best efforts belong to God, but also my weakest and whiniest efforts too. Some sacrifices God accepts, others, well... those might go into the 'needs more work' file. Growth kind of goes with the Christian condition. We are reborn at whatever age, and then God's Holy Spirit goes to work on us.

My best, your best, all of our 'bests' put together cannot save us, but God deserves our all and indeed owns our all when we are born again. Over time, some of those things that cause us guilt and shame will be taken away as their purpose is served. The last of these may not be taken until we arrive at the gates of Heaven, and there is a good chance that one of these is the one you or I would most like God to take right now. Paul tried it three times, but God said "No". A thorn essential to our sanctification may be a thing that has bothered and irritated since childhood. God owns it now. Trust in Him to use it to fulfill His holy purpose.

Have a wonderful Christmas in Christ!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Having Done All

Good morning! Winter may not officially start until tomorrow, but it looks very much like what that winter thing is all about right now. Snow, cold, plows on the streets, smoke from the chimneys, yes, it appears to be winter today. Will it last until that fabled white Christmas? We do not know this morning. I have one interesting question for us all: Did you go to the grocery store to stock up because of the blizzard warning... wait for it, and then feel the temptation to go to the store one more time? You may have stocked all that you could and yet felt that urge to do it again. I certainly felt that and the following verse came to mind.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

The part for today is at the end: having done all, we stand. There are times when you and I will have done all that we can to prepare for some event. After that, we stand and wait on the Lord. This could be a picture of the end time too. The church, having done all, stands as the Lord Jesus is revealed in the heavens to an unbelieving world. The time for doing is over, and the time to stand and see the glory of our Lord arrives in His great power.

As the storm arrived yesterday, the time for preparation work came to a close. The running about and running down the list was over. The time to stand and watch the Lord perform His mighty works came in like a lion. We have a preference for action; at times, it becomes a temptation to perform some work that will, we think, guarantee us salvation. However, some days we should stand and watch the Lord at work, just like we did on that first day of our new life in Christ when He alone saved us.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How 'bout Some Praise

Good morning, at least I think it's morning, the day seems to be getting darker. I often ask the Lord what He would have me to write. Today, the thought came to me that the Lord might just like a spontaneous outburst of praise. We know that the Lord directs the path of those He loves. Does that give me an excuse to sit back and wait for the Lord to move my feet or hands? No, I think not.

The Lord inspired His books in the Bible, but those writers first picked up their pen, or quill, or whatever instrument they used back in the day. The Lord made sure of what was written down, but He did not force the translators to check and double-check their work so that we could read God's word in our own language. The Lord can make sure that special gift you want to give is available in a store, but you will need to pick up your car keys and move your feet to the door. We are bondslaves of Christ, but not automatons dumbly rattling around in our work. An outburst of praise comes from a heart full of love for God, not from a command obeyed under threat of destruction.

Workers who perform only under threat of disciplinary action or job termination do not praise the boss willingly, though they may do so to gain advantage. Our Lord wants our praise to come just from the sheer joy of loving our Father. The best place to learn and gain this love is to ask the one who knows love best: Jesus!

Merry Christmas and the love of our Lord Jesus to you on this great day!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You May Have To Work At It A Little Bit

Good Tuesday morning! I see a sneaky little winter storm watch has arrived this morning. Is it possible that more snow will arrive tonight? Will we have a winter this year? No matter what may come, God is with us always. Have you ever found yourself in the position of assuming that God is going to do everything for you? That is kind of a weasel-worded question in place of admitting that I have done this. God has gently responded that I may have to work at it a little bit.

God does much more than we will ever realize. That does not mean however that we sit down on the couch and wait by doing nothing. God gives me the inspiration, but the writing must come by typing on the keyboard and working my mind and imagination. Our spirit and mind are much like our bodies in that, at least in this world, we must exercise them to stay active and in good shape. Slack off on the exercising and the body gets flabby. A mind and spirit can get in the same condition. Paul warned us to work out our salvation. Our elders remind us often to continue working our minds to stay sharp, or at least the elders who haven't slacked off mentally will remind us of this.

This life requires us to work at it a little bit. Yes, many employers have found the high unemployment much to their liking and demanded fewer employees do more with less as the saying goes; that is a different matter. We are looking here at staying healthy by staying active. We stay active spiritually by prayer, bible study, worship, and service. We stay active mentally by reading, writing, playing challenging games, hobbies, and other methods. Physically...well, you know what that means by now. Sometimes we can combine these and gain extra benefit. And all work is not drudgery. Ask God to show you enjoyable exercise in these areas. Somewhere, there is a job or career for you that isn't just putting in time and collecting a paycheck. Ask God to show the way!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Should We Be Doing This?

Good Monday morning! Sorry, but it is Monday; I cannot deny it. The final week before the Christmas holiday is upon us, and even the most grinchy may want to sing songs of joy and gladness. But should we be doing this in light of recent events across the nation? Some may feel uncomfortable singing Christmas carols or wishing a happy Christmas to another. We can postpone Christmas, but that doesn't answer the question. I have another question for us: Why didn't God warn the parents to flee as He did with Joseph and Mary?

You recall the Christmas story of the flight to Egypt when Joseph was warned in a dream to hit the road with the Christ child. We are very glad that God did send His angel, but why no warning for the other children in that tale? Every life is valuable to God, yet Herod was allowed to carry out his murderous plan. How can we reconcile a life valuable to God with murder? A couple of ways, I think.

For one, murder is in the law under the thou-shalt-nots. The very statement indicates a choice. If God denied every murder by stopping it at the last moment, there would be no need for the law. Hold it...just hold everything! Jesus also said that we can be guilty of murder without actually carrying out the act. Therefore, it seems that God could stop every act of murder and still convict under His law. Good point, but if everyone knew that no act of murder could actually be carried out, is that a real choice? Freedom to act on sinful thoughts may be essential to that freedom to choose we have in this life.

Another point to consider is that God sees all of life, not just the small part we see here today. I believe the children from Bethlehem that Herod had murdered and the children from Newtown murdered last week are with God in Heaven. Their life has not ended. We see only the funerals and the pain, but there is more to the story.

Finally, we should celebrate Christmas, because God loves us and sent His Son to die for us. God lost a child too on the cross outside Jerusalem. God's Son was born and died so that we might be with those we have lost in this life. God's promise came when Jesus rose again, assuring us that this death we see here is not the final chapter of the story. God can raise up great things from terrible tragedy. We are sad because the great things are difficult or even impossible for us to see right now. Faith tells us that God has something better in His plan, but it must come after we endure the trials of this life.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why The Kids?

How does one set out to comfort the families on this day? I see a picture of a pastor from Newtown on the news website, and I do not envy him that position this morning. The best headline I see puts it this way: "World reacts with sympathy, bewilderment" Yes, exactly! We mourn the children, mourn for the families, and wonder, "Why?".

Killing children hurts us most. Hardened police detectives break down when children are murdered. Anger sweeps the land when children are chosen by a killer. Yet, we still do not have an answer that satisfies. As is too often the case, the person doing the murder is dead as well. We can gain no answers from him. Would it be easier for us to hear that his last memory was of a satanic ritual and then he 'woke up' in a jail cell? I don't know, because the answers are denied to us by the silence of his death. A blog, a Twitter feed, or even an old-fashioned diary may be discovered, but people can write anything they want. Some will use derogatory names to describe the young man, but in truth we may never know the 'why' of such an act. And doesn't it seem like we walked down this road not very long ago?

Writing this devotional started just over six years ago, and yet I can recall at least 3 other times I had to sit down on the morning after and write something very similar. Tuscon, Aurora, Montreal, Virgina Tech, and other tragedies hit us like waves from a faraway storm. Sometimes I couldn't write, but simply sat and asked "again? already?" and similar useless or vague questions. No doubt someone has asked, "Can we go through a year without a mass murder?" Once a year is too often for this sort of thing; never would be much better, I think.

God be with you on this day,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Somebody's Watching Us!

News report this morning: A vulnerability in a Linux-based software for one television brand could allow a cracker to gain control of your smart television and monitor you through the cameras and microphone. Yep, looks like that old fear from back in the early sci-fi days has come home to roost. What an exciting thing to do - watch people sitting in their living room staring at you. I can only imagine how many hours of mindless staring a person could record before concluding, "Ya know, people really don't do much when the TV is on."

What else lands in the not-worth-doing category this morning? How about judging yourself? Nah, we never do that. Healthy self-examination is one thing, but what if you wallow in guilt and shame over your life or parts of it? Are you not acting as judge when Jesus commanded us to judge not? I have done it, and usurping Christ's place as judge is not the right thing to do. Mercy is given by faith in Christ, but then I tried on some of those self-imposed sanctions that big colleges like to give themselves. Living in grace does not seem to agree with me punishing, well, me. I don't seem to recall that provision before grace could be received. I suppose that accepting the forgiveness of Christ Jesus means that I no longer judge me or anyone else.

Merry Christmas to you on this Friday! Cards, gifts, parties, and the joy of the season is upon us. Christmas carols come to mind and are heard in many places. Bad jokes like, "Yule love this" may appear too, as it just did on my e-mail window. Merry Christmas to the person whose job it is to come up with nonsense like that!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yard by Yard, Link by Link

Good morning in this Christmas season of joy and giving! Every year I read Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and every year I see old Scrooge confronted with his imaginary chain in the form of Jacob Marley's ghost clinking around in his own chain. (You have labored on it since. 'Tis a ponderous chain!) This morning, I wonder how long my chain is today. Have I labored on it enough, or should I add a few more heavy links? You see, I read a book that listed the price on our bodies of an unforgiving life. A doctor listed the symptoms, and I found my own problems listed there.

Traumatic events, either physical or emotional, can forge a prison of emotional and physical symptoms. However, what if in not forgiving I was able to forge a chain out of those prison bars that left me more confined than the original condition? Jesus healed the injuries, broke open the prison bars, only to find me confined by my own chain forged patiently over the years out shame and guilt. As of this morning this is but a working theory, but could it be the answer?

The truth revealed during prayerful introspection may be painful. When Marley's ghost displayed its chains there were no simple latches but heavy locks without keys along the length of cash boxes and ledgers. When we forge our own chain, we do not add in quick-release latches or leave spaces in the forged links for easy removal. As a welder will tell you, if you apply a hot cutting torch to one end of a metal link the heat will be transmitted quickly to the other end. Getting out of this chain may be painful! I trust that Jesus will lead me out of this thing as gently as possible.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beating An Emotional Problem With A Physical Stick

Happy 12/12/12! I just had to put that bit of geek lore in there. Most of you will be somewhat unimpressed with the interesting date. I can sympathize with that. After all, it's not like everyone can win the lottery today. For most of us, this will simply be another day. However, a major change today would make for easy remembering of the date. I wonder how many couples set the date for this date? Imagine the horror twenty years down the road when one of them cannot remember the date!

In the old days, a group of fellows beat themselves to cleanse their spirits. We tend to laugh at their efforts. Wouldn't beating your body up make a problem worse instead of better? After we stop chuckling, a certain truth may enter our minds. Have we not done the same in some similar way? Perhaps one of us grew up with an emotional problem, and then denied healing by eating too much to add the problem of obesity to the first problem. You may have found a different method to physically punish your own body for an emotional problem. I'm there with you, many or all of my physical problems may be from beating the emotional problem with a physical stick in a manner of speaking. Like the proverbial flogging of the dead moose (It's a northern proverb.), we have beaten the poor body senseless while standing in the way of healing the emotional one. Maybe. We need to take this up with God, for not all physical problems come from emotional roots.

Take up the position of the prayer warrior, and seek God's wisdom in this. Get quiet in your prayers and listen for the Spirit's guidance. But, believe and be prepared for applying the action part of our faith to the problem.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Content With Now

Good morning! I tried to go through today without complaint, and found that I had already done so. How can I be content with what God has provided now, when I cannot start the day without a complaint about something? We may want to begin with gratitude. Of course, we can start with the good things, and that is a very good place to begin our grateful thanksgiving, but what about that thing we complained about?

It is difficult. Thanking God for the pain in the neck we woke up with or the big bill sitting on the counter is not going to come naturally. The pain reminds us that we are still alive and able to spread the good news of Christ's salvation. The big bill means that you received something valuable. Find a reason to be grateful; learn to be content in the now. We might try to remember that this latest tribulation we feel in the now was promised by Christ. We might thank God that our Father in Heaven cares enough to test our faith. After all it could be worse, if your faith is never tested and God leaves you alone, where do you suppose you will spend eternity? Hmm, I think I am a bit more content now.


Monday, December 10, 2012

The World Seems To Overwhelm

Good morning on this cold day! Scoffers in this day seem to have powerful voices. You see them on the television and hear them on the radio. The voices of scoffing speak to a large audience. The pulpit of scoffing starts from a high place speaking down to the masses. Our little voices seem small and weak in comparison to the talking heads scoffing at our belief.

Rules are heaped upon you. If you teach, then you cannot speak of your faith to the students. At your workplace proselytizing becomes a dirty word. Church things are to be spoken only in church. Matters of belief do not belong in business. You have heard them all and wondered, "How am I supposed to witness in this?"

The world seems to overwhelm us with rules, scoffing voices, and other assaults...and you thought we lived in a land free of persecution. Yes, we may have picked up something like that from another Christian. I have heard it, that talking head on the Christian program telling us how nice we have it in America. The persecution is not physical in the sense of jail and killing, so the devil must be leaving us alone here in this land of privilege. Hmm, why do I feel the attack in my mind and body then? Why do you not feel as though the Christian life is one of ease and perfect tranquility? If we have it so great, why do so few want to believe in Jesus?

Good news! The best witness is a life lived in Christ. You may not be able to open your mouth, or type an e-mail speaking of Christ at your workplace, but people do see you. The Christian life speaks without words as the world compares one to another. Why are you content in your position? Why do you thank God for all that you have now? Why did that fellow build up another worker in place of promoting himself? Why didn't she use that mistake by her coworker to bring about an advancement in her career? The world will ask these questions and much more when they see the Christian life on display.

Why did you and I forgive the wrong done to us in the workplace? Because Jesus told us to, and we love to do what Jesus says! Jesus also told us one thing that applies when the world seems to overwhelm with its loud voices - John 16:33: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Praise God for the new day!

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Faith and Hope Milk Company

Good morning on this cooler Friday! Some of you, including me, are old enough to remember milk deliveries to your home. While I delivered the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in part of our little town, the milkmen ran from their truck to each home with fresh milk and other dairy products. This service stopped sometime in my youth, but in some parts of the country it is enjoying a bit of a revival. Those who remember might be given to missing this service now and then; it was a fine thing that is lost to the past in most communities. Today, let us start up this thing again, but we have a smart milk man.

Somehow, and you and I cannot figure how, this milkman delivers fresh each morning exactly what we need. Little or large containers marked with the company brand name - Faith and Hope! - arrive each morning right on time. Behind the scenes, this milkman and his company have their cows and the creamery, and a fleet of vehicles that is well maintained and replaced regularly. All the things that we don't see provide that fresh dairy goodness each and every morning. On Saturday, the milkman delivers enough for two days because even the milkman deserves a day of rest. Then we look over at the neighbor's house.

Why, the children are healthy, their house is practically a mansion, and they enjoy a boat, camper, cars, and various other expensive toys. And you never see the milkman delivering there. A salesman shows up at your door one day. Yes, we are pretending milkmen still deliver, so we might as well throw in a door-to-door salesman as well. This salesman is a sharp one. He begins by casting just a little doubt on that dairy service.

"A friend told me he saw one of their trucks broken down by the side of the highway one morning on his way to work. I wonder how many people didn't get their milk that day?"

A seemingly innocent question tacked onto that rumor of doubt gets you to thinking. Hmm, you wonder, he only delivers just enough, what would happen if guests show up the next day, and wouldn't that be the day he breaks down too! You visit the neighbor's place, not to spread the good news about your milkman, but to see how they get by without Faith and Hope. A bit of snooping about - doesn't everyone do that when they have the opportunity - and, voila, you find containers of milk, cheese, butter, and even real cream stored in the fridge. Suddenly, the neighbor catches you in the fridge!

"Oh, you found the cream! You must try some of my new cheesecake! Here, I'll cut you a big slice, and have some of this real whipped cream on top!"

Well, that is that, no problem. But you feel a bit guilty because you should be putting in a good word about your milkman instead of gulping down the other stuff. After all, did we forget that our milkman is the best of friends? You sit down with the neighbor and... does it seem as though that salesman is around somewhere? A hint of his aftershave or something? Anyway, the cheesecake is delicious, much better than your own from that dairy service. The rewarding taste is right there on the tongue, no waiting! You relish the dessert and think how nice it would be to get some of that cream, what was that brand again, Carnal Pleasure? Kind of an odd name that. You promise to come visit again, and head off to look at your rather plain looking house and its empty fridge. The milkman didn't deliver much today, how did he know?

A few hours later, you think once more to go out and get some of that cream, only one problem - the neighbor's cheesecake or the whipped cream or something does not seem to agree with your system. Sweat breaks out on your forehead, and that dreaded feeling of cramping up comes over your guts. Aagh, it's been a long time, since your first trip away from home in fact when you tried something deliciously similar to the neighbor's cheesecake in that town where you thought no one from home ever came. That dessert was good, but it was never worth this!

Each day we get just enough faith and hope to make it through one day. We are tempted to put in a tank out back that we can tap anytime we want. We might even ask the Lord for enough faith to get through our entire life, but like manna, faith seems to have an expiration date. We need fresh faith each day for only that day. Our hope is in Christ, and we don't get a portion for tomorrow or next week, we get our provision for just today. And what better delivery system than that? After all, we don't know how much faith and hope will be needed tomorrow.

Trust in God, and take you portion of faith and hope for today!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Where Was Paul?

Winter may start today, or perhaps on Monday, or we may have another cooler spell followed by another winter without winter. Today, for some reason, I wondered where Paul was during that Passover when Jesus was tried and crucified. A lot of people came to Jerusalem for the holiday each year, and not only Jews. The Romans probably beefed up security at that time, and many merchants would gather, as merchants do when a crowd forms, to sell their wares at inflated prices. Paul may have been studying under the Sanhedrin during that time and witnessed the show trial, or he may have been too young to travel. Did Paul gather with the crowd before Pilate and shout for the blood of Jesus? Maybe, but I think Paul would have admitted to that in his writings if he had been there. What I like about Paul's writing is not where he was or was not, but his openness.

Paul struggled in his faith at times. Paul doubted at times. Paul came from a past he was at times proud of and at times ashamed of. Paul did not always do what he knew was right. How do I know all of this? Easy, everyone who ever bore the name of Christian because of rebirth in Christ has done the same things. Before meeting Jesus, Paul was sure of his mission, confident in his education, and fond of doing the right thing as he saw it. We may have felt much the same before our rebirth. Then Jesus laid Paul out on the road and started over with a new man. This is not to say that Jesus did not use parts or all of Paul's past life.

Paul had a first class education in the scriptures, but in Christ he would read with new eyes and the Holy Spirit to help and guide him. On the other hand, Paul would now call a whole different group of people friends and brothers. His former colleagues probably called him traitor, enemy, fool, and other derogatory names, at least when they weren't selecting rocks by weight and suitability for throwing. Paul's life changed dramatically from the day Christ met him on the road to Damascus. Your life, my life, and others who have been reborn in Christ may not experience quite so much change on the surface, or we may not experience it quite so quickly as Paul did. However, while we wonder about Paul, the Holy Spirit is working us over, and life is going to change for us.

God bless you on this day!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Take Me To The Other Side

It's early, or at least it was early when I woke up this morning. I watched part of a show about natural healing last night. One complaint about modern society is that we all go to bed too late. I immediately put a remedial plan into action and went to bed. Of course, I woke up at 0336 this morning feeling ready to go. I think I'll take the hit today and leave my bedtime alone. Well, maybe take the hit with a nap this afternoon to ease the blow. This morning, I wondered about the other side.

Yes, we do want to go to the other side of death and be with Jesus, but that isn't the other side I was thinking about today. A friend on Facebook complained about a restaurant closed on Monday. Okay, but I know the other side of that particular business. I recall my years working at a small restaurant that opened every day with the exception of Christmas and New Year's Day. We also opened at 0500 and closed at 2100 or later. I can recall the winter nights when no one came in for three hours while all manner of fuel and electricity was wasted, and then the indignation when that customer squeezed in at the last moment before closing and wondered why so much was shut down. Later in life, I walked around to the other side and knew the 'yikes!' feeling of a small crew boss when we made it to the restaurant just a little too late and I couldn't feed the men a good meal that night. Yes, the younger ones were good with McDonald's, but good leaders want to do better than that after a hard day's work. So, what's all this other side stuff about?

We are blessed, or at times cursed, with a certain power today. When we complain, we can complain to hundreds or thousands of people at once. Gone are the days when a complaint launched on a spur of the moment to one friend might spread more quickly than we would like after some careful reflection. Even back in the good old days of word of mouth we came to realize that a good look at the other side might have prevented us from complaining in public, but now the public really can be the entire public. Time for careful reflection is further compromised by almost instantaneous access to the Internet on our various wireless and cellular devices. Our prayer for today might be that the Lord would take us to the other side for just a bit before we air a complaint or comment.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

All Of Our Actions...

I want to give large amounts again, but how do I put action to that faith to make it more than just an idle wish? To make it more difficult, I read a novel by a woman who lived a rather interesting life. Born a Jew, she became a Catholic. The Bolsheviks stole her family fortune in the Soviet Union, but she fled to France. She married and became a successful novelist and the mother of two children, but then the Nazis stole her life in Auschwitz. Her writing is engaging, yet the letters her husband wrote to friends and officials in an effort to gain her release from the concentration camps engage the emotions on a deeper level. Her story does not end in Auschwitz because seventy years later, I can read her work and wonder: Will all of our actions done in faith come to nothing?

Why does God allow the powers of the world to overcome those who believe in His Son? I do not know the answer to that, but I have faith that this life we see is not the end of the story. Revelation does not end with the Antichrist, and Genesis is but the beginning of the Christ story. The description of Eden, paradise on Earth if you will, is only a tiny part of the first book of 66 found in the Bible. After that, everyone suffers and dies while their actions come to nothing. Wow, if that's all I can see in the Bible, I probably should just give it up right now.

The problem is in thinking that my actions have to mean something or last for posterity or somehow change the world for the better. If we could ask David, Abraham, Paul, Isaiah, John, and the many other heroes of the faith what their actions meant to history, one and all would correct us in thinking that the credit belongs to him. Each man offered his action to the Lord, often with reluctance, and God did the big, wonderful works that we read of in the old stories. All of our actions are but offerings to God that He can use for great works. God writes the end of this story, and our respective parts in it may seem to have accomplished little or nothing. As the boy brought his small offering to the Lord, the disciples asked "What is that among so many?" That is the question we might ask as we struggle through each day, but the answer is the same: Watch Jesus and you will see!


