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Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh The Rature of It

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1st Thessalonians 4:16-18 (New American Standard Bible)

If there is anything I’ve discovered about life on planet earth, it is that it is difficult and, at times, discouraging. I’ve often felt like I’m on some kind of endless treadmill, like trying to find a square corner in a round room. Life can be tedious and mind-numbing. There is little comfort from the words of the world.

Hal Lindsey, the noted author of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” wrote that after he became a Christian he was made aware of the concept of the “Rapture” or the catching away of the body of Christian believers by Christ, both those who had died and those who were still alive at the moment. He said it was one of the most exciting discoveries of his entire life. The thing that excited him was the hope of this coming event. The words “caught up” are from the Greek word “Harpazo” which means to seize with great force or to be snatched up. Every person who was a believer at their death and those still alive will be forcefully and dramatically translated into new bodies by the power and authority of Jesus Christ into His literal presence.

For me, this is one of the greatest blessings and events I will ever experience. Whether I live to see it, or die trying, I will be part of it either way. I believe there is more to my life than a 6 foot hole at the end. The excitement for me is that I serve a Righteous and Almighty Redeemer who will transport me into His presence, whenever that will be. I don’t have to know the day or the time only that through His revelation He will be faithful to do it. There is no greater glory or greater hope for myself or you as a Christian believer. It is indeed something with which I encourage and comfort you. The Harpazo of the Body of Christ is something I anticipate with great joy. It is a blessed hope with respect to the dead in Christ as well as the living. Let us comfort one another with these words. Glorious.


Monday, December 22, 2008


I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate, and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. Exodus 23:29, 30 (New American Standard Bible)

I had an interesting conversation with my friend, Jennifer, this past week. I was discussing with her how it often seems that years and years of prayer for certain things seem to have availed me tiny gains and, in fact, a couple of situations I am praying for seem to be growing more difficult. She reminded me of this passage in Exodus where the Lord promised to drive out the enemies of Israel from the Promised Land totally, but that, in His wisdom, He would do it little by little. He did it that way so His people would not be plagued by desolation of the land or overwhelmed by dangerous beasts of the field.

I could identify with this verse as there have been times in the past where I grabbed my sword and shield and was ready to rush into my Promised Land with reckless abandon. There was not a time I did not return bloody and bowed down due to my impulsiveness. I went in with the intent to possess the land but didn’t know there would be so many spiritual prowling beasts still there. I can see now why the Lord allowed his people to possess the land little by little. It was for their protection and safety. The responsibility was still theirs to go in and fight the battle but the timing was the Lord’s. He said He would send His angel before them (Exodus 23:23).

I appreciated Jennifer’s insight. Joshua and the Israelites did indeed finally get into the land and the possession was mostly finished when David defeated the Jebusites at Jerusalem (2nd Samuel 5:7). If one travels to Israel today there is no countrywide presence of Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites or Jebusites to be found; just Israelites. God did it in the four-letter word we all love to hate: T-I-M-E. I can more easily understand that concept now. Because my prayers aren’t being answered the way I want right now can only mean my promised land may not be totally prepared. Having it all handed to me would overwhelm me. It still means there are wild beasts and other dangers that need to be dealt with. As God has gone before all His saints in battle, so He goes before us all as we persevere; little by little but it’s still being accomplished. That’s pretty awesome.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Good Tidings of Great Joy

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people. Luke 2:9, 10 (New American Standard Bible)

I was recently thinking about how those shepherds must have felt on the announcement of Christ’s birth. I wondered how I would react to something like the glory of the Lord appearing to me on a dark and quiet night with an angel suddenly telling me something momentous the Lord was about to do.

Thankfully I’ve not experienced a supernatural situation like that. If I didn’t run into a wall trying to exit the room I might likely faint. The shepherds on this night were pretty scared. As I read this passage I am struck by how the Good News is given to all people yet still makes many uncomfortable or even afraid.

If God sent His Son to ransack the earth then I’d have a reason for panic. But the word is He sent Him to reconcile me to Himself through His Chosen Redeemer and that fills me with a great sense of peace. It’s an amazing story from a God with enough flexibility to do it any way He sees fit. He brought Jesus to us through a humble birth with the words “Do not be afraid.” I need not fear anything He offers, or for that matter, anything the world throws at me. The ever present Jesus provides me with peace and not panic. After the shepherds heard what the angel said they went to check it out. They came back with great joy praising God for all the things they had seen and heard which were just as the angel had told them. Lowly keepers of the sheep were the first to proclaim the Good Shepherd and those who heard them were amazed. Still after all these years the Christmas story still amazes and brings continual peace and great joy. Jesus’ birth may have been of very humble origin but with the angelic host’s appearance He definitely had Heaven’s stamp of approval. The Word made flesh among us. Good tidings of great Joy to all mankind with an encouragement not to be afraid. That’s peace and not panic.


Monday, December 8, 2008

One in a Hundred

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.” Matthew 18:12, 13 (New American Standard Bible)

At times in my past I’ve viewed God as too preoccupied with other things to be concerned with my individual needs. Honestly, it wasn’t that I felt He wasn’t able to meet my need, I thought I didn’t have enough worth in His eyes to merit it.

Worth can be defined in many ways. There is my definition and there is yours. What might be of worth to one person would be something I would go out of my way to avoid-like tuna casserole. But my study of God has taught me that His view of my individual worth is very great, so-much-so that if I happened to wander away from the shepherd’s devotion He would drop what He was doing to find me and bring me back to His care. Jesus showed Himself to be that kind of Good Shepherd. My worth isn’t in being part of the hundred but being a worth of one.

When I have tended to wander I thought I was headed toward greener pastures but wound up in deepening darkness. It was at that time I found the Shepherd calling words of encouragement to me and felt His strong hands pick me up. How comforting and cozy it is to be cradled against His chest. There is no slow destruction when it comes to God’s sheep only safety and confidence in His presence. Even when I am the 1 who has wandered away Jesus is still willing to leave the 99 to bring me back into His care and safety. How can I define that kind of worth? The math doesn’t make sense at all yet it is altogether true. That is the worth of 1 and that’s the worth of me and you.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Uncle Albert's Amazing Story

Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7, 8 (New American Standard Bible)

I was talking with a couple of good friends yesterday over lunch. We discussed at length how many messages today aim to cause guilt and a bleak outlook. Hopelessness is the underlying current of life on Planet Earth. When, Lord Jesus, are you coming back to bring hope and restore the earth from the curse?

