Reflection

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October 1

Friday, October 1st, 2021

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my thoughts on Luke 1 were getting way out of hand (too long) so I thought I would split my thoughts into two posts.  It will certainly make it easier to stomach. 🙂

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Zechariah’s hesitancy and ultimate acceptance of Gabriel’s words (God’s plan), as well as my admiration for Elizabeth’s willingness to go along with God’s plan. We have no record of her thoughts until later in Luke 1 when she visits with Mary. 

But let’s move on to Mary and some observations I want to make:

1. Mary.  I suspect we all know the story. After being told what she could expect-“You will conceive and bring forth a son” she was also told who that son would be. Here is what hit me this morning. Zechariah was struck dumb when he asked, “How will I know this?” (v.18). Why was Mary not dealt with in the same way? Why was she dealt with differently when she said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Was it the question, “How will this be?” as opposed to “How will I know?” Was it more expected out of a mature and aged man who knew of the coming King as opposed to a young teenage girl? I guess we will never know while on this earth.

2. Mary’s response “My it be done to me according to Your word” rattles me. Here she is-an unmarried, virgin teenage girl whose whole world just got rocked with this earth-shattering announcement.  “May it be done to me.” WOW!  I’m not a Mary-worshiper by any stretch, but even someone who isn’t has to be impressed.

I tend to be more like Zechariah than Mary. At least I have been in the past. “Are you sure, Lord?” “Seriously God?” I have often questioned God a lot about things which were different and out-of-the-ordinary. Still do at times, especially when events happen which I don’t understand. As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) wiser and more mature, I’ve accepted God’s work and way somewhat easier. Not all the time but it is better than it was. 🙂 I still tend to question, but I believe that is okay. As long as those questions lead me to seek Him and not my own way.

How about you? Me? I like Christmas in September (yesterday’s post) and October (today’s). It has some great lessons which, like Christmas, should be all year ’round…at least the spirit of it.

“Father, may I be willing like Mary, even when something seems strange to say, ‘I am yours. Let it be done to me according to Your word.’ ”

September 30

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

September 30, 2021. Christmas is just around the corner…less than 3 months away. I read Luke 1 this morning as I read through the NT again this year, and it made me think of Christmas. In July, Jo watched a whole month of Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I walked in once and said, “Oh look! Snow!” And it was really snowing. People were wearing heavy coats, hats, gloves, and their breath was able to be seen. B-r-r-r-r.

Seemed strange to me when it was 100 degrees outside and the TV was showing snow falling. And it seems a little strange reading Luke 1 in September knowing most will see Christmas in those words. And rightly so. If I was a betting man I would be “bet” more sermons are preached on Luke 1 & 2 during December than at any other time of the year. (I am s-o-o-o-o-o smart don’t you think?) 🙂 

But I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of other thoughts which I’m sure you have heard or thought of before which hit me this morning:

1. Zechariah’s (Z’s) lack of understanding but willingness to accept Gabriel’s message…and its meaning. I know Gabriel said “because you did not believe” but far be it from me to question Z’s questions. Talk about an “out-of-left-field!” announcement!  He is minding his own business, doing his priestly duties when BAM!

2. He learned to trust. He came out of the temple unable to speak. But what about Elizabeth, his aged, long-suffering wife? What a shock it had to be to her as well! Old. Infertile. Beyond child-bearing age. “You’re pregnant.” Nothing is said about her reaction. Nothing. We can talk about Z’s hesitancy and acceptance, but let’s not forget Elizabeth.

There is something to be said about people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, people who are willing to question (Z) and then accept God’s program for them. I admire them, and find myself really admiring Elizabeth as I read about her later in the same chapter of Luke.

“Father, may I be a willing servant to accept Your will and plan for my life, even though I have no clue what it might entail.”

As I wrote this, and even more as I now type this, I began to realize how long this post was getting to be. So I finished writing it and have decided to post the rest of it tomorrow.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Mary in tomorrow’s devotion.

