Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Closer Than You Know

Good Tuesday morning! Demotions can be tough on a guy. Remember when Thor was a god, but then maybe just a demi-god? You may not remember that he got demoted to just a mere superhero after that. Later on he would have to join the Justice League because he used a tool in his work, and all tool-wielding superheroes had to be part of a union. Most of us never made it up to that lofty superhero status. We had to read the comic books and dream of what it might be like to fly with a big hammer. At that age, most of us wondered what it would be like to just pick up a hammer that large. Later in life, we can more easily relate to Thor's cousin from back east, Tsor. After a good Saturday move, I can feel a certain tsor-ness in my joints and muscles. That is about as close as I can come to superhero status. If the move is especially tough, I might even sound like Tsor's noisy nephews from that other side of the family no one likes to talk about, Kryin and Waylin. Most folks don't get along too well with Kryin and Waylin, I hear that Thor once threatened to shut them up with his hammer. This is not too different from the exasperated parent who states forcefully, "If you don't stop that cryin', I'll give you something to cry about!" Perhaps ol' Thor got demoted further.

In all the times I have cried out to God, I don't remember even once being threatened with something to cry about. Jesus even sent the Comforter to us. Life here is tough and for most of us it gets tougher as we get older. For a select few it gets easier, but we tend to say a few nice things about them and then plant 'em in the ground. We like to hear that others have it tough as they age too. Hearing the dearly departed go on about how nice things are on the 75th green of Heaven's Sandy Shoals gets a little old when a person still has to go to work on a Monday morning. Sometimes we wish God said more about Heaven in His Word, but maybe that wouldn't be so good as long as we are still suffering here on Earth. Too much going on about the joys of Heaven might cause a rise in folks trying to take the easy way out of this life. Too many of us might decide to just stay in bed until Jesus returns for us if we know too much about Heaven. It seems counter to what we think we know, but God may have been merciful in not telling us too much too soon.

By the way, if you join us for our Saturday (or any other day for that matter) moves, you may be closer to superhero status than you know. Moving a household is work, but very rewarding too. We have places for those who cannot lift and carry too. Don't be afraid to come for the next one!

In Christ,

Monday, January 30, 2012

What Does a Lost Sheep Offer?

Good Monday morning! Time to start the week again with a shout of joy to the Lord! Do you really mean to say that you did not arrive at work with a shout of joy this morning? Perhaps you are doing the wrong work, or, maybe you thought that you would get up and offer to do something for God today. From time to time, I may find in myself a tendency to offer God something. As though I am in a position to offer the Lord a favor or give to Him something that He does not already have. If I came to the cross to offer my all to the Savior, what is there left to give? And why is it that I think there is something I can do that the Lord cannot do for Himself far better? I suppose this thing comes from the constant admonition to serve the Lord. We must be about serving the Lord. We must offer our service to the Lord. After we hear statements like this enough, it is easier to understand how we can get our relationship to Almighty Providence a bit backwards. Truly there is nothing that I can do that the Lord cannot accomplish Himself better, faster, and with less waste. Most of the time, I cannot even claim to be a very good servant.

Selfishness, envy, and strife tend to cloud my service. What the Lord could do perfectly for Himself, I do imperfectly and I need His help to finish. With an eye toward a reward, I put myself into a task knowing that God has given me far more than I deserve already. In time, I come to wonder why God allows me a part in His kingdom at all. Even among my fellow humans there is surely a better servant than myself. But that isn't the right answer either, because God allows each of us a special part in His Church. When we look to our Lord Jesus, all of us come up short. I guess that once more it all comes down to God's great love for us.

There is nothing that I can do that God can not do better. And everything that I do, I must do in Christ who strengthens me. The point is not to try doing something for God, but to be available for God to work through me. Sometimes I come before God thinking that I have something to offer, but what can a lost sheep offer the shepherd except more work in finding and bringing back to the fold that same lost sheep?

Praise God for His love and providence!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Expect a Delightful Surprise

Good Friday morning! When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to allow Simon the Pomeranian on your lap, not to worry. Simon is not much more than a small poof of black fuzz with a couple of ears tossed in for good measure. Walking around in this big world trying to serve our Lord, we may not feel like much more than a footnote in human history, if that. How do I affect the trends of the world with my little voice. Especially given that my two cats don't often listen to me, much less the entire world. Praise the Lord, it may not be my job to shove the world an inch out of its orbit. In fact, I'm sure that God would prefer that I follow His plan, and walk in His footsteps, as He leads me along the narrow way that He has laid out for me in this life. Do I always see the footsteps ahead? No, that is where faith comes in.

I can make a good guess about what I may do tomorrow, but the smallest thing can change those plans utterly. One day I came home from a long trip for a certain employer, and I looked forward to a bit of a rest. Alas, the water heater in the apartment had rusted through the bottom and mold up to an inch high could be seen on the carpet and walls. My apartment reminded me a lot of a swamp I had come to know back in my Marine days. My plans and guesses about the weekend suddenly changed. We don't know what may or may not happen tomorrow. As Paul says, we see as in a poor mirror. Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (NKJV) If you must see for yourself like Thomas, you are not waiting on the Lord in faith. Thus, we cannot see or feel the substance of those things we hope for in Christ. Sound difficult? Yeah, it does to me too. When God says that He will provide for me and I look around and see no evidence or substance of this in the future, I get kind of scared.

