Choices

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May 17

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Revelation 13 today…spells trouble. For me at least. 🙂 I’m sure there are prophecy buffs who will make much of this chapter. And I suspect they would have an adequate explanation. But since my idea is to “de-prophecy” this, I’m going to focus on two other things.

The first is the beast which comes out of the sea. In verse 2 it says, “and on his head were written blasphemous names.” What could those names be? My take is that blasphemy is anything that denigrates the holy God or depicts Him as who He isn’t. In verse 5 it says he was given authority to speak arrogant words and blasphemies against God-to blaspheme His name and those who dwell in heaven. He waged war and the only ones he couldn’t defeat were those whose name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world.  (v.8)

The other beast reminds me of what we have today-false teachers who perform parlor tricks to deceive. Todd White. Paula White. Shawn Boles. Bill Johnson. Kenneth Copeland. Joyce Meyer. Benny Hinn. You get the picture. False teachers who deceive with false promises and false “healings.” (i.e. parlor tricks). This beast had a number: 666. The most imperfect number of all.

My take on all of this: Be aware. False teachers abound. They say things that tickle our ears. People misrepresenting God and His Word (blasphemy). Its all there and it is calling each of us to follow. Don’t! Stand on the truth.

“Father, the siren song of false teachers beckons. Help me to resist through the power of Your Word and the presence of Your Spirit within.  Help me to proclaim Your truth.”

May 11

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

I’m dealing with Revelation 10 today. Again, I admit my inability to grasp the meaning of the vision John shares with us.

Several things stand out to me in today’s reading:

  1. I mentioned this in yesterday’s devotion. Maybe we aren’t supposed to understand. According to John in 10:4 some things were sealed and he was not to write them. I wonder if there are some things which are to remain a mystery…like totally understanding Revelation. 🙂
  2. The status of Jesus is seen in verse 6. That’s a pretty powerful description. Sort of like a description in a nutshell. Those words remind me of Paul’s words in Colossians 1: 15-17
  3. And this is admittedly, a puzzling one. What is he saying when he tells John to eat the scroll and it will taste sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach?

Does it refer to the future events which are to come? Does he refer to how some things look enticing but when experienced leave a bad taste in one’s mouth? That latter thought makes sense to me so let’s probe it for a few moments. Looks good -> tastes bad. I confess to thinking as I eyed something, “WOW! That looks inviting” only to realize it would leave a trail of bitterness in its wake if indulged. The aftertaste is nasty. I have a blogging friend, Sherry, who is a recovering alcoholic but hasn’t had a drink in…I’m thinking…seven years (I’m not at the office as I write this to double check). She blogs about her journey here. I’m guaranteeing she, nor any other addict, ever saw the bitterness of her “sweet” choice until it bit her. Do you think the adulterer did? Do you think the liar or spreader of juicy gossip did?

You get the point. Actions have an aftertaste. Sometimes those actions have terrible consequences. They look sweet but often leave a trail of bitterness.

Choose wisely. Meanwhile, for some help check out Psalm 119: 1-2, 9, 11, and 16. You’ll thank me. 🙂

“Father, may I realize every choice has a result and often those which look sweet end up being bitter. Help me to choose wisely.”

May 9

Monday, May 9th, 2022

Mother’s Day is over. Well, at least the “official” MD. Can I write about that? ‘Cuz that’s much easier to write about than Revelation 8!! 🙂 No? Ok…well here goes.

I didn’t understand Revelation 8 and its significance with the trumpets. So I “checked” and glanced at a couple of commentaries. Guess what? I still don’t understand, but here is what I gleaned from reading Rev. 8.

But first my soapbox. We hear a lot these days about the New Green Deal. In my mind it is simply repackaged Environmentalism. Extreme environmentalism. We used to call them “tree huggers.” I remember the old MacGyver (probably my all time favorite show) would delve a little bit into that subject. But not hyper. Maybe it was heading that way. I don’t know.

I’m all for taking care of the environment and I try to do my part. But no way is it the “end all.” No way is a tree or a plant or a species of animal more important than a person. It seems the height of inconsistency to see the emphasis placed on protecting an eagle’s egg or a plant or whatever, but not see the value of protecting a baby in the womb.

