Friday, June 28, 2013

What About Those Good Intentions

Good morning! Orowww! Sorry, but the big weekend isn't quite here yet. This is just a normal 2-day weekend for most. Next week is the... ooops, we'll worry about next weekend when it comes on Wednesday. Today is still Friday though, and for you corporate drones that means, ahhh, the weekend is upon us once more. Do you intend some home improvement this weekend? Or perhaps a little self improvement, or maybe even to volunteer somewhere, help out a friend or pay off your nation's debt? All good intentions, some perhaps more likely than others. I intend to pay down the nation's debt this weekend, maybe 10% of it or so if I can manage it. Yeah, ten percent of the national debt is a figure too large for me to print, but so what, my intention is just as good as yours.

Intentions are not actions, and our intentions to save ourselves in this life are perhaps the worst intentions of all. A corpse laid out in its coffin intends to live the good life. Don't laugh too much, its intentions are better than those who intend to save themselves through their own self-righteousness. The problem with the good intention of self-salvation is that it ignores the one way God gave us to be saved, Jesus Christ. Sure, becoming perfect through self-denial, self-sacrifice, self-improvement, self-righteousness and all of that is a good intention, but underneath is a whole lot of self-ishness. Under the righteousness of Jesus Christ is a whole lot of God's great love for you and me.

If a man intends with all his heart to save himself this weekend, I have a better chance of coming up with a tithe of the nation's debt in those two days and a Friday evening. On the other hand, if anyone intends to hear the good news of Jesus Christ this weekend, he or she has a wonderful chance at so many places to hear that good news. And more importantly, he or she will find a Helper in the Holy Spirit of God that will take that intention right into action, if he or she is willing to lay down the selfish good intentions and let God do the saving.

God bless you this weekend!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Something Screw Up!

Good Thursday! It appears that the hot days of summer have arrived, but appearances are only appearances. Yesterday, a brother in Christ called and asked me to help with some concrete work. Now, I have never, at least that I can recall, done any actual concrete work starting at the point where the big truck pulls in and drops the heavy piles of gray stuff. An adventure, a learning experience, a lot of work and sweat, mostly for those who knew what they were doing. I helped out as best I could and helped God deal with the panic attacks a new place and situation can bring on. Lesson 1, wear some kind of protective eye wear, concrete really spatters dropping off the chute and it does not easily come out of eyeballs and off contacts and such. Lesson 2, although concrete does not harden instantly, enough personnel with experience and labor ability are needed or you could easily create a permanent monument to incompetence.

I didn't mess up anything, but I also felt the sneaking shame of ignorance. This is a wrong feeling, of course. None of us knows everything, and new experiences are bound up in ignorance of the subject at hand. We learn by doing in some areas, and this is one where book learning does not convey the feel of wet concrete and other little tidbits that a mentor teaches. The new Christian is in the same place. We stand there having just surrendered our life to Jesus, and we are eager to begin reading the Bible, but not all is book learning. God left a sort of blank place in His life manual for mentors to teach disciples.

This is not to say that the Bible is incomplete, just that parts are difficult to understand and the depth of God's knowledge far outstrips our ability to absorb. Even the mentor of Christian disciples puts up a false front if he or she leads them to believe that the mentor holds all the answers and is never wrong. Yesterday's news from our Supreme Court brings up that point quite well. I don't have some neat answer for you in that area. I'll be going back to the Word of God for some more research. Prayer for our nation and its leaders is the best place to begin in this, and I encourage you and me to do that first.

Celebrate the blessing of God today!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tell Tales of Love

Good morning, the temp is a very nice 45° this morning. Oh wait, not tell tall tales, but tell tales of love. We do at times misunderstand the commands of our Lord. Jesus said that we are to be the salt of the earth. Salt in a wound stings, so we think that Christians are to hurt people. Jesus went on to say that if salt has lost its savor it is thrown out. We use 'sting' to avoid the fact that salt in a wound hurts. It causes great pain. Sting is a weasel word, a nice word for something awful. Those who do not yet believe in Christ should not be afraid of being hurt by us, they should enjoy when we are around. Salt tastes good on food, get it? But we tend to want the yeast of the Pharisees to satisfy our desire for control.

Some would have us take over the government and pass all sorts of 'thou shalt nots'. Some would have us out in the public square pointing out sins for others to correct. We don't need to become disciples of Christ to do these things. The government already owns extensive volumes of thou shalt not laws. Instead, we can tell tales of love. What has God done for me, or for you? What was I saved from by the sacrifice of Jesus? What does grace mean for my life? Many have gathered to help me in my current need; that is a tale of love worth telling. When I suffered a serious accident many years ago, people I didn't even know sent get well cards to the hospital. Have I done similar things? Sure I have, but when telling tales of love we also tend to shy away from tooting our own horn as they say. We don't want to lose our reward in Heaven by shouting out tales of our deeds on the street corner as some did back in Jesus' time. However, let us be careful not to hide that light Jesus gave to you and me. Tell those tales of love.

