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April 18

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

Popular today among many is what I will call (and possibly other have already done so) the “positive thought/confession” movement. Long story that strain of thought says “whatever you think or feel, whatever your heart says to do, speak it out loud and then go, follow your heart.

I know people who believed this so much that they stopped taking their meds because they “thought themselves” healthy. I’m not saying we are not sometimes over-medicated. Not at all. But there are some meds you just can’t quit cold turkey.

I’ve known people who refused medical treatment because some huckster or some “speak positive thoughts” guru told them to speak themselves well and to not act accordingly was a “an act of unbelief.”

Granted, these are some extreme examples. There are those who need to stop feeding negative images into their brain after they look into the mirror. The “I’m ugly” or “I’m fat” or “I’m worthless” comments need to go.  But frankly, there is a lot more money made in cosmetology and plastic surgery for unnecessary procedures than there should be.

What does all this have to do with being a Christ-follower? Many try to apply self-help gobbledygook to lifelong and lasting change. Victory over an addiction or a traumatic event in the past (or the present) will not be overcome by “I think I can, I think I can.” That only works with trains trying to climb mountains. The real transforming approach is this: “You were dead because of  your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.”  (Col. 2:13-15 NLT)

Real change, real transformation, does not come from thinking positive. Real change comes from allowing God’s Spirit to do His work in you. He makes permanent change. He disarms the enemy.

And I’m positive He will win the battle.

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 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 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.

March 28

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

“What in the world is Maundy Thursday?” That was my incredulous question to someone when he mentioned Maundy Thursday.

Backstory: I grew up and subsequently preached in a church tradition that was not a denomination (least they said they weren’t). We didn’t and still don’t celebrate special days (except Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays) or saints or creeds. All I knew growing up was my Catholic friends ate fish, not meat, on Friday, but I had no clue why. I never knew about Lent, saints, creeds, and certainly not Maundy Thursday.

Until a few years ago. I was looking into the history of Lent and church practices when I heard about this thing called Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum or “command.” The command being commemorated was the one Jesus gave His followers the night before He died: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (Jn.13:34 NLT)

I have also learned that the royal family began giving gifts to people in need as far back as the 13th century on Maundy Thursday. Do they still carry on that tradition? I don’t know. (Maybe you do?)

Maundy Thursday is today in the Christian world. The day before Good Friday. Think about this for a moment. Jesus gave the command to His followers to love as He loved.  A day later in an act of pure love and selflessness, He showed His love by dying on a cross for sins He never committed. “There is no great love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13 NLT). So He spoke; so He lived loved. 

I’m still not too sure about this thing called Maundy Thursday. I’m still not convinced about the need to make a special day of it. But it does beg the question: How are you going to show love this Easter season? One went to a cross. We are not/may not be asked to go to that extreme, but are you willing to give yourself away in service to another?

March 26

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

I had someone say to me the other day, “Getting old s**ks.” (I can’t stand that word hence the astericks.  However, it is a quote so…). While I hate the way he said it, I can’t totally disagree.

At age 71 I’m getting older. Well, so are you, but let’s think about this for a moment. As we age, lines develop on our face. We call them crow’s feet. Some develop “wisdom wrinkles” which become more prominent as one ages. Depending on your body fat, skin will hang and wiggle. Skin will get crepe-y. Bruises (blood) will show up in the arms and forearms or skin nicks will show up when you can’t even remember bumping or scraping them. Your stamina is not what it once was. For example, I used to ride 20-30 miles a day. If I do that today, I need a day or two between rides to recover. I might do 20 miles for 2-3 days in a row, but then I have to give myself a day or two off the bike.

Getting old is an adjustment, that’s for sure. That’s why I have issues with the “preacher” i.e. self-help guru who tries to tell me my best life is now. No, Joel, no it is not.

My best life is yet to come. I recently held the funeral service of a man whose last 2-3 years were spent fighting the effects of diabetes, a nasty bed sore caused by neglect of a rehab facility, the amputation of a leg at the knee, and a couple of strokes which affected his right hand strength and his communication (he could communicate but was slow in responding and putting sentences together). His best life was not now, laying in a bed. Not here. He is enjoying his best life NOW, living in the presence of the Savior he loved so much.

Do not look at your present or even your past life, as the pinnacle..as your best life. It’s not. For the follower of Jesus, the best is yet to come! That, by the way, is what the story of “Easter” is all about.

March 25

Monday, March 25th, 2024

This week is called Holy Week because it is the last week Jesus spent on earth. Palm Sunday was celebrated yesterday. It is tied to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and even laid them on the ground, all the while yelling, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

All of what took place that last week ultimately had its sights set on the crucifixion and resurrection. With that in mind, I want to share with you something I read this past weekend and shared with the church on Sunday morning. It comes from a new devotional book called Overflowing Mercies by Craig Allen Cooper. I leave it with you to ponder:

Christ sacrificed His perfect life to secure our eternal life. Jesus’ love is everlasting, eternal, unceasing, unchanging, steadfast, and unrelenting (Jer.31:3), and it has nothing to do with your own performance, your own good works, or your own achievements. It has everything to do with His one great love, wholly and completely unmerited, unearned, and unalterable, laid down for you.  (p.20-21)

Sounds a whole lot like grace. Just sayin’.  🙂

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.