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April 16

Friday, April 16th, 2021

One of the phrases we heard a lot of during the pandemic -ad infinitum, ad nauseum- was “we’re in this together.” I know. I know. It was supposed to be true. And yes, I know what it was supposed to mean.

But if I want to be cynical (Who me?) I would say this: if we were supposed to be in this together, why was 2020 a year of unrest and riots and upheaval and hate speech and vitriol? We may have been going through the scourge of the pandemic together, but we weren’t really together.

But I digress. The point I really want to get to is found in I Cor.12: 22-26. Take a moment, please, to read it. Several points stand out to me:

  1. Those who think they are the most important very often are not.
  2. We need to take special note of those who seem less important. I’ll call them the “behind the scenes” people.
  3. A real “in this together” body laughs and cries together. They experience life together.

This pandemic has done several things to the church. One has been to separate people. The church is a body, uniquely put together and made up of different people. We were designed to need each other and no amount of zoom meetings, or even cards or phone calls, can take the place of personal, in-person contact. I’m not delusional enough to think all will come back-at least not right away.  Maybe never. But when we do and when we do see each other I pray we will “honor” each other; know our place, and laugh and cry with each other.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. Do you?

“Father, may Your body- the church-truly be an example of being in this together.”

April 6

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Contentment is a good thing. Right?

Speak of contentment and eventually someone who knows their Bible will go to the verse in Timothy which says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (I Tim.6:6)

So contentment is a good thing. Right?

May I throw a wrench into your thinking? Contentment is a good thing depending on your focus and subject. Here is what I mean:

When it comes to your daily walk with Christ, I think contentment is not the goal. In fact, I think discontent is. I have a reason for saying that. Contentment gives the impression of “arrival,” a sort of settledness. It’s like the challenge has been met and now comes the “A-a-a-h” factor.

My contention is that contentment is not the goal when it comes to my walk with God. In fact, Paul said it well in Phil.3:10 when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” That word know in the Greek means “to know intimately.” That intimacy-whether in a physical relationship or a spiritual relationship-can only come from time.  Spiritually what I will call a “holy discontent.” It’s the refusal to be satisfied with the status quo but to always be pursuing a closer walk with Jesus.

Contentment in this scenario reeks of plateau. Discontent speaks of pursuit.

Which will you choose?

“Father, may I be discontented when it comes to being satisfied in You. May I always be pursuing a deeper walk with You.”

April 2

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Motives. Mention the word and you can see people twitch.

There are those who want to question the motives of everyone. Let’s call them the Challengers. They want to call into question “the why and the wherefore” of all things and all people. They trust no one.

There are those who criticize. Let’s call them the Criticizers. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say they are an offshoot of the questioner. Every deal is analyzed and criticized. They see a hidden agenda behind every curtain.

There are those who never question. Let’s call them the Oblivious. Or maybe the Gullible. They tend to fall for things hook, line, and sinker. They never ask a question or wonder why. Naive even fits here.

With this week being what is called Holy Week, and today being “Good Friday” (I guess “good” depends on your perspective), one man stands out. Judas. What was his motive? There are some stated in the previous devotion. But motive rises to the top.,

David was once challenged about his motives. He went to visit his brothers and while he was there Goliath challenged the armies of Israel. They all ran. David asked why no one would fight that uncircumcised Philistine. Eliab, David’s brother, chastised him and accused him of arrogance.

I honestly believe David’s motives were pure. He went there at his father’s behest to check on his brothers and to take food to them. Nothing scandalous. But to Eliab? Whoa!! For the whole story check out 1 Samuel 17, especially verses 28-30.

How often have I jumped to conclusions and made judgments about people and their motives?  I don’t like it when people question mine. Why would I think it is okay to judge another’s? Only God sees the whole picture. I must remember: I cannot judge what I do not know.

“Father, help me to lay aside my preconceived ideas and judgments and keep my thoughts to myself, especially when I have no proof. Help me to leave the judging up to You.”

April 1

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Today is typically known as “April Fool’s Day.” We play pranks on people. Oh, I can remember trying to catch people off-guard with crazy, wild-eyed stories. Or coming up to someone who is afraid of spiders or snakes and playing on that fear. Most of it was innocent (but juvenile) fun.

When you think of someone in the Bible whom you might call a fool, who comes to mind? Solomon talks about fools a lot in Proverbs. We could add in Ecclesiastes as giving us a picture of a fool, one pursuing the here and now and finding it empty.  Paul says at one point that he is a “fool for Christ’s sake.” A totally different meaning.

