Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Torrents Come To Prove His Love

Good morning! Last night we received a couple of months worth of rain in one evening blast. We weren't washed away, but we were thoroughly washed. I thought this morning how we go in faith with no sign of any proof for a while, but then like the sudden torrent we are washed with a sign of God's love. Faith does not get proof, for proof cannot be faith. However, since we are weak in everything but the tendency toward sin, once in a while when the need is upon us, God sends a sign, a reminder if you will, that He is still sovereign, still reigning on His throne, and most of all still loving you and me.

Faith should be enough, and one day it will be enough for us. Until that day, we need little signs and the occasional torrential sign, to remind us of God. A little sign might be the Spirit directing us to a particular verse in the Word. A larger sign might be the things we call miracles. A miracle is nothing more than God reaching down with a mighty hand and taking that direct action we love to remind us of His love. A miracle to us is something that is all in a day's work to our God. Don't think so? Take a look at what God did in those first six days of this universe.

Have a wonderful Saturday in God's love and goodness!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Constant Tending

Good Friday morning! A holiday weekend arrives this evening, I hope your chickens are polite. I suspect you have never heard that as a saying. Rude chickens are not a common problem, though chickens acting like giraffes or mollusks can certainly be a problem. I have decided to begin the weekend by taking your mind for a spin. Seems to be working, no? Looking at my garden this morning, I am struck by what an example it is for us. Without constant tending weeds creep in, diseases appear, and things wilt. It may seem an irony that the plant products we most want to eat require the most attention. However, by looking way back to Genesis, we can see that is the nature of the curse on the Man.

Thorns and thistles were promised to Adam as a result of his rebellion. We can see in any garden the thorns and thistles growing without any help or planting from us. Fail to water the garden for a while and that is pretty much all that will be left. Plant nothing in the spring, and you can still reap a harvest of thistles. Fail to tend even a simple garden of nothing but grass, and the weeds will arrive in their numbers faster than we wish. Our life in Christ is much the same.

If we live without constantly tending the garden by Bible study, worship, prayer, and meeting with our Christian brethren (sisterens too!) soon the weeds of discontent, foolishness, bitterness, and other foul fruits will appear in their multitude. The thought of constant tending every day throughout a long life may cause us to feel tired. That is why we take it one day at a time. Today is the day I am tending, not tomorrow and not next week. I can't uproot a weed before it appears in the ground anyway.

So, before you take off for the weekend, render a cordial word to your polite chickens, and make sure they have an adequate supply of napkins for their dining.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Without a Breeze

The blessing of our Lord Christ Jesus to you on this fine morning. It's very hard to move a sailing vessel without a breeze. Oars or paddles are placed into the water and the hard work begins for someone. You can open the windows on a house, but if the air is not moving, it's very hard to cool or warm the building. Our Christian life works in much the same way. If we are struggling to get anywhere and it seems that all spiritual, mental, physical, financial progress is zero, then perhaps we are not waiting for a wind from God to move our boat along.

During the times of struggle, it helps us to recall the teaching of Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." The times when I put in my oar and struggle without seeking the strength of Christ coincide quite closely with the times when life seems to go backward in some area. In fact, I may even say the times are one and the same. When I seek the strength of Jesus first in prayer before attempting the task, then the outcome is not in doubt even though I might have to fight off a few of my own. I may have to paddle a little ways out to catch the breeze, or Jesus may provide the breeze immediately. However, no amount of wind in the sails will help the sailor who will not untie his craft from the dock.

May the strength of Christ speed us along His way,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Heat That Lasts

Good morning as the heat wave rolls on. I read about heat waves out west, more out east, and some in other places this year. I figure this time is just our turn. Fall is coming though, the heat cannot last forever. Or can it? For some, this heat wave may be but the beginning of eternal flame. In Adam we gained the knowledge of good and evil. In the law we gained a knowledge of sin and a fear of the flame. Jesus spoke of a lake of fire where torment never ends. Yikes, this begins to sound like the sermons of my youth! Jesus spoke much more often of love, peace, comfort, and joy.

Jesus didn't send to us the Tormenter; He sent us the Comforter. Jesus didn't command us to torment one another with thoughts of Hades. Jesus commanded us to love one another. Jesus left us His peace. Jesus died for our sins that we might live in Him. Greater love has no man than He lay down His life for His friends, and Jesus called us His friends as He spoke to the disciples. There are words of warning for those who refuse to believe in Christ, but there are more words of love and reward for those who do believe.

We are not an elite in this world. We just came to Jesus for some comfort and joy. We were rightly afraid of the heat that lasts, but now we have peace with God through the grace of Christ. Our former fear of the flame gives us understanding into the feelings the unsaved experience when the message taps on the door of the heart. Peace and joy can be theirs for the asking. Relief from the flame fear comes with salvation in Christ. We cannot yet see ourselves as good, but we believe in the righteousness imputed through faith in God's Son. The heat that lasts is not allowed in the place we are going after this life. Praise God for the Way!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fight On!

Good early morning! The eyes are sleepy and the body is still healing from yesterday, but I am ready and willing to write. I don't recall a time when Jesus promised that every morning I would wake up completely refreshed and whole. Perhaps there is no such promise. I have seen a promise about tribulation though. It comes in John 16:33; that verse I recall fairly often. The point is to report for duty each day, not that I am promised each day pain-free. My spiritual armor may be in rough shape for the day's muster, but reporting in is so very important to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The footsore and battle-weary soldier reports in to his Lord for another day of battle. The breastplate of righteousness is dented from a blow of sin. The soldier is told to report to the Armorer, for that righteousness did not come from the soldier's own efforts. The shield of faith has taken too many flaming darts for one day, and the soldier must then report to the Buckler for a refreshing, for his faith is not in himself, but in the One who died on the cross. Other dings, dents, and rents are also healed by the Lamb in His many capacities. The soldier may report to the field a little weary, a bit sore from a hard day in the fight, but report he must for his place in the lines is critical.

