Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hang On Until The Due Time

Good morning as we look at the final day of 2013. I cannot hang on to the year, but I am promised a new one. You might think, "Ah, ah, you may yet sleep this day!" True, but then I awaken to a new eternity, so much better than just a new year. We use sleep as Paul did because our passing from this world is to go on to the better one. Some living this morning may not see the arrival of 2014 in this world. Those who believe in Christ look forward to that great day. Those who do not...I just don't know how they can face it without fear and trembling. However, we in Christ must hang on until the due time. We don't get to choose the time or day of our passing. Instead, we are to labor on in the harvest and planting until the order comes to go home. Thus, we look forward to a new year with hope. We close the chapter on 2013 today, as Pastor Swindoll mentioned on last night's radio program.

The passing of a year is a time to review and learn, not a time to review and despair. Too often we look back on the past and moan over our failures. Look upon them as a lesson to learn, learn it, and then close that chapter. We are still here, therefore we have another chance to do it right. Whatever your 'it' may be in this new year, you can try again. Some cases may not allow for another try; the moment has been lost for all time. Okay, that is what forgiveness, mercy, and grace covers. No need for despair, let God have His way and move on into the next thing He has for us.

Set aside a bit of time today to figuratively toss out those failures and fallings of this past year. Then, spend a lot more time on the successes and blessings of 2013. Give thanks to God and ask Him for a big hug. We need it for 2014!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Standing On The Sand of No Change

Good Monday morning! I saw a comic this morning that came to the punch line of finding a New Year's resolution that works, the character won't change this coming year. Hmm, are you sure that will work? Sounds like a shifting sands job to me. Give yourself to Christ and try not to change. Oh, we do. The rebellion of Adam still works in us and against Christ's Holy Spirit. We may resolve in our carnal flesh to not change over the coming new year, but we won't keep that resolution. The very sand we stood on to make that resolution to not change will shift out from under our feet of clay. Now, make a resolution to change in all the ways Jesus would have us changed in this coming year and we have something to stand on.

With the changing of the year, we will make resolutions that refer to the outside of the cup. What if, and we must pause in prayer to consider this, Jesus is not at all concerned about your weight this new year? No? What if instead our Lord is going to work mighty changes on the inside of the cup and leave the outside alone? Dare we consider that as we make our resolutions upon the shifting sand of the world? With the pressure placed upon us by the world's media, can we even begin to stop, ask God in prayer, and then make resolutions our Savior wants us to work on?

The carnal me knows so much; he doesn't want to stop and ask. Praise God for His Holy Spirit who gives me a little tap on the shoulder, "Hold up there, Hoss! We have some better ideas for this new year." Did the Holy Spirit just call me 'Hoss'? Whatever it takes to get the attention of His troops out in the world, our dear Holy Spirit will remind us that God has a better plan. One with resolutions we can keep through Christ who strengthens us.

In Christ!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Post-Christmas Downer

Good Saturday morning. Yes, it came a day late or so, but the post-Christmas downer arrives in all its depressing glory. The holiday is gone for another year, decorations are coming down and going into the boxes, and the happy of the Christmas season seems so far away once more. At such a time, we must enter into the prayer closet and begin thanking God for all that we have and all that He is. Salvation, grace, eternal life, and the love of God are still present and no passing of a holiday can take them away.

All we hold dear is kept safe in Christ. Passing of holidays, persons, and other things is a part of the curse sin brought to the earth. However, God is permanent and His love does not pass away. We have much that is not perishable, though we journey through this life in perishable flesh watching our perishable things pass away. When a passing comes, we must turn to that which lives in us now that is not on loan but a down payment of eternity, God's own Spirit. The peace and joy given in the Holy Spirit is not temporary, but is a gift to treasure when the gifts this world bestows have fallen apart. Indeed, not as the world gives does Jesus give to us.

Another year passes soon, but that is not cause for depression. With each passing year we are but a little closer to our Lord to stay with Him forever. Loss, pain, and passing will soon be but a bad memory for us in Christ. Up with your spirits! Christmas is gone for this year, but the One who gave us Himself for Christmas is coming soon!

Amen, come Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Final Friday

Good morning on this last Friday of 2013. Yes, the year is coming to a close once more. New calendars are needed soon, but what has changed? We have a tendency to think that a new calendar will make a new life. Then, we are disappointed when we fall back into the same old habits. When will I learn to love me as I love my neighbors? I don't get up in a new year expecting my neighbors to be totally changed by their own effort. Why then do I look to a new year to become SuperChangedMan, hero of his own making, champion of the concentrated self-effort, and glorifier of his personal grace?

Some of us must learn to love our neighbors as well as or as much as we love ourselves. But, there are also those of us who need to learn to love ourselves as we are loving our neighbors. Both me and my neighbor are beloved creations of God. Our Lord does not put His love out in unequal shares. Else one would get an imperfect love and another the full-blown perfect love we know our Father dispenses at His good pleasure. Jesus died for all sinners. God is not willing that any should perish. I do not believe that God can love me only a little bit, or that He can love my neighbor a whole lot more than me.

Circumstances are not a measure of God's love but a part of this fallen world. That person somewhere in the world whom all would vote as the most deprived and afflicted in circumstance is not less loved by our Father than me. The person wallowing in wealth beyond a man's ability to spend is not more loved by God than you or I. Our circumstances will differ, but God's love is poured out in full perfection on each of us. The Word tells us that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The tests we endure do not show God loving us less. Actually, the test we face this day shows me and you that God is paying close attention to our improvement. That our Lord wants to make us more like His Son is love.

Face the new year by loving the one God loves.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

When Does Christmas Time End?

Good morning on this great day after Christmas! I hope you enjoyed the company of your friends and family this Christmas. I wonder this morning when is a good time to call it quits for the Christmas time or season. What day means that all decorations must be put up or when should we stop playing Christmas carols? Many radio stations drop their Christmas music like a toxic potato by midnight of Christmas day. To me, that is a very sad thing to do. However, I'm a bit of a Christmas music nut, I'll admit that. Sadly, many churches will drop the Christmas music before this coming Sunday. Christmas should be the beginning, and not the end. Jesus didn't stop with Christmas day.

The good news here is that every Christian song began at that first Christmas, so all of it can be called Christmas music! All things Christ began with Jesus, and thus we have good reason to celebrate Christmas every day. I cannot separate Jesus from Christmas simply by dropping the Christmas music. And, I realize that all Christian music is really Christmas music as it all began with Christ! I don't need to separate Away in a Manger from Jesus is Coming Again! You don't remember that second one? I think I just made up that title, but we certainly should be singing it. Perhaps one of the Christian songwriters would be so kind as to get that tune ready for us. Oops, well of course it is! I just looked up the lyrics and the song is ready for us. As of 1872 ready for us that is. The hymn begins with this verse:

Lift up the trumpet, and loud let it ring:
Jesus is coming again!
Cheer up, ye pilgrims, be joyful and sing:
Jesus is coming again!

A note of thanks to the long-passed Jessie E. Strout and George E. Lee, I'm glad they knew to write a hymn for my title long before I thought of it, or was even born for that matter. As for putting away your Christmas decorations, do it whenever you like or wait as long as you like! Have a Merry Christmas on this day after!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Good morning on this Christmas Day! I reminded Santa that this house does have a chimney, but I forgot to tell him there is no opening. If one day the house is demolished and a Santa suit with a skeleton is found, all I can say is "Oops!" Usually, this is explained by magic. Santa comes into houses without fireplaces through his magic. So, how do we explain the virgin birth? Well, we can't save by the power of God. This is not magic, but the authority of the Creator over His creation. The One who created everything from nothing, save His wish to do so, can create anything He pleases by His authority. Perhaps the better question is: Why would God want to come here?

This explanation can only come from a love so great that what our Lord endured He did to save us. Have you ever avoided something because you would rather not? Jesus didn't. This is not to shame us on this fine Christmas morning, but to remind one and all of the love our Lord showed on that Christmas night when He arrived in Bethlehem. The event caused rejoicing in the heavens and on earth. Stars, angels, wise men, and shepherds got involved in the early celebrations; we got involved in these more recent ones. Blessed be the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ on this Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas to you in the love of Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christ is Born!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! You may have a good day too. Whew! I made it past the 23rd this year without one of those gifts. You know what gifts, don't make me write it. Okay, last year, in case you missed it, the VA kindly sent me a jug of GoLytely for a Christmas present. I vowed to never again whine to the Lord about not getting any Christmas presents. Grumbling is certainly a bad thing. We learned that from the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. However, one horrible gift in one year should not make us flee all gifts. Many hurtful, evil people have been born and lived on this earth, but one precious baby was born in Bethlehem.

One most excellent gift at Christmas can overshadow a bunch of thoughtless ones. God gave to us the greatest gift of all at a time we needed it most. Sinners need salvation. We have no deeper need than to be saved from the payment sin brings to us. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23) We hear the fist part of this verse quoted a lot, but this Christmas Eve let us remember the better part of that verse, the gift of God.

