God’s Word

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May 14

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

It is my conviction that one of the things we humans shy away from is to be truly known. I’m speaking of more than just surface, like “How are you?” “Fine” kind of talk, but deeply known. We tend to shy away from being seen as an “open book.”

Granted, there are exceptions to the rule. Always are. There are those who just sort of regurgitate everything to others. Extroverts (like me) tend to be much more open than introverts. But most of us will allow others to see only so much, then we shut the door. We tend to wear masks that cover the truth in our hearts.

The most probing mirror though is being honest and opening our heart to God’s searchlight. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps.139:23-24). Another verse that applies a bit more pressure says, “How can I know the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12).  When God’s searchlight hits the darkness, our inner man is revealed. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” (Heb. 4:12-13).

Masks are dropped and the truth revealed who we really are when we ask God to search our hearts. There is no hiding since God sees us as we are. The psalmist also came to that conclusion with the last words of chapter 19: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (verse 14)

We can choose to be a closed and locked diary or an open book. Either way God sees who we really are. Make it easier on your heart and choose the “Open.”

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

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

“You are getting too big for your britches.”

Back when I was young (and yes, that was a long time ago), one of the favorite expressions of people-and my parents were no exception- was the above statement. It usually preceded some type of discipline- a spanking when I was younger, an exclusion from an activity, a grounding, or something else. It’s not hard to know what it means.

I’ve been reading a book by Katelyn Beaty entitled Celebrities for Jesus. It is subtitled “How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are hurting the church.” I’m two years past when it was first published and first hit crashed on the scene.  I’m just under halfway through and it has exposed the ugly underbelly of the “celebrity culture” the church has found itself in, particularly in the megachurch world. Sadly, we have embraced (and enabled)-wittingly or unwittingly- the whole “the pastor is a celebrity and can do no wrong” thought process. Walking hand in hand with that idea is the inability to confront, challenge, or question said celebrity pastor. Ms. Beaty speaks highly of Billy Graham and his attempts to safeguard himself from any moral scandal by his complete transparency. (It was known as the “Billy Graham Rule” which simply said he would never be alone with a woman who was not his wife). His Modesto Manifesto called for complete honesty, accountability, and transparency. Ms. Beaty contrasts that with the shortfalls of some megachurch personalities. 

I was reminded of my reading of the book when I read the following from I Timothy 4:11-13 this morning: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.”  That highlighted section is important to remember.

No way would Paul embrace or be on board the “celebrity culture train.” Read his words-not just here, but elsewhere. Integrity, transparency and HUMILITY were big in his eyes.  But here is an important fact to remember- Megachurch Pastor, CEO, Owner, Manager, Worker- integrity, honesty and humility are essential to all and cannot/should not be dismissed.

No one has any business getting too big for their britches.

April 17

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Who is Jesus? That’s the question I posed in yesterday’s devotion. Jesus asked it of His disciples; He asks it of His disciples today. Colossians 1:15-20 gives a pretty succinct description of Jesus. I’d like to take a real quick and cursory look at that passage. Notice the words “quick” and “cursory.” That means without a whole lot of detail. 🙂

First, Jesus is preeminent. What does that mean? That means He is first in everything. First in importance, first in honor, first in exaltation. 

There are those who view Jesus as one of many lesser spirits descending in inferiority from God. Paul refutes that notion by saying He is “the visible image of the invisible God” (v,.15a). He is the perfect, absolutely accurate image of God. He was that from the beginning.

  • “He existed before anything was created.” Jesus is NOT a created being.
  • “He is supreme over all creation.” He is the authority over all. Contrary to one of the cult’s idea that Jesus was a created being-Michael the Archangel to be exact-the Apostle Paul refutes that idea vehemently.
  • “Through Him God created everything.” He is the agent of creation. The Greek words “through Him” is also “by Him.”  (See John 1:1,3)
  • “Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” He is the aim of creation. Revelation describes Him as “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Beginning and the End.”
  • “He holds all creation together.” See Psalm 95:3-7 for more on that.

The rest of Colossians 1 (verses 18-20) are hard to get around:

  • He is the Head of the church. Note: no man is and that includes the pastor or (you fill in the blank).
  • He is the first in everything and that includes all who rise from the dead.
  • God reconciled (made us friends) us to Himself through Jesus’ death on the cross.

There you have it. A quick review of who Jesus is. It is my belief that there are many warped ideas out there of who Jesus is, even those which sound good.  Pray for discernment. Study diligently. Stick to the Word.

April 16

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The answers were wide and varied. “Some say you are John the Baptizer.” “Some say you are Elijah.”  “Some say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” {My note: that sure is a wide range of people. Sort of like take a spin and pick a prophet}.

“Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked them.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter spoke for all of them when he said that.  (Full story in Matthew 16:13-16)

That same question is asked of us today. Our response should be the same as Peter’s. But we can also add some depth to it. I’m going to put Paul’s answer to that question and simply ask you to ponder it today. It comes from Colossians 1:16-20. Because of length, check back tomorrow when I plan to spend a bit of time discussing some of it.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and things we can’t see-such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”  (NLT)

As you read, pray for discernment. There is a (false) teaching making the rounds for the past several years (courtesy of Bethel and other cults) which says Jesus was not fully human and fully divine from conception and birth to His death and resurrection. (More tomorrow). This passage blows that apart. But there is more, a whole lot more. Read slowly. Read prayerfully. Read with your eyes wide open.

April 3

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

I have said on a number of occasions that “you cannot take people where you yourself have not been.”

Part of the vision of the church I pastor is Pursuing Jesus Passionately. We cannot lead or teach people to pursue Jesus if we ourselves are not doing so.

We recently visited the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing display of God’s creative genius. As we stood safely behind walls of stone taking pictures, we could see paths where people could hike to see more. I know there was more to see than I was able to see. So much more. And the best way to see that was with a guide who knew his/her way around. One who knew the trails. One who knew what to look for. A newbie is not what I would have wanted.

When Ezra came in the second wave of people returning to Jerusalem after having been in exile in Babylon, he was dismayed to see that the people had not fostered a love for God and His Temple. They had neglected the Scriptures and their influence in their lives. Enter Ezra, the priest. He saw it as his mission to lead (guide) them to the Scriptures, to call them back to the source. He knew that it was the Word of God that changed lives. What will turn this country around will not be a political party or candidate, legislation to change this or that; outlawing certain practices’; or legislating morality. If hearts are not changed, then we will just find another way to disobey God.

No. Ezra knew: change the heart with the Word of God and you change society. That’s good advice for the country. But it is especially good advice for the church. Study the Word, put it into practice, teach it to others, then the church changes. You can’t demand or legislate change. Only God’s Word can have a permanent impact.

April 1

Monday, April 1st, 2024

Today is generally known as “Joker’s Day.”  It is the day we “approve” of jokes played on other people. The more outrageous the better. April Fools Day is known as a day of nonsense, tricks, jokes, and a general “I-got-you” day. Ironic then that it follows the day after we celebrated the greatest day in history (and no, it is not the day the White House declared it to be).  Psalm 14:1 says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (NLT) The book of Proverbs is filled with references to fools. But let’s move away from that topic to one which is much more positive.

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday. We had a super fine day as we joined together in one service at another venue. Even then we ran out of chairs. What a great problem to have! 🙂 During my sermon I asked the question: “What if the resurrection never did happen?” Well, the Apostle Paul gives 4 ramifications of that from I Corinthians:

  • Our faith is useless.  (Verse 17a). The Greek word for useless means “futile, empty, of no value.”
  • We are still in our sins. (Verse 17b). Succinctly put: if Jesus is still in the tomb, His death cannot save us. He is no different than any other religious teacher.
  • We have no hope of a future. (Verse 18).  Without the resurrection a bright future is an empty promise.
  • We should be pitied more than anyone. (Verse 19). All we do in this life is for nothing if all we have is this life.

But let’s turn those thoughts around and show what a difference the resurrection makes:

  • Instead of our faith being useless, we can say our faith has meaning.  Something we believe in is true.
  • Instead of still being in our sins, we can say we have forgiveness. The resurrection makes sin forgiven a reality.
  • Instead of having no hope for the future, we can know we will see our loved ones who died in Christ.  Can there be anything more lonely or lost than no hope, of just being worm food?
  • Instead of being pitied more than anyone, we can be certain of our own future.  Knowing we have something to live for, to look forward to changed everything.

You may have heard something like this yesterday from your own pastor. But today is Monday, the day we begin to put it all to the test. Live today in the light of His resurrection.

February 20

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

In our day and age never has the pull to be overly committed been stronger. I think we would all agree that those things/devices which were supposed to make our lives simpler, easier and less complicated have done the exact opposite. That phone, for example, which went from a landline to a huge car phone in the middle console to an “attached-at-the-hip” thing, has made life difficult. We can’t seem to get away, to find quiet, or to relax.

