Friday, November 30, 2012

No, You May Not!

Good morning on this fine Friday. We are allowed much in the Christian life as long as we do not violate our tender conscience. However, are there things not allowed? Sure, you may not think less of Jesus simply because you feel poorly in the morning. You may not take the Law set down by God lightly. Our Savior suffered on the cross for all those sins, let us not disappoint Him as well. How about, no you may not ram a legalistic code of behaviour down our throats?

If there is one thing the stories of ancient Israel should show us is that the 'no, you may not' code of legal behavior cannot be kept by us. We fail, and we fall into sin more than any of us would care to have published. Jesus told the disciples that the Law had to be kept in the heart as well as in action. We don't stand a chance of saving ourselves. So, God also sent His Son to the cross to pave a better road for us to take - that of Yes! You may.

We are allowed to love one another, in fact we are commanded to do so. We are allowed to accept the free gift of salvation in Christ. We are allowed to do good things to those who have hurt us. We are even allowed to do good things to those who aren't expecting it. Hold it, back up a bit... we are allowed to accept a free gift of salvation? Yes, you may! Doesn't that mean we gain eternal life even though Jesus paid the price? Certainly, Jesus didn't need to save Himself, for once in your miserable life take the gift and say, 'Thank you!'.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Someone Suffers As I Suffer

What sort of encouragement is it to talk about suffering? Jesus told us that we would suffer in this world. So, I guess my answer would be that Jesus did it! If my Lord Jesus can speak of suffering and warn us that we will have many trials in this life, then I am not above speaking on suffering too. Does everyone suffer though? It sure seems like some folks have it easy in this life.

Every once in a while, I grow weary of receiving messages from ministers of big churches who don't seem to have any problems. Week after week, they mount the steps to the pulpit and come down on sin, praise the Lord, and speak of how everything I'm doing is wrong. For his part, the minister has a steady job, a good income, a family around him, money to spend from his book sales, and no worries, uh... mate! Of course, that is nothing but a perception from my seat far away.

When Jesus warned of suffering to come, I can rest assured that no one is escaping. Every believer in Christ can be improved upon through suffering under the tender care of Jesus, and we know that Jesus does not shirk His duty. Even when we arrive in Heaven, we will find the trees with leaves for the healing of the nations. God wouldn't put those leaves up there just for show. The problem may be in that Puritan strain that comes down from the earliest days of our nation. We don't want to show others that we are suffering, and everyone puts up a strong front to achieve this.

The problem is that we are weak like little sheeps and suffering along with our Lord. Paul spoke of boasting not in his own strength but in his weakness so that God is glorified. I know that if that minister on TV believes in Jesus then he is suffering. I know that you are suffering, even when I do not know the specifics of your suffering. You know that I am suffering, even when I don't spell out every little thing in the devotional. We don't have to have a front facing each other - we are all suffering. What a dreadful witness though. Come join us, we all like to suffer together!

Jesus gave us much more than suffering. The trials in this life are necessary, but Jesus also gave us peace, joy, and His steadfast love. He develops in us endurance, patience, self-control, and lovingkindness. In all suffering we have the strength of our Lord bearing us up. Lest we forget, Jesus also died to give us grace that delivers us from sin's just reward.

Trust in God to bring you through this suffering.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Place Where There Is Nothing

Hrmm, I hoped that waiting for breakfast would bring inspiration, but I'm still trying to run the motor on an empty tank. Can God work through you and me in the place where we have nothing to offer Him? When did we start thinking that we have something to offer God? I could see that if a billionaire came to God and offered all of his money, maybe God would take notice. Just think of all the good God could do with a billion dollars. Nope, God doesn't need a pile of cash from us, no matter how much it is. Someone with a special talent then? Perhaps the only person in the world capable of making some thing that we all need could offer his wares to God. Nope, God created the Christ child without a man's help, why would He need any of us to make something for Him?

You may think that you have nothing to offer God, and you would be correct. I have nothing to offer God. We have nothing put together that God needs. Yet, when we come to the cross in repentance, God accepts all of you and me. After we have come to the place where there is nothing, we then have something to offer God - our very own sinful selves. All of the things we value in this world - wealth, health, and material junk - God may use, but He has no real need for more of that stuff. Instead God accepts the sick, the weary, the sinful, the bankrupt business man, the alcoholic in the gutter, the criminal in prison at her wits end for how to live a life in the outside world, and even you and me when we seem to have nothing to offer.

Give it up to God, and let Him take it from here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Final Day?