One person? My vote goes to Judas. His is a baffling case. Follower of Jesus for 3 years. Endued with power to heal the sick, cast our demons, etc like all the others. (Luke 9) He saw Jesus do miracles-feed the 5000, calm the storm, raise the dead, and more-over the 3 years he was with Jesus. He hung out with the boys. Late night campfires. Early morning brisk walks.  Rousing discussions about the religious leaders.

We also know he loved money. He loved power. Deadly combination. When Mary anointed Jesus he protested. But as John says only because he liked to dip his hand into the till and help himself.

He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. Not much, even in those days. We gain some insight into Judas when we realize he never called Jesus “Lord.” At the last meal when Jesus predicted His betrayal, Judas calls Him “Rabbi.” In the Garden he calls Him “Teacher.”  Never Lord. That should tell us something. He followed but never surrendered.

Fool. Ooops, what does that say about me? Follow but fail to surrender. Hmmm. Fool seems to fit me as well.

“Father, help me not to be like Judas. Help me to cast aside the ‘fool’ label and commit to following You as my ‘Lord.’ ”

March 31

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

We say it in various ways:

  • “Turn about is fair play.”
  • “Don’t worry. They’ll get theirs.”
  • “What goes around comes around.”
  • “It’ll come back to bite them.”

I hate to say it, but sometimes we say those statements with a glint in the eye. An upturned lip hinting at a smile. We sorta like it when someone gets what is coming to them.

It plays itself out in different scenarios. A harsh teacher/coach who finds his students/athletes refusing to perform anymore. The ruler whose asinine laws or decrees make it difficult for people to function or do their job. A leaders who is harsh. An investor who bilks people out of their money. “They’ll get theirs,” we say.

And we want to be judge, jury and executioner. We want to be the one who makes people pay.

In the OT there is a man named Abimelech. He is an illegitimate son of Gideon.  He convinces the people to put him in charge, to make him their one ruler.  The people agree to do that and he then goes out and kills all 70 of Gideon’s sons. But he didn’t stop there. He became an insufferable, arrogant, mad dictator. That is until a woman dropped a stone on his head from atop a tower. He had hoarded the people into the tower with the sole goal of executing them by setting a fire. Abimelech was a cruel tyrant. We see them everywhere. Passing laws that don’t benefit people, only themselves. Running roughshod over citizens to attain their agenda. The consolation? Sooner or later the roof will cave in, the stone will fall. They will get theirs. Justice will be done. In this life or the next.

“Father, vengeance is yours. And while I may not understand all that is happening, I must trust in Your strong hand.”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

March 29

Monday, March 29th, 2021

“No man is an island.”

So we hear. But did you know there is more to that quote?

The full quote by John Donne is this:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

Honestly, I did not know of the rest of the quote. But WOW! It sure changes the meaning doesn’t it? Take the first part by itself and it sounds like no man is alone. No man needs to be alone. No man can survive alone.

And I’ll agree with that.

But the rest of the quote gives a whole new twist. Let me show you what I mean. It is common to hear someone say, “My sin is my sin and I’m not hurting anyone anyway. What I do in the privacy of my home does not affect you.”  Well, in a sense, that is true. But more often than not that phrase is used to justify sins like porn, or lust, or reading offensive literature or watching a movie that is tainted. We justify those things saying we watch it or read it in the privacy of our home so I’m not hurting anyone. Have you heard that?  Shoot, I’ve even used it.

I wonder if thoughts like that went to Achan’s mind when he stole some of the sacred things of Jericho and hid them under his tent? Maybe. But little did he know or realize the chain reaction of consequences his actions would bring about. The lost “innocence” of Joshua and the people of Israel. The lost battle. His death. The death of his whole family.

Would he have taken the sacred things if he had known? That’s not the point, of course.  He did and the consequences were a whole lot bigger than just a few trinkets.

That’s the trouble with sin. You cannot contain it. In time it will destroy you and those you love. Private sin? No such animal.

“Father, You see my sin. Help me to see it as You do. And help me to say no to hiding or thinking I can hide my sin.”

March 26

Friday, March 26th, 2021

If there is one word which has reached epic proportions today in weight it is “tolerance.” Although most often not in a good way. I have said over and over: “Those who want and preach tolerance become the most intolerant of all when you disagree with them.”

Today, intolerance has become the worst sin in the world’s eyes and tolerance the highest good (if and only if you agree with them). To be principled or to have informed moral convictions is to be declared intolerant, out of touch, and above all, mean-spirited. Those who are “tolerant,” those who will tolerate anything and everything, take the high moral ground. And please! Don’t disagree with them! You become an intolerant bigot.

