Perseverance

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July 16

Friday, July 16th, 2021

If I were to pick one characteristic that was prevalent during COVID, or one that it highlighted, and one that still rears its ugly head, it is FEAR. Fear of infection. Fear of transmission. Fear of death. Fear of living life. Fear of (you fill in the blank).

This morning during my Encounter Time reading, it seems like God wanted to or had something to say about fear. First, read Psalm 118:6-9,14. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (v.6  NLT) I encourage you to read the other verses.

Second, Joshua 6: 1-7. It was totally illogical and frankly, military suicide, to do what God told the Israelites to do. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The details are in the passage. Jericho was sealed up tighter than a drum and they (the Israelites) were told to march? Are you kidding me? What is the sense in that?

God was teaching them to stop seeing things from their perspective and their vantage point; He had a better idea. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9- “My grace is all you need. My power words best in weakness.” (NLT)

When I can’t, God can.

When I’m unable, God is.

When I’m lost, God is my direction.

When I can’t see, God is my light.

It’s a promise. One I can count on and cling to. I am never alone. I am never wandering aimlessly in the desert. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Ps.118: 8-9 NLT)

“Father, You are my refuge and my strength; my wisdom and life-giver. I have nothing to fear when I see things from Your perspective. Please help me to see things from Your point of view.”

July 5

Monday, July 5th, 2021

HAPPY (DAY AFTER) INDEPENDENCE DAY 

If you have the day off today, enjoy it.  If you don’t still enjoy it. 🙂  Let’s start your day out right though with a devotion.

Time for a quick quiz:

Do you know what the letters ADHD stand for?

  • If you answered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder you answered correctly.  Give yourself a pat on the back.

Do you know what the letters PTSD stand for?

  • If you answered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you answered correctly. Give yourself a virtual high five.

Do you know what the letters RADD stand for?

  • If you answered “Cool” or “With It” give yourself a big raspberry. Or do you hear that sound from one of the game shows for a wrong answer? It means Redemptive Attention Deficit Disorder (courtesy of Paul David Tripp even though he did not put it into a highlighted 4-letter statement. That’d be me).

Explanation: We serve a dissatisfied Redeemer. He does not do His work poorly or incompletely. He doesn’t walk away from us while work is in progress.  I get that way sometimes when working a jigsaw puzzle.  I will sit and work for hours until my eyes are crossed, all pieces look the same, and my butt is tired from sitting too long. I wisely know it is time to walk away and shut off the light. I can come back later and work the puzzle.

God does not have RADD. He does not work on us for a short minute and then grow tired and walk away.  Good thing. I’m reminded of the verse which says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.1:6)  That tells me that God stays with the project (me) until He is done.

When I’m done with a puzzle there is a sense of accomplishment, especially if it has been a difficult one. I have learned not to get discouraged by a lack of progress. Take one piece at a time. I sometimes wonder if God sighs at my lack of progress but then jumps up and down (figuratively not literally) when I stick with it and allow Him to do His work.

I’m so glad He is RADD, as in COOL. AWESOME. And I sure am glad He does not have ADHD.

“Father, do Your work and complete Your work in me. Keep me from being distracted and help me concentrate on being fully Yours.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.

June 30

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Do you remember the song, The Gambler, by the late Kenny Rogers? It had lyrics familiar to the gambling trade:

You gotta know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run.

Those words are easy to see when it comes to gambling, but when it comes to life? Not so. For example, it took a lot for me to quit (fold ’em) when I played baseball or basketball. I went by the philosophy that the “game isn’t over until the last out.” Even in basketball, when a team is down by 20 points with one minute left, it is hard to stop playing. Least it was for me.

I remember twice in my college career when I folded early. So did the team. So did the coach. Both times we played teams out of our league and it didn’t take long before we all realized we were in trouble and way over-matched. (Ironically, both were before important tournaments).  Finally, in the second half, coach mercifully pulled me and “let” me enjoy the rest of the game on the bench. First time all night I enjoyed the game! 🙂

In the spiritual race/war, there are times we gotta know when to fold ’em and when to walk away or even run. It is one thing to stay and fight; it is a wise person who knows when to get out of Dodge. Yes, fighting sin and temptation and the Tempter is sometimes necessary. But so is running. Running from the temptation. Pulling back to gather strength to fight another day.

