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December 12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

THIS IS NOT A CHRISTMAS DEVOTION!!! You can check my #ChristmasChallenge devotion on my other blog.

My title for this devotion is Love vs Wrath/Justice.

I’ve been reading the past couple of weeks in the book of Jeremiah. (Yeah…zzzzz). Least at times it felt like that. I’m not denigrating God’s Word; it’s just that some parts of it are hard to stick with. But in between these seemingly incredibly long moments of sheer boredom are nuggets of gold.

For instance, one of the hardest qualities for people to grasp is God’s wrath and justice. “Give me a God of love!” we say. And while I prefer the God of love, I’m also highly aware that God is a God of wrath and justice.  He has to be. Just like a parent needs to be a parent of love, he must also be a parent who disciplines and is not happy with some of the actions of the child. Sometimes discipline is called for, even punishment, if rules are broken or hurtful actions are taken.

Let me give you an example from Scripture. “Behold the storm of Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. The fierce eyes of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind.” (Jer.30:23-24)

Then just a few verses later in Jeremiah 31:3 God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Wrath. Justice. Love. They go hand-in-hand. And most definitely they do in God’s case. I’ll let you work that out in your own mind.

“Father, you are a God of wrath, of justice, and of love. There is no contradiction there. Help me to see how they work in tandem in my own life-helping me to make right choices, correcting me when I don’t, but always loving me.”

December 7

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Impressed vs Unfazed.

So much about the Christmas story impresses me. A few examples: the number of players involved-wise men, shepherds, innkeeper, Herod, etc.

But what really impresses me are three people in the cast of many.

  • First and foremost: Jesus. The whole story is about Him.
  • Second: Joseph. Put yourself in his place. he is in love with a young girl who turns up pregnant. It is not his because he hadn’t touched her. The only thing that could have gone through him ind was the only thing that did. But a dream changed all that.
  • Third: Mary. her story is told over and over but let’s not forget her response. I’m not a Mary worshiper by any stretch (I despise it actually) but I can’t help but be impressed by this young girl’s response to the news: “I’m yours. Have your way.”

How can I-how can you-read the account of the Christmas story, see the responses of these players-and not be impressed? How can we be unfazed as though nothing happened? I say we can’t. If we are unfazed by it all, perhaps we need to check our heart and revisit the story again.

“Father, you involved so many in this story. Each had their own story to tell. The three stand out to me. May their response be mine.”

December 4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

December 2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

I have presented a challenge on my other blog for others to join me in posting a Christmas thought each day of December. If you would like to join me and others, then visit my other blog and let me know. I’d love to share links with you and with others.

November 29

Friday, November 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is God-speak vs Me-Speak.

Okay, so it is Friday, November 29, 2019.  Thanksgiving Day is over. Many spent the day enjoying family; laughing and joking; playing games; most importantly, speaking gratitude to God for His grace, goodness and provision. Words of good. Words of gratitude. Words of praise. And rightly so.

But those good words should not end-neither for God nor for others. But for many they will. It is like a switch is flipped the day after Thanksgiving which says, “Okay, that’s enough!” If only we could learn more completely that gratitude should be a part of us, something that flows from our heart, joints, ligaments and out of our mouth. Words.

That is why my Scripture reading hit me this morning with full force.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the wise man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’  (Jer.9:23-24)

We have spent this past week hopefully in gratitude to a magnificent, awesome God. Why stop? Why suddenly be self-centered? Rude? Self-enamored? All about me?

“Father, may my heart and may my speech be filled with gratitude to You. May it continue on and not end just because Thanksgiving Day is over. May my speech be God-speak and not Me-speak.”

November 21

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Fool or Wise?

Over the past couple of months I have read two books that came from a unique perspective. Their authors were former atheists who came to know Christ as their Savior. They wrote for different reasons. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca MacLaughlin was written to answer 12 arguments that Christianity (God) is accused of. Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp was written to counteract actions in the church which threatened to turn MJ away from her life in Christ.

The denial of God’s existence is very real. There are those whose life mission is to disprove or argue His existence. The late Stephen Hawking. Dawkins. The late Christopher Hitchens. And others. But Psalm 14 puts a word on them that is ominous and no one wants to be called: F.O.O.L.

No one like to be called a fool and yet the ultimate foolishness is the denial of God.  But what concerns me is the one who believes in God and yet lives as if He doesn’t exist. What do I mean by that? Glad you asked. 🙂  It’s the one who lives:

  • As though God is a second thought not a first thought.
  • As though he is the master of his own fate
  • As though he is the ultimate ruler of his life and doesn’t need God’s authority.
  • As though he is smart enough to act and doesn’t need God’s wisdom
  • As though he has it within himself to overcome sin and temptation and doesn’t need God’s power in his life.
  • As though he gets things done by merit and does not need nor have to rely on God’s grace.

Could it be that every time I/you do or think the above thoughts we are saying, “God, I don’t need you. I’m going on this alone” even though we may not verbalize it?

I want to borrow from Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him:

A fool has no ability whatsoever to rescue himself from his own foolishness. A fool is always a person in need of eternal rescue…He (Jesus) was born to rescue fools like you and me. (pp.122-123)

“Father, help me not to live in such a way so that it appears I don’t believe in You. Instead, help me to live a life of wisdom-a life of surrender to You and not to myself.”

