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November 13

Friday, November 13th, 2020

I’ve always had trouble with two words. I’ve heard them used interchangeably, which in my mind is a little much. I know they can be kissing cousins. I know if allowed the one can morph into the other one (and that becomes ugly). I also know they are both listed as sins of the flesh in Galatians 5. What two words?

ENVY and JEALOUSY

Like I said, I know they can both be wrong. In my mind, envy is “slightly” bad.  But it can morph into jealousy which is really bad.

For example, growing up I excelled in athletics. My brother excelled in music. His voice was and is phenomenal. (I actually have two brothers who can sing. The youngest sings more of a high church/”trained-voice” style. The other one more contemporary. It is the latter one [Rob] I’m writing about). As I got older and my body would not cooperate with me like it used to, I began to realize my brother’s singing was going to last him longer and take him farther than my sports were. I can’t sing so I “envy” his ability. I’m proud of my brother. I relish bragging on him. Do I wish I could sing? Of course.  But is it giving me heartburn I can’t and making me resent him? Absolutely not.  I even wonder what if I could sing. Would I give credit to God for that ability?

Bare bones: envy is a sign of discontent. “I wish I could sing.” That makes it a sin because I am not accepting who God made me to be or the lot I find myself in. Acceptance of who I am and who I’ve been made to be is essential. And so, while envy is not as “bad” as jealousy, it is still a work of the flesh and damaging to my heart. And a sin.

“Father, help me to check my heart and its desires. Help me to be content with whom you made me to be.”

November 12

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

I want to continue my thoughts I started on yesterday’s blog which began with the statement:

The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.

The word that comes to mind has so many tentacles. It is seen in a sports activity. It is seen in an area of study. It is seen on the news. It is talked about and seen (sadly sometimes) in a love relationship. It is seen in evangelism. It is seen in a person’s everyday tasks. It is seen in preaching. Okay…what is IT?

PASSION

I’m sure you can now see why it has so many tentacles. Let’s look at it another way-one I didn’t mention. James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within in?” James is telling us that it is our passions that wage war in our hearts. And while passion can be good (love, sports, work, etc), passion can also cause problems. There is a negative side to passions and James opposes it. Even in the examples I gave (love, sports, etc) the wrong kind of passion can send those emotions through the roof or drive them down the tubes. A passion is a powerful, ruling desire.  But we often allow our passion to be unbridled, or at least, to sidetrack us.

Jesus talked about passion. “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” That is the good kind of passion, when my heart is ruled by God’s love and grace. My wants, needs, and feelings are under His command.

“Father, help me to be passionate about You. May You and Your honor be my driving force.”

November 11

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

“The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.”

I wish that was original with me but I’m sure it’s not. I just cannot tell you where I read it or heard it. But here is what is running through my head this morning:

Today’s world is a mess. It’s like an old DeGarmo and Key song playing through my head right now: “Judgment Day.” (I know it is not possibly your style of music but the message is pointed. I’m sorry I couldn’t find one with lyrics but Dana’s voice is clear enough to understand the words). Guns blazing. Riots on the streets. Vitriolic speech. Accusations galore. And the lists go on. Why? Because that is who we are. We would like to say it is not me…but it is. I go back to my original statement: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. The Bible is clear on this fact -> it all comes from within.

Paul David Tripp wrote:

“If your heart isn’t ruled by God’s honor and your life by God’s plan, you may seem religious, but what you’re living isn’t biblical faith.” (40 Days of Faith-p.22)

Isn’t this exactly what Jesus got so upset with the Pharisees over? Here, listen to Isaiah 29:13- “And the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…’ “ Sound familiar? It should. Jesus used those same words in Mt. 15:8-9. 700 years before Isaiah was describing the heart of man-then, and in 700 years- and yes, even in 2020.

James is right, you know? We fight and quarrel because our passions are at war within us (James 2:1) Read again my opening statement. Can you disagree? Not according to Isaiah, Jesus and James.  That statement is surely not original with me, but it still holds true.

“Father, help me to get my heart aligned with Yours. May my life and heart be consistent with Your Word.”

