Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sorry, God Didn't Consult With Me

Good Saturday! I hope your day goes well and the Good News lives in you! We like to beat ourselves up with the 'should have known' thing. Of course, sometimes that analysis is correct, as in when we are saying it to admit a mistake. Much of the time though, we use it to say we should have been in the knowledge that only God holds, and then we are quite wrong.

You leave a person's house to run an errand. Everything was fine, the elderly male person under your care was watching television, and there was little chance the television set would harm the fellow in any way. The programming on the television is a different case which I am not addressing here in this discussion. However, while you are gone the dude goes and expires on you. The brand-new 83" wide screen television monitor didn't fall on him, he just reached his expiration date at the very moment you were needed elsewhere. What do you say in that case? "I should have known! Oh, it's all my fault. If I had been here..." Do you take the television set home real quick and put his old one on the stand?

You, should have known? Who do you think you are in your omnipotent knowledge? I should have known? Sorry, God didn't consult with me. And, why should God, the essence and embodiment of perfection, consult with us in any case? We tend to blame ourselves for too many should-have-knowns when we had no way to have known. If you steal the former fellow's TV set with the weak rationalization, "He would have wanted me to have it." Then put it on a weak stand and it falls on you and kills you dead. Well, then yes, you should have known that the wages of sin is death because Paul said that in the Bible. For the stuff we don't know let us walk in faith with the One who does know all things. We'll leave the burden of that responsibility with our Lord.

Have a better Saturday in Christ,

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Exactly Is Going On?

Happy Friday to you! Now that is a dumb question to put in the title. How should I know in a general way what is going on, much less the exact things that are going on? However, I can point you in a certain prayer direction that will put you in touch with the One who has a handle on that. My God knows all things, so I don't have to know what exactly is going on. My mind is not capable of holding and retrieving that much information in any case. Hebrews 1:3 gives me some comfort when I try to think through too much of just one day's earthly activity. "He upholds the universe by the word of His power." Jesus has it all under control! That is a great comfort to me.

In an overwhelming world, we feel lost often enough. So much is out of our control that we are easily led to despair. I wonder at times how many men and women have entered politics in an attempt to gain some control, only to find that they really don't have all that much even in such lofty offices as president, governor, or senator. Do dictators cling to the throne hoping to control just a bit more of their miserable lives? What exactly is the diva shouting orders at her staff hoping to control? The general can send the troops marching, but still his meeting with death approaches. I can take allergy pills, but still the morning sneeze attack comes...sorry, gotta pause a bit.

20 minutes later...Okay, what a great example of my lack of control! I can't even control my own nose. Nope, I did not know that would happen this morning either. I'm glad the One who loves us and died to save us from sin is in control. He upholds the universe with His command, and He upholds me through a sneeze attack too. The big things and the little, all under His control. What God does not rule on immediately, He can overrule later, if He so chooses. He lets us try and fail, He is also there with us when we try again and succeed. Hallelujah!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dewey Depthcharge

Good morning on this Thursday winding down toward the end of May. You may have run into this type of boss in your young life. In seeking to find the lurking subversive in his domain, this boss lays out patterns of preemptive depth charges as he speeds through the waters of his sea. Employees are either sycophants or subversives waiting to happen. So, he goes through the working day dropping bombshells, er, got off track there, depth charges. Explosions in his wake are common as the employees seek to relieve the tension just created by his passage. After all, they can't take it out on the boss, they will lose their jobs, so they blast away at each other. A perfectly functioning workplace may soon be reduced to infighting, backstabbing, and toxic words simply by the raving imagination of this (usually) authoritarian boss. The funny thing is, in blasting away with his authority in that way, the boss creates the submarines he fears!

Did Jesus do this very thing? In seeking to save, did our Lord instead create the sinners? Nope, not a case of Dewey Depthcharge at all. Jesus died to save us in His great love. If we doubt that sinners existed before Jesus came, we have an entire Old Testament of examples and stories to read and learn. Another example is our experience before salvation. Jesus did come to bring the sword. And, indeed, after salvation we go to war, or war comes upon us. Mammon rises up against the Master; the Carnal Man fights the new spirit Jesus places in us. The powers and principalities of this present darkness make war upon the Christian soldier standing there in the full armor of God. There is a similarity, but Jesus started the war out of love so great He gave His life to save. Jesus saw the sickness of sin and brought a painful cure. Dewey Depthcharge saw enemies where none existed, raised up a war that cured nothing, and brought only useless pain.

