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March 1

Monday, March 1st, 2021

(Note: I wrote this Friday, the 26th, but waited to post it until today)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Not exactly sure why. I was tired. I had a day of doctor visits (follow up to surgery and dental for an implant). I had a beautiful visit with a family of three children, who because of health issues with the youngest, have been unable to be in worship with the group. I took M&Ms to the kids; a bag of York peppermint patties to mom; and a bag of Heath bars to dad. Of course the kids were already in their boxes within 5 minutes! 🙂

If I had a “guess” as to why I have unrest and have been up since  before my regular “day-of-work-get-up-time of 3:30” is what I know I might have to do this morning and where I need to go. I will be at the High School at 8:00 to possibly “help” or listen to a teacher or student who is struggling. You see, we had a tragedy this week in our school system. Last weekend one of our teachers and baseball coach, the husband of our Middle School principal, had a brain bleed. Even a second opinion has declared him brain dead so last night they began harvesting his organs for the donation process. (He will continue making a difference long after he leaves this earth).  He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. The oldest turned 6 on Thursday. One also has Down’s but I’m not sure what her age is. Bryan was not only the baseball coach, but he also taught SpecEd and it is easy to see why.

Why then the upset? Because Ryan (our youth pastor) and I have been asked to be there to listen and help if needed. Ryan was there all morning on Thursday. Very few wanted to talk. Like one or two.  But who knows?  It appears that he and his wife were Christ-followers. Her posts allude to that.  If so, she has a hope beyond all one can imagine. I pray it will sustain her and the girls in the coming days.

But questions abound. Some I don’t have an answer to. Does anyone really? Only God knows for sure and His Word is the go-to. But sometimes questions still abound. I’m praying for wisdom if needed.

Meanwhile, would you please pray for Ashley and the 2 girls? They need God’s Presence more as each day passes.

“Father, You are the Giver of Peace. I pray that for Ashley. You are Giver of Wisdom.  I pray that for Ryan and me today.  I also pray extra wisdom for Ashley as she navigates life without the love of her life. And I’m looking for the good you will bring out of this.”

February 8

Monday, February 8th, 2021

I got to thinking about legalism this morning. I’m convinced most people don’t start out to be legalists. Unless they are raised in a church tradition that is focused on that and makes it the “hammer” to control and judge religiosity, I honestly think most people are sincere in their desire to follow Jesus. I know I was. I didn’t study the Bible to become legalistic.

I became legalistic when I tried to form gauges. You know…how-to-perform godly principles. How to pray. How to worship. How to look spiritual. How to conform. How to (fill in the blank). So I set gauges or markers to evaluate myself.

Here’s the problem with that (among many): it leads to futility. Who in the world-who in their right mind- could even think one could measure up to standards set to such a high mark? I certainly couldn’t. I was a washout, as is everyone else who tries to run their lives that way.

You see, a relationship to God is not based on “getting it right.” A relationship to God is based on communion with the Father. It is seeing the heart of Jesus.  It is seeking His Presence, unblemished by a list of “Did I get this right?” Sort of like the Pharisee who had to make sure every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. What an awful way to live!

Psalm 27:4 says, “The one thing I ask of the Lord-the thing I seek the most-is to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His Temple.” (NLT)

Read that again please. Not a hint about me. Delighting in Him and His perfections. Well…there goes my so-called gauges right out the door! Yes and thank you Jesus!!

“Father, may I simply seek You. May I simply long to come into Your Presence and gaze upon You.”

February 4

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

I mentioned in an earlier post (February 2) that I have been reading through the NT using the NLT (New Living Translation). Today I read Luke 15 & 16. There was no one STOP THIS IS IT! moment this morning. There were several. So I thought I’d record those moments here:

  1. Luke 15 is the trio of stories Jesus told-the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. Perhaps we can put a positive spin on them and say the Found Sheep, the Found Coin, and the Returning Son. All three end with a variation of saying the same thing. Verse 7, Verse 10, and Verse 32 all carry the idea of rejoicing because that which was lost is found; that which was dead has come back to life. The angels rejoice when someone has run their race and enters heaven, but they also rejoice when someone repents and comes to Jesus for the first time.
  2. Luke 16:10. Faithful in little, faithful in much. If one can’t be trusted with the little, how can they be trusted in the much?
  3. Luke 16:13. Where is my heart? Who or what has its attention?  Have I sold my soul to a lesser master?
  4. Luke 16:14. Where is my allegiance? When the world looks at me, do they see a religion that is dead or a life that is vibrant? More importantly, what does God see? He sees the deepest part of me.

