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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 21

Monday, November 21st, 2022

It is going to be a short week here at the “Shadow.” I’m going to post Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then take Thursday off to do what I have encouraged the church I pastor to do-give thanks.

Here is Post #1 for this Thanksgiving week.

It is not a secret than what is in our heart is what will spill out. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what is in the heart.” Proverbs tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what is in us will come out.

So…consider this scenario. You are walking along,, let’s say you have a glass of Dr. Pepper Zero in your hand. No lid. No straw. Then you get bumped, and when I say bumped I don’t mean tapped on the shoulder. What will happen to your drink? Most likely it will spill out-all over your hand and possibly onto the floor.

Let’s suppose that drink is you. Life gets tough. Someone bullies you, says something very unkind. Life throws you a curve. What comes out? Well, if we take what Jesus and Proverbs said, there is no question. Anger. Vitriol. Harshness. Jealousy. You get the drift.

But what if, instead of those ugly things, your heart is filled with gratitude to God for all He has given/blessed you with?

Big, big difference.

Thankfulness becomes the overflow of the song in our hearts. Instead of thinking how we got slighted, we focus on what we have.

My challenge for me-and for you-is to rid ourselves of all ingratitude over what we think God hasn’t given us or done for us, and allow gratitude to take up root in our hearts. then the overflow will be…

GRATITUDE

November 9

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.

November 7

Monday, November 7th, 2022

I have always had trouble with statements like “Good Luck” or “You were so lucky.” The same goes for “May the force be with you.” 🙂 Ditto on “It just happened to open up” or some form of “It just happened.”

This recently came home to me in spades.  Almost 2 weeks ago I hit my leg just above the ankle on a metal rod used to move a weight bench at the Y. It hurt like fire.  (And no I didn’t use words I shouldn’t, but I do confess to slamming a weight on the bar). I quickly developed a “goose egg” that looked like a hard-boiled egg in size. I came home and iced it then iced it off and on for the next couple of days. About a week ago I noticed my foot turned black and blue, as if I had sprained my ankle. I also noticed the nail of my big toe also had turned color (blood pooled under the nail). I had a nurse friend who came to take a look and recommended I get to a doctor to get checked for cellulitis. So the next morning I began calling a few minutes before 7 and got through right at 7:00. No openings.  In fact, she told me to call a central number and see if an opening was available. Nope. Nada. Zip. But she said she would take one more look and said, “Oh, I have an opening at 9:05.” So I went and the diagnosis was gravity was causing the bruising; the discoloring of the hematoma was due to some varicose veins I have; and she prescribed antibiotics for the developing cellulitis.  The metal rod must have broken my skin and allowed infection to fester.

But here is the kicker: I told her about my efforts to get in to see a doctor and found her (a PA in the same doctor’s office I use) open. Her answer…wait for it…”I just happened to have a cancellation this morning.”

“Just happened.” Oh…if she only knew. I didn’t have a chance to say anything to her because she was already walking down the hall. If she only knew what I know. “A man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can a person understand his way?” (Pr. 20:24)

“The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Pr. 16:9)

Chance? Luck? Just happened? I don’t think so. Luck, chance, or just happened are not words in God’s vocabulary.  And I refuse to have them in mine as well.

November 3

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

I’d like to continue with my devotional thought from yesterday’s devotion.

Have you ever had tinnitus? It is a ringing in the ears, a very unpleasant sound. It hinders hearing.

Have you ever had too much wax in your ear, so much so that it weighs against your ear drum? Not only does it have a physical side effect (vertigo) it also makes it hard to hear. Been there done that.

Have you ever felt like you were underwater and all you could hear was a sound like a seashell against your ear? It makes it hard to hear.

Have you ever been wearing headphones and found people talking to you and you either had no clue or could not make out what they were saying?

I have described some common, sometimes everyday occurrences. All of them affect our hearing. Okay, let’s move it into another realm.

Each day you read, watch, listen, or “veg out” to the news. Hour after hour of the same old garbage. This or that politician is off the rails. This or that legislation is good or bad. This or that country is considering going to war.

There is nothing wrong with knowing what is going on in the world. We can’t hide our heads in the sand. But the more we listen, the louder the voices get. Meanwhile, the one who has a steady diet of this nonsense sinks deeper and deeper into despair. As I said, I’m not opposed to knowing what is going on in the world, but enough is enough. There comes a point in time where we have to shut down the voices clamoring for our attention, stop, and listen to another voice.

It is the voice of the Father saying, “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice.” The question that comes up and needs answered is “How can I hear His voice if I’m not listening? And how can I hear if I’m listening too much to others?”

In a noisy world, we need to shut down the distractions and the steady diet of outside noise and take time to hear the voice of the Father.

Shut off the news. Silence the ringing in the ears of annoying claptrap. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling you to Him.

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 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

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: https://youtu.be/-c6pl6CaiD0

October 11

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

I was having lunch with someone yesterday and the subject came up about my weariness which has developed over the past few months. This person asked me what kind of weariness it was. It isn’t a spiritual weariness-my Encounter Time is intact.  {As aside: this is going to be long post. Not in length but in typing. Within these first two sentences I cannot even tell you how many corrections I have had to make as I type. *eye roll*} Sometimes my ET is exciting and revealing; sometimes mundane. Par for the course. It isn’t a physical weariness, even though at 69, now 70, I can expect that. I think it is more a mental weariness-not anything drastic-just mentally tired from time to time. Drained. The reality of my age as I read and watch people die is palpable. I’m not a doomsayer. I’m not depressed.

I’m a dreamer, but I’m also a realist. I realize my life has reached the words of Psalm 90:10- “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years, of if due to strength, 80 years.” I realize my life is closer to ending than starting. 🙂

But here’s the thing: I have so much I still want to give. I do not feel as though I have lived my life and am now ready to be put out to pasture. Philippians 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Jesus Christ.”  I want to live each day of my life as though it is the last and live it fully for Him. He knows the number of my days and whether it is one day, one week, one month, one year or more or less. All I know is I want to live each one purposefully. i want to live with passion. With wonder. With meaning. With the goal of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I am keenly aware that my age will slow me down some, that the vigor of my youth is waning, but I also know I’m not done yet. God is NOT done with me yet. Not as long as I have breath. As I read recently: “Time is not marching on-it’s running out.”

I can’t know the length of my life. No one can. But I can control the depth and influence of it. My moniker for years has been “Live the Adventure!” I want to live life maxed out in the end.

{All Scripture is from NASB2020}