Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Snow!

Good morning on this snowy day! The wind has stayed away from us thus far, and the snow is an answer to prayers for some moisture. Now, is the snow enough for a school snow day? I suspect that a child or two is sending up that prayer even now. I'm glad we are having happy snow. Sad snow in this amount would be such a downer. Certainly it is more than enough to break out the Christmas carols! Now, if I could just take my mind off the snow long enough to write a devotional with some godly point to it.

Wrenching the mind away from our circumstance to pray with devotion to God is not always an easy matter. The world piles on the things to worry about and it takes the love of God coming down like a good snowfall to cover the circumstance. Now, see there! Even as I try to turn away from what is happening outside it works its way into my writing. Yes, not every circumstance is simply an accident of the world. God is in control. A prayer for moisture answered by a gentle snowfall is cause to celebrate God's providence. We don't need to hide from the circumstance when it is cause to glory in God's love. Every happenstance and circumstance is not an attack on me or you.

God gives. From what source or desire does God give? His great love for you and me. God does not give because anyone can force Him to do so through a powerful prayer or a certain righteous act. God gives because He loves us. God does not owe you or me anything. Yet out of His gracious love He gives and gives. Blessed be the name of our Lord!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Strike the 'Un' From Belief

Good Thursday! "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) That verse is such an honest and heartfelt prayer. A simple statement of both belief in Jesus and our need for help from Him to believe. I have used that prayer at 3 a.m. often enough. Doubts and fears seem to gather like a distant storm cloud that waits to strike in its full fury at that early hour of the morning. Reassurance comes from the Spirit, but also a reminder to strike that 'un' from my belief in Jesus. That little prefix is a sneaky one. In the dark of the early morning or at the moment before an important meeting, the little 'un' sneaks onto our belief. It acts like a homing missile on our faith, blowing up the feeling of strength in Christ we have worked so hard to gain.

The father of a child cried out to Jesus through his tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" The same cry comes from us at those moments of doubt and fear. Another reminder may be of help here. Our Lord is stronger than those moments of unbelief. My faith may not at those times appear strong, but it is my faith in a strong God that is relief from the dread. Whatever challenges our belief, it is but a temporary thing. Jesus is coming again. God is all-powerful and in total command of every situation. We have nothing to fear, so grab hold of the Spirit and stomp on those fears.

Does it seem that your fears before Christ were easier than after salvation? I think so, or at least mine seem that way. But the strength that comes from Christ also seems more immediate and powerful than back in the days of my wandering. Do I dare believe that God has grown my faith through trial? Yes, I will take that as a good sign. As the first month comes to a close, I still believe that this is going to be a great year.

In Christ,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ah, Well...Oops!

Good morning on this day after the State of the Union speech! Usually, I report on my take of the president's State of the Union speech. However, after thinking about it off and on through the day, my mind was elsewhere at the critical hour or two last night. I can get some secondhand information from the media, but I blew it in my duty as an informed voter. In my defense, we also suffered a fiber cut last night and had no Internet access during the time of the speech. I can't use that as my excuse though, I flat out forgot and watched a movie on the Blu-ray player while important things were going on. Is life better without network television service? After almost a year without, I can't make that claim. In the case of not having access to something important like the SOTU speech, then I must say, no, it is not as good. However, in not having access to a whole bunch of snarky humor shows and scripted 'reality' programming, then, yes, life is good without TV.

Many tools exist in this world that are not evil or good. How we use them is the issue. Using technology in a godly way helps churches and Christians in many ways. The spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ accelerates daily through our use of technology. Along with that is the rapid spread of other things that are not godly at all. We get the bad with the good, and must be discriminating users of what is offered. Of course, missing an event entirely does tend to remind me of that command to remain watchful. Ah, well...oops!

God with us on this day,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Never Forsaken

Good Tuesday morning! That title sounds familiar. I'm thinkin' that we might find in the not too distant past a posting with the same name. A celebration of the promises of Jesus will lead us into familiar territory. What can I write that is new about the promise of Jesus to never leave us nor forsake us? My testimony may contain experience similar to many others of my Christian family. I may quote the same verses as favorites that many a brother in Christ holds as his own. The description of my salvation may match exactly that of a sister in Christ. Well, to the unbeliever we can only say, "What about this are you not getting?"

God has not changed in, oh, so many years that it sounds a lot like forever. In fact, God is the same from everlasting to everlasting. Perfection doesn't need to grow, evolve, adapt, or change. So, my testimony may sound very similar to a brother in Christ. Christians may like the same hymns, praise songs, and Bible verses. There is a good chance that as members of the body of Christ, we will enjoy many of the same activities. However, God has also created us in His infinite variety.

