Sunday, November 19, 2017

Day of Praise

Mon, 11/20/17, "Day of Praise"

"And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." - Luke 18:1

Even as football season is coming around the home stretch, basketball is getting cranked up. One of the most colorful basketball people in my lifetime was Coach Jim Valvano. Coach V, as he was fondly called, died of cancer. However, before he died, one of Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993 at Reynolds Coliseum on the basketball court of North Carolina State University during the ten year commemoration of the University's miraculous, 1983 NCAA men's basketball championship. It was during this speech, celebrating the team he coached, that Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love, and persistence, which included his famous quotation "Don't give up, don't ever give up."

Jimmy V's oft-seen-and-quoted speech is universally celebrated as one of the greatest-ever encouragements, even challenges, that people ought to never, never, never give up.

His speech was less about his overachieving, underdog, championship basketball team and more about battling overwhelming illness, as was his cancer. And his speech was a call to live life with joy and hope, even when circumstances are insurmountably difficult. 

But let's be honest.

There is only one way to have the spirit and strength that Valvano referred to, and that's through faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus told the disciples "a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1), Jesus was calling them not to dig deeper into the extremely shallow and helpless human soul. Instead, Jesus was calling the disciples to believe in the infinitely deep love and grace of God, which is perfectly revealed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

Friends, what is overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable in your life? To be sure, like Coach V said, "Don't give up; don't ever give up." But you will find the strength and spirit to do that, not by looking in yourself, but by looking to God and God's Son, Jesus Christ, who will give you God's own strength to hope and endure because God himself will not give up. God will never give up on you!

Praise God!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day of Praise

Sat, 11/18/17, "Day of Praise"

"Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance." - Hebrews 12:1

Hooray! It's Saturday! And from the time I was a teen, I dream of Saturday as Donut Day. I dream of getting a dozen Krispy Kreme chocolate-covered, creme-filled donuts and eating all twelve of them all by myself. I've actually done it twice in my fifty-three years. 

But I've gotten to the age where I realize that when I eat just one donut, not twelve, just one, that I might as well get some duct tape and tape that donut right to my body on one side of my love handles because that's where it's going to wind up. And ya know, that isn't very helpful at all. I wanna live life with a bounce in my step, and here I've got these donuts taped to my side. 

God gives me a simple solution. God says, "Well, just don't eat the donut, Chris." God says, "Let's lay aside every weight, and donut which clings so closely." Okay, well, that's a slight adjustment on what God says. 

But that donut is a parable. It weighs me down. Just like sin. Neither the donut, physically, nor the sin, spiritually, help me to run with endurance. When you run and you start getting tired, do they still call it "sucking wind"? Spiritually, "wind" is "the Holy Spirit." In Hebrew (the word "ruah") and in Greek (the word "pneuma"), both words mean "breath, wind, spirit." 

So, if I want to run the race of life that is set before me with endurance, then I should probably stay away from the donut. And sin too. Don't ya think? 

God's word actually tells me not just to stay away from sin, but to "flee" from it (1 Corinthians 6:18). It's like God wants us to get in shape for the race by sprinting away from things that will keep us from getting in shape. 

So as one dear young man in a group home that I visited said, "Bye, bye, sin." And bye, bye, donuts. 

Ah, I feel better already. In fact, good enough, to go for a run!

"Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance." - Hebrews 12:1

Praise God!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/17/17, "Day of Praise"

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6

Ya know those puzzles where you have two different words? The puzzle challenge is to find the way for the two different words to become the same word. The way to do it is by changing one letter at a time in one of the words to make it a new word. Ooooooh, let me just show you the way. 

Here's the puzzle. What's the way for the word "rear" to become the word "Lord"? Here's the way. You start with "rear". Then change "rear" to "read". Then change "read" to "lead". Then change "lead" to "load". Then change "load" to "lord." Those are the steps along the way for making "rear" to become "Lord."

Jesus also shows us that knowing the way and steps along the way is important. He actually tells us in today's Bible verse that he himself is the Way. He also spends time with his followers, who are called his disciples, so that he can teach them the steps for leaving behind being a new disciple and becoming a mature disciple.

For example, I can look at my own life and see that I once thought that being a Christian was "knowing the Bible and being nice." 

Then, God, through the Bible, showed me that being a Christian certainly includes knowing God's word, like the Bible, but it's more important to know the God of the Bible. And Jesus says that the Way to know the God of the Bible is by getting to know Jesus. So "knowing the Bible and being nice" became "knowing Jesus and being nice." 

Then Jesus showed me that being a Christian certainly includes being nice. However, Jesus showed me it's more important to help other people take steps toward knowing Jesus. And many times helping people know Jesus feels, to them, like we're not being nice because coming to know Jesus always changes our lives and sometimes those changes hurt. The way to knowing Jesus doesn't always feel nice because it includes a cross and various forms of suffering and rejection. So "knowing Jesus and being nice" became "knowing Jesus and helping others to know Jesus."

And now, Jesus has shown me that "helping others to know Jesus" is fabulous, but there's even more joy waiting for those who would know the Lord if we not only help them to know Jesus but also help them to help others to know Jesus. After all, in Luke 15, Jesus tells three straight parables where each parable's ending celebrates the rejoicing in heaven and with the angels and with Father God when someone comes nearer the God of heaven than they were before. So "knowing Jesus and helping others to know Jesus" became "knowing Jesus and helping others to know Jesus so that they could then have the heavenly joy of helping others to know Jesus."

So just like "rear" became "Lord" by changing one letter at a time, God shows us that he'd change us one "letter" at a time so he can shape us into being a follower of the Way, who is Jesus. "Knowing the Bible and being nice" becomes "knowing Jesus and being nice" which becomes "knowing Jesus and helping others to know Jesus" which becomes "knowing Jesus and helping others to know Jesus so that they could then have the heavenly joy of helping others to know Jesus."

And we thank God for every step along the way. 

I encourage you to think about and thank God for how he's blessing you by shaping and changing you one step, one "letter," at a time so that you can both know God and His Son, Jesus, and also know how to help others know him too!

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/16/17, "Day of Praise"

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Corinthians 2:14

We laughed!

And laughed!

And laughed!

One person said, "Is it true that if a jellyfish bites you that you should put tea on it?"

The other person said, "Why would you put tea on the jellyfish?"

The first person said, "On the bite, Silly! On the bite!"

We laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Let's face it. Sometimes we get our wires crossed. And understanding comes not so easily. And you just have to laugh. 

But there is something that's not so good to laugh at. And that would be "the things of the Spirit of God." In today's Bible verse, God says "the natural person" sees the things of God's Spirit as "folly," which is Biblical wording for "foolishness" and "something to be laughed at or mocked." 

