Monday, June 30, 2014

Right Here, With You Lord

Good Monday morning! Sorry for all you folks enduring the fireworks season, one more week to go for you. A circumstance pushes us toward making promises of future praise. As in, I will praise You Lord when the circumstance is fixed. Like the gambling investors of old, we like to promise praise when our ship comes in. Faith, on the other hand, moves us to praise our Lord right here, right now, no matter what the circumstance is in the moment. We praise our Lord in the circumstance, but not necessarily for the circumstance. We go over this often because it's so dern hard to do!

We like to imagine Heaven and the new Earth, and we say that in that day we will be such a saint of praise and worship. Faith tells us to start now. This life is but the boot camp before eternity. What we do here is learn and practice what we will do for eternity. Of course it will be so much easier to praise God when He makes all things new with sin banished forever and temptation tossed into the lake of fire. Learning to praise our Lord in the now is a mission worthy of our effort and His. It is His effort too because God helps us in all sanctification efforts. That is if by 'help' we know that nothing will we accomplish without Him. Yes, things in this present darkness may not appear worthy of all praise, but He is!

Enjoy our Independence Day week!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Reward That Expires Isn't Much of a Reward

Good morning on this last Friday in June! Yes, the halfway point of 2014 is very close already. Reward or loyalty programs abound in business these days. Mostly of the loyalty is designed to flow from the customer to the business, but these post-recession days we'll take what we can get, I suppose. I found this morning a card from one of those in my desk that had expired, and I thought that a reward that expires isn't much of a reward. If I stamp an expiration date on a friendship, then it would not be regarded as much of a friendship. If a wedding vow comes with clause listing a renew or expire date, we would take that commitment as somewhat less than lifelong. A lifetime appointment to a position with annual reviews wherein one party can opt out of the contract is not exactly firm and solid. The 'lifetime' in that appointment being a sad joke when it can be broken so easily. We run into this a lot in the world.

Jesus made promises of reward that are based on Himself. Then He rose again from the tomb to emphatically guarantee and prove those promises. After all, one of His promises was that on the third day He would rise again. At the cross, we can say that our Lord signed His promises with His blood. A reward with options or exceptions or expiration is not what Jesus gave us. Opposite of all the dated and shifty promises the world offers, our Lord did not put dates on His promises. A promise based on the surety of Jesus does not need a date. We believe because of Him, not some date on a wall decoration.

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Death or Glory

Good Thursday morning! On this day in 1876 the news of another Indian massacre circulated through the nation. Shock, outrage, demands for swift justice, and other emotional reactions swept the land. Later, probably too late, a few somewhat less than heroic facts began to emerge from the fog of combat in the distant west. Custer possessed tools of war he had left behind, ignored intelligence from his scouts, disobeyed orders to wait for the main army forces coming from the north, split his small force even smaller, and attacked against overwhelming odds. Of course his command got overwhelmed and massacred. In looking and guessing from the distance of many years, I wonder if Custer did not have an addiction to the death or glory of battle. He did earn glory in the Civil War, perhaps he continued to seek it until that one fateful day when he gained the other side of the coin.

Why do we think through these things in a Christian devotional? Should the subject of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn not belong to a history blog perhaps? I think we must strive to understand our neighbors. How do we love them if we do not know them at all? Around us are veterans of military service, some in wartime and others in peace. Veterans are a minority, something like 3% of the population I read once. What motivates and fascinates those who never served their country in the military? Often we know so little about our neighbors; is the love Christ commanded okay with a vague knowledge of names and workplaces? Is there a 'Custer' living next to you or me that we do not understand and so cannot effectively bring our witness to him? Probably not, the Plains Wars ended before most of our grandparents were born. However, we may live next to warriors or poets, quilters or quacks, bricklayers or bookkeepers, lawyers or house cleaners, teachers or tradesmen, musicians or maintenance managers, uh, 'quilters or quacks'?! Where did that come from? Learning about our neighbors may be a step toward loving them as Christ loves us. Sometimes you may learn that your neighbor's mind works in a strange place early in the morning. Not sure who that might be...

