Saturday February 27, 2021 – More lessons from Jamie and Andrew gymnastics

Psalms 1:1  Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

In yesterday’s devotional, we wrote about the experiences two of our sons, Jamie and Andrew, had in gymnastics.  Good intentions and hard work did not bring excellence when they were at the first gymnastics club.  Their gymnastics routines had too many things wrong with them that were not dealt with.

When they transferred to the 2nd club where they became champions, it wasn’t a matter of just learning what the routines were supposed to look like.  Steve, the new coach had to work with them to undue all the bad habits that they had developed.  This was a challenge all in itself.  Bad process leads to bad results.  Watching video of themselves, they could see how they were doing things incorrectly.  By eliminating the bad habits, Steve was able to help them develop the good practice habits that would lead to excellence.

Fortunately at the new gymnastics club, there were a bunch of other quality gymnasts.  Jamie and Andrew could see others performing their routines correctly.  The gymnasts helped one another – pointing out glitches and helping each other to learn to do it right.  All of these gymnasts wanted to win, not only as individuals, but as a team.  In order to win, their performances had to meet gymnastics’ standards.

Many Christians today find themselves with habit patterns consistent with our sons’ first gym.  Good intentions, fun and participation are the rule.  Unfortunately, all manner of bad habits and bad practices (read that sin) abound because their lives are more formed by culture than by God’s word.  Worse still is the reality that these bad habits produce a spiritual deafness to the Holy Spirit making it more difficult to hear Him speak: Stop!  Don’t go there!  Don’t watch that.  Come this way.

The great news is that God doesn’t want to leave us there.  Once we recognize that our lives must be filled with His excellence, and choose to truly be His disciple, He will help us undue all the bad “practice habits” and show us how to do everything the right way.  After all, He is the best Coach there is!

To be continued…

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Friday February 26, 2021 – The lesson from Jamie and Andrew gymnastics

1 Timothy 6:11  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Back in the 80s, two of our sons, Jamie and Andrew, were very interested in gymnastics.  Both joined a gymnastics club in NE Ohio.  They had a lot of fun and enjoyed their teams very much but there was a significant problem – in competition their respective teams didn’t do well because none of the individual gymnasts did well.  From year to year, when they passed from one age grouping to another, they still all did poorly.  The competing clubs whose gymnasts consistently did great, continued to excel as those gymnasts moved from age bracket to age bracket.

In talking to judges, one comment stood out: When in doubt, form wins out.  Unfortunately, the boys’ coach was committed to them doing difficult moves in their routines but he didn’t emphasize form – therefore their scores were poor.  Competitors doing simpler routines with great form were consistently beating them.   We listened to the judges and changed clubs.

Their new coach emphasized form.  When they did simple things well, they moved to greater difficulty, but the issue was always excellence.  Both boys were very talented and motivated – but now their energies and efforts were properly focused and directed.  The results were amazing!

They switched to the new club in the summer of 1989.  That previous spring Andrew had finished 70th out of 73 in the state meet as an 8 year old.  Jamie was middle of the pack as a 15 year old.  The following spring in 1990, after one year at the new club, both boys were state champions!  The issue wasn’t how hard they worked or how much they cared or wanted it.  It was that they were now doing the things “required by” the results they sought after.  

The same truth applies to our pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Wanting these things isn’t enough.  We must do the things required by ‘these results’ in order to get them.  God’s word tells us how we are to live – so that as we pursue these things, we experience excellence, not mediocrity.

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Thursday February 25, 2021 – Players in the game, not spectators in the bleachers!

I Chronicles 12:32 men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

Have you ever felt clueless as to what is going on in the world around us?  It seems that the media and some of our leaders are clueless to reality, at least in terms of communicating facts and truth and making sound decisions.  These erroneous communications and faulty decisions affect us all.

It’s almost like a tsunami of serious events is sweeping the world right now and these events affect God’s people everywhere.  On top of that is political correctness run rampant.  God forbid that a spade be called a spade; instead it must be called a garden implement.

We have massive media and societal reactions to events with little or no concern for the truth.  Don’t let the facts get in the way of a story – and if any of the facts are troublesome just ignore or change them.  It’s all about achieving desired outcomes, specifically for those creating the uproar.

