Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Day...of the Year

Good morning! Oddly warm out there this morning, and then I looked at the thermometer. The temp is only about 25°, but it felt much warmer and is very quiet outside. I heard an alarm clock from across the street belting out some Cyndi Lauper. Low clouds, no animal noises and no trains make for a hushed morning, well, with the exception of Cyndi that is. There are many things to write about today, but this is the last day of 2012 and that kind of calls for a shout out or something like that.

What did 2012 mean for us? This is the day we most often look back at the year and take stock of how far God has brought us. For some of us it is a new town or a different house. Others got married, had babies or grand babies, or did none of the above. The real distance is how far Jesus brought us along His way. That is much more difficult for us to measure, for we do not know the end. The Mayan calendar thing apparently didn't work out, if that was the end you were counting on. Your end may come in the next year, or maybe not for another 50 years or more. As we grow closer to Jesus, 50 more years on this earth sounds like a terrible sentence. Perhaps it is better that Jesus doesn't tell us how far we have to go yet.

After we take stock of the year passing today, we look forward to the year that is coming. For those terrified of the number 13, this next year may seem like a monster waiting just around the corner. For at least one of us, the number 50 waits just around the corner. I won't say who he is just yet, but, bwaa ha ha! Que the Jaws theme, here it comes!

Celebrate the old year today, and the new year tomorrow!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Master Doesn't Do That

Whoo Hoo! It's Saturday! You've seen the situation before. Dog is across the street doing what dogs do, master is at the house wanting the dog back in the yard. Neither is paying as much attention to the things the street is designed for as is warranted given the situation. The master calls, the dog obeys in the full-out mode that dogs often employ. The driver locks up the brakes and the dog is narrowly missed. Everyone pounds on their chest a little to get the heart going again and the dog runs on home. Another potential tragedy averted by the slimmest of margins.

We surrender our lives to Jesus in repentance and are born again. One day, we are across the street doing what Christians tend to do, and our master calls. Whoa, instead of obeying in the full-out mode, we stop and look for traffic. You see, we often don't trust our master to watch for traffic for us. We say that our God knows all and sees all, but then we immediately fail to trust Him to, well, see all.

Let us get this straight right now. My Master does not call me out into the path of oncoming buses, trains, steamrollers, or speeding tortoises. These things may physically happen in our fallen world, but when God calls, we should obey first. No, I'm not speaking of crossing the street without looking first. The call we get is more like a mission. When we receive that call, our first thoughts are usually reasons why we cannot do what God is calling us to do. We tend to be like the dog who once nearly got run over, and now will never cross the street for fear of another vehicle. Our Master crosses the street and says, "I am with you always..." Whatever 'street' is in front of us now, let us not be afraid to step off the curb with our Master.

Have a wonderful Saturday in Christ Jesus,

Friday, December 28, 2012

Because It Takes Eternity

Good Friday morning! Another holiday weekend is here, at least for those who do not have to work on Monday. Given the prevalence of parties on Monday night and the holiday on Tuesday, I suspect a lot of work places will be rather sparsely populated both on Monday and part of today. If I may take a moment to state the obvious, it is cold outside. Yup, got that out of the way. Now on with the devotional. Praise God that I won't need to write obvious things for all eternity. That might be more of a characteristic of the dark place than of God's new heaven and new earth.

Have you ever thought that God does not intimately describe this new place because it changes throughout eternity? Another possibility is that the new eternal home will be so extensive that all the books of the world could not contain the description. Still another is that our new eternal home will be so different from what we know here that we are not capable of understanding God's description right now. We can use words like marvelous, wonderful, overwhelming, and joy, but maybe the new heaven and new earth are so amazing because it takes eternity for us to appreciate God's handiwork properly.

Wait, isn't that a bit like the old two parallel lines gag from geometry class? How can we take eternity to appreciate eternity? I don't get it either, but then we are talking about God whose thoughts are so far above our thoughts that metaphors inevitably fall short of the reality. We live eternally with Christ because that's what it takes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Joy Swells in My Heart

Good evening! A special greeting to those of you at work. The world will never make it easy for us to feel the joy that God gives to us. If we wait on circumstances to become perfect, we will wait until Jesus returns to express our joy. In December, with the bulk of winter yet before us, we may want nothing more than a nice pair of warm socks to feel really happy for an evening. Ha! That might work in a book or movie, in this life we seldom realize such simple needs. Usually, a lengthy list of wants comes to mind when we think of the perfect evening. Turning that mind of wanting to think of Jesus can help us reconnect with that joy living within us.

Circumstance does not magically become perfect when we remember our joy. But the world's roar can be put in its proper place when we think on the joy of our Savior. The news of the world gives us cause to believe in chaos; the good news of Jesus Christ gives us cause to share a little joy. We may think of a thousand reasons to be fearful, but the Holy Spirit dwelling within gives us one overwhelming reason to be joyful. The cat howling at the Rolling Stones on the radio may cause a little grief, but the joy that swells my heart gives me a little compassion. The cat had a tough year too. Praise God for our joyful home.


Talk, or Substance?

