Saturday, June 30, 2012

Burning Eyes At Sleepytime

Good morning! I opened the windows for some fresh nighttime air after 0130 and made a rather burning error along the way. The wind brought the smoke from the Colorado fires to us again last night. It's not an import we care to have but certainly better than the fire. Sleep doesn't work well with burning eyes and an itchy nose though, and coolish air or not I got back up and shut the windows. The dawn came orange this morning and I woke up a little fuzzy myself. Not, 'What day is it?' or 'Where am I?' fuzzy, but more of a 'Woof, that was a tough night' kind of fuzzy. The cat on the other hand was enjoying life to the fullest. Whenever I am going through the valley of a tough time, someone else is on a peak. The time will come when I am on a peak, and it will then be my turn to offer comfort and understanding to another.

Peaks and valleys again? I seem to write about the valley a lot lately. I guess when life seems to be in the bottom of a valley, it is easy to look up and wonder at the peaks. But Jesus is not standing up on a peak looking down when I am laboring through the valley. For not one of us could push through the briers and thickets of the valley floor without our trailblazer to follow. We tend to look around at the impenetrable mess of thorns all around us and feel the urge to give up. But, Jesus leads us through, often turning around to tell us to stop looking at the thorns and concentrate on the path ahead. Perhaps I should say, 'on the Way ahead'. We see the arrows of the devils and demons coming at us and despair. We feel the barbs of the thorns in life and want to quit walking. But the devils and demons shoot from a distance because they see what we forget, the Shepherd walking with us in this life. The plants of tribulation with their sharp thorns draw back in respect for the Holy Spirit in us, puncturing our armor only as much as they are allowed and no more. Life seems tough at times and despair easy to grab. As always happens, someone is there with me and you to tell us once more, "Look to Me, lift up your head and see the Light, live another day in Me!"

If we knew the number of our days, we would step on out with renewed purpose. The destination would be in sight and our eternal home on our minds. That number may not be known to us, but it is finite and the great day of our Lord is coming. Swiftly we will go to Jesus, and like the fellow who died at 102 we will say, "It all went by so fast!"

God bless you,

Friday, June 29, 2012

It Touched Me!

Good morning on this great day in the Lord! A touch may relieve stress. A touch may also cause stress. The world sometimes makes a joke of being touched. But the touch of a loved one is something we seek and enjoy. Let us today consider a touch that we may not have pondered before: the touch of God's glory. We are born again to reflect the glory of God's own Son. In order to reflect the glory of Christ to the world, that glory must first touch the reflecting surface. In other words, God's glory touches you and me.

At the first, the reflecting surface may seem a bit dim. We don't reflect Jesus very well when we commit that same old sin. We don't reflect God's glory well when we act as the world acts. But with each trial and affliction, our reflecting surface is refined in the fire of God's forge. We grow and shine better as God makes us into that perfect reflection of His Son. When God has made us so that people of the world see Jesus in our lives, then we have become good reflectors. But, in order to reflect well, we must be touched by the glory of God.

What a privilege to be touched by the glory of God, the Almighty One! How is it that we as sinners born and bred could deserve to ever be touched by such magnificence? The saving grace of Christ Jesus must indeed be far more potent than we can imagine. In our old lives we looked like lumps of bad coal, reflecting nothing but the blackness of sinful hearts. In the eternal life in Christ we come to look like diamonds - tough, valuable, and so very reflective. Without light to reflect though, a diamond is not beautiful to look at. In order to reflect and refract that light in beautiful colors, the diamond is first touched by the light. What marvelous grace have we to be touched by the very light of heaven himself, Jesus our Lord.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Can Do Better...But It Won't Save Us

Good morning! I want to address yesterday's spiritually weak devotional, but yesterday is gone. I cannot erase the words or take them back. We look forward because Christ is there waiting to bring us home or preparing to come to us in the clouds of His glory. We look to the past not to trample our esteem in the shame and regret of our past actions and words, but to see the saving hand of Jesus at work in our lives. So I hit a foul ball yesterday; today is my time to try for the home run one more time. I can do better than something I did yesterday, but it will not save me. You can do better than that thing you did, but it won't save you. There is a good reason we walk around with 'Jesus saves!' on our lips. We cannot save anyone. My new desire from the Holy Spirit is to save others in the way that I am saved. That way is not of me, but of Christ our Lord. In fact, that way, the man Christ Jesus, is the only way that we can be saved.

We may spend too much time dining with regrets or raking ourselves over the coals of past shame. Today, let us look up to Jesus and spend our time thinking on what He has done in our lives. Let us look out at the harvest ready under the hot sun and go forth in our calling to save the world. Your calling may be at the very workplace Christ has planted you in. Your mission is to show others the changed life that Christ has given you. Trust in Christ to strengthen you to do the right works. Mistakes will be made along the way. Apologize and move on; you are forgiven! Know something that your brother in Christ did that wasn't very Christ-like? Forgive him and move on; he will do the same for you. Does the Devil bring up that thing from your past to make you feel the burn of shame? Forgive yourself and move on! Look to Christ, your sin was paid for on the cross and you are forgiven! Now go live life in Christ!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Whole Bunch of Confusing News