So we begin each day as a soldier in Christ. We may not feel like beginning the day at all, but somewhere another soldier of Christ depends upon us to hold a place in the lines. We may fight from a stance of weary soreness, another from her sickbed, and yet another soldier from his very deathbed, but fight on we do in the strength of our Lord and Savior. Even with the last moments of a redeemed life, a few words of encouragement hardly to be heard by the staff of a hospital may strike a painful blow to the Adversary's forces. We fight on in faith; renewed in spirit, sore in body, sometimes troubled in mind, but we fight on for our Lord Jesus. Let us not take a day to ourselves when so many need us beside them in the lines of Christ's army.

May God's blessings be poured out on us today,

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Good is My Bucket o' Troubles?

Good Monday morning! The missing summer has settled in at last, apparently to stay for a while. The tent came down this morning; it was time. Too many little creatures were setting up shop and home there, and the grass below needs time to recover before the fall freezes come. I have a bucket o' troubles, and so do you and your friends and everyone we know. It kind of goes with the territory so to speak. Live on this earth, troubles will come. Some folks seem to have a smaller bucket, but troubles they have too. What good is my bucket o' troubles? Perhaps it is something I can sacrifice on the altar of God's love.

How would one go about doing that? When Jesus told the weary and heavy-laden to come to Him, He did not promise to get rid of the burden. Jesus promised rest. Some troubles may remain in my bucket for life. Others Jesus may take away in the due season. And, of course, new troubles will come with new circumstances. However, Jesus will give me rest when I come to him. The yoke of Jesus is easy, and His burden is light. Our Lord knows that we are already heavily burdened by the troubles of this world. He isn't going to add a lot to us so that we break down and fall by the way. But, rest, it seems to not come to us at times.

Well, maybe we didn't go to Jesus to get that rest we need! We read that part about 'give us rest', and forget the first bit that says, "Come to Me". We need rest and we have a command from our Lord to come to Him to gain that rest. I come dragging my bucket o' troubles, and He gives me rest. After learning to rest in my Lord, the old bucket isn't so hard to move. In fact, I think, He may have taken some of those troubles. Why did I wait to come to Him for so long?

Have a wonderful week in Christ Jesus! Look forward just a little bit to the holiday coming up this weekend.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Maybe the Day Is Perfect

Good Saturday! Maybe the day is perfect today, but from my fallen state I cannot see it. Whatever the day is, I'll take it. What else am I going to do? Ha, we know the answer to that one! We rail against it, complain and moan about it, gripe to God in ignorant judgment of the terrible day He has sent, and generally say anything but "Thank you, Lord, I'll take it."

Living in this world does not mean that we have to like all that goes on in it. Contentment with our present circumstance is not turning a blind eye to the injustice, injury, persecution, murder, and all the other terrible sins of our day. I don't think that being grateful to God for the day, or living in contentment is to not change anything. How could we harvest a garden if we didn't churn up the earth, smooth it and furrow it into a seed bed, and plant the seeds God has provided? We have political power in our votes, and we should use that power wisely. We also have power in our speech and writing to harm or to help others.

So then... if I am content with my government and submissive to it, why should I vote at all? Do I vote just to keep it the same as best I can? This is a tricky question that I have not fully answered to my satisfaction. I fear that even God has looked at our government and with a shrug of His almighty shoulders said, "It's a mystery!" I know that isn't true, but on a Saturday one might have to wonder if there isn't a bit of hocus-pocus involved in our enormous government. Will the new health care laws help or hurt me? The year of implementation is almost here for the so-called Obamacare. I hope that our president goes down in history as the greatest ever because of health care for all without fraud, injustice, bureaucratic bungling, graft, corruption, malpractice, secret government experiments, out-of-control taxation, and all the other things that I fear. I will admit to some doubts.

May God have mercy on us all,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Is My Job Today?

Good morning to all! What is my job for you today? Is it to flatter you in hopes of raising your demeanor? Very well: You are of surpassing grace and loveliness this morning and your skill with the whizzamajiggits is exemplary beyond the pale of human endeavor. Hermmm, doesn't come out too bad, but you know better when I am sitting here miles or hundreds of miles away writing words without weight. My job must be better than that. I cannot write something like that with a straight face every morning. Eventually, such flattery would bring me into contempt, both going and coming as it were. How about something a bit more biblical for the day?

You and me are lovely to God. I know this because my Savior would not die for something or someone He found hideous in sin. Wait, didn't He give His life because we were hideous in our sin? Yes, but His death was to change that. Jesus died because He saw from His vantage point on the cross what you and me will be in eternity with Him. We are lovely to God because of the surpassing grace of His Son. Hmm, that puts a new light on the day; God finds me lovely in Christ!

What about my skills though? I spent a lot of time and effort building up an impressive resume in this life. Paul called his former things trash, trash he gave up to win the prize of eternal life in Christ. Your skills are valuable, and Christ can certainly use them, but the worth we seek is in Christ Jesus. We look around for the 'least of these', and sometimes think that it must be us. But Jesus didn't look around on the cross and see the least of these, He looked around and asked His Father to forgive us. Then He gave His life for you and me.

Our worth is not tied up in something transitory such as what we see in the mirror or skills dependent upon memory and coordination. Our worth is set in the everlasting Son of God, and that worth will not leave us today. Put a smile on your face and know that God loves you and me! The knowledge of the latter will certainly cause the former, if we just step back and let the Spirit have His way.

God bless you,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Can I Water?