Just a few random thoughts this morning. Random but convicting. Did any one passage stand out to you?

“Father, thank You for Your Word. It is a Light and a Lamp. Please continue to shine it on me.”

February 1

Monday, February 1st, 2021

I read an article the other day about the Top 10 songs people turned to during the pandemic. Some of them I was not familiar with because I am not fond of Hillsong or Bethel (Jesus Culture). But a few I was familiar with and have to admit pleasantly surprised. Here are a few that I can remember: It Is Well With My Soul. This was done by a lot of Zoom media. Multiple people all over the globe, the states or a city combined to sing this song. Another was Great is Thy Faithfulness– my favorite hymn. When the young flock to an old hymn that speaks volumes of its timelessness. No Longer Slaves was another favorite. “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” Fear gripped multitudes of people. It knew no boundary, no class distinction, no race, no color barrier, no geography, no nationality, and no job distinction of any kind. There are other songs but I’m at a loss to remember.

One of the many truths which was cemented in my heart over the past year has been the faithfulness of God. I know fear gripped the hearts of many, even Christ-followers.  It is sad I have to write that. We, of all people, should know God will never abandon us. He doesn’t bring us to a crisis only to abandon us.  Someone once said, “If God brings you to it, He will take you through it.”  Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (NLT)  It is unconscionable that God would abandon us during the season of waters and fires…and pandemics. 

“Father, I echo the hymn’s words: ‘Great is Your faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with You/ You never change and Your compassions never fail/As You have been You forever will be.’ ”

January 22

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted something-something better than what you have-but had something less standing in your way? Please let me explain.

Let’s suppose you were raised in a false religion or a cult. Or maybe your family tradition was a stale, musty, traditional church. And dead. But then you were exposed to gospel teaching and for the first time in your life you could feel your spirit coming alive. But-and this is a big but-you hold back because you are concerned about leaving that cult or that false religion or that dead tradition. Why? Betrayal of family? Betrayal of a belief system? Loss of friends and family? Fear of being alone? All the above could be correct or even more. I heard it explained as being like a man with his hands in the stream. He has caught a small fish in one, but a bigger fish is swimming by. To catch the bigger fish he has to let go of the smaller one. (Golem he’s not).

I think that is a pretty accurate description of the scenario I gave above: Give up to get. Jesus had a man approach Him and ask Him about eternal life. When Jesus told him he had to give up all he had to follow, the Bible says he went away sad because he was very wealthy. He had to give up to get. He wasn’t willing to do that and therefore lost everything, at least that which matters in the end.

What is God calling you to maybe give up? Are you will to give up the lesser to gain the greater?  I have been asking myself that same question.

“Father, you know the choice I need to make. Help me to do it.”

January 19

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

I read a really good story the other day. Let me share it. In the Wizard of Oz, a movie I have to admit I am not fond of, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow arrive back in Oz with the broom from the Wicked Witch of the Wast that the Wizard desires. But he stalls sending her back to Kansas, giving the Tim Man his heart, the Scarecrow his brain, and the Lion his courage. He tells them to come back the next day.

While they plead with the Wizard, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls the curtain and we find a tiny, weasily, little man from Nebraska. The story goes that the author, L. Frank Baum, had serious problems with God, so he wanted to send the message that only we have the power to solve our own problems.

I’m not sure what brought him to that place in life; I can’t even begin to speculate. But I do know he is not alone in his feelings. That’s too bad. This past Sunday I preached from Psalm 139 for the latter part of my sermon.  I am struck by the beauty and power and passion found in that passage. Tearing it down it shows us 3 characteristics of God, what I will call the 3 O’s.

  • God’s Omniscience- Verses 1-6
  • God’s Omnipresence- Verses 7-12
  • God’s Omnipotence- Verses 13-18

In my mind there is not a more concise and complete picture of God in all of Scripture. We can talk about His majesty, His glory, His love, His grace, etc, but right here in one chapter is God complete- Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. Okay…your challenge is to unpack that by reading the verses and let them soak into your soul. Talk about mind-boggling!! Go ahead. Try it. And let me know maybe next year when you do. 🙂

“Father, I am humbled to see how totally awesome (and yes, I used that word because it describes You) You really are.  So much higher and deeper than I can ever go. Let me just bask in the glow of You and who You are.”

January 12

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

There are a lot of people who mistakenly think the laws of God are more like a noose around the neck as opposed to thinking they are for our good. “God is a cosmic killjoy,” they say. “All He wants to do is to take the fun out of life.” “Why can’t I live my life the way I want to? After all, it is my life.”