Good morning! We should be due for an article in the media about how much the heat wave is helping or hurting the economy. Tropical Storm Debby failed to come west as predicted, choosing instead to dump the ocean on top of Florida. A foot of rain might be enough to help out with the fires in the Rocky Mountain west, though not all at once of course. A foot of rain is a bit short of half what some Florida locations got in a day from the big storm. We received some rain yesterday, but had to watch closely and be paying attention to see it. August is generally the time when we become 'the brown lands' but this year June is well-browned. The wheat harvest should be complete by Independence Day, an unusual year already and getting stranger by the day. And, we wonder how hot July may be, our hottest month on average each year. June saw many new heat records set including our all-time high - on two consecutive days. The High Park fire lost its place in the news to the Waldo Canyon fire in the same state. Our Air Force Academy is threatened; maybe their mates in the big planes can bomb the fire out. The High Park fire grew up into the square-mile range as the acres-burned total became too unwieldy to report. But, gas prices are down and continue to get better. The economic news has been pushed out by the fires and torrential rains, and we haven't had to hear about celebrities and their excesses for a while. Praise the Lord for that.

One heat record exceeded in June was at 104° set in 1954, the all-time record low for June is 28° set just three days before that other reading. That should remind us of how quickly our weather can change out here. We are not in charge of all this weather and news, but we can come to the Lord in prayer, and not only for rain or moderate temperatures. What the evil powers of the world may rule, God can overrule. We feel the drought, but God may have rain clouds just over the horizon. Heat and drought can go into the history books as quickly as they arrived. We may have a record-breaking winter of snows and cold. No, I don't expect things in the weather to turn around that quickly either, but I'm not in charge.

Oops, the paws are twitching; must be a really good dream. Maybe this heat wave is just a bad dream and we can get on with our normal June weather.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Suffering The Heat

Okay, so we have a little heat wave going. All-time record high temperatures, daily records falling, just a little heat wave. Yes, so maybe the global warming folks have some more ammunition. We still don't know that human activity is causing it, but we can admit that it has been hot the past few days. What is all of this suffering about? Does the heat we feel and try to avoid have a purpose? One of the most cruel things God could do would be to establish the Law, and then just leave us alone. No corrections, no penalties save those that man carries out in his imperfect ways, just a wandering path from birth to death seeking some sort of religion to get us to heaven. After striving to behave well for a while, most folks would figure out that they could pretty much do whatever they wanted. In a worse situation would be those who achieve some success in their own abilities and activities. Without guilt or shame, none could see the need for salvation. We would be lost sheep without anything to tell us of our need for a shepherd.

We think that someone borrowed a little weather from Hell, but that is hardly the case. Hell is far more serious than a little hot weather. We should not trivialize the conditions we know of Hell. The eternal place of burning and pain cannot be hinted at with a few hot days on earth. We have hope here, a great hope in the person of Jesus Christ. Hell on Earth? Don't even think it. Wherever a living person speaks of suffering hell on earth, there is life and hope available to that person. The weather here may be unpleasant, but we can praise God and give Him the glory. "But, but, my toes are cooking in my shoes, and don't ask about other parts!" Yes, we are all seeking air-conditioned buildings, fans, and cold drinks. No one said it would be easy to praise God for the hot days. However, at least we have something to suffer to remind us of our need for Jesus and His grace. Even the worldly and lost folks have some assurance that autumn will arrive on time and change the weather. We who know personally our great hope have so much more to sing and speak praises of God and His marvelous grace and mercy.

Praise God for the day!

Monday, June 25, 2012

It Takes The Starch Out

Good muggy morning! As though you needed a reminder of the weather conditions lately! Hot, hot, hot for the last three days and more hot to come. Weather like this can take the starch right out of your shirt. I could attempt to confirm that, but I haven't worn any starch in a shirt for years. What is needed to take the starch out of you and me? Perhaps you did not realize that starch, other than the dietary kind, was a part of your person? We may have areas of our lives were there is a little too much starch. You may be stiff in your knowledge of financial matters and not allow Jesus to bend you a little. I may be stiff in a different area and God sends a bit of tough weather to take the starch out of me. Any tribulation in our lives might be God trying to work out the stiffness, to bend us to His will in some matter. Just as certain weather conditions take the starch out of a shirt, the tribulations of the Christian take the stiffness out of his life.

Pride in an area of life imparts a stiffness much as starch does to a cotton shirt. A shirt can become so stiff with starch and ironing that the wearer walks around obviously uncomfortable. We can get uncomfortable in our lives when too much prideful stiffness sets in. God sees this stiffness, but we cannot always tell what is going on until the bending and cracking of a tribulation brings the stiffness to light. God may use the circumstances of a trial to move us one way or another. Only later do we see that first painful event of the tribulation was the cracking of our stubborn shell. We read in the Bible of God exchanging hearts of stone for hearts of flesh, but do we tend to think that this transition will be painless? If we build up a stony shell of pride on our hearts that were purchased by the blood of the Lamb, we may well find out that the cracking of that stony shell is painful. God will change our hearts to look like that of His Son. What seems painful now, may be seen to us as a wonderful expression of God's love one day.

I could use a bit less starch on my heart. Lead me gently, Lord Jesus, but please do not hesitate to crack my stony shell!


Friday, June 22, 2012

If Now Is Not The Time, When Is?

