Sunday, April 22, 2012

Simplifying My Life

I'm trying to bring some disorder into the chaos of my life. I have blogs with Blogger and with Wordpress.  In order to simplify things, I'm moving this blog to Wordpress. You can find new posts at

Thank you for understanding.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lazarus Is Us

Focus verses: John 11:28-44

The story of raising Lazarus from the dead is familiar to most of us. It seems the ultimate miracle, changing death into life. But this is not the only story of raising the dead in the New Testament.

There was the ruler's daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Peter raised Dorcas (Tabitha).

The difference here is that Lazarus had been dead for four days. This didn't happen just immediately after Lazarus died. In the heat of the Holy Land, a body would not "keep" without embalming for that many days.

As his sister said, "He stinks by now." If you have ever come upon old carrion, you know that aroma. It isn't pleasant.

But Lazarus came forth - not smelling, but still bound in the grave clothes. And Jesus tells them to take off the grave clothes and let him go. In other words, free him from the fetters of death.

How does this relate to us?

Well we were dead in our sins before Christ entered our hearts. We had been there long enough to have acquired a lot of stinking habits and patterns of thought. Those habits and thought patterns are exactly like the grave clothes that Jesus told them to remove from Lazarus.

They blind us, like a cloth over the face. They keep us from moving forward, like bound feet. They hinder us from the work of the Lord, like wrapped hands.

We can not bring the habits of death into our new life in Christ. When we surrendered to Jesus, we became new creatures. We may have the same physical characteristics we had before that encounter and commitment, but the inner person has changed radically. What was important in the world before is now a series of minor details.

Instead of living from month to month or with a five-year plan or with nebulous goals for someday, we have the purpose of God in our lives. His purpose and plan is beyond our ken. It's like a carnival ride, you commit yourself and just hang on. It's exciting, and you will see things from a totally new perspective.

Father, God,

Thank You for our resurrection from sin to salvation. Help us to keep our eyes on You at all times and to see things from the perspective of Your plans, not only for our personal lives, but for the world.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Focus verses: I Corinthians 15:1-34

Paul taught about the resurrection of the dead. But he didn't see Jesus til he was stricken blind on the road to Damascus - after His ascension into heaven. This resurrection sets Jesus apart from every other founder of a major religion. You can see the burial places of other founders of religion. There is only an empty tomb for Jesus.

No other prophet was raised from the dead. It is His resurrection that gives us the hope of life after death as well. Paul lays it out clearly. If there is no resurrection, then Christ cannot have been raised from the dead, either. And our hope is lost entirely. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, we are still dead in our sins.

The line from Handel's Messiah Oratorio says: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." There is a tempo change here from grave at 60 beats per minute to allegro at 84 beats. From a dirge to a lively dance.

This is what Christ does for our lives both here and hereafter. We are dead in sin. It weighs us down and crushes our spirits. But our belief in Christ and His resurrection lifts that burden and lets us dance with joy.

That promise is as much for our lives today as it is for our life after death. Can we live today in Joy?

Father, God,

Help us to understand that time has no meaning for You, that what will be already is in Your kingdom. Teach us to live the resurrected life both before and after death.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Focus Verses: John 12:12,13

Today we celebrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People are caught up in the moment. They are anticipating the entrance of a worldly Messiah. One who will free them from the yoke of Rome. One who will bring God's rule to their kingdom.

But the moment will not last. Their expectations were not God's plan. Within the week they will be disillusioned, disheartened, some even completely turned away from the Christ.

Looking beyond the surface of an event will keep us from being surprised when all is not what it seems to be. Imagine Jesus' feelings at this moment. He's being hailed as a conqueror when he knows that the week will end with his crucifixion. Don't you suppose that the "Hosannahs" rang hollow in his ears?

Yet he allowed the adulation of the crowd. It was part of the learning curve for his disciples. They had a moment in the sun before the darkness of Holy Friday.

It was a foretaste of Resurrection Sunday. No cheering crowd there, just an empty tomb. Wonder. Questions. Elation.

