InTheShadow

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November 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

November 15

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

I may be wrong (but I doubt it), but I think one of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. Do you see what I just did in that sentence? 🙂

For various reasons, admitting a mistake goes against the grain of some people. Maybe it is their personality. Maybe it is their upbringing. Maybe they are, in reality, very insecure so they put on this “I’m always right” front.

But I’m thinking that for many, it is too much of one thing and not enough of another. Say what?

Too much of one thing and not enough of another. Too much pride. Not enough humility.

Check out James 1: 19-25. It is too long for me to print it here, but as you read, take note what he is saying. Get rid of pride and the sin which comes along with it, and exhibit humility. He admonishes us to look into the Word, but not like we would a mirror.  It is easy to forget what we see (and I most definitely do sometimes) and not do anything about it. But it is also easy to look into a mirror and not be honest and say, “Whoa dude! You got it going on!”

There is NO WAY we can take an honest look into God’s Word and say that. We are told God’s Word is like a sharp, two-edged sword. As we read, we need to let it penetrate. We need to allow it to convict and lay us open. We need to let it break down our pride.

That can only happen if we come with humility.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

November 10

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.

November 9

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.

November 8

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

I hope to answer Ryan’s comment on yesterday’s post tomorrow. I had planned it for today but something else is on my mind. (And my other mind would be upset if I didn’t write this).

A dubious anniversary.

That is what I would call it. Usually anniversaries are celebratory occasions. We call them birthdays. We call them golden and silver (speaking of weddings. Fun fact: Jo and I will celebrate, Lord willing, #50 this coming June 16th).  We call them holidays. All days or moments of celebration. A highlight. A star.

So why do I write “a dubious anniversary?”

Yesterday, my daughter, Tami, texted me early in the morning to tell me I had an anniversary. More specifically, her memory feed on FB said it was the 6th year anniversary of my hit-n-run accident. Not me hitting and running, but someone using me as their personal practice dummy by using the mirror of their SUV to see if they could hit me and put me down. They succeeded. (Yay for me). Then I laid on the road watching him drive on, not even slowing down or using a brake light. November 7, 2016 around 1:15 in the afternoon. Clear day. Sun was out. Bright clothes. Day ruined. A trip to the ER. It was followed by a couple of weeks of pain and a huge hematoma on my left hip. A trip to a clinic about a week or so later due to a swollen leg. Gradual healing.

The first time out riding after that I was very cognizant (translated: highly alert) of every vehicle that went by me. Still am to this day. In the summer of ’17 I was buzzed by a car and when I stretched my arms as if to say, “Why?” he made a not so nice gesture out of his window. Yeah…it was on purpose. It happened a year or so later when a Jeep got real close, gestured and sped along. But it wasn’t so funny when two days later I was coming on an intersection, saw that same Jeep, pointed and he took off like a “bat out of you-know-where.” (Sorry for the rabbit trail).  Anyway, that first ride past where it happened, I rejoiced and prayed a prayer of thanks. Even to this day, I remember it when I ride past it.

It is a dubious anniversary. But it was also an awakening time. A realization that my life could been snuffed out that quickly. A spiritual awakening that began that day, was reinforced 3 months later when I went over the handlebars while going downhill (I still don’t remember what happened).  I broke my collarbone, 3 ribs, and split my helmet in 3 places.  That accident was like the exclamation point on the spiritual awakening which had begun on November 7.  It climaxed in spiritual awareness, repentance from drifting and taking things for granted, relaxing boundaries, and a new appreciation for life.

It is a dubious anniversary, but one I look back on with gratitude. My life was spared. A 16 pound bike with a 205 pound rider has very little chance against a 3000 pound machine at 60 mph.  That is simply no contest.

More importantly though, God used it to say, “Wake up Bill! You are relying to much upon yourself.”

“Thank  you Father, for your gracious heart toward me. For the lessons taught (and hopefully learned) I thank you. Take whatever days I have left and let me use them wisely for You.”

November 7

Monday, November 7th, 2022

I have always had trouble with statements like “Good Luck” or “You were so lucky.” The same goes for “May the force be with you.” 🙂 Ditto on “It just happened to open up” or some form of “It just happened.”

