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February 1

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

I read a short blurb recently about how some years ago, 300 whales were found marooned on a beach.  Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creature were ultimately lead to their doom.

The application to us is easy to make. How many people do you and I know who are now or will get “beached” due to chasing little things? What makes it even worse is that it happens before we realize it.

I’m reminded of several Scriptures-both from the mouth of Jesus.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mt. 6:24)  {As an exercise, substitute another word for money-sports, fame, pleasure, people acceptance, etc and see how it fits}

The other is found in the same chapter of Matthew: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Verse 33)

I’m sure you can add more Scripture. Like the book of Ecclesiastes. Like Matthew 22:37-38.

I will grant you that it is a daily battle. I know it is for me. To stay focused on that which is important-on WHO is important-on WHAT is important-is a titanic struggle of great magnitude.

But it is one we must fight. To choose to chase sardines is a losing game. It only leads to “beached” lives. A dead end.

To choose to pursue God and His kingdom may not yield much fruit here on earth, but the reward is out of this world!

What will you choose to chase?

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?

December 20

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Last night the Owen County Chamber of Commerce hosted a movie night at our local theater, the historic Tivoli. You can read about its history here.

Tami, our daughter, has been a chamber captain for the past two years and her commitment is up. I have been asked to come back onto the board after a year off and I accepted. The movie was a thank you to the captains for their service to the Chamber.

The movie was one of my favorites, especially at Christmas time: The Santa Clause. It was part of my regular Thanksgiving Day staple to watch, along with It’s a Wonderful Life. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) puts on the Santa suit and thereby agrees to become Santa Claus. It’s a fun and funny romp, a light-hearted step back in time to the innocence of a childhood belief. Tim is in rare form (Can anyone say Home Improvement?).  I know what people say about Santa Claus. “You are teaching them a myth.” “You are teaching them mistrust.” “You are teaching them to believe a lie.”

Seriously? I was told all about SC, the Easter bunny (a bit harder to believe), the tooth fairy, etc and I turned out okay. (Although some do call that into question from time to time). 🙂

I’m not advocating the worship of SC.  But come on! Don’t you think we ought to let kids be kids? Let them learn from fantasies. Can anyone say Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or Back to the Future?

I have to admit I did a lousy job of perpetuating SC. I was a Scrooge. If I had to do it all over again, I would do some things differently. But I can’t, so there’s that.

But…I can help put (or keep) the wonder in Christmas for the little ones I meet.  Maybe even the big ones. I think we lose the wonder, the magic, the childhood “playfulness” of Christmas. No, I’m not saying adults should believe in SC. That would be ridiculous.

But how about reviving the spirit of Christmas in our hearts? Love. Joy. Peace. Wonder. Awe. Worship. Excitement. (and a whole lot of other words which fit). Can there truly be anything more amazing, more spectacular, more breath-taking, more captivating than God became flesh and lived among us?

You tell me.

December 13

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

There are all kinds of heartwarming stories told at Christmas. Just check out the Hallmark channel or the new Great American Family channel. Actually, take my word for it. 🙂

One of the best and greatest stories that I can find-other than the very first Christmas story about a baby in a manger-is the short story written by O’Henry called The Gift of the Magi. I’m guessing there is hardly a person on the planet who has not heard of or read the story.

It is the story of a young couple (Jim & Della)- in love and married- and wanting to celebrate that love at Christmas. But one obstacle stands in their way-they are poor. But that won’t stop them. (Spoiler alert: story revealed} Della has beautiful, long hair, her pride and joy; Jim has a family heirloom-a pocket watch. On Christmas morning they present their gifts to each other.  Jim bought Della combs for her hair; she bought him a chain for his watch. All well and good EXCEPT she cut her hair for the money to buy him the chain; he sold his watch to buy her the combs.

O’Henry finishes his story with these words:

“Let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two are the wisest. Of all who and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”

I was moved to wonder the first time I ever read that story and the irony of it. I still am. I want to be like Jim and Della. Keep nothing back. Hold nothing close. Except a profound love I receive from my Savior, my wife, my children, my grandson, and those I pastor.

