Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oh Dear, It's Halloween

Good morning on this spooky day. Halloween is a good evening to laugh at fear. Little ghosts, zombies, and other creatures of the night will visit our doors asking for candy treats. Horror movies are in demand and parties of strangely dressed people will hold revel. Should we get tied up in knots over this celebration? Do we shut the doors and say that Jesus would not approve? Ya know back in the day, a lot of people were surprised again and again at what Jesus did and did not approve. Why shouldn't we hold a celebration to laugh at the fearful things! Perhaps we should dress up as what we fear most and join them. Laughing at fear is a proven antidote. A draught of fear antidote might be good for those of us clutched by the deadly malady. How does one dress up as darkness anyway?

Wait, why am I defending a pagan holiday? Am I conforming to the world or standing on legalism? Do I call down judgment on myself through teaching us to take something lightly that perhaps should be strongly condemned? Ah, but my Lord Jesus did not come to condemn the world, and I am doing my best to be like Him through His strength. Shaking the finger of condemnation does not seem to be like my Lord. Even now I struggle with mentioning the holiday at all. I feel much as Paul must have felt with the sacrificed meat issue. Did Paul pause with Luke and Timothy and wonder how people find so much to worry about?

No, I suspect Paul knew very well that a lot of worries assault us daily, some mundane and some quite imaginative. Maybe we need to propose another holiday where we laugh at worries. We can dress up as invoices, dreaded medical diagnoses, failing report cards, and other worries that attempt to stifle our celebration of the good news of Jesus Christ. Maybe it is time we laughed more at the fears and worries of this place.

Have a wonderful celebration in Christ!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hey, That Don't Go Together

Good morning in the grey morning! My stress-buster verse for this morning goes: My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Ex 33:14) As I walked along the merry ways of our little town, it occurred to me that those don't usually work together, going and resting I mean. If I offer to go with someone, I typically do not want to hear the snores of rest coming from the driver's side of the vehicle. Should I look out and see my neighbor walking to the store, she might think me crazy when I offer to go with her and give her rest. We have a little trouble with go and rest at the same time.

Perhaps it was understood that God would go with and then give rest at the times of not going, but do we dare limit God in that way? I notice that Jesus didn't heal anyone who said "there's no way you can do this, Lord." People didn't travel for miles to tell him their malady was impossible for Him to fix. Go and rest may not normally work together for us, but we're talking about God here. When God's presence goes with us, we can expect rest. Maybe it will be rest sitting still or lying down, or maybe it will be a charge of energy on the go that we cannot explain. Our job is to believe!

Have a restful day, even while going with God!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Generating Attitude

Oy! Attitude these days seems to mean rebellion or cockiness or almost anything but the fruits of the Spirit. However, once upon a time we sought to generate attitudes that made the day brighter, helped with changing a task of drudgery to a task of pleasure, or helped us to help others with enthusiasm. Generating good attitude is not necessarily easy though. The Spirit of Christ is not just along for the ride in us. We have an advocate, a helper, and a counselor all in one glorious Holy Spirit given to us by Christ Jesus himself. We have the power in us to become an attitude generator of prodigious skill.

Yes, the aches and pains we experience in this life can wear us down. But where are those aches and pains? In us, right where the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. Where do the bad attitudes and thoughts of defeat come from? In us, in the same place we have a Counselor for good. Where does that inclination toward sin come from? In us, where the Advocate and Helper sits ready to come to our aid at every moment. Do we see the pattern now? Did not Jesus apply the power we need most right where we need Him the most? Hooray! Let us rejoice in Christ and generate some good attitude. Me and God, we can beat anything!

To God's great glory in us,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ah, Well-Deserved!

Good morning as the leaves assault the house with all of their fury. Fortunately, God created the leaves to have a very light fury and the house is not at all worried. I just learned that Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons won the Song of the Year award at the Dove Awards last night. A well deserved award in my opinion. I wonder if Matt feels the same way many of us do this morning. What feeling is that? Oh, the one where we feel inadequate for an honor, like it is not at all deserved or maybe we didn't give God enough glory. Why do we feel this way? Why is an honor given to us somehow in our minds not giving glory to God?

We like to bring ourselves down in a gesture of false humility. Let us use the strength of Christ in us to flip that over. You bear the title of Christian, and it is well-deserved. No, stop that remembering of past sins. You deserve the title and the proper response is a thank you to the one who gave you new life, Jesus our Lord. Take the present and live for the One who is bringing us closer to His holy presence each and every day. We live in the present with hope because the present is God's gift to us. The past is gone - don't judge yourself on the past. Christian, you are a child of God, a friend of God's very Son by His calling! Don't look down; your shame is past. Look up! and give glory to God by being what He has made you. The well-deserved title of Christ-one is yours and mine. Let us bear it with the honor due the name of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stand Firm Against the Squirrels

Good Saturday! I met up with a friend this morning who is doing today what I did last year, selling off his stock of personal stuff to raise some cash. You may of course substitute a more appropriate word for 'stuff'. As I chatted with him, I noticed him grabbing the odd item here or there and squirreling it away in a back room. Now this is no way to raise money for the need and I had to call him on it. There is no one harder on a smoker than a recovered cigarette addict, and it goes much the same with those who hold yard/garage sales when need forces their hand. Doug paid me off by letting me take a 50-cent lighthouse knickknack I liked. Sometimes we can help with understanding and love based on our experiences, other times we are too easily paid off.

