Monday, September 30, 2013

You Are Mine; I AM Your Lord!

Good Monday morning! For the Lord said to us that we belong to Him, and that He will be our Lord. Do we recall the honor that has been placed upon us by this? In our thinking it is just opposite for the perfect God to become Lord of that which has become imperfect through sin. It is wrong, so God sent a way to bridge that great divide. How could we get to God's heavenly home otherwise?

You might point upward in a vague direction of Heaven as we think it sits, but all we see are the stars and planets of God's Creation. Pointing down or around just seems wrong, so up it is, but what good does that do you and me? We cannot hop high enough. Rocket ships carry us to where we cannot breathe, and planes eventually must land again. Someday we might go to another planet, only to stand on its surface vaguely pointing up once more. Moral perfection then?

The Pharisees perhaps came closest to that in their rigid adherence to many rules and laws, including God's law, but Jesus had nothing but criticism for their way. Is a code of ethics kept faithfully the way to be with God? Nope, something is still missing, for to seek Heaven only for the purpose of getting there is selfish. For if one is self-righteous, then he or she does not need the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of a group who policed each other and kept an army of rules down to tithing on their herbs. If one cannot make himself perfect, and a group cannot make its members perfect, where do we go from there, a nation or an empire? I think we have studied enough history to know that has never worked.

What then is this way? Some would have us believe that all about God is mysterious; that we can never know enough about God. Hmm, seems to me that I can hear my little Bible scholars racing ahead of me here. Yes, John 14:6 plainly states not what is the way, but WHO is the way, the truth and the life. Nothing mysterious or hidden, Jesus plainly states the answer we seek. Our Lord has not forsaken us in our search for either truth, or the way to Heaven, or for that which is our deepest desire, eternal life. The way to my perfection is in the Lord Jesus. The way to your perfection is in Christ too. We cannot perfect ourselves back into what God created us before the sin and the fall. And why would we want to? For God's way is forward to the fulfillment of His plan. We are going somewhere in Christ, my friends, let us not faint in the way.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Enjoy To God's Glory

For the folks from Kimball this morning, we will call this the Farmer's Day devotional. Whoo, I remember the cold mornings in a band uniform waiting to march down the street. Then, we had to walk home to change because the usual heat of September days was on the way. Somewhere down the road a bit, a bunch of kids are preparing to do that very thing. Meanwhile, at 36 deg outside, this is a good morning for hot drinks or hot breakfast cereal. Why limit yourself, have hot drinks and a hot breakfast, and enjoy it to the glory of God our provider.

We wonder at times if we should enjoy anything at all. Are we not to share in the sufferings of Christ? Yes, but did Jesus leave us His peace so that we are only allowed to suffer peacefully? Do we not go the way of the man earning his salvation by constant penance when we eliminate joy? How do we tell the unbeliever that she is signing up for a lifetime of nothing but doleful suffering? Well, I certainly hope that is not the life of following Christ. Tribulation and suffering will come, but I want to know the joy of following Jesus. What good for Jesus to overcome the world if we cannot enjoy His victory?

It seems to me that God would enjoy our company a lot more if we were not always heavy-burdened with suffering. Does not the Shepherd celebrate when the sheep have a victory? I believe that my God wants to enjoy His bounty with me. Yes, He will train me up and grow my faith in sufferings. But, He also lives in me and wants me to be joyful, grateful, loving, and even at times, happy. Not every circumstance is sent to plant my hopes and joys in the grave of despair. It is too easy to grasp our sufferings around us like a cloak of many colors, and then explain to the Lord how good we are becoming. Might be time to open up that cloak and let some of God's Sonshine in.


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Music of the Day

Ulp! I see some leaves changing color. For some of us that is a crescendo or a series of pleasing notes that sings of autumn. For others, the changing leaves are a passage in a minor key, a mourning of summer that is passing. The music of the day is different from one to another in this great concert God has wrought. Friday, of course, is often a cause for a sprightly, happy tune. A melody of weekly cares easing into the weekend celebration. Monday, on the other hand causes the tune to wander into dark areas of back to the job for some, while others celebrate their return. (Some folks is kinda peculiar that way.) A shower of a morning is a cause for singing along with the day's tune, mostly 'cuz the shower covers up the less well-sung notes. We have a tune to hear this day.

Music is often spoken of in the Bible. David used it to perform his poems, and he played the harp to soothe the distressing spirit in Saul. The heavenly host celebrated the birth of the Christ child. I'm sure the host would approve of Christmas music with only 3 months to go to the blessed date. What's that, you didn't begin the day with Christmas tunes? I guess your music of the day will survive this one time. Probably should look into fixing that tomorrow though, December the 25th is just around the corner. The day begins; time for me to play a happy tune of glory to God!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Somebody Needs Some Joy

Good morning on this fine autumn day! I don't know what is going on with you today, but God told me that somebody out there needs some joy in his or her life. Happiness is an emotional response to a set of circumstances, and I cannot provide that for you. Joy, on the other hand, I cannot provide either, wouldn't even know where to start. But I do know where our joy comes from! Whether you surrendered, submitted, responded, opened the door, or committed to Jesus, you gained His Holy Spirit within you on that day, even in that very moment.