God neither wants us laughing in an unbelieving mockery, nor does God want us laughing in a "believing" resignation. A "believing resignation" is when someone says, "Aaaah, I'm not that smart. I just can't understand." 

God wants us all to understand "the things of the Spirit of God." God plainly tells us this in today's Bible verse as God says the issue of understanding the things of God's Spirit is not about the size of your I.Q. or your score on a standard college test like the ACT. 

The key factor in understanding the things of God's Spirit is whether you're a "natural person" or a "spiritual person." And let's get clear on "spiritual person" real quick because we have a country full of people who say they're "spiritual people" who don't worship God and don't read their Bible and don't tell anyone about Jesus and don't have the first twinge of longing for people who don't know Jesus and who, therefore, are in a heap of trouble when Jesus comes again. 

A truly spiritual person cares about other people who don't know Jesus, and a truly spiritual person cares about others who are spiritually dead. The truly spiritual person cares because God cares about people who don't know Jesus and who are spiritually dead, which is why God sent His Son, Jesus, and poured out His Holy Spirit! 

I'd dare say that the books of the Bible are the books of the Bible because all sixty-six of them record God saying what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John, chapter three, which is that we all must be born again to understand the things of God's spirit. What's born of flesh is flesh. What's born of the spirit is spirit. 

The flesh and the natural person says, "I'm so smart that I'm a spiritual person without ever spending time either with God's spiritual things or the Spirit of God."

The person born of the spirit, the truly spiritual person is smart enough to recognize and confess, "I don't stand a chance of understanding anything that matters forever if I never spend time with the God of forever. Teach me, Lord, teach me." 

And God teaches us through His Word through which God gives us His Spirit (Ephesians 6) through which we are able to understand and "spiritually discern" (1 Corinthians 2:14). 

Dear God, please help us so that today and everyday we might be born anew by your Spirit! Make us hungry for your word both to know you more personally and also so we can feed others who are hungry for your Spirit, too! Amen!

Praise God!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/15/17, "Day of Praise"

With many of our students having exams now and in the near future, I was reminded of this devotion from the archives. 

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." - Romans 8:26. 

So, I'm helping my 14 year old son, Caden, study for a big World History test. In this particular study session, I'm asking him questions from a quiz that his teacher gave to help the class get ready for the big test. The quiz was pages and pages of stuff that Caden had written out. My job was to take each of Caden's written quiz answers and turn them into spoken questions for Caden to answer aloud. 

About halfway through our study session, I got this thought to be silly.

So, with a huge smile, I said to Caden, "True!" And, of course, I thought he'd say, "Ah Dad, c'mon. Give me the rest of the question." 

Instead, without missing a beat. Caden said, "True, Cromwell was open to the idea of religious toleration."

I about fell on the floor from amazement, not to mention gladness, because Caden really needs to do well on this test. And I said, "How did you know that from all these pages of stuff?" And he said, "I told you, Dad; I've been studying!"

Which is a great parable to today's Bible verse. Just like I barely gave Caden anything to work with when I said, "True," sometimes we barely give God anything to work with when we pray because "we do not know what to pray for." (Romans 8:26). 

But even though I barely gave Caden anything to work with, he knew the answer because he'd taken time to study and know the material. So too, even though we barely give God anything to work with sometimes in our prayers, God knows the answer because he's taken time to study and know us. 

So be encouraged, y'all!!! Yes, it's good to have nice, eloquent, smooth-flowing prayers. But when things come up that baffle you, as they do everyday, and a nice, eloquent, smooth-flowing prayer is nowhere to be found in your heart, then just groan or grunt or squeal out whatever you can to God. 

God already knows the rest. 

And he's on it.

Because He loves you.

We know this in Jesus Christ.

So go into today, and know that your grunting, groaning, squealing, sighing, mumbling, bumbling prayers are heard. And they're blessed!

Praise God!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Day of Praise

Tues, 11/14/17, "Day of Praise"

"[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.'" - Matthew 13:24-26

I was driving down a local road when I saw some litter fly out the window of a truck that was just a short bit ahead of me. Being a litter-picker-upper, I moaned in my heart and shook my head. 

As I caught up to the slow-moving, litter-dropping truck, I started to laugh as it became clear that not only did the truck say "City of Hoover" on the side, but it also said "LITTER CONTROL" in huge letters on a sign on the back of the truck.

Can you imagine? A Litter Control truck where the employees are throwing litter out the window?

Yes, I can imagine. I can imagine something and somebody that are supposed to be addressing a problem, and they're actually contributing to the problem. 

I do it all the time. 

As a Christian, I'm supposed to be addressing the sin problem in the world. Sin is like spiritual litter, if you will. But even as I'm supposed to be on the job and addressing the spiritual litter problem, the spiritual litter of sin comes flying out of the window of my life. 

Why do I do this? I do it because I'm a sinner. And as I hard as I try, I myself can never stop sinning. (In the language of today's Bible verse, we all have wheat and weeds mixed together in the field that is each of our lives.) I'm sure God moans in his heart and shakes his head. But, as hard as I try, I can never stop throwing spiritual litter out of my life. 

But Jesus can. 

I need Jesus to come to me everyday and hop in the "truck" that is my life so he can live in me by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus alone, working in me, can put a stop to the spiritual litter problem in my life, as he and he alone is the solution, being my righteousness, making me new from the inside out, cleaning up the litter of my soul so that it can't fly out the window of my life. 

So the next time, I see litter fly out of a LITTER CONTROL truck, before I'm so quick to shake my head and moan, I pray that I'll remember that that's what my life looks like to God. 

May God have mercy. 

And, through Jesus Christ, God already has!

Praise God!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day of Praise

Monday of Veterans Day Weekend, 11/13/17, "Day of Praise"

"The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." - Exodus 14:14 

So one time, after a full day of Sunday School, worship, ministry committees, community ministry, and a school project, my son tells me he's going to do a workout. He's moving his feet very fast and doing his drills. He's working hard, moving his arms as he runs through his drills, over and over and over. While my son is ending his day at ten p.m. with a workout, I'm eating ice cream, specifically Target brand Birthday Cake ice cream. So my son's working hard, and I'm eating dessert. 

It's a lot like God's call through Moses in today's Bible verse. God will fight; we get to be still. Thank you, God! 

It's a lot like the truth that's celebrated on Veterans Day. Our Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy are poised and ready to fight; we get to rest secure that they will. Our Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy do what's necessary, in every generation, to serve our country and keep it safe; we get to be still. 

And eat ice cream. 

Even Target brand Birthday Cake ice cream if you want. 

Even if you already did two days ago, please, thank a Veteran today! 

Hey, thank a bunch of Veterans! 

I had a great time talking to, texting with, and emailing many Veterans with thanks over the weekend. They really appreciate it. I'm sure we should appreciate them more. 

