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May 11

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

As I stated in my last post, I’m going to spend a couple of days in Psalm 19 & 20. This is installment #2 and it is based on 19: 7-11.

I’ve just read a chapter or two from a book by Michael J. Kruger entitled Surviving Religion 101 about the Bible and how it can be trusted and why it is so important.  I’m wondering if there can be any more clearer of a section of Scripture as this about God’s Word. (Please take a moment to read 19: 7-11. Thanks).

  • Instruction of the Lord is perfect
  • Decrees of the Lord are trustworthy
  • Commandments of the Lord are right
  • Commands of the Lord are clear
  • Reverence for the Lord is pure
  • Laws of the Lord are true

Along with those statements comes the end result of each:

  • Revive the soul
  • Make wise the simple
  • Bring joy to the heart
  • Give insight for living
  • Last forever
  • Each one is fair

To crave God’s Word-what Peter calls the “pure milk of the Word”-is to be pursued, to be realized and experienced.

“Father, may the craving for Your Word never stop. Help me ‘to taste and see that the Lord is good.’ And may it be a lifelong pursuit to eat at Your buffet.”

All Scripture referenced is from the New Living Translation.

May 7

Friday, May 7th, 2021

I’ve written several times in this Shadow blog about legalism, specifically mine. I was raised in a semi-legalistic church but not in a home that bent that way. It was when I became a young pastor “earning my wings” that seeds were planted that blossomed into what I now see was an assault of peoples’ freedom. I still cringe at my boldness and arrogance. I now see my legalism was a weak attempt to control peoples’ lives because it (so I thought) reflected on my job as a pastor, or it was to make me feel better and draw attention away from myself (and my own sin).

I know it made me feel better. If I could say, “Read my Bible.” Check. “Tithed.” Check. “Don’t drink or smoke or cuss.” Check.

I’m guessing you get the point and where I’m going with it.

Paul wrote, “…they (so-called Christians) sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 2:4-NLT)

They spy on us. What a vivid picture that gives me! Someone or someones who are secretly watching, taking notes, peaking around corners, tailing me. I’m on someone’s hit list.

You see, there will always be those who will try to impose their “religion” on others. But the problem with legalism is that it misses the point altogether. It and they go “beyond what is written” is the way Paul put it. (I Cor. 4:6)

Legalism makes secondary things primary and primary things secondary. It relegates love lower than regulations and performance. That which is first takes a back seat to that which has no business being in the driver’s seat.

I’ve had my share of legalism to last a lifetime and never want to go back. With God’s help and by His grace, I never will.

“Father, that is my prayer today.”

May 6

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

How often have you wished your troubles would go away? How many times have you (and I) said, “Oh, I’m so tired of this mess. I just wish it would all be right. For once.” More than I care to admit.

I’m in the process of reading Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger. It is written in the style of a father writing to his daughter at college. (His real life daughter was just beginning her freshman year at UNC in Charlotte).  So the format fits perfectly.

His first chapter address the question: will I survive? I started reading this book because I see and hear and read of so many who are deconstructing their faith, especially those who go off to college. In this first chapter he said something which was so spot on, so insightful, it impacted me enough to write his post. Opposition to our faith comes in various ways. Kruger writes about the effect/importance of/response to opposition.

Here is some of what he wrote:

“In short, opposition  made the early Christians better theologians (My note: he had referenced the Gnostics), better defenders of the faith, and better evangelists.”

“But opposition to your faith will change you in another way. In addition to sharpening your mind, it will hone your character.”

And finally: “Don’t view opposition only in negative terms; view it as an opportunity to grow as a Christian, so that you might be better equipped to build up your fellow believers and reach non-Christians more effectively.”

Nothing wasted. No wasted opportunity to learn. To share. To grow. I believe that is God’s modus operandi.

So…let me ask you: how do you view opposition in your life?

“Father, help me to view opposition not as a negative, but as a positive influence in my life.”

{Note: All quotes are from page 35}

May 5

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

I was blown away by words from a devotion I read this morning. Rather than babble on, I thought I’d just print them here. The words are from Day 5 of 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

“Don’t be discouraged today. No matter how alone you feel, you’ve been blessed with the Father’s love.”

“I love the depiction of God’s tender care in Isaiah 42:3: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, a faintly burning wick he will not quench.’ What a beautiful word picture! Imagine walking through the bush and coming across a young tree with a bent and almost broken limb hanging at a rather grotesque angle. You spontaneously complete the job, ripping the limb completely off. Your heavenly Father would never, ever be that thoughtless. He wouldn’t think of breaking you the rest of the way. He comes to you in grace to comfort, strengthen, encourage, and restore. His love toward you is tender and faithful. He is near you when it seems no one else is. He will care for you when no one else does. He will heal your wounds when no one around you seems to see how wounded you are. He will never mock or take advantage of your weakness. He will not let you go unnoticed or disregarded. If you are his child, it is impossible for you to be alone and unloved because your heavenly Father is with you and reaches out to you in tender, restoring love.”

