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March 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

When I was just starting out in my faith journey, I was pretty impressionable and was often told I needed to tell someone else about Jesus. You know…the whole share-your-faith thing. I understood that. Someone cared enough about me to tell me about Jesus, I ought to care enough about someone to tell them about Jesus.  But I got to feeling like I was head-hunting at times. You know, get as many as you can as quickly as you can.

But I soon realized that I was devaluing people. I kept getting this ugly feeling that something wasn’t right. Then someone finally put it into words. I’m not sure if I heard or read it: “People don’t want to feel like notches on a belt.” My words: People don’t want to feel like scalps hung on a line. “Yep, another one. And another. And…”

People don’t want to feel like scalps or notches on a belt; they want to feel important. Like they matter. To approach someone for the sole purpose of getting the gospel to them doesn’t take into count that they are humans with feelings.

It goes back to motives. Take a look at Jesus. When He healed someone or fed someone, that’s what He was doing-healing and feeding.  He wasn’t conniving. He wasn’t saying, “If I do this or that they will do this.”  He knew they needed Him but He met their need. He loved them with no strings attached.

Long story short: Let’s love people for who they are. Let’s not see them as notches or scalps or ever as projects to be reclaimed, lives to be flipped. Let’s share Jesus with people simply for the sake of loving people and introducing them to our best Friend.

“Father, when I meet people today, when I see them and strike up a conversation with them, help me to see them as Jesus did.”

March 1

Monday, March 1st, 2021

(Note: I wrote this Friday, the 26th, but waited to post it until today)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Not exactly sure why. I was tired. I had a day of doctor visits (follow up to surgery and dental for an implant). I had a beautiful visit with a family of three children, who because of health issues with the youngest, have been unable to be in worship with the group. I took M&Ms to the kids; a bag of York peppermint patties to mom; and a bag of Heath bars to dad. Of course the kids were already in their boxes within 5 minutes! 🙂

If I had a “guess” as to why I have unrest and have been up since  before my regular “day-of-work-get-up-time of 3:30” is what I know I might have to do this morning and where I need to go. I will be at the High School at 8:00 to possibly “help” or listen to a teacher or student who is struggling. You see, we had a tragedy this week in our school system. Last weekend one of our teachers and baseball coach, the husband of our Middle School principal, had a brain bleed. Even a second opinion has declared him brain dead so last night they began harvesting his organs for the donation process. (He will continue making a difference long after he leaves this earth).  He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. The oldest turned 6 on Thursday. One also has Down’s but I’m not sure what her age is. Bryan was not only the baseball coach, but he also taught SpecEd and it is easy to see why.

Why then the upset? Because Ryan (our youth pastor) and I have been asked to be there to listen and help if needed. Ryan was there all morning on Thursday. Very few wanted to talk. Like one or two.  But who knows?  It appears that he and his wife were Christ-followers. Her posts allude to that.  If so, she has a hope beyond all one can imagine. I pray it will sustain her and the girls in the coming days.

But questions abound. Some I don’t have an answer to. Does anyone really? Only God knows for sure and His Word is the go-to. But sometimes questions still abound. I’m praying for wisdom if needed.

Meanwhile, would you please pray for Ashley and the 2 girls? They need God’s Presence more as each day passes.

“Father, You are the Giver of Peace. I pray that for Ashley. You are Giver of Wisdom.  I pray that for Ryan and me today.  I also pray extra wisdom for Ashley as she navigates life without the love of her life. And I’m looking for the good you will bring out of this.”

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

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Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”

February 18

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’m thinking this morning of what I will call “attention grabbers.” We can call them by another name: “horn tooters.” You know the kind. They do all they can-“humbly” of course- to gain attention.

There are several thoughts that my mind wants to pursue today as I think about this. I’ll just give you my “seed thoughts” and then maybe you can pursue them on our own.

