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February 29

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

LEAP YEAR!

The ways of God never cease to amaze me. Who would have known-other than Him-that one of the more horrific times in my life would lead to a friendship that is like “brothers from another mother.”

In November of 2016 I was hit by a hit-n-run driver while riding my bike. It was in the afternoon; I was wearing bright clothing; and I was hit by an SUV’s rearview mirror on my left hip. While I laid in the middle of the highway, I watched as the driver took off, never once putting on a brake or to see if I was okay. (Yeah, I believe it was intentional. There are some idiots on the road. Ask the guy who got so close to me I felt his breeze on my leg then gave me the finger). Anyway…

I had had a little interest in an organization called 3 Feet Please but after this incident my interest ramped up. Its goal is to advocate for 3 feet of distance between car and rider and make it a law. Little did I know the leadership of 3FP had changed from a man in Florida to a man in Arizona. Dave and I struck up an email conversation which graduated to more regular contact. Then one weekend he came to visit. He spent 2 winters in Maine to get out of the heat in AZ (yeah he needs his head examined 🙂 ) and stopped to visit on his way through. There have been multiple other visits, emails, texts, and phone calls until our trip to AZ last week was the icing on the cake.

Both our wives agree we are too much alike in many respects. While I am an extreme extrovert and he’s an introvert whose brain never stops, he knows so much more about certain areas of “life” than me. Our wives would say we are “brothers from another mother.”

As we visited I had decided on the flight there to take an aggressive approach to reading Proverbs. Normally, I take one chapter a day every other month. This time I decided to read the whole book while on vacation, which meant 4 chapters a day. As a result, I read two Scriptures that particularly meant more to me. “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” (Pr. 18:24). The other says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Pr. 27:17).

True friendship is hard to find, let alone experience, especially for men. At 71 I can look back and see men I’ve been friends with. That tends to be characteristic of my personality. Except for one, they have all come and gone…more like acquaintances. This friendship with Dave is special. Sort of like David and Jonathan’s. We are good for each other.  Our wives agree-even though we can be a bit wacky and off the wall.

I thank God for a much-needed and much-appreciated friendship. Do you have one you can lean on?

February 20

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

In our day and age never has the pull to be overly committed been stronger. I think we would all agree that those things/devices which were supposed to make our lives simpler, easier and less complicated have done the exact opposite. That phone, for example, which went from a landline to a huge car phone in the middle console to an “attached-at-the-hip” thing, has made life difficult. We can’t seem to get away, to find quiet, or to relax.

Tragically, one of the fallouts to that lifestyle is a tendency to forget God is always present. I was recently reading a devotion focused on Joshua’s final words to the people of Israel in Joshua 23.  In his speech,  Joshua’s words in 24:15 become the focal point: “Choose today whom you will serve…but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (NLT)

To only focus on that verse does a great disservice to chapter 23, the early part of his final words?sermon. The devotion focused on 23:6-11 and made four observations on how to maintain our devotion to the Lord. I’ll give them to you with my short commentary:

  1. Give attention to God’s Word (v.6). Fill your mind and heart with Scripture. Don’t allow your time with Him to read and grow to become lax.
  2. Avoid pagan influence (v.7). Maybe we need to strongly consider what we watch, what we read, what we listen to, or even hang around and see if it a wrong influence.
  3. Attach yourself to God (v.8). I wonder what would happen if we attached ourselves to God like we have attached ourselves to our phone?
  4. Cultivate a deep affection for God in every way (verses 9-11). Develop an intimacy with God that grows deeper over time.

I leave you with those thoughts. Jo and I-thanks to the graciousness of a friend-will be leaving today for a week’s vacation to Arizona. We will be back, Lord willing, next Tuesday, the 27th. I hope to post on the 28th (providing jet lag don’t kill me!) 🙂 Prayers for our safety to and from (we are flying) and while there (we will be doing some driving) would be much appreciated. I need some rest and relaxation and this will have to do the trick for now. I do not have Feedly on my phone so I probably will be absent from any blog I normally read and comment on.

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

February 15

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

“Lest we forget…”

I woke up this morning with that phrase running through my mind. “Lest we forget…” It’s not uncommon to hear that spoken at a commemoration service honoring men and women who have served our country. And we never should forget.

In I Corinthians 10 a phrase very similar to that is used not once, but twice. In 10:6 it says, “These things happened as a warning to us…” In verse 11 it says, “These things happened as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

The gist? Lest we forget.

As a follower of Jesus, I must not forget the lessons learned or to be learned. I need to recall the lessons others learned and shared lest I fall into the same pit they fell into or possibly avoided. Nor should I forget the lessons I have learned from past experiences.

