Choices

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February 7

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

We have been asked/commanded in the Scripture to do two things: Love God supremely and to Love Others genuinely. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 22:37-39.

We seem to work hard at getting that first one down pat because it is so important. We see loving God as the top thing we are to do…and that is absolutely, 100% true.  So we try to invest time in that-reading the Bible, praying, worshiping.

It’s the loving others that sometimes get a little bit “sticky.” Let’s face it: sometimes our relationship with others is like two porcupines trying to get close. They might be able to but it sure is a prickly situation.

So, what does it mean to love genuinely? We could say, “Be patient.” “Be forgiving.” “Be accepting.” “Be kind.” “Be considerate.”

How about this? “Be generous.” We can set an example of Jesus in us by being generous. Not stingy. Not self-absorbed.

Let’s expand on that for a moment. The Bible speaks of those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you get a moment, check out I Tim.6:17-18. Not all of us are wealthy (I’m certainly not), but hoarding, for example, is never seen as a virtue. Even if we are not wealthy, God has called us to radical generosity. Case in point: tipping at a restaurant. I know a couple who never left a tip. Never. When I asked why they said, “Because they chose that job and knew the possibility.” And that justifies what? Maybe, at that time, that is all he/she could do, while trying to raise a child as a single mom/dad. I personally believe followers of Christ should be the most generous people, especially if they have received good service.

I know I “rabbit-trailed” it today. That sometimes happen in a mind that seem to go everywhere (and no, I am not ADHD). So…long story short: be generous. Love genuinely, even in ways that go beyond financial.

February 6

Monday, February 6th, 2023

One of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 is the final one written to Laodicea. IMHO it may be the most devastating one of all.

It speaks of lukewarmness. I don’t think anyone on the planet is thrilled about drinking lukewarm water. To put it frankly: it is disgusting and unfulfilling. I carry 2 water bottles on my bike. Both have been partially frozen, then just before I leave I fill them to the brim with a cold liquid-water, Gatorade, or Hammer’s Heed. I like drinking cold, refreshing liquid- whatever it may be-while riding. But even the greatest care cannot stop the drink from thawing and if if I ride long enough, for it to turn lukewarm.

What does it mean for a church or a follower of Jesus to turn lukewarm? Apathetic. Lethargic. Passive. Maybe even lazy would be an appropriate word. A disconnect happens between our spiritual lives and our real lives.

It is a danger for all of us, not matter who we are and no matter what we do.

It is sort of like the person who sleep walks. They do it and don’t even realize it is happening. They have no recollection of wandering, of maybe engaging in conversation, of interacting in any way. I think it is safe to say “totally oblivious.”

There are those who are the same way spiritually. Pulled by side events. Sidetracked. Spiritual things become secondary. I used the words earlier: we become lethargic. Apathetic. Passive.

I Thess. 5:6 says, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober (clearheaded).” (ESV)

That’s a good warning for all of us.

February 2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Happy Groundhogs Day (for what it’s worth)!  I can never remember whether he is supposed to see his shadow or not and which one is good or not. Hmmmm. Guess all I can do is say, “Bring on Spring!”  The sooner the better.

Pushing that aside, let’s get serious for a moment.

Several years ago Lauren Daigle had a song which broke through hearts, even the coldest and hardest, and took the music industry by storm. (Here is that song). Every morning at 4:30, Tami’s alarm goes off with that song, so I heard it this morning as I was reading Matthew 12. In particular, I was reading verses 33-37. My focus was on the phrase “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Please read those verses for a better context).

The way we speak to ourselves comes out of what is in our heart!

The way to speak to others comes out of what is in our heart!

I’m not advocating the “positive speech” gibberish of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation cult, aka Bethel Redding, IHOP, and others). Nor am I advocating for the likes of Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Oprah, or others like them.  While I do believe it is important for us to remember who we are in Christ, I don’t subscribe to the heresy they espouse: we are good and have it within ourselves to improve.(They leave out the effects of sin and the inability we have of saving ourselves).

Lauren’s song says, “You say I am loved…” It is not what we say or think about ourselves, it is what God says to us and what He thinks about us that matters.

But let’s not forget that what we say to and about ourselves does matter. Constant put-downs destroy the inner peace and confidence God instills and gives us. The same goes for how we speak to each other. That which is inside us will come out and we can either say good or evil. They way we speak is a good indicator of WHO controls us. It is a good indicator of WHO or what controls our heart.

So…STOP…and ask yourself, “Who controls me?” And then take it one step further and ask, “What do my words say about my answer?”

February 1

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

I read a short blurb recently about how some years ago, 300 whales were found marooned on a beach.  Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creature were ultimately lead to their doom.

