Saturday August 1, 2020 – Happy 70th Birthday Donna!

Happy 70th Birthday Donna!  August & September have such special events to remember and rejoice in.  God has given us such priceless treasures!!

Proverbs  5:18, 19  18 Let your fountain [of human life] be blessed [with the rewards of fidelity], and rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant doe [tender, gentle, attractive]—let her bosom satisfy you at all times, and always be transported with delight in her love.  (Amplified Bible)

I am the richest man in the world because the Lord gave Donna to me – and me to her!  How do I begin to describe the delight and wonder of getting to spend my life with this wonderful woman – truly a daughter of the King.  Her smile – her voice – her touch – her laughter – her kindness – her love for the Lord – her passion – her tenderness – her love for me.  Oh my!!!!

I get to treasure her – I get to be with her – I get to hold her – I get to bless her – I get to rejoice in her – I get to thank God for her – I get to help her accomplish her dreams – I get to spend my life loving her and thanking God for her.  She is God’s gift to me that He uses to enable me to love Him more.  The more I love her, the more I love Him.

She passionately loves the Lord.  Her tender heart is so apparent as she prays and is touched by others and God’s Spirit.  I find myself frequently asking God to make me more like her.  She truly delights in Him.

Today is her 70th birthday.  Later this month on August 25, we remember the amazing gift from our Lord – how 51 years ago at a Christian camp in Georgia, we met and were engaged 2 hours & 15 minutes later – we really were!!  Then next month, on September 26, we celebrate our 50th wedding Anniversary!!!  I love to rejoice and celebrate the blessing I have in this delightful woman – my wife of almost 50 years.

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Friday July 31, 2020 – The cry of a loved one

Jeremiah 2:5a  This is what the LORD says: “What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me?”

God loves His people and He wants them to love Him.  The second chapter of Jeremiah talks about how Israel forsook God – in spite of His love for them.  This question is part of His grievance against them. As we consider it now, don’t think of it as a harsh or blunt accusation.  But rather think of it as a cry of a loved one scorned who still loves and is asking why.

Several years ago I was reading this on a flight from Recife to Sao Paulo, Brazil and the Lord allowed me to experience the pain of this question.  It broke my heart. I immediately thought of Jeremiah 3:19 where the Lord says, “How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.  I thought you would call me Father and not turn away from following me.”  What wrenching words these are!  But they also express the incredible heart that He has for His people and the relationship He desires.

We are His people – His treasured possession.  Because of Jesus Christ we can walk in His ways.  We can love Him with all our heart.  We can be the people He wants us to be.  Our lives can be – make that must be – love letters to Him affirming that He is our Father and that we are His daughters and sons.

Today’s verse is a treasure to me, because it makes me so aware of the importance of living my life for Him.   When my life is lived carelessly, I can bring Him pain – particularly in light of what He has done for me and for all of us.  I cannot imagine Him asking me, “What fault did you find in me?”

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Thursday July 30, 2020 – The example of our neighbor Zach

James 1:27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Zach & Neva and their two daughters lived two houses over from us when I was a boy growing up.  They were friends of my parents and were like close relatives to us.  Our families celebrated birthdays together and just enjoyed one another.  When I was a high school senior, Zach helped me get a really good part-time job.  They were great neighbors.  They were members of the EUB church – Evangelical United Brethren.

From my earliest memories, they were always Zach and Neva – never Mr. and Mrs. McPherson or ‘Uncle Zach and Aunt Neva’ – just Zach and Neva.  While Zach had a regular job, he was also a handyman.  He was one of those blessed individuals who knew how to fix or repair all kinds of things.  I remember admiring his work area in his basement.  He had all kinds of tools and invariably was always working on a project.

Of all the memories I have of Zach, there was one thing about him that stands out far above all the rest.  It’s not just one incident, but it’s a whole bunch of them that are wonderfully similar.  Zach was always working on a number of houses in our neighborhood.  I would see him at these houses painting, repairing things, putting up or taking down storm windows. It was a normal sight that I grew up with.

I finally got old enough as a child to wonder about it and so I asked my folks why Zach was frequently working at these houses.  You can guess the answer.  These houses were the homes of older widows or people who needed help.  Zach was there for them – year after year.  He never talked about it – he just did it.  Whenever I read this verse in James about looking after orphans and widows, I think of Zach.