We are living in the midst of this and it’s imperative that we, and our leaders, respond with understanding, wisdom and righteousness. Today’s verse in the Old Testament is a hidden jewel.  It’s easy to miss as it’s included in a list of the various groups of men who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him.

The men of Issachar are described here in Scripture in a way that is such an example for us.  They understood the times and knew what Israel must do!  We need to pray for this for ourselves, for President Biden and his team, for leaders in Congress, for Israel, for Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister of Israel), for our military leaders and for Christians around the world.  God has wisdom, insight and understanding that is available to all those who seek Him.

We have a vital role to play.  We must not be clueless and resign ourselves to irrelevancy.  We are born to glorify our Lord and we are at His mercy – not the mercy of the events surrounding us. No matter how helpless we might feel, we are active ‘ingredients’ in the hands of our Lord and Savior.

Our prayers can move mountains!  Our faith-filled words and attitudes can impact those around us and influence them towards righteousness.   We too can respond faithfully to the events around us and further His kingdom.  Jesus, by His Spirit, will enable us to understand our times and will guide us in what to do.

Let us remember – we are players in the game – not spectators in the bleachers!

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Wednesday February 24, 2021 – “Oh Jesus, keep me from this!”

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.

One day, a number of years ago at work, I began experiencing significant chest pain.  My staff wanted me to go to the hospital and get checked over.  I thought I was going to be okay and refused.  They insisted that I call my wife Donna.  So I did and she told me just what they did – but I stubbornly insisted that I was okay.

A few minutes later my oldest son John called me in response to Donna’s call to him.  He had been a paramedic.  I’ll never forget his lovingly blunt words to me.  He said, “Dad.  There are two symptoms you never ignore: a pregnant lady having contractions and a guy your age with chest pain.  Get to the hospital – NOW!”

So my staff took me to the hospital and over two days I went through a bunch of tests.  The good news was – no heart problem. Every test came out good.  But John’s advice was still right on.  My stubbornness and lack of grasping the obvious could have cost me my life.

Chest pains and contractions are kind of hard to be unaware of.  They might be ignored for awhile but as they intensify, they sure can interrupt things.  Today’s verse is just as serious but is much more subtle.  It describes a deadly condition that we as God’s people can have and yet be blind to.  This verse is one that I have identified on my “Oh Jesus – keep me from this!” list.

There are many descriptions in Scripture of what to avoid but there are some – and today’s verse is one – that are particularly foreboding.  It describes God’s people as living in deception.  They think they are pleasing to Him but they’re not.  Their words and outward actions are rendered meaningless because of their hearts.

In the New Testament (Revelation 2 & 3), think of the letters to the Churches in Laodicea and Ephesus.  The Laodiceans thought they were rich, but Jesus considered them “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” – worthy of being spit out of His mouth!  The Ephesians were doing many things right, but Jesus charged them with having left their first love.  He commanded them to repent.

Unfortunately, the same things can and do happen to His people today.  “Oh Jesus – keep us from this!”  May we never give our Lord lip service, with our hearts far from Him.  May our hearts be truly His with our lives living examples of a people who are truly rich in Him.  Most of all, may Jesus be our first love – with us learning how and then loving Him more and more with each passing day!1

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Tuesday February 23, 2021 – A good learning experience, with a TV antenna

Psalm 28:7 Yahweh is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

I remember some goofy experiences that provide a great illustration for us to learn from.  We were watching TV where we were staying and it wasn’t cable or satellite.  It was simply local reception through a small antenna connected to the TV.  We were close enough to Cleveland so most of the stations came in fine.  But there is one station that was a ‘problem child’.

The antenna would sit up on top of the TV cabinet and could receive the handful of stations fine – but not this one.  When we turned to it, across the screen would appear “No Signal”.  Then we’d get up and move the antenna and adjust the two ‘arms’ on the antenna until we finally found the proper position to receive a strong signal.

This became a real adventure because sometimes, depending on the weather, that signal could be very difficult to receive.  So much so, that our determination was affected by how much we wanted to watch a program or sporting event.  One night, there was a program we really wanted to watch that required me to stand near the TV, holding the antenna up in order to get reception – for the whole program.

The signal was always there, sometimes circumstances just made it more difficult to receive.  Greater effort and perseverance were required of us to receive it.  Also involved was how much we wanted to receive it.  Now let’s read today’s verse again:

“Yahweh is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

There are times when this reality is clear as a bell.  But there are other times when we find ourselves in difficult situations where the reality of this truth becomes fuzzy and unclear.  We can even find ourselves in situations where our hearts are reflecting a “No Signal” message.  (“Lord, where are you?!”)

