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October 20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

All of us go through those times when our faith is dry. The late Keith Green once wrote and sang a song with these lyrics: “My eyes are dry/My faith is old/My heart is hard/My prayers are cold/And I know how I ought to be/Alive to You and dead to me.”

Been there. Done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.

There are all different reasons as to why our faith can become dry. I’m not going to get into them. Instead, I want to look at the cure.

The verse which started my thoughts this morning was Pr.20:27-“The spirit of the person is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” My mind quickly went to the story of David. After Nathan exposed David’s sin, it drove him to his knees and he wrote Psalm 51. Included in that chapter are these words: “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Verses 7,10). David is not only praying for a clean heart, but also a restored one.  Ps.139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

There will be times of coldness, of distance, of hardness, of feeling disjointed. When those times hit, don’t despair. If it is the result of sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness and a renewed spirit (ala David). If it is just one of those times that happens to all of us, don’t panic. Seek the Lord and He will show up.

“Father, when I am dry flood me with Your presence. When I sin, forgive me. Help me to always seek Your presence.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.

October 19

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

I think one of the hardest things to do is to deflect praise from oneself to where it belongs. In the past we had a boxer (Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali) proclaim early in his career that he was the greatest. Sportscasters are known to choose a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).  Recently, a football player announced that he was “the greatest.” I was so disgusted by this shameless self-promotion just from a headline, I couldn’t tell you who it was, what team he played for, or what position he played.

How different from these words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise Him, you servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.” (Ps.113:1-4)

Or these:

Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.” (115:1)

What a difference-taking credit or giving credit. The psalmist is unequivocal in his stand: the name of the Lord is to be praised. I don’t, you don’t, deserve any praise. It all goes to Him. Deflect it there.

“Father, You are worthy of my praise. May I never gather praise or seek praise for myself. May I always deflect it to You.”

All Scripture is from the NASB2020 edition.

October 12

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Bone-tired. Weary beyond belief. Asleep on his feet. Those are just some of the phrases we will use to describe how we feel. I’ve been there. So tired I can barely think. So weary it was an effort to pick my feet up and put one foot down in front of another.

I’ve been there spiritually as well. The battles have been intense. The days long; the nights short. The arm wielding the sword hanging by my side. The helmet askew; the head bowed in weariness, and yes, even defeat. The armor stripped off because I am just too wiped out to wear it. The shoes too heavy for my feet.

But from out of nowhere comes a second wind. As Petra sang it so many years ago: “I got my second wind/The Spirit is moving again.” Isaiah 40:28-31 has just happened!

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, And to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  (NASB2020)

The end of myself became the beginning of Him. The end of my strength became the beginning of His.

Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Weariness touches us all.  But so does the energy of the Spirit. I find myself rejuvenated.

Physically- the weariness gives way to intentional movement.

Mentally- a clarity comes that assesses situations and knows how to act.

Spiritually- The “light goes on” and a fresh wind blows through.

God’s Word is once again true: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”

“Father, thank you for that fresh breath, that promised life which comes from You keeping Your Word.”

October 6

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

There is one thing I am very passionate about. I preach it. I speak it. I counsel it. I’ve definitely said it more than once. I think Bob Goff’s quote by Nelson Mandela says it well:

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. (#279-p.329)

I have stated it another way countless times (just ask the folks of the church I pastor): “If you fail to forgive, you have become their slave. They own you.”

Sweet Comfort Band, an early iconic group of Contemporary Christian Music, recorded a song called Habit of Hate. I’ve recently begun listening to them again and had forgotten about that song. Here is a taste of the powerful lyrics: “Now you’re clenching your fist/And that crazed, evil passion begins/Now you’re waiting for you victim/Careful planning, getting even/And you strangle your love/When you strengthen your habit of hate.” (Album: Perfect Timing-1984)

They are right on the money. I have seen so many lives devastated-their own and those close to them-by someone’s hatred and refusal to forgive.  It is like they become another person.