Good Friday morning! The time of the year has come to dress for the wind and roast in the sun. Yes, in the early morning, a jacket may well be required for the cool breeze, but step out of the wind and into the sunlight and the heat rises quickly. We may face record heat again this weekend, and we do seem to be stuck in a pattern of that lately. What we need in one circumstance, is an unbearable burden in another. The jacket is necessary in the breeze and shade, and almost dangerous in the sun and calm. A few steps separate these two circumstances this morning. In life, we may be in one set of conditions and lamenting our plight before God. Yet, a few steps away, perhaps as soon as tomorrow or the next day what we think we need to overcome the condition of today could become a terrible burden. When God does not give us something, it may be that He is looking ahead to that circumstance just out of our sight. This time may not be the time for what we are asking for, but tomorrow may be the perfect time. Today may seem the perfect time for what we request of God, but tomorrow that very thing may be nothing but a dead weight holding us back.

Trusting in God becomes much more difficult when we think that we know exactly what we need and when we need it. A person smart in his own eyes does not want to wait on God. A person full of her own wisdom does not want to hear God's instruction. We are all hopeless cases if we rely only on our own strength and knowledge. As I have heard before, God's time will come at His appointed time. We go through life step by step, learning to trust in God every step in each day. Tomorrow will come when it comes. We can sit down in prayer and ask God to bless our plans, but we cannot see the next day as God does. Today, we trust in God and step out in faith. Tomorrow, we will do the same, but the circumstances may be entirely different.

Enjoy the day in Christ,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Little Jesus With Your Coffee?

A drive through town at 0630 or so will convince most anyone that summer is here. Many people out on foot, bicycle, or in vehicles moving around and exercising at that early hour. Winter weather gives us more than one excuse to avoid getting out; summer mornings give us incentive to be out early doing things we enjoy. Good news for all of you praying and working on this little project of mine, the contract for the sale of the house was signed yesterday. I'm celebrating with a banana nut muffin this morning. 4 weeks from yesterday, I'll be moving on to a new home. I do not know where yet, so I cannot give you the details. As the closing of the sale draws closer, I'm sure that a little um, caution, shall we say, may set into my brain. Moving to a new place can be a bit anxious and exciting. Inspections to get out of one house, more inspections before moving into another. Repairs that must be completed or credited in the closing, and many other concerns to address in the process. And we cannot forget all of those heavy boxes and furniture to be moved. Oy! How does one start each day during a time of upheaval? Should I get right to work on something, or should I be quiet first and have a little Jesus with my coffee?

I think that I have tried too much of the first, and not enough of the second. The task list may be long in any endeavor, but we do ourselves no favors by forgetting prayer and devotion with Jesus before we begin. Seek your savior and Lord, ask for strength and patience to endure, and learn from him how to do everything in love. The negotiations and requirements of not just one house sale, but a purchase, lease, or rental on the other side, can wear down our love for others. I have been watched over carefully by the Lord in this time. The house listing posted just 3 weeks ago today and we are under contract already. Not every house sale goes so quickly, and during this Great Recession some have not sold at all. Praise God for your prayers and His answer.

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

So You Think You Are Lost

Good morning and enjoying the coolness! A tribulation has come to your life. Like Job, you sit in ashes in your only remaining sackcloth with friends telling you to confess something you didn't do and a wife encouraging you to curse God and die. The job at the office has you down and you long ago lost count of the 'stabs to the back' from your coworkers. Somewhere along the line the Shepherd must have lost track of you. There is no way a loving God could allow all this to happen, you say as something else goes wrong for you. Jesus obviously lost one sheep, and your life must be the one that He lost. You turn to a worldly counselor and after listening to your life's story, he can only say, "Wow, that's messed up!" We all at one time or another think that God or His Son or perhaps both have lost track of us. Ours is the one life that has gone off the rails so far that even the Almighty God cannot bring it back.

When Job says, "Woe is me." You argue the point and claim the position. When Paul calls himself the chiefest and worst of sinners, you are there to elbow him aside. Nothing went right in your life from day one and why should tomorrow be any different. Then someone comes along to point out that 1.5 million children in Africa may starve to death, and you are not starving. Another article points out that millions remain in slavery though we long ago thought that abolished forever, and you live in a free country. Finances got you down? Someone else has lost more, been deeper in debt, gone bankrupt more times, or failed more businesses than you. We can always find a 'worse than' story. I like to collect them to go with my experiences. Those stories remind me that always God has been very carefully and masterfully in control of my development through tribulations.

We tend to look at ourselves wrong. Imagine Jesus bent over a plate of diamonds on a jeweler's table. Every diamond is carefully weighed, cut, smoothed, filed, categorized, and accounted for at all times. It is true that many of the diamonds are still in their rough shape. Some so rough that they do not yet look much like a diamond and only the creator of the diamonds can possibly know that a diamond is in that lump of hard material. Your analysis of your own state may agree with the Master at this point, but that is no reason to leave the table. If one diamond slips or hops off the table, Jesus stops everything to go bring that diamond back. He knows where all of His other diamonds are, and He will not lose even one. In you and in me, the Master will bring out the diamond He created.

