Saturday, November 29, 2014

Standing...Right in the Way

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

​​“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, ​​ Because He has anointed Me ​​ To preach the gospel to the poor; ​​ He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, ​​ To proclaim liberty to the captives ​​ And recovery of sight to the blind, ​​ To set at liberty those who are oppressed; ​​To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. (Luke 4:16-19 NKJV)

Many miraculous things are prophesied by Isaiah in the passage Jesus read that Sabbath. Yet, later we read that Jesus did not perform many miracles in the region where He was raised. What stood in the way? Unbelief. We may find ourselves in that same position with a bit of inattention to our faith.

Place what you think you know before faith in Christ, and you just may find that knowledge standing right in the way of the miraculous work of our Lord. We live in an age when many think that miracles are halted, or a thing of the distant past, or even impossible. Unbelief even among the Christian elect is commonplace. We have modern medicine, science, and much knowledge, we tend to say. No doubt the cosmopolitan Nazarenes said much the same thing in their day. "Who is this Jesus?" They might ask, "We know him from years gone by. Is he not that carpenter's son from the edge of town?" Yes, we know Jesus, but if we don't know the miraculous works of our Lord, we don't really know Him.

Be ready to shout a 'Hallelujah!' this Christmas season.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Where Do We Go From Here?

The days and times when we feel that we cannot are those times we must come to the Lord in prayer. The test is difficult or it wouldn't be much of a test. The day following a holiday often presents a sort of bored/tired/weak-willed/sad feeling that isn't particularly any one of those four so much that it can be identified. It's like the wind filled the sails yesterday, but this morning the breeze has died out and the sails of the mind hang limp. If you live in our area, you can see this has nothing at all to do with what is going on in the weather. Any sort of diet to lose weight meets a dangerous time in this feeling, for such times often bring cheating as we seek to find something to break free of this condition of the mind. Projects that need starting or restarting just don't appeal as they should.

I have found my own strength wholly inadequate to overcoming this fugue state. Like Paul, I need and must turn to Christ my Savior for the strength to get back to it whether it is writing or working on a project. God's strength is made perfect in my weakness, and God's children were never meant to get by on their own. So, when I find myself trying to lift the self out of the doldrums through the usual methods like: self-criticism, eating the wrong sorts of things at the wrong time of day, or avoiding what I know needs to be done by diving into a book, it is time to come to Jesus, and get the devotional written and sent out, even if I am an hour late or so.

Have a great and wonderful day in Christ!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Only One Thing For Today

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours on this day! Of all the subjects that one might write this morning, there is only one thing for today - gratitude - giving our thanks unto the Lord. We may do many other things on this day, but the central thread of living today is giving up our thanks to God. The world will provide all manner of opportunity for grumbling as it does on any other day. We must turn our minds to thankfulness. Is it only the Lord though? Ah, glad I asked that.

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40 NKJV).

So, it seems right to also thank those with us on this day as we give our thanks to the Lord. For we are brothers and sisters in Christ on this day as on all days, and today we pay especial attention to giving thanks to each other as well. We are all God's family and the Spirit of Christ dwells in each of us. So let the giving of thanks spread far on this Thanksgiving Day. We have much to be thankful for and a great God to whom we give our thanks.

Thank you, dear Lord God for your sovereign grace,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No Waiting For The Multitude

Yea, Thanksgiving Eve is here! Followed immediately by a blog about Christmas, not mine, but one that appeared in my e-mail just now. Can we enjoy this holiday first, please? It seems not, at least judging (or is that discretioning?) by the multitude of Black Friday ads I have received. Is the present so terrible that we must constantly look to the future? If people acted this way in Jesus' time, they would have asked about His kingdom before He had a chance to complete the cross and resurrection. Oh wait, they did.

As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives teaching the disciples, they asked about the signs of His coming. Uh, isn't that Him sitting in front of you? We have this impatience about what we dread. We also have a desire to get past the present that God would have us enjoy, or at least learn from and grow faith. We like to look back at the past for signs of our glory or to whip the self with shame and regret. Maybe we are impatient to get past the present in order to have more past to look back upon. We look to the future while stumbling over the now.

Part of that is God's fault: He made a lot of really great prophecies about our future with Him. We have at least some excuse for looking ahead to that eternal tomorrow. We read prophecies in Isaiah about God's holy mountain, and in the Revelation about the all things new, and it sounds like where we want to be with Jesus right now. At least we are not like the unbelievers who must enjoy the present because that is all they have. The present is pretty terrible in many ways, but that part didn't come from God. The present, however, is not terrible in all ways. There are many things to enjoy on this day. Not the least of which is walking with our Savior who promised to be with us always. 'Be with' is a present and now sort of thing, one we can enjoy in the moment.

