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November 15

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023

Some people today like to complain about the church: “It’s made up of a bunch of hypocrites.” (Most definitely true). “All the church does is tell you a list of what is right and what is wrong and the wrong is always longer than the right.” (There is some truth to that). “They are insufferable and no better than me.”  (Given that we are all sinners that is a true statement).

So my answer to those statements? Yep. Yep. And Yep. And I’ll also say, “Welcome to my world.”

I don’t say that because I’m a pastor; I say that because they describe me. I am a hypocrite at times because I don’t always practice what I preach.  (Shocker!!) I don’t always live up to the standard God has set. I am sometimes judgmental (although I try really hard not to be). And sometimes I am no better than anyone else, in that sin gets its grip on me.

All this hit me last night as I sat and read. I’m rereading a novel called Dancing Priest (DP) by Glynn Young, a fellow blogger. It is one of 5 in a series about a young man named Michael Kent. I’ve read DP several times before, but it has been a few years since I last read it. I look for books to read at home which are different from my normal fare, so I have decided to read the entire series again. In DP Michael is assigned a parish (church) in San Francisco…much to his surprise. He applied for Malawi in Africa. In the ensuing conversation with his sponsor, he found out why.

Michael, the future of our church is in grave doubt. If there is a future, then you and others like you are that future. It will be better for you to be on the periphery than at the center because the center is rotting and collapsing. The future of the church is at the edges, and there you’ll find a willingness to abandon what’s dead, to meet the spiritual need, to fearlessly preach the Gospel-that is our way to survival. (p.163). A few paragraphs later he tells Michael, “You are a remarkable young man. You will do great things, Michael, not as the world defines them, but great in the way God defines them.” (p.164)

Honestly? That’s what I want. At my age (71) I know I have less years to live than I have lived. But nothing says that with the remaining years I have to sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by. I want to abandon what’s dead and to fearlessly preach the Gospel.

To my way of thinking, nothing else will do.


Note: Check out Dancing Priest and the whole series by Glynn Young on Amazon. Start with DP and I guarantee you will decide to get and read the rest.  And no, Glynn did not pay me to say that! 🙂 🙂 🙂

October 18

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

I read recently that the Italians (of which I am one) have an interesting custom (which I have never participated in). On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the windows of every house open, and everyone pitches out whatever they absolutely hate-furniture, clothes, dishes, unwanted wedding presents (hopefully not the spouse! 🙂 )-they all come crashing down to the ground. That is what I call some serious housecleaning. Talk about “Look out below!”

Have you ever moved? What a great time to get rid of unwanted our unused items. “Let’s see. I haven’t used this in 10 years. In fact, I forgot I even had it.” Pitch.  “This broken chair I said I was going to fix 6 years ago?” Pitch.

We call it purging. Pack rats need to do some serious purging. Hoarders need to do some serious purging.

Sinners need to do some serious purging. Huh. That includes all of us.  Unless, of course, you have no sin. No guilt. No regret over past actions or thoughts. (stated sarcastically and with tongue-in-cheek). Too many of us carry around garbage from our past. We hoard it. We bury it trying to forget it. But then some event, some word, some action, some thing, brings it all back and we are forced to deal with it. Maybe we had buried it so deeply we had forgotten it, but there it is!

2 Cor. 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (Both Scripture from ESV)  Both of those verses talk about some serious purging. Of getting rid of sin in order to find new life.

Purging your house of old, unused, useless trash, i.e. garbage, is helpful and sometimes necessary. Purging your life of sin-past, present, and future-is absolutely necessary. Have you cleaned house?

September 28

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

IMHO I think one of the hardest things to do is to see that we are all the same. My sin. Your sin. It’s the same in the eyes of God. No matter how you shake it sin still spells S.I.N.

What makes it so hard for us to admit that is that we are really good at comparing. We choose the sin of someone else that-in our eyes-is bigger and worse than ours. When we do that we get a sense of self-satisfaction. We think, “Whew! I’m glad I don’t do THAT!” We develop this air of arrogance.

