Saturday, November 30, 2013

Whither Goes The Word

Good Saturday morning! I hope that your Thanksgiving feasting is a pleasant memory reinforced by leftovers. Sometimes I get a title for the devotional and then must ask a question such as: what is a 'whither'? The archaic literary adverb means: to what place or state. We know from the Bible that the Word is established from everlasting to everlasting, is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, and other qualities that make this a moot question. However, what I really ask when stating this sort of question is: "Where are You taking me, Lord?" or "What is tomorrow going to spring on me?" Questions like that don't often get an answer from God. We are not to worry over tomorrow, but stick with the day we are given. The destination is Heaven, but between there and now, we may have quite a journey with many destinations. God doesn't spell all of it out for us lest terror keep us from the journey. Some of the seasons and destinations in this life thus far I would rather have avoided. However, I have faith that God is leading me in the way that will make me into His image. As God leads us back to Him, and makes us into His image along the way, then I guess the state and place of whither are both answered. And that is the Thanksgiving we give thanks for!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful I'm With Him

Good Friday morning! As I looked at the clock from my bed this morning at 0600, I realized that many people were up and shopping already. I experienced no lasting desire to join them. The whole black Friday thing just doesn't appeal to me in the way it does to some folks. I did think of what happens when a person goes into a place and meets an aggressive questioner.

This is unlikely in a retail business, but suppose that you go with a friend to his workplace. As you approach the inner entrance, the friend is distracted for a moment and separates himself from you. A guard quickly lines you up with his beady eyeballs and barks out something like, "What are you doing here?" Gulp! What to say? I don't know if scientific studies bear this out, but my experience in stressful situations is that the brain tends to shut down a bit. You take the quickest option; pointing to your friend, you stammer, "I'm with him!"

That is exactly the point. Everywhere we go, we should listen to the Spirit's reminder, "You are with Him!" I can help myself too by pointing up and thinking or saying, "I'm with Him!" Indeed, Jesus reminded us first, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Thank you, Lord that on this day You are with me, and I am with You. Let me say every day that I'm with Him.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, and happy indeed describes our feeling of gratitude to God on this day and all days. Grouchily thankful is not really thankful. Thankful with reservations is not all that gracious. But a happy thankful is good for the heart and soul of both giver and receiver. A happy and great Thanksgiving to God and you on this day!

The sun rises over the plains on a new Thanksgiving day of feasting and togetherness. Turkeys are roasting, pie crust dough is chilling, and early morning zombies stumble about the house bumping into things. The pets wonder what all this is about. We do have something over the animals, we get to celebrate holidays. A lot of work goes into the celebration. For some, this is a major workday in their year. Most of us performed some preparation for the day such as shopping for food items, mixing up mixes, and caking up cakes. Okay, not sure about that last one. However, at some point the idea is that all of us sit down together to celebrate the Lord's bounty and give thanks to Him.

Thanks or gratitude is our state of mind today. Thankful for life, friends, family, food, homes, and for God. Let us be thankful with enthusiasm today. Probably a reminder that is totally unnecessary as the holiday atmosphere usually takes care of that just fine thank you!

To God our wonderful Lord and Savior, Thank You!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Rumble of Thanksgiving

Good morning on this eve of...what do you mean, I can't use Thanksgiving eve? Well, Scott Adams used 'Almighty Creator of the universe' and 'Christmas' in his Dilbert comic strip this week, on the same day. I felt a rumble in the earth, like perhaps the end times had arrived. Surely, the use of Thanksgiving eve is permitted this one time. Yes, folks. It is Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, and I feel the rumble of Thanksgiving in the air and in the ground. The kids are out of school, families are getting underway to travel to the feasting, and preparations in the kitchen have begun in earnest. Those not yet taking vacation from work will probably leave early today. Let the celebration begin!

Way back in the day, God ordained feasts. His people celebrated the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Deut. 16) I don't think it is too much of a stretch to suppose that these feasts were more than just people gathering to eat. They celebrated and gave thanks to God for His providence. They gave thanks to God for a break from work, for each other, and for His bounty laid out before them in food. We have many reasons to give thanks too.

One reason for giving thanks to God that they didn't have in Moses' time is our Lord and Savior. Invite Jesus to your feast. Let us give thanks for His sacrifice given for us. Let us enjoy our many blessings this Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks

Uh, wait. What do you mean 'in all things?' Sounds like some sort of communist plot or alien mind control experiment. Be thankful when I'm having a headache, a root canal, aches in the knee, and that occasional foot n' mouth thing I do? Our circumstance is not always exactly what we listed in our daily prescription for happiness. Oops, sorry, communist plots are passé, the terror du jour is, uh, well, terrorist plots. I'm supposed to be thankful for terrorist plots too? Perhaps the idea isn't to be thankful for the plot itself, but to be grateful that God is good in all things.

We tend to think that we must be thankful for the thing in that verse about gratitude in all things. I think that our gratitude must go in the right direction. I am not thankful for auto accidents. They cause too much pain, misery, and death. However, I am thankful for the goodness God can bring from such a horrible event. We are not grateful for the devastation wrought by a hurricane, but that God is still good and will bring forth a renewal and rebuilding. We are not grateful for the separation of death in this life, but for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the promise of reunion in Heaven. To be thankful in all things is to remember God in the midst of terror, pain, misery, strife, and the other bad things this world has produced.

