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May 5

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

I was blown away by words from a devotion I read this morning. Rather than babble on, I thought I’d just print them here. The words are from Day 5 of 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

“Don’t be discouraged today. No matter how alone you feel, you’ve been blessed with the Father’s love.”

“I love the depiction of God’s tender care in Isaiah 42:3: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, a faintly burning wick he will not quench.’ What a beautiful word picture! Imagine walking through the bush and coming across a young tree with a bent and almost broken limb hanging at a rather grotesque angle. You spontaneously complete the job, ripping the limb completely off. Your heavenly Father would never, ever be that thoughtless. He wouldn’t think of breaking you the rest of the way. He comes to you in grace to comfort, strengthen, encourage, and restore. His love toward you is tender and faithful. He is near you when it seems no one else is. He will care for you when no one else does. He will heal your wounds when no one around you seems to see how wounded you are. He will never mock or take advantage of your weakness. He will not let you go unnoticed or disregarded. If you are his child, it is impossible for you to be alone and unloved because your heavenly Father is with you and reaches out to you in tender, restoring love.”

He ends with these words: “Yes, life can be very heard, people can be very cruel, and at times you are left alone, but you are never completely abandoned because your Father is with you in tender, restorative love.”  (Pages 18-19)

There is no need to say any more or to include a prayer. Just think on those words for awhile and let them soak in.

May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

April 30

Friday, April 30th, 2021

First, I need you to stop and read Romans 8: 31-39. This is perhaps the most beautiful passage in Scripture (personal preference) and one of, if not, the most powerful chapters in the Bible.

Then please read this…something I read this morning:

“There is a love that will never forsake us. there is a love that will never fail us in any of its commitments to us. There is a love that is so strong that nothing in all of Creation can break it. There is a love that is faithful and true, no matter what. There is a love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving.” (p.7)

“There us simply nothing like the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is what we need-God’s love, that is. You and I could never earn it, deserve it, or achieve it. It reaches into the sinful muck of humanity, cleans us up, draws us close, and launches us to a brand-new living while staying faithful to the end, even if we are not. In loving us, God gives us the greatest gift ever given-the gift of Himself.” (p.8)

How can I improve on that? I can’t say it any clearer. I can’t say it more pointed.

What I can say is, “You are loved…by Him.”

“Father, thank You for Your faithful, unending love. May I bask in it and also share it with others.”

Quoted sections from 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

April 29

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some sayings that stay with you? Some of them are good; some not so. Some are mere pablum, empty sayings which may sound good but are vacuous. A good one that I have heard off and on through the years but can’t say I have had as a go-to saying is this one:

There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more; there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less.

That came back to me as I read about Jesus and His dealings with people. I’m preparing a sermon series on Eyes Wide Open by taking a look at how Jesus saw people. He reached out to those the religious people wanted nothing to do with.  But them? They were His biggest critics and His biggest headache. I think some of it was because He didn’t come to impress them or to cower before them. He didn’t praise them for their religiosity.

What we learn from Jesus is the truth of that saying. The simple message He taught was that our best wasn’t and isn’t good enough, and our worst doesn’t disqualify us. Jesus didn’t seek to impress the religious elite; I don’t have to seek to impress Jesus. His love is sure.

“Father, thank You for your acceptance-past, present, and future. Thank you that I’m not weighed on a scale as acceptable/non-acceptable. You see me as I am and love me anyway.”

April 22

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words? That’s how I am when I’m talking to someone of greater intelligence than me (not that hard to find), smarter than me (neither is  this one), expresses his/her thoughts, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost. I have no clue what they are saying, nor how to answer, so I just clam up.

There have been other times when I’m free to talk about a subject because either a) it is something I know something about, or 2) it is something I’m comfortable talking about because I am familiar with it. It is then that what I may have studied or read in the past comes back to me.

I think that may fall in line with the idea Jesus left with His disciples when He spoke to them in the Upper Room about the Holy Spirit. He told them once not to worry about what they would say. When the time came for them to speak, it will be brought to memory by the Holy Spirit and He will tell them what to say. (Matthew 10:19). In Matthew 10:27 He said, “What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!”

What God speaks to us in solitude, we will speak in the light. I recall how Jesus went off by Himself to be alone with His Father. I would love to have been a little bird eavesdropping on those conversations. As He was preparing His heart for the day, His Father was speaking life to His Son’s heart.

What an intriguing image! Jesus preparing for His day as His Father speaks to His heart. What a vivid picture for us! For me!!  Preparing for the day by letting the Father speak to my heart. And yours. Just another reason for an Encounter Time with Him. Not a legalistic one but a necessary one-letting the Father prepare me for the day by speaking to my head and my heart.

“Speak, Lord, Your servant listens (or at least sincerely wants to).”

April 14

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

I read a great story the other day…from the Bible. That’s right. From the Bible. 🙂  Take a moment and read 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Okay…notice any similarity?

Before I make mention of that similarity, check out the story. Shalish was a region allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. In time, when Jezebel’s Baalism reigned, the region was renamed Baal Shalisha.

There was a farmer there who labored over his fields and when the harvest came he brought the firstfruits, 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn to the sick. Bringing the firstfruits was an OT principle-usually brought to the priests-but this time brought to Elisha. (The priests were corrupt).

This offering was an unexpected provision to the needy. Elisha told his servant to take what has been given and give it to the people to eat. His response? “How can I set this before 100 men?” He was saying this miniscule amount will not feed 100 hungry men. Elisha’s comment: “They shall eat and have some left.”

