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December 7

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Impressed vs Unfazed.

So much about the Christmas story impresses me. A few examples: the number of players involved-wise men, shepherds, innkeeper, Herod, etc.

But what really impresses me are three people in the cast of many.

  • First and foremost: Jesus. The whole story is about Him.
  • Second: Joseph. Put yourself in his place. he is in love with a young girl who turns up pregnant. It is not his because he hadn’t touched her. The only thing that could have gone through him ind was the only thing that did. But a dream changed all that.
  • Third: Mary. her story is told over and over but let’s not forget her response. I’m not a Mary worshiper by any stretch (I despise it actually) but I can’t help but be impressed by this young girl’s response to the news: “I’m yours. Have your way.”

How can I-how can you-read the account of the Christmas story, see the responses of these players-and not be impressed? How can we be unfazed as though nothing happened? I say we can’t. If we are unfazed by it all, perhaps we need to check our heart and revisit the story again.

“Father, you involved so many in this story. Each had their own story to tell. The three stand out to me. May their response be mine.”

December 3

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is A Person vs A Blob.

I read something this morning that got my wheels spinning. It was something I had never really thought much about. So I’d like to put it out there for you to think about.

First, let me say this: I am not a political person. I hate politics. I hate talking about it. I won’t blog about it. So you may ask, “If so, Bill, why this devotion?” Because I don’t believe the “baby in the womb” is a political discussion; it is a moral one. With that being said, I give you this devotion.

It struck me today that when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant, Luke 1:39-45 records part of their interaction. Verse 41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not bad for a blob, a mass of nothingness. I’m being sarcastic-yes. The baby (John) leaped in her womb. That being-whom some say is not alive, viable, or a person-recognized who just came into the room. Not Mary but Jesus! Not only is Elizabeth humbled with the visit from Mary, but her next words reveal even more: “And why is this granted that the mother of my lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” WOW!! If there was any question who Mary’s baby was that answers it. And if there was any question about the personhood of a baby in a womb, that question is answered also.

Person or blob. There should be no question.

“Father, thank you for this account. In a different way than normal, you have shown me the personhood and the awareness of a baby in the womb. May I react the same way John did when I am in the presence of Jesus.”

November 25

Monday, November 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Thanksgiving vs Thanksliving.

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.

If you have heard it once chances are good you have heard it a thousand times.

Thanksgiving  is 24/7/365. Thankfulness should not be pigeon-holed to one time out of a year, stuck between Halloween and Christmas. The perfect patsy. The consummate buffer between candy and gifts.  It gives us time to recover from so much candy and get ready for the gift-buying/wrapping/giving process.

Needless to say thanksgiving is not enough. Just saying thanks, even if it is every day of the year and not once a year, is still not enough. It is better…but not enough.

Our lives need to lived in such a way that we are testimonies to His goodness and grace.  Our lives are a living-gratitude-monitor, one that expresses gratitude by the very way we live. So this Thanksgiving, while you are expressing your gratitude in words, remember to express it in living for His glory.  24/7/365.

“Father, may my life be a living testimony to You. May my gratitude be more than words expressed, but also be a life lived well for You.”

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Jo, Tami and I left very early this morning for Ohio. We plan to visit with her sister, take her out of the nursing home for a meal, take care of some things, then head to Columbus to see our grandson, his parents and to spend the night. We will be back home in Indiana (Lord willing) on Wednesday afternoon. I will not be taking my computer and will not be posting on the “Shadow” blog until maybe Thursday. Have a great Thanksgiving and remember to be thankful.

November 18

Monday, November 18th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Delight vs Disappointment.

I know there are times I disappoint God.  At least I feel like I do. In my mind. When I act contrary to the new man. When I speak contrary to the new man. When I think contrary to the new man. I find myself disappointed in myself and I tend to transfer that disappointment to God’s feelings about me.

Instead of looking at disappointment, let’s consider instead how God delights in me. I read these words this morning during my Quiet Time:

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” (Is.62:4)

My thoughts went to my oldest daughter Tami’s sign off and favorite Scripture verse. She signs her correspondence with “Delighting in Him” and her favorite Scripture is Zephaniah 3:17:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It is a wonder to me that God would delight in me and that He would rejoice over me with gladness, and exult over me with loud singing. When I consider how I am; how I act; how I speak; how I think…and yet He delights and takes pleasure in me. THAT totally blows me away!!

I know.  Hard to believe. But there it is in black and white. And I believe it.

“Father, thank You for delighting in me. In spite of me and who I am, You delight in me. I’m humbled. I’m blown away. I’m relieved. I’m quieted. Let me just relish that today.”

November 13

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Friends vs “Friends.”

