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November 30

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Isaiah 59:19 says, “So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the Lord drives.” (NASB2020)

I rather like the simplicity of the NLT in this verse: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

As followers of Jesus, we are-or should be-keenly aware of our enemy’s tactics. His desire is to control us, or at least to compromise us so much that the effectiveness of our testimony is gone.

I was reading just this morning from I Cor. 10. After writing about the Israelites and their sin, Paul says some very poignant words to his readers (us). Please take a moment and read verses 11-13 right now.

We can choose to be a pawn in Satan’s grip or to be a vessel under control of the Master Commander. We can choose to give in to the temptation or we can choose to trust and rely on the One who changes lives.

In Mark 5 we read the story of a man who was under the control of the master deceiver. Uncontrollable. Unchained by people but chained to a cruel slave master. Then he met Jesus who righted the wrong and broke the chains that enslaved that man’s heart and life. I like what it says about him when the townspeople came out to see what happened: “He was sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (5:15)

I heard someone once say, “It is true God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is also true that Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.”

Jesus can transform any life. I know. I’m one.

November 29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

In preparation for my series in 2023 on Revelation, I have been reading Revelation over and over in different translations. While they all offer the same yet different perspective, there is one overarching theme which comes through.

WORSHIP

Over and over we read of worship taking place. I challenge you over the next 22 days to read one chapter a day and mark the number of times you see worship or some description of Jesus.

There is probably no better depiction of worship than in chapters 4 & 5. If you read nothing else, take a moment to read and ponder those two chapters.

It got me thinking. How many times have you or I said or heard someone say, “That was a waste. I got nothing out of that worship service.” That is rather revealing in at least 3 different ways.

  1. It really was bad. The sermon misfired (it is possible you know?); the music landed with a thud and did not lead to worship; the whole experience was dead.
  2. The mindset and heart of that person (or me) was not in a “ready to hear” mode. But it is much more convenient to place blame elsewhere.
  3. Worship never happened because it involves a sense of expectancy on the part of the listener, as well as the willingness to offer ourselves. For lack of a better way to say it, we get out of it what we put into it. There needs to be some give and take.

Worship involves being involved-engaged. It means the worshiper puts his/her heart and soul into offering himself/herself to God in praise and adoration to the Father. The Father, the Source and object of worship, then meets His worshiper.

Check out the following verses:

  • 4:8-“They do not cease to say.”
  • 4:10-“saying.”
  • 5:9-“sang a new song.”
  • 5:12- “saying with a loud voice.”
  • 5:13- “saying.”

Sounds like engagement to me. You get the point. Worship involves engagement-me and you engaging with the Father.

When someone (or me) says, “I got nothing out of that today; what a waste!” unless it is false teaching or progressive (heretical) teaching, I’m more inclined to ask, “And what did you put into it?” I need to point the finger at my own heart.

What do you think?

November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 22

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

James 1:17 speaks truth. Good truth. Much needed truth. Truth to be reminded of. 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (emphasis mine)

Notice those first few words again. “Every good and perfect gift.” We can readily agree with that can’t we?

But what if what has happened is not a good thing (at least in our eyes)?

  • This past Saturday morning, a neighbor of a family in the church I pastor, watched as their two-story log home burned to the ground. They got out with the clothes on their back and their dogs (they lost their cats).
  • I visited someone recently who could lift hundreds of pounds of weights, was as strong as an ox, but over the past year health challenges have made him a shadow of what he used to be.
  • As I have aged, I have noticed my own strength wane and knee and back issues play havoc with my active lifestyle.

Does this mean God is not good? Do these example and the countless others mean God does not care? Is He absent?

No…it does not. God has not promised a trouble-free life, no matter the false teaching by the hucksters and shysters who pretend they speak for God. In spite of the trouble, there are some things I KNOW about God.

  1. He is near.
  2. He is at hand, but is not immobile like hands of a broken clock.
  3. He is a listener, but never distracted.
  4. He never sleeps or slumbers.

What do you know about God that you can add? One more thing: be thankful for this God who is always good. Praise Him in the good and in the storm.

November 21

Monday, November 21st, 2022

It is going to be a short week here at the “Shadow.” I’m going to post Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then take Thursday off to do what I have encouraged the church I pastor to do-give thanks.

Here is Post #1 for this Thanksgiving week.

It is not a secret than what is in our heart is what will spill out. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what is in the heart.” Proverbs tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what is in us will come out.

So…consider this scenario. You are walking along,, let’s say you have a glass of Dr. Pepper Zero in your hand. No lid. No straw. Then you get bumped, and when I say bumped I don’t mean tapped on the shoulder. What will happen to your drink? Most likely it will spill out-all over your hand and possibly onto the floor.

Let’s suppose that drink is you. Life gets tough. Someone bullies you, says something very unkind. Life throws you a curve. What comes out? Well, if we take what Jesus and Proverbs said, there is no question. Anger. Vitriol. Harshness. Jealousy. You get the drift.

But what if, instead of those ugly things, your heart is filled with gratitude to God for all He has given/blessed you with?

Big, big difference.

Thankfulness becomes the overflow of the song in our hearts. Instead of thinking how we got slighted, we focus on what we have.

My challenge for me-and for you-is to rid ourselves of all ingratitude over what we think God hasn’t given us or done for us, and allow gratitude to take up root in our hearts. then the overflow will be…

GRATITUDE

November 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

November 15

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

I may be wrong (but I doubt it), but I think one of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. Do you see what I just did in that sentence? 🙂

For various reasons, admitting a mistake goes against the grain of some people. Maybe it is their personality. Maybe it is their upbringing. Maybe they are, in reality, very insecure so they put on this “I’m always right” front.

But I’m thinking that for many, it is too much of one thing and not enough of another. Say what?

Too much of one thing and not enough of another. Too much pride. Not enough humility.

Check out James 1: 19-25. It is too long for me to print it here, but as you read, take note what he is saying. Get rid of pride and the sin which comes along with it, and exhibit humility. He admonishes us to look into the Word, but not like we would a mirror.  It is easy to forget what we see (and I most definitely do sometimes) and not do anything about it. But it is also easy to look into a mirror and not be honest and say, “Whoa dude! You got it going on!”

There is NO WAY we can take an honest look into God’s Word and say that. We are told God’s Word is like a sharp, two-edged sword. As we read, we need to let it penetrate. We need to allow it to convict and lay us open. We need to let it break down our pride.

That can only happen if we come with humility.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

November 10

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

For several years I had the opportunity, the privilege, of taking part in a reading program called Real Men Read (RMR). RMR was sponsored by the United Way of Monroe County and they expanded it into Owen County. The RMR was designed for me to read to K classes so that these impressionable students, especially boys, might see that it is okay to read because a man is doing it. Many children of that age do not have good role models or influences, especially in the area of reading and education.  When I moved her in ’05, Owen County had the reputation of being the 2nd poorest county in Indiana (and I don’t need to tell you what kind of issues that raises).

The pandemic brought it to a halt…except I made an arrangement with the K teacher I had been connected to to keep reading to her class. We met outside when the weather was conducive. Fast forward to 2022. No RMR. Anywhere. It has been disbanded for whatever reason. My daughter, Tami, is now a K teacher in our local school district and so I talked with her about reading to her class.  The two other teachers in her school expressed an interest as well, so I read to their classes in October. I talked with another K teacher in the system to attends the church I pastor; she talked to her fellow teacher and she also talked with the two other K teachers in other schools. They were all on board with the program. With all of their cooperation, the RMR (which will have to be called by another name) has been reborn!

This week I read to two classes.  Next week I will read to the 3 classes again in Tami’s school. Someone else (our youth pastor, Ryan) is reading to the two classes in another school. All in all there is close to 160 K students in our school system.

All that explanation to say this: I have had a blast! I’ve tried to engage the kids as I read. They are eager. Giggly. Funny. Fidgety. Laugh easily. Yes, easily distracted. Take part in the story. And loving. I don’t leave class without a bunch of hugs. One class all came at the same time as one, then another, then the bunch wanted a hug. So I called for a group hug (ala Aladdin with Robin Williams).

It reminds me of what Jesus said about children: “Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Such joy, innocence (shame on anyone destroying that), laughter, eagerness, giggliness (and yes my spell check is telling me that is not a word. Says who?) and sensitivity. All qualities I still need when I come to Jesus, to His Word, and to the throne.

How about you? Are you childlike? Not childish. 🙂  Childlike.

I will not be posting tomorrow since it is Friday, so I want to take a moment and remind you it is Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country to keep us free so that we might enjoy the benefits of living in the greatest country in the world. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But still the best. Make sure you thank all the veterans, especially if you know of any.