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June 28

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

After I finished Revelation and my analysis of it (It started with the April 18th post), I did what I always do. I started reading the NT again, beginning with Matthew 1. It will be a challenge to finish it on or close to December 31. I am now in Matthew 23. This will be my first of two posts from that chapter.

Matthew 23: 1-12

My first inclination was to comment on the “do as I say not as I do” scenario we find ourselves in as Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their hypocritical double standards. But as I read further with that thought in mind, I came to these words in verses 10-12: “And do not be called leaders, for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Jesus is the Leader. My leader. The logical conclusion to that statement might look like this:

  • Jesus is the Leader.
  • Jesus is Greater than me.
  • Therefore, I am to be His servant.

Being a servant sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires a dose of humility (for some of us more than a small one). It requires the willingness to raise others up and put myself down (not in false humility). My purpose is to make His Name great.

The Pharisees didn’t do that. They couldn’t! They were too busy promoting themselves and their own self-righteousness. That’s the whole gist of verses 4-7. Self-promotion can never promote the great Name of Jesus. Self-promotion can never honor, exalt, magnify, glorify and make great the Name of Jesus.

We are to live for the fame of His Name. I/we cannot do that when we are clamoring for the microphone.

MAKE GREAT HIS NAME!!

June 22

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

Down through time, there has always been hot button issues. Slavery. Child labor. Corporate greed. Fundamentalism. Segregation. Abortion. Sex outside marriage. Drugs. Rock ‘n Roll. Same sex relationships. I’m sure you can name a number of others, even more important to you than the above. But all the hot button issues usually come down to one word:

SIN

Invariably, when a hot button takes front and center, the others take a back seat or are simply glossed over for a time. “Let’s focus on this one” we say, and as we do another steps aside or is simply put on the back burner. Take today, for example. Because of appalling breech in the privacy of the Supreme Court by the leak of a draft about Roe v. Wade, people protest, fire-bomb, hang in effigy, and even try to assassinate one of a justices. Meanwhile, the real moral issue-not social issue-moral issue of abortion is laid aside. “Who cares what the Bible says about life and dignity.” Come to think of it the whole same sex discussion is the same.

When we do those things we forget sin is sin, and it is all an affront to God. Abortion. Same sex relationships. Anger. Lust. Gluttony. Blasphemy.

All sin. And all sin we are to abhor, or “detest” as the NASB2020 translates Romans 12:9. “Abhor/detest what is evil. None of us can look in the mirror on any given day and say, “You did not sin today.” If you can, please tell me your secret!

Read again Romans 12:9: “Love must be free from hypocrisy (Love must be genuine in some translations). Detest (abhor) what is evil; cling to what is good.”  (NASB)

Let’s just start hating sin. Period. In all its sizes, shapes, and colors.

May 11

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

I’m dealing with Revelation 10 today. Again, I admit my inability to grasp the meaning of the vision John shares with us.

Several things stand out to me in today’s reading:

  1. I mentioned this in yesterday’s devotion. Maybe we aren’t supposed to understand. According to John in 10:4 some things were sealed and he was not to write them. I wonder if there are some things which are to remain a mystery…like totally understanding Revelation. 🙂
  2. The status of Jesus is seen in verse 6. That’s a pretty powerful description. Sort of like a description in a nutshell. Those words remind me of Paul’s words in Colossians 1: 15-17
  3. And this is admittedly, a puzzling one. What is he saying when he tells John to eat the scroll and it will taste sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach?

Does it refer to the future events which are to come? Does he refer to how some things look enticing but when experienced leave a bad taste in one’s mouth? That latter thought makes sense to me so let’s probe it for a few moments. Looks good -> tastes bad. I confess to thinking as I eyed something, “WOW! That looks inviting” only to realize it would leave a trail of bitterness in its wake if indulged. The aftertaste is nasty. I have a blogging friend, Sherry, who is a recovering alcoholic but hasn’t had a drink in…I’m thinking…seven years (I’m not at the office as I write this to double check). She blogs about her journey here. I’m guaranteeing she, nor any other addict, ever saw the bitterness of her “sweet” choice until it bit her. Do you think the adulterer did? Do you think the liar or spreader of juicy gossip did?

You get the point. Actions have an aftertaste. Sometimes those actions have terrible consequences. They look sweet but often leave a trail of bitterness.

Choose wisely. Meanwhile, for some help check out Psalm 119: 1-2, 9, 11, and 16. You’ll thank me. 🙂

“Father, may I realize every choice has a result and often those which look sweet end up being bitter. Help me to choose wisely.”

