Lifestyle

...now browsing by tag

 
 

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.”

July 24

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Have you ever been angry? I mean…really angry? The kind of anger that blinds you to reality, to be able to see and to think clearly? The kind of anger that consumes you, taking over the logical part of your brain and actually is the impetus for some irrational and vengeful actions on your part? I hope not but, if so, you may have a taste of Paul’s/Saul’s motives. Let me explain.

In Matthew 23 we find what is called “The 7 Woe” passage. Jesus pronounces 7 woes or judgements on the Pharisees. The woes exposed their religious hypocrisy. These 7 woes were a scathing rebuke. Fast forward a couple of years to Acts 7: 58 and we find a one verse mention of Saul’s presence at the stoning of Stephen. In Acts 9 we see him viciously carrying out vengeance and a vendetta against the early followers of Jesus. ‘Course we know how all that changed, but let’s not miss the point. Jesus condemned the Pharisees; Saul was a Pharisee; therefore, Saul was condemned.

In Phil.3  Paul recounts some information about himself: “…as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Whether he heard Jesus or not we don’t know, but there is no doubt he got the message…and he didn’t like it.

No one likes to be called a hypocrite. Sadly, if the shoe fits wear it. That goes for me too. Every act of not backing up what I say with my actions is another black mark on the reputation and message of Jesus.

“Father, help me to be true to You, to be true to my words. Help me to be true to what I say by how I live.”

July 22-23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

We were in Ohio watching our grandson play his last baseball game on Tuesday night. After having breakfast at IHOP with him (he loves french toast with extra powder but no syrup) yesterday morning, we made our way home. I wrote this on the morning of the 22nd in the hotel room so I wanted to share it with you and post it as a two-day devotion.  Here were my thoughts on the morning of the 22nd:

It has been an up and down season for the team as they weren’t allowed to practice and then had 3 practices before their first game. Last night I saw exemplified a trait in all the boys that I believe is worth mentioning. Braden especially has this trait.

There is a saying attributed to Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  A similar phrase: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” has a connection to opera and was believed to be first used in 1976 by a reporter named Ralph Carpenter. Both phrases mean virtually the same: A person/team should never assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches the end, because circumstances can change.  It is used in athletics to say, “Never quit. The game isn’t over until the final out or the gun sounds or however a sporting event ends.”

I saw that last night. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and the game looked hopelessly out of reach. But B’s team scored 4 runs to make it 11-7. Unfortunately, the other team scored 4 runs in their top half of the 7th. But with 2 outs our team struck again. A hit. Braden got another hit. Next thing we knew 3 or 4 more runs scored. Even the final out of the inning was a ground ball that the player ran all-out to first in an attempt to beat it out, but he was thrown out. Heart-breaking? Yes. But go down fighting? No shame in that.

I see a parallel in our walk with Christ. We are in a battle and our enemy may have us down for the count. All hope seems lost. But Jesus doesn’t want us to quit. It’s not over until the trumpet blares. Don’t quit. To borrow Yogi’s phrase: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

“Father, help me not to give up, to throw in the towel. You are my hope and strength.”

July 17

Friday, July 17th, 2020

I’ve been reading a book during my Quiet Time called Outrageous Forgiveness in 30 Days. Subtitled “The Beauty of Christlike Forgiveness” it was written by a pastor friend in another town. I knew him and his son, Jon, when I lived there and was pleasantly surprised when he came to speak at a function that used our building to host the monthly meeting. Larry spoke-as you can probably guess-on forgiveness.

On Day 4 (today) he wrote the words of an attorney which he uttered during a trial: “In 23 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s incredible.” (p.14) I heard those same words in a courtroom several years ago here in Spencer.