Pray for our Veterans today! 

We were driving home from visiting family who live out of town this past Saturday, so we missed our Veterans Day parade here in Birmingham, which is the longest running in the nation. But, hey, we don't need a Veterans Day parade today or tomorrow or any day to cheer for the Veterans in every generation. Cheer on and cheer up some Veterans today! And everyday!

After all, because our Veterans were willing to enter a conflict, then we are able to have peace and many other freedoms that they secure for us, which we enjoy. 

Praise God!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Day of Praise

Sat, 11/11/17, "Day of Praise" 

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21 

Please be careful. As a pastor, I've experienced dear friends who have tragically used today's verse to create an eagerness for physical death. Though I won't deny that there's some element of that, God's chief encouragement in the verse is for us to know the "gain" and the joy of "dying to self." 

To die to self is to pray to God, "Thy will be done." To die to self is to set aside our will and wants and desires, saying, "God, your will and wants and desires for me are far greater than anything I could even desire, let alone deserve." 

To die to self is gain! 

Oh, yes, if you search the 100 or so Bible verses with the word "gain," then you can see that there are some things to be gained for doing the old Burger King jingle thing where you "have it your way." But God's Word says that the gains of having it our way are always very temporary at best and negative, destructive, and ruinous at worst. 

To the contrary, God's Word says the gains from dying to self are always positive and lasting, including gaining instruction, knowledge, insight, wisdom, a friend, godliness with contentment, your own life, a good standing for yourself, great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. and, best of all, you gain Jesus Christ himself. 

And when you gain Jesus Christ, then, well, you can really start living! 

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21 

Praise God!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/10/17, "Day of Praise"

"[Moses said, 'God's word] is no empty word for you, but your very life'" - Deuteronomy 32:47

I promise. This is a clean bathroom story. Well, almost.

A friend of mine and I were making our way to the men's room sink at the same time. He was talking. I was listening. And watching. 

He turns on the water and then starts pumping the built-into-the-bathroom-counter soap container. I smiled and told him the soap was in the store-bought container next to the built-in container. But my friend was so excited to talk about God's work in our church and the Prayer Meeting we were about to go into that he never heard me and he never even looked to see that there was no soap on his hands, even though he was scrubbing away and then thoroughly rinsing as if he'd gotten a handful of the liquid cleaner. 

I told you that this was a clean bathroom story. Almost. 

The problem, of course, was really not my friend's attentiveness. My goodness, shouldn't somebody be allowed to be excited about the Living God without having to worry that a soap container is not really containing soap?

As if the soap container cares, I blame the soap container. I mean that container and connected pump had the audacity to present itself as being full of a life-promoting cleanser. 

But it was empty. 

God aches, at least, when anyone or anything presents himself, herself, or itself as being full of a life-promoting something when, in truth, he, she, or it is empty. 

Good thing, though, that there's one thing in this world that we never have to be suspicious about. There's one thing in this world that, when it says it's full of a life-promoting something, then it's full of a life-promoting something and more. 

As God, through Moses, said in today's Bible verse, "[God's word] is no empty word for you, but your very life." (Deuteronomy 32:47)

Furthermore, God's word itself is not only not empty, but when God sends his word, it does not come back empty either. God's word fully accomplishes what God says it will. So when God makes you a promise, you can take it to the bank and deposit it in full! Read it for yourself in Isaiah 55:11, "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

And what God's word accomplishes is that it insures that we ourselves will not be empty (2 Corinthians 9:3), but instead that we'll be filled with God's life and love to overflowing (Luke 6:38). 

And, being God's promise, that's no empty promise.

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/09/17, "Day of Praise"

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24

Ehhhhhh, I know swapping's not allowed, but it's fun to think about anyway. I was only two years and forty-nine weeks old, but I totally remember looking in the newborn area and asking my dad which one we were going to pick. After all, when my little sister was born, it made sense to me that when you put one in, then you should get to pick one out.

Ya know. A swap.

Kinda like a workday. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could trade it in? Ya know, snap your fingers, and a workday gets swapped for a weekend day. Well, at least for a Friday.

But, of course, that's not how it works.

Unless, of course, you're talking about swapping our perspective for God's perspective. Our perspective on a workday often is "Ugh!" God's perspective on a workday is "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24)

And that's a swap that God's willing to make with us every time.

Oh, and by the way, my little sister, Cheryl, who was born when I was two years and forty-nine weeks old, was, is, and always will be the best. I wouldn't swap her for anything!

Praise God!

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/08/17, "Day of Praise"

Today, we get to go visit daughter, Cassidy, and her ministry to women who've been badly hurt. It reminded me of this devotional from my archives.

"And thus you shall greet him: 'Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.'" - 1 Samuel 25:6

So, there's this security guard at the front campus gate of my younger daughter's college. She's very peppy. Lots of energy. High spirits. Lively.

But not so good of a memory.

Last weekend when I pulled onto campus, she said, "Money and food. That's what they want you to give 'em because they don't want to use their money for food."

This weekend when I pulled onto campus, she said, "Money and food. That's what they want you to give 'em because they don't want to use their money for food."

At first, I had to laugh. I'm thinking, "What? Does she think I didn't hear her the first time?"

And then God zapped me. "Hey, Chris, Jesus greets the disciples twice with peace in about two minutes in John 20. So, are you saying Jesus thinks they didn't hear him the first time? Well, you might be right, which is also why the guy says the same basic thing three times in today's Bible verse."

Ya see, gang, God is determined that we hear and receive the blessings of His word, so God says a lot of things multiple times. God knows that maybe we didn't hear him the first time because we were "heavy with sleep" like Peter in Luke 9:32. But whatever the reason, God wants us to have the love and wisdom and power of his life-changing word. So, sometimes God says it twice.

Or more!

So, how 'bout we do the same, starting today? Let's tell people, "God loves you!" And if they're grouchy or sleepy and seem not to hear it, then it's no biggie! We'll just tell 'em again, like God does for us, to make sure that all of us hear of God's blessings!

"And thus you shall greet him: 'Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.'" - 1 Samuel 25:6

Praise God!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Day of Praise

Tues, 11/07/17, "Day of Praise"

"[Jesus said,] Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." - Luke 12:2

Some of you have heard this story before, but God nudged my heart to share it again.

I was bad. And I'm not proud of it, but if revealing it will encourage someone else, then I'll go ahead and talk about it.

And besides, God already knows. 