Like the world, our bodies and minds show many differences. But, as branches of the True Vine, we are never forsaken in all that we do and play. It is cold but still today, thus leading a brother or two to think of flying little airplanes this morning. A group of sisters in Christ may get together for coffee. I led a Bible study this morning. We didn't do the same things, but none are forsaken in Christ. Some are hurting, others ill, and some got up feeling fine on this day, but one is not held less firmly in the grasp of Christ's love. As promised, we are never forsaken by Jesus.

Have a wonderful Tuesday,

Monday, January 27, 2014

You Will Raise Me Up

Good Monday morning! That drought thing seems to be coming back for a return visit out here; we may want to give it some prayer for the sake of farmers and ourselves.

Down, the world wants to get us down even as it claims to give opportunity to rise up. If you are not too much of something, then you are not enough of this other thing. If you don't have enough of something, then you have too much something else. The successful person becomes greedy in a different context. The awards go to those already lauded in the media. Even when we appear to win in this world, something is wrong by another standard. Look around at the world and despair. That one over there earns more than you do. That other couple seems to have the marriage thing all figured out. The fellow seems more happy than you can ever imagine being. This woman was just born beautiful; how can you ever compete with her? On and on it goes, down and down we fall in the eyes of the ungraspable standard. Well...the 'you' in the title must not be the world or its powers.

We live in the age of the paragon. This person is not only photogenic, but speaks several languages, dances, sings, has a hit TV show, acted in the big movies, has a famous husband/wife, gives large amounts to charities, and even their dogs are champions. If you went to his/her house the cats would speak their owner's name in reverence; and if you own cats you just know that doesn't happen to normal folks. Well, we cannot compete with the paragons of this world, but Jesus has overcome the world.

The celebrated persons of the world are expected to give themselves up to the world. Jesus noted that when He said, "To whom much is given, much will be expected." Then Jesus gave up Himself for the world. What happened then? Very few believed in Him. The world turned immediately to seek out its next sacrificial victim. One of the rulers of Rome may have fallen next, for the world is ravenous and does not respect those whom it devours. How do we survive at all in this place of carnage? We turn to the One who will raise us up.

Up is where we must go. We look up to Jesus to be saved. We look up to Heaven for our future home. We look up to God for eternity. We pray up to God for strength to go on. We sing praises up to God on His heavenly throne. We remember that up is the direction of the Rapture. We recall in prayer that God raises me and you up to a higher calling. No matter how far down I may be at this moment in circumstances, I look up and give God the glory, "You will raise me up!"

Enjoy this week in Christ,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Don't I Need?

Good Saturday, mates! The answer for today may start with some obvious things like: I don't need self-righteousness or hate or bitterness. We might go into things God has reserved for Himself such as vengeance or judgment. But I began the day with the thought that I don't need to own acres of land or businesses. I don't need to lord it over a bunch of employees. I don't need recognition as a celebrity or the service given to royalty. I don't need a lot of the things I thought I needed as a youth. Many of those things I considered a need before Jesus began changing me are needed no more.

At times I have fallen into thinking I need accomplishments, milestones, or a program of self-improvement to please God and gain His love. God's love was given to me long before I came to Jesus. God will not be impressed if I arrive in Heaven touting my resume. I was not saved by Christ on some contract with conditions and stipulations. My personal goodness accomplished nothing in my salvation. In fact, the Bible speaks of a certain group of people who are sinners and short of meeting God's standard. I'm not sure how many "all" is in total, but I'm sure I am in that group; "all" doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. I need the salvation of Jesus and to live by grace in faith. What I don't need is so many of the things the world says that I need.

Have a great Saturday in Christ!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every Little Prodigal Come Forth!

Faith falters, Bible study stumbles, and prayer seems paralyzed. We have followed our Lord for years, but still we spend a little time in the prodigal pig sty. What is going on with us? At one time we feared the punishment of the Law. Then, we got saved, were born again, and surrendered to Jesus. Whichever expression we like to use, we became children of the Living God. Now the 'No' of our Lord is not that of hellfire and brimstone, but that of the gentle father telling the child not to reach out for that poison ivy plant along the way. But we do it anyway sometimes.

We don't just touch the plant, we hop away from the Father and jump in it, laughing and smiling, waiting to see what the Father will do. No longer is the Father looking at us in anger though. Our Lord says in effect, "Why should I be angry? You're the one that will suffer." And we do. In time, we realize that the horrible joke is on us, and in shame we return to the Father for comfort and healing. However, there is another time.

