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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way" (Matthew 2:12).

King Herod instructed the wise men, saying, "Go and search carefully for the young Child."  Searching, they found the Lord.  Presenting their treasures, they found a low position.  A low bend was required, for low was the manger in which He lay.  Lowered and humbly statured, they worshiped Christ and their course was changed.  Being divinely warned, they did not return to Herod, but went another way.  This is the effect of the life of Jesus on those who find Him.  They are humbled; they go another way.

Low and nigh we worship Christ.  Here, any pride in what we have or in who we are is humbled.  The opening of our treasures oft becomes the confession of our poverty.  The One who owns heaven and earth and who is God meets the impoverished confessor with the gift of repentance, that He may be worshiped.  Worship is the livelihood of the repentant.  It is a high calling for which the name "Emmanuel" is the only sufficient response.  "God with us" is a suitable grace for the repentant.  Such recant not, for grace initiates repentance and sustains worship. 

Do, Lord, remind us that our course is changed.  May we never backtrack through Herod's courts, but find grace for the courts of Heaven even this day in this country. 

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Friday, December 24, 2010

"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us'" (Matthew 1:23).

A virgin in the family way by the Spirit of God, with the Son of God; it makes no earthly sense except to those who say, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to Your word.”  Those who speak such words know something of what they will exact—humility and courage.  But exacted how?  They leave it to God.  It must be so, for should the how and wherefore be known at once, humility surely would depart and courage would follow it out.  Humility is hedged by God’s omniscience, and courage is captive by God’s omnipresence. 

Hedged and captive, still it was not easy for Mary to be rejected in her hometown, nor Jesus in His; for Mary to travel on a donkey to Bethlehem in her last days of expectation, nor Jesus to Jerusalem in His; for Mary at the end of her time to deliver the Son of God in an earthen stable, nor for the Son of God at the end of His time to be delivered up on a wooden cross; for Mary to place Him in a feeding trough, nor for Jesus to become the bread of life given for the world. 

Yet in that stable and from that trough, what did His infant eyes see when He first looked into Mary’s?  He beheld His maidservant and deliverer, humble and courageous.  The family likeness was unmistakable!  He who came to do the will of God, is conceived in those who would serve Him.  He who came to deliver sinners into salvation, is conceived in those who would offer Him to the unsaved.  He who came, saying, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God,” is conceived in those who have said, “Behold Your maidservant.”  Speak so today, and bear forth Immanuel.

Author: Carloyn Roehrig

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Proverbs 17:27).

Serving breakfast this morning, a jar of Gramma's homemade Wild Alaskan Currant jam fell and shattered on the kitchen floor.  (Sorry, Mom!)  The toast wasn’t spread, but the floor was, and praise the Lord, after twenty years of mothering I’m tongue-tied.  I’m sure I gasped, but frankly a gasp, no matter how grand, holds nothing over those verbalizations more difficult to wipe away than shattered glass and sticky jam.    

Everything is not always as we would like it to be.  What is needed when something special has been shattered?  Made a mess of?  When the world’s most powerful scrub-brush and detergent named “Joy” end up in the sink and down the drain?  Apparently we need a calm spirit and to hold our peace and, yes, another joy.  Gotten where?  We are told; from the mouth of God come knowledge and understanding.  

God has spoken; know what He has said.  Knowing His word, we know what to say, what not to say, and get understanding that affects the spirit.  Knowing His word, we know that God is familiar with shatterings, messes, and sticky jams, and that His joy is never drained.  If the answer of our mouths, the calm of our spirits, and our joy come from the offerings of His, then we have what we need.  Go to the mouth of God.

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Saturday, December 4, 2010

“So He said, “Come’” (Matthew 14:29).

If you are like those who seek first to know Christ, then you will not seek first calm seas.  You will seek to know Him even amid boisterous waves.  Like Peter, you will call out above storm noise, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water!”  The command was given. Peter came down out of the boat and walked on water to go to Jesus until he saw the storm, became afraid, and started to sink.  You know the story, but what of the moments between his first step on the water and starting to sink?

