Monday, April 30, 2012

When a Stranger Calls

Hmm, sounds a bit like an old horror movie. In Christ, we live a different sort of life. A stranger may call to pray with us. How does this stranger know that this call of prayer is needed? Through the Holy Spirit of course. We may be isolated by our workplace, but the Spirit of God unites all those who believe in a web of support. The close friend as well as the stranger may call you to offer the support of prayer. A stranger may come to your door with assistance of another kind, and then remain to pray with you. A friend may arrive unlooked for with prayer and good humor to lighten your cares. We are not disconnected, though at times it may seem so to our limited vision. What brought this to mind for me this afternoon? Well, a stranger called to pray with me on a day when I most need it.

This action of the Holy Spirit should not surprise me. I have been moved at times to write something that made a connection with someone far away. Others may drop an e-mail to me 'out of the blue' as they say. The minister in church may preach a line or two that he later thinks did not fit in with the sermon, while a person in the back pew sits up with a conviction on her heart. In Isaiah, I came across a part of a verse that did not seem to fit with the message of the chapter. Isaiah 7:9 begins, "And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah." Okay, but suddenly it is like God has a message that stands out. The latter part of 7:9 is, "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all." If we start reading back a bit, the message to Ahaz does contain other warnings about a quaking heart and not fearing. Then there is a lot of information about what is going on with other kings and nations. The statement about standing firm is God's warning at the end of the message. It stands out because it comes after what seems as almost unrelated information. If we imagine Isaiah, filled with the Spirit of God standing in front of Ahaz shaking his finger at him, then the short message makes sense. "If you are not firm in the faith, you will not be firm at all!"

That is a good message for you and me in our deep trials. Did you ever wonder at Paul's exhortation to work out or exercise your faith? I have, and let me tell you what that can feel like. In a dark situation, alternating periods of faith and fear send me to my knees in prayer. "I want off this roller coaster!" I plead with the Lord. However, He tells me that this is exercising my faith, like building up a muscle is done through reps of strain and rest. I'll admit that I didn't expect that answer. The down valley of fear is not fun, as you might imagine. The up peak of faith is much more to my liking. Can we stop the roller coaster on the up side for a bit, Lord?

Thank you, Lord, for the prayer of friends and strangers.

The Morning of a Little Ironing

Good morning on this interesting day. I have not ironed for many a day, but this morning the Lord would have me to iron a shirt. While doing this mundane but rather satisfying task of chasing the wrinkles away, I found a new solace in the Lord's company. Just the simple act of obeying our Lord in such a simple task felt good and right. Is that such a simple task though? The irons of today require electrical power, which comes to the iron through a large electrical system including the wiring in my home, the City of Sidney power grid, and the wider power system in the region. The home took months to build and required the services of many trades, some of those served years as apprentices before they could take on jobs of this magnitude. After building, the home needed at the very least a surface and the iron itself. Then we take for granted our ability. To pick up the iron required more strength than some people have in this world. Moving the iron required a certain amount of coordination to avoid ironing little things like my other hand and my belly. God provides a lot to go into this simple task. We could continue into the nation, its defense forces, the peace to do simple domestic chores and the universe. Even in what seems a simple task we have much to be grateful for.

Does God wish us to thank Him for even the seemingly small things that we an do ourselves? As we can now see, the simple things are not so simple, and, yes, God very much wants us to come to Him in gratitude for even the simple things. The foundation stone or the cornerstone of a building seems rather simple. Just a big block of rock or concrete to start building on. Again, we can go into the selecting of the material, drawing of plans, site survey, measuring, and locating to show how that big rock is not so simple. The cornerstone of our faith is Jesus Christ, and the construction of the church, the body of Christ, is anything but simple. On the other hand, complex tasks to us may be among God's simplest chores. We do not have God's view, but we do have the privilege to trust in the Almighty. The One who is trustworthy to the utmost definition of His Word. In a simple domestic chore, or in a major project, we can trust in God to provide the time, strength, ability, people, money, and the power to get the job done.

What if I am to write for 40 more years? Other than being at a ripe old age when I get there, I need to trust in God to provide all I need to endure for that long. That is too much to add on my fingers, but I estimate that to be a whole pile of devotionals, perhaps even one of those great, big, huge piles. Should I pace myself for this effort? No, I want to pour it all out everyday and trust in God to refill me for each new effort. I'm not ready to take up ironing shirts for a living just yet, but the task is satisfying in the final result. Obedience brings its own reward. Now there's a thought for today.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Does God Feel?

Good evening and God bless you as Saturday evening comes on. As I pondered war and suffering this evening, I began to wonder what God must feel. We have a tendency to think that God is somehow distant from the pain and mourning that a war, or any day for that matter, brings on. We see our Father as sitting on His throne in Heaven callously moving pieces on a giant chessboard, but is that the truth? Probably not. God loves us and God is jealous for us to love Him in return. From that love, God mourns the death of a child with the parents. The Holy Spirit in us groans when we feel pain or sadness. God does carry out His plan, but we know from the cross that Jesus bore a terrible cost. I do not believe that God was unmoved by the death of His Son, witness the hours of darkness at Calvary. God is not unfeeling or distant. We know that God hates sin. He could hardly look at the world and not feel compassion, pity, and yes, sorrow, as we struggle in this life. Life is not all mourning and weeping though. The Holy Spirit in you will also enjoy with you the triumphs of this life. Weddings, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, and many other happy events bring a smile to the Spirit and I like to think that God the Father feels that happiness too.

In Matthew 7, Jesus speaks of how well the Father knows how to give us every good thing. When God's children are joyous and happy, I believe that God smiles and is not distant at all. I grew up with a view of God as someone far removed from our emotions, but I no longer believe that is the case at all. God wants us to be happy with Him forever. Why else have a heaven?

Have a great Sunday!

Never Rely

Good morning after a windy night. Part of verse 5 of Proverbs chapter 3 goes like this: Never rely on what you think you know. I once made a list of things that I know and offered it to God for His use. I thought that I was doing something, I'm not sure what now. Trying to impress God? He knows all things and created all things. How is my little knowledge of a few things going to impress Him? Did I offer something that surprised God? He guided my footsteps from before I was born. The Lord does not need a copy of my resume. He might even edit that list to show me that in this thing or that I do not know as much as I think I know. That statement in Proverbs does much more than convict me of any shred of intellectual pride, it also comforts me in the future.

By adding a few words to the end we start to gain some understanding. Never rely on what you think you know will happen tomorrow. With this addition, we relieve our anxieties about those dreadful events we fear. God is in charge of tomorrow, what I think I know is not. Never rely on what you think you know will happen to a loved one. We imagine all sorts of terrible possibilities, perhaps God has something better in His plan. Never rely on what you think you know is going on in your neighbor's life. Have you asked God in prayer to guide them? Only God sees into the heart of everyone; our guesses may be way off the mark. No doubt you can add other phrases to that command, but why should we not rely on what we think we know? The answer is provided first.

"Trust in the Lord, with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know." (Prov 3:5) By setting aside what we think we know or have to offer, we come to God just as He has made us. Nothing I think I know or have is of any added benefit to God. No amount of money in my account is going to make God's kingdom run a little better. No amount of time given to service is going to put God in my debt. Nothing I can offer or do will save anyone... but anything I do or offer in Christ may bring someone to the Cross. I need God to show me the way. What I think I know might just be enough to really mess things up, if I don't come to God in prayer first. God thought of that too: "Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the way." (Prov 3:6) I have repeated these verses a lot lately, while I learn to trust in God with all of my heart, and stop relying on what I think I know. As a lost sheep in a tough world, I need the Shepherd to show me the way.

Get up for the day and shout a rousing "Hallelujah"!

Friday, April 27, 2012

That's The Point of Faith!

Good evening! I can't see how it's going to happen. I'm tempted to give up. There is no way on earth this is going to happen. That's the point of faith! We don't see that something is possible. Giving up would be so easy. No amount of moving people and things on earth is good enough. There may not appear to be enough time. My poor human brain does its calculations and the total comes up short. All that can be fixed in a moment of prayer to the Almighty. God is not limited by what I see or by what my mind can figure or count up. God is not stopped by your giving in or despairing of the result you need. "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1 NLT) When everything has been tried, the time is too short, and the forces against us appear to have the victory, that is the time God moves, exerting His heavenly power.

The world laughs at our faith in something we cannot hold, our belief in Him we cannot see or touch. Stand for Christ and the scoffers release their unbelief in waves of scorn and derision. Without the assurance of the Holy Spirit, the shouts of the flesh within would join the scoffers in overthrowing our resolve. With so many against us, we need the Most High God to stand before us. We long for the Son to come in His glory and quash the evil noise, but the time is not yet. Faith and phantoms can easily become linked in our worldly thinking. In fact, we find it easier to tremble in fear at the thought of phantoms in a darkened room, while the true power that created all the universe seems absent. Yet, the Bible speaks otherwise. No ghost approached the disciples across the waves on that stormy sea; it was the Savior himself in the flesh.

God is the all-powerful Father in Heaven who created you and me in love. We are not left alone, though our human senses claim that none stand beside us. By faith we believe that Jesus knows our every pain and weakness. By faith, we look forward to the day we will see the Father in His glory. By faith, we know that God has not forgotten our need in the dark moment of the trial. Faith seems without substance, yet the substance of faith is the very hope of Christ's return. My eyes see no evidence of faith, but faith strengthens the eyes of my heart to see God at work every day.

Praise the Lord, and believe!