An attitude of thankfulness in these times is not easy. As in all things, we are weak in our own strength but strong in Christ. The Spirit reminds us that this 'thing' is not God's plan for eternity, but just a little training period we must endure. God does not want us separated by death; He wants all of us with Him in eternity. We can be grateful for eternity in Christ before God our Father. We need not be grateful for death, but we can thank God for the resurrection and the life that follows. As we endure all things, we look to God and thank Him for His providence, grace and love.

Thank you, Lord, for the rejoicing of this Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week!

Hooray! It's here. The week of giving thanks to our Lord with all of our hearts and souls. Back in the day, festivals were declared for a week at a time. We have lost something in our world of rush and speed. A day is just not enough for a good festival and feasting. I'm not likely to change the world's view on this with a little devotional, but if enough of us begin to think of an entire week of giving thanks to God, we might accomplish what seems impossible.

In time, we may begin to think that a week is not enough time for a festival of thanksgiving, then a month, and even a year as not enough. Of course, that is why God gives us all of eternity to give praise and thanksgiving to Him. For now, a week of thanksgiving is a good start. Let us begin the day with a prayer of thanksgiving, and then continue through this week. Set aside what has been lost, give up what we don't have, and give thanks for today. Praise God for those with us, and wait patiently for those coming later. Leave behind the pain of yesterday, or last night for the Bronco fans, and face the day with gratitude.

Will it take us an entire week to give thanks for our list? Only if you make a list, of course. Each day brings with it new hope and new mercies from God. Count the blessings we can on this day. Tomorrow will bring its own blessings.

Thank you, Lord, for this great Monday!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

After Initialization

Good morning! Initialization is such a space age word that I couldn't help but use it today. Then I had to type it twice and immediately regretted my choice. I speak today of the time just after the start of something grand. Your salvation is a case in point. At first, we felt the powerful rush of the Spirit, either gradually or all at once, and then we may have felt left out to dry just a few days later. In fact, that time of 'drying out' may have all but eliminated the memory of that first rush. It's almost like we get a jump start from the Holy Spirit, but then God forgets to fill the gas tank of our little Christ1 auto. We sit in the driver's seat ready to roll, but the little car won't take us far. We get out on the freeway and there are some big rigs trying to push us off. Where oh where is that fuel station, and what do they take for payment?

We may feel the urge to just get the trip over with, so we merge into the fast lane. Immediately, a patrol car pulls up behind us, flashes its lights, and makes us go all the way back across the slow lane and stop on the shoulder. It seems that Christ1 autos are banned from life in the fast lane according to Legalist Control. The officer points to the slowest lane, one where all the dirtiest traffic is slowly moving along. How will this journey ever finish at that rate?

The longest journey begins with the first step, so we merge our little car into the trudging mass of the slow lane. The initial rush of that first love is over. The honeymoon with Christian living is done. It's time to slog it out in the slow lane. Of course, we look over and see some Christ1 autos clipping right along in the fast lane. What's up with that? Then, as we look around, we also see some Christ1's enjoying their trip in the slow lane. It seems that the first love is not exclusive to the few days after we knelt at the altar or accepted Christ in the prayer closet of our bedroom.

Every Christian faces the probability that soon after a time of close walking with Jesus, it seems that our Lord withdraws and leaves us out there in the valley of life's slow lane. Sanctification appears to go nowhere as old sins return to stay like bad renters that don't quite give sufficient cause for eviction. After the joy of initialization, we are left with a kind of trudging drudgery. We are tempted to give up, and that is just what our Adversary wants. Jesus has not gone away, but the child never learns to walk who is not let go to walk unsupported. The first steps are slow; progress may be difficult to detect. However, Jesus is right here with you and me.

His hand may be pulled back just a little for us to learn to walk and grow in faith. It is not easy, and the 'big rigs' of the demon powers want us off the highway and weeping in the gutter. Legalist Control wants us to be overwhelmed by more rules than a Christian can ever keep. Scorn is thrown at our little Christ1 from the fast lane of the world. A life given up to Christ is tough, and the dark powers of this world do not like us one bit. However, the love of Christ is sufficient to get us to the destination we now desire. Drive on in faith.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Coldness Strikes

The morning temp says cold. The advice from a certain large corporation says cold too. Telling your employees to eat stale bread sounds remarkably like that famous quote from Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat cake." Some of the outrage is due to the source. If a beggar on the streets of Paris in the late 1700's had given advice something like, "Well, comrade, if you don't have the ingredients to bake bread, there is a way to make cake with..." No one would remember that quote because the fellow was probably insane with hunger. The ingredients for bread and cake are quite similar, so Ms. Antoinette goes down as one of the coldest rulers in history. However, if a beggar gives out advice to another beggar for bread substitutes it is not considered cold. In the right context it might even come across as funny. When the wealthy try to give out advice on living poor, they are viewed as cold and greedy. Their advice may be good, bad, or indifferent, but to even give it from their position of plenty brings well-deserved criticism.

