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March 27

Friday, March 27th, 2020

It is not uncommon to hear a husband or wife, a parent, or someone else lament the fact that the other person won’t change. I have heard both husbands and wives say, “I keep praying that he/she will change.” Now obviously, I’m not against change, especially when it’s a spiritual change.  Let’s look at it another way though.

I remember a little boy who was having one of those days. He was on his mom’s last nerve until she had had enough. “Go to your room.” A short time later he came out and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about what you said about my behavior and I said a little prayer.” Expecting an apology or at least an admission of guilt or sorrow she said, “And what is that prayer? Did you ask God to help make you good?”  The little boy didn’t miss a beat. “Nope. I didn’t ask Him to make me good. I asked Him to help you put up with me.”  (Please understand that is not a true story because I never got sent to my room). 🙂

Sometimes when God wants change it is not the other person who needs changed; it is us. God desires our hearts to change. For that to happen we have to heed the Scripture. In Psalm 51 we have David’s confession following the exposure and conviction of his adultery. He did not blame Bathsheba or his circumstances. He took the blame and prayed for his heart to be cleansed (v.10) and for joy to be returned (v.12).

It’s time to pray for change…in myself. Let’s start looking into our own hearts and putting God’s searchlight upon us.  “Father, may I change as you want me to change. Help me to look into my own heart and not expect others to change, but be the one who changes inside.”

 

March 26

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Years ago I remember reading the story of Kitty Genovese. (I can’t remember the name of the book but the author was Fritz Ridenour.  It was a book on evangelism. I also remember he used the story in John 4 to show how Jesus did evangelism with the woman at the well and how it served as a good example for us). Okay…back to Kitty. 🙂 Anyway, Kitty was brutally knifed, raped and murdered outside her apartment one evening. I googled it this morning and recent updates say she was knifed 13 times and no one lifted a finger to help or even call the police.  As an aside, her story helped institute 9-1-1 and also what was called The Bystander Effect.

That kind of apathy and “unfeelingness” stuns us. It should stun those who talk about the goodness of man and how we are all basically good inside. I simply cannot fathom that no one came forward to rescue her, to help her or to even call.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten, left for dead and two religious people walk on by as though they see nothing. It took a foreigner- a Samaritan- to stop, bind his wounds and take him to a hostel where he could recover. Jesus’ teaching was easy to see-for them and for us. What I need to ask myself, what you need to ask yourself, is who will I choose to be in that story? We live in a time where so many are living in fear and panic.  So let me issue this challenge: instead of asking yourself who will I choose to be, why not BE the answer! Why not ask God how you can BE someone’s answer?  Pray for God to lead you to someone-especially in this time of fear-who could use your help. Instead of being a need; why not meet a need? And yes, I know we are to take precautions. And we should. There are other ways-creative ways-we can help reach someone’s need. 

“Father, you have not asked me to sit idly by or to pass by on the other side. You have given me the challenge to be an answer. Lead me to someone whom I can help.”

March 25

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Have you ever felt as though you were walking around with this big “L” on your forehead? You know…the hand put to the forehead with the thumb and index finger forming an “L.” I’m sure you know that is the sign for “Loser.”

Admittedly, I have had those times:

  • Moving to become the 3rd person on staff only to watch the 2nd man leave for another church and then after a month goes by being asked to exit. Total ministry length there: 13 months.
  • Moving from there to a church in a small town with 25 people in the church only to realize less than 4 months in that I made the wrong move as their legalism choked me and I burned out.  Length of ministry there: 16 long months.
  • Moving from there and have a seemingly good 3 years end up with a secret meeting and a “you have until August” (This was April) with no explanation given except I wasn’t conservative enough doctrinally. (I didn’t believe in baptism as being necessary to be saved).

I could give you other failures. Personally. Professionally. Spiritually. Tasks unfinished. Relationships ripped apart. Arrogance running rampant. I can’t place the blame on the leaders or individuals responsible for the above actions. I was complicit too. I had to learn some very valuable lessons that as I look back now God had been trying to teach me all along. I also can see this principle come into play: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Pr.24:19-20)  I had to trust that God “got this.” I had to trust that He would take this wreck and make him useful.

I can point to Peter-disciple, loud-mouth, leader, deny-er, failure-as proof. Those last two. WOW! But God wasn’t going to let him wear the “L” label. He was going to take Peter from an “L” to a “W.”

“Father, thank you for not seeing me as an “L.” Thank you for saving me. For rescuing me. For recycling me into being useful for You.”

