Reflection

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October 20

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

All of us go through those times when our faith is dry. The late Keith Green once wrote and sang a song with these lyrics: “My eyes are dry/My faith is old/My heart is hard/My prayers are cold/And I know how I ought to be/Alive to You and dead to me.”

Been there. Done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.

There are all different reasons as to why our faith can become dry. I’m not going to get into them. Instead, I want to look at the cure.

The verse which started my thoughts this morning was Pr.20:27-“The spirit of the person is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” My mind quickly went to the story of David. After Nathan exposed David’s sin, it drove him to his knees and he wrote Psalm 51. Included in that chapter are these words: “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Verses 7,10). David is not only praying for a clean heart, but also a restored one.  Ps.139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Acts 3:19 says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

There will be times of coldness, of distance, of hardness, of feeling disjointed. When those times hit, don’t despair. If it is the result of sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness and a renewed spirit (ala David). If it is just one of those times that happens to all of us, don’t panic. Seek the Lord and He will show up.

“Father, when I am dry flood me with Your presence. When I sin, forgive me. Help me to always seek Your presence.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.

October 19

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

I think one of the hardest things to do is to deflect praise from oneself to where it belongs. In the past we had a boxer (Cassius Clay, aka Muhammed Ali) proclaim early in his career that he was the greatest. Sportscasters are known to choose a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).  Recently, a football player announced that he was “the greatest.” I was so disgusted by this shameless self-promotion just from a headline, I couldn’t tell you who it was, what team he played for, or what position he played.

How different from these words:

“Praise the LORD! Praise Him, you servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time on and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.” (Ps.113:1-4)

Or these:

Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.” (115:1)

What a difference-taking credit or giving credit. The psalmist is unequivocal in his stand: the name of the Lord is to be praised. I don’t, you don’t, deserve any praise. It all goes to Him. Deflect it there.

“Father, You are worthy of my praise. May I never gather praise or seek praise for myself. May I always deflect it to You.”

All Scripture is from the NASB2020 edition.

October 18

Monday, October 18th, 2021

As a parent, you love and raise your child(ren) to let them go. You discipline them when they need it. You laugh with them. You cry with them when their heart is broken. You let them spread their wings. And then you let them fly. But through it all…you love them fiercely. You watch them grow into fine, principled young women (in my case). You watch them become good at what they do. You smile when they marry. You are sad if they divorce.

But no father, to quote Theoden from Lord of the Rings, “should ever have to bury his own son.” We were spared that sadness last week, but it is hard to watch your child suffer, no matter the age. I told Jo just this past Friday that it is still hard to believe that Tami had a heart attack.

But, it happened, and I don’t want to sound calloused, I still did not despair. I knew she was in good hands, the BEST. Then today I read Psalm 112:1 and also verse 7: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the person who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments…He will not fear bad news; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

I have an online friend whose husband has gone through several heart procedures. While there is concern, there is no fear. And while there was obvious concern for Tami’s health, there was no fear. She’s in better hands than I have ever given her…the Father’s. And in those hands she will stay. And in those hands I will let her lie.

“Father, thank You that Your hands are strong and sure and enfolding.”

October 14

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

I’ve contemplated what to write this morning based on events of the past day.  First, from my Bible reading this morning are three passages:

Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make His deeds known among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Tell of all His wonders. Boast in His holy name; May the heart of those who seek the Lord be joyful.” (103:1-3)

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For his mercy is everlasting.”(106:1)

“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence , And His children will have refuge.” (Pr. 14:26)

I needed those verses this morning. Yesterday about 10:00 I got a text from Tami, our daughter, that she needed me to take her to the ER. An episode at school had the school nurse tell the principal, “She needs to get to the ER.” Jo and I found ourselves sitting in the ER with her until 7:00, except for a short reprieve of coming home to grab a bite to eat and to get some of Tami’s stuff. Late last night, about 10:00, Tami texted me saying they said she was having signs of a heart attack and they were doing a heart cath this morning. She has been dealing with parosmia (distorted taste and smell) since March 1, a side effect of COVID. Food smells horrible. All meats smell rotten or like a dead animal and tastes the same. Being around certain smells has her wanting to head to the bathroom (and she teaches Kindergarten kids). We thought, at first, all the symptoms she had might be from that. We will find out some answers today, I hope. Meanwhile, I’m clinging to those 3 verses.

Another request: my good friend, Ryan S (techgeek), who comments on this blog and is my admin, emailed me yesterday that his wife’s sister’s house burnt down yesterday and it appears to be a total loss. I don’t know her name (but God does).

Would you please stop and pray for these two requests? And would you please pray for Ryan and Amanda and for me and Jo? I’m trusting those verses to be true.  Thanks.

October 13

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

One of the arguments made against God and against the Christian life and the reality of Jesus is the ineptness of God’s Word. It’s outdated. It’s useless. It’s irrelevant. It’s full of mistakes. It’s full of contradictions. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

Many of those arguments are made by those who say they are Christ-followers. Perhaps a better word to use is “were” Christ-followers. Some are deconstructing.  It is a misnomer to call oneself a Christ-follower and deconstruct at the same time. So they will say, “I was a Christ-follower but now I am (fill in the blank), or as one has come out saying, “I believe in the Universal Christ.”  What in the world is that? But I digress.  One cannot be a Christ-follower and deconstruct. We are either for Him or against Him. Jesus Himself said a person must choose one way or the other.

