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June 20

Thursday, June 20th, 2024

Jeremiah fought for all he was worth! No, not a UFC no-holds-barred kind of fight. Unless you are talking about a spiritual battle.  

In Jeremiah 1:17-19 we find these words: “Get up and prepare for action…Do not be afraid of them. For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall…They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (I wrote about that in my June 18th post).  But that was just the beginning. In 7:1-8:3, we find one of the biggest issues Jeremiah has to fight through: faulty religion. Strangely enough, what Jeremiah had to fight with is not a lot different than today.

Here is a short analysis:

  1. Faulty religion trusts in external observances and institutions. Too many today think going to church, maybe lifting their hands, or putting money in the coffer is all they need to do.  Trouble is: one can do all of that, and more, without one bit of heart.
  2. Faulty religion exhibits ungodly behavior. I remember joking as a teenager with my classmates who were of a certain religion. They could party Friday night, go to church on Saturday morning and take care of things, then “go parking” on Saturday night and feel as thought they were alright. After all, they had “done their duty.” There is something wrong with that picture.
  3. Faulty religion turns its back on God instructions. Jer. 7:13 says, “While you were doing these wicked things, says the Lord, I spoke to you about it repeatedly, but you would not listen. I called out to you, but your refused to answer.”  (NLT). How often do we do “our own thing”? God’s Word is seen as a killjoy to our lifestyle.

It’s easy to allow what could and should be a vibrant, alive, and life-changing faith to become old or even misdirected. Let’s challenge ourselves to not allow our faith to become an outward thing but to be a “heart thing.”

June 19

Wednesday, June 19th, 2024

In my daily reading through the New Testament, I have hit the book of Revelation. Ironically, I will finish a series of preaching on Revelation during the months of July and August. I’m not bragging. I started it in January of 2023. Yes, you read that right. 2023! 🙂 I interrupted it a lot but decided I need to finish it. Anyway…I read chapters 2 & 3 yesterday and today. If I had a guess I would say those two chapters may be the most preached-on section of Revelation.

Those two chapters contain the letters to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Here is a short synopsis:

  • All have a pastor- “The the angel of church…”
  • All but one (Laodicea) have something good said about them.
  • Two have good but no wrong said about them (Smyrna and Philadelphia)
  • All are fighting false teachers/teachings except Sardis and Laodicea.

I would suspect Laodicea hits us the hardest in our day and age. “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other. But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Rev. 3:15-16 (NLT)

When I cycle, I carry two insulated bottles on my bike. One is filled with water; the other is filled with some type of electrolyte drink. I freeze them ahead of time so I have a cold drink on the ride. Every once in a while I will misjudge the water thawing. The electrolyte replacement drink gets consumed first, then comes the water. But occasionally, the water has lost its ice and is lukewarm. I tell myself, “At least its wet,” but it is blah and so unsatisfying I can’t wait to finish and get a real drink of cold, fresh water.

The letter to the church at Ephesus was not a compliment, it was a judgment. But with the judgment comes a reminder: “Get with the program. Stop faking it. Stop riding the fence. I’m knocking asking you to let me in. If you do, and set your heart on me, I’ll be glad to have you join Me at a meal.”

To sit with Him at a meal, to chat with Him; to discuss life with Him, sounds really good! I think I’ll take Him up on His offer to catch fire.

June 18

Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

It has been a wild ride the past few weeks. The church family I pastor is small compared to many other churches (just under 200), but we have seen our share of deaths, sickness, cancer, hardship, testings, and all things “human.” Just because we are followers of Jesus does not make us exempt from any of that, in spite of the heretical ramblings of the health/wealth crowd.

We have not been immune from it personally either. Years ago in a time of seeking direction during a tough season, I ran across Jeremiah 1:17-19. A little background makes this poignant. Jeremiah’s ministry occurred during a hard time, days when Judah sank into chaos morally and politically. The kings were worthless and ungodly. Jerusalem fell and Jeremiah suffered. Like Jeremiah, we don’t get to pick our times or circumstances. Our job is to follow. It was during a tough time when God told Jeremiah the following words and then also led me to the following verses: “Get up and prepare for action. Go out and tell them everything I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them. For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land-the king, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (NLT)

Those words were like gold to me at the time I found them. They still are. Take a moment to read that Scripture again and then take note of what He tells Jeremiah and then ask how it applies to you. When I feel overwhelmed by life’s circumstances and battles, these words dig down deep into my soul. I hope they do the same for you today.

June 13

Thursday, June 13th, 2024

I read in the past, and again recently, the following story:

A fisherman who caught crabs would keep them in a bucket without a lid. Someone noticed this and asked him, “Don’t you have to keep a lid on that bucket?”

He said, “No, they never get out.”

“Why? Because they can’t get out?”

“No,” he said. “When one crab tries to go over the side, the others reach up and pull him back down.”

When I read that I thought, “How much like humans that is.” We can’t hardly stand to watch someone, especially a rival, get ahead of us. We turn green with envy and jealousy and begin to think, “Hey! I deserve that. Not him. Not her. I put forth a lot of effort to get that.”

Envy is one of those things that we shoot at someone else and end up wounding ourselves.

