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November 9

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Warning: longer post than normal.

Two days ago, November 7th (which you can view here), Ryan responded in the comment section. I was going to copy and paste his response here, but suggest that you simply go to that post and read his comments. As you can see, he asked several questions of me and I would like to answer them in this post. I realize this might be inadequate to some, but hopefully it might even stir more conversation, and even more serious thought for you.

His questions in the second paragraph were, “Is there an appropriate response you use when confronted with the idea of chance and happenstance in your daily encounters? Is it enough to simply say…”I don’t believe in luck” or should we go a step further?”

I’d like to go on record as saying I don’t believe we are puppets without a will of our own to make decisions. Both good or bad, no matter the outcome. I don’t believe God has a finger on our head saying, “Turn this way” or “No, no. do an about face.” The one caveat I must make though is that I do believe God “speaks” to our spirits as He leads us and hopefully, we are sensitive enough (tuned in) to His leading and voice. I also don’t believe God is the author-in any way, shape, or form-of evil. That would be totally contrary to His nature and also unbiblical (James 1:13-15)

I believe the Bible is clear when it says we will reap what we sow. There will be consequences to bad seed, i.e. decisions, actions, etc that we make or take. Expecting God to bail us out with no ramifications is not sound thinking, or theology.

That being said, I do believe God can take what is bad and bring good out of it. I believe in a God who is filled with grace and acts with mercy. I believe in a God who does not abandon me in my “stupidity,” but will put His arms around me and walk through the fire with me. My feet and clothes might get singed, the damage might even be worse, but He will walk with me through it.

There has been, is now, and always will be two opposing forces-good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness-at war. Ephesians 6:12 is so very clear about this. The one whom I surrender to is the one that has dominance in my life.

As for luck, chance and happenstance? I realize things happen. Spur of the moment things. Comments by others. “Good luck at the game!” Cultural things we are prone to say. I don’t say anything about that. For example, if someone says, “Good luck at the game!” I know what they mean. It’s words, as Ryan put it.  However, I don’t say that. What I will say is, “Play your hardest. Give it all you got. Don’t give up” or something like that.

I definitely agree with Ryan’s comment in the first paragraph about what the enemy tries to do. The real battle is in the heart and mind of each person. Perhaps that is some of what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 12:2 when he said to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and when he wrote about the “natural cannot understand the spiritual and the flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit.”

There are some things we will never understand because our knowledge is so limited and because we cannot understand the mind of God. I choose to trust in a sovereign God who knows what is best for me…even when I go my own way and mess up. I’m glad He knows the way because I sure don’t. I need His strong and steady hand holding mine, especially when life is a minefield (sometimes of my own doing).  I don’t need luck, chance or happenstance. I NEED HIM.

September 29

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

If you were to take a random survey of people, especially Christ-followers, of what is there #1 question here on earth, and possibly one they say they will ask God when they get to heaven, I suspect it would be, “Why?” More specifically, “Why all the pain and suffering, especially to little children?”

To be more specific with an example (and there is, of course, not only one), here is one I have been dealing with.  Some folks who are friends of mine, but also part of the church I pastor, have a neighbor/friend who has a 4 year old who has been diagnosed with a glioma, an inoperable, aggressive, and fatal brain tumor.  He has had 3 surgeries so far- one for the tumor originally, and two for complications (bleeding and infection). The question “Why him?” has been asked a lot lately.

I believe we can ask that question and more any time we want. God is not afraid of our questions. But, will we be satisfied with the answer? I don’t know. God, of course, is under no obligation to answer. None. He doesn’t owe me anything.

But I can take heart that Jesus also asked why. Remember on the cross? “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Notice the “why.” But take note of the 4 words which precede it. Even though the grief over separation from His Father was great, Jesus still trusted (“Into Your hands I commit my spirit”). Jesus was forsaken so I might be forgiven. But even in His plain and agony (not physical), Jesus trusted.

We will NEVER understand all that goes on down here on earth. We will NEVER understand all the “whys.” That is not the issue. The issue is “will I trust?”

I don’t know what you or someone you love may be going through right now. In the end, it comes down to trust.