Love and blessings to you in Christ our Lord,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sudden and Unexpected

Good morning! I read something yesterday about sudden and unexpected events, like they were anything but. I thought of how so many of the most traumatic, well, okay, all of the most traumatic things in my life have been sudden and unexpected. Yeah, of course they are. If the event gave me time to prepare then I would take steps to lessen the blow as they say.I might even have time in my little human power to avoid or halt the circumstances leading up to that traumatic event. I mean as little as a few seconds delay in starting one morning and, poof, no terrible accident in my past. So, it's absurd really to expect otherwise. The traumatic event will occur suddenly and unexpectedly, it's pretty much in their nature. Yes, there are those events that are long-expected and anticipated that are traumatic and painful. Many times though, the big changes in life are sudden and unexpected. We can't really get used to it, because of the whole sudden and unexpected thing.

What we do have is faith. That knowledge that God is not caught by surprise, that nothing is sudden and unexpected to Him is a part of faith. One of Pastor Adrian Rogers' more famous (and favorite) quotes was, "The Holy Trinity never meets in emergency session!" Indeed, we see from the scriptures that Jesus did not rush to get anywhere. Everything our Lord did was on time and in His time. God did not rush down from Jerusalem to open up the Red Sea for the Israelites, He began the work sometime before, perhaps even at the Creation. Our Lord and Savior is in no rush and is never caught unprepared. Let us therefore go forward this day knowing that Our Lord sees all of the road ahead of us. Sudden and unexpected things will come my way, but my Lord is able to carry me through.

Have a great day in Christ!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Show Your Allegiance

Good Tuesday morning! The wind is off the burnt house today, so I'm a little choked up. Not quite a week yet, is it too early for even the hint of a joke about that? Possibly so, but don't ya just hate that in yourself? Terrible disaster visits the neighbor's place, but the little irritations are what constantly strive to take center stage. Alrighty then, let's think about something else. An ad wants me to show my allegiance. Every organization we belong to probably has some similar theme. Show your support for the cause, show your allegiance, keep the faith, support your fellow Mooseyrotarianelklionerful brothers, and mostly that support seems to mean an outlay of cash. By that definition, rich people who give to organizations must be among the most allegiant folks on the planet. Hem, hem, I must be among the least... ah, never mind.

Jesus stood with his disciples watching people put their offerings into the temple collection plate. A rich man showed his allegiance by giving a sack of gold. No doubt the fellow received the gratitude and good wishes of the priests, archpriests, and other members of the Temple Gold-Ring Club. A poor old widow arrived and showed very little allegiance by the world's measure. Jesus pulled out a different measuring device, one marked "Approved by Heaven", and said that the widow gave more with her offering of two bits. Actually, she gave two mites, and we get the impression that she gave a lot less than a quarter or two bits, more like two pennies. Not many churches could get by on two penny offerings, but Jesus told us to pay attention to the widow's sacrifice. Do we then show our allegiance in church next Sunday by giving our two-cents worth? Ouch, pain, agony, bad mixed metaphor joke!

Of course concentrating on the amounts misses the point. We show our allegiance by giving and giving well. We don't publish the amount we give, or, as Jesus said, let our left hand know what our right is up to. We don't give in full view of the public with the intention of being noticed for our gift. We don't legalistically insist on some percentage and then make others do the same. We do give out of a grateful heart for God's provision and bounty. We give because Christ gave all for us. We give because that new heart Jesus gives to us is so very willing to give, as opposed to that old carnal person who wants to grab and keep it all for the self. So there's my penny's worth!

Have a wonderful day in Christ Jesus!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let's Write Some Grace

Ah, three mornings of breakfast cooking for about 130 people, it's a good service way to begin each day of the Rodeo Bible Camp. I see an e-mail ad this morning that invites me to save $1,400 on this purchase. Now, if this were true, then I would purchase this thing for a price, and the company would deposit $1,400 in my savings account. Shouldn't something advertised as "savings" work that way? Unfortunately, things advertised as savings are only disguised spendings. What else do we disguise in life? How about trying to disguise our effort as grace? Or, do we disguise judgment as something else?

Today: an attractive female woman stands on the stage in clothing designed to arouse, we can call her Seduction. In front of the stage we have your average single man, and he is falling into lust much as we might expect. We'll call him Fornication, not a pretty name, but lust is not a pretty sin. To his left, we see another woman, but she also is looking up at the stage with lust on her mind. We'll call her Homosexual. To Fornication's right is the married man, and he too has fallen into lust. He gets to be Adultery. Which one of our three sinners staring up at their temptation is worst in terms of sinfulness? True, none of the above. Yet, I have seen Christians treat one group as worse than others. On the other hand, who can be saved? Yes, absolutely! All of them. Grace does not play favorites or withhold itself from one type of sinner. The work of Jesus was good for all who call on His name. Whatever your sin name, the grace given by God through Jesus Christ saves completely.

