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December 15

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

I read an eye-opening story in a recent devotion from Our Daily Bread (December 12).  Here is how it goes:

Beethoven was angry. He’d intended to name his Third Symphony “The Bonaparte.” In an age of religious and political tyranny, he saw Napoleon as a hero of the people and champion of freedom. But when the French general declared himself emperor, the celebrated composer changed his mind. Denouncing his former hero as a rascal and tyrant, he rubbed so hard to erase Bonaparte’s name that he left a hole in the original score.

Anger is a cancer. It often leads to hatred. I recently spoke with someone who has someone close to them whose life is consumed by hatred for one person. Having a hole in a musical score is one thing; having a hole in the heart is another.

The only way to take care of the hole in the score is to throw it away. The only way to take care of the hole in the heart is to give that hole, give that anger, to the Father. Holding onto a grudge is a killer-a killer of the spirit. Jesus said forgiveness is the way to go, to forgive as we have been forgiven.

“Father, help me to not hold on to hurts or things of the past. Help me to forgive.”

December 8

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I read a sad story this morning. Dewberry Baptist Church split in the 1800s over a chicken leg. The story goes that two men fought over the last drumstick at a church potluck.  One said God wanted him to have it; the other said God didn’t care, and he really wanted it. The battle got so heated one moved a couple kilometers down the road and started Dewberry Baptist Church #2. They have since settled their differences.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say that God could not have been pleased with that. I’m guessing He wept. Just like He does when a church splits over paint, the color of carpet, chairs or pews, style of music, or stained glass windows. Doctrine and ideology, Mission and Vision are different animals altogether. But a chicken leg? Seriously?

What we humans fight over! Totally nonsensical. Defies Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for sure. “May they be one, Father, as You and I are one.” I’m thinking God has to weep over our disregard of Jesus’ words: “By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

There is always a good time to show love and unity, but what better time can there be than at Christmas? After all we do sing “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

“Father, help me to be a catalyst for unity and not a stumbling block for disunity. May I be one who brings people to the Source of unity, not push them away.”

December 7

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

I hate to admit that I’ve had a mixed “love affair” with Christmas down through the years. Maybe it is more accurate to say with Santa Claus. Of course, as a youngster I looked forward to Christmas.  What kid doesn’t? As a husband and father I was excited about my daughters’ excitement. But here is where things get a little “dicey.” I was not thrilled about the Santa Clause deal. And while I tried to focus the church folks on Jesus, I found myself getting “hard” against SC. We didn’t really talk about him with the girls nor did we talk against him. After all, Jo’s mom went all out and it would have been an effort in futility to do that.

Long story short: I’m ashamed to admit I became a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas time. While I enjoyed the nostalgia of celebrating Christmas as a child-the secrecy, the tree, the lights, the trains, the snow, etc-I was almost a Scrooge in taking that away from mine. Fortunately, Jo covered for me. 🙂 I enjoyed the laughter of my girls during Christmas. And I eventually straightened up. Strange that I would forget how much Christmas meant for me as a child and almost try to deny my own.

I know what my problem was…now. I was so focused on making sure others remembered the real meaning that I lost sight of it for me.  I focused so much negativity toward SC that I lost sight of Jesus. How crazy is that? Sure Christmas is more than being about presents and shopping and trees, all the trappings. But it is about giving.

And God set the standard! He gave the first gift! It doesn’t hurt to follow suit. And while I still try to focus myself and others on the meaning of the season (Jesus), I don’t want to lose the magic of the season either. The best gift I can give is myself. I can also give grace. My prayer is that will be my song this year.

Will you join in singing with me?

“Father, in spite of all that is going on around me, please help me to sing a song of joy to You this Christmas.”

Note: today is Veteran’s Day. Remember to thank one today for their service to our country and to preserving the freedom we enjoy.

December 2

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

There is a big difference between someone who says something and someone who does something. We all tire of listening to some talking head who tells us what do, how to live and how to act, but then do something different. (That is not a political comment). Hypocrites bug us. It’s even worse when we are that hypocrite and our actions don’t match our words.

A big case in point would be Jesus. How many times does He say, “Love God with all your heart” or some variation of that? How many times does He call us to surrender? “Leave your father and mother.” “Follow me.” It would be maddening to hear Him say (or read his words) and for Him to disregard His own words. Can you say, “I’m not following Him”?

Think of the Christmas story. Philippians 2 tells us it was one of obedience. But the reality of it all is that “if anyone had a right to have His own way, in every way and all the time, it was Jesus.” (Quote from Come Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp-p.69)

But we see Jesus submitting in obedience and surrender to His Father. The cradle. The Garden. The cross. He committed Himself to His Father’s plan. 