November 20

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Eternal vs Temporary.

What is the worst sin you can think of?

  • Adultery.  Yeah that’s bad. On many levels.
  • Cheating. That too. No one likes to be taken advantage of.
  • Lying. Ugly. Telling the truth is always the best way to go.
  • Cussing and Swearing. Yep. Vulgarity is not becoming to a follower of Christ.
  • Disrespect. That is bad. No one likes being put down or disregarded.

I could list any sin and we would be able to pinpoint its danger. But there may be one sin we may have what I will call a “rationalizing point” with. Now, when we call it what it is-using the name the Bible calls it-it doesn’t sound so cool

That word? Covetousness.

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

When put that way it sounds so different from “I needed that” or “I bought that because it look so cute” or “I had to have that new TV-bigger and smarter.” You get the picture. Wanting something just to have something; wanting something because it is up-to-date; wanting something because it is the better model; wanting something because it looks good or makes you feel better; all are very poor (translated: lousy) reasons/excuses for that thing.

Jesus followed up the words in verse 15 with a parable of a rich man who wanted to build bigger barns, not knowing his life will be ending. And he was blunt. He said, “You fool…”

When I buy things; when I get that glassy-eyed look and wipe drool off my chin; when I get in the “have to have” mode, I’m no different than the rich man in the parable. I’m not looking at life with an eternal perspective.

“Father, help me stay focused on things in the light of eternity. Help me to see covetousness for the insidious trap it is. Help me to choose the eternal. Always.”

November 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Will He or Will He Not.

I believe all of us have struggled at one time or another with believing God is faithful. A tough time comes; a downturn in our business; a health issue dogs our tracks; we lose something or someone of importance; a child wanders from his/her faith; a marriage blows up; the examples are numerous. It is during those times that we have a question to ask: Will He or Will he not?

Will God keep His promises, or will He not? Will He be faithful, or will He not? Will He sustain His love, or will He not? Will He renew my strength, or will He not? The questions about God are as numerous as the examples.

But one thing I know: God DOES keep His promise. What promise is that? “I will never leave your or forsake you.” How do I know that? Well..I’ve seen it fleshed out in my own life for one. Some of the horrendous things I’ve done surely made Him cringe at the least. I have to wonder how and why He stayed true. I know the answer to that.

HE PROMISED IT.

Look no further than the Christmas story. How could one not read that story and see God’s promise fulfilled? 3-4 centuries (maybe more) passed from His promise in the Garden to the night in Bethlehem and 33 years later on a cross. Those two events sealed the deal.

The Christmas story alone would have been enough. That story alone shows God keeps His promises. The cross? The nail in the coffin.

“Father, when I’m doubting; when I’m swinging on a pendulum of emotion; when I’m having a tough time connecting the dots between life’s reality and  feelings, remind me of the Christmas story. Proof positive of Your faithfulness to Your promises.”

November 14

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Saying vs Living.

The past few days I’ve been reading a book by Mary Jo Sharp called Why I Still Believe. It is subtitled “A former atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” Mary Jo’s basic premise is after her conversion to Christ from atheism, how could she reconcile the church’s poor representation of Jesus. Her husband became a worship pastor almost by default so she got hit first hand with hypocrisy. In fact, the day she came to church to make her commitment public, the pastor’s wife judged her on the dress she was wearing. No greeting but a disdained “looking down on her” look with the words that she needed to check her dress. There was too much cleavage. In another incident, an atheist friend of hers she invited to class asked some honest questions about creation/young earth/old earth and was rudely shot down by the teacher and the pastor. They had no idea who he even was.

Hypocrisy wears many coats and hats. And I suppose we all (definitely me) are hypocrites from time to time. I know for a fact my actions do not always match my words. To quote Mary Jo:

Hypocrisy requires a reference to a standard of moral conduct which a person verbally accepts, but then denies by their behavior. (p.149)

Here is my analysis of it:

Standard= the Bible, God’s Word

Claim= to believe the Bible

Hypocrisy= to say I believe but live opposite.

I confess. I am a hypocrite at times. I don’t want to be. But I am.  Sounds like Romans 7 doesn’t it? But I also know that cannot be a cop out or a “get out of jail free” card. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites.

“Father, Your Word is true. It tells me all I need to know to live a life of godliness and holiness. But believing it and living it are two different things. Help me not to live a life contrary to Your Word, Your standard.”

{Note: Mary Jo’s book is an excellent and easy read. She has taken a very difficult subject (the existence of God) as well as the hypocrisy she has seen and molds them into a fine book. I’d highly recommend it. And, in case you are wondering, she exposes the hypocrisy of the atheist beliefs as well}.

November 12

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Truth or Love vs Truth and Love.

I just finished reading a new book by Steve Brown called Talk the Walk. As I came to the end he had the following quote from C.S.Lewis:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrong and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (Pages 140-141)

Followers of Jesus have always struggled with truth and love. Some want to love without reservation; some want truth without reservation. One is harsh; the other is mushy. We need both. That is a scary combination when you think about it. Talk about radically changing us and our world!

Most are good at one or the other. It takes a special person-one sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit-to pull them both off. All truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentalism; love and truth together will change lives. Starting with mine.

“Father, help me to see it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be “and.” Help me to live out a life of truth and love-being radically changed within and then watching you transform my world.”