Reflection

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January 6

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I have no title for today’s devotion. I gave part of this as my Communion thought yesterday before we observed the Lord’s Supper. I was going to disregard it afterwards but then I felt God saying, “No. Share this.” So here it is (expanded from its original).

When we think of titles for Jesus, we think of names like Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We think of Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. We might think of the names given to Him in Revelation: Alpha and Omega; Beginning and the End; the First and the Last; the One who was, and is, and is to come. King of kings. Lord of lords. The list seems endless.

But there is one that I seriously doubt comes to our minds or our lips. It is one used in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 by Jesus’ enemies. They call Him the “friend of sinners.” ‘Course they used it in derision because He was the friend of the tax collector, the demoniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, and other less-than-acceptable people. I’m glad. You see, I’m not a member of the intelligentsia. I’m not a great preacher. I’m not well-known. But I can tell you this-I am a sinner. And that I love that title: Jesus-Friend of sinners.

The story in the OT of Hosea and Gomer is a love story for the ages. Hallmark has nothing on that one! Taking a prostitute as a wife; fathering some children; Gomer returns to her former profession; Hosea buying her off the auction block (she was used up). I’d like to suggest reading the book of Hosea for the whole story.

That story shows me many things, two of which are 1) God never gives up on me; and 2) I have no grounds for despair in my daily life.

As the song says, “Jesus, friend of sinners. Jesus, friend of mine.” How soothing. How reinforcing.

“Father, may I never forget this title given to Jesus. Even tough it was given in derision, it is true. He is my friend.”

December 30-31

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

I wrote this the morning of Monday, the 30th, but just now was able to get to a computer to post it.  It’s not all I want to say but I found my time to write rather short. Hope it makes you think some of your own response.

My title for this devotion is Shortage: Good vs Bad.

I find myself contemplating 2019 and wondering about 2020. Not unusual I’m sure. Also, my contemplation is not in a bad way either.  I know I can’t change what has happened. And I know I can’t even begin to guess what will be, so there is no need to concern myself. I’m thinking instead about lack, about shortages.

By that I am not in any way referring to money. I’m referring to those things that are missing or lacking my life. And to take it one step further: what am I going to do?

My thoughts along this line were piqued by a reference to the water of Jerusalem. There was only one source and it was outside the city walls. The way to defeat Jerusalem was to either divert it or dam it. In 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles we have the story of King Hezekiah building a tunnel through 1750 feet of solid rock to divert the water to a cistern. (As an aside: can you imagine the feat they accomplished without modern earth-moving machinery?). Anyway, Isaiah 22 says he did it without regard “for the one who made it.” (translated: G0d).

That got me thinking. How often do I act without regard to God? How often do I just “do” without seeking God’s input, His guidance? Admittedly, too often. I move; I act; I disrupt; without ever seeking God’s thoughts. Instead of seeing something as a handicap, perhaps it is time to embrace my limitations and allow God to use them for His glory.

“Father, any shortage I have is a tool for you to use. Please help me to “bend” to your way and will instead of always moving first and then expect your action or approval.”

December 29-31

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Three things Moses prayed for in Exodus 33: 12-21.

LORD, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

LORD, GUARANTEE YOUR PRESENCE.

LORD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY.

Moses did not want to be adrift. He didn’t want to lead the people of Israel without the presence and promises of God. What a great challenge for 2020!

Jo & I leave today for Sandusky, Ohio.  Tomorrow her sister has a procedure on her eyes that she must have or things will not turn out well. But it is in Lorain, OH and Jo is totally unfamiliar with that part of the state and unsure of driving where she has not been. Neither have I but she feels more confident with me driving (okay so maybe just with me being along). We will return Tuesday.  I will be out of commission as well on both blogs.

I have a decision I need to make: whether to continue “Living in the Shadow” or not. I have been doing two blogs for two years now. I started this one as a devotional outlet for New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I called it Be Transformed. I continued it by renaming it and just using it as a random devotional blog. I had several purposes. One, it kept me disciplined in having a daily Quiet Time. Two, and this will sound somewhat self-centered, I wanted to see if I could write and possibly transfer the daily devotions into a book form. The first, I accomplished. The second, I’m not sure about. What I do know is keeping two blogs going was, at times, time-consuming. It was stretching that is for sure. But what I hoped for (a consistent and growing readership) did not happen. So I’m faced with deciding what to do. I’d appreciate any input you might have…good or bad.

In the meantime, have a fantastic end of the year and a great start to 2020.

November 25

Monday, November 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Thanksgiving vs Thanksliving.

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.

