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April 11

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Flat out: I firmly believe that. What was ironic-my daughter pointed out-is that I preached on the Creator God and His monstrously creative genius the day before the total Eclipse. Straight up: I did not plan it that way. When I began planning my sermons, the eclipse was the farthest thing from my mind.

But I don’t want to write about the eclipse. Enough has been said already. It was spectacular. I did not watch it…I rode my bike inside. But I had my blinds open and it was creepy to look outside and see it pitch black at 3:00 in the afternoon. {Note: it gives credibility to the 12-3 scenario when Jesus was on the cross and it was dark}. What I want to write about this morning are the hucksters, the doomsayers, the conspiracy theorists, and the like who came out of the woodwork to use this for personal and professional gain. I am particularly piqued at the “religious” hucksters who crawled out of their hole in the wall to promote a false-read that very false- narrative that the eclipse was going to be the end of the world; God’s judgment on America; blah blah blah, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. There were the so-called prophets predicting all kinds of garbage that was going to happen…AND DIDN’T! Label them: F.A.L.S.E. P.R.O.P.H.E.T.S. There are those who predicted it would usher in the Rapture (if you believe in that). It didn’t (either that or I was left behind and if I believed that it would be a real bummer). There were those who predicted the doom of America. It didn’t. (if American is doomed its because of the truth of Proverbs 28:2: When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability”.

All that to say: whenever someone “prophesies” anything, run as far away from that person or organization as possible. The NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) with people like Bill Johnson and Bethel, Benny Hinn, Hillsong, Kenneth Copeland, and other yahoos, are nothing more than false teachers. R-U-N  A-W-A-Y!! as fast and as far as you can.

I’ll stand with Jesus who said not even He knew when He would return, only His Father. That’s solid ground to stand on.

April 9

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

“I’ve sinned too much.” “I’ve sunk too low.” 

It is not unusual for me to hear those kinds of words. Add to it the thoughts of “God could never forgive me” or “There’s no way I deserve God’s forgiveness” and you almost have word for word what I often hear.

Well, they are correct and also incorrect in their assessment. Correct: “I’ve sinned too much” (once is too many).  “There is no way I deserve God’s forgiveness.”  Incorrect: “God could never forgive me.” The hard truth is that we have sinned (and as I said once is too much). AND we do not deserve God’s forgiveness.

The startling truth is that He reaches down to us no matter how far we have fallen. No matter how deep of a hole we have dug for ourselves.

I have just finished reading over the past two days a trifecta of chapters from the book of Psalms-chapters 104, 105 & 106. They read like a litany of bad history. 104 starts out well talking about the greatness of God and the goodness of God. It’s almost like preparation for what was to come. 105 opens with giving thanks to God for His care of them while in Egypt and how He brought them out of that strange land. Intertwined is how He cared for them in spite of their grumbling.  But 106! WOW! Talk about a past one would just as soon forget!! The psalmist (David?) gives a history lesson of the faithlessness of the Israelites- grumbling about water and food; worshiping a golden calf; sacrificing their children to a foreign god; the list goes on.

Through it all-in spite of His anger and yes, judgment that He must do-is a faithful God. A God who made and makes promises and sticks to them. A God of whom the psalmist writes, “Save us, O Lord our God! Gather us back from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you. Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, ‘Amen!'”

If He can do that for His wayward, faithless, stumbling people, what makes us think we can sink too far down and can’t be reached?

April 8

Monday, April 8th, 2024

Today is a significant day in history. It is Eclipse Day. It is the day I have dubbed “the day Spencer stood still.” Spencer, the town I live in in Central Indiana, is supposed to be right in the path of the Eclipse. Businesses have closed for the day. Schools have gone to e-learning because the Total Eclipse is about the time school would be dismissed. Hotels are full. Some places are renting out “places to view” for (x amount of dollars). Some churches have even brought it port-a-pots and allowed camping…all for a price of course.

Me? I am, admittedly, indifferent. I told my wife I planned to ride my bike and she said, “You can’t. You’ll go blind.” No, no I won’t. I can’t watch the road and the sky at the same time. Then she realized I was joking. One, it is supposed to be pitch black and I don’t ride at night. Two, I don’t want to be out on the road right now with a bunch of crazies more intent on seeing the eclipse than watching for a cyclist. That is not a good combination in my book. In fact, for me I would call that a lose-lose situation. But I also wasn’t lying to her. I do plan on riding by bike…inside. She asked me to be home before the phenomena starts so I told her I would and that I planned to ride. 🙂

It’s not that I am not aware of the impressive display of God’s design. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies show His craftsmanship.”  Psalm 90:1-2 says, “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.”  Take a moment and read Psalm 104. I read it this morning for my morning Encounter Time. I marvel at God’s creative genius and His imagination. For a renewed perspective read Genesis 1 slowly.