Have a pleasant walk with Jesus today,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So Then You Get to be The Subject of a Devotional

Frosty morning to you on this great day! A conflict of scheduling, a breakdown in communications, or something just doesn't work out between us, so then you get to be the subject of a devotional! The risk of living with a minister is that you might get to be the subject of a sermon, or at least an anecdote in the sermon. The same risk occurs with us writers. A funny circumstance comes along and the next thing you know you get a starring role in a devotional, or perhaps worse, a fiction novel. This sort of thing could make a person walk on eggshells, as the old saying goes, when around one of us. You may even pray before going to bed at night, "Lord, please don't let me do something to become the meat of the pastor's next serving, er, I mean, sermon!"

We all want to be the good story that the pastor or writer uses as an example. Sometimes we get that role; other times we get to provide the humor part of the funny story. I want to be Superman in the story, but usually I'm not even Clark Kent. As a writer, I observe what goes on around me and within me, and turn that to stories and examples for my devotional. However, what does Jesus have to say about you and me? We were part of His story too!

Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matt 5:14) Who me? Yes, me and you, we are lights of God in the great darkness of the world. How did we get to be that? Well, it wasn't through our efforts at being good. We are reborn in Christ, and He made us who we are. All those surface things that we are so often concerned about are not mentioned in the scripture as a part of who we are. Instead, we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city on a hill, children of God, beloved by God our Father. So, maybe we do want to be the subject of a devotional...God's devotional.

God's love and devotion to you,

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lawlessness Shall Increase

Hmm, sounds a bit like the start of some anarchist manifesto. But no, I'm just recalling a bit from the Olivet Discourse Jesus gave many years ago. Actually, I have to recall it from my reading of Matthew's account of the discourse, because I wasn't around at the time Jesus spoke of the end times. Our Lord walked the earth centuries before my great-great-grandparents were born. I wonder this morning whether lawlessness increases because so many turn to darkness, or, is it helped along by such a profusion of government regulations (witness the size of the Affordable Care Act) that no one can keep up with the sheer volume of laws. I don't know, when I grab just part of Matthew 24:12, my thoughts are different than when I read the remainder. "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold." Ah, now the focus changes to the result of that lawlessness.

When love grows cold, we all suffer. What about lawlessness though? Sure, imagine the results if someone woke up this morning and decided that stop signs weren't for him. The way up the hill to work might resemble a demolition derby if a few of these lawless folks all drove at the same time. We would expect such persons to be prosecuted and certainly prevented from driving and causing more damage. What happens when the lawless end times arrive and such persons are not arrested, prosecuted, or punished, but are instead encouraged to lawlessness by the lack of such things? Lawlessness points to a general breakdown of safety and security for all. Can we, as followers of Christ, hold off this lawlessness by spreading the love of Christ?

Like salt spreading throughout the recipe, we bring love and the law wherever we go. As for holding off the end times, I believe that God knows the hour and day, and that it isn't a moving target. However, as the followers of Christ, it is our job to give it all we got. Our Lord said: "You are the salt of the earth..." (Matt 5:13)


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Alpha and Omega

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Genesis 1:1 & Revelation 22:21)

What do we see in the first verse and the final verse of our Bible? God created all things and Jesus Christ brought grace to us, and so shall it be. I find it fascinating to put both verses together and just contemplate the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega of the Word of God. Then, add in one of the titles of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, as we read it in the Revelation, and ponder some more. All of that struggle, yet it begins with God and ends with His Son. What did God do? He created, then He sent His Son to save that creation.

In between those two verses we read a wealth of instruction, history, stories, parables, and prophecies. And, lest we forget, the very words of life as brought to us by Jesus and through those who followed and learned from our Lord. In between, a person might sum up much of the Bible as "They believed in Him!" Yes, prophets who listened for the Word and then passed it on to kings, princes, nobles, priest, pastors, and you and me. Disciples who followed Jesus in person, and then discipled others down through the ages. Leaders who followed the Word through direct revelation and through prophets. Common folks placed in uncommon situations such as Gideon, who we meet trying to thresh a bit of grain out of sight of the marauding Midianites. An angel met him too, a pretty uncommon situation even in the Bible! Some died young, others lived to a ripe old age. Yet so many believed in the coming Messiah, whether that coming would be the first or the second. All those people believing that God saves and would save them. All to help you and me believe and receive the Word of God into our hearts. What a wonderful book!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Is There Biblical Support?

