Saturday September 19, 2020 – Two sides of the same coin: creature and child

Psalm 29:2  Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Our God is wonderful all the time.  But having said that, He does some of the most special things in our lives to bless us and communicate that we are His.  In a worship service I experienced something wonderful yet difficult to put into words.  As we were singing the Revelation Song, I was caught up in the absolute wonder and majesty of who God is:  Holy,
holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty…With all creation I sing Praise to the King of Kings.

Then in the midst of this glorious worship of our King, He did something that I didn’t expect.  I don’t know how to describe it, but He provoked the joy-filled realization within me that I was His son who brought Him pleasure.  One minute I was part of creation worshipping and adoring Him – the next I was a son basking in His pleasure.  The only thing I can think of to describe what happened was – it was like He winked at me!

Over the years I’ve seen the President do that.  In gatherings he would see someone dear to him and would make eye contact and wink with a hint of a smile.  In the midst of all the seriousness, he subtly acknowledged the relationship and brought pleasure and blessing to the recipient.  We’ve probably all experienced something like that with a loved one.

The wonder of belonging – we are not our own, we are His!  Jesus isn’t an add-on to our lives; He becomes the very core of our being.  Seven days a week we are His and He is ours.  While duty and responsibility play a roll in our lives, there is so much more.  We get
to live for Him basking in the warmth of our relationship with Him.

The Lord is the God of the universe, but He is also our Father.  We are family.  When we love Him we bring Him pleasure.  As we worshipped, I moved back and forth between awestruck creature and beloved son – enjoying and being enjoyed by His Lord.  It’s like they were the two sides of the same coin.  What a marvelous combination!   May we respond to Him with lives that increasingly reflect a true and vibrant love for our God.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday September 18, 2020 – Jesus, I want You!

Psalm 38:9  All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.

How do we begin to thank God for what Jesus has done for us. Because of Jesus, and what He accomplished, our lives and our longings can be transformed.  Our longings can become a symphony to the Lord of what we want Him to do in our lives. I have personalized these longings so that they will speak to each of us as individuals.  Hopefully, to an increasing degree, they express what is in each of our hearts:

O Lord Jesus,

  • I want to glorify you
  • I want to please you
  • I want to love you more and more and more
  • I want to walk in all your ways
  • I want to fulfill your purposes for my life
  • I want to fulfill the calling that you have given me
  • I want to be used by you
  • I want to honor you
  • I want to love my spouse
  • I want to love those around me and those you bring into my life
  • I want to teach others to love you
  • I want to always be grateful for you and all you do
  • I want to praise you continually
  • I want to be faithful
  • I want to embrace your disciplining me
  • I want to trust in you
  • I want to worship you
  • I want to fear you
  • I want to bring delight to you
  • I want to live a life worthy of your esteem
  • I want to do your will
  • I want my love for you to be passionate
  • I WANT YOU
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday September 17, 2020 – More thoughts from the 2010 storm

1 Thessalonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Hurricanes have been the dominant news stories in recent weeks.  Seeing the rain and flooding brought memories of May 2010 when we lived in Tennessee.  Yesterday and today I am posting devotionals that I wrote at that time.

**********

Yesterday I wrote about the immense amount of rain that fell on Central Tennessee over the weekend.  The flooding in so many areas is beyond severe – it’s devastating. Homes, cars, livestock, belongings and lives have been lost.  Many didn’t have flood insurance.  It will take months for the region to recover.

For those Christians who have been seriously impacted by the flooding, their faith is going to be challenged as they come to grips with their situation.  Are they going to see God as a villain for allowing this?  Are they going to retreat in their faith because they just cannot reconcile such events with their understanding of God?  Or are they going to be thankful to Him because He is with them in this trying time?

How might a Christian respond when he faces a total loss and his unrighteous neighbor somehow comes through this event unscathed?– particularly if that neighbor throws this fact in His face, “Your Christian faith sure didn’t do you any good in this storm!”  

Hopefully, in the midst of all of this, they will find strength and resilience in their faith.  Hopefully, they will find themselves living out the admonition in Job, where he did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.  They are not at the mercy of anyone but God.    

The Lord desires that our faith in Him to have such richness and depth, that in times like these, we have hearts of gratitude no matter what happens.  Giving thanks to our Lord is to be like breathing – it just comes naturally.  In the midst of loss or grief or pain, we can experience His peace and presence that produce a settledness within us that can only be explained as coming from Him.

