Reflection

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January 24

Monday, January 24th, 2022

Note: I wrote this Sunday morning (yesterday) as I awaited the opportunity to preach knowing things would be greatly different. These are my musings.

As I sit here this Sunday morning, a mixture of emotions flow through me. Due to the state and county both being in the red (COVID-wise not politically), the decision was made to do live stream only this morning.  Add to the state and county statistics the fact that some of the church people are also testing positive or simply struggling with illness, it seemed the wisest thing to do.

Am I happy? I would be lying if I said I was.  But I also understand. As far as I’m concerned, someone getting vaxxed and boosted is a matter of personal choice and I will not take a side on that issue. It is not for me to impose my will or thoughts on someone, even though Jo and I have both been double vaxxed and boosted. She will be 71 next Sunday and I am 69. Yeah…she robbed the cradle. 🙂

No, my issue is not even a health issue. My issue is how much I look forward to Sunday morning and seeing people. Sure, I do get to do what I possibly love more than just about anything-emphasis on “just about.” I know I’m a social creature and I really look forward to seeing people, laughing with them, hugging them, fist bumping them, and just all around greeting people.  I love seeing smiles and the joy of connecting with people I have grown to love. I love seeing new people and the fact we have some “mo” right now makes it a bit harder to take this break. But that is the way of life in 2022…and in 2021…and in 2020.  I just think there is great value in meeting together.

But thankfully, we have live stream-a vital second to our ministry. Where would we be without it? Given today’s scenario, we would have had to cancel services or require (gasp) everyone wear a mask. I’m thankful for the live stream. I remember how we started in late 2020 with nothing more than an iPhone.  The live stream has really been a life saver.

My personal hope is that this will just be a one week glitch. If not, we will use whatever means we can to get the message of Jesus to others. I pray God will bless our efforts and I am going to take Him at His Word that His words will never return void.

January 20

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

If you were given $86,400 each morning what would you do?  Oh…one stipulation: use it or lose it. You either use all $86,400 each day or you forfeit the unused portion. What would you do? Withdraw it, of course.

The point to be made is that each day we are given 86,400 seconds. We have to use them all because they don’t carry over to the next day. (I think that is why when we say, “I’m going to catch up on my sleep” we don’t. We can’t because that ship has sailed).

As followers of Jesus we are told to “redeem the time.” I take that to mean we are to use it wisely. In Psalm 90:12 it says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (NASB2020). We are told elsewhere that our steps are ordered by the Lord.

We only have so many days here on earth. And there is only ONE who knows how many. Redeeming the time means that however many days I have here on earth, I will use them wisely. I am currently 69 years old. You have to tack on a few months since my birthday is in October. If I figure only 365 days/year-not counting Leap Year-and don’t count the days since my birthday, I have lived over 25,185 days. (No wonder I’m tired). I’ll let you do the math on how many seconds that is.

Truthfully, that is not what is important. What IS important is how I have marked my time today and will mark whatever is left in the future. Today is the day God has given me. I need to use it wisely.

Are you?

“Father, thank You for the time we have had together and thank You for the time we will have. Help me to mark my days and use them wisely.”

January 19

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

I live near a very secular college located in a very liberal and secular town. If one doesn’t agree with the liberal agenda and secularism then that person is made to feel on the “outs” and is in for a long road to hoe.

I wonder if Paul felt those feelings as he made his way to Mars Hill in Acts 17. As he looked around, the Athenians were proud of their multi-cultural, pluralistic approach (not sure they would have called it that) to “religion.” His go-to in his sermon was there is only one God and while He will overlook ignorance for a short time, it won’t last forever.

Roman culture could not and would not tolerate Christianity because of one truth: the early Christian’s belief that there is only one God and there is salvation in no other name. Jesus is not just some add-on god to the many in Paul’s day or in ours. While the Romans were tolerant of multiple gods, they were intolerant of the faith which taught there is only one God and only ONE WAY to that God.

Sound familiar?

Biblical Christianity, with a Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me“; a crucified and risen Savior; and a God who wants allegiance only to Him, is as offensive to our world as it was to the Romans. Ultimately, every knee will bow and every false religion will bow at the feet of Jesus.  (Phil.2: 10-11)

I’ll stake my claim and my life on that.

“Father, I believe Jesus is the only way to You. No matter what that may lead to, may I always stand firm on that truth.”

January 18

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

A couple of nights ago Jo was watching TV and as I was walking through I stopped to watch. It was an episode I had seen before on NCIS about the death of a homeless vet. It was at the end of the show when Gibbs was scrolling through his computer looking at vets who died homeless.  Director Vance walked in and said, “There but for the grace of God.”  Gibbs said, “Yep.”

That is a very familiar saying (“There but for the grace of God go I”). It is also a saying which can be said with no religious connotation at all. It is simple an acknowledgment of gratitude and recognition that another person’s fate is not our own.