You know what I have noticed? Two things actually. One, we have a bad tendency to rate or number sin. #1 is the worst sin (in our eyes) and #10 is the least sin. Two, when we compare, we often see the worst in another while our sin falls down lower on the number list. We pat ourselves on the back (if we can get around our big head) because our #8 ranked sin is not as bad as their #2 ranked sin.

There are several fallacies with that type of thinking. One, God never classifies one sin as being worse than another. That is a human invention. My sin of impure thoughts is not worse than your sin of lying. James 4 (which I read this morning) say, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (verses 1-2 ESV). So sin is in all of us due to the sin nature we all possess. What I want fights with what you want.

Two, James writes just a few verses later: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Verses 6-8 ESV). Then in verse 10 James tells us to “Humble ourselves before the Lord.”

Pride. That is what James is talking about. “I want what you have.” “My sin. Your sin.” “My way. Your way.” Pride. Pride uses fine china and fancy linen. Humility (the way of Jesus) uses a basin and a towel.

“Pride goes before a fall” we are told.  Let’s stop with the “I’m better than/more holy than” and get real to the sin in our own life.

August 30

Wednesday, August 30th, 2023

When Benjamin Franklin wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac he passed along some very wise thoughts. One of them I thought of today was “People who are wrapped up in themselves make small packages.”

What does that mean? Actually, it isn’t hard to figure out. People who are very self-absorbed, and perhaps even narcissistic, really do not have much to offer others. They may think they do (thus the nature of their disease), but they fail.  Contrast that to someone who is focused and concerned about others, who take an interest in people and life beyond themselves.

I think we all know self-absorbed people. You walk away from them feeling invisible. They didn’t care how much you were hurting, seeking a friend to listen, or just to be “there.” Nope. It was all about them. Self-centered people are just that: SELF. CENTERED.

I thought of that this morning (and hence the Franklin quote) as I read Proverbs 30. The chapter is filled with one or two verses (sometimes more) of pithy sayings, often bound together. For example, verses 12-13 say, “There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, yet is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind-oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.” (NASB2020) What an ugly picture that gives us. This is a picture of a self-absorbed person! They can’t see themselves for what and who they are. They can’t even see beyond their own nose.

That is just one of the reasons “Follow your heart” is not a good philosophy to live by. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately sick (wicked); who can understand it?” (ESV)  I’ll let that stand on it own merit.

Focusing inward makes for a very small package. Thank you Benjamin Franklin. It makes for a very myopic view.  Thank you writer of Proverbs 30. So…stop gazing at your navel and start seeing others.

August 21

Monday, August 21st, 2023

Get a bunch of people together and ask them to discuss their favorite characteristic/attribute of God and you will hear all different answers. Love. Patience. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy. Omnipotence. Omniscience. Omnipresence. Faithfulness. I seriously doubt you will hear, “I want to talk about the wrath of God.”

On July 8, 1741 Jonathan Edwards preached one of, if not the most famous sermon of all time. It was called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Reports say people literally felt like they were being dangled over the pit of hell and were screaming out of fear.

Truth is God’s wrath is real. God’s judgment is real. Frankly though, it is hard to accept that because we don’t want to see God as one who judges and will do so impartially. We don’t want to see Him as a God of wrath.  It gets even harder to accept when we are told by our culture-and even by some religious teachers- that we all go to the same place in the end (Universalism which says we will all go to heaven), or that there are many gods so choose the one you want.  The answer to both of those is No and No. They are lies from the pit of hell and they smell like smoke.

The wrath of God can be avoided or experienced. You can avoid it by hearing the Word, repenting and confessing your sin and accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord. One can experience God’s wrath by rejecting God’s Word and all it says about sin and turning your back on Jesus.

The follower of Jesus avoids God’s wrath; the one who rejects Jesus will experience it. Which one are you?

And by the way: the reality of that should burden us, should want us to go our family and friends with passion in our heart and say, “I have to tell you about Jesus. I want you to be able to avoid what is to come.”

