Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Prayers From The Darkside

Happy Halloween to you as the full moon shines down upon us. Early this morning, I thought about our nighttime prayers. Why? Well, because I needed to pray and it was the dark of the night. If you had to pray to me, you would probably find me hanging about on the light side of the world most of the time. Some folks get really spooked on Halloween, so that might be a serious problem for them tonight. However, God is not like me. Our Lord is omnipresent as we like to say in big word talk. That means God is never out of reach. Paul says it this way: "The Lord is at hand, be anxious for nothing."

We are so busy during the day that it may take a problem of some sort to remind us that we should be praying often, inviting God to be with us all day and every day in everything we do. At night, God can more easily get our attention. A little nightmare on Halloween, perhaps brought on by some of those seasonal movie favorites or a batch of particularly good zombie costumes, and we are immediately ready to send up a few prayers from the darkside of the planet. Not to fear, God will not miss any of those prayers. He is not over on the daylight side of the world because He needs to 'see better' as I might do.

What is dark to us is merely the absence of some sort of light, either artificial or created. Our God does not need the sun to see, or a full moon for a short visit to the darkside to make sure the devil isn't up to no good. Day or night the devil is up to no good, God knows that already. Our nighttime fears may cause the devil to appear stronger at night, but he is still under the limits God has set. In place of estimating the devil based on our own fear, we must look to Jesus and be comforted. Day or night we will be under attack from the powers of darkness, and a prayer from the darkside is heard just as quickly, just as well, and answered with God's great power just like a daytime prayer.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

But, What Happens In Success?

Good morning and success to you! Do you ever wish success to anyone? We do pray for success in our ventures and in the lives of others. Business people wish success on each other. Secular folks want success. We go to college to be successful in life. But among all of this success, what happens if I fail at eternity? We struggle so very hard to be successful in this life, and we might just forget about the larger part of eternity along the way. What is this success that we pursue so relentlessly?

To the person with little food, success is a banquet table every day. To the overweight person, success is losing all of the weight the banquet table put on. To the short person success is being tall so that someone might notice. To the tall person, success is being of average height so that less people will notice. The man in the small house yearns for the mansion on the seashore. The man with the mansion wishes for the simple home that does not require enormous expenditures. To the poor person, success is more wealth. To the rich person, success is more wealth. Oho! Finally found something we can all have in common. But, why isn't someone just happy with the wealth they have? If neither the rich nor the poor are satisfied, how can anyone ever be wealthy enough?

It is possible to become so wealthy that a person spends his days in an endless stream of meetings to manage that wealth. Where should we invest? How are the investments doing today? How much did we lose in the stock market yesterday? How much did we gain in the commodities exchange last week? Should we give more to charity, and which charity is honest? Who is pilfering from the till, and where is this leak? Is this wealth success or slavery? Now we are caught up in the discussion of wealth, and what happened to that question of eternity?

It is far too easy to become distracted by the things of this world and fail at eternity. Many are doing it; some are quite good at it. Whatever success is in this world, the pursuit of it may blind us to what matters to God. The very object of our faith, Jesus Christ, did not appear to be successful in this life. Jesus did not become king. He did not lead his people in a historical military campaign to expel the Roman occupiers. He did not gain great wealth in terms of money or even operate a successful business (we could debate what his 'business' was of course.). Our Lord did not win a Nobel prize, an Olympic medal, or an award for performing in front of audiences. No one even offered Jesus a multi-year contract. Yet, somehow, millions of us have found success in eternity through belief in Him.

God's love to you!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Law Does Not Rule

Good morning as the promise of sunlight breaks over the land. How many of us could get up this morning and run a marathon? Right, perhaps one of two and that only at some risk of strain or injury. You should be able to run 56 miles, not 26, or even run one hundred and six miles and maybe a thousand and six. We are made to run, or so the scientists and evolutionists tell us. Yet, without constant maintenance, exercise, rigid diet, and good health we will fail. How often do you see an antelope performing laps around a track? When not threatened they eat, sleep, walk, and stare at cars going by, but in a burst of an instant an antelope can run as far and as fast as it was created to run. How many times have you disobeyed the law?

Right, about as many times as you've been caught, and maybe a few more that no one need know about. Yeah, we seem to be a whole lot better at that, and we don't have to practice constantly. If the law ruled, we would not be able to disobey. Instead, the law seeks to rule through force. Look at your legal code. Do you see rewards for obedience? If you exceed the speed limit, there is a penalty in this state, usually in the form of dollars and points off your license. However, for all the times I have obeyed that particular law, I have never once been handed money for doing so. I cannot build up points to use later because the law only rules through punishment. God set aside a people, the Israelites, and then literally laid down the law. The books of the law in the Old Testament have a lot of crimes and associated punishment listed, but every once in a while you will see a reward for obedience. Honor your father and your mother and you get to live a long life, God's law says so. If you always obey the speed limit, do you avoid accidents? Don't try to tell me that; I have a little story to share if you try it. Our hearts are desperately wicked, and the law cannot rule in hearts of this type. Something else had to happen.

Jesus fulfilled the law of God by accepting the punishment on himself. He who did not sin, died to pay for our sin. The law could not rule, but it could be accomplished and God's justice satisfied by the sacrifice of His Son. In Christ, we gain His righteousness through faith. Now we keep the law because the penalty is paid. However, we also want to keep the law now. We do not live in fear of the penalty, though the devil tempts us in that way, but we want to obey our Lord from the love He has put in our hearts. One day, when Jesus raises us to new life, I'll want to run that thousand and six miles with you.

Praise God in this day!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Now, I Like It

Cool morning out there today. Kind of hard to believe that this is still early autumn and a hurricane is off the east coast. In my former life as a slave of sin, I recall being terrified of the Rapture. The suddenness and swiftness of the 'thief in the night' part bothered me a lot. When would be my last moment? What would be the warning signs? You can see that I didn't quite get it. Jesus used the metaphor because a thief does not leave a note in the mailbox letting us know that tonight is his appointed night to burgle our house. Not one of us will get some feeling that today is the day that Jesus will call us home. You won't be in the grocery store buying a case of noodles and then put it back because a message from above said that you won't be needing it. I won't stop working on the next novel because a dream tells me that today is the big day for our departure. Jesus told the disciples that everything would be going on as it did in Noah's day when the doors of the ark were shut by God. We might be attending a wedding, and then we are called home instantly. Well, that thought frightened me more than any Halloween horror movie back in the day. No time to repent, no time to say 'I'm sorry, Lord', just the knowledge in my head that I would probably perish in the Tribulation.

That is a problem of knowledge of the Bible without the salvation of Christ. There is no comfort to the terror of the coming Tribulation when the Comforter is on the outside. The Rapture scared my little knowledgeable head to no end. In Christ, all of that changed. Now, I like it. The Rapture requires no preparation such as having a suitcase ready at all times. I don't need some RapturePass card that I must carry with me and never lose. 'Cuz we know how easy it is to lose important stuff in this world. God did not issue me a Christian ID card that I might misplace just before the Rapture arrives. The seal of Christ is placed on us in a way that nothing can remove, and perhaps best of all, I can't drop it in my life's clutter. Our salvation is based on Christ alone, so I don't have some set of rapture exercises that I must complete before I am allowed to go on the trip. And, I don't have some date and time to track on my calendar. God keeps the date and hour, I don't need to worry about the timing. I don't know how many times I have planned to go somewhere and suddenly recalled, "Oh, that was yesterday!" Imagine saying that about the Rapture.

Today, I go on with my work in Christ. If the Rapture happens, then my next 'Praise God!' will be spoken in Heaven, I won't have time to say it during that blink of an eye.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't Beat Me On Friday!

Oops, maybe I shouldn't remind us of this on Friday, but we shouldn't shrink back from the truth. A Friday dawns at work and you are ready to clean up the place for the weekend, but here comes the boss. "Would you follow me, please." Uh, oh, very formal, no name, and a please that isn't really a please in the polite request sense of the word. Your spirits fall to the earth with a crash as you wonder what happened or what you possibly did. In the office, the boss unloads a ton of grief and shame on you for something that seemed kind of small at the time. A split-second decision that you didn't have time to consult with anyone before giving the go ahead. A push out to public view of something that turned out to be not quite ready for prime time. Whatever the case, you did it, and the damage was not that great, but... the boss gives you the blunt end of her wrath as though you brought down the company in one final stroke. 'Drag the corpse out' the boss says in so many words, as he unloads all of his fury on your little head. Most bosses aren't that literary, but you cannot be sure if he means to execute you on the spot or that you've killed the company. Why on a Friday?

Now, your weekend is ruined. You have no chance to work on fixing things until Monday. All of your weekend plans will be shot as you worry and fret over the termination of the affair. The boss never said the words, but is your job on the block? Should you spend the weekend polishing your resume? Actually, perhaps the boss is just a coward in this case. The damage truly wasn't that great, but she feared the confrontation and put it off until procrastination began to make her look bad in her own perfectionist eyes. The 'man' may have feared making the phone call to bring you onto the carpet because "phonephobia" caused him to shuffle the necessary dressing down to the bottom of his to do list until the event loomed larger in his mind than it really was. Or, perhaps the problem got worse due to his inability to act and now he takes out his own share of the blame on you as well. It is unfair, but you had to take it or forfeit your job in a tough economy. What we tend to do is to apply some derogatory label to the boss and forget the human part.

Believer or secular, saved or sinner, we all have worries and fears that cause us to act in the wrong way at times. In a small shop you may not notice, but in four years of military service and nearly 20 with a large corporation, I saw many people act differently at work than in their homes. Bosses in particular seem to put on a suit of imaginary armor when going to work. In the days when I had a crew of ten working for me, I did that very thing. I wanted to be the perfect boss to the men (no women on the dock crew at that time) and I feared being caught in the wrong. The higher up on the food chain a boss sits, the greater the fear of appearing stupid or ignorant. Yet, the same forces are at war within them as with anyone else. We may call it good and evil, the good nature or the bad, or caricature it with a little angel and devil figures but it works out to the same battle. What is the difference for the person saved by Jesus?

Ah, now we get down to it. For the secular sinner the battle is already lost. For the sinner who repents and believes in Jesus, the battle is already won. However, for the both the battle will go on in this lifetime. In our case, the Holy Spirit comes into the house to take charge. Though it may seem at times that nothing has changed, there is a new master in the house and the cleanup is well underway. For the person depending only upon their so-called better nature, sin is still the slave owner living on the top floor of the house. To the person receiving the chewing out on that Friday, the difference may be impossible to discern. Christian or not, we all still have the capability to act badly and come down too hard when coaching and counselling are the better answers. If you are the person on the receiving end, this is the time to turn the other cheek and forgive. This may not be the time to speak up for yourself. Sometimes the sheep is silent before the shearer. Your best defense may be to trust in Christ Jesus and wait out the storm. Hard to do? You bet it is. Jesus did it before the Roman governor, and laid down his life for us. He knows the strength you need for this very situation.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Discovery and Uncovering

Good morning under this lovely covering of snow! This morning we can reflect on how we like to discover things. We would like to discover the corner of a pirate's treasure chest (yes, even a thousand miles from the ocean) and finish the uncovering. At the first moment, the contents of the chest would be unknown, but oh the possibilities as we shift the sand away! At least we have sand available much nearer than the seashore. Tales of hidden treasure abound in our world. Most are probably just amusing fireside tales told to children that got out of hand over the years. More often, we make discoveries that are not quite so rewarding, or so we think. That smell in the basement that precedes the uncovering of water damage. And, doesn't it always start in some hidden place?

