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June 9

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Have you ever noticed (I’m sure you have) how we spend a lot of time, effort, and money pursuing what doesn’t last?

  • That new car/truck. Gotta have it. Until it gets a scratch or a year or two old or shock-of-all-shocks we see a shinier, newer model.
  • That job promotion. Climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter who we step on. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we lose our family in the process. Then loneliness and dissatisfaction set in. Time for another rung.  Or go elsewhere.
  • MVP stats. 24/7 dedication. Gain the status of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
  • Tour de France winner. 7 times. Gotta get to the top. It doesn’t matter who we destroy along the way. Whose lives, careers, or livelihood we ruin. What compromises we make along the way morally, ethically, or athletically. It all comes crashing down.

Many spend their lives pursuing that which doesn’t last. Never has. Never will. I read an interesting quote which came from an unexpected source:

From the cradle to the grave man’s greatest objective is to obtain peace of mind and spiritual security. This is found only in Jesus Christ.

Who said it? An evangelist? A pastor? A theologian? A writer of religious books? A Bible translator? Nope. Wrong on all counts.  Are you ready for this?  Mark Twain. I don’t know when he said it; what prompted him to say it; or to whom he said it. But it most definitely is true. Search the world over. Pursue one adventure after another.  Investigate all philosophies. And the answer comes down to one: Jesus Christ. The one and only way to the Father, and the one and only way to complete satisfaction.

“Father, may I find my satisfaction in You. May the song be true: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.’ ”

June 5/Weekend

Friday, June 5th, 2020

I learned something new today. There is a saying: “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” There are some in the Christian world-in their faith- who take a dim view of learning new things. When a person has been a Christ-follower for many years, it is easy to get a “glaze over.” A crust develops which is hard to penetrate at times. So people who have been Christ-followers for any length of time almost have a “I-dare-you-to-teach-me-something-new” attitude. I once had a man who was just a few years older than me tell me I couldn’t teach him anything new because I was younger. It all started because I confronted him about his visits to the Playboy Club in another city and what he was expecting out of his wife. (She had come to see me). He saw nothing wrong with it and since he was the man she had to do what he demanded. I told him he was wrong. That was not being a servant husband or a loving husband. He then told me he would do what he wanted to do and there was nothing I could teach him. He was right. A closed mind is hard to penetrate. (Note: the marriage didn’t last much longer either).

I went off on that tangent to make a point: we are never done learning. Case in point: today’s Scripture. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus denounces the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Why? I think the key is in verses 21-22. Their sin wasn’t hostility. Or outright rejection. Or protesting. Or wanting to throw rocks. No. Their sin was indifference. The message came and they did absolutely nothing. Jesus did mighty works there and did nothing.  For the first time I actually know what this passage is about. I can’t say I have before now.

Can there be any sin more devastating to God’s work and God’s message than indifference-than not caring- on the part of His people? Let’s be pointed: looking at today’s world, how can you not care? How can we stand by and be indifferent? How can we stand by and do nothing?

“Father, help me not to be indifferent to the message of Jesus. Help me not to stand by and do nothing.”

May 19

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

As I have stated several times before, I’m reading through the life of Jesus using John MacArthur’s book, One Perfect Life. Part of today’s reading from Luke 12:13-34 was on covetousness. Or maybe it was on God’s provision. Guess that depends on one’s perspective. 🙂

Covetousness is the desire to want more, to have more. Stretching it out, covetousness can lead to hoarding, selfishness, misplaced priorities and wrong thoughts and actions. After telling His listeners to beware of covetousness, He tells the parable of the rich fool who was so impressed with what he had that he decided to build more and bigger barns.  Building bigger barns was not the issue; the heart of the man wanting them built was.  That decision didn’t go so well with him.

But Jesus uses it as a teaching point to tell the people they needed to not pursue earthly things but to be rich toward God. He then gives the teaching about the birds of the air and grain in the field and to seek God’s kingdom first.

I love being a generous person. This covid thing has taught many valuable lessons to all of us if we will listen, but one big one is how quickly earthly things fly away. Covetousness says, “Hold. Gather. Grasp.” Generosity says, “Give. Scatter. Release.” I know it’s much more intricate than that, but the simple way says, “Don’t keep for yourself. Give it away.” I don’t want to be a selfish person, a keeper, a scoop-things-in-close kind of person. I want to be a generous person, a giver, one who sees who he can share with.  I have resigned myself to the fact that unless God intervenes, the end of my life may not be (most probably definitely will not be) spent with a silver spoon, a huge RV (not that I would want one anyway), fancy vehicle, and unlimited spending and travel. But to know I gave away what I can’t take with me anyway will be satisfying.

“Father, help me to keep seeking Your kingdom first. Help me to be a giver, not a taker; a distributor, not a hoarder; generous, not covetous. And then leave the future up to You.”