In the midst of loss there is opportunity to glorify Him.  His will is for us to give thanks.  No matter what, we have Him.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wednesday September 16, 2020 – Seeing the rain and remembering 2010

Genesis 7:12  And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

Hurricanes have been dominant news story in recent weeks.  Seeing the rain and flooding brought memories of our experience in May 2010 when we lived in Tennessee.  Today and tomorrow I am posting devotionals that I wrote at that time.

**********

Many of you might be aware that we have had a bit of rain here in Central Tennessee.  Here in Franklin on Saturday and Sunday we received over 26 inches of rain in about 36 hours.  Saturday the total was over 17 inches.  Never in my life have I seen rain come down like this in terms of length of duration.  It’s one thing to have a cloudburst for 20-30 minutes or for an hour and then see it let up.  But this was different.

Here in Franklin the cloudburst went on hour after hour after hour.  I vividly remember staring out the window in wonder and amazement at it. The stunner was that it just wouldn’t stop.  We talked with people from here and they had never seen anything like it in their lives.  This morning the news is reporting rivers at 10’, 15’, 20’ and 25’ over flood stage.  Fortunately, the sun is out here and over most of Central Tennessee.

I couldn’t’ help but think of Noah and the flood – and that God doesn’t like sin.  It is not the least bit difficult to believe that the flood happened just as scripture says.  I’m grateful for His promise to Noah that He will never again use a flood to destroy the earth.  The sign of that promise is the rainbow.  

The point is that God wants people to embrace righteousness not sin.  Out of His love for mankind, Jesus came to earth.  Through His sinless life, death and resurrection, we are offered the gift of life.  

Through faith in Jesus and obedience to His word we are enabled to live our lives in a way pleasing to God.  God isn’t pleased with the death of the unrighteous.  He wants all to come to a knowledge of the truth.  

Seeing the rain – thinking of Noah – then the flood – God’s judgment – God’s promise – God’s gift – relationship with Him through Jesus – living for Him – eternal life – what a wonder!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday September 15, 2020 – Experiencing God by Dr. Henry Blackaby: an important lesson

Colossians 1:9  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all
spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Back in the 1990s many of us were involved in Promise Keepers (PK) – a wonderful move of God among men.  In 1996 PK held a large conference for pastors in Atlanta and most of the pastors of St. Luke’s, the church we were attending in Akron, OH were able to attend.  While there, they were exposed to the marvelous study Experiencing God by Dr. Henry Blackaby.

In January 1997 St. Luke’s kicked off a church-wide 13-week study of Experiencing God.  Before the study, there were about 15 weekly home groups, during the study the number of home groups expanded to over 50.  It was truly an extraordinary experience for the entire church.

One of the most important lessons from Experiencing God is incorporated in today’s verse – and that is the importance of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  We each
have a tendency to focus on, “What is God’s will for me?” – a much more subjective and self-centered approach.  Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifestyle that is more about us than about God.  We become pre-occupied with ourselves rather than seeing the larger picture.

Our focus should instead be on knowing what God’s will is – for all believers – and doing it.  Doing God’s will is like Basic Christianity 101.  Through faithfully living out God’s will in our daily lives, God will make clear where He has unique things for each of us.  His specific will for ‘me’ is to flow out of a life centered on living a life pleasing to Him – being Christ-like in every situation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monday September 14, 2020 – Within His presence!

When I woke up this morning….

… the word ‘holy’ was there – in my mind.  It’s fascinating the way the Lord will give me a thought that when I wake up, it’s just there in the center of my mind, with an attraction to it that makes it undesirable to turn way.  Such thoughts stimulate curiosity, wonder and
excitement within me because I know the Lord has something for me to explore and be blessed by.  This doesn’t happen everyday, but when it does, I love the adventure it brings.

I think it’s accurate to say that for most Christians, ‘Holy’ is a word that is used today primarily in connection with the Spirit of God: the Holy Spirit.  Many of us love the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” because it so wonderfully addresses the majesty and holiness of our God.  But this morning I was aware that the focus wasn’t to be upon how this word describes God but upon it’s application to us.

In looking through the Scriptures to discover the path to explore this with today, I was attracted to the prophecy given by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, following the
birth of John.  He had been silent for months, unable to speak, because he didn’t believe the angel Gabriel when told about the birth of this son.  In the midst of praising God after informing everyone that the baby’s name was to be John, he was filled with the Spirit and began to prophecy how God had come and redeemed His people.

