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October 9

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Humility vs Privileged.

Today is my 67th birthday. I am grateful God has blessed me with 67 years-so undeserving, so unworthy. I’m reading through Ecclesiastes right now and even though I’ve never had all that Solomon had, I still feel like I’m reading my biography. For many years I thought I was “all that and more.” Not that I stated that. I didn’t. I pretended humility. I pretended having it all together. But underneath the surface I thought was something special. Eventually though, as Jesus said, what comes out is what is in the heart. My true colors came out and not only was it ugly, it made me want to vomit. How much better it would have been to see myself as “The Preacher” saw himself…eventually. He tried everything under the sun (which I truly haven’t), but finally realized all that mattered was His Creator.

Paul put it another way. In 2 Corinthians 4 he speaks of being jars of clay, of being earthen vessels. That is a stark contrast to the shiny plates, cups, saucers, and dishes we have today. Clay is made of the earth and there is nothing attractive about it. It is dull, drab, and doesn’t catch the eye at all. Unless, of course, the potter does something with it.

I can’t help but wonder the difference if I had seen myself as that all along. Instead of this shiny, glossy, “I’m-for-myself” kind of person, what a difference if I’d seen myself as a simple vessel only worth something because the Master Potter has made me and is using me that way. I saw this quote as I read this morning:

If God could not use poor instruments and feeble voices, He would make no music.” A.T.Robertson

“Father, today I know I’ve matured enough to see what I once was was not what You wanted. I still struggle from time to time with being my own man with the solutions. But I see more and more as I get older and more mature that I’m only a clay vessel. And that’s really all you want. Help me to exhibit humility in all I do and say. I’m not as good as I think I am; nor am I as bad as I once was. I know it sounds like a cliche’ but let me be clay in the Potter’s hands. May the next days and (possibly) years I have left-however many they may be-be useful and fruitful for You.”

If you have the time or inclination, here is an excellent post on this subject, only from a slightly different angle.

October 8

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Countdown to D-Day (my 67th birthday) is one day. And I celebrate with a colonoscopy one day before. Go figure. Guess I didn’t plan that one very well did I? 🙂

My title for this devotion is Presence vs Absence.

One of the most devastating times is when a person feels utterly alone. It is loneliness that often drives one to despair; which is often the precursor to hopelessness. Like a series of stacking bricks or a landslide of falling rocks, that hopelessness often leads to an utter lack of desire to live; which can lead a person to contemplate, or maybe even act, upon taking their life. I have never felt that alone, although there have been times I have wept uncontrollably and pounded my fist (on something soft) out of the sheer weight of my circumstances. I’m not sure there is something much more devastating than losing a job (being told to leave) when one has a wife, 2 young children around ages 8 & 4, and then again at the ages of 12 and 8.

Please understand: I am not seeking sympathy nor am I trying to justify anything. Frankly, it was my own pride and arrogance that got me into those messes. But even though I was going through those valleys, and can now see more clearly after going through them, I can say I know one thing: God’s presence was always…ALWAYS…with me. To be honest, I had nowhere else to go. My mess = my cleanup = real trouble. I NEEDED His presence to steer me straight.

My thoughts were piqued today as I continue reading John Piper’s short devotional book on Christmas (yes I am already reading in preparation for that season) called The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. He writes this:

‘Jesus came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps His promises. Christmas means God can be trusted’ (p.32)…’Say to the next generation again and again: God is truthful; God keeps His Word; God does not lie; God can be trusted! (p.33)

One of His promises I learned was the reality of His presence. He promised He will be with me to the end. He promised He will never leave or forsake me. He promised His presence. ALWAYS. To that I cling.

“Father, thank you for being truthful. Thank you for keeping your promises. I look back with 20/20 and see you were always there. I cling to that promise even today!”

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 26

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Preaching Myself vs Preaching Christ.

If you have had a chance to read my other blog you can read between the lines and see I’ve been asking myself about my role, my purpose, as a pastor. Even though I am 66 and in less than two weeks will turn 67, I still love what I do and do not see retirement on the horizon any time soon. So I think its healthy to ask questions and do introspection upon occasion. Guilty as charged. You’ve caught me voicing my questions.

I’m reading Job right now, which can be a challenge on its own. 🙂  But I’m also reading Remaining Faithful in Ministry by John MacArthur. The following quote from his short little book caught my attention this morning. In the Introduction he wrote these words:

The gospel is a message about Jesus, and at all times He is to be the singular focus of the message we proclaim. False apostles and hirelings always seem to find a way to shift attention to the themselves. They make themselves the central character of every anecdote. They point themselves as the hero of every story they tell. Thus they make their preaching little more than a display of their own egos. Pulpits today are full of men who constantly preach themselves. (p.15)

Ouch! That is a rather sobering and scathing observation and rebuke. Sadly, it is true. I wish I could say I was innocent of that. I shudder when I think about how often I preached and it was more about my ego, my impressiveness, than it was Him and the fame of His Name. That’s enough to give even the most hardy person nightmares. I know I cringe when I reflect back over my years of ministry. Ugly.

But its not too late! With what remaining years I have left it needs to be all about Him. What about you?

“Father, my prayers this morning is for my life to be all about You. My preaching. My teaching. My talking. My laughing. All about You and the fame of Your Name.”

September 25

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Running From vs Running To.

Sometime in the early ’90s we got a dog.  Samson, as I named him, was a drop off. A friend of a friend showed him to the friend who then showed him to my girls and that was all she wrote. But it was soon apparent Samson was my dog. He was part Malamute/part Shepherd and he was squirmy.  He was too big for Janna; Tami dropped him on his head when he squirmed out of her arms; and Jo couldn’t control him. I could. I walked him. Fed him. Played with him.  He knew my car sound as I turned the corner into our cul-de-sac.

We had a side yard with a fence. Only once did Samson get out. We were shingling the roof when someone left the gate open. I saw him take off and foolishly got off the roof to chase after him. Instead of running to me, he ran away. He was only a couple of months old and I was fearful for him. But I should have let him come back to me. My frustration level got greater the longer I went after him. I finally turned around and went back home.  He soon returned.

How much like Samson the human race is. We have safety, security, and all we need at home. But something bites us and we want to check out “the other side.” So we get out of our safety net and roam. Pursue. Chase a rabbit trail of unfulfillment.  God pursues us bidding us to come to Him. To come home. Ultimately, the decision is ours as to whether to continue pursuing the empty life or run to the One who gives life.

Samson came home eventually. I gave him a few swats across the flank then hugged him. He never ran again. We can run from God to a life filled with danger and missteps or run to Him where He may discipline us but then hugs us with arms of love. Run from Him to a life filled with hurt or run to Him and a life filled with love. Which will it be?

“Father, Peter once said, ‘Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ Help me to always remember that. Help me not to pursue the empty life but to pursue your life.”

September 19

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Little People vs Feeling Little.

There are many people who feel little or insignificant. They have been made to feel less than someone else due to status, wealth, position, race, or even job. And others have done a great job at making them feel that way. But I stand on pretty solid ground when I say we were never created to feel that way. As they say “we all put our pants on the same way.” I have yet to see someone stand their pants up and jump into them. (That is wrong is so many ways!) 🙂

However, having just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Alaska, I can speak of feeling little-in a good way. For example. take a look at  these pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can your thoughts not be drawn to Psalm 8:4- “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers. the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

We were never made to feel small in another person’s eyes. As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, “There are no little people.” No matter what society says, we are on equal plane, but when it comes to God and His creation, it is humbling to realize how important we are to Him. And yet…how small we are.

“Father, Your majesty overwhelms me, humbles me. No matter what others think of me, I’m important to you. Thank you that I matter to you.”

 

September 17

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is First or Second Best.

There is always a battle going on as to whether we want to be first or second. Run a race and it was commonly said, “Second place is like kissing your sister.” Basketball. Baseball. You name it. Second place was always seen as…well…second. Close but no cigar. Being first motivates an athlete. When I played basketball I had the drive to be good. In a game, to be the best. I was not a good loser. Very competitive. I was once playing a rather lackluster game for the first quarter or so, when the opposing center elbowed me in the eye and split my eyelid open. I hid it from the coaches for a minute or so until they saw blood running down my cheek. They put a butterfly bandage on it and after that I played the game the other center dreaded. Second place was unacceptable. (I did go to the ER afterwards and receive stitches). When I lost that edge, I knew it was time to hand up the shoes. The edge was gone and I didn’t care whether I won or lost, performed well or lackluster. It was time to quit.

Sports is a minor thing. When it comes to my faith and my relationship/walk with God that is a whole ‘nother ball game! (No pun intended). Unfortunately, I am guilty (as are many others…maybe all) of giving God second best. Instead of giving Him priority of my day I say, “Later.” Instead of putting Him first in my thoughts, He becomes an afterthought. Instead of giving Him the best part of me, I give Him the leftovers.

