Faith/Feelings

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September 8

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Principle #5:

God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.

That got me thinking how some approach God’s Word (GW) with what I called the “crystal ball” or “floodlight” approach. Before I go any further though, I need to say one or two very important thoughts:

  1. I firmly believe GW is inspired by God and is totally inerrant (without error). I base that on 2 Tim. 3: 14-17, especially verse 16.
  2. I also firmly believe it is God’s primary way of speaking to His people. All things, all claims of people saying, “God told me this or that” must have their foundation in GW. For someone to say, for example, “I killed those people because God told me to” is hogwash and the person is either psychologically delusional or fishing for a reason to justify sin. God will NEVER violate His Word.

With those thoughts in mind, there are those who treat GW like a crystal ball or expect a floodlight to shine down on them with a neon sign and say, “Do this!” Some even expect a floodlight to highlight a verse. You have probably heard the story of the man who used this approach by opening his Bible and pointing to a verse. It said, “Judas went out and hung himself.”  He hurriedly closed his Bible and opened it again and pointed to another verse. It said, “What your hand finds to do do it with all your might.” That wasn’t what he wanted to hear either so he closed his Bible, opened it and pointed and the verse said, “What your hand finds to do, do quickly.”  That is the shotgun approach many take to finding guidance in GW. It is like they are expecting the Bible to be a crystal ball, rub it and all truth will come out. It is like they expect that approach to give them all the insight they need to make a right decision and to know God’s will.

Nope. While I believe GW is living and active, I don’t believe it is a crystal ball telling us what to do and when to do it. God has given each of His children the Holy Spirit and that Spirit leads and guides us. But he will never lead us to act contrary to the Word. God guides us by His Word and shows me the path I am to walk, but there is no neon sigh that lights up, either in GW or in life, which says, “Choose me!”  I go back to my friend’s statement (see August 17 post) where he said, “Bill, choose the one. In any case, even if it is the wrong one, God will not abandon you.”  He was right.

God will never lead us astray. The Holy Spirit will never say, “Go your own way.” Pray. Seek His will. Read His Word for wisdom and guidance and strength to follow. Walk with Him to the edge and wait. To borrow a few lines from The Trail:

If God loves me, then He protects me. He guides me by His Word and shows me the path to walk. A safe path, because He knows where the danger lies. So I walk to the edge of the darkness and wait. (p.110)

God’s Word is a lamp not a crystal ball to rubbed, nor is it a floodlight that will shine down to highlight an action to take. We are given His Spirit and a mind to make decisions that will always be in line with GW.

August 31

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

If I were to conduct a man-on-the-street interview with Christ-followers, I’d ask this question: “When it comes to God answering your prayers, what is one of the hardest and most frustrating things for you to accept and understand?” IMHO I think one of the #1 answers would have to do with timing. Why did He wait so long? Why didn’t God answer sooner? If God knew what I needed, why did He wait to give it to me? Why not spare me the heartache that came with waiting?

Timing. Makes a vehicle run right. Makes a meal come together at just the right time, a la Beat Bobby Flay. 🙂  Timing really is everything. I’m certainly no gourmet cook (I can burn water) but I do know it is good to have things come together at the right time.

In fact, stop for a moment and read a passage of Scripture dedicated to timing: Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. But don’t stop there! Keep reading because one of the most powerful and beautiful verses comes in verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (ESV) There was an old praise and worship song in the early ’80s by the Maranatha Singers called In His Time. (Click on the song title for a video link of the song). It was straight out of this verse. I remember singing it at night when I laid in bed struggling about my future. Sometimes that was all I had to hang onto (or so I thought). 

I know God has a plan for my life, for yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (You can read verses 24-26 on our own. They are powerful).

All of this to relate Principle #4 to you:

God’s signature on events is timing.

I’ll try to flesh that out more tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can add #4 to the list of three I gave in yesterday’s devotion.

August 25

Thursday, August 25th, 2022

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s devotion.

You must first read Psalm 139 in its totality. Get yourself a good grasp of it.

