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April 11

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Flat out: I firmly believe that. What was ironic-my daughter pointed out-is that I preached on the Creator God and His monstrously creative genius the day before the total Eclipse. Straight up: I did not plan it that way. When I began planning my sermons, the eclipse was the farthest thing from my mind.

But I don’t want to write about the eclipse. Enough has been said already. It was spectacular. I did not watch it…I rode my bike inside. But I had my blinds open and it was creepy to look outside and see it pitch black at 3:00 in the afternoon. {Note: it gives credibility to the 12-3 scenario when Jesus was on the cross and it was dark}. What I want to write about this morning are the hucksters, the doomsayers, the conspiracy theorists, and the like who came out of the woodwork to use this for personal and professional gain. I am particularly piqued at the “religious” hucksters who crawled out of their hole in the wall to promote a false-read that very false- narrative that the eclipse was going to be the end of the world; God’s judgment on America; blah blah blah, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. There were the so-called prophets predicting all kinds of garbage that was going to happen…AND DIDN’T! Label them: F.A.L.S.E. P.R.O.P.H.E.T.S. There are those who predicted it would usher in the Rapture (if you believe in that). It didn’t (either that or I was left behind and if I believed that it would be a real bummer). There were those who predicted the doom of America. It didn’t. (if American is doomed its because of the truth of Proverbs 28:2: When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability”.

All that to say: whenever someone “prophesies” anything, run as far away from that person or organization as possible. The NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) with people like Bill Johnson and Bethel, Benny Hinn, Hillsong, Kenneth Copeland, and other yahoos, are nothing more than false teachers. R-U-N  A-W-A-Y!! as fast and as far as you can.

I’ll stand with Jesus who said not even He knew when He would return, only His Father. That’s solid ground to stand on.

April 10

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

Have you ever had a sense of satisfaction when watching a movie or reading a book and the antagonist “gets what is coming to them”? That’s all well and good in a movie or a book; not so in real life. IMHO whenever we have a sense of satisfaction or that feeling of “Good. They got what they deserved” a small part of what little good is in us dies.

But there are times, even in the Bible, where we see this scenario played out. But as we will soon see it wasn’t by man’s doing, but God’s. Remember this principle as you consider the following story: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord.”

In the Old Testament book of Esther a character named Haman hates Mordecai because Mordecai would not bow down and worship the ground Haman walked on. Literally. Haman eventually saw his chance to “get” Mordecai by getting the king (Xerxes) to put into law the extinction of the Jews on such-and-such a day. Haman even went so far as to erect gallows strictly made for Mordecai’s demise and display. Through a series of events -which actually go back to when Mordecai saved the king’s life by reporting a conspiracy but which had never been revealed or rewarded-Haman’s plot was exposed. Ultimately, Haman and his family were hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai’s demise.

We would say, “Turn about is fair play” or “He got what was coming to him.” But notice: Mordecai didn’t seek it. Mordecai didn’t go after Haman. No. He did his thing; God did His. (Please read the book of Esther for the complete story).

God is the creator and sustainer of all things and is in absolute complete control. Haman’s wickedness would not and did not escape God’s purview. God’s timing was and still is perfect. We would do well to leave all things in His hands and His control. Even, and especially, the “getting even” part.

April 9

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

“I’ve sinned too much.” “I’ve sunk too low.” 

It is not unusual for me to hear those kinds of words. Add to it the thoughts of “God could never forgive me” or “There’s no way I deserve God’s forgiveness” and you almost have word for word what I often hear.

Well, they are correct and also incorrect in their assessment. Correct: “I’ve sinned too much” (once is too many).  “There is no way I deserve God’s forgiveness.”  Incorrect: “God could never forgive me.” The hard truth is that we have sinned (and as I said once is too much). AND we do not deserve God’s forgiveness.

The startling truth is that He reaches down to us no matter how far we have fallen. No matter how deep of a hole we have dug for ourselves.

