HELP! 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11

Sometimes I don’t know how to help others.  Maybe I’ll just make things worse.  Develop a co-dependent relationship (whatever that means).  Bullying,  gaining control, weakening the resolve of whoever I want to help.  Again, will I make a big mess even bigger?

The Corinthian believers must have wondered how in the world they could ever assist a spiritual giant such as the Apostle Paul.  Surely, he needs nothing from them.  And that’s probably what they feel they have to offer–a big, fat zilch!  Not so, Paul says.  Help is on the way.  Even from a puny believer like me.  And you.

For in our hearts we know how much we’d like to help.  To make a difference.  Doing what the Lord wants us to do.  Nothing less and lots more…to help!  But how?  Toss a few dollars at someone’s problems?  Sometimes, yes; most times, no.

What help does the Apostle Paul ask for?  2 Corinthians 1: 10-11–‘On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.’

On whom or what does our hope rest?  God, of course.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The same God who delivers us from whatever troubles we find ourselves in.

How can we help?  You know.  Prayer.  From lots of believers.  All without any unexpected, unpleasant, toxic side-effects.  No messing up what should have been left alone.  None of that.  All good.  All free.  All releasing God’s will in His way in His time.

By asking Him.  Through interceding.  Coming to our Lord, sitting at His feet, who’s so ready and able to hear us, sending the right answer at the right time in the right way.

Do I know what or when that is?  Yeah, right!  I only wish!  But we know who does.  So, let’s commit to pray more.  The best help that’s just out of this world.  Do it!  Pray…

Lord, we come to you asking your help for others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

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NO SHILLY-SHALLYING! 2 Corinthians 1: 17-22

Could the Apostle Paul be any clearer?  More forthright and definite?  I don’t think so.  He puts it all on the line here in 2 Corinthians 1.  When Jesus says ‘Yes’ to us, that’s it.  Settled.  Promises kept.  No doubt about it.

Possibly you’re wondering if the Lord is still there for you.  Or if He’s relocated off-sight, leaving you stranded and alone.  Feeling that way?  You’re not flying solo.  Count me as a fellow traveler who sometimes wonders as he wanders.

Reading 2 Corinthians 1: 20, I hear whispered in my ear and then shouted from the rooftops–“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.  And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

Our pleas for God’s help always receive a ‘Yes’ in Jesus.  The details of His answers to prayer are always in His hands.  We may have little or no clue.  But He does.  Yes!  From our lips to His ears comes the ‘Amen’.  Yes, Lord!  So be it.  We agree.  And we’re grateful.  Amen!

So why the waffling?  Our uncertainties and questions?  Paul says it’s all taken care of…by Christ.  No fudging needed.  No hemming-and-hawing.  No this-or-that.  Indecisive and tentative.  Straddling a wobbly fence.  Humpty-Dumpty falling once again.  Wishy-washy, blowing hot-and-cold.  Iffy.  Shilly-shallying around on one foot and then the next.  You get the point!  Why not accept the Lord’s gift of certainty?  He gives us His Word.  Yes!  Amen!

What?  There’s more?  Paul says this–‘He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ (v.21-22).  His seal.  Deposit made.  Guarantees given.  By God Himself, the Holy Spirit.

Now do you get it?  I’m starting to.  That’s progress.  Even for me.

Thank you, Jesus, for promises made and always kept.  Yes, Jesus.   And Amen.

 

JESUS CRABS AND ANGEL EGGS! Colossians 3: 1-17

Jesus crabs and angel eggs!  What in the world am I talking about?  My mental gearshift shoved into reverse?  No!  But thanks for asking!

Often at a church ‘potluck’ supper one of our members would bring a large tray of the most artistic-looking deviled eggs.  So pretty that they were almost too gorgeous to eat.  Almost.

Soon I began calling them angel eggs for obvious reasons.  Not going to give that old serpent any due.  Not to that rotten, lowdown adversary and accuser.  Yes, angel eggs!  A far better name.  Goes down much easier!  Seconds anyone?  Thirds?

Jesus crabs?  We’re in a fish market outside Charleston, South Carolina, where I notice them listed on a blackboard, along with the other cooked seafood platters.  Immediately catches my eye.  What’s this falderol?  Some newfangled blasphemy?  Another nasty jab at my Lord Jesus?  Have to ask the burly man behind the counter what gives with these Jesus Crabs.  With an even more burly southern accent he says, ‘In this place, we give no room for the devil.  No deviled crabs here.  Only ones for Jesus sake!’  Yes!  Jesus crabs!

As the Apostle Paul says–‘…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…’ (Col. 3:17).  As small a thing as renaming something, as silly as it may seem, yet the Lord will give opportunity to share something of Him, which may bring a smile to the face of even the most bitter antagonist.