No Santy Claus can give us the one gift that stands above all others - that of eternal life in Christ Jesus. This gift from God is so critical, so huge, that our minds have trouble grasping it. To unwrap the gift of eternal life is to die from this life, and we have trouble seeing past the wrapping paper. Many of us would prefer the Rapture and take a pass on that dreadful wrapping. Maybe we look at it wrong. To a sinner, God's wrapping paper seems dark, mysterious, and filled with fear-inducing anxiety. If we could but see the gift from God's view, we no doubt would appreciate the gift of dying for what it is, a mere thin wrapper over the greatest of gifts. Look to the blessed Baby born at Bethlehem for us. His blood covers the dreadful wrapper in beauty and comfort. Many a saint has gone willingly into that last night with a smile and the light of Jesus shining through his or her countenance. Let the light of Christmas shine in your heart in the strength of Christ.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Wondering Wonderful Christmas Thoughts

Good Monday morning! Today we are not just in the season, but the very week of Christmas. We don't know the timing for sure, but today is one of those days when it is fun to do a little imagining. Joseph is leading the donkey with a very pregnant wife on board. He may be thinking dumb male things like: Broken water? How can you break water? The donkey of course is thinking, "Why am I all wet up there?" Mary just wonders how much further to Bethlehem. An innkeeper down the road is about to miss out on an incredible blessing. Some wise men are looking at the sky wondering why they have this feeling that something big is about to happen. The shepherds in the field have no clue at all that their wits are about to take a short journey into that place called Frightenedoutof. We don't know all these things, but we like to think what might have been going on just before the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Did the innkeeper ever have cause to regret not finding some way to make room? Did Herod have second thoughts about the slaughter of innocents? Did Joseph try to get away at the last minute - "There must be a room somewhere in this town! - only to find the hood of his robe in Mary's firm grasp? "Gaakkk! Guess I'll stay and make sure Mary isn't left alone." How many shepherds felt an urgent call of nature at a critical moment, then turned to find themselves surrounded by the glory of the Lord? Hmm, too many questions when the need is simply to enjoy the story just as it is.

All the players did their part just as God created them to do. Joseph may have worried, but God had the birth of His Son well in hand. Shepherds trembled, but the angel gave them a message of comfort and peace. Herod followed prophecy, but he still made his decision just as Pilate would some years later. In the Judean hill country, a six-month old baby may have pointed to Bethlehem, because John the Baptist knew who had arrived. Far away, the wise men took up preparations for a great journey. The Christ arrived in Bethlehem and immediately things began moving. What a wonderful story!

Have a very merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Forecast May Look Bad, But...

Hmm, a warming trend is in the forecast, chances of a white Christmas are poor, and winter begins today, what is going on? Christmas still arrives on Wednesday. The warmer weather will help people to travel far and near. A bit of a warm up in the winter is not at all unusual around these parts. So, maybe there is nothing to worry over. When we read the Revelation, the forecast certainly looks bad for quite a while. Plagues, vials, trumpet judgments, and a lot of suffering are prophesied for the earth. Yet, if we endure to the end, then the promise arrives with joy and healing in His wings.

Often, and I think that I go only a short distance out on the proverbial limb here, we must endure a time of suffering to reach the peak of peace, joy, and reward in Christ. In fact, that pretty much describes the life we have after saying 'Yes!' to Jesus at the salvation altar*. Maybe 'often' is an understatement in this case. Come to think of it, Jesus forecast our life exactly in John 16:33b. "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." We are reminded of this often. To enjoy a feast for Christmas dinner, much work in preparation and cooking is done first. To enjoy a time with family or friends, we must often endure a journey. To enjoy eternity with Jesus, we must endure a lifetime first.

Now, that sounds just dreadful! While enduring this lifetime though, we are not alone on the journey. Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Indeed, His Holy Spirit travels and endures with us, even to the point of intercession for us with God our Father. Without the strength of Christ in us, none would complete the journey. There is peace, joy, and love in this world too. I don't think our dear Holy Spirit could travel anywhere without those wonderful qualities.

Enjoy a wonderful Christmas weekend!

* A metaphorical place for our acceptance of grace, not a physical location or piece of furniture.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Too Much, Too Often

The Friday before Christmas! Schools will let out, vacations will begin today, and let the celebrations begin! When worried over something, those who seek comfort food tend to seek too much, too often. The addicted drug user takes an action the body could recover from and does it too much, too often, and then the body cannot keep up with the damage. We find it easy to fall into a too much, too often pattern of living in many destructive ways and means. However, sound the trumpet call, prayer is an action that we cannot perform too much or too often.

If you think that prayer must be done in a ritualistic fashion with head bowed, eyes closed, and hands and knees folded, then you may not want to do it while driving a car. Prayer is simply talking to God, out loud if possible, but silently in the mind is alright too. God is waiting to hear from each of us at all times, and wants to hear from us more often. We cannot overpray; that isn't even a proper word. Hooray! Give God a Christmas present of you. (A shout out to Naomi for this one!) Talk to your heavenly Father. Set aside a prayer time when you can get together especially for just talking. Leave no subject out (God knows what is in your heart anyway.) and let no thought be edited. Give up every evil thought to the Lord. Then, turn to praise and gratitude.

Have a very grateful Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peter's First Christmas

Good morning! This morning let us wonder for a bit about the man who would one day lead the fledgling church. Where did Peter celebrate the birth of Christ? Did he even know about it? Until Christ chose Peter from off the boat, we know nothing about our future leader. Which might explain why we know much more about the life of our head, Jesus. Peter would become a leader on Earth, but Jesus is our ultimate leader. On the night that Jesus lay in a manger looking around at the funny faces of a bunch of raggedy shepherds, Peter may very well have been fixing a hole in his boat. We don't know how old Peter was when chosen by the Son of God. I think we can assume that Peter probably had a better idea of the exact day, week or season of our Lord's birth. Did Peter invent the Christmas holiday? Maybe.

This is speculation of course, and a little wondering is fun to indulge in once in a while. We miss our Lord Jesus in His body talking with us human to human. So we celebrate Christmas, Easter, and every day with His Spirit. We long to run to our Lord, to kneel before Him, hug His body and be hugged by Him. We long to see him as we see our very best friend and ask Him a host of questions. Peter may have felt all this and more. How many tests did Peter face in life where he longed for Jesus to be beside him in the flesh once more? We have but a hint of that I think, but we have the same hope as Peter. Jesus promised all of us to return, and that Christmas is one all can anticipate with great joy.

We don't know if Peter even thought of such a thing as celebrating the birth of Christ. Then again, he may have thought about it every day. Peter's first Christmas was celebrated on a boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said, "Follow Me!" Peter may not have realized it at the time. Our best Christmas was the day we heard Jesus say deep in the heart, "Come to Me!" and we obeyed. Like Peter, we may not have realized it at the time.

Have a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gone Commercial

One week till Christmas! This morning, I woke up to realize that our local radio station, affectionately known as K-gerbil, had gone commercial in a constant sort of way. Perhaps the power outage last night did something or the manager needs some quick cash for presents, but their ads were playing in a continuous loop. I had to wonder if the ads were connected to billing software and if the advertisers were notified of the new policy. We may think that Christmas in the world has gone commercial, but after hearing the same ads a dozen times in a half hour I now have some idea of what the phrase means.

I have to wonder at times if I don't get stuck in a loop that way. Will it impress Jesus that I piously repeat the same phrases? The question about prayer I think is already answered in the scripture. I don't want to be one of those mindless prayer repeaters! Imagine how we might feel if every year someone sent the same gift to us. "No surprise this year, dear, Aunt Gert sent that thing with the candied fruit in it again."

Let us not get stuck in a loop in our worship and prayer. I think our Lord is endlessly inventive. We don't think about that much, but how many of us are exact copies of people from the 1st Century? Right, probably not one. Even identical twins aren't. How many of us said the same prayer to God last night as we did the night before? Hmm, maybe we changed a few words around or shifted a phrase, but we might want to give that some thought. Persistence in prayer requests shouldn't sound like a broken record or stuck ad loop. As for me, too many of my prayers sound like variations of: my will be done, Lord...my will be done, Lord...my will be done, Lord.

Have a fine and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas? How Startling!

Good Tuesday morning! We don't usually think of the Christmas holiday as startling in any way. The surprise is reserved for presents and gift exchanges. However, the first Christmas did things a bit differently. The shepherds were abiding in the fields with their sheeps, probably not expecting anything more startling than the call of a wolf. Suddenly, perhaps instantly would be better, an angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. Well...yeah. I mean wouldn't you be? Did angels have another way to arrive rather than simply appearing without so much as a 'hello, mates!'? Did the angel have to say "Fear not!" while the poor shepherds were still trying to restart their heart beats and gasping for the next bit of air? Perhaps the first 'fear not' was to give the elder shepherds time to recover from fainting or maybe it was the younger sheep herders who passed out in startled fright. The glory of the Lord may have surrounded them to keep anyone from fleeing in terrified panic.

Think of it, 400 years or so since the last prophet gave the people of Israel a heads up on the coming Messiah, and angels begin appearing all over the place. Zacharias met one in the Holy Place, Mary had one come into her room, and Joseph heard from an angel in a dream. Our poor shepherds didn't get to see the messenger coming, he was just there before them. Then, just to make sure they didn't relax too much, the host of Heaven appears praising God. Yeah, I don't think the shepherds were going to sleep much that night. They caught their breath and took off for Bethlehem to see this new thing; this Christ child who came to save them (and us!) from sin.

Startled shepherds and all, the Christ child came and Heaven rejoiced. We have a merry Christmas each year to celebrate the arrival of our Lord. Praise our Heavenly Father for His Son on this Christmas season.


Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Christmastime

Merry Christmas! Work and school, among other things, go on this week almost as normal. Almost, because in every mind and heart is the knowledge that Christmastime is here. Some may grumble that the day has not arrived yet, but some days are so wonderful that anticipation is not possible to stop completely. We have a day like that out there on the calendar somewhere. You might call it a second Christmas. Our Lord is returning!

The cares and toils of this world try to stop our joyous anticipation, but always we have the knowledge that this world system will not last forever. Jesus is coming! Many will mock our belief and scoff at our credulity. If God's promise is nothing though, what do we have left to believe in? The goodness of man? Please! The strength of the individual? All will die eventually, and even the longest-lived do not have very long in this world. Our accomplishments? What good are they to us after we leave this life? No, we need something more permanent for placing our hope.