To avoid even the appearance of coldness, we had better walk the mile and the additional mile before we attempt to give advice. The great thing about this life is that we all started out as sinners. Therefore, when it comes to the good news of Jesus Christ we can give a good answer for our faith. I know what forgiveness is because I came from unbelief and sin too. You know what the love of Jesus is because you know what it is like to have love reach out to the undeserving. We all know what it feels like to live as a lost sheep, and how we did nothing to deserve our Shepherd's rescue. We don't speak from a position of plenty in our righteousness, but of humble experience and grace given to us by the only righteous One.

Our message is not condescending because we all walked that dreadful mile of guilt and shame before Jesus saved us. We are rich in grace now, but we first lived in debt to sin and justice. Our advice is not on how to get by as a sinner, but to join us in faith and the riches of love, grace, peace, and holiness given by God. Hallelujah!


P.S. Just a note to the cold: Ya know, serving the customer and taking care of your employees is not impossible. To do both is only a paraphrase of the command of our Lord Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Joyful Morning

How do we get in touch with the joy given to us by God? Moping about what I don't have or have lost doesn't seem to work. Moaning about what could be but is not hasn't worked. Dumping a load of guilt, shame, fear, or self-pity on myself fails miserably. Turning thoughts like that around to gratitude...hmm, could we be on to something there? Why, yes, I think that is reaching something grand and wonderful deep down inside! Does God like an attitude of gratefulness better than one of gloom and despair? It seems kind of obvious after the fact.

In researching the giving of thanks, or Thanksgiving, for next week's lesson, I found the place in the Bible where God institutes feasts. In each case, the event is one of joy. The rescue from slavery in Egypt, the wheat harvest, and the ingathering of produce at the end of the year. Gratitude was central to these celebrations for God's miracles, his guidance, provision, love, and help in times of trouble.

Throughout the Old Testament history, God comes down on the Israelites for grumbling. What is this grumbling? The opposite of what puts us in touch with our joy, ingratitude. We find it easy to list all the things we see wrong in this life. I spent a bit of time with a neighbor doing just that last night. It's no wonder I woke up this morning having trouble getting back in touch with my joy. The world is getting dark, but do we need to spend time together listing all those terrible things that happened yesterday, the day before, and a couple of years ago? My mistake! The Spirit of God is within me, time to change discussions such as that to the wonderful work of God in this world.

Many dark and dreadful things are happening here in this place. However, God is using those things to bring people to His Son. People lose hope in the institutions and powers of this world and they go searching for a hope that works. We have a hope within us, the kingdom of God. We have salvation, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and love, all gifts of the Spirit. We have a joy that endures, if we will gratefully get back in touch with it.

One week to our Thanksgiving celebration, a good time to roll out the gratitude to our Lord!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Good Wednesday! I saw a news article that avoided the would-have-been by the term reimagine. Now, I don't know about you, but when I try the would, sorry, reimagining of events in my life it only makes me depressed. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that." Reimagining, as the term goes, does not help our cause right now. A president of our nation assassinated in office may have steered the nation in many directions, had he lived out his term. Imagine that none of us are here today because a Secret Service agent jumped in the way at the right moment. Yeah, sounds kinda dumb when done that way.

We are tempted to go back to a point in life and reimagine a bright, golden future of our triumph. The fact that it didn't happen, and the present where we stand is so much dimmer by comparison, is a good way to bring the spirit down into the doldrums of self-defeat. It is vital to the Christian to live in the day, that is, this day. Consequences of past mistakes may linger to this day, and you or I cannot go back to change them. We cannot be robbed of our hope for tomorrow when it is based in Christ. The one who is, who was, and who always will be.

In Christ, I live for today,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Mission Gone Awry

A few years ago, a young man took off on a mission. A seemingly simple mission, he had only to make contact with his brothers. Before Joseph could put together a good report on sheep herds and their shepherds, he was in a slave coffle heading the wrong way. In scarcely less time than it takes to read a good book, he found himself in the household of a powerful man of a foreign nation. You know much of the rest of the story because Joseph is a famous Old Testament tale that we enjoy regularly. Joseph's mission went badly awry. If Joseph's salvation depended on it, his doom was sealed.

We take on a mission for ourselves to gain salvation by our hard work. When that mission goes awry, we level blame upon ourselves and then heap it upon God, the universe, unfairness in general, and anyone else who happens along that day. We have so little control over the mission, but we think that eternity depends upon the goodness we can pile up here on Earth. The Bible, God's word, reminds us that all of our good deeds are as dirty rags, but still we pile the dirty things into our treasure chest. We secretly hope that one day God will be impressed by this large pile of stinking, dirty treasure.

As God took human form and walked the Earth, He was impressed by one man. A Roman officer who understood completely the authority of Jesus over sin and death. Jesus marveled at the faith of a man who didn't even belong to God's chosen people. Salvation is the work of Christ; we cannot earn it. The seed of faith is a gift from God. Let it grow as you let go of the desire to earn a salvation that is freely given. Good works will grow from the love God plants in your heart. Your life's mission may appear to go completely off track, but what the world means for your harm God intends for good.