Rant over…now to this chapter.

The whole chapter seems to deal with the destruction of the planet. A third of the earth burned up, a third of the trees, and all the green grass in the first trumpet (v.7). A great mountain was hurled into the sea and the water turned to blood with the second trumpet (v. 8)

There is more than what I wrote. Each trumpet sounded by each angel carried with it the destruction of part of the planet. You can read the rest of them on your own.  (We still have 3 more trumpets to go after this chapter).

I guess my question is why do we worship the planet, and in some cases give it god-like status, when it will ultimately be burned up and dissolved? I simply cannot do that.

There is ONE who is to be worshiped, only ONE worthy of it. I will stake my claim with Him and not creation.

“Father, help me to care about the environment but not to worship it. It will all be destroyed in the end.”

April 25

Monday, April 25th, 2022

One of the game-changer words in the English language is a 3-letter word- “But.” I think we have all experienced the power of “but.”

“I like you but…”

“You really do good work and you are conscientious but…”

“I love you and I know we have a lot of years together but…”

“We know you have a family and we really appreciate the years you have given us but…”

The power of “but.”

Here you go: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But…”  (Rev. 2: 13-20)  Oh, how that had to hurt! I think it hurt worse because of two things”

  • Their track record was solid and was recently getting better

BUT…

  • They tolerated evil. Sin. Jezebel. I don’t think this is necessarily the name of a real woman in the church (who would name their daughter Jezebel?), but a throwback reference to the Jezebel of the OT. Ahab’s wife. Evil to the core. The same Jezebel Elijah scuffled with.  The same Jezebel who led Israel (via Ahab) into sin. The same Jezebel who had Naboth killed over a vineyard that Ahab wanted. The same Jezebel who died and the dogs left nothing of her.

Pretty strong word: “but.” But a word designed to stop them in their tracks and realize her influence and what they have allowed in the church.

God’s plan: Get rid of her. Get rid of her children and that includes those in the church who have embraced her sin.

BUT…for those who haven’t good things are awaiting. I love that “but” there! (v.24)

“Father, may I not allow the power of sin to overwhelm me. Help me to say No to the influence of Jezebel.”

April 21

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

In Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum (Rev.2: 12-17) several things stand out:

First, is the description of Jesus: “The One who has the two-edged sword.” Several verses flashed through my mind as I read that. One is “the Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword.”  (Heb.4:12).  I also flashed to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6 which talked about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v.17b). Jesus will yield His sword (pictured elsewhere in Revelation).

Second, we live in Satan’s realm. We are told that he is the prince of this world…for now. One day his rule will come to an end…as will he. But I like what it says about some of the saints in Pergamum: they held firmly to their faith. They refused to compromise the Name of Jesus!

Third, even though they had some who held to their faith, they also had some who embraced false teaching.  And it was ugly. Compromise central. They allowed sexual immorality (teaching of Balaam) and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (similar to Balaam and also included sexual orgies).

Fourth, God did not then, nor will He now tolerate compromise.  “Repent” were His words.  False teaching is so insidious, so sneaky, so creeping, and so sinister. Look up and its there (and one often doesn’t even realize it).

That’s a warning…for me…for you…for the church. Be aware. Be on guard. Keep the sword handy. I/you may have to do some hacking away.

“Father, Your truth stands. It cannot be compromised. You won’t stand for it. Help me to be true to Your Word.”

Lord willing, I will be back Monday with the next installment/devotion based around the letters to the 7 churches.

March 29

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

There is no question we live in an age where “anything goes.” In his book God and the Transgender Debate (which I am currently reading), Andrew Walker writes that we went from Relativism (meaning and truth are relative, so that what is right for one person may be wrong for another), to post-christian (no moral framework), to radical individualism (the single greatest sin-the only sin- is judging someone else), to the sexual revolution (sex is no longer reserved for marriage), to Gnosticism (each person’s self-awareness is different and more important than their physical body).  (Pages 21-26)

Long story short: our choices and progression has led to a bedroom lifestyle. That lifestyle is one-dimensional, characterized by pleasure, ease, unaccountability (better known as freedom), and selfishness. Can there be any doubt we are there? I don’t think I need to give specifics on what I mean, but simply take a look at the moral fiber, i.e. breakdown that is so common.

