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June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

June 9

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I’ve got a problem! (I know what some of you are thinking and no comments are needed from the peanut gallery). But in all seriousness, I have a problem.

“Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

My problem: how do I do that? How do I know if I have?

Paul David Tripp in his short devotional book 40 Days of Love says,

“We can know the true joys of human love only if love for God first rules our hearts.” (p.72)

I know that. Not sure I practice it all that much. There is no question in my mind that I am often guilty of idolatry-of putting people, places, and things ahead of Jesus. The sad part is that I know this but find it so hard to change it. I realize that if I don’t find my rest and comfort in God, I will seek for it somewhere or with someone else. Then I’ll be asking of Jo, or another person, or my bike. or an activity to do for me what only God can. Fill me and satisfy me.

But even as I write this I am no closer to an answer to my questions: How do I do that? How do I know?

Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I’d like to hear from you.

“Father, help me to love You as I am supposed to. Please help me to find the answers to my questions.”

June 8

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

I have often said-and firmly believe- the phrase:

“God is seldom early but He’s never late.”

That is a useful thought when talking to someone who is waiting…and seems to have  been doing that forever. The big (unanswerable) question is “Why?”

“Why do I have to keep waiting?”

“Why is God not answering my prayer when He says He will?”

There are many questions centered around waiting.

But let’s look at the idea of God’s timing in another way. This past Thursday evening, I went to visit one of our graduating seniors and her parents. Due to a wedding on Saturday, I was unable to attend her grad party. (Bummer. They catered Mexican).  But it was even better visiting, laughing, and reminiscing in their home than at the party where details would not have allowed that. Meilynn had been adopted from China in 2009 at the age of 9. What a delightful little girl she was with a winning smile (once she got over her fear). And she has become a beautiful, young lady graduating from high school.

Back on topic. After several “I better get going” I finally did. Almost 3 hours later!!  (They like to talk not me).  🙂 🙂 On the way home, I came to an intersection, stopped, and since no one else was waiting, preceded. As I turned left toward home, I was the recipient of a Mini-Cooper running a stop sign and kissing the passenger door on the driver’s side. Yeah, he got me good (and I have not heard whether it is totaled or not).

To the timing: One minute later he is gone. One minute earlier I am gone. 30 seconds would have been enough time. There’s a reason for this. I don’t yet know what it is. But someday soon I will (I think). I do know this: I am grateful he hit just behind my door/seat.  Cars can be replaced.

Point: 30 seconds either way avoids the accident.  If I had left the house earlier or later. But God’s timing is perfect. I will trust that.

“Father, thank you for Your perfect timing. Help me to always remember that in big and small things Your timing is perfect.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

June 3

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Have you ever had one of those “holy moments?” It’s one of those moments when you become so aware of God’s presence the only response is one of awe and humility. I’ve had several of those moments in my 45+ years as a pastor and my 60+ years as a Christ-follower.

The year was the summer of ’89 (no not ’69). It had been like many other summers-bike riding, preaching, ministry, moving Tami back from Florida. She lived with us for awhile as she settled in teaching at a school district north of our county substituting as a fill-in for a teacher on family leave as her husband battled cancer. One Sunday night something led her to visit another church in our city (we did not have evening services). She talked so much about her visit I asked  if she cared if I went. Of course not. She knew I would drive and also probably buy her something to eat or drink afterwards. Anyway, by August of that summer my life had been changed.

I experienced God’s presence.

My burning bush.

My ladder to heaven and wrestling with God.

My moment in the “temple” when “all was stripped away and I simply came” as Matt Redman’s song reflected. (Cue up The Heart of Worship)

That preceded a period of epic growth-for me and the church. I sensed God’s presence in everything I did. My speech. My preaching. My study. My activities. The church had 24 additions in about a 3-4 month period-18 of them new converts.  It also helped me weather losing my job because I wanted to be a spiritual leader, not a CEO type.

I long for that Emmaus time again-when my eyes are open and I realize I was with Jesus. When the communion with Him was special. When a bush burns (not literally) and isn’t consumed. When the things of the world grow strangely dim. When worship takes priority. When I experience a holy moment of being in God’s presence.

“Father, you don’t need an appointment to meet with me. You don’t have to say, ‘I’m coming at such-and-such a time. Be ready.’  I’m simply asking you to come and meet with me.”

{Note: Today I celebrate a very holy moment. 46 years ago God blessed Jo and me with our oldest daughter, Tami. Her birth was a “holy moment” for me. I continue to be grateful for her life and how God still grips her and she Him.}

June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”

June 1

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Responsibility.

That word carries a lot of weight. What does it conjure up in your mind?

A husband/father who feels the weight of providing for, taking care of and protecting his family,

A teenager’s maiden (and each subsequent) voyage in his/her dad’s car.

Dad/mom/teen reporting to work on time each day and giving a full day’s work while on the job.

Daily chores. Taking care of animals. Cleaning the house. No age limit on that.

Here is one I have: “God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” Col.2:25-27 (NLT)

Such a weight! To know that the great responsibility I have is to take the message of the Gospel and give it to the people God has entrusted to me.  Admittedly, sometimes I feel like Frodo carrying the ring-the ring is too heavy to bear. But to see a face light up; to see someone grasp the truth of the message; to see acceptance of that Good News as it sinks in, is worth it all.

Even if I need a SamWise to carry me for awhile.

“Father, the responsibility is there. May I be faithful to carry out that responsibility.”

May 31

Monday, May 31st, 2021

I have never served in the military. When I was in high school, registering for the draft was a law. When I was in college it was a law also. When I turned 18 on October 9, 1970 I was a Freshman in college. But I was required to register so I hitched a ride from a school buddy and made my way to another town in Kentucky to do so. I was never called and to this day do not know what my number was. I was exempt because I was in a Bible college studying for the ministry.

I did not go to college to bypass the draft, even though I know of some who did. They really had no business being in that college because they had no desire to really be a pastor.  Without trying to be too judgmental, their lives showed it.

I did not know what VietNam was all about. I was naive when it came to war and political things. Call me guarded. Call me shielded. Call me sheltered. I do know if I had been called on to defend the freedom of this country, I was willing to do so. But I didn’t have to.

Others did it in my place. I am grateful.  I am beyond thankful for the men and women whom we honor today, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  I keep thinking of those who want to destroy what we have; to take it and give it away to some lawless nation; to compromise the foundation of our great nation to satisfy their own whims; and as they do, compromise their own words to get what they want. Sacrifice does not do that. Sacrifice is no where close to the “what-I-can-get-out-it” mentality that dominates today’s thinking.  I still say that if they don’t like living in the United States of America then take their wretched philosophy and governmental garbage (socialism) and 1) move somewhere else (you know…as they threaten to do so) and 2) take their wretched ideas and put them where the sun don’t shine. (Sorry if that is too crude).

As you consider today, think of it as more than a holiday (and in many cases) a day off work. Remember the sacrifice paid for your freedom.  Here is a thought: did you worship yesterday at the place of your choice?  Try that in a socialist country.  I don’t think we are perfect and I certainly don’t worship the USA. I am not a Christian nationalist. But I am a grateful American whose Christian faith recognizes the God of all humanity as the One True God and as the One who has truly blessed us.

‘Nuff said. Soapbox put away…for now. 🙂