In the midst of the prophecy is this description referring to the people of God, “To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our foes, might serve Him fearlessly 75in
holiness (divine consecration) and righteousness [in accordance with the everlasting principles of right] within His presence all the days of our lives.”  Luke 1:74-75 Amplified

What a picture!  God has delivered His people so that they might serve Him fearlessly in holiness and righteousness! – Within His presence all the days of our lives!! This picture is to describe us!!  In helping us understand this, the Amplified Bible gives the thoughts of divine consecration and living in accordance with the everlasting principles of right.  This is how our fearless service to Him – and our very lives are to be
lived out.

Peter writes wonderfully of this in his first epistle, “[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  15But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”   1 Peter 1:14-15 – Amplified

Do we understand that this is not a burden to bear – but a never-ending gift to enjoy?  Let us renew our commitment to embrace the joy and wonder of living such lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday September 13, 2020 – How must we respond to persecution?

Romans 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What does it mean to be persecuted?  Can we think of a time or times where we believe we’ve been persecuted?  Do those experiences, if we had them, seem more like they fall in the categories of insult or disrespect?  Or, do they fall into the category of physical threat or intimidation?  Were our lives at risk?   Do we view persecution to be more of a general category where Christians as a group are ‘persecuted’ by being discriminated against?  Might the Supreme Court decision in 1963 banning organized prayer in public schools be an example of such ‘persecution’?

When it comes to persecution, here in the West, it’s a different world than that which many Christians deal with particularly in the Middle East, parts of Africa or the Far East.  Although currently in the West the radical escalation of institutional intolerance and rejection of Christianity is stunning.  I think it’s accurate to say we would prefer to be prohibited from publicly reading or displaying our Bible than to be arrested for having one. Likewise, we would rather be ridiculed for our faith than to be imprisoned and tortured.

Think of being forced to choose between Jesus and a son or daughter or spouse.  If you choose Jesus, the likelihood is that you will never see your family member again in this life.  This is happening today and has been happening for decades in other parts of the world.  Think of Nigeria where 300 girls (nearly all are Christian) were kidnapped by a terrorist group and research has revealed that over the last 20 years 100,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria as well.

Persecution runs the gamut from being picked on or discriminated against to martyrdom.    The amazing thing is that our response to those who do the persecuting is to be the same – we are to bless them.  Hating them or cursing them isn’t an option.  Not even cursing under our breath.  This means that annoyance, anger, disgust and other ‘fleshly’ responses are off limits too.

I cannot help but think of two different scriptures that speak to this topic.  Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Then there is the wonderful attitude expressed by the Apostles in Acts 5:41 “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

We must learn to bless those who persecute us.  We must learn to be the expressions of the Kingdom of God that He wants us to be in the face of opposition.  Our goal must be to do it His way – bless and not curse!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturday September 12, 2020 – Winning when we lose

Proverbs 16:22a  Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it,

Mistakes – Errors – Goof-ups – Bad judgments – Blunders.  They sure are all part of life.  In sports they would be called fumbles, strikeouts, errors, interceptions, turnovers, holding, off-side, interference, wild pitches, yellow cards, red cards, etc…  A very important principle applies to both categories (life and sports): when these things happen, the ‘game’ goes on – it doesn’t stop.

Continuing the sports comparison, our error or wild pitch or yellow card might cost us the game but losses are part of sports as well.  In major league sports I recall only once has a team gone undefeated throughout the entire season and won the championship (1972 Miami Dolphins).  Think about that: losing is normal – it’s a fact of life.

Losing is easier to take when we do our best and our efforts are error free.  Our opponent simply was better.  It’s harder when we believe we are the better team or the better player and we lose because of our mistakes.  The issue is learning do better – to improve – to make fewer mistakes – to learn from our mistakes.  Remember the adage “practice makes perfect”?  It has a much greater chance of being true if we recognize where we need to improve and practice doing it correctly.

A good memory I have is going to see our then 9 year old granddaughter Gabi’s soccer game.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie.  A few weeks earlier the opponent had beaten Gabi’s team 5-1.  On this day, Gabi’s team outplayed them except for the final score.  It was exciting to see how her team had improved. [Side point – I’m sitting here laughing because I just remembered the time when our oldest sons were little and playing soccer.  During one of their games we happened to look at our goal and there was no goal keeper!  Then we saw him behind the net picking dandelions!!!]

The Lord has given us His Spirit, Scripture, grace, mercy, forgiveness and a new life freed from the power of sin. They all are active ingredients in His provision for us to improve – become more Christ-like – live more error free lives.  He enables us to put our confidence in Him and participate wholeheartedly in life – to not get side-tracked by our failings.

