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November 24

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

In a recent Our Daily Bread (11/20/20), they had a devotion that struck me. Here it is in a nutshell:

Albert Einstein paid tribute to a colleague, the famous Dutch scientist, Hendrik A. Loventz.  He never mentioned their scientific disputes, only his “never failing kindness.” He inspired scientists to put aside political prejudice and work together, especially after WWI. Einstein said, “Even before the war was over he never set out to dominate but always to simply be of use.”

That phrase “never set out to dominate” really struck me. The work of reconciliation is good and the Father knows we need that, perhaps as much now as ever. But it is impossible if we set out to dominate another person. None of us like that. Whether it be a spouse, a parent, a coach, a pastor, an elder, or someone else. In school they are called bullies. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is to be mutual, not one submit and the other dominate. This is especially true in the church. The Bible never gives a pastor, an elder, so-called leader, or patriarch/matriarch the right to claim “this church is mine.” Nor does is give that person permission to run it like they think it is.  I have seen and heard of people who were damaged, almost beyond repair, by a domineering individual in the church.  The way I see it being the pastor of the church DOES NOT give me the right or privilege to demand my own way or to run roughshod over people. That is so un-Christlike.  Can there be a worse example in the church than that?

“Father, help me to see submission is a state of my heart. Help me not to seek to dominate but to serve.”

November 23

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Before I start: my blogging friend, Diane, is having surgery today. I’d like to ask you to stop and say a prayer for her safety, the doctor’s steady hands, and a good and smooth recovery for her. Thanks.

I’m not much of a horticulturist. I’m not much of a gardener either. My thumbs are black. I decided I wanted a garden a few years ago…when I was much younger. I loved fresh tomatoes (especially the yellow ones) and green peppers-usually given to me by others. So I thought, “Why not? After all, how hard could it be?” Let’s just say that after 3 or 4 summers I again relied on others for those fresh veggies. I planted. I watered. I weeded (my least favorite thing of all). I had no clue about tilling and using cardboard or newspaper to keep down weeds. I also didn’t feed them plant food. The kicker, though, is I found it kept me from more important things-like riding my bike. Why work when you can have fun, you know? For three summers I also umpired softball so there went my free time.

I’ve seen many-myself included- treat their faith like that. We want to grow. We want to see fruit. But we don’t want to put in the “effort” to grow. I’m not talking about a works-oriented salvation. I’m talking about personal nutrition. You see, God calls us to Himself then wants us to grow in that faith. He provides what we need to grow but we need to utilize it. Reading the Word. Praying. Gathering with others to worship and encourage. Reaching for Him to help us get rid of the weeds. In spite of what some may think, this does not happen on its own. We don’t lay our head on our pillow with a Bible underneath and by osmosis have it soak into our brain. God has provided all we need for growth. Let’s not be stagnant. Let’s apply the nutrients of truth and grace to our fledgling “plant” and start growing. Fruit awaits if we do.  Take some time to read Galatians 6:7-9.

“Father, You want me to grow, not stagnate. Help me to allow Your Word, Your thruth and Your grace to water my life to bring forth fruit.”

November 16

Monday, November 16th, 2020

I am a terrible waiter.  No, I didn’t work at a restaurant and drop food or drink in a person’s lap. I could jokingly say, “When God was handing out qualities and said, ‘Patience?’ I thought I was going to be a doctor so I said I’ll take plenty.”  But I’m not a doctor and it’s not the same word. (I know. That’s bad).

I repeat: I am a terrible waiter. I’m not as bad I used to be, so I guess I can chalk it up to maturity. I remember one incident when I was at the first church I served. I commented about this new Bible I had seen at the bookstore. I went ahead a few days later and bought it. One day later, a man came to me with that same Bible as a gift. I missed out on being blessed and him having the joy of blessing me. That has happened so many times I can’t count. But I missed because I was spontaneous. I’ve run ahead of God way too many times.