My brother and I were roommates in college, and we'd gotten a pumpkin for Halloween decor. Once we got past Halloween, we needed to find something to do with the pumpkin. For some stupid reason, I decided the garbage can was a lesser option for the pumpkin when we could put it in the back of our friends' closet across the hall. It's important to note that the new, pumpkin-home closet was ridiculously high and only accessible if you stood on a chair, and even then the back of the closet was still terribly hard to reach. That's why I thought it would be funny to put the pumpkin in their upper closet. I thought it would start to rot and to stink, and then they'd look for the smell, and then they'd find it and be done. 

Unfortunately, I didn't count on two things: 1) my totally forgetting about the pumpkin to the point that it was in their upper closet so long that 2) the pumpkin didn't just rot and stink, but the pumpkin also turned into pumpkin soup. It was a mess!

My victim friends, Mark and Rodney, were understandably upset. And conveniently, they blamed everybody except me because my brother and the other "Zombies" (our floor nickname) were always pulling pranks, but I never did anything like that. Never. 

So one day, I get this phone call from Mark; it was about twenty-five years later. We hadn't talked since college. He asked how I was doing. And then he asked why I did it; he asked why I put the pumpkin in his closet. So, I asked him how he found out that it was me. And he responded by saying that the way he found out it was me was that I had just, in that moment, admitted it!

Like Jesus says in today's Bible verse, the truth always comes out, no matter how hard we try to hide it. 

That's why, way back near the beginning of creation, when the first people (Adam and Eve) tried to hide from God and cover their sin, it was futile. Not only did they try to hide it, but they fooled themselves into thinking that God didn't already know. But the truth came out, and Adam and Eve realized that God knew all along. 

And the hidden truth, which is hidden from those who deceive themselves into thinking that they can hide the truth about their sin from God, is that God wants to reveal our sin to us so that God can deal with it by teaching us a lesson in the positive sense and by graciously forgiving our sin. 

That's what Mark did for me that day that he called about the pumpkin, twenty-five years after the fact. He reminded me that the truth always comes out, and then he laughed and forgave my sin, bringing the matter to a close. 

Well, almost to a close. Because a stinking, rotting, college-pumpkin prank will forever be a reminder of the truth that Jesus said. "Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." (Luke 12:2)

So let's just go ahead and bare it all to God and whoever else needs to know so that lesson-learning, forgiveness, and healing can begin. 

Praise God!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Day of Praise

Mon, 11/06/17, "Day of Praise"

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." - Luke 15:20

Let's all act like a dog today. 

As usual, let me explain.

To begin with, many of you who know me are probably being revived from fainting because you know I'm not a fan of dogs. For those who don't know me, I'm not a fan of dogs because I can't escape the fact that, when I was a kid, I was all too often chased by "Freckles" who was the big, at-least-looked-like-a-Doberman, chase-after-anything-that-moved dog who protected his domain up the street, down the street, and any other place that he wanted to claim as his own. 

But that being said, dogs are, to most people, their owner's best friend. What you people, who had no "Freckles" in your life, tell me is that your dog loves you unconditionally. And what you tell me is that your dog shows you that unconditional love by always being a "DoG", that is, DOwnright-Glad to see you. Ya know, you've been away all day, and you pull in the driveway, and your puppy dog can barely contain herself as she wags her tail and makes that "heh-heh-heh" sound and runs in place so she doesn't cross the line and get zapped by your high voltage, underground fence that lets the bully dog in but won't let your sweet little doggie out. Ya know, your d-o-g is just DoG, DOwnright Glad to see ya!

It dawned on me at a hospital once that this is why almost everybody, who otherwise wasn't smiling, will immediately start smiling back at me after I smile and nod at them. It's because I look like a DoG. I look like somebody who is truly DOwnright Glad to see 'em. My goodness, I don't know 99.9% of 'em from the man in the moon, except Miss Ann who's tried to get me to give blood for now 26 years even though I keep telling her that I give every eight weeks at my church. But it doesn't matter if I know 'em or not. Most people seem so glad that I'm not "Freckles" who's lookin' to take a bite out of their, uh, well, out of their sweet little self. And then they're just downright shocked for a moment that I am what I am, namely, DOwnright Glad to see 'em. And then it hits 'em, "That guy is just like my dog, Spot or Fifi or Champ or Bowser; that guy looks like he's DOwnright Glad to see me." One guy even told me he had a dog named "Father" who had red hair, just like me.

But ya' see, gang, that's what the Father did in today's Bible verse. While his wayward, now-come-home son was still a long way off, the Father ran like a DoG to meet that wayward, now-come-home son. And the Father "embraced him and kissed him"; I'm guessing it was some big, sloppy, wet kiss on the cheek. Just like a DoG. 

Who was DOwnright Glad to see the boy. 

So he greeted him with unconditional love. 

And inspires us to do the same. 

Share a smile. Spread the love.

Let's all go act like a DoG today. 

"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." - Luke 15:20

Praise God!


Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Friday, November 3, 2017

Day of Praise

Sat, 11/04/17, "Day of Praise"

"Then he said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off."'" - Ezekiel 37:11

Have you lost anything lately? 

Maybe your keys? Maybe your faith? Maybe your hope?

Let's start with the keys.

A friend of mine at church once asked if I'd seen their keys. I apologized that I hadn't. They walked away, still puzzled, and I went into the library to lead a Bible study.

After class, I was walking out to our cars with a student when she took some keys out of her pocket, looked at them in a puzzled way, stopped in her tracks, and said, "Whose keys are these?" I chuckled and said I thought they're the keys of our friend who had lost his. She laughed and went back to return his keys. The keys had never been lost to begin with. A friend was just holding them for a while. 

The whole "lost keys" incident reminded me of today's Bible verse and times when our lives seem "dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off" (Ezekiel 37:11). In the Bible verse, God is actually carrying the "lost" hope and breath of life for a whole nation until it's ready to receive it back. In my own life, I was so blessed when my children and other dear Christian friends carried my "lost" hope in the worst season of my life until I was able to see beyond. 

What about you? I know that some of you are feeling down, wondering what's in your future and wondering if you even have a future. I know that hope is waning for some of you. Life feels dry. And you feel cut off and detached from other people. It feels like the best parts of life have been lost. 

But hang in there. God gave us to each other so we can hold onto and safekeep your "keys," ya know, your hope, your faith, and the strength to look for something good to come your way. All isn't lost. It's just been misplaced for a while. Just long enough to see that, like my kids were for me, the best things in life are always our God and our friends who stick with us until we ourselves can see the brighter view that God has prepared for us. 

So today, let's be on the lookout for each other because somebody has lost their "keys" to life, and we are so blessed to help each other find them. 

Praise God!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/03/17, "Day of Praise"

"And when [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" - John 20:22

Yaaay! It's Friday! I'm cheering because I have a secret formula in order for you to have a great Friday.

Are you ready? Are you sure? I mean this is heavy stuff. It's pretty complicated. Drum rooooooooooll!

Okay, the secret formula in order for you to have a great Friday iiiiiiis...

Breathe!

Yes, breathe; breathe in, and breathe out!

In the spirit of simplicity, in today's Bible verse, Jesus came into a situation that was not what he liked. It was not ideal, so he breathed life into it.

In our case, when we come to a situation today that we don't like, then we start by breathing in, which is, as Jesus puts it, receiving the Holy Spirit that God is breathing onto the situation. Then after we take a deep breath, believing that God and God's Holy Spirit alone can truly change anything for good, we then breathe out, which is simply to speak life into a situation. Just as the Bible book of Proverbs contains verse after verse testifying to the death that we negatively breathe into situations when we lie and deceive and have a sour attitude, so too does God's word testify to the life that we positively breathe into situations when we encourage and speak honestly and have a cheerful attitude.

In sum, because God has already poured out his spirit and continues to do so, the quality of your Friday is in your hands, er, I mean, breath.

God has breathed out life so that we can breathe in life from God, and then we can breathe out life to others through the day.

Happy Friday!

"And when [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" - John 20:22

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/02/17, "Day of Praise"

"You in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish." - Luke 16:25

I have this penchant.

No, I don't mean a pendant. I mean a penchant. A pendant is something suspended from something else, ya know, like an ornament or a piece of jewelry. A penchant is a strong or habitual liking for something or tendency to do something. 

I have this penchant. Specifically, I have a penchant, a tendency to be helpfully unhelpful. Ya know, I've got this ability to show up in a kitchen right after everything has been set on the table, and ask if I can be helpful when help is no longer needed. Or I show up at the sink right after the last dish has been scraped, rinsed, and placed in the dishwasher and ask if there's a way I can help. Ya know, perfect timing. It's a penchant, a tendency to being helpfully unhelpful. 

I feel bad about this penchant of mine. I really do, but not too much, because I've seen and heard that others have the exact same penchant. 

Like one time, for example, I stopped by a retired friend who had visited a European cathedral with thirty or so steps up to the front door. And at the top of the steps was a sign for the handicapped that pointed them to an assistance desk once they got to the top of the stairs. I think that qualifies. Helpfully unhelpful. 

Additionally, another time, I was asked to share a prayer at a local Senior Center Octoberfest. (In German, it's spelled Oktoberfest; so said a Grouchy German known as SauerKraut.) When I stepped in the Men's Room to wash up before lunch, I spotted a button high on the wall between two stations. The sign with it said, "FOR ASSISTANCE, PUSH BUTTON." So, uh, somebody help me out here. How exactly is that button supposed to help? What? Somebody falls down and then screams at the button high on the wall? I think that qualifies. Helpfully unhelpful.

See I'm not alone in my penchant. 

It's a good thing God has a different penchant. God has shown us through Jesus that God has a penchant, a strong or habitual liking or tendency to do something, namely, to actually be helpful!

In fact, in today's verse, that's what "Lazarus" means. The name "Lazarus" means "God helps me." Lazarus had a hard earthly life: laid up, stepped on, stepped over, sore-riddled, poverty-riddled. But Lazarus trusted God's penchant to actually be helpful. And through faith, Lazarus received much help from God: to endure, to persevere, to keep the faith, to inspire, to have courage, to speak wisdom, to find comfort. 

What's your penchant? Many of you have told me your penchant, your tendency is to attract things like stress-producing people, life-complicating problems, and when-will-these-end annoyances. But, hey, don't ask me what to do about your penchant. Remember, I have a penchant to be helpfully unhelpful. 

Instead, take a hint from Lazarus, who had a penchant for faith in God. And Lazarus had faith in God because God has a penchant to actually be helpful!

Praise God!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/01/17, "Day of Praise"

Here's one I wrote years ago for this occasion. 

"And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." - Genesis 3:21

I've seen some good Halloween costumes in my years.

There was the year that my sweet daughters, about six and four at the time, were dressed as Dorothy and Toto from "The Wizard of Oz." They were absolutely adorable.

There was the year that I'm sure that I saw both Jabba the Hutt and Herman Munster. Whew!

And then there was yesterday, the day before Halloween, mind you. I was sitting in my car, finishing a call in a parking lot, when this guy walked by me in a "pants-on-the-ground" costume. The strange thing was that this guy had a 3-inch Ace elastic bandage wrapped around the outside of his right, blue jean, pant leg from his shin to his thigh. I'm sure. I am absolutely sure that if it hadn't been for the Ace bandage that I would've been hearing Ray Stevens sing "The Streak." But even with the Ace bandage, the poor guy's "costume" was totally, uuuuuh, shall we say, inadequate. 

Kinda like, the first man and woman who ever lived. 

That first man and woman were doing just fine living "un-costumed" until they decided that they knew more than Almighty God himself, who made them, and they decided to eat the forbidden fruit, which was the fruit of wanting to be their own God. Their tragic decision exposed them. And, unable to find a Walmart or ToysRUs in those days, they put together a costume of fig leaves so as to hide themselves, which is what a costume is for, is it not? 

But their fig-leaves costumes were altogether inadequate, not because the costume didn't cover their bodies, but because the costume didn't cover their shame. 

Shame, mind you, is feeling bad about who you are, which is altogether distinct from embarrassment, which is feeling bad about what you've done. Embarrassment always eventually wears off because it's only on the outside, like an invisible costume. But shame? Oooooo! Shame goes deep within our soul and challenges our very self-worth, along with challenging our will to even continue on in life since shame whispers to us that we're worthless and no one would even notice if we were gone. 

Shame cannot be covered with a costume. 

Shame can only be truly covered in blood. That's why "the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." (Genesis 3:21) In essence, God covered the first people with animal skins, which were the first blood sacrifices. But even those animal-blood sacrifices and coverings were inadequate and had to be repeated year after year. 

That's why God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us. Jesus's death was an everlasting blood sacrifice. That's why God's Word, in Romans 13:14, says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ." All who put on the Lord Jesus Christ will truly be covered forever and have their shame removed. 

Everything else is just a costume. 

"And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them." - Genesis 3:21

Praise God!


Pastor Chris 
"The gospel is the story of Jesus [what God's only Son has done for us that we can't do for ourselves], spoken as a promise." - Robert Jenson

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day of Praise

Tuesday, October 31, 2017, The 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther posting "The 95 Theses" on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany; "Day of Praise"

What difference does it make? Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk, priest, and professor who lived in Germany. And 500 years ago today (October 31, 1517), he nailed 95 theses (statements for discussion) onto the front door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. 

Why did Martin Luther do it? And who cares?

First, he did it because of the following:

• He realized that the Christian church around the world had come to have biblical, doctrinal, and theological errors that led to bad teaching and misleading practices. 

• He recognized that the growing availability of paper and the invention of the printing press made the Bible itself and teaching about the Bible available to common people who previously were excluded from meaningful discussions about eternal and everlasting matters.

• He saw the sale of "indulgences" by the church of that day as a topic he could use to inform people so they wouldn't think that buying a piece of paper (an indulgence) could heal their broken relationship with God and get their dead loved ones into heaven. 

• He saw the widespread corruption and immorality of religious leaders,  including the common practice of simony, which was purchasing an appointment as a priest or bishop without having any qualifications for the position in order to gain monetary wealth and political power.

Second, why should we care about these things today, 500 years later? Well, we should care because what God worked through Martin Luther in Germany was what God had been working through John Wycliffe in England, Jan Hus in Bohemia, and Girolamo Savonarola in Italy. Indeed, what God worked through Martin Luther in Germany 500 years ago is what God wants to work through all who profess faith in Christ in every generation! 

500 years ago, the Christian church had biblical, doctrinal, and theological errors that led to bad teaching and misleading practices. Can the same creep in today? Has it creeped in? Does your church, does my church, ever say or do anything that leads people to trust in their own good efforts more than God's most certain word and work? Holy Spirit reform us! Move us to trust in God's word and saving work through Jesus Christ alone!

500 years ago, the growing availability of paper and the invention of the printing press made the Bible itself and teaching about the Bible available to all people to discuss eternal and everlasting matters. Is God revealing new technology today to help us take the life-giving word of God in Jesus Christ to all people? Holy Spirit help us! Help us to take the good news of Jesus to the world!

500 years ago, the sale of "indulgences" by the church of that day was a topic Luther used to inform people that buying a piece of paper (an indulgence) could not heal their broken relationship with God and get their dead loved ones into heaven. Are there flimsy, "paper-like" things that people are leaning on today to heal their broken relationship with God? Do people trust their being a good person, their Bible reading, their church attendance or their bank accounts to make things right with God? Holy Spirit correct us! Help us trust that Jesus Christ alone can heal our relationship with God and that even our best efforts are a fruit of the Holy Spirit, working in us to say, "Thank you, God, for your life-giving work for me in Jesus Christ!"

500 years ago, Luther saw the widespread corruption and immorality of religious leaders to gain monetary wealth, earthly pleasure, and political power. Are there ill motives today amongst any religious leaders or institutions? Do any leaders preach to "itching ears", speaking words that tell people only what they want to hear in order to keep the seats full and the offering plates overflowing? Holy Spirit rebuke us, correct us, train us, and empower us! Lead us, Holy Spirit, to speak the full scope of God's word, including the unpopular stuff, not only in our churches but also in our homes and our marriages and our workplaces and schools and intentional, compassionate engagement of spiritually-starving people in public. Your word alone, all of it, all of your word alone, Lord, indeed Jesus Christ alone, the Living Word of God is able to show us our nakedness, our brokenness, our hunger, our thirst, our emptiness that you alone, Lord, are able to cover, heal, satisfy, quench, and fill in a way that lasts forever. 

The 16th Century Reformation of the Church, which started 500 years ago today, was a work of the Holy Spirit, which, in reality, the Holy Spirit of the living God is faithfully seeking to work everyday in and through all who trust and follow Jesus!

Praise God!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day of Praise

Mon, 10/30/17, "Day of Praise"

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." - John 20:1

Hmmmm! So Mary Magdalene started her week in the dark with a huge obstacle in the way of where she wanted to go. But she went anyway.

There's at least two ways to look at what she did. One way is that she said, "Hunh, it's dark out, and I know there's a huge stone that I can't move in front of the tomb. But I'm going to see Jesus anyway." And she did that, trusting that since her intent was divinely good, then somehow it would all work out. The second way to look at what she did is that she was so focused on going to see Jesus that she didn't even notice that it was dark outside and didn't remember the huge stone. In other words, with her eyes on Jesus, she didn't even notice the obstacles. Either way, it all worked out. Either way, that's how she started her week.

How are you starting your week? Is there a little bit of darkness? Are you in the dark about some important matters ahead? Is there a large, heavy obstacle in your path? Is there something blocking your way that is bigger than you yourself can remove?

Hey, what would it hurt to try what Mary did? Let's all put our eyes on Jesus to start the week, and I'll bet my last dime, (if I was a betting man, which I'm not), that God will show every last one of us that he's got it all under control and will lead us where we need to go.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us, we pray, to start our week with a deep breath for our lungs and our eyes set on you. Shine light in our darkness. And use your mighty hand to nudge our obstacles out of the way. To you, O Lord, be the glory.
In Jesus's name,
Amen!

Have a great day!

Praise God!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Day of Praise

Sat, 10/28/17, "Day of Praise"

"You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'" - Psalm 27:8

"Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice." - Proverbs 29:26

Point: God calls us to "seek his face" (Psalm 27:8) because through a face to face encounter with the Lord alone are things in our lives truly made right (Proverbs 29:26).

When I was very small and we lived in Memphis, TN, my parents would take us tadpole hunting. Ya know, searching for baby frogs. We'd catch 'em, bring 'em home, and watch 'em grow up. 

I also remember searching for baseball cards for my collection, for pro football stickers for a big book that was a gas station promotion, and for coins like wheat pennies and 1964-and-earlier silver quarters. 

Searching for many things is fun. Searching for God is critical. 

I've experienced many folks through the years who call the church and want something, obviously believing that the church has a willingness to help, whether it's with food or a place to get married or the baptism of their child. I've also experienced how most of these inquirers have every desire to see the generosity of God's people, but these inquirers have no desire to become a contributor to God's work. I never get mad. But it does make me sad because, though I'm thrilled that people recognize that a church is a good place to get something, I see that many don't understand that a church is a good place to give something. 

No church is perfect; every church is filled with sinners for whom Jesus died. But a church is a place to search for more than coins, baseball cards, tadpoles, and stickers. A church is a place to seek God. And our searching for God is critical because God says that our search for God leads us to discover that God has first and ever-faithfully been searching for us. 

Let me say it again; our search for God leads us to discover that God has first and ever-faithfully been searching for us.

Searching for many things is fun. Searching for God is critical.

So let's get up tomorrow morning, go to a church, and go search for and worship the Lord! You'll find that's he's eager to show you his face and bless you with more than enough to share with others! 

"You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'" - Psalm 27:8

"Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice." - Proverbs 29:26

Praise God!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Day of Praise

Fri, 10/27/17, "Day of Praise"

For many children and sports reasons, I just had to pull up and resend this devotional that I wrote a number of years ago. 

"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." - 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Busted!

I don't even remember how I did it, but somehow I broke a decorative cologne container on my dad's bathroom counter. I do remember feeling horrible and trying (unsuccessfully) to hide it. I think I was eight. 

