Thursday July 9, 2020 – Jesus and the children in Gospel Road by Johnny Cash

Luke 18:16  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Back in the 70s, Johnny Cash made a film titled “Gospel Road” about the life of Jesus.  I was thrilled a few years ago to discover it had been re-issued.  I purchased it and was so blessed to see it was as wonderful as I remembered.  It presents aspects of Jesus in a manner that I’ve never seen in another film.  One of my favorite scenes is Jesus with the little children.

Picture a bunch of children playing in the water and on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  They are having a great time splashing and running – just being little kids.  Maybe I relate to them so well because I grew up right on Lake Michigan and spent so many hours playing like they were.  But then, they see Jesus coming!

The children all run to him and he kneels down on the shore with them and they are thrilled.  Can’t you just see Jesus sitting on the shore with a little kid in his lap and all the kids playing around them, splashing and carrying on.  Then he’s digging in the wet sand with them.  What a marvelous picture, seeing Jesus and the children grinning and laughing together having just a wonderful time.  He even picks one of the kids up and does a “zerrbert” on his chest – laughing all the while.

The children knew Jesus was someone they loved to be around.  He was special to them.  But they were also special to him.  He loved to be with them as well.  Can you picture him laughing and grinning?  Can you imagine having fun with him?  Think of being with him and going home knowing it had been one of the best times of your life – one you wished would never end.

The wonderful news is that we are never too old to experience such joy and delight in Him.  We too can experience him smiling and enjoying us.  We just need to become more like children.

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Wednesday July 8, 2020 – Special memories and a great truth

Numbers 6:24-26  The LORD bless you and keep you;  25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;  26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Remember the story of the little boy who was the ring-bearer for the wedding ceremony and when he went down the aisle he growled at everyone.  When asked why, he replied, “That is what a ring BEAR does!”  We probably all have wonderful memories of children and the words that they hear being a bit different than the words that are spoken.

When our son Andrew was little, he was convinced the name of the movie was Raiders of the Lost Dark.  No matter how Donna tried to convince him otherwise, he wouldn’t budge.  She finally said, “There is no DARK in the movie!”  To which he replied with great exasperation, “I KNOW – IT”S LOST!!!!

Another event in the heritage of misheard words occurred here a number of years ago.  Every night Fabi would sing to and pray with our 2 granddaughters at bedtime. Well one night something really sweet happened.   We heard about it the next morning and every time I think of it I laugh.

Fabi sang the song that consists of today’s verses to the girls at bedtime.

The Lord bless you and keep you; 

The Lord make His face to shine upon you;

And bring you peace, And bring you peace, Forever!  

So after she finished, one of the girls said to her, “Mom, why do you pray like that for me?  Do I really need it?”  Fabi answered, “Of course, Honey!  We all need it!”  To which our granddaughter replied, “But Mommy, I really hate PEAS!  Please don’t ask for that again!”

But after the laughter, remember these thoughts about this hymn that was adapted from Numbers 6:24-26. The great evangelist D. L. Moody, in his Notes from My Bible, made the following statement about this benediction:

“Here is a benediction that can give all the time without being impoverished. Every heart may utter it, every letter may conclude with it, every day may begin with it, every night may be sanctified by it. Here is blessing—keeping—shining—the uplifting upon our poor life of all heaven’s glad morning. It is the Lord Himself who (gives us) this bar of music from heaven’s infinite anthem.”

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Tuesday July 7, 2020 – Remembering a special friend

Psalm 116:15  Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints

Note: I thank God for Dan.

I think of him often and this morning just wanted to honor him and the gift he was to me from our Lord.  A little over 10 years ago I received word from his wife that a wonderful Christian friend went to be with the Lord.  Only the Lord knows to what degree my salvation was due to the seeds sown by this man.

It was my sophomore year in college at Western Michigan University.  I was not a Christian and didn’t think I could be one.  What little faith I might have had was long gone after a year of college.  Dan Crabtree was a new student in our dorm and lived across the hall from me.  His roommate was loud, crass and boisterous and had a bit of drinking problem to put it mildly.

Dan was a Wheaton College student who became a guest student for the year at WMU because Linda was there – she was his fiancée.  Dan loved Jesus – and was so different from anyone else I had ever met.  The more I got to know him, the more I enjoyed being with him.  I remember wondering how he could wind up with the roommate he had.  They couldn’t have been more opposite, yet Dan didn’t react negatively.

That year was a very difficult one for me but Dan was an oasis in the middle of a desert.  When I think of that year, my first memories are of Dan.  He was a true friend and loneliness was something I struggled with.  The following October I met Jesus – the impact of which was like a tsunami of love leveling a Matterhorn of doubt!  I can remember thinking of Dan after it happened and the marvelous example that he was for me.