{Side note: I will be taking this Sunday off. I have had one off (and didn’t realize it), since sometime in 2021. This weekend Jo and I are going to chill and Sunday we plan to visit Ryan and Amanda’s home church (he comments on this blog). Your prayers for a “chill time” would be appreciated. Someone has said, “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart.” I prefer to do the former before the latter. Thanks}

September 14

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

{Spoiler alert: longer post than normal}

After my September 12 post, Ryan S. responded with the following words:

“I can’t deny that I tried a number of methods to seek God’s will. Though, I have never tried the obvious “fleece method”, I suspect my results would have been similar. Whatever happens, I would find a way to justify my desire. I think if I am honest with myself, I know what I “should” do before even asking most of the time.

The Bible has pretty clear instruction regarding relationships, finances, and our actions. I think if I look close enough, I can find what I am looking for there.
The question really then becomes… Do I like the answer?

When thinking about trying to discern God’s Will, I often come back to the parable of the talents. Seems like a strange connection, but let me see what others think.
God has provided His endless wisdom throughout the Bible. If I choose to live my life according to the His written word in all areas, then perhaps, God would provide me more insight into His unwritten will. I believe He does this through the Holy Spirit living inside us. I think this understanding and knowledge may be shared based on how we handle the direction He has already shared….”

I’d like to give my response by reinforcing what he said. We, as Christ-followers, often underestimate the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit. We freak because of obvious abuses associated with Him. I was in that camp at one time. I was so ignorant of the Spirit and admittedly somewhat naive, that the first time I was in a public worship and someone raised their hands, I broke out in a cold sweat. I was sure some wild stuff was about to happen. It didn’t. In time, I came to study the ministry of the Holy Spirit and was no longer afraid. Eventually, I learned the joy, praise and freedom of raising my hands in worship.

The Holy Spirit is not some mystical force.  He is not some impersonal being. In John 14> 16-18 Jesus gives some important insights into the Holy Spirit:

  • Verse 16– He is our Helper.
  • Verse 17– He is the Spirit of Truth. He is given “human” characteristics. He cannot be seen or touched but He is real.
  • Verse 18– He is Jesus’ representative. Paul calls Him “Christ in You.”
  • Verse 26– Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things.” One young man, who eventually left the church with his family for various reasons, always referred to Him as “of Holy Spirit.” Impersonal.  I never had a chance to ask him why he left out the “the” when referring to the Holy Spirit. Jesus does. Anyway…

The Spirit is Jesus in us. He’s our Helper. He is our Guide. As such, He is given a place in our hearts. I/you invite Him to make Himself at home. (In ancient times, the word for “ghost”-the old King James word- meant “invited guest”). I tell Him to make Himself at home in my heart. He leads. He guides. He protects. As I submit my heart and life to Him-hopefully (and ideally) more completely each day-He is able to reveal more of Himself and more of God’s will for my life.

The big question that arises time after time is this: Am I willing to submit to His influence over my life? Am I willing to go where He wants me to go and do what He wants me to do? If so, I do believe (as Ryan says) that God’s will is made clearer, even that which has been hidden. Even then, it may be unveiled a little at a time.

Here’s the kicker though: Even if God does not reveal His will so I can see clearly the path ahead, I must be willing to follow Him regardless. That is the real influence of the Spirit within me. He is within me to give me the strength to do whatever it is God wants me to do.

Your thoughts?

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 17

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

As I said in yesterday’s post (and so eloquently put by Ryan in his comments), one of the hardest things to do is to give up control, or at least the semblance of it. This is especially true when a decision needs to be made and one has several options.

Back in the early 80s, I found myself in a situation like that. I had been pastoring a church that just about killed my spirit. It was very legalistic, i.e. “We are right; you are wrong; and we will argue about it.” I didn’t know that at first, plus I was desparate to find a church since I’d been asked to leave from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor. To make matters tougher, money was very tight and I went through some burn-out.

Anyway, I interviewed at one church and scheduled a time to preach. In the meantime, another church asked for an interview which I had. The conundrum was the second church was more inviting to me but I had no promises with them. Church #1 has already had me come to preach and asked me to come.  (I had scheduled the interview before the “trial” sermon). What should I do?

I asked a friend. His words were wise: “Bill, there is no right or wrong. Take church #1. You already know their decision. You can’t make a wrong decision in this because God will be with you no matter what you choose. He will not abandon you.”

He was right. While the 3 years there were good ones, learning ones, and ended dubiously, the other church never called me back. In fact, several months later-six maybe-a young couple from that church reached out to me and found out what happened. They not only profusely apologized but sent some expense money (out of their own pocket).

