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July 31

Friday, July 31st, 2020

As I write this, our country is on fire. Well, let me rephrase that: many of our major cities are on fire. Portland. Seattle. New York. Chicago. Others. I’ll not get into what political party the mayor of those cities is from. Or the governors. I want to take us to California where the governor has issued a mandate that no church can meet. Nada. In spite of masks, social distancing, etc.  The governor deems church non-essential.

However, there are some defying that order. One, Grace Community Church (GCC), is the home of Pastor John MacArthur and over 3000 souls. Last week, they respectfully submitted a letter to their people and also to the government officials why they were meeting, in spite of the mandate. It came down as Christ, not Caesar, is the Head of the Church. I agree with their decision. There is a concerted move in this country to stop, stifle and stymie churches from meeting, to push them aside. In Nevada, for example, casinos can open but churches can’t? So the elders of GCC made a bold statement: “Governor Newsom, you will not stop us from meeting.” I suspect in the days to come they will not be alone.  I saw an interview with Pastor John where he told how he preached to an empty auditorium for the first few weeks of the pandemic and then each week more and more folks came back until there were over 3000 there last week-no masks, hugging and shaking hands with each other.

This kind of civil disobedience is nothing new. Today I read in Acts 5 where Peter and John did just that. Told not to speak they did. Ordered not to speak they were at Solomon’s Porch (the part of the Temple that surrounded the Court of the Gentiles) speaking boldly. They were arrested and the religious leaders said, “We strictly charged you not to preach…” Strictly commanded. Did you catch those two words? Peter and John’s words? “We must obey God rather than men.” They were basically telling them, “You can tell us to shut up but we take our orders from a higher authority.”

Decently. Orderly. Respectfully. Their allegiance to God was plain to see. Just like GCC and others I am sure are soon to follow. Disrespect. Disorderly conduct. Out-of-control speech and actions. Those are not godly actions. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

“Father, it is far more important to listen to and be faithful to You. But help it to be done decently, orderly, and respectfully. There is no call for the opposite.”

July 3

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

I think one of the hardest things as a pastor is trying to help people and them either not accepting it or continuing to struggle. One of the most difficult things to overcome is anger, especially that which is caused by betrayal or insensitivity. Or worst of all, by gossip.

That last one is an ugly poison, a cancer that afflicts many organizations, but is especially devastating to a church. I remember reading about an old Quaker pastor who had one insidious lady in his church who loved to gossip. But one time her gossip ruined people. She came into the pastor’s office to apologize and ask what she can do to make it right. He gave her a bag of feathers and said to go outside and release them. She did. When she was done, and thought all was well, she asked him what she was to do next. He told her to go around and pick up all the feathers. “That’s impossible. They’re scattered all over!” And he said, “So are your words and you’ll never be able to take them all back.”

  • There are mean people out there in this world. Don’t tolerate them.
  • There are self-righteous, opinionated people in this world. Dismiss them.
  • There are gossipy people in this world. Rebuke them.
  • There are evil people in this world. Avoid them.

Know what is ever sadder? Many of those people are so-called “Christians.” (Yeah, you saw the change from Christ-follower to “Christians”).  Gossip N.E.V.E.R. heals or helps. It always hurts and destroys. Even gossips sometimes tell the truth, even if it hurts. Or is that especially if that hurts. I had one who justified her gossip with “I told the truth” to which I said, “Why say anything at all?”

James 3 says our tongue is a flame that quickly gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy is wrought when a fire gets out of control. Oh, what tragedy and damage is wrought when a tongue gets out of control.

“Father, words can be used for good or for evil. May my words bring healing to others and glory to You in all things.”

 

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 15

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Goethe once said:

We must always change, renew, and rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.

He’s right when speaking of changing and moving with the tide, so to speak. But we must always remember there is one thing which never changes: TRUTH. Truth is not always popular, but it is always right.

We live in an age where truth is relative. We have no absolutes. That is post-modernism’s jig. It is seen in a recent documentary which played on ESPN on the life of disgraced cyclist-Lance Armstrong. At the very beginning the interviewer-who is also the shows writer/producer-asks Lance about the truth. He answers: “I will tell you the truth, my truth. (Emphasis mine).  Arrogance personified.  My truth as seen through my eyes. No moorings; no truth.

How typical of our day and age. Truth is what you or I make it to be.  Take the foundation away and all that is left is well…whatever I think is right. So right and wrong shift. It is “truth according to me.” Imagine if you would the writers of the Gospels, the life of Jesus. It would not be The Gospel of Matthew but the Gospel According to Matthew. Pick and choose what is true about Jesus. Can you see how the lack of truth is playing out in our world as well? Lie about the virus to fuel our agenda (political or financial or whatever else there is). Lie about events to cover the up the truth. When truth is compromised, chaos ensues. It happens in the church. Compromise the truth and the slope starts tilting even more. Compromise has an ugly end. No good comes out of it. I’m not talking about stubbornness/opinion in standing your ground. I’m talking about giving up truth. Opinions can be  compromised; truth cannot.

“Father, help me to fold fast to truth and never give in. Your truth never changes no matter what.”

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.”

May 8/Weekend

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “He is a man of few words”? We, of course, mean that he/she is speaking very little. We might also mean that he/she says only what is necessary.

Have you ever considered some of the Psalms? Take Psalm 117, for example. Two verses. That’s all! And all we have to do is go 2 chapters later and we find Psalm 119 weighing in at 176 verses. WOW! Two verses. That is all it took him to record his praise. That reminds me of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Just shy of 300 words. I’m told there was another speech that day by a great orator. I think I remember it going on for 2 hours. Ummmmm, who remembers one word of that speech?  Meanwhile, the Gettysburg Address has gone down as one of the greatest speeches in history.