Now, fast forward to today, literally yesterday. I, who tried to hide a broken cologne decanter from my father, accidentally busted someone who was breaking something far worse. And they were older than eight. My stumbling into this had nothing to do with my being a Father, er, I mean, pastor. I was just doing what people do nowadays. I was just checking in and saying, "Hi!" (People do that, don't they?) 

And yet, there was a worse problem. The bigger problem was that they thought that they got away with it. But the only thing they got away with was deceiving themselves.

Why do people do stuff like this? And then why do we try to hide the messed up stuff we do?

It's because we turn a deaf ear to our Heavenly Father's call "to live lives worthy of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:12). We get so wrapped up in the life that the world urges us to live that we lose perspective on what truly is significant.

And yet, that's what we hunger for. We hunger for significance. And God's word, in today's Bible verses, is telling us plainly that the only way we'll find the significance for which we long is when we stop trying to hide everything that's broken in our lives, from cologne containers to relationships, and tell our Heavenly Father that we need help. And then trust Him to help us.

But praise God that, every once in a while, a significant man or woman is exposed to the world through their brokenness.

A University of Florida, star football player, Dominique Easley, a potential first-round 2014 professional football draft pick, suffered a season-ending injury in a noncontact drill at his team's practice on Tuesday.

But clearly, the once probable (but who knows now?) millionaire has his priorities straight and understands what is most significant in life. While still tasting the freshness of his broken body and broken season, the senior defensive tackle tweeted: "Gatornation thank you for all 4 yrs of sticking with me but god has something else planned for & have no worries #believe." (Check out 
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/26/3651048/gators-tackle-dominique-easley.html). In essence, Easley has used this injury to parlay whatever significance football has had for him into an opportunity to testify that trusting God, no matter what happens in life, has greater significance for him. 

Our country needs more men, like Dominique Easley. Easley knows how to convert the brokenness of earthly things into something greater, like a testimony to the greatest things, which include the truth that God makes the greatest men out of the brokenness that destroys lesser men.

For those who know the sports world, you fully understand the significance of what I'm about to say since I'm a University of Tennessee graduate, former Tennessee football walk-on, and current Tennessee fan. My newest hero attends the University of Florida. And his name is Dominique Easley, who's proven himself, through brokenness, to be a man of true significance.

"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." - 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Praise God!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Day of Praise

Thur, 10/26/17, "Day of Praise"

"As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted, and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel." - Joshua 5:1

It still ranks as one of the top ten horrifying things I've ever seen.

He was the smallest of our neighborhood playmates, and he'd stumbled into a beehive. It didn't matter that he really hadn't stumbled into it; he had messed with something he shouldn't have. What mattered is that the smallest of our neighborhood playmates was absolutely and totally surrounded by a cloud of swarming bees. Moreover, as he started to run up our street, he was flailing his arms like one of those twenty-feet high cloth men that businesses stick at the street and blow air into so that people are attracted to the business and distracted from safe driving. He was flailing all the way up the street and back because the swarm was easily keeping pace. 

I distinctly remember having nightmares for months about an even bigger swarm that was chasing a flailing me.

I also remember that, at some time around then, God impressed on my heart that God is for the little guy, and not necessarily for the little guy as it applies to size and stature. But God is for those who are surrounded by larger forces and powers and swarms that try to distract us from faith. 

That's what the Amorites and Canaanites were to the Israelites in today's verse. They were larger forces and powers and swarms that tried to distract the Israelites from faith. But God would have none of it. God struck fear in the hearts of those enemies, in the hearts of those larger forces and powers and swarms that tried to distract the Israelites from faith. 

And God does the same today. What's swarming around and beating down on you? Take heart! God will strike fear in our enemies today just like he did in days of old! 

Praise God!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day of Praise

Wed, 10/25/17, "Day of Praise"

"[Jesus said,] Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." - John 6:27

Happy Wednesday!

Another day for us to stay after it. Back to the salt mines. Or the grindstone. Or makin' some dough. Or however you describe it. 

But let's not forget what we're really doing here. 

Money, like happiness, is never our goal with our work or our studies in school. The goal of our work or our studies, Jesus says, is "the food that endures to eternal life". And in John 17:3, Jesus tells us that eternal life is knowing the One True God and His Son, Jesus Christ. 

In other words, no matter what anybody else says, our work and our studies have the ultimate goal of relationships: with God, with self, with family, with friends. This is what's meant in Proverbs 22:1 where we hear, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold." The paycheck or being happy at our job or our school is a byproduct of working and studying for the right reasons. 

It's a faith proposition. It means we go to work and school trusting and having faith that if Jesus says that our focus and goal needs to be relationships and teamwork and the glory of God, well, then we'll trust him and have faith in him so that we'll make relationships and teamwork and God's glory our focus and goal. And we'll trust that Jesus will take care of the money and the happiness parts. That's why Jesus says "which the Son of Man will give to you" in today's verse. He gives us both our true goal, and then he gives us the grades and money and happiness as a byproduct of keeping the main thing as the main thing!

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Acts 3:6 where Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"

Peter knew that the real power and the real ability to provide for our loved ones and make a living was not in money, gold, or silver, but instead the real power for daily provision lies in the name of Jesus Christ through whom we know the promises and ultimate provision of the Living God!

So, let's remind the kids as we get them to school, and may God remind us big folks too. The reason we're about to get after it is to glorify God who provides.

Praise God!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Day of Praise

Tues, 10/24/17, "Day of Praise"

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." - Ephesians 6:11

God's Word and counsel is clear in today's verse. Knowing that the Evil One will try to undermine your faith and your life today, God calls us to put on the whole armor of God. 

There is one thing, though, that we should all remember. When you put on the armor of God, make sure it's your own armor! This too is not my word and counsel; it's God's. 

Very simply, in 1 Samuel 17:38-47 (which is included below), we hear about Saul "helping" David as David got ready to fight the devil, er, I mean Goliath. Saul thinks he's helping David as Saul "clothed David with his [Saul's own] armor". 

But if you read the story below, you'll see that David "tried in vain to go, for he had not tested [Saul's armor]. Then David said to Saul, 'I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.'" In sum, David couldn't move in Saul's armor because it was too big. In other words, Saul's armor didn't fit David for the very fact that it was Saul's armor and not David's armor. 

David would have to go battle the devil, er, again I mean Goliath, with David's own armor and nobody else's. And if you read all of Ephesians 6 and then 1 Samuel 17, what you'll see is that God's telling us all that we must go into the day with our own personal faith in God through. You can't lean on somebody else's faith. Somebody else's faith is God dwelling in their heart, which helps you some but nowhere near as much as the help you get when God dwells with Holy Spirit power in your heart through your own personal faith in Jesus Christ!