But for the Christ-follower that phrase takes on a much deeper meaning. Think about it: all we are/ all we are not; all we have/all we have not, comes down to grace. Consider these words: “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.” (Is.53:6- NASB2020)) Other translations conclude that verse with “and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity (sin) of us all.”

We were not left alone, lost, or hopeless in despair. Not with Jesus! Isaiah tells us that Jesus chose to identify with us and become our substitute all. because. of. grace.

I would be lost. I would be lonely. I would be hopeless. I would be aimless. “There but for the grace go I.”

“Father, thank You for Your unlimited grace. Thank You for rescuing my sorry and lost soul and raising me to new life.”

January 17

Monday, January 17th, 2022

First,  some updates for you. Funny how God works. I have been wondering how Martha and Diane have been doing so I emailed Diane but wasn’t sure if Martha would be able to do that. But as I was looking I saw a post-it-note with her address (I had sent her something) and a phone number. Lo and behold it was hers!  Martha texted back and said she was doing much better and hoped to come home tomorrow (Tuesday).  She was in ICU with viral pneumonia (not COVID-related).

Diane is suffering from COVID-pneumonia.  She is now home after 7 days in the hospital. Still on oxygen. Please keep praying for her.

Now to the devotion for today:

In preparation for the next sermon series called “Truth Decay,” I just finished reading Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers for the second time. In a chapter she entitled Cosmic Child Abuse? she took on the progressives who want to say the following:

“Who originated the cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser.” (p.207) William Paul Young, author of the heretical book “The Shack.”

“Penal substitution {Note: one dying in place of another} is tantamount to child abuse.” (p.208) Steve Chalke

“God didn’t set up the sacrificial system. People did. The sacrificial system evolved as humans developed rituals and rites to help them deal with their guilt and fear.” (p.209) Rob Bell

Others like Richard Rohr and the late Rachel Held Evans were also included. Their quotes were too long to include.

I reject the whole idea of God as a cosmic child abuser. God’s wrath seen at the cross existed because He is love. It was through the death of Jesus on the cross that we find forgiveness NOT wrath.

In Galatians 6:14 Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ.”  The progressives can say, “May I never boast except in man’s efforts/ingenuity.” Guaranteed that unless they come to the cross, they will most definitely experience God’s wrath (which they say doesn’t exist because He is a God of love not wrath).

“Father, thank you for the cross.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 13

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

I once had a pastor (a mentor early in my ministry) tell me to never get close to anyone in the church I serve. In other words, don’t have or make friends. Say what?

I can tell you that did not work with me. I am a naturally gregarious person. I laugh a lot. I can be too loud at times. But one thing I need and want is friends. I broke his rule. In just about every church I have served I have gotten close to someone. Sure, there have been occasions where it came back to bite me in the butt, but the friendships I do have and are still ongoing are special to me.

There’s Doug. A college friend who still meets with me 2-3 times/year at a place in between where we live for pizza. For now it requires over a 2 hour drive for me. But it is worth it. A thousand times over.  Granted, he is the exception to the church “rule”.

There’s Jim. I met Jim over a common “like”-he liked to ride bikes. We have pedaled many miles together. His cancer and relocation and his retirement has made it tough but we still try to get together. I’ve known Jim since the 90s.

There’s Ryan. I met him in 2007 after he corresponded with one of our men about the church after seeing us online. They were moving to this area and so we corresponded by email first and I was able to welcome he and his family to OVCF and to the area.  Our first time as families was lunch at Chicago’s pizza buffet in the town they lived in at the time. It became one of many Sunday lunches after church as our friendship was cemented. He had to move about 45 minutes away several years ago but Jo and I still get together with them.

Friendship is amazing! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ friendship with people? He spent time with the strangest people- a tax collector, a prostitute, a leper, an immoral woman (Jn.4).  It didn’t matter because a friendship with Jesus meant a changed life.  There is verse after verse in Proverbs which talks about the value of friendship.  Even Jesus mentioned its importance.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know my life has been richer and fuller because of my friends. I pray it has been reciprocal. 

“Father, we sing a song about Jesus being the friend of sinners. Help to follow His example, all for the purpose of enriching someone’s life.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 12

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

My mind is not here right now. Oh…it is in my Encounter Time and it has been a good “learning” morning. But as I read my mind was also on what I need to do later today and I was seeking advice and solace. Strength. Wisdom. Guidance.

