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February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 5

Friday, February 5th, 2021

When I was in college I had a professor who had a required reading list-men who were respected authors. I suspect men like C.S.Lewis and others of his ilk were on that list. It has been far too long for me to remember others. One I know for sure was Francis Schaeffer. He wrote some books that even today I probably could not understand. Anyway, we were to read and write a report. I was way out of my league when it came to understanding what I read and then writing a report on that book. But I thought I had found a solution. Francis Schaeffer had written a small book called The Mark of the Christian. Perfect! Problem solved. Small. Short in length (probably about 20-30 pages). And, get this! Easy to understand!! 🙂 I was set…until…the prof said it was okay to read and write the report but since it was so short I would also have to include another book. Bummer!

All that say this: the reason I remember that short book and have trouble remembering his other titles (except for How Now Shall We Live?) is the subject matter. The mark of the Christian is L-O-V-E.  When you think about it, it is a trademark. Jesus said, “By this will all men know you are My disciples if you love one another.” The entire chapter of I Cor. 13 is dedicated to the life-changing power of love. (Cue in Huey Lewis song right here). John writes that we “love Him because He first loved us.” Jesus told His disciples to “love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13 NLT)

The way I see it if someone pricked me with a pin, love would flow out.  If someone beat me with a club, love would spill out. And if someone filet me, love would gush out. (Those are merely examples. I wouldn’t really want someone to prick me, beat me or filet me). Love would burst out. There would be no way to contain it and no way I could hide the love that lives within and fills me.

Question: Is that the kind of love in me? In you?

“Father, I am to love You first and foremost and my neighbor as myself. Am I a home for love? If I was opened up, would love spill out?”

January 29

Friday, January 29th, 2021

When I was way younger (just yesterday I think) I once heard someone make a statement which has stuck with me:

We have been saved to serve, not saved to sit.

We might not say it that way these days, but we still say basically the same thing:

We are not designed to be consumers, but instruments.

You will probably find multiple variations I’m sure, but in essence they say the same thing. You see, God’s plan is to make His invisible presence and His invisible grace visible.  He wants us to flesh out, to incarnate if I may use that word, His good news in Jesus to others. Let’s ask a quick question: How else will people see if not for us? God’s call to every one of His followers is to be a light on a hill (Mt.5:14-16; Luke 8: 16-17). In fact, He tells us a light is to never be hidden.

Let’s take it a step further: when God blesses us or gives us a gift, it was never intended we keep that to ourselves. We were never meant to hoard what He has given- whether it be a lesson learned in a trial or a test, a gift, a talent, or something as “earthy” as money. It has always been His intention that we use it to serve Him. How can we keep the greatest story on earth to ourselves?

“Father, You have chosen me for Your use. I am to be Your vessel, Your instrument. Help me not to balk but to give in and submit to Your will.”

January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”

January 6

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how often we “categorize” our worship? We talk about worship on Sunday in a certain place or time. But then act as though the other parts of our day or week are extra.

I even do that on Sunday morning during our corporate worship. I have caught myself (and not done a very good job of stopping or changing it) saying, “Please join us now and stand and sing and join us in worship.” See what I did? Say, for example, we had just had our prayer time when I say that. What have I stated? Answer: that the prayer time was not part of our corporate or individual worship, but now we are singing so we are worshiping.

No. No. No. That prayer time. That communion time (in our case). And ultimately the preaching time was all part of our worship. It is part of our psyche to make a distinction and say that singing is worship but prayer and communion and listening to the Word is not.

And it carries over into our daily lives as well. Worship does not just happen on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t just happen when I’m having my QT. Categorizing worship was never supposed to happen! Worship was, is, and always will be a 24/7/365 opportunity to praise the Father’s goodness and love. David praised God on the mountain and in the valley; on the run or on the throne; feeling good or feeling bad. Take a moment please and read Psalm 148.

“Father, worship is not be to categorized. But it is most definitely to come from my heart-all day, every day, any time, and any where. May my heart be one filled with praise.”

December 10

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

P.T. Barnum is often credited with the saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I wanted to know a little more about that quote so I searched it. Seems P.T. wasn’t the purveyor of it after all. A Mr. Hull chiseled out then buried what he called “The Giant.” He then “discovered” it and unearthed it. He displayed it as a petrified man and charged people to see it. A Mr. Hannum paid a high price for it and began to display it, charging even more than Mr. Hull did. Ol’ P.T. came along and tried to buy it and Hannum wouldn’t sell it. So P.T. had his own giant made, displayed it as “The Cardiff Giant” and made money. Mr. Hannum then used his now-famous quote to describe those taken in by Barnum’s statue. Fun fact: Mr. Hannum sued P.T. but in court it came out that the whole trick was conceived by Mr. Hull. So in the long run, Mr. Hannum wound up being the sucker.

