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August 18

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Did you ever read something and not only did it stick with you, but so did a song? It happened to me this morning.

I’m preaching his week on Mark 8 so I was doing what I have been asking the folks to do: read Mark 8 during the week. Even though my sermon is all done and ready to go, I read a verse I know I have read countless times before, but this morning it stuck with me…as did a song.

The verse is verse 33. Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ and then when he rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to be crucified, Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purpose, but on man’s.”  OUCH

Here comes the song now: “I’ve got my mind set on you” by the late George Harrison of the Beatles.  I know…I’m weird. But a fun-loving weird! 🙂 🙂

But much deeper was the realization that what Jesus said to Peter could be said to me. Way too often I have “Bill’s agenda” in mind. Way more than I care to admit my mind and heart are divided. Sadly, I’m often more interested in doing things my way and having them to work out for my betterment, than I am saying, “God, I know You have a purpose for all of this. Help me to just submit to Your purpose(s).”

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord, And your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for His own purpose…”

“Father, It’s Your purpose and Your agenda I need to submit to.”

August 17

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion about Psalm 13, so I thought I would follow up that devotion with a deeper look into this psalm.

First, please read Psalm 13 in its entirety. Yeah…all 6 verses. 🙂

The chapter is written by King David.  Here we go:

If God truly forgot David, as he says in verse 1, then how was David able to say he trusted in God’s faithfulness? (v.5a)

In verse 1b David says that God hid His face from him, but in verse 6b he says that God has looked after him.

In verse 2a David wrestled with this thoughts and grief, yet in verse 6a he had a song in his heart.

In verse 2b David said his enemy was triumphing over him but in verse 5b he says his heart rejoices in God’s salvation.

There appears to be a discrepancy, or at best, David is bi-polar.

Here is how I see it: David’s feelings and reality were in conflict. He felt God had hidden, but he believed God was somehow good to him. He felt the pains of inner sorrow, but he believed he had every right to sing. Same with the other two.

Sometimes our feelings are too strong in how we decide. We are often anchored to our feelings. We need to believe. We need to not rely so much on our feelings and more on what we KNOW about God’s mercy, providence, love and grace.

Less feelings. More trust.

“Father, that is a constant struggle for many of us. May I live a life of faith not feelings.”

{My thanks to Randall Arthur’s book Wisdom Hunter for the insights into this passage. It is a fiction book I highly recommend. I cannot even tell you how many times I have read it and how many copies I have given away}. 

August 16

Monday, August 16th, 2021

Do you know what a perfect storm is? If you watched the movie by that name, it means conditions are perfect for something phenomenal to happen. It that case, conditions were right for converging weather systems to being the storm of all storms and the vessel was caught in it. {Spoiler: it sank}.

Life is sometimes like that. So is reading. Three different sources this morning-no, four if you count my re-read of Psalm 13 from the previous morning-combined to be a perfect storm.

The writer of Our Daily Bread (August 14) wrote about not understanding when God is work or how.

Bob Goff wrote about God’s delays (p.273) which can be merely annoying, and some devastating. They cause us to wonder if God is even there and if He is good.

Another source-a book on HOPE-carries the same message as the others. Even though we cannot see or feel Him, He is always present and will help us through the darkest nights.

Then I re-read what is one of my favorite psalms-Psalm 13. The message of that psalm rings out loud and clear. But…you will have to wait until tomorrow for a fuller explanation. 🙂

All that to say, God made His point this morning. No matter whether He looks like it or not; no matter whether I feel like it or not; no matter how dark it seems; and no matter how dense the cloud cover, God is there. In that I can place my trust.

“Father, whether it appears to be so or not, You are there. Help me to trust You in the dark and in the clouds.”

August 13

Friday, August 13th, 2021

Don’t watch the news! If you do a feeling will come over you. Not a good one either. It is called hopelessness.

IMHO one of the feelings a good number of people experienced in the last 1-2 years has been hopelessness. Lockdowns. Masks. A relentless virus. Lack of personal contact. And more. But one way all this has revealed itself is in illness and even suicide. It has amped up that feeling of hopelessness.

On top of that think of the events of this past summer-the riots, rebelliousness, the angry cries-and think of what is even going on now. The rising inflation. The inflamed rhetoric. The hypocrisy. I could go on and on and it could actually bring you under a blanket that could cover you in despair.