The church I pastor had been embezzled to the tune of $200,000+. We had no choice but to report it and the Indiana State Police (ISP) sent their detective to investigate. But something happened in our hearts along the way.  Anger and betrayal gave way to something else. I proposed to the leaders of the church to pray about forgiving the debt. They concurred.  We brought our thoughts to the prosecutor and the ISP detective took our thoughts under advisement but had to proceed with their end of the deal. We eventually had our day in court. We had filed our plan of forgiveness with the court. When the day came, I was put on the stand (as the church’s representative), and her attorney asked if it was true. I said, “Yes.” His words: “In all my years of practicing law (and he was close to my age), I have never seen this. This is what I call practicing what you preach.” Now, the judge did not accept our idea. But she modified her orders to say that the person is to pay back three other entities before us, then us. But I don’t expect to see a cent. Unless, I’m wrong, death will come first. But it was the outrageous forgiveness showed that stands out to me. I will never forget that attorney’s words. I will never forget how “proud” I was to be part of a leadership team that chose to forgive an unpayable debt. Hmmm. Sound familiar?  (See Matthew 18).

“Father, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice that outrageous forgiveness toward others.”

July 15

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

One of the characteristics of society today-truly of every culture-is selfishness. “Me first.” “It’s all about me.” “I’m worth it.” “As a matter of fact, I do own the road.” “I don’t care what you think. I’m going to do it my way.” Frank Sinatra even had a song where he bragged, “I did it my way.”

That selfishness oozes over into just about every aspect of our lives. In reference to possessions we call it hoarding. In reference to finances we call it “saving for a rainy day.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with saving. In fact, it is wise and biblical. But. to be miserly, to hoard, to close our eyes to those in need…now that’s wrong! That is being selfish.

I like being generous. I like giving things to people-books, taking people out to eat, etc. I don’t have much. I know when/if the time comes, Jo and I will be on the short end of the stick. Financially, that is.  But when it comes to generosity, we will be able to know we were. We will have to trust God to “reward” our generosity. I read a saying:

“Do your givin’ while you’re livin’, then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’.”

I’ll never be able to say to myself, “Self, build bigger barns to contain all you have.” What I will be able to do is to know I have treasures laid up in heaven where rust and moth do not destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal.  (Matthew 6: 19-20)

“Father, help me to be a generous person. Help me to never hoard or gather around me for the purpose of keeping to myself. Help me to follow the example of Jesus.”

July 13

Monday, July 13th, 2020

How should I feel when I read these words? “Now when He had spoken these things, He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pas, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them while they watched and carried up into heaven. And a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ ”  (Scriptures from Luke 24 and Acts 1)

How should I feel? That means, except for a few extras, I have finished One Perfect Life, the complete story of Jesus by John MacArthur. I began on January 1 and finished July 10. I read the last week of Jesus twice-once during Lent and again as I continued to read the story of Jesus.  So…how do I feel?

  • Gratified. I read the life of Jesus from beginning (including some OT prophecies) to end.
  • Overwhelmed. The greatest man who ever lived left His legacy all over me. I see Him in all history. I see His influence in lives before me; near me; and in the future.
  • Humbled. This could be the strongest emotion. That such a great man could love me blows me away. He humbled Himself to become a man in order to give His life so I can become a son of God. What love is so great that it would do that? Only His.

There are more reactions bubbling within me than those three. Those are what I am feeling this morning-gratified, overwhelmed, and humbled.  “Father, may I never lose the wonder of Jesus and the power of His Word.”

July 10

Friday, July 10th, 2020

One of my favorite passages (I have a lot of them) in the Bible is found in John 21 where Jesus has His exchange with Peter at the Sea of Tiberias. I like it because I feel like Peter is me.

The story is familiar to most. Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathaniel, and two other disciples (not named) were fishing when they saw Jesus on the shore. ‘Course Peter does the Peter thing and puts on his outer garment and plunges into the sea. But Peter was in for a huge surprise. He turned around and helped the others bring the catch in (it sounds like Peter may have done it himself). Then it was time.

Jesus twice asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Peter twice answered, ” Yes I like you.”

Jesus then asked him if he even liked him.

Peter grieved said, “You know I do.”

The words used by Jesus and Peter are different. When Jesus used a word for love He used the word for total commitment (agape’). Peter’s word was for love but not necessarily total commitment (philos). Same with the second time.  The third time Jesus uses Peter’s word.

I am Peter. Jesus asks me for my total commitment and I, admittedly, hold back. Fortunately, Jesus is as patient with me as He was with Peter. I love Him for that!!

“Father, may my heart and desire be one of total commitment to you. May I not offer you ‘partial me’ but ‘complete me.’ May Your question to me end with ‘Bill, do you love me?’ “

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.”