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March 21

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My title is Pursuit of the “Hi-Life” vs. Pursuit of the Righteous Life.

The story of the Israelites, Joshua, Achan and Ai has always intrigued me. There are some seemingly unanswered questions. You find the story in Joshua 7, but it actually starts in chapter 6. When laying siege to Jericho, the army of Israel was told commanded to take nothing from Jericho. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. We know from the first verses in chapter 7 that Achan had been disobedient. That resulted in a loss in battle to Ai. Eventually, Joshua does what he should have done before the battle and consulted God. He finds out there is sin in the camp. eradicates it and Achan’s family, then receives instructions from God on how to defeat Ai.

Several questions come to mind for me:

  1. Why did Joshua not consult God first before going to battle? Was he a little overconfident or just so sure of God’s blessing? Or were his eyes blinded so he and all the others could learn a lesson?
  2. Why did Achan think he could get away with it? How did he get the spoils back into camp without being seen?

 

The second is much easier to answer than the first. The first is pure speculation on my part. The second is clear, even Achan said it: “I saw the spoils..then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Joshua 7: 20-21

What was running through Achan’s mind? Did he think he would get away with it? Was he so blinded by his covetousness that he couldn’t see? Personally, that is my thought.

We all struggle with this (least I do). Seeing what others have and wanting it.  I was drawn to Proverbs 21:21 this morning: “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

What will I pursue? Will I pursue the so-called “Hi-life” and end up like Achan- not death by stoning but with covetousness eking out of my pores- OR will I pursue the obedient life-a righteousness according to 21:21- and find life, righteousness, and honor?

“Father, the pursuit of the “Hi-life” is a dead end. Let me put up a guard against that and not be enamored by the “Hi-Life.” But instead, let my pursue the righteous life, one which is obedient to in all things.”

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My apologies for failing to respond to comments in yesterday’s post in a timely manner. After a very fitful night, sleeping in my office chair for almost an hour and a half (I was by myself…no one saw me. 🙂 ), I finally visited the clinic and was diagnosed with a severe backdoor sinus infection. I went home and slept for almost 3 hours more. I’d say my body needed sleep. Thankfully, I am feeling much better today after the sleep and some antibiotics and a steroid. (I despise taking meds). I’ll get to your comments today. 

March 20

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My title for this devotion is Testimony of Truth vs. testimony of lies.

There seems to be in each one of us the tendency to exaggerate. Instead of telling it like it is, we embellish, lay it on thick. The problem with a lie is it won’t hold up. I once had a friend who spent time in court trying to get custody of his two girls. At least 3  times He testified in court and each time it was the same testimony. The other attorney had the gall to say, “Mr ___________ you have told the same story 3 times in court. That is impossible to do.” Even the judge chuckled at his cockeyed reasoning because when you tell the truth you have nothing to hide. You also don’t have to wonder what you said the last time you testified. The mother’s story changed like the wind.

Fabricating testimonies, “miracles,””works of God,” is pure dishonesty. One very popular dude claims when he preaches gold dust falls from heaven and feathers fall on people. That’s not real and it’s been proven. If people open their eyes to the truths of Scripture and see the hucksterism for what it is, maybe he will stop fabricating things. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God’s Word is true. Our testimony should be also. To embellish, lie, and exaggerate will eventually catch up to s. Better to tell the truth than be caught in lies.

“Father, Your Word is true. My words should also be true. Let me be conscientious of what I say and may it always be true.”