I have a funeral today. No, not mine that I know of. 🙂 A good man named Kirby went to be with Jesus last week. We are laying to rest a man who fought long and hard. There is so much to say. He was the epitome of a family man and a man of grace-one who made everyone feel important.  He wasn’t into tooting his own horn. Diagnosed with MS in 2005, I never knew until years later when I saw him walking unsteadily one Sunday afternoon at a restaurant. I asked one of his children about it and he said, “Oh, that was his MS.” “MS? I didn’t even know.” I’m not sure they will ever be able to figure out what he died of. He had been in the hospital for close to two months (mostly ICU). He did get COVID but that is not what took his life (no matter what they may say). Complications set in each time he looked forward to getting to rehab. I think his body finally said, “Enough.”

It was a shock. Still is. I simply cannot imagine the pain his bride of close to 30 is going through. They have been together since Jr. High.  I can’t imagine the emptiness she feels, nor what the two young 20s son and daughter are feeling.

I’m praying for grace. Strength. Wisdom. He was a Christ-follower so that makes it somewhat easier, but the heart know what the heart wants (in this case).

Would you mind praying for his family today? Ronda. McKenzie. Hunter. And multiple other family and friends. I suspect it will be a packed house today. And please say a prayer for me and the other pastor (their former pastor who retired). Words are often forgotten but some stick with you. I’m praying I eulogize him but lift up the name of Jesus.

Thanks.

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 11

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

I may be grasping at straws here, and I may be way off the mark, but I think we as people, many of us at least, spend way too much time and effort trying to prove our worth. No matter how it shakes out, we very often are consumed-to the point of going way beyond normal-trying to prove to ourselves and others that we have got what it takes. We are driven by the desire to feel important or to show our importance to ourselves and to others.

We will even go so far as to act humble or to drop our head as if to say, “Awww shucks” while all the while straining our shoulder muscles to pat ourselves on the back or to hear more of how helpful/indispensable/worthwhile we are.

Something we should really grasp is that looking to others (or ever deep inside ourselves) for our sense of well-being is pointless. That’s right…pointless.  Honestly? We will never be good enough or consistent enough to garner the regular praise of people, many of whom are in the same boat as us.

And let’s face it: we may succeed in one moment and then face-plant in the next. That’s a fact of life. Life is a series of ups and downs. Praise. Disappointment. Accolades. Removal. Cancel culture is real good at that. Agree and all is good. Disagree and bye-bye.

Our worth, my worth, is not found in what I do or what others think of me. No, it is found in Jesus Christ. My unrighteousness is replaced with His righteousness. That’s why when I look in the mirror I don’t see “Wreck,.” “Misfit.” or “Loser.” I see “Loved one.” “Special.” “Redeemed.” “His.”

“Father, help me realize and remember my self-worth is not tied to how I feel about me or what others think about me. It is based on what You think.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 7-9

Friday, January 7th, 2022

I am not normally going to post on the weekends, but this devotion came to me so I thought I would share it.

I wonder what it was like to be in Paul’s shoes. In 2 Corinthians 12 he speaks about being taken up into the third heaven. But he quickly changes his focus to his humility. Not bagging about it (because if he did he would no longer be humble!). Instead, he talks about how God keeps him from getting proud. His words: “to keep me from exalting myself.”  {Hmmm: does that speak to those who like to tell their stories for their few minutes of fame?}

But even more importantly is the lesson he is taught:  God’s grace is sufficient for any weakness. What an important truth to remember!

There is a saying, a thought, I often hear expressed which I think is very appropriate here: when you come to the end of yourself that is the best place to be. It is when you have nothing left, that you realize Christ is all you need.

Paul learned that.  He goes on to say, “Most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (v.9b)

That’s a good lesson for today and for the weekend. Well…for the future.

“Father, may I realize I am incapable on my own to counter all that comes. May I seek Your strength and grace to live a life which glorifies You.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 6

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

As I read 2 Corinthians 11 this morning I highlighted a couple of verses.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (v.3)

Then I read these two verses:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verses 13-14)

I drew a line connecting them. According to verse 4, the Corinthians were good at welcoming false teachers. They were not very discerning. The word we would use is they were “tolerant” of false teachers.

On one hand that is easy to see. Someone comes in and very subtly teaches something which sounds good but really isn’t. The undiscerning don’t catch it. They accept it as “gospel.” What makes it hard is more often than not it isn’t the big things which cause the slip-the deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Scriptures, that Jesus was fully God and fully man, etc. What I would call the “biggies.” It’s often the small things, say like a grab for power over time that cogs the wheel and gums up the engine. Or even legalism which sneaks in as “this is how a follower of Christ lives.”

I certainly am not dismissing having a discerning eye toward whacky things, like those pushed by Bethel and those of their ilk.  Ideas like calling themselves apostles, gold dust falling from the ceiling, and other non-biblical ideas. We need to be aware of cults like that, of those who sneak in putting our faith at risk. Given the infamy of today’s date, I’d even go so far as to say those who believe politics should be preached from the pulpit need to be examined more closely.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes and heart open to Your truth. Help me to be discerning to recognize what is not truth.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE