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July 7

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Have you ever noticed there are “difference makers” in our lives? That one event that forever “made” you. Or scarred you. That one person whose influence you will never forget. That one pastor or teacher or boss or acquaintance who stands out. Good or bad.

There is one thing (I’m not sure what other word to use) that makes the difference in life. It is the line of demarcation. It is the Mason-Dixon Line of the Christian faith. It’s the game-changer. They even wrote a song about it years (and years) ago: The Cross Made the Difference in Me.

I don’t know why but that phrase/song came to my mind as I was reading the Scripture this morning found in Luke 23:50-52 and John 19:38-42. Two men are mentioned there whose lives would now be forever marked by the cross: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Yeah…that Nicodemus. The one who came to Jesus by night to talk. John 3 gives that whole conversation. And Joseph, a Pharisee, a quiet follower of Jesus. Well, not anymore. The cross brought them both out of hiding. Into plain sight. All would know NOW where their true allegiance lay.

The cross became their game-changer. It is ours as well. Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.” (Gal.6:14) He also wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor.1:18). He says later in that same chapter that the cross was a stumblingblock. (v.23)

The cross was Paul’s line. It was Joseph’s. It was Nic’s. It is to be mine. It is to be yours.

“Father, may the cross be the defining moment for me. May it always stand as a line in the sand for me. You are my choice. The cross truly made a difference in me.”

July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

July 2

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

There are several sayings and ideas that flash through my head from time to time. You see, there have been times I’ve thought about going back to school.  Not anymore though because at 67 I’m not sure there would be much of a return. 🙂 Unless, of course, it would be for counseling.  But then again… (I could write a whole lot about that).

Anyway,  about those sayings.  Here are a few of them:

  • “Much learning doth make thee mad.”  (No one ever accused me of that)
  • “He’s so smart, but has no common sense.”  (Ditto, especially on that first part)
  • “His head is so far up in the clouds he doesn’t know how to relate to people.”  (I know I’m tall but having that said about me would kill me).

Stuff like that. Then there’s the pompous idiots who think because he/she has a degree they are much better than everyone else.

I don’t want either. There has got to be a balance between knowledge and the ability to minister (and to be seen as a normal person). I don’t want to spend so much time learning that I forget the practical. It used to be said that Bible college was not the place to go if you want to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The idea was you spend so much time studying about Jesus and very little time getting to know Jesus.

That’s a danger for anyone…period. Proverbs 4: 20-23 are verses well worth keeping in mind.  “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Emphasis on the last verse. The NLT puts it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  I like that. Where my heart is = the direction of my life. My course in life is not more education. My course in life is to be more intimate with the Father and to pursue that intimacy. “Go there heart. Go there.”

“Father, may that be my deep desire. Not to worry about more education for the sake of education or to have letters after my name (who really cares anyway?).  I like being called “Bill” or “Pastor Bill.”  May my greatest desire be to know You.”

July 1

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Have you ever boasted? To my way of thinking, boasting and pride are like two children from the same mother. Pride is a false perception of oneself; boasting is putting that pride to words. Pride is sinful. Boasting is dangerous.

This hit me today as I read the Scriptures this morning. Jesus had just spoken to His disciples in the Upper Room and had prayed what I consider “The Lord’s Prayer.” No, not the one in Matthew 6 (The Model Prayer), but the one found in John 17, also known as the High Priestly Prayer. But in Mark 14:26-31 we have an account of Jesus and His disciples heading out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden. On the way Jesus tells them they would all fall away (Gk word stumble). Peter boldly and brashly confronts Jesus and says that if everyone else falls away he will not. To which Jesus reassures him that “Oh yes you will.” Peter replies, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (14:31).  ‘Course we know how that ends.

Boasting is dangerous. I think some of the most dangerous words a Christ-follower can utter are “I will or would never do that” or some variation of that. Using those words is like a set up, a challenge to the enemy to make it happen. When I used those words I can now picture him licking his chops and rubbing his hands together with a silly grin on his face. Be careful making boasts in the heat of passion that you may not be able to back up. All the best intentions in the world do not stop susceptibility. Nor does it take the target off your back.  It probably makes it larger and harder to miss.