November 10

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

When I have my Quiet Time in the morning I like to supplement it with devotional material. Some of it is pretty light but some of it really makes me think. For two years in a row I did New Morning Mercies (NMM) by Paul David Tripp. WOW!  What a goldmine it was.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many copies of that book I gave away to friends and colleagues.  One of my biggest joys is sharing books or providing books to others to read and think about and grow. NMM was one of them. I even had about 5 guys daily emailing their thoughts on their reading of NMM.  I brought it to an end because I realized that although they enjoyed reading the devotions it was hard with their daily schedules to write about it. It was beginning to bog them down so rather than sour them on NMM and having a Quiet Time, I called a halt.

Well…just last week I started a new devotional by Tripp. It is called 40 Days of Faith and I found out after buying it that it takes its cue from NMM and its material is gleaned from it. That’s okay though. My memory is not such that I could remember what I read a couple years ago anyway! 🙂

I recently read this and shared it with the folks during this past Sunday’s communion thought: 

Jesus paid it all! There are no bills due for your sin! You are now free to simply trust and obey.  Stop trying to earn something from God. Stop trying to gain more of his acceptance. Stop trying to earn his favor. Stop trying to win his allegiance. Stop trying to do something that would pay for his blessing. Stop trying to morally buy your way out of his anger. Stop trying to reach a level where you will know lasting peace with him. Just stop trying. Just stop.  (p.16)

Paul tells us that “no one is justified before God by the law.” (Gal.3:11)  I think that is talking about more than the OT Law. I believe Paul is also talking about the crazy notions we get that we can barter our way; buy our way; earn our way; “righteous” our way; and do enough good to get a “Get Out of Jail Free” card and make it into heaven. Just the opposite is true. We can’t do any of that. Salvation is not for sale in any way, shape or form.

Salvation is a free gift. Jesus is there, not just to welcome us, but also to sustain us.

“Father, thank you for your free gift of salvation. I am still blown away by that gift even after all these years of being with You. Help me to lead others to your freedom.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

November 6

Friday, November 6th, 2020

I’m going to make a confession to you and I hope you don’t think less of me. Seriously. That is not a ploy to get you read further, one more “juicy” tidbit to pass along. It is not a headline to grab your attention and then hit you with a sledgehammer. Nope. This is something I want to be honest about.

There are times when I pray that 1) I find my mind wandering; and 2) I find myself lying. Say what? It’s true on both counts. On the first I know I’m not alone. A wandering mind is not unusual. It’s not good, but it’s also not unusual. It’s the second which bothers me more, but I often find it a by-product of the first.

Let me explain (or is that excuse myself?). When my mind wanders and I come back to reality, I find I have been repeating  a phrase over and over. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” Of course, the real problem is not the wandering mind; it is the insincere words. Hence, the lying. But, I don’t stop there. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” “Let me say what you want me to say.”  “Let me do what you want me to do.”  “Let me feel…let me care…” You get the point. Is that what I really want? Am I being sincere in my prayer or is it just a thought of a wandering mind? Strangely enough, they are good prayers to pray if I am sincere. But not if I’m not. In fact, it could be downright dangerous if God took me up on it.

Okay, now is the time for more honesty. Do you find yourself in this same boat?

“Father, may my prayers be sincere as I speak them, not just empty words of a wandering mind.”

November 5

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

As I write this it is the morning after the election. I went to bed earlier than I have lately because I was tired and because I did not want to watch prognostications of early returns. I am here this morning having woke up my normal time and having purposely not looked at election results on my phone.  It is interesting then that I would read the following words in Romans 12: 33-36:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen.”

I learned a long time, and then read it again recently, that we are all control freaks to some extent. Some more than others, but we all want some control. That goes for all areas of our lives. And yes, our country and its politics.

Power is an ugly thing. The more power we have, the more we want. It is control. I did not watch or get on my phone this morning for a reason: I wanted to keep in mind that God is in control and I do not understand His ways. I do not know the future. What I must do is trust. Trust His plan. Trust His sovereignty. Trust His ways. Trust His purpose. I am not in control; He is. Amen.

