Reflection

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February 8

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

I received an email about it the other day. I can imagine you have as well.  I saw a commercial about it just within the past few days. I suspect you have also. It is becoming a scourge, a blight, on our lives. And our security.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity-meter to working overtime wondering what I’m referring to.

IT. No, not as in “I work in IT.” IT as in Identity Theft.

Seemingly more and more it is becoming an issue. Social Security #. Home ownership. Bank accounts.

There’s another kind of IT. The kind where someone tries to tell us we aren’t who we are. You are “stupid” or “fat” or “a waste” or “a junkie” or “a nobody.” There are racial slurs thrown around. There are false accusations made, though untrue, which cut deeply. And on and on.

To counteract that there are those who say we need to look within ourselves and bolster ourselves and repeat a mantra that “I am somebody.” Media influencers “preach” at us about how beautiful, smart, wise, etc. we are.

For followers of Jesus, we find our identity in Christ. We are specially made; we are important; we are who we are because we are God’s. I’m not talking about an arrogance around people as though you are better than they are. “I’m a follower of Christ and you aren’t. Na Na Na Na.” In Matthew 5:22 Jesus tells his listeners about calling someone “Raca” or “fool.” Using those words was equal to calling someone an idiot. It was used to demean someone or demote them by robbing them of their dignity and true identity. 

Let’s remember two things: 1) who we are in Christ; and 2) every person has value, no matter their color, status, wealth, or mental capacity. Our words will display whether we believe that or not.

I heard it put this way: To insult the creature is to insult the Creator.”

February 7

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

We have been asked/commanded in the Scripture to do two things: Love God supremely and to Love Others genuinely. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 22:37-39.

We seem to work hard at getting that first one down pat because it is so important. We see loving God as the top thing we are to do…and that is absolutely, 100% true.  So we try to invest time in that-reading the Bible, praying, worshiping.

It’s the loving others that sometimes get a little bit “sticky.” Let’s face it: sometimes our relationship with others is like two porcupines trying to get close. They might be able to but it sure is a prickly situation.

So, what does it mean to love genuinely? We could say, “Be patient.” “Be forgiving.” “Be accepting.” “Be kind.” “Be considerate.”

How about this? “Be generous.” We can set an example of Jesus in us by being generous. Not stingy. Not self-absorbed.

Let’s expand on that for a moment. The Bible speaks of those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you get a moment, check out I Tim.6:17-18. Not all of us are wealthy (I’m certainly not), but hoarding, for example, is never seen as a virtue. Even if we are not wealthy, God has called us to radical generosity. Case in point: tipping at a restaurant. I know a couple who never left a tip. Never. When I asked why they said, “Because they chose that job and knew the possibility.” And that justifies what? Maybe, at that time, that is all he/she could do, while trying to raise a child as a single mom/dad. I personally believe followers of Christ should be the most generous people, especially if they have received good service.

I know I “rabbit-trailed” it today. That sometimes happen in a mind that seem to go everywhere (and no, I am not ADHD). So…long story short: be generous. Love genuinely, even in ways that go beyond financial.

February 6

Monday, February 6th, 2023

One of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 is the final one written to Laodicea. IMHO it may be the most devastating one of all.

It speaks of lukewarmness. I don’t think anyone on the planet is thrilled about drinking lukewarm water. To put it frankly: it is disgusting and unfulfilling. I carry 2 water bottles on my bike. Both have been partially frozen, then just before I leave I fill them to the brim with a cold liquid-water, Gatorade, or Hammer’s Heed. I like drinking cold, refreshing liquid- whatever it may be-while riding. But even the greatest care cannot stop the drink from thawing and if if I ride long enough, for it to turn lukewarm.

What does it mean for a church or a follower of Jesus to turn lukewarm? Apathetic. Lethargic. Passive. Maybe even lazy would be an appropriate word. A disconnect happens between our spiritual lives and our real lives.

It is a danger for all of us, not matter who we are and no matter what we do.

It is sort of like the person who sleep walks. They do it and don’t even realize it is happening. They have no recollection of wandering, of maybe engaging in conversation, of interacting in any way. I think it is safe to say “totally oblivious.”

There are those who are the same way spiritually. Pulled by side events. Sidetracked. Spiritual things become secondary. I used the words earlier: we become lethargic. Apathetic. Passive.

I Thess. 5:6 says, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober (clearheaded).” (ESV)

That’s a good warning for all of us.

February 2

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Happy Groundhogs Day (for what it’s worth)!  I can never remember whether he is supposed to see his shadow or not and which one is good or not. Hmmmm. Guess all I can do is say, “Bring on Spring!”  The sooner the better.

Pushing that aside, let’s get serious for a moment.

Several years ago Lauren Daigle had a song which broke through hearts, even the coldest and hardest, and took the music industry by storm. (Here is that song). Every morning at 4:30, Tami’s alarm goes off with that song, so I heard it this morning as I was reading Matthew 12. In particular, I was reading verses 33-37. My focus was on the phrase “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Please read those verses for a better context).