One day you or I might be named Lust, and on another day we might be named Greed, or any of the many other sins. Whatever the sin, grace covers the sinner. No, grace does not cover up or hide the sin. Grace flows from God to cover the sinner. While all of my effort at polishing the cup seems to produce only temporary change, God's grace is at work in me changing the nature of His vessel. One day, Jesus will present us to God as cups of love full of grace, or maybe it will be cups of grace full of love. Either way, no name of sin will attach to us in that day of God's glory.

God bless you all,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Raised by What?!

Whew! I didn't realize that many people lived around here until I watched pert near all of 'em parade by yesterday. The truly frightening ones were those who made the turn while both driver and passenger craned their necks over the back seat to see the burned house. Did I mention they had to turn toward a daycare center to do this? I am grateful this morning we didn't have a stupidity-induced accident following the tragedy. By the way, we also had a hail storm on Wednesday night after all else that went on. The garden looks rough, but the plants are young enough they will come right back. Enough tragedy for the week (I hope!), let's talk a little fantasy.

The fantasy story usually gives the poor, lost, and orphaned child loving parents, who, we find out, are searching in vain while he or she is raised by apes or wolves or some other cool animal. Looking around the media waves, I think the animals who raised the most lost people are vultures, sloths, hyenas, lemmings, and loons. Do we not have some better representatives to feature in the news? Is it any wonder we enjoy stories about vampires, werewolves, and zombies? I think it must be because those fantasy characters are just, well, nicer than a lot of people who make the news. We could surely use an answer to all this sinful behavior.

Oh, wait! I think we know a Savior with that answer.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life Can Be Almost Indescribably Mean

I am joining a volunteer effort cooking for the kids at the riding camp this morning. Brothers and sisters in Christ will arrive for the cooking, and we will have one subject that demands attention. For one young couple, my neighbors in fact, their home is gone. I watched their parents, brothers, and friends dealing with the disaster in their various ways. Lots of tears, prayer, and discussion. Some talked out the event on their cell phones. Mostly we just stood and watched as the firefighters worked. This family has suffered so much in this life. Taking all that into account, one realizes that life on this fallen planet can be almost indescribably mean. So much pain and loss, yet the family is standing outside the burning house without injury. I may need to tell myself one more time: their house is gone, but the family wasn't home, they are alive. For their renter in the apartment on the back of the house, that cannot be said. The meanness of seemingly random events took her life in this disaster.

Far easier for us to dwell on the pain and what is no more, but Jesus comforts us as we comfort each other. We may dwell on the crucifixion, but our Lord may ask us to look rather at the resurrection. We may mourn a lost home, but we can look at the family standing together unhurt too. Life dishes out the meanness, but we may want to see the love. We mourn the loss of a life as people drive by the scene, probably thinking at least a little about their own mortality. People gather to watch the fire as people will, and they may hope to be able to help in some way. However, for most of us the best we can do is stay out of the way... and pray.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Rabbit Lessons

Good morning on this windy Wednesday! Just as I thought how no rabbits had come around my garden this year, I turned to find a rabbit staring at me with its little nose wiggling. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere about how we may discount the threat our adversary poses when we cannot see the lion in the bushes. Well, maybe there is another lesson as well. We often get cocky in our ability to handle temptation of one sort or another. To us that temptation looks like a rabbit, a little bunny. No fear, no worries, we tell the Lord, that temptation is no problem for us the mighty Christian. It's at about that time we may notice that the lurking rabbit has stolen our crop.

Sin comes in many guises, and we do well to remember what champions the temptation that causes us to fall. The adversary prowls about like a roaring lion, but he also sends in the harmless-looking rabbits of temptation. Little things nibble at our resolve, faith. love, and hope if we do not copy the watchfulness of our Lord and Savior.

Hmm, another lesson. I thought that the rabbit had moved on, but I see that it is back near my garden. Perhaps this one is a different model, but it looks like the same one to me. So it goes, just when we think a temptation is conquered, it returns to nibble some more on that we are to protect.

