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January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 10

Friday, January 10th, 2020

My tile for this devotion is Stretch: Growth vs Ease.

I attended a JV basketball game last night of our local high school. I don’t really know any of the players except by name only, but since I was taking tickets I watched the girls game and then took tickets for 1/2 of the boy’s game.  Our JV boys have two young men who are Sophomores. One is 6’4″ and the other is 6’8″. Both play on the JV, both dress for the Varsity, but both are misfits. By that I don’t mean they they aren’t any good, uncoordinated, or all hands. On the contrary, they both, especially the 6’8″ guy, move with some pretty good fluidity.

But they are misfits. Why? Because everything came too easily. The shorter of the two worked fairly hard, Compared to the other team he was more on their plain. But the taller guy was not being challenged. No hands were in his face when he shot. His shot wasn’t really challenged. He hardly had to jump. My question was this: why is that boy not starting on the Varsity? The varsity team is not setting any fires this year. They have one Junior who started as a Freshman and if he stays healthy will get a scholarship somewhere. But there is not reason why the 6’8″ young man is not playing varsity. He could be getting so much better by being challenged.

Growth happens when we stretch, not stay with the status quo. Growth happens when we are challenged, not when things come easily. James 1:2-4 backs that up. Stretching is painful; hurtful; sometimes excruciating, but oh so necessary.

“Father, stretching hurts, but status quo does too. Just in a different way. As much as I like ease that is not the way of a Christ-follower. Stretch me. Grow me into your likeness.”

January 3

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Sorry this is late in coming today. Computer issues (it wouldn’t turn on) were a big downer. Finally…

My title for this devotion is Ready or Not.

As a child playing hide-n-seek the saying was familiar.  Count to 100 as everyone scatters and then say, “Ready or not here I come.”

I think one of the things many, if not most, people don’t like are surprises. Oh, we don’t mind surprises on our birthday or at Christmas. We like the surprise of seeing a loved one we haven’t seen in awhile (like a service man surprising his/her child at school). Those kinds of surprises bring a chill up and down our spine and a smile to our face and heart.

It’s the other kind of surprise we aren’t fond of. The kind that take the wind out of our sails. The kind that take our breath away. The kind that test our faith. They hit us when we least expect it. These seem to rise up out of nowhere and slam us. I don’t know about you but those are the kind I don’t like!

But I read something today that speaks to that. Proverbs 3:25-26 says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” We are often thrown curve balls. Some pitchers throw curve balls so wicked they buckle the knees of the batter. Life’s surprises may do that but God’s Word says we don’t have to be afraid of them. Not when our confidence is in God.

“Father, help me to not be afraid of life’s surprises. Instead, help me to trust You no matter what comes.”

December 20

Friday, December 20th, 2019

First an apology. In my December 19 post I misused a word which changes everything. I originally mistakenly said “the whole reincarnation miracle blows me away.” Jesus was not reincarnated. It should have read “the whole incarnation miracle.”  I have corrected that grave error (heresy-in-the-making) and it now says what it should. My sincere apologies to anyone confused by it.

Okay. On to today’s devotion…

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

Harsh reality: Sometimes living as a Christ-follower is no fun at all! In fact, sometimes it just downright stinks! There is a constant battle within us of giving up or giving in.

  • Giving in to despair or to God
  • Giving up to the enemy or surrender to God.

I was reminded of that when I read that Susan B. Anthony had a slogan: “Failure is Impossible!” She was known for her steadfast battle in gaining women the right to vote. She died in 1906. The 19th amendment didn’t pass until 1920.

I was also reminded of that when I read 2 Cor.6:8b-10. After defending his apostleship, Paul makes the following statement: “We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

Paul refused to give up (throw his hand in the air in despair) or give in (to his enemies or his circumstances). Instead he chose to stand firm by giving up his life in surrender to God and giving in to His influence in his life.

“Father, help me to stand firm. If I must give in or give up may it be to You not to my enemies or my circumstances. Help me to stand firm.”