We chuckle at the gullibility of people. We wonder how in the world can people be so easily taken in? What isn’t so funny is when people are deceived and suckered by false teachers, gurus, televangelists, i.e. hucksters who convince people to believe their lies. Underneath it all (besides a wolf in sheep’s clothing) we will find there is nothing new under the sun. A lot of it is basically the same old garbage in a new outfit. The same error just repackaged. Tragically, people do the same thing today that their predecessors did: fall hook, line, and sinker into lies. In 2 Cor. 11 Paul calls them “false apostles.” Deceitful workers who disguise themselves. See…second verse same as the first. And we must N-E-V-E-R forget that our enemy (Satan) will disguise himself as an angel of light. Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open to You and to Your Word. Help me to test the spirits to see if they are from You.”

November 24

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

In a recent Our Daily Bread (11/20/20), they had a devotion that struck me. Here it is in a nutshell:

Albert Einstein paid tribute to a colleague, the famous Dutch scientist, Hendrik A. Loventz.  He never mentioned their scientific disputes, only his “never failing kindness.” He inspired scientists to put aside political prejudice and work together, especially after WWI. Einstein said, “Even before the war was over he never set out to dominate but always to simply be of use.”

That phrase “never set out to dominate” really struck me. The work of reconciliation is good and the Father knows we need that, perhaps as much now as ever. But it is impossible if we set out to dominate another person. None of us like that. Whether it be a spouse, a parent, a coach, a pastor, an elder, or someone else. In school they are called bullies. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is to be mutual, not one submit and the other dominate. This is especially true in the church. The Bible never gives a pastor, an elder, so-called leader, or patriarch/matriarch the right to claim “this church is mine.” Nor does is give that person permission to run it like they think it is.  I have seen and heard of people who were damaged, almost beyond repair, by a domineering individual in the church.  The way I see it being the pastor of the church DOES NOT give me the right or privilege to demand my own way or to run roughshod over people. That is so un-Christlike.  Can there be a worse example in the church than that?

“Father, help me to see submission is a state of my heart. Help me not to seek to dominate but to serve.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

October 23

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Sadly there are many people today who call themselves “Christians” that have strange views. Some are whacked. Some are way out there. Some follow heresy (and often don’t know, which gives rise to a lack of Bible knowledge). Some follow men. Some are just ignorant. And some look for the easy way, an easy faith. It is this latter group I want to probe.

You see, some have the lame idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” You know…if I don’t see I don’t know. I don’t see so I’m not responsible. Take, for example, followers of Jesus in other countries (and even now in our own). We have no clue in many cases what others are going through. We think, “Oh that’s a Muslim country” or “That’s in a communist country” so we turn a blind eye and either deny it or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist. Every day multitudes of followers of Jesus are persecuted and executed for their faith. I have no clue what that is like. But whether I choose ignorance or disregard, it still goes on. All over the globe. Behind the bamboo curtain. Behind the Great Wall. Behind the sickle and stars. Behind the stars and stripes. People are living their faith and as a result are either imprisoned or executed for that faith. Plain and simple: being a follower of Christ in many places is truly an effort of faith and of taking one’s life in one’s own hands. It is one of the least popular things a person can do.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus really do stand in the presence (now) and will (in heaven) of some truly remarkable people. One author would call them world-changers. They may be little known but their light shines brightly.

“Father, I stand in the company of some ‘great’ people who shine your light in tough circumstances and places. Help me not to forget them.”

October 21

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

I read something recently that piqued my interest and got my mind going. Two things actually, but what started it is this whole idea of running. Not running as in sport or exercise. Running…as in “running away.”

I’ve heard, said, and read that sometimes the wisest thing a follower of Jesus can do is run, i.e. run away from sin. Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful lusts.” The word flee can only mean one thing to me: high tail it out of there. So running away from temptation is good. but it seems to be there is a fine line between knowing when to run and when to fight. The Bible does talk about the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6), so there are times we need to stand our ground in the power of the Spirit and realize “greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

So we stand. Our faith is tested. Our stamina is tested. Our faith and strength grows as a result of doing battle.

But there is another kind of running. It is called cowardice. In Psalm 78:9 it says that on the day of battle the Ephraimites, though armed with bows (weapons of warfare) turned tail and ran. Only one thing causes that kind of reaction: F.E.A.R.  That is the opposite of Joshua 1:9 when God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous…God will go with you wherever you go.” Seems to me that turning and running when the battle comes betrays, not only my own troops, but the also God Himself, the Captain of the army. 

“Father, help me to know what it is wise to stand and fight or when to run to avoid giving in. But may I never run because I’m betraying You or my fellow soldiers because of cowardice.”