Faith/Feelings

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October 1

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meaningful Words vs Blowhard, Empty Words.

I need to make a confession. I’ve been reading through Job in my morning Quiet Time and I’ve had trouble concentrating. I know the basic backdrop of Job.  He has it all. All but his life is taken away.  He has three “friends” who become very accusatory of him. He must have some hidden sin. He’s really not the righteous person he pretends to be. He is in rebellion against God. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’d say sarcastically “some friends they are” or “with friends like that who needs enemies” but I digress. You see…that’s not the whole story. They pretend in their blowhard, empty words to pretend to speak for God. They pretend to know God’s thoughts.

They don’t. If I was Job I’d say, “Take a hike!” In chapter 22, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked. In the margin of my Bible I highlighted verses 21-30 and noted it as Accusation of Job’s rebellion. Well, it appears Job has questions of his own. But they are not accusatory questions like I might raise. No. Just the opposite. He raises the fact that He cannot understand God because of the “bigness” of God. (23: 8-17).

Why is this important to me? Because I feel the same way at times. Wondering what I did to “deserve” the treatment I’m getting. I question my commitment. My walk. Am I holy? But it doesn’t come down to what I think or who I am. It comes down to what God thinks and who He is. Take a moment and read Job 23: 8-17 and see if doesn’t give you that perspective. It did me. “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

“Father, may my commitment to you only grow stronger through the daily struggles-be they big or small-I face. May I see the words of others- if they do not reflect You and Your Word- as blowhard, empty words which cannot affect or change Your view of me.”

September 18

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Answered vs Unanswered.

It has often been said (at least by me) that God has 3 answers to prayer: Yes. No. Wait awhile. It shakes out (as I see it) this way:

  • No. God does not grant my request. What I asked for was not in His desire for me. A little hard to take.
  • Yes. God agrees with me! 🙂 The request I made was His desire for me. Very easy to accept.
  • Wait awhile. Self-explanatory in its meaning. God’s desire for me is not now. The answer will eventually come but not yet. This might be hardest because who likes to wait?

But wait we must. The “No” is hard to take because we know what we want and God is basically saying, “Not today. I know what’s best and what you’ve requested is not in my desire for you. I have something better.” And sometimes the No morphs into “wait awhile.” If I’m patient. But that “if” is a big word.

The real stickler is common thought today among religious people, i.e. prayers are not answered with a Yes because I/a person does not have enough faith. I think that line of thought is pure garbage! I will sometimes say that something is from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. That’s exactly what I think of that thought. As I recall “great faith” was not an essential. Oh sure, there were times Jesus commended a person’s faith. Jairus. The centurion. Even the woman with the issue of blood. But He also said that if we have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed we can tell this mountain to move and it would. Even a small sliver of faith is enough. It isn’t necessarily the size of our faith but that we have faith that is important.

Even a “no” is an answer; just as “yes” and “wait awhile” are. Big or small. Great or a sliver. It is never “your faith isn’t big enough.”

“Father, a mustard seed is all you said was needed. I bring what faith I have to You and pray for an answer- Your answer.”

August 30/Weekend

Friday, August 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Remembering vs Forgetting.

I’ve been reading the book of Ezra the past 3 days in my Quiet Time. While the beginning of it is rather dry with a list and number of exiles, there are several turning points:

  • Ezra 3:11- “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
  • The response of King Artexerxes to the letter about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and his negative response. The rebuilding stopped.
  • But King Darius changed that and made the decree that the rebuilding happen.
  • In chapter 7 Ezra is sent to teach the people the Word of God. Artexerxes changed his mind. (I don’t know the timeline but was he the same king ruling when Queen Esther approached him? And when was this?)
  • Today’s reading was a stab. After Ezra’s leading brought about reform and repentance, word came to him about the intermarriage of priests to the foreigners. The people confessed their sin and abandoned the intermarriage. Even a list is given of those who did!

Returning to Jerusalem was a great gift from God. Even Psalm 126 shows that. But with that return came some heart-wrenching decisions. Yes, there was joy. Yes, there was laughter, singing and recognition of God’s work. But there was also the need for remembering what was to be. Not a dead book at all…Ezra…but a book filled with joy and caution and warning.

“Father, help me not to forget that along with joy also comes a word from you about faithfulness. I need to remember who you are but also that you want faithfulness.”

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.”

August 21

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is The Battle is His vs The Battle is Mine.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Things come up; things pile on; we get to feeling ourselves being weighed down; we are soon unable to move. Whether it be real or imagined, it just gets too much. At that point, we have two choices. Carry the burden and fight the battle ourselves or say, “God, I can’t do this. It is yours.”

