Friday, September 28, 2018

Why Does God Do Something in His Way?

And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 2 Kings 5:13

Cleaning is on my mind this morning, as it is another abandoned house for us to work on today. So, I looked for a story of cleaning in the Bible and found that one about Elisha and a leprous fellow. Naaman from Damascus had connections to the king of Syria and went to Israel well outfitted and recommended. But he also had some paradigms about how things were supposed to be done, and God did not do them his way.

Arriving at Elisha's house, Naaman is not received in the usual way. Instead the prophet does not even come out to see the man who has traveled far, a faux pas in that time, but sends instructions for the dirty thing to go wash seven times in the Jordan River. Okay, I added the 'dirty thing' bit, but as a leper he would be unclean by the law. The insulted Naaman storms off in a rage and thinks of how he could have just washed seven times in the rivers near his house. It is up to his servants to end the dirty thing's tantrum and get him to obey the servant of the Lord. Fellow servants perhaps understand what it is to obey even when the instructions seem too simple or not to our liking. After listening to his servants (we might add 'for once') Naaman is healed, and thus we have our lesson too.

The Lord's way to solve a problem we bring to Him may seem to us wrong, perhaps even absurd, and yet it is obedience and trust that is the way for us to follow. We know this from the Word, do we know it faithfully in our hearts yet?

Have a great Friday in Christ our Lord!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Cacophony of Iniquity

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;
​​For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. Psalm 6:8

Surrounded in this world at times by the workers of iniquity, we call out as David did in the power of our Lord for them to just go away. The noise produced by the workers of iniquity in this world is huge and difficult to bear. By the various means of communication, we are assaulted moment by moment with a noise of sin and temptation that is at times loud in our ears. A cacophony of iniquity rings in the air of this fallen world.

Okay, I think I have metaphor-ed that to death. Yes, we live in a world of temptation and some folks just like to run to it. The lost sheep who have the joy of the Good Shepherd in us must run another way; we run to our Savior! For it is the peace of still waters and the quiet of the green pastures for us who believe in Him. We prefer prayer in the quietness of our Lord's love over the raucous worldly pleasures. Those metaphors are getting rambunctious again.

So, if I turn up Casting Crowns too loud does that make it an iniquity? That is why it is metaphorical. Thunder is not an iniquity simply due to its huge noise. A loud and awful noise is more in line with what the lovers of iniquity will have in the eternal darkness of Hell. Loud noises in Heaven are the praises of a great multitude lifted up to the Lord and certainly wouldn't be described as an iniquity. The workers of iniquity may be quietly plotting our demise, while at the same time our brothers and sisters across town may be making a large noise of praise to the Lord. It isn't the volume, it is the content.

And may our Lord save us from the content favored by the workers of iniquity!


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

That Which Was Lost

Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. Matthew 18:10-11

Do you feel like a little lost sheep in a big and hateful world? There is good news in these verses! Jesus has come to save the lost, and you in that feeling of lost smallness are right where the Savior wants you to be at this time.

We tend to think this only happens to the unbeliever who suffers a tragedy and indeed it is a good way for the Lord to gain the attention of that unbelieving one. However, the Christian of many years faces these times of despondency too. The world kicks up a storm and though the Savior is just a prayer away, we look hard at the storm and despair of overcoming it in our meager strength. We were never to overcome in our little lost strength though! Trust in Him, make that prayer call to the One who has overcome the storm already. Wail like the lost sheep to the Good Shepherd and be saved from the current circumstance. And then live in gratitude, for when the brief time of trial is over, the Lord wants all of us safe in His green pasture.

Rejoice in the new day!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pennies on the Floor

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10

Faithfulness in what is least is the test, but what we want is to be faithful in the most. I also have felt the desire to be faithful in the most loot and hope that everyone notices and comments on it. Sounds a lot like a certain group of Pharisees who had their reward. Less desirable is the quiet faithfulness in dealing with the least. That circumstance where we have only a little and no one is likely to notice how faithfully we handle it is not so much fun. However, I have noticed a thing in and among these empty houses we visit and clean: pennies on the floor.

