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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.”

January 29

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Acceptance vs. Rejection.

Just to get this out of the way early: I am 67 years old (b. 10/1952) and am not ashamed of that. Do I wish I was younger? Sure. Do I wish I could talk to my younger self and give him advice? Most definitely. Do I begrudge getting older? Yeah…sort of. Do I see myself as done, part of the over-the-hill-find-a-chair-to-sit-in gang? No.

Several things have brought my thoughts to this topic today besides the obvious physical discomfort (knees, back, neck, etc) brought on by “arthur’s residency.”

  • I read an article yesterday on church trends for 2020 and one point was about active, growing and alive churches are being led by younger men (<50 y/o).  Many churches fail to grow and stay active because the aging senior pastor fails to recognize his ineffectiveness. So I asked, “Is that me?”
  • I started reading a book of daily thoughts entitled A Good Old Age by Derek Prime. It’s an A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years. (In fairness I started this last year but failed to finish it so I thought I would start over again and read one a day).

I struggle with aging-not because I dread old age or because I need to retire but can’t- but because I feel I still have much to give.  I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I’m certainly not a “I know all things because I have been a pastor for over 45 years” kind of guy. Sure, I’ve been around the block a time or two; made my extra share of mistakes; caused heartache; opened my mouth and inserted foot more than I want to admit; and made life h*** for some.  But I also know I’ve helped many; loved many; been a good husband and father and now a grandfather; been faithful to the Word in my preaching; loyal to my friends; tried to take care of myself physically (I think all surgeries have been cycling related) 🙂 ; and followed Jesus. I also know I still have energy and still feel I have much to offer the church.

I’m also aware the clock is ticking. No one lives forever (unless you count heaven/hell). But Derek reminded me of three truths I need to remind myself:

  1. The amazing forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus.
  2. The glorious truth of God’s Fatherhood and His promises to His children.
  3. The wonderful hope of heaven.

Great reminders! For. all. ages!!! Sure, as one ages he becomes more aware of his mortality, but those are good for everyone of every age to remember. If we do, we won’t have to tell our younger self anything.

“Father, You have made me, me. You have granted me 67 years on this earth so far. How many are left only You know. And I’m content with that. But it is not time to roll over and give up. Challenge me to keep growing. Keep reminding me of those three truths.”

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.