Opinion

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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.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

September 10

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

As a pastor one of the hardest things to do is to watch a person/family leave the church. Usually. Getting close to people is something I was told to never do. Unfortunately, that is not my personality. It’s just not me. So when people leave because they are moving away, it is hard, but understandable. Just about two years ago I had some very close friends move to another town that made it impossible for them to make the weekly trek here. I still miss them.

If someone leaves because they can no longer agree because of doctrine, it is time to leave. We had someone leave in the past several years-a family I had come to love and the church had loved well-because they wanted to follow Bethel and their wacky teachings.  People need to leave if the teachings of the church no longer “fit” them.

Then there are those I will call “blessed subtractions.” They are the kind that bless the church by leaving. They tend to be gossips, busybodies, cantankerous, opinionated, loud, obnoxious, “me first,” I-am-right people. Their beef is a personal thing, almost a vendetta against another. Now, if it is a doctrinal issue-like the Virgin Birth, or the nature of God, or who Jesus is-then that is a legitimate reason.  But because someone or someone(s) won’t agree with you…bye.

To all who are in a church that teaches false doctrine I say this: Get out! That is not without Scriptural precedent. In Matthew 15: 13-14 Jesus is talking about false teachers.  His advice? “Ignore them.” Get out of there! There are churches which dot the landscape that teach false doctrine…get out! Heresy is nothing to play around with. If a person is unhappy in a church over its teaching…get out! Heresy and cult often go hand in hand. Aberrant doctrine. Domineering leadership. Get out!! Avoid like the plague. That’s a scriptural reason to leave. Leaving because people won’t see things your way is not.

“Father, please give me discernment to know truth from error.”

September 9

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Have you ever read something that you felt sliced and diced you? Or you might say “It fileted me like you would a fish.” I’ve had those moments when stunned by something would be an appropriate word. That happened to me one recent morning (I wrote this on Monday, the 7th, when it happened). But before I give you that quote, please allow a confession. Even though I write this daily devotion (obviously for me since hardly anyone reads it) 🙂 ; even though I’d like to say it has brought about a consistency for me to make time each morning to be with God; and even though I may sound (upon occasion) as though I have it together spiritually, there is one area I really have a great lack. Prayer. I go through jags where prayer is important-then uber important-but I also go through times when I read and journal then pick up and leave with nary a moment given to prayer. I’m not proud of that. That is, perhaps, why the following quote did me in that morning:

We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” Oswald Chambers

Need I say more? I’ll let you stew in your own juices over that quote. I have to go start healing from the slicing and dicing.

“Father, may prayer not be a side trip for me. May it become a regular part of my daily time with You. May it be another way for You to do Your work in and through me.”

September 8

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

I recently had a visitor to my office who struggled with what is common among many followers of Christ: Assurance. She has struggled with cancer and COPD  for several years now and she is tired. I admire her spunk and determination though. The doctors told her years ago she only had maybe 6 months left. That was over 4 yars ago. She has gotten to see her two great granddaughters grow up, as well as the birth of her great grandson. She once thanked me for the live stream we are doing. She watches each week and what was especially meaningful to me was she said, “I have found my faith again.” She clarified it the day we talked when she said, “I didn’t lose my faith. I struggled with accepting the cancer. I wanted to say ‘Why me?’ “

Her biggest question though was not about cancer. As we sat and talked her biggest struggle was knowing for sure she was saved, that she was going to heaven. I showed her I Thess. 4: 13-18 but my strongest passage was Romans 8: 31-39. “If God is for us who can be against us?” “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

She isn’t alone, you know? There are way too many people who live in un-assurance. Constantly wondering if they did one thing that would be the deciding factor and they would be lost forever. I don’t see that in the Bible. Unless someone was never truly saved or “deconstructs” their faith to put Jesus to an open shame, salvation is eternal. She walked out a different and much-relieved woman than when she came in.

Do you have that assurance or do you live in fear?

“Father, thank you for assurance. Thank you for all that comes from You in the way of assurance, peace, and confirmation of your love for me.”

September 4

Friday, September 4th, 2020

“Oh, it was nothing, really.” Have you ever heard someone use those words? They usually follow one person paying another person a compliment.  Trying to deflect praise, or trying (or not) to act humble, they might say those words. I think it is somewhat ironic that someone will use those words: “Oh, it was nothing, really” then go on and give an example of something else they had done.

