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January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

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.”

January 6

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I have no title for today’s devotion. I gave part of this as my Communion thought yesterday before we observed the Lord’s Supper. I was going to disregard it afterwards but then I felt God saying, “No. Share this.” So here it is (expanded from its original).

When we think of titles for Jesus, we think of names like Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We think of Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. We might think of the names given to Him in Revelation: Alpha and Omega; Beginning and the End; the First and the Last; the One who was, and is, and is to come. King of kings. Lord of lords. The list seems endless.

But there is one that I seriously doubt comes to our minds or our lips. It is one used in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 by Jesus’ enemies. They call Him the “friend of sinners.” ‘Course they used it in derision because He was the friend of the tax collector, the demoniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, and other less-than-acceptable people. I’m glad. You see, I’m not a member of the intelligentsia. I’m not a great preacher. I’m not well-known. But I can tell you this-I am a sinner. And that I love that title: Jesus-Friend of sinners.

The story in the OT of Hosea and Gomer is a love story for the ages. Hallmark has nothing on that one! Taking a prostitute as a wife; fathering some children; Gomer returns to her former profession; Hosea buying her off the auction block (she was used up). I’d like to suggest reading the book of Hosea for the whole story.

That story shows me many things, two of which are 1) God never gives up on me; and 2) I have no grounds for despair in my daily life.

As the song says, “Jesus, friend of sinners. Jesus, friend of mine.” How soothing. How reinforcing.

“Father, may I never forget this title given to Jesus. Even tough it was given in derision, it is true. He is my friend.”

January 2

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

My title for this devotion is Servant vs Celebrity.

It’s that time of the year again! Sometime late last year-I think around Nov/Dec we were deluged with “The Sexiest Man Alive” garbage.  (I mean, like who really cares?) Then over the past week or so-with the end of one year and the beginning of another-we hear all kinds of “Ten Best” lists. And to top it off we are starting a new decade so we are inundated with “Ten Best” or “20 Best” of the decade. May I be very open and honest? I. don’t. care. Seriously. I really don’t. I don’t really care who society thinks the Sexiest Man or Woman is. Not only  is it purely subjective, in the grand scheme of things it changes nothing. It raises some to celebrity status and lowers some to “has been” or  secondary status.

How unlike Scripture. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As I’ve said how unlike the Scripture is our culture! I just can’t see Jesus campaigning for the front cover of a magazine. Or relishing His choice as “Most Rugged Man of the Year.” Or applauding His award as “Humanitarian of the Year.” Or basking in the glow of “Top Influential Evangelical of the Year.” Nope. Not Jesus. His greatest joy was not to be a celebrity, but being a servant. How many times did He tell people not to tell others “but go show yourself to the priests?”

Accolades come and go. I threw away my college basketball trophies long time ago. Praises are fickle. But what really matters is being a servant. There’s a Maranatha chorus we used to sing: “Make me a servant humble and meek/Lord help me lift up those who are weak/And may the prayer of my heart always be/Make me a servant/Make me a servant today.”

“Lord, that is my prayer today. Let me be a servant for You. Help me not to seek the accolades or applause of men.”

January 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Transformation: Real vs Imagined.

What I’m about to write may cause you to question my maturity/sanity.  Maybe both!! 🙂  I like fantasy movies like the Back to the Future trilogy (my all-time favorite) and Lord of the Rings. One that my grandson got watching with him and is now one of my favorites are The Transformers. These shape-shifting cars and trucks are fascinating to me. (Told you my maturity and sanity would be called into question). On the way home yesterday from Ohio I saw a Hummer with two logos of Optimus Prime (OP) on his rear door and art work up front that highlighted him.  OP is the lead Autobot in their ongoing battle against the Decepticons. That is a good word since their whole deal is deceiving and acting like Autobots but always against them.

So what does my childlike (not childish) interest have to do with my real world? They are called Transformers because they “transform” from a car/truck to a fighting robot and then go back again to their original shape.  2 Cor. 5:17 says we are “new creations,” i.e. transformed. Romans 12:2 says we are not to be “conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind.” But Romans 8:29 also says we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Transformed to be conformed.

Transformation is real when our greatest desire becomes the desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That is my prayer for this year. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t do “one word.” I want to have this hungering drive to be transformed in all ways so that I may be conformed to the image of Jesus.

“Father, make that my yearning this year. May that be what gets me up in the morning and let’s me lay my head down at night. Transform me to conform me.”

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In my post here I mentioned the tough decision I was having to make about whether to continue the “Shadow” blog. After reading some comments, and pondering and praying, I have decided to continue offering this blog. I have a selfish reason: I need it! I need the daily discipline to journal my Quiet Time thoughts. Second, Diane said it well. Numbers don’t really matter. I guess I ought to take it that as long as someone folks are reading and listening and learning, it would be good to continue it. I’m not sure I will post on the weekend unless I do a “Weekend Extra” type of thing.  But I will try (with God’s help) to present a devotion that helps you through your day. Thanks for caring enough to respond.  My prayer is that I will say something that will help you in your day.

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

December 24

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Your word: Bond vs Betrayal.

When I was young whippersnapper growing up, I remember often many adults, especially my grandfather and my father, saying, “Remember Bill. Your word is your bond.” Back then (it was the Dark Ages you know?) a handshake was enough. Deals were sealed by the shaking of hands. There was no “pinky swear.” Often times, there was no contract.

But times have changed. We recently had to have some maintenance done to our house. The biggest was replacing our 20+ year old roof made of shingles they no longer make. 🙂 I contacted different roofers and settled on one who gave me the best price and had a good reputation. We also needed more room badly so I asked him to extend our small kitchen and add an extension (18×14) using the existing patio. The work was to start in September. How does late October/early November sound? Then he kept putting me off-starting and stopping, skipping days on end-and fitting me in whenever and losing precious good days. Before he started I had also asked him about finishing the room inside as well. He shot me a price. Sounded good until it came time to possibly start. Suddenly his price was not all that good. His words failed. I had some friends help.

Sadly, his word did not mean that much. I’m glad God was not like Him. God gave a promise (a covenant) to Abram. He changed his name to Abraham which was like His handshake. And He saw it through. It turned out just as He said-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus. There were more, of course, but just 6 names alone show God’s amazing promise and keeping His Word.

“Father, Your Word, Your covenant, Your promise was enough. You said it would be and it was. Through all the highs and lows of Israel’s history, Your promise never wavered. It still doesn’t.”

{And just an aside: can you think of any better time (other than Easter) to remember this covenant-keeping God than right now at Christmas? Merry Christmas to all of you.  May this time of the year be filled with Jesus and the essentials He offers: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.}

December 23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

As it gets closer to Christmas my workload also amps due to the church serving breakfast on Christmas morning and also handing out at least 30 bags of groceries which will all be put together today. (There are actually 60 since not all the food will fit into one bag). So I am going to “cheat” again by using my #ChristmasChallenge devotion here.

My title for this devotion is Manger vs Cross.

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

December 19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is More vs Less.

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole incarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire in order to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

I’m taking some folks to the Indianapolis airport for their yearly trek to Disney so I “cheated” a little by using a good part of my #ChristmasChallenge at my other blog as my daily devotion today. I needed to save a bit of time since I am leaving fairly early to take them.

Dear friends: I have made a grave error in this post. I have since made the correction. Diane’s comment pointed it out. I did not mean “reincarnation” but “incarnation.” My sincerest apologies. That was one ugly heresy I put out there by accident.