I have just finished reading over the past two days a trifecta of chapters from the book of Psalms-chapters 104, 105 & 106. They read like a litany of bad history. 104 starts out well talking about the greatness of God and the goodness of God. It’s almost like preparation for what was to come. 105 opens with giving thanks to God for His care of them while in Egypt and how He brought them out of that strange land. Intertwined is how He cared for them in spite of their grumbling.  But 106! WOW! Talk about a past one would just as soon forget!! The psalmist (David?) gives a history lesson of the faithlessness of the Israelites- grumbling about water and food; worshiping a golden calf; sacrificing their children to a foreign god; the list goes on.

Through it all-in spite of His anger and yes, judgment that He must do-is a faithful God. A God who made and makes promises and sticks to them. A God of whom the psalmist writes, “Save us, O Lord our God! Gather us back from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you. Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, ‘Amen!'”

If He can do that for His wayward, faithless, stumbling people, what makes us think we can sink too far down and can’t be reached?

April 8

Monday, April 8th, 2024

Today is a significant day in history. It is Eclipse Day. It is the day I have dubbed “the day Spencer stood still.” Spencer, the town I live in in Central Indiana, is supposed to be right in the path of the Eclipse. Businesses have closed for the day. Schools have gone to e-learning because the Total Eclipse is about the time school would be dismissed. Hotels are full. Some places are renting out “places to view” for (x amount of dollars). Some churches have even brought it port-a-pots and allowed camping…all for a price of course.

Me? I am, admittedly, indifferent. I told my wife I planned to ride my bike and she said, “You can’t. You’ll go blind.” No, no I won’t. I can’t watch the road and the sky at the same time. Then she realized I was joking. One, it is supposed to be pitch black and I don’t ride at night. Two, I don’t want to be out on the road right now with a bunch of crazies more intent on seeing the eclipse than watching for a cyclist. That is not a good combination in my book. In fact, for me I would call that a lose-lose situation. But I also wasn’t lying to her. I do plan on riding by bike…inside. She asked me to be home before the phenomena starts so I told her I would and that I planned to ride. 🙂

It’s not that I am not aware of the impressive display of God’s design. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies show His craftsmanship.”  Psalm 90:1-2 says, “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.”  Take a moment and read Psalm 104. I read it this morning for my morning Encounter Time. I marvel at God’s creative genius and His imagination. For a renewed perspective read Genesis 1 slowly.

I am aware of the significance of today’s event.  Tami read a meme to me last night that said something along the line of: “NASA has reportedly said that a rain date has been set for 2099 just in case the Eclipse is hard to see today.” I laughed. Actually, I prefer instead to worship the Creator of it all, and while I ride I will be listening to some music that draws my attention to Him.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

April 4

Thursday, April 4th, 2024

One of the characteristics of a good leader is to see a need and act. That act may be one of delegation. See the need and find someone or assign someone the task of fulfilling it. One of the ways of filling a need is a way many leaders won’t even think of doing-“lowering” themselves to do what needs to be done right then and there. Take, for example, a toilet that has overflowed.  The leader may experience it or see it. Instant decision: take care of it, assign it, or pretend it didn’t happen and you never saw it. The good leader will do what? Take immediate action. If that means to stem the tide of the mess until maybe someone else can volunteer or step in to do the job, then so be it.

I witnessed this the other day. Grand Opening. Ribbon cutting. Grills aren’t working correctly (new one ordered). Breakers keep blowing. Men’s toilet overflows. One of the owners grabbed a mop during a lull (they had put an “Out of Order” sign on the door temporarily) and began mopping the bathroom floor. Leadership seen as servanthood. Eventually, someone else came and helped.

Ezra the priest goes to Jerusalem to lead them in a return to God following the exile. But 70 years later word gets to Nehemiah that Jerusalem is still in sad shape. A ruined city with broken down walls.  Enemies having a field day. Enter Nehemiah…miles removed from the situation. He prays first for wisdom.  Then petitions his boss (he was cupbearer to the king) for time off. With the king’s blessing he makes his way to Jerusalem where he proceeds to assess the situation, then rebuild the walls with help. He didn’t just order them done, but got his hands dirty as well.

