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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 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.”

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

May 26

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

I was in the 4th grade when I started wearing glasses. Miss Kutzer (whom I was in love with) noticed I was squinting to see the chalkboard. Well, you know how that goes. I’m moved up closer to the front. She tells my mom. Mom takes me to see Dr. Braveman. Dr. B tells me I need glasses. I’m going to translate: “Bill, you’re blind-as-a-bat without your glasses. You are going to need them the rest of your life.” What he doesn’t tell me is my eyes are going to get worse every year until my glasses will look like coke bottles. Fortunately, they developed material that allowed the lenses to get thinner while still helping me see. But that’s another story.

I finally got my glasses and could actually see. Hmmm there was carpet before? It looked like the carpet was right up close to my eyes! It was so cool! Until the next day when I needed to wear them to school. I thought I looked stupid or a dork (if that word had been around those days), so I left them at home. Until Miss Kutzer (whom I was still in love despite her betrayal) said, “Bill, weren’t you supposed to get your glasses yesterday?” “Yes ma’m.”  “Where are they?” “At home.” “I’ll expect you to wear them tomorrow.” Then she betrayed me again by calling my mom!  (Amazing how love overlooks betrayal).

Down through the years my eyes got worse. I wore contacts for awhile; then back to glasses; then contacts again; then glasses for good. My eyes did get worse as I got older and last November at the age of 67 I got rid of glasses forever…except for reading. I had cataracts removed. It was a great two days!! 🙂

I remember my frames breaking; lenses falling out; wearing tape to hold my frames together; vision marred from sweat, dirt, chips and breaks. I remember elbows in basketball games that found my frames which split my eyelids and eyebrows wide open. I remember trying to play first base with only one lens in my broken glasses. It was fine until the first ball thrown to me hit my wrist  and not my glove because my perception was all out of whack.

It is easy to lose sight of the important. Psalm 141:8 says, “But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.” We used to sing an old hymn: “Open my eyes that I might see/ Glimpses of truth Thou has for me.” (Sorry about the King James English there). With clear vision we need to be focused on God. With open eyes we need to be seeking God in His Word, praying for clear sight in our quest.

“Father, I do ask that my eyes will open and seeing clearly in my quest for a deeper relationship with You.  May my sight and my focus be on You.”

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.”

May 11

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Admit it. Go ahead. There is no shame in it. Be honest and admit it. I have had to…even though it kills me to do so. They say the older you get you start forgetting to do things. I want to amend that. The older you get the more you start forgetting. Period. There used to a time when I memorized my sermon word for word. That’s right. Word for word. And I preached them that way. I started giving up on that when I forgot a poem midway through and had to make up the rest. Then it was memorize by clusters.  Or main thoughts. Or key statements. Now it’s called cheat sheets in my Bible or on the pulpit. 🙂

Memorizing verses is the same way. I can remember being a memory machine. Going against the pastor in a head-to-head competition of Scripture memory battle and holding my own. I knew them word for word. Now…when it came to school work my memory suddenly flew out the window. 🙂 🙂 But I digress. I envy those who are young and can memorize Scripture like its the phone number they have committed to memory.

Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Hiding God’s Word in my heart puts a “protective barrier” around it. I read of a young Christian who came to his mentor to show him how he had memorized Scripture. He proceeded to quote the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). His mentor was amazed and encouraged him not only to “say” but to “live” the words. To which the young man said, “That’s the way I learned them. The Scripture wasn’t sticking so I decided to practice what I memorized on a non-believer. When I did I found it stuck.”

What a unique way of learning Scripture! Sort of hard to forget the “life lessons”…no matter how old you are.

“Father, may Your Word be life to me. Help me to hide it in my heart. May it stand as a barrier between me and sin.”

May 5

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Every morning my alarm goes off at 3:30 (except Friday which is my day off). I get up; shower; shave on certain days; get dressed; get my glass of ice water; then sit down at the kitchen table where it is deathly quiet (a good thing) and have my Quiet Time. Around 5 I make my way to the office where I put things away I have brought from home, then sit down at the computer and enter this devotion. After that I start working on a sermon.

I do that…like clockwork…almost every day. I rely on sameness to keep me centered. Focused on the task. May I call it tradition?

Yesterday’s devotion focused on how tradition can be bad. But there are times tradition/routine can be good. Each day I have a routine-I’ll call it tradition-of doing the same thing. In my case, almost at the same time. There is a certain comfort level that comes from sameness. I like change; I do change fairly well. But there are some things which should NEVER change. My early morning routine should never change-although it sometimes does due to ministry. I’ve tried it; it doesn’t work. Meeting with others, preaching, laughing, hugging, has all changed over the past 7-8 weeks. I know when I get back to meeting in person it will be hard. But change I must.

When it comes to the truths of the Scripture, there can be no change. No new “enlightenment.” Jesus said to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees (Mt. 15; Mk.8). Some traditions are good and are never meant to be changed. Stand on the tried and true words and Word of God.

“Father, some things never change. Your Word is certainly one of those things. May I be faithful to You through all time, day in and day out.”

 

April 27

Monday, April 27th, 2020

In the movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey, Newt Knight deserts the Confederate Army when he tires of war, sees his nephew get shot and killed, and hears about the Twenty Negro Law. With a ragtag group of people, he frees Jones County from the hold of the Confederates. But he would never had gotten there if he hadn’t first been saved by two slaves.

In this time in our country, there are many who are in despair for various reasons. I’m not downplaying the more serious kind. People are wounded and desperate, facing an enemy that can’t be seen and, in all honesty, makes its presence known in most cases without warning. It sort of reminds me of what Paul said in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of the air.” The battle is very much a flesh and blood one, but it creeps up on the unexpectant. Many are like the psalmist in 102:1-2: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; and answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

We wonder where God is in all of this. Does He really care? Is.43:2 answers that question unequivocably: “When I pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Sometimes I feel like a broken record-we have nothing to fear. No matter what happens our God goes through it with us. We are not alone.

“Father, help me to remember there is no water too deep; no storm too strong; no mountain too high; no path too treacherous that you aren’t with me.”

April 16

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

One of the good things-or at least it could be a good thing- about this current crisis is that it has offered a time for us to slow down and take stock of our lives. No sports-on TV or live. No youth leagues. No clubs. No travel to meetings. No school. No…well…nothing.  We can’t even eat out in a restaurant, and I KNOW someone who really misses that! (She doesn’t read my blog so I’m safe).  ‘Course that also means no small groups; no church meetings; and no gathering for corporate worship unless it’s all virtual.  There is that but let’s recognize it is not the same. 

What it should have done is slow us down. Instead of binging on the latest shows, it has given us an opportunity to spend time in God’s Word. Some have expressed a deeper hunger for God. Psalm 119 has some interesting verses for us to consider:

  • How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. (v.9)
  • I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  (v.11)
  • Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.  (v.37)
  • The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of pieces of silver. (v.72)
  • Oh how I love you law! It is my meditation all the day.  (v.97)
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  (v.105)

Jeremiah, the prophet, once wrote: “When your words came, I ate them, they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (15:16)  I’m wondering if I can say the same thing. Is God’s Word my joy and my delight? If not, why not?

“Father, help me to use this time of slow down to enhance my love for You and Your Word. May it be or become my joy and my heart’s delight.”