I passed the school marquee this morning and saw listed: Dec 20 - Final Day. Yikes! I was sure that the Mayan calendar ended on December 21st. I thought I had one more day! I wondered this morning how many people think they have one more day. Traveling their life's path down the wide and smooth path to destruction, they see the church and the Christian, hear of the wonderful works of Christ on their behalf, but fail to believe because they are convinced that they have one more day.

We can see today, or at least we think we can see today. We have plans and duties to perform. The chores must be done and the personal maintenance (aka 'war paint') must be applied. You might have a date or an appointment or two. We think we can see today pretty well. However, tomorrow is often assumed even when we are aware that Jesus said we don't know what tomorrow will bring. How much more does the casual sinner on the wide path to eternal destruction assume that tomorrow will always be there for him? How many, I wonder, will arrive at the judgment seat saying, "I thought I had one more day!"

We do not know that tomorrow will come for us. In that we are blessed, for if tomorrow does not come on this earth, then we will be with Jesus in paradise. That should increase our compassion for those who do not have this good news in their heart. How terrible to stand before God and realize that there is not one more day for you to decide. The final day is not one of decision, or even to say goodbye for many of us. The final day will pass just like many before it, and then it will be too late for decision. Better by far for us to make the choice for Christ right now.


Monday, November 26, 2012

My Best, In The Strength of Christ

Aaagh! I don't know if you will find this under the deluge of Cyber Monday e-mails, but I will do my best in the strength of Christ to faithfully write it. After a record buying weekend, they still want more? Yes, the world is fully tuned to more. You need more money to meet the bills this month; that Cyber Monday advertiser needs more customers to pay off its debts; the government needs more tax money to shovel into the insatiable fire it has going, and everywhere we look is the striving for more and more. All of the money I have earned in this life has always added up to one thing: not quite enough to do everything I wanted to do. You see no matter how much I earned on the paycheck, my wants played that game of more better than I could play the money game. God satisfies the needs, but my wants come from the flesh. In finance, my best was never quite good enough. So I turned to God and poured out my wants to Him.

As I tumbled down the road to poverty, lo and behold, the wants returned with reinforcements! What is up with that? The funny thing, other than my wants rather tenuous connection with fiscal reality (Maybe I'm qualified for some sort of government spending job?), is that God did not answer all of my wants by simply providing from His limitless storehouse. In many cases, God satisfied my want by removing or toning down the wanting. I do not have to get back into a company where I strive for more money each year and fall into deep despair when I cannot get that next promotion or raise. Life should not be a continual striving after money. Do we minister to God or to Mammon?

Before everyone runs out on this busy Monday to quit their jobs, what is the answer to our provision in this world? My best is not good enough to meet even the standard of the world, but someone we know has overcome the world. My best is weakness, but my best in Christ is a different story. The strength of Christ is available to us to endure if a job is a trial in our present circumstance. We have faith that where we stand now is not God's final word on the matter. A career field may not be all you had hoped a few years back when you started the new job. A company that seemed so caring may have grown into just another corporate entity out to control costs, and made it clear that you are nothing more than one of those costs. In fact, this entire world is not God's final word. We have a glorious future in Christ, and today may not seem very glorious. However, our witness is at stake today. Do your best in the strength of Christ to perform your job with energy and gratitude. God will work on those wants either to fulfill or to tone down their yapping. Have faith in Christ on this fine Monday!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Faraway Picture of Beauty

I hope you are enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend. For some folks this weekend is nothing but extra work and they may find it difficult to celebrate. Another may find this hard to understand as he enjoys four days of eating, shopping, and relaxing. Today, both of them may be looking at a faraway picture of beauty and wondering just how nice life would be over there. For you that picture may be a cityscape at night. For me a countryside with only a house or two. For others, the picture may be somewhere in between. Forest, clouds, blue sky, plains, desert, river, ocean, and many other locations figure into our picture of beauty that we do not have. The picture on my monitor is from Sweden this morning, so that makes it doubly difficult to leap into.

The one thing that our pictures of beauty lack is of course, us. We are not there, we don't live there, and we may or may not have been there in our lives. In fact, the yearning for faraway places is more likely when we haven't been there. We don't know the people; we don't know the weather, other than that idealized and sanitized picture we are staring at, and we don't know what it feels like there in that most beautiful place. If we look at a winter picture, the actual temperature is probably much colder than the one in our minds. Should we be perfectly content just where God has placed us? Yes and no.

