Sunday September 26, 2021 – 51 years ago today!

Proverbs 31:10-12       A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

I am the richest man in the world!  I have the Lord and He gave me Donna.  My August 25 and 26 devotionals describe the extraordinary way that the Lord brought us together (engaged in 2 hours 15 minutes after we met!).  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be loved the way she loves me.  I never imagined how wonderful marriage could be.  It’s so incredible to be able to spend your life with the one person you would rather be with than anyone else.

When Donna smiles at me and I see the twinkle in her eyes, the thrill that goes through me is beyond words.  Even more amazing is the fact that our love not only hasn’t grown old – it’s gotten better with time.  We ‘get to’ spend every day of our lives loving one another, and we both understand that is a choice the Lord expects (and requires) us to make!  Right choices lead to blessing and wonder.  Wrong choices lead to pain, separation and becoming a statistic.

We both recognize that what the Lord has given us is priceless and our commitment to Him requires us both to guard and protect our marriage.  We do not have the option of indulging sinful behavior that undealt with, could damage what we have.  We know that one day we will give an account of how we have loved our spouse.

The grace of God, the enabling power of His Spirit and our commitment to His Word and to each other have enabled us to navigate the difficult times.  These were (and are) times when our actions and attitudes haven’t been what they should be.  The Lord has enabled us to recognize our sin and repent and ask forgiveness of one another.  We cannot overemphasize the importance of ‘I’m sorry’, ‘Please forgive me’, ‘I was wrong’, ‘I forgive you’.

We are so grateful for the fact that we recognize that forgiveness is not optional.  It is an absolute requirement of our faith and so vital to our existence.  Best of all is the fact that we are committed to loving our God most of all.  Loving each other is part and parcel of loving Him.  In fact, loving our spouse is a primary way we show our love for God.  The more we love Him, the more we love each other – the more our lives express love for each other.  He is the center of it all.

I thank God that 51 years ago today, Donna and I were married.  Our love and appreciation for each other is the best it’s ever been – with the best still to come!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturday September 25, 2021 – The canopy of honor

Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”  Isaiah 66:2b “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Another of my favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof.  It is a musical about the life of a family in the small Jewish village of Anatevka, Russia   Set in 1905 it tells the story of Tevye, his wife, Golde, and their five daughters and how they cope with the difficult realities under Tsarist Russia.  It is filled with wonderful music and many moving scenes.

Among the most moving for me are the wedding scenes for their oldest daughter, Tzeitel.  She fell in love with Motel, the young tailor and her father, against tradition, has agreed to let her marry him.  In the Jewish ceremony, the couple stands underneath a wedding canopy.  The scene struck me as being very special – particularly the canopy.

This scene of the canopy came to mind when I was studying these verses.  Humility comes before honor.  God esteems the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at His word.  Honor is not something we can give ourselves.  It is given to those whose lives merit it.  It is something that is bestowed – and will remain as long as the life is consistent with what God requires.

Here is where the picture of a canopy is such a blessing.  Think of the honor and esteem that come from God as a canopy that is lowered down over us when our lives meet God’s requirements for it.  It will abide with us and over us as long as we are faithful.  The only control we have over it is to live lives that God considers worthy of it.  In John 12:26b Jesus says, “My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

The wedding scene also includes the very special and moving song, “Sunrise, Sunset” sung by the family.  Towards the end of it, Perchik & Hodel, two of their daughters wanting to be married too, sing the line, ‘Is there a canopy in store for me?’  Let us think of the canopy not in terms of a wedding, but in terms of living such a life that God bestows His canopy of honor over each one of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday September 24, 2021 – The importance of becoming a lover of the truth

John 8:31, 32  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

One of the more important teachings that I heard years ago that has impacted me greatly involved these verses.  It had to do with becoming and staying free.  Simply put, in order to become free and stay free we each must become a ‘Lover of the truth’.

Three days ago I wrote of the blessing of family, friends and co-workers who were willing to be a part of my repenting process in dealing with my anger.   This was something I asked them to do.  But how do we respond when such input hurts or comes in an inappropriate manner or from someone we don’t like?

