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January 7

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Who am I meant to be? A slight variation of that is the question asked by millions of people since the beginning of time: who am I? I think every teenager asks that question. In all honesty, it isn’t a question just for teens. I know adults-in their 20s, 30s, 40s- who still wonder what they are here for. I’m one of them.  I should say I used to be.

My mother once told for as long as she can remember I talked about being a pastor. Other than the unrealistic dream of being a professional baseball or basketball player, I never dreamed of being a fireman or policeman or any of the other “hero” vocations. Except for a 2-year period (6th-7th grade) where I spread my wings verbally (you can draw your own conclusions), I always had a heart for God. I stood out like a sore thumb in high school when I wouldn’t fight, riot or even go out Friday night to get drunk so I could throw up and drink some more. How stupid is that? But even though my heart leaned toward, and even though I did become a pastor, there have been times I’ve questioned that. When I got fired or dismissed. When the church failed to grow. When my own heart grew cold and sometimes bitter. When I stood and compared myself to others. It was tough but what brought me back was knowing what I was created for. Two things: 1) I was made by God to have a fully restored relationship with Him; and 2) I was made to be transformed by Him.  It’s the icing on the cake.  It’s the cherry on top of the ice cream.  Everything else is, well, superfluous.

“Father, I was created by You to be Yours and to be transformed by You. Please do Your work in me so I will know my purpose.”

November 20

Friday, November 20th, 2020

First, a couple of questions:

  • Have you noticed that judging is a tricky thing?
  • Have you noticed we will often judge another but overlook our own sin? (Of course you have noticed)
  • Have you noticed we are often more judgmental of people who struggle with the same sin as us?
  • Have you noticed how we often have a scale of how right or wrong a sin is?

Judging is tricky. I know what some say. They use the Scripture in Matthew 7:1- “Judge not, that you be not judged” as rationale for being able to do what they want without having you or me as their conscience. “Who are you to judge?” is the question often asked. I have some thoughts on that but let’s walk away from that for now.

I’m particularly wanting to focus on the kind of self-righteous posturing we get into when we compare. “Will you look at that. I’m sure glad I don’t do that.” That kind of self-righteous shtick that lampoons others while getting us off the hook. Sadly, if we have overcome a habit, rather than become more sensitive we tend to become a harsher critic.

Another angle to throw in is how we are often harder on others or totally avoid talking about the sin we are guilty of. Like the preacher who harps on porn or adultery because it is prevalent in his life, OR avoids talking about them because they are in his closet.

Here’s a novel idea (said with tongue planted firmly in my cheek): How about we just stop pointing fingers of judgment on sin and look in the mirror more intently and with more honesty? I’m not saying we lay down our discernment of right and wrong. What I am saying is to stop the self-righteous picking at someone else.

“Father, may my thoughts and words be pure and Christ-focused.”

October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”

October 7

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Are you kidding me? Seriously? You have got to be joking with me. Consider how we use those phrases. We use them when someone says something incredulous to us. We are stunned. Flummoxed. Dumbfounded. It is not that we don’t believe it; we are just bowled over by it.

There is, on the other hand, another way to use them.  Cynicism. Confrontive questions. There is a questioning there but it is almost one of rebellion.  We “pshaw” something someone says because we simply cannot believe it is possible.

I’ve been reading The Characters of Christmas by Daniel Darling during my Quiet Time. (Yeah, I know its only October but…). He raised a good point when talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Mary said “How can this be?” in her response to Gabriel, it was laden with trust. But then Zechariah responded to the announcement that he and Elizabeth were to have a child his response was laden with cynicism and doubt. I think what Daniel says is true. I also agree with these words:

“God loves to hear our doubts, to field our questions, and to hear our anguished cries.  But it is disbelief that is a sin, our unwillingness to trust that God can do the impossible.” (p.41)

And there you have it. One similar response; two different perspectives.  Which one is yours?

“Father, may my questions be laced with trust not cynicism and doubt.”

July 9

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

I’d like to continue with the thought from yesterday’s devotion (July 8). What to do about the risen Christ?

A number of theories (“proofs”)  have been put forth concerning the empty tomb.

