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October 28

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

As I was reading during my Quiet Time this morning, I ran across a word that appears to be missing in our world, and specifically, in so many lives today.  You can find the word throughout the Bible but hardly a more poignant reminder than Romans 5. Here is what it says: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces HOPE, and HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been give to us.” (vv.3-5)

See the word? H.O.P.E.  How many people do you know today who are without it? Many don’t see hope. They see despair. Cities burning. Protests still going on. People being killed. Crime escalating. Fighting. Division. Injustice. It is easy to give up hope that things will be better.

That would be human nature. It would be easy to feel like Jeremiah, Elijah, Micah and others who, at times, wanted to quit and give up. Habakkuk asked the question many of us ask, “How long, O Lord, how long?” (1:2)

We can choose despair or hope. As a Christ-follower, I have a hope others don’t. It is a hope that does not put us to shame, does not disappoint. We are never left alone. Even in the darkest times, we have a light that shines.

“Father, thank you for hope that shines its light into the darkness of despair. Help me share the hope I have in You with others.”

October 27

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

I read recently that the late Catherine Marshall wrote about learning to surrender her entire life to God through a “prayer of relinquishment.” When she encountered a tough situation she panicked and exhibited a demanding spirit in prayer: “God, I must have thus and so.” God seemed remote. But when she surrendered the situation to Him to do exactly as He pleased, fear left and peace returned.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” That happens to be one of my favorite verses. As I thought about that verse and I thought what Catherine Marshall said, I could think of no better example of that than Jesus. Two situations played out in my head. The first was in the Garden as He wrestled with what was coming. He ultimately said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus could have chosen a different path (He was fully man), but He didn’t. He chose to surrender to His Father.  (He was also fully God).

It shows on the cross. There is no “I want down!” No “Take these nails out of my hands. The pain is too great.” No “I’ve had enough.” No. Instead when we read His last words, we hear His resignation and surrender in these words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” There it is: a whole-hearted surrender and commitment to God.

An example for me. For you. If Jesus did so should I. So should you.

“Father, even though sometimes it is hard, please find a heart willing to resign itself to You, to commit itself into your hands. May I follow Jesus’ example.”

October 26

Monday, October 26th, 2020

When you think about prayer, there are a lot of crazy ideas going around.  ‘Course there are the lies and false ones (bordering on heresy) that you can tell God what you want and He will do it, especially if you name it and claim it in the name of Jesus.  There are those who say, “Why should I pray when God already knows?” That is a somewhat fair question. There is also one that I don’t hear much of in my circle but I know it is out there. Here is an example:

Praying to God and asking for a job or for Him to move in your life and provide some money (for example), but then just sitting in your chair-expecting the job or the money to fall into your lap. You and I might think that is absurd but then again you may not. It might be seen in another way. Say perhaps you ask God to provide for someone and you have the ability to do so but fail to help. That would be an example of James 2, of faith without works.

When we pray for something we should either be willing to get busy if its for ourselves or if we prayed on behalf of someone else. That’s like the two boys who were late for school. One said, “Let’s go!” The other said, “Let’s stop and pray we won’t be late.” The other said, “You can stop and pray but I prefer to pray while I run.” I think he got it right. 🙂

Run. Pray. Then keep running as if your life depended on it. Pray. Trust. Then do all you can in looking or searching.

“Father, I can pray in Your will and know you will answer. But sitting around and doing nothing is not what I believe you want. Trust and obey.”

October 23

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Sadly there are many people today who call themselves “Christians” that have strange views. Some are whacked. Some are way out there. Some follow heresy (and often don’t know, which gives rise to a lack of Bible knowledge). Some follow men. Some are just ignorant. And some look for the easy way, an easy faith. It is this latter group I want to probe.

You see, some have the lame idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” You know…if I don’t see I don’t know. I don’t see so I’m not responsible. Take, for example, followers of Jesus in other countries (and even now in our own). We have no clue in many cases what others are going through. We think, “Oh that’s a Muslim country” or “That’s in a communist country” so we turn a blind eye and either deny it or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist. Every day multitudes of followers of Jesus are persecuted and executed for their faith. I have no clue what that is like. But whether I choose ignorance or disregard, it still goes on. All over the globe. Behind the bamboo curtain. Behind the Great Wall. Behind the sickle and stars. Behind the stars and stripes. People are living their faith and as a result are either imprisoned or executed for that faith. Plain and simple: being a follower of Christ in many places is truly an effort of faith and of taking one’s life in one’s own hands. It is one of the least popular things a person can do.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus really do stand in the presence (now) and will (in heaven) of some truly remarkable people. One author would call them world-changers. They may be little known but their light shines brightly.

“Father, I stand in the company of some ‘great’ people who shine your light in tough circumstances and places. Help me not to forget them.”

October 22

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

There is no question our world is unsettled right now. As I write this in 2020, we have experienced a pandemic the likes of which my generation or after has never experienced before. We have watched cities be held hostage; cities burn and in some cases are still burning; corrupt politicians grease their own palms and flaunt their sinful agenda, thumb their nose at people all while doing their own things to further their agenda. We have seen lies and cover ups, the likes of which we have never seen before. We have seen sin flaunted in the open, almost daring us to say anything derogatory toward that sin. And we simply cannot forget the hatred and vitriol we have seen from and on social media.

Something is wrong. True. But we are also seeing a fulfillment of Romans 1: 18-32.  Put aside for a moment the obvious reference in that passage to homosexuality. See the blatant reference to mass chaos in our lives. How can we read this passage without seeing the result of disobedience to God’s law?

There is a story told -true or not is up for grabs-that a UK newspaper once asked its readers “what is wrong with the world?” It is told that G.K.Chesterton, a Catholic writer, poet and philosopher answered that question with a 4-word answer: “Dear Sirs. I am.” How’s that for brevity and truth? I am what wrong with the world. It’s called sin and I have the disease. We all do.

