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April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

April 7

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”

April 6

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Contentment is a good thing. Right?

Speak of contentment and eventually someone who knows their Bible will go to the verse in Timothy which says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (I Tim.6:6)

So contentment is a good thing. Right?

May I throw a wrench into your thinking? Contentment is a good thing depending on your focus and subject. Here is what I mean:

When it comes to your daily walk with Christ, I think contentment is not the goal. In fact, I think discontent is. I have a reason for saying that. Contentment gives the impression of “arrival,” a sort of settledness. It’s like the challenge has been met and now comes the “A-a-a-h” factor.

My contention is that contentment is not the goal when it comes to my walk with God. In fact, Paul said it well in Phil.3:10 when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” That word know in the Greek means “to know intimately.” That intimacy-whether in a physical relationship or a spiritual relationship-can only come from time.  Spiritually what I will call a “holy discontent.” It’s the refusal to be satisfied with the status quo but to always be pursuing a closer walk with Jesus.

Contentment in this scenario reeks of plateau. Discontent speaks of pursuit.

Which will you choose?

“Father, may I be discontented when it comes to being satisfied in You. May I always be pursuing a deeper walk with You.”

April 2

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Motives. Mention the word and you can see people twitch.

There are those who want to question the motives of everyone. Let’s call them the Challengers. They want to call into question “the why and the wherefore” of all things and all people. They trust no one.

There are those who criticize. Let’s call them the Criticizers. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say they are an offshoot of the questioner. Every deal is analyzed and criticized. They see a hidden agenda behind every curtain.

There are those who never question. Let’s call them the Oblivious. Or maybe the Gullible. They tend to fall for things hook, line, and sinker. They never ask a question or wonder why. Naive even fits here.

With this week being what is called Holy Week, and today being “Good Friday” (I guess “good” depends on your perspective), one man stands out. Judas. What was his motive? There are some stated in the previous devotion. But motive rises to the top.,

David was once challenged about his motives. He went to visit his brothers and while he was there Goliath challenged the armies of Israel. They all ran. David asked why no one would fight that uncircumcised Philistine. Eliab, David’s brother, chastised him and accused him of arrogance.

I honestly believe David’s motives were pure. He went there at his father’s behest to check on his brothers and to take food to them. Nothing scandalous. But to Eliab? Whoa!! For the whole story check out 1 Samuel 17, especially verses 28-30.

How often have I jumped to conclusions and made judgments about people and their motives?  I don’t like it when people question mine. Why would I think it is okay to judge another’s? Only God sees the whole picture. I must remember: I cannot judge what I do not know.

“Father, help me to lay aside my preconceived ideas and judgments and keep my thoughts to myself, especially when I have no proof. Help me to leave the judging up to You.”

April 1

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Today is typically known as “April Fool’s Day.” We play pranks on people. Oh, I can remember trying to catch people off-guard with crazy, wild-eyed stories. Or coming up to someone who is afraid of spiders or snakes and playing on that fear. Most of it was innocent (but juvenile) fun.

When you think of someone in the Bible whom you might call a fool, who comes to mind? Solomon talks about fools a lot in Proverbs. We could add in Ecclesiastes as giving us a picture of a fool, one pursuing the here and now and finding it empty.  Paul says at one point that he is a “fool for Christ’s sake.” A totally different meaning.

One person? My vote goes to Judas. His is a baffling case. Follower of Jesus for 3 years. Endued with power to heal the sick, cast our demons, etc like all the others. (Luke 9) He saw Jesus do miracles-feed the 5000, calm the storm, raise the dead, and more-over the 3 years he was with Jesus. He hung out with the boys. Late night campfires. Early morning brisk walks.  Rousing discussions about the religious leaders.

We also know he loved money. He loved power. Deadly combination. When Mary anointed Jesus he protested. But as John says only because he liked to dip his hand into the till and help himself.

He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. Not much, even in those days. We gain some insight into Judas when we realize he never called Jesus “Lord.” At the last meal when Jesus predicted His betrayal, Judas calls Him “Rabbi.” In the Garden he calls Him “Teacher.”  Never Lord. That should tell us something. He followed but never surrendered.

Fool. Ooops, what does that say about me? Follow but fail to surrender. Hmmm. Fool seems to fit me as well.

“Father, help me not to be like Judas. Help me to cast aside the ‘fool’ label and commit to following You as my ‘Lord.’ ”

March 31

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

We say it in various ways:

  • “Turn about is fair play.”
  • “Don’t worry. They’ll get theirs.”
  • “What goes around comes around.”
  • “It’ll come back to bite them.”