As I walked this morning, I received the revelation that all things work together for God's own glory and in fulfillment of His plan. That is not exactly a discovery, the Bible tells us that very thing. Perhaps I should call my 'discovery' a reminder from the Holy Spirit. We don't like to uncover a nasty mess in our house, but sometimes it happens. The cleanup is a lot of work, and often we need help either from knowledgeable friends or from professionals. Unless the excavation of wet carpets somehow reveals a hidden cache of loot, we may have trouble seeing the reward of our discovery. Many things in this world will not have an immediate reward that we can spend. In fact, the trials we go through may cost us time, effort, and money. Somehow though, we can rest in the assurance of God's working plan. All of this, from the virus that causes illness and death to the sweeping international disruptions to life and liberty work according to God's plan. Through faith in Christ Jesus we begin to see with a sense other than our eye sight.

Can I look at a disaster in your life and see the reward? Is your heavenly vision greater than mine? Probably not, we may have to offer comfort to each other based on faith alone. We may get to uncover God's reward together, in this life. We may receive God's reward when Jesus takes us to be with Him forever. Remember that old favorite, Hebrews eleventy-one today: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. You may receive a bonus today, a raise in pay, or just more assignments and work, but remember that this is not our eternal life, only the prelude to the opening act.

Praise God for the snow on this great day!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

God Is My Mainline, But My Connections Are You!

Good morning on this new day in Christ Jesus! Through prayer, supplication, and faith our main connection is with God, our Savior and Lord. God sends grace, love, peace, and joy down this mainline connection and by sending some of that out to our friends we have connections here too. The world likes to connect with names and trivia. You've seen them on the various social media outlets, just as I have. I wonder what God would say on Facebook? Would He agree with all of the posts you read floating around with His name on them? As with many things in this world, there is good and bad in the social media we use daily. False prophets can get their word out, but we send out the Good News of Jesus Christ too. We make connections in this way that few of us could have maintained even thirty years ago.

Remember the dark days of paper, pencil, and postage stamps? Letters and letter carriers were at one time our primary means of distance communication. Oh, we had telephones for a century before that, but it was hard to compete with the connection made through an inexpensive stamp and a bit of paper. However, writing in this way stopped quite a few folks from communicating right there. Letter writing was a labor of love, with a bit of emphasis on the labor part. Connections are much easier through our computers and social media on the Internet, but these connections can be weak things. How much do we really know about the one who posts only the cute pictures with the pithy saying? We can easily hide behind such things.

Posting a sad-eyed doggy picture with an "I'm having a bad day" on it does not make quite the same connection as calling up a friend or writing a personal e-mail. Strive for some depth in your connections. Make the extra effort to share the good things and the bad things with each other. Do as Jesus commanded and love one another. Love does not hide the bad news saying that everything is fine with me, when in fact that is not the case. We should be suspicious of the Christian who claims that God answers every prayer with a cheerful 'Yes!' and blesses him with all that he asks for. You and I know that everything we ask for is not good for us to have and sometimes God says an emphatic, "No!". What God will grant us is more deep and personal communication with Himself and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, one of the great promises of the Word is that God hears our every prayer. How deep is that?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

He Knows My Condition

Good morning as October begins to wind down and the tea days of winter draw closer. We look around and judge our conditions, and then we look inside and judge our fitness for salvation. We are wrong in the external in that our conditions are used by God to sanctify us, while we also are wrong about our spiritual condition. Now, lest we think entirely wrong, the flesh does seem to know itself and reminds us of its sinful nature very often. However, God knows our condition and He has a different take on it than we do. Where we see sin after sin, God sees the covering, cleansing blood of the Lamb. Where we may see a near constant need to ask forgiveness, God sees His Son on the cross declaring, "It is accomplished". Where we look inside at the lusts of the flesh and wonder when the cleansing will begin, God sees His own perfect work through the Holy Spirit. The conditions we see with eyes still partly blinded by the worldly flesh is not entirely what we think we know.

The Bible says a few things about us that are not pleasing to hear. We violate the law in every way imaginable. We deserve eternal punishment for our lawbreaking. However, the Son of God paid for those broken laws with His blood and body on the cross. The Bible goes on from that great sacrifice to tell of the wonderful way that faith in Christ saves us from the penalty of sin. How we have eternal life in Christ Jesus because of belief in our Lord. How grace is the undeserved and unlooked for product of God's perfect and freely given love for all of us, just as we are right now. God is indeed ready to destroy sin, but you and I belong to Jesus, His Son. God will not destroy what His Son died to save. Get ready, the great day of our Lord is coming!

Bucky P.S. Whoops! Forgot to post this one yesterday.

Who Are We To Say?

Good morning, people, I don't have all of the answers you seek! Yuk, yuk, of course I don't. I began life as a sinner just like you did. How could I have any answers unless God reveals them to me? Isaiah was not born with prophetic knowledge. Little baby Moses was not floating in his reed basket making plans for messing up Pharaoh's day in a few years. Even on the morning of Matthew's calling by our Lord, he probably opened up the Fleecum Street tax booth with every intention of going home at sundown to a good meal and time with his family. How was he to know that one day he would write something called a 'gospel'? You and me get up on most days not feeling very special in our service to the Lord. Surely Isaiah didn't feel this bad on a morning he received the word from God! I'm quite sure that he got up each morning with fire in his eye and a power in his heart, ready to face down the king and his counselors, and fully prepared to bring bad news to those faithless Israelites. Actually, even as God called Isaiah up to heaven to get his marching orders, the man mumbled an excuse through his unclean lips perhaps hoping that God made a mistake in selecting the son of Amoz. Who are we to say that 'I' am not fitted to God's calling?

We do have many good examples of people telling God of their own unsuitability to the task at hand. A lot of them are listed in what is known to us as the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews. We tend to think that such callings are a part of the historical Bible, as though God is not the Living God and that His word is just a document from the past. We look in the mirror and compare ourselves with those folks in the movies and wonder how God could use little ol' me. It may very well be that God has a little ol' mission just suited for little ol' me, but then again, one of us may speak before kings and princes. Not me! I'm too old! I think someone used that one in the Bible. Not me! I can't speak, I stutter a lot! Yup, someone tried that one too. Face it; you and me have no good excuses for not serving the Lord. How about that fellow that is just tall, strong, and handsome, the big man on campus as they say?