Yes, it helps when someone prays for you. But someone praying for you is nowhere near the defense against the offensive assaults of the Evil One and the World and Your Own Sinful Flesh that will come at you today compared to someone praying for you coupled with, most importantly, your own deep faith and conviction that God reigns over all life, including yours!

The battle before you today is the battle for hearts. It's a battle of faith. And no one can believe for you. Just like no one can live for you, and, when it's time for you to breathe your last, then no one can die for you.

Our once great nation is losing the battle of faith. We're losing to the Philistines, and we're losing to the Evil One. And our nation is losing this battle for one simple reason: there's way too many people expecting someone else to fight this battle, er, I mean expecting someone else to believe in God for them.

Absolutely, God alone can defeat the Evil One. And in Jesus Christ, God already has! But you, dear friend, are the one who must surrender to the Holy Spirit of The Sovereign God in order to be victorious over the Evil One.

As nice as old Saul's gesture was to young David, David took off Saul's armor because David knew he had to go into the battle and into the day with his own [David's own] personal and living faith in God.

And you, my friend, must do the same.

And when you believe, God's armor and God's victory, will be yours!

(And P.S., it will help our nation today if each of us tells at least one more person the same!)

Praise God!

1 Samuel 17:38-47 - 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field." 45 Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand."


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Day of Praise

Mon, 10/23/17, "Day of Praise"

Jesus said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." - John 10:9

I worry about us people. Even though Jesus says doors are important for us to understand, we have all sorts of trouble with doors.

We go in "Exit" doors, just like people did recently at Walmart.

We go out "Entrance" doors, just like people did recently at Walmart.

We push doors that say "Pull", just like people did last night at the gas station.

We pull doors that say "Push", just like people did last night at the gas station.

We totally forget all manners and logic when we see an open door. I'll never forget when I was starting college. My mom was helping me move in. And because all the carts were in use by other students who were moving in, my mom and I were both carrying armloads of clothes and linens from the parking lot, through the courtyard, and toward the dorm. When we got to the Clement Hall outside doors, not only did nobody open a door for us, but as I myself opened one of the ten or so doors with the tips of my fingers and the edge of my foot and then held it open for my poor loaded-down-with-linens mom, a group of 12 or so college girls with absolutely nothing in hand acted as if my mother and I didn't exist and the door was propped open just for them. They not only went out of their way to ignore the other nine closed doors so they could go through the one I'd struggled to open, but not a one of them said "hello" or even "excuse us", not to mention they of course did not say "thank you". My mom and I looked at each other in disbelief, but looking back on it, I'm not sure why we were surprised. People totally forget all manners and logic when we see an open door. 

And "push" or "pull" or "Exit" or "Enter" on a door means nothing to most human beings. 

Maybe this is why Jesus, in Luke 13:24, says, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Maybe he knows that instructions and doors are a hard concept for us people to follow. 

But make no mistake, Friends, our Lord Jesus has opened a door to the best life, to abundant life, to eternal life with both the tips of his fingers and the edge of his feet nailed to a cross and his arms loaded-down-not-with-linens-but-with-sin, even as groups of 12 or so of us with absolutely nothing in hand act as if he doesn't exist and we saunter through the door with nary a "hello" or even "excuse us" not to mention there's rarely a "thank you" as Jesus makes plain in Luke 17. I bet the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit look at each other in disbelief, but rarely are they surprised because God certainly knows that we people totally forget all manners and logic when we see an open door. 

And again we're reminded how badly we need God's unfathomable mercy and grace. 

May each door that we pass through today be a reminder of Jesus's loving promise, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)

And maybe we can pass along his wondrous love by holding the door for someone and instead of waiting for a "thank you", we could heap on some grace with a "God bless you, and have a nice day!"

Just like God has heaped grace on us. 

Praise God!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Day of Praise

Sat, 10/21/17, "Day of Praise"

In seeing our son who's home from college for the weekend, I was moved to reminisce about a devotion I wrote from before he could drive. I hope it makes you laugh at me and thank God for His word. 

"...We may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." - Ephesians 4:14

My son likes cantaloupe. He doesn't like getting up in the morning. Put those two together, and you get my son eating a nice, plastic bowl full of cantaloupe in the car on the way to school. And when the cantaloupe is gone, the empty bowl gets placed onto the middle bucket seat right next to the big, heavy, pillar candles, which are in the middle bucket seat because I have a wedding in the evening at someone's home. 

So I'm just leaving Caden's school, and I go around the first sharp curve, and the candles do what round, pillar candles do when they're laying on their side and inertia kicks in. They roll. And if it's in the way, those pillar candles will happily roll right into the nice, now-empty plastic bowl and "toss it to and fro" right to and fro onto the floor, along with all that sticky cantaloupe juice and the fork that Caden used.

So I pull up to the next red light, and I, in all my brilliance, reach behind the passenger seat, grab the now "more-empty" bowl, and proceed to put it right back on the same seat and right next to the same ready-to-roll, pillar candles. 

Well, of course, the next curve makes it happen; the candles start to roll "to and fro" and usually I don't recommend this, but I did it anyway. I threw my Big Ol' Bible at the empty bowl, and, lo and behold, it landed right on that bowl right before that bowl went over the edge a second time.

And ya' know what? I thought to myself, "I need to start throwin' Bibles at some people I know because they're gettin' 'tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes,' (which is today's verse from Ephesians 4:14). And what they need is a Big Ol' Bible to land right on top of 'em before they go over the edge another time."

I know y'all think I'm crazy, but I'm tellin' ya, we got these here Bible classes and they're chock full, jam-packed with people whose lives were cantaloupe-bowl empty and gettin' knocked to and fro and over the edge by every big and little thing that came along in life until a Big Ol' Bible came straight from Kansas, along with Dorothy and Toto, and landed right smack on their head.

Ya see, that's what God's word does. God's word grounds us. God's word is like an anchor. God's word is like a paper-weight. In the '50's, they probably would've called God's Word "heavy". And no matter what you call it, God's Word gives roots and a sure foundation to our lives. And I don't mean just knowing that it exists; I mean studying it and learning it and living it, just like Jesus talks about in Matthew 7 with the wise life-builders.

So, I know we've gotten long today. But c'mon people; stop exposing your life to the "elements", getting "tossed to and fro by the 'waves' and carried about by every 'wind' of doctrine" because you're glad to make time for everything under the sun except the Word of the Living God. Read your Bible, sit under God's Word, and see how God "gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11) with the expressed purpose of "equipping believers for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." (Ephesians 4:12-14).

God wants you to be grounded in Him and His Word so that you don't get knocked over the edge.

So make time for God's Word.

Or look up, and watch out for falling Bibles.

Praise God!