Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Come, and Walk Right In!

Good morning! The clouds are back. Seems like we just saw this sort of sky not that long ago. The pumpkin conquest of the world continues. Depending upon conditions, I have measured growth at 2-6 inches per day on one vine. It has now passed the little oak tree and is headed for the street. Some days, upon reflection and examination of my life, I wish that my progress was that rapid and persistent. What if my ruler that I hold up to that mirror is malfunctioning though? If I used Burt's fish ruler on my pumpkin vine, people would know immediately that something wasn't right. What if I am using an opposite sort of ruler on my spiritual and life's progress?

The ruler of perfectionism as viewed by an imperfect man does not measure what God sees. Those who believe in Jesus are growing toward one of twelve great entrances. These entrances are made of one single pearl each. Either we will be made very small, or these will be some magnificent pearls! The gates face in the four directions, three on each side of the great city being prepared for us, or, more likely, when the preparations of us for it are complete. The city is so vast, some 1,400 miles in length, width, and height, that we might imagine gates spaced both horizontally and vertically. However, I think that the gates are close together and on one level. A very welcoming city where the throne of the Master, the crystal river, and the trees of life are on this one very open level. This entire city is constructed in such a way that it says, "Come, and walk right in!" Every one of those called by God is progressing rapidly and surely toward these gates; we just can't see them yet and so our progress may seem slow or stopped to us.

This is not a city where some test awaits at these great gates. Those called walk right in because the gates are always open. On Earth, we often find locked doors and closed gates, but this city is one of invitation. We want to enter there, and the Master of the city wants us there with Him. We are of one mind in our desire for meeting in this city, though we may not always feel like it here in this shadow life we live. If things in your circumstance seem a little rough today, or downright awful, remember where you are going to.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You're The One I Come To

All right, I'm back from the Tuesday morning Bible study and ready to write a devotional. Someone remind my fingers how to type and I'll be good to go. When I have no idea what to write for a day, or two or three, I come to the Lord in prayer. Sunday school teachers, ministers, worship leaders, and all manner of Christ servants use the same method. Often, I spend a little time beating my brains around trying to come up with a subject first, but coming to the Lord is where I end up. My mind is so well-trained by the world to depend on myself first that I fail to begin each little journey on the right step. Each day is a part of our larger journey with Christ, and we very much need to stop before we start and say a prayer for guidance and comfort.

Dear Lord my Father,
When I have doubts about the path I am on, you're the one I come to.
When I feel lost and alone, you're the one I come to.
When I disobey, it's because I didn't come to you until it was too late.
When I rebel against your word, it is because I am turned away from you.
When the guilt of sin arrives, then you're the one I come to.
When forgiveness and mercy is my heartfelt need, then you're the one I come to.
When joy unspeakable fills my heart, you're the one I came to.
When peace like the still waters envelops my soul, you're the one I came to.
When the self takes a step back, and the needs of others I bring before You in prayer, it is then that You have come to me with healing.

Praise and glory to God my Father,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Choose Love Over Strangeness

My this has been one cool July weekend. The campers out in the wilderness of northern Minnesota probably needed their heaters last night. But, is that the only strange thing going on today? Of course not. There seems to be more strangeness than ever in the world today and we get to hear or read or watch all about it on our news media outlets. Today it is more important than ever for us to choose to love one another. Jesus did not say to wonder in shocked, jaw-dropping silence at the strangeness of our fellow humans, though that will probably happen these days, but he said to love each other. That requires a conscious choice now more than ever it seems.

I don't need to catalog all the strangeness presented just in one day's news articles this morning, and the day has barely begun here, for you to understand what I write about. The hermit in the Idaho mountains is there to escape what we can see on the news on any given day. Of course strangeness to one is perfect freedom of expression or speech to another. If what is strange to us is not harming anyone, why are we so quick to condemn it? Yes, there are lists in the Bible, and but for the grace of Jesus Christ you and I would be on 'em.

Picking out one or more sins from the list and pointing the finger at a group of people in an attempt to shame them does not help anyone. You may feel better for a bit, a little superior perhaps, but a good 'No, you cannot' is the best way to make someone want to do something all the more. Don't believe me? How many speed limit signs have you treated as suggestions? Ever hear of someone telling off an officer of the law for issuing speeding citations when he or she should be pursuing 'real' crime? I think all of us have participated in or heard of these things. I know; our speeding always had/has a good excuse, doesn't it? In a mythical nation far away, someone might think it strange for us to be in such a hurry to get to our destination that we break the law. What if a state made it a capital crime to argue with a police officer for any reason?

Strangeness is in the eye of the beholder, but love has some qualities that God set down in writing. One of the best ways to love is to seek understanding of the other person before we seek to condemn. Yes, people feel the way they do, are attracted to those they are attracted to, and desire what they desire, and they may get up one morning and decide to change everything about themselves. They may not be able to, but they may try. I think most or all of us have awakened one morning and tried to change something or everything about us; aren't we just the strange ones?


Saturday, July 27, 2013

You're Just One of Us

Good morning! Have you had that enjoyable experience of watching a documentary or news report only to find that in a similar situation the people on the screen took the same steps as you, or even had the same thought you did? Hopefully it wasn't during a documentary on a prison population that this occurred for you. It can be humbling to find that in a situation you or me did not come out so uniquely strong, smart, and well-prepared as we thought or hoped. We took the same steps and found the same pitfalls as those other folks way over there in New York did. We looked at the situation and felt the same pain even to the point of thinking the same thoughts as that guy in Florida or California did. Should we be embarrassed? Perhaps not.