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Wednesday July 29, 2020 – The wonder of our Father

Isaiah 6:1-5  1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

I was caught up in the wonder that the God of the universe is our father.  That is such a huge thing it’s difficult to grasp.  The creator of the stars knows each of us by name and made us His own.  Fortunately it’s only my mind that has difficulty grasping it.  In my heart it is a settled issue – not because of what I have done.  It is a wondrous gift from God that He gives to us when we become His children.

On the one hand we have the Glory of His magnificence.  Isaiah saw the LORD Almighty and today’s verses are his description.  What an incredible sight it was.  Earlier the children of Israel encountered God in the wilderness after departing Egypt and everyone in the camp trembled at the sight:  “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, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” (Exodus 19:18)

On the other hand, we have the reality of God being our father.  While we all might come with different experiences in defining what a father is or isn’t, we need to submit those to God.  We are not at the mercy of unfortunate experiences with our earthly fathers.  He will replace them with the reality of what true fatherhood is.  He even allows us to play an important part in that process.  It is something that we can grow in all the days of our lives with Him.

Jesus provides us with the key in John 14:21, 23: “21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Our Heavenly Father’s love for us is not just a theological reality.  It is an experiential reality that He will manifest in our lives here and now – and for us to enjoy forever.  Isn’t it something to look at the heavens and know that our Father made them?

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Tuesday July 28, 2020 – Thermometers for fear

Psalm 23:4b  I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Wouldn’t it be handy to have a gadget that could measure the fear in our lives just like a thermometer measures body temperature?  Whether we use the thermometer typically depends on how bad the symptoms are.  If you have an active child and all of a sudden you find them curled up and quiet a first response might be to feel their head to see how hot it is.  If it’s hot, we find the thermometer.

There are recognizable symptoms that let us know when we are sick.  Some are serious and some are not so serious, but there are symptoms none the less.  Likewise there are symptoms of fear.  Unfortunately, fear can be such a normal ‘companion’ in our lives that  we don’t recognize that we are ‘sick’ – read afraid.

I have written earlier about being angry in a classroom discussion at Grad School and was oblivious to my anger – until the instructor interrupted and pointed it out.  I had become so accustomed to it that it appeared normal.  Unfortunately, those closest to me suffered for it.  Thankfully, God’s grace enables us to repent and change.

Some of the fear symptoms that occur to me are worry, anxiety, anger, annoyance, impatience, lying, deceiving, complaining, selfishness, rebellion, immorality, jealousy, envy, and the list could go on.  These can be indicative of other problems as well, but they are part of the mob that accompanies fear.  What kind of fear?  Well there are lots of them, but to name a few:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of what ‘might’ happen
  • Fear of what ‘might not’ happen

The antidote to fear and the negative behaviors associated with it is walking in God’s ways.  The verse preceding today’s verse says, “He guides me in paths of righteousness…”
Even when our journey takes us through the “valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for (God) is with me.”

If you ask, “What are the paths of righteousness?”  The answer is they are the paths you walk in order to be a follower of Jesus.  They are defined in Scripture.  Unfortunately, the term Christian has become so broad that in the minds of many it includes all manner of behaviors that a true follower of Jesus will not and must not do.  These are all identified in Scripture.

The Holy Spirit and Scripture are our ‘thermometers’ to detect the fear in our lives.  Likewise those who love us can help point out where we’re not where we are supposed to be.  Ultimately, fearlessness is rooted in God.  The more we follow Jesus, the more ‘fear-less’ we become, because He is with us.

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Monday July 27, 2020 – Change going on around us

Genesis 40:23 – 41:1a  The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream:

Change is a fact of life going on around us.  Much of the change might affect us directly, i.e., having lost a job or having hours reduced due to the economy.  For others it’s more of an awareness of ‘storm clouds’ on the horizon that appear to be headed our way.  Life is filled with all kinds of uncertainties and concerns we get to deal with.

Joseph sure had his share.  When he went to bed at night, I wonder how many times he questioned if his situation would ever change.  Would he ever get out of prison?  Would he ever see his father again?  Would he ever marry and have children?  Would he ever see his home again?  What was God doing with him?  So many things that affected him were beyond his control.

