Perseverance

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October 26

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Several times over the past week I have had the occasion to speak to someone about the “I plant; you water; God gives the increase” idea of sharing our faith.

You know how that goes. “I have prayed and prayed. I have tried sharing my faith kindly when the opportunity arise, but still, no response.”

Or “I pray daily for my child to come to Christ or to recommit his/her life to Jesus, but it seems like my prayers go unanswered.”

Those are tough to hear. They are tough to witness in one’s life. They are tough ones not to give Christian platitudes to. But the words which could be said (and are) are not mere pablum or empty words.

When I have those times in my life, I cling to Paul’s words in I Cor. 3:6- “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” (NLT) 

It is not my responsibility to convert anyone. That is God’s. My responsibility is to share the message…to pray…to love. Most often, any change, any conversion, any re-commitment is the work of many. No one person has the right to say, “I did it.” It was a team effort.

The other principle is that we are called to be faithful. Plant the seed. Nurture the seed. That’s it. Be available. Don’t stress or fret over the results. A farmer know the crop will come in due time.

In God’s time.

October 13

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Hey everyone! Short devotion today.

Have you ever noticed how some start well, strong, even like a ball of fire? Then they just sort of peter out. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the person who falls hard for Jesus and there is no turning back. Pastor Greg Laurie is one of them (for example). But I’m sure we all know someone who is sold out to Jesus and has been for a long time.

What we all need to keep in mind is that God is in it for the long haul. Take a moment and read Philippians 1:6- “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

God never gives up on us nor leaves us. He is in it for the distance. We need to trust Him and say we are too.

Jo, Tami and I are leaving early this morning for Ohio. It will be Tami’s only chance to see Braden play football this year and it will be our last chance. Prayers for safe travel will be appreciated. See you here Monday!

September 15

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

After a day when we contemplated an issue that tested our willingness to trust and surrender (Thanks Ryan S.), let’s move on…to more of the same. 🙂

I think one of the hardest times for many of us is because we may not, or don’t, see the clear path, we have trouble moving forward. Sometimes we act paralyzed. Sometimes we simply hesitate following.

Let me revert to an illustration from the book. Many firefighters survive because they know a key truth: a meadow, brush, or even trees, can only burn one time. Many of them will run to the burn. It seems weird, but it is true. Many firefighters have been saved because they ran to the burn.

That brings up an important point. There is a positive side to adversity. Let’s be honest: most of us would like to avoid adversity. Avoid it like a plague would not be too far off. We see adversity as incongruous to a loving God and that said loving God would place adversity in front of us, let alone have us go through it. We do all we can to avoid it! We are far more interested in what will make us happy; God is far more interested in what will make us holy.

Instead of our natural aversion to pain and adversity, maybe we ought to embrace it. Instead of looking for a way around it, let’s stop trying to avoid it. Suffering can actually give us a greater platform for sharing the truth of God’s love.  Instead of running away, maybe God is saying, “Follow Me into the burn. You may not understand. In fact, you probably won’t. But follow Me anyway and I will lead you to safety. You will get to see what I can do.”

Truth: He does not want us to run ahead of Him; He wants us to follow Him. Even if that following has us meeting adversity.

And for your encouragement this morning, stop and read Psalm 86: 11-13. You’ll be glad you did.

September 1

Thursday, September 1st, 2022

First, an aside. Can you believe it is already September 1?

Let’s continue with our discussion of Principle #4: God’s signature on events is timing.

In Eccl. 3:1a Solomon uses two Hebrew words that have a deeper meaning than our English words convey.  The words used for “season” means “an appointed time or hour.” They are used a lot in Hebrew wisdom lit to represent God’s appointed times in His plans or intentions.

Another word is the one used for “activity” or events in 1b. Strangely, this word conveys the idea of delight. There is a delight or a blessing in discerning the timing of God.

Would you agree with me that the statement/questions I asked at the beginning of yesterday’s devotion might be true? “I think the #1 answer would have to do with timing. Why wait? Why so long? Why didn’t God answer sooner?” We find ourselves fighting God, questioning His wisdom AND MOST DEFINITELY questioning His timing rather than submitting our hearts and minds to the quietness and peace of surrender.

