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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 3

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

I think one of the hardest things as a pastor is trying to help people and them either not accepting it or continuing to struggle. One of the most difficult things to overcome is anger, especially that which is caused by betrayal or insensitivity. Or worst of all, by gossip.

That last one is an ugly poison, a cancer that afflicts many organizations, but is especially devastating to a church. I remember reading about an old Quaker pastor who had one insidious lady in his church who loved to gossip. But one time her gossip ruined people. She came into the pastor’s office to apologize and ask what she can do to make it right. He gave her a bag of feathers and said to go outside and release them. She did. When she was done, and thought all was well, she asked him what she was to do next. He told her to go around and pick up all the feathers. “That’s impossible. They’re scattered all over!” And he said, “So are your words and you’ll never be able to take them all back.”

  • There are mean people out there in this world. Don’t tolerate them.
  • There are self-righteous, opinionated people in this world. Dismiss them.
  • There are gossipy people in this world. Rebuke them.
  • There are evil people in this world. Avoid them.

Know what is ever sadder? Many of those people are so-called “Christians.” (Yeah, you saw the change from Christ-follower to “Christians”).  Gossip N.E.V.E.R. heals or helps. It always hurts and destroys. Even gossips sometimes tell the truth, even if it hurts. Or is that especially if that hurts. I had one who justified her gossip with “I told the truth” to which I said, “Why say anything at all?”

James 3 says our tongue is a flame that quickly gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy is wrought when a fire gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy and damage is wrought when a tongue gets out of control.

“Father, words can be used for good or for evil. May my words bring healing to others and glory to You in all things.”

 

July 2

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

There are several sayings and ideas that flash through my head from time to time. You see, there have been times I’ve thought about going back to school.  Not anymore though because at 67 I’m not sure there would be much of a return. 🙂 Unless, of course, it would be for counseling.  But then again… (I could write a whole lot about that).

Anyway,  about those sayings.  Here are a few of them:

  • “Much learning doth make thee mad.”  (No one ever accused me of that)
  • “He’s so smart, but has no common sense.”  (Ditto, especially on that first part)
  • “His head is so far up in the clouds he doesn’t know how to relate to people.”  (I know I’m tall but having that said about me would kill me).

Stuff like that. Then there’s the pompous idiots who think because he/she has a degree they are much better than everyone else.

I don’t want either. There has got to be a balance between knowledge and the ability to minister (and to be seen as a normal person). I don’t want to spend so much time learning that I forget the practical. It used to be said that Bible college was not the place to go if you want to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The idea was you spend so much time studying about Jesus and very little time getting to know Jesus.

That’s a danger for anyone…period. Proverbs 4: 20-23 are verses well worth keeping in mind.  “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Emphasis on the last verse. The NLT puts it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  I like that. Where my heart is = the direction of my life. My course in life is not more education. My course in life is to be more intimate with the Father and to pursue that intimacy. “Go there heart. Go there.”

“Father, may that be my deep desire. Not to worry about more education for the sake of education or to have letters after my name (who really cares anyway?).  I like being called “Bill” or “Pastor Bill.”  May my greatest desire be to know You.”

July 1

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Have you ever boasted? To my way of thinking, boasting and pride are like two children from the same mother. Pride is a false perception of oneself; boasting is putting that pride to words. Pride is sinful. Boasting is dangerous.

This hit me today as I read the Scriptures this morning. Jesus had just spoken to His disciples in the Upper Room and had prayed what I consider “The Lord’s Prayer.” No, not the one in Matthew 6 (The Model Prayer), but the one found in John 17, also known as the High Priestly Prayer. But in Mark 14:26-31 we have an account of Jesus and His disciples heading out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden. On the way Jesus tells them they would all fall away (Gk word stumble). Peter boldly and brashly confronts Jesus and says that if everyone else falls away he will not. To which Jesus reassures him that “Oh yes you will.” Peter replies, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (14:31).  ‘Course we know how that ends.

Boasting is dangerous. I think some of the most dangerous words a Christ-follower can utter are “I will or would never do that” or some variation of that. Using those words is like a set up, a challenge to the enemy to make it happen. When I used those words I can now picture him licking his chops and rubbing his hands together with a silly grin on his face. Be careful making boasts in the heat of passion that you may not be able to back up. All the best intentions in the world do not stop susceptibility. Nor does it take the target off your back.  It probably makes it larger and harder to miss.

