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October 20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

All of us go through those times when our faith is dry. The late Keith Green once wrote and sang a song with these lyrics: “My eyes are dry/My faith is old/My heart is hard/My prayers are cold/And I know how I ought to be/Alive to You and dead to me.”

Been there. Done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.

There are all different reasons as to why our faith can become dry. I’m not going to get into them. Instead, I want to look at the cure.

The verse which started my thoughts this morning was Pr.20:27-“The spirit of the person is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” My mind quickly went to the story of David. After Nathan exposed David’s sin, it drove him to his knees and he wrote Psalm 51. Included in that chapter are these words: “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Verses 7,10). David is not only praying for a clean heart, but also a restored one.  Ps.139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

There will be times of coldness, of distance, of hardness, of feeling disjointed. When those times hit, don’t despair. If it is the result of sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness and a renewed spirit (ala David). If it is just one of those times that happens to all of us, don’t panic. Seek the Lord and He will show up.

“Father, when I am dry flood me with Your presence. When I sin, forgive me. Help me to always seek Your presence.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.

October 19

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

I think one of the hardest things to do is to deflect praise from oneself to where it belongs. In the past we had a boxer (Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali) proclaim early in his career that he was the greatest. Sportscasters are known to choose a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).  Recently, a football player announced that he was “the greatest.” I was so disgusted by this shameless self-promotion just from a headline, I couldn’t tell you who it was, what team he played for, or what position he played.

How different from these words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise Him, you servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.” (Ps.113:1-4)

Or these:

Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.” (115:1)

What a difference-taking credit or giving credit. The psalmist is unequivocal in his stand: the name of the Lord is to be praised. I don’t, you don’t, deserve any praise. It all goes to Him. Deflect it there.

“Father, You are worthy of my praise. May I never gather praise or seek praise for myself. May I always deflect it to You.”

All Scripture is from the NASB2020 edition.

October 12

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Bone-tired. Weary beyond belief. Asleep on his feet. Those are just some of the phrases we will use to describe how we feel. I’ve been there. So tired I can barely think. So weary it was an effort to pick my feet up and put one foot down in front of another.

I’ve been there spiritually as well. The battles have been intense. The days long; the nights short. The arm wielding the sword hanging by my side. The helmet askew; the head bowed in weariness, and yes, even defeat. The armor stripped off because I am just too wiped out to wear it. The shoes too heavy for my feet.

But from out of nowhere comes a second wind. As Petra sang it so many years ago: “I got my second wind/The Spirit is moving again.” Isaiah 40:28-31 has just happened!

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, And to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  (NASB2020)

The end of myself became the beginning of Him. The end of my strength became the beginning of His.

Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Weariness touches us all.  But so does the energy of the Spirit. I find myself rejuvenated.

Physically- the weariness gives way to intentional movement.

Mentally- a clarity comes that assesses situations and knows how to act.

Spiritually- The “light goes on” and a fresh wind blows through.

God’s Word is once again true: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”

“Father, thank you for that fresh breath, that promised life which comes from You keeping Your Word.”

October 7

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

One of our culture’s big battles these  days is what is called “Deconstruction.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is one of Christian culture’s big battles since the non-believing world could care less about the reality of God and His existence…except maybe to pooh-pooh it.

What is sad is that in both cases is that the denial of God’s power is at stake. The unbeliever denies His existence or involvement in our daily lives. “God? Who’s God?” The one who is deconstructing is also denying the reality of God and His power in his/her daily life.

I read an interesting story recently. Atheistic communism proclaims there is no God. When Leonid Brezhnev died (the Soviet dictator who embodied Marxist unbelief), VP H.W.Bush was our representative. He reported that just before the casket was closed, his widow reached in and made the sign of the cross on his chest. Evidently, she hoped that what her husband had denied was somehow true. Perhaps before he died, she was privy to something no one else was? Who am I to say?

David said it well: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son. I believe in His death and bodily resurrection. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity (who is not a force but a Person, hence “the” Holy Spirit). I believe Jesus will return to take us home.

Do you?

“Father, You are I Am. You are the Creator of the ends of earth and there is no one like You. May you be praised and recognized for Who You are.”