Among those of a certain lifestyle, and the loss of their domicile thereby, I have noted a tendency to abandon monetary resources. Yes, they leave pennies on the floor. The lowly penny gets no respect when it is trampled into the filthy carpet. This has been found in those houses where there is neglect: they neglect to get a job, they neglect to pay the rent, etc., and soon the house is lost to the creditor or landlord. And so, after almost 2,000 years, I have noted in practice what Jesus said in His word. Good job, me!

We can easily dismiss the little penny as there is not much that we can purchase with the power of one penny. However, practice faithfulness with that one penny and we will be better prepared when given just one tiny mustard seed of faith. Pick up those pennies and use them faithfully, and a person may find the Lord trusting him or her with more than pennies. Use that tiny mustard seed faithfully, and the Lord may grant to us the entire shady tree of faith!

Have a great Monday in Christ Jesus!

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Singular Way

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

We had a great night for sleeping last night as the cooler nights of September arrived on the 20th. The neighbors were scrapping again yesterday, and they had done so good for a month or more. Sigh.

Lots of people have a way for you to live, simply read a few websites and you will find as many ways to live. Some want to manage your way to live by passing laws that state their way to live as your way to live. Another group wants your blessing on their way to live, whether you agree with it or not. Others just want your way to live to leave them alone. There are religious ways to live, secular ways to live, hermit ways to live, and social ways to live. We can work and make a living or hold out a hand for a living handout. There are many, many more to choose from.

Jesus did not say there were lots of ways to the Father, just one. He did not offer many truths, just Himself. And to live we must come to the Father through that singular way, Jesus the Christ. Great is the Lord to simplify it for us. Many would be lost among many ways to the Father. One singular way gives us hope that many more will find Him before the end comes. Two ways and I might doubt all the way to the end that I had chosen correctly. But one way relieves all that doubt. In Christ the Lord we will come to the Father our God!

Have a great Friday in Christ Jesus!


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Free, But Not Innocent

Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1

When I began life in this country I enjoyed many rights enshrined in the Constitution. However, I was anything but innocent. Original sin is the charge and that cute or ugly, I have no memory of which, little baby I call 'me' was guilty. I was born into the land of the free and brave, but innocence would have to wait for God's declaration.

Come to think of it, I wasn't exactly free back then either. Hopping into the ol' automobile and taking off on a countryside jaunt by myself wasn't an option until much later in life. That is one of the definitions of free to many of us, and I didn't have it. Well, I wasn't free in another sense either, that is free of the penalty for my sin. Original sin would soon be joined by a rather lengthy rap sheet of sins of commission: lying, stealing, hateful thoughts, wrath, and a few years later things like lust of the flesh would come into that 'free' life. And about the time one might think that this is one rough-around-the-edges baby without hope of redemption, I learned about our one hope in this life: Jesus.

In one thing I was free: I was free to believe in Jesus Christ. And that belief has made me free indeed, and then God declared me innocent. What a strange thing to the worldly mind!

Enjoy the day in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Further Away and Right at Hand

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
​​Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
​​“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
​​So are My ways higher than your ways,
​​And My thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

Have you noticed that the smarter we as the human race think we are, the further away from us the heavens get? In Babel they were building a tower that could reach the heavens. The heavens were quite close in those days. Many years later, there was this model of the earth and the stars all around. With some discoveries the heavens became a bit further away, and man thought himself smarter as he increased in knowledge. Then, the sun-centered universe model came along, and man was smarter still, but the heavens also got a bit further out there with this solar system thing. Now, the Sun is just another star in one of many galaxies and man thinks he knows that the edge of the universe is something like 15 billion light years across or about half that away from the center. Some are so smart in their estimation these days that God is not even needed in their thoughts of how the universe came to be. Those heavens are so far out of reach now that Babel seems almost silly.

Then Paul wrote: "The Lord is at hand..." At hand? Yes, as in right here, with us. I am glad. For as the heavens have gotten further away by our becoming smart in our own eyes, the more so many of us have felt lost and adrift in an alien universe. It is good to know that our Lord's heavens are further away from those who would leave Him out of His Creation, and that He is right here at hand for those of us whom He has chosen to believe in His Son, who was very much right here on this earth. And one great day this Son is coming to get us and take us home.