Father, God,
Help us to see beyond the surface of events. Grant us the privilege of seeing through your eyes, understanding your plans. Let us always be grounded in your truth. 
In Jesus' most precious name.  Amen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grief And Hope

Focus verses: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Grief comes to all of us from time to time. The loss of a friend or family member, loss of a job or precious possession, or wayward children can grieve us. Somehow, I seem always to have known that such grief is temporary - a reflection of our personal emotions at a specific moment in time - not a permanent condition.

It might have been Doctor G. who quoted the phrase "grieve not as them who have no hope." I was absolutely certain that it came from this passage of scripture. But I could not find those exact words in any of the translations on That quote might just have been a paraphrase rather than a quote. At any rate, the sense is certainly from this passage.

Doctor G. stood as godfather at my baptism in the Lutheran church. He was a rock-solid foundation in my life. A spiritually wise man, he taught me many things. But more than that, he infected me with the joy of the Lord and an educated faith in Jesus.

He was a bible scholar, a student of the word, and a poet. On my twelfth birthday, he gave me a scrapbook which he had put together with his own hands. And he wrote this poem about him and me and heaven. It's long, so I'll just quote the pertinent verses here.

You are twelve years old today, dear,
And I'm past seventy-three.
With back to back we're dreaming,
But it's different things we see.

You look AT the golden sunrise,
See dream castle in the mist:
It's the road ahead for you, dear -
Life at its borning best.

I look THROUGH the golden sunset,
With its beckoning promise bright
To a day without a sundown,
Where it's always day - not night.

And when you have passed the Sunset
To the day without Sundown,
When Life's pilgrimage is over,
And you've won your victor's crown;

I'll be at the gate of heaven,
With glad heart to see you come;
Glad to welcome you, my daughter,
Into our Eternal Home.
His knowledge of the word and my faith in his always telling me the exact truth - pleasant or unpleasant - gave me the assurance that this life is not all there is. I can grieve a loss, but it doesn't decimate me.

My friend was the sister in a family with two brothers. She lost first one and then the other. At the funeral of the second brother, I went to hug her. Her grief was not only obvious, but it was painful to see. There was an element of hopelessness in it that I had never seen before. She could not be comforted.

Paul doesn't say here that we don't grieve. We simply do not grieve as those people who have no hope of Christ and the resurrection - no hope of heaven.

Father, God,

Grant that we may always keep our eyes upon You, not on the attractions of this world. Let us see with the eternal perspective the ultimate good in Your will, no matter how it looks from an earthly perspective.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jars Of Clay

Focus verses: II Corinthians 4:7-12

The metaphor of clay in the life of the Christian has always been a source of comfort for me, but I didn't fully realize what it meant until I became involved with my daughter's pottery class.

Clay is malleable. It can be rolled, stretched, incised, imprinted, and watered down and worked again. I love working with clay.

The clay became even more special to me when I took classes in precious metal clays. You see, the "clay" part is just a binder to hold the tiny fragments of the metal together. The clay burns off when you fire the piece to harden the metal clay. If you are working with silver clay, you come out with a product called "fine" silver. It is more nearly pure silver than sterling.

But handling this clay takes special care. First it must be kept moist or wet. If you let it dry out, you cannot work with it as you should.

Then you must oil both your hands and any surface that it touches to keep it from sticking in places where you don't want it and ruining the piece you are making.

Once the piece is completed, you let it dry - sort of like a desert experience.

When it is dry, you file any rough edges or accidental protrusions.

Then you put it in a kiln - or in the flame of a torch to fire.

Once it is fired, you polish it by putting it in a tumbler with shot.

If you want special effects, you treat it with chemicals to change the color or give it the appearance of age.

Eventually you have a piece of jewelry that is 99% fine silver, a thing of beauty and a joy to wear.

We have the treasure of the gospel in our jars of clay. Only if we keep it watered with the Word, oiled by the Holy Spirit, will it fit for molding by the Lord.

We may go through desert experiences and have abrasives applied to refine our shape. We will most certainly be proved in fire of one kind or another. Then we will be thrust into a world that tumbles us with grit or shot to polish us to a high shine so that we reflect the light of Christ. In fact, the dross of us will have been burnt away, leaving only the pure spirit of Christ in us.