Monday, December 03, 2012

We Shall Ever Be With The Lord

You do not look fit for the Lord's presence this morning, and neither do I. How can such unlovely creatures in our spirits be ready for the Lord to take us home to be with Him forever? Each of us will spend time preparing our face and body to meet the world this morning, but how many of us can apply a base coat of soul makeup to prepare for the Lord's arrival? In Thessalonians, Paul reminds us to comfort each other with the promise that we shall ever be with the Lord. 'Ever' does not start tomorrow after the Lord has whitewashed us in the stream of the eternal cover up. 'Ever' began when we surrendered our life to Jesus. Of course the old hymn has the answer for us - what shall take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Praise the Lord! God does not go by how we look to each other, or by what we think in our private hearts. We feel the urgings of the flesh, and are tempted to sin by the Devil and his minions. God sees us in pristine condition, cleansed and made whole by the blood of His Son on the cross. We walk in this sinful world in a constant cleansing by the Holy Spirit. We sin and ask forgiveness; we are tempted and call for strength to resist, and we hurt and call for help in this life. The Spirit is here with us, disappointed and grieved by our sins, but also sanctifying and strengthening. The Spirit is here to comfort us when we are in pain. Ever has begun for you and me.

We often speak of the Spirit being 'there' with us as though the Lord's Spirit will meet us somewhere up the road when things become difficult. No, the Holy Spirit is HERE with me at all times, just as He dwells in you at all times. We are never left alone to face the world and its powers on our own. Praise God for the Comforter - He is HERE now!

God bless you on this new morning!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Ahh, December!

Not everyone greets the last month of the year with joy and hope. When Christ first sees us coming to Him, it could be a bit like December coming in with a blizzard just after the mail arrives with a stack of bills. Jesus could look at our sin and problems as a terrible burden and shut the door in our faces. However, it isn't like that at all. Jesus comes to our door, knocks, and enters in to dine with us. The burden we have is gently taken, and his yoke is given. Right-o! And then we fight stupidly to get our old burdens back right after dinner.

Not everything from our old lives goes away when we are reborn. The lusts of the flesh seem like a burden we would gladly part with, but then again we can cling to those a bit too. What is difficult is understanding that this thing might work our for our good in the end. How can God use a lust for power, money, fame, or sex to work out for our sanctification? I cannot tell you the answer to that, because I am in the same boat with you. This is one of those things we must fight in the strength of Christ and have faith that like Paul says, "All things work together for good to those who love God." Would it not be better to just take away that inclination to the lusts of the flesh? Only in my imperfect and worldly-trained view. Trusting in God means trusting in His view.

Here's another Saturday thought: Pride stands tall and strong in its own might. We know the most proud is Satan and his legions. However, who does God outfit with armor and a sword and send to face this dreadful power? An army of sheep. Pride grooms itself with the strength of opponents conquered or faced. Think of the consternation when Pride sees God sitting back and letting an army of armored sheep take the fight to the enemy. How insulting! Think of God's magnificent sense of humor! The sheep also know that the Good Shepherd is with them. One day our Shepherd will enter the fight from the front, and then the enemy will not see sheep or the Shepherd, but the King of kings and the hosts of Heaven in full warrior mode behind Him. We look forward to that day.


Friday, November 30, 2012

No, You May Not!

Good morning on this fine Friday. We are allowed much in the Christian life as long as we do not violate our tender conscience. However, are there things not allowed? Sure, you may not think less of Jesus simply because you feel poorly in the morning. You may not take the Law set down by God lightly. Our Savior suffered on the cross for all those sins, let us not disappoint Him as well. How about, no you may not ram a legalistic code of behaviour down our throats?

If there is one thing the stories of ancient Israel should show us is that the 'no, you may not' code of legal behavior cannot be kept by us. We fail, and we fall into sin more than any of us would care to have published. Jesus told the disciples that the Law had to be kept in the heart as well as in action. We don't stand a chance of saving ourselves. So, God also sent His Son to the cross to pave a better road for us to take - that of Yes! You may.

We are allowed to love one another, in fact we are commanded to do so. We are allowed to accept the free gift of salvation in Christ. We are allowed to do good things to those who have hurt us. We are even allowed to do good things to those who aren't expecting it. Hold it, back up a bit... we are allowed to accept a free gift of salvation? Yes, you may! Doesn't that mean we gain eternal life even though Jesus paid the price? Certainly, Jesus didn't need to save Himself, for once in your miserable life take the gift and say, 'Thank you!'.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Someone Suffers As I Suffer

What sort of encouragement is it to talk about suffering? Jesus told us that we would suffer in this world. So, I guess my answer would be that Jesus did it! If my Lord Jesus can speak of suffering and warn us that we will have many trials in this life, then I am not above speaking on suffering too. Does everyone suffer though? It sure seems like some folks have it easy in this life.

Every once in a while, I grow weary of receiving messages from ministers of big churches who don't seem to have any problems. Week after week, they mount the steps to the pulpit and come down on sin, praise the Lord, and speak of how everything I'm doing is wrong. For his part, the minister has a steady job, a good income, a family around him, money to spend from his book sales, and no worries, uh... mate! Of course, that is nothing but a perception from my seat far away.

When Jesus warned of suffering to come, I can rest assured that no one is escaping. Every believer in Christ can be improved upon through suffering under the tender care of Jesus, and we know that Jesus does not shirk His duty. Even when we arrive in Heaven, we will find the trees with leaves for the healing of the nations. God wouldn't put those leaves up there just for show. The problem may be in that Puritan strain that comes down from the earliest days of our nation. We don't want to show others that we are suffering, and everyone puts up a strong front to achieve this.

The problem is that we are weak like little sheeps and suffering along with our Lord. Paul spoke of boasting not in his own strength but in his weakness so that God is glorified. I know that if that minister on TV believes in Jesus then he is suffering. I know that you are suffering, even when I do not know the specifics of your suffering. You know that I am suffering, even when I don't spell out every little thing in the devotional. We don't have to have a front facing each other - we are all suffering. What a dreadful witness though. Come join us, we all like to suffer together!

Jesus gave us much more than suffering. The trials in this life are necessary, but Jesus also gave us peace, joy, and His steadfast love. He develops in us endurance, patience, self-control, and lovingkindness. In all suffering we have the strength of our Lord bearing us up. Lest we forget, Jesus also died to give us grace that delivers us from sin's just reward.

Trust in God to bring you through this suffering.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Place Where There Is Nothing

Hrmm, I hoped that waiting for breakfast would bring inspiration, but I'm still trying to run the motor on an empty tank. Can God work through you and me in the place where we have nothing to offer Him? When did we start thinking that we have something to offer God? I could see that if a billionaire came to God and offered all of his money, maybe God would take notice. Just think of all the good God could do with a billion dollars. Nope, God doesn't need a pile of cash from us, no matter how much it is. Someone with a special talent then? Perhaps the only person in the world capable of making some thing that we all need could offer his wares to God. Nope, God created the Christ child without a man's help, why would He need any of us to make something for Him?

You may think that you have nothing to offer God, and you would be correct. I have nothing to offer God. We have nothing put together that God needs. Yet, when we come to the cross in repentance, God accepts all of you and me. After we have come to the place where there is nothing, we then have something to offer God - our very own sinful selves. All of the things we value in this world - wealth, health, and material junk - God may use, but He has no real need for more of that stuff. Instead God accepts the sick, the weary, the sinful, the bankrupt business man, the alcoholic in the gutter, the criminal in prison at her wits end for how to live a life in the outside world, and even you and me when we seem to have nothing to offer.

Give it up to God, and let Him take it from here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Final Day?

