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February 7

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

I’m convinced that one of the hardest things to do is for a person to forgive himself of past sins or discretions. I’m guessing we have all been there-either personally or with a friend or someone we know.

It might go something like this:

  • Person: Does God forgive all my sin?
  • You: Yes. I firmly believe He does.
  • P: I’m not too sure about that.
  • Y: Why?
  • P: I’ve done some really bad things. If I told you everything, you would turn away from me or it would at least curl your insides.
  • Y: Try me.
  • P: I just couldn’t. You would no longer like me or want to be my friend.
  • Y: First, that is not true. Second, what does my reaction have to do with God?
  • P: Because He would turn away and say, “That’s too much. I just can’t.”

You can carry that conversation on if you like. I want to stop it and add my thoughts. This conversation or one like it, and the thought of that person, came to mind when I read Psalm 130:3-4 this morning. “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Can it be any clearer? Consider I John 1:9 which says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I relish the truth that God forgives and when He does He forgives totally and completely. No hanging on. No crossing His fingers. It is not only forgiven but also forgotten.

Now…if we can just forgive and remind ourselves of that.

February 6

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

Have you ever heard of Judson Van Deventer? Neither had I. Or so I thought. It was not until I read -as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story”-that I knew more about him than I thought.

Born on a farm, JVD learned to paint, studied art, and became an art teacher. God, however, had different plans for him. Encouraged by his friends, Judson also felt called to evangelism. But it was hard for him to give up teaching art. He finally made his decision.

Following God is not always (like hardly ever) easy. Sometimes we are challenged to make tough choices. Our comfortable, sedentary life is uprooted. Even though we make the choice to follow Jesus and His call, there may still be moments of doubt and even anxiety.

Judson heeded God’s call. Later he went back to teaching. His decision to surrender even led to a song you may heard or sung: “All to Jesus I surrender/All to Him I freely give/I will ever love and trust Him/In His presence daily live/I surrender all, I surrender all/All to Thee my blessed Savior/I surrender all.”

Oh…and one more thing: remember when I said that Judson eventually went back into teaching? One of his students was a young man who name was…wait for it…Billy Graham.

I was speaking with someone yesterday about God’s plan for our life. About how His surprises are endless. And how His timing is impeccable. We never know…only He does.

{My thanks to Our Daily Bread for the story of JVD. The filler is mine}

February 5

Monday, February 5th, 2024

I was sick last week. Sick as in I slept a lot. It all started Sunday. By the end of the second service, I was losing my voice. That Sunday night at our small group, my voice was raspy. Monday morning saw me with barely a voice but also coughing some. Not a lot but enough to say, “Hey! Something is going on here.” So I went to the office Monday morning and after staff meeting (in a large room) I went home. I slept most of the afternoon. I NEVER do that. I slept the night with help from that “sneezing, stuffy nose…medicine.” I went to the office in the early morning but left before anyone got there. I came home and slept for 2 hours. Ditto for Wednesday morning except I felt a ton better. So much so, I rode my bike inside for 50 minutes. Thursday was much of the same. Early morning office. Go home. I went to the Y at lunchtime to work out some stiffness then went to the quiet office in the afternoon.  I stayed away from people as much as possible because what is going around is some kind of virus/flu that is passed on rather easily. I call it the creeping crud. I say all that to share with you some lessons I learned.

First, I’m not young anymore (as if…). I can’t burn the candle at both ends and not run out of steam. Jo kept asking me to slow down but it was like talking to a deaf man. My thinking was I riding my bike inside; I was going to the Y; I was sleeping (somewhat); I was taking my vitamins and immune supplements; that should keep me healthy. No, sometimes the body says, “No more.” Mine said that plus “You are now going to sleep.”