Let us follow the story of Jesus. If you are stuck in a 'Dewey's' little war, I'm heartily sorry about that. My prayers go with you.

Love in Christ,

P.S. Why, yes, this is based on a true story in Dewey's case. However, 'Dewey' goes back many years, before I knew most of you. We need not name him or seek to find him, and I pray that he has grown over the years, for the sake of his subordinates at least.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What May It Become

Great pumpkins! The first of the pumpkins have appeared as little green plants. Is it hard for me to believe that those little plants will one day produce large, orange melons? You bet it is at this point in their growth cycle. My life in Christ probably looks very like that to the Great Gardener who planted me. If I could see what I may become, nay, will become in the fullness of God's time, I might not need faith to drive me on. To me, my life often looks like an ugly little plant, good for nothing and apt to never produce fruit of any save the most noxious kind. Jesus has something different to say.

Each of us will or has reached a point in the Christian journey with our Lord that we see nothing but foul sin in all areas of life. Like the little seed that just fell into the ground, broke open, and sprouted this tiny little plant, the life we share in Christ may not look much like what we expect of the fruit promised, but seemingly unborn. Peace, patience, joy, lovingkindness? At times it seems that I have none of these things. God could never accept such an ugly little plant as me. Too late and so wrong! God has already accepted me and you in Christ Jesus, His Son. We don't have to worry about what we will become in Christ, the Gardener has it under control.

Weeds and thorns? Oh yes, there will be lots of distractions and chokers in this little garden of life. That is a good subject for another time. God's grace and peace to you on this great pumpkin day!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

He Is

Good morning! I gazed for a moment at a definition. Two types of these things are global and local. One declared outside a function is global; the other declared inside is local. Hmm, I began to turn a few early morning brain gears. Jesus lived on the earth and declared himself, therefore He is global. Jesus died and rose again and lives in us through His Holy Spirit, therefore He is also local. One little problem, the definition is for a variable, and Jesus is most definitely not a variable. Once more I run into trying to fit Jesus into some sort of box or definition. He is, and I cannot make Him into what I think. It is worse than trying to pound the ol' square peg into the round hole. This is the creation trying to define the Creator.

The Judeans of Palestine back in Jesus' day tried to make Him king. This seems rather bizarre to us, but I guess if we go back to the first king we may find some insight. Saul knew nothing about ruling as a king. The Israelites wanted a king to stand between God and them, a form of rejection with which God was not at all pleased. In a strange twist, the Israelites seemed to think of their king in terms of ownership: as in, "We went to God and demanded a king, God relented and gave us one, so therefore we own the king." God said through Samuel His prophet that the king would not act that way, and would in fact rule in the more familiar (at least to us) authoritarian way. Saul did, but centuries later the Judeans seemed to have that same backward idea of kingship and tried to force Jesus to be their king. Just like with a programming definition, Jesus didn't fit into their box. Jesus is the King of kings, not a king by human election or force.

Some things in life seem to be similar to our Lord. Not surprising, the stamp of the Creator is going to show through even under the stain of sin. However tempting it may be though, I cannot fit the Lord into my definitions and perceptions. Me limited, Him not. He is; I am because He created me. I don't make Him by my definitions - He is. How do I find out more about who He is? Read His word, seek Him in prayer, and live in Christ as He lives in me. He is; I'm glad!

Have a great new day in Christ!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering the Fallen

Good morning on this Memorial Day! So, question for the day: As we live in Christ in today, are we doing wrong to remember those who have fallen in the past? Well, let's see; do we remember Jesus daily, reading His words and those He inspired in long dead writers? Do we recall those words spoken by our Lord in John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Yes, we most certainly do well to remember those who laid down their lives in the service of country, friends, loved ones, and freedom.

To forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice is to dishonor the one who made His sacrifice to free us from the law of sin and death. To throw away their sacrifice via forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, or idleness is to dishonor their lives, those who loved them, and the One who died to save them from sin. We have a duty to the fallen to remember and to use that sacrifice well. At any moment in time, we may disagree with the office of the President, or the current Congress, or even what the Supreme Court decides. We may disagree with that government on whether our military should be in a far country at all for the reasons stated in the press release. But this is not the day for political argument. Today, those who sacrificed their lives in the service of our nation are honored. We do well as we remember them in prayer, honor, parade, and ceremony.