There is no shame in running to recoup. There is a problem with giving in without a fight. What I need to remember is that as I fight, God fights right alongside me. He’s got my back. And my front. And my side.  The battle is His; not mine. Victory comes from surrender…to Him. But sometimes that surrender is absolutely essential before victory is realized.

“Father, take my life and help me to fight.  Help me to also know when to run so I can recoup and regather to fight another time, another day.”

June 22

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

“The battle belongs to the Lord.” We will hear that often from pastors/teachers as they admonish us to fight on, to carry on, to not give up.

I read an interesting story from Our Daily Bread yesterday (6/21/21). During what has been The Charge of the Light Brigade, Lt. Colonel de Salis had a horse named Drummer Boy who was injured during battle. He decided his horse deserved a medal as much as his valiant men. Even though their military action failed, Drummer Boy was awarded a medal. And even though it failed, that battle goes down as one of Britain’s greatest military moments because of the valor of both men and horses.

That brings to mind several Scriptures:

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But the victory belongs to the Lord.” (Pr.21:31) (NASB 2020)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps.20:7) (ESV)

Those are just a couple of verses which show our strength is not our own. Nor is our strength that which is strong on earth. Over and over in Scripture we are told that God is the one who fights for us. He is the One we are to trust not that which appears strong. I like what Deut.20:4 says, “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you the victory.” (NLT)

Not much more to say is there? God has promised to fight those battles with us and for us. Lean on that.

“Father, may I trust You when it comes to battle. Help me to stand firm against sin and evil and remember the battle is Yours.”

June 18

Friday, June 18th, 2021

HOPE.

An ‘oft used word:

  • “I hope it does/doesn’t rain today.”
  • “I hope it’s a boy/girl.”
  • “I hope my son/daughter gets a scholarship.”
  • “I hope God comes through for me.”
  • “I hope my new job is a good one.”

So many different ways we use the word hope.  Truth? We. all. want. and. need. hope. You take away hope and all you’ve got is a shell of a person left. You can see this in a person who has received the big “C” diagnosis and only given weeks to live. You see it in a parent’s worst nightmare-the loss of a child. From the biggest thing to a minor thing, we can see our lives are fueled and driven by hope. 

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So says the old hymn.

Hope relying on things or people or circumstances will not last or hold together. Hope relying on horizontal fulfillment will not last. Only hope found vertically will stand the test of time and can be counted on.

You see…hope that lasts can only be found in a Person, that Person is Jesus. Hope found in Him will not disappoint us. (Romans 5:1-5) It will, instead, be the rock we can stand upon.

“Father, may my hope be in You and You alone. Take away all desires to find the answer to hope horizontally. Help me to push aside all the other imposters to Your throne.”

May 14

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Life is difficult. Life is hard. Or so I’ve heard. And…so I’ve experienced. Inherent to all of us is one of two choices- give up or fight through.

There are those who give up. They check out of reality.  Maybe they tell themselves “This is not real. This is not happening. God wants me to enjoy life so I’m going to spin positive and deny I’m having difficulty.” Yeah, like that is going to help. No name-it-claim-it; no Christian Science; no Scientology denial; no dismissal and positive “best life now” approach will change life.

Others tragically check out permanently. Putting aside those who struggle mentally, there are those who just give up. I think what happened during the Great Depression and most economic downturns is proof of what I’m saying.

But, then there are those who fight. Bob Goff wrote the following:

There are three things I’ve learned about climbing a mountain. First, there’s almost always a point when you want to give up. Second, you don’t get breathtaking views until you push to the summit. And third, the summit is almost always just after the point you want to quit.

I’ve never been a mountain climber. Maybe when I was younger Not now. 🙂 My knees would protest. Loudly. Too loudly. But I have stopped at high points and gotten out of the car to look. A train ride in Skagway, Alaska is another example. Beautiful views. Getting to the summit worth it.

Giving up goes against my grain…sometimes to my detriment. But I’d rather stick to something too long than to give up too soon. On the other side of pain and yes, failure, is a beautiful view of love and acceptance from a Father who walked every step of the way with me.

“Father, thank you for hanging in there with me, especially through the tough times. “

{Quote by Bob Goff from Live in Grace*Walk in Love. P.164}

May 6

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

How often have you wished your troubles would go away? How many times have you (and I) said, “Oh, I’m so tired of this mess. I just wish it would all be right. For once.” More than I care to admit.

I’m in the process of reading Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger. It is written in the style of a father writing to his daughter at college. (His real life daughter was just beginning her freshman year at UNC in Charlotte).  So the format fits perfectly.

His first chapter address the question: will I survive? I started reading this book because I see and hear and read of so many who are deconstructing their faith, especially those who go off to college. In this first chapter he said something which was so spot on, so insightful, it impacted me enough to write his post. Opposition to our faith comes in various ways. Kruger writes about the effect/importance of/response to opposition.

Here is some of what he wrote:

“In short, opposition  made the early Christians better theologians (My note: he had referenced the Gnostics), better defenders of the faith, and better evangelists.”

“But opposition to your faith will change you in another way. In addition to sharpening your mind, it will hone your character.”

And finally: “Don’t view opposition only in negative terms; view it as an opportunity to grow as a Christian, so that you might be better equipped to build up your fellow believers and reach non-Christians more effectively.”

Nothing wasted. No wasted opportunity to learn. To share. To grow. I believe that is God’s modus operandi.

So…let me ask you: how do you view opposition in your life?

“Father, help me to view opposition not as a negative, but as a positive influence in my life.”

{Note: All quotes are from page 35}

April 27

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Sometimes the description of the Christian life is one of opposites. Sometimes living the reality of the Christian life is a bundle of opposites. I want to say a paradox but I’m not really sure if that fits. Let me show you what I mean:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”  (2 Cor. 6:3-10)

What I underlined during my Encounter Time this morning are verses 7-10.

I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” He was challenging their age old beliefs (legalism) with something totally radical. He took the law even further and gave it more scope.

In the 2 Corinthian passage Paul is saying, “We are…but they say…” That seems to be an outgrowth of being a Christ-follower. First, taking it one step further than it appeared. Second, facing accusations which aren’t true or are embellished to make them look bad. The key is for us, when they say that about us, is to live a life of love (v.12a)

“Father, may my life be consistent with what You want. No matter what people say to tear me down may it be found to be a lie.”

April 21

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

At age 68 one thing I do think about is my mortality. When one is in their 20-30s, 68 is o-o-o-l-l-l-d!  Now that I’m there (or is that here?), not only does that seem old but the 30s, even 40s, seem so young. 🙂 I see youthful vigor, dreams and aspirations and have to admit a little bit of envy creeps in.  I realize I’m on the downside, that I have a lot less years to live than what I have already lived.

But I also know I want to finish well. It is not enough to start well. Finishing well is equally or even more important.

I’m thinking this morning of King Hezekiah. The Bible says there was no king like him before or after. He changed the whole religious landscape of Judah. But when Isaiah told him to get his house in order, he whined and begged for more years. God-for some reason-granted him his request and gave him 15 more years. But, oh, what a mess they turned out to be! He became proud of what he had and showed off to a Babylonian envoy all he had. History shows Manasseh, one of the worst and most evil kings ever, was born to him during this time.

Hezekiah may have started well, but he didn’t finish so well. He should have listened to Solomon’s words in Proverbs 21:21- “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

I have no idea (no one does) what God has in store for my future. I hope, personally, that I am granted years to continue preaching the message of God’s love and grace from the pulpit and in life.  I do not know what will transpire, but I do know this: I want to finish well. This race is a long-distance run not a sprint.

“Father, may I finish well, still pursuing righteousness and unfailing love until my last breath.”