Good morning on this Friday! Okay, we have a theory, or maybe just a hypothesis. Wait, could be that it's just a sort of vague idea not very well formulated yet. A thought has flitted through the brain and you may wonder if it is theologically sound. The first place to go in all of this is in prayer with the Lord. But, after that, we may not yet have anything definite from the Lord on that floating idea, we need to check for scriptural support. It is never good enough for us in Christ to just say "It sounds good to me!" Many dangerous ideas have come and gone with this sort of support. No, we need to get Bible support for our next idea, hypothesis, or theory. I don't get to stand up in the Bible study and just say whatever I please. The pastor cannot stand up before the church and say any old thing. (If you think that's exactly what your teacher or pastor does, just go pray for him or her, real quick like.)

Let us say that the dream of the Lord's return came to one of us last night. We are tempted to run out onto the streets, or at least to our next Bible study, and report the imminent arrival of the Second Coming of our Lord on January the 24th at 9 o'clock. Uh oh, a quick check of the scripture reveals that our Lord himself stated, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matt 24:36) God keeps this knowledge to Himself. We don't get to know it, whatever that dream said. We long for the day, but we do not know the hour or day when Jesus will return. Sorry, scriptural support lacking for our announcement, better to thank God that Jesus will indeed come on that great day and hour that only our Lord knows. We see that the event must be very close, but we do not know the time of that appointment.

Other things we may know. Look to the scripture. Did the Lord tell someone that Jesus would come the first time as a child before the man saw death? Yes, we can read of that in the scripture. It may well be that one among us will know that the Second Coming will occur during his lifetime, just not the day or the hour. It appears the man in the scripture story may have waited daily in the temple for quite some time before seeing the Lord's Christ. Will a prophet (or two!) appear before the end times begin? Sure, we have scriptural support for that. Not only did John the Baptist appear like Elijah, but we have the prophecy of the two olive trees who appear near the end. (see Rev 11) Scriptural support is important to us for it is the very Word of God. Could revelation appear to one of us not mentioned in the scripture? Sure, but, wow, there is a lot of prophecy not yet fulfilled. I'm thinking God probably already covered everything about these end times at least on a general level. A prophet today may gain further details, but the main story has been written in the scripture.

Have a wonderful day in Christ!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Give Something, Somewhere

Don't be selfish with the Word, the good news of Jesus Christ. Spread that seed everywhere you go. How do we do this? Be and become what God has made you and me. Talking is only one way to spread some of that Gospel seed. Most of us don't talk all the time, not even the ones whose critics claim that about them. We witness more with our lives and faces than with the tongue. Tough times in life can bring out our witness more than the easy, comfortable times.

When I had no money to give, other ways of giving occurred to me. Christians look most often to money as a means of giving, perfectly acceptable when the church has bills to pay, but there are other means and methods too. Teaching, music, volunteering, and others come to mind easily. However, one can also give of his experience in mentoring younger men. Another might give advice from her past, positive and negative stories accepted by the Lord, to steer young women or girls along the path of righteousness. I think most of us have those negative stories; you know, the ones where we say something like, "Don't do what I did..." All of us who believe will at some point come to the conclusion that part of our witness is gratitude for Christ. As in, "It has become obvious to me that I can in no way save myself through pure, good, and righteous thinking or behavior, because I started life as a sinner and only Christ can cleanse me from my sin."

Sure, it seems obvious to us now, but think of the worldly unbeliever who says, "I don't think I can be as good as Christ or His Christians!" Praise our Lord, we can say that is the work of Jesus, and not something we accomplished through effort. Whoops, see there, we went and shared some of that good news.

Have a godly day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At Times, Hard to Believe

Looking around at your team this morning, do you feel like the correct answer to the question: Which one doesn't belong? Why are you looking at them? Look to Jesus, the one who lived the perfect sinless life! Wait, now I really feel that I don't belong on this team. It's true. We sometimes look at our condition right now and wonder how or why God could possible have chosen us. Such sinfulness must never have existed in the mind of man. Even the most murderous of tyrants from history must have a better chance at forgiveness than I. Grace must only cover the graceful, and I'm as clumsy as they come. At times, it's hard to believe that Jesus could choose me. Yet, that opinion of mine and ours must give way to the opinion of Jesus our Lord.

