Friday, September 28, 2012

Late Again...

Good morning on this fine autumn day! On Friday morning, I am now driving back from Sidney after an overnighter for our life group meetings. So, expect that some Friday devotionals might arrive just a bit late. We are doing a great set of lessons that for my usual absent-minded reasons I cannot remember the title of at this precise moment. The leaves in the Lodgepole valley are turning now and that was quite a drive back home. With so much going on that is bad in the world, is it right for us to stop and see the beauty in God's creation? Absolutely! In fact, that may be more important as the days darken toward what we know as the final tribulation or the end times. Much of the judgments that occur in Revelation are poured out on the things we enjoy - green grass, trees, the waters of the ocean and rivers, and the sky. That kind of thing may get through to some folks when judgments against mankind will hardly seem any different than what humans have been doing to each other for centuries. When we stop or pause and enjoy the wonders of Creation, we get the chance to give God the glory. If we don't give God credit for His creation, who will?

Have a great fall weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Good Attempt

Last night, I tried cooking some chicken in a smoking tray on the grill. The chicken didn't come out too badly, but I could tell why the trays failed for the company that gave me the sample. The idea was that in grilling the wood chips in the bottom of the tray, the vent holes would allow the chicken to smoke like in a smoker. It was a good attempt, but didn't quite get the job done properly. I thought this morning of how our attempts to save ourselves through good works and good intentions come out much the same way. We make a good attempt, but something is basically wrong from the start. A tray on the grill is not a smoker, and a sinner in need of salvation cannot do enough good to save himself. A tray heated on the grill is still just a tray, and a sinner doing good works is still a sinner. We need a change at the base level in order to do the job properly.

I can take up a religion, and there are many choices, that promises a path to enlightenment, absolution, peace, contentment, or even salvation, and perhaps all of the above, but no amount of working upwards along some path of works is going to save me. At the top of the mountain of good works, I would be a sinner with a certificate in good work mountaineering. All that work, and I would still be in need of salvation. Completing the guru's course, only means that I get the paper saying what I already know. A course in mountain climbing or increasing knowledge does not seem to be the right answer. What or who is the answer to our need for a change at the base level?

In the Bible, God gave the Law that spells out what must be done. Everyone who tried it seems to have failed to make it work. Some kept the law, like the Pharisees, but the base level sinners remained in the same state. There was no group better at keeping the Law, in fact they added a bunch of their own rules to make the challenge more interesting it seems. Yet, no group received a harsher condemnation from Jesus than those same Jewish religious leaders. After centuries of the Law, God sent something new in the person of Jesus Christ. God said at the basic level, 'I have shown that you cannot save yourselves, therefore I will do it.' And He did.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Encourage Me To Encourage Others

I know, you heard on the telly that this life in Christ was just one blessing after another; that you would be restored to a former job, promoted to a better position, and be sure to share your wealth with us when that all happens. Cancer and heart disease are just bumps in the road, and you know that anyone who dies of these things must just not have believed quite enough. Unfortunately, when life does not turn out to be a golden road with a border of thorn-less roses and tasty apple trees, we can become very discouraged by a ministry of nothing but pretty news. Our gospel is literally one of good news, but I wouldn't call it one of pretty news. Jesus said that his followers would suffer trial and tribulation in this life. Persecution scattered the early church and many of the first disciples died by the hand of man. After Matthew walked away from his tax collecting, we can be fairly certain the Roman occupation authority didn't later welcome him back and promote him to chief tax collector. So many died without renouncing their faith in Christ that we dare not say they didn't believe enough.

So, what is encouraging about all of this? For one thing, this suffering and dying we endure in this life is not the whole story. Two people believe in Christ. One seems to suffer his entire life - born into poverty, educated on hard knocks, and died under the lash of persecution for his faith. Another person is born into comfortable wealth, avoids the serious illnesses and injuries throughout his life, and dies after achieving a comfortable retirement. Both men believed in Jesus, will one have a greater place in Heaven? We don't know for sure, but we might hazard a guess as to which one will be happier to be there. We don't know why God gives this believer a seemingly hard life and another one a life that appears more desirable to us. What we do learn is that God has a plan for all of us as His church, the bride of Christ, and a plan for each of us.

Not one tear of our suffering is ever wasted with God. Not one smile from our happiness is overlooked. In order for this to happen, God must know all that is going on with us. That's encouraging! Nothing can happen to us without God knowing all about it. Jesus promised that He would never leave nor forsake us - we are not abandoned! God also sends us each other. The pain of life is always a bit easier when we comfort one another in love. My prayer for today: encourage me to encourage others, Lord.