We approach the sin of another with great danger to our self. We attempt to stand firm against the squirrels only to find that we have joined them. Sin is sneaky that way, for all of us can help one another fall. The apostles warned us of this in their letters. I suspect these warnings too came from personal falling experience. In relating my experiences, I must make sure to warn you away from falling in with my sins. The old chair demonstration is always good to illustrate the ease of pulling another person down as opposed to the difficulty of pulling him up.

We need help from our Lord to pull each other up. Any of us can fall in with the squirrels and pull the rest down. Gee, I'm kind of hard on the squirrels today, one must have tromped across the roof last night disturbing my sleep. Have a great and blessed Saturday in Christ!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Hard Core

Good morning on this Friday! Great things are coming, and a little enthusiasm in the devotional will not go amiss. Today is the 30th anniversary of the Grenada landing, or Operation Urgent Fury to those of us recalling the wonderful heat of the southern waters. To conduct an actual invasion from the sea is a Marine Corps specialty. For that we got to walk around with an invisible suit of 'hard-core' armor on for a while. But that's nothing. In this week's Julesburg paper is an ad to rent a 33 bedroom, 1.5 bath house. Now that's hard-core. For the sake of those anticipating a wait of just short of forever to use the potty, I sincerely pray that is a misprint. I wonder if the landlord would be so kind as to permit a few of Scottie's Potties out back?

In our Christian walk we may run into what might be called the hard-core Christian. This is one who very much resembles the legal experts of Jesus' time, those scribes and Pharisees. The approach of this follower of Jesus usually begins with something like, "You gotta..." They also love to quote the thou-shalt-not's from the King James. This Christian is the self-appointed sergeant-at-arms of the Christian sphere. No rule is too niggling; no latitude is given, he or she knows exactly what you should be doing (or thou shalt not be doing) for the cause of Christ. This is not the loving advice of the brother or sister in Christ, that we all need from time to time, but the stern command of the self-promoted general of the Christian army going about his duty as overseer of his/her flock of doctrinal slaves.

We don't much like those people, and imagine how the one searching for relief from sin must feel. How welcoming would a good smack upside the head with a stone copy of the Ten Commandments feel at your moment of greatest need? Right, the good news should employ those gifts of the Spirit that we are given: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on. A new Christian babe can be easily shattered on the rocks of legalism. Let us make them welcome with our gifts.

And a great big Friday-sized dose of God's love to you on this day!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Hare Trigger

Whoa, cinnamon and cloves in the oatmeal this morning, I am living the wild life! As I walked this morning, I tried to recall the words to a hymn...all four verses of that hymn. Memory games are good for keeping the mind sharp. But I realized that although the hymn is about God, I am not talking to Him while doing this game. The words of the hymn are good but my mind is concentrating on a formula of words and not my Lord. My memory game might as well be about the recipe to pumpkin pie or the mathematical steps to solve an equation. It is rather a classic case of seeing the trees, but not the Creator of the forest. Okay, maybe that isn't exactly the classic line about trees and forests.

As I grow older, I tend to swap around the old lines a bit. The hare trigger of bygone days now functions more like a tortoise trigger. I can still produce a bang; there is just plenty of time to move out of the way. My so-called wild life is getting cold while I try to come to some point here. Uh oh! Mental meandering is another sign of advancing years, better to get back on the story. Heh, mocking myself in the morning, what is that a sign of?

The word of God tells of the perils of the double-minded. A person with no goals in mind, who is easily distracted from the way, and who believes one thing and then another. We have that unique part of the curse on us. Migratory animals don't get lost as they travel each year. We do not look up to see geese holding a meeting because the leader of the 'V' isn't sure where the flight was going. The predator on the savanna does not suddenly stop because she forgot what she was doing. That part of the curse sits more heavily on us. Sermons may wander, singers may drop a verse, and of course devotional writers are famous for a laser-like focus on the point of the writing. Guarding against double-mindedness is a duty for all of us in Christ.

As always, the good news is that last little prepositional phrase - 'in Christ'. Jesus helps us to maintain our focus on Him. Often times that is through a problem, a trial, or a good ol' fright that sends us spiritually and mentally running back to Him in prayer. We don't get far on our own. We look down and there is no more trail under our Christian feets. We look around and see lots of darkness in the valley of death's shadow. Looking to our own skill and knowledge, we find that we have lost the way and the light. We need a guide, a trailblazer to take us to our eternal home.

Now, the next duty - learning to trust our holy guide and Savior!

P.S. Well shiver me timbers, that African grassy place doesn't have an 'h' on the end. You're waiting for me to correct 'hair' trigger, but it ain't happenin', I'm a Bugs Bunny fan! :-)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

But...It Doesn't Sound Loving

Good morning! I'm still in the dark, but there is a hint of light in the eastern sky. Vocabulary Man walked into the disreputable tavern to lubricate his elocution. Tarrying beside the serving counter, he noticed a man distinctly marked by particular signage upon his epidermis. The man stood respectfully, but closely behind a woman with similar symbols adorning her overgarment. Vocabulary Man, desiring convivial relations, leaned in and said, "Madame, I admire your pulchritude!" Whereupon, he found his posterior painfully pounding the parking lot with gradually diminishing velocity. Apparently, his compliment did not sound loving!