“Father, help me to be strong without boasting. Help me to endure in Your strength not in my bravado.”

June 29

Monday, June 29th, 2020

“On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand/All other ground is sinking sand.”  It seems to me we need to learn that lesson in spades these days.

There is no doubt that ungodliness is getting bolder and bolder. Blatant sin is being paraded in front of our very eyes. There is no effort to hide it or disguise it anymore. It’s “in your face” and the follower of Christ is expected to take it, accept it, or go under. I tired long ago of the nightly news. I tired of seeing sin blaring out from the screen-Hollywood telling me I need to accept this/that or I’m a bigot. I have some kind of phobia. If I speak up I’m censored, black-balled, or attacked. If I stay silent it is seen as acceptance.

I read recently about an old country preacher who once said,

I may tremble on the rock, but the rock don’t tremble under me.

As the opening statement said, “On Christ the solid rock I stand…” His foundation is solid. The foundations of our society may be trembling or even crumbling, but our solid rock is not. As a follower of Christ, I may come to the fork in the road when I must make a choice- stand and be counted or falter and take the easy way. But when that time comes I pray my choice will be with the Rock who never rolls.

“Father, You are forever. You are true. Help me to remember to stand with You because Your foundation does not tremble and will not crumble.”

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 22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It turned out to be a right fine day. There was the worship that started it off right. It was good to see some more folks venture out. Each week a new group of people is venturing out.  I came home to a home-grilled meal of salmon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. Some friends stopped by with ice cream (I am their surrogate father/grandfather). I went to the Y then came home and read a novel the rest of the evening. A nice relaxing day. I am grateful.

Gratitude seems to be a dying art these days. We run around so much trying to meet our own agenda that to take the time to be thankful is lost on us. With inspiration from Chuck Swindoll, I’d like to take a few moments to consider how we often take things for granted.

  • There is a light over my head. Thanks Tom
  • There is electricity pulsing through my house. Thanks again Tom.
  • There is an instrument that allows me to talk to someone miles away. Thanks Alexander.
  • I will soon get in my truck to drive to work. Thanks Henry.
  • On my face are glasses which help me to read. Thanks Ben.
  • We will soon celebrate the 4th of July with a waving flag. Thanks Betsy.
  • My life is given over to Jesus. Thanks mom and grandad.
  • I come home each day to a place of warmth, welcome and love. Thanks Jo.
  • I am called father by two beautiful and special young ladies. Thanks Tami and Janna.
  • I am called “grandpa.” Thanks Braden.
  • I serve a group of people who love me, call me pastor and friend. Thanks OVCF.

I could go on but it would take pages and still not be exhausted. Instead of complaining, let’s be thankful.

“Father, thank you for so much, for so many gifts. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to You for it all.”

June 15

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Goethe once said:

We must always change, renew, and rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.

He’s right when speaking of changing and moving with the tide, so to speak. But we must always remember there is one thing which never changes: TRUTH. Truth is not always popular, but it is always right.

We live in an age where truth is relative. We have no absolutes. That is post-modernism’s jig. It is seen in a recent documentary which played on ESPN on the life of disgraced cyclist-Lance Armstrong. At the very beginning the interviewer-who is also the shows writer/producer-asks Lance about the truth. He answers: “I will tell you the truth, my truth. (Emphasis mine).  Arrogance personified.  My truth as seen through my eyes. No moorings; no truth.

How typical of our day and age. Truth is what you or I make it to be.  Take the foundation away and all that is left is well…whatever I think is right. So right and wrong shift. It is “truth according to me.” Imagine if you would the writers of the Gospels, the life of Jesus. It would not be The Gospel of Matthew but the Gospel According to Matthew. Pick and choose what is true about Jesus. Can you see how the lack of truth is playing out in our world as well? Lie about the virus to fuel our agenda (political or financial or whatever else there is). Lie about events to cover the up the truth. When truth is compromised, chaos ensues. It happens in the church. Compromise the truth and the slope starts tilting even more. Compromise has an ugly end. No good comes out of it. I’m not talking about stubbornness/opinion in standing your ground. I’m talking about giving up truth. Opinions can be  compromised; truth cannot.

“Father, help me to fold fast to truth and never give in. Your truth never changes no matter what.”

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.”