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February 15

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

“Lest we forget…”

I woke up this morning with that phrase running through my mind. “Lest we forget…” It’s not uncommon to hear that spoken at a commemoration service honoring men and women who have served our country. And we never should forget.

In I Corinthians 10 a phrase very similar to that is used not once, but twice. In 10:6 it says, “These things happened as a warning to us…” In verse 11 it says, “These things happened as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

The gist? Lest we forget.

As a follower of Jesus, I must not forget the lessons learned or to be learned. I need to recall the lessons others learned and shared lest I fall into the same pit they fell into or possibly avoided. Nor should I forget the lessons I have learned from past experiences.

I say all this because of an incident people just won’t let go of. All the “rage” this week has been the Travis Kelce dust-up with his coach, Andy Reid. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I could care less if Travis was telling his coach about his latest escapade with his overly-hyped girlfriend. I don’t care if he was telling Coach Reid that he had heartburn from his pregame meal. I. SIMPLY. DON’T. CARE.  But since I wasn’t born yesterday nor is my head buried under a rock, I cannot escape hearing or reading about the pundits, especially other overly paid football players. I read an article where several of them said, “If that had been me I would have been…” Then one of them pulled out the race card (Isn’t that getting kind of old?). It is my understanding these players quickly forgot the grace shown to them by the NFL just a few years ago. One was convicted of choking his girlfriend in college and yet…wait for it…he is given a second chance and drafted because he can catch an odd-shaped ball.  Did he forget? Obviously.

My point is this: “Lest we forget.” As a Christ-follower we must never forget what we deserved versus what we received. The Israelites were given the examples in I Corinthians 10 (I encourage you to read the first 12 verses for reference and context) so they would not forget. They must not forget the damage and tragedy of sin and disobedience. But they also must not forget the goodness of God.

Good words for me to remember lest I forget.

February 12

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is now part of what is being called President’s Day which is a celebration on February 19th, a conglomerate of Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday (22nd). I can remember when we used to celebrate them separately. Now I can’t even remember when that changed. Perhaps that happened when we got all “revisionist history?” I don’t know. My post today is not going to go down that rabbit trail.

Instead, Abraham Lincoln was known for making wise statements. I’d like to take a brief look at two of them.

One actually finds it roots in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Lincoln once said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Those words are very similar to those found in Proverbs 17:28.

The other is a bit more confrontive. With the Civil War spawning bitter feelings all across our country, Abe saw fit to speak a kind word about the south. A shocked bystander asked him how he could do that. His answer was poignant: “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?”

Jesus once said, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:43). “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If you are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will reap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” (Pr. 25:21-22).

Instead of responding tit for tat, let’s respond as Jesus has told us, and as Proverbs has encouraged us to. There is power in our actions…or inaction.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

February 6

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

Have you ever heard of Judson Van Deventer? Neither had I. Or so I thought. It was not until I read -as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story”-that I knew more about him than I thought.

Born on a farm, JVD learned to paint, studied art, and became an art teacher. God, however, had different plans for him. Encouraged by his friends, Judson also felt called to evangelism. But it was hard for him to give up teaching art. He finally made his decision.

Following God is not always (like hardly ever) easy. Sometimes we are challenged to make tough choices. Our comfortable, sedentary life is uprooted. Even though we make the choice to follow Jesus and His call, there may still be moments of doubt and even anxiety.

Judson heeded God’s call. Later he went back to teaching. His decision to surrender even led to a song you may heard or sung: “All to Jesus I surrender/All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him/In His presence daily live/I surrender all, I surrender all/All to Thee my blessed Savior/I surrender all.”

Oh…and one more thing: remember when I said that Judson eventually went back into teaching? One of his students was a young man who name was…wait for it…Billy Graham.

I was speaking with someone yesterday about God’s plan for our life. About how His surprises are endless. And how His timing is impeccable. We never know…only He does.

{My thanks to Our Daily Bread for the story of JVD. The filler is mine}

#LivesAreChanged

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Watching a child learn to walk is an experience worth having. The first steps are a major accomplishment and come with some pain (on the child’s part as he/she falls and on yours was you watch it). When they do take those first fledgling steps I’m not sure who is more excited-the parents or the child. Of course, there will be challenges and failures (more of the latter to start with), and we expect that. The progression from those first tentative steps to wobbling to more steadiness to running to jogging to sprinting and then to long-distance running is fun to watch.

As in life, so in the Christian walk. Life is not at a standstill. If it is, the person is in deep trouble.

By the same token, if the church is not helping lives to be changed, it is in a rut also. Understand, I don’t believe the church changes lives. Jesus does that. And only Him. But we have a hand in it. if we are not reaching out and spreading the message of the Gospel, then as Paul asks in Romans 10, “How can they hear unless someone tells them?”  It is also important to see that we who name the name of Christ, who claim Him as our Savior also change. To remain the same is like a child learning to walk and at the age of 10 still holding onto furniture, taking a step or two and then falling, rolling over to their knees and getting back up. We would be concerned…as well we should. 