The source of our joy is the comfort of our salvation, the knowledge of God, love of God and one another, and the faith placed in us and grown to a mighty strength by the very Spirit of our Lord and Christ. We do not have to beg for this each day, but it does help to ask of God. We may need to search a bit harder for that joy on some days, and find it quite easily on others. The joy of the Spirit multiplies more quickly in the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it also spreads to those who do not believe. The joy we gain from Jesus helps us in times that seem far beyond our strength. Strength of emotion and spirit we did not know we possessed comes from the same source of joy who lives in you and me, the Spirit of God.

It is interesting that joy is not something I can give to you, but it is something I can share with you. My joy cannot be complete when yours is not, but each of us has complete joy in the Holy Spirit. We can rejoice in the Lord always, even though we don't always feel like rejoicing. We may go to bed defeated, but fresh joy comes in the morning. Joy is a gift from God. Ask Him to open your heart to receive it.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Faith, The Final Frontier

These are the voyages of little Christian ships everywhere. Our lifetime mission: to explore new worlds seeking God's will in our lives, to boldly witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, and to grow in faith when certainty is silent. Wait, when certainty is silent? But certainty is what I have sought for much of my life. I want to know beyond all doubt that I am right in this believing. Sorry, faith is described in Hebrews eleventy-one as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. We don't get to see the promised Heaven. We don't get to see the backside of Jesus as we follow Him. Our knowledge is based on hope, the evidence of our faith is in believing that our Lord died for our sins and lives again. We don't get to see with certainty.

Faith is our final frontier. God did not reveal in the Revelation that Jesus would return on a specified date. We believe that Jesus will return based on His testimony to John and the other disciples. For certainty we get long ago eyewitness reports and historical stories. Nothing has been added to the Bible for many a year. Yet, something or someone must enable our faith. Where does the seed of faith come from in us?

The journey to that glorious meeting where faith meets certainty in the person of Christ begins with a step of belief. The world we know mocks this belief. "There is no certainty, no proof," they will say, and in this they are correct. We take it on faith, just a little at first, but growing as the years and tribulations roll by. Who are the birds who shelter in that greatest of trees that sprouted from the smallest of seeds? We are! Those who believe and receive the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord. At the time of this belief, the Counselor is granted and in us the seed of faith is planted.

In the matchless name of Jesus,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is It Safe To Mock The Devil?

Good morning after a wonderful Tuesday Bible study. I got the response yesterday; Courtney is out for the week. So, we can mock the poor old girl all we want this week. Oops, the 'old' was a mock already, she is considerably younger than yours truly. Ah, the gentle sounds of the breaking surf can be heard in Brandee's basement. Mine is dry so I can mock by speaking of tidal currents, rip tides, surf and other basement horrors not generally found in Nebraska. Wow, I'm really asking for it, if justice is to be served, by mocking the misfortunes of others. Not that a week away from work is a misfortune, but Courtney's sweet, softball-smackin' husband might take offense at my mention of her precious name. The lighthearted mocking of my friends in Christ brings up the question in the title: is it safe to mock the Devil?

We have read that we are to resist the Devil and he will flee from us. However, there are also statements handed down from of old that by mocking the Devil he will flee from us as well. This sounds like fun at first, but then it also sounds a bit scary. Is not the Devil that former great angel called Lucifer? Even though fallen from on high, should we not show respect? Good questions! The Bible speaks much of reverencing and respecting God. I cannot recall a command to respect our Adversary. The power of the Devil lies in, well, lies. This deceit causes us to fear, and Jesus says many times to not fear. Jesus called Satan a murderer. Do we respect murderers? Do we reverence a known liar? Certainly not!

What is safety? Is it in getting along with a liar? Whose power do we depend on in this life of faith? God's power of course. We are saved through the power of Christ who rose in victory over death and the grave. Jesus is our Lord, and our Lord said that the prince of this world had no authority over Him. I suppose the question is best answered by where we place our faith. In a known deceiver and liar? Then you had better show respect. But if your faith is placed alongside mine in the Almighty God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, then I think we should reverence Him and not worry about that other being. Can we ignore the Devil all the time? No, you and I are on God's side now, and we will be attacked. When it comes, use resistance, mocking, the name of Jesus and get the liar out of your head. Get into prayer, and if you have an in-house pool as I did last year, meditate on God's word to the gentle sounds of the basement surf.

Let the goodness of God reign down upon us!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Grateful For My Blessings

When in the course of events (Sounds a bit like I'm starting a declaration of independence or something.) life changes from what it was, we may be tempted to stop the gratitude and concentrate on the circumstance. Not so very long ago, I had money to spend and to lend, as Tolkien put it, and I did. Giving to ministries was a high privilege and one that I enjoyed very much. I thanked God for it, and even tried to be a good steward by directing that money into certain ministry buckets at times. Then, as I grew in faith, I just gave into ministry general budgets and praised God for it. I no longer thought it my duty to direct and control in my giving. (However, the temptation to be that person still exists in me.) Then, the time came when there was nothing in the bank tank to give.