The prodigal cannot look back and recall a decision made in rebellion. But just the same, the son looks around at the boards of the fence, notices a pig or two rooting around in the soil, and feels the sting of the poison ivy all over his body. Yup, poisoned prodigal in the pig sty! How did this happen, he wonders in pain and despair? In these times, we look around, and, the Lord seems nowhere to be found. How can this be? That fact that we cannot see of course does not mean that the Father has left us alone. The situation does call for a returning though, often with the shame of partially-masticated corn husks and the stink of the sty figuratively clinging to our wounded bodies. How many more times, we wonder in our self-pity, must I return to my Father in disgrace?

From whatever state you and I return, the Father welcomes us back with open arms and the desire to celebrate. What isn't easy for us, is a great joy to Him. We live, we learn, suffer and grow, and in each experience become more like our Lord Jesus.

Have faith in suffering prodigals!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Am What I Am

Good Thursday morning! No snow here, but it is colder as promised by the weather predicting persons. Little sayings today. I am what I am. It is what it is. What's done is done. Sayings like that we bat around easily almost any given day. Do we stop to think about them before the words burp out of our mouths and roll off our tongue? God gave just such a statement to Moses, "I Am that I Am." That statement was filled with deep meaning for those Moses was to deliver it to in Egypt. Many gods existed in Egypt and other nations at that time. God sent a message to the Israelite elders through Moses that He, the one true God, was speaking to them.

That title saying, 'I am what I am', is used mostly to excuse a behavior that a person does not want to change. Accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and an offhand tone, the person spewing the saying says that pride is charge at that moment. Do we as followers of Christ turn that to 'I am what God has made'? Maybe not just yet. We cannot blame God for our tendency toward sin, or the lust of the flesh. The world has had a say thus far in what we are at the moment. Genetics and the places we have been put in their two-cents worth. We also pick up bits from those around us, which is why we are told to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. A life given to God will become exactly what God wants. We have that promise in Philippians 1:6 from Paul the apostle. Perhaps the saying is: 'I am what I am, but God is changing me daily.' I am not 'there' yet in that place where God will say "Done!" Even I can tell that by the rotten fruit that sometimes falls to the ground in my life.

Oh how that worldly training and sinful nature does cling! Be at peace though; God's grace covers all and we are turning to the light a bit more each day in Christ.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two Great Loves (+1!)

Good morning on this Wednesday! Jesus gave us the two great commandments: love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and equally important, love your neighbor as yourself. We hear those a lot, and rightly so, on many ministry programs and Sunday sermons. What we forget is what has been said before, so let's go over it again. We forget the 'as yourself' bit at the end. Now, God loved us so much that He sent His only Son. Jesus, the Christ, gave up His precious life for us on the cross at Calvary. We are to become more like Jesus through His sanctification and our effort. Therefore, since Jesus loves us, we must love the self too.

We do not love only the self, for that is narcissism which equals bad. We love God's creation and that person we call 'Me' is one of God's special creations. Love God, love your neighbor, love me! We are the plus one in the great love commands. The problem comes when we look at the self first.

Jesus gave the loves in order, God, neighbors, yourself. We sometimes look at the self and we see the wicked heart, the lusts of the flesh, and the wobbly bottom. How can love spread outward from this wicked person? Well, yeah, if we get our sights all out of order, we run into problems sharing the love. By looking at the self first, we workout to tighten up the bottom, ignore the neighbor, and God seems distant. Those persons stuck in the darkness of this world like it that way. We are called to be God's children. Looking to God in love first, we love our neighbors and the self love we need begins to fall into place. We seek the kingdom of Heaven first by seeking the King, our King, Jesus the Christ, and then all those things we worry about are added to us. It's simple, yet a lifetime of work from God, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and me goes into the end result.

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Glory of His Name

Good Tuesday morning! Do not chew a stick of sugar-free gum before having your morning OJ! I shudder to remember the taste. The gum is better described as artificially-sweetened than sugar-free, but I'm not in charge of labeling. Does it matter that much what we call God? I read a book not too long ago where a different name was given to God and it was said that God's name wasn't important. I don't think the Bible says that.

2 Chron 7:14 "If My people who are called by My name..." I 'spect it would be helpful to have that name narrowed down a bit. Certainly to that group of folks the name of God will matter very much.

Exodus 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain..." Here it would be critical to know just what name is not to be taken in vain, "...for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."

Gen 4:26 "Then men began to call on the name of the Lord." Kinda helps to know which name to call upon there...

Lev 24:16 "And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death." Yikes, that is one harsh penalty if the name of the Lord is not important.

Psalm 113:2 "Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore!"

Psalm 116:4 "Then I called upon the name of the Lord: 'O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!' " Sounds like this psalmist would care very much what the name of the Lord is.