Good Wednesday morning! In case you had forgotten that summer was here, some of it has now arrived this week. The garden is once again in need of watering, and so are you and me. Each day, some form of watering from a minister, the Word of God, or from your brothers and sisters in Christ is needed in our lives. The Holy Spirit will remind us of scripture and ministry, but we must put in some effort to read or listen and to obtain that spiritual watering we need. If we let it go for a while, our spirit begins to wilt and dry out. If I don't seek water, how can I water others? For that too is a part of our mission here in this life.

Like thirsty little plants, my brothers and sisters in Christ need this heavenly water. We need the constant counsel of the Spirit, because there is good water and bad water out there. I think all of us have run into movies, musical groups, ministers, or other sources of water who have that form of godliness Paul warned about, but lack the true meat of scripture. How do we tell the difference? Open up the best source, God's own word. Search the scriptures and be watered while you read!

We can only water others if we receive the water from above, the living water Christ spoke of to the woman in Sychar. The disciples of Christ didn't make their own water to spread around Jerusalem. Paul didn't come up with his own brand of water to send off to the churches around the Roman Empire. Seeking out the source of living water is our first mission. Fountains of living water will flow from the heart of the believer. Jesus doesn't need our help to feed this fountain; He wants our help. God doesn't need anyone to help Him water the kingdom; He wants all of us to help with the watering. To be needed is nice, but to be wanted is better still.

God's love and grace to you on this summer day,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kicking and Screaming

Good Tuesday morning! The Sheriff and I watched a kid screaming his poor little head off as he was led into school this morning. I appreciated the little ones attitude as I feel about the same regarding school these days. The Sheriff wanted to be available in case the child ran off, a distinct possibility given the volume he was putting into his cries. However, the child did go into the school with the help of his mother and a teacher. I feel for the urchin though, locked up for another day in a place he didn't want to go. Does it feel like God drags us kicking and screaming into tribulations and trials at times?

Of course it does! Who really wants to face a lengthy battle with cancer or depression or heart disease or school? If we had the choice we would avoid such a thing. Some do avoid it for a while by staying away from doctors and hospitals and such until they drop in their tracks one day. (Not that school often causes long-term health problems, but you never know!) I had my annual physical yesterday, so I get to speak down a little bit from the 'I Dun It' soapbox. Those who avoid medical help until they die didn't actually avoid the battle, they just chose to fight it on their own. When God moves us into trials or brings a storm of tribulation our way, we don't fight it alone, or walk the path alone, or stare into the face of death alone, whichever metaphor you want to use. We may kick and scream a little or a lot about the trials we face, but God firmly leads us by the hand and promises to always be there with you and me.

Is that not a better way to face a tribulation in this world? Alone is so...alone. Why do that to yourself? Yet, those who choose to reject Jesus do that very thing. I think I would much rather kick and scream a bit about my current trials in Christ than to kick and scream in the flames of the outer darkness for eternity.

God bless and keep you this day,

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Family

Good morning on this fine Monday. Some folks on this earth have such pain in their childhood from abuse and other conditions that they would happily turn their family in for a new one. Many of us were raised in better circumstances, but we will at the moment of salvation turn our family in for a new one. We become part of the family of God, the bride of Christ, the Church. Jesus said that everyone who follows Him must leave behind mother, father, sister, and all the rest and take up with the new family. If members of your earthly family are also in God's family, well then you have a real blessing. The earthly family members of Jesus weren't so enthusiastic at first.

We read of the time when the brothers of Jesus went up to Jerusalem without Him. Later, He followed them in secret. Later still, we can read the writings of two of those brothers, James and Jude, who turned at some point in their lives and followed their earthly brother in His way. The earthly family of Jesus came back together in God's family. We too may face a separation for a while.

As we gain brothers and sisters in Christ through His salvation, we begin to pray for those still separated from us. Former friends, ones we would like to call brother in Christ, may be among those who do not believe. Prayer is the best thing we can do for these lost sheep. As the light of Jesus shines in our hearts, we want everyone to come to the family of God. So, we pray for people we don't know too. In time, some of these may come to the family, and then we begin to understand a little of the rejoicing that goes on in Heaven for every lost sinner who comes to Jesus.

The love and grace of God goes with you on this new day,

Saturday, August 17, 2013

At Home With Jesus

Good morning! Cloudy and a little foggy today, but that appears to be nothing new around here this summer. Appears? Yes, for each morning is new, whether it looks the same or not. I needed new mercies from God this morning, and His mercies are refreshed each morning. I appear to be alone in my house this morning, but it isn't the cats that make the house not lonely. Someone else is here.

Our homes are not castles these days. A tiny battering ram can knock in most front doors; a siege would be a bit of a joke. One good catapult shot would smash right through houses of today. Strength of walls is not what makes our homes special. No, something else makes the home special.

Children leave for school, friends leave to go to their home. A party cannot last forever, and another person's home isn't quite the same. Remodeling changes the appearance, but not the sense of home. A vacation takes us away for a while, but it is always good to come home. If something isn't right with our home, it hurts emotionally. What makes a home, home?

If you have Jesus in your heart, that makes home something special. But, Jesus is with us always, how can a wooden-framed, painted box be more special than walking the streets or going to work with our Lord? I'm not sure that all of it can be put in words. Our home here on earth, bought, built, rented, or shared, is a reminder of our permanent home with Jesus in Heaven. Some houses are nicer than others, but any dwelling will do as long as Jesus is there. I think that an earthly home becomes indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus much like the heart of the believer. We don't just come home to a house, we come home to be at home with Jesus.

At home is our prayer room, often a bedroom or study, where we get alone with our Lord in prayer. At home is our Bible study room, often a living room or the kitchen table. Here we cook meals for ourselves and guests, and then ask Jesus to share and bless the meal. At home is where our emotions are most displayed. We cry to Jesus, thank Him, tell Him things we don't want to say in a more public prayer, and listen closely for His answer. We ask Jesus for things in our home that we might feel embarrassed to ask for in a group prayer. We may question Jesus and His ways at home, when we would not do so in church. We may very well be more honest with our Lord at home than anywhere else. We are at home with Jesus in our earthly homes.