December 18

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Waiting Present vs Waiting Future.

I don’t know about you but it seems like most of my life is spent waiting. I live in a town that has three traffic lights (I want to call them “stop” lights because that seems to be the name for me) on the main drag. The main drag is a state highway and it is not unusual for me to catch one, two or all three of the lights in one setting. So I sit…waiting.  There is a light outside of town near the church building where I work that is at a “T” intersection of two state highways-46 & 43. 46 is the main one so when I come from the office, St Hwy 43 is a pressure sensitive light. It is also affected by the traffic coming either way on 46. I have been known to sit for 3 minutes waiting for the light to change. And please don’t get me started on the Super _____ that has only a couple of register lines open during the busiest time of the year!!

Waiting is not fun. But there are times waiting is absolutely essential. Waiting on God’s plan to unfold is sometimes unpleasant. Waiting on God’s timing to “play itself out” is frustrating. We wait and wait and wait. And nothing seemingly is happening.

In reality something is happening. It is happening in us. I am either waiting in the present or waiting in the future. What I mean by that is I either see Him with me in the present or I worry about seeing Him in the future. I cannot live in or predict the future. I don’t have a DeLorean. James says not to worry about the future. (James 4:13-15) Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow. Today had enough trouble of its own. (Mt.6:34)

Jim Elliott, the martyred missionary, is credited with saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” That’s great advice! Live in the present. I can’t change tomorrow because I don’t even know what’s coming. Live today.

Now…that’s not saying I live for today and take no thought for tomorrow. I certainly don’t want to plant bad seeds today that will bear bad or rotten fruit tomorrow. But I don’t have to worry about tomorrow.

“Father, you have promised Your presence past, present and future. Help me to live for You today. Help me to live in the present in Your presence.”

I have been writing at my other blog on #ChristmasChallenge. I’d like to invite you to visit there for a Christmas meditation.  Here is the current post

November 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Will He or Will He Not.

I believe all of us have struggled at one time or another with believing God is faithful. A tough time comes; a downturn in our business; a health issue dogs our tracks; we lose something or someone of importance; a child wanders from his/her faith; a marriage blows up; the examples are numerous. It is during those times that we have a question to ask: Will He or Will he not?

Will God keep His promises, or will He not? Will He be faithful, or will He not? Will He sustain His love, or will He not? Will He renew my strength, or will He not? The questions about God are as numerous as the examples.

But one thing I know: God DOES keep His promise. What promise is that? “I will never leave your or forsake you.” How do I know that? Well..I’ve seen it fleshed out in my own life for one. Some of the horrendous things I’ve done surely made Him cringe at the least. I have to wonder how and why He stayed true. I know the answer to that.

HE PROMISED IT.

Look no further than the Christmas story. How could one not read that story and see God’s promise fulfilled? 3-4 centuries (maybe more) passed from His promise in the Garden to the night in Bethlehem and 33 years later on a cross. Those two events sealed the deal.

The Christmas story alone would have been enough. That story alone shows God keeps His promises. The cross? The nail in the coffin.

“Father, when I’m doubting; when I’m swinging on a pendulum of emotion; when I’m having a tough time connecting the dots between life’s reality and  feelings, remind me of the Christmas story. Proof positive of Your faithfulness to Your promises.”

November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

October 8

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Countdown to D-Day (my 67th birthday) is one day. And I celebrate with a colonoscopy one day before. Go figure. Guess I didn’t plan that one very well did I? 🙂

My title for this devotion is Presence vs Absence.

One of the most devastating times is when a person feels utterly alone. It is loneliness that often drives one to despair; which is often the precursor to hopelessness. Like a series of stacking bricks or a landslide of falling rocks, that hopelessness often leads to an utter lack of desire to live; which can lead a person to contemplate, or maybe even act, upon taking their life. I have never felt that alone, although there have been times I have wept uncontrollably and pounded my fist (on something soft) out of the sheer weight of my circumstances. I’m not sure there is something much more devastating than losing a job (being told to leave) when one has a wife, 2 young children around ages 8 & 4, and then again at the ages of 12 and 8.