Of course, I just went over the bit about how we cannot see tomorrow, and how things can change suddenly, and what faith is... and why do I think that God is going to provide evidence and substance that I can see anyway? If God handed us the master plan for life at birth, would we need faith to walk those steps? Hardly! Instead, we thank God for today, and we walk this day in faith for we cannot even see what the next hour will bring with absolute certainty. I can make plans for the day, and ask God to lead me in the making of those plans, but He may have a delightful surprise for me too! Yes, I do mean 'delightful'. For what reason do we always seem to think the next surprise in life is going to be dreadful?

Trust in God; live in Christ!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Share Some More

Good Thursday morning! What gives you joy? Many things can give a moment's pleasure. We can wish for other things that might seem to give the answer to our search for lasting happiness. There are more entertainment options in the world today than ever before and they can be imported almost instantly over the Internet or satellite from all over the world. But do any of them give us joy. Not just a little joy or happiness, but a lifelong abiding joy that is there even when we are hurting. I can always turn to God's word to find my joy again should I ever lose sight of it.

We enjoy many convenient ways to access the Bible these days. Could it be that God knows our time is short and that the Word is needed now more than ever? Send out the Word, one verse at a time if necessary, to your friends on social media. Give the Word as a gift in all of the formats we enjoy today. God has promised that His Word will not return to Him empty. That gives me joy in that I am never wasting my time by sending out a devotional, or blogging, or handing over a CD of the Bible as a gift, or using the many other ways we have to send some Good News to others. God's joy is one of those things that grows with sharing.

As a kid, if you shared your toys, you soon had less of them to play with. We didn't want to share. Imagine that same kid sharing and sharing, but instead of growing less that pile of toys grows each time he shares with another child. Inconceivable! Yet, the more we share God's Word, joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control, the more we have in our own lives. Amazing! I want more of the fruit of the Spirit, time for me to share and share some more!

Have a wonderful and sharing day in Christ,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Reason to Praise

Good Wednesday morning! Today the negative emotions are close to the surface. Anger, sadness, worry, hopelessness and the other members of that foul gang are right here ready to burst forth in an orgy of self-destructive thinking and complaining. We all have mornings or evening like that. Maybe not enough good sleep is the reason, perhaps something is bothering that God has not answered yet, or it might have something to do with the State of the Union speech and rebuttal last night. Whatever the reason we get up ready to be grumbly hateful and not humbly grateful as we know we ought to be. Today is one of those days with every reason to praise the Lord!

What? Praise? I feel like today is at best one of those days for that supplication thing, and we'll see about the the thanksgiving later. Nope, the very last thing said by the psalms is, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!" What a way to sign off. What a great way to end the psalms! There are no exceptions for using our breath to grumble and complain. Only the command to praise the Lord, at least if you have breath that is. On a day when we feel most like putting our hands together for some serious whining to the Lord, there is one great reason to lift our hands and praise the Lord. That reason? Well, that reason is the Lord.

I may feel poorly for one reason or another, but the Lord in His Heaven has not changed for the worse. God is not looking down upon me or you with less love than He had yesterday. The promises of the Lord do not fall apart just because I feel like I am falling apart. The provision of the Lord does not stop because I feel empty. In fact, once you or me gets emptied out, then we are ready to receive even more of the Lord's providence! You know, I never thought of it that way until now. At a time when I am most tempted to take inventory every moment, the thought occurs that it is when our lives get emptied out that the Lord can pour the most in. At the time when you or I might seem to have the most to complain about, we are just getting ready to receive the overflowing cup from God. Trust is my word for the year, and trust comes to mind when the Lord says, "Trust in Me!"

Yes, the men speechifying the speeches and the talking heads with their criticisms may just get you down, but remember that God has not changed. The state of the union or the state of the world may be reason to moan, but God is still sovereign over all.

Have a better day in Jesus!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rejoice In It

Good Tuesday morning! Fear not tomorrow, fret not over yesterday, today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Sleepy, slow, and places to go, some days the body charging station in the bedroom just doesn't work the way it is supposed to. The cat or dog is ready to be fed an hour before our arrival. The kids (if any) are up and making noise, or at least something is making noise out there and we hope it's the kids. If it's a burglar, maybe he will be kind enough to get the kids off to school before he takes everything of value. Come to think of it, there is nothing of value left unbroken, so it must be the kids. Groan. The morning is off to a poor start and the to-do list for the day is not getting shorter. Yet, the Bible verse calls for rejoicing and getting glad in it. Wow, how does one go about getting glad in it when it has you so down already?

We all have those days when we get up feeling like anything but rejoicing or glad. The stress of yesterday stomped us into the ground and then sat on top of us all night long. The stress of today gives the stress of yesterday a high five and swaps places in a dreadful sort of stress tag team. Tomorrow's stress is already jumping around in eager anticipation of its turn on top. And from the pages of the Bible, Jesus calls out, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Something in all of that stress makes us ignore this call. We go around thinking that if we can but make it to the next long weekend, the next vacation, or some other 'next', then we will be able to get back on track and re energized. That next never happens and the call of Jesus to come to Him is still open to those who will believe. And even those who do believe must take the reminder of the Holy Spirit and come to Jesus for rest.

