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January 20

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

If you were given $86,400 each morning what would you do?  Oh…one stipulation: use it or lose it. You either use all $86,400 each day or you forfeit the unused portion. What would you do? Withdraw it, of course.

The point to be made is that each day we are given 86,400 seconds. We have to use them all because they don’t carry over to the next day. (I think that is why when we say, “I’m going to catch up on my sleep” we don’t. We can’t because that ship has sailed).

As followers of Jesus we are told to “redeem the time.” I take that to mean we are to use it wisely. In Psalm 90:12 it says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (NASB2020). We are told elsewhere that our steps are ordered by the Lord.

We only have so many days here on earth. And there is only ONE who knows how many. Redeeming the time means that however many days I have here on earth, I will use them wisely. I am currently 69 years old. You have to tack on a few months since my birthday is in October. If I figure only 365 days/year-not counting Leap Year-and don’t count the days since my birthday, I have lived over 25,185 days. (No wonder I’m tired). I’ll let you do the math on how many seconds that is.

Truthfully, that is not what is important. What IS important is how I have marked my time today and will mark whatever is left in the future. Today is the day God has given me. I need to use it wisely.

Are you?

“Father, thank You for the time we have had together and thank You for the time we will have. Help me to mark my days and use them wisely.”

January 19

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

I live near a very secular college located in a very liberal and secular town. If one doesn’t agree with the liberal agenda and secularism then that person is made to feel on the “outs” and is in for a long road to hoe.

I wonder if Paul felt those feelings as he made his way to Mars Hill in Acts 17. As he looked around, the Athenians were proud of their multi-cultural, pluralistic approach (not sure they would have called it that) to “religion.” His go-to in his sermon was there is only one God and while He will overlook ignorance for a short time, it won’t last forever.

Roman culture could not and would not tolerate Christianity because of one truth: the early Christian’s belief that there is only one God and there is salvation in no other name. Jesus is not just some add-on god to the many in Paul’s day or in ours. While the Romans were tolerant of multiple gods, they were intolerant of the faith which taught there is only one God and only ONE WAY to that God.

Sound familiar?

Biblical Christianity, with a Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me“; a crucified and risen Savior; and a God who wants allegiance only to Him, is as offensive to our world as it was to the Romans. Ultimately, every knee will bow and every false religion will bow at the feet of Jesus.  (Phil.2: 10-11)

I’ll stake my claim and my life on that.

“Father, I believe Jesus is the only way to You. No matter what that may lead to, may I always stand firm on that truth.”

January 13

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

I once had a pastor (a mentor early in my ministry) tell me to never get close to anyone in the church I serve. In other words, don’t have or make friends. Say what?

I can tell you that did not work with me. I am a naturally gregarious person. I laugh a lot. I can be too loud at times. But one thing I need and want is friends. I broke his rule. In just about every church I have served I have gotten close to someone. Sure, there have been occasions where it came back to bite me in the butt, but the friendships I do have and are still ongoing are special to me.

There’s Doug. A college friend who still meets with me 2-3 times/year at a place in between where we live for pizza. For now it requires over a 2 hour drive for me. But it is worth it. A thousand times over.  Granted, he is the exception to the church “rule”.

There’s Jim. I met Jim over a common “like”-he liked to ride bikes. We have pedaled many miles together. His cancer and relocation and his retirement has made it tough but we still try to get together. I’ve known Jim since the 90s.

There’s Ryan. I met him in 2007 after he corresponded with one of our men about the church after seeing us online. They were moving to this area and so we corresponded by email first and I was able to welcome he and his family to OVCF and to the area.  Our first time as families was lunch at Chicago’s pizza buffet in the town they lived in at the time. It became one of many Sunday lunches after church as our friendship was cemented. He had to move about 45 minutes away several years ago but Jo and I still get together with them.

Friendship is amazing! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ friendship with people? He spent time with the strangest people- a tax collector, a prostitute, a leper, an immoral woman (Jn.4).  It didn’t matter because a friendship with Jesus meant a changed life.  There is verse after verse in Proverbs which talks about the value of friendship.  Even Jesus mentioned its importance.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know my life has been richer and fuller because of my friends. I pray it has been reciprocal. 

“Father, we sing a song about Jesus being the friend of sinners. Help to follow His example, all for the purpose of enriching someone’s life.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 7-9

Friday, January 7th, 2022

I am not normally going to post on the weekends, but this devotion came to me so I thought I would share it.

I wonder what it was like to be in Paul’s shoes. In 2 Corinthians 12 he speaks about being taken up into the third heaven. But he quickly changes his focus to his humility. Not bagging about it (because if he did he would no longer be humble!). Instead, he talks about how God keeps him from getting proud. His words: “to keep me from exalting myself.”  {Hmmm: does that speak to those who like to tell their stories for their few minutes of fame?}

But even more importantly is the lesson he is taught:  God’s grace is sufficient for any weakness. What an important truth to remember!