Blessing and honor to Jesus Christ our Lord!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Season of Rest

Praise God for rest. I think I strained something in my rest last night. Our rest in this world may not be perfect. The fallen world, the curse of Adam's disobedience, and the toil of worry may combine to rob our rest of perfect resting. With eager anticipation we look forward to a season of rest that does not end. Does that mean no work or accomplishment in Heaven? I don't think so, but rather it means that we will finally learn to rest completely in God. Now, we strain and struggle against the conditions in the world and the weakness in our bodies and minds. We don't rest well.

I saw in the news this week that on Monday people are most tired. Wait, you mean the day after a weekend of rest they are the most fatigued? Yup, it seems that we don't rest well. The ability to do work while resting in our God seems beyond us right now. We yearn for a day or a week or a season of rest, but when we get it we are not very good about resting in it. How many of you entered last weekend with a list of things to do? Even those things that we want to do for enjoyment require effort to get there, to set up something, to prepare food or other things that are not rest in the literal sense. So, we just need to rest more?

Some of you may need that, but the point is that even resting on a bed in sleep we are not going to do very well in this world. Sin is at work in us, even as we try to rest. The strains of the prior day's work cause aches and pains that appear most after a night's rest. Some mornings it feels as though we didn't sleep at all. Some nights are a wrestling match between the desire to sleep and the temptation to worry. We seem to lose no matter which side wins the match. The strength to go on comes from God, and yes it does seem like He gives only just enough to get through some days. Other days, God's provision of strength sends us into the streets praising His name. You and I do not know what each day will bring, but to improve our rest, we must learn to rest in God's goodness. That doesn't mean that we look around for a couch labeled, 'God's goodness', but that we trust God to love us.

Trust God to love us?! Seem strange and alien to you? Yeah, me too. We are so far from that final product God will finish in us that we cannot understand right now all that it is to rest in God's goodness while trusting Him to love us as He already does! So, we must gird up our lions and herd our cats to take it on faith that God does love us, even as we are right now.

God's blessings to you,

Monday, June 24, 2013

There Must Be Something Different In Me

Good morning! Hmm, we get a hint of what the better part of the nation feels on most summer mornings, little or no cooling overnight. I expected the storms arriving last night to cool it down for a nice morning, but 75°? That isn't cool! I realized quickly that this is not a complaint that will impress anyone out east. There the difference between day and night temps may be a few degrees at most due to the way things are out there. Out here in the near desert high plains we expect a difference of 30 or 40 degrees overnight and marvel when it doesn't happen. Of course in the real desert, the temp difference is greater even than we are accustomed to. So, you and me, and everyone else we have to put up with weather, climate, stuff in the air, but that doesn't make us different from anyone else. What is different in me, or the better question, what has Christ changed in me that makes me different from anyone else?

Many people are in difficult financial straits, others are well off in that way. Many have similar ailments to us, others have different health issues. Someone has a similar job to you, maybe a whole bunch of folks do the same job you do each day at work. We gather, we separate, we move or we stay, but all of these things just make us more of the same. If a space alien arrived in his Cadillac o' the Stars Space Cruiser XL-1 to study the exceptional members of the human race, would he see enough in your life or my life to pick us out of the grain fields of humanity? Actually no, and we are proud of that.

Jesus could have come to Earth for the exceptional. He could have picked out the rich young man, the leader of the Pharisees, the high priest, the Roman governor, and others to follow Him. Jesus could have gathered the high and mighty of the land into a Master's class and given them the words of life to disseminate to the people. Yet, Jesus gathered the common folk to Himself. The first group to worship the newly arrived Christ were the shepherds of the field. What was so different about these men of the wilderness? Nothing... until they believed in Jesus.

According to the world's measuring stick, the only thing that stood out about Paul was his zeal to destroy the early followers of Christ. Peter fished in the Sea of Galilee. Matthew was a despised tax collector. Wasn't there a champion of the Sanhedrin Jesus could have picked out? A Greek philosopher of exceptional intelligence and education? No, so Jesus takes the next best thing, an enemy, a fellow that smells of fish and trips over his own tongue a lot, and a guy whose work the people can't stand. Therefore, the people approved of the one, were indifferent about another - meh, Galilee fishermen, a drachma a dozen - and one the people would cheerfully have beaten with the world's measuring stick. No unusual difference among these men. Of course, if we look for something exceptional in us or them, we are looking in the wrong places.

In the now, God has picked out multi-million dollar contract athletes and people with next to, or perhaps less than, nothing in their bank accounts. God has also chosen famous people for His service, and He owns a whole bunch of us that are only recognized by our close friends. God has saved old folks confined to a nursing home, and children roaming freely in the streets. Working stiffs, unemployed people, and everyone in between belong to God's family. Soldiers, sailors, airpersons, and Marines (yes, them too) belong to God's chosen ones, but others of those same groups do not. We don't know what measuring stick God uses, but we know that somehow we were chosen. It certainly isn't the measuring stick of the Law, for all of us have fallen short of that.

What is different about you and me from the mass of the world is who comes to live in us after we believe in Christ. God's own Holy Spirit lives in those who believe in the Christ. That is something special and exceptional! If we want to see a difference that makes you and me stand out in a crowd, look inside to the Spirit of God.