Pulchritude is one of those words we don't use much anymore, probably because it looks nasty when written, and sounds worse when spoken. However, the definition is entirely different, the word means: great beauty and physical attractiveness. Ebbeh? It sounds like something you might find in a pit of refuse. Some things our Lord said did not at first sound loving either.

Go ye therefore into all the world was the command, but the disciples probably thought they had gone plenty far already. They had followed Jesus through places the Jews didn't normally go, slept out in the garden, argued with the authorities, and fled the arresting soldiers. All the world? No doubt that sounded frightening to the men who had not in their lives travelled more than fifty miles or so from home. "Does anyone know how big is the world?" Peter may have asked the other disciples. I'm sure they had among them heard about much more than any had seen, and the stories of the Roman Empire alone would tend to overcome their courage. "Did He say, 'All the world...', Pete?" John may have asked with a nudge in the ribs to their unofficial representative.

The command of our Lord may not always sound loving to our ears. Even today, all the world is a big place. A church-full of people staring expectantly may cause your carefully prepared words to dribble right out of your brain. Do I have to do this, Lord? Learning a new skill may be the command from God you heard in the still, small voice of the night hours, but that seems so hard in the light of day. Then there is that statement... you know the one: You are a sinner in need of saving! Ouch, what happened to God's own image and that good-sounding stuff? We like that better. No, the truth hurts sometimes when love speaks. How about this one: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The truth can also sound very loving.

In Christ,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


In order to make sure of the obvious this morning: ah, the leaves they are a changin'! Yes, I can whip out the obvious for you any day of the week. Well, at least on those days when I don't forget to check right in front of my face. Narcissism comes from the fable of Narcissus, who it seems saw his reflection in a pool and couldn't look away for thinking himself so beautiful. The overly self-conscious person on the other hand is too much aware of himself or herself, not through worshipping the image of the self but through worry or anxiety. Every pain is a pending heart attack or cancer or total physical breakdown. The self-conscious person cries out for help but in the wrong way, for the doctor will say nearly every time, "There is nothing really wrong with your body."

An interesting, but seemingly obvious cure is to turn the attention of the self-conscious person outside himself. See the other persons around, care about them, think well of them, and above all, love them. Of course, this is a cure very easy for me to type out. I only corrected a couple of typos in getting the sentence typed into the e-mail. Difficult is when I read the sentence and have to translate it from the Venusian typing that came out of my fingers. Putting the cure into practice, and practice it most certainly does require, is the more difficult proposition. We are not for the most part initially prepared to care for and love others above ourselves.

The nerves of the body report first to the brain in that body. I don't feel what pains you may have today, and you do not feel mine. We find it difficult to ignore our immediate pains first, and more difficult to empathize with the other person's pain. A hurting joint or digit is right there and the nerves faithfully report the data to us repeatedly. What can the other person feel that compares to this thing? We know intellectually that the other person may be hurting more, but there is no physical data connection to report the signals to our brain. Of course, if we did get a glimpse into the actual pain of another body, we might be overwhelmed by the sensation. All in all, turning outside of the self to become caring and loving of our fellow human is not so easy. We need the help of our Lord and Savior to become like Him in self-unconsciousness.

Jesus looked out from His pain on the cross to call down God's mercy on those who crucified Him. I rather suspect that I would be fully caught up in my own suffering at such a moment, and indeed have evidence from my experience to support that theory. How did our Lord do it? Something that overcame His body's natural inclination to self-consciousness. Probably that thing we must learn: Love.

Have a great day in Christ,

Monday, October 21, 2013

Putting It On

The sunbeams below, clouds above, and a little rain too, an interesting morning has dawned. Halloween parties begin soon, I wonder how many of us are putting it on like a costume these days. Are you cheerful in church, scholarly in school, and industrious in your industry while in the public view, but then at home you feel no urge to the prayer closet as show after show slips by on the television? We can through following the god of what others think become one of those who puts it on before going out.

The costume seems to fit so very well, and others think so much better of us in flattering words and smiling faces. We must therefore be on the right track, no? We can ask but one question to ascertain if the direction is correct: Will the opinion of the fellow sinners save us from God's judgment? Hmm, perhaps a better guide is available? What if this guide says that our children do not have to be perfect, our self-discipline may slip a bit at times, and that forgiveness is available to all? Gasp! I don't have to be perfect in my own eyesight to make it? Exactly, the work of salvation comes from God's Son. We don't have to meet the world's standards!

With the constant bombardment of today's media, we can fall into a habit of 'putting it on' for the masses. We try and try to please the world's opinion, and along the way hope that enough compliments will penetrate our perfectionism to make us look good in our own sight. Jesus died on the cross fully knowing us as we were, but rose again to make us something more. The first freed us from eternal condemnation; the second allowed us time to believe and to grow in the faith. Yes, we must grow, for no one is saved to immediate super-Christianhood. We gotta practice faith and grow like the tiny mustard seed. Throw off the costume, folks, I need room to grow my faith!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

An 'orrible Infestation

Good Saturday to you! God's blessing and protection to you on this fine October weekend. Some folks are storing pumpkins outside in the freezing temperatures, but mine are all inside; who is correct? That should begin a flurry of pumpkin mail. As I walked by Mike's garden this morning, I noticed an 'orrible infestation of asparagus. I would volunteer to help with his embarrassing problem, but some folks don't like their faults pointed out like that. What about you and me? Do we like someone to point out faults for us?

