Friday, July 29, 2016

Struggle, Struggle, Toil, and Struggle

Have you ever worked hard on a particular day only to be hit with more bad news from the world? It seems that the more we toil and struggle, the more toils and struggles there are to face. I'm not sure why that should surprise those who believe in Christ. The time of never ending bliss is not in this here and now, but in a place and time where Jesus will take us. Here and now we have this promise of trouble or tribulation, but with His peace. We have tribulation, but He commanded us to be of good cheer. How very odd. Should not more toils and struggles bring a dour expression with a pessimistic outlook on life?

That's it; I got no more for you this morning... I quit!

Nope, that isn't the answer either. As I can tell you from experience in this life, quitting will only pile up the toils and struggles like savings accounts once piled up interest. If you were born in this century you may not get that simile, but trust us older folks that savings accounts were once good things to have. Trying to quit while the Lord is trying to move us forward just doesn't work. A Job time of sitting in the ashes dressed in sackcloth may come for a season, but God seems to like people to get up and face Him. This is a little hard to do if you quit. Therefore, Jesus gave us the following verse; one I like to recall many a time:

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Mmm, yes, the comforting words of our Lord!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shame, A Rough Motivator

Clouds rapidly moving in this morning; they tell of snow to come. Okay, so probably not going to happen today or even in August, maybe in September but October is more likely. Yes, I'm not much of a foretelling prophet this morning. Ezekiel had messages of the future direct from God, who is of course the source of any true foretelling. Most of us are given only today, a few guesses about tomorrow, and perhaps a vague idea of what might be next year. The prophecies God has given us for the future don't have a time stamp on them, so we are left with that wondering. How great that is, for we have time to share the good news of our Lord Jesus! The love of our neighbor is a wonderful motivator for sharing. However, there is another way.

Have you ever been motivated to change your behavior through shame? Yes, me too. It's a rough way to go, a hard taskmaster with a brutal whip. I don't believe that shame is God's favorite tool; more like one He gets out only at great need. Love, patience, joy, peace, and other tools God uses more often, though in our fallen nature we may not see them. I believe that my Lord would much rather lead from the front, showing us that He sees the pitfalls ahead and leading us around them. He also seems to like to lead from the side, with His comforting arm around our quaking shoulders. But in the extremity, when repentance is needed and no other tool will get our attention, shame will do. So great is the Master's love, that His desire we not be lost will allow Him to take up tools He would rather not.

A picture of shame in action was painted by Ezekiel, but the news was not all bad. In chapter 7, God shows some survivors of the terrible destruction of Jerusalem. They are ashamed, but they are the remnant that survived.

‘​Those who survive will escape and be on the mountains
​​Like doves of the valleys,
​​All of them mourning,
​​Each for his iniquity.
Every hand will be feeble,
​​And every knee will be as weak as water.
​​They will also be girded with sackcloth;
​​Horror will cover them;
​​Shame will be on every face,
​​Baldness on all their heads.' (v. 16-18)

Mourning for our iniquity is one way to be in agreement with God. Another is to believe in the saving and forgiving grace of His Son, and that is reason to rejoice on this day!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Your Faith Makes a Difference!

​​"Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury,
​​And spend My anger upon you;
​​I will judge you according to your ways,
​​And I will repay you for all your abominations.
​‘​My eye will not spare,
​​Nor will I have pity;
​​I will repay you according to your ways,
​​And your abominations will be in your midst.
​​Then you shall know that I am the LORD who strikes." (Ezekiel 7:8-9)

The nation of Israel faced a time of prosecution, not persecution. This was of the Lord and came through their own abominations. In reading the listing of their sins, it is not hard to see our own nation in a similar place. However, there is one thing that can hold back the tide of God's wrath: faith in Jesus.

Yes, your faith makes a difference! But we must never fall into the trap the world sets. Faith in our government is not the answer. Faith in an advanced education won't save anyone. Faith in our skills and accomplishments won't turn aside the wrath of the Almighty. Even an attractive and charismatic leader cannot take the place of the One who died to save us. Ask of the Lord to protect and guide our faith in Christ. For in this age, we surely do need our faith in Jesus to the very end.

Pray that many will know that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God our Father,


Monday, July 25, 2016

The Weakness of Our Word

And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, Thou shalt not come hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David. (1 Chron 11:5)

Jebus was the name the inhabitants gave to Jerusalem before David arrived in the city. Apparently they had an advanced copy of The Lord of the Rings because they tried to stand at the bridge like Gandalf and say, "You shall not pass!" Unfortunately for them, they did not get the memo about God's word which said, "Oh yes, David shalt!"

