Choices

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June 9

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I’ve got a problem! (I know what some of you are thinking and no comments are needed from the peanut gallery). But in all seriousness, I have a problem.

“Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

My problem: how do I do that? How do I know if I have?

Paul David Tripp in his short devotional book 40 Days of Love says,

“We can know the true joys of human love only if love for God first rules our hearts.” (p.72)

I know that. Not sure I practice it all that much. There is no question in my mind that I am often guilty of idolatry-of putting people, places, and things ahead of Jesus. The sad part is that I know this but find it so hard to change it. I realize that if I don’t find my rest and comfort in God, I will seek for it somewhere or with someone else. Then I’ll be asking of Jo, or another person, or my bike. or an activity to do for me what only God can. Fill me and satisfy me.

But even as I write this I am no closer to an answer to my questions: How do I do that? How do I know?

Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I’d like to hear from you.

“Father, help me to love You as I am supposed to. Please help me to find the answers to my questions.”

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

June 3

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Have you ever had one of those “holy moments?” It’s one of those moments when you become so aware of God’s presence the only response is one of awe and humility. I’ve had several of those moments in my 45+ years as a pastor and my 60+ years as a Christ-follower.

The year was the summer of ’89 (no not ’69). It had been like many other summers-bike riding, preaching, ministry, moving Tami back from Florida. She lived with us for awhile as she settled in teaching at a school district north of our county substituting as a fill-in for a teacher on family leave as her husband battled cancer. One Sunday night something led her to visit another church in our city (we did not have evening services). She talked so much about her visit I asked  if she cared if I went. Of course not. She knew I would drive and also probably buy her something to eat or drink afterwards. Anyway, by August of that summer my life had been changed.

I experienced God’s presence.

My burning bush.

My ladder to heaven and wrestling with God.

My moment in the “temple” when “all was stripped away and I simply came” as Matt Redman’s song reflected. (Cue up The Heart of Worship)

That preceded a period of epic growth-for me and the church. I sensed God’s presence in everything I did. My speech. My preaching. My study. My activities. The church had 24 additions in about a 3-4 month period-18 of them new converts.  It also helped me weather losing my job because I wanted to be a spiritual leader, not a CEO type.

I long for that Emmaus time again-when my eyes are open and I realize I was with Jesus. When the communion with Him was special. When a bush burns (not literally) and isn’t consumed. When the things of the world grow strangely dim. When worship takes priority. When I experience a holy moment of being in God’s presence.

“Father, you don’t need an appointment to meet with me. You don’t have to say, ‘I’m coming at such-and-such a time. Be ready.’  I’m simply asking you to come and meet with me.”

{Note: Today I celebrate a very holy moment. 46 years ago God blessed Jo and me with our oldest daughter, Tami. Her birth was a “holy moment” for me. I continue to be grateful for her life and how God still grips her and she Him.}

June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”

May 27

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I’ve been reading a book called Beauty in the Browns by Paul Asay. Paul is a writer for Focus on the Family and other venues. Short story: it is about walking with Christ in the darkness of depression. Mr. Asay has been brutally honest in his person memoir on his struggle with depression.

I have no plans to go any deeper right now. What I want to focus on is one of the three key elements that brought him out of his depression.  Time. Love. Action. Those are the three key elements. My focus is on the second: Love.

Hardly a person alive-one who know the Bible or one who doesn’t-has not had some exposure to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”  That verse sums up the essence of Christianity. Think this through with me please:

  • We didn’t deserve it.
  • We didn’t deserve the gift of life and salvation.
  • He loved us, not because we were lovely, but because we weren’t.
  • He loves us not because we had and have it all together. We could say He loves us because we didn’t. To use a common phrase: He loved us because we were broken.
  • His love was not dependent on our goodness. It was not dependent on our response.  It was not dependent on us raising our hallelujahs or our hands.

His love is real. His love is sincere. His love is pursuant. (One author once called Him the “Hound of Heaven”).  His love is constant. His love is steadfast. It does not depend on our skills, talents, and dedication. Aren’t you glad?

So this morning I want to challenge you to sit back, relax, and bask in the love of God today. Live in that love.

“Father, may that be my desire today. Help me to just rest in Your love.”

May 26

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

In a chapter filled with gems, one stood out to me this morning. My reading of the NT finds me in Philippians 1 this morning. {Please take a moment to read that right now}

Paul prays their love would overflow more and more, and that they will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. (v.9)

He prays they will see the fruit of their salvation-the righteous character produced by Jesus in their life. (v.11)

But these simple words stood out to me this morning: “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (20-21) Emphasis mine.

Standing for Christ is only easy when surrounded by like-minded people. It is easy to be strong when there is no opposition. But Paul is praying for boldness when tested.

But what struck me is his phrase: “And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ.” Those simple words say it all. That should be my prayer on a daily basis.

It should be yours also.

There is virtue in dying with Jesus on your lips. There is an ever greater virtue living with the words and name of Jesus on our lips. I pray my life will bring honor to Him.

“Father, that should be my daily prayer. Make it so. I reiterate it this morning: May my life bring honor to You.”

All Scripture is the New Living Translation.

May 21

Friday, May 21st, 2021

“Where, O Where, should my rambling mind go?” Did you ever have those time when nothing clicked? You know…you read and read and nothing hits home. This is not one of those times.

The opposite. I sat down for my Encounter Time this morning and the more I read the more I got bombarded. It wasn’t lack; it was too much. I had 3 different devos running around in my head. I liked them all.  But I’m going to go with the first one.

Have you ever got an “F?” Yeah? Join the club. More than one I might add. You see, I am not a smart, smart person but I can guarantee that if life was graded on a curve any forward motion I took would have been negated by my “lack” in math, science, or any subject related. Biology. Chemistry. Geometry. Trigonometry. Calculus. (Notice a trend there?) Anyway, you get my drift.

