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September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

September 24

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It is good to be self-confident. It is good to have self-confidence. It is not good to be too self-confident. It is not good to have too much self-confidence. Seriously, it isn’t bad to have self-confidence. We have to believe we can do something or we won’t. I was speaking with one of our teenagers the other day. She has developed into a pretty good golfer and as a senior will graduate with a high GPA (Valedictorian I think…or close to it) and is one of the finalists for what is called the Lilly Scholarship. (We actually have two young ladies who are finalists). This young lady was playing in the Regional golf tournament this week (Monday) and said, “I hope I do well, but I’m not sure.” I stopped her right there and pointed to her head and said, “Whoa! It’s all right there.” {Note: she had one bad hole and came in fourth}.

I was thinking of self-confidence when I read I Cor. 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  As a young pastor, and like many who are young, there was an air of invincibility surrounding me. “I will never do that” was said more than I care to admit. Can you hear the splat or the kerplunk as I do a face plant? I forgot the basic truth of this verse. I repeat what I said at the beginning: It is good to be self-confident; it is not good to be too self-confident. It is called arrogance, pride. It is also called “look out below!”

“Father, you have had to teach me humility big time, especially when I had the audacity to think I was invincible. Help me, in my old age, not to forget.”

{Note: Jo and I left for Ohio yesterday  to visit Janna and watch our grandson play football, even though we will have to watch outside the fence.  They are only allowing 2 people for each player inside the stadium. So I’m not sure I will post here tomorrow. I am not planning on taking my computer.}

September 23

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

I have never met a person who said, “I love adversity.” In fact, the opposite is most often true: we try to avoid it like the plague. We read garbage like Your Best Life Now and think “I want my best life now. I want ease. I want comfort. I want prosperity.” We listen to trash that promises us health, wealth, prosperity, and comfort but leaves out the struggles, doubts, questions, adversity and unfulfilled dreams that are sure to come. If they do, we are told it is our lack of faith.

I read an interesting quote recently:

Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity. Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher

I’ve been listening to podcasts and reading lately about this whole idea of adversity and prosperity. It all relates to the pandemic we have been facing since March and its testing of our wills and outlook and patience. I know I’m sick and tired of masks, mandates and social distancing, etc that have come with it.  But, you know, we would not know how good things are, or could be, if not for when things get tough. Our Christian life is the same way. To live without adversity would never show us how good God is on a daily basis. I’m not asked to understand; I’m asked to trust. My vision may be cloudy now; it will become clear someday. While not desired, adversity is to be expected and even welcomed.

“Father, help me not to lament and complain about adversity.  Help me to see it as Your hand and move upon my life.”

September 22

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

One of the things I read a lot about, especially during this pandemic, is worry. Worry about the virus. Worry about family and friends. Worry about a job. Worry about the future. Worry about money. Worry about how things will be on the other side of it. A pastor’s life is compounded by the sheer responsibility he feels for the people he pastors/shepherds. So multiply a family of four (for example) times 25 or 50 or more. Now you catch a glimpse of the magnitude.

So its easy to worry about things. Both big and small. Jesus speaks to that in Matthew 6: 26-27: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you be being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” His picturesque advice for His listeners in just as appropriate for His followers today. He is saying, “Bill (or whatever your name is) don’t worry. I got this and you will be taken care of.” Why should I be anxious? Why should I hoard for fear of the future? Why should I be concerned about where the next dime is going to come from? Jesus has promised He will take care of me. In spite of how easy it is to feel alone, forgotten, left hanging on a string, He has made a promise and will keep it.

Trust Him. He made another promise He keeps: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

“Father, those words are for me. May I not forget Your promise given in Matthew 6 and elsewhere.”

September 21

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Sometimes I’m afraid many churches try to conjure up hype. I know as a pastor it is frustrating at times wondering what it’s going to take to “fire up” a church. There is talk of that being a revival. “We need a revival” we will say. But tragically, we then go about it under our own strength.

You’ve seen it, as have I. Special “revival” meetings. Bring in a band and have a concert. Meet under a tent. Schedule prayer meetings. Bring in a “big gun” to preach. They used to say an evangelist had 7 sermons and a fast car.  He would come in. Tell it like it is. Offend a few. Stir the people up. Get out of Dodge. A lot of what we want to call revival is man-made. Correction: most of it.