Enough bunny lessons for one day. Go with God!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our Story May Be a Bit Exotic

Phaaagh! I dreamed that I died in a boot camp training accident. But then, as though my dream needed to top itself, it moved forward as dreams will do to where I was in a museum and telling the curator that I had died in boot camp some years before. He helped me to search for the records. I guess as far as boot camp fish stories go, he had heard it all. Dreams can be so crazy, or maybe the dreamer can be completely nuts, I'm not sure which in this case. It makes me think though why some folks might have a problem believing that Jesus rose from the grave. Of course, that same person might believe in any number of ghosts, zombies, vampires, or other undead things, but whoever said the world was the model of sanity and reason.

The man said He was the Son of God. He predicted the manner of His death and told any who would listen that He would rise again on the third day. He not only performed the resurrection feat, but He told all that He had done it not for Himself, but for the glory of God, an invisible spirit. Do we begin to see why the Good News might be tough for the unbeliever to accept right away? Then we can go into the cleansing blood, the ransom paid on the cross for our sin, and the healing done by whipping someone else. Yeah, if a skeptical, unbelieving person wants a challenge, we got one for 'em.

Which, is why we give the credit to God for enabling us to believe. We also depend on our Lord's Spirit to make room in the unbeliever's heart. I cannot make a person believe. Without the love of Jesus in my heart I could not believe the Good News either. Salvation is the gift of God through His Son, but it isn't by any means easy to go from unbelieving sinner to faith-filled saint. Praise God that 'gift' means I don't have to accomplish the thing. Not one of us would know where to start, what to build, the exercise to perform, or an accomplishment to list to save ourselves. Jesus brought that exotic bit of Good News, and He does the saving. Hallelujah!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Salvation Survives

Good Monday! Where did this muggy roll in from? The evening seemed well on its way to nice, then late in the night the humidity arrived. Today, weather-related comments aside, I looked at myself and decided that salvation could not survive. The problem as always with a view like that is in looking at myself. Salvation is not based on me, it is planted in me. To be planted in me, it must therefore come from some other. Salvation survives as long as the Savior lives. How long will the Savior live? Well, Moses mentioned something about everlasting to everlasting. John spoke of 'in the beginning' in his gospel, and then passed on the revelation of first and last, Alpha and Omega, forever and ever and various long ago and never ending terms like that. I'm kinda thinking that the Savior is, was, and always shall be just like that final book of the Bible says. Therefore, salvation must survive forever, forever, and ever.

Salvation does not falter when the sinner grieves God through sin. Salvation stands firm in Christ when the Christian falters. Salvation is ready and able at all times for the Savior is ready and able to save at all times. The one who calls on the Savior is not turned away at the door to salvation. The believer may inspect the self and find it wanting, but salvation lives on in the matchless perfection of the Savior. Grace is given, righteousness is imputed, nothing the Christ-one needs for eternal life is based on the record we bring to the pearly gates. In fact, the very record we worry over is cleansed by the Savior who holds salvation in His eternal grip. Salvation survives everything we can do because the Savior's steadfast love remains on us. Steadfast based on me is weak, but steadfast based in Christ is forever. Salvation lives in Christ and flows to us on His steadfast love. Nothing can separate us from that love.

Praise and honor to God our Father!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hold! And Come Back

Good Saturday morning! By now most have probably realized that the Christian journey is not one of step to step climbing up a smooth and even stair. We may have to switch staircases, like we do when changing careers, or, we may have to suffer a few steps down in order to find a clear path to up. Sometimes we even take a tumble down it seems nearly to the bottom, perhaps even past the point where we started. At least, that is how it appears from our point of view after a tough disaster befalls us in some area of life. I mean, from all that we see it certainly looks like God has allowed us to fall past point A and started us again at, oh maybe, point X minus or so. We don't take these reversals very well, and who would expect us too? However, we have faith in God that such things in this life He can and will use for our good.

No, I do not believe that God sends every disaster, though I do not profess to know all of His will even in my own life. Sometimes, it does seem that we are commanded, "Hold! And come back thus far." Like a piece on a playing board too large for it to comprehend, we are moved backward a ways and then allowed to go on. Praise God, we know the ultimate destination - King's Row! There we will reign with our Savior and Lord forever.

The training period is tough, and the destination seems so far away. However, along the way we are going to pick up some fellow travelers, and at times they will help to pick us up as well. Bad news flows all around us in this world. If we are not under the cloud at the moment, someone we know is. All of us who live in Christ have a shepherd to lead us home. The Great Shepherd leads, and yet walks along with us. You or I would have to chose one position or the other, but our Lord Jesus does both equally well, which is to say perfectly in His glorious way. A reversal may be tough to bear, but we will journey on with our Lord. Faith and grace are given to us to bear the journey. Trust in God's best way!


