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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.”

 

July 20

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Influence.

That word drips with meaning.

Someone has said, “Leadership is influence.” We talk about events that “influence an election.” We call someone an MVP because of the way they have influenced a team or a game. It is a favorite word being used about people: “they are influencers.”

We also talk about influencing lives. I see that as saying that I have an affect on people. The way I live can direct or misdirect someone. The way I care. The way I talk to them. The way I teach. And yes, the way I love.

Influence is long-lasting. I can see my influence in my daughters’ lives, even today. I’m hoping I can see a long-lasting influence on my grandson’s life. I can see it in the church people I hear from. I know that in all things my influence has been both positive and (sadly) negative.

People will remember how I have influenced their lives. That’s why Paul wrote that love is the greatest of all. People remember whether I loved them or not. Just as I hope and pray Jo and my girls and grandson never doubt or forget my love for them. When I die and I’m gone, the best test of my influence is what lasts. What carries on. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

Anything is worth doing if it’s done with love, and nothing’s worth doing if it comes at love’s cost. (p.240)

What kind of influence are you having on people? is it one you want to be remembered for?

“Father, may my influence be because of Your work in my life and not because I took it upon myself. Shine though me.”

Bob Goff’s book is entitled  Live in Grace-Walk in Love.

July 6

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Have you ever used or heard used the phrase: “He/she got a taste of their own medicine”? When that is used it’s not meant as a compliment. It is meant to be translated: “He/she got what they gave someone else.”

For example: judging. Often times we judge others with a much harsher eye than we do ourselves. But when we judge we need to be careful because very often it’ll come back on us. Like a monsoon or tidal wave. Matthew 7:1-5 is a perfect example of that.

But I want to look at it another way. Back on June 23rd I wrote a devotion about self-talk, i.e. what we say to ourselves about ourselves. I got a taste of my own medicine this past Saturday.

First, the backstory. Awhile back I wrote about taking my bike to the shop and getting the news that my frame was cracked. Not good. So since Trek is good for their word, I got a new frame free. Very good. The bike shop rebuilt my bike with some old and new components. One of them was a new cable. Over time a cable will stretch and needs adjusted. Usually around 100-200 miles. I’m past that and since I live over an hour away from the bike shop I thought I’d try to do it myself. My gears were slipping and making all kinds of chatter as well as shifting when they weren’t supposed to.

Two words describe my efforts: Epic. fail.

I watched a video. I had a voice call with the mechanic and I still couldn’t get it right. I was frustrated. Then the self-talk started. “Incompetent.” “Failure.” “Loser.” “Why can’t I use my hands like others?” I was able to get it somewhat right but not all the way. I will be taking it to a shop to get it right.

I defeated myself by putting myself down. Calling myself names.

Fortunately, that is not who I am in Christ. I am not incompetent; a failure; or a loser. Maybe I am unable to use my hands like others can, but in Christ I am His. And He has put His stamp of approval on me and given me something far greater than being able to repair a bike.  He calls me His.

“Father, thank you for the reassurance that Your thoughts about me are not dependent on what I can or cannot do.”

P.S. While I wasn’t able to get a complete adjustment, I found out I did okay on some of it. So I guess I wasn’t a total doofus. 🙂

June 29

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

I know I’ve written about this before but after reading something Bob Goff wrote, it struck a nerve. Bob writes:

God speaks to us through His Word, through our friends, through our desires and dreams. Are you listening to them, or are you giving the microphone to voices that make you envy what your friend has or fear that the next move will end in total failure? Have you put your head next to a megaphone that screams you back into the person you were? (p.218)

I suspect we have all struggled with that from time to time.

But here’s another thought: what kind of voice am I to others? My mind pictures the old man who has the shell-shaped device (is that a gramaphone?)  up to his ear in order to hear and another old man yelling into it.

Speak truth. Speak love. Speak beauty. Speak trust and acceptance. Speak hope. Speak life. Be the “voice of God” in their ears.

“Father, may I be the voice of love and hope to those who hear me. Help me to speak life into a person not be just another voice of disinterest and disenchantment.”

Quote from Live in Grace-Walk in Love by Bob Goff

June 11

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was one of those “WOW!” moments as you read the Bible. It wasn’t one of the earth-shattering or ground-breaking moments. There were no explosions or neon lights. Just a simple, but essential, reveal.

I was reading Proverbs 10. I’m going to write it down for you with emphasis mine as you read:

“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. The lips of the godly speak helpful words, but the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse words.” (verses 19-21,32)

I’m sure you notice the common thread- OUR WORDS. Elsewhere in Proverbs it says, “Well-spoken words are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr.25:11)

We must not kid ourselves.  Our words carry weight-sometimes more than we would like to think. That careless word. That cutting word. That word spoken in haste. That malicious word. All devastating.

The front part of verse 21 should be our guide: “The words of the godly encourage many.”

Those of us who are Christ-followers should be the encouragers. We ought to be the one who builds people up, not tear them down. Psalm 141:3 should be true of me and of you: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

“Father, may my words build people up, not tear them down. May my words encourage, not discourage. May they bless, not curse. Let Psalm 141:3 be true of me.”