Completely yielded, we can be of service to the Lord. It's not a quick process. It takes time. Let us yield with patience to the Lord's shaping.

Father, God,

Help us to be soft, malleable clay in Your hands. Give us the grace to endure the process so that we may come out refined and useful to Your kingdom. Less of us and more of you.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Almost Is Not Good Enough

Focus verses: Acts 25:23-26:29

Paul tells his story time and again. In fact, from the testimony in his trials, we should be able to assume that this is the message he preaches when he talks to the people. Conversion after conversion follows Paul in all his travels.

But in Jerusalem, he is prosecuted as a trouble maker. He stands trial three times, before Felix, before Agrippa, and before Festus. Each time he tells the same story of his life as a Pharisee, his encounter on the road to Damascus, and his life after his encounter with Jesus.

In fact, Agrippa is so moved by his testimony that he says he is almost persuaded (KJV) to become as Paul is.

Paul's reason for appealing to Rome for his trial is not told here, but it would seem reasonable that he was playing for time, more opportunities to speak his piece in front of gentiles. At least that is the effect it had.

But what has this to do with us? Today there are people with a nebulous sense of God. Many people pray in times of crisis. But whether we have had a dramatic encounter like Paul's on the road to Damascus, or simply a growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, some of us are not truly Christian.

We are almost persuaded by our intellect, but we have not made the commitment that Paul has made. We have not put telling the story of Jesus at the head of our to-do list each day. We are his witnesses in this world. Our need to defend our faith in Him should be the motivation for all we do and say.

We cannot be a sometimes Christian. We must not be a pseudo-Christian. We must be fully committed to Christ alone. Our fidelity to Him must be foremost in our lives.

Father, God,

Help us to put You first in our lives. Keep us from being distracted by this world. Grant that we may serve You completely, wholly committed to spreading the good news of Jesus and Your love for us.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Insidious Sin of Forgetfulness

Focus Verses: Jude 1: 3-5 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

The history of God's people is spotty. Sometimes they were filled with faith. Other times, they forgot his benefits and were drawn to the things of the world.  When those times came, the Lord was patient with them until they went beyond the point of no return. Then he allowed the other nations to chastise them.

Those who had lost the faith eventually remembered or died. And a new generation began believing again. But the destruction between the loss of faith and its rebirth was costly.

But how did it happen that the nation lost its faith? "Certain men crept in unawares.." The disbelief comes in slowly through people who water down the word of God. Look at the original deceiver. He began with a question:  Did God really say...? 

Then he started rationalizing. He explained away God's direction to Adam and Eve.

When we start believing that we know better than God what is needful, we are in danger of being led into disbelief and infidelity. That is why we must earnestly contend for the faith.

We must be on the alert to the minor deviations from God's word that, if followed for any length, will lead even the believer totally astray.

Father, God,
Help us to stay on the straight and narrow. Keep us mindful of your fidelity and your promises. Remind us of your mercies from the past. Shield us from the wiles of the enemy. Help us to guard our minds.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unfailing Love

Focus verses: Psalm 44

"Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love."

The hand of the Lord reaches to His people because of His love, not because of anything we have or have not done. There is none pure enough to stand righteous in the face of God on his own merits.

We are a weak and sinful creation. Left to our own devices, we fall into sin and wantonness. We tend to follow the lust of the flesh rather than the love of God. We satisfy our immediate appetites regardless of the consequences. We behave as if there were no consequences.

This psalm should be our prayer for our nation today. Look at all the things we've done.

We've allowed prayer to be stripped from our schools.

We have gagged the word of God and removed symbols of our faith from public lands.

We've misconstrued our own Constitution and the amendments thereto, twisting them to read that not only can government not interfere with religion (which was the original intent), but religion can have no say in government (which was not true even when the constitution was written).

The Declaration of Independence refers to a Supreme Being three times. Look for these three phrases: "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" - "endowed by their Creator" - "the Supreme Judge of the world."

The foundation of our freedoms lies in our understanding of God and His moral laws. Having flouted those laws and turned our backs on the Author of those laws, we are now reaping the consequences of His disfavor.

