Reflection

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June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

May 25

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

May 18

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Do you have a daily routine? What is it? Pre-covid, that is, since many routines have changed. Many conduct work from  home so they stay in their pj’s or sweats all day, except above the waist. 🙂  No question things have changed. I’ve been fortunate though. My routine hasn’t changed. Up at 3:30; Quiet Time; office about 5; study; office work; ride or lunch; drive-bys; office to close out; home for the evening (unless I have a meeting). I realize not everyone’s day is like mine. But in some way we are all alike.

Pre-Covid we rolled out of bed, grabbed a quick bite, then rushed out the door to beat the traffic on our way to work. Rinse. Repeat. But what would happen if we changed all that around? Well, my philosophy is the dark/night is for sleeping (unless you work the night shift). So instead of rushing around your day would start with a slow move toward bed! You would lay your head down and rest. All night long. Your day would have been in “progress” for 8 hours or so before you were even aware of it. Welcome to the Jewish world in the Bible!! That’s right. A Jewish day actually began in the evening (6:00). So they rested and slept and then got up to the realization that God was already at work. In fact, He’s been at it all night long since He never sleeps or slumbers. Psalm 121:3-4 says that.

How different when our day begins with resting in the One who never rests, sleeps, or slumbers! What a difference from our get-up-and-go life! Take a moment right now and do what I just did as I wrote this devotion. Stop and read all of Psalm 121 in total. Don’t worry it is only 8 verses. 🙂 Meditate on it. Dissect it. What a rich psalm! This is mine and your psalm and word for today.

“Father, help me to rest in You. Help me to hold fast to One who is sure. Help me to begin my day at rest, knowing You were awake all night.”

April 28

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Don’t you sometimes wish you could get into a DeLorean and travel back through time? I’m guessing if you are like me you would do or say somethings differently. I would tell myself, for example, don’t pick up that magazine as an 10 year old. I would tell myself to be frugal and save your money.  I would tell myself to be less conscious of what a car looks like and run it into the ground. I would tell myself not to spend on frivolous things (bike stuff excluded) 🙂  and prepare for the future.  I would tell myself…

I think we would all like to be able to do that.  But we can’t. I think many of us have the “Someday” mentality. You know what that is. “Someday I’ll do this.”  Or “Someday when things are different.”  There are as many scenarios for “someday” as your mind can think. No one expected this virus and the upheaval it has caused. Don’t you wish you could go back several months and warn your younger self it was coming and to be prepared?

“Someday” has a it-may-happen-and-when-it-does-things-will-be-different kind of vibe. But not always does our future turn out as we envisioned. “Someday” may turn out to be the fulfillment of our dreams or it may turn out to be the dashing of our dreams/plans on the rocks of reality. But no matter what our “Someday” turns out to look like, we are promised it will turn out for our good and God’s advancement.

“Father, I don’t know what ‘Someday’ may bring. I just need to cling to You-good, bad, or ugly- knowing You are the One constant. May my ‘Someday’ be ‘Your Day.’ “

April 17/Weekend

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Here’s my heart Lord/Here’s my life Lord/Speak what is true.”

It’s Friday and I’m at home on my day off. I slept in today so I’m late to my Quiet Time. Jo just came out of the shower with her phone playing a song by Lauren Daigle. It was the song with the above lyrics. We sing this song during our worship time on Sunday morning from time to time.

But its more than just a song we sing on Sunday in a worship set. This morning it gripped my heart. I seriously want to be all in with Him but I find myself fighting the “collar.” I remember a saying I heard once: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.” They must have been using me as a test subject. I say, “Here I am” but a few days (maybe just hours) I take back control and do my own thing.

I know I’m not alone. And the funny thing is that I’m really not in control anyway. The way life has been upended the last month or so shows that.  But it hasn’t been just the recent past; it has been for the past umpteen years.

It has taught me one thing though. Through all of my ups and downs, fighting and surrendering, there has been one constant: God. Always there. Always faithful. Always loving. Always with open arms.

“Thank you Father, for Your faithfulness to me-even when I’m not. When I say those words, “Here’s my heart, Lord” let me speak them truthfully.”

Here is the song which started me thinking today only by a different artist.

