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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.”

June 9

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I’ve got a problem! (I know what some of you are thinking and no comments are needed from the peanut gallery). But in all seriousness, I have a problem.

“Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

My problem: how do I do that? How do I know if I have?

Paul David Tripp in his short devotional book 40 Days of Love says,

“We can know the true joys of human love only if love for God first rules our hearts.” (p.72)

I know that. Not sure I practice it all that much. There is no question in my mind that I am often guilty of idolatry-of putting people, places, and things ahead of Jesus. The sad part is that I know this but find it so hard to change it. I realize that if I don’t find my rest and comfort in God, I will seek for it somewhere or with someone else. Then I’ll be asking of Jo, or another person, or my bike. or an activity to do for me what only God can. Fill me and satisfy me.

But even as I write this I am no closer to an answer to my questions: How do I do that? How do I know?

Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I’d like to hear from you.

“Father, help me to love You as I am supposed to. Please help me to find the answers to my questions.”

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 5

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it Speculation.  And since it is the day after Resurrection Sunday, let’s speculate about one of the characters of the “cross story.”

Barabbas.

Funny how no one names their child by that name. “Here is my new son. His name is Barabbas.” That is about infamous as Judas. What happened to Barabbas (B) is pure speculation.

B was the insurrectionist who was about to be executed. He was there for his evil deeds. Could it have been the third cross was actually for him? You know, the one Jesus was crucified on. Could it be he was soon to be brought out of his cell and find himself with the other two (who perhaps were cohorts)? Suddenly he hears his name called but instead of being put to death as a criminal, he is set free.

More speculation: did B follow the crowd through the streets and to the hill? Did he stay and hear the words, “Father, forgive them”? Did he hear his partner in crime ask to be forgiven and remembered and given a place in Paradise? And was he so overwhelmed that he also gave himself to the One who took his place? I don’t know. Pure speculation allows for scenarios we won’t know the answer to until another day.

What is not speculation is that Jesus went to the cross for B; for the network of evil which brought about the whole scenario; the criminals on the crosses; the people at the foot of the cross; the people clamoring for His death; for His mother, Mary; for Peter, James and John; and for me.

No speculation, just facts.

“Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the fact that Jesus died. It is not speculation. And it was for me.”

March 24

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

There is a lot of talk these days-as well as a lot written- about what is called deconstruction. It is especially pointed when it involves prominent, well-known or well-respected people. We’ve seen in recent years pastors and leaders like Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) announce he was getting a divorce and then just a few days later that he was leaving the faith and no longer considered himself a Christian. A worship leader from Hillsong. The lead singer of the Christian group Hawk Nelson. YouTube personalities Rhett and Link. That is just to name a few of those who have “deconstructed.”

I’m not talking about progressive like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Michael Gungor or Richard Rohr. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of tangled and messed up string.

These “deconstructors” dismantle their faith, leaving nothing. How and when it started is different. Some went through a class in college. Some went through a crisis in life. Some had a repressive, fundamentalist background they wanted to break free from. The reasons behind deconstruction are numerous.

Questioning one’s faith is not bad…or wrong. Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he is thinking.” I believe it is good to question, to kick the tires so to speak. I disagree with those who say that if we question it shows we don’t have real faith in Jesus. Oddly enough, it is that type of environment that has caused many deconstructions to happen. I heard a podcast recently where the interviewee said there are three stages one goes through: construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Start. Middle. Finish.

Here’s a novel idea (well, not really but it sounded good 🙂 ). Instead of demonizing those who question, let’s encourage honest questions. Not the superficial kind. Honest ones. But let’s encourage that the questions not be answered by secular culture or by the cancel culture we see and hear so much from these days, but instead run to Jesus with the questions. Let’s seek honest answers to our questions. 

“Father, help me to be honest in my questions.  Help me to admit that some questions will not have answers. Help me to run to Jesus and not away from Him” 

February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 4

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

I mentioned in an earlier post (February 2) that I have been reading through the NT using the NLT (New Living Translation). Today I read Luke 15 & 16. There was no one STOP THIS IS IT! moment this morning. There were several. So I thought I’d record those moments here:

  1. Luke 15 is the trio of stories Jesus told-the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. Perhaps we can put a positive spin on them and say the Found Sheep, the Found Coin, and the Returning Son. All three end with a variation of saying the same thing. Verse 7, Verse 10, and Verse 32 all carry the idea of rejoicing because that which was lost is found; that which was dead has come back to life. The angels rejoice when someone has run their race and enters heaven, but they also rejoice when someone repents and comes to Jesus for the first time.
  2. Luke 16:10. Faithful in little, faithful in much. If one can’t be trusted with the little, how can they be trusted in the much?
  3. Luke 16:13. Where is my heart? Who or what has its attention?  Have I sold my soul to a lesser master?
  4. Luke 16:14. Where is my allegiance? When the world looks at me, do they see a religion that is dead or a life that is vibrant? More importantly, what does God see? He sees the deepest part of me.

