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December 11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Knowing vs Knowing About.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

December 10

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Bright Lights vs Dim Light.

One of the most beautiful scenes of Christmas is a decorated house. Even better, a house of lights with music! 🙂  (Check out the multiple entries for this). The lights transform a dull, dingy exterior into a wonderland of beauty. In our house, one of our traditions is a Christmas tree (now of the artificial variety) that goes up on Thanksgiving Day and stays up until sometime after Christmas. It doesn’t just stay up; it stays on. That’s right. 24/7. The lights on the tree are never off. Growing up our lights were on Christmas morning when we came downstairs and then each subsequent evening. I suspect some of that was economically and safety-driven since both were suspect back then, but with the advent of smaller bulbs which don’t get hot or have you see your electric meter going nuts, ours stay on all day. We have certainly come a long way from the first lights on a tree…candles. Of course, many a house burned down back then. 🙁

The light displays are as numerous as the houses, as is the amount of work put into the display. Each year a local florist puts lights on their giant outside tree. I keep forgetting to ask him if he puts them up and takes them down or just unplugs them.

But those lights pale in comparison to “the Light of the World.” In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the world.” If you are a Christ-follower the light of Christ has shown into your heart. Why not share that light with someone else this Christmas? Brighten their world.

“Father, your light transforms even the darkest scene and the darkest night. May your light shine in me and then through me to others.”

December 8

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Sunday is a wash out day for me when it comes to posting. So I’m going to take the “easy” way out by posting a video. I heard this song a couple of years ago and was immediately “struck” by it. Okay, more like a 2×4 across the forehead.

I liked it so well I asked one of our young ladies to sing it. She nails it! I wish you could hear Hanna sing it. But since you can’t, I guess you will have to settle for 2nd best. 🙂

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

If you prefer to have the lyrics you can check it out here.

 

December 6

Friday, December 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Generosity vs Stinginess.

I think one of the overarching themes of this time of the year is generosity. The idea of Jesus’ words through Paul (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) are, perhaps, never more prevalent than at Christmas. I know for me I get great joy in giving and seeing the faces when that gift if accepted and opened.

In many minds the “seed” for that generosity is a somewhat mythical creature named Santa Claus. I don’t get on the bandwagon about SC. I have bigger fish to fry. That is not a battle I choose to fight because, frankly, I don’t care. I really don’t. Those fools who say things like, “SANTA had the same letters as SATAN; they are just mixed up a little” are fighting a losing battle. That is just dumb. The legend of SC comes from the supposed inspiration of a real person, St. Nicolas. His idea? Generosity. Seeing a family or someone in need and trying to help.

Granted, some have taken it too far. Christmas is often more about trees, gifts, lights, etc than about celebrating the birth of Christ. But rather than protest in rebellion to that, we ought to use that as a springboard to be the most generous people around. Generosity ought to be one of the “calling cards” of the Christ-follower, not stinginess.

After all, the greatest example of generosity is the story we want to promote: the generosity of a loving God to lost humanity with the greatest gift of all.

“Father, help me to be a generous person not one who is stingy and wrapped up in himself. Help me to follow Your example.”

December 4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

December 3

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is A Person vs A Blob.

I read something this morning that got my wheels spinning. It was something I had never really thought much about. So I’d like to put it out there for you to think about.

First, let me say this: I am not a political person. I hate politics. I hate talking about it. I won’t blog about it. So you may ask, “If so, Bill, why this devotion?” Because I don’t believe the “baby in the womb” is a political discussion; it is a moral one. With that being said, I give you this devotion.

It struck me today that when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant, Luke 1:39-45 records part of their interaction. Verse 41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not bad for a blob, a mass of nothingness. I’m being sarcastic-yes. The baby (John) leaped in her womb. That being-whom some say is not alive, viable, or a person-recognized who just came into the room. Not Mary but Jesus! Not only is Elizabeth humbled with the visit from Mary, but her next words reveal even more: “And why is this granted that the mother of my lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” WOW!! If there was any question who Mary’s baby was that answers it. And if there was any question about the personhood of a baby in a womb, that question is answered also.

Person or blob. There should be no question.

“Father, thank you for this account. In a different way than normal, you have shown me the personhood and the awareness of a baby in the womb. May I react the same way John did when I am in the presence of Jesus.”

November 22

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lower vs. Higher.

Today it happened like so many other times. No, I didn’t get into trouble…yet. 🙂 No, it is something much better.  I’m sure you have probably had it happen too. You read the Bible and something clicks. You realize you are reading about yourself. Please let me explain.

My first reading this morning was from Jeremiah 2-4. First, I had to wade through the conviction that the Jews (and me) were trying to make life on their own and had committed two evils (2:12-13). Please take the time to read it. But what really got me was the incomplete repentance of Israel and Judah. What I mean by that is they were sorry for what had done; said so; but then failed to change. True repentance involves change, a turning around. How often has my repentance been incomplete?

That often comes from a failure of humility. A failure to see myself as needing to lower myself. In Luke 14:7-11 Jesus tells a parable of the wedding feast. In short: He says it is better to start lower and be moved up than to take a higher seat and be asked to move down. He finishes with these words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who is a better picture of that than Jesus? He humbly placed himself under human rule. As a human He exposed himself to all we face-weather, physical, abuse, political, all of it-to come down. But we also know as He humbled Himself He was also exalted to the highest place, the highest name, the highest seat, the highest position. Nothing in His life would make one think He was the King of kings. But His humility is evident. He wanted no pomp and circumstance. I mean…He rode a donkey not a Beamer!

A lesson for me to learn: take the lower place, not the higher. Don’t seek to elevate myself.

“Father, Jesus was the epitome of humility. He showed it as no one else did. May I follow His example and take/seek the lower seat.”