Interestingly today’s verse has a parallel in lettuce. My Uncle Albert lived a lot of his years in Alaska. He used to tell me that on a quiet summer night in the Land of the Midnight Sun one could stand in a lettuce patch and hear the heads of lettuce grow. This story amazed me as a kid. “What did it sound like?” I asked. “It popped and crackled,” was his answer. Whether he was telling me the truth or pulling my juvenile leg I’ll never know. But if it’s true it sure took a lot of patience to stand in a patch of lettuce and wait to hear it grow. As I await the return of our Lord it seems at times like I am that farmer standing amidst what I have planted. It’s taking an awfully long time and I haven’t heard anything yet. I long for Christ to return and sort out everything in heaven and earth and make it right for eternity.

I’m still not absolutely sold on Uncle Albert’s lettuce story but I am convinced of the certainty of Christ’s return. Sometimes it seems like what I plant isn’t growing at all or that I will never reap a harvest of patient endurance. But as I look at what Jesus said would be going on in the world before His return (Matthew Chapters 24 & 25) I am more and more assured His words are true. I can determine through current events that His appearing is very close. What a blessed hope and unfaltering encouragement. He will return again and restore all things to Himself so lettuce all trust in that.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Lavender Delight

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:19, 20 (New American Standard Bible)

I saw something a couple of days ago when I was in Texarkana, AR. Coming out of a restaurant into an outside temperature of 40 degrees and a probable wind chill of 35 I passed a flowerbed where some lavender roses were blooming. It was the last thing I expected to see one week before Thanksgiving but it was a joyful discovery all the same. Good things can happen when the chill of life descends into our daily situations. In contemplating this I began to think about how many of the bad situations in my life were catalysts for my own growth and renewal. That bully who tormented me in junior high school, the high school teacher who mocked me before the class for a mistake I made, the boss who treated me badly and the brain tumor that took away a lot of my physical ability were all things that at the moment seemed really terrible. But were they really that bad? Was I left destitute and in rags? I admit I carried some resentment and anger in most of the situations. What I’ve just begun to see in these things is the growth and maturity these situations brought to me. For some of these things it’s only taken me 40 or 50 years for it to dawn on me.

The case of Joseph has always been one of my favorite stories. If anyone had reason to be angry and bitter it was he. After being sold into slavery he spent 13 years of further mistreatment. You can bet during that time he wondered how it could all work together for good. He continually tried to do the right thing and basically found that no good deed went unpunished. I think it would have broken me. But at the end God vindicated him and showed His reasoning for all the heartburn He allowed Joseph to suffer. His family and an eventual nation were saved from death by famine. The people who brought the heartache on him meant evil but God turned it to good. The story is a triumph of patient persevering, release and forgiveness. The story is not only one of the great stories of the Bible but of all literature.

As I look back on my life God has turned a lot of my situations around by giving me great joy in the good times and strength of character and trust in the bad ones. Who knows but God how each thing that happens in my life can work for my greatest good, even the bad ones? It seems that every situation can serve to meld the crucible of pain into power, understanding and wisdom. Wherever the chill of life descends I believe I will continue to find God’s final confirmation to me standing like a lavender rose blooming in the first breath of winter.

Jesus, help me not be overwhelmed with today’s calamity but to trust in You that eventually I will see either a good outcome or if Your reason remains hidden how much You have strengthened my soul and spirit. Amen.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Buck Starts Here

And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12 (New American Standard Version)

The term ‘passing the buck’ means to pass on one’s responsibility to someone else. Most of us are aware of the plaque Harry Truman owned that said, “The Buck Stops Here’ meaning that passing on one’s responsibility and accountability for someone else to do would not be tolerated if he were involved. As a human I am gifted at a few things. Unfortunately being accountable for my choices isn’t one of them. That I am at times responsible for my own failure is a particularly uncomfortable realization. When Adam failed in the Garden he passed the responsibility buck to Eve who immediately made change for the serpent. The devastation to both physical and spirutal relationships that rolled out of the mint of the human heart that day became the most inflated currency in history; lots of it and very worthless.

There’s nothing wrong in owning my own shortcomings and failures. Am I really fooled into thinking God doesn’t know about them? When He asked in the Garden where Adam and Eve were was He really lost? I believe He was giving Adam the choice to come lay the buck at His feet, ‘fess up’ and ask for forgiveness. Stopping the buck, as Harry used to say, is my choice. Laying the buck at the feet of Christ for my own choices puts me into the proper frame to seek forgiveness and initiate restoration both with brothers and sisters and with God.

God knows what my weaknesses and shortcomings are. He’s always known. So what’s new? In all the billions of years He’s known the poor choices I would make He has remained the same loving and compassionate Heavenly Father He was before I took my first breath and started crying. He is pleased when I confess all my faults and shortcomings to Him and take on the power of His Spirit for living. With a tenderness that only a loving Father could express He asks me to put the responsibility buck back in my pocket and deal in the currency of honesty and conscious accountability. The change I have returned to me is always in peace of mind and restored intimacy with Christ.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Chasing Rainbows

Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2nd Corinthians 13:11 (New International Version)

The word 'perfection' has always made me nervous and brought to mind many of my past failures. It’s a word I’ve always felt others expected of me but which I could never deliver. The majority of us were taught that being perfect means without mistake but the Greek word here (katartiz┼Ź) means to complete thoroughly, repair or adjust. God’s idea of perfection is a lot different from the expectation of the world isn’t it?

For many years I lived under the falsehood that I couldn’t be a true servant of God and that He would not love me unless my life before Him was lived in flawless perfection. I stumbled along in my imperfection torturing myself thinking my acceptability to God was based on how good I acted. If I performed well enough one day I was happy but the next day when I didn’t I was depressed. Doing this has driven many folks into an insane lifestyle or into insanity itself. One day the truth of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans broke through to me when I understood the significance that Jesus died for me and you while we were still sinners (5:8). If He died for me while I was imperfect how much more would He accept me now clothed in His righteousness?

I’ve come to the conclusion that thinking I need to do everything without error to be significant before God is like chasing a rainbow. The idea sounds pretty good but no one I know has ever caught one. Neither has anyone ever needed to achieve perfection to be significant to God. Obsessing over it will only make us sick. There was only one perfect Person and all believers in Him are made perfect through Him. Perfection in God’s mind isn’t being without flaw but thoroughly completed and repaired on a daily basis through Christ’s work and Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds us that only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are without blemish or error. The Deity of God takes our tarnished brass and shines it to burnished brightness. Restored and repaired daily through Christ. Now how perfect is that?