Suppose you’re in an interaction that becomes a bit unpleasant.  As you walk away, a close friend discreetly says to you, “You could have been more kind in your response.”  Versus, being told by a participant, “Boy, were you a jerk in that meeting!” and then he walks off.

Criticism or ‘descriptive observations of our behavior’ are more palatable to us if they’re offered in a kind manner.  Even so, they can still be difficult to receive.  A concerned spouse says, “You’re angry.”  Your response, “NO I’M NOT!!!!”

When such information is offered in anger, in sarcasm, by someone we don’t have a relationship with, or particularly by someone we don’t like, we tend to react defensively.  The tendency is to reject the message because we reject the messenger!  Whatever truth might be in the criticism/observation offered us we tend to reject out-of-hand because of who offered it or the way in which it was given.  We choose to react rather than respond – and it is a choice!

At times God will specifically use unpleasant people with negative deliveries to present us with an important truth about ourselves.  It’s a test – and life is filled with them.  Will we look past the messenger and how the message is presented to find and embrace the truth He  has for us?  The more we become lovers of the truth, the freer we become.  We choose to respond rather than react. Lord Jesus, help us all become lovers of the truth!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday September 23, 2021 – Priceless memories and seeing Him

1 Chronicles 16:11-12  Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

The other day I had an unexpected surprise.  It was a typically busy day with lots to do and not enough time to do it all.  In the midst of this I went to get a document I needed and it wasn’t where I thought it was.  So I had to hunt for it.

The search took on a life of its own.  I knew it was in the office but the issue was where.  (Those who know me have heard of my Prego filing system -“It’s in there.”)  While going through a stack of stuff that I hadn’t looked at in quite awhile, I encountered the surprise.  No it wasn’t money – but in some ways it was even better.  It was a stack of pictures from years ago.  Needless to say, I stopped my search and sat down and looked at the pictures.

The joy I experienced in savoring each one.  Our sons growing up, dogwood trees in bloom at our home in Peninsula, grandbabies, being with friends, trips to Brazil…  Some of the pictures were more special than others because of the memories and good times they linked to.  They were like a doorway into a gallery of memories – of treasured experiences that had not been thought of for too long.

One common theme running through so many of the pictures was the goodness of God to Donna and me.  Yes there have been difficult times, stressful situations and all the other stuff of life – but through it all and overshadowing it all has been the presence and blessing of our Lord.

How good and powerful it is to remember Him and the things He’s done – in our lives and throughout history.  The wonderful memories develop hearts of gratitude and strengthen our faith!  How good it is to recognize Him in the midst of everything.  We can become so blind that we don’t see the forest for the trees.  He is with us, intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.  We are never alone.   We need to recognize just how important it is to seek Him – to regularly set aside time to remember what He’s done and treasure Him and the memories we have of Him.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wednesday September 22, 2021 – God can find ‘another 2 yards’ in us enabling us to change

James 1:20  For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires]. (Amplified)

One of my all time favorite films is Chariots of Fire* – the 1981 British film that tells the
fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics.  One is Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and the other is Harold Abrahams, an
English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

In the film, Harold Abrahams is a gifted runner who was stunned by being beaten in a race by Liddell.  He recognized the need to run faster, so he approached Sam Mussabini to become his coach.  After watching Abrahams run, Mussabini said to him, “I can find you
another two yards.”  Two yards to a sprinter can be the difference between the Gold medal and being an ‘also ran’.  Abrahams embraced the good news that Mussabini could enable him to improve.

There were things Abrahams needed to change in order to experience the excellence he was capable of – and he committed himself to that process.  This is such a vital principle that we need to understand in dealing with the ‘stuff’ in our lives that we must continue to deal with.  There are habits or remnants of habits that might not keep us from being ‘good’ or ‘better’, but they can definitely keep us from becoming the best that we can be.

Yesterday I wrote of my experience at Grad School where I was totally unaware of becoming angry.  In that classroom discussion I was so angry that ‘steam was coming out of my ears!’  Talk about being blind to the obvious!  Our anger does not promote the righteousness of God.  It is a habit that will promote unrighteousness.