May 15/Weekend

Friday, May 15th, 2020

This is a very personal devotion so read on with that understanding. It was spurred on by a devotion by Chuck Swindoll from his book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? The May 15 devotion was about Paul’s ministry credentials found in 2 Cor.11:23-28. As Chuck points out, it isn’t much of a resume. Least not an impressive one. But here is what got me in a big way and got me thinking:

Too often, ministry positions are couched in ways to attract young, talented, blue-chip candidates and invite them to an opportunity for ease, popularity, and public affirmation. The apostles knew none of that. The same for servants of Christ today who truly preach the gospel of Christ and surrender their lives to Him.

That brought to mind what the late Darrin Patrick said. In an interview he talked about being part of a group of young pastors who became celebrities with book deals, speaking gigs, fame and money, but little spiritual maturity. He later said his early success led to an obsession with keeping up his image rather than his soul.

All that Darrin said is true. Not that I ever had to deal with that. I was never a celebrity (except in my own mind)…and now that see it I am grateful. God knew I was not ready for that nor would I have been able to handle it. But I confess to wanting it. Now I can also say I’m glad I never had that chance.

Arrogance is an ugly thing. I came out of college into my first ministry thinking I had all the answers and the world was my oyster. Oh, how wrong I was on all counts! I aspired to be known and never thought of Paul’s words. I never despaired enough to take (allegedly) Darrin’s way out, but I confess to not grasping what appeared to be God lack of blessing on my life, especially as I watched others climb.

But hindsight-and a whole lot of maturity-has enabled me to look and see and KNOW God’s hand was always there. I’m glad I never got “big.” I’m glad I am where I am-a pastor of a small church (less than 200) in a small town in the middle of Indiana (although I’ve never begun to root for IU).

“Thank you Father that You were always there, always in control, always directing me where You wanted me to go. I’m glad I’m here. I wouldn’t trade it for any amount of money or accolades.”

May 14

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

I live in Indiana. That means our winters are usually made up of freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, and more freezing and thawing. Combine that with several other factors-the use of salt or some weird combination of ice melt; lack of money; heavy trucks; school buses (not so much the past 2-3 months); and (in our case) miles and miles of graveled back roads-and you have a problem called potholes. I’ve been driving around a lot lately and I’ve (unfortunately) ran over some potholes that have threatened to swallow my truck or at least put in the “I-need-an-alignment” stage. This is especially true on the gravel roads I’ve traveled. They jokingly say the Indiana state flower is an orange cone.

But what really gets me is how a newly paved road or highway doesn’t take long before it begins to show signs of stress fractures, and cracks, and little holes, and even break-offs. Say what? They just finished it and it is already squirrely.

There have been times in my Christian walk when all was good. I was firing on all cylinders. My heart was in the right place; my Bible reading was alive; my worship was vibrant; my “spiritual eyes” were wide open; my trust factor high, and I wished for it to never end. And I foolishly thought or hoped it wouldn’t. I wanted to stay there. I can’t and won’t because the walk of a Christ-follower is one of ups and downs; highs and lows; ins and outs; climbs and descents; and mountaintop and valley experiences. Like the newly paved asphalt which over time shows signs of stress, so does my faith. And yours.

No. I can’t stay there. While roads develop those annoying potholes, stress cracks and break-offs, those times of cracks and stress and break-offs are designed to help me grow. It’s unrealistic to expect to stay where God and I are in sweet communion. I can’t avoid the potholes but with God I can navigate through them to much better roads.

“Father, it is easy to forget You are in the lows, the stresses, the potholes and the break-offs as much as You are when the road is smooth. Help me to trust You to navigate me through the mess called my life.”

May 6

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

The old saying goes something like this:

We are most like men when we sin;

We are most like God when we forgive.

(Forgive me if that is not an exact quote. It still sounds close. 🙂 )

Yesterday I was waiting to leave the house for an evening appointment at the office and had just finished supper. Jo had the TV on and the show centered around a Jewish man who sold out his people, as many of them found their way to Auschwitz. I simply cannot fathom the horror of that time in history. Then I read today of a letter written by a woman at Ravensbruck concentration camp where over 50,000 woman lost their lives. The letter was a prayer…are you ready for this?… of forgiveness.

The evils of those camps, of Hitler and his henchmen, boggle my mind. What blows me away even more are those who deny it ever happened (and it isn’t just Muslims). It is beyond my scope of understanding. But so is the offer of forgiveness. When something is done that hurts on that grand of a scale it sure takes a lot to forgive. I can honestly say I have never had anything done to me that comes even close, and yet, forgiveness is still hard. But the failure to forgive is even harsher. It makes me someone’s slave.  It may not be Auschwitz, but it still puts me in prison.

Freedom comes from being like Jesus. Remember the last part of that quote? Of all who had the reason NOT TO forgive,  He displayed the greatest. “Father, forgive them” were His words. May He be my example. May I be like Him.

“Father, my prayer is simple.  Help me to forgive. Help me to be like Jesus.”

April 29

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

I recently finished reading the book The Gift of Struggle by Bobby Herrera. It is a book on leadership and how the struggles a leader has can actually be good for him/her. No leadership can be without struggles. That’s the nature of the beast. I don’t remember who said it but it is a wise saying: “The sure way to failure is trying to please everyone.” Just the very nature of leadership will lead to struggles; tugs-of-war; jealousy; competition within and bad-mouthing without; a desire to fudge the truth; and a whole lot more. Even failure. But leadership learns from struggles, even failures, and moves on.