Hope is something we all want AND need. No one feels life is worth living if there seems to be no hope. If we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is easy to despair. None of us like to be the recipient of the old saying, “I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was the light of an oncoming train.”

During the writing of Psalm 3 (I’m in the process of starting them again), David was in the midst of a coup by his son, Absalom. That had to be a real downer. His own son!  But verse 3 shows us that David knew where to go: “But You, Lord, are a shield around me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” He goes on to write about how he cried out to God, then went to sleep, and really slept. Why? How? “For the Lord sustained me.” (v.5)

No follower of Christ is hopeless, nor should we ever feel life is hopeless. I like what someone has said,

“Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, but faith looks up.

“Father, help me not to worry or feel hopeless. Help me to see and know You will sustain me.”

All Scripture is from NASB2020.

August 12

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

In his devotion on page 270 (Live in Grace-Walk in Love), Bob Goff describes how in SoCal, because it is so dry and like a desert, people who want green yards don’t water them. They have artificial turf rolled across their yard. That’s funny.  But let me tell you something that will strike your funny bone and give you a chuckle.

I have a friend who once lived in AZ. Apache Junction. I went to visit him so we could attend a conference in Cali together. It was January. Freezing back home in Ohio. You know…winter coats. Gloves. Hats. The whole 9 yards. Not wise to have those things in AZ. 🙂 Anyway, the penchant for a green yard was so deeply ingrained in some people, some of his neighbors spray-painted the fine gravel which made up their front yard…Green. I kid you not. Instead of cutting it, they raked it to make it smooth.

Seems silly to me. But many of us do that in our lives.

We smooth, polish, wax and rake the outside so we look all nice and good and proper. Go to church? yes. Sing? Yes. Give our offering? Yes. Say hi and smile? Yes. Read our Bible? Yes.

The outside looks good but the inside is a mess. I’m preaching on Mark 7 this Sunday. That passage includes Jesus’ discussion with the disciples on clean and unclean. Food doesn’t make us unclean. It may not be all that healthy, but it does not determine who we are. It is what proceeds out of us that really shows us for who we are.

Bob’s point in his devotion was that God is hoping to change us from the inside out. I agree. This body is window dressing. The religious things I do are window dressing. What really matters-AND ULTIMATELY MAKES ITS APPEARANCE-is what is in my heart.

“Father, cleanse me inside out. Transform my heart. Help me to stop putting new curtains or blinds on the window dressing and seek to allow You to change my heart.”

August 11

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

One of the early pioneers of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was a group called “Love Song.” They were converts from and during the hippie generation and began playing Jesus Music. One of the members of that group was Chuck Girard, who eventually went solo.  He had a song on one of his albums (yes, I bought it) called Busy Day. Here is a sampling of the lyrics of that song:

Busy day, busy day, busy, busy, busy day/Busy, busy, busy, busy day/Busy day, busy day, busy, busy, busy day/ Busy, busy, busy, busy day.

Get the point? 🙂  Of course there were stanzas to the song but that was the chorus.  You can check out the song here.

That song depicts many of our lives. Sadly, even those things which are good become an “enabler” to our busy day, busy life. We sometimes go overboard with what we add to our lives. We throw things into the mix-like a person with a kettle throwing in lots of ingredients-only to mess up the stew instead of enhancing it. Jo knows for me to enjoy a bowl of soup, she can leave out the red pepper flakes (she tends to add too many for my taste) and garlic. 

Sometimes we do that with our lives- overcommit- then miss out on the fun it was intended to bring. Or worse, we miss interacting with the people we were supposed to engage.

Let’s start slowing down. Let’s start slimming down. Let’s choose wisely what we add to our daily stew.

“Father, help me to remember it is all about You and people. Help me not to get so full and add ingredients to my stew that I lose sight of You, people, and the fun it was supposed to be.”

August 10

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Years ago I heard a leadership guru say, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

I know what he was trying to say (along with a touch of arrogance). In any situation there are three kinds of people: the leader, the follower, and the dragger. Progress is determined by one of those three types of people.

  • There is the leader, the one who gets out front and takes the bull by the horns and gets things done.
  • There is the follower, the one who gets in line behind the leader with support, encouragement, work, etc.
  • There is the dragger, the one who drags his/her feet for any number of reasons. I’ll not delineate them right now. You can figure them out on your own.

