Christian Living

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January 11

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Several years ago-well over 20-I did a personal Bible study, then led several groups through the study as well. The study included a story of D.L. Moody. The story goes that someone approached Moody and said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him.” Moody was reported to have said, “Then I will be that man.” What I have read of Moody is that was his life’s goal.

That is an intriguing story…and an intriguing challenge.

For someone to issue that challenge with one simple statement to a man of Moody’s spiritual stature is pretty bold. (Then again, perhaps that is why Moody became the man of God he was). I sort of wonder what precluded him saying that to Moody and why.

But the greater impact was Moody’s willingness to say, “Here I am.”

That reminds me of Daniel who refused to be silenced for fear of a lion’s den.

That reminds of Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego who refused to bow for fear of a furnace.

That reminds me of Jeremiah who found himself locked up because he would not stay quiet about Israel’s degradation.

That reminds me of Peter and John who were unafraid of the religious leaders and the consequences of continuing to talk about Jesus. “It is far better for us to listen to God than to man.”

That reminds me of Polycarp, the pastor of Smyrna, who refused to denounce his faith in the “One True King” in order to avoid being burned to death.

That reminds me of the early reformers who refused to be quiet about the Roman Church for fear of being burned alive at the stake.

That reminds me of persecuted Christians in China, North Korea, Iran, etc who face the loss of everything for converting to Christ.

That also reminds me to ask myself, “What about you Bill? Will you take that challenge to be the man willing to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him?”

And what about you?

January 10

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

This past Sunday I started a preaching series on Revelation. Last night I was discussing with some men about Jesus’ coming and how we don’t know when it is going to happen (despite some so-called prophets saying they do). Then I said, “That’s why we have the JWs. One man got the idea and pronounced that Jesus was going to come on such-and-such a date. When that didn’t happen he recalculated and made another prediction of another date. As we know that didn’t happen. But he was not to be deterred. His answer for that failure was that Jesus did come but He’s just wandering around waiting to make Himself visible.”

Say what? People aren’t smart enough to see that is a bunch of crock? Evidently not. That cult started and exists even to this day (as we know).

There is one sure way to know whether we follow someone or not. I read of a man who wanted to start his own religion but soon found it didn’t go so well. He asked someone what he should do get coverts. The man told him, “I recommend that you get yourself crucified, die, and then rise again on the third day.”

Bingo! Jesus’ death and resurrection on the third day is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. No man-whether it is Charles Taze Russell (JW), Joseph Smith (LDS), Ellen G. White (SDA), Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist…which it is neither), Mohammed, Krishna, nor any other individual, can make the claim that Jesus can. No one else is worth following.

Only Jesus. And only Jesus went to a cross to die on our behalf, to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God.  The cross made the difference. And only following the One who conquered death, hell, and the grave is worthy of our honor and worship. All else is a losing cause…no matter how sincere.

Whom will you choose to follow?

January 9

Monday, January 9th, 2023

One of my favorite songs is by the Christian rock group, DeGarmo & Key. I began listening to them in the mid to late 70s and continued listening to them until they disbanded in the 90s to pursue other ventures. Dana Kay has since gone to be with Jesus and I’m sure heard a “Well done, good and faithful servant.” My favorite song by them was called Long Distance Runner. (You can listen here).

That song is about running the Christian life. Using the motif of a runner, it speaks of the Christian life as not being a sprint but a long distance run.

Would you please think with me about that comparison for a moment? We are told in 2 cor. 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight.”  Curious language, but true.  It does not say, “Sprint by faith.”

Why?

Simple. The Christian life is a walk. We speak about “the Christian walk.” We never say anything close to “the Christian sprint.” We might talk about the life of a follower of Jesus being a long distance run (because it is), but never a sprint. I don’t know about you but my legs don’t run anymore. There are days I feel strong walking.  My legs and knees feel strong. No pain. No discomfort. But there are those days-days like yesterday in fact-when it seems like every move, every step is agony. The knee that will someday need replaced balked at every step and seemed to mock me saying, “How long will this go on?” 🙂

Sounds like life, doesn’t it? Days of exhilaration co-mingled with days of pain. If I do happen to run (spiritually, that is), it isn’t very long at all. I wasn’t made for sprinting. I was made for slow and steady.

Take a moment and stop to read Colossians 2:6-7 and get a further glimpse into my thinking. And then remember: it is not a sprint; it is a long distance walk/run.

January 5

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

Over the past 3 days of devotions, I’ve tried to see how I could make 2023 different spiritually for me and for you. I had no particular plan or idea in mind that said, “Here. Follow this course as you write.” What I found out this morning as I looked back is that a sort of pattern developed. 