I think Bob said it best in that same devotion:

When we become people who extend forgiveness, especially when it’s costly or hard, we’ll be well on our way to loving like Jesus. (Ibid)

May we all start loving like Jesus.

May I start loving like Jesus.

“Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to not be captive the destructive emotions that ruin me and those around me.”

If you want to hear the song, you can check it out here.

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”

October 4

Monday, October 4th, 2021

Security is a big deal to many people, maybe most. The pandemic’s fear and the lawlessness of the summer of 2020 raised the fear level, hence the insecurity, of many individuals. People who never locked their doors before now lock them, even deadbolt them.

Others have more or less security depending on the state of their money.  The more they have the more security they feel. I hate to tell them…

I’ve counseled enough couples to know that security is a big issue, especially with wives and children (but not always only them). They want the security of knowing they are loved, protected, and will be taken care of.

I would by lying if I said Christ-followers were not also in that group of “security-needers.” Even despite the fact that we have a faith which stands upon Jesus Christ, we can often get caught up in the trap as well.

That is why Psalm 91 was particularly poignant to me this morning. I’d like to encourage you to read it this morning. Right now if you can. Slowly. Read it again. Highlight the meaningful verses.

Then bask in the security that God gives. And ask how you could trust more.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. Help me to find my security in You.”

September 28

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

I was reading about the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Recap: Jesus was a guest in their house. Martha and Mary were hostesses and as such had preparation duties to perform. Well, maybe Martha. Not Mary. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. Martha? She got more and more frazzled AND irritated. She even told Jesus her frustration. Unfortunately for her, Jesus commended Mary because “she chose the good part.” In other words, she chose the more important thing at the time: sit and listen to Jesus.

I thought about that in comparison to me. I know things clamor for my attention. I woke up this morning with things on my mind of what I needed to do today-some before I even get to the office. I tend to be pretty rigid about my morning schedule-get up, shower (that’s a good thing), then getting to the office as close to 5:00 as possible. One thing stands in between the shower and the office: my Encounter Time (ET).

It’s not a legalistic thing; it’s a life-saving thing. I have my ET to save me. It draws me to Jesus. I spend time with Him. I could find other things to do for this hour span. Sleep an extra hour. Work at the office. Work out at home, especially in the winter. But I have come to look at my ET as my lifeblood. I have mine in the morning because 1) I am fresher; 2) Less interruptions; 3) I need to start my day out right; 4) I know the distractions that will come later in the day.

I need to be in God’s Presence. I do not speak in hyperbole when I say, “I NEED THIS TIME!” Skipping this time is not a good thing for me! I’ve tried it before and the results were not pretty.

This is not a guilt trip for you. This is an “encouragement trip.” 🙂  Find the time that works best for you and fits your lifestyle. The important thing is to have that private meeting with God.

“Father, I need that time with You. May it always be one I look forward to and relish and draw strength from.”

September 23

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Confession right up front. They say it is good for the soul. 🙂   A good chunk of today’s devotion is going to be snippets from Bob Goff (#265-p.314).  It so impacted me that I want to share some of it with you. Just know that any quoted section is from the devotion.

As a pastor, I struggle with something-something which involves me and others. Ready?

Taking credit. Liking the accolades. Relishing the pats-on-the-back.

Have you ever seen The Incredibles? Yeah, I know it is an animated “child’s” movie, but Pixar did a wonderful job with it (and its sequel). Mr. Incredible wanted a cape with his new uniform. His “strange” designer says, “No capes” and proceeds to show him why. To borrow from yesterday’s devotion (September 22), God doesn’t need superheroes with capes. He doesn’t need me or you seeking attention. (Implied is a cape would do that).

“Jesus was introducing us to another way to change the world-one that doesn’t require any marketing taglines, self-promotion, or capes.  He wanted to show us that all those things meant to draw attention to ourselves can actually trip us up.” Bob goes on to write: “God always seems to more interested in working through those who don’t need any affirmation outside of His. Perhaps it’s because He wants us to point people toward Him, not ourselves.”

