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April 7

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”

April 6

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Contentment is a good thing. Right?

Speak of contentment and eventually someone who knows their Bible will go to the verse in Timothy which says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (I Tim.6:6)

So contentment is a good thing. Right?

May I throw a wrench into your thinking? Contentment is a good thing depending on your focus and subject. Here is what I mean:

When it comes to your daily walk with Christ, I think contentment is not the goal. In fact, I think discontent is. I have a reason for saying that. Contentment gives the impression of “arrival,” a sort of settledness. It’s like the challenge has been met and now comes the “A-a-a-h” factor.

My contention is that contentment is not the goal when it comes to my walk with God. In fact, Paul said it well in Phil.3:10 when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” That word know in the Greek means “to know intimately.” That intimacy-whether in a physical relationship or a spiritual relationship-can only come from time.  Spiritually what I will call a “holy discontent.” It’s the refusal to be satisfied with the status quo but to always be pursuing a closer walk with Jesus.

Contentment in this scenario reeks of plateau. Discontent speaks of pursuit.

Which will you choose?

“Father, may I be discontented when it comes to being satisfied in You. May I always be pursuing a deeper walk with You.”

March 30

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Coming to Christ means to change. Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The root of that word is metamorphosis. Changed like a caterpillar to a butterfly.

I was reminded of this as I read my Bible this morning during my Encounter Time. In Romans 13:8 Paul tells us to owe no man anything except to love. In verse 10 he says, “Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”

Then he moves on to the imminence of Jesus’ return.  “Time was running out,” he says.  Man, I gotta think what would Paul have to say if he knew it would be over 2000 years and still counting?

But now to the Scripture which captured my attention this morning. After telling them/us to wake up (v.11) he says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shiny armor of right living.” What follows is a litany of “night” actions typical of dark deeds. They also belie our new state. But then comes the coup de grace. In verse 14 Paul writers, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Do you see it? “So remove your dark deeds” and “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is change. Take off and put on. And it always goes in that order. We don’t put clean clothes over sweaty, dirty ones. Neither should we expect to manifest kingdom living and a Christ-like spirit when the old man has never been removed.

Now, that’s not saying we have to be perfect. But it is saying we need to have a “removal service” and get clean clothes to wear. If not, no matter how clean the clothes, the stench of the old will overpower and become dominant.

“Father, take off the old; put on the new. May that be the action I take to live for you today.”

March 29

Monday, March 29th, 2021

“No man is an island.”

So we hear. But did you know there is more to that quote?

The full quote by John Donne is this:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

Honestly, I did not know of the rest of the quote. But WOW! It sure changes the meaning doesn’t it? Take the first part by itself and it sounds like no man is alone. No man needs to be alone. No man can survive alone.

And I’ll agree with that.

But the rest of the quote gives a whole new twist. Let me show you what I mean. It is common to hear someone say, “My sin is my sin and I’m not hurting anyone anyway. What I do in the privacy of my home does not affect you.”  Well, in a sense, that is true. But more often than not that phrase is used to justify sins like porn, or lust, or reading offensive literature or watching a movie that is tainted. We justify those things saying we watch it or read it in the privacy of our home so I’m not hurting anyone. Have you heard that?  Shoot, I’ve even used it.

I wonder if thoughts like that went to Achan’s mind when he stole some of the sacred things of Jericho and hid them under his tent? Maybe. But little did he know or realize the chain reaction of consequences his actions would bring about. The lost “innocence” of Joshua and the people of Israel. The lost battle. His death. The death of his whole family.

Would he have taken the sacred things if he had known? That’s not the point, of course.  He did and the consequences were a whole lot bigger than just a few trinkets.

That’s the trouble with sin. You cannot contain it. In time it will destroy you and those you love. Private sin? No such animal.

“Father, You see my sin. Help me to see it as You do. And help me to say no to hiding or thinking I can hide my sin.”

March 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

So…why do I get up every morning? The short answer is so I can do what I need to do to live. I mean, if I didn’t get up but stayed in bed all day, I’m not sure I’d have a job. I know for some, because of depression,  getting out of bed is a chore. That is a legitimate reason. But for me? Getting out of bed is a must.