I’m continuing my series on WELCOME HOME…where… 

  • The Gospel is Preached
  • Jesus is Honored
  • Grace is Offered

This week’s message is WELCOME HOME…where…  

LIVES ARE CHANGED

Join us in person or via live stream at 9:00 or 10:45. We would love to hear from you.

February 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I read a heartwarming story of a college basketball star (no name given) who stayed behind after the game to help with the clean up of empty cups and food wrappers. A fan posted a video and more than 80 thousand people viewed it. One person commented, “[The young man] is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet in your life.” It would have been more expected of that young man to go out and celebrate rather than to do clean up work.

That young man learned two words which are rapidly becoming non-existent in our culture: humility and service. And they go hand in hand. While beating the chest and wagging hands and fingers as though asking for and collecting applause are what is seen (and expected from the player), humility and service paint a different picture. While “thug-ball” and “stop-em-in-the-ground ball” and “how-much-money-can-I-make” ball is all the rage, off to the side is the humble one quietly doing his/her job with an attitude of a servant.

Oops, I said that wrong. I’m not allowed to call myself or anyone else a servant these days. It is demeaning. It is a slap in the face. It is misogyny. My one word response? Hogwash. It is not demeaning to be a servant. In fact, I’ll venture so far as to say we need it more now than ever. We have gone so far…down I might add…when we consider being called a servant is demeaning or any of the other adjectives you can use.

Me? I want that. After all, the One I gladly serve and call Lord, the Greatest Man who has ever lived or ever will live (Jesus) once said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Call me a humble servant. Please. There is no greater compliment.

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Please don’t forget to check out my review of Granger Smith’s book Like a River at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.

January 25

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Have you ever cried out for help and received it? Or maybe not?

I was struck today by a chapter in the Bible I have read countless time before but never saw what hit me until this morning. It is Psalm 107.  It begins with a familiar refrain that was repeated in some previous psalms: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (107:1)

Okay. Sounds like something I or maybe you have read before. But then the writer veers from script and begins to recount different events in the life of the wandering Israelites, as well as other events unrelated to them. What I noticed though (and missed this before) is that four times they cry out the same thing: “Lord help! they cried in their trouble and he rescued them from their distress.” Those same words are used in verses 4, 13, 19, and 28. So four times we see their cry, “Lord help!” and four times we see His response: “He saved them from their distress.”  Now watch what God did:

  • He led them straight to safety-v.7
  • He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom-v.14
  • He sent out His word and healed them-v.20
  • He calmed the storm to a whisper- v.29

Simple point: they cried out for help. God acted. Please read the chapter for yourself and do your own investigation. Let me close this simple devotion with two more verses:

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”  (107:43)

“Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. With God’s help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes.” (108:12-13)

Cry for help. He will answer. He will fight for you. And remember (as I told someone yesterday): God is seldom early, but He’s never late.

{All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

January 23

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

“Why?” “Why me?”

Those just may be two of the most asked questions in human conversation. I won’t lie. I’ve said them or some variation of them. We usually say them or hear them during a particularly tough time we or someone we know is going through.

I very, very seldom ask that question any more. In fact, as long as I can remember, I stopped asking it years ago. Why? Because there is no answer to it. I mean, how can you or I honestly know why we are going through this rough patch? We can pile on the shame or the guilt or the “I deserve this” or “God’s getting even with me,” but that won’t answer it.

The real reason I stopped asking that question though is because I started asking another one: “Now that this is happening to me God, how do you want me to act?” How does God want me to respond to this trial?

I just finished reading Country Music star, Granger Smith’s book, Like a River. {Spoiler alert: I am not a CM fan} {Spoiler alert #2: Look for a review of Granger’s book on my other site, Cycleguy’s Spin, soon}. Granger and his wife, Amber, lost their son, River, in a tragic drowning accident in their home pool. This book is his story. There was a lot of good teaching that came through his book, but one that struck a chord was after he tells about speaking at a men’s breakfast conference at the church they were attending. It was exactly one year since he had walked into that same church building for Riv’s funeral. When he was done, he wrote that he wasn’t sure if any of those men benefited from what he said, but he did.  He learned that by sharing his story of pain and redemption God was answering his question. Not the one he asked why. “The one that asked God, ‘What are you trying to show me through this heartache?'” (p.178)  He then wrote that God responded with Isaiah 41:10-“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  He goes on to comment: “God was reminding me to depend on Him. He would be there to pick me up and push me forward from the bottom of the river’s waterfall.” (Ibid).

The question to ask is not “Why? Why me?” The real question to ask is “What now? God, how do you want me to respond? What do you want me to learn?”

Sure changes the perspective doesn’t it?