Isaiah 50:10 "Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God." If I am going to trust in someone, I want to know that name. Maybe the New Testament?

Acts 2:21 "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." A person calling out a name for rescue wants very much to know the name and get it correct.

This is but a few of the many verses referencing the "name of the Lord". In all cases the verses speak of respect, honor, and reverence, or, of the penalties for doing the opposite. I would have to say the Bible sets forth the importance of the Lord's name rather emphatically. As usual, that other book must be denied and God's Word believed. Give praise to God for the glory of His name!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Third Try Does It

Okay, the thing is just not flowing out of me today. What thing? The love of God that is. I try to write a devotional that flows with the love of God, and some mornings I am just in the way. My petty concerns, unbelief, a shortfall of trust, or whatever, gets in the way of just writing in the love of God. I may take the time to cry out to God, "Why aren't You helping me?" When it is the me that is getting in the way of His help. Wait a minute, how can little ol' me get in the way of God the Almighty One? Easy, He allows it.

Faith must always have space for decision. Adam and Eve were allowed to make their decision to eat of the forbidden fruit. God didn't have to wait for later to walk with Adam only to find the man hiding in the bushes. God could have stood right there and melted the serpent with a glance. Each day we face similar decisions and God will stand aside if we insist on having our own way. The day that I want to write what I want, and will not listen for that small voice of God, will not go well because I cannot write alone.

As one who has given his life to Christ, I find that trying to go back to the old ways of performing does not work anymore. In the old life, my selfishness or self-interest was enough to power my way to accomplish some things. In those days, I would have charged a fee for my writing and counted on my selfish greed to provide the motivational power. Now, when I try to go it alone there is little in the tank and the productivity engine sputters and stalls. I must write with God, for I cannot write without Him. It takes time to realize this in my heart, for even now, years after my salvation, the corrupted flesh still wants to take control and be in control.

Go with God this day,

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Wonderful Prayer

Ah, the guest of the week is back this morning. I guess that speaking of the absent wind as a good thing caused it to return to pummel us a bit more. This morning, I woke up to an interview with a man who sends a daily devotional to President Obama. Of course I had to wake right up to hear this. Before I go on, you all are much more important to me than any elected official so I will continue to write to you. Writing a daily devotional message to our president must bear some weight of responsibility. I feel it when writing to you each day; that is, I don't write just any old thing I want and often delete entire devotionals to start over. Would any devotional writer try to bear such a burden alone? I should think not. Whether writing to a president or a plumber, we bear up only in God's strength. In eternity, is the plumber any less important to God than a president? Not at all. Each is a life precious to God. I bear no less responsibility than the president's devotional writer. In Christ we stand; without Christ, we are better off not writing at all.

As I listened to the interview, the writer mentioned meeting various great persons, Billy Graham was one, and how this or that person gave a "wonderful prayer." I had to stop a moment to wonder if I had ever given a wonderful prayer. But then, who needs to worry about giving wonderful prayers when we pray to a wonderful God? It is easy to hand out compliments to people for their prayers, but we should probably give thanks to God for listening to our prayers, wonderful or simple. I suspect that my prayers tend more toward the simple rather than the eloquent or wonderful. My needs are not wonderful, my prayer need not be wonderful, but praise God my Lord is called Wonderful!


Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a Good Day To Be Alive

Good morning! Hopefully the serious wind of yesterday is gone. I didn't see any kids blowing like tumbleweeds around the playground, but the wind was pretty close to that level. One of my leaf bags out back did a little dance at one point. That got me to thinking; the day after a storm is a good day to be alive. We cry out to God during the storm. We fight the temptation to grumble while the storm rages. Yet, it is a good day to be alive just after that storm has passed into the yesterdays.

Sure, a windy day is no real hardship, only a bit of an irritation. We tend to hunker down a bit on those days - certainly my animals do - and the oppression of the wind makes the thinker start up. Many of the storms or tribulations in this life are much less when viewed from the day after. The pain fades away; and we come to realize that had we just known that it would end so soon, the storm would not have looked so scary. The few real terrors of the storm are gone, and the many more imaginary terrors have been put down until the next storm. We may find a mood of gratitude and praise has arisen within us on the day after a storm. Perhaps that is the day God awaits with eager anticipation too.

Think of it! All the trials and tribulations of this life are bound up in God's anticipation of our reunion in Christ. Why does our Lord not take the pain away? So that the wedding of the Lamb will be that much sweeter. Why so much difficulty to endure in this life? So that our joy will be complete when we see Jesus. Why does God send one more storm in this life? To get us ready to meet Him in person. Yes, the day after a storm is a great day to be alive!

