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October 21

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I recently finished a book by Tony Evans called Kingdom Heroes. It was based on Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith written about there. One of those heroes was an unlikely person-a woman named Rahab.

Rahab is first mentioned in Joshua 2 where she harbored the Jewish spies in Jericho. She listened to her own people talk about the God who was doing powerful things and she believed what they said. She hid the spies and then helped them escape, but not before she had secured the safety of her and her family when the Israelites came for Jericho. We know from Matthew 1 that it was successful; she married Salmon; they had Boaz (husband to Ruth); who had Jesse, the father of David.

All of that is a wonderful testimony to God’s plan and protection.  But the story of Rahab is also a testimony of grace unlimited. In our human way of thinking, could there be anyone more undeserving of God’s grace than a prostitute? But in God’s way of thinking could there be anyone more in need of it? And while we may say yes to the undeserving part, we must also recognize that if God did it for her, what does that say about us? To me, it only says one thing: grace is for me too. Abundant grace. I may not be a prostitute, but I am a sinner.  A sinner in need of grace. God can and has taken people with bad reputations, with those society (and the church) think are too far gone and restored them. He transforms even the sloppiest, dirtiest, and most sinful people into “trophies” for His hall of faith.

May I be one of them.

“Father, I thank you a thousand times over for your marvelous grace. You showed that grace in Rahab’s life. You show it in mine. May I be a testimony to that.”

October 11

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Our small group has been discussing the topic of suffering. Last night we talked about suffering being fair or not.

We all came to the conclusion that suffering being “fair” should not be in our vocabulary.  It most certainly is not a biblical word. I think (personally) what happens to many of us is we begin to compare our situation with someone else’s and the word “fair” comes out. How many times have I heard, “I don’t understand. I give my life to Jesus, serve Him, and this is what I get”? How many times? Innumerable. We need to ditch the “It’s not fair talk” and get back to “God-talk.” We need to start saying, “What does God want me to learn or to become out of this?”

Here are some one sentence thoughts I gleaned and wrote down from last night’s study:

  • Right in the middle of his suffering, Paul broke out in the doxology. See Romans 11:33-36.
  • In our future and about our future, God owes us no explanation.
  • Society has become a victim-driven society.
  • When you throw a pity party no one wants to come. (I love this one)
  • When we open the door to victimhood, we allow ourselves to be slaves.

And to close this devotion, here is a thought from something I read from John Piper just this morning:

Do not think that because you experience adversity in your little world of experience, the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity or our fame but our holiness that He seeks with all His heart.”  –“Good News of Great Joy”- p. 34

“Father, may I see suffering, not as something unfair or to avoid, but as a tool to help me grow into being more like Jesus.”

October 6

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

There is one thing I am very passionate about. I preach it. I speak it. I counsel it. I’ve definitely said it more than once. I think Bob Goff’s quote by Nelson Mandela says it well:

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. (#279-p.329)

I have stated it another way countless times (just ask the folks of the church I pastor): “If you fail to forgive, you have become their slave. They own you.”

Sweet Comfort Band, an early iconic group of Contemporary Christian Music, recorded a song called Habit of Hate. I’ve recently begun listening to them again and had forgotten about that song. Here is a taste of the powerful lyrics: “Now you’re clenching your fist/And that crazed, evil passion begins/Now you’re waiting for you victim/Careful planning, getting even/And you strangle your love/When you strengthen your habit of hate.” (Album: Perfect Timing-1984)

They are right on the money. I have seen so many lives devastated-their own and those close to them-by someone’s hatred and refusal to forgive.  It is like they become another person.

I think Bob said it best in that same devotion:

When we become people who extend forgiveness, especially when it’s costly or hard, we’ll be well on our way to loving like Jesus. (Ibid)

May we all start loving like Jesus.

May I start loving like Jesus.

“Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to not be captive the destructive emotions that ruin me and those around me.”

If you want to hear the song, you can check it out here.

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”

October 4

Monday, October 4th, 2021

Security is a big deal to many people, maybe most. The pandemic’s fear and the lawlessness of the summer of 2020 raised the fear level, hence the insecurity, of many individuals. People who never locked their doors before now lock them, even deadbolt them.

Others have more or less security depending on the state of their money.  The more they have the more security they feel. I hate to tell them…

I’ve counseled enough couples to know that security is a big issue, especially with wives and children (but not always only them). They want the security of knowing they are loved, protected, and will be taken care of.

I would by lying if I said Christ-followers were not also in that group of “security-needers.” Even despite the fact that we have a faith which stands upon Jesus Christ, we can often get caught up in the trap as well.

