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July 29

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

If I may borrow a thought from Paul David Tripp this morning: “Too many followers of Christ have schizophrenia” (schizo from here on). He calls it “evangelical schizo.” The following is my attempt to explain it, apply it and challenge with it (in my own words).

Schizo, according to medical journals is “a long term and seasonal mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning.” We might also see them as multiple personalities.

All that psychobabble aside, it is easy to see how this applies to many follower of Jesus-not mentally-but spiritually. One glaring example is how we see and say life is forever, there is something better, yet we live as if this earth-this life- is all there is. We talk about eternity, but we live as if this earth is all there is.

Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). He goes on to write: “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil.1:23-24 NLT)

Paul’s struggle was not like ours is.  He didn’t want to stay here to fulfill his own wishes and desires and wants. He wanted to stay here for the folks. His unfinished business was not material; it was spiritual.

There is nothing wrong with desiring to go to heaven. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay here. The schizo happens when we take our eyes off our heavenly prize and live as if life on earth is all that matters.

“Father, cure me of any schizo I may exhibit. While I’m here, use me and keep me focused on my greater prize.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”

 

July 22

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

As I study through Mark, there are some wonderful stories and events and teachings of Jesus. One of the most insightful is found in Mark 12, the story of the widow’s mite found in verses 41-44. Four short verses but what a wallop!

Most know the story. Jesus sat down near the collection box (interesting place to sit and observe) and was people-watching. I like to watch people too. While everyone else goes to an amusement park to ride, I like to go to watch people. (Besides, I can’t do circles). And, as you can imagine, one can see quite a diverse group of people. But to sit near the offering plate and watch people put in their money is not something I would do (and don’t). 

But as you can see, Jesus had a reason. He watched the rich people put in large amounts. Then He watched a poor widow come and drop in 2 small coins. It would be easy to be judgmental and criticize her by thinking she didn’t give much. At least not when compared to the others.

But Jesus turns that type of thinking on its head. You see, in God’s economy big is not always better. A small,  humble amount/gift given in secret is much greater than an ostentatious gift given to be seen by others. I was speaking with someone Tuesday at a funeral and commented that it isn’t the size of the gift but the size of the heart that really mattered.

God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our heart. This widow gave her heart; the rich gave their money. Jesus saw it. He even said so: “This poor widow has given more that all the others who are making contributions.” (v.43 NLT)

It’s good to give your money; it is better to give your heart.

Father, here’s my heart. I’m giving it to you in surrender. Help me to see that it is so much more important to give my heart than to try to substitute money or something else.”

July 20

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Influence.

That word drips with meaning.

Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” We talk about events that “influence an election.” We call someone an MVP because of the way they have influenced a team or a game. It is a favorite word being used about people: “they are influencers.”

We also talk about influencing lives. I see that as saying that I have an affect on people. The way I live can direct or misdirect someone. The way I care. The way I talk to them. The way I teach. And yes, the way I love.

Influence is long-lasting. I can see my influence in my daughters’ lives, even today. I’m hoping I can see a long-lasting influence on my grandson’s life. I can see it in the church people I hear from. I know that in all things my influence has been both positive and (sadly) negative.

People will remember how I have influenced their lives. That’s why Paul wrote that love is the greatest of all. People remember whether I loved them or not. Just as I hope and pray Jo and my girls and grandson never doubt or forget my love for them. When I die and I’m gone, the best test of my influence is what lasts. What carries on. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

Anything is worth doing if it’s done with love, and nothing’s worth doing if it comes at love’s cost. (p.240)

What kind of influence are you having on people? is it one you want to be remembered for?

“Father, may my influence be because of Your work in my life and not because I took it upon myself. Shine though me.”

Bob Goff’s book is entitled  Live in Grace-Walk in Love.

July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

I’m sure you have heard or maybe even had one of those love/hate things going on.

You love ice cream (guilty) but hate the calories (I don’t care).  🙂

You love pizza (guilty again) but hate the results (ditto).

You love feeling and looking good (guilty) but hate the exercise required (can’t say this).

