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January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 15

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

January 9

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Believing vs BELIEVING.

I am a conundrum. I am a puzzle. I am an enigma. I am a mystery.  I am a mixed bag. Maybe an example would help.

Peter. Not Peter Rabbit. Not Peter Pan. No. Peter the guy in the Bible who became the spokesman for the rest. There was a guy who was a conundrum!

  • Question: “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”
  • Answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
  • Statement: “Blessed are you Simon…”
  • Jesus’ statement: “The Son of Man will be delivered to be crucified and raised on the third day.”
  • Peter’s response: “Not so.”  Actually, it says, “No. Lord!” (Can those two words actually go together?)
  • Jesus’ statement: “Get behind me, Satan.”

To go from “Blessed” to being called “Satan.” Ouch!  But that is not the only place. Jesus makes a statement later about Peter being sifted like wheat. Peter says, “I will follow you anywhere. I would die for you.” Not much later he is denying that he is a disciple of Jesus. To a servant girl. To one who recognizes his Galilean accent. Not very threatening people when you think about it. Not soldiers. Not a religious leader with power. Just common folk.

That’s me. I say, “God is in control and has a plan.” I tell people that! I did just yesterday. Then I turn right around and do my own thing, go my own way. Or worse: I question His plan. I say I believe, but do I really BELIEVE? That’s why I’m a conundrum. Saying one thing; saying and BELIEVING is another.

How about you? Are you a conundrum?

“Father, only you can solve this puzzle called “me.” Only You understand me.  Help me to do more than just say. Help me to truly BELIEVE.”

 

January 8

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Left Behind: Worthy vs Temporary.

Am I that far off in saying that we all want to leave something behind for which we will be remembered? I don’t think so. We all (or most of us anyway) want to leave behind a legacy, a point of reference where if our name is mentioned people says, “Oh yeah. I remember (such and such) about him/her.”

In the media world, for example, actor Tom Hanks was recently honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. In his craft, that may be the highest honor to be bestowed. Known for his body of work, he will now be known for another (higher) honor.

The Sports world has its honors also. Hall of Fame. MVP. Super Bowl champs. Stanley Cup. College football #1.

Music. Stage. Lifetime Achievement. The list is seemingly endless. People want to be remembered-hopefully for good and not for bad. Think Al Capone. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliott Ness. Billy the Kid. And others.

In the OT is the book and story of Job. I’m pretty sure we all know that story. Everything is taken away from him but his life, but Job still said, “I know my Redeemer lives.” When everything he loved was wiped out, Job’s response was, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21)  When encouraged by his wife to curse God and die he said, “Shall we receive good and not evil from God?” (2:10)  (He also called her a foolish woman but we won’t go there! 🙂 ) In Job 19:32-24 he wished “his words were recorded, engraved in rock forever.” Funny thing is? They are. In the pages of THE BOOK.

What is it I want to be known for? Kindness? Generosity? Giver of grace? All the above. All are well and good. But the greatest? He was a Lover of Jesus. Yeah. I like that.

“Father, may the legacy I leave behind not be one of fleeting memories and temporary awards. May it be that I loved you first and foremost, above all, and that you were the reason I lived.”

 

January 2

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

My title for this devotion is Servant vs Celebrity.

It’s that time of the year again! Sometime late last year-I think around Nov/Dec we were deluged with “The Sexiest Man Alive” garbage.  (I mean, like who really cares?) Then over the past week or so-with the end of one year and the beginning of another-we hear all kinds of “Ten Best” lists. And to top it off we are starting a new decade so we are inundated with “Ten Best” or “20 Best” of the decade. May I be very open and honest? I. don’t. care. Seriously. I really don’t. I don’t really care who society thinks the Sexiest Man or Woman is. Not only  is it purely subjective, in the grand scheme of things it changes nothing. It raises some to celebrity status and lowers some to “has been” or  secondary status.

How unlike Scripture. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As I’ve said how unlike the Scripture is our culture! I just can’t see Jesus campaigning for the front cover of a magazine. Or relishing His choice as “Most Rugged Man of the Year.” Or applauding His award as “Humanitarian of the Year.” Or basking in the glow of “Top Influential Evangelical of the Year.” Nope. Not Jesus. His greatest joy was not to be a celebrity, but being a servant. How many times did He tell people not to tell others “but go show yourself to the priests?”

Accolades come and go. I threw away my college basketball trophies long time ago. Praises are fickle. But what really matters is being a servant. There’s a Maranatha chorus we used to sing: “Make me a servant humble and meek/Lord help me lift up those who are weak/And may the prayer of my heart always be/Make me a servant/Make me a servant today.”

“Lord, that is my prayer today. Let me be a servant for You. Help me not to seek the accolades or applause of men.”

January 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Transformation: Real vs Imagined.

What I’m about to write may cause you to question my maturity/sanity.  Maybe both!! 🙂  I like fantasy movies like the Back to the Future trilogy (my all-time favorite) and Lord of the Rings. One that my grandson got watching with him and is now one of my favorites are The Transformers. These shape-shifting cars and trucks are fascinating to me. (Told you my maturity and sanity would be called into question). On the way home yesterday from Ohio I saw a Hummer with two logos of Optimus Prime (OP) on his rear door and art work up front that highlighted him.  OP is the lead Autobot in their ongoing battle against the Decepticons. That is a good word since their whole deal is deceiving and acting like Autobots but always against them.

