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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Friday August 5, 2022 – How amazing to encounter Jesus!

Luke 24:45  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Have you ever been frightened to the point that it could be described as being terrified?  We use the term ‘scared to death’ rather casually, but taken literally it describes serious fear.  And we’re not talking just being startled or frightened by the unexpected.  We’re talking about a fear provoking reality that is also startling and unexpected.

These words describe the reality experienced by the disciples when Jesus first appeared to the group of them together after He was crucified.  The disciples were excited because the evidence was mounting that Jesus had risen.  He had appeared to Simon!  But their excitement was tempered by that fact that their fear of the Jews caused them to have the doors locked.   I assume they were fearful that those who killed Jesus could be hunting for them.

Then the two men returning from Emmaus shared their wonderful story about Jesus being with them and their eyes being opened when He broke the bread!  Can’t you just feel the electric atmosphere that would have been in that room as they talked about all this?  Their Lord was alive!  Then “lightning” struck!  One minute they’re talking excitedly about how Jesus has risen – and the next minute Jesus appears in their midst and they were terrified!

Think about that.  They were terrified at seeing Jesus appear suddenly in the room.  He didn’t knock on the door – and they didn’t unlock it to let him in – He just appeared!  They thought they were looking at a ghost.  He asked them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” (Lk 24:38)  Then Jesus showed them His hands, feet and side, and told them to touch Him.  A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as He did.

They still were having difficulty believing because of their joy and amazement.  Then He asked them for something to eat.  After eating He explained again what had happened and why and, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  Think how powerful it was for them to all of a sudden have everything make sense.  Praise God that He does the same for us!

Why was it important for them not to understand what was going to happen to Jesus prior to this?  I don’t know – but I do know that it was!  God has His reasons.  It is so exhilarating to see how this group of frightened men and women were so utterly transformed by an encounter with the risen Christ!  Isn’t it amazing that He transforms us as well when we encounter Him!!

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Thursday August 4, 2022 – What do you delight in?

Proverbs 11:20 The LORD detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.

What things come to mind when you consider the idea of being delighted with something?  They might involve people, food, travel, hobbies, special moments – but whatever they are, they are special.  They are things that give extreme pleasure, satisfaction or joy.

The first thought in my mind this morning when I think of being delighted with something is playing with my grandchildren and seeing them laugh.  I delight in my wife, Donna; in beautiful sunsets; seeing flocks of Canada geese; being with our children; walks on the ocean shore; being with good friends; seeing the Ohio State Buckeyes football team win; talking about the Lord with young men and women.

You might delight in a quiet time with a good book or sitting in front of a fire place on a winter evening with a good cup of coffee.  There is delight in helping others; in doing a job well; in persevering and overcoming a difficult obstacle; in worshipping the Lord and experiencing His presence.

There are so many things that can bring us delight – but shift your thinking from what brings you delight, to the sensation of delight itself.  Think of the pleasure, the joy, the warm feelings – the satisfaction – the sensation of not wanting the moment to end.

‘Delight’ is far beyond being merely satisfied or pleased with something.  It is truly something special.  This is what God experiences in us when our ways are blameless.  Think of it! – We are able to bring our God delight – extreme pleasure – by living our lives the way He wants us to.  May we delight in delighting Him.

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Wednesday August 3, 2022 – We are the ‘coffee shop’

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine going into a coffee shop to have a cup of coffee and being told that they were all out of coffee – not just a particular flavor we wanted – but out of coffee.  That would be strange if it happened once but suppose it happened again and it wasn’t because they were so popular that they sold out.  We’d suspect they wouldn’t be in business long.  Coffee shops are supposed to have coffee.

Now imagine going into a coffee shop and ordering coffee and they serve you but the coffee doesn’t taste good.  We try different choices they have, but they all were unpleasant.  Again, we’d think it strange and wonder how they were going to stay in business.  We wouldn’t go back.

With these examples in mind, let’s consider today’s verse.  There is such beauty contained in it.  It talks of God’s people trusting in Him and being filled with joy and peace and hope.  These are qualities that people long for and are very apparent when they’re present.  From one perspective, we as Christians have the blessing and excitement of recognizing that this is the life God has for us.  These are qualities that He wants us to have.  But there is another side to this coin.

These are qualities that He expects us to develop in Him.  They are required of us and not optional.  We are the ‘coffee shop’ and theses qualities are the ‘coffee’.  The world and those around us might not realize that they are asking for ‘coffee’ when they encounter us, but God has placed within them a hunger for this ‘coffee’ – real joy, real peace and real hope.  They want someone or something they can truly trust in.

We are surrounded by people in all stages of coming to know our God.  If these qualities are absent in us, or if they are ‘sour’, important opportunities are missed and negative perceptions result.  But, when people are able to ‘taste’ these qualities in our lives, they are attracted to Him even though they might not know it (think salt making someone thirsty).  They want more.  God uses us to bring people to Himself.

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Tuesday August 2, 2022 – An amazing gift: the ability to forgive

Today’s Scripture is at the end of the devotional

A few years ago in early spring I had the joy of watching part of our granddaughter’s soccer game.  Other than the fact that it was 37 degrees, breezy and raining – it was a great time.  I did my grandfatherly duty by taking her younger sister to our van and sat with her in it with the heater on for 10 minutes during the game when her toes got too cold.

Fortunately I had on hiking shoes that are warm, lightweight and waterproof.  I was dressed warmly, with a winter hat, gloves and coat and of course my favorite big golf umbrella.  While it was still cold and wet out, and my face was getting the brunt of it – I was prepared for it. The ‘gear’ that I had protected me from the elements.

Think of being out there with wet shoes and wet cold feet; no hat and soaked to the skin by the rain and shivering in the cold.  Your little umbrella got turned inside out by the wind and is over in the trash can.  Your nose is running and you’re sneezing and the game just seems to be going on without end.

Does this scenario bring back memories to you?  It sure does to me!  Times when at outside events the weatherman couldn’t have gotten it more wrong – or we failed to take note of updated forecasts and we didn’t have the ‘gear’ we needed to protect ourselves.  Whatever, we became cold and miserable.  Of course if it was a sporting event and our team won, it made it a bit better!

This morning when I got up, the Lord brought to mind one of the greatest gifts that He has given us.  It is an absolutely vital component of our spiritual ‘gear’ that provides incredible protection regardless of the ‘inclement’ spiritual situations we encounter.  Better still, this gift can become such a part of our lives that it automatically kicks in whenever we need it.  What is this gift?

It’s the ability to forgive!  No matter what we encounter; no matter what kind of hurt, disappointment, offense or insult – our ability and practice to immediately forgive provides a priceless protection to our lives.  It frees us to respond righteously to whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

Unforgiveness has been described as putting arsenic in your own body with the intent to get even with someone else.  It’s imperative that we recognize just how vital forgiveness is to our spiritual well-being.  It keeps us dry, warm and healthy no matter what kind of inclement spiritual storms we encounter.  Let us renew our commitment to this truth Jesus taught us Luke 11:4 that describes how we are to live:

“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended us or done us wrong]. And bring us not into temptation but rescue us from evil.” (AMP)

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Monday August 1, 2022 – Happy 72nd Birthday Donna!

Happy 72nd 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 72nd birthday.  Later this month on August 25, we remember the amazing gift from our Lord – how 53 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 52nd wedding Anniversary!!!  I love to rejoice and celebrate the blessing I have in this delightful woman – my wife of almost 52 years.

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Sunday July 31, 2022 – 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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Saturday July 30, 2022 – The wonderful 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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Friday July 29, 2022 – 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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Thursday July 28, 2022 – 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 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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