Monday August 15, 2022 – Imagine her testimony of meeting Jesus

John 8:3-4  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.”

In another time and another place this woman would have been stoned to death. In the midst of her sin, she was caught and had the good fortune to be brought to Jesus by these leaders.  They weren’t concerned about her well-being, but were interested in using her and her adultery to set a trap for Jesus.

There she was, in the temple courts, standing with the leaders and Jesus but also surrounded by “all the people who had gathered around (Jesus)” to be taught by Him.  As she stood there, this possibly could have qualified as the worst moment of her life.

I wonder what was going through her mind.  Did she know who Jesus was?  Maybe she had heard of Him or heard Him teach.  Maybe she had been amazed by the miracles He’d done.  If she had known of Him, this would not have qualified as the way she would have liked to meet Him.  That is until this experience unfolded.

Jesus dealt with the leaders and with her.  His comments to them forced the leaders to recognize their own sin.  Imagine her amazement as all of the religious leaders slowly began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”   “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (John 8:9-11)

Jesus not only freed her from condemnation, better still, He offered her the opportunity of leaving her life of sin; no, make that He commanded her to leave her life of sin – just as He does with us.  When Jesus saves our lives and instructs us on the way to go, do we really think or behave as though His words are just suggestions???

I can see her eyes irresistibly drawn to His and her heart filled with the overwhelming desire to follow Him.  She might not have had any idea what the future held, but following Jesus would change everything.  Can’t you see her in the days ahead tearfully sharing her testimony of how Jesus saved her life – both physically and spiritually – and recounting this event, moment by moment, that led to her becoming a follower of Him?!

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Sunday August 14, 2022 – Whose crop? Ours or His?

Proverbs 11:5  The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them.

The Lord wants a man to be a farmer so He gives him a farm.  He provides him all the tools, equipment, seed, fertilizer and instructs him how to do everything.  The Lord also provides him with willingness, ability, health, strength, sunlight and rain.  He even expresses the desire to assist him in everything.  When the man is obedient and he produces a wonderful crop, whose crop is it?

The crop provides food, money, great blessing and more opportunities. The man’s actions produced it, so in one sense it is his.  Even the Lord considers it the man’s as He gave it to him.  But without the Lord choosing him and giving him the opportunity, he would have nothing.  The man has a choice to make – and he will make a choice.

If the man claims the crop as his own, pride is at work.  His primary view is there would be no crop without his hard work and obedience to the Lord; his attitude is one of “it is mine”.

On the other hand, the man recognizes the goodness of God and has a heart filled with gratitude for the great blessing from the Lord.  Even though he worked hard, he knows he would have nothing without the Lord’s generosity and blessing.  His view is one of humility – everything that He has belongs to the Lord.  He is merely a steward of it.  His concern is how to use the blessing in a way that pleases the Lord and is an instrument of blessing to others.  It is all His!

The fascinating thing is the Lord considers the crop, the farm, everything to be his – the man’s.  The Lord gave it to him.  The issue is the attitude of the man: pride or humility.  Likewise, when we consider the righteousness associated with the obedient and righteous acts that we do, we have a choice to make.  Is the righteousness our own?  Or is it His?

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Saturday August 13, 2022 – Critically essential to our lives: The fear of the Lord

Exodus 19:18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently,

Can you imagine the excitement, wonder, awe and fear that we Christians would experience if God manifested his presence like this before us?  This is our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel.  We have His Spirit within us and we belong to Him.

This verse describes what the Israelites saw and experienced.  After spending their lives as slaves in Egypt, God rescued them miraculously.  They were witnesses to the supernatural plagues that He sent upon Egypt.  They experienced His presence daily in the cloud and pillar of fire by night.  They experienced the parting of the Red Sea and walking through it.  They knew that God considered them His.

The experience of the Israelites who saw and heard this on Mt. Sinai was dominated by fear.  In response, Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Ex 20:20).

There is a strong message in this scene for us – as Christians today.  This is our God and He hasn’t changed.   On the one hand He can be frightening beyond imagining.  On the other, He tells us not to be afraid.  He tests us, far more than we think He does.  We experience His incredible love through Jesus yet He offers us the opportunity to fear Him in order to keep us from sinning.  I think of the Apostle John falling down as though dead upon seeing Jesus in Revelation 1:17.  Jesus then put his hand upon John and said, “Do not be afraid.”