I like the quote Gail used in her response to yesterday’s devotion: “Time doesn’t heal; God heals, in time.”

To end the devotion today and to conclude Principle #4, there are four words which show up big in our discussion: trust, relationship, intimacy, and timing.

There is a section from the book that plays into this ending: “You asked for guidance and God led you to a wilderness. You anticipated insight in your life, and God gave you the truth about your life. The timing of it surprises you, but God’s never surprised by timing. It’s His signature on events.” (p.84)

“Father, all four of those words are important in my need desire to find Your will.”

August 31

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

If I were to conduct a man-on-the-street interview with Christ-followers, I’d ask this question: “When it comes to God answering your prayers, what is one of the hardest and most frustrating things for you to accept and understand?” IMHO I think one of the #1 answers would have to do with timing. Why did He wait so long? Why didn’t God answer sooner? If God knew what I needed, why did He wait to give it to me? Why not spare me the heartache that came with waiting?

Timing. Makes a vehicle run right. Makes a meal come together at just the right time, a la Beat Bobby Flay. 🙂  Timing really is everything. I’m certainly no gourmet cook (I can burn water) but I do know it is good to have things come together at the right time.

In fact, stop for a moment and read a passage of Scripture dedicated to timing: Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. But don’t stop there! Keep reading because one of the most powerful and beautiful verses comes in verse 11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (ESV) There was an old praise and worship song in the early ’80s by the Maranatha Singers called In His Time. (Click on the song title for a video link of the song). It was straight out of this verse. I remember singing it at night when I laid in bed struggling about my future. Sometimes that was all I had to hang onto (or so I thought). 

I know God has a plan for my life, for yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (You can read verses 24-26 on our own. They are powerful).

All of this to relate Principle #4 to you:

God’s signature on events is timing.

I’ll try to flesh that out more tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can add #4 to the list of three I gave in yesterday’s devotion.

August 29

Monday, August 29th, 2022

The last few devotions have been dealing with intimacy. It started with the August 23 devotion; then moved to August 24; and ended last week with the August 25th devotion. Intimacy requires honesty.

To quote Ed’s character from The Trail:

I believe that 90% of knowing God’s will is staying within the circle of intimacy by genuinely opening our lives up to His examining Spirit. (p.53)

God’s Word reveals God’s will for every believer. I think that is where many followers of Christ go astray.  We rely on other things-outside influences, our feelings, what others say-to decide. It’s almost like a cause and effect” “this then that.”

But let’s take a different approach. Let’s start with God’s Word and our circle of intimacy RATHER THAN every other place. I am convinced (and I admittedly struggle with this myself) that if my intimacy with God is on cue, and I am searching His Word, and I am truly seeking to honor Him in my choice, then I will not be steered wrongly.  That is different than the panic button I pushed in 1982. But even then, God did not abandon me. He used that “panic button” choice as a growing and learning experience. It wasn’t a selfish “I want to make more money” decision. Just the opposite…I took less.

But God’s Word was still true. Poor decision or not. My relationship with God actually grew more intimate with Him through that period of upheaval in my life and family.

So Principle #3 is established. Check out tomorrow’s devotion for that principle and a numbered statement (with a recap of numbers 1 and 2). Until then…stay intimate. Stay close. Read His Word.

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.

June 21

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

This past Sunday, as part of the Father’s Cay special the church had, one of the men used the father with the demon-possessed son. You can find his story in Mt. 17 and also in Mk. 9. It is the Mark 9 passage which is actually fuller with information and I’d like to use that one.

As Jesus, Peter, James and John made their way down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a swarm of people. Front and center was a father whose son was demon-possessed. He had begged and pleaded with the disciples to heal his son-to cast out the demon-but they were unable to. So the father tells Jesus what has been happening. Putting aside Jesus’ words about the faithlessness of the others, the father brings his son to Jesus and about that time the demon throws him on the ground and into convulsions. The conversation next is my point:

Jesus: “How long has this been happening?”