Enjoy the Saturday with Jesus,

Friday, August 16, 2013


Good Friday morning! Jesus healed instantly and completely with a word or a touch. We like that part. We like it so much that we forget the duration of the illness many of Doctor Jesus' patients suffered before that moment of healing from the Master. Twelve years the woman with a flow of blood suffered before she reached out to touch the robe of Jesus in faith. We look at the story and see the instant healing, but blip over the twelve years that came before that moment. We don't like the duration of those illnesses in the Bible; just give us that instant wellness! Another suffered 38 years and had no one to place him in the pool at Bethesda. Jesus healed him in that moment. Wonderful! Marvelous! Jesus can heal me in a moment too! Wait...what was that number that came before the moment? 38 years?!

Our suffering seems so long in duration sometimes, and indeed it is for so many. We wonder why Jesus doesn't heal us instantly like He did back in the day. He does; we just like to set aside the duration part of those stories from back in the day. 12 years, 38 years, these are long years for the suffering. For their sake, let us remember the sacrifice of those suffering years. Let us know that Jesus does heal in power at the due time through His authority over all flesh. Our moment of healing, the due time, may not arrive for some days, weeks, or years. Not the news we want to hear this morning? I'm with you, but we should know that the sacrifice of years is never wasted.

God might have timed the arrival of His Son so that the man at Bethesda only suffered for 38 minutes, but that story wouldn't have quite the same impact on us. Jesus could have taken a few days off from the carpenter shop in Nazareth to go heal the woman 12 years early, but again the story would be almost ruined for us. You have a story God wants to use as a witness to His goodness. How long is just right for a story of God's loving kindness? Perhaps you and me can suffer a bit longer as we fulfill another great witness story for Christ.

Amen, come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

You've Been Fed, Now You Want Reassurance?

Kaboom morning to you! Thunder, lightning, a burst of rain, one might wonder if even Mother Nature is upset that we are starting school so early in the season. The cat is suffering conflicting feelings. He wants to hide from the thunder, but he is also hungry and more than ready to break his fast. After his feeding, I expected the meowing to stop for a while, but such was not the case. I had to ask: You've been fed, now you want reassurance?

Years ago when Jesus told His followers to be content with food and clothing, and not to worry about such things, He also knew that we would want more than that. Food and clothing are only two of the basic needs. We want reassurance, confidence, something to believe in and faith to hold on to in the troubling times. Our Lord was not mocking us with His command not to worry. He knew that we would disobey Him and worry. He also knew that faith is more than contentment with the circumstance.

My mind looks ahead to tomorrow, trying in vain to penetrate the mist and know the future. I look at weather predictions, conditions in the world today, and my own experience, and then try to build up a picture of what is coming. I know that I cannot account for the meteor from the heavens, a sudden failure of a mechanical part, or the windfall of something beyond my control. Yet, consciously or not, I still try to pierce the veil. Deep down inside, I know that I cannot know tomorrow, so I worry about that.

I see what has gone before as best I can, and look at what I see only poorly right now, and put that into a big worry box. I shake the worry box good, and pick out a few to munch on for today. Added to the worries about tomorrow, I find that a load too large to carry, and I cry out for some help from my Lord. I have been fed, and clothed, but now I too want some reassurance. While you wonder, me and the cat are going to wait for some reassurance from God. Praise His holy name, we have that reassurance in His Spirit, also named by Jesus as the Comforter. As we can see now, our Lord knew exactly what we would need beyond food and clothing.


Why Do I Disobey My Lord?

Something just occurred to me, so you get another message today. Yay me! School just began across the street. As I watched, the bell rang, but not all of the children got the message. The yelling of a teacher began; yet, some of the little students remained on the playground equipment. Suddenly it came to me why I disobey the Lord so much; I am at school, but I don't quite have the discipline down yet. That is to say, I am saved in Christ and now bear the title of disciple, but my discipline is still more related to my old condition. My state of discipleship is this way because some of my school years lie yet before me; I have not yet graduated to perfect love and obedience in the likeness of Christ my Savior.

Somewhere in the dash, that is the little character on my future tombstone between the born year and the died year, I am attending the school of Christ. As with those little students across the way, I am at school, but not yet perfectly schooled. In Christ I am known as a disciple, but like His followers in Galilee, I am not yet the powerful and perfectly obedient disciple I will become in time. The bell rings in this life, but in some cases I don't hear it in the hubbub of living, or I don't yet know what this particular bell means and so miss the obedience in my ignorance. Fortunately, Christ has provided a manual and some mentors to help me get schooled in His way.

As the years go by in the Christ school, various teachers will come and go in their due seasons. From them, I will learn more about obedience based in the love of Jesus. Obeying the Law of Moses is like the obedience learned from chains and a whip at my back. Obeying the Law in Christ is a substitution of a have-to for a want-to. That is to say, because I am learning to love Christ in all ways, I want to obey Him and His word more each day. A have-to law brings the desire to rebel, and that is why disobedience to so easy when a set of rules is presented. A want-to law is when the heart agrees with the law and obedience becomes easy. At graduation time, the want-to will have completely replaced the have-to.

Graduation won't come until you and I are made ready to stand in God's court before His throne. We are a little sad over that because like this first day of school, the reward and rest from our labor in Christ seems rather a long time away. The little students face long months of school, but they will be changed. We face seasons of training and tribulation before our graduation from the school of Christ, but like the students that day is out there. We have only to walk the path of our education as disciples with Christ to get to that wonderful graduation to Heaven.