Well, I suppose that is true. It is my/your life. And yes, I can live it any way I want. But that decision to do so also comes with consequences. Supposed we look at God’s laws in another light. Let’s suppose we are on a train. As long as we stick to the tracks we go along smoothly and on course. But if we jump the track and try to steer that train through grass or sand or whatever it is we run into, what will happen? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. You go nowhere. The train ends up stopped dead in its tracks. It is not doing and being what it was designed to be and WHERE it was designed to do it. We can complain all we want about the train being held to those tracks. We can say they are hindering its freedom.  But logic and reality say, “Nope.” Those tracks are actually serving their purpose.

The analogy may break down somewhere but the point is still true. The tracks are for the train’s safe operation. Why not see God’s laws in the same light? Throw off His laws and life goes haywire. There are consequences. Why not see true freedom in His laws? Why not see true love in them? Why not see God’s hand of care and concern in the restraint His law puts on us? That’s where true freedom is found-living for Him by His Word and not for ourselves by our rules.

“Father, help me to see Your laws as part of Your gracious love toward me instead of restrictions I see designed to box me in.”

December 24

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Caution: soapbox available and now in use. 🙂

There has been a saying which has gained an audience. When I say an audience, I mean an AUDIENCE. Bigger than a cathedral. Bigger than a stadium.  It has garnered the attention of the retail  establishment. You see it on mugs, posters, signs, church signs, billboards…you name it. I know what it is trying to say; I know what it is trying to do. The saying?

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Sounds catchy. Sounds so…right. But I don’t think it is. Sometimes I have felt like a lone wolf (probably because I don’t get out much) in speaking against it. And I know whoever made it up never intended a whole cottage industry to build up around it (then again maybe it was just a marketing tool). The one who made it up was trying to get us to focus-away from Santa Claus and to the real meaning for Christmas.

But they got it wrong. And this is what I’ve been trying to say for years. Jesus never was the reason for the season. We were. Want proof? Take a moment and read Phil.2:6-8 and then Isaiah 53: 4-6. That oughta do it. Jesus was never the reason for the season.  You were. I was. As the old song by David Meece says, “We were the reason He gave His life/We were the reason He suffered and died.” But…wait…that’s the rest of the story!! (And in case you are wondering it is called Easter).

Jesus is not the reason for the season; He is the one who is and who gives meaning to the season.

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus being willing to come for me. I was the reason He came and He gave the ultimate gift…His life.”

December 14

Monday, December 14th, 2020

It seems like a subject that should not be one discussed during the Christmas season. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing/handling (ESV) the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer/ gangrene (ESV).” (NKJV execept where noted)

Not much of that discernment goes on these days. Progressive or “woke” Christianity is a “gospel” of false doctrine with a big dose of self-reliance. One hears it in the modern TV guys- the “Your best life is now” being one of them, for example. We hear it in the self-help books (Hollis and Hatmaker are two). We hear it in the false gospel that spills out of Bethel, Hillsong and Jesus Culture. But the gospel of self-reliance is nothing new. That lie was told in the Garden and still continues today. We even have pagans and non-pagans telling us we are and can be gods and little gods.

Here’s something to think about: if I was so cock-sure of myself; if I had the ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps; if I was so self-reliant that I needed no one else- why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus die?

Exactly! I can’t. It is an effort in futility. And THAT is exactly the reason why Jesus had to come. Because I couldn’t. Self-reliance is a lie. Self-help is a lie. Self-improvement (on a salvation scale) is impossible. Enter Jesus.

“Father, you saw my helplessness, even my self-deception. I am nothing without Jesus. I have nothing without Him. I am incapable of bettering myself to make myself acceptable. It is all about Jesus and what He has done.”

December 11

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Random thoughts gleaned from my various reading this morning:

In the story of David and Goliath, two thoughts bear to have an audience:

  1. Prevailing over giants isn’t accomplished by using their technique. David’s greatest piece of armor was his inner shield of faith.
  2. Conquering giants isn’t accomplished without great skill and discipline. My weapon is the sword of the Spirit not a club or physical sword. 

(From Good Morning, Lord…Can we Talk? by Chuck Swindoll)

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day…You therefore must endure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him to enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Timothy 1:12; 2:3-4  (NKJV)

How important both of those Scriptures are. Put them together with the thoughts from C.S. and they leave us with some powerful lessons. One big one is the need for reliance upon and surrender to the Holy Spirit to fight our battles. My strength does not come from outward sources; it comes from God’s power from within in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

“Father, in this battle of life, help me to rely on You not on me or my own strength and wisdom.”