Walk with God today, and give Him a hearty 'Thank you!' for all that He has done for you and me.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Swing Shift

Good Saturday! Are you all washed up or just washed away from last night's storms? The clouds are hanging around this morning, but I don't know if that means more rain or not. The longest day of the year brought some impressive flashin' and boomin' with the storms, but why am I trying to be some kind of weather reporter? Is there nothing better to talk about out here on the plains of Colorado? Weeelll, let's just stop right there. I don't want to confirm any nasty rumors about small town life on the arid high plains.

I heard a DJ on the radio this morning who also worked at least one night this week. This is not unusual. Any operation that runs 24/7 or even long hours on a daily basis, must come up with people to fill in shifts that don't work out evenly. People need days of rest and the seven-day week kind of messes up scheduling. Someone, or more than one, generally becomes a swing shift person. This person may work a morning on one or more days, then evenings or nights on other days. This is not a fun way to work because most of us do better with a more stable work schedule. Of course, there are worse schedules, such as the one where the employee is just on call whenever the company needs him or her. What is the point of this in a Christian devotional?

That person may be a neighbor; one of those we are to love as Jesus commanded. Sometimes we do not fully understand the difficulty a neighbor faces. The difficulties may arise from children, work, spouses, temptations, health issues, or many other things, but do we as loving neighbors understand and sympathize with those problems? How can we find out these problems without coming on as prying? Good question! On the job training as a loving neighbor is not easy for many of us. At times, communicating with a neighbor may seem like talking to an especially quiet and withdrawn boulder. Other times we may get more problems to pray for than we can possibly remember. Only Jesus has the answer for every situation, but we can begin by reading about love in our Bibles. Some mornings, when both cats are extra loud, I have to remind myself that love is not irritable or rude. You may end up with a neighbor like that, but Jesus didn't give us any exceptions to the command to love them.

Have a wonderful weekend; try to dry out from the drenching of last night.


Friday, June 21, 2013

The Key is: A Child Does It

Good Friday morning! The clouds have hidden the sun, but the Son is not so hidden. Today, I want to ask why this think, yeah that too, I mean this thing, is so hard for me. A child does it without trying hard. In fact, Jesus said that we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. So if a child does it well, and I am all grown up now, I guess, why is this thing harder for me? Perhaps the training of the world has become a stumbling block for me. For years, I have been trained to be the rugged individualist lauded by the American people for a couple hundred years or more. We all have received this sort of training through words and shows. This makes it difficult to ask for help, and makes it more difficult to take one thing and go all the way in faith. That thing is to trust God.

A child does it, but we as adults have more, much more, difficulty trusting God. We look at all the second-hand stories, the news reports, and our experiences in this life and we confuse the choices of some with God not paying attention. In our heads we learn that God knows everything, but in our hearts we think that maybe He turns to watch something else at times and misses those tragedies. Surely, we think, God must have been watching some other project of His a bit too closely when you or I had that thing happen to us. How could God, the one we are trying to trust, let THAT happen?!

The key is: a child does it, and does it well. Trusting God is about giving up what we have learned about going it alone and trusting Him to guide, direct, provide, send, or whatever is needed to solve whatever the problem is right now. Problems will come and go, but God has not changed. Strength, talent, and ability are all fickle things dependent upon circumstance, health, and wealth. We cannot depend upon what we see or think we know, but we can depend fully on God. A child does not believe that he or she can do everything; the world teaches that with trite sayings and other training methods. A child knows better than you and me that God can do anything He wants to do. Why do we seem to have so much trouble with that?

So, how is it that God can allow all these personal choices that hurt and kill others, and yet have His plan work out from Creation to Destruction to Re-Creation? Easy, He's God! Now remember that while you and I travel through this day.

The circumstance of your today is working out just as God will have it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Look Past to Jesus

Good Morning! We gathered this morning at 0530 to fix breakfast for a youth camp. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes for about 130. Now, I don't much feel like breakfast myself. Both hose bibs are in need of repair, I broke a tooth last night, and praise the Lord for things just as they are right now. I read a comic strip this morning where the boss had to rate 1/3 of his staff as 'does not meet expectations'. The tragic part of that is some of you will think that is just a funny punch line the artist come up with to exaggerate a point. Nope, he probably got it from more than one e-mail his fans sent to him. We live in a tough and fallen world, so why am I praising God for things just as they are right now?

First, we must look past all of the unfair policies, the painful physical problems, the homes falling apart as we sit in them, and the many other signs of the curse. We must look to the great gift we received in Christ Jesus. Then, we take that gift and look for the blessings we have in this life. Got a house problem? Rejoice that you have a house. Got a health problem? Rejoice in all the parts that don't hurt. Up early to feed the mob, rejoice that there is food and a mob to feed. Rejoice that Jesus gives us the strength to get through each day, or He comes to fetch us up to His home where the toils and problems we face in this life will be finished forever.

Whatever happens this day, Jesus will not leave us alone or leave us to face the problems alone, or withdraw His comforting presence in our lives, or in any way make it worse than we can bear. Yes, I understand that some times do feel unbearable, but what seems is not necessarily what is. Look to Jesus, fold those hands in prayer, and rejoice that God hears our every prayer.

In the wonderful name of Christ,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hey, Hey, Good Morning To You!

