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November 25

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe I ought to restate that: tomorrow is the official holiday called Thanksgiving. For the Christ-follower everyday should be a day of thanksgiving. Since I’m not sure about posting tomorrow, I thought I would focus on thanksgiving today. I’m going to borrow some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll’s devotion book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? In his November 22nd devotion he quoted I Thess.5:18- “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” He then gave 3 directions we can look. {Commentary following each is mine}

Look up. I use the word “awesome” only when it applies to God or something He has done. I am not awesome; you are not awesome (Sorry to burst your bubble there). Now God? HE IS AWESOME!! His grace, His love, His sovereign control, His majesty, His power…I could go on and on. Spend time simply praising Him for who He is.

Look around. I am a blessed man. I have a faithful wife of 47 1/2 years. I have two fantastic daughters. One phenomenal grandson (no prejudice there of course). I serve a church full of people I love. I live in a small town of nice people. I have friends, both in and out of the church, for whom I’m grateful.

Look within. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. Christ in me, the hope of glory. He has taken this ugly house and made it His home. He has give me real joy. Real peace. Real love.  New eyes to see and enjoy life. So much more.

So…what are you thankful for? Can you take these three directions and use them today?

“Father, all I want to say is thank you.”

November 18

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

Words are interesting. Obviously, we can’t really speak without them. Even the deaf person uses words, albeit sign language, to communicate. Some people use homespun words like y’all. The first church I served was in the heart of KY on the top of a hill called Mt. Carmel. They gave me some money so I could buy some food to keep in the kitchen for when I was there on the weekends. When I thanked them publicly I used the word “youns” (a PA word similar to y’all) and they looked at me like I was from outer space. I seriously wondered if they even knew what I was saying. 🙂 Some use high falootin’ words like in the King James. And some use words I would never use.

But there are two words used in Ephesians 2:4 that change everything. Two 3-letter words. Who knew two short words could have such a powerful impact and tell such a powerful story! The words?  “BUT GOD.” After talking about how dead we were in sin and had no way out, Paul uses “But God” to introduce a whole new idea. But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us…”  Then he embarks on his grace project, i.e. being saved by grace. Lost. Found. Mired in death. Made alive in Christ. Isn’t it amazing how two 3-letter words can have such an impact, can make such a difference?

And he didn’t have to use King James English to do it. No $10 words. No “y’alls” or “wheretofores” or “whatsoevers.” No legalize.

“BUT GOD” That says it all.  “Father, thank you for those two simple words that pack a wallop. What a story they contain!”

November 17

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

I love music! I don’t sing very well but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying music. I’ve been asked from time to time if I play a musical instrument since I like music so much. I say, “No. But I play a mean stereo.” (How’s that for a throwback word? How long since you heard that word?) Anyway, the psalms are filled with…well…songs. Here are just a few:

  • “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (23:1)
  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (27:1)
  • “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (51:1)
  • “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (51:10)  {Cue Keith Green}
  • “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (91:1)
  • “He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.” (103:12)

Needing security. Needing courage. Needing reassurance. Needing a fresh start. Needing His presence. Those psalms are music to my ears. And they don’t even rely on a trained musical ear or a voice like a bird. Just a good ear sensitive to the Spirit’s song and good eyes to see the notes.

I’m wondering: do you have a favorite song (psalm)?

“Father, give me ears to hear and eyes to see.”

November 13

Friday, November 13th, 2020

I’ve always had trouble with two words. I’ve heard them used interchangeably, which in my mind is a little much. I know they can be kissing cousins. I know if allowed the one can morph into the other one (and that becomes ugly). I also know they are both listed as sins of the flesh in Galatians 5. What two words?

ENVY and JEALOUSY

Like I said, I know they can both be wrong. In my mind, envy is “slightly” bad.  But it can morph into jealousy which is really bad.