That is why Psalm 91 was particularly poignant to me this morning. I’d like to encourage you to read it this morning. Right now if you can. Slowly. Read it again. Highlight the meaningful verses.

Then bask in the security that God gives. And ask how you could trust more.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. Help me to find my security in You.”

October 1

Friday, October 1st, 2021

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my thoughts on Luke 1 were getting way out of hand (too long) so I thought I would split my thoughts into two posts.  It will certainly make it easier to stomach. 🙂

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Zechariah’s hesitancy and ultimate acceptance of Gabriel’s words (God’s plan), as well as my admiration for Elizabeth’s willingness to go along with God’s plan. We have no record of her thoughts until later in Luke 1 when she visits with Mary. 

But let’s move on to Mary and some observations I want to make:

1. Mary.  I suspect we all know the story. After being told what she could expect-“You will conceive and bring forth a son” she was also told who that son would be. Here is what hit me this morning. Zechariah was struck dumb when he asked, “How will I know this?” (v.18). Why was Mary not dealt with in the same way? Why was she dealt with differently when she said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Was it the question, “How will this be?” as opposed to “How will I know?” Was it more expected out of a mature and aged man who knew of the coming King as opposed to a young teenage girl? I guess we will never know while on this earth.

2. Mary’s response “My it be done to me according to Your word” rattles me. Here she is-an unmarried, virgin teenage girl whose whole world just got rocked with this earth-shattering announcement.  “May it be done to me.” WOW!  I’m not a Mary-worshiper by any stretch, but even someone who isn’t has to be impressed.

I tend to be more like Zechariah than Mary. At least I have been in the past. “Are you sure, Lord?” “Seriously God?” I have often questioned God a lot about things which were different and out-of-the-ordinary. Still do at times, especially when events happen which I don’t understand. As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) wiser and more mature, I’ve accepted God’s work and way somewhat easier. Not all the time but it is better than it was. 🙂 I still tend to question, but I believe that is okay. As long as those questions lead me to seek Him and not my own way.

How about you? Me? I like Christmas in September (yesterday’s post) and October (today’s). It has some great lessons which, like Christmas, should be all year ’round…at least the spirit of it.

“Father, may I be willing like Mary, even when something seems strange to say, ‘I am yours. Let it be done to me according to Your word.’ ”

September 30

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

September 30, 2021. Christmas is just around the corner…less than 3 months away. I read Luke 1 this morning as I read through the NT again this year, and it made me think of Christmas. In July, Jo watched a whole month of Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I walked in once and said, “Oh look! Snow!” And it was really snowing. People were wearing heavy coats, hats, gloves, and their breath was able to be seen. B-r-r-r-r.

Seemed strange to me when it was 100 degrees outside and the TV was showing snow falling. And it seems a little strange reading Luke 1 in September knowing most will see Christmas in those words. And rightly so. If I was a betting man I would be “bet” more sermons are preached on Luke 1 & 2 during December than at any other time of the year. (I am s-o-o-o-o-o smart don’t you think?) 🙂 

But I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of other thoughts which I’m sure you have heard or thought of before which hit me this morning:

1. Zechariah’s (Z’s) lack of understanding but willingness to accept Gabriel’s message…and its meaning. I know Gabriel said “because you did not believe” but far be it from me to question Z’s questions. Talk about an “out-of-left-field!” announcement!  He is minding his own business, doing his priestly duties when BAM!

2. He learned to trust. He came out of the temple unable to speak. But what about Elizabeth, his aged, long-suffering wife? What a shock it had to be to her as well! Old. Infertile. Beyond child-bearing age. “You’re pregnant.” Nothing is said about her reaction. Nothing. We can talk about Z’s hesitancy and acceptance, but let’s not forget Elizabeth.

There is something to be said about people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, people who are willing to question (Z) and then accept God’s program for them. I admire them, and find myself really admiring Elizabeth as I read about her later in the same chapter of Luke.

“Father, may I be a willing servant to accept Your will and plan for my life, even though I have no clue what it might entail.”

As I wrote this, and even more as I now type this, I began to realize how long this post was getting to be. So I finished writing it and have decided to post the rest of it tomorrow.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Mary in tomorrow’s devotion.

September 28

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

I was reading about the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Recap: Jesus was a guest in their house. Martha and Mary were hostesses and as such had preparation duties to perform. Well, maybe Martha. Not Mary. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. Martha? She got more and more frazzled AND irritated. She even told Jesus her frustration. Unfortunately for her, Jesus commended Mary because “she chose the good part.” In other words, she chose the more important thing at the time: sit and listen to Jesus.

