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October 21

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I recently finished a book by Tony Evans called Kingdom Heroes. It was based on Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith written about there. One of those heroes was an unlikely person-a woman named Rahab.

Rahab is first mentioned in Joshua 2 where she harbored the Jewish spies in Jericho. She listened to her own people talk about the God who was doing powerful things and she believed what they said. She hid the spies and then helped them escape, but not before she had secured the safety of her and her family when the Israelites came for Jericho. We know from Matthew 1 that it was successful; she married Salmon; they had Boaz (husband to Ruth); who had Jesse, the father of David.

All of that is a wonderful testimony to God’s plan and protection.  But the story of Rahab is also a testimony of grace unlimited. In our human way of thinking, could there be anyone more undeserving of God’s grace than a prostitute? But in God’s way of thinking could there be anyone more in need of it? And while we may say yes to the undeserving part, we must also recognize that if God did it for her, what does that say about us? To me, it only says one thing: grace is for me too. Abundant grace. I may not be a prostitute, but I am a sinner.  A sinner in need of grace. God can and has taken people with bad reputations, with those society (and the church) think are too far gone and restored them. He transforms even the sloppiest, dirtiest, and most sinful people into “trophies” for His hall of faith.

May I be one of them.

“Father, I thank you a thousand times over for your marvelous grace. You showed that grace in Rahab’s life. You show it in mine. May I be a testimony to that.”

October 19

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

I think one of the hardest things to do is to deflect praise from oneself to where it belongs. In the past we had a boxer (Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali) proclaim early in his career that he was the greatest. Sportscasters are known to choose a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).  Recently, a football player announced that he was “the greatest.” I was so disgusted by this shameless self-promotion just from a headline, I couldn’t tell you who it was, what team he played for, or what position he played.

How different from these words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise Him, you servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.” (Ps.113:1-4)

Or these:

Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.” (115:1)

What a difference-taking credit or giving credit. The psalmist is unequivocal in his stand: the name of the Lord is to be praised. I don’t, you don’t, deserve any praise. It all goes to Him. Deflect it there.

“Father, You are worthy of my praise. May I never gather praise or seek praise for myself. May I always deflect it to You.”

All Scripture is from the NASB2020 edition.

October 13

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

One of the arguments made against God and against the Christian life and the reality of Jesus is the ineptness of God’s Word. It’s outdated. It’s useless. It’s irrelevant. It’s full of mistakes. It’s full of contradictions. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

Many of those arguments are made by those who say they are Christ-followers. Perhaps a better word to use is “were” Christ-followers. Some are deconstructing.  It is a misnomer to call oneself a Christ-follower and deconstruct at the same time. So they will say, “I was a Christ-follower but now I am (fill in the blank), or as one has come out saying, “I believe in the Universal Christ.”  What in the world is that? But I digress.  One cannot be a Christ-follower and deconstruct. We are either for Him or against Him. Jesus Himself said a person must choose one way or the other.

God’s Word is true. God’s Word is relevant. God’s Word is inerrant. God’s Word has no mistakes. God’s Word can inspire a person to change and even to do what he/she didn’t think possible.

I like the words of Psalm 19:7-10. I’d like to encourage you to stop right now and read them. Highlight them in your Bible.

Trust His Word. It is, as the psalmist says, “A lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” (119:105). Jesus once said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Mk.13:31)

Stand on the promises of God.

“Father, Your Word is light and life to me. May I always show respect for Your Word and You as the Author.”

October 12

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Bone-tired. Weary beyond belief. Asleep on his feet. Those are just some of the phrases we will use to describe how we feel. I’ve been there. So tired I can barely think. So weary it was an effort to pick my feet up and put one foot down in front of another.

I’ve been there spiritually as well. The battles have been intense. The days long; the nights short. The arm wielding the sword hanging by my side. The helmet askew; the head bowed in weariness, and yes, even defeat. The armor stripped off because I am just too wiped out to wear it. The shoes too heavy for my feet.

But from out of nowhere comes a second wind. As Petra sang it so many years ago: “I got my second wind/The Spirit is moving again.” Isaiah 40:28-31 has just happened!

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, And to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  (NASB2020)

The end of myself became the beginning of Him. The end of my strength became the beginning of His.

Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Weariness touches us all.  But so does the energy of the Spirit. I find myself rejuvenated.

Physically- the weariness gives way to intentional movement.

Mentally- a clarity comes that assesses situations and knows how to act.

Spiritually- The “light goes on” and a fresh wind blows through.

God’s Word is once again true: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”

“Father, thank you for that fresh breath, that promised life which comes from You keeping Your Word.”

October 11

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Our small group has been discussing the topic of suffering. Last night we talked about suffering being fair or not.