But what if what they had done really was nothing? As in, NOTHING. Let me explain. In a passage familiar to most people, Paul uses these words: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  (Emphasis mine)

Those verses are pretty plain. Whether you want to say the prophecy idea mentioned here is either fore-telling or forth-telling (my preferred), the meaning is clear. If you do either without love you are NOTHING. The other part of that verse is just as convicting. If I have mountain-moving faith, but no love, I am NOTHING. That’s right. If I have this super-strong faith that does the impossible, that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I am zip. Nada. That’s not saying I don’t matter, but it is saying my gift is worthless. Any gift given is for the benefit of others. But if I use that gift either for self-promotion or show or to impress, then it is being misused.

“Father, no matter my gift, let me use that gift for others- taking no credit, no accolades-but deflecting praise to You. And help me do it with love.”

September 3

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

In I Thessalonians 3 several important lessons emerge to me. I want to touch on them briefly in this devotion.

The first lesson is a combination. It is a request and a reply. Paul is concerned about the Thessalonians. Life is not easy for them and Paul is wondering how they are doing. His words were “I could bear it no longer.” His desire to know was so great he sent someone as a messenger to learn about their faith. The response that came back made his heart feel good. Timothy brought good news of their faith and love and told Paul that the Thessalonians wanted to see him. Oh, how that must have been a balm to his weary heart!

The power of a good word, an encouraging word, cannot be underestimated. That good news lifted their spirits. So much so he writes, “In all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” Their words enabled Paul to face his situation with strength.

The second lesson is his further response. He chose to pray for them, to be thankful for the joy they gave him. Paul’s most earnest desire was to see them again. While waiting he prayed for them. Want to know what he prayed? Check out I Thessalonians 3: 11-13. This was no mere “Lord, bless them” prayer. No. There was a depth to this prayer that I know is way too often missing in mine. That needs to change.

“Father, thanks for encouraging words. How good it is to hear good words and how someone is doing in their faith. Also, help me to develop a depth to my prayers, one like Paul had.”

September 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Straight from Chuck Swindoll:

Shortly before her death, Corrie ten Boom attended our church in California. Following the service, I met briefly with her. She inquired about my young children and detected my deep love for each one. Very tenderly, while cupping her small, wrinkled hands in front of me, she passed on a statement of advice I’ll never forget. I can still recall that strong Dutch accent: “Pastor Svindahl, you must learn to hold everyting loosely…everyting. Even your dear family. Why? Because da Fater may vish to take vun of tem back to Himself, und ven He does, it vill hurt you He must pry your fingers loose.” And then, having tightened her hands together while saying all that, she slowly opened them and smiled so kindly as she added, “Vemember…hold everyting loosely…everyting!”   (From Good Morning, Lord… Can We Talk?)

I’m going to go on record as saying that sometimes-even though I know better-I hold things too tightly. It’s not as bad as it used to be but even at my age, I still want to hold on, to grip tightly.

Consider, for a moment, what we sometimes hold onto too tightly:

  • Our spouse. ‘Course I’m not speaking of hugging or being affectionate. You know that.  But sometimes we are too possessive (i.e. too controlling). In death it is hard to let go.
  • Our children. Many parents want to hold onto their children and not let go. Sadly, there will be times letting go is not pleasant (think Prodigal Son) but we raise them to free them.
  • Our way of life. Rough times tend to reveal the grip we have on the way of life we have come to expect or even take for granted.
  • Our stuff. Oh yeah, it is tough to let stuff go, either by necessity or desire.
  • Our health. We try everything to hold on to the fountain of youth. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves but vanity is an ugly master.

One thing we should grip tightly? Our faith in the ONE who loves us. And that’s another story for another time.

“Father, be my all. Help me to not sacrifice my relationship with You by holding too tightly to other things.”

September 1

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

As a young boy I remember what were called Air Raid drills.  Our country had already lived through WWII and the Korean War. Vietnam was not yet happening. But conflict with Russian was a possibility. A drill involved us going into a hallway where there were no windows, sitting on the floor, putting our head between our knees, and our hands over our heads. Fortunately, they were only drills. However, I still wonder how all that would have helped.

All across our country towns and cities have sirens that go off with a high-pitched whine if a severe storm-like a tornado-is coming.  The first time it happened here I walked through the house looking for a room we could go to if need be. A couple in the church just built a new house. The backside of it is built into the hillside and he is in the process of making one of the areas in that back part into a storm shelter.

Rock solid buildings have saved lives as people have found shelter during storms. No one would think for a minute that being in a thatched-roof hut during a tornado or on a sailboat during a hurricane would be a safe place to be. Today’s world is anything but safe. The storms we are having to “ride out” are not for the faint of heart.

That’s why Psalm 18:2 is so powerful. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Look at all the descriptions relevant to our situation today!!

Where do you go take refuge? What is your storm shield? Better yet, WHO is your storm shield?

“Father, may I run to You when storms hit. When I’m unsure of where to go or what to do, be my refuge.”