Humility we confuse with heaping abuse on the self. Humility in the biblical sense is agreeing with God's opinion of us. God, sitting in the person of Jesus the Christ, looked at His disciples and called them His friends. This rough group of fellows committed a few spiritual stumbles in their time the Bible can tell you. Friends? How can this be from the perfect, sinless, Son of God? It's His choice. Just as we can choose our friends now, Jesus chose His friends in that moment. From then on as disciple after disciple went forth to spread the good news and disciple others, we became friends of Jesus. So, quit looking around; you belong on God's team!


Monday, November 17, 2014

What Offends You Today?

Ach, sorry! It's Monday once again. What offends you today? You may choose from a plethora of things and people on both social and mainstream media. You may choose from any number of people who it seems are celebrities simply for becoming famous. It seems that today no useful occupation is necessary for some. They become famous and celebrated through their appearance, what they have done to their appearance, or just for showing up somewhere. That offends me. Maybe I'll work up an anti-famous person website. Hmm, probably too late for most of the current crop of ding-dongs out there on the web. Wait, that offends me even more!

We have fan sites for some to worship their idol, but then we have anti or hate sites for people who are offended to heap abuse on the person. The fan sites usually outnumber the hate sites, so I guess that is good in a way. But wait! I'm offended by celebrity idols too. Oh no, I just realized that I have offended the fans of Hostess® Ding Dongs! Agh, I cannot be offended without offending someone else! The funny thing is that I can offend someone just by writing this or being who Christ has made me.

We cannot worry constantly over who we will offend. We believe in Jesus, someone in the world will be offended. When Jesus began His ministry, the scribes and Pharisees rose up in offense. When Paul went to Greece, some scholars were offended. Speak the good news of Jesus Christ and we will meet with offended people. In fact, there are entire organizations dedicated to being offended by the spreading of the Gospel. Pray in public and you become an offense to some. Sing a hymn near a school and the atheists are offended. Which is funny-strange in that having no mention of God or religion in school is atheistic; yet, we are not supposed to get offended by that. Could it be, I've discovered the double standard of offensive behavior? Nah, you already knew that.

Have a great week in Christ Jesus!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Ornament to the House

Why is it that a wife gets to be an ornament to the house, but the husband does not? Maybe it's because most of us men don't make a very pretty ornament. For some of us the cat has to fill in as the ornament of the house. The house we want to look at this morning is God's house. Are we pretty enough to be ornaments to God's house? You'll need to get with Him on that; He chose you and me. However, in one thing we can know by the price paid: we are valuable enough to be chosen by our God for His house. The price was paid by Jesus, God's Son, and that price was the most He could pay. So, ornament and building block of God's house, you are valuable in Christ Jesus today.

Whatever the world may throw in your way or upon your head this day, God has placed a value upon you and me that the world can in no way diminish. God's house is a mighty house, we may even call it a mansion, an estate, a church. God began with the cornerstone of His Son, and will cap it with the keystone of His Son. We may with joy and gladness be called the Bride of Christ. You don't need to take my word for it; Jesus said it and died to claim us, and lived again to prepare His bride for that great wedding day. The preparation is long because the Son will not present any half-finished work to His Father. Let us end with an eyewitness account this morning:

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:2-4)

God bless you all this weekend,

Friday, November 14, 2014

Noah's Bad Day

The command came down from above: God spoke with Noah and told him to build something new, something unique in the world. God informed Noah of the why; a big flood coming to wash away the sins of the world. Noah paused, and probably asked intelligent questions like, "What's an ark?" A couple of years later, Noah has the framework up, and the people around the area send a nosey news reporter to ask intelligent questions, such as, "Why are you building a giant wooden skeleton?" Noah could only stare in wonder at the reporter, knowing full well that to answer would only make the situation worse. Rain, flood, ark, no one would believe such things.

Years later, the area now looks like the suburbs, with the exception of a nearly completed ark rising above the rooftops. Noah gets up on a Friday and prepares his tools, but one is missing. Probably that Ham, the kid is always pulling practical jokes on his Dad and Mum. Noah points to the missing space at the morning construction meeting; his three sons all point at each other. Noah sighs, and opens the meeting to his sons to report on their progress. Shem reports that some animals have shown up and he doesn't know what they eat, or how to dispose of the inevitable result of their eating. Japheth reports that the gopher wood he cut and stacked on the wagon last week is missing. Everyone stares at Ham. Ham looks up and reports that every item on the town council meeting tonight is about their project. Too much shade over homes along 5th Street, view of the sunset blocked to the houses in that new subdivision. Strange animals wandering through yards in pairs. And, the town council must hear a complaint about a general shortage of gopher wood throughout the region.

