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August 14

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Healthy vs Sickly.

We all know people. “After what he/she did to me there is absolutely no way I will forgive.” “How come when I do something it always {Note: bad word to us} ends up bad, but every time {again…bad choice of words} they do something they come out smelling like a rose.”  Or some variation of those.

We all know people. What am I saying? That sometimes describes me!! Please tell me if I’m wrong. Does that not describe each of us from time to time? Can I honestly say I am free of envy and jealousy? No. If I’m honest. No. To say I don’t wish for more at times would be a bold-faced lie. Just the other day I was telling Jo that there are times I have to fight getting down on myself because of a financial choice I made back in 1974. I chose to opt out of SS. So to this day I have nothing. I was foolish not to save, to invest (didn’t know how and often didn’t have enough money). Fool is my name when it comes to that. So, unless God intercedes in a dramatic way, we will never have a retirement. Least not one of comfort. We will always struggle.

When I struggle with defies Proverbs 14:30: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” I look at retired people who are generous (some have even given us money to help with the travel to Ohio for the mess with Jo’s sister), and know that cannot be us in our later years. Poof! Gone is the tranquil heart; hello envy.

But I also know I wasn’t made for that. I am not meant to envy or for jealousy or greed or longing for more. I am not meant to be a slave to fear.

“Father, set me free from envy and jealousy. Set me free from worrying about the future. Today has enough trouble of its own.  Help me to live in a healthy relationship with You which will keep away envy and keep my spirit from rotting away.”

August 7

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Slow Burn vs Flash Fire.

I often hear people say, “It just happened. I wasn’t expecting that.” Or some form of that. But if my experience tells me anything, it tells me it didn’t happen overnight. Let’s call it a slow burn.

This hit me as I was reading Proverbs 7 today. The whole chapter is a warning against the adulteress but several slivers caught my attention. After detailing how he watched the young man put himself in a bad position, verse 21 says, “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.” Notice the word seductive. That’s a word that fits slow burn.

The tragedy is he put himself in her path. He meandered toward her. The description of his fall (a stag and a bird) is further proof of what happens. Slow. Wandering. Trapped. He didn’t wake up and say, “I think I’ll go be seduced by a prostitute today.” That would be a flash fire, a purposeful decision, even one made in “the heat of the moment.” No, like most people, it was a slow, sometimes aimless drift.

Two other verses are sobering and telling: “He does not know it will cost him his life.” (v.23b). But the more telling one are these: “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.” (verses 25-26)

Be careful of the slippery slope. Be careful of the gradual slide. Be careful of the slow burn. That is far more common than the flash fire.

“Father, I play too close to the fire at times. Someone has said, ‘When you play with fire you either get burnt or smell like smoke.’ Help me not to see how close I can get, but how far away I can stay. Help me to stay out of the trap.”

July 31

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

I actually wrote the bulk of this Monday morning at Jo’s sister’s apartment that would see us for the final time that day. I was going to title this An Observation. But this morning I went back to it and reworked some of it, mostly by adding some thoughts. But when I reworked it this morning I decided on a different title:

Stretching vs. Atrophy.

Here is the reworked devotion:

This Monday as I read my devotion from “Faith” from an Our Daily Bread collection of devotions, knowing today would the last day we would ever see this apartment and all that has taken place over the last month or so, I had to make some observations. The author’s devotion was on Stretching. As I sit down to have my Quiet Time,  the apartment is quiet. The outside is quiet. My soul is quiet and at rest. Today we pack up and move what remains in Vicki’s apartment. It has been a “stretching” experience in so many ways.

For Jo it has stretched her far beyond her comfort zone. I have not seen her cry like she has in a long, long time. Maybe after my second bike accident when I was seriously injured and the ensuing trauma which followed. Jo has had to go to bank after bank-back and forth-many times. Talk to Job & Family Services (a government agency…’Nuff said0. Apply for Medicaid for her sister. Become POA.  Make future funeral arrangements. Nursing home. Hospital. Phone calls. Way, way, way out of her comfort zone.  She’s a saint putting up with all she has.

