Truth Telling

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January 31

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

One of the heresies today of so many false teachers is what is called the “health/wealth” gospel or the “name-it-claim-it” teaching.  I’m guessing many of you know exactly what that aberrant teaching is: God wants you healthy and wealthy. It is your divine right to expect it. All you have to do is “name it and claim it.” Speak it out loud. Claim that whatever it is you want is yours and you get it.

I cannot begin to tell you how that turns my stomach. They twist Scripture to have it say what they mean. “Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” is just one of the Scriptures they butcher. It is used a proof-text for their false thoughts.

They tell people to speak cancer away. Speak poverty away. Want that car? Claim it. Again, I cannot tell you how much that makes me cringe. Meanwhile, they get richer and richer; live in multi-million dollar mansions; wear designer clothes and $1500 tennis shoes on stage. Say what?

All while followers of Jesus die in droves in third world countries from ill health. All while followers of Jesus live under the sword of a pagan dictator or under the threat of rogue bands of vigilantes coming after them due to their faith. All while followers of Jesus are dying from cancer, or live under the specter of Alzheimers, or Parkinsons, or MS, or a wheelchair for life.

Trials, hardships, sickness, prolonged illnesses, even death are all part of living on this planet. It is the result of sin and the last I looked, the statistics for that were 1/1 have that disease. It follows that death has that same stat.

We may have trouble seeing it, but trials and difficulties can serve as a catalyst, a springboard, to new growth and a season of immense blessing from God. “Count it all joy” is what James said (Js. 1:2). The next time something happens that wants to knock you flat or even succeeds in doing that, let’s praise Him for His presence and strength to bear up under it.

And yes, I’m preaching to the choir.

January 30

Monday, January 30th, 2023

Several thoughts are swirling through my mind this Monday morning.

Primary is that today is the love my life’s birthday. As you may know, we took a quick trip to Ohio last week as an early birthday present.  Jo was able to see both Janna and Braden. Today I’m taking a good part of the day to spend it with her, which will include taking her out to eat to Olive Garden. We have a gift card and seldom eat there, but it is her desire to eat what she shouldn’t on her birthday. 🙂

But this “Shadow” blog is not about my family (although I do brag on them).

Another thought is a book I’m reading in possible prep for a sermon series later this year…possibly this summer. I might preach on the Model Prayer, aka The Lord’s Prayer. It is my belief that the real Lord’s Prayer is in John 17 but that is not a point worth making an issue about.  Be that as it may, one of the lines of Jesus’ teaching prayer has been a sticking point for me lately: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”

It is easy to allow my desires to become the expected desires of everyone else, including God. It is easy to get attached to “My kingdom come, my will be done.” The earth and all its happenings revolve around me and my desires.

You know what? That is a mighty small orbit! And as time moves on, the orbit closes in on us. I know it is cynical to say this, but everything becomes about us, and even when we pretend to care, our inward motive is “How can this benefit me?”

Something happens within us when we are no longer interested in looking out for #1 (me), but instead truly want to live our life saying, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.”  When I/you can do that with all sincerity, life transforms. We find that orbit that was tightening, that orbit that was closing in, suddenly expands. We are no longer the focus.

And that’s a good thing.

Question: what was the last time you prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” and meant it?

Do it. Today.

January 18

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Perfect storm. There was a movie by that name. Weather systems hit all at one time and the fishing vessel with George Clooney and others went down.

It is used to describe a situation where 2 or 3 or more events all come together at the same time. Like today’s Scripture and devotional reading.

Pastor Greg Laurie’s Everyday With Jesus spoke about listening. He brought out about the night Paul and Silas were in prison (Acts 16) and were singing in the night. It says the prisoners were listening. The Greek word for listening means “to listen very, very carefully.”

Add to that the devotion by the late David Powlison in Take Heart-Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith where he talked about listening. His devotion was about listening to people, instead of always talking.

Perfect storm. Different subjects. But still a perfect storm.

How many times have you listened but not really heard? There is no doubt we live in an age of talking heads. Opinions fly, but real listening is absent.

When it comes to the Bible, we love to chatter. But do we stop to listen? Have we asked God to speak to us through His Word when we sit down to read? As we read, are we also listening?