Glorious God, greatest in love, be with all of us this day,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We Like A Little Stability

Good Tuesday morning to you and may God's blessings rain down on you today! This morning, my truck is parked out in the back 40, as in the back 40 feet in my case. Yet, the cat climbed up in the engine compartment again to sleep. I'm trying to stop this bad habit before a disaster occurs. As I thought about this thing, I realized that of all the changes she has endured this summer, the truck and its hiding places have remained the most stable. No doubt her scent (and furry fuzz) are well spread around in a place that you and I know is potentially fatal for a cat. Yet, she climbs back up to her comfort zone instead of sleeping in the shop where I placed her towel. The shop changes almost daily as I get things put together, unpacked, remodeled, repacked, stored, and whatever else, it seems, can cause a rearrangement of a kitty's world. Like the cat, you and I desire a bit of stability in our lives.

This desire can cause us to remain in a job for too long. Perhaps even past the point where stress has taken over our lives. A desire for stability can lead us to remain in a town even when our calling may be on the other side of the world. But stability is not all bad. A stable bank in this age is a good thing and certainly not to be taken for granted. Stable finances in our personal lives can give us access to credit for buying a home or vehicle. Back the other way, the instability in our families for some decades now has hurt our churches and our country. We like a little stability, but often we don't seem to have any of it. This desire for stability may be why we look beyond corporations, governments, organizations, and even buildings and planets. We look for a higher power. In my Bible, I find a higher power who has not changed since the beginning, and promises not to change through the ending. I believe the term God uses is 'from everlasting to everlasting'.

I cannot fathom in my mind one 'everlasting', so two of them is way beyond my comprehension. I like that God does not need to change and has not changed. When I believe in God, then I gain comfort from knowing that He is in control of all things. My belief does not change God, it opens the door to knowing God more.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Devil Knows We Belong To God

Good morning as the sky begins to lighten up for the new day. Do you feel under constant attack? Anxious thoughts, temptations to worry, things to dread all bounce around your mind, and yet you know quite well that we are not to worry or be afraid. How can I possibly be born again with all of this sinful stuff going on in my head? Perhaps, you and I should consider a different view, one more like God's point of view. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Not yesterday's sins, or those you asked God to forgive today, but all of your sins and my sins for the entire span of eternity. Once this was done on the cross, God began to see the righteousness of Christ in us and tossed our sins as far from Him as the east is from the west. So, why then are we so burdened with these wrong thoughts? We might consider that the devil knows we now belong to God. You and I are now enemies of the world and its prince.

If we go a day without thoughts that make us tremble and sweat it is because God arranged the break and not the enemy. We did not receive robes of lounging about the throne of peace, but a set of armor for fighting and defending. If you joined the military and received only a terrycloth bathrobe for your uniform allowance, you might think that something had gone seriously wrong. Standing there in your spiffy new bathrobe, with your hair cut short and a nice draft cooling your nether regions, you are handed orders to report for duty behind enemy lines. All you can see is that the enemy is not going to consider you to be much of a threat in your new uniform. What is wrong with this picture?

As a young Christian, I did not consider myself much of a threat to the enemy and his world. As the attacks have increased over the years, I now realize that someone does indeed consider me a threat to something. I do not feel stronger, or faster with the sword of the Spirit. My breastplate of righteousness doesn't feel upgraded, and my helmet of salvation does not seem to keep out the evil thoughts. When the attacks come, I run bleating to Jesus just like the little Christian sheep that I am. What kind of a threat is that? It could be because I am not the only sheep under attack. One soldier does not defeat the enemy, but those Christian sheep just keep on coming, clad in their little salvation helmets and righteous breastplates, swinging the Word and sharing the Gospel. The enemy must think himself the victim of some awful joke. Who would outfit an army of sheep? Well, Jesus would.

You and I may not get up feeling like a threat to anyone, but the attacks we deal with daily are a sure sign the enemy fears us. Externally, we seem weak and frail, hardly a threat to inherit the earth. Behind us though stands the might of the Almighty God. For now, the enemy is allowed to attack us as we live in his world. One day, the Lord will lead us into battle and the enemy will get the chance to feel the fear we experience now. You keep on running to Christ when the enemy attacks; I'll be running right beside you.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Scatter Your Toys

Okay, I have this new friend. He's kind of a cranky friend. My new friend like to scatter his toys just inside the entrance to his shop. Then, after someone is impressed with his toys, he growls to keep them from touching those same toys. I can't really go to another entrance because I have permission only to use the one guarded by my friend's toys. You have probably gathered that this new friend is a dog. He is having just a bit of trouble with the conflict between placing his toys where people like me must walk over them and his desire to keep people away from his toys. Where did my new doggy friend learn this sort of behavior? Probably from a human somewhere during his life. We often behave in much the same way. We purchase some fancy camper and want all the neighbors to come see and admire it, but then we lock up the same camper to keep the neighbors from snooping around when we're not looking. Yes, we do lock things to keep strangers from stealing them, but we must admit to the first reason as well.