For me it was giving up the routine of my job. Not being there for what I consider my responsibility has been hard. It has been hard to leave for weeks (3 of the last 5 to clean out this hoarder’s apartment. Scrubbing on my hands and knees to clean up…stuff. I cannot say enough about how Ryan and Diana (youth pastor and secretary) have held down the fort. Nor can I praise the leadership of OVCF enough for letting me come and go as I have, telling me “you have got to take care of your family.”

Stretching is painful. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery and stretching was vital to recovery of motion. I’ve had meniscus and collarbone surgery. Stretching was vital to recovery.  One of the most important recovery mechanisms after a bike ride is stretching. In the life of the Christ-follower, stretching is vital to growth. It hurts to stretch muscles that want to curl up and atrophy. It hurts to stretch spiritual muscles that will do the same. But it is absolutely a necessity. Stretching helps us to focus not on what has been but on what will be. In our lives, stretching will help us focus not on what we have been, but on who we can become. It is easy to see ourselves with all our failures and shortcomings, but God looks beyond that to see who we are as His new creation through the power of His Spirit.

“Father, thank you for stretching me. Thank you for giving me (sometimes) unpleasant situations that challenge me to break out of sameness and safety and step out onto the water. As I take those steps-present and future-help me to keep my eyes on You, not the waves kicking up. And help me to remember this is all in your plan for me. Stretch me where I need stretched.”

July 30

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Defeat or Victory.

After a thrilling chapter in Psalms-chapter 139-which in my book may be one of the most exciting chapters in the whole book, he ends with some very familiar words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Verses 29-30]

What powerful verses those are! They stand even stronger when considered in the context of the whole chapter and also what is coming. Previously the psalmist has talked about God knowing us frontwards, backwards, up one side and down the other (a little poetic license there). Then he writes about how God knew us before we were born and how important His thoughts are of us. We have no other response other than to say, “Search me, O God.”

But as I read chapter 140 the other night, my eyes went to a logical presentation. I’m not sure why my eyes see things that way. 🙂 There are some words which stuck out to me. 

  • “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men.” [verse 1]
  • “Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked.” [verse 4]
  • “Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked.” [verse 8]

I’d say the psalmist took seriously the threat of those who were his enemies. He wasn’t asking for acceptance of his plan to walk alongside them. He wasn’t making any plans to give into them. No…he was asking for God’s strength and protection as he fought. He was praying for God to provide a “way through” the fire. “Deliver me. Guard me. Grant not.” I think inherent in these words is a resignation to God of his weakness and need for supernatural intervention.

If I can say it this way: maybe the psalmist is praying that God will snatch defeat out of the lion’s jaws and bring about victory for him.

“Father, thank you for your steadfast concern and stand with me. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and to the point of defeat, bring me into your rest and into your arms of safety and allow you to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. FOR IN YOU, I AM VICTORIOUS!”

We make our way home today with a moving truck and Jo driving mine. If you think about it, prayers for safety would be appreciated.

July 26/Weekend

Friday, July 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Arrogance vs Repentance.

I think one of the things-bar none-that turns most people off is arrogance. When someone does something or says something or just acts a certain way where he/she is impressed with himself/herself and also wants others to be, it is a big turn off.

But repentance is something else. Repentance involves one characteristic an arrogant person doesn’t have: humility. Repentance involves a willingness to lower oneself, even admitting wrong.

The story of David in I Chronicles 21 is an interesting one. After stories of victory over giants, seemingly out of the blue comes David’s request for Joab to number Israel. Against Joab’s better judgment, David orders it done. David finds out soon that God was displeased with his actions and gives him three options. David chooses Door #3: Three days of pestilence. Soon David sees the distress it brings on the people and cries out for mercy on them because it was his fault! He took the blame. His repentance rings out loud and clear. About the same time, he is at Ornan’s threshing floor and sees the angel with his sword drawn. But David is sincere in his repentance and asks Ornan to sell him-at full price-a sacrifice. Ornan offers free to David the oxen and all the fixings (wood, wheat, etc) needed for a proper sacrifice. David says, “No he will not offer the Lord what belongs to Ornan, nor offer burnt offerings which cost him nothing.” So he paid full price and offered the sacrifice to God. God stayed the angel’s hand of judgment.