The problem which often arises is the failure to follow. Even the leader is a follower…if he/she is a follower of Jesus. Even the leader can sometimes get ahead of the Guide. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

When we find ourselves losing our way in life, it’s a good time to evaluate whether Jesus is ahead of us leading or behind us just carrying our stuff.  (p.265)  *

I hate to admit there are times (far too many) when I get ahead of Him. Instead of following Him, I strike out on my own. Or I simply walk too fast and get out ahead. I think I know best. I think I know the right, or even the best, path. I get in over my head and get lost or swamped.

It is then I need to have a seat and pause and relinquish my “lead.” It is necessary for me to be the follower, to even admit I’m lost.

“Father, I think I know best. Not always do I know. Not even often do I know. Help me to relinquish the leadership of my life to you.”

*Quote from Live Grace-Walk in Love

August 9

Monday, August 9th, 2021

Okay…slap me with a wet noodle. I didn’t post last Friday. We made a quick trip to Ohio and left Wednesday morning and returned Friday. Rather than throw a devotion together AND try to do it on my phone, I decided not to do anything. But if I was going to post, the following was on my mind.

As followers of Christ we are told to:

Hurt when others hurt.

Cry when others cry.

Laugh when others laugh.

Rejoice when others rejoice.

Love because we are loved.

Show grace because we have been shown grace.

Comfort when others hurt.

The reality is that God often puts us in hard places or takes us through hard moments so that we will be ready when others go through hard moments. When their heart cries out for comfort, we are ready, because our hearts once cried out for comfort.

I think of Mordecai’s words to Esther: “For such a time as this…”  And who knows? All the junk we went through; all the pain we experienced; all the tears; were not wasted just on us. Perhaps it was for us to have a heart that hears and listens and responds to another’s heart cry. Lessons learned were never meant to be kept to ourselves. They are sometimes a path for us to guide a fellow struggler.  Don’t waste the pain or the lessons by keeping them to yourself.

“Father, may I be open to using my pain and heartache to help someone else experiencing that same difficulty.

August 5

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Years ago I remember my brother, Rob, singing a song made popular (I think) by Casting Crowns. I say “I think” because CC is not my style of music. But the song had lyrics that were something like this: “Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child.”

I was thinking about how true that was. We have instances in the Scriptures where Jesus calmed the storm (Mark 4). But we also know He calmed His child. Case in point: Acts 16. Paul and Silas had received a beating at the hands of the Romans and were tossed into jail. Not a nice, soft bed but stocks. I’m not sure I can think of a much more uncomfortable situation than that. But instead of complaining, moping or whining, they were singing praises. Are you kidding me?

No I am not. Then the miraculous happened. An earthquake shook the jail and all the doors and stocks were opened. They could have run but chose not to.

How like God to come through!! He did it for Jehoshaphat and the people of Israel.  He showed His glory when Solomon was dedicating the Temple. God showed up in dramatic ways.

Now…He might not be as dramatic in our lives. But He does show up. Sometimes He calms the storm and says,  “Peace be still!” And sometimes He calms His child and says, “Peace be still.”

Either one works for me.

“Thank you Father for showing up during my time of storm. Calming the storm or calming me…either one is okay. I’m just thrilled You show up and know what I need.”

August 4

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

I love the picture of adoption. The Bible speaks in several places about adoption. (Romans 8: 15,23; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:3)

 I have a brother and sister-in-law who adopted Lia from China in 2003. We have one family in the church who adopted 2 girls from China at different times-one a baby and one who was 9 or 10 years old.  That latter young lady just graduated from high school as did my niece!  (They are getting old but not me!)

So many others could tell stories of adoption. Despite what some evil proponents will say, they were not “colonizing” anyone. They wanted the opportunity to either fill their empty arms or to give a chance to someone who would not have had one. Is it colonization when someone born with a severe cleft palate deformity is adopted and given a chance? A new hope? I think not.

The picture of adoption finds its real beauty in the story of God adopting us, taking us from a life of hopelessness and lostness (I know that is not a word), and being made part of a family. A forever family. All the rights and privileges of being a member of a family are ours. Just as the adopted child is given a new home and new last name, so are we in God’s adoption.

While I was not adopted physically, nor did Jo and I adopt a child physically, I appreciate God’s adoption of me. All rights and privileges, inheritance and blessings are mine. I’m glad God loved me and adopted me and made me His child by welcoming into His family.

“Father, thank you seems such an inadequate way to express how I feel. But I want to say ‘Thank You’ for adopting me into Your forever family.”