If in a situation you or I tried to utilize the strength, intelligence, and abilities that exist only in us, we are most likely to find out that we are not that much different from anyone else. The world overwhelms us with an ease that is almost laughable maybe one or two or ten years later after the disaster is more memory than immediate pain. Right now, we look at the screen in a bit of shock as we think, 'that guy did exactly the same thing I did, and we both fell hard on our poor posterior!' It is at this point that a true friend helps out by unwittingly blurting out, "Man, what a stupid oaf! Can you believe anyone would do that?"

When it comes to your humanness, you're just one of us. If we want to be special and shine in a tough situation, we can try to count on luck, it works some of the time for some people, or we can run to God in prayer and supplication. We are unique creations in Christ, but we need our Lord to bring out our special qualities and strengths in and under His strength and wisdom.

Have a loving weekend!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The King Needs His 'Of Kings'

The news is out: It's an apricot tree! Think of the poor tree being known as a fruitless fruit tree. Jesus took out a fig tree that did that. Fruit trees have a tough standard and they know it. As I suspected though, we are too far north or too high up for good apricots most of the time. Two out of ten years I can expect a good crop. That is not a very good batting average - the ol' Bob Uecker lifetime batting average. I'll just have to name my fruit tree "Bob". Bob produced 2 apricots this month, and one has already fallen. Bob is not going to feed me, it would seem. However, we know from of old that fruit trees are not to be depended upon. We shouldn't worship them or pray to them. We have a Savior and He is a proven authority over fruit trees.

Speaking of little fruits, there is a few news items lately about a certain royal fruit of the ol' vine. Another George, if you can believe that. We fought a revolution over here because we had the wrong George in charge. I can't believe they want to start that contest up again. The little apple of his mother's eye is third in line for the throne. Of course, his granddad may not live long enough to see ol' Mum give up her seat. The good news for us is that to take the title of King of kings, our Lord needs His 'of kings', otherwise the title makes no sense. I'm being silly, but this is a Friday and a little silliness just proves that I can be silly too. Or nonsensical and repetitive and almost anything but a George.

Actually, Jesus has provided some kings to fit His title already. Those who believe in our Lord will one day rule with Him. He will have some lords to be Lord over as well. This must be true for we know from the Revelation that Jesus will one day ride forth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Yer so smart, says so right in the Word, to mimic that funny duck of a few years ago. Ah Friday, a day to be a little silly before the weekend. Enjoy the Lord today!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Drought to Drenching

Wah! One of my two fruits fell down in the storm last night. The formerly fruitless fruit tree produced two little fruits, and now there is but one. I feel like Jonah mourning over his lost plant. For weeks I checked the fruit tree in vain, then one evening great joy as I saw the two fruits, now I am sad over something I had no part in producing or control over the ripening. Last night we got a drenching, breaking up a couple of weeks of drought. As in many years, the total rainfall does not tell the whole story. We might go weeks without rain, a drought, then one night we get a drenching. Creek beds overflow, street gutters wash over and flow into basements, channels appear in what was flat, dry ground, and everything is dampish for a little while. But the morning after the rainstorm does not tell the whole story either.

I don't want to call God's creation broken, but there is a stain of sin that sets over the world. Mostly it sits on us. We don't build homes and gardens that adjust to the sporadic rainfall. We don't build streets that absorb the water and store it for the dry times. We build roofs to shed the water, but then channel it just kind of out into the lawn when it could be used better. We tend to complain first about some condition before we attempt to work with it. We tend to pray to the One who can do the most only after we have exhausted our whining. Yes, such cursed and fallen creatures as we probably need a good drenching every now and then.

Praise God for His everlasting love! We need that love to help us, protect us, and comfort us in a world that is a difficult place to live right now. God's blessing, though, overcomes the conditions of the world. The perfect Earth has not arrived yet, and we in our state of imperfection could not fully appreciate it at this time. Instead, we live in faith, especially that faith that says this is all working out through Christ for our good.

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pouring Out Love Onto Me

Great and glorious day to you my friends in Christ! What is God up to today? Dare we even ask that question? Did you ask a question like that of your father when growing up? So, let us think about that again. Are we to become as little children in the faith? Yes, we are. Then would we not be in the right to ask our Father, "What are you doing, Daddy?" Sure! And the answer for today is: "I am pouring out love onto all My children". Take that with you today as you go to work or on that trip.

We fall into the temptation of looking upon God as the ultimate bad-boy parent. "You messed up again." Whack! "You violated the 5th commandment in your thoughts yesterday." Smack! We cower beneath the imagined big stick of God while listening to that tempting voice of the Accuser. Why? Probably because that is what we would do to straighten out this world if we found ourselves in God's place.

The Israelites of the Old Testament are a great example of that. When God smote the nation with this plague or that invading army, they cried out to Him and repented for a time. But the turn around never lasted. Always the nation followed its king into paganism, adultery, and all the other sins of the flesh. A godly king could make the repentance last for a while, but inevitably it seems another evil king was on the way. So God sent out the love in the person of Jesus the Christ.

We will not obey the Law under threat of punishment for any great length of time. And to qualify the self for Heaven we would need to obey the Law perfectly forever and somehow go back and erase all the past sins from God's memory. We cannot do that, no one born of Adam can. So God sent His Son to pay the price for our disobedience, both the past and the future sins. God's perfect sacrificial lamb satisfied God's justice and restored us to God. That is love.

To obey perfectly, we need a cleansed heart. Our just wanting to obey is not good enough; our strength as human beings is too little and corrupted by the flesh. So Jesus sent His Spirit into us to begin that process of scrubbing up those dirty little hearts of ours. We will resist that cleansing in our sinful ignorance, but through faith and grace it will be accomplished. God will not let anyone who is almost ready into His perfect home, so we can expect to spend some time here on Earth. But, could not God in His almighty power cleanse us immediately? Sure! But who better to spread the Good News of Christ than those who have 'been there'!