Let’s narrow that question down a little more. Why do I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning? (Some say it’s because I’m insane, that I’ve got a screw loose somewhere). Maybe so. 🙂 But…seriously, why?

The real short answer is not related at all to my job or my self-perception of what a lazy person might be. I get up early to be alone with God. I’m a morning person so I choose to have my time in the morning before I start the meat of my day.  The time of day is not important. What is in important is that I do have this time. Psalm 91: 1-2 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God , and I trust him.” (NLT)

I want to be with Him. Back in 1999 I went through a rejuvenation of my faith.  Tami had moved back from Florida, moved in with us, and got a job teaching in town north of where we lived. On Sunday nights she began attending another church in town and then talked about their worship. It sounded like what my thirsty soul needed so I asked her if she minded that I tagged along. Of course she didn’t. It meant I would drive and usually buy us something to eat afterwards. 🙂 So we started going together. What a balm! During that time I heard a song which impacted me but I eventually lost track of it. Several months ago I looked for it. I searched everywhere. I even asked the pastor of the church, who was the Worship Pastor/leader at that time, if he knew the name of the song, or the singer, or where I might find it. He came up blank so I gave up figuring, “Oh well, Nice try. It is not to be.” Until this past weekend I got a wild hair while looking for some worship music on Spotify. I knew the name of the song and for some reason the name “Ian” came to mind. So I googled it by typing in the name of the song and “Ian.” Eureka! Lo, and behold, that was it.  The song: Encounter. The artist: Ian White. The link to that song is right here.

And that is why I get up so early. I want to have an Encounter with the Living God.  I want to be sheltered and find rest in His shadow. I want to live in the shadow of His wings. I want to Encounter Him.

So from now on this will no longer be called my Quiet Time. It will be called my Encounter Time. I hope you will join me each day and invite others. But more…I pray you will have your own Encounter Time with the Father.

March 17

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Focusing on the cross as I have over the past month or so has put me on “high alert.” Then after preaching this past week on the shadow of the cross, I sense a hyper-vigilance. Case in point: today’s Scripture reading from Romans 3.

The Familiar. “No one is righteous, not even one.” (3:10). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (v.23)

The Refresher. “Yet, God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of sin. For God presented Christ as the sacrifice for sin.” (24-25a)

The AHA moment. “This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declared sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (25b-26)

It is always good to read the familiar. The go-to verses. It is equally good to read refresher verses- those verses that shore up what you heard or taught but felt good to be reminded of. But those AHA moments! Those are what you live and read and study for. AND LOOK FOR. God took care of the past, the present and the future. He offered His righteousness BECAUSE HE IS FAIR AND JUST, to all who believe. Oh yeah!

Have you had any AHA moments lately? Care to share? How about the one I shared today?

“Father, I thank You that Your Word does not grow old. Your mercies are new every morning. I thank you for the familiar, the refresher and the AHA moment  this morning.”

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation.

March 5

Friday, March 5th, 2021

There are times the best thing to do is to let Scripture speak for you. I’m going to do that this morning. As I read Psalm 65 I was struck by its praise. How many time haves I read this before and not seen it? I can’t say. But here is my summary of Psalm 65.

It begins: “What a mighty praise, O God, belongs to You in Zion”:

  1. You answer our prayers
  2. You forgive our sins
  3. You bring joy in your courts
  4. You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds
  5. You formed the mountains
  6. You quieted the raging oceans
  7. You silenced the shouting of the nations
  8. You inspire shouts of joy
  9. You take care care of the earth and water it
  10. You provide a bountiful harvest
  11. You drench the plowed ground with rain
  12. You soften the earth with showers
  13. You bless with abundant crops and a bountiful harvest
  14. You make green pastures out of wilderness
  15. You clothe the meadows with sheep
  16. You carpet the valley with grain

Some of the language is ancient, but it still fills our hearts with praise to the One who does it all. Is your heart filled with praise today? If so, what for?

“Father, may my heart be filled with praise of and for You today. Help me to rejoice as the psalmist did in all you reveal as to why You are worthy of praise.”

