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December 1

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

It is the first day of December, the day we start preparing for Christmas. That is, unless you are a merchant, in which case you started in October, even before the Halloween stuff was put away.  Or you might be one of those eager beavers (some might say wise people) who took advantage of warm November weather to hang Christmas lights outside.

In any case, this is the month we focus on the birth of Christ. That will be my attempt here at “Shadow.” I’m going to attempt, in some way, to draw attention to the “goings on” during Christmas. Here is my first attempt:

“From the very first verse, John tells us of Christ’s eternality, His personality, and His deity. No matter how far back we consider the beginning of time to be and no matter what model we may have in our minds of how time began, there we will find the preincarnate Son of God. He was not created, for He is the Creator. The child in the manger was the very same person who put the stars in the sky-including the very star which led the wise men from the east to come and worship Him.”   Alistair Begg-Truth for Life-Dec. 1

There was more to that devotion, but that is enough for now. There is a cult (JW) that teaches Jesus was a created being, He is Michael the Archangel. According to John 1, that is heresy! There is another cult (LDS)  that teaches that Christ existed with his brother, Lucifer, as a spirit-child, the result of celestial sex Elohim was privy to. Then Elohim came to earth and had physical sex with Mary. Blatant heresy again.

“In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  John 1:1-2 (ESV)  The JWs want to add an extra “a” before that last one and make it say “a God” to fit their Scripture twisting.

Jesus was, is, and forever will be One with God. It’s no wonder they have nothing to celebrate. They have taken Jesus the Son of God and made Him a mere man, a created being.

I’ll stick with John’s words and celebrate Jesus, the One who was, is, and is to come.

November 30

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Isaiah 59:19 says, “So they will fear the name of the Lord from the west and His glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream which the wind of the Lord drives.” (NASB2020)

I rather like the simplicity of the NLT in this verse: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

As followers of Jesus, we are-or should be-keenly aware of our enemy’s tactics. His desire is to control us, or at least to compromise us so much that the effectiveness of our testimony is gone.

I was reading just this morning from I Cor. 10. After writing about the Israelites and their sin, Paul says some very poignant words to his readers (us). Please take a moment and read verses 11-13 right now.

We can choose to be a pawn in Satan’s grip or to be a vessel under control of the Master Commander. We can choose to give in to the temptation or we can choose to trust and rely on the One who changes lives.

In Mark 5 we read the story of a man who was under the control of the master deceiver. Uncontrollable. Unchained by people but chained to a cruel slave master. Then he met Jesus who righted the wrong and broke the chains that enslaved that man’s heart and life. I like what it says about him when the townspeople came out to see what happened: “He was sitting down, clothed and in his right mind.” (5:15)

I heard someone once say, “It is true God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. It is also true that Satan hates you and has a horrible plan for your life.”

Jesus can transform any life. I know. I’m one.

November 29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

In preparation for my series in 2023 on Revelation, I have been reading Revelation over and over in different translations. While they all offer the same yet different perspective, there is one overarching theme which comes through.

WORSHIP

Over and over we read of worship taking place. I challenge you over the next 22 days to read one chapter a day and mark the number of times you see worship or some description of Jesus.

There is probably no better depiction of worship than in chapters 4 & 5. If you read nothing else, take a moment to read and ponder those two chapters.

It got me thinking. How many times have you or I said or heard someone say, “That was a waste. I got nothing out of that worship service.” That is rather revealing in at least 3 different ways.

  1. It really was bad. The sermon misfired (it is possible you know?); the music landed with a thud and did not lead to worship; the whole experience was dead.
  2. The mindset and heart of that person (or me) was not in a “ready to hear” mode. But it is much more convenient to place blame elsewhere.
  3. Worship never happened because it involves a sense of expectancy on the part of the listener, as well as the willingness to offer ourselves. For lack of a better way to say it, we get out of it what we put into it. There needs to be some give and take.

Worship involves being involved-engaged. It means the worshiper puts his/her heart and soul into offering himself/herself to God in praise and adoration to the Father. The Father, the Source and object of worship, then meets His worshiper.

