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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 15

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

I may be wrong (but I doubt it), but I think one of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. Do you see what I just did in that sentence? 🙂

For various reasons, admitting a mistake goes against the grain of some people. Maybe it is their personality. Maybe it is their upbringing. Maybe they are, in reality, very insecure so they put on this “I’m always right” front.

But I’m thinking that for many, it is too much of one thing and not enough of another. Say what?

Too much of one thing and not enough of another. Too much pride. Not enough humility.

Check out James 1: 19-25. It is too long for me to print it here, but as you read, take note what he is saying. Get rid of pride and the sin which comes along with it, and exhibit humility. He admonishes us to look into the Word, but not like we would a mirror.  It is easy to forget what we see (and I most definitely do sometimes) and not do anything about it. But it is also easy to look into a mirror and not be honest and say, “Whoa dude! You got it going on!”

There is NO WAY we can take an honest look into God’s Word and say that. We are told God’s Word is like a sharp, two-edged sword. As we read, we need to let it penetrate. We need to allow it to convict and lay us open. We need to let it break down our pride.

That can only happen if we come with humility.

November 9

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.

November 2

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

As I sat down at the table this morning to have my Encounter Time, I prayed, “Father, let Your Word come alive to me this morning. Let me find something this morning that I will be able to learn from and use today.”

The point of this devotion is not to say, “Here is what I learned today” and then write about it. The point is the prayer. Not my specific prayer, but the point of my prayer.

I think many people do read their Bible. I do think some even try to read it on a daily basis. But, for many, that is all it is. Just reading. Almost like “I can now say I read the Bible today.” We sit down to read God’s Word as though it is just another book. We read it like the latest novel.

Now, please understand, I’m not knocking even this type of reading the Bible. We are told His Word will never return void so anytime a person opens the Word to read, there is a chance it might penetrate the heart. In fact, I count on that, especially if I’m not in a listening mood (for a myriad of reasons).

But God’s Word and my reading of His Word is so much richer when I pray for open eyes and an open heart.  You see, when you or I spend time in God’s presence, when you or I have been with Jesus and grow spiritually, we will become more like Him.

Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse of many (take a moment to read it). It is one of those go-to verses people use. But that verse does not and should not stand alone. Verse 29 must come along with it, but how many know it? The purpose Paul says of things working together for our good is so that we might “be conformed to image of His Son.” Reading God’s Word shapes and conforms us to Jesus and that is what people will see when they look at us.

Pray for open eyes and an open heart. Then read. Meditate on those words. And anticipate being changed into His likeness.

October 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

October 26

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Several times over the past week I have had the occasion to speak to someone about the “I plant; you water; God gives the increase” idea of sharing our faith.

You know how that goes. “I have prayed and prayed. I have tried sharing my faith kindly when the opportunity arise, but still, no response.”

Or “I pray daily for my child to come to Christ or to recommit his/her life to Jesus, but it seems like my prayers go unanswered.”

Those are tough to hear. They are tough to witness in one’s life. They are tough ones not to give Christian platitudes to. But the words which could be said (and are) are not mere pablum or empty words.

When I have those times in my life, I cling to Paul’s words in I Cor. 3:6- “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (NLT) 

It is not my responsibility to convert anyone. That is God’s. My responsibility is to share the message…to pray…to love. Most often, any change, any conversion, any re-commitment is the work of many. No one person has the right to say, “I did it.” It was a team effort.

The other principle is that we are called to be faithful. Plant the seed. Nurture the seed. That’s it. Be available. Don’t stress or fret over the results. A farmer know the crop will come in due time.

In God’s time.

October 6

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

I teach a class on Wednesday night I call “66.” You might see that it is a shortened version of Route 66, which is a survey of the 66 books of the Bible. Last night we finished up I & II Kings. 2 Kings ends with the exile of the Jews to Babylon. 136 years before, the northern tribes (10) called Israel, were taken captive by Assyria. The 2 southern tribes called Judah were now over.

As I closed I asked who was exiled to Babylon. The answer of course is Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (among thousands of others). To further complicate matters, I & II Chronicles is next. Then Ezra and Nehemiah who returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. Ezra, the priest, concentrated on the spiritual; Nehemiah was the builder.

The point I made is while the Bible is a cohesive collection of books, totally inspired by God revealing His will and His character, it is not in order. Genesis through Nehemiah flow naturally. And they should, they are history books. But the rest of the books are not in chronological order. Otherwise, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon would be interspersed with I & II Samuel and I Kings. Talk about huge books! And you would also have to split up Psalms for when they were written. Isaiah would be broken up into little fragments throughout Kings and Chronicles. The same could be said about the other prophets- major and minor- as well. 