Listen to these verses:

“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Mt. 23:11-12

“There are six things the Lord hates-no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes…” Pr. 6:16-17a

“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Pr. 11:2

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” Js. 4:6,10

There are tons more where those came from! Simple truth: God wants us to put the needs of others above our own, to love one another, to and care for one another.  Envy, and its sister, jealousy are listed as works of the flesh in Galatians 5 and really have no place in the life of the Christ-follower. Let’s stop it before it takes root.

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

June 12

Wednesday, June 12th, 2024

My morning Encounter Time included reading Psalm 77.  As I read and highlighted a thought developed and as I pursued it, it became clearer. It is not profound but I share it with you this morning.  I’d like to ask you to open your Bible to Psalm 77 and read each section as I have delineated and then formulate your own thoughts.

The problem we face: Psalm 77:1-3

The questions that linger: Psalm 77:4-9

The scenario we replay: Psalm 77:10-12

The answer we remember: Psalm 77:13-15

Whether we are talking whatever B.C. (when this psalm was written) or 2024 A.D., times haven’t really changed. After listening to people say the Bible is outdated and not applicable to today’s world, I chuckle when I run across a passage like this and realize how contemporary it is. The problem, the questions, or the scenario hasn’t really changed. But most importantly, the ANSWER hasn’t changed. And that I can “take to the bank.”

 

 

June 10

Monday, June 10th, 2024

This past Friday I received a text from someone who was passing something along to me.  As soon as I read it I thought it would  be good to share with you:

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? “Because some bumped into me!!”

Wrong answer.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.  Had there been tea in your cup, you would have spilled tea.

Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.

So we have to ask ourselves…”What’s in my cup?” 

When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratitude, peace and humility? Anger, bitterness, victim mentality and quitting-tendencies?

Life provides a cup, YOU choose how to fill it.

Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, resilience, positivity; and kindness, gentleness and love for others.

As the person who sent this to me said: “I love this analogy!”  I would agree.  The Scriptures back up this analogy. “Live by the Spirit,” Paul writes in Galatians 5:25. That follows his description of a life of the flesh versus the life of the Spirit.  “Be filled with the Spirit,” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18.  Jesus spoke about how a person speaks from the overflow of his/her heart. 

So the question remains: If you are shaken, what will spill out?

June 6

Thursday, June 6th, 2024

I thought I would be doing a post on Jacob wrestling with God. But something else has come to the forefront and takes importance. Some of it is not my words. They come from a blogging friend whom I have come to love at a (very long) distance and respect. Her husband, Dick, is a pastor and she has had (and still does have) her own blog. I’m going to put two links I would ask that you read. You may comment here or you may follow her and email her personally. That being said, I would still like to hear your thoughts.

There is a lot of ruminating and discussion going on in the church world concerning what our culture is demanding we accept. Probably the one affecting us the most is the whole Alphabet soup of letters and the acceptance of that lifestyle. While I am willing to accept anyone who walks through the doors of the church, and can be friendly to anyone, I cannot and will not affirm their lifestyle.  There is a difference between acceptance and affirmation. That is not hatred. That is not judgment. It is standing on the Bible as the infallible, inerrant, Spirit-inspired Word of God. To compromise that is (in my mind and heart) to deny the faith. We are urged to “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. (Jude 3). To read the next verse tells you why: “I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (emphasis mine) Can anyone say 2024? (And they have the nerve to say the Bible is so out-dated). 

Pam writes from the heart. I will let her two blogs tell you her story.

Read this one first: https://2encourage.blogspot.com/2024/06/changes-in-umc.html

Read this one next: https://2encourage.blogspot.com/2024/05/try-little-kindness.html

Here was my email to Pam: Well…you sure did it in! 🙂 And I totally agree with you on both. Although not a member or any way affiliated with the UMC, I ache for those, like you and Dick, who want to stay true to God’s Word and find yourself on the outside not even being able to look in. I suspect there are many grieving with you over what is lost and probably will never be recovered. I have to think that what they deem a “world reaching decision” will, in actuality, destroy the UMC. One cannot compromise with the world and expect good results. I John 2:15-17 shows us that. In our effort to be “kind” we have fallen on the slippery slope and done a free fall.

Prayers for you and Dick to find your niche and place of service.

In all honesty, I stand firm with Dick and Pam and what I wrote. I see the downfall of the UMC and others of that ilk in the years to come. All one has to do is look at the more liberal denominations and see their decline in all ways in order to see the devastating affect of compromise. We are not “kind” if we withhold the truth of God’s Word and the results of rejection of it, and even more, Jesus.

I would like to know what you think. Feel free to comment here, but may I also encourage you to encourage Pam (and Dick).

{All Scripture from the New Living Translation}

June 3

Monday, June 3rd, 2024

I’m sure you have noticed that we all go through different seasons in our lives. Life seems to be a series of ebbs and flows, of hills and valleys, and in my case, highs and lows, heartaches and sheer joy. As a pastor I have experienced, I think, just about every life situation. The past two weeks have been some of the wildest times of ups and downs I have ever experienced in my 50+ years of ministry. No details but simple words will tell you all you need to know: cancer, strokes, hospice then death, kids’ baseball games, kids going to church camp, a college student being baptized, disappointment over a setback on an addiction, grad parties, surgeries, a daughter’s birthday (which means I am getting older)…you get the picture.