My issue was control. I was unsure at the fork in the road and needed to make a decision. I wanted it to be THE. RIGHT. ONE. At least in my mind. I reached out to my friend because I wanted him to tell me what only God could. In a way, he did.

He told me to “Trust God.” He doesn’t make mistakes. And even though I may choose the one that gives me a rockier road, He will not abandon me.

TRUST GOD at the fork in the road. Seeking His desire does not give a wrong choice. One may be tougher and bring some learning lessons, but neither can be wrong.

January 5

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

If I was a betting man (which I am not), I would be willing to wager that most, if not all of us, will at one time or another in 2022 ask or want to ask Why? Now, I’m not talking about the little one who has a thousand questions and they all seem to start with the word why?

No, this is much more serious. When a health event hits us our first question might be Why? When a catastrophic event hits us-a death, fire, destruction, car accident-we might be inclined to ask Why? When a financial hardship hits we may be tempted to ask Why?

We may never know the answer to that question while here on earth, but we can take comfort in the truth of One who does. Just this week (Monday) I finished writing a sermon from Daniel 2. In that chapter is a verse which speaks to this issue: Daniel 2:22- “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” (NASB2020)

We can take comfort in the fact that God is never surprised or afraid. He is never caught off guard. And while the event that happens has me rocking backwards on my heels and a tad bit flustered, God is not wringing His hand wondering, “What am I going to do?”

Take heart. Those moments of darkness are not dark to Him. He is the light on the head of the coal miner. He is the compass in the hands of the explorer. As the old hymn says, “There is no shadow or turning with Thee.” (Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Father, what You do in the light, You do in the dark. When I have questions-especially Why?-help me to trust Your all-encompassing hand.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

December 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Am I alone? I think not. Here is why I ask that. In fact, I’ll answer that with a question:

Why is it that for many of us, Christmas is a mixed blessing?

I suspect some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is Bill asking that for?” Hang in there with me.

While I will smile and laugh and be jovial, there will be those who are sad, will cry, and feel as thought their heart will break.

While I will receive some gifts (I have, after all, been very good) 🙂  there will be those who will receive nothing.

While I will hopefully spend time with family and friends, there will be those who have no family or friends and will be alone.

While I will be warm and “snug and a bug in a rug” at night, there will be those who will shiver and long for a warm bed or fire.

You get my drift now? Happy. Sad. Laughter. Tears. A mixed bag. I realize life is like that. I’m not telling you anything your don’t already know. But while I am experiencing all the good of the season, there are those who have been forgotten, are forgotten, or long for what maybe once was.

The tragedy is that I’m not really sure what to do about it. I don’t live in a big town that has a homeless population or even a home for those on the street. So let me turn it to you: what do you suggest? Do you have this same dilemma? What is your solution? I’m open for suggestions.

“Father, help me not to close my eyes to the plight of others. Give me wisdom to see with Your eyes what others need.”

August 17

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion about Psalm 13, so I thought I would follow up that devotion with a deeper look into this psalm.

First, please read Psalm 13 in its entirety. Yeah…all 6 verses. 🙂

The chapter is written by King David.  Here we go:

If God truly forgot David, as he says in verse 1, then how was David able to say he trusted in God’s faithfulness? (v.5a)

In verse 1b David says that God hid His face from him, but in verse 6b he says that God has looked after him.

In verse 2a David wrestled with this thoughts and grief, yet in verse 6a he had a song in his heart.

In verse 2b David said his enemy was triumphing over him but in verse 5b he says his heart rejoices in God’s salvation.

There appears to be a discrepancy, or at best, David is bi-polar.

Here is how I see it: David’s feelings and reality were in conflict. He felt God had hidden, but he believed God was somehow good to him. He felt the pains of inner sorrow, but he believed he had every right to sing. Same with the other two.

Sometimes our feelings are too strong in how we decide. We are often anchored to our feelings. We need to believe. We need to not rely so much on our feelings and more on what we KNOW about God’s mercy, providence, love and grace.

Less feelings. More trust.

“Father, that is a constant struggle for many of us. May I live a life of faith not feelings.”

{My thanks to Randall Arthur’s book Wisdom Hunter for the insights into this passage. It is a fiction book I highly recommend. I cannot even tell you how many times I have read it and how many copies I have given away}. 

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.”