The Bible is God’s divinely inspired, written word. It is not a product of human ingenuity infused with divinity. It is not a self-help book with a few God-things or God-words added for good measure. It is a divine gift produced as men were moved by the Holy Spirit. Every word, sentence, chapter, book, and syllable was originally given by God’s divine inspiration. God’s Word, as we have it, is complete.

To sum it up: God’s Word is authoritative, sufficient, infallible and inerrant (without error) and is all we need to know how to live a life that honors God.

So…what is the Bible to you?

September 27

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

One of the hardest things as a pastor is to be honest with oneself. I have a specific honesty in mind as I write that. The honesty I’m thinking of is spurred on by the Scripture from I John 4: 1-3:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world.”  (NASB2020)

That phrase “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” stands out to me. That phrase must stop at my front door, THEN it goes to other doors. It is common for pastors, etc to point fingers at another teacher, call them “False”, and never once look at their own heart or teaching.

As I discern myself, and as I check out (test) others, what criteria do I use to “test the spirits?” I think there are two qualities/characteristics I can look for:

  1. A teacher’s character. Character can’t be tested by measuring eloquence or giftedness. There are those who are talented speakers but have a questionable character. There are also those who have a stellar character but are not very good speakers. It is better to choose the latter and hope he gets better at speaking, than the former. {A great example of that is Billy Graham and Charles Templeton. Google it and check it out}.
  2. Content of the teacher’s instruction. This is where real discernment is needed. Is he teaching truth? Not man’s truth but God’s truth. Not everyone who names the name of Christ is a true teacher of God.

There has always been false teachers. They seem to proliferate these days, I think, in large part thanks to media. But because they are “successful;” marry a rock musician; have a private jet or two; have crusades all over the world; claim healing; and live in mansions, does not make them true teachers of God’s truth.

Be discerning. Be alert. Be wise. Don’t be afraid to follow the clear teachings of the Scripture and stand against falsehood.

September 14

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

{Spoiler alert: longer post than normal}

After my September 12 post, Ryan S. responded with the following words:

“I can’t deny that I tried a number of methods to seek God’s will. Though, I have never tried the obvious “fleece method”, I suspect my results would have been similar. Whatever happens, I would find a way to justify my desire. I think if I am honest with myself, I know what I “should” do before even asking most of the time.

The Bible has pretty clear instruction regarding relationships, finances, and our actions. I think if I look close enough, I can find what I am looking for there.
The question really then becomes… Do I like the answer?

When thinking about trying to discern God’s Will, I often come back to the parable of the talents. Seems like a strange connection, but let me see what others think.
God has provided His endless wisdom throughout the Bible. If I choose to live my life according to the His written word in all areas, then perhaps, God would provide me more insight into His unwritten will. I believe He does this through the Holy Spirit living inside us. I think this understanding and knowledge may be shared based on how we handle the direction He has already shared….”

I’d like to give my response by reinforcing what he said. We, as Christ-followers, often underestimate the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit. We freak because of obvious abuses associated with Him. I was in that camp at one time. I was so ignorant of the Spirit and admittedly somewhat naive, that the first time I was in a public worship and someone raised their hands, I broke out in a cold sweat. I was sure some wild stuff was about to happen. It didn’t. In time, I came to study the ministry of the Holy Spirit and was no longer afraid. Eventually, I learned the joy, praise and freedom of raising my hands in worship.

The Holy Spirit is not some mystical force.  He is not some impersonal being. In John 14> 16-18 Jesus gives some important insights into the Holy Spirit:

  • Verse 16– He is our Helper.
  • Verse 17– He is the Spirit of Truth. He is given “human” characteristics. He cannot be seen or touched but He is real.
  • Verse 18– He is Jesus’ representative. Paul calls Him “Christ in You.”
  • Verse 26– Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things.” One young man, who eventually left the church with his family for various reasons, always referred to Him as “of Holy Spirit.” Impersonal.  I never had a chance to ask him why he left out the “the” when referring to the Holy Spirit. Jesus does. Anyway…

The Spirit is Jesus in us. He’s our Helper. He is our Guide. As such, He is given a place in our hearts. I/you invite Him to make Himself at home. (In ancient times, the word for “ghost”-the old King James word- meant “invited guest”). I tell Him to make Himself at home in my heart. He leads. He guides. He protects. As I submit my heart and life to Him-hopefully (and ideally) more completely each day-He is able to reveal more of Himself and more of God’s will for my life.

The big question that arises time after time is this: Am I willing to submit to His influence over my life? Am I willing to go where He wants me to go and do what He wants me to do? If so, I do believe (as Ryan says) that God’s will is made clearer, even that which has been hidden. Even then, it may be unveiled a little at a time.

Here’s the kicker though: Even if God does not reveal His will so I can see clearly the path ahead, I must be willing to follow Him regardless. That is the real influence of the Spirit within me. He is within me to give me the strength to do whatever it is God wants me to do.

Your thoughts?

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.