God’s Plan

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March 23

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

During yesterday’s sermon Tami, who had to watch it from home out of precaution (she was coughing), told her mom I said something during the sermon that she wanted to post on her FB page.  First some background; then what I said.

I was preaching from Colossians 1: 19-29 and had been speaking about ministry when I came to verse 24.  Paul talks about suffering.  Not boohoo suffering, but suffering knowing there are positives in it.  In verse 24 we read where Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  The statement is loaded! First, his willingness to suffer enabled there to be churches started in Asia.  We know the gospel spread through his ministry hardship.  Second, his suffering brought good to the church.

We are in unprecedented times. A few might remember 9/11. A few might remember ebola.  There are very few around any more who remember the Great Depression. We have always had crises and always will. The church needs to check its reaction to a crisis.  We live in a time unlike many have experienced before. Leastwise, the church in America. We can have one of two responses (and this is what Tami wanted in writing):

The church can either panic or praise.

The church can either wilt or worship.

The church can either live in fear or faith.

The church can either flounder or forge ahead.

(And a new one) The church can either wander or wonder.

It is a question the Church must ask-collectively and individually. And it is a question each one of us must ask ourselves. How will we choose to live?

“Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power,  love,  and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me to live the triumphant life of faith and not be held captive by fear.”

March 16

Monday, March 16th, 2020

I read Denny’s blog each time it is released. He writes insightful and always thought-provoking posts. Considering all that is happening in the world today, I found this to be especially insightful and worthy to be passed on. Please enjoy and wonder at the amazing ways God’s works.

Banished from the public means of grace, we found grace nevertheless.

By Denny Burk on March 15, 2020 in Christianity, Devotion

Our church was scattered by the coronavirus this morning. We did not gather together as usual at the intersection of Southern Parkway and Third Street. No, today we were spread out all over the city of Louisville and beyond. Our college students were literally scattered across North America as many of them were compelled to go back to their hometowns after colleges and universities closed last week. Our church’s missionaries remain scattered all over the world. None of us could be together this morning.

If you know what it means to be the ekklesia of God, your heart ached like mine did. For this is not how it is supposed to be. Gathering together for the Lord’s Day is fundamental to our identity, and we were unable to do that this morning (Hebrews 10:24-25). We had a “virtual” service like so many others, but it really isn’t the same. Nor should it be.

But something really extraordinary happened as we all sat down before our scattered screens for worship. Jim Hamilton read the call to worship from a book of devotion by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, published in 1893.1 Below is the entry for March 15, and the words are nearly incredible:

MARCH 15

Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.”

Ezekiel 11:16

Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace behind the means of grace. The Lord who places his people where they feel like exiles will himself be with them. He will be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their sacred assemblies. Take this promise as your own if you are called to wander!

God is to his people a place of refuge. They find sanctuary with him from every adversary. He is their place of worship too. He is with them as he was with Jacob when he slept in the open field and woke, saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place” (Gen. 28:16). To them he will also be a sanctuary of peace, like the Most Holy Place, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. They will be kept from fear of evil.

God himself, in Christ Jesus, is the sanctuary of mercy. The ark of the covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law are in Christ our sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need?

Oh, Lord, fulfill this promise and always be to us like a little sanctuary!

In a book published 127 years ago, this was the entry for March 15. What a smiling providence. What an evidence of the Lord’s care for his people in a time of turmoil and trouble. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5), and he proved it again this morning.

—————

1 Spurgeon’s devotional The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith was published in 1893 in America, but Crossway published an updated edition just last year. The text above is from the 2019 edition.

February 28/Weekend

Friday, February 28th, 2020

After finishing the OT I decided some extended time in the NT was needed, specifically in the Gospels.  Late last year I read them leading up to Christmas, but other than sermon prep my NT reading was miniscule.  So I began to scour my library and ran across a book I had received several years ago but never used: One Perfect Life by Pastor John MacArthur.  He takes the story of Jesus and puts it in order while including other Scriptures to help set the context.

Reading #2 takes me back to the Fall of the human race into sin. Genesis 3:1-12 and others.  As I read his compilation of verses and some of his notes, three idea became evident.  (He also put them in bold type in the footnotes).

  • Satan’s lie was “you shall not die.”
  • Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. That’s not saying they were blind. They suddenly became aware of their sin, guilt, and shame.
  • Shame manifested itself big time in hiding from God. His question “Where are you?” is painful to read.

Take note that sin entered the world, not sins.  So, adultery or murder or cheating or greed didn’t come in with Adam’s sin.  What came in was the spirit of rebellion against God. Mez McConnell-“The Creaking on the Stairs”-p.63

What a great thought!  The sin that came, that revealed itself was rebellion against God.  All else comes from that. And what the Scripture teaches us is that didn’t first sin at the age of 3 or 6 or 10 or whenever.  No.  It reaches us we have that sin nature in us at birth.  Wait, make that in your mother’s womb. (Ps.51:5; 58:3).  Sin is a deadly poison and the only cure is the blood of Jesus.  That is the antidote.

