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July 18

Monday, July 18th, 2022

During my Encounter Time this morning, I read from Mark 10. There were several “clumps” of verses that I highlighted:

1. 10: 6-9– God’s original intention of marriage being one man/one woman for life.

2. 10: 14-15- Jesus speaks about the heart of a child-their acceptance of His message and us becoming like one.

3. 10: 23-25– In His encounter with the rich, young ruler, Jesus talks about the difficulty of a rich person getting into heaven. It is not that they can’t or won’t. it comes down to who owns his/her life.

But the one which stuck with me this morning:

4. 10: 43-45– Jesus speaks about being a servant and then uses Himself as an example. Can there be any more telling verse about Him and His purpose/mission on earth than verse 45? “He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus shows what true servanthood is. He shows us what true humility is. He shows us that being #1 is not all its cracked up to be. There is greater joy and greater reward in being a servant, of being the one who gives her/her life away for others than to live for self and self-promotion.

“Father, may I be a servant to all. Help me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” 

July 14

Thursday, July 14th, 2022

The last couple of evenings I have been reading a book called A Rebel’s Manifesto by Sean McDowell. Sean’s dad is Josh McDowell, one of the very first apologists I ever heard of. He wrote the early classic Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Sean’s book is mainly geared to young people who must make decisions concerning life, worldview, etc, but I am learning it is a very valuable book for adults as well.

In chapter 4, which he entitles Think Christianly, Sean talks about his dad being his hero. He remembers his dad making a statement which still has a profound affect on him:

When you read an article or book always discern the assumptions of the person who wrote it. Their assumptions will shape everything they write.

That is so true! It is called a worldview. As I read Neil Shenvi’s book, Why Believe, (very slowly I might add), every quote, every idea, is coming from a specific worldview. Naturalism. Secular humanism. Existentialism. Atheist. Theist. How we look at the things of God all flow from our own worldview.

I have a Christian worldview (and won’t apologize for it), so everything I look at will be seen through that filter. I will navigate my world through that map. I will look at current events, everyday happenings, sickness, trials, etc. through that map. That is why it is so important for me-for you- to have the mind of Christ (Col. 3: 1-2). See things through the lens of Christ. Not only does it affect how I see things BUT it also affects how I interact with people who may or may not agree with me or my worldview. Moral differences come from different worldviews.

But here is another truth: each person has dignity and despite their worldview-different or the same-they are to be treated with respect and a listening ear. I can listen without compromise or without “dissing” them.

Hold fast. Listen well. Treat with respect. No compromise.

July 13

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

(Update on my doctor follow-up at the end)

Do you ever think God might be trying to make a point or get your attention? In the case I’m about to make, it is not the latter (that I know of) and I’m not sure the former because I’m already there. Unless, it is for someone else.

Twice this week already I read the same quote. Once in a book by Neil Shenvi called Why Believe? and the other from today’s entry in Our Daily Bread. Here is the quote:

Either this man (Jesus Christ) was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, or you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. (Quote by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity)

As I said, I don’t believe He is trying to get my attention or even make a point. I believe firmly that Jesus is the Son of God. I will echo Peter’s words with conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

All Christ-followers must affirm that truth or they are not one of His. As Lewis says we must lay aside any pretense of treating Jesus as anything but Savior and Lord. He is certainly more than a great moral teacher. He is certainly more than a wise prophet. He is certainly more and greater than Mohamed or Buddha, or some other religious leader.

I’ll stake my claim that He is the Son of God.

Now…why has this come up twice in two days?  🙂

Update: the follow-up went well. Other than some swelling at the incision site (will require ice), I’ve been released to calling them if I notice anything amiss (like pain or numbness). I can up the weight to a whopping 20 pounds. Cut grass (which I did yesterday). Ride my bike. I still have to be careful with the blt (bending, lifting, and twisting). Thanks for your prayers.