Father: “From childhood.”

Father: “But if you can do anything…” (emphasis mine)

Jesus: “IF? All things are possible to those who believe.”

Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus heals his son.

Notice the exchange? “If?”  “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

That father is me sometimes. There are occasions when I bring very little faith to the table. I’m barely holding on. But He is willing to take what little faith I have and make it greater. I have often said, “He takes my #2 faith and make is a #8 or a #10 faith.”

Jesus builds faith; He doesn’t tear it down. If there is any tearing down, it is to tear down our self-sufficient “faith” and build a kingdom faith.

May your (and my) faith increase.

 

June 9

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

I actually wrote this on Tuesday morning, June 6th, while at the hotel.  If I had had a way to post this that morning I would have done so, but typing on my phone is not my idea of fun so I figured I would do it this morning.  Here were my thoughts on that Tuesday morning.

After a very restless night not sleeping in a hotel bed, fraught with a lot of tossing and turning and pain and discomfort, I received a text from a man in the church who told me on June 1 that he would be praying for me all month. Here was his text:

“Lord, I pray for Pastor Bill. Lord, if his bodily pain persists, may his bodily pain lead to your Spirit’s deeper working in him. I know that many times continued pain uncovers things in us. I pray that if you are uncovering something, that he in raw honesty, talks to You about it and he lets You do whatever You want to do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I have often said that pain is never wasted. Just Sunday, one of our ladies sat next to another young mother going through the trauma of betrayal and a broken marriage. When I hugged the one mother (Lady #1), she whispered, “Only God could know that she (Lady #2) would be going through what I’ve just gone through.”

And that’s it!! Pain is never wasted. We were never meant to keep the lessons we learn from pain to ourselves. God is in the midst of the pain. Being fully human He knows what it is like. He promises that He will be with me through my pain and carry it with me, and when it gets too heavy,  He will be my heavy lifter.

I know Lady #1 knows that. I also know Lady #2 is experiencing some of that and will, with Lady #1’s help and other’s help, come to see that. She will also come out on the other end praising God for His faithfulness.

“Father, thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Steve’s words. Thank you for Lady #1’s willingness to use her pain to hold Lady #2’s hand and let her cry. May I be that same type of vessel.”

I would love to share with you the name of Lady #1 but privacy will not allow me to do that. I’m sure you understand.  🙂

May 18

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

This is getting hard. Revelation 14 this morning. I counted six angels pronouncing judgment. No clue what the significance of that is. But to “de-prophecy” this, here is what I gleaned:

1. We will stand with the Lamb and sing a new song. (1-5). I have no clue what the 144,000 means. I know what the JWs say and I totally disagree with that. Simple math says  12 tribes x 12,000 = 144,000. Significance? I don’t know. It gets me no closer to the meaning. So I’ll focus on the new song we will sing.

2. The words or pronouncements of the angels were of the destruction of the enemy. Verse 6 is of the angel pronouncing judgment. Verse 7 is an angel saying Babylon will fall. Verses 9-11 tell them getting the mark of the beast was a terrible thing to do.

3. Saints need to persevere (12-13). There is blessing in dying in the Lord.

4. Three more angels come bringing the judgment (15-20)  I confess to replaying the scene from Tombstone where Kurt Russell, playing Wyatt Earp, yells, “I’m coming to get you and hell’s coming withe me!”  This angel is no longer just talk. Judgment is coming.

WOW!! It is at this point I’m saying, “What in the world?” I’ll look more closely what the prophecy gurus say, but let’s just say this:  it often looks like those of us who follow Jesus (the Lamb) are the losers. We are persecuted. Mistreated. Maligned. Criticized. And so on. But some day we will sing a new song. What the words are to that song no one knows. Does it really matter as long as we are singing it? I think not.

And I’m willing to wager that it will be sung on key.

“Father, the song of the Lamb will be one of triumph. That will be my song for and through the ages.”