Faith/Feelings

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December 7

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Impressed vs Unfazed.

So much about the Christmas story impresses me. A few examples: the number of players involved-wise men, shepherds, innkeeper, Herod, etc.

But what really impresses me are three people in the cast of many.

  • First and foremost: Jesus. The whole story is about Him.
  • Second: Joseph. Put yourself in his place. he is in love with a young girl who turns up pregnant. It is not his because he hadn’t touched her. The only thing that could have gone through him ind was the only thing that did. But a dream changed all that.
  • Third: Mary. her story is told over and over but let’s not forget her response. I’m not a Mary worshiper by any stretch (I despise it actually) but I can’t help but be impressed by this young girl’s response to the news: “I’m yours. Have your way.”

How can I-how can you-read the account of the Christmas story, see the responses of these players-and not be impressed? How can we be unfazed as though nothing happened? I say we can’t. If we are unfazed by it all, perhaps we need to check our heart and revisit the story again.

“Father, you involved so many in this story. Each had their own story to tell. The three stand out to me. May their response be mine.”

December 2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

I have presented a challenge on my other blog for others to join me in posting a Christmas thought each day of December. If you would like to join me and others, then visit my other blog and let me know. I’d love to share links with you and with others.

November 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Will He or Will He Not.

I believe all of us have struggled at one time or another with believing God is faithful. A tough time comes; a downturn in our business; a health issue dogs our tracks; we lose something or someone of importance; a child wanders from his/her faith; a marriage blows up; the examples are numerous. It is during those times that we have a question to ask: Will He or Will he not?

Will God keep His promises, or will He not? Will He be faithful, or will He not? Will He sustain His love, or will He not? Will He renew my strength, or will He not? The questions about God are as numerous as the examples.

But one thing I know: God DOES keep His promise. What promise is that? “I will never leave your or forsake you.” How do I know that? Well..I’ve seen it fleshed out in my own life for one. Some of the horrendous things I’ve done surely made Him cringe at the least. I have to wonder how and why He stayed true. I know the answer to that.

HE PROMISED IT.

Look no further than the Christmas story. How could one not read that story and see God’s promise fulfilled? 3-4 centuries (maybe more) passed from His promise in the Garden to the night in Bethlehem and 33 years later on a cross. Those two events sealed the deal.

The Christmas story alone would have been enough. That story alone shows God keeps His promises. The cross? The nail in the coffin.

“Father, when I’m doubting; when I’m swinging on a pendulum of emotion; when I’m having a tough time connecting the dots between life’s reality and  feelings, remind me of the Christmas story. Proof positive of Your faithfulness to Your promises.”

November 12

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Truth or Love vs Truth and Love.

I just finished reading a new book by Steve Brown called Talk the Walk. As I came to the end he had the following quote from C.S.Lewis:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrong and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (Pages 140-141)

Followers of Jesus have always struggled with truth and love. Some want to love without reservation; some want truth without reservation. One is harsh; the other is mushy. We need both. That is a scary combination when you think about it. Talk about radically changing us and our world!

Most are good at one or the other. It takes a special person-one sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit-to pull them both off. All truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentalism; love and truth together will change lives. Starting with mine.

“Father, help me to see it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be “and.” Help me to live out a life of truth and love-being radically changed within and then watching you transform my world.”

November 7

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Answered vs Unanswerable.

Have you ever noticed there are some Scriptures which simply take your breath away in their breadth and scope of reach? I’m going to ask you to do something I’ve never done before-something I have already done. STOP reading this devotion and read Isaiah 40 first. Please. Oh yeah…be prepared to be awed.

READING ISAIAH 40

Thanks. Did you notice the rhetorical questions (questions asked but no answer expected)? Isaiah 40 is filled with them. List them. Verse 12.  Verse 13 (2 of them). Verse 14 (several). Verse 18. Verse 25.

But those alone are not enough. Look at the “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” questions. (Verses 21 & 23).

Anchoring all of this is a verse you may have skipped over (thanks to my “guidance.”) But now go back and read it. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (V.8)  There’s the anchor!! God’s Word has been, is now, and always will be. His Word never changes. Why? Because it is God’s Word and He never changes. Trying to explain an unexplainable God and trying to understand all that means is like trying to answer rhetorical questions. You can’t answer it because it is too lofty. (Brain explodes here). I can only say, “I believe.”

“Father, words truly fail me. Try as I may I’m lost. Take these inadequate but humble thoughts and accept them as they are intended: praise and adoration of and for a matchless God.”

November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

October 31

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

My title for this devotion is If vs I Can.