It’s not that this truth isn’t there – it is.  But by faith we have to seek after it and Him.  And sometimes they can be quite elusive – but that mustn’t stop us.  This seeking activity is a priceless component in the process of us becoming strong in Christ.  This truth and the determination to seek Him become bedrock reality in who we are.

No matter what things look like, He is our strength and shield.  No matter how difficult we find our situations, our hearts can and will trust in Him.  We are never left to ourselves because He helps us – no matter what.  Because of Him, our hearts can and will leap for joy and we will sing thanks to Him.

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Monday February 22, 2021 – The wonder of Jesus

Isaiah 9:6-7  6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Jesus is the one of whom Isaiah wrote about in the above verses.  He is the One who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.  Jesus is the One who reigns on David’s throne forever.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

The more we see Jesus the more we are overcome with the awareness that we can never thank Him adequately for what God has done for us.  We were lost and separated from God but because of Jesus, we are now His.  We are God’s people!  Peter writes of this wonderfully quoting another verse from Isaiah about this One (1 Peter 2:4-6),

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”  (Isaiah 28:16)

As Peter goes on to write about ‘those who believe’ – to whom this stone is precious, he describes what God has done and is doing with us (1 Peter 2:9-10),

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Because of Jesus, we are God’s special possession!  Because God so loved us, ‘unto us a child is born, to us a son is given…’  We, who were not a people are now His.  We, who had not received mercy, have now received mercy.  We get to spend our lives declaring His praises because He called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

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Sunday February 21, 2021 – Imagine God ‘delighting’ in you!!

Psalm 37:23a  If Yahweh delights in a man’s way,

Our Pekingese, Snuggles, slept with us every night. Usually she slept through the night but now and then she would wake up having to go to the bathroom.  This meant that I got up, and as it was when we were in Tennessee, I got dressed and took her outside.  Without a totally fenced-in yard, it meant that I went out with her.  From the beginning this struck me as a job for me, not Donna.

Sometimes during the night I didn’t hear Snuggles when she was making sounds to go outside but Donna did.  When that happened, Donna nudged me awake and I took Snuggles out.  This was a little “big thing” for me.  On my scale of things, it’s little, but it sure blessed Donna; to her was big.

Taking Snuggles out in the middle of the night was an opportunity for me to bless my wife, the girl I love.  It wasn’t a chore and it wasn’t burdensome.  Believe it or not, it truly was a source of joy.  Standing outside in the cold, snow or rain in the middle of the night for a few minutes wasn’t a big deal; and invariably, I’d think of her snuggled in bed and it brought a smile to my face.  It was an opportunity for my actions to say “I love you” to her.

What a blessing it is to live our lives together; loving one another.  There are so many opportunities for us to communicate that love to each other through our attitudes and actions.  While we recognize our responsibilities for tasks needing to be done, pervading it all is the gratitude for the love we share.  That love and gratitude bring pleasure to jobs done; bringing delight to each other.

There is delight, in bringing delight to someone – particularly someone we love.  This truth is epitomized in our relationship with our Lord Jesus.  Given the magnitude and wonder of His love for us, I find it mind-boggling that we have the opportunity to bring Him delight!  The realization of this is truly a ‘Eureka’ moment.  It’s like finding gold!

And bringing delight to God is not just doing things for Him – it’s living our lives, doing whatever He tells us to do!!  We bring Him delight when we walk in His ways.  The more we become like Jesus, the more delight we bring Him.  We delight in Him – and He delights in us.  WOW!!

in Note: Snuggles was nearly 15 and we had to have her put down June 2020.  I wrote about this precious love gift from the Lord in the devotional below:  https://donsdevotionals.com/2019/06/25/wednesday-june-26-2019-the-pain-and-tears-of-saying-goodbye-to-snuggles/

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Saturday February 20, 2021 – Can you picture Jesus smiling? At you?!

1 Peter 1:8  You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. (The Message)

After I met Jesus years ago, I remember being told about an older prominent Christian by the name of Rufus Moseley.  Apparently he had a great deal of joy and for some strange reason some church people had a problem with that.  One old dour-faced Christian came up to him and sourly asked, “Do you think Jesus ever smiled?”  Rufus looked at her, grinned and answered, “I don’t know, but He sure fixed it so I can!”