The fear of the Lord must be a vital part of our lives.  It is one of the most important gifts that He has given us. It is not just awe and respect – it involves recognizing God for who He is.  It is not in conflict or at odds with the love of God that we have experienced in Christ Jesus.  It is the opposite side of the same coin.

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Friday August 12, 2022 – Our primary weapon is love

1 Corinthians 16:14   Do everything in love.

This verse today is particularly interesting because of something we will get to in a moment.  It instructs us to do everything in love.  Think about that.  What is excluded from everything?  And how do we do everything in love?  What exactly does it mean?

But something else struck me about this verse.  Do we men have a tendency to view a statement like this as being more feminine?  Is it more “manly” to talk about the armor of God – shield and sword and breastplate?  Think of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Brave Heart when he was riding back and forth challenging the men to fight.  “I am William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny. You’ve come to fight as free men… and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight? “

Or how about Aragorn, who in Return of the King, challenges the men just before the last battle in front of the gates of Mordor?  Aragorn begins by saying, “Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”

There’s no question that we have been strongly impacted by our culture.  We’ve also been affected by a lack of understanding of what love really is.  The interesting thing that I referred to about this verse, is it’s context – specifically, verse 13 in front of it.  Today’s verse is the last item in a list of five specific commands given by Paul.  Picture yourself in a group of believers being challenged with these five commands:

  • Be on your guard
  • Stand firm in the faith
  • Be men of courage
  • Be strong
  • Do everything in love

Wallace and Aragorn were talking to men about to fight with swords and spears.  We must recognize that we too are in a battle – a spiritual one – and that a primary weapon that we are to live with and fight with, is love.

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Thursday August 11, 2022 – Expressions of love negated by our actions

Proverbs  8:17  I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Donna and I are going to celebrate our 52nd anniversary this year.  They have truly been wonderful years and my heart is to learn to love her more and more with each passing day.

But in the early 90s we went through a time of difficulty that could have ended our marriage.  I loved Donna, or so I thought, except I was doing all kinds of things that were a mass of contradictions.  I would tell her of my love, take her on dates and trips, buy her cards and flowers, help around the house, etc…

On the other hand, I would walk away from her when she was talking to me or just ignore her.  I would lose my temper with her.  My frustrations with work were taken out on her.  My anger would flare and she got so she never knew when I was going to vent or even why.  There was no infidelity or physical abuse – it was all thoughtlessness, carelessness and blindness on my part.  All too often I was a real jerk.  This all exploded out as my oldest son John and I were leaving for a few days on the Outer Banks.  Fortunately, a Northeaster arrived just as we got there so I got to face this situation instead of fishing.

I have a notebook from that weekend with pages of things I was doing wrong – things that were communicating “I don’t love you!”  These things were effectively undermining and obliterating all the good things I was doing that were speaking of my love.  God in His goodness turned me every way but loose that weekend.  He opened my eyes and let me see all the contradictions between my expressions of love and the actions of my life.

The Lord just did a wonder in me at the beach, and I needed it because I came home to a very hurting wife.  Fortunately, our commitment to Jesus and to each other trumped everything.  The Lord provided a marvelous Christian counselor who was priceless.  Although it took months, the Lord brought us through.  Our marriage wasn’t put back together – it was transformed – from a caterpillar to a butterfly!

This experience with Donna had a profound impact on my relationship with the Lord.  It made me aware of how blind I could be – how my expressions of love could be negated by my actions.  The good things I do being trumped by my sin – sin I could be blind to see.

Loving God is the most important thing we can ever do.  We don’t want anything in our lives that undermines that.  We want to love Him more and more.  The marvelous thing is that the more we genuinely love Him, the more we experience His love for us.

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Wednesday August 10, 2022 – Untouchable until touched by Jesus

Mark 1:40-42  A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Our son Andrew is a wonderful actor and businessman who lives in Denver.  Last night I watched a DVD of a marvelous Christmas program Andrew was involved in a number of years ago where he played the role of Nathaniel, the leper.  In that role he was the narrator of the program that told the story of Jesus and culminated with him telling his story.