In Christ we live,

Monday, September 17, 2018

Like An Army

And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days. Genesis 7:24

The 'road closed' markers on the map from Charlotte to Wilmington and up to Raleigh and Winston-Salem in North Carolina are like an army. The waters rule right now; it is tough to see hope amidst the flood. Other areas have flooding too and lives have been lost to the storm. Peace has been said to flow like a river, but I don't think the author had overflowing, flooding rivers in mind. Once again we are hardly more prepared than the ancients for such large floods.

Noah was well prepared to survive the greatest flood of history, but was he so well prepared for the waiting? Not just waiting while repairs and reconstruction took place, but the waiting to get started - that time when he was ready but nothing could be done for those 150 days. At this moment, equipment and materials will be staged somewhere, ready to begin the cleanup and building. But today, as a bit of sun begins to shine on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they are stuck waiting and listening to the rain as further showers plague the area. Just like an army, ready but stuck waiting for the time to come. We too have a waiting that has come upon us.

One day, we know our Lord will come, and these terrible floods and other catastrophes will be done for us. However, we have that time of waiting. We can't make Him come sooner. We cannot advance a date we do not know. The waiting for our Lord goes on, but we can come to Him in prayer to be made ready. And while we wait on Him, we can help out our neighbors wherever we can, especially in prayer for their salvation, safety, and rebuilding their homes.

Waiting in prayer on our Lord Jesus,

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Rain of Righteousness

​Sow for yourselves righteousness;
​​Reap in mercy;
​​Break up your fallow ground,
​​For it is time to seek the LORD,
​​Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12

Like the story of the four soils where the seeds that fell on good ground produced 30, 60, and 100- fold for each seed, we are exhorted to sow some righteousness. That is good, for at times it seems that all of my efforts to produce righteousness are in vain. We are the sower, and the sower does not see the harvest at the time of the sowing. We might imagine it, some of our wild imaginings might even come close, a little close, but the result belongs to the Lord. I get a picture of a big event in this verse, a rain of righteousness that sweeps away the chaff of the old life and grows such a harvest that the barn cannot contain it.

Sowing righteousness makes more sense. We do not get to see the results we desire because it is just too early yet for full maturity. Which explains why we are to reap in mercy, which in turn sounds like living in grace, and then break up that fallow ground. Wait, what fallow ground? Could be the future that we will begin walking through today; ground that we have not attempted to break up with the plow before this time. In this day, it is time to seek the Lord, because there ain't nothin' scarier than plowing the fallow ground of tomorrow by yourself. And we labor in this "Till He comes..."

Well of course we do! And He could come on this very day!


Friday, September 14, 2018

God Knew

Binding his donkey to the vine,
​​And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
​​He washed his garments in wine,
​​And his clothes in the blood of grapes. Genesis 49:11

Vine, donkey's colt, washed, garments, wine, blood? There is some symbolism going on here! Even more there is talk of a lion and the words are directed to Judah. This verse is from Jacob's final words to his 12 sons, in particular the blessing given to Judah by his father, also known as Israel. This happened about 1,689 years before the birth of Christ. What is even more interesting is that Jacob called his 12 sons together to hear what would befall them in the last days.

So, do the final words of Jacob tell us when Jesus is coming back? Sorry, that knowledge is still held closely by the Father our God. We do not get a date with our wine. (Ouch, poor painful pun.) However, we are glad to see that God knew His plan for salvation and imparted a bit of it to His servant, Jacob.

Some of the deeds of Jacob's life do not match up well with a prophet of the Lord. The birthright thing, the deception of poor old Isaac along with his co-conspirator, also known as 'Mom', do not seem to be the righteous deeds of a man of God. Of course, some of my past deeds would not qualify me to teach from the word either. And so it goes with all of us. God knew our deeds and yet loved us so much that He sent His Son, on the donkey's colt no less, to save us from those former deeds, and thoughts, and intentions, and all of the other sin we were born into. God knew, and He saved us anyway. Israel belongs to God, and so do we!

