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May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

April 30

Friday, April 30th, 2021

First, I need you to stop and read Romans 8: 31-39. This is perhaps the most beautiful passage in Scripture (personal preference) and one of, if not, the most powerful chapters in the Bible.

Then please read this…something I read this morning:

“There is a love that will never forsake us. there is a love that will never fail us in any of its commitments to us. There is a love that is so strong that nothing in all of Creation can break it. There is a love that is faithful and true, no matter what. There is a love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving.” (p.7)

“There us simply nothing like the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is what we need-God’s love, that is. You and I could never earn it, deserve it, or achieve it. It reaches into the sinful muck of humanity, cleans us up, draws us close, and launches us to a brand-new living while staying faithful to the end, even if we are not. In loving us, God gives us the greatest gift ever given-the gift of Himself.” (p.8)

How can I improve on that? I can’t say it any clearer. I can’t say it more pointed.

What I can say is, “You are loved…by Him.”

“Father, thank You for Your faithful, unending love. May I bask in it and also share it with others.”

Quoted sections from 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

April 28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

I read recently about a British ski jumper named Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. I vaguely remember him in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  He competed alright. In fact, he has his own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases. “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”  I think I will let your mind show you his jump.

But here’s the thing: at least he tried. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”

We often hold back from enjoying life, or challenging ourselves, or even living the adventure (my slogan) for various reasons. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart says, “Every man has a battle to fight; an adventure to live; and a beauty to rescue.” It is the second part of that statement which intrigues me today-“an adventure to live.” I hesitate saying this but the older I get the more I regret what I haven’t done. One of my dreams was to ride across the USA at my speed with a friend or two, a motor home to sleep in, and Jo driving or riding along to witness my fete. It never happened and it will go down as one of my disappointments.

But at the same time, I am grateful for what I have experienced, including but certainly not limited to Colorado, Daytona Beach, and Alaska (I want to go back). Friends. MLB games in person (before they got all politically stupid).

You know, Peter walked on the water and failed. He “Pulled an Eddie” right in front of Jesus and the other disciples. But we also know this: least he walked on water. None of the others who stayed in the boat can say that!

Life is an adventure. You can choose to live it or hide from it. I may be getting older (what do I mean “may be”?)  🙂 But whatever time I have left I want it to be an adventure.

“Father, You call me almost on a daily basis to walk on the water with You. ‘Step out,’ You say.  ‘Come to Me. Here, take My hand.’ Help me to not be afraid to follow You.”

April 27

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Sometimes the description of the Christian life is one of opposites. Sometimes living the reality of the Christian life is a bundle of opposites. I want to say a paradox but I’m not really sure if that fits. Let me show you what I mean:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”  (2 Cor. 6:3-10)

What I underlined during my Encounter Time this morning are verses 7-10.

I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” He was challenging their age old beliefs (legalism) with something totally radical. He took the law even further and gave it more scope.

In the 2 Corinthian passage Paul is saying, “We are…but they say…” That seems to be an outgrowth of being a Christ-follower. First, taking it one step further than it appeared. Second, facing accusations which aren’t true or are embellished to make them look bad. The key is for us, when they say that about us, is to live a life of love (v.12a)

“Father, may my life be consistent with what You want. No matter what people say to tear me down may it be found to be a lie.”

April 26

Monday, April 26th, 2021

In a devotion I wrote last week. I mentioned the idea of finishing well. Hezekiah did not. I want to.  Over the weekend I read the following story:

You may have heard of John Steven Akhwari, a runner from Tanzania who finished last in the marathon at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. No last-place finisher in a marathon ever finished quite so last.

Injured along the way, he hobbled into the stadium over an hour after the last runner had crossed the finish line. All the spectators were gone, the stadium was closed, and crews were preparing for the closing ceremony when Akhwari gathered himself for a final effort and sprinted across the line.  It is said that one of the workers picked up a torn finishing tape and held it across the track so Akhwari could break it.

When Bud Greenspan, the official timekeeper of the games, asked the weary athlete why he put himself through such pain, he replied, “Mr. Greenspan, my country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race. They sent me to finish it.”

To be honest, we can’t just kick back, marking time: we are either growing toward God, or we’re going in the other direction.  An interesting quote: “Give your fruit before it rots.” (Richard Rolle)

Long story short: Finish well! Never give up. God did not ask us to just start; He wants us to finish.

“Father, may my life be one of perseverance and never quitting. Help me to finish well.”