It is easy to look at the example of my doggy friend and see the stupidity in the conflict. However, he is just a dog. Humans can act stupidly, dogs are just what they are created to be. In thinking of him though, I wonder what actions, behaviors, or invisible signs I put up that say 'stay back!' in my own home or life. Am I accessible to those seeking Christ? Or, like my friend,do I scatter a few toys and then growl when approached by a stranger? Perhaps not, but in reviewing my life as Paul told us to do, it is a good question to ask of myself from time to time.

Enjoy the first weekend of autumn!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blessed Be The Name

Yesterday, I completed a project of some small difficulty. Not that I dug a mile-long ditch or anything that glamorous, but that the work involved some bending, twisting, and other awkward positions that my body does not recover as quickly from as it did say about 20 years ago. This morning I get to pay the bill for those contortions in the form of pain and stiffness. But, the results are worth a good old-fashioned song of praise of our Lord Jesus. Why is the name of the Lord so blessed to me on this day? I'm glad I asked that question! Grace has been much on my mind lately. For without grace, all of my effort in moving, the efforts of my brothers and sisters in Christ in helping me to move, and all effort in general is nothing but a waste. Solomon would have called it vain. In other words, a useless effort that won't last. However, grace came to us in the person of our Lord Jesus. Grace means that we can store up treasure in Heaven through our good works. Without grace, there would be all these treasure chests in Heaven with no one to enjoy the proceeds. What a sad sight that would be.

Grace comes entirely from God. You and I, we did nothing to gain God's favor, and we can do nothing to deserve eternal life with our Lord. Without grace we labor to save ourselves and accomplish nothing. Grace is not dependent upon me or you, or even how we feel. Grace covers me even when I wake up sore and stiff and physically of not much use to anyone. Grace covers you when sickness comes and you don't feel very graceful at all. What is grace worth to us? I may have to take that up another day; entire chapters wouldn't be enough to praise God for His grace.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

That's Not Your Job!

Great day in the mornin'! I'm not sure where that came from, but I'll borrow it for this morning. We hear a lot of things that do belong in the Christian's job description: do good works, tithe, help the poor, and love one another. But, it can also be liberating to say, "That's not my job" in some areas of life. We have all gone for help to some office or department only to run into the worker saying, "It's not my job." and then leaving us without helping in any way. We resolve that next time, when the tables are facing in the other direction, that we will at the very least guide the customer over to the correct person.That is a good start, but some things that come up in our lives are to be avoided, even thrust away from our thoughts. For example, it is not your job to worry over tomorrow. Nope, Jesus commanded us to stick with today's worries and concentrate all of our energy worrying about only this day's worries. Uh, no... that probably wasn't quite what our Lord meant. Jesus also commanded us not to worry over food and clothing, shelter and other needs for God knows of our needs before we even speak them. We can pretty much say that it isn't in our job description to worry at all.

Another area that we are to say, "That's not my job" is in fear. Jesus commanded us many times to not be afraid. Fear and anxiety are related to worry, and we are not to do either. It isn't our job to contend with the pastor. Nope, examine his words and message, compare them with the Word of God, but contention should not be in your worship. I can recall very clearly in my years of unbelief how I contended in my mind with the sermon each week. Oh, how I knew so much back in those days. What a relief to surrender to Christ and begin learning again, to realize that in contending with the Lord's messenger I was actually contending with God. What a blessed relief to realize that it was no longer my job to contend with the knowledge of the Lord! You can think of other examples, but it is good when the temptations come to say that it is not our job to sin anymore. No, I don't have to give into that thing I used to do, it's not my job!

Enjoy the blessings of the Lord this day,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

That Gentle Reminder

Caught myself at it again last night. Nope, not that - but the time when I catch myself complaining about something that did not get done on that day when there is so much that begs my gratitude to God. The gentle reminder comes from the Spirit, why not be grateful first and review the wonderful things that happened on this day? I have read the stories of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, complaining and moaning at every opportunity, but do I find myself at times doing that very thing? Sure I do, and I surely wish that I was more grateful first.

Paul wrote in Romans of doing the very things he no longer desired to do. Back in the day, I thought that this meant he remembered doing the wrong things from some earlier time in his life. As though, after his third epistle maybe, Paul became this perfect saint that no longer sinned or had to worry about sinning. But the testimony of Paul does not record a 'back in the day'. Paul spoke like you and me of the right now. The temptation that caused us to sin last night, also affected Paul at times. We read of Paul's thorn in his side, and we tend to think we know what that must be. The great apostle was afflicted with the same weakness that I have, therefore I must be alright, really. We don't know exactly what caused Paul to ask God three times to remove it; the Bible does not state Paul's problem for us. However, as you grow in Christ you can rest assured that you too will have thorns to help you remember that God is our salvation, and not our own strength. At times, you and I will catch a gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit right in the middle of an act we will regret. But, that is not the end of it - praise God you are already forgiven!