We know for one thing that every home here on Earth is but temporary for us. The faraway picture of beauty beckons to our hearts because we place our best ideas of heaven on it. We adjust the temperature to suit, ignore the possibility of biting bugs, take off a little humidity from the top of that river valley, add a bit to the desert scene, tone down the sun just a bit on that beach, and make other little adjustments to our ideal image. If God suddenly placed us in that picture, we would eventually find the downside to our image. It isn't that the place is bad, just that no place on this planet is perfect. God saved perfect for Heaven, and we cannot go there yet. However, we should also learn to be content right where we are at this time.

Yearning for other places, you might find the means to travel to many of them. You would with experience find some you like better than others, but you may not have time to develop those personal connections that God wants you to establish as a part of your mission. For those of us who somehow think a new place will solve this problem or that other one, we might find the opposite is true in some places. More than one person would never go back to some place because he 'drank the water' and now associates the place with horrible suffering. Even if the place is the best on Earth, we might inadvertently ruin it for someone else by our very presence.

Yikes, maybe I better shut up this morning before I ruin your Saturday. You probably had to read way too many Black Friday ads already this week. Dear God, please teach us to be content in this place and in the life you have given us.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Prayer IS Participation

Good Friday morning! I'm not sure why a big shopping day should be called 'black', but here it is the supposed biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. I guess if the retailers enjoy a successful Friday, then they will be in the black for the year. Many people got up early today in our little town. I do not know whether for shopping or work, but they were moving around early this morning. I'm all for the day though, at least as long as no one forces me to participate. While you are getting those good deals this morning, I'll stay home and pray for you to get the best possible price on your Christmas presents or the goodies you buy for yourself today. Let us all not forget to be grateful to God as well. Thanksgiving does not end on Thursday night for those who believe in God's wonderful providence.

Why, may I ask myself, do we tend to think that praying is not participating? Who is better placed to act with full knowledge and the greatest wisdom than God? When you or I come to God in prayer, we participate in whatever and with whomever we are praying. The other person may not be present with us in the prayer and may have no idea he or she is being prayed for at the moment. God, as we know, is present everywhere. We can have no better connection with each other than to pray in Christ's name for that loved one far away. Jump in and participate! Enjoy the day from your prayer closet.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peace, Joy, and Thanksgiving!

A great good morning to you on this Thanksgiving holiday! May you and your family know and feel the blessings of Christ Jesus on this day. A cold front is blowing in this morning, perhaps you and I can start a front of our own blowing through the land. A front of gratitude might shake the world if enough people join in the prayers with a grateful attitude.

Thank God for Peace. Yes, we do have areas at war around the world, but much of the world is at peace. We do not forget those serving overseas in our nation's defense, but we give thanks for the many at peace today. Joy is not an everything's perfect circumstance, but a belief in the promise that one day all will be healed and made right as Jesus brings us to Himself forever. We live in the now, but we also live with God's great promise in Christ. Thank God our sins are forgiven!

Thanksgiving is a time to set aside the striving and give thanks to God. You will hear many expressions of thanks today, but make sure that yours are directed to the Great Provider and author of our faith. Give thanks to God for even those things that you may not be thankful for on most days. One day, God may let us know the reason we should be thankful for that painful or hurtful thing in our lives. For now, we give thanks in faith to God our Father.

Grace, peace, and gratitude to those who bear the name of our Lord Jesus Christ on this day!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tis The Day Before Gratitude

Good morning as we eagerly await the turkey dinner, or the kickoff for that big football game, or for the relatives to arrive, or whatever you associate most with Thanksgiving. The message the church has preached for some time now is that giving thanks to God should come first. We don't always remember that first. Food, fun, friends! the flesh calls out to us and its message is very loud at times. Those things are not at all bad when given their proper places. Today, let us remember to thank God for all the preparation that is going on already. Traveling begins in earnest for many today, others will be preparing various foods, and a few may be running about trying to find something to impress the guests. Meh, leave the worries about impressing alone and just await your guests with thanksgiving to God.

On this day before the holiday, a lot of worries can intrude on our gratitude. Transportation, fuel, costs, do I have everything just right, is the house clean enough, what should I they know we are coming? That last one might be a cause for some concern. You don't want to show up to an empty house. Thank God that all these things will work out. God has not gone on holiday to some faraway galaxy. Resist the temptation to worry and enjoy the feast. Give thanks before you dig in, and give thanks afterwards too.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

There, I'm Done

Good morning and give thanks to God for the new day! What is a good country simile for those who read and study the Bible, but have never been born again in Christ? Why they are like that farmer who drove his tractor out to the field and drove back and forth over it without an implement attached to his tractor. The farmer comes into the house for his evening meal after a day of work and says to the wife, "There, I'm done!" Of course, the wife looks out at the field to see her husband's work, but sees a few tractor tire tracks as the only change. Yonder farmer can now quote scripture, perhaps has a few wise insights from the Proverbs, but he lacks understanding of the true message. "Wasn't that an interesting book!" he comments. His wife picks up the phone to call the mental health ward.