Here is a song to fill your heart. It was the one which was on my playlist this morning on the way to the office. Coincidence? I think not.

February 23

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

One of the more well known worship songs probably of the past decade or two has been “God of Wonders.” God of Wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy/The Universe declares Your majesty, You are holy, holy.” Although it is not one of my favorites, I can appreciate the sentiment it is trying to project.

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows His handiwork. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.” Psalm 19: 1-2

“I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18: 1-2

“O Lord,our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.” Psalm 8:1

Verse after verse of God’s magnificence fills the pages of Psalms. I found it interesting then as I was reading Psalm 44 this morning the dichotomy and questioning which appears. What do you think?

“I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the One who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.” (44: 6-8)

That’s all well and good. It sounds great! That’s the God we know and love. But verse 9 throws a wrench in the whole works: “But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor…” The rest of the chapter (verses 9-16) is filled with lament and feelings of abandonment.

High to low. Point: whether He is the God who is One of wonders and amazes us, or if He is the God who appears far away, He is still the same God. He is no less God when times are tough as He is when He is amazing us with His goodness.

“Father, You are God on both sides of the coin. You never change. Help to praise you no matter the circumstances.”

All Scripture is New Living Translation.

February 18

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’m thinking this morning of what I will call “attention grabbers.” We can call them by another name: “horn tooters.” You know the kind. They do all they can-“humbly” of course- to gain attention.

There are several thoughts that my mind wants to pursue today as I think about this. I’ll just give you my “seed thoughts” and then maybe you can pursue them on our own.

  1. The very first verse which comes to mind is Galatians 6:14- “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) I really have nothing of which to boast. As I make much of God, I make less of me. That sounds like shades of John 3:30.
  2. “Pride goes before a fall.” (Pr.16:18) Be careful of getting too big for your britches. Britches that sag are tripping hazards. (I still wonder how some of those dudes can walk with their britches sagging to the crotches).
  3. Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the humble not the proud. I read this morning about His encounter with the man born blind. Check out John 9:39 for a reference. Those who think they see are blind, while those who realize their blindness will see clearly.
  4. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Mt.6:3)  There is no value in tooting your own horn. A gift given is best kept secret.

It is good to lend a hand to another, to further the kingdom by our actions, but it is best done with no accolades. God sees and that is all that is needed. No bright light needs to be shined down. The only light which needs shined is the one on Jesus.

“Father, let Your light shine down on You not me. May I never boast, may I never take credit, except in the cross.”

February 5

Friday, February 5th, 2021

When I was in college I had a professor who had a required reading list-men who were respected authors. I suspect men like C.S.Lewis and others of his ilk were on that list. It has been far too long for me to remember others. One I know for sure was Francis Schaeffer. He wrote some books that even today I probably could not understand. Anyway, we were to read and write a report. I was way out of my league when it came to understanding what I read and then writing a report on that book. But I thought I had found a solution. Francis Schaeffer had written a small book called The Mark of the Christian. Perfect! Problem solved. Small. Short in length (probably about 20-30 pages). And, get this! Easy to understand!! 🙂 I was set…until…the prof said it was okay to read and write the report but since it was so short I would also have to include another book. Bummer!

All that say this: the reason I remember that short book and have trouble remembering his other titles (except for How Now Shall We Live?) is the subject matter. The mark of the Christian is L-O-V-E.  When you think about it, it is a trademark. Jesus said, “By this will all men know you are My disciples if you love one another.” The entire chapter of I Cor. 13 is dedicated to the life-changing power of love. (Cue in Huey Lewis song right here). John writes that we “love Him because He first loved us.” Jesus told His disciples to “love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13 NLT)

The way I see it if someone pricked me with a pin, love would flow out.  If someone beat me with a club, love would spill out. And if someone filet me, love would gush out. (Those are merely examples. I wouldn’t really want someone to prick me, beat me or filet me). Love would burst out. There would be no way to contain it and no way I could hide the love that lives within and fills me.

Question: Is that the kind of love in me? In you?

“Father, I am to love You first and foremost and my neighbor as myself. Am I a home for love? If I was opened up, would love spill out?”