We ended the study of Joseph's story with this morning's Bible study, but truly all of the Bible is His story and of that story there is no ending.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Simple Things

Good morning! We are doing a live remote today from Sidney, Nebraska. Later, the vicious vampire vixens of the VA will have at me. Sorry, no live feed of my crying and pleading guilty to various unresolved crimes as the needle draws the fluid of life from my vein. As I look across the house at a sign, I wonder if we don't at times forget the simple things. 'God is Good' claims the sign. We tend to look at all of our troubles, difficulties, pains, and terrors and think something else. Today, let us think of the simple things.

God's goodness brings forth His provision, generosity, benevolence, and kindness to us every day. We live and praise God. David reminded us in his psalms that the dead cannot sing the praises of God. A song can be a simple thing. In fact, I stand a better chance of remembering the words correctly if it is kept simple. A prayer need not be complex and lengthy to gain God's attention. In our worst moments, we may not have time for a 60-minute prayer with long words and complex phrasing. A simple call for rescue from our Savior gets right to the point nicely.

What do we give thanks to God for? The simple things like food, clothing, a football game with friends, a few minutes to relax the mind before a big meeting, the gentle touch of someone who loves, and the panorama of a sunrise. Of course the simple thing may grow from a system of great complexity. We won't go there today. We can enjoy the sunset this evening by just looking and giving the glory to God. So what, if the song of praise is not quite sung with the words the composer published, sing it to the Lord with simple gratitude. Some folks can pray beautiful prayers at the drop of a hat. One of the best prayers I have heard was simply, "Thank you, Lord."

Glory to God our Father on this day,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Scrap Number One, Try Again

Whoa, a lengthy devotional just went in the recycle bin. Sometimes, it is necessary to scrap number one, and try again. That is a bit of a lead in to salvation. We start out this life and learn to look out for number one; that is, the self. Often after we have thoroughly blown it, we scrap that old number one, and we are reborn in Christ. We get to try again. Placing Christ as number one in our lives does not make the living easy. In fact, if we were permitted to know the would have beens, life in our own strength and ability may have ended with riches and contentment in our old age. Someone wins the lottery, it might have been us. I mean stranger things have happened: people used to make good money on savings account interest.

The first number one strives for all manner of things; wealth, homes, fame... you know the drill and the desires. Some few do achieve the lot, but many people gradually settle for less and less until they reach a form of bittersweet contentment. Others through circumstance and perhaps a bit of foolishness reach a point where looking up is the only possible view. Life working for that first number one can be brutal. Often, it is the one who must look up though who sees the Redeemer of life. We get a chance that the person who achieves a certain level of comfort for the self may never realize: a chance to give up the first number one for the One who gives life abundantly.

Jesus promises many things, but a life of ease is not one of them. We may have it easy in one way, but have just a boat load of problems in another area. As Shakespeare mentioned, we may have troubles in battalions attacking us. I don't recall the exact quote because I have my Saturday stupid on and my oatmeal is getting cold. One thing I know, Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe in Him. Does it really matter then what troubles come between now and the day God orders us to come home? Bring 'em on! I'll meet them in the strength of my Lord and Savior.

A bucket of God's blessings to pour on your battalion of troubles today!

Friday, November 15, 2013

People Are Not My Standard

Must be a Friday, that title could be taken in so many ways. What we have here is a failure to seek the proper context before jumping in. I'm really confused.

In our celebrity pop culture, we are presented with many ideals. We have standards of beauty, musculature, body size, shape, ways to act, and ways in which to act up. Many young celebrities appear especially skilled at the last one. The problem comes when we become awed by these people and seek to use them as a standard in any portion of our life. They have their reward, and we must seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Even in a career with no obvious connection to pop culture, we may grab a little idol for ourselves by looking to a person who appears to have it made in our chosen field. The director or CEO appears wealthy (and probably is), successful, powerful, and all the other things we look for in the world. How many can sit in his chair though? That person already exists and has his reward. We must look to Christ and follow His way; His throne has room for many.

What about the church? Do we sometimes look at the man or woman on the screen or in the pulpit and do a little idol gazing? It can happen. A minister becomes skilled at speaking from the pulpit over the years and makes it look easy, smooth, and, gosh, almost righteous. Surely, he or she has a special anointing from God and leads a spotless life too. Perhaps that is true, but it does not give us an excuse to use the man or woman as our standard. Did you realize what a gift God gave us in calling our ministers home?

How awful for us if ministers (or writers!) went on and on, getting better and more skilled as the decades and centuries passed until, oops, someone dared to call him by the Lord's name. There is only one Jesus, and we have a man born of woman who lived the standard set in the Law. If we are to emulate a life, that must be the one. However, perish the thought of doing it in our own strength. If that were possible, we wouldn't need a standard. Want righteousness? Take what is offered in Christ!

Glad to love you on this glorious Friday by the mercy of God our Father,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Counting the Cost

Good Thursday morning! Life as we know it may change today, or it may continue much the same. That is the sort of useless announcement we get often enough. However, I notice that if we lay out lots of hard cash, or a credit card, we can change our life for the better forever, or at least until the quantity offered runs out. If you work in marketing, I'm sorry. There now, don't sob like that, I know it's tough to have a job in an evil empire. At least you don't work in IT. Try living in a job where your primary duty is to say, "No, you can't." all the time. A job that tries to make folks want something seems much better by comparison. So what happened when Jesus marketed this Christian path?