And here is a real truth: when He asks us to surrender, He isn’t just blowing smoke.  He’s already done it. Not just talked it! DONE IT. LIVED IT.

Can I do any less? The excuses falter when I try to worm my way out.

“Father, Jesus was obedient to You and surrendered to Your will. Cradle to grave. May I be willing to do the same.”

{Note: Jo and I will be leaving for Ohio today and be gone all weekend. I will read and approve the comments when I have a chance. Please pray for safe travel for us}

December 1

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

Well…today is officially the start of the Christmas season. I say that in spite of and a rejection of the display of Christmas things in October. (Some day Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by 8 tiny rabbits). I also say that in spite of Black Friday, which has now officially become Black Friday Week and Cyber Monday. Ugh!! I’ve received ads from vitamins to bicycle stuff to shave kits to (fill in the blank) telling me all about the sales pre and post Thanksgiving.  And there is, of course, Hallmark showing movies since November and they even had a Christmas in July! If that wasn’t weird seeing snow on the TV when it was 90+ degrees outside. I prefer the latter myself.

But, in my mind, December 1 starts it. That’s not saying I haven’t been using Christmas devotionals for the past couple months. I am, after all, a pastor who needs to prepare for the Christmas season. AHEM!

All that to say we are going to spend a lot of time this month-here, at work, at home, everywhere-talking about Christmas. With that in mind I give you a quote from Bob Goff’s book for something to think about:

We {Editorial note: his family) knew the way to show Jesus to people was to love the way He loved. When He went away, He said He was leaving His Spirit with us so we could become like Him and act like Him. It means we can love people who are excluded and alone during the holidays. It means we can love people who don’t love us back, the ones who seem to find joy in antagonizing us. The way we love difficult people lets everyone know the baby in the manger isn’t just a decoration. (#334-p.386)

Those are some really good words to start off thinking about Christmas. I especially like that last sentence. Just as the cross is more than piece of jewelry, so the manger is more than a prop in a scene on a lawn.

“Father, may I let others know this month (and always) that the manger is more than a prop. It shows love came down.”

November 30

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Romans 10 has always been one of my favorite chapters to read. It is an informative one, but also a challenging and convicting one.

Paul begins by saying his heart’s desire is for his kindred Jews to know Christ (v.1). In fact, I think you can include chapter 9 with that. In 9:1-5 Paul even says that he would be willing to be accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of his countrymen (v.3).

But while he is willing to sacrifice himself for others, and even though his heart’s desire is for their salvation, he knows they must hear and respond. Each person must hear and respond on their own (10:10,13).

I like how he lays out the progression in verses 14-15:

  • How will they call on Him on whom they have not believed?
  • How can they believe if they have not heard?
  • How can they hear without a preacher?
  • How can they preach unless they are sent?

And then his ending: “Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (v.17). Faith/salvation does not happen in a vacuum. That speaks volumes as to why it is so important to get the message to others.

“Father, may I be used to get the message of Jesus to others so they can come to faith in You.”

November 29

Monday, November 29th, 2021

Full disclosure: I actually wrote this on the 26th.

Everyone is still asleep in my house so I thought I would take the time to journal. I’m reading through Paul David Tripp’s book, Come Let Us Adore Him. This is my 7th time through. i read it 3 times in 2017 and once each year since. It is a daily Advent devotional that I have used to prepare for Christmas. I read the December 11th devotion today. His opening prep statement says this:

The baby in the manger comes as a conquering King to dethrone us and then to enthrone Himself in our heart and lives forever and ever.

The whole devo is about the tug of war that goes on between us and our offspring and us and God. Our son doesn’t fight us about what to eat because he read a book on the Paleo diet and our daughter doesn’t argue with us about her bedtime as a result of an in-depth sleep study. They fight with us because it’s about kingdoms-theirs and ours.

We disagree with God because it’s a battle of kingdoms-His vs ours. Tripp makes a great point about why I get angry when driving. I get angry, not because they have broken God’s laws, but mine. In reality, it’s that way all the time. My way or the highway.

Jesus came to take the throne. He won’t take it forcefully, but He does want me to lay down my life willingly. Only when I’m willing to do that will I find salvation, peace, and contentment.

“Lord, may I willingly lay my life down and give you the throne.”

November 24

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

I used to love a good roller coaster. The feel of the air as it rushed past my face. The almost weightless feeling of topping the track and then dropping off at ungodly speeds was thrilling.

Two realities wrecked that for me, neither of which I could control. First, getting older. What my body once relished, it now rebelled. My joints would hurt from being jostled and my head complained because of the equilibrium being off. But worse was #2.

