Perseverance

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August 14

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Healthy vs Sickly.

We all know people. “After what he/she did to me there is absolutely no way I will forgive.” “How come when I do something it always {Note: bad word to us} ends up bad, but every time {again…bad choice of words} they do something they come out smelling like a rose.”  Or some variation of those.

We all know people. What am I saying? That sometimes describes me!! Please tell me if I’m wrong. Does that not describe each of us from time to time? Can I honestly say I am free of envy and jealousy? No. If I’m honest. No. To say I don’t wish for more at times would be a bold-faced lie. Just the other day I was telling Jo that there are times I have to fight getting down on myself because of a financial choice I made back in 1974. I chose to opt out of SS. So to this day I have nothing. I was foolish not to save, to invest (didn’t know how and often didn’t have enough money). Fool is my name when it comes to that. So, unless God intercedes in a dramatic way, we will never have a retirement. Least not one of comfort. We will always struggle.

When I struggle with defies Proverbs 14:30: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” I look at retired people who are generous (some have even given us money to help with the travel to Ohio for the mess with Jo’s sister), and know that cannot be us in our later years. Poof! Gone is the tranquil heart; hello envy.

But I also know I wasn’t made for that. I am not meant to envy or for jealousy or greed or longing for more. I am not meant to be a slave to fear.

“Father, set me free from envy and jealousy. Set me free from worrying about the future. Today has enough trouble of its own.  Help me to live in a healthy relationship with You which will keep away envy and keep my spirit from rotting away.”

August 13

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Growing Faith vs Stagnant Faith.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that faith is a “building” thing. What I mean by that is simple: When a person come to faith in Christ, his faith, at best, is in its infancy. The longer he/she is a follower of Christ the more his/her faith ought to grow. Each new day; each new challenge; each new set back, is designed to help us increase our faith.

One of my favorite stories in the life of Jesus is after He comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration and is confronted by a father whose son often has fits and even throws himself into a fire. The disciples could not cure him so the father asks Jesus to.  Mark 9 records the conversation. He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything.” Jesus then says, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The man says, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” I’ve often described that as if the father was saying, “My faith is a 3.  Make it an 8 or a 9 or a 10.” In other words, increase my faith.

Our faith was never meant to be stagnant. Or worse, going in reverse. It is meant to be growing. Always increasing. Always forward. Will there be times of no growth? Slow growth? Sure. Will there be times of plateau? Yep.  But it never stops. Never stays there. Our faith keeps growing. Keeps progressing.

“Father, may every event, every circumstance, every challenge, every set back, simply be a new opportunity for my faith to grow. And let my faith not become stagnant or cold. May it be an ever-increasing faith.”

August 9/Weekend

Friday, August 9th, 2019

My title is Following Wholeheartedly vs Following Haphazardly.

Unexpected. That’s what I found.

First, Abijah, successor to Rehoboam. Abijah made a speech denouncing Jeroboam’s revolt of rebellion against God and against Rehoboam. Abijah knew God was with him and his army. He soundly defeated Jeroboam’s army because they relied on God (13:18)

Second, Abijah’s son, Asa. It begins with these words in 14:2: “And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” That right there is a strong testament to Asa’s resolve. It goes on to say, “He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandments. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars.” (14:3-5)  He purged Judah.

There are multiple references to his purging. Even his own mother was deposed as queen and her Asherah pole was tore down, crushed and burned.

When Azariah the seer came to see him and gave him words from God, Asa’s response was one of obedience. He and the people entered into a covenant with the Lord and sought Him will all their heart and soul.

He followed God wholeheartedly. He had involved God’s help in battle.

And then…he sought help from the king of Syria instead of God. The end result of the deal with the king was good, but not with God. His failure to seek God’s help was his downfall.

Unexpected. More way than one. But a warning for sure. What led Asa to seek outside help? Did he get prideful? Filled with fear because he forgot where his help came from? We aren’t told. But a warning to me. To you.

“Father, success is yours; failure mine. Credit is yours; pride is mine. Help me to trust you not outside help. Help me to stay true all the way to the end.”

July 31

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

I actually wrote the bulk of this Monday morning at Jo’s sister’s apartment that would see us for the final time that day. I was going to title this An Observation. But this morning I went back to it and reworked some of it, mostly by adding some thoughts. But when I reworked it this morning I decided on a different title:

Stretching vs. Atrophy.

Here is the reworked devotion:

This Monday as I read my devotion from “Faith” from an Our Daily Bread collection of devotions, knowing today would the last day we would ever see this apartment and all that has taken place over the last month or so, I had to make some observations. The author’s devotion was on Stretching. As I sit down to have my Quiet Time,  the apartment is quiet. The outside is quiet. My soul is quiet and at rest. Today we pack up and move what remains in Vicki’s apartment. It has been a “stretching” experience in so many ways.