I find myself waiting again. Last Thursday, the 5th, I was outside sitting across a picnic table talking to someone, for close to 1-2 hours.  The next day she lost her sense of smell and tested positive for ‘rona. I found out Monday afternoon. So, now I am quarantined until sometime this coming week (probably Thursday to be safe). I wait. Have I said I’m a terrible waiter?

When I don’t presume upon God and run ahead, He has often taken me on a slow path. However, while people will say, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” I’m not convinced that is always best. Some of my best time with God has been the slow churn. Or as I am fond of saying, “He took me ’round Robin Hood’s barn.” In other words, He took me the long way.

I’m learning to wait. I suspect I will also continue to learn. “And that is my prayer, Father. I need to learn to wait.”

November 12

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

I want to continue my thoughts I started on yesterday’s blog which began with the statement:

The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.

The word that comes to mind has so many tentacles. It is seen in a sports activity. It is seen in an area of study. It is seen on the news. It is talked about and seen (sadly sometimes) in a love relationship. It is seen in evangelism. It is seen in a person’s everyday tasks. It is seen in preaching. Okay…what is IT?

PASSION

I’m sure you can now see why it has so many tentacles. Let’s look at it another way-one I didn’t mention. James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within in?” James is telling us that it is our passions that wage war in our hearts. And while passion can be good (love, sports, work, etc), passion can also cause problems. There is a negative side to passions and James opposes it. Even in the examples I gave (love, sports, etc) the wrong kind of passion can send those emotions through the roof or drive them down the tubes. A passion is a powerful, ruling desire.  But we often allow our passion to be unbridled, or at least, to sidetrack us.

Jesus talked about passion. “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” That is the good kind of passion, when my heart is ruled by God’s love and grace. My wants, needs, and feelings are under His command.

“Father, help me to be passionate about You. May You and Your honor be my driving force.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

November 5

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

As I write this it is the morning after the election. I went to bed earlier than I have lately because I was tired and because I did not want to watch prognostications of early returns. I am here this morning having woke up my normal time and having purposely not looked at election results on my phone.  It is interesting then that I would read the following words in Romans 12: 33-36:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen.”

I learned a long time, and then read it again recently, that we are all control freaks to some extent. Some more than others, but we all want some control. That goes for all areas of our lives. And yes, our country and its politics.

Power is an ugly thing. The more power we have, the more we want. It is control. I did not watch or get on my phone this morning for a reason: I wanted to keep in mind that God is in control and I do not understand His ways. I do not know the future. What I must do is trust. Trust His plan. Trust His sovereignty. Trust His ways. Trust His purpose. I am not in control; He is. Amen.

October 29

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

For a good part of my childhood and young adult life I was actively involved in playing sports. I started playing baseball when I was 8 y/o. They had no such “animal” as T-ball or “coach pitch.” No, you started playing ball. I took to baseball like a fish to water. There was an immediate love affair. By 9 I was excelling and by 10 was playing some on the big team. I dreamed of being a major league player. That was also before traveling teams and weekend tournaments.

The basketball bug hit me in 9th grade. I couldn’t run and dribble at the same time so the coach had me spend a lot of time during practice on the side doing just that. But I became locked on to basketball until it overtook baseball. Another dream.

College ball had me hitting my stride. I excelled but chose not to play my Sr. year. I married between my Jr/Sr year. But I grew tired of the bus rides, the low grades, the 3rd coach in 4 years, and playing ball. I was done with organized ball.

As I look back I see a detriment to the success of either game. I see it today in other realms. I’ll call it the “glory hound.” The one who wants preeminence. Teams are devastated by the one who seeks glory. When I was young I read a series of books called the Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee (think Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew only sports related). In almost every book was a player who wanted glory. He was a “me first Marty.”

Teams can’t win with glory hounds. Churches can’t either.  In 3 John we read about a man named Diotrephes who “loved the preeminence.” He was destructive because it was all about him and his wishes. (We would call it bullying today).

To bring this devo to a close, God despises the one who seeks the glory for himself/herself. I see it as a negative toward God, taking attention from Him. I also see it as a hindrance to the life and health of the church body. There is no place for glory hounds in God’s family.

