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March 26

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Years ago I remember reading the story of Kitty Genovese. (I can’t remember the name of the book but the author was Fritz Ridenour.  It was a book on evangelism. I also remember he used the story in John 4 to show how Jesus did evangelism with the woman at the well and how it served as a good example for us). Okay…back to Kitty. 🙂 Anyway, Kitty was brutally knifed, raped and murdered outside her apartment one evening. I googled it this morning and recent updates say she was knifed 13 times and no one lifted a finger to help or even call the police.  As an aside, her story helped institute 9-1-1 and also what was called The Bystander Effect.

That kind of apathy and “unfeelingness” stuns us. It should stun those who talk about the goodness of man and how we are all basically good inside. I simply cannot fathom that no one came forward to rescue her, to help her or to even call.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten, left for dead and two religious people walk on by as though they see nothing. It took a foreigner- a Samaritan- to stop, bind his wounds and take him to a hostel where he could recover. Jesus’ teaching was easy to see-for them and for us. What I need to ask myself, what you need to ask yourself, is who will I choose to be in that story? We live in a time where so many are living in fear and panic.  So let me issue this challenge: instead of asking yourself who will I choose to be, why not BE the answer! Why not ask God how you can BE someone’s answer?  Pray for God to lead you to someone-especially in this time of fear-who could use your help. Instead of being a need; why not meet a need? And yes, I know we are to take precautions. And we should. There are other ways-creative ways-we can help reach someone’s need. 

“Father, you have not asked me to sit idly by or to pass by on the other side. You have given me the challenge to be an answer. Lead me to someone whom I can help.”

March 24

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

When things are going well it is easy to say, “God is good.” But then…

  • …An unexpected event requires life-threatening surgery.
  • …A car accident happens that leaves us paralyzed.
  • …A bike wreck happens with no known cause that leaves our body broken and bruised.
  • …A serious long-term diagnosis leaves our memory jumbled, our body trembling and at the mercy of family or worse, a home.
  • …A loss of job happens when the plant closes down.
  • …A virus comes that paralyzes a nation, shutting down all we know and life screeches to a halt.

Is God still good? The answer is a nutshell: Yes. God’s goodness is not determined by circumstances. One of the phrases I dislike a lot-by unbelievers and by Christ-followers- is “I’m so lucky.”  No.  You aren’t lucky because in God’s economy, there is no such thing as luck.

In spite of how hard it is to see, God is still good.  In spite of cancer;  a car accident;  a bike wreck;  Alzheimer’s, MS or Parkinson’s;  a job loss; or a coronavirus, God is still good.

“Father, no matter what happens in my life, help me to always remember You are always good.”

March 23

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

During yesterday’s sermon Tami, who had to watch it from home out of precaution (she was coughing), told her mom I said something during the sermon that she wanted to post on her FB page.  First some background; then what I said.

I was preaching from Colossians 1: 19-29 and had been speaking about ministry when I came to verse 24.  Paul talks about suffering.  Not boohoo suffering, but suffering knowing there are positives in it.  In verse 24 we read where Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  The statement is loaded! First, his willingness to suffer enabled there to be churches started in Asia.  We know the gospel spread through his ministry hardship.  Second, his suffering brought good to the church.

We are in unprecedented times. A few might remember 9/11. A few might remember ebola.  There are very few around any more who remember the Great Depression. We have always had crises and always will. The church needs to check its reaction to a crisis.  We live in a time unlike many have experienced before. Leastwise, the church in America. We can have one of two responses (and this is what Tami wanted in writing):

The church can either panic or praise.

The church can either wilt or worship.

The church can either live in fear or faith.

The church can either flounder or forge ahead.

(And a new one) The church can either wander or wonder.

It is a question the Church must ask-collectively and individually. And it is a question each one of us must ask ourselves. How will we choose to live?

“Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power,  love,  and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me to live the triumphant life of faith and not be held captive by fear.”

March 20

Friday, March 20th, 2020

One of the verses that consistently rattles my cage is a small one-small in number of words, but big in meaning.