Glory to God and all our love to His Son, Jesus the Christ,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Where Do I Serve?

Good morning as the wind blows! Whazzat supposed to mean? I'm not sure, but the wind came up in the early morning hours, and it tends to weigh on the mind. A couple of questions the Christian gains at salvation: What is to be my service? and, Where do I serve? We fear the first one because the sinful old self thinks that God will demand some service for which we are not suited. The second is equally important because we tend to think opposite. In this, those who want to travel somehow come to the conclusion God will lock 'em up in the little town they wish to escape. Those who want to stay put fear that God will immediately send them on that proverbial mission to the Congo. Both tendencies are based in fear and unbelief. Whatever or wherever we are called to serve, it just may be that God has placed a dream deep down in the heart that longs to come out into the light.

When that dream begins to reveal itself, we start in with the reasons it cannot be accomplished in our strength and resource. Of course it does! If God gave us the mundane dreams that everyone has, where would be the grace and all-sufficiency of God's power? The current situation appears to deny every dream God has placed in the heart. Yes, where would faith grow if we knew the date and time that dream will be fulfilled? If I know that Jesus will return on some specified date at 10:00 in the morning, then it is just an event on the calendar and little faith is required. However, knowing that Jesus' return is set by God and that my job is to just believe requires a constantly-tended, well-watered, and growing faith. So, where do we serve again? Take up faith and start right here, wherever your 'here' is this morning. If God wants to move us, it will happen in God's time. If God wants us to stay put, then be content right in the here and now.

Have a great Thursday in Christ!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poor Innocent Victim

Good morning! God gave us a lovely sunrise this morning and we thank Him for that. Uh oh...sorry, I had another dream last night. A sect of priests owned a very sharp sword. As a part of some festival, the priests selected for themselves a bunch of small cuts or to have a hand cut off. No further detail is necessary, and I'm sorry to have such rough dreams. However, I woke up realizing that hands are poor innocent victims in this sin thing. Jesus gave this advice in the Sermon on the Mount:

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." (Matthew 5: 29-30)

My right hand cannot cause me to sin for sin comes from the heart and is a decision to rebel against God. Cutting off a hand will do no good for me; my wicked heart of flesh would still lust after the things of this world. I could still see the wrong things with one eyeball that I had done with two, but the eyes are also innocent victims for they do not control themselves. If I catch a movement in my peripheral vision, the eyes will look because of their programmed reactions. An image that is seen but later causes sin trouble is in the heart and not on the eye.

We have a tendency, or perhaps it is a bit of bad advice from the adversary, to think that by making ourselves blind and hand less we will please God and get into Heaven. The hands and eyes cannot cause us to sin, but they may be used in sin by the wickedness of the heart. Our one hope in this, as in all things, is the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All of creation groans under the curse, and the poor hands and eyeballs no less than any other having been singled out for chopping and plucking by our Lord. But Jesus did not say 'when' the hand causes sin, but 'if'. Eve did not sin because her right eye saw the forbidden fruit and her right hand reached out for it, but because her heart listened to the adversary and decided to rebel. We cannot chop off parts to rid ourselves of sin. We must depend on Christ to free us from this sin thing.

Jesus didn't command body modification. He said that if a person can cure himself of sin, go for it, and then He gave a couple of suggestions for a starting point. When we realize that the end result of our elective surgeries is to chop out our mind and heart to rid us of the sin, we hopefully see how only Christ can save us.

God loves you, go in His grace today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Encouragement

Good morning on this Tuesday! I feel that you need an encouragement this morning. What am I saying? I need an encouragement this morning! We all need a shot of courage and steadfast faith on this new day. Perhaps I can work with God to give all of us some good news by way of encouragement right now. A little Rich Mullins on the music box helps. Some words of love and peace will do some good too. Are you facing a project that must be killed off today, and you dread telling someone about it? Does God feel distant lately and you don't think anyone else has that feeling? How is your circumstance? Temptation strikes from all sides as you look around and hope seems like a distant candle on a dark night. A stack of bills sits on your desk and you have no way to pay, that health issue has returned, and everyone you know seems to have taken up with the worst sorts of sin. Prayers for rescue seem to bounce off the roof over your head, and the feeling is that God has put up the hand of blocking. I don't know if it's good news, but every Christian has faced temptations, difficulties, sins, and that feeling of distance from God.