The moments between the command to come and the plea to be saved are defining moments.  They are the “I will not turn back” moments; the moments when you realize that you have no one else but the Lord to whom you care to go.  In these moments neither straining at the oars nor stilled waters satisfy; only the divine “Come.”  While the heart that desires such a command is not wont to let fear swamp faith, when fears do arise, the same cries out, saying “Save me!”,  and is saved. 

Had Peter reached Jesus without sinking, he may have been more inclined to exclaim, “I made it!” than to exclaim, “Truly You are the Son of God.”  Had Peter made it to Jesus on an “If,” he may have thought his faith stronger than it was, and sidestepped his highest need.  Peter did not need to meet Jesus without sinking, but needed to be caught up by the hand of the Lord; did not need to walk perfectly, but rather to know Jesus beyond “If.” We have the same need, and when we start to sink, we know it.  When “Command me to come to You” becomes “Save me, Lord,” then “If it is You, Lord” becomes “Truly You are the Son of God.”  This becoming comes only when a-coming.

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Ceaseless prayer is the pilgrim path through wild seaways and wildernesses.  Rejoicing and thanksgiving are the trail markers that keep the worshiper faring the way through thriving, dying, celebrating, and mourning.  The stoutest peregrine takes not one step more when self pity, rebel complaints, or conceit disoblige.  “Rejoice always,” heads the trail; thanksgiving in everything quickens tired steps; prayer companions all the way. 

The colony at Plymouth Rock knew well rejoicing, prayer, and thanks-giving.  These anchored them in the ocean and grounded them on land. Feet on the ground and Heaven bound, they had a purpose written in the Charter of the Plymouth Council stating, "In the hope thereby to advance the enlargement of the Christian religion, to the glory of God Almighty."   The "thereby" proved to be there by way of the cross. 

The way is full of paradox: advancing yet surrendered, sorrowing yet rejoicing, tried yet thankful, purposed yet yielding in prayer, planned and chartered yet coursed by God.

Thank You, God, for Your always-without-ceasing-in-everything will concerning this pilgrim, for Your glory.  Amen. 

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Monday, November 15, 2010

From Psalm 19:7-8

The Word of the Lord is:
Perfect, sure,
Right and pure;
Converting the soul,
Making the wise,
Rejoicing the heart,
Enlightening the eyes.

God is faithful to answer His own word and the Christian who has been trained by the constant use of Scripture in prayer recognizes the sure voice of right wisdom, pure joy, and perfect illumination. There are times in our conscious prayer life when our own words are not enough; when our soul language demands an expression beyond our ability to communicate.  To some, a tongue has been given; to all, the Word of God has been given.  No dictionary, thesaurus, or language degree can answer the deep call of the soul’s need to communicate with God in soul-speak.  The Word of God is the calling card for such speech and is the hallmark of faith-filled prayer. 

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

These words catch me mid-stride.  Who labors?  Who is laden?  Who desires rest?  I, for one.  The directive is: "Come to Me. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me."  The discovery is: "You will find rest for your souls."   Often all the explanation needed for the exhaustion of my soul is found in my response to Christ's directive.  When Christ says "Come to Me," I am prone to answer, "I'll be there in a minute."  When He says, "Take My yoke upon you," I might say, "First let me finish what I am trying to do."  When He says, "Learn from Me," I may say, "Hold on; I've almost got this problem figured out."   Yet there will be rest, for Christ will fulfill His own directives.  

Jesus taught this while going though the grain fields on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.  While the world labored to keep Sabbatical laws, the disciples plucked grain, ate, and found rest.  As always, the disciples' relationship with Jesus helps us with ours.  Can you hear their imploring words to you?  "Come to Jesus!  Enter the grain field with Him and eat of the Staff of Life.  Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him; you will find rest for your souls."    

Take His yoke upon you; you can trust Him with your cares.  Learn from Him; you can trust Him to figure out what you cannot.  Come to the Lord of the Sabbath, and enter company with the One who gives rest to restless-prone souls.

Author: Carolyn Roehrig

Monday, November 1, 2010

"'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him..."' (Luke 11:5).

This was a midnight request and the friend's response is understandable: "Do not trouble me; the door is now shut.”  While most often our friends do not knock at midnight, it seems that quite often the knocking comes at inconvenient times.  Even as I write, the phone and doorbell have rung five times!  At the moment, I am identifying with the friend's response, yet I cannot escape the timing of this unusual amount of solicitation.  Perhaps I need this as an illustration to remind me of the One to Whom many came, day and night.   