I am aware of the significance of today’s event.  Tami read a meme to me last night that said something along the line of: “NASA has reportedly said that a rain date has been set for 2099 just in case the Eclipse is hard to see today.” I laughed. Actually, I prefer instead to worship the Creator of it all, and while I ride I will be listening to some music that draws my attention to Him.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

March 27

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

I read an interesting verse this morning that I have to admit, got me thinking some. Proverbs 27:21 says, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (NLT)

The fire testing the purity of silver and gold part I get. Peter uses that same imagery in I Peter 1:7 where he writes, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (NLT)  So having our faith tested by going through fire is to be expected.

It is the latter part that has me curious. “A person is tested by being praised.” But then I started thinking: How many people do I know who have changed once they started being praised? The accolades started rolling in. The words of praise were said, conveyed, and maybe even printed. And it is like a switch is flipped. The person changes. The man in the mirror is no longer recognizable. Gone is humility. Gone is sympathy and empathy. Gone is a wonder at life. And, even more tragic, gone is a softness and yieldedness to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Decisions are made, not so much by what does God think? but what will please my followers? The praise of man overrides the praise and approval of God. It think it would be correct to say that the genuineness of a person’s faith is tested by fire, but so is the humility of that person’s faith.

Be careful-be very careful-of the applause of men. If you receive it, don’t allow it to go to your heard or to change you. Stay humble. Stay grateful. Stay alert to the enemy’s schemes. 

March 18

Monday, March 18th, 2024

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? That has been me the past week to two weeks.

First, a little backstory. For over 30 years I have had a friendship that started out with riding bikes together at least once a week. Over the 30+ years countless miles have gone under our bicycle tires and plenty of meals have been eaten. Not even distance could put a damper on our friendship. His prostate cancer changed all that.

Another man was one of the leaders in the church. When I was threatened and encouraged with termination he stood in front of me. When the church was embezzled, he stood strong. But diabetes and a downturn physically hit him hard. So did some lies that caused a rift between us. But being bed-bound gave me the opportunity to visit him almost weekly, take communion, and repair the tear in our relationship.

My cyclist friend has been told he has 3-6 months to live. That was over a month ago. His cancer is everywhere, in spite of every effort with chemo and experimental stuff. When Jo and I got back from AZ on the 27th I went to visit my former leader on Thursday at the rehab center. He died that Saturday. The following week I went to visit my cycling friend and that visit hit me hard. There are also some other daily issues that are weighing on me.

The song that has been my go-to, the one that has not left my mind, my bulwark, the one that has pointed me to the ONE has been Morning by Morning by Pat Barrett. You can listen to it here. With lyrics like “Morning by morning great is your faithfulness to me,” I am reminded I’m not in this alone.  Psalm 62:6-7 says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor comes from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 63 follows it up with the following: “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (verse 7-8).

I’m not alone. Neither are you. You can put a nail through that promise.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

March 14

Thursday, March 14th, 2024

Fear. Say the word and our minds tend to go immediately to something…well…we are afraid of. We go to that movie that scared the heebie jeebies out of us. Or we think of an event that truly scared us and we have never been the same.

I used to watch scary movies until…until I was scared spitless. I cannot remember how old I was-maybe 14 or 15- when I went to a matinee with a friend. After the first two movies he had to leave but I decided to stay. Bad move. When it was over I was terrified. The two moves were The Curse of Dracula and The Horror of Frankenstein. I rode the bus home that night and was constantly looking around and over my shoulder for someone sneaking up on me. When I got home I would not open a door without first reaching around the corner and slapping the wall…just in case someone was  lying in wait. That was the end of my watching horror films and I have not seen another one to this day.

Fear is seen in terror or even paralyzing actions. But in Proverbs 14:27 we find it used another way: “Fear of the Lord is a life-giving fountain…” The fear of the Lord is not a terror or being afraid of some one or some thing, especially God. Fear of the Lord can better be seen as a healthy respect for Him. Being in awe and reverence. In Proverbs 1:7 we are told “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” We are told elsewhere that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

So when someone says, “Fear God” they are not telling you to be afraid of Him. They are saying to have a healthy respect for Him, to reverence Him, to stand in awe of Him. Do you have a healthy respect for God? 

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

March 12

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest hurdles we have to need to get over.

When it comes to forgiving others, I have often shared that the failure to forgive others; the desire to hold a grudge; the unwillingness to move on; holding onto hard feelings or even feelings of hate, makes me a slave to that person. They own me. They control me.

But what about that which I consider possibly even harder-the ability or willingness to forgive ourselves? I have seen way too many people able to forgive others, but then wreck their own lives because they can’t or won’t forgive themselves. Big or little sin (usually a whopper) just will not let go. It’s like an albatross around the neck, choking the life out of us.

David’s psalm-known as Psalm 51-deals with this straight on. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up, is exposed by the prophet Nathan (full story in 2 Samuel 11). David is convicted of his sin and his guilt is palpable. One can feel his anguish as he lays it all out. “Have mercy. Wash me clean. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Forgive me for shedding blood.” One can not read those words and not sense David’s pain and agony over his sin. But one can also see David is moving on. He wasn’t going to allow his sin to define him, to hold him down.