Daily we return to the Word. The Bible is not a Sunday-only kind of thing. Prayer alone with Jesus is not just for the really tough times, but for all times. The comfort of the Spirit is not just for times of pain, but for all times in this world. Trust, faith, and hope are all in Jesus and all require daily prayer and Bible reading to remain strong and effective. Take the step of faith, come to Jesus today, and then let us rejoice and be glad in it!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Psalmier Mondays!

Good Monday morning! I know you have said it before... there is no way the happy, joyful psalms were written on a Monday morning. Perhaps you have forgotten that their week began on our Sunday. Or you don't think they had the modern corporate office to deal with back in the psalmier days. Maybe David asked why his soul was cast down one cloudy Sunday morning upon seeing a line of petitioners before the throne room already two miles long before breakfast. Maybe King David groaned to God for relief upon seeing a Levite headed for the gates with a stack of papyrus more than 2 cubits high in his little levitical wagon. Surely not more regulations from the priests! Right we only have problems today, maybe they didn't even have levitical wagons back then. The psalms have all been written because we don't have psalmy days any more. The world is just too depressed to sing a happy song! How wrong we are.

I find a great deal of amusement when references are made to how simple everyone was back in the day. Perhaps the lack of education in the Dark Ages did produce a lot of illiterate peasants. Spending every day searching for something to eat might take away a person's appetite for the study of higher mathematics or deep philosophical topics. On the other hand, having plenty to eat does not always give one an appetite for the calculus or Kant either, as I can attest. Searching an unfriendly forest for something to fill the stew pot might not inspire the storyteller in a person except in the horror or adventure genres. The problems of today might not be exactly the same as the problems of yesteryear, but then again... people are still people and God has not changed.

Monday can be a happy day just as the Sunday of King David's time might have been the moment for one of the psalmier psalms. The bright sun of a clear dawn streaks across the sky to greet us with the promise of a new day in Christ Jesus. We have the escarpments of possibility and potential surrounding us. All we need to do is take the hand of our Savior and mount up to the heights of God's glory. This day you may be with Jesus in Paradise! This day you may hear the call of a new idea that Christ has whispered in your ear. This day you may have the opportunity to help someone in need, or to spread a bit of the Good News of Jesus Christ. So much good to do, so little time to get it done. Enjoy the dawning of the power of Christ Jesus!


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Sword Cuts Both Ways

Good Friday morning! A politician sins; the media reports it; the politician claims the media is "destructive, vicious, negative", the media reports it. Reporting the news is the job of the media. Anyone who has sinned doesn't want the light shined on that sin. We have a similar experience before salvation when we hear a minister on the radio pointing out our sins and we feel guilty. Many of us have taken the step of not going to church, or listening to church, or watching any kind of church service on television, and in all ways have tried to avoid God's word and His Holy Spirit placing that guilt on the unrepentant heart. However, after salvation we may feel that same temptation when the messenger, God's own Spirit, convicts us of sin. We might even avoid a daily time of Bible reading because it points hard into places that hurt. In fact, the Bible, God's Word, is sharper than a two-edged sword as we read in Hebrews 4:12 -

For the word of God is living and active, sharperthan any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

That sword of the Spirit is our primary weapon in the whole armor of God, but it also cuts and jabs our own sin. The flesh and emotions may not like that hurt. The grave cloth of pride still clinging to our heart may jerk painfully to the conviction of sin, that knowledge that in this area of life there is darkness. We want to be completely clean, but the Spirit reminds us that deep down in the corners of the heart we have a few dark spots. Like a politician, we might react badly to this poking and jabbing. We might whine and complain wishing the Spirit would give us a break. God must cleanse us completely though or Heaven will not accept us into His presence. Submission to the Spirit does not end at salvation. Giving up those areas of our lives where we often fall into sin is not always easy. We are weak and we need the strength of our Lord Jesus to cleanse our sins.

Praise God that we do have a Savior who cares enough to send His Spirit into each of us to remind us of His teachings and to convict us of our sins.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeling Your Way or Guided?

Good Thursday morning! Some creatures are described as ungainly. More than likely, I would be one of them. That means that others must be said to be gainly. What exactly does that mean? You can find the definition of shapely and graceful in your dictionary. Therefore I hope that you are particularly gainly today. As I get older, I seem to feel ungainly more often than not. This is probably not a fair estimation, but more of a feeling. The funny thing is that sin doesn't seem to have a particular feeling. If you have sinned, you might feel dirty, or unlovable, or ashamed, or absent from God's presence, but not many would describe the feeling as sinful. I don't get up in the morning and say that I feel quite sinful. Yet, we often use our feelings as a guide to our condition. Does the unbeliever feel sinful or is it more likely that he will feel guilty? Or perhaps he feels that something is missing in his life, such as the presence of God? Do you feel the presence of Jesus? Well, yes! That is a different matter entirely.

