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March 23

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

During yesterday’s sermon Tami, who had to watch it from home out of precaution (she was coughing), told her mom I said something during the sermon that she wanted to post on her FB page.  First some background; then what I said.

I was preaching from Colossians 1: 19-29 and had been speaking about ministry when I came to verse 24.  Paul talks about suffering.  Not boohoo suffering, but suffering knowing there are positives in it.  In verse 24 we read where Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”  The statement is loaded! First, his willingness to suffer enabled there to be churches started in Asia.  We know the gospel spread through his ministry hardship.  Second, his suffering brought good to the church.

We are in unprecedented times. A few might remember 9/11. A few might remember ebola.  There are very few around any more who remember the Great Depression. We have always had crises and always will. The church needs to check its reaction to a crisis.  We live in a time unlike many have experienced before. Leastwise, the church in America. We can have one of two responses (and this is what Tami wanted in writing):

The church can either panic or praise.

The church can either wilt or worship.

The church can either live in fear or faith.

The church can either flounder or forge ahead.

(And a new one) The church can either wander or wonder.

It is a question the Church must ask-collectively and individually. And it is a question each one of us must ask ourselves. How will we choose to live?

“Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power,  love,  and self-control.  (2 Timothy 1:7).  Help me to live the triumphant life of faith and not be held captive by fear.”

March 16

Monday, March 16th, 2020

I read Denny’s blog each time it is released. He writes insightful and always thought-provoking posts. Considering all that is happening in the world today, I found this to be especially insightful and worthy to be passed on. Please enjoy and wonder at the amazing ways God’s works.

Banished from the public means of grace, we found grace nevertheless.

By Denny Burk on March 15, 2020 in Christianity, Devotion

Our church was scattered by the coronavirus this morning. We did not gather together as usual at the intersection of Southern Parkway and Third Street. No, today we were spread out all over the city of Louisville and beyond. Our college students were literally scattered across North America as many of them were compelled to go back to their hometowns after colleges and universities closed last week. Our church’s missionaries remain scattered all over the world. None of us could be together this morning.

If you know what it means to be the ekklesia of God, your heart ached like mine did. For this is not how it is supposed to be. Gathering together for the Lord’s Day is fundamental to our identity, and we were unable to do that this morning (Hebrews 10:24-25). We had a “virtual” service like so many others, but it really isn’t the same. Nor should it be.

But something really extraordinary happened as we all sat down before our scattered screens for worship. Jim Hamilton read the call to worship from a book of devotion by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, published in 1893.1 Below is the entry for March 15, and the words are nearly incredible:

MARCH 15

Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.”

Ezekiel 11:16

Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace behind the means of grace. The Lord who places his people where they feel like exiles will himself be with them. He will be to them all that they could have had at home in the place of their sacred assemblies. Take this promise as your own if you are called to wander!

God is to his people a place of refuge. They find sanctuary with him from every adversary. He is their place of worship too. He is with them as he was with Jacob when he slept in the open field and woke, saying, “Surely the LORD is in this place” (Gen. 28:16). To them he will also be a sanctuary of peace, like the Most Holy Place, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. They will be kept from fear of evil.

God himself, in Christ Jesus, is the sanctuary of mercy. The ark of the covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law are in Christ our sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need?

Oh, Lord, fulfill this promise and always be to us like a little sanctuary!

In a book published 127 years ago, this was the entry for March 15. What a smiling providence. What an evidence of the Lord’s care for his people in a time of turmoil and trouble. He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5), and he proved it again this morning.

—————

1 Spurgeon’s devotional The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith was published in 1893 in America, but Crossway published an updated edition just last year. The text above is from the 2019 edition.

March 10

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Sorry for the later entry than normal but an early morning text took me aside for 1/2 hour. If you think you are out of whack you ought to be in my world right now!  🙂  Now to the devotion.

As I write this I think I heard a dog bark and a cat screech.  I know…bad attempt to say it’s raining like cats and dogs right now. 🙂  Actually, I love to listen to falling rain. There is something soothing about it.  To me, even a storm of thunder and lightning can be relaxing.

UNLESS!!

Unless it is out of control. Driving in a storm is no fun. I’ve been caught having to take cover when riding my bike. I’ve had to ride a whole day in a steady rain, sometimes downpour and it is no fun at all. But fortunately, I’ve never been a pilot flying through a nasty storm. I have read of pilots who got disoriented and lost their bearings in a storm and relied on their instincts instead of the instruments in front of them. The result is often disastrous.  Trusting one dial on their instrument panel that tells them how their plane is according to the horizon is vital.

But in life it is also easy to get disoriented in a storm. We trust our “instincts” (ourselves)  instead of the One who can lead us through that storm. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  There is a way through the storm!! Not trusting our instincts but trusting the Captain is the best.

“Father, when my storm hits, help me not to rely on my instincts but on You. I’m a lousy pilot. Help me to follow Your lead, Your instruments (Your Word).”

February 10

Monday, February 10th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Prayer: Posture vs Attitude.

I had a different kind of weekend than I normally have, and definitely different than I had planned. An upsetting weekend. An interrupted weekend. A tearful weekend. An angry weekend. A heart-wrenching weekend. A praise-filled weekend. An encouraging weekend.