And if not, then we’ve done what He asks of us anyway.  In Jesus’ name.  For His sake.  For His glory.  Not to be cutesy but to cherish the Lord who makes all things new.  Even those Jesus crabs and angel eggs!

Lord God, we lift up the name of Jesus, your Son and our Savior.  Amen.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO? Mark 13

Jesus paints a scary end times portrait.  Not a pretty picture.  I’ve heard many so-called Bible scholars spew forth their pet theories on the timing and every-last-detail event of Jesus’ second coming, all of which I dismiss without even a glance or a nod.  Rather heed what comes from the lips of the One who knows.  Even Jesus defers to the Father as to ‘when’ (Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7).  Let’s give Him the final word!

‘All men will hate you because of me…’ (Mark 13:13).  ‘When you see the abomination that causes desolation…’ (v.14).  ‘How dreadful it will be in those days…’ (v.17).  ‘…those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning…’ (v.19).  ‘…false Christs and false prophets will appear…to deceive the elect…’ (v.22).  See what I mean?  Hard times ahead.  Even for believers, Jesus says.

So, what should we do?  It’s really quite simple–‘Be on guard!  Be alert!’  ‘Keep watch’.  ‘What I say to you, I say to everyone:  Watch!’ (Mark 13: 33,35,36).

Do what?  Watch!  Trust that what He says will always be true.  Don’t waver or falter.  The world, our culture, some family and friends may no longer believe the Bible as God’s totally trustworthy Word.  That’s exactly why He’s warned us to be on guard.  Nothing should surprise us.  We’ve been put on notice.  So stand up and hold your ground.  His turf, really.

Don’t budge.  Lovingly stand up for Jesus.  Sounds a bit old-fashioned.  So is loyalty and honor, honesty and kindness in this crude and lewd world we inhabit.  Count us old-fashioned rather than new-fangled filthy and depraved.

Be firm.  Watch.  Be on alert.  On the qui vive.  Keep both eyes open with ears attentive.  Troubles come.  Don’t be caught off-guard and unawares.  Always… watch.

That’s how to make it through any of life’s difficulties.  If you’re in something burdensome and fatiguing right now–Watch!  Hang tough!  Immovable, leaning hard-and-long on Jesus.  After all, He’s our Rock no matter what, where or when.  No matter.  Watch.

Thank you, Jesus, for standing strong with us.  Amen.

DID HE KNOW? Jonah 2

Much of life remains a mystery.  We kid ourselves imagining how smart we are.  Remember my Grandfather Fischer’s heavy German-accented comment to his three sons–‘Smart like your father, you dope you!’  How true, sad to say.

On the other hand, if we could only see from God’s perspective.  Then we wouldn’t need faith anymore.  We’d know.  No doubts.  No hemming-and-hawing about God’s will.  We’d know.

Reading Jonah 2, a question pops into my mind.  When Jonah’s in the belly of the great fish, is he aware of where he is?  Does he have a clue?  His prayer makes no reference to safety in the fish.

Possibly he’s barely conscious, after being submerged in the Mediterranean for a bit.  Panicked.  Flailing for dear life, which ebbs away.

But then he awakes in a strange, probably smelly, sort of gooey, claustrophobic place.  Certainly the fish had no welcome mat out for Jonah.  No backdoor light left on.  No AAA maps or apps on his not-so-smart faux phone.  No concierge to ask where he’s at.

So he turns to the One who’s never far away, never out of reach.  To his God–‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry’ (Jonah 2:2).  Possibly unaware of his locale, yet he knows where help always can be found–with his Lord God.

Often I’ve no idea what God wants me to do.  He doesn’t say.  Oh yes, on the big issues, like His commandments.  Or how He’d like my attitude to be.  And what productive ‘fruit’ He wishes me to harvest.  But with other things, really most, He remains quiet.

But what He does want us to know is that He’s always at work for the best (Rom. 8:28).  Got it?  I struggle to accept that.  Hard to get securely into my thick skull.

So, trust Him anyway, as best you can.  Only takes a smidgeon, the smallest seed of faith.  And maybe He’ll show us, in hindsight, His hand at work.  Maybe.  But if not, let’s lean on Him no matter what or where or how or why.  I’m game.

Have the very best week.  You know why!

Thank you, Lord, for not giving up on your own.  In Jesus’ name.   Amen.

OVERLOOKED OBADIAH

Let’s spend some time in the Old Testament book of Obadiah.  Why?  Seems like he’s overlooked.  After all, only one chapter, comprising twenty-one verses.  Hardly a book.  Barely a short story.

Hey, it’s in the Word of God.  No frivolous anything found between its pages.  So, let’s look over overlooked Obadiah!

