Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Suffering

Ah, Saturday! Whoo, tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Let the holidays begin! A week-long observance of Easter, or the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, should not be too difficult for us to adjust to. Oh, yes, the old 'lost money' thing. Set aside the business head for a minute and think instead what we might gain from a week of prayer and fasting for Christ. Look at what He did for us. Do we owe Him any less? Actually, we could pray and fast all 365 days, scourge our bodies with whips, have others nail us to crosses, and we still would not come close to repaying Jesus for the sins of one person, much less repaying, if that were possible, what He did for us. Jesus accomplished His great sacrifice through love for us and obedience to God the Father. We cannot come close through attempting to repay debt what was done in love. In our surrender to Christ, we accept with tears the suffering He endured on our behalf. To scourge my body would not in any way lessen the stripes with which we are healed. For you to spend one moment on the cross would not in the least reduce what Jesus endured to cleanse us from sin.

If a friend is suffering with a broken arm, I cannot ease his suffering by having the doctor break my arm too. My friend will accept my sympathy and comfort, but the worse his suffering the less he wants me to be in the same circumstance. Turn it around and imagine a friend offering the same for you. Would you not make every effort to club him a good one with your cast if necessary to bring him to his senses? The sacrifice for sin was accomplished by the only one who could make atonement for all. You and I can repeat the actions, but we cannot accomplish the mission that belonged to Jesus alone. The mission Jesus gave to all those who believe was to take the message of the Christ to all lands and peoples. We repeat the crucifixion through words by telling the good news of what it accomplished. The word of grace spreads from person to person in the love of Christ. We don't have a job; we have a mission. We don't have to repeat the crucifixion; we are called to tell of the Cross. And we do not have to wait for tomorrow either. Today is a perfectly good day to begin telling of what Jesus has done for me.

Have a wonderful Saturday,

Friday, March 30, 2012

God's Miracle Shop...Closed?

Good Friday morning! We are but one week from the next great celebration of the Resurrection! Time to once again think of our Lord's sacrifice for us. With that in mind, did God then close up His miracle shop? We read the stories in the Bible, hear the tales on the telly, and read a few books and articles about miracles in our modern age. But we have acquired a problem. We tend to look at God's miracles like some form of cosmic lottery. Someone buys the winning ticket, but it's never you or me. Someone in some far away town wins the miracle drawing, but it never happens to us. It's just the way our luck goes in this world. Wrong answer! The lottery is indeed a game of remote chances, but miracles do not arrive in that manner. If you think that a prayer for a miracle is like buying a lottery ticket, you have forgotten to whom your prayer is directed. If you think that gaining a miracle is based on some long odds, then you insult the one who loves to provide miracles for His flock.

You and I may not have a miracle happen in the dramatic way that Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a very public display of God's sovereign power. However, we just might if we will remain faithful in our trust. God has not closed up His miracle shop. I believe that packages bearing miracles go out daily, though the delivery may be less public than Noah's ark. Yes, Noah and his sons had to work for his miracle, but it did the job just the same as other more freely given miracles in the Bible. We might have to put in some effort to gain our miracles, or we might be able to bear witness to an undeserved and completely unearned miracle in our lives. Which is the greater blessing? Probably neither. God gives us the strength to build an ark, or the patience to wait for Him to act on our behalf. God can send a miracle almost before we can pray for the need, or He may ask us to pray for days and weeks before the miracle arrives. God may seem to let prayer after prayer go without acting just to see if we can develop the faith to keep asking, seeking, and knocking.

Your life may be in immediate mortal peril. You ask fervently for a miracle, but God seems to do nothing. What is He waiting for? My need is right now! When you arrive in Heaven, you have that question ready to ask. But then... you suddenly realize that the greatest miracle of all happened long before you were born. Jesus died on the cross to allow a sinner such as you and me to come to Heaven and be with Him forever. A miracle indeed.

Have a lovely weekend in Christ!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bury the Regrets

Good Thursday morning! The Way stands beside you; walk the path prepared for you. The Truth will guide you; seek your destiny in Christ. The Life is given for you and to you, and waits for you to arrive in eternity. Before we begin this journey, we have a little thing to take care of that may be slowing us down a bit; perhaps preventing that first step of our new life. As we who are called to Christ came to surrender our lives to Him, we arrived, figuratively speaking, at the foot of the cross. As each of us arrives there to gaze upon the instrument of our salvation, we are invited to set aside the burdens we have carried through much of this life. The idea is to give up this burden to Jesus and take His yoke that is easy and His burden that is light. However, we have a bad habit of clinging to that old heavy burden of ours. Furthermore, all around the cross are some holes, one for each of us. These holes are for the burying of our regrets, and some of us will arrive at the cross with many. We do not hide from the past, or deny that we did these things that cause our regrets. We do not ignore the lessons learned and the wisdom gained from hard experience. But it is time to give up the writhing shame and guilt we feel from these memories.

The time has come in our new lives to look to Christ as our guide and shining light. The darkness of the past recedes; the days of sin are washed away. In this time that we live, should a president or prime minister take the wife of a loyal soldier to his bed, we might call for his resignation. But if that same elected official caused the soldier to be killed through treachery on the front lines of battle, we might call for his removal from office and a sentence of prison time. However, David remained king of Israel even after the prophet Nathan confronted the king and exposed the sins. What is the deal here? God appointed David to the throne of Israel and had Samuel anoint the young shepherd boy as king. Presidents and prime ministers are elected by the people and are removed by the people's representatives. David sought God's forgiveness and acknowledged that he had sinned against God. David could have been frozen up with shame and regret, abandoned his throne and duty, or perhaps taken his own life from the guilt of his sin. David chose instead to accept the forgiveness of the Lord and got on with his new life. The effects of his sin remained and would haunt him later in life, but he did not succumb to the ashes of the past. We should remember often, perhaps constantly, that God's forgiveness is perfect. We do not need to bring up the old sins and submit to the shame and regret. We need to take up the forgiveness of Christ and live in Him. How could David have ruled a nation if he got up each morning wishing in shame that he hadn't done such a terrible thing? His wife, Bathsheba, could have been a constant reminder of his sin, but he chose instead to love her. In time, David and Bathsheba bore Solomon, whose reign was the glory of Israel. At least until the glorious reign of a king yet to come, but that is a story for another day.

We do have some quite regrettable memories in our past. But God can grow flowers of blessing from the rotten soil of our past. It may be that without the decay of our past sins the flowers would not have the lovely colors God will cause to shine in them. As those flowers bloom in our lives, no one will bother to look at the soil. Put aside the past, live in the present in Christ.

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fragile Vessels Gone Astray

Good Wednesday morning! May the Light and the Life shine on you today. On a clear morning does your thinking sometimes go where it should not? Ah, here we go. How about at 2:00 a.m. when the darkness presses down and the worries of the day awaken you from a difficult dream? Are you far away from God at that moment? Has the countenance of the Lord turned away from you just long enough for the darkness to produce dark thoughts of despair? When the dark thoughts are suddenly interrupted by something out of the ordinary, perhaps the blast of an air horn where no air horn should be, does this serve to stop the slide into depression? Sorry, that is a lot of questions to hit you with so soon today. However, we do know at least intellectually that God does not turn away from us.