In this world you will have trouble. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth... That's just a bit from John 16:33, and a little more from Matthew 5 and 6. This is supposed to make us want this new life?

No, this is part of our counting the cost. Forget fame in Christ, infamy is more our lot. Our treasure piles up in Heaven; we cannot go shopping with it here in a mall. They called Jesus names that make us wonder why lightning didn't fall from the heavens. There is a good chance that our Lord's followers will hear some vile epithets in their lifetimes. We are not even allowed to hate our enemies, and a lawsuit means we give up everything. I wonder if the government has an opening?

What makes us give our lives to Jesus? The answer must not be anything we gain in the world. We endure a short time for the promise of eternity. Even in this life we have examples of this. Few would join the military to endure four years of boot camp, and we would question the sanity of those that did. However, gain a guaranteed lifetime income, a 2500 sq ft. house on 80 acres, a couple of cars, and maybe a spot on a reality show and suddenly the four years of boot camp don't look quite so bad. If we could only see what we gain from this life, we would not look at the cost as high at all. We must take it on faith though, and that makes it difficult.

But, is this short part of eternity all that terribly bad? It can be at times, there is no doubt of that, but we also gain much. The fruits of the Spirit help us to endure. Friends in Christ suffer along side of us. At times we suffer less and we can be comforters to those in greater need. The loss of a brother or sister in Christ we know to be only temporary. Should we lose our tunic and cloak in a lawsuit, we have the promise of God to provide for us. Enemies may revile us all around, but God is sovereign forever. God's very Spirit dwells within you and me. Best of all, Jesus, God's Son, died on the cross to take away the penalty of sin we once faced. Times are tough, but I don't consider the cost bad at all.

Love in Christ, our eternal Savior,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What May I Commit To?

Good frosty morning! I cannot commit to tomorrow. Nope, don't know what is in tomorrow. I cannot even guarantee that it and I will arrive there together. I cannot commit to marriage - I'm missing the other half of that commitment. I cannot commit to a lot of things because there is so much that may change even in this day. However, I can commit to those things that I am called to, such as love and faith.

I may (as in allowed, not might) commit today to love. I can commit myself to learning love for myself and all neighbors. You see, in order to love my neighbor as myself, I must first learn to see myself as loveable. Jesus loves me. I want to be like Jesus. Therefore, I can commit to loving myself, and then commit to loving my neighbor as myself. Loves flows through from God to Jesus to me to you to our neighbors like a river of joy and brightest color with beautiful sound and scents. We barely know the reality of God's great love yet.

I may commit to faith in my Lord. My strength has proven too little so often that it seems rather dumb to continue to depend on me alone. However, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) Seems like my faith must go in Christ's direction. We can overcome this world because Jesus assured us that He has already done so. (John 16:33) All of my dreams can be achieved in Christ...uh oh, maybe I should ask the stronger partner what HE wants first. My dreams tend to be laden with self-interest.

I can commit to my greedy self-interested dreams, Jesus will allow me that, but can I expect His help? How much better to commit to faith, and then ask, seek, and knock for the Way. God patiently waits for me to learn that selfishness doesn't get very far with Him.

Praise the Lord for the day!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So...Now What?

Good Tuesday morning! What if you heard a few words from a minister that led to a thought settling on your heart? That thought said that you had spent the past several years confidently following the wrong path in life. The next morning you wake up to a new song in your heart. "I am bound for the promised land..."

Sometimes God sends a voice into our hearts to make a course correction. That voice may come from a friend, a pastor, a stranger, or even as a whisper in the mind during the still, small hours of the night. We don't know how we realize that it is a message from God, but somehow this message speaks to the heart like no other sequence of words. How long have I been fighting God's will in my life? What caused me to go astray like this? Questions bounce around in the mind with no answer.

God does not seem to go in for post-mortem answers that much. As the ship begins to answer the helm and come about on a new course, God gives direction. He may not answer with a particular point in the past where the error occurred. God may not tell us how long we have been in the wrong. The length of time spent on the wrong course may be decades. The Israelites spent 40 years wandering the wilderness from one unfaithful decision, but that was the correction, not the start of the going off course. We know from the Bible story of the Exodus that the people were off course in faith before they left Egypt.

We often think we know what we want. God knows what we really want deep down in the heart where He planted a tiny seed called Faith. Confidently, we take off down a path that leads only to the prison of despair. Christian took a path like that in Bunyan's story. My journey was not exactly the same, which is why it was so hard to recognize. Our adversary is quite skilled at hiding the road signs. Before we give too much credit in that direction though, we also like to wander off the path thinking that our freedom means we know where to go.

God didn't provide a Counselor to guide those who only keep their own counsel. The devotional continues. God has said this is the closest I have come to the correct course. It is what comes after each day that is the problem. That is all I know this morning. My ship has not yet completed the turn. The direction is in faith, not knowledge. I feel a lightening of the burden that I hardly deserve. I am bound for the promised land.

God bless you in your journey with Jesus,

Monday, November 11, 2013

How Old To Serve?

Years ago, my friend and I wore our dress blue uniforms down to the boardwalk. It almost sounds like the start of a cliché, but we did that very thing. While there, we were approached by some young people who asked, "How old do you have to be to join the Marines?" Of course, we told them the right answer, but in the past young men have not always waited that long. A few boys managed to join the armed services in 1942 or '43, when the need was so great that recruiters didn't check too closely, at the age of 12 and 13. We call that too young now and they did then as well.