He told of being a farmer, of his home life with his wife and daughter, of becoming a leper, and then losing it all and the years of being alone.  He was considered unclean – untouchable.  But then he told of hearing about Jesus and what led up to his encounter with Him described in today’s verses.

The scene is very moving to say the least but last night it seemed like the Lord just highlighted even more for me the fact of Jesus’ love for this man and the fact that Jesus touched him.  Seeing Andrew, as the leper, with tears streaming down his face describing with such passion this encounter with Jesus, left me totally captured by the wonder of being touched by Jesus. He described the look in Jesus’ eyes and the incredible fact that Jesus didn’t cure him with a word, but that Jesus reached out to him and touched him – an unclean leper. It was as though Andrew really had been the leper and Andrew was describing what had actually happened to him.

Sitting there watching this, I was so thrilled that I too had been touched by Jesus.  I had my own overwhelming wonder at what He had done for me – thankful that being touched by Jesus isn’t limited only to those who lived with Him 2,000 years ago.  Jesus Christ is alive – touching people every day!  Our God is not some distant, unapproachable, unloving being.  He is the very opposite.

This morning, I am consumed with gratitude and wonder that the God of the universe not only cares for us, but that He touches us and makes us His own.  The touch of God in our lives is every bit as real as the touch that healed this leper of his leprosy.  We are forever changed.  May we be forever captured by the wonder of it all!

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Tuesday August 9, 2022 – When we think we’re not making progress…

Philippians 2:12b,13 …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for
it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

In high school I took a reading improvement course.  It was a one semester speed reading course where we were taught to increase our reading speed (words read per minute) without losing comprehension.  Part of the course was regularly viewing films that were the printed text of a story.  All of the text was blurred except for a section of one line.  The purpose of the films was to teach us eye movement and to grasp all of the words that appeared in the readable section of the line.

Initially, each line was divided into three segments.  Rather than our eyes moving from word to word, the film forced us to absorb the words in one-third of the line at a time.  The highlighted, readable section would rapidly move across each line in three jumps and so on down the page.  Following the film we took a test over what we had just read to measure our comprehension.  In order to stay with the fast group, we were required to maintain a 70% comprehension score on each test.  Each film required us to read faster than the previous film.

Over the weeks, the films changed from showing three readable sections of each line to two sections and finally to one section.  In it, the entire line was then readable and our eyes had to take in the entire line of text in one moment as the highlighted section moved down the page.  I remember barely being able to keep up week after week, from the very first film until the last film at the end of the semester.  It was always a strain.  It never felt like I was making any progress except for the fact that I knew the word per minute reading speed was increasing.

I am so grateful that in our last class of the semester, the teacher showed us the very first film of the series we had worked through.  I was amazed.  This film, that 15 weeks ago seemed to move so fast that I could barely keep up with it, was now slower than molasses in winter.  It was one thing to know my word per minute reading speed was much faster.  It was entirely different to go back and see just how far we’d come.

Sometimes in our Christian walk we experience the strain of thinking we are not making any progress.  It can seem that we are always under strain from being stretched by our circumstances and things in our lives that God is dealing with.  It is important to recognize that God is at work in us – and that He is a very capable worker.  Be encouraged!  Let your confidence be in Him.  He is making progress with us and accomplishing things in us that we might not be aware of.  Ask Him to open your eyes to see what He has done.

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Monday August 8, 2022 – A great insight from golfing with Jay

Mark 12:32–33  “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Years ago, I had a friend who was a marvelous golfer.  Better still, whenever friends played golf with Jay, he made it into a golfing lesson to help us.  I really appreciated the fact that throughout the round he would give me tips and help me become a better golfer.  One day another friend of mine joined us for a round of golf.  I had told him that Jay would help him with his game.  As we started playing it became apparent that his golf game was really hurting.

We played the first few holes and Jay hadn’t said anything to him yet in terms of helping his golf game.  As we were walking down the 4th fairway, Jay came over to me and said, “I will help him, but he’s doing so many things wrong, I haven’t figured out where to start.”

Loving God and loving one another have some interesting similarities to playing golf.  They all take practice and it’s wonderful to have friends around who will help us do it better.  We have to be around them and be willing to listen.  If we want to become better at golf, we work at it.  Maybe we take lessons.  We watch better golfers to learn what we can from them.  We find time to play more golf.  We have to be intentional about it.  The same principles apply to our faith.