August 9

Wednesday, August 9th, 2023

I suspect if there is one book of the Bible that all people can read and not be offended by, that book would be Proverbs. No mention of Jesus. No mention of vital doctrine. Not really any controversial words…unless one doesn’t like to hear the truth.

I have read Proverbs countless times. One chapter/day will get you through the book in a month. For years I have tended to do an every other month approach. It’s easy reading…unless, of course, a convicting point is made. Having read Proverbs many time it is easy to skip over things (although I honestly try not to).

A case in point are the seemingly parallel stories in Proverbs 5 & 7.  Chapter 5 contains the warning about straying from faithfulness to your spouse. One verse really stands out: verse 15 which says, “Drink water from you own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” There is no doubt what that verse is saying, especially when the context is considered (a must when reading the Bible).  Oh…I’ll let you read the rest of it.

Add to that the scenario painted for us in Chapter 7 of the young man enticed by a woman to go into her bed. The woman says her husband is gone and entices the young man to lie with her. She is generally pictured as a prostitute.

Other than the obvious lesson from both of those-and other Scriptures as well-let me jump off “into the weeds” for a moment. Sin always looks enticing. I’ve never yet seen an ugly sin that I gave into. Maybe I ought to say that I never saw sin pictured as ugly. It has always come off as enticing and beautiful. Sin entices us with a “come see what I got” and it always-A.L.W.A.Y.S.-looks good. One more drink. One more snort. One more toke. One more fortune. One more ticket. One more pull of the handle. It is that “one more” that gets us into trouble! And that is the pull of sin.

It promises but cannot deliver. While it promises contentment, fulfillment, wholeness and satisfaction, it can’t deliver!! It only delivers the opposite.

The real beauty of Proverbs is found in the picture of wisdom seen throughout the book as a woman who is enticing, fulfilling and one to pursue. That is the reality, the truth. Can you handle it or will you fall for the fake?

July 19

Wednesday, July 19th, 2023

I mentioned in yesterday’s devotion that I thought there were more lessons we can learn from the David & Mephibosheth’s (M from here on), Jonathan’s son, story.

The first, which I wrote about yesterday, was the importance of keeping our word. Let your yes be yes and your no be no (as one of the comments said).

Another lesson we can learn is “spiritualizing” the text, but it is worth looking at. When the nurse caring for M heard about Jonathan’s death, she ran. In her haste she dropped M. At age 5, he was left a cripple. Although not an accurate application, a point can be made that there are many people who are “dropped” in life. Lousy upbringing. Ugly things done to them. Degrading things. Witnessing parents with drugs. Victims of a mother using drugs while pregnant. There are many scenarios. But God can take those who have been “dropped” in life, pick them up, and make them useful for His work.

Another lesson: M was found by David in a city call Lo-Debar. The name means “a place of no pasture.” It was dry, parched, a crummy place to live. I’ve not read why the nurse took him there, if indeed she did. Maybe she knew taking him there would hide him from evil eyes. Maybe he gravitated there as he got older.  It just was not a place conducive to “such a nice place to live.”

But think about this with me: when Jesus found us, we were all in a place of no  pasture. The effects of sin are on all of us. We are all in the wilderness-separated from God. But like David’s men, God found us and brought us into His presence, His palace, where we enjoy all the benefits of being the king’s son. Just like M did when David honored his promise to Jonathan  and brought him into the palace and had him sit at his table for the rest of his life.

We all know people like that. We all know people who need that. I look in the mirror every morning at one of them.

June 26

Monday, June 26th, 2023

This morning I read 2 different items that impacted me. They are related by subject (words) but not really in content. However, since they do have to do with our words I wanted to share them together.

The first is found in Proverbs 26:22- “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”

That verse is pretty easy to understand. Many register (and express) shock with a harrumph and a cluck-cluck of the tongue when they hear of someone committing a “big sin,” i.e. adultery, theft, murder, or the like. But gossip gets a pass. Much is made of a divorce and remarriage, but little is said about the gossip which fanned the flames of rumor and rancor. You know the kind I am talking about.