Monday, November 3, 2008

Still Faithful

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22, 23 (New American Standard Bible)

My daughter, Kenna, took my granddaughter to the doctor recently. Before the exam a nurse took some information for Dakota. Asking the typical questions “Has anyone in your family had…” she was answered each time by Kenna with “Yes, my Dad.” After the sixth or seventh answer of “My Dad” the nurse looked bewildered and asked “Is he still alive?” Kenna answered, “Oh yes, he’s still alive and even survived a brain tumor.” The nurse gasped and said loudly “Oh my!”

Many of you are aware of the answer to prayer I just had concerning a third brain surgery. I was having discharge of a clear fluid from my ear which the doctors thought was cerebral spinal fluid. My surgeon had planned on going into the ear from behind, through the skull, to fix the problem. After consulting with 3 neuro-surgeons who all said it needed to be done this way there was something that was nagging at my doctor. My family was very worried about this surgery going into an area that had already been insulted with 2 prior brain surgeries. When my surgeon came in to see me before the surgery he said to me and my wife, Tommie, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this surgery and I just don’t feel right in going into the skull to get into the ear area. I believe I’ll take another course.” He went on to tell me that instead of cutting into my skull he would first try going into the ear canal and see what he could find there and if he did find a spinal fluid leak he would then take the skull route into the back of my ear and fix the problem. To make a long story short when he went into my ear canal he found the two prior brain surgeries had caused the ear canal in that ear to fold over. When he lifted the fold he found a large lesion there that was running with a clear fluid. That was the problem. If he had gone the route through my skull he never would have found the lesion and the problem would not have been fixed.

Coincidence? After having the input of 3 different neuo doctors to go with the skull cut what was it that told my surgeon to hold up and try another avenue? I had a lot of people praying for me, my family and the doctor. I believe that nagging feeling wasn’t the doctor’s but was a direct answer to prayer and the Lord directing the surgeon to go the illogical ear canal route to get to the source of the problem. It didn’t make sense until Dr. Gardner lifted the fold in that ear canal then he marveled at what had happened. The problem was fixed and I spent 1 night in the hospital and was home the following day. It would have been easier if God had just healed me outright and no surgery had been needed but I never would have seen His hand in all this. He is a personal Savior and He works sweetly and individually with each of our needs. He might work differently for you in your need which is an awesome thought. As we pray He intervenes in our lives face-to-face taking care of our unique needs. This has been a good reminder of the power of prayer. Through it all He’s still faithful.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Lowering the Ol' Blood Pressure

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1 (New American Standard Bible)

I love fall. It’s such a wonderful time. The air takes on crispness, trees show nice color and there is an excitement with approaching holidays and family time. I especially love fall in a presidential election year as I know it means the votes will soon be cast and months of listening to endless candidate promises, attacks on rivals and continual media revelations of candidates’ pasts will hopefully be coming to an end. By the first Tuesday in November the veins in my neck stand out a little more and the blood pressure is up a few points.

So what do I do if a candidate I didn’t want to win wins? I do take comfort in the knowledge that nothing happens without the consent of the Lord in earthly matters. No kings or kingdoms, or presidents for that matter, achieve any high office without God allowing it. It is evident throughout Scripture. God established the kings of Israel beginning with Saul. He worked in the lives of different Gentile kings like the pharaohs of Egypt who interacted with Joseph and Moses, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede and dozens of other leaders in both the old and new testaments. Not one of them ascended to their thrones without God’s permission and plan. He not only ordained their time but the purpose they would serve in doing His will whether they were aware of it or not.

When listening to “I'm…and I endorse this message” for the 50th time starts making the old BP spike I have to stop, take a breath and give thanks to God that as I vote, the choice is really God’s. Whoever sits in the Oval Office is there by God’s will, for no leader, king or kingdom is established without His design. Any president whether we like him or not cannot operate outside of that Spirit and Resolve. The Lord has established him and the Lord’s ultimate determination will be accomplished even through unwilling vessels. It is evident throughout history so why should the next four years be a problem for Him? The Lord reigns and His plan is being fulfilled through governments and reigning leaders. I believe His perfect wisdom and total control are enough to outdo any of the best laid plans of mice and men. That brings some rest to my frustration and yes, does tend to lower the blood pressure. God is in control and no authority is ever established without his consent. I’ll vote for that. Praise His Holy Name.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Thank You Mr. Large

For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13, 14 (New American Standard Bible)

My eighth grade teacher, Mr. Large, was always seeking to stretch his student’s views. I recall many conversations he had with our class that encouraged us to think and to answer his questions. His favorite retort to most of our answers was, “I’ll give it to you if you can justify it.” It became our mantra to one another. “Hey Tony, they’re serving turkey and dressing in the cafeteria.” “Oh yeah? I don’t believe it. I’ll give it to you if you can justify it.”

To justify means to show to be just or right. The word ‘justification’ is a two-dollar word which ought to be worth a million bucks to every believer in Christ. What does it mean to be justified through faith? When I finally understood it it was an astounding concept. When I began believing it it unchained my heart. It is a judicial act by God to believers through the meritorious work of Christ where God declares the sinner pardoned from sin, released from its penalty and re-established to a right relationship with Him. The four essentials are release from a demand for justice; we ought to have suffered for our sins but God no longer requires punishment; return to favor; we are just not forgiven but now have God’s total approval; imputed righteousness; God gives the believer the quality and righteousness of Christ and new legal standing before God; instead of being under the condemnation of sin he/she stands before God in Christ.

Speaking honestly, all these years I’ve had a difficult time believing it as it sounded way too easy to me. All I need to do is believe on the finished work of Christ on the cross and I get forgiven, pardoned and restored to favor? My interaction with other humans has taught me my trespasses and mistakes stick to me like glue. Most people don’t pardon and restore like that, why should a holy God? Outside of the blood redemption of His dear Son there is no abundant life or relationship with God. He pardons and restores because of what His Son accomplished during His first human intervention 2000 years ago. What do I need to do? Nothin’. What can I do? Believe and rest in the fact that God has me covered. There is no downside. He doesn’t have to give it to me if I can justify it. You see, Christ already has.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Noah Kidding

This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Genesis 6:9 (New International Version)

Remember Noah? He’s that funny little guy with a long white beard standing on the ark with all those animals. You’ve probably seen that picture in a nursery or playroom. But the reality of his ark was not so much a miracle as it was an act of obedience and determination to serve the Lord. It took Noah and his sons 120 years to complete the ark and it was a masterpiece of engineering. Figuring the dimensions of the ark from Genesis the inner space of the ark would have been close to 1,400,000 cubic feet or enough room to hold the contents of 522 modern railroad stock cars. At 240 sheep per car the ark could have held 125,000 sheep. That’s a lot of lamb chops.