If you have heard it once chances are good you have heard it a thousand times.

Thanksgiving  is 24/7/365. Thankfulness should not be pigeon-holed to one time out of a year, stuck between Halloween and Christmas. The perfect patsy. The consummate buffer between candy and gifts.  It gives us time to recover from so much candy and get ready for the gift-buying/wrapping/giving process.

Needless to say thanksgiving is not enough. Just saying thanks, even if it is every day of the year and not once a year, is still not enough. It is better…but not enough.

Our lives need to lived in such a way that we are testimonies to His goodness and grace.  Our lives are a living-gratitude-monitor, one that expresses gratitude by the very way we live. So this Thanksgiving, while you are expressing your gratitude in words, remember to express it in living for His glory.  24/7/365.

“Father, may my life be a living testimony to You. May my gratitude be more than words expressed, but also be a life lived well for You.”

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Jo, Tami and I left very early this morning for Ohio. We plan to visit with her sister, take her out of the nursing home for a meal, take care of some things, then head to Columbus to see our grandson, his parents and to spend the night. We will be back home in Indiana (Lord willing) on Wednesday afternoon. I will not be taking my computer and will not be posting on the “Shadow” blog until maybe Thursday. Have a great Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful.

November 18

Monday, November 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Delight vs Disappointment.

I know there are times I disappoint God.  At least I feel like I do. In my mind. When I act contrary to the new man. When I speak contrary to the new man. When I think contrary to the new man. I find myself disappointed in myself and I tend to transfer that disappointment to God’s feelings about me.

Instead of looking at disappointment, let’s consider instead how God delights in me. I read these words this morning during my Quiet Time:

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” (Is.62:4)

My thoughts went to my oldest daughter Tami’s sign off and favorite Scripture verse. She signs her correspondence with “Delighting in Him” and her favorite Scripture is Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It is a wonder to me that God would delight in me and that He would rejoice over me with gladness, and exult over me with loud singing. When I consider how I am; how I act; how I speak; how I think…and yet He delights and takes pleasure in me. THAT totally blows me away!!

I know.  Hard to believe. But there it is in black and white. And I believe it.

“Father, thank You for delighting in me. In spite of me and who I am, You delight in me. I’m humbled. I’m blown away. I’m relieved. I’m quieted. Let me just relish that today.”

November 13

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Friends vs “Friends.”

Have you ever met someone of whom it can be said, “He/she assumes a familiarity that is not there?” No? Well, your answer should be “Yes.”  If you know me then you have.  You see, I am an extreme extrovert. According to Jo and my girls I know no stranger. Jo once heard me talking to someone at WM about our oldest, who at the time, was teaching in Knoxville. He was also a teacher and moving to Knoxville so…you know…1 + 1 = 2. When we were alone Jo asked me who that was. I told her I had no clue. We were just talking. 🙂  Yep, extreme extrovert.

That has its drawbacks though. One big one is that earlier statement.  Because I am friendly, I just assume everyone ought to be. Jo has told me to stop being so friendly to little kids in the store at the checkout. She is probably right since the cultural climate is one of suspicion. But I’m that way with adults too. Especially those whom I have spent some time with. Especially especially (added for emphasis) if they are guys who are cyclists. Two of my closest friendships started because of the bike. One I never see since he moved south. The other is now retired and travels a lot with his now-retired wife. (They are in their 50s).  Since he lives about an hour away I see him occasionally. I have one friend from the church here who has moved about 30-45 minutes away whom I would like to see more often but you know how it is with guys who work and have families. Sheesh! 🙂 My best friend of over 40+ years was a college friend; played on the basketball team; helped me get my first full-time gig as a youth pastor with his father; and has since retired after he lost his heart with the death of his son.  I made my way to KY for that funeral and his father’s. That is what friends do. We are like David and Jonathan. We still see each other when we meet halfway for pizza. 

We are friends. Not “friends.” Friends. Real friends. In my mind “friends” are acquaintances. Faux people who are on the outside. Fair-weather “friends.”

I work hard to cultivate friendships because I need them. No I’m not co-dependent. No man is an island. As a pastor, they are rare. I am grateful for each friend God has placed in my path these 67 years. But none is as rich as my friendship with Jesus, the friend of sinners. For that friendship I will not assume anything.  It is too important. I need to go to the well and back to keep it energized and alive.  How about you?

“Father, I do thank you for each and every friend you have placed in my path and blessed me with. But none can take the place of YOU in my life. Help me to continue cultivating that friendship.”

November 7

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Answered vs Unanswerable.

