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May 7

Friday, May 7th, 2021

I’ve written several times in this Shadow blog about legalism, specifically mine. I was raised in a semi-legalistic church but not in a home that bent that way. It was when I became a young pastor “earning my wings” that seeds were planted that blossomed into what I now see was an assault of peoples’ freedom. I still cringe at my boldness and arrogance. I now see my legalism was a weak attempt to control peoples’ lives because it (so I thought) reflected on my job as a pastor, or it was to make me feel better and draw attention away from myself (and my own sin).

I know it made me feel better. If I could say, “Read my Bible.” Check. “Tithed.” Check. “Don’t drink or smoke or cuss.” Check.

I’m guessing you get the point and where I’m going with it.

Paul wrote, “…they (so-called Christians) sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 2:4-NLT)

They spy on us. What a vivid picture that gives me! Someone or someones who are secretly watching, taking notes, peaking around corners, tailing me. I’m on someone’s hit list.

You see, there will always be those who will try to impose their “religion” on others. But the problem with legalism is that it misses the point altogether. It and they go “beyond what is written” is the way Paul put it. (I Cor. 4:6)

Legalism makes secondary things primary and primary things secondary. It relegates love lower than regulations and performance. That which is first takes a back seat to that which has no business being in the driver’s seat.

I’ve had my share of legalism to last a lifetime and never want to go back. With God’s help and by His grace, I never will.

“Father, that is my prayer today.”

May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

May 3

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

I think one of the hardest traits to have as a Christ-follower is humility.  We have heard it all:

“It’s hard to be humble when you are as great as I am.”

Joe Namath is credited with saying, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.” When asked why he answered, “Because I get better looking every day.”

I’ve sometimes said (jokingly), “I’m proud of my humility.”

All those sound like innocent remarks, and for the most part they are. 

But humility is no joking matter.  When pride takes over, it is hard to stomach. A proud person is not one we enjoy being around.  An arrogant person wants to make us want to empty our stomach. Unless, of course, that proud person is me. Then I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Jesus was the antithesis of pride. In John 13 we have the story of Jesus taking  off his outer cloak, taking a bowl and a towel and washing His disciples’ feet. When challenged by Peter, Jesus said that unless He does this he (Peter) would have no part in Him.

There are those who want to make a big deal about the washing of feet, like it is a command we are to do.  I believe that is missing the whole point. Jesus Himself said, ” What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” They saw Him washing their feet; He was actually showing them something much greater.  He was showing them what it means to be a servant and show humility.  His point comes out strongly-out of His own mouth-just a few verses later: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

The whole principle is not foot washing but humility and being a servant.  The question which confronts me then is am I willing to submit to the Father and be a servant?  It will require humility. Not the fake kind but real, genuine humility.

“Father, it is a sign of submission to humble myself before You, which is then to translate to the people around me. Please teach me to be humble.”

April 30

Friday, April 30th, 2021

First, I need you to stop and read Romans 8: 31-39. This is perhaps the most beautiful passage in Scripture (personal preference) and one of, if not, the most powerful chapters in the Bible.

Then please read this…something I read this morning:

“There is a love that will never forsake us. there is a love that will never fail us in any of its commitments to us. There is a love that is so strong that nothing in all of Creation can break it. There is a love that is faithful and true, no matter what. There is a love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving.” (p.7)

“There us simply nothing like the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is what we need-God’s love, that is. You and I could never earn it, deserve it, or achieve it. It reaches into the sinful muck of humanity, cleans us up, draws us close, and launches us to a brand-new living while staying faithful to the end, even if we are not. In loving us, God gives us the greatest gift ever given-the gift of Himself.” (p.8)

How can I improve on that? I can’t say it any clearer. I can’t say it more pointed.

What I can say is, “You are loved…by Him.”

“Father, thank You for Your faithful, unending love. May I bask in it and also share it with others.”

Quoted sections from 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

April 28

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

I read recently about a British ski jumper named Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. I vaguely remember him in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  He competed alright. In fact, he has his own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases. “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”  I think I will let your mind show you his jump.

But here’s the thing: at least he tried. As someone has said, “It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.”

We often hold back from enjoying life, or challenging ourselves, or even living the adventure (my slogan) for various reasons. John Eldredge, in Wild at Heart says, “Every man has a battle to fight; an adventure to live; and a beauty to rescue.” It is the second part of that statement which intrigues me today-“an adventure to live.” I hesitate saying this but the older I get the more I regret what I haven’t done. One of my dreams was to ride across the USA at my speed with a friend or two, a motor home to sleep in, and Jo driving or riding along to witness my fete. It never happened and it will go down as one of my disappointments.

But at the same time, I am grateful for what I have experienced, including but certainly not limited to Colorado, Daytona Beach, and Alaska (I want to go back). Friends. MLB games in person (before they got all politically stupid).

You know, Peter walked on the water and failed. He “Pulled an Eddie” right in front of Jesus and the other disciples. But we also know this: least he walked on water. None of the others who stayed in the boat can say that!

Life is an adventure. You can choose to live it or hide from it. I may be getting older (what do I mean “may be”?)  🙂 But whatever time I have left I want it to be an adventure.

“Father, You call me almost on a daily basis to walk on the water with You. ‘Step out,’ You say.  ‘Come to Me. Here, take My hand.’ Help me to not be afraid to follow You.”

April 27

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Sometimes the description of the Christian life is one of opposites. Sometimes living the reality of the Christian life is a bundle of opposites. I want to say a paradox but I’m not really sure if that fits. Let me show you what I mean:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”  (2 Cor. 6:3-10)

What I underlined during my Encounter Time this morning are verses 7-10.

