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July 7

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Have you ever noticed there are “difference makers” in our lives? That one event that forever “made” you. Or scarred you. That one person whose influence you will never forget. That one pastor or teacher or boss or acquaintance who stands out. Good or bad.

There is one thing (I’m not sure what other word to use) that makes the difference in life. It is the line of demarcation. It is the Mason-Dixon Line of the Christian faith. It’s the game-changer. They even wrote a song about it years (and years) ago: The Cross Made the Difference in Me.

I don’t know why but that phrase/song came to my mind as I was reading the Scripture this morning found in Luke 23:50-52 and John 19:38-42. Two men are mentioned there whose lives would now be forever marked by the cross: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Yeah…that Nicodemus. The one who came to Jesus by night to talk. John 3 gives that whole conversation. And Joseph, a Pharisee, a quiet follower of Jesus. Well, not anymore. The cross brought them both out of hiding. Into plain sight. All would know NOW where their true allegiance lay.

The cross became their game-changer. It is ours as well. Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” (Gal.6:14) He also wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor.1:18). He says later in that same chapter that the cross was a stumblingblock. (v.23)

The cross was Paul’s line. It was Joseph’s. It was Nic’s. It is to be mine. It is to be yours.

“Father, may the cross be the defining moment for me. May it always stand as a line in the sand for me. You are my choice. The cross truly made a difference in me.”

July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 30

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

One of the members of “the Trinity” is misunderstood. Well…He does get a bad rap sometimes and, at times, is often forgotten. It is pretty obvious I’m not speaking about God the Father or God the Son. God the Holy Spirit is the One often looked at with shady eyes and raised brows. I think some of that is because of ignorance and some is because we treat Him with such mystery. We think He’s a ghost-like Casper- friendly, but oh so eerie.

I was ignorant of the Holy Spirit for many years. I knew He existed but was “afraid” of Him. I focused on Jesus and my first experience with raised hands brought a cold sweat to my body. I learned then and have continued learning about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:8-11, part of the Scripture I read this morning, offers some help but, if you are like me, there may have been some confusion as to what those verses meant. As a result the Holy Spirit’s purpose stayed cloudy. I do know this: the Holy Spirit’s purpose was never to draw attention to Himself. His purpose was and is to always glorify Jesus. ALWAYS.  That’s why to draw attention to the Spirit in song or to the manifestations of the Spirit is wrong. John 16 tells us He was to do three things: convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

  • Convict of sin- the specific sin of not believing in Jesus as Messiah-the only sin not forgivable, that damns people to hell.
  • Convict of righteousness- this might be better understood as self-righteousness (hypocrisy). He exposes the blackness of our own heart.
  • Convict of judgement- the context is that of the world under Satan’s control. The world cannot judge itself because it is blind, sinful and evil. (Current events show that).

The Holy Spirit is not really a ghost- an apparition. He has a specific purpose.  And He accomplishes it all by always drawing attention to Christ and the cross.

“Father, help me to understand more. Help me to see the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life and allow Him to do His work in me.”

Note: I’m indebted to Pastor John MacArthur for his “help” this morning.

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 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

June 24

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

A towel. That’s what he used to give the students. I knew of a college president who, when presenting their diploma, also gave each graduate a towel. The ensemble would have been complete if could have given them a basin…but I guess that would have seemed a little impractical. 🙂

Why? Well, all you have to do is read John 13 and the answer jumps out at you. The setting is clear. Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room preparing to commemorate the Passover with a meal. But He does this really weird thing. He removes his outer robe, dons a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash His disciples’ feet. Of all the way out, surprising things Jesus could have done, this is one of them.  And totally unexpected.  Some church groups get this wrong. Not that washing feet in wrong. But to make it a ritual part of worship was not Jesus’ intention. He even says so in verse 7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”  “Of course we do Jesus. You’re washing our feet.” Key to remember: “You do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”

They saw foot-washing; Jesus showed humility. They saw a very common act; Jesus showed servanthood. That college president had it right. Graduation was a high point; they must reach a low point. We are saved to serve. Not thinking of yourself less, but thinking less of yourself. Peter missed the point…then. He got the point…later. Jesus’ words in verse 7 fulfilled.

Being a servant is a calling-a high calling. But it is not a high position where we can exalt ourselves.  It is a high that lowers itself. It’s a high that takes a towel, wraps it around your waist, and serves. Being a servant is a place of high standing.

“Father, let me be one of Your servants.  Help me not to consider myself above anyone else. Help me to don my towel and serve.”