Later on, when I was thinking of getting more schooling, I thought of Wheaton, because Dan went there.  I graduated from Wheaton Graduate School in 1978.  Over the years we were able to reestablish our friendship.  Donna and I have wonderful memories of times with Dan and Linda – their warmth and hospitality.  We didn’t get to see them often but time and distance could not diminish the treasure we had in them.

Much to my regret, I hadn’t talked with Dan for several years, I wasn’t aware that the illness had flared up again.  Fortunately, he was one of those I had been sending my devotionals to.  Less than two weeks before he died I received a reply email back from him: “- thanks for your investment and thoughtfulness.  Dan”.  I cannot put into words what his encouragement meant to me.

May we so love Jesus that our lives will shine for Him and be His witness to those around us like Dan’s life was to me and so many others.  May we be thrilled at the prospect of helping others to meet Jesus!

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Monday July 6, 2020 – The wonder of our God

Psalm17:7a  …the wonder of Your love….

Let’s think about some things that produce a sense of wonder within us.  In the spring I am so blessed by seeing everything begin to bloom after the winter season.  The redbuds and dogwood trees never cease to strike me with their beauty and color.  I love seeing the woods take on the hint of green with the coming of the first leaves.

One cannot escape a sense of wonder at the mountains.  Their size, beauty and majesty are awe inspiring.  One of my favorite memories is of salmon fishing with my dear friend Jon out in Seattle.  We were in the boat fishing before dawn on a clear morning.   In the midst of the darkness, we beheld the sight of the first rays of dawn reflecting off the snow capped peak of Mt Rainier.  It was absolutely breathtaking and its wonder caused us to sit and behold the dawning of the morning light.

The ocean and the seashore are particularly special to Donna and me.  One of the great joys of my life is to walk along the seashore listening to the surf – enjoying the sights, sounds and smells.  We both love to be in a hammock, on an ocean-front cottage porch, listening to the sounds and feeling the breeze as we read or simply rest.

It’s not just that these things are pleasant or enjoyable – but there is a sense of wonder within us that is present even just thinking about them.  And as great as all these things are, they pale in comparison to the wonder we experience over the love of our God for us.  It is a tangible sensation within us that produces such joy.

The wonder of our God is far beyond the simple fact that He made the things that bless us so.  He has shown us – and repeatedly shows us – His great love for us.  That is the stunner!  The God who made everything – the entire universe – loves us and makes Himself known to us!  Through Jesus, we are His family and dear to Him.  He enables us to experience the exquisite pleasure of Him becoming dear to us each and every day of our lives.  Oh, the wonder of it all!

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Sunday July 5, 2020 – Are we frightened by our circumstances?

Psalm 27:1  Yahweh is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? Yahweh is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?  (World English Bible)

David spent years living with the reality that men were pursuing him to kill him.  King Saul wanted him dead.  Even though an army besieged him, he wrote, “…my heart will not  fear.”  Although bravery played a role in this, there is far more to it than that.  At the
center of his life was Yahweh, and He made all the difference.  David was “a man after His own heart”.

This verse describes such a marvelous and practical aspect of our life in Christ.  The peace and confidence that are there for us; to sustain, encourage and protect us in the midst of fear.  We can get them by embracing Him.  Sadly, that old saying that you can lead a
horse to water but you can’t make it drink can be all too true of us.  Just because God has provision for us, doesn’t mean we will take advantage of it.

It’s probably safe to say that none of us have men and armies pursuing us to kill us.  But take a look around us and we see all manner of frightening things: economic uncertainty, job losses, threats of terrorism, immorality running rampant, marriages and families falling apart, Christians being persecuted throughout the world and here in the United States as well – the list just goes on.

Those with younger children, have the concern of raising them to be true Christ-followers.  We read of young Christian men and women losing their faith when they go off to college.  We can succumb to the fear of thinking that ‘greater is the one in the world, than the one within them – or us’.  Rather than recognizing that as a lie of the enemy of our souls.

Is our focus going to be upon things that frighten and intimidate?  Or is our focus and ‘life-embrace’ going to be upon our Lord Jesus?  We cannot be casual in this or approach it
half-heartedly.  The enemy of our souls is using these things to pursue us, just as Saul’s men pursued David.  Our response must be to have our lives turn whole-heartedly to our Lord.  He is our light and salvation.  He is our strength.

We must learn to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.  We must learn what exactly that means, and do it – embracing a lifestyle that truly reflects us being men and women after God’s own heart.

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Saturday July 4, 2020 – The ‘skimmins’ in our lives

Proverbs 17:3  The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the  heart.