Thankfully Jesus enables us to see our shortcomings and learn to from them.  We cannot stand around and mope about our mistakes, or when we fall short.  He enables us to get over it and stay focused on Him and stay involved.  Because of Him we are able to win even in life’s losses.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday September 11, 2020 – 19 years ago 9/11

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Years ago my mother had a powerful experience with the Lord.  It involved the death of a good friend.  He was a younger man with a wife and a young son.  They attended the same
church with Mom and Dad and had been dear friends for years.  His wife had been Mom’s nurse when I was born.  Mom had a strong relationship with the Lord but she just couldn’t understand how this young Christian man could die and this family suffers such loss.

I remember so clearly her describing the experience afterwards.  She was downstairs in the basement doing laundry.  She was overcome with sorrow over the death of this friend and just couldn’t understand how it could happen.  He and his wife were so young; life was there to be lived with his family; how could this happen?

She was standing in front of the washing machine, tears coming down her face, repeating over and over to God, “I just don’t understand.”  Into that moment, the Lord spoke to her so suddenly and clearly, that she never doubted that it was Him.  He said, ‘Louise – You don’t have to understand.  You have to trust!”

This had an immediate and profound impact on Mom.  While she still didn’t understand, she turned to the Lord, and released it to Him.  In Him, the edge of the pain dissipated.  In Him, she found peace.  In Him, she found refuge.  She was no longer a tormented ‘prisoner’ of having to understand this death.  She was able to mourn in a healthy place.

Today we remember 9/11.  Nineteen years ago our world changed when we experienced this horrific attack upon our country – and occurrences of radical Islamic terrorism have become more frequent and widespread.  Ever increasing numbers of Christians are being martyred throughout the world.  This is all on top of our normal life difficulties.  So often we struggle with trying to understand events that happen.  Today’s verse is a powerful answer – not a cop-out.  Proverbs 3:6 continues, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.  We must look to Him in all things.

Tragedy occurs all around us: hurricanes, tornados, flooding, fires, Covid-19, earthquakes, explosions, accidents, terrorism, crimes, unexpected deaths or injuries.  Life is filled with them.   Usually they are things we read or hear about. But, sometimes they are near and we or our loved ones are stricken.  Remember and pray for those on the West Coast where fires are raging and all those with Covid-19.  Hopefully we have made it a way of life to trust in Him.  If not, use these times to initiate a changed lifestyle of focusing on and trusting in Him.  He has a way of comforting and bringing life to us when we don’t understand.  He is our source of mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.  (Heb 4:16)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday September 10, 2020 – Dealing with our leaks – and we can leak!

Matthew 13:16 But blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear.

Years ago a friend of ours named Paul bought a home that had been through a fire.  He was good at construction and was able to do most of the work himself.  The plumbing had to be redone for most of the house so he had a plumber friend come and handle all of that.  When the plumber was about finished he came to check out his work.  Paul was amazed by what happened.

As they were walking down the stairs into the large basement, the plumber stopped.  He asked Paul, “Do you hear that?”  They were both quiet and Paul didn’t hear anything.  The plumber said it’s over there and pointed toward a corner of the basement.  Paul asked him what was over there.  His friend said, “A leak” – as he motioned with his finger the timing of the drips.

Sure enough, when they got to the corner, behind a bunch of stuff, there was the leak.  Drops of water were falling to the floor at a frequency just like the plumber had indicated.  Paul asked him why he (the plumber) could hear them while Paul couldn’t.  The plumber responded, “This is my business.  I have my ears trained to hear such sounds.”

Typically, today’s verse is thought of in terms of recognizing or understanding God’s truth.  But today, let’s consider our lives to be the plumbing system of the house and the leak(s) to be the sinful behaviors that we allow to encroach into them.  (We can develop ‘leaks’!)

In difficult, stressful times it seems our blindness and deafness can increase regarding negative behaviors and responses in our lives.  We can get so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we lose sight of the stuff growing in our lives that is incompatible with our faith.  We have ‘leaks’ and don’t know it – and those leaks cause real problems for us and those around us.

No matter how overwhelmed we might feel, let’s stop to seek the Lord and ask Him to open our eyes and ears and enable us to see and hear the ‘leaks’ in our lives; and enable us to repent and repair them.  In difficult times, we can be ‘deaf’ to things in our lives that in quieter, less stressful times would not likely occur.  Remember, the more difficult the situation we find ourselves in, the greater is our opportunity to glorify Jesus with how we respond.

When the difficult times end, we will look back.  Hopefully it will not be with eyes of regret.  We have such opportunity to live righteously in the midst of difficulty.  I often think of Esther and Mordecai…”for such a time as this.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment