Story

...now browsing by tag

 
 

March 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

When I was just starting out in my faith journey, I was pretty impressionable and was often told I needed to tell someone else about Jesus. You know…the whole share-your-faith thing. I understood that. Someone cared enough about me to tell me about Jesus, I ought to care enough about someone to tell them about Jesus.  But I got to feeling like I was head-hunting at times. You know, get as many as you can as quickly as you can.

But I soon realized that I was devaluing people. I kept getting this ugly feeling that something wasn’t right. Then someone finally put it into words. I’m not sure if I heard or read it: “People don’t want to feel like notches on a belt.” My words: People don’t want to feel like scalps hung on a line. “Yep, another one. And another. And…”

People don’t want to feel like scalps or notches on a belt; they want to feel important. Like they matter. To approach someone for the sole purpose of getting the gospel to them doesn’t take into count that they are humans with feelings.

It goes back to motives. Take a look at Jesus. When He healed someone or fed someone, that’s what He was doing-healing and feeding.  He wasn’t conniving. He wasn’t saying, “If I do this or that they will do this.”  He knew they needed Him but He met their need. He loved them with no strings attached.

Long story short: Let’s love people for who they are. Let’s not see them as notches or scalps or ever as projects to be reclaimed, lives to be flipped. Let’s share Jesus with people simply for the sake of loving people and introducing them to our best Friend.

“Father, when I meet people today, when I see them and strike up a conversation with them, help me to see them as Jesus did.”

February 22

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

You have probably heard the saying, “You learn something new every day.” And that’s a good thing. Well…I can say that this morning. It’s probably not that I haven’t heard or read this before, but this morning something struck home. The lesson comes from Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp.

But first…you must stop and read Psalm 51 in its entirety. Not just one or two or five verses but all 19 of them. Go ahead. It won’t take you that long.

The story behind the psalm is familiar. David has a tryst with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant. When he found out he has her husband, Uriah, murdered. Adulterer. Murderer. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance. All that information I/we know. But what I learned anew this morning is David used 3 words to describe his sin. And this is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Transgression. A transgression is a willful stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign and climbing the fence anyway because there is something you want to get to on the other side.
  2. Iniquity. This word means moral uncleanness. There is something more in me than even the spirit of rebellion (see #1). This is like water which is no longer pure.
  3. Sin. Falling short of God’s wise and righteous standard. It’s like the pole vaulters or high jumpers who-try as they will-cannot clear the bar. And just as the vaulter or jumper seeks answers/help, embedded in sin is a cry for help.

David’s prayer is sincere because he recognized his rebellion against God’s boundary (fence); that deep within him was the uncleanness/impurity; and no matter how hard he tried he would fall short. Psalm 51 is a cry for help and forgiveness.

That’s my story. Is it yours? I talked with someone the other day who relayed a story that he has a relative who doesn’t know of any sin that he struggles with.  He needs a heart check because I can think of one just by his statement: pride. 

But that’s not me.  I’m guilty.

“Father, David’s prayer is mine. Guilty on all three counts. But I pray with David that you will renew a right spirit within me and give me a new heart.”

February 19

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Prequel: I had pre-posted the previous two posts because I had no clue what the day (Wednesday-the day of surgery) would bring. I knew I would have to leave for the hospital about 5:15 so my March 17th post was ready to go. Yesterday’s post was also ready simply because I didn’t know what to expect in the way of recovery. So here’s the scoop:

The surgery was successful. They removed my gravel pit of a gall bladder. Pictures do not lie! He also did a hernia repair I did not know I had. It was all done laparoscopically so I was able to come home. Big whoop whoop on that!!  I can ride inside in 2 weeks and have a weight limit of 15 pounds lifting. All in all a successful day. I’m grateful to all of you who prayed.

********************************

Now for today’s main attraction. Okay…it is the devotion. 🙂

Bob Goff wrote something rather insightful when you stop to think about it:

We’ll be known for our opinions but remembered for our love. (p.59)

Someone may be a well-known pastor/preacher. Entrepreneur. Plumber. Teacher. Writer. Theologian. You name it. But I have conducted enough funerals to know while that may be true, the real legacy “bragged about,” talked about, reminisced about, laughed about, preached about, is the legacy of love left behind. The kind word. The out-stretched hand. The “secret” slight of hand which had money in it. The shoulder to cry on. It is our kindness not our qualifications that is remembered.