A good friend can point out faults away from the public eye and in a gentle manner. We may feel a slight rising of the old defensiveness, but not like we do if someone blurts it out over an Internet forum or mocks us in front of that attractive young lady or gentleman. What happens when God's word points to an 'orrible infestation in the life of one of His own? Yup, probably our first instinctive reaction is to immediately disagree.

That 'orrible infestation of sin in our natural life defends itself with the viciousness of a cornered beast. That is a pretty good description of our carnal nature after Jesus enters our life, a cornered beast fighting for its existence. We know that one day that cornered beast will be removed for all time, but for now it fights with cunning, zeal, and as one with nothing else to lose. I don't like it; you don't like it, but that crafty beast does win a round every now and then. (Sometimes it seems like it wins all the time.) We need that 'orrible infestation cut out of us, but like Mike's asparagus it is rooted deep in the soil of our living garden.

Praise God that we are given to the Master Gardener and He will not let us go.

Friday, October 18, 2013

When She Said 'Foolproof', I Knew Disaster Was Close

Good Friday morning! The following line concluded a simple recipe for pie crust, "This is foolproof." When I read that, I knew that disaster was near in my future. Anyone who learned of old to make a pie crust probably remembers that first time, and maybe the second and even third as well. Rolling out a pie crust is one of the more tricky operations in baking pies from scratch. Many will go to the store and purchase pre-made and rolled pie crusts to avoid this very thing. The last thing anyone should place on a pie crust recipe is the label 'foolproof'. Partly this is due to the fact that nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious. I can tell you that we have a lot of ways to mess up things people try to label as proof from us.

The Titanic was supposedly unsinkable. We know the rest of that story. Airships, bridges, buildings, and other large projects have fallen after someone tried to label them as great or wonderful or, dare we say it? - foolproof. Salvation is foolproof. Whoa! Did I just dare to do that? Yes, I believe I did. Wanna know why? Easy, God kept the fools out of it.

We can't mess up our salvation because we had nothing to do with it. Jesus came here, died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. From the cross, He said, "It is finished!" Me and my fellow fools were not involved. In fact, some of them even scoffed while the master chef was giving His life for the recipe that saved us all. Fools may not see the great work going on right before their very eyes. Fools may also try to label a man-made work as foolproof, but we know this is just foolish. Jesus performed the work of salvation himself with good reason. Us poor lost sinners and fools really know how to mess stuff up the first time we try, and salvation is just too important to mess up. Our only duty is to believe in the One who gave us eternal life. And as practicing fools, we tend to fool around with our belief more than enough. Let it rest in Him!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Did You Say "If?", Aw, Ya Just Blew It!

Good morning in the air! Eh, is one of us flying this morning? No, I just anticipate that meeting in the air with Christ a little sometimes. James reminds us to have faith and don't doubt. So we struggle to believe constantly in God's goodness and provision, only to run into that moment when an 'if' escapes our thoughts or lips. Did you say, "If?", aw, ya just blew it! God's provision cannot come to unbelief, I am doomed, let in the Philistines, the city has fallen. Maybe it isn't that bad and the real doubt didn't arrive until we started all the negative thinking.

Thoughts and stray words will come. If I am called to account for every doubt and idle word I am lost, of that there is no doubt. Forgiveness works for these little darts that get by my shield of faith, or God's mercy has holes in it and Jesus need not have endured the cross. I don't believe that God's mercy can have holes or exceptions. A doubt may fly in from the enemy, or it may arise in that ever-doubting carnal flesh we carry. Our job is to learn self-control so as not to entertain these doubts with a full-blown negativity luncheon. Did you know that shields in the olden days were not regarded as passive defenses?

No, a shield could be used in the offense too. By smashing down on an emeny, er, enemy, or ramming with the weight of the soldier behind it a shield became a weapon. We tend to look on our shield of faith as a passive defense only. Use your faith to smash those doubts!

And be sure to get up for some Christmas music this morning, like me!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Way or Their Way

Good n' cold morning! Last night I watched a documentary on a different way of living. Curious, I watched for signs that this was not in agreement with the biblical text. They opened with a still of the Golden Gate Bridge, uh oh... Yes, the 'new' way went downhill from there, starting with that word, evolve, and going on into nudity, sex, and all the very things that Paul found in the worship of various sects around the Roman Empire, and that God condemned in the Ba'al and Ashtoreth worship the Israelites liked to stray into in olden times. Nothing new about this way, humans have gravitated to it since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The sex thing went on until the bombshell dropped, the guru stated, "You are God!"

How our Adversary must laugh at these 'new' things that come around again and again. God's laws are beautiful and they give us the way to live in love of one another. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. How does one start that? Look at the Ten Commandments: don't covet what they have, don't lust after his/her spouse, don't steal the neighbor's nice lawnmower, and so on. Then, we do to the neighbor as we would have them do to or for us. When the neighbor is ill, we take comfort to him. The commandments tell us how to avoid hurting, but we take the next step into helping. No doubt many a Pharisee avoided the 'Don'ts' of the Law by avoiding neighbors entirely, but Jesus called us a bit further than that.

Of course, the Devil would be delighted for us to believe that we are God, or God is a myth, or whatever as long as we don't believe the truth, or better still, in the Truth. Jesus made it quite clear that He was God in human form, and that He was here to save us. Now, if I was God, then I wouldn't need saving or a Savior. Obviously their way and the Way of John 14:6 cannot coexist. One or the other will stand alone at the end. The choice is the same as it has been for many a year.