Monday was a challenge to pursue Jesus. I asked a simple-but hard-question: Is Jesus first? Is He my pursuit?

Tuesday was focused on getting rid of baggage we often carry with us. In this case, it was baggage from 2022. Fresh starts require throwing off the old.

Wednesday I focused on the foundation we build on. Rock or sand.

To be totally honest, I did not have a pattern in mind as I wrote. I wrote what was on my heart that morning.

That is why today’s devotion is so important…and poignant. One of my all-time favorite Scriptures has been Phil. 3:10-“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death.” That phrase “I want to know Christ” has always intrigued me. What does it mean?

A deeper dive into that verse reveals the Greek word ginosko, which means “to know intimately.” Simple illustration: you may “know” me, but my wife “knows” me intimately. See the difference?

There are many who know about Jesus. There are many who can even say, “I know Jesus. He calmed the sea, healed the sick, etc,” but that is not what “know” means here. 

Paul is challenging us to really “know” Jesus, to know Him as deeply as a man would his wife. A man doesn’t know his wife, or a wife her husband, by passing each other in the night or in the hallway or on the street and just waving.

Neither can we have a deep, inner connection with Jesus by a cursory nod or wave as we pass by. “Hi, Jesus. How you doing today?”  Yeah, that doesn’t cut it.  No, what we really need to do is hunker down. Spend time with Him. Share our lives with Him. Get to know Him intimately.

This is really the crux of the matter. Take the previous 3 days and they all find their fulfillment right here. Will you desire to know Jesus intimately?

January 4

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

I own my own house. Well…the bank does, but I’m making a strong effort to pay it off quicker. One of the most important parts of the house is not that it has been re-painted a grayish color with white shutters. Or not that it is a ranch-style house-with 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths plus the obligatory kitchen and living room as well as other rooms (my Man Cave which is now Tami’s bedroom and an added-on room about 3-4 years ago). Nor is it that it has a fenced-in back yard. And it isn’t because it is not a house but a home we have lived in for almost 17 years. Nope.

The most important part of the house is its foundation. Without that the house wouldn’t be worth a penny. In fact, there would be no house.

When they started building this one structure in Italy in 1173, they found the soil was softer than they originally thought. Over time that tower has been sinking and today the top of that tower is a little over 13′ off center. They check it regularly. They say if left to its own devices with no intervention of builders, the Leaning Tower of Pisa will someday collapse.

The key to living a life of faith that shines the light of Jesus is having a firm foundation. A life built on the solid rock of Christ. A life built on the never-changing Father and the truth of His Word.

Jesus said it well in Matthew 7 when He told the parable of the two foundations-sand and rock. One stands against the storms; the other crumbles.  Sand castles are easily destroyed by water and tides. Permanent structures built on rock last.

One of the keys to facing life in this new year is having the right foundation. Resolutions? No. A determined faith where time is spent in God’s presence and His Word that will help us stand strong? Most definitely yes.

What type of foundation do you have? What are you building your life and 2023 on?

January 3

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

I read this morning in Our Daily Bread about how some volunteers from a rescue organization in Australia found a wandering sheep weighed down by more than 75 pounds of filthy, matted wool.  They figured it had been forgotten and lost in the bush for at least 5 years. They were able to sheer it and soon the sheep (named Baarack) began to eat and his legs grew stronger. It thrived in the environment of his rescuers and the other animals.

It started me thinking about people, about how so many are weighed down by excess weight (not physical) and baggage. Some of it is simply the cares of life. Some of it is baggage of their own making from their past.

I’m reminded of a song (click here). It says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear/I am a child of God.”  There are way too many people who are slaves to fear, shame, unconfessed sin, regret, and a whole host of other baggage.

Just like Baarack needed his rescuers to slowly sheer away his excessive weight of tangled, matted wool, so do many of us. God, through His Spirit, sets us free. He desires to make us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). His Word tells us that “he whom the Son has set free is free indeed.”

Are you carrying excess baggage these days? Are you weighed down by sin and shame and regret? Be sheered and let God’s Spirit set you free.

January 2

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Welcome to 2023! That’s not the first time you have hard that I’m sure.  It is from me though! 🙂

Every new year that we hit is seen as a milestone. It is also seen as a chance to start over. To turn over a new leaf. To start with a clean slate. Whatever and however you want to say it.

But it’s also not true. We still have the past to deal with. Now…I’m a barrel of fun aren’t I?

But let’s run with the idea that it is a new leaf, slate, etc. So what? What now? Do we do the same old humdrum stuff, the same old approach to our daily life?

Let me suggest an approach toward this new year for myself and for you. Let’s stop and ask ourselves a couple of questions:

What am I pursuing?

What has captured my heart?

What am I obsessing about?