As followers of Christ we are not called to a bedroom lifestyle; we are called to a battlefield lifestyle. John Cooper, the lead singer for Skillet, recently played some clips on his podcast about the criticism and attacks the “woke” mob is  making because his songs focus on warfare, on going to battle, on fighting and surviving the game (a new song of theirs). I say more power to him! We are in a battle for our souls and Ephesians 6 tells us that. Ephesians 6: 10-12 specifically. Then Paul goes on to tell us about the armor of God (verses 13-19).

We have a choice to make; battlefield or bedroom. Fight or give in. Stand strong in faith or have weak knees.  We each have a choice. Fight the pull of the culture or give in and surrender to it.

“Father, the pull is strong. Help me resist. Help me fight.”

March 28

Monday, March 28th, 2022

When I was in my teen years I was different. I had been raised to treat people with respect. To answer with “Yes mam” and “No sir.” Growing up in PA near Pittsburgh in the 50s and 60s the use of the “N” word was very common. But not to my mom. No sirree! I was taught not to use that word or to make fun of others, especially those who were handicapped.

I chose not to smoke, drink or chew for several reasons. I played sports. I was scared of my dad. And more importantly, my faith was important to me and I didn’t feel that represented Jesus in a good light. When the riots took place in the late 60s and black and white kids who used to be friends were duking it out, I chose to withdraw and not take part. I found there were others who were like-minded (Jeff Goldblum was one of them).

Peer pressure was there but was not a defining thing for me. Harder for me was when I “came out of the closet” spiritually and chose to leave my legalism behind. God had been working on me for awhile, but I resisted. It was when I found myself surrounded with a legalistic bunch that I finally gave up and surrendered my pride and my “legacy” to God. I went through some semblance of burnout as I struggled with leaving the comfortable and stepping into the unknown. It wasn’t over then. A new church said, “You’re done here” (I’m putting it nicely) after 3 years. The reason I was given was “I didn’t preach on water baptism and other mainstays of the Christian Church/Church of Christ enough.”

Strange. I was able to resist peer pressure but it took me longer to yield to the Spirit’s pressure because of the unknown than it ever did to peer pressure.  Pastoral peer pressure existed in a big way. I’m glad I finally said, “Goodbye” to that and submitted to the Spirit’s pressure.

At that moment (whenever it was), I went from Pharisee to tax collector. One of the best moments of my life.

My prayer is that I will continue submitting to the Spirit’s pressure and not worry about peer pressure and what others will think. That pressure to be liked is a far greater one that any peer pressure. But following the Spirit is so much more satisfying…even if it isn’t always popular.

March 24

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

One of the big things in the “Christian landscape” the past couple of years has been what is called “deconstruction.” It has been seen in many ways and involving many different kinds of people. It has involved “celebrities” as well as what I will call the “normals.” It might involve a complete dismantling of one’s faith to the point where they might say, “I am no longer a Christian” (Josh Harris as an example). Or it might be someone saying, “I believe in the Universal Christ” i.e. Kevin Max mimicking Richard Rohr’s heresy.  It might involve someone choosing a bedroom lifestyle, or a move to agnosticism or atheism or universalism, or a denunciation of all things God, or maybe even a total abandonment of family, friends, career, etc.

Questions are not wrong. I’m convinced every person must eventually come to their own faith. Hear me well as I say that: growing up we will tend to adopt the faith of our parents, pastor, or someone we love. But somewhere along the line we must forge our own faith. So we question. We investigate. We observe. We discern.

The problem many of us get into is that we are often taught what to think, but not how to think. Everything is laid out for us in 4 Spiritual Laws or “10 Easy Steps to…” Meanwhile, thinking seriously and questioning honestly is not encouraged. So we have young people and adults who become parrots instead of harbingers. We can spout off the “party line” but only because we have been told “You must believe this or that.”