Have you ever met someone of whom it can be said, “He/she assumes a familiarity that is not there?” No? Well, your answer should be “Yes.”  If you know me then you have.  You see, I am an extreme extrovert. According to Jo and my girls I know no stranger. Jo once heard me talking to someone at WM about our oldest, who at the time, was teaching in Knoxville. He was also a teacher and moving to Knoxville so…you know…1 + 1 = 2. When we were alone Jo asked me who that was. I told her I had no clue. We were just talking. 🙂  Yep, extreme extrovert.

That has its drawbacks though. One big one is that earlier statement.  Because I am friendly, I just assume everyone ought to be. Jo has told me to stop being so friendly to little kids in the store at the checkout. She is probably right since the cultural climate is one of suspicion. But I’m that way with adults too. Especially those whom I have spent some time with. Especially especially (added for emphasis) if they are guys who are cyclists. Two of my closest friendships started because of the bike. One I never see since he moved south. The other is now retired and travels a lot with his now-retired wife. (They are in their 50s).  Since he lives about an hour away I see him occasionally. I have one friend from the church here who has moved about 30-45 minutes away whom I would like to see more often but you know how it is with guys who work and have families. Sheesh! 🙂 My best friend of over 40+ years was a college friend; played on the basketball team; helped me get my first full-time gig as a youth pastor with his father; and has since retired after he lost his heart with the death of his son.  I made my way to KY for that funeral and his father’s. That is what friends do. We are like David and Jonathan. We still see each other when we meet halfway for pizza. 

We are friends. Not “friends.” Friends. Real friends. In my mind “friends” are acquaintances. Faux people who are on the outside. Fair-weather “friends.”

I work hard to cultivate friendships because I need them. No I’m not co-dependent. No man is an island. As a pastor, they are rare. I am grateful for each friend God has placed in my path these 67 years. But none is as rich as my friendship with Jesus, the friend of sinners. For that friendship I will not assume anything.  It is too important. I need to go to the well and back to keep it energized and alive.  How about you?

“Father, I do thank you for each and every friend you have placed in my path and blessed me with. But none can take the place of YOU in my life. Help me to continue cultivating that friendship.”

November 12

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Truth or Love vs Truth and Love.

I just finished reading a new book by Steve Brown called Talk the Walk. As I came to the end he had the following quote from C.S.Lewis:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrong and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (Pages 140-141)

Followers of Jesus have always struggled with truth and love. Some want to love without reservation; some want truth without reservation. One is harsh; the other is mushy. We need both. That is a scary combination when you think about it. Talk about radically changing us and our world!

Most are good at one or the other. It takes a special person-one sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit-to pull them both off. All truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentalism; love and truth together will change lives. Starting with mine.

“Father, help me to see it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be “and.” Help me to live out a life of truth and love-being radically changed within and then watching you transform my world.”

October 29

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Leading vs Following.

I am a leader. Least they tell me that. Maybe reluctant leader is a better description. It has taken me many years to come to that point. For so long I wanted to be seen as one, but I’m convinced leadership is not about a title or a position, but influence. For years, I thought I was “entitled” to be called a leader because of my title and position (Pastor).  I had to realize leadership is earned by wise choices and decisions and experience.

I also need to follow. That may take more humility than being a leader does. Therein lies my conundrum. I truly want to be a follower of Jesus. But there are times I am, or appear to be, totally lost. How do I know He is leading me in a certain direction?

“Though none go with me still I will follow.”

“Where He leads me I will follow.”

“I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord.”

Lyrics from song sung in church when I was a kid. But how do I know? I’ve not heard Him speak audibly to me. Don’t even think that happens today. But I also can’t say I’ve gotten clear direction from His Word either. And people? Well, you know how fickle and fallible people are.

Following is not so easy in several respects. From the humility standpoint. From the knowing standpoint. I guess the advice I got from a friend years ago when I was unsure which direction to go in is good: “Bill, choose one.  If it’s not wrong or sinful-even if if is not the best-God will not abandon you. He will walk through it with you.” That really is good advice. Advice I cling to when making a decision or following (blindly) seems to be the only alternative.

“Father, following is not easy, especially when the way is not so clear. but help me to trust You in all things. Lead me. Help me-give me wisdom-to know how and where to follow.”

October 24

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Meeting Jesus vs Rejecting Jesus.

I’ve always been intrigued by and enjoyed reading the story of the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5. I read it again this morning.  And once again I was captivated by its lessons.

  • This man was so strong, so “possessed,” that nothing could keep him chained. Call him the Hulk; call him the Mummy; call him the Werewolf; call him uncontrollable.

Then he meets Jesus…

  • The demons that controlled him found themselves face to face with the greatest force they had ever met and then found themselves laying flat on the ground at the feet of Jesus crying out not to be tormented.