Yesterday I talked about intimacy.  I wrote this: “There is a bare bones honesty David is yearning for. As Augustine is credited with saying, ‘Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.’ ”

One can’t help but read this psalm and not see David’s heart for God. He is searching for intimacy and in the process is inviting God into the deepest recesses of His heart. In my mind it is like David is throwing open every door to every room in his heart and saying, “Make Yourself at home. There is no room, no place, You cannot enter. There is no room off limits to You.”

That is never a comfortable place to be in. We all have secrets that we are withholding from others. An addiction. A thought. An action. Tragically, like David tried, we can hide it from people but can never hide it from God.

The following thoughts come from the book, The Trail, by Ed Underwood…the book I have been trying to dissect. There are three question followed by three requests.

Q#1- (Verses 1-6)- Do you appreciate my circumstances? Answer: Yes, of course He does. His knowledge of my circumstances couldn’t be more exact. It’s overwhelming.

Q#2- (Verses 7-12)- Are you near? Answer: He’s everywhere. We couldn’t get away from Him if we tried.

Q#3- (Verses 13-18)- Do you understand me? Answer: David let us know that is an absurd question when we consider that God formed us in the womb and He is preoccupied with thoughts of us.

Finally, 3 requests he makes- (Verses 19-24)- Deliver me. Search me. Guide me.

That’s about it for today.  I’ll stop there because that is a lot to think about. My request is that you reread Psalm 139 with the questions and answers in front of you. And then ask, “How do I feel about this? How will I allow it to change me today?  If you care to share your experience in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

August 16

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

INSTALLMENT #1

The basis for The Trail by Ed Underwood (see my August 15 post) is that God’s will is not some thing that is mystical or otherworldly (my words). We make it out to be that way as we search here and there; throw out fleece after fleece; say “If this happens a certain way or time then I’ll know” and other ideas like that.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is clear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Some translations say: “He will direct your paths.”

I think…(and this is my thought so blame me if you disagree  🙂 )…we have such trouble with knowing God’s will, and then even following it, because we like to have control. Different personalities look at life differently, and even having control differently. There are some who like to fly by the seat of their pants. Sort of like “go with the flow”. There are those who like to have some control. They enjoy the adventure but still want to kinda, sorta have some control. Then there are those who want to know every twist and turn, every nook and cranny of following Jesus. What’s next? What’s around the corner?

That phrase “He will direct your paths” is key. Why? Because it takes faith to follow. Like holding the hand of a parent, a child trusts his father/mother to lead him/her to safety or in the correct direction. There is security in that hand. The opposite of faith is control. How different it is for a child to hold the hand of their parent and go willingly vs holding the hand and constantly tugging or fighting. In most cases, the parent knows best (given our humanness); the child is wise to follow. “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.” (p.14)

The reality is that we will never understand all that is ahead. God is not asking us to. But He is asking us to trust Him. Frankly, if I understand all that is ahead that puts me in the “I-am-God-category” and personally I am just not ready to say that! 🙂  Isaiah 42:8 (which I read this morning) says, “I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give my glory to another; nor My power to idols.”

Nope. God won’t share His place with anyone. That means I need to trust His wisdom and accept His strength.

First principle from My Trail: “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need to trust His strength to recognize His guidance.”

“Father, help me to do as Proverbs 3 is telling me: not to rely on my own wisdom and strength, but on Yours. I’m not God; You are. Help me be willing to follow Your direction.”

August 9

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture-least you think you have-and not have it register? Then one time you read it and BAM! the light goes on. This morning was one of  those times.

The Scripture in the spotlight: Isaiah 37: 14-20. (Please take a moment  and read it).

Sennacherib (S), the Assyrian king, planned to invade Judah. He sent his lackeys to threaten and badger Hezekiah into surrendering and not trust God. God surely would not save them. Outgunned and out-manned, Hezekiah does something totally unusual: he takes the letter from S, reads it, then heads to the temple and lays it out before God. Then he prays. It was not an “I’m scared spitless and don’t know what to do” kind of prayer. It was simply a prayer that acknowledged God’s power and might, Hezekiah’s weakness against S, and his trust that God would save them.

