Saturday, October 19, 2013

Coyote Blessings

Blessings sometimes come in strange packages, and it makes them a little hard to recognize. You've probably had a few blessings of your own like that. The coyotes have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. Well, sorta. 

There's a train that passes through our town. I don't have its time schedule, but best I can tell, it passes through here at 9:00 pm, 11:00 pm, 1:00 am, and 3:00 am. I know that, because that's when I wake up. Every night. As it rolls through town, it blows a train whistle that is loud enough to wake the dead (as well as the sleeping). Now, that whistle is a good thing, despite the racket in the night, because it lets drivers know to stop at railroad crossings. It keeps our citizens safe, and I am all for that. 

The whistle, however, wakes the coyotes too. They go totally crazy, yipping and making coyote-racket. It's a frightful sound. Then the coyote-yipping wakes the dogs ( my outside dog as well as my inside-on-my-bed dog) and they start barking like a home invasion is underway.  There is no way to sleep through all this, so I get up for a few minutes. I can't stay up long, though, because I only have two hours to sleep before we do it all again. 

Recently, I've been pondering the racket in the night and how to get more sleep. As long as the coyotes and Maggie the Wonder Dog are mixing it up every two hours all night long, it's not going to happen. You can probably guess where I'm going with this. I began to think about getting rid of those varmints. 

Now you may not believe this, but it turns out there is an art to coyote hunting and there are people that really like to do it. I'm not saying they specialize in hunting coyotes, but suffice it to say, there are people to call.  I had begun to think about calling the coyote whisperers and asking them to reduce the population, but the idea of a massacre just didn't appeal to me. There must have been some reason to create them (though I can't imagine what) so, instead, I began to hope (and pray) for an alternative. 

I didn't hold out much hope for some sort of miraculous disappearance, so when Bill ( who helps me on my farm) offered to trap them, I said to go ahead. This sleeping thing was nearly to a critical point. I started fretting about fur licenses and permits and Bill said,"Nope. I don't need any of that."  Here's where things get interesting. He has a friend who has a kind of coyote farm. 150 acres!!! The man wants the coyotes, but only if they are alive!  No massacre!! No killing varmints!!! Can you believe it? 

I'm thrilled and really looking forward to moving the coyotes to the coyote-farmer's land. They didn't turn out to be a blessing for me, exactly, but they have allowed me to bless the coyote-farmer, and they will (I guess) be a blessing to him (if not to his neighbors). I can hardly wait for them to move!

The coyotes have reminded me of something I should have considered. There is no problem so bad or so complicated that it cannot be solved. There is a way through anything you face. There is a plan, and it's a good one, designed by One who loves you more than you can understand. The solution for finding the blessing lies not in yourself, but in knowing Who to ask. 

House of Prayer (Luke 4:15)

And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. (Luke 4:15 NASB)

Synagogue. describes a synagogue this way: "the center of the Jewish religious community: a place of prayer, study and education..." Synagogues are always, at the minimum, a place of prayer. In Jesus's time, most little villages had a synagogue, where men gathered to pray and, usually, to study as well. The young boys would be taught the Torah there in a "study hall".  Some synagogues are enormous, elaborate structures, holding thousands of people, but in the villages in Galilee, they were usually built of stone, and had one large assembly hall with a small room at the side for teaching the boys. Jesus began His ministry by going from village to village, visiting and teaching in their synagogues, the houses of prayer. 

I'm not sure how you see the place where you gather with believers (your "church"), but I don't usually think of my church as a house of prayer. There is a room that I use regularly that is the "room of prayer", but house of prayer? Maybe not. To me, it's always been the "house of sermons".  

Until today, I'm ashamed to say, I never saw a problem with this. Local synagogues were places of teaching and study, but that was secondary to corporate prayer. Jesus had a serious issue about turning His Father's house from being a house of prayer to a den of thieves, but maybe we would do well to consider that the problem began when the House of Prayer was turned into anything other than primarily a place of communing with God. 

House of Prayer. I wonder, what would God do in response if we turned our churches into Houses of Prayer where we actually communicated with the Most High God and were still enough to hear that Still, Small Voice? How would we be changed? What about our loved ones who are struggling with issues of faith? 

