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October 14

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Can something be a favorite and challenging at the same time? I think so. Let me show you what I mean. One of my favorite but most challenging Scriptures is found in 2 Corinthians 5.

Favorite: It is hard to find a verse or passage more inspiring, more hope-giving, and more enriching than 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” There is no other way to look at that Scripture than to see the new birth and the new life Jesus gives to all.

But there is more following that.

Challenge: “…who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” I love that word-reconciliation. “Being made friends again.” A relationship gone awry patched up and put back together. Years ago I had a friend. He felt I didn’t believe or trust him in what he shared with me about the ministry of someone else. Guilty as charged. I chose to believe (what I found out to be) the lies of the other individual. Years later I went to that former friend and apologized, admitted I was wrong, and asked his forgiveness. It was granted and our friendship was restored. It has been years since I have seen him and I don’t even know where he lives now. (Pastors tend to move around some). But I know reconciliation took place.

That is what God wants for us all-a fractured relationship with Him to be mended. Jesus came to make that possible. The catch now, according to 2 Cor.5:19, is the message of reconciliation is left in my hands. I am/you are to take the message of Jesus and His death to others so they might be made friends with God.

Favorite and challenging: both in the same passage.

“Father, thank you that because of Jesus I am your friend. I have been reconciled with You. Help me to be an instrument in Your hand to show others that same reconciliation is available for them.”

October 13

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

The church world goes through rages, as does the “secular” world. One of those rages of the past-probably in the mid ’90s especially-were angels. It seemed like everywhere one turned there was an angel. Go to a store and there were angels of all kinds wherever you turned. Books on angels. Children’s stories on angels. Even songs on angels (I can remember Alabama’s “Angels Among Us” being played over and over and over and…well you get the picture). Angel jewelry. Angel art. And, not surprisingly, picturing angels as they aren’t. Wings. Clouds. Harps.

What hits me even more is that what was happening at the time was the exact opposite of what they were created to do…except for one. Angels were supposed to be messengers, heralds; protect God’s people (angel armies); and deflect praise from themselves and toward the One they were to worship. Except one. He chose to garner his own praise. He chose to ascend his own throne. He chose to rival God.

What brought about this seemingly random devotion about angels? Reading a book on the characters of Christmas and finding out the key role they played-not only during the Christmas story-but also throughout the Bible story. Gabriel to Zechariah. Gabriel to Mary. Angels to shepherds. Possibly angels to Joseph in a dream; Simeon and Anna. Ultimately angels who encircle the throne and continually worship God. (Rev.4:8)

Angles don’t have wings, sit in clouds and play harps. They are messengers who will even go to battle and surround God’s people with protection.

“Father, angels are to be appreciated not worshiped. Help me to remember they are real and at my disposal and do continually what I am to do: worship You.”

September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

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.

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 1

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

As a young boy I remember what were called Air Raid drills.  Our country had already lived through WWII and the Korean War. Vietnam was not yet happening. But conflict with Russian was a possibility. A drill involved us going into a hallway where there were no windows, sitting on the floor, putting our head between our knees, and our hands over our heads. Fortunately, they were only drills. However, I still wonder how all that would have helped.

All across our country towns and cities have sirens that go off with a high-pitched whine if a severe storm-like a tornado-is coming.  The first time it happened here I walked through the house looking for a room we could go to if need be. A couple in the church just built a new house. The backside of it is built into the hillside and he is in the process of making one of the areas in that back part into a storm shelter.

Rock solid buildings have saved lives as people have found shelter during storms. No one would think for a minute that being in a thatched-roof hut during a tornado or on a sailboat during a hurricane would be a safe place to be. Today’s world is anything but safe. The storms we are having to “ride out” are not for the faint of heart.

That’s why Psalm 18:2 is so powerful. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Look at all the descriptions relevant to our situation today!!

Where do you go take refuge? What is your storm shield? Better yet, WHO is your storm shield?

“Father, may I run to You when storms hit. When I’m unsure of where to go or what to do, be my refuge.”

August 31

Monday, August 31st, 2020

I love to hear a good story! I love to read and when I come across a good story I might laugh; I might cry; I might get choked up; I might see my faith grow; I might even wish I could meet that person.