John had been the “man of the hour.” People flocked to the wilderness to hear him speak. He spoke like a true prophet-mincing no words; leaving no one off the hook; and taking no prisoners. Shyster? Gotcha. Legalist? Gotcha. Viper? Gotcha. Herod and Herodias? Gotcha.  Roman soldier? Gotcha. Religious leader?  Double gotcha. He told it like it was…and then some. But John was never supposed to be the man. No, he was the forerunner.  He was the prophet Elijah come again (figuratively).  He was also the voice of one crying in the wilderness. (Luke 3:4)  His purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He was to prepare people for the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of world. (John 1:29).

So it shouldn’t be surprising his response when his disciples came to him and told him that Jesus was baptizing more than he was.  Translated: Jesus was more popular.  His response is the verse that rattles my cage:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

Another translation says, “He must become greater, I must become less.”  The implications of that are stunning. John’s view was consistent with his purpose: Jesus glorified not me. More of Jesus, less of me.

“Father, that should be my prayer- today and everyday. May Jesus truly become greater in my life and in all I do.”

March 18

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

How’s this for a kick in the teeth or a slap in the face?  All Scripture is from Proverbs 18.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (v.2)

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the foundation of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (v.4)

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Vv.6-8)

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (v.13)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (v.21)

Need I say more or add to them? It is a malady that runs through my veins and is in my blood. I’m not alone. We would all do well to “keep our trap shut” as my grandfather used to say, and weigh our words.

“Father, it is easy to see the devastation my words bring. Help me to show restraint and remember death and life come from the same place.”

March 17

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

I read a verse this morning that I have read countless times before, only this time it said, “Look closer.” (Okay, not really, but you know what I mean). 🙂  So I did. It’s the passage in John 1:36-51 where Jesus is “calling” some of John’s disciples and others to follow Him. Andrew, who found his brother, Peter. Philip who got his brother, Nathaniel. It is Nathaniel’s response to Jesus’ words to Him that said to look closer.

  • Philip: “Come, we have found the Messiah-Jesus of Nazareth-the one talked about in the Law and the Prophets.
  • Nathaniel: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was considered a “scum” city. An insignificant city of low-lifes.
  • Jesus: “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”  (The old KJV says, “No guile” whatever that is.)

Wait! Stop the presses! Jesus found an honest person? Actually, the word is more accurately seen as one of sincerity and honesty. Whew! Not sinless. Open. Seeking.  This is in direct contrast to Jacob, one of the heroes of the Jews, who was known for his deceit and trickery.  Think birthright in exchange for stew.  Think disguise for blessing.

Could it be that Jesus was saying Nathaniel was breaking the cycle of trickery and deceit? Proverbs 17:20 says, “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into misery.”  Dishonesty, trickery and deceit only lead to misery. For all affected and afflicted.

“Father, may I be one who chooses to live without trickery and deceit. May it be said of me that I am one in whom there is no deceit.”

March 12

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

In golf they call it a “Mulligan.” If you don’t know golf, think free do-over. The shot was so bad you take a “mulligan.” You forego that shot and wherever it ended up, and take another-a free shot. It’s considered free because the other doesn’t count.  (I bet pros wish they could do that occasionally). When I played golf, I was so bad because I played so infrequently, that they should have named the course after me and called it Mulligans.

In all seriousness though, we all have moments in our past we wish we could do over. Regret. Shame. Sin. Pattern. Lost temper. Angry words. Second lingering glance.  I wish I could do over the time I saw my first Playboy at the age of 8. Seeds were embedded I knew not of. How many time have you heard or read of embezzlers who said, “I wish I’d never take that first dollar”?

The old adage is “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Proverbs 12:14 says, “From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.”  (Emphasis mine)  It’s that last phrase which comes back to me. I’ve heard stories of builders who took shortcuts and used shoddy material only to watch their project implode and with it their reputation.

The rage several years ago was to write a letter to “Dear younger self.” I never did. I guess I saw it as an effort in futility because I couldn’t change a thing. However, I must admit: I’d like to sometimes call “Mulligan!” Even now.