There is a lesson here. I don’t think God is impressed with our superfluous, flowery words. I don’t think He is impressed by our many words. Some of the most sincere, meaningful prayers are the shortest. The “Help!” The “I need you.” The “I love you.” The “Great are you Lord!” For a good reference point, read Psalm 117.

“Father, may my words be few but sincere and heartfelt. From crying out to praise, may they be to the point.”

May 1

Friday, May 1st, 2020

WOW! May 1 already! Time flies when you are having fun. Okay…onto the devotion.

I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. I’ve seen it. Been a victim of it. You’d think it would be limited to those outside Christ, to those outside the church, but it’s not. I was reminded of it today. Here’s what I’m talking about.  It is in this statement:

THE CHURCH IS THE ONLY ARMY THAT SHOOTS ITS OWN WOUNDED.

One of the characteristics of the Marines is “No man left behind.” Too bad many churches don’t have that philosophy. It would change our whole idea of target practice. Instead of shooting at our wounded our focus would be on our real enemies: gossip, division, jealousy, envy, vindictive speech, dissension, judgmentalism, and other sins which seem to get a free pass. But let someone stumble! Then it almost appears to be an all out feeding frenzy.

David knew that. Take a moment and read Psalm 109. Just the first 5 verses give you a glimpse of his predicament. But to get an even deeper description check out verses 16-20. What a sad psalm as David laments his treatment. Was David perfect? Of course not. But he was the victim of vicious attacks.

People need encouragement not attacks. Even if they have sinned royally. Do they need to repent? Yes! But that is God’s department. He did not make me judge, jury, and executioner.

“Father, may I be an encourager not a judge.  Help me to remember a hurting person needs a helping hand not an accusing finger.”

 

April 7

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

It is common when we are challenged to lash back. It might be in an attitude. It might be in words-spiteful, mean, caustic, sarcastic-you name the adjective. What if, instead of those kinds of adjectives-we chose words that were (for lack of a better one) winsome. Sort of like Jesus.

Here’s my thought. I began reading Scriptures yesterday that deal with Jesus’ last week-the Triumphant entry to His resurrection. Much of the Scripture involves challenges from the religious elite. One I read today is from Luke 19 and Mark 11. They ask Jesus about His authority, i.e. where did He get off teaching what He did? Jesus could have blasted them but instead he asked a question: “The baptism of John-was it from God or from men?” Consider what Jesus could have said and consider what He asked. Was that not a winsome question/answer? Talk about disarming! And look what it did to them!! It got them so flustered-it got their undies so in a bunch-they had no answer. “Neither will I tell you.”

Oh, but Jesus isn’t finished. He tells a parable with a question. A man had two sons… (See Mt.21:28-32). And if that wasn’t enough, He tells another parable of the landowner whose renters killed his servants and then his only son. (Mt.21:33-46)

Jesus’ words were so pointed, so disarming, they walked away. Verse 46 is telling: “And although they were seeking to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.”

Jesus’ words disarmed them. And, at least for now, defeated them. Imagine if we chose to use the same approach when challenged! Cooler heads could prevail. Loud mouths would be silenced. Heated situations defused.

“Father, help me to be a voice of reason and calm by my words and actions when things are seemingly out of control. Help me to ask winsome questions and use wise words.”

March 30

Monday, March 30th, 2020

Someone commented a few days ago on my other blog that they hadn’t heard me say much about the C-virus which is capturing everyone’s attention. And may I add, captiv(e)ating them?  My answer to her was simple and short: information overload. I’m convinced one can only hear so much of a subject before shut-down. For example, suppose if when we were together and talking all I talked about was cycling, my bike, cycling, 3FeetPlease, and cycling, you would eventually go into shut down mode, extremely tired of my “one man band.” I feel the same about the virus.  What can I add that hasn’t already been said?  I feel my purpose during this time is to talk faith not fear. It doesn’t hurt to stay informed, but there is a point of overload.

What amazes me though-and it’s not just about this- is how clueless some people are. People who live in ivory towers pontificating about circumstances, events, etc they are really out of touch with. People making judgments- be they political, medical, or otherwise-who, in my eyes, are nothing but fools. Sure there are some who are putting their money where their mouth is. But then there are those who spout off and have no clue. They can take a year off work and not get hurt. Then there are those who make insensitive remarks but then scramble to cover their tracks.

Did you know the Hebrew word for foolish and simple (used in Proverbs) means “thick, dull, sluggish”? It’s what we refer to as “clueless.” Hmmmm.

It’s not like I’m excusing myself. I’m not. I can’t. I’ve made some really insensitive comments myself. I’ve been clueless. But it’s time to stop. For me. For you. For all. Let’s take the “in” off insensitivity.

“Father, help me to be more aware of what I say and how I say it. Help me to weigh my words and not be so insensitive. And help me not to pass on information which is bogus.”

March 18

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

How’s this for a kick in the teeth or a slap in the face?  All Scripture is from Proverbs 18.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (v.2)

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the foundation of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (v.4)

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Vv.6-8)

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (v.13)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (v.21)

Need I say more or add to them? It is a malady that runs through my veins and is in my blood. I’m not alone. We would all do well to “keep our trap shut” as my grandfather used to say, and weigh our words.

“Father, it is easy to see the devastation my words bring. Help me to show restraint and remember death and life come from the same place.”