So what does my childlike (not childish) interest have to do with my real world? They are called Transformers because they “transform” from a car/truck to a fighting robot and then go back again to their original shape.  2 Cor. 5:17 says we are “new creations,” i.e. transformed. Romans 12:2 says we are not to be “conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind.” But Romans 8:29 also says we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Transformed to be conformed.

Transformation is real when our greatest desire becomes the desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That is my prayer for this year. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t do “one word.” I want to have this hungering drive to be transformed in all ways so that I may be conformed to the image of Jesus.

“Father, make that my yearning this year. May that be what gets me up in the morning and let’s me lay my head down at night. Transform me to conform me.”

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In my post here I mentioned the tough decision I was having to make about whether to continue the “Shadow” blog. After reading some comments, and pondering and praying, I have decided to continue offering this blog. I have a selfish reason: I need it! I need the daily discipline to journal my Quiet Time thoughts. Second, Diane said it well. Numbers don’t really matter. I guess I ought to take it that as long as someone folks are reading and listening and learning, it would be good to continue it. I’m not sure I will post on the weekend unless I do a “Weekend Extra” type of thing.  But I will try (with God’s help) to present a devotion that helps you through your day. Thanks for caring enough to respond.  My prayer is that I will say something that will help you in your day.

December 30-31

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

I wrote this the morning of Monday, the 30th, but just now was able to get to a computer to post it.  It’s not all I want to say but I found my time to write rather short. Hope it makes you think some of your own response.

My title for this devotion is Shortage: Good vs Bad.

I find myself contemplating 2019 and wondering about 2020. Not unusual I’m sure. Also, my contemplation is not in a bad way either.  I know I can’t change what has happened. And I know I can’t even begin to guess what will be, so there is no need to concern myself. I’m thinking instead about lack, about shortages.

By that I am not in any way referring to money. I’m referring to those things that are missing or lacking my life. And to take it one step further: what am I going to do?

My thoughts along this line were piqued by a reference to the water of Jerusalem. There was only one source and it was outside the city walls. The way to defeat Jerusalem was to either divert it or dam it. In 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles we have the story of King Hezekiah building a tunnel through 1750 feet of solid rock to divert the water to a cistern. (As an aside: can you imagine the feat they accomplished without modern earth-moving machinery?). Anyway, Isaiah 22 says he did it without regard “for the one who made it.” (translated: G0d).

That got me thinking. How often do I act without regard to God? How often do I just “do” without seeking God’s input, His guidance? Admittedly, too often. I move; I act; I disrupt; without ever seeking God’s thoughts. Instead of seeing something as a handicap, perhaps it is time to embrace my limitations and allow God to use them for His glory.

“Father, any shortage I have is a tool for you to use. Please help me to “bend” to your way and will instead of always moving first and then expect your action or approval.”

December 29-31

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Three things Moses prayed for in Exodus 33: 12-21.

LORD, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

LORD, GUARANTEE YOUR PRESENCE.

LORD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY.

Moses did not want to be adrift. He didn’t want to lead the people of Israel without the presence and promises of God. What a great challenge for 2020!

Jo & I leave today for Sandusky, Ohio.  Tomorrow her sister has a procedure on her eyes that she must have or things will not turn out well. But it is in Lorain, OH and Jo is totally unfamiliar with that part of the state and unsure of driving where she has not been. Neither have I but she feels more confident with me driving (okay so maybe just with me being along). We will return Tuesday.  I will be out of commission as well on both blogs.

I have a decision I need to make: whether to continue “Living in the Shadow” or not. I have been doing two blogs for two years now. I started this one as a devotional outlet for New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I called it Be Transformed. I continued it by renaming it and just using it as a random devotional blog. I had several purposes. One, it kept me disciplined in having a daily Quiet Time. Two, and this will sound somewhat self-centered, I wanted to see if I could write and possibly transfer the daily devotions into a book form. The first, I accomplished. The second, I’m not sure about. What I do know is keeping two blogs going was, at times, time-consuming. It was stretching that is for sure. But what I hoped for (a consistent and growing readership) did not happen. So I’m faced with deciding what to do. I’d appreciate any input you might have…good or bad.

In the meantime, have a fantastic end of the year and a great start to 2020.

December 27/Weekend

Friday, December 27th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Grace: Old vs New.

We don’t sing the song Amazing Grace how sweet the sound for nothing. Grace really is amazing. I know for me understanding grace was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” on legalism that ruled my life.

But we tend to think of grace as a NT thing. So it is sometimes surprising to us when we realize there is tons of grace in the OT. Take, for example, the story of Abraham and Sarah; then Isaac and Rebecca; then Jacob and Esau. Abraham and Sarah waited 40 years for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Sarah thought she could help God along. Abraham was 140 when Isaac married Rebecca and she was barren. Isaac prayed and twins were born. But talk about family dysfunction! Isaac liked Esau; Rebecca favored Jacob. Jacob was a conniver; Esau disregarded his oldest son status. Jacob ran away from the comfort of the tents to live under the stars. He laid down his heard on a stone and ended up making a bargain with God. That is just the beginning of the grace stories in the OT.

The very fact God had not stepped in to slap a few on the back of the head with a huge “God slap” shows His patience. It also shows His grace. As Iain Wright says, “God is always better than we can imagine.”

I’m glad. I deserve more than just a “God slap.” I deserve a “God smack down.” Not just once, but over and over. I’m thankful for God’s display of grace in the OT and the NT. But I’m especially grateful for grace today-2019. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

“Father, thank you for showing grace in the OT; the NT; and especially today…to me. I’m singing (off key) ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound.’ “