Jesus never sinned. As sinners we find our Lord difficult to understand in that regard. Many who are immersed in the darkness cannot even hear the words of our Lord and Savior. So we are sent in our various ways of communicating the Good News. We have sinned and been forgiven. The sinner can hear us because we still have some of the old nature within our hearts. Once the message hits the mark in that wicked heart, then the saved one can hear the voice of his Lord. We are ambassadors bearing a message of hope to the world from Jesus our King!

Have a great day in Christ!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Okay, We're Here, Now What?

Good Tuesday morning! Does it feel as though salvation ended a few years ago, and now we are here waiting on some definitive, unmistakable, and certainly clear calling from God to come down from on high like Isaiah's? Yet, Isaiah was one of those who looked forward with eager anticipation to our time, the time of the church when Messiah has come and now lives in our hearts. We walk daily with our Lord in the person of the Holy Spirit, what more do we need? I think we are missing out on the joy of discovery; the discovery that comes from waiting on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is tough, no doubt about that. We look and listen, at least we think we do, but sometimes clear direction does not seem to be forthcoming. We want a prophet such as Isaiah to step forward out of the crowd and tell us "Do this right now, so says the Lord of hosts!" Yet, so many times in the Old Testament we can read of that very thing and the immediate and even violent disobedience of those receiving the message. Jonah received his calling in a direct message from God and immediately bought a ticket on a ship going the other way. Would we be any better in his circumstance?

Yet, in scripture there is a small voice, a whisper speaking to us. The whisper may come in the voice of a friend, mentor, or teacher, but God's direction does come to those who wait. You may not understand why you made that last decision, and it may seem like you did so on a whim, yet God is watching over you and guiding you in every step. Faith does not always know in the manner we think that knowing works. Faith believes and steps off in a direction on a path that may seem random. Does faith struggle through swamps of doubt and despair? Yes! Praise God you have reached that swamp. Now let the Holy Spirit bring the help you need to get out of the stinking, sticking mess.

Trust in God, and take comfort from my experience. It is tough, oh so tough when we reach that point: Okay, we're here, now what? Waiting in faith is perhaps the hardest thing we will face in our journey with Christ. An answer may not arrive when we think it is time for God to answer. The answer may be well after the time we think God should have had us on our way. Well, God wants us on HIS way in HIS timing. So, we wait in faith and learn in that time to trust God.

Have mercy on our nation, dear Lord, we are in dire need of your mercy this day.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Careful What You Look At

Oh great, another admonishment of doom. I'm still having trouble with those ten lawful rule things. How am I going to watch what I am watching every moment of every day? We like to admonish each other, but the Word would have us to love and encourage each other. Your eyes are going to light upon some things in this world that will tempt you. My eyes have the same problem, and so did the eyes of our Lord Jesus. Yet, among all of us only Jesus lived without sin.

We can attempt to go about without looking at anything, at least until we fall into a river or walk into a wall. There is a good chance that the first flat spot we see on the way to somewhere today will have an advertisement for something we don't need or even something tempting. Staring at the ground all day cannot be the answer, for soon the ad companies would realize where our eyes were directed and move the ads down there. Did you know that big retail stores put in systems to track where customers look? Yup, we ain't gonna escape seeing things that tempt in this world. There must be a better answer than monitoring our every glance.

How much better is the cleansed heart that sees, but does not desire what is evil or simply not good for it? In the Revelation, we see a group of souls that God calls pure, virginal, unstained, and other things that of all the people who have ever lived only one could possibly be in his own strength. Did you ever wonder who those folks were and why you or I could not be one of them? I don't think that these are special people that somehow had the strength of will to remain pure in life. If this were possible, Jesus need not have endured the cross. The pure ones that John sees are those God has cleansed through His Son Jesus Christ. You and I are not disqualified from this group by the lives we have lived, but we may be through the time of our birth and calling. Just as we cannot be among the original twelve disciples, not because we are any less or better than Peter, James, and the gang, but because we are living now.

Tomorrow, the Tribulation spoken of in Daniel and Revelation could begin, and you and me might have our calling to become a part of this special group of tribulation saints. However, today is what we are given, and today is the best day in Christ we could possibly have today. New troubles may come, but God's love says that today is a great day in Christ. New mercies are needed, and God's Word says that His mercies are new each morning. Yes, there are a lot of scary things foretold in the Word, but we can be sure of one thing: "I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age." Oops, make that two things, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." Uh, oh, better make it three, "And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every one according to his work." Ya know, maybe there are a whole lot of wonderful promises we can be sure of.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Living Leaves

It may sound like a dumb thing to write about this morning, but there it is. As I look outside the front door on this fine morning in July, I see many living leaves. However, there are on that same branch a few dead ones from last year too. The dead leaves still have their place on the branch, but they are clearly dried up and no longer among the living. We are reminded that even where all seems full of life, not all is truly full of life. Sound a bit depressing? Jesus described those who appear full of life but are actually dead in the spirit in similar terms. As our Lord looked around Jerusalem, He could see those who went about the activities of life, but were already dried up and dead on the inside. Maybe that should be on the 'sinside'.

In this world, the vine of life may not eject those dead leaves right away. Some may appear to prosper and flourish in some ways, such as in wealth or fame or accomplishment. The death of that little branch is already written for those to see that can. Some of those who appear prosperous and healthy to us, may have no roots attaching their life to that true vine that gives life abundantly. A plucked rose does not appear to show signs of wilting for some hours or days. However, the life has been taken from that bloom as soon as the stem was cut, we simply lack the necessary vision to see the dying process until it is well advanced. Like the proverbial decapitated barnyard fowl, many run around in this life already dying in the eyes of eternity. There is hope even for the nearly expired though.

