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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

November 30

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Romans 10 has always been one of my favorite chapters to read. It is an informative one, but also a challenging and convicting one.

Paul begins by saying his heart’s desire is for his kindred Jews to know Christ (v.1). In fact, I think you can include chapter 9 with that. In 9:1-5 Paul even says that he would be willing to be accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of his countrymen (v.3).

But while he is willing to sacrifice himself for others, and even though his heart’s desire is for their salvation, he knows they must hear and respond. Each person must hear and respond on their own (10:10,13).

I like how he lays out the progression in verses 14-15:

  • How will they call on Him on whom they have not believed?
  • How can they believe if they have not heard?
  • How can they hear without a preacher?
  • How can they preach unless they are sent?

And then his ending: “Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (v.17). Faith/salvation does not happen in a vacuum. That speaks volumes as to why it is so important to get the message to others.

“Father, may I be used to get the message of Jesus to others so they can come to faith in You.”

November 24

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

I used to love a good roller coaster. The feel of the air as it rushed past my face. The almost weightless feeling of topping the track and then dropping off at ungodly speeds was thrilling.

Two realities wrecked that for me, neither of which I could control. First, getting older. What my body once relished, it now rebelled. My joints would hurt from being jostled and my head complained because of the equilibrium being off. But worse was #2.

It was always an issue. Circles. I hate circles. Put me in or on anything which goes in circles and it is not a pretty sight. Like lose my lunch sight. I turn white. I sweat profusely. And BAM! So I stopped riding coasters. No…make that I stopped going to the amusement park. I even get sick on a Merry-go-round! Now…who gets sick on one of those? (hand raised). Anyway, the food was too expensive. And the people-the real reason I like to go to the park-got stranger and stranger.  95 degrees out and wearing long, baggy, black pants 10 sizes too big. Chains. Long sleeve black shirt. Piercings out the yazoo. Did I say weird?

Anyway, focus Bill. I used to love the thrill of the coaster. Start slow. Hit the high. Come in for the landing.

Psalm 19 reminds me of that:

Start slow. Verse 1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God…”

Hit the apex. Verses 7-10. Four of the most powerful and greatest verses in all of Scripture.

Come in for the landing. Verse 14 says, “May the word of my mouth…”

Take the time to read the whole chapter on your own please. Then read it again and again. See the start. Feel the apex. Stick the landing.

And you won’t get sick. I promise. And I will take that ride any day.

“Father, thank you for Your Word and the vivid reality of it. Help me to relish the thrill of Psalm 19.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

November 23

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

In all my years as a pastor, I think one of the most common thoughts I have heard is the inability of people to forgive themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter what that person has done-big or small-there seems to be a barrier to forgiveness. Or maybe I should say “Acceptance to forgiveness.” You see, the problem is not God. We hear about God’s forgiveness. We know we need forgiveness. We want to accept and believe that forgiveness can be for us. BUT we just can’t seem to pull the trigger.

We think too much of what we have done. We think too much of where we have been. We think our sins are too great to be forgiven. One of my favorite songs is Covered by Planetshakers. While I don’t subscribe to the theological bent of Planetshakers Church and its structure, this song speaks volumes to my heart. {Warning: song is a little over 7 minutes long…but worth the listen}

So does Romans 6, especially the first 10 verses. Allow me to outline it/highlight some things for you:

  1. We do not sin so God’s grace can be greater. If our sin is a 5, God’s grace is a 6. But we don’t have the freedom to sin to prove that.
  2. Baptism is a uniting factor. I personally believe this is water but I don’t believe it is saying baptism saves or washes away sin  It is a point of obedience, of unity with the Father.
  3. Our old self is crucified with Him so that we will no longer be a slave to sin. Sin loses its hold on me.
  4. Jesus’ death is once for all. He died once and never needs to die again. This is one reason why the continual need for absolution is unnecessary. It is also one reason why living under the OT Law is useless. The Law cannot save; only Christ can.

Sin is forgiven. Big or small. God’s grace covers it all. Verse 7 says, “For the one who has died is freed from sin.” (NASB2020) We are no longer a slave to sin.

“Father, thank You for Your complete forgiveness. No sin is too great or too small. Your grace covers it all.”

November 17

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

As a teenager two of the most frequent questions asked are “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” It is expected, I think, of teens as they try to find their way through life and their place in life. Those years are especially tough because acceptance and belonging and a sense of self-worth are tied up in the answer to those questions. I confess to asking them myself.

It doesn’t stop.

I’d like to say I stopped asking those questions when I become an adult, but I would be lying. They take a twist though. Instead of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” they morph into “Do you like me?” or “Do you approve of me?”

I spent way too many years seeking approval of others. As a youth pastor I wanted the young people and their parents to like me.  As a pastor I wanted the adults to like me, and their kids were a bonus. It’s human nature to want to be liked, but that can be taken too far. The need/desire for approval is a very poor (translated: dangerous) reason behind doing ministry. The root cause of that is often-not always-the hunger for approval from parents and peers. I always had and knew I had the approval of my mother. My dad was a different story. Play baseball? Spot on. Play basketball? Not so. I always stuck out like a sore thumb with my high school peers since I was not a drinker, a smoker, a swear-er, or a rabble-rouser.

I finally came to realize my acceptance from God was worth it all. I didn’t have to strive for it. I didn’t have to perform. Nor beg. Nor plead. Isaiah 43:1-3a says, “But now, this is what the LORD says, He who is your Creator, Jacob, and He who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overfl0w you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God.’ “  (NASB2020)  Those verses tell exactly how God feels about me.

It feels good to be loved and accepted and called “His.”

