Reflection

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May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

There are a lot of ways to destroy a church, a business, or even a friendship. Since my job is the pastor of a church, let me focus on that.

First, it is really important to clarify a term. By church I am NOT referring to any physical structures. A physical structure can be destroyed any number of ways (like many around the world are today), but the church can go on…and does. A natural disaster.  A mob bent on destruction. A vengeful act. An act of hatred. Houses of worship can be leveled.

But a more insidious type of destruction is one from within. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can sneak in and spread false teaching. A leader can “ride herd” on a church and bring it to its knees (check out 3 John 9-10 and the story of Diotrephes). There is one type I think that brings more churches to its knees (not in a good way) than just about any other. This verse from Proverbs 16:28 says all that needs said: “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (NLT)

It’s easy to see. You want to destroy a church? You want to destroy a company? You want to destroy a friendship? Gossip. Be a troublemaker. Or let them go unchecked. Let it go unchecked and watch the dominoes fall. Little by little. Piece by piece. All that will be left is a pile of ashes or rubble. If the enemy can get the people inside bickering, talking smack, spreading poison or something as ugly, he will have found the way to bring the church down. It is the most effective way and he didn’t need a bulldozer to accomplish his feat.

Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution. Stop the gossip and the gossiper.

May 15

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

“Let Scripture explain Scripture.” In other words, don’t prooftext. Don’t make up what you want the text to say. One ploy of false teachers is to grab one Scripture verse, rip it out of context, and twist it to fit their own designs. The plethora of cults proves that. As I read Proverbs 15 this morning my mind went into overdrive because there were so many verses that jumped out to me clamoring for my highlighter. Since no one verse raised its hand and said, “Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh, pick me!” I decided several verses were worthy of mention. My approach today will be different from my usual devotion. I’ll print the verse and maybe make a comment or two, but for the most part will allow you to make your own application.  Here goes:

15:1- “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Gentleness wins; hotheads lose.

15:14- “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” This one made me chuckle. Remember the old phrase GIGO?

15:16- “Better to have little with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” Is a wealthy person really much better off? Do they really have it made? Think again.

15:28- “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” Before speaking engage brain and heart.

Those are just a few in the chapter. Why not take a moment and read Proverbs 15. Is there one which particularly stands out to you? Why? Care to share?

{Note: All Scripture from the New Living Translation}

May 14

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

It is my conviction that one of the things we humans shy away from is to be truly known. I’m speaking of more than just surface, like “How are you?” “Fine” kind of talk, but deeply known. We tend to shy away from being seen as an “open book.”

Granted, there are exceptions to the rule. Always are. There are those who just sort of regurgitate everything to others. Extroverts (like me) tend to be much more open than introverts. But most of us will allow others to see only so much, then we shut the door. We tend to wear masks that cover the truth in our hearts.

The most probing mirror though is being honest and opening our heart to God’s searchlight. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Ps.139:23-24). Another verse that applies a bit more pressure says, “How can I know the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12).  When God’s searchlight hits the darkness, our inner man is revealed. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” (Heb. 4:12-13).

Masks are dropped and the truth revealed who we really are when we ask God to search our hearts. There is no hiding since God sees us as we are. The psalmist also came to that conclusion with the last words of chapter 19: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (verse 14)

We can choose to be a closed and locked diary or an open book. Either way God sees who we really are. Make it easier on your heart and choose the “Open.”

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

May 13

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Have you ever gotten the feeling that God is trying to teach you something, or, at least, prepare you? I had one of those mornings.

#1- It started off as I read something by Pastor Greg Laurie. In his devotional book, Every Day with Jesus, he wrote:

A tongue controlled by Jesus Christ can be a great blessing. But uncontrolled, it can do much damage. Just as a horse is controlled by a bit, we are controlled by our words. (Week 20-p.115)

#2- The psalmist, David, wrote, “You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say.”  (Ps.17:3)

#3- “Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” (Pr. 13:3)

The verdict? No coincidence. There is a lesson to be learned. So I say to myself: Learn it. I suggest to you: Learn it. Watch what you say today (or maybe down the road since God may be preparing you for what is to come). No lesson is wasted.

