Christian Living

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August 3

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we come to the conclusion that how we see things is determined by our perspective. Take, for example, the passage from Psalm 139:7-12. (Please take a moment to read it).

Now, the way it is taken is determined by your perspective.

For example: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (v.7)

That could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. Right?

If a person is living in sin or simply running from God, that verse is a bad thing. It tells that person that he can never run so far or so fast that he will be beyond God’s vision.

If a person is a Christ-follower and trying to live their life in surrender to Him, it is a good thing. Anywhere that person goes, anything he/she does, He is there with them.

That same principle can applied to all the verses.

  • If you are His what promises!
  • If you are a runner, what distressing verses!

God has uniquely made each of us. He cares about His creation. The words of Psalm 139:7-12 should stand as a comfort to me of His steadfast love.

“Father, may I never lose sight of You, Your concern for me, or Your watchful eye on me.”

July 30

Friday, July 30th, 2021

I have a friend who always closed his correspondence with “Eyes to the Sky.” I was reminded of that this morning as I read about eternity.

We are all temporary. I know there have been those who said they were going to live a long, long time.  Years ago, when I was reading a very popular, monthly “wellness” magazine/booklet, the founder said he was going to live past 100, maybe forever. He died shortly thereafter. Only superheroes can get away with saying, “I am invincible.” But then again, they are comic book characters-the figment of someone’s imagination- and yes, they can do just about anything! One of those is defy death.

Humans-real life people-not so much. Our end will come. Eternity awaits. I realize the fervor of billboards, commercials, and road signs, but I question the value of them. Our society is cynical with many dead to the claims of Jesus. I saw one the other day: heavenorhell.com. Seriously? Unless I miss it, a “none” or purveyor of another religion will cynically NOT tune in, unless it is to laugh, criticize, or counteract the claim. A local church owns some prime real estate on the road coming into town and road signs have appeared (I think about 10 of them) which say about one or two words. The subject? Eternity.

Like I said, I’m not knocking the fervor or intent. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  (NASB2020)  That whole chapter of 2 Peter is about the Lord’s delay and return. He has placed eternity in our hearts.

I long for Jesus to return or to call me home. I’m fine with either. I know where I’m going to spend eternity. Eternity will come for all of us-even the “fitness nut”-who thinks he or she will cheat death or go on forever or live a very long and prosperous life. No one knows. And then, we will face eternity. Where-heaven or hell- will be determined by whether you know Jesus as your Savior.  I’m hoping you do.

“Father, help me to live with my eyes to the sky and beyond. When I go is in Your hands. So is where, but I took care of that many years ago.”

July 29

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

If I may borrow a thought from Paul David Tripp this morning: “Too many followers of Christ have schizophrenia” (schizo from here on). He calls it “evangelical schizo.” The following is my attempt to explain it, apply it and challenge with it (in my own words).

Schizo, according to medical journals is “a long term and seasonal mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning.” We might also see them as multiple personalities.

All that psychobabble aside, it is easy to see how this applies to many follower of Jesus-not mentally-but spiritually. One glaring example is how we see and say life is forever, there is something better, yet we live as if this earth-this life- is all there is. We talk about eternity, but we live as if this earth is all there is.

Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). He goes on to write: “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil.1:23-24 NLT)

Paul’s struggle was not like ours is.  He didn’t want to stay here to fulfill his own wishes and desires and wants. He wanted to stay here for the folks. His unfinished business was not material; it was spiritual.

There is nothing wrong with desiring to go to heaven. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay here. The schizo happens when we take our eyes off our heavenly prize and live as if life on earth is all that matters.

“Father, cure me of any schizo I may exhibit. While I’m here, use me and keep me focused on my greater prize.”

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”

 

July 22

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

As I study through Mark, there are some wonderful stories and events and teachings of Jesus. One of the most insightful is found in Mark 12, the story of the widow’s mite found in verses 41-44. Four short verses but what a wallop!

Most know the story. Jesus sat down near the collection box (interesting place to sit and observe) and was people-watching. I like to watch people too. While everyone else goes to an amusement park to ride, I like to go to watch people. (Besides, I can’t do circles). And, as you can imagine, one can see quite a diverse group of people. But to sit near the offering plate and watch people put in their money is not something I would do (and don’t). 

But as you can see, Jesus had a reason. He watched the rich people put in large amounts. Then He watched a poor widow come and drop in 2 small coins. It would be easy to be judgmental and criticize her by thinking she didn’t give much. At least not when compared to the others.

But Jesus turns that type of thinking on its head. You see, in God’s economy big is not always better. A small,  humble amount/gift given in secret is much greater than an ostentatious gift given to be seen by others. I was speaking with someone Tuesday at a funeral and commented that it isn’t the size of the gift but the size of the heart that really mattered.

God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our heart. This widow gave her heart; the rich gave their money. Jesus saw it. He even said so: “This poor widow has given more that all the others who are making contributions.” (v.43 NLT)

It’s good to give your money; it is better to give your heart.

Father, here’s my heart. I’m giving it to you in surrender. Help me to see that it is so much more important to give my heart than to try to substitute money or something else.”

July 20

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Influence.

That word drips with meaning.

Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” We talk about events that “influence an election.” We call someone an MVP because of the way they have influenced a team or a game. It is a favorite word being used about people: “they are influencers.”

We also talk about influencing lives. I see that as saying that I have an affect on people. The way I live can direct or misdirect someone. The way I care. The way I talk to them. The way I teach. And yes, the way I love.

Influence is long-lasting. I can see my influence in my daughters’ lives, even today. I’m hoping I can see a long-lasting influence on my grandson’s life. I can see it in the church people I hear from. I know that in all things my influence has been both positive and (sadly) negative.

People will remember how I have influenced their lives. That’s why Paul wrote that love is the greatest of all. People remember whether I loved them or not. Just as I hope and pray Jo and my girls and grandson never doubt or forget my love for them. When I die and I’m gone, the best test of my influence is what lasts. What carries on. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

Anything is worth doing if it’s done with love, and nothing’s worth doing if it comes at love’s cost. (p.240)

What kind of influence are you having on people? is it one you want to be remembered for?

“Father, may my influence be because of Your work in my life and not because I took it upon myself. Shine though me.”

Bob Goff’s book is entitled  Live in Grace-Walk in Love.

July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”