Yes, that Christian diamond you see at the church on Sunday may seem to get less polishing than you and yet appears to gleam all the brighter. Yes, that other one over there never seems to endure a tribulation in his life. Maybe in this one thing you are correct, and you are the roughest, dirtiest, most hidden gem of the whole lot. It could be that even the Apostle Paul didn't need as much work as you do to become a beautifully cut diamond for Christ. Praise God and be joyful, no matter what your condition, Christ will do whatever it takes to make you into what He would have you to be. If you are in rougher shape than another Christ-one, then you will get more of the loving attention of the Master. Perhaps way down deep under that rough material is a core of diamond strength that Jesus is working hard to bring out to show the world. Your light may be hidden for now, your diamond may not seem as large as that evangelist on television, but when you are unveiled at last in your cut and polished state after all those terrible tribulations, Jesus will show us all a very bright, beautiful, and strong gem.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to the Desert

Good morning and a grateful 'Thank you!' to God for the nice morning after two hot days. It seems that this year is a back-to-the-desert year for us. The winter was warm, the spring dry, and the summer is shaping up to be too hot. The winter wheat did not do well under those conditions and the harvest may be about half an average yield and three weeks early. We enjoy the years of milder summers with average or better rainfall, preferably without those cold hard bits that do so much damage, and winters of good snows that don't cause too many delays in our lives. However, from time to time we get the years where we recall why the high plains earned the title of 'desert' at one time. We know that this is not in fact a desert, but it is an arid region. The area does have its 'monsoon' season most years that brings rain in the form of thunderstorms. We also don't have a real monsoon, though the weather wogs on the telly call it that. One good monsoon season such as they have in Asia would probably wash all of our soil, county roads, grass, trees, and assorted houses and buildings right into the Caribbean Sea via Platte-Missouri-Mississippi River drainage. In our lives, we have similar seasons.

One year, we may have abundant provision, but not too much too soon. In another year, we endure a back-to-the-desert sort of year where it seems that we will never have enough provision. Of course, 'never' is a word that we cannot know and do not use very well. Never for us means a year or two, or perhaps a decade or two, but we don't know never as God knows never. A time of testing may seem endless, but we know very well that this life and its tribulations will end one day. Other trips to the desert for us may seem to have only that one end as a certainty, but God sees the end that we cannot see.

We might also call this a year of fire. Fires are burning in New Mexico, Colorado, and right here in our county. Grass fires on the plains and forest fires in the mountains are part of the natural cycle, but some years are worse than others. God takes us carefully into the heat to burn away the dross in our lives. This time of heating is never (there I go again!) fun, but we must have faith in God's masterful hand on our lives. Not every year or month or day in our lives will be one of flame and desert. Periods of rest are important for our growth too. I suppose it all comes down to trusting in God to lead not just into the desert for a time, but also back out again. A good way to increase the prayers for rain is to have a year of drought. God may send us out to the desert just to hear our prayers again.


Monday, June 18, 2012


Good Monday morning. There is something about that food that doesn't look right. My expectations have been managed by FD&C Red No. 40 until I cannot look at a proper apple without wondering what is wrong with it. If I had my own orchard, I suspect that I would be constantly asking why my apples don't look as good as those offered in the grocery store. How did my expectations get managed in this way? Easy, all of the apples in the grocery store back in the day had this dye sprayed on them. I grew up not knowing what a natural apple looked like. So much in this world is sold by what it looks like, and my expectations are managed accordingly.

I see on a Facebook post that a couple found a new home over the weekend, but without details I find it hard to celebrate with them. Why is this? Does the address and new town make such a difference? A bit, I would like to know if they are moving out of the area or staying somewhere close. Still, I should be able to celebrate the good news with them first before having my desire for statistics and location satisfied.

Once upon a time, and it wasn't always a fairy tale, I worked at a place that gave bonuses twice each year. If I had never received one and if the amount had never increased over the years, would I have missed receiving these bonuses? Probably not. Expectations can be terrible masters. When you receive a sum of money, no matter the amount, without expectations you are overjoyed. However, if someone puts an expectation into your head in the hundreds of dollars and the amount received is in the tens, suddenly it is not nearly enough for joy much less overjoy. Eh, overjoy? Is there such a thing as overjoy? There is this morning.

If you expect this wonderful devotional to start your Monday morning and you get mine instead... Wait, wait, we don't want to go there! Perhaps, we have hit upon the reason God does not spell out the good things that are coming in this life. Not everything will be tribulation for us. God is a good father who wants the best for each of us. It is not that God could not always exceed all of our expectations, but it may be better for you and me to have those expectations managed in God's wisdom before they get out of hand. We can come up with some high expectations in this life. We can make our expectations so wonderful that we lose focus on our Savior and start looking at what we expect to get in the future. We are heavenly minded, but if God were to show us Heaven, we might never look around at the world again. The world needs the followers of Jesus and we need to spread the Good News.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Is It Permissible?

Good Friday morning! This morning I wondered very briefly if it was permissible to have cheesecake for breakfast. I found that under very carefully controlled conditions, you must have cheesecake available and it must be morning, that it is indeed possible if not permissible to have cheesecake for breakfast. However, is it good to do something like that every day? I can tell you that unless you want your weight out where you can see it all the time, you probably should not eat cheesecake for very many breakfasts. Any food that sweet and rich should be kept to a minimum. For many of us, the curse on this world dictates that we cannot eat whatever we want all the time. The thing is permissible; that is, there is no biblical law against it, but other consequences dictate some limits to the action.

We often live our lives wondering if this thing or that is permissible. Instead of living by grace, we look for an exhaustive set of rules. You and I shalt not steal. The grace of Jesus made payment for our thefts, but grace does not set aside that law. We know that God's law makes it not permissible to steal and that seems cut, dried, and easy. Hmm, let's take a look at that tax return, shall we? Oh, maybe you are as clean as the driven snow this year, but what about that debatable deduction you took last year? We may not even realize that we have stolen. That does not make it any more permissible under the Law. However, many things that we can do have no direct command in the Bible.