Okay, so you want to get technical: it's the Holy Spirit's job to plow the field and prepare it for planting. A sinner cannot possibly know how to get the seedbed ready. The farmer is not to blame; the Spirit didn't prepare him for the planting. Not a problem, our simile then becomes the poor dumb farmer driving back and forth over his fields with an empty planter. His new scriptural knowledge is like throwing seeds out the window of the tractor at the tilled ground while the big seed drill towed behind does nothing. In another way, the man has the gun and the holster, but no bullets. When the Adversary attacks, the man gets more protection by throwing his Bible at the enemy than from his scriptures.

To understand scripture, we must be born again. Without that rebirth in the Spirit, we gain an intellectual knowledge of the scriptures but fail to see the saving message. In that condition, we become like those very knowledgeable Pharisees with their spiritual blindness as the Son of God they looked for their entire lives stands before them in a human body speaking the words of life they cannot hear. Praise God, you are not like that. Read your Bible and understand. Seek out God in the morning and ask Him for wisdom and understanding.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Let Me Glorify You This Morning, Lord

Good Monday morning! Sometimes it is easy to speak or write in order to glorify one's self. On the other hand, to set out to glorify God may come with more difficulty. Why else do so many artists sing secular holiday songs as opposed to songs that bring to mind the Son of God for whom the holiday is named? As Christians we have a built in way to glorify God - simply tell of what Jesus has done for us. Our witness and our changed life are the best and most ready methods to glorify God in this dark world.

In some cases we must go out of our way to witness, but most of the time we have an audience whether we realize it or not. No, not Santa Claus, but the world at large will watch carefully those who call themselves by the name of our Lord Jesus. The books we read, the songs we listen to, and especially the language we us in conversation are all seen and heard by the world. Yes, some watch only to scoff and say, "Aha, aha!" (got that from a psalm) when we fall down, but others want to know what is this joy we have.

This week, Thanksgiving occurs on our calender and we celebrate with giving our thanks to the Lord. That begins what is known as the holiday season for everyone, but not everyone enjoys that time of celebration in the year. Lonely in their misery, some persons will not look forward to Christmas as we do. The joy and peace of Christ does not reside in the heart, and the despair of the evil one may overwhelm if we are not there to give an ear and a message of hope. Look carefully this year, you may be called to help out with your witness.

God bless you in this holiday week,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taking A Stand

No, literally! This week, about Thursday-ish, I took a stand for Christ in a manner of speaking. I moved my computer workstation where I type the devotional to a standing workbench. Day 3 of the new standing method of writing, and I'm not yet sure about this. A few tweaks would help, such as stabilizing the monitor so that my typing does not cause it to jump about like a small temblor is going on. I guess my typing fingers are heavier than I thought. I cannot yet stand all day, that kind of endurance will take some time to develop. I can tell you that this method cuts way down on the temptation to play solitaire. The effects from years of sitting to write may take some time to shake off, but many folks are doing this to improve their overall health. The cat decided to continue in his old ways.

The curse bears heaviest on those more responsible. The cat's health is not affected by a sedentary lifestyle nearly so much as mine is. A bear can hibernate for weeks at a time; the human body turns into a pile of jello if we don't get up fairly often. Nebraska is suddenly a fourth-quarter powerhouse. Strange things happen under this curse that sits heavily upon mankind.

As the long-time readers will know already, the Saturday devotional is not always entirely serious. Taking a stand for Christ is a serious business most of the time, but I don't think that God lacks a sense of humor. Quite the contrary actually, I believe that God laughs with us and that not all the things God laughs about are of my doing. Along with Calvin, I claim innocence in the noodle incident, firetrucks notwithstanding.

God loves you on this fine Saturday!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The World Hates You

No, really. I realize that you are a likable type. People seem to enjoy being around you, organizations are glad to have you as a member (with the annual fee of course), and you cannot think of a single person who could be described as an enemy. Perhaps you are leading a sheltered life.

This is not mere wondering. Job was not always suffering. We know that before the four messengers arrived with their stinking pile of bad news, Job lived a protected and prosperous life. You may be living that way right now. However, when you and I declared our surrender to Christ, we became traitors in the eyes of the world's prince. Without God's sovereign protection, the enemy would come upon you in a rush and thrown down your puny human strength. I use 'you' because I have been thrown down more than once when depending upon my own strength, so I can speak from painful experience. Only when I call out to the Savior can I come back with a spirit of power, of love, and with a sound mind. (See 2 Timothy 1:7)

We are sheltered from the full might of the world's dark powers. But the wonderful thing is that we are sheltered by the might of our Lord Jesus. We may call Him shepherd, but to the wolves of the enemy He is a terror and a scourge. Jesus does not appear to our adversaries as the kind, patient, and lowly sheep herder, but rather as the angry Almighty. Jesus hates the lies of the devil, and retribution is coming, count on that!