Second, sometimes if you don’t listen to your body, there are stronger forces to deal with. Namely, God. Sometimes God slows a person down because He needs us (me) to listen. Sadly, in my burning the candle at both ends lifestyle, I was failing to listen to Him. Not only did He need me to take time with Him, I think He also was giving me some time to read an all-important book I had been waiting for over 3 months for. (I pre-ordered it last year). I got it read and it knocked my socks off. The book, by the way, is The Deconstruction of Christianity by Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett.  253 pages of a phenomenal read. With my previous schedule it would have taken me weeks to read it. With being at home, not having a TV in my ManCave, I was able to read. The only interruption was an occasional snooze here and there. 🙂

Third, you learn the value of others.  Chairs and tables that had been set up, but needed to be taken back down because I had to cancel class, were done by my two co-workers. I’m grateful for them picking up the slack.

I’m back to work this Monday morning. I’m still not back to normal (whatever that might be). Rumor has it this thing hangs on awhile. Hopefully, I’m a little wiser. At least just a smidge.

#LivesAreChanged

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Watching a child learn to walk is an experience worth having. The first steps are a major accomplishment and come with some pain (on the child’s part as he/she falls and on yours was you watch it). When they do take those first fledgling steps I’m not sure who is more excited-the parents or the child. Of course, there will be challenges and failures (more of the latter to start with), and we expect that. The progression from those first tentative steps to wobbling to more steadiness to running to jogging to sprinting and then to long-distance running is fun to watch.

As in life, so in the Christian walk. Life is not at a standstill. If it is, the person is in deep trouble.

By the same token, if the church is not helping lives to be changed, it is in a rut also. Understand, I don’t believe the church changes lives. Jesus does that. And only Him. But we have a hand in it. if we are not reaching out and spreading the message of the Gospel, then as Paul asks in Romans 10, “How can they hear unless someone tells them?”  It is also important to see that we who name the name of Christ, who claim Him as our Savior also change. To remain the same is like a child learning to walk and at the age of 10 still holding onto furniture, taking a step or two and then falling, rolling over to their knees and getting back up. We would be concerned…as well we should. 

I’m continuing my series on WELCOME HOME…where… 

  • The Gospel is Preached
  • Jesus is Honored
  • Grace is Offered

This week’s message is WELCOME HOME…where…  

LIVES ARE CHANGED

Join us in person or via live stream at 9:00 or 10:45. We would love to hear from you.

February 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I read a heartwarming story of a college basketball star (no name given) who stayed behind after the game to help with the clean up of empty cups and food wrappers. A fan posted a video and more than 80 thousand people viewed it. One person commented, “[The young man] is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet in your life.” It would have been more expected of that young man to go out and celebrate rather than to do clean up work.

That young man learned two words which are rapidly becoming non-existent in our culture: humility and service. And they go hand in hand. While beating the chest and wagging hands and fingers as though asking for and collecting applause are what is seen (and expected from the player), humility and service paint a different picture. While “thug-ball” and “stop-em-in-the-ground ball” and “how-much-money-can-I-make” ball is all the rage, off to the side is the humble one quietly doing his/her job with an attitude of a servant.

Oops, I said that wrong. I’m not allowed to call myself or anyone else a servant these days. It is demeaning. It is a slap in the face. It is misogyny. My one word response? Hogwash. It is not demeaning to be a servant. In fact, I’ll venture so far as to say we need it more now than ever. We have gone so far…down I might add…when we consider being called a servant is demeaning or any of the other adjectives you can use.

Me? I want that. After all, the One I gladly serve and call Lord, the Greatest Man who has ever lived or ever will live (Jesus) once said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Call me a humble servant. Please. There is no greater compliment.

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Please don’t forget to check out my review of Granger Smith’s book Like a River at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.

January 31

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

I did a review of Country Music star, Granger Smith’s book Like a River on my other site, Cycleguy’s Spin. It will post today. I’d like to ask you to visit that site and see what is so special about this book (especially since I am not a Country Music fan).  🙂

One of the recurring theme in Psalms is “God’s faithful love endures forever.” I just started reading Psalm 119 this morning as I journey through Psalms (it is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible) and the number of times it speaks of “God’s faithful love endures forever” in the previous 118 chapters would take a lot more meticulous work than I am able to give to it. But Psalm 136 take the prize. 26 verses = 26 times it says, “His faithful love endures forever.”