By leaving the grave on the third day, Jesus showed that no one is without hope while He is Lord. As long as some spark of life, perhaps buried deeply in sin, remains, there is hope that life may be restored. With a command, Jesus healed him thought long dead and already rotting away in the grave. With a word, Peter's mother arose from a fever. From near at hand or far away on the road, Jesus exercised His authority over life and death. Does your leaf appear a little dried up today because of health or wealth issues? Have no fear, Jesus restores with a gentle touch.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Line of Sight

Good morning! Looks like I brought some rain with me to Sidney for this morning. What is in your line of sight today? Too often we judge God by what we see in the moment. We know how little we can see in time, yet we look around and whine like there's no tomorrow. Perhaps we can change our attitude a little (or a lot) and see the good job God has done this morning. A little gratitude to our Lord and Savior might go a long way today. Could we with a helpful happy attitude of gratitude make our Friday a blessing to all those around us feeling a little down? There is hope on the horizon, and the horizon ain't that far away. Let us spread a little sunshine!

So far this morning, I am not eating enough cereal, my wallet is empty because I haven't purchased enough pizzas, and I'm unsafe because I'm driving the wrong vehicle. As you can tell, I'm watching the television at Ric's place while I write this. I could really use some of those miracle pizzas, but my suspicions are aroused. Sorry, but I don't believe that I can keep my wallet full by spending money on their pizza; that just doesn't seem to make sense to me. Maybe I have discovered the reason that I'm not rich. Buy more frozen pizzas, keep your wallet full! And the world calls me crazy.

I pray that you enjoy a great weekend and a wonderful day at work. God's love to you!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Make Your Friend Slam His Bible Shut

Good morning of the day that this is, which is Thursday I think. Every thing sounds hot out on the East Coast of our nation. Our summer, praise the Lord, has been much cooler than last year. This morning, I wonder how many well-meaning, but so very smart Christians have caused a brother or sister in Christ to cease and desist from studying God's word. First, we know of the days in which the Bible was printed or written only in Latin. The common folk only studied what the priest or bishop read to them and translated for them. Call me goofy, but I don't believe that God's word was ever meant to be limited to those who know only one language. Next, we have the Pharisees and their descendants - those who believe that the official or approved method of study is the one that must be used.

Their method of control goes something like this. I lay out for them my current method of study, say reading one verse at a time and writing down my thoughts on paper with a pen. Yow! they say, you cannot gain the overall context by studying in that way! Using tone and voice to make me feel belittled or stupid in that way. You may have enjoyed a similar experience at some point in your journey with Christ. Let me get this straight; a brother or sister in Christ is consistently reading the Word of God, so someone takes it as a calling from God to correct their method? My question is: How many Bibles has this particular calling of yours caused to slam shut forever?

Dear Brother or Sister in Christ, if you are consistently reading your copy of God's Word, that's wonderful! Enjoy God's word, keep on studying and trusting in God's Holy Spirit! Read the Bible backwards, forwards, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, an entire book in one day, or by subject hopping through the Bible a passage at a time. You go for it and have a good time of fellowship with God and His Word. Study alone, with a small group, or in a congregation of 10,000. Write down your thoughts or treasure them in your heart alone. Jesus has made us free. Why should anyone restrict your method of reading His Word?

Go with God today,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Christmas is Tomorrow!

Good morning as the days of July move on from present to past. Sounds vaguely ominous in a strange way I think, or maybe just silly. What if someone announced today that Christmas will be moved up to tomorrow? To those of us accustomed to a fair chance of Christmas snow, this would be nothing but strange. The chance of snow in July around here is nearly zero, but in many parts of the world Christmas does come without snow. However, there is something worse about a sudden move of the holy day - none of us have any presents prepared for those we love. Then, there are the parents. I can hear them groaning from here. To have a date that requires much work and preparation on their part suddenly moved up a bit more than 5 months is downright mean. All of that is based on a worldly view of what Christmas involves.

In Christ, we should celebrate the day of His birth on any day without the slightest preparation or anxiety. We don't need presents or parties or snow or any of the many things we commonly associate with that day. We need only to stop and lift our hearts in praise to God the Father who gave to us Jesus, His Son. To depend on worldly things to celebrate Christmas is to give the powers of this world a hold on us. We certainly don't need anything weighing on us when the time comes to celebrate with Christ in His place!

Praise the name of Jesus our Lord!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ah, One of God's Great Mornings

G'day and a great morning to you! I took one of those trivia tests yesterday where one is lead to think that a trick question must be there somewhere. Of course there is not, so I ended up only tricking myself into doubting my knowledge. We are so easily fooled in this world. This morning starts with cooler and drier conditions, and a nice breeze blowing. It's mid-July and almost jacket weather today, one of God's great mornings. But are we so easily pleased with conditions? Well, most of the time we are caught up in the current condition either to complain or to rejoice. I hate it when I am easily made to complain over the heat or humidity, or the cold and sleet, or many other weather conditions that don't satisfy. Paul called us to rejoice in the Lord always, yet I am too easily put out of sorts by a little change in conditions.

On the other hand, a little change the other way and I am happy, praising God and giving Him the glory. I must wonder then which is in the wrong. Is the curse from the Fall of Adam more on the conditions around me or on my self and body? Truth is, we don't know. God's great creation fell with Adam. What had been a beautiful garden without thorns and weeds, where animals lived at peace with man, became off limits. Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise and the world they entered was not a nice place. Of course things around us will not be to our pleasure all the time. The thing is to not be about grumbling to God over what we - for you and I cannot claim that we would have done better than Adam or Eve - have done, but to look to God for a new heart and one day, a new life with Him forever.

Eden isn't coming back, but something better is promised. The Tree of Life will live with us without the awful temptation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Each and every morning will be one of God's great mornings. Darkness is not a part of this new place. Evil is banished. But the place will be more than just the absence of the bad, it will be all about the eternal presence of all that is good. Don't expect boredom to be there, and languishing is not on the activities list. Languishing is not just waiting; languishing is waiting with a certain doom at the other end. As in, not waiting for your favorite comedy to start, but waiting at the doctor's office for a test or procedure that is sure to cause pain and great discomfort. As though simply waiting in the doctor's office was not enough of that already. If we wait on something in Heaven, it will be with the eager anticipation of a childhood Christmas multiplied by a hundred or so. I think we have something great to look forward to.