We do not walk alone in this life treading some darksome path that seems to lead only to the land of the lost. We know that God never leaves us and that His Spirit dwells within us, yet we sometimes give in to the temptation to think sinful or worrisome thoughts. And we will experience those times when a physical event will turn our minds back to the Lord where our thoughts belong. God is not far away. The Spirit has not taken leave of us to go see someone else. We are protected at all times both to the front and rear from enemies we see not. And we do need the Lord's protection.

We look at our condition and our record, and we wonder why the Lord chose such fragile and wayward vessels for His most important message. How can this great message not go astray and be lost when it is borne by such as you and me? Of course these vessels must be protected and guided else the world would never hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Trust in God! You and I are not alone. God does not leave us for "just a second" or recall the Holy Spirit for an emergency meeting in Heaven. Even in the whole armor of God we would fall without the strength of the Lord in us. Who is strong enough to pick up the shield of faith if there is no one to place our faith in? What good would it do if our faith rested in a weak promise such as, "I will be with you most of the time," and "I usually won't leave you or forsake you unless I have something more important to do that is." We know better. The assurances of Jesus are strong with words such as 'always' and 'never'. Words that we in our limited understanding use only with great caution. Praise the Lord for His great and strong promises!

Trust in God today,

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Holy Zombies, Batman!

Good Tuesday morning! Let us gather for a mystery. Near the end of Matthew, we have a rather remarkable thing going on. "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (27:52-53) Yikes, is this a tale of saintly zombies? Would Robin exclaim, "Holy zombies, Batman!"? I have another question; what happened to these raised up folks? Who believed after seeing one of the risen saints? Or like Father Abraham says to the roasting rich man in Luke 16:31, "...neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." The Bible does not tell us whether they slept once more, or they rose up with Jesus at His ascension. The Spirit tells me they slept once more. So did they die again like Lazarus, and have to be buried again? Probably so. I wonder who was so hard of heart that he knew the risen saint and buried him twice while still not believing? I find it amusing that in Christ I now have trouble believing that someone cannot believe when presented with such strong evidence before their very eyes. Yet, as we come to the sixth trumpet in Revelation, we are told that very thing.

The lack of repentance is simply stunning after we read what happens to people of the world. They endure the effects after the Rapture, the six seal judgments wherein we learn they know who is sending the judgments, and then the six trumpet judgments and still they refuse. This is worse than an atheist who denies there is a god at all. These folks know there is God, and that He is sending these judgments, and yet they refuse to repent and enjoy His saving grace. But it gets worse, the people also call out for salvation to the mountains and rocks, that they might be hidden from Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. This makes no sense to those who believe in Jesus.

I cannot imagine the distress that would cause a person to hide in a cave and then ask the cave to fall on him. But that is the earnest wish of those who stand opposed to God and His Christ in Revelation 6:16-17. I wonder what one of the risen saints from Matthew might say to the people in the caves and rocks, if they had the chance? It may be that nothing anyone can say would help them to believe. What a sad story.

Believe in Jesus and live!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guard Duty

Good Monday morning! It even seems like one of those Mondays this morning. Fog and gloom, back to work at the crack of doom. Crack the whip, seal the ship, dip the oars to the drummer's boom. Feel the bite, hold it tight; labor, labor, fear the boss's might. Tolkien must have written that goblin part of The Hobbit on a foggy Monday morning much like this one. Mr. T may have been inspired on a morning such as this, "I pity the fool... that has to go up the hill to work today." John Milton left unfinished the third part of his epic trilogy, Paradise Lost in the Fog. Whatever would I do without local weather conditions to get me started on a Monday morning? By now you might be wondering what it will take to get me stopped.

The December before my position was eliminated, I did something that brought forth a reaction far out of proportion to the action. Since then, I have wondered at times if that may have been a sign of what was to come that I totally missed. We are told to be vigilant and watchful, and the fear of missing signs in these end times can perhaps cause us to become hyper-vigilant. We may see a sign in something that does not mean what we think it means. Jesus told the disciples many things that would be but the beginning of the end times and not the Tribulation itself. In not knowing what is a sign and what is a 'labor pain' we may become fearful of missing something kind of important, like, oh, the Rapture for example. We need not fear this. God tells us to watch, but not to fear. We will not miss anything the Lord would have us to see, if we will do our part by remaining watchful.

This guard duty we are assigned is not to be like the hunted animal. We are to walk in peace with our Lord and Shepherd, remaining watchful and not fretting over the 'what-if's'. Some days our guard duty is beside the still waters; other days we walk in the valley of death's shadow, but always our Lord walks with us. One of the fears of my guard duty back in the day was in getting caught doing something wrong. But what if instead (oops, this is not one of those 'what-if's.') of trying to sneak up on the guard to catch him in the wrong, the officer took it upon himself to walk the patrol alongside the guard and give him wise advice and comfort? Our leader in this long patrol is not one whom we have to watch out for as well. In my many guard duty hours I was never caught by the enemy, but at times I did get caught by my own side. They used the best method they had to keep us alert, but we can see that Jesus has a better method. One of walking beside us as we catch glimpses of that roaring lion in the darkness. Our Lord helps us to remain alert, but not in panic mode. Walk in peace with our Lord Jesus.

God be with you,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Death Comes to One We Loved

The Lord be with you today. I don't have all the answers for today, but I know where we need to go with our supplications. The Lord has called one of His own to come home. Over the past few years we have prayed for Iline Sealey, and after a long and difficult battle with cancer she has gone to be with our Lord. Her husband (and my birth father), Denzil, tended to her with loving care for many years. In Christ we see this as a sacred duty, just as we see our prayers from far away in the same way. At the same time, a child of only 4 years of age has been diagnosed with cancer at a hospital in Omaha. His name is Lucas, and we should pray for his healing. Tough news for the end of a week.

I very much disagree with those cultures and religions that celebrate death. The wrenching separation from a spouse, a friend, or a child hurts us deeply. Jesus told the disciples they should be glad for Him; He would soon be in Heaven with His Father. The disciples wanted Jesus to stay with them. We cannot see the new life right now. The disciples couldn't see past the death Jesus foretold. It is hard for us to feel anything but grief and sadness when death comes to one we love. At the separation of the cross the disciples and many others grieved. Then a great promise came to them. The Son of God rose again from the grave! We believe in Jesus and we hold that promise tightly in times of grief. One day this hard separation will be a great reunion to last forever. But we find it terribly hard to bear right here and right now.

Jesus gave us another great promise: that He would never leave us nor forsake us and that He would be with us always even to the end of the age. The good news is that at the end of this age is that reunion with our Lord and our loved ones. We hurt now, we grieve now, but our Lord WILL come again. You or I may be called home next, more separations may inflict suffering on us before that great day of reunion in Christ. Come to the Lord in prayer. The Comforter is in us now, and at times such as these we know more than ever why Jesus sent His Holy Spirit as the Comforter.

May God bless and comfort you on this day,

Friday, March 23, 2012

To Your Life

Good Friday morning! Waiting for direction is not what I want to do. I want to go. I want to praise and glorify God with my deeds of drastic dedication. I want to somehow impress God with how good and wonderful I am. Look at me, God, look what I can do for your kingdom! Do we see a problem here? If one of the titles of God is Wonderful, how can I possibly be wonderful given my condition? If Jesus said that only God is good, how can I be good? What can I do for God's kingdom that He could not do better? Waiting on the Lord is one of the toughest things to learn, but there may be more than one purpose for it. Perhaps in waiting I learn who God is, and learn it better than I know right now. In waiting, I find in my struggles more of the peace that God has given me. Eh? Peace in struggles? Yes, as I learn that struggling and fretting against the waiting period given to me by God does not accomplish anything good, I learn to listen for God's peace and comfort. I learn to wait in faith. The easy way to go? Certainly not. The easy way is to watch the darkness growing in this world and fill my life with depression.