September 29

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Two nights ago I was doing a little purging while looking for some papers. As I was doing so, I ran across some pictures-pictures from days which seem so long ago. I was a lot heavier (I lifted weights regularly); I had a suit and tie on (gag); my beard had little to no gray (now it is almost all white/gray; Jo’s hair was permed and full; Tami was in college and “looked like” a professional; and Janna was in high school with short hair (she has beautiful, long hair now). I also found my high school report card from my Senior year. Let’s just say the two “A’s” (phys ed and driver’s ed) did not add credibility to my “you need to study” shtick to my girls.

Pictures are funny. They remind you of what was, often leaving one incredulous at the “was I really like that?” moment. “Did I really look like that?”

My recent bout with COVID (12/20-2/21) when I lost 48 pounds in about 3-4 weeks left me looking like a refugee from a concentration camp. My appearance changed drastically. I’m grateful that for the most part I’m back to looking like my normal (good-looking) self. 🙂

This whole thing came back to me when I read something Bob Goff wrote:

One thing we know for sure is that Jesus never cared about appearance…Jesus was more concerned about the experience than the appearance. He came to start a movement, not put on a display. He released His Spirit to spread love all over the world, and love doesn’t depend on people looking pretty. (#272-p.321)

After seeing myself at my worst during the COVID fight, I deleted that video. I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I looked.

I’m glad God doesn’t care what I look like. I look in the mirror and am appalled; He looks and calls me “His own.” And THAT is the greatest feeling in the world!

“Father, thank you that You call me Yours. Thank you for not being embarrassed about the way I look or linger on how I feel about myself.”

September 28

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

I was reading about the familiar story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Recap: Jesus was a guest in their house. Martha and Mary were hostesses and as such had preparation duties to perform. Well, maybe Martha. Not Mary. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak. Martha? She got more and more frazzled AND irritated. She even told Jesus her frustration. Unfortunately for her, Jesus commended Mary because “she chose the good part.” In other words, she chose the more important thing at the time: sit and listen to Jesus.

I thought about that in comparison to me. I know things clamor for my attention. I woke up this morning with things on my mind of what I needed to do today-some before I even get to the office. I tend to be pretty rigid about my morning schedule-get up, shower (that’s a good thing), then getting to the office as close to 5:00 as possible. One thing stands in between the shower and the office: my Encounter Time (ET).

It’s not a legalistic thing; it’s a life-saving thing. I have my ET to save me. It draws me to Jesus. I spend time with Him. I could find other things to do for this hour span. Sleep an extra hour. Work at the office. Work out at home, especially in the winter. But I have come to look at my ET as my lifeblood. I have mine in the morning because 1) I am fresher; 2) Less interruptions; 3) I need to start my day out right; 4) I know the distractions that will come later in the day.

I need to be in God’s Presence. I do not speak in hyperbole when I say, “I NEED THIS TIME!” Skipping this time is not a good thing for me! I’ve tried it before and the results were not pretty.

This is not a guilt trip for you. This is an “encouragement trip.” 🙂  Find the time that works best for you and fits your lifestyle. The important thing is to have that private meeting with God.

“Father, I need that time with You. May it always be one I look forward to and relish and draw strength from.”

September 27

Monday, September 27th, 2021

One of the false religious/belief systems in our world today is one called Deism. It is the belief system that God (or some higher creature) created the earth then withdrew His hand and basically said, “Okay boys. You are on your own.”  That is the Cliff Notes version of it.

I thought of that as I was reading about Isaiah 40. I think to justify our disbelief or to rationalize our lesser expectation of God, we minimize who He is and what He can do. Is. 40 is a masterful description of God-of who He is and what He can and does do.

After describing the glory of God compared to the flesh (verses 5-8), Isaiah launches into a litany of rhetorical questions. They start in verse 12 and go to verse 14. I’d encourage you to see for yourself. After a brief reprise he is back at it in verse 18

Check these out:

  • Verse 12-He can measure the waters in His hand and calculate the dirt and weigh the mountains.
  • Verse 26- He creates the stars and names them!!
  • Verse 23- He knows all the petty rulers of the nations-those who think they are “king” and “god.”

The classic verse here is verse 25: “To whom then will you compare me?” He is equal to no one and visa versa.

He ends with a series of verse most are familiar with: verses 28-31. But the promise of these verses hinge on these words found in verse 28: “The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired….”