We will say the latter is the right choice. And it is. BUT saying and doing are two different things. It is easier to say, “Here Lord” than to actually do “Here Lord.”

A good example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 32. Hezekiah was king and he had been THE man. He brought renewal and reform to Judah. He restored God to His rightful place of prominence. Hezekiah brought sweeping reform-both materially (tearing down altars, etc) and spiritually (renewing the Passover, feasts, worship of God, etc). But in chapter 32, it is all put to the test. Would Hezekiah’s plans be thwarted? Would his commitment be seen as a “say” or a “do”?

Sennacharib king of Assyria invaded Judah and came against the cities to make them his. Jerusalem was one of them. Hezekiah and his people made all kinds of preparations and had to listen to Sennacharib blaspheme God. Big time. But in 32:7-8 Hezekiah tells the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him…With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

Were those just words or did he truly believe that? He believed them. He and Isaiah (the prophet) prayed and cried to heaven and God sent an angel to fight the battle and Sennacharib went home in disgrace. It was so bad even his own sons killed him.

God’s words are true. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Hezekiah says, “Yes indeed! I can attest to that!” 

Question: Can I?

“Father, this battle is yours. My sword is feeble and over-matched by my enemy’s. But help me to let you fight my battles. Help me to trust you as Hezekiah and Isaiah did.”

August 20

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Touched by Grace vs Touched by Ugliness.

How do I, how do you, respond to hurt? Whether that hurt is real or perceived, intentional or not, how do I/you respond? Do we allow our lives to be touched by grace or ugliness?

I was reading this morning from Our Daily Bread. The author refers to Leif Enger’s novel Peace Like a River in which Jeremiah Land is a single father of 3 working as a janitor at a local school. He is also a man of deep, sometimes miraculous, faith. Throughout the book, his faith is often tested.

Jeremiah’s school is run by Charles Holden, a mean-spirit superintendent with a skin condition.  Despite Jeremiah’s excellent work ethic-mopping up a sewage spill without complaint, picking up broken bottles the super smashed-Holden wants him gone. One day, in front of all the students, he accuses Jeremiah of drunkenness and fires him. It’s a humiliating scene.

How does Jeremiah respond? If he lived today, he’s sue the pants off him.  He would claim some type of abuse or phobia or discrimination. Instead, Jeremiah looks at Holden for a moment, then reaches up and touches his face. Holden steps back defensively, then feels his chin and cheek in wonder. His scarred skin has been healed.

If I had been Jeremiah how would I have reacted? Would I have acted as though my life has been touched by grace or touched by ugliness? Would I have done as Jeremiah did or would I have done what was expected by the multitude?

“Father, may my life today be touched by grace not ugliness. As you have exhibited grace to me, may I do the same to others.”

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Your prayers would be appreciated this morning or today, for that matter. One of our young mothers is having knee reconstruction surgery for a torn ACL and whatever else they find when they get in there. I will be with her and the family this morning after I leave here (the office). Thanks…no matter what time you read this. I’m sure Shelby, her husband, Nikk, and the family would appreciate your prayers.

August 13

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Growing Faith vs Stagnant Faith.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that faith is a “building” thing. What I mean by that is simple: When a person come to faith in Christ, his faith, at best, is in its infancy. The longer he/she is a follower of Christ the more his/her faith ought to grow. Each new day; each new challenge; each new set back, is designed to help us increase our faith.

One of my favorite stories in the life of Jesus is after He comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration and is confronted by a father whose son often has fits and even throws himself into a fire. The disciples could not cure him so the father asks Jesus to.  Mark 9 records the conversation. He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything.” Jesus then says, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The man says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” I’ve often described that as if the father was saying, “My faith is a 3.  Make it an 8 or a 9 or a 10.” In other words, increase my faith.

Our faith was never meant to be stagnant. Or worse, going in reverse. It is meant to be growing. Always increasing. Always forward. Will there be times of no growth? Slow growth? Sure. Will there be times of plateau? Yep.  But it never stops. Never stays there. Our faith keeps growing. Keeps progressing.

“Father, may every event, every circumstance, every challenge, every set back, simply be a new opportunity for my faith to grow. And let my faith not become stagnant or cold. May it be an ever-increasing faith.”

August 6

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Blind Faith vs. Faith in the Unseen.

I know there are people who struggle to have faith. They are pragmatic in their approach. Like Thomas they won’t believe unless they see. Unless they see something tangible, or unless they can touch it, they find it hard to believe.

There are also those who have blind faith. Like someone who dives off a cliff or a rock into a body of water without first checking out the danger, they leap. They leap into the unknown and call it faith. I prefer to call that blind faith. It is my contention that an uninformed step is not really faith at all.