The second item I read was from a devotion book I’m reading called Homespun Devotions-Vol. 1 by my blogging friend, Cheryl E. Smith. Cheryl wrote about an encounter she had in a store which tested her. She was writing about how she misrepresented the name of her family, but most importantly, her Savior in an exchange with a clerk (“A Good Name”-Pp.55-57).

Words spoken out of haste, anger, and misunderstanding escalated between her and the store clerk. Fortunately, she was open to the Spirit’s leading in her heart. She sensed His check; apologized to the clerk; defused the situation; then apologized to her son who witnessed his mom’s behavior. Now…it would be easy to say, “The clerk was obnoxious” or “It had been a long day and I was tired and not in the mood for her attitude,” but that really isn’t the issue. Defusing the situation by listening to the Spirit’s inner prompting, and saying, “I’m sorry” is the way of the Christ-follower.

Two examples of the wrong use of words. Makes me wonder about the times I have spoken out of turn; spoken ill of someone; spread a rumor; or jumped down someone’s throat.

Is there some patching up you need to do? Some apologizing? Words can kill or heal. What kind will yours be today?

June 20

Tuesday, June 20th, 2023

I read these words this morning: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  (Psalm 32:3-5)

One of the things which plagues many people-vexes them may be an even better word-is the failure to find forgiveness. It’s not from another person refusing for forgive. It’s not even from me refusing to forgive another. It is something much deeper, even more devastating.

It is the failure of me to forgive me. And that isn’t from me not realizing I have sinned. I think I’m pretty aware of when I do. No…the problem is my failure to acknowledge it and take it to God to receive His forgiveness.

David’s scenario in Psalm 32 is his awareness of his sin, but trying to hide it, especially from the eye of God. “For when I kept silent” says a lot. It is a refusal to acknowledge it; to speak it; and to be honest.

But there is a consequence from that failure and David says so. That next phrase sums it up: “My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…my strength dried up as the heat of the summer.” David is saying, “Make no mistake. The failure to acknowledge sin; the failure to confess it; the failure to speak truth will cause one’s spirit to dry up. The body rebels. The spirit revolts. The consequences are pronounced.

But don’t lose sight of what happens when we do acknowledge and confess it. That last phrase is like a diamond in a sea of mud: “You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” There is new life, new hope, a fresh outlook, and a renewed spirit that results from confession of sin.

Don’t harbor sin. Don’t try to hide it. Don’t kid yourself into thinking there are no consequences. The consequences aren’t worth it. Confess it and know freedom.

June 7

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023

Warning signals are designed for a purpose-a warning that something big is coming.

Our community has tornado sirens. When heeded they save lives or at least lets us know something is coming. When the tornado made its way through our neck of the woods a couple of months ago-and landed in some areas- the only casualties were those who failed to hear or heed the warning.

When the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2010 (has it been that long ago?) over 400 people lost their lives. It didn’t have to be.  They had a warning system of buoys that had become detached and drifted away. My question would be whether it happened because of the tsunami or from neglect or forgetfulness to check them. In any case, it was a tragedy which could have been avoided.

We have fire and smoke detectors in our houses. If heeded they save lives. What good would it do if we heard them go off and say, “Oh, that’s just the fire alarm. I’m going back to sleep”?  said no wise person ever.

We have a warning system “built in” to each one of us. It is called the conscience. For the most part, that is enough. We have been given the ability to discern right from wrong.

For some-and I am referring to Christ followers-our system has another mainspring: the Holy Spirit. We all know our consciences can be hardened-seared it is called-where what is right and what is wrong is skewed. Oftentimes it is unreadable. The Holy Spirit (who is Christ in you) helps us to know right and wrong.

If you are a follower of Christ, stay sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. Stay open to those nudges, those gentle tugs on your spirit, that say yes or no.  I’ve noticed those tugs are good warning signs when they need to be, and good lights to light my path.

But you must listen!