The application to us is easy to make. How many people do you and I know who are now or will get “beached” due to chasing little things? What makes it even worse is that it happens before we realize it.

I’m reminded of several Scriptures-both from the mouth of Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mt. 6:24)  {As an exercise, substitute another word for money-sports, fame, pleasure, people acceptance, etc and see how it fits}

The other is found in the same chapter of Matthew: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Verse 33)

I’m sure you can add more Scripture. Like the book of Ecclesiastes. Like Matthew 22:37-38.

I will grant you that it is a daily battle. I know it is for me. To stay focused on that which is important-on WHO is important-on WHAT is important-is a titanic struggle of great magnitude.

But it is one we must fight. To choose to chase sardines is a losing game. It only leads to “beached” lives. A dead end.

To choose to pursue God and His kingdom may not yield much fruit here on earth, but the reward is out of this world!

What will you choose to chase?

January 25

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

I listened to a podcast yesterday where the discussion was on superstition and God’s will. It covered a gamut of subjects, such as “angel numbers” (as complicated as it sounds); superstition (like wearing clothing that brought you “luck”); the “Gideon-fleece thing”; and more. You can listen to it: Church and Culture with James Emery White.  It will be worth your while if you have any questions about this sort of thing.

So I was already somewhat there with my antenna up when I was confronted with answers to prayer this morning. You have probably heard it said, “God has 3 answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait awhile.”

The first-yes-has nothing but pros because that basically means God agreed with us. 🙂  We like that answer!!

The second-no- is an answer, but not so much to our liking.  Not only did God not agree with our request/desire, He shut the door. We see a lot of cons with this answer, but it would behoove us to see the pros. God is all-wise and therefore, has our best interest in mind. He shut the door for a reason, perhaps known only to Him.  This actually happened to Paul in Acts 16. I seriously doubt Paul could understand why God said no at the time. I mean, after all, he was doing God’s work and wanting to spread the message. But read the rest of the chapter. Paul and Silas are put in prison; an earthquake shakes the door open, but Paul and Silas stay put. As a result, the jailer and his family were saved.

The third answer-wait awhile- is a whole ‘nother discussion for another time.

To close this devo: the “no” answer always causes us to question and sometimes even has us calling into question God’s love for us. It shouldn’t though. We need to rejoice that God loves us so much He said no…most likely for reasons known only to Him at the time. We MAY learn it later. Maybe.

He is all-wise and makes no mistakes. Fall back on that. He will not let you down.

January 24

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I may be wrong in my assessment (I have been known to be wrong a time or two) 🙂 , but I think one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is practicing the Scripture which says, “Be thankful in all things.” (I Thess. 5:18)

“In everything give thanks.” Seriously? Does the Bible really say that? Does it really say to give thanks when my heart has been torn apart by a wayward child? By a health crisis? By a domestic crisis? By a financial crisis?

The short answer is Yes. Notice it does not say “Give thanks for the event/crisis.” But it does say, “Give thanks in the crisis.” Let’s substitute during for in. While the crisis is happening, or even after it, I am to give thanks.

I can remember a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. She and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and her sister told her they needed to give thanks for the fleas-the fleas that were in their hair, their clothes, their bedding. Sounded strange to Corrie until they came to realize the guards left them alone because of the fleas. They were free to have Bible studies and talk to other prisoners about Jesus because of the fleas and without fear of the guards.

Giving thanks in the situation NOT for the fleas. We are not asked to go all stoic as though nothing is bothering us. No, we are being told by Paul that while we are in the crisis, an attitude of gratitude and faith can change our perspective.

We can also see God working…even though we don’t understand. I don’t have to say, “Father, thank You for this cancer” (or whatever the crisis is), but I can pray, “Father, I thank You for Your presence and peace that is within me in spite of this crisis.”

Be thankful in all things.

January 18

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Perfect storm. There was a movie by that name. Weather systems hit all at one time and the fishing vessel with George Clooney and others went down.

It is used to describe a situation where 2 or 3 or more events all come together at the same time. Like today’s Scripture and devotional reading.

Pastor Greg Laurie’s Everyday With Jesus spoke about listening. He brought out about the night Paul and Silas were in prison (Acts 16) and were singing in the night. It says the prisoners were listening. The Greek word for listening means “to listen very, very carefully.”

Add to that the devotion by the late David Powlison in Take Heart-Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith where he talked about listening. His devotion was about listening to people, instead of always talking.

Perfect storm. Different subjects. But still a perfect storm.

How many times have you listened but not really heard? There is no doubt we live in an age of talking heads. Opinions fly, but real listening is absent.