Praise the name of Jesus this fine Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank You For Another Opportunity, Lord

Good morning on this day a week before the big Thanksgiving holiday. Yes, the fourth Thursday comes on the early side this year; we will have one more Thursday even after Thanksgiving this year... and why am I blabbering about that today? Talk about your useless facts. Every day is a new opportunity to give thanks to God for all that we enjoy in this life, and better to give thanks for what we can expect in eternity with Christ Jesus! Every day we also have the opportunity to spread the good news of our Lord. Each day we can sing a song of praise, speak a prayer of blessing for someone in need, and give to help others. We have much opportunity to be thankful for in this day.

Did you get up this morning thanking God for the new day? Or did your aches and pains jump on board first before you could even give a 'Thank you' or grab a shirt to wear? Yeah, me too, but that is no reason to forget to thank the Lord for this day. Perhaps our most honest thanksgiving this morning was for pain relievers in the medicine cabinet. Hey, thank the Lord for whatever gives you cause for praise and gratitude. I don't know why we have so many maladies that need pills and such these days, I just know that we are suffering in so many ways. Perhaps a belief in science without God causes two problems for every one that it solves. Give the glory to God and trust in Him first!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taking A Stand

Good morning as yet another 'bigger' person falls into scandal and drags a few others into the mud with him. It seems as though there is nothing quite like a position of trust these days to get a person into the worst sort of sin. It's a government problem this time, but the next may be a church, or a corporation, or right here in a small town. When the temptation to sin strikes, we may want to remember that all that is hidden will be revealed... not my foretelling, our Lord tells of this in Mark 10:26.

"Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known."

Just before that verse, Jesus speaks of those who are persecuted. We may wonder why those powerful disciples in Acts did not take a stand right there in Jerusalem. They raised the dead, spoke in boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit, and healed in miraculous ways, yet they fled when persecuted. Ah, but they had marching orders from the Lord! In Mark 10:23, Jesus said, "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another."

At times we may need to take a stand, but the Lord provided for the spread of His gospel in a manner that seems a bit cowardly to us. One thing we learn in military service is that what 'seems' does not matter when the order is given. Many things that we believe seem foolish to the world. Do you want to give up eternal life to seem wise by the world's standard? I didn't think so. In the end, when the power of the Antichrist is at its peak, believers will flee, stand, or fight depending upon their orders from God. The important part is not which action seems heroic or cowardly to us, but in obeying the command of our Lord. Take a stand to obey Jesus today!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's His Choice!

Good morning as we start the next day of the week, the one that doesn't start with 'M'. Did you take stock this morning and wonder how God could possibly love you? I did, and the same answer you need came to me - it's His choice. I know, you and me tend to look at God's love as some sort of overwhelming feeling that comes over Him and makes Him forget all the bad stuff. The Bible tells us something quite different though. God loves you and me while still knowing everything about us! Yes, all that we are, all that we will become in the grace of His Son, and most especially, all that we ever were and have done, God already knows and loves us. God's love must be based on His choice then, for He certainly knows the truth that we try to hide.

We each have stories from our past that we fear to share. We have thoughts from our present that we would just as soon God not hear. We fear for the future when we know that we should not. Try though we will to forget any of that and the Adversary is sure to bring it up for us. The Devil may use Mad Auntie Myrtle to bring up that story with an, "I remember that time you..." Or he may just send one of his darts that burn deep into the brain and make us tremble at the memory. However, we can fight back with the shield of faith by remembering one thing - God loves us and it is His choice to do so.

Have a wonderful day in God's love,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Much Better!

Good morning on this fine sunny day! I had a good, but quite cold walk this morning, praise God for a new day! The truth is a good thing to hold tight, but sometimes it shines with a painful clarity on our present condition. Yes, it may be true that you are ill this morning, but it may be much better to look to the healing power of Jesus. Yes, it is true that the forces arrayed against us in the spiritual realm are far beyond our strength. However, the power of our Lord Jesus is more than equal to all of the evil powers and principalities combined. How much better is it to dwell on that thought instead? I am weak, and thou [God] art mighty. Yes, a good thought overcomes a bad thought, but what about, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Much better for my peace when the estimate of my strength is not based on my strength alone, but on the overwhelming might of Jesus himself.