For Jo it has stretched her far beyond her comfort zone. I have not seen her cry like she has in a long, long time. Maybe after my second bike accident when I was seriously injured and the ensuing trauma which followed. Jo has had to go to bank after bank-back and forth-many times. Talk to Job & Family Services (a government agency…’Nuff said0. Apply for Medicaid for her sister. Become POA.  Make future funeral arrangements. Nursing home. Hospital. Phone calls. Way, way, way out of her comfort zone.  She’s a saint putting up with all she has.

For me it was giving up the routine of my job. Not being there for what I consider my responsibility has been hard. It has been hard to leave for weeks (3 of the last 5 to clean out this hoarder’s apartment. Scrubbing on my hands and knees to clean up…stuff. I cannot say enough about how Ryan and Diana (youth pastor and secretary) have held down the fort. Nor can I praise the leadership of OVCF enough for letting me come and go as I have, telling me “you have got to take care of your family.”

Stretching is painful. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery and stretching was vital to recovery of motion. I’ve had meniscus and collarbone surgery. Stretching was vital to recovery.  One of the most important recovery mechanisms after a bike ride is stretching. In the life of the Christ-follower, stretching is vital to growth. It hurts to stretch muscles that want to curl up and atrophy. It hurts to stretch spiritual muscles that will do the same. But it is absolutely a necessity. Stretching helps us to focus not on what has been but on what will be. In our lives, stretching will help us focus not on what we have been, but on who we can become. It is easy to see ourselves with all our failures and shortcomings, but God looks beyond that to see who we are as His new creation through the power of His Spirit.

“Father, thank you for stretching me. Thank you for giving me (sometimes) unpleasant situations that challenge me to break out of sameness and safety and step out onto the water. As I take those steps-present and future-help me to keep my eyes on You, not the waves kicking up. And help me to remember this is all in your plan for me. Stretch me where I need stretched.”

July 30

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Defeat or Victory.

After a thrilling chapter in Psalms-chapter 139-which in my book may be one of the most exciting chapters in the whole book, he ends with some very familiar words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Verses 29-30]

What powerful verses those are! They stand even stronger when considered in the context of the whole chapter and also what is coming. Previously the psalmist has talked about God knowing us frontwards, backwards, up one side and down the other (a little poetic license there). Then he writes about how God knew us before we were born and how important His thoughts are of us. We have no other response other than to say, “Search me, O God.”

But as I read chapter 140 the other night, my eyes went to a logical presentation. I’m not sure why my eyes see things that way. 🙂 There are some words which stuck out to me. 

  • “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men.” [verse 1]
  • “Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked.” [verse 4]
  • “Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked.” [verse 8]

I’d say the psalmist took seriously the threat of those who were his enemies. He wasn’t asking for acceptance of his plan to walk alongside them. He wasn’t making any plans to give into them. No…he was asking for God’s strength and protection as he fought. He was praying for God to provide a “way through” the fire. “Deliver me. Guard me. Grant not.” I think inherent in these words is a resignation to God of his weakness and need for supernatural intervention.

If I can say it this way: maybe the psalmist is praying that God will snatch defeat out of the lion’s jaws and bring about victory for him.

“Father, thank you for your steadfast concern and stand with me. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and to the point of defeat, bring me into your rest and into your arms of safety and allow you to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. FOR IN YOU, I AM VICTORIOUS!”

We make our way home today with a moving truck and Jo driving mine. If you think about it, prayers for safety would be appreciated.

July 25

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Wondering vs His Purpose.

When I was growing up, one of the questions teenagers asked was, “What am I here for?” I don’t know if that was a question asked by teens before that time or if the ’60s brought that question to the forefront. The ’60s was an age of upheaval and of being unsure of things. So we often asked “What is my purpose in life?” As I recall a parachurch ministry had a tract based on that question: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

As I was reading I Chronicles I read the section (Chapter 17) of David’s desire to build God a house. He was somewhat embarrassed that his house was better than the house where the Ark was and God’s presence was. He thought one of his purposes in life, especially after having his own house built, was to build a better house for the Ark. But Nathan took God’s words to David that building Him a house was not his purpose. His purpose (to make a long story short) was to be king. To act like a king. To fight like a king. To rule like a king.

In Psalm 138:8 it says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” David knows whereof he writes. He knows God will fulfill His purpose for me because David saw it in his own life. And no matter what it is God sticks with me. “His steadfast love endures forever.”

“Father, You are true to Your Word. You promised it. It shall be. Fulfill our purpose in me. Fulfill your purpose for me. I know you will bring it to completion and finish what you started. [Phil.1:6]. “

July 22

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Calm Waiting vs Anxious Waiting.

One of the hardest things to do-at least in my mind-is to wait. For years I have said that God has three answers to our prayers: Yes. No. Wait awhile. We aren’t too fond of the No because that means we have been denied. We like the Yes because that means God has “agreed” with us about our need. It’s the “wait awhile” that is sometimes hard to accept.

David Rupert, in his new book Living a Life of Yes says there are three kinds of dreams: Fulfilled (Yes). Denied (No).  And Delayed (wait awhile). The same thing said about answers to prayer can be said about dreams.