One day each year is set aside for a people as one to remember the fallen with gratitude, to honor the sacrifice of a life, and to hold dear that most precious thing another gave up for this nation. That day is Memorial Day, and this year it lives in us today. Have a wonderful day as you remember those who sacrificed all.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Once Is Enough

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

A stumble and a fumble in our Christian walk and we think that this gift will be removed from us. Peter spoke the words of definite strength "you shall" without adding exceptions. Peter went on to say, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (v 39) I believe that the Lord called everyone, but many will not hear and heed that call. This does give us hope that our children, who number themselves for a time among the afar off, will hear that call and return to Jesus. We can testify to this because many of us did that very thing.

From the prodigal pigpen, we heard once more the call of the Lord our God, and we turned to head on home. Guilt and shame arose in us; we looked at visions of rejection and utter humiliation, but the feet turned to the call of God and we walked on back to the place where Jesus lives in our heart. When we got there, Jesus did not heap on the shame, but welcomed us to a feast. From time to time, we may simulate this journey in small ways when a fall into sin takes us out of the house of God for a bit. Once is enough for the prodigal journey, because Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Paul was convinced, and we must be as well.

And now, since you and I have repented and been baptized in the name of Christ, we shall and we did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once is enough, put aside doubts, and thank God for our precious gift.

In the name of Christ Jesus,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Time For

Good Thursday morning! We had some rain last night, at least a couple of times, and we are glad for it. We are especially glad it was not accompanied by fearsome winds or hail. The garden is planted. I am a bit later than others, but then I didn't have to cover my plants with blankets and such on those frosty mornings. I like the seeds that instruct me to plant after all danger of frost is past. Around here that means planting in July, which for some things is too late. It was time for planting my garden, now it is time for patience. The flowers told me to expect a bloom in 75 days. What? I want to see lovely flowers like, today! Alright, maybe I can water them for a week or so, but 75 days? That's like more than 2 months. Some of God's works take a bit of time. Impatience, common among us little earthlings, is not actually a virtue. Plants will spring up overnight, but they are tiny things and growth follows God's plan and timing.

Solomon told us that there was a time and season for everything under the sun. We might translate that just a bit and say that in Christ we have a time for everything under the Son. We await our Lord's return with all the patience we can muster, and then we ask the Lord for more patient endurance. We watch as children grow away from the church, and try our best to wait patiently for the Holy Spirit to work on them and bring 'em back to Jesus. Waiting for that 'time for' can be particularly difficult.

Is it time for financial security? Not for many in this nation. Even those that appear to have it right now can be wiped out by one medical disaster. That is, if it isn't time for the new insurance premiums to take away a family's financial security first. We don't have any security in this government, nation, state, or world, but that isn't news to us because it was time for placing our trust in God a long time ago. As we like to say, it's time for us to live out our faith in Christ alone.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Making Excuses

Good morning! Ohh, my aching's like a hangover without the fun the night before. So, does that mean I think a headache would be somehow 'worth it' if I got to be drunk and stupid the night before? The voice of conscience speaks: "Face it, bub, we've made excuses for our sin before." Yes, I have, and as a Christian man, I suspect that most all other Christians have found the self making an excuse for sin at some point as well. "God created me that way," is a favorite of some. I won't say it is my favorite, but that thought may have crossed my mind a time or two. We are like Adam hiding in the bushes. The excuses are creative, inventive, and so very wrong. The right answer is confession and repentance, but making excuses tends to come to mind quickly. We look up in hope for that day when the heart is cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and there is no more sin to make an excuse for, forever and ever. Today, on the other hand, we find it easy, maybe too easy, to make that excuse and hand it to the self.

Near the beginning, we have that funny story. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. What a privilege! What wonders did God show to Adam during those walks? Then, Adam sinned, and we get that moment. Adam hides in shame and then tries to work in an excuse that blames both God and his wife! "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." Creative, inventive, and so very wrong. The excuse making we face today began right there. Adam's manhood to stand up for his wife, gone. The man's close relationship with his God, hidden in the bushes. The authority who once tended the plants and named the animals of the Garden, cowering in shame and fear. Our attempts at excuses for sin today look just as ridiculous, if we could only see it.

Have a great and awesome day in our great and awesome Lord!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Awards Day

Good Tuesday morning! The thunderstorm season brings a few things we don't always enjoy to their fullest. Strong winds blowing things down or around the yard, hailstones that knock holes in stuff, and the always fun washout of roads and bridges. These are awards we might rather refuse given the chance. At the local elementary school this morning, the children have an awards day they look forward to, not the least of which is the awarding of summer vacation. As adults, we don't get an awards day very often. In fact, you or I may have trouble remembering the last time we attended an awards ceremony where honors came our way. If you don't happen to be some sort of athlete or celebrity, awards can be kind of sparse in life. Then, when an award of some kind does come our way, we are often left feeling inadequate or undeserving for some reason. How do others handle this thing so well? Who knows, maybe that other person has the same feelings but manages to conceal it better.

