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June 30

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Do you remember the song, The Gambler, by the late Kenny Rogers? It had lyrics familiar to the gambling trade:

You gotta know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run.

Those words are easy to see when it comes to gambling, but when it comes to life? Not so. For example, it took a lot for me to quit (fold ’em) when I played baseball or basketball. I went by the philosophy that the “game isn’t over until the last out.” Even in basketball, when a team is down by 20 points with one minute left, it is hard to stop playing. Least it was for me.

I remember twice in my college career when I folded early. So did the team. So did the coach. Both times we played teams out of our league and it didn’t take long before we all realized we were in trouble and way over-matched. (Ironically, both were before important tournaments).  Finally, in the second half, coach mercifully pulled me and “let” me enjoy the rest of the game on the bench. First time all night I enjoyed the game! 🙂

In the spiritual race/war, there are times we gotta know when to fold ’em and when to walk away or even run. It is one thing to stay and fight; it is a wise person who knows when to get out of Dodge. Yes, fighting sin and temptation and the Tempter is sometimes necessary. But so is running. Running from the temptation. Pulling back to gather strength to fight another day.

There is no shame in running to recoup. There is a problem with giving in without a fight. What I need to remember is that as I fight, God fights right alongside me. He’s got my back. And my front. And my side.  The battle is His; not mine. Victory comes from surrender…to Him. But sometimes that surrender is absolutely essential before victory is realized.

“Father, take my life and help me to fight.  Help me to also know when to run so I can recoup and regather to fight another time, another day.”

June 29

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

I know I’ve written about this before but after reading something Bob Goff wrote, it struck a nerve. Bob writes:

God speaks to us through His Word, through our friends, through our desires and dreams. Are you listening to them, or are you giving the microphone to voices that make you envy what your friend has or fear that the next move will end in total failure? Have you put your head next to a megaphone that screams you back into the person you were? (p.218)

I suspect we have all struggled with that from time to time.

But here’s another thought: what kind of voice am I to others? My mind pictures the old man who has the shell-shaped device (is that a gramaphone?)  up to his ear in order to hear and another old man yelling into it.

Speak truth. Speak love. Speak beauty. Speak trust and acceptance. Speak hope. Speak life. Be the “voice of God” in their ears.

“Father, may I be the voice of love and hope to those who hear me. Help me to speak life into a person not be just another voice of disinterest and disenchantment.”

Quote from Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff

June 28

Monday, June 28th, 2021

A number of years ago (around 2002), I read a book by Tom Morrisey entitled Wild by Nature. At the time I really enjoyed the book, but for the most part it was a one-and-done read. I truly enjoyed WBN, subtitled True Stories of Adventure and Faith. Last week we went to Ohio to see our grandson play baseball (and see his mom) 🙂 . I decided to take the book with me to read it again.

In the Introduction, Mr. Morrisey wrote something that struck me. In reference to his use of the Bible in his stories, he writes a brief introduction to the Bible. Then he wrote this:

I offer this brief introduction to the Bible because, while the references given may make it seem that it (the Bible) is a companion volume to this book, the reverse is actually true-this book was written as a companion volume to God’s Book.

I like that. All too often we are guilty of deciding then looking to the Bible to confirm. The opposite should be true. First the Bible; then our decision/choice. The Bible was never meant to be a handbook but a guidebook. The Bible was never meant to be checked for an okay; it was meant to be read and applied. Psalm 119: 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It lights the path as it goes in front. It wasn’t meant to be a back light.

Those are important thoughts for us in this day and age. The Bible needs to be our guide, not our handbook. We allow the Bible to direct us, not do then seek approval.

“Father, may Your Word by my guide…always.”

June 24

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“No man is an island” we often hear and say.

True statement.

I have a friend who has told me that if his wife ever dies before him, he will pack his things and move to TN or some place where he could be a hermit living in his cabin away from everyone. Would he really? I hope not to find out.

Not me. While I enjoy a short respite from time to time of being alone and away from people, I know I do need (I refrained from saying, “Craved”) other people. While some people are introverts, I am not.

Last night I spent some much appreciated and much needed time with a friend. Since my schedule is far more flexible than his, I drove to his town and met him for supper. Mexican. (It was actually pretty good). But even better was the 2 hours or so we spent eating chips and salsa, our main course, and talking. Laughing. Emotional. Opening up some. It was one of those A-a-a-a-h times for me.  I didn’t have to put up a wall with which to guard myself. The opposite. A “de-walling” process took place. We even texted each other later and said, “Let’s do this again soon. Like once a month.” So I suspect we will make the time to do that.

Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of friendship. I’m grateful for mine. But remember: to have friends you must also be one. People don’t come crawling saying, “Oh please! Be my friend!”  Least that has not been my experience. No. Friendships develop over time. One step at a time. I have one friend I have had since college (that was many, many moons ago…trust me). This current friendship started when he and his family moved from Florida in 2007 (if my calculations are correct) and began attending the church I pastor. My life has been richer since.

“Thank you Father for friendship. Earthly. One with skin. And thank you for that heavenly friendship with You. One who will always be my friend.”

Note: I wrote this yesterday (Wednesday-6/23/21) and posted it for today. Jo, Tami and I are leaving for Ohio for a couple of days to watch our amazingly, fantastic grandson/nephew play some baseball.  No prejudice there. 🙂

June 22

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

“The battle belongs to the Lord.” We will hear that often from pastors/teachers as they admonish us to fight on, to carry on, to not give up.