We can use dramatic words to declare something but without God's will and word backing us up they are just weak human words. Our shalt is only as strong as we art, and that shan't add up to much. I can stand up like the Jebusites and say, "Thou shalt not come hither!" But, if you have God's will and word on your side, then the weakness of my word will quickly become apparent to all as you stomp right over my hither regions. Since neither I nor you want to be found on the historical footnote side of a biblical nevertheless, we like to discover God's will before we try to say, "I will do this or I will do that."

God's will is of course found in His word. Does this thing we want to speak or do abound in the love of God and our neighbors? Will our words or deeds help to build God's kingdom? Are we, heaven forbid, standing in the way of God's work; in which case our hither is about to be hounded forth? These can be tough questions to answer in many a circumstance. So, we need to obey what many before us have found helpful, including our friend David, and come to the Lord in prayer and supplication. The discovery of God's will is a blessing indeed!

Enjoy the break from the heat of July; we are grateful to God for His blessings!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Don't Lay Down in the Dark Place

We read in the great psalm about the valley of death's shadow, but do we know how common is the temptation to lay down in the dark place? Weary and overwhelmed by the world, we often want the Lord to let us lay down our burden in the dark place and then to allow us to fall down beside it. If only He would take us up from there, we think, to our eternal rest with Him.

The laying down time will come for us, but it is not of our choosing. We committed ourselves to Jesus and He leads us on. And it isn't all bad, so often when that feeling comes upon one of His sheep, the Good Shepherd reaches down to lift up that faltering one. His helping hand can come in many ways, but it is always good. That holy hand may seem rough and calloused to us at times, but He has had a lot of sheep to help along in that dark valley of death's shadow.

Peter saw the light in a dark place, and we will not be forgotten by Him either. "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) Beautiful! Let the Bright and Morning Star rise in your heart today!

Get a boost from the Lord at the end of a weary week,


Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Rough Season in Life

We're not winning against the heat these days. Sorry to send part of it on east, but we do like to share our misery! So, what comes then is a wild, almost free-for-all to get something done early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Okay, there is a bit of literary license there, most folks don't get up any earlier, they just complain a lot more. I do a bit of both. Today and yesterday, I worked on the cleaning the gutters. Then trotted (strolled, walked, hobbled, limped) back in to get breakfast and write for a bit. It is the season of heat on the plains. Ezra writes of an interesting time too:

“But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter. (Ezra 10:13)

The people faced a season of heavy rain. Yes, visiting the nation of Israel today we might find that hard to believe, but there it is in the Bible. What interests us today is that last line in the verse. As we look out at our land today, we too can realize that this has been many years in the coming. The transgressions of politicians may be laid out for all to see, but many of us have transgressed in this manner. Of course we know to repent and seek forgiveness from God; others seek political office, an attempt at forgiveness by vote of their fellow humans you might say. Lawlessness has been increased in our land. We can see the love growing cold too. (see Matt 24:12)

Let your love shine, our nation needs us today!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Delivered A Second Time

Sometimes we look back on life and realize that we have been slow to learn. Saul had just such an experience after David spared his life a second time. The king made a vow of contrition and promised to stop seeking David's life. It is the first time that the word 'fool' appears in the New King James version of God's word.

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly.” (1 Sam 26:21)

Many is the time when we come to that place where we have played the fool while a neighbor has done the righteous thing. The realization can sting quite a bit, as it did with Saul. I think I can say that not one of us likes to be the fool. Wise counselor or knowledgeable friend are titles more to our liking. However, we do have those moments where the glaring light of conviction shines in the darkness of our foolish hearts. It could be worse.

Yes, God might have let us go down the merry path to destruction if He did not love us so much. The Lord sent His Son to deliver us on the cross, and His Son is returning to deliver us a second time. Our moments of foolishness will be healed and our hearts renewed. In the meantime, we may have some more of those learning and growing moments that sting our opinion of ourselves enough to properly deflate the ego back to where it should be - dependent completely upon our Lord Jesus for all righteousness.

Have a great day in Christ Jesus!

