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October 7

Monday, October 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Purity vs Promiscuity.

Not too long ago all the rage were purity rings. Dad would buy them for their daughters; have a ceremony; give them the rings; and get them to pledge purity until marriage. Even some celebrities who shall remain nameless and whose purity went the way of the dodo bird, took the vow and stated so publicly. It was a good idea-on the surface-but unless the heart of the individual was committed to it, the ceremony and the ring was just that-a ceremony and a ring.

There is no doubt we live in a sexually-charged age. Our culture is obsessed-yes I said obsessed- with sex. Even in light of the #MeToo scepter, the objectification of women has not stopped. If anything it has become even more insidious. Sin always finds the “level.” Like water which seeks its own level, so does sin, in this case, sexual sin. It was a problem in the biblical culture; it was a problem in the Corinthian church; and it remains a problem today.

Solomon knew the pull. In his own life, for sure. But he also knew the pull to his “son.” Let’s take it further- to any young man- and today we even have to include women. Proverbs 6 & 7 contain graphic descriptions of the wayward woman’s work but it also contains some vivid descriptions of the one who is caught. They are found in 7:22-23:

  • An ox goes to slaughter.
  • A stag caught fast until an arrow hits true.
  • A bird caught in a trap.

These follow the warning of looking out for the woman with seductive speech. Smooth, buttery talk worms its way into the heart of an individual until he/she gives into something they said was preposterous, something they said “I will never do.” The solution is found in Proverbs 6:20-23. Not easy but essential. Not easy but doable.

“Father, staying pure- in mind, heart and actions- is a challenge these days of ‘anything goes.’ Help me to be pure, to stay pure, to think pure, to live pure. And help me do that by tying your Word around my heart.”

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.”

September 13

Friday, September 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Outside vs Inside.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Good, wise words to remember. Why?

We live in a world enamored by the physical. We have people obsessed with physical exercise. We have body shamers; fat shamers; anorexia/bulimia caused by the above; body positive people; and the list goes on and on. People have been driven to take their own lives because of their own low esteem and the “hate” thrown their way. The vitamin and health supplement industry is a multi-million dollar industry.

Now let me make it clear: I’m not opposed to physical exercise and taking care of oneself to live in good health or to even look good. I have tried all my life to do just that. But there is something far more important: taking care of the inside, better known as the heart. I was speaking just yesterday with a young man who is changing direction in his life and wants to pursue pastoral ministry. From ROTC to being a math teacher to pursuing this while also being an EMT. I told him if God is calling, he must go. God’s tug on his heart is real.

Jesus knew what was important (of course) and told us. After talking about traditions and scathing the Pharisees in Matthew 15, He says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (15:18-20)

Outward show, keeping traditions, mean nothing. Jesus tells us what matters is the heart. What good is it to have a finely tuned body, or to observe all the outward signs of being religious when the heart is black?

“Father, may you find my heart true. May I be as diligent with my heart as I am with my outward appearance.”

August 30/Weekend

Friday, August 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Remembering vs Forgetting.

I’ve been reading the book of Ezra the past 3 days in my Quiet Time. While the beginning of it is rather dry with a list and number of exiles, there are several turning points:

  • Ezra 3:11- “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
  • The response of King Artexerxes to the letter about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and his negative response. The rebuilding stopped.
  • But King Darius changed that and made the decree that the rebuilding happen.
  • In chapter 7 Ezra is sent to teach the people the Word of God. Artexerxes changed his mind. (I don’t know the timeline but was he the same king ruling when Queen Esther approached him? And when was this?)
  • Today’s reading was a stab. After Ezra’s leading brought about reform and repentance, word came to him about the intermarriage of priests to the foreigners. The people confessed their sin and abandoned the intermarriage. Even a list is given of those who did!

Returning to Jerusalem was a great gift from God. Even Psalm 126 shows that. But with that return came some heart-wrenching decisions. Yes, there was joy. Yes, there was laughter, singing and recognition of God’s work. But there was also the need for remembering what was to be. Not a dead book at all…Ezra…but a book filled with joy and caution and warning.

“Father, help me not to forget that along with joy also comes a word from you about faithfulness. I need to remember who you are but also that you want faithfulness.”