For example, I read a story about a village on the hilly terrain of the Yunnan Province in China. Their main source of food was corn and rice but a severe drought in May of 2012 put all that in jeopardy. They tried everything, including all their superstitious practices. When that failed, they lashed out at the five Christians in the village for offending the spirits of their ancestors.

So those 5 believers gathered to pray. Soon the sky darkened and thunder was heard. A heavy downpour started and lasted the whole afternoon and night. The crops were saved and some of the villagers came to know Jesus.

Here’s another: In Acts 18 Paul and Timothy were opposed by those in Thessalonica (Macedonia) and went to the house of Titius Justus. His house was next to the synagogue. Sosthenes was the ruler of the synagogue and it was his responsibility to bring charges before Gallio about Paul and Timothy. In short: he lost. In verse 17 it says they seized him and beat him in plain sight of Gallio. Nothing was done.

But read ahead to I Cor. 1:1. Who is mentioned? Sosthenes. What is said? “Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes. (Emphasis mine) Isn’t that an incredible three words? Isn’t that an incredible story? My imagination kicks in at this point. Did Paul take Sosthenes and care for his wounds, much like the jailer did for he and Silas in Acts 16? Did this kindness lead Sosthenes to question Paul about “the hope that lies within?” I’d sure like to believe so.

Don’t you just love a great story? Do you have one? What is it and could you tell it to someone?

“Father, I belong to you. There is no better story than that. May my story always include you.”

August 14

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Yesterday on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin, I posted this thought. It was so important to me (and I wrote it yesterday morning) that I thought I would post it here.  Jo picked up Braden, our grandson, yesterday and we are taking him home tomorrow, so I thought I would post this just in case I failed to find the time to post a new devotion. 

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I met and talked with someone in the past who has much to be thankful for. This person, even though he/she may not know it, or can put words to it, is one who has seen God’s magnificent grace in action. Rescued from a past that included addiction, abuse, shame and other ugly things, this person is in ministry to help others be free and learn freedom in Christ.

Grace has been shown to this person in a special way and their life’s desire is to help others experience that same grace. That is as it should be. Shown grace; give grace. It is unmistakable: we have been given grace to be grace givers.

That comes with an important element: forgiveness. To see God’s grace in all its fullness and richness we must forgive ourselves. I think-and this is me speaking personally-this is one of the toughest things to do. We often find it easier to forgive others-and even tell them they need to forgive themselves- BUT then struggle to practice that in our own life. I often wonder about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her He did not condemn her and go and sin no more. I’d love to know how she did. (Maybe my question will be answered when I see her in heaven).

Grace. Forgiveness. Two absolutely connected words. For me to someone else. For me to me. “Father, help me to receive Your grace and forgiveness and then show the same to others…as well as myself.”

July 14

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

I made a phone call the other day and ended up angrily hanging up. No, I wasn’t mad at the person on the other end. I didn’t get into a heated argument and rather than say something I would regret I hung up. No, it was more like” “Thank you for calling __________. To continue in English, press 1. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it at any time. Press 2 for technical support. Press 3 for directory. Press 4 for_______.” On and on it goes until you hear the words: “To hear this menu again, Press *.”  G-r-r-r-r. Clang!

How about Press # if you give up? Automated customer service. I call that AWOL. I want to talk to a real live person!!

Imagine if you will: “Thank you for calling God.  To continue in English, press 1.  For salvation, press 2. For a prayer for wisdom, press 3. For a prayer for financial help, press 4.”  On and on. Talk about frustrating! All I want to do is to talk to God and all I get is this annoying number system.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t operate that way? I cannot even begin to tell you how frustrating that would be. I think I get upset with human customer service; I can’t imagine what it would be like with God’s unavailability. And there you have it-the dilemma. The crux of the matter. God says, “I’m here for you.” Psalm 121:4 tells us He neither sleeps nor slumbers. We are constantly being told about His Omniscience. He is everywhere…at all times…except when we need Him. Then we have to dial an automated prayer line. What kind of God is that? It’s called Absentee. It’s called AWOL. It’s called distant.

“Father, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with an automated call line for an automated God. Thanks for being there and thanks for listening.”