  • Jesus just swooned on the cross. He passed out from all the torture; was put in the tomb; revived in a cold, damp tomb; then had the strength to push the stone away.  I suspect somewhere in there He also had to over power the guards. Seriously? The more one thinks of that the more ridiculous it sounds.
  • The ladies went to the wrong tomb. Does that sound as silly to you as it does to me, especially given the fact that both Matthew and Mark tell us they were there when they laid Jesus in the tomb AND they even prepared the body with spices and oils. (Luke 23)

There are other theories-just as silly- but I think one of the most incredulous was actually given during that time: the disciples came and stole the body. Matthew 29 records that lie. But what is absolutely “insane” is how it went down:

  • The guards report the body is gone.
  • The guards were bribed by the religious leaders to tell the lie of the stolen body.
  • The guards accept the bribe and spread the lie.
  • The religious leaders promise protection (if Pilate should hear word of it) to the guards.

One big question: if the guards were asleep, how did they know the disciples stole the body? As Biff says to George McFly (Back to the Future 1), “Hello! Think McFly! Think!” Think people. Think! Does not that lousy excuse for the reason sound more more unbelievable as you think about it?  And here is another question: what about those soldiers? To live with that lie over your head and to know you betrayed your army?  To be black-balled in the eyes of your fellow soldiers? No thanks.

Seems to me it takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

“Father, the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead piles up, especially when one considers how ridiculous the theories sound.  I state again how I will stake all I have on the resurrected Christ.”

June 18

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

I’ve been out of touch for a couple of days as I visited my daughter and grandson in Ohio.  Except for his team losing (they didn’t do that bad with only two practices under their belt), we had a great time.  Here is my devotion for today:

Have you ever met a know-it-all? I’m sure you have. They have an answer to everything and for everything. Even if… they have no clue.

There is nothing wrong admitting you don’t have the answer to a question. I remember an old TV show-I think it was called Room 222-which had a Student Teacher (I think her real name was Karen Valentine) as one of the stars of the show. She was the student teacher and in one of the episodes I can remember her being asked a question and even though she did not know the answer, she faked one. Bad move. It came back to haunt her and her mentor was able to teach her a valuable lesson. I can’t remember the question or her “answer.” Or even the consequence. But I do remember the lesson she learned. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know.” It is better to say Idk than to make up an answer which proves to be untrue.

How many times have you or I been stumped by a question concerning God, Jesus, the Bible, something within the Bible, or some theological question and you tried to bluff your way through? The Trinity. God became flesh. The Sovereignty of God. Predestination/Election. The Second Coming. And so many more.

Seems it would be better to say, “I don’t know the answer to that” or “I’ll try to find the answer” than to try to bluff and be found out to be a Pharisee.

“Father, teach me humility and the willingness to admit I don’t know the answer to a tough question. I’m not expected to know it all anyway. Help me to keep seeking You and Your Word.”

May 13

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing what I call “Drive-bys.” In an effort to be a pastor to the people God has entrusted to my care, and since I can’t go directly to them, nor see them on Sunday morning, I initiated this plan. I drive into a person’s driveway, pray for them,  then text them that they have been the victim of a drive-by. Sometimes they come outside to say hi and sometimes not. If they aren’t home I leave a card. Monday, May 11, I did a drive-by of some of our newer people. The oldest daughter, who just celebrated her 14th birthday on the 3rd, has had Lyme’s for 10 years and so they needed to be extra careful because her body fighting off two wretched diseases was asking too much. Anyway, they all came out to the porch and I sat and visited (appropriately distanced of course). The mom asked me 3 questions while I was there:

  1. “I’ve never heard you speak about eschatology. What is your view?” A: I’m pan-millenial…it’ll all pan out in the end, i.e. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. When Jesus comes; how He comes; no matter the timeline-you better be ready.
  2. “Do you believe in eternal security? It appears you do.” A: Yes. Conversation ensued.
  3. “What is the unpardonable sin?” (Mt.12:31)

Good question. What precluded that was a word or two about suicide, divorce, unfaithfulness, turning one’s back on Jesus, and several other issues prompted by Question #2.

My answer: Rejection of Christ. Judgmental people want to condemn all kinds of people to hell because they do this or do that. But there really is only one sin that is unforgivable. Rejection of Christ. Deny Him here and there is no second chance. Destination sealed. In my Quiet Time this morning I ran across this verse: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” (John 8: 2 4). Bingo!  There it is in black and white (or red if you have that). Straight from Jesus’ mouth.

“Father, thank you for showing this truth this morning. I’m not concerned about my salvation, but I am aware others have or continue to reject you. May their hearts be softened to accept You.”

April 24/Weekend

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Should I or shouldn’t I? Do I go or do I stay? Is God calling me to do this or to do that? Those are questions probably most of us have asked from time to time.