The delay-wait awhile-is tough. God’s promise to Abraham took 25 years to happen! Look what happened in the interim due to Abraham and Sarah’s inability to wait.  They weren’t very good at it.

Neither am I. Maybe that’s why Psalm 131:2 spoke to me: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within.” A weaned child is being fed. He is content.  I was struck by the words “calmed and quieted my soul.” So much of patient waiting relies on that…something I’m not very good at from time to time. But. need. to. get. better. at!

“Father, help me to learn to calm and quiet my soul. Help me to see your hand in my ‘wait awhile.’ Help me to wait calmly and quietly as you work. Help me to allow you time to unfold your plan.”

I will be in Ohio for most of this week bringing our job cleaning Jo’s sister’s apartment to an end. Next Sunday we drive there to load a Penske truck on Monday to bring things home. I will post this week as I have time and internet (she does not have it in her apartment).  Your prayers would be appreciated.

July 10

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Prayer of despair vs Prayer of desperation.

In my Scripture reading this morning in 2 Kings, I came to an interesting event. Hezekiah (H) became the king of Judah in chapter 18 and it says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” [v.3]  It goes on to say he removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. He even went so far as to break the bronze serpent that Moses made because, it too, had become and idol. It goes on to say, “He trusted in the Lord so there was no one like him.” WOW! What a tribute.

But that did not leave him immune to siege by an enemy king and in chapter 19 that is what happens. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, lays siege to Jerusalem AND defies God in the process. H receives a letter from him demanding surrender and tribute. I like his response! He went before God, laid open the letter before Him, and petitioned for God’s help and answer. His was a prayer of desperation not a prayer of despair. (The prayer is found in 19:14-19). There is a big difference between “O God, it’s helpless. I give up” vs “O God, this situation is helpless. I need your help.” God intervened. An angel of the Lord wiped out 185,000 Assyrians.

It is easy to give up or to feel like giving in to despair. But it is in those moments of despair that a prayer of desperation should be raised to the One in control. He will answer. We may be unsure how, but He will. In H’s case, an angel of the Lord was sent to deal with the situation. Perhaps God will do the same…or something different. Who knows? But a prayer of desperation will be answered.

“Father, help me not to despair. Instead, help me to raise prayers of desperation to you. Help me to ‘lay out my letter’ before you, seeking your help. And then step back to watch you work.”

June 27/28/Weekend

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

As I have mentioned in the previous two blogs I have been “out of touch with the world” i.e. no internet or wifi. I actually did this devotion on the 27th but with my grandson’s ballgame tonight (double header) getting over about 11:00, traveling home tomorrow and probably having to cut the grass and also study, I doubt very seriously I will have much time to enter a devotion. So I’ve decided to combine the one devotion into multiple days.

My title for this devotion is Big vs Small.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6: 8 and following. The king of Syria sent an army against Elisha because he found out Elisha was telling his plans to the king of Israel. Verse 14 says, “He sent horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.” Elisha’s servant got up the next morning and saw the Syrian horde of chariots and horses surrounding the city. He told Elisha and with fear said, “What shall we do?” Elisha prayed God would open his eyes and when he did the servant saw the mountains were full of horse and chariots of fire all around them. The story continues (I encourage you to read it on your own) with other events, but that has always fascinated me.

Elisha’s servant saw the giant; Elisha saw that what was surrounding them was greater.

That reminds me of David. While King Saul and the Israelite army saw the giant; David knew the giant-killer.

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed by circumstances, people, events, etc. It is common to feel “small” compared to the “largeness” of our challenge. But our God is bigger than any challenge, giant, roadblock, or mountain we may come up against.

“Father, remind me not to tell you how big the giants are. Help me to tell the giants how big you are. You are the giant-killer. Please give me eyes to see as Elisha’s servant did.”

June 22

Monday, June 24th, 2019

My devotion title is Happiness vs Joy.

We often hear, and I’ve often said, there is a difference between happiness and joy. And there is. To put it is a few short words: Happiness is based on circumstances; Joy in spite of circumstances. I’d have to say that is true. I’m finding myself in a situation that does not make me happy, but one I will need to find joy in.

I am in another state, giving up my time at home and work, to do something I find rather distasteful: cleaning up   someone’s mess. The mess could have been avoided and alleviated in other ways, but it wasn’t. My being here does not make me happy.

But I must and can find joy in this.

If I don’t it will be a ve-e-e-e-ry long two weeks. Let alone a miserable one. I’m going to find joy when I want to grumble. I’m going to find joy when I want to complain. I’m going to find joy when the job seems too big and overwhelming. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Paul did say he wanted to finish his race with joy (Acts 20:24).

And besides, I’m making the person I love the most happy. That is something to be joyful about!!

“Father, help me find joy today in spite of what has to be done. Help me find joy because of You. Fill me with joy so I can experience that fruit of Spirit.”