Just a few random thoughts this morning. Random but convicting. Did any one passage stand out to you?

“Father, thank You for Your Word. It is a Light and a Lamp. Please continue to shine it on me.”

January 7

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Who am I meant to be? A slight variation of that is the question asked by millions of people since the beginning of time: who am I? I think every teenager asks that question. In all honesty, it isn’t a question just for teens. I know adults-in their 20s, 30s, 40s- who still wonder what they are here for. I’m one of them.  I should say I used to be.

My mother once told for as long as she can remember I talked about being a pastor. Other than the unrealistic dream of being a professional baseball or basketball player, I never dreamed of being a fireman or policeman or any of the other “hero” vocations. Except for a 2-year period (6th-7th grade) where I spread my wings verbally (you can draw your own conclusions), I always had a heart for God. I stood out like a sore thumb in high school when I wouldn’t fight, riot or even go out Friday night to get drunk so I could throw up and drink some more. How stupid is that? But even though my heart leaned toward, and even though I did become a pastor, there have been times I’ve questioned that. When I got fired or dismissed. When the church failed to grow. When my own heart grew cold and sometimes bitter. When I stood and compared myself to others. It was tough but what brought me back was knowing what I was created for. Two things: 1) I was made by God to have a fully restored relationship with Him; and 2) I was made to be transformed by Him.  It’s the icing on the cake.  It’s the cherry on top of the ice cream.  Everything else is, well, superfluous.

“Father, I was created by You to be Yours and to be transformed by You. Please do Your work in me so I will know my purpose.”

November 20

Friday, November 20th, 2020

First, a couple of questions:

  • Have you noticed that judging is a tricky thing?
  • Have you noticed we will often judge another but overlook our own sin? (Of course you have noticed)
  • Have you noticed we are often more judgmental of people who struggle with the same sin as us?
  • Have you noticed how we often have a scale of how right or wrong a sin is?

Judging is tricky. I know what some say. They use the Scripture in Matthew 7:1- “Judge not, that you be not judged” as rationale for being able to do what they want without having you or me as their conscience. “Who are you to judge?” is the question often asked. I have some thoughts on that but let’s walk away from that for now.

I’m particularly wanting to focus on the kind of self-righteous posturing we get into when we compare. “Will you look at that. I’m sure glad I don’t do that.” That kind of self-righteous shtick that lampoons others while getting us off the hook. Sadly, if we have overcome a habit, rather than become more sensitive we tend to become a harsher critic.

Another angle to throw in is how we are often harder on others or totally avoid talking about the sin we are guilty of. Like the preacher who harps on porn or adultery because it is prevalent in his life, OR avoids talking about them because they are in his closet.

Here’s a novel idea (said with tongue planted firmly in my cheek): How about we just stop pointing fingers of judgment on sin and look in the mirror more intently and with more honesty? I’m not saying we lay down our discernment of right and wrong. What I am saying is to stop the self-righteous picking at someone else.

“Father, may my thoughts and words be pure and Christ-focused.”

October 15

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

It’s a conundrum. Always has been and probably always will be. Well, at least it is for me. I think its that way for two reasons. One, because of my own questions. Two, because of my and others’ actions. I see a lot of damage done both ways.

What is the conundrum? 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteous with lawlessness…”

The conundrum? What exactly does it mean to be unequally yoked; and two, what does it mean to everyday life? The picture in the Scripture is of two unlike animals (say an oxen and a horse) being yoked to plow a field. Not a good picture. Not a good working arrangement. Okay, I get that. But how does that translate to everyday life? I’ve heard it used to refer to marriage. Some validity. I’ve heard it applied to a business arrangement (a believer hooking up with a non-believer). Some validity. I’ve heard it used concerning leadership in a church (a good, but not godly leader in the business world being put into church leadership).  Some validity. Maybe you can think of more.

As I’ve expressed, I think all of those have some validity. What I see as the more important idea is that anytime an arrangement is made that would draw us away from Jesus or compromise our stand with and for Him needs to be seriously evaluated before we enter in. The conundrum is how far do we go? To go all in is bad-that’s called compromise. But to withdraw completely and do nothing with unbelievers is to turn a blind eye to engagement. How are we going to reach them if we withdraw from them?

I don’t have the answer, quite frankly. I do know that my influence for Christ must not be compromised by my social arrangements. From there on I’m a work in progress.

“Father, help me to be wise in my dealings, especially with non-believers. And whatever transpires may I never compromise my relationship with You.”