In my book, true leadership does not sit in an ivory tower making rules, living like a king while doling out money or orders. No. True leadership gets dirty hands, often leading the way by doing.

Now…where is that towel and basin?

April 3

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

I have said on a number of occasions that “you cannot take people where you yourself have not been.”

Part of the vision of the church I pastor is Pursuing Jesus Passionately. We cannot lead or teach people to pursue Jesus if we ourselves are not doing so.

We recently visited the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing display of God’s creative genius. As we stood safely behind walls of stone taking pictures, we could see paths where people could hike to see more. I know there was more to see than I was able to see. So much more. And the best way to see that was with a guide who knew his/her way around. One who knew the trails. One who knew what to look for. A newbie is not what I would have wanted.

When Ezra came in the second wave of people returning to Jerusalem after having been in exile in Babylon, he was dismayed to see that the people had not fostered a love for God and His Temple. They had neglected the Scriptures and their influence in their lives. Enter Ezra, the priest. He saw it as his mission to lead (guide) them to the Scriptures, to call them back to the source. He knew that it was the Word of God that changed lives. What will turn this country around will not be a political party or candidate, legislation to change this or that; outlawing certain practices’; or legislating morality. If hearts are not changed, then we will just find another way to disobey God.

No. Ezra knew: change the heart with the Word of God and you change society. That’s good advice for the country. But it is especially good advice for the church. Study the Word, put it into practice, teach it to others, then the church changes. You can’t demand or legislate change. Only God’s Word can have a permanent impact.

April 2

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

Someone has famously said, “The seven last words of the church are ‘We’ve never done it that way before.'” That, of course, was not a compliment. It was, in fact, another way of saying that a church will die or have zero influence if it does what it has always done; is what it has always been; and sticks to what once was.

Sadly, it is true. Many churches (and organizations) are tied to to their past. Their glory days are long gone but “Doggone it, we’ve always done it this way and we will continue doing it this way.” Let’s start playing TAPS or maybe, just maybe, it started long time ago?

When I first started in ministry it was at the end of my sophomore year in college. I preached on Sundays at a little country church in a little town in KY (No need to mention where). I honestly don’t know if that little church is still in existence. But they used to have 2 week revivals. 2 weeks! In June! Every night! Now, I’m not sure if they still do that…I would hope not. I confess I had no clue what a revival was all about or even what it was, let alone pastor a church that had one 2 weeks long.  I see it now as a meeting for the already saved to get together, listen to a sermon they have heard multiple times before, and walk away feeling good they were there. Yeah…that’s cynical. I’m sorry I’m a tad bit jaded.

There is a church in the town where I pastor that has a “Gospel Meeting” i.e. their brand name for “Revival.” For a whole week (I think twice a year), they have meetings each night. I don’t see too many cars in the parking lot. If I did, I wonder how many are unsaved folks? Could it be the time is past?

Whether a church, a company, a local business, or even a local service organization, death comes knocking if there is a failure to change. I’m not talking about the mission or core values. We have enough of that nonsense already. No…I’m talking about the approach.  It’s time we stop living in the past or try to relive our glory days by “doing what we have always done” and start making the necessary changes to influence the culture. If not, the culture will influence us. 

I heard it put this way one time: Methods change; the message doesn’t. That’s it in a nutshell.

April 1

Monday, April 1st, 2024

Today is generally known as “Joker’s Day.”  It is the day we “approve” of jokes played on other people. The more outrageous the better. April Fools Day is known as a day of nonsense, tricks, jokes, and a general “I-got-you” day. Ironic then that it follows the day after we celebrated the greatest day in history (and no, it is not the day the White House declared it to be).  Psalm 14:1 says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (NLT) The book of Proverbs is filled with references to fools. But let’s move away from that topic to one which is much more positive.

