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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 22

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

One of the things I read a lot about, especially during this pandemic, is worry. Worry about the virus. Worry about family and friends. Worry about a job. Worry about the future. Worry about money. Worry about how things will be on the other side of it. A pastor’s life is compounded by the sheer responsibility he feels for the people he pastors/shepherds. So multiply a family of four (for example) times 25 or 50 or more. Now you catch a glimpse of the magnitude.

So its easy to worry about things. Both big and small. Jesus speaks to that in Matthew 6: 26-27: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you be being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” His picturesque advice for His listeners in just as appropriate for His followers today. He is saying, “Bill (or whatever your name is) don’t worry. I got this and you will be taken care of.” Why should I be anxious? Why should I hoard for fear of the future? Why should I be concerned about where the next dime is going to come from? Jesus has promised He will take care of me. In spite of how easy it is to feel alone, forgotten, left hanging on a string, He has made a promise and will keep it.

Trust Him. He made another promise He keeps: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

“Father, those words are for me. May I not forget Your promise given in Matthew 6 and elsewhere.”

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 14

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Taking credit. You see it in sports. Someone is full of him/herself and takes credit for the performance. You see it in business. “I did this” or “I did that.” That person tends to forget what I will call the “trenchers.”  They are the ones who work daily in the trenches-brainstorming, conceiving and executing ideas-the plan. You see it in movies, TV, or other “up front” activities. The actor get the accolades; the double or the bit actor or the one behind the scene is left behind. You see it in the pulpit. A pastor copies plagiarizes preaches a sermon almost word for word of someone else but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Giving credit.  Turning the tables.  Acknowledging those unseen players. The wife who hates the limelight and quietly supports her husband. (Can you say Jo?) The bit player whose idea spawned a movement. The teacher who week after week teaches in relative obscurity and is content to be in the background.

I could give example after example but I’m sure you get the point. Giving credit to others is not the product of over-inflated egos but of a humble heart.  Demeaning others in order to exalt oneself is not love; it is not Christ-like at all. I’m of the opinion (for what it’s worth) that God is not interested at all in our status, our position, our clout, or our standing in life. What I do believe is that He is interested in our willingness to be used by Him and to acknowledge His part in our lives. As someone has said, “May they forget the channel, seeing only Him.” (Kate Barclay Wilkinson)

“Father, may I simply be a promoter of You. Help me not to be one who takes credit, but one who gives credit where credit is due. May people forget me and see only You.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

September 9

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Have you ever read something that you felt sliced and diced you? Or you might say “It fileted me like you would a fish.” I’ve had those moments when stunned by something would be an appropriate word. That happened to me one recent morning (I wrote this on Monday, the 7th, when it happened). But before I give you that quote, please allow a confession. Even though I write this daily devotion (obviously for me since hardly anyone reads it) 🙂 ; even though I’d like to say it has brought about a consistency for me to make time each morning to be with God; and even though I may sound (upon occasion) as though I have it together spiritually, there is one area I really have a great lack. Prayer. I go through jags where prayer is important-then uber important-but I also go through times when I read and journal then pick up and leave with nary a moment given to prayer. I’m not proud of that. That is, perhaps, why the following quote did me in that morning:

We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” Oswald Chambers

Need I say more? I’ll let you stew in your own juices over that quote. I have to go start healing from the slicing and dicing.

“Father, may prayer not be a side trip for me. May it become a regular part of my daily time with You. May it be another way for You to do Your work in and through me.”

September 8

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

I recently had a visitor to my office who struggled with what is common among many followers of Christ: Assurance. She has struggled with cancer and COPD  for several years now and she is tired. I admire her spunk and determination though. The doctors told her years ago she only had maybe 6 months left. That was over 4 yars ago. She has gotten to see her two great granddaughters grow up, as well as the birth of her great grandson. She once thanked me for the live stream we are doing. She watches each week and what was especially meaningful to me was she said, “I have found my faith again.” She clarified it the day we talked when she said, “I didn’t lose my faith. I struggled with accepting the cancer. I wanted to say ‘Why me?’ “

Her biggest question though was not about cancer. As we sat and talked her biggest struggle was knowing for sure she was saved, that she was going to heaven. I showed her I Thess. 4: 13-18 but my strongest passage was Romans 8: 31-39. “If God is for us who can be against us?” “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

She isn’t alone, you know? There are way too many people who live in un-assurance. Constantly wondering if they did one thing that would be the deciding factor and they would be lost forever. I don’t see that in the Bible. Unless someone was never truly saved or “deconstructs” their faith to put Jesus to an open shame, salvation is eternal. She walked out a different and much-relieved woman than when she came in.

Do you have that assurance or do you live in fear?

“Father, thank you for assurance. Thank you for all that comes from You in the way of assurance, peace, and confirmation of your love for me.”