In the book Jesus Revolution, Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn talk about what was called the Jesus Movement. In one section they were describing Greg’s “church plant” in Riverside (encouraged by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel). They were meeting in the Riverside Municipal Auditorium which they affectionately called “Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven” because it had no A/C. But each week the church continued growing. Greg couldn’t explain it but it was explained by using a quote Warren Wiersbe credited to former YFC president Bob Cook: “If you can explain what’s going on, God didn’t do it.” Those are good words. Maybe taking my hands off the wheel is the best thing to do. Maybe trying to manufacture revival or church growth is not a human effort at all, but is, in fact, the work of God.

“Father, show me when I need to steer and when I need to let go. Help me not to think I know best, especially when it comes to Your work.”

Note: I review the book, Jesus Revolution, on my other blog.

September 18

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Have you ever met those people who are really hard to love? Their demeanor might be a turn-off. Their appearance might be a turn-off. Their smell might be a turn-off. Their attitude might be a turn-off. Their color might be a turn-off. Their race, religion, or ethnicity might be a turn-off. Their type of employment might be a turn-off. Perhaps you can think of more. Let me go on record as saying these are all wrong. None are legitimate.

I read an interesting thought recently. When the Bible says, “Love bears all things” it goes much deeper than “puts up with.” The word “bears” actually means “to cover”, “to pass over in silence” or “to keep confidential.” But in the noun form it means a roof. What an interesting thought! Follow it through with me please. What does a roof do? It covers us. What good is a house with no roof? What a worthless building a house would be if it was absolutely gorgeous inside and out but had an unobstructed view of the sky?

When Paul used that word in I Cor.13 he was saying that love covers people.  Consider this: we sometimes joke about singing all 100 stanzas of “Just As I Am”, but the fact is: it is the truth. We come as we are-no matter the smell, the race, the cleanliness, the color, the job, the _____________ (you fill in the blank). On the contrary, we come in repentance, gratitude, overwhelmed by the love and grace of a covering Father. You see, despite the way I was and am, God put a covering over me. The covering was blood. The blood of His Son.

“Father, may I remember I am here not on my own merit but because I’ve been covered by Jesus’ blood. Accepted is stamped on my heart.”

September 17

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the statement “I don’t know why I did that. It’s not really me”? I’ve heard it from husbands/fathers who blew their top at the people they should love most in the world, doing untold damage with their venom. I’ve seen “mild-mannered Clark Kent’s” go ballistic at a sporting event and then hear them say those famous words “That’s not really me. That’s not who I am.” Actions speak louder than words.

Of course, nowadays we don’t need to see actions. Twitter, Instagram, FB and the like let us know what a person is really like when they write inflammatory words, post incendiary pictures or sayings or lambast someone they disagree with. I’m on no social media except this blog and I don’t miss it. In some ways I’d rather be seen as naive because I don’t see the latest that so-and-so wrote. Even here I have to be careful what I write because what I write is what I think and it is there for all posterity.

Sorta makes me wonder.  How can people say, do, or write things and think they have no affect on people? If I truly love people as I say I do, and want them to believe I do, why would I think my words would not matter? When I say “I love you” do they know I do? You see, what I love and who I love, the trivial and incidental things in my life will come out. Why else (except for meanness) will people regurgitate or even bring up what someone said or wrote 20-30 years ago in a yearbook (or something like that)? Sadly, what we said may not be true today, but it is on record. Be careful what you say or write. You may say “That’s not really me, that’s not who I am,” but there will be those who will beg to differ. After all, they have the proof in their hands.

“Father, please help me to be very careful of what I say or write. Help me to realize that when I act or say something that is who I am.”

