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January 27

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

It occurred to me recently in a renewed way that an intimate relationship with God is a 2-way street. All I simply mean is that God desires an intimate relationship with us; we should desire an intimate relationship with Him.  In Philippians 3 Paul was giving a litany of his achievements: circumcised the 8th; a pure-blooded citizen of Israel; a member of the tribe of Benjamin; still spoke the Hebrew language; a member of the Pharisees, the most legalistic of the two groups of religious leaders; zealously protecting the faith by persecuting, imprisoning and killing Christians; and blameless according the Law. But what is important is that he counts it all as nothing (his word is dung)- worthless- because of what Christ has done. He eventually says words that stuck with me since I first read them with a listening heart: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.” (Verse 10 from NLT).

I.   W.A.N.T.   T.O.   K.N.O.W.   C.H.R.I.S.T.

And contrary to the surface relationship many have settled for with Jesus, Paul’s words fly in the face of that. The word know in the Greek is actually the word which means to know deeply, intimately. Paul’s sole desire was to know and experience Jesus deep in his core. Far deeper than the Barney-type of love: “I love you, you love me.”

Here is what struck me as I said at the beginning: God also desires an intimate relationship with us. Let’s say we have a husband and wife and they are both clicking on the same page. Their love is deep and true. Intimate. Transparent. It is obvious they love each other. We also have a couple who are married in name only. They live in the same house but live two separate lives. Something is missing. Or how about the marriage where one is really hungering for an intimate (I’m not talking just physical) relationship but the other is passive? Which one would you want? I know the one I want!!

God desires an intimate relationship with me; I should desire an intimate relationship with Him. How about you? What do you want?

“Father, I want to know You, to desire You, to hunger for You. I know You desire that with me. Let’s make it a reality.”

 

January 19

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

I read a really good story the other day. Let me share it. In the Wizard of Oz, a movie I have to admit I am not fond of, Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow arrive back in Oz with the broom from the Wicked Witch of the Wast that the Wizard desires. But he stalls sending her back to Kansas, giving the Tim Man his heart, the Scarecrow his brain, and the Lion his courage. He tells them to come back the next day.

While they plead with the Wizard, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls the curtain and we find a tiny, weasily, little man from Nebraska. The story goes that the author, L. Frank Baum, had serious problems with God, so he wanted to send the message that only we have the power to solve our own problems.

I’m not sure what brought him to that place in life; I can’t even begin to speculate. But I do know he is not alone in his feelings. That’s too bad. This past Sunday I preached from Psalm 139 for the latter part of my sermon.  I am struck by the beauty and power and passion found in that passage. Tearing it down it shows us 3 characteristics of God, what I will call the 3 O’s.

  • God’s Omniscience- Verses 1-6
  • God’s Omnipresence- Verses 7-12
  • God’s Omnipotence- Verses 13-18

In my mind there is not a more concise and complete picture of God in all of Scripture. We can talk about His majesty, His glory, His love, His grace, etc, but right here in one chapter is God complete- Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. Okay…your challenge is to unpack that by reading the verses and let them soak into your soul. Talk about mind-boggling!! Go ahead. Try it. And let me know maybe next year when you do. 🙂

“Father, I am humbled to see how totally awesome (and yes, I used that word because it describes You) You really are.  So much higher and deeper than I can ever go. Let me just bask in the glow of You and who You are.”

January 14

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

One of the tragedies that many Christ-followers fall into is failing to see people, events, or circumstances through the eyes of Jesus. I can’t “swear” by this but I think that may be at the root of a lot of peoples’ anger at God. Instead of seeing whatever it is through His eyes, we see it through our lens. I know I have done that. Sometimes I have railed at God-anger spilling out of my lips; my body tense for battle; my fists clenched…before I ever know His motives or desire for me.

So, what to do? I read a great picture of that. Imagine standing face-to-face with Jesus, enjoying a conversation about life and all its challenges. He looks into your eyes, and you sense His perfect knowledge of your innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. You look into His eyes and see His deep love and acceptance of You. Then, in this moment of intimacy, you see Him step closer toward you, so close it looks like He’s going to knock you down. But instead of a collision, He steps right into you. He turns around so He’s looking out of your eyes, He stretches His hands down into your hands, and you begin to feel His heartbeat…He has clothed Himself with you. (taken from Experiencing God’s Presence-Jan 13)

As I read that my mind went to several Scriptures. “If a man is in Christ, He is a new creation.” (2 Cor.5:17). “I have been crucified with Christ…nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal.2:20) “And all who have been united with Christ…like putting on new clothes.”  Some translations say, “put on Christ.” (Gal.3:27)

“Father, may I live my life as seen through Your eyes. Please give me ‘Spirit eyes’ to see as You do.”