Paul addressed this with meat offered to idols. That is not something we commonly deal with in this day. I'm almost positive the butcher down at Safeway did not offer the ground beef I purchased to some Mesopotamian deity before wrapping it and putting it out for sale. His employers and the USDA would probably rather that he didn't do such a thing either. We have other actions to weigh in the balance of our conscience, such as eating cheesecake for breakfast. Hey, cheesecake has eggs in it (I think), that is a breakfast food. We look to our conscience, made discerning by the Holy Spirit, to be our guide. And my guide says that the most likely objection to eating cheesecake for breakfast will be that I didn't first offer it to you. I can live with that objection. There are also three pieces left. If your objection becomes too much for you to handle, just stop on by.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Higher Position?

Good morning in the 0600 hour! If I exalt myself, will that help you in any way? I didn't think so. Me praising myself is not likely to be of much use to you. Well, unless you consider the source and gain some material for a bit of humor. However, let us look at something that at first might seem a little strange to us.

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)

How can the Lord exalt himself to show mercy to me? Seems a little strange to us, but then many of the things God does in His wisdom will seem strange to those raised in a sinful world. My first suggestion for how God has done this is in the person of our Lord Jesus. At the resurrection, God exalted His Son and showed mercy to you and me. At the cross, Jesus was lifted up and we received forgiveness of sin. At the end, Jesus will come in his glory, and we will receive mercy forever. God can do this thing and has done it for us.

You and I cannot exalt ourselves or each other and accomplish mercy toward anyone. All we might accomplish is the exalting of the other person, not a bad thing, but it doesn't produce mercy for everyone. To exalt is to praise someone highly or to raise him to a higher position. Whoops! How can a perfect God exalt himself then? God cannot be raised to a higher position; He is God. But, what if God lowered himself, condescended that is, to become one of us, and not only that, but took on the judgment for sin in his own body? Then God can raise himself in the person of His Son Jesus to a higher position. Aha! the Old Testament prophet speaks of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ! The prophet waited on Messiah, and advised all of the coming grace and blessing of God for those waiting on the incarnation. We too have something to wait for, the return of Jesus to gather his children from the nations and bring us home.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Evacuation Warnings

Good morning on this fine Wednesday. The smoke from the High Park fire went a different direction yesterday. Our evening skies cleared while Denver gasped and choked. I read in the article that two evacuation calls went unanswered before the fire claimed the life of a cabin owner. We can make guesses about unwilling or unable to answer, calls arriving too soon or too late, but in truth we may never know what happened. The same thing happens in almost every major hurricane. Calls go out, most people flee, but inevitably it seems, someone wants to 'ride it out' in their home. People will cling to their earthly homes in the face of overwhelming danger. I would imagine that back in the days of invading armies soldiers were often baffled by those who remained in their homes in spite of overwhelming evidence of the take-no-prisoners, burn-everything-to-the-ground approach of the invasion forces. Then, I wonder what 'evacuation' notices I might have missed in my life.

Near the end of Revelation, an angel will issue an evacuation order to the faithful followers of Jesus living in Babylon. At the very end of the reign of Antichrist, one more evacuation notice to ignore or heed. Will the people flee? An angel will give the warning, but will only the faithful obey the order? That little excursion aside, back to my question before I manage to wriggle away from it by diving into the Revelation. Does God send evacuation notices to me or any other follower of Jesus in our lives now, today, or perhaps yesterday when I wasn't paying attention? We pray to God bringing our lists of relatives in need, friends in medical distress, our needs for this bill and that, children who do not seem to following their righteous upbringing, and requests for forgiveness, either specific sins or that old standby of 'just forgive me for everything, Lord!' How often do we pause the recitation of our prayer list and ask, "Lord, do you have an evacuation notice for me?" Going to the Lord in prayer to listen is a bit like going to the doctor for a checkup, we aren't sure that we want to hear what He has to say. Who better to listen to when we have questions about living this life? Bring the list of needs to the Lord, but pause to listen also. The Lord might just say something like, "I love you!"


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

They Walk Among Us

Good morning! A thing not unheard of lurks among us. They call each other using code words to set up meetings. Their secret conclaves are an enigma to outsiders. They leave wife, friend, even television behind to pursue their arcane arts. Yes, these persons walk among us. Their language is similar to ours, but yet different in so many ways. Communication with them can be difficult for those with normal human vocabulary. I kept vigil with the widow of one of those worst afflicted last night. The man tried to suck me into the dark vortex with his siren song, but my resistance was firm. While the wizard of the wireless went off to his war wagon chuckling with sadistic glee, we spoke of another group. A group that to outsiders went by the same name as we do, Christian.

To one who does not believe in Christ, we belong to a group that is so very confusing. A group of Christians over there kisses snakes. Another group with the same name doesn't dance or watch movies. This group of Christians claims that a few dollars given to the ministry each and every week will result in untold wealth and prosperity falling from heaven. That other group speaks a similar message but adds job promotions, restoration to homes lost to foreclosure, and cured cancer to the list of benefits. We have heard of a messiah in Texas who died with his followers in a fire. A different messiah took all of his followers to the grave with him through poisoning. All of these groups used the same name we do. Some groups send visitors to your front door, other groups buy remote properties and go off by themselves to live. Which group is correct? A glance in a phone book in any small town will yield a dozen or more denominations to choose from in becoming a Christian. Are they all the same?