We all came to the conclusion that suffering being “fair” should not be in our vocabulary.  It most certainly is not a biblical word. I think (personally) what happens to many of us is we begin to compare our situation with someone else’s and the word “fair” comes out. How many times have I heard, “I don’t understand. I give my life to Jesus, serve Him, and this is what I get”? How many times? Innumerable. We need to ditch the “It’s not fair talk” and get back to “God-talk.” We need to start saying, “What does God want me to learn or to become out of this?”

Here are some one sentence thoughts I gleaned and wrote down from last night’s study:

  • Right in the middle of his suffering, Paul broke out in the doxology. See Romans 11:33-36.
  • In our future and about our future, God owes us no explanation.
  • Society has become a victim-driven society.
  • When you throw a pity party no one wants to come. (I love this one)
  • When we open the door to victimhood, we allow ourselves to be slaves.

And to close this devotion, here is a thought from something I read from John Piper just this morning:

Do not think that because you experience adversity in your little world of experience, the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity or our fame but our holiness that He seeks with all His heart.”  –“Good News of Great Joy”- p. 34

“Father, may I see suffering, not as something unfair or to avoid, but as a tool to help me grow into being more like Jesus.”

September 23

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Confession right up front. They say it is good for the soul. 🙂   A good chunk of today’s devotion is going to be snippets from Bob Goff (#265-p.314).  It so impacted me that I want to share some of it with you. Just know that any quoted section is from the devotion.

As a pastor, I struggle with something-something which involves me and others. Ready?

Taking credit. Liking the accolades. Relishing the pats-on-the-back.

Have you ever seen The Incredibles? Yeah, I know it is an animated “child’s” movie, but Pixar did a wonderful job with it (and its sequel). Mr. Incredible wanted a cape with his new uniform. His “strange” designer says, “No capes” and proceeds to show him why. To borrow from yesterday’s devotion (September 22), God doesn’t need superheroes with capes. He doesn’t need me or you seeking attention. (Implied is a cape would do that).

“Jesus was introducing us to another way to change the world-one that doesn’t require any marketing taglines, self-promotion, or capes.  He wanted to show us that all those things meant to draw attention to ourselves can actually trip us up.” Bob goes on to write: “God always seems to more interested in working through those who don’t need any affirmation outside of His. Perhaps it’s because He wants us to point people toward Him, not ourselves.”

Have you ever seen a team with potential implode because they have one (or several) who sought the glory for themselves? I could care less about “thug ball” i.e. basketball these days, but two of the games greatest players were two of the least selfish-Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. All-Stars. MVP’s. Hall of Famer’s. They were known as much for their passing ability, their selflessness, and their desire to include everyone as they were for their scoring ability.

They didn’t toot their own horn. They didn’t need to. Neither do we as Christ-followers. To quote Mr. Goff again: “We don’t have to impress to earn the right be on God’s team.”

No matter what we do-preach, teach, sing, play an instrument-whatever it is we are not asked to impress or take credit. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (NASB2020)

“Father, may I lift You up, giving You praise and glory and not seek it for myself. I’m not worthy of that. You are.”

September 22

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

First day of Fall! I don’t know whether to cry or to cry. 🙂  Yeah, I’m a warm weather person. Sort of hard to ride a bike with snow and ice on the ground. Anyway, right now we are in our 3rd of 40 days of rain. On the positive side, least it is liquid sunshine not white flakes. Okay…on to the devotion.

The dictionary defines hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We hear a lot of talk these days about heroes. For the past year and a half we have been hearing about the front line workers who are heroes. Nurses. Police. Fire. Doctors. In my mind, they are heroes. Sadly, their heroism is being brushed aside and forgotten because of the vaxx mandate.  I will withhold comment.  🙂

I grew up with heroes. Comic books. TV shows. Athletes. Just like every other kid I had my favorites. Over the past decade the idea of a hero-a superhero- has been taken to a whole new level thanks to cinema.  Superman became Spiderman. Spiderman was soon enveloped by the Marvel universe of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and others. Batman rose from the comic book dead. Spiderman came back to life. Jason Bourne lived through mind games and countless fights and car chases to walk away each movie. The list goes on.

I think we need to stop looking to fantasy for our heroes and see them right next to us. They live with us. They work with us. They worship with us. They play alongside us. They are the mom and dad who love their handicapped child as though he/she is “normal.” They are the old man/lady who do their best to care for their mate who doesn’t even remember their name anymore. I recently read of a woman who took care of her former soccer-playing comatose husband for decades. She is a hero.

“Heroes come in every age and size,” Bob Goff writes. (#264-p.313). I’ve always believed that. I’m convinced, while we focus on the few who have prominent names, there are literally hundreds of thousands who go unnamed and unnoticed.