Whoa, it snowed again last night. This must be that winter thing we only talked about last year. For me the question might go something like this: Do you just write about the Christian life, or is there substance? We all have a form of that question directed at us, though it may never be spoken in our presence. Suffering people want to know, is there something of substance in this Jesus we hear about? Our lives must be ones that show that indeed there is a change that comes from our rebirth in Christ.

Few of us have trouble looking like keepers of the Law when we go out in public. We are known to be 'good' people, just like many others. The test of our substance comes in private when the world, we think, is not looking. What do we read, what shows are on the television, is there a secret stash of certain magazines or literature that would cause the world to say, "Aha, you Christians are just like us!" We know that too, and perhaps our home has seen a 'sin' cleaning such that no trace of our former sinful lives shows in any corner. However, we are like the world in one respect - we started out this life as a sinner enslaved to the flesh just like everyone else.

A bit of our substance must be shown in honesty. If your Ephesians armor is polished, shiny, and clean, then you are most likely a rear-echelon pogue who has never seen combat with the forces of this world. If we could see the Christian armor of a front-line soldier, we would see the patched-over gashes that separation from our loved ones in this world causes. We might see a few flaming darts that got through the armor and the suffering from those burning wounds. In fact, the Christian soldier may at times be found flat on his back from the dreadful assault of the enemy. She might be found weeping in prayer over the cruelty of the world's ambush. Soldiers who are in the fight do not always look ready for inspection. Look closely and anyone will find something wrong with the front line warrior.

If there is an admission of substance in us, it is that we struggle in this fight. Spiritual wounds lay us low at times. Praise Jesus for His healing and mercy! We fall, but God lifts us up again. We sin, but Jesus paid for that sin and grants forgiveness. We live in Christ, and we will win this war because the victory already belongs to our Lord Jesus!

Yours in Christ,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Can't Go Home Yet

No, not because it's Wednesday evening and I haven't sent out the devotional for this evening, but because Jesus hasn't sent for you or me. We live in our Lord's grace, and we live to serve His church, and we hope for that day when we might go home for good. However, if we want to go home just to escape this world and think nothing of those who may be left behind then just maybe that is too selfish. We just ended the season of giving (Christmas gifts that is), but we did not go into the season of thinking only of just me.

I wouldn't mind if the Rapture came tonight. I think the celebration would be marvelous with Jesus in the clouds of Heaven. Sadly, the mission God has for you and me does not end just because we think now would be a good time to go home. Joyfully, the mission God has for you and me goes on! Those who do not yet believe in Jesus still have time to make their eternal decision. You and I can find someone who needs the good news of Jesus Christ. Time is not over and the world goes on for a bit. How long that 'bit' will be, we cannot know. Looking around at the condition of the world, time for deciding seems short to me. I don't think we have long to wait for our Lord's call!

Take a hope break this evening for our hope in Christ draws near!

It's A Negative Morning

Not every day is one that begins with thoughts of peace and joy, but that wasn't what I wanted to write about today. The temperature is below zero, we are starting with a negative morning out here on the cold plains of Colorado. The music on The Message is delightfully positive, and there is the message for us today. You and me have a positive message to bear in a negative world.

Some would speak of evolution and some sort of electrical-chemical accident that began all life. Speaking of millions and billions of years sounds smart with all those big numbers. The bottom line though is that no god is required for evolution and accident. Without a higher power or a greater good, the evolutionist is free to do any deed to justify his goals. Without a Creator, the creation is responsible to no one and uses others in any way he pleases to accomplish selfish desires. But God calls upon the simple things to confound the wisdom of the world.

We are responsible to a Creator, and it is not a burden to surrender to the Creator's Son. We who believe in Christ are not restricted, but set free. The world will have its day, and will point to us as examples of weakness, powerlessness, and poverty. At the moment, the world is correct. We are glad to submit our small strength to the all-powerful God, to bow our little power before the Almighty, and to give our poor riches to Him who owns all gold and silver. The moment belongs to the world, but eternity belongs to God. The moment is gone in the blink of an eye. Those in the moment are gone with a puff of wind. God's throne stands over eternity, and that my friends is where we want to be. We give up the moment to gain eternity. We remember to love those reveling in the moment, even when they scoff at our faith. Praise God, the Lord of all eternity!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Merry Christmas Message

Happy Christmas to you on this white Christmas morning! I often wonder if Joseph made plans other than having a child right away. If Joseph had plans for travel, he got to do that. Visit another country with his young wife? Yes, he got to do that as well. But what if Joseph's plans were to settle down near family and have a child maybe in a few years after the finances stabilized? Nope, God had other plans. Now, imagine Joseph's thoughts upon learning that his betrothed was pregnant. Christmas may not bring us quite the news that we would like every year. However, Joseph got to raise God's own Son.

Bad or good, news that disrupts our plans may be just the thing God uses to bring us closer to Him and to make us productive in our fruit-bearing. A time of trial and suffering may raise us to a higher level of faith and commitment to God. Does that happen at Christmas? Yes, I think that God gives out gifts at this time too. The wrapping on the gift from God may seem a bit distressing. That next gift I receive may look a lot like a lump of coal, but that is only the wrapping. The best gift God sent didn't look like much at first either. A baby in a trough where the animals ate? A man dying on a cross? I'm sure Joseph might have thought of a few other items for that first Christmas list.

"How about a nice Roman palace with hot baths and a few servants, Lord? Then we'll have the baby in the usual way! We'll raise him in style to be king when he reaches fourteen or so How does that sound?" Joseph didn't get a wish like that though.

Within a couple of years, just after a rather interesting visit from some magi from the east, Joseph and Mary had to pack up and flee the country in the dark of night. What sort of king is this? A king who needed God's protection and his parents' efforts, just like we did at that young age. Did Jesus grow up wealthy? Sorry kid, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh financed a sudden trip to Egypt. We don't know that of course, but Jesus didn't begin his ministry with a sack of gold from what we read in the gospels. At the end, the body of Jesus didn't look like a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift. On the third day, things changed forever!

We too may look at our lives and see a very tarnished and beaten wrapper, full of holes where loss caused us great pain and suffering. Our bodies may not look very glorified right now, in fact we probably don't see the glory in us at all. But one day, Jesus will raise us up and under that wrapper of sin and suffering is a new creation, a gift our Lord has been working on for a long time!

Have a wonderful, happy Christmas in Christ!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Eve of The Thing

Oh! Oh! Oh! Sometimes the anticipation of the day before the thing, the very eve of the coming event is almost too much to bear. The emotions run high, the sense of the thrilling appearance is soooo difficult to contain. And then we wonder why God didn't give anyone the date of Jesus' returning. Can you imagine how awful the anticipation would be if we had the date circled on the calendar? What if the date was so far out there we couldn't buy that year's calendar yet? Aiieee! Some things are best left unknown. The eve of our celebration of the birth of the Christ child is enough for us to bear right now. Today we look for the worship and celebration to begin for yet another anniversary of that blessed night in Bethlehem. We have all we need for today.

The eve of Christmas is a wonderful time to gather with Jesus and thank Him for coming down to this place. Some put pressure on us to have large gatherings of family or friends, but that isn't always possible. Others say that a certain amount must be spent to make children happy. Many cannot afford to do that. Still others will use the holiday to further their own cause or agenda. However, we can gather always with our Lord, whose holiday this is, and celebrate His birth with Him in quiet prayer. We don't need noise, or sugar treats, or gifts, or singing of carols, or any of the other things commonly associated with Christmas to celebrate a time with our Lord Jesus.

Before you go tossing all the Christmas decorations in the box though, all of these things do add to the festive atmosphere of the season. I think God likes a good celebration. Did you put lots of effort into the holiday? Good work! Did the cost of your gift-giving hurt a bit? Excellent job! Are you remembering the central reason for Christmas, the very root of the word? Better still! Let your let shine for Christ on Christmas!

Have a wonderful, merry Christmas!

P.S. I do plan to write a Christmas devotional tomorrow, if God is willing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Can't I Do That?

We may ask that question of God, and we may receive an answer immediately. I had just such an experience last night. Watching an interview with some author's friends, the work habits of the author made me a bit envious. Why can't I write like that? I asked. The friends then went on to enumerate some of the other habits of the author and the result: he died of a heart attack at 50. Oh! There was my answer. It may very well be that God wants me in this for the long haul. We shouldn't look at other people as our example. God has a plan for me and a plan for you. We should not look at each other as our primary examples of how to live in Christ.

The author in this story also began writing when he was 12 and pretty much drove his brother and father nuts with late night typing. At that age, I destroyed a typewriter for fun but had no intention of using one as part of a career. The world contains more than enough people who claim responsibility for their own success. To us they may appear almost magically endowed with some ability. We don't see the years of practice behind the 'overnight' success story, but we do see the glory given to them and want some of that too. We are called to glorify God, and you and me may not get to be like that success story we see over there. Our glory may be the "Well done, my good and faithful servant." we get when we see Jesus our Lord in Heaven. And that, my dear friends, should be all the glory we desire!

Merry Christmas dear children of God,

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Deserve My Best; God Gets My All

Good Friday morning! The Christmas holiday is upon us as I'm sure many will take Monday off as well and leave for their holiday break today. I hear the DJ on the radio saying much the same thing just now, so I may not be completely off my rocker in this matter. Of course, anytime that happens there is at least a small chance that I have only confirmed that two of us are out of whack. I pray that you have a merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday from work!

I always want to do my best writing for you, but does not God deserve my best as well? Certainly I try to do my best for God, but actually He gets my all. Jesus didn't die on the cross just for that time I did well in that one task. You know, that good memory I recall so fondly? Yes, God gets that too, but He owns everything of me now. The time I said the wrong thing to that person over there. The times I did the wrong thing and sinned against another (and always against God). Those times belong to God too. My best efforts belong to God, but also my weakest and whiniest efforts too. Some sacrifices God accepts, others, well... those might go into the 'needs more work' file. Growth kind of goes with the Christian condition. We are reborn at whatever age, and then God's Holy Spirit goes to work on us.

My best, your best, all of our 'bests' put together cannot save us, but God deserves our all and indeed owns our all when we are born again. Over time, some of those things that cause us guilt and shame will be taken away as their purpose is served. The last of these may not be taken until we arrive at the gates of Heaven, and there is a good chance that one of these is the one you or I would most like God to take right now. Paul tried it three times, but God said "No". A thorn essential to our sanctification may be a thing that has bothered and irritated since childhood. God owns it now. Trust in Him to use it to fulfill His holy purpose.