If you need an extra dose of bad news for your depression tank, turn on any news media this morning. Someone, somewhere is sure to have some depressing news for you to indulge in. We do need to be careful what we read and watch. If you or I seem a bit down this week, we may want to check into God's word for a while and let the world depress itself while we pray and listen with God. Take some quiet time this weekend. Skip one of your favorite sports events and tackle God in a one on one session for some real uplifting worry-free time. Spend an hour of your precious weekend in thanking God for everything you can think of, good or bad. No fair doing it during the sermon on Sunday either. Give God an hour that you treasure, like that final hour of the big game you looked forward to all week. See what happens in your life when you place God first. In your life? Ha, ha, see what happens TO your life when you place God first!

Have a wonderful weekend with the God of wonders!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Provisioning

Good Thursday morning! Hmm, the day could be a problem when my devotional thought begins with "Good ummm..." But, it is Thursday and senior moments aside, we will do the devotional. Praise the Lord, I made it to my first VA appointment in Cheyenne and came back intact. The overall impression was one of being sucked into a whirlwind. "Go here, go there, get this, across the street, fill this out, good, sit down here, test, test, test, Okay, they will contact you from the Lincoln office, Bye!" I may have been there about 45 minutes. I took two books along for the wait, but there weren't no wait. In my ignorance, I prepared for something that didn't happen.

Many of us seem to think that having faith in God's provision involves storing up this and that, saving a lot of something else, and in all ways preparing for anything that might occur. Like the rich man in the parable, we get ready to die with cupboards full. Now it takes a lot of food and various supplies to take care of a family. You may find it easier to shop once a month and fill the cupboards as best you can at that time. This is not what I am writing about here. What happened to the rich man and his grain bins is that he depended on his own provision. We on the other hand depend on God's provision. Perhaps I should have asked the Lord if I would need books for the trip yesterday. It is quite possible that He would have provided me with an answer. But, as so often happens, I depended upon what I thought I knew and provided something I didn't need. A minor thing in this case, but what happens when I turn that same thinking to my entire life? I could go places, buy things, and make a stash of something that will do me no good in the future God has laid out for me.

We have a tendency to take what we think we know from the past, add it to the parts of the present we hear about, and come up with a future that seems optimistic or pessimistic depending upon our own understanding. The one who doesn't like his present circumstances moans that nothing ever changes. The one who loves where he is may fear any change at all. The ignorant may choose to ignore what is going on all around her. The self-absorbed may miss signs that she should have seen. And the whole mess boils down to the fact that only God can see tomorrow. God may have you prep a bomb shelter with all manner of supplies; that is very similar to what Noah did. Or He may send you to His word where a famous person resembling Jesus said something like, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matt 6:33-34) Trust in God means that I quit worrying about setting out provisions for myself along a path that I think I will tread. Instead, all of us turn to Jesus and say, "lead me where you will have me go, Lord!"

Have a great new day in Christ!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Makes Me Different?

Good Wednesday morning! Give it a try. At times we like the saying, at other times we don't. We know, for example, that a person cannot simply give Jesus a try and expect to have eternal life. A person either believes in Jesus or does not. However, the invitation my work for some searching soul who needs to give Jesus a try so that our brothers in Christ who are better with words can give a fuller and more satisfying explanation for this hope we have in Christ. Not all Christians are good with the spoken word, not all can weave the written word, some can do neither well. We depend on the Holy Spirit to strengthen our words and we make use of those blessed with those gifts of the Spirit. There are those seeds that will fall on the rocky or thin soil no matter how good the words we sow may be. Jesus did not promise that all who receive the Word will believe in Him. Some will give Jesus a try and then fall away. We cannot take away their freedom to choose this path in life. We can pray for that person though, and just maybe the Lord will transplant them, or try sowing their seed again.

At least one sci-fi movie, two Santy Claus movies, and one magician movie have borrowed the old saying about believing or having faith. We know where it comes from and may even resent the 'borrowing' a little. But the fact is, people who choose not to believe in Jesus are given over to believe in most anything. Many find it much easier to 'believe' in the existence of magic with a wooden stick than to believe in the Son of God. Others believe in a man who lives at the North Pole for much of their lives, and then fall away from believing in a man who died for their sins. And I know more than a few geeks who would like to believe in 'The Force' and would rather ignore the all-powerful God who sent His Son to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. We tend to ask the question, "Why don't they believe?" when we should ask, "What makes me different?"

I do not understand why God would choose me or you over those who do not believe. I watched the same movies and read the same books as many of my friends, but I now find it far easier to believe in Jesus than to entertain thoughts of fat fellows falling down chimneys or waving sticks to make things happen magically. From my point of view, I hold no special value to God that others do not have and yet they do not believe in the Son of God and I do. We have all met and known those who sing better, write better, speak better, act better, and in many other ways perform better than we do on the human stage, and yet God chose you and me to believe and receive the gift of grace. Why is that? We don't know. Perhaps where the soil appears all rocky and selfish to us, God can see the deep pockets of good soil where His seed will grow and mature. Whatever God saw in me and you, we can praise the name of Jesus for His saving grace. We may not know the why, but we now know the Way.

Praise God for grace!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Little Patriotism Today

Good Tuesday morning! Do you get up feeling that today is just another day. Nothing special expected in this day, no great works coming my way? Kind of sounds like I'm composing a jingle there. Yet there is this from our Lord. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:12-13) Jesus did some amazing works too, as Lazarus would tell us, or the crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda, or the people who saw the Lord on that first Easter morning. So... by asking in the name of Jesus we will raise dead people, heal the disabled, and forget about murdering us for we'll just get right back up again. Is that what all that means? While it appears to say that, we are reminded that none of the apostles got up from the dead on their own. Even a few years later Paul would write that healing is a gift of the Spirit, but not all of us have all gifts. We might be tempted to think that somehow the Holy Spirit was highly concentrated in the apostles at Pentecost, and then somehow became thinner as more believers came into the body of Christ, the Church.

I know that some of you have thought this, because I have struggled with it in the past. Where is the faith healing today? Right where it has always been, in the hand of Christ. "If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed..." our Lord said. We say that our faith is too small, but Jesus used the example of the smallest of seeds known to His audience. Were He ministering today in His first coming, Jesus might have used the quark, or some other tiny subatomic particle as His example. The size of our faith is not the issue, but who our faith is placed in. But also there is the faith around us. Recall that Jesus did few works in His hometown because of unbelief. The greater works promised must be in extent. Around the world we do see great works of faith. In the so-called advanced areas of the world, not so much. Why is that? Is our faith somehow less because of those around us? Or is there another reason, such as the world doesn't want to hear it?