For us to learn to walk in the Way, sometimes God withdraws His mighty hand a little from our tottering steps. We immediately feel abandoned. Things in our lives don't seem to go real well when God does this. The house of cards we have built up in life collapses. Our treasure stores that Jesus told us not to put up here prove insufficient. Weakness gathers around us wherever we look. And, of course, we jump to blame God. Guess what? I'm there, you're there, and every brother and sister in Christ is either there or has been there. Shuffle up the disasters and deal the hand again, because we will probably be there once more before the end comes. The good news is that God hasn't left His throne.

The Lord who loved us on the cross still sits with the Father in Heaven. Providence remains steadfast even if at this time He appears a little slow to respond or distant from our pleas. God watches in love as we take a few steps with the training wheels off. Jesus reaches out to pick us up after a stumble. The Way to our eternal life in Christ remains before us, and the guarantee is based on the Cross. We may stumble and fumble along the Way, but we will arrive at our destination with Jesus our Lord.

Praise God for His love and mercy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tripped Up Again

Eek! It's Monday the 13th! Sometimes it is the seemingly simple task that trips up the well-meaning Christ-one. For a season we walk in the way of confidence. Stepping lightly along the way of our Lord, and then, we feel the feet fly upward and the legs go out from under us as the buttocks make their way toward a tough landing on hard ground. 'What happened?' we ask of the Lord. All seemed to be heading for a safe harbor in life. New projects begun looked perfectly suited to the Lord's will and new tasks undertaken appeared to be biblical and blessed. Yet, we fell hard and often right on our Christian backside.

At first, there seems to be no explanation for these small and large disasters in life. Yet, we must remember a couple of things this morning. One, God is not always willing that our way should be easy and direct to the place He would have us to go. Two, the place I think that God would have me to go may not be the actual place that God wants me to arrive. Also, we have this enemy who seems to enjoy tripping up the Christian at all times and in every way possible. I have three scriptures for evidence of this today. John 16:33, Isaiah 55:8-11, and 1 Peter 5:8-9.

First, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you will have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33) The bad news promise there is bracketed by the peace of Christ and the overcoming of our Lord. Unfortunately, we cannot overlook the promise that tribulation will be ours for the seasons of this life. Second, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways", says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) Obviously, I will not always understand what the Lord intends in a season of tribulation or in a moment of failure. What I thought was the goal of the exercise may in fact be something totally different from the Lord's goal and plan for me. Finally, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) Like Job, we are at times allowed to be partly devoured. That failure may not be your fault; that falling may not be my fault. We live in perilous times with the forces of this world arrayed against us. We have to contend with our own mistakes and weakness, and the powers of this world trying to throw us down. However, Jesus walks with us and gives His peace to us. The Holy Spirit lives in me and you; we are not alone in this fight. My brothers and sisters face the same temptations and resist the same adversary. We walk in the same light of Jesus the Christ, and we enjoy the same perfect love of God our Father. Whatever our calling on this day, together we go forward fully-armed in Christ Jesus.

God's grace and peace go with you on this day,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Now, That Would Be Too Easy

Good Friday morning! A vision is best shared, right? We don't want to have to convince our friends that what we saw was not made up out of our delusions or like Scrooge blame it on a bit of underdone potato, do we? Daniel didn't get that option. "And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves." (Daniel 10:7) Those with Daniel were sent away in terror? Why not let them see the vision too for mutual support or witness? Now, that would be too easy!

You may get a vision from God, and you may have to stand alone to receive it. However, Jesus promised never to leave us or forsake us. Whether I get the vision alone, or you do, we will not stand alone to deliver it to the world. Daniel faithfully recorded his vision for us to read these many centuries later. Yet, the prophet could not call upon his companions to confirm the vision. How like Jesus in Gethsemane that is in the manner of striking the shepherd and causing the flock to flee. Why not give the vision to all?

Perhaps too easy is indeed the right analysis. If the vision is given to all, then there is no room for faith or doubt or scorn, whichever a person may choose. The same may go if the vision is too easily understood. The visions of the prophets leave us baffled. We see, as Paul puts it, as in a poor looking glass. Faith gives us the means to endure to the end when we don't understand all of God's vision given to the prophets. Faith reminds us that to stand alone in this life is to never be alone. Jesus goes with me and you in all things.

In the love of Christ Jesus,

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Accepted in Christ

Good morning! Frosty this morning, but not at all bad. We struggle in this world to find our place. Even if we think we have found it, we struggle to keep it, or, in some cases get booted out of it through no fault of our own. Then, our place we think is found, the place appears secure... and we start questioning whether that place is what or all that God would have for us. Earthly acceptance is such a fickle friend! Wherever you find yourself this morning, rich or poor, employed or adrift, retired or just entering the workforce, married or single, you are accepted in Christ. Maybe you are experiencing a crisis of confidence, or a mid-life crisis, or the golden years seem like tin or scrap metal, or perhaps the world away from home is just flat out frightening to you, but you are accepted in Christ.

