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June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

June 9

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I’ve got a problem! (I know what some of you are thinking and no comments are needed from the peanut gallery). But in all seriousness, I have a problem.

“Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

My problem: how do I do that? How do I know if I have?

Paul David Tripp in his short devotional book 40 Days of Love says,

“We can know the true joys of human love only if love for God first rules our hearts.” (p.72)

I know that. Not sure I practice it all that much. There is no question in my mind that I am often guilty of idolatry-of putting people, places, and things ahead of Jesus. The sad part is that I know this but find it so hard to change it. I realize that if I don’t find my rest and comfort in God, I will seek for it somewhere or with someone else. Then I’ll be asking of Jo, or another person, or my bike. or an activity to do for me what only God can. Fill me and satisfy me.

But even as I write this I am no closer to an answer to my questions: How do I do that? How do I know?

Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I’d like to hear from you.

“Father, help me to love You as I am supposed to. Please help me to find the answers to my questions.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

June 3

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Have you ever had one of those “holy moments?” It’s one of those moments when you become so aware of God’s presence the only response is one of awe and humility. I’ve had several of those moments in my 45+ years as a pastor and my 60+ years as a Christ-follower.

The year was the summer of ’89 (no not ’69). It had been like many other summers-bike riding, preaching, ministry, moving Tami back from Florida. She lived with us for awhile as she settled in teaching at a school district north of our county substituting as a fill-in for a teacher on family leave as her husband battled cancer. One Sunday night something led her to visit another church in our city (we did not have evening services). She talked so much about her visit I asked  if she cared if I went. Of course not. She knew I would drive and also probably buy her something to eat or drink afterwards. Anyway, by August of that summer my life had been changed.

I experienced God’s presence.

My burning bush.

My ladder to heaven and wrestling with God.

My moment in the “temple” when “all was stripped away and I simply came” as Matt Redman’s song reflected. (Cue up The Heart of Worship)

That preceded a period of epic growth-for me and the church. I sensed God’s presence in everything I did. My speech. My preaching. My study. My activities. The church had 24 additions in about a 3-4 month period-18 of them new converts.  It also helped me weather losing my job because I wanted to be a spiritual leader, not a CEO type.

I long for that Emmaus time again-when my eyes are open and I realize I was with Jesus. When the communion with Him was special. When a bush burns (not literally) and isn’t consumed. When the things of the world grow strangely dim. When worship takes priority. When I experience a holy moment of being in God’s presence.

“Father, you don’t need an appointment to meet with me. You don’t have to say, ‘I’m coming at such-and-such a time. Be ready.’  I’m simply asking you to come and meet with me.”

{Note: Today I celebrate a very holy moment. 46 years ago God blessed Jo and me with our oldest daughter, Tami. Her birth was a “holy moment” for me. I continue to be grateful for her life and how God still grips her and she Him.}

June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”

May 27

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I’ve been reading a book called Beauty in the Browns by Paul Asay. Paul is a writer for Focus on the Family and other venues. Short story: it is about walking with Christ in the darkness of depression. Mr. Asay has been brutally honest in his person memoir on his struggle with depression.

I have no plans to go any deeper right now. What I want to focus on is one of the three key elements that brought him out of his depression.  Time. Love. Action. Those are the three key elements. My focus is on the second: Love.

Hardly a person alive-one who know the Bible or one who doesn’t-has not had some exposure to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…”  That verse sums up the essence of Christianity. Think this through with me please:

  • We didn’t deserve it.
  • We didn’t deserve the gift of life and salvation.
  • He loved us, not because we were lovely, but because we weren’t.
  • He loves us not because we had and have it all together. We could say He loves us because we didn’t. To use a common phrase: He loved us because we were broken.
  • His love was not dependent on our goodness. It was not dependent on our response.  It was not dependent on us raising our hallelujahs or our hands.

His love is real. His love is sincere. His love is pursuant. (One author once called Him the “Hound of Heaven”).  His love is constant. His love is steadfast. It does not depend on our skills, talents, and dedication. Aren’t you glad?

So this morning I want to challenge you to sit back, relax, and bask in the love of God today. Live in that love.

“Father, may that be my desire today. Help me to just rest in Your love.”

May 26

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

In a chapter filled with gems, one stood out to me this morning. My reading of the NT finds me in Philippians 1 this morning. {Please take a moment to read that right now}

Paul prays their love would overflow more and more, and that they will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. (v.9)

He prays they will see the fruit of their salvation-the righteous character produced by Jesus in their life. (v.11)

But these simple words stood out to me this morning: “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (20-21) Emphasis mine.

Standing for Christ is only easy when surrounded by like-minded people. It is easy to be strong when there is no opposition. But Paul is praying for boldness when tested.

But what struck me is his phrase: “And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ.” Those simple words say it all. That should be my prayer on a daily basis.

It should be yours also.

There is virtue in dying with Jesus on your lips. There is an ever greater virtue living with the words and name of Jesus on our lips. I pray my life will bring honor to Him.

“Father, that should be my daily prayer. Make it so. I reiterate it this morning: May my life bring honor to You.”

All Scripture is the New Living Translation.

May 19

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Have you ever had moments where you just wanted to rebel? You know, where you just tired of following rules and wanted to do something contrary? Say…like wearing a mask?

Welcome to my world.

Not that it is always like that.  Most often I am pretty easy going and acquiescent. Growing up I always played sports. Baseball and basketball. There is one constant in all sports: rules. Authority. The rule book is the standard under which the game is played. The umpire/ref is the authority who enforces the rules. The coach follows them. Then there is me-the player. I am subject to my coach, the umpire and the rules.

One time I remember having a not-so-good game (translated: bad). Playing first I had done well. But batting was another story. I had already struck out twice on called third strikes and pitches I thought were below my knees.  The third time he called me out and the coach said something about getting the bat off my shoulder. I said something to the effect that I needed a golf club to hit that last pitch he called Strike 3. That didn’t sit well with him or the umpire.  And while it didn’t sit well with either of them, I found the bench an even harder seat.  My rebellion had a consequence-the bench for the rest of the game and an apology to both the coach and the ump. Sorry again George (my coach. And I’m not even going to attempt to spell his last name). And Mr. Witherspoon.

I challenged authority.  I still do. I found every opportunity to not wear a mask during the recent fiasco.  But that is innocent rebellion in the grand scheme of things. The real disobedience and defiance comes when I disobey or defy God’s Word.  God’s Word is given as the authority, the standard, the “rule book.”  I can choose to comply or choose to fight.

Where do you find yourself? Are you like me? Compliant but also rebellious at times? Deciding I know better. This whole challenging authority never seems to work out for our good. Sitting the bench and gather splinters is never fun.

“Father, may I be obedient and compliant to your authority. May Your Word be my ‘rule book’ to follow.”