It was at that time that I should have thanked God for my blessings, but I was too caught up in the circumstance to remember. Like the Israelites, I would look around and grumble, while knowing full well that sort of thing angers my God. Like the Israelites, I also fell into looking back to 'Egypt'. That temptation also still comes up in me at times. In the Bible study I am preparing for tomorrow morning, Joseph finally arrives in his promised land. What I cannot forget is that Joseph in faith endured much before arriving there, and his tribulations probably did not end with his new position. The Israelites also entered their promised land, but after not one trip through the wilderness, but many years of wandering in it. The Pilgrims came to a promised land of religious freedom in America, but they too had to endure a period of severe trial before that day came. All of them had at least one thing to learn: give thanks to God even in what seems the most dire of circumstances.

For our God did not promise to provide in only the good times; He promised to provide what we need at all times. What God knows I need may fall far short of what I think I need. That kinda goes without saying, but I said it anyway. Thanking God in all circumstances does run up against my perceived shortfalls, but all the more reason to work on thanking Him. I do have blessings all around me. Most of them walk, talk, and praise God with me. Some are related to me, others I call friend, but all I believe are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Loving these blessings helps me to remember to thank God for them. Just like loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength helps me to remember to thank God for His Son.

The wonderful and gracious love of Christ to you on this fine morning!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

If Only For One Person

We read the bit about all nations or the uttermost corners of the Earth, and we may feel guilty that our witness does not spread quite that far. We must remind ourselves that the church is a team. We do not do this alone. This morning, I thought about the reasons for writing a devotional. If it is about the number of recipients, or the geographic spread of those numbers then many more writers and preachers are doing much better than me. This would of course mean that ministers of the very large churches will have a higher place in Heaven.

I don't need to search the gospels very deeply to see that it is not about numbers, but about love. If a person seeks to serve numbers, then he will naturally want higher reward. When it comes time for the salary review, the numbers will be brought out and displayed. However, I don't think that a motivation for numbers will hold up in life, or in God's court. The higher the number of recipients, the greater the correspondence and the more attention the minister gains. But, these things can only make the servant feel that he or she is doing a good job. A feeling is not necessarily an indication of the truth, for our feelings are easily swayed by circumstance.

Love says that witnessing, if only for one person, is a worthwhile endeavor. We are somewhere near the seventh anniversary of this devotional, and some of you have been reading it since the beginning in September of 2006. If only one person reads what I write, then I will continue writing for it is my witness to the world. How valuable is a witness to just one person? Imagine where that person may spend eternity if he or she does not get that witness. A Christian may be chained in a dungeon somewhere in a far country. She may have only one human contact to witness to through a small hole between cells, but that witness is valuable to God. You or I may not have a large audience, but we have a great and wonderful witness full of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

God be with you in grace and peace on this day,

Friday, September 20, 2013

Praise Him All The Day

Good morning! The flood waters are due to recede today and the town is still dry. We look forward to a good day, one of praise and thanksgiving. However, we must also remember those who lost lives or homes in this disaster. We know that God makes great things come from what we see as a disaster in our lives. A person staring at the remains of their home might find that hard to hear or even believe. How much greater would life be if God had stopped the disaster in the first place? A person might ask us in return. We don't have an answer to that, because we are not permitted to know what might have been or would have been.

Some circumstances present an easy answer. As the students arrive at school across the street, one may ask something like, "Why do we have to go to school when the kids over in that other town do not?" That is an easier answer. The town upstream a ways from us cannot flush toilets or take a shower. The towns downstream are just starting to deal with the flooding effects. We have it pretty good here. Sorry, the kids must go to school in our little town. They don't sound too upset at the moment. In a far country, kids cannot attend school without armed escort. In all things, praise the Lord.

What? Can't we wait for the perfect circumstance or at least the perfect day to praise Him? Some days are easier than others, some circumstances more conducive to praise and thanksgiving. We don't always get to choose which ones surround us. Praising God in a tough circumstance is a witness that shines brighter than the praise that comes from plenty and easy living. So, we who walk by faith love to stay in the tough circumstance to increase our witness? Goodness no! We try to get out just as soon as we can. We have a heart for Heaven, and these tough times will not last against the coming of Christ our Lord.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Beast Passes By

Good morning as the new day begins. We pray often and sometimes at length for something to happen. But, there are those times when we are grateful to God that the beast we feared has passed by. Last night, if you or I were sensitive to the prayers around us, we might have heard a rather large shout of "No, not now, Lord!" as the rains came down. The river is still above flood stage and we could stand a couple of days off from the rains. However, around 1300 yesterday, God made some room in the river to the tune of about 2,000 cfm in the flow. Probably just enough for the rain to fit in.

The beast passes by. The flow in the river is down this morning. I saw no difference in the fields when I took my morning stroll, which means the waters came no closer to town, well, other than the rains falling on the town that is. The thunderstorm did not unleash a torrent by any means, but it was enough to get us all praying together while still in our individual homes. An event can be like that. God wants us praying with one mind, and certain conditions bring that out in us. At least I hope there was no evil knothead somewhere in town praying to be flooded out. In that case we would have to say praying mostly with one mind except for Georg Gurkel down the block who needs a good head thumpin'.(Georg is a fictional person I made up for an example. Please, put down the torches and pitchforks!)

