Opinion

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January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”

January 25

Monday, January 25th, 2021

It is easy to feel (what word am I looking for?) less or inferior. Read the Bible and one reads stories of men and women who display magnificent faith and trust in God. Abraham. Jeremiah. Isaiah. Samson. Elijah. Peter. Paul. And we feel less than. Maybe inferior is the right word. We read Hebrews 11 and see theses giants. We even call that passage God’s Hall of Faith. But take a closer look at some of those people.

  • Abraham. Twice he tried to pass Sarah, his wife, off as his sister. (If I tried to do that? Oh boy). Ran ahead of God and gave into Sarah’s “push” with Hagar to have a child.
  • Samson. God’s chosen leader was more interested in lust than leadership. In the end God used him to bring down the temple and defeat the Philistines.
  • Elijah. He defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel then runs from Jezebel and wallows in self-pity wishing he was dead. 
  • Peter. So afraid he denies Jesus three times. A few months later he is standing before the Jewish leaders saying he wouldn’t back down and stop preaching and wouldn’t shut up.
  • Paul. Murderer. Hater of Christians. Converted and he becomes the greatest missionary ever.

God takes us as weak and frail as we are and uses us. He infuses the weak, powerless people with His supernatural Power. That’s me. That’s you.  Will you make yourself available to Him?

“Father, replace my weakness with your power. I am not inferior because You don’t see that. You see a vessel You want to use.”

January 22

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted something-something better than what you have-but had something less standing in your way? Please let me explain.

Let’s suppose you were raised in a false religion or a cult. Or maybe your family tradition was a stale, musty, traditional church. And dead. But then you were exposed to gospel teaching and for the first time in your life you could feel your spirit coming alive. But-and this is a big but-you hold back because you are concerned about leaving that cult or that false religion or that dead tradition. Why? Betrayal of family? Betrayal of a belief system? Loss of friends and family? Fear of being alone? All the above could be correct or even more. I heard it explained as being like a man with his hands in the stream. He has caught a small fish in one, but a bigger fish is swimming by. To catch the bigger fish he has to let go of the smaller one. (Golem he’s not).

I think that is a pretty accurate description of the scenario I gave above: Give up to get. Jesus had a man approach Him and ask Him about eternal life. When Jesus told him he had to give up all he had to follow, the Bible says he went away sad because he was very wealthy. He had to give up to get. He wasn’t willing to do that and therefore lost everything, at least that which matters in the end.

What is God calling you to maybe give up? Are you will to give up the lesser to gain the greater?  I have been asking myself that same question.

“Father, you know the choice I need to make. Help me to do it.”

January 21

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Bob Goff in his 365 Day Journey book Live In Grace*Walk in Love wrote these words while writing about life and love as we grow up:

“It was about what we did more than who we were. It was only natural to assume God worked the same way. Do good things and succeed and you receive love and approval from God. Mess up and love is withdrawn…If only we could remind ourselves more often that God never cares about the grades on our report cards. He wants us to make it all about His love, not our performance, and He’s a whole lot more concerned about our character than our accomplishments. He doesn’t find joy in our success; He delights in our attempts.” (#19-P.24)

A little later in that same Journey he wrote a powerful sentence:

He wants us to be captivated with purpose, regardless of whether it looks like worldly success.” (p.24)

Speaking for myself, I’ve often missed this. Caring more about the end result and how I will look, often took away the joy to be found simply knowing I was fulfilling His desire for me. Performance. Accomplishment. Success = All bogus. Finding joy. Contentment. Peace = Purpose.

What about you? “Father, I’m so glad You don’t look at me to see my success but to see me fulfilling Your purpose in me and for me. In that I will find my joy, contentment and peace.”