Noah didn’t come up with the idea of the ark; it was the Lord’s idea. Noah’s obedience brought that idea in being through hard work, sweat and skill. The whole world disbelieved his cry that God was going to judge the terrible sins of the people of the earth unless they repented so I imagine his obedience to build the ark was done at great personal cost to himself and his family. The local community always had someone to mock when they were bored and looking for a good laugh. That is unless one didn’t mind hearing the old man’s continued preaching about repentance.

The Lord loves it when I’m obedient. He might never call me to a mighty undertaking like Noah but He is so pleased when I persevere in following His directions in simple faith. I’ve discovered in the past when I do I find grace in the eyes of the Lord and protection through the storms of life. All of us can. No kidding.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Brain Pain

Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? Psalm 139:7 (New American Standard Bible)

My daughter, Tammie, once told me, “Dad, you think too much.” She was referring to a moment when I wondered about some kind of intangible cosmic concept. But I have to admit I’m not the only one. When my granddaughter, Dakota, was 8 years old she asked me out of the blue, “Peepaw, what’s outside the universe?” And I think too much?

When I share that story I am often asked, “And what did you tell her?” The only thing I could and that outside the boundary of our universe is the Person of God. He’s both transcendent and immanent which is not to be confused with imminent-without delay. Being transcendent means He is above and beyond all things, even outside of the known universe; immanent simply means He is presently active in every area. I sometimes have to press my brain’s reset button when I try to contemplate a place I could go to be out of God’s presence.

I have often wondered why David’s thoughts on this are in the Bible. There is no secret theological fact in God being transcendent. There is no life concept that directs me to act a certain way in my relationship with Him. Yet here it is from a Jewish king who thought about it 3,000 years ago. Even at that I take comfort in knowing I rely on a God who is there and is able to meet my need. I’m just plain awed because through His power all things were made-things in heaven and on earth, things seen and unseen, all powers and authorities, lords, and rulers. All things were made through Christ and for Christ (Colossians 1:16). Yes, God is everywhere present and there is no place I can hide from His Spirit. The life lesson in this for me is huge. There is no place He is not and there is no moment He is not in for me and you. His Power and Might are unsearchable and His Loving Kindness so tender. He is large enough to transcend eternity yet able to abide intimately and personally within a surrendered heart. Now that’s something really big to think about.

Thank You Lord Jesus, creator of all that is, that You have chosen to live within your children and fill us with your glorious Presence. Amen.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The Nastiest Man Alive

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Colossians 4:2 (New American Standard Bible)

I would cringe every time I would answer the order desk phone and hear his voice. He was and still is to me the vilest man I’ve ever dealt with. He would curse, belittle and spill his venom at me until it seemed to drip from my end of the phone. After getting off the phone with him I would be literally sick to my stomach. I approached my boss about it. Her response was that this man represented one of our company’s biggest accounts and even though we all knew how nasty he was no one was going to jeopardize that. “None of us like dealing with him, Ken. Just accept it and don't rock the boat.” The stress was so bad I considered looking for other employment but the Lord said pray. I set aside one hour every evening to pray for this situation and this man. About three weeks later as I walked into work one of my customer services associate stopped me and said, “Good morning, Lucky.” She was always such a kidder. I laughed and said “OK Joann, what’s the joke?” She smiled and said “You don’t have to work Raymond’s account any longer. The accounts have been switched around.” Then she frowned. “I’ve got him now.” A still small voice said to me, “See, I told you to trust me.” It was like an anvil had been lifted from my shoulders. Wow, this prayer stuff really works. I think all of us have a similar prayer story. So why is it so hard to be consistent with a determined prayer life?

Prayer is tough and it’s hard to pray for something we aren’t sure we’ll get from someone we can’t see with our eyes or hear with our ears. I know my senses are oriented toward a physical world and I tend to disregard what I cannot touch. Pushing the prayer envelope is usually done by something that poses a threat to my sanity or safety.

The Apostle Paul practiced a mature prayer life and prescribed it for every believer. I’ve seen so many wonderful answers to my own prayers even when I sometimes prayed without faith. I believe that if I could see into the spirit world and the good effects of my prayers I would have to say “Why didn’t I pray more?” Christ Jesus wants us to pray and delights in showing Himself strong on our behalf. He says, “Talk to me for nothing is too hard for me to do for you. I can even take care of the nastiest man alive.”


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Fear of Measure

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. 1st Corinthians 4:5 (New American Standard Bible)

I am being honest here when I say I lived for many years in the fear of what God would have to say to me when I finally stood before him. No one has ever had to tell me how dark and deeply some of my thoughts and desires run or some of the really foolish things I’ve done in the past. Remembering those things and thinking of standing before the completely pure Judge of the universe is quite a frightening proposition. As I heard one person say at a church I once attended, “I don’t want to be there when God flashes my life before everyone on a giant screen.” It sounds funny to some while others understand that terror. We seem to have a natural fear of having our sins revealed and the thought of others seeing them on some giant cosmic movie screen seems unbearable. I don’t want to be faced with my life’s poor choices and I surely don’t want anyone to see a replay of any of my wicked acts. Oh, and by the way, Ken; let’s put some of your many thoughts on audio for everyone present to hear. Aw, come on.

Not having that done to any believer is based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All my sin was forgiven and forgotten through God’s full redemptive work (Micah 7:19). What a liberating thing to know all who are in Christ will not be humiliated by God but instead will receive their rewards and even praise from Him on the day we are called to stand before Him. Paul says all believers will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be rewarded for actions done in this life (2nd Corinthians 5:10). The good deeds will evoke one response while the ‘worthless’ actions will evoke another (1st Corinthians 3:15. Colossians 3:25). This judgment is for believers only. The unbelieving world will come before God at a future time to be judged for their deeds at His Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11).