God's love to you!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Strange Dreams, Sleepy Days

Good morning as we greet this final day of summer vacation for the school-age children. Not that they want to be reminded of that, but just in case they have forgotten what tomorrow is, we'll let 'em know one more time. Talk about hipper-critical, I'm glad that we didn't start school on August 15th. The cat is telling me to go get his food, but the store doesn't open for another hour. To avoid more hypocrisy in my day, I will not feed myself until the cat has his meal. The question of today is: do ill feelings cause strange dreams and sleepy days? There probably is a connection there.

When illness comes, we may not sleep well. Sleeping only lightly causes more dreams to be remembered and the body is not completely at rest; the dreams become strange and the day more sleepy. Is God's plan for me affected by this kind of day? The plan set down in Heaven may actually be advanced by a day such as this in your life or mine. Hmm, some sort of flying thing just cruised by; part of another dream where I'm writing the devotional in my sleep or an actual bug? I'm not sure this morning. What kind of bug looks like a smiling crocodile riding on a bicycle while wearing an umbrella cap and pink shorts?

I pray that God blesses you in a special way today,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Faith For The Feel Bad

Is it a real sickness or condition, or did I just wake up feeling bad? When Paul reminded us to give thanks to God in all circumstances, did he mean this one specifically? Are you sure Jesus wouldn't give me an exception to my thanksgiving when I feel ill? You and I have asked questions like these since we first gave our lives to Christ. Some days just do not begin with that feeling that we can accomplish anything through Christ who strengthens us. Getting up is a major victory, going anywhere at all out of the question, and praising God for this feeling seems a little peculiar to say the least. Yet Paul was not unacquainted with pain and suffering.

Paul endured a stoning, being left for dead by the stoners, and lived to write more great letters. However, the understatement we often find in the Bible leaves out what may have been months of recovery from concussion and other broken bones. And after that and other incidents, Paul said to give thanks in all circumstances. The apostle probably stopped looking at his pain for a moment, and realized what God had done for him. I'm alive: I can feel pain, or those illin' feelings, or emotional distress, or even a burst of gratitude that God has given me another day to preach, or write, or perhaps Paul had to do his first dictation to Luke because his hands were too broken to write. Somewhere in the suffering, Paul found cause to give thanks to God. It takes faith to do that, faith for the feel bad.

Certainly there are days when I wish that Jesus had promised how good we would feel in this life every day. But Jesus promised instead that we would have tribulation in this world. Faith looks forward to the day when all of this tribulation will be over, and that is a promise of Jesus. Until that time, each day may bring more of some tribulation, or an entirely new one for us to enjoy in faith. Emotionally or physically, the tribulation may make us feel bad, and that is where we must apply faith and give thanks to God.

Lord, I feel bad today, but thank you for being here with me in all circumstances. Thank you for managing every circumstance so that it is never too much for me to endure. Thank you, Lord, that I am alive to feel bad. For the dead feel nothing, not even the great hope we have in Christ Jesus. I know dear Lord that in all of this You are strengthening my faith in Your providence.


Monday, August 12, 2013

From Faith to Faith in the Valley of Death's Shadow

Good morning as we begin the week school starts here in our little town. It may be too early for school, but doesn't it feel good to remind those directly affected by it? Try to not add on the evil laugh after the reminder though, that is just poor manners. Some cat is fooling around with my boot. I must have stepped in some scent he finds attractive on my walk this morning. Setting the feline nonsense aside, what meaning do you find in a verse or phrase in the Bible?

Some would tell me to simply read the Bible for what it says and not try to come up with or add in a personal view or slant. I can understand that, but God gave me this mind and brain, and I like to put it to work on His Holy Word. When Isaiah mentions the land where death casts its shadow, or David writes of the valley of the shadow of death, I think of more than one place. In one, we live daily in the land where death casts its shadow. The fall of Adam gave us death and dying. Every day we wake up to tales of life's ending for someone. We know of those advanced in years who expect ol' Morty to show up at their door any day now. We also know that Death may visit us at any moment. A few persons die of heart attacks in their teens and twenties, what a blessing for me or you to live this long!

Another view of that dreaded valley is the life of the unbeliever. Those poor folks have taken out a mortgage, bought a house, and moved in to an address in the Valley of Death's Shadow. The Light is shining up on the mountain, but they don't want to see it. Like the family living a mile or two from the famous amusement park, they figure to visit one day, whenever one day comes.

Sleep is a trip through death's valley as well. We give up our thoughts and prayers to God and fall down into sleep, perhaps not to awaken until the last trumpet sounds calling the saints home. Surgery is a deeper valley within that larger valley of death, for we give up control of everything when that nurse wheels our table into the operating room. For those of us with experience, just writing about it sends a chill down the spine.

We also walk through the valley of death's shadow when our faith is tested. What basis for our fears except that of unbelief? Fear is the shadow of death, and in our seasons of not trusting in God and walking in un-faith, we traverse once more the valley of death's shadow. On the peak we left behind is faith in God, and on the peak ahead of us, where the Savior is leading us, is more faith in God. From faith to faith, we walk in the land where death casts its shadow. Not a fun place to walk, but we do not walk alone.

I am blessed with another morning; blessed be the name of our Lord!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

It's Not Easy

Good Saturday morning! Identifying a plant growing in the garden is not easy, especially when I didn't plant the thing. In the case of carrots, beets, and the few others I planted and marked with stakes or hills, I can reasonably expect that the row of plants that look alike are probably what I planted. In the case of plants that came up on their own after surviving the spading and tilling, my efforts to pull and hoe, and my general inexperience with gardens, I pretty much classify them as weeds. Then, one of the small bushy plants sprouts a bumper crop of little berries. Good to eat, make jelly, or deadly toxin? Do I have a plant soon to be known as the Colorado Two-Step Berry, or do I need to start buying some jelly jars? It's not easy to know this morning.