Tragically, one of the fallouts to that lifestyle is a tendency to forget God is always present. I was recently reading a devotion focused on Joshua’s final words to the people of Israel in Joshua 23.  In his speech,  Joshua’s words in 24:15 become the focal point: “Choose today whom you will serve…but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (NLT)

To only focus on that verse does a great disservice to chapter 23, the early part of his final words?sermon. The devotion focused on 23:6-11 and made four observations on how to maintain our devotion to the Lord. I’ll give them to you with my short commentary:

  1. Give attention to God’s Word (v.6). Fill your mind and heart with Scripture. Don’t allow your time with Him to read and grow to become lax.
  2. Avoid pagan influence (v.7). Maybe we need to strongly consider what we watch, what we read, what we listen to, or even hang around and see if it a wrong influence.
  3. Attach yourself to God (v.8). I wonder what would happen if we attached ourselves to God like we have attached ourselves to our phone?
  4. Cultivate a deep affection for God in every way (verses 9-11). Develop an intimacy with God that grows deeper over time.

I leave you with those thoughts. Jo and I-thanks to the graciousness of a friend-will be leaving today for a week’s vacation to Arizona. We will be back, Lord willing, next Tuesday, the 27th. I hope to post on the 28th (providing jet lag don’t kill me!) 🙂 Prayers for our safety to and from (we are flying) and while there (we will be doing some driving) would be much appreciated. I need some rest and relaxation and this will have to do the trick for now. I do not have Feedly on my phone so I probably will be absent from any blog I normally read and comment on.

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

January 31

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

I did a review of Country Music star, Granger Smith’s book Like a River on my other site, Cycleguy’s Spin. It will post today. I’d like to ask you to visit that site and see what is so special about this book (especially since I am not a Country Music fan).  🙂

One of the recurring theme in Psalms is “God’s faithful love endures forever.” I just started reading Psalm 119 this morning as I journey through Psalms (it is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible) and the number of times it speaks of “God’s faithful love endures forever” in the previous 118 chapters would take a lot more meticulous work than I am able to give to it. But Psalm 136 take the prize. 26 verses = 26 times it says, “His faithful love endures forever.”

That may not seem significant to you at the moment, but I ask that you read the story of Abram and Sarai (later to become Abraham and Sarah) in Genesis 12-23. Pay particular attention to Sarah. She lived in a time when it was a disgrace not to have a child. Year after year she longed for and waited to have a child, especially when one had been promised. Shen she and Abraham are told they would have a son and that Abraham’s seed would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Oh the joy! Until days turn into months; months turn into years; years turn into decades; and decades turned into Sarah being 89 and Abraham 100. Still without a child. She had tried earlier to take matters into her own hands by giving her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham. Ishmael was born but he was not the promised child and it didn’t bring Sarah the satisfaction she thought it would. In fact, it led to conflict so strong that Hagar and Ishmael had to leave. Much of the Middle East issues are a result of this child. Finally, at the age of 89 and Abraham at 100, the promised child was born. They named him Isaac.

My purpose in this devotion is not to get into a discussion of the Middle East conflict and how Sarah’s efforts have a direct bearing on them. No…my point is to talk about “God’s faithful love endures forever.” Even through Sarah’s conniving and wondering, God’s faithful love endured. He promised. He delivered.

The same God of Abraham and Sarah is the same God today.  His faithful love endures forever, even when we don’t see. Sarah didn’t but even in spite of her missteps, she clung to the promise of a son. She clung to the truth that God would keep His word. Those same words are for us today: God’s faithful love endures forever.  So don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t throw your hands up in despair. He is a God of His word.

January 29

Monday, January 29th, 2024

In this age of deconstruction of one’s faith, having questions is seen almost tantamount to betrayal. Unfounded deconstruction with belligerent questions is dangerous. But when someone is asking questions, sincerely asking questions, I think that is a good thing. Dangerous yes. Scary yes. But necessary? Yes.

In my early morning study, I’m reading a book called 52 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know by Dave Adamson. Dave is not Jewish, just interested in Hebrew words. I know zero, zilch, nada about Hebrew. If I was 40 years younger maybe, but at 71 that ship has already sailed. But I’d like to know a little, even though the alphabet looks like Chinese hieroglyphics.

Anyway, today’s word was “wrestles with God.” (No, I’m not even to try to put the Hebrew letters here).  There is no greater story on this topic in the Bible than Jacob wrestling with God. When done, he is a given a new name, Israel.

It is not unusual for people to have self-induced guilt or heaped on guilt by another for questioning what they believe. Or if they question a confusing passage. Or if we see God acting contrary to the way we think He should. And those tough passages that have us raising questions? Aaaaaah!!!

Jacob wrestled with God and came out blessed with a new name and a new purpose. If you have questions don’t bury them. Find someone you trust whom you can talk to. Search the Scriptures. Ask God to reveal His truth to you; He will not turn away. Struggling with your faith should not bring guilt; it should bring deeper digging and celebration as you learn more.