The Bible has one of those fellows too. In 1 Samuel, we read that God's selection as the first king of Israel was just the man that the people would have chosen. If they held an all-Israel beauty contest, Saul would have beaten out the babes in their swimsuits so handsome was he. Not only handsome, but he stood out in a crowd. The New King James describes him as from the shoulders upward he was taller than anyone. Which either means that Saul had a really long head, or was the old-timey way of saying that he was head and shoulders taller than everyone. Saul was just that one of a kind tall, athletic, handsome fellow that we all want to be. Surely that would make us suitable for God's service. Why didn't God make me that way? Saul turned out to be a terrible failure. God eventually rejected Saul and started over with a young boy.

I like how Saul starts his service though, this big powerful man, a champion of the people of Israel. As Samuel brought the tribe of Benjamin forward to announce the new king, the Lord had to point him out, "There he is, hidden among the equipment." It seems that even if we had been created in the form that we think suitable for good service, we would have no small amount of trouble answering boldly God's calling to step forward and receive our mission.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Like A Mighty Rushing Wind

Those of you in the plains states yesterday will not have too much trouble figuring where this subject comes from. We had dust, leaves, dogs, cats, trees, and semi-trucks blown over yesterday. The wind tooted all day here. Yup, I said tooted. There is a thin metal lining around my front door, probably something they did back in the good old days, and one place on it makes a sound kind of like a kazoo and trumpet combined. The first time it happened caused no small amount of levitation in me and the cat. Today, the house smells like dust and the yard looks quite different. The leaves are all gone in the exposed areas and piled up in the sheltered ones. What does all of this have to do with grace? Glad I asked that! Yesterday, as the wind cranked up its engine and let out a roar, knocking one tree over just down the block from me, I smelled dust in the air. Grace comes upon us much like that. The initial roar is to free us from the penalty of sin. After that, we sense grace in the air, but we cannot feel or grasp it with our hands.

Daily we learn in God's grace, but the changes can be subtle. We sense the changes in us more than we grasp or feel them. With fine dust in the air, the nose itches and the eyes may burn, but we cannot reach out and sweep the dust from the air. All around us this dust of grace arrives on a mighty rushing wind. Strangely, we do not learn well in the full-blown strength of God's grace, we only sense the grace in the sheltered areas where it settles. After the initial blast, it seems better if God gives us smaller amounts and trains us up gradually over time. This speaks of our first birth in the flesh. We are all fully-trained sinners before the rebirth in Christ. Our re-training as Christians takes a lifetime. Enjoy the smell of dust in the air today, let it remind you of God's grace settling down upon us.


P.S. 'Enjoy the smell of dust'? Proof that I have blown a head gasket, for sure.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paul's Dynamo

Good morning as the wind tries to blow us right out of the county. On a windy day such as this one, we are tempted to think that the wind turbines here in Colorado would produce a whole bunch of free electricity, but oddly, that may not be the case. Too much wind will cause the operators to shut down the turbines as they can be driven too fast by the wind and destroyed. That is often the way of man's devices. The apostle Paul seemed to exude a Christ-like energy in his ministry that we might envy. His dynamo could not be shut down by the forces of the world or the Adversary. Paul probably had his down times too, but we read of a man on the go in his ministry. We might wonder why God did not give you or me a powerful dynamo like Paul's. The most obvious answer is that we ain't Paul.

God has equipped each one of us to do what He called us to do. Your calling may involve staying put your entire life. Those God wants you to reach will come to you. Not all of us were called by God to be that on the go missionary, so not all of us have the missionary engine driving us to far countries. We may find it backwards in our worldly minds, but what we each enjoy doing may be exactly where God wants us to minister. However, the dynamo does need to be running. God does not subsidize laziness, nor does He provide for procrastination. Faith promotes action; trust grows in the testing. Let us go forth and meet it head-on today.

Glory and honor to our most high God!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Thought Did Occur To Me

In light of a certain birth anniversary yesterday, let me remind you that a person is never too old to begin listening to Christmas music in October. Today: Francesca Battistelli: Christmas. For those of you in the Junior Muffins division of the AARP, you can purchase this album at various online retailers or at your local CD store. One day Burt hopes to be the Big Muffin in his division, but that could be a ways off. Now, how many of you just thought of a trip to Perkins or some other place that sells your favorite muffin? Well, the thought did occur to me while writing about muffins that a nice banana nut muffin would be pretty good right about now. The power of the written word to influence the author's appetite should not be discounted. On the other hand, when God gathered some folks over a thousand or so years to write down His word, He did not do this to affect Himself. His word, the Bible, was written to affect our lives in a good way.

Most of all, the Bible tells us the good news of Jesus Christ. We do not have to look at death with fear. Jesus promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven and return to bring us to this new place. That is a comforting thought at all times. We also learn from God's story that people just like you and me were called to do great things from speaking before kings to mortal combat and perilous visions of the future. The Bible records all of history from the very beginning in Eden to the ending at Armageddon, but, it also tells us that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. I like to read all of the Bible, but the stories of people falling down when their faith was tested, and then finding forgiveness and new faith are always good reading. David features prominently in the old stories, and he didn't always get it right. Paul started off thinking he was smart and right and having full confidence in his mission - then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. God loved David and Paul, just like He loves you and me when we fall down in our faith. We often learn the hard way through mistakes, but remember: God loves you!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going Through The Motions

Was yesterday summer, or was it autumn? Seemed rather warm for the middle of October, I wonder if the weather is just kind of going through the motions. Our faith in Christ is known to the world by our good works. However, we may know of someone who is very religious. He goes through the motions of piety and prayer, but there does not seem to be a spark of life behind his efforts. We can know these persons because we have done the same things in our past. We comforted our guilt with an attendance record at church services. We shored up our resume of false piety by kneeling at every prayer, praying at every meal, and running quickly through rehearsed and memorized prayers for show. One day, someone or some thing reminded us that nothing else matters if we do not believe in Christ Jesus.