January 20

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I have a confession to make and it pains me to do so. I always wanted to be one of those rare birds. You know, the one who could say, “I’m me. I am unique.” In a sense I can say that. I am those and more. I’ve always believed-and still do-that God made me as I am and there is no one else like me. But then again, I am not quite that unique that I don’t share some qualities with others. Here’s one:

I.     H.A.T.E.     W.A.I.T.I.N.G.

Well, maybe hate is a strong word. How about “despise passionately”? 🙂  Anyway, you get my drift. There are times I do well with waiting, especially when it is someone else waiting on a decision!! 🙂  But me? Not so. You would think I would have learned by now. But there are times I have a hard head…or is that a hard heart? I’ve seen God come through on so many levels in the past-big, small and medium- that I ought to relax and trust. But like so many others on this planet- followers of Christ or not- I want…

INSTANT FULFILLMENT. Now! Not tomorrow. Not even later. Now! But instant fulfillment, whether we are talking national or personal, or anything in between, may satisfy our desires but does little for the relationship between me and God or me and another person. Sometimes it is in the waiting that the greatest blessings come. Trusting God’s promises and trusting in His promises bring a rich reward. I get to watch and see God move. In the process I can also see my relationship with Him deepen. And what can be better than that?

“Father, help me to wait patiently and trust your heart for me.”

January 19

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

I read a really good story the other day. Let me share it. In the Wizard of Oz, a movie I have to admit I am not fond of, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow arrive back in Oz with the broom from the Wicked Witch of the Wast that the Wizard desires. But he stalls sending her back to Kansas, giving the Tim Man his heart, the Scarecrow his brain, and the Lion his courage. He tells them to come back the next day.

While they plead with the Wizard, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls the curtain and we find a tiny, weasily, little man from Nebraska. The story goes that the author, L. Frank Baum, had serious problems with God, so he wanted to send the message that only we have the power to solve our own problems.

I’m not sure what brought him to that place in life; I can’t even begin to speculate. But I do know he is not alone in his feelings. That’s too bad. This past Sunday I preached from Psalm 139 for the latter part of my sermon.  I am struck by the beauty and power and passion found in that passage. Tearing it down it shows us 3 characteristics of God, what I will call the 3 O’s.

  • God’s Omniscience- Verses 1-6
  • God’s Omnipresence- Verses 7-12
  • God’s Omnipotence- Verses 13-18

In my mind there is not a more concise and complete picture of God in all of Scripture. We can talk about His majesty, His glory, His love, His grace, etc, but right here in one chapter is God complete- Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. Okay…your challenge is to unpack that by reading the verses and let them soak into your soul. Talk about mind-boggling!! Go ahead. Try it. And let me know maybe next year when you do. 🙂

“Father, I am humbled to see how totally awesome (and yes, I used that word because it describes You) You really are.  So much higher and deeper than I can ever go. Let me just bask in the glow of You and who You are.”

January 18

Monday, January 18th, 2021

L.A.B.E.L.S.

Don’t you just love ’em? Please notice the sarcasm included in that question. Truth be known most of us despise labels. And I am not talking about those identifying what we are buying.

Oh, not that all labels are bad. Calling your son “sport” or “Mr. Baseball Man” is okay. Calling your daughter “the light of your eyes” or “Honey” or “Loved one” is good. But sadly, we seldom hear labels like that.

We more often hear labels like “Ugly” or “Fatso” or “Dork” or “No Good” or “Lazy bum” or some other put down. And man, can it go on and on! As a result, we grow up or see kids (and adults) grow up with ugly labels running through their head and unless someone steps into the gap and tells us we are not stupid or a loser, we will grow up believing the lies. This makes us very vulnerable to other words that tear us down AND ARE LIES!  I used to be called “Highpockets” by my grandfather, whom I loved dearly. He used that term affectionately because I was tall, skinny and had long legs. There is a big difference between that and “stupid” or “No good.” The former was said in jest; the latter is pain.

There is one identity that never goes sour…one label. That label  is “child of God.” “My son or My daughter.” “My beloved.” God would never and will never give us an identity contrary to Him or His Word. We never have to wonder if God thinks we are incorrigible or a loser or a real problem child. Granted, we are all different (that is part of the fun), but God has designed us to be so. He has made us all unique and put His stamp of identity on us:  “Property of God.” Don’t allow names people give you to supersede what He thinks of you: Beloved. Cherished. Uniquely made. Incredibly loved.  MINE.

“Father, Psalm 139 says, ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ You make no mistakes. And you don’t give us negative labels. Help me to remember that today no matter what comes my way.”