November 21

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Fool or Wise?

Over the past couple of months I have read two books that came from a unique perspective. Their authors were former atheists who came to know Christ as their Savior. They wrote for different reasons. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca MacLaughlin was written to answer 12 arguments that Christianity (God) is accused of. Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp was written to counteract actions in the church which threatened to turn MJ away from her life in Christ.

The denial of God’s existence is very real. There are those whose life mission is to disprove or argue His existence. The late Stephen Hawking. Dawkins. The late Christopher Hitchens. And others. But Psalm 14 puts a word on them that is ominous and no one wants to be called: F.O.O.L.

No one like to be called a fool and yet the ultimate foolishness is the denial of God.  But what concerns me is the one who believes in God and yet lives as if He doesn’t exist. What do I mean by that? Glad you asked. 🙂  It’s the one who lives:

  • As though God is a second thought not a first thought.
  • As though he is the master of his own fate
  • As though he is the ultimate ruler of his life and doesn’t need God’s authority.
  • As though he is smart enough to act and doesn’t need God’s wisdom
  • As though he has it within himself to overcome sin and temptation and doesn’t need God’s power in his life.
  • As though he gets things done by merit and does not need nor have to rely on God’s grace.

Could it be that every time I/you do or think the above thoughts we are saying, “God, I don’t need you. I’m going on this alone” even though we may not verbalize it?

I want to borrow from Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him:

A fool has no ability whatsoever to rescue himself from his own foolishness. A fool is always a person in need of eternal rescue…He (Jesus) was born to rescue fools like you and me. (pp.122-123)

“Father, help me not to live in such a way so that it appears I don’t believe in You. Instead, help me to live a life of wisdom-a life of surrender to You and not to myself.”

November 14

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Saying vs Living.

The past few days I’ve been reading a book by Mary Jo Sharp called Why I Still Believe. It is subtitled “A former atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” Mary Jo’s basic premise is after her conversion to Christ from atheism, how could she reconcile the church’s poor representation of Jesus. Her husband became a worship pastor almost by default so she got hit first hand with hypocrisy. In fact, the day she came to church to make her commitment public, the pastor’s wife judged her on the dress she was wearing. No greeting but a disdained “looking down on her” look with the words that she needed to check her dress. There was too much cleavage. In another incident, an atheist friend of hers she invited to class asked some honest questions about creation/young earth/old earth and was rudely shot down by the teacher and the pastor. They had no idea who he even was.

Hypocrisy wears many coats and hats. And I suppose we all (definitely me) are hypocrites from time to time. I know for a fact my actions do not always match my words. To quote Mary Jo:

Hypocrisy requires a reference to a standard of moral conduct which a person verbally accepts, but then denies by their behavior. (p.149)

Here is my analysis of it:

Standard= the Bible, God’s Word

Claim= to believe the Bible

Hypocrisy= to say I believe but live opposite.

I confess. I am a hypocrite at times. I don’t want to be. But I am.  Sounds like Romans 7 doesn’t it? But I also know that cannot be a cop out or a “get out of jail free” card. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites.

“Father, Your Word is true. It tells me all I need to know to live a life of godliness and holiness. But believing it and living it are two different things. Help me not to live a life contrary to Your Word, Your standard.”

{Note: Mary Jo’s book is an excellent and easy read. She has taken a very difficult subject (the existence of God) as well as the hypocrisy she has seen and molds them into a fine book. I’d highly recommend it. And, in case you are wondering, she exposes the hypocrisy of the atheist beliefs as well}.

November 13

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Friends vs “Friends.”

Have you ever met someone of whom it can be said, “He/she assumes a familiarity that is not there?” No? Well, your answer should be “Yes.”  If you know me then you have.  You see, I am an extreme extrovert. According to Jo and my girls I know no stranger. Jo once heard me talking to someone at WM about our oldest, who at the time, was teaching in Knoxville. He was also a teacher and moving to Knoxville so…you know…1 + 1 = 2. When we were alone Jo asked me who that was. I told her I had no clue. We were just talking. 🙂  Yep, extreme extrovert.

That has its drawbacks though. One big one is that earlier statement.  Because I am friendly, I just assume everyone ought to be. Jo has told me to stop being so friendly to little kids in the store at the checkout. She is probably right since the cultural climate is one of suspicion. But I’m that way with adults too. Especially those whom I have spent some time with. Especially especially (added for emphasis) if they are guys who are cyclists. Two of my closest friendships started because of the bike. One I never see since he moved south. The other is now retired and travels a lot with his now-retired wife. (They are in their 50s).  Since he lives about an hour away I see him occasionally. I have one friend from the church here who has moved about 30-45 minutes away whom I would like to see more often but you know how it is with guys who work and have families. Sheesh! 🙂 My best friend of over 40+ years was a college friend; played on the basketball team; helped me get my first full-time gig as a youth pastor with his father; and has since retired after he lost his heart with the death of his son.  I made my way to KY for that funeral and his father’s. That is what friends do. We are like David and Jonathan. We still see each other when we meet halfway for pizza. 

We are friends. Not “friends.” Friends. Real friends. In my mind “friends” are acquaintances. Faux people who are on the outside. Fair-weather “friends.”

I work hard to cultivate friendships because I need them. No I’m not co-dependent. No man is an island. As a pastor, they are rare. I am grateful for each friend God has placed in my path these 67 years. But none is as rich as my friendship with Jesus, the friend of sinners. For that friendship I will not assume anything.  It is too important. I need to go to the well and back to keep it energized and alive.  How about you?

“Father, I do thank you for each and every friend you have placed in my path and blessed me with. But none can take the place of YOU in my life. Help me to continue cultivating that friendship.”