Monday, July 18, 2016

What Tomorrow May Bring

At least once each summer I will get up in the night to let a cool breeze in and instead let in the humidity. That night this year was last night. Hooray for me. The big ladder is back for another round of gutter cleaning and Saturday was a cool morning. I even planned Friday night to get up early and go to it. When I felt a pain in my neck and back from the furniture moving this past week, I knew that my plans had been disposed of once more. The day brings what God wills, and no planning of my own will stop God's sovereign will. Praise the Lord for that!

Sometimes my plans are procrastinated away, that is my fault. But other times my plans simply are not in line with what God has in store for me on that day. I won't know this until the day arrives, but I have been warned in God's word.

A man's heart plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

Like those planners of James' time, I don't know what tomorrow will bring it seems. Some days the Lord's will I discover through experimentation, other days I find it in His word or in prayer. On many an evening I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but He does. Dear Lord, may we all do your will on this day! Amen.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Beware the World's Undertow

For us plains dwellers an undertow in the ocean seems a terribly frightening thing as we stand upon the shore of the ocean. Back home it's no big deal, what with the ocean more than a thousand miles away and all. It is on the verge with the salty waves tickling our feet as it pulls the sand out from under us that we are reminded of the power an undertow holds over our puny bodies. What is the world's undertow and do we stand on the shore even now? Yes, of course we do, for the world's undertow is this:

"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." (Matt 24:12)

Another terrorist attack somewhere in the world, another body count as though we are at war, and the calls from politicians for this or that action or policy. So tired of the news of death, worn out from the butcher's bill, and fed up with calls from politicians as though no one had ever thought of these things before, we may be tempted to dismiss this latest news and ignore the suffering. That is where we must beware, for if the love of those who live in Christ grows cold, what love can those who suffer expect from the indifferent world?

Loving is hard work, and it is the royal command of our Lord and King to love one another. We dare not take the easy way of the world and grow cold in our love. Mourning and grief do wear us down, but let the Lord Jesus renew our love daily. Pray for families of the fallen, grieve for the cruelty of the world, and as we trust and obey our Christ do not let the flame of love grow cold.

In the name of our Lord Jesus,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Cost of Sin

For as long as anyone, even the ancient writers, can remember, there have been those who have helped others to sin. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was their model, that first entice-er and seducer toward sin. Nothing has changed in that ancient game. In Proverbs, King Solomon writes out a lesson about the crafty harlot that includes these words:


With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
​​With her flattering lips she seduced him.
​​Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
​​Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
Till an arrow struck his liver.
​​As a bird hastens to the snare,
​​He did not know it would cost his life. (Pro 7:21-23)

As a veteran of the armed forces, I can tell you that method has not changed a bit. The kicker is at the end - "it would cost him his life." Indeed, the wages of sin is, as Paul told us, death. In spite of this, we continue to at times follow that same road as the ox goes to the slaughter. One would think with the cost so high that we could stop.

Look at Israel, the law was given to the holy people. In this law are many crimes that we would never consider capital in this day, but in the Law the offender is to be put to death. How do we know this happened? Well, in many cases, the law is followed up later with a story about the man or woman who broke the law and the chuckin' stones came out. Such severe penalties, we say, should surely have stopped any law breaking, but it never did.

The cost of sin is too high, yet we continue to go after it. We need a better way. Praise God for providing that Way (John 14:6), and His name is Jesus Christ, Immanuel. We can live in His life because He paid the price of our sin. But it doesn't stop there, for His work is to change us from that ox on the road to destruction to a living human being on the road up to Heaven from Calvary. Enjoy a nice walk along that narrow but wonderful road today.

Have faith, He returns!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

There Is No Other

“Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deut. 4:39)

Unique, an attribute of God; He is the One True God, and the only one. We may never stop to consider how good we have it in this. What if, as we consider in our heart as commanded, there were two gods, equally powerful and immortal? We could wonder the 'what-ifs' to the end of time, but we can see that more than one brings a multitude of problems as any of the pantheons of the ancients showed in many tales. For one thing, every pantheon had division of labor and responsibility. Usually one or two would rebel in some way and anger the big dude or big dudess, kind of like the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters here in the dust. A man might anger any one of the gods and goddesses and have another intervene on his behalf; war among the deities might then cause all manner of havoc for those dwelling below.

Then we come to the Trinity where there is only one God, but yet three. How can this be? We don't know for sure, but we benefit from the loving relationship of the three-in-one. For there is still but one God. The New Testament did not throw out the Old Testament. When God Himself says in Deuteronomy that there is One, then there is One in the Revelation too. I'm not bolstering my argument here; God said it: "There is no other." Which is where we get the concept of the Trinity. As Jesus and the Holy Spirit cannot be other, in which case God would be denying His own statement, they must be God too. How does that work? I don't know; it's above my pay grade.

