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June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 9

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Have you ever noticed (I’m sure you have) how we spend a lot of time, effort, and money pursuing what doesn’t last?

  • That new car/truck. Gotta have it. Until it gets a scratch or a year or two old or shock-of-all-shocks we see a shinier, newer model.
  • That job promotion. Climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter who we step on. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we lose our family in the process. Then loneliness and dissatisfaction set in. Time for another rung.  Or go elsewhere.
  • MVP stats. 24/7 dedication. Gain the status of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
  • Tour de France winner. 7 times. Gotta get to the top. It doesn’t matter who we destroy along the way. Whose lives, careers, or livelihood we ruin. What compromises we make along the way morally, ethically, or athletically. It all comes crashing down.

Many spend their lives pursuing that which doesn’t last. Never has. Never will. I read an interesting quote which came from an unexpected source:

From the cradle to the grave man’s greatest objective is to obtain peace of mind and spiritual security. This is found only in Jesus Christ.

Who said it? An evangelist? A pastor? A theologian? A writer of religious books? A Bible translator? Nope. Wrong on all counts.  Are you ready for this?  Mark Twain. I don’t know when he said it; what prompted him to say it; or to whom he said it. But it most definitely is true. Search the world over. Pursue one adventure after another.  Investigate all philosophies. And the answer comes down to one: Jesus Christ. The one and only way to the Father, and the one and only way to complete satisfaction.

“Father, may I find my satisfaction in You. May the song be true: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.’ ”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

June 4

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

My apologies for not entering a devotion yesterday. We were in Ohio and conditions were not very conducive to meditation, journaling and then typing. For some of the thoughts I had yesterday, check out my post on my other blog here.  Now…for today:

There has always been one parable of Jesus that stuck out to me.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn’t understand it very well until someone took the time to explain and illustrate it. Now I relish it. Backstory first.

I grew up in a Christian home. My mother’s desire was to follow Jesus. She married a man who did not have that same desire for the long haul, but she tried to make it happen. My dad went to church but his passion was not hers. But I can remember that from an early age my heart sought God. As I got older, I learned there were those who didn’t think as I did. (Imagine that). But when you are young you just don’t think of eternity. As a pastor I saw people at different stages of their faith journey. And I saw those who rejected it. I used to reject death bed confessions as being legitimate because of my “baptism obsession.” But then I led someone to the Lord who (quite literally) was on his deathbed. He died within hours of his confession.

Enter the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the laborers who receive equal wages. One group had worked all day; another part of the day; another part of the day; and another like maybe the last hour or so. When it came time to pay them, they were all paid the same. Of course, those who had worked all day saw a major payday when those who worked only an hour or so were paid what they had agreed to. They were upset that those who worked a small portion of the day received the same as them. It was explained that they had agreed to a certain pay.

When it comes to eternity, whether someone is a “lifer” like me; or a young adult conversion; or a 40 something conversion; or a deathbed confession (like Dan), the reward of eternity in heaven is the same for all. I’m glad God makes no distinction of when. He only says, “Come.”

“Thank you, Father, for ‘equal opportunity.’ Thank you that no matter when a person comes he or she comes knowing you will accept him/her and give eternal life as a gift.”

June 2

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of listening to podcasts and reading blogs during this crisis. I’ve also been trying to enrich my life with reading books. One of my all-time favorite leadership books (Possible #1) has been Love Works by Joel Manby. I recently read the updated and revised version. Joel has some seriously good things to say. His philosophy of leading by love was easy at one place of business but extremely difficult at another. In an interview on a podcast Joel said a couple of gems:

You always learn more in a failure.

I take that to mean when things are going well and firing on all cylinders, it is easy to get lax. But crisis or failure stops on in his tracks and makes re-evaluation an essential.

He also said:

Sometimes in the very darkest moments, you don’t see a way out.  But you get through it. And then you realize that God was waiting to teach you something.

Been there; done that.

God speaks to us through His Word, but there are also times He uses events to teach us. Remember Elijah? It wasn’t in the whirlwind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the whisper that God spoke to him. (See I Kings 19:11-13)

Who knows how God will speak? But I do know we have to slow down enough to hear.

