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April 5

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it Speculation.  And since it is the day after Resurrection Sunday, let’s speculate about one of the characters of the “cross story.”

Barabbas.

Funny how no one names their child by that name. “Here is my new son. His name is Barabbas.” That is about infamous as Judas. What happened to Barabbas (B) is pure speculation.

B was the insurrectionist who was about to be executed. He was there for his evil deeds. Could it have been the third cross was actually for him? You know, the one Jesus was crucified on. Could it be he was soon to be brought out of his cell and find himself with the other two (who perhaps were cohorts)? Suddenly he hears his name called but instead of being put to death as a criminal, he is set free.

More speculation: did B follow the crowd through the streets and to the hill? Did he stay and hear the words, “Father, forgive them”? Did he hear his partner in crime ask to be forgiven and remembered and given a place in Paradise? And was he so overwhelmed that he also gave himself to the One who took his place? I don’t know. Pure speculation allows for scenarios we won’t know the answer to until another day.

What is not speculation is that Jesus went to the cross for B; for the network of evil which brought about the whole scenario; the criminals on the crosses; the people at the foot of the cross; the people clamoring for His death; for His mother, Mary; for Peter, James and John; and for me.

No speculation, just facts.

“Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the fact that Jesus died. It is not speculation. And it was for me.”

March 24

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

There is a lot of talk these days-as well as a lot written- about what is called deconstruction. It is especially pointed when it involves prominent, well-known or well-respected people. We’ve seen in recent years pastors and leaders like Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) announce he was getting a divorce and then just a few days later that he was leaving the faith and no longer considered himself a Christian. A worship leader from Hillsong. The lead singer of the Christian group Hawk Nelson. YouTube personalities Rhett and Link. That is just to name a few of those who have “deconstructed.”

I’m not talking about progressive like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Michael Gungor or Richard Rohr. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of tangled and messed up string.

These “deconstructors” dismantle their faith, leaving nothing. How and when it started is different. Some went through a class in college. Some went through a crisis in life. Some had a repressive, fundamentalist background they wanted to break free from. The reasons behind deconstruction are numerous.

Questioning one’s faith is not bad…or wrong. Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he is thinking.” I believe it is good to question, to kick the tires so to speak. I disagree with those who say that if we question it shows we don’t have real faith in Jesus. Oddly enough, it is that type of environment that has caused many deconstructions to happen. I heard a podcast recently where the interviewee said there are three stages one goes through: construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Start. Middle. Finish.

Here’s a novel idea (well, not really but it sounded good 🙂 ). Instead of demonizing those who question, let’s encourage honest questions. Not the superficial kind. Honest ones. But let’s encourage that the questions not be answered by secular culture or by the cancel culture we see and hear so much from these days, but instead run to Jesus with the questions. Let’s seek honest answers to our questions. 

“Father, help me to be honest in my questions.  Help me to admit that some questions will not have answers. Help me to run to Jesus and not away from Him” 

February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 4

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

I mentioned in an earlier post (February 2) that I have been reading through the NT using the NLT (New Living Translation). Today I read Luke 15 & 16. There was no one STOP THIS IS IT! moment this morning. There were several. So I thought I’d record those moments here:

  1. Luke 15 is the trio of stories Jesus told-the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. Perhaps we can put a positive spin on them and say the Found Sheep, the Found Coin, and the Returning Son. All three end with a variation of saying the same thing. Verse 7, Verse 10, and Verse 32 all carry the idea of rejoicing because that which was lost is found; that which was dead has come back to life. The angels rejoice when someone has run their race and enters heaven, but they also rejoice when someone repents and comes to Jesus for the first time.
  2. Luke 16:10. Faithful in little, faithful in much. If one can’t be trusted with the little, how can they be trusted in the much?
  3. Luke 16:13. Where is my heart? Who or what has its attention?  Have I sold my soul to a lesser master?
  4. Luke 16:14. Where is my allegiance? When the world looks at me, do they see a religion that is dead or a life that is vibrant? More importantly, what does God see? He sees the deepest part of me.

Just a few random thoughts this morning. Random but convicting. Did any one passage stand out to you?

“Father, thank You for Your Word. It is a Light and a Lamp. Please continue to shine it on me.”

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.”