InTheShadow

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June 5/Weekend

Friday, June 5th, 2020

I learned something new today. There is a saying: “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” There are some in the Christian world-in their faith- who take a dim view of learning new things. When a person has been a Christ-follower for many years, it is easy to get a “glaze over.” A crust develops which is hard to penetrate at times. So people who have been Christ-followers for any length of time almost have a “I-dare-you-to-teach-me-something-new” attitude. I once had a man who was just a few years older than me tell me I couldn’t teach him anything new because I was younger. It all started because I confronted him about his visits to the Playboy Club in another city and what he was expecting out of his wife. (She had come to see me). He saw nothing wrong with it and since he was the man she had to do what he demanded. I told him he was wrong. That was not being a servant husband or a loving husband. He then told me he would do what he wanted to do and there was nothing I could teach him. He was right. A closed mind is hard to penetrate. (Note: the marriage didn’t last much longer either).

I went off on that tangent to make a point: we are never done learning. Case in point: today’s Scripture. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus denounces the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Why? I think the key is in verses 21-22. Their sin wasn’t hostility. Or outright rejection. Or protesting. Or wanting to throw rocks. No. Their sin was indifference. The message came and they did absolutely nothing. Jesus did mighty works there and did nothing.  For the first time I actually know what this passage is about. I can’t say I have before now.

Can there be any sin more devastating to God’s work and God’s message than indifference-than not caring- on the part of His people? Let’s be pointed: looking at today’s world, how can you not care? How can we stand by and be indifferent? How can we stand by and do nothing?

“Father, help me not to be indifferent to the message of Jesus. Help me not to stand by and do nothing.”

June 4

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

My apologies for not entering a devotion yesterday. We were in Ohio and conditions were not very conducive to meditation, journaling and then typing. For some of the thoughts I had yesterday, check out my post on my other blog here.  Now…for today:

There has always been one parable of Jesus that stuck out to me.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn’t understand it very well until someone took the time to explain and illustrate it. Now I relish it. Backstory first.

I grew up in a Christian home. My mother’s desire was to follow Jesus. She married a man who did not have that same desire for the long haul, but she tried to make it happen. My dad went to church but his passion was not hers. But I can remember that from an early age my heart sought God. As I got older, I learned there were those who didn’t think as I did. (Imagine that). But when you are young you just don’t think of eternity. As a pastor I saw people at different stages of their faith journey. And I saw those who rejected it. I used to reject death bed confessions as being legitimate because of my “baptism obsession.” But then I led someone to the Lord who (quite literally) was on his deathbed. He died within hours of his confession.

Enter the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the laborers who receive equal wages. One group had worked all day; another part of the day; another part of the day; and another like maybe the last hour or so. When it came time to pay them, they were all paid the same. Of course, those who had worked all day saw a major payday when those who worked only an hour or so were paid what they had agreed to. They were upset that those who worked a small portion of the day received the same as them. It was explained that they had agreed to a certain pay.

When it comes to eternity, whether someone is a “lifer” like me; or a young adult conversion; or a 40 something conversion; or a deathbed confession (like Dan), the reward of eternity in heaven is the same for all. I’m glad God makes no distinction of when. He only says, “Come.”

“Thank you, Father, for ‘equal opportunity.’ Thank you that no matter when a person comes he or she comes knowing you will accept him/her and give eternal life as a gift.”

June 2

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of listening to podcasts and reading blogs during this crisis. I’ve also been trying to enrich my life with reading books. One of my all-time favorite leadership books (Possible #1) has been Love Works by Joel Manby. I recently read the updated and revised version. Joel has some seriously good things to say. His philosophy of leading by love was easy at one place of business but extremely difficult at another. In an interview on a podcast Joel said a couple of gems:

You always learn more in a failure.

I take that to mean when things are going well and firing on all cylinders, it is easy to get lax. But crisis or failure stops on in his tracks and makes re-evaluation an essential.

He also said:

Sometimes in the very darkest moments, you don’t see a way out.  But you get through it. And then you realize that God was waiting to teach you something.

Been there; done that.

God speaks to us through His Word, but there are also times He uses events to teach us. Remember Elijah? It wasn’t in the whirlwind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the whisper that God spoke to him. (See I Kings 19:11-13)

Who knows how God will speak? But I do know we have to slow down enough to hear.

“Father, slow me down to hear Your whisper. Use this crisis to show me Your desire for me.”

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I’m in Ohio for a couple of days visiting Janna and Braden. Please comment and I will approve it in time.

June 1

Monday, June 1st, 2020

I’m in Ohio for the first part of this week so I will say right up front that I wrote this Saturday night. Sunday has not happened yet (obviously) 🙂   So as I write this I have no idea what tomorrow (Sunday) will bring. I am cautiously optimistic since that tends to be my nature.  But here is what I wrote Saturday night:

Costi Hinn is Bennie’s nephew. Several years ago he broke away from the health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel Bennie preaches (and still does) to follow Jesus. In a recent blog he wrote, Costi wrote the following (referring to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and getting back to assembling together):

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-assimilation it’s this: grace.