Then he saw Jesus’ power…

  • They were cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs. I’ve always found that interesting. What were Jews doing with a herd of pigs?

Then he received Jesus’ healing…

  • The people heard about the pigs and came to see what all the commotion was about. The man was clothed and in his right mind. Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they saw this man no longer a madman but sitting at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind?  But…but…but…

Then he received Jesus’ words…

  • Jesus was leaving and he wanted to go with Him. Who wouldn’t? Especially after what Jesus had done for him. But it was not to be. Jesus told him to stay at home and tell the people how much He had done for him and how He had mercy on him. He does exactly that. (v.20)

This changed man did what all changed people-including me-are to do. Tell how and WHO changed my life.  The most powerful testimony is the changed life. “I once was blind but now I see.”

“Father, I have been changed by You. Your love. Your mercy. Your grace.  My response should be the same as this man-go and tell. Help me to do just that-to tell of all you have done and of Your mercy which has been shown to me.” 

October 16

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Steps vs God’s Plan.

Like every child, I was often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (I was just asked that the other day.  Hmmmmm.  I kid. 🙂 )  I started playing baseball when I was 8 years old. There was no such thing as T-ball or coach pitch back then. I fell in love with baseball and from someone who knew nothing at all about the sport, I developed into a decent pitcher and first baseman. I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  Later, sometime around my 7th-8th grade years I remember reading a series of books on an untameable horse on an island and told my dad I wanted to be a rancher. He laughed. I grew up near Pittsburgh, the land of steel mills not horses. 🙂  Then I got into basketball in 9th grade and didn’t know how to even dribble a basketball, let alone dribble and run at the same time. I spent endless hours on the side of the court leaning how. But practice and hard work got me to a decent place. So much so I wanted to play professional ball. That would have never happened. College was the end of that. My mom used to say when all the other boys were talking policeman, fireman, heavy equipment operator or some other “hero” job, I expressed an interest in being a pastor. Well, I guess we know how my “when-I-grow-up” scenario turned out!

I thought of that when I read two verses from Proverbs 16 today. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (v.3) and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (v.9).

I guess we know whose way won out! My steps were established by God…not me. All those dreams of grandeur as a child were good, but in the end, they were just pipe dreams. From before my birth, eternity was stamped on my heart by God’s indelible hand print. He told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” (1:5)

God chose Jeremiah. God chose me. God chose you. God ordered Jeremiah’s steps. God ordered (and still is) my steps. God ordered (and still is) your steps. Jeremiah was His. I am His. You are His. How much better to say, “Have your way Lord” than to say, “I’m going my own way Lord.”

“Father, I’m fulfilling Your purpose for me. It wasn’t in sports or some other pursuit. I’m being and doing what You want. You plan is better.”

October 9

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Humility vs Privileged.

Today is my 67th birthday. I am grateful God has blessed me with 67 years-so undeserving, so unworthy. I’m reading through Ecclesiastes right now and even though I’ve never had all that Solomon had, I still feel like I’m reading my biography. For many years I thought I was “all that and more.” Not that I stated that. I didn’t. I pretended humility. I pretended having it all together. But underneath the surface I thought was something special. Eventually though, as Jesus said, what comes out is what is in the heart. My true colors came out and not only was it ugly, it made me want to vomit. How much better it would have been to see myself as “The Preacher” saw himself…eventually. He tried everything under the sun (which I truly haven’t), but finally realized all that mattered was His Creator.

Paul put it another way. In 2 Corinthians 4 he speaks of being jars of clay, of being earthen vessels. That is a stark contrast to the shiny plates, cups, saucers, and dishes we have today. Clay is made of the earth and there is nothing attractive about it. It is dull, drab, and doesn’t catch the eye at all. Unless, of course, the potter does something with it.

I can’t help but wonder the difference if I had seen myself as that all along. Instead of this shiny, glossy, “I’m-for-myself” kind of person, what a difference if I’d seen myself as a simple vessel only worth something because the Master Potter has made me and is using me that way. I saw this quote as I read this morning:

If God could not use poor instruments and feeble voices, He would make no music.” A.T.Robertson

“Father, today I know I’ve matured enough to see what I once was was not what You wanted. I still struggle from time to time with being my own man with the solutions. But I see more and more as I get older and more mature that I’m only a clay vessel. And that’s really all you want. Help me to exhibit humility in all I do and say. I’m not as good as I think I am; nor am I as bad as I once was. I know it sounds like a cliche’ but let me be clay in the Potter’s hands. May the next days and (possibly) years I have left-however many they may be-be useful and fruitful for You.”

If you have the time or inclination, here is an excellent post on this subject, only from a slightly different angle.