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January 10

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Before I get started I would like to ask you to pray for two of my readers: Martha Orlando is in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia (not COVID-related) and Diane Ronzino is in the hospital with COVID-pneumonia.  Thanks.

One of the emotions many Christ-followers struggle with is bitterness. Frankly put: bitterness will eat a person alive. There is no one reason why bitterness rears its ugly head.

In 2 Kings 5 there is a story of Naaman. Naamen was a well-loved general but he was afflicted with leprosy. The real hero of the story is not Naaman (although he did have to exhibit faith). It is not Elisha, the prophet who told Naaman to wash in the Jordan 7 times. The real hero is, of course, God. But someone else is a player-a young Israelite girl who had been taken captive.

She approached her mistress, Naaman’s wife, about a prophet in Israel who could heal his leprosy. Her words were, “I wish my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.”

She had every right to be bitter. But instead, she had a tender heart. She wanted the best for her enemy, rather than hoping for the worst.

Taken as a captive how could she possibly do that? By refusing to be bitter. She sets an example for us. What is interesting  is how it shows Jesus to us.  She was not a bitter person. If anyone shows us we should not have bitterness it is Jesus. If anyone could have or should have been bitter it was Him. But instead of raining down invectives and hateful remarks and holding a grudge, Jesus chose to use very few words: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  That sounds like a great example to follow! It sure beats allowing ourselves to get eaten alive by poison inside us.

“Father help me to follow the example of the Israelite girl and ultimately, the example of Jesus. Help me not to hold a grudge or get bitter. Help me live in freedom.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

Jan 3

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

True confession: I wrote this on the morning of January 1.

At this point, I will be using 2 outside sources during my Encounter Time this year (besides the Bible reading I normally do). One, New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp (which I have used previously about 3 times. I took about a 2 year break), and Truth for Life, a 365 day devotional by Alistair Begg. Any reference I make to them will either be NMM (Tripp) or TFL (Begg).

To begin the year Begg focused on Genesis 1:1 (You probably know that by heart. 🙂 ). His basic thought was that God is God. He was before time, i.e. there was never a time God did not exist. He always existed in the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

I’m not going to belabor the point in order to impress you (I can’t do that anyway).  Instead, I want to lead off this new year with something I think is really important: no matter how deep a person wades into God; no matter how astute someone becomes by his study of God and His nature; no matter how conversant someone gets about God’s attributes, it is all for naught if God does not live in that person’s heart. It’s like the old saying, “Much learning doth make thee mad.” (Festus to the Apostle Paul in Acts 26:24)

Knowing about God is not the same as abiding in God. Knowing about God is not the same as allowing Him to reign over me and to change me.

“Father, I pray that this year will truly be a year of growing closer to You, of more than knowing stuff about You but really knowing You. As I read and journal help my words to be words You gave me, words that You are teaching me. Help me never to do this to impress others but to always lift Your name high.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

December 29

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

I am actually writing this early Monday morning in a Fairfield Inn breakfast area. No one is here yet so it is relatively quiet. Jo and Tami are still sleeping. I’m taking Braden to baseball conditioning since it is raining. Such a chore! 🙂 Anyway, I got up early to prepare for my day.  I’m glad I did.

I have been reading through the Psalms for the 2nd time this year but as I sat down with a strange Bible (not the one I use every morning), I searched for where I had left off. Nothing sounded familiar. That means either 1) I’m paying no attention when I’m reading 🙁 , or 2) I’m further ahead than I thought. No matter. I landed on the passage I was supposed to read this morning.

With 2022 fast approaching, there is always a question or two: what will it bring? and how will I do?  The answer to the first is “No clue.” The answer to the second can be found in Psalm 86.  Here is what I highlighted this morning:

Teach me Your way, Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your Name. I will give thanks to You, Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever. For Your graciousness to me is great, and you saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.  (86:11-13 NASB2020)

But You, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, Slow to anger and abundant in mercy and truth. (v.15)

Those are some pretty solid words (as Braden would say) to go into 2022 with. No matter the opposition I have nothing to fear. And when I do stumble and give in to the lies of the enemy, I have a compassionate and gracious God.

Good words from God’s Word to hold in my heart. I pray you will too.

December 23

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

This is my last devotion until after Christmas (at least at this point, unless “the Spirit moves me”). You know how minds can change! 🙂 We plan to leave Sunday after church for Ohio to visit our family. Our planned return is Tuesday. I will not be taking my computer and my phone is ancient everyone says (it is an iPhone 5). So I leave you with this thought until next Wednesday.

