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April 3

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

I read in the April 3 devotion in Our Daily Bread these words:

On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave his final speech, ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.’ In it, he hints that he believed he might not live long. He said, ‘We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you…[But] I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’  The next day, he was assassinated.

It was almost as if Dr. King “knew” he was going to die soon. That got me to thinking: what if I knew I was going to die in exactly one week. What would I do?

  • Would I love Jo any differently? Would I do something with her we have put off?
  • Would I love Tami and Janna (my daughters) and Braden (grandson) any differently? Would I make sure my millions were doled out evenly? 🙂
  • Would I love the people in the church I pastor deeper? Is there any grace or forgiveness I need to extend? Is there anyone I need forgiveness from?
  • Would my last sermon be an earnest plea for salvation? Holy living? Sacrificial service?
  • Would I ride my bike with more abandon, taking on the challenge of more hills?
  • Would I contact my friends (all 2 of them)  🙂 to thank them for their friendship and get together for one more pizza run or bike ride?

I could go on and I’m sure you could also. But the “what if” or “would I” is not what matters. It is the “what about now” that matters. No one knows when they may be called home.

“Father, I stand before You this morning pondering the ‘what if.’ You are more interested in the ‘what will I do for now.’ Show me how to live now and what You desire from me N.O.W.”

 

March 9

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Today is a day I’m not looking forward to in some ways. Not that I despair of life or of the day-not in the least. I consider each day a gift, a blessing, to be enjoyed. But I told Jo last night as we lay in bed, “I’m concerned about tomorrow.” Today I conduct a funeral of a man from our community who took his own life one week ago. From all counts he was a good coach, a man who cared about his players, and tried to bring out the best in them. A man counted on to help them out of their hitting doldrums, to help them become better players. But in all the accolades, even with his own children, not one said he helped them face life; that they were better people and navigated through life as a result of his influence.

Now, lest you misunderstand, that is not a put down. An observation. It makes me ask myself a series of tough questions:

  • What about me? How will I be perceived? I’m not a hitting coach. I’m a pastor. Will I be one who others will say, “He led me to Jesus” or will they say, “He was a nice guy”?
  • Did I take time for people? That was one of his strong suits. He took the time for his children and his players. The question that tags along is whether I was so busy that I gave my family and others my leftovers.
  • What did I leave behind? What did I leave them with?  Did I leave people with something superfluous or something of eternal value? If people can tell you about my cycling but not about my Jesus, then I failed miserably.

“Father, may I influence people in all ways, but especially in finding You. Help me to care about people but in my caring to point them to You.  If I do that, then my life will have counted and made a difference.”

January 29

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Acceptance vs. Rejection.

Just to get this out of the way early: I am 67 years old (b. 10/1952) and am not ashamed of that. Do I wish I was younger? Sure. Do I wish I could talk to my younger self and give him advice? Most definitely. Do I begrudge getting older? Yeah…sort of. Do I see myself as done, part of the over-the-hill-find-a-chair-to-sit-in gang? No.

Several things have brought my thoughts to this topic today besides the obvious physical discomfort (knees, back, neck, etc) brought on by “arthur’s residency.”

  • I read an article yesterday on church trends for 2020 and one point was about active, growing and alive churches are being led by younger men (<50 y/o).  Many churches fail to grow and stay active because the aging senior pastor fails to recognize his ineffectiveness. So I asked, “Is that me?”
  • I started reading a book of daily thoughts entitled A Good Old Age by Derek Prime. It’s an A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years. (In fairness I started this last year but failed to finish it so I thought I would start over again and read one a day).

I struggle with aging-not because I dread old age or because I need to retire but can’t- but because I feel I still have much to give.  I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I’m certainly not a “I know all things because I have been a pastor for over 45 years” kind of guy. Sure, I’ve been around the block a time or two; made my extra share of mistakes; caused heartache; opened my mouth and inserted foot more than I want to admit; and made life h*** for some.  But I also know I’ve helped many; loved many; been a good husband and father and now a grandfather; been faithful to the Word in my preaching; loyal to my friends; tried to take care of myself physically (I think all surgeries have been cycling related) 🙂 ; and followed Jesus. I also know I still have energy and still feel I have much to offer the church.

I’m also aware the clock is ticking. No one lives forever (unless you count heaven/hell). But Derek reminded me of three truths I need to remind myself:

  1. The amazing forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus.
  2. The glorious truth of God’s Fatherhood and His promises to His children.
  3. The wonderful hope of heaven.

Great reminders! For. all. ages!!! Sure, as one ages he becomes more aware of his mortality, but those are good for everyone of every age to remember. If we do, we won’t have to tell our younger self anything.

“Father, You have made me, me. You have granted me 67 years on this earth so far. How many are left only You know. And I’m content with that. But it is not time to roll over and give up. Challenge me to keep growing. Keep reminding me of those three truths.”

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.”

August 27

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is Today vs Tomorrow.

My mind is all over the place this morning. No, I’m not ADHD and have trouble concentrating as a result. Two visits yesterday to the hospital-one for a man who had surgery then to return to follow-up; the other during that second time to visit a friend who has suffered a stroke. Three actually, each one worse than the other.  To add to that Jo and I are leaving today for Ohio so she can visit her sister before our trip and to follow-up with Medicaid and make funeral preparations to divest some of her sister’s money. I have this devotion to enter and a sermon to work on before we leave. A visit to the eye doctor yesterday told me I may finally have cataract surgery (which is not a bad thing). We also have the trip to Alaska to get ready for by Monday. Most of this is future, i.e. tomorrow.