What I do know is that when Jesus walked this Earth, God was not absent from Heaven. When Jesus breathed His Holy Spirit to the disciples, He did not disappear and God was still present on His throne in Heaven. Jesus forgave sin; that's God's place and prerogative, only God can forgive rebellion against Himself. Therefore Jesus is God. How God does it, I don't know, but He is God and I am not. I know from His word there is no other, and that He is all I need for salvation, sanctification, and justification. I praise God that He is One: the question of two omnipresent gods would pop my little brain circuits.

Have a blessed and pleasant day in Christ!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alright Lord, Let's Get This Over With

Not every task we are set to is the most exciting and fun. We are to do all things as unto the Lord, but let's admit it, sometimes we approach the Lord with a somewhat less than enthusiastic attitude. It could be worse, I suppose, we might pull a Jonah and take ship in the opposite direction from where the Lord sends us. Not that we want to drown and be eaten up by a whale and spat out on a beach. Then there was that public humiliation thing where Jonah had to admit to his shipmates that he was the one causing God to get angry. But we're not talking a mission to Nineveh here, just that little thing the Lord wants us to do.

Maybe if we could develop a bit better attitude about what we think is the little stuff, we might qualify for a bigger mission. What blessings are we missing out on when we come to the Lord without that full measure of enthusiasm? James said that we have not because we ask not. But perhaps we ask not because we just don't go at it with the blessed enthusiasm that we ought. So, how do we get that blessed enthusiasm anyway? I suppose we could come to the Lord in prayer and ask.

Ask of the Lord, and He will surely answer!


Monday, July 11, 2016

It's Not Fair!

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? (Eze 18:25)

Ever gripe about the unfairness of the world? Be discerning that we are not accusing the Lord of unfairness as the old-time Israelites did. We will want to be careful with our fair and unfair, not being able to see all things as the Lord does.

This year, somewhere, an experienced gardener, a diligent gardener, prepared his/her seedbed, planted all the seeds at the correct depth and spacing, and at the right time. Watering and weeding though the hot days, this gardener looked up to see the ominous thunderstorm approaching, but could do nothing as the hail beat that well-ordered garden into the ground. I, on the other hand, did other things until my planting was late. Thus, on the day of the hail my potatoes had not yet sprouted (at least outside) and my pumpkins had not poked their little green stems out of the ground yet. I am not some kind of gardening wizard, that would be unfair, but a partaker of the Lord's goodness. Fair, to our limited view, would be that the on-time and proper gardener should always have that perfect garden while my garden suffered the hail pounding.

The goodness of the Lord should not be an excuse for slacking, but what we consider unfair in many cases may be the opportunity for the Lord's goodness to shine. The tough time to realize that is of course when the unfair seems to be toward us and our efforts. When the harvest doesn't come in after much effort and expense, we are tempted to shout 'Unfair!' as those Israelites did back in the Bible day. Yet, that may be the time that the Lord's goodness is just around the corner that we cannot see past. And who are we to question God's ordering of things?

Amen! Blessed be the Lord and His goodness and fairness.


Friday, July 08, 2016

How Come the Temple's Closed?

‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ (2 Chron 20:9)

The news in our land is all of things that bring on the woe these days. We might well wonder how Jerusalem in Isaiah's or Ezekiel's times could be any worse than what we see here reported daily. When Jesus spoke of the coming lawlessness, I didn't think that He meant that the murder of law enforcement officers would become an organized sport. I guess that I tried to limit what Jesus saw in His prophecy of lawlessness. Sure, kings and leaders and wanna-be leaders being above the law, we could all see that manner of lawlessness. This is not so uncommon in history, but deliberate and planned targeting of those who make a living of enforcing the law? What other horror does lawlessness have for us in the days to come?

In the days of Ezekiel, when the prophet saw the vision of God's presence leaving the temple, I can well imagine that, like now, not all of the people of Israel were so faithless as what God showed His prophet about Jerusalem, the big city. Perhaps in a nearby village such as Lachish or Libnah, a child came to his father one morning and asked, "How come the temple's closed?" What does the father say to his son at such a time as this? The temple closed because God left it in disgust over the sin in the land? The poor child expects to inherit this place, and must the father tell the truth that those who hear God's message know that soon a terrible siege followed by 70 years of exile will begin?