David’s arrogance/pride got him in trouble; it was his humility that rescued him.

“Father, may I be a man of humility not arrogance. May I be a man who is willing to admit my faults, and when it is my fault to repent with a sincere heart.”

Note: I’d like to thank each of you for being patient with me as I have been in and out in consistency with this blog. As I wrote on my other blog, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as far as going to Ohio and cleaning out the apartment.  This Monday that end of the saga will be over.  Both Jo and I say, “It can’t happen soon enough.”  We have seen a lot more of each other over the past month or so. It may change her mind about me retiring! 🙂

July 23

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Understanding vs Obedience.

I was reading this morning (as rain fell effectively stopping my 6:00 bike ride) and ran across a phrase:

Understanding can wait; obedience cannot.

Boy, I had to stop and chew on that! How many times has God asked me to do something and I’ve not understood but did it anyway? I can’t say I’ve always been the most willing participant in some of what I was to do. Move to a new place. Being asked to leave a ministry with a deadline of when to be out.

Then I read something in 2 Chronicles that stopped me dead in my tracks. In verses 10-14 it says, “So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the commands of the Lord, and also consulted a medium (my note: the witch of Endor), seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord.”

In I Samuel 15 Samuel confronted Saul about his lack of obedience with these words: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to do than the fat of rams.” In other words: “Saul, I don’t really care about your lame excuse to sacrifice animals. What I do care about is your obedience and you messed up.” (Sorry: loose paraphrase)  🙂  Seems Saul had an issue with obedience. And he certainly had an issue with understanding God’s desire!

So do I at times. God doesn’t always expect me to understand but He does expect me to be obedient. As a take off from yesterday’s devotion (July 22), no matter how long or “up in the air” I am, He wants my obedience. Understanding may wait; obedience is now.

“Father, I don’t have to understand all things. I DO have to be obedient. When issues come I don’t understand, help me to be obedient and trust your goodness.”

 

 

July 16

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Tight Hold vs Loose Hold.

I’m a big fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. No, not the books. The movies. Yes, I know they took great liberties in the movies. Maybe that explains why I’ve had a hard time reading the books.  I can’t get the movies out of my head. 🙂 One of the more intriguing characters is Golem. Definitely not my favorite. My first time watching it, I was stumped. Who is this creature with the love affair/obsession with the ring? It wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd installment (can’t remember) where they tell his story. Of the discovery of the ring while fishing. The struggle for the ring and murder of his friend. Then his obsession with the ring that drove him mad and made him into the emaciated creature he became. His whole desire throughout the whole series of movies was the ring. When he finally gets it and falls to his and its demise, it is a sad scene. Not sad in the sense of tears, but sad in the sense of poignancy.

You see…Golem is me. I am Golem. I, too, have given myself over to “My Precious.” Not a ring; a thing. Who knows what it might be? It may be a thing I can hold in my hand (too tightly). It may be an event or an activity (like cycling), or a person (spouse, child, grandchild). The battle for my heart goes on. Who will be/what will be “my precious?”

I was struck by Psalm 120:1-2 this morning: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.” It sounds like the psalmist is praying for deliverance from others. But perhaps he is praying for deliverance from and for himself. Maybe he is praying he won’t give in to the “siren song” and pull of things that would draw him-much like the ring did to Golem.

“Father, help me to hold things loosely, to not be drawn away from You by things which lie and deceive in the the promise to fulfill. Help me to find ‘my precious’ in You and is You.”

July 15

Monday, July 15th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Inside vs Outside.

I have spent a good part of my 66 years on this planet being involved in one way or another in athletics and being fit.  From playing baseball starting at the age of 8; to playing basketball in high school and college and beyond; to taking up cycling in the ’70s on a too-small 3 speed Schwinn (I split the frame because I was too big), I have been “busy” with sports of some kind. I should have quit basketball much sooner but you know what they say: “A man thinks he can play like he used to but he’s really only a shell of what he once was.” (I made that up because it describes me).  I started weightlifting in the late ’70s and seriously in the late ’80s to supplement my cycling. So I told myself. In truth-and this hurts to say it-there was more vanity than I care to admit. I put way too much emphasis on how I looked-in the mirror and in person-than I had any right to. I liked the feeling of “the pump” that came with getting big and the compliments which came my way. Ego and pride are a dangerous combo.