I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” He was challenging their age old beliefs (legalism) with something totally radical. He took the law even further and gave it more scope.

In the 2 Corinthian passage Paul is saying, “We are…but they say…” That seems to be an outgrowth of being a Christ-follower. First, taking it one step further than it appeared. Second, facing accusations which aren’t true or are embellished to make them look bad. The key is for us, when they say that about us, is to live a life of love (v.12a)

“Father, may my life be consistent with what You want. No matter what people say to tear me down may it be found to be a lie.”

April 26

Monday, April 26th, 2021

In a devotion I wrote last week. I mentioned the idea of finishing well. Hezekiah did not. I want to.  Over the weekend I read the following story:

You may have heard of John Steven Akhwari, a runner from Tanzania who finished last in the marathon at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. No last-place finisher in a marathon ever finished quite so last.

Injured along the way, he hobbled into the stadium over an hour after the last runner had crossed the finish line. All the spectators were gone, the stadium was closed, and crews were preparing for the closing ceremony when Akhwari gathered himself for a final effort and sprinted across the line.  It is said that one of the workers picked up a torn finishing tape and held it across the track so Akhwari could break it.

When Bud Greenspan, the official timekeeper of the games, asked the weary athlete why he put himself through such pain, he replied, “Mr. Greenspan, my country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race. They sent me to finish it.”

To be honest, we can’t just kick back, marking time: we are either growing toward God, or we’re going in the other direction.  An interesting quote: “Give your fruit before it rots.” (Richard Rolle)

Long story short: Finish well! Never give up. God did not ask us to just start; He wants us to finish.

“Father, may my life be one of perseverance and never quitting. Help me to finish well.”

April 23

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Sunday morning Jo and I drove to Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute. While Scot, Maryland’s Senior Pastor did not preach, the Discipleship Pastor, Nick Strobel, did an admirable job speaking about Greed.  Using the story of Elisha, Naaman and Gehazi found in 2 Kings 5, he brought some good thoughts to the table. {Please take a moment and read the Scripture}.  After Naaman went on his way with Elisha’s blessing, Gehazi chased him down and lied about Elisha wanting his money. Here are the three points Nick brought out: (Main thoughts his; commentary mine)

  1. Greed starts small. It warps our purpose. God’s ultimate purpose was that Naamen know and acknowledge God as the only God. But Gehazi’s greed warped that. Man will always pursue what we think will save us. We will not pursue things because we think it’s dumb.
  2. Greed warps our reality. Sin multiplies. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman to get what he wanted. God will never ask us to do something which is against His Word. N.E.V.E.R. When someone says or does something sinful or evil with the caveat of “God told me” you can pretty well guess He didn’t.
  3. Greed warps our understanding of salvation. God gave Gehazi what he wanted. The sin he chased became his death warrant. Greed can’t save. If you read the story, Naaman was healed of leprosy. Gehazi spent the rest of his life as a leper. Sad ending to what had been a promising future as the understudy/servant to Elisha.

“Father, help me not to be greedy toward what others may have. I don’t want my life to be warped because of my preoccupation with things I don’t have.”

April 21

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

At age 68 one thing I do think about is my mortality. When one is in their 20-30s, 68 is o-o-o-l-l-l-d!  Now that I’m there (or is that here?), not only does that seem old but the 30s, even 40s, seem so young. 🙂 I see youthful vigor, dreams and aspirations and have to admit a little bit of envy creeps in.  I realize I’m on the downside, that I have a lot less years to live than what I have already lived.

But I also know I want to finish well. It is not enough to start well. Finishing well is equally or even more important.

I’m thinking this morning of King Hezekiah. The Bible says there was no king like him before or after. He changed the whole religious landscape of Judah. But when Isaiah told him to get his house in order, he whined and begged for more years. God-for some reason-granted him his request and gave him 15 more years. But, oh, what a mess they turned out to be! He became proud of what he had and showed off to a Babylonian envoy all he had. History shows Manasseh, one of the worst and most evil kings ever, was born to him during this time.

Hezekiah may have started well, but he didn’t finish so well. He should have listened to Solomon’s words in Proverbs 21:21- “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

I have no idea (no one does) what God has in store for my future. I hope, personally, that I am granted years to continue preaching the message of God’s love and grace from the pulpit and in life.  I do not know what will transpire, but I do know this: I want to finish well. This race is a long-distance run not a sprint.

“Father, may I finish well, still pursuing righteousness and unfailing love until my last breath.”

April 20

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

IMHO one of the most damaging things to the “spread” of the life of Christ is what I will call double standards. You know it another way: “Do as I say not as I do.” “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “Practice what you preach.”

You get the idea. It hurts to see someone say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” then do something totally contradictory to that life. I cringe, for example, when I hear an artist/actor/musician thank God for an award or a good event but have lyrics that are disgustingly vulgar or live a life contrary to God’s Word.

I’m speaking of myself as well. Way too often my life and words or actions do not match. I was reminded of this as I read Proverbs 20 this morning:

“False weights and unequal measures- the Lord detests double standards of every kind.” (v.10)

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.” (v.23)

Twice in the same chapter. A reminder of how God despises duplicity. While the picture is of the person who has a scale calibrated to his advantage, the point hits home to me as well. Don’t live a double standard. Be who I say I am. Be the Christ-follower I profess to be.

“Father, help me to live an honest life-one where words and actions match.”