Father, God,

Remember our beginnings. In Your unfailing love, draw our nation back to Yourself. Restore us to the values of our roots and cleanse us from our iniquities.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Focus verses: Romans 1:18-32

There is an agenda in this society to shame Christians with their "intolerance" for immorality. Some things in the Word of God are not debatable.
  1. You are to love God.
  2. You are to love your neighbor.
  3. Jesus is the only way to salvation.
  4. You are to tell the truth at all times.
  5. You are to spread the good news of Jesus.
Here we have the proscription against homosexuality. But not only in this passage, we find it in the Old Testament as well. I really prefer the King James translation of this verse.

But we live in a society which wants us to be quiet. Christians are all right as long as they stay cloistered in their churches and don't make waves for the rest of the world.

Political correctness insists that we not only turn a blind eye to this sin, but we are to support all its perversions. There are laws that could make it illegal for a preacher to read this passage in church. And Heaven fore fend that we should speak of this sin as a sin.

This is the kind of convoluted thinking that leads a criminal to sue his victim for injuries he sustained on the victim's property during the commission of his crime.

Detailed description of sin is not necessary. There is an element in every person that knows right from wrong. We need to be definite about not compromising the principles of moral behavior.

God has no patience with sin. He exacted a price for our sins.

Our only defense is to recognize that price and honor the One Who Paid by conducting ourselves as He would have us behave and by not tolerating legislated misconduct.

Father, God,

Give us the boldness to speak Your truth at all times. Help us to be courageous enough to call wrong "wrong" even when it is dangerous to do so.

In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seeking Ourselves

Focus verses: Genesis 1:26-30.

Can you identify yourself? Who, exactly, are you? Not your name. Nor your job. Nor your relationship to any another person or persons. What is the essence of who you are?

These verses tell you. You are a being created in the image of God. You are not God. You will never be a god. But you are created to be like Him. And He commissioned you!

He delegated His life-creating powers to the union of male and female. And He commanded that you be fruitful and fill the earth.

And subdue it. Take authority over the earth, an authority that was delegated by God, the Creator of the universe. If you know anything about military or corporate structure, you know that your authority is limited by the person to whom you report. Your authority never exceeds that of the superior officer.

So, too, we need to be aware that while we have been given authority and dominion by God, we are still subordinate to Him. While we rule over the earth and all it's fauna, we are not, ultimately, the One in charge.

You will note, also, that God gave us a vegetarian diet. And this vegetarian diet was not limited to man, but to the animals as well. Animals were not originally intended for food. That came later.

Hmmm... So who am I? I am a child of God, created in the image of my heavenly Father. I was designed to be creative and fruitful. I was given authority over the earth and the living creatures. And I was designed to eat seeds and fruit -- not meat.

Father, God,

As I have questions about myself, my goals, and my endeavors, help me to seek the answers by seeking to know You better.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Place of Rest

I keep remembering the words of the old hymn:

There is a place of quiet rest
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest
Near to the heart of God.

In a world where sin seems rampant and sovereign, I like to reflect on the fact that God keeps a small corner of stillness for our retreat. Some days that retreat is the only place of serenity in the entire universe.

People disappoint us either by accident or by malice. Circumstances frustrate us whether it is technology glitching or traffic jamming.

And we let ourselves down by being less that we could or should be. Most exasperating to me are the times when I come across something I intended to do and didn't. Those are the times I need to remind myself of my worth in God's eyes.

If there had been only one person in the world, Jesus would still have come as Redeemer. If it had only been me, He would still have gone to the cross. He'd have done it for you if you were the only one as well.

When we look at the price God paid for our salvation, we are reminded that we are not important because we are who we are - but because of the value He placed on each of us.

There is another old hymn:

Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

Look back at some of the older hymns and recognize the validity of the theology contained therein. When we forsake all the old hymns in favor of only new choruses, we lose part of our roots. Find an old hymn this week and think about the words and thoughts it sings.

Father God, I thank you for this place of rest and healing near to your heart. Help me to see through all the miscellany of life to the reality of the one thing that is most important -- my relationship to you. In Jesus' most precious name.