How good it is when we have individuals in our lives who exemplify what scriptures teach.  But we need to know what scripture teaches in order to really recognize genuine Godliness.  In golf, we have par.  In life, we have all kinds of different things claiming to be right.

That is where Scripture and the Holy Spirit are so important, along with being a part of a vibrant life giving church.  We have a lot to learn and God wants us to learn from one another.  One advantage of our faith is that we get to live and “practice” it everywhere: at work, at play, at home or out with friends.  No matter where we are, or what we are doing, loving God and loving one another applies. We need to learn to do them well.

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Sunday August 7, 2022 – Recognizing God’s opportunities for us

2 Kings 13:18-19  Then he said, “Take the arrows,”  and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”

I was struck by a new insight into this story of Elisha, the king and the arrows.   It involves another layer of application.  This story has been a helpful illustration of the importance of doing things whole-heartedly, and not holding back.  The king had no idea that his response had prophetic implications – not only for him but for the whole nation.

God’s provision was predicated on how he responded to Elisha’s command – and Elisha didn’t tell him that it did.  “Oh by the way King; be sure to keep hitting the ground until I tell you to stop or you’re in trouble.”  When the king responded half-heartedly, Elisha angrily rebuked him and informed him of the negative consequences of his actions.  What a missed opportunity!

This is a specific illustration but the principle behind it is a treasure in itself.  What I saw is that the principle of whole-hearted response to given situations is only part of it.  Another application is having a whole-hearted attitude in ‘seeing’ and finding the opportunities that are available to us.

There are many opportunities that come our way – opportunities that allow us to be God’s hands extended – but how many do we see and take advantage of?  Remember the springtime illustration of me asking our sons when they were little what colors they saw when we went for walks in the woods?   They had to experience a change of what they were looking for to notice the many spring colors that surrounded them.

The colors were ‘lost’ in the black, brown and gray of the woods after winter.  Are we so busy that we avoid seeing opportunities?  Do we experience an “Oh no.” kind of mentality when we think we might be asked to serve – again!

I have to repent, because just as I typed the word ‘again’ in that last sentence, I thought of a very specific situation that I experience regularly where that is precisely my attitude.  Understand, we’re not talking about saying “Yes” to every opportunity that presents itself.  The issue is our attitude.  The Lord will guide us when we look to Him for wisdom in responding to the opportunities we find.

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Saturday August 6, 2022 – Are you weary and burdened?

Matthew 11:28-30   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Thanks to the trees on our property, in the heat of summer I have the opportunity to plan my work in our yard to be in the shade as the sun moves through the day.  Working in the shade sure beats working in the sun when it’s hot and humid – and better still is to have a breeze come up.  Isn’t it amazing the marvelous impact that a cool breeze can have upon us when we’re working outside on a hot day?

This passage from Matthew is truly special.  How encouraging it is when we’re weary and burdened to hear that we can be given rest.  The key is the speaker, for it is Jesus speaking and He is telling us that rest is available if we come to Him.  He is our ‘shade’ and our ‘cool breeze’ as we work in the ‘hot days’ of our lives.

When we think of a yoke, we tend to think of oxen and work.  But Jesus says to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him.  When we do, we learn He is gentle and humble of heart and we find rest for our souls.  Even more amazing is the discovery that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  He has a way of transforming everything – no matter what kind of circumstances we find ourselves in.

One of the difficulties we often deal with is the tendency to allow our faith to be pushed to the background by the burdens and life-struggles that we contend with every day.  We get busy and overwhelmed and focus upon everything else – not fully embracing our Lord and our faith.  This isn’t our intention, it just happens to be the way it works out all too often for many of us.  He doesn’t condemn us or abandon us to our own devices.  But He lovingly pursues us to hear and respond.

This promise is true whether we are Christians or not.  Anyone can come to Jesus and find rest.  Better than that is the life He has for all who do come to Him.  If we are weary and burdened, we need to be reminded that we have the greatest resource imaginable in our Lord.  We must come to Him, put Him first and spend the time learning of Him to experience the refreshing wonder He has available for us.

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