I read an interesting story from Our Daily Bread yesterday (6/21/21). During what has been The Charge of the Light Brigade, Lt. Colonel de Salis had a horse named Drummer Boy who was injured during battle. He decided his horse deserved a medal as much as his valiant men. Even though their military action failed, Drummer Boy was awarded a medal. And even though it failed, that battle goes down as one of Britain’s greatest military moments because of the valor of both men and horses.

That brings to mind several Scriptures:

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But the victory belongs to the Lord.” (Pr.21:31) (NASB 2020)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps.20:7) (ESV)

Those are just a couple of verses which show our strength is not our own. Nor is our strength that which is strong on earth. Over and over in Scripture we are told that God is the one who fights for us. He is the One we are to trust not that which appears strong. I like what Deut.20:4 says, “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you the victory.” (NLT)

Not much more to say is there? God has promised to fight those battles with us and for us. Lean on that.

“Father, may I trust You when it comes to battle. Help me to stand firm against sin and evil and remember the battle is Yours.”

June 21

Monday, June 21st, 2021

During my time of working through Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, I watched a movie that was different for me. John was talking about fathers and the wounds we often get from them. The movie was based on a book by Norman MacLean called A River Runs Through It. It was the story of a somewhat harsh (at times) Presbyterian pastor played by Tom Skerritt, and his two sons, one of whom was Brad Pitt. The father would preach on Sunday morning and knowing Sunday evening was coming and he would do it all again, he would take Sunday afternoons to walk through the woods with his sons or to fish. He especially loved to fly fish and taught his sons how to as well.

I am not a fisherman and make no pretense to be. Or to understand the mystery of fly fishing. Growing up near Pittsburgh did not afford many opportunities to fish or hunt, especially when you had a father who did neither.

It is easy to pick at our fathers-of not being there, of not teaching us or spending time with us. I’ve related that my relationship with my father was tenuous, as best. He loved baseball and so did I so I tried to excel.  I see now some of it was for his approval. He didn’t like basketball but I tried to excel regardless. But I’m not here to bash my dad. I tried to be a good father but didn’t always succeed. I know how hard it is.

I’m here to talk about my other Father, my good good Father. The Father who has unquenchable love for me. The Father who has unconditional acceptance of me. The Father who spoke the Truth and kept His Word. The Father who stuck by and continues to stick with me through thick and thin; through good and bad; through sin and service. He is my good, good Father. Check out this song.

“Father, I know I could never and will never be the Father you were and are to me. But I want and need you to be my Abba, the Father who loves me unconditionally.”

June 17

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

I learned a valuable lesson last night.

Let me explain. Jo and I had a great day together. It was our 48th anniversary and we just took our time and did different things. I’ll not waste your time with that but by the end of the day things had changed. No, I didn’t get mad at her or she me. A glaring checkbook mistake colored my evening. Again, I ‘ll not bore you with details.

But it clouded my evening. That, and a few other “dumb” things, changed my mood. And I’m not a moody person. I went to bed extremely agitated (again highly unusual). I was at fault for the mistake. But so was a local business. I told Jo two things as we lay there waiting for sleep to come: 1) Smart pills are needed-for me for the bone-headed mistake- and also for  them for not seeing it and calling; and 2) I told her I was going to have trouble sleeping and may end up going to my chair (which also broke last night). Her words to me were calm and spot-on words, words I needed to hear. As a result of listening I. SLEPT. LIKE. A. BABY!  Except for when I needed to turn over to my other side to relieve the hip which now hurts as a result of the hit-n-run while riding back in November of ’16. That pain was also another fun part of my day.

The Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger. I’d also say we should not allow the sun to go down on our fretting and stewing and worrying. The Bible even speaks to that: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

It is true the situation is still in front of me, even as I sit here this morning writing this. But even then I cannot even begin to do anything until the business opens in 3 1/2 hours.

“Father, I have a choice: Stew or Trust. With your help, I’m going to trust. Wait. Rely. Give my worries to You.”

June 15

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

I was thinking this morning (Yeah, dangerous thought). We often hear about avoiding people who are bad influences. I even spoke this past Sunday about toxic people. We will even go to I Cor. 15:33 where it says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” to make our case. With that admonition in mind, we will say something along the lines of

“CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY.”

Or some variation of that.

We are usually thinking that the people we hang around with can have a negative influence on our lives.

And that is true.

But let’s look at in a more positive light. The people we hang around with, the friends we choose, can also influence us for the good. They can encourage us to keep going. They can be the “wind beneath our wings,” so to speak. They will support us, love us, move us, rebuke us, hold us accountable, give insight to us, and a whole host of other positives.

So I suggest we begin choosing and surrounding ourselves with people who can enrich our lives.

Who are you surrounding yourself with these days? What kind of influence are they having on you?

“Father, show me who to choose as my friends and whom I should choose to hang around. May I also be a friend and a confidant and someone who builds others up.”

June 9

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I’ve got a problem! (I know what some of you are thinking and no comments are needed from the peanut gallery). But in all seriousness, I have a problem.

“Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

My problem: how do I do that? How do I know if I have?

Paul David Tripp in his short devotional book 40 Days of Love says,

“We can know the true joys of human love only if love for God first rules our hearts.” (p.72)

I know that. Not sure I practice it all that much. There is no question in my mind that I am often guilty of idolatry-of putting people, places, and things ahead of Jesus. The sad part is that I know this but find it so hard to change it. I realize that if I don’t find my rest and comfort in God, I will seek for it somewhere or with someone else. Then I’ll be asking of Jo, or another person, or my bike. or an activity to do for me what only God can. Fill me and satisfy me.

But even as I write this I am no closer to an answer to my questions: How do I do that? How do I know?

Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I’d like to hear from you.

“Father, help me to love You as I am supposed to. Please help me to find the answers to my questions.”

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”