Dear ones, pray. Pray that we will allow God to turn our assemblies into Houses of Prayer and that we will approach The Most High God with humility and brokenness. He will not leave us unchanged. He will not fail to move. When that happens, those we love and for whom we pray will not be able to deny the work our God has done. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The new Waiting Thankfully Season

     Somehow, I seem to have my holidays upside down.  In August, I wrote a series on the birth of Christ.  Today, I've been formatting that series as a little Advent book.  In the midst of all this formatting, I've been cooking for Thanksgiving.  We aren't even through October yet!!  For the people who are coming to my house for Thanksgiving, I might as well tell you that I have the menu a little mixed up.  I started out to make traditional cornbread dressing, got distracted, and ended up with Taco Soup and Chili. I'm not sure how that happened, so don't ask. I did make gluten-free cornbread, but I still don't have the dressing.  Today, I got distracted again and made watermelon sorbet.  How that's going over at Thanksgiving is anybody's guess.  I still don't have dressing.  Oh well.  Since I've started so early, there is still time for dressing and turkey!

     After I got the little book formatted, I realized you couldn't tell clearly when one day's devotional stopped and the next day's devotional started, so I went back to number them.  This is clearly not a well-planned project, because it has FORTY THREE days of Advent.  I have checked with that modern authority on all things, Wikipedia, and Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25th.  It's always the Sunday between November 27th and December 3rd. That sounds as confusing as my forty-three day Advent, so I guess I'm good to go.  I have decided to start Advent on November 13th or maybe November 23rd, which means t hat, either way, I will be combining Thanksgiving and Advent this year.

     Since Advent is "a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity" (thanks, Wikipedia) and Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for the harvest and the blessings of the preceding year, I've decided to celebrate a new season this year.  It's the Waiting Thankfully Season. Isn't that perfect?  While we wait for the celebration of the Nativity, we can ponder it, and as we ponder, we can consider just how grateful we are (or how grateful we should be). The best way to celebrate the Waiting Thankfully Season will be to give thanks every day for that wonderful event for which we wait... the Nativity.

That gives Advent a whole new meaning doesn't it?  It spices up Thanksgiving a bit, too, if you ask me. Waiting Thankfully Season. With grateful hearts for decorations and bended knees for the main activity, I think it might be one of the best seasons of all.  Who's joining me this year?

Trending Topics and Spreading News (Luke 4:14, 2 Kings 7:9)

... and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. (Luke 4:14 NASB)
Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household." (2 Kings 7:9 NASB)

It's amazing how fast news can travel, isn't it? A tasty morsel of gossip can spread faster than a virus. The news that Jesus had returned to Galilee was one of these rapidly spreading bits of news. The memory of scandal is long and the questions about Mary and her pregnancy may have been put to rest by her godly life, but it's doubtful it was completely forgotten. With Jesus back in town, and clearly speaking with such power as they had never seen, people probably wondered. Maybe what Mary said was true.  Maybe.  But Messiah? His return was the "trending topic" of their day. As people traveled back and forth between adjacent villages, the talk spread like wildfire and, before long, people everywhere were wondering and talking. Could it be true? Could Messiah have come? 

Centuries earlier, during a time of war with the Arameans, four starving lepers decided to surrender to the enemy hoping to get some food. While they were walking that way, God caused the army to hear the sound of chariots and to be overcome with fear. The entire, ferocious army turned coat and ran. With the deserters gone, the lepers had the army camp, including food, animals, and weapons, to themselves. Like most people, their initial response to the good fortune was to keep it for themselves. They feasted on the provisions and hid a supply of gold. They were, however, soon overcome with conviction. These men who were ostracized because of their disease and totally outside society, decided to go to the king that very night and share the good news. It was too wonderful to keep to themselves!  They didn't waste another minute. 

Those lepers were pretty wonderful weren't they? They had life giving news and they shared it with everyone. Wow. Pretty convicting isn't it?  We, too, have life giving news. Jesus Christ has come, paid the penalty for our sin with His blood, and is risen  again. His Spirit is here with us to help us in every moment of our lives. We look to an eternity in heaven. What great news!!
The challenge for us is to share the joyous news with the enthusiasm of the starving lepers, not keep it to ourselves. Look for an opportunity to tell your good news to someone today. 