“Father, help me to be strong without boasting. Help me to endure in Your strength not in my bravado.”

June 30

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

One of the members of “the Trinity” is misunderstood. Well…He does get a bad rap sometimes and, at times, is often forgotten. It is pretty obvious I’m not speaking about God the Father or God the Son. God the Holy Spirit is the One often looked at with shady eyes and raised brows. I think some of that is because of ignorance and some is because we treat Him with such mystery. We think He’s a ghost-like Casper- friendly, but oh so eerie.

I was ignorant of the Holy Spirit for many years. I knew He existed but was “afraid” of Him. I focused on Jesus and my first experience with raised hands brought a cold sweat to my body. I learned then and have continued learning about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:8-11, part of the Scripture I read this morning, offers some help but, if you are like me, there may have been some confusion as to what those verses meant. As a result the Holy Spirit’s purpose stayed cloudy. I do know this: the Holy Spirit’s purpose was never to draw attention to Himself. His purpose was and is to always glorify Jesus. ALWAYS.  That’s why to draw attention to the Spirit in song or to the manifestations of the Spirit is wrong. John 16 tells us He was to do three things: convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

  • Convict of sin- the specific sin of not believing in Jesus as Messiah-the only sin not forgivable, that damns people to hell.
  • Convict of righteousness- this might be better understood as self-righteousness (hypocrisy). He exposes the blackness of our own heart.
  • Convict of judgement- the context is that of the world under Satan’s control. The world cannot judge itself because it is blind, sinful and evil. (Current events show that).

The Holy Spirit is not really a ghost- an apparition. He has a specific purpose.  And He accomplishes it all by always drawing attention to Christ and the cross.

“Father, help me to understand more. Help me to see the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life and allow Him to do His work in me.”

Note: I’m indebted to Pastor John MacArthur for his “help” this morning.

June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 11

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

I read two parables this morning-one easy to understand; one not so. Here they are:

Not so easy: It is found in Matthew 21 with related Scripture in Mark 11 and Luke 19.  It is the story of a father and two sons. He asks each of them to go into the vineyard to work. One says, “Not me” then goes. The other says, “I will go” but then doesn’t. So Jesus asks the religious leaders which one did the father’s will. They say the first- the one who said No, but then went. Given the other related Scripture, they actually condemned themselves. But what is the point of this confusing parable?  I think it is saying doing is more important than saying.  Mt. 7:21-27 shows that. But so does James 1:22- “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This point hardly needs talked or written about. Our life needs to back up our words.

The other, easy-to-understand parable is found in Matthew 21,  Mark 12, and Luke 20. It is the story of a landowner who had a vineyard.  He then decides to go away and leaves his winepress to be tended by servants. When it came time for vintage-time, he sent several servants who were either brutally mistreated or even killed. He finally sent his only son, whom they promptly killed.

  • Landowner- God
  • Caretakers- religious leaders
  • Servants treated poorly- prophets
  • Son- Jesus

His final point is the sharpest: “The stone which the builder rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  (Mt.21:42). The meaning is clear-to them and to us. “They perceived that he was speaking about them.” (21:45)  You think? Oh, how perceptive! How’s that 2×4 feel?

Both parables apply to us as well. Will we do what we say? Will we accept or reject Jesus?

“Father, thank you for your teaching.  May I back up what I say with what I do and may I be one who accepts and obeys rather than reject and disobey.”

June 10

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

We talk a lot about lifting Jesus up. A song says, “We want to see Jesus lifted high/ A banner that flies across the sky.”  We might say or pray or sing for Jesus to be honored and glorified and lifted up, but do you know how hard that is? (‘Course you do). Have you given any thought to how hollow that sometimes sounds because of ineptness at doing that? Before I say why I think that is the case, let’s review.