We are all going to have different answers to those questions based on our goals, ambitions, desires, and yes, loves. I know what my answer should be, ought to be. “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” is the way Jesus put it.

Plainly put: Is He first? Is He my pursuit? Is He who I long for? Is He the One who has captured my heart? Is He my obsession? Does my heart long for Him?

The answer to all of them should be a simple “Yes.” The reality smacks of a different answer.

My desire for 2023 is to be able to answer a Yes to those questions. Join me won’t you?

December 29

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Welcome to what will probably be the last post on “Shadow” for 2022. There will be a lot of reflecting over the next few days about 2022. The highs and lows. The victories and defeats. What I will call the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s.

But along with reflecting on 2022 (the past), there will also be some pondering about 2023. No one could have guessed what all 2022 would bring, nor can we guess what 2023 will bring. I won’t lie-I do wonder. Will my health hold up? Will that knee they say needs replaced “someday” find its “someday” in 2023? Will I be able to erase even more debt in 2023 (I only owe on 2 things at the moment-my house and truck)? Will the church thrive? Will Jo and I be able to celebrate our 50th in June? So many questions…not one answer…

Except…

I don’t have to know. God does. And since he has never failed me yet, I’m pretty confident He won’t in 2023.

I read about a lady named Charlotte Elliott. She suffered a physical disability for years and on the night before she was to participate in a fund-raiser for higher education, she was a mess. She tossed and turned all night with doubts and worries. She felt inadequate. The next morning she went to her desk and penned these well-known words: “Just as I am, without one plea/ But that they blood was shed for…”

Take note of Genesis 17:1. It says, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before Me.” The Hebrew term, El Shaddai, can mean “God who is sufficient.”

I don’t know what 2023 holds. None of us do. What I DO KNOW is El-Shaddai, God Almighty, is sufficient to enable me to weather any storm.

“Father, may I trust You no matter what, as the One who is sufficient.”

December 28

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

For the most part, except for a few vestiges of leftovers (people not food, although…), Christmas ’22 is history. At least the celebration of Christmas is over. 2023 is fast approaching and with it a year filled with uncertainty and challenges, none of which we have a clue about. 🙂

We have been hearing the Top 10 of everything. Top 10 sons. Top 10 grossing movies. Top 10 downloads. Top 10 news stories. The list goes on and on.

But here’s something novel! How about listing the Bottom 10. Bottom 10 songs. Bottom 10 grossing movies (the bombs). Bottom 10 TV shows. Etc.

Being on the bottom is not appealing at all. My blog, for example, could very well qualify for the Bottom 10 readers and those who respond. Sort of makes me wonder why I do this! 🙂

Anyway, I read the story of a man named John Woolman (ever heard of him? Yeah…me neither) whose commitment to Jesus influenced his tailor shop dealings. Out of his support for freeing slaves, he refused to by any cotton or dye supplies from companies that used forced labor.  He loved his neighbor and lived according to integrity and sincerity in all his dealings.  John was a Quaker who lived in the early to mid 1700s.

In 2 Cor. 1:22 Paul speaks of conducting ourselves with integrity and godly sincerity.  As we look back on 2022, what would your report card say in these areas? And as we look ahead to 2023, let’s make every effort to live with integrity and godly sincerity.

Let’s be the one who makes a difference.

December 21

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Today is the shortest day of the year. Not that we have less hours in a day but we have less light. Some might say, “That is good. I can go to work, then come and get ready for bed and then go to bed early in order to take advantage of the longer night.” Or you might say, “Hey. That’s great! That means the days (daylight) will start staying around longer.” In either case, we still only have 24 hours in a day.

What will do with those hours?

In Matthew 25 Jesus has a conversation with His followers doing what needs to be done while we wait for Him to return.

  • I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
  • I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
  • I was a stranger and you invited me in.
  • I was naked and you clothed me.
  • I was sick and you visited me.
  • I was in prison and you came to me.

“And when did we see you like that?” “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”

He then turns the tables and speaks about those who see all He has just talked about and do nothing.

Christmas is a time when we are bombarded by solicitations for help-St. Jude’s, Shriner’s, Coalition of Jews and Gentiles, homeless shelters, food pantries, legitimate ministries, abused pets. All of those are needy-some more than others. I”m not trying to be cold-hearted when I mute the TV. Some commercials really get to me (St. Jude’s) and some are really annoying, i.e. staged (pets).

Be discerning who you help and send your money to. I prefer to stay local, where my feet are planted in my community. I also give to those I know and trust. However, I cannot tell you who or who not to help. Just realize the importance of people over creation or animals, for example. Just give with a heart like Jesus talks about in Matthew 25: “When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.”

Don’t close off your heart to the needs of those around you. Just be discerning.