He Leadeth Me

Good rainy morning! Just the rain we needed at just the right time. What sort of mess are you in right now? Your circumstance may include only the little things that happen every day. Difficult co-workers, rebellious teenagers (might be some redundancy there), crying babies, late for work, problems with systems, a stray ache or pain in the body, these things come and go on most days. However, you may also be in a serious crisis like the status of your job is right on the edge, the finances of your household are in disaster mode, your family is waiting for the results of a medical test, or a loved one is near death. Part of the serious crises we face in life is the blame game. What did I do wrong? How come these things are happening to me? Why does God need to punish me? If we take the time to read Job, we will notice questions very like that coming from the mouths of Jobs friends. Yet, God himself testified to Job's innocence before the trial began.

Job did not deserve to lose his family and property through some sin that he could not recall. The trial came from God's prerogative to test His children. God invited Satan to check out Job, and then allowed the adversary to do some serious destruction in the man's life. To Job, the disasters came out of nowhere. Job had his family around him, his herds, his home, and praise to God on his tongue. He prayed daily for his children in case one of them forgot. Job should have been rewarded with health, wealth, and long life from our point of view. Suddenly, he only had his life, because God limited Satan's attack. Yes, we read that right: God limited Satan's attack.

We do not know in our current crisis what limitations God has placed on the adversary or his minions. We do know that in Christ, God is watching carefully over the circumstances that look so dark. God sent His Holy Spirit to lead us here. We moan and groan under the circumstance, but perhaps we should be looking for what we are to learn in this situation. What fruit of the Spirit will grow larger and more generous through this trail? What understanding will I gain for when another faces a similar trial? How much more will I be of help and comfort to my brothers in Christ when they too face their Waterloo? Oops, little Napoleonic reference snuck in there. Actually, that isn't quite correct. For what seems like a major defeat in our lives may only be a the temporary testing that He leads us to and through. Job suffered terribly for a while, but in time God restored him and led him up to the peaks of gratitude and gladness.

At times we may be tempted to think that life is but one big trip through the dark valley. What are you? Job, his wife and his friends all rolled into one telling yourself that you have sinned and encouraging yourself to curse God and die? Shame on you! Look to God and receive His grace and revel in His strength. In our weakness, God's strength shines through. In His mercy, God gives us no more than we can bear. Trust in our Lord!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why We Do It

Good day to you on this windy afternoon. The old timers, that is those who wrote down their thoughts in the 18th or 19th centuries, often told us things they did to get by in their walk with the Lord. Journalling or keeping a diary, singing hymns, reading the Psalms, and other things may seem quaint at times. One of the things that might cause a thought or two of rebellion in any of us is the memorizing of scripture. With many Bibles available in most of our homes, we might wonder why we should make the effort. Is not the entire Bible better to have than just a few verses? Nearer to hand we can find the answer to that question.

In the Vietnam War, many pilots and air crew fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese government. Like the prisoners now being held by our government at the Marine base in Guantanamo, the imprisonment for some of the POW's was rather lengthy. Do you suppose that a few of those men wished they had memorized a lot more scripture? We may not always have access to a Bible. Life can change very quickly. That is only one reason. There is certainly a good chance that you and I will live out our lives without facing a lengthy incarceration. Memorizing the scripture, especially short passages of 1-4 verses, allows us to go over that scripture in our minds while doing other things such as loading up a washer, or vacuuming the living room. By going over a verse or two many times, we may find new insights that did not occur to our minds before. Call this an intense study, if you will. Pray and go over the scripture with God in this manner for several hours. You may be surprised at what He reveals.

Sorry to break this to you, but the work you do at your job may not be along the lines of, oh, mathematically proving or disproving the existence of subatomic particles. Your job might even be called mechanical or repetitive, perhaps even downright boring. When I started at Cabela's in 1989, I stood by a moving conveyor and sorted boxes and sacks by size. Sacks and small boxes went one way, larger boxes the other, not exactly rocket science, mate. In a job like that, God has provided a great time to deeply ponder a short passage of scripture. You might even work up to entire chapters of the Bible. Fanny Crosby memorized entire books of the Bible during her lifetime. In case you just thought of books like 3 John, the Psalms was just one of the books she memorized. I got a long way to go to match a feat like that. Imagine what a comfort it would be to have the book of Psalms memorized while stranded on that deserted island.

God is great!

My Storehouses Are Not Safe

Good morning and praise God for the rain shower! Let us this morning take a look at another one of those 'oops' questions. The questions that come up in Bible study, or the Sunday sermon, or perhaps just from the Holy Spirit. The ones where you go "Oops, that's me!" Have you ever held up a storehouse to God and said something like, "At least I'm in good shape in this matter"? You might add in a word of praise or thanksgiving, but, oops, that sounds a lot like that rich fellow and his grain bins Jesus spoke about in the parable. In this manner, God has put it into my heart that my storehouses are not safe.

We like a full pantry, a well-stocked freezer (preferably with wild game), well-supplied shelves in the bathroom, and a closet with lots of choices for clothing to wear. Everyone feels the urge to have this; most never achieve all they would like, not even the very wealthy. These storehouses on earth are not safe. Jesus told us to store up treasure in Heaven, where thieves do not break in and the moth or rust does not destroy. Learning to trust in our storehouses is easy, and sneaks up on us until that 'Oops!' However, those storehouses are quite the burden too. We make lists to go to the store, work hard to earn money to pay for the list, and haul the stuff home to immediately begin using up what we just restocked. If the shelves begin to look bare and the back of the fridge comes into view, we start to worry. Many in the world think they would like to have those kind of worries. In this life, rich or poor or somewhere on the scale between, we are going to have all the worries we want to grasp and then some. One storehouse in this world does seem inexhaustible, and that is the one containing all the things we can worry about. A full pantry is but a day or two from becoming an empty pantry. An abundant wheat harvest is only a year or two from empty grain bins. I can't eat a worry, and you can't eat the empty shelves of your pantry.

Faith provides access to God's storehouses, but the definition of faith may not provide what our human eyes want to look at. Our eyes want to gloat over fully-stocked shelves. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Uh, oh... the eyes may get a rest while our knees see more action in prayer. The flesh does cry out in so many ways when things look tough. Shut your worldly eyes, open the eyes of your heart, and pray in faith that God will provide.

Providence, it's the very name of God!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Even Fools Can Trust in the Lord

Good evening! We've sure been saying the word 'unseasonable' a lot this year. Perhaps this year that word is the new normal. Temperatures about 20º above normal seem fairly common so far this year. Yes, it may very well signal a difficult summer. Folks from down south with their RV's may decide that we are not nearly far enough north for them this year. For just a few minutes this evening, think that you are one of those people seeking a milder summer, but you only make it as far as say, Dallas, yes the one in Texas. Someone might call you a fool. Milder summers are north, not north Texas, but north as in North Dakota or this year, perhaps North Yukon. Does that mean that you are not allowed to trust in God for mild summer weather because you have been foolish. Perhaps, but that is only if we think that the trustworthiness of God is based on our decisions and wisdom.

A fool can put his trust in the Lord for the same reasons that we can ('we' is assuming that I am not the fool in question.). The Lord does not change His mind. The Lord does not break His covenants. The Lord is all-powerful; that is when the Lord says that something will happen, no one can stop His command. The weather is what the Lord created in this world, plus what He allows the prince of this world to do, plus the curse that came when Adam sinned. In other words, we don't really know what the weather in north Texas will be like this year. They suffered a terrible drought, bit this year the weather may be quite mild during the summer. God knows; we do not. So if God tells the one we consider foolish that he is not foolish, then who is the fool? Yes, from our historical experience and records, we know that it is likely to be hot in Dallas during July, but we do not know that it will be. In April, July is in the future and none of us knows the future. The fool may be wrong for parking his RV for the summer too far south, but we will only know that he is a fool after the summer heat arrives. God knows right now what the weather all over the planet will be like in July. Half of the world holds their winter months in July, it may be that the fool didn't go far enough south that month.

South or north, east or west, even fools can trust in the Lord. Not because the fool will be right or wrong about his weather forecasting, but because God is who He is. Trust in God because He sent His son to die for our sins. Trust in God because He created the heavens and the earth. Trust in God because the One who knows your every flaw loves you just the way you are. It is interesting that God can fix a fool, but He won't work with the self-righteous.

Enjoy the evening!

A Quest Worthy

Good morning! In our new life in Christ, we want to do something. We don't feel that free grace ought to do it, so we labor at religion. Some skip right to the religion part and are led away from Jesus and salvation. If earning salvation is not possible, then what can we do for the kingdom? A kingdom brings to mind a knight and his quest. Will God be so kind as to give any of us a quest worthy of the kingdom of God? Yes, I believe there is at least one. Make it your quest to live trusting in God every moment of every day without fear and without doubt. In a time of calm, without a serious trial in your life, you will think this quest too easy. However, God will make sure the quest is worthy, I can assure you of that. Everyone who has given his or her life to Christ will at some point face a serious trial. Not a small trial like losing an assignment at school or work and getting a bad grade or a chewing out. No, this is the serious trial. You and God will decide just what that is. Some examples will work for one Christian, but not another. I'll just leave it to God decide what it takes to really get your attention.