Have you met people going to work who look so very much like they would rather be going somewhere else? Yes, your entire office/department/crew or whatever. Okay, maybe we should ask if you have ever met some nut who is not going to work and seems to be enjoying himself very much. Once in a blue moon perhaps, and you tried your very best not to call down the fire of heaven upon that person because you know Jesus wouldn't like it. How about that really rare bird, the one who is going to work and enjoys it more than anything in that moment. In other words, the time has come to go to work, and that is what she wants to do more than anything. When the time comes to go home, she will want more than anything to do that too, but for now the time and the enjoyment are right there together. Should we gather together and give her a good smackin' around, or what?

Work is not always enjoyable for most people. Kind of an understatement there, but that seems to be the way the world is going these days. I wonder though, if work is so different for that person who enjoys the work so much. Maybe, he or she has made a contract with their eyes not to look for ways in which the job falls short of expectations or what might be better in some way. For to see one bad thing in a situation is to open the gates for all the others. We look at a person and say to the self, he/she has a nice... and the way to lust is opened. We look at a neighbor and think, I wish I had a car/pool/thing like that and the way is opened for coveting. We look at the neighbor's husband or wife, think the wrong thing, and both lust and coveting jump in and beat us to a fine heidee-ho. The problem lies not in the persons, job, or things around us, but in the mind and heart.

God gave us a new heart in Christ, but we have a mind of flesh that still looks out at the world and feels those wrong desires. In place of a cheerful greeting, we grumble at each other on a Monday and try to think of something else we would rather be doing. Hmm, perhaps a cheerful greeting would be a good place to start. Hey, hey and a great good morning to you! Jesus loves you! Have a great day at work today!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You're Not Supposed To Do That

Good morning! Bible study and breakfast are behind me, time to get on with the devotional writing. I'm watching a short documentary on a Rose Bowl concert from 1988, this date in 1988 in fact. A band did something unexpected that date, they sold out the Rose Bowl. New Wave/Alternative bands from the 80's weren't supposed to do that. Congrats to Depeche Mode, 25 years later. By the way, the first word in the band's name is not pronounced de-peachy as I am wont to do here in the house by my lonesome. Let's see, in 1988 I would have been into the heavy metal music, a carryover from almost four years of WXQR out in Jacksonville near the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. Around that time I attended my one and only big concert, Alabama played at Cheyenne Frontier Days in, well, gosh, I do believe it was in Cheyenne. I'm so brilliant after a good breakfast!

Okay, I am mocking myself in the devotional today. Someone say, "You're not supposed to do that!" I wonder if anyone said something like that to Jesus before He left Heaven. Go down to the Earth, be born as a tiny baby in Bethlehem, and then grow up to die for the sins of mankind. That doesn't sound like something most folks would do. Maybe if they were allowed to change the death from execution on a cross to a peaceful death in old age with family listening to the wise last words before heading back up to Heaven, we might go for it then. I don't know, bearing the sins of all mankind still might be a bit rough. How about we tone that down to just the sins of the good ones, you know those humans that lived good enough to stand a real shot at getting into Heaven anyway. Maybe then you and I could stand up and volunteer. Still, a stable for a birthplace, dirt and the stink of hairy beasts and all that. Then to run for our lives to Egypt because King Herod gave an 'off with their little heads' order, I don't know. Maybe if we had the choice we would wait to be born after all cancers are cured, genetic testing and manipulation assures good healthy and physically attractive babies, and some genius invents a stable Windows-based personal computer. Then, yes, maybe a few more would volunteer. Hmm, must be sin-free and pure? Uh oh, maybe all of us are under qualified already.

We want to become more like Jesus, but the Son of God you and I are not. I wonder today if maybe, just maybe, God wants you and me to not be Jesus, but to be just you and me as He created us to be, and then He will take care of that sin part that He died to save us from. We may be allowed to help in this reconstruction project, but mostly we help by getting out of the Spirit's way through not clinging to our old sinful self. Yes, me can be hard to let go of, but God will get us cleaned up and ready for the big wedding feast, trust Him.


Monday, June 17, 2013

That Redwood Beanstalk

The garden is doing well, but the oregano has not yet sprouted. I mention that particular spice because of all the seeds I planted this year, that one was by far the smallest. We're talking sneeze and lose every seed kind of small here. Now suppose that this morning I had walked out to check my garden, and right where the tiny seeds went into the ground stood a full-grown redwood tree. Surprise would seem an understatement for the look on my sleepy face. We get that sort of story from the parable of the mustard seed that Jesus told back in the day. Now, Jesus didn't say that the seed grew instantly into a mighty tree, but that is what we expect from that seed of faith planted within us.

I got saved some years ago, and I still expect that mountain-busting, tide-blocking, stop-the-earth-in-its-tracks kind of faith to greet me one morning. Thus far, the problems of yesterday seem just as real and my faith just as weak as it always has been. On the other hand, I read in a book that what we are to do with great loss is to just grind it out for the remainder of our lives while our loved ones await us in Heaven. I thought, "grind it out?" Is that all that we can do with the promises of Jesus? You know the one about abundant life and all? Somewhere between that redwood beanstalk and a life of grinding it out is the simple growing and doing faith that brings abundant life in Christ Jesus. Perhaps it is not between those two extremes, but above them. The answer to faith must rest in the unchanging and all-powerful being of God.