As we pray for opportunities, remember to pray for our loved ones to hear the good news of Jesus with fresh ears. Pray, too, that the good news of Jesus will become the trending topic of the day, and everyone they see will be telling of the power of our Savior. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Picking pigs

Pig selection was different this particular year.  Before, the children had looked the piglets over and picked which ones they wanted.  This eventful year, there was a drawing.  Amazingly, each child STILL got the pig they had wanted.  

The year before, our pig came from a nearby pig farmer who had a large operation.  He was an excellent farmer, but it was clearly a business.  He provided for every need, and our pig was healthy but totally wild.  She was rowdy from the start and I’m not sure Ryan ever really connected with her.  She certainly never settled down enough to be a pet.  

This particular year, there was a clear difference.  All our pigs came from Mr. Barnman’s brother.  He had lots of pigs, but it was more than a business to him.  It was fun.  As we entered the barn for the first time, the pigs greeted us.  Curious, they sniffed our feet and nibbled at our shoe laces.  Those pigs were used to being greeted, petted, enjoyed and their response was much different.  I thought perhaps Mr. Barnman had been keeping the pigs a few weeks, but he corrected me.  “No, I picked them up Saturday morning.  They’ve been here three days.  They were sweet like this when I got them.”  He explained that his brother spent time with the pigs and enjoyed the piglets.  Clearly, time spent in the pigpen had made a difference.  

The boys wanted to chase the pigs, but Mr. Barnman discouraged it.  He explained that, when the pigs get upset and start running, they don’t pay attention and are likely to run into the feed bin or even the walls of their pen.   If they start running, he said, they were too likely to injure themselves.  A limping pig can’t show.  

Ryan had the good sense to wear his “pig boots”, special rubber boots for wading in the pigpen.  I forgot about the muck and wore my tennis shoes.  I was confident I could stay out of the mud and manure.  After all, it was Ryan’s pig.  I would just watch from the side.  I was careful with every step.  Ryan waded right in, confident he would avoid all the “smelly spots”.  Almost immediately, Ryan’s new pig rooted with her snout in the mud, then headed straight for Ryan.  She nuzzled him with her nose, smearing his leg with mud.  

When we climbed back into the car to head home, I smelled a familiar essence.  “Ryan, one of us smells like pig.  I can’t believe we smell like pigs already.  Did you step in the pig manure?” I asked.  “No, it must have been you,” he insisted.  Once home, we both checked our boots, but they all looked fairly clean.  Regardless, after only a few minutes with the pigs, we smelled just like them. 

We had been showing pigs for a while, but we learned some important things that evening.  Pigs respond in kind to the care they receive.  Generally speaking, a piglet that is treated with kindness is a pretty nice piglet. Pigs like to share their dirt. That's why Ryan's pig nuzzled him with her muddy snout. She was just sharing her fun.  If you want to go in the pigpen without getting dirty, you have to plan ahead or you will be as pungent as the pigs when you leave.

There was another boy once who had a very nice home, but thought big city life was pretty exciting.  He found, however, that it didn't work out quite as well as he expected.  In fact, that big fancy life of his turned out to be a kind of pigpen.  Everyone was eager to share the "dirt" they had learned to enjoy. It started nice but ended up a stinky mess.  Before long, he wasn't just as bad as his friends, he was in a real pigpen himself, wishing he could eat what the pigs were eating.  In that pigpen, he came to his senses, made a quick 180 and headed back home.  He must have smelled like the pigs.  Phew!  They smell bad, and he did too, but his dad loved wayward boys like Mr. Barnman's brother loved little piglets.  He responded with such kindness that the stinky boy felt welcomed and loved.

There is a lesson in the pigpen for all of us.  We may not end up there because we have chosen a stinky lifestyle, or because we have run out of other options, but at some point we all want what we don't have enough to make some pretty bad decisions that can get us in trouble.  Most of us will have at least a little time in a pigpen of our own making.  What I hope we will always have is someone clean who is waiting to welcome us back with open arms and a warm heart.  For those of us on the other side of the pigpen, may we always be the clean one with the warm heart and the widespread arms.  That's who I want to be. What about you?

Power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14)

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. (Luke 4:14 NASB)

Jesus had been reared in Nazareth, one of the towns in Galilee. After His trial in the desert, He returned to the area, and began what we call His public ministry.  He went into the wilderness "full of the Spirit" and was "led about by the Spirit". It appears that the "power of the Spirit" came after He successfully navigated the wilderness temptations, where He fought and won the battle over self. What a benefit of choosing selflessness!