Noah sighed once more. He figured the ark at about 90% complete, but he just didn't know if he would have the strength to complete the final tithe of construction. And wouldn't you know it, the so-called International Liars Club, had already gathered for their morning coffee on the main deck of his ark. Noah tried to work out of range of their voices, but with the ark nearly complete, there was no place to go now that their mocking and scoffing didn't rain down on him from dawn to dusk or whenever they got together, which was often enough. Some days he thought to his shame that he would not miss the club when God washed them away. Trouble was, the men didn't seem that bad. Sure words could hurt and sting, but 'thwunk', Noah mashed his thumb for the first time in years as he tried to finish the sill on the cabin window.

"Ha, ha, ha, here let me mash the other one for you!" one of the club shouted out. Another got up and dumped Noah's bucket of nails out over the side, Noah heard his precious nails striking the ground 30 cubits below. After years of painstaking construction, he didn't climb down and up those 30 cubits so easily any more. Noah thought about getting drunk tonight. After all, it was a Friday.

Then a drop of water struck him on top of the head, right where hair once grew some hundred years ago. Nothing in the sky, no birds flying nearby, just that one innocent drop. The ILC had departed in mirth. Noah went down to get his nails, thumb throbbing, and fully expecting any moment to be scared half to his grave when Ham dropped the missing tool on the ramp beside him.

I like to write about Noah having a bad day, not because I hate Noah, but because I identify with what the Bible often doesn't say. We get a high-level view of the construction project Noah and his family lived every day for perhaps 120 years. What does our story say? "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did." (Gen 6:22) I'm sure that within that construction project, summed up so succinctly in the Bible text, were many days like you and me live through. Those tough days when our faith is tested to the max while things don't go very well at all. Noah had 'em, and so did Paul, Peter, Mary, David, Samson, Esther, Ruth, and all of our other Bible heroes. Did our Lord Jesus suffer days when all the world seemed against Him? I'm sure He did, and He knows our suffering very well. Just like Noah, we say on those days, "It's you and me, Lord! Grant me the strength to endure, please."


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Easier To Blame, But Not Right

The customer appears in the office frequently to exchange news, do his paperwork, and chat with the agent. All seems fine, relations are friendly, and expectations grow towards the deal closing. Suddenly, for one reason or another, the deal falls apart. The customer appears one last time to verbally take the agent out to the woodshed. Much of that Army talk ensues from the former customer and the relationship is forever broken. Why? My theory is that we need to look back to Adam and how our first human father defined the term coward as he cowered behind the bushes. "The woman gave to me and I ate!" It is easier in our sin to blame someone else than take responsibility for the correction.

Bitterly disappointed, the customer took it out on the agent in my little tale (based on a true story!). Adam, tried to shirk his position as leader of the household and blame Eve. The woman he longed for while searching through the animal kingdom for a suitable mate, he threw to the wolves. We may do the same to a friend before we can get that pointing finger stopped. Caught in a mistake or sin, we may try to point at someone we love before we take that responsibility and seek the fix. Even when speaking of that carnal desire we may set that part of us up as a sort of straw man to, hopefully, take the blame for us. How do you suppose that works with God? Yup, probably no better than it did for Adam. God wants to save both Adam and Eve, and He wants to save all of me and you. Thank God that someone took the responsibility to save us all! Soon, we will celebrate His birth.

Enjoy the day in Christ!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The World Sends

Snow, cold, kinda makes one think of Christmas this morning. The world sends weather; we think of good. The world sends tribulation; we think of Christ. The world sends fame, wealth, and power; we think of the great and mighty me? Too true that the things desired by the world can cause us to turn away from our Lord. Many in the world will tell of how he/she worked very hard to get what the world has given them, as though that makes the person deserving of all they have. The world of course responds by making that person even more famous and wealthy. What the world sends is not a good measure of how we are doing in Christ. Your wealth or lack thereof does not necessarily say how well you are doing in faith. You may be a good steward of resources Christ has entrusted you with, but then you also may be experiencing what our Lord called a tribulation.

Matthew gave up the steady and wealthy (and thoroughly despised) income of a tax collector to follow Christ. Other disciples may have never eaten so well as when they came to follow Christ. Faith is not so much where we came from, as where we are going to. Jesus held the plowman who looks back as unworthy to follow Him. Paul had to set aside some awful things from his past to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. The world may well have sent you or I some things in our past that cause us shame, regret, pain or grief, but still we look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. We labor in the valley of death's shadow, but that will never prevent the dawning of the day of our Lord Jesus.