Many years ago I heard the story of an old cowboy Christian.  He described God’s dealings with him as gold being purified.  Apparently the impurities bubble up to the top and can be skimmed off.  That is how he was experiencing God’s dealings.  He became aware of a
behavior or problem in his life as God caused it to ‘bubble up’.  He would repent and God would ‘skim it off’.  He would no sooner get rid of one than another would bubble up and it too would be ‘skimmed off’.  Well, God was dealing with so many things in his life that he was concerned that he would be nothing but ‘skimmins’.

Seeing all the ‘skimmins’ in our lives is not particularly pleasant. The good news is that when we see them (or have them pointed out to us –ouch!), we can – and must – choose to deal with them.  Typically a great environment for this to happen is when we are overloaded with stress or situations that push us out of our comfort zone.  Issues involving work, friends, faith, family, finances, etc… can all work together to create an environment of ‘heat’.

Think about the crucible and furnace.  It’s the heat that melts the ore and causes the impurities to rise to the top.  Likewise in our lives – God uses our circumstances to reveal things to us about ourselves as well as giving us opportunities to glorify him by how we
respond.  Frequently it’s all going on at the same time.  We can be doing wonderful
things but in the midst of it, ‘skimmins’ appear.

Fortunately the Lord is in the midst of it all.  He is for us!  He wants our lives to become all they can be and He is committed to that process.  As we are all aware, this process usually takes place in public rather than private.  Others experience our ‘skimmins’ and we experience theirs.  He expects us to be faithful in how we respond.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Other translations use “to help in time of need” or “in difficult times’ instead of “adversity”.

Fortunately, forgiveness, repentance and understanding are the currency of the kingdom of God.  Times of ‘skimmins’ are opportunities to respond righteously rather than react as the world would (such responses are ‘skimmins’ in themselves).  That’s why His grace and mercy are so abundant.  They enable us to show forth His love in the practical situations of day to day living.

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Friday July 3, 2020 – Growing in faith while dealing with delays

Some years ago when we were living in NE Ohio, we believed the Lord called us to move to Colorado Springs.  We put our house on the market.  Twenty-eight months later (January of 2005) the house still hadn’t sold.  To say we didn’t understand the delay is a bit of an understatement!  At that time we had a 10 year old blond cocker spaniel name Rascal and we knew he wouldn’t be making the move with us.  I wish I had $10 for every time we
read something or were told that we were never going to find a home for him.  People just didn’t want old dogs – particularly 10 year old dogs.

That month we took a trip to Brazil to visit our son and his family who were then working there. The kennel we had used for nearly 20 years wasn’t available so we found another on the opposite side of the Akron area.  When I dropped Rascal off, I told them of our need for a home for him.  Upon our return we discovered that the groomer there had told her pastor about Rascal.  The pastor had a 10 year old female blond cocker named Josephine and they had been to visit Rascal several times while we were in Brazil.  Rascal had a new home!

Two weeks later, I was really struggling over the delay in selling our house and just not understanding what was going on.  My hope had taken some severe hits by the wait.  In the midst of crying out to the Lord, He answered so clearly with a thought out of the blue:
“It is more difficult to find a home for a 10 year old rascal of a dog than it is to sell a reasonably priced house with a great real estate firm!”

It’s amazing how God used that thought to calm the storm within me.  Everything was in His hands.  Providing the home for Rascal was more than a kindness to us.  He used it to help us trust Him and recognize that in His time everything would fall into place.  The delay had to do with His timing and provided us with an opportunity to grow in faith and trust in God.

PS – The house sold 1 month later.

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Thursday July 2, 2020 – Yahweh’s response to our walking in His ways

From the book of Proverbs

Yesterday I wrote about the privilege of being God’s people.  We Christians must live lives that declare us to truly be His people.  In simple terms, the issue is not God’s love for us but our love for Him.  He loves us more than we can imagine.  He has given us everything so that we can experience the extraordinary blessings associated with loving Him.

How we live truly affects our relationship with God.  When we walk in righteousness.  He responds!   But I want to personalize this in an important way.  Yahweh is the name our God chose for Himself*.  Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  When we talk about God, He is the one we are talking about.  Here are some excerpts from Proverbs that describe the blessings he has for His people who walk in His ways:

  • Yahweh is pleased with the prayer of the righteous.
  • Yahweh  loves those who pursue righteousness.
  • Yahweh is pleased with the thoughts of the pure.
  • Yahweh hears the prayers of the righteous.
  • Yahweh is a shield to those whose walk is blameless.
  • Yahweh guards the course of the just.
  • Yahweh protects the way of His faithful ones.
  • Yahweh takes the upright into His confidence.
  • Yahweh blesses the home of the righteous.
  • Yahweh gives grace to the humble.
  • Yahweh loves those who love Him.
  • Yahweh provides favor to the good man.
  • Yahweh delights in the men who are truthful.
  • Yahweh provides peace to the man whose ways are pleasing to Him.
  • Yahweh blesses those who trust in Him.
  • Yahweh provides life, prosperity and honor to those who pursue righteousness and love.
  • Yahweh blesses the man who always fears Him.
  • Yahweh enables men who seek Him to understand justice.
  • Yahweh keeps safe those who trust in Him.