Most of Obadiah’s prophecy has to do with Edom, a long-standing enemy of ancient Israel.  The ending gives great hope to God’s people.  Restoration is on the way for a beaten-down nation–‘And the kingdom will be the Lord’s’ (v.21).

What grabs my attention in particular can be found in verses 8-14.  Made many notes in my Bible.  As if the Holy Spirit says,  ‘Slow down.  This is for you.  Pay attention.’

A day is coming when the Lord will judge Edom.  Won’t be fun.  Can’t sleep through it or talk their way out of it.  What goes around is coming around.

Same for our sinful world.  For those who mock Jesus, and disdain His Word, the Bible.  Seems like that’s most everybody.  Our reaction?  A smirk for those getting exactly what they deserve?  Neener, neener, neener!

Obadiah mentions eight negatives we’re to shun.  Boil them down and you get that big mouthful German word ‘schadenfreude’–joy at other’s misfortune.  Not a good thing but one we can all identify with.  Right?  Be honest now.  No, not you, of course!

Verses 11-14 display attitudes we should get rid of.  Unfortunately, we can’t.  So, ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.  He wants kindness to come to the surface.  Not a bunch of I-told-you-so’s.  Unfortunately, no gloating or rubbing it in either.  Too bad, so sad.

Rather, praying for those who hate us and our God.  What?  Yes!  Exactly what Jesus tells us to do (Matt. 5:44).  Even to love them?  Fat chance.  Don’t hold your breath.  On my own, forget it.  Again, ask the Holy Spirit to help us do what we can’t or won’t.  Plus with Jesus’ help, all things are possible (Matt. 19:36, Phil. 4:13).

Obadiah helps me reconsider my attitudes, putting them on God’s scale, checking for balance.  Tilt!  And then to reform them through the Holy Spirit’s and Jesus’ help.  Am I the only needy one?

Lord, we pray for ALL the lost to be found through Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

A SIDE NOTE Mark 10: 17-31

All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18) tell of the rich young man asking Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life.  Only Mark has a side note that jumps off the page at me.  Read all three accounts and see what you discover.  Find it?  Plain as the nose on my face!  It’s in Mark 10: 21.

What is?  That Jesus is looking at this young man.  Even more, that Jesus loves him.  Really?  I hadn’t noticed that before.

Jesus loves this man.  Sadly, he’s the only person in all the Gospels who leaves Jesus’ presence with sorrowful heart.  Some become ecstatic.  Others joyous.  Many angry, wanting His death.  This wealthy young man sadly slinks away.

Sad for he has too many riches that block his path to the Messiah.  A god of greenbacks means too much to him.  Possibly fears of poverty and destitution cause him to surround himself with more and more shekels until he no longer sees the forest or the trees.  Blinded by gilt.

Yet Mark says that Jesus keeps looking at this young man with a loving gaze.  Wanting the best for him, knowing that he’ll choose the lesser and the least.  So often this is our story.  Settling for a minus sign.  Taking baby steps when adult ones would lead to higher spiritual rungs.  Sitting back when we should be standing up for Jesus.

I do wonder, as life takes varied tolls on this young man, who may become middle-aged and then old and older, if money and things loose their grip on his heart.  And he remembers the One who longs for and loves him, wanting more for him rather than the less he’s willfully mired in.

If then, he turns his heart to Jesus, who loves him and looks for him.  He reaches out, with arms and hands wide-open, embracing His Savior.  I wonder.  Could go either way.

How about you?  Have you welcomed Jesus into your life?  Really?  Not sure?  Then do it now.  Wait not a second longer.  After all, He’s been in love with, well, forever!

 

Thank you, Jesus.  You’re all we’ll ever need.  Amen.

 

HEDGE FUNDS Psalm 52

I’ve never invested in one nor do I grasp what they do.  Good plan not to put money where your mind is vacant.  Like mine!

What I’m referring to are hedge funds.  Pools of invested money, which seek to protect assets from excessive risk.  Beyond that definition, I’m in deep water without a paddle or canoe!

Reading Psalm 52 reminds me of the need to hedge against the risks of ungodly living.  To put my money, so to speak, where it will do the most for God’s Kingdom.  Growing for Jesus, lest Satan gain a stronghold.

King David in Psalm 52: 1-7 speaks of a ‘mighty man’ who boasts all day long.  A bragger par excellence.  One who toots his own horn with a tune sounding rather off-key and off-putting.  His mouth cuts you to shreds.  A machete through softened butter.  Deceitful and evil.  Lying habitually.  What hurts you pleases him.  A one-upmanship at all costs.  Destroying others mere second nature.

Such a life runs highest risk of disaster.  Ps. 52: 5–‘Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin…’  Read on.  It gets worse.  Never better.  The bottom falls out…forever.