God answers Hezekiah’s prayer through Isaiah. I like the words Isaiah says in verse 21: “Because you have prayer to me (God) about S…” God is acknowledging Hezekiah’s correct response to the threat.

Now watch the result. Verses 36-38 -> 185,000 Assyrians dead. Not by Hezekiah’s hand or his army. “The angel of the Lord went out and struck…” Hezekiah didn’t lift a finger. S went home in disgrace and was eventually assassinated by his own sons.

Hezekiah averted a disaster by going to God first. What a great lesson! Instead of moving in his own strength (to sure defeat); relying on his own army; or even surrendering to S, he went to God and laid it all out before Him.

There’s gotta be a lesson there! 🙂

“Father, may I not  fret and worry and scheme in my own strength. Let me bring it all before You, lay it all before You, and trust You implicitly. “

July 12

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

First, a prayer request. I go for my first post-op appointment this morning. In fact, by the time many of you read this my appointment will be history. Your prayers for my healing and for me to accept the doc’s words and restrictions would be appreciated.

Now for the devo:

For some reason-maybe because of today’s appointment, maybe because of some lingering discomfort, or some other reason-I woke up thinking about God’s presence. I do not doubt it. To be honest I guess I do wonder why some days He feels closer than others. (Operative word: feel). Some days He is palpable, like I can reach out and touch Him. Others not so. but I still believe His promise.

I believe in a Triune God- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In His last discourse with His disciples, Jesus told them about the Holy Spirit. In John 14: 16-17 He says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth…but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (NASB2020) {Emphasis mine}

When thinking about God’s presence (because He promised it), those two verses are critical. “The Holy Spirit lives in me. And because that Spirit is part of the Trinity-because that Spirit is God-then Jesus is permanently connected to me through His Spirit.” (Quote from At the Table with Jesus by Louis Giglio-p.138)  {Italics in quote mine so I can make it personal).

The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force. Unseen? Yes. Impersonal? No. He is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) It is because of this promise that I can rest in the other promise, the one I (and possibly you) need to trust each day: God’s presence is in me in the Person of the Holy Spirit. I will cling to the promise of “He will never leave me nor forsake me.” 

The Holy Spirit was given to me (and you) as a seal of ownership. His presence is always in me. I will trust that promise and know whatever comes, I am not alone or forsaken. Neither are you.

June 21

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

This past Sunday, as part of the Father’s Cay special the church had, one of the men used the father with the demon-possessed son. You can find his story in Mt. 17 and also in Mk. 9. It is the Mark 9 passage which is actually fuller with information and I’d like to use that one.

As Jesus, Peter, James and John made their way down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a swarm of people. Front and center was a father whose son was demon-possessed. He had begged and pleaded with the disciples to heal his son-to cast out the demon-but they were unable to. So the father tells Jesus what has been happening. Putting aside Jesus’ words about the faithlessness of the others, the father brings his son to Jesus and about that time the demon throws him on the ground and into convulsions. The conversation next is my point:

Jesus: “How long has this been happening?”

Father: “From childhood.”

Father: “But if you can do anything…” (emphasis mine)

Jesus: “IF? All things are possible to those who believe.”

Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus heals his son.

Notice the exchange? “If?”  “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

That father is me sometimes. There are occasions when I bring very little faith to the table. I’m barely holding on. But He is willing to take what little faith I have and make it greater. I have often said, “He takes my #2 faith and make is a #8 or a #10 faith.”

Jesus builds faith; He doesn’t tear it down. If there is any tearing down, it is to tear down our self-sufficient “faith” and build a kingdom faith.

May your (and my) faith increase.

 

February 15

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

I was just told last night-the eve of Valentine’s Day-that today is Singles Awareness Day. The moniker-SAD-is not a good one. I know that VD is not the favorite of many, especially those who are single. Whether by a conscious choice of their own volition or a choice they had no control over, it is a day which makes them think they are not valuable. God says differently.  But that is another subject for another time.

After reading the Feb. 15 devotion of New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, I was left with some thoughts. They give rise to the idea that being single is not a good idea. Hear me out, please, before you want to hunt me down and “shoot me like a duck.” Movie reference there. 🙂

His thoughts first: There are two lies Adam and Eve believed.