April 9

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Have you ever used the phrase “You’ll always be looking over your shoulder” or some variation of that? We might hear it on a TV show or movie, for example, when someone has done something wrong and thought they might have gotten away with it. But their guilt or conscience has them always looking over their shoulder. Did you wonder if Cain kept looking over his shoulder after he killed Abel? We could also use it when referring to a past sin.  We wonder who might remember or who might pop up to remind us.

We are often haunted by our past. I was speaking with a couple people recently and we talked about the effect of their past on their present and future situations. How it affects us in our responses to others, our children, our spouses, our co-workers. I read an interesting quote today:

All persons must learn before they die what they are running from and what they are running to, and why. (James Thurber)

As I just said, our thoughts and actions in the present are shaped by something in our past. Good and bad. Standards set too high by our parents or an adult. Abuse of some kind. False accusations. Wasted potential. Immoral life. Insecurity. A regrettable action. Good choices. Saying no to drugs and sex. Studying hard. The list is endless for both.

The past is just that, the past. We also need to figure out what we’re running to. We have to ask ourselves what our pursuit in life will be. Will it be fortune and fame? Will it be to beat out my competition? Or will it be to pursue that which really matters…and the One who really matters…Jesus.

The past is the past. We can’t change it. We can keep looking over our shoulder with regret or with the feeling of running, OR we can look straight ahead with our eyes locked onto Jesus. Seems to me the latter leads to a much straighter path.

“Father, I need to remember my past only in that it shows me what I once was. I need to look straight forward at the One who calls me to walk with Him.”

 

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.”

 

March 27

Friday, March 27th, 2020

It is not uncommon to hear a husband or wife, a parent, or someone else lament the fact that the other person won’t change. I have heard both husbands and wives say, “I keep praying that he/she will change.” Now obviously, I’m not against change, especially when it’s a spiritual change.  Let’s look at it another way though.

I remember a little boy who was having one of those days. He was on his mom’s last nerve until she had had enough. “Go to your room.” A short time later he came out and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about what you said about my behavior and I said a little prayer.” Expecting an apology or at least an admission of guilt or sorrow she said, “And what is that prayer? Did you ask God to help make you good?”  The little boy didn’t miss a beat. “Nope. I didn’t ask Him to make me good. I asked Him to help you put up with me.”  (Please understand that is not a true story because I never got sent to my room). 🙂

Sometimes when God wants change it is not the other person who needs changed; it is us. God desires our hearts to change. For that to happen we have to heed the Scripture. In Psalm 51 we have David’s confession following the exposure and conviction of his adultery. He did not blame Bathsheba or his circumstances. He took the blame and prayed for his heart to be cleansed (v.10) and for joy to be returned (v.12).

It’s time to pray for change…in myself. Let’s start looking into our own hearts and putting God’s searchlight upon us.  “Father, may I change as you want me to change. Help me to look into my own heart and not expect others to change, but be the one who changes inside.”

 

February 26

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Do vs Be.

A sense of accomplishment today. I finished reading the OT this morning. I began over 3 years ago with Matthew and read through the NT. I then started with Genesis and vowed I would read each word (or almost each word). I would not skip over a genealogy or a sacrifice or a (fill in the blank) in order to get to the end or because it was boring. It took me close to 2 years of almost daily faithful reading to accomplish my task. I read leisurely. I had no plan to follow; no set amount to read.  But I finished! I learned a lot. And I learned to respect the OT.

Today I read Malachi. It was, in many ways, a good summary of much of the OT. The people of Israel did; they were not so interested in the be. The book of Malachi is almost like a commentary on the whole OT, and even on our own time in history.  Time after time Malachi’s voice echoes God’s as he brings to mind the utter hypocrisy of the people of Israel of offering sacrifices, but not having the right heart.

They were “do-ers”; they were not interested in “be-ers.” God brings to mind the emptiness of their sacrifices because of their lack of sincerity. They would bring blemished animals. They would lie, cheat, and steal. In 1:14, for example, he says, “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.” 

Another example was the way they robbed God through their tithes and offerings. “Who us? Rob God? Surely not.” And yet He points it out to them: “Yes, through your tithes and offerings.”

Do vs Be. I have this sneaking suspicion God is much more interested in who we are than what we do. Sure He wants our obedience. Sure He wants our “do.” But I believe He is much more interested in who we are. Who we “be.” On the inside.

“Father, outside obedience is fine. I believe you want that. But you don’t want just the outside; you also want inward submission. You want me to “be” not just “do.” May my outward actions come from inward submission.”