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April 25

Monday, April 25th, 2022

One of the game-changer words in the English language is a 3-letter word- “But.” I think we have all experienced the power of “but.”

“I like you but…”

“You really do good work and you are conscientious but…”

“I love you and I know we have a lot of years together but…”

“We know you have a family and we really appreciate the years you have given us but…”

The power of “but.”

Here you go: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But…”  (Rev. 2: 13-20)  Oh, how that had to hurt! I think it hurt worse because of two things”

  • Their track record was solid and was recently getting better

BUT…

  • They tolerated evil. Sin. Jezebel. I don’t think this is necessarily the name of a real woman in the church (who would name their daughter Jezebel?), but a throwback reference to the Jezebel of the OT. Ahab’s wife. Evil to the core. The same Jezebel Elijah scuffled with.  The same Jezebel who led Israel (via Ahab) into sin. The same Jezebel who had Naboth killed over a vineyard that Ahab wanted. The same Jezebel who died and the dogs left nothing of her.

Pretty strong word: “but.” But a word designed to stop them in their tracks and realize her influence and what they have allowed in the church.

God’s plan: Get rid of her. Get rid of her children and that includes those in the church who have embraced her sin.

BUT…for those who haven’t good things are awaiting. I love that “but” there! (v.24)

“Father, may I not allow the power of sin to overwhelm me. Help me to say No to the influence of Jezebel.”

April 12

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

After yesterday’s interlude, I’d like to come back to my series of posts based on some thoughts from Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur.

Here is a really powerful and thought-provoking quote:

Remember: Jesus compares evangelism to sowing seeds, not swinging swords.

For the longest time it was “assumed” by some that beating others over the head with the Gospel would “convert” them or “win them to Jesus.” I know I have, and I’m sure others have as well, known some evangelists who would sing all 900 verses of Just As I Am until someone comes forward. They dragged it out for that one soul. I cynically wondered if someone finally came forward to stop the endless singing and pleading.  And yes, beating over the head with guilt.

But that is not nearly as bad as the street corner preacher or the college campus preacher who stood and screamed at people as they walked by. The ones on the college campus would yell out at the top of their lungs “sinner” or “fornicator” or “cheater,” etc.  while pointing a finger or looking at someone. Adversarial in nature, they swung swords instead of planting seeds.

Paul once wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NASB2020) Simply put, it was not and is not our responsibility to convert people. Nor is it a one-man/one-woman job. And no one should take credit for it. It takes time for people to hear, accept, absorb, and respond.  Pounding it in does not work.

Seeds are sown in love not hate. Seeds are sown with deftness, not brashness. Seeds are sown with a heart of compassion for the lost soul, not a heart of coldness reveling in calling out their sinfulness and lostness.

Speak the truth. But speak the truth in love not yielding a swinging sword. You just might cut off their ear so they can’t hear at all.

“Father, help me to be winsome in my approach to others. Help me to sow seeds not swing swords.”

March 31

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

In my March 22nd devotion, I spoke about reading a fiction book, Wisdom Hunter, by Randall Arthur… again. I know I can’t count how many times I have read it. My first read of the book was around 1994. My second in 1995 was a game-changer. At the end of that devotion on the 22nd, I said the next couple of devotions would include thoughts from the book which touched me. I’m now full circle. The past 6 devotions have been just that. I took an idea and ran with it.

Today’s devotion-and several which will follow-will directly quote a sentence or thought from the book and then I’m going to run with it.

#1- Evangelism should have as many different approaches as there are people. (p.249)

One size fits all! NOT. Do you remember the 4 Spiritual  Laws booklet made famous by Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU)? While it gave people a way to approach someone about accepting Jesus (and that was a good thing), it also led to the thinking that one-size-fits-all. It goes without saying that not everyone is on the same page or the same station in life.  Not everyone is at that “Do you want to accept Jesus” moment.

This statement from the book implies that we need to reach people where they are. Without sounding heretical (and a bit purpose-driven), it is important to reach people where they are. You don’t “dumb down” the gospel to a scholar and intelligent person, nor do you present the gospel too high falootin’  to a simple farmer. You share the gospel with a rebellious teenager a tad differently than a medical doctor. See what I mean? The message of Jesus never changes, i.e. we are all sinners; we all need a Savior; Jesus died to save us; salvation is the goal and eternal life is the reward.