That may not seem significant to you at the moment, but I ask that you read the story of Abram and Sarai (later to become Abraham and Sarah) in Genesis 12-23. Pay particular attention to Sarah. She lived in a time when it was a disgrace not to have a child. Year after year she longed for and waited to have a child, especially when one had been promised. Shen she and Abraham are told they would have a son and that Abraham’s seed would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Oh the joy! Until days turn into months; months turn into years; years turn into decades; and decades turned into Sarah being 89 and Abraham 100. Still without a child. She had tried earlier to take matters into her own hands by giving her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham. Ishmael was born but he was not the promised child and it didn’t bring Sarah the satisfaction she thought it would. In fact, it led to conflict so strong that Hagar and Ishmael had to leave. Much of the Middle East issues are a result of this child. Finally, at the age of 89 and Abraham at 100, the promised child was born. They named him Isaac.

My purpose in this devotion is not to get into a discussion of the Middle East conflict and how Sarah’s efforts have a direct bearing on them. No…my point is to talk about “God’s faithful love endures forever.” Even through Sarah’s conniving and wondering, God’s faithful love endured. He promised. He delivered.

The same God of Abraham and Sarah is the same God today.  His faithful love endures forever, even when we don’t see. Sarah didn’t but even in spite of her missteps, she clung to the promise of a son. She clung to the truth that God would keep His word. Those same words are for us today: God’s faithful love endures forever.  So don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t throw your hands up in despair. He is a God of His word.

January 30

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

I’m celebrating today. My bride of 50.7 years has a birthday today. They say it is not wise to ask or tell a woman’s age so I won’t. I’ll just it is somewhere between 72 and 74. You do the math. 🙂

Just to show you what kind of woman she is: I was going to surprise her with a trip to Ohio to see our daughter and grandson. Things didn’t turn out so well. He is with his dad this week so after baseball practice (over at 8 p.m.) he will head off to his dad’s. Janna’s significant other has to work so that would leave the three of us (which would have been okay). Braden has baseball practice until 8 Wednesday morning then has to be back at school by 10 for class. That would make for a very short “wham-thank-you-ma’m” breakfast. Then Jo saw it was supposed to snow in Ohio (90%) and that scared her off. So I cancelled the hotel reservation. To top it off, I started losing my voice by the time the second service was done and I ended up with the creeping crud. Coughing. Sneezing. Aching. Lots and lots of sleep. (I haven’t been like this in years so it is a strange experience). So…not much of a birthday.

But she took it all in stride, much like she has during our 50+ years of marriage. While there have been moments of frustration (as in all marriages), I could not have asked for a better helpmate. I read the following this morning:

Adam was created first, then Eve was made to fill a void in his existence. Adam was the head; Eve was his helper. Adam was designed to be a father, provider, protector, and leader. Eve was designed to be a mother, comforter, nurturer, and helper  (40 Lives in 40 Days- MacArthur- p.62)

Jo has always been there. The above words fit her to a “T.” They are not misogynistic or any other “istic” or “phobic” you can come up with. I can give her no greater compliment that to say she was just like Eve: a filler of empty space; a helper who stuck with me through thick and thin; a mother who gave her all to our two daughters, but also allowed them to fly (and she is still there if they need her). Well done, my dear, well done.

Now…if I can only get her to read what I wrote about her I might win some brownie points. 🙂

January 29

Monday, January 29th, 2024

In this age of deconstruction of one’s faith, having questions is seen almost tantamount to betrayal. Unfounded deconstruction with belligerent questions is dangerous. But when someone is asking questions, sincerely asking questions, I think that is a good thing. Dangerous yes. Scary yes. But necessary? Yes.