I see great faith all around me. I see those who believe in Christ gathering together in large and small groups. I see ministers feeding the flocks; singers praising the Lord; and evidence of prayer. I don't live everywhere, but the Internet and other media bring stories of faith in this land. The world may not want to hear it, but there is a Christ-like faith in this nation. The good news of Jesus Christ has not stopped in its tracks, but spreads daily to a world in need. Do you recall a network of radio stations like MyBridge in our youth? Do you recall so many channels devoted to the Gospel on your television back in the day? The number of churches may be similar, but the size of many is truly amazing. We hear much about every church scandal, but we hear nothing of the men, women, and children who gather faithfully each day and week to share in the love of Christ. The sterile texts of public schools are giving way to a rising home school movement where God is given His proper place. There are signs of a coming revival or even, dare we say it, another great awakening if we will pray and watch. Don't give up on the United States of America just yet. The sins of the nation are not the only story we can tell.

Pray, seek God's face, pray for the repentance of our nation, and live the life Jesus gave us to live.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Rip Tide I Cannot See

Good Monday morning! Today is Enjoy Your Work Day! Whoo Hoo! This holiday occurs every Monday at about this time because I declare it to be so. You probably thought that it was just another Monday. This morning, to start my work, I read an article about a tragic drowning. Possibly not the best way to start a Monday, I must admit. Rip tides are perhaps the worst thing for an untrained swimmer in the oceans. What may be worse is for an athlete in one of the competitive skinny sports, such as running, high jumping, etc., to get caught in the same situation. These athletes are low in body fat and thus don't have the buoyancy that many of us take for granted. Some of us currently enjoy too much of this buoyancy, to put it kindly, but that is another story. The athletes also have one other disadvantage: their respective sports have trained them to compete, to fight against their own weakness, to charge straight at the finish line. A rip tide cannot be fought head on, the experienced surfer or swimmer will let it take them out until its own strength is spent and then will swim around or at an angle to it. The competitive non-swimmer may fight the rip tide until he drowns from exhaustion. In reading this story, I had to wonder about the rip tides in my own life.

In some ways, I seem to be drowning. Sins that I have struggled with for years still pound on me. And as the competitive but perhaps unwise (rather than saying 'dumb') Christian I continue to fight them. Might not our own Christian experience be the same in this life? We think that we can see the shore through the Bible promises of Heaven, so we continue to fight straight ahead. Jesus in His wisdom sees the rip tide and tells us to wait. Our competitive nature takes over and we fight the rip current until we go under. Jesus brings us back up to the surface, and tells us to trust in Him and wait on the Lord. Doubts are fired at us by the Adversary. Waiting goes against our nature, which by the way we know to be sinful, and we listen to that nature. We feel the urge to get back into the fight. Jesus says to wait. He can still see the current of the rip tide under the waves. We can see nothing but a dim image of the shore in our imaginations. Yet, we still want to fight not only against the current, but now also against the express command of our Lord and Savior. I wonder how much opposition must pile up before you and I realize that we are fighting the wrong fight?

Much of life in the military is waiting. One does not wait by wrestling with the enemy because even the strongest soldier would eventually tire and be no good for the real fight. I know this from experience, but I still have trouble when the Lord and Commander gives the command, "Wait!" Trusting and waiting may be among the most difficult lessons for us to learn in this life in Christ. Failing is easy, we have done that many times. But sometimes Jesus will see us struggling in the rip tide and let us fail in order that we may learn to wait when He commands and trust Him in all things. We cannot see the shores of Heaven from our limited, earthly view. We must learn to trust in Jesus and do as He says. Since that fight is against our very nature, we must also trust in our Lord to put a new spirit in us. A spirit of obedience, love, patience, peace, gentleness, self-control, ...and these sound a lot like the fruits of the Spirit. Do you suppose that Bible is on to something? Yeah, I think there just may be something there.

Praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Casual Christian

Happy St. Patrick's Day! See, another benefit of writing on Saturdays, I get to celebrate with you one of the holidays they don't adjust to a Monday. Lots of green things to say today. Yet, for some reason I cannot think of a single one. The athletic shenanigans continue on the basketball courts, and wasn't it fun to see not one but two big upsets yesterday? I must admit to being perhaps the most casual of college basketball fans. I don't even care what happens until the big tournament at the end of the season, and even then it has to compete against preseason baseball for my viewing time. To the basketball fanatic faithful, I am worse than the crooked court, more infamous than the four-point foul, even more despicable than the greased free throw line, and more looked down upon than the blind ref. I like it when the top seeds fall in the first round (the second round now, but even I didn't come up with that). I am a lane violation with a flying elbow to the top-seed matches in the final four. I am the casual fan. Let the underdogs spoil the big show. Bust the brackets wide open! Long live the Richmond Spiders!

Actually, there is something worse than that. The Casual Christian. You see him in church once in a while, but there is no worship in his heart. You see her at the pot luck dinner telling tales from the grapevine, but there is no repentance in her spirit. When the call goes out to serve they are nowhere to be found. The church treasurer will never find an offering with their name on it. The sermon is a good chance to nap; the hymns are hummed; the whole service isn't nearly entertaining enough, and "Sunday stuff" is never mentioned in their home. We may not even know who the Casual Christian is, they can put up a good front. However, when the final game is played out, they will be there expecting to receive the trophies. You may be questioning your Christian behavior even now, but that isn't the point here.

To the Casual Christian, the Christian life is a game where the minimum requirements are met to get into Heaven. The Casual Christian is concerned with being good enough, and occasional church attendance is a part of that. Saying the right things now and then balances out the disparaging comments about a coworker to get ahead. Gossipping is just what 'everyone' does, so that is okay to the Casual Christian. In fact, most of what the Casual Christian considers 'good' is judged by watching others. The Casual Christian believes in the cosmic scales of good and evil. God will weigh their works and see that they are good enough because they did just enough. This is serious, because God can more easily convince a dedicated opponent of Christ than a person who has stamped themselves as righteous. The Casual Christian has called himself a Christian without knowing what it means to be a Christian. How can even the best of pastors say the right thing to break through a defense like that? Not that the Holy Spirit won't try. The best thing to happen to a self-righteous Casual Christian may seem like the worst of things in this world.

Many a Christ-one has been born again in repentance from the floor of a jail cell, looking up from a hospital bed, at the death-bed of a loved one, or at the end of the financial rope of bankruptcy. We always have a Savior standing ready to answer those who will look up and repent. There is hope in Christ for the Casual Christian just as there is for the dedicated sinner.

God be with you,

Friday, March 16, 2012

Today, Could Be The Day

Good Friday morning! Is the day before St. Patrick's Day anything special? Why yes, it's Friday! Also, the day after today is not one that we should be worried about. If I sit on the morning of this day wondering and worrying over the next day then I am disobeying a direct command of my Lord Jesus. What is today, what does today bring to me? These are only part of what I should be asking. What trials will the Lord use this day to bring me closer to Him? What blessing will come my way through the Lord's redeeming grace? For surely there will be some. What if today I die? Praise the Lord! Seldom will you find a more joyful and excited conversation than in being with a group of believers considering just what might happen to us if today the Lord would call us home. Today could be your day! Those lost in the world would think that a dreadful thing to say. We understand that they do not understand.