God's blessings to you,

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Wind Comes

​The wind goes toward the south,
​​And turns around to the north;
​​The wind whirls about continually,
​​And comes again on its circuit.  Ecc 1:6

When our brothers and sisters in Christ face the coming storm on the Atlantic coast of our nation, it is difficult to write of the conditions here, far away from the storm. We may be neighbors only in spirit and not in location, but we are neighbors in the Spirit.

Looking at some traffic cams on the North Carolina coast, it is almost a ghost town atmosphere. The whirling wind is coming later today and the people have left the area. It is interesting that with all of the technology and construction we boast of, it is still better to run from the big storm. And yet, as always, there were a few vehicles on the roads even on the outer islands. We will of course pray with them too. Always that sort of action brings up the question: foolish or faith-filled?

We tend to base the answer on the result. If they ignore the evacuation and stay to face the storm, and we see their corpse being removed from the shattered house on the news report, then we conclude foolishness. But is it? Is that the final result? A body was placed into a tomb many years ago, but that was not the final result for that one body. He rose again. No doubt before the resurrection some judged Him foolish too.

Today we pray for the storm is near,

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How Did It Get This Way?

God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
​​To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
​​Every one of them has turned aside;
​​They have together become corrupt;
​​There is none who does good,
​​No, not one.  Psalm 53:2-3

What sort of love caused our Lord to save us from this? In His place any of us would have scrapped the lot of us. What to do with a world full of sinners? Few among us get up seeking to do evil or bad though. We might even intend to do good in the morning when we rise. If even most of us intend good, what happened to the world?

Of course we know from the word of God that sin is our birthright. We are born into it, and only a rebirth in Christ by the Spirit can take us through the narrow gate and get us on the Lord's way back to God. Sounds long as He does it. Salvation is of the Lord. I have no idea how to rebirth you, wouldn't even know where to start, so go to Him, then receive and rejoice in the salvation of Jesus Christ.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Getting Late

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12

About 35 years ago, I toured part of Israel and it seemed a pretty dry place. A place where growing food would be tough and However, Israel now exports food. The desert is blooming faster than the younger me would have thought possible. So, when I say that it is getting late, figure that it is getting later. If I should say that our Lord could return in the next few years, figure that it will be tonight. If I should say tomorrow, best look toward today.

Paul said the night was far gone, a pretty far long time ago. Yet, our Lord has not yet come. This is the trap to be wary of, as Peter pointed out to us, that we might think our Lord will not come just as quickly as He said He would. It will be in a time such as this, one of relative peace in the world. It will be when mankind least expects it, though each of us should be expecting the return of our Lord at this very moment. It will be today when we are looking at tomorrow. The good news is that in Christ we are ready for it.

Take us home, Lord, in Your good and perfect time!


Friday, September 07, 2018

Be Known

Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” Acts 28:28

Praise the Lord for the salvation of Jesus Christ! By that we are known as His followers. And how are we known? For doing the wrong things? For the worst sorts of behavior? Certainly not! And we strive daily to be known for doing what is right and following closely the teachings of our Lord Jesus. We want to be known for the lives He has changed to the better, for being reborn in Christ.

Yet, there seem to be in this world of today many who just want to be known. When the criticism arrives they don't care and even see it as indication their method is working. Whatever means is justified by the notoriety, infamous to them is just as good as famous. Disrespect of the elder things is okay with them as long as the click count is up on the web metrics. Dishonesty is not even a consideration but another means to gain the desired attention. And why should we worry?

We shouldn't! Our Lord told us all of this would come near the end. While all of this is going on, be known as one of His. Be known for integrity, righteousness, and the light of Christ shining out to the world. Be known as wholly given to the Lord. Be known in His love.

Be known in Christ,

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Lord's Goodness - Right Here

​I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
​​That I would see the goodness of the LORD
​​In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

Listen to the news on most days and it is easy to lose heart. David came to believe that he would see the goodness of the Lord here, in the land of the living, and it gave him heart. It may be that we are not given news of the Lord's goodness at work in our news media. It may be that we are not seeing the Lord's goodness due to a blindness of sin. But David believed that goodness he would see here.

We may be tempted to believe that the Lord's goodness is withheld only to come in some future time that we cannot see from here. David tells us no. Jesus tells us no (see Mark 10:29-31 for one promise). We can look for the Lord's goodness right here, right now, in this life and in this time. All may appear headed for destruction, but the Lord is still sovereign, still good, and still loving. We have our hope in Jesus, today.