In his book (which I have mentioned several times this month), Paul David Tripp writes the following:

My hope in writing is that this devotional would stimulate you to live with a birth-of-Jesus mentality. My prayer is that the story of the birth, life, and sacrifice of Jesus would be the story that would shape everything in your life. I hope that whether it’s your finances, your marriage, your work, your sexual life, your friendships, your education, your leisure, or your future, that you would make sense of every dimension of your life through the lens of what the Christmas story tells you about life.” (Come Let Us Adore Him-p.145)

I like that phrase “birth-of-Jesus mentality.” To me that speaks of living in the moment, of being present, but also of having every aspect of my life controlled by an awareness of Jesus’s involvement and presence in my daily life.

What a great through! It’s like what the apostle Paul talked about when he wrote about taking every thought captive.

“Father, may I live with a birth-of-Jesus mentality. I ask that every thought be brought under submission to You. May I live with the birth of Jesus always in my vision.”

December 21

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

“Do not be afraid (Fear not); for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” Luke 2:10 (NASB2020)

Those words are meaningful and bring comfort to many. Tragically, there also many whose lives are overrun by fear. It’s almost like they live in a perpetual horror movie. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of what lurks behind the door. Afraid of every person. Afraid of taking a step into the unknown. Paul David Tripp wrote: “There’s nothing that could ever be known, exposed, or revealed about you that isn’t covered by the present grace that is yours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” (O Come Let us Adore Him-p.141)

The December 20th devotion from Our Daily Bread had the story of Linus from the Peanuts comic strip. Linus had a blue security blanket. He knew he should depend on it less but had trouble parting with it.

In the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus steps forward, with security blanket in hand, and quotes Luke 2: 8-14. When he hits “Fear not” he drops his blanket-the thing he clung to when afraid.

That begs the question: what do you cling to? What is your security blanket? Remember the Scripture says, “Fear not.” At this time of the year, don’t you think it is good time to lay aside that heavy weight and trust Him for your security?

“Father, help me to lay aside that which I am afraid of and lean on You more.”

December 7

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

I hate to admit that I’ve had a mixed “love affair” with Christmas down through the years. Maybe it is more accurate to say with Santa Claus. Of course, as a youngster I looked forward to Christmas.  What kid doesn’t? As a husband and father I was excited about my daughters’ excitement. But here is where things get a little “dicey.” I was not thrilled about the Santa Clause deal. And while I tried to focus the church folks on Jesus, I found myself getting “hard” against SC. We didn’t really talk about him with the girls nor did we talk against him. After all, Jo’s mom went all out and it would have been an effort in futility to do that.

Long story short: I’m ashamed to admit I became a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas time. While I enjoyed the nostalgia of celebrating Christmas as a child-the secrecy, the tree, the lights, the trains, the snow, etc-I was almost a Scrooge in taking that away from mine. Fortunately, Jo covered for me. 🙂 I enjoyed the laughter of my girls during Christmas. And I eventually straightened up. Strange that I would forget how much Christmas meant for me as a child and almost try to deny my own.

I know what my problem was…now. I was so focused on making sure others remembered the real meaning that I lost sight of it for me.  I focused so much negativity toward SC that I lost sight of Jesus. How crazy is that? Sure Christmas is more than being about presents and shopping and trees, all the trappings. But it is about giving.

And God set the standard! He gave the first gift! It doesn’t hurt to follow suit. And while I still try to focus myself and others on the meaning of the season (Jesus), I don’t want to lose the magic of the season either. The best gift I can give is myself. I can also give grace. My prayer is that will be my song this year.

Will you join in singing with me?

“Father, in spite of all that is going on around me, please help me to sing a song of joy to You this Christmas.”

Note: today is Veteran’s Day. Remember to thank one today for their service to our country and to preserving the freedom we enjoy.

December 6

Monday, December 6th, 2021

I read an interesting, funny, but true statement the other day:

Here’s how a Christmas list shifts over a person’s life: when we’re young, we make the list; when we’re middle aged, we fund the list; when we’re old, no one can figure out what should be on the list.”  (Goff-#337-p.390)

I chuckled. I’m in that latter group these days. I honestly want for nothing so I don’t know what to ask for. “What do you want for Christmas dad?” Answer: blank mind and stare (and no it is not dementia).

I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be when you think about it.  At my age a contentment, a settledness, should be part of my demeanor.

Here’s another factor: Jo and I are in the act of purging. We have taken bags of clothing and other stuff to various places. We have seen “FREE” furniture disappear out of our driveway.  We still have more. So it begs the question: why would I want more? One year I asked everyone not to give me anything but to send what they would have spent on me to a mission I designated. Only one that I know of did so. It is coming to that again I think.

How about you? What is your approach to giving? I’m curious to hear.

“Father, help me to keep things in perspective this Christmas. Help me not to get carried away with wants, desires, or even gift-giving.”