May 9

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

INSTANT GRATIFICATION VS LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT

We live in an instant society. Instant potatoes. Instant coffee. Instant meals. That comes with drawbacks. Instant potatoes are nowhere close to real mashed potatoes…no matter what the commercials might say. Instant oatmeal. I remember liking and eating CoCo Wheats. They certainly weren’t instant. They seemed to take forever to cook. Microwaves coming along made things even quicker. They tell me instant coffee is nowhere close to fresh ground bean coffee. (I wouldn’t know since I don’t drink either).

There is nothing wrong with microwaves and instant meals or instant anything. However, what one might sacrifice in taste, for example, is made up for in convenience and quickness.

There isn’t anything wrong with instant anything except that it will never happen in spiritual growth. In Bible study last night we were discussing 2 Peter 1:5-7: “In view of all this , make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” (New Living Translation). Those three verses show that spiritual growth is not instant, but, is instead, a process. In this case, of adding one virtue on top of another. Sort of like building blocks. There is no such animal as “instant growth.” Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. To become the man or woman God desires requires that we take it step by step. Sometimes we will notice huge gains and other times the pace is as slow as a snail.

Whichever the case-move forward. Slowly prodding or sprinting. It is a long distance run. Just keep moving forward. Keep growing. Don’t be satisfied with stagnation or the status-quo. 

May 8

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

GOOD LOGS VS GOOD-LOOKING LOGS

You may be thinking: “Say what?” Please read on.

I read recently about a man who visited a logging sight and he saw a man down by the stream the logs floated by on. He had a long pole with a sharp hook and he occasionally would separate one of the logs from the others.

When the visitor asked what he was doing, the logger answered that to the untrained eye the logs may all look the same. But to him, he could tell the difference between the logs that were from protected trees vs those which were exposed to the elements. Those what were exposed to the elements and beaten by the weather had a finer grain and were used for choice work. They were good logs, not just good looking logs.

We might hear someone say, “What doesn’t strengthen you will kill you.” I honesty have trouble trusting someone who hasn’t been toughened by life. Someone once told me that 30 is the magic age for a pastor. When I questioned what he meant, he said something to the effect that “a pastor had very little credibility until he at least hits age 30 because people figure before that age he hasn’t been though enough ‘life’ to earn his chops.” That is not always true, of course, but the sentiment expressed is easy to see. Life toughens us. One would expect a 20 year old to know more about life than a 10 year old; a 30 year old to know more than a 20 year old, etc.

For the Christ-follower, our faith is tested by life. For the Christ-follower, whatever comes our way goes through God’s grid first. His plan and purpose for us will prevail. We may not like it, in fact, we may hate it, but its presence in our lives comes for a reason.  James wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4  from New Living Translation). Simple translation: you will be a good log.

It is much better to be a good log-sturdy and strong and well-seasoned-than just be a good looking one with no staying power and strength.

May 7

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Today is “Get out and Vote!” day. Surprise! I have no interest in writing about politics. Instead, I’d like to write about something else: CLOSETS.

Closets you say? Yes. We all have them. If not, our house would be a mess of clothes strewn everywhere. We also have closets in our lives. For many of us, we want to keep them hidden and closed (preferably locked). We would prefer no one see them. Just as some closets are so crammed full of stuff that to open the door spells disaster, so it is with the closets of our lives. We have stuffed them so full of garbage that the spill would be disastrous.

The worst thing in the closet? Skeletons. Not the Halloween kind. Skeletons we want to keep buried (no pun intended) or pushed to the back so they don’t see the light of day.

And those skeletons? WOW! Adultery. An addiction to alcohol, porn, or some drug. Lying. Cheating on an exam. Murder by hatred. Plagiarism. Immorality. A loose sexual past. An abortion. The list in endless.

The sad part is that as long as that closet remains closed and unemptied, and the more we think we have fooled others, the sadder it is for us. That junk in the closet becomes a chain slowly dragging us down and holding us back.

In John 8 the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery (by the way, where was the man?) and threw her at Jesus’ feet. After writing in the sand and watching her accusers leave one by one, He stands and asks her where they are. After she says, “Gone,” he sets her free with a few simple words: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” {emphasis mine} He was not excusing her sin but He did clean out her closet and set her free.

He will do the same for us. For you. But you must unlock and open that closet door.

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i recently wrote a review of a friend’s book called Sober Cycle.  It is the story of Sherry Hoppen’s battle with alcoholism. Her closet, once locked, was opened wide and exposed. You can find that review at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can find that review here. Please visit and comment. But more, I’d encourage you to buy the book.