I cannot plant my own faith, or grow it, or harvest the fruit of it. Faith isn't something that I can touch or prune or handle with my human hands. Yet, there does seem to be room for me to join in this thing. I can feed my faith with the Word of God. I can water my faith with prayer and supplication (with thanksgiving!). I can work out and exercise my faith through the challenges of living in this fallen world. I might even stretch my faith a bit by reaching out a hand in love to others. I also practice my faith through believing in Christ each day. Believing in means that I trust what Jesus says to me through His word and His answers to prayer. Trusting is so hard when my carnal man wants to wrestle control back from God. The problem in that is that God will not wrestle with me: He will let me drive this ol' bus off the road any time I want.

God loves you and me, let us live in Him!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sometimes The Old Must Be Cleared First

Good Saturday morning to you! God's mercy and grace and love to you and your family on this fine day. I watched for a little while as my brother in Christ, Mike, worked with his skid loader to demolish a small house this morning. As I prepared to write today, I thought of how God must at times clear away the old junk to make room for His new project, you and me. God may clear away people from our lives who are a bad influence, or material possessions that have come to possess us, or some situation that overwhelms our ability to serve in His calling. We may not realize that demolition work has been done until much later; God is that good at what He does. What we sometimes don't like is the demolition work that hurts.

Mike put a pair of iron, for want of a better term, wrecking bars on his skid loader's bucket and drove them beneath the foundation of the house. The ground shook a bit and large chunks of the cement foundation were ripped from the ground and from their fellow foundation mates. If we put you and me in the place of the foundation, we might be a bit upset when God rips us away from friends, family, a job, a career, or just a home we have lived in for decades. However, unlike the foundation chunks which will end up in a landfill, we can trust that God is moving us to another place for our growth and His kingdom.

After the old house is completely cleared away, Mike probably has some plan for the space. If nothing else, the space can be used for a small garden. God always has a plan for us when He demolishes something in our lives. Whatever loss you are facing on this day, look to God in complete faith as His plan is unveiled in your life. You and I may go through times of drought in our journey. Did I say 'may'? We know very well that tough times of some sort will come. Things or people we enjoy may be taken or lost in this world. Look forward to that time of unending joy in Christ when He welcomes us home forever.

In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, live in this day!

P.S. My PC has become unstable again, This happens every couple of years. I should have it rebuilt by Monday, but just in case, I'll send out an advisory today.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Read Enough Oogie-Boogie Books

...And you will surely have a nightmare in the night. I did last night, and I had to laugh at this one, not from the content but from my own reading that brought it on. 'You are what you read'. Some version of that saying has intruded upon your life at some point. Of course, we know that is not entirely true. If so, all we would need for our heaven-bound ticket on the life's end express would be to read the Bible enough times to be holy. We are affected by what we take in by eating, reading, watching the lighted electronic screen, or by listening to people talk. However, we are also more than that. God created us, and we begin this life with both more and less. More sin than anyone needs to be counted as sinner, and less righteousness than we need for Heaven.

We could go through life without reading anything at all, and we would still have desires to sin from our carnal nature. We could also read every book ever printed and still lack what we need to enter Heaven. The heart must be activated by the Holy Spirit to understand the life-saving message of Jesus Christ. Even our coming to be saved at an altar, or by a streetlamp, or anywhere else in this world is preordained by God. Does that mean it is not my fault if God chooses not to save me? Let's see, God is not willing that any should perish, so it seems that everyone is going to have his chance to be saved. We should not fear for Pharaoh because he at some point in his life had the chance to worship God. We don't need to shame the sinner, because we also sinned and the Holy Spirit will take care of the conviction in the soul of the sinner. Love got through to you and me, so it should be our love that the sinner notices first.

Even in the worst of the oogie-boogie books there is the good and evil. Depending upon the author, the good wins or not. Sometimes the book presents a Christian upbringing as something to recover from, and that is sad. Other times the good is made to look like evil and vice versa, but the Word of the Lord warned us that time would come. However, Jesus did not come to condemn me for my choice of reading material. So, why then do I feel an urge to condemn others or even myself for things watched or read? Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, for they have made the transition to Christianity!

God bless you on this great day in Christ!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Strong Swimmer Drowns

Good morning on this cloudy Thursday! You have seen a similar headline at some point in your life. Living near the ocean makes it all the more likely. Of course, my little town in north-eastern Colorado is about as far from the ocean as it gets. What happens is that a strong swimmer from a Midwestern town heads out to swim in the ocean and gets caught in a rip current. The swimmer can see the shore and puts forth all his strength to swim to the shore against a current that no human can hope to match. Exhausted beyond his means to stay afloat, he drowns and another sad tale is added to the lore of the ocean. Meanwhile, the weaker, but more experienced, swimmer from a coastal town rides the current back to shore at a place further down the coast and walks back to her truck. If you feel a politically-correct rant rising up within you then simply reverse the he and she if you prefer.

Many things in this world are too strong for us to fight or swim against. The strong swimmer is overwhelmed by the power of the ocean. The gentle politician is overwhelmed by the arena of political mud slinging. Fame chews up and spits out the well-meaning but unprepared new starlet. Each of us will find that his or her strength is too little for the world. The story of the mighty warrior who raised his spear to shout down the thunderstorm with words of power only to die from the lightning bolt is a bit of dark humor from this world. Of course he couldn't fight a thunderstorm, but we often find a similar battle taking place in this life, and you or I are the one playing the mighty but foolish warrior.