No one can measure up to the perfection of God’s standard no matter how good they are. But there is rest from worry in the One True and Living God who says He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). The great news is as we trust in this same One who promises us His eternal loyalty we can rest assured that on the day we do finally meet Him face to face, He will be absolutely delighted to see us. Sounds good to me.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting a Handel on Things

So we Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture Will give thanks to Thee forever; To all generations we will tell of Thy praise. Psalms 79:13 (New American Standard Bible)

I got a CD of Handel’s “Messiah” for my birthday recently. I hadn’t listened to this magnificent musical work in years but as I listened to it again I was immediately caught up in its beauty. Handel composed this work in 24 days during the summer of 1741. He became so caught up in the work that he slept and ate very little during the time he was writing. His own household servants reported that at various times as they brought him food he would be so moved by the theme of redemption by the Messiah that he would be sobbing as he composed this glorious oratorio. Listening to it again I can see why he was so moved. I get that way at times, so moved by just the wonderful love and grace of Christ I never deserved but was freely given anyway.

I sometimes get so caught up in finding a biblical truth that I miss letting my mind run free in simple meditation on the Messiah and the worship that naturally follows. This kind of worship has risen in the souls of many saints for the past 2000 years. Every once in a while we get to hear a treasure like Handel’s “Messiah” and be swept up in the euphoria of one Saint’s praise and worship to the One True and Living God. It is pure adoration as the words and music lift us to One who is purer and fairer than we can imagine and in whom is absolutely no shadow. Nothing beats the full electrical energy of praising the God who is Almighty. This promise is fulfilled in every Saint from one generation to the next.

At the establishment of the literal and eternal kingdom of God there are millions and millions of Saints of all nations and languages who lift up an anthem of praise to the Lamb of God who has taken away their sin. The good news of God’s great love and redemptive plan given to every tribe and tongue and passed down from generation to new generation will be celebrated throughout eternity. Every believer from every age will be in that grand group (Revelation 19:5, 6) from the Psalmist David who cried “Let all who has breath praise the Lord" to George Frederick Handel who composed such electrifying praise of his Messiah. We have occasional jolts of that current now in the awe and praise of our Mighty God. Imagine what it will be like as we stand together in our new bodies in a new kingdom and raise an anthem of praise to Handel’s Messiah that will vibrate the foundations of heaven. Let all who has breath praise the Lord indeed.


Monday, September 1, 2008


For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (New American Standard Bible)

There have been moments in my life where I needed to face a situation or person that was fearful to me. On a couple of occasions I was fortunate to have someone who knew me step up and say, “Don’t worry, Ken. I’ll take care of this for you.” Wow, what a relief it was to know someone who was capable was going to go to bat for me and would get things set right. I am forever grateful to these few individuals who did this for me. I can only imagine they had faced a couple of fearful times themselves and knew the panic and dread of going it alone and extended grace to me in the situations. They were the perfect persons to step forward and represent my case.

I’ve often thought of this in regard to my relationship with God. The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus the Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens (4:14). A priest is a intercessor or a go-between representing us to God. If I were going to have someone represent me to God I would certainly prefer it be another human being, one who knows what the daily grind is like. I’ve not only got that in the God-Man Christ Jesus but He is the Perfect Human to represent me perfectly to the Father. He totally understands what I go through having lived as a human on this earth. He was hungry, He needed sleep, He got thirsty, He loved to hang with folks, He experienced suffering and He knew death. I think He would qualify as knowing what the human existence is all about. The marvelous thing was He did it all without sin and remained the Perfect Man of History even raising Himself from the dead (John 2:19). No one else has ever measured up to that. How great it is to have the Perfect Human Being represent me to the One True and Living God.

I take the greatest comfort in the fact that as I live day to day in my imperfect life there is One who can understand my faults completely and goes before our Heavenly Father on my behalf with the deepest grace and compassion. I do need a little help now and then in situations I deal with on a daily basis. I can use all the help I can get. In dealing with a sinless and perfect God how sweet it is to have the ideal human who represents me totally sympathizing with my weaknesses. Better than sweet. It’s perfect.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting It Right

And His disciples asked Him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” John 9:2 (New American Standard Bible)

At the height of a great physical illness I received an unsigned postcard from what I presume was a well-meaning Christian. The person wrote, “If you just get your mind off your problems and more on God you wouldn’t be suffering as you are.” Who sent this card is immaterial. Why they sent it is what bothered me.

I have thought like this person more times than I’m comfortable admitting as I think have most of us. I’ve found if someone is suffering the last thing I usually consider is that God might be working something in a life to bring Him ultimate glory. But most often because suffering is present I automatically assume the only correct conclusion is that this person is most likely being punished due to some sin in their life. That’s ungrace, beloved.

The Lord’s own disciples thought that way. But does it mean that the negative experiences of life are some kind of punishment for sin or lack of faith? God doesn’t cause suffering but He certainly can use it to forge molten pain into spiritual steel. As He has worked in my trials He has always brought me to a point of awe and glory in His ways. What was Jesus’ reply? The answer is both beautiful in its insight and its simplicity, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed.”

My human condition really has to work to be quick to think and slow as Christmas to speak. I am constantly on the alert when these feelings of ungrace begin to surface and I am tempted to judge the circumstances of another. Jesus’ example was to build up the flock of God and not cast stones. Any stone I need to deal with in the course of what I see in another’s life need only be the Foundation Stone Jesus Christ.


Get it right or let it alone, the conclusion you jump to may be your own. James Thurber

Monday, August 18, 2008

Better Than Solomon

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

One of my major priorities deal mainly with how much month I have left at the end of my money. Some months seem shorter than others. A few bucks saved will invariably be gobbled up in auto or home repair or some other unexpected problem. While Jesus tells me not to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow I often times find myself fretting over what may come. This is not to say I should not plan for my needs. Food, shelter and clothing are the essential part of my life’s needs in this here and now.

Jesus wants me to see to my needs, He just doesn’t want me to fret over them and worry about things I can’t control. He desires for my priorities to be set on things above and trusting in His power to take care of me. And He is taking care of me. As the Psalmist David said, “I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:25). Now that's pretty sure isn't it? Jesus taught us to pray "give us this day our daily bread." Can worry make one hair white or black? It’s just made mine fall out.