When people talk, do we listen? Or are we already thinking of what we are going to say next? G.U.I.L.T.Y. Are we incessant talkers or alert listeners? Pr.  10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (wise).” (ESV)  Or how about Pr. 17:28-“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (ESV)  Insert Abe Lincoln’s quote here. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Some people (to quote that great ’60s philosopher Tommy James) “talk and signify and say nothing.”  (Quote from song “Talking and Signifying” circa 1970).

Truth:

The Bible says repeatedly that we grow and change only by listening, not by talking. (Powlison-Jan.18)

Let’s listen more. Talk less.

January 16

Monday, January 16th, 2023

Have you ever met someone who wanted you to think they had it all together? It’s kind of like the old commercial “Never let ’em see you sweat.” They never want you to see them wanting.

“I can’t let them see me like this. They might think I’m weak.”

“I can’t act scared. I’m supposed to be the leader. How could they ever follow if I did?”

VULNERABILITY.

UGH!!

Tragically, so many with the “can’t-show-them” attitude really need help. Most often they are insecure, little children. And I’m not talking chronological age.

Men tend to be the king of this attitude, but we certainly don’t have a corner on it. I’ve seen and met women who are just as hardened, just as cold, and just as calculating as their counterpart. Maybe they have been hurt by someone (and I’m not minimizing that)-a male- so no longer will they allow one to get close.

Consider what it does to a person spiritually. It hardens him/her.  They close off a part of their soul. Their heart gets hard, or at best, crusty.

The exact opposite of what God wants. Faith always expresses itself in love for others. But if we are closed off, how can we do that? I like what the late David Powlison wrote:

Loving those around you in the midst of your weakness can be as simple as sharing your weakness and need with someone else. (“Take Heart”- January 16)

Good food for thought. Maybe it’s time for us- men and women- to open our hearts and open our lives to others. We may never know whose life might be “saved”- ours or theirs.

January 11

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Several years ago-well over 20-I did a personal Bible study, then led several groups through the study as well. The study included a story of D.L. Moody. The story goes that someone approached Moody and said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him.” Moody was reported to have said, “Then I will be that man.” What I have read of Moody is that was his life’s goal.

That is an intriguing story…and an intriguing challenge.

For someone to issue that challenge with one simple statement to a man of Moody’s spiritual stature is pretty bold. (Then again, perhaps that is why Moody became the man of God he was). I sort of wonder what precluded him saying that to Moody and why.

But the greater impact was Moody’s willingness to say, “Here I am.”

That reminds me of Daniel who refused to be silenced for fear of a lion’s den.

That reminds of Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego who refused to bow for fear of a furnace.

That reminds me of Jeremiah who found himself locked up because he would not stay quiet about Israel’s degradation.

That reminds me of Peter and John who were unafraid of the religious leaders and the consequences of continuing to talk about Jesus. “It is far better for us to listen to God than to man.”

That reminds me of Polycarp, the pastor of Smyrna, who refused to denounce his faith in the “One True King” in order to avoid being burned to death.

That reminds me of the early reformers who refused to be quiet about the Roman Church for fear of being burned alive at the stake.

That reminds me of persecuted Christians in China, North Korea, Iran, etc who face the loss of everything for converting to Christ.

That also reminds me to ask myself, “What about you Bill? Will you take that challenge to be the man willing to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him?”

And what about you?

January 10

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

This past Sunday I started a preaching series on Revelation. Last night I was discussing with some men about Jesus’ coming and how we don’t know when it is going to happen (despite some so-called prophets saying they do). Then I said, “That’s why we have the JWs. One man got the idea and pronounced that Jesus was going to come on such-and-such a date. When that didn’t happen he recalculated and made another prediction of another date. As we know that didn’t happen. But he was not to be deterred. His answer for that failure was that Jesus did come but He’s just wandering around waiting to make Himself visible.”

Say what? People aren’t smart enough to see that is a bunch of crock? Evidently not. That cult started and exists even to this day (as we know).

There is one sure way to know whether we follow someone or not. I read of a man who wanted to start his own religion but soon found it didn’t go so well. He asked someone what he should do get coverts. The man told him, “I recommend that you get yourself crucified, die, and then rise again on the third day.”

Bingo! Jesus’ death and resurrection on the third day is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. No man-whether it is Charles Taze Russell (JW), Joseph Smith (LDS), Ellen G. White (SDA), Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist…which it is neither), Mohammed, Krishna, nor any other individual, can make the claim that Jesus can. No one else is worth following.