Your quest will lead you through that valley David named in his great psalm. At the very bottom of that valley, when the only light shining is in the Shepherd beside you, you are going to feel like one terrified sheep. Your bleating may shake the walls of the mountains above. Jesus will calm your heart and bear you up. In that valley, when you think you have hit bottom, you may discover another gully, this one without bridge or footpath. Jesus does not leave your side. In fact, like the poem He may carry you over that gully. Yes, with your little sheep mouth bleating its terror for all to hear. The thoughts of fear and doubt will be thrown at you as though being at the bottom of a dreadful valley is not enough in this life. The Adversary loves to catch us when our spirits are down in our boot soles. Look around, Jesus has not left you alone in your terror. From the bottom of the valley, firmly in the hand of the Savior, stop the bleating. Ask Him for strength to not doubt and for the power to overcome fear. If God has made promises, seize on them; remind Him of those promises, and trust Him to fulfill them. Stay the course, don't try to leap out of your Savior's arms in a time of fear. Run to His word. Your arms aren't full of frightened sheep, read verses, passages, even entire books aloud if necessary to calm your fears. The Word of God is powerful. The promises of God sure and certain. The love of God never stops. Read Romans 8, ask what can separate you from the love of God, and enjoy the answer - NOTHING!

Take up your quest Christian knight, You will lose your fear in it.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trust: A 24x7 Operation

Good evening or afternoon. Not quite 90º yet, but the temp is flirting with it. Early in the morning or late in the evening; after the kids have gone to bed or before the pets get up; anytime you have a spare moment, the need for trust in God comes a calling. Perhaps it should be that the enemy is after us 24x7, but without giving the adversary more credit than is due him, we have a need to trust in God on a 24x7 basis. You know from prior experience, if not it will come to you, that at zero-dark-thirty in the morning you will feel the creeping fingers of dread steal over your heart. What if? Should I have...? The questions start and the time for trust is upon you once more. We want to think that a prayer of trust in the morning before we take off for work should be enough to at least get us through the day. It is not. Better, might be a prayer during the Sunday church service that would be enough for the week, but again, it doesn't work that way. Every day at every time of the day we must trust in God. And if that is not difficult to learn, I don't know what is. I am hearing just a constant stream of variations on 'You're doomed!' coming from the enemy right now, and living with that is tough.

Trust is my word of the year as I may have mentioned before. I wanted to use 'giving', but no, the Lord said 'trust'. Who do you suppose turned out to be right? I need that word this year more than I ever have emotionally and spiritually. Each day and every night the challenge to let go of my control and trust in God comes before me. If you recognize a theme from Pastor Luther's sermon this past Sunday, you are correct. Even a guest minister who comes but twice a year has a message for me from God, and he probably didn't know it was aimed specifically at my situation. You may have said the very thing yourself sitting in that service, or perhaps you said it for a different word. When God gives us a word to work on for the year, we can get ready for situations that call for it. This morning, to help in this, I printed out several versions of a verse.

Yes, the different translations all say the same thing, but not exactly in the same way. By slowly going through each of these verses, I get a better understanding of what God is trying to get into my heart. 'The evidence of things not seen' reads just a little different than 'conviction of things not seen.' Both are good translations, but put together I get a little more into my heart. Add to that, 'it gives us assurance about things we cannot see,' and I have a little more. Of course, I 'm reading Hebrews 11:1, the definition of faith. Trust and faith go together much like trust and obedience do. I will admit that my faith is a little battered right now. I want to see some evidence, which is exactly opposite of what the test of faith is all about, not seeing evidence and still believing in and trusting in God.

God be with you,

It Switches On You

Good morning! Lovely, cool morning today. What is good news? Most of the time we are looking for change in the news for it to be good. However, God's will for our lives has not changed, and that is good news. We may bring God requests with thanksgiving, but what would happen if each time we asked, the answer changed? That would not be such good news. This morning, I thought that it is the adversary who changes constantly. If your faith is under attack, you will most likely face thoughts of fear. When the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith and fear is conquered, then the attack of fantasy begins. Absurd visions of this or that other way of solving some problem. You saw one not too long ago that affected many, the lots of millions lottery game. Somewhere, a person with a family to feed and bills to pay dropped a grand or so on lottery tickets and lost it all. He fell to the attack of fantasy. But! When the attack of fantasy fails or passes by, you will feel the fear factor arrive once more. The valley of death's shadow is not called that without reason. Walking through it with our Lord Jesus, we need to remember exactly that... we are walking through it with our Lord Jesus.

Fantasy or fear, the attack switches on you. Back and forth it will go. The fears may shift from one thing to another. The fantasies may get more or less fantastical, but the attacks can only be defeated through what God has given us. The Holy Spirit is not snoozing in a back room of your heart worn out from the heavy cleaning He has been doing in there. Remember two words that will help always in your time of need. "In Christ." In Christ, I can overcome the dread of the situation. When God says to wait, though all may seem about to crash around me, in Christ I can wait. When God calls me to trust in Him, in Christ my faith is strengthened. What do I fear that God has not already dealt with in the lives of many of the saints who have gone before me? Nothing. What power on the earth is so new that God is taken by surprise? What fearful thing is so new and unusual that God will be stymied by it? We know the answers to these questions, but at times we need to remind each other that God is sovereign, all-powerful, glorious, wonderful, everlasting, all-knowing, and He loves you and me!

Take heart, the Lord Jesus Christ will act on your behalf in whatever crisis you face this day.


Monday, April 23, 2012

God's Love

Good evening on this warm April day. Another record high temp with another planned for tomorrow. However, we'll just let tomorrow be whatever God sends our way. What makes me deserve God's love? For that matter, what makes you or anyone else deserve God's love. We don't have an answer to that, because not one of us is deserving of the love of God. Yet, all of us have it. In the Bible, we find that God is not willing that any should perish. That is a strong statement in light of many historical figures of an evil bent, but it is even stronger when we consider the sin in our own lives. At times, it may seem like we have found an example to hold up. God would surely love this person given their good deeds and right living. However, looking into the heart of that 'saint' God had Paul write that all have sinned and fallen short of God's standard. Not one deserves God's love, and we all live in His love. How is that possible?

If we think that God cannot love someone, then we don't know God very well. God loves whomever He chooses to love and His love is given to all. It is interesting that those who reject the Son demand that God love saying, "God is love; how can a loving God condemn anyone?" Those who believe in Jesus wonder how God can love any of us and marvel that He loved so much that He gave His Son in atonement for our sins. We do not have to wonder why God loves His human creations, but certainly the least we can do is love Him in return.


The Cross of Christ

Good morning. Back in the day, as in Saturday, I wrote about the stripes of Jesus healing us. Today, what did we receive from that bit of dead tree near Gethsemane? The early Christians used the sign of the fish to represent their faith. A cross would have reminded them of executions, sort of like using a little silver electric chair as a piece of jewelry or signing our letters with the little drawing of a guillotine. The latest method is lethal injection, but I'm not sure how we would make a symbol of that. The Romans executed many people on the cross. Why did this one particular cross become a symbol? What happened to the wood of that cross? People tell some stout legends about the spear that pierced Jesus or the cup he drank from in the first communion service. You have no doubt heard some story about the Spear of Destiny or the Holy Grail. Imagine the nuttiness that would take place if the original cross were found in a cave with some letters from Mary or John. The Romans probably used the cross many times after the death of Jesus. Wood is not exactly common around Jerusalem. Eventually, the wood rotted away, but in time came to be known around the world.

No one remembers the names of others who may have died on the same cross. We impart no special significance to the deaths of those who left this world in a similar manner to Jesus. The power of the cross must not come from the shape, the material, or how long the victim endured the suffering. Some died more quickly on the cross, perhaps worn down by disease or other punishment, some died after days of suffering where Jesus lasted only hours. The reason for the cross must not be how the person died, but something in the person who died on the cross. As with the stripes, we get nowhere looking at the method or the material. We learn the significance by looking at the man, Jesus Christ. We are healed by HIS stripes, and we are saved from eternal death by HIS death on the cross. No other scourging of the whips accomplished anything for you and me. Only one death on a cross paid for the sins of many. One man lived a sinless life to become the acceptable sacrifice for the God who demanded perfect justice.

Yes, there was something special about that particular cross, but it wasn't in the wood. The Son of God died on that cross. If a cross could feel honor, that wood did at that time. Of course if the dead wood could feel, it certainly would have felt the shame and helplessness of the Lamb. One day that same wood may get the chance to feel the majesty and glory as the Lion comes forth in triumph. Why am I writing about wood? We feel the shame of our sin, and we find the only cure when we bring it to the risen Savior. We look up in hope for our redemption comes in the clouds of glory. We stand ready to receive His majesty as the King of kings returns to bring us home.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

By His Stripes

Good Saturday morning! Think about this one for a bit, "By His stripes are we healed." (Isaiah 53:5) That makes no sense to us in the world. Imagine going into the doctor's office. He does a few pokes, asks a few questions, determines the answer according to his professional education and experience.

"I have it! You have contracted whatchmagotitis, a rare inflammation of the whatchamagot!"

A definite answer, you are elated, now for the other shoe to drop.

"Doc, what is the cure? A course of pills, several painful shots you like so much, what?"

"No, not that at all, it's..."

"An incredibly expensive surgery, I should have known."

"No, let me finish. The cure is that we take Edmund over in the next room and have him flogged."

"Eh? What does Edmund have to do with it? How will that heal me?"

Now imagine poor Edmund's dismay when he receives the prescription for your cure. This statement from that verse is another of those things that makes no sense in human wisdom. Jesus received the lashes, we got the healing. And then we have the question, healing of what? The other prophecies in the verse don't help: he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. That does sound like someone taking punishment for something we are guilty of, but how can any of that heal us in any way? The message that I receive healing by Jesus taking the blows of the whip startles me in its mystery. I cannot explain how the stripes across the back of our Lord provided healing. Doing damage to the innocent skin gave healing to the sinners.

Praise God that prophecy has been fulfilled in one specific person. If that method worked for all healing in the world, the damage that would ensue to heal the powerful and wealthy would be dreadful. Caesar has the gout! Oh dear, 5,000 slaves will perish before his physicians get that healed. Sorry, the president has cancer. Run for the hills! Of course, there is the other side too. "We need 50 volunteers to take 10 lashes each to heal the president of his flu bug. Come on, step on up here, anyone...anyone at all?"