In my early morning study, I’m reading a book called 52 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know by Dave Adamson. Dave is not Jewish, just interested in Hebrew words. I know zero, zilch, nada about Hebrew. If I was 40 years younger maybe, but at 71 that ship has already sailed. But I’d like to know a little, even though the alphabet looks like Chinese hieroglyphics.

Anyway, today’s word was “wrestles with God.” (No, I’m not even to try to put the Hebrew letters here).  There is no greater story on this topic in the Bible than Jacob wrestling with God. When done, he is a given a new name, Israel.

It is not unusual for people to have self-induced guilt or heaped on guilt by another for questioning what they believe. Or if they question a confusing passage. Or if we see God acting contrary to the way we think He should. And those tough passages that have us raising questions? Aaaaaah!!!

Jacob wrestled with God and came out blessed with a new name and a new purpose. If you have questions don’t bury them. Find someone you trust whom you can talk to. Search the Scriptures. Ask God to reveal His truth to you; He will not turn away. Struggling with your faith should not bring guilt; it should bring deeper digging and celebration as you learn more.

January 25

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Have you ever cried out for help and received it? Or maybe not?

I was struck today by a chapter in the Bible I have read countless time before but never saw what hit me until this morning. It is Psalm 107.  It begins with a familiar refrain that was repeated in some previous psalms: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (107:1)

Okay. Sounds like something I or maybe you have read before. But then the writer veers from script and begins to recount different events in the life of the wandering Israelites, as well as other events unrelated to them. What I noticed though (and missed this before) is that four times they cry out the same thing: “Lord help! they cried in their trouble and he rescued them from their distress.” Those same words are used in verses 4, 13, 19, and 28. So four times we see their cry, “Lord help!” and four times we see His response: “He saved them from their distress.”  Now watch what God did:

  • He led them straight to safety-v.7
  • He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom-v.14
  • He sent out His word and healed them-v.20
  • He calmed the storm to a whisper- v.29

Simple point: they cried out for help. God acted. Please read the chapter for yourself and do your own investigation. Let me close this simple devotion with two more verses:

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”  (107:43)

“Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. With God’s help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes.” (108:12-13)

Cry for help. He will answer. He will fight for you. And remember (as I told someone yesterday): God is seldom early, but He’s never late.

{All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

January 24

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

I’ve been thinking…about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an important aspect of everyone’s life, whether one is a Christ-follower or not. It comes into play seemingly in about every relationship we have. For the Christ-follower is it important to know we have God’s forgiveness. On the human side, it is important for us to either forgive or be forgiven.

One vitally necessary component of forgiveness with God or with another person is knowing unconditional forgiveness. None of us want to hear, “I’ll forgive you if…” We certainly feel unloved or, at best incompletely loved, if say a spouse says to a partner, “I’ll forgive you for the affair if…” or a father says to a child, “I’ll forgive you for the breach of conduct or break of trust if…” How disheartening that is! Why? Because that type of forgiveness has strings attached to it.

The story of the prodigal son is unusual because it is not the father who puts the conditions on the relationship, but the son. Check out the story in Luke 15. The son says, “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as your hired servant.'” (Verses 18-19). Basically, the son says, “If I do this and this then…If I show adequate repentance, become a servant then maybe my dad will forgive me.” It wasn’t the father but the son who put conditions on his love and acceptance. And what happens? The son doesn’t even get out his whole spiel before the father is bending over backwards to forgive and welcome him home and basically say, “My son! Welcome home!”

Do you see it? The father (God) is not the one with the conditions.  It is the son who hamstrung himself. How many times have we not seen and accepted God’s complete and absolute forgiveness because we don’t think we are good enough or done enough or repented sufficiently enough or been sorry enough? It’s not God; it’s us!

Stop putting conditions on God’s love and acceptance of you. Instead, bask in the glow of unconditional love and forgiveness.  Thinking done. 🙂