March 24

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

When things are going well it is easy to say, “God is good.” But then…

  • …An unexpected event requires life-threatening surgery.
  • …A car accident happens that leaves us paralyzed.
  • …A bike wreck happens with no known cause that leaves our body broken and bruised.
  • …A serious long-term diagnosis leaves our memory jumbled, our body trembling and at the mercy of family or worse, a home.
  • …A loss of job happens when the plant closes down.
  • …A virus comes that paralyzes a nation, shutting down all we know and life screeches to a halt.

Is God still good? The answer is a nutshell: Yes. God’s goodness is not determined by circumstances. One of the phrases I dislike a lot-by unbelievers and by Christ-followers- is “I’m so lucky.”  No.  You aren’t lucky because in God’s economy, there is no such thing as luck.

In spite of how hard it is to see, God is still good.  In spite of cancer;  a car accident;  a bike wreck;  Alzheimer’s, MS or Parkinson’s;  a job loss; or a coronavirus, God is still good.

“Father, no matter what happens in my life, help me to always remember You are always good.”

March 23

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

During yesterday’s sermon Tami, who had to watch it from home out of precaution (she was coughing), told her mom I said something during the sermon that she wanted to post on her FB page.  First some background; then what I said.

I was preaching from Colossians 1: 19-29 and had been speaking about ministry when I came to verse 24.  Paul talks about suffering.  Not boohoo suffering, but suffering knowing there are positives in it.  In verse 24 we read where Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  The statement is loaded! First, his willingness to suffer enabled there to be churches started in Asia.  We know the gospel spread through his ministry hardship.  Second, his suffering brought good to the church.

We are in unprecedented times. A few might remember 9/11. A few might remember ebola.  There are very few around any more who remember the Great Depression. We have always had crises and always will. The church needs to check its reaction to a crisis.  We live in a time unlike many have experienced before. Leastwise, the church in America. We can have one of two responses (and this is what Tami wanted in writing):

The church can either panic or praise.

The church can either wilt or worship.

The church can either live in fear or faith.

The church can either flounder or forge ahead.

(And a new one) The church can either wander or wonder.

It is a question the Church must ask-collectively and individually. And it is a question each one of us must ask ourselves. How will we choose to live?

“Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power,  love,  and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me to live the triumphant life of faith and not be held captive by fear.”

March 20

Friday, March 20th, 2020

One of the verses that consistently rattles my cage is a small one-small in number of words, but big in meaning.

John had been the “man of the hour.” People flocked to the wilderness to hear him speak. He spoke like a true prophet-mincing no words; leaving no one off the hook; and taking no prisoners. Shyster? Gotcha. Legalist? Gotcha. Viper? Gotcha. Herod and Herodias? Gotcha.  Roman soldier? Gotcha. Religious leader?  Double gotcha. He told it like it was…and then some. But John was never supposed to be the man. No, he was the forerunner.  He was the prophet Elijah come again (figuratively).  He was also the voice of one crying in the wilderness. (Luke 3:4)  His purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He was to prepare people for the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of world. (John 1:29).

So it shouldn’t be surprising his response when his disciples came to him and told him that Jesus was baptizing more than he was.  Translated: Jesus was more popular.  His response is the verse that rattles my cage:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

Another translation says, “He must become greater, I must become less.”  The implications of that are stunning. John’s view was consistent with his purpose: Jesus glorified not me. More of Jesus, less of me.

“Father, that should be my prayer- today and everyday. May Jesus truly become greater in my life and in all I do.”

March 19

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

As I read a blog yesterday, it referenced this one. This poem is by Paul David Tripp and was posted March 17, 2020 at his blog.  I thought it was very appropriate for what we are facing as a nation, as people, and as a church. There can be no better place to be than in the shelter of His wings.

SAFE

I am safe,
not because I have no
trouble,
or because I never experience danger.
I am safe,
not because people affirm
me,
or my plans always
work out.
I am safe,
not because I am immune from disease,
or free of the potential for poverty.
I am safe,
not because I am protected from disappointment,
or separated from this
fallen world.
I am safe,
not because I am
wise
or strong.
I am safe,
not because I deserve
comfort or have earned my
ease.
I am safe,
not because of
money,
or power,
or position,
or intellect,
or who I know,
or where I live.
I am safe because of the glorious
mystery of
grace.
I am safe because of the presence of
boundless love.
I am safe because of
divine mercy,
divine wisdom,
divine power,
and divine grace.
I am safe,
not because I never face
danger,
but because you are
with me in it.
You have not given me
a ticket out of danger.
You have not promised me
a life of ease.
You have chosen to place me in
a fallen world.
I am safe
because you have given me
the one thing
that is the
only thing
that will ever keep me safe.
You have given me
you.