Monday, July 15, 2013

What If I Take A New View

Good Monday morning! When we think of God's view, we tend to do something a bit silly such as imagining the view from a transparent airplane or some kind of super satellite camera. But God's view is not like that at all. God sees all, and even those high up there things cannot see all. When I try to imagine seeing all the atoms and molecules moving about, the waves of this or that energy, the thoughts of 7 billion or so people, and all the motion going on in the universe right now my mind comes up short and starts to frazzle and smoke. My vision is simply not made for that sort of understanding at this point. Did you know that we can see atoms? Yes, they are right there in front of you; take a look.

Of course, my eyes cannot focus on something that small, but I am looking at many of them right now. The objects we see and hold each day are made up of many tiny things that we cannot focus on. Yet God sees all of that, both the overall object in its place in His universe and the tiny bits of His Creation that make up the object. There is more: I can try to imagine what comes next, as in the future, and I can recall the past as much as my memory allows, but God sees all of it laid out before Him. My memory is not perfect and my imagination untrue, I cannot hope to match God in seeing times. The prophecies in God's word are true, but for you and me they have not arrived yet. The best we can do at seeing from God's view is to read His word.

But I don't understand everything in God's word. Yes, even there we need the help of God's Holy Spirit. We do not need to understand all of it right now. We need to know that God's steadfast love is directed this day at you and me. Let us work with that knowledge this day.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

While the Earth Remains

Good Saturday morning! Yes, it was hot yesterday, but I do believe this season has not yet been as hot as last summer was, at least thus far in July. Thinking of heat, I recalled, probably because the dear Holy Spirit pointed it out to me as God is so good at doing, the following verse:

“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.” Gen 8:22 NKJV

I noted that cold and heat received a mention when one might think that winter and summer would have sufficed. However, what if God wanted us to be sure to think of something else in this verse. Cold and heat may refer to the hot deserts around the world and the cold poles and mountain tops, or is it something else? Back in the younger days, some worried that another ice age might arrive. Cold was common in my youth. Winters were long, but not as long as they had been at other times in the past. Then, we began to see longer and hotter summers and the dire warnings went out not of ice ages, but of global warming.

After a summer such as we, uh, enjoyed last year, we might easily think that this warming trend will continue forever. Each hot day is a cause for worry that doom is just around the calendar corner. Add in a theory that all extremes of temperature are a result of human action or production and we have reason to believe in our human power. There it is. Always we seek to claim some dominion as a species. A dominion Adam lost long years ago. Can we affect the heat and cold of the planet, or are we just along for the ride until God says the end has arrived?

I guess that depends on whom we want to believe in: humanity as the supreme power or God as the supreme power. Scholars and scientists think that as far back as we can tell there have occurred large and small cycles of heat and cold. Right now we are in a cycle of warming, and for some reason this one is a result of human effort. At the moment, there is a cycle of warming that is a result of one human action - I finished a cup of coffee and I am indeed warmed up. Whew! Coffee in the summertime. When does the next cooling cycle start? I don't know, but I'll bet that some will claim it began as a result of their efforts, and others will believe in the word God spoke all those years ago. One thing has not changed - faith is still a choice to believe.

Have a wonderful weekend with Christ Jesus your Lord and friend,

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Meeting Under the Tree

We have it pretty good these days. Whenever we wish to meet for something, there is a church, a club house, a meeting hall, or a conference room. Yes, in the workday some of you may think something like, "When we want to meet, there is never a conference room available!" Well, you're ruining my point here! What I mean is that we have so many structures today that meetings are usually scheduled by the size of the room. Sometimes it may cost a small fee, other times a larger fee, but we have a large choice of places to meet inside. Back in the day, a meeting often took place under any convenient tree.

Now, we are not here to wax nostalgic about gathering in the shade of a tree, though the temperature today might make us walk from tree shade to shade as much as possible. However, when we get the next day that is quite a bit less than 100, we can dump on the bug dope and give it a go for old times sake. The bugs, you see, like to meet under a tree too. But let us consider the goodness of God for a while today.

What if God created trees to leaf in the winter, in order to gain more sunlight from the shorter days, and had them drop their leaves at the start of summer to avoid getting too much sunlight. We would have shade in winter, when we need it less, and no shade for the hot summer months. Did you ever wonder that God created the rainbow in such beautiful shades of color? He could have created something in shades of dull brown and gray that served the same purpose. In His goodness God gave us music, hardly something necessary for our basic survival. Many other arts we are made to appreciate, yet none is vital to our immediate health. Perhaps we can take a little time this weekend to meet under one of God's trees and appreciate something completely unnecessary but beautiful to the eye.

Praise and honor to God our Father!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Expression of Love

Good morning! Today, I read a bit about that judgment which takes place in Heaven when we all get together and see our waste and hypocrisy burnt up in the cleansing fire. At first, it seems that this is a punishment. What effort has gone into this thing that we lose at the end? What sore trials have we endured to gain this or that, only to see it burned away. Why do I assume that it will be anything that I have struggled for? Turn and look at the burning fire as God's love. The things we lose in this fire are not things that we need or will want with us in the eternal life. In this life we may not realize what weight is slowing us down, but in God's love the cleansing fire can burn away that dross which hides our shining light. Now, look at our trials in this life in the same way.