David goes on to sketch the godly person.  He pictures one who worships and loves the Lord.  Who’s hedged in by His care and mercy, while basking in God’s steadfast love.  Finding in Him alone unfailing trustworthiness.

A humble person, admitting need for the Lord at every turn, at all times.  Praise becomes second nature.

Praise of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Praise, not only in a solitary closet, but also with all who love Jesus.  Praise for what He’s done…and does.  And for all those glories yet to be ours…in heaven!

Hedged in with praise for His everlasting and unfailing love!  That’s where to invest your all.

Thank you, Jesus, for being God with us.  Amen.

CASTING CARES Psalm 55

Psalm 55: 22–‘Cast your cares on the Lord…’  I’d love to do exactly that.  Give my cares, worries and anxieties to Him.  Place them squarely at Jesus’ feet.  Having a load of stress resting on His shoulders, where He can handle them much better than I can.  I’m weak but He is strong.  In addition, He asks us to do nothing less than to give Him all these messes.

So why do I grab them back at the first opportunity?  Could being freed-up be too uncomfortable?  Not used to it?  Odd not worrying or fretting over whatever?  Are you on the same beaten-down team that I’m on?  Last in the American League, so to speak?

You know me, I’m digging into biblical Hebrew language for insight.  The word ‘cares’ refers to what’s been given you.  Not fate, karma or the cards we’re dealt, but what God allows into our lives.  His permissive will.

These are to be grabbed at as from His hands into ours.  Not luck, but the Lord’s call.  What specifically this involves for you will be different than that for me.  So, it’s not so much a matter of what He gives, but our attitude.  Our willingness to receive.  Acceptance.

When I gripe to our lawn care people about a much lighter yellowish-green grass in our backyard, they inform me that this grass blows in from who-knows-where, finding a new home wherever it wants.  As in our lawn!  What to do?  They glibly tell me that nothing’s to be done except to ‘learn to love it’.  Nasty wisenheimers!

Yet (and I resist this), some things in life we must learn to love.  Tolerate, accept and even use for Jesus.  Goes against my grain.  Guess I’m a protesting Protestant for a reason!

My prayer?  To be more flexible.  Less resistant.  I’m not good at this.  I’m a fighter.  A bear.  A combatant.  More like Jacob who wrestles with God (Gen. 32).

Casting cares may be about accepting what the Lord brings my way.  A welcome I seem to know little about.  Still not sure what to meet-and-greet and what to shun.  Need discernment.  Hey, God’s not done with me…or you…yet!

Lord Jesus, please give me mature spiritual discernment.  For your glory alone.  Amen.

MORE AMAZING GRACE! 1 Samuel 12: 18-25

I don’t know if it’s Satan or me who keeps bringing up past sins, throwing them in my face.  Probably a combination of the two.  Here in 1 Samuel 12, the namesake prophet and last judge of Israel gives the most encouragement to God’s people you’ll find almost anywhere in the Bible.  Sadly, only read by few.  Why not leaf through the whole chapter, especially verses 18-25?

God’s people regret embracing an earthly king, turning away from Yahweh God.  Life goes south for them.  They know why.  Their fault.  Like you and me.  When we get self-oriented.  ‘Me, I and myself’ rule.  Then doors slam and windows lock.  Life rambles down the wrong side of the road.  Admit it or not, we know why.

That’s when Samuel tells his people something precious.  He doesn’t throw salt on their wounds.  Refuses to rehash evils committed, never rubbing their collective noses in the muck and mire of their failures.  After all, they admit their sin (v. 19).  No waffling excuses from their mouths.  Merely regret and remorse.

Samuel’s encouragement?  Move on!  Get up and get going for God!  1 Samuel 12: 20-21–‘Do not be afraid…You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.  Do not turn away after useless idols…’  Move on… in God’s amazing grace.  Be sure not to look back as Lot’s salty wife did.

Our Lord doesn’t ignore or excuse sin.  He waits for repentance, and then gets us going again… with Him.  Why would He want us down-and-out, when we could be up-and-about for His Kingdom?  What’s the value in being sidelined?  More advantage for Satan than the Savior.

Consider all the benefits of following the Lord.  He rescues us.  For His name’s sake.  Won’t reject us when we come to Him.  Forgives and forgets.

Get alone in a quiet place, and think about all that the Lord has done for you.  Don’t rush.  Take your time.  Praise Him.  Pray.  Let Him direct your thoughts.  He will.  Then get up and get going for Jesus!

How do I know this?  By reading 1 Samuel 12: 18-25.  And my reflections are only the tip of the iceberg.  Dig deeper yourself.  You’ll find more amazing grace.  More than you ever imagined!

Thank you, Lord, for grace without end.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.