I say all this because of an incident people just won’t let go of. All the “rage” this week has been the Travis Kelce dust-up with his coach, Andy Reid. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I could care less if Travis was telling his coach about his latest escapade with his overly-hyped girlfriend. I don’t care if he was telling Coach Reid that he had heartburn from his pregame meal. I. SIMPLY. DON’T. CARE.  But since I wasn’t born yesterday nor is my head buried under a rock, I cannot escape hearing or reading about the pundits, especially other overly paid football players. I read an article where several of them said, “If that had been me I would have been…” Then one of them pulled out the race card (Isn’t that getting kind of old?). It is my understanding these players quickly forgot the grace shown to them by the NFL just a few years ago. One was convicted of choking his girlfriend in college and yet…wait for it…he is given a second chance and drafted because he can catch an odd-shaped ball.  Did he forget? Obviously.

My point is this: “Lest we forget.” As a Christ-follower we must never forget what we deserved versus what we received. The Israelites were given the examples in I Corinthians 10 (I encourage you to read the first 12 verses for reference and context) so they would not forget. They must not forget the damage and tragedy of sin and disobedience. But they also must not forget the goodness of God.

Good words for me to remember lest I forget.

February 13

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

On my mind this morning when I woke up; when I rode my bike on my inside trainer; as I took a shower and dressed; and now as I sit and read my Bible at the table is a task-something I will do today…

I will attend a visitation and funeral of the friend of one of our new young ladies in the church.

She drank herself to death. That is harsh to say, I know, but even though only 30, her body said, “Enough.” It came to that point of her liver and kidneys failing due to alcohol abuse and past cancer treatments.

She is not alone. It is almost like an epidemic. People who lose hope. More specifically, young people who have lost hope. I guess we expect it more from an older person who can say, “I’ve lived my life. It is time for me to go.” But a young person? That cuts. Losing hope knows no age limits. It knows no status (Hollywood stars for example). It knows no financial acumen (the rich or the poor).

When did people lose hope? Please don’t fall back on COVID, although I am convinced it may have exacerbated it. Isolation. Loneliness. But I ask again: when did people lost hope? When did they lose sight of what David wrote: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”? (Ps. 139:17-18). Maybe a better question is, “Did they ever know they were valuable to God?”

There seems to be no doubt that we are living in a hopeless generation and it is tragic that so many are living in such despair that they either want to end it all, give up, or in the case like this just simply say, “What’s the use?” and stop fighting for life. If we could only get back to what David wrote earlier in Psalm 139: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” (verses 7-10). Those aren’t words of lament, of complaining about God’s presence. They are words of triumph. Of joy. Of hope.

Something there is just too little of these days. But something offered to us by the One who gave and gives us life.

February 12

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is now part of what is being called President’s Day which is a celebration on February 19th, a conglomerate of Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday (22nd). I can remember when we used to celebrate them separately. Now I can’t even remember when that changed. Perhaps that happened when we got all “revisionist history?” I don’t know. My post today is not going to go down that rabbit trail.

Instead, Abraham Lincoln was known for making wise statements. I’d like to take a brief look at two of them.

One actually finds it roots in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Lincoln once said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Those words are very similar to those found in Proverbs 17:28.

The other is a bit more confrontive. With the Civil War spawning bitter feelings all across our country, Abe saw fit to speak a kind word about the south. A shocked bystander asked him how he could do that. His answer was poignant: “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friend?”

Jesus once said, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:43). “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If you are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will reap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” (Pr. 25:21-22).

Instead of responding tit for tat, let’s respond as Jesus has told us, and as Proverbs has encouraged us to. There is power in our actions…or inaction.

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

February 7

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

I’m convinced that one of the hardest things to do is for a person to forgive himself of past sins or discretions. I’m guessing we have all been there-either personally or with a friend or someone we know.

It might go something like this:

  • Person: Does God forgive all my sin?
  • You: Yes. I firmly believe He does.
  • P: I’m not too sure about that.
  • Y: Why?
  • P: I’ve done some really bad things. If I told you everything, you would turn away from me or it would at least curl your insides.
  • Y: Try me.
  • P: I just couldn’t. You would no longer like me or want to be my friend.
  • Y: First, that is not true. Second, what does my reaction have to do with God?
  • P: Because He would turn away and say, “That’s too much. I just can’t.”

You can carry that conversation on if you like. I want to stop it and add my thoughts. This conversation or one like it, and the thought of that person, came to mind when I read Psalm 130:3-4 this morning. “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Can it be any clearer? Consider I John 1:9 which says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I relish the truth that God forgives and when He does He forgives totally and completely. No hanging on. No crossing His fingers. It is not only forgiven but also forgotten.

Now…if we can just forgive and remind ourselves of that.