In my Bible reading yesterday I read John 11, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But a verse stuck with me: “He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. (Vv.1-2) Emphasis mine.

Fast-forward to my Bible reading for today and John 12:3- “Then Mary took a 12 ounce jar of expensive perfume made from the essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”  (Emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Judas complained because she could have not bought the perfume, but put the money in the treasury. He liked that arrangement better, you know, because he used to embezzle funds for himself.

Jesus came to her defense, as you would expect. Mary is known for her kindness and act of love, not her opinions. Judas? Well…’nuff said.

Seems to me we would be wiser to do than to talk. Many talk a big game, some play it. When my legacy is considered I want to be remembered for way I loved, not for the way I talked. I want to be remembered for the outstretched hand, the big shoulder, the loving arms, the grace-filled approach, rather than my (often unsolicited) opinions.

What will you be known for?

“Father, help me to be known for my love, not my opinions. Opinions die (except for the damage left behind); love lasts.”

February 18

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’m thinking this morning of what I will call “attention grabbers.” We can call them by another name: “horn tooters.” You know the kind. They do all they can-“humbly” of course- to gain attention.

There are several thoughts that my mind wants to pursue today as I think about this. I’ll just give you my “seed thoughts” and then maybe you can pursue them on our own.

  1. The very first verse which comes to mind is Galatians 6:14- “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) I really have nothing of which to boast. As I make much of God, I make less of me. That sounds like shades of John 3:30.
  2. “Pride goes before a fall.” (Pr.16:18) Be careful of getting too big for your britches. Britches that sag are tripping hazards. (I still wonder how some of those dudes can walk with their britches sagging to the crotches).
  3. Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the humble not the proud. I read this morning about His encounter with the man born blind. Check out John 9:39 for a reference. Those who think they see are blind, while those who realize their blindness will see clearly.
  4. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Mt.6:3)  There is no value in tooting your own horn. A gift given is best kept secret.

It is good to lend a hand to another, to further the kingdom by our actions, but it is best done with no accolades. God sees and that is all that is needed. No bright light needs to be shined down. The only light which needs shined is the one on Jesus.

“Father, let Your light shine down on You not me. May I never boast, may I never take credit, except in the cross.”

February 17

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

When most of you read this my day of an interesting adventure may either be in progress or about over. As many of you know I have had a rough time since being diagnosed as positive for Covid on December 21. Covid itself wasn’t bad. A week of no smell and no taste and extreme exhaustion. But I had residuals from that which make me what they call a “long-hauler.” I finally stopped losing weight at the 40-50 mark and have actually begun to slowly put it back on. I have been riding a lot inside and have found my strength at the Y returning. It amazes me how much one loses in a short amount of time. Anyway, the symptoms have let up for which I am eternally grateful. The scary words, “I want you to get an MRI because I think I see a mass of suspicious nature” turned out to be what I am calling renegade gall stones (4).  They had made it into the bile duct where I had zero pain but they caused havoc with my digestive system. I was hoping I was out of the woods. But it showed a gravel pit in my gall bladder so I’m having it removed this morning at 8:00.  Your prayers for the surgery and recovery would be greatly appreciated. I am voting for the laparoscopy and not the “Oh we had to open you up” version.

Some have asked me if I’m worried or scared. The answer is NO.  I know where I stand and with Whom I stand. I know in Whose hands I am held. Psalm 28:7 is the verse which came to me this morning as I read: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust Him with my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Those are good words for us all. What can be better than knowing we have Someone who strengthens us and also has our back? I choose to trust Him with all my heart.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. I go into this surgery trusting You completely.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not mad as in crazy. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven mad. You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus when they were heading toward Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!” (Luke 9:51-56)

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? A blessing and then moving on? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suspect they may have wanted to add, “You know…make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps even deeper meaning happening here. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of grace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go.  Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right, but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus.

“Father, that is my prayer for today. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus and let Him lead me through this jungle of relationships and reactions. And above all, help me to love.”

February 3

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

One of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus is given to us by His close friend, John. Maybe that is one of the reasons why this story is extra special- it was written by His close friend. One of the Sons of Thunder. One of the brothers who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a city, all because they dissed his friend. I can read this story and experience relief. I can experience a sense of peace. I can experience a wave of a-a-a-a-h sweep over me.