Jesus summed up my struggle with three words; do not worry. If lilies are dressed better than king Solomon and the King of the Universe takes note when a lowly sparrow falls to the ground how much more valuable are each one of us? He certainly knows when my water heater breaks or I need new tires for my PT Cruiser. I’m much more valuable in God’s sight than a flower or sparrow and so are you. In the vast almighty power in the splendid Being of God is knowledge of mine and your slightest need. My greatest reassurance comes in thinking how in past situations I’ve never been forsaken by Him or my church family or have I or my wife and kids been found begging. He’s always taken care of us. Tomorrow’s trouble is enough and Jesus doesn’t want me to go there. How valuable are we? We’re prettier than lilies.

Jesus, thank you for reminding me how much worth I have as your child and that any need I have you can fully take care of. It’s good to know I am dressed finer than a king and as well cared for. I bless Your Holy Name.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Ooo, That's Good

“But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:33, 34 (New American Standard Bible)

Do you know the difference between prejudice and conviction? One doesn’t become angry when they talk about their convictions. I guess that’s mostly true. Speaking honestly here I admit that most times if I don’t speak from my prejudices I am thinking and struggling with them internally.

In our day and age we can’t imagine the prejudice the Jews felt for people living in Samaria in Jesus’ day. They were considered half-breeds and a most contemptible people. Let me put it in terms that demonstrate modern prejudice. The story relates how a man was set upon and beaten by thieves. A priest and a Levite came along and ignored the wounded man who was left lying in the road. A despised Samaritan on his way to Jerusalem came along and stopped to help the man. What would be comparable to our feelings of loathing today? How about the good Nazi or the good Hamas member or how about the good divorced person or the good cigarette smoker? The last two have found me raising the edges of my robes in the past and stepping over a wounded and bleeding neighbor. Jesus was telling the religious leaders of His day that He was willing to seek and to save the perishing and that even meant someone as loathed as a vile Samaritan. My neighbor just isn’t the one who returns my Dremel tool and accessories. Answering the man who set in motion this story Jesus said we are neighbors to everyone we meet who is in need. Let us talk of our convictions and not prejudices.

When it comes down to it I tend to choose who my neighbor will be. I’m too much like the man who asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” At the end of the story Jesus asked him which one of the three men in the story proved to be a neighbor to the man wounded and robbed by thieves. The man couldn’t even say “The Samaritan” but answered “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise. As I love the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind stooping to dress the wounds of anyone naturally follows. With that in mind I can indeed go and do likewise.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Religious Nuts and Bolts

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:5, 6 (New American Standard Bible)

One day many years back I was at the back of a local supermarket picking up some milk. Suddenly I heard a man at the front of the store screaming at the top of his lungs that everyone who had not believed on Jesus was vile a person and was going to burn in hell. I can still remember how angry it made me. I hot-footed it toward the front of the store with every intention of publicly rebuking this man for his insensitivity. By the time I got there he was already out the door. He more than likely thought he’d just done God a big service by his “preaching.” As I surveyed the scene at the registers it was as I had feared. Most were shaking their heads and looking at each other with that mocking “just another religious nut” look. My heart was so grieved. Jesus Christ offers so much more than a crazed spiritual existence. Among the many benefits through Him are peace, love and a sound mind.

While Jesus did preach to groups of folks the most expressive complement He paid to another was to sit and dine with them. This was one of the most relational things a person in Jesus’ time could do. He became their friend and ministered to their need. Remember Zaccheus? Jesus didn’t attack him verbally but wanted to get to know him on a personal level in his home. And it is so much more personal and life changing to have someone accept you for who you are and offer you something that can change your eternal perspective. There are plenty of religious nuts out there but a turn-or-burn attitude never goes far in expressing the love of our Savior. It is no wonder so many people are repulsed by the message we bring; not so much to the truth of it but to how it is delivered. Paul says to let our conversation be grace seasoned with salt, not condemnation.

That’s the nuts of the message. The bolts of it are to be as salty as seawater in our delivery. Sharing Good News in a loving and personal way is spiritual salt. Those who taste what we offer and model will thirst for what we have. Only God can quench that thirst. Grace seasoned with salt. Just add Living Water.


Monday, June 16, 2008

A Friend of the Ruthless

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house. And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Luke 19:5-7 (New American Standard Bible)

I know that paying taxes helps to support my American standard of living but I still don’t care paying it. It is understandable how much the Jews of Jesus’ time hated the dreaded publicans or Jewish tax collectors. These men were hired by Rome to wring revenue from the people under its rule. The average tax collector was not paid a weekly or daily wage by the Roman government. Rome assigned these men a certain amount to be taxed. As long as Rome got its portion it didn’t care how much “payment for services” the publicans took. And the majority of them took plenty. They were relentless extortionist in their job duties and they were ruthless.

So when Jesus said He was going into the home of one of these people many in the crowd around him were dismayed that He would have any personal dealings with such a dirty guy. In today’s understanding think of the most notorious public figure you know. Now picture Jesus going to his or her home, sitting poolside with them and having some real good fellowship. Think of what the media would do with that. In voicing their displeasure at Jesus’ choice the Jews were in essence saying that Zaccheus only deserved God’s wrath and punishment. I think of how many times I’ve had those same feelings for someone. It makes me wonder if this example of Jesus had been shown in the early lives of the John Dillengers, Al Capones, Joseph Stalins and Adolf Hitlers of history what would I read of them now? Grace heals.

I know Jesus had a heart for the people just like the ones around me today. I still suffer a hesitancy to sit down with “sinners” and just be their friend. But wouldn’t Jesus sit down with me knowing what a stinker I have been in my past and still can be? Being the friends of the publicans of our day is what Christ calls me to do. How will those who hunger and thirst after righteousness taste of it unless I bring the Bread of Life to their table? Those who tastes of the Lord all say He is good. I have found for myself He has become a refuge and a blessing as I have partaken of His mercies. Jesus Christ has always been a friend of those who could easily demonstrate qualities of ruthless behavior. Jesus is a friend to us all.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Way Bigger than a Breadbox

Then Job answered the LORD, and said, “I know that thou canst do all things, And no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Job 42:1-3 (New American Standard Bible)

Job was a man who struggled with the need to logically categorize God’s plans. Thousands of years later I also find myself struggling with doing the same thing by limiting God into a boxy type of vision. You see for years I thought to truly understand my faith I needed to absolutely know how God worked. Because of that I tried to package Him in various gospels according to Ken and sell Him to others. Fortunately God never fit into my limited vision. Just when I thought I had Him figured out He would gloriously burst out of my tiny box. At this stage in my relationship with Him I’m happy He doesn’t allow me to limit Him. He’s so much smarter than I am.