A personal tragedy may have shattered the foundation of our false faith. We got angry with God. How could He let this thing happen? Someone got sick and died, perhaps a close friend or family member. How come God didn't answer that prayer or respect that period of fasting? After all, we told the church body time and again how we fasted, making sure that all saw how faithful our motions were before God. For that brief moment of anger, God may indeed have been happy with us, because, for once in a miserable motion-filled life we had something genuine to share with our Lord. Many of us have been angry with God, and often it has come from a tragedy. For a time the motions of faith stumbled in the test and we actually came to God and spoke to Him.

As the anger cooled, an awareness of how close we came to sin in our anger may have prompted a prayer of repentance. We apologized to the Lord for our hasty, angry words. More real communication followed. We may never understand God's timing in taking loved ones away from us, but gradually we learn to ask God and not accuse Him. We ask forgiveness not with just words, but with a heart ready to hear God's word. We stop worrying over what position is best for prayer and just talk to God, pouring out a heart of pain, fear, anxiety, worry, stress, and in time, thanksgiving, joy, peace, and love. The motions of faith may get us started, sort of like turning the props on those little airplanes. Turning the prop is but a motion, what we want is the engine running so we can play. By all means, start up your prayer with a motion, but then run the engine and talk to God from the heart.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Water Is a Processed Food

Are you kidding me? Taking on something like that on a Monday morning? Something must be wrong with me. Water just comes out of my tap right? No processing, all natural, good for the body, and necessary for life, there should be nothing processed about water. Wait, that water in my town came from a least I would assume that from the apparent volume of water flowing by the town in what we call the South Platte River. I mean, we are not exactly talking Amazon or Mississippi here. So, the process begins with an electro-mechanical pump bringing the water up from porous rock some dozens or scores, perhaps hundreds of feet below the surface where I would never be able to drink it naturally. The water is pumped to the town's water facilities where it is filtered through a reverse osmosis system, nothing completely natural about that going on, and then pressurized through more pumping. The process continues even in my home where another reverse osmosis filtration system finally delivers the 'natural' water to my tap. Oh, wait, they must be talking about additives when speaking of processed foods. That must be the answer. Did someone mention fluoride added to the drinking water? Chlorine to kill the bugs in it? Okay, maybe we better forget that processed water and just go for beer. Aaagh! This is supposed to be a Christian devotional, how can you advocate beer as our main drink?

Just trying to wake you up on a Monday morning. However, if it is the amount of processing and adding we are worried about, beer may be closer to a natural drink than many of the drinks we find in our grocery stores. What does this all add up to, pun intended there? We like to have power over another person's diet. Control the food (or drink), control the person. We have been warned... Reading in Paul's letter to Timothy this morning, I find that among those listed as leaving the faith and giving heed to the doctrines of demons that there will be those "commanding us to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." Hmm, how much diet advice do you receive on a daily basis, whether you want it or not? Magazines, web site ads, television shows and even entire channels, all tell us how we should look and to achieve that perfect look, what we should and should not eat. If you collected nutrition and diet books, you could fill a library with nothing but books of that type. What is the apostle's dietary command then?

"For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." 1 Timothy 4:4-5. Aha! I can eat anything I wa... does he mean ants, worms, and grubs and such? Yes, if we receive them with thanksgiving. And many do eat creatures of this type, probably with thanksgiving. This is not a command to eat things we may find distasteful due to our upbringing. What is interesting is that Paul wrote this. You know, Paul - former pharisee of the Jews who could probably quote more dietary rules and regulations than you or I ever knew existed. Yes, that Paul. Want advice about your diet? Go to the one who created you. Take it up with God in prayer. Perhaps the only real problem in our food supply is all of the worrying we do before and after we consume it. Now there's a heavy thought for a Monday morning!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Just A Little Step

The weekend arrives with garage sales (there's one just across the street this morning), relaxation, yard work, and shopping. Maybe you have access to none of that stuff and the weekend is but one or two more days in the work week. Times are tough for many of us. When we are knocked down and have not yet seen a way to get back up, what is our next step? We may feel the desire to make a big step, and something like the lottery may seem the way to go. However, most of the time our Lord leads us to a little step. Prayer seems so obvious when looking back on the situation, but then it also seems like the thing we were doing all the way down to that flat-on-the-back position we are looking up from. How will more of the same help? Perhaps a simple prayer of acknowledging our need for help when nothing else seems available is our next little step. Yes, just one more prayer: Thank you, dear Lord, for where I am in this situation. Please show me the next little step after this one.

Our steps often do not fulfill our desire for the big win, the home run, or the long drive. We may be so far down that after a little prayer, our next step may be to just wait a bit more. To use a golf analogy, which for some odd reason just popped into my mind, we might need to reach out and pluck one little blade of grass before we can get up, select a club, and attempt a big swing. We may even need God's help in the reaching so far down are we in this situation. Of course, we are not always that far down, but someone you know may be there right now. We pray for each other not just on the normal days that have their own share of ups and downs, but on those days when they too find themselves flat on the back in some situation. Life may be just grand for you or me right now. Praise God! Let us take some time to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. One of them probably needs our prayer help right about now.


Friday, October 12, 2012

A Clear Communication

Good morning as we wind down the working week for most of us. Friday is a good day as the five days of work or school come to the weekend and we have some time to enjoy. During this past week, did you run into a problem that you needed someone to help with and could not find that person? It may be that you are blessed to have a boss that you truly enjoy having around and who enables your work as opposed to forcing it, but he or she was out this week and something you needed to know went unanswered. These days we have many lines of communication that are on way too often, but still there are times that we must be out of reach from each other. We strive to make a line of communication that is permanent, wide-open, reliable, free of errors, and just maybe with a program that edits those moments of thoughtlessness and brainlessness out of our hasty words. Perhaps a cell phone implanted in our ear that has a quick review program to ask, 'Are you sure you want to say that?'