“Father, thank you for the antidote to sin.  I am a rebel against you.  Thank you for your forgiveness of my sin.”

February 18

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Try vs Never Try.

Do you remember (or maybe I’m showing my age) a man named Evil Knievel? He was a motorcycle daredevil. He probably broke more bones than I have in my whole body! Some would call him nuts. Some called him crazy. Others might be more clinical and call him “certifiable.” 🙂 I’m not adverse to any of those because NO WAY under God’s green earth would I be caught dead doing what he did. Oh…wait a minute. I would be dead. Jumping buses on a motorcycle? Not a chance. Jumping to dunk a basketball was dangerous enough. Doing loop-de-loops then taking to the air? Nope again. Claim a sky-cycle will take me from one end of an Idaho gorge to the other end. Over my dead body. Exactly!

But there is one thing you can never accuse him of: not trying. I looked up this quote by Teddy Roosevelt:

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.

I don’t know if Evil used that as his motivation or not, but it sure says a lot. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all.”

As an aging pastor and as a pastor of a small church in a small town, it is easy to get cynical. To get locked into “the old ways” of doing things the way they’ve always been done. Ministry is so different in 2020 than it was in 1974. The Gospel has never changed; the methods of proclamation have. While I’m not into the attractional model (think seeker-sensitive) and performance-oriented worship services, I must realize that change happens all the time. No change=death. The way I see it if something is not anti-Scriptural and it fits the culture of my town/my setting, give it a try. If it fails, least I tried.

And God is still there.

“Father, help me not to close off You nor close off the opportunities presented to me. You just may be saying, ‘Try it Bill. Then stand back and watch Me work.’ Help me not to be old and crotchety about trying new things.”

February 10

Monday, February 10th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Prayer: Posture vs Attitude.

I had a different kind of weekend than I normally have, and definitely different than I had planned. An upsetting weekend. An interrupted weekend. A tearful weekend. An angry weekend. A heart-wrenching weekend. A praise-filled weekend. An encouraging weekend.

Sounds a little schizophrenic doesn’t it? At times I felt like it. See…it wasn’t all at once. Obviously. If it was you probably would be visiting me in a facility. No…it came in waves. To be more specific would be to give away confidences so I can’t do that. Just suffice it to say the weekend was one that tested my stability, my emotions, my foundation, and even my faith. But I learned this:

Tears are a language God understands.

Hopes. Fears. Disappointments. Joy. Laughter. Reality. Emotions. Highs. Lows. Good. Bad.

I learned again that like worship, prayer is 24/7. I wasn’t formally on my knees all weekend long but, I was on my knees. I didn’t have my head bowed all weekend long, but I did have my head bowed. As I read recently:

Prayerfulness is not an event; it is a way of being in relationship with God.

I preached yesterday on worship, emphasizing how worship is not categorized as a 1-2 hour block during the week, but a 24/7/365 commitment where God invades every part of my world. Prayer is to be the same way. I may have not been in prayer “formally” this weekend, but I can say I was in prayer this weekend. And there will be more.

“Father, thank you for being with me this past weekend. Through all events You were there. I sensed it. Help me to continue learning to practice Your presence in all things, even if that does not include a formal stop-and-pray action.”

January 22

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

My thoughts are focused this morning (I wrote this at 4:15) on Alexander, and by proxy, Jimmy, Christine, Eliza and Isabella. (Ryan and I went at 5:15 but had to leave at 8:30 because of a previous commitment Ryan had. I am typing this at 11:16 and they took Alexander at 10:40 and expect it to last 3-4 hours. I will let you know when I know something. Thanks so much for praying for him).  “Oh Father, I pray for Alexander during  this exploratory and possibly life-changing surgery. Be with the eyes and hands and minds of the doctors and nurses as they work. I pray for an alternative for his heart, but if it is not to be, I pray for grace for Jimmy and Christine. Either way I pray You will be glorified, that You will be given honor and this will be a testimony to you. And I pray for Alexander-that no matter the outcome You will use him for Your glory. Now and in the future.”

Tonight we meet with a young lady named Katherine and her family to pray over her and anoint her with oil. She is 13 and has had Lyme disease since she was 3. (She went 2 years with it misdiagnosed). She is out of remission right now and it is raining havoc in her teenage body. We meet tonight in accordance with James 5:14-15. It started with me visiting them; then I wanted to include Ryan (since she is part of the youth group); then I wanted to include the elders/leaders. I’m praying for healing. Medicine and the medical community says there is no cure for this. Maybe so. But I serve a God who is bigger than that, One who can do more than I or anyone can imagine. It may not be His will to completely heal her. But I don’t know that. I’m called on to pray in faith believing He will heal her.  I refuse to doubt God’s power and sovereignty. I do know Katherine, her mom and dad (Becca and Rob); her grandma (Joyce) all belong to God. She has a sister, Ally, who loves Jesus. She also has two young brothers, James and Robbie, who love Jesus as they know Him. We will pray tonight believing in God’s healing power.