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Wrong Instrument in the Right Band

Good Friday morning! I had to inform the clock that it was Friday 6/13 and not 7:13 as it said. Then, I realized that I had the wrong instrument for the date. That clock only tells me the time, eh. So, I had this thought. Dangerous, I know, but here it goes anyway. Do you ever find yourself feeling like you are the wrong instrument in the right band? The strings are warming up, and the brass is ready for the big symphony, and you have been issued a kazoo. What happened there? You walk into the club and the band is onstage with electric guitars and bass, drum set, and keyboards. You walk up to the mike stand with your tuba (It's only sexy in Bill's hands.) What's up with that? Why did God bring me here? I know that the followers of Christ is the right band, but I feel so out of tune like I have the wrong instrument in hand. Do you feel like that sometimes? I suppose every teenager has felt at least a bit of this in high school or college.

Faith says that God is the composer and concert master. The eyes and human wisdom say that you or I have the wrong instrument for the band. We may feel like that when trusting in what we think we know. We know that faith is the way to go, but the overall feeling is leading us to believe something is a bit out of whack. Not so much as the fan who bought tickets to the rock concert and brought along his pet rock. No, that would be dreadfully obvious. This is a bit of that little whispering in the mind that tries to get us to break faith with Christ. Judas Iscariot may have started this way. First a disciple in the band, but then he felt something was a little off so he tried to correct it by switching instruments. We know how that tune came out.

Faith is truly the way to go. The concert piece may seem off to our human eyes and ears, but God is in charge and the music will be just the way He wants it. The time will arrive to blow your kazoo, or tuba, or trumpet. Have faith in God and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Violence in the Bible

Great googely-moogely, can you narrow that down a bit? Yes, the Bible is full of violence pretty much from cover to cover. What about fallen didn't we understand? The mistake comes when someone thinks this is how God wanted it. For just a little while at the very beginning, we get the world as God created it. Then, we get just a bit more at the very end. And, we have this one command from Jesus, "Love your neighbor as yourself." That one command is obeyed and all that violence we do to each other stops. Not all violence of course, we would still suffer earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes, and so on.

The fall affected everything. Eden hung up the 'No Vacancy' sign and God stationed a guard out front with a big sword. Some animals began to eat other animals, and violence grew so common that God was ready to wipe the slate clean with a big flood by Chapter 5 of the first Bible book. Yup, you can see it right there at the very end with the introduction of one boat builder called Noah. Why did God make such fragile critters anyway?

First the obedience of our ancestors was too fragile to stand up to one temptation. Then, hardly had the family thing begun, and the first brother kills the second one. Violence already? Yup, and deadly violence at that. We must read way to near the very end of the Bible before the killing stops. We are somewhere in between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22, and lurking just below the surface of this peaceful-looking day is the violence. Actually, if a mouse moseyed through the living room right about now, the killer cat would bring the violence in 'bout a half a heartbeat. God's word just tells it like it is. The world would like to blame the Bible for the violence, but if the Bible goes away the violence won't. And, if we lose the Word of God, we also lose the only answer to the violence, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have a godly day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Today's Oxymoron: Self-made

Good morning on this fine Wednesday. I hate the term self-made. Most often you see it in close proximity to words like: millionaire, billionaire, wealthy man, CEO, and others like 'em. In this age, as in many ages past, people often vote for products with their money. A man has an idea, and he produces a lot of widgets, and sometimes it happens that many people buy those widgets for the novelty or utility of the thing. When the man at the top takes the lion's share, and maybe more, as opposed to sharing with his employees or even cutting the customers a price break, he is said to be self-made. How could a term be further from the truth? Did he create himself, carry himself to term, birth himself, and then raise himself to adulthood? Of course not. Did he produce the thing himself, deliver it to each and every customer, collect and deposit the money, lay the roads and tracks, build the ships, and on and on we go. Is there a greater lie than 'self-made'?