“Father, the only solution to the sin problem is You. Jesus died for my sin so I can know victory over death, hell and the grave. I don’t have to be intimidated by sin any more. Give me the strength to surrender my will to You. The reason: me; the solution: You.”

October 21

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

I read something recently that piqued my interest and got my mind going. Two things actually, but what started it is this whole idea of running. Not running as in sport or exercise. Running…as in “running away.”

I’ve heard, said, and read that sometimes the wisest thing a follower of Jesus can do is run, i.e. run away from sin. Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.” The word flee can only mean one thing to me: high tail it out of there. So running away from temptation is good. but it seems to be there is a fine line between knowing when to run and when to fight. The Bible does talk about the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6), so there are times we need to stand our ground in the power of the Spirit and realize “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

So we stand. Our faith is tested. Our stamina is tested. Our faith and strength grows as a result of doing battle.

But there is another kind of running. It is called cowardice. In Psalm 78:9 it says that on the day of battle the Ephraimites, though armed with bows (weapons of warfare) turned tail and ran. Only one thing causes that kind of reaction: F.E.A.R.  That is the opposite of Joshua 1:9 when God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous…God will go with you wherever you go.” Seems to me that turning and running when the battle comes betrays, not only my own troops, but the also God Himself, the Captain of the army. 

“Father, help me to know what it is wise to stand and fight or when to run to avoid giving in. But may I never run because I’m betraying You or my fellow soldiers because of cowardice.”

October 20

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

It was a morning of jumbled thoughts. Not jumbled in the way of making no sense, but jumbled in the way of so-many-thoughts-I-need-to-control-them. I like that because it means my brain is working, 🙂  but it also makes it hard to focus on any one theme. Then I realized they actually relate to each other.

First, 2 Cor. 12 where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh. In the previous chapter he struggled with bragging/boasting of his place in the church and then in chapter 12 he talks about a man (himself) who finds himself in the 3rd heaven. But a thorn in the flesh keeps him “honest” and relying on God’s grace.

Second, I finished reading about the story of the wise men. Their response to the birth of Jesus was worship. Their desire to follow the star, their worship at the feet of the Christ child, and then their obedience to the angel to not go back Herod’s way shows a heart that is honest and beats for God’s grace-even through they would not have called it that.

True worship and love for the Father must come from and beat in a heart of worship. To that end pride must evaporate, disappear, be non-existent. There is no place at the feet of Jesus for a proud person-unless he/she is releasing that pride. It is a place of humility and worship and-yes-grace.

“Father when I come to You may there be no pride, no arrogance, only humility and worship.”

October 19

Monday, October 19th, 2020

We live in an instant world.  Instant potatoes. Instant coffee. Microwave dinners. You get the picture. What we don’t have are instant gardens (although we do have chia pets) 🙂 , instant height, instant weight gain or loss, or (fill in the blank).  No, those take time. I used to hear people say, “Anything worth having is worth saving for.” Man, I wish I had followed that advice. I know an older couple who paid cash for everything. They didn’t even write checks! ‘Course that was back in the mid ’70s.

What great advice though to remember that good things are worth the wait. We tend to appreciate things more. Come to think of it, growing as a Christ-follower is like that. While we may get frustrated that we aren’t growing as we would like, growth happens over time. I’m always skeptical when someone comes to Christ and immediately wants public access. I’ve often thought that celebrities who come to Christ ought to be discipled first before leashed upon the world. How many do you or I know who weren’t ready for the backlash or scrutiny that came as a result of a public testimony?

Growth is not instantaneous. It takes time. Sowing. Cultivating. Watering. Fertilizing. I wish my growth could skyrocket, even now. But it never has and never will. Slowly. Somewhat methodically. But always at God’s timing. Then Psalm 1: 2-3 becomes a true picture of where I am and desire to be. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither.”

“Father, it is frustrating sometimes that growth takes ‘steps.’ Sometimes slow; sometimes quick; but always incremental. Help me to be trusting so I can be like a tree planted by the water.”

October 16

Friday, October 16th, 2020

I read a story recently which struck my “interest bone.” It’s one I will look sideways at, ponder, tilt my head, ponder some more, give a little huh to, then move on. But it just struck my fancy so I would like to comment on it.

The story goes that two brothers, Billy and Melvin, were standing in their family’s dairy barn when they looked up to see a plane writing in the sky. The plane wrote two letter-“GP”-in the sky. One took that message to mean “Go Preach”; the other took it to mean “Go Plow.” The one who interpreted it as “Go Preach” you may have heard of- Billy Graham; the one who interpreted it as “Go Plow” was Melvin, who went on to faithfully run the family’s dairy farm for many years.

But here is what struck me as I read that. There would be people who would be skeptical (and rightly so) but let’s take it in another direction. There would be those who would look at those two brothers and deem Billy as “successful” and Melvin as “ordinary.” But I beg to differ. They both had significant roles to play in life. One preached; the other farmed. One gave the bread of life; the other gave physical bread. One sustained the spiritual health; the other sustained the physical health.

Question: which one was more important? Some might argue the spiritual. But I would argue both are. What good is the spiritual without bread to sustain health?  On the converse, what good is physical health if the spiritual is laid waste?

You see, nowhere in the Bible is one task, life choice of job, seen as more important than another. The Bible teaches us “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col.3:17) {Emphasis mine}   It also tells us that “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.”

Conclusion: No matter what I do-preach, teach, clean floors, stock shelves, take care of a patient, whatever-I am to do it for Him and His glory.

“Father, help me to show You in all I do and in whatever I do. Help me to remember I am representing You and everything is equally important.”

October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”