Part of our reluctance to pray more comes from this lack of an editing program. Oh, I can't believe I said that to God! So we try to hide our innermost thoughts from God who knows all of our innermost thoughts in the first place. In prayer, we have that permanent, wide-open, and reliable form of communication with God. However, we try to hide errors and desperately hope at times that God didn't hear that last bit we probably shouldn't have spoken in our mind. The time has come for us to remember that one, we do have an advocate in Christ, and two, we live under grace. God knows all things, but I think one way I can disappoint Him is to not come in prayer and pour out my heart to my Lord. God knows my needs, but He wants to hear my requests in prayer. God knows my weakness, but He wants me to make a request of His strength. God knows my desires, my foolish wishes, my silly ideas, but He wants to hear all of them in prayer. If it's bad for me, God will say no. Something good for me, God may say, 'not yet'. The worst thing of course is to try to go it alone, quite failing to use our clear line of communication to God. I oughtta know better than that!

Have a wonderful weekend, and take some time to pour out your heart to God in prayer,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Appreciation of Beauty

As the day dawns here on this little planet, I wonder if I appreciate beauty enough in this life. Of course, I appreciate that model on television or in the magazine advertisement, but that isn't the kind of beauty I am writing of today. Well, in some way it may be a part of that beauty, but I tend to view it with the wrong filter on my lens so to speak. Too often we look at lovely things with the filter of lust or greed in front of our eyes. We see this exquisite vase in the antique store and want it for showing off to others or to resell at a higher price. We look at the model and want our mental image of the person, not the person as he or she really is with spots and wrinkles and old age creeping up on their bodies. That brings up the changing filters over the ages. People have not always agreed on what is beautiful or attractive in a body or in a thing. Priceless antiques may have been dug up from a previous society's trash dump. What was considered the long-dead artisan's best work did not survive a cataclysm, but his junk pile made it to Sotheby's for the rich people to bid on. What did that best piece look like in comparison to the junk? We will never know. Would it matter? What was considered best then may not be viewed the same now. Our appreciation of beauty seems to change with the years.

A society might agree that asymmetry is the thing for them. Both sides exactly the same? How boring! How dull! they exclaim to our best construction and artwork. We look at their art and wonder what unfortunate disaster befell one side or the other. If we found it buried in the earth, we might speculate for years what happened to the piece. The child might look at it and say, 'Maybe they made it that way.' The adults would of course laugh at the innocence and ignorance of the poor child, but just maybe they did make it that way. In all of this, I have to wonder if God is not trying to teach us true beauty. We might say that God accepts even the disfigured and ugly, but how can we say that God sees the person or thing in that way? To us a particular animal may seem ugly, or rather comical, not our ideal when compared with the other animals in God's creation. In Job, God asks "Who made the wild donkey wild?" Why didn't our Lord choose something cool like the wild tiger or maybe a the wild horse? A donkey? But I don't see with the Lord's vision. Perhaps in Heaven the donkey will be exalted and the tigers and lions and other 'cool' animals will serve under the donkeys. Does a wild donkey have a better appreciation of beauty than I do? We may never know.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Do We Have In Christ

Good morning! Some days, perhaps every day, it is good to recall what we have in Christ Jesus. At times, we may feel that it is difficult or even impossible to follow our perfect Lord. We look at the sin in us and feel the lusts of the flesh, and wonder how we will ever get to Heaven. Then, we look to our Lord and we are reminded of His grace. "I paid for all of that; let it go!" our Lord commands us one more time. In Christ we have mercy, the taking away of the penalty we deserve for our sins. The forgiveness we do not merit through our own actions is given to us without a demand for payment. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within our hearts, reminding us of the Word of God at all times. Jesus named this spirit the Comforter, an important name to remember when fear and doubt attack us in the dark of the night. Our Lord is the perfect example of perfect love, and love casts out fear. Love does not cast us out, but our fears.

How like a busload of bleating sheep we are. Jesus is driving the bus, getting us faithfully to our destination, and we are constantly looking to the sides. Imagine a busload of children all looking at different things and demanding to 'go over there'. How much like the bleating of a flock of sheep would that sound? Jesus' answer to that: I love my sheep. Not once is the bus stopped and anyone thrown off. We have security in our Lord and bus driver. When Jesus said that those who come to Him will not be cast out, there were no exceptions for later behavior. Our Lord calmed the raging seas. When the storms of life come to test our faith, a time will also come when the storm is calmed. Circumstances may continue to erupt, but the peace of our Lord Jesus will come to your heart. The Comforter will remind us that Jesus gave to us His peace, a peace not as the world gives, but one that comes from Christ alone. We have each other too.

Yup, more of them bleating sheep. Sometimes we can hardly hear our own bleating over the noise. Yes, we are not the perfect leaders or even the perfect followers, but we do have each other and our love of Christ. This light and love from our Lord Jesus spreads from one to another to another and we are very blessed in this. Doubts, fears, pain, guilt, all of this is easier to bear together. Sheep need their Shepherd and their flock. When we wander away, Jesus comes to bring us back to the flock, even at times bringing the flock to us. Grace, love, mercy, peace, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and there is so much more we have in Christ Jesus, but we must be about our work. Praise the Lord for this new day!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Worship Only God?

Aww, the early frost is going to kill many leaves before they change to autumn colors. Yup, that is my major complaint this morning. As I sit here by the window, I also get to see a wealth of worship opportunities. Not all of them are good for me. People have worshipped trees or forests or even gods of the forest, but worshipping those things is not good for us. We should praise God for the trees and their fruits, even if the squirrels take it all, but not the trees themselves. Down through the ages, our ancestors sought out permanent or at least semi-permanent things to worship. They wanted to touch and feel the object of their worship, even to the point of making it with their own hands. We tend to laugh, 'ha, ha, how primitive!' but we too can fall into the worship of our own works.

In a world of large organizations, we feel the temptation to build a resume of works and present it to the public. People can worship accomplishments and some do. A resume may be useful for gaining employment, but should not be worshipped. That is but one example of the things we may catch ourselves worshipping in this age. If a person sits in the church service texting on an electronic device, what is being worshipped there? Our technology is advanced compared to ages past, and certainly there is a temptation to worship it. So, we are to worship only God, but why does God need my worship?

