Rust

Rusted old car in the woods

My grandpa was a carpenter for the North East Oklahoma railroad. Their inside joke was that they worked for NEO (any old) railroad.

Since he was a carpenter he had carpenter stuff in his garage. I once found a bucket full of rusty old nails in there. They were probably new when he put them there. But when I found them he had been retired for quite awhile and any time he had he spent fishing so the nails no doubt stayed in that bucket until he passed and someone else cleaned out his garage.

Nails forged from iron will remain iron for as long as this world exists, if they are protected. But exposure to corrosive elements and iron transforms into rust which is corrupted iron; iron which has no strength and cannot be used for the nail’s intended purpose.  

Evil Can’t Exist Without Good

Evil can be compared to rust on an iron nail. Just as iron rust can’t exist without iron so the corruption of evil can’t exist without good. We find in Genesis 1:31 (ESV), “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good….“. Only when God’s good came could evil come forth and cause corruption.

As I mentioned previously, a rusty iron has no strength. Similarly, evil in a person steals their moral strength, making them weak and unable to do what is right. Also, a rusty nail can’t be used for its designed purpose. So, too, a person corrupted by evil is unable to fulfill God’s purpose for them. 

No Fear of Rust

Yes, corruption is active all around us but as Christians we are as protected iron for we have this promise in Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV): “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus has immersed us in grace and peace, sealing us with the Holy Spirit. While we live in this corrosive world we need not be afraid of its rust.

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My Stress

two white haired old men playing chess

There is good and bad stress. Today I’m writing about bad stress.

“Stress alters your body. 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (WebMD) “Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It can raise our blood pressure, increase our breathing rate and heart rate, and cause muscle tension. These things are hard on the body.” (MedLine Plus)

Nerve cells and dendrites. Source: Pixabay free

Dr. Cheryl Conrad, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, believes that chronic stress can have significant negative consequences on brain plasticity and resilience and may be a factor in depression, anxiety, PTSD and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Jesus Speaks Peace

I believe the reason Jesus’ first response to people often was “peace” because lack of peace alters the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. (This is your brain on stress)

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with stress. The “why” is not germane but I will say it is perhaps the most difficult issue I’ve faced. Through this time I can testify that Jesus has given me peace in my spirit.

An interesting side-effect of this spiritual battle I find myself in – yes, the root of bad stress is often spiritual – is that my hair has turned white almost overnight; not all of it, but nearly so. That’s fine. As an adopted child, grafted into the lineage of Jacob, I am resting on Isaiah 46:3-4 (ESV)

Isaiah 46:3-4

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;

even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

I assume white hair qualifies for “gray” :).  This passage is for everyone that has received Jesus, even if you don’t have grey hair! Receive the peace that God speaks to us through this passage in Isaiah. Be at peace.

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Peaceful Flux

No, today’s devotional is not about reflux or about a Back to the Future Flux Capacitor. Today, I want us to look at what the Bible tells us about living during divisive times.

In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.

In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands.http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190513-it-only-takes-35-of-people-to-change-the-world

“Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change. Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.” – David Robson, 5/14/2019

Peace means Peace

The 3.5% rule is well known. A statistical study discovered this 3.5% number. The study used a definition of “peaceful” so stringent that Mahatma Gandhi’s “India Independence” movement was rejected as not sufficiently peaceful to be included. So, when the study states peaceful, it means peaceful.

Some conditions demand an extraordinary change in governments. Just imagine the difference in history if the Soviet people had achieved a 3.5% peaceful protest against Stalin or the Germans against Hitler or Argentina against Juan Perón.

For us as Christians, we carry dual citizenship. First we are citizens of the kingdom of God. Secondly, we may be citizens of a nation. However, even if we are citizens of a country, we are told that we are exiles.

Sojourners and Exiles

1 Peter 2:11 states, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” We can and should exercise our rights, which are granted to us within the nations in which we sojourn. But where evil exists, we should go into that moral infection and bring healing and renewal. We do this not through violence but by love, for we are to be known by our love. (John 13:35)

How then should Christians behave as sojourners in America? We see in 1 Peter 2:16-17 (ESV), “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Fear God. Honor the emperor” was most likely written by the Apostle Peter when Nero was Rome’s emperor. This same emperor most likely crucified Peter. That phrase can be challenging for us, as Christians. 

Our Vocation is Christianity

Here’s my point: Our priority is to live for Jesus. Our vocation includes working to ease physical and emotional pain, but most importantly, to communicate the good news of Jesus.

We are to lead all who chose Jesus into salvation and, if possible, to establish them in a Christian community. As Christians, it is acceptable for us to debate and peacefully protest ideas and policies. But mocking leaders or their families or anyone sets us against the will of God. 

Now, you may say, Jesus and Paul both accused the Jewish leadership of being whitewashed graves. Yes, and they both spoke what was true; they did not mock.

Let us be bold, be strong, honor God, honor our nation, honor our leaders, and respect all people. If Godly morality calls for an extraordinary action – an action beyond existing means – then our action should contribute to the building of a cohesive 3.5% of the population committed to a peaceful movement to affect change. Let us be recognized as Christians by our love.

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Observations

After recently visiting New York, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, as well as other States, I’ve collected some scattered observations which I’d like to share with you.