July 12

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

First, a prayer request. I go for my first post-op appointment this morning. In fact, by the time many of you read this my appointment will be history. Your prayers for my healing and for me to accept the doc’s words and restrictions would be appreciated.

Now for the devo:

For some reason-maybe because of today’s appointment, maybe because of some lingering discomfort, or some other reason-I woke up thinking about God’s presence. I do not doubt it. To be honest I guess I do wonder why some days He feels closer than others. (Operative word: feel). Some days He is palpable, like I can reach out and touch Him. Others not so. but I still believe His promise.

I believe in a Triune God- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In His last discourse with His disciples, Jesus told them about the Holy Spirit. In John 14: 16-17 He says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth…but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.” (NASB2020) {Emphasis mine}

When thinking about God’s presence (because He promised it), those two verses are critical. “The Holy Spirit lives in me. And because that Spirit is part of the Trinity-because that Spirit is God-then Jesus is permanently connected to me through His Spirit.” (Quote from At the Table with Jesus by Louis Giglio-p.138)  {Italics in quote mine so I can make it personal).

The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force. Unseen? Yes. Impersonal? No. He is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) It is because of this promise that I can rest in the other promise, the one I (and possibly you) need to trust each day: God’s presence is in me in the Person of the Holy Spirit. I will cling to the promise of “He will never leave me nor forsake me.” 

The Holy Spirit was given to me (and you) as a seal of ownership. His presence is always in me. I will trust that promise and know whatever comes, I am not alone or forsaken. Neither are you.

July 11

Monday, July 11th, 2022

I’m probably not alone when I say that there are times when I wish God would just make Himself and His will very clearly known. Like “Here Bill! I want you to go this way” while either holding my hand (literally) or putting up a sign which says, “This way Bill.”

But He doesn’t work that way.

Not that there aren’t times He makes His will clearly known. And truthfully, that is most often after a struggle when bears itself out in heartfelt prayers, tears, sometime sleepless nights, and yes, even wrestling with God.

I thought about all of that as I read Isaiah 7. I’m not an expert in the OT by any stretch. Far from it. I more often scratch my head in a “say what?” mode than I do having a light bulb show up.

We can’t miss the significance of Isaiah 7 because of verse 14, but I’m a bit stumped of its relevance to the situation. Forgive me if I get a little lost. The way I understand it is that Ahaz was told my Isaiah to ask for a sign. Isaiah has told him to go against his enemies. When he doubts the wisdom of that, Ahaz is told to look for a sign.  He refuses.  Isaiah rebukes him then quotes verse 14.

That’s quite a sign! Ahaz doesn’t get it. Honestly, I’m not sure I do either. Not at that time.

I get its significance now because the sign is for us. In fact, I get that message loud and clear.  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel.”  I’ve heard that somewhere before. 🙂

Now…if I could see just as clearly in my day to day life.

Note: after coming to the office I did a little study on this passage.  Rezin, the king of Syria and Pekah the king of Samaria resolved to remove Ahaz and to set up a puppet on the throne of Judah. So Isaiah, at God’s direction, confronts Ahaz and pleads with him not to find refuge in the Assyrians but to find his help and strength in Almighty God. A second time Isaiah went to Ahaz and Ahaz gave this pious, hypocritical reply (verse 12) to Isaiah.  It was then Isaiah gave this prophecy.  The second part of that prophecy (verse 16) is fulfilled within 3 years of Isaiah’s words. Rezin is slain by Tiglath-pileser and Pekah is slain by Hoshea, his successor.

The first part of that prophecy-the one we know-is a bit more difficult to understand its place. While Ahaz is told to ask for a sign (singular) the pronoun changes to plural (you) referring to the house of David.  The sign is given to the whole house of David as part of the Davidic covenant.  We know of its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus, which is repeated in Matthew 1:23 as part of the angel’s message to Joseph.