I passed the school marquee this morning and saw listed: Dec 20 - Final Day. Yikes! I was sure that the Mayan calendar ended on December 21st. I thought I had one more day! I wondered this morning how many people think they have one more day. Traveling their life's path down the wide and smooth path to destruction, they see the church and the Christian, hear of the wonderful works of Christ on their behalf, but fail to believe because they are convinced that they have one more day.

We can see today, or at least we think we can see today. We have plans and duties to perform. The chores must be done and the personal maintenance (aka 'war paint') must be applied. You might have a date or an appointment or two. We think we can see today pretty well. However, tomorrow is often assumed even when we are aware that Jesus said we don't know what tomorrow will bring. How much more does the casual sinner on the wide path to eternal destruction assume that tomorrow will always be there for him? How many, I wonder, will arrive at the judgment seat saying, "I thought I had one more day!"

We do not know that tomorrow will come for us. In that we are blessed, for if tomorrow does not come on this earth, then we will be with Jesus in paradise. That should increase our compassion for those who do not have this good news in their heart. How terrible to stand before God and realize that there is not one more day for you to decide. The final day is not one of decision, or even to say goodbye for many of us. The final day will pass just like many before it, and then it will be too late for decision. Better by far for us to make the choice for Christ right now.


Monday, November 26, 2012

My Best, In The Strength of Christ

Aaagh! I don't know if you will find this under the deluge of Cyber Monday e-mails, but I will do my best in the strength of Christ to faithfully write it. After a record buying weekend, they still want more? Yes, the world is fully tuned to more. You need more money to meet the bills this month; that Cyber Monday advertiser needs more customers to pay off its debts; the government needs more tax money to shovel into the insatiable fire it has going, and everywhere we look is the striving for more and more. All of the money I have earned in this life has always added up to one thing: not quite enough to do everything I wanted to do. You see no matter how much I earned on the paycheck, my wants played that game of more better than I could play the money game. God satisfies the needs, but my wants come from the flesh. In finance, my best was never quite good enough. So I turned to God and poured out my wants to Him.

As I tumbled down the road to poverty, lo and behold, the wants returned with reinforcements! What is up with that? The funny thing, other than my wants rather tenuous connection with fiscal reality (Maybe I'm qualified for some sort of government spending job?), is that God did not answer all of my wants by simply providing from His limitless storehouse. In many cases, God satisfied my want by removing or toning down the wanting. I do not have to get back into a company where I strive for more money each year and fall into deep despair when I cannot get that next promotion or raise. Life should not be a continual striving after money. Do we minister to God or to Mammon?

Before everyone runs out on this busy Monday to quit their jobs, what is the answer to our provision in this world? My best is not good enough to meet even the standard of the world, but someone we know has overcome the world. My best is weakness, but my best in Christ is a different story. The strength of Christ is available to us to endure if a job is a trial in our present circumstance. We have faith that where we stand now is not God's final word on the matter. A career field may not be all you had hoped a few years back when you started the new job. A company that seemed so caring may have grown into just another corporate entity out to control costs, and made it clear that you are nothing more than one of those costs. In fact, this entire world is not God's final word. We have a glorious future in Christ, and today may not seem very glorious. However, our witness is at stake today. Do your best in the strength of Christ to perform your job with energy and gratitude. God will work on those wants either to fulfill or to tone down their yapping. Have faith in Christ on this fine Monday!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Faraway Picture of Beauty

I hope you are enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend. For some folks this weekend is nothing but extra work and they may find it difficult to celebrate. Another may find this hard to understand as he enjoys four days of eating, shopping, and relaxing. Today, both of them may be looking at a faraway picture of beauty and wondering just how nice life would be over there. For you that picture may be a cityscape at night. For me a countryside with only a house or two. For others, the picture may be somewhere in between. Forest, clouds, blue sky, plains, desert, river, ocean, and many other locations figure into our picture of beauty that we do not have. The picture on my monitor is from Sweden this morning, so that makes it doubly difficult to leap into.

The one thing that our pictures of beauty lack is of course, us. We are not there, we don't live there, and we may or may not have been there in our lives. In fact, the yearning for faraway places is more likely when we haven't been there. We don't know the people; we don't know the weather, other than that idealized and sanitized picture we are staring at, and we don't know what it feels like there in that most beautiful place. If we look at a winter picture, the actual temperature is probably much colder than the one in our minds. Should we be perfectly content just where God has placed us? Yes and no.

We know for one thing that every home here on Earth is but temporary for us. The faraway picture of beauty beckons to our hearts because we place our best ideas of heaven on it. We adjust the temperature to suit, ignore the possibility of biting bugs, take off a little humidity from the top of that river valley, add a bit to the desert scene, tone down the sun just a bit on that beach, and make other little adjustments to our ideal image. If God suddenly placed us in that picture, we would eventually find the downside to our image. It isn't that the place is bad, just that no place on this planet is perfect. God saved perfect for Heaven, and we cannot go there yet. However, we should also learn to be content right where we are at this time.

Yearning for other places, you might find the means to travel to many of them. You would with experience find some you like better than others, but you may not have time to develop those personal connections that God wants you to establish as a part of your mission. For those of us who somehow think a new place will solve this problem or that other one, we might find the opposite is true in some places. More than one person would never go back to some place because he 'drank the water' and now associates the place with horrible suffering. Even if the place is the best on Earth, we might inadvertently ruin it for someone else by our very presence.

Yikes, maybe I better shut up this morning before I ruin your Saturday. You probably had to read way too many Black Friday ads already this week. Dear God, please teach us to be content in this place and in the life you have given us.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Prayer IS Participation

Good Friday morning! I'm not sure why a big shopping day should be called 'black', but here it is the supposed biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. I guess if the retailers enjoy a successful Friday, then they will be in the black for the year. Many people got up early today in our little town. I do not know whether for shopping or work, but they were moving around early this morning. I'm all for the day though, at least as long as no one forces me to participate. While you are getting those good deals this morning, I'll stay home and pray for you to get the best possible price on your Christmas presents or the goodies you buy for yourself today. Let us all not forget to be grateful to God as well. Thanksgiving does not end on Thursday night for those who believe in God's wonderful providence.

Why, may I ask myself, do we tend to think that praying is not participating? Who is better placed to act with full knowledge and the greatest wisdom than God? When you or I come to God in prayer, we participate in whatever and with whomever we are praying. The other person may not be present with us in the prayer and may have no idea he or she is being prayed for at the moment. God, as we know, is present everywhere. We can have no better connection with each other than to pray in Christ's name for that loved one far away. Jump in and participate! Enjoy the day from your prayer closet.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peace, Joy, and Thanksgiving!

A great good morning to you on this Thanksgiving holiday! May you and your family know and feel the blessings of Christ Jesus on this day. A cold front is blowing in this morning, perhaps you and I can start a front of our own blowing through the land. A front of gratitude might shake the world if enough people join in the prayers with a grateful attitude.

Thank God for Peace. Yes, we do have areas at war around the world, but much of the world is at peace. We do not forget those serving overseas in our nation's defense, but we give thanks for the many at peace today. Joy is not an everything's perfect circumstance, but a belief in the promise that one day all will be healed and made right as Jesus brings us to Himself forever. We live in the now, but we also live with God's great promise in Christ. Thank God our sins are forgiven!

Thanksgiving is a time to set aside the striving and give thanks to God. You will hear many expressions of thanks today, but make sure that yours are directed to the Great Provider and author of our faith. Give thanks to God for even those things that you may not be thankful for on most days. One day, God may let us know the reason we should be thankful for that painful or hurtful thing in our lives. For now, we give thanks in faith to God our Father.