An award day will arrive when our Lord Jesus gives us what we deserve. Now that is used in a vaguely threatening manner here in our culture, but I don't think Jesus had that in mind for His return. No one would look forward with joyful anticipation to getting what we deserve when it comes to sin and punishment. However, the love of Jesus took care of that on the cross. Grace and mercy says that when Jesus proclaims an award day, it is to give us something wonderful. When the moment arrives and we start to feel inadequate, Jesus may have something better for us to feel.

Joy and peace to you,

Monday, May 19, 2014

All is Not Darkness and Doom

Good morning! A new week with all of its possibilities has begun for us. What is going to happen this week? Well, if I knew then I could call myself a prophet. If I had the knowledge to produce a report on Sunday night that outlined even at a high level, for sure and for certain, Monday through Friday, I could bid my services out to the business world and be rich, and I'm talkin' really rich. But, we know that is not the case. Not that business wouldn't pay, but that I know just as much as the next guy over there across the street, and that doesn't amount to any certainty. All and any of my predictions could be easily wiped out by a new disease, a bout of flu, the spotting of an asteroid headed right for Earth, and mostly just by the daily events of a big world. That does not amount to enough 'for sure' to to sell to anyone with half a brain. Since my path to fame and fortune is closed off that way, I'm glad that faith and trust in God are still the way I chose to follow.

About 2,000 years ago, God gave the disciple John an outline of the end times. Before that time though, we were given four trends to watch for prior to that great and awesome day of the Lord. According to Daniel (12:4) we will see knowledge increase and people rushing about. According to our Lord himself at Olivet, (Matt 24:12) we will see lawlessness abound and the love of many grow cold. Now, take those four things and read any of the global news websites. See how many articles fit one of more of those four trends. Why, it's all the news! Or is it? Maybe it is just all the news that is given to us.

I believe there is also a force for good at work in the land. Goodness is of course one of God's wonderful characteristics. We know that the harvest is ripe and that workers are going forth into the fields. I believe a third Great Awakening is happening even now, slowly at first, but gaining momentum day by day. This time the awakening will extend globally. It takes a discerning eye to see it in the news we are given, but all that is happening is not limited to darkness winning the day. God has not left the world to the dominion of darkness. Our Lord has not given up on us. What a hope we have in Christ Jesus!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

We Know, But Maybe We Don't Hear It Enough

Good Saturday morning! I was thinking today, a dangerous occupation at the best of times, but what I thought was not so dangerous, or maybe it is. We know that Jesus loves us, but maybe we don't hear it nearly enough. Let me say it to you this morning: "I have an overlooked un-secret to share with you this morning...Jesus, really loves you!" Yes, this statement is so not secret. Yet, we go about most days as though it is the most highly-classified and closely held secret that ever crossed the desk of the most zealous 'Top Secret' stamper in the NSA. (In fact, the NSA invented levels above Top Secret to satisfy this zealous stamper, but we don't need to go into that this morning.) It's no secret! Jesus loves each of us with a love that abided right up to the cross and right out of the grave and on to Heaven. That love abides in Him today. What? 'Abided' isn't a word? Then how is it that the love of Jesus abided in Him so well? :-)

I am glad this morning that Jesus loves me, and that His love abides in Him and on me. We all might take a page out of that book of love and share it with others this morning. Now, don't skip the dear friends in Christ just because as we like to say, "They already know that Jesus loves them." They do, but not one of us hears it often enough. It is so special to hear it from someone else that we don't realize how special it is. Try it out on someone, see what happens.

Jesus loves you deeply this morning!

Friday, May 16, 2014

All The Worldly Things

Good morning on this most excellent Friday! Last night I witnessed a playground accident. Small brother on swing, enjoying his moment even to the point of showing off how high he can go. Tiny brother wants some of this and heads for the swing. Mom, engaged on the teeter-tooter with a daughter, can see what's coming and starts yelling at both brothers. Dad, minding the slide with yet another kid, can see what's coming and yells at the swinging brother to stop. Doesn't tell him how until too late. I across the street trimming a bush can see what's coming and know better than to add to the confusion by shouting too. Not that anyone can hear my shouts in any case. Tiny brother is too young for school and thus does not take into account the physics of a pendulum, force, momentum, etc. Whack! Tiny brother goes flying, small brother learns new way to slow down swing, parents freak out. Much wailing and crying fills the evening air. The tiny brother, down but not out, joins in with a little crying too. Severe scolding arrives for small brother with much criticism of his swing safety, stopping distance, etc. The poor child learns in one glaring moment that this world really stinks in a lot of ways. A moment of joy is ruined by the ignorance of the young, an accident Mom and Dad could not stop, and the rapid application of blame. We've all been there in various roles throughout our lives.