June 7

Monday, June 7th, 2021

I’ll say it right up front: I am not on any social media-but then again, some of you already know of my disdain for it. I’ll go one step further: I don’t miss it. AT. ALL.  (Want me to tell you how I really feel?) 🙂

I read an article recently that was talking about what will keep a church from growing in the coming years. Know what one of them was? A pastor who doesn’t or won’t use social media.  My first reaction was benign- neither here nor there. Then I got upset that whether I am on social media or not will determine whether the church I pastor grows. Say what? Then part of me-a very, very small part- could see his point. Presence breeds an audience. So I left it at that.

I’m still not planning on using social media (except if this blog is considered social media). I’d probably get cancelled anyway since I’m not “woke” enough.  (Don’t care either). But there is something else which comes into play for me.

I don’t need all the vitriol I hear about and sometimes have read to me, i.e. so-and-so said this, “_________.”  Filling my mind and heart with garbage is not my idea of fun.

What prompted my thoughts this morning? Try reading Colossians 4:5-6 and not feeling the same way. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB 2020)

The NLT has an interesting take on that passage: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

Frankly, I don’t trust myself. People spout off the whole BLM/CRT mumbo jumbo and my blood begins to simmer. To see a “woke” culture cancel everyone who doesn’t toe the party line and spiel their putrid garbage fries me. To see blatant hypocrisy and lies only gets my dander up. What hurts even more is to see and hear about the anger and the hate and the vitriol and strong, sometimes vulgar language, and lack of love words come out of people I know makes we want to shout, “No! This is not the way! This is not the Jesus way!”

So, you see…I don’t trust myself to practice Col. 4:5-6 (no matter what translation you read it in). Better to avoid than to wallow in the slime.

“Father, may my conversation always glorify You. May it always be “with grace and seasoned with salt.” May my words be those of healing and encouragement.”

 

April 22

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words? That’s how I am when I’m talking to someone of greater intelligence than me (not that hard to find), smarter than me (neither is  this one), expresses his/her thoughts, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost. I have no clue what they are saying, nor how to answer, so I just clam up.

There have been other times when I’m free to talk about a subject because either a) it is something I know something about, or 2) it is something I’m comfortable talking about because I am familiar with it. It is then that what I may have studied or read in the past comes back to me.

I think that may fall in line with the idea Jesus left with His disciples when He spoke to them in the Upper Room about the Holy Spirit. He told them once not to worry about what they would say. When the time came for them to speak, it will be brought to memory by the Holy Spirit and He will tell them what to say. (Matthew 10:19). In Matthew 10:27 He said, “What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!”

What God speaks to us in solitude, we will speak in the light. I recall how Jesus went off by Himself to be alone with His Father. I would love to have been a little bird eavesdropping on those conversations. As He was preparing His heart for the day, His Father was speaking life to His Son’s heart.

What an intriguing image! Jesus preparing for His day as His Father speaks to His heart. What a vivid picture for us! For me!!  Preparing for the day by letting the Father speak to my heart. And yours. Just another reason for an Encounter Time with Him. Not a legalistic one but a necessary one-letting the Father prepare me for the day by speaking to my head and my heart.

“Speak, Lord, Your servant listens (or at least sincerely wants to).”

April 20

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

IMHO one of the most damaging things to the “spread” of the life of Christ is what I will call double standards. You know it another way: “Do as I say not as I do.” “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “Practice what you preach.”

You get the idea. It hurts to see someone say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” then do something totally contradictory to that life. I cringe, for example, when I hear an artist/actor/musician thank God for an award or a good event but have lyrics that are disgustingly vulgar or live a life contrary to God’s Word.

I’m speaking of myself as well. Way too often my life and words or actions do not match. I was reminded of this as I read Proverbs 20 this morning:

“False weights and unequal measures- the Lord detests double standards of every kind.” (v.10)

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.” (v.23)

Twice in the same chapter. A reminder of how God despises duplicity. While the picture is of the person who has a scale calibrated to his advantage, the point hits home to me as well. Don’t live a double standard. Be who I say I am. Be the Christ-follower I profess to be.

“Father, help me to live an honest life-one where words and actions match.”

April 19

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Reading Proverbs is always enlightening. During 2020 I broke a long-standing tradition I had. From January 1-December 31, I would constantly read and reread Psalms. Every other month I would read Proverbs-one chapter a day. I’m not sure why I broke that tradition. But recently I picked it back up. I started reading the NT in the New Living Translation on January 1. I started reading Psalms on February 1. And through the month of April I have been reading Proverbs. It has been a rich experience again.

On the 17th (chapter 17) I read this verse:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

That reminded me of a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Wise words. From both.

How many time have I opened my mouth and it would have been better to have kept it shut? More than I care to admit. How it would have been better to speak less and listen more! And how it would have been better to not have spoken at all!! It pains me to think of the lives I have hurt by speaking first and thinking last.

I go to another verse in Proverbs 17 that stood out to me:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (v.9)

I’ve needed that forgiveness more than I can say. It is starts with keeping my mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. And I follow it up with this: “A truly wise person uses few words.” (v.27a)

“Father, help me to watch my words and to speak wisely.”