Let us choose once more the Way, the Truth, and the Life,

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Unexpected Goodness

Good morning! Though not nearly so early as my morning began on Monday. I was messing around with the time on a clock radio/CD player and inadvertently set the 'B' alarm on Sunday. The alarm obligingly triggered at midnight and I woke up to some faint goodness in the form of Third Day. Of course had the alarm volume been set higher I might not have called it goodness as too much of any music at midnight can be quite the fright. Not that a pre-Halloween fright may not be good for me, but as I get older I find that those sorts of things aren't quite so enjoyable.

Now, the other side of the story is that my dear mother visiting this weekend expressed some small displeasure in hearing her progeny go on about their old age experiences. So, to honor my mother and father, I resolve to mention only my youthful good looks, sharp memory, clear eyesight,, why do I feel as though I just dropped into a marketing black hole? I suddenly feel the urge to write ad copy. Yes, taking just two Vunder pills each morning can return the magical powers of youth! Available at your local outlet for just $18.99 per month. Payable in installments of $49.99 whenever we feel the urge to charge your major credit card! I would claim too much caffeine, but I drink decaf.

Unexpected goodness is a treat we may not get often enough for our liking. Yet, as we discussed in our Bible study this morning, if we get it often, we come to expect it, and we lose the pleasure of the unexpected goodness. If I set my alarm to go off every midnight with no good reason to get up at that time, it wouldn't matter how good the music, I would still be classified as what the psychology professionals call 'crazy'. As a man of youth and vigor, I sleep perfectly for 8 hours each night. There is no sense interrupting that with music I can listen to in the daytime. Wow, I think that ad copy snuck in there again!

Praise God for the unexpected goodness that comes at His perfect timing!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Did Sam Bother?

If you haven't read the magnificent epic, The Lord of the Rings, by now, I suspect you never will so I have no problem with spoiling the ending. The problem is that the ending to this novel really stinks. I don't mean that it's bad, just that it makes me cry and ponder the seeming futility we endure in this world. To sum up tens of thousands of words in a nutshell, Sam and Frodo are forced out of a quiet life and into a desperate adventure from danger to feast to peril to the very brink of death. All along the way, Sam serves Frodo even to the point of saving his life. After the great mission is accomplished and the rewards are handed out, Frodo and Sam arrive home to find that home is not there and no one from the neighborhood cares about the great things they have done.

"There is a high king once more, and, Frodo and I helped by defeating the great evil lord of our time!" to summarize Sam's good news.

To which the folks back home reply, "There's a new boss here and we can't get a beer down at the pub anymore."

But that isn't what makes the ending so hard. After saving all of Middle Earth, and then saving their little land, Frodo drags Sam down to the docks, gets on a ship, turns to Sam, his faithful servant and friend through so much, and tells him with a little help from the other swells on board, "I'm leaving, you can't come...go home." Ow! Poor Sam, why did he bother serving so well and faithfully all that time?

Our call to serve faithfully and well may end in the same way, with a sorrowful parting that is tough to bear. You may serve a church faithfully for decades with one pastor who, you may begin to hope, will speak at your funeral before he goes on his final journey. Then one day, the pastor announces that he feels the call to another ministry in a far city. You feel almost betrayed, but you can't argue with God's will. A friend of many years may get a transfer at work that he feels called by God to accept. Yet, it seems that God is only telling you one thing, "Go home." (Different from the "Come Home!" we all want to hear from God someday.)

We don't know all the plans of God, especially those concerning friends, family, and the many partings we endure in this life. Partings are tough for us just like the fictional Sam. We don't like 'em, but we bear them in the strength of Christ. Our service may seem unappreciated at times, but that too we continue in Christ. At such times the most important words of Christ may be these: "I will never leave you nor forsake you, even to the end of the age."

A toast (the kind where you cook a slice of bread) to our eternal God and His gathering of us all together one great day!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Bunch of Don'ts, Then The Do's

Good Saturday! What is the Law of Moses? Much of it is what we expect, don't do this, don't do that, and here is the consequences when you do. Then came our Lord with a change: do love your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Wait, are we sure those do's are news? Actually, though we tend to look at the law as a bunch of fun-robbing don'ts, Jesus quoted laws from scripture. Love your neighbor is Leviticus 19:18, and loving God with our all is in Deut 6:5. But, there is a do that is new: make disciples out of the lot (my paraphrase).

The chosen people had blown it, and now the Word was to go out to all nations. We are a part of that command, both in our reception and in passing it along. We pass on the teaching of Jesus in the way we live mostly, but we are also allowed to speak and sing and write. We do not have to grab people off the street in a headlock and force the word on them, but when they ask, and many will, we must be ready to testify.

Here is where the professional devotional writer would just shut up and leave it. To me this seems a bit weak today, and you have probably heard this message before. Sorry, my Saturday mind is in falling on other things. Distractions are bumping my thought train right off the tracks. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to write this morning, even when it's a bit of a mashup.

God bless,

Friday, October 11, 2013

Faith: The Mountain

Good wet Friday to you! I dreamed of a mountain last night, a particularly difficult one. The mountain had no road or trail, steep sides with many boulders, and these volcanic vents spewing lava and hot gases every now and then. The four wheels of my vehicle slipped, sometimes all at once, and progress came slowly. Ah, the mountain of faith, at times almost a nightmare to us. This mountain is not made up of faith, that would be too easy. Instead, the mountain is there to test our faith, and such a test it is.