Did Jesus ever say to those seeking Him, "Do not trouble Me; the door is now shut"?  No.  It is not that He was never busy, nor that He never sought quiet places, but He knew the purpose of His days.  Whether awakened from sleep, pressed by crowds, or interrupted from prayer because, as Simon said, "Everyone is looking for You," His response was always "It is for this that I was sent forth.”

Have I been wakened from sleep by a restless child, or kept awake by someone needing to talk?  Have I begun a project or chore and been inconvenienced by a seemingly trivial matter?  Have I been interrupted when I needed solitude?  Are there times when "everyone" is looking for me or when I have nothing left to give?  Oh, yes; haven’t we all?  But we have a Friend to Whom we may come with our “three-loaf requests.”  He is the Bread of life. 

Partake of the Bread and you will know better the purpose of your day.  Partake of the Bread and will never have nothing left to give to all the “everyone’s” in your life. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"A fool is quick tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted" (Proverbs 12:16).

Here is an entry culled from the early years of packing sack lunches.  It goes like this:

"A fool is quick tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted" is the verse I wrote on the children’s napkins this morning for their lunch sacks.  To an extent it is true that we feed on what we read on, but by the time I had copied this verse on the fourth napkin, I was digesting it.  It has been said that enough is as good as a feast…it seems that I needed a four-course meal! Indeed, through morning tasks and rushed responses, twice I felt insulted and twice I reacted, not calmly. 

The Word of God is like a seed that best sprouts when hidden in the heart.  Is foolishness also hidden there?  God will compost it, and the sprout will do what sprouts do best—provide concentrated nutrients to those who eat them.  They are live food, cleansing and complete.  So, too, is the Word of God to those in whom it sprouts.  

This is good news, children!  No more sprout sandwiches on sprouted bread, broccoli sprouts with dip, and clover sprout cookies (is there even such a recipe?) in your lunch sacks!  But read your napkins and hide the living Word in your hearts.

No doubt God used my foolishness this morning to awaken my appetite for His wisdom.  I read the napkins and supped on sprouts. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

“And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You…?’” (Genesis 18:23).

Interceeding for the righteous residing in Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham spoke with God, saying, “Would You destroy the righteous with the wicked?”  Waiting not for God’s reply, he confidently answered, “Far be it from You to do such a thing…far be it from You!”  His confidence was not in himself, but in God’s right judgments.  Abraham knew some things about God.  He knew God to be the Judge of all the earth, and he knew God to do right.  Abraham had full confidence in these aspects of God’s character, and he staked his request upon them. 

Who is able to pray with Abraham-like confidence?  Those who search the scriptures to know God, who meditate on His precepts and contemplate His ways so that with their own lips they declare the judgments of His mouth, these have confidence in prayer. 

Abraham’s prayer, and God’s answer, affirms for us that unwavering faith in our “Would You, God?” prayers is nothing to do with the certainty of our desires, but with the certain character of God.  If before I utter a prayer I consider what I know to be true of God, some prayers will never be uttered.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

“Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim” (John 2:7).

Jesus' mother learned that the wine at the wedding in Cana had run out.  Who knows why the wine ran out.  Maybe some theologian can tell us, but here’s my kitchen-sink theology: with everything there is to remember when planning a wedding, there was either an oversight in the wine delivery plan, or an underestimation of the wine consumption.  Here’s another situation.  The disciples had two baskets of fish and bread to feed five thousand followers who became unexpected dinner guests.  Or what about the widow who had enough flour in the bin and oil in the jar for herself and her son, but not for her guest, Elijah.  She was told to feed him first and then her son and herself with what was left over.  They all ate leftovers until the Lord sent rain. 

There is a poem by William Barclay.  It begins, “Lord of all pots and pans and things…”  Jesus is indeed Lord of pots, pans, baskets, jars, and bins.  He knows what’s in the bin and what’s not in the pot.  He knows we want to have enough of the right stuff to feed our guests, and He knows that we don’t always.  Never mind if it’s because of an oversight or an unexpected guest. 