Grace, peace, and gratitude to those who bear the name of our Lord Jesus Christ on this day!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tis The Day Before Gratitude

Good morning as we eagerly await the turkey dinner, or the kickoff for that big football game, or for the relatives to arrive, or whatever you associate most with Thanksgiving. The message the church has preached for some time now is that giving thanks to God should come first. We don't always remember that first. Food, fun, friends! the flesh calls out to us and its message is very loud at times. Those things are not at all bad when given their proper places. Today, let us remember to thank God for all the preparation that is going on already. Traveling begins in earnest for many today, others will be preparing various foods, and a few may be running about trying to find something to impress the guests. Meh, leave the worries about impressing alone and just await your guests with thanksgiving to God.

On this day before the holiday, a lot of worries can intrude on our gratitude. Transportation, fuel, costs, do I have everything just right, is the house clean enough, what should I they know we are coming? That last one might be a cause for some concern. You don't want to show up to an empty house. Thank God that all these things will work out. God has not gone on holiday to some faraway galaxy. Resist the temptation to worry and enjoy the feast. Give thanks before you dig in, and give thanks afterwards too.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

There, I'm Done

Good morning and give thanks to God for the new day! What is a good country simile for those who read and study the Bible, but have never been born again in Christ? Why they are like that farmer who drove his tractor out to the field and drove back and forth over it without an implement attached to his tractor. The farmer comes into the house for his evening meal after a day of work and says to the wife, "There, I'm done!" Of course, the wife looks out at the field to see her husband's work, but sees a few tractor tire tracks as the only change. Yonder farmer can now quote scripture, perhaps has a few wise insights from the Proverbs, but he lacks understanding of the true message. "Wasn't that an interesting book!" he comments. His wife picks up the phone to call the mental health ward.

Okay, so you want to get technical: it's the Holy Spirit's job to plow the field and prepare it for planting. A sinner cannot possibly know how to get the seedbed ready. The farmer is not to blame; the Spirit didn't prepare him for the planting. Not a problem, our simile then becomes the poor dumb farmer driving back and forth over his fields with an empty planter. His new scriptural knowledge is like throwing seeds out the window of the tractor at the tilled ground while the big seed drill towed behind does nothing. In another way, the man has the gun and the holster, but no bullets. When the Adversary attacks, the man gets more protection by throwing his Bible at the enemy than from his scriptures.

To understand scripture, we must be born again. Without that rebirth in the Spirit, we gain an intellectual knowledge of the scriptures but fail to see the saving message. In that condition, we become like those very knowledgeable Pharisees with their spiritual blindness as the Son of God they looked for their entire lives stands before them in a human body speaking the words of life they cannot hear. Praise God, you are not like that. Read your Bible and understand. Seek out God in the morning and ask Him for wisdom and understanding.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Let Me Glorify You This Morning, Lord

Good Monday morning! Sometimes it is easy to speak or write in order to glorify one's self. On the other hand, to set out to glorify God may come with more difficulty. Why else do so many artists sing secular holiday songs as opposed to songs that bring to mind the Son of God for whom the holiday is named? As Christians we have a built in way to glorify God - simply tell of what Jesus has done for us. Our witness and our changed life are the best and most ready methods to glorify God in this dark world.

In some cases we must go out of our way to witness, but most of the time we have an audience whether we realize it or not. No, not Santa Claus, but the world at large will watch carefully those who call themselves by the name of our Lord Jesus. The books we read, the songs we listen to, and especially the language we us in conversation are all seen and heard by the world. Yes, some watch only to scoff and say, "Aha, aha!" (got that from a psalm) when we fall down, but others want to know what is this joy we have.

This week, Thanksgiving occurs on our calender and we celebrate with giving our thanks to the Lord. That begins what is known as the holiday season for everyone, but not everyone enjoys that time of celebration in the year. Lonely in their misery, some persons will not look forward to Christmas as we do. The joy and peace of Christ does not reside in the heart, and the despair of the evil one may overwhelm if we are not there to give an ear and a message of hope. Look carefully this year, you may be called to help out with your witness.

God bless you in this holiday week,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taking A Stand

No, literally! This week, about Thursday-ish, I took a stand for Christ in a manner of speaking. I moved my computer workstation where I type the devotional to a standing workbench. Day 3 of the new standing method of writing, and I'm not yet sure about this. A few tweaks would help, such as stabilizing the monitor so that my typing does not cause it to jump about like a small temblor is going on. I guess my typing fingers are heavier than I thought. I cannot yet stand all day, that kind of endurance will take some time to develop. I can tell you that this method cuts way down on the temptation to play solitaire. The effects from years of sitting to write may take some time to shake off, but many folks are doing this to improve their overall health. The cat decided to continue in his old ways.

The curse bears heaviest on those more responsible. The cat's health is not affected by a sedentary lifestyle nearly so much as mine is. A bear can hibernate for weeks at a time; the human body turns into a pile of jello if we don't get up fairly often. Nebraska is suddenly a fourth-quarter powerhouse. Strange things happen under this curse that sits heavily upon mankind.

As the long-time readers will know already, the Saturday devotional is not always entirely serious. Taking a stand for Christ is a serious business most of the time, but I don't think that God lacks a sense of humor. Quite the contrary actually, I believe that God laughs with us and that not all the things God laughs about are of my doing. Along with Calvin, I claim innocence in the noodle incident, firetrucks notwithstanding.

God loves you on this fine Saturday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The World Hates You

No, really. I realize that you are a likable type. People seem to enjoy being around you, organizations are glad to have you as a member (with the annual fee of course), and you cannot think of a single person who could be described as an enemy. Perhaps you are leading a sheltered life.

This is not mere wondering. Job was not always suffering. We know that before the four messengers arrived with their stinking pile of bad news, Job lived a protected and prosperous life. You may be living that way right now. However, when you and I declared our surrender to Christ, we became traitors in the eyes of the world's prince. Without God's sovereign protection, the enemy would come upon you in a rush and thrown down your puny human strength. I use 'you' because I have been thrown down more than once when depending upon my own strength, so I can speak from painful experience. Only when I call out to the Savior can I come back with a spirit of power, of love, and with a sound mind. (See 2 Timothy 1:7)

We are sheltered from the full might of the world's dark powers. But the wonderful thing is that we are sheltered by the might of our Lord Jesus. We may call Him shepherd, but to the wolves of the enemy He is a terror and a scourge. Jesus does not appear to our adversaries as the kind, patient, and lowly sheep herder, but rather as the angry Almighty. Jesus hates the lies of the devil, and retribution is coming, count on that!

Praise the name of Jesus this fine Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank You For Another Opportunity, Lord

Good morning on this day a week before the big Thanksgiving holiday. Yes, the fourth Thursday comes on the early side this year; we will have one more Thursday even after Thanksgiving this year... and why am I blabbering about that today? Talk about your useless facts. Every day is a new opportunity to give thanks to God for all that we enjoy in this life, and better to give thanks for what we can expect in eternity with Christ Jesus! Every day we also have the opportunity to spread the good news of our Lord. Each day we can sing a song of praise, speak a prayer of blessing for someone in need, and give to help others. We have much opportunity to be thankful for in this day.

Did you get up this morning thanking God for the new day? Or did your aches and pains jump on board first before you could even give a 'Thank you' or grab a shirt to wear? Yeah, me too, but that is no reason to forget to thank the Lord for this day. Perhaps our most honest thanksgiving this morning was for pain relievers in the medicine cabinet. Hey, thank the Lord for whatever gives you cause for praise and gratitude. I don't know why we have so many maladies that need pills and such these days, I just know that we are suffering in so many ways. Perhaps a belief in science without God causes two problems for every one that it solves. Give the glory to God and trust in Him first!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taking A Stand

Good morning as yet another 'bigger' person falls into scandal and drags a few others into the mud with him. It seems as though there is nothing quite like a position of trust these days to get a person into the worst sort of sin. It's a government problem this time, but the next may be a church, or a corporation, or right here in a small town. When the temptation to sin strikes, we may want to remember that all that is hidden will be revealed... not my foretelling, our Lord tells of this in Mark 10:26.

"Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known."

Just before that verse, Jesus speaks of those who are persecuted. We may wonder why those powerful disciples in Acts did not take a stand right there in Jerusalem. They raised the dead, spoke in boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit, and healed in miraculous ways, yet they fled when persecuted. Ah, but they had marching orders from the Lord! In Mark 10:23, Jesus said, "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another."

At times we may need to take a stand, but the Lord provided for the spread of His gospel in a manner that seems a bit cowardly to us. One thing we learn in military service is that what 'seems' does not matter when the order is given. Many things that we believe seem foolish to the world. Do you want to give up eternal life to seem wise by the world's standard? I didn't think so. In the end, when the power of the Antichrist is at its peak, believers will flee, stand, or fight depending upon their orders from God. The important part is not which action seems heroic or cowardly to us, but in obeying the command of our Lord. Take a stand to obey Jesus today!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's His Choice!

Good morning as we start the next day of the week, the one that doesn't start with 'M'. Did you take stock this morning and wonder how God could possibly love you? I did, and the same answer you need came to me - it's His choice. I know, you and me tend to look at God's love as some sort of overwhelming feeling that comes over Him and makes Him forget all the bad stuff. The Bible tells us something quite different though. God loves you and me while still knowing everything about us! Yes, all that we are, all that we will become in the grace of His Son, and most especially, all that we ever were and have done, God already knows and loves us. God's love must be based on His choice then, for He certainly knows the truth that we try to hide.

We each have stories from our past that we fear to share. We have thoughts from our present that we would just as soon God not hear. We fear for the future when we know that we should not. Try though we will to forget any of that and the Adversary is sure to bring it up for us. The Devil may use Mad Auntie Myrtle to bring up that story with an, "I remember that time you..." Or he may just send one of his darts that burn deep into the brain and make us tremble at the memory. However, we can fight back with the shield of faith by remembering one thing - God loves us and it is His choice to do so.

Have a wonderful day in God's love,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Much Better!

Good morning on this fine sunny day! I had a good, but quite cold walk this morning, praise God for a new day! The truth is a good thing to hold tight, but sometimes it shines with a painful clarity on our present condition. Yes, it may be true that you are ill this morning, but it may be much better to look to the healing power of Jesus. Yes, it is true that the forces arrayed against us in the spiritual realm are far beyond our strength. However, the power of our Lord Jesus is more than equal to all of the evil powers and principalities combined. How much better is it to dwell on that thought instead? I am weak, and thou [God] art mighty. Yes, a good thought overcomes a bad thought, but what about, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Much better for my peace when the estimate of my strength is not based on my strength alone, but on the overwhelming might of Jesus himself.

As we come to realize our weakness through the trial of our faith, we tend to look upon our imperfection with the perfectionist's eye. How bright the flawless diamond must look to the experienced jeweler when she first gazes solemnly on a ball of lint. With the perfection of the Law staring at our lint, we might feel a bit unworthy. However, God looks upon the perfection of His Son as He gazes upon those reborn in Christ. We dare not ignore our true condition, but at the same time let us remember what God sees in Christ Jesus. Now, look on your condition with your imperfection covered by the perfection of Christ. Much better! It may be that we once again have it backwards in this world. The true condition is what Christ has made us - the flawless diamond, and the temporary fuzz of that lint is what we see too much of in this life and is the part that will be washed away in God's perfect time.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Parade of Lights Devotional

Why Do We Call Jesus the Light?

Good evening, and that is still a cool sounding title! I attended both the coldest and the shortest parade in my young life tonight. The former certainly makes me grateful for the latter in that description. Two sheriff's vehicles, two floats, two lighted SUV's, and three fire trucks made up the entire parade, but I will say the floats showed a lot of imagination and effort. Interesting elf costume on one float, I rather hope she didn't take a chill. So, as this was the Parade of Lights, why do we call Jesus the Light?

For one thing, He said in John's gospel, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (8:12) Isaiah also foretold that those who walked in darkness would see a great light. We do not believe that this meant simply a bright moon one dark night. They were quite familiar with the moon back in those days and that would not have been a significant prophesy. This did not refer to streetlights, but something very special. Into the darkness of sin, a great light shone when Jesus came into the world. Today, we like to celebrate Christmas, the annual observance of Christ's birth, with lights. We also call Jesus the Light of the world, mostly because He said it first.

I won't keep you long tonight. I am still thawing out myself. Happy birthday to my fellow Marines this evening! God bless you all,


Can The Rules Save Me?

Good morning on this slightly foggy Saturday in the South Platte Valley! Tonight I should write one called the Parade of Lights Devotional. That sounds pretty cool, eh? We have a parade tonight that travels the 2 or 3 blocks of the main street here in Julesburg. Yes, I've been here just over 2 months and I'm still dropping the occasional smaller town joke. I'm a resident now, so I guess the jokes are on me whenever I do this. Perhaps there should be a rule about that? No, we have enough rules. Can the rules laid down in the Old Testament save me? Yes, actually there is one way.

Jesus said it once, but we tend to dismiss it. What? Dismiss a statement of our Lord Jesus, how dare we! Jesus said to be ye perfect even and your heavenly Father is perfect. But...but... but, I was born into sin, it seems too late to be perfect. Exactly, for those seeking a way to save themselves, Jesus gave them the one way, the one recipe for success that would work eternally. We just have to be perfect like God. Impossible? You bet it is. We need a way that will work for a bunch of born sinners. Jesus gave us that way too.

The born sinners must start over, we must in effect be born again. No other way will work for us. Jesus is that way. I'm guessing that by now you have discovered that you are not going to be perfect through your own efforts. If not, I'll pray for you because your task is beyond Herculean. I can't even memorize all the rules in the Law, much less keep every one for all of my life. Paul trained from his earliest youth to be a Pharisee and keep every law, but Jesus didn't accept that. He won't accept my brand of perfection either, or yours. Only one way remains to become acceptable to the Lord - we must be born again.

Praise God for Saturday!

Friday, November 09, 2012

The New Savior Self-Defense System

Action movies often come with an action star. No really, that does seem to be part of the formula. In some cases, this action star comes with a particular system of martial arts. As the system is martial, those systems all seem to have one thing in common - hurting people. This is not to say that the experts in these systems desire to harm anyone, just that whether in offense or defense the system of moves and blows is designed to cause damage to the human body so that the opponent is incapacitated, hurt, or hopefully only as a last resort, killed. Today seemed like a good time to introduce a new system for our defense in these tough times.

As is the case with every system, we start with the basic position. Take your hands and stretch them out flat, fingers together and thumbs folded. Now, sitting, standing, or kneeling, the body position is not that important here, place those hands together and address your Heavenly Father. We'll call this the prayer position. Some of you may have to make adjustments due to age or arthritis, but try to get those hands together. Do this often throughout your day, talking with God in every kind of situation. Why is this the basic position for our system?

We live in a peaceful land for the most part. Unless you have reason to walk the tough side of town or the wrong side of the tracks today, you and me will probably not be physically threatened in any way. However, we are under constant attack from those powers and principalities that Paul warned us of in his letter to the Ephesians. Temptations, lies, slander, scoffing, and other forms of attack will be heaped upon us today. Our best defense is in taking our needs and desires to God our Father.