As we come to realize our weakness through the trial of our faith, we tend to look upon our imperfection with the perfectionist's eye. How bright the flawless diamond must look to the experienced jeweler when she first gazes solemnly on a ball of lint. With the perfection of the Law staring at our lint, we might feel a bit unworthy. However, God looks upon the perfection of His Son as He gazes upon those reborn in Christ. We dare not ignore our true condition, but at the same time let us remember what God sees in Christ Jesus. Now, look on your condition with your imperfection covered by the perfection of Christ. Much better! It may be that we once again have it backwards in this world. The true condition is what Christ has made us - the flawless diamond, and the temporary fuzz of that lint is what we see too much of in this life and is the part that will be washed away in God's perfect time.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Parade of Lights Devotional

Why Do We Call Jesus the Light?

Good evening, and that is still a cool sounding title! I attended both the coldest and the shortest parade in my young life tonight. The former certainly makes me grateful for the latter in that description. Two sheriff's vehicles, two floats, two lighted SUV's, and three fire trucks made up the entire parade, but I will say the floats showed a lot of imagination and effort. Interesting elf costume on one float, I rather hope she didn't take a chill. So, as this was the Parade of Lights, why do we call Jesus the Light?

For one thing, He said in John's gospel, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (8:12) Isaiah also foretold that those who walked in darkness would see a great light. We do not believe that this meant simply a bright moon one dark night. They were quite familiar with the moon back in those days and that would not have been a significant prophesy. This did not refer to streetlights, but something very special. Into the darkness of sin, a great light shone when Jesus came into the world. Today, we like to celebrate Christmas, the annual observance of Christ's birth, with lights. We also call Jesus the Light of the world, mostly because He said it first.

I won't keep you long tonight. I am still thawing out myself. Happy birthday to my fellow Marines this evening! God bless you all,


Can The Rules Save Me?

Good morning on this slightly foggy Saturday in the South Platte Valley! Tonight I should write one called the Parade of Lights Devotional. That sounds pretty cool, eh? We have a parade tonight that travels the 2 or 3 blocks of the main street here in Julesburg. Yes, I've been here just over 2 months and I'm still dropping the occasional smaller town joke. I'm a resident now, so I guess the jokes are on me whenever I do this. Perhaps there should be a rule about that? No, we have enough rules. Can the rules laid down in the Old Testament save me? Yes, actually there is one way.

Jesus said it once, but we tend to dismiss it. What? Dismiss a statement of our Lord Jesus, how dare we! Jesus said to be ye perfect even and your heavenly Father is perfect. But...but... but, I was born into sin, it seems too late to be perfect. Exactly, for those seeking a way to save themselves, Jesus gave them the one way, the one recipe for success that would work eternally. We just have to be perfect like God. Impossible? You bet it is. We need a way that will work for a bunch of born sinners. Jesus gave us that way too.

The born sinners must start over, we must in effect be born again. No other way will work for us. Jesus is that way. I'm guessing that by now you have discovered that you are not going to be perfect through your own efforts. If not, I'll pray for you because your task is beyond Herculean. I can't even memorize all the rules in the Law, much less keep every one for all of my life. Paul trained from his earliest youth to be a Pharisee and keep every law, but Jesus didn't accept that. He won't accept my brand of perfection either, or yours. Only one way remains to become acceptable to the Lord - we must be born again.

Praise God for Saturday!

Friday, November 09, 2012

The New Savior Self-Defense System

Action movies often come with an action star. No really, that does seem to be part of the formula. In some cases, this action star comes with a particular system of martial arts. As the system is martial, those systems all seem to have one thing in common - hurting people. This is not to say that the experts in these systems desire to harm anyone, just that whether in offense or defense the system of moves and blows is designed to cause damage to the human body so that the opponent is incapacitated, hurt, or hopefully only as a last resort, killed. Today seemed like a good time to introduce a new system for our defense in these tough times.

As is the case with every system, we start with the basic position. Take your hands and stretch them out flat, fingers together and thumbs folded. Now, sitting, standing, or kneeling, the body position is not that important here, place those hands together and address your Heavenly Father. We'll call this the prayer position. Some of you may have to make adjustments due to age or arthritis, but try to get those hands together. Do this often throughout your day, talking with God in every kind of situation. Why is this the basic position for our system?

We live in a peaceful land for the most part. Unless you have reason to walk the tough side of town or the wrong side of the tracks today, you and me will probably not be physically threatened in any way. However, we are under constant attack from those powers and principalities that Paul warned us of in his letter to the Ephesians. Temptations, lies, slander, scoffing, and other forms of attack will be heaped upon us today. Our best defense is in taking our needs and desires to God our Father.