Does the Apocalypse send chills up and down your spine? Perhaps the thought of your own death causes terrible anxiety pains. As you age, does it seem that all of your friends and loved ones are dropping like flies caught in a Raid® storm to the left and right of you? The gaping maw of the unknown darkness seems to be reaching for your very heart! Yet, you too can be accepted in Christ, and comforted in His great love.

In the first words of the Bible, we find that God created the heavens and the earth. For this to happen, God must exist. He must have purpose in creating such things. When God created the man and the woman, it was not to cast them adrift upon this new creation. We read that before the Fall Adam and Eve walked with God. We can only imagine all that they learned from our Lord in those days. We must recall that even after the first rebellion, God did not abandon anyone. Today, we have God's word and God's Son. We enjoy the company of God's Spirit and His providence. We enjoy communion with God in ceremony and in prayer. Most of all we have God's promise that no one who comes to His Son will be turned away. A lifelong crook spoke from his execution, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) and he was saved. Just like that, we too can have the comfort of knowing eternity is safe in Christ. We are accepted!


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Polishing Rotten Pots

Good n' cloudy morning! I dreamed last night that my dear mother and me were polishing pots. The pots were mine, but as dreams tend to go they were unlike any pots I have ever owned. The funny thing was that as good as the walls were looking both inside and out for our efforts, the bottoms of the pots had been burnt so many times that they were soft in spots and missing in others. A total waste of time, for these pots were rotten and would not hold water. So, obviously an object lesson in my dream. And I thought dreams were supposed to be entertaining.

A message from the Lord? What area of my life is rotten while I polish the outside part? Maybe I am a rotten pot, but Jesus loves me! The self-shame thing has gone on for years. I think I'll just remember that Jesus loves us rotten pots. I don't know why He chose to love us, but I do know that none of us are perfected yet. Yes, I have been burnt many times in this life, and there may be some soft spots on my bottom by this time in Christian walk. Jesus loves me!

Sometimes a dream, a passing comment, a scornful remark, or other things in this life will point out the sinful rottenness still lurking in us. Forgiveness and mercy are asked for of God and received, but the shame sting lingers in our emotional heart. Time to remember the love of God for His creation - that's you and me, folks! - and rest in the grace God gives through His Son. I cannot make myself perfect through my own effort. Some parts of my faith may be found in the test to not hold water. Jesus loves me and I am confident that He will mend those spots.

The love and grace of God to you on this day,

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Powerful Voice

Good morning! The worst of the cold moved off yesterday; we don't have it too bad this morning. Here is an interesting psalm verse for us today: "The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon." (Psalm 29:5) Have you ever shouted at a tree and broken it or bothered the tree in the slightest? I haven't. My voice doesn't even catch the attention of most folks when there is background conversation or other noise. I have heard some people with stout voices, but not one of them has made one bit of difference to even the smallest of trees. We as humans don't have voices like that. It was said on a documentary that a tiger's roar can knock monkeys out of trees to their death, but the tree doesn't fall over dead. I'm trying to get a grasp on a voice so powerful, but only a tornado or other powerful wind storm comes close. Those storms don't have anything to say to us though.

A voice has some message to pass on. When God speaks and trees break, can we understand what He is saying? Praise God, we have His voice in the Word. When God wants to speak to us in other ways, He can use angels and the still, small whisper to pass on His word. Gently, God gives His message to us. From the psalm, we know that God can flatten forests to send out His word. But, the words of God also come to us meekly in the Bible study, quietly in the prayer closet, and musically in the songs of praise and worship. To catch a message from God in a pleasing hymn or a song on the radio does not diminish the power of God's voice. Frankly, I would prefer to search out the will of God in His word than to pull my poor old body out from under a bunch of large tree trunks. On the other hand, should I be faced with giant-sized problems, it is nice to know that voice is there to rescue me.

Have a great day in Christ,

Saturday, January 04, 2014

How Long Must We Suffer?

Good morning on this cooling Saturday! I thought the other night that they must find a few munitions left over from the wars every now and then in Europe. No, I read in an article this morning that they find hundreds each year. Most are successfully disposed of without harm, but occasionally one will kill or injure more people almost 70 years after the last world war ended. How long must that suffering go on? Of course this is far from the only problem worldwide caused by the actions of persons long passed.

The simple answer is that this suffering will last until we leave this world, or until Jesus returns to set things right. We cannot fix all that has gone before with technology, or science, or good intentions. We can pray and have faith in Christ. We can spread the good news of Jesus and the hope we have in Him. The world is a dark place. Our light can help, but only if we let it shine forth.

