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September 24

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It is good to be self-confident. It is good to have self-confidence. It is not good to be too self-confident. It is not good to have too much self-confidence. Seriously, it isn’t bad to have self-confidence. We have to believe we can do something or we won’t. I was speaking with one of our teenagers the other day. She has developed into a pretty good golfer and as a senior will graduate with a high GPA (Valedictorian I think…or close to it) and is one of the finalists for what is called the Lilly Scholarship. (We actually have two young ladies who are finalists). This young lady was playing in the Regional golf tournament this week (Monday) and said, “I hope I do well, but I’m not sure.” I stopped her right there and pointed to her head and said, “Whoa! It’s all right there.” {Note: she had one bad hole and came in fourth}.

I was thinking of self-confidence when I read I Cor. 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  As a young pastor, and like many who are young, there was an air of invincibility surrounding me. “I will never do that” was said more than I care to admit. Can you hear the splat or the kerplunk as I do a face plant? I forgot the basic truth of this verse. I repeat what I said at the beginning: It is good to be self-confident; it is not good to be too self-confident. It is called arrogance, pride. It is also called “look out below!”

“Father, you have had to teach me humility big time, especially when I had the audacity to think I was invincible. Help me, in my old age, not to forget.”

{Note: Jo and I left for Ohio yesterday  to visit Janna and watch our grandson play football, even though we will have to watch outside the fence.  They are only allowing 2 people for each player inside the stadium. So I’m not sure I will post here tomorrow. I am not planning on taking my computer.}

September 23

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

I have never met a person who said, “I love adversity.” In fact, the opposite is most often true: we try to avoid it like the plague. We read garbage like Your Best Life Now and think “I want my best life now. I want ease. I want comfort. I want prosperity.” We listen to trash that promises us health, wealth, prosperity, and comfort but leaves out the struggles, doubts, questions, adversity and unfulfilled dreams that are sure to come. If they do, we are told it is our lack of faith.

I read an interesting quote recently:

Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher

I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading lately about this whole idea of adversity and prosperity. It all relates to the pandemic we have been facing since March and its testing of our wills and outlook and patience. I know I’m sick and tired of masks, mandates and social distancing, etc that have come with it.  But, you know, we would not know how good things are, or could be, if not for when things get tough. Our Christian life is the same way. To live without adversity would never show us how good God is on a daily basis. I’m not asked to understand; I’m asked to trust. My vision may be cloudy now; it will become clear someday. While not desired, adversity is to be expected and even welcomed.

“Father, help me not to lament and complain about adversity.  Help me to see it as Your hand and move upon my life.”

September 18

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Have you ever met those people who are really hard to love? Their demeanor might be a turn-off. Their appearance might be a turn-off. Their smell might be a turn-off. Their attitude might be a turn-off. Their color might be a turn-off. Their race, religion, or ethnicity might be a turn-off. Their type of employment might be a turn-off. Perhaps you can think of more. Let me go on record as saying these are all wrong. None are legitimate.

I read an interesting thought recently. When the Bible says, “Love bears all things” it goes much deeper than “puts up with.” The word “bears” actually means “to cover”, “to pass over in silence” or “to keep confidential.” But in the noun form it means a roof. What an interesting thought! Follow it through with me please. What does a roof do? It covers us. What good is a house with no roof? What a worthless building a house would be if it was absolutely gorgeous inside and out but had an unobstructed view of the sky?

When Paul used that word in I Cor.13 he was saying that love covers people.  Consider this: we sometimes joke about singing all 100 stanzas of “Just As I Am”, but the fact is: it is the truth. We come as we are-no matter the smell, the race, the cleanliness, the color, the job, the _____________ (you fill in the blank). On the contrary, we come in repentance, gratitude, overwhelmed by the love and grace of a covering Father. You see, despite the way I was and am, God put a covering over me. The covering was blood. The blood of His Son.

“Father, may I remember I am here not on my own merit but because I’ve been covered by Jesus’ blood. Accepted is stamped on my heart.”

September 17

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the statement “I don’t know why I did that. It’s not really me”? I’ve heard it from husbands/fathers who blew their top at the people they should love most in the world, doing untold damage with their venom. I’ve seen “mild-mannered Clark Kent’s” go ballistic at a sporting event and then hear them say those famous words “That’s not really me. That’s not who I am.” Actions speak louder than words.

Of course, nowadays we don’t need to see actions. Twitter, Instagram, FB and the like let us know what a person is really like when they write inflammatory words, post incendiary pictures or sayings or lambast someone they disagree with. I’m on no social media except this blog and I don’t miss it. In some ways I’d rather be seen as naive because I don’t see the latest that so-and-so wrote. Even here I have to be careful what I write because what I write is what I think and it is there for all posterity.