The amusing thing last night was that three adults clearly saw what was coming, but for all our talents, strengths, experience, and abilities we could in no way stop the accident. A rich man could not have bought something quickly enough to stop it. A strong young man could not move quickly enough to stop it. Not one of us held the wisdom in the moment to say the right thing to stop either little child. Neither Mom nor Dad's volume caused the reaction they desired. (The small brother could have heard them several blocks down the street.) Yet, so often it is upon all these worldly things that we depend for salvation before we come to believe in Christ alone. Jeremiah passed on a little help from God in this matter.

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in all the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Timelessness of the Good News

...does not depend on me. Happy Thursday! I am glad today that my belief in Christ brings justification with God. It does not depend on how I feel today or how I felt on Tuesday. (Thank God for that.) Charles H. Spurgeon wrote this morning on the believer gaining justification right now. Well, yes, he has been dead for more than a century, like 1892, so maybe he didn't write this morning. However, I did get the devotional from him this morning. Have you noticed how things are getting sort of timeless these days? I can sit down at my computer, hop on the Internet and read the words of Jesus, Spurgeon, the apostle Paul, Augustine, C.S. Lewis and A.W. Tozer (who both passed the year I was born), and many others as though they had written them this morning and sent out e-mails. Have almost 2,000 years passed since the time of Christ or not?

Even in more recent times, one can turn on the television and watch shows that were filmed in the 1960's as though they were produced last week. When television showed a Bonanza episode back then, the only hope of seeing it if you couldn't be home was a rerun during the off season. Now, I can sit down and watch them all if I so desire, even to the point of turning into a big puddle of goo in front of the television monitor. We have trouble imagining the missing of a show on television and never seeing it again. So, tell me again why I sometimes think that the words and actions of Jesus happened so long ago that all is distant history and I don't feel His presence right here and now?

I get the impression today of time compressing. It seems this morning that maybe the ascension of Christ and His return are just about to come together, and the past nearly 2,000 years will be as a fleeting headache. All that pain forgotten in a moment of timeless joy as our Savior, our Champion, appears in the sky to bring us home. The good news of Jesus Christ made timeless in moment of joyous reunion. Amen!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Turning My Mind To Him

Good Wednesday morning! On most days, I begin the devotional with a greeting in a similar manner. This is of course to remind myself of what day has arrived. Indeed there are some days where I entertain a short debate on what day is up to bat. On the other side of that carefree attitude is the dreadful situation. Very nearly all of these DSs are imaginary in nature, that is, they exist only in my mind. This is part of the cross that those with mental illness bear. The imaginary dreadful situation is so intense that we have difficulty separating it from reality. A big part of our training, whether psychology-based or Christian-based is in learning to turn the mind away more quickly, with the ultimate goal of simply refusing to start any vision of a dreadful nature. As a Christian, I find the most effective turning away from the DS is to turn my mind to Jesus.

A good theological exploration in the Bible, or a tough issue raised in prayer with Jesus is just the ticket to turning my mind to Him. A walk outside for an hour is made possible by 'talking it out' with the Lord. Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, leads my mind in the right direction and I discover new truths in Christ. This is not always easy.

The world, its prince, and my carnal nature conspire to remind me of weakness, death, suffering, evil, and all the other stuff that make this world a tough place to live. If that won't do it, a quick perusal of almost any news website or program will do the trick just fine. There are many dreadful situations I imagine, but there are many that are quite real too. At the very least, with my Lord's help, I can eliminate the imaginary ones and trust in Him for the strength to endure the real ones.

God's mercy and grace to you,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The MegaMotorMouth Fail

Good Tuesday morning! At least it ain't snowing? Doesn't help much when it is this cold on a May morning. At some point in the far distant past of your life, at least we hope this now belongs only to the past, you probably said something you came to regret. I know that I have. Sometimes the devil even helps me remember those times in all their writhing pain of shame and remorse. The time we hope won't come around again is that time when the mouth, that megamotormouth just kept going on and on when we would have been much better off to have just kept quiet. Peter had a couple of those times in his life as an apostle. Paul may have done so and forgot to write about it in his letters. James, now he speaks from what appears to be humiliating personal experience.

"Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." (3:5-6)

Yo! We think that may be overdone a bit, at least until painful recall brings back to mind one of those times in life that the ol' megamotormouth left us feeling the sting from the fires of hell. A world of iniquity comes to rest on us when the tongue takes off on its own. We may even imagine the time will come that such brilliant argument spews forth from our tongue in righteous anger that the opponent is left speechless and flabbergasted. However, when we let the megamotormouth go off, the result is most often one of personal humiliation. Few us are good at speaking out in anger. The flame of anger and speech usually are best kept apart. I have known men who seek out solitude just to give their angry words room to vent where no gets hurt. Probably a good idea that.

Of course, we place our hope in Jesus that one day the heart will be cleansed so that regrettable words never come forth again. Hallelujah for that day!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Drippy Day Meditations

Good morning! I hear a one foot figure floating about on the news and it involves snow. We didn't get any snow out here, but then we are grateful not to have the tornadoes either. Sometimes it is good to ride the storm out in the middle. Soon, would be a good time for a shower and then to get going out to clients. Oops, I see snow flakes in the air. I wonder if this comes as a result of my playing a Bing Crosby Christmas album on my PC this morning. I don't have one subject for the devotional this morning or one title that stands out above the clutter in my brain. What occurs to me is that we never know what statement or condition may not speak to an unbeliever to send him/her seeking, asking and knocking after Jesus our Lord.

We may look up to the Lord in supplication seeking only to endure a circumstance in the valley of death's shadow. Yet, that faith may speak to someone we did not observe watching us from a little distance. The affliction or tribulation that causes my mind to turn inward in prayer for relief or steadfast strength may throw out a seed I didn't see. The seed may find fertile ground in another with the same tribulation. Those who do not yet believe suffer similar distress without the hope we have in Christ. You and I may never know what action or patient endurance affects a planting of that same hope in a fellow sufferer. Let us today live in Christ and trust Him to shine the light all around us.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Friday, May 09, 2014

Are We Like Peter Gone Astray?

Good morning! I walked into the kitchen with my water glass this morning to find a pile of cat on the floor (of cat, not from the cat). Most of the time, his poses are more the classical cat poses seen back to forever, including the leg in the air like a feline exclamation point one. This morning the thing appeared to have collapsed into an indefinite pile of fur. I guess we all have mornings like that as we get older. So, the NFL draft began last night. I watched the chart on my PC as it slowly filled in toward the bottom. I wondered though, who would you and I pick for our life team. Not among the young college football stars, but among anyone at anytime. Did you choose Jesus as your first round pick? You didn't? What happened?

We may think that Jesus chooses us, or that He is maybe already the coach and is therefore ineligible for the draft. Perhaps, we see our Lord as the team owner and drafting Him as ridiculous. Whatever the reason, are we like Peter gone astray in this? You see, at one moment in time, Peter had the opportunity to have the Lord, the Son of God, wash his feet. Peter refused. Perhaps the disciple felt that the King of kings was too good, too high and mighty, to do such a humble task. Yet, Jesus said that Peter would have no part of Him if he could not allow this service. Yes, Jesus does choose us first, but we also choose Him. He is coach, captain, Lord and leader, but the Lord also serves us even in the humble things. As our redeemer, Jesus owns our very life, but He calls us friend. We would do well to draft Jesus as our first pick. He is after all, quite capable of acting as owner, coach, and best player on our life team.

God's blessings to you on this great Friday in Christ!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Small Light

It's May 8th and the snow is falling, nothing out of the ordinary going on around here. Snow on top of the dandelions, a robin bouncing around in the flakes, white on the green tree leaves, nope, pretty much what we expect in May. Let's talk illusion this morning. Sin and its prince are good at illusion. Sin seductively says that all the stress will go away if we just indulge in a little sinful behavior. The illusion breaks when that behavior brings only more sadness and stress.

One night, with the light behind me in the kitchen, I stared down the stairs into the dark basement. All seemed profoundly dark, even impenetrable to my sight. But, another night I left a white laundry basket down there. On this night, the illusion of dark depth was easily dispelled by the white color of the basket. As God's lights in a world of darkness, we are those little lights that dispel the illusion of dark depth. The world can see us, and by the life we lead know that it is not impossible to be saved.