Sounds a little schizophrenic doesn’t it? At times I felt like it. See…it wasn’t all at once. Obviously. If it was you probably would be visiting me in a facility. No…it came in waves. To be more specific would be to give away confidences so I can’t do that. Just suffice it to say the weekend was one that tested my stability, my emotions, my foundation, and even my faith. But I learned this:

Tears are a language God understands.

Hopes. Fears. Disappointments. Joy. Laughter. Reality. Emotions. Highs. Lows. Good. Bad.

I learned again that like worship, prayer is 24/7. I wasn’t formally on my knees all weekend long but, I was on my knees. I didn’t have my head bowed all weekend long, but I did have my head bowed. As I read recently:

Prayerfulness is not an event; it is a way of being in relationship with God.

I preached yesterday on worship, emphasizing how worship is not categorized as a 1-2 hour block during the week, but a 24/7/365 commitment where God invades every part of my world. Prayer is to be the same way. I may have not been in prayer “formally” this weekend, but I can say I was in prayer this weekend. And there will be more.

“Father, thank you for being with me this past weekend. Through all events You were there. I sensed it. Help me to continue learning to practice Your presence in all things, even if that does not include a formal stop-and-pray action.”

January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 10

Friday, January 10th, 2020

My tile for this devotion is Stretch: Growth vs Ease.

I attended a JV basketball game last night of our local high school. I don’t really know any of the players except by name only, but since I was taking tickets I watched the girls game and then took tickets for 1/2 of the boy’s game.  Our JV boys have two young men who are Sophomores. One is 6’4″ and the other is 6’8″. Both play on the JV, both dress for the Varsity, but both are misfits. By that I don’t mean they they aren’t any good, uncoordinated, or all hands. On the contrary, they both, especially the 6’8″ guy, move with some pretty good fluidity.

But they are misfits. Why? Because everything came too easily. The shorter of the two worked fairly hard, Compared to the other team he was more on their plain. But the taller guy was not being challenged. No hands were in his face when he shot. His shot wasn’t really challenged. He hardly had to jump. My question was this: why is that boy not starting on the Varsity? The varsity team is not setting any fires this year. They have one Junior who started as a Freshman and if he stays healthy will get a scholarship somewhere. But there is not reason why the 6’8″ young man is not playing varsity. He could be getting so much better by being challenged.

Growth happens when we stretch, not stay with the status quo. Growth happens when we are challenged, not when things come easily. James 1:2-4 backs that up. Stretching is painful; hurtful; sometimes excruciating, but oh so necessary.

“Father, stretching hurts, but status quo does too. Just in a different way. As much as I like ease that is not the way of a Christ-follower. Stretch me. Grow me into your likeness.”

January 3

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Sorry this is late in coming today. Computer issues (it wouldn’t turn on) were a big downer. Finally…

My title for this devotion is Ready or Not.

As a child playing hide-n-seek the saying was familiar.  Count to 100 as everyone scatters and then say, “Ready or not here I come.”

I think one of the things many, if not most, people don’t like are surprises. Oh, we don’t mind surprises on our birthday or at Christmas. We like the surprise of seeing a loved one we haven’t seen in awhile (like a service man surprising his/her child at school). Those kinds of surprises bring a chill up and down our spine and a smile to our face and heart.

It’s the other kind of surprise we aren’t fond of. The kind that take the wind out of our sails. The kind that take our breath away. The kind that test our faith. They hit us when we least expect it. These seem to rise up out of nowhere and slam us. I don’t know about you but those are the kind I don’t like!

But I read something today that speaks to that. Proverbs 3:25-26 says, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” We are often thrown curve balls. Some pitchers throw curve balls so wicked they buckle the knees of the batter. Life’s surprises may do that but God’s Word says we don’t have to be afraid of them. Not when our confidence is in God.

“Father, help me to not be afraid of life’s surprises. Instead, help me to trust You no matter what comes.”

November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

May 15

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is God’s Distraction vs God’s Attention.

It’s not unusual to read stories of people who have “Job-like” experiences, ask a lot of questions, but cling to the hope of God’s unfailing love and attention. It’s also common to read of those who are fed up with God’s (seeming) inattention and abandon hope and faith.

I would like to believe that if I ever entered a season of intense pain and suffering and loss that I would cling to hope like Job did. (not that I want to experience that kind of season). When David was hiding from Saul in the cave, he wrote Psalm 57. What a wonderful psalm!! His cries to God in the midst of incredible trial are filled with agony and pain but also hope and peace. Listen to these words:

God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amidst fiery beasts-the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (3b-5)

I love the description of the enemy: lions; fiery beasts; teeth are spears and arrows; tongues are sharp swords. That’s what it feels like when it appears I’m being attacked from all sides. (But I do have to admit I have not been attacked in a Job-like manner. It just feels like it sometimes.)

But that’s not the highlight of those verses. That’s setting the stage for the ending: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” [v.5] There is something to be said about praise in the midst of pain. In 57:1 David says his soul takes refuge in God and he is under the shadow of his wings.

“When the way gets dark, Father, and the clouds roll in; the thunder roars; the lightning flashes and it appears hope is gone, help me to trust in your steadfast love. Help me to not lose heart, to feel as though you aren’t listening or don’t care. Instead, help me to know your attention to my detail.”