Sorta makes me wonder.  How can people say, do, or write things and think they have no affect on people? If I truly love people as I say I do, and want them to believe I do, why would I think my words would not matter? When I say “I love you” do they know I do? You see, what I love and who I love, the trivial and incidental things in my life will come out. Why else (except for meanness) will people regurgitate or even bring up what someone said or wrote 20-30 years ago in a yearbook (or something like that)? Sadly, what we said may not be true today, but it is on record. Be careful what you say or write. You may say “That’s not really me, that’s not who I am,” but there will be those who will beg to differ. After all, they have the proof in their hands.

“Father, please help me to be very careful of what I say or write. Help me to realize that when I act or say something that is who I am.”

September 16

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

What do baseball, football, soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis…well, every sport…have in common? If you said referees/umpires you would be right. But also wrong. Because I am actually looking for a different answer. They all have something in common, something that you may not even think about. They all keep score. What is an athletic contest without keeping score?  You could say, “Exercise” or “fun game” and you could be right, but that misses the point. Keeping score is accepted as an essential part of an athletic contest. You won’t find one sport that says, “Aaah let’s not keep score today. It’s Game 7 of the World Series. Let’s just go out and have fun.”  “The people have come to watch the Super Bowl. So let’s go out and play but not really care.” Yeah…like that is going to happen. Plus it makes no sense.

Okay so let me add another item to the equation. But let me add it with a Bible verse: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love does not keep score. That reminds me of an illustration I once heard (and have used). A couple was seeing a marriage counselor for some serious issues in their marriage when the husband said, “Whenever we have an argument my wife gets all historical.”  The counselor said, “Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No,” he said. “She gets historical. She brings up everything I’ve ever done wrong.” Ouch!

It’s easy to remember; it’s hard to forget. Resentment is always making calculations.  It is always rearing its ugly head by pointing out what was “once done to me.” Paul is saying in I Cor.13:5 that love is not resentful. Other translations say, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love doesn’t calculate. Love doesn’t tally up.  It needs no calculator or computer flash drive with a memory to save/record wrong for future posterity.

“Father, help me to truly love as Jesus did. When I am wronged, help me to  move on and not keep a record. Help me to get rid of resentment and keeping score.”

September 10

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

As a pastor one of the hardest things to do is to watch a person/family leave the church. Usually. Getting close to people is something I was told to never do. Unfortunately, that is not my personality. It’s just not me. So when people leave because they are moving away, it is hard, but understandable. Just about two years ago I had some very close friends move to another town that made it impossible for them to make the weekly trek here. I still miss them.

If someone leaves because they can no longer agree because of doctrine, it is time to leave. We had someone leave in the past several years-a family I had come to love and the church had loved well-because they wanted to follow Bethel and their wacky teachings.  People need to leave if the teachings of the church no longer “fit” them.

Then there are those I will call “blessed subtractions.” They are the kind that bless the church by leaving. They tend to be gossips, busybodies, cantankerous, opinionated, loud, obnoxious, “me first,” I-am-right people. Their beef is a personal thing, almost a vendetta against another. Now, if it is a doctrinal issue-like the Virgin Birth, or the nature of God, or who Jesus is-then that is a legitimate reason.  But because someone or someone(s) won’t agree with you…bye.

To all who are in a church that teaches false doctrine I say this: Get out! That is not without Scriptural precedent. In Matthew 15: 13-14 Jesus is talking about false teachers.  His advice? “Ignore them.” Get out of there! There are churches which dot the landscape that teach false doctrine…get out! Heresy is nothing to play around with. If a person is unhappy in a church over its teaching…get out! Heresy and cult often go hand in hand. Aberrant doctrine. Domineering leadership. Get out!! Avoid like the plague. That’s a scriptural reason to leave. Leaving because people won’t see things your way is not.

“Father, please give me discernment to know truth from error.”

September 4

Friday, September 4th, 2020

“Oh, it was nothing, really.” Have you ever heard someone use those words? They usually follow one person paying another person a compliment.  Trying to deflect praise, or trying (or not) to act humble, they might say those words. I think it is somewhat ironic that someone will use those words: “Oh, it was nothing, really” then go on and give an example of something else they had done.

But what if what they had done really was nothing? As in, NOTHING. Let me explain. In a passage familiar to most people, Paul uses these words: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  (Emphasis mine)

Those verses are pretty plain. Whether you want to say the prophecy idea mentioned here is either fore-telling or forth-telling (my preferred), the meaning is clear. If you do either without love you are NOTHING. The other part of that verse is just as convicting. If I have mountain-moving faith, but no love, I am NOTHING. That’s right. If I have this super-strong faith that does the impossible, that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I am zip. Nada. That’s not saying I don’t matter, but it is saying my gift is worthless. Any gift given is for the benefit of others. But if I use that gift either for self-promotion or show or to impress, then it is being misused.

