InTheShadow

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August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I met and talked with someone in the past who has much to be thankful for. This person, even though he/she may not know it, or can put words to it, is one who has seen God’s magnificent grace in action. Rescued from a past that included addiction, abuse, shame and other ugly things, this person is in ministry to help others be free and learn freedom in Christ.

Grace has been shown to this person in a special way and their life’s desire is to help others experience that same grace. That is as it should be. Shown grace; give grace. It is unmistakable: we have been given grace to be grace givers.

That comes with an important element: forgiveness. To see God’s grace in all its fullness and richness we must forgive ourselves. I think-and this is me speaking personally-this is one of the toughest things to do. We often find it easier to forgive others-and even tell them they need to forgive themselves- BUT then struggle to practice that in our own life. I often wonder about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her He did not condemn her and go and sin no more. I’d love to know how she did. (Maybe my question will be answered when I see her in heaven).

Grace. Forgiveness. Two absolutely connected words. For me to someone else. For me to me. “Father, help me to receive Your grace and forgiveness and then show the same to others…as well as myself.”

July 31

Friday, July 31st, 2020

As I write this, our country is on fire. Well, let me rephrase that: many of our major cities are on fire. Portland. Seattle. New York. Chicago. Others. I’ll not get into what political party the mayor of those cities is from. Or the governors. I want to take us to California where the governor has issued a mandate that no church can meet. Nada. In spite of masks, social distancing, etc.  The governor deems church non-essential.

However, there are some defying that order. One, Grace Community Church (GCC), is the home of Pastor John MacArthur and over 3000 souls. Last week, they respectfully submitted a letter to their people and also to the government officials why they were meeting, in spite of the mandate. It came down as Christ, not Caesar, is the Head of the Church. I agree with their decision. There is a concerted move in this country to stop, stifle and stymie churches from meeting, to push them aside. In Nevada, for example, casinos can open but churches can’t? So the elders of GCC made a bold statement: “Governor Newsom, you will not stop us from meeting.” I suspect in the days to come they will not be alone.  I saw an interview with Pastor John where he told how he preached to an empty auditorium for the first few weeks of the pandemic and then each week more and more folks came back until there were over 3000 there last week-no masks, hugging and shaking hands with each other.

This kind of civil disobedience is nothing new. Today I read in Acts 5 where Peter and John did just that. Told not to speak they did. Ordered not to speak they were at Solomon’s Porch (the part of the Temple that surrounded the Court of the Gentiles) speaking boldly. They were arrested and the religious leaders said, “We strictly charged you not to preach…” Strictly commanded. Did you catch those two words? Peter and John’s words? “We must obey God rather than men.” They were basically telling them, “You can tell us to shut up but we take our orders from a higher authority.”

Decently. Orderly. Respectfully. Their allegiance to God was plain to see. Just like GCC and others I am sure are soon to follow. Disrespect. Disorderly conduct. Out-of-control speech and actions. Those are not godly actions. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

“Father, it is far more important to listen to and be faithful to You. But help it to be done decently, orderly, and respectfully. There is no call for the opposite.”

July 30

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

One of the passages I like in Acts is found in 4:1-22. Following the healing of the lame man (chapter 3) word spread.  It’s one of those something-good-happened-and-I-can’t-keep-quiet-about-it things. Peter and John were arrested by the religious leaders and verse 4 says those who came to faith numbered 5000 men! I believe if I was a religious leader I’d be worried too. To capsulize this story, here are some thoughts I see:

  1. When something good happens, especially when your life is radically changed, you can’t keep quiet about it.
  2. Sometimes the impromptu is best. I’m not saying Peter speaking on Pentecost and at Solomon’s Porch weren’t, but this incident is specific. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”  This was not rehearsed; it was “on the fly.” Sometimes our most effective moments are moments of inspiration.
  3. Peter made two good points: The one was made by quoting an OT passage in Psalm 118:22- Jesus was the chief cornerstone. Rejected by men; exalted by God.
  4. The second was immediately following in verse 12: the exclusivity of Christianity was stated: salvation by faith in Christ.  Only one of two paths are available-the broad road or the narrow road. The narrow one is Jesus alone leading to salvation.
  5. Being with Jesus makes all the difference.  It sets the Christ-follower apart. The religious leaders were astounded and perceived they (Peter and John) had been with Jesus. Oh, to have that said about me!
  6. A firm belief in the truth of Jesus gives boldness. Peter and John stood against the religious leaders when they were told to stop preaching about Jesus. Their words: “We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (v.20) May I be that bold!