We endure some difficult things here. The passing of loved ones, diseases and conditions of the body, minds that don't always work correctly, tragedies of weather and machinery, and many other things that make it tough to live in these parts. These parts being of course the entire universe, for there is no place we can go to escape the fall that came from Adam's disobedience. I could sign up to travel to Mars in the next 20 years or so, but a lot of my tribulation baggage would journey with me. How much better to wait for the cleansing of God's great love before I travel the universe. Would you like to go along on this journey of discovery? Let us wait patiently for God's love to create in us a clean heart.

Sing the praises of God our Father, a new day has come!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For The Glory

A little change in the weather today; we enjoyed a good thunderstorm last night, and we get another this morning. The temp is fairly warm, the cat is laying low, and things are wet. Okay, now that all of us are up to date on the current condition around me, what is there to say for the glory of God? Perhaps I worry too much about some great work that I can do and then give God the credit. It may be that you worry overmuch about filling out some sort of Christian time card today full of accomplishments that only you (at least in your own estimation) could do for the church. What if we both step back a second this morning and testify to what God has done for us this day?

I am alive this morning, at least to this point in writing the devotional. No ghost writing going on here! I did not create myself, make myself alive, or give myself the strength to grow up and live. God provided all of that. If a pumpkin appears on my vines outside in that garden yonder, I can cut the gourd off the vine and stop the growth. However, if one cuts the 'vine' going to that baby being born, it does not stop growing, but indeed seeks another source of nourishment. Who gave the little boy or girl that ability? God did of course, and He gives us the ability to continue growing, not just taking in food and air for existing as an infant, until we reach the size He has set. Imagine if our growth from infant to child to youth to adult didn't have an off switch. Yikes!

God saved me through His only Son, Jesus Christ. I didn't have anything to do with it. In fact, I was far in years from being born at that time. Hold it, erase the past...start over. Things are the same except that Jesus is here now, going to the cross to die for our sins. Yet, even if that were to happen, I could do nothing to save myself. I could not wash the Lord's feet to help my cause. Like Peter, I would need to give myself up and let Jesus serve me. Peter had a hard time with that; what difficulty might I face in the same circumstance? Yet, it did happen about 2,000 years ago, and we live in Christ today. Once given to my Lord Jesus, all I become is for the glory of God. Does this include all that I do, including those thoughts, you know the wrong kind of thoughts that come at times?

Sin is not for God's glory, but forgiveness, love, patience, peace, mercy, gentleness - all the great qualities that go into God's steadfast love do indeed glorify God our Father. We sin because we are broken, but God is changing us even as we testify to His great work in us.

For the glory of God, how are you today?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

What If I Became...

The subject of Israel's first king was our subject today in the Bible study, and that does make for an interesting discussion. As I asked Mike, imagine that you are going about your business today and suddenly the leading religious figure of the day, pick whichever you like, meets you at work and anoints you as king of America. Yikes! Now what do I do? At first we might think it a great honor, but later with a bit of time to reflect, suddenly the crushing responsibility settles down on our happiness like the proverbial ton of bricks. Of course, you would at least get to straighten out Congress, and probably have a bit of fun and satisfaction in the doing of it. Always there is a bit of fantasy in being something we are not today.

I think everyone grew up with some sort of fantasy. King, president, governor, actor/actress, sports icon, world's smartest garbage man, something that seemed very unlikely at the time, but with a bit of luck and wishing you could achieve in this lifetime. However, as time passed the currents of living took us often in directions far away from that fantasy. Those of us who wished for fame back in the fantasy days, may now be glad that we are safely anonymous except for our friends and family. Others may still be churning and burning inside wondering why that fantasy seems farther away now than it ever was. To some acceptance of our lot in life may be a sign of defeat, others may be perfectly happy they didn't become president of the nation right now. (Amen to that!) Once we gain some information on the end result of our former fantasy and experience a bit of life, we might very well flee from what we once thought looked so desirable. This may help us learn to be content right here, wherever we are today.

Then we come to Heaven. We know so little about it, but the Bible gives us more than we probably realize. This is perhaps our ultimate fantasy, to create that position or condition that is a bit of Heaven right here on Earth. The real place called Heaven seems so distant and unclear. What if I became this or that right here or better still over there in that other place? Of course, the fantasy usually involves some big change in 'me' so that the problems that have dogged me through this life or the accumulation of scars from this journey are left behind. Hey, that is the very place Jesus will bring us to if we can trust Him for the remainder of the journey.

A cleansed heart, a resurrected body without flaw, our tears wiped away by God Himself, and a marvelous and wonderful new place with Christ as King of kings is what we have in store. This life is a trial, but it is the short introduction to an eternity of joy and everlasting love. If we boiled all of our fantasies down to the pure essence, we would find our expectations of Heaven, and they would come up short of the reality. Patience, peace, and contentment are given to us now. Not only to realize the love of God here and now, but to help us endure this tough journey to our eternal home. Trust God to get us there.


Monday, July 08, 2013

Shh, They're Everywhere!

Good Monday on this fine Monday! Capt. Obvious here, ready to help you find brilliance in observations such as today is a day. Way back in the day, on a day much like today, Elijah didn't think that God had any people left. The 'I'm all alone' thing is a symptom of depression or anxiety, take your pick, and Elijah was suffering a bit of it. Today, we may think the same thing during a time of intense suffering or trial. Job's wife told him to end it by cursing God, and his friends showed up to dump on him. Job probably felt very alone, but God was there. We are not alone!

Not only is God with us at all times, but if we begin to look around, we will find God's people. Here, there, and everywhere, God's people live in small towns, larger towns, cities, and out in the country. The people who believe in Jesus live in houses, huts, tents and mansions. We might find a doctor here, a nurse there, a maintenance man over there, an administrative assistant down yonder, and a student in that college town. Yet, sometimes the obvious places are not where we find them.