God is unlimited and so is His strength. The latter is based on the former. No matter what you and I are going through, He is there. It is a promise.

“Father, help me to remember that truth today and in the future. You have not and will not leave me alone.”

All Scripture is from NASB2020

September 24

Friday, September 24th, 2021

We often hear a statement like “Forget your past.” I understand the import of that statement. If something has happened that we would just as soon forget, it applies. I get that. I really do. I’ve had enough dealings with people who have been abused, molested, had an abortion, had an affair, etc. that they would like to move beyond. And I’m all for that. Some stuff that happened to us in the past does need to be let go. We certainly can’t change it.

But there is also a time we should not let go of our past. Let me rephrase that. There are times we should not forget what happened in the past.

There is a saying that something like this: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” We should never forget certain dates for example: July 4, 1776.  April 9, 1865 (surrender at Appomattox) December 7, 1941. August 15, 1945 (VJ Day). September 11, 2001.  October 9 (my birthday)!! 🙂 In all seriousness, some dates and events must never be forgotten.

Psalm 78 is made up of 72 verses. It is a history lesson for the Israelites to remember. It is a reminder to them of their past and God’s faithfulness in that past. It is not a pretty picture by any stretch. It is a litany of waywardness, sin, rebellion, and disobedience. But it is also about a compassionate God.

So it helps to remember some things. Take a few minutes and read Psalm 78. Then ask yourself, what would my past be like if I wrote mine down? Like the Israelites, you would probably see a messy life with a faithful God right there with you.

I know I would.

This is the weekend. Take some time to reflect on the past and how God was faithful to you through it all.

September 23

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Confession right up front. They say it is good for the soul. 🙂   A good chunk of today’s devotion is going to be snippets from Bob Goff (#265-p.314).  It so impacted me that I want to share some of it with you. Just know that any quoted section is from the devotion.

As a pastor, I struggle with something-something which involves me and others. Ready?

Taking credit. Liking the accolades. Relishing the pats-on-the-back.

Have you ever seen The Incredibles? Yeah, I know it is an animated “child’s” movie, but Pixar did a wonderful job with it (and its sequel). Mr. Incredible wanted a cape with his new uniform. His “strange” designer says, “No capes” and proceeds to show him why. To borrow from yesterday’s devotion (September 22), God doesn’t need superheroes with capes. He doesn’t need me or you seeking attention. (Implied is a cape would do that).

“Jesus was introducing us to another way to change the world-one that doesn’t require any marketing taglines, self-promotion, or capes.  He wanted to show us that all those things meant to draw attention to ourselves can actually trip us up.” Bob goes on to write: “God always seems to more interested in working through those who don’t need any affirmation outside of His. Perhaps it’s because He wants us to point people toward Him, not ourselves.”

Have you ever seen a team with potential implode because they have one (or several) who sought the glory for themselves? I could care less about “thug ball” i.e. basketball these days, but two of the games greatest players were two of the least selfish-Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. All-Stars. MVP’s. Hall of Famer’s. They were known as much for their passing ability, their selflessness, and their desire to include everyone as they were for their scoring ability.

They didn’t toot their own horn. They didn’t need to. Neither do we as Christ-followers. To quote Mr. Goff again: “We don’t have to impress to earn the right be on God’s team.”

No matter what we do-preach, teach, sing, play an instrument-whatever it is we are not asked to impress or take credit. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (NASB2020)

“Father, may I lift You up, giving You praise and glory and not seek it for myself. I’m not worthy of that. You are.”

September 22

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

First day of Fall! I don’t know whether to cry or to cry. 🙂  Yeah, I’m a warm weather person. Sort of hard to ride a bike with snow and ice on the ground. Anyway, right now we are in our 3rd of 40 days of rain. On the positive side, least it is liquid sunshine not white flakes. Okay…on to the devotion.

The dictionary defines hero as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We hear a lot of talk these days about heroes. For the past year and a half we have been hearing about the front line workers who are heroes. Nurses. Police. Fire. Doctors. In my mind, they are heroes. Sadly, their heroism is being brushed aside and forgotten because of the vaxx mandate.  I will withhold comment.  🙂

I grew up with heroes. Comic books. TV shows. Athletes. Just like every other kid I had my favorites. Over the past decade the idea of a hero-a superhero- has been taken to a whole new level thanks to cinema.  Superman became Spiderman. Spiderman was soon enveloped by the Marvel universe of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and others. Batman rose from the comic book dead. Spiderman came back to life. Jason Bourne lived through mind games and countless fights and car chases to walk away each movie. The list goes on.