Put on the whole armor of God, but seek wisdom along with your new gear. You may shout the scriptures at a herd of cattle, but surely we can find a better use for the Word, the sword of the Spirit. An example: a headline in today's news: "Using obituaries, burglars target homes during funerals." Hmm, people like me, veterans and others suffering from PTSD, have trouble attending funerals. However, we are quite capable of serving by watching the home while the funeral service is held.

Walk with God on your journey this day,

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Shame and Guilt the Way?

Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus at night, said this in John 3:17, "For God did not send His Son in to the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Okay, we want to be more like Jesus each day, so why then do we think it is our Christian or pastoral or devotional writing duty to condemn someone or our self? Ah, never caught yourself doing that to yourself? I have so many times that it isn't funny anymore. Then, I read one of the devotionals I receive each morning doing that very thing to me this morning. If Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, why then do we think it is our job as Christians to do that very thing?

If you grew up in the past century or so, you probably experienced the use of shame and guilt in your training or raising or whatever. Boot camps and boot camp wannabe's are good at this sort of thing. Shame and guilt are piled on to make the recruit into what the service or other organization needs to fit their particular mold. That may be fine for a limited term of service, but what happens when a relentless perfectionism is driven so deep into the mind and heart that shame and guilt become our way of living day to day?

Is there a way to become a saint without Christ? Yes, Jesus gave that way in the Sermon on the Mount, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Take that little verse out of context (Matt 5:48, if you want to look it up) and you seem to have a way to get to Heaven. All you have to do is be perfect like God! However, this instruction comes at the end of the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. The key word is 'therefore', in other words if you and me include all those instructions and qualities Jesus listed up to verse 48 then we shall be perfect. Is this then the way to become like God? Yes and no.

You and I can never be God. Anything created by the Creator cannot become the Creator. What we seek is the bottom line, the way to Heaven. Interesting that we should want that. The word translated as 'perfect' is the Greek word teleios, and the first definition in my Bible dictionary is: brought to its end, finished. We use 'perfect' because the text means to be finished to God's standard. But what does that remind you of? What Jesus said on the cross maybe? Our Lord said, "It is finished!" and died for our sins. The word Jesus used was teleo: to bring to a close, to finish, to end. So it seems to me that the way to become finished is the Way we have read all along: Jesus. We can pile shame and guilt upon ourselves because we cannot in our own strength meet the standard of finishing Jesus set down in His great sermon, or we can seek out the Way who does not condemn us, but saves us. We can attempt in our meager strength to live up to the Law of Moses and be beaten down when we fail, or we can come to the Way who removes the condemnation of the Law and sets us free. Who is this Way? John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me."

God's love and blessing go with you on this day, live in peace!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Fun of the Bible

Good morning as the heat wave continues for another day. Have you looked at your Bible study as an obligation, a chance to learn, or as fun? Perhaps some combination of all three, but today let us look at the fun of Bible study. We like statistics, and you can find many on the Internet about the Bible. Longest chapter, shortest verse, and many other stats give us a fun view of the Bible. We like trivia, and the Bible is chock full of interesting trivia. We may not know the name of 'a certain Levite' in Judges 19, but the name of Jezebel's father is given. I know that because I got a trivia question on that once upon a time and I reacted about as you might expect, "Jezebel's daddy? How am I supposed to know that?" Turns out the old fellow was named Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. With 31,102 verses in the King James Bible holding some 788,258 words, there is room for a whole lot of trivia and statistics.

How about who was Mahershalalhashbaz? Please don't ask me to spell that one out loud. The name means literally, Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Body. Aren't you glad that you don't have to fill out that name on forms for the remainder of your miserable life? "Just call me 'Baz, thanks." In case you think the Lord does not have any humor, He instructs the prophet to, "Take a large scroll and write on it with a man's pen concerning...'baz" In the NKJV, the name is hyphenated 3 times to help the mind see it without drawing a confused blip. If you really want to be mean, have your favorite Bible study student recite Isaiah 8:1-4, he or she will have to say ol 'Baz's name twice along with Jeberechiah.

Like your crime procedural dramas on TV? Take a look at Judges 19. A few chapters earlier you can read the story of Samson, perhaps the physically strongest man to ever live. Like boats? The gospels have several stories about boats and storms and such. How about RC model airplanes? Um, that one might be more difficult, try this one, "Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces." (Isaiah 8:9) Heh, heh, sound unrelated? Then you haven't seen Burt's RC Rescue Repair Shop!

God bless you,

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some Kind of Gathering

Whoo! Anyone who boasts of the quiet contemplative nature of cats has never been around one at feeding time. or a little past what they think is feeding time. Last week, after the return of Internet service to this household, I wrote that church is not necessary. I will stand by that, but not perhaps in the way that you think. How do we get those relationships in Christ that we need in this life? Going to church is certainly one way that many find these matches. I don't mean that a church should be viewed as a match-making service, though many do find their life partners there. We need some kind of gathering to make relationships with God's people. Yes, our primary relationship is with God, and He does not need a church service to be with us.