At one time, as we can read in our Bible verse today, Jehoshaphat led the people of Judah in prayer before the temple and God's presence. They faithfully waited in expectancy for God's salvation to arrive. Are there enough of us who remain faithful to God's salvation to pray for our nation today? Can we through prayer to the ever Faithful One turn this lawlessness around before it is too late? Since we do not know the hour and the day of the end, let us not give up hope in our Lord Jesus! Reports of revival happening right now in our land may not make it to the mainstream media, but that does not change the fact that God's Spirit of salvation is moving across our nation. Have faith in Him!


Thursday, July 07, 2016

Fallen Short

Do the two major party candidates for President of the United States fall short of your ideal this year? That is probably an easy one for you to answer this morning, whether in the negative or positive. How about your neighbors, do they fall short of your ideal neighborly neighbor? Here is one then: How about yourself, have you lived up to your ideal yet? My ideal seems to be like that carrot out in front of me on the stick and string - something I just can't quite reach and continually come up short in attaining. Great reward and contentment will be mine, if I can just reach that ideal out there!

Well, saving myself through perfection before the Law, or even my ideal law, has never worked for me, and I can see that I am fallen far short of God's ideal. However, I do see one example of the perfect life lived without sin and selfishness, and in complete love for others. I see a man who did not fall to temptation even in the most extreme of circumstances, did not take an easy way out when love of His fellow humans was on the line, and always honored and glorified the Father. So, if I have faith that all of this is true, why do I sometimes harbor doubts that He will complete the good work He began in me at salvation?

It's true, I have caught myself doubting the progress Jesus has made in me that he may one day present me before His Father as a finished work of the sanctifying art. Why? If faith says that He lived and died for me, and lived again, why do I doubt the other promises? As always, it is because I look at me and not to Him. His patience is far superior to my patience; and His love is the greater love. His vision of today, tomorrow, and the great and awesome day of the Lord is perfect, while mine is as Paul says - cloudy, as in a poor mirror. Well put that poor mirror down and pick up the shield of faith once more! Is it any wonder that Paul did not include a pocket mirror in the full armor of the Lord? Let us look outward to our Lord and Savior, and of course trust completely in His work in us.

Have a faithful day in Christ!


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Quick As Lightning

For years I have aspired to take title to today's title, but no one to my knowledge has described me with anything but gentle sarcasm as being quick as lightning. Okay, sometimes that sarcasm hasn't been gentle at all, but the fact remains that in my athletic pursuits and most other activities other expressions were used of me. Thus far in this life I just haven't found it in me to run quickly, and when it comes to most decisions I like to ponder things for a bit. There is of course one decision that we dare not put off, or one day the lightning may catch a person unprepared like a foolish bridesmaid.

"For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24:27)

We have already seen that I have little chance of outrunning lightning. But I am in good company there for even the fastest sprinter cannot outrun the flash of lightning as it strikes in the east and flashes to the west. The return of Jesus will be so quick that those who are unprepared, like those bridesmaids who let their oil lamps run out of fuel in the parable, will find themselves left outside as the celebration begins. So many people today are trying to outrun the lightning, but His day is coming, as promised.

May your day be one of blessing in the goodness of Christ Jesus,


Friday, July 01, 2016

The Beautiful, Wonderful, Magnificent Word of God

Read and study the Bible, the Word of God, and receive manifold blessings, uplifting encouragement, and knowledge of our Lord. Yes, we may also see the many rebellious acts of ourselves demonstrated in the trials and failures of Israel and the apostles. We may read the histories of Israel and Judah, and exclaim, "Did those guys ever get anything right?" This is of course reflected in the sinful life we have led, a take on the old 'it takes one to know one' gag. But that isn't all there is. After we come to know through the Law of our need for a savior, we can read how God sent Him.

We can read of the many loving acts of God. His triumph through His Son Jesus over the power of sin and death. We can read of the apostles getting it right when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. The Bible also tells of the great heroes of the faith, their sins and their triumphs. We read of God's patience with those who will not believe, and the prophecies of what will happen when time of His patience is over and the final tribulation begins. A difficult time, but then we get to read of His final victories and the glorious return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1) Beautiful! "And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness." (v4) Wonderful! "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' ” (v26) Magnificent! The very Word of God! And it just gets better right up to the very end.

Have a refreshing weekend this Independence Day!