“Father, what a tremendous example Peter and John are in this passage. There is so much here. Help me to be bold and follow their example.”

July 29

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Sandwiched between two powerful, ground-breaking sermons is a story almost as equally stunning. Tragically, for us we we read it, the story becomes almost a by-word. The two sermons are the first two recorded ones of Peter- Acts 2 (the first on the Day of Pentecost) and Acts 3 (his sermon at Solomon’s Porch). Two sermons that specifically teach that Jesus is Messiah, the One who died for the sins of the people. Ironically, Solomon’s Porch is where Jesus taught the parable of the Good Shepherd. You can make the connection.

Anyway, sandwiched between those two sermons is the story of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. There is no hidden meaning. He asks for healing; Peter gives it. Oops, I was wrong there, wasn’t I? He didn’t ask for healing; he asked for alms. Peter knew what he really needed and it wasn’t money.  He even says that: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”

I’m going to push aside the snarky comment about so-called faith healers today and focus on something else. Something relevant to us. It is common for people to think they need or want something when what they need is something totally different. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Get rid of one thing; add another. Abandon God; add emptiness. The lame man wanted money; Peter knew what he really needed.

People today remind me of the lame man. In search of something, they can’t see what will really satisfy them. They can’t see what they really need. Don’t be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend happiness. What they really need is a WHO. Just like the lame man.

“Father, I know I need You. Those I come in contact with also need you.  Help me not to be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend contentment, but remember to point them to Jesus- the ONE they really need.”

July 28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Have you ever been watching a movie or a TV show and thought “If I was writing this, I would do this or that?”  I’ve thought that, particularly when I have seen someone mistreated and the other person getting away with it. What kicks in is the “old justice routine.” I’m not about to let someone get away with something…not on my watch! I want to write the scenario that someone pays for their wrong.

I want justice. Now when I say that I’m not referring to the so-called justice our country just experienced with the BLM fiasco, the so-called justice (translated: lawlessness) over the George Floyd flap. Yes, wrong was done. But civility says let the court do its thing. Justice will be meted out the way its supposed to.

When someone does something against us it is a natural thing to seek vengeance. That’s why following Jesus is so unnatural. “Vengeance in mine. I will repay says the Lord.” That is why forgiveness is so important to and for a follower of Christ. To forgive means I give up the right to hurt back. Tell me that doesn’t go against everything in us and I’d have to show you the door. It’s not easy to lay aside the hurt and the desire for vengeance, but as a Christ-follower it is a must.

“Father, help me to lay aside my hurt and my desire for vengeance. Help me to see that I will never become what you want me to become until I do.”

July 27

Monday, July 27th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every

erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I also posted this on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.  I invite you to check it out here.

July 24

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Have you ever been angry? I mean…really angry? The kind of anger that blinds you to reality, to be able to see and to think clearly? The kind of anger that consumes you, taking over the logical part of your brain and actually is the impetus for some irrational and vengeful actions on your part? I hope not but, if so, you may have a taste of Paul’s/Saul’s motives. Let me explain.

In Matthew 23 we find what is called “The 7 Woe” passage. Jesus pronounces 7 woes or judgements on the Pharisees. The woes exposed their religious hypocrisy. These 7 woes were a scathing rebuke. Fast forward a couple of years to Acts 7: 58 and we find a one verse mention of Saul’s presence at the stoning of Stephen. In Acts 9 we see him viciously carrying out vengeance and a vendetta against the early followers of Jesus. ‘Course we know how all that changed, but let’s not miss the point. Jesus condemned the Pharisees; Saul was a Pharisee; therefore, Saul was condemned.

In Phil.3  Paul recounts some information about himself: “…as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Whether he heard Jesus or not we don’t know, but there is no doubt he got the message…and he didn’t like it.

No one likes to be called a hypocrite. Sadly, if the shoe fits wear it. That goes for me too. Every act of not backing up what I say with my actions is another black mark on the reputation and message of Jesus.

“Father, help me to be true to You, to be true to my words. Help me to be true to what I say by how I live.”

July 22-23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

We were in Ohio watching our grandson play his last baseball game on Tuesday night. After having breakfast at IHOP with him (he loves french toast with extra powder but no syrup) yesterday morning, we made our way home. I wrote this on the morning of the 22nd in the hotel room so I wanted to share it with you and post it as a two-day devotion.  Here were my thoughts on the morning of the 22nd:

It has been an up and down season for the team as they weren’t allowed to practice and then had 3 practices before their first game. Last night I saw exemplified a trait in all the boys that I believe is worth mentioning. Braden especially has this trait.