I can see that. Even among the three of us (Ryan, Diana, and me) we have different ideas. I’m more eager to get back together and if I had my druthers go full bore. I agree with the man in my congregation who said, “Bill, I am so tired of hearing certain words: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer (and others I can’t remember).” Even though Jim is in a highly volatile business (grocery store), I can’t argue.  Ryan is tired of the whole mess and has seen his plans for the summer go up in smoke and new ones will have to be developed. Diana is the cautious one of the three. Always has been. But we agree to disagree and move on. We worked on putting a plan in place we all agreed on and we will continue doing that.

  • I am the spur ahead, but sometimes careful, optimist.
  • Ryan is the contemplative direction (he likes spreadsheets) and thinking- things -through -logically guy.  🙂
  • Diana is the cautious realist. (She is female after all).

Blend all three together and you have our doable, well-researched, cautious reopening plan. We need all kinds of people and grace is needed.  I haven’t always liked the slow moving, but it is necessary to tone me down from time to time. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I probably irritated the two of them somewhere along the way.  I despise the idea of wearing a mask and social distancing.  Our people spoke through the survey we sent out and so in deference to them I will do what needs to be done.  Oh yeah, and the governor of Indiana, whom I respect for the way he has tried to handle this mess.  🙂

Anyway, here’s what Costi says:

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life.
  2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life.
  3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective.
  4. People matter more than my opinion.

So…what will it be? Grace or bull-headedness?

“Father, help me to choose grace, to choose love over my own desires and wisdom.”

May 29

Friday, May 29th, 2020

I always have mixed emotions. I struggle between compassion and hard-heartedness. You don’t find them in our little town because we don’t have an intersection going to an interstate. Or coming off one. People who panhandle. They have signs designed to catch your attention and tug at your heartstrings. Are they really in sorry shape or are they playin’ ya? As the pastor of a church we get calls for help. One guy called and he was staying at McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Canyon Inn. Expensive, even in off-season. He said his car broke down and he was having to stay the night and would we help him by paying for his room for another night? We have a much cheaper-priced hotel in town.  Aaaahhhh No.  About a week later the same voice called asking for gas for his moped to get to work. $25? I asked him if he called last week because I recognized his voice. It was the only honest thing he said. Answer: No again. Awhile back Jo & I were on our way to Ohio and stopped for gas. A guy was sitting at a pump and asked if I had money for gas. First mistake: I should have offered to pay for gas. Second mistake: giving him money for gas. He got in his car and drove away without getting gas. (Smack my head). Ironically, we were driving the interstate and maybe 20-25 miles later and guess who was in the middle with his hood up?

I’m torn because the Bible talks about helping others. About entertaining angels unawares. It tells me to give without expecting anything back. So I struggle with helping or turning my head or just saying no. Stats show many of the panhandlers work together and shuffle around and do rather well. We shouldn’t give to get; we should give to be rewarded; we shouldn’t give to get on God’s good side.

What about you? What do you do? What do you think?

“Father, give me wisdom and discernment to know if I’m being snookered or truly helping someone in need. Help me not to become jaded to helping others.”

May 28

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

They used to call it “the worship wars.”  Boy, do I remember those days! The modern worship movement was beginning to hit churches. “I Can Sing of Your Love Forever” by Delirious? was a huge song. Passion was getting its legs and gaining traction (Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Christie Nockels, and others).  Churches were transitioning-some slowly; some gladly; some kicking and screaming; some not at all- from a steady diet of hymns to worship choruses and songs. I’m seriously wondering if Ralph Carmichael knew what sort of Pandora’s box he was opening when “He’s Everything to Me” hit the church scene. Did he see the future wave? Hymns (good and bad) tried to share the stage with choruses and songs (good and bad).  Precise 4 stanza and chorus hymns (with little deviation) to overly repetitious (in many cases) worship songs. Both-for the most part- are annoying to me. Piano and organ gave way to guitars, drums and keyboards. Some theologically-rich hymns and some awful so-called hymns (“I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll is Called up Yonder” seriously?) to some theologically-rich worship songs and some awful, repetitious, shallow, “it’s-all-about-how-I-feel” choruses and songs.

All of it-in my book-was a bit of nonsense. Both sides needed to grow up. There is room for both. What there is not room for is misplaced worship. One of the things people are saying about the result of this virus is that it has taken away all we hold dear- sports, entertainment, education, etc- and brought us down to seeing what is really important. The Bible says God is a jealous God and will not share the stage with anyone or anything. Same as the worship wars, there never was an option of WHO to worship. It was and is always Him.  How is up in the air, as long as it is biblical.  But who? Never. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” God demands our praise. That is a non-negotiable. Someone has said it well: “There are many ways to worship God, but only one God to worship.”  Agree 100%!

“Father, no matter how; no matter when; no matter where; may my heart be filled with worship. Who? You. Why? Because You and You alone are worthy of it and I love You.”