The Christmas we celebrate here comes each year, and then goes away once more. Leaving us with a feeling of having missed out on something, a little post-holiday blues so to speak. As wonderful as Christmas here in this world is, we hope for something lasting. A celebration of Christ's birth that never stops. Yes, that may not seem possible for us here in our worldly bodies. With God all things are possible, and though we cannot see the day, His Son is returning to us forever. That day is a Christmas to hope for and anticipate with joy.

Until that day comes, celebrate this year's Christmas with great joy.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Difference In Houses

Good morning! We tend to look at the outside of a house and consider what we like or dislike about it. This morning, I got a different take on that. After feeding the cats, I got a box of stuff out of the garage, and then spent some time watching the meteor shower. As I thanked God for the glory of His heavens, the sheriff pulled up to neighbor Bob's house with his emergency lights flashing in the darkness. Soon an ambulance arrived and later another car that I have seen at Bob's often. In my house, peace, well-fed cats, and time to gawk at meteors. Just over there, not even a block away, a medical emergency. How different the Saturday morning from the inside of one house to the next!

My friend Ric flew into sick this week. So we naturally spoke of when our time may come, or how many days we might have left on this earth. The subject of death and other morbid subjects seems to follow the flu. A serious illness on the other hand causes the subject to be religiously avoided. The flu is just miserable enough to bring old Morty to the door for a nice chat. This morning, I have another reason to be wondering. I am well, but my neighbor needed emergency help. What a difference in our homes today.

It was not my time to help. By the time I noticed something, calls had been placed and emergency services already dispatched. The sheriff didn't use his siren, but at six in the morning even I notice a pickup with emergency lights flashing when it rushes by a mere 20 feet away. The funny thing is that a siren did go from one point in town to another, but nowhere close to us, just a few moments earlier. Did our little town have two emergencies so early on a Saturday and at nearly the same time? The world rushes about, but peace is here.

Jesus gave us His peace (John 14:27), but not all will accept Him. The world rushes faster. In a city, hardly a moment goes by when a siren is not sounding somewhere. Yet, there are many houses in the same city where peace lives. We do not always get to decide in which home we will wake up. Better by far to accept Jesus and His peace this day.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beware the Day of Superstition

Friday thirteen-twelve-thirteen...how many will just stay home today? Too late for me, I'm already in Sidney! Next month, 13-13-13, whatever will we do on that day? Yes, it's the new month of Eternuary 2013 where there is always a Friday on the thirteenth! Look at the bright side though, we'll never pay taxes again when the IRS computer blows up! Yay! Actually, if you paid in too much this year, you'll never see that return you were hoping for. Superstition is such a fickle mistress. Good morning on this fine Friday! We enjoyed a marvelous day yesterday and there is a cold front on the way today. Who I wonder, would dare to have the office Christmas party on Friday the thirteenth of the year '13?

We may laugh, but some folks are terrified of the day. Another person's fear is always too easy to take lightly. Even now, early in the morning, a Christian brother or sister might be struggling to fight off the grave rags of the former life of sin. He or she is saved, but those clinging things of the past won't let go just yet. We have similar rags in our life in Christ. Not all has been made new yet. A little empathy in prayer for our fellow humans might be in order on any day, but this one brings up a more specific target: superstition. Many are enslaved to this foul beast.

I may have a clinging rag in my life that appears funny to you. A little humor to salt the morning eggs, hermm? Maybe one of my 'rags' is a tendency to be silly about the serious stuff. I pray for a merry Christmas for all of us, and a blessed Friday too!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Closer, Closer It Comes

Merry Christmas! Closer and closer it comes, the big holiday. Shoppers begin to move a bit faster. Decorators wonder if they will have time before the day arrives. We see a date on the calendar and try not to anticipate, but some things are so good that we have difficulty. The celebration draws near and we feel the excitement. Every day is Christmas in our hearts as Jesus gives us new mercies. One day though, like that first Christmas, Jesus will arrive Himself. No more waiting, no more anticipation, just the view of our Lord coming in His glory.

We live in a period of waiting much like the nation of Israel did between Malachi and John the Baptist. Jesus is coming, but we don't know the date or the hour. A Christmas to cap them all comes closer and closer. Can we stand the anticipation? Like those folks of long ago, I imagine that on some days the coming of our Lord seems very far away and on others it appears imminent. Also like those folks back in the day, we rest in God's assurance that the day will arrive.

The only way to stand the anticipation of a day that is just out there somewhere is to live with Christ in today. I can't make this Christmas come any faster. All of us together will not advance the day of Christ's big return. A countdown of days winds down, but we don't know what the counter stands at today. The day will come, but let us live in the day God has given and rejoice in it.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hope In Christ

Soon we begin the celebration of our great hope. Christmas marks the time that God came down to us as a baby. None deserved this salvation. Few saw the birth for what it was, but it is our great hope for eternity. My great hope is in Jesus, and so is yours. We endure this world for this very reason.

From the time that Adam fell to the time of this birth, God kept a distance from His servants. Moses could not see God directly lest he perish. God spoke, sent messengers, and performed mighty works. But, until Jesus arrived that day in Bethlehem, none could reach out and touch the Lord. Did Mary look at Joseph and say, "I'm hugging God's own Son!" We don't know. Later, a woman would reach out in faith just to touch the robe of our Lord. She was healed. After the resurrection, Thomas of the doubting was invited to touch the risen Lord. But once more we are in a time when we cannot touch.

We miss the touch of our Lord. Who among us does not look forward to the healing and regenerating touch which will cleanse of our ills and pain. We live in hope and faith. The evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hoped for keeps our great hope alive in our hearts. Jesus also gave us a down payment of great things to come in the Holy Spirit. We do not hope alone. The Spirit gives us the strength to live and hope. This hope is not a vague wish, but a certainty based on the Lord's own word. Have a merry Christmas in the hope of Christ!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Time For Celebration

Merry Christmas! Why do we need to wait for one particular day to celebrate? What about today? Is there a reason to celebrate? Jesus is more than enough reason to celebrate any day. Moving my thoughts off of me and my situation to Jesus and His saving grace causes me to celebrate. Now to learn to do that all the time and every day.

Perhaps we should take Christmas not as a single-day celebration, but as a reminder to celebrate each and every day in Christ. The cat finds his sunbeam, and he celebrates. We must spend a little time each day in searching for our Son beam and learn to celebrate too. Prayer and the Word of God are great places to start our daily search. The heavens declare the glory of God. There too is a place to seek our reason to celebrate. This search is not easy.

We have many things to look around at in this world that would cause us to despair. I suppose that I at least should realize that it is in 'looking around' that I fail. Each of us must find the discipline to look to Christ our Lord. That Son beam shines within us, from the inside out so to speak. Prayer comes from within, and the Word lives within us. Faith grows in the heart, and I suspect that means joy does as well. As the world presses doom and despair upon us from the outside, we must look inside to the Spirit to remind us of the Word.

Aagh! 0923, I must quit gazing and get this out. Merry Christmas to all! A tip of the hat to my sister Kerri too, for inspiring this by her Facebook post yesterday.


Monday, December 09, 2013

A Little Acceptance

A light breeze on a single-digit morning makes for a cold wake up. The cat appreciated my effort to feed her in the cold though, so all is good. We may at times fear that any gratitude or appreciation in this world takes away from our treasure in Heaven. Our Lord told us not to do our good deeds to be seen by men. If we do good only for this reason, then we do indeed have our reward only here on earth. Those people do make sure that their efforts are seen and noticed by as many as possible. However, gratitude from the receiver and appreciation when word gets out about our good deeds, and it will sometimes, does not take away from the original good done in God's name. In fact, we are to let our light shine before men so that our Heavenly Father is glorified.

So...how does one not let the left hand know what the right hand is up to, and then hold up that light to shine at the same time? I know, three hands! No that's not it. We let the recipient of the good deeds shine a light on them while we run go hide. Hmm, I don't know there, seems like that might be that false humility hiding our light. Maybe, we accept the praise because we gave for the right reasons, did not do it for the wrong one, and now we have the chance to glorify God. Yes, that sounds better. Not easy, but better.

Accepting is not easy. We have trouble accepting charity. I can tell you from valuable experience that is not easy, but a season may come when it is necessary. We have trouble accepting a little recognition, even when we have a secret desire for it. We experience difficulty in accepting gratitude. Some of us may find it difficult to accept love from another in the romantic way (That may be just a certain level of stupidity too.). But,do we not have one thing that must be accepted above all others and cannot be earned by us in any way? Yes, salvation. I think we had better learn accepting or all is lost!

Accept a hearty 'Merry Christmas!' from me this morning to start.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Questioning The Boss?

Good Saturday morning! A little story to begin the weekend.

Jake arrived back at headquarters from his mission in the field. He did not have to face reporting a failure to the boss, but he did have some questions about the supply chain. Jake thought up a few comments about the management of the company as well, but decided it best to keep them to himself. Jake turned half a thought to his smarting buttocks. The tool required for the job had not arrived, and Jake had been forced to spend much of the previous evening crawling on the floor or squatting behind an equipment rack. At middle age, the body did not take that sort of activity without dishing out some residual soreness. Now, he thought with some trepidation, he would have to sit on those same hurting things through another interminable status meeting.

The boss looked around with that look that said without words, "Shut up and start the meeting."

"Jake, how did the job go yesterday?"

"The job was completed, but supply chain screwed up the tool order. The rack lifter did not arrive at the job site." Jake didn't mention the crawling bit, the boss didn't like to hear the self-pitying stuff.

"I cancelled the order for that tool."

Jake didn't quite know what to say for a moment. "But, that tool is essential to the job! I needed that tool yesterday!"

"I wanted to see if you could handle the job without it. I wanted to know that you are qualified to lead a team through adversity."

"A test? Your job is to provide what is needed for the job! Are you sure you're qualified to lead?" Jake exploded.