March 19

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My title is Forging Ahead vs Caught in the Middle

There are many things that are true and I know that. There are also things I’m sure of, two of them which are these:

  1. No one likes to wait.
  2. No one likes to get caught in the middle.

When it comes to relationships no one likes to be the one “caught in the middle.” It is a miserable place to be. When I was in college I liked a girl. Her name was Jane Doe (name changed to protect the innocent. 🙂 ) But John also liked Jane and our freshman year found them together. She became confused (least that is what I wanted to tell myself) and ran to me. For 2-3 weeks I was in bliss, except for the fractured relationship with John. After 2 or 3 weeks she went back to John, leaving me crushed. I wrote a letter to my dad seeking advice and he responded with a wise perspective. He gave the example of a chess game and how the pawn is often used as bait to draw out the other player’s move. He then told me I was Jane’s pawn, used by her to get John’s attention. Lesson learned. (We repaired our friendship and found other women who became our wives). 🙂

I was the man in the middle. In our spiritual life, being caught in the middle often means waiting. Waiting on God to act while we are unsure of what to do. It’s like it’s “here is the past event.” Over here is God’s desire. And I’m stuck in the middle. My modus operandi has often been not to wait but forge ahead. B.A.D. M.O.V.E. No matter who irritating and disconcerting and out-of-control I feel my life is, waiting on God is the best thing. I’m thinking (and you are welcome to disagree) that being caught in the middle for a period of time might be the wise thing. 

“Father, if being caught in the middle is where you want me to be then please give me the patience to wait for You. Help me not to rush ahead or be like a bull in a China shop causing irreparable damage. Help me to wait if I find myself caught in the middle.”

March 18

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My title for this devotion is Remembering vs Forgetting.

Last week sometime I finished the Pentateuch. In all my years of reading through the Bible, I can honestly say this is the first time I read through the Pentateuch. I would always skim it. But I’m now in Joshua-a much more exciting read! 🙂

Joshua has already received Moses’ “mantle.” He has already sent the 2 spies to Jericho, who in turn had their encounter with Rahab. Today’s reading was the miracle of the people of Israel crossing the Jordan on dry ground. Crossing the Jordan on dry ground, which at this time was overflowing its banks, is not what drew my attention. God had Joshua take 12 leaders of the tribes to take 12 stones out of the Jordan and set up an altar where the priests stood as the people crossed. Then they were to carry those stones and set up an altar at Gilgal. Let’s call them Stones of Remembrance. Here’s why:

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ “ (4:21-22)

The responsibility of telling the children was that of the parents. The stones stood as a reminder of God’s faithful deliverance.

We no longer have an altar made of stones to remind us. Instead we have two sacraments-baptism and the Lord’s Supper-to remind us of God’s faithfulness. Baptism is the response of obedience to God’s salvation as that person indicates to all the choice he made to follow Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is a tangible, physical remembrance of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, which brought about our deliverance from sin.

“Father, help me not to forget Your faithfulness. And even though I don’t have an altar made of stones to remind me, You have given me/us two tangible reminders. Help me not to slough them off as being unimportant. Remind me of Your faithfulness so that I may faithfully tell others.”

March 15/Weekend

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My title is False Security vs Real Security

I spent one day this past week (Thursday) at a Church Safety and Security Seminar. I learned about security with doors; active shooters; identifying potential problems and people; child safety and security while in the children’s area; weekly office safety; and a whole bunch of other safety and security issues. They talked about having a security team designated each week that patrols the grounds, stays alert and communicates with others. While we are okay on some things-like sign-in and check out of the young children and locking doors-we are so not up to snuff on some things.

Psalm 118:8-9 hit home to me as I read it this morning: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

It is no secret we all try (and that includes those who say they are Christ-followers) to find refuge in things that are fleeting. Various psalms remind us that we are to take refuge under his wings. Psalm 91:1 speaks about the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord His trust.” The theme verse for this blog is Psalm 27:1- “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  There are countless more verses which follow this prescription.

Here is my take: While we need to be prepared for all that may happen, both real and scenario-wise, we must not lean too heavily on our own man-made efforts. In life. In our spiritual lives especially. All “man stuff” will come crumbling down and will not protect me from storms. The storms which rattle my spiritual cage will only stand when my trust is in the Father; the Unmovable One. The Unshakeable One. The Rock of Refuge. The Rock that won’t roll.

“Father, true safety and security is only found in you. Let me not build a system that will crumble and fall but one that will stand because you will stand.”