But the way it is taught is different. People are different. People’s hearts are different. Where they are in life is different. Reach them where they are. Present the message and then let God do His work.

But we gotta at least present the message so they can understand it.

“Father, I’m different. People are different. But we all have in common a sinful heart. Help me to be open to others so I can share Your message.”

 

March 21

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Happy Birthday to my brother, Rob, today!  He turns…well, he was born in 1954 so I’ll let you do the math.  I just won’t tell you his age. 🙂

I missed reading yesterday Proverbs yesterday (Sunday) so I read chapters 20 & 21 this morning. I noticed an anomaly in chapter 20. Stop for a moment and read verses 10 and 23. Different wording yes. But they are essentially saying the same thing.

I drew a line from verse 10 to verse 23 in my Bible and wrote two words along the line: honesty matter.  I’m not too old that I don’t remember when a man’s handshake was good enough.

“A man’s word is his bond” we used to say.

“Honesty in the best policy.”

It used to be honesty mattered and cheating was an abomination. Sadly, not any more. Politics. Education. Media. Sports. Taxes. Churches. Cheating seem to be running rampant. The saddest? The latter. Above all, the church should stand head and shoulders above the fray. But we don’t and haven’t. Churches are made up of people-flawed people.

Because we represent Christ, we need to be hyper-aware of the signals we are giving. We are to be people who are honest and integrity-driven. Let me close this devotion with a passage from chapter 21: “Every person’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord examines the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is preferred by the Lord more than sacrifice.”

“Father, may I be a man of honesty and integrity and truthfulness.”

February 16

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

I listened to someone yesterday. You might say, “That’s not unusual. I listen to people every day.” And I suspect you are right. But when I say I listened to someone, I mean I L.I.S.T.E.N.E.D. to someone.

Let me explain. In wanting to do something, and unsure of what direction to go in, I gave multiple options. That’s not bad except the way I presented it was confusing (so this person said). It was too many options. And confusing. After doing something one way, I was thinking of shifting gears. Did I say it was confusing? The other person thought so anyway. I can honestly say I was seeking the multiple persons’ opinions when I gave the options, but I was muddying the waters.

There is more to the situation that I have been able to describe but I won’t bore you with the details. My point in all of this rambling is the importance of listening. Really listening. Taking advice. I’ve not always been the best at doing that (and I suspect I am not alone). I often shoot from the hip and think later. I also have pieces to pick up sometimes. I could have saved a lot heartache, headaches, and wounded bodies if I had sought advice first.

Taking advice is not easy. I’m reading a book right now on Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry by Michael Mackenzie and one of the common threads of those who do so is the failure to listen, to take advice, to be accountable. Ego enters the picture. A know-it-all attitude. An air of invincibility. A superhero complex.  Pr.12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a person who listens to advice is wise.” Listening to advice separates the wise and the fool. “A wise person is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

I’m not sure how this situation will turn out, but for me, at least it was a step in the right direction.

Do you listen to advice or do you tend to be deadset in your own ways and in you own agenda?

“Father, continue to teach me to listen and learn.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

February 10

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

Over the past two weeks here at “Shadow” I have been posting some thoughts on Colossians.  This will be my last post from the book.

Yesterday I went to Methodist Hospital in Indy to visit a man who had a terrible accident at work this past Sunday. To enter the hospital you had to go through one of two kinds of doors, both automated. One was wide enough to walk through as well as for a wheelchair to go through. The other was like a carousel. It was constantly moving and you just had to get in the open space. That was fine except it was going so slow I felt like I was taking baby steps as I walked through it.

There are other ways to enter a building, like a house, for example. You can ring the doorbell and be let in or you can bust the door down. The former is the preferred method. 🙂

But way too often when it comes to telling the story of Jesus people want to bust the door down. That is not what Paul wanted. In Col. 4: 2-3 He encourages them to pray BUT to also ask God to open a door for the Word “so that they may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” No door-bashing, but an open door would be great! A further prayer is that he would be able to clearly present the truth. You can also tie in verses 5-6 to these verses:

  • Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders.
  • Have speech that is always with grace.

Presenting the Gospel in this day and age is a challenge. So many forces are pushing back. When we present the message of Jesus we must do it with winsomeness and grace, with a right attitude and heart, and with speech that is covered in grace.