An almost subliminal gasp went around the room. A couple of Jake's peers looked at the door as though to make sure it was still there and available for immediate use.

* * * *

A human boss is easy to question, we expect most of them to react much like we would in their position. We might well expect a boss questioned and disrespected in that way to blow up. Yet, do we not at times question God in this way? We think we need this or that and we know the verses about God's provision, and yet something doesn't show up in the way we expect or when we expect it. We complain to God or accuse Him of falling down on His job in some way through our lack of faith. God may not blow up in an Old Testament sort of way, but what we did was disrespectful and unfaithful. Praise God for His mercies that are new each day.

Have a merry and merciful Christmas!

Friday, December 06, 2013

My Christmas List

Merry Christmas on this cold morning! I have my Christmas list ready for you. Get as many of them as you want. Send as many as you like. You might even find something on the list that you can re-gift to others. Maybe you will want to take the list and copy it for yourself. Ready? Here we go:

1. Prayer

That's it. My whole list this year. I wonder if that fat fellow in the red suit deals in this stuff? Wrap it however you like, and I'll prepare a gift for you in the same manner.

It is easy for us to focus on the things; that stuff that we need or think we need. Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and the things we worry about will be added to us. The way to seek the kingdom of God, at least until I discover a better one, is in prayer. We can pray for one another, pray for ourselves, our country, the world, and even people we don't know. Prayer is available without cost or obligation, and God is eagerly waiting to hear from you and me. There is no waiting line for prayer, and no closing time on the prayer store. We can send our Christmas gift prayers from work, school, or from our homes. Churches are good places to find a selection of gift prayers. The Spirit dwelling in you will help too.

Is this a simple gift? By no means! We will need the help and intercession of God's Spirit to get a really good gift prayer for each other. Prayer requires time and effort when done well, but the gift can also be given on the fly during a busy day. Prayer is easy on light wallets, but requires a surplus of love. Prayer is far more effective than any of the things we might buy with a fortune in money. The poorest person can give prayers away for no money down. The rich person can buy useful things, but nothing can match the usefulness of a good prayer gift. Best of all, we can all afford to give more than once.

Rejoice in the birth of God's Son!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

I've Heard That One Before

Merry Christmas! Enjoy each day leading up to Christmas. Don't countdown the days or think of how short the time is, just enjoy each single day. Tough to do, isn't it? We like to read the weather forecast for days ahead. We count down the days left to some date like it's sure to happen. Christmas shopping is encouraged a month before the day arrives. We want as much information as possible about a day that is just short of 3 weeks into the future. Is that what Jesus told us to do, worry about a day that far off? Today, I can face the troubles of today.

I face those troubles in prayer. I pray over those troubles in faith. I will not look ahead to dates in the future. Yeah, I've heard that one before too. The imagination of troubles yet to come is a favorite pastime for us anxious types. Scrooge's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was formless and dark. The poor man was shown a terrible, and short, future that spoke of an unrepentant life. We don't get that sort of vision. We are repentant, but instead of finishing this life in ease and wealth we are promised troubles. However, Jesus commanded us to take it one day at a time. Does this mean that planning my Christmas is off the table?

No, we are to make our plans with God in prayer. Sufficient for the day are today's troubles, but God gave us minds and a brain to use them. Too often we use those minds to dredge up imaginary troubles that never come. Praise God that planning a wonderful Christmas is not imaginary trouble making. Planning a successful project is an attempt to account for possible troubles, not an anxious imagination of every terrible and ridiculous outcome. I'm opening up a whole new subject here, better reel myself in a bit. I cannot enjoy tomorrow. I cannot relive yesterday and make improvements. Today, let us enjoy this day in the Christmas season together. Wherever we are physically, God connects us together.

In Christ,

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Aren't You Glad?

Good almost noon on this Wednesday! Aren't you glad that Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us? I can get to Sidney before the storm, but if my password memory forsakes me, then I cannot sign in to my GMail to send out the devotional. I made it safely home, and my password memory was better than I give it credit for, but not good enough.

We live in a world where close, in many cases, does not make the standard. A computer password cannot be close, you must have every character correct. Almost remembering the thing does not allow access. Aren't you glad that Jesus has already acknowledged that not one of us will make God's standard and saved us Himself? We are not almost up to snuff by God's standard; all of us are sinners. In the final judgment, no one will be met with a sentence of "Darn, you almost made it." Without the intervention of Jesus, we are all out of the running for eternal life in Heaven.

With the saving grace of Christ, we live in a different state. I don't have to remember a certain number of Bible verses in the correct order to pass the pearly gates. You don't have to pile up a certain tally of good works to get past Heaven's nominating committee. We believe in Jesus, and we are in. Simple and straightforward. The only complication is our desire to make the grade by our own merit. My password creativity may easily surpass my memory recall-ability. If that prevented me from accessing Heaven, I would be doomed. However, Jesus holds the pass to access Heaven, I don't have to worry about forgetting, and no one should worry over not qualifying.

Whoee, now to warm up the outside of me! Cold...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First Cold Christmas

Merry Christmas! Was the first Christmas morning cold? The truth is that we don't know for sure what time of the year Jesus was born. Someone gave up their manger for a bit, but that doesn't give us a season. Joseph and Mary found a place to have God's baby, probably in a cave also used at times for an animal shelter, but again that does not speak of any particular month. Shepherds abode in the fields with their flocks so maybe not winter. Of course, maybe the shepherds were tough back in the day and slept out under the sheep in the cold. "Cold tonight, Moishe. Hand me another sheep, would you?" Nice weather or the dead of winter does not matter so much as the fact that Jesus was born.

In order to have the cross and the resurrection, some sort of incarnation was needed. Sure, God could have created Jesus as an adult human, but prophecy already spoke of virgin birth, Bethlehem, and a child knowing right from wrong at an early age. God didn't give His Son any shortcuts to the cross, so perhaps the little Jesus was born in the cold of winter. We might think that couples counted months so as not to have the babe in winter time, but Mary didn't get a choice in the timing. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, "baby time!" (my paraphrase) and the process began at the Holy Spirit's chosen time.

Did Mary catch a break on the duration, maybe a six-month term? Probably not. Did Joseph and Mary have to endure the occasional remark about infidelity or jumping the gun? Probably. Unbelievers had their time to scoff, just as they do now. Not only did Mary endure the other stuff, but the time drew close just as they had to pack up and go to Bethlehem for a census. Jesus was born in the usual way in those days, whether we know the day of the year or not, and we celebrate that birth well.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Ah, The Christmas Season!

Good morning with a beautiful sky on a Monday morning! Let us start the Christmas season! Encouragement, rejoicing, joy, peace, and the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus all bring about thoughts of contentment and giving. The thought of coming parties, celebrations, and the reading of the gospel accounts of Christ's birth bring joyous anticipation to mind. The sound of the season comes from the radio and television. People wish each other a Merry Christmas, and perhaps during the workday we even think a bit more often of the baby who started this thing we call Christmas. It's that time of the year; even those flirting with Scrooge-hood allow us to sing and play Christmas carols.

December, Christmas, Advent, it's that wonderful time when a little joy spreads from one to another without quite so much effort. Giving is a little easier for all of us in this time of the year. We welcome Scrooge into our homes and cheer on the four spirits warning him of dire consequences if his life does not turn to doing good. We watch a wish to have never been born turn to a realization that it's a wonderful life. A fellow who believes everyone has a little larceny in him does a good work out of his heart for his old commanding general. And, once in a while, we remember that a child was born and placed in a manger long ago. If Linus doesn't remind us first, a minister at church will tell the great story once more. Should the minister save the story for the Christmas Eve service, then a story on the radio or a desire from the Spirit comes to read certain scriptures. The reason for the season, as they say, will come to mind for those who will believe.

I wish you a wonderful Merry Christmas this year. May Jesus bless your home with a rich celebration.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Whither Goes The Word

Good Saturday morning! I hope that your Thanksgiving feasting is a pleasant memory reinforced by leftovers. Sometimes I get a title for the devotional and then must ask a question such as: what is a 'whither'? The archaic literary adverb means: to what place or state. We know from the Bible that the Word is established from everlasting to everlasting, is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, and other qualities that make this a moot question. However, what I really ask when stating this sort of question is: "Where are You taking me, Lord?" or "What is tomorrow going to spring on me?" Questions like that don't often get an answer from God. We are not to worry over tomorrow, but stick with the day we are given. The destination is Heaven, but between there and now, we may have quite a journey with many destinations. God doesn't spell all of it out for us lest terror keep us from the journey. Some of the seasons and destinations in this life thus far I would rather have avoided. However, I have faith that God is leading me in the way that will make me into His image. As God leads us back to Him, and makes us into His image along the way, then I guess the state and place of whither are both answered. And that is the Thanksgiving we give thanks for!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful I'm With Him

Good Friday morning! As I looked at the clock from my bed this morning at 0600, I realized that many people were up and shopping already. I experienced no lasting desire to join them. The whole black Friday thing just doesn't appeal to me in the way it does to some folks. I did think of what happens when a person goes into a place and meets an aggressive questioner.

This is unlikely in a retail business, but suppose that you go with a friend to his workplace. As you approach the inner entrance, the friend is distracted for a moment and separates himself from you. A guard quickly lines you up with his beady eyeballs and barks out something like, "What are you doing here?" Gulp! What to say? I don't know if scientific studies bear this out, but my experience in stressful situations is that the brain tends to shut down a bit. You take the quickest option; pointing to your friend, you stammer, "I'm with him!"

That is exactly the point. Everywhere we go, we should listen to the Spirit's reminder, "You are with Him!" I can help myself too by pointing up and thinking or saying, "I'm with Him!" Indeed, Jesus reminded us first, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Thank you, Lord that on this day You are with me, and I am with You. Let me say every day that I'm with Him.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, and happy indeed describes our feeling of gratitude to God on this day and all days. Grouchily thankful is not really thankful. Thankful with reservations is not all that gracious. But a happy thankful is good for the heart and soul of both giver and receiver. A happy and great Thanksgiving to God and you on this day!

The sun rises over the plains on a new Thanksgiving day of feasting and togetherness. Turkeys are roasting, pie crust dough is chilling, and early morning zombies stumble about the house bumping into things. The pets wonder what all this is about. We do have something over the animals, we get to celebrate holidays. A lot of work goes into the celebration. For some, this is a major workday in their year. Most of us performed some preparation for the day such as shopping for food items, mixing up mixes, and caking up cakes. Okay, not sure about that last one. However, at some point the idea is that all of us sit down together to celebrate the Lord's bounty and give thanks to Him.

Thanks or gratitude is our state of mind today. Thankful for life, friends, family, food, homes, and for God. Let us be thankful with enthusiasm today. Probably a reminder that is totally unnecessary as the holiday atmosphere usually takes care of that just fine thank you!

To God our wonderful Lord and Savior, Thank You!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Rumble of Thanksgiving

Good morning on this eve of...what do you mean, I can't use Thanksgiving eve? Well, Scott Adams used 'Almighty Creator of the universe' and 'Christmas' in his Dilbert comic strip this week, on the same day. I felt a rumble in the earth, like perhaps the end times had arrived. Surely, the use of Thanksgiving eve is permitted this one time. Yes, folks. It is Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, and I feel the rumble of Thanksgiving in the air and in the ground. The kids are out of school, families are getting underway to travel to the feasting, and preparations in the kitchen have begun in earnest. Those not yet taking vacation from work will probably leave early today. Let the celebration begin!

Way back in the day, God ordained feasts. His people celebrated the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Deut. 16) I don't think it is too much of a stretch to suppose that these feasts were more than just people gathering to eat. They celebrated and gave thanks to God for His providence. They gave thanks to God for a break from work, for each other, and for His bounty laid out before them in food. We have many reasons to give thanks too.

One reason for giving thanks to God that they didn't have in Moses' time is our Lord and Savior. Invite Jesus to your feast. Let us give thanks for His sacrifice given for us. Let us enjoy our many blessings this Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks

Uh, wait. What do you mean 'in all things?' Sounds like some sort of communist plot or alien mind control experiment. Be thankful when I'm having a headache, a root canal, aches in the knee, and that occasional foot n' mouth thing I do? Our circumstance is not always exactly what we listed in our daily prescription for happiness. Oops, sorry, communist plots are passé, the terror du jour is, uh, well, terrorist plots. I'm supposed to be thankful for terrorist plots too? Perhaps the idea isn't to be thankful for the plot itself, but to be grateful that God is good in all things.

We tend to think that we must be thankful for the thing in that verse about gratitude in all things. I think that our gratitude must go in the right direction. I am not thankful for auto accidents. They cause too much pain, misery, and death. However, I am thankful for the goodness God can bring from such a horrible event. We are not grateful for the devastation wrought by a hurricane, but that God is still good and will bring forth a renewal and rebuilding. We are not grateful for the separation of death in this life, but for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the promise of reunion in Heaven. To be thankful in all things is to remember God in the midst of terror, pain, misery, strife, and the other bad things this world has produced.

An attitude of thankfulness in these times is not easy. As in all things, we are weak in our own strength but strong in Christ. The Spirit reminds us that this 'thing' is not God's plan for eternity, but just a little training period we must endure. God does not want us separated by death; He wants all of us with Him in eternity. We can be grateful for eternity in Christ before God our Father. We need not be grateful for death, but we can thank God for the resurrection and the life that follows. As we endure all things, we look to God and thank Him for His providence, grace and love.

Thank you, Lord, for the rejoicing of this Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week!

Hooray! It's here. The week of giving thanks to our Lord with all of our hearts and souls. Back in the day, festivals were declared for a week at a time. We have lost something in our world of rush and speed. A day is just not enough for a good festival and feasting. I'm not likely to change the world's view on this with a little devotional, but if enough of us begin to think of an entire week of giving thanks to God, we might accomplish what seems impossible.

In time, we may begin to think that a week is not enough time for a festival of thanksgiving, then a month, and even a year as not enough. Of course, that is why God gives us all of eternity to give praise and thanksgiving to Him. For now, a week of thanksgiving is a good start. Let us begin the day with a prayer of thanksgiving, and then continue through this week. Set aside what has been lost, give up what we don't have, and give thanks for today. Praise God for those with us, and wait patiently for those coming later. Leave behind the pain of yesterday, or last night for the Bronco fans, and face the day with gratitude.

Will it take us an entire week to give thanks for our list? Only if you make a list, of course. Each day brings with it new hope and new mercies from God. Count the blessings we can on this day. Tomorrow will bring its own blessings.

Thank you, Lord, for this great Monday!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

After Initialization

Good morning! Initialization is such a space age word that I couldn't help but use it today. Then I had to type it twice and immediately regretted my choice. I speak today of the time just after the start of something grand. Your salvation is a case in point. At first, we felt the powerful rush of the Spirit, either gradually or all at once, and then we may have felt left out to dry just a few days later. In fact, that time of 'drying out' may have all but eliminated the memory of that first rush. It's almost like we get a jump start from the Holy Spirit, but then God forgets to fill the gas tank of our little Christ1 auto. We sit in the driver's seat ready to roll, but the little car won't take us far. We get out on the freeway and there are some big rigs trying to push us off. Where oh where is that fuel station, and what do they take for payment?

We may feel the urge to just get the trip over with, so we merge into the fast lane. Immediately, a patrol car pulls up behind us, flashes its lights, and makes us go all the way back across the slow lane and stop on the shoulder. It seems that Christ1 autos are banned from life in the fast lane according to Legalist Control. The officer points to the slowest lane, one where all the dirtiest traffic is slowly moving along. How will this journey ever finish at that rate?

The longest journey begins with the first step, so we merge our little car into the trudging mass of the slow lane. The initial rush of that first love is over. The honeymoon with Christian living is done. It's time to slog it out in the slow lane. Of course, we look over and see some Christ1 autos clipping right along in the fast lane. What's up with that? Then, as we look around, we also see some Christ1's enjoying their trip in the slow lane. It seems that the first love is not exclusive to the few days after we knelt at the altar or accepted Christ in the prayer closet of our bedroom.

Every Christian faces the probability that soon after a time of close walking with Jesus, it seems that our Lord withdraws and leaves us out there in the valley of life's slow lane. Sanctification appears to go nowhere as old sins return to stay like bad renters that don't quite give sufficient cause for eviction. After the joy of initialization, we are left with a kind of trudging drudgery. We are tempted to give up, and that is just what our Adversary wants. Jesus has not gone away, but the child never learns to walk who is not let go to walk unsupported. The first steps are slow; progress may be difficult to detect. However, Jesus is right here with you and me.

His hand may be pulled back just a little for us to learn to walk and grow in faith. It is not easy, and the 'big rigs' of the demon powers want us off the highway and weeping in the gutter. Legalist Control wants us to be overwhelmed by more rules than a Christian can ever keep. Scorn is thrown at our little Christ1 from the fast lane of the world. A life given up to Christ is tough, and the dark powers of this world do not like us one bit. However, the love of Christ is sufficient to get us to the destination we now desire. Drive on in faith.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Coldness Strikes

The morning temp says cold. The advice from a certain large corporation says cold too. Telling your employees to eat stale bread sounds remarkably like that famous quote from Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat cake." Some of the outrage is due to the source. If a beggar on the streets of Paris in the late 1700's had given advice something like, "Well, comrade, if you don't have the ingredients to bake bread, there is a way to make cake with..." No one would remember that quote because the fellow was probably insane with hunger. The ingredients for bread and cake are quite similar, so Ms. Antoinette goes down as one of the coldest rulers in history. However, if a beggar gives out advice to another beggar for bread substitutes it is not considered cold. In the right context it might even come across as funny. When the wealthy try to give out advice on living poor, they are viewed as cold and greedy. Their advice may be good, bad, or indifferent, but to even give it from their position of plenty brings well-deserved criticism.

To avoid even the appearance of coldness, we had better walk the mile and the additional mile before we attempt to give advice. The great thing about this life is that we all started out as sinners. Therefore, when it comes to the good news of Jesus Christ we can give a good answer for our faith. I know what forgiveness is because I came from unbelief and sin too. You know what the love of Jesus is because you know what it is like to have love reach out to the undeserving. We all know what it feels like to live as a lost sheep, and how we did nothing to deserve our Shepherd's rescue. We don't speak from a position of plenty in our righteousness, but of humble experience and grace given to us by the only righteous One.

Our message is not condescending because we all walked that dreadful mile of guilt and shame before Jesus saved us. We are rich in grace now, but we first lived in debt to sin and justice. Our advice is not on how to get by as a sinner, but to join us in faith and the riches of love, grace, peace, and holiness given by God. Hallelujah!


P.S. Just a note to the cold: Ya know, serving the customer and taking care of your employees is not impossible. To do both is only a paraphrase of the command of our Lord Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Joyful Morning

How do we get in touch with the joy given to us by God? Moping about what I don't have or have lost doesn't seem to work. Moaning about what could be but is not hasn't worked. Dumping a load of guilt, shame, fear, or self-pity on myself fails miserably. Turning thoughts like that around to gratitude...hmm, could we be on to something there? Why, yes, I think that is reaching something grand and wonderful deep down inside! Does God like an attitude of gratefulness better than one of gloom and despair? It seems kind of obvious after the fact.

In researching the giving of thanks, or Thanksgiving, for next week's lesson, I found the place in the Bible where God institutes feasts. In each case, the event is one of joy. The rescue from slavery in Egypt, the wheat harvest, and the ingathering of produce at the end of the year. Gratitude was central to these celebrations for God's miracles, his guidance, provision, love, and help in times of trouble.

