Grace

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January 8

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Left Behind: Worthy vs Temporary.

Am I that far off in saying that we all want to leave something behind for which we will be remembered? I don’t think so. We all (or most of us anyway) want to leave behind a legacy, a point of reference where if our name is mentioned people says, “Oh yeah. I remember (such and such) about him/her.”

In the media world, for example, actor Tom Hanks was recently honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. In his craft, that may be the highest honor to be bestowed. Known for his body of work, he will now be known for another (higher) honor.

The Sports world has its honors also. Hall of Fame. MVP. Super Bowl champs. Stanley Cup. College football #1.

Music. Stage. Lifetime Achievement. The list is seemingly endless. People want to be remembered-hopefully for good and not for bad. Think Al Capone. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliott Ness. Billy the Kid. And others.

In the OT is the book and story of Job. I’m pretty sure we all know that story. Everything is taken away from him but his life, but Job still said, “I know my Redeemer lives.” When everything he loved was wiped out, Job’s response was, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21)  When encouraged by his wife to curse God and die he said, “Shall we receive good and not evil from God?” (2:10)  (He also called her a foolish woman but we won’t go there! 🙂 ) In Job 19:32-24 he wished “his words were recorded, engraved in rock forever.” Funny thing is? They are. In the pages of THE BOOK.

What is it I want to be known for? Kindness? Generosity? Giver of grace? All the above. All are well and good. But the greatest? He was a Lover of Jesus. Yeah. I like that.

“Father, may the legacy I leave behind not be one of fleeting memories and temporary awards. May it be that I loved you first and foremost, above all, and that you were the reason I lived.”

 

January 7

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Change vs Stagnation.

At this writing I am 67 years old. Lord willing, I will stay that age for at least 10 more months. 🙂 A lot has happened in those 67 years. Times of unadulterated joy; times of unmitigated tears. Times of excitement; times of boredom. Times of closeness to God; times of distance from God. Times of warmth; times of stone coldness. You get the picture.  But there is one constant in all 67 years on this planet: C.H.A.N.G.E.

My philosophy has been either change or be stagnant; either show signs of life or signs of death. Some change is painful-it is required due to life’s circumstances. Some change is easy-it is crystal clear that a particular direction is the right one. But the constant is change.

There are some things that don’t change. God-His Word. Jesus-His love. The Spirit-His presence. The Bible-His standard. In all of those (and more) it is not them that change. It is me. The Apostle Paul was so grateful for the change brought about by God’s presence in his life. The older he got the more like his Master he became. From the initial rigid, rule-demanding Pharisee and killer of Christ-followers, he became the Apostle who wrote about God’s magnificent grace. Paul changed. From the persecutor to the one who was persecuted. Paul changed. As he got older and changed more, God’s unending grace became more and more evident.

Can I say that? Can you? Am I more grace-filled at 67 than I was at 60? At 55? I’d like to believe the answer is a resounding yes!! I have no problem answering that question when comparing 67 to 25 or 30 or 35 or 40. I hardly knew what grace was back then so there is no question. But I must still be changing and never stop.

“Father, keep changing me. Please help me to see stagnation is not a way to live. Allowing your change to be evident in my life is how I want to be.”

December 29-31

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Three things Moses prayed for in Exodus 33: 12-21.

LORD, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

LORD, GUARANTEE YOUR PRESENCE.

LORD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY.

Moses did not want to be adrift. He didn’t want to lead the people of Israel without the presence and promises of God. What a great challenge for 2020!

Jo & I leave today for Sandusky, Ohio.  Tomorrow her sister has a procedure on her eyes that she must have or things will not turn out well. But it is in Lorain, OH and Jo is totally unfamiliar with that part of the state and unsure of driving where she has not been. Neither have I but she feels more confident with me driving (okay so maybe just with me being along). We will return Tuesday.  I will be out of commission as well on both blogs.

I have a decision I need to make: whether to continue “Living in the Shadow” or not. I have been doing two blogs for two years now. I started this one as a devotional outlet for New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I called it Be Transformed. I continued it by renaming it and just using it as a random devotional blog. I had several purposes. One, it kept me disciplined in having a daily Quiet Time. Two, and this will sound somewhat self-centered, I wanted to see if I could write and possibly transfer the daily devotions into a book form. The first, I accomplished. The second, I’m not sure about. What I do know is keeping two blogs going was, at times, time-consuming. It was stretching that is for sure. But what I hoped for (a consistent and growing readership) did not happen. So I’m faced with deciding what to do. I’d appreciate any input you might have…good or bad.

In the meantime, have a fantastic end of the year and a great start to 2020.

December 27/Weekend

Friday, December 27th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Grace: Old vs New.