For example, growing up I excelled in athletics. My brother excelled in music. His voice was and is phenomenal. (I actually have two brothers who can sing. The youngest sings more of a high church/”trained-voice” style. The other one more contemporary. It is the latter one [Rob] I’m writing about). As I got older and my body would not cooperate with me like it used to, I began to realize my brother’s singing was going to last him longer and take him farther than my sports were. I can’t sing so I “envy” his ability. I’m proud of my brother. I relish bragging on him. Do I wish I could sing? Of course.  But is it giving me heartburn I can’t and making me resent him? Absolutely not.  I even wonder what if I could sing. Would I give credit to God for that ability?

Bare bones: envy is a sign of discontent. “I wish I could sing.” That makes it a sin because I am not accepting who God made me to be or the lot I find myself in. Acceptance of who I am and who I’ve been made to be is essential. And so, while envy is not as “bad” as jealousy, it is still a work of the flesh and damaging to my heart. And a sin.

“Father, help me to check my heart and its desires. Help me to be content with whom you made me to be.”

November 11

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

“The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.”

I wish that was original with me but I’m sure it’s not. I just cannot tell you where I read it or heard it. But here is what is running through my head this morning:

Today’s world is a mess. It’s like an old DeGarmo and Key song playing through my head right now: “Judgment Day.” (I know it is not possibly your style of music but the message is pointed. I’m sorry I couldn’t find one with lyrics but Dana’s voice is clear enough to understand the words). Guns blazing. Riots on the streets. Vitriolic speech. Accusations galore. And the lists go on. Why? Because that is who we are. We would like to say it is not me…but it is. I go back to my original statement: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. The Bible is clear on this fact -> it all comes from within.

Paul David Tripp wrote:

“If your heart isn’t ruled by God’s honor and your life by God’s plan, you may seem religious, but what you’re living isn’t biblical faith.” (40 Days of Faith-p.22)

Isn’t this exactly what Jesus got so upset with the Pharisees over? Here, listen to Isaiah 29:13- “And the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…’ “ Sound familiar? It should. Jesus used those same words in Mt. 15:8-9. 700 years before Isaiah was describing the heart of man-then, and in 700 years- and yes, even in 2020.

James is right, you know? We fight and quarrel because our passions are at war within us (James 2:1) Read again my opening statement. Can you disagree? Not according to Isaiah, Jesus and James.  That statement is surely not original with me, but it still holds true.

“Father, help me to get my heart aligned with Yours. May my life and heart be consistent with Your Word.”

October 30

Friday, October 30th, 2020

On Tuesday nights I have been teaching a Route 66 class. I taught if for six straight years on Wednesday nights and needed to take a break. Someone asked me if I would teach it again so I am.  It is a 2 year trip through the 66 books of the Bible. As I read Romans 7 this morning my mind went back to the first 5 books of the OT, specifically Leviticus through Deuteronomy.

Boring books on the surface. Measurements of the Tabernacle? Yeah, not so exciting. But I have gained a new appreciation of these ancient books. I have learned, first, you simply cannot divorce the OT from the NT.  The shadow cannot be separated from the reality. There is so much in the NT that brings the OT to life.

But what really stands out to me is how much more alive and meaningful those old books are when seen as God’s desire for holiness from His people. He gave the Law so His people would know how to act (among other reasons).

This came home to me as I read Romans 7:7 this morning: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ”  So the law pointed out sin and gave a name to it. How else would I have known it was wrong to covet if not?

God desires His people to be holy. His people in the OT. His people in the NT. His people today. Me. You. While the Law is not binding on us for salvation, it is a good reminder that we have been set apart by God for His purpose.

“Father, You are holy. The Scripture says, ‘Be holy as I am holy.’ You are there. You want me to be holy as You are. Lead me and teach me how to be holy.”

October 29

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

For a good part of my childhood and young adult life I was actively involved in playing sports. I started playing baseball when I was 8 y/o. They had no such “animal” as T-ball or “coach pitch.” No, you started playing ball. I took to baseball like a fish to water. There was an immediate love affair. By 9 I was excelling and by 10 was playing some on the big team. I dreamed of being a major league player. That was also before traveling teams and weekend tournaments.

The basketball bug hit me in 9th grade. I couldn’t run and dribble at the same time so the coach had me spend a lot of time during practice on the side doing just that. But I became locked on to basketball until it overtook baseball. Another dream.

