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June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

May 25

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

If someone were to pin me down and ask me what is my favorite passage of Scripture, I would be hard-pressed to find just one.

Probably my favorite single verse is Psalm 37:5- “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will bring it to pass.” My way is to be His way. The NLT says, “Trust Him, and he will help you.” That sort of clarifies that last phrase for me.

But probably, in my mind, the greatest long form Scripture is Romans 8.  There is so much there it is like a mine that needs to keep being mined. There is more treasure to be found! I especially like verses 28-29 with the promise of being conformed to the image of Jesus. But verses 31-39 are the highlight. {Take a moment and read them right now}. To know God is for me. To know God stands with me. But what can be greater, more refreshing, more satisfying than to know that nothing can separate me from God’s love? I know of N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

To know that I am going to face all kinds of loss, trouble, and disappointment is one thing, but to know that it will never separate me from the Father’s love is overwhelming.

There is something special in knowing I will not be severed from Him. No one will snatch me out of His hand. Nothing in this world or another world can sever our bond.

“Father, thank you for the truth of Romans 8. How reassuring it is to me to know that I’m Yours forever.”

May 20

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

“I’ve reached my limit.” I’ve heard those words used. I’ve used them myself. They are used to express the feeling of fullness. A full belly, for example. A person (never me 🙂 ) eats so much that they are simply saying, “I’m done.”

I can remember as a young ‘un that once a year my dad’s mother and her husband would make the trip from Westminster, MD to West Mifflin, PA to visit us. Sunday was smorgasbord day. Johnny Garneau’s Golden Spike Buffet in Monroeville, PA to be exact. “Grandpa Walter,” as I would call him, loved to eat, especially at buffets. He was a well-driller and worked hard so he had to eat to sustain himself. 🙂 I would eat so much I walked (or is that waddled) out of the restaurant bent over my stomach was stretched so tightly. I wondered if I would ever be able to straighten. In true Grandi form, in just a little while I was ready to eat more.

Unlimited food. Unlimited trips to the buffet line. Unlimited misery.

I thought of how I gorged myself when I read Ephesians 3: 16-20 this morning. I am particularly stopped by the words in verse 18: “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” (NLT)  I could simply say there is no way of knowing-there are no limits- to its width, length, height, and depth. Like a buffet, God’s love is unlimited.

What an especially great truth that is for today. To live with the knowledge of the unlimited love of God is beyond words.

“Father, help me today to stop and think about how unlimited your love is.  Overwhelm me today.”

May 18

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

In my journey though the NT, I cracked open Ephesians this morning. I know Ephesians is filled with good stuff since I have read through it countless times. But the prayer Paul prays in chapter 1 has always “hit” me- even more this morning. I think it might be because the elders of the church here made a commitment to pray for the people of OVCF.  So each morning (except for weekends) I pray for a certain group of people for a month. We are on our second way through the directory as I write.

Anyway, Paul prays for the Ephesians (verses 15-23). Broken down here is what he prays for:

  1. He thanks God continually for them.
  2. He prays for them to be given spiritual wisdom and insight so they might grow.
  3. He prays for their hearts to be flooded with light (enlightened) so they can understand the hope they have been given.
  4. He prays they will understand the greatness of God’s power. Jesus was raised from the dead and is seated at God’s right hand.
  5. (My summation): He prays they will understand God’s authority in all creation, especially His church.

Paul’s concern is more than “God bless them today” or “God be with them.” To run the race and finish well we have to go deeper.  And Paul challenges me to pray that way for others.

Why not join me in praying “deeper” for people.

“Father, may I see Paul’s guidance in prayer. May I pray more ‘meaty’ prayers for the people I pray for. May their faith-and mine- grow as they are prayed for.”

May 12

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Installment #3 in these posts from Psalm 19 & 20 is found in 20: 7-8- “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm.” (NLT). The ESV uses the word “trust” instead of “boast.”

It’s really not hard to see what David was getting at. Another verse comes into play here from Psalm 33:17- “The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.”

Throughout Biblical history and now into 2021, man has always thought he knew better. We’ve taken credit where credit is not due…except to God. We’ve tried to fight the battles on our own. We’ve trusted in earthly means to make things right.

In Galatians 4 Paul is talking about being enslaved and being free. He shows the difference between Isaac and Ishmael. He says something I saw for the first time this morning and it amplifies Psalm 20:7. Paul writes, “The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freedom wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. (4:28) (NLT) (Emphasis mine)

He is contrasting do-it-yourself vs do-it-God’s-way. Same as Psalm 20:7, i.e. trust in horses and chariots or trust in God.

The lesson is obvious: whom will you (and I) trust? In whom or in what will you place your trust?

“Father, there should be only one answer to those questions: I will trust in You. As the mess between Isaac and Ishmael was then and still is today, help me to see the disaster that occurs when I take matters into my own hands and place my trust where it shouldn’t be.”

May 11

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

As I stated in my last post, I’m going to spend a couple of days in Psalm 19 & 20. This is installment #2 and it is based on 19: 7-11.