I needed this reminder the other day when I was tempted to defend myself because of embarrassment.  My son and his friend came looking for lunch, found little, and left.  In his friend’s kitchen, there was food, not just ingredients.  That day I learned the difference, and purchased fo-o-od…prepared and packaged, cooked and canned…and filled the “waterpots” to the brim!  I try to keep them filled up, but they do run out. 

Jesus tells us what to do next.  Often His requests are as every day as bread and water; “Fill the waterpots.  Stretch the meal.  Serve the leftovers.”  The servants, disciples, and widow did what the Lord said and He is faithful to His own intent.  Their faith was helped and, in the same way, so is ours.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand…" (Ephesians 6:11).

Recently I discovered a most amazing fact in my daughter's science text.  Among all the constellations, that one which is called "Orion" out-shines the rest.  Here is a grand-scale reminder by way of unmatched illustration to take up the whole armor of God and, having done all, to stand.  Marking his stance are Orion's brightest stars: Betelgeuse, his right shoulder, and Rigel, his left foot.  Clothing his stature are shield, belt, sword, and perhaps one could fancy his shining foot to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Highlighting his sword is the Great Nebula, a glowing mass of gas and dust easily imagined to be stirred up by very active use of the sword! 

Should life's battles bewilder, look up.  The high hand of the God of heaven arbitrates upon earth, too.  For whatever must-needs of resolution, intervention, settlement, or judgment, the marching order is given—“Put on the full armor of God, Christian, so that you may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one and stand, stand, stand!”  Considering the weightiness of the shoes of the gospel of peace and the shield of faith, the word of God, truth, righteousness, and salvation, little wonder standing is about all we are able to do.

Does it seem a mysterious battle plan?  Where’s the action?  Where’re the blood, sweat, and tears?  Ah, but Jesus has already wept.  His sweat fell like great drops of blood.  His blood has already been shed in the battle against the dark rulers of this age and the wicked hosts in the heavenly places.  The dust is still settling, but all has been done; the fiery darts are still flying, but faith extinguishes the flaming mass of glowing darts of the evil one.  For today’s battles, the Bright and Morning Star marks our stance. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…” (Revelation 1:15).

Here is a memory from eight years ago, well-worn but fitting still:

It began with accidentally spilled fish water on the carpet while the boys were changing the tank.  As we blotted that up, the toilet overflowed and four-year old Hannah slipped on the floor, soaking herself in toilet water.  While mopping the floor and bathing Hannah, the puppy had an accident in the other room.  Up to my elbows, I certainly was not thinking about the feet of Jesus. 

I am thinking now of the feet of Jesus, however.  May I never suppose His feet to skirt around life’s lowly messes.  Profoundly yet simply, His feet are compared to bronze, an ordinary metal for the commonest uses and the holiest places.  Cooking pots for the kitchen and coins for the dusty streets of commerce were made of bronze, and so were holy articles for the temple and the altar for the holy of holies.  Feet like bronze, not jeweled and guilded, belong to the One who says, “Follow Me,” and who then steps promptly onto soiled carpets and floors, into bath water, through the sanctifying fray of common moments, and up to the throne of God.  Onto, into, through, and upward—it is not easy to follow the way of those bronze-like feet, but when mine are callousing, His are glowing and sacred to be sure.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes" (Genesis 18:6).

I wonder what Sarah was doing when Abraham came running into the tent with this urgent instruction. Most likely she was in the midst of doing something and had planned her   day.  I do not imagine that her plans contained a clause saying, "In the event that the Lord and His angels should stop by...."   Yet they did stop by, and she was to bake cakes.  It was an ordinary task for an extraordinary moment. 

I do not know Sarah's initial response when she was interrupted, but we are told that as they were enjoying the meal, she was listening in the tent door and was blessed by what she heard.  It seems that Sarah was in no rush to resume her plans for the day.  Whatever she had been doing could wait, for perhaps she perceived the hand of the Lord in the hindrance of her work.  

I wonder how often upset plans are divine interruptions.  Should we trust God with the interruptions more than we trust ourselves with our plans, what blessings would we hear and what laughter we would know within ourselves because of the astounding things that the Lord says?   When plans are changed, keep an ear to the door; you just may hear the Lord.

“Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’” (Revelation 5:14).

The question has been asked, “If God knows what we are going to pray before we pray it, then why pray?”