“Father, slow me down to hear Your whisper. Use this crisis to show me Your desire for me.”

**********************************

I’m in Ohio for a couple of days visiting Janna and Braden. Please comment and I will approve it in time.

May 28

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

They used to call it “the worship wars.”  Boy, do I remember those days! The modern worship movement was beginning to hit churches. “I Can Sing of Your Love Forever” by Delirious? was a huge song. Passion was getting its legs and gaining traction (Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Christie Nockels, and others).  Churches were transitioning-some slowly; some gladly; some kicking and screaming; some not at all- from a steady diet of hymns to worship choruses and songs. I’m seriously wondering if Ralph Carmichael knew what sort of Pandora’s box he was opening when “He’s Everything to Me” hit the church scene. Did he see the future wave? Hymns (good and bad) tried to share the stage with choruses and songs (good and bad).  Precise 4 stanza and chorus hymns (with little deviation) to overly repetitious (in many cases) worship songs. Both-for the most part- are annoying to me. Piano and organ gave way to guitars, drums and keyboards. Some theologically-rich hymns and some awful so-called hymns (“I’ll Fly Away” and “When the Roll is Called up Yonder” seriously?) to some theologically-rich worship songs and some awful, repetitious, shallow, “it’s-all-about-how-I-feel” choruses and songs.

All of it-in my book-was a bit of nonsense. Both sides needed to grow up. There is room for both. What there is not room for is misplaced worship. One of the things people are saying about the result of this virus is that it has taken away all we hold dear- sports, entertainment, education, etc- and brought us down to seeing what is really important. The Bible says God is a jealous God and will not share the stage with anyone or anything. Same as the worship wars, there never was an option of WHO to worship. It was and is always Him.  How is up in the air, as long as it is biblical.  But who? Never. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” God demands our praise. That is a non-negotiable. Someone has said it well: “There are many ways to worship God, but only one God to worship.”  Agree 100%!

“Father, no matter how; no matter when; no matter where; may my heart be filled with worship. Who? You. Why? Because You and You alone are worthy of it and I love You.”

May 21

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

We are a judgmental lot. We think nothing of judging others’ sins, ripping flesh from their bones, gutting them and leaving a carcass laying on the side of the road. Sort of like the carrion birds were doing to the dead possum the other day. They scattered as I rode by. I didn’t look back but I can pretty much guarantee they “re-congregated” at the carcass to pick it apart some more. It didn’t dawn on me till this morning how much like us they are. Obviously, I’m not talking physical appearance. We are not so hideously ugly as they are.

Unless…

Unless you consider what we often do. The old saying is way too often true:

“The church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.”

I go back to my original statement: We are a judgmental lot. We tend to do that even more when, after classifying sin, we pick someone apart. Their sin is worse than mine or one sin is worse than another.

Those thoughts hit me as I read an exchange from Luke 13:1-9 that Jesus had with His audience about some Galileans Pilate had killed. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worst sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worst sinners than all the other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no.” I confess I don’t totally understand this passage but it appears to me they thought the Galileans were worse sinners and deserved their lot, but Jesus was correcting that line of thinking.

Maybe it time we stopped the “It is a worse sin to do or be (fill in the blank)” and start seeing all sin for what it is- an affront to God ALL of us are guilty of and in His eyes there is no sin worse than another, except one-the rejection of Jesus. From that there is no return except repentance. 

“Father, help me not to be judgmental, but to turn the searchlight on myself. Help me to stop classifying sin and putting it into files of degrees of sin.”

May 18

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Do you have a daily routine? What is it? Pre-covid, that is, since many routines have changed. Many conduct work from  home so they stay in their pj’s or sweats all day, except above the waist. 🙂  No question things have changed. I’ve been fortunate though. My routine hasn’t changed. Up at 3:30; Quiet Time; office about 5; study; office work; ride or lunch; drive-bys; office to close out; home for the evening (unless I have a meeting). I realize not everyone’s day is like mine. But in some way we are all alike.