Charles Spurgeon ( said that the power of the Spirit is visible in outward displays that include creation, the resurrection of Christ, attestation works (the dove at His baptism, the miracles He would soon do), and the works of grace shown when lives are redeemed. 

Spurgeon also described the inward or spiritual power of the Spirit that must be felt to be understood. This is the power of conviction that changes our hearts, our will, and our imaginations. Future power of the Spirit is what refines us in holiness and will eventually  take us into eternity. 

Filled with the power of the Spirit and working in the Spirit! It is no wonder people were telling everyone they saw about Him.  I wonder what people would have to say if we allowed the Spirit to fill and work through us. The same Spirit that did attesting miracles through Jesus also did similar works through the disciples. How would He work through you and me if we allowed Him full access, full power, full control in our hearts and lives? 

Today, pray that we would surrender our will to the Spirit's leading in such a way that He would be free to do visible displays of Spirit-power through us. Pray too for the inward,"felt" power of the Spirit to work in our loved ones (and in us), bringing conviction and change so that they (and we) can become more like Jesus than we are right now. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Boss's Day to the Boss of the World

On the way home from work today, I was considering possible blog topics for tonight. There were tons of interesting things that happened today, and I couldn't decide. A comment I hear sometimes (and heard today) is, "You should write about that..."  It's actually pretty helpful, so feel free.

Anyway, I was pondering and praying and said,"Lord, what do you think?"  Immediately I had a distinct impression about National Boss's Day. What?? As I was laughing about how silly that seemed, I realized suddenly that it might not be so silly after all. God is the One in whom we live and breathe, and have our being. (Acts 17:28) He commands the dawn, contains the seas, stores the snow and hail, knows the stars, yet also has the very hairs on our head numbered. (Job 39) He loves us, sustains us, and provides for us. He guides and directs us.  He is Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipowerful.  He IS the "Boss of the World". 

It turns out there are many articles on the internet today about how to celebrate Boss's Day. Cards and thank you's are especially popular. Business Insider had an article about ten ways to impress your boss.  Not all of this article was worth quoting, but it did have a few helpful tips. Wear red. Get up early and get to work early. Smile a lot. Contented employees are better employees, it suggested, so do what is needed to be content. 

I suppose it might please God if we were smiling and content. Getting up early for quiet time with Him would certainly please Him. The prophet Micah, however, gave us all the tips we need to please God (AKA Boss of the World). I like The Message paraphrase: 

"But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously." (Micah 6:8 MSG)

What a great way to honor the One who is the boss of us all! 

With that verse in mind, I am completely serious and worshipful as I say this...

"Happy Boss's Day to the Boss of the World."  After all, He is the Best Boss of all. 

Battle in the Wilderness: Avoiding Opportunity (Luke 4:13, 1 Peter 5:8,9)

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13 NASB)

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NASB)

What a relief it must have been when the time of testing was over! How wonderful for the tempter to be through for a while! It's important to understand, however, that the devil had only taken a break from tempting "until an opportune time."  Jesus had fasted in the wilderness for forty days. From the devil's perspective, He was at a weak point, at least physically. Unfortunately for the tempter, Jesus may have been weak physically, but His spirit was strong, and He drew on the truth He had stored in His heart.

Peter tells us that the enemy of our soul "prowls about like a roaring lion" looking for easy prey to trap and defeat. The Message describes him as "ready to pounce". Times of physical weakness are certainly an opportune time for temptation. We are vulnerable to temptation when we are tired, sick, or  physically uncomfortable in some way. We are also vulnerable to the devil's temptation when we are weak spiritually. When we encounter disappointment, grief, anger, or failure, we often find ourselves snuggling up to those emotions rather than our Heavenly Father. It puts us in a terribly vulnerable spot.

If the enemy is watching for a weak moment, ready to poune on us and defeat us, how can we defend ourselves? Peter said we are to be on the alert. Pay attention and recognize those thoughts that clearly do not come from God because they are not consistent with His nature, and resist. We do not have to follow every impulse that comes our way.

We also need to be faithful to do what Jesus clearly had done. Study and memorize Scripture. He had a ready answer for every temptation because He was prepared in advance. He also paid attention to those Scriptures when the Spirit brought them to mind. It would have been easy to ignore that verse about not living by bread alone and turn the stone into a loaf of bread. Instead, when that truth came to His mind by the prompting of the Spirit, he listened and used it to His advantage.