One of the most liberating things I’ve ever read was that we can’t know God’s mind and it’s OK that we can’t. Knowing that I don’t have to understand the reasoning behind His methods takes a lot of pressure off. If I could understand God then He wouldn’t be God. I was amused recently to hear a man on TV say, “God wouldn’t send His Son through a virgin. That’s an impossibility.” Well, if He’s God why would it be difficult for him? A human certainly couldn’t make it happen but God isn’t limited by human frailty. If He is a completely holy, All Knowing and All Powerful intelligent Being (Almighty) who wants to do it His way then why would His ways and methods seem logical to those of us who aren’t? Why wouldn’t He hate sin to such an extent that He would sacrifice Himself to destroy it? If He is God couldn’t He resurrect Himself from the dead (compare John 2:19)? The story is laid out logically in Scripture and verified historically. If He’s God isn’t He capable of doing it that way? If He’s God why wouldn’t He be able to be the biological vehicle for a young Jewish girl to conceive and bear Himself in human form as the Son of God? What’s so hard about it? The ancient Jewish prophets said He would. God isn’t illogical but He does know ways and means of doing something that are way beyond our way of doing things. You ought to all be thankful I’m not God. If you think He doesn’t know what He’s doing, you’d absolutely call for the mountains to fall on you if I had the power.

Because God is perfectly holy everything He does is controlled perfection. He is perfect in love, perfect in His patience and restraint, perfect in the way He bestows justice, perfect in mercy and perfect in how He controls every event for His own reasons and honor. I am trying to understand that He indeed has the right to choose to do anything in any way He thinks is best. Because He is perfectly holy He understands me and my ways completely. He isn’t disappointed in me when I doubt or when I try to fit Him into little boxes. Instead I believe He delights in showing me how easily He breaks free of my limitations and reveals to me the wonder of His ways and how well things turn out through His overall plan. I can’t keep Him in a box and I’m happy for that. Thankfully He never allows Himself to be put in those kinds of limitations. He is the Bread of Life but He isn’t limited to the bread box.

Thank you Jesus that You are the Becoming One. You are able to become the specific answer to my every need.


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Lamb That Roared

And one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5 (New American Standard Bible)

There doesn’t seem to be much grandeur in a sheep. I’ve never seen an animal TV program where a sheep stalked prey and I’ve never heard of someone protecting their property with a watchsheep. On the other hand I’ve not heard of anyone pulling a lion’s tail without coming out on the bad end of the deal.

In the Christ of God are both a Lion and a Lamb. The description defies all natural understanding and reason. He is both Sovereign and Sacrifice but it is a notion that is strange in the logical sense yet easily recognized. Beneath the wool of this Lamb ripples the sinewy muscle of a powerful King. He is not a Lion in Sheep’s clothing but a Regent that is one, the other and both. He is a King by His own Being and a Servant by His own will. As a Lion He is powerful enough to keep a chokehold on the throat of Satan yet as a Lamb offers Himself up for the sins of the world satisfying God’s demand for righteousness.

Logic has nothing to do with who we find seated on the Throne. Whether Lion or Lamb He is One and is affirmed of God (Matthew 4:17). The Lion works with ALL power and authority to fulfill His will while the Lamb reconciles us to a loving and concerned God. The Lamb who is a Lion will always be on the Throne and will be worshipped forever for His holiness and redemptive work among us. He has triumphed. Come, let us worship and bow down. Holy is the Lamb that roared.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Flying Lessons

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3 (New American Standard Bible)

Wisdom truly can come from the mouths of children. One evening when my daughter Tammie and I took my wife to the airport to catch a flight I heard such wisdom for myself. As Tammie and my two-year-old grandson, Jaren, stood at the window watching my wife’s plane being rolled back from the terminal a little girl next to us had her forehead pressed against the glass. She had tears in her eyes. Obviously someone she loved was moving away with that airplane and she didn’t know whether or not they would ever return to her. As the plane moved back she looked again to her mom who was standing next to her. She gave her little girl a comforting hug and said, “It’s alright, honey.” Jaren was standing next to her. He looked over to her and seeing her tears touched her arm. “It’s OK,’ he said, “the airplane will come back.”

It must have been that way when Jesus was taken up from His disciples into the clouds to be at the right hand of His Father. Before He went away He promised He would return for us. If I am honest with you I have to say I have wondered at times if He really is coming back or did He leave and that’s it? My comfort is set in my faith in His word and the many signs he told us would be happening just before He comes home.

He has not only confirmed my reservation but the reservations of perhaps billions of believers past and present. My faith in Him is my boarding pass and I am convinced He will very soon take me and every other believer to clear, uncrowded and friendlier skies. I got a flying lesson from a two-year-old concerning this very thing. “It’s OK; the airplane will come back.” Jesus said if He went away He would return to us. The parallel is so striking isn’t it? Out of the mouths of children God has perfected wisdom and praise.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Should Old acquaintance be Ignored?

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26 (New American Standard Bible)

I know a guy who walked into a room one day and the people’s smiles turned to disappointment. “Oh, it’s just you,” one of them said. Kind of reminds me of how I’ve looked at the Holy Spirit most of my life. Oh, it’s just you Holy Spirit. He’s been on my backburner and pretty much ignored for a lot of years mainly because He is so hard to define. He is addressed not with a particular name but with a title and is expressed in Scripture as Wind, at the most seeming more like an ‘It’ than as the Personal Being He is. At least the Father has a name and a personality while the Son is Deity in human form. That I can identify with.
But to say I have a Holy Wind for a friend leaves most folks with blank stares.

I’m coming to realize how mistaken I’ve been concerning Him. He is a lovely and generous individual at Oneness with the Father and the Son. A Being with definite personality. He is the same holiness, love, justice and being as God the Father and has been at work throughout the Old and New Testament times. Yes, remember in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit fell mightily on Saul and he prophesied to the group of prophets with him (1st Samuel 10:10)? My entire Christian experience turns on the work of this personal friend. He is the one who works within my soul as a believer with reference to the Scriptures; He indwells and regenerates me on a daily basis, empowers me for life and service and finally is the Reference to teaching me the truth in Jesus Christ. And He is my friend.