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday. We had a super fine day as we joined together in one service at another venue. Even then we ran out of chairs. What a great problem to have! 🙂 During my sermon I asked the question: “What if the resurrection never did happen?” Well, the Apostle Paul gives 4 ramifications of that from I Corinthians:

  • Our faith is useless.  (Verse 17a). The Greek word for useless means “futile, empty, of no value.”
  • We are still in our sins. (Verse 17b). Succinctly put: if Jesus is still in the tomb, His death cannot save us. He is no different than any other religious teacher.
  • We have no hope of a future. (Verse 18).  Without the resurrection a bright future is an empty promise.
  • We should be pitied more than anyone. (Verse 19). All we do in this life is for nothing if all we have is this life.

But let’s turn those thoughts around and show what a difference the resurrection makes:

  • Instead of our faith being useless, we can say our faith has meaning.  Something we believe in is true.
  • Instead of still being in our sins, we can say we have forgiveness. The resurrection makes sin forgiven a reality.
  • Instead of having no hope for the future, we can know we will see our loved ones who died in Christ.  Can there be anything more lonely or lost than no hope, of just being worm food?
  • Instead of being pitied more than anyone, we can be certain of our own future.  Knowing we have something to live for, to look forward to changed everything.

You may have heard something like this yesterday from your own pastor. But today is Monday, the day we begin to put it all to the test. Live today in the light of His resurrection.

March 28

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

“What in the world is Maundy Thursday?” That was my incredulous question to someone when he mentioned Maundy Thursday.

Backstory: I grew up and subsequently preached in a church tradition that was not a denomination (least they said they weren’t). We didn’t and still don’t celebrate special days (except Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays) or saints or creeds. All I knew growing up was my Catholic friends ate fish, not meat, on Friday, but I had no clue why. I never knew about Lent, saints, creeds, and certainly not Maundy Thursday.

Until a few years ago. I was looking into the history of Lent and church practices when I heard about this thing called Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum or “command.” The command being commemorated was the one Jesus gave His followers the night before He died: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (Jn.13:34 NLT)

I have also learned that the royal family began giving gifts to people in need as far back as the 13th century on Maundy Thursday. Do they still carry on that tradition? I don’t know. (Maybe you do?)

Maundy Thursday is today in the Christian world. The day before Good Friday. Think about this for a moment. Jesus gave the command to His followers to love as He loved.  A day later in an act of pure love and selflessness, He showed His love by dying on a cross for sins He never committed. “There is no great love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13 NLT). So He spoke; so He lived loved. 

I’m still not too sure about this thing called Maundy Thursday. I’m still not convinced about the need to make a special day of it. But it does beg the question: How are you going to show love this Easter season? One went to a cross. We are not/may not be asked to go to that extreme, but are you willing to give yourself away in service to another?

March 27

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

I read an interesting verse this morning that I have to admit, got me thinking some. Proverbs 27:21 says, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (NLT)

The fire testing the purity of silver and gold part I get. Peter uses that same imagery in I Peter 1:7 where he writes, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (NLT)  So having our faith tested by going through fire is to be expected.

It is the latter part that has me curious. “A person is tested by being praised.” But then I started thinking: How many people do I know who have changed once they started being praised? The accolades started rolling in. The words of praise were said, conveyed, and maybe even printed. And it is like a switch is flipped. The person changes. The man in the mirror is no longer recognizable. Gone is humility. Gone is sympathy and empathy. Gone is a wonder at life. And, even more tragic, gone is a softness and yieldedness to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Decisions are made, not so much by what does God think? but what will please my followers? The praise of man overrides the praise and approval of God. It think it would be correct to say that the genuineness of a person’s faith is tested by fire, but so is the humility of that person’s faith.

Be careful-be very careful-of the applause of men. If you receive it, don’t allow it to go to your heard or to change you. Stay humble. Stay grateful. Stay alert to the enemy’s schemes.