Let’s pray for open doors and not break the door down. And when the opportunity comes, to approach the person with grace.

February 8

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

Fear. Hatred. Lack of Forgiveness. Fear. Suspicion. Skepticism. Fear. Holding a grudge. Seeking revenge. Did I say fear?

Those are some of the emotions common to many folks, especially in our culture today. Wrong emotions toward people which are not dealt with.

But perhaps the one I see the most these days is fear. Fear was ramped up about 2 years when the COVID pandemic hit.  People were gripped with fear, living in fear so much that their daily life changed. Afraid to interact. Afraid to shake hands. Afraid to go out of their house. Afraid, it seemed, to even look in the mirror (slight exaggeration. Sorry couldn’t resist).

Sadly, even those who quoted 2 Timothy 1:7- “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline” lived and still live in fear. Call me skeptical but that smacks of hypocrisy.

So…how do we break free? Colossians 3:1-2 tells us: “Therefore…keep seeking…Set your mind on the things that are above…” Yes, I know it is easy to say, but hard to do. But Paul didn’t write those words so he could waste ink. Read further in that chapter and you can see that it applies to more than just fear. Those words apply to our thought life, what we say to others. In fact, check out verses 8-9: Anger. Check. Wrath. Check. Malice. Check. Slander. Check. Obscene speech. Check. Lying. Check. Now take a glance at my opening list.

So…where are your eyes?

“Father, help me to set my eyes on You not on the world, nor the things going on in the world. That would only lead to worry and angst and fear. Help me to set my eyes on things above.”

October 26

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

There was a saying I heard and have also used more than once:

You made your bed now you have to lie in it.

That statement was usually tied to the consequences of a choice or choices I made on a decision that was ill-advised. It can also be used when talking about someone who tells a lie. I can’t tell you how many times my parents drummed into my head about telling the truth from the get-go. When you tell the truth you have nothing to hide. And you don’t have to figure out what you said the last time.

I once had a friend who went through years (over 10) of court appearance after court appearance because he wanted to see his kidnapped girls, and at best, get custody of them.  There were circumstances involved which I don’t need to relate. Let’s just say that his ex fled the state and refused to adhere to the laws (as did the justices from the other state). Three trials (two of which I testified at) and my friend’s testimony never changed. Her lawyer even tried to hold that against him. Meanwhile, her testimony changed constantly. It was mercurial in that it was in a state of constant flux.

Lies are like that. “What did I say last time” becomes a probing question. You don’t have to worry about that when telling the truth. Proverbs 26:27 says, “One who digs a pit will fall into it, And one who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.”

Tell the truth. While it may hurt, it doesn’t hurt nearly like a lie which comes back to haunt, even bury you.

“Father, there are multiple warnings in Your Word about telling the truth. Help me to be honest in all things.”

September 21

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

One of the “things” that has captured our world is jumping to conclusions. You know…make a decision and let that decision be made before all the facts are in.

This has been especially true in our world of instant news-Twitter, FB, Instagram and the like. We see or hear something and we are ready to be judge, jury, and executioner before knowing all the facts.

Case in point: Our Daily Bread had a story of an event which happened during the 2018 baseball season. A Chicago Cubs coach wanted to give a baseball to a young boy sitting by the dugout. When the coach tossed him a ball, a man sitting next to him scooped it up. He was excoriated by the media. He was called a brute. I vaguely remember seeing that video and I’m ashamed to admit that I thought, “How rude!” The first reaction of the media was to call him out about his cold-heartedness and lack of class. It took 24 hours for the truth to come out that those two had made a deal (after the man had snagged a ball for him earlier) to share any additional balls that came their way. By then, he was blistered.

Jumping to conclusions. We are strong on condemning “obvious” sins-adultery, homosexuality, stealing (unless it is during a riot), lying (sometimes but not always), but we give a free pass to jumping to conclusions and jumping on the bandwagon of condemnation. Exodus 23:2 tells us not to “join together with a crowd in order to pervert justice.” (NASB2020)

Let’s stop jumping to conclusions. Let’s get the facts-the truth-before ruining someone’s life with untruth.

“Father, may I be a truth-gatherer and not a lie-spreader.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”