Think of it!  Every one of us is capable of walking in each of these – growing stronger and more Christlike!  Think of each of these as a continuum.  The more we pursue our Lord, the more Christ-like we become.  This is not about earning salvation but about living a faith-filled life that pleases Him – a life that declares His praises.

When we pursue living our lives as His people, His Spirit works an incredible wonder within us.  Our desire is transformed from wanting to be blessed by God to wanting to bless Him.  That is the result of our hearts being overwhelmed by gratitude for His goodness and love.  Let it sink in, to the depth of your being – He has chosen us to be His!  WOW!!!!!

*Note: A wonderful book is “Who changed God’s Name” by Dr. Jim Harvey

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Wednesday July 1, 2020 – Salvation is just the beginning

Exodus 19:4-6  ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on  eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words
you are to speak to the Israelites.”

About three months after the Children of Israel left Egypt, God gave Moses this message to share with them.  It was a communication of His heart for them.  He was giving them the opportunity to be His treasured possession – out of all the nations, He chose them!  They simply had to respond by doing what He required.  Unfortunately, they responded with words not with their lives.

God has always been after a people that will be truly His.  He wants to shower them with His love.  He simply asks that they respond with love in return.  Fortunately we Christians have been born again and received His Spirit.  Our new natures in Christ free us to respond without the “deck stacked against us’ by our old nature.  It can still be difficult, but we have such an advantage over the Israelites.  It makes me pause to think of Jesus’ comment, to whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48)

While it’s priceless to be His – to receive salvation and become one of His children – it’s even more so to live the kind of lives that He has always wanted His people to live.   Salvation isn’t the end, it’s the beginning!  It enables us to pursue lives that truly reflect that we are His people.  In 1 Peter 2, Peter is exhorting the believers to rid their lives of sin
– to abstain from sinful desires that war against their souls.  He is calling them to live lives worthy of who we are in Christ.

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter writes, “9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once 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.”

This stunning reality that we are His is beyond words!  It is a privilege beyond measure that we have.  The more we recognize and grasp that, the more we will live lives that  declare us to truly be His people.  His mercy, His grace, His Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ enable us to do exactly that!

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Tuesday June 30, 2020 – Threats? or Opportunities?

Matthew 5:38-42  38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to  him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

I woke up this morning thinking about going the second mile.  When I looked up the verse I was stuck by its context and by how unlike our typical thinking it is.  This is a whole
different mindset – a different world view.  It is seeing and responding to things so differently.

An old classic movie comes to mind that illustrates how radically different things can be seen and how things sometime aren’t what they seem.  That movie is the Wizard of Oz.  It begins and ends as a black and white movie.  I remember as a boy seeing it and being so stunned when Dorothy wakes up in Oz and everything is in full ‘living’ color.  The richness of the color versus the paucity of the black and white – they don’t change the story line, just what we’re seeing.  Then there is the ogre-like Wizard who is so authoritarian on the screen, but in reality is a little old man behind the curtain.  Here, what is perceived is very
different from its true reality.

I would suggest that the situations described in these verses are like the Wizard up on the screen – their reality is very different than how we tend to perceive them.  We typically respond to them as threats (like the ogre on the screen), rather than as opportunities.  Our viewpoint is one of self and cultural orientation, and we react accordingly.  It’s like living in ‘black and white’.

But Jesus wants us to perceive these as opportunities and not as threats – and we must recognize how critical our perception is to the process.  It’s not about us but it’s all about Him.  It’s not about reacting but responding with faith.  They are opportunities to glorify our God in how we respond – or not.  Our lives are to be salt and light in the world and reflect the ‘living color’ of the life of Christ.  What a contrast!

Jesus wants our perceptions, understanding and responses rooted in His Kingdom – not in the world.  In this world we  tend to react rather than respond.  We look out for ourselves rather than be guided by His ways.  Life is filled with opportunities for us to respond wisely, reflecting His life within us.  We need to remind ourselves just how different a citizen of His Kingdom is from one of this world.  The people around us will be drawn to Him by seeing us live such lives.

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