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September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

September 24

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It is good to be self-confident. It is good to have self-confidence. It is not good to be too self-confident. It is not good to have too much self-confidence. Seriously, it isn’t bad to have self-confidence. We have to believe we can do something or we won’t. I was speaking with one of our teenagers the other day. She has developed into a pretty good golfer and as a senior will graduate with a high GPA (Valedictorian I think…or close to it) and is one of the finalists for what is called the Lilly Scholarship. (We actually have two young ladies who are finalists). This young lady was playing in the Regional golf tournament this week (Monday) and said, “I hope I do well, but I’m not sure.” I stopped her right there and pointed to her head and said, “Whoa! It’s all right there.” {Note: she had one bad hole and came in fourth}.

I was thinking of self-confidence when I read I Cor. 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  As a young pastor, and like many who are young, there was an air of invincibility surrounding me. “I will never do that” was said more than I care to admit. Can you hear the splat or the kerplunk as I do a face plant? I forgot the basic truth of this verse. I repeat what I said at the beginning: It is good to be self-confident; it is not good to be too self-confident. It is called arrogance, pride. It is also called “look out below!”

“Father, you have had to teach me humility big time, especially when I had the audacity to think I was invincible. Help me, in my old age, not to forget.”

{Note: Jo and I left for Ohio yesterday  to visit Janna and watch our grandson play football, even though we will have to watch outside the fence.  They are only allowing 2 people for each player inside the stadium. So I’m not sure I will post here tomorrow. I am not planning on taking my computer.}

September 18

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Have you ever met those people who are really hard to love? Their demeanor might be a turn-off. Their appearance might be a turn-off. Their smell might be a turn-off. Their attitude might be a turn-off. Their color might be a turn-off. Their race, religion, or ethnicity might be a turn-off. Their type of employment might be a turn-off. Perhaps you can think of more. Let me go on record as saying these are all wrong. None are legitimate.

I read an interesting thought recently. When the Bible says, “Love bears all things” it goes much deeper than “puts up with.” The word “bears” actually means “to cover”, “to pass over in silence” or “to keep confidential.” But in the noun form it means a roof. What an interesting thought! Follow it through with me please. What does a roof do? It covers us. What good is a house with no roof? What a worthless building a house would be if it was absolutely gorgeous inside and out but had an unobstructed view of the sky?

When Paul used that word in I Cor.13 he was saying that love covers people.  Consider this: we sometimes joke about singing all 100 stanzas of “Just As I Am”, but the fact is: it is the truth. We come as we are-no matter the smell, the race, the cleanliness, the color, the job, the _____________ (you fill in the blank). On the contrary, we come in repentance, gratitude, overwhelmed by the love and grace of a covering Father. You see, despite the way I was and am, God put a covering over me. The covering was blood. The blood of His Son.

“Father, may I remember I am here not on my own merit but because I’ve been covered by Jesus’ blood. Accepted is stamped on my heart.”

September 16

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

What do baseball, football, soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis…well, every sport…have in common? If you said referees/umpires you would be right. But also wrong. Because I am actually looking for a different answer. They all have something in common, something that you may not even think about. They all keep score. What is an athletic contest without keeping score?  You could say, “Exercise” or “fun game” and you could be right, but that misses the point. Keeping score is accepted as an essential part of an athletic contest. You won’t find one sport that says, “Aaah let’s not keep score today. It’s Game 7 of the World Series. Let’s just go out and have fun.”  “The people have come to watch the Super Bowl. So let’s go out and play but not really care.” Yeah…like that is going to happen. Plus it makes no sense.

Okay so let me add another item to the equation. But let me add it with a Bible verse: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love does not keep score. That reminds me of an illustration I once heard (and have used). A couple was seeing a marriage counselor for some serious issues in their marriage when the husband said, “Whenever we have an argument my wife gets all historical.”  The counselor said, “Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No,” he said. “She gets historical. She brings up everything I’ve ever done wrong.” Ouch!

It’s easy to remember; it’s hard to forget. Resentment is always making calculations.  It is always rearing its ugly head by pointing out what was “once done to me.” Paul is saying in I Cor.13:5 that love is not resentful. Other translations say, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love doesn’t calculate. Love doesn’t tally up.  It needs no calculator or computer flash drive with a memory to save/record wrong for future posterity.

“Father, help me to truly love as Jesus did. When I am wronged, help me to  move on and not keep a record. Help me to get rid of resentment and keeping score.”

September 14

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Taking credit. You see it in sports. Someone is full of him/herself and takes credit for the performance. You see it in business. “I did this” or “I did that.” That person tends to forget what I will call the “trenchers.”  They are the ones who work daily in the trenches-brainstorming, conceiving and executing ideas-the plan. You see it in movies, TV, or other “up front” activities. The actor get the accolades; the double or the bit actor or the one behind the scene is left behind. You see it in the pulpit. A pastor copies plagiarizes preaches a sermon almost word for word of someone else but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Giving credit.  Turning the tables.  Acknowledging those unseen players. The wife who hates the limelight and quietly supports her husband. (Can you say Jo?) The bit player whose idea spawned a movement. The teacher who week after week teaches in relative obscurity and is content to be in the background.