Watching a few YouTube videos on toxic plants can really make a person give up wandering the woods, or at least any thoughts of touching or eating anything while there. Perhaps expecting it to come up as one of the toxic plants is the wrong direction to start my search. The owners of the garden prior to my arrival probably were not space aliens or vampires or some other species that can ingest berries dangerous to humans, so I may want to look at edible plant images or videos first. One thing that I won't do is pop a few in my mouth just to give 'em a try. It's funny, but when it comes to sin, much like our most ancient ancestors, we tend to ingest it right away.

Put up a sign with a skull and crossbones symbol, words of warning, and a picture of a prostrate fellow with X's for eyes in front of a tree with fruit, and some nut would still want to taste the fruit. God said that a fruit tree was off limits to Adam and Eve, but they still ate it with just a little tempting from the serpent. It's not easy to avoid disobeying God, and we are probably no better than anyone in the Old Testament. Are we worse than they were? Probably not that either, but it seems that ever since God started turning out humans, we've been a bit stupid when it comes to reaching for the fruit called sin. The Devil may help by lowering the branch, but we seem ready to reach for it any time.

Hang your head in shame, human, and welcome to the world in need of saving grace. Yup, that's us. Without the grace of Jesus, we would just keep reaching for those deadly fruits. In fact, even under the loving arms of grace we have a tendency to reach back for a bit more of that forbidden stuff. One day though, we will enjoy the purity of heart that a good cleansing by our Lord produces in the redeemed from the Earth. Once again we will eat from the Tree of Life. The narrow road to that point is not easy, but faith in Christ will get us there.

Have a fun Saturday,

Friday, August 09, 2013

Where Are You?

The peace of this Friday morning belies the horror of next Thursday - the start of school. Maybe the children in this town do not have my attitude about school. Perhaps one and all eagerly look forward to the great day, ready to dispense with the boredom of summer, and join in with their friends in learning the great truths of modern education. So, why then am I having trouble writing that with a straight face? Summer, the season, won't go away for more than a month according to the calendar. Summer, the actual condition, may leave us sooner this year. Summer, the vacation from school, is in its final week. The great question then is: Where are you, God?

Huh? That seems like a rather abrupt change of subject. Yes, and no. We look at what is going on around us, and sometimes forget that God is sovereign in all of this. We may ask each other at times, why God doesn't do something about this problem or that, but we don't actually expect the other fellow to have the answer. When we see suffering among believers in Christ, we may ask where the healing is we heard about in those gospels. When the economy 'tanks' as we say, we may ask where the provision is that God promised. All of this boils down to "Where are You?"

One look at the end of those same gospels shows us the crucifixion of Christ. Of course we might ask where God was when His Son hung on the cross, but the answer is, right where He has always been AND right in the middle of that judgment and punishment taken for our redemption. As in the crucifixion, something larger is going on in the here and now. Do we really think that God would look down on something like the Holocaust and not want to do something? As Paul the apostle would write, of course not! The same holds true right now. God hears our prayers for help, provision, guidance, and healing, just as He always has, and He wants to do something. But, again, a larger thing than we realize may be going on.

Our problems are not too small for God to manage under the overarching concerns of His eternal creation. However, our good may require that we suffer for a time. In fact, Jesus promised us tribulation in this world. God is always ruling on His throne, as He has always done and always will.

God bless you,

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Thoughts Like Insane Fireworks

The sun is shining brightly over the fog brewing in the river valley. Birds tweet and coo, and the cat has not yet realized that I am home to pester with her call from outside the door. Peace reigns outside, but inside thoughts like insane fireworks zoom and fizzle in my mind. Thoughts centered on God our Heavenly Father are not like this. Those thoughts are more like the big, beautiful fireworks the volunteer firemen set off for Independence Day. One at a time, blooming and bursting in the sky of the mind, the thoughts centered in God's grace paint images of unity, beauty, love, and joy. My idle thoughts are more like fireworks gone crazy.

Oops, gave away my presence with a rude noise, now the cat noise from outside starts up. Might as well put on the breakfast, it won't make the noise any worse (The cat noise, what were you thinking?) The Holy Spirit is right here in me. No matter how far off the narrow way my thoughts go, God's Spirit can bring them back to Him. I am not in this alone, as I so often forget. Not only does the Spirit remind me of God's word, the Spirit will take the time to lovingly remind me that a power greater than my own is here dwelling within my heart. That is good news on this peaceful day!

We find it easy in the busy, busy times or the lonely sojourn to forget that we are never alone and never limited to just the means and strength we possess. God's strength of will and encouragement of heart are right here today, if we will take a moment to think on our Lord and ask for the help we need. Thoughts may wander, but help to remember the glory and presence of God our Father is here in us in the present moment. Let us think on God and not worry alone in the dark. Amen.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Mammon Moments

Good morning as this cooler, wetter summer progresses toward...we don't know for sure. I'll just be grateful for today and leave it at that. Today, a word of warning for us all. Many of us suffer these thoughts. The carnal man or woman within us is a persistent thing.

Mr. B survived a concentration camp during World War II, and not just any camp but the deadliest of them all, Auschwitz-Birkenau. After recovering from near starvation and other conditions endemic to the camps, Mr. B headed for his family home in Poland. There, he discovered a common condition in those dark times, a squatter had moved in and refused to relinquish the home. Mr. B's suffering had not ended just yet. The stranger invited Mr. B. in and sat him down in a chair that Mr. B recognized. No, the man claimed, that chair was purchased by me. Mr. B. turned the chair over and found the family name on the underside. The man changed the subject. We know that you hid money in this house before you left; tell me where to find it and we'll split it 50/50, the man demanded. Mr. B. left the home and like many liberated Jews in that time settled elsewhere.