Hmmm. Does that sound familiar to you? Think 5 loaves and 2 fish. Think 5000 men. Think doubt of the disciples. Think Jesus.  There. Now you know. 🙂

When God gives, He gives more than enough. We can never outgive Him. We always have more than enough.

“Father, thank You for Your provision. However little or large it all comes from You. You always give enough. Help me to remember that as I go through this day and then the next.”

April 12

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I grew up in church. I think I was there from the earliest time mom could bring me. Back then doctors said, “Take your child to church, the grocery store, shopping. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it will be good for them.” Exposure to the outside was seen as a good thing since they felt it helped with immunity. I can only remember one shot (although I’m sure there were more)- the polio vaccine.

We had both our girls in church and the nursery the first chance we had. Today’s parents keep their child in and away from church for the first year then won’t let them alone in the nursery. Okay so that is a slight exaggeration (6 months maybe but not a year). 🙂

But I digress.

I learned a lot growing up in the church. Like how to pray. “We thank Thee, O most Mighty and Holy One. We thank Thee…” You get the point. The more flowery the better.  In one man’s case, the longer the better…even if he repeated himself several times.

I learned as I got older that God’s not interested in long flowery prayers punctuated by a lot of King James English. He is delighted in humble hearts that give simple prayers. Matt Redman wrote a song with the lyrics: “May my words be few.” I’m guessing that pleases God. A humble heart with simple words. Not a rehearsed speech. Not a copycat of someone else. Just me and Him. Just you and Him.

“Father, may I realize what you really want is a humble heart seeking You. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just a heart wanting to speak to You.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

March 24

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

There is a lot of talk these days-as well as a lot written- about what is called deconstruction. It is especially pointed when it involves prominent, well-known or well-respected people. We’ve seen in recent years pastors and leaders like Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) announce he was getting a divorce and then just a few days later that he was leaving the faith and no longer considered himself a Christian. A worship leader from Hillsong. The lead singer of the Christian group Hawk Nelson. YouTube personalities Rhett and Link. That is just to name a few of those who have “deconstructed.”

I’m not talking about progressive like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Michael Gungor or Richard Rohr. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of tangled and messed up string.

These “deconstructors” dismantle their faith, leaving nothing. How and when it started is different. Some went through a class in college. Some went through a crisis in life. Some had a repressive, fundamentalist background they wanted to break free from. The reasons behind deconstruction are numerous.

Questioning one’s faith is not bad…or wrong. Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he is thinking.” I believe it is good to question, to kick the tires so to speak. I disagree with those who say that if we question it shows we don’t have real faith in Jesus. Oddly enough, it is that type of environment that has caused many deconstructions to happen. I heard a podcast recently where the interviewee said there are three stages one goes through: construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Start. Middle. Finish.

Here’s a novel idea (well, not really but it sounded good 🙂 ). Instead of demonizing those who question, let’s encourage honest questions. Not the superficial kind. Honest ones. But let’s encourage that the questions not be answered by secular culture or by the cancel culture we see and hear so much from these days, but instead run to Jesus with the questions. Let’s seek honest answers to our questions. 

“Father, help me to be honest in my questions.  Help me to admit that some questions will not have answers. Help me to run to Jesus and not away from Him” 

March 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

So…why do I get up every morning? The short answer is so I can do what I need to do to live. I mean, if I didn’t get up but stayed in bed all day, I’m not sure I’d have a job. I know for some, because of depression,  getting out of bed is a chore. That is a legitimate reason. But for me? Getting out of bed is a must.

Let’s narrow that question down a little more. Why do I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning? (Some say it’s because I’m insane, that I’ve got a screw loose somewhere). Maybe so. 🙂 But…seriously, why?

The real short answer is not related at all to my job or my self-perception of what a lazy person might be. I get up early to be alone with God. I’m a morning person so I choose to have my time in the morning before I start the meat of my day.  The time of day is not important. What is in important is that I do have this time. Psalm 91: 1-2 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God , and I trust him.” (NLT)

I want to be with Him. Back in 1999 I went through a rejuvenation of my faith.  Tami had moved back from Florida, moved in with us, and got a job teaching in town north of where we lived. On Sunday nights she began attending another church in town and then talked about their worship. It sounded like what my thirsty soul needed so I asked her if she minded that I tagged along. Of course she didn’t. It meant I would drive and usually buy us something to eat afterwards. 🙂 So we started going together. What a balm! During that time I heard a song which impacted me but I eventually lost track of it. Several months ago I looked for it. I searched everywhere. I even asked the pastor of the church, who was the Worship Pastor/leader at that time, if he knew the name of the song, or the singer, or where I might find it. He came up blank so I gave up figuring, “Oh well, Nice try. It is not to be.” Until this past weekend I got a wild hair while looking for some worship music on Spotify. I knew the name of the song and for some reason the name “Ian” came to mind. So I googled it by typing in the name of the song and “Ian.” Eureka! Lo, and behold, that was it.  The song: Encounter. The artist: Ian White. The link to that song is right here.

And that is why I get up so early. I want to have an Encounter with the Living God.  I want to be sheltered and find rest in His shadow. I want to live in the shadow of His wings. I want to Encounter Him.

So from now on this will no longer be called my Quiet Time. It will be called my Encounter Time. I hope you will join me each day and invite others. But more…I pray you will have your own Encounter Time with the Father.