We have a wondrous and simple, yet awesomely deep and complex gospel. There are four main gospels, a history of the early church, more than a dozen epistles, and a book of marvelous revelation in the New Testament. We also have the psalms, proverbs, histories, stories, and prophecies of the Old Testament to learn from and work with. The problem seems to come when a person falls to the temptation to seize on some smaller part of the whole message. Yes, the Lord does make a promise to Israel about prospering the nation if the people will bring their tithes into the temple. Jesus also tells us that in this world we will have tribulations. We cannot seize on the message of prosperity while ignoring that we will face tribulation. Paul reminded us that he had learned to be content with little or much in his life. Paul was not more sinful during times of poverty, nor can we say that he was more faithful when God blessed him with plenty.

I am glad that this pastor on television purchased the home of his dreams through God's providence. Praise God! But many Christian's lost their homes to this recession and they may not be restored to those homes. One Christian is prosperous, many are in tribulation. I will not judge that those without homes are sinful, nor that the pastor with his dream home is without sin. However, we make a mistake when we use the one example to say that all Christians will be prosperous, or the other examples to say that all Christians are doomed to poverty. You can see which message would be received more eagerly by those who do not believe in Jesus.

Another minister spoke of using affirmations with prayer to accomplish what we want. I tried it. Not for a day or a week, but for a year, the time period the minister specified. I can affirm that by using affirmations you will improve your penmanship. None of the stuff I wrote down day after day happened. At the end of the exercise in writing by hand, I was reminded of the vain repetitions Jesus condemned. Sometimes God lets us do the thing before reminding us that Jesus did address that in his ministry. It is easy to seek shortcuts to salvation or sanctification. Jesus is in charge, and with Paul I am confident that Jesus will complete the good work He began in you and in me, and in them other folks in that group over yonder. I don't have all the right answers, but then, neither do they. I do know that Jesus is the right answer. If you want to go by the name of Christian, remember who is the Christ.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Smoke From Far Away

The stories of doom in the Revelation seem like smoke from a far away fire. The days go by with life events happening much the same as they have for decades or centuries. Young couples get married and towns celebrate. Older folks pass on and the loved ones mourn. We go to work; we come home from work. Invoices arrive and bills are paid. What has changed?, the scoffers ask. As we watch the smoke from the fires around Fort Collins pass by to the north and west of us, we know one important fact -there is a fire and it is burning. We know from our Bible that one prophecy has come true: the one about scoffers doing what they do most. It is interesting that the very prophetic words doubted by the scoffers spell out the scoffing so accurately.

The prophecies of Revelation may seem far away, but the smoke is coming over us even as we live out our lives. A financial crisis may not mean that a government is unstable, but there is a little shaking going on when it cannot afford to do what it needs or wishes to do. It may be good for governments and individuals alike to spend less than we did a few years ago, but when all spending goes down people lose jobs and then there is less spending and so on. Things can start to crumble around the edges. As someone on the edge, I can testify to this. You can check too. Many of us in small towns think that the housing crisis passed us by; that it's a big city problem. However, you may want to look more carefully around your town. The very small towns have their proportional share of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and preforeclosure sales too. Are things going on exactly as they have always done?

I ask this question by typing in an e-mail I am composing on a PC connected to the Internet on which sits the World Wide Web. The text will be copied into my blog that is freely available to much of the world for reading. Today, a candidate for emperor of the world could start his campaign on social media and have a billion followers much faster than at any time in history. Actually, that kind of campaign may not have been possible until this time we live in now. The smoke from the Revelation flame is a bit heavier these days. Governments want to go to paperless money to combat counterfeiting. Mag stripe cards, RFID-encoded driver's licenses, or some kind of Internet-connected device will access bank accounts to pay for services. How much easier would that get if the chip or bar code or whatever was applied to the right hand or forehead? Hmm, maybe the flames are flickering on the edge of the horizon there. The smoke of the end times isn't so far away after all.

Don't be afraid; trust in Jesus!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

We Have Berries!

I don't know what the berries are yet, but we have berries! Why the joy for such a simple thing? This bush is a survivor. I first found it growing as a tiny shoot beside the house where things are not supposed to grow due to weed barriers, Round-Up treatments, and other efforts. Since the plant endured so much, I transplanted it to a junk dirt pile I had. The plant grew even without tending and watering. Okay, what to plant in the rings that I made last year? One tree grew so well that I decided to match it on the other side, a symmetrical arrangement. However, it was too late in the year to get new trees over at the farm store. I transplanted the bush as a place holder for a tree. You guessed it; the bush took off and grew through the three hailstorms last summer and the dry spring this year. Now we have berries! I know; what kind are they? Consider my method of gardening and planting.

I tend to identify the flowers around my pond something like this: "Those are the tall, purple flowers that the bumblebees like. Those are the yellow flowers over there, and that plant has yellow-orange flowers of the same type. This one over here is a red rose bush, and that one back there is a pink one. This bush I planted last year, but I don't remember what color the flowers are supposed to be." When it comes to hiawatha's and dragonias and chrisanthemummums and such, I'm kinda dumb in that area. I cannot know everything and I choose to let most plants take care of themselves. My one attempt at planting flower beds with identified flowers was washed out several times, including Thursday evening. So, why did God send me a berry bush?

I don't yet know, but to God be the glory! After all the struggles of the past few weeks, the berries are a sign of something. I'm tired, the books are almost all boxed up, the audio equipment is sold or boxed up, and I cannot reload a single round. The things I usually enjoy are down to writing and reading God's word. I have worked more in the past month than I can recall in my life, and I'm like Jonah and his plant - happy over something I had little to do with. I hope my bush is not withered away tomorrow morning. Blessed be the name of the Lord. What great things are coming from God? I'll pray for great things for you too.