April 26

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

I suppose most, if not all of us, have heard or used the phrase, “Your reputation precedes you.” That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Take the good thing and let’s talk about the church. Your church has a good reputation. Local businesses are appreciative of your efforts. The local school can count on you to help. The community sees you working to help or fix up residences or paying bills if needed. You are known as a church who can be counted on.

It can also be a bad thing. Your church’s reputation is one of selfishness. One that keeps to itself.  One more interested in growing in numbers than helping the community. It is involved in “sheep stealing” (recruiting others from other churches).  It sees itself as the only beacon of truth in a community of lying churches and organizations. “We are right and you are wrong. Us four; no more; shut the door” type of thinking.

What about a church that has a good reputation but inside it is much different? Enter the church at Sardis (Revelation 3: 1-6). They had a name (a good reputation) in the community but were dead inside. This reputation said, “Look at us! We are active and caring” but according to Jesus they were dead inside. It seems to others they were alive, but to the One who knew and cared, not so. I’m not exactly sure what He means by “I have not found your deeds complete,” but it certainly wasn’t a good omen.

What I do know is Jesus was unhappy with the half-baked church. They were to repent or He would come when they least expected it.

Thank God for those few who remained faithful and refused to indulge in the fake pat-on-the-back and the self-aggrandizement of promoting themself “doing” but not “being.”

“Father, help me to be inside who I pretend to be on the outside. May the church I love and serve at be more interested in “being” than “doing.” And when we do, may it match who we are. ”

April 21

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

In Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum (Rev.2: 12-17) several things stand out:

First, is the description of Jesus: “The One who has the two-edged sword.” Several verses flashed through my mind as I read that. One is “the Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword.”  (Heb.4:12).  I also flashed to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6 which talked about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v.17b). Jesus will yield His sword (pictured elsewhere in Revelation).

Second, we live in Satan’s realm. We are told that he is the prince of this world…for now. One day his rule will come to an end…as will he. But I like what it says about some of the saints in Pergamum: they held firmly to their faith. They refused to compromise the Name of Jesus!

Third, even though they had some who held to their faith, they also had some who embraced false teaching.  And it was ugly. Compromise central. They allowed sexual immorality (teaching of Balaam) and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (similar to Balaam and also included sexual orgies).

Fourth, God did not then, nor will He now tolerate compromise.  “Repent” were His words.  False teaching is so insidious, so sneaky, so creeping, and so sinister. Look up and its there (and one often doesn’t even realize it).

That’s a warning…for me…for you…for the church. Be aware. Be on guard. Keep the sword handy. I/you may have to do some hacking away.

“Father, Your truth stands. It cannot be compromised. You won’t stand for it. Help me to be true to Your Word.”

Lord willing, I will be back Monday with the next installment/devotion based around the letters to the 7 churches.

April 20

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Two things ran through my head this morning as I read the Scripture about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).

One, around here we have a saying, “It’s all good.” Very seldom do you read or meet someone who either has nothing negative to say about another person or whom nothing negative is said about him/her. We tend to think there has to be a flaw somewhere. The church at Smyrna is one of those churches where there is nothing negative to speak of. Perfect church? There’s no such animal. But in matters which really count? Nothing. “It’s all good.”

The second item is a stab at the current idea that a follower of Jesus does not suffer.  There are certain religious teachers, i.e shysters, hucksters, false teachers who teach that a follower of Christ should not suffer. To suffer is to show a lack of faith. Hmmmm. I wonder what they might say about this passage in Rev. 2:8-11- “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In fact, previously in verse 9 Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…” Those both slam the door on the heretical health/wealth un-gospel (as I call it) of Copeland, Hinn, Osteen, et al. Tribulation (suffering) and poverty: both things they teach against.

As follower of Christ, we can and should expect suffering. The difference is when we are faithful unto death it will be well worth it. AND IT’S ALL GOOD!

“Father, Your Word says to expect suffering.* Give me the strength I need to hold up under the pressure and be faithful.”

April 14

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

One last thought from a quote in Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur:

“An easy, routine way of life which many associate with stability and security only gives man stagnation. Entrenched routine only spoils man and makes him simple and weak. On the other hand, progressive resistance in life always has the potential to give man progressive strength, and to make man progressively wiser…Resistance makes a man think new thoughts he never thought before. It makes a man seek answers he never sought before. It makes a man beg God for help that he never before realized he needed. Theses quests, quests of the heart and soul, eventually make a man deeper, wider, taller.” (Pages 249-250)

One of the fallacies of our thinking today among certain religious people is that we shouldn’t suffer, we shouldn’t have a hard time. Even the one deconstructing or questioning the faith states it: “Why do Christians suffer?” or some variation of that.

Tragically, we have bought into the lie that one who follows Jesus ought to have an easy life. It’s almost seen as a reward which is earned. I’d like to think I’m wrong in that assessment but I’m not.