Jesus is not a condition, He is our Lord. We feel the presence of The Helper, the Holy Spirit Jesus sent to all of us beginning with the disciples after His resurrection. You and I can point to times in our lives after salvation that we cannot say why we went one way and not the other because the Spirit guided us. We might have no explanation for a bit of divine providence at a difficult spot, except that it was, well, Divine Providence at work in our lives. Someone new comes into our lives and blesses us with her presence. She may not know why she ended up in this place, with these people, or in this job, but we praise God. A man arrives from a far country after an odd chain of seemingly coincidental events. He didn't come seeking salvation, but he knew deep down in his heart that he needed something. He is invited to your church, and praise God, he begins to find the answers he needs. He may not have felt God's presence in those events, but after salvation, he begins to see God's hand at work even in his former sinful life.

When I left high school at 18, and couldn't wait to get off to college in a far town, I would not, even could not have predicted that I would end up 30 years later living in a town a mere 40 miles from where I began that day. All along the way though, God led me from point to point to point, and here I am. God also led me to do this thing, and join that other thing, and learn various things, and guided my life to end up writing these short devotional pieces on weekday mornings. What is God's ultimate plan for me in this life? I don't know, but I sense without knowing that if I stay in obedience, it will be more wonderful than I can imagine. Faith is a strange step to take when we look with our worldly eyes. A leap out of a job or away from a town is frightening because we cannot see the landing. Ask a gymnast to 'stick' the landing when she cannot even see the mat and she might give you that look; the one that asks what planet you currently reside on. However, our faith when we make that leap is not centered on what we can see, but who we believe in. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions... I go to prepare a place for you.

Have a gainly day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Trust Allows No Backup Plan

Good Wednesday morning! The wind is coming today, or would that be going? I suppose it would be both since the warnings say that it will be doing anything but staying put. We seem to have a winter of wind so far this year, with the exception of one brief moment on Sunday when not a plant could be seen moving in the pasture. Peace on this earth is fleeting. I knew the wind would be coming up, but when? It did and things were back to normal. We know 'normal' as a time of conflict. The air and water moves in circles around the earth; people demand this or that from their governments; governments take or ask this or that from their peoples; the boss demands more and more time from you; the company is making money but doesn't want to share (to keep costs down, of course); and when will the next war start. For all of this we need a backup plan.

What if the job is lost? Better have a backup plan in place. What if the home is lost? Better have a backup plan in place. What if war breaks out? What if a tornado demolishes our town? What if, what if, what if! Better have a backup plan for every conceivable disaster. Then we turn to the Bible. When God says "I will do this...", there is no added bit about a backup plan. When God commits Himself to some action, there is no "...but if I don't show up, or change my mind, be ready to do this other thing instead." Trusting in God does not have a backup plan. An unbeliever asks you, "What is your backup plan?" You respond, "I'm trusting in God. I don't need one!" You also know the unbelieving response to that one, "You're nuts!"

The scoffers of the world will never understand a leap of faith. "We must lean on our own understanding. Religious belief is a comfort, but you better have a backup plan in place." The Bible tells us that we must no longer be conformed to the world. Belief in God is a yes or no; multiple options are not allowed. Trust in God allows for no backup plan. Lot's wife committed a backup plan in direct violation of the Lord's command, and she was turned to salt. Jesus said that he who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is not worthy. When we give our lives to Jesus, we don't have a backup plan for getting to Heaven. In fact, we learn that there isn't one available. As we learn more and more to trust in God alone, we will come to forks in the road. Down one side is unbelief. We trust in our own resources, our own understanding, strength, wisdom, and prepare a backup plan. Down the other side of that fork is trust in God. There is no backup plan. There may seem to be no resources of our own. We know that our own strength, wisdom, and understanding is completely inadequate. And we feel a flutter, perhaps a full-on body block, of fear.

A minister said the other night that if you don't feel some fear then it isn't a step of faith. Dr. David Jeremiah, if I recall correctly. I like that statement. We should not give into the fear, but look to God. However, that first reaction will come. A leap of faith will get the heart beating a little faster, the blood moving at double-time through the vessels. There is the potential from our limited view for disaster: physical disaster, financial ruin, or otherwise. The view to the other side of the chasm might be blocked by fog. God wants us to leap, but the eyes say, "Aaaugh!" Trusting in God completely is not easy, but like the man said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help my unbelief!"

God bless you and keep you on this new day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Peace of Following

Good Tuesday morning! Is there anything or any area of your life that you are just perfect at? Something that you never mess up, no mistakes, no screw-ups in that area? I would submit that area as the most dangerous area of your life. You might think that I am goofy. "Ha! I am never tempted in that area, and everything always goes just as I plan. I am good in that area of my life!" Exactly, if God has put that area off limits to the Devil's fiery darts, it is probably not due to our own innate strength or goodness. Quite likely it is just the opposite. Those areas of our lives in which we are constantly falling may become our areas of greatest strength... when we learn to give them over to God. Our own strength will never be sufficient. Talent and skill fall short just when we need them most. When we think that we are strong, then we shut out God and are weakest of all.