My kids got a hold of my Senior Year High School grade card. Let’s just say that my admonitions to them of studying and getting good graces and finding out what you’re good at  no longer held water.  I lost a ton of credibility at that point. Fortunately, I was a pretty good dad so I got it back other ways. 🙂 All my credibility was flushed down the toilet. I got two “As” that year-Driver’s Ed and Phys. Ed. Powerhouse subjects!!! The others I’ll not say in detail. Let’s just say there was a smattering of “D’s” and an “F.” I’m must glad they never saw my Jr. Year card with Chemistry and Geometry.

Failure is part of life. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it is more accurate to say “failure isn’t part of life; it is much of life.” (Goff-p.170)

I went on to better things (and grades) in college, although I was never valedictorian material. Or salutatorian. Or top 10% of my class. I survived (barely) my high school years.  (Note: in my defense I played basketball, worked after practice, school and weekends), and surprise of all surprises, I had a girl friend and it behooved me to investigate the great mystery of the universe…woman}. I continued to find out that Math and Science and all related subjects were to be avoided. I did find out I loved studying the Bible, learning and preaching/teaching it.

I learned some valuable lessons through my “D’s” and “F’s.” Avoid certain subjects as a livelihood; embrace certain subject which bring you to life.  Hence, my calling.

“Father, even now, may my failures be a stepping stone to new lessons and new challenges.  Help me to grow in wisdom.”

May 19

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Have you ever had moments where you just wanted to rebel? You know, where you just tired of following rules and wanted to do something contrary? Say…like wearing a mask?

Welcome to my world.

Not that it is always like that.  Most often I am pretty easy going and acquiescent. Growing up I always played sports. Baseball and basketball. There is one constant in all sports: rules. Authority. The rule book is the standard under which the game is played. The umpire/ref is the authority who enforces the rules. The coach follows them. Then there is me-the player. I am subject to my coach, the umpire and the rules.

One time I remember having a not-so-good game (translated: bad). Playing first I had done well. But batting was another story. I had already struck out twice on called third strikes and pitches I thought were below my knees.  The third time he called me out and the coach said something about getting the bat off my shoulder. I said something to the effect that I needed a golf club to hit that last pitch he called Strike 3. That didn’t sit well with him or the umpire.  And while it didn’t sit well with either of them, I found the bench an even harder seat.  My rebellion had a consequence-the bench for the rest of the game and an apology to both the coach and the ump. Sorry again George (my coach. And I’m not even going to attempt to spell his last name). And Mr. Witherspoon.

I challenged authority.  I still do. I found every opportunity to not wear a mask during the recent fiasco.  But that is innocent rebellion in the grand scheme of things. The real disobedience and defiance comes when I disobey or defy God’s Word.  God’s Word is given as the authority, the standard, the “rule book.”  I can choose to comply or choose to fight.

Where do you find yourself? Are you like me? Compliant but also rebellious at times? Deciding I know better. This whole challenging authority never seems to work out for our good. Sitting the bench and gather splinters is never fun.

“Father, may I be obedient and compliant to your authority. May Your Word be my ‘rule book’ to follow.”

May 14

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Life is difficult. Life is hard. Or so I’ve heard. And…so I’ve experienced. Inherent to all of us is one of two choices- give up or fight through.

There are those who give up. They check out of reality.  Maybe they tell themselves “This is not real. This is not happening. God wants me to enjoy life so I’m going to spin positive and deny I’m having difficulty.” Yeah, like that is going to help. No name-it-claim-it; no Christian Science; no Scientology denial; no dismissal and positive “best life now” approach will change life.

Others tragically check out permanently. Putting aside those who struggle mentally, there are those who just give up. I think what happened during the Great Depression and most economic downturns is proof of what I’m saying.

But, then there are those who fight. Bob Goff wrote the following:

There are three things I’ve learned about climbing a mountain. First, there’s almost always a point when you want to give up. Second, you don’t get breathtaking views until you push to the summit. And third, the summit is almost always just after the point you want to quit.

I’ve never been a mountain climber. Maybe when I was younger Not now. 🙂 My knees would protest. Loudly. Too loudly. But I have stopped at high points and gotten out of the car to look. A train ride in Skagway, Alaska is another example. Beautiful views. Getting to the summit worth it.

Giving up goes against my grain…sometimes to my detriment. But I’d rather stick to something too long than to give up too soon. On the other side of pain and yes, failure, is a beautiful view of love and acceptance from a Father who walked every step of the way with me.

“Father, thank you for hanging in there with me, especially through the tough times. “

{Quote by Bob Goff from Live in Grace*Walk in Love. P.164}

May 13

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

I read something this morning that sort of hits the nail on the head:

Mistakes are something you do, but shame is something you are. A hoarding heart full of past failures can eventually convince you that you didn’t just fail-but that you are a failure.  (Live in Grace*Walk in Love by Bob Goff- p.164) (Emphasis his)

WOW! Those are what I will call “diamond words.” They are words that are rich with thought and meaning and will take a while to mine them.

I know so many people-and I sometimes want to stay there myself-who want to wallow in the past and wonder why. Why did I do that? Say that? Act a certain way? We allow our past mistakes to affect our present state. And sadly, we also tend to allow those past mistakes to define who we are.

I further agree with what Bob says a few paragraphs later:

Don’t let your past failures talk you out of God’s grace. Grace moves us toward God and other people.  (p.164)

When fear and shame want to isolate us and keep us isolated, locked up in a small cell, grace opens the front door and says, “Let’s talk.” While you are at it, why not jerk the curtains open wide and open those windows? Let the fresh breeze of the Spirit blow through and start clearing out the cob webs as well.