After we have mastered the prayer position, let us take up the helping position. Take those hands, one or both, and extend them out to help another person. Hold open a door for a person today. Male or female, younger or older, it doesn't matter when helping. As a part of this position, practice your resistance training too. Resist making some pert comment such as 'age before beauty' to a senior citizen. After all, in God's eyes that person may be both more beautiful and of senior position to you. More advanced resistance training: resist the comeback that crosses your mind when the other person makes that smart remark. Bless them instead.

Take a hand and place it on a chair for your cubicle neighbor to keep the chair from rolling back on him. Did he look at you suspiciously? Hmm, have a bit of history there to overcome? Did he remember that stunt you pulled many years ago? Yes, the world does remember those things forever it seems. Some positions may require much practice before we are trusted to use them in the workplace.

Related to the helping position is the giving position. In this, the left hand does not know what the right hand does as we extend it out to give away our money, time, effort, and resources to a person in need. Again, continue in your resistance training by pushing away that thought of reward or acclaim for the act of giving, Instead, give the glory to God in prayer by returning to the basic position after practicing the giving move. Remember also that there is no correct or minimum amount when giving. Give when you can and in whatever form or amount that you can.

We can practice many other moves in this system such as the Prostrate Humility, the Celebration Stretch, or the Thanksgiving Kneel. The great thing about this system is that those who cannot kneel, stretch, clasp hands, lay flat, bend in some ways, or any other physical disadvantage can still pray, give thanks, worship, and give the glory to God.

Enjoy the day in Christ,

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What Bloomin' Good Are You To The Kingdom?

Good morning as Winter Storm Brutus threatens the north country! I guess someone decided to start naming the winter storms this year. It could be useful for 'grampa' stories someday. This storm is supposed to track to the north of us, but we are to expect some cold weather from its passage. Today, let us take a little test. You are saved by Christ, but what good are you and me to the kingdom of God?

A large stack of numbers appears before you on the whiteboard. Can you add them up in a glance? Me neither, and after adding them up in the grade school way I would still need to check and recheck the total. Alright, how about a different area. Are you a real door knocker, a natural sales talent who can convince anyone of anything? Nope, in fact I hate the thought of doing that particular activity. Hmm, maybe another area. Does your singing voice soar to powerful notes that make congregations whisper 'amen' so as not to disturb the other listeners? No, my voice might make some folks say 'amen' at the end of a prayer, or more likely, ask the sound engineer to turn up the volume a bit, but I'm not going to win any of those talent show awards anytime soon. Powerful writing? Well, maybe in my case, but someone needs to read it. I can't write just for myself. Some of us do have a skill or talent to offer, but God can always do it better. So what good is any of us to the kingdom? Well, perhaps we should quit looking at my opinion or your opinion and get God's word on that.

To get you and me into His kingdom, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. Whoa, I don't know if my little offering is of much value, but the sacrifice God gave is certainly of paramount worth! Your employer may not show much value on your paycheck for your contribution to the company, but God certainly put a high price on us. We may not feel that our offering to the church is a great amount, but Jesus gave all to get us into His church. I'm starting to feel pretty valuable here! God would not pay such a great price for something of no value. We may want to take God's opinion before we call ourselves worthless.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

So You Did/Did Not Get Who You Wanted

The morning after dawns once more and whatever you would normally do on a Wednesday, you likely still must do today. Work, school, or play these things go on as they did last week with just a few less political ads. Alright, a whole lot less political ads. The analysis by the media and the rest of us will go on for some time, but as you have probably heard we re-elected President Obama. Perhaps in the hearts of many a certain stability was more desirable than the prospect of change. We can analyze and ponder until we turn funny colors, but the results will simply be in numbers of votes. As has been the case for the past several elections, the popular vote count is much closer than the electoral college, and there is no overwhelming majority in either the House or the Senate. We elected marijuana in Colorado to help y'all celebrate, c'mon over for a doobie! (My slang is probably out of date.) I wonder if the weed thing passed because enough people wanted to anesthetize their pain from all the political ads?

Once again, no matter whom you voted for, WE elected these men and women to represent us. Today, we may celebrate or mourn the results, but we can all get on our knees and pray for our nation. After that, set aside that tired old thing, "I didn't vote for that person!" and be proud that you had the right to vote and did exercise that right. Simply by holding a free election, we all won. God has truly blessed our land in allowing us to chose our leaders. God placed his wisdom in the founding fathers so that none of those newly elected leaders can take office today and demand that some group of people be tossed in jail. We tend to laugh at that in America, but examples from other places and times are not as far away as we might think.

God bless America! Another election is done. Do I celebrate the successful election or just that it is now over? Well, perhaps a bit of both.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

It's Voting Day!

Christians aren't political, right? Wrong answer puddin' buns! We are to submit to the governing authority and that means voting today. Most of you won't have to be reminded, but some may be looking at the choices and wondering, "What's the use?" Alas, Paul did not say submit if you like the choices. I arrived in my new state to find 16 pairs of candidates on the presidential ballot. There are choices and then there are the ones we have never heard of. Did you know that Roseanne Barr is on our ballot for president? And you thought the Republican and Democrat choices were troublesome.

Submitting to those things God has put over us sometimes requires a sacrifice on our part. Voting in some states is made easier through mail ballots, but others still must go to a polling place and join the lines. Online voting is still problematic, but I read that some of those persons displaced by Hurricane Sandy will get to try it out this year. We live in an age of increasing convenience, and that means less excuses for us. Oops, just heard the polls in the Central Time zone are open, time to vote for those of you out east a bit!

May God guide our nation's voters on this day!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Directions: Insert Money

God's great love goes out to you today. This morning while walking in the downtown area of our little town, I came upon a very basic set of instructions. The first one was: Insert Money. Obviously this didn't get vetted by some marketing department. It is likely in this town that no large chain owns the business and the sign was done by hand some evening at the owner's home. However, I thought that this instruction pretty much sums up the world we live in, at least in this nation and almost all others right now. Then another thought came to me: what if I have in the not nearly distant enough past sent up a prayer to God that basically said that very thing?

Dear Heavenly Father, I hold up this sign with my needs and desires, and could you please read this instruction back to me - Directions: Insert Money. Sounds very self-centered, but I have been guilty in so many words of doing just that. Like a marketing department, I might try to hide the last line behind something else like a 'please swipe card' instruction. That one doesn't sound like you are spending money, does it? Swiping a card sounds like you might be taking a card from the top of the deck in a game for your turn. Dear God, please swipe your card and proceed to fulfill my wants and needs, thank you! Now that you have been forewarned, it still sounds very self-centered with just a touch of assumption. There is good news in this though.

Learning that a problem exists between me and God is a big part of the battle with the forces of this world. Now, I can ask forgiveness, bring the problem before God, and ask for mercy and wisdom in this matter. God's love never left me, and His love will not leave you either. As we look away from our selfish interest and look up to God, we may see Him holding up a sign too - Directions: Trust in Me!

God bless you all on this great day in Christ!

Friday, November 02, 2012

I Don't Know How

Good morning on this breezy and overcast day. Today, I realize that I don't know how God is going to work out this life of His. Yes, I gave my life to Jesus, and this life belongs to Him now. When I worry and fret over how the bills will get paid, or whatever health problem is bugging me at the moment, or this other fear, or anything that is a part of this life, I forget that God bought me through the death of His Son on the cross. Since God owns my life now, God will provide for it and care for it as one of His most precious treasures. What do I base that on? The price He paid for it of course!

To us our most precious possession is this life we have. When our life is threatened, we fight hard to keep it. The harshest sentences in court go to those who take life. It may take years of destructive behavior before we realize that our life is better off given to God for safekeeping. After we make the decision to give up this life to God, we immediately start worrying over how He is going to keep it. A bit ungrateful that, maybe we have a few strings trying to cling to the deal. I've had my shot at saving myself and it didn't work out. I think it is time to step back and see what God has in store for this day in His life.

God bless you all in His own special way on this fine day,