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September 2

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s devotion, the devotion was too long to have it as one. So I made the decision after writing it to split it into two.  This is a continuation of yesterday’s devotion.

As we talk about increasing versus decreasing our faith; as we talk about just “going through” versus “growing through” something, I’d like to focus on a very familiar passage of Scripture.  I know these verses can be overused (often consigned to “Jesus junk”), or even misused (especially by charlatans), but please read these verses S-L-O-W-L-Y and meditate on them as you read:

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NASB2020)

People latch onto that prosperity word and name-it and claim-it and think God is obligated to give material prosperity. But do you see the latter part? “You will call.” “You will seek.” “You will find.”

God wants us to pursue Him. Sort of like what is said of David: “He is a man after my own heart.”  David pursued God with a passion. Sure, he stumbled, but his passionate God-heart always brought him back to the heart of worship. Instead of expecting God to drop things in our lap because we think (or someone has told us) He is obligated to do so, let’s throw that junk aside and have a heart that pursues Him.

If I remember correctly, did Someone not say, “If you seek you will find”?

“Father, may my heart run after you with an undeniable passion.”

Late addition: after reading Psalms today I feel I need to add something to this devotion. In my morning reading today, I read the following words: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”  Psalm 42:1-2 (NASB2020) The picture of the tired, desperately thirsty deer running from his “hunter” who finally reaches water where he can refresh his spirit, is one that should picture me, you.  We are being pursued every day by forces designed to take us down and out, to capture or “kill” us. We MUST find our rest, our refreshment in the Father.

April 12

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I grew up in church. I think I was there from the earliest time mom could bring me. Back then doctors said, “Take your child to church, the grocery store, shopping. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it will be good for them.” Exposure to the outside was seen as a good thing since they felt it helped with immunity. I can only remember one shot (although I’m sure there were more)- the polio vaccine.

We had both our girls in church and the nursery the first chance we had. Today’s parents keep their child in and away from church for the first year then won’t let them alone in the nursery. Okay so that is a slight exaggeration (6 months maybe but not a year). 🙂

But I digress.

I learned a lot growing up in the church. Like how to pray. “We thank Thee, O most Mighty and Holy One. We thank Thee…” You get the point. The more flowery the better.  In one man’s case, the longer the better…even if he repeated himself several times.

I learned as I got older that God’s not interested in long flowery prayers punctuated by a lot of King James English. He is delighted in humble hearts that give simple prayers. Matt Redman wrote a song with the lyrics: “May my words be few.” I’m guessing that pleases God. A humble heart with simple words. Not a rehearsed speech. Not a copycat of someone else. Just me and Him. Just you and Him.

“Father, may I realize what you really want is a humble heart seeking You. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just a heart wanting to speak to You.”

March 4

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Several years ago-around 2006/2007-I read a book which changed my perspective on people. More specifically, on how I saw people and reached out to them.

In retrospect, I have always “prided” myself in accepting people as they were. You know, like the old song says, “Just as I am without one plea…” My thinking was if God could accept me as I am/was then surely I could do the same. And I thought I did. But I was stopped in my tracks and forced to reevaluate my ways and actions.

The book was NO Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, a pastor of a church in Austin, TX. And while I now realize some of it was the attractional church message, some of it was on the money. People can’t be expected to change before accepting the Gospel message.

Jesus never did that. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to get her act together, leave her current live in, before He would talk with her and give her hope. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to “Repent sinner!” before He came to her defense and then sent her away a free and forgiven woman. He went to Zacchaeus’ house to eat without demanding a life change. That came after his encounter with Jesus. The same goes for all He came in contact with (except maybe the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees).

No, when Jesus exhibited “Come as you are” it was genuine and sincere. Can I do any less? Do I expect people to change first or do I accept and let God change them? The latter is preferable.

“Father, You accepted me as I was and am. Can I do any less? Please teach me and help me to do as You have done for me and countless others.”

August 4

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

In reading One Faithful Life, a harmony of the life of the Apostle Paul by John MacArthur, I read Acts 8. It is sort of the interlude between chapters 7 and 9. Chapter 7 ended with the mention of Saul at the stoning of Stephen and chapter 9 is the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. I see chapter 8 as a chapter of contrasts. It is the brief story of two men who make differing choices.

Philip takes the message of Jesus to Samaria. Pressure took him away from Jerusalem. As he preached in Samaria, people responded to the message and were saved. One individual specifically mentioned is Simon, a sorcerer. It says he believed and was baptized then continued following Philip.  Reading the rest of the account seems to tell us that Simon’s “decision” was not sincere but an effort to get close to Philip and to learn his secrets. Even when Philip rebuked him for his misguided heart, Simon didn’t repent. His reply (v.24) was not one of sincerity, but fear of the consequences. That’s like saying, “I want to go to heaven because I don’t want to go to hell.” That’s the wrong answer and the wrong motive.