The whip of the law never worked, but the love of Jesus does. Every time one of us refuses to sin, we shine the light of "I love you" to the world of darkness. You and me are small lights, but that is all it takes when the darkness is illusion. In the time of Jesus, those living in darkness saw a great light. Today, there are many little lights pointing the way to the great light of Jesus.

Shine a little light today by being who you are in Christ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Don't Ya Just Hate That?!

Good Wednesday! Note the inspired use of the interrobang in the title. Yesterday, an article may have slipped by you. So, I will yank the chain on your headlong rush toward ignorance, and bring it up again. This was a good news article, so we shouldn't miss it.

I can attest to hearing the bad news from more than one pulpit. Many of us can witness to the same thing. Here it is: 50% of marriages end in divorce, and most are unhappy. At one time, I thought that was just true of Sidney (the one in Nebraska), because Paul Harvey, no less, called it the divorce capital of the U.S. on a broadcast. Where did this 50% figure come from? Well... therein lies the lie that has been repeated by the pastors of America. Don't ya just hate that?! That figure was a projection based on trends seen in the 70s and early 80s, and the expectation (didn't we address those recently?) that the new no-fault divorce laws would increase the rate of divorce. But, we have the good news. Not true it seems, never made that figure, didn't come close to it. Praise the Lord.

Look for the new book, The Good News About Marriage, by Shaunti Feldhahn and read some better news about her research and what her team found through stopping to look, as opposed to repeating an untruth. Hold it! Let's address that bit about catching the Church, the bride-to-be of Jesus, in the wrong. It's going to happen.

In the early days, just after Jesus ascended to Heaven, the church was born and lived in infancy. Paul, Peter, and the gang of apostles worked to grow the new church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Just short of 2,000 years later, maybe the church is no longer an infant, but even as a young adult church, so to speak, we the church are quite likely to make mistakes and be caught in the wrong. Only God is perfect, we as the growing church are going to make mistakes and repeat an untrue statement now and then. Jesus will make sure His bride is ready for the wedding of the Lamb. Somehow, all those brothers and sisters in Christ with our disagreements on this or that bit of theology, the misquotes and mistakes, and even those groups who concentrate too much on one aspect of God at the expense of His other qualities, will be brought together as the spotless bride to our great Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Yes, the church can grow from a few mistakes, just as each Christ-one does through the Spirit of God.

Have a Spirit-growing day in the grace of Christ Jesus!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Do You Suppose Jesus Knew?

And... there is a Monday after the big 51 birthday. Just when you think nothing stranger can happen. At what age do Mondays get banned? Shouldn't I be old enough now to start the working week with maybe a Funday, ya know, the one that comes right after Sunday? No? Ah well. Years and years ago, I used to get picked near the last for teams at recess. Then, I joined the Marine Corps, went to boot camp, and enjoyed the very same privilege. Do you suppose that Jesus knew way back when that many of us would know the sting of being chosen last in this world?

Even in a job search, if a person does not get the job, that is the same as being chosen last, or worse, not being chosen at all. We feel the sting. You're not suitable. I was looking for someone with a bit more experience. How 'bout the dating thing? I was looking for a man/woman with something else. You're not my type. I'm not ready to settle down yet. All ways of being chosen last or left out just like that playground time back in the day. It hurts emotionally and physically to be left out or put down. Of course none of us would force something as important and long term as a marriage on someone just to avoid hurting. Jesus knew then and He knows now that we will get hurt in this world.

The usual advice is to 'let it go'. I'm not all that usual, so I'll give some different advice. Take it to Jesus. Talk it over with our Lord in prayer. Yes, if the playground thing still hurts, talk it out with the Savior. Jesus knew we would suffer a lot in this world, and He said so in John 16:33. Jesus may have something new to say to you on this day. Something like, "Little child, I chose you!"


Saturday, May 03, 2014

My Happy Birthday

Good morning! As the sun shines through another breezy day, I realize that this is the 16th birthday since the prodigal came home. Birthdays, I think, are a bit more special after something nearly stops the normal sequence of marking off the years since birth. Living becomes more precious when a close view of that grim spectre (I like to call him 'Morty') passing by, but not quite stopping, graces life. Why alter the flow with a cute nickname? Well, it just doesn't do to receive extra years from my Lord and then spend them in morbid fear of the shadow of Death that Jesus conquered so many years ago.