I’ve just read a chapter or two from a book by Michael J. Kruger entitled Surviving Religion 101 about the Bible and how it can be trusted and why it is so important.  I’m wondering if there can be any more clearer of a section of Scripture as this about God’s Word. (Please take a moment to read 19: 7-11. Thanks).

  • Instruction of the Lord is perfect
  • Decrees of the Lord are trustworthy
  • Commandments of the Lord are right
  • Commands of the Lord are clear
  • Reverence for the Lord is pure
  • Laws of the Lord are true

Along with those statements comes the end result of each:

  • Revive the soul
  • Make wise the simple
  • Bring joy to the heart
  • Give insight for living
  • Last forever
  • Each one is fair

To crave God’s Word-what Peter calls the “pure milk of the Word”-is to be pursued, to be realized and experienced.

“Father, may the craving for Your Word never stop. Help me ‘to taste and see that the Lord is good.’ And may it be a lifelong pursuit to eat at Your buffet.”

All Scripture referenced is from the New Living Translation.

May 10

Monday, May 10th, 2021

I’m on my second time through the Psalms in 2021 during my morning Encounter Time. I read Psalm 19 and 20 this morning. Several passages stood out to me. I’ll take a couple of days and unpack them during this time. I hope you will join me and feel free to add to the discussion.

Our weather in Indiana lately has been atrocious. Okay, so maybe that is a little above board but not if you like the warmth. We went from the sunny 70s just a few weeks ago (and I was cycling in my short sleeve jersey) to rain and wind, and this morning to frost on the car windows. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.”

I marvel at God’s creation and creativity. Who could have though of the diversity of creation like He did? In fact, all over creativity and creative juices derive from Him.

  • The sun during the day.
  • The moon at night.
  • The stars that we see shining are really burned out stars thousands of miles away. The words of God to Abraham apply here: “Your seed will be as numerous as the sand of the seashore and stars in the sky.”  My question: who can possibly count them?
  • The greening of creation every Spring.
  • The seemingly endless number of bird species. (Hint: over 35,000)
  • The endless list of creativity He exhibits.

Science says this is all by accident or just happened. Yeah right. “There was no Designer,” they say.  I’m thinking they missed the boat on that one due, in large part, to their own preconceived bias.

“Father,  may I never lost sight of Your creativity in creation. Than includes me! Help me to never stop looking and seeing.”

May 7

Friday, May 7th, 2021

I’ve written several times in this Shadow blog about legalism, specifically mine. I was raised in a semi-legalistic church but not in a home that bent that way. It was when I became a young pastor “earning my wings” that seeds were planted that blossomed into what I now see was an assault of peoples’ freedom. I still cringe at my boldness and arrogance. I now see my legalism was a weak attempt to control peoples’ lives because it (so I thought) reflected on my job as a pastor, or it was to make me feel better and draw attention away from myself (and my own sin).

I know it made me feel better. If I could say, “Read my Bible.” Check. “Tithed.” Check. “Don’t drink or smoke or cuss.” Check.

I’m guessing you get the point and where I’m going with it.

Paul wrote, “…they (so-called Christians) sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 2:4-NLT)

They spy on us. What a vivid picture that gives me! Someone or someones who are secretly watching, taking notes, peaking around corners, tailing me. I’m on someone’s hit list.

You see, there will always be those who will try to impose their “religion” on others. But the problem with legalism is that it misses the point altogether. It and they go “beyond what is written” is the way Paul put it. (I Cor. 4:6)

Legalism makes secondary things primary and primary things secondary. It relegates love lower than regulations and performance. That which is first takes a back seat to that which has no business being in the driver’s seat.

I’ve had my share of legalism to last a lifetime and never want to go back. With God’s help and by His grace, I never will.

“Father, that is my prayer today.”

May 5

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

I was blown away by words from a devotion I read this morning. Rather than babble on, I thought I’d just print them here. The words are from Day 5 of 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

“Don’t be discouraged today. No matter how alone you feel, you’ve been blessed with the Father’s love.”

“I love the depiction of God’s tender care in Isaiah 42:3: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, a faintly burning wick he will not quench.’ What a beautiful word picture! Imagine walking through the bush and coming across a young tree with a bent and almost broken limb hanging at a rather grotesque angle. You spontaneously complete the job, ripping the limb completely off. Your heavenly Father would never, ever be that thoughtless. He wouldn’t think of breaking you the rest of the way. He comes to you in grace to comfort, strengthen, encourage, and restore. His love toward you is tender and faithful. He is near you when it seems no one else is. He will care for you when no one else does. He will heal your wounds when no one around you seems to see how wounded you are. He will never mock or take advantage of your weakness. He will not let you go unnoticed or disregarded. If you are his child, it is impossible for you to be alone and unloved because your heavenly Father is with you and reaches out to you in tender, restoring love.”

He ends with these words: “Yes, life can be very heard, people can be very cruel, and at times you are left alone, but you are never completely abandoned because your Father is with you in tender, restorative love.”  (Pages 18-19)

There is no need to say any more or to include a prayer. Just think on those words for awhile and let them soak in.