March 18

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

How’s this for a kick in the teeth or a slap in the face?  All Scripture is from Proverbs 18.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (v.2)

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the foundation of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (v.4)

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Vv.6-8)

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (v.13)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (v.21)

Need I say more or add to them? It is a malady that runs through my veins and is in my blood. I’m not alone. We would all do well to “keep our trap shut” as my grandfather used to say, and weigh our words.

“Father, it is easy to see the devastation my words bring. Help me to show restraint and remember death and life come from the same place.”

March 17

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

I read a verse this morning that I have read countless times before, only this time it said, “Look closer.” (Okay, not really, but you know what I mean). 🙂  So I did. It’s the passage in John 1:36-51 where Jesus is “calling” some of John’s disciples and others to follow Him. Andrew, who found his brother, Peter. Philip who got his brother, Nathaniel. It is Nathaniel’s response to Jesus’ words to Him that said to look closer.

  • Philip: “Come, we have found the Messiah-Jesus of Nazareth-the one talked about in the Law and the Prophets.
  • Nathaniel: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was considered a “scum” city. An insignificant city of low-lifes.
  • Jesus: “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”  (The old KJV says, “No guile” whatever that is.)

Wait! Stop the presses! Jesus found an honest person? Actually, the word is more accurately seen as one of sincerity and honesty. Whew! Not sinless. Open. Seeking.  This is in direct contrast to Jacob, one of the heroes of the Jews, who was known for his deceit and trickery.  Think birthright in exchange for stew.  Think disguise for blessing.

Could it be that Jesus was saying Nathaniel was breaking the cycle of trickery and deceit? Proverbs 17:20 says, “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into misery.”  Dishonesty, trickery and deceit only lead to misery. For all affected and afflicted.

“Father, may I be one who chooses to live without trickery and deceit. May it be said of me that I am one in whom there is no deceit.”

March 16

Monday, March 16th, 2020

I read Denny’s blog each time it is released. He writes insightful and always thought-provoking posts. Considering all that is happening in the world today, I found this to be especially insightful and worthy to be passed on. Please enjoy and wonder at the amazing ways God’s works.

Banished from the public means of grace, we found grace nevertheless.

By Denny Burk on March 15, 2020 in Christianity, Devotion

Our church was scattered by the coronavirus this morning. We did not gather together as usual at the intersection of Southern Parkway and Third Street. No, today we were spread out all over the city of Louisville and beyond. Our college students were literally scattered across North America as many of them were compelled to go back to their hometowns after colleges and universities closed last week. Our church’s missionaries remain scattered all over the world. None of us could be together this morning.

If you know what it means to be the ekklesia of God, your heart ached like mine did. For this is not how it is supposed to be. Gathering together for the Lord’s Day is fundamental to our identity, and we were unable to do that this morning (Hebrews 10:24-25). We had a “virtual” service like so many others, but it really isn’t the same. Nor should it be.

But something really extraordinary happened as we all sat down before our scattered screens for worship. Jim Hamilton read the call to worship from a book of devotion by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, published in 1893.1 Below is the entry for March 15, and the words are nearly incredible:

MARCH 15

Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.”

Ezekiel 11:16

Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace behind the means of grace. The Lord who places his people where they feel like exiles will himself be with them. He will be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their sacred assemblies. Take this promise as your own if you are called to wander!

God is to his people a place of refuge. They find sanctuary with him from every adversary. He is their place of worship too. He is with them as he was with Jacob when he slept in the open field and woke, saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place” (Gen. 28:16). To them he will also be a sanctuary of peace, like the Most Holy Place, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. They will be kept from fear of evil.

God himself, in Christ Jesus, is the sanctuary of mercy. The ark of the covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law are in Christ our sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need?

Oh, Lord, fulfill this promise and always be to us like a little sanctuary!

In a book published 127 years ago, this was the entry for March 15. What a smiling providence. What an evidence of the Lord’s care for his people in a time of turmoil and trouble. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5), and he proved it again this morning.

—————

1 Spurgeon’s devotional The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith was published in 1893 in America, but Crossway published an updated edition just last year. The text above is from the 2019 edition.