He ends with these words: “Yes, life can be very heard, people can be very cruel, and at times you are left alone, but you are never completely abandoned because your Father is with you in tender, restorative love.”  (Pages 18-19)

There is no need to say any more or to include a prayer. Just think on those words for awhile and let them soak in.

April 28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

I read recently about a British ski jumper named Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. I vaguely remember him in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  He competed alright. In fact, he has his own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases. “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”  I think I will let your mind show you his jump.

But here’s the thing: at least he tried. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”

We often hold back from enjoying life, or challenging ourselves, or even living the adventure (my slogan) for various reasons. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart says, “Every man has a battle to fight; an adventure to live; and a beauty to rescue.” It is the second part of that statement which intrigues me today-“an adventure to live.” I hesitate saying this but the older I get the more I regret what I haven’t done. One of my dreams was to ride across the USA at my speed with a friend or two, a motor home to sleep in, and Jo driving or riding along to witness my fete. It never happened and it will go down as one of my disappointments.

But at the same time, I am grateful for what I have experienced, including but certainly not limited to Colorado, Daytona Beach, and Alaska (I want to go back). Friends. MLB games in person (before they got all politically stupid).

You know, Peter walked on the water and failed. He “Pulled an Eddie” right in front of Jesus and the other disciples. But we also know this: least he walked on water. None of the others who stayed in the boat can say that!

Life is an adventure. You can choose to live it or hide from it. I may be getting older (what do I mean “may be”?)  🙂 But whatever time I have left I want it to be an adventure.

“Father, You call me almost on a daily basis to walk on the water with You. ‘Step out,’ You say.  ‘Come to Me. Here, take My hand.’ Help me to not be afraid to follow You.”

April 26

Monday, April 26th, 2021

In a devotion I wrote last week. I mentioned the idea of finishing well. Hezekiah did not. I want to.  Over the weekend I read the following story:

You may have heard of John Steven Akhwari, a runner from Tanzania who finished last in the marathon at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. No last-place finisher in a marathon ever finished quite so last.

Injured along the way, he hobbled into the stadium over an hour after the last runner had crossed the finish line. All the spectators were gone, the stadium was closed, and crews were preparing for the closing ceremony when Akhwari gathered himself for a final effort and sprinted across the line.  It is said that one of the workers picked up a torn finishing tape and held it across the track so Akhwari could break it.

When Bud Greenspan, the official timekeeper of the games, asked the weary athlete why he put himself through such pain, he replied, “Mr. Greenspan, my country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race. They sent me to finish it.”

To be honest, we can’t just kick back, marking time: we are either growing toward God, or we’re going in the other direction.  An interesting quote: “Give your fruit before it rots.” (Richard Rolle)

Long story short: Finish well! Never give up. God did not ask us to just start; He wants us to finish.

“Father, may my life be one of perseverance and never quitting. Help me to finish well.”

April 23

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Sunday morning Jo and I drove to Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute. While Scot, Maryland’s Senior Pastor did not preach, the Discipleship Pastor, Nick Strobel, did an admirable job speaking about Greed.  Using the story of Elisha, Naaman and Gehazi found in 2 Kings 5, he brought some good thoughts to the table. {Please take a moment and read the Scripture}.  After Naaman went on his way with Elisha’s blessing, Gehazi chased him down and lied about Elisha wanting his money. Here are the three points Nick brought out: (Main thoughts his; commentary mine)

  1. Greed starts small. It warps our purpose. God’s ultimate purpose was that Naamen know and acknowledge God as the only God. But Gehazi’s greed warped that. Man will always pursue what we think will save us. We will not pursue things because we think it’s dumb.
  2. Greed warps our reality. Sin multiplies. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman to get what he wanted. God will never ask us to do something which is against His Word. N.E.V.E.R. When someone says or does something sinful or evil with the caveat of “God told me” you can pretty well guess He didn’t.
  3. Greed warps our understanding of salvation. God gave Gehazi what he wanted. The sin he chased became his death warrant. Greed can’t save. If you read the story, Naaman was healed of leprosy. Gehazi spent the rest of his life as a leper. Sad ending to what had been a promising future as the understudy/servant to Elisha.