In Number 21 the people became impatient with God. They were tired of and began to complain about the lack of water, food, and eating manna. So He sent fiery serpents among them that bit the people and many died as a result of it. They cried out about the sin so God had Moses fashion a serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. All those who looked upon it would live. (21:4-9)

Fast forward a couple thousand years (give or take) to John 3:14 where Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Verse 15 tells why: “That whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Later in John (chapter 12) Jesus is told some Greeks were seeking Him. In verse 32 He says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Three places where a distinct reference is made to Jesus being lifted up. The obvious understanding is that He will be lifted up on the cross.  In salvation, He is to be lifted up. In the daily expression of my faith, He is to be lifted up. Now to the original question; why is that so hard? The answer is easy really. I tend to be in this for myself way too much. To lift Jesus up means to point people to the cross and to lower myself in my eyes and in the eyes of others. No more “I’m in this for me.” No more “What can I get out of this?” I am to lift Jesus up because only by seeing Him will life and hope and salvation be found.

“Father, may I lay aside myself and lift Jesus up-in all things, at all times. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, may the cross of Christ be looked upon and give life.”

May 18

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Do you have a daily routine? What is it? Pre-covid, that is, since many routines have changed. Many conduct work from  home so they stay in their pj’s or sweats all day, except above the waist. 🙂  No question things have changed. I’ve been fortunate though. My routine hasn’t changed. Up at 3:30; Quiet Time; office about 5; study; office work; ride or lunch; drive-bys; office to close out; home for the evening (unless I have a meeting). I realize not everyone’s day is like mine. But in some way we are all alike.

Pre-Covid we rolled out of bed, grabbed a quick bite, then rushed out the door to beat the traffic on our way to work. Rinse. Repeat. But what would happen if we changed all that around? Well, my philosophy is the dark/night is for sleeping (unless you work the night shift). So instead of rushing around your day would start with a slow move toward bed! You would lay your head down and rest. All night long. Your day would have been in “progress” for 8 hours or so before you were even aware of it. Welcome to the Jewish world in the Bible!! That’s right. A Jewish day actually began in the evening (6:00). So they rested and slept and then got up to the realization that God was already at work. In fact, He’s been at it all night long since He never sleeps or slumbers. Psalm 121:3-4 says that.

How different when our day begins with resting in the One who never rests, sleeps, or slumbers! What a difference from our get-up-and-go life! Take a moment right now and do what I just did as I wrote this devotion. Stop and read all of Psalm 121 in total. Don’t worry it is only 8 verses. 🙂 Meditate on it. Dissect it. What a rich psalm! This is mine and your psalm and word for today.

“Father, help me to rest in You. Help me to hold fast to One who is sure. Help me to begin my day at rest, knowing You were awake all night.”

May 13

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing what I call “Drive-bys.” In an effort to be a pastor to the people God has entrusted to my care, and since I can’t go directly to them, nor see them on Sunday morning, I initiated this plan. I drive into a person’s driveway, pray for them,  then text them that they have been the victim of a drive-by. Sometimes they come outside to say hi and sometimes not. If they aren’t home I leave a card. Monday, May 11, I did a drive-by of some of our newer people. The oldest daughter, who just celebrated her 14th birthday on the 3rd, has had Lyme’s for 10 years and so they needed to be extra careful because her body fighting off two wretched diseases was asking too much. Anyway, they all came out to the porch and I sat and visited (appropriately distanced of course). The mom asked me 3 questions while I was there:

  1. “I’ve never heard you speak about eschatology. What is your view?” A: I’m pan-millenial…it’ll all pan out in the end, i.e. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. When Jesus comes; how He comes; no matter the timeline-you better be ready.
  2. “Do you believe in eternal security? It appears you do.” A: Yes. Conversation ensued.
  3. “What is the unpardonable sin?” (Mt.12:31)

Good question. What precluded that was a word or two about suicide, divorce, unfaithfulness, turning one’s back on Jesus, and several other issues prompted by Question #2.

My answer: Rejection of Christ. Judgmental people want to condemn all kinds of people to hell because they do this or do that. But there really is only one sin that is unforgivable. Rejection of Christ. Deny Him here and there is no second chance. Destination sealed. In my Quiet Time this morning I ran across this verse: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” (John 8: 2 4). Bingo!  There it is in black and white (or red if you have that). Straight from Jesus’ mouth.

“Father, thank you for showing this truth this morning. I’m not concerned about my salvation, but I am aware others have or continue to reject you. May their hearts be softened to accept You.”