Throughout the Old Testament history, God comes down on the Israelites for grumbling. What is this grumbling? The opposite of what puts us in touch with our joy, ingratitude. We find it easy to list all the things we see wrong in this life. I spent a bit of time with a neighbor doing just that last night. It's no wonder I woke up this morning having trouble getting back in touch with my joy. The world is getting dark, but do we need to spend time together listing all those terrible things that happened yesterday, the day before, and a couple of years ago? My mistake! The Spirit of God is within me, time to change discussions such as that to the wonderful work of God in this world.

Many dark and dreadful things are happening here in this place. However, God is using those things to bring people to His Son. People lose hope in the institutions and powers of this world and they go searching for a hope that works. We have a hope within us, the kingdom of God. We have salvation, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and love, all gifts of the Spirit. We have a joy that endures, if we will gratefully get back in touch with it.

One week to our Thanksgiving celebration, a good time to roll out the gratitude to our Lord!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Good Wednesday! I saw a news article that avoided the would-have-been by the term reimagine. Now, I don't know about you, but when I try the would, sorry, reimagining of events in my life it only makes me depressed. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that." Reimagining, as the term goes, does not help our cause right now. A president of our nation assassinated in office may have steered the nation in many directions, had he lived out his term. Imagine that none of us are here today because a Secret Service agent jumped in the way at the right moment. Yeah, sounds kinda dumb when done that way.

We are tempted to go back to a point in life and reimagine a bright, golden future of our triumph. The fact that it didn't happen, and the present where we stand is so much dimmer by comparison, is a good way to bring the spirit down into the doldrums of self-defeat. It is vital to the Christian to live in the day, that is, this day. Consequences of past mistakes may linger to this day, and you or I cannot go back to change them. We cannot be robbed of our hope for tomorrow when it is based in Christ. The one who is, who was, and who always will be.

In Christ, I live for today,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Mission Gone Awry

A few years ago, a young man took off on a mission. A seemingly simple mission, he had only to make contact with his brothers. Before Joseph could put together a good report on sheep herds and their shepherds, he was in a slave coffle heading the wrong way. In scarcely less time than it takes to read a good book, he found himself in the household of a powerful man of a foreign nation. You know much of the rest of the story because Joseph is a famous Old Testament tale that we enjoy regularly. Joseph's mission went badly awry. If Joseph's salvation depended on it, his doom was sealed.

We take on a mission for ourselves to gain salvation by our hard work. When that mission goes awry, we level blame upon ourselves and then heap it upon God, the universe, unfairness in general, and anyone else who happens along that day. We have so little control over the mission, but we think that eternity depends upon the goodness we can pile up here on Earth. The Bible, God's word, reminds us that all of our good deeds are as dirty rags, but still we pile the dirty things into our treasure chest. We secretly hope that one day God will be impressed by this large pile of stinking, dirty treasure.

As God took human form and walked the Earth, He was impressed by one man. A Roman officer who understood completely the authority of Jesus over sin and death. Jesus marveled at the faith of a man who didn't even belong to God's chosen people. Salvation is the work of Christ; we cannot earn it. The seed of faith is a gift from God. Let it grow as you let go of the desire to earn a salvation that is freely given. Good works will grow from the love God plants in your heart. Your life's mission may appear to go completely off track, but what the world means for your harm God intends for good.

We ended the study of Joseph's story with this morning's Bible study, but truly all of the Bible is His story and of that story there is no ending.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Simple Things

Good morning! We are doing a live remote today from Sidney, Nebraska. Later, the vicious vampire vixens of the VA will have at me. Sorry, no live feed of my crying and pleading guilty to various unresolved crimes as the needle draws the fluid of life from my vein. As I look across the house at a sign, I wonder if we don't at times forget the simple things. 'God is Good' claims the sign. We tend to look at all of our troubles, difficulties, pains, and terrors and think something else. Today, let us think of the simple things.

God's goodness brings forth His provision, generosity, benevolence, and kindness to us every day. We live and praise God. David reminded us in his psalms that the dead cannot sing the praises of God. A song can be a simple thing. In fact, I stand a better chance of remembering the words correctly if it is kept simple. A prayer need not be complex and lengthy to gain God's attention. In our worst moments, we may not have time for a 60-minute prayer with long words and complex phrasing. A simple call for rescue from our Savior gets right to the point nicely.

What do we give thanks to God for? The simple things like food, clothing, a football game with friends, a few minutes to relax the mind before a big meeting, the gentle touch of someone who loves, and the panorama of a sunrise. Of course the simple thing may grow from a system of great complexity. We won't go there today. We can enjoy the sunset this evening by just looking and giving the glory to God. So what, if the song of praise is not quite sung with the words the composer published, sing it to the Lord with simple gratitude. Some folks can pray beautiful prayers at the drop of a hat. One of the best prayers I have heard was simply, "Thank you, Lord."

Glory to God our Father on this day,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Scrap Number One, Try Again

Whoa, a lengthy devotional just went in the recycle bin. Sometimes, it is necessary to scrap number one, and try again. That is a bit of a lead in to salvation. We start out this life and learn to look out for number one; that is, the self. Often after we have thoroughly blown it, we scrap that old number one, and we are reborn in Christ. We get to try again. Placing Christ as number one in our lives does not make the living easy. In fact, if we were permitted to know the would have beens, life in our own strength and ability may have ended with riches and contentment in our old age. Someone wins the lottery, it might have been us. I mean stranger things have happened: people used to make good money on savings account interest.

The first number one strives for all manner of things; wealth, homes, fame... you know the drill and the desires. Some few do achieve the lot, but many people gradually settle for less and less until they reach a form of bittersweet contentment. Others through circumstance and perhaps a bit of foolishness reach a point where looking up is the only possible view. Life working for that first number one can be brutal. Often, it is the one who must look up though who sees the Redeemer of life. We get a chance that the person who achieves a certain level of comfort for the self may never realize: a chance to give up the first number one for the One who gives life abundantly.

Jesus promises many things, but a life of ease is not one of them. We may have it easy in one way, but have just a boat load of problems in another area. As Shakespeare mentioned, we may have troubles in battalions attacking us. I don't recall the exact quote because I have my Saturday stupid on and my oatmeal is getting cold. One thing I know, Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe in Him. Does it really matter then what troubles come between now and the day God orders us to come home? Bring 'em on! I'll meet them in the strength of my Lord and Savior.

A bucket of God's blessings to pour on your battalion of troubles today!

Friday, November 15, 2013

People Are Not My Standard

Must be a Friday, that title could be taken in so many ways. What we have here is a failure to seek the proper context before jumping in. Okay...now I'm really confused.

In our celebrity pop culture, we are presented with many ideals. We have standards of beauty, musculature, body size, shape, ways to act, and ways in which to act up. Many young celebrities appear especially skilled at the last one. The problem comes when we become awed by these people and seek to use them as a standard in any portion of our life. They have their reward, and we must seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Even in a career with no obvious connection to pop culture, we may grab a little idol for ourselves by looking to a person who appears to have it made in our chosen field. The director or CEO appears wealthy (and probably is), successful, powerful, and all the other things we look for in the world. How many can sit in his chair though? That person already exists and has his reward. We must look to Christ and follow His way; His throne has room for many.

What about the church? Do we sometimes look at the man or woman on the screen or in the pulpit and do a little idol gazing? It can happen. A minister becomes skilled at speaking from the pulpit over the years and makes it look easy, smooth, and, gosh, almost righteous. Surely, he or she has a special anointing from God and leads a spotless life too. Perhaps that is true, but it does not give us an excuse to use the man or woman as our standard. Did you realize what a gift God gave us in calling our ministers home?

How awful for us if ministers (or writers!) went on and on, getting better and more skilled as the decades and centuries passed until, oops, someone dared to call him by the Lord's name. There is only one Jesus, and we have a man born of woman who lived the standard set in the Law. If we are to emulate a life, that must be the one. However, perish the thought of doing it in our own strength. If that were possible, we wouldn't need a standard. Want righteousness? Take what is offered in Christ!

Glad to love you on this glorious Friday by the mercy of God our Father,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Counting the Cost

Good Thursday morning! Life as we know it may change today, or it may continue much the same. That is the sort of useless announcement we get often enough. However, I notice that if we lay out lots of hard cash, or a credit card, we can change our life for the better forever, or at least until the quantity offered runs out. If you work in marketing, I'm sorry. There now, don't sob like that, I know it's tough to have a job in an evil empire. At least you don't work in IT. Try living in a job where your primary duty is to say, "No, you can't." all the time. A job that tries to make folks want something seems much better by comparison. So what happened when Jesus marketed this Christian path?

In this world you will have trouble. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth... That's just a bit from John 16:33, and a little more from Matthew 5 and 6. This is supposed to make us want this new life?

No, this is part of our counting the cost. Forget fame in Christ, infamy is more our lot. Our treasure piles up in Heaven; we cannot go shopping with it here in a mall. They called Jesus names that make us wonder why lightning didn't fall from the heavens. There is a good chance that our Lord's followers will hear some vile epithets in their lifetimes. We are not even allowed to hate our enemies, and a lawsuit means we give up everything. I wonder if the government has an opening?

What makes us give our lives to Jesus? The answer must not be anything we gain in the world. We endure a short time for the promise of eternity. Even in this life we have examples of this. Few would join the military to endure four years of boot camp, and we would question the sanity of those that did. However, gain a guaranteed lifetime income, a 2500 sq ft. house on 80 acres, a couple of cars, and maybe a spot on a reality show and suddenly the four years of boot camp don't look quite so bad. If we could only see what we gain from this life, we would not look at the cost as high at all. We must take it on faith though, and that makes it difficult.