Have a wonderful Christmas in Christ!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Having Done All

Good morning! Winter may not officially start until tomorrow, but it looks very much like what that winter thing is all about right now. Snow, cold, plows on the streets, smoke from the chimneys, yes, it appears to be winter today. Will it last until that fabled white Christmas? We do not know this morning. I have one interesting question for us all: Did you go to the grocery store to stock up because of the blizzard warning... wait for it, and then feel the temptation to go to the store one more time? You may have stocked all that you could and yet felt that urge to do it again. I certainly felt that and the following verse came to mind.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

The part for today is at the end: having done all, we stand. There are times when you and I will have done all that we can to prepare for some event. After that, we stand and wait on the Lord. This could be a picture of the end time too. The church, having done all, stands as the Lord Jesus is revealed in the heavens to an unbelieving world. The time for doing is over, and the time to stand and see the glory of our Lord arrives in His great power.

As the storm arrived yesterday, the time for preparation work came to a close. The running about and running down the list was over. The time to stand and watch the Lord perform His mighty works came in like a lion. We have a preference for action; at times, it becomes a temptation to perform some work that will, we think, guarantee us salvation. However, some days we should stand and watch the Lord at work, just like we did on that first day of our new life in Christ when He alone saved us.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How 'bout Some Praise

Good morning, at least I think it's morning, the day seems to be getting darker. I often ask the Lord what He would have me to write. Today, the thought came to me that the Lord might just like a spontaneous outburst of praise. We know that the Lord directs the path of those He loves. Does that give me an excuse to sit back and wait for the Lord to move my feet or hands? No, I think not.

The Lord inspired His books in the Bible, but those writers first picked up their pen, or quill, or whatever instrument they used back in the day. The Lord made sure of what was written down, but He did not force the translators to check and double-check their work so that we could read God's word in our own language. The Lord can make sure that special gift you want to give is available in a store, but you will need to pick up your car keys and move your feet to the door. We are bondslaves of Christ, but not automatons dumbly rattling around in our work. An outburst of praise comes from a heart full of love for God, not from a command obeyed under threat of destruction.

Workers who perform only under threat of disciplinary action or job termination do not praise the boss willingly, though they may do so to gain advantage. Our Lord wants our praise to come just from the sheer joy of loving our Father. The best place to learn and gain this love is to ask the one who knows love best: Jesus!

Merry Christmas and the love of our Lord Jesus to you on this great day!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You May Have To Work At It A Little Bit

Good Tuesday morning! I see a sneaky little winter storm watch has arrived this morning. Is it possible that more snow will arrive tonight? Will we have a winter this year? No matter what may come, God is with us always. Have you ever found yourself in the position of assuming that God is going to do everything for you? That is kind of a weasel-worded question in place of admitting that I have done this. God has gently responded that I may have to work at it a little bit.

God does much more than we will ever realize. That does not mean however that we sit down on the couch and wait by doing nothing. God gives me the inspiration, but the writing must come by typing on the keyboard and working my mind and imagination. Our spirit and mind are much like our bodies in that, at least in this world, we must exercise them to stay active and in good shape. Slack off on the exercising and the body gets flabby. A mind and spirit can get in the same condition. Paul warned us to work out our salvation. Our elders remind us often to continue working our minds to stay sharp, or at least the elders who haven't slacked off mentally will remind us of this.

This life requires us to work at it a little bit. Yes, many employers have found the high unemployment much to their liking and demanded fewer employees do more with less as the saying goes; that is a different matter. We are looking here at staying healthy by staying active. We stay active spiritually by prayer, bible study, worship, and service. We stay active mentally by reading, writing, playing challenging games, hobbies, and other methods. Physically...well, you know what that means by now. Sometimes we can combine these and gain extra benefit. And all work is not drudgery. Ask God to show you enjoyable exercise in these areas. Somewhere, there is a job or career for you that isn't just putting in time and collecting a paycheck. Ask God to show the way!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Should We Be Doing This?

Good Monday morning! Sorry, but it is Monday; I cannot deny it. The final week before the Christmas holiday is upon us, and even the most grinchy may want to sing songs of joy and gladness. But should we be doing this in light of recent events across the nation? Some may feel uncomfortable singing Christmas carols or wishing a happy Christmas to another. We can postpone Christmas, but that doesn't answer the question. I have another question for us: Why didn't God warn the parents to flee as He did with Joseph and Mary?

You recall the Christmas story of the flight to Egypt when Joseph was warned in a dream to hit the road with the Christ child. We are very glad that God did send His angel, but why no warning for the other children in that tale? Every life is valuable to God, yet Herod was allowed to carry out his murderous plan. How can we reconcile a life valuable to God with murder? A couple of ways, I think.

For one, murder is in the law under the thou-shalt-nots. The very statement indicates a choice. If God denied every murder by stopping it at the last moment, there would be no need for the law. Hold it...just hold everything! Jesus also said that we can be guilty of murder without actually carrying out the act. Therefore, it seems that God could stop every act of murder and still convict under His law. Good point, but if everyone knew that no act of murder could actually be carried out, is that a real choice? Freedom to act on sinful thoughts may be essential to that freedom to choose we have in this life.