One of the important things for us to recognize in his situation is that God was both working in him and in the bigger situation that he found himself in.  ‘Stuff’ was going on that he knew nothing about.  The timetable that God was working on involved Joseph, but it also involved a much bigger picture of people and events.  When things were in place, pharaoh had a dream.  Isn’t it interesting that one of the two individuals who had been in prison with Joseph was the cupbearer – who just happened to be with Pharaoh when this dream happened?!  Isn’t it interesting that the cupbearer too had experienced a dream with Joseph and had been witness to his interpretation being fulfilled?!

Isn’t it interesting that none of Pharaoh’s wise men or magicians could interpret the dream – thus setting the stage for the cupbearer’s memory of Joseph to be turned back on.  In the meantime, Joseph was just faithfully performing the duties assigned to him in prison.  He probably had no idea how God was involved in the orchestration of events until after the events unfolded and he looked back in amazement!

This is such an important example for us to recognize and embrace.  God is at work in our lives and in the circumstances around us to bring about His plan and purposes.  We are not alone.  We are not left to ourselves.  Many times the issue of timing is vital.  Things don’t happen because they are dependent upon other things – possibly beyond our control – happening first.

Our faith response to God is greatly assisted by being still and resting in the Lord; waiting for Him and patiently leaning ourselves upon Him. (Psalm 37:7a  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him,)  He enables us to see Him in the midst of the storm clouds and the troubling circumstances that surround us.  May we too be ready when His opportunities for us arrive.

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Sunday July 26, 2020 – The blessing of saying the right thing

Proverbs 25:11  A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Suppose someone gave you a handful of $10 bills that you were to give out during the day to people that you interacted with.  It’s safe to say that the people who received the money would notice and be pleased.  They’d probably look forward to seeing you again on the chance you had more money to hand out.

Now suppose the Lord let you know that there would be included in your day, several people that you met that had a specific need for $10, that they were praying about.  Or possibly they would have a need for the $10 shortly after receiving it.  In both cases, their blessing would be far greater than just receiving a $10 gift.  They would have the opportunity to recognize that it was a specific provision for a specific need – an answer to prayer.  If they did see that, they would likely glorify God for His provision in addition to being grateful for your kindness.

The words that we speak can have a similar impact.  They can bring blessing and provision to those around us.  Think of the people we work or interact with.   Do we recognize the kindnesses they do and do we say thank you?  Do we ever acknowledge the good work that people do?  When we are in conversations that start going in an unrighteous direction, do we gracefully speak words that redirect the conversation?

Think of the opportunities we have to show interest in others – in helping them with their problems or tasks.  The insight we offer might be the missing ingredient they’re looking for.  Proverbs 15:23 adds this insight, “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!”   If we are in the middle of a chore, think of the blessing of someone seeing us and saying, “Let me help you with that.” Or as I’ve written earlier about my problem getting the weed-whacker started.  Wouldn’t it have been helpful if someone came up – saw the situation and said, “It might help to turn the switch on!”?

Maybe our words trigger something in their memory enabling them to recall what they need.  Sometimes people are just in need of an encouraging word.  Remember, it’s not just us.  We are God’s hands extended.  He wants to minister life through us that blesses and draws others to Him.  We need to pray that the Lord will open our eyes and ears to see the many opportunities that surround us where we can bring blessing through the words we speak and the kindness we show.

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Saturday July 25, 2020 – The opportunity of hospitality

1 Peter 4:9, 10  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

There is an old story that has a powerful message about opportunities.  An Arab was traveling through the desert at night to escape the daytime heat, guided by the stars.  Crossing a deep dry riverbed he heard a voice call out in the night.  It said, “Dismount and gather up stones from the bed of the river and go on your way.  In the morning you will be both glad and sad.”

He did what he was told and gathered up a handful of small stones from the riverbed, and mounting his camel, he continued on his way.  At first light he opened the pouch in which he had put the stones and discovered that they were priceless jewels.  At first he was ecstatic and then he was sad.  He was grateful for what he had gathered but sad that he had not gathered more.

An opportunity had come to him and he had responded by filling one pouch.  He could have ignored the voice; or he could have filled several pouches with stones. The blessing he received – or missed – was based on the choice he made.   We encounter opportunities all the time.  The question is do we have the eyes to see them and the motivation to respond if we do?  We can be so caught up in our busyness that we don’t recognize or even consider them.  All too often, opportunities can appear to us as burdens – a pocketful of stones.

Today’s verses describe a way of life that is rich both in blessings and rewards; being a blessing to others and receiving the rewards of administering God’s grace.   These aren’t ‘stones’ to encumber us, but jewels to enrich us.   Offering hospitality and serving others are pathways to building relationships, establishing community and expressing the love of God to one another.  They are also marvelous blessings to the recipients.  The wonderful thing is that our Lord opens our eyes to see the treasure that these things are while we are doing them.  Pray that we will all respond faithfully to the opportunities He sends us each day.

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Friday July 24, 2020 – A ‘wellspring’ of forgiveness

Ephesians 3:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Have you ever ran out of water?  If you’ve ever lived in a home that used a well, you might have had such an experience.  My first encounter with running out of water was in our home in Peninsula, OH.  We had just moved in and I was in the shower covered head to toe in soap when the water ran out.  Making the experience even more memorable was the well could still generate a slow drip of cold water.  I got to stand there for a long time until the cold, slow drips rinsed me off.

We were told a good well had a recoupment rate of 3 – 5 gallons of water per minute.  Ours was 1 – 2 quarts per minute.  We learned how to adjust our water usage so we wouldn’t run out (most of the time).  As the well got weaker, we drilled deeper and found some improvement.  We added holding tanks in the basement to increase our usable supply.  Eventually, the well ran dry and we had a choice to build a cistern, like many in the village had, or we could drill in another place on our 1 acre.  We chose to drill.

The individual who drilled wells asked if we wanted him to “witch’ for it.  We said, “No.  We’ll pray for you that the Lord will guide you where to drill.”  The result was amazing.  He not only found water, but he said this was the strongest well in town.  He could measure up to 25 gallons of water per minute recoupment and this was beyond that!  What a gift from the Lord!!

I would like you to consider that forgiveness –  specifically, the ability to forgive – as a gift from the Lord to each of us, that has amazing similarities to the “well / water” illustration described above.  There is an abundant supply available, we simply have to live lives that tap into it.  Just like water, we use forgiveness repeatedly every day.  Some have “strong wells” and are able to forgive with little effort or concern.  The supply is there in  abundance because of decisions they have made to conform to the teachings of our Lord.

Others have “weaker wells or drying up wells”, where they find forgiving others to be more difficult and at times they seem to “run dry”.  Instead of soap, they find themselves covered with anger, resentment and bitterness and no “water” (read ability to forgive) to deal with it.  This develops in lives due to not conforming to the teachings of our Lord.  Unfortunately, it is a whole lot easier for us to recognize when we run out of water, than it is to recognize when we run out of forgiveness.

The ramifications of unforgiveness are profound.  No matter what happens to us, the Lord expects us, and requires us, to forgive one another – just as we have been forgiven.  Proverbs 4:23 speaks to this in a particularly fitting way given our illustration today: “And guard your heart for it is the well-spring of life.”

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Thursday July 23, 2020 – Being grateful for what He has done

Luke 17:15, 16  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

These verses are at the heart of the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers.  All ten were cleansed but only this one returned and gave praise to God.  Jesus wondered where the other nine were – why they didn’t come back too.

But let’s focus on the one who responded as they all should have.  There’s a good possibility that he led a normal life until he became a leper. Maybe he was a farmer or a shepherd.  He likely had family and friends.  Then came the day when he discovered that he had leprosy.

I cannot imagine the pain of being separated from wife, children, parents, friends, your home – your entire world.  This separation is on top of having this dreaded disease.  Living a life where you are shunned by everyone except those who have the same disease.

Then you hear about Jesus – a Nazarene who is performing all manner of miracles.  Think of the discussions among the lepers as they dared to hope that Jesus might heal them.  And then He does.  All ten are cleansed. But this one, in his incredible joy, returns loudly praising God and finding Jesus to thank Him.

Then, imagine returning to your wife and children – to your parents and brothers and sisters and friends.  This man had his life not only returned to him – but it was as though all things became new.  Can you see him asking God to help him to never forget what Jesus did for him?  Can you see him thanking God every day for all the normal little things that he can now do again?

Spend some time thinking about the wonderful things that Jesus has done in your life.  Think of where you might be, if He hadn’t responded to your cry for help.  Ask the Lord to restore gratitude within you if it is missing.  Hopefully, we all will be overwhelmed with gratitude for the loving kindness of our God.

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