But, is this short part of eternity all that terribly bad? It can be at times, there is no doubt of that, but we also gain much. The fruits of the Spirit help us to endure. Friends in Christ suffer along side of us. At times we suffer less and we can be comforters to those in greater need. The loss of a brother or sister in Christ we know to be only temporary. Should we lose our tunic and cloak in a lawsuit, we have the promise of God to provide for us. Enemies may revile us all around, but God is sovereign forever. God's very Spirit dwells within you and me. Best of all, Jesus, God's Son, died on the cross to take away the penalty of sin we once faced. Times are tough, but I don't consider the cost bad at all.

Love in Christ, our eternal Savior,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What May I Commit To?

Good frosty morning! I cannot commit to tomorrow. Nope, don't know what is in tomorrow. I cannot even guarantee that it and I will arrive there together. I cannot commit to marriage - I'm missing the other half of that commitment. I cannot commit to a lot of things because there is so much that may change even in this day. However, I can commit to those things that I am called to, such as love and faith.

I may (as in allowed, not might) commit today to love. I can commit myself to learning love for myself and all neighbors. You see, in order to love my neighbor as myself, I must first learn to see myself as loveable. Jesus loves me. I want to be like Jesus. Therefore, I can commit to loving myself, and then commit to loving my neighbor as myself. Loves flows through from God to Jesus to me to you to our neighbors like a river of joy and brightest color with beautiful sound and scents. We barely know the reality of God's great love yet.

I may commit to faith in my Lord. My strength has proven too little so often that it seems rather dumb to continue to depend on me alone. However, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) Seems like my faith must go in Christ's direction. We can overcome this world because Jesus assured us that He has already done so. (John 16:33) All of my dreams can be achieved in Christ...uh oh, maybe I should ask the stronger partner what HE wants first. My dreams tend to be laden with self-interest.

I can commit to my greedy self-interested dreams, Jesus will allow me that, but can I expect His help? How much better to commit to faith, and then ask, seek, and knock for the Way. God patiently waits for me to learn that selfishness doesn't get very far with Him.

Praise the Lord for the day!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So...Now What?

Good Tuesday morning! What if you heard a few words from a minister that led to a thought settling on your heart? That thought said that you had spent the past several years confidently following the wrong path in life. The next morning you wake up to a new song in your heart. "I am bound for the promised land..."

Sometimes God sends a voice into our hearts to make a course correction. That voice may come from a friend, a pastor, a stranger, or even as a whisper in the mind during the still, small hours of the night. We don't know how we realize that it is a message from God, but somehow this message speaks to the heart like no other sequence of words. How long have I been fighting God's will in my life? What caused me to go astray like this? Questions bounce around in the mind with no answer.

God does not seem to go in for post-mortem answers that much. As the ship begins to answer the helm and come about on a new course, God gives direction. He may not answer with a particular point in the past where the error occurred. God may not tell us how long we have been in the wrong. The length of time spent on the wrong course may be decades. The Israelites spent 40 years wandering the wilderness from one unfaithful decision, but that was the correction, not the start of the going off course. We know from the Bible story of the Exodus that the people were off course in faith before they left Egypt.

We often think we know what we want. God knows what we really want deep down in the heart where He planted a tiny seed called Faith. Confidently, we take off down a path that leads only to the prison of despair. Christian took a path like that in Bunyan's story. My journey was not exactly the same, which is why it was so hard to recognize. Our adversary is quite skilled at hiding the road signs. Before we give too much credit in that direction though, we also like to wander off the path thinking that our freedom means we know where to go.

God didn't provide a Counselor to guide those who only keep their own counsel. The devotional continues. God has said this is the closest I have come to the correct course. It is what comes after each day that is the problem. That is all I know this morning. My ship has not yet completed the turn. The direction is in faith, not knowledge. I feel a lightening of the burden that I hardly deserve. I am bound for the promised land.

God bless you in your journey with Jesus,

Monday, November 11, 2013

How Old To Serve?

Years ago, my friend and I wore our dress blue uniforms down to the boardwalk. It almost sounds like the start of a cliché, but we did that very thing. While there, we were approached by some young people who asked, "How old do you have to be to join the Marines?" Of course, we told them the right answer, but in the past young men have not always waited that long. A few boys managed to join the armed services in 1942 or '43, when the need was so great that recruiters didn't check too closely, at the age of 12 and 13. We call that too young now and they did then as well.

Good news for the young: in God's service there is no minimum age. Better news for us: there is no mandatory retirement age in God's service and no one is ever too old to sign up. Jesus told the parable of the vineyard workers who came to work in the final hour of the day. The late workers were not turned away and the Master gave to them the full pay. That is good news for those of us who may have spent some time in life following our own path.

Yesterday, a mission man spoke in our Sunday School class. Like me, he was raised in the church but then spent some time following his way in life. I have heard similar stories time and again, and I think all of us are glad to return as the prodigal. We returned to God's service, re-enlisting in a manner of speaking, later in life. Do we get down because we know that our time for service is less than others? There is that temptation, but God did not put that thought in our heads. Each group of workers in the parable Jesus told received full pay. It wasn't just the last hour workers who benefited from the Master's grace.

Any age is just perfect for joining God's service. All of us are issued the same weapon and the same armor in Ephesians 6. No one is too young, none are too old or too used up to help out. All of us take our place in the missions and God issues a special calling to each recruit. What is that calling? Well, some of us fight it and some can't find it right away, but we all will live it as soon as the discovery is made and obedience begins.

Happy Veterans Day! Thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Some Words Are Easy, But Jesus Has Overcome the World

Good Saturday morning as the neighbors gather and take off for destination unknown. Could it be a hunting Saturday? It is very likely at this time of the year. Those strange fellows are singing about jasmine in their minds again. I think if a person snorts a scent so hard that it gets into his mind he should probably back off a bit. Just a bit of folk wisdom there. Is it possible to come to a point in life and just decide not to be that way anymore? I think so, but not in my own strength. Some words are easy, as I was reminded earlier this week, but Jesus has overcome the world!

I woke up this morning to read Isaiah and came to the part about the unfaithful city. Now, in the past I have taken this guilt upon myself. I think this is easy for Christians to do as we study the Old Testament. We want to be like Jesus, so we try to grab up His cross and take it to Calvary. A couple of problems there: Jesus said that the follower is to take up his cross, as opposed to His cross, and we are not Jesus.

The great sacrifice of God's Son need be done only the one time. We have accounts of that time to read in the gospels. We do not need to try to carry the cross that Jesus bore to Calvary. The cross that bore the sins of the world is a heavy, crushing weight. How can we take the burden that is light and the yoke that is easy if we are crushed under a weight of sin and guilt that does not belong to us? I have tried it out and failed miserably as you might expect.

As the sun dawns in the sky, a new Son dawns in my life. His word to remind me: You're not that way anymore. I am not that way anymore. Is it possible to walk away from the darkness of the past? Yes, in Christ. In just me, no, it ain't gonna happen. But in the strength of Christ all things fall before us. Will it be immediate and complete like the blind men of old? Maybe, don't give God's power short estimate, but it may also be a long journey with Jesus. 'I can't' has a formidable opponent in the Word. Paul gives us a potent daily reminder for the short heal or the long journey: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Look up! Your redemption draws near.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Not Too Seriously

Good Friday morning! In my new direction, a lot of cheering on the self goes on. However, I added one thing to the bottom of the list: Don't take yourself too seriously! As I work on increasing my self-confidence, promoting belief in my abilities, and telling myself how good I am, I also need to remember who gives me the strength to do these things. Then, as I remind myself that I am important and able to give something to the world, I like to remind me not to take self too seriously. Yes, a great thing can be accomplished by opening businesses and providing jobs, but in the end all of this will be gone. There is much to be said in these times for helping people laugh. Comforters are in high demand too, and there may not be a fortune in it.

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Laughing is a great form of resistance. Some of the thoughts I get that spell out anxious visions of gloom and doom are quite funny if I stand back and realize how very unlikely a picture is painted. God is very creative; our adversary not so much. I suspect that if Anxious Man didn't add his creativity to the doom visions they would be quite dull and silly. Time to not take these 'might be' visions too seriously. I think my best novel writing is when I am not too serious.

People do like the dark novels these days. The readers wallow in gloomy visions and a good way to awards is the book where many die, more are disappointed, and some even die disappointed. Must it be that way? No, I think not. We could use joy, laughter, and encouragement in big doses today. If I take myself too seriously, it is hard to write out some good news.

Enjoy the day in Christ!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Disciple Not Replacement

Good Thursday morning! Jesus worked for too much to be simply replaced. That is why the command from our Lord was to disciple. Faith in Christ comes to us from a long line of disciples. Yet, we are tempted to feel today that somehow our Christian faith has been diluted, managed or perhaps even corrupted. Such things are to be expected if each generation of Christ followers replaces the preceding one. However, we do not replace; we are disciples of those who have gone before us. There are those who would corrupt our faith, and we are warned in God's word to beware of them. When we are saved by Christ and given His own Spirit in us, who do we accuse of watering-down, mismanaging, or even corrupting our faith? Yes, that could be a very serious accusation indeed.

Today, we have grown in the faith. We do stand on the shoulders of giants. We look back to the account of the first outpouring of the Spirit in Acts and feel a bit of envy. I don't recall a tongue of flame settling on my head and so I question what I should believe. Do I require an obvious sign like that to believe in Jesus? No, then what am I worried about? Do we doubt one and all that the Holy Spirit can grow the faith? No, then why do we think we need more signs? The church in Acts did start with quite a show, but that does not mean our dear Spirit of Christ is somehow exhausted, diluted, or just busy elsewhere. Perish the thought!