Sharing is something we are taught from an early age, or, at least most folks are taught that, but somehow in the world of business sharing is no longer the thing to do. Employees are paid as little as possible so that the sharing is minimized. Companies who share more are called "poorly run" by the business analysts and their stock price suffers. Business lobbyists help to pass laws so that public corporations must work for the shareholders, even though many find ways to not do so. When the officers of the company become the shareholders, then the desire to serve themselves first takes over. This world is a messed up place. Even those who rise to a higher level in the corporation and still manage to want to do what is right are caught up in laws and rules that work against sharing the wealth.

So, today let us go for a new term: God-made. I am created and made by God. I am not entitled to hoard a big share of the loot for myself because God said to love my neighbor as myself. I cannot place myself on some titled pedestal because I am to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. My Creator must come first in worship for without Him no existence is possible. To make or create myself is ridiculous and so is the term 'self-made'. If some idea comes to me that everyone purchases with their hard-earned money, then I will give the glory to God who is the source of creation and creativity. Sharing is hard when I look at the world and my circumstance, but it becomes easier when I put my faith in Christ.

Enjoy the day with the Lord!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

That Little Back Whisper

Good morning with sunshine today! And let me give a little Son-shine to you as well! Today in our Bible study, we learned about that little back whisper we get from acts of kindness. The ruler intends kindness to the nation across the river, and he sends envoys as David did in 2 Samuel 10. However, as the king hears the message of good, the counselor behind him whispers of evil in the heart, probably because that is what is in his own heart. We will run into this throughout our lives in Christ. If it isn't the whispered flaming dart hitting us right in the ear, it is the back whisper that Christians have caused all these bad things in history. Unfortunately, some of those claiming the name of Christian have done some terrible things in the past and we cannot deny those whispers. Those little whispers can really hurt.

Paul didn't call the darts from the Devil 'flaming' without good reason. We try to spread a little good news, and the world hits back with its little back whisper. The minister holds a revival meeting, but outside the door of the tent the whispering begins. "He said some good things, but..." You speak the good news to a friend in need of salvation. A whisper comes into his mind even as he hears what you are saying. The whisper suggests some smart-sounding answers and one you counted as friend lets you have it with some painful, cutting remarks. The Serpent stood in the Garden and told Eve how smart she could be by taking what was forbidden. The fight hasn't changed, no matter how painful we find the attacks of the enemy. Of course the answer is the same, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We do not stand against the enemy and the world alone.

Monday, June 09, 2014

I Liked You Better

Wet is the story of the morning, but it is still begging for a jolly "Good morning!" to you and me! What if you traveled down a road many seek and came upon that big idea that made you rich. You did all that you had hoped walking toward that destination and gave away tons of loot to help others. But, somehow, slowly and undercover, those riches affected you until that day came when you come back home to find someone you love saying, "You know, I liked you better back when you were just one of us."

Maybe it isn't the lure of riches. Fame may do the same thing to a person. You take a vacation to the big town of L.A., and sitting down at a cafe for a quick meal you are discovered as they say in Hollywood. The resulting television series becomes a huge success and runs for several years. One day, your agent gives you a call, "Hey babe! Your numbers are a little down. Can we get you to do something a little outrageous for us?" Next thing you know, the papers are full of another story of the celebrity that seems just a little like you doing something you wish you hadn't done. A quick trip home will allow the story to die out, and you definitely want to hide from the press and paparazzi for a bit. Trouble is, while you are there at home, a childhood friend says, "You know, I liked you better back when you were just one of us."

It isn't that people wish to keep us down. The things we think we want in this world are dangerous for us. Paul testified that he had learned to be content in his situation. We can learn from the great apostle in this. Many set out to become rich or famous or both, and some do achieve it. The things of this world cannot satisfy the longing of our soul, but they can change a person into what they would rather not become. The change may be gradual and almost invisible to the victim until someone starts the terrible statement, "I liked you better..." Maybe, where you and I are today is not so bad as we think. After all, the Son of God lives in us, what can the world offer to beat that?

Have a great day in Christ Jesus,

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Sin to Win?

Good Saturday morning! A test, the chance at a job, or an athletic contest all come to mind when the desire to win becomes strong enough to overcome our desire to avoid sin. In the moment, the tennis player sees that his ball landed out, but the umpire screened by something does not make the call. Perhaps it is a team sport and you advise someone to do something he or she would not otherwise do. Tests are so competitive that any of us might be tempted when a cheat is offered. How does one fill out a resume honestly when the other applicants show up with well-padded work experiences and life histories? Of course, that is exactly what we are commanded and called to do.