College ball had me hitting my stride. I excelled but chose not to play my Sr. year. I married between my Jr/Sr year. But I grew tired of the bus rides, the low grades, the 3rd coach in 4 years, and playing ball. I was done with organized ball.

As I look back I see a detriment to the success of either game. I see it today in other realms. I’ll call it the “glory hound.” The one who wants preeminence. Teams are devastated by the one who seeks glory. When I was young I read a series of books called the Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee (think Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew only sports related). In almost every book was a player who wanted glory. He was a “me first Marty.”

Teams can’t win with glory hounds. Churches can’t either.  In 3 John we read about a man named Diotrephes who “loved the preeminence.” He was destructive because it was all about him and his wishes. (We would call it bullying today).

To bring this devo to a close, God despises the one who seeks the glory for himself/herself. I see it as a negative toward God, taking attention from Him. I also see it as a hindrance to the life and health of the church body. There is no place for glory hounds in God’s family.

“Father, may I never seek the glory which is due You for myself. All glory and praise belongs to You.”

October 19

Monday, October 19th, 2020

We live in an instant world.  Instant potatoes. Instant coffee. Microwave dinners. You get the picture. What we don’t have are instant gardens (although we do have chia pets) 🙂 , instant height, instant weight gain or loss, or (fill in the blank).  No, those take time. I used to hear people say, “Anything worth having is worth saving for.” Man, I wish I had followed that advice. I know an older couple who paid cash for everything. They didn’t even write checks! ‘Course that was back in the mid ’70s.

What great advice though to remember that good things are worth the wait. We tend to appreciate things more. Come to think of it, growing as a Christ-follower is like that. While we may get frustrated that we aren’t growing as we would like, growth happens over time. I’m always skeptical when someone comes to Christ and immediately wants public access. I’ve often thought that celebrities who come to Christ ought to be discipled first before leashed upon the world. How many do you or I know who weren’t ready for the backlash or scrutiny that came as a result of a public testimony?

Growth is not instantaneous. It takes time. Sowing. Cultivating. Watering. Fertilizing. I wish my growth could skyrocket, even now. But it never has and never will. Slowly. Somewhat methodically. But always at God’s timing. Then Psalm 1: 2-3 becomes a true picture of where I am and desire to be. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither.”

“Father, it is frustrating sometimes that growth takes ‘steps.’ Sometimes slow; sometimes quick; but always incremental. Help me to be trusting so I can be like a tree planted by the water.”

October 16

Friday, October 16th, 2020

I read a story recently which struck my “interest bone.” It’s one I will look sideways at, ponder, tilt my head, ponder some more, give a little huh to, then move on. But it just struck my fancy so I would like to comment on it.

The story goes that two brothers, Billy and Melvin, were standing in their family’s dairy barn when they looked up to see a plane writing in the sky. The plane wrote two letter-“GP”-in the sky. One took that message to mean “Go Preach”; the other took it to mean “Go Plow.” The one who interpreted it as “Go Preach” you may have heard of- Billy Graham; the one who interpreted it as “Go Plow” was Melvin, who went on to faithfully run the family’s dairy farm for many years.

But here is what struck me as I read that. There would be people who would be skeptical (and rightly so) but let’s take it in another direction. There would be those who would look at those two brothers and deem Billy as “successful” and Melvin as “ordinary.” But I beg to differ. They both had significant roles to play in life. One preached; the other farmed. One gave the bread of life; the other gave physical bread. One sustained the spiritual health; the other sustained the physical health.

Question: which one was more important? Some might argue the spiritual. But I would argue both are. What good is the spiritual without bread to sustain health?  On the converse, what good is physical health if the spiritual is laid waste?

You see, nowhere in the Bible is one task, life choice of job, seen as more important than another. The Bible teaches us “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col.3:17) {Emphasis mine}   It also tells us that “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord.”

Conclusion: No matter what I do-preach, teach, clean floors, stock shelves, take care of a patient, whatever-I am to do it for Him and His glory.

“Father, help me to show You in all I do and in whatever I do. Help me to remember I am representing You and everything is equally important.”

October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”