I hope I have not totally muddied the waters with this further explanation. 🙂

July 7

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Today is an exciting day for the church. For 2-3 years now, maybe longer, we have been dreaming of putting an addition onto our building for several reasons. One, is so the adults could all worship together. Two, to save on our volunteers, especially the Worship Team. When we moved into this building in 2010 we knew it was too small. But we bought it and called it “our own.” Done renting a dirty, nasty place with a way-too-small children’s area. Then came the devastating news of embezzlement to the tune of $200k+. But within two years the folks were so generous and God was so good that we were able to remodel and make a way for us to function. But we almost immediately had to go to two services, so that meant we needed space. However, instead of adding on to our worship area, it was decided the real priority was a youth addition. Modest, but functional. Paid for in cash. At that point, thanks to an inheritance and some wise financial management by our Finance Team and the phenomenal giving of our people, we were debt-free. Completely.  But now it was decided that we needed to focus on an area big enough for the adults to worship together as one body. There was one caveat: we wanted to do it debt-free.

So we have waited. And saved. And waited some more.

With $211k+ in our Building Fund, we are moving forward to see what can happen.

Hence the excitement for  today. The Building Team is traveling to Graber Post Buildings about an hour away to see what is possible and what our next steps can and should be.

Waiting. Waiting is never popular. We prefer to “hurry up and wait.” Better yet, we prefer to have it now. After today, we may still have to wait. Who knows? And we are okay with that also. With the economy in the state it is in right now, it might be “wait some more.”

Even though that is hard, I’m okay with that. God has proven Himself faithful over and over the past 17 years (how long I have been here). In fact, in my 69 years I have NEVER seen Him not be. I have no plans to start doubting that truth about Him now. Nor do I have any inclination to do so.

If God says, “Hurry up and wait” that is exactly what I’m ready and willing to do.

All in good God’s time.

July 6

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

Have you ever given much thought to names? For example, my name means “Conqueror” or “Determined Guardian.” But to be honest, I don’t think my parents gave much thought to the meaning of my name. I was named after my dad (but not a Junior). I can truthfully say our daughter’s name, Tamra (Tami), was not chosen because it means “palm tree.” I liked the name and the spelling of her name was mine. After 47 years she has not complained about it. 🙂

At Christmas we talk a lot about the names of Jesus.

Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Emmanuel (which means “God with us.”)

How about these names?

  • King of kings
  • Lord of lords
  • God of gods
  • Bright MorningStar

Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End.

Here are 2 more significant ones:

LordRuler. In charge. Boss.

MasterHead over me.

It is important to acknowledge and recognize Jesus as Lord. It is equally important to acknowledge and recognize Jesus is my Master. For that to happen it is more than mere words. It is action. Submission. Awareness of my inferiority and His superiority. A need to acknowledge his greatness and my lowliness.

Jesus is both Lord and Master. He is the Ruler over all creation. He is also the Master over my life. Therefore, all honor and glory goes to Him.

What better name could there be for me than Servant of the Master?

July 5

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

The day after. There are a lot of those. The day after Resurrection Sunday. The day after Thanksgiving. The day after Christmas. The day after New Year’s Eve.

Consider:

  • The day after Resurrection Sunday we encourage people not to forget the new life we have because Jesus is alive.
  • The day after Thanksgiving we encourage people to remember to be thankful, not just one day, but 24/7/365, for all God has given.
  • The day after Christmas we encourage people to remember that the spirit of Christmas doesn’t die at 11:59 p.m. on December 25th.
  • The day after New Year’s Eve (NY Day) we encourage people to start anew, to consider the new year as a new time to start over.

The day after Independence Day. It was a bloody 4th in many places. The most tragic a deadly shooting in Highland Park, IL. Chicago. LA. NYC. Hollywood elites calling for us to cancel the 4th, to cancel America. I can’t even repeat what some said it is so vile.

I have another reason for celebrating the 4th. Two reasons actually. It reminds of the following:

1.The freedom I enjoy as a citizen of this country. America isn’t perfect; nothing is. To the naysayers I say, “Take a hike. Go Where you think you will have the freedom to speak out against what government. See what it gets you. And I won’t be visiting you in prison.”