April 23

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Sunday morning Jo and I drove to Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute. While Scot, Maryland’s Senior Pastor did not preach, the Discipleship Pastor, Nick Strobel, did an admirable job speaking about Greed.  Using the story of Elisha, Naaman and Gehazi found in 2 Kings 5, he brought some good thoughts to the table. {Please take a moment and read the Scripture}.  After Naaman went on his way with Elisha’s blessing, Gehazi chased him down and lied about Elisha wanting his money. Here are the three points Nick brought out: (Main thoughts his; commentary mine)

  1. Greed starts small. It warps our purpose. God’s ultimate purpose was that Naamen know and acknowledge God as the only God. But Gehazi’s greed warped that. Man will always pursue what we think will save us. We will not pursue things because we think it’s dumb.
  2. Greed warps our reality. Sin multiplies. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman to get what he wanted. God will never ask us to do something which is against His Word. N.E.V.E.R. When someone says or does something sinful or evil with the caveat of “God told me” you can pretty well guess He didn’t.
  3. Greed warps our understanding of salvation. God gave Gehazi what he wanted. The sin he chased became his death warrant. Greed can’t save. If you read the story, Naaman was healed of leprosy. Gehazi spent the rest of his life as a leper. Sad ending to what had been a promising future as the understudy/servant to Elisha.

“Father, help me not to be greedy toward what others may have. I don’t want my life to be warped because of my preoccupation with things I don’t have.”

April 15

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

I’ve been reading lately about the Sadducees and Pharisees in preparation for some sermons which are coming up. It was this group of men-throw in the scribes also-whom Jesus had the most difficulty with.  But like today, not even the religious could agree.

The Sadducees were the political ones of the group. Their influence at the time wasn’t necessarily religious. Their influence was more political. Although they would deny it vehemently, they were in bed with the Romans. Oh, they had some religious quirks too. They did not believe in the resurrection, angels or anything supernatural. The also only believed in the validity of the Penteteuch (first 5 books of the OT).

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the super religious. They were religious legends in their own mind.  The Pharisees were very legalistic, wanting to hold all 600+ laws as a hammer over the heads of the people. They were opposed to the Sadducees when it came to their beliefs, especially on the resurrection.  They were united with them on one thing: getting rid of Jesus.

One aspect of the Pharisees’ belief was the separation from unclean people. They would not dare get their hands dirty. “Come out from among them and be separate” applied to contact and interaction.

There some who take that literally, even today.  They withdraw from society.  Form communes. Want no influence (outside) to soil them. But I don’t believe that idea is to be taken physically. I believe it has to do with our hearts and minds. “Set your mind on things above not on things on earth” is what Paul told the Colossians. (3:2)

The word we are searching for is holiness. Sanctification. It means “to be holy, to be set apart.” Not physically, but in our hearts and minds. Devoted to Him.

The Pharisees thought they needed to physically separate.

The Sadducees thought they needed to ideologically separate.

The Bible speaks of devotion to God not the world.

Am I separated from the world? Am I dedicated for the Lord’s use? Are you?

“Father, may I be Yours completely. Help me not to be as concerned about physical separation as I am about having my heart and mind consecrated to You.”

April 14

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

I read a great story the other day…from the Bible. That’s right. From the Bible. 🙂  Take a moment and read 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Okay…notice any similarity?

Before I make mention of that similarity, check out the story. Shalish was a region allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. In time, when Jezebel’s Baalism reigned, the region was renamed Baal Shalisha.

There was a farmer there who labored over his fields and when the harvest came he brought the firstfruits, 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to the sick. Bringing the firstfruits was an OT principle-usually brought to the priests-but this time brought to Elisha. (The priests were corrupt).

This offering was an unexpected provision to the needy. Elisha told his servant to take what has been given and give it to the people to eat. His response? “How can I set this before 100 men?” He was saying this miniscule amount will not feed 100 hungry men. Elisha’s comment: “They shall eat and have some left.”

Hmmm. Does that sound familiar to you? Think 5 loaves and 2 fish. Think 5000 men. Think doubt of the disciples. Think Jesus.  There. Now you know. 🙂

When God gives, He gives more than enough. We can never outgive Him. We always have more than enough.

“Father, thank You for Your provision. However little or large it all comes from You. You always give enough. Help me to remember that as I go through this day and then the next.”

April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

April 7

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I read a verse of Scripture that got me to thinking. First, the verse: “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can a man walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” (Pr. 6:27-28)

I realize those verses are in the context of marriage and adultery. But let’s take it one step further. Those verses remind me of an old saying:

When you play with fire you either get burnt or you smell like smoke.

The greater implication of that saying goes beyond marriage. It takes in everything we do on a daily basis. There are some people who think they can flirt with sin. They will see how close they can get to the line without crossing it. It’s like the scene in Field of Dreams where the child is choking and they need a doctor. Doc Graham runs to the line and they show his shoes hesitate right at the line because he knows one more step and he is over the line and his dream of playing baseball is finished. He chooses to cross the line and becomes a doctor. But he never regrets or resents it.

We, too, come to a line. We must make a choice. For some the choice is easy. “No, I won’t cross it.” But for others who have been playing with fire, it is a much harder choice. Sadly, it is one very easily lost because of playing with fire. They have allowed sin to be a companion and so the choice is almost made for them. Resistance is down; yielding is easier.

Be careful of playing with fire. As the saying goes: “You either get burnt or smell like smoke.”

“Father, as Your child help me to say no to sin. Help me to say no to even allowing it to hang around.”