I thought about that in comparison to me. I know things clamor for my attention. I woke up this morning with things on my mind of what I needed to do today-some before I even get to the office. I tend to be pretty rigid about my morning schedule-get up, shower (that’s a good thing), then getting to the office as close to 5:00 as possible. One thing stands in between the shower and the office: my Encounter Time (ET).

It’s not a legalistic thing; it’s a life-saving thing. I have my ET to save me. It draws me to Jesus. I spend time with Him. I could find other things to do for this hour span. Sleep an extra hour. Work at the office. Work out at home, especially in the winter. But I have come to look at my ET as my lifeblood. I have mine in the morning because 1) I am fresher; 2) Less interruptions; 3) I need to start my day out right; 4) I know the distractions that will come later in the day.

I need to be in God’s Presence. I do not speak in hyperbole when I say, “I NEED THIS TIME!” Skipping this time is not a good thing for me! I’ve tried it before and the results were not pretty.

This is not a guilt trip for you. This is an “encouragement trip.” 🙂  Find the time that works best for you and fits your lifestyle. The important thing is to have that private meeting with God.

“Father, I need that time with You. May it always be one I look forward to and relish and draw strength from.”

September 22

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

First day of Fall! I don’t know whether to cry or to cry. 🙂  Yeah, I’m a warm weather person. Sort of hard to ride a bike with snow and ice on the ground. Anyway, right now we are in our 3rd of 40 days of rain. On the positive side, least it is liquid sunshine not white flakes. Okay…on to the devotion.

The dictionary defines hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We hear a lot of talk these days about heroes. For the past year and a half we have been hearing about the front line workers who are heroes. Nurses. Police. Fire. Doctors. In my mind, they are heroes. Sadly, their heroism is being brushed aside and forgotten because of the vaxx mandate.  I will withhold comment.  🙂

I grew up with heroes. Comic books. TV shows. Athletes. Just like every other kid I had my favorites. Over the past decade the idea of a hero-a superhero- has been taken to a whole new level thanks to cinema.  Superman became Spiderman. Spiderman was soon enveloped by the Marvel universe of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and others. Batman rose from the comic book dead. Spiderman came back to life. Jason Bourne lived through mind games and countless fights and car chases to walk away each movie. The list goes on.

I think we need to stop looking to fantasy for our heroes and see them right next to us. They live with us. They work with us. They worship with us. They play alongside us. They are the mom and dad who love their handicapped child as though he/she is “normal.” They are the old man/lady who do their best to care for their mate who doesn’t even remember their name anymore. I recently read of a woman who took care of her former soccer-playing comatose husband for decades. She is a hero.

“Heroes come in every age and size,” Bob Goff writes. (#264-p.313). I’ve always believed that. I’m convinced, while we focus on the few who have prominent names, there are literally hundreds of thousands who go unnamed and unnoticed.

Heroes don’t wear capes (unless it is a dad playing “house” with his daughter). They don’t wear tights and have indestructible shields, and superhuman abilities to leap tall buildings. No…heroes are ordinary people doing ordinary things on ordinary days in extraordinary ways. Be a hero. Better yet…acknowledge one.

“Father, may I recognize a hero and not let him or her go unnoticed.”

September 21

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

One of the “things” that has captured our world is jumping to conclusions. You know…make a decision and let that decision be made before all the facts are in.

This has been especially true in our world of instant news-Twitter, FB, Instagram and the like. We see or hear something and we are ready to be judge, jury, and executioner before knowing all the facts.

Case in point: Our Daily Bread had a story of an event which happened during the 2018 baseball season. A Chicago Cubs coach wanted to give a baseball to a young boy sitting by the dugout. When the coach tossed him a ball, a man sitting next to him scooped it up. He was excoriated by the media. He was called a brute. I vaguely remember seeing that video and I’m ashamed to admit that I thought, “How rude!” The first reaction of the media was to call him out about his cold-heartedness and lack of class. It took 24 hours for the truth to come out that those two had made a deal (after the man had snagged a ball for him earlier) to share any additional balls that came their way. By then, he was blistered.

Jumping to conclusions. We are strong on condemning “obvious” sins-adultery, homosexuality, stealing (unless it is during a riot), lying (sometimes but not always), but we give a free pass to jumping to conclusions and jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation. Exodus 23:2 tells us not to “join together with a crowd in order to pervert justice.” (NASB2020)

Let’s stop jumping to conclusions. Let’s get the facts-the truth-before ruining someone’s life with untruth.

“Father, may I be a truth-gatherer and not a lie-spreader.”