“Father, may I never seek the glory which is due You for myself. All glory and praise belongs to You.”

October 23

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Sadly there are many people today who call themselves “Christians” that have strange views. Some are whacked. Some are way out there. Some follow heresy (and often don’t know, which gives rise to a lack of Bible knowledge). Some follow men. Some are just ignorant. And some look for the easy way, an easy faith. It is this latter group I want to probe.

You see, some have the lame idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” You know…if I don’t see I don’t know. I don’t see so I’m not responsible. Take, for example, followers of Jesus in other countries (and even now in our own). We have no clue in many cases what others are going through. We think, “Oh that’s a Muslim country” or “That’s in a communist country” so we turn a blind eye and either deny it or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist. Every day multitudes of followers of Jesus are persecuted and executed for their faith. I have no clue what that is like. But whether I choose ignorance or disregard, it still goes on. All over the globe. Behind the bamboo curtain. Behind the Great Wall. Behind the sickle and stars. Behind the stars and stripes. People are living their faith and as a result are either imprisoned or executed for that faith. Plain and simple: being a follower of Christ in many places is truly an effort of faith and of taking one’s life in one’s own hands. It is one of the least popular things a person can do.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus really do stand in the presence (now) and will (in heaven) of some truly remarkable people. One author would call them world-changers. They may be little known but their light shines brightly.

“Father, I stand in the company of some ‘great’ people who shine your light in tough circumstances and places. Help me not to forget them.”

October 22

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

There is no question our world is unsettled right now. As I write this in 2020, we have experienced a pandemic the likes of which my generation or after has never experienced before. We have watched cities be held hostage; cities burn and in some cases are still burning; corrupt politicians grease their own palms and flaunt their sinful agenda, thumb their nose at people all while doing their own things to further their agenda. We have seen lies and cover ups, the likes of which we have never seen before. We have seen sin flaunted in the open, almost daring us to say anything derogatory toward that sin. And we simply cannot forget the hatred and vitriol we have seen from and on social media.

Something is wrong. True. But we are also seeing a fulfillment of Romans 1: 18-32.  Put aside for a moment the obvious reference in that passage to homosexuality. See the blatant reference to mass chaos in our lives. How can we read this passage without seeing the result of disobedience to God’s law?

There is a story told -true or not is up for grabs-that a UK newspaper once asked its readers “what is wrong with the world?” It is told that G.K.Chesterton, a Catholic writer, poet and philosopher answered that question with a 4-word answer: “Dear Sirs. I am.” How’s that for brevity and truth? I am what wrong with the world. It’s called sin and I have the disease. We all do.

“Father, the only solution to the sin problem is You. Jesus died for my sin so I can know victory over death, hell and the grave. I don’t have to be intimidated by sin any more. Give me the strength to surrender my will to You. The reason: me; the solution: You.”

October 21

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

I read something recently that piqued my interest and got my mind going. Two things actually, but what started it is this whole idea of running. Not running as in sport or exercise. Running…as in “running away.”

I’ve heard, said, and read that sometimes the wisest thing a follower of Jesus can do is run, i.e. run away from sin. Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.” The word flee can only mean one thing to me: high tail it out of there. So running away from temptation is good. but it seems to be there is a fine line between knowing when to run and when to fight. The Bible does talk about the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6), so there are times we need to stand our ground in the power of the Spirit and realize “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

So we stand. Our faith is tested. Our stamina is tested. Our faith and strength grows as a result of doing battle.

But there is another kind of running. It is called cowardice. In Psalm 78:9 it says that on the day of battle the Ephraimites, though armed with bows (weapons of warfare) turned tail and ran. Only one thing causes that kind of reaction: F.E.A.R.  That is the opposite of Joshua 1:9 when God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous…God will go with you wherever you go.” Seems to me that turning and running when the battle comes betrays, not only my own troops, but the also God Himself, the Captain of the army. 

“Father, help me to know what it is wise to stand and fight or when to run to avoid giving in. But may I never run because I’m betraying You or my fellow soldiers because of cowardice.”