Without a catastrophic event or the possibility of a catastrophe, we must use other means to pray with one mind. Church prayer lists are wonderful for getting us organized to pray for the same things. Perhaps we won't pray at the same time, but we have the promise in Revelation when an angel takes a golden censer and offers up the prayers of the saints with incense to God. We don't often think of our prayers as an offering to God, but keep up the good work! Pray that the beasts of the world pass on by. Work to pray with one mind and heart. Give God the offering He is due. Amen.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Today Is The Day That Much Will Happen

Good morning! I walked across the rails today for a few photos, but there was not much to see. There is water on the town side of the trees by the river, but not much. We are far from danger as of 0600 this morning. The flood crest is due this evening as of the last report I heard. Today is the day that much will happen. Interesting thought. If a mystic sort of person in a certain environment said that to us, we might think it a curse. However, in the light of a new day and watching for flood waters, it simply means that we wait only today for disaster, inconvenience, or just a sight of something we may not see for another 50 years.

In our Christian life and walk, such a statement may mean the end of a waiting period. A day when slow turns to fast in events that God has promised. Forces our Lord set in motion months or years ago may collide or connect today in ways we never imagined. Yes, it may mean a disastrous event for us, at least in what appears to our limited vision. Or, the events may be so stupendously wonderful that we can only tremble in praise and adoration of God our Heavenly Father. Mostly, we fully expect the first and scoff at the latter, and with that kind of faith we get what we believe in.

Praise God for the possibility of great and wonderful things in life today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Taking the Humble For Granted

Good morning, because God is good. No, we are not underwater this morning. The flood is due beginning today and peaking tonight or tomorrow morning. Measurement difficulties all along the river make peak determination difficult, and it probably doesn't help that some of the river wants to take off across the prairie and visit fields and farms along the way. Sterling, the town up river about 50 miles, has some difficulties this morning. Scan through yesterday and think about not flushing the toilets, at all...anywhere in town. The humble little porcelain thing in our homes and businesses gets a lot of, uh, business in any given day. We tend to take them for granted as they are always there and mostly available. Some places or homes fail to clean them regularly. Others let them languish in chipped brokenness. A humble thing deserves humble treatment it seems.

Every town has one or more servants who are treated in much the same way. "Oh, she does this menial job and..." usually in a lowered voice, "she's mentally retarded you know." We may do this without a second thought due to our growing up in a society that does this sort of thing. Actually, all societies since the term was invented probably have done the same thing. Bird societies kick and berate the ugly duckling. Lion prides boot that horrible male lion who grew up without a mane. "He's funny you know, not a real lion at all," the pride's senior lioness comments with a snarky aside.

Jesus was humble. Oh, dear... Yes, the Son of God came down to this ball of dirt from which He created us. The humble servant of all was often taken for granted. The Pharisees refused to believe and used their rules to accuse Him of law breaking. The scribes tested our Lord and plotted how to murder Him. Even His closest disciples fled His presence in the dark hours of His need. The humble Teacher was treated poorly by many and ignored by many more. Yet, Christ alone brought salvation, a way out of our sin depravity and the penalty looming over us all. The humble was taken for granted and still obeyed God, accomplishing His mission out of His great love.

Praise God for the humble things, amen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good News From Far Away

Good morning! I took a good long look as I walked up 1st Street this morning, but so far the river remains within its channel here at Julesburg. The watchers are watching, and some farm equipment and livestock has been moved. Thank you for your prayers; they are more precious than gold to me. I will continue to pray for you.

Yesterday, I received a bit of good news from far away. Someone among us is about to be a little happier in the coming days. We don't even need specifics to feel a lightening of the load we bear. One of our brothers in Christ has some good news and we share it. A sister in Christ is promoted or gets a raise, and all of us feel the joy. A child is born - I wasn't immediately referring to the Christmas one, but, hey, it is getting closer! - we share the good news and spread some cheer among our brothers and sisters in Christ helping just a little in their daily struggle.

Might as well go with it, I can't get it out of my mind now. The Christ child is born. The first Christmas celebration follows with angels singing in the heavens, shepherds taking a road trip, and wise guys searching for the newborn king. The child grows to a man and spreads good news throughout the region and through His disciples to the uttermost parts of the world. Good news is infectious. We love and live for some good news.

Some mornings, I look around at the circumstance and pray for some good news of my own to spread. Then, I look at this devotional and realize: all I have to do is push 'send'. Praise God for our good news of Jesus Christ.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

It Is A Glorious Day

Good morning and good day! The world is in such a state; how can I say that this day is glorious? I choose to believe it. Jesus has come. He died for your sins and mine. On the third day, just as He foretold, He rose again. In faith I am forgiven. In mercy I receive a reprieve from the judgment. In grace I walk forward in joyful anticipation of all that is to come. The Lord is great and gracious. The Lord loves me and you! How can we not say the day is glorious?

My Lord sees tomorrow. He holds it in His hands alone. The Devil may try to steal our hope with lies, but the Accuser of the brethren no more holds tomorrow than you or I. God alone knows the future and speaks of it to us as He wills. Today is the day He has granted to me. As we are commanded in His word, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Hallelujah!