Thank God the Lord made me aware of this problem and enabled me to effectively deal with anger over the years.  He has done the same with many Christians.  But how many of us recognize that there may still be subtle remnants of anger that pop up in our lives.  Such remnants keep us from the excellence we are capable of and that God expects from us.  Let us remember that no matter how much we improve, the Lord can always find another ‘two yards’ within us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday September 21, 2021 – A priceless learning moment for me at Wheaton Grad School

James 1:19  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

In the mid-seventies I got to attend Wheaton Grad School.  It was one of the richest times in my life.  One of the more embarrassing and revealing memories I have of that time was in a counseling class I took.  On that particular day the instructor had us bring our
spouses with us to class, so my wife Donna was there with me.

We were all seated in a large circle and discussing some subject.  At one point I became engaged in a dialogue with another male student on the other side of the circle.  It
was a lively discussion as we disagreed with each other on whatever the subject was.

All of a sudden, the instructor who was sitting in the circle listening to all this, broke into this ‘dialogue’ the two of us were having.  She looked at me and asked, “Are you angry?”
I looked at her and said, “What?”  She pressed her point and asked, “Are you experiencing anger right now?” I replied, “Of course not.  We’re just having a lively discussion.”

At that point the whole class just exploded with laughter.  One of the guys in the class that had become a friend of mine shouted out to me, “You’re so angry, steam is coming out of your ears!”  I had no idea.  I sat there, dumbfounded, trying to grasp the reality of the situation.  How could I be so angry and not know it?

What a blessing that experience turned out to be!  I became aware of a major ‘blind-spot’ in my life and it involved something – anger – that can be so destructive.  Needless to
say this set off a process of discovery for me.  Fortunately, I wanted to change which meant that I had to learn to recognize when I was becoming angry and stop it from occurring.

Praise God for family, friends and co-workers who were willing to be a part of my repenting process.  Think of the value of being asked, “Do you know you’re becoming angry?” when you don’t want to be angry.   The Holy Spirit used their valuable input
to help me change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monday September 20, 2021 – The impact of Jesus on slaves

1 Corinthians 7:22  For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.

Consider another time and another place.  Consider that we and our families are in a society where slavery is commonly practiced and it is not racially based – where anyone could find themselves in slavery, i.e., the Roman world.  Finally, consider that slavery is the lot we find ourselves in – and the world we live in it is accepted as a given.  There is no anti-slavery movement.  We are slaves and will likely remain so for all of our lives.

Maybe our masters are cruel – maybe not.  We have to live with what the reality is.  Then into our lives comes the Gospel!  We become born again, when called to faith in Christ Jesus.  We are transformed and become freed men and women, even though we still find ourselves in slavery.  Slaves yet free.  They are independent of each other!

Our focus becomes sharing the love of Christ with other slaves and becoming the best slaves that we can be.  Possibly, God will use us to reach our owners with the Gospel and transform them.  This is not done with the purpose of being set free from slavery.  It is done in joy because of the wonder of the love of Christ.  We want all men and women to come to know Him.

Yes, we might hope to one day be freed from slavery, but just like Joseph, we live our lives in a way that honors our God.  Our lives are so transformed we want to share the love of Christ with everyone.  This sharing is far more than just words about Jesus.  Our lives become filled with acts of kindness and doing the right things by God’s standards.  We live to please Him.

Think of slaves shivering outside in the cold and we, as Christian slaves, taking them blankets and something warm to drink.  We do it not to tell them about Jesus, although that might result.  We do it because it is a kindness that we would want if we were in their
situation.  We see needs and meet them as we are able.

The Gospel is a ‘Prosperity Gospel’ for all who receive it but not in the sense that we western Christians might first think of.  It is not about becoming rich materially.  It is about the incredible richness that we have in Christ no matter what our circumstances.  We must separate the reality of the Gospel from the cultural trappings that so easily hinder us.

We must fight the tendency to view the Gospel through the lens of our culture and circumstances rather than recognizing that the Gospel enables us to live first as citizens of His Kingdom.  We are able to experience His love and prosperity no matter what our situation.  We are free – even if we are slaves.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday September 19, 2021 – 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

Saturday September 18, 2021 – 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

Friday September 17, 2021 – 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