Like many people I have favorite passages of Scripture. Psalm 37:1-7.    Jeremiah 1: 18-19.  Isaiah 40: 28-31.  Romans 8.  To name a few. And I’m sure you have yours. During the life of Jesus, one of my favorites is found in Mark 9: 14-29.  I encourage you to stop right now and read that passage but just in case you are pressed for time, I’ll capsulize it for you. It’s the story of Jesus and his encounter with the man whose son is possessed. It immediately falls after The Transfiguration. Both stories are also found in Matthew 17. The part of the story that stops me each time is where the man says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (verse 22) Notice the desperation in this man’s plea to Jesus.  But Jesus looks at him and says, “What do you mean if? All things are possible to those who believe.” (verse 23)  The father then says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I have probably already written about this issue over the past year but it bears repeating. I liken it to the father saying, “Jesus. I have faith that measures a ‘3’. Please make it a ’10’.” The father-in my mind-was basically saying his faith was incomplete and is asking Jesus to make it fuller and richer.

Who of us has not been there? Who of us doesn’t continues to struggle with our faith? I confess. We want to believe; we want our faith to be fuller and richer; we want to knock it out of the park with our faith; but we can’t. We falter. We doubt. But God says, “Bring what you have and trust me. I will help your faith grow.”

“Father, increase my faith. Make it stronger, richer, firmer and more expansive.”

Now let me ask you: where is your faith at these days?

October 29

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Leading vs Following.

I am a leader. Least they tell me that. Maybe reluctant leader is a better description. It has taken me many years to come to that point. For so long I wanted to be seen as one, but I’m convinced leadership is not about a title or a position, but influence. For years, I thought I was “entitled” to be called a leader because of my title and position (Pastor).  I had to realize leadership is earned by wise choices and decisions and experience.

I also need to follow. That may take more humility than being a leader does. Therein lies my conundrum. I truly want to be a follower of Jesus. But there are times I am, or appear to be, totally lost. How do I know He is leading me in a certain direction?

“Though none go with me still I will follow.”

“Where He leads me I will follow.”

“I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord.”

Lyrics from song sung in church when I was a kid. But how do I know? I’ve not heard Him speak audibly to me. Don’t even think that happens today. But I also can’t say I’ve gotten clear direction from His Word either. And people? Well, you know how fickle and fallible people are.

Following is not so easy in several respects. From the humility standpoint. From the knowing standpoint. I guess the advice I got from a friend years ago when I was unsure which direction to go in is good: “Bill, choose one.  If it’s not wrong or sinful-even if if is not the best-God will not abandon you. He will walk through it with you.” That really is good advice. Advice I cling to when making a decision or following (blindly) seems to be the only alternative.

“Father, following is not easy, especially when the way is not so clear. but help me to trust You in all things. Lead me. Help me-give me wisdom-to know how and where to follow.”

October 28

Monday, October 28th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Traditions vs Life.

I recently preached through the letters to the churches in Revelation.  The church at Ephesus left its first love. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm.  Both can happen when traditions take the place of life.  What do I mean?

When traditions become routine and without meaning, life leaves.

When reciting a creed becomes more important than the heartfelt worship which is to take place, it has happened.

When reciting that same creed becomes more important than the Word it is supposed to be based on, it has happened.

When taking communion is just something we do, it has happened.

When singing songs of worship with no heart-no feeling- it has happened.

When attending worship is tied more to habit or routine, it has happened.

Example after example of this happening can be given, but the words of Mark 7 still ring true. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vein to they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Verses 6-7)  A little later on in that same chapter, Jesus tells the people that it is an inside job.

“Father, may my heart not find itself going the way of traditions over heartfelt worship.  Help me to not allow traditions to become more important than life found in Your Word. Convict me if I am just going through the motions.”

October 24

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meeting Jesus vs Rejecting Jesus.

I’ve always been intrigued by and enjoyed reading the story of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5. I read it again this morning.  And once again I was captivated by its lessons.

  • This man was so strong, so “possessed,” that nothing could keep him chained. Call him the Hulk; call him the Mummy; call him the Werewolf; call him uncontrollable.

Then he meets Jesus…

  • The demons that controlled him found themselves face to face with the greatest force they had ever met and then found themselves laying flat on the ground at the feet of Jesus crying out not to be tormented.

Then he saw Jesus’ power…

  • They were cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs. I’ve always found that interesting. What were Jews doing with a herd of pigs?

Then he received Jesus’ healing…

  • The people heard about the pigs and came to see what all the commotion was about. The man was clothed and in his right mind. Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they saw this man no longer a madman but sitting at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind?  But…but…but…

Then he received Jesus’ words…

  • Jesus was leaving and he wanted to go with Him. Who wouldn’t? Especially after what Jesus had done for him. But it was not to be. Jesus told him to stay at home and tell the people how much He had done for him and how He had mercy on him. He does exactly that. (v.20)

This changed man did what all changed people-including me-are to do. Tell how and WHO changed my life.  The most powerful testimony is the changed life. “I once was blind but now I see.”

“Father, I have been changed by You. Your love. Your mercy. Your grace.  My response should be the same as this man-go and tell. Help me to do just that-to tell of all you have done and of Your mercy which has been shown to me.”