I remember once when I was in a pastorate that had sucked me dry. I had sought to get out and the time was finally here. I had already interviewed and preached at a church and had been asked to accept the call to pastor that church. I asked for a couple of weeks to pray. In the meantime, I had already had an interview lined up with another church just in case church #1 didn’t work out. So I went ahead and interviewed with church #2 and found them to be wonderful and engaging and seemingly eager to break out of their mold. I was unsure and said something to a friend. He said, “Bill, take church #1. They have already extended a call. Plus even if it ends up being the wrong choice, God won’t abandon you.” He was right. I did. And church #1 did end up being the right choice for several reasons.

We often work ourselves into a frenzy or get frazzled trying to figure out “God’s will” for a certain situation. Should I or shouldn’t I? What choice? You know the questions. In his devotion book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? Chuck Swindoll gave four great suggestions we should consider before taking a step of faith:

  1. Be sure it’s the Lord who is speaking.  We ought to make sure it is not just our wish or someone else’s for us.
  2. Be sure the decision doesn’t contradict Scripture. To leave a good, honorable, stable job to manage a porn store, for example, is not the right choice.
  3. Be sure your motive is unselfish and pure. Motive. Motive. Motive.
  4. Be sure the “leap” won’t injure others or your testimony. See #2. I think it would be wise to seek counsel and most definitely the “go for it” from those close to you.

Those are some good suggestions. I wish I had had them when I was trying to make that decision back in 1984. I now know it most certainly was the right one, but I could have saved a lot of unnecessary questioning back then. Not that either one would have been wrong, but church #2 never again did contact me. (Later one of the couples involved in the interview apologized. I don’t think they were thrilled how it went down). 

“Father, thank you for freedom of choice. As I choose-big or little-may the choices I make be Your desire for me. Open my eyes to see Your leading.”

April 3

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

I read in the April 3 devotion in Our Daily Bread these words:

On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave his final speech, ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.’ In it, he hints that he believed he might not live long. He said, ‘We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you…[But] I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’  The next day, he was assassinated.

It was almost as if Dr. King “knew” he was going to die soon. That got me to thinking: what if I knew I was going to die in exactly one week. What would I do?

  • Would I love Jo any differently? Would I do something with her we have put off?
  • Would I love Tami and Janna (my daughters) and Braden (grandson) any differently? Would I make sure my millions were doled out evenly? 🙂
  • Would I love the people in the church I pastor deeper? Is there any grace or forgiveness I need to extend? Is there anyone I need forgiveness from?
  • Would my last sermon be an earnest plea for salvation? Holy living? Sacrificial service?
  • Would I ride my bike with more abandon, taking on the challenge of more hills?
  • Would I contact my friends (all 2 of them)  🙂 to thank them for their friendship and get together for one more pizza run or bike ride?

I could go on and I’m sure you could also. But the “what if” or “would I” is not what matters. It is the “what about now” that matters. No one knows when they may be called home.

“Father, I stand before You this morning pondering the ‘what if.’ You are more interested in the ‘what will I do for now.’ Show me how to live now and what You desire from me N.O.W.”

 

April 1

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Have you ever read a Scripture before-perhaps hundreds of times-and either not really paid attention or never really grasped its weight? I have. In fact, today’s Scripture is one of them. I actually read this passage a couple of days ago and it stopped me in my tracks as its meaning hit me. I revisited it this morning. Here is the Scripture: “You search the Scripture because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness of me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)  The old KJV gave it as an imperative: “Search the Scripture…”  It is true the word “search” can be seen as a command, but it is better seen as implying diligent scrutiny in investigating the Scripture.

As I’ve tried to read more on apologetics, once common strain seems to come out. Many (most) agnostics and atheists know the Scriptures better than many who say they are followers of Jesus. Of course, their knowledge is just that-knowledge. Head knowledge. They have done what Jesus describes here. They know the Scriptures “but refuse to come to Him that they may have life.” In the Pharisees’ efforts to be religious they knew the law of the Scripture, but they did not know the heart of the Scripture. All they had pointed to Jesus as Messiah, but they never saw it.  They knew the Scriptures alright, but not the One they pointed to.

That begs the question: how do I know the Scripture? As a club to be wielded or as a light pointing to the True Light-Jesus?

“Father, as I read and study the Scriptures, make Yourself clearer to me. Help me to continue learning truths from Your Word. Let me read the Scriptures as life that point me to You.”