November 4

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

I originally posted this yesterday, November 3rd, the day of our election on my other blog. I include it here a day later still not knowing the outcome of the election.

At the risk of being taken as political, I’m going to make a statement that I firmly believe: God does not care about a person’s race; a person’s skin color; a person’s nationality; a person’s social status; a person’s religious upbringing; a person’s education; a person’s job; a person’s political persuasion; a person’s state of residence; a person’s 401K, or any other distinction man may make. In our world today it seems like unless you state publicly, “BLM,” you are a racist or some other ugly moniker. I personally believe ALM- All Lives Matter- and refuse to say any one race is more important than another.

I believe God would say the same thing. How do I know that? The Bible says so. Here, check out Romans 10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save.” (v.9). Then notice the words in verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who…'” See that word? E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Oh, but I love verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on ALL who call on Him. For E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s that word again!! Twice everyone is used; once all is used. That shows God is not black or white; rich or poor; slave or free; American or Hispanic (take your pick); or interested in class, color, or creed. God is for EVERYONE, especially when it comes to salvation. Jesus died for all.

“Father, thank you that I’m included, along with all others who come to you and claim the Name of Jesus for salvation.”

November 3

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

“It all depends on your perspective.” I’ve said it and probably so have you. Jo’s sister had a car that now sits at our place. Circumstances are such that she can’t drive anymore. Like never.  This car is a piece of junk. It has to be one of the worst cars Chevy ever made.  Anyway, Jo went out to start it yesterday to move it and not only was the battery dead, the key won’t come out. I am 6’5″ and I tried every contortion I could think of to try to get my body underneath the steering column to find out how to get that key out (supposed to use a screwdriver to push a button). I couldn’t do it.  I finally walked away….frustrated…disliking that car even more.

What I was doing, in essence, was looking for a different perspective. Here is another I want you to think about: “Prayer changes things.” First, I think it is missing the point. Jesus did not say in Mark 11:22 to have faith in prayer.  He said to “have faith in God.” I read recently about a blind professor in Chicago who once said, “I am whole even though I am blind.” But here is what struck me: He said, “I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power and presence of God, so I pray.”

I think that’s the key. Prayer doesn’t change things. God’s presence does. Dare I say that prayer is powerless if the power and presence of God are dismissed? No question it is a great privilege to pray, but it is not the prayer but the Presence behind the prayer that is important. God makes the difference. He changes things.

“Father, You are my All in All. It is You I need to look to and honor, not prayer. Help me not to lose sight of that perspective.”

November 2

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

I visited a dear lady this past week. Actually, twice.  She has COPD but her toughest battle has been cancer for the past four or so years. I went one day at her granddaughter’s request and could not stay. She was having a tough time.  She had hit a wall by the time I had gotten there. So I graciously offered to leave and come back another day. Another day was the very next day. This time I went a littler earlier and she was able to visit. It wasn’t long until she was wore out. They were getting ready to put her to bed and so I left.

Before I left I prayed with her. When I was done and stood up (I had knelt since she was sitting on the couch) she said, “You know. I listen to Charles Stanley and he said that God would never leave me.” I said he is absolutely right.

Those words were sweet to hear. Backstory: she had begun coming to church after I met her at the bank. She had then retired but worked part-time to help out. After she began coming it wasn’t long until she was diagnosed with cancer. She was given maybe 4-6 months. That was 4 years ago. She told me once that she was so grateful for the live stream and that she had found her faith again. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to hear that…and grateful for our team. Several months ago, after several attempts over the years to visit, she asked to see me. She to cancel twice due to medical reasons, but she finally made it. I was able to reassure her of her salvation and God’s love and about heaven. Romans 8 is what I used (my reading for today).

Now you see why her statement about what Charles Stanley said is so meaningful to me…but mostly to her. There is nothing like assurance of salvation to prepare someone to go. Are you sure? You can be. Read Romans 8.

“Father, thank you for the assurance of salvation you give in your Word. Let me live in that confidence and help others to as well.”