Have you ever noticed there are some Scriptures which simply take your breath away in their breadth and scope of reach? I’m going to ask you to do something I’ve never done before-something I have already done. STOP reading this devotion and read Isaiah 40 first. Please. Oh yeah…be prepared to be awed.

READING ISAIAH 40

Thanks. Did you notice the rhetorical questions (questions asked but no answer expected)? Isaiah 40 is filled with them. List them. Verse 12.  Verse 13 (2 of them). Verse 14 (several). Verse 18. Verse 25.

But those alone are not enough. Look at the “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” questions. (Verses 21 & 23).

Anchoring all of this is a verse you may have skipped over (thanks to my “guidance.”) But now go back and read it. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (V.8)  There’s the anchor!! God’s Word has been, is now, and always will be. His Word never changes. Why? Because it is God’s Word and He never changes. Trying to explain an unexplainable God and trying to understand all that means is like trying to answer rhetorical questions. You can’t answer it because it is too lofty. (Brain explodes here). I can only say, “I believe.”

“Father, words truly fail me. Try as I may I’m lost. Take these inadequate but humble thoughts and accept them as they are intended: praise and adoration of and for a matchless God.”

November 4

Monday, November 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Horses vs God.

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” The teaching/lesson from that verse is easy to see and has been vital for me to hang on to.

This morning I read the following from Isaiah 31: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord.” (v.1)  It goes on: “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.” (v.3a)

Just when I was getting lost in the “wanderings” of Isaiah, he pulls up this gem. What an important truth! Both David and Isaiah are saying the same thing. But that begs a question-an obvious question:

In what and in Whom am I putting my trust? Is my trust in God or is it in something else? Is it in men or in “horses”?

“Father, my trust needs to/must me in You. But too often I find myself struggling to make that happen. Men and horses will fail, they will let me down. Help me to place my trust in You-squarely and firmly in You.”

I know the devotion is short today. but it is short on purpose. The understanding and application of this passage is yours to see and apply.

October 28

Monday, October 28th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Traditions vs Life.

I recently preached through the letters to the churches in Revelation.  The church at Ephesus left its first love. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm.  Both can happen when traditions take the place of life.  What do I mean?

When traditions become routine and without meaning, life leaves.

When reciting a creed becomes more important than the heartfelt worship which is to take place, it has happened.

When reciting that same creed becomes more important than the Word it is supposed to be based on, it has happened.

When taking communion is just something we do, it has happened.

When singing songs of worship with no heart-no feeling- it has happened.

When attending worship is tied more to habit or routine, it has happened.

Example after example of this happening can be given, but the words of Mark 7 still ring true. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vein to they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Verses 6-7)  A little later on in that same chapter, Jesus tells the people that it is an inside job.

“Father, may my heart not find itself going the way of traditions over heartfelt worship.  Help me to not allow traditions to become more important than life found in Your Word. Convict me if I am just going through the motions.”

October 3

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Hydrated vs Unsatisfied.

I rode my bike two days this week. I would have ridden three if I had not had an eye doctor appointment yesterday (Wednesday). Both days the temps were in the 90s with high humidity. Just the way I like it! Typical Indiana weather…in August! Highly unusual for October but I love and took advantage of it. People ask me how I do it. Not only do I like that kind of weather (it is easier on the joints), but there is one key ingredient: hydration. As I got ready to ride one of those days, a lady who is a nurse commented on me riding in the heat. When I told her I liked it she said, “Hydration. Stay hydrated.” I reassured her I did. I have two insulated water bottles-one of Gatorade Zero and one of water-which have been partially frozen so I have cold drinks for my ride.

This came back to me today as I read from John 4-Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman at the well. In the exchange found in verses 7-14 Jesus asks for a drink.  Her inquisitive nature opens the door to one of Jesus’ greatest statements: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water welling up to eternal life.” (verses 13-14)

Of course Jesus is not speaking of physical water. One will be thirsty again. But to drink of Him leads to satisfaction. That doesn’t mean that to come to Him ends all need for more. My hunger and thirst for Him never ends. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for he shall be satisfied.” (Mt.5:6) But it does mean the end of my searching and longing for satisfaction and meaning to life. It does mean peace has been found. Jesus knew the woman at the well was empty. He also knew her search was hopeless without Him.

So I see this going two ways:

  1. He is the one who is the answer to my (and everyone else’s) longing and searching.
  2. May I never stop hungering and thirsting after Him.

“Father, You have the answers to all the longing and searching people go through. You answered mine. But may I never cease hungering and thirsting for You. May I always long to stay hydrated.”