There are also those who cannot see yet believe. I’d like to think I’m in this camp. I have not seen God and yet I believe. I have not physically touched God and yet I believe He exists. I’m certainly far from an expert in all of this and being able to logically and adequately convey my thoughts is not a strong suit of mine. But I am aware that God is bigger than I can imagine and He owes me nothing. Even though He wants my praise, He does not depend on it. He is totally capable of being God without my approval.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication sums it up well. “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house I have built.” (2 Chron.6:18) God is so much more than I can think or imagine. He cannot be contained by a building or in a building. His presence and power is endless. His existence is far beyond my understanding. But I believe. That is not a blind faith. It is a faith rooted in truth. It is rooted in having “seen” Him. I’ll stand with the person who said, “Because God is great, He will be sought; because God is good, He will be found.”

“Father, You have made yourself known. Not by sight or touch, but by actions. My trust is not a giant leap into the unknown. It is a step into proven waters. May my faith continue to grow.”

August 5

Monday, August 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Man Worship vs. God Worship.

I’m not sure if today’s devotion will be a soapbox or not. I hope not. But after reading a passage of Scripture this morning, I have to speak up.

Today’s “modern” worship has its moments. It has its good moments; its so-so moments; and its really bad moments. I’m not speaking about the externals-the lights, fog, instruments, style of music, etc. No, those are all externals- unnecessary possibly, but still external. I’m speaking about the content. The songs we sing.

Some of them are really good, i.e. really honest-to-goodness worship songs. Songs which lift up the name of Jesus; songs that draw attention to Him and give game to His Name.

Some are so-so. There is a mix of praise with a dab or dash or dollop of “feel good” vibe.

There there are those which are really, really bad. Awful may be a more descriptive word. The lyrics are totally self-centered; all-about-me oriented; I feel good because you made me feel good type of songs. If I may be so blunt and use a word I can count on one hand as using before: they are God-awful songs. Much (not all) of what we have coming out of the music factories like Bethel, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture are in this vein. Besides that, they have some really bad theology.

What got me to this point this morning? Psalm 147.  Here you go: “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises (about yourselves?) to God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” (v.1). “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (v.5) But here’s the kicker: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of man,  but the Lord takes pleasure (wait for it) in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (vv,10-11)

His pleasure is not in those who sing love songs where we aren’t sure who we are singing to or about. It is not in those who “play” at worship. It is not in those who repeat and repeat and repeat a stanza or two or three. And don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating going back to hymns. Some of them were awful as well. I am advocating songs which lift up the Name of Jesus; when there is no doubt who are singing about and to Whom we are singing.

“Father, may my lips sing your praise.  May my heart lift up Your Name- find its joy, meaning and purpose in Your Name.  And may I sing and speak and lift up the fame of Your Name.”

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I guess this does sound like a soapbox. I just think we need to be more conscientious about what we call “worship and praise” music. Songs of feeling good or songs which focus on me and my needs-while not totally illegitimate songs to sing-do not qualify as worship. I’ve said my piece. Now I will move on.  🙂

July 24

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Facts that Hear vs Facts that Act.

Sounds like a strange title doesn’t it? It’s almost like, “What is Bill smoking?: Nothing. Never have. So my mind is not a jumbled mess. 🙂

Let me put it this way: Have you ever heard something that sounded good, had facts to back it, BUT required a little too much exercise of faith to pull it off? Allow me to explain: On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers made history by flying. They defied the law of gravity. But did you know the idea wasn’t theirs? Year before some mathematicians and scientists figured out flight was possible but nobody was willing to take them up on it. Until the Wright brothers. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Alexander Campbell, the founder of what is called the Restoration Movement, once said, “Faith is belief in testimony.” He further said, “Faith is belief in testimony of credible witnesses.” Think on that some. What changed the apostles was not the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but their witness of the Resurrected Christ. And it was that belief that transformed them and therefore gave them credibility with the people who listened. The apostles had to act upon the fact of the Resurrection. It was not enough just to hear the story. They saw the risen Christ. Then allowed that fact to revolutionize their lives.

The same goes for those who heard the apostles. The apostles were credible witnesses but those who heard had to believe what they said and act on that faith.

That goes for all of us. The Gospel is presented to us. We hear. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” [Rom.10:17] We then decided whether to say, “Oh that may be facts or it may just be talk” OR “Those are facts I need to believe and act on.”

“Father, your Word is truth. It was written by inspired men who were credible witnesses to your work. Help me not be someone who has the facts and does nothing. Help me to be one who hears, believes, and acts.”