Instead of seeing it as a punishment or a bad experience from a “mean” God, it seems wiser to consider them a way to grow. In the words of the quote: “To grow deeper, wider, fuller.” At this time of the year, when remembering the crucifixion of Jesus is right around the corner, let’s consider the suffering of Jesus as an example to us that we too should expect to follow in His steps. See I Peter 2:21-25.

“Father, may I see the difficulties in my life not as a bad thing but as a growth thing.”

April 7

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Continuing with some thoughts from Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur.  (See my March 31 and April 4 devotion for reference).

The essence of the Christian walk is to live contrary to human nature. (p.249)

Anyone who has  tried to live the Christian life knows that not only is this true, but way too familiar. When God says, “Zig” the world says, “Zag.”  God says, “Go right” the world says, “Go left.”

That’s how it has always been.

That’s how it is today.

That’s how it will always be.

It would be nice to think that coming to Jesus would end the struggle. But no, if anything it makes it worse.

The apostle Paul wrote about this struggle on more than one occasion, but his most extensive (I think anyway) and most pointed is found in Ephesians 6: 10-20. Everyone knows it to be the teaching of warfare which is not of this world, but also the armor of God every Christ-follower must wear.

Paul David Tripp wrote the following:

Paul is reminding you that at street level, practical, daily Christianity is at war. There really is a moral right and wrong. There really is an enemy. There really is a seductive and deceptive temptation. You really are spiritually vulnerable.  (New Morning Mercies- April 6)

Day in and day out our culture is calling our name. Our enemy is putting out the “red carpet” that leads to fame and fortune initially, but in the end leads to death and destruction.

Old man vs new man. Fake vs reality.

“Father, help me to choose Your way and not the world’s. And most definitely not mine. That spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.”

March 29

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

There is no question we live in an age where “anything goes.” In his book God and the Transgender Debate (which I am currently reading), Andrew Walker writes that we went from Relativism (meaning and truth are relative, so that what is right for one person may be wrong for another), to post-christian (no moral framework), to radical individualism (the single greatest sin-the only sin- is judging someone else), to the sexual revolution (sex is no longer reserved for marriage), to Gnosticism (each person’s self-awareness is different and more important than their physical body).  (Pages 21-26)

Long story short: our choices and progression has led to a bedroom lifestyle. That lifestyle is one-dimensional, characterized by pleasure, ease, unaccountability (better known as freedom), and selfishness. Can there be any doubt we are there? I don’t think I need to give specifics on what I mean, but simply take a look at the moral fiber, i.e. breakdown that is so common.

As followers of Christ we are not called to a bedroom lifestyle; we are called to a battlefield lifestyle. John Cooper, the lead singer for Skillet, recently played some clips on his podcast about the criticism and attacks the “woke” mob is  making because his songs focus on warfare, on going to battle, on fighting and surviving the game (a new song of theirs). I say more power to him! We are in a battle for our souls and Ephesians 6 tells us that. Ephesians 6: 10-12 specifically. Then Paul goes on to tell us about the armor of God (verses 13-19).

We have a choice to make; battlefield or bedroom. Fight or give in. Stand strong in faith or have weak knees.  We each have a choice. Fight the pull of the culture or give in and surrender to it.

“Father, the pull is strong. Help me resist. Help me fight.”

March 23

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

If I was to put into words what I consider to be one of the premier struggles Christ-followers have, it wouldn’t be Progressive “Christianity.” It wouldn’t be the rightness or wrongness of CRT or BLM or transgenderism or the LGBTQ+ agenda (although I don’t see much right in any of them). It wouldn’t be the whole political game being played on the world stage, nor even the one being played in the states. It wouldn’t be crime or the border or immigration or masking or vaxxing. I think it is something much more serious.

Losing your heart for God.

It’s easy to do. Gotta go here; gotta go there. Have to do this; have to do that. That shiny new thing looks really good. “No one will ever know if I do this or that.” “I’m not a workaholic…I just love my job.” “Arrogant? Me? I’m just good at what I do.”  “The applause of men is so refreshing. It is nice to be appreciated.”  “I’m tired of being good, of denying basic pleasures. I’m going to let go and live for today.”

And the beat goes on.

What doesn’t go on is a heart beating for God. It is sacrificed for the temporary. Displaced by secondary or second rate idols, it fights for supremacy. Being displaced from the throne of my heart is not God’s plan. He wants first place.

He wants my heart always beating for Him. Pursuing a deeper walk with Him. Pursuing intimacy. Passionate. Worship. Adoration. All for Him.

Is my heart beating for God? Is yours?

“Father, You know my prayer without me even stating it. Let my heart beat for You and for You alone.”