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January 12

Thursday, January 12th, 2023

Look around. It is easy to get discouraged.

-A 6 year old shoots his teacher. He got a hold of his mother’s gun and took it to class.

-4 college students in Idaho are murdered.

-Healthy, fit athletes have “medical events” and collapse, some die.

-My retirement (such as it was) took a huge hit in 2022.

-Eggs are $6 a dozen. $6!!!

-Overdoses and suicides are reaching alarming heights.

-Loss of a loved one. Loss of a job. Wayward child. Loss of faith. The list is endless.

So is discouragement. David experienced it. “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (Read the rest in Psalm 42:11)

Moses was so downcast at one point about the Israelites that he asked God to take his life. Elijah, after his victory against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, ran and hid out from the wrath of Jezebel. He wanted to die. Jeremiah. Even Paul was overwhelmed from time to time.

Discouragement is a normal reaction. Life is hard and all we see are mountains, rocky paths, and never-ending obstacles.

But we have a promise from God that He is faithful. His love never ends and His presence never disappears. His steadfastness never wavers and His faithfulness never changes.

I don’t always know what is coming. No one does. I don’t always know where it will end up. No one does. I just know wherever that is, God will be there to meet me.

Even when I can’t “see” Him, I can trust Him. As I read recently: “We can trust His heart, even when we can’t see His path.”

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?

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 15

Thursday, December 15th, 2022

This is a hard devotion to write. It’s hard because I know not everyone can celebrate Christmas. I’m not talking about the Jewish person whose disbelief in Messiah stops them. I’m not talking about the atheist whose disbelief in a God speaks volumes. I’m not talking about the progressive politician and activist whose desire for vengeance, violent rhetoric, and anarchy shoots the whole idea of a defenseless baby in a manger who makes a difference in the foot. I’m not talking about the greedy secularist whose only reason for the season is to line his/her pockets.

I’m speaking of someone else. I’m speaking of the one whose holiday is haunted by ugly memories of past Christmases. I’m also speaking about those who have already talked to me this holiday season (started with Thanksgiving) to whom the holiday season is a time of hurt, anguish and loneliness wrapped in grief because of the loss of a loved one. (This song speaks of the reminder a holiday can bring.  And yes, it speaks of lost love but the sentiment can be applied to most cases. The lyrics are under the song in Show More if you have trouble understanding…which I don’t think you will).

I’ve had several conversations with people who are facing the Christmas season with an emptiness in their heart. They are facing the holiday without someone they love. The first of every one is the hardest. But even though time moves on and the wound begins to heal, the hurt is still there. The ache and loneliness never leaves.

One family told me yesterday they are helping out a family of 9 with Christmas because they believe their son/grandson/nephew, etc would like that. They are doing it in his honor. That is a phenomenal idea! There may be no better way to deal with hurt than to do something for someone else in honor of one you love.

My heart goes out to those who face this holiday with hurt. Do you know someone who needs a little love this Christmas? Take some of your time to give yourself away. Not only will it be meaningful to them, you will find a satisfaction in your heart you may have never felt before.

And remember the ONE who know your hurt or the ONE whom you can share.

December 8

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about the saying we often hear at Christmas: “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Today I’d like to give my thoughts (opinion) on another very common statement we hear and see more and more frequently:

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Now…before you get all bent out of shape over what you may perceive as another attempt to downplay Jesus’ role in Christmas, please hear me out all the way to the end. Please.

“Jesus is the Reason for the season.” I know the intent with this statement. For the longest time I used to share this same sentiment-verbally and written. The intent (at least I’m guessing) was to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ. I totally, totally agree with that. We have way too much distraction from the real meaning of Christmas as it is. So focus on Christ.

However, IMHO, the statement is at the base not true. Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. Phil.2:5-8 (take the time to read it please) is one of the reasons I say that. Pay particular attention to verse 8. Jesus did not come as God in the flesh; He did not come as a baby because He needed it. He did that because WE NEEDED HIM TO!! The need on His part was to come and die on a cross for us. Hebrews 9: 11-14 is pretty plain. So is the Scripture which says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (9:22) Hebrews 10:4 also says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

So I repeat-sentiment aside-Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. I think it would be better to say, “We are the reason for the season; Jesus is the meaning.”