2. The freedom I have in Christ. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Free from from the power of sin. Free from the chains of sin. Free from the slavery the enemy wants to hold me under.

So my day after today is celebrating my freedom of living in this nation. But my greatest celebration is living in true freedom found only in Jesus Christ.

And you?  What are you celebrating this day after?

June 30

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

The other day during my Encounter Time, I read the following-and familiar-passage: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Pr. 25: 21-22 NASB)

I hear and have used that passage to teach not seeking revenge. It is human nature to want to defend ourselves, to put up a fight if we feel we have been wronged. “An eye for an eye.” “Don’t tread on me.” “Stay in your own space and we will be okay. But DO NOT cross the line.”

And if they cross us in any way, shape, or form. LOOK OUT!

Today I read the story of a woman who was a student at Cambridge in the 1940s and decided to join the Communist Party (CP) as a secretary. The winter of 1946-1947 was brutal, causing water pipes to freeze, thereby causing a water shortage. They were allowed one shower a week and not even the secretary of the CP could avoid the long lines that developed in the ladies dorm at Cambridge. The jockeying and grumbling were intense. But this woman could not help but observe the actions of one. She had direct access to the bathroom but never asserted her rights and responded gently to the selfishness of others. Upon investigation, this secretary found out the girl was a Christian who was practicing and living what the Communist claimed but did not do. That observation led to a conversation, which led to a conversion, which led to a new missionary in the Far East.

And just think this through with me: if that Christ-follower had reacted in kind to the way she had been treated?  I don’t need to tell you the result.

She chose to act as Jesus would. She chose to live Proverbs 25: 21-22 in real life.

Just imagine if we would do that as well. Go ahead. Do it! Imagine. And now what?

June 29

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Before I write or say anything else I’d like to ask that you do something for me and for a friend.  One of my dearest friends is Ryan Spires and his wife, Amanda. They are at Mayo Clinic where Amanda is having surgery this morning.  It is not my place to say for what, but please whenever you read this stop and say a prayer for them both. Amanda’s surgery is this morning.

Now to less important things.

Yesterday’s devotion  was Part 1 of two on Matthew 23. It focused on the first 12 verses, with particular emphasis on verses 10-12. As stated in the devotion, I originally had planned to focus on the “do as I say not as I do” aspect of those verses, but changed when I read verses 10-12. Today’s thoughts will naturally (if you read the Scripture) focus on the outside vs. the inside.

The Pharisees were good at several things. Self-righteousness. Hypocrisy. Double-standards. Pointing fingers at others. Jesus confronted them (and others) about this in Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount) and it wouldn’t be His last time.

But here! WOW! It is like Jesus has both barrels wide open. Seven times He says “Woe to you.” And he minced no words after the “woe.” Blind guides. Hypocrites. OUCH! He ripped the mask right off and exposed them for who they were.

Three of my favorites are found back-to-back-to-back in verses 23-28. “You tithe but…” “You are like a cup…” “You are like a white-washed tomb…”  The first deals with the whole idea of legalism, of religious actions taking the place of caring. The second with the outside of a cup which was clean but full of filth inside. The third like a tomb which was clean on the outside but full of dead man’s bones on the inside.

Can’t get more vivid than that.

And the picture/lesson is obvious. We can look good on the outside. We can look holy and righteous. We can even act like it. But our true nature is what’s inside. The possibilities are two: righteousness or unrighteousness.

It goes deeper, obviously, than a tithe/cup/dish/coffin; it refers to the heart. While I may look holy, righteous, and “all together” spiritually by observation, the proof is in my heart.

I wish I could say I have it all together now, that I never find myself with the position of wearing a mask. I can’t.

But it’s never too late to clean up and start being holy and allowing the Holy Spirit to make me into His clean vessel.