I hate to say it, but sometimes we say those statements with a glint in the eye. An upturned lip hinting at a smile. We sorta like it when someone gets what is coming to them.

It plays itself out in different scenarios. A harsh teacher/coach who finds his students/athletes refusing to perform anymore. The ruler whose asinine laws or decrees make it difficult for people to function or do their job. A leaders who is harsh. An investor who bilks people out of their money. “They’ll get theirs,” we say.

And we want to be judge, jury and executioner. We want to be the one who makes people pay.

In the OT there is a man named Abimelech. He is an illegitimate son of Gideon.  He convinces the people to put him in charge, to make him their one ruler.  The people agree to do that and he then goes out and kills all 70 of Gideon’s sons. But he didn’t stop there. He became an insufferable, arrogant, mad dictator. That is until a woman dropped a stone on his head from atop a tower. He had hoarded the people into the tower with the sole goal of executing them by setting a fire. Abimelech was a cruel tyrant. We see them everywhere. Passing laws that don’t benefit people, only themselves. Running roughshod over citizens to attain their agenda. The consolation? Sooner or later the roof will cave in, the stone will fall. They will get theirs. Justice will be done. In this life or the next.

“Father, vengeance is yours. And while I may not understand all that is happening, I must trust in Your strong hand.”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

March 29

Monday, March 29th, 2021

“No man is an island.”

So we hear. But did you know there is more to that quote?

The full quote by John Donne is this:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

Honestly, I did not know of the rest of the quote. But WOW! It sure changes the meaning doesn’t it? Take the first part by itself and it sounds like no man is alone. No man needs to be alone. No man can survive alone.

And I’ll agree with that.

But the rest of the quote gives a whole new twist. Let me show you what I mean. It is common to hear someone say, “My sin is my sin and I’m not hurting anyone anyway. What I do in the privacy of my home does not affect you.”  Well, in a sense, that is true. But more often than not that phrase is used to justify sins like porn, or lust, or reading offensive literature or watching a movie that is tainted. We justify those things saying we watch it or read it in the privacy of our home so I’m not hurting anyone. Have you heard that?  Shoot, I’ve even used it.

I wonder if thoughts like that went to Achan’s mind when he stole some of the sacred things of Jericho and hid them under his tent? Maybe. But little did he know or realize the chain reaction of consequences his actions would bring about. The lost “innocence” of Joshua and the people of Israel. The lost battle. His death. The death of his whole family.

Would he have taken the sacred things if he had known? That’s not the point, of course.  He did and the consequences were a whole lot bigger than just a few trinkets.

That’s the trouble with sin. You cannot contain it. In time it will destroy you and those you love. Private sin? No such animal.

“Father, You see my sin. Help me to see it as You do. And help me to say no to hiding or thinking I can hide my sin.”

March 26

Friday, March 26th, 2021

If there is one word which has reached epic proportions today in weight it is “tolerance.” Although most often not in a good way. I have said over and over: “Those who want and preach tolerance become the most intolerant of all when you disagree with them.”

Today, intolerance has become the worst sin in the world’s eyes and tolerance the highest good (if and only if you agree with them). To be principled or to have informed moral convictions is to be declared intolerant, out of touch, and above all, mean-spirited. Those who are “tolerant,” those who will tolerate anything and everything, take the high moral ground. And please! Don’t disagree with them! You become an intolerant bigot.

In the OT there is a great story and a great illustration to this whole mess. It is in Numbers 25.  Thanks to Balaam’s word to Balak, the people of Israel began to intermingle and intermarry with the Midianite women. This resulted in the acceptance of and worship of foreign gods, particularly Baal. One incident stands out.  God is extremely angry and Moses is confronting the people and many of them are in repenting of their sin. Zimri comes into the midst of the people repenting and takes a foreign women into the tabernacle and lays with her.

The scene is shocking to say the least. But when Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron sees what is happening, he goes into the tabernacle, and filled with the Holy Spirit and holy outrage, kills them both with a spear through their belly. J.B. Phillips once said, “It’s not for nothing that the Spirit God has given to us is called the Holy Spirit.

If that happened today, there would be outrage. It wouldn’t be holy and it wouldn’t be for God’s cause. People would be outraged that Phinehas stood up for a righteous and holy God. He would have been cancelled or black-balled or bullied (or all three) because he dared to take a stand for what he believed to be right. I’d say it is time for the church- pastors, leaders, and individuals- to stand up for the truth and righteousness. To be called “intolerant” just very well might a badge of honor worth wearing.

“Father, like Phinehas help me to take a stand for the righteous and holy God You are. Help me not be concerned about  the consequences but to be willing to stand for You.”