The other man mentioned in Acts 8 has a different response. Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah 53 and doesn’t understand who it is about. Philip hops into his chariot and begins to teach him about Jesus and the eunuch responds to the message. No guile. No hidden agenda.

Two people. Two responses. It is no different today. People are presented the Gospel message. One responds with wrong or hidden motives; the other responds with an open heart in sincerity. The one is temporary; the other permanent. The one is outward; the other is inward. The one might be performance-based; the other is grace-based. The one has no change; the other has a lasting life-change.

Which one am I? Which one are you?

“Father, I want to be like the eunuch in my response to you. An honest seeker. One whose motives are pure and sincere and not for show. “

July 29

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Sandwiched between two powerful, ground-breaking sermons is a story almost as equally stunning. Tragically, for us we we read it, the story becomes almost a by-word. The two sermons are the first two recorded ones of Peter- Acts 2 (the first on the Day of Pentecost) and Acts 3 (his sermon at Solomon’s Porch). Two sermons that specifically teach that Jesus is Messiah, the One who died for the sins of the people. Ironically, Solomon’s Porch is where Jesus taught the parable of the Good Shepherd. You can make the connection.

Anyway, sandwiched between those two sermons is the story of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. There is no hidden meaning. He asks for healing; Peter gives it. Oops, I was wrong there, wasn’t I? He didn’t ask for healing; he asked for alms. Peter knew what he really needed and it wasn’t money.  He even says that: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”

I’m going to push aside the snarky comment about so-called faith healers today and focus on something else. Something relevant to us. It is common for people to think they need or want something when what they need is something totally different. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Get rid of one thing; add another. Abandon God; add emptiness. The lame man wanted money; Peter knew what he really needed.

People today remind me of the lame man. In search of something, they can’t see what will really satisfy them. They can’t see what they really need. Don’t be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend happiness. What they really need is a WHO. Just like the lame man.

“Father, I know I need You. Those I come in contact with also need you.  Help me not to be fooled by their fake smiles and pretend contentment, but remember to point them to Jesus- the ONE they really need.”

June 9

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Have you ever noticed (I’m sure you have) how we spend a lot of time, effort, and money pursuing what doesn’t last?

  • That new car/truck. Gotta have it. Until it gets a scratch or a year or two old or shock-of-all-shocks we see a shinier, newer model.
  • That job promotion. Climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter who we step on. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we lose our family in the process. Then loneliness and dissatisfaction set in. Time for another rung.  Or go elsewhere.
  • MVP stats. 24/7 dedication. Gain the status of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
  • Tour de France winner. 7 times. Gotta get to the top. It doesn’t matter who we destroy along the way. Whose lives, careers, or livelihood we ruin. What compromises we make along the way morally, ethically, or athletically. It all comes crashing down.

Many spend their lives pursuing that which doesn’t last. Never has. Never will. I read an interesting quote which came from an unexpected source:

From the cradle to the grave man’s greatest objective is to obtain peace of mind and spiritual security. This is found only in Jesus Christ.

Who said it? An evangelist? A pastor? A theologian? A writer of religious books? A Bible translator? Nope. Wrong on all counts.  Are you ready for this?  Mark Twain. I don’t know when he said it; what prompted him to say it; or to whom he said it. But it most definitely is true. Search the world over. Pursue one adventure after another.  Investigate all philosophies. And the answer comes down to one: Jesus Christ. The one and only way to the Father, and the one and only way to complete satisfaction.

“Father, may I find my satisfaction in You. May the song be true: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.’ ”

May 26

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

I was in the 4th grade when I started wearing glasses. Miss Kutzer (whom I was in love with) noticed I was squinting to see the chalkboard. Well, you know how that goes. I’m moved up closer to the front. She tells my mom. Mom takes me to see Dr. Braveman. Dr. B tells me I need glasses. I’m going to translate: “Bill, you’re blind-as-a-bat without your glasses. You are going to need them the rest of your life.” What he doesn’t tell me is my eyes are going to get worse every year until my glasses will look like coke bottles. Fortunately, they developed material that allowed the lenses to get thinner while still helping me see. But that’s another story.