Have a grateful day in Christ!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do You Suppose...

Many times we hear about giving our lives totally to Jesus, and it kind of follows that we might fall into that trap of laying back and waiting for Jesus to work us like some bad automaton from a cartoon. "I'm all yours, Lord. You take it from here!" But, if the Lord wanted servants of that type, He could certainly create as many as He wanted at anytime that He wanted. The Lord would not need us at all. In creating you and me with a will to choose, the Lord must have wanted something else. Yes, He does want us to believe in His Son, and to choose life over eternal destruction, but does the choice end there? When the minister gets up on Sunday morning and tells me to wait on the Lord's direction, am I to do nothing until that direction arrives? Will the Lord's guiding hand be like the hand of the puppeteer?

We fear that sort of direction, so of course we are going to resist it. The decades that slavery existed in the United States are a great national shame, though not one of us was alive at that time. We fear the return of that so much that we often react badly to any hint of racism. Again, if God wanted mindless slaves, He could have kept slavery around and put you and me under it. Instead, the new life in Christ speaks of freedom, joy, love, and hope. None of these are compatible with slaves or automatons. Do you suppose that God wants us to love Him without any force or compulsion?

In the morning, I sit down to write. If I do it because I think I must, then the first feeling will be one of rebellion. If I throw up my hands and tell God that it's His devotional to type, then nothing happens. Paul was guided by the Lord in writing his epistles, but he still wrote them. Moses was guided by the Lord, but he still walked the miles across the wilderness. I think that God will not direct my writing if my fingers are in my pockets. Do you suppose that God wants me to write some words of praise just because I want to? Feelings may not be the best guide for us to go by, but it just feels better to praise God spontaneously of my own free will than to feel an obligation. I would much rather a song of joy break forth in me than to be forced upon me. Can there be any true joy in reading God's word if I am forced to do it every day for a length of time set by another? The life of faith is so much better when my heart is changed to a 'want to' from a 'have to'. That is why we need to be reborn in Christ.

Enjoy the day in the freedom Christ brings!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ah, The Intense Scrutiny

Good morning on this cloudy day! Yesterday was a Sunday in September. I'm not trying to shock you; you probably realized that long before, well, hopefully at least sometime yesterday. That means that many of us, a whole lot of us if the Nielsen figures are an indicator, gather and sit, or just plain sit, to watch some NFL football. While watching this professional sport, we may notice an intense scrutiny leveled at the players and coaches. This year the refs, being replacements from as far away as the Lingerie Football league, are under much more intense scrutiny than usual for them. The penalty calls and non-calls have been a bit ragged to be sure, but expectations are also lowered. These refs after all come from less demanding levels of the sport. In your Christian life, you too came from a much less demanding level of life.

In your life before salvation, you sinned and were expected to sin from time to time. In some levels of life, a person may have wallowed in sin constantly. A person from the illegal drug culture or the adult film industry would hardly be expected to live a saintly life. However, you and I gave our lives to Jesus. And now, whatever level we may have played in before, whether in an industry of sin or simply one of the normal, decent, 'good' people, we now are playing at a level of intensified scrutiny. The people of the world are going to be watching you. How has your life changed? What good works do they see that show God is active in changing this former sinner into something different? Are you, like a few replacement refs, trying to blend in with the field so that no one can tell where that botched call came from?

I would imagine that a few of these refs are wishing for a uniform of a nice grass-green hue at times. The demands of their new position are much greater and far more visible. We have a similar change when we stand up for Jesus. Is my life perfect in every way now? Free from all sin and thoughts of sin? Not at all. There are times that I kind of seem to blend in with the world. But God is changing me, and the good news is that I am forgiven now. We are not awaiting forgiveness at some future date when God knows that there will be no more sin in our lives. Praise God that we are forgiven and that His Spirit dwells within us.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Someone Wants To Load Me With Fear

The day begins with hope, but then the change comes. Hardly have I put my Bible down from a morning reading when the attack arrives: fear, dread, anxiety. The thoughts like arrows shoot across my brain. This terrible thing is going to happen to you. That awful condition is surely at work in your body. You can't do that, you will surely fall! There are many distractions that could work for a moment or two, but I have learned to flee to the Shepherd. I can't stop all the anxious thoughts that can jump into my head, but I can answer them with prayer and thanksgiving. The enemy has a tactic that he just loves: to load you and me up with fear until we cannot function as a witness for Christ. Living for Christ means that we will have enemies, and our enemies want us in a state of constant fear. With a terrified opponent, the enemy can take the field without a shot fired. The idea is that you and I will not show up on the Internet with words of encouragement for our brothers in Christ. That we won't send a note of love to bring our sisters in Christ out of a depression. A thoroughly frightened Christian will not visit a sick friend in the hospital, or minister at a prison, or help out an orphan, or do the many other things we can do to show the light of Jesus in our lives.