Praise God for the day,

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whose Schedule Are We On?

Good Friday evening! Time for some of us to head home for the weekend, others to stay late at work, and a fortunate few have been off for some time and may already be at a lake or campground or other fun place. Bowing to advice from workplace experts, many of us have at one time set goals with deadlines. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. All successful people make plans and God wants us to be successful servants to the kingdom and all that, right? The question might come up, whose schedule are we on? What if I set deadlines for things but the dates come and go without a successful resolution? Did I plan wrong, or, heaven help me... did I fail God? Am I not learning something here? Is it like those computer games where I cannot move forward to the next scene if I'm not holding a purple flower in my left hand and a Bible with a green cover in my right hand? Should I have prayed more back in February, worn better clothes to the church in March, or made that all-encompassing request for forgiveness for all the sins that I didn't know about? I know, you've never been bothered by thoughts like that. It's just me and I'm obviously 'round the bend as they say.

We can over think any situation in which we have time to ponder and wonder. Let us set the matter straight though. When I surrendered my life to God, the schedule became His to order as He wills. If I set some date that I think should be met, God only laughs or perhaps tells me to wait just a little longer. We see this even in heaven when the Tribulation martyrs ask God, when? God gives them a white robe and tells them to wait just a little longer until their number is fulfilled. The saints receive not only a robe, but an explanation. We will not always get anything but silence. And waiting on the Lord in silence can be among the most difficult of things to learn for us. Waiting without action on our part can be just about downright maddening. Tears of frustration may start in our eyes as we wait for God to act, while at the same time His only answer to our pleas is to wait, watch, and be at peace. The solution I have, or at least think I have, may not be the best for me. God sees all, I see only a little.

Faith tells me that God has it all worked out, no matter how the situation looks from my point of view. Faith says to wait and God will act in the perfect time. That time may not be in line with my schedule, but God is not worried by my scheduling. Speaking of scheduling: Can someone explain to me why kitty toilette must go on here at the desk during the devotional? We have all day and night for this, but I guess the Lord is teaching me something about forbearance and patience. Praise God, my training goes on. I am grateful that God cares enough to teach me the fruits of the Spirit!

Have a great weekend,

When We All Get to Heaven

Good Friday morning! The song came to mind this morning for some reason, and there it will stay it seems. When we all get to Heaven. What do we know about Heaven? We could look at Paradise Lost or the Divine Comedy, but those are works of fiction. We don't take what little we know about Hell and use the opposite, for that may not be true either. If God says that our future home is more wonderful than we can imagine, then we immediately start imagining. That is simply the rebel nature in us. We can imagine quite a bit too. Loved ones who have gone home before us, pets, trees, mountains, rivers, but then we start putting conditions on our imaginings. A person who lives where trees grow quickly might rather see open plains of grass in their heaven. A resident of the arid plains wants forests to explore, preferably without the toothy predators, thank you very much. Sasquatches are okay, as long as they are nice Sasquatches. A farmer flooded out by his nearby river each year might be a little hesitant, shall we say, about having rivers in his heaven. Maybe just some little creeks to enjoy and go easy on the cattails for him. We have a lot of ideas about what Heaven should be, but little knowledge about what it will be.

Jesus has gone to prepare a home for us. Some Bible translations use 'mansion', but home is good enough for me! We know from John's vision that worship goes on a lot up there. That part sounds a little dull to us down here, sort of like being threatened with a never-ending church service. However, we forget that nowhere in the Bible does it say that the elders or angels or saints are being forced to worship and praise God forever and ever. If you build a shed down here with a song of praise on your lips - whistling, humming, singing, or whatever you like - is that so difficult? Not if it is what you want to do. Friday is a good morning to think about Heaven for just a bit.

The good things we think of may all be there and then much more. Isaiah foretold the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the laying down of the leopard with the young goat, and the calf, the lion, and the fatted calf together, with the little child leading them. The nursing child playing by the cobra's hole? Wait, who let that snake into heaven? Actually, the prophecy speaks of a viper's den and a cobra's hole, not sure if that includes the snakes or not. However, snakes are allowed to groan for the release of the curse on creation too. Some folks like snakes. In Heaven, the rest of us may learn not to jump back when we first see a snake. Sounds a mite peculiar, but there it is. This sounds better:

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain. For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)

Wait, weren't we talking about Heaven? Yes, one day God will come down with the New Jerusalem and we will not be worried about earth or heaven, but will enjoy earth and heaven. If God leaves heaven up there somewhere and comes to dwell on earth, then heaven would become just another place to visit. For one thing we do know about Heaven: God is there. Jehovah's throne, His place, is in Heaven. I cannot explain the omnipresence of God, and the presence on that wonderful throne. That mystery may become clear when we get to Heaven, or we may be too busy praising God.

Love the Lord your God on this lovely day,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Sneaky Tie

Good morning! Uh, oh, the Wednesday Men's Bible study will soon come to a close for this session. As this happens each year about this time, I will miss those meetings until autumn comes and we start again. However, I also enjoy the break. We study deep scripture each week and the break is good for a while. The Bible study is a good thing and it is good to miss it, but what if you have something else that may be bad for you in God's eyes and the time comes to part ways or give it up. You think you have removed all ties to the old place or habit, but one sneaky tie still binds you. We know from what we have heard or seen that an alcoholic cannot keep a bottle of hooch stashed in a back corner of the laundry room because inevitably she will find it and, oh dear, the troubles begin again. All ties must be removed from the old life, or the same problems will come right back. Sneaky ties can be difficult to root out.

We not only fight our sinful nature, but we also have a tempter who is actively working to trip us up. Then we have that desire to hold on to what we know; sort of the comfort of the frying pan over jumping out into the fire we fear. Trusting in God means that we first admit that we don't know there is a fire over that edge. We give up the sneaky tie when it is discovered, and though it may prove difficult we know that God has our best in mind. Discovering that sneaky tie may require listening to God and searching for it. Something of the old life goes on for long enough, and it may become almost a part of you. Cutting that old tie might take an intervention from God.

Will God intervene in that manner? Free will, personal choice, responsibility for our own actions, and all that stuff? Ask Him! Make the personal choice to let God cleanse through His Holy Spirit. Give up your personal freedom in the matter: Lord, I don't want to do this anymore. Take it from me, please! The Lord may say 'No'. The best for you and me could be to struggle against something until we are called home. In that case, we also trust that God knows what is best for us. That sneaky tie may be left for our testing. The faith we have says that God will complete His good work in us. Strengthen your faith on the Word, and trust Him completely.

Praise God for the morning!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Faith in the Same Way

Good morning! Is your heart broken this morning? Do you feel that faith is nothing but the carrot at the end of a stick and you're the ass for following it? In the darkness of the storm when the waves threatened to swamp the boat, that is when Jesus walked across the water and spoke of little faith. As Peter walked across the water to the Lord, it was when he looked at the waves and felt the wind that Jesus had to save him and ask, "Why did you doubt?" We look at the verse and try to absorb it into our hearts, Hebrews eleventy-one: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In the time of the storm we may find a wondering question in our hearts, perhaps even a doubting question. I could believe if just one or two of the things I hoped for came true. Well, that isn't quite the faith we are to have. As often happens, we quote the one verse many times, but don't always look past it. What does Hebrews 11: 2 have to say on the matter. "For by it the people of old received their commendation." Another version of the Bible uses, 'testimony' in place of commendation. When I read that this morning, I wondered instead what testimony God is raising up in me through this trial.

This is a different type of wondering; a change from a doubting question to a believing question. The storm is dark and the waves threaten to overwhelm, but God is producing in me a great testimony from a great storm. Even now Jesus sets off across the water to come to my rescue, but I must believe and hold on to my faith in Him. For our faith is not a blind wish for relief, but a firm hope in a risen Savior. Our prayer changes from a simple 'save me' to a more faithful, "Raise up a right testimony in me, Lord, by your good purpose in this trial." With that prayer, we believe that the trial will end. Peter was saved from his doubts by our Lord; the disciples came to the shore in the calm with their faith renewed. I too will come to the shore of a renewed and recharged faith with a good testimony to share. What that testimony will be is just out of my vision right now. But a few things I do know.

The testimony will speak of the grace of God. A grace that is not affected by circumstances because it is given by God. The testimony may speak of a salvation that Jesus died to gain, provision that God grants without condition, and the love of God that changes not in the storms of life. A Savior who has rescued me from the penalty of sin, will not fail to see me through this trial as well. To the disciples in the boat, the storm was the only thing that mattered at that time. When their savior came across the water, their fear was so great that they saw the Lord as a ghost, a dead spirit. In the dark of the night, my faith was in the same way as the terrified disciples in that boat. They were wrong then; I was wrong too. Jesus is not dead; His strength is in no way diminished by this little storm. How humbling to look out from my boat and see the Savior laugh gently at my fear, "Why are you doubting? I'm right here. Don't be afraid!"

To God be the glory,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Didn't the Bible End?

Good evening! As you read the prophecies in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, you realize that His story has a way to go yet. However, there are those who see an allegory in these stories that ended with the Romans. The hidden meaning in Revelation is that John was afraid of the Roman empire. The hidden meaning in Daniel's story was that he didn't want to upset his hosts, the Babylonians and Persians. That is nice for those who think this way, then they can say the Bible ended around 95 A.D. and that it is but another ancient writing that has some good moral lessons, but, you know, we have really advanced beyond that sort of mythical stuff now. If this is the case, then we are back to Paul who said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Paul also said that we are among the most miserable of fools for Christians died for their faith. Back to the same decision: Is the Bible an old myth, or the very truth of God?

