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January 23

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Update: Alexander did have surgery. The doctor said they would do nothing if they found no way to do the surgery. We are praising the Lord for this! The surgeon said he was optimistic. Thank you for praying and please continue.

My title for this devotion is Lesson Learned vs Lesson Ignored.

Have you noticed how often we have events happen to us but we ignore the obvious lesson? We go on our merry way as though what happened has no significance to us.

Take, for example, my reading this morning. King Nebuchadnezzar has already seen how God blessed Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It started with their “education.” Then he had seen S, M, & A survive the fiery furnace. But still it was not enough. He even made a decree that anyone who speaks against the God of S, M, & A would be torn limb from limb and their house laid in ruins. (3:29) He even praised God to the people. (4:1-3)

Please tell me then what possessed him-after having a dream and Daniel interpreting it for him (unfavorably for the king)-to arrogantly get up one morning and proudly proclaim his state of mind (“Look at all I have”). He ignored all the lessons along the way and thought that he was all that and more. The dude got too big for his britches!

But what would posses him to do this- besides the fact the Scripture says, “The heart is desperately wicked”? For the same reason I do: I think I know better. Or I simply forget. OR I don’t want to learn! I become oblivious to the lessons. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to knowledge.” There are lessons to be learned in all things, but I have to be willing to see them. I have to be willing to see them, apply them, and take heed.

No lesson-good or bad-should ever be wasted. They should never go unheeded. They are in front of me not to ignore but to learn.

“Father, each day lessons come from You. Sometimes they are good; sometimes they are warnings. But good or bad they are never to be wasted. Help me to apply my heart and hear Your words.”

January 15

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

January 13

Monday, January 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Life vs Death.

It’s been “one of those weekends.” Now…when those kinds of words are used we tend to think, “Oh boy. Here it comes. He’s going to lay out his sob story about all that went bad, how his weekend was the weekend from h-e-double hockey sticks.”

Relax!  It’s not that at all! Since Friday’s devotion-January 10-I have continued reading Proverbs 10-11-12-13. All weekend long a common theme ran through my reading.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” 10:11

“When words are many, transgressions in not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 10:19

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

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 12:25

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” 13:14

See what I mean? Notice a common theme? Words. All weekend long I read about my words. Bookended by 10:11 and 13:14. My words can build up or tear down. My words reveal who is in control within me. My words can either lift someone’s burden or make it heavier. There was no way I got off the hook this weekend. It culminated in today’s Scripture- 13:14.

To be honest though, the one that struck me the hardest was actually 12:25. Do I realize; do I remember; do I remind myself that my words can either add to or lift a burden? “Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 25:11

“Father, touche’. Your sword struck paydirt. My heart. My mouth. One day at a time-may my words be words of life to someone, not words of hurt, despair, discouragement, or even death.”

January 9

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Believing vs BELIEVING.

I am a conundrum. I am a puzzle. I am an enigma. I am a mystery.  I am a mixed bag. Maybe an example would help.

Peter. Not Peter Rabbit. Not Peter Pan. No. Peter the guy in the Bible who became the spokesman for the rest. There was a guy who was a conundrum!

  • Question: “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”
  • Answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
  • Statement: “Blessed are you Simon…”
  • Jesus’ statement: “The Son of Man will be delivered to be crucified and raised on the third day.”
  • Peter’s response: “Not so.”  Actually, it says, “No. Lord!” (Can those two words actually go together?)
  • Jesus’ statement: “Get behind me, Satan.”

To go from “Blessed” to being called “Satan.” Ouch!  But that is not the only place. Jesus makes a statement later about Peter being sifted like wheat. Peter says, “I will follow you anywhere. I would die for you.” Not much later he is denying that he is a disciple of Jesus. To a servant girl. To one who recognizes his Galilean accent. Not very threatening people when you think about it. Not soldiers. Not a religious leader with power. Just common folk.

That’s me. I say, “God is in control and has a plan.” I tell people that! I did just yesterday. Then I turn right around and do my own thing, go my own way. Or worse: I question His plan. I say I believe, but do I really BELIEVE? That’s why I’m a conundrum. Saying one thing; saying and BELIEVING is another.