There is much suffering, and it is heartbreaking for us to hear about it. We can look to the Bible and find that this tribulation will continue right up to the very end of this age. The prophecies of the end times fill us with great hope, at least...after we get past all that seal and trumpet stuff with its promise of judgment, pain, and death. We hope the Rapture will come before the Tribulation, but we also grieve already for those who must endure that period of time. Why? Because we know that when the Lord writes a prophecy it will happen. We don't know the date or time, but we know it will be. Much suffering will come, but all that only brings the time for our Lord's return that much closer.

Enjoy the weekend! Yeah, even after all that heavy apocalyptic stuff I just wrote.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Now I Love Me

Good morning on this first Friday of the year! You want to be more like Jesus. I want to be more like Jesus. Jesus loves you and me. Guess what? Now I love me. Your turn! We tend to think that any love of the self is egotism, something to be avoided at all costs. However, Jesus commanded that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus cannot command us to sin, therefore we must love that person reflected in the mirror as we love our neighbors. Yes, if you hate your neighbors that could be a problem.

Love of the self is commanded right after we love God and then our neighbors. The neighbors Jesus commanded us to love are everyone. You might also say that in order to love our neighbors, we must love the self too. As Jesus placed it into one command, so we must have both or none. To love myself is to love God's creation. To love myself is also to love the man Jesus died to save. Therefore I must love myself to obey Jesus and to be more like Him.

Egotism is an excessive love for the self to the exclusion of all others. Love is probably not even the correct word for that definition. Egotism makes of the self an idol, and we know by now that God takes a rather dim view of idolatry. The flip side of that is what we can easily fall into, ignoring or even hating of the self. Remember that you and I are God's beloved creation that He sent His Son to die for on the cross. We must love ourselves too, or we can never be like our Lord Jesus.

Rejoice in the day that God has made!

Jesus is coming again!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Oh Lord, Help!

Good morning on this new day of the new year. The review of the past year is done and that chapter is closed. The resolutions are printed and published. Great hope is born at the dawning of the new year. Yet, today is that first day when many go back to the same old workplace. The person may wonder, is there nothing more? What happened to the hope of yesterday? That feeling of wishing the holiday would last forever is the longing we have for God's Heaven. The ending of the holidays reminds us most fearfully that our time has not arrived yet for the trip to our eternal home with Jesus. The redeeming quality of the day may be in seeing the people you know and love.

I went back to work after a vacation or holiday listing the things I wanted to accomplish. What do I need to do? What goals can I complete? Questions like that set the people second, or third, or worse. Yet, what did I miss about the place after that season ended? Right, the people. I didn't miss the tasks. The accomplishments and goals I easily substituted with new ones from my wish list. The persons left behind I could in no way replace. A list of accomplishments is very flexible. Persons have names, faces, and a God-given breath of life. The ones left behind are unique creations of God. I cannot replace them; I can only hope to be reunited in Heaven forever and ever.

That feeling of loss we experience at the ending of a season. The little twitter of fear and despair as we begin another time of testing or work, when we would rather play and enjoy the day, reminds us that one day all things will be made new. We don't imagine Heaven without work and accomplishment, we imagine that these things will be made new. Imagine a place where we run joyfully to work and play. A place where there is no striving against each other for accomplishment, and no struggle against the selfish weaknesses to do our best work. Imagine for a moment standing at a workbench with Jesus, and building something wonderful. That time will come.

Jesus is coming again!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

It's Going to be A Great Year!

Welly-well! We have a white New Year's Day! It may seem easy to wish that this year will not become much the same as the last. We may find it quick to come in prayer with a wish that this be not worse than the last. But, harder it seems is to simply go forward in faith. This year is going to be a great year! Why do I think this; what reason can I have? Jesus loves me. I have no better reason. I can attempt to list a lengthy batch 'o resolutions, some I'm-gonna-do's, but I have no power to accomplish anything beyond what Christ enables me to do.

Today's snowfall has placed a clean, white blanket over the ground. This is a very welcoming metaphor for the new year. A clean start. A fresh opportunity. A new year to glorify God in all that I do. A chance to forget what has gone before and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. This is going to be a great year!

Thank you, Lord, for the past year and help me please to remember that it has passed. Thank you for the new year that has arrived this morning. Please Lord strengthen me for the trials ahead in the due time, and show me your love each day. Teach me, Lord, that I may teach others of your Word, your love, and your grace. Enable and grow my faith in You my dear Father in Heaven. Silence my worries and fears, strengthen me to push them aside and work for your kingdom. To God be the glory this day! Amen.