Good news for the young: in God's service there is no minimum age. Better news for us: there is no mandatory retirement age in God's service and no one is ever too old to sign up. Jesus told the parable of the vineyard workers who came to work in the final hour of the day. The late workers were not turned away and the Master gave to them the full pay. That is good news for those of us who may have spent some time in life following our own path.

Yesterday, a mission man spoke in our Sunday School class. Like me, he was raised in the church but then spent some time following his way in life. I have heard similar stories time and again, and I think all of us are glad to return as the prodigal. We returned to God's service, re-enlisting in a manner of speaking, later in life. Do we get down because we know that our time for service is less than others? There is that temptation, but God did not put that thought in our heads. Each group of workers in the parable Jesus told received full pay. It wasn't just the last hour workers who benefited from the Master's grace.

Any age is just perfect for joining God's service. All of us are issued the same weapon and the same armor in Ephesians 6. No one is too young, none are too old or too used up to help out. All of us take our place in the missions and God issues a special calling to each recruit. What is that calling? Well, some of us fight it and some can't find it right away, but we all will live it as soon as the discovery is made and obedience begins.

Happy Veterans Day! Thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Some Words Are Easy, But Jesus Has Overcome the World

Good Saturday morning as the neighbors gather and take off for destination unknown. Could it be a hunting Saturday? It is very likely at this time of the year. Those strange fellows are singing about jasmine in their minds again. I think if a person snorts a scent so hard that it gets into his mind he should probably back off a bit. Just a bit of folk wisdom there. Is it possible to come to a point in life and just decide not to be that way anymore? I think so, but not in my own strength. Some words are easy, as I was reminded earlier this week, but Jesus has overcome the world!

I woke up this morning to read Isaiah and came to the part about the unfaithful city. Now, in the past I have taken this guilt upon myself. I think this is easy for Christians to do as we study the Old Testament. We want to be like Jesus, so we try to grab up His cross and take it to Calvary. A couple of problems there: Jesus said that the follower is to take up his cross, as opposed to His cross, and we are not Jesus.

The great sacrifice of God's Son need be done only the one time. We have accounts of that time to read in the gospels. We do not need to try to carry the cross that Jesus bore to Calvary. The cross that bore the sins of the world is a heavy, crushing weight. How can we take the burden that is light and the yoke that is easy if we are crushed under a weight of sin and guilt that does not belong to us? I have tried it out and failed miserably as you might expect.

As the sun dawns in the sky, a new Son dawns in my life. His word to remind me: You're not that way anymore. I am not that way anymore. Is it possible to walk away from the darkness of the past? Yes, in Christ. In just me, no, it ain't gonna happen. But in the strength of Christ all things fall before us. Will it be immediate and complete like the blind men of old? Maybe, don't give God's power short estimate, but it may also be a long journey with Jesus. 'I can't' has a formidable opponent in the Word. Paul gives us a potent daily reminder for the short heal or the long journey: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Look up! Your redemption draws near.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Not Too Seriously

Good Friday morning! In my new direction, a lot of cheering on the self goes on. However, I added one thing to the bottom of the list: Don't take yourself too seriously! As I work on increasing my self-confidence, promoting belief in my abilities, and telling myself how good I am, I also need to remember who gives me the strength to do these things. Then, as I remind myself that I am important and able to give something to the world, I like to remind me not to take self too seriously. Yes, a great thing can be accomplished by opening businesses and providing jobs, but in the end all of this will be gone. There is much to be said in these times for helping people laugh. Comforters are in high demand too, and there may not be a fortune in it.

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Laughing is a great form of resistance. Some of the thoughts I get that spell out anxious visions of gloom and doom are quite funny if I stand back and realize how very unlikely a picture is painted. God is very creative; our adversary not so much. I suspect that if Anxious Man didn't add his creativity to the doom visions they would be quite dull and silly. Time to not take these 'might be' visions too seriously. I think my best novel writing is when I am not too serious.

People do like the dark novels these days. The readers wallow in gloomy visions and a good way to awards is the book where many die, more are disappointed, and some even die disappointed. Must it be that way? No, I think not. We could use joy, laughter, and encouragement in big doses today. If I take myself too seriously, it is hard to write out some good news.

Enjoy the day in Christ!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Disciple Not Replacement

Good Thursday morning! Jesus worked for too much to be simply replaced. That is why the command from our Lord was to disciple. Faith in Christ comes to us from a long line of disciples. Yet, we are tempted to feel today that somehow our Christian faith has been diluted, managed or perhaps even corrupted. Such things are to be expected if each generation of Christ followers replaces the preceding one. However, we do not replace; we are disciples of those who have gone before us. There are those who would corrupt our faith, and we are warned in God's word to beware of them. When we are saved by Christ and given His own Spirit in us, who do we accuse of watering-down, mismanaging, or even corrupting our faith? Yes, that could be a very serious accusation indeed.