December 1

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

Well…today is officially the start of the Christmas season. I say that in spite of and a rejection of the display of Christmas things in October. (Some day Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by 8 tiny rabbits). I also say that in spite of Black Friday, which has now officially become Black Friday Week and Cyber Monday. Ugh!! I’ve received ads from vitamins to bicycle stuff to shave kits to (fill in the blank) telling me all about the sales pre and post Thanksgiving.  And there is, of course, Hallmark showing movies since November and they even had a Christmas in July! If that wasn’t weird seeing snow on the TV when it was 90+ degrees outside. I prefer the latter myself.

But, in my mind, December 1 starts it. That’s not saying I haven’t been using Christmas devotionals for the past couple months. I am, after all, a pastor who needs to prepare for the Christmas season. AHEM!

All that to say we are going to spend a lot of time this month-here, at work, at home, everywhere-talking about Christmas. With that in mind I give you a quote from Bob Goff’s book for something to think about:

We {Editorial note: his family) knew the way to show Jesus to people was to love the way He loved. When He went away, He said He was leaving His Spirit with us so we could become like Him and act like Him. It means we can love people who are excluded and alone during the holidays. It means we can love people who don’t love us back, the ones who seem to find joy in antagonizing us. The way we love difficult people lets everyone know the baby in the manger isn’t just a decoration. (#334-p.386)

Those are some really good words to start off thinking about Christmas. I especially like that last sentence. Just as the cross is more than piece of jewelry, so the manger is more than a prop in a scene on a lawn.

“Father, may I let others know this month (and always) that the manger is more than a prop. It shows love came down.”

November 29

Monday, November 29th, 2021

Full disclosure: I actually wrote this on the 26th.

Everyone is still asleep in my house so I thought I would take the time to journal. I’m reading through Paul David Tripp’s book, Come Let Us Adore Him. This is my 7th time through. i read it 3 times in 2017 and once each year since. It is a daily Advent devotional that I have used to prepare for Christmas. I read the December 11th devotion today. His opening prep statement says this:

The baby in the manger comes as a conquering King to dethrone us and then to enthrone Himself in our heart and lives forever and ever.

The whole devo is about the tug of war that goes on between us and our offspring and us and God. Our son doesn’t fight us about what to eat because he read a book on the Paleo diet and our daughter doesn’t argue with us about her bedtime as a result of an in-depth sleep study. They fight with us because it’s about kingdoms-theirs and ours.

We disagree with God because it’s a battle of kingdoms-His vs ours. Tripp makes a great point about why I get angry when driving. I get angry, not because they have broken God’s laws, but mine. In reality, it’s that way all the time. My way or the highway.

Jesus came to take the throne. He won’t take it forcefully, but He does want me to lay down my life willingly. Only when I’m willing to do that will I find salvation, peace, and contentment.

“Lord, may I willingly lay my life down and give you the throne.”

November 18

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Caution: longer than normal post

Ever since out daughter Tami’s heart attack, her life has changed.  One of those is the amount of weight she is allowed to carry.

Let me give you a back story. Ever since I can remember, Tami used to pack heavy. She would come home from class in high school and whether she drove or we picked her up, she would load herself up with as much as she could carry so she wouldn’t have to make another trip to the car. Book bag. Back pack. Basketball bag. Shoes. You name it; one trip. And one trip only. I didn’t know a high school kid could have so many arms.

Fast forward to her time as a teacher (23 years now). Same scenario. Why make an extra trip when you have a thousand arms to carry everything? Backpack. Check. Class work. Check. Lunch bag. Check. Clothes to walk in. Check. Head. Hmmmm seems to be attached but not sure. 🙂  (She is a kindergarten teacher after all).

Add to the mix that her apartment is upstairs (26 very narrow and steep steps) and when she came home she loaded her arms.

Anyway, the day she had her attack, we had to get her stuff from the school. I had to carry her back pack. I just became almost instantaneously the world’s strongest man! It felt like she had a ton of bricks in there! Nope. I checked. All school stuff.

Since her attack she has a weight limit of 20 pounds. I’m thinking she is testing that limit. 🙁

Jesus once told someone they needed to travel lighter. “Sell all your stuff and follow me.” Trust me when I say that isn’t easy to do. We are in a purging mode since Tami is moving in with us-at least temporarily-so we have to make room at home and in a storage. We have already made 2 trips to Goodwill and one to a local outreach as we purge our house and my sister-in-law’s storage. Last night we had a meal with some friends and he talked about downsizing, purging and living “small.”

I agree with Bob Goff who wrote:

To follow Jesus, we should learn to love big and pack light. The less we carry of our worries, stuff. personal vendettas, and poisonous relationships, the freer we’ll be to explore the frontiers of love. (#322-p.373)

Let’s purge the unnecessary and carry only the necessities. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Goodness. Meekness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

“Father, you know my prayer to purge all that does not belong in my heart. Continue that process in me.”