Another point to consider is that God sees all of life, not just the small part we see here today. I believe the children from Bethlehem that Herod had murdered and the children from Newtown murdered last week are with God in Heaven. Their life has not ended. We see only the funerals and the pain, but there is more to the story.

Finally, we should celebrate Christmas, because God loves us and sent His Son to die for us. God lost a child too on the cross outside Jerusalem. God's Son was born and died so that we might be with those we have lost in this life. God's promise came when Jesus rose again, assuring us that this death we see here is not the final chapter of the story. God can raise up great things from terrible tragedy. We are sad because the great things are difficult or even impossible for us to see right now. Faith tells us that God has something better in His plan, but it must come after we endure the trials of this life.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why The Kids?

How does one set out to comfort the families on this day? I see a picture of a pastor from Newtown on the news website, and I do not envy him that position this morning. The best headline I see puts it this way: "World reacts with sympathy, bewilderment" Yes, exactly! We mourn the children, mourn for the families, and wonder, "Why?".

Killing children hurts us most. Hardened police detectives break down when children are murdered. Anger sweeps the land when children are chosen by a killer. Yet, we still do not have an answer that satisfies. As is too often the case, the person doing the murder is dead as well. We can gain no answers from him. Would it be easier for us to hear that his last memory was of a satanic ritual and then he 'woke up' in a jail cell? I don't know, because the answers are denied to us by the silence of his death. A blog, a Twitter feed, or even an old-fashioned diary may be discovered, but people can write anything they want. Some will use derogatory names to describe the young man, but in truth we may never know the 'why' of such an act. And doesn't it seem like we walked down this road not very long ago?

Writing this devotional started just over six years ago, and yet I can recall at least 3 other times I had to sit down on the morning after and write something very similar. Tuscon, Aurora, Montreal, Virgina Tech, and other tragedies hit us like waves from a faraway storm. Sometimes I couldn't write, but simply sat and asked "again? already?" and similar useless or vague questions. No doubt someone has asked, "Can we go through a year without a mass murder?" Once a year is too often for this sort of thing; never would be much better, I think.

God be with you on this day,

Friday, December 14, 2012

Somebody's Watching Us!

News report this morning: A vulnerability in a Linux-based software for one television brand could allow a cracker to gain control of your smart television and monitor you through the cameras and microphone. Yep, looks like that old fear from back in the early sci-fi days has come home to roost. What an exciting thing to do - watch people sitting in their living room staring at you. I can only imagine how many hours of mindless staring a person could record before concluding, "Ya know, people really don't do much when the TV is on."

What else lands in the not-worth-doing category this morning? How about judging yourself? Nah, we never do that. Healthy self-examination is one thing, but what if you wallow in guilt and shame over your life or parts of it? Are you not acting as judge when Jesus commanded us to judge not? I have done it, and usurping Christ's place as judge is not the right thing to do. Mercy is given by faith in Christ, but then I tried on some of those self-imposed sanctions that big colleges like to give themselves. Living in grace does not seem to agree with me punishing, well, me. I don't seem to recall that provision before grace could be received. I suppose that accepting the forgiveness of Christ Jesus means that I no longer judge me or anyone else.

Merry Christmas to you on this Friday! Cards, gifts, parties, and the joy of the season is upon us. Christmas carols come to mind and are heard in many places. Bad jokes like, "Yule love this" may appear too, as it just did on my e-mail window. Merry Christmas to the person whose job it is to come up with nonsense like that!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yard by Yard, Link by Link

Good morning in this Christmas season of joy and giving! Every year I read Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and every year I see old Scrooge confronted with his imaginary chain in the form of Jacob Marley's ghost clinking around in his own chain. (You have labored on it since. 'Tis a ponderous chain!) This morning, I wonder how long my chain is today. Have I labored on it enough, or should I add a few more heavy links? You see, I read a book that listed the price on our bodies of an unforgiving life. A doctor listed the symptoms, and I found my own problems listed there.

Traumatic events, either physical or emotional, can forge a prison of emotional and physical symptoms. However, what if in not forgiving I was able to forge a chain out of those prison bars that left me more confined than the original condition? Jesus healed the injuries, broke open the prison bars, only to find me confined by my own chain forged patiently over the years out shame and guilt. As of this morning this is but a working theory, but could it be the answer?

The truth revealed during prayerful introspection may be painful. When Marley's ghost displayed its chains there were no simple latches but heavy locks without keys along the length of cash boxes and ledgers. When we forge our own chain, we do not add in quick-release latches or leave spaces in the forged links for easy removal. As a welder will tell you, if you apply a hot cutting torch to one end of a metal link the heat will be transmitted quickly to the other end. Getting out of this chain may be painful! I trust that Jesus will lead me out of this thing as gently as possible.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Beating An Emotional Problem With A Physical Stick

Happy 12/12/12! I just had to put that bit of geek lore in there. Most of you will be somewhat unimpressed with the interesting date. I can sympathize with that. After all, it's not like everyone can win the lottery today. For most of us, this will simply be another day. However, a major change today would make for easy remembering of the date. I wonder how many couples set the date for this date? Imagine the horror twenty years down the road when one of them cannot remember the date!

