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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 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

November 10

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.

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 24

Monday, October 24th, 2022

I read a quote from Corrie Ten Boom and it “spoke” to me this morning:

Look without and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look at Jesus and be at rest.

Let’s take that apart for a moment.

“Look without and be distressed.” Ain’t that the truth!! I’d tell you to read or watch the news, but that could put in you into distress. 🙂 It seems as if our country and our world is getting more and more lawless each day. It is distressing.

“Look within and be depressed.”  So many voices today tell us, “Be empowered within.” “You have it within you to change your world.” That is a dead end. Broken people can’t fix things. They need fixed first and there is only One who can do that.

“Look at Jesus and be at rest.” Jesus promised His peace to all who come to Him. He said, “Take my yoke upon you and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the Rock. He is the One who offers stability. He is the One who walks with us no matter what storms rage on the outside or inside.

Corrie gave us some good advice. Keep your focus on Jesus.

October 19

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

There are some commercials I have trouble watching. To be fair, I (or have Jo hit) the mute button when commercials do come one, but there are some I refuse to watch. This time of the year are the interminable ones on open enrollment, i.e. Medicare/Medicaid. UGH! And the actors they use who don’t have to worry about things! Another one I can barely stomach is the save-the-pets one. Not because I don’t have a heart for the dogs (and maybe cats 🙂 ). The ladies voice is so…put on…so drab…so annoying. It’s not that I have a heart of stone. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because if a pro-life commercial was made with ultrasounds and life it would probably be cancelled, because after all, animals are more important than babies.

Okay…off soapbox.

But there is one group of commercials I watch one time and mute them when they come on. The children. The children with cancer.  You know…the St Jude ones. They wrench my heart out. I watch; I tear up. Guaranteed. We have friends of a family in church who have a 4 y/o boy with a brain tumor-a glioma- that without a miracle from God will probably not see age 5.

My highest praise goes out to those doctors and nurses who see them every day, but keep on. My highest praise goes to the pregnancy centers who talk about life for all-born and unborn. My highest praise goes to those who take children in through fostering or adoption because they love children and want to give them a chance in life.

Jesus once said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Mt. 19:14 NLT)

Children are a precious gift from God. In Jesus’ day they were add-ons, often without care, and certainly without a “place.” Jesus changed all that. He rocked the Greek and Roman world with His love and stand for children (I suspect even the disciples raised their eyebrows a few times). He gave them importance.

“Father, may I never forget Jesus once said I was to become like a child in my acceptance of you. May I never brush them off or hurt their hearts by my words or actions.”

October 18

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Doane Robinson? No? Read on but don’t spoil the fun by looking him up on Google. 🙂

It is easy to get lost in the crowd. I’m not talking about a concert or an amusement park. I’m talking about as a servant of Jesus. Let me explain.

People around the world (and I suspect all of you) are familiar with Mount Rushmore (MR). The sculpture of the four presidents carved into MR is a sight to behold. Yet, while million know of MR, few know of the man who conceived and managed the project.

Let me introduce you to Doane Robinson. He is the forgotten man in the whole story of MR. His name is either largely unrecognized or is never known by some.

I don’t know if that is they way he wanted it or not.

Being a servant of Jesus should be like that. We are not-should not be-in it for the accolades and strokes to our ego. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and they exist because You created what You please.” (NLT)

Our whole existence should never be to draw attention to ourselves. Joy comes from putting other’s needs before our own. The greatest joy comes from putting all the attention, honor, and glory that comes our way and directing it to Jesus.

“May I remember, Father, what Revelation 5 says: that Jesus and Jesus alone is worthy to open the scroll. That makes Him the only One worthy to be praised. May that be the song on my lips.”

For something different:

August 29

Monday, August 29th, 2022

The last few devotions have been dealing with intimacy. It started with the August 23 devotion; then moved to August 24; and ended last week with the August 25th devotion. Intimacy requires honesty.

To quote Ed’s character from The Trail:

I believe that 90% of knowing God’s will is staying within the circle of intimacy by genuinely opening our lives up to His examining Spirit. (p.53)

God’s Word reveals God’s will for every believer. I think that is where many followers of Christ go astray.  We rely on other things-outside influences, our feelings, what others say-to decide. It’s almost like a cause and effect” “this then that.”

But let’s take a different approach. Let’s start with God’s Word and our circle of intimacy RATHER THAN every other place. I am convinced (and I admittedly struggle with this myself) that if my intimacy with God is on cue, and I am searching His Word, and I am truly seeking to honor Him in my choice, then I will not be steered wrongly.  That is different than the panic button I pushed in 1982. But even then, God did not abandon me. He used that “panic button” choice as a growing and learning experience. It wasn’t a selfish “I want to make more money” decision. Just the opposite…I took less.

But God’s Word was still true. Poor decision or not. My relationship with God actually grew more intimate with Him through that period of upheaval in my life and family.

So Principle #3 is established. Check out tomorrow’s devotion for that principle and a numbered statement (with a recap of numbers 1 and 2). Until then…stay intimate. Stay close. Read His Word.

August 8

Monday, August 8th, 2022

At this point in history, we who live in America have it fairly easy when it comes to following Jesus. True, Christianity is no longer the dominant worldview it used to be. But all in all, we are not China or North Korea or Iran/Iraq or India or some other hostile place. So following Jesus is still pretty non-confrontational and “safe.”

That’s what struck me as I read Luke 9 this morning.  On two separate occasions Jesus talks about what it will take to follow Him. These are not back-to-back incidents, but by my recollection days apart.

The first is in Luke 9: 23-27. (I’ll leave it up to you to read it). It is probably as familiar to you as it is to me. Jesus minces no words about what it will take to follow Him: “Deny…Take up…Follow…Give up.” Following Jesus is a full-time, full-on surrender to His rule in my life. Discipleship is not a “when-I-feel-like-it” experience.

The second, which comes at least 8 days later (v.28), is found in verses 57-62. It is what I will call “I will follow You but…” passage. You can read it for yourself. It seems to be a scene of “I will follow when it is convenient for me.”

I don’t think the scenes are unrelated or separate, except in time frame. What I mean by that is they supplement or amplify each other. “Deny…take up…follow…give up” sets the groundwork for Jesus saying, “It takes complete surrender to be Mine.”  The latter Scripture says, “There is no wasting time. Don’t put Him second. He wants me now.”

“Father, may I not hesitate to follow You. May my following involve being sold out to You without hesitation and completely.”