Today, we have grown in the faith. We do stand on the shoulders of giants. We look back to the account of the first outpouring of the Spirit in Acts and feel a bit of envy. I don't recall a tongue of flame settling on my head and so I question what I should believe. Do I require an obvious sign like that to believe in Jesus? No, then what am I worried about? Do we doubt one and all that the Holy Spirit can grow the faith? No, then why do we think we need more signs? The church in Acts did start with quite a show, but that does not mean our dear Spirit of Christ is somehow exhausted, diluted, or just busy elsewhere. Perish the thought!

The early apostles received the command to disciple, and a new generation of Christ followers came without quite so many signs. Timothy, Barnabas, Luke, and many others took up their cross and followed. Centuries later, we do the same, but don't feel left out because we do not see the same physical signs. Faith has grown. We don't need the sound of a mighty rushing wind to know the Spirit lives within us. Faith tells us the good news. Does the church as a whole seem soft to you? Maybe your heart is still too hard. We must not ask God for guidance and then doubt our direction. Let us instead trust in our Lord and follow where He leads. Do you doubt where you are in life? Bah, perish the doubt and have faith, man!

Your friend in Christ,

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What Does Someone See In Me?

Good frosty morning to you! My county voted against secession from Colorado yesterday. I'm glad as I do not believe that is the right answer. If there is to be a 51st state, let's ask Canada for the Yukon. We need another place that is way out there. Wait, is 'change everything' stamped on my forehead or something? Yesterday, I walked into a place and got read the riot act about procedures already in place and how important it was to follow them. I had to wonder if I didn't have some odd sign on me. Maybe that ornery Lee put a sign on the back of my coat, 'Invading Philistine, Watch Out!' or something to that effect. The lady may see something in me that I do not. Females of our species are known for their intuition, mythical or not, perhaps she could see a harbinger of change standing in her doorway. This brought me to this morning's question: What do others see in me or you that we cannot see?

For that matter, what might God see in us that we refuse to see or believe about ourselves? What talents lie unused in my life or yours that God wants to put to work? The bottom line of our resume should state: I have hidden qualifications that you can see and I cannot, please take this into account in your determination. Our mission today: try to discover what God sees hidden in us that can be brought out to bless the world. Not the easiest of missions, at a certain accumulation of years we might think we know all about ourselves that we can know. God may have a different view on that conclusion. The best first step on our mission then is to ask God our Father in prayer.

Have a changeful day of discovery in Christ!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Messing Up On The Boil

Whoo, our first snow of the season has arrived and....aaugh! Boil over on the stove! Yes, my attempts with olden-style oatmeal is not without the occasional mishap. Barring any further interruption, I'll see about the devotional for you. I don't even have a good working title for this morning. Yeesh, bit of a mess in there. I guess I have my first morning cleanup task already slated for today. The watched pot may never boil, but the unwatched oatmeal sure makes a fine mess. Simmering is easier to control, maybe that is why some of us tend to stay there in life.

If life for Jesus should be a full rolling boil, then mine must be characterized as a simmer. Life on the full boil can make a mess, so I become fearful of the boil. Just slow things down for me so that I don't mess up! I ask of the Lord. Yet, I know from baking and cooking that many of my first attempts do end in failure. So, why worry about it? If the first attempt at a simmer is no better than that of the full rolling boil, might as well get the mistakes out of the way and get on with life. So easy to write, a bit more difficult to perform.

However, I am not alone. One of the more common statements from God in the Bible is something like: I will go with you, or, I will be with you. We read it in our study this morning. Look to Abraham, Moses, Jacob, the disciples, and many other stories and we find the same statement. Each of us is worried about the mistakes we may or may not make on our own. Perhaps a more common statement from the Bible than the last is: do not worry. If we place those common statements together, we have a reassurance that we need every day: Do not worry, I will go with you. Coming from God, that is a reassurance we can count on in every situation and circumstance. Great things came from going with God, and yes there were mistakes along the way. Moses, David, Solomon, we can read of the great mistakes made by the greats of the Bible too. Want to write your name on a page of history? Go with God and make a great mistake or two. Why worry about it? God will get us straightened out in short order.

God's love and grace to you,

Monday, November 04, 2013

The First Monday

For the first man, the first Monday arrived after God took a rest day. It is no wonder then that things went downhill from there. We know from our faith that a rest day from creating everything is not a rest day in the way that we think of resting by doing nothing. God was not absent when Adam and Eve rebelled because we can read today how He went right to the source of the problem, that old serpent. Now crawling on his belly in the dust of the earth, the serpent was cursed with a sort of forever Monday. Sometimes we may feel like that on a Monday.

We arrived at the next first Monday when Adam and Eve are out of the Garden of Eden and attempting to go it alone. We know this didn't work from the start because hardly had they left the gates of Eden when Eve turned to Adam and said, "I'm cold!" God made them the first clothing because Adam needed training in the art of turning living animals into clothing. The food bit would come much later, but Adam understandably had a bit of trouble with killing an animal he had just named into something that, as we say, is no more. The first Monday didn't get any better when our distant ancestors looked at the plot that was to feed them and saw the new thing called 'weeds'. Eve began a new tradition that Monday evening when she demanded part of Adam's new skin because, as she put it, "I'm still cold."