In this world we are out of place. We do not seek death, but enjoy a few moments of speculation about how wonderful it would be in Heaven with Jesus right now. We seek to live in Christ and spread the Good News, but can hardly wait for our Savior to come. The world tries desperately to extend its life, but we who love God take what comes our way and strive to be content. We strive toward a prize in Christ Jesus, but that prize seems altogether strange to the world. A place we cannot see or touch; a reward that is ethereal and distant; what makes those Christ-ones think that it is even there at all? Money they can feel. Properties they can stand on. Fame provides them a rush. But all of these to us who live in Christ are what is temporary and of little account. Money is useful to us, but not something to follow like a hungry animal. Properties can be built up with a shelter for a family, but will stay here when we leave to see our heavenly home. Fame may be useful to spread the good news of Jesus, but what good is the applause of man when the judgment of God is at hand?

I cannot reach out and grab the robes of Jesus right now, but that is the blessing. Jesus said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and still believe." You and I cannot touch or see our heavenly home, but we believe the words of Jesus that He has gone to prepare our place there. We have faith in our Lord, and faith in the Savior is what saves those who believe in God's Son. We deserve the grace of God no more than those who murder millions, but we accept God's forgiveness as they will never do. Great are the mercies of our Lord and God. Wonderful is the grace of God that gives us strength to carry on in this difficult, and very temporary, life on earth. One day we will go home to our Lord.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Until The Manna Falls

Good Thursday morning! I'm having trouble typing right today. The fingers refuse to go in the proper order or to the proper keys. Oh well, a few do-overs won't stop the devotional. I will trust in the Lord until the manna falls. Actually, that is a pretty good saying to meditate on for the day. What 'manna' are you looking for? Do you need help with the finances of your life? A person you have not seen for many years? A project in the doldrums and you need some wind in your sails? What makes us think these days that God has fallen out of the manna business? Admit it, we do. We expect to have jobs with enough pay to cover all that we want to buy. We expect to have a doctor available at all times with the correct answers to all of our ills and pains. We expect science or government to solve the world's problems. We have been trained to look to our own abilities by the world.

Part of the problem is that the world has provided some evidence of its own ability in this area. We don't worry about many diseases in many parts of the world that in former days took many lives. We don't greet the coming of spring wondering which king is going to feel like conquering our village. Doctors do have some answers for some pains and ills. Even at the height of the Great Recession, most people still had their jobs. Farmers in many countries raise more food than the nation can eat. So, does all of this mean that God is out of the manna business? No more miracle healing, no more stopping the invader in the night with news from home, or literally, no more manna in the wilderness? I don't think so. However, if we look to idols, God will not act save to punish our nation.

This comes up because tonight we will be discussing idols in our life group lesson. What idols might we have in today's world? Medical science, agriculture, knowledge, money... any and all are possibilities, but not necessarily idols to us. The Israelites received manna in the wilderness because they could not stop to plant crops, had no water except where God provided, and well, it wasn't called the wilderness for nothing. When the people of Abraham finally began populating the promised land, they planted vineyards and fields, moved their sheeps and goatses out to pastures and did their work. God provided manna in the wilderness and provided the strength and time to do agriculture in the promised land. Even today, a famine could come and much of the world could become wilderness. God has not changed, we might be eating manna next year. To remind His people of God's own provision, the Israelites did not plant any crops every 7th year. No planting, no harvest, the land rested and the people probably wondered how hungry they would get. No farming for a year; can you imagine the panic in the world if just one major food provider, say the United States, announced that no crops would be planted this year. We would let the land rest and trust in God. Oh dear...

Think about trusting in God to provide for all of your needs while taking a year off from work. How much do you trust in our Lord? No work, no paycheck, no medical insurance, no stocking up the pantry ahead of time either, just the opportunity to trust in God. Do you tremble at the thought? I'll admit that I do. My trust is not perfect yet, that's for sure. I look at the circumstance first instead of the wonderful power of God as I should. Guide me dear Lord Jesus to have a perfect and faithful trust in your provision.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

We All Gathered There

Good Wednesday morning! One might think that winter has been routed this year with the temps we've enjoyed this week. It is only March however, one might be premature in putting away the winter coats just yet, as we well know. Something you might not have known, you and I attended the crucifixion of Christ around A.D. 33 Wait, I don't remember being around at that time. In fact, with one notorious exception, we don't even remember wooden planking on ships. How could any of us possibly attend Calvary? I recall a certain verse where Jesus asked, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." I grew up in the church thinking that Jesus said that in reference to those of the Jews and Romans gathered around the cross or parading by to see the 'King of the Jews' as Pilate labeled Him. In reading Romans 7 this morning, I had a different thought.

You may recall that in a devotional some months or years ago, I wrote about how God sees all of Creation laid out like a painting before Him. We travel through only a bit of it and see only the moment we are traversing with much clarity. In this world of instant digital news, even that is suspect too. Our past grows more cloudy with each passing day with more memories piling on top of one another, and our future is impossible to see or predict with any accuracy. On the other hand, God sees all of it, right up to the end He has planned. This got me to thinking, always a dangerous occupation, but an insight came out of it. We use the words of Jesus as our commands even when He spoke directly to the 12 disciples. The great commission we obey in our giving to missions, preaching, talking, praying, baptizing, and even writing. Why then, did I think that Jesus spoke only of those gathered on the hill of the crosses at that particular time and place?

Of course, it is one of those things we tend to carryover from youth into, slightly older youth that the Holy Spirit will correct from time to time. Jesus spoke to the Father for all of us gathered there as He died for our sins on the cross. Suffering His last few breaths on the cross, He saw you, and me, and the believers in Africa, and the Christ-ones down under, and those who will believe in all the world, and those perhaps not yet born who will come to believe, and those who have slept before us. All gathered there to witness the great sacrifice though we are not allowed to remember the event now. Jesus saw every one who would be saved from the Creation to the Revelation. I believe that in a way we cannot understand, all of us were called to witness that event and we are called to witness about it now. I have no proof of this, but perhaps the evidence of things not seen as we read in Hebrews 11:1 is not only the future things, but the past things as well.

I read the other day that 'good-bye' is a contracted mashup of 'God be with you'. So for today, I'll step back to the old ways a bit and say "God be with you!"


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm A Question?

Good Tuesday morning! In the fourth verse of the fourteenth chapter, Job asks a question and provides his own answer. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!" Yet we speak of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. We write of being made clean at our sanctification in Heaven. So is there a contradiction between the Old Testament and the New? In this we need the context. Job had suffered tremendous hurt through disaster after disaster, followed by a wife who said, "Curse God and die!" Ouch. Job also faced three friends and then a fourth who told him that he must confess sin that Job did not commit. Job felt persecuted and it comes through in his questions and thoughts. Later, God will take His turn and ask a series of deep question that none can answer. Job will realize the error of his words and repent. God will restore Job and rebuke his friends. Much later, hundreds of years later, God also provided the answer to Job's question. Who can bring clean out of unclean? We know now that Jesus is the one to do this, but it required the ultimate sacrifice from Him.

Some verses stand out and we repeat them, place them on sticky notes over our desk, and frame them on the wall. Where would we be without John 3:16? However, other verses have only a part of the story and we need to read the whole story. Job in his grief and pain thought he had an answer, but God had a better answer. I like that the Bible does not shy away from pain and misery. Moses complained to the Lord that all he had was a bunch of disloyal grumblers to lead. Job poured out his suffering in words. The great king of Israel wrote some not very royal psalms now and then singing of his pain and doubt. Paul knew the truth and still did what he didn't want to do. We have similar problems and suffering in our lives. God is not afraid of our complaints, but like Job we may get a spiritual kick in the britches to get us back on track. Remember that God also sent the Comforter to be with us always. Bring your problems to God and you will receive just what you need.