May 27

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

When I was a kid I used to love watching a lot of different cartoons. Mighty Mouse. Popeye. Hercules. Road Runner (I always felt sorry for the coyote). ‘Course that was the early days of Mickey Mouse, et al. Yosemite Sam. Deputy Dawg. I remember seeing one cartoon that had a lion whose favorite phrase was “I’m the king!” Then another character said, “Then I’ll crown you!” Then he would hit him over the head with something and a crown would appear as stars circled the lion’s head.

I know. Silly. Cartoons were supposed to  be. But it was also pointed. A point I missed then but can’t now. Have you ever noticed how some people want you to know- or is that want you to think?- they are important? They puff out their chest, turn up their nose and look down on you. Or they make sure you know their pedigree. Or they inform you of the price of what they are wearing. Frankly, I could care less. To say it another way: I’m not impressed. I’m really not. I’m nobody special and feel really comfortable around people who feel the same.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.

Someone has said, “Exceptional people are very capable people who are not yet full of themselves.” I’ve met them. At one time I suspect I was a blowhard. The truth is to be full of ourselves prevents us from seeing ourselves as we truly are. Many find themselves in “heady” positions. The key to real success in my eyes is not getting puffed up; it is not in a position or a title; it is being willing to see ourselves as a servant who washes the feet of another. Hmmm. Sounds like Someone else I know…the greatest person who ever lived.

“Father, help me not to become too full of myself. Let me follow in the footsteps of Jesus- don a towel and wash another’s feet.”

This song should help bring the point home as well as make your heart feel good.

May 26

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

I was in the 4th grade when I started wearing glasses. Miss Kutzer (whom I was in love with) noticed I was squinting to see the chalkboard. Well, you know how that goes. I’m moved up closer to the front. She tells my mom. Mom takes me to see Dr. Braveman. Dr. B tells me I need glasses. I’m going to translate: “Bill, you’re blind-as-a-bat without your glasses. You are going to need them the rest of your life.” What he doesn’t tell me is my eyes are going to get worse every year until my glasses will look like coke bottles. Fortunately, they developed material that allowed the lenses to get thinner while still helping me see. But that’s another story.

I finally got my glasses and could actually see. Hmmm there was carpet before? It looked like the carpet was right up close to my eyes! It was so cool! Until the next day when I needed to wear them to school. I thought I looked stupid or a dork (if that word had been around those days), so I left them at home. Until Miss Kutzer (whom I was still in love despite her betrayal) said, “Bill, weren’t you supposed to get your glasses yesterday?” “Yes ma’m.”  “Where are they?” “At home.” “I’ll expect you to wear them tomorrow.” Then she betrayed me again by calling my mom!  (Amazing how love overlooks betrayal).

Down through the years my eyes got worse. I wore contacts for awhile; then back to glasses; then contacts again; then glasses for good. My eyes did get worse as I got older and last November at the age of 67 I got rid of glasses forever…except for reading. I had cataracts removed. It was a great two days!! 🙂

I remember my frames breaking; lenses falling out; wearing tape to hold my frames together; vision marred from sweat, dirt, chips and breaks. I remember elbows in basketball games that found my frames which split my eyelids and eyebrows wide open. I remember trying to play first base with only one lens in my broken glasses. It was fine until the first ball thrown to me hit my wrist  and not my glove because my perception was all out of whack.

It is easy to lose sight of the important. Psalm 141:8 says, “But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.” We used to sing an old hymn: “Open my eyes that I might see/ Glimpses of truth Thou has for me.” (Sorry about the King James English there). With clear vision we need to be focused on God. With open eyes we need to be seeking God in His Word, praying for clear sight in our quest.

“Father, I do ask that my eyes will open and seeing clearly in my quest for a deeper relationship with You.  May my sight and my focus be on You.”

May 25

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

May 22

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Is there any of us who hasn’t struggled with prayer? I’m not talking about frequency, or seeing the necessity, or posture, or any of the varied ways to pray. I’m talking about believing God will answer our prayer. Or to put it another way: Is God even listening?

You know how it goes:

  • A dearly loved grandmother is diagnosed with dementia.
  • A much-loved child is diagnosed with cancer.
  • A husband or wife is only given weeks, maybe months, to live.
  • A job ends and days of unemployment turn into weeks then months.
  • A much prayed-for child goes AWOL and chooses a lifestyle we don’t approve of.
  • A pastor/youth pastor goes rogue and leaves everything to pursue lust.
  • A child we have prayed for and prayed over since before birth becomes a prodigal, abandoning their faith.

The list seems endless doesn’t it? Is God listening? Is He deaf? We are praying in faith believing, but it just doesn’t seem to be heard. The prayer hits the ceiling and slaps us in the face, laughing at us.

We may never know the “why” of God’s work. Least not at the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. I honestly have no answer except to say, “Been there; done that; keep praying.” God is listening. It may not seem like it, but He is. Sometimes no matter the sincerity or the fervency or the heartache the prayer goes unanswered. That doesn’t mean God is not listening; it does mean our wish is not His command. God is not deaf. He is not out relieving Himself (as Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal about their god).  God is heart-broken over your heart break. He is shedding tears with you as you shed tears before Him. He does care. He is listening.

“Father, in spite of long lag time, help me to trust, to believe You have things in Your sight.”