Wait, some may ask, how is it that you, given what we know of your situation, can celebrate the day? Ah, but wait I say, how is it that you believing your situation to be better are not? If I compare situations by looking around me, surely I will never celebrate except when meeting those of the most dire and unfortunate circumstances. I have collected a few 'worse than me' stories in my time, but none have helped me to celebrate. This is not the way of joy, but of pity. I am not blind to the situation, but I choose to believe in the providence of God. It is not what I see, but what I choose to believe that lifts me up to the joy we may have in Christ.

Amen, Lord! You are with me, I am with You. Let us go forward to the joy You have prepared!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Superstitious Silliness?

Happy Friday the 13th! We haven't had one of these since the last time the 13th hit on a Friday. They seem to do that now and then. We tend to make light of some superstitions, but are they all silly? We read in Samuel of Saul's attempt to use a medium to get instructions from God. It worked. The prophet Samuel was called up by the medium, and he wasn't particularly happy about it. The problem we have with the occult, other than it seeks in the opposite direction of God, is that not all of it is silly superstition. People chase after the occult because they get results, when God at times seems silent.

It's not fair! we holler at the clouds. We witness to God's everlasting grace, and then the seeker of knowledge gets an answer from the other side. The sinner finds his sought after higher power, and we are left wondering. We seek God in prayer...and no answer. The sneaky question worms its way under our shield of faith, "Am I on the wrong side?" Wait, that was the answer: faith!

Faith in God is entering at the narrow gate, and treading the straight path. God may be silent for a time to see if we will remain faithful. Many sinners will get the answer they seek in their hardened hearts, while for a little while we go without an answer. Faith is a tough road at times. We may see a brother in Christ searching, seeking, waiting for an answer, and it grieves us that he doesn't get one for a season. Faith is not the easy way of quick answers. It is easy for the worldly to get their answers from the prince of this world. We who walk in faith may have to wait, and it is a tough place to tread. It may seem unfair to us, but how much would faith grow if God always provided quick and easy answers?

I have been in that tough spot for some time now. Yes, I will admit to praying for answers and hoping God would respond quickly. However, I want to remain faithful and count on the strength of Christ to stand. Many of you have helped me in this time through prayer and donation, and I have prayed that God would bless you for it. I trust that an answer is near, and I ask that you remain faithful with me for just a little longer.

The blessing and peace of Christ Jesus to you on this Friday of faith,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Let Me Not Put Anything Ahead of My Lord

Good soggy morning my friends in Christ! Much demands our attention these days. A job is a precious thing in a world system that requires money as payment. Pleasure is available in so many ways that we may be tempted to live a life of distraction. Work even of the non-paying type can overwhelm our need for our God. Feeling useful is a good feeling, but not if it interferes with our relationship to God. Pain intrudes with forceful misery when we least expect it, blotting out thoughts of anything but begging or grabbing for relief. Politics, especially that of others, may clash with what we believe is right. This in turn causes us to concentrate on political issues when much of the world still cries out for the salvation of Christ. Just when we get a chance to sit down and open the Bible, a call from work jangles our one remaining nerve. Useful to the company has its limits I see by your climbing of the wall.

This world is geared up to smash down our worship of God, any friendly and sharing relationship with our Lord and Savior, and even our dependence on God alone. Distractions fly thick at us as we attempt to stand in our armor of God. Urgencies, emergencies, and a simple call to 'join us for your own good' come from every conceivable source. Christ says that we have much to live for, but the world dumps on us a lot of distraction to live with. The narrow gate is a tough place to enter through!

Jesus gave us one important reminder about these tribulations we experience, "I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) We want to believe at times that means a good overall stomping of the world's nations and systems, but Jesus came as a healer and teacher. As long as the world system is just so darned useful for providing trials and tribulations to grow our faith, I don't see that stomping arriving just yet. Times are tough; for me, for you, and for so many who do not have our hope in Christ. A host of problems may beset you right now, or you may be in a season of relative ease, but Jesus has overcome the world. Place God first in all things and we will get through this with Good News to spare.

God's grace and peace to you on this dampish day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm From Nebraska, Not Bethlehem

Good morning! Yes, I mostly realize that I live in Colorado now, but much of my life I lived in Nebraska. Last night, I was thinking that in trying to be like Jesus, I sometimes get confused and try to BE Jesus. I remind myself that I am from Nebraska, not Bethlehem.

A Christian strives to become more like Jesus in behavior and thought, and especially in what we say. However, some things remain in Christ alone. We can forgive one another, but we cannot forgive sin. We can be merciful to one another, but to grant mercy from sin belongs to God. We can die on a cross, but only the death of Christ on the cross removed the penalty of sin from us. I can encourage you, and you me, but only Jesus could send His Holy Spirit into us. One of us might guess what the other is thinking, but only Jesus in the Spirit knows what is going on in all of our thoughts.

One of us may joyfully greet the other on our arrival in Heaven, but I think all of us want to see Jesus then, and when we see Jesus, we will know that He is from Bethlehem, not Nebraska. We will know that many have become like our Lord, but we will also know our Lord. We will see then that we are adopted into the family of God, but there is only one Son of God. You and I will also know what we should learn now, that Jesus created us to be who He created us to be. You and I are becoming like Him and bearing His image more and more, but we are also His creations and we bear unique qualities and traits that He treasures.

In Christ,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Can We Do?