Our trials and suffering are only part of the story. The crucifixion of Christ was only a part of His story. Another part speaks of resurrection and life. Pain comes for a season, but life with Jesus is eternal. Job commented: "For there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last, and where is he? (Job 14:7,10) God provided that hope, a new hope, in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we feel like Job, a crushed flower in a world of dirt, but like him we are a question in search of an answer. "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." (Job 14:1) Suffering will happen in this world, but that is only the question. In another book, with a similar name and chapter, we read "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

You are a question; Jesus is the answer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seventy Times Seven Times

Good Monday morning! Yessir, I was right on the ball this morning until I heard Ken Davis come on the radio. I thought that I had made the time change without too much trouble, when that theme music came on telling me that I was about fifty minutes late. Slept right through most of the first hour of radio time and it was still dark when I got up. Boo hiss to the spring time change. For years I have been ready to die and be with Christ, but are we ready to live in Christ? Notice that I grabbed y'all and included you in the living too? After giving our lives to Christ, we are okay with being one of the last workers to the vineyard. A little bit of testimony, a few tithes, and let's go to Heaven Lord! However, most of us are called to be lifetime workers in the vineyard, and that is not quite so easy. God wants a full crop from His fields and the seed He planted in my heart and your heart may get the chance to grow to maturity in Christ.

One of the mature yields the Christian produces from the Vine is forgiveness. And one of the more difficult things to learn from the Spirit is to forgive. At first, we think that to forgive is simply to accept an apology for some slight in a social setting or some little injustice done by a friend. No problem, we tell the Lord. Later, we find that people can hurt us in larger ways, and they may not always apologize or even care that we were hurt. This forgiveness is not so easy. We feel the twisting of the bitterness worm inside and that hurt can grow if we are not careful. Suddenly, it becomes more clear why Jesus told Peter that he must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times. Some hurts in this world may require us to get up each morning and immediately forgive those who trespass against us. You or I may have a wound so deep that it hurts each morning when something triggers the memory of that hurt. We start to wonder how long it will take to arrive at 490 times. That 'no problem' soon becomes an "I need you Lord!"

Forgiveness for even small things can be a problem for some, but forgiveness for the deeper hurts sends all of us running to the shelter of our Lord Jesus. Perhaps that is why the big hurts come in our Christian lives. Forgiving the murderer who took a spouse from this life requires more than a mere human heart can give. That heart needs the grace of God. I need the grace of God for even the small things that seem to burn in my memory. Most likely you do as well. If we learn to forgive and forget, there is a certain Accuser who likes to arrange some reminder for us. Even the small stuff may require our forgiving seventy times seven times.

Love one another in Christ this week,

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Good Service

Good Saturday morning! The week has been a pleasant one, but after thanking God we might want to start praying for some moisture out in these parts. Praise God for the new day and Brother Sun who lights it up with his light. As the fun of the NCAA basketball tournaments continue toward the final brackets, what are we watching? Do we look at the team manager with the water bottles to see how he or she is doing this game? Do we watch the famous golfer on the TV or his caddie? How many of us watched the support staff during the Super Bowl to see how well they performed? In our culture, we laud the winner and forget entirely about the people who helped the winner arrive on the podium. Yes, the players, golfers, or drivers do have to perform out there in front of everyone, but they remind me of the pray-er on the corner of whom Jesus said, "They have their reward." We tend to overlook those serving the 'great one' even though our Lord gave us His own example of what is important in the kingdom. Serving well does not get the credit it deserves in this world.

The world may never laud and honor the servant. In fact, we tend to hate the term now or even view it with skepticism when we hear it. How many of us really believe the senator or presidential candidates this year intend to be public servants? Most of us would agree that all of them are in it to serve themselves first and the country second. How else do we explain why they all seem to come out of an office with a modest salary wealthier than when they began to 'serve'? That example too tame? How many of us believe the multimillion dollar CEO who says he came to serve the employees of the company to the best of his ability? We do have some problems with the highly compensated 'servants' of our times. Yet, how many of us go to work with the goal of serving well for our paycheck? Jesus reminded us that if we are faithful with little, then we will be entrusted with more. Yes, your workplace may bring to mind that other promise of Jesus: "He who endures to the end will be saved."

Take heart, not all workplaces are like that. The tide of the Great Recession seems to have turned. We may yet have many good opportunities to serve well once more as companies relax from the panic mode of the past couple of years. Other than our jobs though, we do have opportunities all around us to serve well. Churches always need volunteers, especially now that record numbers of them are going bankrupt or having their properties foreclosed. I would submit to you that serving well (that means no grumbling) is a more rewarding feeling than any paycheck or bonus. A few years ago, I will admit that seemed hard to believe. I tended toward the workman deserves his wages and the more the merrier. If you don't remember Jesus adding that last bit, you are absolutely correct; he didn't. Serving well means we do it in faith that God will provide, and not with our hands out for more cash. The good servant is content with his wages, whether the wage is paid in cash or in heavenly rewards. The good servant is content with what God provides, even if the provision is not all that our worldly minds want. Lord, teach me to be a good servant, amen.


Friday, March 09, 2012


Good Friday morning! Providence, provision, we read about it and hear about it, but what and how much is it? To the world providence can come from good luck, such as winning the lottery. To us, providence comes from Providence, but we often say Divine Providence now because someone went and named a city by that same name. No doubt there is an interesting story behind that place in Rhode Island, but it can confuse the issue at times. We are interested here in the benevolent guidance of God and in His provision for our needs. The root of provision is provide, and to provide is to make ready beforehand, to make available or to supply someone with something, according to my copy of Webster's dictionary. When we look to God for our needs, we believe in His provision.

The first definition, to make ready beforehand, is now used rarely if this dictionary is to be believed. However, I think we may use it more than we think. Imagine that beside the path Jesus would lead us along in this life that God has already set everything we need at stops along the way. We don't have to worry for this or that future need because God has provided for us beforehand. We would say that He has provisioned the path. Imagine how quickly an army could conquer if their supply bases were set up ahead of the advance. Of course those supplies would be set up in what is enemy-held territory, which would be rather foolish. In a way though, God's supplies for our future needs are set up in territory the Devil now holds. The money you need to pay that invoice in 2013 may now be held by a very worldly bank or corporation. When the time arrives, you will find that God has prepared the way for you to earn or perhaps be given that money you need. How much or how little might be up to each of us.

How big is your God? Is He the Almighty, or have you limited Him to small thoughts of you own making? We tend to think that God will provide only just enough at the last possible moment, and this may be true in many cases. On the other hand, God is also the same God who parted the Red Sea, made water flow from a rock in the desert, and raised Lazarus from the grave to name a few examples of His great power. Jesus could have raised Lazarus after a few minutes, perhaps even as much as 90 minutes, but instead He waited four days. God may indeed send the cavalry over the hill at the last possible moment, but then again, He may provide much more than we need with plenty of time to spare. Faith comes in letting God decide when and how much is best for each of us in meeting our needs. For some of us, too much provision over and above our needs is to leave us open to temptation. We are the advance unit of the army that finds the supply dump and picks out all the good MRE's. Others have learned to be responsible with God's provision and God trusts them to handle more. We are those who take God's provision and give back the first fruits of our gain to the Lord, praising Him, thanking Him, and enjoying His provision.

Have a fruitful day in Christ!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Peace of Jesus

Good Thursday morning! Praise the Lord for the new day! The harsh lines of the world we see become muted as a soft blanket of peace flows over the hearts of those who will believe in Christ Jesus. This is no idle wondering, it is fact. In John 14:27 we read: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." We are troubled, "What if everything I believe is wrong?", and then we are afraid, "Then there is nothing in this life for me but suffering and despair!" For this reason, Jesus gave us peace in a way the world cannot give, and then He gave us two commands: let not your heart be troubled, and neither let it be afraid. There are times when a spirit of doubt overtakes our minds. We look at the world and see the storm in much the same way as the disciples stared hard at the big waves on the Sea of Galilee one stormy night. We take the peace Jesus gave to us and throw it to the dogs of the world.

We are given not just any peace, but the peace of Jesus. That peace is what He carried in His heart as He walked among the foes of the temple, or healed the disease and death of the world, or confronted demons who held captives. Any of those circumstances would shake any peace of mind we had gained from the world; all three would have overthrown us and sent any of us running out to the wilderness. At times Jesus became angry. It is interesting to note that He did not become angry at the demon possessed folks, or at the sick, but at those people who should have seen the light but embraced the darkness. Just after driving the moneychangers and other crooks out of the temple, Jesus spoke with peace and assurance. It was not that His peace returned to Him, but that the peace of our Lord had never left. The peace Jesus gives does not desert us in times of righteous anger.

As the disciples labored in vain to bring their boat to shore in a storm, Jesus walked toward them across the waves. As the disciples feared for their human lives in another storm, Jesus got up and calmed the storm with a command. Circumstances that produced fear and terror in the disciples did not shake the peace of Jesus. As the storm ceased and the raging sea became still, the disciples asked each other, "Dude, who is this guy?" (my translation) Jesus calms the storms of the world, changing the storm to peaceful circumstances.

In our history there have been times of spiritual renewal and revival. After the emotional excitement, the saints have sought peace in prayer and thanksgiving with God the Father. We need the peace of Jesus to calm the storm of emotions too. It isn't that emotion is bad and that we should go through life like some kind of Mr. Spock, but that too much emotion for too long can be a problem for us. Trust in God and live in the peace of Jesus. Seek more of that peace through prayer and meditation on the Word of God.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spiritually Inclined

Good Wednesday morning! I've heard it again. That dreadful saying that may be more dangerous than all the opposition of the intellectual man, "I'm not that spiritually inclined." Do you suppose that defense will work on the day we stand before God? No doubt that statement would be followed by one the world also considers safe and sensible. "Well, sir, I wasn't that spiritually inclined in life, but I'm a good person." As we recall through the Spirit, Paul blows these arguments out of the water in Romans. No one is good enough to meet God's standard. John later wrote down a message from Jesus to a lukewarm church in the book of Revelation. Jesus states that He will spew them out of His mouth. The lukewarm church disgusted our Lord so much that He spat their name. I guess they were not that spiritually inclined.

The world has manufactured a few excuses to refuse the Good News of Jesus Christ, but they each sound much the same. The person is basically good and ignorance is their excuse. One of the primary tasks of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of its sin. What comes out of the mouth is an excuse, but what is felt in the heart to produce this excuse? Right, the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Often this excuse comes when speaking of the dead. A nice monument is placed in the cemetery. The people speak of the dearly departed in glowing terms. A smooth and polished box is wrapped around the corpse. And those not spiritually inclined pretend that the man is somehow made better by these things. The funeral service dismisses and some no doubt examine their lives and fear they might be next on the list of that dreaded spectre. But the slight spiritual inclination is soon swallowed up in getting a cab or some other mundane care of life. How different is the passing of the believer?

The church opens up. The minister has taken the personal Bible of the dearly departed and made a service from those favorite highlighted verses. The loved ones gather to celebrate the life of one who blessed others with the light of Christ. Songs of joyful parting are sung. The box and marker are still there, but these do not matter so much. We celebrate Jesus in the life that is past and we look forward to a joyful reunion in Heaven. The funeral service dismisses and some no doubt examine the promises of Jesus and hope, at least a little, that they might be called next. The mundane cares of this world do not matter anymore to the one called home, and we praise God for the release from pain and suffering. How different indeed!

Praise the Lord on this fine day,

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Burden Today

Good Tuesday morning! It seems that so many dark storm clouds are gathered all around us that spiritually we find it difficult to even breath in our Christian life. Natural disasters, terrorist threats, government mismanagement, unbelief in all walks of life, sins in the church, and pretty much anything else you can think of threatens us daily. 2 Chronicles 7:14 seems to fit my nation so well right now that I want to shout it out, or in my case print it in big letters. However, where I am led this morning is in a different direction. Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me, for saving my friends - those I now call my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for providing your grace in our daily lives. Thank you Lord Jesus for all those in this nation who do believe in You and pray daily for a healing, cleansing wave to sweep across our land. Thank you for the awakening movements of the Spirit that have graced our nation's history, and thank you for the next Great Awakening. Thank you for churches open to your Spirit and ministering to those who will believe. Thank you for Christians who believe and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord, for those whose lives stand out as shining beacons in a dark world of sin. Let our lights shine forth as the darkness grows so that your great light may come to our nation once more. Forgive us please for the altar of abortion in our nation where so many lives have been exterminated in the name of convenience and unbelief. Teach us, Lord, to trust in You, and not in the institutions of this world or in our own understanding. Look on us in mercy and blot out our many sins.

Our spirit at times is willing, but our flesh is weak. Praise God that His Holy Spirit is always about the Father's work, and that our Lord is strong in saving grace. Don't be afraid. Pray and seek God's face in humble adoration. Turn from the ways of wickedness so prevalent in our world. Endure to the end. Wait upon the Lord.


Monday, March 05, 2012

A Daily Revelation

Good Monday morning! I don't know what kind of day it is yet. I don't hear the wind trying to beat down my house though. I'll take that as a good start to the day. Did you get up expecting a revelation today? I am wondering if we should not learn to expect some sort of revelation each day from our Lord Jesus. Not, perhaps, something like John saw from the island of Patmos, but rather a revelation of God's love and grace. We read through most of Revelation of God's judgment. Until that tribulation arrives, we have the opportunity to see God's grace and love each day. Furthermore, we have the time to share the good news of God's grace and love with a world in dire need of a better message. All of us can go to any media outlet to get our fill of bad news for each day. The good news of Jesus should be a welcome change for many in these dark times.

However, we must be understanding and gentle in this. The Holy Spirit first convicts the unbeliever of sin, and we know from prior experience that is not a comfortable time for the sinner. I recall a spiritual writhing going on in myself during that time. "Me? I can't be as bad as all that? Look at this person or that other one, they are much worse than me." Conviction of the unbeliever can be an unbelievably painful experience for the spirit, and we should not forget that when we bring the light of God's grace. We may not even want to look back at our own experience of that very thing. The Spirit knocked gently at the door to our hearts and the dark corners of sin stood out harshly in the light of God's love. Pride didn't want us to open the door of grace. That old serpent liked having us covered in the muck of the world. That first acceptance of grace included an acceptance of our sinful condition, and the cleansing hurt the sinful man inside of us. Jesus called it a new birth and being born again brings a bursting forth of new life.