I know mine is not as sentimental and you may disagree with what I’ve said. That’s ok. More than anything I want to remind all of us that Christmas is more than a slogan.  Christmas is all about Jesus leaving the comforts of heaven to come to earth as a baby-God in the flesh- to go to a cross to die in my/our place so we may have forgiveness of sins. Focus on Christ and not a slogan. Put all your heart into loving and worshiping the One who gives meaning to the whole season.

Your thoughts?

All Scripture is from the ESV.

December 7

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

I’m convinced that sometimes we speak and we are oblivious to what or how we say it.  Sometimes we are totally unaware of what we say. Even truer is that we often don’t know why we say something. Please let me explain.

There was an old saying the British Government used during WWII: “Careless talk costs lives.” I heard it used another way: “Loose lips sink ships.” The implication of that saying is more than clear. I guess it is not implying, but stating a fact: speaking loosely and freely could have consequences. In that case, one never knew if a spy was just waiting for a juicy tidbit to share with his superiors.

There are certain phrases we use at Christmas time which can be said glibly without stopping to think what is being said. For example:

Keep Christ in Xmas. I know that was started for the very reason I just showed. Xmas. And I also know what the insinuation is. You use Xmas and you are taking Christ out of Christmas. But in reality, that thought goes a whole lot deeper. Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas by a mere abbreviation. Far more deadly is our heart pushing Him away or losing sight of Him during the rush of the season.

It gets easy to push Him out of Christmas. I think that is when it really becomes Xmas. Not by abbreviation, but by a reckless disregard for His place in my heart.

I want to keep Christ in Christmas. Not by not using Xmas (which I do sometimes when I’m in a hurry writing), but by having my heart tuned into Him.

For your reading pleasure 🙂 : Tomorrow I plan to take another common phrase and write my thoughts about it.

December 1

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

It is the first day of December, the day we start preparing for Christmas. That is, unless you are a merchant, in which case you started in October, even before the Halloween stuff was put away.  Or you might be one of those eager beavers (some might say wise people) who took advantage of warm November weather to hang Christmas lights outside.

In any case, this is the month we focus on the birth of Christ. That will be my attempt here at “Shadow.” I’m going to attempt, in some way, to draw attention to the “goings on” during Christmas. Here is my first attempt:

“From the very first verse, John tells us of Christ’s eternality, His personality, and His deity. No matter how far back we consider the beginning of time to be and no matter what model we may have in our minds of how time began, there we will find the preincarnate Son of God. He was not created, for He is the Creator. The child in the manger was the very same person who put the stars in the sky-including the very star which led the wise men from the east to come and worship Him.”   Alistair Begg-Truth for Life-Dec. 1

There was more to that devotion, but that is enough for now. There is a cult (JW) that teaches Jesus was a created being, He is Michael the Archangel. According to John 1, that is heresy! There is another cult (LDS)  that teaches that Christ existed with his brother, Lucifer, as a spirit-child, the result of celestial sex Elohim was privy to. Then Elohim came to earth and had physical sex with Mary. Blatant heresy again.

“In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2 (ESV)  The JWs want to add an extra “a” before that last one and make it say “a God” to fit their Scripture twisting.

Jesus was, is, and forever will be One with God. It’s no wonder they have nothing to celebrate. They have taken Jesus the Son of God and made Him a mere man, a created being.

I’ll stick with John’s words and celebrate Jesus, the One who was, is, and is to come.

November 30

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Isaiah 59:19 says, “So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the Lord drives.” (NASB2020)

I rather like the simplicity of the NLT in this verse: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

As followers of Jesus, we are-or should be-keenly aware of our enemy’s tactics. His desire is to control us, or at least to compromise us so much that the effectiveness of our testimony is gone.

I was reading just this morning from I Cor. 10. After writing about the Israelites and their sin, Paul says some very poignant words to his readers (us). Please take a moment and read verses 11-13 right now.

We can choose to be a pawn in Satan’s grip or to be a vessel under control of the Master Commander. We can choose to give in to the temptation or we can choose to trust and rely on the One who changes lives.

In Mark 5 we read the story of a man who was under the control of the master deceiver. Uncontrollable. Unchained by people but chained to a cruel slave master. Then he met Jesus who righted the wrong and broke the chains that enslaved that man’s heart and life. I like what it says about him when the townspeople came out to see what happened: “He was sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (5:15)

I heard someone once say, “It is true God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is also true that Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.”