August 27

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is Today vs Tomorrow.

My mind is all over the place this morning. No, I’m not ADHD and have trouble concentrating as a result. Two visits yesterday to the hospital-one for a man who had surgery then to return to follow-up; the other during that second time to visit a friend who has suffered a stroke. Three actually, each one worse than the other.  To add to that Jo and I are leaving today for Ohio so she can visit her sister before our trip and to follow-up with Medicaid and make funeral preparations to divest some of her sister’s money. I have this devotion to enter and a sermon to work on before we leave. A visit to the eye doctor yesterday told me I may finally have cataract surgery (which is not a bad thing). We also have the trip to Alaska to get ready for by Monday. Most of this is future, i.e. tomorrow.

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” A man laying in a hospital bed with a stroke that (at this point) has affected his right side and speech had been talking about going to a neighboring town to eat rib-eyes (even though I hardly ever eat red meat) the past few times we have talked. It was always tomorrow. “We’re going to have to go there Bill. You, Jo, and us.” Tomorrow. Someday soon. In this case, tomorrow may never come.

The trip might be put on hold depending on his health. Jo mentioned it. I hope not, but who knows about tomorrow?

Of course, God does. But I’m not privy to that information. James 4:13-15 put it this way: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year’…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ “

Tomorrow is not a sure thing. No guarantee. But I know I can trust my all-knowing God for the unknown future.

“Father, please take my scattered mind and settle it. Focus my heart on today and not worry about tomorrow. You know about tomorrow; I don’t. So I place it in Your unfailing hand.”

August 26

Monday, August 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Second Chance vs One and Done.

Secondhand stores. Goodwill. Habitat for Humanity. Salvation Army. Second chance bike shop. Gently used clothing. They all have something in common: second chances. Everyone of those businesses give something used another chance to be used again. We all know about Goodwill, SA, and Habitat. Take something used, refurbish it, and use it again. There is a lady in the church I pastor who for years had a store that sold gently used clothing.

We all need second chances. In late 2016 and early 2017 I was in a bad place. My love for my wife had grown old and stale. Emotionless. Somewhat cold. But a horrific bike wreck woke me up-woke both of us up-to the frigid state of our marriage. Maybe lackadaisical state would be a better description. I had allowed so many things to crowd out what was important. Jo and I gave ourselves and our marriage a second chance. We needed a “rebirth.” I’m forever grateful to God for His grace and unending love. I’m forever grateful that Jo saw something in me and our relationship to work with me to redeem it.  (Note: the “D” word never, ever was spoken. We were not that far gone).

I’m glad God is a God of second chances also. The Bible is littered with broken lives given a second chance by a patient Father. And He is still in that same business today. He doesn’t abandon us because of our sins and wavering. He stands ready with open arms to take us back in and give us that second chance. I read Micah 7:18 this morning: “Who is God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance. He does not retain His anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will against have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (18-19)

“Father, I could never thank you enough for being the God of second chances. You help restore relationships. You restore the relationship with You. Help me never to think that I or anyone else is beyond our reach and ability to restore and renew.”

 

August 16

Friday, August 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Power vs Humility.

There is an old adage: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I wanted to start this devotion off with a question: What is the problem with these kings and power? Then I realized I already knew the answer.

Over the past couple of days/weeks as I’ve been reading 2 Chronicles there has been a recurring theme. See if you can see what I see.

Asa: excelled in following God but then fear got to him and he allied himself with Ben-hadad, king of Syria. Asa died with a disease in his feet.

Jehoshaphat: received God’s blessing but later, after having it all, he aligned himself with Ahaziah, who acted wickedly.

Joash: flourished while Jehoiada was priest and guided him. But then after Jehoiada’s death, Joash listened to others. Bad move. They abandoned the house of the Lord. Prophecy against Joash predicted his demise.

Amaziah: did what was right “yet not with a whole heart.” He brought gods of the men of Seir and set them up to worship. After God blessed him.

Uzziah: did what was right. “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (26:12)

There are more to come I know. It is easy for me to take shots at these kings, thinking “not me.” Wrong! Power is a corrupter. Anyone is susceptible. Especially me. I’m a fallen creature like all the others.