We don’t sing the song Amazing Grace how sweet the sound for nothing. Grace really is amazing. I know for me understanding grace was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” on legalism that ruled my life.

But we tend to think of grace as a NT thing. So it is sometimes surprising to us when we realize there is tons of grace in the OT. Take, for example, the story of Abraham and Sarah; then Isaac and Rebecca; then Jacob and Esau. Abraham and Sarah waited 40 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Sarah thought she could help God along. Abraham was 140 when Isaac married Rebecca and she was barren. Isaac prayed and twins were born. But talk about family dysfunction! Isaac liked Esau; Rebecca favored Jacob. Jacob was a conniver; Esau disregarded his oldest son status. Jacob ran away from the comfort of the tents to live under the stars. He laid down his heard on a stone and ended up making a bargain with God. That is just the beginning of the grace stories in the OT.

The very fact God had not stepped in to slap a few on the back of the head with a huge “God slap” shows His patience. It also shows His grace. As Iain Wright says, “God is always better than we can imagine.”

I’m glad. I deserve more than just a “God slap.” I deserve a “God smack down.” Not just once, but over and over. I’m thankful for God’s display of grace in the OT and the NT. But I’m especially grateful for grace today-2019. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

“Father, thank you for showing grace in the OT; the NT; and especially today…to me. I’m singing (off key) ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound.’ “

December 16

Monday, December 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Real Value vs Underestimated Value.

Several years ago by brother used to sing a song written by Tim Sheppard. It was based on the Scripture/Jesus’s words where He asked what can a man give in exchange for his soul. Some of the lyrics were: “What can a man give in exchange for his soul/Can you name a price to give for your life/Can you be bought or sold?” I’m afraid there are far too many who are selling their souls cheaply.

We seemed to have lost sight of the value of the human soul. We sell ourselves to the lowest bidder: alcohol, drugs, sex, laziness, gambling, etc.  You name it. Sorta reminds me what Judas did to Jesus. 30 pieces of silver. In Zechariah 11:12, after having lovingly shepherded His people, God laments that all He was worth to them was 30 pieces of silver.  The price of a slave. According to Ex.21:32 the exact price an owner was to be paid should their slave be accidentally killed was 30 pieces of silver. God didn’t take that slight kindly! He had Zechariah throw the money away!

Many years later God’s Son was also sold for 30 pieces of silver. Judas himself realized his folly and threw the money at the feet of the religious leaders declaring he had betrayed innocent blood. They used it to buy a cemetery.

Our world today is divided. We have those who totally devalue human life.  They buy and sell people like they are cattle-often for less than 30 pieces of silver. We put down people-their jobs, the contributions-all to make ourselves look more valued.  On the other end of the spectrum are those who tell people they can have their best life now; can have all the nice things in life; they deserve the best-all because they over-value the temporary and put more value on a man’s “place” than his soul.

My value is not in what I have. It’s not even in what you or others think of me. My value is found in Jesus. It’s what he thinks of me that is important. One word comes to mind: INVALUABLE.

“Father, may I see my true worth is found in You. It’s not dependent on my status, stature, or what others think. It is dependent on what You think.”

November 29

Friday, November 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is God-speak vs Me-Speak.

Okay, so it is Friday, November 29, 2019.  Thanksgiving Day is over. Many spent the day enjoying family; laughing and joking; playing games; most importantly, speaking gratitude to God for His grace, goodness and provision. Words of good. Words of gratitude. Words of praise. And rightly so.

But those good words should not end-neither for God nor for others. But for many they will. It is like a switch is flipped the day after Thanksgiving which says, “Okay, that’s enough!” If only we could learn more completely that gratitude should be a part of us, something that flows from our heart, joints, ligaments and out of our mouth. Words.

That is why my Scripture reading hit me this morning with full force.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the wise man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’  (Jer.9:23-24)

We have spent this past week hopefully in gratitude to a magnificent, awesome God. Why stop? Why suddenly be self-centered? Rude? Self-enamored? All about me?

“Father, may my heart and may my speech be filled with gratitude to You. May it continue on and not end just because Thanksgiving Day is over. May my speech be God-speak and not Me-speak.”

November 18

Monday, November 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Delight vs Disappointment.

I know there are times I disappoint God.  At least I feel like I do. In my mind. When I act contrary to the new man. When I speak contrary to the new man. When I think contrary to the new man. I find myself disappointed in myself and I tend to transfer that disappointment to God’s feelings about me.

Instead of looking at disappointment, let’s consider instead how God delights in me. I read these words this morning during my Quiet Time:

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” (Is.62:4)

My thoughts went to my oldest daughter Tami’s sign off and favorite Scripture verse. She signs her correspondence with “Delighting in Him” and her favorite Scripture is Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It is a wonder to me that God would delight in me and that He would rejoice over me with gladness, and exult over me with loud singing. When I consider how I am; how I act; how I speak; how I think…and yet He delights and takes pleasure in me. THAT totally blows me away!!

I know.  Hard to believe. But there it is in black and white. And I believe it.

“Father, thank You for delighting in me. In spite of me and who I am, You delight in me. I’m humbled. I’m blown away. I’m relieved. I’m quieted. Let me just relish that today.”

November 5

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is What Was vs What Is.

It is inescapable. In reality, it has been since before Halloween. What is that? Christmas is coming. Surely you’ve noticed the displays in the stores. Pretty soon we’ll see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits. Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. (But no one has). Christmas decorations, trees, etc out before October is even over. It is definitely a reminder of our consumeristic society.

But it should also serve as a reminder of a greater truth: What was and what is.

The Christmas story is a story of what was vs what is. The story doesn’t start in a stable in Bethlehem. It actually starts in the Garden. Having known only the beauty of sweet fellowship with Adam and Eve, God came to the Garden wanting to meet with them as He always did. For the first time, Adam and Eve are hiding. The effects of sin-their sin- has already manifested itself. What was will never be again. What was sweet, pure and lovely will now forever be tainted with ugliness, mistrust, and a penchant for hiding from God. That bond what once was is forever broken. No longer do Adam and Eve long for and look forward to walking with God in the cool of the day. Now they hide. I hide. Sin has done its dirty work and has forever put a gap between me and God.

But that’s also why I celebrate Christmas. God has bridged that gap between us by His Son’s birth, death and resurrection. Praise God what was is not and does not last. Christmas is the celebration of God’s desire to have fellowship with me. With you. A tragedy is turned into a triumph. A forever broken relationship is mended by a Man- God’s Son. Born in a manger.

“Father, what was- perfect peace- will never be again. But what can be is a life with You. Thank you for Jesus- His birth, His death, and His resurrection.”

November 1

Friday, November 1st, 2019

My title is Good News vs Bad News.

Christmas (X from here on out) is a time of celebration. It is a time of revelry and joy. It is not a time when people talk about bad news.

I’m reading Paul David Tripp’s X devotion book Come Let Us Adore Him during my morning Quiet Time. I should say rereading it…for the 5th time. I first read it in October,November & December of 2017. Then I read it in December of 2018. I’m reading it now in preparation for X but also for my sermon preparation for that wonderful season of the year. Today’s devotion-#5-was about the Good news and Bad news of X. This chapter is chock full of stuff but two statements stood out to me.

“The incarnation of Jesus Christ pointedly preaches our inescapable need for radical, personal, and moral rescue and forgiveness.” (p.30)

“The reason the birth of Jesus is such gloriously wonderful news is that in His birth God offers you and me the solution to the fundamental brokenness of sin that is the core tragedy of every one of our lives. So confessing our brokenness is the only way we will ever fully understand and celebrate the birth of the Messiah.” (p.31)

Bad news= sin, brokenness, messed up, hopeless, need for rescue.

Good news= Jesus humbled Himself to get rid of the bad news which made up our lives so it could be replaced with good news.

“Father, not much more needs to be said at this point except thank you. Thank you for the Good News!”

October 24

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meeting Jesus vs Rejecting Jesus.

I’ve always been intrigued by and enjoyed reading the story of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5. I read it again this morning.  And once again I was captivated by its lessons.

  • This man was so strong, so “possessed,” that nothing could keep him chained. Call him the Hulk; call him the Mummy; call him the Werewolf; call him uncontrollable.

Then he meets Jesus…

  • The demons that controlled him found themselves face to face with the greatest force they had ever met and then found themselves laying flat on the ground at the feet of Jesus crying out not to be tormented.

Then he saw Jesus’ power…

  • They were cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs. I’ve always found that interesting. What were Jews doing with a herd of pigs?

Then he received Jesus’ healing…

  • The people heard about the pigs and came to see what all the commotion was about. The man was clothed and in his right mind. Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they saw this man no longer a madman but sitting at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind?  But…but…but…

Then he received Jesus’ words…

  • Jesus was leaving and he wanted to go with Him. Who wouldn’t? Especially after what Jesus had done for him. But it was not to be. Jesus told him to stay at home and tell the people how much He had done for him and how He had mercy on him. He does exactly that. (v.20)

This changed man did what all changed people-including me-are to do. Tell how and WHO changed my life.  The most powerful testimony is the changed life. “I once was blind but now I see.”

“Father, I have been changed by You. Your love. Your mercy. Your grace.  My response should be the same as this man-go and tell. Help me to do just that-to tell of all you have done and of Your mercy which has been shown to me.”