“Father, no matter my gift, let me use that gift for others- taking no credit, no accolades-but deflecting praise to You. And help me do it with love.”

September 3

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

In I Thessalonians 3 several important lessons emerge to me. I want to touch on them briefly in this devotion.

The first lesson is a combination. It is a request and a reply. Paul is concerned about the Thessalonians. Life is not easy for them and Paul is wondering how they are doing. His words were “I could bear it no longer.” His desire to know was so great he sent someone as a messenger to learn about their faith. The response that came back made his heart feel good. Timothy brought good news of their faith and love and told Paul that the Thessalonians wanted to see him. Oh, how that must have been a balm to his weary heart!

The power of a good word, an encouraging word, cannot be underestimated. That good news lifted their spirits. So much so he writes, “In all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” Their words enabled Paul to face his situation with strength.

The second lesson is his further response. He chose to pray for them, to be thankful for the joy they gave him. Paul’s most earnest desire was to see them again. While waiting he prayed for them. Want to know what he prayed? Check out I Thessalonians 3: 11-13. This was no mere “Lord, bless them” prayer. No. There was a depth to this prayer that I know is way too often missing in mine. That needs to change.

“Father, thanks for encouraging words. How good it is to hear good words and how someone is doing in their faith. Also, help me to develop a depth to my prayers, one like Paul had.”

September 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Straight from Chuck Swindoll:

Shortly before her death, Corrie ten Boom attended our church in California. Following the service, I met briefly with her. She inquired about my young children and detected my deep love for each one. Very tenderly, while cupping her small, wrinkled hands in front of me, she passed on a statement of advice I’ll never forget. I can still recall that strong Dutch accent: “Pastor Svindahl, you must learn to hold everyting loosely…everyting. Even your dear family. Why? Because da Fater may vish to take vun of tem back to Himself, und ven He does, it vill hurt you He must pry your fingers loose.” And then, having tightened her hands together while saying all that, she slowly opened them and smiled so kindly as she added, “Vemember…hold everyting loosely…everyting!”   (From Good Morning, Lord… Can We Talk?)

I’m going to go on record as saying that sometimes-even though I know better-I hold things too tightly. It’s not as bad as it used to be but even at my age, I still want to hold on, to grip tightly.

Consider, for a moment, what we sometimes hold onto too tightly:

  • Our spouse. ‘Course I’m not speaking of hugging or being affectionate. You know that.  But sometimes we are too possessive (i.e. too controlling). In death it is hard to let go.
  • Our children. Many parents want to hold onto their children and not let go. Sadly, there will be times letting go is not pleasant (think Prodigal Son) but we raise them to free them.
  • Our way of life. Rough times tend to reveal the grip we have on the way of life we have come to expect or even take for granted.
  • Our stuff. Oh yeah, it is tough to let stuff go, either by necessity or desire.
  • Our health. We try everything to hold on to the fountain of youth. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves but vanity is an ugly master.

One thing we should grip tightly? Our faith in the ONE who loves us. And that’s another story for another time.

“Father, be my all. Help me to not sacrifice my relationship with You by holding too tightly to other things.”

September 1

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

As a young boy I remember what were called Air Raid drills.  Our country had already lived through WWII and the Korean War. Vietnam was not yet happening. But conflict with Russian was a possibility. A drill involved us going into a hallway where there were no windows, sitting on the floor, putting our head between our knees, and our hands over our heads. Fortunately, they were only drills. However, I still wonder how all that would have helped.

All across our country towns and cities have sirens that go off with a high-pitched whine if a severe storm-like a tornado-is coming.  The first time it happened here I walked through the house looking for a room we could go to if need be. A couple in the church just built a new house. The backside of it is built into the hillside and he is in the process of making one of the areas in that back part into a storm shelter.

Rock solid buildings have saved lives as people have found shelter during storms. No one would think for a minute that being in a thatched-roof hut during a tornado or on a sailboat during a hurricane would be a safe place to be. Today’s world is anything but safe. The storms we are having to “ride out” are not for the faint of heart.

That’s why Psalm 18:2 is so powerful. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Look at all the descriptions relevant to our situation today!!

Where do you go take refuge? What is your storm shield? Better yet, WHO is your storm shield?

“Father, may I run to You when storms hit. When I’m unsure of where to go or what to do, be my refuge.”