May the gift of the magi be my story. May it be yours as well.

December 8

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about the saying we often hear at Christmas: “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Today I’d like to give my thoughts (opinion) on another very common statement we hear and see more and more frequently:

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Now…before you get all bent out of shape over what you may perceive as another attempt to downplay Jesus’ role in Christmas, please hear me out all the way to the end. Please.

“Jesus is the Reason for the season.” I know the intent with this statement. For the longest time I used to share this same sentiment-verbally and written. The intent (at least I’m guessing) was to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ. I totally, totally agree with that. We have way too much distraction from the real meaning of Christmas as it is. So focus on Christ.

However, IMHO, the statement is at the base not true. Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. Phil.2:5-8 (take the time to read it please) is one of the reasons I say that. Pay particular attention to verse 8. Jesus did not come as God in the flesh; He did not come as a baby because He needed it. He did that because WE NEEDED HIM TO!! The need on His part was to come and die on a cross for us. Hebrews 9: 11-14 is pretty plain. So is the Scripture which says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (9:22) Hebrews 10:4 also says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

So I repeat-sentiment aside-Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. I think it would be better to say, “We are the reason for the season; Jesus is the meaning.”

I know mine is not as sentimental and you may disagree with what I’ve said. That’s ok. More than anything I want to remind all of us that Christmas is more than a slogan.  Christmas is all about Jesus leaving the comforts of heaven to come to earth as a baby-God in the flesh- to go to a cross to die in my/our place so we may have forgiveness of sins. Focus on Christ and not a slogan. Put all your heart into loving and worshiping the One who gives meaning to the whole season.

Your thoughts?

All Scripture is from the ESV.

December 7

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

I’m convinced that sometimes we speak and we are oblivious to what or how we say it.  Sometimes we are totally unaware of what we say. Even truer is that we often don’t know why we say something. Please let me explain.

There was an old saying the British Government used during WWII: “Careless talk costs lives.” I heard it used another way: “Loose lips sink ships.” The implication of that saying is more than clear. I guess it is not implying, but stating a fact: speaking loosely and freely could have consequences. In that case, one never knew if a spy was just waiting for a juicy tidbit to share with his superiors.

There are certain phrases we use at Christmas time which can be said glibly without stopping to think what is being said. For example:

Keep Christ in Xmas. I know that was started for the very reason I just showed. Xmas. And I also know what the insinuation is. You use Xmas and you are taking Christ out of Christmas. But in reality, that thought goes a whole lot deeper. Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas by a mere abbreviation. Far more deadly is our heart pushing Him away or losing sight of Him during the rush of the season.

It gets easy to push Him out of Christmas. I think that is when it really becomes Xmas. Not by abbreviation, but by a reckless disregard for His place in my heart.

I want to keep Christ in Christmas. Not by not using Xmas (which I do sometimes when I’m in a hurry writing), but by having my heart tuned into Him.

For your reading pleasure 🙂 : Tomorrow I plan to take another common phrase and write my thoughts about it.

November 29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

In preparation for my series in 2023 on Revelation, I have been reading Revelation over and over in different translations. While they all offer the same yet different perspective, there is one overarching theme which comes through.

WORSHIP

Over and over we read of worship taking place. I challenge you over the next 22 days to read one chapter a day and mark the number of times you see worship or some description of Jesus.

There is probably no better depiction of worship than in chapters 4 & 5. If you read nothing else, take a moment to read and ponder those two chapters.

It got me thinking. How many times have you or I said or heard someone say, “That was a waste. I got nothing out of that worship service.” That is rather revealing in at least 3 different ways.

  1. It really was bad. The sermon misfired (it is possible you know?); the music landed with a thud and did not lead to worship; the whole experience was dead.
  2. The mindset and heart of that person (or me) was not in a “ready to hear” mode. But it is much more convenient to place blame elsewhere.
  3. Worship never happened because it involves a sense of expectancy on the part of the listener, as well as the willingness to offer ourselves. For lack of a better way to say it, we get out of it what we put into it. There needs to be some give and take.