This recently came home to me in spades.  Almost 2 weeks ago I hit my leg just above the ankle on a metal rod used to move a weight bench at the Y. It hurt like fire.  (And no I didn’t use words I shouldn’t, but I do confess to slamming a weight on the bar). I quickly developed a “goose egg” that looked like a hard-boiled egg in size. I came home and iced it then iced it off and on for the next couple of days. About a week ago I noticed my foot turned black and blue, as if I had sprained my ankle. I also noticed the nail of my big toe also had turned color (blood pooled under the nail). I had a nurse friend who came to take a look and recommended I get to a doctor to get checked for cellulitis. So the next morning I began calling a few minutes before 7 and got through right at 7:00. No openings.  In fact, she told me to call a central number and see if an opening was available. Nope. Nada. Zip. But she said she would take one more look and said, “Oh, I have an opening at 9:05.” So I went and the diagnosis was gravity was causing the bruising; the discoloring of the hematoma was due to some varicose veins I have; and she prescribed antibiotics for the developing cellulitis.  The metal rod must have broken my skin and allowed infection to fester.

But here is the kicker: I told her about my efforts to get in to see a doctor and found her (a PA in the same doctor’s office I use) open. Her answer…wait for it…”I just happened to have a cancellation this morning.”

“Just happened.” Oh…if she only knew. I didn’t have a chance to say anything to her because she was already walking down the hall. If she only knew what I know. “A man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can a person understand his way?” (Pr. 20:24)

“The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Pr. 16:9)

Chance? Luck? Just happened? I don’t think so. Luck, chance, or just happened are not words in God’s vocabulary.  And I refuse to have them in mine as well.

November 3

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

I’d like to continue with my devotional thought from yesterday’s devotion.

Have you ever had tinnitus? It is a ringing in the ears, a very unpleasant sound. It hinders hearing.

Have you ever had too much wax in your ear, so much so that it weighs against your ear drum? Not only does it have a physical side effect (vertigo) it also makes it hard to hear. Been there done that.

Have you ever felt like you were underwater and all you could hear was a sound like a seashell against your ear? It makes it hard to hear.

Have you ever been wearing headphones and found people talking to you and you either had no clue or could not make out what they were saying?

I have described some common, sometimes everyday occurrences. All of them affect our hearing. Okay, let’s move it into another realm.

Each day you read, watch, listen, or “veg out” to the news. Hour after hour of the same old garbage. This or that politician is off the rails. This or that legislation is good or bad. This or that country is considering going to war.

There is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on in the world. We can’t hide our heads in the sand. But the more we listen, the louder the voices get. Meanwhile, the one who has a steady diet of this nonsense sinks deeper and deeper into despair. As I said, I’m not opposed to knowing what is going on in the world, but enough is enough. There comes a point in time where we have to shut down the voices clamoring for our attention, stop, and listen to another voice.

It is the voice of the Father saying, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice.” The question that comes up and needs answered is “How can I hear His voice if I’m not listening? And how can I hear if I’m listening too much to others?”

In a noisy world, we need to shut down the distractions and the steady diet of outside noise and take time to hear the voice of the Father.

Shut off the news. Silence the ringing in the ears of annoying claptrap. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling you to Him.

November 2

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

As I sat down at the table this morning to have my Encounter Time, I prayed, “Father, let Your Word come alive to me this morning. Let me find something this morning that I will be able to learn from and use today.”

The point of this devotion is not to say, “Here is what I learned today” and then write about it. The point is the prayer. Not my specific prayer, but the point of my prayer.

I think many people do read their Bible. I do think some even try to read it on a daily basis. But, for many, that is all it is. Just reading. Almost like “I can now say I read the Bible today.” We sit down to read God’s Word as though it is just another book. We read it like the latest novel.

Now, please understand, I’m not knocking even this type of reading the Bible. We are told His Word will never return void so anytime a person opens the Word to read, there is a chance it might penetrate the heart. In fact, I count on that, especially if I’m not in a listening mood (for a myriad of reasons).

But God’s Word and my reading of His Word is so much richer when I pray for open eyes and an open heart.  You see, when you or I spend time in God’s presence, when you or I have been with Jesus and grow spiritually, we will become more like Him.

Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse of many (take a moment to read it). It is one of those go-to verses people use. But that verse does not and should not stand alone. Verse 29 must come along with it, but how many know it? The purpose Paul says of things working together for our good is so that we might “be conformed to image of His Son.” Reading God’s Word shapes and conforms us to Jesus and that is what people will see when they look at us.

Pray for open eyes and an open heart. Then read. Meditate on those words. And anticipate being changed into His likeness.