I was struck by this as I read Nehemiah 10:28-39 this morning. Among the rather tedious listing of names of men who were given specific duties, is this section where a commitment (covenant) was made to give God the firstfruits. The section is given the title “The Obligations of the Covenant” which has a negative connotation. But i was more intrigued by their commitment to give the first of everything. Not the second. Not the leftovers. Not the “let me do this first and whatever time, effort, money, and stamina is left I’ll give to you” type of thinking. No. It is “we bring the firstfruits.”

Taking it beyond tithing, do I give God the firstfruits? Do I make Him my first thought of the day? My first motivation for doing something? My first word? My first consideration? My first reason? Or do I relegate Him to second best?

“Father, those are not easy questions to answer. In fact, they are downright hard and convicting. Help me to make You my first thought of each day. My first motive and reason for doing something and not relegate You to second best or an afterthought.”

September 16

Monday, September 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is a Crutch vs a Necessity.

We recently had a young lady who had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL along with a torn meniscus. Her initial injury-the ACL- came from sports.  Following that injury her knee swelled up like a balloon, leading the doctors to put her on crutches until the swelling went down. She was not to put any pressure on it. Eventually as she did some rehab she was able to ditch the crutches. Then one day she stumbled and fell which was where her torn meniscus was from. She finally had surgery and guess what came out of mothballs? You guessed it-the crutches. She is now walking but has her knee is a fancy brace designed to stop injury.

There are times a crutch is seen as necessary. There are also times we use the word “crutch” to describe someone who leans on something. Only it is not seen as a good thing.

There are some who see faith in Jesus as a crutch. How many times have you heard or read someone say, “Religion is a crutch.” They see it as a weakness, as something to lean on because one can’t handle life. Tell that to the follower of Christ who loses his/her job because of their faith and refusal to compromise. Tell that to the follower of Christ in Nigeria, or India, or another country where persecution for their faith is punishable by torture, prison, or even death. A crutch? I don’t think so. Not when doing so leads to who knows where.

Faith in Jesus is not a crutch; it is a necessity. It is my lifeblood. In Matthew 16 Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Elsewhere Peter stated, “Where else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter’s words and eventual stand which led to his death were life-changing words for him. Jesus was not a crutch; He was life. Is he that to me? To you?

“Father, help me to cling to You. Help me to know You, not as my crutch for weakness, but as my strength of necessity.”

Weekend Extra

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

I wrote this while on vacation last week but had no internet service nor did I take my computer so I thought I would enter it as a weekend extra.

My title for this devotion is Man vs God.

There is a discussion/debate that has gone on for years and continues to this day. And unless I miss my guess will go on until Jesus returns. The discussion/debate? Who made the earth? Who created what we have? Was it the evolution of animal and man or was it God?

After today(Friday), my vote is God. ‘Course it always was, but even more after today. Today was a most amazing day. It began with a tour of Skagway by trolley. Skagway came about because of the Gold Rush and a few resilient people.  It is still a town of a few resilient people-more during tourist season than in the vicious winter. Ghost town is a more appropriate name. But in the afternoon we took the train to White Pass. I’m not sure I have seen as much beautiful scenery as I did today.

And all that ran through my head (after Tuesday’s all day boat ride, Wednesday’s stop at Icy Straight Point, and today’s stop at Skagway) were the words of Scripture: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the earth show His handiwork.” (Ps.19:1) Then when I came back to the room and Jo napped, I read this: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps.8:1,3-4)

All I could think of was the beauty of what God created. Much of it untouched. A waterfall in the middle of the forest. The rapidly flowing water. The glacier between two mountains. Absolutely stunning scenery. Beautiful blue water. I had and have a hard time writing it off to man’s work. Or chance. Or a big bang.

“God you have created a majestic thing of beauty. The heavens. The earth. Thank you for giving me a wonderful opportunity to witness it first hand. Yes, human ingenuity made the railroad and the Alaskan highway and the landmarks. But YOU! You made it all. Man could not have done it!”

Here are a few pictures I took with my phone. We had a camera but I needed them NOW! 🙂  The top 2 and the first on the left is from Skagway. The latter two are from Glacier Bay (Saturday’s all day ride). I even got to see the glacier calve. Talk about amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”