In the OT there is a great story and a great illustration to this whole mess. It is in Numbers 25.  Thanks to Balaam’s word to Balak, the people of Israel began to intermingle and intermarry with the Midianite women. This resulted in the acceptance of and worship of foreign gods, particularly Baal. One incident stands out.  God is extremely angry and Moses is confronting the people and many of them are in repenting of their sin. Zimri comes into the midst of the people repenting and takes a foreign women into the tabernacle and lays with her.

The scene is shocking to say the least. But when Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron sees what is happening, he goes into the tabernacle, and filled with the Holy Spirit and holy outrage, kills them both with a spear through their belly. J.B. Phillips once said, “It’s not for nothing that the Spirit God has given to us is called the Holy Spirit.

If that happened today, there would be outrage. It wouldn’t be holy and it wouldn’t be for God’s cause. People would be outraged that Phinehas stood up for a righteous and holy God. He would have been cancelled or black-balled or bullied (or all three) because he dared to take a stand for what he believed to be right. I’d say it is time for the church- pastors, leaders, and individuals- to stand up for the truth and righteousness. To be called “intolerant” just very well might a badge of honor worth wearing.

“Father, like Phinehas help me to take a stand for the righteous and holy God You are. Help me not be concerned about  the consequences but to be willing to stand for You.”

March 23

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Who said it is up in the air. It could have been President Reagan. It could have been Coach John Wooden. When you see the quote you’d probably chuckle because both of them would probably say, “Does it really matter who said it?” 🙂

The quote:

There is no end of the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

See what I mean about not really caring? And yes, there have been variations of that quote make its rounds.

I’ve noticed two things about most-not all-but most people. We are 1) quick to lay blame, and 2) quick to take credit. That could be worded a bit differently: We are slow to take blame and quick to take credit.  Big people give credit; little people lay blame.

Sometimes its hard to admit the need for help.  Maybe its pride.  Maybe its an “I can handle this” mentality. Maybe its the inability to look ahead. When I was a young pastor, my schedule was full. Too full as I now see it. Mornings in the office. Visitation in the afternoon and many evenings. Not any more. Age plays a part in that.  Wisdom plays a part in that. Even humility-if I can say that and not be seen as arrogant-plays a part. Admitting I can’t do it alone.

Truthfully, I can’t do it alone. But therein is the rub. If I say I can’t do it, am I willing to get help and maybe watch someone’s “star” rise? If not, then I need to continue wallowing in my inability to have more of an impact. Check out Numbers 11: 16-29 for Moses’ reaction. And do you remember when Jethro, his father-in-law, came to him and suggested he get help and divide up the workload?

Moses had to not care who got the credit. Now…am I? Are you?

“Father, help me to delight in the joy of others using their gifts to spread the impact of changing lives.”

March 22

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

I’m sure you’ve heard or maybe used the phrase, “You make a molehill into a mountain.” The opposite is what we truly want to happen (and what God often does): “He makes a mountain into a molehill.”

Back to the original statement of “a molehill into a mountain.” Small things loom large. Small holes are made into mountains by worry, fear, and rebellion.

Here is an interesting connection for you. Moses is opposed by two magicians at the start of the plagues in Egypt-the Nile turning to blood, and the frogs taking over. They were able to duplicate the plagues but not remove them. Paul gives us their names in 2 Timothy 3:8-9. Their names were Jannes and Jambres. They opposed the truth, put up counterfeits, and rejected Moses’ warnings. Eventually, they slithered off in disgrace (Ex.9:11) but very possibly convinced Pharaoh to pursue the Israelites and drowned with him and the army.

Application: In our lives-sometimes daily-we have our Jannes and Jambres. Let’s give them different names: fear, anxiety, anger, rebellion, and others opposed to God’s work. Molehills become mountains because we allow the tools of the enemy to take root in our lives. What is interesting is Jannes and Jambres could duplicate the plagues but not get rid of them. That tells us the enemy of our souls can cause havoc but has no power to take it away (not that he would want to). He brings the mountain; God does the removing.

Two statements come to mind. I have a magnet on my file cabinet at the office which I have for more year than I can remember:

The faith to move mountains is the reward of those who have moved little hills.

The other is a Tolkien quote via Gandalf:

The power of Sauron is still less than fear makes it.

Don’t let your molehill become a mountain. Let God take your mountain and make it into a molehill.

“Father, may I give you my complete trust in all my circumstances, especially when the molehill threatens to become a mountain.”