Please understand: I am not seeking sympathy nor am I trying to justify anything. Frankly, it was my own pride and arrogance that got me into those messes. But even though I was going through those valleys, and can now see more clearly after going through them, I can say I know one thing: God’s presence was always…ALWAYS…with me. To be honest, I had nowhere else to go. My mess = my cleanup = real trouble. I NEEDED His presence to steer me straight.

My thoughts were piqued today as I continue reading John Piper’s short devotional book on Christmas (yes I am already reading in preparation for that season) called The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. He writes this:

‘Jesus came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps His promises. Christmas means God can be trusted’ (p.32)…’Say to the next generation again and again: God is truthful; God keeps His Word; God does not lie; God can be trusted! (p.33)

One of His promises I learned was the reality of His presence. He promised He will be with me to the end. He promised He will never leave or forsake me. He promised His presence. ALWAYS. To that I cling.

“Father, thank you for being truthful. Thank you for keeping your promises. I look back with 20/20 and see you were always there. I cling to that promise even today!”

October 1

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meaningful Words vs Blowhard, Empty Words.

I need to make a confession. I’ve been reading through Job in my morning Quiet Time and I’ve had trouble concentrating. I know the basic backdrop of Job.  He has it all. All but his life is taken away.  He has three “friends” who become very accusatory of him. He must have some hidden sin. He’s really not the righteous person he pretends to be. He is in rebellion against God. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’d say sarcastically “some friends they are” or “with friends like that who needs enemies” but I digress. You see…that’s not the whole story. They pretend in their blowhard, empty words to pretend to speak for God. They pretend to know God’s thoughts.

They don’t. If I was Job I’d say, “Take a hike!” In chapter 22, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked. In the margin of my Bible I highlighted verses 21-30 and noted it as Accusation of Job’s rebellion. Well, it appears Job has questions of his own. But they are not accusatory questions like I might raise. No. Just the opposite. He raises the fact that He cannot understand God because of the “bigness” of God. (23: 8-17).

Why is this important to me? Because I feel the same way at times. Wondering what I did to “deserve” the treatment I’m getting. I question my commitment. My walk. Am I holy? But it doesn’t come down to what I think or who I am. It comes down to what God thinks and who He is. Take a moment and read Job 23: 8-17 and see if doesn’t give you that perspective. It did me. “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

“Father, may my commitment to you only grow stronger through the daily struggles-be they big or small-I face. May I see the words of others- if they do not reflect You and Your Word- as blowhard, empty words which cannot affect or change Your view of me.”

September 30

Monday, September 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Keep the Wonder vs Lose the Wonder.

Have you ever seen something so often that either it loses its luster or you miss it completely? When you go to that mountaintop; when you wake up and see that beautiful sunrise; when you coo over a new born; when you go gaga over an engagement ring; when you smile at getting the new car; whatever it is, but then as time goes on the new “shine” is replaced by the mundane. The mountaintop view, the sunrise, etc lose their awe-filled pull.

I have. I was reminded of that this past weekend. I was honored to be asked to perform a wedding in St. Louis. The couple is clearly in love. Everything, surprisingly, went off without a hitch. Even the bride commented to Jo & me as we left as to how perfect everything was and how she wondered “when is something going to go wrong?” Their vows were sincerely felt and said. There was obvious love in their eyes.

The question that haunts me as a pastor though is “will it last?” Will there still be love in their eyes when struggles come? When children come and life gets in the way, will there still be love? I’m not foolish enough to think their marriage won’t change; of course it will. It will mature. It will toughen. It will deepen. Or it will die. Become old hat. Lose the wonder. Just as in the examples I gave at the start, they can keep the wonder or lose it.

More importantly: how about my relationship with Jesus? Am I keeping it one of wonder or has it lost its luster?

“Father, it is easy to let the wonder of You and my relationship with you become old hat. Help me to guard against that and keep my lofe for you fresh and exciting.”