June 19

Friday, June 19th, 2020

The term pro-life has come to mean several things. Say, “I’m pro-life” and it will be (rightfully) assumed you are against abortion. It should mean so much more though. Sadly, it has come to be a point of contention. It should mean you are for life. From prebirth to death life is precious. We have a couple who knew before birth their son would be born with health-challenges, particularly the heart. But abortion never entered their minds, never even crossed them. A handicapped child deserves life. An older person who suffers from dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, or any other debilitating disease deserves life.

Yesterday I took part in a special dedication ceremony. A Safe Haven Baby Box (SHBB) was placed in Spencer. There are only 32 of the boxes in the country- Owen County is #32. The SHBB is for mom’s who have realized their end of taking care of their baby to be able to put their baby in the box. A door opens and inside is a baby incubator, where she can place her baby. The door locks, an alarm sounds both when the door is open and when a baby is placed in the box. It is both heated and air-conditioned. The alarm is sent to 911 where a dispatch is sent to retrieve the baby and put it in good hands. Every life matters and this gives an “unwanted” baby a chance at life. That is being proactive about pro-life! Two of our ladies-Shelby and Vicki-were a big part of making this a reality. I was honored to be asked to pray a blessing over this endeavor.

Every Christ-follower should be pro-life. That is not a political statement. It is a “life statement.”

“Father, Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. Help me to not only relish that life in and from Him, but to also show others life in Him.”

June 11

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

I read two parables this morning-one easy to understand; one not so. Here they are:

Not so easy: It is found in Matthew 21 with related Scripture in Mark 11 and Luke 19.  It is the story of a father and two sons. He asks each of them to go into the vineyard to work. One says, “Not me” then goes. The other says, “I will go” but then doesn’t. So Jesus asks the religious leaders which one did the father’s will. They say the first- the one who said No, but then went. Given the other related Scripture, they actually condemned themselves. But what is the point of this confusing parable?  I think it is saying doing is more important than saying.  Mt. 7:21-27 shows that. But so does James 1:22- “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This point hardly needs talked or written about. Our life needs to back up our words.

The other, easy-to-understand parable is found in Matthew 21,  Mark 12, and Luke 20. It is the story of a landowner who had a vineyard.  He then decides to go away and leaves his winepress to be tended by servants. When it came time for vintage-time, he sent several servants who were either brutally mistreated or even killed. He finally sent his only son, whom they promptly killed.

  • Landowner- God
  • Caretakers- religious leaders
  • Servants treated poorly- prophets
  • Son- Jesus

His final point is the sharpest: “The stone which the builder rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  (Mt.21:42). The meaning is clear-to them and to us. “They perceived that he was speaking about them.” (21:45)  You think? Oh, how perceptive! How’s that 2×4 feel?

Both parables apply to us as well. Will we do what we say? Will we accept or reject Jesus?

“Father, thank you for your teaching.  May I back up what I say with what I do and may I be one who accepts and obeys rather than reject and disobey.”

June 10

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

We talk a lot about lifting Jesus up. A song says, “We want to see Jesus lifted high/ A banner that flies across the sky.”  We might say or pray or sing for Jesus to be honored and glorified and lifted up, but do you know how hard that is? (‘Course you do). Have you given any thought to how hollow that sometimes sounds because of ineptness at doing that? Before I say why I think that is the case, let’s review.

In Number 21 the people became impatient with God. They were tired of and began to complain about the lack of water, food, and eating manna. So He sent fiery serpents among them that bit the people and many died as a result of it. They cried out about the sin so God had Moses fashion a serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. All those who looked upon it would live. (21:4-9)

Fast forward a couple thousand years (give or take) to John 3:14 where Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Verse 15 tells why: “That whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Later in John (chapter 12) Jesus is told some Greeks were seeking Him. In verse 32 He says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Three places where a distinct reference is made to Jesus being lifted up. The obvious understanding is that He will be lifted up on the cross.  In salvation, He is to be lifted up. In the daily expression of my faith, He is to be lifted up. Now to the original question; why is that so hard? The answer is easy really. I tend to be in this for myself way too much. To lift Jesus up means to point people to the cross and to lower myself in my eyes and in the eyes of others. No more “I’m in this for me.” No more “What can I get out of this?” I am to lift Jesus up because only by seeing Him will life and hope and salvation be found.

“Father, may I lay aside myself and lift Jesus up-in all things, at all times. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, may the cross of Christ be looked upon and give life.”

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.’ ”