  1. The very first verse which comes to mind is Galatians 6:14- “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) I really have nothing of which to boast. As I make much of God, I make less of me. That sounds like shades of John 3:30.
  2. “Pride goes before a fall.” (Pr.16:18) Be careful of getting too big for your britches. Britches that sag are tripping hazards. (I still wonder how some of those dudes can walk with their britches sagging to the crotches).
  3. Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the humble not the proud. I read this morning about His encounter with the man born blind. Check out John 9:39 for a reference. Those who think they see are blind, while those who realize their blindness will see clearly.
  4. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Mt.6:3)  There is no value in tooting your own horn. A gift given is best kept secret.

It is good to lend a hand to another, to further the kingdom by our actions, but it is best done with no accolades. God sees and that is all that is needed. No bright light needs to be shined down. The only light which needs shined is the one on Jesus.

“Father, let Your light shine down on You not me. May I never boast, may I never take credit, except in the cross.”

February 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One of the major topics of conversation during the pandemic among pastors, leaders, magazine articles, podcasters, and other talking heads has been the well-being of pastors. It has been all over the spectrum-from depression; to excitement; to innovation; to pressure/stress; to a feeling of inadequacy; to innovation; to dreaming of what was/is/could be; to what could have been; to a bunch of other ideas. But it seemed one topic kept coming up over and over.

Burnout.

The burnout of the leader. The endless demands placed upon the pastor/leader by others and by himself. There was no overt sin involved which could cause it. No, it was simply a pastor or a leader giving too much of himself to the ministry, i.e. shepherding of his people and not taking care of himself. Not necessarily physically, although for some that definitely played a part.

I’m talking spiritual. Burnout comes when an individual gives so much of himself away that he doesn’t take care to feed himself. We neglect us for them. That spells disaster.

We can only take people where we ourselves have gone. We can only teach what we ourselves know or are learning. We can only give someone a drink if we have water to give. We can only offer a meal if we have food to offer.

Take care of yourself first. Cultivate God’s Presence in your life first. Then, and only then, will we have something to offer to someone else.

“Father, I need to refresh myself with You first. Help me to have a renewed fire because of You coming alive in me. Then, and only then, will I have something to give to someone else.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not mad as in crazy. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven mad. You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus when they were heading toward Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!” (Luke 9:51-56)

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? A blessing and then moving on? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suspect they may have wanted to add, “You know…make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps even deeper meaning happening here. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of grace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go.  Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right, but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus.

“Father, that is my prayer for today. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him lead me through this jungle of relationships and reactions. And above all, help me to love.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not crazy mad. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven-mad.  You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus they were heading to Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!”

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus, is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suggest they might have wanted to add: “You know, make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah. That will teach them a lesson.”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps deeper meaning happening here also. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of peace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go. Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus. “And that is my prayer this morning Father. Today, help me to keep my eyes on You.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

February 11

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Ask people on the streets to define love and one will get a plethora of answers. And let’s not just talk about those on the street. Let’s ask those in the church. I suspect the answers will be almost identical.

But I can almost guarantee-in fact if I was a betting man I’d put a lot of money on the idea that one of the statements made would be “Love is a feeling.” Say what? So is love for my wife or my daughters or grandson the same “feeling” I have for my dog or cat (of which I have neither), ice cream, or how I feel after an invigorating bike ride?

Obviously, most (probably all) would say, “Oh no! It’s a different kind of feeling.” 🙂 So let’s admit that love is somewhat hard to clarify.

What is not in question-at least in my mind- is that love may be hard to pinpoint with a definition, but it is not hard to be seen. Love is more than just a feeling (cue in Boston’s song). If I waited for my feelings to catch up I may never show love. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We can’t wait for all the feelings to catch up to us before we give away extravagant amounts of love. Selfless love is always costly. Fear can’t afford it, pride doesn’t understand it, but friends never forget it.” (#40-p.50)

Love is a decision we make. It is more than a feeling. It is a conscious decision which leads to action.

“Father, help me not to wait of feelings to come. Teach me to love as You loved.”

Note: Goff quote from his book Live in Love-Walk in Grace.