Only Jesus. And only Jesus went to a cross to die on our behalf, to satisfy the righteous demands of a holy God.  The cross made the difference. And only following the One who conquered death, hell, and the grave is worthy of our honor and worship. All else is a losing cause…no matter how sincere.

Whom will you choose to follow?

January 4

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

I own my own house. Well…the bank does, but I’m making a strong effort to pay it off quicker. One of the most important parts of the house is not that it has been re-painted a grayish color with white shutters. Or not that it is a ranch-style house-with 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths plus the obligatory kitchen and living room as well as other rooms (my Man Cave which is now Tami’s bedroom and an added-on room about 3-4 years ago). Nor is it that it has a fenced-in back yard. And it isn’t because it is not a house but a home we have lived in for almost 17 years. Nope.

The most important part of the house is its foundation. Without that the house wouldn’t be worth a penny. In fact, there would be no house.

When they started building this one structure in Italy in 1173, they found the soil was softer than they originally thought. Over time that tower has been sinking and today the top of that tower is a little over 13′ off center. They check it regularly. They say if left to its own devices with no intervention of builders, the Leaning Tower of Pisa will someday collapse.

The key to living a life of faith that shines the light of Jesus is having a firm foundation. A life built on the solid rock of Christ. A life built on the never-changing Father and the truth of His Word.

Jesus said it well in Matthew 7 when He told the parable of the two foundations-sand and rock. One stands against the storms; the other crumbles.  Sand castles are easily destroyed by water and tides. Permanent structures built on rock last.

One of the keys to facing life in this new year is having the right foundation. Resolutions? No. A determined faith where time is spent in God’s presence and His Word that will help us stand strong? Most definitely yes.

What type of foundation do you have? What are you building your life and 2023 on?

December 19

Monday, December 19th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes just simply talk too much? In an effort to carry on a conversation: in an effort to cover a lull in a conversation; in an effort to look like we know what we are talking about; in an effort to not look unprepared; in an effort to look like we are smarter than we are; in an effort to fill empty air; we engage in what has been come to be known as a “word salad.” We want people to think we are more knowledgeable that we really are.

Political people do it. Athletes do it. Pastor do it. Teachers do it. Kids do it. I remember once watching a sitcom (I think it was Room 222) and it may have been the only time I ever watched it. The student teacher was asked a question and pretended to know the answer. She was wrong and got caught in the cover-up. Her mentor said, “Never pretend to know the answer. Simply say, ‘I don’t know but I will try to find the answer.’ ” (paraphrased from memory).

That’s good advice…for all of us.

So…here is your practice round. What answer would you give if someone were to come up to you and say, “In one sentence, give me the essence of the Christmas story”?  In other words, no word salad. One short sentence.

Here is your answer:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

That’s it. End of story. What will you tell them?

December 14

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

Have you ever noticed that some things we take for granted are missed by other people? As a pastor I have to guard against that when I’m preaching. I was raised by a godly mother who always wanted to be a missionary. She was! She had 4 sons.  🙂 An important verse to her was 2 John 4: “I have no greater pleasure than to know my children walk in truth.” (True that was not referring to physical children of a mother, but she adopted that verse to declare her feelings). So having been raised in the church and being a pastor for 50+ years and walking with Jesus for 62 of my 70 years, it is easy to forget some don’t have that luxury of knowing the story of Jesus as I do.

So when I am preaching I have to be careful of excluding some, of assuming they know “the story” and what I am talking about. Tragic mistake to make.

I think we can get that way about the Christmas story, especially in our post-Christian culture. It is easy to assume the “Charlie Brown Christmas” would have the same effect on a cynical Gen Z-er as it did on this Boomer. It doesn’t. I read of a child who was asked who Jesus was. His answer: “He was the one who took from the rich and gave to the poor.” A legendary Robin Hood!

We know He is more than that. He is the God-man; born of a virgin; took on human flesh; went to a cross where He died as a sinless replacement for us; rose bodily from the grave; ascended into heaven where He sits at the right of the Father awaiting the word to return.

I can assume people know that. They don’t. I can also assume they know the Christmas story. They don’t. Heard it? Possibly. Know it? Probably not.

Romans 10: 14 says, “And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are the to hear without someone preaching (telling them)?” Let’s not assume they know the Christmas story. Let’s make sure they do-lovingly, convincingly, and gently. But let’s make sure they at least have heard!

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.