Most of all He knows what I need before I ask. He intercedes to the mind of God for me when I pray seeking for the exact thing I need for my life (Romans 8:27). When I’ve found a new friend in the past I’ve wanted to know more about them, who they are, what they enjoy and to strive to make our bond stronger. In the same way the Holy Spirit seeks after me and searches out every detail of my life to empower me, offering with that power a life of hope and reassurance. He is more than just some kind of impersonal ‘essence.’ He is God Himself. Personal, loving, intimate. He is the realest of reality. He is mine and I’m thankful that He sees me as His own and treats me with the highest regard. Should old acquaintance be ignored? Maybe I’ve done that for a time but recalling and reestablishing an old friendship is always so pleasant.

Thank you Holy Spirit that you’ve always been there for me even in the times I didn’t really understand who You are. Holy are you Lord Jehovah.


Devotions Today at

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Big Burn of 1910

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28, 29 (New American Standard Bible)

One of the greatest fires in U.S. history blazed through areas of Washington State, Idaho and Montana at the beginning of the 20th century. Thousands of people were brought in to fight what would become known as the Big Burn of 1910. During two days in August hurricane force winds blew into northern Idaho and western Montana fanning the flames into a hellish inferno. In the 48 hours of August 20 & 21 wind and flame consumed 3 million acres of trees and undergrowth. That's about 17 acres per second! By the time the fire was finally extinguished that fall an estimated 8 billion board feet of lumber had been destroyed, enough to fill a freight train 2400 miles long. Contrast that to the Yellowstone fire of 1988 where less than 1 million acres were burned from June to September.

As terribly destructive as fire can be I find it incredible that the U.S. Forestry Service will use a method called a “controlled burn.” This is setting and monitoring a fire to intentionally burn out areas choked with overgrowth. Those who support controlled burns say this method is effective in lessening deadwood and brush that could act as fuel to an uncontrolled blaze while also being effective in controlling weeds, stimulating new tree and plant growth, controlling tree disease and opening new areas for habitation. While the method seems like madness new growth is seen very quickly.

I have personally endured many “controlled burns” in my own life as God in His consuming fire has purged areas of my spirit that were so overgrown that it had become impossible for me to see the forest for the trees. When the fire swept through my life in the form of an awful trial it seemed more than I could bear. But a few months after the fire finished its purging work I was surprised and happy to see new growth appearing within my heart in the form of new clarity of vision, understanding and spiritual strength. At the time the method seemed too hot to bear but the new growth was far better than all the weeds and choking growth the fire took away. Sometimes it did seem like a forest fire similar to the great burn of 1910 had swept through my life. It hurt and all I saw was destruction, wreckage and smoking ruin. I have discovered that God in His consuming fire makes the great burn of 1910 look like a spark in a whirlwind yet His fire is personal and focused enough to know the areas of my life that will benefit from it. I stand in awe and reverence as I realize that His fire has always taken away what has stolen abundant life from me and He has brought up from the ashes new growth that heals and makes me stronger.


Devotions Today

Monday, May 5, 2008

East is East

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (New American Standard Bible)

I find myself sometimes worrying about sins I have committed in the past. Even after confessing my guilt I have been plagued with doubt that even though God forgave me He still has my tally sheet in front of Him and has some kind of punishment in store for me. If not in this life then He’ll sock it to me in the life to come.

King David, a man who lived some 3,000 years ago had an interesting observation on his own sins. Just one of the many sins of this man was the taking of another man’s wife and the murder of the woman’s husband. God disciplined David but in doing so David realized how merciful God was to him. What he came to realize was a lesson that has tremendous spiritual application for myself when I wonder if God is still keeping score on me. Before Columbus pronounced the world was round David was the original Renaissance Man seeing the earth as a rounded orb and not a pancake. He knew that if one headed north he would eventually cross the North Pole and begin heading south. But he also knew that if one begins to head east he will continue to go east indefinitely never crossing over into a westerly course. When going east one never meets west. He spiritually discerned a spiritual equivalent to this geophysical concept. God had removed his transgressions (plural) as totally as the east is from the west. This is the greatest news for me knowing that my forgiven sins will never come before the Lord again.

I often think of this when I find myself imagining God with a “Ken’s Sins Book” always ready to run his finger through my many pages of transgressions. It’s a comfort for me to know that all my sins are forgiven in Christ because of His powerful work of redemption on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. God has removed them to never set them against me again. My sins are as far removed from me as the east is from the west and because of what Jesus has done He will never associate their guilt with me again. That is forgiveness on the grandest scale. When it comes to God’s forgiveness through His Son east never meets west. I am forgiven forever.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Titanic Frustrations

Blessed be the LORD, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults. Psalm 28:6, 7 (New American Standard Bible)
Did you know the great steamship Titanic almost missed its disastrous voyage? As the huge ship was leaving Southampton harbor on the morning of April 10, 1912 its wake caused the mooring cables on the steamship New York to snap with a report like a gunshot. The New York began moving toward Titanic. At that moment the quick work of harbor pilot, George Bowyer and Titanic’s Captain Smith were able to divert disaster allowing the ill-fated ship to continue its doomed voyage. If the New York had rammed the ship Titanic’s maiden voyage would have ended right then and there. The 2,200 passengers aboard the luxury liner would have had to make other plans to get to America. I’m sure there would have been a lot of grumbling from many of them as they disembarked the liner to find other ways to finish their journey. All would have been totally unaware of the disaster that would have awaited them just 108 hours later off the Atlantic Grand Banks.

I consider all the times I’ve been frustrated in some plan and how quickly I grumble over the inconvenience of it. But were those frustrations always the work of the devil as I’ve said and thought so many times in the past? Who knows but that car that rear ended me in 1968 as I was heading to the beach to fish wasn’t God’s way of protecting me from something more dangerous down the road? God’s goodness can work in the unpleasant things as well as the good. Why He does it that way is His business. He knows all things and how to work them to my benefit. Maybe He’ll do it by putting someone in front of my car going a few miles an hour slower, or let me stop at an extra traffic light (or two) or allow me to get that annoying phone call as I am heading out the door to my car to run an errand. Who knows how well things might go if I were running just a minute or so behind my schedule?

I admit it is difficult at times for me to choke down the irritation of having my schedule interrupted. I desire to know Jesus Christ more fully and when those titanic frustrations come at me I ask God to help me say with assurance “Hold it Ken. The Lord really is your strength and your shield. Let your heart trust in Him.” When circumstances interfere with my plans and I come face to face with a titanic frustration I trust the Holy Spirit to remind me that that circumstance just may be a loose ship attempting to keep me from an appointment with an iceberg.

Holy Spirit help me to listen more and protest less.


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