“Father, may I realize-always-my position with You. I’m accepted.”   Here is a song worth listening to.

November 16

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

I just finished reading Acts 24-26 as I make my way through the NT using the NASB2020 version. Several things stood out to me:

1. Paul was fearless. In spite of the threat of violence; in spite of accusations made against his motives, his ministry, his character and his presentation, Paul spoke truth.

2. Paul spoke truth. Running off the previous comment, Paul did not back off. He told his story-the same as always-with no guile. Whether before religious leaders; a governor (Felix and Festus). or a king (Agrippa), Paul never wavered.

3. Paul spoke of Jesus and the change He made in Paul’s life. He relates again about his encounter on the road (Ch. 26) and his calling to take the Gospel to the Jew first, then the Gentile.

4. Paul wishes freedom for all, except for the chains (26:29). His heart was for all men to respond to the message of Jesus.

I have been called-we all have been-to live as Paul exemplifies: fearless, speaking truth, to speak of Jesus, and desiring for all to be set free by the power of Christ.

“Father, may I live a life that honors and promotes You.”

November 4

Thursday, November 4th, 2021

I have been blessed in oh so many ways.  As our family grew, we have all been fairly healthy.  Other than the two babies, Jo was never in the hospital except for a hysterectomy and then a gall bladder removal. Other than my cycling accidents, I have been blessed with good health until my recent bout with long-haul COVID.  Our girls never spent a night in the hospital growing up.

I have been blessed with a personality that is outgoing, positive, and energetic (rumors of ADHD float around but I debunk those since I can sit for hours and read or work a puzzle).  Anyway, one of the hardest folks for me, and ones I have finally come to somewhat understand, are those who suffer from depression. Let me explain please.

When I was in my early 20s and still very much wet around the ears and very naive, I was a youth pastor who found himself visiting a lady (I will call her Jane) in a psych ward. I had no clue what clinical depression was. I had no clue that some had DNA that leaned that way. Jane was fine one week and the next she was in the psych ward. I didn’t understand.

Sadly, I was somewhat judgmental. I was also clueless. “How could a follower of Jesus have trouble with depression?” It has taken me years-and I do mean years-to understand the battle some face. I’ve seen how it is passed to children and grandchildren.

I think David may have had some of this. From the heights of some psalms to the depths of Psalm 42, one can see it. “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me?” (v.5).  “My soul is in despair within me.” (v.6) “I will say to God, my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’ “ (v.9) “Why are you in despair, my soul?” (v.11)

I’m much more understanding now. We all go through hills and valleys. We all go through highs and lows. We all go through moments of joy and despair. It usually has nothing to do with something we have done (although there are exceptions). What I’m concerned with more is my patience, or lack of it, with those who are. For all of us, Psalm 42:11 rings true.

“Father, forgive me when I am impatient or judgmental toward struggles of others. Change my heart and attitude.”

November 2

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

One of the more…ummmm…I’m not sure what word to use passages-laughable, comical, intriguing, convicting, descriptive stories in the Bible is found in Acts 12. Each time I read it i chuckle. Marvel. And understand.

Peter had been put in prison by Herod. Herod had had James, the brother of John, executed by sword, and since it was such a hit and so well-received by the people, he had Peter tossed in prison also. The night before Peter’s execution, an angel wakes Peter up and takes him out of the jail and into the city, but then disappears. Peter realizes what had just happened so he heads to the house of Mary, Mark’s mother. And here is where it gets sort of comical, but convicting.

Peter knocks on the door and Rhoda, the servant, recognizes him. She leaves him standing outside 🙂 and runs to tell the people gathered…wait for it…praying for his release. When Rhoda tells them Peter is at the door, they think she’s nuts. (Exact words: “You are out of your mind”) But with a little insistence, Rhoda convinces them she isn’t nuts and Peter is standing at the door. (I wonder…did it dawn on her she left him standing outside?). Verse 16 says, “and when they opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.”

Two things hit me as I read that this morning:

  • They were amazed. Why? Because their prayer was answered!

OR

  • They were amazed because their prayer was answered.  Think about this before you answer. How many times have you been amazed by God’s answers to your prayer. He was listening to your prayer.  He was paying attention to you! And He knew the right time to answer.

I like surprises, especially good ones. To me, this is a good surprise. I am amazed and surprised how God answers my prayers.  I chuckle at their reaction to Rhoda’s message. But sadly, I can relate.

“Father, may I constantly be surprised by the way You answer my prayers. Help me to never lose the wonder of You.”

October 27

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

So here I am early in the morning. Earlier than usual that is. I didn’t sleep well. I’m thinking several things played into that…nothing specific I can put my finger on. I did receive a steroid shot in my knee so that played into it I’m sure. Plus I have some things on my mind. Not worry but some decisions which need to be made. Nothing bad or serious…they are just there (if you know what I mean).

Anyway, God in His inimitable way comes when and where needed. The book of Jeremiah records Jeremiah’s struggles; Lamentations his anguish over the nation of Judah’s stubborn refusal to follow God. And yet, in his darkest hour, he writes these great words:

I recall this to my mind, Therefore I wait. The Lord’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, For His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lam.3:21-23

Then I read Psalm 119:156:

Great are Your mercies, Lord; Revive me according to Your judgments.”  (I finished a week in Psalm 119 this morning)

New every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Can there be any words or thought richer; more packed with meaning; more promising of hope; more overwhelming with love that those? I think one would be hard-pressed to find them.

So even though I’m sure fatigue will hit sometime today, I am “revived” (as the psalmist puts it) by the promise of God’s new morning mercies.

“Father, thank you. They are the only words I can find to say right now.”

All Scripture from NASB2020.