December 24

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Caution: soapbox available and now in use. 🙂

There has been a saying which has gained an audience. When I say an audience, I mean an AUDIENCE. Bigger than a cathedral. Bigger than a stadium.  It has garnered the attention of the retail  establishment. You see it on mugs, posters, signs, church signs, billboards…you name it. I know what it is trying to say; I know what it is trying to do. The saying?

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Sounds catchy. Sounds so…right. But I don’t think it is. Sometimes I have felt like a lone wolf (probably because I don’t get out much) in speaking against it. And I know whoever made it up never intended a whole cottage industry to build up around it (then again maybe it was just a marketing tool). The one who made it up was trying to get us to focus-away from Santa Claus and to the real meaning for Christmas.

But they got it wrong. And this is what I’ve been trying to say for years. Jesus never was the reason for the season. We were. Want proof? Take a moment and read Phil.2:6-8 and then Isaiah 53: 4-6. That oughta do it. Jesus was never the reason for the season.  You were. I was. As the old song by David Meece says, “We were the reason He gave His life/We were the reason He suffered and died.” But…wait…that’s the rest of the story!! (And in case you are wondering it is called Easter).

Jesus is not the reason for the season; He is the one who is and who gives meaning to the season.

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus being willing to come for me. I was the reason He came and He gave the ultimate gift…His life.”

December 11

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Random thoughts gleaned from my various reading this morning:

In the story of David and Goliath, two thoughts bear to have an audience:

  1. Prevailing over giants isn’t accomplished by using their technique. David’s greatest piece of armor was his inner shield of faith.
  2. Conquering giants isn’t accomplished without great skill and discipline. My weapon is the sword of the Spirit not a club or physical sword. 

(From Good Morning, Lord…Can we Talk? by Chuck Swindoll)

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day…You therefore must endure hardships as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him to enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Timothy 1:12; 2:3-4  (NKJV)

How important both of those Scriptures are. Put them together with the thoughts from C.S. and they leave us with some powerful lessons. One big one is the need for reliance upon and surrender to the Holy Spirit to fight our battles. My strength does not come from outward sources; it comes from God’s power from within in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

“Father, in this battle of life, help me to rely on You not on me or my own strength and wisdom.”

 

December 9

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

I read something this morning that struck me. It struck me because is sounded strangely familiar. Here, let me give you the verses and see if you think the same thing:

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about you.” {Emphasis mine} (Titus 2: 7-8)

Do you see what I emphasized?

It sounds strangely familiar to this:

“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered those who revile your good behavior may be put to shame.”  {Emphasis mine} (I Peter 3:15-16)

It seems to be that the quickest way to shut someone up is to live a life of integrity, dignity, honesty, kindness and gentleness in front of others. Then when someone decides it is time to slander, bad-mouth, or spread lies, others will know the truth and not believe obvious lies. As Paul says elsewhere: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

“Father, the quickest way to shut up my naysayers it to live an exemplary life of integrity and purity in front of others. Let that be me.”

November 19

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

“I can’t do it.”  You might hear that quite often from younger children. Sometimes it is legitimate; sometimes not so. Sometimes it is a cop out; sometimes it is an honest statement and cry for help. I’m not sure where I read it, but it has been suggested that instead of “I can’t” the person really means “I won’t.” In fact, as an experiment it is recommended to replace “I can’t” with “I won’t.”

There are legitimate times “I can’t” is valid. All things mechanical in a car has me yelling “Uncle!” pretty quickly.  (See my clever use of another word there instead of “I can’t?”) But, admittedly, I do say, “I can’t” a little too quickly.

Two passages of Scripture come to mind when I think of this: one is a story. It is found in Judges 6:11-18. An angel comes to Gideon and calls him a “mighty man of valor.” That is laughable because at that moment he’s threshing grain indoors out of fear of the Midianites, the very people God is calling him to defeat. When Gideon says, “I can’t,” God says, “I can.” With an army of 300 Gideon defeats the Midianites-a feat which was definitely against all odds.

The other passage is found in Ephesians 3: 20-21- “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think…” God just takes the “I can’t” and throws it right out the window with this statement by Paul. Again, when I say, “I can’t,” God says, “I can and so will you.” Listen to those words again: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly…”

“Father, help me to remember that with You all things are possible. Help me not to write off Your work and power too quickly. Help me to remember You can.”

November 18

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

Words are interesting. Obviously, we can’t really speak without them. Even the deaf person uses words, albeit sign language, to communicate. Some people use homespun words like y’all. The first church I served was in the heart of KY on the top of a hill called Mt. Carmel. They gave me some money so I could buy some food to keep in the kitchen for when I was there on the weekends. When I thanked them publicly I used the word “youns” (a PA word similar to y’all) and they looked at me like I was from outer space. I seriously wondered if they even knew what I was saying. 🙂 Some use high falootin’ words like in the King James. And some use words I would never use.

But there are two words used in Ephesians 2:4 that change everything. Two 3-letter words. Who knew two short words could have such a powerful impact and tell such a powerful story! The words?  “BUT GOD.” After talking about how dead we were in sin and had no way out, Paul uses “But God” to introduce a whole new idea. But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…”  Then he embarks on his grace project, i.e. being saved by grace. Lost. Found. Mired in death. Made alive in Christ. Isn’t it amazing how two 3-letter words can have such an impact, can make such a difference?

And he didn’t have to use King James English to do it. No $10 words. No “y’alls” or “wheretofores” or “whatsoevers.” No legalize.

“BUT GOD” That says it all.  “Father, thank you for those two simple words that pack a wallop. What a story they contain!”

November 4

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

I originally posted this yesterday, November 3rd, the day of our election on my other blog. I include it here a day later still not knowing the outcome of the election.

At the risk of being taken as political, I’m going to make a statement that I firmly believe: God does not care about a person’s race; a person’s skin color; a person’s nationality; a person’s social status; a person’s religious upbringing; a person’s education; a person’s job; a person’s political persuasion; a person’s state of residence; a person’s 401K, or any other distinction man may make. In our world today it seems like unless you state publicly, “BLM,” you are a racist or some other ugly moniker. I personally believe ALM- All Lives Matter- and refuse to say any one race is more important than another.

I believe God would say the same thing. How do I know that? The Bible says so. Here, check out Romans 10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save.” (v.9). Then notice the words in verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who…'” See that word? E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Oh, but I love verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on ALL who call on Him. For E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s that word again!! Twice everyone is used; once all is used. That shows God is not black or white; rich or poor; slave or free; American or Hispanic (take your pick); or interested in class, color, or creed. God is for EVERYONE, especially when it comes to salvation. Jesus died for all.

“Father, thank you that I’m included, along with all others who come to you and claim the Name of Jesus for salvation.”

October 30

Friday, October 30th, 2020

On Tuesday nights I have been teaching a Route 66 class. I taught if for six straight years on Wednesday nights and needed to take a break. Someone asked me if I would teach it again so I am.  It is a 2 year trip through the 66 books of the Bible. As I read Romans 7 this morning my mind went back to the first 5 books of the OT, specifically Leviticus through Deuteronomy.

Boring books on the surface. Measurements of the Tabernacle? Yeah, not so exciting. But I have gained a new appreciation of these ancient books. I have learned, first, you simply cannot divorce the OT from the NT.  The shadow cannot be separated from the reality. There is so much in the NT that brings the OT to life.

But what really stands out to me is how much more alive and meaningful those old books are when seen as God’s desire for holiness from His people. He gave the Law so His people would know how to act (among other reasons).

This came home to me as I read Romans 7:7 this morning: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ”  So the law pointed out sin and gave a name to it. How else would I have known it was wrong to covet if not?

God desires His people to be holy. His people in the OT. His people in the NT. His people today. Me. You. While the Law is not binding on us for salvation, it is a good reminder that we have been set apart by God for His purpose.

“Father, You are holy. The Scripture says, ‘Be holy as I am holy.’ You are there. You want me to be holy as You are. Lead me and teach me how to be holy.”