Blessed be the name of our Lord!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Lord Our Righteousness

Yowwow! A brisk walk this morning carries extra meaning. I'm not sure I can move my legs briskly enough on days like this. We ended our Bible study today on a high note, The Lord Our Righteousness is a title that occurs in Jeremiah 23:6 from the Hebrew YHWH Tsidkenu. Once again, we see that God's plan for our salvation didn't get hammered out in a late night meeting of the Holy Trinity just before Gabriel was sent to tell Mary she was in for a little surprise. About 600 years before the blessed birth, Jeremiah delivered a message from God that laid out His great plan in that Hebrew title, The Lord Our Righteousness. Jesus would come from the line of David to do what we could not, be righteous in God's sight.

It's like becoming a veteran without serving in the military, to cobble together an example from the holiday. Say you never served, but someone took your place and did four years in the Army for you. Today, you get the title, rights, and privileges of being an Army veteran, and it is legally recognized by the highest court in the land. Right, it doesn't work that way for us down here, but Jesus is not limited by our ways and means. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and then conferred the rights, privileges and His righteousness on those who believe. That right standing with God is then recognized by the highest court which is God Himself. We are given the right to become children of God through The Lord Our Righteousness. What a blessing we gain in Christ!

Enjoy the holiday! And a hearty "Thank You!" and shout out to all those who served our nation on this Veteran's Day.

USMC 1983-1987

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Storm Cometh

I hath waxed all KJV this morning. As the first winter storm arrives in all its glory, the temp has dropped 9 degrees already this hour and the wind is roaring in the trees, I moved back in time to grab a cherished memory verse:

Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. Nehemiah 4:13-14

In most times of trouble, we would tell our brothers and sisters in Christ to remember the Lord first. At times, I have called out to the Lord over a problem, and then done nothing but wait in prayer. Here, Nehemiah gives a different model. First, he sets his forces to their stations, armed and ready. Then, he commands the people and their leaders to not be afraid. Nehemiah then gives the people a method to remove the fear: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible. We are of course quite capable of preparing and praying at the same time. Nehemiah isn't saying to remember the Lord only after we have banished fear, but to remember the Lord in order to banish the fear.

Too often, I find myself in fear and remembering with earnest concentration the 'them'. Whatever causes my fear, I am bound up in those thoughts as the fear grows and grows. Nehemiah told his people of long ago to remember the qualities of the Lord - great and terrible in the KJV; we would say "great and awesome". In times when the 'them' facing us seems too powerful and frightening, we are to recall the Lord, great and awesome, and then fight.

In Nehemiah's time, the fight did not come. The fact that the Israelites knew of the evil intentions and stood ready to fight kept the enemy at bay. This could happen to us as well, for our Lord is great and awesome, and knowing that He and His people stand ready for the fight may well cause the enemy to look elsewhere for an easier battle. Fear may cause a perfectly good fighting force to fail to prepare and run from the fight. Remembering the Lord, who is great and awesome, prevents fear from overcoming us as we stand in the full armor of God. Stand in Christ, remember our Lord, who is great and awesome!


Saturday, November 08, 2014

What A Strange Life We Have

We count it a blessing to be worthy to suffer with Christ. We do good deeds to those who hurt us. Our hero didn't conquer anyone in His time. Our Lord and Savior died the death of a common criminal at the hands of an occupying army. We strive to remember our champion by loving the unlovable, giving to the destitute, and comforting the sick. Piling up treasure in this life is counted as disobedience to our Lord's command. Seeking to promote the self makes us feel wrong. Our Lord paid His taxes.

The prince of this world hated our Lord, and we experience that enmity in this life. They said our Lord had a demon, and centuries later they call us crazy or uneducated or closed-minded. Yet, we come back to the Word for more! Strength of arms or position is worshipped by the world, yet we may one day accept the martyr's crown as God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. The world lauds the accumulation of money. While faith, love, hope, and grace, the things most valuable to us, are intangible. Fame is something to be strived for in this world. We are told to take the lower seat and to labor as a good servant doing his duty. Yes, a strange life according to the current world system; not strange at all when we have faith in Christ.

God's grace and peace to you on this Saturday morning!


Friday, November 07, 2014

Bad Anniversaries

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Battle of Fallujah. Today, someone will remember that on this day his wife served him with divorce papers, or she will remember that on this day she learned her husband was unfaithful, or this is the anniversary of a heart attack, or a car accident, or that dreadful diagnosis, and on it goes; 365 days each year of dark memories coming around to hit us again. Not that long ago I wrote on this phenomenon. This morning, I am reminded again, even though I have no personal bad anniversary on Nov 7 to speak of. With only 365 days (plus one) to work with, every day someone is suffering one of those anniversary days. I guess the Spirit reminds me that more needs to be said about this awful thing of bad anniversaries.