Is reason the enemy of our faith? In Isaiah 1:18, God issues an invitation: "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool." We need not give up reason to believe. God commands us to come reason with Him. Is it the end of the Bible? "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev 1:8) John and the Romans are not the end, Jesus is, and not only that, but He is to come again. If the End is to come again, then we have not reached the ending yet. Did Jesus come again already? No, for that sets in motion another set of events, and I don't think even the most foolishly optimistic religionist would say that we are seeing the millennial reign of Christ right now. Oh wait, there are those who say that Christ has come, but you need to give them all of your money and submit your body to their desires. Hmm, Jesus did warn us that would happen. When was that? Oh yes, before the end.

Are we in the end now? No, throughout the Bible prophets give signs that we cannot miss. Sun darkened, moon turned out, stars falling, oceans turned to blood (yuk!), locust-like hordes of demons with a carefully described appearance and at the very end, large hailstones. No, not world record hailstones that someone might mistake for the end. The largest known hailstones are not even close, about 1/100th of the weight John wrote about in the last bowl judgment. Go to the store and buy 100lbs of ice, think about that falling from the sky in chunks. I don't think anyone will be able to miss or deny that sign when it comes. Yes, the Bible story will come to an end, but there will not be any room for doubt.

Live in faith, trust in God,

Right Where I Am

Good morning! The sun is shining and the rains have stopped. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful rain. Every year I get a magazine showing what wonderful places to live exist across the United States. The photographs make your heart pop with envy. How's come we can't live THERE, Abba? The Lord granted me some experience with one of the little tricks the world uses. A photograph can be made to look like the world's version of Heaven. Tweak the light a little with a filter in the field; tweak it some more with Photoshop when you get home. The tricks once done in the dark room, are now done on the computer to a digital image. In Photoshop Lightroom, I can even select effects that mimic the special films of the old days. These days the photographer can turn a blue sky, bluer, or perhaps even green if he wishes. Whatever your idea of heaven on earth, we can probably come up with a place that looks much like it. The other question to ask is what that photograph of their ideal place to live does not show.

Out along the dirt roads, it is sometimes so quiet that I have heard a large swarm of mosquitoes tracking me. Hordes of little bloodsuckers do not say, "Great place to live, mate!" A photograph of a sunny day may take months to capture because the area experiences more rain than you might be comfortable with. Another area might be covered in snow 8 months out of the year, and you only see the image taken in July when nature is in full, but brief bloom. The green of a hay field surrounding the red barn looks so desirable that you simply must move there, but it only exists in the camera, lens, filter, lighting, processing, and digital bag o' tricks - hope you can find room to live amongst all of that! Enjoy the sunny days of your neighbor's garden, but wish some mountains framed the background? No problem, open up that computer program and stitch some photos together - presto! - heaven on earth. What does this made up photo not show? The stink of a feedlot wafting over the land like brown wave. Heaven is right where God keeps it, not in some fantasy made up in a computer. The photos don't show what the facts of the wonderful place also cannot show.

The place has 23,000 souls living there, that is, assuming each populate of the population has a soul. Some people you might have to wonder. And that is the point - you cannot know every one of those people from your armchair at home. Want to escape the shrill voice of that nosy neighbor? She might have a cousin out in that wonderful place to live that takes the shrill and nosy to whole new levels. Does Grover next door put the grump in grumpy old men? His counterpart in that town over yonder might win the curmudgeon grand prize. And the worst thing of all - the problems, shortcomings, sins, and the other side of those relationships that is me, all gets to come with me when I move to that paradise on earth. What a tragedy when that town that took first place this year is dropped off the list next year because I moved in.

Your situation right now might seem so bad that you look at that great place and think about a new name, a little plastic surgery, and I am living a wonderful new life. Hopefully, your situation does not involve U.S. marshals, warrants, and questioning the neighbors. We can get like that though. Wishing not only for the new place, but for a new 'me' to go there. Well, boy, right here and right now, God offers a new birth through His Son to everyone who will repent and believe in Jesus. We have enjoyed such a wonderful opportunity when we were born again in Christ. Right where I am, a new life unfolds every day. The change may be so small that I cannot see it, but the Holy Spirit grows my fruit a little, cleans up the stain of past sin just a bit, forgives a little more, and changes me for the better with each new trial. Right here, a new life emerges from an old tomb in my spirit under the love of God's Son. The grave cloths of the past life may cling, but a new robe of white is shining through underneath. We may look around, but the real change goes on right where you and I live in Christ.

Enjoy the day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

How Does He Know?

Good Monday evening! My question this evening is one of provision. How does the Lord know to provision my path with just the right words, at just the right time of day, from a man who wrote them long ago, and has been dead himself for more than a century? Yet, somehow the Lord knows to have someone in a faraway organization sit down and take a few paragraphs, sometimes more and other times less, from a lifetime worth of writing and choose just the right bit to uplift my soul and shore up my faith. I didn't know how far gone my trembling faith might be at this time even from the vantage point of this morning. But the Lord our God knew from before I was born that just the right words would be needed right now. And where do these words come from that writers in the 19th century wrote, or that I write now to send to you? From the Bible of course. If God knew how to have a 19th century writer put down the perfect words, how much more awe-inspiring is it that God knew how to have John, or Paul, or David, or Moses write the perfect words for a dark night of the soul from thousands of years before you or I live and read those words? Would it be possible for me to write the perfect words tonight that might give Joseph or Joshua a much needed encouragement at just the right time? I don't know, and thinking about something like that makes my brain hurt.

We know that God is above time. The span of centuries separates me from Joshua, you from Moses, and all of us from the incarnate Jesus. However, the risen Jesus is right here with you and me. In His glorified body, the Second Coming has not arrived for us. In His wonderful Holy Spirit, he is here right now, never leaving us, never forsaking us, feeling our pain and fear, comforting the trembling heart, and encouraging us as we struggle. No more intimate relationship exists for us than with our Lord Jesus through His Holy Spirit. Though a promised action may seem delayed to you and to me, the Lord is not leaving us to dangle over the cliff without good reason. Do not let the dread turn to despair. Turn instead to the One who saves.

Have a marvelous evening in Christ!

Faith Has Potency

Good Monday morning! Wonderful rain has come our way. How do I get this little mustard seed of faith? It can move entire mountains; I want that power. But if my love does not grow with it, does anyone else want me to have such power? Probably not. Many a dictator or king has enjoyed great power over life and wealth. Without love they have fallen into hatred of their own people and destroyed many lives and subjected others to abject poverty. To seize upon the potency of faith without the love of Christ to go with it is dangerous for me and everyone near me. Is it any wonder then that God limits our mountain moving until love grows strong in us?

The tiny mustard seed grows into a mighty herb. Jesus tells us in Mark 4:32 that the plant grows large enough to shelter birds of the air. The mustard seed does not reach its full potency until it has grown up and then shares its shade and its fruit. In much the same way, Jesus will grow our faith through His Holy Spirit, the church, Bible study, trials, and His many other ways until even such as you and I may see something else growing alongside this mighty herb of faith: love. Before we grow to move mountains, it might just be useful if we should learn to love God's creation as it is. Before we turn a potent faith loose on another person, it may be better to love him first. My flesh desires the power Jesus spoke of, but my new spirit in Christ desires the love of Christ first.

Through love Jesus healed the blind and lame, cured the sick, and raised the dead. The faith of our Lord is without question to those who believe in Him, yet He did not move the mountains of Judea. We often shake a warning finger at each other, 'Just because you can do something, does not mean that you should do this thing!' The potency of our faith should first be taken to the Lord in prayer. As we grow closer to Jesus, we may find the mountain is just fine where God put it. We may find that a mountain of fear in our hearts is what most needs to be moved, and the faith Jesus has raised up in us as the mustard seed contains the potency we need to move that fear. Let the earth's mountains and their trees be; look at the mountain of unbelief in hearts all around us. Let us turn our faith loose to move that mountain in the love of Christ. Amen.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

When the Lord says, "I Will"

Good Saturday evening or afternoon, whenever you may get this. I prayed a prayer, and when the Lord said, "I will", I realized that the time had come to say my praise to God and walk away. No witnesses are needed that God said that He would do something. I don't need a notarized statement with signatures. I don't need to ask when or where or how much. But, I would like to share the happy event. Raised in this world, I tend to want further assurances, but what more could be added to God's own given word? If I say that I will do something, at least I recall this happening at work many times, people tend to want me to say it again. At least once I remember sounding like some sort of odd parrot as the boss asked over and over again for the same assurance.

Jesus said: "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matt 5:37) Annnnd in case we needed to make sure of that, his brother James repeated the instruction many years later in his letter. (5:12) We are warned twice about this because we have a terrible tendency to add or demand more than this. "Yes, I will be there and I'll bring my brother, George, and two sets of whingerbangers." The next thing we know we are in trouble because George has other plans and he certainly has no idea what a whingerbanger is. Worse, we don't want to say 'No', so we say give our assurance while meaning that we have no intention of being there. By any other name this is called lying. Hence the warning that anything else is from the evil one.

I am reminded of a certain officer from back in the day, who told the platoon something like, "When I give an instruction, the next thing out of your lips had better be, 'Yes sir', or you will be insubordinate!" We don't always give God the respect he deserves. A little Old Testament reverence might go a long way for us these days. When God says, "I will," the next thing out of my lips had better be something close to "Praise God" or "Thank you, Lord," or I will be in trouble. Yes, God is merciful and longs to forgive, but we must always remember that He is God. We may come boldly before the throne through the grace of Christ Jesus, but we also come respectfully. We look at thunderheads building with more fear than we have of our God, yet which has the greater power. We do not have to tremble before our loving Father, but reverence and a hearty, 'Praise God!' is a good thing too.