“Father, help me not to be greedy toward what others may have. I don’t want my life to be warped because of my preoccupation with things I don’t have.”

April 21

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

At age 68 one thing I do think about is my mortality. When one is in their 20-30s, 68 is o-o-o-l-l-l-d!  Now that I’m there (or is that here?), not only does that seem old but the 30s, even 40s, seem so young. 🙂 I see youthful vigor, dreams and aspirations and have to admit a little bit of envy creeps in.  I realize I’m on the downside, that I have a lot less years to live than what I have already lived.

But I also know I want to finish well. It is not enough to start well. Finishing well is equally or even more important.

I’m thinking this morning of King Hezekiah. The Bible says there was no king like him before or after. He changed the whole religious landscape of Judah. But when Isaiah told him to get his house in order, he whined and begged for more years. God-for some reason-granted him his request and gave him 15 more years. But, oh, what a mess they turned out to be! He became proud of what he had and showed off to a Babylonian envoy all he had. History shows Manasseh, one of the worst and most evil kings ever, was born to him during this time.

Hezekiah may have started well, but he didn’t finish so well. He should have listened to Solomon’s words in Proverbs 21:21- “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

I have no idea (no one does) what God has in store for my future. I hope, personally, that I am granted years to continue preaching the message of God’s love and grace from the pulpit and in life.  I do not know what will transpire, but I do know this: I want to finish well. This race is a long-distance run not a sprint.

“Father, may I finish well, still pursuing righteousness and unfailing love until my last breath.”

April 20

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

IMHO one of the most damaging things to the “spread” of the life of Christ is what I will call double standards. You know it another way: “Do as I say not as I do.” “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “Practice what you preach.”

You get the idea. It hurts to see someone say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” then do something totally contradictory to that life. I cringe, for example, when I hear an artist/actor/musician thank God for an award or a good event but have lyrics that are disgustingly vulgar or live a life contrary to God’s Word.

I’m speaking of myself as well. Way too often my life and words or actions do not match. I was reminded of this as I read Proverbs 20 this morning:

“False weights and unequal measures- the Lord detests double standards of every kind.” (v.10)

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.” (v.23)

Twice in the same chapter. A reminder of how God despises duplicity. While the picture is of the person who has a scale calibrated to his advantage, the point hits home to me as well. Don’t live a double standard. Be who I say I am. Be the Christ-follower I profess to be.

“Father, help me to live an honest life-one where words and actions match.”

April 13

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

INFLUENCE

That’s the word which crosses my mind this morning.

Today would have been my mother’s 89th birthday.  She never made it to 72. After being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which (at the time) mainly struck woman who were non-smokers in December of 2003, she was given a drug concoction called Iressa (spelling in question). The doctor said it should either arrest the growth of cancer or at least slow it down. She received her first treatment in January.  It sped up the cancer growth. So rather than prolonging her life, it shortened it. Dramatically. I spent the last 6 weeks of her life driving back and forth from Sandusky, OH-where I was pastoring a church at the time- to her home in West Mifflin, PA, a drive by turnpike of about 5 hours one way.

He gave her 2-4 weeks to live. At the two week mark she was put in the hospital when her breathing took a bad turn. Come to find out the oxygen machine was faulty.  She was not expected to leave the hospital. Jo and I even made a one day trip to see her.  Yeah, that was a very long day. She came home after two weeks and spent the rest of her time alive and in her home.  She lived a total of six weeks after his diagnosis and the drug treatment. I would drive to take care of her for a couple of days, then head back to Ohio to take care of church duties, then head back. I am so thankful for my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dee who left their home in Texas to take care of her during that time. We made a great tag team.

Mom would wake up from her “nap” and would say, “Oh, I’m still here.” The disappointment was on her face and in her demeanor. But eventually one evening she went home to be with Jesus. She joined her parents and others doing what she loved to do-praise the Father around the throne.

My mother was anything but perfect. Far from it. She could be obnoxiously persistent. She could be a “harper.” But she loved Jesus. She made sure I was in church the first opportunity I had. She made sure I was dedicated to God one Sunday morning when Pastor Graybill laid his hands on me and prayed a blessing over me.  (No, I wasn’t sprinkled since we didn’t practice that).  She taught me the importance of praying and reading the Bible. I can remember her getting up and meeting with me before school to read our devotions and pray together.  There was only one other person who had more influence on me as I was growing up than my mom-my grandfather…her dad.

Influence. I know someday I will be reunited with my mother and grandparents and in-laws. But in some way, I am reunited with her today as I remember her.  I love you mom and T.H.A.N.K.S. for the memories.

“And I thank You Father for the memories. May my life be an influence upon others.”