I think that Heaven has those trees of life with leaves to heal the nations for at least one reason, and that is to wipe away all those awful dates. At first, one might think that wiping away all dates would do the job, but what about those good anniversaries? How will God maintain that memory of the wedding day, or the birth of a child, or the day you met that special man or woman, or that big project at work that actually completed on time and under budget with great results? Dare we look to forgetting that day when we knew, just knew that we believed and trusted in Christ alone to save us? Will we be made to forget all in order to wipe away what sin caused? Well, of course that is man's rather limited view of a solution. God can do so much more than man. Jesus said that what is impossible for man is possible with God. The prophet Joel said that God would restore the years eaten by the locust. We have many more promises in the Word that this life with all of its bad anniversaries is most definitely not all there is. Blessed is the name of our Savior!


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Taking Steps

I can take steps! Yes, it is a rare privilege to start on a journey with a few steps. I can take faith-filled, prayerful steps in Christ to solve earthly problems. Jesus did say that we can accomplish nothing alone. True, nothing we attempt alone will last, if it appears to work, or will work out at all. I have run into that many a time. Also, even when taking steps in Christ, the fastest way to the goal may be the long way around. Instant miracles are great, praise God, but we don't always go that way with our Lord. Sometimes, the Lord lets us behold something along the way to a better life. That problem that dogs our heels is not immediately solved. We have faith in the Lord's almighty power, but He doesn't act on our timetable. I think we've all run into that in our journey too. We may hear about or witness an act of God that is instantaneous in healing or solving, and then wonder why He does not do the same for you or me. Faithful steps in Christ in our journey may be the slow ones on the long trip around the mountain of our problem. Those steps are faithful because we trust God that His way is the best for us.

An immediate solution may not grow the faith God wants to raise up in us. Yet, I also believe that when we look back from Heaven, we will agree that every one of God's solutions was perfectly done in just the right time. The blind beggar may have suffered long before the immediate healing by Jesus. The healing we experience that seemed to take so long may have come with only a short space of suffering before it began. We will not look back on this life and say, "Unfair!" to God, as we may be tempted to say right now. We may think that we were delayed in beginning the journey now, but then we will see how God guided us just as He promised. Faith allows us to see these things right now, if only dimly as in a poor mirror, to borrow Paul's phrase. Faith gives us courage to take another step on the journey with Christ, even though the step may be slow, tottering, short, and hesitant. God accepts those steps too.

Have a great day with our awesome God!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Among the Celebrants, One Falls Down

The team sweeps the championship round, but over there on the bench sits a player whose injury will end his career. The party loudly celebrates whatever the party was called for, but in the middle of the celebration, a cell phone call announces the passing of a dearly loved one to one couple. As the Savior approached Jerusalem over the shouts of "Hosanna!", He stopped to mourn the rebellion of God's people in the city. As often happens in a great celebration, one suffers a blow that the remainder does not feel. The party roars on, but for one or two it rings false because of the bad news. Life here is not fair that way.

The good news is that Jesus reaches out amid the din and dancing in the streets to those who fall down in His care. Our Savior is always with us, but there are times when He lets us experience the fall. It hurts. We may wonder why. We may weep while others dance. We may mourn or sigh with regret. We have not, however, lost the salvation and grace we gained in Christ. That work was our Lord's at the cross, and it remains His though we may be defeated, or feel lost, or suffer hurt. I believe in the saving work of Christ, no matter what I may do or suffer in this life, and I believe it for you too. Paul did not mess around when he said that nothing can separate us from God's love, and God's love is what brought the salvation of Christ to you and me.

So cheer up when the mourning period is done. God didn't just squirm uncomfortably on His throne up there. The Holy Trinity did not call an emergency session. Our reward in Heaven remains secure, and eternal life remains based on God's steadfast love.

God bless you all,

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cowardly or Loving?

Wow, the frost would not give way this morning, so I walked to the Bible study. I think a bit more gathered on the few spots that I did clear earlier. We had some big flakes (of snow) yesterday, but nothing remains this morning. Winter's grip is a bit weak this day, but come it will. Election day has come at last. There is a lesson in endurance, forbearance, and patience for us in all the political ads each election. I can hardly wait for 2016 to see how much of those qualities the Spirit has grown in me.