September 29

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Two nights ago I was doing a little purging while looking for some papers. As I was doing so, I ran across some pictures-pictures from days which seem so long ago. I was a lot heavier (I lifted weights regularly); I had a suit and tie on (gag); my beard had little to no gray (now it is almost all white/gray; Jo’s hair was permed and full; Tami was in college and “looked like” a professional; and Janna was in high school with short hair (she has beautiful, long hair now). I also found my high school report card from my Senior year. Let’s just say the two “A’s” (phys ed and driver’s ed) did not add credibility to my “you need to study” shtick to my girls.

Pictures are funny. They remind you of what was, often leaving one incredulous at the “was I really like that?” moment. “Did I really look like that?”

My recent bout with COVID (12/20-2/21) when I lost 48 pounds in about 3-4 weeks left me looking like a refugee from a concentration camp. My appearance changed drastically. I’m grateful that for the most part I’m back to looking like my normal (good-looking) self. 🙂

This whole thing came back to me when I read something Bob Goff wrote:

One thing we know for sure is that Jesus never cared about appearance…Jesus was more concerned about the experience than the appearance. He came to start a movement, not put on a display. He released His Spirit to spread love all over the world, and love doesn’t depend on people looking pretty. (#272-p.321)

After seeing myself at my worst during the COVID fight, I deleted that video. I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I looked.

I’m glad God doesn’t care what I look like. I look in the mirror and am appalled; He looks and calls me “His own.” And THAT is the greatest feeling in the world!

“Father, thank you that You call me Yours. Thank you for not being embarrassed about the way I look or linger on how I feel about myself.”

September 28

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

I was reading about the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Recap: Jesus was a guest in their house. Martha and Mary were hostesses and as such had preparation duties to perform. Well, maybe Martha. Not Mary. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. Martha? She got more and more frazzled AND irritated. She even told Jesus her frustration. Unfortunately for her, Jesus commended Mary because “she chose the good part.” In other words, she chose the more important thing at the time: sit and listen to Jesus.

I thought about that in comparison to me. I know things clamor for my attention. I woke up this morning with things on my mind of what I needed to do today-some before I even get to the office. I tend to be pretty rigid about my morning schedule-get up, shower (that’s a good thing), then getting to the office as close to 5:00 as possible. One thing stands in between the shower and the office: my Encounter Time (ET).

It’s not a legalistic thing; it’s a life-saving thing. I have my ET to save me. It draws me to Jesus. I spend time with Him. I could find other things to do for this hour span. Sleep an extra hour. Work at the office. Work out at home, especially in the winter. But I have come to look at my ET as my lifeblood. I have mine in the morning because 1) I am fresher; 2) Less interruptions; 3) I need to start my day out right; 4) I know the distractions that will come later in the day.

I need to be in God’s Presence. I do not speak in hyperbole when I say, “I NEED THIS TIME!” Skipping this time is not a good thing for me! I’ve tried it before and the results were not pretty.

This is not a guilt trip for you. This is an “encouragement trip.” 🙂  Find the time that works best for you and fits your lifestyle. The important thing is to have that private meeting with God.

“Father, I need that time with You. May it always be one I look forward to and relish and draw strength from.”

September 27

Monday, September 27th, 2021

One of the false religious/belief systems in our world today is one called Deism. It is the belief system that God (or some higher creature) created the earth then withdrew His hand and basically said, “Okay boys. You are on your own.”  That is the Cliff Notes version of it.

I thought of that as I was reading about Isaiah 40. I think to justify our disbelief or to rationalize our lesser expectation of God, we minimize who He is and what He can do. Is. 40 is a masterful description of God-of who He is and what He can and does do.

After describing the glory of God compared to the flesh (verses 5-8), Isaiah launches into a litany of rhetorical questions. They start in verse 12 and go to verse 14. I’d encourage you to see for yourself. After a brief reprise he is back at it in verse 18

Check these out:

  • Verse 12-He can measure the waters in His hand and calculate the dirt and weigh the mountains.
  • Verse 26- He creates the stars and names them!!
  • Verse 23- He knows all the petty rulers of the nations-those who think they are “king” and “god.”

The classic verse here is verse 25: “To whom then will you compare me?” He is equal to no one and visa versa.

He ends with a series of verse most are familiar with: verses 28-31. But the promise of these verses hinge on these words found in verse 28: “The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired….”

God is unlimited and so is His strength. The latter is based on the former. No matter what you and I are going through, He is there. It is a promise.

“Father, help me to remember that truth today and in the future. You have not and will not leave me alone.”