  1. The lie of autonomy. This lie says we are independent beings with the right to live as we wish.
  2. The lie of self-sufficiency. I have everything I need within myself to be what I was created to be and to do what I was designed to do.

My thoughts: the idea of individualism still permeates our thinking today. We still believe the ancient lie that we are enough. Take those lies apart and look at them individually.

  1. The lie of autonomy. I need no one else and you can’t tell me what to do. I make up my own rules and I can believe and do as I want. Can you say our culture as a whole? Can you say progressive Christianity? No rules. I’ll do as I please.
  2. The lie of self-sufficiency. “You have it within yourself.” Sounds like the gobbledygook of Oprah, et al. Sounds like the self-help movement. Sounds like the prosperity gospel.

Both are lies from the pit of hell. It is okay to be single-single in life and single-minded. It is not okay to be autonomous and self-sufficient and think as a Christ-follower you need no one else.

What do you think?

“Father, help me to see and remember I need others. I am not an island devoid of human interaction and relationships. And help me to never think I don’t need You.”

January 10

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Before I get started I would like to ask you to pray for two of my readers: Martha Orlando is in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia (not COVID-related) and Diane Ronzino is in the hospital with COVID-pneumonia.  Thanks.

One of the emotions many Christ-followers struggle with is bitterness. Frankly put: bitterness will eat a person alive. There is no one reason why bitterness rears its ugly head.

In 2 Kings 5 there is a story of Naaman. Naamen was a well-loved general but he was afflicted with leprosy. The real hero of the story is not Naaman (although he did have to exhibit faith). It is not Elisha, the prophet who told Naaman to wash in the Jordan 7 times. The real hero is, of course, God. But someone else is a player-a young Israelite girl who had been taken captive.

She approached her mistress, Naaman’s wife, about a prophet in Israel who could heal his leprosy. Her words were, “I wish my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.”

She had every right to be bitter. But instead, she had a tender heart. She wanted the best for her enemy, rather than hoping for the worst.

Taken as a captive how could she possibly do that? By refusing to be bitter. She sets an example for us. What is interesting  is how it shows Jesus to us.  She was not a bitter person. If anyone shows us we should not have bitterness it is Jesus. If anyone could have or should have been bitter it was Him. But instead of raining down invectives and hateful remarks and holding a grudge, Jesus chose to use very few words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  That sounds like a great example to follow! It sure beats allowing ourselves to get eaten alive by poison inside us.

“Father help me to follow the example of the Israelite girl and ultimately, the example of Jesus. Help me not to hold a grudge or get bitter. Help me live in freedom.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

November 10

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

I finally said it out loud yesterday while talking to one of the elders on the way home from the one day conference in Trafalgar. “I’m tired,” I said, “And if I am honest, a little fried. I feel I guided us through the pandemic fairly well. I (we) worked hard trying to stay in contact with the people. I thought I was going to get some time away in about a week but that trip to AZ was postponed until maybe March. I make no apology for riding or working out. It is my safety net, my sanity trip.”

I said more, but the truth is I am tired. I’m also edgy. What scares me is exhaustion makes me vulnerable. To mistakes. To poor decisions. To raw emotions. To feeling incompetent.

Psalm 142:7-9 spoke to my weary soul this morning. Couple that with 144:1-2 and it was what the doctor ordered. {Please take a moment to read those verses}. Every morning I try to meet with God and have an Encounter Time with Him. I want this to be more than just read a few devotional “helps”; read Scripture; journal; and pray for the folks of OVCF by name. I want Psalm 143:8 to be me!  “Let me hear Your faithfulness in the morning, For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; for you lift up my soul.”  I WANT 143:1-2 to flood by soul. I not only want it; I NEED it. Especially now.

I want to burn for Jesus, not flame out. I want to make a difference, not be indifferent. I want to walk the path, not fall by the wayside. I want to be faithful, not fail.

“Father, be my rock, my faithfulness, my fortress, my stronghold, my Savior, my shield in whom I take refuge (Ps.144:1-2).”