I never went through a crisis of faith where I questioned by biblical moorings. I never doubted the existence of God. (I’m not smart enough to understand it all anyway). I never doubted the veracity of the Virgin Birth and that God became flesh in Jesus, the God-Man. But I did question my “essential doctrinal beliefs” like baptism, who was saved and who wasn’t, etc.  I HAD to. The other way was killing my spirit.  If not  for the questioning, I would still be stuck in the legalism I was mired in.

Because of the mentality of what to think and not how to think, questions are not encouraged. But even sadder is we have no idea where to stand and what we stand on, especially when times get tough or our faith is challenged by life situations. So we start jumping ship. Little by little we start jettisoning the things which matter, the non-negotiables, for temporary safety. We deconstruct because we no longer believe. It’s no wonder since our foundation was not on solid footing.

I do think it is good to question and investigate. But I also think it is absolutely essential to weigh all things against the Scriptures and that which has eternal value.

Jesus once said, “Search the Scriptures for in them you have eternal life.” (John 5:39) Don’t just take something at face value. Seek. Find. God has promised to meet you there.

“Father, may my searching be always grounded and come back to You and Your Word. May my faith grow as I question and grow.”

March 23

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

If I was to put into words what I consider to be one of the premier struggles Christ-followers have, it wouldn’t be Progressive “Christianity.” It wouldn’t be the rightness or wrongness of CRT or BLM or transgenderism or the LGBTQ+ agenda (although I don’t see much right in any of them). It wouldn’t be the whole political game being played on the world stage, nor even the one being played in the states. It wouldn’t be crime or the border or immigration or masking or vaxxing. I think it is something much more serious.

Losing your heart for God.

It’s easy to do. Gotta go here; gotta go there. Have to do this; have to do that. That shiny new thing looks really good. “No one will ever know if I do this or that.” “I’m not a workaholic…I just love my job.” “Arrogant? Me? I’m just good at what I do.”  “The applause of men is so refreshing. It is nice to be appreciated.”  “I’m tired of being good, of denying basic pleasures. I’m going to let go and live for today.”

And the beat goes on.

What doesn’t go on is a heart beating for God. It is sacrificed for the temporary. Displaced by secondary or second rate idols, it fights for supremacy. Being displaced from the throne of my heart is not God’s plan. He wants first place.

He wants my heart always beating for Him. Pursuing a deeper walk with Him. Pursuing intimacy. Passionate. Worship. Adoration. All for Him.

Is my heart beating for God? Is yours?

“Father, You know my prayer without me even stating it. Let my heart beat for You and for You alone.”

March 14

Monday, March 14th, 2022

One of the issues many Christ-followers struggle with is the advancement of evil. I’m not speaking necessarily about culture, although it certainly is an issue. We have slowly watched evil creep into our nation, our families, our churches, and yes, even us. Things we never thought would change have changed. Fifty years ago if someone had told us homosexuality would be normalized and accepted we would have probably pooh-poohed it. If someone had told us ten years ago that polyamory would seen as “right” and “normal,” we would have probably spit out our soup.

But…here we are. Accepting as normal things which are abnormal. Accepting as okay the things which are sin.

It is difficult for the one who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him to stand by and watch evil gain a foothold and even triumph. It was Edmund Burke who said, “The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The Russia-Ukraine war, conflict, whatever the talking heads want to call it, is a good example of evil running rampant. An evil, deranged, ego maniac has attacked a sovereign country and is in the process of laying it to waste. I cringe as I see our leaders bow to him and not lift a finger. But then I read verses like Psalm 37: 38-39 which says, “But the wrongdoers will altogether be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be eliminated. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble.” (NASB2020).  I then remind myself he will lose. Evil will not triumph in the end. This is especially true in the fight of good vs evil, of the flesh vs the Spirit.

I pray each day for Ukraine and my friends there: Zee and her husband, Sam, and their two children, Zhenya (Jenny) and Zhora (George).  I finally heard from a pastor friend, Caleb Suko, who was in Odessa.  They are now in Moldova, doing ministry there and helping with the refugees.

In the end, righteousness will triumph. In life. In death. Amen.