Here is one answer I see in Revelation 5.  When we progress from knowing that God knows what we are going to pray to actually uttering the prayer, we exit the arguments of a skeptic and enter the high revelation of the Authority who proves Himself true.  Why pray?  Most simply, to converse with the God of heaven and earth.  When we pray we break camp and join the innumerable ranks of heaven; we lose our preferences and find what the Lamb loves; we forget all mortal esteem with matching vocabulary until heaven’s effluent speech becomes our tongue. 

Pray.  Cast your cares before the Lamb who redeemed you to God by His blood and has made you kings and priests to your God to reign in the earth.  Pray.  The prayers of the saints are golden bowls of incense held in the hands of heaven’s strange and living creatures and the twenty-four elders.  Pray.  Join the voices of many—of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands— and of every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, giving glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, resounding “AMEN!”.  Pray.  Hold tenacious this eternal worship from before, around, and in the midst of the throne.  Pray.  It is a new song.  It seems God’s purpose for prayer far exceeds ours.

“An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable” (Proverbs 14:4).

Generating income is often a messy venture.  Whether running a business in the home or running a home is your business, whether there are piles of professional papers or colored construction papers, pens or paint sets, one may say income is generated in the home if income is defined as anything that profits oneself or others.  An empty stable may stay clean, but neither man nor beast profit where hay and harness cannot be found. 

Running a home is my business and, yes, my “stable” is full and some of the stalls are messy.  The front stall is crowded with items waiting for the Salvation Army to pick up.  This is profitable for myself and others, but the children’s shoes strewn somewhere between the front door and the closet?  I see no profit here.  The laundry stall is heaped; the income is steady and the output profitable…plenty of hay in here, but now, where did I put my pitchfork?  I sure would like to find that thing.  In the meantime, stabled in the main stall is a basketball backboard that my boys are building.  I see the profit, but this animal is in the wrong stall!  “Saddle up, boys!  Get this doggie rollin’ and close the garage door behind you!”  If it profits others, it is positive income and the mess can wait; if it profits no one, it is negative income and the mess is, well, to be cleaned. 

I have posted this verse by my kitchen sink.  I need the reminder.  My stable is neither empty, nor does it stay clean, but profit for the Kingdom of God began in an inhabited and useful stable. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

“They were to serve before the Lord regularly…and in the way prescribed for them”

You don’t have to be a Levite for this list to sound familiar!  They were to care for:
            -the furnishings and all other household articles
            -the courtyard
            -the accounting
            -the supplies of flour, oil, spices, wine and incense
            -the mixing and baking
            -the setting of the table
            -the serving of the bread
            -the purification of all sacred things
            -the daily prayers and worship
-the performance of all the other duties at the house of God which have not been     mentioned 

Paying bills, pulling weeds, grocery shopping, and staying in step with the heart-beat of my family is so regular that it seems the only time it is noticed is when it is not done.  You who cook dinner most evenings, when was the last time family members said, “Heroic! You made dinner again!”  Maybe polishing the light bulbs would raise an eyebrow when they learn why their eyesight seems improved, though I didn’t notice any unusual brow activity after power washing the second story windows the other day.  My prompt, “Someone must have cleaned the outdoors today; it seems brighter than usual through these windows,” was missed.  So much for heroics, but then I’ve never seen a hero strap on a hose with a bottle of Windex attached at the nozzle.  

It seems God’s way for service doesn’t produce heroes, but saints; and saints are made in the fray.  You’ll find them rummaging through sock drawers trying to reunite missing mates, puzzling over a sudden food shortage, (is it world-wide or just in my pantry?), placing a “Please do not disturb the dust, I’m collecting samples” plaque on the knick-knack shelf, and nearly always you will find them picking up other people’s messes. 

Ho-hum?  No, not when you remember that God prepares work for His saints, and saints for His work.  Besides, you’ll also find them welcoming a visitor for a lengthy stay, thanking a gal who brought over fresh-baked cookies, taking dinner to a friend home from the hospital, and receiving “just because” flowers from a happy husband who noticed…and there is nothing ho-hum about that.  But flowers or not, let God’s every-day way produce not a ho-humming, but a Him-humming most regular saint, in you.