There is a saying attributed to Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  A similar phrase: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” has a connection to opera and was believed to be first used in 1976 by a reporter named Ralph Carpenter. Both phrases mean virtually the same: A person/team should never assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches the end, because circumstances can change.  It is used in athletics to say, “Never quit. The game isn’t over until the final out or the gun sounds or however a sporting event ends.”

I saw that last night. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and the game looked hopelessly out of reach. But B’s team scored 4 runs to make it 11-7. Unfortunately, the other team scored 4 runs in their top half of the 7th. But with 2 outs our team struck again. A hit. Braden got another hit. Next thing we knew 3 or 4 more runs scored. Even the final out of the inning was a ground ball that the player ran all-out to first in an attempt to beat it out, but he was thrown out. Heart-breaking? Yes. But go down fighting? No shame in that.

I see a parallel in our walk with Christ. We are in a battle and our enemy may have us down for the count. All hope seems lost. But Jesus doesn’t want us to quit. It’s not over until the trumpet blares. Don’t quit. To borrow Yogi’s phrase: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

“Father, help me not to give up, to throw in the towel. You are my hope and strength.”

July 21

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

I have begun another adventure. No, I’m not doing the Race Across America (a bike ride from coast to coast). And no, I’m not leaving the church to take on a new ministry.  And definitely no I’m not going mountain climbing. As good as all those sound (to a younger guy).

Mine is a reading/studying venture. As I finished One Perfect Life by John MacArthur, I knew I had just read the complete (recorded) life of Jesus. I so thoroughly enjoyed that I decided to continue that task by reading One Faithful Life (OFL) by Pastor John on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul.  Chuck Swindoll wrote: “A primary purpose of the Word of God is to help us know the will of God.” (July 21 devotion in Good Morning, Lord…Can we Talk?).  With that thought in mind, why did Paul write his epistles? OFL does a great job of summarizing why. I’ll shrink it some more.

  • I Cor- defend against various corruptions which were under the guise of human wisdom and carnal chaos.
  • 2 Cor- defending his authority as an apostle and the purity of the gospel.
  • Gal- against false teachers who taught we must adhere to OT ceremonial law.
  • Eph- salvation is entirely God’s work with no human merit.
  • Phil- joy undiminished by “dogs,” “mutilators of the flesh” refuted in Galatians.
  • Col- defense vs high-falootin’ philosophy and man’s traditions.
  • 1 & 2 Thess- commendation to the church for embracing the Gospel.
  • 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus- careful safeguard the truth
  • Philemon- exemplify the spirit of Christ.

“Gospel truth permeates everything Paul ever wrote.” (OPL- p. xix) I look forward to this new venture.  New eye-opening.  New awareness. New “eyes” to see God’s truth.  And I plan to share some of it along the way.

“Father,  open my eyes to Your Word. Give me fresh eyes as I read to see new vistas before me. Clarify Your truth in my heart.”

July 20

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Have you ever played the “If only” game?  I suspect we all have.

  • If only I had married someone different.
  • If only I hadn’t had that first drink or that first smoke or that first snort. 
  • If only I hadn’t bought that item.
  • If only I hadn’t let my responsibility slide.
  • If only my list would end. 🙂

Yeah, I suspect we have all had those moments of regret. Martha had a case of the “if onlys” when Jesus finally arrived on the scene in Bethany. Lazarus had already died and Martha looked at Jesus and said, “If only you had been here my brother would not have died.”

The problem with our “if onlys” is we tend to look at them from the worldly perspective. We see the here and now. We see the consequences of a choice we made years ago. I recently read the memoir of Jonathan Cain, a member of the rock group Journey. By his own admission his double life came back to haunt him in the breakup of his second marriage to his children’s mother. The consequences of choices made and actions taken broke up his marriage. That’s a perfect time to say “if only.”

As hard as it is we must move on from the “if onlys.” I know for some that is harder than for others. But if we don’t, we will forever live with regret. What happened can’t be changed. What can be changed is our response to our choices and the ensuing actions. We can forever be a slave to them or we can choose to be free.

“Father, I can’t change the ‘if onlys’ in my past. But I can change-with your help-how it affects me. Help me to overcome those regrets from my past.”