Praise the Lord for His great blessings!

Guide Me, Dear Lord

Good Saturday morning! A bit of rain coming down that may change to snow later. I haven't looked at the weather forecast. I'm just going to let God guide me. Let us say for this morning that your Christian life is a small sail boat. The Master pointed out the narrow winding channel that you are to steer through, but you've blown it. Your little boat is somehow beached on the other side of jagged rocks and a big storm is only a day or two away. Not only did the realization of where you are come late, but you cannot for the life of you figure out how you got there. The little boat is wrecked; you are stranded, and you just know the Master is shaking his holy head in wonder at the folly of at least one of his sheep. Why did the Good Shepherd let a dumb sheep steer a boat anyway? You ask as you try to shift some of the blame to one you know is perfect.

Our Lord Jesus is not in a panic. Though you and I may feel some stage of panic in our lives, Jesus has everything under control. Some of the fear we feel is in not knowing the specifics of His plan for us. How can this current disaster be a part of the Lord's plan? Doesn't He want the best for me? We know that He does, but our hearts of faith fail us when we look at the storm. The intellectual knowledge that God only desires good for us has not quite infused the heart with complete trust yet. The Spirit is willing and striving to make us like Jesus, but the flesh is fighting the good medicine of the Word. The Lord says, "Trust Me!" - the heart of flesh says, "Aieee! Disaster, storm, fear, failure, flee!" Which to listen to? The Lord speaks firmly and quietly; the flesh screams within. We know the answer is to trust the Lord, but that screaming noise is hard to ignore.

As we look at the wreck of the situation, let us come to the Lord with our plea, "Guide me, dear Lord!" The Master sees every twist and turn of the passage. The Master can see that as the storm arrives, the incoming tide will lift your little boat clear of the rocks. Though the storm will beat all about you, the narrow channel is the only way for your little boat to survive the hurricane. Soon, the storm will leave your little boat in the shelter of a mighty Rock for a time of renewal in still waters. Look forward to the soon, find strength in Jesus in the now.

Look up, for your redemption draweth nigh!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not Always Perfect

Good Friday evening! Yes, it's me again. Back for the Christian devotional on a Friday evening when folks are just looking to go home for the weekend. Unfortunately, I can remember all too well the times when I looked forward to a Friday evening for several other reasons, none of which are listed among the fruits of the Spirit. In Christ, we do not pretend that we lived a perfect moral life up to our moment of salvation. In truth, the sanctification process goes on for the remainder of our earthly life. At times, we may even be indistinguishable from your run-of-the-mill sinner. The difference comes in that we no longer want to be seen as a sinner, and more importantly, we don't want to sin any more. Some Christians may have large changes in their lives right away. A former drug user who suddenly feels no desire to take his former poison for example. The former adulterer who makes a pact with his eyes to look at only his wife from the point of his conversion and does it. The occult dabbler who turns to her church and only worships God after years of evil activities. We all may know Christians who have this experience in Christ. On the other hand, most of us will feel the same temptations that we fell for as sinners for the rest of our lives.

The Devil stalks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. If the temptation worked on us back in the day, the Devil may see no need to change tactics. Our victory over sin in some area may take years or decades, and then come back to trouble us during a difficult time. The enemy is certainly not above piling on the temptations when we are at our weakest due to some crisis in life. However, let us not give the adversary too much credit, "for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4b) The Holy Spirit of God works in us constantly to refine us for God's good purpose. When we give in to Jesus, his Spirit will produce that fruit of the Spirit we have come to desire through His cleansing blood.

Enjoy the weekend!

Great and Mighty Works

Good Friday morning! We may get snow, but that is up to God. "In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one." (Eph 6:16). He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20) Now, take your grain of mustard seed and try to spread it out over a shield, not possible right? Okay, maybe place that mustard seed in the center of the shield. What good will that do? When we read the simile that Jesus used, we translate it to Paul's command to take up the whole armor of God, and that is just the way our shield of faith seems to work. The flaming darts of the evil one seem to shoot right through or past our guard. Our faith couldn't move a small anthill, much less a mountain. A crisis comes in life and our faith cannot be found. That little mustard seed has fallen off the shield and rolled under the bed, which seems like a good place to hide our heads in light of the current circumstance. Fear washes over us in waves, and the temperature of those waves freezes us to the very bone. How can we act in faith when the fear has frozen the very life right out of us?

How do we go from fear to faith? Does perfect faith cast out fear? At first, you might think that sounds familiar. You might even grab a Bible to look that up. But that isn't quite right, is it. In 1 John 4:18 we read, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." Oh great, perfect love, another standard you and I cannot meet. Yes, we are not yet perfected in much of anything yet, but let us remember who is perfect in love. Jesus has been raised from the dead after giving His life for our sin. Along with everything else, Jesus is perfect in love. Therefore, as children of God and brothers to Christ, let our Lord Jesus cast out your fear. Perhaps that was the name of the demon in Matthew 17 that the disciples could not remove. The symptom the boy's father saw was epilepsy, but Jesus cast out a demon to heal the boy. The statement in our earlier verse, "Because of your little faith." refers to the disciples inability to heal the boy. We do live in fear because of our little faith. We must bring our fear to that man of perfect love.

That man of perfect love is now our Savior and Lord. A little faith is a powerful thing, but so often I seem to have none of it at all. Fear like a black Godzilla smashes me flat, armor and all. This always occurs when I stare hard at the circumstance and spare no attention from the problem for my Savior and Lord. The perfect faith I need in every circumstance comes from casting my life on the mercy of our perfect Lord. I am going to make mistakes in this life, and I am going to walk into traps of our enemy that I cannot escape. God allows this to teach me that my strength, my knowledge, my anything else is not sufficient to save me. Today, I turn from the circumstance and make a declaration: Today is the day of great and mighty works of the Lord Jesus! If miracles seem absent from our nation because of our unbelief, then I volunteer to be one who believes in God and in His miracle-working power. If the unbelief of the majority could stop God's miracles, then Elijah would have made an utter fool of himself on Mount Carmel.

Elijah didn't have a band of believers praying for him, but he stood with God. We do have brothers and sisters in Christ praying for you and for me. Pray for each other today; pray for me, and I will pray for you. Today, this day, great and mighty works of the Lord are on the way. Some will say that they believe and they have never seen a miracle. Praise God! You are blessed because you have not seen and still believe. We do not need a miracle to believe, we believe and expect the Lord to do great and mighty things that only He can do; that's what we call a miracle.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Great and Mighty Works

Good Thursday morning! Praise God for the rain of last night. Dare we as humble creatures of the dust expect great and mighty works from our God? Where did that expectation come from? God told me to look at the beginning and ending of His word. The Bible begins with a subtle reference to a great and mighty work: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." I just love the understatement of God's word. Look out the windows, see the earth. Look up to the sky and see the heaven. Now imagine that none of that exists and God has assigned you to create this thing. No idea where to begin? Me neither. The Bible states in its calm way that God just up and did it. Let's go to the ending of the word. Just before John's sign off, we have this in Revelation 22:16, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David. The bright and morning star." Again, ho hum, just another day of sending angels to testify. Have you tried to send an angel somewhere this morning? Will angels testify to what you or I am about to do? How does one go about becoming both the ancestor, the root, and the child, the offspring, of someone who lived thousands of years ago? Of course, the bright and morning star is the one we look for to herald the coming of the day when night is darkest just before the dawn.

Great and mighty works of God abound in the Bible. How do we go about asking for these works? Last night we studied the story of Elijah and the contest with the prophets of Baal. Did Elijah command the fire to appear? No, the word tells us that Elijah came near and said. No dancing, no waving of the arms, no words of command, and no self-glorification. The words were not some secret word of power that only Elijah knew, but words of prayer to a great and mighty God who loves to work. Ah, so Elijah was more deserving than I am, that must be it. No, the Bible says nothing about Elijah's special qualifications. In fact, if you continue on from this passage you will soon read of Elijah's flight from an evil queen. All that power demonstrated at his prayer, and he flees. And what a flight it is! 40 days and 40 nights from Mount Carmel to Mount Sinai to put some serious distance between his body and the queen. Along the way he is fed by an angel. Oh, he just happened to collapse right where an angel waited with food and drink. No big deal for our God. In case we miss it, the angel fed him a second time because the journey was too great for Elijah.

Yesterday, I wrote about the situations that are too great for us. Sometimes like Elijah, we don't stop to ask God, we just take off running, putting legs to our fear. Suddenly, it seems, we are in one of those situations where we starve or the angel feeds us. Which it will be is up to God. I cannot command the angels to provide for me, but I can pray to the One in charge of the angels. I cannot command the earth or heaven to appear from nothing, but I have a direct prayer channel to the God who did those great and mighty works. As I read that God performed great and mighty works throughout the Bible, I have it on good authority that those works have not stopped. I do not believe that God is taking a breath to reload His miracle batteries. If God has not changed, then miracles are still for the asking. We have but to humble ourselves and repent, as a person or as a nation, and great and mighty works God will do on our behalf. Does God want anything in return for these great works? He may want our testimony. Very much like the testimony Jesus commanded for the great and mighty work He did on the cross for you and for me.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Cavalry is Quiet

Good Wednesday morning! We have the clouds, time to pray for the rain. This morning you are a starting pitcher on the baseball diamond. You have begun the game, thrown a few good pitches, quite a few bad ones, but the other team is made up of the world's all-stars and you are in real trouble. Your last pitch loaded the bases and the star among the all stars with the astounding .750 batting average is up to the plate. You look to the bullpen, but no one is warming up. You look over to the dugout, but you cannot see the manager. What is he up to? Is he too afraid to watch? You look at your fellow players arrayed beside you and they look just as lost as you feel. Now what?