January 21

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

One of the most loved and most quoted verses in the Bible is Isaiah 40:28-31- “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

It is the latter part of that passage which holds special meaning. The image of an eagle has profound meaning to many. From the end of the Hobbit when the heroes are surrounded by hordes of goblins only to hear the shout, “The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!” to this passage of Scripture, eagles leave us with a tremendous picture. Even using the eagle as a symbol of our country gives us the impression of strength and dignity.  Consider the following Scriptures:

In Exodus 19:4 we read that God told His people that “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”

Deuteronomy 32:11 is where Moses writes, “Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions.”

Countless times in Psalms we read of being under the protective care of the wings of a bird. The wings of eagles depict God’s protective nature and tender care.

This passage in Isaiah 40 has an ever more beautiful meaning. Often at a funeral as I’m trying to give words of comfort to the grieving family during my talk, I will use the story of a mother eagle teaching her eaglets how to fly. When it is time to leave the nest, the mother will gently nudge her young out of the nest, but not abandon it. As the eaglet falls and is unable to fly, the mother will swoop under it, “bear it up,” and take it to the nest only to repeat the process until the eaglet can gain strength to fly on its own.

Surely you can see that is exactly what God does for His loved ones. We are “pushed out” of the nest and when we falter, where our strength is lax, God bears us up. We are taken for a rest only to be challenged again. Eventually, we learn that God’s strength is sufficient.

No matter what kind of day you are facing, may you know His strength. May you know He never abandons you…EVER.

{All Scripture references are the New Living Translation}

January 18

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

As one reads the Bible, it is not unusual to read of someone and think they must have always been like that. Case in point: the Apostle John. We read today from the vantage point of 2000+ years later and we see an apostle of love. We see the aged John-respected, loved and depicted as one full of grace and truth.

But he wasn’t always like that. John had a temper. He also had a vengeful streak. We might even call him sectarian to some degree. Mistreatment of Jesus led to he and his brother, James, wanting to call down fire from heaven to consume the city. In another incident, he and James wanted Jesus to promise they would get preferred seating in the kingdom-one on His right and one on His left. Jesus was not fond of that idea. They wanted Jesus to rebuke a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but because he was not with their “tribe” they wanted him silenced. (Mk. 9:38).  That didn’t work out too well either.

Over time, John was changed. That’s what happens when people spend time with Jesus. John reminds me of those who are committed to the truth, who “tell it like it is.” But that is all you see. Love? What’s that? All truth. No love. Over time John became known as the Apostle of love. Shall we say “more balanced”?

I read the following:

John was always committed to the truth, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people. Truth without love has no decency; it’s just brutality. On the other hand, love without truth has no character; it’s just hypocrisy. (40 Lives in 40 Days-MacArthur-p.19)

I’ve heard it said that “all truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentality.” True that.

There needs to be a balance. We may take pride in being a “tell it like it is” kind of person, but honestly, what good is it if we turn everyone off?”

Find the balance. Truth AND love go together.

January 17

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

I used to have a haunting dream/thought. I felt like a failure. Not that I expressed it to anyone; it was something I kept to myself and, at times, brooded over. Since it was an internal musing and not expressed out loud, I’m not even sure Jo knew. In fact, I’m almost positive she did not.

Like many young men coming out of Bible college/seminary, I thought I had the world by the proverbial tail. I was going to accomplish great things. I would attend a conference and see and hear speakers/pastor/youth pastors of influence and dream that would be me someday. I would be the pastor of a big church, although I never saw myself as the pastor of a megachurch. I’m more designed by God to be a shepherd than a CEO. (I lost a job largely because of that mentality). But even though I knew certain characteristics of my personality probably held me back, I still had ambivalent emotions as I watched guys my age or younger “move up the ranks.” I know part of it was because I wouldn’t schmooze and play politics in the church world. Meanwhile, all my efforts to be a biblical, expositor preacher seemed to go unseen and unrewarded (in my mind at least). “Why not me?” reared its ugly head more than I care to admit. The twins, envy and jealousy, made their appearance, but fortunately didn’t stay very long because they were unwanted. While my friends we advancing, I was pastoring churches of 100-200, sometimes less. One was 35 which grew to 50 in 16 months but it about killed me spiritually.

Then one day, God got through to me. He didn’t make me nor want me in a big church. He didn’t care whether I broke the 200 or 300 barrier and did all that I was supposed to do to make that happen. Small churches need pastors too. Small churches need men who will love and lead them.  I broke. I realized God (almost) always does His work through ordinary people. I’ve stated it before: in God’s economy there are no little people (as the late Francis Schaeffer called them); there are just ordinary people God uses in extraordinary ways.

When I realized that, I found contentment in my work. I currently pastor a church that is less than 200. I have never been happier and more content that I have been for the past 18 years. No matter what you do-no matter how big or how small-be content and just be His. As martyred missionary Jim Elliott once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” That includes that seemingly insignificant thing or job you do.

God is not interested in you being extraordinary. He simply wants to use the ordinary you in extraordinary ways.