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Yer Gettin' Up!

Good and soggy Friday morning! Today, the forces of the world conspired to get me up whether I needed it or not. The city front-end loader arrived before six to scoop the mud into the alley and the siding crew began working on the house directly behind mine just after that. We got drenched again last night. The struggling little tree in my backyard seems to sit right in the main flow channel for the runoff too. Kind of explains why the thing cannot get growing like it should. Does it feel like you are trying to sleep while the world is trying to get you up? Maybe it's worse than that. You feel as though your growing place is right in the flood channel. Why didn't God plant me in a calmer area that is free from the inundations that seem to come every day or week?

One thing I know is that God is a better planter than I am. God wouldn't plant a little tree in a place where the soil is washed away from the roots a couple times each year. God's plantings come with God's wisdom. If it seems to us that our roots are being washed away, we are not seeing what God sees. The currents of the world may feel to us like they are constantly flooding us out of growing where we are planted. Or, we feel like God planted us in the desert and we haven't seen water forever. Nothing seems just right in this world. Our growth seems too slow, the currents of the world too fast, and the saving grace of our great Planter can sometimes seem far away.

We do our best to grow where God has planted us, but our best is never good enough. If a strawberry plant quit sending out runners to make new plants or stopped producing any fruit at all, we might yank the thing up and throw it away. But, what would happen if the little plant got all confused and decided that it was the gardener? We come out one morning to find little strawberry runners uprooting the peas and planting asparagus. How dreadful can it get?! We sometimes get confused as to who is the plant and who is the gardener too. God plants us, grows us, and prunes us. The pruning bit hurts and the planting may seem to be in the wrong place, but we learn to trust in the wisdom of God the Gardener. If we don't, we end up with asparagus, and that is just too horrible to contemplate.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Dreaming the Wrong Dream

Good morning and praise God for the rain during the night. A dream tried to help me define God last night. Of course, as a born sinner I have no knowledge to define God. As a born again believer in Christ, I can only know what God has revealed to me in His Son and in His word. Dreaming up lines like, "God is not quantifiable, but there is a quantity of God in every good thing." does not help me define anything but my own subconscious silliness. There are times when I wonder if I haven't spent my entire life dreaming the wrong dream. That deceitful heart of flesh sends us dreams of earthly wealth, popularity, power, fame, and other things that may not be good for us to seek. God's word tells us to seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. Our worldly dreams tell us to seek easy money, fair-weather friends, and quick success. The Bible teaches us to seek wisdom, act in love, have faith in Christ, trust in God, and other things that do not come naturally or easily to us. How many of us wake up from a dream where we acted with loving kindness? Yup, sometimes it happens to me too, and it is a nice change from the worldly dreams.

Jesus gave to us His Holy Spirit when he ascended to Heaven. We answer the knock on our spiritual door, and the Spirit comes to live in us. From that time on, we are in for the fight of our spiritual lives. Not all of our dreams are now of the wrong type. We don't always seek the wrong things in life as the Spirit gives us new desires. We may find our prayers turning to supplication for another person, perhaps even a stranger. Love comes into our hearts, and love then overflows and spreads to those around us. We are not aware this is happening at times, but others see the change. Meeting another Christ-one is great too. The love spreads both ways. We can wear crosses or t-shirts with slogans, but the real witness is the love of God in us. Act in the Spirit and show the love of Jesus.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Didn't He Already Do That?

The sun is no respecter of sleeping in at this time of the year. Daylight begins mighty early in the day around these parts, but it could be much worse. Up north, not Nebraska north, but really north like the Yukon or Alaska, the sun does not set during this season. In the dark of winter, we might pray that the sun will rise tomorrow. However, the question then comes, didn't God already design that rising of the sun, or the turning of the earth if you must, into the system? The sky may be obscured by clouds, but the sun does rise each day. In the same way, we ask that God make us what He would have us to be. Didn't He already do that?

We recognize our imperfections in many areas. Procrastinators take longer to get around to listing their imperfections. The overzealous will list too many. The timid won't ask others to help with the list. The incompetent will list the wrong imperfections, and the low in self-esteem may be afraid to make a list at all. However, all of those imperfections that we each list on our master list of things to improve are a part of what God designed you and me to be. How can I reach out to a procrastinator if I don't know what it is like to put something off that needs to be done? If you have overcome in the strength of the Holy Spirit the same problem that plagues me, then you can offer both understanding and useful suggestions. We like to hear the wisdom of those who have walked the mile in our shoes. Look at your imperfections and realize that God has designed them to help you to help others.

There is yet another reason for my imperfections. God wants me to bring them to Him. As in imperfect sinner, I cannot save or solve my self. I need the grace that comes by faith in Christ Jesus, and I need the wisdom I can only receive from the designer of me. God holds the owner's manual to me. Through science, experience, and self examination, we seek to write the manual to ourselves, but God already knows me down to the tiniest sub-atomic particle. In many ways, I have sought to redesign myself, but I proceed without complete information. We need God to do any redesign work that needs to be done as a part of our sanctification. Does He allow us a part in it? Sure, but some of the things we seek to 'improve' in ourselves have been designed by God for His purpose. We may want to check in with our Lord before we change the design.