A pastor might seem a sure bet, sort of like picking the winner in a one horse race, but that is not always true. A position as pastor of a church is one of central attention. Some folks want that so much that they become pastors just for the fame, be it small or large. Pastors with a television or Internet ministry can pull in a lot of loot. Some will join the ministry for that reason too. Any position where a person can hold up a flag saying "ME!" and wave it for all to see is a temptation for some folks, perhaps to a greater or lesser degree for all of us. However, the feeling of loneliness is probably a more common temptation. We don't know for sure where we will find God's people, but we are here.

Praise God for this day!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Returning To Love, Returning the Love

Good Saturday morning! A little bit of ugh this morning. I don't like the walks where sweat begins almost immediately. Sweating should be earned not endured. I think if we sweat in Heaven it will be a well-earned sweat, worked up to and full of that hard work honor. What, am I grumbling here? No, I don't think that disliking some condition is grumbling. The world is fallen and we have our likes and dislikes. Keeping it inside, unspoken or unwritten, will not keep it from God's knowledge. Voicing my dislikes to God is much like the relief of a firm diagnosis to a mysterious illness. Once the thing is out in the open then the healing can begin. After voicing a few complaints, the psalmists ended by giving God glory and blessing. We return to love in much the same way.

From voicing a dislike to praising God for our many blessings, we return to love through gratitude. The sun shone brightly, the early morning temperature was not too high, and the smell of summer flowers painted the air in hues of gentle aroma. The sweetness of the trial of faith is in the return to the green pastures of God's love. After we have rested awhile, we give God thanksgiving, praise and return love to Him. For the good news of salvation, the cleansing of grace, the imputing of righteousness and the granting of the Holy Spirit had one wonderful goal in mind - to bring you and me to the point where we love God back.

Returning God's love completely and fully is the ultimate end of the beginning of our relationship through Christ. We don't start out this life loving well. We learn over the years to love better, but for full love we need the discipleship of the Holy Spirit in us. As fallen sinners in a fallen world, we need to be taught how to love. Parents, siblings, friends, spouses, children, and all other relationships in this life are but a start to that one great and glorious match - a loving relationship with God. To have this relationship, we must learn to return God's love. Good news there! The Holy Spirit, as a member of the Trinity, is very much ready to teach us all we need to know about loving God our Father.

Have a happy Saturday!

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Weight of An Opinion

Good morning on this mostly relaxed day of a long weekend that many will enjoy. Knowledge is thrown about rapidly today, and some mornings the knowledge of a person's opinion may not sit well with my breakfast. Today is one of those days. I read an opinion based on what must be a raft of ignorance this morning and the weight of that knowledge bears down heavily upon me. However, there is a brighter side to it - we live in a nation where we can voice our opinions, no matter what they are based on, without fear of some Gestapo-like organization showing up to beat down the door of our home and drag us off to the dungeon. Social media is nearly fearless, perhaps too much so sometimes, in our land of personal freedoms.

Taking a view from the other side, I realize that what I write could bear down heavily on someone too. As the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, a person reading this devotional by accident may even hate me for writing about God, Jesus, living under the love of God's salvation, or looking forward to that eternal kingdom on the renewed Earth. An opinion or a belief is a powerful thing to throw out there! I don't want to hurt anyone with words, but I do want them to know that a way has come to bridge that dreadful chasm between God and man. And that is the whole point of stating our beliefs or opinions. We want someone to know that we feel that way.

So, before I bring out the writing guns and blaze away in the cybereal world, I let the weight of knowledge tamp down the anger a bit. I slow down, take a breath, and realize that the freedom to write an opinion and be wrong in another person's view is a wonderful thing we enjoy. Praise God our Father that He doesn't force everyone to have only one correct opinion on every issue. Imagine 7 billion people all with only one opinion on something - how dull would that conversation be?

God bless you on this Independence Day weekend!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Today, We Declare Our Dependence...On God!

The fourth comes each month, but today is that particular fourth on which we celebrate our nation's independence. These days many have taken that a big step further and stated their independence from religion, prayer, faith, and especially God. Therefore, I thought that today might be a good day to remind us all of our dependence on God, our Father and Creator.

Years ago, for some of us decades ago, we grew from childhood into the teenage years and began in so many obnoxious ways to declare our independence from our parents. Teens are infamous for this sort of behavior, and their parents for the most part are at least marginally prepared for it. After getting out, or, in rare cases, being thrown out of the house and home, the young teen grows into a young man or woman and sets about declaring independence in financial matters, career paths, and many other things. Most then immediately set about locking themselves up in a marriage with little future teen independents of their own. Who says that a declaration of independence ever goes unpunished.

Somewhere along the way of this journey, we may try to be independent of God. Those raised in a godly home or brought up with regular church attendance and Bible study may leave that behind for a time to try their wings in the world, in a manner of speaking. Like the mythological fellow and his melting wings, we often find through trial and some errors that we are not so independent as we may have thought. Many traps and temptations await the one who would soar without benefit of God's provision. However, we also have the chance to look back on these past mistakes, not to wallow in shame and self-pity, but to learn that in looking carefully we can see that God's provision and protection remained on us even in those years of independent fluttering about.

Today, wisdom from the trials has taught us that we are in fact more dependent upon our Father in Heaven than ever before. It is not age, or scars, or painful memories alone, but perhaps a combination of all that we have learned and seen that brings us to realize that without God we can do nothing. God does indeed cause His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Happy are we who realize that God's love does not toss us out into the world alone but rather calls us to depend more and more on our Lord each day. From the day we began to know that dependence on our God is not slavery, but freedom in truth, we have stretched out our prayer wings for those who live the false independence of the fallen sinner. Today, we are also proud to declare our dependence on God.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Expected/Unexpected Struggle

Good morning as we prepare for a banging celebration! This place I am in now has a whole lot less of the fireworks thing going on, and I am glad. Anyway, I set up my tent last night. No, not to live in, but to see if the thing is actually a tent. The story goes, I purchased the tent at a sale some seventeen years ago or so, and I had never set it up. Tales abound of the old tents and the difficulty in getting them set up. You will be glad to know that this was the expected, yet unexpected struggle. Two hours, countless readings of the instructions, (Which, I believe are specifically written to confuse and irritate the first and probably second-time tent installer.) head scratching, insect bite scratching, accidentally bonking the cat once, colorful language, and a whole bunch of new aches and pains later the tent stands proudly in my south forty (feet that is). It was too late and too dark to set up the cot and drag a bag out there, so I slept inside in my comfortable bed. Of course, I have to wonder what kind of 'deal' seemed so good at the time that I have hauled this tent around through several moves for seventeen years before finally setting it up mostly as an exercise in patience and forbearance.

