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January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”

January 6

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how often we “categorize” our worship? We talk about worship on Sunday in a certain place or time. But then act as though the other parts of our day or week are extra.

I even do that on Sunday morning during our corporate worship. I have caught myself (and not done a very good job of stopping or changing it) saying, “Please join us now and stand and sing and join us in worship.” See what I did? Say, for example, we had just had our prayer time when I say that. What have I stated? Answer: that the prayer time was not part of our corporate or individual worship, but now we are singing so we are worshiping.

No. No. No. That prayer time. That communion time (in our case). And ultimately the preaching time was all part of our worship. It is part of our psyche to make a distinction and say that singing is worship but prayer and communion and listening to the Word is not.

And it carries over into our daily lives as well. Worship does not just happen on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t just happen when I’m having my QT. Categorizing worship was never supposed to happen! Worship was, is, and always will be a 24/7/365 opportunity to praise the Father’s goodness and love. David praised God on the mountain and in the valley; on the run or on the throne; feeling good or feeling bad. Take a moment please and read Psalm 148.

“Father, worship is not be to categorized. But it is most definitely to come from my heart-all day, every day, any time, and any where. May my heart be one filled with praise.”

December 10

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

P.T. Barnum is often credited with the saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I wanted to know a little more about that quote so I searched it. Seems P.T. wasn’t the purveyor of it after all. A Mr. Hull chiseled out then buried what he called “The Giant.” He then “discovered” it and unearthed it. He displayed it as a petrified man and charged people to see it. A Mr. Hannum paid a high price for it and began to display it, charging even more than Mr. Hull did. Ol’ P.T. came along and tried to buy it and Hannum wouldn’t sell it. So P.T. had his own giant made, displayed it as “The Cardiff Giant” and made money. Mr. Hannum then used his now-famous quote to describe those taken in by Barnum’s statue. Fun fact: Mr. Hannum sued P.T. but in court it came out that the whole trick was conceived by Mr. Hull. So in the long run, Mr. Hannum wound up being the sucker.

We chuckle at the gullibility of people. We wonder how in the world can people be so easily taken in? What isn’t so funny is when people are deceived and suckered by false teachers, gurus, televangelists, i.e. hucksters who convince people to believe their lies. Underneath it all (besides a wolf in sheep’s clothing) we will find there is nothing new under the sun. A lot of it is basically the same old garbage in a new outfit. The same error just repackaged. Tragically, people do the same thing today that their predecessors did: fall hook, line, and sinker into lies. In 2 Cor. 11 Paul calls them “false apostles.” Deceitful workers who disguise themselves. See…second verse same as the first. And we must N-E-V-E-R forget that our enemy (Satan) will disguise himself as an angel of light. Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open to You and to Your Word. Help me to test the spirits to see if they are from You.”

November 24

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

In a recent Our Daily Bread (11/20/20), they had a devotion that struck me. Here it is in a nutshell:

Albert Einstein paid tribute to a colleague, the famous Dutch scientist, Hendrik A. Loventz.  He never mentioned their scientific disputes, only his “never failing kindness.” He inspired scientists to put aside political prejudice and work together, especially after WWI. Einstein said, “Even before the war was over he never set out to dominate but always to simply be of use.”

That phrase “never set out to dominate” really struck me. The work of reconciliation is good and the Father knows we need that, perhaps as much now as ever. But it is impossible if we set out to dominate another person. None of us like that. Whether it be a spouse, a parent, a coach, a pastor, an elder, or someone else. In school they are called bullies. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is to be mutual, not one submit and the other dominate. This is especially true in the church. The Bible never gives a pastor, an elder, so-called leader, or patriarch/matriarch the right to claim “this church is mine.” Nor does is give that person permission to run it like they think it is.  I have seen and heard of people who were damaged, almost beyond repair, by a domineering individual in the church.  The way I see it being the pastor of the church DOES NOT give me the right or privilege to demand my own way or to run roughshod over people. That is so un-Christlike.  Can there be a worse example in the church than that?

“Father, help me to see submission is a state of my heart. Help me not to seek to dominate but to serve.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

October 23

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Sadly there are many people today who call themselves “Christians” that have strange views. Some are whacked. Some are way out there. Some follow heresy (and often don’t know, which gives rise to a lack of Bible knowledge). Some follow men. Some are just ignorant. And some look for the easy way, an easy faith. It is this latter group I want to probe.

You see, some have the lame idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” You know…if I don’t see I don’t know. I don’t see so I’m not responsible. Take, for example, followers of Jesus in other countries (and even now in our own). We have no clue in many cases what others are going through. We think, “Oh that’s a Muslim country” or “That’s in a communist country” so we turn a blind eye and either deny it or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist. Every day multitudes of followers of Jesus are persecuted and executed for their faith. I have no clue what that is like. But whether I choose ignorance or disregard, it still goes on. All over the globe. Behind the bamboo curtain. Behind the Great Wall. Behind the sickle and stars. Behind the stars and stripes. People are living their faith and as a result are either imprisoned or executed for that faith. Plain and simple: being a follower of Christ in many places is truly an effort of faith and of taking one’s life in one’s own hands. It is one of the least popular things a person can do.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus really do stand in the presence (now) and will (in heaven) of some truly remarkable people. One author would call them world-changers. They may be little known but their light shines brightly.

“Father, I stand in the company of some ‘great’ people who shine your light in tough circumstances and places. Help me not to forget them.”

October 21

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

I read something recently that piqued my interest and got my mind going. Two things actually, but what started it is this whole idea of running. Not running as in sport or exercise. Running…as in “running away.”

I’ve heard, said, and read that sometimes the wisest thing a follower of Jesus can do is run, i.e. run away from sin. Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.” The word flee can only mean one thing to me: high tail it out of there. So running away from temptation is good. but it seems to be there is a fine line between knowing when to run and when to fight. The Bible does talk about the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6), so there are times we need to stand our ground in the power of the Spirit and realize “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

So we stand. Our faith is tested. Our stamina is tested. Our faith and strength grows as a result of doing battle.

But there is another kind of running. It is called cowardice. In Psalm 78:9 it says that on the day of battle the Ephraimites, though armed with bows (weapons of warfare) turned tail and ran. Only one thing causes that kind of reaction: F.E.A.R.  That is the opposite of Joshua 1:9 when God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous…God will go with you wherever you go.” Seems to me that turning and running when the battle comes betrays, not only my own troops, but the also God Himself, the Captain of the army. 

“Father, help me to know what it is wise to stand and fight or when to run to avoid giving in. But may I never run because I’m betraying You or my fellow soldiers because of cowardice.”

October 9

Friday, October 9th, 2020

I turn 68 years old today. (Don’t applaud just throw money! 🙂 You can also throw in a shock emoji here). I was officially ordained on April 13, 1975, my late mother’s birthday. I could think of no better way to honor the one person more responsible for my faith walk (other than my grandfather) than her. So that means for 45 years I have been “officially” a pastor. But I have been preaching since the end of my Sophomore year in college (1972).  I’m not sure that little church in Irvine, KY ever fully recovered. Being a pastor has been all I have wanted to do (except play professional baseball or basketball.  But there was a huge roadblock to both. It’s called talent). 🙂

But it is time for a heart check. After reading 2 Cor. 2:17 I got reflective. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” That verse led me back to I Cor. 2:1-5. (I encourage you to look it up or click on the link). It’s time for a heart-to-heart check with myself. Here are some thoughts based on the Scriptures:

  1. The word peddle used in 2 Cor. 2:17 means “to corrupt” in the Greek. It came to refer to corrupt hucksters, or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product. We would call them “cheap knock-offs.” It reminds me of the street vendors who sell “cheapies” that look original. People think they are getting an original but…nope. Fooled you!! This is a picture of a false teacher who worms his/her way in only to spew rank heresy couched in spiritual language. 
  2. Good language, perfect speech, even high falootin’ words cannot resuce a wrong message. I was visiting a couple Wednesday and was told that she really appreciated my sermon from this past Sunday on “What about Doubt?” She explained why and I cried inside that she lived so many years with inside turmoil. Our conversation went on and I commented how someone had said he didn’t think they (as a couple) would stay at OVCF (they came from a very strict, traditional church) because of our music. They both said, “Well, we don’t know the songs…although we are learning them…and do miss the hymns, but we stay because of the Word.  We hear the Word being preached.”  Is a pastor allowed to feel good? Proud…but not the bad kind? At peace? A sense of “I-did-okay?” I sure hope so because, to be honest, I felt validated. I hope that’s not wrong. I suspect if it is then God will bring me down a peg or two. 🙂 In a time of questions and evaluation, it was good to hear God say through them, “Good job.” I am humbled and eternally grateful that God chose me to do this.

I have no idea how much time I have left (who does?) but I do know this: as long as God gives me breath and as long as He gives me good health, I want to be found guilty of preaching the foolishness of the cross. I want to point people to the cross. For as long as I can remember my brother, Rob, has always signed his letter using Gal.6:14- “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” May that tribe increase.

And those are my ending words to this devotion/reflection.

October 1

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

IMHO one of the biggest tragedies of this pandemic has not been the loss of jobs. It has not been the shuttering of businesses. It has not been the sicknesses, the suffering, nor even the deaths that have come (no matter how bad that is for some). It has not been the loss of income. It has not been the fear. It has not been the masks or the lack of in-person learning that some children have had to endure or the sheer inconvenience. No. I think it has been something much more insidious. Something that has ripped out the core of some people. What is it?

Loneliness.

People feeling all alone. People isolated. People feeling as though no one cares. Some could go days without human interaction of any kind. No call. No visit. No contact, especially of the human kind. We have tended to wrap ourselves into our own cocoon and safely ensconce ourselves in a self-made protective barrier. Or so we think.

Why am I thinking of this today? Because of this verse of Scripture I read: “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there shall be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (I Cor. 12:24-26 emphasis mine)

The tragedies of this pandemic are many. But being alone may be the greatest. It should never be. One of the challenges of being the church is its calling to reach out to all.  That includes those who are holed up in their bunker, their cocoon of “safety.”

“Father, help me not to be guilty of keeping my eyes inward. Help me to look out for others and to share their burden.”

September 21

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Sometimes I’m afraid many churches try to conjure up hype. I know as a pastor it is frustrating at times wondering what it’s going to take to “fire up” a church. There is talk of that being a revival. “We need a revival” we will say. But tragically, we then go about it under our own strength.

You’ve seen it, as have I. Special “revival” meetings. Bring in a band and have a concert. Meet under a tent. Schedule prayer meetings. Bring in a “big gun” to preach. They used to say an evangelist had 7 sermons and a fast car.  He would come in. Tell it like it is. Offend a few. Stir the people up. Get out of Dodge. A lot of what we want to call revival is man-made. Correction: most of it.

In the book Jesus Revolution, Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn talk about what was called the Jesus Movement. In one section they were describing Greg’s “church plant” in Riverside (encouraged by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel). They were meeting in the Riverside Municipal Auditorium which they affectionately called “Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven” because it had no A/C. But each week the church continued growing. Greg couldn’t explain it but it was explained by using a quote Warren Wiersbe credited to former YFC president Bob Cook: “If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it.” Those are good words. Maybe taking my hands off the wheel is the best thing to do. Maybe trying to manufacture revival or church growth is not a human effort at all, but is, in fact, the work of God.

“Father, show me when I need to steer and when I need to let go. Help me not to think I know best, especially when it comes to Your work.”

Note: I review the book, Jesus Revolution, on my other blog.