Morty likes to bluster and threaten. Many in the world flee his presence with every ounce of their strength. On the other hand, it does not do for us to embrace the ugly thing by constantly moaning to Jesus to 'take us home'. The world condition we see in the news does not lend itself to learning to enjoy being here, but I believe that is what our Lord would have us accept. Yes, we are to yearn to be with our Lord, but at the same time He wants us to love one another. The bride, the church, longs to see the groom, our Lord Jesus. Yet, we also must long for one another. We do that by suffering and living and rejoicing together.

At one time, I felt that birthdays might be just as well ignored. Now, I am glad to celebrate. We are here together. Morty has been allowed to separate some over the past year, and in spite of him we look forward to our eternal reunion. Morty is a silly character in that he can hurt, but cannot win. Jesus already holds the victory. I'm 51 today! At the tender age of 35, I shook hands with Morty, but he was not allowed to separate me from those I love. Now, I am learning to enjoy being here in a world that, though fallen and cursed, still belongs to God the Creator. We may not belong in this world in the condition it is in right now, but one day we will see it renewed.

Have a happy birthday with me in the love of Christ!

Ha, ha, oops! Forgot to post this yesterday! I must be going over the hill this year.

Swinging the Self Bat

Good Saturday morning! Okay, the baseball seasons are going strong, so it's time for us once more to have some sort of weak sports analogy. The subject came up again, as it does from time to time, about how hard we are on ourselves. Yes, the worst critic of me is usually me, and you are most often your own harshest critic. Imagine for a moment that we are watching a baseball game. Live, on television, whatever you like. If you don't like, at least try to bear with the story teller for just a moment or two.

Casey is on the bench today because he is overused in a famous story. The first batter we see for the Provencal White Sox is George. I like George as a plumber, so he might as well spend some time on the ball field this morning. George approaches the plate, does the thing batters seem to do like whacking his cleats and adjusting his ensemble, then steps into the box. "Play ball" calls the ump, and the pitcher winds up. The ball is thrown, and suddenly George takes a mighty short swing and whacks himself on the leg. What in the world?

For lack of any idea which rule covers this, the ump hollers, "Strike One!" After all, George did swing and the ball was thrown as per usual. The pitcher shakes his head; the catcher is rendered speechless, and the ump tells them to play ball once again. The throw, the play at the plate... George whacks himself again! Now the entire crowd is silenced. Is this some new and strange play? Something to distract the fielders perhaps? We may never know, as with the final pitch, George takes a bigger swing and succeeds in knocking himself out cold.

Of course this is crazy talk, or George has gone 'round the bend, or something. No batter would take his wood or aluminum batting stick and smack himself. Yet, when it comes to criticism, we often grab a figurative self bat and proceed to whack away at our self-respect, ego, love (as in loving your neighbor as your self), and even our ability to face others with our head held up, if we beat the poor self enough with this bat. Yes, a accepting criticism and feedback does help us learn to treat others with respect. While we are doing that though, let us learn to treat the self with respect too. After all, Jesus loves that self with an everlasting love!


Thursday, May 01, 2014

National Day of Prayer

Good morning as we look to pray for our nation on this National Day of Prayer for 2014. On a day many years ago, a king stood forth to dedicate a house of worship to his God and for his people. In his dedication and prayer, Solomon made an interesting note that might be considered by many a shortcoming in his father, King David. His father did not get the job done. We know from the stories that David wanted to build a temple to the Lord, but that he was refused by the Lord. In this prayer of dedication we have another view on that incident. Through Solomon, God says this about David: "Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well in that it was in your heart." (2 Chronicles 6:8)

I like that the Lord saw what was in David's heart and gave him credit for doing well even in what he did not get done physically. We tend to think of the many things we have not done for the Lord. That the Lord allows us to build church buildings, give offerings and gifts, help the poor in His name, and many other things is a great blessing and privilege. However, we don't always get to do all that we want to the glory of the Lord. We can take comfort and maybe stand a little taller in that what was in our heart to do for the Lord is noted and commended by our God.

Today, let us thank God for our nation. No, it most certainly is not perfect and good in all its ways. We don't kneel down in prayer ignoring that all is not right in our country. However, we can give thanks to God for the goodness we have in Christ, the generosity of this people who believe in the Son of God, and the land we hold dear. Perhaps for this day of prayer, we can set aside the partisan slings and arrows and look to God together. Seek the Lord in prayer, ask for wisdom and goodness from Him on this day, and look for the Lord to answer in a big way.

"Let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
And let Your saints rejoice in goodness." (2 Chron 6:41)

God bless you all on our National Day of Prayer,