How about you? Are you a conundrum?

“Father, only you can solve this puzzle called “me.” Only You understand me.  Help me to do more than just say. Help me to truly BELIEVE.”

 

January 7

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Change vs Stagnation.

At this writing I am 67 years old. Lord willing, I will stay that age for at least 10 more months. 🙂 A lot has happened in those 67 years. Times of unadulterated joy; times of unmitigated tears. Times of excitement; times of boredom. Times of closeness to God; times of distance from God. Times of warmth; times of stone coldness. You get the picture.  But there is one constant in all 67 years on this planet: C.H.A.N.G.E.

My philosophy has been either change or be stagnant; either show signs of life or signs of death. Some change is painful-it is required due to life’s circumstances. Some change is easy-it is crystal clear that a particular direction is the right one. But the constant is change.

There are some things that don’t change. God-His Word. Jesus-His love. The Spirit-His presence. The Bible-His standard. In all of those (and more) it is not them that change. It is me. The Apostle Paul was so grateful for the change brought about by God’s presence in his life. The older he got the more like his Master he became. From the initial rigid, rule-demanding Pharisee and killer of Christ-followers, he became the Apostle who wrote about God’s magnificent grace. Paul changed. From the persecutor to the one who was persecuted. Paul changed. As he got older and changed more, God’s unending grace became more and more evident.

Can I say that? Can you? Am I more grace-filled at 67 than I was at 60? At 55? I’d like to believe the answer is a resounding yes!! I have no problem answering that question when comparing 67 to 25 or 30 or 35 or 40. I hardly knew what grace was back then so there is no question. But I must still be changing and never stop.

“Father, keep changing me. Please help me to see stagnation is not a way to live. Allowing your change to be evident in my life is how I want to be.”

January 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Transformation: Real vs Imagined.

What I’m about to write may cause you to question my maturity/sanity.  Maybe both!! 🙂  I like fantasy movies like the Back to the Future trilogy (my all-time favorite) and Lord of the Rings. One that my grandson got watching with him and is now one of my favorites are The Transformers. These shape-shifting cars and trucks are fascinating to me. (Told you my maturity and sanity would be called into question). On the way home yesterday from Ohio I saw a Hummer with two logos of Optimus Prime (OP) on his rear door and art work up front that highlighted him.  OP is the lead Autobot in their ongoing battle against the Decepticons. That is a good word since their whole deal is deceiving and acting like Autobots but always against them.

So what does my childlike (not childish) interest have to do with my real world? They are called Transformers because they “transform” from a car/truck to a fighting robot and then go back again to their original shape.  2 Cor. 5:17 says we are “new creations,” i.e. transformed. Romans 12:2 says we are not to be “conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind.” But Romans 8:29 also says we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Transformed to be conformed.

Transformation is real when our greatest desire becomes the desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That is my prayer for this year. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t do “one word.” I want to have this hungering drive to be transformed in all ways so that I may be conformed to the image of Jesus.

“Father, make that my yearning this year. May that be what gets me up in the morning and let’s me lay my head down at night. Transform me to conform me.”

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In my post here I mentioned the tough decision I was having to make about whether to continue the “Shadow” blog. After reading some comments, and pondering and praying, I have decided to continue offering this blog. I have a selfish reason: I need it! I need the daily discipline to journal my Quiet Time thoughts. Second, Diane said it well. Numbers don’t really matter. I guess I ought to take it that as long as someone folks are reading and listening and learning, it would be good to continue it. I’m not sure I will post on the weekend unless I do a “Weekend Extra” type of thing.  But I will try (with God’s help) to present a devotion that helps you through your day. Thanks for caring enough to respond.  My prayer is that I will say something that will help you in your day.

December 30-31

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

I wrote this the morning of Monday, the 30th, but just now was able to get to a computer to post it.  It’s not all I want to say but I found my time to write rather short. Hope it makes you think some of your own response.

My title for this devotion is Shortage: Good vs Bad.