Take note of the many others you know - those who share the Word of God in Bible studies with us, sit near us in church services, pray for us in prayer meetings, and meet with us in fellowship. See how many, or at times even all of us, will suddenly come under the shadow of fear at the same time. You can see it in prayer requests, message postings, e-mails, and that is when we realize that a campaign of fear is at work in the world. Sometimes the enemy forces rest or are held at bay, but we have all noticed the times when we are afraid together. Find the words of encouragement together: "Don't be afraid. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome..." as Nehemiah encouraged his people. "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) A campaign of fear-mongering is a tribulation to us all, but Jesus our Lord has overcome the world.

Trust in God to strengthen us and still our quaking spirits.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

May I Loot Your House, Please?

Good foggy morning from down here in the South Platte River valley! Praise God for the rain yesterday! I didn't know what to do. I needed 4 little boards, but it was raining. Cardboard? Forget about it. We had steady rain such as we have not seen for months. The Lord sent us rain, and I had forgotten how to change plans for a rainy day. And still I praised God several times for the rain. It was wonderful! Speaking of mighty works of the Lord, imagine that you need some travelling money for a sudden move. Naturally, you walk over to the neighbor's house and ask for his gold and silver. Yes, I know, even if your neighbors are willing you probably come back empty handed. Not many of us can boast of much gold and silver these days. In ancient times though, that was all of their money. Imagine just for a moment going to the house next door and asking, "I need to go west, may I loot your house, please?" Next, imagine that the Lord gave the word that this would happen and the neighbor lets you in and hands you all of his cash and his best stuff. What? Yet, that is what happened when the Exodus from Egypt began. The Hebrew wives went to their neighbors and graciously looted their homes.

This had to be the nicest looting in all of history. The Lord did not command any theft. He both foretold the asking and commanded it when the moment arrived. We help each other out in times of need, but this was unprecedented. Try it out on your neighbor next Saturday. "I'm going to church in the morning, may I take all of your loot?" You can imagine the answer. Of course, we have not been commanded by God to do this. There was no Wal-Mart in the desert where the Israelites were going. In time, the Lord would use the gold and silver to construct a nice temple and some really spiffy temple accessories. However, at the time the Hebrew wives left Egypt quite wealthy. This was not 'easy' money though. I have often thought of it as back pay for the years of slavery. That does not reduce the wonder of the Lord's hand at work though. "Before you leave, go and ask the neighbors for their gold and silver." For some reason, the Israelites had no trouble believing this one. Later they would grumble and complain at every opportunity, even to the point of wanting to go back to Egypt. Maybe they forgot that little looting thing? We may never know for sure.

Have a wonderful new day in Christ!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lord Doesn't Need Me

Good morning, and what's that? Yes, I do believe that I hear some rain drops falling this morning. Praise God! Obviously God just needed me to pray the right prayer to get this rain thing started. Umm, you are having a doubt, I can feel it from here. Exactly, the Lord didn't need me to do anything to send the rain. In fact, the rain will arrive on the Lord's time without my paying any attention to it. If a pastor stood up in front of his congregation and spoke something along the lines of 'You need me, and I am glad to be here!', we wouldn't have a doubt and might agree with that statement. We do need a pastor, and that pastor may be the best fit we have found to fulfill the congregation's need for a pastor. Now, have that same pastor stand up and say something like, 'The Lord needs me right here to work His will.' Yikes! everyone scrambles for cover from the impending lightning strike, figuratively speaking of course. We know that the Lord does not need any of us to do anything for Him. We need the Lord to enable, strengthen, encourage, and empower us to do His will in our lives. The Lord may lead us to a certain place in life, and He may want us to go here and there, but the Lord is not needful of us in the way we speak of our need for Him.

A need is something that must be fulfilled in order to accomplish something or to avoid an unhealthy outcome. We need food to sustain our physical life. We need water or we die of thirst. We need the Lord or we die of sin. The Lord our God is perfect and completely self-contained and self-sustained in His own being. Our Lord does not need anyone or anything. However, we need our Creator, and we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need our pastor, and dare I write it, our devotional writers. Okay, you may not need this particular one, but you should read at least one devotional to start your morning. Do we need a devotional each morning? Not really. We may want to read one, but what we need is the Word of God. We need salvation, and our Lord is the one who provided the sacrifice to satisfy the judgment sin brought upon us all. Yes, we need the Lord very much. The Lord does not need any of us, but I'm sure glad that He loves us and wants us to be with Him!