In the old days, a group of fellows beat themselves to cleanse their spirits. We tend to laugh at their efforts. Wouldn't beating your body up make a problem worse instead of better? After we stop chuckling, a certain truth may enter our minds. Have we not done the same in some similar way? Perhaps one of us grew up with an emotional problem, and then denied healing by eating too much to add the problem of obesity to the first problem. You may have found a different method to physically punish your own body for an emotional problem. I'm there with you, many or all of my physical problems may be from beating the emotional problem with a physical stick in a manner of speaking. Like the proverbial flogging of the dead moose (It's a northern proverb.), we have beaten the poor body senseless while standing in the way of healing the emotional one. Maybe. We need to take this up with God, for not all physical problems come from emotional roots.

Take up the position of the prayer warrior, and seek God's wisdom in this. Get quiet in your prayers and listen for the Spirit's guidance. But, believe and be prepared for applying the action part of our faith to the problem.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Content With Now

Good morning! I tried to go through today without complaint, and found that I had already done so. How can I be content with what God has provided now, when I cannot start the day without a complaint about something? We may want to begin with gratitude. Of course, we can start with the good things, and that is a very good place to begin our grateful thanksgiving, but what about that thing we complained about?

It is difficult. Thanking God for the pain in the neck we woke up with or the big bill sitting on the counter is not going to come naturally. The pain reminds us that we are still alive and able to spread the good news of Christ's salvation. The big bill means that you received something valuable. Find a reason to be grateful; learn to be content in the now. We might try to remember that this latest tribulation we feel in the now was promised by Christ. We might thank God that our Father in Heaven cares enough to test our faith. After all it could be worse, if your faith is never tested and God leaves you alone, where do you suppose you will spend eternity? Hmm, I think I am a bit more content now.


Monday, December 10, 2012

The World Seems To Overwhelm

Good morning on this cold day! Scoffers in this day seem to have powerful voices. You see them on the television and hear them on the radio. The voices of scoffing speak to a large audience. The pulpit of scoffing starts from a high place speaking down to the masses. Our little voices seem small and weak in comparison to the talking heads scoffing at our belief.

Rules are heaped upon you. If you teach, then you cannot speak of your faith to the students. At your workplace proselytizing becomes a dirty word. Church things are to be spoken only in church. Matters of belief do not belong in business. You have heard them all and wondered, "How am I supposed to witness in this?"

The world seems to overwhelm us with rules, scoffing voices, and other assaults...and you thought we lived in a land free of persecution. Yes, we may have picked up something like that from another Christian. I have heard it, that talking head on the Christian program telling us how nice we have it in America. The persecution is not physical in the sense of jail and killing, so the devil must be leaving us alone here in this land of privilege. Hmm, why do I feel the attack in my mind and body then? Why do you not feel as though the Christian life is one of ease and perfect tranquility? If we have it so great, why do so few want to believe in Jesus?

Good news! The best witness is a life lived in Christ. You may not be able to open your mouth, or type an e-mail speaking of Christ at your workplace, but people do see you. The Christian life speaks without words as the world compares one to another. Why are you content in your position? Why do you thank God for all that you have now? Why did that fellow build up another worker in place of promoting himself? Why didn't she use that mistake by her coworker to bring about an advancement in her career? The world will ask these questions and much more when they see the Christian life on display.

Why did you and I forgive the wrong done to us in the workplace? Because Jesus told us to, and we love to do what Jesus says! Jesus also told us one thing that applies when the world seems to overwhelm with its loud voices - John 16:33: "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Praise God for the new day!

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Faith and Hope Milk Company

Good morning on this cooler Friday! Some of you, including me, are old enough to remember milk deliveries to your home. While I delivered the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in part of our little town, the milkmen ran from their truck to each home with fresh milk and other dairy products. This service stopped sometime in my youth, but in some parts of the country it is enjoying a bit of a revival. Those who remember might be given to missing this service now and then; it was a fine thing that is lost to the past in most communities. Today, let us start up this thing again, but we have a smart milk man.

Somehow, and you and I cannot figure how, this milkman delivers fresh each morning exactly what we need. Little or large containers marked with the company brand name - Faith and Hope! - arrive each morning right on time. Behind the scenes, this milkman and his company have their cows and the creamery, and a fleet of vehicles that is well maintained and replaced regularly. All the things that we don't see provide that fresh dairy goodness each and every morning. On Saturday, the milkman delivers enough for two days because even the milkman deserves a day of rest. Then we look over at the neighbor's house.

Why, the children are healthy, their house is practically a mansion, and they enjoy a boat, camper, cars, and various other expensive toys. And you never see the milkman delivering there. A salesman shows up at your door one day. Yes, we are pretending milkmen still deliver, so we might as well throw in a door-to-door salesman as well. This salesman is a sharp one. He begins by casting just a little doubt on that dairy service.

"A friend told me he saw one of their trucks broken down by the side of the highway one morning on his way to work. I wonder how many people didn't get their milk that day?"

A seemingly innocent question tacked onto that rumor of doubt gets you to thinking. Hmm, you wonder, he only delivers just enough, what would happen if guests show up the next day, and wouldn't that be the day he breaks down too! You visit the neighbor's place, not to spread the good news about your milkman, but to see how they get by without Faith and Hope. A bit of snooping about - doesn't everyone do that when they have the opportunity - and, voila, you find containers of milk, cheese, butter, and even real cream stored in the fridge. Suddenly, the neighbor catches you in the fridge!