Pre-Covid we rolled out of bed, grabbed a quick bite, then rushed out the door to beat the traffic on our way to work. Rinse. Repeat. But what would happen if we changed all that around? Well, my philosophy is the dark/night is for sleeping (unless you work the night shift). So instead of rushing around your day would start with a slow move toward bed! You would lay your head down and rest. All night long. Your day would have been in “progress” for 8 hours or so before you were even aware of it. Welcome to the Jewish world in the Bible!! That’s right. A Jewish day actually began in the evening (6:00). So they rested and slept and then got up to the realization that God was already at work. In fact, He’s been at it all night long since He never sleeps or slumbers. Psalm 121:3-4 says that.

How different when our day begins with resting in the One who never rests, sleeps, or slumbers! What a difference from our get-up-and-go life! Take a moment right now and do what I just did as I wrote this devotion. Stop and read all of Psalm 121 in total. Don’t worry it is only 8 verses. 🙂 Meditate on it. Dissect it. What a rich psalm! This is mine and your psalm and word for today.

“Father, help me to rest in You. Help me to hold fast to One who is sure. Help me to begin my day at rest, knowing You were awake all night.”

May 13

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing what I call “Drive-bys.” In an effort to be a pastor to the people God has entrusted to my care, and since I can’t go directly to them, nor see them on Sunday morning, I initiated this plan. I drive into a person’s driveway, pray for them,  then text them that they have been the victim of a drive-by. Sometimes they come outside to say hi and sometimes not. If they aren’t home I leave a card. Monday, May 11, I did a drive-by of some of our newer people. The oldest daughter, who just celebrated her 14th birthday on the 3rd, has had Lyme’s for 10 years and so they needed to be extra careful because her body fighting off two wretched diseases was asking too much. Anyway, they all came out to the porch and I sat and visited (appropriately distanced of course). The mom asked me 3 questions while I was there:

  1. “I’ve never heard you speak about eschatology. What is your view?” A: I’m pan-millenial…it’ll all pan out in the end, i.e. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. When Jesus comes; how He comes; no matter the timeline-you better be ready.
  2. “Do you believe in eternal security? It appears you do.” A: Yes. Conversation ensued.
  3. “What is the unpardonable sin?” (Mt.12:31)

Good question. What precluded that was a word or two about suicide, divorce, unfaithfulness, turning one’s back on Jesus, and several other issues prompted by Question #2.

My answer: Rejection of Christ. Judgmental people want to condemn all kinds of people to hell because they do this or do that. But there really is only one sin that is unforgivable. Rejection of Christ. Deny Him here and there is no second chance. Destination sealed. In my Quiet Time this morning I ran across this verse: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” (John 8: 2 4). Bingo!  There it is in black and white (or red if you have that). Straight from Jesus’ mouth.

“Father, thank you for showing this truth this morning. I’m not concerned about my salvation, but I am aware others have or continue to reject you. May their hearts be softened to accept You.”

May 12

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

We all face tough days. We use different phrases to describe them:

From the frying pan into the fire.

Going from bad to worse.

Between a rock and a hard place.

My mother told me there would be days like this, but she never told me they would run in packs.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train.

There are still a few hymns I like but my favorite-hands down- is Great is Thy Faithfulness. Rich theology. Steeped in Scriptural truth. It tells the Gospel truth of an unchanging, powerful, sovereign God. When all else around me shakes, rattles and rolls, I have a faithful God. He stand as a rock. He never wavers or waffles. He never stumbles or slumbers. He never falters or fades away. He never ducks or disappears. He is steady, sovereign, steadfast, and solid.

And He surprises me with new insights each day. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lam.3: 22-23) I did not say “new revelations” because I don’t believe that happens, but each day I am the recipient of His mercy. No matter the storm. No matter the negative stuff. No matter what hits the fan. No matter the height of the mountain. He is there. Unmovable. Giving me fresh strength. Fresh eyes. Fresh hope.

“Father, even in the midst of this current struggle; even in the midst of a storm; even in the midst of seasons of change-YOU. NEVER. CHANGE. You are faithful.”