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for and that His strength was glorified in Paul's weakness. Like Paul, we probably want to glorify God in an area we perceive in ourselves as strong. "Let me show you how I glorify you Lord in this area I am so good at. And thank you for making me so good at it, by the way!" Do we really believe that we can be good enough at anything to impress God? I haven't learned how to satisfy myself yet, how could I possibly impress the perfect Lord who created the Earth and skies? It may be that we should stop trying to impress God, and start following His Son. Jesus leads; we follow. Jesus gives; we receive. Wait for it... now the tough one - Jesus commands; we obey. As followers we have given everything to Jesus. We didn't have anything worthwhile to offer Him, but He accepted us just as we were in our sinful state when we asked for mercy. The follower does not lead the expedition. The follower does not supply all that is needed for the journey. The follower learns to listen to the leader and obey.

All of us tend to be little leaders in our own lives, but we gave our lives to Jesus. Even today, you or I might receive a command from our Lord that seems totally alien to our own understanding. Will you submit to follow or try to lead your own Lord and Master?

Enjoy the peace of following Jesus Christ,

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Reverend Doctor Needed Mercy Too?

Good Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Day! Whew, we need to do something about that title. Yes, the man was named that and had those titles, but is his legacy to us in the human-bestowed titles or in the God-inspired words? News flash - the man we celebrate today was not perfect. There are dark rumors about this thing or that thing. Oh dear! What can we say? George Washington, not perfect. Abraham Lincoln, not perfect. Eisenhower, nope; Reagan, negative; Bush or Clinton... okay, we won't even go there. We don't have any perfect historical heroes... except one. Strangely to us, this one perfect historical figure did not rule over any nation. Even his own people rejected him and had him executed. Pilate had the title 'King of the Jews" placed over his head on the cross, but it was more of a derogatory remark than an acknowledgment of our Lord's true royalty. Jesus came to earth in human form and did none of the things the world celebrates today. He didn't even do the warrior or ruler things the world celebrated back then. But somehow we know that he alone lived in sinless perfection. The world would argue with that belief; it must be the Holy Spirit given to us that leads us to that conclusion.Praise God that the perfect Son of God would accept the all too imperfect sons and daughters of humans.

When we celebrate the legacy of a human, we get the great deeds or the humble sacrifice, but we also get the wrinkles and spots too. I'm not talking about the ones we get as we get older, but the imperfections in our conduct, those secret or not-so-secret sins that tell us of our need for salvation in Christ alone. Paul had a checkered past to rival even the historical figures we hold up as examples of what not to become in life. King David did to Uriah what few of us would have dared to do even before our salvation. We all have terrible sins on our record. When we compare our sins to another person's we miss the point. Any sin is terrible. The words are redundant when paired. Every sin is a rebellion against God. We don't need to dig up dirt on our human heroes; we all know the dirt is there. We all need to realize our need for the mercy of Christ.

Yes, the Reverend Doctor needed mercy and grace just as you and I do this morning. I tend to step up on my little soap box when the holiday arrives and some wag in the media starts in on how King, Washington, Lincoln, or any other celebrated life had some skeletons in their closet. We know they do. Let us forgive them too and celebrate a sacrifice for our great nation under God.

Praise the name of the Lord!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oops, I Looked Back

Good Friday morning! This is your lucky day! Friday the 13th commemorates the day that Joachim Pillywag tried out the first floating bridge in 1318. Unfortunately, Joachim had not yet perfected the art of anchoring the bridge on the far end and took an unforeseen floating trip downstream as the poorly anchored near end also broke loose in the current. At first some witnesses thought that ol' Joachim might have perfected the art of walking on water as the bridge sank slightly under his weight. The game was up however when Joachim tried to walk to the shore with the pompous air of the soon to be sainted (at least in his own mind that is). He demonstrated what became known as Pillywag's Lever when the former bridge tipped up and dumped the surprised wannabe inventor into the drink. There is your totally fictitious Friday the 13th tale.

After many years in corporate America, Friday still brings a strong urge to fool around in place of my complete seriousness on the other days of the week. What? Why is everyone laughing? Okay, so maybe there are a couple of other days when I am not totally serious. Trusting in God tends to lighten my heart. Do I have problems? Certainly, and I can even witness to the fact that I am not the only one. Belief in Jesus, trusting fully in His providence, and the love of God does not mean that problems suddenly vanish and life becomes a nap in a shaded pasture. No, the psalm that mentions laying down in green pastures also mentions a trip through the valley of death's shadow. Yesterday. I completed the reading of a three volume history of the Third Reich. I realized quickly enough that I read my way quite literally through the valley of death's shadow. Wow, even writing about it the next day brought my happy mood to a dead halt. The lesson from all that? When Christ leads you out of that dread valley, don't turn around and look back; you might fall right back down into the shadow.

Enjoy the day, love your neighbor, and walk with Christ!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Little Powerful Prayer

Happy Thursday morning! The winter has become a mite strange this year. Minnesota has little snow, but Alaska would be more than glad to share some of theirs. The cooling of a part of the Pacific Ocean makes us warmer? Yup, things are strange in the world. While all this strangeness works itself out, how much power do you see in your prayer? Have you ever failed to pray for something or someone because you thought that it wouldn't do any good? Perhaps the thought came that God will work His sovereign will in any case, so one more prayer is hardly needed. Maybe you have thought that with all of those relatives praying for that sick child, your prayer would be superfluous? Any of us might even see our prayer as a mere drop in the bucket. "I forgot to pray for that person. Oh well, God won't miss one prayer among so many."