Jesus can transform any life. I know. I’m one.

November 29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

In preparation for my series in 2023 on Revelation, I have been reading Revelation over and over in different translations. While they all offer the same yet different perspective, there is one overarching theme which comes through.

WORSHIP

Over and over we read of worship taking place. I challenge you over the next 22 days to read one chapter a day and mark the number of times you see worship or some description of Jesus.

There is probably no better depiction of worship than in chapters 4 & 5. If you read nothing else, take a moment to read and ponder those two chapters.

It got me thinking. How many times have you or I said or heard someone say, “That was a waste. I got nothing out of that worship service.” That is rather revealing in at least 3 different ways.

  1. It really was bad. The sermon misfired (it is possible you know?); the music landed with a thud and did not lead to worship; the whole experience was dead.
  2. The mindset and heart of that person (or me) was not in a “ready to hear” mode. But it is much more convenient to place blame elsewhere.
  3. Worship never happened because it involves a sense of expectancy on the part of the listener, as well as the willingness to offer ourselves. For lack of a better way to say it, we get out of it what we put into it. There needs to be some give and take.

Worship involves being involved-engaged. It means the worshiper puts his/her heart and soul into offering himself/herself to God in praise and adoration to the Father. The Father, the Source and object of worship, then meets His worshiper.

Check out the following verses:

  • 4:8-“They do not cease to say.”
  • 4:10-“saying.”
  • 5:9-“sang a new song.”
  • 5:12- “saying with a loud voice.”
  • 5:13- “saying.”

Sounds like engagement to me. You get the point. Worship involves engagement-me and you engaging with the Father.

When someone (or me) says, “I got nothing out of that today; what a waste!” unless it is false teaching or progressive (heretical) teaching, I’m more inclined to ask, “And what did you put into it?” I need to point the finger at my own heart.

What do you think?

November 23

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

As I said on Monday, this will be my last post this week. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day so I’m going to take my own advice, to practice what I preach, and take time to be thankful. The church is serving a meal for the community at noon and there will be plenty of preparation leading up to that, but I still want to take the time to be thankful. For this post I want to do what I have suggested the folks at OVCF do: make a “gratitude list.” Here is mine (at least in part):

But first, I want to show you something. I just finished reading Romans 16 this morning and Paul does exactly what I have recommended we all do: make a list. Have you ever read Romans 16? You ought to right now. Hint. Hint. He lists names. Lots of them. Names I have no clue who they belong to. Some yes-Prisca and Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18. Gaius (v.23). He is mentioned in 3 John by the Apostle John. Erastus (v.23). He is mentioned in Acts. Timothy (v.21). But the others? Clueless.

But what a list! Name after name. So, I’ll take a cue from him:

  • Always at the top: my Lord Jesus. No one is like Him. No one is worthy of His praise and honor. (See Paul’s words, his benediction, in verses 25-27)
  • Jo. For almost 50 years she has stood by me. Believing in me even when I had trouble believing in myself.
  • Tami and Janna. My 2 daughters. I was blown away at their births and they still put a sparkle in my eyes.
  • Braden, my only grandchild. I marvel at God’s goodness when I think of him.  Smart (4.0 student…and I can guarantee he didn’t get it from me).  Funny. Athletic. May he always strive for the right things. (And he just passed his driver’s test yesterday. Yikes!)
  • OVCF. The church I have had the joy of pastoring the past 17 years. I started #18 this week.
  • For friends throughout the years. My life is much richer because of them. Doug, my college friend whom I still get together with upon occasion (for pizza and laughs). Jim, a past cycling buddy, who has moved away. Jim is a cancer survivor. Ryan whom I met when he and his family moved here in 2008 when they started attending OVCF. We quickly became friends and our families became “Sunday eating out” groupies. 🙂 Hardly a Sunday went by that we didn’t go out to eat together. Jo hated that! NOT! He has moved away, but not so far that we can’t see each other (and even ride bikes together).
  • For my blogging friend, Martha. Blogs are almost passe’ now, but some I still read and comment at. Martha and I have stayed in contact through our blogs for a lo-o-o-n-g time.  For other blogging friends: Linda. Gail. Glynn. Pam.
  • So many more. I could fill page after page, but I won’t bore you. 🙂

Now…it’s your turn.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. To God be all the glory, great things He has done.