Ah, you know that God does not need my worship for He is perfect in and of Himself. But, you may have asked that question in that way before you came to to believe in Christ. I know that I did. Of course we know now that it is the other way around. You and I need to worship our God, but we do not make God any better by our worship. Instead, we gain insight into God through listening and learning in His grace. We gain insight into ourselves as well by knowing more about our God. We bring our needs to Him and admit that we are weak and in need of salvation. How great are the benefits of learning that God is God, and that you and I are not him? Us little sheeps need a Good Shepherd, and it is wonderful to have been found by Him. Praise God, let us worship Him!


Monday, October 08, 2012

Columbus Day (Observed)

Good Monday to you! I planned outdoor cooking yesterday, but my plans left out the coldness of the propane tank. Struggle though it might, the grill just would not get cooking hot. I could not change the day or the conditions, so I had to resort to an alternative. In making up our calendar, it seems there are some alternatives also. Is Columbus Day today, or actually on the 12th? Should we celebrate both days? How does one respect a holiday that is so flexible? I am reminded once more of the one who will come in the end time, and, "think to change all the days and the times." How will this person get started?

The world has many holidays, and some are more sacred than others. So, of course, one would begin with those that are less sacred, perhaps even a bit controversial, and change the day on which these holy days are observed. Next, you might point out discrepancies in history, such as a holiday that was not always celebrated on this day or that. After the secular holidays, bit of a contradiction there, are abolished or changed, then start in on the religious holidays. Are we then to run around like loose pharisees shouting, 'Tradition, tradition!' insisting that all days stay put and guarding our piles of rules like trained watch dogs? That doesn't sound much like our Lord's command to love one another.

We are to be alert for the changing times. Small changes may start the process, but the large changes will not necessarily follow in our lifetime. The best way to prepare the world for the coming Antichrist is to introduce them to the Christ. It seems rather obvious after writing it down, but in place of worrying over what is to come, we have a good news message about the one who has already lived, died, and rose again. Let them call this day a holiday or just a regular day, Jesus reigns every day!


Friday, October 05, 2012

Paint The World

Good morning as we look forward to snow tonight. or maybe even this very morning! This snow may not be enough to cover the warmth still in the ground, we may need to watch the sky and trees to see it. What about us, does the world see our witness? In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds his younger disciple to stir up the gift God has given to him. Imagine that the gift of God is like a fine paint that we are to stir up for use in this world. We are given God's love, the peace of Christ, the perseverance of the saints, and the strength of soldiers in God's army, but these wonderful gifts must be stirred together to make that perfect hue of our witness. With this paint we are to cover the stain of sin on the world. Surely that is not enough, you might say. Well, of course if we are speaking about human paint from our own efforts alone, then you would be correct. We must use what God has given mixed with the sweat of our effort and we must paint together.

My little painting is only one brush stroke, but yours is another, and we are joined by many of our fellow painters for Christ. My bit of paint will not cover much and is quickly ignored by the world. But if I am not the only one painting, and I most certainly am not, then the doubters will find it more difficult to ignore this Christian paint that is coloring the world. What is this color or hue that we use? The most obvious component, at least to you and me, is the red tint from the blood of Christ shed for our sins. We may note the green of new growth or the soft blue of God's peace descending on us. This paint is a mixture of colors and it must be stirred up for use. Do we fear that stirring? Yes, sometimes we worry what might come up to the surface if we stir our inner bucket. But God prepared an answer for that too. The very next verse is one we need to memorize and recall often: "For God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (2 Tim 1:7)


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Did It Help?

Other than the 'team players' who root for their candidate under any and all circumstances, I find that many have no idea which presidential candidate to vote for and in fact would prefer another choice entirely. Seems very much like something I wrote four years ago, but that continues to be a conundrum for us. We have the privilege of voting for our leader, but don't like the choices offered to us for one reason or many reasons. Last night, we had the first of the debates between only two of the candidates. Kind of unfair to the many others who might wish to have an opportunity to be the next president of this nation, but there is this debate committee that apparently makes this decision for us little people. I guess the question this morning is: did it help? Do you now have a clear-cut favorite to exercise your right to vote? Debates sometimes help us to decide, at other times a debate doesn't convince anyone.

Jesus debated with the Pharisees, and won the debates every time. Yet, the Bible records few, perhaps as many as two, of the religious leaders and pharisees believing that Jesus was indeed the looked for Christ. Paul debated with the Greek scholars, but we don't know if any of them came to believe in Christ Jesus. No doubt some of us have engaged in debates with those who do not believe in Christ and felt the sting of watching them walk away unconvinced. We may have engaged in debates with our brothers and sisters in Christ too, and not convinced anyone to our point of view. Some debates may plant a seed where it needs to be sown, and other debates may be best ended or not started at all. If Jesus couldn't convince someone to believe, then I certainly am not going to break through the barrier of unbelief by my persuasive arguments and superior knowledge (if any such thing exists). What I can do is testify to what Jesus has done for me.

Where my formal arguments, knowledge, fanaticism, or whatever the world may call it, does not convince, my testimony may plant a seed that no force in the world can argue down. The Spirit has led me to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and on Christ I stand. You and I may never convince anyone of anything other than that we do believe in Christ. In the dark of the night when fear mounts and worry overshadows, that unconvinced unbeliever may think back and wonder, "Why does he believe?" The unbeliever may have 'won' the argument by all measures the world uses, but the seed may begin to grow. The same Holy Spirit who convinced you and me will begin to work on the seeds we planted and something wonderful may sprout in ground that appeared hardened, armored, well-defended, and all but impossible to break through. Did that debate about Christ begun in love end well? Perhaps not, but nothing done in love is wasted. We may walk away feeling the sting of the world's scorn, but...our shining light may have broken through the clouds of doubt and fear.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Waiting While The Leaves Change

The cups of coffee seem to go by much more quickly on the cool fall mornings, or at least the pot empties out faster. Maybe I have a leak somewhere? Most of the tree leaves around here are still green, but more turn each day. I'm waiting to see what the little oak tree out back looks like in its fall plumage. What struck me this morning, is that no matter what I am waiting on from the Lord, the leaves will still change color for the autumn show. Season will follow season, right up to the end time. We at times feel that God is not answering our prayers, or worse, we feel that He is not listening at all. Both of course are quite incorrect, but the feelings or temptations to feel this still arrive like darts from the enemy. Hey, maybe they are the shots coming from our adversary! See how brilliant I am this morning! The Bible tells us this, and it only takes me half of forever to arrive at the same conclusion.