People often ask me how I cope with all of this. My job is not a physical one like so many; mine is more mental and emotional. Two ways: on a surface level I go to the Y and ride a bike. I call those my stress relievers. On a deeper, more spiritual level I cling to verses like I read this morning: Psalm 59:16-17- “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”  Sometimes I run to Him and hold on for dear life. I cling tenaciously. Sometimes I run to Him and simply let Him love me. I can sense His arms around me. I like a quote I just read:

Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture more natural to Him is not a pointed finger but open arms. (Dane Ortlund from Gentle and Lowly quoted in Shepherding the Shepherd by Lee Eclov-p.39)

I can’t do this on my own. Neither can you. I have a place (a refuge) where I can go. Do you?

May 29

Wednesday, May 29th, 2024

Since I am leaving for Ohio shortly, I thought I would take a few moments to update you on Janna’s surgery. Thanks to all of you who prayed for her. She (and Tami) were born with my eyes. That is bad. I began wearing glasses in 4th grade and if it hadn’t been for new material coming out I would have been walking with a permanent downward look to my head. Yes, my glasses were that thick. Coke bottle thick. I wore contacts for a number of years but my vision stopped being sharp with them so I went back to glasses permanently. Then I (finally) developed cataracts which allowed me to have eye surgery and no longer need glasses! (And all the angels in heaven rejoiced with me! 🙂 ). I wear readers for up close and when I preach I wear a pair of glasses with a lens which allows me to read and look up and see people sharply instead of being a blur. I think they would prefer I not see them sitting with their eyes closed or pretending to listen.  Just kidding. I have no one in the congregation who does that!

Anyway…a little over a year or so ago Tami’s eyes got so bad she had eye surgery. They were worse than mine. Her eyeballs were shaped like footballs so the normal lens implant would not work. Now she only has to wear a thin pair of glasses to see in the distance or to drive. Janna’s eyes were bad but not as bad as mine and Tami’s. She had a lens implanted in each eye-one for distance and one for close up. She has astigmatism (courtesy of yours truly) in both eyes so the doctor said he put them in just perfectly. When she looked up (she was awake the whole time) and could read the clock, she shouted loud enough I’m thinking we could have heard her if there weren’t a number of doors between us. She immediately tested 20/40 and that will get better as her eyes and vision settle in. She goes back this morning for a one day follow-up and then Jo and I will be taking her back to Ohio. This doctor is so good he was willing to work with an eye doctor in Columbus, OH to do the other follow up visits.

Thanks again for praying for her. But the preacher in me can’t and won’t let this go. The importance of sight cannot be diminished. One of my mother’s concerns was that she would go blind. Taking away a person’s sight, while it can be overcome, is a big blow, especially if that person loves to read for example. But consider this: there are thousands of people who lack sight. Not physical sight, but spiritual sight. While they may have 20/20 visually, they are blind spiritually. The idea of sight in the Bible is a constant. Moses wanted to see God. David said, “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)  Jesus said that “He was the light of the world” and in Matthew 5:14-16 He said, “You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Light dispels darkness. Followers of Christ have the light of Jesus in them; those without Him only have darkness. Be light to someone. Show them THE LIGHT…Jesus…can take away their darkness and bring light to their life.

Again, thanks for your prayers. Thanks to Dr. Fornefeld and his amazing team at Clariti in Bloomington, IN. I highly recommend them (so much so Janna came here). Above all, I thank God for His marvelous gift of sight and for giving men and women the ability help people see better. And I pray you will know the Light of the World.

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

May 23

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

“Of course I’m a responsible person!”

Perhaps you have heard the comedic exchange:

“Are you a responsible person?”

“Yes, I am. My wife tells me I’m responsible for everything that happens.”

I’m sure it isn’t quite that bad, but consider this: Do be a responsible person. Now, before you get all ballistic and huffy think this through with me.

We live in a culture today of what I will call “blame-shifters.” We would rather blame than take responsibility. In fact, Proverbs 24:12-13 is surprisingly contemporary, especially for those who want to say the Bible is an antiquated and outdated book. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’ For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul and knows you know.” (NLT) (Emphasis mine)

Shifting blame is nothing new. It is as old as…well…the Garden. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit and knew things had changed, they hid from God who had come for their daily walk. When Adam replied, “I heard you walking in the Garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

God: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I told you not to eat”

(WAIT FOR IT)

A: “It was the woman you gave me.”

G: (to Eve) “What have you done? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

(WAIT FOR IT)

E: “The serpent deceived me.”

Not a sliver of taking responsibility, bu they both were good at shifting blame. “The woman.” “The serpent.”

And we haven’t changed or stopped. We still shift blame.  “It wasn’t my fault. He or she did it.” Don’t you think it is time to start acting like men and women and assume responsibility for our actions? Growth can happen when we accept responsibility instead of pointing our finger at someone and say, “It’s his or her fault.”  Well…what do you say?