February 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I read a heartwarming story of a college basketball star (no name given) who stayed behind after the game to help with the clean up of empty cups and food wrappers. A fan posted a video and more than 80 thousand people viewed it. One person commented, “[The young man] is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet in your life.” It would have been more expected of that young man to go out and celebrate rather than to do clean up work.

That young man learned two words which are rapidly becoming non-existent in our culture: humility and service. And they go hand in hand. While beating the chest and wagging hands and fingers as though asking for and collecting applause are what is seen (and expected from the player), humility and service paint a different picture. While “thug-ball” and “stop-em-in-the-ground ball” and “how-much-money-can-I-make” ball is all the rage, off to the side is the humble one quietly doing his/her job with an attitude of a servant.

Oops, I said that wrong. I’m not allowed to call myself or anyone else a servant these days. It is demeaning. It is a slap in the face. It is misogyny. My one word response? Hogwash. It is not demeaning to be a servant. In fact, I’ll venture so far as to say we need it more now than ever. We have gone so far…down I might add…when we consider being called a servant is demeaning or any of the other adjectives you can use.

Me? I want that. After all, the One I gladly serve and call Lord, the Greatest Man who has ever lived or ever will live (Jesus) once said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Call me a humble servant. Please. There is no greater compliment.

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Please don’t forget to check out my review of Granger Smith’s book Like a River at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.

January 31

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

I did a review of Country Music star, Granger Smith’s book Like a River on my other site, Cycleguy’s Spin. It will post today. I’d like to ask you to visit that site and see what is so special about this book (especially since I am not a Country Music fan).  🙂

One of the recurring theme in Psalms is “God’s faithful love endures forever.” I just started reading Psalm 119 this morning as I journey through Psalms (it is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible) and the number of times it speaks of “God’s faithful love endures forever” in the previous 118 chapters would take a lot more meticulous work than I am able to give to it. But Psalm 136 take the prize. 26 verses = 26 times it says, “His faithful love endures forever.”

That may not seem significant to you at the moment, but I ask that you read the story of Abram and Sarai (later to become Abraham and Sarah) in Genesis 12-23. Pay particular attention to Sarah. She lived in a time when it was a disgrace not to have a child. Year after year she longed for and waited to have a child, especially when one had been promised. Shen she and Abraham are told they would have a son and that Abraham’s seed would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Oh the joy! Until days turn into months; months turn into years; years turn into decades; and decades turned into Sarah being 89 and Abraham 100. Still without a child. She had tried earlier to take matters into her own hands by giving her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham. Ishmael was born but he was not the promised child and it didn’t bring Sarah the satisfaction she thought it would. In fact, it led to conflict so strong that Hagar and Ishmael had to leave. Much of the Middle East issues are a result of this child. Finally, at the age of 89 and Abraham at 100, the promised child was born. They named him Isaac.

My purpose in this devotion is not to get into a discussion of the Middle East conflict and how Sarah’s efforts have a direct bearing on them. No…my point is to talk about “God’s faithful love endures forever.” Even through Sarah’s conniving and wondering, God’s faithful love endured. He promised. He delivered.

The same God of Abraham and Sarah is the same God today.  His faithful love endures forever, even when we don’t see. Sarah didn’t but even in spite of her missteps, she clung to the promise of a son. She clung to the truth that God would keep His word. Those same words are for us today: God’s faithful love endures forever.  So don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t throw your hands up in despair. He is a God of His word.

January 25

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Have you ever cried out for help and received it? Or maybe not?

I was struck today by a chapter in the Bible I have read countless time before but never saw what hit me until this morning. It is Psalm 107.  It begins with a familiar refrain that was repeated in some previous psalms: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (107:1)

Okay. Sounds like something I or maybe you have read before. But then the writer veers from script and begins to recount different events in the life of the wandering Israelites, as well as other events unrelated to them. What I noticed though (and missed this before) is that four times they cry out the same thing: “Lord help! they cried in their trouble and he rescued them from their distress.” Those same words are used in verses 4, 13, 19, and 28. So four times we see their cry, “Lord help!” and four times we see His response: “He saved them from their distress.”  Now watch what God did:

  • He led them straight to safety-v.7
  • He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom-v.14
  • He sent out His word and healed them-v.20
  • He calmed the storm to a whisper- v.29

Simple point: they cried out for help. God acted. Please read the chapter for yourself and do your own investigation. Let me close this simple devotion with two more verses:

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”  (107:43)

“Oh, please help us against our enemies, for all human help is useless. With God’s help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes.” (108:12-13)

Cry for help. He will answer. He will fight for you. And remember (as I told someone yesterday): God is seldom early, but He’s never late.

{All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}