You are in a wagon train with just a few other people. Again, you started off well in the gentle lands of the east and made good progress along the rivers. Firm, well-used and well-known trails led you up to the badlands, but then the trails split every which way. Without proper guidance, because in your pride you didn't bother to ask back then, you chose a trail that looked good and lashed the oxen to get them going. Now the oxen are worn down with thirst, the feed has run out, and in the best biblical 'Behold!' you are in a box canyon surrounded by a company of bandits. Who is to save the women and children now?

Finally, in honor of the anniversary: you needed to come to America from the old country. At a port in England you had enough money to choose 1st Class accommodations on any ship your heart desired. Young and full of your own strength of intellect, you look around and see a magnificent ship with four funnels. The markings and flag of the White Star lines show proudly over the quay. Surely this ship will get you and your loved ones safely to the new world of your dreams. You pay the tolls and a steward appears from nowhere to grab all of your luggage. A guide shows you to the luxury suites; you are traveling in style, brother! As a wine steward pours the first glasses to celebrate your journey, you ask the name of the ship. "RMS Titanic, sir!" comes the cheerful reply. Oh, dear...

In our lives, we may suddenly find that decisions taken when we thought we knew something do not have the results we expected today. The game is not over, but how did my team get so far behind? The trail looked good back a few days, but now where did the tracks of the wagons go? You took the biggest and best ship, but God allowed an iceberg to wander south a bit. In any situation, our plans might not turn out the way we wish. I asked God about this phenomenon which I have observed in my life, and the answer was Romans 11:32. "For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all." So that's it! Much about my past decisions was answered in that one verse. Thinking back to some of the times of decision in my life, I do not recall asking God whether I should do this or that thing, go this direction or the other. Instead, I thought that I was smart and generally knew-so-muched myself right into a tough situation. God used the situation for my good, but it's just possible there might have been a gentler way to learn those lessons too. On the other hand, we have faith that we are led by God.

In that time when the enemy surrounds with far superior forces and the game appears lost. When the lifeboats have pulled away and nothing it seems can save us. We have but one direction to look. Trapped in the box canyon, we may not hear the thunder of God's cavalry as it rides to our rescue. I asked God about this too. He said, "My cavalry is stealthier than that." God's help may not arrive until the last moment. And God's last moment is not what we see as the last moment. In whatever way, by sudden miraculous help from above, by the strength to endure, or the simple gathering of our friends in Christ, God will act in our behalf. Trust starts in the heart with God's own Holy Spirit.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

After the Great Event

Last week, starting with Palm Sunday, we had this week of triumphant entry, then dreadful betrayal, then the first communion, and then the surrender, trial, and finally the crucifixion of our Lord. The next week began with the resurrection and the celebration, "The Lord is Risen!" Now, Tuesday rolls around. The morning dawns and things get back to normal. So normal that at some point the disciples went back to fishing. Matthew may have gone to a few old contacts to see about getting his tax collecting job back. Other followers who had not yet met the risen Lord may have been checking with the local travel agents and booking trips to far lands. Jesus had already given instructions though, and those instructions went contrary to a man's first instincts. When the battle is lost we retreat, or perhaps run. The Lord said to wait. We have our normal after the holiday weekend too.

As the holidays approached and the celebrations and ceremonies took place, you may have put off thinking about some things for a bit. Then Tuesday comes. Whatever you put off is still there, perhaps it has even come back with some reinforcements. The disciples may have spent days gathering in that upper room, waiting and wondering... expecting at any moment for the soldiers of the temple to come bursting in to finish the job. Of course, the high priests and teachers of the Law were busying thinking the job was finished. The man on the cross had even spoken those very words. To those in authority, the words sounded like, "It's all over now... all is lost." To those who have the scriptures to read and to study, we read "It is accomplished!" A shout of triumph and not an admission of defeat. Tuesday is a morning of renewal after the darkness.

To the followers of Jesus, Tuesday appeared with more defeat and danger. But at some point, the Lord appeared to all of them in the closed and locked room where they had gathered to wait. I like the understatement of the Bible. "... they were startled." Well, yeah. Locked door, quiet room, dead guy popping in like that, what's not to be startled about? The Bible might have stated that most achieved lift off from the benches, some fainted, and others grabbed their chests to slow down their racing hearts. Their first reaction was probably not along the lines of "Praise God, He is risen!" After a little practice in deep breathing exercises, they would probably feel a strong urge to all talk at once. However, Jesus said something like, "Relax folks, it's just Me." Yup, just popping in like that. Very relaxing.

When our Tuesday problems come back to assault us, we need to remember a similar thing. Jesus often reminded His disciples to not be afraid, to fear not, and to trust in Him. The problems we face on a Tuesday after the great event may be new, or issues that waited patiently for us to open our worry box again. Either way, Jesus is still in control of my life and yours. Jesus did not take a break over the holidays. The Holy Trinity did not have a leadership conference at a distant resort. And, our Lord is with us always, even to the end of the age; that is to say, no popping in and startling us half to death. Tuesday after a holiday may seem like a trip back to the mundane, but it doesn't have to be. Find Jesus in the Word and in prayer today.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Into Every Life, a Little Kryptonite

Good Monday morning! In our culture we tend to look for superheroes. Celebrities who can do many things well seem to be all over the news. Athletes want to retire to become famous actors; actors want to do movies showing off their athletic skill; singers become actors and vice versa; and sometimes we elect a former actor to the presidency. An enduring figure in pop culture is the aptly named Superman. Why beat around the bush with a name? Superman is super-human. The only thing that Superman had to fear was a manner of bringing him down to earth - a piece of his home planet Krypton. Superman's biggest, and perhaps only fear, was a piece of kryptonite making his strength only normal. In other words, the biggest fear of a superhuman is to be made human. How awful. Yet this is not at all off the mark.

The famous athlete fears injury and aging bringing an end to a well-paid career. The actor fears damage to her marketable face or voice. The model to his body. The singer to the voice. Oh, the horrors of being brought back down to the level of the normal people. Yet, into every life a little kryptonite may fall. Most everyone goes through a period in life when things seem pretty good. Health problems are years away, the physical condition may not be perfect but any extra weight comes off without too much effort, age lines and sun damage to the skin is minimal or concealable, and the mind seems sharp and even witty at times. We don't seem to have much need for that religious stuff during this period. Some of those young men and women raised in the church as we say, may move away and try to live on their own merits. Then, a tragedy of some sort.

Some of us have a personal tragedy, or two. Others have the tragedy happen to someone close such as a child or spouse, father or mother. A smaller group may be witnesses to a tragedy, yet remain untouched physically. Suddenly our floating heels slam back to hard ground. The jaw open in wonder at the beauty of life is suddenly chewing on the gall of bitter pain. We are no longer in control of life and events. Powers that seemed remote suddenly assault the mind and steal away loved ones or health and wealth. Pain, grief, loss, and weakness whirl around us, and suddenly it seems we know personally the meaning of the biblical term: woe. Into the life, a little kryptonite has fallen, and super-man or woman is now human once more. The blessing in this may be difficult to see.

In the aftermath of our first real tragedy in life, we may miss the blessing. Some never find it, choosing instead to remain angry at God and walk away forever. Others, a select, or maybe I should say elect few, find the love of Jesus waiting for us to take notice. A love that went to the cross and died for our sins. A love that rose again on the third day in victory over Death and the Grave. A love that even now helps us daily to overcome the lingering pain of all those tragedies. A love that, yes, walked with us in those tragedies and felt what we felt, even before we believed and gave our lives to Him. Not only did the love of Jesus bear the penalty of our sins, He bore the pain of our tragedies as well. Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friends. Is it any wonder that Jesus calls the heavily laden to come to Him?

Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection day of Christ. Today, take the time to come to the Resurrected One.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Quiet Saturday or Not?

Good Saturday morning! Ah yes! The wonderful quiet time of prayer on Good Friday! If you do not participate in the prayer vigil at the church, you should give it some consideration next year. The end of the week and the feasting and celebration of the Passover continued. The priests got busy doing their priestly things; the governor and his legions went back to doing their occupation duties, with the exception of one small detachment of guards who had the graveyard shift. If we had the privilege of listening in back in the day, we might have heard one complain that his years of training were wasted guarding dead bodies in sealed tombs. Another might have been thinking of a wife back in Rome or a girlfriend up in Nazareth. Most of them would have grumbled about pulling weekend duty in a cemetery. If only the centurion hadn't caught Marcus paying a visit to his daughter last week, the troops of another company might have been chosen in their place. Not much chance of glory guarding a cave with a stone rolled across the entrance. And so the Saturday passed as a few curious folks may have stopped by to look hard at a rock in front of a small cave, the tomb of a wealthy Jew now given over to a criminal's body.

Down through the ages however, Christians have speculated on what might have gone on inside that tomb on the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Did the body of Jesus begin the restoration, the changes that would result in his new, glorified body that rose from death on Sunday? Did angels come to minister to our Lord in the darkness of the tomb that day? We may never know these things, but we can't help a little curiosity. Perhaps Jesus simply rested as the dead rest, and the resurrection came in a moment on Sunday at the crack of dawn. The Roman soldiers may have stood the most boring post of their careers on that Saturday. As troops will, they may have complained about the day totally wasted on some foolish orders from 'above'. On the other hand, they may have looked askance at each other as vague noises seemed to come from behind that big rock. Rumblings of power as from a not-to-distant thunderstorm might have fed their fear until on Sunday morning the guards on duty fled to Jerusalem, unable to withstand their fears of something new and unknown happening in that tomb.