A lighthouse does not get to hide its light to win a match. A lie to get someone into a church meeting is not the right way to spread the good news. Jesus refused the hyssop-tainted sponge that would ease the pain of the cross. And, our Lord refused to call the 12 legions of angels that surely stood by to rescue Him should the word be given. How would calling the angelic host have been sin? Jesus had already submitted to the will of His Father. His word was given, but it was the word for our salvation and not His.

So, with that perfect example, what should the Christian do when in the heat of the contest he suddenly realizes that he sinned to win? I think we all know the answer to that one. The conscience with the Spirit will certainly tell of confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness. And just maybe...concede a match, lose a job, or refuse to cheat on a test. In this tough world, after the win, are you kidding me? You or I may one day be called to make a stand for Christ in that very way. Easy? Of course not! That is why we need the strength of the One who already made His stand for us.

Have a wonderful weekend in Christ!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Not In The First Wave

Good Friday morning! Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy beach. The stories tell of the first wave of troops to go ashore. The horror and the heroism make dramatic novels and movies. Many thousands of men and women were not assigned to that first wave. They were sailors stationed on ships, nurses awaiting their tough but necessary duty in hospitals, pilots flying overhead, supply and support personnel awaiting the clearing of the beaches, and many more back in England staged for the breakout from the beach head. Those personnel were just as necessary to the overall operation as that first wave, but they didn't get the same historical coverage from the writers. We may have that same position in our Christian duty.

You probably weren't the first missionary to penetrate the dark jungles of a far island nation. Perhaps you have not been called to be a missionary at all. I was not the first Christian writer (by a long ways) to begin putting a devotional writing out there on the Internet. My Christian brothers are with a very few exceptions still working and living right here where I met them. A few have moved on to other towns and cities in the same country. A small number have answered the call to active foreign missions. But even they were not in the first wave of missionaries to 'hit the beach'. Be that as it may, God will use every one of us and consider our service just as important as Paul's, or Peter's, or Augustine, or the many other famous Christian names we hear often.

Paul gave credit to those who traveled with him, and he was hurt when someone needed to go home or leave him in some city. We are important to each other, no matter what our calling from God, just as Paul's brothers and sisters in Christ were vital to his ministry. We may be support personnel in a big operation that we cannot see, but each has a part to play in God's plan. Our place may not be at the tip of the spear; you or I may be strictly a spear-handle Christian supporting that tip way out there. We may never be listed on Earth with Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Chuck Swindoll, or Adrian Rogers, but God has given you and me a position in His army. When the roll is called up yonder, we'll be there!

To God belongs the glory,

Thursday, June 05, 2014

These Dumb Idols

Good morning on this Thursday! Paul tells us: "You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led." (1 Corinthians 12:2) The usual thing to start this message would be to list a bunch of activities and call them idol worship, and then list a bunch of people or devices and call them modern idols. In that listing, I might of course step on this person's hobby, and that person's job. An idol is of course anything we place before God or trust in first before we come to our Lord. For one it may be this thing, but for another that thing is merely an enjoyable hobby. Yes, we have run into sects who say that all hobbies are idolatrous and that every moment should be spent in drudgery and worship of God; often in their pious zeal making it difficult to tell which activity is which. Jesus gave us a better example: children.

But what does this example mean? We seem to lose the knowledge of becoming child-like, without growing up childish, and yet mature at the same time into responsible, working adults. Perhaps we never had that knowledge. Maybe, such a thing is not possible until Jesus makes us into what He desires. Birds would be a lot more useful in the garden if they pulled up and ate weeds, but they don't. Cats would be great around the house if they ran the vacuum once in a while, but they hide from it. We may not be able to become as little children without falling into the horrors of adult childishness, unless we first come to Jesus and surrender to Him. Attempting to avoid dumb idols without the Spirit of Christ in us might be right up there with wishing for weed-pulling birds and house-cleaning cats. Salvation is the start of our journey with Jesus. We have much to learn and a ways to grow in Christ!

God's love and grace to you,

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Getting The Job Done in Battleground America

Good Wednesday! Heavy subject, light treatment...or is it? As I mowed the back forty this morning, that is the back 40 feet in my case, I realized that many Christians are quite different from each other in the methods used to spread the Good News. Like my weed and grass mowing, it doesn't particularly matter whether I go north to south, east to west, mow in diagonals, or even make curls and loops - the job gets done. We have many ways and means to spread the good news of Christ and many are called to different worlds. A far planet might indeed be interesting, but we are not at that point. The different worlds we are called to plant the banner of Christ in are worlds such as Hollywood, Broadway, Washington D.C., large corporations (a different world to be sure), small companies, university campuses, and many, many others. At each world the good news arrives to a battle in progress.