January 15

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Have you ever been disappointed with God? I suspect all of us would speak to the affirmative of that statement. I must confess there have been times I have been. One of those times is now. After 10 months or pursuing me, Covid finally caught up with me. In spite of the mask, the hand sanitizing, the extra vitamins designed to ward off a virus or infection, I got it. A body that once weighed 223 and was pretty solid is now 30 pounds less in 3 weeks, lost a lot of muscle and is weak. (I hope this is not TMI): I have trouble keeping things down (or at least not feeling nauseated) and keeping things in. I’ve tried the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast) but that hasn’t worked. And besides, it is boring and sort of disgusting.  I’m not fond of bananas, white rice or white toast.  I’ve had people praying for me. I have prayed fervently for healing. All the tests so far have come back negative, or on the good side. After a night of solid sleep where the alarm woke me, I slept fitfully last night. This is not meant to be a “woe is me” devotion though. It is designed to ask a question:

Why am I disappointed with God?

I already know the answer: because He hasn’t answered my (and others) prayers for healing. My desire is to be completely healed from this mess. But then I think, “Who am I to expect that? Maybe God has a bigger plan in His big picture?”

One thing I do know is that I need to delight in God and then He will fulfill the desires of my heart, not the other way around, i.e. God will fulfill my dreams then I will delight in Him.  So I must keep in mind that disappointment is not unusual or even unexpected, but I must delight in Him no matter what. If He chooses to heal me, I will praise Him. If He has another plan, I will praise Him.

“So Father,  I will praise You even through my disappointment.”

January 14

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

One of the tragedies that many Christ-followers fall into is failing to see people, events, or circumstances through the eyes of Jesus. I can’t “swear” by this but I think that may be at the root of a lot of peoples’ anger at God. Instead of seeing whatever it is through His eyes, we see it through our lens. I know I have done that. Sometimes I have railed at God-anger spilling out of my lips; my body tense for battle; my fists clenched…before I ever know His motives or desire for me.

So, what to do? I read a great picture of that. Imagine standing face-to-face with Jesus, enjoying a conversation about life and all its challenges. He looks into your eyes, and you sense His perfect knowledge of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. You look into His eyes and see His deep love and acceptance of You. Then, in this moment of intimacy, you see Him step closer toward you, so close it looks like He’s going to knock you down. But instead of a collision, He steps right into you. He turns around so He’s looking out of your eyes, He stretches His hands down into your hands, and you begin to feel His heartbeat…He has clothed Himself with you. (taken from Experiencing God’s Presence-Jan 13)

As I read that my mind went to several Scriptures. “If a man is in Christ, He is a new creation.” (2 Cor.5:17). “I have been crucified with Christ…nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.2:20) “And all who have been united with Christ…like putting on new clothes.”  Some translations say, “put on Christ.” (Gal.3:27)

“Father, may I live my life as seen through Your eyes. Please give me ‘Spirit eyes’ to see as You do.”

January 13

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I actually had two thoughts bouncing around in my head this morning and thought I would use them both. But I was unsure how to tie them in together. As you will see, that was not necessary. Maybe I’ll do the other one tomorrow.

My first thought was after reading Matthew 23. I’d encourage you to stop right now and read that chapter. If this is an “on-the-go” devo reading, I’ll summarize it for you. It is what is called the “7 Woe” passage, where Jesus pronounces 7 woes against the Pharisees. He’s blunt. He minces no words. I have a sneaking suspicion He wasn’t smiling trying to soften the blow of His words. I also have this feeling He didn’t look at the sky and drop His eyes and look at His feet. No, I can picture Jesus with eyes boring right through the chests and into the depths of every Pharisee’s heart and soul as He spoke.

He had enough of their hypocrisy. Let’s clarify that: self-righteous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one thing; self-righteous hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother level. I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. I know I am. Why do I say that? Because not always does my walk back my talk! Yep, that’s me. Saying one thing but doing another. I recognize that and can honestly say I don’t do it maliciously or purposely. That is the sinful nature, the old man in me, who wants to still make an appearance.

Self-righteous hypocrisy is different. It is doing something then trying to cover it up with self-righteous talk. Religious talk. It is looking down on someone but not acknowledging my own sin. That is Matthew 23 in a nutshell. The Pharisees could not see their own sin because of the self-righteous log in their own eye. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They were tombs and monuments that looked good on the outside but were fill with dead man’s bones. There is more, but you get the point. Time to stop being a self-righteous hypocrite and put the cards on the table.

“Father, help me to be real-to You, to myself, to others. You see me as I am. Help me to stop pretending.”