I think we need to stop looking to fantasy for our heroes and see them right next to us. They live with us. They work with us. They worship with us. They play alongside us. They are the mom and dad who love their handicapped child as though he/she is “normal.” They are the old man/lady who do their best to care for their mate who doesn’t even remember their name anymore. I recently read of a woman who took care of her former soccer-playing comatose husband for decades. She is a hero.

“Heroes come in every age and size,” Bob Goff writes. (#264-p.313). I’ve always believed that. I’m convinced, while we focus on the few who have prominent names, there are literally hundreds of thousands who go unnamed and unnoticed.

Heroes don’t wear capes (unless it is a dad playing “house” with his daughter). They don’t wear tights and have indestructible shields, and superhuman abilities to leap tall buildings. No…heroes are ordinary people doing ordinary things on ordinary days in extraordinary ways. Be a hero. Better yet…acknowledge one.

“Father, may I recognize a hero and not let him or her go unnoticed.”

September 16

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

One of the most vivid images/pictures which has always interested me has been the potter/clay one. Maybe it is because I’ve never done pottery but have only watched it being done. But there are a lot of scenes like that. I might watch a cooking show with Jo. Looks intriguing and sometimes very tasty, but because I don’t cook it doesn’t inspire me to learn. I suppose it should.  But in my mind it is fine for someone else! Just not me! Give me my bicycle!! 🙂

But I guess what strikes me about the potter and clay is its biblical reference and picture. Isaiah 64: 6,8-9 is a picture of the potter and clay. Isaiah pulls no punches in verse 8 when he says, “But now, LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter, And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

WOW! Isaiah, as I said, pulls no punches. God is our Father. God is the potter. We are the clay. So simple to see. He is in control. He is the One who shapes us. He is the One who molds us, getting His hands filled with dirt and clay. And here is the hard part for us-starting over shaping us when we are not compliant or stubborn or need re-shaped.

That is only part of the process! Then the newly-shaped pottery is put into a kiln and fired. Do you see the application for us? Consider these words from Isaiah: “And all of us are the work of Your hand.”  He makes no mistakes.

“Father, may I be moldable clay in Your hands.”

September 11

Friday, September 10th, 2021

I am posting this a day early.  I will be participating in a 9/11 memorial in my town of Spencer. It will also serve as a memorial to one of our own, Brett Wood, who lost his life in Afghanistan 10 years ago yesterday. Here are my thoughts:

Even writing those words-that date- brings back haunting memories.

Planes hitting two towers. Papers falling. People dying.  Metal crumbling. Layers of smoke and dust and debris in the air and on people and cars. People digging. American flag waving on site, almost like a guardian and inspiration.

“Let’s roll.” Brave passengers. Todd Beamer. Rumors of the plane headed to the White House.  An empty field. Plane crashed. Crisis averted. Lives lost.

Pentagon. The “seat” of military power. A symbol of military might and genius. The hub of decisions. Fiery death. Walls breached.

A nation united against evil. For once. “God Bless America” sung by political rivals. A common enemy. Swift action. Swift reprisal. Manhunt. Finally got him (them).

9/11…Never forget. This is not a matter of forgiveness. This is a matter of remembering the fallen.  As of today, there are just under 3000 innocent lives gone.  Heroes who rushed burning buildings. People who went to work that day not having a clue. Some of them I will see someday. Some, sadly, thought they had more time. And a few consigned to hell where their vestal virgins do not await. Only tongues of fire.

Matthew 26…Never forget. A memorial feast set aside for a Savior to never be forgotten.  Paying the ultimate price. For me. For you.

LEST WE FORGET

“Father, the memories are fresh as flashbacks occur on this 20th anniversary of evil’s destruction. Thank You for Your faithfulness through it all. Giving hope and life to so many. And thank You for the cross. Help me to never forget.”