At times in our life, we feel that faith has slipped. The trail is so steep that all four wheels are sliding backward and it is so difficult for us to believe. Like the man in Mark 9:23-24, we cry out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!" Other times we find the going difficult, but we make some progress upward to "win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Then, we occasionally get flamed by a volcanic vent on the side of that dreadful mountain. The burn hurts and perhaps our vehicle comes to a stop for a while to beg for healing.

Other pitfalls and difficulties you may imagine on your own mountain of testing. Perhaps you don't need to imagine at all but can list a lengthy catalog of such things. The view from the top of this mountain is well worth it, but we have to take that on faith too. What I can see from partway up the trail does not look very fun, though it is at times exciting. I seem to recall a trailblazer that was to go ahead of me, but I don't see his trail. Perhaps I have created difficulty by trying to bulldoze my own way through the briars and thickets without a bulldozer. A pause on the mountainside for prayer is the ticket here!

Have a great Friday, wet though it may be.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gently Does It

Good morning! Whazzat? A noise in the morning light! I often gently pet the kitty, careful not to hurt his little body. Then, I hear the most awful racket as he deploys his rear claws and goes after an itch on his head. Why did I worry about gentle? The fact that kitty seems quite willing to rip his own head off is not the point. I am commanded to meekness, gentleness, self-control, and compassion in the Bible, and then love is placed on top of the fruits of the Spirit to make it a perfect dessert. What another person does to himself or herself, how another person acts or speaks, and the way our pop culture media portrays its characters is no excuse for me to do anything but what God has spoken in His word.

Consider the gentleness of Jesus as He lifted the man to his feet. Or think what might have happened to the soldiers of the temple guard had Jesus been other than meek and called down those 12 legions of angels. What if, in the worst case, Jesus had looked out from the cross and said the jeering, taunting crowd was not worth forgiveness or the life of God's Son? I'm sure the high priest's servant appreciated having his ear back. We have a great example, but our world does not encourage us to follow it.

Follow Jesus, gently does it today.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A New Person

Good morning at the mid-week! I was thinking of new persons this morning. Not the new persons that a group leader points out as having never attended. Most of these aren't even new having lived quite a few years before arriving at the group meeting. Infants are new persons, but we don't get to see them for the first nine months. Jesus said that He makes all things new. The question I have today is: Does that happen only once in our lives at the rebirth of the spirit, or does that happen more times?

Well, let us see. God's mercies are new each morning. That is something we need. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; there's another new thing. We will be renewed in body and mind in the resurrection that is to come. That sounds like a lot of new going on there. Each day we wake we call a new day. One day Jesus will create for us a new heaven and a new earth. Yes, I guess the evidence points to Jesus making all things new. Of course, we already believed that by faith. New is no surprise to us.

What does surprise, though we know in faith that it should not, is our new person we see each day. Sometimes the progress seems slow, and other times we think maybe we have taken a step or two backwards. However, we trust the Holy Spirit in us that indeed we are becoming new persons. Once in a while, a reaction or statement that we know was different back in the day comes from us. Change happened without our direct involvement. Yes, you and I are new persons in Christ, but we cannot see all the new yet.

Have a wonderful new and more Christ-like day!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Working The Watch

Good morning! I can admit it; I'm growing less fond of bananas. The doc wants my potassium level to come up, but I'm seriously considering other methods. Ah, a little bit of insight into what those Israelites felt when facing another manna breakfast back in the day. When we grow weary of something, it may not be a desire for variety that leads us so much as an effect of the curse of sin. There was nothing wrong with manna, in fact it was a direct gift from God in the wilderness and tasted good. Bananas are not bad for me and the taste is at least endurable - probably should have asked myself on another day, like before I ate them daily for a couple of months.

Working the watch, we grow weary of seeing the same view or scenery. There is nothing wrong with the scenery, it is the curse upon us. We grow easily bored. The military is especially good at putting a person in a small office with a phone that must be answered in a specified manner. How the poor phone watch must long to give a more cheerful greeting, or pop in the occasional funky rap, or something to break up the monotony. Again, there is nothing wrong with answering the phone, in fact it is a useful communication device, but we are not well suited to keeping watch in our current condition.

We can get drunk on alcoholic drinks, fat on food, and dopey from dope, but what if nothing is inherently wrong with these things? What if our reaction to them is a result of the curse of sin that Adam brought down upon us all? Why would I put that out there? The promise of Isaiah 25:6 in the ESV speaks of well-aged wine and fatty food in the Lord's feast. Why would the Lord promise something that is bad for us? Of course, He would not. That turned my thinking to what happens here, under the curse. The bad things like getting drunk or fat that come from the good things of God are a part of the curse, not how God intended it to be for us. In the garden, Adam was not weak in the way we endure our weaknesses for things each day. Some of us are so weak in an area that a flat 'no' is the only option.

Now that is a terrible thing to say with Halloween and the candy season fast approaching, but there it is. Each of us may have something that we can only avoid until we can enjoy it properly, and without consequence, in God's kingdom. Until that day comes, our will power and will may not be enough to stand alone. We need Christ and an infusion of His strength and mercy each morning. Another day of working the watch may seem the most boring thing imaginable, or the excitement may be too much to handle, but some days we just gotta submit to God's will and endure the test.