Pray today that, at every temptation, the truth our  loved ones learned as children will come to mind. Pray too that they will listen to the prompting of the Spirit and make right choices. Pray that, in making better, wiser choices, they will be drawn back to our Lord. Pray, too, that we will be faithful to obey as well.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kristen Goes to Jail

It was almost 12:30 and Kristen was waiting nervously in front of the reception desk at our office for the deputy who was coming to arrest her.  We were all standing around with her, and I guess most of us were like me... really glad it was Kristen who was heading to jail and not us.  She had worried about him coming to the office to get her in the cruiser with all the patients watching but, at that particular moment, the lobby was empty, with not a patient in sight.  

Kristen had agreed to be arrested as part of a Muscular Dystrophy Association fund raiser.  She was being locked up at the jail until her "bail" was raised.  Her goal was $800 and she had spent hours asking for donations over the last few weeks.  The envelope she held tight to her chest held more than $1000 and she was thrilled!  Really, we were all thrilled and proud of her fund raising prowess.  

The money raised helps pay for summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy.  $800 will pay for all camp fees and treatment while the child is there.  It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for children who miss out on many of the activities our children take for granted.  Soccer, football, basketball, horseback riding are common activities for most school-aged children, but not for children with muscular dystrophy.  Just walking at all is a victory for them.  

Not only do donations to MDA help with summer camp, it also goes toward treatment, research, and medications for those affected by the disease.  Devices to assist with walking are expensive and every dollar helps.  

Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscular weakness.  It can affect multiple body systems, but the skeletal muscles are almost always affected.  It can cause intellectual impairment and shortened lifespans.  Walking is very difficult and children with this disease may gradually lose any ability to walk they have gained.  What a tragic disease for a child to endure!  What a difficult future they can anticipate! 
You may be able to tell we have learned a lot about Muscular Dystrophy since Kristen volunteered for her jail term!  Oh, the time in jail... While Kristen was in jail, she had the opportunity to pick a child for summer camp.  (Remember, she had raised more than enough to sponsor a child for camp.)  Pictures of children in our area with muscular dystrophy were displayed, and Kristen was asked to pick a child for camp.  How agonizing it was to realize that, while she was blessing one child, others were being left behind.  When her jail term was up and she was about to be driven home (with a much-deserve limo ride), she looked at the display of photos.  Children were still waiting for sponsors.  

Children are still waiting for sponsors.  

If you are moved to help, you can go online at           and make a donation.  The website will be up until midnight tonight.  

You know, Kristen was not the first one to accept arrest in order to benefit someone in need. There was One who saw our sin problem and willing offered Himself as a sacrifice for us. Kristen reminded me a lot of Him today.  

Battle in the Wilderness: The Pause that Refreshes (Luke 4:13)

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13 NASB)

Forty days in the wilderness being led by the Spirit and tempted by the devil finally came to an end. A wonderful thing happened then. The tempter took a break from temptation! Of course, it wasn't a permanent halt to temptation. There was more to come, and just as hard (or harder, as evidenced by the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane), but for a while, Jesus got a break from temptation. Talk about the pause that refreshes!  

Temptations will come our way, and our loved ones will also face temptation. There will be seasons of severe temptation when, without the grace of God, we would surely succumb. Sadly, there will also be seasons of temptation when, even with the grace of God, we succumb to the sin that so easily besets us. As our heart breaks over the choices of loved ones in such trying times, take heart that even the days of temptation are finite. 

Pray today that the times of temptation will be limited, and that they will be brought to a speedy close so that our loved ones can refocus  on our Lord, regain lost faith, and find refreshment for their souls. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maggie and the Missed Adventure

Several months ago, I was cutting it close on mailing the electric bill payment, so, rather than risk being late, I drove to New Albany after work to drop my envelope in the payment slot.  It seemed like a quick, easy trip, so I stopped by the house and picked up Maggie the Wonder Dog.  She loves riding in the car, so it was supposed to be a treat for her.

I pulled up close to the slot and opened my car door, planning to hop out, quickly dash to the slot, drop in the envelope, and hop back into the car.  It was supposed to take just a few seconds.  I looked at Maggie, gave her a very firm "Stay!" and, quicker than my hop and dash, she was out the door. Thrilled with new territory, she ran in circles like a maniac dog.  Grinning as only a dog can do, she was running as fast as her short little legs would go.  Desperate to keep her from getting hit by passing traffic, I started to give chase, but soon realized that was making it worse.  She thought we were playing a game.

Two very nice men, who frankly looked a little rough and scary, stopped their truck and hopped out.  I was not sure what to expect, but they were unbelievably sweet.  "Hey lady, let us help you catch your little dog!" they said.  Maggie liked being chased by three adults even better than by her mama alone. Finally, I just sat down.  I was trying hard not to cry from pure frustration and fear.  "Maggie, come!" I commanded.  Much to my surprise, she came and hopped right in my lap.  "Well, how about that?" the men said, as I thanked them and they got back into their truck to drive away.  I was not at all happy with my silly dog.  This may have been a treat for her, but it definitely wasn't a treat for me!

Today, I needed to make the same dash to drop in the envelope so it wouldn't be late.  As I approached the Blue Springs exit, I thought, "I should go get Maggie.  She would love the ride."  Just as quickly I remembered her awful escapade outside the Electric Department the last time.  "Nope, not gonna happen this time," I said, as I drove past the exit.  Maggie's failure to obey the last time cost her a fun treat today.  I wasn't taking a chance on her again.

Disobedience is a tricky thing, isn't it?  At the time, it just seems like we have to do whatever it is that we are not supposed to do (or not do whatever it is we should do.)  That wonderful wrong thing never does turn out quite like I planned it.  Discipline usually comes pretty quickly for me, and that's a good thing.  What I have never considered before today is whether or not my consequences for disobedience include more than the obvious conviction and discipline.

As I drove toward New Albany, I wondered how many times I have missed a God-adventure because of past disobedience.  Does God ever think about a fun adventure with me, then say, "Nope.  I think I'll get someone else"?  I know that He forgives our sin, and I know that He removes it as far as the east is from the west, but it is not outside the truth in Scripture to think that, maybe, part of the discipline is a little delay in service while we learn from our errors. Just as I held Maggie close when she came back to me, He is quick to comfort us in our repentance, but perhaps He is as careful about risking us again as I am about Maggie.  Maybe He waits until He is sure of our dependability.

That sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? Tonight, disobedience seems a lot less attractive.  In fact, it seems totally pointless.  I love God-adventures, and I don't want to miss a single one.  The next time I want to do (or say, or think) something I shouldn't, I hope I remember Maggie and the missed adventure. Maybe you should, too.

Battle in the Wilderness: No Grumbling Allowed (Luke 4:12)

And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Luke 4:12 NASB)

The third and final temptation in the wilderness was to step outside the will of God to show His own importance and divert His direction from the one God had prepared for Him. The price, once again was worship of self. 

Jesus's answer was a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16 and is a reference to the events Massah. The children of Israel had traveled in stages from the wilderness of Sin and had arrived at Rephidim (Moses renamed it Massah - or test - because of the testing there). There was no water at the camp and they began to grumble (whine and complain). As usual, the people overdramatized the situation, saying that they, their children, and all the livestock were going to die of thirst. Moses thought they were about to stone him, and he cried out to God, Who instructed him to strike the rock with his staff. Moses did just that, and water flowed out. 

God had not failed to provide for the people. All they had to do was ask, and He had provided generously every time. Arguing and threatening Moses was not necessary. The multitude of Hebrews, however, were no different than we are today. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it, and they were not willing to wait for it. They didn't want to ask for a miracle. They wanted the miraculous to miraculously appear without having to ask for it. It was not the asking for water that was the problem. It was the WAY they asked for it - defiant, demanding, disrespectful of the One who had just delivered them from slavery. Jesus wanted no part of such behavior, for ultimately the people continued with their grumbling and demanding attitudes and it cost them dearly. Not only did most of them spend the rest of their lives in the wilderness, but also they missed the face to face encounter with God that only Moses enjoyed. It's no wonder Jesus was able to resist. 

I wonder just what my drama and exaggeration of the difficulties I've encountered have cost?  What have my grumbling and complaining cost? What have yours cost you? It is easy to see an immediate need with no immediate answer in sight and totally panic, rather than wait in faith for God's answer. It's easy to look at the poor choices of loved ones and think they will never change. The easy wilderness response to our fear and hurt is grumbling and doubt. Nevertheless,  Our response needs to be one of humility, faith, and consistent, persistent prayer. 

As we pray today, remember to thank God for the answers He has already given. Let's simply present our needs before Him today and ask that living water will flow through our loved ones as it did at the rock of Horeb. No grumbling allowed. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Late for Church but Right on Time

It was hours past bedtime when I finally fell into bed last night, exhausted after a long week.  "I forgot to set an alarm," I groaned, and pulled the covers up.  "Lord, please just wake me up when I need to get up," I prayed.  He knew what was scheduled, and what it would take to accomplish it.  Right on time, two hours later than expected, I awakened and started on the list of things to do.  Everything was accomplished, but my arrival at church was considerably later than usual.

Walking toward the door, a young family caught my eye.  Two cute little children were skipping and hopping merrily about, as the young mom and dad walked toward the building, chatting and laughing. They were relaxed and at ease.  The dad was dressed in his Sunday best with a nice suit and dress shirt. Glancing a second time, the dark "thing" dangling from his hand became obvious.  He was carrying his tie.  It appeared that he had brought his tie in his hand, expecting to finally put it on once he arrived. Maybe he had opted to bring it rather than get in a hurry to finish dressing.  The happy children and pleasant wife at his side were evidence that the tie was right where it needed to be.  

After my mad dash getting ready in Blue Springs, their happy, though late, arrival seemed a different thing entirely.  I had spent years prodding a pokey boy to hurry on Sundays.  It didn't look as if anyone had prodded a bit in that family.  The simple song from childhood, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'," came to mind.  That little family looked like they were glad as they came to church.  

Maybe their gladness can be understood partly because the dad's tie was in his hand, instead of around his neck.  That might sound a little strange, but it was obvious he was not taking himself, nor his appearance, too seriously.  He was just enjoying his family on a beautiful Sunday morning as they headed to worship together.   I wish I'd been more like him when my boy was little.  Walking quickly toward the door, as they ambled at a leisurely pace, I realized that, even though I was late, one happy little family was right on time.  

Battle in the Wilderness: The Proof (Luke 4:9)

And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; (Luke 4:9 NASB)

Before going into the wilderness, Jesus had been baptized by John. You will remember that, as He came up out of the water, the Spirit of God came in the form of a dove and rested on His shoulder. The Voice of God spoke from heaven and proclaimed that Jesus was God's Son. Two parts of the Holy Trinity manifested to acknowledge the third. Jesus already knew He was the Son of God. After His baptism, the seekers  following John knew it. too. 

God Himself had, by His manifestations at the river, chosen the site and direction of Christ's ministry. He had come for the people with hearts that seek for God. He was not sent to do flashy signs and wonders at the temple. He came and encountered people where they lived and worked. He became a part of people's lives. Jesus demonstrated a personal relationship with God by His every day encounters. 

Satan, almost certainly hoping for a public debacle and speedy end to the work of redemption by Jesus's suicidal jump off the temple wall, suggested He leap off the temple.  The tempter was goading Him to prove Himself as the Son of God by a foolish act. As if the affirmation by the river had not proved Him the Son of God, or had not been impressive enough, the devil asks for another sign. "Prove it!" the devil dared Jesus. 

It's a very human response to want proof. As a physician, I want a well designed, double blinded controlled study to "prove" new theories and demonstration the effectiveness of new treatments. Knowing how easy it is to be deceived, we want to be sure, don't we? 

In the Christian life, however, faith requires that we believe without seeing. That sounds pretty radical, doesn't it? It is true, but in that believing, we have a personal relationship with a loving God who actively involves Himself in our lives. Although we don't see Him, we can certainly see Him at work in our lives. We don't "see" the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that the Spirit gives us, but we can certainly recognize them when they are there. 

Jesus knew that the work God had already done was manifestation enough. He knew that the relationship He came to personalize was enough. He knew that the work of redemption He would do on the cross would be enough. Enough. Enough has been done, and response, not more doing, is required. 

The question for us is whether or not we accept the proof that has already been given, whether or not we are enjoying the relationship that has already been offered. 

Pray today that we and our children will not require a self-devised, self-centered proof of God but will be willing to accept the proof He has already given us and will quickly recognize the peace and joy (as well as all the fruit of the Spirit) that only relationship with our Lord can bring.