We don't want to spend a lot of valuable time in this, but once each year it doesn't hurt to wonder a little at what God was doing on that Saturday. Did angels behind the rock enjoy a little chuckle while the guards startled again and again as God's power healed the body of Jesus? We don't know. Silence may have been the guards only companion that Saturday night as the people went to their beds in Jerusalem. We know that God is never idle as we at times find ourselves. I like to think that those guards heard or felt something that increased their fear as the resurrection approached. Like His birth in Bethlehem, the second 'birth' of the Christ would be something the world had not seen before. Those guards may well have endured a fearful anticipation that finally broke their discipline the next morning. One day, we may get to ask Jesus about that particular Saturday outside of Jerusalem.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday!

Good Friday morning! The one day of the year that my greeting has a deeper meaning. Yes, today is Good Friday. The day that to the unbeliever makes no sense at all. The Lord, our Christ, was executed today by the Romans at the demand of the Jewish leaders of the day. How can this day be 'good' when the hero or central figure of our religion received capital punishment on this day? What did he do to deserve his death? Why do some of us choose to celebrate such a thing? Of course something rather profound is missing when the Cross is viewed in that way. Jesus died on the cross as a payment for our sins. A payment demanded by God's justice. We can have a personal relationship with God because of the atoning death of Christ. Anyone who believes in Jesus has peace with God because of this capital punishment. This day we make special note of the death of our savior on that cross so long ago, but this is not the only day we celebrate.

Every day, we celebrate the death of Christ by getting up and living. The worst insult to Christ is to ignore His sacrifice. All that pain, effort, sweat, humiliation, and all that love poured out for you and for me. To ignore the sacrifice is to refuse life. We must rise up and spread the good news that Christ died for our sins. No one must descend into Hell to pay for sins on this earth, for to go there is to stay there. Instead we have life in Christ Jesus, and that life begins right here in this place where our witness is most needed.

Through the cross of Jesus we gain the grace we do not deserve because Christ died to pay for the sin He did not commit. The one perfect sacrifice to atone for all sin came on this day at Golgotha almost 2,000 years ago. No one stopped it, for to do so would have doomed us all. Jesus did it at the Father's command though it grieved him terribly. The suffering of the cross was beyond compare, but the victory Jesus gained at the cross is paramount. The miracle of the virgin birth arrived on this earth so that a special child could grow up to die a criminal's death. The reason it pleased God to smite His own Son came in what that sentence accomplished. We live because He died. We live eternally because He rose again... but that's for the Easter message.

Enjoy the weekend. Take some time for prayer.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

On the Third Day

Good Thursday morning! Cloudy today and bit more seasonal than we saw in March. We could use those April showers this month. Please don't forget that in your prayers. This morning, I began counting the days until Easter. Did Jesus actually die on a Thursday to have three nights in the grave? Did Jesus even say that He would be three days and three nights in the grave? In Matthew 16:21, Jesus tells his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, and be killed. He also told them that He would be raised on the third day. Like most of us, the disciples protested what they heard and ignored what their minds couldn't grasp. We can attempt to make Jesus' death and resurrection fit some count we think must be fulfilled, or we can accept that Jesus did exactly as He said. Just how long must Jesus remain in the grave on the third day to satisfy the legalist anyway? Right, no amount is enough when legalism is the preferred belief.

If you decide that keeping the Law is your way to Heaven, Jesus spoke to that as well. In Matthew 5:48, our Lord states, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Shoo! Go off and be perfect. Have a good time thinking every moment how you might perfect and glorify yourself before God. Oh, wait. Jesus had another command: Love one another. If you spend every moment perfecting yourself, how are you going to find the time to love your imperfect and bumbling neighbors? Legalism is a harsh judge demanding perfection that you and I cannot deliver. Should one of us stand up and march forward from here on in perfection, we would already be too late. Perfection must start from before our birth for us to be perfect enough - enough? - of course there is no sliding scale up to perfection.

Jesus came down from heaven in His perfection and accomplished what we could not. There is no need for us to argue over 2.5 24-hour days, or 3 full days or how long from our point of view He spent in the tomb, we have only to believe that Jesus came, died at the hands of those who should have known Him, and rose on the third day. How long on the third day does the victor over Death and the Grave need to stay in the tomb? Right again; not one minute more than He wants to! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for His redeeming death and victorious resurrection!


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

For The Glory of My Name

Behold! What I will do for the glory of My name! Thus says the Lord our God in many Bible stories. We know when the Lord speaks in this way that good and great things are soon to happen. In this world, we no longer expect the Old Testament miracles. For some reason we have placed God on a lower throne, one of less immediacy and power. We read the stories of Jesus and His works, but we don't always apply them to our own situation. We see the miracles of God today as some kind of low-level insurgency in the world. "I heard from a friend, who saw it on television, that someone over there experienced a healing in answer to prayer. I wish that would happen to me..." We should have heard it straight from the first person in the first person. Yes, when a miracle occurs and God's power is made manifest in your life, you will want to share. But, the wolves of the world will gather to snap and growl, seeking to devour the news of God's work before a light can shine in the darkness. Fear not! The Savior who died for our sins is greater than the snapping jaws of the world.

Rejoice in Christ! Great miracles will come in your life and my life. Not over there and not third hand by way of a distant ministry, but right here! Will everyone be healed of every illness? We do not know God's plan for every person, but we do know that leaves grow in the Holy City for the healing of the nations. Healing in this life is a mighty miracle, but more important is the death and resurrection of Christ for the eternal healing of the body, mind, and spirit. What we do know of God's plan speaks of great works to come. God has not abandoned the field to the prince of this world. Pray in faith. Hope in the promises of Christ for your provision and healing. Live with the knowledge that God, the Creator of all and the Father of Jesus the Christ, knows and cares for you personally, this moment - just as you are.

Have a better day, and love one another,

Bucky, your friend in Christ

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

What In The World Is Going On?

One of the main complaints veteran's groups make about the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is about the distance most people feel toward the casualties of those conflicts. While I agree with that concern, there is more working here than just that problem. There are so many auto accidents in our nation that unless we are directly affected, we seldom reach out to those who are involved. Suicides, school shootings, workplace murders, and many other crimes flash before our eyes in newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, and on the Internet. How often do we reach out to the victims through our prayers? If we who believe and live in Christ put a distance between our prayers and those suffering, how much worse does the world treat them?

Part of the blame can be placed on the condition of the world right now. The news of death and suffering is prevalent in our culture. One news web page this morning has at least nine headlines about death or injury. Some days will have more and other days less, but this goes on every day. One can see how our feelings can be dulled by this constant exposure. The empathy and sympathy we once felt can simply be overwhelmed by too much of the same story. Has the love of many grown cold? Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. I didn't make that up; our Lord said it right after that famous statement in John 3:16. Therefore, if Jesus did not condemn when He spoke the prophecy on the Mount of Olives that the love of many would turn cold, perhaps He simply pointed out the condition we live in right now. We cannot take in all the news about death without succumbing to despair, so we distance our minds and become a bit cold. This one deserves a bit of contemplation. Bring it to the Lord in prayer. I am not advising that you take up reading news articles involving death or serious injury as a hobby.

What we may want to take from this is that this condition of coldness is happening. We live in the end times, but not those final seven years we call the Tribulation. However, given the conditions we know that the apocalypse or unveiling of that period is near. The conditions do not set a date; God sets the date. But we can see how another condition has been met for the Tribulation to begin at any moment. The times are getting dark, but remeber the Light and the Life.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Put Your Boots On, Grab Your Cross

Good Monday morning! What would you do if you knew this week was your last on this earth? Well, that isn't quite a fair question though. Jesus knew that His crucifixion would take place on Friday, but He also knew that this would in fact not be His last week walking this land. At the beginning of the next week, Jesus would rise again on a fair Sunday morning to bless us with His resurrection. However, fair or not, what if you knew that this coming Friday would be 'it' as they say for you and for me. We have five days to make an impact for Christ, to store up some good deeds for the judgment, to earn a place in Heaven. Oops, what's with that last one? We know that part is not possible, though so many in the world believe that is what must happen. Imagine a mere 5 days to tear around like mad trying to earn a spot past the pearly gates, never knowing until the after whether you had managed to qualify or not. What a horrible thought.

In place of that mad running about, we would probably do much like our Lord Jesus did. Have dinner with our close friends and family, letting them know that we would not be with them much longer. Longing for the release from pain and suffering, but praying and caring for those we love to the very end. And from our Lord Jesus we would be able to pass on the assurance that soon we would be together again. Parting may be sweet sorrow, but only if we have the assurance of Christ in our lives to insure the sweetness. Unlike Jesus, you and I do not face a sure thing in the terrible agony of the cross. We may go quietly five days from now peacefully stepping into the eternal life with Jesus. Then again, we may be here 50 more years. God did not call us to carry the burden Jesus did in His final days.

Like the rich man in the parable, we may be called home tonight. God may also call any of us to fulfill the 120 years spoken of in Genesis 6:3 when God decided that His Spirit will not strive with man forever. That amount seems like a long time, unless you are 119. If you have two cats pickin' at each other, 120 years seems like a terribly long time no matter what age a person may be at the time. How was I to know that cat combat would be one of God's ways to teach me patience and endurance? My time has not yet come, so I continue to write the devotional. No matter how much time we have left, I think all of us would want to go with our boots on as Jesus did. Spreading the good news of Christ in whatever way God has called us right up to that final moment on this earth.

Put your boots on, grab your cross, and let's go!