Yes, the new birth is painful to the sinful nature, but what of that? All we remember is the liberation from death and Hell. When Jesus brings us home we will no longer remember the pain of this life at all. Like the beauty of the firework, we will not remember the flash and burst of the explosion that produced it. We will be the loveliness of the flower and no longer feel the separation of the petals. When the time comes for God to see all of us in our sanctified state, will we want to put on a show with just a few of us, or with as many as we can reach in this short time we have? Trust Jesus to put on a big unveiling for the Father in the proper time. But for today, look for a little revelation yourself.

Have a great new week!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

No Visible Means of Support

Good Saturday morning! Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1) The scholars are not sure who wrote the book of Hebrews in the Bible. That seems appropriate in light of this verse. Whoever wrote or dictated this letter to the faithful in Judea gave us a precious gift. We often long for the touch, the feel, the sound of our Savior, but better still would be to see Him face to face. However, before the writer of Hebrews set this verse down for us, Jesus said something that takes precedence: Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." (John 20:29) Thomas was one of the original 12 disciples. He walked with Jesus and listened to His teachings directly for more than 3 years. Yet, Jesus does not call him blessed here but those who have not seen and have believed. We have a great privilege bestowed upon us in believing in Jesus without seeing Him. Sometimes it doesn't seem like it.

We long to be with Jesus and, yes, to see our Lord in the flesh. However, we long for this because the Spirit within us longs to be united with the bride and groom. I believe that the Holy Spirit looks forward with great anticipation to the wedding of Jesus, the groom, and the Church, His bride. We are not there yet, and so we feel a great longing to be with our Lord. We work on keeping our lamps trimmed and filled with oil as the faithful bridesmaids did in the parable. We journey home from the far country as the prodigal did. We invest the talents we have in hopes of our master's return. And we seek to grow deeper into the good soil of God's Word, all while we await the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. At the same time, we have no visible means of support for our hope in Christ.

God does not walk the streets with a big wallet handing out stacks of cash. Yet we believe in His providence. God does not send Jesus back to every debate about the validity of the Bible, but we believe in His Word. God's people are persecuted, scoffed at, and ignored, but we believe in Him we cannot see. I cannot reach out and grab the vine, but I know that by abiding in the True Vine I will grow and be sustained in my faith. God is more real than all of this we see. Not that this world is an illusion, but we know from the Word that one day there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth, yet God will remain the same.

Praise the Lord for our faith,

Friday, March 02, 2012

Songs of Praises

Good Friday morning! Ah, the day of the work week that many look forward to has arrived in all its sunny splendour. Okay, maybe 'sunny splendour' is laying it on a bit thick. It is after all still rather chilly outside this morning and it is still winter. Splendour might best be saved for the return of Christ as His glory fills the skies and shines through the clouds. Now I've flattened the day out some, dulled it to a hazy finish, dimmed the bright lights, and poked holes in the party balloon. How the emotions can so easily roll from up to down and back up again. A few words, a different day, and the emotions change more quickly than the weather. This morning I read the phrase 'songs of praises' in an old hymn. Would that we might start every morning with that phrase on our hearts and a song of praise to God on our lips.

Others have proven through experiment or trial and error that a person can change his mood by changing the thoughts. The morning might come too quickly, but our attitude toward it can change through the Word or the song of praise lifted up to God. In our morning devotional, we might read that the angels brought bowls of incense before the Lord with the prayers of the saints rising up to God. Yes, we read that and we think of those little bitty dessert bowls you get at a restaurant. This morning, I want you to think of an angel lifting up a football stadium full of the prayers of the saints to the Lord. Think of a huge bowl, not some picayune thing. God receives the prayers of the saints from a bowl the size of the Rose Bowl, a bowl the size of Crater Lake in Oregon, or maybe you want to think of a bowl as large as the Pacific Ocean. Think also that those big bowls are full of the songs of praises we are sending up to our Lord. Turn it around. Stop thinking small and think big praises and big prayers. We have a powerful... more than that, an almighty Lord in Heaven. Don't be afraid to think big.

Have one unsaved person on your heart this morning? Think of another one and send up the same prayer to the Lord. Know of one person in need of healing? Pray for all of them! Does the state of your nation bother you? List every wrong thing you can think of and pray for your entire nation this morning. Think of something big and make intercession for an organization, a company, or anything that is much too large for you to pray for, then pray for it anyway. Considering a gift to a church or charity, bring it before God and double the amount. Perhaps doubling the amount will only mean two mites instead of one. No problem, trust God to take those two mites, use them in a big way, and fill your cup of praise to overflowing.

Have a wonderful Friday!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Useless as a Dirty Dollar Bill

Good Thursday morning! I have a piece of what we call paper in my wallet. This piece of green stuff is more of a cloth or rag than a paper, but we call it paper money. Just how useful is this bit of rag? There are many better fire starters for it does not burn as well as true paper. You could use it as insulation for a house, but there are less expensive materials with better insulating properties. This rag does not absorb moisture very well; cotton towels are far superior. Cleaning up the kitchen counter is better served with a sponge. I can write on this bit of rag or paper, but a blank notepad works much better. A stack of these things might work to prop up a short table leg, but then again a bit of wood sawed or sanded is more useful. The point is: if you cannot purchase an item or fulfill an obligation with this stuff, it is pretty much useless. Our coins are much the same, though their metal content might actually prove more useful in certain situations. So many worship money, but you cannot eat a pile of it and expect good nutrition. The coins are rather hard on the teeth too. The mint makes the stuff pretty, but many things are pretty to look at. Yet, I'm thinking that if one of us saw a slip of paper about the right size and color in a ditch, not one of us would simply pass by. Even a shamelessly rich person will stoop down to pick up a Franklin or a Grant on the street, probably even a George or an Abe. And you know what I'm talking about even with the slang names!

Money gains its worth by what we can do with it, not from what it is. As long as our society accepts the green bills and clinking coins as payment, money has worth. What then is our worth to God? Nothing we can do on this earth is something that God cannot do better or faster. We are like the paper bill, but without the ability to purchase something useful with it. But, we are worse than that. Imagine a bill fluttering down from the sky to land in a mud puddle. You'll go in and get it, right? Then the wind picks up and blows the bill into a sewage treatment pond. Now you might ask what the denomination is on the bill. A hundred or a even a twenty and you are all for going in after it, but a one or a five might not be worth it. Well, we are the one dollar bill that landed in the radioactive, waste chemical, sewer-sludge pond with the skull and crossbones sign over it. Our sin has made us so dirty that God must wash us in something powerful to even look at us. You might say that we would have no value to God whatsoever without a fundamental change in our nature. Hmm, that kind of sums it up right there.

We gain our value to God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, for his part, loved us enough in our contaminated state to go to the cross and sacrifice His life that we might be saved. Like the bill in the pond, we have no ability to cleanse ourselves, but we can be washed. Just any old detergent is not going to do the job. However, what if God himself made a sacrifice so potent that we are made as though sin had never contaminated us? In our metaphor, the bill that fell in that worst pond would be made as though fresh from the mint. You would be glad to accept that bill so new and shiny does it look now. In just that way, God will be glad to accept us into His eternal home when Jesus makes us new. God does all the work to cleanse us through His Son... because He wants you and me to be with Him forever!

Praise God for saving grace!