"Oh, you found the cream! You must try some of my new cheesecake! Here, I'll cut you a big slice, and have some of this real whipped cream on top!"

Well, that is that, no problem. But you feel a bit guilty because you should be putting in a good word about your milkman instead of gulping down the other stuff. After all, did we forget that our milkman is the best of friends? You sit down with the neighbor and... does it seem as though that salesman is around somewhere? A hint of his aftershave or something? Anyway, the cheesecake is delicious, much better than your own from that dairy service. The rewarding taste is right there on the tongue, no waiting! You relish the dessert and think how nice it would be to get some of that cream, what was that brand again, Carnal Pleasure? Kind of an odd name that. You promise to come visit again, and head off to look at your rather plain looking house and its empty fridge. The milkman didn't deliver much today, how did he know?

A few hours later, you think once more to go out and get some of that cream, only one problem - the neighbor's cheesecake or the whipped cream or something does not seem to agree with your system. Sweat breaks out on your forehead, and that dreaded feeling of cramping up comes over your guts. Aagh, it's been a long time, since your first trip away from home in fact when you tried something deliciously similar to the neighbor's cheesecake in that town where you thought no one from home ever came. That dessert was good, but it was never worth this!

Each day we get just enough faith and hope to make it through one day. We are tempted to put in a tank out back that we can tap anytime we want. We might even ask the Lord for enough faith to get through our entire life, but like manna, faith seems to have an expiration date. We need fresh faith each day for only that day. Our hope is in Christ, and we don't get a portion for tomorrow or next week, we get our provision for just today. And what better delivery system than that? After all, we don't know how much faith and hope will be needed tomorrow.

Trust in God, and take you portion of faith and hope for today!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Where Was Paul?

Winter may start today, or perhaps on Monday, or we may have another cooler spell followed by another winter without winter. Today, for some reason, I wondered where Paul was during that Passover when Jesus was tried and crucified. A lot of people came to Jerusalem for the holiday each year, and not only Jews. The Romans probably beefed up security at that time, and many merchants would gather, as merchants do when a crowd forms, to sell their wares at inflated prices. Paul may have been studying under the Sanhedrin during that time and witnessed the show trial, or he may have been too young to travel. Did Paul gather with the crowd before Pilate and shout for the blood of Jesus? Maybe, but I think Paul would have admitted to that in his writings if he had been there. What I like about Paul's writing is not where he was or was not, but his openness.

Paul struggled in his faith at times. Paul doubted at times. Paul came from a past he was at times proud of and at times ashamed of. Paul did not always do what he knew was right. How do I know all of this? Easy, everyone who ever bore the name of Christian because of rebirth in Christ has done the same things. Before meeting Jesus, Paul was sure of his mission, confident in his education, and fond of doing the right thing as he saw it. We may have felt much the same before our rebirth. Then Jesus laid Paul out on the road and started over with a new man. This is not to say that Jesus did not use parts or all of Paul's past life.

Paul had a first class education in the scriptures, but in Christ he would read with new eyes and the Holy Spirit to help and guide him. On the other hand, Paul would now call a whole different group of people friends and brothers. His former colleagues probably called him traitor, enemy, fool, and other derogatory names, at least when they weren't selecting rocks by weight and suitability for throwing. Paul's life changed dramatically from the day Christ met him on the road to Damascus. Your life, my life, and others who have been reborn in Christ may not experience quite so much change on the surface, or we may not experience it quite so quickly as Paul did. However, while we wonder about Paul, the Holy Spirit is working us over, and life is going to change for us.

God bless you on this day!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Take Me To The Other Side

It's early, or at least it was early when I woke up this morning. I watched part of a show about natural healing last night. One complaint about modern society is that we all go to bed too late. I immediately put a remedial plan into action and went to bed. Of course, I woke up at 0336 this morning feeling ready to go. I think I'll take the hit today and leave my bedtime alone. Well, maybe take the hit with a nap this afternoon to ease the blow. This morning, I wondered about the other side.

Yes, we do want to go to the other side of death and be with Jesus, but that isn't the other side I was thinking about today. A friend on Facebook complained about a restaurant closed on Monday. Okay, but I know the other side of that particular business. I recall my years working at a small restaurant that opened every day with the exception of Christmas and New Year's Day. We also opened at 0500 and closed at 2100 or later. I can recall the winter nights when no one came in for three hours while all manner of fuel and electricity was wasted, and then the indignation when that customer squeezed in at the last moment before closing and wondered why so much was shut down. Later in life, I walked around to the other side and knew the 'yikes!' feeling of a small crew boss when we made it to the restaurant just a little too late and I couldn't feed the men a good meal that night. Yes, the younger ones were good with McDonald's, but good leaders want to do better than that after a hard day's work. So, what's all this other side stuff about?