Years later, Mr. B. revisited his family home, perhaps a bit of nostalgia or just idle curiosity drove him, but back to his family home he went. There, much to his surprise, Mr. B. found the home in ruins. Asking around the neighborhood, Mr. B. heard the tale. The man was so convinced of hidden treasure that he tore apart the walls, dug up the basement floors, tore down the ceilings, and dismantled everything he could in search of a treasure he thought was hidden by the desperate family being taken away to their deaths. After the destruction had made the home unlivable, the man found that he lacked the funds to repair the home and moved away.

Such tales are a warning to us all, but I too must admit to these mammon moments. A mammon moment is that time when the mind turns to thoughts of idle greed. Surely, the carnal mind suggests, there must be a treasure tucked, hidden, buried, or stuffed somewhere in this old/new/remodeled home. If it isn't our home, the carnal mind suggests other places such as old churches, abandoned buildings, burned farmsteads, or, dare we say it, cemeteries and the like. The carnal mind knows no restraint when it comes to illicit gain, and such thoughts will sneak up on us until Jesus brings us home.

The destruction of a family home that didn't belong to him in search of an imaginary treasure that he held no right to possess may have cost a man his soul. We too must beware these mammon moments in our lives. God provides for us, and we don't need to dismantle the home He has provided in an effort to help ourselves. The real treasure is in God's Word, and it is freely available to whoever wills.

God bless you all,

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Loss is Tough

Good morning in the love of Jesus Christ! As we live in this world working out our salvation in the Lord, we toss away some weights that are slowing us down, but others we lose, and that loss is tough. I read a devotional from a pastor who is working through the loss of his magnificent church building. The church is the people of course, and they are mostly intact, but the building loss is still tough for him to bear. We lose things to various circumstances, and though we know that God and His people are the important parts of this life, we also find the loss of the things tough to endure. Through many tribulations God grows our faith, but to make light of them may be difficult. To make light of another person's loss may be downright unloving, at least until some time passes and he starts it.

A documentary shows the painful loss for a wealthy person of their mansion. We may tend to be less sympathetic because of the former wealth, but is that the loving way? The loss for one of a hut on the Serengeti may be just as hard as the loss for another of a mansion in Beverly Hills. Both are the loss of what we call home here in this life. Both show a loss of stability that we treasure. Giving the one less sympathy and comfort goes against the love Jesus commanded of us. Loss hurts us no matter what station in life we may experience the losing, and we should be quick to understand that this goes for everyone.

The loss of some things in this life may be good for us from God's view, and we take comfort in that, but it may hurt a lot in spite of the good it does for us in our faith. Jesus didn't send the Holy Drill Instructor, Jesus sent to us the Comforter. Jesus didn't tell His disciples to look for the Punisher; they too were to wait for His Holy Spirit for comfort and spiritual fire. Whatever loss we experience, the Spirit God has given to us is more than enough to comfort and encourage us. We also have the privilege to comfort and console one another in God's love.

May the love of God shine on you this day,

Monday, August 05, 2013

Who Are These Little People?

Back in the day, I'm pretty sure the only requirement for a kindergarten education was to show up clothed and mostly awake. That was the limit of the mother's, and in a few cases father's, responsibility. After the kid was in the classroom the teacher took over for the four hours or so of the kindergarten day. I took a short trip to the grocery store this morning to get the cats a can of food and what should be in the checkout line but a special notice for the Julesburg Grade School. There is a list of supplies the little people need to provide for themselves to attend school. School is bad enough without a requirement for supplies too.

The school wants either the list or the supplies, or perhaps the kids, put in a safe place, the instructions are not clear on that, and I like the comic effect of the ellipses at the end of the request, "Please put in a safe place...." The school apparently spent its supply money on I-Pads, because this is quite a list for a kindergartner, and it ends with "Earphones (for I-Pad). Adults are not allowed scissors on a plane flight, but children in schools are required to have them. The question must come when reading the lists: Who are these little people? I cannot believe that I was allowed to just show up to the school as a kid. Was my education substandard? Good grief!

This morning, I wondered what sort of a list God might give to you or me at the start of a Christian life. Would it be some large amount of money to be earned at toil because the inflation figures we hear on the news is, well, fudged just a little? The new Christian will need five jobs, he will lose four of them; two complete sets of furniture; you don't want to know what happens to the first set; and a complete selection of clothes in increasing sizes because, um, this seems to happen a lot more these days. No, maybe the list would be oriented toward the spiritual growth. The Christian will need this much tribulation to grow her faith; a larger amount of waiting on God to learn patience and trust; and a few train car loads of encouragement because this life is just plain tough for the Christian. No, not that either. I think that God gives us a list that says: a day.

What? A day? Yes, as in "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" We get a day, today in fact, to learn and grow in the love of God. The worries of today are enough for this day; we are not to worry about tomorrow or borrow imaginary worries from the weeks and months to come. Today may be a waiting on the Lord day. Nothing that we call significant may appear to happen on this day. The Lord may see much of great significance happening in your waiting day, but His vision is a lot better than yours or mine. This may be a busy day that goes by before we can stop to take a deep breath. An event so life-changing that even in our poor vision of eternity we call it of great significance may happen today too.

Who are these little people? They are little versions of you and me with a somewhat different set of circumstances to grow up in. Each of us has today, a gift from the Lord. Let us rejoice and be glad!


Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Weakest, Scardiest Stones

I look around, and I see those God could have chosen for His Church. Why me? Surely the man of strength and athletic prowess over there, or how about that woman who graces so many magazine covers, are they not better suited to build the Church upon? Apparently not, for I have met far more who believe fully in Christ, and yet have no desire to compete as a superstar athlete or endure the fame of a magazine idol. Are these living stones tempted by such things? Well, only if you count almost all the time as a temptation.