  • Most drivers think turn-signals are warning lights.
  • Most drivers don’t text while they drive; they drive while texting.
  • I’ve concluded that more Christians bring their pets to work than bring Jesus to work.
  • While on my trip, I received more help from niche culture groups than any other discernible group. More often, they seem to act on their concern for others. Ouch!

Paraphrasing a Christian musician that’s gone on to Glory:

If you become a Christian in Pakistan, your parents will stone you.
If you become a Christian in India, your parents will disown you.
If you become a Christian in China, everyone says they’ve never known you.
If you become a Christian in America, telemarketers will phone you.

Survey Says!

From a national survey, the percentage of Americans that identified themselves as Christian:

  • 86% in 1990
  • 81.6% in 2001
  • 78%  in 2012
  • ??? in 2020

From what I saw, heard, read, and observed, we have allowed society to cast Christians as either a bunch of wealthy executives paying unfair wages while supporting anti-social legislation or poor illiterates that just don’t know any better. With 2+ billion people in the world that claim to be Christian, I’m sure there are many Christians between those two extremes.

Each day of our vacation I let the problems of that day wash past me like the waves in the Atlantic that washed past my son while he stood on the Rhode Island shore. Every wave was unique in its depth, duration, and pattern. Yet each was easily discernible as a wave.

Problems are like waves. Countless problems have come before my son stood on that shore and countless more will come after he leaves. So, as Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)

I have tried to teach my kids that worry is worthless. Deal with the problems you’re facing today but don’t wish what might have been and don’t leave Jesus out of what will be. God is the “I AM”. As He is, so then should we be.

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Afraid

Afraid No More

If you look up afraid in Apple’s Dictionary you’ll see a picture of Max. 😉 I wasn’t supposed to have a cat. Never desired one. Never asked for one. My wife and I adopted two cats nearly a year ago. They were to be her cats, to add some life to our home. Things didn’t play out the way I planned. Right now, I have two cats in my office with one wanting to jump up on my desk and the other planning to climb my office chair.

It seems I have one or two cats every day, depending on the yet to be published cat calendar. Max is my catdog. He follows me around, everywhere I go. But, at the strangest times, Max will hiss at me and bat at my hand. I do believe he should live in a mental institution. You see, Max is an OCD, bi-polar, insecure, scaredy-cat. Oh, and his response when he is unsure of a situation is to become a feral, ninja, clawing and biting robot cat. What can I do?

Afraid of nearly everything

Max is massive and muscular but afraid of nearly everything. That is the kind of person I would be if I didn’t trust Jesus. I would be living in a world that made no sense. It would be a terrifying life. I understand Max is mixed up, but when Jesus is willing to bring you into the family of God, why would you choose to live in fear? Still, I meet people all the time that want fear instead of Christ Jesus.

We can read about some people that were foolishly afraid. In Matthew 14:25-27 (ESV) we read, And in the fourth watch of the night he [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

The Master of the waves extends peace
to those that come to Him.

Our doctor tells us we have cancer; fear tries to grip us. We get a call that a child of ours is in trouble; fear knocks on our heart’s door. We get an essential prescription, but we have no money to pay for it; fear and anger lay siege to our peace. In these situations and any that attempt to steal our peace, we can call on Jesus. Though I lose everything, I cannot lose my Master, and in Him is the source of my peace, which He gives willingly and liberally.

Psalms 23 (ESV), The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.  
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,  
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.  
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;  
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.  
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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Help!

I’m old enough that I watched the Beatles debut on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. My older sister actually lost her mind. She was on the phone with her best friend and they were crazy people. However, it was then that I became a fan of the Beatles’ music; not necessarily of the individuals. Nevertheless, their music gave a voice to good things and the problems young people were facing. For me, this was especially true with John Lennon’s self-referencing song “Help!”. 

The opening stanza says:

Help! I need somebody.
Help! Not just anybody.
Help! You know I need someone. Help!

We’ve all felt that way at one time or another. I fact, you may be feeling that right now. No doubt the prophet Jeremiah wanted to yell for help when he realized what God was asking of him. So, God said to him, “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” (Jeremiah 1:19)

Now that we are on the other side of the Cross, the good news is that Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans in this world. (John 14:18). We’re not down and out like B.B. King sang, “Even the air I breathe is used.” 

For Christians, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to help us. (John 14:15-18) So, when we cry out, “Help! You know I need someone.”, God is right there with us but we do need to ask. We need to pray continually.

We are not orphans in this world. (John 14:18) and Jesus is our mediator with God (1 Timothy 2:5). He intercedes on our behalf to God the Father, and we have God the Father, “Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”(Nicene Creed) caring for us. This is why, instead of yelling, “help! I need someone,” we can sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God, Almighty
Early in the morning, our song shall rise to Thee
Holy, Holy, Holy, merciful and mighty
God in three persons,blessed Trinity

God Almighty is our hope and our Deliverer. So, today, I pray:
Father God, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, in the name of Your only begotten Son, Jesus, my Lord, and my Redeemer, I thank you that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and I am not without help “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Ephesians 4:7). Therefore, I ask now, that you would extend your mercies and grace to the people and their families that join me in these devotionals as we take time to learn from You and to be changed, advanced in our relationship with you, our God. Amen.

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