May our Lord Jesus be praised in our found and renewed heart today.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Sting of the Scoffer

“Look, you scoffers,
wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
that you would never believe,
even if someone told you."  Acts 13:41 (quoting Habakkuk)

Paul ran into the scoffers; he should know, he used to be one.

Believing in Jesus is not easy. The flesh fights against it with every argument that it can muster. Distractions from the world flow in waves against the shore of faith. And then, there is the seduction of sin which promises the scoffer an approval rating just short of miraculous. Beside all of that is the fun of becoming the object and target of the world's scorn.

None of us particularly wants to feel the sting of the scoffer. In this world there are many who have become quite skilled at scorning a belief and scoffing at the believer. Their darts and jibes can hurt us deeply. They have discovered the tone of voice and set of face that brings others to their side to witness the verbal execution of the faith we hold so dearly. The Son of God felt this even as He died on the cross. But there is also this message for the scoffers.

Sent by the prophet in the time before Jesus came to us, and repeated by the apostle in the time when we await our Lord's return, God sent a short note to the scoffers, "Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish..." And then, our Lord promised an action so awesome that even foretold the scoffers will not believe.

Hmm, kinda sounds like that refers to the Revelation of our Lord Jesus! The Return of our Lord Jesus: coming soon to a world near you!


Monday, September 03, 2018

Men, We Labor

Then King Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel; and the labor force was thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts: they were one month in Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the labor force. 1 Kings 5:13-14

One of the great works of the Bible is the Temple of God that Solomon built in Jerusalem. We have descriptions and measurements, but it is hard for us to imagine what this building looked like. We do have some idea of what it took to build the Temple with the tens of thousands of laborers called to the work from Israel. 70,000 bore burdens and another 80,000 quarried stone in the mountains (v15). That is 180,000 persons on the project just in these three verses. Labor was the order of the day and a lot of men turned out to labor away a month at a time on this huge project. It is interesting to note the shifts organized by month in the first group. The organizers of this huge effort were 3,300 of King Solomon's chiefs of deputies. They also likely worked 1,100 at a time by monthly shifts. Do we get the impression yet of an enormous project?

As God has put the spirit of creation in us, I wonder how many methods and machines of construction were invented during this time. The local Caterpillar dealer probably hadn't been born in Solomon's time and I saw great stones in the western wall that would have called for some cooperation and leverage to place. By the accounts in the Bible, the completed Temple was really something to behold. And then, God's presence entered in...

The works of man, even the greatest of them, lack something. Men, we labor, but God is that something our works need.

In Christ, I am a work in progress,

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Hands of Toil, Hands of Trouble

But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. Genesis 19:10

In the case of our verse today, the hands were used for good to pull Lot to safety from the mob outside the house. You may have seen a news report today about a bishop's hands getting him into trouble. Yes, men, we are on the hot seat today because I am one of you and have gotten into trouble with my hands too.

The hands of man were given us as blessings from God. Then Adam reached out and took from Eve the forbidden fruit and we have toiled with our hands ever since that time. We have also used those hands to get into trouble time and time again. Jesus even told us to cut one off if it was going to be the cause of missing out on Heaven. So important are the hands in this life that I'm thinking very few men, if any, have done this thing. Any of us could exhaustively list all the tasks we use our hands for each and every day. We could also make quite a list of troubles and sins our hands have helped us get into. If trouble has come to you by your hands already this morning, I'm sorry. Let us hope the remainder of the day will bring good works.

The hands of toil are indeed the hands of trouble, but they can also be the hands that do good works. We need some help with that though, and Jesus our Lord offered to be that help. Actually, He said that without Him we could do nothing. Paul also said that through Christ's strengthening he could do all things. The hands of the Lord are seen as those which bring us His good help. Hands appear 456 times in the New King James Bible, showing their importance in the days of our lives. In Christ we can do good works with our hands, but in the flesh we can also do great harm.

Thank You, dear Lord, for the hands which are so useful and beautifully made by You. Please strengthen me to use them for good works.