There is a saying, a thought, I often hear expressed which I think is very appropriate here: when you come to the end of yourself that is the best place to be. It is when you have nothing left, that you realize Christ is all you need.

Paul learned that.  He goes on to say, “Most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (v.9b)

That’s a good lesson for today and for the weekend. Well…for the future.

“Father, may I realize I am incapable on my own to counter all that comes. May I seek Your strength and grace to live a life which glorifies You.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 6

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

As I read 2 Corinthians 11 this morning I highlighted a couple of verses.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (v.3)

Then I read these two verses:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verses 13-14)

I drew a line connecting them. According to verse 4, the Corinthians were good at welcoming false teachers. They were not very discerning. The word we would use is they were “tolerant” of false teachers.

On one hand that is easy to see. Someone comes in and very subtly teaches something which sounds good but really isn’t. The undiscerning don’t catch it. They accept it as “gospel.” What makes it hard is more often than not it isn’t the big things which cause the slip-the deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Scriptures, that Jesus was fully God and fully man, etc. What I would call the “biggies.” It’s often the small things, say like a grab for power over time that cogs the wheel and gums up the engine. Or even legalism which sneaks in as “this is how a follower of Christ lives.”

I certainly am not dismissing having a discerning eye toward whacky things, like those pushed by Bethel and those of their ilk.  Ideas like calling themselves apostles, gold dust falling from the ceiling, and other non-biblical ideas. We need to be aware of cults like that, of those who sneak in putting our faith at risk. Given the infamy of today’s date, I’d even go so far as to say those who believe politics should be preached from the pulpit need to be examined more closely.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes and heart open to Your truth. Help me to be discerning to recognize what is not truth.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 4

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Before I start would you please pray for one of my most faithful readers and commentors: Martha Orlando. Her husband, Danny, contacted me yesterday asking for prayer. She is in the hospital with pneumonia.  Thanks and I know she will appreciate it.

WOW! A wealth of info flooded me today. I’m narrowing it down to one dominant thought (at least for me).

God wants me to be present in the moment, but there is no way He expects me to focus here and live here forever.

We often hear people say-and rightly so-be in the present. What they are saying, I think, is don’t live in the past. For a mom or dad they are saying, “Be all there for your children. Don’t be playing with them on one hand and have a phone in the other.” For some-like sports teams-they are saying, “Don’t look ahead to the next game or games. Focus first on this one.” And that is so true. A person who focuses on the past will always be making crooked lines. The team (or person) who always focuses on the future games will lose sight of now.

I believe that I need to learn from the past and not dwell there. I also need to live in the present but not dwell there either. Although I do not know what my future holds, I need to remember that God does. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells me “Trust in the Lord with all my heart and do not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will make my paths straight.” (word changes mine)

Paul David Tripp wrote:

If eternity is the plan, then it makes no sense to shrink your living down to the needs and wants of this little moment. (Jan 3-NMM)

That reminds me of the unicorn in C.S.Lewis’ Narnia book, The Last Battle. When the unicorn sees heaven he says, “This is the land I’ve been looking for all my life.” For the Christ-follower that should be true. He has set eternity in our hearts. I’m not made for this world only. Neither are you. Let’s live for the now with an eye always looking to the future.

“Father, I trust you to take my past. I can’t change it. Help me to live in the now but not be stuck here. Help me to keep my eyes firmly planted on the future.”

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 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 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Am I alone? I think not. Here is why I ask that. In fact, I’ll answer that with a question:

Why is it that for many of us, Christmas is a mixed blessing?

I suspect some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is Bill asking that for?” Hang in there with me.

While I will smile and laugh and be jovial, there will be those who are sad, will cry, and feel as thought their heart will break.

While I will receive some gifts (I have, after all, been very good) 🙂  there will be those who will receive nothing.

While I will hopefully spend time with family and friends, there will be those who have no family or friends and will be alone.

While I will be warm and “snug and a bug in a rug” at night, there will be those who will shiver and long for a warm bed or fire.

You get my drift now? Happy. Sad. Laughter. Tears. A mixed bag. I realize life is like that. I’m not telling you anything your don’t already know. But while I am experiencing all the good of the season, there are those who have been forgotten, are forgotten, or long for what maybe once was.

The tragedy is that I’m not really sure what to do about it. I don’t live in a big town that has a homeless population or even a home for those on the street. So let me turn it to you: what do you suggest? Do you have this same dilemma? What is your solution? I’m open for suggestions.

“Father, help me not to close my eyes to the plight of others. Give me wisdom to see with Your eyes what others need.”

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.”