After we have mastered the prayer position, let us take up the helping position. Take those hands, one or both, and extend them out to help another person. Hold open a door for a person today. Male or female, younger or older, it doesn't matter when helping. As a part of this position, practice your resistance training too. Resist making some pert comment such as 'age before beauty' to a senior citizen. After all, in God's eyes that person may be both more beautiful and of senior position to you. More advanced resistance training: resist the comeback that crosses your mind when the other person makes that smart remark. Bless them instead.

Take a hand and place it on a chair for your cubicle neighbor to keep the chair from rolling back on him. Did he look at you suspiciously? Hmm, have a bit of history there to overcome? Did he remember that stunt you pulled many years ago? Yes, the world does remember those things forever it seems. Some positions may require much practice before we are trusted to use them in the workplace.

Related to the helping position is the giving position. In this, the left hand does not know what the right hand does as we extend it out to give away our money, time, effort, and resources to a person in need. Again, continue in your resistance training by pushing away that thought of reward or acclaim for the act of giving, Instead, give the glory to God in prayer by returning to the basic position after practicing the giving move. Remember also that there is no correct or minimum amount when giving. Give when you can and in whatever form or amount that you can.

We can practice many other moves in this system such as the Prostrate Humility, the Celebration Stretch, or the Thanksgiving Kneel. The great thing about this system is that those who cannot kneel, stretch, clasp hands, lay flat, bend in some ways, or any other physical disadvantage can still pray, give thanks, worship, and give the glory to God.

Enjoy the day in Christ,

Thursday, November 08, 2012

What Bloomin' Good Are You To The Kingdom?

Good morning as Winter Storm Brutus threatens the north country! I guess someone decided to start naming the winter storms this year. It could be useful for 'grampa' stories someday. This storm is supposed to track to the north of us, but we are to expect some cold weather from its passage. Today, let us take a little test. You are saved by Christ, but what good are you and me to the kingdom of God?

A large stack of numbers appears before you on the whiteboard. Can you add them up in a glance? Me neither, and after adding them up in the grade school way I would still need to check and recheck the total. Alright, how about a different area. Are you a real door knocker, a natural sales talent who can convince anyone of anything? Nope, in fact I hate the thought of doing that particular activity. Hmm, maybe another area. Does your singing voice soar to powerful notes that make congregations whisper 'amen' so as not to disturb the other listeners? No, my voice might make some folks say 'amen' at the end of a prayer, or more likely, ask the sound engineer to turn up the volume a bit, but I'm not going to win any of those talent show awards anytime soon. Powerful writing? Well, maybe in my case, but someone needs to read it. I can't write just for myself. Some of us do have a skill or talent to offer, but God can always do it better. So what good is any of us to the kingdom? Well, perhaps we should quit looking at my opinion or your opinion and get God's word on that.

To get you and me into His kingdom, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. Whoa, I don't know if my little offering is of much value, but the sacrifice God gave is certainly of paramount worth! Your employer may not show much value on your paycheck for your contribution to the company, but God certainly put a high price on us. We may not feel that our offering to the church is a great amount, but Jesus gave all to get us into His church. I'm starting to feel pretty valuable here! God would not pay such a great price for something of no value. We may want to take God's opinion before we call ourselves worthless.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

So You Did/Did Not Get Who You Wanted

The morning after dawns once more and whatever you would normally do on a Wednesday, you likely still must do today. Work, school, or play these things go on as they did last week with just a few less political ads. Alright, a whole lot less political ads. The analysis by the media and the rest of us will go on for some time, but as you have probably heard we re-elected President Obama. Perhaps in the hearts of many a certain stability was more desirable than the prospect of change. We can analyze and ponder until we turn funny colors, but the results will simply be in numbers of votes. As has been the case for the past several elections, the popular vote count is much closer than the electoral college, and there is no overwhelming majority in either the House or the Senate. We elected marijuana in Colorado to help y'all celebrate, c'mon over for a doobie! (My slang is probably out of date.) I wonder if the weed thing passed because enough people wanted to anesthetize their pain from all the political ads?

Once again, no matter whom you voted for, WE elected these men and women to represent us. Today, we may celebrate or mourn the results, but we can all get on our knees and pray for our nation. After that, set aside that tired old thing, "I didn't vote for that person!" and be proud that you had the right to vote and did exercise that right. Simply by holding a free election, we all won. God has truly blessed our land in allowing us to chose our leaders. God placed his wisdom in the founding fathers so that none of those newly elected leaders can take office today and demand that some group of people be tossed in jail. We tend to laugh at that in America, but examples from other places and times are not as far away as we might think.