Aiee! My resources are not enough. My time is too little. The days go by so quickly. My intelligence is far short of what I need. I have nothing to give this month. I'm putting the 'me' in these examples, and now I sound like a great big whiner. We have heard comments such as these and probably used them at times ourselves. Every church has felt that there is never enough volunteers (try paying them!) or the offering is too little (Oops). Many households have felt the financial blow of a job loss. We look at our resources, or at least what we think is the sum total of our resources, and complain that we have too little to accomplish what we want or feel called by God to finish. Wait, called by God? Is that the key?

The number one resource of every Christian man or woman is God. James reminded us that we have not because we ask not. When we do ask, we fail to ask in faith. It may seem strange to our earthly ears, but God wants to serve us. After salvation, God serves us by raising up a tiny little seed of faith into a mighty tree of faith. This faith is what enables all of the other services God does for us. Love grows in us because we believe in God. Confidence in God's provision grows in us when faith grasps the promise of God. We learn more of who God is when we trust what God says in His word. Belief and trust belong to faith as hydrogen and oxygen belong to water. If belief in Jesus is the root, then faith is the trunk and trust is the branches of our living tree. Covering the entire tree are the leaves of God's grace, and the blossoms of His love. In the due time, God will bring forth the fruit on this tree, and a bountiful harvest it will be.

What we can do with all of this faith, love, trust, and belief is pray. At the moment you may not have enough money to give, but you have enough prayer to give. Today, there may not be time on your schedule to give, but on the way to some event you can give some prayer. Tomorrow your physical resources may be less than today, but you still have prayer in the cupboard to give. If any of us stop to think about it, no matter how short we are in some resource today, we would take prayers for us above any other giving. I know that I would, and I thank God for your prayers for me. I will take the time today to give some prayers for you. We may be short of everything in this world today, but hug the tree of your faith and pray for one another.

The grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord to you on this day of prayer.


Monday, September 09, 2013

Control Surfaces

Good Monday morning! The beginning of the cool down to normal temps is supposed to arrive today. We'll see about that, in the meantime, let's talk control. Watching a certain gang of mostly-literate hooligans, I have noticed they like to exercise control of little flying things from a distance. Some of these things may stretch the definition of little, but all are controlled through a set of control surfaces. The 'pilot', to really stretch a definition, uses a radio control set on the ground and sends control signals to a receiver on the little plane. Each plane has small models of an airplane control surfaces. Ailerons, flaps, rudders, and a throttle are all manipulated from the relative safety of the ground. One advantage to this is that the model planes can perform maneuvers that would cause a human pilot to lose consciousness.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this sport is not in the actual performance, but in the way we think about salvation. How often have you or someone you know wanted Jesus to fly him or her like a little plane? It doesn't work that way, but we say something like, "I belong to you now Lord, I expect you to control me so that I never sin again." Then, we fall, stumble, or run right into sin once more and we blame Jesus. After all, we try to reason, He holds our remote control. If God wanted little remote-controlled servants, He could have created them long ago and avoided all the heartache we tend to cause Him. If salvation made us little Bible-verse spouting robots controlled from Heaven's control room, God would have a different plan than He has right now.

At the moment, God has ambassadors in a foreign land. You and me are controlled from Heaven in that we take our orders from there and carry them out as best we can in the strength of Christ. Like a national ambassador, we have different skills from each other. Some of us are skilled in singing or preaching; others can write or speak well. Some contact many of the earthly natives, others only see or listen to a few in this life. God may push on a control surface here or there in our journey, but His touch is so gentle that we may not realize it until long after the fact. We are guided in our decisions through God's Holy Spirit, but we still make the decisions. Alas, that means the blame for sin still rests on me. Time for some prayer and supplication with thanksgiving!


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Deny Myself, Deny Every Pleasure?

I suppose it has been tried down through history, after all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23). That must mean that we are to deny the self every pleasure, right? The question to ask is, will that save me? We know that without Christ, self-denial counts for nothing. I cannot by living a secluded life of bare necessity in eating and clothing save myself. I will not save anyone else by denying myself every pleasure. Perhaps the self-denial we tend to think of is on the wrong track. What if the denial of the self Jesus speaks of is the denial of our desire to save ourselves through our own works?

We do face a temptation to polish the outside of the cup as the Pharisees did through a life of strict religious self-denial. We think that by living a monkish life avoiding all pleasure in food, sex, companionship, and activity that we will somehow be holy. Doing this we end with a horrible loneliness and eventually fall to boredom and despair. A period of this kind of life might be good for us all, but only a season, and perhaps a short season at that. Attempting to deny every pleasure is not what we were made for. If God denied himself every pleasure, how could He delight in us? If Jesus denied himself every pleasure, how could He eat and drink with the tax collectors and other sinners?

However, if denying myself means that I no longer rely on my efforts or good works to achieve my salvation, then the salvation of Christ Jesus can shine in me. I can witness by enjoying a dinner with friends. I can witness by enjoying a time of, uh, I almost hate to say this, flying little airplanes with remote controls and pointing out the beautiful sky God made for us. I can witness by watching children play, or playing in some activity we as adults like to call a hobby or sport. A period of pleasure denial may be helpful, but a lifetime of that sort of thing is not attractive to anyone but a few nuts trying to save themselves. I think that I would much rather take pleasure in Christ and with Christ in fun activities, rather than to deny every pleasure in life and try to convince God that I am good enough in my own efforts when His word says that I am not.