The early apostles received the command to disciple, and a new generation of Christ followers came without quite so many signs. Timothy, Barnabas, Luke, and many others took up their cross and followed. Centuries later, we do the same, but don't feel left out because we do not see the same physical signs. Faith has grown. We don't need the sound of a mighty rushing wind to know the Spirit lives within us. Faith tells us the good news. Does the church as a whole seem soft to you? Maybe your heart is still too hard. We must not ask God for guidance and then doubt our direction. Let us instead trust in our Lord and follow where He leads. Do you doubt where you are in life? Bah, perish the doubt and have faith, man!

Your friend in Christ,

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What Does Someone See In Me?

Good frosty morning to you! My county voted against secession from Colorado yesterday. I'm glad as I do not believe that is the right answer. If there is to be a 51st state, let's ask Canada for the Yukon. We need another place that is way out there. Wait, is 'change everything' stamped on my forehead or something? Yesterday, I walked into a place and got read the riot act about procedures already in place and how important it was to follow them. I had to wonder if I didn't have some odd sign on me. Maybe that ornery Lee put a sign on the back of my coat, 'Invading Philistine, Watch Out!' or something to that effect. The lady may see something in me that I do not. Females of our species are known for their intuition, mythical or not, perhaps she could see a harbinger of change standing in her doorway. This brought me to this morning's question: What do others see in me or you that we cannot see?

For that matter, what might God see in us that we refuse to see or believe about ourselves? What talents lie unused in my life or yours that God wants to put to work? The bottom line of our resume should state: I have hidden qualifications that you can see and I cannot, please take this into account in your determination. Our mission today: try to discover what God sees hidden in us that can be brought out to bless the world. Not the easiest of missions, at a certain accumulation of years we might think we know all about ourselves that we can know. God may have a different view on that conclusion. The best first step on our mission then is to ask God our Father in prayer.

Have a changeful day of discovery in Christ!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Messing Up On The Boil

Whoo, our first snow of the season has arrived and....aaugh! Boil over on the stove! Yes, my attempts with olden-style oatmeal is not without the occasional mishap. Barring any further interruption, I'll see about the devotional for you. I don't even have a good working title for this morning. Yeesh, bit of a mess in there. I guess I have my first morning cleanup task already slated for today. The watched pot may never boil, but the unwatched oatmeal sure makes a fine mess. Simmering is easier to control, maybe that is why some of us tend to stay there in life.

If life for Jesus should be a full rolling boil, then mine must be characterized as a simmer. Life on the full boil can make a mess, so I become fearful of the boil. Just slow things down for me so that I don't mess up! I ask of the Lord. Yet, I know from baking and cooking that many of my first attempts do end in failure. So, why worry about it? If the first attempt at a simmer is no better than that of the full rolling boil, might as well get the mistakes out of the way and get on with life. So easy to write, a bit more difficult to perform.

However, I am not alone. One of the more common statements from God in the Bible is something like: I will go with you, or, I will be with you. We read it in our study this morning. Look to Abraham, Moses, Jacob, the disciples, and many other stories and we find the same statement. Each of us is worried about the mistakes we may or may not make on our own. Perhaps a more common statement from the Bible than the last is: do not worry. If we place those common statements together, we have a reassurance that we need every day: Do not worry, I will go with you. Coming from God, that is a reassurance we can count on in every situation and circumstance. Great things came from going with God, and yes there were mistakes along the way. Moses, David, Solomon, we can read of the great mistakes made by the greats of the Bible too. Want to write your name on a page of history? Go with God and make a great mistake or two. Why worry about it? God will get us straightened out in short order.

God's love and grace to you,

Monday, November 04, 2013

The First Monday

For the first man, the first Monday arrived after God took a rest day. It is no wonder then that things went downhill from there. We know from our faith that a rest day from creating everything is not a rest day in the way that we think of resting by doing nothing. God was not absent when Adam and Eve rebelled because we can read today how He went right to the source of the problem, that old serpent. Now crawling on his belly in the dust of the earth, the serpent was cursed with a sort of forever Monday. Sometimes we may feel like that on a Monday.

We arrived at the next first Monday when Adam and Eve are out of the Garden of Eden and attempting to go it alone. We know this didn't work from the start because hardly had they left the gates of Eden when Eve turned to Adam and said, "I'm cold!" God made them the first clothing because Adam needed training in the art of turning living animals into clothing. The food bit would come much later, but Adam understandably had a bit of trouble with killing an animal he had just named into something that, as we say, is no more. The first Monday didn't get any better when our distant ancestors looked at the plot that was to feed them and saw the new thing called 'weeds'. Eve began a new tradition that Monday evening when she demanded part of Adam's new skin because, as she put it, "I'm still cold."

The first postdiluvian Monday brought to Noah the first recorded hangover. He woke up naked under a strange blanket, and came out of the tent cursing Ham for some unwise remarks the kid made about Dad's little accident with the wine. From that story we learn that on a Monday it is best just to keep the mouth shut about embarrassing things we see on the weekend. Covering for Dad has since become a time-honored tradition in more ways than one. But has Monday gotten a bad rap over the centuries?

Today is the start of a new work week. If last week was filled with screw-ups, we need to face the consequences, but it is still a new week and a chance to start again. New things may come this week, and we know who is in charge of making all things new. A Monday is a chance to tackle obstacles with new energy and a renewed mind. Maybe last week's accomplishments wouldn't fill the bottom of a small bucket, but Monday is another chance to fulfill our calling in Christ. Of course, Monday is not just you and me, others too begin the first day of the working week with refreshed minds.

If someone spent the weekend in dissolution, then payment will come, but it need not come from us. We can look at Monday with enthusiasm. A thing that I must admit has not always been one of my strengths. Each Monday though is like the first step after a good shower or bath. We are clean and ready to put on a clean outlook. If it does not always seem that way, let us ask God to cleanse us in body, heart, and mind. A Monday is a fresh chance to serve!

Let the strength of God flow in you today,

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Man Without Woman

Good Saturday! Hmm, the title sounds a bit like the start of a personals ad. It took a comic strip to point it out to me, but one of my favorite children's stories is kind of short on the female characters. Read The Hobbit again one of these days and count the females involved in the story. Bilbo is a bachelor, Gandalf appears to be celibate, and the dwarfs seem to have no families. Elrond, the elf king, and the master of Laketown appear to be without mates, and Smaug won't share his treasure with anyone. Beorn has his animals, but we won't even go there; it was a children's story after all. Even the evil characters only serve to show what happens to men when they are too long without women: the trolls and spiders can only talk about eating and the goblins are just evil every which way. Of course the story is set in Middle Earth, a fictional place, so maybe spiders, goblins, eagles, and dragons don't require the male-female thing to reproduce as we do. What about hobbits, wizards, and men though?

If we look deeply, Beorn has the country gentleman thing going with his fine house in the wilderness and a staff of willing and able servants. Bilbo is doing the comfortably-well-off scholar thing, and Gandalf is the traveling professor. The dwarfs are seeking sudden wealth; the master of Laketown has the elected position, and the king of the forest elves parties all the time (and locks up the competition in his dungeon). All methods men have used over the years to attract that most imaginary of situations: wedded bliss. However, the book ends without any of the usual happily-ever-after. There is only loneliness ever after; a sort-of dragon war veterans club for bachelors. How awful!

There is in the teachings of Jesus and Paul room for man without woman. But there is also mentioned that not all men can do this, and provision made for the burning lust. Man without woman is not always the best way for us to go. Most men need some sort of supervision. Tolkien's characters notwithstanding, we men simply do better at doing what we should be doing with someone to watch over us in some way. The king is responsible to God, the minister is responsible to the king, and the man of the house answers to the wife. Okay, not quite according to the Bible, but in practice having a wife or friend to hold us accountable is helpful to hold us to our mission from God.

Perhaps the real parable in The Hobbit is that of the trolls. Man without woman forms a gang with the boys, and tends to fall into the worst sorts of behavior. After a time, the 'trolls' become dangerous to all who happen by, want for nothing but to rob, pillage, and destroy, and with a little encouragement, stay out all night and turn to stone just in time for the morning chores. As dangerous and worthless should not be our defining characteristics in God's service, let us as men obey the call when it comes.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Resurrector of Lives

The verse contains an important truth for us, "I am the resurrection and the life." Jesus did not speak this to His disciples, but to Martha as she stood by her brother's tomb. Martha reminded Jesus that she knew this was for the last day. We are smart that way too. I have studied the end times with great joy and fascination for quite some time now. Many have studied and then left it behind, not as an act of rebellion, but because there is a peril to eschatology. That peril a group of Paul's disciples faced when they gave up all earthly duties and responsibilities, and then retired to their rooftops to await the second coming. We know from further reading that Paul got them back to it, for we do not know the day or hour when Jesus will return.

Paul looked for it in his day, as I'm sure Augustine did a bit later, and then Constantine, and popes and ministers and prophets and many believers up to the present day. All of them were wrong in expecting to see it in their lifetime, but none of them were wrong to expect the return in their lifetime. We are not wrong to expect the second coming in our lifetime, but we may very well be wrong that it will happen in our lifetime. Jesus may not return for another thousand or two thousand years. I like the end times study, but I think it is time for me to leave it behind too and learn to live again now.

One way to look at it is that if all the brothers and sisters in Christ drop everything to stare heavenward, who will spread the good news of Jesus to those who do not yet believe? Nothing prevents the return of Jesus at this moment except perhaps one great thing: the patience of God the Father in allowing a little more time for those who have not heard or cannot yet decide to believe in Christ. We have writings to write, speeches to speak, words to pass on, and love to give for a time yet. Let us look around at the harvest and spread the good news.

Martha did not have to wait for the end time to see her brother live again. Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb. Jesus is good at resurrecting the lives of those who may have fallen by the wayside on the journey for spending too much time looking up. In so many ways, I am one of those. But I believe in Jesus, the resurrector of lives.