Instead of the word “hate” use the words “don’t like it all that much.” 🙂

Seriously though, there are certain love/hate things that go on in my life. One occurred to me as I listened to a podcast Tuesday while driving…then I read something on Wednesday morning during my Encounter Time that cemented it. Please take a moment and read Hebrews 12:5-11. Again, I could link it here but I encourage you to get your Bible out and read it slowly.

Discipline. It took me a long time to separate discipline from punishment. Growing up I had someone who mistook punishment for discipline. As a father, I had to wrestle with my upbringing, to separate them and to realize that discipline was to teach. I didn’t always succeed (I’m ashamed to admit).

Even now I sometimes struggle with God and whether He is disciplining me or punishing me.

The truth is real though. I disciplined my girls because I love them. John Cooper (lead singer of Skillet) was a guest on the podcast (Alisa Childers) and he was telling how he disciplined his daughter and explained to her he did it because he loved her. A week or so later she came to him and said, “Daddy, that man hates his son.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because he is pushing all the kids around and his dad won’t tell him to stop.”  🙂 🙂 

Needless to say she got John’s point.

And even though I am not fond of God’s discipline (sometimes it really hurts), I know He loves me.

“Father, thank you for Your discipline. It shows me You love me. Help me not to forget that truth when it hurts.”

July 13

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Sometimes people say something or write something that rocks my world. Or at least stops me dead in my tracks.

Time for an honest confession: I put a lot into Sunday morning. Study. Research. Study. Reading. Prayer. Practice to an empty auditorium.  Study. Did I say study? 🙂 All for a short (but hopefully not too painful) 20-25 minute span of a Sunday morning. And I have to keep reminding myself that most, if not all, will not remember what I said.

That is why what Bob Goff wrote stopped me dead in my tracks:

Words will never move people the way love does. If our actions are motivated by love, we don’t have to worry about having big platforms or positions of power, because nothing holds a candle to love that has no agenda. (p.233)

Ouch!! I take his words seriously. All my yacking from the pulpit “ain’t worth spit” if I don’t love. Hmmm. Sounds a little like I Cor. 13:1 doesn’t it?

Recently I texted somebody and said, “It is one thing to say you love and another to live it. You live it.” I was dead serious.

I believe it is important to be ready for Sunday morning, don’t get me wrong. But I also think it is important to get to the point of hating the spotlight (it glows off my bald head anyway) and just be a light. To borrow a further thought from Bob: hate the spotlight and just be a light.

“Father, help me to love by living for you. That light will shine brighter than any effort I may make.”

July 12

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Back in the ’80s I saw a movie that I haven’t been able to forget the main point.  It was about a young man who wanted to serve God but always saw himself doing it on a “big screen.” I don’t mean the “big screen” as in movies, but in doing big things. Like a big evangelist preaching to thousands (think Billy Graham big). The crux of the movie is that he realizes that to serve God and make an impact does not always mean b-i-g.

I’m not sure of the movie title (although I think I know it) so I’d rather not say it here. But I’ve never forgotten the premise of the movie.

A lot of Christ-followers think they have to do big things for God. They seem to always be scheming for their “next big venture.”

Two things seem to happen there. One, they keep striving for that big thing, and two, others feel inferior because what they do for Jesus seems so small. The Bible says we are all gifted differently. Some are gifted with those “up front” gifts, while others are gifted with more of a “behind the scenes” one. When it all shakes out, every gift is just as important. Go look at I Cor. 12 if you doubt that.

Long story short: we are all necessary. God’s kingdom and God’s work are not limited to the “biggies” and those up front. Where would the main actors be without the make-up artists, the stagehands, etc?  I have gone to several plays and shows where the props were moved by all those involved. Where would the pitcher who throws a no-hitter be without the other 8 players? That speaks volumes (or should) to the pastor, missionary, or Christ-follower who thinks its all about him.

“Father, help me to realize living for You and serving You is not a one-man team. It is a total effort of all involved.  Help me not to get too big for my britches.”

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”