The first postdiluvian Monday brought to Noah the first recorded hangover. He woke up naked under a strange blanket, and came out of the tent cursing Ham for some unwise remarks the kid made about Dad's little accident with the wine. From that story we learn that on a Monday it is best just to keep the mouth shut about embarrassing things we see on the weekend. Covering for Dad has since become a time-honored tradition in more ways than one. But has Monday gotten a bad rap over the centuries?

Today is the start of a new work week. If last week was filled with screw-ups, we need to face the consequences, but it is still a new week and a chance to start again. New things may come this week, and we know who is in charge of making all things new. A Monday is a chance to tackle obstacles with new energy and a renewed mind. Maybe last week's accomplishments wouldn't fill the bottom of a small bucket, but Monday is another chance to fulfill our calling in Christ. Of course, Monday is not just you and me, others too begin the first day of the working week with refreshed minds.

If someone spent the weekend in dissolution, then payment will come, but it need not come from us. We can look at Monday with enthusiasm. A thing that I must admit has not always been one of my strengths. Each Monday though is like the first step after a good shower or bath. We are clean and ready to put on a clean outlook. If it does not always seem that way, let us ask God to cleanse us in body, heart, and mind. A Monday is a fresh chance to serve!

Let the strength of God flow in you today,

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Man Without Woman

Good Saturday! Hmm, the title sounds a bit like the start of a personals ad. It took a comic strip to point it out to me, but one of my favorite children's stories is kind of short on the female characters. Read The Hobbit again one of these days and count the females involved in the story. Bilbo is a bachelor, Gandalf appears to be celibate, and the dwarfs seem to have no families. Elrond, the elf king, and the master of Laketown appear to be without mates, and Smaug won't share his treasure with anyone. Beorn has his animals, but we won't even go there; it was a children's story after all. Even the evil characters only serve to show what happens to men when they are too long without women: the trolls and spiders can only talk about eating and the goblins are just evil every which way. Of course the story is set in Middle Earth, a fictional place, so maybe spiders, goblins, eagles, and dragons don't require the male-female thing to reproduce as we do. What about hobbits, wizards, and men though?

If we look deeply, Beorn has the country gentleman thing going with his fine house in the wilderness and a staff of willing and able servants. Bilbo is doing the comfortably-well-off scholar thing, and Gandalf is the traveling professor. The dwarfs are seeking sudden wealth; the master of Laketown has the elected position, and the king of the forest elves parties all the time (and locks up the competition in his dungeon). All methods men have used over the years to attract that most imaginary of situations: wedded bliss. However, the book ends without any of the usual happily-ever-after. There is only loneliness ever after; a sort-of dragon war veterans club for bachelors. How awful!

There is in the teachings of Jesus and Paul room for man without woman. But there is also mentioned that not all men can do this, and provision made for the burning lust. Man without woman is not always the best way for us to go. Most men need some sort of supervision. Tolkien's characters notwithstanding, we men simply do better at doing what we should be doing with someone to watch over us in some way. The king is responsible to God, the minister is responsible to the king, and the man of the house answers to the wife. Okay, not quite according to the Bible, but in practice having a wife or friend to hold us accountable is helpful to hold us to our mission from God.

Perhaps the real parable in The Hobbit is that of the trolls. Man without woman forms a gang with the boys, and tends to fall into the worst sorts of behavior. After a time, the 'trolls' become dangerous to all who happen by, want for nothing but to rob, pillage, and destroy, and with a little encouragement, stay out all night and turn to stone just in time for the morning chores. As dangerous and worthless should not be our defining characteristics in God's service, let us as men obey the call when it comes.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Resurrector of Lives

The verse contains an important truth for us, "I am the resurrection and the life." Jesus did not speak this to His disciples, but to Martha as she stood by her brother's tomb. Martha reminded Jesus that she knew this was for the last day. We are smart that way too. I have studied the end times with great joy and fascination for quite some time now. Many have studied and then left it behind, not as an act of rebellion, but because there is a peril to eschatology. That peril a group of Paul's disciples faced when they gave up all earthly duties and responsibilities, and then retired to their rooftops to await the second coming. We know from further reading that Paul got them back to it, for we do not know the day or hour when Jesus will return.

Paul looked for it in his day, as I'm sure Augustine did a bit later, and then Constantine, and popes and ministers and prophets and many believers up to the present day. All of them were wrong in expecting to see it in their lifetime, but none of them were wrong to expect the return in their lifetime. We are not wrong to expect the second coming in our lifetime, but we may very well be wrong that it will happen in our lifetime. Jesus may not return for another thousand or two thousand years. I like the end times study, but I think it is time for me to leave it behind too and learn to live again now.

One way to look at it is that if all the brothers and sisters in Christ drop everything to stare heavenward, who will spread the good news of Jesus to those who do not yet believe? Nothing prevents the return of Jesus at this moment except perhaps one great thing: the patience of God the Father in allowing a little more time for those who have not heard or cannot yet decide to believe in Christ. We have writings to write, speeches to speak, words to pass on, and love to give for a time yet. Let us look around at the harvest and spread the good news.

Martha did not have to wait for the end time to see her brother live again. Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb. Jesus is good at resurrecting the lives of those who may have fallen by the wayside on the journey for spending too much time looking up. In so many ways, I am one of those. But I believe in Jesus, the resurrector of lives.