In Christ,

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Talking to the Beast

Good morning! Summer mornings are often quite pleasant. I like to get out and walk about just to be with God. I think the most difficult part of a period of frantic activity is missing my time to just sit and pray. On the run praying does not have the same level of comfort and communication as a time of devotion does. My accomplishment level for the past month is high, but my satisfaction level is not what I had hoped. The beast within tells me to keep going at the same frantic pace. The Word of God tells me to slow down and wait on the Lord. It's time we talked with this beast from my sinful past and get back to a time of daily prayer in God's quiet time. This is quite different from the quiet time I enjoyed yesterday.

A period run at a rapid pace can lead to an overall fatigue. The kind of fatigue where one may find himself - I won't mention any names here - playing a game on the computer while listening to music in a mode that can best be described as mostly asleep. Doorbells ring, knocks are knocked, daylight is shining, but the occupant is occupying a land faraway in his mind. I won't say this happened to me yesterday, but I can tell you that the trip to far away planets can have a rather jarring reentry into the world. This kind of razor-edged alertness may be a sign that the mind is in dire need of rest, a day off, or at least an afternoon away from the race.

Talk to the beast of the flesh. Tell it to shut up for a while. Listen to the Spirit God has placed in you. Read the Word. Pray and find healing in the Savior. Give the Savior a chance to get a word in by coming to Him in prayer and meditation.


Monday, June 04, 2012

God's Day

This is the day the Lord has made. We shall be glad and rejoice in it. We hear that verse a lot, but do we realize that every day is the Lord's day? To realize fully that each and every day now belong to God is especially important on a Monday. It is just before 0600 out here on the hot plains of Nebraska, and I am just now thinking that today is a good day to thank the Lord for the day that He has given to me. Did our dear friend make it out of the hospital yesterday, or does she linger yet today under the gentle care of the needle stickers? One knows that we are to expect thorns in this life because of the curse, but doctors and nurses take that to new levels. "Ve needs more blood from you!" the vampire in the pastel uniform lisps and approaches the bed one more time. Remember that this too is the Lord's day. You will rejoice and be glad in it as the lab technician holds you down to drain all your precious corpuscles one more time.

Laughing are we? You too, yes, you in the pink jammies getting ready to get ready for work. Yes, this is the Lord's day! What do you mean, you don't feel like rejoicing? Wow, that sun gets hot early in the morning. I think I'll rejoice by closing the blind. Did I rejoice while rinsing out the cat litter boxes this morning? Hmm, may have slipped my mind at the time. Rejoicing in every moment is difficult, but the verse does not demand that we rejoice in everything that we must do in this life. Philippians does tell us to rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice always? No, rejoice in the Lord always. Not, 'rejoice while scrubbing litter boxes always' or 'rejoice while going back to that dreadful workplace always', but rejoice in the Lord always. We may not rejoice in every circumstance, but we learn to rejoice in every day. This day is the Lord's day that He has granted to each of us. One day, we may get only a partial day, and then it will be time to go home. And what a day of rejoicing that will be!


Saturday, June 02, 2012

It Is...

Good morning as I try to get back to the devotionals on a regular basis. The pace of cleaning and such has slowed down a bit. During the house showings I must clear out and that at least gets me away from the work for a while. I had both lunch and dinner in the park yesterday. This morning though, after reading another Facebook update from an old classmate, I wondered if she and her husband had a child later in life or adopted. But then, I thought that part is not important.

It is not important...

Whether a child is adopted or born into the family. In Galatians, Paul tells us that a child in the family is no better than a slave until he comes of age. An adopted son has all of the privileges of the born son when the inheritance comes. We are all adopted into the family of Christ, no one can claim to be a descendant of Jesus in the physical sense. When a family here on earth adopts a child, loves and raises that child as their own, it is not important how the child came to be in the family. The childhood status in the family is now secure as long as the family exists.

It is a fact.

For 'as long as the family lasts' may not be a statement to count on in this world of sudden tragedy and long centuries of wandering. However, God's family is based on the sonship of Christ. We cannot tear apart the family of God, only excuse ourselves from it. The family of God may be hurt by my actions, disappointed by your attitude, or sorrow at a separation from a family member who passes, but the family still exists as a family with Christ as its head. The family of Christ is a fact. You and I are heirs and sons of God. Anyone who would remove us from the family must face the head of that family: Jesus Christ. That is a strong assurance!

Have a great weekend in the family of God,

Friday, June 01, 2012

Needs of Others

Good morning on this fine Friday. Every once in while, we need to stop and look around at the needs among our own group. We do have a call to pray for the unsaved world, but we also need to pray for one another. Cindy's brother has been sent to the VA hospital in Omaha. That is a long trip for her to be with him and see to his needs. Our friend Brandee faces a different sort of hospital visit this morning. One that brings all sorts of memories back for me. Celeste and Steve lost a father recently. We have specific needs among us, and then we all have needs in relationships, finance, medical issues, and many others, including the subtle stress of the corporate world. The church has needs too, and it is good for us to remember our church in prayer. Retired folks don't have any needs and the self-employed must have it made, after all neither has to put up with a job, right? I think we all know better than that. Even if the needs are not voiced as complaints or prayer requests, we all have needs to bring before the Lord.

Sharing our needs among the group of believers allows us to think of others before ourselves. We can set aside the pressing issues in our own life and lift up the needs of others before God. In the darkness of a time in death's shadow, praying for a loved one can be a great relief. And there are certainly those times when we need some relief from the circumstance. Find some relief in praying for the needs of others.