I finally got my glasses and could actually see. Hmmm there was carpet before? It looked like the carpet was right up close to my eyes! It was so cool! Until the next day when I needed to wear them to school. I thought I looked stupid or a dork (if that word had been around those days), so I left them at home. Until Miss Kutzer (whom I was still in love despite her betrayal) said, “Bill, weren’t you supposed to get your glasses yesterday?” “Yes ma’m.”  “Where are they?” “At home.” “I’ll expect you to wear them tomorrow.” Then she betrayed me again by calling my mom!  (Amazing how love overlooks betrayal).

Down through the years my eyes got worse. I wore contacts for awhile; then back to glasses; then contacts again; then glasses for good. My eyes did get worse as I got older and last November at the age of 67 I got rid of glasses forever…except for reading. I had cataracts removed. It was a great two days!! 🙂

I remember my frames breaking; lenses falling out; wearing tape to hold my frames together; vision marred from sweat, dirt, chips and breaks. I remember elbows in basketball games that found my frames which split my eyelids and eyebrows wide open. I remember trying to play first base with only one lens in my broken glasses. It was fine until the first ball thrown to me hit my wrist  and not my glove because my perception was all out of whack.

It is easy to lose sight of the important. Psalm 141:8 says, “But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.” We used to sing an old hymn: “Open my eyes that I might see/ Glimpses of truth Thou has for me.” (Sorry about the King James English there). With clear vision we need to be focused on God. With open eyes we need to be seeking God in His Word, praying for clear sight in our quest.

“Father, I do ask that my eyes will open and seeing clearly in my quest for a deeper relationship with You.  May my sight and my focus be on You.”

December 11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Knowing vs Knowing About.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

October 23

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Contentment vs Envy.

Have you ever read a passage and your first reaction is initially, “What?” “What in the world is the point?” I read one of those today. It isn’t like I hadn’t read it before. I can’t even begin to count how many time I have read Proverbs. But today this one stuck out. It is Proverbs 23:1-5. So let’s take a look at it.

First, Verses 1-2: Okay, so I’m invited to a king’s or a ruler’s table for a meal.  Not that it’s ever going to happen but let’s suppose. 🙂 I’m to look over what is set before me and if my appetite roars (and it probably will), I am to put a knife to my throat. Sort of extreme don’t you think?  If I’m not eating, why in the world was I invited?

Then I’m told not to desire his delicacies because they are deceptive food (v.3). Wait a second! That is food in front of me. What is so deceptive about that?

This all sounds so whacked doesn’t it? I’m invited to a feast but I’m not to eat. And the food isn’t really real. It’s all so confusing.

Until….

You read the rest of the passage and then it all begins to make sense. At least to me. I believe verses 4-5 spread light on it. I think what the issue is comes to down to envy. Greed. Jealousy. Desire for more. I say that especially because of verse 5: “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

Envy is an ugly monster. As is greed and jealousy. The desire to have what someone else has is an insidious disease which can end up taking over our soul. It is an empty pursuit (Verse 4 tells me to not toil to acquire wealth).

“Father, keep my eyes from empty pursuits, from thinking I must have something more. Help me not to desire what others have but be content with what I do have.”

October 3

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Hydrated vs Unsatisfied.

I rode my bike two days this week. I would have ridden three if I had not had an eye doctor appointment yesterday (Wednesday). Both days the temps were in the 90s with high humidity. Just the way I like it! Typical Indiana weather…in August! Highly unusual for October but I love and took advantage of it. People ask me how I do it. Not only do I like that kind of weather (it is easier on the joints), but there is one key ingredient: hydration. As I got ready to ride one of those days, a lady who is a nurse commented on me riding in the heat. When I told her I liked it she said, “Hydration. Stay hydrated.” I reassured her I did. I have two insulated water bottles-one of Gatorade Zero and one of water-which have been partially frozen so I have cold drinks for my ride.

This came back to me today as I read from John 4-Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman at the well. In the exchange found in verses 7-14 Jesus asks for a drink.  Her inquisitive nature opens the door to one of Jesus’ greatest statements: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water welling up to eternal life.” (verses 13-14)

Of course Jesus is not speaking of physical water. One will be thirsty again. But to drink of Him leads to satisfaction. That doesn’t mean that to come to Him ends all need for more. My hunger and thirst for Him never ends. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for he shall be satisfied.” (Mt.5:6) But it does mean the end of my searching and longing for satisfaction and meaning to life. It does mean peace has been found. Jesus knew the woman at the well was empty. He also knew her search was hopeless without Him.

So I see this going two ways:

  1. He is the one who is the answer to my (and everyone else’s) longing and searching.
  2. May I never stop hungering and thirsting after Him.

“Father, You have the answers to all the longing and searching people go through. You answered mine. But may I never cease hungering and thirsting for You. May I always long to stay hydrated.”