The most powerful man I know was also the most humble man I know: Jesus Christ. He is the exception to the saying about power I quoted at the beginning. May I/you learn from the mistakes of others and from the greatest example of all by pursuing humility.

“Father, pride is a downfall for so many. It has even brought me to my knees before. Help me to pursue humility so that power is not even an issue for me.”

August 15

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Encouraging Words vs Discouraging Words.

“Home, home on the range/Where the deer and the antelope play/Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.”

WOW! Talk about a song we wish could be true! We could live all day, every day without one word of discouragement being said. I read that the night President Lincoln was shot they found some interesting items in his pockets: 2 spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocket knife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and 8 newspaper clippings, including several that praised him and his policies. Seemingly normal stuff, except for the Confederate bill and the newspaper clippings. Was the latter there because he needed to hear good things? Was he a bit discouraged from the long, drawn out war between two factions of his beloved nation? Did he need the encouragement? Did he read them to Mrs. Lincoln out loud as they dressed for the play? ‘Course we will never know.

But there is something to be said about encouraging words. Proverbs 15 has several references to this. “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (v.4). “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the heart of fools.” (v.7). “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (v.13). But maybe the best is this one: “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (v.23).

There is no doubt our words make a difference. How am I at spreading encouraging words? There are some whose day is made by a kind or encouraging word. The opposite is also true. Some people are hurt deeply, even destroyed, by unkind words.

“Father, help me to check my words before they leave my lips. May I speak words of encouragement, not words of discouragement to others. I never know if that may be me some day who needs those kind words.”

August 12

Monday, August 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Words of the Wise vs Words of a Fool.

There is no question that words have power. Listen to the babbling of a politician or pundit. Listen to a drill sergeant. Listen to a teacher/professor. Listen to a coach. Listen to a false teacher or preacher. Words have the power for good and for evil.

The words of Proverbs 12 ring out in their truthfulness and forthrightness. I’m going to put those verses here and let Scripture speak for itself.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (v.15)

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. (v.16)

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. (v.17)

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (v.18)

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. (v.19)

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (v.22)

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (v.25)

Those words of Scripture speak for themselves. No commentary is needed. The only question which remains is what can I/what can you do to make my/your words life-giving instead of life-sucking?

“Father, help me to measure my words. Help my words to be words of wisdom. Words that give life. Words of truth. Words that build up. Transform my words today.”

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August 2/Weekend

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Words of man vs Word of God.

It is not uncommon today, or any day for that matter, for people to put their trust in men. It has been happening since the beginning of time. I guess we see it more now since it affects us directly. We have seen the “rise” of superstar people because people have put a lot of stock in what they say. I’m speaking of the religious community specifically. We have “Christian celebrity” preachers who are millionaires or who make well into the 6 figures because gullible people hang on their every word as though it is true. They fall hook, line, and sinker for their lies. It seems ungodly and is appalling for these “Christian” speakers to live in the lap of luxury while many of their followers live from day-to-day looking for that elusive golden egg. The deception of false teaching is sad. The hero status placed on the heads of these people is nauseating. A man hawking miracle water. Grave sucking. Destiny cards. False healings. “Holy” laughter. Speakers making spectacles of themselves. It goes on and on.

All of their garbage teaching is based on “the Lord told me.” “The Lord told me to tell you to give to my work and you will be blessed many-fold.” What they don’t tell you is how lined their pockets are. We simply MUST weigh every word said by the Word of God. The Scripture twisting they employ MUST be checked. Some will say, “How can I do that?” Proverbs 2:6-8 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth came knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.”

Come to Him with a sincere desire to know and gain His wisdom. If we could set aside our desire for earthly gain we can see His clear Word. Paul told Timothy this would happen, that people would want their ears tickled. It has been, is now, and will be what happens. There will always be someone to come along as the “next best thing.” It will continue to run rampant UNLESS we stop seeking earthly ease and satisfaction and start seeking Him. God has not promised health and wealth to His people; He has promised His presence in and through all things.

“Father, Your wisdom is perfect. Your Word is perfect and it is life. May I seek your perfect wisdom in all things. Help me not to be enamored by things here, but keep my eyes on You.”