We are blessed, or at times cursed, with a certain power today. When we complain, we can complain to hundreds or thousands of people at once. Gone are the days when a complaint launched on a spur of the moment to one friend might spread more quickly than we would like after some careful reflection. Even back in the good old days of word of mouth we came to realize that a good look at the other side might have prevented us from complaining in public, but now the public really can be the entire public. Time for careful reflection is further compromised by almost instantaneous access to the Internet on our various wireless and cellular devices. Our prayer for today might be that the Lord would take us to the other side for just a bit before we air a complaint or comment.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

All Of Our Actions...

I want to give large amounts again, but how do I put action to that faith to make it more than just an idle wish? To make it more difficult, I read a novel by a woman who lived a rather interesting life. Born a Jew, she became a Catholic. The Bolsheviks stole her family fortune in the Soviet Union, but she fled to France. She married and became a successful novelist and the mother of two children, but then the Nazis stole her life in Auschwitz. Her writing is engaging, yet the letters her husband wrote to friends and officials in an effort to gain her release from the concentration camps engage the emotions on a deeper level. Her story does not end in Auschwitz because seventy years later, I can read her work and wonder: Will all of our actions done in faith come to nothing?

Why does God allow the powers of the world to overcome those who believe in His Son? I do not know the answer to that, but I have faith that this life we see is not the end of the story. Revelation does not end with the Antichrist, and Genesis is but the beginning of the Christ story. The description of Eden, paradise on Earth if you will, is only a tiny part of the first book of 66 found in the Bible. After that, everyone suffers and dies while their actions come to nothing. Wow, if that's all I can see in the Bible, I probably should just give it up right now.

The problem is in thinking that my actions have to mean something or last for posterity or somehow change the world for the better. If we could ask David, Abraham, Paul, Isaiah, John, and the many other heroes of the faith what their actions meant to history, one and all would correct us in thinking that the credit belongs to him. Each man offered his action to the Lord, often with reluctance, and God did the big, wonderful works that we read of in the old stories. All of our actions are but offerings to God that He can use for great works. God writes the end of this story, and our respective parts in it may seem to have accomplished little or nothing. As the boy brought his small offering to the Lord, the disciples asked "What is that among so many?" That is the question we might ask as we struggle through each day, but the answer is the same: Watch Jesus and you will see!


Monday, December 03, 2012

We Shall Ever Be With The Lord

You do not look fit for the Lord's presence this morning, and neither do I. How can such unlovely creatures in our spirits be ready for the Lord to take us home to be with Him forever? Each of us will spend time preparing our face and body to meet the world this morning, but how many of us can apply a base coat of soul makeup to prepare for the Lord's arrival? In Thessalonians, Paul reminds us to comfort each other with the promise that we shall ever be with the Lord. 'Ever' does not start tomorrow after the Lord has whitewashed us in the stream of the eternal cover up. 'Ever' began when we surrendered our life to Jesus. Of course the old hymn has the answer for us - what shall take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Praise the Lord! God does not go by how we look to each other, or by what we think in our private hearts. We feel the urgings of the flesh, and are tempted to sin by the Devil and his minions. God sees us in pristine condition, cleansed and made whole by the blood of His Son on the cross. We walk in this sinful world in a constant cleansing by the Holy Spirit. We sin and ask forgiveness; we are tempted and call for strength to resist, and we hurt and call for help in this life. The Spirit is here with us, disappointed and grieved by our sins, but also sanctifying and strengthening. The Spirit is here to comfort us when we are in pain. Ever has begun for you and me.

We often speak of the Spirit being 'there' with us as though the Lord's Spirit will meet us somewhere up the road when things become difficult. No, the Holy Spirit is HERE with me at all times, just as He dwells in you at all times. We are never left alone to face the world and its powers on our own. Praise God for the Comforter - He is HERE now!

God bless you on this new morning!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Ahh, December!

Not everyone greets the last month of the year with joy and hope. When Christ first sees us coming to Him, it could be a bit like December coming in with a blizzard just after the mail arrives with a stack of bills. Jesus could look at our sin and problems as a terrible burden and shut the door in our faces. However, it isn't like that at all. Jesus comes to our door, knocks, and enters in to dine with us. The burden we have is gently taken, and his yoke is given. Right-o! And then we fight stupidly to get our old burdens back right after dinner.

Not everything from our old lives goes away when we are reborn. The lusts of the flesh seem like a burden we would gladly part with, but then again we can cling to those a bit too. What is difficult is understanding that this thing might work our for our good in the end. How can God use a lust for power, money, fame, or sex to work out for our sanctification? I cannot tell you the answer to that, because I am in the same boat with you. This is one of those things we must fight in the strength of Christ and have faith that like Paul says, "All things work together for good to those who love God." Would it not be better to just take away that inclination to the lusts of the flesh? Only in my imperfect and worldly-trained view. Trusting in God means trusting in His view.

Here's another Saturday thought: Pride stands tall and strong in its own might. We know the most proud is Satan and his legions. However, who does God outfit with armor and a sword and send to face this dreadful power? An army of sheep. Pride grooms itself with the strength of opponents conquered or faced. Think of the consternation when Pride sees God sitting back and letting an army of armored sheep take the fight to the enemy. How insulting! Think of God's magnificent sense of humor! The sheep also know that the Good Shepherd is with them. One day our Shepherd will enter the fight from the front, and then the enemy will not see sheep or the Shepherd, but the King of kings and the hosts of Heaven in full warrior mode behind Him. We look forward to that day.