Worship involves being involved-engaged. It means the worshiper puts his/her heart and soul into offering himself/herself to God in praise and adoration to the Father. The Father, the Source and object of worship, then meets His worshiper.

Check out the following verses:

  • 4:8-“They do not cease to say.”
  • 4:10-“saying.”
  • 5:9-“sang a new song.”
  • 5:12- “saying with a loud voice.”
  • 5:13- “saying.”

Sounds like engagement to me. You get the point. Worship involves engagement-me and you engaging with the Father.

When someone (or me) says, “I got nothing out of that today; what a waste!” unless it is false teaching or progressive (heretical) teaching, I’m more inclined to ask, “And what did you put into it?” I need to point the finger at my own heart.

What do you think?

November 17

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Long ago I gave up trying to figure God out. I think He wants it that way.

Over 2000 years ago He revealed Himself in the form of a baby. The Infinite One became human. Fully human. Fully divine.

I don’t understand it all. I accept it though as truth. Believe it? Yes. Understand it? No.

But even though to know God almost seems like an effort in futility at times, the hunger and desire to know Him, to probe deeper, should never stop.

Going along with that unquenchable desire to know Him is the reality that God does far more than I can ask or imagine. And He surprises me! He never ceases to amaze me.

I was reminded of that this morning when I read Romans 11: 33-36. (Please look it up in your Bible). A statement. Two rhetorical questions. A statement. Short. Simple. To the point truth.

God is amazing. I never want to close the book on that and say, “I understand.” I want to keep being amazed. I want to keep being surprised. I don’t want to settle for settle for. We sing a song with the chorus which says, “May I never lose the wonder/O the wonder of Your glory.” I simply ask that I will never lose the wonder I have for God. May my lack of knowledge spur me on to keep probing and stay on my quest. I hope you will always keep the “amazement factor” alive in your heart.

October 18

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Have you ever heard of Doane Robinson? No? Read on but don’t spoil the fun by looking him up on Google. 🙂

It is easy to get lost in the crowd. I’m not talking about a concert or an amusement park. I’m talking about as a servant of Jesus. Let me explain.

People around the world (and I suspect all of you) are familiar with Mount Rushmore (MR). The sculpture of the four presidents carved into MR is a sight to behold. Yet, while million know of MR, few know of the man who conceived and managed the project.

Let me introduce you to Doane Robinson. He is the forgotten man in the whole story of MR. His name is either largely unrecognized or is never known by some.

I don’t know if that is they way he wanted it or not.

Being a servant of Jesus should be like that. We are not-should not be-in it for the accolades and strokes to our ego. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and they exist because You created what You please.” (NLT)

Our whole existence should never be to draw attention to ourselves. Joy comes from putting other’s needs before our own. The greatest joy comes from putting all the attention, honor, and glory that comes our way and directing it to Jesus.

“May I remember, Father, what Revelation 5 says: that Jesus and Jesus alone is worthy to open the scroll. That makes Him the only One worthy to be praised. May that be the song on my lips.”

For something different: https://youtu.be/-c6pl6CaiD0

August 2

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Control. It’s a matter of control.

For the past 6 Sundays- (this coming Sunday will be #7)- I have been preaching on 7 Cancers, or as they are commonly called, the Seven Deadly Sins. As I reflect on all of them, they come down to one word:

C. O. N. T. R. O. L.

Who controls me? Or what controls me? Whether talking about anger or jealousy, gluttony or lust, pride or greed, or sloth, it all comes down to control.

That came to my mind this morning as I read Isaiah 31:1- “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” 

That then brought to mind Psalm 20:7- “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” 

That drew me to Ephesians 5:18 where I am told to not allow any outside influence to control me or I could grieve/quench the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life.  The only influence who should have control is the Holy Spirit.

Again, it is a matter of control. Will I allow a substance, a priority, a circumstance, or some outside influence to have control over me?

“Father, may You be who I let control me. May I push away every imposter for the throne of my heart and exalt You and You only as my King.”