We live in a world of idolatry. Yet among all of the beautiful people, God seems to chose those of us who will most likely never appear on a magazine cover or sit in the chair on a talk show. We are scared, weak, poor, some employed and some not, loud or quiet, fast or slow, and a whole lot of other qualities that make us part of a population. When it seems that God would take the big, strong, and lovely stones that stand out from the crowd in the quarry, He takes the most common of stones and gives them life.

In 1 Peter 2, the apostle calls us living stones. We are to come before God as before a living stone. Most of the time we blip right on past that term in our reading. A living stone? A live rock? What is that supposed to mean? We desire strength; what could be stronger than a living stone? What experience could this Living Stone share with us when we come before Him? Note the patience of the Living Stone as He sits unmovable and unchanging as the eons pass. See how our Lord seems to choose the weakest, scardiest, and most unlovely stones for His own. How does He build a temple with these stones as they tremble, shake, and quiver, sometimes even turn about, while being stacked?

We don't know, but sometimes there does seem to be a little landslide in a church. I like to imagine our Lord patiently picking those fallen stones back up, dusting them off, and placing each one lovingly back in its assigned place. The stones are alive, and in that life they appear frightened at times, grumbly at other times, but every once in a while, we look and they are lovely together in the light of our Lord Jesus.

Praise God our Father,

Friday, August 02, 2013

Somehow, You Will Know

Ah, the first Friday in August...I'm really reaching for something here, but it ain't coming. August is the month with no holidays on board, except maybe for the start of school in some areas of the nation, and that is sort of an anti-holiday. It's mid-summer as the seasons go, but the end of summer regarding children's freedom. August needs a holiday of some sort. I know, we can celebrate the pumpkin takeover of the world! Let's get serious here.

Decision time, a time we struggle with because faith does not provide marching orders. Our destination is kind of out there. We believe God reigns in Heaven, but we cannot point to it on a map. Our time of arrival is a bit vague, will I live one hundred years or just eighty? The method seems concrete, believe in Jesus and receive His mercy and grace, but we tend to complicate it with altars, ways, works, debates, times, do's and don't's, questions and answers, and your theology vs. my theology. We don't get a gauge on our hearts to measure spiritual fullness, and we lack a spiritual radiation badge to warn us of impending doom. But, in every decision faith promises a guidance from the Lord.

In His word is wisdom for our decision. Can't find it or don't understand it? Faith also promises understanding for the asking. We may have to search and ask more than once, but help will come. We like to provide God with false choices. That is we pray that God will direct us to the left or to the right on a road that ends in a 3-way fork. The narrow, straight way off the boulevard may be God's choice, but we leave that one out because it looks too hard. We look for the band playing and the flashing arrow pointing, but God may speak in a very small voice that requires a quiet time to hear. Somehow, you and I will know when we have made the right decision.

Faith does not promise a giant 'You did it!' card falling from the sky. Yet, if Jesus is with us at all times as He promised, then I cannot believe that He is a silent partner. We will receive help with the decisions of this life, but perhaps not always the same for you as for me. Your help may be in the form of a Bible open to a particular verse at a time when you remember leaving it closed on the table. My help may be a voice in my spirit in answer to much prayer and supplication. Believe it or don't, what we feel is right may be the way to go too. An intuition that defies a rational explanation is not necessarily the wrong way to choose. I may not be able to explain why I chose the way I did, but faith reminds me that Jesus is with me all the way. Of course, if my feeling is based on a hoped-for pile of loot sitting down that path over yonder, then I might not be listening to the Spirit, but to my carnal desire. Faith doesn't promise that a point of decision in this life is going to be easy. Faith does promise that if we seek God and listen for His voice we will not be left alone in the decision. Wise counselors who have struggled with the same decision, God's word, and the Holy Spirit all stand ready to help us. Jesus said that He would be with us always because He knew that lost sheep have a hard time making a decision.

Praise God for His glorious Way,

Thursday, August 01, 2013

A Message From God

Good morning and welcome to August! The other morning I stood in front of my calendar looking at the final days of July and thought, "September is almost here." Well, yes that is technically true, but August and its 31 days might like a little love too. School begins here two weeks from today. If I may join the school kids in a rousing "AAAAAUUUGH!" this morning, that would be fine. Oh, about that title, have you ever received what appeared to be a confusing or mysterious message from the Lord? I mean other than all the Bible prophecies that are baffling to us right now that is. In prayer one day, I was told to write down this number, 224. I kept the slip of paper around, helped by the fact that a couple of my Internet passwords were written on it, for some time without having any idea what it meant.

Yes, you are missing the number and now screaming over passwords copied onto paper. Major security violation, but my passwords have become works of art in themselves so much that I have to write them down for a while until I can memorize them. I had to change passwords because when signing up for a new account at a bank, of all places, they had me enter my complex password in the usual asterisked box and then promptly confirmed it in a plain-text e-mail the very next day. To paraphrase Yosemite Sam, banks is so stupid! So, what does the little number mean? Well, last night I entered it into a search engine and found out that 224 is Internet slang for, 'Today, Tomorrow, Forever". I did not know that, but I do see an answer to prayer: God is with me today, tomorrow and forever.

Ask a question in prayer, you too may get an answer that at first you cannot understand. God is not playing games with us, He is working on us to grow our faith. A little waiting, researching, prayer, and patience helps us grow this new faith of ours. And even if like my friend Burt you were saved back in the year 1498, your faith is new to God who is from everlasting to everlasting. Oops, that should be 1984, having a little number dyslexia there, maybe. Burt only feels that old some days.

Do you know what is missing from 224? The past! God does not want us to dwell on what has gone before. When do we walk with God? Today, tomorrow, forever. Learn from the past, draw inspiration from good works and mistakes made, see the love of God raining down on your life's story, but walk with Jesus today, tomorrow, and forever. We have important evidence that God's love did watch over our past; we're still here. None of our mistakes killed us!

May the love of Christ be with you 224,