Okay, I'm psyched up, no more Snickers today! God bless you on this fine day,

Monday, October 07, 2013

We Are Forgiven

Good morning on this brand new Monday! As I sit here writing and thinking about forgiveness, I wonder if I have forgotten to forgive anyone. Well, if I cannot recall an incident, there is no sense in trying to dredge one up from the distant past to torment myself. Forgetting in that case seems rather too easy for me. The saying goes that we should forgive and forget. On the other hand, forgetting is not so easy when the wrong is coming from the opposite direction. God forgets as He forgives by placing our sins as far from Him as the east is from the west. I find that my forgetting is not quite up to the level of my Father in Heaven.

Jesus gave us a directive for that, something about forgiving many times. God places sins away from His memory as an act of love. We struggle to achieve that same level of forgiveness, but that does not mean that we should stop trying. After seventy times seven times we may in fact find that enough time has passed that we have forgotten the offense. Of course if one reminds himself 490 times by forgiving then the event may be so cemented into the memory banks that nothing can jar it loose. The curse sits deep in us, and we may need the powerful assistance of our Lord Jesus in this and many other tasks in this journey.

Hmm, I checked the game score once and it didn't look good yesterday. However, I didn't check at the end and it appears that I cannot yet call the Broncos any derogatory names. It seems the team does well when I cannot watch them on my television. Congrats to the 5-0 Denver Broncos, even if their defense took a bit of a holiday until the last minute or two.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Just Wind, No Frizz

Good Saturday morning! The big storm appears to have gone well to the north of us. Lots of wind last night, but it didn't even frizz. I'm not sure that I am ready to use the froz...word yet. October 4/5 is kind of early for that. Ah, but according to our history in these parts, that is not at all early for our first frost. Oops, there I said one of those bad words. It wasn't that long ago that a frost on August 29 or 30 was fairly common. Hmm, weather babbling, it must be a Saturday devotional.

So, what is it like to take off on a project or task without the Lord? Imagine you have a vehicle that you seldom service and check the fuel level only occasionally. You jump in and take off without having any idea how soon the engine will sputter and quit on you. At the time of rolling to a stop, neither do you know whether it is the lack of fuel or the death of the engine. On the other side of your garage is your faith car. That one is serviced regularly, not always by you but by ministers, teachers and God's Holy Spirit. There is always enough fuel because God provides as needed, but there is a catch: no fuel gauge and the service history is kept somewhere you can't see. Faith says that vehicle will get you to the destination every time, but doubt causes you to take the 'real' car that you have worked on at least a little (and it has a fuel gauge!).

When the so-called real car dies along the roadside, that is usually when we remember prayer and faith. The bus is in the ditch, the car is broken down, the project is at a standstill, or the way we chose is a dead end in a box canyon with a landslide about to crash down, and then we remember to come running to our Lord. Maybe we just like living life on the edge of disaster. Perhaps a good gamble with plenty of risk stirs up our blood a little. We give a little pep talk to the self right then, perhaps vowing to remember our prayer first next time, but the car called Me is still stuck.

God may leave us to walk back to get the proper restart to the task at hand, or He may send a rescue, we don't know. Starting in the faith car with a prayer for God's help and blessing may not prevent a breakdown either, but a trial of our faith is better than a failure of our meager strength in trying to go it alone. The failure of our strength is a humiliation because pride and self-will began that trip. A trial of our faith is a cause for praising God because we left in His will and had faith in His strength. The breakdown may look the same, but on God's way we know the roadside assistance vehicle is on the way, we just don't have an ETA. On the way of self, that car has no fuel and no hope.

Have a great Saturday in Christ,

Friday, October 04, 2013

I Don't Have An Explanation For Everything

Rain and wet it's just a bet, but I feel that snow is near! Time for Christmas music and the Snoopy dance. As it has been established by the title that I can't explain everything, I have decided to descend into silliness for today. Did you know that a morning banana kind of ruins the taste of coffee? I don't have an explanation for that. I wonder if a Snickers bar will restore it? Nah, better stay out of the Halloween candy. Try just one piece at 0730 and I will probably eat the stuff all day. Candy calls out to itself, wanting any pieces left in an opened bag to join with it in a constant symphony of sweet taste and pleasured palate. I don't have an explanation for that. Returning to the house from my walk this morning, I discovered that I was all wet, or maybe I discovered it after writing my first paragraph. If you don't get it, you need an explanation for that!

This devotional is not always a forum for deep theology. I think that sometimes we seek God too much in what we think is the deep end of theology, eschatology, and other big-sounding words, only to turn and find Him playing with the children back where the waters are calm and faith is powerful. Not everything has a deep meaning in this life. The meat of the gospel is not necessarily a difficult read with months of study behind it. Did you ever think to sit down and just enjoy the words of Jesus as He gave the Sermon on the Mount? To read and enjoy the greatest sermon without loading the self with a ton of demands for changes to make an acceptable sacrifice out of what God has already accepted in Christ? Perhaps for today, I can walk with Jesus in place of trying to study His words under the microscope of my intellect. Ya know, just have fun with my Lord for a bit, enjoying His company and delighting in Him as He delights in me.