Many people look for a building with a -an, -ist, -ic, or -ian somewhere in the name. Some prefer to give a sort of ownership to the building and have a St. with a possessive 's' on the name. But for those who have difficulty with a public setting and lots of peoples - up to you how many 'lots' means - there are many smaller gatherings that work well too. Bible studies, life groups, mommy support groups, children's activities, and many other gatherings take place in or around churches. Wherever two or three gather in the name of Jesus, our Lord is there among them.

Church is great! Go, have fun, enjoy the service. I have trouble attending gatherings of more than a few people. The word trouble is used here in what the scholars call massive understatement. That is why after all the PTS comes the D for disorder. I agree, it's a disorder; we should enjoy gathering together in groups of many to praise God. I look forward to it in Heaven when all my fears are taken away and my tears are wiped away by God Himself. Until that time, I may just have to be content in small gatherings.

To God be the glory forevermore!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Your Artisanal Devotional

Good Saturday morning! For those who take off on the weekend and skip the Saturday reading, no artisan hand-crafted devotional for you today. I watched a news article on the use and misuse of the term 'artisan' today. As you might think, artisan made items are supposed to be hand crafted in small batches, or one at a time, by a local craftsman (applicable to male or female crafters), and denotes an item of unusual quality. However, as happens with many terms we love, such as, well, 'love', the term has been taken over by corporate marketing and now is diluted.

Today, you are privileged to get one artisanal devotional: hand-crafted one at a time, by me the so-called artisan, working in the inspiration of God my Father to give you something special. This is not a 14-cent pencil sharpened by hand and marked up to $35. This is a bunch of words that I get at no cost, put together lovingly with attention to my craft, and send out at no charge. Wait, no wonder I'm poor. I seem to have missed out on that markup thing! No, I think of this devotional as my first fruits of writing given back to God as an offering or tithe. I dare not charge for that lest I fall into Balaam's sin and find jackasses giving me travel advice. Wait, there's an e-mail for a trip to, forget that.

The world is going to seize upon terms and abuse them, but that does not mean that we must quit using them in their proper context. The name of our Lord and our God has been abused for, oh, probably since about the time the Lord wrote down in stone, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain." As soon as the law became the Law, someone probably felt a very strong urge to violate it.

Moses was up on the mountain watching God hand craft the original stone tablets of the Law when down in the camp of the Israelites, one man pokes his head out of his tent and calls over to his neighbor, "Did y'all just feel an overwhelming urge to use the Lord's name as an expletive? Me too. What's up with that do ya think?"

The urge to use or abuse our words in advertising probably dates back at least that far as well. We can rail over every supposed violation of the terms we use in our daily language, or we can go to the store and realize that stuff churned out in a big food factory probably is about as artisanal as the 450,000,000th toothpick to come off the artisanal, hand-crafted, highly-polished, extremely-dedicated to machine production, carving and assembly line #7 at the Jolly Good Times Toothpick and Mintpick Factory.


Friday, June 07, 2013

It Starts With a Seep

Good Friday morning! You know the commands of Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and equally important, love your neighbor as yourself. However, it doesn't seem that upon careful inspection that your life is producing any love. You look for the spring and the mighty river flowing forth, but nothing shows to your weary eye of perfectionism. Perhaps your love spring begins with but a seep. During a normal season you cannot even tell the seep is there. However, come the time of drought, where all else appears dry and barren, you see a green patch of thriving love growing. It may take a time of spiritual drought to bring forth that little seep of love coming from your new heart in Christ, but it is there.

The busyness of the world may hide our little seep of love too. Duties at work, chores at home, travel here and there, workout, learn, do, be at this place, go to another meeting, we have a lot going on at times. And for some, those 'at times' may stretch into years or decades without a break. The seep of love may be producing, but we just can't see it. We know that to make it into a spring, we must clear away some of the weeds of the world and pray in the Word, but so much is going on! What is important this weekend, more busyness, or to get in touch with the One who can improve the flow of your little love seep? Ask God to help you make time for Bible reading and prayer. You may not think there is time for a Bible study, but certainly there is time for a quick request to God who hears even the short prayer breathed out on the run. We may yet become a champion spring flowing with rivers of God's love!


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Today: God's Gift to You and Me

Good morning! A few people can recall with great detail every day of their past, but they cannot change that past. Some claim to be able to see into the future, but we rightly tend to label them quacks. You and I can make plans for today, but we usually end up at the end of the day with a completely different set of results. Each day we unwrap the gift God has given to us, guessing every step of the way that we know what is in that gift. Some folks lay out their entire day in a notebook planner of some sort, and feel a certain satisfaction if the day goes exactly as planned. However you want to open the gift of today is fine, but enjoy it with God.

Each of us can recall at least some of our past. We do not get to live there, and we should make no more than brief visits. The past is done and we cannot change it. To flog the self repeatedly over past mistakes is to fail to learn from them. In Christ we seek to learn and move on, leaving the past to our Lord and living in today. Our personal future has not arrived yet and looking ahead gives a cloudy view at best. We hope to marry, or buy a house, or get a different job, or win the lottery like that now rich older lady down in Florida did yesterday, but we don't know what tomorrow may bring. Today is the gift we are given, enjoy it well.