Praise God for the rain this morning!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do It Your Way, Lord

Good morning after one more hot day this summer. News reports continue to shed light on a terrible accident on I-80 this weekend. Kind of difficult to understand exactly what happened there, but the results are only too plain. The inevitable question is how God can allow this to happen. Is it like the time when Jesus slept in the boat on the Sea of Galilee while the disciples feared for their lives? We know better than that. God is not asleep, and why would we think that He does not know the pain such events cause in this world? Somehow, and I cannot explain how all of this will work out, God is carrying out His plan for His glory and all that seems random to us is in fact in God's control. Faith tells me that one day I will stand in Heaven and hear tale after tale of how, if a certain tragedy had not occurred and caused great pain and grief, this person or that would not be with us in eternity. I look forward to hearing those stories in a place where no anxiety rises up within me when I hear of these accidents.

When we cannot understand the plan behind an event, or perhaps the events all over the planet right now, we must make the choice: evolution has brought the top species on the planet to the point of destroying itself, or, the curse of sin has brought death and destruction into every life and Jesus is our only hope. What kind of choice is that? On the one hand we have no hope except to make it through life and leave this world to eat itself in an orgy of competitive self-destruction, or we get no explanation for what may be the loss of a family in a sudden tragedy. Often I cannot make sense of events in my own life, much less what seems yet another senseless tragedy on the highway. Part of it may be that I cannot see all that needs to be seen in order to understand the plan behind events in this world.

That God has a plan in all of this is a great comfort to me. For the other way is to believe that we have evolved to a point of, well, pointless tragedies. Five people die in two related auto accidents; does that mean that cars are now the dominant life form on the planet? I think I would rather believe in God's way. The curse of sin lies heavy on this world and we are witnesses to it. However, we have a better witness. A witness of hope and joy in Christ. A story of great tragedies before the return of our Savior and Lord, but a story of how this short, painful tragedy that we call life is not God's final word.


Monday, September 10, 2012

It's a Heavy Monday

Good morning to you on this fine day in Christ! Yesterday, probably during a football game, I thought about death and how we are all dying. Then I thought, what better time to share thoughts about our slow death than with you on a Monday morning. Even the school children recognize a Friday. The noise coming across the street was about 3db louder than on other days. No doubt they will drag their feet on the way to school this morning, much like we drag our feet when going out to the car on a Monday. If you are not foot-dragging on the way to work, then you probably haven't had a chance to read this deathly devotional this morning. I'll take the spring out of your step. We need to discuss death and dying this morning!

Nah, death and the parting it brings comes too often to our homes and families already. I look at the cat running around with his toy mouse this morning and realize that he does not think of death on a daily basis. We are called not to death in Christ, but to abundant life. That means lots of life and not the constant worry over death. Advertising in this age would have us think constantly about the heart attack just around the corner: Eat our food, drink our drinks, and prevent that terrible, awful thing from happening. There is no guarantee of that of course, but the company wants your money and will say as much as possible to get it. Daily we see studies that show eating this or that will prevent that disease or heal this condition, but none of them can guarantee us the life we desire deep down inside. The more we worry about our collective obesity, the fatter America seems to get. What good has worry done for us? Time to think about life instead of that other thing.

Life is in gathering together and enjoying good food. Life is in sharing our love of Jesus and what He has done for us. Life is in going to your workplace and giving a smile where the Monday morning frown is expected. Yes, life is in striving to lose weight and celebrating success too. One day we each may have a death to die, but today we have a life to live in Christ. Let Jesus worry about the timing of your trip to be with Him in Heaven. We can't advance the time by one minute anyway, so why worry about it? Let us live in Christ on this fine Monday!


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Can I Get A Witness?

Oops, sounds like a song lyric again. Another indication that we will see an autumn this year arrived last night. My room got plenty cool and it is cool outside this morning. Now that I have updated you on the weather, what is this about a witness? We are commissioned to witness to the nations, but what exactly is our witness? Yesterday, I filled up 4 of the 5.5qt Oxo containers with flour from a 25lb bag I purchased this week. There you have the essential facts including quantities, time, and who done it. What I could have said by giving in to my teaching urge was, "You will need 4, 5.5qt Oxo containers to hold 25lbs of flour." That sounds more like what your school teacher might have said back in the day. Carrying it one step further, "Go forth and acquire 4 large containers of 5.5qt size from Oxo. Purchase 25 lbs of flour and fill the containers." Now, I have gone over into the preachy side of things. You know, that thing we may be tempted to do with our memorized scripture verses from time to time. Now that we have that out of the way, how do we make this not just a witness as in the first example, but a witness for Christ?