March 14

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My title for this devotion is Disillusionment vs Insight

When we are young our parents, who may be in their 30s, seem so old.  🙂 Now that I’m 66, those 30s seem so young! I admit to some nostalgia from time to time as I look back to my younger days as a pastor. I put an age out there…say 32…figure out where I was and try to picture me back then. I know. I know. Some might see it as an effort in futility but I can also see it as fun. True, there are times of disillusionment as I reflect on what I was like and what I did or did not do.

But it can also be a time of Insight. Even though I cannot change what happened and what I was like, I can see it as God’s way of moving in my life. You see, being my age affords a whole of introspection. I’ve thought about places I’ve been and things I’ve done and have decided I will not allow the disillusionment of disappointment to get me down but rather to allow the insight learned to raise me up.

Some observations:

  1. I can regret any look back and bemoan the stupidity of mistakes made and wish I had known what I was going to do and where I was going to go.
  2. I can be glad I didn’t know.  Would I have taken that ministry? Would I have regretted meeting that person? Would that decision I made change anything? Would I have ventured there if I had known how it would turn out?
  3. What lessons (insights) can I learn that will help me now; in the future; and as a mentor?

 

There’s something to be said about old age. I’m in the twilight of my life and of my career. I can choose to see it as a descent into an abyss or I can see it as an ascent to new heights. Disillusionment or insight…which will it be?  There’s something to be said about Proverbs 16:31 and 20:29.

“Father, thank you for the wisdom of old age. As I reflect, let my reflection not get stuck on disillusionment but let it lead to new insights.”

March 12-13

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I took a few days to visit in Ohio but took one morning to go to Panera Bread and do some reading and journaling. This is a combination of both Monday and Tuesday.

I’m calling this Spoken Words vs Unspoken Words.

It seems, at least to me, that we are a nation of spoken words. What I mean by that is that it is hard for us (for me) to keep my mouth shut. It’s almost like I/we are afraid of dead air. Tragically, when words are spoken it is more often than not words better left unsaid. A couple of Proverbs I’ve read recently are reminding me of the wisdom and prudence of keeping quiet, or at least of measuring my words before I speak.

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Pr.11:12

It seems to me there is a lot of cynicism and sarcasm in our speech these days. It’s almost like we take delight in putting people “in their place.” To put it another way, we like to make people feel small. Sarcasm seems to be our sword of choice. Jab. Jab. Parry. Jab. Jab. Slash. Jab. Slash. Foe defeated.

But is it really a victory when we destroy someone else? I think not. At best, it is a hollow one. How can I consider it a victory when I have sliced and diced a neighbor-a flesh and blood person just me- into mincemeat? How can there be a good feeling in that? I would think that as a follower of Christ that even putting an “enemy” to mush would not further the cause of Christ. That’s not saying we shouldn’t defend our faith, and at times ourselves, but does that mean “crushing” the very soul of another? Again, I think not. I have found if people had their mind made up, sarcasm and slashing, slicing and dicing will not soften their heart but harden them.

Oh yeah, that other Proverb. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” 12:18

Case closed.

“Father, help me in my choice of words to not choose those that drip with sarcasm but give life. let me not be so intent on ‘winning’ that I kill others so that it really results in a hollow victory. Let me remain silent if that is the result.”  Choose life Bill.


I know this is a little long but it is two days worth of Proverbs reading put into one devotion. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I was gone. 

March 11

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My title for this devotion is Resisting Correct vs Accepting Correction.

Several Scriptures come to the forefront:

“Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Pr.8:13b

“Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” Pr.10:17

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” Pr.15:31-32 (NLT)

In all honesty, it is never easy to accept reproof, or correction or criticism (whatever you want to call it). I think the “higher up” a person is, the more powerful he or she is, the harder it is to accept.

As a young pastor I realized I needed help and guidance but it was still hard. The older I got; the more experienced I got; the more “mature” I got, the harder it got. I was good at listening to what people said then just saying to myself, “You don’t know anything. You have no clue.” I even had someone say to me once that I was arrogant and proud but then shrugged off his words by saying,  “I’m not either. I’m just sure of what I do.” Jeff was right. I should have listened. There’s a word for that: F-O-O-L. Even though I was never domineering or authoritarian, I was still a disgrace, harmful, and led people astray by my arrogance.