I find myself contemplating 2019 and wondering about 2020. Not unusual I’m sure. Also, my contemplation is not in a bad way either.  I know I can’t change what has happened. And I know I can’t even begin to guess what will be, so there is no need to concern myself. I’m thinking instead about lack, about shortages.

By that I am not in any way referring to money. I’m referring to those things that are missing or lacking my life. And to take it one step further: what am I going to do?

My thoughts along this line were piqued by a reference to the water of Jerusalem. There was only one source and it was outside the city walls. The way to defeat Jerusalem was to either divert it or dam it. In 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles we have the story of King Hezekiah building a tunnel through 1750 feet of solid rock to divert the water to a cistern. (As an aside: can you imagine the feat they accomplished without modern earth-moving machinery?). Anyway, Isaiah 22 says he did it without regard “for the one who made it.” (translated: G0d).

That got me thinking. How often do I act without regard to God? How often do I just “do” without seeking God’s input, His guidance? Admittedly, too often. I move; I act; I disrupt; without ever seeking God’s thoughts. Instead of seeing something as a handicap, perhaps it is time to embrace my limitations and allow God to use them for His glory.

“Father, any shortage I have is a tool for you to use. Please help me to “bend” to your way and will instead of always moving first and then expect your action or approval.”

December 29-31

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Three things Moses prayed for in Exodus 33: 12-21.

LORD, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

LORD, GUARANTEE YOUR PRESENCE.

LORD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY.

Moses did not want to be adrift. He didn’t want to lead the people of Israel without the presence and promises of God. What a great challenge for 2020!

Jo & I leave today for Sandusky, Ohio.  Tomorrow her sister has a procedure on her eyes that she must have or things will not turn out well. But it is in Lorain, OH and Jo is totally unfamiliar with that part of the state and unsure of driving where she has not been. Neither have I but she feels more confident with me driving (okay so maybe just with me being along). We will return Tuesday.  I will be out of commission as well on both blogs.

I have a decision I need to make: whether to continue “Living in the Shadow” or not. I have been doing two blogs for two years now. I started this one as a devotional outlet for New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I called it Be Transformed. I continued it by renaming it and just using it as a random devotional blog. I had several purposes. One, it kept me disciplined in having a daily Quiet Time. Two, and this will sound somewhat self-centered, I wanted to see if I could write and possibly transfer the daily devotions into a book form. The first, I accomplished. The second, I’m not sure about. What I do know is keeping two blogs going was, at times, time-consuming. It was stretching that is for sure. But what I hoped for (a consistent and growing readership) did not happen. So I’m faced with deciding what to do. I’d appreciate any input you might have…good or bad.

In the meantime, have a fantastic end of the year and a great start to 2020.

December 26

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Acceptance: God’s vs man’s.

Christmas 2019 is history.  Well, at least the day itself. I’m sure there will be some still doing the Christmas thing over the next few days with family and friends. But, for me, it is time to turn my eyes toward 2020.  Over the next week or so I will (personally) be looking back over 2019 and looking ahead to 2020. Even as I say that, I have no intention of bemoaning my mistakes and failures of 2019 (which were many) nor do I have any intention of worrying about 2020. Why?  Because I can’t change either!! Past or future. No DeLorean here (rats!)

There is one lesson I’ve learned this past year and one I’m planning on implementing more in 2020. I’ll ask it in the form of a question: whose approval did I seek and will I seek? I was speaking  with someone just the other day and that was our topic: approval of men. As a pastor I craved the approval of others. Decisions were made/not made/reneged on/changed sometimes based on the approval of others. Young and impressionable, I depended way too much on men’s approval. Approval to me = Acceptance. God Himself only knows the lives that were affected by my waffling and indecision.

I guess in some ways my thinking now is I’m too old for this, too old to care what people think. But that’s not true. What is true is that God’s approval of me is far more important than what any one person thinks. His acceptance and approval of me is all that matters.

Now…if I can just keep remembering that…

“Father, thank You for accepting me into Your arms as one of Your children. Help me to remember that is really all I need. I don’t have to live for the approval of others. Only Yours.”