We are tempted in this world, and we do have an enemy who desires our defeat. We should not forget that, but use it to turn our faith to Jesus. The Word of God does not exhort us to pray constantly because we have such amazing strength on our own. Nay, we are weak and heavily burdened in our own lives - we need the strength of the Almighty to save us from the plots and devices of the enemy each and every day. Jesus promises to give us rest. The Devil never promised that. We do not get a season off from this battle unless the Lord grants it. And what happens during a season of relative calm? We get relaxed in our prayer life, forget a Bible study or two, think that things will always flow right along. *BAM!* Just what the enemy needs for a major success against our witness.

You may be waiting, but the leaves will change and the next season will arrive. God is not slack and is most definitely paying close attention to all of our wants and needs. He went to the cross to save us; He is not going to leave us out here on our own! Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Is That The Only Thing?

Ah, the first thirty (as in two degrees below freezing) of autumn is predicted a couple of days hence, but this morning is no joke either. Yet, the high for today is supposed to go in the mid-eighties, what's up with that? I did some work yesterday, yup, actual away-from-home work. A little IT work came my way for a local business for about two hours or so with some more scheduled for this evening. God is great! I have some idea what to write this morning, but I'm flailing and flopping at it, and it just doesn't seem to be coming out of my head and into the keyboard. I believe in Jesus Christ, therefore I am saved. Is that the only thing? The temptation is to say, no, you must do this work and that work, and then give some and give some more, and so on until it resembles a religion of works. The good news is for salvation that is it. I believed and I am saved. Is there more though? Why yes, glad I asked that. We are on a great adventure with all of the elements a good adventure story contains within it.

We have the great romance. Jesus loves us and died for us to cleanse us from the stain of sin. We are the bride of Christ. One day, He will return to bring us home to Him forever. Nothing in this world can stop the arrival of our bridegroom. As the bride of Christ, we will be purified and sanctified to make us a fit bride for our Lord. All the temptations to sin that we struggle with now will be banished from the bride's presence. As in a good adventure, we face mortal peril before the happily ever after part comes.

We face death daily. Some days it may not seem like it, but you even now are in mortal peril. Some from the persecution in the world, others from the dumb things like falling down a set of stairs or a drunken driver. We may die in this life from disease or a medical condition at any time. We may work until the years pile up and the old body just can't go on any longer. Yes, this adventure is one of mortal peril and danger though things may seem peaceful outside right at this moment. We also face frustration in getting to our good works.

A friend is asking about this faith we have, and we give a good answer, but, for no apparent reason the friend is transferred to a new job in a far country. We lose contact with our friend. How will that story end? We enjoy the teaching of a pastor, and over the years he becomes a valuable source of sound doctrine in our Christian growth. But, just as suddenly, the pastor is called to a church on the other side of the country. Who is this new guy? Another personal loved one has been torn away from us. How will we ever get to Heaven?

We often think that completing the entire mission from seed planting to harvest to storing it in the barn and consuming the produce is what we must do to have a 'work' credited to our heavenly account. That kind of work does not leave room for our teammates though. Then, we listen to the temptation that because 'I' have not actually saved anyone by being present at some 'conversion', we are not saved ourselves. When it comes to salvation, believing in Christ Jesus our Lord is the only thing. Is there more after that? You bet, and not all of it is great fun and celebration. If you think about it, getting bent over backwards and dunked under water is not such a fun thing, but what a great public statement of commitment and surrender to Christ!


Monday, October 01, 2012

You're Not Going Anywhere Just Yet

Good Monday morning! Ah, October and the promise of cooler weather, shorter days, and falling leaves. The leaf thing is well underway here in the forgotten corner of Colorado. We don't have the big mountains that the state is famous for and the river flowing into Nebraska is a mite sparse, kind of like a small crick actually, but the trees speak of water that once flowed. We can get down in our thinking place and make all sorts of changes to our environment. Put up a nice, symmetrical mountain over there with just the right amount of snow on it year round. Add in a lovely, blue lake just over there with a small creek flowing into it and a nice river flowing out. Rain days arrive only on the days we feel like staying inside, and snow days fall straight down and melt off the pathways before we get outside. The grass is always green and the trees change color twice each year, or maybe each season, but the leaves stay put for the most part. We want to make our little vision of Heaven come true right here. However, Heaven will not come down to the new Earth before God says so, and you and me are not going up to Heaven until God says that too.

In my depression, I might think that dying for Christ would be the easier route, and indeed it might be, but Jesus chose me to live for Him. We can get too wrapped up in imagining what Heaven might be, and forget our mission to spread some good news to those in dire need of it. You or I may be called to die for Christ, but we are all most definitely called to live for the Lord. What is probably the longer and more difficult route to Heaven, may be just what you and I need before we get there. And not only is it our need that is fulfilled, but our witness may be exactly what a friend in Christ needs, or that stranger on the train needs to hear, or perhaps what someone we will never meet needs to read. Your witness may go like a wind-blown seed to a faraway place and grow in the heart of a quite unexpected person. We may not know how far our seeds of witness travelled until we come to see Jesus.

A little vision of what Heaven might be like can be a good way to recharge the hope we have in Christ. But, we also have a life to live in Christ. You and I may not be going anywhere just yet. We have a witness to tell, a good story to spread. Life here in this world is far from easy, but we have a mighty savior in Christ. Our Lord may have something wonderful to show you right here in this life before you move on to your eternal home. Look up and live life in Christ Jesus!