What a thought for a Friday. Praise God our Father!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Great And Glorious Is Our God

Good morning! The clouds and humidity have returned, no doubt pushed from behind by the approaching storm. How does Sidney do this? Rain dances? A virgin sacrifice? Failure to pay the weather bill? Days of mild weather with clear skies gives way just hours before the start of Oktoberfest to clouds, cold, rain, possibly snow, and wind. According to the tall-talers, last year's parade took place in hip-deep snow, but they soldiered on through to the beer tent. I guess everyone has their motivation. We don't even talk about the famous Oktoberfest of '49 when the entire parade was frozen and didn't thaw out until May Day the next spring.

Anyway, enough of the historyfest, on with the teaching for this morning. We take the title statement and use it for our comfort and to worship God, but what does it mean? Great is an adjective denoting someone or something that is exceptional, above the average; with ability or eminence that is prominent. For those who believe, the word definition seems to fall short, as though over the years it has been dumbed down perhaps. Glorious is having or deserving glory, fame, or honor. Oops, what is glory then? An interesting definition is: worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving. Or, another is: great beauty and splendor. Good words for our God, but because of the overuse in our media, we feel a little cheated. However, the original is not diminished by later usage. Here is a good one: something that is a source of great pride.

Are we not proud of our God? Is that not why we say things like 'great and glorious is our God'? If I don't feel proud of my God, if I cannot look up to God worshipping someone greater than myself, then something is wrong. For the terrible sin of idolatry is that the person worships something less than himself, usually a poor model of one of God's creatures or an imaginary being modeled out of God's materials, and turns away from his or her Creator. I am glad that my God is God, the perfect Creator.

Sorry about the tardiness of this today. The weather arriving this morning has brought about a barely tolerable sinus headache in me. God bless and keep you today,


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

God Doesn't Shut Down

Well, it has happened and we cannot ignore it for long. The men and women we elected over the past few years have gone and shut down the government, at least partially. Some of the shutdowns are downright silly, such as trying to block access to a monument in Washington D.C. that is owned, at least we tend to think so, by the people of this nation. I can understand something that must have an operator or guard for safety reasons, but we're talkin' stone monument that just sits and is viewed by people walking by. It is at these moments that I am most in favor of recalling the lot, and I mean every one of 'em. No states holding out for one senator, no districts trying to keep one representative, no political party allowed to keep one or two favorites, just bring 'em all home and get some new ones. I wonder if we could pass a constitutional amendment to that effect? Oh, and maybe include the bozo who blocked access to inanimate monuments owned by the people too.

Praise God that our Lord does not shut down. We fear no notice posted on the pearly gates that Heaven is shutdown until further notice. God's grace is not held up in committee. Salvation cannot be blocked by angels upset over a reduction in their travel pay. (That one might be a bit on the fictional side.) The Cross of Christ has only one notice, and it tells of His royalty.

All of our toys and gizmos may shutdown. The services that we enjoy and to some degree depend on may shut off. Crops can fail, famine may ravage the land, drought shuts off the moisture, and earthquakes might destroy everything, but God does not shutdown. One day the body you or I use to walk and talk may just shut down, but God is still active and knows exactly where we are. God does not require a budget motion, or a funding measure. He is sovereign. He is omnipotent. None can overrule or stop our Lord. A government is not something to believe in or trust. Our money says it correctly, "In God we trust."

Enjoy a day without some government. Pray for our elected leaders, please!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Not Even One Hour?

Not sure why they didn't have school yesterday, but the little 'uns are back in their numbers today. Ah, the call goes out for the miniature horde to go into the classroom. Maybe that should be, 'horde of miniature humans' or something. I'm glad they don't gather 45 minutes earlier and make their noise for a full hour. One hour: it seems so long at times - waiting for the doctor to administer sharp pokes as they like to do - or so very short. I like the time in the Bible when Jesus prays by himself in the garden and asks the disciples to watch with Him. He returns to find Peter, John, and James zonked out, and asks, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?"

One hour, is that so hard? We were not there at that time in the disciples shoes, or sandals, but we can gain some perspective from events in our lives. Eating a big meal, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, the quiet of the peaceful garden with no one around. Yeah, I can see how they fell asleep on their watch. It is interesting that the two forces, as we might call them, that did stay awake were Jesus in prayer for so many, and the so many of the religious authorities who wanted to kill the One. It was like Jesus was fated to stand alone against all the forces the world could gather to take Him down. Hmm, there might even be a prophecy or two that says something like that.

Our human weakness stands in contrast to the strength of Christ. He prayed in earnest for us, and we failed Him through our representatives, the disciples. As disciples of the disciples, does that mean that when our Lord stands alone in prayer against the forces of the evil one we are to fall asleep? No, we would not take that as a lesson of what to do, but a lesson of what not to do. I find it both sad and amusing that so many of our lessons from the Bible come from people doing what they ought not to have done. And, my experiential lessons in life have often come in the same way. Praise the Lord I am no better than the folks in the Bible, except in one way: the salvation of my Lord Jesus. No credit to me there, they can have that salvation too, and all the credit or glory in it goes to Jesus who died on the cross to save us.

Enjoy the day! Have a good meal, take a walk, and then try to keep watch for an hour. No radio or television, no book or other aid to wakefulness, just keep watch for one hour. See if you can do it in the daytime, then imagine trying to do it at 0300 or thereabouts! Extra points if you can do it with a cat nearby; they go to sleep at the drop of a hat.