I believe the numbers of indifferent persons and those who have never heard the good news of Jesus are decreasing rapidly. Yet, never since Jesus arrived have those on either side of Christ been more divided. We get the job done in a battleground from small towns to farmsteads to major cities and everywhere in between. We also run into strong and passionate opposition in every place that we go. And don't think that because you are silently eating a meal that the enemy does not recognize your presence on turf the Adversary may claim. In fact, Jesus may have led you there just for that very purpose.

The Internet is of course a place under the clouds of war. I saw just such a battle on Facebook this very morning. We may lament a soldier deserting the cause of Christ, but Jesus made a promise to all who He calls His sheep - "I will never leave you nor forsake you, even to the end of the age." That is quite a promise not just to those who labor for the cause, but especially for the one who has turned his back on family, friends, and all he once believed. Unlike the case of a soldier in the armed forces of the world who deserts, Jesus does not leave His wayward sheep in the camp of the enemy without watching over him or her. The prodigal has a sure guardian, even if he must eat a bit of pig food before heading home.

Let's keep getting that job done as Christ leads us,

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Plow in Hope

Good morning! In 1 Corinthians 9:10, Paul writes: "For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope." What Paul refers to comes in the verses preceding and reminds us of the Old Testament law that [the farmer] should not muzzle the oxen while it treads out the grain. Paul argues that this was written for our sake and not because God was worried about the oxen. We note however that when the law is obeyed, both the farmer and the oxen benefit. The ox gets to eat while he works, and the farmer gets to build character.

It would be easy for the farmer to calculate how much grain the oxen are eating while the threshing is going on, and to reach some conclusion about profit and loss. The oxen, after all, could eat a lesser grain, the farmer might calculate, and so the profit would be better with the muzzle in place. But, there is that law. Why did the Lord have to go an make that one? Are you sure Moses didn't sneak that one in to have a good laugh? Building character goes against our sinful instincts. Sharing with the oxen doing the work does not come easily to us. If we won't share with the beasts though, how will we learn to share with the neighbor?

How do we plow in hope without that character God builds in us? The man with character farms in the hope of sharing God's bounty, confident that God will provide the rain, the sun, and nutritious soil. The one who plows without hope farms with a heavy burden of expectations of hail, fire, pillagers, and other calamity on his mind. Little wonder that what survives he is not willing to share even with his faithful beasts for he has already destroyed his crop in his hopeless mind.

We may not see the harvest this morning, but plow and thresh in our great hope, Jesus!

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Best Chair You May Imagine

Good Monday morning! Oh, that almost sounds like a mistake was made somewhere. Which one of these doesn't go together? Whichever part you don't like, it is Monday morning and let us do our best to make it good. Okay, a man looks at a smashed clay pot. He doesn't know what a pot looks like, but over the years he glues the pieces back together as best he can. He does not know if any pieces are missing, or if he has too many pieces for one pot. However, the shape he glues back together he uses to say all pots are thus and such. Then, just to go quite over the edge, he says the creator of this pot, the potter, looks like a better version of his cobbled together pot. Silly, right? Yet, we look at humans in the way they are now, and we do much the same. We don't know what Adam and Eve looked like when God walked with them in the Garden of Eden. We don't know what God looked like then, nor can we see Him now. So, why then do we see God's throne as some piece of furniture, as in, the best chair you may imagine is what God's throne must look like?

Paul tells us that we see poorly, as in a bad mirror. We often take what we see so poorly, and make some all-encompassing, live-daily-by-it statement (which we then adjust over the years as we learn and grow). Jesus told us to make no judgments. Here we go again. Jesus summarized and totaled the Law and the prophets in two little commands: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And, equally as important, love your neighbor as yourself. Working on those two commands is probably more than we can handle. We will need the strength, courage, and authority of Jesus to make some headway in loving like that. Perhaps, just maybe, we will see the seat of God's power is His great love. The more we love, the more we become like Him. My mind is trying to see a big chair made out of love, but it's having trouble with that. Looks like I need to come closer to my Lord.

Have a wonderful week in Christ!