As you know from reading this devotional through the summer, I had a difficult summer financially speaking. Through the sale of the house that I could no longer afford, God has blessed me with a new place to live and some money left over for the things I need, and, yes, even a few things that I just want. One of these blessings is the ability to put up some flour for the winter in new storage containers. I guessed that I would need 5 of the largest Oxo containers, but I only needed 4. I have one left over for other storage needs. God's provision is great!

Now, we can see how the credit, or glory, is given to God for His provision and blessing. I didn't do it all on my own and God deserves the glory. In fact, on my own I very nearly despaired through this trial and only God's steadfast comforting presence and provision got me through it to where we are now on this day. Also, in point of fact, much has been accomplished this summer. We endured perhaps the hottest summer on record. If not the hottest it was close to the top. A little rain yesterday may be an indication of prayers answered in relief of a return to the drought that has plagued us this year. The winter wheat harvest came early, but there was a harvest. We moved three households during the hottest month, July, including my own. I am not the only one who got baptized in August, we obeyed the command of Christ by baptizing thirteen in just our little congregation. I'm sure many others were baptized around the world this summer too. Some of us found full-time or part-time jobs this summer, and others were grateful to hold on to jobs they already held. We have two weeks of summer left, but it has already been one to remember in the coming years. Praise God for this summer!


Friday, September 07, 2012

God Said It; It's Done...Now, Go Do It!

Reading the old story of the burning bush, I went on a little farther in the holy text and found God's word about what would happen in Egypt. You can sum up the prophesy as: God said it, it's as good as done. Now go do it Moses! We have a little trouble from our limited point of view understanding that God sees what He says as done when He said it. Jesus said that something was accomplished or finished on the cross, but we don't feel very finished when we look inside of ourselves. Am I saved? It seems kind of dirty in there still. 'Me' seems to lack the luster and polish one might expect of a finished product. How can He say it is finished? Praise God that our salvation is not based on what you and I see.

You may receive a message from the Lord about a project you are involved in. This project may be a work project, or it may be a lifelong project, but the Lord gives you some indication of its completion. At the moment, you look around and wonder how the Lord can speak in the past tense about something so far from completion or something that seems so hopeless right now. Well, our faith is not based on you and me and what we see! Our faith is placed in the person of Jesus Christ and the sovereign power of our Almighty God. Regarding a lifelong project from my momentary view, I see little hope that this enormous project will ever get done. Yet, God has said the path is clear and I am on my way to completion, even great things. Those of you who witnessed my baptism may be fervently hoping that great things won't involve large crowds, waiting on ceremony, or things along those lines, and I'm right there with you brother!

But, there we have it again. God is not basing the future on our past. Moses was not sent back to Egypt to murder more Egyptian overseers, herd more sheep, or float about in reed baskets. God sent him for something new, and from that mission we have the great story of the Exodus. Praise God for the new things!


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Not Enough Value

Good morning as autumn approaches and that dreadful season of political ads continues unabated. Looking at our voter turnout record in America, we don't place enough value on the privilege of voting. Of course, the deluge of political ads we must endure may have something to do with that. Before we came to believe in Jesus, we had a problem with too much value on some things, and not enough value on other people. Back in the day we might lose a potential friend for the chance to play a practical joke. We didn't value what might have become a lifelong relationship over the small satisfaction of the moment. Placing a higher value on personal gain over persons can pretty much describe most or even all teenagers. Without Christ, we are quite likely to carry that attitude for the remainder of our lives. The changes the Holy Spirit brings to our lives become apparent when we start valuing our friends over what we can get in this life.

Another thing we come to value is the name of Christ. The world obviously does not value this enough. Almost any movie will use the name of God, Jesus, or Christ in some way that has nothing to do with calling on our Lord in prayer or thanksgiving. Worldly conversations include the same vain usage. The argument of which came first, the movies or the talk, has no conclusive answer, but I suspect that it was both. The world does not value the man behind the name that once healed the sick and cast out the demons. But you know and I know that one day this name will cause every knee to bow and all tongues to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

To value something is to more than just want it in the way we desire something in a store display. To value something means that we are willing to sacrifice for it. You sacrificed something in coming to Christ - the sin in your life. Doesn't sound like such a valuable sacrifice, does it? But, oh, how we clung to that sin when we walked in the way of the world. We valued the wrong thing and we needed our value adjusted and the penalty taken away. Praise God for a new life in Christ!