All Scripture is from NASB2020

September 24

Friday, September 24th, 2021

We often hear a statement like “Forget your past.” I understand the import of that statement. If something has happened that we would just as soon forget, it applies. I get that. I really do. I’ve had enough dealings with people who have been abused, molested, had an abortion, had an affair, etc. that they would like to move beyond. And I’m all for that. Some stuff that happened to us in the past does need to be let go. We certainly can’t change it.

But there is also a time we should not let go of our past. Let me rephrase that. There are times we should not forget what happened in the past.

There is a saying that something like this: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” We should never forget certain dates for example: July 4, 1776.  April 9, 1865 (surrender at Appomattox) December 7, 1941. August 15, 1945 (VJ Day). September 11, 2001.  October 9 (my birthday)!! 🙂 In all seriousness, some dates and events must never be forgotten.

Psalm 78 is made up of 72 verses. It is a history lesson for the Israelites to remember. It is a reminder to them of their past and God’s faithfulness in that past. It is not a pretty picture by any stretch. It is a litany of waywardness, sin, rebellion, and disobedience. But it is also about a compassionate God.

So it helps to remember some things. Take a few minutes and read Psalm 78. Then ask yourself, what would my past be like if I wrote mine down? Like the Israelites, you would probably see a messy life with a faithful God right there with you.

I know I would.

This is the weekend. Take some time to reflect on the past and how God was faithful to you through it all.

September 23

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Confession right up front. They say it is good for the soul. 🙂   A good chunk of today’s devotion is going to be snippets from Bob Goff (#265-p.314).  It so impacted me that I want to share some of it with you. Just know that any quoted section is from the devotion.

As a pastor, I struggle with something-something which involves me and others. Ready?

Taking credit. Liking the accolades. Relishing the pats-on-the-back.

Have you ever seen The Incredibles? Yeah, I know it is an animated “child’s” movie, but Pixar did a wonderful job with it (and its sequel). Mr. Incredible wanted a cape with his new uniform. His “strange” designer says, “No capes” and proceeds to show him why. To borrow from yesterday’s devotion (September 22), God doesn’t need superheroes with capes. He doesn’t need me or you seeking attention. (Implied is a cape would do that).

“Jesus was introducing us to another way to change the world-one that doesn’t require any marketing taglines, self-promotion, or capes.  He wanted to show us that all those things meant to draw attention to ourselves can actually trip us up.” Bob goes on to write: “God always seems to more interested in working through those who don’t need any affirmation outside of His. Perhaps it’s because He wants us to point people toward Him, not ourselves.”

Have you ever seen a team with potential implode because they have one (or several) who sought the glory for themselves? I could care less about “thug ball” i.e. basketball these days, but two of the games greatest players were two of the least selfish-Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. All-Stars. MVP’s. Hall of Famer’s. They were known as much for their passing ability, their selflessness, and their desire to include everyone as they were for their scoring ability.

They didn’t toot their own horn. They didn’t need to. Neither do we as Christ-followers. To quote Mr. Goff again: “We don’t have to impress to earn the right be on God’s team.”

No matter what we do-preach, teach, sing, play an instrument-whatever it is we are not asked to impress or take credit. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (NASB2020)

“Father, may I lift You up, giving You praise and glory and not seek it for myself. I’m not worthy of that. You are.”

September 16

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

One of the most vivid images/pictures which has always interested me has been the potter/clay one. Maybe it is because I’ve never done pottery but have only watched it being done. But there are a lot of scenes like that. I might watch a cooking show with Jo. Looks intriguing and sometimes very tasty, but because I don’t cook it doesn’t inspire me to learn. I suppose it should.  But in my mind it is fine for someone else! Just not me! Give me my bicycle!! 🙂

But I guess what strikes me about the potter and clay is its biblical reference and picture. Isaiah 64: 6,8-9 is a picture of the potter and clay. Isaiah pulls no punches in verse 8 when he says, “But now, LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter, And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

WOW! Isaiah, as I said, pulls no punches. God is our Father. God is the potter. We are the clay. So simple to see. He is in control. He is the One who shapes us. He is the One who molds us, getting His hands filled with dirt and clay. And here is the hard part for us-starting over shaping us when we are not compliant or stubborn or need re-shaped.

That is only part of the process! Then the newly-shaped pottery is put into a kiln and fired. Do you see the application for us? Consider these words from Isaiah: “And all of us are the work of Your hand.”  He makes no mistakes.

“Father, may I be moldable clay in Your hands.”