The story is familiar to many of us. It is found in John 8-a story some say is not in the original canon. No matter. I like it anyway. Jesus heads to the temple for another day of teaching when religious leaders rocket before Him interrupting Him with their words and a woman. “This woman was caught in adultery (Excuse me but where is the man?). Our Law says ‘stone her’ but what do you say?” They have thrown down the gauntlet and think they’ve got Him. But this is not His first rodeo, especially with them. He leans down to write in the sand (I sure would like to know what He wrote wouldn’t you?). Then He tells them that the one who is without sin should cast the first stone. He watches them leave one-by-one until all who are left is He and the lady. I see Jesus reaching out His hand to help her up, wipe the mud and tears and shame off her face, ask her a question about her accusers, then telling her to “go and sin no more.”

He didn’t shame her. He didn’t berate her. He certainly didn’t kick dirt on her or throw a stone. He didn’t tell her she needed to attend an AA (Adulterer’s Anonymous) meeting. Nope. Just forgiveness. Just G-R-A-C-E.

I’m that woman. You are that woman. Condemned by our sin and shame we prostate ourselves at the feet of the loving Father. Wallowing in that sin and condemnation and shame we grovel in the dirt at the foot of the cross. But the loving Savior does not shame us or condemn us. He extends grace and forgives us. What more can we ask for? Grace upon grace.

“Father, thank You for this story. Thank You for Your marvelous grace. As it has been extended to me, may I extend it to someone today. Help me to be an agent of grace for You.”

 

January 28

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

IMHO one of the greatest examples of the power of the gospel is not the cross, although that is most definitely the main one. It is not in the plethora of ministries- of all kinds, shapes, and colors- which have been started in response to the gospel. It is not in the cross-cultural missions all over the world in order to take the gospel to others. All of those are legitimate examples.

But I’d like to suggest another example. I’d like to suggest that one of the greatest example is the power of the transformed life. To see a life changed is beyond belief. To see a junkie, reliant on that next hit, to become satisfied and reliant on Jesus; to see an abusive and philandering husband become a tender and faithful man; to see a discontented and angry wife become a calm and patient wife; to see a violent and rebellious teenager become submissive and a picture of grace; to see a downtrodden, weary and compromising pastor become hopeful, lively and a defender of the truth; all are sights to behold. All of those examples and more are just the tip of the iceberg.

My point again: there is nothing more illustrative of the power of the gospel that seeing someone’s life radically transformed. It is hard to argue with the evidence. “I once was blind but now I see” is so appropriate, not only for those who hear, repent, and surrender to the gospel, but also to those who witness the change.

“Father, change my heart. But also, please help me never to stop rejoicing at a life changed by Your gospel, Your truth.”

January 27

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

It occurred to me recently in a renewed way that an intimate relationship with God is a 2-way street. All I simply mean is that God desires an intimate relationship with us; we should desire an intimate relationship with Him.  In Philippians 3 Paul was giving a litany of his achievements: circumcised the 8th; a pure-blooded citizen of Israel; a member of the tribe of Benjamin; still spoke the Hebrew language; a member of the Pharisees, the most legalistic of the two groups of religious leaders; zealously protecting the faith by persecuting, imprisoning and killing Christians; and blameless according the Law. But what is important is that he counts it all as nothing (his word is dung)- worthless- because of what Christ has done. He eventually says words that stuck with me since I first read them with a listening heart: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.” (Verse 10 from NLT).

I.   W.A.N.T.   T.O.   K.N.O.W.   C.H.R.I.S.T.

And contrary to the surface relationship many have settled for with Jesus, Paul’s words fly in the face of that. The word know in the Greek is actually the word which means to know deeply, intimately. Paul’s sole desire was to know and experience Jesus deep in his core. Far deeper than the Barney-type of love: “I love you, you love me.”

Here is what struck me as I said at the beginning: God also desires an intimate relationship with us. Let’s say we have a husband and wife and they are both clicking on the same page. Their love is deep and true. Intimate. Transparent. It is obvious they love each other. We also have a couple who are married in name only. They live in the same house but live two separate lives. Something is missing. Or how about the marriage where one is really hungering for an intimate (I’m not talking just physical) relationship but the other is passive? Which one would you want? I know the one I want!!

God desires an intimate relationship with me; I should desire an intimate relationship with Him. How about you? What do you want?

“Father, I want to know You, to desire You, to hunger for You. I know You desire that with me. Let’s make it a reality.”

 

January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”