May 6

Monday, May 6th, 2024

Most people, if not all, look for shortcuts from time to time. If there is a way to make things easier, to make things less complicated, we will generally try to find it. And, for the most part, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, some of the best inventions or step-saving ideas have come as a result of people working to speed things up, to make some things easier to do.

But there are some things which cannot be changed or sidestepped. Like life and what we go through. Part and parcel of life is hardship. No matter how smoothly I want life to be, there will be rough patches. I can’t skirt around them. I cant bury my head in the sand and pretend  they don’t exist. I can’t hide from them.

The Apostle Paul wrote some interesting words to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:3-6: “Endure suffering along with me, as a good solider of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor.” He mentions soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Soldiers stay focused. Athletes stay committed to the rules. Farmers work hard. Neither of them can take a shortcut to reach their goal. Soldiers can’t dilly dally and not train to expect to win the battle. An athlete can’t short circuit his training, either by drugs or laziness. And a farmer can’t expect a harvest without putting in the proper field work. 

Life is hard. Life is tough. There are no shortcuts to getting around that. And frankly, IMHO, life is appreciated a whole lot more-the reward is sweeter-when the proper attention is given to the process required for the long run.

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

“You are getting too big for your britches.”

Back when I was young (and yes, that was a long time ago), one of the favorite expressions of people-and my parents were no exception- was the above statement. It usually preceded some type of discipline- a spanking when I was younger, an exclusion from an activity, a grounding, or something else. It’s not hard to know what it means.

I’ve been reading a book by Katelyn Beaty entitled Celebrities for Jesus. It is subtitled “How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are hurting the church.” I’m two years past when it was first published and first hit crashed on the scene.  I’m just under halfway through and it has exposed the ugly underbelly of the “celebrity culture” the church has found itself in, particularly in the megachurch world. Sadly, we have embraced (and enabled)-wittingly or unwittingly- the whole “the pastor is a celebrity and can do no wrong” thought process. Walking hand in hand with that idea is the inability to confront, challenge, or question said celebrity pastor. Ms. Beaty speaks highly of Billy Graham and his attempts to safeguard himself from any moral scandal by his complete transparency. (It was known as the “Billy Graham Rule” which simply said he would never be alone with a woman who was not his wife). His Modesto Manifesto called for complete honesty, accountability, and transparency. Ms. Beaty contrasts that with the shortfalls of some megachurch personalities. 

I was reminded of my reading of the book when I read the following from I Timothy 4:11-13 this morning: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.”  That highlighted section is important to remember.

No way would Paul embrace or be on board the “celebrity culture train.” Read his words-not just here, but elsewhere. Integrity, transparency and HUMILITY were big in his eyes.  But here is an important fact to remember- Megachurch Pastor, CEO, Owner, Manager, Worker- integrity, honesty and humility are essential to all and cannot/should not be dismissed.

No one has any business getting too big for their britches.

May 1

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

“Being a leader is not about you, it’s about the people you’re serving.”  (Quote from Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Quoted in Living With Hope by Michael Panther-p.143)

Leadership, in my view, is sometime a tenuous position. While the goal of leadership should always be to enrich the lives of others, every leader fights the draw of the flesh.  As the quote says, as a leader my #1 priority should be the care and well-being of others. But far too often the primary target is me. How will this make me look? How will this benefit me? How will this advance my name or cause? Not that those questions are totally bad or wrong, but most often they are totally self-serving and self-focused.

As a pastor I have to ask myself on an almost daily basis, “Is this advancing me or the kingdom?” Even if you aren’t a pastor but consider yourself a Jesus-follower, you must ask yourself the same question.

Let’s take it away from that completely. Every leader, every manager, every shift foreman, must ask themselves the question, “Is what I’m doing or suggesting or planning going to advance this company or just me?”

We have heard a lot down through the leaders about servant leadership. Religious or “secular.” I’m unable to count the number of times I have been told or heard a speaker say, “Remember leader: the greatest thing you can give your people/coworkers/employees is to be a servant who seeks their good.” Of course, it should be a given that integrity and honesty should be a quality every leader exhibits, but being a servant is the cornerstone.

Follow the example of the Greatest Leader ever: Jesus. Be a servant, not so you can get back or advance, but because true leadership looks out for the good of others.