Reflection

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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.”

October 1

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meaningful Words vs Blowhard, Empty Words.

I need to make a confession. I’ve been reading through Job in my morning Quiet Time and I’ve had trouble concentrating. I know the basic backdrop of Job.  He has it all. All but his life is taken away.  He has three “friends” who become very accusatory of him. He must have some hidden sin. He’s really not the righteous person he pretends to be. He is in rebellion against God. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’d say sarcastically “some friends they are” or “with friends like that who needs enemies” but I digress. You see…that’s not the whole story. They pretend in their blowhard, empty words to pretend to speak for God. They pretend to know God’s thoughts.

They don’t. If I was Job I’d say, “Take a hike!” In chapter 22, Eliphaz accuses Job of being wicked. In the margin of my Bible I highlighted verses 21-30 and noted it as Accusation of Job’s rebellion. Well, it appears Job has questions of his own. But they are not accusatory questions like I might raise. No. Just the opposite. He raises the fact that He cannot understand God because of the “bigness” of God. (23: 8-17).

Why is this important to me? Because I feel the same way at times. Wondering what I did to “deserve” the treatment I’m getting. I question my commitment. My walk. Am I holy? But it doesn’t come down to what I think or who I am. It comes down to what God thinks and who He is. Take a moment and read Job 23: 8-17 and see if doesn’t give you that perspective. It did me. “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

“Father, may my commitment to you only grow stronger through the daily struggles-be they big or small-I face. May I see the words of others- if they do not reflect You and Your Word- as blowhard, empty words which cannot affect or change Your view of me.”

September 19

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Little People vs Feeling Little.

There are many people who feel little or insignificant. They have been made to feel less than someone else due to status, wealth, position, race, or even job. And others have done a great job at making them feel that way. But I stand on pretty solid ground when I say we were never created to feel that way. As they say “we all put our pants on the same way.” I have yet to see someone stand their pants up and jump into them. (That is wrong is so many ways!) 🙂

However, having just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Alaska, I can speak of feeling little-in a good way. For example. take a look at  these pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can your thoughts not be drawn to Psalm 8:4- “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers. the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

We were never made to feel small in another person’s eyes. As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, “There are no little people.” No matter what society says, we are on equal plane, but when it comes to God and His creation, it is humbling to realize how important we are to Him. And yet…how small we are.

“Father, Your majesty overwhelms me, humbles me. No matter what others think of me, I’m important to you. Thank you that I matter to you.”

 

Weekend Extra

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

I wrote this while on vacation last week but had no internet service nor did I take my computer so I thought I would enter it as a weekend extra.

My title for this devotion is Man vs God.

There is a discussion/debate that has gone on for years and continues to this day. And unless I miss my guess will go on until Jesus returns. The discussion/debate? Who made the earth? Who created what we have? Was it the evolution of animal and man or was it God?

After today(Friday), my vote is God. ‘Course it always was, but even more after today. Today was a most amazing day. It began with a tour of Skagway by trolley. Skagway came about because of the Gold Rush and a few resilient people.  It is still a town of a few resilient people-more during tourist season than in the vicious winter. Ghost town is a more appropriate name. But in the afternoon we took the train to White Pass. I’m not sure I have seen as much beautiful scenery as I did today.

And all that ran through my head (after Tuesday’s all day boat ride, Wednesday’s stop at Icy Straight Point, and today’s stop at Skagway) were the words of Scripture: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the earth show His handiwork.” (Ps.19:1) Then when I came back to the room and Jo napped, I read this: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps.8:1,3-4)

All I could think of was the beauty of what God created. Much of it untouched. A waterfall in the middle of the forest. The rapidly flowing water. The glacier between two mountains. Absolutely stunning scenery. Beautiful blue water. I had and have a hard time writing it off to man’s work. Or chance. Or a big bang.

“God you have created a majestic thing of beauty. The heavens. The earth. Thank you for giving me a wonderful opportunity to witness it first hand. Yes, human ingenuity made the railroad and the Alaskan highway and the landmarks. But YOU! You made it all. Man could not have done it!”

Here are a few pictures I took with my phone. We had a camera but I needed them NOW! 🙂  The top 2 and the first on the left is from Skagway. The latter two are from Glacier Bay (Saturday’s all day ride). I even got to see the glacier calve. Talk about amazing!