Suppose you or I know something about someone and just want to talk about it. However, in cowardice or love we wait until the other person brings up the subject. It doesn't happen. Was it cowardly or loving that I didn't introduce the subject and dive right in? I tend to think it was loving, but then again I may be a coward. And, there's nothing we cowards like more than to be affirmed by someone else that we were not cowards. So please affirm me before I start to think more cowardly thoughts! :-)

Actually, when a sensitive subject arrives, the tongue may be linked to a device that through many ratchets, pulleys, and lines attempts to drag the foot up and into the mouth. It is alright to forbear to speak on something that will hurt the other person. I may think I know so much about something, when in reality I do not know what the other fellow is feeling. I may in fact know much through experience, but that now was not the right time. The Spirit will guide us in this. Another time will come when the Spirit is willing and will guide the weak flesh to speak words of comfort and encouragement. Speak those at the wrong time though, and all may be lost in pain while the taste of foot lingers in the mouth.

Jesus never had to apologize. Much of that came from knowing the right words to speak at exactly the right time. Our best course is to look to the Lord for guidance in our speaking.

Have a great and righteous day in Christ!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Who Would Jesus Vote For?

Certainly Jesus would vote for one of us, wouldn't He? I mean, His Christian runs for office, surely our Lord would be behind the politician all the way, right? In a question like that, it is hard to tell. Jesus didn't come here to do what the religious leaders thought he should do. Some tough opposition to our Lord's ministry came from those very religious leaders. And, Jesus didn't shy away from a verbal stomping of those same leaders. Had those leaders been an elected office, Jesus as a Jewish man may not have voted for them. But, those men were in the wrong, we're asking about faithful Christians who want to serve in public office.

Again, still tough to answer that one. Our Lord sees all, and so He also knows the suitability of a man or woman for office now, and what that office will do to His child in the days to come. In the case of suitability, I believe that I would be wholly unsuited to political office. The Lord has not put it on my heart to do this thing, so I don't. Others, brothers and sisters in Christ, run for office and we are glad to support them. Would Jesus vote for them? We may not know for sure, but is not our vote as the body of Christ a part of Jesus supporting His Christian? The wonderful thing about the privilege of voting is that each of us can enter into prayer with God and decide our vote.

We can also consult with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or simply decide with God alone. We can allow the decision to be made by others too. Voting always has the freedom to abstain; I do that in races where I have no knowledge of the office or the candidates. Who would Jesus vote for? I cannot answer that. I struggle enough with who I should vote for. Does God stand above these elections and let the people decide? Maybe, but I for one want my Lord's input into my decision. I guess the question should be: Who would Jesus have me to vote for? And in answering that question, I suppose Jesus does let me know who He would vote for.

Have a wonderful day in Christ, and remember to vote tomorrow, if you haven't already.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Behold the Body of Christ

Saturday and the day after that evening of trick-or-treating. I gave my little pumpkin a happy face and named him 'Milton', but we still didn't have many customers last night. I didn't realize until I sat out front that I got left in a bit of an island. The couple next door passed away and their house remains vacant. The house across the street was the one that burned down last June, and several others close by did not turn on the ol' porch light. So I gave out a few treats, played no tricks, and spent some time petting Samantha between the times she ran away from the little costumed persons. With time to think, I did some to the danger of us all.

Behold the body of Christ: one has lost a house, but another is given a way to keep his. One suffers terribly from a disease of the body, but another enjoys good health through her long life. One loses all financially speaking, while another enjoys goodly income to the point of wealth throughout his life. One struggles with fears, while another suffers little in this regard. In this region of the globe, they deal with near starvation, the loss of loved ones to malnutrition, and constant searching for food. While in another part of the globe, relative abundance is the norm. A nation rises up and gives praise to God, while another must give praise through their tears of mourning. How can all of this be part and parcel of the one body of Christ?

We don't know.

God gives and withholds according to His wisdom. God also allows persons to sin and deny his fellow man the basic necessities of life as some dictators do at times. God allows governments to stumble and fumble, while others are brought to stand tall among the nations. A person is born with a weak body and believes in Christ, and yet another with the strength and skill of an athlete also loves God with all his heart. The body of Christ is made of rich and poor, talented and uncoordinated, sick and well, tall and short, weak and strong, famous and anonymous, powerful and unknown, and anyone else who wants to believe in Christ Jesus. I guess the only thing we can know in this is that Jesus turns away no sheep, no matter how well they wear their wool.

Praise God for the new day!