No one likes to fail. Let me rephrase that. Speaking personally: I can’t stand to fail. I cringe knowing that something I proposed or believed in bit the dust. Not that everything I propose is good or fulfilling or right. But I don’t take pride in failing. I don’t have a plaque that says #1 Failure. And yet it happens. History is dotted with failures. Edison. Bell. McCormick. Einstein. Luther. Lincoln. Washington. The list is endless. And yet, we remember them for their place in history

The one thing I’ve learned along the way and Herrera’s book reinforced is Weakness is the stuff of true greatness. How much better it is to be brought low in humility-and to learn from it- than to be arrogant and proud and miss the lesson(s). One more thing: Someone already showed us the way to true greatness. What looked like a failure was actually His greatest triumph. Check out Romans 5:8-11

“Father, help me to see failure does happen but doesn’t have to bring defeat. Help me to rise up out of the ashes and learn from my struggles.”

April 28

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Don’t you sometimes wish you could get into a DeLorean and travel back through time? I’m guessing if you are like me you would do or say somethings differently. I would tell myself, for example, don’t pick up that magazine as an 10 year old. I would tell myself to be frugal and save your money.  I would tell myself to be less conscious of what a car looks like and run it into the ground. I would tell myself not to spend on frivolous things (bike stuff excluded) 🙂  and prepare for the future.  I would tell myself…

I think we would all like to be able to do that.  But we can’t. I think many of us have the “Someday” mentality. You know what that is. “Someday I’ll do this.”  Or “Someday when things are different.”  There are as many scenarios for “someday” as your mind can think. No one expected this virus and the upheaval it has caused. Don’t you wish you could go back several months and warn your younger self it was coming and to be prepared?

“Someday” has a it-may-happen-and-when-it-does-things-will-be-different kind of vibe. But not always does our future turn out as we envisioned. “Someday” may turn out to be the fulfillment of our dreams or it may turn out to be the dashing of our dreams/plans on the rocks of reality. But no matter what our “Someday” turns out to look like, we are promised it will turn out for our good and God’s advancement.

“Father, I don’t know what ‘Someday’ may bring. I just need to cling to You-good, bad, or ugly- knowing You are the One constant. May my ‘Someday’ be ‘Your Day.’ “

April 23

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

One of the by-products of this virus has been what I will call “forced isolation.” People, like me, who are very social creatures have been “forced” (or is that highly advised?) to not be around others. So-called social distancing has led to no hugs, no handshakes (and he’s crazy if he thinks handshakes will disappear from my greeting others when we are able to see each other again), no whispering in an ear, no physical demonstration of affection, etc. You get the point. And I get that…I really do.

But I know, and you know, there are those whose whole life is one of isolation.-through their own choosing or through no fault of their own. Sadly, soldiers with PTSD or those who have mental challenges find themselves alone. Others choose to be.

But consider this: Aloneness often leads to vulnerability. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” I can’t help but think of the Gadarene demoniac mentioned in the first 3 Gospels. Mark (5) and Luke (8) mention only one while Matthew (8) mentions two. It sounds like he might as well have been by himself. In any case, no one wanted anything to do with him. He was uncontrollable; uncontainable; unruly; loud; and alone. Isolated.  Outcast. Except for One Person-Jesus. He may have had another comrade,  but this guy was still alone, except for the Legion of demons which controlled him. Jesus knew this man wanted free. I think some of the most compelling words are found in these: “Then they came to meet Jesus, and found the man who had been demon-possessed and had the Legion, from who the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” (Emphasis mine) Night and day.  NO. LONGER. ALONE.

So ask yourself this question: who can I reach out to today-virtually, of course- so they are not alone? Can you call someone? Can you text someone? Can you stand outside a window and wave? No one should be alone.

“Father, thank You for seeing my need and drawing me to You. Now help me to keep my eyes open to the needs of others. No one should be alone.”

April 17/Weekend

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“Here’s my heart Lord/Here’s my life Lord/Speak what is true.”

It’s Friday and I’m at home on my day off. I slept in today so I’m late to my Quiet Time. Jo just came out of the shower with her phone playing a song by Lauren Daigle. It was the song with the above lyrics. We sing this song during our worship time on Sunday morning from time to time.

But its more than just a song we sing on Sunday in a worship set. This morning it gripped my heart. I seriously want to be all in with Him but I find myself fighting the “collar.” I remember a saying I heard once: “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.” They must have been using me as a test subject. I say, “Here I am” but a few days (maybe just hours) I take back control and do my own thing.

I know I’m not alone. And the funny thing is that I’m really not in control anyway. The way life has been upended the last month or so shows that.  But it hasn’t been just the recent past; it has been for the past umpteen years.

It has taught me one thing though. Through all of my ups and downs, fighting and surrendering, there has been one constant: God. Always there. Always faithful. Always loving. Always with open arms.

“Thank you Father, for Your faithfulness to me-even when I’m not. When I say those words, “Here’s my heart, Lord” let me speak them truthfully.”

Here is the song which started me thinking today only by a different artist.