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

It Is Then You Know God's Plan Is Working

Good morning as the birds fill the air with their morning racket. This morning in studying the Exodus, I came to the simple statement: "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." The Egyptians, the first 'they', thought they had a good plan to oppress and suppress the Hebrew nation living to the east in the land of Goshen. The new pharaoh did not have enough enemies apparently, so he decided to afflict God's people. Bad idea. The funny thing is that in implementing his plan to cut down the Hebrew nation through hard work, he got to watch the Hebrews multiply and grow even more! Coming to a verse like Exodus 1:12, we know then that God's plan is being carried out even when the enemy tries to hurt God's people. The same is true for us.

The world will try to suppress those who believe because of its hatred of Jesus Christ. In many ways, you may find that hatred manifested in your life. However, many of the ways are underhanded, sneaky even, and we don't realize that the world is trying to suppress us. Many Christ-ones have been suppressed financially just as the popularity of the health and wealth, or prosperity gospel has grown. This confuses us until we realize that it is God's plan, and not our own dreams of wealth, that will be carried out in our lives. The Hebrews in ancient Egypt enjoyed great prosperity for many years, but then the world through a new pharaoh enslaved them. I doubt that any of the rabbis of the time preached a slavery gospel as the way to grow closer to God, but that is what happened. God would use the slavery the world brought to oppress His people to call up a shepherd to lead the people out of bondage, but first they suffered for a bit.

We too may suffer for a time before our shepherd leads us out of bondage. Like the Hebrews of that long ago time, we may not see the way that God will lead us from where we are now. As it turned out, God would use the time of bondage to toughen up the Hebrews for their time of crossing the wilderness on the way to the promised land. Hey, perhaps we too are getting ready for a promised land!

God bless you on this day,

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Some Days...We Just Don't Feel Super Anything

It feels like a Monday, but the day is a Tuesday. I'm not sure what the birds are doing can be called singing either. I think that I feel like a curmudgeon today, but I'm not sure that I'm old enough to qualify. Some days we just don't wake up feeling like what we are. My 'Devotional Writer' suit must be in the laundry hamper, or maybe I left my Super Christ-one shirt at the church on Sunday, but I don't feel as I think I ought to this morning. Of course, we must realize that Jesus didn't say, "It is accomplished; they will all feel much better now." No doubt the many Jesus healed of physical sickness felt much better quickly, and we seek that same 'feeling' at salvation. Salvation is accomplished by faith, and faith is not supported by our transitory feelings.

Faith stands whether we feel ill or in perfect health. Faith rests in Christ on the days we feel weak, as well as the days on which we feel strong and able. Faith is not lost to fear, though it can feel very much like it when we are afraid. Faith and unbelief do not sit beside each other, but our salvation is based on Christ and not on our doubts. We live by faith in Christ, and not by some vague optimistic feeling that might get up with us or decide to stay in bed on a cool Tuesday morning. Faith just isn't a feeling that we wake up with or don't.

I don't feel very super today, but I'll keep my faith in Christ. Have you noticed there is no such thing as a Superchrist in the Bible? It just isn't possible to have anyone superior to Christ. There will come an anti, but never a super. Christ is the Almighty One, enjoy Him as your savior today.


Monday, September 03, 2012

What If The Great Crisis Has Passed?

As we begin the new school year, we cling to a lot of fears for the remainder of our mortal lives. But, what if the great crisis of this life has already passed? Suppose just for a moment that the crisis that may have led to your first profession of faith in the saving grace of Christ was the one great crisis of your life. From that point on, God had only small trials of the sort that are completely under His sovereign control. You have no more worries for this life. You have only one real problem: no one bothered to tell you that the great crisis would be the last one. So, in the fear of the flesh you continue to fret and worry over that next great crisis that is surely on the horizon. When the flesh is quiet, the forces of the Adversary rise up to fling their darts of anxiety and stress toward you. When God is silent for a moment, you reach out to grab these darts as though a dreadful message was somehow better than none at all. Do you yearn for the next great crisis to prove that God can save you one more time?

All of us may recognize a bit of that in ourselves. All of the trials we will face in this life are under God's sovereign control, just as the first great crisis in life was so long ago. We are to live without fear and worry as we walk daily with our Savior, but we reach out for worries and grasp them to our breast as though manufacturing a new crisis will bring God closer to us. The methods for drawing closer to God are prayer, praise, love and many others as we grow in the Spirit. If a child went out and broke an arm just to gain your attention, you would seek the help of doctors and child psychologists to cure the problem. But in a spiritual sense, we sometimes do much the same with our Father in Heaven. We perversely want another great crisis to shore up our faith when God responds as we know He will. How about we let God manage the size of the crisis from here on out, and trust in Him for the small problems.

Take time today for a prayer of thanksgiving on this Labor Day!