September 16

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

What do baseball, football, soccer, hockey, basketball, tennis…well, every sport…have in common? If you said referees/umpires you would be right. But also wrong. Because I am actually looking for a different answer. They all have something in common, something that you may not even think about. They all keep score. What is an athletic contest without keeping score?  You could say, “Exercise” or “fun game” and you could be right, but that misses the point. Keeping score is accepted as an essential part of an athletic contest. You won’t find one sport that says, “Aaah let’s not keep score today. It’s Game 7 of the World Series. Let’s just go out and have fun.”  “The people have come to watch the Super Bowl. So let’s go out and play but not really care.” Yeah…like that is going to happen. Plus it makes no sense.

Okay so let me add another item to the equation. But let me add it with a Bible verse: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love does not keep score. That reminds me of an illustration I once heard (and have used). A couple was seeing a marriage counselor for some serious issues in their marriage when the husband said, “Whenever we have an argument my wife gets all historical.”  The counselor said, “Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No,” he said. “She gets historical. She brings up everything I’ve ever done wrong.” Ouch!

It’s easy to remember; it’s hard to forget. Resentment is always making calculations.  It is always rearing its ugly head by pointing out what was “once done to me.” Paul is saying in I Cor.13:5 that love is not resentful. Other translations say, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Love doesn’t calculate. Love doesn’t tally up.  It needs no calculator or computer flash drive with a memory to save/record wrong for future posterity.

“Father, help me to truly love as Jesus did. When I am wronged, help me to  move on and not keep a record. Help me to get rid of resentment and keeping score.”

September 15

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Signs. They are everywhere. It’s a political year. UGH! Speed limit. Directional. Enter. Exit. Signs for a restaurant. Signs on a door telling us to wear a mask (2020).  Reminds me of that old pop song: “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs/Clogging up the scenery, breaking my mind/Do this, do that, can’t you read the signs?” 

We have people, especially with the chaos and uproar of this day, talking about and asking, “Are these the signs of the times?” Back in 1967 when the Israelis won the 6-Day War and their land from the Arabs, they taught it was a sure sign that Jesus was coming really soon. I think it’s safe to say “soon” is relative. Same for today. Nobody knows.

Growing up near Pittsburgh I was surrounded by a large Catholic and Orthodox population. The sign of the cross was and still is big to the “practice” of that religion.

It strikes me then with all this talk of the signs of the time that Paul wrote in I Cor.1:21-25 the following words: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (Emphasis mine) Did you notice “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified”? Jesus Himself said the only sign given would the sign of Jonah (death, burial and resurrection).

Maybe it’s time we stop looking to the world events trying to interpret “signs” and simply draw people’s attention to the one sign most important: the cross of Christ. Even the OT people were not saved by looking around or looking inwardly. They were saved by looking at the snake fashioned by Moses and lifted up for the people to look at. A foretaste of Jesus’ own words: “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to Me.” (Jn.12:32)

“Father, may I lift up Jesus. May I preach the cross not man’s opinions. May I draw people’s attention to the cross, not the ‘signs of the times.’ May Jesus be exalted in all things.”

September 14

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Taking credit. You see it in sports. Someone is full of him/herself and takes credit for the performance. You see it in business. “I did this” or “I did that.” That person tends to forget what I will call the “trenchers.”  They are the ones who work daily in the trenches-brainstorming, conceiving and executing ideas-the plan. You see it in movies, TV, or other “up front” activities. The actor get the accolades; the double or the bit actor or the one behind the scene is left behind. You see it in the pulpit. A pastor copies plagiarizes preaches a sermon almost word for word of someone else but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Giving credit.  Turning the tables.  Acknowledging those unseen players. The wife who hates the limelight and quietly supports her husband. (Can you say Jo?) The bit player whose idea spawned a movement. The teacher who week after week teaches in relative obscurity and is content to be in the background.

I could give example after example but I’m sure you get the point. Giving credit to others is not the product of over-inflated egos but of a humble heart.  Demeaning others in order to exalt oneself is not love; it is not Christ-like at all. I’m of the opinion (for what it’s worth) that God is not interested at all in our status, our position, our clout, or our standing in life. What I do believe is that He is interested in our willingness to be used by Him and to acknowledge His part in our lives. As someone has said, “May they forget the channel, seeing only Him.” (Kate Barclay Wilkinson)

“Father, may I simply be a promoter of You. Help me not to be one who takes credit, but one who gives credit where credit is due. May people forget me and see only You.”