I could give example after example but I’m sure you get the point. Giving credit to others is not the product of over-inflated egos but of a humble heart.  Demeaning others in order to exalt oneself is not love; it is not Christ-like at all. I’m of the opinion (for what it’s worth) that God is not interested at all in our status, our position, our clout, or our standing in life. What I do believe is that He is interested in our willingness to be used by Him and to acknowledge His part in our lives. As someone has said, “May they forget the channel, seeing only Him.” (Kate Barclay Wilkinson)

“Father, may I simply be a promoter of You. Help me not to be one who takes credit, but one who gives credit where credit is due. May people forget me and see only You.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

September 9

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Have you ever read something that you felt sliced and diced you? Or you might say “It fileted me like you would a fish.” I’ve had those moments when stunned by something would be an appropriate word. That happened to me one recent morning (I wrote this on Monday, the 7th, when it happened). But before I give you that quote, please allow a confession. Even though I write this daily devotion (obviously for me since hardly anyone reads it) 🙂 ; even though I’d like to say it has brought about a consistency for me to make time each morning to be with God; and even though I may sound (upon occasion) as though I have it together spiritually, there is one area I really have a great lack. Prayer. I go through jags where prayer is important-then uber important-but I also go through times when I read and journal then pick up and leave with nary a moment given to prayer. I’m not proud of that. That is, perhaps, why the following quote did me in that morning:

We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” Oswald Chambers

Need I say more? I’ll let you stew in your own juices over that quote. I have to go start healing from the slicing and dicing.

“Father, may prayer not be a side trip for me. May it become a regular part of my daily time with You. May it be another way for You to do Your work in and through me.”

September 4

Friday, September 4th, 2020

“Oh, it was nothing, really.” Have you ever heard someone use those words? They usually follow one person paying another person a compliment.  Trying to deflect praise, or trying (or not) to act humble, they might say those words. I think it is somewhat ironic that someone will use those words: “Oh, it was nothing, really” then go on and give an example of something else they had done.

But what if what they had done really was nothing? As in, NOTHING. Let me explain. In a passage familiar to most people, Paul uses these words: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  (Emphasis mine)

Those verses are pretty plain. Whether you want to say the prophecy idea mentioned here is either fore-telling or forth-telling (my preferred), the meaning is clear. If you do either without love you are NOTHING. The other part of that verse is just as convicting. If I have mountain-moving faith, but no love, I am NOTHING. That’s right. If I have this super-strong faith that does the impossible, that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I am zip. Nada. That’s not saying I don’t matter, but it is saying my gift is worthless. Any gift given is for the benefit of others. But if I use that gift either for self-promotion or show or to impress, then it is being misused.

“Father, no matter my gift, let me use that gift for others- taking no credit, no accolades-but deflecting praise to You. And help me do it with love.”

August 19

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

After yesterday’s post, I felt I needed to say something more. In all this talk about social justice, it is easy to forget what really is the task of the church-which is, in fact, tied to social justice.

We spent time last week with our grandson. Man, I love that dude and would gladly give my life for him. I’ve lived 67 very good years; he only 13 (soon to be 14). His mom and dad have split up and no reconciliation is in sight. At all. I/we have watched him grow from birth to be one of the lights in our world.  Our time with him is all too short, and I realize someday he probably won’t want to spend time with us. There are times I want to be closer but that is not to be. And I’m okay with that because I am in God’s will right now.

Children were loved but not really valued in Jesus’ day. He changed all that. When others were pushing them away, Jesus was saying, “Bring the children to Me.” He welcomed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the outcast, the demon-possessed, the diseased, and the poor with no qualms whatsoever. Who the person was or what his “deal” was, Jesus never shrunk away. He reached out. In that way, Jesus left us an example on how to treat others. In that way, He showed us what social justice was: doing for the “least of these.”

But notice what was missing? Protesting. Loud rhetoric. Inciting hate. Getting His message out for His cause. He wasn’t a warrior, least not as we think of one. He was an example of how it is to be done. All kinds of people fell under the loving eyes and touch of Jesus.

I find it interesting when reading about Paul’s life that I was directed to read Galatians. In Gal.2 Paul writes about seeing James, Peter and John where he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship.  They were sent out to minister to the Gentiles with one word of advice: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do.” (2:10) Hmmmm, social justice in action. The mission of the church to get the Good News of Jesus out. Our work with people is simply an outgrowth of that mission. It is not to be the only thing we do.  Social justice must never take the place of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just helping someone; it also to be used as a springboard to present Jesus.

“Father, help me not to forget others, especially those in need. And help me not to forget why I do what I do.”

July 28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Have you ever been watching a movie or a TV show and thought “If I was writing this, I would do this or that?”  I’ve thought that, particularly when I have seen someone mistreated and the other person getting away with it. What kicks in is the “old justice routine.” I’m not about to let someone get away with something…not on my watch! I want to write the scenario that someone pays for their wrong.

I want justice. Now when I say that I’m not referring to the so-called justice our country just experienced with the BLM fiasco, the so-called justice (translated: lawlessness) over the George Floyd flap. Yes, wrong was done. But civility says let the court do its thing. Justice will be meted out the way its supposed to.

When someone does something against us it is a natural thing to seek vengeance. That’s why following Jesus is so unnatural. “Vengeance in mine. I will repay says the Lord.” That is why forgiveness is so important to and for a follower of Christ. To forgive means I give up the right to hurt back. Tell me that doesn’t go against everything in us and I’d have to show you the door. It’s not easy to lay aside the hurt and the desire for vengeance, but as a Christ-follower it is a must.

“Father, help me to lay aside my hurt and my desire for vengeance. Help me to see that I will never become what you want me to become until I do.”