Check out the following verses:

  • 4:8-“They do not cease to say.”
  • 4:10-“saying.”
  • 5:9-“sang a new song.”
  • 5:12- “saying with a loud voice.”
  • 5:13- “saying.”

Sounds like engagement to me. You get the point. Worship involves engagement-me and you engaging with the Father.

When someone (or me) says, “I got nothing out of that today; what a waste!” unless it is false teaching or progressive (heretical) teaching, I’m more inclined to ask, “And what did you put into it?” I need to point the finger at my own heart.

What do you think?

November 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

November 14

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Christianity is a religion of the past, present, and future. Truthfully, I don’t like that word “religion” at all. It sounds so cold and formal. I guess I could say that Christianity is a “faith” but I’m not sure that effectively captures what I want to say either.

But that is a moot point.

My point is that life in Christ has a past, a present, and a future. Let’s break that down for a moment.

Life in Christ has a present. It is a life knowing we are living in the presence and the power of Christ.  It is a John 15:5 life: “I am the vine…”

It is also a life in the future. The Christ-follower has the promise of eternal life. We have the promise that no one can pluck us out of the Father’s hand. We have the assurance of a home in heaven.

I left off the past on purpose. Many Christ-followers live too much in their past. Or maybe it would be more correct to say they live chained too much to their past. They can’t forgive themselves or forget past indiscretions so they have an issue believing God can do what we can’t. All I need to do at this point is to draw your attention to I Cor. 6:9-11. {Please take a moment to read it}. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 11: “And such were some of you.” Key thought. Then it is followed by a key word: “but.”

That verse makes it very clear something has taken place. You see, the proof of Christianity is in its power to change lives. Such is the strength of those words: “Such were some of you.” Every time you look at a Christ-follower, you are seeing evidence of the fact God changes lives. Mine. Yours. Others. Perfect? Not by a long shot. But made new. Shame? Gone. Sin? Gone. Regret? Gone. In God’s mind.  Now to mine.

Christianity is a “religion” of the past, present, and future. Saved from the past; living in the present; looking forward the hope of an eternal future in heaven.  Remember: “such were some of you.”

October 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

October 19

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

There are some commercials I have trouble watching. To be fair, I (or have Jo hit) the mute button when commercials do come one, but there are some I refuse to watch. This time of the year are the interminable ones on open enrollment, i.e. Medicare/Medicaid. UGH! And the actors they use who don’t have to worry about things! Another one I can barely stomach is the save-the-pets one. Not because I don’t have a heart for the dogs (and maybe cats 🙂 ). The ladies voice is so…put on…so drab…so annoying. It’s not that I have a heart of stone. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because if a pro-life commercial was made with ultrasounds and life it would probably be cancelled, because after all, animals are more important than babies.

Okay…off soapbox.

But there is one group of commercials I watch one time and mute them when they come on. The children. The children with cancer.  You know…the St Jude ones. They wrench my heart out. I watch; I tear up. Guaranteed. We have friends of a family in church who have a 4 y/o boy with a brain tumor-a glioma- that without a miracle from God will probably not see age 5.

My highest praise goes out to those doctors and nurses who see them every day, but keep on. My highest praise goes to the pregnancy centers who talk about life for all-born and unborn. My highest praise goes to those who take children in through fostering or adoption because they love children and want to give them a chance in life.

Jesus once said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Mt. 19:14 NLT)

Children are a precious gift from God. In Jesus’ day they were add-ons, often without care, and certainly without a “place.” Jesus changed all that. He rocked the Greek and Roman world with His love and stand for children (I suspect even the disciples raised their eyebrows a few times). He gave them importance.

“Father, may I never forget Jesus once said I was to become like a child in my acceptance of you. May I never brush them off or hurt their hearts by my words or actions.”

October 19

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022

One of the hardest things for me to do is to shut my mouth. My wife would agree. I am very extroverted…very. She often says we can’t go anywhere that I don’t know someone. In fact, she said just the other day that would be reason enough to go back to Alaska for our 50th anniversary in June…no. one. know. me.

While being extroverted has its advantages, it can also be a detriment. I have this bad habit of talking to fill “dead air.” When I was a younger pastor, I also felt I needed to speak because “I had the answers.” It seemed incompetent to me to be silent and not offer some type of biblical or theological answer.

I remind myself of Job’s friends- Zophar and Eliphaz in Job’s book. (What an ugly thought). Job is suffering and they are “waxing poetic,” i.e. making foolish words in an effort to act like they know what’s going on. Zophar foolishly reminds Job it could have been worse (he deserved it) (Chapter 11); while Eliphaz stupidly says it is because Job sinned and needed to listen to God more closely (Chapter 4).

I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to do is not say anything. Don’t pretend I have the answer. Don’t presume I speak for God.

This came to me as I spent time in a hospital yesterday…waiting with a daughter while her father was being scanned, and then I visited with him and helped him eat when the daughter was called out into the hallway.  (Oops bad move. The OT wanted him to feed himself). I was at a loss for words-for him or his daughter.  I suspect that is better anyway. Empty, hollow, religious platitudes are not what they needed.

Maybe all they needed was someone to just sit with them…and to feed them (and I messed that up)…and BE. QUIET.

“Father, help me to know when and when not to speak. When I speak, may my words be  those of wisdom, not empty platitudes.”

October 18

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Doane Robinson? No? Read on but don’t spoil the fun by looking him up on Google. 🙂

It is easy to get lost in the crowd. I’m not talking about a concert or an amusement park. I’m talking about as a servant of Jesus. Let me explain.

People around the world (and I suspect all of you) are familiar with Mount Rushmore (MR). The sculpture of the four presidents carved into MR is a sight to behold. Yet, while million know of MR, few know of the man who conceived and managed the project.

Let me introduce you to Doane Robinson. He is the forgotten man in the whole story of MR. His name is either largely unrecognized or is never known by some.

I don’t know if that is they way he wanted it or not.

Being a servant of Jesus should be like that. We are not-should not be-in it for the accolades and strokes to our ego. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and they exist because You created what You please.” (NLT)

Our whole existence should never be to draw attention to ourselves. Joy comes from putting other’s needs before our own. The greatest joy comes from putting all the attention, honor, and glory that comes our way and directing it to Jesus.

“May I remember, Father, what Revelation 5 says: that Jesus and Jesus alone is worthy to open the scroll. That makes Him the only One worthy to be praised. May that be the song on my lips.”

For something different: https://youtu.be/-c6pl6CaiD0

October 17

Monday, October 17th, 2022

One of the most amusing events in the Bible is found in a passage I read this morning-Acts 12. Every time I read it I chuckle.  For several reasons.

First, the story. Peter is put in prison when Herod “feasted on” the Jews being pleased he had James put to death. BTW: his ego gets him in deep trouble later in the same chapter-verses 20-23. Anyway, Peter is imprisoned between 2 guards. How funny is that? Those two guards were a captive audience! There were also 2 guards watching the door to the prison. Peter is suddenly awakened by an angel (he does not know it is), taken outside the prison and then realizes it was an angel who freed him. Peter then heads off to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where they were praying for him. He knocks on the door and Rhoda answers it. She is so amazed to see Peter that she leaves him standing at the door and runs in to tell the others. 🙂  Then when she tells them Peter is at the door, they don’t believe her.

Two things stand out to me:

1. Was Peter’s release not what they were praying for? And yet, they didn’t believe Rhoda. I find it amusing Rhoda left Peter standing at the door. And I also find it somewhat amusing (if that is the right word) that they did not believe Peter was at the door…when that was what they were praying for!

2. I stand convicted. How many times have I seen God answer prayer only to be amazed. Amazed is not a bad word, because God’s work is sometime amazing. Maybe a better word is surprised. And even better one…shocked.

Let me clarify: I never want to lose the amazement of God working and answering prayer. But I also should not be amazed that He does. Does that make sense?  In this story, I would rather be Rhoda-so excited over seeing an answered prayer-than the ones praying for his release and doubting it happened.

May I never lose the wonder that comes from following Jesus and seeing God work.