God’s Word is true. God’s Word is relevant. God’s Word is inerrant. God’s Word has no mistakes. God’s Word can inspire a person to change and even to do what he/she didn’t think possible.

I like the words of Psalm 19:7-10. I’d like to encourage you to stop right now and read them. Highlight them in your Bible.

Trust His Word. It is, as the psalmist says, “A lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” (119:105). Jesus once said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Mk.13:31)

Stand on the promises of God.

“Father, Your Word is light and life to me. May I always show respect for Your Word and You as the Author.”

October 12

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Bone-tired. Weary beyond belief. Asleep on his feet. Those are just some of the phrases we will use to describe how we feel. I’ve been there. So tired I can barely think. So weary it was an effort to pick my feet up and put one foot down in front of another.

I’ve been there spiritually as well. The battles have been intense. The days long; the nights short. The arm wielding the sword hanging by my side. The helmet askew; the head bowed in weariness, and yes, even defeat. The armor stripped off because I am just too wiped out to wear it. The shoes too heavy for my feet.

But from out of nowhere comes a second wind. As Petra sang it so many years ago: “I got my second wind/The Spirit is moving again.” Isaiah 40:28-31 has just happened!

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, And to the one who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”  (NASB2020)

The end of myself became the beginning of Him. The end of my strength became the beginning of His.

Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Weariness touches us all.  But so does the energy of the Spirit. I find myself rejuvenated.

Physically- the weariness gives way to intentional movement.

Mentally- a clarity comes that assesses situations and knows how to act.

Spiritually- The “light goes on” and a fresh wind blows through.

God’s Word is once again true: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”

“Father, thank you for that fresh breath, that promised life which comes from You keeping Your Word.”

October 7

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

One of our culture’s big battles these  days is what is called “Deconstruction.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is one of Christian culture’s big battles since the non-believing world could care less about the reality of God and His existence…except maybe to pooh-pooh it.

What is sad is that in both cases is that the denial of God’s power is at stake. The unbeliever denies His existence or involvement in our daily lives. “God? Who’s God?” The one who is deconstructing is also denying the reality of God and His power in his/her daily life.

I read an interesting story recently. Atheistic communism proclaims there is no God. When Leonid Brezhnev died (the Soviet dictator who embodied Marxist unbelief), VP H.W.Bush was our representative. He reported that just before the casket was closed, his widow reached in and made the sign of the cross on his chest. Evidently, she hoped that what her husband had denied was somehow true. Perhaps before he died, she was privy to something no one else was? Who am I to say?

David said it well: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son. I believe in His death and bodily resurrection. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity (who is not a force but a Person, hence “the” Holy Spirit). I believe Jesus will return to take us home.

Do you?

“Father, You are I Am. You are the Creator of the ends of earth and there is no one like You. May you be praised and recognized for Who You are.”

October 6

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

There is one thing I am very passionate about. I preach it. I speak it. I counsel it. I’ve definitely said it more than once. I think Bob Goff’s quote by Nelson Mandela says it well:

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. (#279-p.329)

I have stated it another way countless times (just ask the folks of the church I pastor): “If you fail to forgive, you have become their slave. They own you.”

Sweet Comfort Band, an early iconic group of Contemporary Christian Music, recorded a song called Habit of Hate. I’ve recently begun listening to them again and had forgotten about that song. Here is a taste of the powerful lyrics: “Now you’re clenching your fist/And that crazed, evil passion begins/Now you’re waiting for you victim/Careful planning, getting even/And you strangle your love/When you strengthen your habit of hate.” (Album: Perfect Timing-1984)

They are right on the money. I have seen so many lives devastated-their own and those close to them-by someone’s hatred and refusal to forgive.  It is like they become another person.

I think Bob said it best in that same devotion:

When we become people who extend forgiveness, especially when it’s costly or hard, we’ll be well on our way to loving like Jesus. (Ibid)

May we all start loving like Jesus.

May I start loving like Jesus.

“Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to not be captive the destructive emotions that ruin me and those around me.”

If you want to hear the song, you can check it out here.

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”

October 4

Monday, October 4th, 2021

Security is a big deal to many people, maybe most. The pandemic’s fear and the lawlessness of the summer of 2020 raised the fear level, hence the insecurity, of many individuals. People who never locked their doors before now lock them, even deadbolt them.

Others have more or less security depending on the state of their money.  The more they have the more security they feel. I hate to tell them…

I’ve counseled enough couples to know that security is a big issue, especially with wives and children (but not always only them). They want the security of knowing they are loved, protected, and will be taken care of.

I would by lying if I said Christ-followers were not also in that group of “security-needers.” Even despite the fact that we have a faith which stands upon Jesus Christ, we can often get caught up in the trap as well.

That is why Psalm 91 was particularly poignant to me this morning. I’d like to encourage you to read it this morning. Right now if you can. Slowly. Read it again. Highlight the meaningful verses.

Then bask in the security that God gives. And ask how you could trust more.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. Help me to find my security in You.”