Heroes don’t wear capes (unless it is a dad playing “house” with his daughter). They don’t wear tights and have indestructible shields, and superhuman abilities to leap tall buildings. No…heroes are ordinary people doing ordinary things on ordinary days in extraordinary ways. Be a hero. Better yet…acknowledge one.

“Father, may I recognize a hero and not let him or her go unnoticed.”

September 21

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

One of the “things” that has captured our world is jumping to conclusions. You know…make a decision and let that decision be made before all the facts are in.

This has been especially true in our world of instant news-Twitter, FB, Instagram and the like. We see or hear something and we are ready to be judge, jury, and executioner before knowing all the facts.

Case in point: Our Daily Bread had a story of an event which happened during the 2018 baseball season. A Chicago Cubs coach wanted to give a baseball to a young boy sitting by the dugout. When the coach tossed him a ball, a man sitting next to him scooped it up. He was excoriated by the media. He was called a brute. I vaguely remember seeing that video and I’m ashamed to admit that I thought, “How rude!” The first reaction of the media was to call him out about his cold-heartedness and lack of class. It took 24 hours for the truth to come out that those two had made a deal (after the man had snagged a ball for him earlier) to share any additional balls that came their way. By then, he was blistered.

Jumping to conclusions. We are strong on condemning “obvious” sins-adultery, homosexuality, stealing (unless it is during a riot), lying (sometimes but not always), but we give a free pass to jumping to conclusions and jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation. Exodus 23:2 tells us not to “join together with a crowd in order to pervert justice.” (NASB2020)

Let’s stop jumping to conclusions. Let’s get the facts-the truth-before ruining someone’s life with untruth.

“Father, may I be a truth-gatherer and not a lie-spreader.”

September 20

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Sitting the bench is no fun.

Because I was a fairly good athlete I seldom sat the bench. That is, until I hit high school basketball. I started playing Little League baseball at Age 8. There no such torture chamber as T-ball or “coach pitch” back then. It was us playing ball. I seemed to have a knack for baseball. I didn’t start basketball until 9th grade. I was tall but grew 3-4″ in one year (I had the achy knees to prove it). I didn’t know how to dribble a basketball and run so while the team practiced I did too-on the sidelines running up and down the side of the court dribbling the ball.

I played some as a JV in grades 10-11 and thought I would have my chance to play as a Sr. I even went to summer ball. Nope. Coach was looking to next year so I sat the bench. I didn’t even get a chance to play in my last game as a Senior (but coach said he heard me yelling for the team.  Big deal!)

Moving onto college I played as a starter all 3 years (I didn’t play my senior year since I chose to get married and actually try to study). The only time I sat the bench was for a breather or coach wanted me to be playing later in the game and stay out of foul trouble.

I hated sitting the bench. I felt like a loser. I never had my parents come watch a high school game so I wasn’t disappointing them. I just felt useless at times. I was a practice dummy-used in practice to prepare the team for the opposing team.

I dreamed of playing professional sports. I know now I was never good enough. And never would have been.

Bob Goff reminded me there is no shame in being on the bench. He said,

The dream He (God) put in your heart are dreams He still wants to fulfill through you today. He didn’t create any of us to just be practice buddies or water boys-there’s no sideline to God’s story of redemption, and there’s no bench. (#262-p.311)

You know? He is right. All that “splinter gathering” I did was molding me to wait, but also showing me I have value-as a pastor-not as a ball player. It just took me awhile to realize it. (I Cor. 12:7)

“Thank you Father for showing me that You have no intention of me sitting on the bench. You have me in Your game and a highly valued member of Your team.”

September 15

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

As one reads the Scripture, you will notice that Jesus’ first really public words were in a synagogue. Luke 4 records those words for us and they are directly taken from Isaiah 61:1-2a:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD anointed me to bring good news to the humble; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.” (NASB2020)

Jesus then finished His reading with these words: “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, “In Me.”

Jesus didn’t come to the “uppity-ups” or to the “hoity-tointy” crowd. He didn’t come to the castles and palaces, to the kings and queens, to those who thought they needed nothing or no one. (He wouldn’t turn them away though). No, Jesus came to the humble, the brokenhearted, the lost, the lonely, the slaves, the captives, the addict, and others. He came for the blind, the leper, the lame, the prostitute, the falsely accused. He came for those who were lost and knew it. He came for the outsiders. He came for the rejected.

He came for me.

I like what Bob Goff said,

Some people wag a bony finger when we run toward someone who’s messed up. But isn’t that what God does with you and me? Forget being right; be Jesus. (#257-p.306)

It shouldn’t matter what others think. Jesus certainly didn’t care. In fact, if we are his followers, Jesus’ mission and ours should be the same.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open to the needs of others. Help me to see people, not cases.”