Even the events of today are unwrapped one at a time. In 1865, a man boarded a train with his friend to visit other places. The man had led troops in the Civil War in 24 battles and survived to tell the tales, or not tell them as combat vets typically keep their silence. Yet, on this day a description of a certain presidential assassin had gone out over the wires and this war hero would be tailed, stalked, and arrested more than once before he and his friend could complete their planned journey. The man just happened to fit the description of a Mr. John Wilkes Booth to a 'T'. The first time a group appeared to arrest him for assassinating the president, the man laughed. After that, while in jail the first time, a lynch mob arrived and the humor quickly went out of the circumstance. The man was able to prove his identity and survived after word went out that the real assassin had died in a barn in Virginia.

Whatever our gift of today brings, laughter, tears, joy, peace, or sorrow, we now begin the unwrapping. Enjoy your gift of today with God.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Let Us Sing Joy to The Lord!

Good and quite wet morning to you! I could go on about my recent problems, but why keep flogging my poor dead moose? This morning let us sing joy to the Lord! At times in our lives, whether in our health or in our wealth, in poverty or plenty, rain or sunshine, driving or walking, cooking or cleaning... enough already, we have endured some difficult times. If you claim the right to become children of God, then you have earned the world's hatred and you have endured difficult times. I'm not making a wild stab in the darkness here, when you gave yourself to Jesus, the world armed itself and came after you with its proverbial guns blazing. So, now that we know that times of tribulation will come, as if the words of our Lord Jesus were not enough that is, we might as well take His promises and sing our joy to the Lord.

In your prayers today insert a song of joy to the Lord. Did someone say that prayers must only be spoken lists of needs and wants, intercessions and complaints? No, good then perish that thought and sing to the Lord a song of joy. Did you ever pause to pray to the Lord, "You do good work, Lord!"? I like that one. Howz come we don't tell the Lord He does a good job more often? David did; look into his psalms of joy for a more eloquent stating of 'Good job, Lord'. Sing that psalm of joy, make up one of your own, and have a good time with it. You can sneak into the shower when no one is around and sing it there if your singing needs a bit of accompaniment. I'll probably do that, or maybe I will torture the cats a bit with some of my own caterwauling.

God bless and keep you on this rainy day!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Please Forgive Me, I'm Poor

Good morning once again after 3 ½ weeks without the forms of communication we have grown accustomed to in this age. Phone and Internet were restored yesterday thanks to a financial rescue from my family. Thanks go out also to those who gave food and money over the past month or so to keep me going. What have I learned from this time?

God is good. Wants don't die simply because I cannot afford to satisfy them. Some things I can live without and do quite well, but others bug me on a daily basis. God's provision is timely, but my timely has not quite grown to where it should be as my trust wavered at times. However, it is never wrong to trust God. I said that one over and over as I wept in my living room one day when things seemed darkest. A person can take $10 - $15 to the grocery store and get enough to feed himself (and a couple of cats) for a little while, but it is difficult. It is way more difficult when the $10-$15 isn't available. I also learned that a multi-millionaire producer and actor can really piss off at least one of the poor with a little publicity stunt attempting to do much the same thing.

I learned how to make bread from scratch, and that it is more than just baking; it is also an art. I learned to bake chocolate cake, also from scratch, and that it is very tasty even without frosting when a person cannot afford the ingredients for the frosting stuff. I learned that when a truck cannot be driven due to my inability to afford the insurance, it makes a nifty bread dough raiser, a ¾ ton, 4WD, Hemi-powered, Quad Cab, bread dough raiser. I learned that cats can go a couple of days without their canned cat food, but the noise produced by that is more than a person should have to bear. A house can be owned, but it doesn't taste very good and is not nutritious. A truck can also be owned, but the fluids are quite undrinkable. I learned that it gets really quiet in the house without the telephone service, but it also makes it hard for anyone to make contact.

I learned that two partners, Shame and Self-pity, can destroy a man and will do their best to make that happen. I learned again that God is good. A Bible study can be written out in the old way, long hand with a pen and paper, but my writing hand surely does smart from it. However, prayer is always available, doesn't hurt the hands in any way, and brings wonderful answers when all is quiet in the house. Although my body was broken badly in an auto accident some years ago, it is still capable of much work. To avoid divorce, couples are counseled to not speak of it, and that method helps with suicide too. A person can resist the Devil and he will flee, just as we are taught in the Word. However, the Devil doesn't hear the thoughts rattling around in my head, speak it out loud and don't be ashamed. Telling the Devil about the love of God is sweet, you can actually feel the evil minions fleeing the area.

Church is not a necessity, but relationships with God first, and my brothers and sisters in Christ second most certainly are a necessary part of growing closer to God. I cannot do anything alone except fall down. God is always with me, even when loneliness tries to press me flat to the floor. And what a great place that is to pray from! I learned that I am totally dependent on God, and I am proud of that fact! When I came to that place, that is when things began to change for the better. Sometimes, even in His love, God lets us fall, or perhaps that should be, because of His love. So, financially speaking, I am poor, please forgive me. For the 'why didn't you's?', the answer lies in those two partners I mentioned, and in what God told me to do or not do. Each day is a gift from God, and I pray that we can share many more devotional moments.

God loves you in every circumstance,