One last thought:Pr.22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” May my life be an expression of God working in and through me with more concern for Whom I represent than what I can get out of it. May I labor for Him and not for wealth or earthly gain and appeal.

January 21 Interruption

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I’m going to set aside my regularly scheduled devotion for one of much greater importance. I’m going to ask you to read this all the way through…please.  And please know I received permission from Christine to write this and to post the pictures.

This is Alexander Chambers:

How can you not fall in love with this little guy?  Alexander is 20 months old. Let me tell you his story. His mom & dad, Jimmy and Christine (see family portrait at the end of this post), were told during her pregnancy that Alexander would be born with a birth defect (sorry don’t know the medical name) which would affect his heart. They are heroes to me. The thought of abortion NEVER crossed their mind. He wasn’t very old when he had his first heart surgery. After his birth he spent quite a bit of time in Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.  He finally got to come home to his two sisters but the past year and a half has been an adventure. Like all kids he has had his share of colds, sniffles, etc but they seem to be more frequent…and last longer. But that has not stopped him! He is as rambunctious as any 20 month old little boy.

Alexander’s heart is not a normal heart. His left artery that feeds the heart is totally closed. That means he is not getting any oxygen to his heart from his left side. If that cannot be corrected he will always have restrictions on what he can do physically. No sports. No normal activities which require physical exertion. He understands now that when he tires he must stop and rest. An exploratory procedure several months ago showed that. Since then he has undergone a heart scan for the doctors to see if they can and should consider doing something. They had told Jimmy and Christine that they could do nothing but then said, “No. Let’s do this scan to make sure.”  The scan showed for certain the state of his left artery.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) Alexander goes into surgery to see if something can be done. 

I’m asking for prayer for Alexander. Please pray for his care during surgery. Please pray for the doctors and nurses as they work. Please pray for his mom and dad and two sisters. Please pray for God to intervene and make a way for surgery if that is His will. And pray for healing. The downside: if he does have surgery it may require up to a month or more of hospitalization which will take Christine away from her family. We prayed Sunday morning for him/for them. I asked the leaders to come up front to gather around and to pray for the family. While Christine told the folks what all was happening, Alexander came over to me and wrapped his arms around my legs and then let me hold him while I prayed (he eventually went to his mom). Little people are special to me. This guy is extra special.  I’ll keep you posted as to the result.

I, of course, do not know how tomorrow will turn out. But I truly believe (and have told Christine this) that God has a special plan for Alexander. I believe God is going to use Him and this situation to be glorified. I hope I’m around to see what He does.

Here is a picture of the whole family:

Jimmy, Christine, Alexander, Eliza, and Isabella. What a lovely family.

I may not post here tomorrow. His surgery has been scheduled several days and times and has been changed that many times. As of right now, it is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:00. He will be taken for prep at 7:30. Ryan (our youth pastor) and I will be leaving Spencer at 5:15 to be with them and pray beforehand. You can pray for safe travels for us as well. And thanks from Jimmy, Christine, Eliza, Isabella, Alexander and from me.

This has also been posted on my “Cycleguy’s Spin” blog.

 

January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 15

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

January 9

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Believing vs BELIEVING.

I am a conundrum. I am a puzzle. I am an enigma. I am a mystery.  I am a mixed bag. Maybe an example would help.

Peter. Not Peter Rabbit. Not Peter Pan. No. Peter the guy in the Bible who became the spokesman for the rest. There was a guy who was a conundrum!

  • Question: “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”
  • Answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
  • Statement: “Blessed are you Simon…”
  • Jesus’ statement: “The Son of Man will be delivered to be crucified and raised on the third day.”
  • Peter’s response: “Not so.”  Actually, it says, “No. Lord!” (Can those two words actually go together?)
  • Jesus’ statement: “Get behind me, Satan.”

To go from “Blessed” to being called “Satan.” Ouch!  But that is not the only place. Jesus makes a statement later about Peter being sifted like wheat. Peter says, “I will follow you anywhere. I would die for you.” Not much later he is denying that he is a disciple of Jesus. To a servant girl. To one who recognizes his Galilean accent. Not very threatening people when you think about it. Not soldiers. Not a religious leader with power. Just common folk.

That’s me. I say, “God is in control and has a plan.” I tell people that! I did just yesterday. Then I turn right around and do my own thing, go my own way. Or worse: I question His plan. I say I believe, but do I really BELIEVE? That’s why I’m a conundrum. Saying one thing; saying and BELIEVING is another.

How about you? Are you a conundrum?

“Father, only you can solve this puzzle called “me.” Only You understand me.  Help me to do more than just say. Help me to truly BELIEVE.”