I like to think of my prayers as an offering. Certainly Jesus could have fed the thousands without the few loaves and fishes, but what a magnificent offering the boy made with his little lunch. God can heal my friends without my prayers, but what a privilege to let my Father in Heaven know that I am thinking about someone besides myself. The power of one prayer is far more than we realize. A few years ago, we memorized a verse in James: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (5:16b) Now we are made righteous in Christ, so doesn't that give us a strong incentive to turn our powerful and effective prayers loose on our friends and neighbors? We can even call upon the Spirit to help us remember all of those needs we hear about. People we don't even know will benefit from our powerful and effective prayers. Turn your one little prayer into an offering to Jesus.

In writing or speaking or even talking to friends it may seem at times that our words are being sucked into a vacuum. In prayer, we not only make immediate contact with the Almighty, but we also have an intercessor in Christ Jesus who makes sure that our prayers are heard just right. Slips of the lip and stumbles of the tongue are smoothed over and we are taught to pray for the right things. The Spirit within us calls out to God the Father and sovereign authority is granted us as heirs of the King of kings. No need to hide from God, bring your prayers boldly before the throne.

Have a beautiful Thursday in Christ!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Envy Overcome

Good Wednesday morning! Kind of easy-going on the e-mails today. Could the commercialism of the holidays be over at last? Nah, probably just waiting for the next holiday excuse to bombard my e-mail inbox. Come to think of it, there is a holiday on Monday already. Not that the holiday isn't deserved, but we might ask, "Are they getting off again? Already?!" 'They' is the group of folks getting the day off with pay of course, not that we know each of them personally. We tend to take a horizontal look and get right to that complaining mode with God. We see it in the Psalms and many other books of the Bible too. We see the neighbors getting not one new appliance, but an entire household of new appliances. (A true example from yesterday) We see the new car in the neighbor's driveway with the 'in-transit' sticker in the window. We see the group heading off to a cruise together. (Now wouldn't that be nice!) All of these can lead us into grumbling instead of praising God.

The first gut-reacting feeling may come, and we may not be able to do anything about it. You and I may feel a bit of shame over that feeling as we realize the conviction over coveting and envy. But, we have an opportunity after the Holy Spirit taps us on the proverbial shoulder to take the time to praise God for our neighbor's good news. Then we can pray that our dear neighbor realizes where that provision comes from and that they will give thanks to God. I saw the works (fridge, dishwasher, dryer, washer, etc.) going into my neighbor's house yesterday, and I was glad and praising God... yes, after I had the initial feeling of envy.

Maybe it comes from our earliest days when we carefully count the number of presents the sibling got and compare it with our own. We latch onto a myth about some man in a red suit bringing presents to all children, so that we don't have to face the fact that many children get no presents at all in this world. Or perhaps those are just symptoms of the fallen nature we are born with. The first feelings we get may come from the flesh that is faster to react than our new spiritual nature does. However, we do have the Spirit to help us overcome those initial feelings. We can have better thoughts as the Spirit with us gains the mastery over the flesh. We can discard that reaction and decide to praise God. We can take the next step and pray for all of our neighbors, that maybe, just maybe, all of them will receive that greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Honest Prayer

Good Tuesday morning! Have you ever prayed an honest prayer? Sure, you and me, we think that all of our prayers are honest. One example stands out in the Bible for me today. A man cried out a simple and honest prayer to Jesus. In Mark 9:24 a father makes the heartfelt cry we all sometimes feel: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" I have thought often that this prayer is one of the most honest we can pray. We read the promises in the Bible and we think that our belief is solid, but then a doubt or two creeps in. We stare at the storm instead of the Savior. We look hard at the waves instead of the walker on top of them. We see doom in the circumstances and forget the promise in the scriptures. One day there will be no more room for unbelief. We will see Jesus on His throne and know beyond any doubt. Until then, we have this world to constantly remind us of how close we are to the edge of the chasm. We have our diabolical and animal natures attacking our faith from inside. We have our own eyes looking to the wrong things.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness..." Jesus tells us. The prodigal returned to his father to find a welcome embrace, covering for his flesh, and food for his starving belly. Jesus promises the same to us. We believe this...and then we doubt. The prayer of simple honesty comes to mind once more. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" We tend to start at the end of that simple prayer, concentrating on our unbelief. Get back to the start of it - concentrate on the Lord! The circumstances of your health, or your finances, or your family life, or relationships, or a million other things may seem so very dark this morning. Look to the Savior; read His words of promise and hope. Not just the ones about His coming to rule and reign, but the ones that speak to God's marvelous sovereign will for us right now on this very day when things seem too dark for us to believe.