The way we speak to ourselves comes out of what is in our heart!

The way to speak to others comes out of what is in our heart!

I’m not advocating the “positive speech” gibberish of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation cult, aka Bethel Redding, IHOP, and others). Nor am I advocating for the likes of Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Oprah, or others like them.  While I do believe it is important for us to remember who we are in Christ, I don’t subscribe to the heresy they espouse: we are good and have it within ourselves to improve.(They leave out the effects of sin and the inability we have of saving ourselves).

Lauren’s song says, “You say I am loved…” It is not what we say or think about ourselves, it is what God says to us and what He thinks about us that matters.

But let’s not forget that what we say to and about ourselves does matter. Constant put-downs destroy the inner peace and confidence God instills and gives us. The same goes for how we speak to each other. That which is inside us will come out and we can either say good or evil. They way we speak is a good indicator of WHO controls us. It is a good indicator of WHO or what controls our heart.

So…STOP…and ask yourself, “Who controls me?” And then take it one step further and ask, “What do my words say about my answer?”

February 1

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

I read a short blurb recently about how some years ago, 300 whales were found marooned on a beach.  Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creature were ultimately lead to their doom.

The application to us is easy to make. How many people do you and I know who are now or will get “beached” due to chasing little things? What makes it even worse is that it happens before we realize it.

I’m reminded of several Scriptures-both from the mouth of Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mt. 6:24)  {As an exercise, substitute another word for money-sports, fame, pleasure, people acceptance, etc and see how it fits}

The other is found in the same chapter of Matthew: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Verse 33)

I’m sure you can add more Scripture. Like the book of Ecclesiastes. Like Matthew 22:37-38.

I will grant you that it is a daily battle. I know it is for me. To stay focused on that which is important-on WHO is important-on WHAT is important-is a titanic struggle of great magnitude.

But it is one we must fight. To choose to chase sardines is a losing game. It only leads to “beached” lives. A dead end.

To choose to pursue God and His kingdom may not yield much fruit here on earth, but the reward is out of this world!

What will you choose to chase?

January 31

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

One of the heresies today of so many false teachers is what is called the “health/wealth” gospel or the “name-it-claim-it” teaching.  I’m guessing many of you know exactly what that aberrant teaching is: God wants you healthy and wealthy. It is your divine right to expect it. All you have to do is “name it and claim it.” Speak it out loud. Claim that whatever it is you want is yours and you get it.

I cannot begin to tell you how that turns my stomach. They twist Scripture to have it say what they mean. “Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” is just one of the Scriptures they butcher. It is used a proof-text for their false thoughts.

They tell people to speak cancer away. Speak poverty away. Want that car? Claim it. Again, I cannot tell you how much that makes me cringe. Meanwhile, they get richer and richer; live in multi-million dollar mansions; wear designer clothes and $1500 tennis shoes on stage. Say what?

All while followers of Jesus die in droves in third world countries from ill health. All while followers of Jesus live under the sword of a pagan dictator or under the threat of rogue bands of vigilantes coming after them due to their faith. All while followers of Jesus are dying from cancer, or live under the specter of Alzheimers, or Parkinsons, or MS, or a wheelchair for life.

Trials, hardships, sickness, prolonged illnesses, even death are all part of living on this planet. It is the result of sin and the last I looked, the statistics for that were 1/1 have that disease. It follows that death has that same stat.

We may have trouble seeing it, but trials and difficulties can serve as a catalyst, a springboard, to new growth and a season of immense blessing from God. “Count it all joy” is what James said (Js. 1:2). The next time something happens that wants to knock you flat or even succeeds in doing that, let’s praise Him for His presence and strength to bear up under it.

And yes, I’m preaching to the choir.

January 30

Monday, January 30th, 2023

Several thoughts are swirling through my mind this Monday morning.

Primary is that today is the love my life’s birthday. As you may know, we took a quick trip to Ohio last week as an early birthday present.  Jo was able to see both Janna and Braden. Today I’m taking a good part of the day to spend it with her, which will include taking her out to eat to Olive Garden. We have a gift card and seldom eat there, but it is her desire to eat what she shouldn’t on her birthday. 🙂

But this “Shadow” blog is not about my family (although I do brag on them).

Another thought is a book I’m reading in possible prep for a sermon series later this year…possibly this summer. I might preach on the Model Prayer, aka The Lord’s Prayer. It is my belief that the real Lord’s Prayer is in John 17 but that is not a point worth making an issue about.  Be that as it may, one of the lines of Jesus’ teaching prayer has been a sticking point for me lately: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”

It is easy to allow my desires to become the expected desires of everyone else, including God. It is easy to get attached to “My kingdom come, my will be done.” The earth and all its happenings revolve around me and my desires.

You know what? That is a mighty small orbit! And as time moves on, the orbit closes in on us. I know it is cynical to say this, but everything becomes about us, and even when we pretend to care, our inward motive is “How can this benefit me?”