Have you ever seen a team with potential implode because they have one (or several) who sought the glory for themselves? I could care less about “thug ball” i.e. basketball these days, but two of the games greatest players were two of the least selfish-Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. All-Stars. MVP’s. Hall of Famer’s. They were known as much for their passing ability, their selflessness, and their desire to include everyone as they were for their scoring ability.

They didn’t toot their own horn. They didn’t need to. Neither do we as Christ-followers. To quote Mr. Goff again: “We don’t have to impress to earn the right be on God’s team.”

No matter what we do-preach, teach, sing, play an instrument-whatever it is we are not asked to impress or take credit. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (NASB2020)

“Father, may I lift You up, giving You praise and glory and not seek it for myself. I’m not worthy of that. You are.”

September 22

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

First day of Fall! I don’t know whether to cry or to cry. 🙂  Yeah, I’m a warm weather person. Sort of hard to ride a bike with snow and ice on the ground. Anyway, right now we are in our 3rd of 40 days of rain. On the positive side, least it is liquid sunshine not white flakes. Okay…on to the devotion.

The dictionary defines hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We hear a lot of talk these days about heroes. For the past year and a half we have been hearing about the front line workers who are heroes. Nurses. Police. Fire. Doctors. In my mind, they are heroes. Sadly, their heroism is being brushed aside and forgotten because of the vaxx mandate.  I will withhold comment.  🙂

I grew up with heroes. Comic books. TV shows. Athletes. Just like every other kid I had my favorites. Over the past decade the idea of a hero-a superhero- has been taken to a whole new level thanks to cinema.  Superman became Spiderman. Spiderman was soon enveloped by the Marvel universe of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and others. Batman rose from the comic book dead. Spiderman came back to life. Jason Bourne lived through mind games and countless fights and car chases to walk away each movie. The list goes on.

I think we need to stop looking to fantasy for our heroes and see them right next to us. They live with us. They work with us. They worship with us. They play alongside us. They are the mom and dad who love their handicapped child as though he/she is “normal.” They are the old man/lady who do their best to care for their mate who doesn’t even remember their name anymore. I recently read of a woman who took care of her former soccer-playing comatose husband for decades. She is a hero.

“Heroes come in every age and size,” Bob Goff writes. (#264-p.313). I’ve always believed that. I’m convinced, while we focus on the few who have prominent names, there are literally hundreds of thousands who go unnamed and unnoticed.

Heroes don’t wear capes (unless it is a dad playing “house” with his daughter). They don’t wear tights and have indestructible shields, and superhuman abilities to leap tall buildings. No…heroes are ordinary people doing ordinary things on ordinary days in extraordinary ways. Be a hero. Better yet…acknowledge one.

“Father, may I recognize a hero and not let him or her go unnoticed.”

September 17

Friday, September 17th, 2021

3 chapters. 3 passages.

I’ve been reading through Psalms again-my second time this year. I’m using a different translation this time through-one I am getting more familiar with and have really grown to love. The NASB2020. But the translation really is unimportant to the weight and import of these 3 passages.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy.” (Psalm 61:2b-3a)

“My soul waits in silence for God alone; From Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62: 1-2)  {Note: for an added bonus read verses 5-8}

“God, You are my God; I shall be watching for You; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and exhausted land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

These verses came home to me recently as I was visiting with someone. This man’s life had been controlled by alcohol and at the ripe young age of 67, he came to know Jesus as his Savior. He is now 78 and has not had a drink in all those years. He speaks of being in the muck and being pulled out in his former job (he is retired) with a major pipeline. His reference to Psalm 69 was so refreshing because he was able to make a great application with it. And he also spoke of how Jesus did that for him. He now stands on the Rock-Jesus-his refuge and strength. What a refreshing visit it was!  May his tribe increase!!

May my heart be as tender to God’s help and saving grace as his.

“Father, You are my strength. My rock. My refuge. May I always acknowledge that and live that.”