One day that second part about unbelief will no longer be necessary. Need I remind you and my own self that the day has not yet arrived? The doubts will come from our unbelief, or the doubts will be fired at us from our adversary. Make it a firm prayer, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" We have much to live for, and certainly the most joyful reason is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Enjoy a better day,

Monday, January 09, 2012

Pay Attention

Great Monday in the morning! Whoo hoo! Like a team in overtime we are back to worship God! I wonder if the widow in Zarephath ever asked Elijah if the Lord wouldn't make her feel better by keeping the barrels full instead of nearly empty? We often wonder the same thing in our faith. A Christian man looks at his old car and wonders how many more trips the Lord will see through to the end. A new car would provide a lot less worry, and the Lord could keep it running a whole lot easier, he thinks as he stops to pray one more time for a safe journey. A Christian wife looks over the family accounts and wonders how they managed to pay the bills that month. Surely the Lord could do wonderful works by keeping the account filled up with several thousand dollars, couldn't he? Throughout the Bible and in the inspirational stories we hear, the Lord seems to want to work in sudden-death overtime. The Lord provides a David with a sling after the mighty army has been shamed by the giant. The Lord provides the victory to the fellow with the sheepskin after whittling his army down to near nothing. Jesus raises Lazarus after the poor guy suffered death and began to rot. Jesus himself rose again after suffering a shameful death on the cross. Do you and I have the faith to wait for the nick of time?

When things look okay from our point of view, we want God to step up with what we are going to need. A message of comfort before the storm breaks. A nice yacht to ride out the flood instead of a hand into the life raft after we are nearly drowned. Yeah, why can't the Lord work that way? The Lord sent many prophets to Israel back in the day, and just as often they didn't want to hear what the Lord had to say before the storm broke. Noah did have a big ship to ride out the flood, but the Lord had him build it first...with hand tools, in a land that had never seen rain much less a flood. Noah also had to share the ship with a bunch of animals, some of which he had probably never seen before. "What do you suppose those two things eat, Shem?"

Storms may break on us without warning. We need God to send the life raft and a lifeguard too. Other storms may have plenty of warning. We might want to take a second look at the blueprints God has given us and get to building that ark. We don't always speak our gratitude when the times are good and realize that God is working when the barrel is full. As the barrel gets down to the last few crumbs, suddenly we start to pray once more. God doesn't need our attention; we need to pay attention to God.

Have a great new week in Christ Jesus!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Capital Punishment?

Good Friday morning! Years ago, we might even say centuries, a man wrote down his confessions. Today this writing is considered a landmark work in Christian literature. The Confessions of St. Augustine is a work familiar to most pastors, priests, and Bible scholars. Not that I consider myself worthy of any of those titles, but I do have a nice copy decorated in 22k gold, printed on fancy paper with an actual font, and I have actually read some of it. Today, I happened to glance into the living room while gathering up some stuff and, lo!, the great work of Christian scholarship had been demoted to a resting place for a cat's bottom. I couldn't help but think of the reaction something like this might cause in other times and places.

Another person might consider this an abomination. The cat would have to be executed in some ritual, the book cleansed in another ritual, and the family embarrassed and humiliated for allowing such a thing to happen in their home. This scenario might seem a bit on the silly side to us, an overreaction to a nothing event. However, as we look back to the Law in our Bible, we find penalties for events and actions that might seem to us a bit harsh over something so small. As we read further, we find that the penalty for sin is death. Any breaking of God's Law is a sin, and any sin is death. (The cat is fine. Relax, let me get to the point here.) Then we come in our reading to Jesus. Compassion and mercy, but still backed by God's perfect judgment. The woman caught in adultery is brought before the Master. The zealous guardians of the Law are ready to carry out her sentence. Jesus draws in the dust. Finally, our Lord gives them permission to stone the lady... provided they are free of sin in their own hearts. Oops. The accusers leave one by one until only the accused is left with Jesus.

We too come to the cross with accusers all around ready to condemn us to death. The accuser might be our own conscience, the words of other people, or even the Accuser himself. In answer to the clamour for punishment, Jesus gives His answer. "Neither do I condemn you." In John we read that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but that we might be saved through Him. So much condemnation in the Law as we fail to keep it. So much grace in Christ as the accused stands freed from condemnation by the very Word of God.

To God be the Glory!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Grace Is Free - Be Content

Good Thursday morning! Just a bit late today, must've been the nightmares last night. Cursed we are, and death we see, but believe upon the Morning Star, and find the grace of Christ is free! Sometimes I wonder how ever in the world Christ could accept me. Of course, that is part of it. Jesus doesn't depend on a worldly view of me to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. He depends upon the Word. His Word. Not what the world knows or thinks but His own wisdom is the standard Christ uses to judge. We live by His grace. As I looked at my sinful mind today, I realized that the only way I can be counted righteous is through Christ Jesus. The only way I can be seen as holy is through Christ Jesus. That reminds me of John 14:6 where Jesus said that He is the way.

The world will lead us to religious methods for salvation. But Jesus stated that He alone is the way. We feel a temptation in our rebellious hearts to follow a prescription for cleansing, or a map that requires brave deeds and steep climbs, but Jesus alone can provide salvation. Grace is a free gift. In making my resolutions for the year, I find that I want to be perfect. That hasn't happened any other year, resolutions kept or not. I'm not sure why I think it would happen this year in my own strength and effort. Hmm, grace as a free gift. Perhaps I should start with being content in that. Then with a prayer and the guidance of the Spirit, I can make some resolutions that will work for positive change.

Rest in Christ today,

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Safety Provided By God Alone

Good Wednesday morning! One of the first things I heard this morning was the memory verses on MyBridge radio. I kind of like to pass this one along to you.