Jesus saves, I live in Him!

Friday, September 06, 2013

A Thimbleful

A test! Right in the middle of my devotional composition the Gmail tests me by saying I'm expired. So, after looking up my password, I'm back to try this again. Perhaps you don't want to be wished a sleepy good morning today, but that is where I am. I woke up only sort of awake today. The eyes are gummy, the wits are still in bed, and I don't feel like doing much of anything right now. I do not have a reason, such as going to bed too late or waking up more often than normal to account for this sleepiness, it just is. I guess that is the second test already this morning. What if I had just a thimbleful to work with?

We tend to look down on the poor thimble as a measuring device. In poetry, music, literature, and other media, writers and composers use the measure of a thimbleful to mean scarcity or an unfair amount. A thimbleful of water will not keep a person alive. Serving a thimbleful of mashed potatoes to your guests would be an insult. But not all substances are this way. A thimbleful of plutonium in a city water supply could kill millions of people. Many substances in nature are so toxic that a thimbleful is overkill. Medicines work in tiny amounts too. What about a thimbleful of God's love? Is that enough or too much? We don't know. The little thimble does not work to measure such things.

If God gave me just a thimbleful of faith, I would believe it more than enough. A mustard seed is smaller, yet faith of that size can move mountains. A thimbleful of God's love would more than suffice. Not because I am sure of the amount, but because I am sure in faith of the source of that love. What is a thimbleful of my love shared between all those I know? Again, the amount doesn't matter because the measure is flawed. What matters is to start loving one another and leave the amount to grow like that faithful mustard seed.

God bless you this fine morning!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Fog of the World

Good Thursday in this hot month of Aug... wait, the month changed, why didn't the heat wave go away? The weather since about the one year point of my stay here in Julesburg seems very much like the weather when I arrived. I guess you can blame me for the heat wave. Not sure if that makes any sense or not, but you might need someone to blame.

Last night, I thought of going forward in faith. We want to go forward in knowledge. That is, knowledge of what is going to happen tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. This lust after knowledge probably began with the partaking by a couple of naked folks way back in the first days of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Ever since that time, we have wanted to go forward in knowledge so that we can control our lives. However, how much control really do we have over tomorrow? Right, none at all.

Instead, we are to go forward in faith, and faith seems a lot like walking into a big fog bank. I can imagine my Savior's hand in mine, but I don't actually feel it. The fog of the world is so thick, and my eyes so experienced at seeing only this world, that faith seems to tell me nothing about tomorrow. Why do I feel lost? Probably because I am one of those lost sheep that Jesus came to save. I am walking around lost in the fog, bleating my little sheep head off, and hoping for a view of the road ahead. Then I hear a voice from the past. The voice of scripture says, "Let me tell you about God's provision for today...and don't worry about tomorrow." BLEAT, BLEAT, BLEAT! goes the little lost sheep. I still want to know about tomorrow.

Of course, we are to walk with Jesus, our Lord and Shepherd, today. Jesus gathers His flock of lost little sheeps and we walk with Him in the day, not the next day or one down the road, but today. The fog of the world swirls around us so thick that it's hard for us to see even the other sheep. We walk in faith that Jesus will keep His flock together, for we cannot with our limited vision. We walk in faith that Jesus will bring us to the rest at the end of the day. That voice from past scripture speaks once more, "I will be with you always, even to the end of the age!" And we recognize the voice of our Savior making happy little lost sheeps like us.

Have a great day in Christ Jesus,

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

If It's Such a Gimme, Why Don't It Seem to Gotme?

In faith I came to Jesus for salvation. From that gift, I expected the desire to sin to have gone away by now, but it has not. You have probably felt a little of that, even as you know intellectually that it doesn't work that way. We might ask in a moment of stress: if salvation is such a gimme, why don't it seem to gotme? Perhaps any of us would ask the question in a more educated form, but we must admit to asking something rather like that at times.

The carnal person inside is a part of us from conception. We don't know the day when Jesus will remove all temptation and desire to sin. The day is somewhere in our future, but it was not promised in this life. Even the disciples were heard to ask Jesus, "Who then can be saved?" At the time, Jesus had not yet died for all sins so that many could be saved. The answer to the question for all time is Jesus. Our part of the salvation deal is faith.

Faith tells us that Jesus took care of salvation at the cross. Faith did not say that the point of salvation would remove all desire to sin. We are still human and still living in this world. The carnal person inside is not nice to us. He or she desires, we should say 'lusts', for a great many things that we know are against the law, God's law that is. Why not remove all desire to sin? That is not our question to answer. Faith also reassures us that God has some use for this carnal desire we feel. Perhaps to remind us of where we came from before salvation. Without our carnal desire, we might be tempted to feel superior to our fellow sinners who are not yet saved by Christ. The times we fall remind us that we are no better than anyone else, we just have a better Savior.

I don't have to feel the gimme of salvation. I just have to remember that the Savior gots me. Salvation was never mine to perform. That is why I cannot grab a hold of it. I must in faith trust God to hold me. I am 'gotten', even though it doesn't feel that way at times.