Constructive criticism coming from a friend is good. Coming from leaders who love and care for their pastor is essential. But too often we defend and justify ourselves instead of listening.

The Proverbs used at the beginning of this devotion show how important it is to listen and to accept what is being said. There just might be a grain of truth in it.

“Father, help me to accept correction. Help me not to be the fool-the one who is arrogant and proud. Instead, find in me a humble and teachable spirit.”

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I am leaving town for a few days to visit my grandson and his family. I will not be taking my computer with me so I suspect this page will be silent a day or two until I return (which is to be Wednesday afternoon).

March 8/Weekend

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I apologize for my failure to post earlier. I am fighting this “bug” that is going around and since we will be heading out Sunday after church for Ohio I thought I better sleep in some. Little did I know a 2 hour nap would also be in order for the afternoon. 🙂

My title for this devotion is Deserving vs Undeserving.

Whenever one talks about mercy and grace, the subject always comes down to what we do and do not deserve. It’s only right. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve; grace is getting what we don’t deserve. 

The past week in his book a SHELTER in the time OF STORM, Paul David Tripp had a different approach. It was mediation #42. I’m going to capsulize it.

I deserve:

  • to be forsaken, to be forever cast away.
  • to be rejected, to have God turn away and stay.
  • His anger, to be punished for my wrong.
  • His righteous judgment, the full weight of His Law.

I don’t deserve:

  • His affection, the many things I could not earn.
  • His provision, the daily gifts of His love.
  • the rights of family, to be called His son.
  • the warm reception, tender care and endless help.
  • to call Him Father, to be welcomed in His home.

But I’m part of a family, His family. It’s a family I did not deserve or earn. (End of summary)

There’s a lot I am not deserving of. There is a lot I am also deserving of. None of it from my own doing. The longer I live and the more I study, the more I realize I have to rely on God’s mercy and grace.

“Father, I need your mercy and grace. I need your attention to the details of my life where I need straightened up. Help me to always remember what I deserve and don’t deserve.”

March 7

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My title for this devotion is God’s Protection vs God’s Abandonment.

(This goes along with my thoughts from March 6). Down through the years and maybe even more so now, it has not been uncommon to hear a lot of doom and gloom about the church.

  • “The church is following the world right to hell.”
  • “Soon the church will be no more.”
  • “The church has lost and will continue to lose its influence in the world.”
  • “If the church keeps going the way it is, it will soon disappear from the face of the earth.”

Those are just some of the doom and gloom “prophecies” made about the church. It’s also easy to get sucked into that abyss. To hear some talk today the church will be erased from existence in a short time. While I seriously question the motives of anyone saying that (can you say, “Show me your money”?), I can also say with profound conviction it is not true. The church will never-N.E.V.E.R.- cease to exist. Why? Because of a promise made by its founder in an exchange with His students. “And the gates of hell will never prevail against it.” Those were His words.

Down through the years God has protected His people. Irregardless of the promise to the people of Israel (which He has and will keep), the church will always be around. There will always be a remnant. He protected it in its early days. He protected it through one of its greatest persecutors, who was eventually converted on the road to Damascus and became one of its staunchest defenders. He kept a remnant through the corruption of the papacy; through the devastating cults and false religions; through wars; through intense persecution which came through Communism and other social diseases; through martyrdom; through liberalism; through compromising the truth; through apathy; and today through efforts to wipe it and its influence off the map.

Plain and simple: Despite all the doom and gloom “prophecies,” the church never has been and never will be destroyed. God will always protect a remnant. Its in the Book: “the gates of hell will not prevail.” I’m not saying it won’t get tougher. There is no doubt efforts are being made to tear down the church and wipe out its influence, but God never goes back on a promise. I repeat: there will always be a remnant. Always has been; always will be.

“Father, I thank you for the church. And I thank you it will always be. Thank you for calling me to you and including me in your family-the church.”