As I said, I spent way too much time concerned about my outward appearance (not that I really have that much to be proud of). I should have been that concerned about my inward beauty. God told Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I should have taken that to heart. I should have taken much better care of my inward beauty. If I had been as diligent about my inward “look” as I was my outward “look” my life may have not so chaotic. And heart-breaking. And disruptive. And so “noisy.”

Inward beauty is to be the pursuit. Outward beauty is just window-dressing. A display in a window is designed to draw a person’s attention and start him/her thinking/dreaming what they would look like in that outfit or something similar. Reality is something else.

“Father, may my reality be a deeper concern about my inward state, my heart, my inward beauty. The saying, ‘Beauty is only skin deep’ is partially true. Many only see the outside and think, ‘WOW!’ But inside tells a different story. May I be more concerned about my inward beauty-my heart-the part you see.”

July 11

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Choosing Wisely vs Choosing Poorly (or does the apple fall very far from the tree?)

As I continue reading 2 Kings, I am greeted again by familiar names-Hezekiah, Mannaseh, and Josiah. Amon is between the latter two but he was only on the scene for two years. I’m struck by their choices.

Hezekiah (H) was a good king. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Two situations though stand out to me. One was his depth of sorrow (can it be called pouting?) over his impending death.  God gave him 15 more years to live. The other situation involved his pride. When visited by a Babylonian envoy, he showed them everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G! The latter was a very poor choice on his part. When God pronounced judgement on him for showing them everything, I think his pride shows. God tells him through Isaiah that judgement would come from the Babylonians and H is relieved because it will not be coming during his reign. Very poor choice.

Mannaseh (M), his son, was next. Ironically, M was born during the extended 15 years of H’s life. This is one time when a desire turned into a bad thing. M was one of the most evil, wicked kings ever. 21:1-9 is mind-numbing in its evil. God’s pronounced judgement was also epic. Using the action of wiping a dish as an illustration, God shows the extreme consequences of M’s disobedience. A series of very bad choices.

Amon only reigned two years before his servants assassinated him.  He carried on his father’s sin. Bad choice.

Josiah, Amon’s son, was 8 years old and he broke the mold. He did a complete 360 from his father and grandfather. It can’t escape the reader that a big part of Josiah’s choices was based on the Law of God found in the temple by Hilkiah, the priest. It says in 22:11 “He (Josiah) tore his clothes.” A radical response of humility and repentance to the reading of the Word. 23:25 is a great summary of his life: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”

4 kings. 4 choices.  Hezekiah-pouting and pride. Mannaseh-overwhelming evil. Amon-like father like son. Josiah-follow God’s Word. I, too, must choose.

“Father, may I choose Josiah’s path not that of the others. May it be said I turned to you with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might. That would be MY CHOICE.”

July 2

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Faith vs Sight

I know I keep coming back to this topic of faith. Maybe it’s because it is more than a word. It is-in my mind- a word of action.

Let me explain. One of my favorite scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the scene where Indy has to perform three acts to get to the cup of Christ. (A penitent man shall pass. The name of God.) The final one is where Indy has to take a step of faith by walking off the ledge onto a then unseen bridge. When he finally shuts his eyes and trusts his step of faith, he steps onto a bridge. His step of faith was rewarded.

Faith is an action word and an active word. This past week I have turned back the clock on my music. I spent some time listening to Mylon Lefevre, Kenny Marks, and Steve Camp. Steve has a song whose title goes by a line in the song: “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them ‘till you’re ready to love them too.” Faith should always have feet.

We may not “see” what a step of faith might bring. (I’m guessing if we did we might not take that step).  🙂  But step we must if we want to follow God’s directives in our life.

“Father, I’m not always eager to step out in faith. Sometimes I’m too pragmatic and want to know the result. But not always is that your way. Help me overcome any fear or hesitancy I have and take that step of faith.”