Reflection

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October 9

Friday, October 9th, 2020

I turn 68 years old today. (Don’t applaud just throw money! 🙂 You can also throw in a shock emoji here). I was officially ordained on April 13, 1975, my late mother’s birthday. I could think of no better way to honor the one person more responsible for my faith walk (other than my grandfather) than her. So that means for 45 years I have been “officially” a pastor. But I have been preaching since the end of my Sophomore year in college (1972).  I’m not sure that little church in Irvine, KY ever fully recovered. Being a pastor has been all I have wanted to do (except play professional baseball or basketball.  But there was a huge roadblock to both. It’s called talent). 🙂

But it is time for a heart check. After reading 2 Cor. 2:17 I got reflective. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” That verse led me back to I Cor. 2:1-5. (I encourage you to look it up or click on the link). It’s time for a heart-to-heart check with myself. Here are some thoughts based on the Scriptures:

  1. The word peddle used in 2 Cor. 2:17 means “to corrupt” in the Greek. It came to refer to corrupt hucksters, or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product. We would call them “cheap knock-offs.” It reminds me of the street vendors who sell “cheapies” that look original. People think they are getting an original but…nope. Fooled you!! This is a picture of a false teacher who worms his/her way in only to spew rank heresy couched in spiritual language. 
  2. Good language, perfect speech, even high falootin’ words cannot resuce a wrong message. I was visiting a couple Wednesday and was told that she really appreciated my sermon from this past Sunday on “What about Doubt?” She explained why and I cried inside that she lived so many years with inside turmoil. Our conversation went on and I commented how someone had said he didn’t think they (as a couple) would stay at OVCF (they came from a very strict, traditional church) because of our music. They both said, “Well, we don’t know the songs…although we are learning them…and do miss the hymns, but we stay because of the Word.  We hear the Word being preached.”  Is a pastor allowed to feel good? Proud…but not the bad kind? At peace? A sense of “I-did-okay?” I sure hope so because, to be honest, I felt validated. I hope that’s not wrong. I suspect if it is then God will bring me down a peg or two. 🙂 In a time of questions and evaluation, it was good to hear God say through them, “Good job.” I am humbled and eternally grateful that God chose me to do this.

I have no idea how much time I have left (who does?) but I do know this: as long as God gives me breath and as long as He gives me good health, I want to be found guilty of preaching the foolishness of the cross. I want to point people to the cross. For as long as I can remember my brother, Rob, has always signed his letter using Gal.6:14- “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” May that tribe increase.

And those are my ending words to this devotion/reflection.

September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

August 28

Friday, August 28th, 2020

I read another devotion book that got me thinking. It was on friendship. It began with a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Friendship is a sheltering tree

The writer (Chuck Swindoll) gave the example of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was burnt out and discouraged and just wanted to give up. Elisha stood with him and fortified him. He became Elijah’s sheltering tree.

So I began thinking about my friends-men who have “been there” for me. Like:

  • Doug- my friend since college (that’s early 70s if you wonder). We have laughed so hard our sides have hurt; prayed with each other; consulted for wisdom with each other (I was short on that); told secrets to each other; cried together over the death of his father and son; worked on projects together; driven to each other’s house; attended conferences together; had multiple lunches together. We still get together 3/4 times per year for lunch (we meet 1/2 way). No dearer friend do I have than him.
  • Jim- we started out cycling together after we met in the 90s. His availability changed when his job demanded more time, but we still rode together as often as we could, often on weekends. But our friendship didn’t end with my move from Indiana to Ohio and now back. It continued and still does-over 25+ years later. We get together for lunch when we can. His 2+ year struggle with prostate cancer and even his winter in Colorado working (because it was a bucket list thing for him and he loves to ski) only deepened our friendship.
  • Those are my closest two friends. I’ve had others along the way who were sheltering trees, albeit temporarily. Some are gone-moved into heaven or on to another life. Some, sadly, are no longer in the picture.

But I am grateful for every friend I have had. I’ve even had a few online friends who have encouraged me with their words! And we have never met except via computer or phone. I once told someone: “I’m an extrovert so I know a lot of people-some I talk to; some I call friend. They are rare and few and far between. I take none for granted.”

How about you? Are you a friend? Do you have friends? Don’t take them for granted.

“Father, help me to be a friend as much as I want friends. Help me to be someone’s sheltering tree.”

July 27

Monday, July 27th, 2020

I read an interesting story and quote. First the story, then the quote.

Two friends were walking in the desert when an argument ensued. One slapped the other out of anger. The one who was slapped knelt down in the sand and wrote,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They continued walking and came to an oasis, where they decided to bathe in the cool water. The one who had been slapped became stuck in some mire and was drowning, but his friend saved him. After recovery, he carved in stone:

“Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you carve on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But then someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where no wind can every

erase it.”

Those are wise words. We say we forgive but often bring the garbage back up. Sadly, we also tend to remember the bad done to us more than the good which is done for us or to us.

Now the quote:

Once a woman forgives her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  German actress Marlene Dietrich.

I also posted this on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.  I invite you to check it out here.

July 22-23

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

We were in Ohio watching our grandson play his last baseball game on Tuesday night. After having breakfast at IHOP with him (he loves french toast with extra powder but no syrup) yesterday morning, we made our way home. I wrote this on the morning of the 22nd in the hotel room so I wanted to share it with you and post it as a two-day devotion.  Here were my thoughts on the morning of the 22nd:

It has been an up and down season for the team as they weren’t allowed to practice and then had 3 practices before their first game. Last night I saw exemplified a trait in all the boys that I believe is worth mentioning. Braden especially has this trait.

There is a saying attributed to Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  A similar phrase: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” has a connection to opera and was believed to be first used in 1976 by a reporter named Ralph Carpenter. Both phrases mean virtually the same: A person/team should never assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches the end, because circumstances can change.  It is used in athletics to say, “Never quit. The game isn’t over until the final out or the gun sounds or however a sporting event ends.”

I saw that last night. It was the bottom of the 6th inning and the game looked hopelessly out of reach. But B’s team scored 4 runs to make it 11-7. Unfortunately, the other team scored 4 runs in their top half of the 7th. But with 2 outs our team struck again. A hit. Braden got another hit. Next thing we knew 3 or 4 more runs scored. Even the final out of the inning was a ground ball that the player ran all-out to first in an attempt to beat it out, but he was thrown out. Heart-breaking? Yes. But go down fighting? No shame in that.

I see a parallel in our walk with Christ. We are in a battle and our enemy may have us down for the count. All hope seems lost. But Jesus doesn’t want us to quit. It’s not over until the trumpet blares. Don’t quit. To borrow Yogi’s phrase: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

“Father, help me not to give up, to throw in the towel. You are my hope and strength.”

July 20

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Have you ever played the “If only” game?  I suspect we all have.

  • If only I had married someone different.
  • If only I hadn’t had that first drink or that first smoke or that first snort. 
  • If only I hadn’t bought that item.
  • If only I hadn’t let my responsibility slide.
  • If only my list would end. 🙂

Yeah, I suspect we have all had those moments of regret. Martha had a case of the “if onlys” when Jesus finally arrived on the scene in Bethany. Lazarus had already died and Martha looked at Jesus and said, “If only you had been here my brother would not have died.”

The problem with our “if onlys” is we tend to look at them from the worldly perspective. We see the here and now. We see the consequences of a choice we made years ago. I recently read the memoir of Jonathan Cain, a member of the rock group Journey. By his own admission his double life came back to haunt him in the breakup of his second marriage to his children’s mother. The consequences of choices made and actions taken broke up his marriage. That’s a perfect time to say “if only.”

As hard as it is we must move on from the “if onlys.” I know for some that is harder than for others. But if we don’t, we will forever live with regret. What happened can’t be changed. What can be changed is our response to our choices and the ensuing actions. We can forever be a slave to them or we can choose to be free.

“Father, I can’t change the ‘if onlys’ in my past. But I can change-with your help-how it affects me. Help me to overcome those regrets from my past.”

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.”