“Father, what’s done is done. I can’t change that; neither can you. You can’t undo what has been done and since I don’t have a time machine neither can I. But the future can be different. Guide my steps so mulligans aren’t needed.”

March 10

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Sorry for the later entry than normal but an early morning text took me aside for 1/2 hour. If you think you are out of whack you ought to be in my world right now!  🙂  Now to the devotion.

As I write this I think I heard a dog bark and a cat screech.  I know…bad attempt to say it’s raining like cats and dogs right now. 🙂  Actually, I love to listen to falling rain. There is something soothing about it.  To me, even a storm of thunder and lightning can be relaxing.

UNLESS!!

Unless it is out of control. Driving in a storm is no fun. I’ve been caught having to take cover when riding my bike. I’ve had to ride a whole day in a steady rain, sometimes downpour and it is no fun at all. But fortunately, I’ve never been a pilot flying through a nasty storm. I have read of pilots who got disoriented and lost their bearings in a storm and relied on their instincts instead of the instruments in front of them. The result is often disastrous.  Trusting one dial on their instrument panel that tells them how their plane is according to the horizon is vital.

But in life it is also easy to get disoriented in a storm. We trust our “instincts” (ourselves)  instead of the One who can lead us through that storm. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  There is a way through the storm!! Not trusting our instincts but trusting the Captain is the best.

“Father, when my storm hits, help me not to rely on my instincts but on You. I’m a lousy pilot. Help me to follow Your lead, Your instruments (Your Word).”

March 9

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Today is a day I’m not looking forward to in some ways. Not that I despair of life or of the day-not in the least. I consider each day a gift, a blessing, to be enjoyed. But I told Jo last night as we lay in bed, “I’m concerned about tomorrow.” Today I conduct a funeral of a man from our community who took his own life one week ago. From all counts he was a good coach, a man who cared about his players, and tried to bring out the best in them. A man counted on to help them out of their hitting doldrums, to help them become better players. But in all the accolades, even with his own children, not one said he helped them face life; that they were better people and navigated through life as a result of his influence.

Now, lest you misunderstand, that is not a put down. An observation. It makes me ask myself a series of tough questions:

  • What about me? How will I be perceived? I’m not a hitting coach. I’m a pastor. Will I be one who others will say, “He led me to Jesus” or will they say, “He was a nice guy”?
  • Did I take time for people? That was one of his strong suits. He took the time for his children and his players. The question that tags along is whether I was so busy that I gave my family and others my leftovers.
  • What did I leave behind? What did I leave them with?  Did I leave people with something superfluous or something of eternal value? If people can tell you about my cycling but not about my Jesus, then I failed miserably.

“Father, may I influence people in all ways, but especially in finding You. Help me to care about people but in my caring to point them to You.  If I do that, then my life will have counted and made a difference.”

March 6

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard (I know I have) that there are certain people we ought to avoid. Growing up I was warned about hanging around certain people. “Avoid them Bill” they would say. No worries. I wasn’t interested in partying anyway. I was once invited to a Friday night party.

  • Him: Would you like to come to a party Friday night?
  • Me: What you going to do?
  • Him: Drink. Get drunk.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Drink some more. Get drunk some more.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: This is going to cost me what?
  • Him: $20
  • Me: Sounds like fun. (Read: sarcasm). Nope.

He asked me 3 times.  Each time same convo. I was never asked again. Wonder why?  🙂

The word we use today is “toxic.”  Avoid toxic people. Get rid of toxic people in your life. Proverbs 6 has a description of toxic people: lazy. Worthless. Wicked. Crooked speech. Sneaky.  Perverted heart devises evil. Sow discord (9-15). Toxic people and the actions of toxic people are even listed in verses 16-19 of the 7 things God hates.

Word to the wise: Avoid toxic people. People who do not have your interest in mind. People who bring you down.

“Father, help me to be discerning in my choices of people and to let go of those who are toxic, who do not help me in my daily walk.”