I love to think of Jesus smiling and laughing.  I’m so grateful for paintings I’ve seen where the artist has presented Him doing so.  Then there’s Johnny Cash’s film Gospel Road that has such wonderful scenes of Jesus laughing and smiling with the disciples and children.

There’s also a production called The Thorn that began in Colorado Springs about 20 years ago that is very similar to The Passion of the Christ.  It tells the story of Jesus, and the violence done to Him is vividly represented.  But this serious production also presents Jesus as a man who smiled and expressed such joy when the miracles were performed and in times with His disciples.

Think of Jesus healing crippled children and their stunned and ecstatic response.  Can’t you just see the incredible joy in His face as He performed these wonders?  Can’t you just see these children running to Jesus and jumping in His arms, squealing with delight! Think of His face and the utter joy it would express.

This is our Lord.  This is the One we live with and for.  The Amplified Bible presents today’s verse this way: ‘Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not [even] now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy.’   Oh my goodness, there are times when the wonder of what we have in Jesus is so overwhelming I pinch myself.  It just seems too good to be true.  Hopefully you regularly have such moments of wonder too.

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Friday February 19, 2021 – The blessing of music

Titus 2:13-14  13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

I am so grateful that God has given us music – that He has given us songwriters and  composers who can create such wonderful songs.  Then there are the musicians and worship teams who lead us into worship.  They don’t worship for us, but enable us to
enter in and through these songs we are able to express the love within our hearts for our Lord.

There are so many special songs that we can sing.  This one so wonderfully focuses on Jesus and who He is for us.  He is the Holy and Anointed One, without whom we would be lost.  Today, let’s renew our focus upon on Him.  He is our Lord!  I’ve provided a link below to this song sung by Brian Doerksen.  Listen and worship as you read the words and focus upon Jesus.

Holy and Anointed One by John Barnett

Jesus, Jesus,
Holy and anointed One,
Jesus

Jesus, Jesus,
Risen and exalted One,
Jesus

Your name is like honey on my lips,
Your Spirit like water to my soul,
Your word is a lamp unto my feet,
Jesus I love You, I love You

Have a wonderful day!

Listen to this wonderful worship song sung by Brian Doerksen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olBnC2nxCNw

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Thursday February 18, 2021 – He’s made a way for us!

Jeremiah 3:19  “I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me Father and not turn away from following me.”

Yesterday we looked at this verse that is so revealing of the pain associated with the Israelites going their own way and not responding to God and His love for them.  This morning I thought of the parable of the lost son who rebelled and spent his inheritance sinfully and wound up in the pigsty (Luke 15:11-31).  What do you think was going on with his father after his son went off?

Imagine his father watching his son walk away from home – not knowing if he would ever return.  At meal time he likely noticed his son’s empty seat at the table.  The stillness of not hearing his voice and not having his presence in the home at times could have been deafening.  Can you imagine the heartache whenever his father looked down the road and didn’t see his son returning?

I can imagine the pain.  He loved his son but was helpless to reach him.  Now into this context, think of our God looking at a world with his potential sons and daughters all in pigsties, no matter what their circumstances were; all ‘away from home and away from Him’.  But our God wasn’t and isn’t helpless.  He made a way for each and everyone of us to ‘come back home’ to Him.

The way that He made for us is so wonderfully described in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”  He didn’t and doesn’t just write us off – He made a way for us!  And His Spirit is wooing every one of us, in the pig sties of life, to come to ourselves and recognize that Jesus can and will ‘bring us home’.

When the son came to himself and returned he had no idea the joy that was awaiting him.  He recognized just how guilty he was and never expected the response his father gave him.  But his father saw him coming even when he was a long way off and ran to him, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son was stunned by the celebration; so great was his father’s joy that he had come home.

Jesus taught that this celebration is what happens in Heaven whenever one sinner repents!  And we get to experience it!!!  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to experience the overwhelming joy and love that I did when Jesus came into my life.  One moment I was lost and in the pigsty, the next I was ‘at home’ in the embrace of my God, absolutely overwhelmed by His love for me.

Because of the love of God in Jesus, we get to call Him Father and faithfully follow Him all the days of our lives!

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