When it comes to the Bible, we love to chatter. But do we stop to listen? Have we asked God to speak to us through His Word when we sit down to read? As we read, are we also listening?

When people talk, do we listen? Or are we already thinking of what we are going to say next? G.U.I.L.T.Y. Are we incessant talkers or alert listeners? Pr.  10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (wise).” (ESV)  Or how about Pr. 17:28-“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (ESV)  Insert Abe Lincoln’s quote here. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Some people (to quote that great ’60s philosopher Tommy James) “talk and signify and say nothing.”  (Quote from song “Talking and Signifying” circa 1970).

Truth:

The Bible says repeatedly that we grow and change only by listening, not by talking. (Powlison-Jan.18)

Let’s listen more. Talk less.

January 11

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Several years ago-well over 20-I did a personal Bible study, then led several groups through the study as well. The study included a story of D.L. Moody. The story goes that someone approached Moody and said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him.” Moody was reported to have said, “Then I will be that man.” What I have read of Moody is that was his life’s goal.

That is an intriguing story…and an intriguing challenge.

For someone to issue that challenge with one simple statement to a man of Moody’s spiritual stature is pretty bold. (Then again, perhaps that is why Moody became the man of God he was). I sort of wonder what precluded him saying that to Moody and why.

But the greater impact was Moody’s willingness to say, “Here I am.”

That reminds me of Daniel who refused to be silenced for fear of a lion’s den.

That reminds of Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego who refused to bow for fear of a furnace.

That reminds me of Jeremiah who found himself locked up because he would not stay quiet about Israel’s degradation.

That reminds me of Peter and John who were unafraid of the religious leaders and the consequences of continuing to talk about Jesus. “It is far better for us to listen to God than to man.”

That reminds me of Polycarp, the pastor of Smyrna, who refused to denounce his faith in the “One True King” in order to avoid being burned to death.

That reminds me of the early reformers who refused to be quiet about the Roman Church for fear of being burned alive at the stake.

That reminds me of persecuted Christians in China, North Korea, Iran, etc who face the loss of everything for converting to Christ.

That also reminds me to ask myself, “What about you Bill? Will you take that challenge to be the man willing to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him?”

And what about you?

January 4

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

I own my own house. Well…the bank does, but I’m making a strong effort to pay it off quicker. One of the most important parts of the house is not that it has been re-painted a grayish color with white shutters. Or not that it is a ranch-style house-with 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths plus the obligatory kitchen and living room as well as other rooms (my Man Cave which is now Tami’s bedroom and an added-on room about 3-4 years ago). Nor is it that it has a fenced-in back yard. And it isn’t because it is not a house but a home we have lived in for almost 17 years. Nope.

The most important part of the house is its foundation. Without that the house wouldn’t be worth a penny. In fact, there would be no house.

When they started building this one structure in Italy in 1173, they found the soil was softer than they originally thought. Over time that tower has been sinking and today the top of that tower is a little over 13′ off center. They check it regularly. They say if left to its own devices with no intervention of builders, the Leaning Tower of Pisa will someday collapse.

The key to living a life of faith that shines the light of Jesus is having a firm foundation. A life built on the solid rock of Christ. A life built on the never-changing Father and the truth of His Word.

Jesus said it well in Matthew 7 when He told the parable of the two foundations-sand and rock. One stands against the storms; the other crumbles.  Sand castles are easily destroyed by water and tides. Permanent structures built on rock last.

One of the keys to facing life in this new year is having the right foundation. Resolutions? No. A determined faith where time is spent in God’s presence and His Word that will help us stand strong? Most definitely yes.

What type of foundation do you have? What are you building your life and 2023 on?

January 3

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

I read this morning in Our Daily Bread about how some volunteers from a rescue organization in Australia found a wandering sheep weighed down by more than 75 pounds of filthy, matted wool.  They figured it had been forgotten and lost in the bush for at least 5 years. They were able to sheer it and soon the sheep (named Baarack) began to eat and his legs grew stronger. It thrived in the environment of his rescuers and the other animals.

It started me thinking about people, about how so many are weighed down by excess weight (not physical) and baggage. Some of it is simply the cares of life. Some of it is baggage of their own making from their past.

I’m reminded of a song (click here). It says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear/I am a child of God.”  There are way too many people who are slaves to fear, shame, unconfessed sin, regret, and a whole host of other baggage.

Just like Baarack needed his rescuers to slowly sheer away his excessive weight of tangled, matted wool, so do many of us. God, through His Spirit, sets us free. He desires to make us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). His Word tells us that “he whom the Son has set free is free indeed.”

Are you carrying excess baggage these days? Are you weighed down by sin and shame and regret? Be sheered and let God’s Spirit set you free.