It was always an issue. Circles. I hate circles. Put me in or on anything which goes in circles and it is not a pretty sight. Like lose my lunch sight. I turn white. I sweat profusely. And BAM! So I stopped riding coasters. No…make that I stopped going to the amusement park. I even get sick on a Merry-go-round! Now…who gets sick on one of those? (hand raised). Anyway, the food was too expensive. And the people-the real reason I like to go to the park-got stranger and stranger.  95 degrees out and wearing long, baggy, black pants 10 sizes too big. Chains. Long sleeve black shirt. Piercings out the yazoo. Did I say weird?

Anyway, focus Bill. I used to love the thrill of the coaster. Start slow. Hit the high. Come in for the landing.

Psalm 19 reminds me of that:

Start slow. Verse 1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…”

Hit the apex. Verses 7-10. Four of the most powerful and greatest verses in all of Scripture.

Come in for the landing. Verse 14 says, “May the word of my mouth…”

Take the time to read the whole chapter on your own please. Then read it again and again. See the start. Feel the apex. Stick the landing.

And you won’t get sick. I promise. And I will take that ride any day.

“Father, thank you for Your Word and the vivid reality of it. Help me to relish the thrill of Psalm 19.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

November 23

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

In all my years as a pastor, I think one of the most common thoughts I have heard is the inability of people to forgive themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter what that person has done-big or small-there seems to be a barrier to forgiveness. Or maybe I should say “Acceptance to forgiveness.” You see, the problem is not God. We hear about God’s forgiveness. We know we need forgiveness. We want to accept and believe that forgiveness can be for us. BUT we just can’t seem to pull the trigger.

We think too much of what we have done. We think too much of where we have been. We think our sins are too great to be forgiven. One of my favorite songs is Covered by Planetshakers. While I don’t subscribe to the theological bent of Planetshakers Church and its structure, this song speaks volumes to my heart. {Warning: song is a little over 7 minutes long…but worth the listen}

So does Romans 6, especially the first 10 verses. Allow me to outline it/highlight some things for you:

  1. We do not sin so God’s grace can be greater. If our sin is a 5, God’s grace is a 6. But we don’t have the freedom to sin to prove that.
  2. Baptism is a uniting factor. I personally believe this is water but I don’t believe it is saying baptism saves or washes away sin  It is a point of obedience, of unity with the Father.
  3. Our old self is crucified with Him so that we will no longer be a slave to sin. Sin loses its hold on me.
  4. Jesus’ death is once for all. He died once and never needs to die again. This is one reason why the continual need for absolution is unnecessary. It is also one reason why living under the OT Law is useless. The Law cannot save; only Christ can.

Sin is forgiven. Big or small. God’s grace covers it all. Verse 7 says, “For the one who has died is freed from sin.” (NASB2020) We are no longer a slave to sin.

“Father, thank You for Your complete forgiveness. No sin is too great or too small. Your grace covers it all.”

November 18

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Caution: longer than normal post

Ever since out daughter Tami’s heart attack, her life has changed.  One of those is the amount of weight she is allowed to carry.

Let me give you a back story. Ever since I can remember, Tami used to pack heavy. She would come home from class in high school and whether she drove or we picked her up, she would load herself up with as much as she could carry so she wouldn’t have to make another trip to the car. Book bag. Back pack. Basketball bag. Shoes. You name it; one trip. And one trip only. I didn’t know a high school kid could have so many arms.

Fast forward to her time as a teacher (23 years now). Same scenario. Why make an extra trip when you have a thousand arms to carry everything? Backpack. Check. Class work. Check. Lunch bag. Check. Clothes to walk in. Check. Head. Hmmmm seems to be attached but not sure. 🙂  (She is a kindergarten teacher after all).

Add to the mix that her apartment is upstairs (26 very narrow and steep steps) and when she came home she loaded her arms.

Anyway, the day she had her attack, we had to get her stuff from the school. I had to carry her back pack. I just became almost instantaneously the world’s strongest man! It felt like she had a ton of bricks in there! Nope. I checked. All school stuff.

Since her attack she has a weight limit of 20 pounds. I’m thinking she is testing that limit. 🙁

Jesus once told someone they needed to travel lighter. “Sell all your stuff and follow me.” Trust me when I say that isn’t easy to do. We are in a purging mode since Tami is moving in with us-at least temporarily-so we have to make room at home and in a storage. We have already made 2 trips to Goodwill and one to a local outreach as we purge our house and my sister-in-law’s storage. Last night we had a meal with some friends and he talked about downsizing, purging and living “small.”

I agree with Bob Goff who wrote:

To follow Jesus, we should learn to love big and pack light. The less we carry of our worries, stuff. personal vendettas, and poisonous relationships, the freer we’ll be to explore the frontiers of love. (#322-p.373)

Let’s purge the unnecessary and carry only the necessities. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Goodness. Meekness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

“Father, you know my prayer to purge all that does not belong in my heart. Continue that process in me.”