God bless America! Another election is done. Do I celebrate the successful election or just that it is now over? Well, perhaps a bit of both.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

It's Voting Day!

Christians aren't political, right? Wrong answer puddin' buns! We are to submit to the governing authority and that means voting today. Most of you won't have to be reminded, but some may be looking at the choices and wondering, "What's the use?" Alas, Paul did not say submit if you like the choices. I arrived in my new state to find 16 pairs of candidates on the presidential ballot. There are choices and then there are the ones we have never heard of. Did you know that Roseanne Barr is on our ballot for president? And you thought the Republican and Democrat choices were troublesome.

Submitting to those things God has put over us sometimes requires a sacrifice on our part. Voting in some states is made easier through mail ballots, but others still must go to a polling place and join the lines. Online voting is still problematic, but I read that some of those persons displaced by Hurricane Sandy will get to try it out this year. We live in an age of increasing convenience, and that means less excuses for us. Oops, just heard the polls in the Central Time zone are open, time to vote for those of you out east a bit!

May God guide our nation's voters on this day!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Directions: Insert Money

God's great love goes out to you today. This morning while walking in the downtown area of our little town, I came upon a very basic set of instructions. The first one was: Insert Money. Obviously this didn't get vetted by some marketing department. It is likely in this town that no large chain owns the business and the sign was done by hand some evening at the owner's home. However, I thought that this instruction pretty much sums up the world we live in, at least in this nation and almost all others right now. Then another thought came to me: what if I have in the not nearly distant enough past sent up a prayer to God that basically said that very thing?

Dear Heavenly Father, I hold up this sign with my needs and desires, and could you please read this instruction back to me - Directions: Insert Money. Sounds very self-centered, but I have been guilty in so many words of doing just that. Like a marketing department, I might try to hide the last line behind something else like a 'please swipe card' instruction. That one doesn't sound like you are spending money, does it? Swiping a card sounds like you might be taking a card from the top of the deck in a game for your turn. Dear God, please swipe your card and proceed to fulfill my wants and needs, thank you! Now that you have been forewarned, it still sounds very self-centered with just a touch of assumption. There is good news in this though.

Learning that a problem exists between me and God is a big part of the battle with the forces of this world. Now, I can ask forgiveness, bring the problem before God, and ask for mercy and wisdom in this matter. God's love never left me, and His love will not leave you either. As we look away from our selfish interest and look up to God, we may see Him holding up a sign too - Directions: Trust in Me!

God bless you all on this great day in Christ!

Friday, November 02, 2012

I Don't Know How

Good morning on this breezy and overcast day. Today, I realize that I don't know how God is going to work out this life of His. Yes, I gave my life to Jesus, and this life belongs to Him now. When I worry and fret over how the bills will get paid, or whatever health problem is bugging me at the moment, or this other fear, or anything that is a part of this life, I forget that God bought me through the death of His Son on the cross. Since God owns my life now, God will provide for it and care for it as one of His most precious treasures. What do I base that on? The price He paid for it of course!

To us our most precious possession is this life we have. When our life is threatened, we fight hard to keep it. The harshest sentences in court go to those who take life. It may take years of destructive behavior before we realize that our life is better off given to God for safekeeping. After we make the decision to give up this life to God, we immediately start worrying over how He is going to keep it. A bit ungrateful that, maybe we have a few strings trying to cling to the deal. I've had my shot at saving myself and it didn't work out. I think it is time to step back and see what God has in store for this day in His life.

God bless you all in His own special way on this fine day,

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Get Into the Darkness A Little

At this time of the year my morning walk is done mostly in the dark. The time change on Sunday morning will help a little, but that won't last as the darkest time of the year is upon us soon. This morning, I thought of how much better the lamps, we know them as streetlights, work in the darkness. Therefore, I thought that we should get into the darkness a bit more to let our light shine brighter. Of course, you will know that this is an illusion. The lights do not work any less if they are on during they day, they are simply overwhelmed by the sunlight.

We already walk in the darkness of the world. The light of Christ shining in us is obvious to those around us. In the darkness, the light given by Christ appears to shine brighter. But, we do not have to walk into a sinner's palace to make the light seem brighter still. You or I may be called to invade such a place with a message of hope and light, but we don't need to seek out such places.

This present darkness is more than enough to make our lights shine. When Jesus returns, our little lights will still shine on, but they will be overwhelmed by the Son-light. While we look forward to that first day of our Lord's reign, we will be shining our lights into some dark places right where we work and play.