Something happens within us when we are no longer interested in looking out for #1 (me), but instead truly want to live our life saying, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.”  When I/you can do that with all sincerity, life transforms. We find that orbit that was tightening, that orbit that was closing in, suddenly expands. We are no longer the focus.

And that’s a good thing.

Question: what was the last time you prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” and meant it?

Do it. Today.

January 25

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

I listened to a podcast yesterday where the discussion was on superstition and God’s will. It covered a gamut of subjects, such as “angel numbers” (as complicated as it sounds); superstition (like wearing clothing that brought you “luck”); the “Gideon-fleece thing”; and more. You can listen to it: Church and Culture with James Emery White.  It will be worth your while if you have any questions about this sort of thing.

So I was already somewhat there with my antenna up when I was confronted with answers to prayer this morning. You have probably heard it said, “God has 3 answers to prayer: yes, no, and wait awhile.”

The first-yes-has nothing but pros because that basically means God agreed with us. 🙂  We like that answer!!

The second-no- is an answer, but not so much to our liking.  Not only did God not agree with our request/desire, He shut the door. We see a lot of cons with this answer, but it would behoove us to see the pros. God is all-wise and therefore, has our best interest in mind. He shut the door for a reason, perhaps known only to Him.  This actually happened to Paul in Acts 16. I seriously doubt Paul could understand why God said no at the time. I mean, after all, he was doing God’s work and wanting to spread the message. But read the rest of the chapter. Paul and Silas are put in prison; an earthquake shakes the door open, but Paul and Silas stay put. As a result, the jailer and his family were saved.

The third answer-wait awhile- is a whole ‘nother discussion for another time.

To close this devo: the “no” answer always causes us to question and sometimes even has us calling into question God’s love for us. It shouldn’t though. We need to rejoice that God loves us so much He said no…most likely for reasons known only to Him at the time. We MAY learn it later. Maybe.

He is all-wise and makes no mistakes. Fall back on that. He will not let you down.

January 24

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I may be wrong in my assessment (I have been known to be wrong a time or two) 🙂 , but I think one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is practicing the Scripture which says, “Be thankful in all things.” (I Thess. 5:18)

“In everything give thanks.” Seriously? Does the Bible really say that? Does it really say to give thanks when my heart has been torn apart by a wayward child? By a health crisis? By a domestic crisis? By a financial crisis?

The short answer is Yes. Notice it does not say “Give thanks for the event/crisis.” But it does say, “Give thanks in the crisis.” Let’s substitute during for in. While the crisis is happening, or even after it, I am to give thanks.

I can remember a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. She and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and her sister told her they needed to give thanks for the fleas-the fleas that were in their hair, their clothes, their bedding. Sounded strange to Corrie until they came to realize the guards left them alone because of the fleas. They were free to have Bible studies and talk to other prisoners about Jesus because of the fleas and without fear of the guards.

Giving thanks in the situation NOT for the fleas. We are not asked to go all stoic as though nothing is bothering us. No, we are being told by Paul that while we are in the crisis, an attitude of gratitude and faith can change our perspective.

We can also see God working…even though we don’t understand. I don’t have to say, “Father, thank You for this cancer” (or whatever the crisis is), but I can pray, “Father, I thank You for Your presence and peace that is within me in spite of this crisis.”

Be thankful in all things.

January 23

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

During my sermon yesterday on Revelation 1:9-20, there was quite a section that gave a very descriptive picture of Jesus. Verses 12-20 gave a picture of what John saw that goes so far beyond any mamby-pamby, meek and mild Jesus. I couldn’t help but think about that this morning, especially as we go out to face a hostile world. How about opening your Bible to that passage and check it out with me?

First, verse 13 declares that John saw “one like a son of man.” John is referring to Jesus.  But what He describes is so far from the impression we often have of Jesus!

  1. “Clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.”  This is what the priests wore in the temple. Jesus is our Great High Priest.
  2. “The hairs of His head were white, like wool, like snow.” White/gray hair in the Bible is synonymous with wisdom. He is all-wise and makes no mistakes. He is the Ancient of Days.
  3. “His eyes were like flames of fire.” He does not look at me; He look into me. Nothing is hidden.
  4. “His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” This speaks of a solid foundation. “On Christ the solid rock I stand…”
  5. “His voice was like the roar of many waters.” When He speaks, He speaks volumes.  His voice is commanding, unavoidable, overwhelming, and cannot be ignored.
  6. “He held the seven stars in His right hand, a two-edged sword came from His mouth, and his face was like the sun shining full strength.” 7 starts=7 churches (church universal).  The sword pierces coming in and going out.  He is holy, holy, holy.

There is so much that could be said, but I’ll let you think it through and study it on your own. Just know that the description John uses is like he is saying, “He is indescribable and I’m doing the best I can.”

What is your impression of Jesus?