Neither should I. Neither should you. There is nothing you or I have done, there is no sin you or I have committed, that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Confess it. Repent of it. Now…walk away in freedom being sure of God’s limitless grace.

March 11

Monday, March 11th, 2024

You made the promise. Keep it!!

One cannot underestimate the importance of keeping a promise.  Keeping your word-being a person of integrity- is so vital to relationships that one cannot fathom its impact.

In the life of David, there is a phenomenal story that shows his character. He had a best friend-Jonathan-who had David promise he would take care of his family after his death. In all the shuffle involving David becoming king (he waited 7 years after King Saul’s death), there came a time when David remembered his promise to Jonathan. As he asked and they investigated, David was made aware of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth (M). M had been dropped as a child in his nurse’s haste to get him to safety, resulting in him being a cripple. He was called into King David’s presence and bowed before him. I’m sure he was petrified. “What does the king want with me?” David told him, “Don’t be afraid! I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan.” David ended up restoring all the land of King Saul to M; enlisted his servant, Ziba (and his sons), who had been with M for quite a long time, to take care of the land; AND M was to eat at King David’s table as long as he lived. (You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 9).

WOW! Talk about a promise made and a promise kept! Proverbs 11:20 says, “The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but He delights in those with integrity.” For all of David’s faults (and ours as well), David’s heart was one of integrity. He made a promise and kept it. M’s life was richer because of it.

Follow the Father’s example. Keep your promises.  He showed us the way in that department. He has made promises and has kept His every word. I can think of one huge one. One word: Jesus.

March 6

Wednesday, March 6th, 2024

The last two posts I have written about Saul and his failure to be a leader, specifically the leader God needed him to be to lead His people. In yesterday’s post, I introduced his successor, not overtly, but by Samuel’s realization that looks don’t tell the whole story.

When we next see David it is in I Samuel 17 in the familiar story of David and Goliath. David is introduced to us not as the the next king but as the youngest (v.14), a shepherd (v.15), and a messenger to the battlefield-not a soldier (vv.17-22). He is a delivery boy taking food to his brothers who are supposed to be fighting. But, like all the others-King Saul included-they are cowering in fear. When David finds out he is indignant! He couldn’t believe this uncircumcised Philistine was defying God….and allowed to do it!

Long story short, he accepts the king’s challenge to fight Goliath. His concern was for God’s honor not his own safety. His confidence was not in the king’s armor (a rather humorous scenario when you really think about it. A little boy wearing the king’s armor in verses 38-40). Nor was it really in the fact that he had killed a lion and a bear with a slingshot to protect his sheep. His confidence was in the ONE who had kept him safe from them! (v.37).  His confidence wasn’t even in his ability as a marksman.

He states it very plainly to Goliath: “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies-the God of the armies of Israel, who you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your heard…And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (verses45-47).  Laugh away Goliath. You have no clue what is about to enter your mind.  Four events happen in succession: Sling a stone. Hit target. Target falls. Target loses head.

This is not about goliaths we face. This story is really about the honor and power of God. His honor is not to be trifled with; His power is on display. We are weak; He is strong.

Note: Scripture used is from the New Living Translation

March 5

Tuesday, March 5th, 2024

“Looks can be deceiving.”

Who of us has not heard or even used that phrase (or some form of it)? I think we all understand the implications of that statement. When I was young, a group called the Temptations came out with a song called “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep” in which they applauded the beauty of his girl that was within.

When Saul was chosen to become king twice we are told about his physical stature. In I Samuel 9:2 and 10:23 we are told that “He was head and shoulders taller than anyone else.” That’s all well and good EXCEPT it didn’t translate to be being a better leader, or a better anything for that matter.

Take the opposite approach. In I Samuel 16 Samuel is told to anoint a new king after the double failure of Saul and his lack of fitness to be king. (See I Samuel 13 and 15 or look here). Samuel goes into the house of Jesse and his first son, Eliab, comes out.  One look convinced Samuel he was the one, but God said, “Nope.” Seven sons later; seven “nopes”. There was one left-David-considered the runt of the litter. He was the youngest (the word could also mean “smallest”) and he was a shepherd (the lowest of the low). Jesse brought David before Samuel and the rest, as they say, is history.

Samuel learned early on when he thought Eliab was “the one” that God operated on a different playing field than man. A somewhat famous and well-used verse of Scripture says, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (I Samuel 16:7) NLT

And there it is: looks can be deceiving. Instead of judging someone by looks, look into their heart. See who they are inside, who they really are. Don’t shut someone out just because they may appear different from you or what you expect-finer clothes, worse clothes, wild hair, every hair in place, etc. Get to see and know the person on the inside. They may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing for all you know. It is important to see that person as one who matters to God.  As the Temptations reminded us “Beauty’s only skin deep, yeah, yeah, yeah.”