"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." (Psalms 4:7-8)

We can all understand the happiness of having a bountiful harvest. For us the verse might speak to a day when bonus checks are handed out at a company. More than just a payday, a bonus day makes the heart glad for just a bit before the surplus is gone. Most of us have experienced this kind of brief happiness. The psalmist speaks of having greater joy than that. Then, with that great joy in hand, the psalmist lays down to sleep in peace. We have a desire for that joy as well. Think about all the commercial ads you have seen in magazines and on the telly for products to help us get to sleep and stay asleep. Sleep is a wonderful thing and we earnestly desire it. But along with all those sleep aids, we also desire to sleep in safety.

One of the most frightening tales over the years has been the late night knock on the door, the sudden assault of a dictator's secret police, or the flood waters coming at night. Actually that's more than one tale. We don't like to be suddenly awakened when we expect to be in a comfortable bed asleep until the morning light. Some folks lock their doors with extra locks, some sleep with firearms nearby, others seek safety in numbers or alarms or police presence or other things that I haven't thought of this morning. In this world it is so easy to look in the wrong direction for a sense of safety. Our verses remind us that only God provides safety.

Stop to ponder that last bit for a moment - only God provides safety. As you think about laying aside some props that might have accumulated over the years to bolster your sense of safety, what happens? Right, the 'what if's' start up in that worldly-trained mind we have. Hee, hee, my mind is doing it too! Such a case for letting go and giving my safety into God's hands I have seldom seen. Pray that all of us will learn to trust in the Lord.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Resolution Revolution

Good Tuesday morning! The new year has begun and we are some resolution makin' fools! This year, pick one friend and blame everything that is wrong in your life on him (or her). Wait... that's not how we treat our friends. Even the pagans and heathens wouldn't treat a friend in that manner. Yet, how often have you found a finger pointing toward someone when the blame rightly fell upon yourself? One of the most difficult resolutions to make at the start of a new year is to accept responsibility and, yes, even the blame, when you and I have made a mistake or committed a sin. I noticed the other night that it didn't even make the top five resolutions, probably not even the top 20. This year I resolve to take responsibility comes in somewhere behind: 1- Saving money. 2- Losing weight. 3- Getting in a relationship. 4- Exercising more. 5- Spending more time with family. And who knows how many others. In that list though, I had to wonder if any of those who resolved to get in a relationship will include Jesus as the other half of that new partnership?

We can make a lot of resolutions this week. A story in Guideposts this month tells of a woman who resolved to pray for 365 strangers one year. That doesn't sound too hard until we read that God put her feet to the fire in a manner of speaking. She must go up to the stranger and let the person know that she is praying for that person on that day. For an introverted or shy person, that suddenly makes the resolution a whole different challenge. I like the challenging resolutions, but how many have I kept over the years? One way to make and keep a challenging resolution is to pray with God first. Just joining the crowd in the top five list may not put that personal touch to it that God likes to do with us. We tend to pick resolutions based on our own perceived faults, but God may have a different direction for us to go.

If God has created you with an imagination: use it to make an imaginative resolution. That's not to be confused with imaginary resolutions by the way, which are the ones most of us seem to make. We might also think about telling a friend the resolution to enlist his help in keeping us accountable. If that doesn't work out for you, then you have found something else to blame on your friend. Just kidding! Put the pointing finger of blame back in the holster. We each should get aside from the rush and seek God's will in our resolutions first. I mention the rush of life because for many of us, the rush begins again today. Resolutions to avoid the sweets might get lost in the pile of e-mails in the old inbox. The resolution to make our list of resolutions might get shuffled down to the bottom of the to-do list. Find some time to get alone with God this week and ask Him about those resolutions. He may have only one for you to work on this year.

In God we trust for everything!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Choose the Good News

Good Monday morning! A slow Monday morning around these parts. Most folks will be celebrating the holiday today. I can't recall hearing a single engine start up this morning. On the other hand, the news wags cannot wait to grant us the bad news already this morning. The economonsters have already predicted too much of this in Europe and too little of that in America. However, in answer to that dreadful bit of un-cheerful news, I will remind you that God's plan is unfolding exactly on schedule, on budget, and according to the plan. Like John we may not like all that God's plan reveals at times. The judgments we read in Revelation are not the most enjoyable of events to ponder. Each day brings the world closer to God's wrath. A little recession doesn't seem so bad when we look at the coming tribulation. But! That is not how we start the new year.

We do not ignore the coming judgment, but we do look to the signs of Christ's return. Like Elijah, we look and see darkness over the land. But God says that He has many who believe in His Son. The Spirit of God is not goofing off somewhere, but is enabling us to spread the Good News far and wide. Many ministries contacted us for donations at the end of the year. We can look at the darkness and moan about how short of funds the body of Christ is, or, we can look at how many active ministries are working to spread the Good News of Christ. We can see how many ministers have not given up the fight. Some of us may not have money to give, but we can give prayer. We can resolve to not give up. To look not at our own lack of resources, but at the awesome resources of our Father in Heaven. To pray in God's power and not in our own weakness. We can thank God for what Jesus has accomplished and not moan about how little we have or have done. We choose to stand up and praise the name of Jesus!

Perhaps the day doesn't have to be as quiet as I thought...

Heh, the only spelling suggestion for 'economonsters' is 'economists'. Perfect! Just what I wanted.