The grace and mercy of Christ Jesus to you on this fine day,

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

For One, His This Day Has Come

At the end of an earthly life, we like to list the achievements of the man or woman. These may consist of business or social accomplishments, progeny, or athletic and military feats. We try to say something good about that person, but for some few just living the life to the end is accomplishment enough.

For these few, the list of their suffering is sufficient to make one wonder how he or she made it to the end. An accumulation of injuries, a debilitating disease or condition, or what the world calls just plain bad luck leaves a person suffering more than the normal lot of most humans. Fortitude for these is not in running a marathon, but just getting up and walking. A victory of endurance is not a lifetime of work, but each day worked successfully. Of course, the man himself may not see it that way. Often the man we see as especially given over to suffering considers himself blest with an unusual outpouring of God's grace as he lives each day.

Hearing the story of Mark's health issues for the first time left me wondering once if God was not teasing the poor man with the promise of his 'this day'. The day I am referring to comes from Luke 23:43, when Jesus promised the believing thief that 'this day' he would be with his new Lord in Paradise. Exaggeration of Mark's story is hardly necessary, so I will not attempt to list the near-death and other serious health crises that Mark suffered and I heard about second hand. Once I imagined Mark and I walking away from each other up at the Cabela's headquarters building each praying to God that the other might gain some relief in this life. You can imagine the little thought balloons over our heads as we cried out, "Lord, that fellow has suffered enough!"

Of course, God decides when the day of relief from this world will come. As I'm sure Mark did, I do not consider myself particularly unfortunate in suffering when compared to those who have died as martyrs for Christ. Even now, those who might be considered blessed with extra suffering can point to another that we consider worse off than us. We are not judging that person, only praying for them with a little extra care and attention. I know that Mark prayed for me, as I did for him. Perhaps one of the reasons God blessed us with Mark was for the express purpose of reminding me and you to pray for others. The love of Christ in us shows through best in our prayers for one another.

Mark invariably asked after my health concerns or pain level when we met. He did not fail to give the glory to God even as we compared notes on where to get shoes built up on one side. As Mark stood out in my mind as a noteworthy sufferer, I'm sure that many such unacknowledged prayer partnerships existed between him and another that he considered more in need of prayer than himself. Paul acknowledged that he suffered much, but also exhorted us to place others ahead of ourselves in prayer. Giving up was not an option for the great apostle, and it was not for Mark.

The courage to endure to the end may be bolstered by the suffering of another. Certainly watching God lead Mark through enduring another major medical this or a minor medical that for months and years, and yet have the strength to testify of God's love while enduring another biblical contest with the JW's, gave me hope to carry on to the end. Mark read and lived the Word while giving up his body to medical invasions seemingly without end or rest. We too have the responsibility to testify of God's goodness in situations that look so very bad.

For Mark loved and trusted God, the One True God who has now fulfilled Mark's promise of his 'this day'. The day the Lord Jesus promised to a certain thief who took a moment to believe at the very end of his mortal journey, has come for one of our own. We give Mark up to God for a brief time while our time of testing and trial continues. I need not envy Mark his 'this day', nor do you, for our 'this day' will arrive one day - not in our will, but in God's will - at the perfect time to honor and glorify our Lord and Father in Heaven.

Mark's great hope is now fulfilled in Christ, but his greater hope is that one day all of us will visit him in his new home for a worship celebration of the One who died to bring us all together in His heavenly home.

God bless you all,

Monday, September 02, 2013

Jump In Any Time

Good morning on this first Monday in September! Today we celebrate the art of labor by spending the day laboring like a little donkey pulling the family cart up a mountainside after the family Thanksgiving dinner. No, we lay around all day celebrating labor with a day off? Sounds kind of backwards, it does. We celebrate Memorial Day by remembering, shouldn't we cap off the summer by laboring on Labor Day? The thing is that we can celebrate with labor all we want. The day is free from the employer, and many get this holiday with pay, but that doesn't mean that we can't jump into some labor today. Sometimes it is a celebration of something to do it when we don't have to.

Prayer is much the same at times. We may get in a bad habit of looking upon prayer as a labor that must be done before we do something else. However, we do not have to pray. God wants us to, and His will is what we seek, but no one is going to force us to pray. We like to tell others of what is going on, especially if something very good happens. We also like to share our troubles with others, kind of spread the heavy load around a bit. Why would we look at prayer as a labor then if God wants to hear all about our day, our week, every trouble and tribulation, and especially all the good things? Jump in and pray at any time.

Do something strange to celebrate prayer, like praying at the end of a meal instead of the beginning. Make this Prayer Day by praying for everyone but yourself for a day. Or, do what God wants and just talk with Him. Leave out the forms and ceremonies, and just tell God what a good job He is doing in your life. Get angry, tell God He is doing a lousy job. We would be wrong of course, but God is not afraid to hear our emotions poured out to Him. Sometimes life seems to be going all the wrong way, and we tend to blame God for it. Don't try to hide the thoughts, pour them out in prayer. As the anger drains away, or God answers, we may find that angry prayer turning to one of praise and thanksgiving. Give prayer as an offering to God; it certainly works when you seem to have nothing left to give.

God bless and keep you this holiday,