We join in these sorts of struggles throughout our lives. We don't have to, but we manage to cause all manner of pain and stress just the same. We look back and wonder how much money we spent on this particular monument to uselessness. Of course that question is useless too, for the money, time, effort, and other things are gone into the past and we can't grab them back. However, there is a pretty tent standing outside today, complete with rain fly and vestibule! If you need to remember old times, the tent is available for use. Mostly you would remember why it is that a house with a bed is preferable to a tent most of the time, but feel free if you feel the need.

Sometimes, the expected/unexpected struggle is that we endure an unexpected wait for many years to engage in the expected struggle. However, the reward comes, late though you or I may think it is, and it is well worth it. God's timing is not our timing. We tend to live thinking of past or future while demanding that God act in the now. (As in, I want it now.) Something wonderful may wait for a decade or more, then you or I may have to struggle to get to the wonderful, but we must trust God's timing. You may in fact be wondering if this devotional is ever going to end this morning. Good news, only six more paragraphs to go! Just kidding. Some of you will be going on a long weekend trip today. I'll not hold you any longer.

God's grace and blessing to you on this day!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

We Can't Do It Alone

Good morning as we enjoy another day of mild temps at the crack of dawn. I've been up early many times, but I have never heard any large cracking noise at the sunrise. I wonder where that saying comes from. Of course, you will note that I am not writing at the crack of dawn. Today is the early men's Bible study down the street and we enjoyed some cinnamon rolls today courtesy of Mike's wife, Jan. So, I will get to write to you on a sugar high today. After I come down a bit and probably feel the need for a nappy nap, I will wonder what I can do to improve myself today. Then, I will turn it around and think that I can do nothing on my own. After that, I will be tempted to think that since I can do nothing on my own, I might as well do nothing and wait for God to take care of my improvement. Oops, went too far there once more!

The key in not depending upon myself to improve me alone is not in stepping out of the way completely, but in not doing it alone. God does want us to jump into the fight, just not all on our own will and power. We need the Spirit of God to accomplish our improvement; that is in guiding us to improve the right things as well as in the strength to accomplish anything worthwhile. On my own, I do not even know what to improve. I will tend to look at the outside and work on the too little this or too much that, while the Spirit looks at my heart and points "Over here! Over here!" We naturally want to clean the outside of the cup, just like those fellows from back in Jesus' day, and let the foul slop of sin burn the inside. We are comfortable and independent that way.

While the burning stain of sin burbles inside, we diligently seek out the stuff from worldly advertising to cleanse, trim, slim, tone, buff, wax, nip, tuck, pluck, plink, and unjiggle the wiggle from our poor, aging bodies. Uh, 'unjiggle the wiggle'?! Yeah, sounds a bit rough, I'll admit, but if I advertise it, someone will want it. We try to improve what we can see, but the real need is to improve what God sees. You know, all that stuff about your body, my body, or the body of anyone who believes in Jesus will be taken care of at the resurrection. The world wants to extend the stay of every body and brain in this life, because that is all it has and the knowledge of what awaits is starting to sneak into the consciousness of all. We who believe in Christ look forward to something else. Why should we try to extend our stay here?

I know, just to irritate those in power who refuse to believe in Jesus of course! They would be much happier if we all just left and went up to Heaven. Okay...they could get that wish fulfilled any moment now. In the blink of an eye, we might all be gathered up to Jesus!

Enjoy the company of our Lord today,

Monday, July 01, 2013

Cool In The Way, Hot in The Hay

Good Monday morning! I am just absolutely not sure what that title is supposed to mean. I may have been making up some nonsense verses, or thinking of something rural. I got it, it's a farm metaphor for something, but I just wish I knew what it was. Sometimes reading and deeply studying the Bible we come to a passage that appears to have been a mistranslation of an advanced Martian language. We read it, ask the Lord for understanding, and still, the passage remains stubbornly elusive in meaning. We might take a few moments to rant and rave: How am I supposed to know God if I cannot understand His word?!

Some parts of the Bible keep life-long scholars baffled. We just cannot know until God reveals and God reveals on His time table, not yours or mine. It may be like one of those epic journey games where we must understand this other passage over here first, and then come back to the one in question. Or, you or I might need more experience of God's love, or a new growth of faith. I like the sneaky little footnotes found occasionally in the Old Testament, "[fn]meaning of the original Hebrew is uncertain." Yet, as we go back to that verse, we can read that someone made a stab at it anyway. If the scholar in the old tongues is uncertain, how can you and me get it?

Fortunately for our peace of mind and understanding of the Word, God sent His Holy Spirit to us. Some verses we may not need right now in the particular place along the narrow way that we walk. Other verses may be for us to understand when we see Jesus. Some may be purely to keep that old enemy, intellectual pride, from overtaking the scholar or the very educated. Trust God to reveal to us exactly what we need, when we need it. Some passages of scripture, we might have to shrug and say, "I am just absolutely not sure what that means!" and leave it with God for now.

The week of Independence Day is upon us. I hope that some of you are taking the entire week off. God bless the USA!