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” A man laying in a hospital bed with a stroke that (at this point) has affected his right side and speech had been talking about going to a neighboring town to eat rib-eyes (even though I hardly ever eat red meat) the past few times we have talked. It was always tomorrow. “We’re going to have to go there Bill. You, Jo, and us.” Tomorrow. Someday soon. In this case, tomorrow may never come.

The trip might be put on hold depending on his health. Jo mentioned it. I hope not, but who knows about tomorrow?

Of course, God does. But I’m not privy to that information. James 4:13-15 put it this way: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year’…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ “

Tomorrow is not a sure thing. No guarantee. But I know I can trust my all-knowing God for the unknown future.

“Father, please take my scattered mind and settle it. Focus my heart on today and not worry about tomorrow. You know about tomorrow; I don’t. So I place it in Your unfailing hand.”

July4/5/weekend

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

I started writing this July 4th in the evening but failed to finish when my brother-in-law came in and started talking. So I finished it this morning. Used it for a Communion Thought, then decided to record it here. I am back from Sandusky for about 2-3 weeks until I have to return to drive a moving van back. Jo will be heading up there for a few days each of the next three weeks to hopefully pack things away and get financial stuff squared away.  Your prayers for her safety would be much appreciated.  Here’s the devotion:

My title for this devotion is Freedom that costs nothing vs Freedom that costs something or everything.

Today is Independence Day. A day we, as Americans, have one of two responses to: indifference or patriotism.

The indifference I don’t understand. {Enter Bob, Jo’s brother. The rest is written today, July 7th} In spite of its difficulties, we still live in the greatest country on the planet. I lived during the ’60s and experienced Kent State, the protests and all the other garbage that went on. I didn’t approve of it then; I don’t approve of it now.

Jo had the news on last night and they had a story of a 21 year old Marine whose life was forever changed on 9/11. He told him mom then that he would catch whoever did that. Bin Laden is long dead (Hooray!) but he kept his promise to fight the evil and joined the Marines after his high school graduation. He lost his life at the age of 21 in Afghanistan. She was not kind to Colin Kapernick in her speech.

Indifference to the cost paid by others for our freedom is unconscionable. That mother certainly wasn’t indifferent.

So it is with Jesus. Freedom isn’t really free. It costs something. Sometimes everything. It cost the lives of men and women since 1776. Over 2000 years ago it cost the life of our Savior so we might be free. Our freedom cost His life.  So our freedom from sin wasn’t free. Indifference for us is not an option.

“Father, may I never grow jaded and indifferent to your love and sacrifice for me. You have said, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.‘  Help me to know true freedom which comes from you.”

April 19/Weekend

Friday, April 19th, 2019

My title is All Access vs No Access.

Several months ago I had the great privilege of opening the Indiana House of Representatives session with prayer. Getting there was interesting. I had to go through a locked gate, tell them who I was and what I was there for and wait for the arm to go up. Fine…if someone is at the gate. I eventually had to back out (I had a number of cars behind me), make a call and get instructions.  Otherwise, no access. To top it off I had to go through other checkpoints (which I understand why) to get where I needed to go.

Today is “Good Friday.” A day that reminds me of access. Isaiah 25:9 says, “Behold, this is our God; we have watched for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

On this day the cross made salvation possible. On this day Jesus died for that salvation to be possible. On this day the sky grew pitch black even though it was noon. On this day the veil was torn from top to bottom giving us full and complete access to the presence of God. A new way is now open to God. No longer is the blood of bulls and goats required. No longer do we need a priest to offer a sacrifice for our sins. No longer does a priest give forgiveness. Full and complete access is now ours.

PRAISE THE LAMB!

January 28

Monday, January 28th, 2019

I bury a friend today. I haven’t known him long. Little over a year and a half but the past year found me taking multiple hour long trips to the hospital to visit and multiple trips to his house as he fought a brave fight against an ugly form of cancer. He lived 18 months longer past the original 18 months they gave him to live. The power of prayer. The power of medicine. The power of the will to live and not give up.

How God-like it is then to read this morning from G. Campbell Morgan’s book in a chapter called When a Loved One Dies. Here are some of his thoughts:

Death is the wounder of hearts. It is the assailant of faith; it is the challenger of hope. (p.44)

We need to remind ourselves that nothing that happens today has its full explanation in here and now. Some day we will see things in perfect Light, and then we will understand…I believe that whereas the gap will always remain and the sense of loss abide, as it does with me…you will be lead into a place of quiet assurance that God is too wise to make any mistake, and too good to ever be unkind.” (pp.44-45)

“Our tears he never rebukes.” (p.45)

There are some things I will never understand. A godly woman (my mother) taken before her 72nd birthday by cancer while a man who had no regard for God that I knew of lived to be 90. I don’t understand why I’ve stood at the graveside of a child or a young person or a young mother/father. I don’t understand why a man of 47 with a new grandson is taken. I’m not meant to understand everything. Someday I will but until then I need to, no I must, trust the One who is the Giver of life. It’s simply not for me to know now.

I just know I have to trust the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life”; the One who conquered death, hell and the grave; the One who said He is preparing a home for His people; the One who welcomed Billy into his arms of grace last Thursday afternoon. I will not say “Goodbye” but “See you later” to Billy- a friend of God and a friend of man.

“Father, I rejoice Billy was your child to the very end. And while Becky and the family and friends mourn (me included) I rejoice Billy has no more excruciating pain and now rests in his heavenly home. Be with me as I speak today. Let me be a giver of hope and life because of Your promise.”